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Socialist Review, January 1994

Mark McIvor


Across the divide

From Socialist Review, No. 171, January 1994.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

John McAnulty claims that ‘any serious examination of our early history’ proves that Catholic and Protestant workers cannot be united. Even a brief overview of Irish history rubbishes this idea.

Two fine examples of workers’ unity that instantly spring to mind are the 1907 dock strike and the outdoor relief strikes of the 1930s. McAnulty even admits that his own organisation, Peoples Democracy, ‘did in fact physically unite Catholic and Protestant’.

More recent history provides examples of this unity on an almost daily basis. The recent civil service strike and action to defend the NHS drew wide support from both communities.

When the 90 percent Protestant workforce in Shorts walked out to protest at the murder of Catholic workers and tens of thousands of ordinary workers marched to demand peace a blow was struck against sectarianism.

McAnulty’s pessimistic conclusion that workers’ unity is impossible fails to understand this reality and offers no solutions to the Irish working class.

A working class fightback against low pay, unemployment and hospital closures could be a major start to breaking down sectarianism. What is needed in the North today is a socialist organisation which can link these struggles together and challenge not only the Orange state but the British and Southern Irish states also.

This can only be done by a party which, as Bernadette Devlin said ‘can communicate with the Protestant by being honestly socialist’.

The SWM is building just such a movement.


Mark McIvor

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