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Left Archive: H-Block and Sectarian Civil War, Socialists Against Nationalism, 1981 May 31, 2021

Posted by leftarchivist in Uncategorized.

To download the above please click on the following link:

To go to the Left Archive please click here.

This is the third document to be added to the Archive from Socialists Against Nationalism and many thanks to Alan Kinsella of Irish Election Literature for sharing it with the ILA.

As noted previously:

Socialists Against Nationalism was a campaign established by the British & Irish Communist Organisation, the Limerick Socialists Organisation and the Socialist Party of Ireland in the late 1970s against ‘nationalism’.

This is the second revised edition, appearing in July 1981, after the first edition released the previous month. The back cover of the document, a short twelve pages long, states:

The H-Block Demands have variously been presented by southern politicians as questions of humanitarianism or of prison reform. 

They are neither.

This pamphlet shows that the H-Block demands and the campaign built around them are an integral part of IRA strategy leading to full-scale war with the Protestant population of the North in which they hope the South will become embroiled. 

The pamphlet urges rejection of the wooly-minded ‘humanitarian interpretation of the issue and resistance to a campaign which is raising tensions to a dangerous new level.

The document is structured in sections; H-Block: What it’s All About, British Withdrawal and the ‘First National Aim’, ‘Southern Army Invasion?, H-Block: the Southern Response, and so on. 

A box on the last printed page contains the following:

Socialists Against Nationalism

Do not consider the present war in Northern Ireland to be a war of national liberation

Do not believe the territorial unity of Ireland to be an essential prerequisite of the development of socialist politics

Publish a monthly bulletin – Labour Won’t Wait


1. Shes - June 1, 2021

The assumptions that are made of their subjects strategies, intentions. It’s like a social media post in it’s tone and structure.


WorldbyStorm - June 1, 2021

There’s something in that. The idea that the Provisional IRA was seeking a sectarian war seems very far from the truth. If that was indeed their goal then their actual approach to armed struggle wasn’t really structured in a way that could deliver it. And the idea that the South would become embroiled on foot of this is for the birds. The South would run a million miles to stay out of that sort of a conflict – and given that the track record of the South was so clear on that score in relation to 1968-1970 why would anyone expect it to be better subsequently (as well as which militarily the South simply didn’t have the capability to project itself against a nuclear power). Moreover I can’t see how PIRA even at its height could possibly have protected areas in the context of a full blown sectarian civil war – or indeed how any possible participant up to the UN and including the BA could really have done so without likely massive loss of life.

The interesting thing is that there’s some pretty solid academic analysis of the armed campaigns which suggests that far from trying to trigger sectarian war the most PIRA could achieve was a sort of irritant to the British body politic which would see it shrug off its links to NI and that became clear reasonably early on. Even that though that too was a stretch as an attainable goal.

I’ve no doubt about the sincerity of those who produced the leaflet but it was hyperbolic and didn’t really match with the real world.


Shea - June 1, 2021

There trusted sources, the people they look at in the mirror in the morning were probably a bit of all right. It’s human I suppose, seeing it with modern events on covid. People can argue very passionately on their own unfounded suspicions of what others are at.

A bad habit though and can’t get very far with it.

At best giving them some gumption would wonder was their audience some left groups in England but watching people recently I don’t know if they are always that cute.

Liked by 1 person

terrymdunne - June 9, 2021

How different is the analysis in this https://www.leftarchive.ie/document/343/ from what is in the Socialists Against Nationalism document? – I mean the picture of the situation – not the conclusions drawn as to what is to be done.

Incidentally the P.I.R.A. did have a policy of targeting Protestant non-combatants & if we looked at CAIN for 1981 I bet most of the combatant fatalities inflicted by the P.I.R.A. would have been from among locally recruited crown forces etc… – the above document is one-dimensional – but that doesn’t mean that the dimension it identifies did/does not exist.


2. roddy - June 1, 2021

The first time I ever saw that chancer Kemmy was on TV the night of the 81 election.Two prisoners had been elected and the fact that an”independent” had been elected in Limerick drew my attention .It soon became apparent that night that a neo Unionist had been returned.The most amusing part of his election was the sight of a handful of his supporters celebrating and that a couple of them were attired in combat jackets. No doubt they feigned some sort of phoney solidarity with “liberation movements” like the ANC,PLO or the Cubans.The H block struggle that these charlatans were denigrating was fully supported by all these movements with H Block monuments erected in Robbin island,Havana and Palestine.


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