Wood Quay Ward, Election Address
Dublin, January 1903
Transcribed by The James Connolly Society in 1997.
To The Electors
Having been again asked to contest the Wood Quay Ward in the interests of labour, I desire, in accepting this invitation, to lay before you a few of the principles upon which I conducted the campaign last election, and on which I shall fight this.
Our defeat of last year, brought about as it was by a campaign of slander and bribery, and a wholesale and systematic debauching of the more degraded portion of the electorate, did not in the slightest degree affect the truth of the principles for which we contested. These principles still remain the only principles by which the working class can ever attain its freedom.
When the workers come into the world we find that we are outcasts in the world. The land on which we must live is the property of a class who are the descendants of men who stole the land from our forefathers, and we who are workers, are, whether in town or country, compelled to pay for permission to live on the earth; the houses, shops, factories, etc., which were built by the labour of our fathers at wages that simply kept them alive are now owned by a class which never contributed an ounce of sweat to their erecting, but whose members will continue to draw rent and profit from them while the system lasts. As a result of this the worker in order to live must sell himself into the service of a master – he must sell to that master the liberty to coin into profit the physical and mental energies.
A shopkeeper in order to live must sell his goods for what he can get, but a worker in order to live must sell a part of his life, nine, ten, or twelve hours per day as the case may be. The shopkeeper, if he is lucky, may get the value of his goods, but the worker cannot get under the capitalist system the value of his labour; he must accept whatever wage those who are unemployed are willing to accept at his job. This is what I call wage-slavery, because under it the worker is a slave who sells himself for a wage with which to buy his rations, which is the only difference between this system and negro slavery where the master bought the rations and fed the slave himself. There is only one remedy for this slavery of the working class, and that remedy is the socialist republic, a system of society in which the land and all houses, railways, factories, canals, workshops, and everything necessary for work shall be owned and operated as common property, much as the land of Ireland was owned by the clans of Ireland before England introduced the capitalist system amongst us at the point of the sword. There is only one way to attain that end, and that way is for the working class to establish a political party of its own; a political party which shall set itself to elect to all public bodies in Ireland working men resolved to use all the power of those bodies for the workers and against their oppressors, whether those oppressors be English, Scotch or sham Irish patriots. In claiming this we will only be following the example of our masters. Every political party is the party of a class. The Unionists represent the interests of the landlords and the big capitalists generally; the United Irish League is the party of the middle class, the agriculturists, the house jobbers, slum landlords, and drink sellers. If an Irish landlord evicts a tenant farmer he is denounced by the Home Rule press as an enemy to Ireland, but an Irish employer can lock out and attempt to starve thousands of true Irishmen, as was done in the building trade in 1896, in the tailoring trade in 1900, and in the engineers of Inchicore in 1902; and not a member of parliament would take up the fight for the workers, or bother himself about them. Nay, the capitalists who thus try to crush their workers are highly honoured by the official parliamentary party, and some, like Mr. P. White, are members of the United Irish League Executive. If a man takes a farm from which a tenant has been evicted, he is tightly called a traitor, but who ever heard or read of the capitalist Home Rule press of this country saying a hard word about the scabs who go in on a strike or lockout, even when those scabs were imported, as was the case during the tailors’ lock-out, the saddlers’ strike, or the engineers’ lock-out? If the men who were imprisoned for threatening black-legs during the engineers’ lock-out had been engaged in a dispute over farms, we would have been told that they were “patriots suffering for their country.” But as they were only workmen fighting for their class interests, we were told by the Home Rule newspapers that they were “misguided individuals.”
What is wanted then is for the workers to organise for political action on socialist lines. And let us take lesson by the municipal election of last year. Let us remember how the drink-sellers of the Wood Quay Ward combined with the slum owner and the house jobber; let us remember how Alderman Davin, Councillor McCall, and all their fellow publicans issued free drinks to whoever would accept, until on the day before election and election day, the scenes of bestiality and drunkenness around their shops were such as brought the blush of shame to every decent man and woman who saw them. Let us remember the threats and the bribery, how Mr. Byrne of Wood Quay told the surrounding tenants, that if “Mr. Connolly was elected their rents would be raised;” let us remember how the spirit of religion was prostituted to the service of the drinkseller to drive the labourer back into his degradation; how the workers were told that socialism and freethinking were the same thing, although the freethinking government of France was just after shooting down socialist workmen at Martinique for taking part in a strike procession; let us remember how the paid canvassers of the capitalist candidate – hired slanderers – gave a different account of Mr. Connolly to every section of the electors. How they said to the Catholics that he was an Orangeman, to the Protestants that he was a Fenian, to the Jews that he was an anti-Semite, to others that he was a Jew, to the labourers that he was a journalist on the make, and to the tradesmen and professional classes that he was an ignorant labourer; that he was born in Belfast, Derry, England, Scotland and Italy, according to the person the canvasser was talking to. Remember that all this carnival of corruption and dishonesty was resorted to, simply in order to prevent labour from electing a representative who could neither be bought, terrified nor seduced, and you will understand how important your masters conceive to be their hold on the public bodies in this country. You will also understand that there can never be either clean, healthy, or honest politics in the City of Dublin, until the power of the drinksellers is absolutely broken – they are positively the meanest and most degraded section that ever attempted to rule a city.
Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, you understand my position. This is socialist republicanism, the politics of labour, of freedom from all tyrants, foreign and native. If you are a worker your interests should compel you to vote for me, if you are a decent citizen, whether worker or master, you should vote for me; if you are an enemy of freedom, a tyrant, or the tool of a tyrant, you will vote against me.
Believing that in this fight I am fighting the fight of my class, I invite every self-respecting worker to join our committee and help the cause.
Yours in the name of labour,
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Last updated on 29.7.2007