James Connolly on Direct Action


At the Dublin May Day rally, the guest speaker from the Belfast & District Council of Trade Unions quoted from an article, Direct Action in Belfast, written by Connolly and published in the Irish Worker, September 16th, 1911.

“We have just had, and taken, the opportunity in Belfast to put into practice a little of what is known on the Continent of Europe as ‘Direct Action’.

“Direct Action consists in ignoring all the legal and parliamentary ways of obtaining redress for the grievances of Labour, and proceeding to rectify these grievances by direct action upon the employer’s most susceptible part – his purse. This is very effective at times, and saves much needless worry, and much needless waste of union funds.

“Direct Action is not liked by lawyers, politicians, or employers. It keeps the two former out of a job, and often leaves the latter out of pocket. But it is useful to Labour, and if not relied upon too exclusively, or used too recklessly, it may yet be made a potent weapon in the armoury of the working class.”

Direct Action is not a new idea. It is not about stunts or being ‘hard’. It simply means taking action directly rather than trusting in someone else (politicians, Labour Court, mediators, etc.) to sort things out for us.

It gave our unions many victories in the past but that is almost forgotten today. It is time to go back to basics: decide what we want to achieve and then organise together to win it. It’s both a radical idea and a practical one.

Joe King


This article is from
Workers Solidarity 92, published June/July 2006

You can download the PDF file of WS92

WS92 cover