Extracts from the Annual Reports
Extract from the Presidential address by Jim Larkin President, June 1st, 1914, City Hall, Dublin
A vindication of Labour
Intolerance has been the curse of our country, it is for us to preach the gospel of toleration and comradeship for all women and men. The day has arrived for us of the Irish working class to reconsider our position. Whatever other classes in Ireland might do, we must march forward to the complete conquest of Ireland, not as representing sections, sects or parties, but as representative of the organised working class as a whole (cheers). There must be freedom for all to live, to think, to worship (cheers). No book, no avenue must be closed (applause). By God’s help and the intelligent use of their own strong right arms they could accomplish great things. The Irish working class were now rising from their knees and attaining full stature. The NEW IRISH LABOUB PARTY HAD COME OF AGE, entered into its inheritance, and would stand erect upon its feet from this day forward (loud cheers).
Looking back over the immediate past—more particularly the long months of 1913 and
the early months of 1914—we saw there the attempt of an organised, unscrupulous capitalist class composed of men of different political parties and holding different sectarian views who had combined together for the purpose of destroying organised labour in Ireland. The lock-out in 1913 was a deliberate attempt to starve them into submission, and met with well-deserved failure. The workers EMERGED FROM THE STRUGGLE PURIFIED AND STRENGTHENED, with a fierce determination and a fixed purpose. The employers
attitude was a direct attack upon the essential principles of trades unionism (applause). The outcome of the attack had been the initiating of a new principle of solidarity inside the unions, and for the first time in the history of the world of labour the beautiful and more human principle had received universal recognition, viz, AN INJURY TO ONE IS THE CONCERN OF ALL (cheers). That motto would be emblazoned on the banner of
labour the world over in the future. We have established a great human principle. Once again the Dublin workers stood as pioneers in the upward and onward march of Labour (applause).
The men and women engaged in the struggle had shown magnificent courage, loyalty, and endurance. The history of their bitter sufferings and fortitude had rung like a clarion call throughout all the countries of the world (loud applause). In this morning’s papers I read with pain and disquietude the report of the utterances of an eminent churchman—a most learned nan—a man who claims to be a great educationalist and Christian- who had been speaking
foolish words on the industrial question. He would find it necessary to go back to school and learn the ABC of economics. This learned gentleman said unthinkingly (we will charitably suppose) that capital must, be supplied by the emplovers—meaning by that the present controllers of capital. That statement had only to be made to prove his absurdity.
ALL CAPITAL IS SUPPLIED BY THE WORKING CLASS; but to our undoing and to our shame it was controlled by the capitalist class (applause). A statement such as this churchman
made should open the eyes of the working class to the want of knowledge of men who claim to be guides and leaders. And as much as I respect the Church to which I belong and the views of those who are interpreters of the dogmas of that Church, and as much as I respect the opinions of members of any and every church, I make this claim—That as long as the working class allow any churchman to abuse his trust and interfere in our affairs in the industrial world so long would they have to submit to hunger, privation, and wage-slavery (hear, hear). In matters spiritual they would obey them, but on the economic and industrial field they would be guided by knowledge gained by long and hard servitude (applause). I submit that the working class have as much right as any section or class in the community
TO ENJOY ALT, THE ADVANTAGES of science, art and literature. No field of knowledge, no outlook in life, and no book should be closed against the workers.
They should demand their share in the effulgence of life and all that was created for the enjoyment of mankind. And here do I appeal to those who cannot see eye to eye with us—who feel they cannot come all the way—to come with us as far as their knowledge will
permit. Come at least to the bottom of the boreen, and then if we must part, the pioneers will continue on and up the mountain TO MAKE THE DAWNING OF THE NEW TOMORROW (loud cheers).
The working class must be free, not only economically, but intellectually. Speaking to a priest some time ago he said, ” I agree with some of your views and believe that improvement
and alteration is necessary in the world ; but,” said he, ” we are determined to build a wall round Ireland and keep out the advanced ideas of Western Europe.” I replied, “as much as I
respect your views, Father, there is no power on earth can build a wall to keep out thought ” (cheers). The men in this movement are determined to enjoy the fullness of life and of the knowledge and power that the Creator ordained them for.
I desire to bring you back for the moment, and would speak with you on one or two points
of the struggle in Dublin last year. We saw too plainly then that SECTIONALISM CARRIED WITH IT DEFEAT amongst the working class (applause). We had thirty-seven unions engaged in the struggle, each acting upon its own line of defence and attack and according to its own methods. Those who were engaged had shown magnificent courage—women and men. Aye, and little children—had proven their heroism. Hunger, the gaol,
and death itself did not deter them. Let us not forget our comrades, Brady, Nolan, and Byrne, who were murdered in the streets of this city by the hired hooligans of the capitalist class—the police. We found that no political party, no church, made a protest against the abuse of the laws by the capitalist class (hear, hear).
During that period it was shown clearly then that there was NEITHER UNIONIST NOR NATIONALIST AMONGST THE EMPLOYING CLASS; and but two camps—employers and workers. We found no Redmondites, Carsonites, or O’Brienites then. The enemy were
all employers, and every weapon they could wield—political, social and administrative—they used unsparingly. Let us not talk of wooden guns or tin guns. What the working class wanted was the gun of intelligence. Let “solidarity” be the watchword, and a few years will broaden out the liberties curtailed by the most unscrupulous and most vindictive capitalist class that any country was ever cursed with (hear, hear). Police, politicians, the Press, and the judges on the bench were simply the tools of the employing class. No city in the world had a more useless or vicious capitalist class than that of Dublin. Think of the treatment meted out to the soldiers in the industrial army by judges appointed for their political views (hear, hear). One of these judges gave two years’ hard labour to our comrade, Tom Daly, for a common assault on a scab; and the same judge in the same court gave a degenerate who ruined a child of seven years old a sentence of three months. That was the class war they had to submit to. The foul, putrid Press who told of the alleged outrageous attack by Daly published not a word about the foul creature who RUINED A BEAUTIFUL FLOWER OF WOMANHOOD in this Christian city (” shame”). Condemnation and calumny had been poured out upon the heads of the leaders of the working class….
The employers’ claim a victory, but the employers did not beat back organised labour in this city. I admit we -had to retreat to our base, but that was owing to the treachery of leaders in affiliated unions and betrayal in our own ranks (hear, hear). Two of the most influential unions who had undertaken to see the struggle through deliberately sold the pass, made arrangements behind their comrades’ backs with the employers, and ordered their members to take other men’s jobs (“shame”).
Two unions were guilty of this foul treachery, one of which was represented at the Congress, the other was ashamed to face the music. I will mention no names, in the interest of unity, bat we must see to it that such happenings shall never take place in the future (hear, hear). One union is the only way out—one union for all industry. One might say when they hear this suggestion that it is the term of a madman—that it is Larkin again. It is, however, the only sound, logical method and the only way that makes for success.
THE EMPLOYERS KNEW NO SECTIONALISM. The employers gave us the title of “the working class.” Let us be proud of the term (applause). Let us have, then, the one union, and not, as now, 1,100 separate unions each acting upon its own. When one union was locked out or on strike other unions or sections were either apathetic or scabbed on those in dispute. A stop must be put to this organised blacklegging (cheers). We saw, too, the workers in Belfast, who in 1907 put up one of the greatest industrial fights in history, owing to the fact that sectarian bigotry had been roused to such a pitch by the organised capitalistic class in that great city, that they who appealed for help to Dublin and other cities in 1907, with a few honourable exceptions, had refused to send ammunition to Dublin during the late straggle.
These CURSED LINES OF SECTARIAN AND POLITICAL DEMARCATION” must be wiped away. They must hunt the formentors of such bigotry and intolerance out of the Trade Union Movement. No employer ever asked a man whether he was a Nationalist or a Catholic, Unionist or Protestant. If a worker entered Queen’s Island shipbuilding yard and stated that he would not work with an Orange lathe, a Protestant pneumatic rivetter, or a Catholic anvil, (laughter) he would be fired out at once. They must drop these party distinctions (hear, hear).
One union is the way out. That union should embrace all departments of industry— engineers, shipbuilders, distributive trades and transport—each of these sections looking particularly after its own work, but all of them bound up together and working for the betterment of all men and women (applause). Those who would not assist in this one-union
movement were on the side of the capitalist; they must either be with us or against us. We have no time to argue further with these men and women who stand for sectionalism; we must simply march over them to the conquest, and control of industry and our own destiny.