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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Left Unity meeting 9/10/03 Belfast Unemployed Centre
IRSP • 14.11.03

Recently there were two left unity meetings, which the IRSP attended. The first on the second of October was a public meeting, which the IRSP only found out was on, by accident. We received no formal or informal invitations. This despite the fact that last year we had been part of a group called the Social Forum which had reached some tentative agreements on possible policy areas and which involved wide strata of left opinion including representatives of some Protestant working class views. Unfortunately those meetings fizzled out.

Then the SWP, which had been involved in the Social Forum, arranged a series of closed meetings with other groups out of which emerged the suggested programme which were published in The Plough No. 8. At no time we understand was the suggested programme put to a vote, nor was it agreed at the first public meeting. But at the second meeting involving a small number of delegates when the programme was questioned by the IRSP we were told it was not for changing.

At the meeting it emerged that Communist Party of Ireland ­ gave a qualified no to Left Unity candidates but individual members of the party could get involved in a Left Unity campaign if they wished. The Derry Trades and Environmental group a front group for the SWP, fully supported the project and said that it should be as broad as possible both geographically and the left political spectrum. The Workers' Party gave a general welcome but they were concerned that there is not enough time to do this prior to a November election. They also brought up the idea of a socialist forum to discuss matters of mutual interest. WP had already selected candidates for the forthcoming election and expressed a view that the European Elections may offer a better opportunity for Left Unity. The Socialist Workers' Party were fully behind the initiative while the Official Republican Movement (ORM) were in broad support, but unsure as to how it would work and the timescale involved. No decisions were taken, No votes were taken, and meeting broke up in an uncertain fashion with no date set for next meeting.

The position of the IRSP is very clear. While left unity is desirable it cannot be rushed through just to satisfy the electoral ambitions of some people. How can there be unity when there were pro and anti-Good Friday Agreement Parties. For example how could the IRSP/Left Alternative (anti-Agreement) call for a vote for the WP (Left Alternative (pro-Agreement) without losing all credibility? The people are not stupid. They would see the Left Alternative for what it is: an ill thought out attempt to cobble together an unprincipled alliance to maximise a 'left' vote. The reality is that on the ground the left has not done the steady persistent class work that would establish its credibility with the working class. When members of the Workers Party cannot even acknowledge the presence of members of the ORM at a left unity meeting then the basis for their co-operation is not the interests of the mass of the working class but the particular interests in one sect of the left.

Furthermore any alliance that tries to cover its position on the national question and fool the masses is doomed to failure. Seamus Costello drew on both the experience and teachings of James Connolly in his approach to the problem of "loyalism" among the Belfast Protestant working class. When questioned in March 1975 about co-operation with representatives of the Protestant workers on immediate issues "which would appear to unite the people," he defined his position clearly and succinctly:

Connolly had to face exactly the same predicament. In Belfast prior to 1916, you had people who classified themselves as socialists and who were also interested in ending British rule in Ireland. Their approach to the Protestant working class was on the basis of limited and immediate issues. One of the principal issues, which affected both sections of the working class, was the question of whether or not they could get gas and water into their houses. "Some very militant campaigns were engaged in on these two demands - gas and water for the houses in the working class districts. Republicans and socialists were involved in this campaign on the basis that this was the way to unite the working class. At the same time, these republicans and socialists refused point blank to mention or even discuss the national question with the Protestant working class, on the grounds that if they did, the Protestant working class wouldn't listen to them and that they would lose their co operation on the issue of gas and water for the houses. Connolly was totally in opposition to this approach. He categorised them as gas and water socialists. Today in Belfast we have what we call ring-road socialists. They are exactly the same type of people. They are, in fact, the leadership of the Official Republican Movement in Belfast. We maintain that any co-operation with the Protestant working class must be on the basis of a principled political position. It must be on the basis of explaining fully to the Protestant working class what all our policies are, not just our policy on the ring road. We must try and politicise them, simultaneously with conducting a political campaign to get rid of Britain. It will be primarily an educational function, or an educational campaign directed towards Protestants in the hope at least that some significant section of the Protestant working class will understand.

We are for unity-class unity class struggle and the struggle against Imperialism. That's the basis the IRSP will enter into electoral alliances and only when we have established a clear consistent record of mass work. As Bertie might say: much done - much to be done.






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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
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Index: Current Articles

14 November 2003


Other Articles From This Issue:


Belfast Agreement Postpones Cure for British Problem
Liam O Comain


Further Problems at Maghaberry Gaol
Martin Mulholland


Luis Eduardo Garcia Interviewed

Anthony McIntyre


Choosing Sides in Iraq
Mick Hall


The Taboo of Racism So Subtle
Davy Carlin


Left Unity Meeting


Thessaloniki Prisoners On Hunger Strike
Anarchist Prisoner Support


Death Fast in 4th Year
DHKP-C Prisoners’ Organisation


10 November 2003


Address to Ard-Fheis 2003
Ruairí Ó Bradaigh


British Anti-Insurgency

Liam O Comain


From A Belfast Granny
Kathleen O Halloran


Planes, Trains and Big Wains!
Eamon Sweeney


The Most Important Election Ever, Again
Anthony McIntyre


What Went Wrong in the New South Africa?
Andrew Nowicki




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