The Irish Socialist Republican Party was founded in Dublin in May, 1896. Six working men assisted at its birth. The founders were poor, like the remainder of their class, and had arrayed against them all those things that are supposed to be essential to success. They were without a press of any kind, their propaganda was generally supposed to be hostile to the religious views of the majority of the people, no great or well-known name allied itself to them, they had to count on the bitter opposition of all the organised parties which defend the interests of the propertied class, their opponents had more sovereigns to spare for political work than they had coppers, they were in a country undeveloped industrially, and a country in which political freedom was not fully realised, and where, therefore, the political mission of Liberalism or middle-class reformers was not yet exhausted - in short they were handicapped as no other party in this country ever yet were handicapped; hated by the government, held in distrust by the people, and in short generally regarded as Ishmaels in the political life of Ireland.
But that little band of pioneers stuck to their work manfully, and despite all discouragements and rebuffs continued sowing the seeds of Socialist working-class revolt in the furrows of discontent ploughed by the capitalist system of society. To-day they can look back on their work with pride. Nowhere, it is true, have they yet succeeded in getting on their side that majority necessary to place the nominee of their party, the SRP, on the seats of the elected ones - that triumph is indeed not yet vouchsafed to them - but he would indeed be a very ignorant or a very presumptuous person who would essay to review the possibilities of the political situation in Dublin, and would leave this little fighting party out of his calculations. In the elections just ended eight hundred votes were cast for Socialism in the only two wards of this city our finances allowed us to contest. These votes were cast for no milk-and-water, ratepaying, ambiguous "Labour" candidates, but for the candidates of a party which in the very stress and storm of the fight instructed its standard bearers to refuse to sign the pledge of the compromising Labour Electoral body, and to stand or fall by the full spirit and meaning of its revolutionary policy.
These 800 votes were cast for Socialism in spite of a campaign of calumny unequalled in its infamy, in spite of the fact that the solemn terrors of religion were invoked on behalf of the capitalist candidates, in spite of the most shameless violation by our opponents of the spirit of the Corrupt Practices' Act, and despite the boycott of the press. No other party ever had such a dead weight to lift ere they could appear as a recognised force in political life; no other party could have lifted such a weight so gallantly and so well. What is the secret of the wonderful progress of this party? The secret lies not in the personality of leaders, nor in the ability of propagandists; it lies in the fact that all the propaganda and teaching of this party was, from the outset, based upon the Class Struggle - upon a recognition of the fact that the struggle between the Haves and the Have Nots was the controlling factor in politics, and that this fight could only be ended by the working class seizing hold of political power and using this power to transfer the ownership of the means of life, viz, land and machinery of production, from the hands of private individuals to the community, from individual to social or public ownership.
This party had against it all the organised forces of society - of a society founded upon robbery, but it had on its side a latent force stronger than them all, the material interests of the Working Class. The awakened recognition of that material interest has carried us far; it will carry us in triumph to the end.
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.