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Peter Hadden

Northern Perspectives

(August 1977)

Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.

Editorial Note from ETOL: Peter Hadden drafted nearly all of the Northern Ireland Perspectives documents for the CWI in Ireland.
These documents were discussed/amended as needs be at the Irish CWI National Committee and then taken to the Irish CWI conferences for debate. They were meant to offer a broad political forecast, to help orientate the political work of the membership.
While some small modifications were made in the discussion process, it would be fair to say that the final documents are essentially those drafted by Hadden, which is why they are included in this collection.


A transformation of the Northern Ireland situation has taken place. Recent events, above all the demise of the UUAC stoppage, have pushed the struggle against sectarianism and for workers’ unity onto a new and higher level.

Quantitative changes, gradual steps away from sectarianism, have been replaced by a change of quality. The role of a perspective is to assist every comrade to understand these developments and to point the tendency in the right direction. Every sinew of the organisation must then be stretched to cover the needs and fulfil the possibilities which this new situation can and will present.

In the late 1960s and especially in the early years of this decade sectarianism broke loose from its chains. Broadly speaking it dug its teeth deeper and deeper until, in March 1974, it crowned itself triumphant. During this period polarization intensified, the political and paramilitary spokesmen of bigotry and right wing reaction held sway. The Labour Movement as pushed into retreat. In particular, its political wing was decimated.

The reasons for this situation have been explained many times in our material. British Imperialism bears the prime responsibility for nursing the foetus which grew into the monster of sectarianism. The failure of the Labour leaders and the opportunism of those who sprang into prominence through the Civil Rights Movement were also factors. Finally, the emergence of the Provisionals, an adventurist product of the opportunism of trade union, Labour Party and civil rights leaders from 1968-1970, gave new life to sectarianism. Like a bullet bigotry hurtled forward in this period. But even a bullet must begin to lose its momentum at some stage.

By the frantic exertion of its own forces the religious polarisation began to slow up and then to reverse itself. Again, in general terms, after May 1974 the tide started to ebb. The UWC could lead their supporters nowhere.

Their “government” which had held virtual power for a short period, fell to pieces. The charade of the political games played by the grandiose “Convention” turned people’s minds away from politicians in every shape, size and form. In the ghettos, among all sections of the working class, a mood of war weariness and disillusionment with politicians and with the paramilitaries rapidly spread. Above all, the trade union movement began to move forward.

Just as the mole of the revolution, during certain periods, is not evident in events but is burrowing away beneath the surface, so the growing opposition of a broad mass of people, particularly the organised working class, took a period to manifest itself openly. Even so, the changed nature of the “troubles” indicated the developments which were taking place.

In the early years the upheaval in Northern Ireland was mass upheaval. Firstly in the Catholic areas mass movements of thousands of workers exploded onto the streets protesting against discrimination and for improved social conditions. The initial opposition of the Falls, Bogside and other areas to the brutal tactics of the army took the form of huge riots which involved virtually the entire population of certain districts. In 1971 and 1972 in particular, the Protestant reaction developed. It too assumed a mass character, in the forms of the thousands and tens of thousands of hooded men who filled out the initial UDA parades.

Even before 1974 the character of the “troubles” began to change. The masses melted from the streets. The conflict refined itself into a vile “duel in the dark” fought out between the Provos and the army, and between the Provos and the Protestant paramilitaries. From active participants the workers on both sides were convened into spectators.

In December 1975 and in January 1976 the growing anger of the workers at the long tally of atrocities being chalked up by the paramilitaries spilled over into open protest. After welling up for so long, restrained by the natural fear of openly opposing those who wielded the guns and therefore the power, the movement sprang forward. Most significantly, the workers did not turn to the middle class witch doctors who, since 1969, have been attempting to invoke peace with their prayers. They turned to their class organisations. In Derry, in Lurgan and in Newry the Trades Councils and the embryonic Trades Councils were pressed to take the lead in organizing huge demonstrations of protest at killings in their areas.

These were clear cut indications of the mood of the masses, particularly the mood of the advanced layers of the working class. Throughout the trade union movement the layer of activists immediately recognised the way forward. Pressure was spontaneously applied by workers in many areas upon their union leaders to act on a province-wide scale. From this pressure emerged the Better Life for All campaign. From the outset the union leaders viewed with fright the movement they were forced to unleash. They sprang back from decisive action, muffling their ears to the demands of their members. Used to the comfort of a back seat they were reluctant to impose their presence upon the “troubles”.

Under certain conditions the slightest move on the part of the Union leaders even if the bureaucracy does little more than slide one inch forward on its backside, can provoke the movement itself to stride past them and advance a mile. Such was the situation at the outset of the Better Life for All campaign. Despite the lack of any clear lead the activists responded with relish by moving into the new campaign councils and into the Trades Councils.

Not solely in organisational terms did the workers respond. To the horror of the leaders even the faintest whispers from them about the aims of the campaign sent thunderous echoes through their ranks. The mutterings at the top about six vague demands resounded throughout the movement and landed back in the laps of the bureaucrats in the horrific form of demands for all out action against sectarianism, for class policies on jobs, housing, wages, etc. and even for the movement to take independent political action.

The book of Genesis informs us that God created man in his own image. The Trade Unions’ leaders determined that their campaign would be shaped in their image and none other than theirs. With one hand they nurtured it. With the other they sliced off every aspect which did not resemble their way of thinking. Quickly the campaign took on the appearance of its leaders even in the finest detail, bureaucratic, inefficient, half-hearted, timid and consequently ineffective. As far as the mass of working people were concerned it just as quickly ceased to exist altogether.

At no time does the class movement develop in a straight line. Rather through a process of contradictions, moving forward, pulling back, it advances. The mass of workers lapsed into inactivity after the first months of 1976. The movement fell back. However, when the movement retreats as part of the process of going forward, it does not sink back to its original starting point. The Better Life for All campaign succeeded in drawing a new layer of fresh activists into the movement and of retaining them in activity. It reinforced the confidence of the advanced workers, increased their loyalty to the movement, if not to the leadership, and began in their minds a process of assimilating the lessons of the Campaign.

The failure of the leadership to tap the momentum of Jan-Feb 1976 did not kill that momentum entirely. Rather it sapped it for a period. The masses had surged forward but, like someone who is unused to exercise, they did not go far before they had to stop for breath. They paused until their anger and revulsion at sectarianism once again drove them to their feet. This time fitter as a result of the first bout of exercise they could go even further.

The atrocity which provoked a renewed outburst of anger was the deaths of the Maguire children in August 1976. Spontaneous demonstrations of thousands followed. These were a genuine expression of the anger of working people. Equally they were an indication of the determination of workers to resist sectarianism in all its guises. This spontaneous outburst quickly shaped itself into the peace movement.

Because of the silence of the trade union leadership, who were too busy postponing events associated with the Better Life for All campaign to notice what was happening, the Peace Campaign threw up its own brand of opportunist leadership. Instead of steering their support in a class direction they steered it towards the clouds. “Peace” was to be the goal-nothing else. The role of the army and the police, the violence of poverty and unemployment, were considered irrelevant.

For a period this movement did manage to tap the anger of working people, Catholic and Protestant; particularly the women. But because it lacked the faintest trace of class ideas it was directionless from the outset. Monster marches and monster demonstrations for a time succeeded in giving vent to the indignation of the people. Each week a march was held, and every week’s march was bigger than that of the preceding week. So long as this could be kept up things were fine. Sadly for the peace leaders the laws of dialectics cannot be defied for ever. Things cannot continue to grow bigger and bigger. At some point the opposite process must begin. As soon as the peace marches stopped increasing they began to contract.

Other than the instrument of mass rallies the peace leaders had no way of giving an expression to the aspiration of any significant section of the working class. Religious pleas, requests for peace to descend from on high, choruses of hymns and prayers and appeals to the “goodness within us” to surface all these are light years removed from the real problems associated with bigotry and poverty and with their solutions. Inevitably, the movement waned as quickly as it grew.

Like a current of water, a mass movement which is not channelled by a clear leadership will always seek the path of least resistance. Very often this will lead nowhere and like water it will change direction in search of alternative outlets. Lacking perspective, programme or any form of guidance from the leadership of the class organisations the movement picked the easiest option, the lowest common denominator, which was the demand for peace and nothing else. When the path of the peace movement “dried up” it left behind its deposits, the shell of an organisation, rich in funds, poverty stricken in terms of ideas, direction and support.

Precisely because this movement had greater potential than any of the middle class peace movements which preceded it, its leaders have ended up more degenerate, more rotten than any of their past counterparts.

The dissipation of so much pointless energy inevitably had the effect of restraining the opposition to sectarianism for a period. Up to 30,000 people had been brought on to the streets at one time. Inevitably, the people would now ask what would be the point of further demonstrations or like action against sectarianism? As the marches faded into insignificance the paramilitaries were able to re-emerge from cover, wiping their brows with relief. The Provisionals, against whom most of the initial fire of the peace leaders was directed, were actually able to make capital out of the reactionary positions adopted by Messrs’ Corrigan, Williams and McKeown in supporting the policies of British Imperialism.

The Better Life for All Campaign had briefly drawn workers into battle within their own organisations and around a form of class programme. It had been weak in that it only achieved a mass echo for a short period in a number of areas. The Peace Movement was strong where the trade union campaign was weak. But it lacked totally those strengths which had been manifest in trade union activity. It did enjoy massive support and was capable of retaining this for a period of months. Its leadership, for all their petit-bourgeois failings, did at least have the courage to attempt to go forward. Their lack of ideas, of class orientation, prevented them from retaining and developing fully their support. Noticeably absent from their activities were any significant numbers of working class youth.

The movement of the working class into action through their organisations would synthesise these developments. It would raise the activities and demands of the Better Life for All Campaign to a higher level. To this it would attach positive aspects of the peace movement in its initial stages, its sweeping momentum, the courage and determination of its supporters and even of its leaders. The process of the emergence of such a movement has begun. During the recent stoppage called by the UUAC the organised working class, using their organisations, sent the supporters of Paisley and his reactionary gangs reeling.

That development marks the very beginning of a new period. As the 1974 stoppage was the culmination of the growth of sectarianism over the preceding years so the 1977 stoppage was the culmination of the decline of sectarianism over the intervening period; the victory won by the working class marks a qualitative change in the situation and the opening of a period in which workers’ organisations can develop and expand. The result of the stoppage has been to construct a platform on a higher level from which the Labour Movement can operate. In this sense the situation for the movement has been qualitatively transformed.

Paisley and his United Unionist Action Council allies resorted to the desperate tactic of a repeat of 1974 precisely because the conditions which had existed before 1974 were no longer present! His support, and that enjoyed by the UDA, had declined significantly. In the hope that this support would be restored they decided to attempt to turn the wheel of history back three years.

The UUAC reactionaries had drawn certain conclusions from the UWC success. Even without broad popular support in the first instance the bullyboys of the UDA, UVF and co., the repressive tactics of the ruling class and finally the smell of success had provided sufficient ingredients for victory. By the end of that stoppage real support had developed in Protestant working class areas. The initial hostile feelings of many workers had not translated themselves into open action.

Partly this was due to the existing mood; partly it was a result of the failure of the union leaders to take the initiative at the outset. May 1977 was not May 1974. This the UUAC learned to their cost. After 11 days the 1977 stoppage was crushed. It was trampled underfoot by the overwhelming resistance and opposition of the working class. The busmen, power workers, shipyard men and the thousands of others who streamed into their work places past “pickets”, thugs and threats and who instinctively organised their own means of defence, these were the forces which broke it.

The decisive factor which ruled out a repeat of 1974 was the mood of the workers. The difference did not lie in the attitude of the union leaders or in the role of the state forces. The ruling class had learned that the application of their mighty military machine, at the outset, would produce other results than those they desired. They, for their own reasons, played the role of auxiliaries, leaving the workers to fight the front line battles to get to their work. Had the mood of the workers been different, no matter what tactics the army and police might have employed, the stoppage would not have collapsed in the manner it did.

In 1974 workers hung back when threatened. They responded to the barricades by staying on the safe side of them. They obeyed the threats. This time these same methods produced the opposite results. Particularly when one section of the workforce took the lead the mass of trade unionists were steeled in their determination not to be cowed. This changed mood was the key question.

Before the stoppage began it was clear that it had little support. The balance of forces was weighed heavily against the UUAC. It would be wrong, however, to assume that their methods were predetermined to defeat. When two equally well equipped armies of approximately equal size engage in battle the result is hard to predict. It will depend upon the skills of the various commanders, the fighting ability of the troops as well as a host of other subjective factors. When things are weighted differently, when one large army confronts a tiny force, the likely result is clearer. Yet even in this case subjective factors can come into play. If the commander of the largest force orders his troops to drop their rifles and run at the sight of his first casualty, an unexpected victory will have been won by the other side.

The Action Council of Paisley, at the outset of the 1977 stoppage, could have been lifted by the mighty hand of the trade union movement, squeezed into pulp and tossed aside. At any time during these eleven days this could have been done. Yet it soon became apparent that the union leaders had only one order which they knew how to issue to their members – RETREAT.

Their cowardly indecisiveness allowed the UUAC, in the first day of the stoppage, to slide into a position where they almost gained the upper hand. Such “success” was short-lived. They were halted in their tracks by the refusal of workers to adopt the low profile of the union chiefs.

The workers won. They won because of the initiative which sprang from the belly of their movement. They won because they were determined they would not be humiliated again. Finally, they won despite the creeping paralysis which had struck the brain of their movement.

This victory was partial not absolute. Paisley was permitted to crawl away, bruised and shaken, but not fully exposed and crushed. The trade union leaders must accept the responsibility for this. All that was positive in the outcome belongs to the workers. All that was negative belongs to the leaders.

A detailed analysis of this highly significant event has been published elsewhere. It is sufficient for the purpose of a perspective to draw only the general conclusions which stem from it.

The defeat of the stoppage has placed the movement in a position to go forward. The overall situation is now ripe with possibilities for the working class. New waves of struggle, whether on industrial issues or on the overall issue of sectarianism, are on the order of the day for the coming period. Unlike the previous upsurge of activity eighteen months ago, renewed struggles will be set against the backcloth of an entirely different situation in Britain, the South and internationally. As is explained later in this document, the working class is moving forward on a world scale. In the South a new situation is unfolding. In Britain the long sleep of the first years of this Labour Government is being shattered by the thunder of demands from the miners, engineering workers, transport workers and others. These events will assist in maintaining the upswing of the united working class movement in Northern Ireland.


As a result of the stoppage in particular, the prospect of a civil war along religious lines has been hurled into the corner. A civil war would only be possible when a broad base of support attached itself to those forces who are seeking it. The stoppage has exposed the lack of such support. Its effect will be to minimise it for a further period.

In previous perspective documents our tendency explained that, while a civil war could not be ruled out, it had become in recent years a retreating prospect. Instead we explained that the upsurge of sectarianism would most likely be followed by a period of disillusionment. out of which the most likely developments would be a shift to the left. Events have confirmed this prognosis.

At this stage the possibility of a full scale confrontation between the two communities has shrunk to tiny proportions. Undoubtedly, sections at least of the paramilitaries see such a development as the only means of ensuring themselves a future. There can be little doubt that sections of the Provisionals, since the stoppage have been intent, with a concerted campaign against the RUC on provoking a backlash.

Their problem which they share with all those of a kindred spirit in the UDA, UVF and others, is to find a “safe” way of bringing such full scale blood-letting about. The adventures of the Provos have not yet given rise to fury among the Protestant population. As disillusionment spreads the masses become inert, harder to provoke. It may take a frenzied spate of killings, mass butchery on the scale of the Bessbook atrocities to stir up such a reaction. “Therein lies the rub” for the paramilitaries. To engage in the game of provoking reactions was all very well a few years ago when each deed was likely to provoke a thirst for revenge. Now this “game” is about as safe for the paramilitaries as playing catch with nitro-glycerine. The most likely reaction would be a further mass outcry from Protestants and Catholics directed against the killers on all sides.

In addition the international situation and the· strengthening of the workers’ movement on a world scale further diminishes the prospect of a sectarian inferno. As the workers go forward internationally they will throw lifelines of confidence to the Labour Movement in Northern Ireland.

However unlikely, we must not close our eyes to the possibility that sudden and sharp changes could drive the situation back for a period. For example, over-reaction of the part of the Army along the lines of a “Bloody Sunday” could give a temporary fillip to the Provisionals and have the effect of postponing our perspectives and casting the possibilities for a growth of sectarianism in a new mould. While outlining a general perspective a revolutionary tendency must remain alive to such possibilities.

With such a proviso in mind we can be confident that the prospect for the coming period is of a shift to the left and the dealing of further blows at the various manifestations of sectarianism. Only if after several such leftward movements failed to take the workers forward would disillusionment set in and reaction be able to muster its forces. Even then, given the international situation the balance of strength would still rest with the working class organisations.

The fate of sectarianism is a fate which all the major paramilitary organisations must share. Those within their ranks who pursue their objectives to their conclusion will end up considering the need for a sectarian holocaust.

As far as the programme of the Provisionals is concerned there can be no implementation of any significant aspect of it without raising the prospect of civil war. It is quite obvious that the Protestant working class will not peacefully accept any form of United Ireland a la Provisionals. Everybody and everything from the rats in Belfast sewers to the seagulls on the Aran Islands know this to be a fact. Some Provisionals will shake their heads and say that they will only achieve a United Ireland when they have convinced the Protestants that it is in their interests. In the meantime they are fighting to force the British to give a commitment to withdraw their forces from Northern Ireland.

Demands cannot be isolated from their context. They must be examined in relation to the actual situation in which they are to apply. Even this more “limited” aim of a declaration of intent to withdraw would at once raise the blinds on the possibility of a full scale conflict. British Imperialism would give no such commitment lightly. It would need to be squeezed from her grasp. Were the Provisionals in a strong enough position to apply this pressure the Northern Ireland situation would be at boiling point. The withdrawal or even the likelihood of a troop withdrawal would be enough to produce a bloodbath.

Likewise with the objectives and methods of the UDA, UVF and the hundred and one other smaller Protestant paramilitary organisations. These groups gained significance because Protestant workers had nowhere else to turn to, to prevent sectarian attack. Most of their leaders realise that the only way their mass support could once again be regained would be if the threat of all-out confrontation once again forced the Protestants to line up behind them.

Driven on by the need to provoke sectarianism, and then driven back by the difficulties and problems which such provocations create, all the paramilitaries are in a constant state of crisis. Splits, feuds and counter-feuds are commonplace. Adding salt to their wounds are the blows which have been and are being dealt to their military strike power. Not only do they suffer the opposition of the majority of the working class, they also suffer the pressure of the state forces. During the last twelve months the UVF has seen its Commanders and whole layers of its volunteers in East Antrim packed off to prison convicted of a huge checklist of killings and bombings. The leadership of that organisation has admitted that their strike power has been largely decimated. Riddled with informers, spies and with their own members tied up in the atmosphere of suspicion and deadly fear this organisation is racked with crisis. It suffers in the most chronic form from the disease which blights all the paramilitaries. The UDA lags not far behind.

The decline in support for the loyalist groups has forced them to lean first one way and then the other in an attempt to recapture their position. First they declare war on everybody and everything, only to face even further rejection from the people. Then they fawn themselves before the workers with no end of political solutions, cease fires, and other gestures of “sweet reasonableness”. In recent years the UVF has been propelled from dead-end military tactics, by way of a coup by its “politically minded” leaders, to dead-end political activity, then to a counter-coup by its militarists. And so it goes on. One dead-end tactic derives from and replaces the other.

Through all this activity the decline in support has continued. Each desperate attempt to regain lost support has only succeeded in losing more. The UUAC stoppage has reduced these groups to their lowest point. Not only has it weakened them physically, it has also shattered the fear of their invincibility which had restrained workers from opposing them.

As the support wanes, as the sympathy or tolerance of the workers turn into its opposite, the steady swing to the right becomes unmistakeable. Not so many years ago our tendency had to answer the “theory” that a left wing movement would develop out of the Protestant paramilitary organisation. That “theory” is now dead, buried and in the final stages of decomposition. What few class and leftward looking ideas managed to find an expression within these organisations have long since been stamped into oblivion. Only among those in the prisons, “the schools of revolution” could there be any exception. Any decent elements now in jail would likely leave their organisations when released.

Those who have remained with the paramilitaries and those they now attract are the most backward looking section of the population. At the top the leaders are able to cream off funds from robberies, protection rackets, etc. At this level the organisations are filled with self-seeking gangsters, strutting Al Capones, whose aim is to protect their prestige and “their” wealth. At bottom the organisations are an outlet for the lumpen proletariat. At this stage they could not be described as fascist organisations. They are, however, moving in the direction of fascism. During the stoppage the UDA played the role of lumpen auxiliaries carrying out the dirty work of reactionaries like Baird and Paisley.

Their fascist trends will become more pronounced. Fascism develops primarily in opposition to the movement of the working class. Its target is the organisations of the workers. It attracts the petit-bourgeois and the most backward semi-proletarian sections of society, and channels their aggression against the organised labour movement. The UDA and UVF gained their support because of the peculiar conditions in Northern Ireland over the last period. Into their ranks drifted many workers who retained a basic loyalty to their trade union and class organisations. For this reason the ultra-left denunciation of them as “fascist” at that time was on the level of the rest of the analysis of the ultra-left. Now only the reactionary core of these groups remain. Within this core rest many of the germs of fascism.

Given the unlikelihood of a revival of sectarianism in the immediate period the only basis for the development of these organisations, or others like them, is as a semi-fascist movement growing in opposition to the movement of the workers. At the moment the overwhelming weight and power within Northern Ireland rests with the working class. Fascism in Northern Ireland in the South, in Britain or in most of the advanced capitalist countries cannot rear its ugly head as a major threat, until the workers have, not once but many times, had the opportunity to take power. But if such opportunities are missed the support of the middle layers of society could be swung from the Labour Movement. Then and only then could Fascism assume the mass character of the brownshirts, blackshirts, blueshirts, etc, of the 1930s.

The Provisionals too are faced with continual arrests. Men are now being convicted of crimes committed two, three or four years ago. Shootings are almost invariably followed by arrests and charges being levelled. To a degree these may be trumped up charges made by British imperialism in its present confident state. Whether this· is the case or not, the confidence of Imperialism is well founded. The extent of the arrests and the convictions can only mean that the Provisionals too are rotten with informers.

The Provisionals have contracted a version of the same disease which has smitten their rivals. The symptoms are familiar. Splits within their ranks have opened up for all to see. There have been splits on the political direction of the organisation, splits over the concentration on business activities by sections of leadership and now even divisions on the most critical issue of all, whether or not the campaign is to be continued. The Provisionals stand as a testimony to the absolute correctness of the stance of Marxism on the question of individual terrorism.

Every section of the international movement should discuss their growth and decline. In that brief history lie all the ammunition required to shatter the illusions of any worker anywhere in this type of adventurism. From one of the largest urban guerrilla forces in the world, they have declined to the position of only partial effectiveness. As we explained, not after the event, but at the very beginning of their activities, their chosen methods have led to useless sacrifices and demoralisation within their own ranks and among their supporters. The armour of British Imperialism has not been dented. In fact in many ways it has been reinforced.

On the present basis there can be no significant long term upsurge of their campaign. Lack of resources, decline in support and, not least, the penetrating intelligence of the state forces rule this out. On the other hand they do have the capacity to continue with a form of campaign for a long period. They have funds and they have sources of arms supplies, In addition they have such issues as the prisons to ensure a trickle of recruits.

The most likely perspective is of a continuation of the campaign on a lower and lower level. The class movement will not advance in a straight line. Nor will the Provisionals retreat in such a manner. Instead a flare-up of activity followed by a period of lull will likely be followed by a further flare-up but on a reduced scale and then a more prolonged lull and so on. The possibility cannot be excluded that the campaign will be called off. Already a section of the leadership favours such a course. For the immediate period this is unlikely. The campaign and nothing but the campaign is what binds the Provos together. The organisation has no clear political outlook. More importantly it has no solid base of political support. If the rope of the campaign were untied the funds would dry up and the organisation would rapidly fall to pieces. At least some of the members would probably form a military unit and continue with military operations.

While the most likely development is of a continuation of some form of activity by the Provos or a section of the Provos for a period, our tendency must not close our eyes to the possibility of the almost total eclipse of this organisation. The development of the Labour Movement which has taken place and will take place will convulse every existing organisation. No one and nothing will be immune. It will send shock waves even into the heart of the Provisionals.

The experience of all sections of the international working class is the common property of the workers of every country. Our comrades across the globe must learn from our experiences. We must learn from theirs. In Spain the activities of the ETA achieved international prominence under the Franco dictatorship. In the last two years the working class of Spain, not least the workers of the Basque provinces, have proven the effectiveness of other means of struggle. The ETA has already been reduced to virtual insignificance.

The mushrooming of the class struggle in Northern Ireland would overshadow all previous developments. It would tap the frustrations of the working class youth who would previously have turned to the Provisionals. Even long serving members of the Provisionals would be forced to take note. Ninety nine per cent of the basis for this form of struggle would be dissolved.

The general tendency of the recent period has been a decline in military activity and a switch from urban strongholds to the traditional rural base of republicanism and nationalism. As part of this’ process a consolidation of the hold of the right wing is certain. The Provisionals were formed by right-wing nationalists. All their early propaganda was stuffed to capacity with haughty denunciations of the “communistic” and “atheistic” outlook of the Officials.

For historical reasons the organisation developed a base of support in the Catholic ghettoes, particularly West Belfast. The recruits from these areas injected into the movement its socialist phraseology. Whatever the efforts of the Dublin based leadership to remain all things to all people, these two totally hostile viewpoints cannot exist side by side in mutual harmony forever.

The last two years have, seen intensive political turmoil in the various local Cumann. Sections of the Belfast command have demanded that the socialist revolution be inscribed as the objective. They decided to bring this about in their own way, by working their way through a list of local businessmen .shooting one after another. The right-wing of the movement, among them small businessmen in rural areas, were appalled. Who could guarantee that this elimination of the bourgeoisie would stop with them? Even the Church was called upon to intervene and eventually these activities were stopped.

As with Protestant groups but not to the same degree, the tendency has been for the right wing sections of the Provisionals to consolidate their hold on the organisation. There have been deep splits and divisions on political issues but already the organisation has shed much of its genuine left wing. Most of the better elements left within its ranks will probably drop away. If this has been taking place at a trot in the recent period the development of the class struggle would convert it into a gallop. Major class battles would stir up ideas within the organisation. Any genuine elements remaining would likely drift out to tail-end the Labour Movement. The organisation would veer to the right.

On the present basis, with or without the campaign the Provisionals face decline. The development of a strong leftward moving workers’ party would break existing political ties and draw the former supporters of the now defunct Nationalist Party. It would be quite possible that into such organisations some of these elements would drift and along such political lines the organisation would move.

Trade Union Defence Force

No matter around what issue the workers’ struggle develops, one of their targets will be sectarianism. Every industrial struggle which unites workers around class demands, brushes sectarianism to one side. Even during these troubles every local strike fought on class issues has silenced the bigots in that factory or industry for a period. On a mass scale this is now the prospect.

The need for workers’ action against the bigots will not disappear. Paradoxically the possibility of such action can actually be strengthened by the decline in strength and the strike power of the sectarians on all sides. At the moment the minds of most workers have switched themselves off from the “troubles”. Sickened and repulsed they have had enough. Instead they concentrate their attention on, for example, the developing situation in Britain. The class struggle will freshen their outlook. From it renewed confidence will be drawn. From this the workers will approach the troubles with a new attitude; the need to take action to put a stop to all the murders firmly implanted in their minds.

Several years ago the call for a Trade Union Defence Force was met with incredulous looks. Workers regarded it as an outlandish idea, which could only inflame the situation. Then, during the Better Life for All Campaign, the workers found themselves instinctively shaping in embryo a Defence Force of their own. Again during the stoppage methods of self-defence were applied by groups of workers. At this stage defence action is taken as a man would test out a new tool, at first carefully and then with growing confidence. Already through the Better Life For All Campaign, the Stoppage, demonstrations, strikes and similar forms of mass action have become widely accepted as legitimate forms of protest.

It is a short step from such a position to an understanding of the need for vigilante groups based on local union organisations to prevent intimidation and offer protection. If a picket line is not strong enough to stop scabs the instinct of the workers is not to go home. It is to reinforce the picket. Mass marches have taken place and the killings have not ended. Further demonstrations in and of themselves will not end the killings. The instinct of the workers will not be to give up, saying “At least we tried”. Like the pickets they will seek ways of developing their action.

The situation is pregnant with the possibilities of groups of workers in a factory or industry, during a strike or whatever, organising their own form of defence. How long such groups would last would depend upon a number of factors, not least the reaction of the paramilitaries. As the Labour Movement goes forward and the paramilitaries are reduced to right wing rumps the way will open to attacks from these elements, particularly from the loyalist groupings. In the past and at the moment the instinct towards self-preservation by and large has held these groups back. They fear the consequences of a backlash within their own areas, and even a backlash within their own ranks if they took on the trade union movement. In the future the same instinct will drive them in the opposite direction. It will become plain that unless the Labour Movement is stopped, their influence and their source of funds will dry up. “No social class gives up its property without a struggle.” Likewise no self-appointed local mafia is inclined to relinquish its hold on an area without attempting to resist.

We must be alive to the possibilities unfolding. The potential scope of the movement should not be underestimated. Again depending upon the reaction of the paramilitaries the possibility cannot be ruled out that the demand for vengeance from the workers will result in their being driven from their areas altogether.


Our tendency and our tendency alone has clearly explained the role of imperialism during these troubles. A thousand and one interpretations of their stance have been dashed by events. In the past half-baked, one-sided analysis of their role produced suitably lop-sided “theories”. It was said from time to time, depending upon what seemed best to fit the most recent chain of events, that Imperialism was intent on provoking a civil war, that the bosses were in support of the “Orange State” or that they were in the process of withdrawal.

For years we have been answering these “quack” interpretations. Great events clarify such matters greatly. The eleven days of the abortive UUAC stoppage served to deal more rapid and lethal blows to all such products of sterile minds than could any current of written or verbal argument.

Firstly the notion that the ruling class is attempting to provoke a civil war, if this is true we can only conclude that they are not very effective! If that had been their intention why then did they not quickly close their eyes to the activities of the Protestant paramilitaries during the stoppage and hope that carnage would result.

Secondly the argument that imperialism is attempting to shore up the Protestant establishment, these people would tell us that a man busy sawing down a tree was merely trying to preserve the wood from natural erosion!

One of the demands of the UUAC was for the return of a parliament which the Protestants could again dominate. Instead of offering the white flag to such a demand the ruling class offered a show of force unequalled since the Catholic no-go areas were decimated by Operation Motorman in 1972. On the second morning of the stoppage police backed up by troops and Saracens swept the UDA from the Newtownards Road. This argument is not contradicted by the obvious efforts of Imperialism through increased use of the RUC and the UDR to “Ulsterise” the security situation. Such steps are not being taken in order to reassemble the military and paramilitary apparatus of the old regime. They are intended to assist towards a military ’solution’ which would permit troop strengths to be reduced. During the stoppage both the RUC and the UDR were used in strength.

Finally the recent “vogue” argument that a phased withdrawal is underway. Neither in a military or an economic sense is this correct. Economic cuts have been primarily caused by the world slump of 1974–5 and the economic commandment of capitalism that the weakest of its brethren must go to the wall. Had the bosses been perfecting a careful military withdrawal they could not have constructed more favourable circumstances than those handed them by the UUAC. Bemoaning the ingratitude of the loyalists they could have taken Messrs’ Paisley and co. at their word and begun the process of handing the keys over to local rulers.

Our position in regard to British imperialism has been explained at length in previous perspectives. Briefly, the ruling class would like to more able to disentangle themselves from the situation but they cannot. To withdraw, even with the Provisional’s at a low ebb, would pose the issue of who is to rule, who is to allocate jobs, houses etc. and above all else whose finger is going to rest on the trigger of security? Immediately, the edge of the conflict would be sharpened. Even the announcement of intended withdrawal would stimulate the heartbeat of the paramilitaries. A civil war would again present itself as a possibility. Both in terms of its political and economic consequences, and in terms of the chaos which would spread to England, the British ruling class cannot contemplate such an outcome at this point in time.

The primary objective of Imperialism in recent years has been the defeat of the Provisional’s. Military repression in whatever degree necessary has been applied. At first they faced an aroused Catholic population, so incensed that even their middle class spokesmen were forced to adopt postures of semi-opposition to the methods of the army. Hence, their efforts to soften the taste of the arsenic with sweeter pills. Repression against the Provos and against every other opposition which dared stir in the Catholic areas was muted with concessions. These were aimed at appeasing the Catholic middle class. Much of the edifice of the Protestant statelet was ignominiously dismantled. Power sharing between the communities was elevated to become a “principle” of future government.

Imperialism has been pulling apart the edifice of the old Stormont regime, firstly to halt the development of sectarianism to levels she cannot control. Secondly, she has been attempting to remove the conditions which provoked such dangerous social explosions as those which rocked the Catholic ghettoes at the time of the civil rights movement. Finally, her most recent moves have been aimed at winning the allegiance of the Catholic middle class to the State and thereby to prune away the support which previously made the Provisional’s difficult targets.

The problem in the past was that every concession aimed in one direction stirred up resentment at their backs. Not wishing to fight two enemies at once, they were forced to balance the need to stop the lid lifting off the Protestant areas, at least until such times as they felt the Provisionals had been contained. Hence the sometimes contradictory postures adopted by people such as Whitelaw and Rees.

The Last two Years have seen a switch in the policy of the Ruling Class

After 1974 Direct Rule was begun. After a period it managed to stabilise itself. More and more the ghetto areas on both sides became infected with lethargy. As a result the policies of the ruling class have become distilled to their purest essence. The changed emphasis of this policy was summed up in a change of personalities at the top. Ineffective, bumbling Mervyn Rees was pulled away to greater things. Into his shoes stepped the “iron man” Mr “No nonsense” Mason. With him Rees took all talk of concessions. Behind him he left only the central plank of British policy – repression.

For a period the plethora of schemes, initiatives, “solutions”, produced by Tory and Labour governments since 1969 has been no more. At one time the political air was clogged with “initiatives”. Since the collapse of the Convention there have been more.

A doctor about to amputate a patient’s leg first of all administers drugs and anaesthetics. Otherwise his efforts will be diverted by the writhing in agony of the other parts of the body. But if the patient arrives at the hospital unconscious much of the pre-operative preparation becomes unnecessary. A numbness has crept over the Catholic areas making them less sensitive to the butchery being performed against the Provisional’s. The necessity for sops and concessions has waned.

The basis of repression has been further increased by the UUAC stoppage. In almost every way it has produced the opposite effect to its 1974 cousin. Firstly, it has severely dented the image of the UDA and other loyalist paramilitary organisations. Secondly, and only because of the role of the trade union leaders, it has increased in the minds of workers any illusions they might have had in the role of the police and the army. Thirdly, it has helped lower the level of opposition among Catholics to the RUC. (This is not to say that it has, or that future events will make this an acceptable force, in Catholic areas.) Some sections of the Provos looked on with delight at the spectacle of army Saracens smashing their way through UDA lines. These smiles will disappear when they discover that the manner of the smashing of the stoppage has left them even more open to attack. The effect of the stoppage, paradoxically, has been to clear the way for intensive repression mainly against Catholic areas.

Direct rule has served the interests of the ruling class well. But this situation cannot continue for ever. The bosses are concerned to use Direct Rule to lay the basis for some new “solutions” which they will produce when they consider things are good and ready. It is now possible, partly because of the delicate position of the Government at Westminster, that some form of talking shop will be established in the next period. This will merely to keep the politicians happy. It would, at this stage, be little more than a second tier of local government with no powers worth speaking of.

In the long term it is possible that some form of local administration with limited powers will be set up. The inertia which allows Direct Rule to hang over the people cannot last for ever. The effect of drugs begins to wear off at a certain stage. More must then be applied. Because there is now no clamour from any section of the people for a return to a developed administration, to concede this would only give credence to the existing sectarian political groups. In the future the opposite may be true. This demand may take hold on the minds of sections of the population. Then it would be a blunt refusal on the part of the ruling class which would restore the credibility of the sectarians.

Direct Rule is to be used to crush the paramilitaries, to strengthen the political middle ground, so that a new form of local administration could be offered without the fear of it either being dominated by elements like Paisley or of meeting the same fate as the power-sharing executive in 1974. With such a body established the bosses hope that the Northern Ireland situation could be neatly parcelled, bound with a ribbon, and placed to one side. Should this take two years or five years their eyes are now firmly set along this road.

One small detail has slipped out of the minds of those who believe that such a “solution” can succeed. That little trifle is the class struggle. We can inform them with absolute certainty that the future holds no prolonged lull, no period of stability in Northern Ireland. In Britain the situation is opening up. Intensive conflict looms. In the South a new period is developing

In the North all the signposts are now pointing to the left. Not the “order” dreamed of by the ruling class but class disorder looms.

The present out look of Imperialism has not been and will not be their outlook for all time. Like every other section of society they will be forced to take note of the challenge from the Labour Movement. Their strategy will change accordingly. To the ultra-left, who are only now beginning to consider that the aims of the bosses might no longer be the same as they were in the 1920s all this is a closed book.

A correct analysis which cannot cope with the new developments becomes a dogma. At the time of partition the bosses fostered partition primarily to stave off the socialist revolution. They subsequently poured cold water on sectarianism in order to avoid civil war. All that remains constant as far as the capitalists are concerned is that their system must be preserved. There is no morality other than this. The capitalist commandments, one to ten all read: “Whatever preserves the system of class exploitation and private property is good.” If sectarianism serves it, sectarianism will be used. If it threatens it, it will be discarded. As the class struggle intensifies both in Britain and in Ireland, the foremost danger to the ruling class will more and more come’ from the Labour Movement. We must be prepared to see, probably initially gaining expression among the right-wing of the Tory Party, sections of the British ruling class begin, once again, to echo the war cries of right-wing loyalist reaction in Northern Ireland.

The Economy

Conditions determine consciousness. It is the deep crisis which affects the economy and with it the fall in living standards, which is setting the scene for class upheaval. “From gloom to boom.” In the recession years of 1974–75 the capitalists of Northern Ireland were fond of parroting this phrase. After a year and a half of the “economic miracle” they have changed their tune.

“From gloom to doom.” This is what is now worn all over their faces. During the last two years there has been an upturn of sorts in the major capitalist economies. In 1976 world trade grew by 11%. The spurt forward was short-lived. Economists are predicting a growth of only 7% in world trade this year and are admitting in mournful terms that the possibility is by no means small of renewed recessions in 1978. As one business magazine, Vision, lamented recently: “Meanwhile, there is little doubt that the boom has burst with a sad little plop in Europe.”

This striking about-turn marks a new epoch for capitalism on a world scale. The prolonged upswings and short recessions of the post-war period have turned into their opposite. Now it is a case of half-hearted spurts forward dragging after them ever worsening periods of crisis. The factors which generated the post-war boom are the very elements which are now gnawing at the fabric of capitalism. Increased productivity, the growth of new technique, the rise of capital intensive industries all have contributed to the accelerating inbuilt tendency of the rate of profit (return on investment) to fall. New markets, new areas of the world to exploit and new industries cannot continue appearing forever. The doors leading to new expansion are rapidly closing.

High on the list of that which the strategists of capital have before them to lament are two startling aspects of the present upturn. Firstly, there is the absence of any real increase in investment. Even Japan, Germany and America have been blighted with the ailment of poor investment, which was previously manifest among their poorer rivals. The mini-boom, if that is what it is, has been marked by a conspicuous absence of the development of new industries. Secondly, and allied to this, is the problem of unemployment. Worldwide unemployment levels have stubbornly refused to significantly reduce themselves. Everywhere economies crawled out of the 1974–75 recession racked by spare capacity throughout their industries. The faltering growth rate of the last years have barely begun to fill out this capacity. Also, such investment as there has been has gone mainly to new machinery and production techniques and not in the expansion of industry. Rather than increase employment this rise in productivity tends to decrease it. On a world scale mass unemployment is a permanent feature of capitalism. Outside of a world war or the triumph of socialism it will remain.

For the bosses there are only headaches on every side. The “cures” offered by their advisors are only different ways of aggravating the pain. Reflation a la Keynes, would set off a new round of inflation and prepare the way for an even deeper slump. Yet to follow the insanity of Friedman, to destroy the Social Services, to create mass unemployment on a scale not yet witnessed would produce no better results. It would immediately mean the issuing of a declaration of war on the working class.

For their part the European capitalists look to America to reflate and thereby generate European industry by offering a new export market. The American bosses reply by asking why they should be the ones to take all the risks. To date the Carter administration has stubbornly refused to take any significant measures to stimulate the economy. Every half-hearted step opens a door to an avalanche of inflation. And so the government has drawn back. It is still possible that such measures will be taken, possibly delaying the onset of anew slump for a short period, but only serving to steepen it when it does arrive.

Most likely 1978 will signal the end of the so-called boom internationally. Everywhere things will begin to go down before many people had time to notice that they had been going up. Such is the nature of the present period.

As a body capitalism is sick. But when a disease affects a body it takes hold on some parts more firmly than on others. The British economy has all the ills of its rivals and it has them in a particularly acute and agonising form. Suffering the effects of under-investment stretching over decades, her industry is forced to lag further and further behind. Through boom and lump her share of world trade has declined. In one major area after another British capitalism has been deprived not only of exports but even of the home market for its products.

During 1976 exports did rise by 8%, slightly outpacing the 6% rise in imports. This was partly due to the 20% devaluation of the pound which took place that year. The mirage of an “export led boom” was not to be, however. It turned into the dust of cheaper foreign goods, produced cheaper because of the greater productivity of labour abroad. In the twelve months until the first quarter of 1977 Britain’s exports rose by 8%. Her imports rose by l3%.

Investment is the key. Without new investment the economy must smother. This year investment levels in Britain will not even reach those of 1970. Investment in new plant, new machinery or new industries is virtually non-existent. Elsewhere, spare capacity is an acute problem. In Britain it is virtually the mode of existence of industry. At the moment 60–70% of firms are working below capacity. Furthermore the number of such companies has stopped falling. In other words, the British economy did not obtain enough fuel from the upturn to get out of the first gear. Just as it is beginning to stretch itself laboriously forward it finds world trade beginning to contract.

Even the CBI and other mouthpieces of capital see no real prospect of improvement. In December the Treasury forecast was for a 2% growth in the Gross Domestic Product during 1977. Since then this figure has been officially revised to an even more miserable 1.5%. Thus, even the targets of the bosses, if achieved, would not dent the problem of unemployment which they candidly admit will not drop below the million mark before 1980.

In economic terms as Britain is to Germany or Japan so Northern Ireland is to Britain. As we predicted in advance Northern Ireland’s industry proved totally incapable of benefitting from the boom. When a storm blows up at sea only two types of boats can escape its effects. Firstly there are those which are big enough or sturdy enough to stay afloat. Secondly, there are those which have already sunk and lie unperturbed on the seabed. As far as its economy is concerned it does not needs to be stated into which category Northern Ireland falls.

Between 1966 and 1973 the Northern representatives of capital were able to boast their ability to compete. For a period the growth rate of the economy actually exceeded that of the U.K. as a whole. All that this reflected was the attraction of foreign investment brought here by greater incentives and cheap labour. Multi-national offshoots which established themselves brought up-to-date technique and machinery and were thus able to compete. Growth has become decline. As soon as the first blasts of recession appeared industrial production plummeted. Just as it had risen more quickly than other parts of the U.K. so it sunk at a more rapid pace.

While certain sections of the economy developed in the late 1960s they did so on a contracting economic base. Since 1966 the manufacturing sector of the economy has been in absolute decline. In that year, there were 180,000 people employed in manufacturing industry, textiles, food, drink and tobacco. In 1975 the figure stood at 155,000. Even on the basis of a stabilisation of the world economy it is estimated that by 1980 the figure will be less than 140,000.

Society’s wealth comes from its capacity to produce. The key to real growth lies in the goods which roll out of its factories. It does not lie in catering, tourism, or any of the service industries. Yet the service sector of the Northern Ireland economy now employs 57.6% of the workforce compared to 52.5% in 1971. Within the manufacturing sector itself is exposed further weakness. Any growth industries such as electrical engineering, chemicals or computers which have existed are generally offshoots of multi-nationals or of major British companies. Faced with slump the multi-nationals decreed that the more remote branches should be the first to go, unless other factors made them more profitable.

Accentuating this problem has been the existence of spare capacity in many of the present companies. With unused capacity at the heart of the operation, new investment and therefore, growth is unlikely in the limbs. What does not exist does not revive. In many cases the problem in Northern Ireland was not only that cuts were effected during the slump. In some industries the ‘cuts’ amounted to the entire plant. I.E.L. disappeared. Other companies, notably those involved in various aspects of modern engineering, such as S.T.C. or Rolls Royce, face extinction. In 1975, 9,500 jobs were permanently lost.

Only 22% of the economy is locally owned. In this sector are concentrated the declining industries such as Shipbuilding and heavy engineering. Inevitably the stiff breeze of competition will subject these industries to intensive pressure. Further job losses must result.

No one, not even the CBI, can manage to unearth an economic witch doctor suitably unbalanced to predict a revival of the Northern Ireland economy. The Quigley Report gives a sober estimate of job needs. Allowing for an emigration rate of 7,000 per annum, without mentioning where these people are to go, it estimates that to reduce unemployment to 7% by 1980, 40,000 new jobs must be created. To reduce it to 5% would mean that approximately 61,000 new jobs must be found. In short the boom has affected the economy about as much as a storm off the coast of Australia will increase wind strengths in the Irish Sea. Everywhere governments are forced to attempt to drive down living standards. The workers are to be asked to pay for the crisis. Under Phase Two of the British Government’s pay policy earnings will rise by a little under 8%. Prices in the twelve months until March 1977 have risen throughout Britain by 16.7%. In Northern Ireland, according to a recent survey, the inflation rate has been higher than any other part of Great Britain, yet wages are much lower.

The qualitative change which has taken place in the situation can be seen in many ways. After 1968 the workers of the advanced capitalist countries of Europe began to disentangle themselves from the effects of the prolonged lull in the class struggle which had taken place. May 1968 in France signalled the dawn of a new era. Since then the general tendency on a world scale towards social revolution has continued. Yet after the initial explosion of 1968–69 the prospects of a revival for the socialist movement in Northern Ireland rapidly diminished. Northern Ireland swung in the opposite direction to most of the major countries in Europe. Events there bore a decreasing relation to events in Britain, France, Spain, Italy, etc. No longer is this the case. The workers of Northern Ireland have caught the scent of the class struggle.

Only a civil war could prevent the revolutionary storms which are certain to shake the European continent in the next period from changing the atmosphere in Northern Ireland. World perspectives and perspectives for Northern Ireland are becoming more and more attuned.

Internationally the same problems in one form or another are afflicting all the major capitalist economies. Internationally too the working class are being drawn into battle. Northern Ireland has been an exception. But the motor of the revolution is becoming too strong to resist. In particular the driving force of the rising tide of struggle are the fresh generations of youth where hopes of a future are being dashed. In the OECD countries 40% of those without jobs are those under 25. This summer 670,000 school leavers came on to the British Labour market. The Economist has predicted that there will be no jobs for at least 320,000. 20,000 young people in Northern Ireland also start seeking jobs at this time.

One economist has suggested that as a “solution” to the problem of no available jobs that a third of these workers should be prepared to emigrate. The end of the lull in the struggle in Britain signals also the beginning of the class struggle in Northern Ireland. On pay the votes of the miners, engineers and transport workers lay waste the incomes policy of the Government. If a statutory policy is unilaterally implemented there will be overwhelming rejection spelt out in strikes across the country. One word spells out the new mood of British workers, Grunwicks. In mass action the frustrations of miners, dockers, postal workers, engineers and many others have been expressed in support of the victimised Grunwick workers. Grunwicks is only the beginning.

The fact that twenty APEX members went for several days to the Grunwick picket and that one white collar union in Northern Ireland sent six pickets and donated £1,000 are visible tokens of the bonds which link the movement in Britain and in the North. Similar links will be forged with the workers of the South in the coming years. 

Labour Party

The lurch forward taken by the unions in launching the Better Life for All Campaign raised the need for political action in the minds of many activists. In microcosm the patterns of the future were drawn. Since the demise of the campaign there has been a lull in activity. The pressure for political action largely subsided. Renewed struggles will raise this issue once again.

Changed conditions here and internationally will prevent the union leadership again smothering this demand with a few blasts of bureaucratic bad breath. Now, even through periods of lull and even through actual setbacks, the workers are moving forward. The situation in Britain and in the South will speed this development. There the Labour Parties will be compelled to shift to the left offering a tremendous attraction to the workers of Northern Ireland. And when the shadow of Labour begins to emerge in the North the British and Irish Labour Parties will be compelled by their membership to provide it with assistance. From the movement of workers into the trade union movement, from the yearning of the masses for class action, and from the translation of this yearning into pressure by the activists upon their organisations, from all this the demand for a Workers’ Party will grow.

Precisely how such an organisation will be formed has been discussed at length in previous documents. Our analysis remains correct. But no matter in what precise way the spring of history unlocks itself, it will have been the pressure of the rank and file of the trade unions which will have provided the momentum.

The leadership have shown their hand. In 1974 they found themselves pressed into a corner by the UWC. Seeking to give themselves room to manoeuvre they half turned towards political involvement. As soon as the UWC pressure was dissipated their “non-political” stance became enshrined as a principle. The lesson is clear.

It has been a characteristic of the labour movement since the formation of the Northern Ireland state that it has managed to produce a particularly self-seeking leadership. The tops of the trade union movement put their positions, their prestige and their salaries before all else. Their role has been as ambassadors of spinelessness in the workers movement.

If thinking about politics makes their positions more secure their minds will act accordingly. If political involvement is not absolutely necessary, not to benefit their members but to maintain their hold on the trade union organisations, they will avoid it like they would avoid a colony of lepers.

Failing a movement at the top to establish a worker’s party it is possible that Trades Councils or other sections of the movement at local level may move into action. At the moment most of these organisations are stamped with the failings of the leadership. But events have shown that they can be quickly transformed. Even a trickle of activists into them would have the effect of driving a needle into their backsides. Implicit in the situation is the possibility of workers’ candidates being selected by these organisations. The local government elections have been missed but by-elections can be anticipated.

In addition the possibility cannot be excluded that the Committee may find itself in a position to field a number of candidates, perhaps by setting up one or two local parties and basing candidates on them. The best development would be if the Trades Councils or other local organisations were to contest the elections themselves. But other avenues remain open.

It has been our influence that has prevented the Committee from responding to the calls of the sectarians who have demanded that it set up a new party. These people have forgotten that becoming a party requires more than the adornment of a title. It requires the support of the working class and their organisations.

A Labour Party in Northern Ireland must have the support of the trade union movement. Otherwise it will become a sect. When the unions and the workers are not moving into political action any group which decrees itself “the party” and puts up candidates merely cuts itself adrift from the mainstream of the class movement. In such a period socialists must orientate with their propaganda towards the class organisations, attempting to win the best workers to the, idea of political involvement and to their programme. If the need for a Labour Party is under discussion by the activists, if sections of the workers are prepared themselves to put up candidates then conditions may ripen for groups such as the Committee to intervene. In the long term the question of trade union affiliation would be critical. But as the party emerges what must be considered is whether the putting up of candidates would speed the development of a workers’ party. In other words, it depends on the direction in which the movement is developing.

This is a tactical question, not an issue of principles. The sects invariably turn their heads into their feet by converting tactics into issues of absolute principle and principles into tactics. Our approach must be more careful. Two years ago the Committee would have isolated itself by running ahead of the class had it decided to set up a Party. In the future it is very possible that the Committee would isolate itself by lagging behind the workers if it did not establish Parties around which it could field candidates. It cannot be entirely ruled out, although it is extremely unlikely that the Committee itself could take the initiative in setting up a Party. This could be done if the support of sections of the unions was there and if a perspective that the majority of the unions could swing behind this party could be upheld.

Thus, it is possible that a new party will emerge from below, that its structure will develop from the Trade Councils and the Committee at local level. Were a Trades Council to intervene in any election it would immediately need to form a party machine to conduct the campaign. If this were done in one area others would soon probably follow suit. The Committee could also intervene as part of this process, by linking these developments the nucleus of a new party would emerge.

Even if events did follow such a path it is probable that the trade union leadership at some stage would intervene. If nothing else compelled them to do so the potential influence of the Committee and through it the threat of our ideas gaining ground almost certainly would.

The immediate prospect of a move of the part of the union tops has receded. Their defeat in 1974 pressed them into a limited form of activity. The Committee emerged as a consequence. Their victory despite themselves in 1977 has relieved the pressure. They are now less likely than ever to move in a political direction as a result of the threat of the paramilitaries. As fast as they possibly can they are burrowing their way underground, hiding from the needs of the objective situation. It will take the might of the trade union rank and file to haul them back to the surface.

Only one other source of pressure, apart from that exerted by the Committee may possibly bear down on these bureaucrats. It is common knowledge that the British Labour Party are considering the options open to them in the North. The idea of a Conference of Labour or of the formation of a region of the British Labour Party are known to have filtered into the minds, of some NEC members. Moves may be made along these lines.

Weighing against this will be the dead hand of the Northern Ireland Committee. The idea of a wing of the British Labour Party being connected with them would conjure innumerable horrific visions within their opportunistic mentalities.

Our attitude to such a proposal would need to be carefully evaluated. We would support every step that would lead towards the emergence of a genuine workers’ party. Rather than support the bureaucratic imposition of a region of the British Labour Party we would have to fight for a conference of all workers’ organisations, representing the rank and file of the movement, for full discussion throughout the movement on the options open, and for the Conference to have the right to decide the future developments of the Party. A region of the British Labour Party imposed on the situation by the officialdom in Transport House, would create obstacles in the way of its own growth.

The most likely development is the movement of workers into action at grass roots level eventually forcing the leadership to respond. But we must stress again and again that we are not concerned with mapping out blueprints. That can be left to the crooks who sit along the front at Blackpool seeing people’s future in little glass balls. Events will finally decide the precise way in which a Party will emerge. Only the general outline of likely and possible developments are now apparent.

Whether a Party develops from below, or above or will be propelled rapidly to the left. The leadership may decide to form a bureaucratic political machine to carry forward their own personal interests. They will soon discover that their bureaucratic straitjacket is ten sizes too small. The movement of the working class will not be constrained. Whether a party is immediately linked to the British Party is not the key question. As the workers begin to hammer out the apparatus to a shape that suits them they will seek links with both the British Party and the Irish Party.

From the first moment a new party would be torn by strong battles of ideas. If not at once it would quickly assume a left reformist character. Our role would be to orientate towards and participate in its establishment. With systematic and correct work our ideas would quickly take hold. A new period for our tendency would open. New contacts, new levels of activity, new opportunities would emerge. Because of our work in the Committee, and depending upon the manner in which the new party emerged, some of our comrades could find themselves occupying leading positions. Viewed in this light the importance of our present work, and of the Committee, can be understood.

There remains, the question of the existing “Labour Party”, the NILP. This organisation has one outstanding capacity. Having sunk to the very bottom of the political pile it has managed to sink even further.

The past twelve months have seen it cover itself with another layer of political degeneracy. .It has expelled a number of those members who were associated with the Committee. It managed to intervene in the UUAC stoppage by demanding a conference of all political parties who favour the link with Britain. In the local government elections it reaped the fruits of its policies by suffering total annihilation. Almost half its candidates came bottom of their respective polls. Only one was elected. His vote was purely personal, nothing much to do with the, NILP. In fact his election material hardly mentioned the fact that he was a NILP candidate.

The party is all but eclipsed. Previously we explained that only its trade union affiliations and the recognition and money from the British Labour Party kept it alive. Now British Labour has severed its connections. All that remains are the few trade union links. The tendency is for these to be severed.

For many years the party leadership closed their eyes to the total collapse of the party structure. Political “Neros” they paid no attention to the disintegration of local branches, hostility of the unions, etc. But even Nero had to feel the heat of the flames at some stage. In the last twelve months the NILP leaders have had their eyes prised open and have seen the void that surrounds them. Some have attempted to politically backtrack by easing their emphasis on sectarianism and concentrating on the economic issues. Others now look to the, possibility of the British Labour Party forming a region of their party in Northern Ireland. Reacting to the call by a trade union leader at the ICTU conference for a new Labour Party, the NILP chairman spluttered out that the unions must indeed end their non-political stance and either enter the NILP or else form a new party.

All this reflects a recognition by even the rump at the head of the NILP that their party no longer can claim to be a Labour organisation. They now openly confess that support from the unions or the British Labour Party is necessary to revive their fortunes.

Reduced to a handful of increasingly disillusioned cranks, careerists, old women of both sexes and ages, and with only one or two local branches even able to function, the party is virtually no more. In the eyes of the workers it is irrelevant. In the advanced sections of the class it reeks of a vile putrid odour. Even in the eyes of its own leadership it does not constitute a party on its own.

If during the next period the workers move to establish a party they will by-pass the NILP. It may be, for the sake of convenience and nothing more that the NILP will be accommodated into the new structure. It is even possible that some unions may turn to the NILP only in order to force it to merge with whatever new structures is created. This would confirm their rejection of that party not reflect any wish to be associated with it.

A decade ago any workers who joined the NILP would have done so seeking to expand its structure and build it into a mass party. Such a step would have then seemed to workers a healthy development. Now the prospect of joining the NILP to any class conscious activist would seem about as healthy as would washing themselves with plutonium. For the coming period the only reason why workers should bother with this party would be to assist in its destruction. Sometimes an explosives expert must plant charges inside a building in order to ensure its total collapse.

If the bulk of the unions took steps to form an entirely new party the problem might exist of some .unions remaining affiliated to the NILP. Purely bureaucratic obstacles, such as clauses in their constitutions forbidding their link with another party might prevent them freeing themselves of their shackles for a time.

These unions would not wish to stand chained to this horror while other workers were moving into action in a genuine workers’ party. Their ranks would not tolerate such a thing. It would then be possible that a certain movement into the NILP would take place. This would represent nothing more than a dusting up process around the edge of whatever class party may emerge. Thus, as we have’ previously explained the NILP despite themselves could find themselves forming a section of a new party. It is even probable that were a Conference of Labour convened, they would be summoned to attend. The trade unions would beckon them to this conference as a man would drop an aspirin into water. Once inside, the highly soluble nature of the NILP would be revealed. It would dissolve entirely! Its leaders would be rejected as would its policies. At best it would form a section of the right-wing of a rapidly leftward moving party.

Time is of the essence. If our perspectives are not fulfilled, if mistakes by the rank and file and the stubborn opportunism of the leaders combine to result in missed opportunities and a party does not emerge, then and only then, the NILP could begin to crawl back. A perspective can only deal with the most likely developments given the objective conditions which are ripening. But the spring of history is moved also by the .million and one’ subjective factors which must be fulfilled. At each decisive moment they attain the weight of objectivity. It cannot be said that a new party will emerge in the next period. However, unless events turn everything on its head by throwing up the prospect of a civil war, it can be said that the necessary objective conditions will exist to allow it to be formed and develop.

Beyond that nothing is absolutely certain. If opportunity after opportunity is allowed to slide by the objective situation could eventually be changed. Time could dull the effect of the NILPs recent propaganda. Disillusioned with their fruitless efforts to establish a new party, the activists could then look to the NILP as a possible structure. Only if events were to unfold in this manner could there be a revival of the NILP.

It is hardly necessary to stress that this is extremely unlikely. The workers will try every other avenue before they will be prepared to hold their noses and enter the NILP. To the best activists this party represents, in a political form the dangers which they spend every moment of their union activity, confronting on the shop-floor and in the trade union branches. It represents the triumph of sectarianism in a workers’ organisation.

A man will readily apply the kiss of life to a half drowned body. It would take more than a little persuasion before he would consent to breathe life into a partially decomposed corpse. No worker would easily be moved to embrace the badly decayed and rapidly decomposing NILP.

Our policy of orientating our activity away from the NILP, while in certain cases retaining party membership, has been vindicated. Had we adopted any other attitude we would have been unable to make the gains we have. Any degree of support to that party, any inclination to sow illusions in its future, would have remained as an enormous obstacle shielding us from the best sections of the working class. A few years ago, because of the different situation , we would have fallen into the pit of ultra-leftism if we had crudely demanded the stopping of all funds from unions etc. to the NILP. It would have repelled the most serious and committed workers. Now no other position is possible. The demand that no more money came from the British Labour Party or from the unions immediately strikes a chord in the minds of activists. In this period it raises the issue of what the alternative should be.

Through our experience we have enriched the position of Marxism on the question of work within the mass organisations of the class. We have avoided a formal approach of attaching ourselves to the NILP because of its union links. On the other hand we have studiously stayed clear of the ravings of those sectarians who asked us to establish the Party without regard to the consequences. To be involved in a mass organisation of the working class is not a matter of constructing fetishes about organisations old or new. It is entirely a question of perspectives and a capacity to understand the direction of the movement of the masses. From our perspectives flow our approach to the tactical question of where our resources should be concentrated and our propaganda should be toned.

The development of a labour party would transform the work of our organisation. It would vindicate our ideas and boost our standing in the eyes of the active layers of the movement. Such a party would grow from little or nothing into a broad based organisation in a very short period of time. Events are the key. Massive upheavals together with a transformation of the labour movements in the South and in Britain, would accelerate the growth of a new party. New areas of the country would immediately open up as sources of work for our tendency. All our day to day work at this time assumes extra significance in this light. Without the development of the tendency today we will not be in a position to exploit the opportunities which will present themselves tomorrow. 

Political Parties

What is an optimistic perspective for us is a veil of pessimism for the established political organisations. Every major political party is, and for years has been, in a state of perpetual crisis. Sections of the leadership have been in head-on collision with each other, very often resulting in a spin-off creation of some new political group.

Of all the major political parties which existed in the pre-1968 period not one retains a semblance of its original identity. The old Unionist Party of O’Neill bears little resemblance to the Official Unionists of West. The DUP, UUUP, Vanguard, UPNI are all “gifts” brought to the people by these “troubles”. On the Catholic side the Nationalist Party of McAteer has gone. Republican Labour is no more. 1970 brought with it the creation of a new party through the merger of bits and pieces of other groups to form the SDLP. The Alliance Party also grew as a reaction to the “troubles”, financed in the main by businessmen with not a small contribution from the Government.

Every one of the major parties in its present form is a product of the division of the last two years. This is a symptom of the deep crisis which has electrified society.

All these parties have been shaken and rattled incessantly by the tempo of events. In the Unionist camp the explosive situation manifested itself in innumerable splits. The leadership of the Unionist Party and its official off-shoots won their positions by using the upsurge of bigotry to trample their opponents. Once at the helm they saw that the consequence of a hard line approach led to direct conflict with the British ruling class and to all-out conflict in Northern Ireland. Their first instinct was to backtrack. Yet along their line of retreat they saw the yapping jaws of those who elected them. The problem was how to backslide half a mile and still convince their supporters that they remained true to the “not an inch” philosophy of their ideological inspiration, Sir Edward Carson. To go forward meant to walk into the jaws of the ruling class but to retreat meant to get bitten by their own supporters.

This has been the dilemma of the loyalist leaders. Any leader who too quickly tended to become too “moderate” soon found himself replaced by a new version of his former self. Resultant splits left more moderate and more hard-line factions gathered around various personalities – Craig, Faulkner, Paisley, Baird and West – as this group of thieves fell out with each other.

The violent convulsions of the early seventies atomised the unionist bloc, and indeed all the major parties of the previous period. For a time all that was generated was a picture of endless confusion. A magnet revolving at high speed obscures its own force field. But as it slows down the lines of force which were always present became easier to trace. So with the slowing down of the pace of events over the past two years.

The pressure of an aroused population has been lifted from the shoulders of the leading political figures. As the storms have begun to fade within their parties, reflecting the apathy which has swept society, they have found themselves with more room to display their craven opportunism. On both sides this has been the case.

With the relaxation of the tempo of events the lines of demarcation between the various parties, particularly the 101 shades of unionism, have become hardened. After 1968 the old parties were melted down by the tremendous heat generated by the “troubles”. During the last two years the situation has begun to cool. New major organisations have shaped themselves. In the local government elections which followed hot on the heels of the UUAC stoppage this was made apparent.

The Official Unionist Party gained approximately 30% of the vote. It is now the largest single party. In terms of seats it lost ground on its standing in the previous local government election. However, it actually increased its 26% slice of the vote from the Convention elections in May 1975. Politically this has become the chief expression of moderate unionism. Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party gained 12.5% of the vote. It made extensive gains in most Councils, mainly because this was the first local Government election in which it fielded candidates in virtually every area. Its vote followed the uncompromising stand its leaders appeared to make during the UUAC stoppage.

In the Convention elections the Paisleyites had attracted 14% of the votes. Despite this slight decline the recent showed that Paisley had been successful in saving face despite the defeat of the stoppage. His party has emerged as the single major expression of extreme right-wing loyalism.

The other variations of loyalism and unionism found themselves squeezed into oblivion between the forces of the Paisley-West sandwich. However the moderate offshoot, mostly of ex-unionists, the Alliance Party also consolidated and increased its vote attracting 14% of the poll. Significantly it was in the urban districts and even in some working class areas that Alliance gained ground.

On the other side of the spectrum the SDLP brushed itself clean of its challengers. With 21% of the votes it made plain that it is the second largest party. No other group got a look-in in the Catholic areas.

Events have slowed down and allowed these patterns to crystallise. But the Wests, Fitts, Paisleys and Napier’s will barely have time to wipe their brows before they find themselves battered arid convulsed yet again. This time all the signs point to the accelerating tempo of events taking a different course. This time it will be the class struggle which will explode like dynamite within all the major political blocks.

All our perspectives are qualified by the question of the development of a workers’ party. The local government election in a negative manner revealed the basis which already exists for such a party. Despite the raising of the political temperature by the UUAC stoppage the elections produced a miserable 55% poll. The disillusion with the established parties has already opened the way for Labour.

All the existing parties grew in their present form as a result of the growth of sectarianism. They were capable of actually attracting working class support because sections of the workers for whatever reason, were tainted with sectarian propaganda. The aspirations of the workers and the sectarian leaders of these parties cannot be married for long. The magnet of a workers’ party will bring about their divorce.

The precise structures which would then be thrown up are not, at this stage, absolutely clear. A strong Labour Party must produce a realignment. At this time the initial question would be to which party the representatives of capital would turn. The bosses would be seeking an organisation to represent their views and uphold their interests.

It is possible that they would seek a merger of parties to produce a new Conservative grouping. Or it could be that either the Official Unionists or the Alliance Party would suddenly find themselves bombarded with funds from business and support from the capitalist media all aimed at boosting their position. The Alliance Party is the only existing body which can bring together elements from both communities. Many leading SDLP figures would have a short road to travel before they formed themselves in the embrace of the Alliance. Many Unionists have already made the journey. But the Alliance is weak in its structure. It would by no means be certain that even with the support of big business it could capture the basis now enjoyed by the Official Unionists.

The Official Unionists are caught between the DUP and the Alliance. They are less moderate than the Alliance and less hard-line than the DUP. On the surface it would seem that, they would be squeezed into oblivion. Reality is never so simple. The Official Unionists are the only party which can claim actual continuity with the old structures of Unionism.

Organisationally this continuity is expressed in terms of their structure, most significantly in terms of their links with the Orange Order. These facts weigh heavily against their being ground down. Events and events only will finally seal the fate of these parties. More so than any other group the SDLP would fragment at the first sight of a workers’ party. At this moment this political mish-mash enjoys the “support” of the majority of the Catholic population. It developed because the storm of events forced the various political groups on the Catholic side to collide. From the NILP and Republican Labour came a base in Catholic working class districts in Belfast. From the old Nationalists came a degree of “Republican” support and through Hume and Cooper came the attachment of the Catholic middle class.

The SDLP leaders, playing the role of “true statesmen” are pointing a way forward for their supporters! The problem is that each and every one of them is pointing in a different direction. With “Stormonts”, Assembly, or Conventions, in which to “distinguish” themselves against the Unionists this was all very well. Without such institutions the party cannot even provide jobs for its leaders.

Direct rule has already opened up divisions within it. Some members have resigned, using such issues as the need to support the police, as good enough “principles” to excuse themselves and go in search of some more worthwhile career.

The SDLP is a sad jumble of political ideas crammed together by outside pressures. It has no internal gravity to hold it together. As soon as the external pressures change or disappear it will fly apart. Labour would draw away most of its urban rank and file and a section of its leadership. Under these conditions either a new party of the bosses, or the Alliance Party, would swallow up most of the multitude of middle class careerists, doctors, solicitors, teachers, etc. who presently find the SDLP a better vehicle for advance. The more diehard right wing sectarians would probably drift under some Nationalist banner.

The “Revolutionary” Left

The opening of a new period for the Labour movement should mean a new period for us also. By virtue of the work we are now undertaking and of the painstaking growth we have made, we can look forward to opportunities for increasingly rapid growth in the coming years.

Not one other left-wing group stands to benefit from the new situation as we do. The various little sects, mostly off-shoots of the bizarre little groups which have arisen in the South and in England are as about as sturdy and permanent as a pile of leaves in a hurricane! They are consistent only in their inconsistency. Unable to comprehend the processes at work they grope from one mistake to the next. Whenever they are confronted with a major issue or with a transformation of the situation they are cartwheeled into chaos.

Most of these groups began political life as defenders of the Provos and emissaries of despair and gloom. “Workers’ Unity” they treated as a fantasy to be dismissed with a wave of their little hands. Now the reality of a united workers’ movement is constantly pounding them with its mighty fist. The endless cavorting of these groups should educate all our comrades on the results of the incorrect application of what they take to be Marxist ideas. To flounder from opportunism to ultra-leftism and back again, this is their fate. They disdain theory. Most important they do not begin to see the need for a clear perspective and a thorough discussion on all aspects of the situation.

Organisationally they are capable of “progressing from groups of ten or a dozen to groups of two or three.” Each new event will open up some “principled” difference. Some theatrical imitation of Lenin will produce a treatise and a new splinter will develop. Each new group will sally forth prepared to take the class struggle by storm only to find that no one is following.

Feeling the cold of isolation they will all turn to each other and huddle together for warmth. Committees for the defence of this or that will serve to bind them for a while. Shortly the fruitlessness of the exercise, and the discovery that a group of sects is only a sect with more members, will produce a new round of splits and splinters.

In short these elements are not Marxists. They are not serious. They will not develop but will remain at the feet of the workers’ movement staring at its backside all the time making foolish and irritating noises. While we must watch for and be quick to redirect, the one or two good individuals, who may drift in their direction, we would be wasting our efforts to direct any significant attention to them. Our gains will come from elsewhere.

The only left-wing organisation of any significance, apart from ourselves and the Communist Party, are the Official Republicans, now boastfully named The Workers’ Party.

The Officials are now less important than at any time since the beginning of the “troubles”. No longer are fresh youth coming into their ranks. New and fresh ideas are no longer being presented to challenge the position of their leadership. A thick crust of bureaucracy covers the whole organisation stifling its every movement. The past orientation of the Officials has led nowhere. As we predicted in advance as absolutely inevitable they have been left with no option but to turn to the Labour organisations.

Thus four or five years ago when the Officials encompassed the cream of the Catholic youth we asked that they turn to the labour movement and use their energies to lever the bureaucracy off their backsides and push the movement into action. The Officials sought other avenues: links with the Protestant paramilitaries. As a result of this their ranks have drifted away.

All other roads closed, the leadership are now considering turning towards the labour movement; not to lead the movement forward but to shelter within it. Their role is as a cushion giving the union leaders a more comfortable seat. Providing a left cover they make life easier for the bureaucrats by shielding them from the demands of the members, apologising for them to the rank and file and above all attempting to dilute the effect of our ideas. Studiously they have learnt from their co-thinkers in the Communist Party.

Opposing the election of officials as “undemocratic”, shunning all criticism of either the Better Life For All campaign or the role of the leadership during the stoppage, opposing all manner of political action, these are but a few of the yardsticks of the political degeneration of this organisation.

In reality the Officials are only a whisper of what they once were. Their rank and file have virtually disappeared. The old leadership are all that remains. Stalinist ideas and Stalinist organisational methods have been left supreme.

Politically the twin of the Officials is the Communist Party. Unlike the other so-called Marxist sects the CP is capable of attracting small numbers of genuine workers including some of the youth, who are seeking a way out. This is because, despite all its failings, it is at least consistent in the stance on the unity of the working class and in its orientation to the trade union movement. In terms of size and influence in the labour movement the CP is probably broadly comparable to the Officials.

Nonetheless the former is more important than the latter. The Officials are in’ the process of rapid contraction. The CP have been capable of retaining their present basis and it is possible that they will make some limited gains in the immediate period. Their importance is that they are the only group apart from ourselves capable of offering any attraction to new activists.

From this flows a need, in the Belfast area, for a partial orientation towards the CP in terms of propaganda and other work. This must be seen as a short term tactical step. All over Europe ruptures are pulling the CPs apart. Only because they have no rank and file worth speaking about are such divisions not apparent over here. If they pick up even a few fresh people today they are only opening the way to Questioning and dissention within their own ranks. If not before, the emergence of a Labour Party, precisely because they are now working and will actively work against such a development, would prepare a split.

Again we must stress that such partial orientation is a short term question. The gains which might result would not justify more than a fraction of our work even at present. In the long term there is no prospect whatsoever of the CP developing into a significant force.

No workers’ party exists at the moment. The unions are beginning to move into action. At top level the unions are speckled with card-carrying members of the Party. On the surface this should add up even now to significant growth for the CP yet it stubbornly refuses to develop.

Union positions can be a key to growth. They can also be a key to stagnation and even decline. If they are used in the interests of the members taking the union forward and if the officials are known to be associated with a particular party, they will bolster that Party’s esteem.

But the CP uses its positions to bolster the bureaucracy. Inevitably those holding these positions actually come into conflict with the members. From the outset many of the best workers are repulsed by the CP. It has been our experience that new workers coming into struggle have no inclination to join this Party. This explains their failure to make any significant gain out of the Better Life for All campaign and out of the recent upturn in the movement.

If in the next period they make a few gains it will be despite their weak reformist programme and despite the miserable role they played in the unions. It will be because they are the only established left wing organisation which exists. Our role in preventing such gains is not a matter of sectarian rivalry; it is a matter of preserving the best workers for the Socialist Revolution.

The momentary importance attached to this party would vanish on the emergence of a Labour Party with any strength. If it cannot develop without the counter-weight of a main reformist party what possible hope has it when such a party not only exists, but rapidly moves to a more left wing position than the CP? Then it will lose on all counts. The best elements will shun its meek reformism. The mass of the class will be repelled by the association with the Stalinist system of Russia and Eastern Europe.

We are poised on the threshold of a new period for our work. Not so long ago, throughout the North, we faced a hostile objective situation which ruled out all but the most limited gains. At one stage the organisation in Belfast did not win one new comrade for almost two years. During that time not one close contact drifted into our periphery. Then it was a question of two or three comrades, attending meetings, discussing perspectives while passively listening to the nightly explosions which rooked the city. Then we were a propagandist organisation incapable of even faintly affecting the situation.

Now the organisation across the provinces is flush with contacts. Every new recruit brings us in contact with new workers. From a position of discussing with an occasional individual we have already moved to a position of discussing with groups of workers.

Our opportunities are enormous. They are spelt out in the targets we are setting ourselves. No longer does the greatest danger come from the objective situation. The gravest danger we face is that we will not be sufficiently re-orientated and streamline the work of the organisation to capitalise on the opportunities.

Tremendous improvements in the work of the tendency in the North have already been made. As a whole the theoretical level of our comrades has been raised. The nucleus of the cadres has been increased. Important new comrades have been won. But there have been shortcomings which we must rectify. Our aim must be to turn every comrade into a cadre, capable of winning new members, and not merely filling a seat at a meeting. The collection of funds, subs, fighting fund, should be looked upon in the same light as an army would look upon the production of its ammunition. Without money our gains will be empty. We will face the class enemy lacking resources and lacking propaganda.

When a transformation takes place in the objective situation a revolutionary organisation must undergo a transformation in the manner of its work. Otherwise it will be left stranded. Already we are capable, albeit in a very limited manner of exerting an influence on some developments.

The transformation from a purely propaganda organisation to a factor in the situation, this is the work that we have now embarked upon. And it is the task which will confront us for the coming period. If the work is done correctly we can look forward to a tremendous growth of our organisation. We are emerging from the shadow of history into the daylight.

August 1977

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Last updated: 20 February 2015