WHAT IS OUR PROGRAMME?
We are often asked the above question.
the question is not too politely put, sometimes it is put in frantic
bewilderment, sometimes it is put in wrathful objurgation, sometimes it
in tearful entreaty, sometimes it is put by Nationalists who affect to
the Labour movement, sometimes it is put by Socialists who distrust the
Nationalists because of the anti-Labour record of many of their
sometimes it is put by our enemies, sometimes by our friends, and
always it is
pertinent, and worthy of an answer.
The Labour movement is like no other
Its strength lies in being like no other movement. It is never so
when it stands alone. Other movements dread analysis and shun all
define their objects. The Labour movement delights in analysing, and is
perpetually defining and re-defining its principles and objects. The
woman who has caught the spirit of the Labour movement brings that
analysis and definition into all his or her public acts, and expects at
times to answer the call to define his or her position. They cannot
illusions, nor thrive by them; even should their heads be in the clouds
will make no forward step until they are assured that their feet rest
In this they are essentially different
middle or professional classes, and the parties or movements controlled
classes in Ireland.
These always talk of realities, but nourish themselves and their
the unsubstantial meat of phrases; always prate about being intensely
but nevertheless spend their whole lives in following visions.
When the average non-Labour patriot in Ireland
who boasts of his practicality is brought in contact with the cold
its problems he shrinks from the contact. Should his feet touch the
he affects to despise it as a `mere material basis', and strives to
people believe that true patriotism needs no foundation to rest upon
the brain storms of its poets, orators, journalists, and leaders.
Ask such people for a programme and you
branded as a carping critic; refuse to accept their judgment as the
in human wisdom and you become an enemy to be carefully watched; insist
the crisis of your country's history your first allegiance is to your
and not to any leader, executive, or committee, and you are forthwith a
disturber, a factionist, a wrecker.
What is our programme? We at lease, in
with the spirit of our movement, will try and tell it. Our programme in
peace was to gather into Irish hands in Irish trade unions the control
the forces of production and distribution in Ireland.
We never believed that freedom would be realised without fighting for
our earliest declaration of policy in Dublin
in 1896 the editor of this paper has held to the dictum that our ends
secured `peacefully if possible, forcibly if necessary'. Believing so,
what the world outside Ireland
is realising to-day, that the destinies of the world and the fighting
of armies are at the mercy of organised Labour as soon as that Labour
truly revolutionary. Thus we strove to make Labour in Ireland
We saw that should it come to a test in
(as we hoped and prayed it might come), between those who stood for the
nation and those who stood for the foreign rule, the greatest civil
the hand of the Irish nation for use in the struggle would be the
Irish docks, shipping, rail- ways and production by Unions that gave
allegiance to Ireland.
We realised that the power of the enemy
his forces upon the forces of Ireland would lie at the mercy of the men
controlled the transport system of Ireland; we saw that the hopes of
a nation rested upon the due recognition of the identity of interest
that ideal and the rising hopes of Labour.
In Europe to-day we have seen the
of the world exert- ing every effort, holding out all possible sort of
inducement, to organised Labour to use its organisation on the side of
governments in time of war. We have spent the best part of our lifetime
striving to create in Ireland
the working class spirit that would create an Irish organisation of
willing to do voluntarily for Ireland
what those governments of Europe are beseeching
trade unions to do for their countries. And we have partly succeeded.
We have succeeded in creating an
that will willingly do more for Ireland
than any trade union in the world has attempted to do for its national
government. Had we not been attacked and betrayed by many of our
advanced patriots, had they not been so anxious to destroy us, so
applaud even the British Government when it attacked us, had they stood
and pushed our organisation all over Ireland it would now be in our
power at a
word to crumple up and demoralise every offensive move of the enemy
champions of Irish freedom. Had we been able to carry out all our
such an Irish organisation of Labour alone could carry them out, we
could at a
word have created all the conditions necessary to the striking of a
blow whenever the military arm of Ireland
wished to move.
Have we a programme? We are the only
had a programme---that understood the mechanical conditions of modern
the dependence of national power upon industrial control. What is our
now? At the grave risk of displeasing alike the perfervid Irish patriot
British `competent military authority', we shall tell it.
We believe that in times of peace we
along the lines of peace to strengthen the nation, and we believe that
strengthens and elevates the working class strengthens the nation. But
believe that in times of war we should act as in war. We despise,
despise and loathe, all the mouthings and mouthers about war who infest
in time of peace, just as we despise and loathe all the cantings about
and restraint to which the same people treat us in times of war.
Mark well then our programme. While the
still is a subject nation we shall continue to urge her to fight for
We shall continue, in season or out of
teach that the `far-flung battle line' of England is weakest at the
nearest its heart, that Ireland is in that position of tactical
a defeat of England in India, Egypt, the Balkans or Flanders would not
dangerous to the British Empire as any conflict of armed forces in
that the time for Ireland's battle is NOW, the place for Ireland's
HERE. That a strong man may deal lusty blows with his fists against a
surrounding foes, and conquer, but will succumb if a child sticks a pin
But the moment peace is once admitted by
British Government as being a subject ripe for discussion, that
policy will be for peace and in direct opposition to all talk or
preparation for armed revolution. We will be no party to leading out
patriots to meet the might of an England
at peace. The moment peace is in the air we shall strictly confine
and lend all our influence to the work of turning the thought of Labour
to the work of peaceful reconstruction.
That is our programme. You can now
with the programme of those who bid you hold your hand now, and thus
put it in
the power of the enemy to patch up a temporary peace, turn round and
at his leisure, and then go to war again with the Irish question
the graves of Irish patriots.
We fear that is what is going to happen.
It is to
our mind inconceivable that the British public should allow
conscription to be
applied to England
and not to Ireland.
Nor do the British Government desire it. But that Government will use
of the necessities of war to force conscription upon the people of England,
and will then make a temporary peace, and turn round to force Ireland
to accept the same terms as have been forced upon England.
The English public will gladly see this
done---misfortune likes company. The situation will then shape itself
Irish Volunteers who are pledged to fight conscription will either need
swallow their pledge, and see the young men of Ireland
conscripted, or will need to resist conscription, and engage the
time when England
is at peace.
This is what the diplomacy of England
is working for, what the stupidity of some of our leaders who imagine
Wolfe Tones is making possible. It is our duty, it is the duty of all
to save Ireland
from such shame or such slaughter to strengthen the hand of those of
leaders who are for action as against those who are playing into the
We are neither rash nor cowardly. We know
opportunity when we see it, and we know when it has gone. We know that
end of this war England
will have at least an army of one million men, or more than two
for every adult male in Ireland.
And these soldiers veterans of the greatest war in history.
We shall not want to fight those men. We
devote our attention to organising their comrades who return to civil
organising them into trade unions and Labour parties to secure them
rights in civil life.
Unless we emigrate to some country where
January 22, 1916