Transcribed and marked up by Ciaran Crossey.
1) Since the start of the year Militant Labour has been engaged in a period of unprecedented mass activity. The No Going Back initiative was followed immediately by the formation of the Labour Coalition and the election campaign. From the moment the election ended we have had the dual task of fending off a witch-hunt and beginning to build the Labour Coalition as a force. It is a tribute to the organisation as a whole that all of these activities have been conducted successfully. Whatever difficulties may exist in the organisation have to be viewed against these historic achievements. Although still a small force we have been able to make a significant mark on the overall situation.
2) To what degree we will be able to-develop this work depends first and foremost on how the political situation will unfold. Political perspectives are always conditional, but rarely more so than at present. Drumcree and its immediate aftermath gave a picture of how quickly a full scale sectarian conflict could take root. Confrontation over the Apprentice Boys parade on 10 August in Derry has the potential to overspill into far worse sectarian violence and pogroms. It is not excluded that it could even begin the slide into a Bosnian style conflict. On the other hand a peaceful resolution of the issue of marches could generate an immense sense of relief and give an impetus to the peace process for a further period.
3) In such as convulsive atmosphere our first task is to keep our heads and examine and explain things as they are. It is inevitable that temporary moods will develop in both Catholic and Protestant areas formed by the impress of the latest events. It is essential that we do not bend to such moods, that our analysis is based on an overview of the situation as it has developed historically, not on a superficial impression formed by a single event or even a series of events.
4) The material, internal and public, produced by the organisation over the last two or three years, has explained in depth the factors which brought about the IRA and loyalist ceasefires and the real objectives of the British and Irish governments in and through the peace process. This material remains valid today. 5) The Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 was an attempt to build a settlement which excluded Sinn Fein and the loyalist paramilitaries. Its failure led both governments to review their strategies and push for an inclusive settlement involving Sinn Fein and through them the IRA. The conclusion drawn by the IRA leadership that the Anglo-Irish Agreement offered real change and that there was the prospect of further constitutional change, opened the door to this process.
6) The results of the Hume/Adams dialogue and various public statements by republican leaders, made it clear that a significant section of this leadership had come to accept what we had long argued – that the British ruling class has no vested interests in holding onto the North and that the real obstacle to reunification is the on-going resistance of the Protestant population. Hence the republican call for the British to be signed up, as “persuaders” of the Protestants.
7) These conclusions were being drawn at the same time as the military campaign of the IRA was becoming exhausted. A low level of campaign could have been continued virtually indefinitely but with no prospect of success. It could not move the British and only would have the effect of stiffening Protestant opposition to reunification. Meanwhile the mood in the working class communities was becoming indifferent, even hostile, to the military activities. Any significant escalation would most likely have provoked a counter response from the working class in opposition. These were the key factors leading to the 1994 ceasefire.
8) The loyalist ceasefires were in preparation and might have come about even without an IRA ceasefire, in order to put pressure on the IRA to halt. There was a recognition on the part of the strategists emerging from loyalist ranks that a united Ireland was not in prospect and some deal which offered rights to the Catholic minority in the north might be brokered. The increasing disgust within the working class at their sectarian activities and the mass protests to which this had given rise were not inconsiderable in their thinking.
9) The ceasefire came about as a result of an ideological, as well as a military, exhaustion on the part of the main combatants. The British and Irish governments, who understood that while there could be military containment for a period there could be no military solution, used the opportunity to put forward an outline of proposals in the Framework document which they saw as the basis for a settlement which most of the main parties plus the representatives of the paramilitaries might sign up to.
10) These proposals were less radical even than the Sunningdale agreement twenty years earlier. They were for some form of internal power sharing, plus limited North South structures, plus an on-going structural liaison between the two governments. The border would remain but the policy since the beginning of the Troubles of dismantling all that they could of the discriminating practices of the old Unionists state would continue.
11) Enthusiasm for the ceasefire and the prospect of an agreement gave a powerful momentum to the peace process in 1994 and through much of 1995. This was lubricated by hugely exaggerated projections of an economic peace dividend. The efforts of the US establishment to ensnare the Sinn Fein leadership on the hook of constitutional politics, and the visit of Bill Clinton, were indications of the pressure of the international bourgeois for peace. All this meant that dissenting voices in the republican movement and amongst the loyalists were heard but could be contained.
12) For their own reasons the British government decided to string out the process. They placed endless conditions and pre-conditions on Sinn Fein’s entry into talks. In part this may have been to humiliate and corner the Sinn Fein leadership, in part it may have been to retain unionist votes at Westminster, in part it may have been down to the deposits of arrogance still there in the psychology of the British ruling class thanks to their long imperial past. In any case they overplayed their hand and the result was the breakdown of the IRA ceasefire in February this year.
13) Canary Wharf was a new turning point. It represented the increasing weight of hard-line opinions within the IRA. It came as the government was most likely preparing to at last open the way for Sinn Fein’s entry into talks and may have been planted to keep Sinn Fein out. By this time the Mitchell principles had appeared and the major parties and the British government were insisting that decommissioning would be right up the agenda. To IRA hardliners the presence of a Sinn Fein leadership that they did not trust at what they viewed as a decommissioning conference was a dangerous prospect.
14) The mass mobilisation of the working class after Canary Wharf, no least the No Going Back initiative, had an effect on limiting the IRA campaign and maintaining the loyalist ceasefires. The IRA campaign spluttered on in Britain and Europe but in reality the end of the ceasefire did not see a return to military activity. Rather it opened a “neither peace nor war” phase. The loyalist leaderships were able to head off a mounting pressure from hardliners for a resumption.
15) Two factors held the republican leadership back. Firstly they, by this time, clearly understood that a new campaign in Northern Ireland would provoke a violent response from the loyalists. Far worse sectarian violence than before 1994 would be virtually certain. Secondly a new outbreak of sectarian violence, given the mood which existed after Canary Wharf, could have sparked an even more extensive mass movement in opposition, threatening isolation.
16) The British government’s hasty proposal for an election plus a firm date for all-party talks was an effort to repair the damage their own obstinacy had inflicted on the peace process. It was an attempt to offer concessions to both the Unionists and Sinn Fein to stop them drifting an unbridgable distance apart.
17) The election results further complicated the situation. Paisley’s vote held up while Sinn Fein’s increased quite dramatically to 15.5%. This was not a vote for war, but was an insistence by the Catholic community that they be included in the talks. To include Sinn Fein without a ceasefire would lead to a Unionist walkout and to Unionist votes cast against the government at Westminster. It might also break the loyalist ceasefire. Not to include then would be taken as a snub by the Catholic community, and would increase the pressure within the republican movement for a return to the armed struggle proper.
From a time when a common urge for reconciliation had been a political driving force there was by now a growing political polarisation, and beyond this a dangerously polarised mood in society as a whole.
18) The first six weeks of talks served only to sap much of whatever momentum was left in the peace process. Interminable wrangling over procedures confirmed the view that the talks were a farce which would founder on the same intransigence which has wrecked all past efforts at peace. Even if the stalemate over procedures were overcome, the whole process would remain marred.
19) This was the background to the Drumcree stand-off. The events at Drumcree, and immediately after in the Lower Ormeau and in Derry, were an important landmark in the slide in the direction of sectarian conflict. The stand-off and its aftermath quite fundamentally hardened attitudes in both communities for a period at least. In the immediate aftermath there was a virtually complete polarisation which inevitably spread to other issues.
20) The Drumcree stand-off was engineered by the emergent hardliners within the Ulster (Official) Unionist Party and the Orange Order, those, for example, who formed the Spirit of Drumcree group the previous year. It was used by Trimble to assert his authority over Paisley and McCartney. Local paramilitaries together with paramilitary dissidents from outside were attempting to use it to finally end the loyalist ceasefires.
21) It is essential that we understand the angry mood which existed during those events in both communities, firstly among Protestants but then within the Catholic areas. But to understand the perceptions and misconceptions which exist on both sides does not mean that we leave these unchallenged. Our role is to explain things as they are, not what some momentary event or series of events may make them appear to be.
22) We have already identified in our previous material on the national question that the problem in the North is increasingly a problem of two minorities. Among Catholics the feeling that they are a mistreated minority in a Protestant state remains, and can come explosively to the surface as after Drumcree. With Protestants the old certainties attached to the existence of the Unionist state have gone. All the Unionist leaders, but Paisley and McCartney in particular, have portrayed the peace process as a conspiracy by the two governments to railroad Protestants in the direction of a united Ireland. There is a feeling that politics has been taken out of local hands, that it has an all-Ireland as well as a world dimension, and that in this context Protestants are the minority whose rights are being ignored. This is not an unchallenged feeling, it is countered by those like the PUP and UDP, who have a better understanding of the real significance of the ceasefires and beyond, and who argue that the union is safe. Rather it is an underlying feeling which, like the anger in Catholic areas, has the capacity to come to the surface if events appear to confirm it. This was what was happening during the Drumcree stand-off.
23) It would be a serious mistake to underestimate the anger which exists among Protestants over the blocking and re-routing of parades. Orange parades are themselves clearly triumphalist both in their character and their history. The Orange Order has been a weapon in the hands of the establishment against any social movement which could draw together the oppressed.
Nonetheless, a much broader layer of Protestants, who would have nothing to do with the Orange Order, support their opposition to re-routing and supported the stand made at Drumcree. This support does not come from a spirit of triumphalism.
Rather it emerged from a sense of frustration that Protestant rights and culture are being trampled on and curtailed, that Protestants are being left helpless in the face of a powerful pan-nationalist offensive. This broader support arises from the feeling of many Protestants that they are now the minority and it is because of this that it must be treated with sensitivity.
24) The violent aftermath of Drumcree which saw widespread sectarian attacks, including attacks on Protestant homes, shops and buildings, especially along the border counties, and the inflammatory and sectarian speeches of right-wing nationalist politicians, will have confirmed Protestant suspicions.
25) On the other hand Catholics looking at the capitulation by the state and the sudden U-turn at Drumcree, followed by the brutality meted out at the Garvaghy Road, the Ormeau Road and Derry, have drawn very different conclusions. These events have appeared like a snapshot of 1968–69 when the forces of the Unionist state batoned civil rights protesters in Derry and when they colluded with Protestant thugs to do the same at Burntollet. The conclusion has been extensively drawn that nothing has changed, the Orange state remains. This is the conclusion being spelt out by nationalist leaders, especially the now dominant hard line and sectarian voices within Sinn Fein. Some on the left, the SWP in particular, have been swept along by the mood in Catholic areas and have echoed this analysis, adding their own sensationalist touches.
26) The danger of this analysis is the reactionary conclusions it can lead to. Right-wing nationalists, such as those around Republican Sinn Fein, have opposed all dialogue with Protestants counter-posing the idea of a new struggle to smash the “Orange state” and bring about a 32-county capitalist Ireland. Until recently they have been a fossilised throwback to old and largely discredited ideas. Should the new generation of Catholic youth now draw the conclusion that the peace process has failed, that reform and accommodation is impossible, and that the alternative is confrontation under a nationalist banner, a very dangerous scenario will open.
27) The present state is not the Unionist state of pre-1968. Inequalities continue to exist but more because of the residue of past discrimination than of current practice. The official policy of the state is no longer to allow religion to be a factor in housing allocation. Unemployment is still higher among Catholics but this is not the result of a current policy of the state to encourage jobs to Protestant areas. Under capitalism investment tends to go to the areas of easiest access, making it inevitable that unemployment will be higher in the predominantly Catholic border counties. The fact that jobs are now being shed in both the public and private sectors makes it impossible for the state to completely undo the effects of former discrimination.
28) The idea that nothing has changed in relation to the RUC since 1969 is false. In terms of composition it is quite true that this force remains over 90% Protestant. It is also true that, within its ranks, the main sympathies would be with Unionism in some form. But there is an important difference. Under Stormont all of this was encouraged as the policy of the force. The RUC and, behind it, the B-Specials, were the enforcement agencies of Unionist discrimination and repression. Today’s coercive apparatus, the RUC, RIR and the judicial system, are instruments in the hands of the British ruling class not of local Unionists. They have been partially lifted above society so that they can be used against either side to implement the policies of the British state. There is no doubt that, in the final analysis, in a near civil war situation, these local forces would crack in the hands of their master and go over to the Protestant side, but this does not mean that they are unreliable in all circumstances or that they cannot and will not be used against Protestants.
29) It is not that the outlines of an Orange stale do not exist. It was there in the Drumcree build up in the form of the Orange Order, the unionist politicians, some businessmen, the revived Ulster Clubs and those sections of the paramilitaries which took part. These, together with the networks of support which exist within the state institutions, including the RUC and RIR, are the raw material for a possible Orange state of the future. But this could only come to power through confrontation with the existing state and after a civil war which would leave it with control of only part of the existing territory of the North. On the other side, among the Catholic community, there exists the embryo of a no less sectarian and reactionary Green state which, under those conditions, would seize control of the remaining territory.
30) What happened at Drumcree was not a rerun of 1968. No doubt the state initially calculated that they could hold the line and fulfil the commitments given the previous year to Garvaghy Road residents that the 12th parades would not go along that route again. They seriously miscalculated in this and, having allowed the build up at Drumcree in order to prevent an early confrontation across the North, they found themselves facing a force they could not contain. The state was aware that to allow the Orangemen, with the local paramilitaries and their followers in the vanguard, to smash their way through the RUC would have been to invite a pogrom in Garvaghy Road. To resist would have meant withdrawing the RUC who in the end would not have been reliable, replacing them with paratroops and most likely using live ammunition. The shooting of Orangemen by British troops, on the 12 July, could have sparked vicious pogroms and uncontainable violence.
31) For these reasons the state backed off and decided instead on the easiest option of smashing a way through the Catholic resistance in Garvaghy Road. There is clear evidence that in the days which followed the state lost partial control of sections of the RUC especially in their behaviour in the Lower Ormeau and in the way in which they went on the rampage in Derry. It is clear that those at the top of the state apparatus are aware of this. Hence the ordering of an investigation into the use of plastic bullets and the unannounced withdrawal of the RUC from the west bank of Derry for a period.
32) The policy of the ruling class is not to uphold the rights of Orangemen over all other rights. Their interest is in achieving an accommodation on the issue of parades. In Drumcree they backed down in the face of mass opposition and pressurised the Catholics. On other occasions they may do the opposite. This is a clear difference with what happened in 1968–69.
33) There are other differences too. A fundamental mistake in politics is to mistake revolution for counter-revolution and vice versa. This is precisely the mistake of the SWP and other groups in the current situation. It is not ruled out that they can make some short-term gains from this in the South, but it is a mistake they will pay dearly for in the long term.
34) October 1968 opened a period of revolutionary opportunity. The eruption in Catholic working-class areas was at first an eruption to the left. The new generation of youth consciously rejected the old ideas and symbols of nationalism and enthusiastically embraced class ideas. An opportunity existed to develop a united class movement against the unionist state and against capitalism. All revolutionary situations contain elements of counter-revolution but it was not until the summer of 1969 that the drift back to sectarian reaction began in earnest. Even then the powerful world attraction of socialist ideas and the existence of a powerful and confident labour movement acted as a brake and created openings for new moves to the left.
35) Today the international factors are different. There is no powerful pull of socialist ideas to influence the youth. Within Northern Ireland the labour movement, while not decisively defeated, has been pushed back and the confidence of the activists has been sapped. On the specific issue of marches and extending potentially to other issues the degree of polarisation is far greater.
36) Most important of all, the opening of a new period of mass convulsion and confrontation would from the first moment take a nakedly sectarian form. This has already been seen in the widespread attacks on homes and property of both Catholics and Protestants. Sectarian ideas would also come to the fore. 1968 initially saw class ideas push the old nationalism to the background. New upheavals would see the reverse. There would be a triumph of right-wing and sectarian nationalist views. On the Protestant side the more enlightened thinking groups like the PUP which has been a positive result of the peace process, would be side-lined. To confuse the beginnings of sectarian reaction unleashed since Drumcree with the heady and inspiring events of 1968 is an act of unforgivable stupidity and irresponsibility.
37) Our position on the parades issue flows from our understanding of what actually is happening. In intervening on the national question Lenin’s advice was that while upholding national rights and treating the issue with every sensitivity, it is the overall interests of the working class which must be the first consideration.
38) From this point of view we need to take up carefully both the anger within Catholic areas at what they see as triumphalist parades and the feeling among Protestant that their right to march is being unreasonably interfered with. We respect the rights of both sides but say that beyond this there is the overriding right of the working-class movement as a whole to say we are not prepared to be pulled apart in a sectarian confrontation over this issue.
39) Our position since this issue arose in 1992 has been generally to support the right of residents to say no to parades. In the current situation this stance needs to be modified. The principle of “consent” which is now being put forward as the basis to block parades no longer means consent but, in the way it is being raised, means a veto.
40) We are opposed to Orange parades and all other sectarian marches. This means we would not participate in them and would appeal publicly to workers not to take part. It does not mean that we view the Orange Order as akin to the Ku Klux Klan or the National Front, as is currently being done by nationalists and by the SWP. It is a reactionary and sectarian organisation, but not a fascist or neo-fascist group. While opposing the Orange Order we therefore uphold its right to march. Not to do so would not weaken Orangeism but would tend to drive Protestant workers behind its banner.
41) We uphold the right of residents to say no to parades where they go through purely residential areas. However, where parades go along main roads such as the Ormeau Road we cannot simply support a blanket veto by one side. We must press for negotiations, agreement and compromise.
This would be not just over the regularity of parades but also over their conduct. We would also advocate that the route through sensitive areas should not be policed by the RUC, but should be controlled, in an agreed manner, by stewards from the residents and from the parade organisers separately controlling and restraining their own supporters.
42) Nationalist residents groups are now putting forward the proposal that parades should stay away from towns and villages which are “overwhelmingly” of the opposite religion. This points to the broader question which lies behind the whole parades controversy, the question of territory. The idea behind this proposal is that the North can be divided into separate Catholic/Nationalist and Protestant/Unionist areas and that ne’er the twain shall meet. It is a recipe for religious, cultural and political cantonisation. Given that our overall position is for the integration of the communities our general attitude should be that village and town centres should be open to parades by both sides. Again discussion and agreement between conflicting groups may be necessary to prevent provocations by either side.
43) The call for local trade unionists from both communities together with genuine local cross community organisation to come together to act as intermediaries would get an echo at this time. It is already the position adopted under our influence by some union branches.
44) In Derry our main call is for agreement and compromise on the 10 August parade. Insofar as it is possible to raise it we need to call upon the whole community to openly pressure both sides to reach agreement. In the event that there is no agreement our position would depend on the stance of both sides. For example, we could not come out in favour of the blocking of the Craigavon Bridge. On the other hand the right of residents to protest, especially about the parade going along the full route of the city walls without agreement, would have to be upheld. In practice this means opposing any attempts by the state to physically remove demonstrators.
45) What happens in Derry is now pivotal in the equation of future perspectives. A full-scale confrontation is possible. The republican movement is gearing itself up for this at least as a contingency in Catholic areas across the North. Should this take the form of the blocking of the bridge or a significant part of the city centre it is likely that sectarian violence would quickly spread.
This could even degenerate into civil war. Or there could be a period of upheaval in which the state would be able to hold the line, and which would eventually subside. The longer-term consequences in terms of the conclusions which may be drawn by the youth, and in terms of the possible real ending to the IRA and loyalist ceasefires, would probably prepare for a new period of violent conflict.
46) It is also possible that there could be no agreement but that the state could intervene by blocking Derry’s walls and effectively re-routing the parade. This could possibly pass off with some violence but not on the scale above. Or there could be an agreement and with it an immense sense of relief which might give a new injection of life into the peace process.
47) It is correct to raise the possibility of a civil war, but it would be light-minded to do so without proper qualification and without a sober estimation of how likely this is. A civil war or partial civil war is one possible outcome but is not the most likely in the short term.
48) There are powerful factors weighing against. Along one side of the talks tables at Castle Buildings are the representative of the two governments plus the chairman who is a powerful figure in the US establishment and one of the vice-chairmen who has a military background in NATO. All of these interests are united at least in their determination to prevent a new Bosnia erupting within the EU. The business community in Northern Ireland who are looking still to the benefits for them of the peace dividend view with horror the prospect of their property and potential profits going up in smoke.
49) These pressures are clearly felt within the Unionist establishment. Having made their point over Drumcree and scored what turned out to be a pyrrhic victory, the heads of the Ulster Unionist Party have attempted to draw back from confrontation. Bosnia has had a powerful effect internationally and is a certain factor in holding up the emergence of further Bosnias. After Drumcree the mood of all the participants at the all-party talks changed noticeably. They had peered over the abyss and recoiled back in stunned horror. So the procedural wrangle which held everything up for seven weeks were laid to rest in an hour of voting in which an agreed set of rules was adopted. Both Mayhew and Spring turned up in order to add their personal pressure on the parties to at least give the impression of some progress before the summer recess.
50) Within the working class there remains a deeply rooted resistance to the thought of civil war. Given the weakening of the working-class movement and the degree of polarisation this is a factor which could possibly be overcome. However, it is also possible that a mood of opposition to sectarianism, especially to intimidation and sectarian attacks, could develop and could take a physical form in the re-emergence of mass protests. The growing mood for compromise over the Apprentice Boys parade in Derry is an indication of this underlying anti-sectarian sentiment.
51) This is a volatile period in which the events of a day, a week and certainly of months, can profoundly affect and alter the mood of Catholic workers, of Protestant workers, or of both. An overstepping of the mark by bigots on either side could produce a revulsion and drawing back within both communities. Our task at this time is not to become transfixed on any possible scenario as a blueprint for the future, but to be prepared for abrupt turns in events and the sudden shifts in consciousness they will bring.
52) The possible resumption of the IRA and loyalist campaigns has to be seen in this light. In the context of mass sectarian upheaval this might tip the scales towards civil war. In a different context it might signal a further and more intense period of fruitless blood-letting which can lead in one of only two directions – either towards civil war or else back to the negotiating table.
53) The main loyalist leaderships are anxious to maintain their ceasefires. For them the political course is more beneficial than a return to war and to isolation. This does not mean that the ceasefires will hold under all circumstances. Further sectarian upheaval or a full-scale resumption of IRA military action would make it impossible to maintain the loyalist ceasefires.
54) Even without a breach of the existing ceasefire there is the possibility of a new formation emerging from the most reactionary, neo-fascist elements both within the UVF and the UFF. Whether a new sectarian bombing and assassination campaign by these people would achieve its end of provoking much more widespread conflict or whether it would lead to their isolation and destruction would depend on the circumstances of the time.
55) Within the republican movement there is by now an awareness that the real obstacle to a united Ireland is the resistance of the million Protestants. The debate over a renewal of the campaign is therefore also a debate over how to deal with this reality. Adams and the main political elements are advocating dialogue and have in reality accepted that there can be no constitutional change without the consent of at least a significant section of the Protestant population. Those who want a full resumption of the armed struggle do so in the knowledge that it is Protestant resistance which has to be broken. The debate is between the advocates of persuasion through dialogue and international pressure and persuasion through the barrel of a gun.
It is this which makes it inevitable that a return to armed conflict would from the beginning be far more openly sectarian than before. Those within the republican movement who advocate this are, alongside the hard-line unionists and loyalists, among the most reactionary elements in the North as a whole.
56) The IRA’s current “no war, no peace” strategy cannot be maintained indefinitely. In which direction it will be ended is for us an open factor although Drumcree and the policy of open recruitment adopted by the IRA in its aftermath tilts the balance in the direction of war. If the campaign is restarted the end result as with loyalist violence is unclear. Either it will unleash a furious sectarian response which would have the capacity to spiral out of control or, after a bloody beginning, it could be constrained.
Should a mood of opposition to sectarian atrocities develop the divisions which would remain within republicanism would come to the fore. On this basis a military campaign would end in military isolation leaving open only the option of negotiations.
57) Whatever the immediate scenario these recent events have been a confirmation of our analysis of the peace process and its limitations. It may be that the talks process will continue along its bumpy path. But to have any meaning Sinn Fein will have to be included at some point. Even if it ultimately reached some agreement along the lines of what has already been proposed in the Framework document this would not be a lasting solution. It would be an agreement at the top based upon and tending to reinforce the sectarian divisions at the bottom.
58) There can be no long-term, lasting, solution on the basis of capitalism. Ultimately the alternatives are of either the building of a powerful movement to unite the working class in struggle for a socialist solution or else a descent into civil war.
59) The prospects for the emergence of a class movement have taken a knock but are still present. Strikes by postal workers have been solid. Anger at health cuts runs deep in all working-class communities and could lead to mass protests which would draw workers together. A significant development of strikes in Britain, already visible in the movements in the public sector and in privatised sectors such as the railways, would certainly overspill into Northern Ireland. Even if a Blair government enjoys an initial honeymoon, anger at its policies will likely lead to big movements in opposition.
All this will have an effect in helping cut across the sectarian drift in the North. Above all the emergence of a new layer of shop stewards will be vital to the development of the working-class movement as an independent factor in the situation.
60) Politically, the working-class movement has been quite decisively set back by the Troubles. It will take a significant upturn in the class struggle to reverse this. The emergence of a new socialist formation will be complex and uneven. The idea of a new Labour Party will become less viable under a Blair government. However, a socialist reformation in Britain might open the way to a similar development in the North, with our organisation playing the leading role. For a mass socialist force to develop it would have to deal with the reality that the majority of Catholic working-class votes now go to Sinn Fein while the PUP and to a lesser extent the UDP are beginning to fulfil a similar role in some Protestant working-class areas.
61) Sectarian reaction might change this, but it would also set back the prospect of any new socialist grouping taking root. If things continue as now a real socialist realignment would have to be sufficiently attractive to draw the radical sections of Sinn Fein and of the loyalist groupings towards it.
62) The formation of the Labour Coalition has been a significant achievement but it has to be seen against the background of these longer-term tasks. The defeat of the witch-hunt and the fact that the Coalition has held together despite provocative attempts by the ex-Stalinists who have left it to destroy it, is also an important victory for us.
63) There still exists the potential for this Coalition to develop as a small but important force on the left. There are a layer of genuine activists within the trade unions and the communities who are looking for a non-sectarian and socialist party. Under our influence the coalition can reach these people and draw them towards it. In the longer term, if it holds together, either the Coalition as a whole or sections of it, may provide the basis for a broader socialist realignment along the lines of what may emerge under our influence in Britain or in the South. Again our role in this will be crucial. Without us there is no prospect of this coalition building itself into any sort of viable force.
64) An analysis of the current situation leads to one clear conclusion. The fate of the working-class movement, in the last analysis, narrows down to the building of a socialist organisation.
Last updated: 2.5.2013