Derry Labour and Trade Union Party statement - On the UWC strike, May 1974
Workers' Unity to End Sectarianism
This statement was published by the press officer of the Derry Labour and Trade Union Party on May 19th 1974 to put forward a class alternative to the sectarian strike developing in Northern Ireland.
Militant Irish Monthly, June 1974, No. 25.
The Ulster Workers' Council are partly correct in saying that the politicians have failed; partly correct, because anyone who looks at Sunningdale from a workers' viewpoint will see that it was devised and constructed to suit business interests - and this it does very well.
The UWC are quite correct to oppose Sunningdale; most workers organisations oppose it; but workers must make their voice on Sunningdale heard through the Labour and Trade Union Movement, not through sectarian organisations.
The need for this is made clear from the demands put forward by the UWC in the present strike; there is not one working class demand among them. It is not in the interests of the workers to return to the Protestant Parliament we had for 50 years.; most loyalist workers agree that this Parliament was controlled by landlords and industrialists - by the 'big houses'.
What is the point of striking suffering in order to hand control to the middle class opportunists who have attached themselves to the UWC? Craig, Taylor, Paisley, etc, have no working class demands to put forward - only those of the business elements.
Where are the demands that will improve the workers' standards of living? There is not even one. The UWC makes the whole issue sectarian, they want Protest workers to feel superior to Catholic workers - in degrees of misery. They give no class analysis of society, no criticism of the rich few who divide workers on religious grounds and racialist grounds in order to exploit them.
Why does the UWC fail in this? It can only be because the leaders are hide-bound by prejudice or tongue-tied by their middle class allies. Alliances with businessmen are always on businessmen's terms.
By calling a sectarian strike, the UWC have created a confused situation where troops may be used as scabs. This is tragic and irresponsible, in the light of the wage struggles and attacks on workers' living standards which will develop in the next few years in Britain and Ireland, North and South.
This was not a strike democratically organised by the trade unions, nor is it controlled by them. The Labour and Trade Union Movement must be the vehicle through which such strikes are organised and controlled. Trade Unions must assert their right now; they must challenge the UWC on a class basis, explaining clearly to all their members - by means of delegate conferences, etc.- why this strike must end.
If the trade unions back down now, their power is diminished, and all workers will suffer, if they support the use of troops as scabs, they are traitors to their class, for the same troops will be used in future strikes organised by the unions themselves. This strike must be settled by the trade unions - not by troops, not by the businessmen or their spokesmen in Parliament, but by the unions themselves. It is their business.
And having taken the step of intervening, it will not be good enough for the trade union leaders to retire to sleep again. Workers must ensure that once the unions set off on this path, they continue, and make clear class demands about controls this province, who makes decisions, what must be done about fat profits, about low wages, high rents, bad housing, unemployment - all the social problems must be highlighted and tackled on the basis of a socialist programme: and on the basis of unity with workers in Britain and the South suffering from exactly the same problems, caused by exactly the same people - the profiteers.
Security, the big worry of many genuine people, will be solved if the trade unions unite workers on a campaign for social justice. Hen we will be fighting our real enemy, the bosses, and not foolishly killing or hurting fellow-suffers, as the military groups of both extremes are doing. Success now, in ending this strike, will be the beginning of a great surge forward by the Labour and Trade Union Movement in the North.
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