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.