We have been active in Northern Ireland since the start of the Troubles at the beginning of the seventies. At first we were known as Militant and then as Militant Labour. We became the Socialist Party in 1997.
During the difficult early decades of the Troubles we were the only force on the left that did not bend to the pressures of religious sectarianism. We advocated the unity of the working class, Catholic and Protestant, as the only solution.
We based ourselves on the broad labour movement and on the youth. Arguing that the labour movement had the potential power to cut across the sectarian division and show a way forward we challenged the refusal of the trade union leadership to intervene.
It was our members who organised the first strikes against sectarian intimidation. We answered paramilitary threats against Catholic workers in the civil service with walkouts by Catholic and Protestant. When similar threats were made by republicans against Protestant we did the same. It was the movement that emerged from these initiatives that began the peace process.
We have also campaigned for a political initiative from the working class movement. Whereas the trade union leaders have refused to get involved in politics we have argued that the only way to cut across the influence of sectarian and right wing parties is to challenge them by building a mass party of the working class, based on socialist policies.
The peace process
We support the continuation of a peace process rather than a return to a sectarian conflict which would set back the working class movement. However the current process is based on uniting sectarian politicians and keeping the working class divided. It institutionalises sectarianism and will not bring a lasting settlement.
A real peace process must be built from the bottom up; through people in the working class communities coming together to tackle the problem of sectarian attacks, of injustice and of poverty. It will not be handed down from the ruling classes of Britain, the South of Ireland or the US. It is the working class who have suffered from the troubles and it is the working class who can bring a solution.
The national question
The national problem is intractable and insoluble on the basis of capitalism. We are for a socialist solution – working class unity to bring about a socialist Ireland as a free and voluntary part of a socialist federation of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales and, on a wider scale, of a socialist European federation.
Our activities today
The Socialist Party has branches across Northern Ireland. Our members are from both Protestant and Catholic backgrounds. We are based in the working class areas and among the youth.
We are active within the trade unions and have played a leading role in strikes in both the public and private sectors.
In 2002, our members led a successful struggle to win full time contracts for 5000 term time workers, education workers who had previously received no pay when schools were closed. In a number of unions we are organising left oppositions to challenge the right wing leaderships.
We campaign on day to day issues that affect working class people. Our End Low Pay Campaign has targeted employers paying low wages, exposing over 300 companies. Through pickets and direct action we have forced a number to raise their wages.
The Socialist Party has been to the fore in building opposition to water charges and privatisation of the water service. We have played a central role in building the We Won’t Pay Campaign which we initiated in 2003. This campaign has won mass support for non-payment of separate water charges, forcing the postponement of water bills for three years. This has saved every household an average of £678.
Other campaigns we have fought on include the struggle to maintain rural hospitals, opposition to privatisation, and the struggle for women’s rights. We actively oppose state injustice and campaign for the repeal of all repressive legislation.
We have a youth section of the party – Socialist Youth – to win young people to the struggle for a socialist society. Socialist Youth is a campaigning organisation, fighting for the rights of young people. It has a proud tradition of picketing shops, restaurants and other companies that are paying poverty wages to young people.
It was also responsible for initiating the Youth Against the War school walkouts in February and March 2003 which mobilised 15,000 school students against the war on Iraq.
It is active along with other party members in the student field opposing fees, demanding a living grant for all fees.
Importance of ideas
Clear ideas are essential if we are to build, especially in the difficult circumstances of Northern Ireland where the problems of capitalism are aggravated by the division among the working class. As well as our paper and journal we publish pamphlets on a variety of issues. Our branch meetings – and public meetings – discuss international issues as well as local political developments and theoretical questions.
- The Socialist – 12 page monthly newspaper
- Socialist View – political journal.
The Socialist Party is the Northern Ireland affiliate of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) which united socialists in over 40 countries across the world. The Socialist Party is an all Ireland party, of which we are the northern region. In the south we have public representatives on councils in Dublin and Cork.