The New Left in Ulster and the Opening of the Gates, part three.


In the final and concluding blog post of the series, The New Left in Ulster and the Opening of the Gates (see part one here and part two here), we will be examining a few more of the present struggles, the new and the old.


“May you live in interesting times.”


Every day there is a new struggle, a new group, a new individual prepared to fight back. The famous Chinese proverb is both a curse and hope; it is an aphorism of two faces, at least. Whilst they tear chunks out of each other over the EU referendum debate, within Britain, the Tories are faced with newly confident workers and people in struggle. Into that sorry fight-and shamefully ignoring the lesson of Scotland-the Labour Party leadership lines up beside the hated Tories. Locally a Northern Ireland Executive has been formed, eventually and patched together with the aid of an independent unionist, Clare Sugden as Justice Minister. What is ‘fresh’ about this Fresh Start is anybody’s guess. For most people it will amount to working harder, for less pay and with the ever present, casualization (see the UCU dispute with universities, ongoing as we speak). But the 43 years old Labour History Society of Ireland will deliver some new thinking when the Society’s latest journal, issue 41 a 1916 Centenary edition, is launched at the John Hewitt in Belfast, this evening, Thursday 26 May 2016, at 6.15pm.


Saothar is the annually published journal of the Irish Labour History Society and the launch of its latest journal issue, issue 41 a 1916 Centenary edition, will deliver new research and new thinking this year. The Society is dedicated to publishing the history and culture of working-class people in Ireland. Its website explains, in a suitably understated way, that:

“The Irish Labour History Society (ILHS) was established in 1973 with the Constitutional obligation to ‘promote the knowledge of Irish labour history and of Irish people in labour history abroad and labour history in general’.”

Since then the Society has published, annually, some of the most important writings on Irish working-class culture. It has been an incredibly important platform for working-class activists, by hand or by brain. The scholarly material that has been produced and the archives collated by the Labour History Society of Ireland are an achievement for workers’, at home and abroad. The material to be published in issue 41 looks incredibly interesting, with new research and reflection on old classics (personally, the reflection on C. D. Greaves’ work is the main article I will look to read first). It feels apt to end this series of blog posts by examining new material produced by a Labour History Society now entering into a golden, middle age. The Labour History Society of Ireland is very much a part of the ‘old’ left, but it has a key role to play in the formation of the New Left in Ulster. The ‘old’ Left in the north of Ireland, much like its southern Irish counterpart, must place unity, solidarity and mutual support between the left as order number one.It is only now that the seeds first sown by the first generation of labour historians are beginning to truly be felt in Ireland. I suspect, before the decade ends, at least a few more academic left-wing journals will be launched in Ireland. This will have to be part of a common left agenda for common struggle.


See you at 6.15pm Thursday 26 May 2016 the John Hewitt Bar, Belfast, for the launch of Saothar, 41.


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