James Connolly


Independent Labour
Party of Ireland

Appeal to the Irish Working Class


Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.


In the midst of the many appeals and manifestoes now being thrust upon your notice, we hope that you will find time to read this, the appeal of the only organised body of Socialists in Ireland who have at all times held to the principle that the true path to national redemption for this country led along the road of social progress; and that therefore they who worked for either cause could not but be of service to the other. As Socialists, we have ever taught that National Freedom could not be won by a population resigned to industrial slavery; and as believers in National Freedom we have ever taught that the real re-conquest of Ireland necessarily implied the redemption of the Irish worker from the slavery of the capitalist system.

This being our position, we desire now that Industrial Emancipation and National Freedom are alike in danger, to set before you our views of the present war, and your and our proper attitude towards it. We speak as workers to workers, and as lovers of our common country to all those who ought to love and cherish it.

Ask yourselves this question: What foreign enemies have the workers of Ireland; what country has ever done us any harm? With all the people of the world we have much in common; with none of them have we any just grounds for quarrel. All the workers of the world are like ourselves, beasts of burden to a propertied class, their lives ordered and ruled for them by the interests of that class, their countries stolen from them by the armed might of the hirelings of that class in the past, and kept from them by the superstitions of law and tradition fostered by that class in the present. Their sufferings are as our sufferings, their hopes are our hopes – we are all brethren one of another. To take up arms in anger to kill any of the poor driven workers of another nation at the order of our rulers is as clearly an act of murder, an act worthy of Cain, as any crime of violence ever committed.

Now if we forget for a moment the vital distinction between a people and their rulers, and imagine that each of the countries outside Ireland is solid and with but one interest to conserve, that when we speak of England, we mean all England; of Germany, all Germany; of France, all France; of Russia, all Russia; if we imagine this current capitalist cant to be true, not even then can we conceive of any reason why Irish workers should fly to arms for the Empire. Has Germany ever harmed Ireland? No! Has England ever harmed Ireland? Yes! The whole history of our connection has been a history of English war upon Ireland. Are we then to take up arms and proceed to murder a nation that never harmed us, and do it at the call of a nation that destroyed our national life, murdered our civilisation, devastated our country, slew with famine untold millions of our people, hanged or imprisoned the best and bravest of our race, and even now refuses to put in operation the poor caricature of Home Rule so long promised?

We refuse to believe it. No, fellow-workers! The Empire is founded upon the misery of the toiling masses; security is based upon the submission of the dispossessed working-class. Its triumph will establish its industrial and political supremacy more firmly than ever. Its humiliation, on the contrary, will allow other peoples to take their rightful place among the nations of the world, and enable the working class to pursue their path to prosperity and freedom.

Out of such humiliation would come the peaceful growth of industry in Europe, and out of the travail of such humiliation for Empire there might arise an Ireland nationally free; an Ireland able to develop a real civilisation based upon that broad democracy of common ownership which the Celtic civilisation of our forefathers foreshadowed.

We ask you then to let the Empire go its own way; let those who own it fight its battles. It is not yours, you are but its slaves, and surely there is nothing in creation meaner than slaves fighting for the source and basis of their enslavement.

Conserve your energies, guard the welfare of your own homes, study and work for the redemption of your class and nation. Watch and wait – in Ireland. For

“Time at last makes all things even
And if we do but watch the hour,
There never yet was human power
That could evade, if unforgiven,
The patient hate and vigil long
Of those who treasure up a wrong.”


Last updated on 14.8.2003