CELT document E900002-068

Forces of Civilisation

James Connolly

Edited by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh

Forces of Civilisation

Forces of Civilisation


8 April 1916

We have already pointed out in these columns that in the midst of the present world horror the forces of Organised Labour are the only forces still consciously and painstakingly pushing on the work of upbuilding a saner and juster civilisation. Each day confirms this view of matters. We receive in our office newspaper exchanges from all parts of the world, and it is noteworthy that in them all, next in importance to the news of the war, we always find prominence given to the efforts of Organised Labour to maintain the standard of living of the workers, and to secure their position against present and potential attacks. The Organised Labour Movement in effect says that no matter what the outcome of the war may be from a military standpoint it is essential that its finish shall see the working class of the world deprived of none of those rights and liberties they had won before its outbreak.

The full realisation of that wish we must regretfully say is in many countries an utter impossibility. In Great Britain, for instance, the Labour Leaders have so shamelessly sold the hard won position of their members that it is quite certain that the end of the war will see the capitalist class securely entrenched in possession of economic power greater than this generation has ever seen. It matters little what legal guarantees the Government may have promised or even given to the Labour Leaders. Legislation does not control the Lords of Industry; it is the Lords of Industry who control legislation. As we have often put it: The Class which rules industrially will rule politically.

The end of the war will find the British worker utterly demoralised by the advent of new conditions in the workshop. The apprenticeship system smashed, the Division or Dilution of Labour everywhere introduced, women and girls thoroughly expert in the work of performing certain processes hitherto part of the work of men, new machines installed, and the whole system of labour completely revolutionised in administration, in technique, and in outlook. All the old safeguards will be broken down, and in his efforts to erect new ones more in conformity with industrial development the worker will be hampered and baffled by the existence of vast masses of unemployed derelicts from the  p.215 disbanded armies – unemployed derelicts making a reserve for the Capitalist Class with which to break strikes and enforce their will.

Every force that seeks to maintain for the labourer the position he had before the war, and to improve upon that position is for that reason a valuable force for the preservation of civlisation. The civilisation of any country to-day is judged by the position of its working class. A degraded working class means a degraded country, and a country weak against its foreign enemies. A working class upon a high plane of intelligence, in possession of social rights and strongly entrenched upon the political and economic field means a country dignified, respected, progressive, and powerful against foreign attack.

Reasoning from the foregoing the reader who has been attentively observing the trend of events in Ireland will appreciate the fact that the strikes and Labour struggles now on in this country are not mere isolated phenomena without bearing upon the progress of the race. Rather he will see that all of them – the prolonged fight of the City of Dublin Dockers, the campaign of the Dublin Building Trades for an increase of wages, the continued and successful agitation for the betterment of conditions in the Gas Works, the spread of the Transport Workers' Union through the South of Ireland (of which the report of the meeting in Listowel in this issue is further evidence), the increases gained by the same Union in Cork, Sligo, Tralee, Kingstown, and Fenit, and all the other manifestations of activity on the part of Organised Labour, are so many evidences of the resolve of the workers to preserve and extend their heritage of freedom, despite the madness of the rulers of the world.

Germany has shown a lesson to the world in this respect. That country had the best educated working class in the world, the greatest number of labour papers, daily, weekly, and monthly, the greatest number of parliamentary and local representatives elected on a working class platform, the greatest number of Socialist votes in proportion to the entire population. All this was an index to the high level of intelligence of the German working class, as well as to their strong political and industrial position. This again was an infallible index to the high civilisation of the whole German nation. Germany had builded well upon the sure foundation of an educated self-respecting people. Upon such a foundation Germany laid her progress in peace, and her success in war.


Let Ireland learn this lesson. The labour fights the public hears of in Ireland are not signs of mere restlessness – they are the throbbing of the hearts of the worker aspiring after a civilisation that shall make the Irish nation of our time a worthy representative of the free Ireland of the past.

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Title (uniform): Forces of Civilisation

Author: James Connolly

Editor: Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh

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Electronic edition compiled by: Benjamin Hazard

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

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2. Second draft.

Extent: 1958 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: 2011

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

CELT document ID: E900002-068

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). ‘Forces of Civilisation’. In: James Connolly: The Lost Writings‍. Ed. by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh. London: Pluto, pp. 214–216.

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

  author 	 = {James Connolly},
  title 	 = {Forces of Civilisation},
  editor 	 = {Aindrias Ó~Cathasaigh},
  booktitle 	 = {James Connolly: The Lost Writings},
  publisher 	 = {Pluto},
  address 	 = {London},
  date 	 = {1997},
  pages 	 = {214–216}


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Creation: by James Connolly

Date: 1916

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Keywords: political; essay; prose; 20c

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  4. 2005-09-10: Text scanned. (data capture Benjamin Hazard)

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