James Connolly

Socialism Made Easy


From Labor Action, Vol. 6 No. 21, 25 May 1942, p. 2.
extract from Socialism Made Easy, by James Connolly, 1909.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

(The following is another selection from the writings of the great Irish socialist. Even though written many years ago, its content is very much alive today. – Editor)


Let us, be practical. We want something practical.

Always the cry of humdrum mediocrity, afraid to face the stern necessity for uncompromising action. That saying has done more yeoman service in the cause of oppression than all its avowed supporters.

The average man dislikes to be thought unpractical and so, while, frequently loathing the principles or distrusting the leaders of the particular political party, he is associated with, declines to leave them, in the hope that their very lack of earnestness may be more fruitful of practical results than the honest outspokenness of the party in whose principles he does believe,

In the phraseology of politics, a party, too indifferent to the sorrow and sufferings of humanity to raise its voice in protest, is a moderate, practical party; whilst a party totally indifferent to the personality of, leaders, or questions of leadership, but hot to enthusiasm on every question affecting the well-being of the toiling masses, is an extreme, a dangerous party.

Yet, although it may seem a paradox to say so, there is no party so incapable of achieving practical results, as an orthodox, political party; and there is no party so certain of placing moderate reforms to its credit as an extreme revolutionary party. The possessing class will and do laugh to scorn every scheme for the amelioration of the workers so long as those responsible for the initiation of the scheme admit as justifiable the, “rights of property”; but when the, public attention is directed toward questioning the justifiable, nature of those “rights” in themselves, then the master class, alarmed for the safety of their booty, yield reform after reform – in order to prevent revolution.

Moral – Don’t be “practical” in politics. To be practical in that sense, means that you have, schooled yourself, to think along, the lines and, in the grooves which those, who rob you would desire you to think.

In any case it is time we got rid of all the cant about “politics” and “constitutional agitation” in general. For there is really no meaning whatever in those phrases.

Every, public question is a political question. The men who tell us that labor questions, for instance, have nothing to do with politics, understand neither the one nor the other. The labor question cannot be, settled except by measures which necessitate a revision of the whole system of society, which, of course, implies political warfare to secure the power to effect such revision.

If by politics we understand the fight between the outs and ins, or the contest for party leadership, then labor is rightly supremely indifferent to such politics, but to the politics which center round the question of property and the administration thereof labor is not, cannot be, indifferent.

To effect its emancipation labor must reorganize society on the basis of labor; this cannot be done while, the forces of government are in the hands of the rich, therefore the governing power must be wrested from the hands of the rich.

In the phraseology of the master class and its pressmen, the trade unionist who is not a socialist is more practical than he who is, and the worker, who is neither one nor the other but can resign himself to the state of slavery in which he was born is the most practical of all men.

The heroes and martyrs who in the past gave up their lives for the liberty of the race were not practical, but they were heroes all the same.

The slavish multitude who refused to second their efforts from a craven fear lest their skins might suffer were practical, but they were soulless serfs, nevertheless.

Revolution is never practical – until the hour of the revolution strikes. THEN it alone is practical, and all the efforts of the conservatives, and compromisers become the most futile and visionary of human imaginings.

For that hour let us work, think and hope; for that hour let us pawn our present ease in hopes of a glorious redemption; for that hour let us prepare the hosts of labor with intelligence sufficient to laugh at the nostrums dubbed practical by our slave-lords, practical for the perpetuation of our slavery; for that supreme crisis of human history, let us watch, like sentinels, with weapons every ready, remembering always that there can be no dignity until labor knows no master.

Last updated on 19.6.2013