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1st of March 1981, hunger strikes began when Bobby Sands started refusing food. A total of ten people died before the strike ended in October.

On This Day, 1st March

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The 1981 hunger strikes began on the 1st of March, when Bobby Sands began refusing food. A total of ten people died before the strike ended in October.

A February 1981 document from the National H-Block / Armagh Committee states:

"On Thursday 5th February seven weeks after the ending of a fifty-three day hunger-strike in the H-Blocks at Long Kesh, and a nineteen day hunger-strike by women prisoners at Armagh prison, a joint statement from both sets of prisoners was issued announcing another hunger-strike to begin on March 1st. The statement threatened that the prisoners would strike 'to death if necessary' to achieve recognition as political prisoners and a status in accord with that recognition.

The prisoners' statement ended weeks of speculation that a settlement to the four-and-a-half-year-long protest was possible and confirmed for the prisoners and their supporters that the British reneged on the hunger-strike settlements of December 18th last."
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"Ireland: Background to What Is Happening To-Day"

From Official Sinn Féin, an overview of the situation in Ireland and position of the Republican movement.

Ireland: Background to What Is Happening To-Day (1972 c.) — Sinn Féin [Official]

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For a Republican, All-Islands, Internationalism From Below Coalition

A series of articles from Allan Armstrong of Republican Communist Forum (

Allan Armstrong has written reviews of three books which address the political situation Socialists face, first of all in Ireland. He has extended this to Scotland, Wales and England, and their position in a world of competing imperialisms. The purpose in doing this is to build the case for a Republican, all-islands, ‘internationalism from below’ coalition to challenge the UK state and its imperial allies.

For a republican, all-islands, internationalism from below coalition – Emancipation, Liberation & Self-determination

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British and Irish ‘Communist’ Organisation – Trotskyite Thugs, Sham Marxist-Leninists and Agents of British Imperialism

Seas le fíor-dhearcadh réábhlóide na hÉireann! Seas le Marxachas-Lenineachas-Smaoineamh Mao Tsetung!

Differentiate between sham and genuine Marxism-Leninism to unite the revolutionary forces and defeat the enemy

From the Communist Party of Ireland (Marxist-Leninist), 1977.

British and Irish ‘Communist’ Organisation – Trotskyite Thugs, Sham Marxist-Leninists and Agents of British Imperialism (1977) — Communist Party of Ireland (Marxist-Leninist)

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"What's Another Tour? No To Racist Rugby"

From 1981, an article in Socialist Republic on a proposed tour of apartheid South Africa for the British & Irish Lions rugby team. The team had toured in 1980 despite widespread opposition (including from the governments of both the UK and Ireland).

Socialist Republic was the magazine of Peoples Democracy, who were then the Irish affiliate of the Fourth International.

Scanned magazine article, reading:

What's Another Tour? No To Racist Rugby

Most readers of Socialist Republic probably have never played rugby. Rugby, you see, is a peculiar sport If you belong to certain broad categories of humanity ... well, you're out. If you are a woman, for example. That's half of you gone already.
If you are from the wrong side of the tracks. |f your accent is vulgar and you really don't know your claret. If you didn't go to a good private school. If you are small or lack the necessary aggression. And, in sunny South Africa, if you are black.

So what is all this controversy about the proposed Irish tour about? Why should the doings of fifteen burly executives with time and money to spare concern us? They are drawn from an elite minority segment of the community. If they wish to cart themselves off several thousand miles to the tip of Africa to kick an inflated pigskin up and down a grass field why should we bother? No doubt many of you wish you had the kind of job (that is, if you even have a job) with such attractive travel and recreation opportunities.

But South Africa is the problem, not rugby . And South Africa is unique.
This vicious society is as repressive and exploitative as any capitalist country. But with the added dimension of apartheid - racial segregation and discrimination enshrined as a fundamental policy of state. Over 80%of the population are totally and permanently disenfranchised, oppressed and degraded by the remaining 20%, simply because of skin colour.

In the psyche of the racist minority which presides over this barbarity, rugby plays an important role. All the classic features of the sport are there. Back-slapping bonhomie, character hardening platitudes, the gentlemanly violence of the heaving , stiff upper lips, sexist jokes in the showers after the match, ribald drunken singing over a few brandies on the train home. With one added dimension , all the players, managers, commentators and spectators are white. Any blacks that do want to play must do it on their own and with inferior facilities.

Far away from the whites' manicured pitch the black kids are crowded into festering slums. Officially they don't even exist - they are 'citizens' of remote rural native reservations they have never even seen. They kick cans =cross the dusty bits of burnt earth sandwiched between the shacks. Loiter around the shebeens -the white government kindly subsidises the price of booze for blacks. Stand in mute humiliation while a white cop demands the pass book. Sometimes even get shot or clubbed by the riot police - as the touring British Lions saw and heard to their discomfort last year.

No changes have really occurred in South African rugby. The wellfinanced and orchestrated SA government propaganda saying otherwise is a blatant lie. South Africa is racist and proud of it. Rugby, like all form of social activity, reflects that racism. The SA government has made it crystal clear that it will not alter apartheid and will fight to maintain it. Even as rugby officials were coming to Ireland to debate on RTE (who paid for that?) SA commandos were invading a sovereign state to murder fourteen innocent civilians who disagreed with being categorized as animals.

Rugby is an integral part of white South Africa. Boycotts do have an effect. They stimulate the morale of the oppressed and insure that no aspect of South African life can B pass itself off as "normal". South Africa is beginning to feel the first whisper of the coming wind as bastion after bastion of white rule and colonialism have fallen. That change did not come through any charm being exuded by a touring centre forward at a Johannesburg cocktail party. It came through the African liberation struggle being waged throughout the continent and the maximum international support for and solidarity with that struggle.

This is the time to isolate South Africa. The proposed Irish tour must be stopped. it is perhaps unfortunate that the debate on the tour, as revealed in the letters to the Irish Times, show a touching side to Irish liberalism which doesn't rise to the same heights when the issue is closer to home in Long Kesh or Armagh. But Socialist Republic isn't the Irish Times so we won't ask you to raise the matter in your local rugby club or at the next Rotary club luncheon. But do raise it and the issue of apartheid (and Western support for it) on your shop floor, among other workers, at your trade union branch, in your women's group, community association.

Workers in Dublin Airport have said they will refuse to process the travel documents of the rugby players.
This is the kind of action that will stop the tour. Actions like these must be encouraged wherever possible.

Because the tour is a diversion. Apartheid is not. It is the foulest product of centuries of imperialism.

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Policy documents from the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP), early 1980s.

The DSP was formed in 1982 by a merger of the Socialist Party of Ireland (SPI), Jim Kemmy's Limerick Socialist Organisation and individuals including members of the British & Irish Communist Organisation (BICO).

The DSP was the Left of Labour, and strongly anti-Nationalist. (The constituent groups had previously co-operated in Socialists Against Nationalism).

The party ultimately merged with Labour in 1990.

You can see them in our Timeline of the Irish Left here:

Timeline of the Irish Left

Irish Left Archive

Front cover of DSP Outline Poiicy on Church and State
Front cover of DSP Outline Poiicy on Full Employment
Front cover of DSP Outline Poiicy on Northern Ireland
Front cover of DSP Outline Poiicy on Taxation
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Published 24th February 1975:

"Officials' Split over Stalinist Power Play"

By Gerry Foley, for Intercontinental Press, magazine of the Fourth International.

Officials' Split over Stalinist Power Play (1975) — Gerry Foley

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