To the Irish People|
(Issued 1896, Republished 1908)
We are to-day face to face with a new crisis in Irish political history. The reactionary Tory Party - sworn supporters of every kind of royal, aristocratic, and capitalistic privilege - once more dominates the English Parliament; the Liberal Party, long and blindly trusted by so many of our fellow countrymen, has proven itself to be to-day as treacherous and corrupt as it has ever been in the past, when it succeeded in obtruding its slimy influence across the field of Irish politics; the Home Rule Party, split up into a dozen intriguing sections, seek by senseless vilification of each other's character to hide their own worthlessness and incapacity; in the country the tenantry seek in vain for relief from the economic pressure, born of landlord robbery; and in the towns the employing class strive by every means in their power to still further reduce the wages and deepen the misery of their unfortunate employees. On all sides personal vanity, personal ambition, and overmastering greed are seen to be the controlling factors in public life, and Truth, Freedom, and Justice are forgotten, or remembered only to round off a period or give a finish to a peroration in a speech of some huckstering politician. Such is the state of Irish politics to-day. Fellow workers - the struggle for Irish freedom has two aspects: it is national and it is social. Its national ideal can never be realized until Ireland stands forth before the world, a nation free and independent. It is social and economic; because no matter what the form of government may be, as long as one class own as their private property the land and instruments of labor, from which all mankind derive their subsistence, that class will always have it in their power to plunder and enslave the remainder of their fellow creatures. Its social ideal, therefore, requires the public ownership by the Irish people of the land and instruments of production, distribution, and exchange to be held and controlled by a democratic state in the interests of the entire community. But every Irish movement of the last 200 years has neglected one or the other of these equally necessary aspects of the national struggle. They have either been agrarian and social, and in the hunt after some temporary abatement of agricultural distress have been juggled into forgetfulness of the vital principles which lie at the base of the claim for National Independence, or else they have been national and under the guidance of middle-class and aristocratic leaders, who either did not understand the economic basis of oppression, and so neglected the strongest weapon in their armory, or, understanding it, were selfish enough to see in the national movement little else than a means whereby, if successful, they might intercept and divert into the pockets of the Irish middle-class a greater share of that plunder of the Irish worker which at present flows across the channel. The failure of our so-called "leaders" to grasp the grave significance of this two-fold character of the "Irish Question" is the real explanation of that paralysis which at constantly recurring periods falls like a blight upon Irish politics. The party which would aspire to lead the Irish people from bondage to freedom must then recognize both aspects of the long-continued struggle of the Irish Nation. Such a party is the newly-formed Irish Socialist Republican Party. In its resolve to win complete separation from all connection with the British Empire, and the establishment of an Irish Socialist Republic, it embodies to the full the true Irish ideal - an independent nation with a social-democratic organization of society, thus adapting to the altered environment of the nineteenth century the vital principle of common ownership of the means of life which inspired the Brehon laws of our ancient forefathers. In its program of immediately practical reforms will be found the only feasible proposals yet formulated, either for averting from Irish farming the ruin with which it is threatened by the competition of the mammoth farms and scientifically equipped agriculture of America and Australia, for lessening the tide of emigration or for using the political power of the Irish people with potent effect in paving the way for the realization of a revolutionary ideal. We ask you then to join our ranks; to spread our ideas; to work for our success, which means your emancipation; to help us to blend the twin streams of National and Industrial Freedom into one irresistible torrent, sweeping all obstacles before it, and bearing grandly onward on its bosom the toiling millions of the Irish race, proudly enthusiastic in their desire to join the mighty ocean of lovers of Humanity who in every clime under the sun are working and hoping for the time when oppression and privilege will be no more; when "every man will be a Kaiser, every woman be a queen."
Youth of Ireland, stand prepared,
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.