James Connolly


Parnellism and Labour


From Workers’ Republic, October 8, 1898.
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.

So long as they seek for Home Rule – for mere changes within the Constitution – our Irish parties at Westminster are, and must ever be, in the position of political hucksters seeking a good price for the votes they offer as wares. Their ‘independence’ is only the fraudulent cloak with which they strive to cover their venality and lack of spirit.

We must not omit to specify one other cause of the decay of the official Parnellite party, viz., their unsatisfactory attitude towards labour. When Charles Stewart Parnell was basely deserted in Committee Room 15 by the crowd of adventurers and hack journalists out of whom he had constructed a formidable political party; when he was attacked in Ireland by the tenant farmers who owed much of whatever security they possessed to his skilful leadership; when the priesthood, whom he had elevated to power in the branches of the National League, turned to rend the man under whose firm guidance their influence might have become a power for freedom; when he was, in fact, deserted by the men who had ever been most loud-mouthed in their adulation of his person, it was the leaf and true-hearted workingmen of Ireland who sprang to his side and fought his battles. They had never gained, but ever lost by his agitation, but in the supreme crisis of his destinies they rose superior to all other considerations and fought for the man battling against an insulting form of foreign dictation. They asked no reward – and got none. During the early days of the split Mr. Parnell did, indeed, adopt a programme laid before him by Dublin workingmen – a programme embodying nearly every measure advocated as palliative measures by the Socialist parties, but with his untimely death disappeared every hope of seeing that programme adhered to by any Home Rule party. Every succeeding year has seen the Parnellite party become more and more conservative and reactionary. Today, in direct opposition to the policy of their great leader, we find the Parnellite chiefs seeking every opportunity to hob-nob with the representatives of Irish landlordism; hailing their feeblest utterances upon a financial question as the brightest scintillations of wisdom; and not scrupling to tell at Cambridge an audience, composed of the young fledglings of English aristocracy, that the realisation of Ireland's independence was neither possible nor desirable.

Followers of Parnell they are indeed, but they follow at such a respectable distance they have lost sight not only of the leader but of his principles.

Meanwhile, the manhood of Ireland, no longer dazzled by the glare of a great personality, have had time to more closely examine their position, social and political. As a result they turn alike from the men who sold their leader at the bidding of an unscrupulous politician; from the incapable gang whose only hope of existence is to live like political cannibals upon the reputation of the dead; and from the pitiful compromise of the National Demand which scarce even the genius of Parnell could make appear respectable.

The working class of Ireland trusts no more the charming of the middle-class politician, charm he never so plausibly; strong in its own power it marches irresistibly forward to its destiny, the Socialist Republic.


Last updated on 7.8.2003