It is rather amusing to the onlooker to watch the little game being played by the rival labour “leaders.” The “rise of Larkin,” as was only to be expected, was not at all an agreeable spectacle to those others of his kidney whom he had for the moment eclipsed. The instinct of self-preservation roused them up and forced them to take up arms against the new “hero.” Was it to be expected that they—themselves the big bugs of the labour world—would consent to play second fiddle (this mixed metaphor will be forgiven in Dublin where everything is mixed) to Jim Larkin? No! So they fall back on their ”integrity,” and declare that they are not in Larkin’s hand’s but in those of their members! What wags these trade union officials are! There is something excruciatingly funny in this sudden abasement and resigning themselves into the hands of the rank and file.
The humour does not end there, however. Larkin and Havelock Wilson engage in combat, and tell home truths about each other. And Larkin, who has also tried to impress us with his democratic amenability to the “rank and file,” puts the seal of sincerity on all his professions by exclaiming (to Havelock Wilson): “Give your orders” (to the men of Dublin) “and I will countermand them.”
The new light in the labour sky has begun to realise that the stroke of fortune that so brilliantly illuminated his figure will not sustain him for long, and that Dublin and the Dublin strikers must be the rock and foundation of his fortunes. Hence, with the power of the Romish superstitions staring him in the face, he hastens to swear allegiance to the faith, and says “a man who states that a Catholic cannot be a Socialist is a liar”! Larkin’s genius for adapting himself to varying circumstances is further shown by his insisting that the struggle for Home Rule is a hundred times more important than the present struggle over wages and conditions in Dublin. One would have thought that the Dublin masters had pretty well convinced the strikers that there is no essential of Home Rule that they (the masters) do not already possess. Perhaps Larkin objects to having been turned out of prison, where, under Home Rule, he might still have been enjoying the martyrdom that sat so gracefully upon him. Perhaps, however, a drowning man is clutching at straws.