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 Protestants 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 & The National Question
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 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.
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.
Our members in NIPSA led equal pay negotiations in 2009 which won pay increases for tens of thousands of low-paid mostly female civil service workers.
Our members campaign within the trade unions to transform the unions into fighting, democratic organisations with the members in control. We stand for the election of full-time officials, accountable to the members, who should live on the wages of the members – not on salaries of bosses.
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. This has saved every household thousands of pounds.
The Socialist Party is also involved in campaigning against fracking, for abortion rights, rights for LGBT people, against closures of accident and emergency units and against cuts to benefits, jobs and services. 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.
Socialist Youth members helped establish Youth Fight for Jobs & Education in 2012 which organised a highly successful March for Jobs, which marched along the Shankill Rd and the Falls Rd in Belfast. The campaign is currently fighting to stop the Assembly cutting Education Maintenance Allowance.
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.
We publish a monthly paper – The Socialist – which provides socialist analysis of international and crucially of local events, and reports on workers and youth struggles. The Socialist plays a crucial role in winning support for socialist ideas and working class unity.
How We Organise
The Socialist Party is the Northern Ireland affiliate of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) which unites 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, Drogheda and Cork. Joe Higgins TD (Dublin West) represents the Socialist Party in the Dáil and Paul Murphy is a Dublin MEP for the Socialist Party. Our public representatives live on the average workers wage and donate their remaining salary to workers’ and communities struggles and the fight for socialism.
The Socialist Party is an active party which encourages the full participation of all members and intervenes in the struggles of ordinary people to fight the agenda of the sectarian and right-wing parties and to build a socialist alternative to the failure of capitalism.
Contact us today to join and help build that alternative!