5. The Question of the General Council’s Resolution on the Irish
While England is the bulwark of landlordism and capitalism, Ireland is
the only point where the great blow against official England can
really be struck.
First, Ireland is the bulwark of English landlordism. If it fell in
Ireland, it would also fall in England. In Ireland this is a hundred
times easier, because the economic struggle there is concentrated
exclusively in landed property, because the struggle there is at the
same time a national one, and because the people there are more
revolutionary and more embittered than in England. In Ireland,
landlordism is maintained solely by the English army. The moment the
forced union between the two countries ends, a social revolution will
break out in Ireland, even if in outmoded form. English landlordism
would not only lose a substantial source of its wealth, but also its
greatest moral force – that of representing the domination of England
over Ireland. On the other hand, by maintaining the power of their
landlords in Ireland, the English proletariat makes them invulnerable
in England itself.
Second, the English bourgeoisie has not only exploited the Irish
misery to keep down the working class in England by forced immigration
of poor Irishmen, it has also divided the proletariat into two hostile
camps. The revolutionary ardor of the Celtic worker does not go well
with the solid but slow nature of the Anglo-Saxon worker. On the
contrary, in all the big industrial centres in England, there is a
profound antagonism between the Irish and English proletarians. The
average English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who
lowers wages and the standard of life. He feels national and religious
antipathies for him.
He regards him practically in the same way the the poor whites in the
southern states of North America regard the black slaves. This
antagonism between the proletarians in England is artificially
nourished and kept alive by the bourgeoisie. It knows that this split
is the true secret of maintaining its power.
This antagonism is reproduced also on the other side of the Atlantic.
The Irish, driven from their native soil by the oxen and the sheep,
reassemble in North America, where they constitute a conspicuous and
ever-growing section of the population. Their only thought, their only
passion, is hatred for England. The English and American governments
(that is, the classes they represent) nourish these passions in order
to perpetuate the covert struggle between the United States and
England, and thereby prevent a sincere and serious alliance between
the working classes on both sides of the Atlantic, and, consequently,
Furthermore, Ireland is the only pretext the English Government has
for maintaining a large standing army, which in case of necessity, as
has happened before, can be loosed against the English workers after
getting its military training in Ireland.
Finally, England today is seeing a repetition of what happened on a
gigantic scale in ancient Rome. A nation that enslaves another forges
its own chains.
The position of the International on the Irish Question is thus clear.
Its first task is to hasten the social revolution in England. To this
end, the decisive blow must be struck in Ireland.
The General Council’s resolution on the Irish amnesty serves only as
an introduction to other resolutions which will affirm that, apart
from ordinary international justice, it is a precondition for the
emancipation of the English working class to transform the present
forced union (that is, the enslavement of Ireland) into an equal and
free confederation, if possible, or complete separation, if need be.