James Connolly

Socialism Made Easy


From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 18, 4 May 1932, p. 3.
Extract from Socialism Made Easy, by James Connolly, 1909.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

(Editor’s Note: Twenty-six years ago, Easter week, 1916, James Connolly, commandant of the Irish Citizens Army, which he helped to organize and lead in the struggle for Irish liberation, was executed. Wounded in the defense of the Dublin post office, severely weakened by the loss of blood, Connolly was court-martialed as he lay in bed and sentenced to be shot. The British military authorities wheeled him before the firing squad which took the life of the greatest socialist leader for Irish independence.

James Connolly was more than a nationalist, an “Irish patriot.” He was a great socialist agitator and organizer as well as an outstanding thinker and writer. He devoted his entire life to a fight in behalf of labor, not only in the school rooms but, above all, in the day-to-day struggles of the workers and all oppressed peoples. This was true in Scotland, Ireland and the United States, where he lived for several years.

In memory of James Connolly, Irish socialist rebel, Labor Action begins the publication of selections from his writings. Mindful of the fact that these writings are old in point of years, that some of the facts presented in them may be completely unfamiliar to those of us who live today, that its style is strange to modern readers, we feel that the main items which they contain are extremely timely, for they represent the deepest aims of all humanity, stated in trenchant terms.

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The shares of Russian railways (before the Russian Revolution of 1917 – Ed.), African mines, Nicaraguan canals, Chilean gas works, Norwegian timber, Mexican water works, Canadian fur trappings, Australian kanaka slave trade, Indian tea plantations, Japanese linen factories, Chinese cotton mills, European national and municipal debts, United States bonanza farms are bought and sold by investors, many of whom never saw any one of the countries in which their money is invested, but who have, by virtue of so investing, a legal right to a share of the plunder extracted under the capitalist system from the wage workers whose bone and sinew earn the dividends upon the bonds they have purchased.

When our investing classes purchase a share in any capitalist concern, in any country whatsoever, they do so, not in order to build up a useful industry, but because the act of purchase endows them with a prospective share of the spoils it is proposed to wring from labor.

Therefore, every member of the investing class is interested to the extent of his investments, present or prospective, in the subjugation of labor all over the world.

The wage worker is oppressed under this system in the interest of a class of capitalist investors who may be living thousands of miles away and whose very names are unknown to him. He is, therefore, interested in every revolt of labor all over the world, for the very individuals against whom that revolt may be directed may – by the wondrous mechanism of the capitalist system – through shares, bonds, national and municipal debts – be the parasites who are sucking his blood also.

That is one of the underlying facts inspiring the internationalism of labor and socialism.


But the socialist proposals, they say, would destroy the individual character of the worker. He would lean on the community, instead of upon his own efforts.

Yes: Giving evidence before the Old Age Pensions Committee in England, Sir John Dorrington, MP, expressed the belief that the “provision of old age pensions by the state, for instance, would do more harm than good. It was an objectionable principle and would lead to improvidence.”

There, now! You will always observe that it is some member of what an Irish revolutionist called “the canting, fed classes,” who is anxious that nothing should be done by the state to give the working class habits of “improvidence” or to do us any “harm.” Dear, kind souls!

To do them justice, they are most consistent. For both in public and private their efforts are most whole-heartedly bent in the same direction, viz., to prevent improvidence – ON OUR PART.

They lower our wages – to prevent improvidence; they increase our rents – to prevent improvidence; they periodically suspend us from our employment – to prevent improvidence, and as soon as we are worn out in their service they send us to a semi-convict establishment, known as the workhouse, where we are scientifically starved to death – to prevent improvidence.

Old age pensions might do us harm. That is what they say to us. Ah, yes! And yet, come to think of it, I know quite a number of people who draw old age pensions and it doesn’t do them a bit of harm. Strange, isn’t it?

Then all the royal families have pensions and they don’t seem to do them any harm; royal babies, in fact, begin to draw pensions and milk from a bottle at the same time.

Afterwards they drop the milk, but they never drop the pension – nor the bottle.

Then all our judges get pensions, and are not corrupted thereby – at least not more than usual. In fact, all well-paid officials in governmental or municipal service get pensions, and there are no fears expressed that the receipt of the same may do them harm.

But the underpaid, overworked wage slave. To give him a pension would ruin his moral fiber, weaken his stamina, debase his manhood, sap his integrity, corrupt his morals, check bis prudence, emasculate his character, lower his aspirations, vitiate his resolves, destroy his sell-reliance, annihilate his rectitude, corrode his virility – and – and – other things.

Last updated on 17.6.2013