The Left Archive: “People’s Voice” from Saor Éire, 1968 July 28, 2008Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Left Online Document Archive, Saor Éire.
All the following is wrong. This document is from the Cork based Maoist group Saor Éire…not the other Saor Éire, check out NollaigO’s links for a more accurate view on the group. Apologies.
NollaigO is of course completely correct and my analysis is based on… er… nothing! I blame the Summer. The clue is of course in the address on the second to last page… that said the thing that threw me completely was the letter to Republicans which claimed it was from comrades.
People’s Voice from Saor Éire was a publication from 1968. Saor Éire have to be one of the more interesting, and perhaps infamous, left-wing Irish Republican groups not least because it’s composition and attitude positioned it firmly in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
It was founded in 1967 by members of the Young Socialists and a number of IRA members and this wiki page gives a good overview. This inflammable mix of Trotskyist and Republican thinking coming when it did perhaps made Saor Éire one of the most activist of the small groups during this period. Their main area of armed activities was bank robberies – one of which led to the fatal shooting of Garda Richard Fallon (an inglorious act which marked the first death of an Irish Garda or Army member during the Troubles) – and as time progressed this led to assertions that gangsterism had overwhelmed the organisation. One of the problems looking in from the outside is the seeming lack of activities other than bank raids. An article by Liam O Ruairc on the Blanket [available only on Google cache] notes this. There are also further thoughts from NollaigO here on the Cedar Lounge [scroll down].
By the early 1970s it had disbanded. Yet on paper its membership was composed of apparently serious former members of the IRA which makes the lack of paramilitary activities odd, to say the least. That said, as also noted by some commentators, it was a far more disparate grouping than the wiki entry gives it credit.
In light of this one of the most interesting aspects of this publication is the “Open Letter to Republicans” which addresses the still pre-split Sinn Féin. It’s an interesting analysis which argues that the dilemma facing Republicanism is ‘parliamentarianism’. Here’s a paragraph to ring down the years…
As a movement advocating a programme of reform via constitutionalism, the Republican Movement is certainly faced with a dilemma which would not and could not arise if it were a radical movement. Apparently, the leadership of the movement has been forced by the realities of their position to recognize that the movement cannot be other than it presently is. Consequently the main question facing all Republicans is whether they wish to be parliamentary reformists in the tradition of the Labour Party; or radicals in the tradition of their own revolutionary heritage. Should they opt for the former, then it appears the only logical course lies in disbanding their movement and integrating with the Labour Party. Should they prefer the latter, then it is equally logical that they must disband their movement and join with other radicals thorughout the country in the building of a new radical effort.
On the other hand it is hard not to feel that somehow despite being entirely of their times on one axis – that of the general strands of the late 1960s in European further left political terms, they were entirely atypical and ill-suited for what was about to happen next on the island when armed struggle would revolve largely around issues of nationalism.
One may wonder whether their assertion that ‘it is impossible to have two radical movements in any country be it big or small’ is anywhere near correct, or whether their rather diffuse definition of ‘radical’ has any serious currency in liberal democracies, but the logic for reformists is interesting, and borne out eventually by circumstance.
The rhetoric does become a little overblown…
Let all radicals once more be one under the banner of Socialist struggle in Ireland; by so uniting be once more invincible in the cause of the People.
But then, Saor Éire seems, in retrospect to have been perhaps more an ideal than an actuality. Any thoughts on the document and the nature of Saor Éire would be welcomed.