James Connolly


Declaration of Principles of the Irish Socialist Federation


Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.

New York, January 1908

The Irish Socialist Federation is composed of members of the Irish race in America, and is organised to assist the revolutionary working-class movement in Ireland by a dissemination of its literature, to educate the working-class Irish of this country into a knowledge of Socialist principles and to prepare them to co-operate with the workers of all other races, colours and nationalities in the emancipation of labour.

It affirms its belief that political and social freedom are not two separate and unrelated ideas, but are two sides of the one great principle, each being incomplete without the other.

The course of society politically has been from warring but democratic tribes within each nation to a united government under an absolutely undemocratic monarchy. Within this monarchy again developed revolts against its power, revolts at first seeking to limit its prerogatives only, then demanding the inclusion of certain classes in the governing power, then demanding the right of the subject to criticise and control the power of the monarch, and finally, in the most advanced countries, this movement culminated in the total abolition of the monarchial institution and the transformation of the subject into the citizen.

In industry a corresponding development has taken place. The independent producer, owning his own tools and knowing no master, has given way before the more effective productive powers of huge capital, concentrated in the hands of the great capitalist. The latter, recognising no rights in his workers, ruled as an absolute monarch in his factory. But within the realm of capital developed a revolt against the power of the capitalist. This revolt, taking the form of trade unionism, has pursued in the industrial field the same line of development as the movement for political freedom has pursued in the sphere of national government. It first contented itself with protests against excessive exactions, against all undue stretchings of the power of the capitalist, then its efforts broadened out to demands for restrictions upon the absolute character of such power, i.e., by claiming for trade unions the right to make rules for the workers in the workshop; then it sought still further to curb the capitalist's power by shortening the working day and so limiting the period during which the toiler may be exploited. Finally, it seeks by Boards of Arbitration to establish an equivalent in the industrial world for that compromise in the political world by which, in constitutional countries, the monarch retains his position by granting a parliament to divide with him the duties of governing, and so hides while securing his power. And as in the political history of the race, the logical development of progress was found in the abolition of the institution of monarchy and not in its mere restriction, so in industrial history the culminating point to which all efforts must at last converge lies in the abolition of the capitalist class and not in the mere restriction of its power.

It recognises in all past history a preparation for this achievement, and in the industrial tendencies of today it hails the workings out of those laws of human progress which bring that object within our reach.

The concentration of capital in the form of trusts simplifies the task we propose that society shall undertake and the industrial organisation of labour resultant therefrom drills and prepares the force necessary to its accomplishment.

As today the organised power of the State theoretically guarantees to every individual his political rights, so in the Socialist Republic the power and productive forces of organised society will stand between every individual and want, guaranteeing that right to life without which all other rights are but mockery.

The Irish Socialist Federation, recognising these two phases of human development, pledges its members to fealty to the principles resultant therefrom, politically rejecting the domination of nation over nation as of man over man; it on the field of Irish politics is organised against every party recognising British rule in Ireland in any form or manner, in all its moods and modifications; and as the final solution of the Irish, as of every other struggle for freedom, it seeks the Workers’ Republic – the administration of all the land and instruments of labour, all social property in which all shall be co-heirs and owners.


Last updated on 8.8.2003