FELLOW WORKERS, -
This is a day of great Organisations. Whether it be on the side of Labour or of Capital, in the realm of peaceful industry or in the arena of warfare, this is a day in which victory goes to the force that is most thoroughly organised. For this reason we of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union have resolved to invite you, and all other Irish Societies organising the Workers engaged in general labour, to a Conference to be held in Dublin on some date to be mutually agreed upon, for the purpose of bringing about an amalgamation of all our Unions into one Great Irish Organisation of Labour.
There are few who have not noticed and deplored the large number of small Unions in this country, and still fewer who have not seen that each of those small Unions is much weaker and more helpless than it would be if it was united to the others. They are like companies and regiments on a battlefield, but like companies and regiments which have not united to form an army but persist in each fighting isolated in its own corner, although opposed to an enemy thoroughly united, disciplined and armed, and directed with skill and cunning.
Under such circumstances the local Unions of Labour have all the odds against them. The Capitalists are in control of vast masses of capital, they own all the newspapers, they own and control the Government, and they can use all the military and police forces as they choose as their obedient servants.
To oppose this odds Labour must Unite. It has been found by experience that mere Federation is not sufficient. The Federation of Unions is better than entire isolation, but it has the danger that each separate Union so federated, when its brother Union calls for assistance in a fight thinks of its own treasury and its own finances before it thinks that it should make its brothers' cause its own. We do not blame them, they must do so as long as they are separate Unions, but the necessity keeps them weak, and enables the Capitalist to attack and defeat them one by one.
It is the old tale of the Irish clans all over again. Each Irish clan when attacked by the English Invader was left to fight its battle alone, as all the others thought it was none of their business. United they could have crushed the invader, but they failed to amalgamate, and so he crushed them and stole their country.
Labour in Ireland must amalgamate if it would save itself from slavery. All the small unions must be fused into one, and that one must take over all the members, assets and liabilities of the whole. There must be One Card, One Badge, One Executive - One Front to the Common Enemy.
There will have to be rules to prevent members going from one department too readily to another - leaving a lowly paid occupation to rush into and flood a better paid one, and thus lower its standard. There must be rules to allow all local bodies sufficient self government and control; there must be provision made for taking over all the present officers and premises, so that no one will suffer by the change, but running through and inspiring all such rules and provisions there must be the guiding principle that all local bodies are to be fashioned into an army to be governed, and directed, from a common centre.
This can all be done if the right spirit inspires us all. The economy and greater effectiveness that would result from amalgamation, the ease with which men could maintain their membership in the most diverse occupations, instead of finding the necessity of joining a fresh union and abandoning the old one every time they changed their job or moved from one locality to another; the increased power of tracing members and keeping their cards in good trim which would result from the amalgamation, and above all the greater strength in face of the capitalist class, all, all are factors calling loudly for earnest consideration.
We therefore appeal to all Unions of General Labour in Ireland to communicate with us at Liberty Hall, Dublin, or with the Secretary of the Dublin Trades Council informing us of their views on the matter, and letting us know whether they would be prepared to send delegates to a Conference to discuss this question, and frame a scheme to be submitted to the various bodies.
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.