Some intellectual origins of the Labour left’s thought about Ireland, c.1979–97
in The British Labour Party and twentieth-century Ireland
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There is a considerable, often highly polemical, literature on Labour’s 1980s-90s internal battles, as there is increasingly on British political debates and policies towards Northern Ireland in these years. Far less has been written on the intellectual roots of the rival positions advanced. This chapter attempts to remedy that deficiency, exploring the intellectual origins (especially in varied kinds of Marxist thought, and in rival readings of Irish history) of the often bitter disputes. On one side stood a group of positions broadly describable as anti-imperialist, and enjoining support for Irish nationalism, Republicanism and of course (though most contentiously and sometimes mutedly) for armed struggle. On the other lay a constellation of stances which was considerably more diffuse still: ‘two nations’ views, ‘primacy of class politics’, and ‘primacy of peacemaking’ perspectives. The chapter examines, then, the intellectual rigour and dynamics behind these multiple initiatives, lobbies and clashes.

The British Labour Party and twentieth-century Ireland

The cause of Ireland, the cause of Labour

Editor: Laurence Marley

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