In part one of this series of blog posts, ‘The New Left in Ulster and the Opening of the Gates, part one’, we examined the political expression of these new left-wing developments; in this blog post we will examine some of the social struggles occurring in the north and the left.
Last week, on the 5th May, two People Before Profit Alliance Assembly candidates won election to the Assembly at Stormont in Northern Ireland. On Monday 9th May a protest at Bedford House, the main BBC Northern Ireland building in Belfast, at the treatment of the Irish language sector during the election. On Tuesday the 10th May European Directors of Friends of the Earth, from 25 countries, suspended their AGM in Carlingford, Republic of Ireland, to take part in a protest at fracking in Woodburn Forest Park, Northern Ireland. Friends of the Earth Europe Director, Magda Stoczkiewicz, commented:
“We couldn’t in all conscience sit in Carlingford discussing how to build a fossil-free future while just up the road a fossil fuel company is riding roughshod over community concerns in pursuit of the last drop of oil and gas. Standing in solidarity with the local people in Woodburn, who are fighting to protect their water, their forest and our climate, is simple necessity.”
Today, 11th May, a General Meeting of the Queen’s University Belfast Students’ Union at 2pm at the Mandela Hall to discuss the management decision to shut down many courses at QUB, especially in the Arts and Humanities. This meeting will be followed by a teach-in. The above campaigns are just a small indication of the social-political struggle currently underway in the north. They are indicative of the opening for the left. But how can the left help develop such struggle?
Unity and real solidarity between social, political, economic and cultural struggle are the order of the day for the left. All sections of the working people are being forced to struggle with employers and the state. Working-class people, across the island, confront the forces of the status quo. The gates have opened, yet the organised forces of the left still remain under-developed. This seems to be a consequence of the failure of The United Left Alliance in 2011. The ULA was an opening which was allowed to wither on the vine: Ireland today does not have the time to make such a catastrophic mistake, again. This limitation of the left is in contrast to the intuitive yearning for a coherent, strong, unified battle plan, across these struggles. The ‘old’ Left in the north of Ireland, much like its southern Irish counterpart, must place unity, solidarity and mutual support between the sections of the left as order number one of the day.
The New Left in Ulster is well positioned to act as a lightning rod for the class anger which has built in the province, yet the old limitations remain.
‘There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves
Or lose our ventures.’
Brutus, in Shakespeare, Julius Ceasar, Act 4, Scene 3.