Eleanor Marx on Class Struggle and Ireland, Sunday 17 May 1891. Phoenix Park, Dublin.

An address given to a demonstration organised by the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers of Great Britain and Ireland. Report taken from the Freeman’s Journal, 18 May 1891.


“… Mrs Eleanor Marx Aveling, who was received with cheers, addressed the meeting. She could not tell them how glad she was to have the honour of speaking at that magnificent demonstration to members of the union to which she was proud to belong, and on whose executive she served, and, above all, to be addressing a meeting of Irishmen.
Many years ago, when she was still a little girl, she was with those who were demonstrating in Hyde Park in favour of the release of the Irish political prisoners (cheers), and she might also remind them that it was a thing of which she was proud that it was largely due to the articles published by her late sister that the Parliamentary inquiry was held which resulted in the release of the Fenian prisoners (cheers).
She always from her childhood had respect and honour for the struggles of the Irish people against oppression, as they honoured the Poles who struggled against oppression. They were glad to believe that, whilst as earnestly determined to aid the Irish people in the fight for national freedom, they knew that national freedom would be absolutely valueless to them unless the workers of this country were able to use that national freedom (cheers). They knew in Ireland from sad experience that it makes little difference whether they had a Liberal or a Tory Coercion Act in the country (hear, hear). They knew perfectly well that to be in prison under a Liberal Government was not much better than to be in prison under a Tory Government (cheers and laughter), and plenty of them knew that if they had to work long hours with small pay for a Nationalist, their wives and themselves would be little better off than if they were working on the same terms for an anti-Nationalist (cheers).
Above all they wanted the men and women, and especially the women, in Ireland to unite in this struggle for justice because they knew that the Irish people could never have carried on their struggle for freedom but for the Irish women (cheers). They had kept the men going (cheers). She was now supporting a resolution the terms of which she could scarcely be said to endorse. It was not “manhood” suffrage but adult suffrage they wanted, for women should have a voice in the matter (hear, hear).
Their union was helping in that direction. It was the only union where men and women were acting entirely side by side, and to that fact she ascribed some of the great fruits of their organisation, although it was only two years old. It was a union helping to do away with all those hatreds and prejudices of one nation against another which for years it had been the object of the capitalists and governing classes to foster (cheers).
When the Irish peasant was driven from Ireland, through the evicting landlord and through starvation, he was driven to England, and was used there by the English capitalist to force down the wages of his English brethren, because it was ever the aim of the capitalist to use the workers of one country against those of another (cheers). But the capitalist and the landlord were going to have the worst of that game (cheers), for two could play at it, and today it was the workers of the two countries who were going to play the game (cheers).
The peasants and the workers of Ireland were going to join not alone those of England, but of all the world. A fortnight ago they were there in the Phoenix Park demonstrating for the same thing, and that May-day celebration had been suggested at an international congress, at which 22 different nationalities were represented. That was the most convincing answer to those who said they could not have an eight-hour day because of foreign competition. If anyone said to them anything about that same foreign competition their reply should be, “Let foreign competition go hang ; we are going to have eight hours whether they like it or not” (cheers).
But the only way to get the eight hours, and obtain the only real freedom which was of value, was by using the political power which they had in their own hands. Let them take good care to kick out every man, no matter who or what he was, who would not accept their programme (cheers). Then they would find that suddenly everybody would be converted to the justice of what they wanted. Let it be seen that they were determined and they would obtain what they wanted, for those whom they had to face were not such fools as not to see that when thousands join to secure a legitimate object the few hundreds could do nothing to stop the object being achieved (cheers).”

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