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Peter Hadden: Co-founder of Socialist Party

(May 2010)

From The Irish Times, May 22, 2010.
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Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

PETER HADDEN, who has died aged 60, was with Joe Higgins MEP a founding and leading member of the Socialist Party and a campaigner for anti-sectarian politics in the North’s labour movement for more than 40 years.

Originally from Strabane, Co. Tyrone, his father was rector of Artigarvan. Hadden spent most of his life in Belfast and in 1968 he joined Militant, a Trotskyist element and newspaper within the British and later Irish labour and trade union movement, while studying at Sussex University.

He returned to Northern Ireland in the early 1970s and worked as an official for the civil service trade union NIPSA before becoming a full-time political activist for more than 30 years.

He helped found Militant in Ireland, which became the Socialist Party, and was a leading light in the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) – the international body to which the party is affiliated.

Most of his writings, books, pamphlets and many articles focused on Northern Ireland from a Marxist perspective. He argued that the national question could not be resolved in the context of capitalism, but only through a united struggle by working class Catholics and Protestants for a socialist Ireland. His writings include Divide and Rule, Common Misery Common Struggle, Beyond the Troubles, Towards Division Not Peace, and Troubled Times.

In the 1970s, when many on the left gave tacit support to the provisionals, Hadden vigorously opposed their campaign and worked for the establishment of a labour party in the North as an alternative to what he saw as the sectarian parties of unionist and nationalist traditions. He contested the Westminster elections in 1992 on a Labour and Trade Union ticket and also ran for the city council.

He was active in NIPSA and other unions, promoting strikes and protests by trade unionists in opposition to sectarian murders and death threats.

His campaigning often led to strained relations with trade union leaders whose “inaction” and failure to accept the potential of working-class unity, he argued, allowed sectarianism on both sides to flourish for decades.

He was working on a book dealing with these issues at the time of his death after a three-year struggle with cancer.

Paying tribute at his funeral in Belfast’s Roselawn cemetery, Joe Higgins said:

“During my time in the Dáil and now Europe, I would consistently ask Peter for advice. On many occasions it was he who armed me with a political edge when I went into the chamber to take on the Taoiseach. Peter Hadden was the giant at my shoulder for 35 years.”

He loved music and football. A keen Northern Ireland supporter, he revelled in the genius of George Best and the music of Paul Brady, Van Morrison, and Steve Earle.

He is survived by his partner Susan, his sons Stephen and Owen and their mother Mary, and his brother David.

Peter Hadden: born February 19th 1950; died May 5th 2010

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Last updated: 22.1.2011