James Connolly


Many-Headed Opposition


Forward, 10 May, 1913.
From the collection: Ireland Upon the Dissecting Table, Cork Workers’ Club 1975.
Transcription & HTML Mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

That our readers might understand the position, it is as well to state that for some years back the main interest of the Congress has centred around the proposal to establish an Irish Labour Party. At last year’s Congress at Clonmel this proposal was carried, much to the chagrin of the reactionary elements.

The opposition to the proposal came from most strangely assorted forces. The Hibernians opposed it, the Orangemen opposed it, the All-for-Irelanders (William O’Brien’s followers) opposed, and the members of the Belfast Branch of the British I.L.P. opposed it in the name (wonder of wonders!) of international solidarity. To this wonderful combination of Orangemen, United Irish Leaguers, O’Brienites and Socialists (?) were opposed the Irish Trade Unionists who were sick of all the old parties, and had already fought them in municipal elections, and the Socialists, who adhered to the policy of the Socialist Party of Ireland. That policy was the policy of encouraging the working dass of Ireland to work in harmony with the national aspirations of Ireland, but to go on with the formation of a definite class party to fight all the old parties upon the political field.

Although the Labour Party resolution, as it was called, was carried, circumstances have prevented it taking other than a municipal direction so far, and it is believed in some quarters that an effort will be made at Congress under some guise to have the question re-opened.

If it is re-opened, we may expect again to see Belfast Socialists who still retain their affiliation with the I.L.P. of Great Britain, uniting with Orangemen and Hibernians to strangle the infant movement of an Irish Labour Party. Already that element was the chief agent in securing by a majority of one the withdrawal of the Belfast Trades Council from the Irish Trades Congress. As the Orangeman says “We will not have Home Rule,” so the Belfast dissenters from the position accepted by most Socialists in Ireland say “We will not have an Irish Labour Party.” So he repeats in the Labour movement the same feelings of hatred and distrust of his Catholic brothers and sisters, as his exploiters have instilled into him for their own purposes from infancy.

The great majority of Socialists in Ireland have united under one banner and one name, that of the Independent Labour Party of Ireland, quite distinct from the Trade Union organisation, but also in harmony with it. But a small section of Belfast Socialists still holds aloof, unconsciously influenced by old prejudices against the rest of Ireland, and trying to fool itself into the belief that it is opposing the development of the political movement of the working class in Ireland – in the interests of internationalism. The kind of internationalism that is most eloquently advocated by Sir Edward Carson and his followers under another and more genuine name.

It will be interesting to see this young infant of the political movement of Labour in Ireland grapple with this many-headed opposition at Cork.


Last updated on 13.8.2003