The Left Archive: “Struggle in the North” by Michael Farrell (Peoples Democracy) 1970 March 3, 2008Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, People's Democracy.
This pamphlet, produced in 1970 and written by Mike (later Michael) Farrell, was an explanation, as it were, for the stance adopted by Peoples Democracy. Peoples Democracy were a fascinating group, for many reasons (and this is not the first example of material from them in the Archive). They were pivotal at a certain point in the earliest period of that phase of the conflict bringing both some sense of a broader struggle to the North, and perhaps also a certain blindness to the complexity of the forces they were dealing with. Having said that they can, at least in part, be accorded the responsibility of actually pushing a political edifice over, something their peers (other than in France) elsewhere around the world didn’t quite do (actually, anyone who has read David Caute’s book on 1968 will have noted the curious omission of Northern Ireland from it’s analysis).
To some degree what is interesting about this document is the way in which those explanations became an accepted part of a broader explicatory narrative of the early point of the Troubles for the left. Then again there is an interesting avoidance of significant mention of the IRA and its activities during the period. Is it possible that they didn’t wish to give any emphasis to a rival pole of oppositional and (in the Official incarnation at least) an increasingly Marxist analysis? Moreover there are also the usual vague outlines as to future strategy. For instance, in the final section “the Socialist Solution” the final call is as follows (please note that the photocopy doesn’t actually include these last three paragraphs due to an unknown error):
This is no easy option. The resistance of the Protestant workers will be hard to break down but at the moment they are drifting in a vacuum, a prey to Fascism, but at the same time more receptive to socialism than ever before because their allegiance to the Unionist party is finally being destroyed.
The “moderates” and the anti-partitionists can never reach these people. The timid and prevaricating constitutional “labourites” can never hold them because their dishonesty is plain to see. There is no point in trying to trick the Protestants. It must be made clear that imperialism is the root cause of the problems of Ireland, North and South. But these people can be won if they see that a Socialist Republic is not Rome Rule in disguise and if they are recruited to an organisation of genuine socialists fighting Green Tory gombeen men in the 26 Counties as vigorously as the Orange Tories in the North.
The only solution is the building of a 32-County socialist movement fighting the immediate battles of the workers on both sides of the Border, but all the time showing that the ultimate solution is a Socialist Workers’ Republic and all the time preparing to bring it about.
Naturally, but how to get there. That’s the rub. I’m not entirely convinced that the ‘solution’ was achievable then, or indeed now, in quite that form.
You can also get the text here, although I think that you miss something without having the chance to see the dodgy hand rendered drawing on the cover – albeit it is in black and white here (and you get the paragraph above!). Finally, Farrell wrote, to my mind, a rather fine history of the RUC from its inception. Well worth a read.