Cross-Community Labour Final Election Statement: We Stand for Workers’ Unity
Shared Lives and Shared Struggles
Cross-Community Labour aims to win the majority of working-class and young people to a new type of politics. To be successful we must deal with difficult issues. We recognise that the working-class is sometimes divided by questions relating to identity and we argue that the way forward should be based on compromise, mutual respect, agreement, and uniting working people in a common struggle for a better future. This is not an impossible dream but a realistic prospect, and the only way in which we will solve the problems that face us.
Working-class people live similar lives whatever their background. Our workplaces are integrated, and in work we face the same problems of low pay and insecurity. We use the same health and education services, and these have been under attack in the decade since the financial crash. We belong to the same trade unions, through which we struggle together for better pay and conditions.
However, when we leave work and go to our homes many of us live in divided communities. Most of our villages and towns are either majority Catholic or majority Protestant, and in our cities, local areas are dominated by one or other community.
Unity and Division Side by Side
This is the complex reality we face: unity and division exist side by side. At times of increased tension division predominates. At times of an increase in struggle on class issues, such as during a strike wave or when there was widespread resistance to the imposition of water charges several years ago, unity comes to the fore.
The pendulum has swung back and forth over the decades, sometimes towards unity, sometimes towards division. The tendency towards division and conflict was most pronounced during the worst years of violence, but the workers movement acted again and again to counter sectarian intimidation and attacks. We all have the right to live our lives free from intimidation and the threat of attack, and numerous occasions this right was expressed and protected by the trade unions. Trade union activists stood in the front line against sectarian threats, intimidation, and terror. There were hundreds of workplace walk-outs during the Troubles to protest at attacks on workers. The union movement organised local and regional strikes, sometimes effective general strikes, and mass demonstrations of tens of thousands, to push back sectarian forces when the violence threatened to spiral out of control, especially in the later years of the Troubles.
The Labour and Socialist Tradition
Cross-Community Labour aims to build on this proud history, and on the organic unity of working-class people in our workplaces and in our common struggles. Young people are united in campaigns for LBGTQ+ rights, abortion rights and in defence of the environment, and are seeking a united political voice for their aspirations for the future. We believe that the workers movement should build the alternative they seek.
We put forward policies which are independent from both the Orange and the Green traditions. Our approach builds on the third tradition of labour and socialist politics. We don’t agree our policies by simply balancing between a Republican/Nationalist viewpoint and a Unionist/Loyalist viewpoint, as if at the mid-point of a seesaw. Instead, we seek to understand what is in the best interests of all working-class people. The greatest mistake that the left can make is to adopt policies which are one-sided, and Cross-Community Labour is determined not to do this. Cross-Community Labour is not a left version of unionism or a left version of nationalism.
Active trade unionists and community campaigners already understand the need for unity and instinctively push back against any divisive ideas that are brought into a campaign or a strike. As a result, not one strike has been broken by sectarianism over the last fifty years. We are seeking to build a new political movement which reflects this basic understanding and give it a political voice.
A Principled Approach
We don’t pretend that there are simple solutions to the problems we face. The detailed approach of Cross-Community Labour on each difficult and divisive issue is decided through democratic discussion but there are certain principles which we adopt.
• We are seeking to build upon the third tradition: of working-class unity and labour and socialist politics.
• We stand for the unity of working-class and young people of all backgrounds, and we seek to defend and build that unity every day. United we can achieve much but divided our futures will be determined by sectarian politicians and the paramilitaries. Any step which weakens class unity must be resisted.
• Working-class people and the capitalist class have opposing interests. The capitalist class-whether in Belfast, Dublin, London, Brussels or Washington-will not provide solutions to the problems we face.
• We seek to build links not just locally but across the border and across the Irish Sea. We are in favour of co-operation and solidarity between working people across these islands.
• We acknowledge that both unionism and nationalism are strongly-held political positions, which reflect the identity of people and communities. We recognise the rights of both the Protestant and Catholic communities and are against the denial of rights to any person or group.
• We recognise that political parties which thrive on sectarian division deliberately set working-class people against each other in a competition for scarce resources. Sectarianism is exacerbated by scarcity of resources. In a society of plenty, there will be less room for such conflict.
• We stand against attacks on the rights of working-class people on pay, pensions or working conditions and attacks on our public services. This is not just a question of principle but because we believe that united struggle on day-to-day issues points to the need for political unity of working people.
• We approach every potentially divisive issue by first considering what is in the common interest of all working-class people. We take independent positions and refuse to be drawn into divisive debates created by others.
• We are in favour of agreed democratic decision making to resolve the issues which divide us. A “solution” which favours one community over the other is no solution. Together, working-class people from both communities, can forge a better, shared future where the democratic rights of every individual and all communities will be guaranteed.
Building for the Future
Cross-Community Labour is determined to build a political alternative for all workers and young people. We believe that ideas matter and we base ourselves on the ideas of solidarity and socialism. And we believe that ideas must be put into action: we will be on the streets over the coming weeks and months campaigning on the issues that matter. We represent the future, not the past. Join with us today.