James Connolly


Labour Representation


From Workers’ Republic, August 27, 1898
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.


The farmers of Ireland denounced as unpatriotic everything that failed to serve their class interest – including even the labourer’s demand for a cottage – let the working class of Ireland follow their lead and test the sincerity of every man’s patriotism by his devotion to the interests of labour. In the eyes of the farmers no wagging of green flags could make a landgrabber a patriot; let the workers apply the same test and brand as enemies of Ireland all who believe in the subjection of labour to capital – brand as traitors to his country all who live by skinning Irish labour. For the working class of the world the lesson is also plain. In every country socialism is foreign, is unpatriotic, and will continue so until the working class embracing it as their salvation make socialism the dominant political force ... By their aggressiveness and intolerance the possessing classes erect the principles of their capitalist supremacy into the dignity of national safeguards; according as the working class infuse into its political organisation the same aggressiveness and intolerance it will command the success it deserves, and make the socialist the only good and loyal citizen.

Workers’ Republic, May, 1903.


The action taken upon the Local Government Act by the representatives of the trade unionists of Dublin is perhaps the most important step yet taken by the organised workers in Ireland ... We do not, however, labour under the belief that delegates so chosen will be socialists, or consciously in favour of socialist principles. On the contrary, we are quite prepared to find each and every one of these representatives solemnly repudiating the taint of socialism. But we do believe, and not only believe but know that every workingman elected to the Municipal Council of Dublin, if he be true to his class when elected, will find that every step he takes in the Council in furtherance of the interests of his class, must of necessity take the form of an application of socialist principles. The direct employment of labour by the municipality and consequent abolition of contracting, the rigid enforcement of sanitary laws, reductions of the hours of labour, increase of the wages of the lower grades of workers and reduction of the absurdly high salaries of superior officials, exceptional taxation of unlet property, in short, every measure for the betterment of the condition of the workers which our working class representatives in the Corporation could urge for adoption, has long since been adopted into the palliative programme of the socialists, and is, in greater or less degree, the result of socialist principles applied to the working of our civic life.

Moreover, in pressing forward even the mildest of these reforms, it will be found that the representatives of property in the Corporation will, irrespective of party, line up solidly against reform, and our friends who imagine that they will secure the cooperation of the master class in safeguarding the interests of labour will be sadly deceived. It is because we realise these facts that we are unqualifiedly in favour of this proposed action of the Dublin trade unions.

When the worker has so far advanced as to realise that his master's interests are antagonistic to his own, that the master class use every weapon from Parliament to prison to maintain their position against what they consider the encroachment of their serfs, then we have no doubt that the next step in the intellectual development of the worker will be to consider whether it is wise to tolerate longer a class in society which requires to be watched so constantly and guarded against so vigilantly; whether there is indeed any useful function performed by the capitalist and landlord class which the organised workers cannot perform without them. Whether the ownership of property cannot be vested in the organised community, and the conduct of industry entrusted to our trade unions, who could surely furnish men who would organise production and distribution in the interests of all much better than it is at present done by a class animated solely by considerations of profit. When the logic of events forces this question on the Dublin workers as it surely will, we believe that they will not fail to answer it aright, and that the answer will be well for our hopes of a socialist republic.

We are trade unionists, but we are more than trade unionists. The trade unionist who is only a trade unionist is to the socialist what the believer in constitutional monarchy is to a republican. The constitutional monarchist wishes to limit the power of the king, but still wishes to have a king; the republican wishes to abolish kingship and puts his trust in the people; the trade unionist wishes to limit the power of the master but still wishes to have masters: the socialist wishes to have done with masters and pins his faith to the collective intelligence of a democratic community.

We, as socialist republicans, adopt in each case the more logical course and bend our energies to the abolition of that principle of evil, whose influence our moderate friends would seek only to minimise. A socialist republic is the application to agriculture and industry; to the farm, the field, the workshop, of the democratic principle of the republican ideal.

We repeat then, we hail with joy this action of the Dublin trade unions, our candidates will joyfully cooperate with them, for if they do not become lackeys of the capitalist class, they must inevitably become allies of the Socialist Republican.


Last updated on 7.8.2003