Communism in Cold War Belfast, 1945–1962

Author: Patrick Smylie
This is the abstract of an article published in Labour History Review (2020), 85, (1), 59–83. Find out more.

This article traces the history of communism in Belfast from 1945 to 1962. Beginning with an assessment of the local Communist Party’s strength and ambitions in the immediate post-war period, it examines rapid membership decline and deteriorating relations with the Northern Ireland Labour Party, suggesting that these developments were exacerbated by the onset of the Cold War, internationally and domestically, and rising tensions relating to the Irish national question in the late 1940s. It argues that communists were able to maintain their influence over industrial relations in Belfast, even as they adopted an increasingly anti-partitionist posture on the Irish national question. Indeed, the article shows that the Cold War, particularly in its domestic manifestation, directly reinforced the Communist Party’s latent anti-partitionism.