Left Archive: H-Block Struggle – Irish Revolution, On the March, a Peoples Democracy Pamphlet, 1981? April 21, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, People's Democracy.
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To download the above file please click on the following link: H-Block PD pamphlet x2
Many thanks to Niall Meehan for scanning and donating this to the Archive.
This is a very useful document from Peoples Democracy issued during the initial part of the H-Block campaign. In 13 or so pages it outlines the position of PD on the campaign, positions it as ‘A Political Issue’, ‘Humanism’, ‘Fianna Fail/SDLP’, the ‘Experience of the Civil Rights Movement’, ‘Winning Mass Support’, ‘The Trade Unions’, ‘Workers and the National Question’, ‘The Role of Women’, ‘Youth and H-Block’ and ‘A Fighting Organisation’.
It is far too comprehensive to do justice to it in its entirety, however the Introduction gives a good sense of the direction of the pamphlet.
As the Introduction notes:
PD has always fought for a broad based campaign on the question of H-Block. From the moment Britain withdrew political status we took the initiative in trying to win mass support for the prisoners. We were active from the beginning in building the RACs…
…our persistent efforts to build broad support for the H Block prisoners from both Sinn Fein and the Left. The Provos claimed we were selling out the National struggle while the Left denounced us for wanting an alliance with bourgeois individuals and parties. Neither accusation was true and by participating themselves in the National Smash H Block Committee our critics have in practice come to recognise this.
It argues that:
Today no one can doubt the merit of a broad-based campaign. The H Block Committee’s list of success is impressive. The conspiracy of silence has been breached and tens of thousands of people have received first hand information about the conditions in Long Kesh and Armagh.
And it concludes.
In this pamphlet we explain the reason for our involvement in the campaign and how we see it developing in the overall context of the National struggle and the fight for socialism. the success of the campaign to date is clear. But it is also clear that we have reached a plateau in our activity. If we are going to take the struggle forward we must know where we are headed.
Throughout the text there are some interesting observations, for example:
Experience has shown us that the liberals, intellectuals and others who do not recognise, even in a historic sense, the need for national liberation, have not flocked to the H-Block campaign. The active campaigners have been those who supported the national liberation struggle over the past decade. The broad, popular, base of the campaign has been comprised of those who, while being neither Socialist or Republican, retain a long term hope for complete national independence.
To download the above please click on the following link: SRepEmergency
Many thanks to Niall Meehan for forwarding this document to the Archive.
Issued by Peoples’ Democracy in 1981 in the wake of the death of Bobby Sands it is a short clearly rapidly produced typewritten leaflet some five pages long. This perhaps gives some sense of the rapid pace of events during the hunger strikes and the need for political formations to respond to them likewise.
On the cover under a hand-drawn image of Sands it calls for the withdrawal of ‘anti-unionist councillors from the northern councils’, the expulsion of the British ambassador and ‘Break[ing]’ the Haughey/Thatcher talks. Inside there are pieces on ‘Imperialism Murders Bobby Sands – How Did it Happen?’ and ‘British Labour’s Shame’ as well as a short article challenging Paddy Devlin. There is also a piece on ‘How We Can Win’.
But it is the editorial that distils the essence of the bulletin.
Responsibility for the death of Bobby Sands M.P. rests entirely with the British Government. The cruel intransigence of Thatcher and Atkins, their rejection of national and international opinion represents a calculated insult to the whole of the Irish people and demonstrates the racist contempt in which the British ruling class holds the people of this country.
In extending our sorrowing condolence to the family and comrades of Bobby Sands, Peoples Democracy wishes to assure them of the fact that they do not mourn alone; the people of Ireland and a lll those who have known oppression by an imperial power are with them in this dark hour.
It considers the way forward:
In the immediate days ahead we must turn our efforts towards saving the lives of the other hunger strikers who are continuing with courage the fight for the five demand. There is not a single responsible voice that denies the justice of these demand.
Again it reiterates the demands outlined on the front of the document:
The unity of the Irish people which we began to build during the last few months must now be completed. Fianna Fail and the SDLP must bow to the demand of the nationalist people of Ireland. The British ambassador must be sent home. All talks with the British government must be ended. All representatives of the nationalist people must withdraw from British government institutions.
And it stresses the peaceful nature of protest:
Britain’s murder of Bobby Sands represents a declaration of war against the Irish people. We must respond to this in a united and disciplined manner. Our strategy must be that of mass peaceful protests and, most importantly, industrial action against British firms and products.
A genuinely important addition to the Archive.
To download the above file please click on the following link: Resistance
Many thanks to Alan Mac Simoin for scanning and forwarding this document to the Archive.
Unusually there’s no clear provenance of this document. It mentions the Civil Rights Movement, People’s Democracy and the Republican Movement, and the cover is obviously taken from the famous Joe McCann ‘Army of the People’ photograph from the Official IRA. That said it appears to have been written by NICRA or PD members and any clarification on it would be very welcome.
It was written in the wake of internment and before the suspension of Stormont in March 1972.
As such it calls for the end of internment on foot of what it considers to be a mobilisation of the people. It also focusses on Crossmaglen and gives a detailed list of activities in that area such as protests, barricades and other forms of opposition to the state. There’s also a ‘Jail Journal’ reprinted from the Irish Times which consists of a personal account by Seamus O Tuathail, former editor of the OSF United Irishman and his experiences in Crumlin Road Prison.
The document also states the aims of the groups that it represents, most important of which is the establishment of a ‘democratic assembly’ and that:
The Assembly would be organised on a 32-county basis, and would lay the foundation for an all-Ireland democratic republic in the tradition of Tone, Connolly and the 1916 Proclamation.
Left Archive: Socialist Republic – Paper of People’s Democracy, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1979 November 5, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, People's Democracy.
To download the above file please click on the following link: SR PD INC SUPPLEMENt
Produced by People’s Democracy, Socialist Republic was a well presented A4 magazine, published during the 1970s and 1980s. This issue of Socialist Republic deals with a broad range of topics. The cover story deals with the Iranian Revolution, with the subheading ‘Mass Action shows the way. Victory to the Revolution!’. There is a Burntollet March Special Supplement included with this edition.
Inside there are pieces on the entry of the Republic of Ireland to the European Monetary System, the oil terminal at Whiddy Island – and in particular the explosion of the Betelgeuse oil tanker there earlier that year. There are also interesting pieces on the Socialist Labour Party Conference – The Republican Socialist Tendency incorporated Peoples’ Democracy members in the SLP and this grouping left the SLP later that year.
Indeed it is clear from the articles on the SLP that there was a considerable degree of dissatisfaction with that formation… ‘it became clear at the conference that there is a small right-wing minority which has no interest in supporting the fright for a united Ireland, never mind struggling against atrocities like H Block which doesn’t consider itself bound by conference decisions and feels free to oppose them publicly’. It also argued that the ‘most prominent member of this clique, Noel Browne TD, demonstrated his contempt for the party he is supposed to represent in the Dáil by writing a letter to the Irish Times on January 9th in which he made the scandalous allegation that the campaign for the restoration of Political Status [in H Block] is ‘elitist’. This flew in the face of SLP policy…’
In another piece it is argued that:
Under cover of high sounding criticism of the ‘narrow nationalist aims and methods of the Provisional I.R.A.’ the SLP NEC turned its back on the growing anti-repression struggle both in the 26 counties as well as in the North.
There is an article on ‘The Industrial Struggle of Women, another on the experience of August 1969 which has some interesting thoughts on the use of force and political action and the relationship between the two and there is also a long piece on the trill of IRSP members Osgur Breathnach, Brian McNally and Nicky Kelly.
As an aside, it is interesting to consider what impact the experience of PD members in the SLP had on the later journey some of them made to Sinn Féin – PD in this document makes it clear that they are ‘a Marxist organisation with firm roots in the anti-imperialist movement’. They note:
A lot of our policies have been learned the hard way through mistakes and splits but we are confident in our basic ideas and this confidence was shown by the fusion in October of two groups, the Movement for A Socialist Republic and the Peoples Democracy into one organisation under the banner of People’s Democracy.
The fusion conference affirmed our belief that the greatest single barrier to a Socialist Republic is the presence of British Imperialism and rejected that the loyalist minority have any right to continue partition. The conference thought that the oppression of the Irish working class and in particular women can be ended by that working class using their economic and political strength. The building of a united 32-county mass movement is the central task of the Irish revolution and a strong revolutionary Marxist party will have a major role to play in it.
In the Burntollet supplement it is notable that Sinn Féin is criticised for boycotting a tenth anniversary commemorative march (and the piece notes that “SF have never been happy working with other organisations. Time and again they have withdrawn from united committees and united fronts, the most recent examples being the PHRC in 1974 and the Irish Front in Derry last year”)”.
Left Archive: Documents from the 1st Annual Conference, National Association for Irish Justice, New York, 1969 – Dr. Frank Gogarty [Chair NICRA], Cathal Goulding [Republican Movement], Moira Martin [London NICRA], Eilish McDermott [People’s Democracy], Vincent MacDowell [NICRA]. February 13, 2012Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Irish Left Online Document Archive (Remembering 1969), People's Democracy, Sinn Féin.
We would like very much to thank Seán Prendiville for forwarding these documents to the Archive. The National Association for Irish Justice, based in New York, was ‘the official voice of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in the United States’ and held its 1st Annual Conference in late 1969 in Manhattan. These documents include speeches at the Conference, resolutions agreed at it and the Constitution of the Organisation. In eight discreet documents the reader is provided with an invaluable and timely insight into the attitudes then developing as regards the situation in both Northern Ireland, more broadly on the island of Ireland and the way these were projected in the United States.
In order to contextualise the documents Seán adds:
I should explain how I came by these documents. My father-in-law, Frank Maguire, died last year. My sister-in-law Niki found a box of Irish material and asked me to take a look at it and see if there was anything that should be preserved or shared. These documents were the most interesting and thanks to the Maguire family for sharing them. Frank, his wife Mary, and their children were members of the Irish American Action Association in San Francisco. Brian Heron sent these documents to the IAAA which I believe preceded Noraid and the Irish Republican Clubs. I don’t think the NAIJ ever got much traction in San Francisco. I was never a member of NAIJ; it was my impression that events soon overtook the NAIJ. Perhaps some reader with some direct experience with the NAIJ can comment.
Brian Heron and Lenny Glaser (aka Lenni Brenner) had been leading members of Citizens for Irish Justice (CIJ), the original support group in San Francisco for NICRA. They left soon for New York to establish the NAIJ with others in New York. Brian returned to San Francisco a year ago and died in March. Lenni Brenner has focused most of his energy on anti-Zionist work for the last couple of decades.
There is much of interest in each and every one of the documents here. They are as follows. To download files please click on each name in turn:
1: Constitution of the National Association for Irish Justice
2: Letter from Brian Heron of the NAIJ, December 17, 1969 [includes Fact Sheet]
3: Resolutions Adopted at First Annual Conference of the NAIJ
Speeches in Alphabetical Order
To give a sense of the direction of the documents here are selected quotes from each of them in turn:
Constitution of the National Association for Irish Justice
The purpose of the National Association for Irish Justice is to establish broad public support in the United States for the demands of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association and self-determination for the people of IReland. The National Association for Irish Justice is an association of diverse groups united in their support for the Irish people. Consequently the National Association for Irish Justice should not take specific stands on issues not directly related to the Irish situation. However, this in no way limits the prerogative of local autonomous groups or affiliates or taking specific stands.
Letter from Brian Heron of the NAIJ, December 17, 1969 [includes Fact Sheet]
In the past we have conducted pickets of British consulates and are conducting a boycott of British goods, in addition to setting up speaking tours. We shall continue this strategy in addition to other activities. We are also planning demonstrations during he possible January visit of Harold Wilson. We hope to have a coordinating group in every major city by February as our activities here are greatly needed by the CRA.
An Organization proudly sympathetic to those fighting for the unqualified freedom of all Irishman.
1. Organized Bernadette Devlin’s tour of the United States.
2. During the month of November had speakers from Ireland touring the country educating the American people as to the problems facing people of Northern Ireland.
3. Have staged protest, rallies, and marches in major cities against the forces of British Imperialism.
4. Working with N.A.I.J. are affiliate groups in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Boston, Hartford, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Rhode Island and Washington, D.C.
5. Organized College Chapters (STUDENTS FOR IRISH JUSTICE) on campuses throughout the United States.
6. Held International Conference on November 7th, 8th & 9th With delegates from U.S. , Canada, Australia, England and Ireland at City Center, 135 West 55th Street, New York.
7. In coordination with other Irish-American groups, participated in demonstration against the British Government on December 4th, 1969 in front of the British Consulate. The purpose of the demonstration was to demand the release of two prisoners in Ireland being held under “Special Powers Act” and to demand the repeal of the “Special Powers Act”.
Resolutions Adopted at First Annual Conference of the NAIJ
The National Association for Irish Justice recognises that economically oppressed people who are discriminated against and brutalised cannot sit idly by while their homes are burned to the ground from under them when demand equal justice and dignity under the law.
The NAIJ believes in the principles of armed self-defence. We extend our full support to the efforts of the oppressed in the six counties of NI to defend themselves by any means necessary from the forces of Orange bigotry represented by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the Special Constabulary (B Specials), the UVF, and all others who attack them.
This expression of solidarity also extends to resistance against the armed forces of the United Kingdom, recognising as we do that British Imperialism is the root cause of the problem in Ireland.
Further it is resolved that the NAIJ recognising the necessity for self-defence supports the formation of Citizen Defence Committees in Northern Ireland.
Press Release: Vincent MacDowell, Vice-Chairman NICRA, December 6th 1969
Mr. MacDowell stated that there would be a civil rights march on January 1st from Belfast to Derry over the Burntollet Bridge and also from Armagh to Derry. If the marchers did not get through because of the ban on public marches, Mr. MacDowell vowed they would try on the first of every month until they did or were all jailed.
Dr. Frank Gogarty, Chairman of NICRA
I would like, first of all, to list the demands of our movement. Our aim – since Britain is morally responsible for all the injustices in N. Ireland – has been to urge the Westminster Government to legislate directly to ensure basic civil rights for all citizens of N. Ireland. Such legislation under Section 75 of the Ireland Act of 1920 would guarantee:
(i) Universal Adult Suffrage at 18 in all election;
(ii) All electoral boundary revisions by a Westminster Boundary Commission;
(iii) Repeal of the Special Powers Act and the Public Order Act (together with the Amending Bill) to ensure that every individual is free from arbitrary interference by the state and all groups have the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association;
(iv) The outlawing of discrimination and incitement of religious hatred;
(v) The disbandment of the Ulster Special Constabulary and the creation of Independent machinery to enquire into citizens’ grievances against members of the Police force;
Over the past 12 months we in the civil rights movement have campaigned hard and always our tactics have been strictly non violent.
Despite this, however, innocent lives have been lost, hundreds have been maimed and thousands have had to flee their blazing homes in terror of the violent forces unleashed against them.
Cathal Goulding, Republican Movement. [note the hand written addendums in Irish]
In the final analysis the demands of the working classes, the landless, the small farmer or the homeless will never be met, unless with the obstruction of the ascendency and because the establishment has at its disposal an army and a police force; well fed, well paid and well armed, the final confrontation will be an armed one, and that the organisation and the training, and the arming of the ordinary people for this confrontation is a most important essential.
Moira Martin, Co-Treasurer/London Branch NICRA.
We preach no political ideology, right, left or centre. Our demands are toss of the Civil Rights movement. Our objects are: 1. to publicise the aims and purposes of the NICRA and to give them complete support. 2 to give the public in Londno an opportunity to voce their condemnation of the happenings in Northern Ireland and to bring pressure ot bear on the government at Westminster towards the enjoyment of Civil Rights by all the people of Northern Ireland.
Eilish McDermott, Representative of People’s Democracy, Queens University, Belfast
The struggle for a Socialist Republic brings a second class – sorry the economic class consciousness of the Protestant working class with the anti-imperialist outlook of the Republicans, and we believe that in this way by facing the problem in this way, we can somehow try to be more realistic. We can fully realise and work with the fact that Ireland is not one culture. Ireland is not Irishmen born and bred, Ireland has two cultures, probably what we would best be able to recognise or define into groups as the Catholic and the Protestant, the Irish and the English, Scot. But just because a man has only been living in Ireland or his family have only been living in Ireland for 300 years doesn’t mean to say to me that he isn’t an Irishman.
To download the above document please click on the following link: PD & FASCIST
This document from People Democracy is perhaps indicative of the shift in the thinking in that organisation that took place in the early to mid 1970s, and particularly in the wake of the Ulster Workers’ Council strike. This shift was indicated by a developing belief in the prospects of a Unionist and Loyalist takeover of Northern Ireland and a sense that this would mean a ‘sectarian civil war launched by loyalists’.
This pessimism informs the document. For example it makes the argument that the Six Counties is tilting towards fascism and that…
…In times of crisis when capitalism is under serious attack the bosses have to turn to the petit-bourgeoisie for help as well. That’s where Fascism comes in.
And it makes a link with the UK.
But as a crisis approaches they have to let Fascist parties organise, drill and beat up their opponents and the Army and police have to collaborate with them and give tacit support – exactly what is happening in Britain at the moment, as the authorities tolerate and protect the National Front.
Which it then brings closer to home:
The parallels between continental fascism and the situation in the 6 counties are obvious. British Imperialism is in a serious crisis in the North. They have tolerated, even encouraged the growth of Loyalist paramilitary organisations… and are now conceding their every demand. The UDA, UVF, Red Hand, UFF etc with their violent sectarianism, thuggery and occasional outbursts against the old Unionist ‘fur coat brigade’ are almost a carbon copy of the Brownshirts in Germany or the Blackshirts in Italy.
And the intrinsic sense of further decline and collapse is made clear by the following:
At the moment the imperialists hope to hand over power to the Parliamentary right-wingers like Paisley and West and are only using the Loyalist paramilitary groups as shock-troops to beat the Catholics into submission. If that doesn’t work however they will hand over to a fully-fledged Fascist regime if necessary.
It argues that if that occurs:
… the Loyalist murder-gangs will be institutionalised into a 50-60,000 strong B-Special force and will launch a reign of terror against all opposition elements.
And in relation to any potential opposition to such events taking place it continues:
Meanwhile because of their weak and muddled politics Provisional and Official Republicans and almost all socialist groups have been thrown in to utter confusion by the rise of the UDA, UVF etc. They have been fooled by the Loyalists’ ‘working-class’ image and phoney radicalism, into seeing their deadliest enemies as friends. The Officials called for joint patrols with the UDA and Daithi O’Connaill praised the ‘discipline’ of the UWC Lockout in May.
The document continues with a chapters devoted to ‘The Rise of Fascism in Europe’ and ‘Fascism in NI’ and these are similarly informed by the over arching anxiety as to the future. One curiosity is that no solution is proposed and although in the last chapter it accepts that ‘Ulster’s Fascists may never come to power’ this seems to cut against the analysis of the preceding pages.
More broadly in relation to the political trajectory of Peoples Democracy this provides a clear understanding of the direction it was taking.
Left Archive: The Women’s Movement at the Crossroads, An Reabhloid Pamphlet, Peoples Democracy, c. 1987/1988 November 14, 2011Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, People's Democracy.
To download the above document please click on following link: PD WM
This document, published as an An Reabhloid pamphlet, by Peoples Democracy concentrates on the issues facing the Women’s Movement in the latter part of the 1980s [and many thanks to Jim Monaghan for donating it to the Archive]. It notes that the situation is ‘enormously different to that of the early 60s and 70s. Then the women’s movement, along with the socialist, trade union and anti-imperialist movements, were very confident. Today all three are under attack, with a general shift ot the right in the political climate. Women have suffered the most attacks, a situation made easier by the demobilisation of the women’s movement North and South.
And it continues:
The fundamental questions of strategy which faced women in the early eighties are still burning questions today and… must be resolved through a period of discussion and debate involving the broad feminist movement and the anti-imperialist current.
The article itself is particularly interesting in detailing the ‘small but significant layer of socialists feminists in the early movement who, on paper, had a strong anti-imperialism, anti-partition stance’. And it attempts to emphasise the importance of linking those two elements with feminism. Here it pays particular attention to the Armagh Women Political Prisoners campaign ‘built by the Belfast Women Against Imperialism Group (WAI) in the late 1970s’.
Beyond the critique of other strands within feminism during this period what is also useful is the overview of a range of defeats and setbacks during that period, from the dismissal of teacher Eileen Flynn, the Joanne Hayes tribunal, ‘the rightwing campaign in the media against ‘unmarried mothers’ and drawing the net more widely ‘the anti-gay hysteria being orchestrated against persons with AIDs’. It also notes the ‘defeat of the divorce referendum and the SPUC campaign to shut down the abortion referral services of the women’s clinics’.
The document also has articles on ‘Fighting against the closedown of women’s clinics’ in the wake of the Justice Liam Hamilton High Court verdict which shut down pregnancy counselling services by Open Line and Well Women Centre. It also considers ‘Lessons from the Divorce Defeat’. And it argues that ‘this illustrates the power of the Catholic Church and the inability of bourgeois and reformist parties to tackle it. Far from confirming the appropriateness of partition the result reinforces the need to smash it’.
It also looks at ‘Development’s in the European Women’s Movement’. And it makes the interesting point that ‘the criminal failure of the labour movement to support women adequately produces much frustration among feminists about a ‘privileged men’s movement’ in the trade unions.
Here it also critiques ‘Right-wing governments and union leaders [who] are cynically exploiting this feminist resentment of the male-dominated world of work, arguing for a freeze on the wages of ‘high-paid’ workers. This strategy supported in Britain by the TUC and Eurocommunist influenced radical feminist, disastrously takes pressure off the capitalists and deepens divisions in the workers movement.
Please click on the following link to download file:PD H-BLOCK
This document, donated by Jim Monaghan for which many thanks, is undated but from the text written before the first death of an hunger striker. It provides a useful contrast with that from last week. Produced by Peoples Democracy, this considers the genesis of the hunger strikes and provides a useful analysis of the political circumstances within which they developed. It is positioned in an approach which argues for mass mobilisation rather than armed struggle. And it notes that:
The Stormont junta was overthrown by a mass movement of the Irish people, North and South. It reached a high point in the period after the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry in January 1972 when a combination of militant street protests, industrial action and mass self-defence of the Catholic ghettos of the North forced the British Government to ‘suspend’ Stormont’.
Indeed it explicitly argues that there was a decline in politicisation in general terms in the post 1973 period.
The military campaign of the IRA was going from one disaster to another and alienating Catholic support. The confident declarations that British withdrawal and victory were coming began to look very hollow.
And it argues that the Peace People and the support for them was evident of that depoliticisation. And it has harsh words about the ‘Provos obstructions to the [European election] campaign [of 1979]‘. There are some interesting thoughts about the trajectory of the Civil Rights Movement, and it is probably not incorrect to regard the PD approach of being one that would see the opportunities implicit in a broader repoliticisation.
There is a curious, albeit not entirely accurate, prescience to the point that ‘a defeat for the hunger strikers would not only be disastrous for the prisoners themselves; it would be a massive setback for the struggle of the Irish people for national unity. Conversely, a victory for the prisoners would be the single biggest gain for the anti-imperialist movement since the overthrow of the sectarian Stormont junta in March 1972.’
In a way what is striking is how it attempts to grasp a bigger picture of political activism against partition which being somewhat critical of armed conflict. In all this PD attempts to place itself as a key component of a mass mobilisation that would ensue on foot of the hunger strikes.
Left Archive: “Militarism vs. Mass Action – Which Road for Irish Struggle?” (reprint from Unfree Citizen, newspaper of People’s Democracy, March 1976). October 18, 2010Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, People's Democracy.
To download the article please click on the following link: Militarism mass action
Many thanks to the person who forwarded this to the Archive.
This is an article, from Intercontinental Press, which reprints a article in the March 1976 edition of Unfree Citizen, newspaper of People’s Democracy (apologies for the quality, but it is a scan of a photocopy). Its significance is that it charts a turn by the admittedly small PD from a quasi militarist rhetorical stance to one of mass action in Northern Ireland. In a way this echoes arguments which had already taken place in Official Sinn Féin and were to take place in Provisional Sinn Féin at a later point (indeed as has been mentioned before the influence of those who arrived from People’s Democracy in PSF in the mid-1980s on that party’s eventual positions is worthy of consideration in its own right).
Of interest is an inset box on the second page which outlines the history of People’s Democracy from radical student activist movement through various splits, ‘a sectarian position to nationalism – it followed a policy designed to drive the ‘Catholic capitalists’ out of the movement’, a turn towards ‘revolutionary nationalism’ and ‘in early 1975 it became clear that it was experimenting with forming its own armed wing’. It concludes ‘Now, with the decline of the Provisional military campaign, PD has evidently decided to make a new reorientation.’
The overall thesis of the article is pessimistic, pointing to a change in a dynamic from a point where ‘we, the Anti-Imperialist movement as a whole had the initiative. We could make or break Prime Ministers and Governments and the hammerblows of mass resistance in 1971-1972 brought down the Stormont regime which had lasted fifty years.
And it notes that ‘it was this spectacle of the whole people in revolt, not just the Provos’ military campaign which brought down Stormont and wrung a whole series of concessions from the British’.
There’s an oddly jarring reference, at least in retrospect, to the death of Frank Stagg, ‘Unfortunately the massive crowd at the funeral doesn’t mean much. The death of a hunger striker is a very emotive issue and the ghoulish behaviour of the Dublin Government made it more emotive still. The emotion doesn’t necessarily carry over into active political support’.
This is contextualised by reference to the changing nature of the armed struggle in the North from the high point of the very early 1970s to a diminishing level with distinctively different characteristics which the article views as ‘elistist and militarist’.
From all of which it determines that ‘The mass movement is all important; physical force, though certainly necessary, is only one of its weapons in the battle and we believe that armed struggle which is not backed by the masses cannot make a revolution’.
Left Archive: “Our Orientation to the Republican Movement”, People’s Democracy discussion document, November 1984 February 1, 2010Posted by irishonlineleftarchive in Irish Left Online Document Archive, People's Democracy.
This is a bit of a find, and many thanks to JM who contributed it to the Archive. It is a document from People’s Democracy written by James Gallagher from 1984 prior to the move by some of the membership towards Sinn Féin. In this an attempt is made to define the relationship to the Republican Movement.
It notes that:
Anti-imperialist politics today are dominated by Sinn Féin’s turn to the left. Since November 1979, when the National H-Block/Armagh Campaign (NHBAC) was founded, a new relationship of forces has been established within the anti-imperialist vanguard. Under the impact of the NHPAC’s gains, SF has consciously made important advances. Compared with the 1970s, SF now stands for:
A broad acceptance of the need for united action on specific issues, even where this means co-operation with forces hostile to the national liberation struggle.
Greater involvement in the trade unions, more attention to social and economic issues, planned leadership of particular struggles (e.g. the Dublin communities fight against the drug pushers, active support for the travellers).
A more constructive approach to electoral campaigns.
Greater programmatic clarity on the women’s liberation movement.
And it also notes:
Sinn Féin has grown significantly. It is more attractive to left wing militants. This includes PD’s ranks and periphery. We must project a new strategic orientation.
Page two is near-illegible on the PDF but it continues as follows:
The best way to broaden the base of the anti-imperialist movement is a systematic and conscious development of the NHBAC’s gains.
At the start the NHBAC was built as a ‘single’ issue campaign. Later it moved onto a higher level. It contested elections against reformists of all shades from the SDLP and Fianna Fáil right down to the Workers’ Party and Jim Kemmy’s Democratic Socialist Party.
C) Ballot-box and Armalite
(i) Sinn Féin took the electoral lesson to heart, has made itself politically stronger, and has won leading NHBAC activists into the party. But a freeze has started to set in. The electoral advance against the SDLP in the 6 counties halted in the June 1984 EEC poll. In the South there is still room for expansion but there is little chance of ending the dead-end principle of abstentionism.
This is a serious problem. Disenchantment with the establishment in the South is growing. One effect of this is extreme electoral swings and the breakdown of older established patterns. Sinn Fein is one of the beneficiaries. But so also are the WP, even Fianna Fáil picks up on disenchantment, especially when out of office.
There is a basis for ultra leftist anti-parliamentarianism….
In some respects, as with the treatment of the issue of abstentionism this is almost a utopian document, and yet within a few years SF had done precisely that. However, it is notable that the boycott of the Westminster chamber has never been lifted.
An interesting thesis is proposed whereby a National Liberation Front/Anti-Imperialist United Front would be constructed as a precursor to an Anti-Imperialist Workers’ Party.
Fascinating to reflect on the impact activists from PD had as they entered Sinn Féin in the wake of events in their original party.