For Workers' Unity, a 1974 pamphlet by the SP in Ireland:
Some remarks on why this pamphlet is republished

During a look through the archive material this pamphlet was looked at and it was decided that it would be educaitonal for those newer to the movement to have the opportunity to read this.

It is a general position of the CWI in Ireland that we tend not to bother to the statements of sectarian groups on the fringe of the labour movement. Although that is our general position a few exceptions have occured over the past 30 years.

In 1974 it was felt important that we respond to the false position and demands of the British and Irish Communist Organisation/Workers Association [in reality they were one and the same organisation.] We felt this was important because of the influence they had within loyalism, and the danger they posed to the wider labour movement by their calls for a split in the ICTU.

BICO were a group of academic 'lefts' who through their sheer weight of publications were thought off as having a real influence in society. It was a political expression of the joke, never mind the quality, feel the width. They had at least two monthly journals, and dozens of pamphlets in circulation in the early 1970's. While it is true that they had some influence, it was not within the labour movement but within loyalism. One senior member of BICO unashamedly acted as an advisor to the UWC during the 1974 stoppage. The danger was that they created the impression that they were something important and that their demands for an Ulster TUC could have had an impact. As explained below, such a call was not a simple call for union democracy, something Militant and the Socialist Party has always campaigned for, but was in reality a sectarian attempt to split the movement.

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1975 Introduction to the pamphlet For Workers Unity

Since the Ulster Workers Council (UWC) strike a variety of groups have raised the demand for the establishment of an Ulster Trades Union Congress, separate from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) and the British Trades Union Congress. This pamphlet is a reply to one such group, the Workers Association (WA), who in a pamphlet, 'What's wrong with Ulster trade unionism?' issue this demand.

The Ulster TUC proposal is nothing new. It has its roots in the refusal of the Stormont Government until 1964 to recognise the Northern Committee of the ICTU. During and after their recent strike several UWC spokesmen made it a plank of their policy. To their out and out shame a section of the leadership of the Northern Ireland Labour Party (NILP) have given it what they term a 'guarded' welcome. It remains one of the most divisive and reactionary ideas circulating with the working class.

The publication of the Workers Association pamphlet was greeted with a welter of publicity. Press coverage gave the impression that it was a pamphlet concerned with arguing the case for an Ulster TUC. In truth only a tiny proportion of this document deals with this question; the reminder is devoted to other but related issues. A considerable portion of this work is therefore taken up with answering the other points raised by the WA, particularly their characterisation of the present trade union leadership as 'republican' and their version of Irish Labour History.

The Workers Association have an identical position to that of another group - the British and Irish Communist Organisation. No differences appear between the material of these groups. Therefore this pamphlet treats them as identical. One section deals with the broader ideas of these tendencies and the implications of these ideas, and appended is an article from the first issue of Militant Irish Monthly, which deals with the BICO theory that Ireland is two nations.

Finally, and most importantly, this work is not intended merely as an answer to the BICO and WA. Sectarianism in Northern Ireland has had a shattering effect on the labour movement. The Ulster TUC proposal can only serve to worsen this effect. However, just to discard this idea is not enough. It is necessary to work out the ways and means by which flesh can be once again put on the Northern Irish trade union movement. In rejecting as totally false the theories and proposals of the WA, this pamphlet seeks also to provide a positive alternative - a set of class ideas and demands around which the might of Organised Labour could be brought to the fore.

This series of articles on Northern Ireland from our archives
are available here.

The full range of articles from the Socialist Party
are available in our sitemap