Socialist Republic: Emergency Bulletin
Organisation: People's Democracy
Publication: Socialist Republic
Issue:Emergency Bulletin
Collection:The Hunger Strikes
Type:Publication Issue
View: View Document
Discuss:Comments on this document
Subjects: Hunger Strikes, 1980/81 Bobby Sands

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Commentary From The Cedar Lounge Revolution

18th November 2013

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.

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 18 Nov 2013 17:18:26

    A fascinating addition, that gives a real insight into the attitudes of a section of the left at a highly charged moment.

    It’s interesting just how little emphasis there is on the “socialist” side of “socialist republican”, with more references to “the Irish people” and the “nationalist people of Ireland” than to the working class. Give or take a slogan about the workers republic and a couple of references to the trade unions, it reads more like a straightforwardly republican document.

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  • By: Bob Smiles Mon, 18 Nov 2013 17:37:05

    ‘unity of the Irish people’ – ‘the nationalist people’ – more like SF alright

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  • By: Mark P Mon, 18 Nov 2013 18:26:27

    In reply to Bob Smiles.

    It’s not hard to see why they repeatedly lost splits to the Provisionals. After all, if you politics aren’t sharply differentiated from a bigger, stronger, organisation, why would your members waste their energy building a smaller rival?

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  • By: Liam MacU (@LiamMacU) Tue, 19 Nov 2013 15:55:08

    It’s true that a significant section of PD went into Sinn Fein and that they degenerated politically in a fairly short period of time. However to get a real feel of the significant political differences between the approaches of the two organisations to building the campaign in defence of the hunger strikers you could do worse than read Smashing H-Block by F. Stuart Ross. A link to a review is below.

    PD’s strategy was to build a mass movement across the 32 counties and this included the use of industrial action. Naturally the Provies were hostile to anything which they did not control and there were significant conflicts between the two conceptions.

    From an historical point of view I think that an emotionally charged and occasionally politically confused pamphlet in support of the hunger strikers is a much less grievous offence than not lifting a figure to build that anti-imperialist movement or subsequently cosying up to people like Billy Hutchinson.

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  • By: Jim Monaghan Tue, 19 Nov 2013 16:12:23

    “After all, if you politics aren’t sharply differentiated from a bigger, stronger, organisation, why would your members waste their energy building a smaller rival?”
    Outside of the context above surely this is a sectarian approach.I could see this justifying even the Social Fascist thing.
    Ok back to above. PD effectivly died of exhaustion. Individuals and groups can and do run out of steam.There were 2 separate defections to SF. Both took as true the apparent left shift. The thought of pushing SF further left and been part of a much more significant org was a great draw.SF was a mass militant and mainly workingclass.
    Whether it is Social democracy, official Communism or radical nationalists in oppressed nations there will always be temptations. The charlatan Mitterand seduced a large number of 68rs in France..I read recently a book on the French far left. It had ex far leftists everywhere in French life.
    Only mad sectarians who live in Spart type monasteries would be immune.Oh I would add Daniel DeLeon as a figurehead to those who worry too much about temptation.
    Revolutionaries have to be ready to reach out to those who look like they are moving in a good direction. Hopefully all those in the AAA are doing that but I suspect that with the best will in the world there is the odd opportunist.
    On references to the workingclass. I take it as true that a revolution will be led by the workingclass and it will have as allies the rest of the oppressed.In liberating itself it liberates all society.

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  • By: TopCat Tue, 19 Nov 2013 16:24:49

    If only Bobby had that pizza we would be so much closer to a workers’ republic – disgusting fetish stuff these hunger strike hangers on.

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  • By: Mark P Tue, 19 Nov 2013 17:05:05

    In reply to Jim Monaghan.

    Predictably, Jim, you have that precisely the wrong way round. I’m not advocating coming up with political differences to justify organisational separation, but saying that such separation is unjustifiable in the absence of such differences. That seems to be the conclusion that successive waves of PD members reached.

    It isn’t sectarian to note that there is no justification for building a small group alongside a politically similar larger group. It is sectarian to work to build the small rival when the political differences don’t justify separation. The people who headed off into SF were behaving rationally if their politics were compatible with those of the Provos. The politics of this document were mainstream Republican.

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  • By: Johnny Forty Coats Tue, 19 Nov 2013 18:54:06

    In reply to TopCat.

    Who was the French revolutionary who said “there go the mob – I am their leader so I must follow them”?

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