1960s >> 1961 >> no-683-july-1961

Party News: The Belfast Campaign

With the object of creating opportunities for propaganda activities, bringing the name and object of the Party into prominence and demonstrating that they were not just another “left ” group, the Belfast Branch of the W.S.P. of Ireland decided to contest a ward in the Belfast Municipal Election. The deposit for nomination of candidate was £25. Though the Branch realised that they would lose their deposit, they considered the resulting propaganda would justify the expenditure.

 

They contested Duncairn Ward, as it was only in this ward that they had enough members to sign the nomination paper. It is a very thickly populated ward but not particularly suited to their purpose.

 

Voting locally is restricted to the occupier of a house and wife. Families living in dwellings that are sub-let, and adults other than the occupier and wife, are denied the right to vote. On the other hand a “property” vote enables businessmen and company directors, with branches or diverse business interests, to vote as many as eight times.

 

There is no free election postage in Ireland. Consequently the small group of Belfast comrades had to name and address the ten thousand Election Statements, and deliver them to houses over an area of 16 to 18 square miles. This was a colossal task, which took well into each morning, after holding meetings in the area during the evening and night. Their opponents contented themselves with touring the constituency with music, processions led by bunting-bedecked lorries, and loud-speaker exhortations telling people how to vote.

 

Every night, in spite of bad weather, a number of meetings were held. The first meetings were accompanied by three car-loads of police, motor cycle police, and several police on foot. Eventually it was reduced to a single motor cycle policeman. Places were visited where opposition was usually violent, but only once was a voice raised in anger against us.

 

When polling day arrived our comrades were astonished to find that the W.S.P. candidate had polled 824 votes — 11.4 per cent of the total votes cast. They also saved their deposit.

 

At the conclusion of the poll the W.S.P. candidate made the following statement:

 

   “The Unionist and Labour Parties represent capitalism and the continued exploitation of the working class . . . this is an historic occasion; for the first time capitalism in both disguises has been challenged . . .  we are at the bottom of the hill, you are at the top, but we are ascending, you are retreating down the other side.”

 

The fact that there were 824 votes (the bulk of whom may not yet be socialists), in one ward in such a conservative area as Belfast, is a harbinger of the progress of enlightenment. In their literature and from the platform, the Belfast members urged voters only to vote for Socialism if they understood it and wanted it, as outlined in the Election Address.

 

We congratulate our Irish comrades on the tremendous and self-sacrificing effort they put in with such good results, (t augurs well for the progress of the socialist movement in Ireland, and is heartening to their comrades in other lands.