‘Be men now, or be forever slaves’
James Connolly in 1910. In a statement released to union members this week, Connolly warned that 'the employers are determined to starve you into submission, and if you resist, to club you, jail you, and kill you.' Photo: www.census.nationalarchives.ie/exhibition/dublin/

‘Be men now, or be forever slaves’

James Connolly announces mass picketing in Dublin

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Published: 9 November 1913

‘Be men now, or be forever slaves’, said the trade union leader James Connolly as he announced the Transport and General Workers’ Union new campaign of mass picketing.

The campaign has been launched by the trade union in response to the reported impending arrival from England of 200 more strike-breakers to join the 200 already working in Dublin port. With other reports emerging of the strike collapsing in certain parts of Dublin, the union is now seeking to regain the initiative.

In a wide-ranging statement, James Connolly attempted to rally union members: ‘Fellow workers - the employers are determined to starve you into submission, and if you resist, to club you, jail you, and kill you. We defy them! It is your duty to find the ways and the means.’

A letter to Mr Farron, Treasurer of Dublin Trades Council, from United Builders and General Workers of the Dublin Trade Union. Farron is informed that the union is ‘paying Lock out pay to 1,250 members’.
(Image: National Library of Ireland, William O'Brien Papers, MS 13913)

Connolly bitterly attacked the double standards which saw the proposal to provide for the children of strikers by bringing them to England subjected to an enormous outpouring of criticism, but English strike-breakers are welcomed: ‘All the collection of hypocrites and sweaters who paraded our docks and railway stations a few days ago, and prostituted the name of religion to suit the base ends of those who for generations have grown fat by grinding the faces of the poor, are silent as the grave in face of the importation of English scabs.’

‘They poured insult, lies and calumny upon the English labour men and women who offered our children the shelter and comfort of their homes in the day of our trial, but they allow English blacklegs to enter Dublin without a word of protest.’

Report of a conference of delegates of the labour bodies affected by the labour dispute. See the numbers of men locked out and unions to which they belonged. Click for full document. (National Library of Ireland, William O'Brien Paper, MS Ms. 13913(1))

Connolly was also trenchant in his sarcasm-laden criticism of the press: ‘It is a crime to deport Dublin children in order to feed, clothe and house them better than they were before. All the newspapers are against it. It is not a crime to import English scabs to take the bread out of the mouths of Dublin men, women and children, and to reduce them to slavery. The newspapers are overjoyed about it.’

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