CELT document E900002-043

Tell the Truth

James Connolly

Edited by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh

Tell the Truth

Tell the Truth


A Challenge to Mr Birrell 28 November 1914

Every day it is becoming more evident that the slaughter of men in this war exceeds anything known in human history. The vast numbers of men engaged and the deadly character of the weapons employed have combined to make of the scene of conflict one vast slaughterhouse. No longer is it the case of the comparatively  p.148 small numbers of a professional army, but rather of the contending forces of the entire manhood of nations. Along the battle fronts of France and Belgium, as along the battle fronts of Austria and Poland, it is nations that are marching out to slaughter, and along those battle fronts each day sees the destruction of as many human lives as were lost in a month's warring on the old scale and in the old manner. France and Belgium, Poland and Austria are becoming vast graveyards in which are being buried the flower of the manhood of the warring nations, in which are also being buried the hopes and brightness of life for countless thousands of women, and millions of children left fatherless to face a heartless world. On the sea the same toll is being taken by this horrible war. In the full bloom of health and strength one moment, in the next hurled into eternity before being able to realise that even a blow is being struck; the manhood and courage, and love, and capacity of the sailors whelmed in oblivion at one fell stroke.

The hospitals of every city in the three kingdoms are crammed with the mangled, twisted, and maimed bodies of the wounded; more than half-a-million soldiers we are told by eminent authorities lie groaning in the hospitals of France, and lying under the sod of France and Belgium or under the heaving billows of the oceans are many thousands whose names are still appearing in the lists of missing, and whose relatives still hopefully believe they are alive and safe as prisoners of war.

We are told that the truth must be kept back lest it give comfort to the enemy. If a town is taken by the Germans or the Boers the fact is concealed for weeks, and we only learn that it was in their hands when the war correspondents are able to tell us that it was re-taken by the Allies. It cannot be that the truth is withheld for fear the enemy should know; if the enemy takes a town, he surely knows that he has taken it. It is not he, but the peoples of these countries that are being deceived. Similarly, if a Dreadnought is sunk by the enemy, or a cruiser sent to the bottom, the news is withheld on the same alleged lying excuse.

We assert that the truth about the loss of human lives in this war is being kept back because it is too awful to be told, because the hopes of the human race are being slaughtered; because if the truth were known people would realise that no victory would compensate any of the warring nations for the loss of the flower of their male population; because the governing class believe that it is necessary that the peoples of the  p.149 world shall never learn the fearful price mankind has to pay as a punishment for allowing such a criminal class with such murderous instincts to be a governing class. For this reason the Government has issued orders to the Press to keep back all news of disasters, forbade the Press to issue posters telling of British defeats, instructed the Press to avoid keeping track of the totals in the casualty lists, and in general insisted that nothing must be sent out that would be 'calculated to depress the public'. The punishment for refusing to obey these orders would be a suspension of telegraphic service.

We on our part have a duty to perform. A duty to our class and our country. That duty compels us to do what in us lies to avert the slaughter of any more of our people in the shambles of the Continent. Our duty to our people is greater than any supposed allegiance to the British Empire. The value to Ireland – aye, the value to humanity of any breadwinner of a working class Irish family is immeasurably superior to the value of all the crowned and coroneted murderers and exploiters that ever gibbered in glee over the number of corpses on a battlefield.

Let the truth be known! Count every corpse that the Empire requires us to pay for its victory; add up the total of the wrecked human lives of the wounded soldiers, let us know the sum of the tears that the women and children must shed in oceans that Britannia might rule the waves and browbeat the nations.

We challenge Mr Birrell to the issue. Let he and his fellow conspirators take us into court, not into a secret military tribunal, but before an open court of our fellow subjects. Let them tell the truth about what this war has cost day by day in human lives, and we will guarantee to prove that it is a crime against humanity, and that every person who in this crisis urges the nation to continue the conflict is a traitor to the highest interests of the human race, that every man or woman who does not raise his or her voice in protest, or who pretends that because we are in a murderous conflict we must continue murdering and being murdered – that every such person is a coward and dastard.

Let Mr Birrell test the matter in open tribunal, find out what are the 'sentiments of the vast majority of Irishmen', and then – bring on his gaolers.

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Title (uniform): Tell the Truth

Author: James Connolly

Editor: Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh

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Electronic edition compiled by: Benjamin Hazard

proof corrections by: Aisling Byrne

Funded by: University College, Cork via The Writers of Ireland Project

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2. Second draft.

Extent: 2095 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2006

Date: 2010

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E900002-043

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description


  • Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh (ed.), James Connolly: The Lost Writings (London 1997).

Selected further reading

  1. James Connolly and William Walker, The Connolly-Walker controversy on socialist unity in Ireland (Dublin 1911, repr. Cork 1986).
  2. Robert Lynd, James Connolly: an appreciation, to James Connolly, Collected works (2 vols, October 1916, repr. Dublin 1987) i, pp. 495–507.
  3. Lambert McKenna, The social teachings of James Connolly (Dublin 1920).
  4. Desmond Ryan, James Connolly: his life, work and writings (Dublin 1924).
  5. G. Schüller, James Connolly and Irish freedom: a marxist analysis (Chicago 1926, repr. Cork 1974).
  6. Noelle Davis, Connolly of Ireland: patriot and socialist (Carnarvon 1946).
  7. Richard Michael Fox, James Connolly: the forerunner (Tralee 1946).
  8. Desmond Ryan, Socialism and nationalism: a selection from the writings of James Connolly (Dublin 1948).
  9. Desmond Ryan, 'James Connolly', in J. W. Boyle (ed.), Leaders and workers (Cork 1960, repr. 1978).
  10. C. Desmond Greaves, The life and times of James Connolly (London 1961, repr. Berlin 1976).
  11. François Bédarida, Le socialisme et la nation: James Connolly et l'Irlande (Paris 1965).
  12. Joseph Deasy, James Connolly: his life and teachings (Dublin 1966).
  13. James Connolly, Press poisoners in Ireland and other articles (Belfast 1968).
  14. James Connolly, Yellow unions in Ireland and other articles (Belfast 1968).
  15. Peter McKevitt, James Connolly (Dublin 1969).
  16. Owen Dudley Edwards, The mind of an activist: James Connolly (Dublin 1981).
  17. Derry Kelleher, Quotations from James Connolly: an anthology in three parts (2 vols Drogheda 1972).
  18. Peter Berresford Ellis (ed.), James Connolly: selected writings edited with an introduction by P. Berresford Ellis (Harmondsworth 1973).
  19. Samuel Levenson, James Connolly: a biography (London 1973).
  20. James Connolly, Ireland upon the dissecting table: James Connolly on Ulster and Partition (Cork 1975).
  21. Nora Connolly O'Brien, James Connolly: portrait of a rebel father (Dublin 1975).
  22. E. Strauss, Irish nationalism and British democracy (Westport CT 1975).
  23. Bernard Ransom, Connolly's Marxism (London 1980).
  24. Communist Party of Ireland, Breaking the chains: selected writings of James Connolly on women (Belfast 1981).
  25. Ruth Dudley Edwards, James Connolly (Dublin 1981).
  26. Brian Kelly, James Connolly and the fight for an Irish Workers' Republic (Cleveland, OH 1982).
  27. John F. Murphy, Implications of the Irish past: the socialist ideology of James Connolly from an historical perspective (unpubl. MA thesis, University of North Carolina at Charlotte 1983).
  28. Anthony Lake, James Connolly: the development of his political ideology (unpubl. MA thesis, NUI Cork 1984).
  29. Frederick Ryan, Socialism, democracy and the Church (Dublin 1984). With reviews of Connolly's 'Labour in Irish History' and Jaures' 'Studies in socialism'.
  30. Connolly: the Polish aspects: a review of James Connolly's political and spiritual affinity with Józef Pilsudski, leader of the Polish Socialist Party, organiser of the Polish legions and founder of the Polish state (Belfast 1985).
  31. X. T. Zagladina, James Connolly (Moscow 1985).
  32. James Connolly and Daniel De Leon, The Connolly-De Leon Controversy: On wages, marriage and the Church (London 1986).
  33. David Howell, A Lost Left: three studies in socialism and nationalism (Chicago 1986).
  34. Priscilla Metscher, Republicanism and socialism in Ireland: a study of the relationship of politics and ideology from the United Irishmen to James Connolly, Bremer Beiträge zur Literatur- und Ideologiegeschichte 2 (Frankfurt-am-Main 1986).
  35. Michael O'Riordan, General introduction, to James Connolly, Collected works (2 vols Dublin 1987) i, pp. ix–xvii.
  36. Cathal O'Shannon, Introduction, to James Connolly, Collected works (2 vols Dublin 1987) i, 11–16.
  37. Austen Morgan, James Connolly: a political biography (Manchester 1988).
  38. Helen Clark, Sing a rebel song: the story of James Connolly, born Edinburgh 1868, executed Dublin 1916 (Edinburgh 1989).
  39. Kieran Allen, The politics of James Connolly (London 1990).
  40. Andy Johnston, James Larraggy and Edward McWilliams, Connolly: a Marxist analysis (Dublin 1990).
  41. Lambert McKenna, The social teachings of James Connolly, by Lambert McKenna, ed. Thomas J. Morrissey (Dublin 1991).
  42. Donnacha Ní Gabhann, The reality of Connolly: 1868-1916 (Dublin 1993).
  43. William K. Anderson, James Connolly and the Irish left (Dublin 1994).
  44. Proinsias Mac Aonghusa, What Connolly said: James Connolly's writings (Dublin 1994).
  45. James L. Hyland, James Connolly: life and times (Dundalk 1997).
  46. William McMullen, With James Connolly in Belfast (Belfast 2001).
  47. Donal Nevin, James Connolly: a full life (Dublin 2005).

Connolly, James (1997). ‘Tell the Truth’. In: James Connolly: The Lost Writings‍. Ed. by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh. London: Pluto, pp. 147–149.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  author 	 = {James Connolly},
  title 	 = {Tell the Truth},
  editor 	 = {Aindrias Ó~Cathasaigh},
  booktitle 	 = {James Connolly: The Lost Writings},
  publisher 	 = {Pluto},
  address 	 = {London},
  date 	 = {1997},
  pages 	 = {147–149}


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Creation: by James Connolly

Date: 1914

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  • The text is in English. (en)

Keywords: political; essay; prose; 20c

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  4. 2006-01-25: File proofed (2), structural and content markup applied to text; header inserted and file parsed. (ed. Benjamin Hazard)
  5. 2005-12-01: File proofed (1). (ed. Aisling Byrne, Dublin)
  6. 2005-09-10: Text scanned. (data capture Benjamin Hazard)

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