Belfast-Brixton: Forces of revolution / The death of Bobby Sands

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 10 May/June 1981

Every severe crisis of a social system brings forward something new. It pushes to the fore those forces which represent the future and shows ever more clearly the bankruptcy of those forces which desperately try to hold onto the past. The present crisis of British imperialism is no exception.

Bobby Sands was an irreconcilable enemy of British imperialism. By the age of 18 he had already joined the revolutionary forces of the IRA to drive Britain out of Ireland. The whole might of the British state could not break his revolutionary spirit. That is why he was slowly and barbarically tortured to death in a British concentration camp. Bobby Sands has become a symbol, a shining light to those fighting oppression throughout the world. Apologists for imperialism from every quarter, from the Pope to the European Human Rights Commission to the millionaire Irish Prime Minister Haughey tried to persuade him to give up his struggle and to betray his revolutionary cause. They failed. He knew they were hand-in-glove with British imperialism, only concerned to prevent the revolutionary anger that, with his death, would burst onto the streets of Ireland. The murder of Bobby Sands has shown once again that you cannot reason with imperialism. The massive peaceful protests during the hunger strikes, the widespread international support were of no avail. Peaceful protest will not move British imperialism. 'Democracy' in the Six-Counties is only evoked by British Governments when it strengthens British imperialist rule. Bobby Sands' election victory did not alter the British Government's position at all. The long struggle of the Irish people for freedom has demonstrated once again that imperialism only moves when it is confronted by revolutionary force. As Owen Carron, election agent of Bobby Sands said, at his funeral:

‘We must take what they will not give ... There is no way in which freedom can be obtained, and when obtained maintained, except by armed men'.

Bobby Sands, IRA freedom fighter has set the standard for revolutionaries. The revolutionary youth of Derry and Belfast are following his lead. These are the forces of the future.

Massive protests took place throughout the world on the death of Bobby Sands. 8,000 marched in Paris and in Toulouse a Dunlop warehouse was bombed. 5,000 marched in Milan and the British Chamber of Commerce was bombed. Thousands marched in Portugal with placards stating 'We are all members of the IRA'. In Oporto a British owned club was fire-bombed. A thousand people demonstrated in Greece. 300 people battled with police in Spain. In Switzerland a British car showroom was bombed. In the USA thousands have demonstrated in New York and San Francisco. In Iran the street next to the British Embassy in Tehran has been named after the revolutionary Bobby Sands.

But in Britain the source of this barbaric murder there has been nothing worthy of the name protest. The British Labour movement has again demonstrated its complete moral and political bankruptcy. It was entirely in character for the Labour Party to send Concannon to inform Bobby Sands a few days before his death that the Labour Party, which created the H-Blocks, supported and applauded his murder. For in 1916 this same imperialist Labour Party was directly party to the murder of the great revolutionary socialist James Connolly.

Another equally despicable creature Arthur Henderson MP not only was part of the Coalition Government that crushed the Easter Rising but he also led other Labour MPs in Parliament in their applause at the news of James Connolly's death. The Labour Party is, and always has been on the side of British imperialism in its attempts to crush the oppressed. Foot and Thatcher will always unite against the revolutionary struggle of a risen people fighting British imperialism.

And what of those so-called Labour lefts! Those gutless wretches have done nothing but sign a miserable Common's motion regretting Bobby Sands' death. They were even put to shame by an ordinary Labour MP Patrick Duffy who in spite of the Commons hounds baying for his blood expressed simple human outrage at Thatcher's barbaric act. Those Labour lefts only regretted the death of Bobby Sands because they were terrified at the revolutionary violence that would inevitably follow it. They have never supported political status for Irish political prisoners and they never will. They took every opportunity to condemn the revolutionary violence of the IRA when interviewed by the Press. Their difference with Thatcher only lies in the method they propose for defeating the Irish people's revolutionary struggle for freedom. They want it done with-out so much obvious brutal force. These Labour MPs belong to the forces of the past.

The task of building a campaign in support of the hunger strikers should have been carried out by those claiming to be further to the left than the Labour Party. But they, the CP, SWP/IMG under the umbrella of the Troops Out Movement, and the WRP and other assorted middle-class socialists refused point blank to build a campaign for political status. If the Labour lefts are the backside of the imperialist Labour Party these middle class socialists search through their droppings to find nuggets of gold. Every committee where they dominated was subservient to their alliance with the Labour lefts. Every proposal put was judged by its acceptability to the Labour lefts. The Irish peoples' struggle, the agony of the hunger strikers was not even considered. The highpoint of their totally bankrupt campaign was the abject response of a vigil of only 300 people on the night of Bobby Sands' death. This while thousands marched in the Capitals of other countries.

These middle class socialists sank even lower. Where real militant working class campaigns were being built in support of political status they openly sabotaged them. In Scotland they even allied with Labour and Loyalist reactionaries in getting demonstrations in support of political status banned. They are the forces of the past.

That the Government was forced to ban all demonstrations in Strathclyde for three months was proof of the growing strength of the campaign for political status there. This campaign was led by an alliance of the Revolutionary Communist Group and young Republican workers, particularly those in the Flute bands. Alone of the British left organisations, the RCG has campaigned everywhere against collaboration with the Labour lefts and for unconditional support for Irish political prisoners. But we failed to dent the reactionary alliance of the British middle class socialists with the imperialist Labour Party. The revolutionary forces in Britain are as yet too weak. Faced with the unopposed Government bans on demonstrations and marches and the sabotage of the British left, only revolutionary communists and other committed supporters of the Irish people's struggle were prepared to risk isolation, attack and arrest. This work must go on and through it new revolutionary forces will emerge and new allies will be found.

These allies do not lie in the privileged and corrupt forces of the past —the official Labour movement, TUC and Labour Party, Labour lefts and their middle class socialist friends. The new forces lie within the most oppressed and poorest sections of the working class. It is no coincidence that as the revolutionary youth of Derry and Belfast fought pitched battles on the streets against British imperialist forces, so the black people of Brixton in alliance with a small number of whites drove the police out of their area.

British imperialism has nothing but oppression and poverty to offer them. They have no illusions in the institutions of British imperialist democracy. They, like the Irish have been forced to take the revolutionary and insurrectionist road. Only such forces are capable of the dedication and sacrifice which is necessary in the struggle against British imperialism here at home. Only such forces will risk the arrest, imprisonment and immense hardship which comes through participation in this fight. Only from such ranks will there be those who will follow the courageous lead set by Bobby Sands.

These are the real allies of the Irish people. From their ranks a new revolutionary anti-imperialist movement will be built. These are the forces of revolution.

RCG fights left sabotage

At a time when it was more than ever both possible and absolutely necessary to build a campaign in support of political status the Labour Party and its middle class socialist allies — the SWP, IMG etc — have refused to do so.

The imperialist Labour Party and the TUC have backed the British state to the hilt. The Labour lefts have occasionally whimpered that 'intransigence' will strengthen the forces they all hate and fear the IRA. Yet for two months of Bobby Sands' agonising death the SWP, IMG etc argued for a campaign based on these 'broad forces' of the Labour left.

The result has been a campaign even smaller than during the last hunger strike. The only national event was a demonstration of less than 500 people. A demonstration in Staines mustered 50 people. And on the night of Bobby Sands' murder, the British middle class socialists in London could turn out only 300 people on a picket of Downing Street. Yet these events were organised by groups claiming a following of 10,000 people.

This failure was no accident. During the first hunger strike, the middle class socialists' strategy —appealing to Labour lefts and other dignitaries — totally failed. So this time they consciously decided not to expose their chosen allies any further by doing nothing. The RCG along with Republican flute bands and allies amongst Republican youth, Iranian comrades and Irish workers were campaigning for political status. So the middle class socialists resorted to sabotage.

In Glasgow they left the committee and refused to support demonstrations and rallies. In Bradford they voted against an RCG motion for a march to pass through black working class areas. In Manchester the SWP and IMG expelled the RCG from the local committee on the extraordinary grounds that we sold FRFI on the committee's street meetings. In North London when independent Irish workers joined the local committee and demanded some work, the IMG, SWP and TOM voted to dissolve it, and cancel a demonstration. In South London the IMG and SWP refused to join a committee the RCG formed, open to all prepared to work. At the London H-Block/Armagh Committee the SWP and IMG ensured that the April demonstration was called on a Sunday rather than a Saturday when people on the streets might actually see them. They opposed holding it in Birmingham on the grounds of Birmingham's associations with the bombings. And the CPGB, who on the day after Bobby Sands' death said too little was done by the Labour movement to save his life, themselves did next to nothing.

Even after Bobby Sands' death, the IMG/SWP opposed an RCG motion for an immediate national demonstration on 23 May. Instead they will have it on 13 June when many more Hunger Strikers could be dead.

Irish political prisoners in Wormwood Scrubs and Long Lartin prisons staged roof-top protests in support of political status. These comrades face loss of remission and vicious beatings for their courageous protests. What a contrast to the middle-class 'lefties' who face no such repression yet refuse to fight for political status.

The RCG has waged a campaign which involved all our resources, all of our members and supporters. Public meetings and rallies have been held in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Liverpool and North and South London. We have put the maximum energies into work in the working class and black areas. We have campaigned on the streets, on the housing estates, in the pubs. In the course of it we have suffered arrests and physical attacks in South London, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow.

If all organisations claiming to be socialist had done likewise the campaign in Britain could have placed great pressure on the British state. They chose not to do so and thus acted like criminals. The RCG will continue the work. And we invite anybody who has the interests of the Irish and British workers at heart to join us in this work of building a real campaign for

Victory to the Hunger Strikers! Political Status Now!

International support

In contrast to criminal British middle class socialism, international anti-imperialist and progressive forces responded to the murder of Bobby Sands with massive protest actions, demonstrations and military operations against British institutions.

In France two demonstrations of 3000 and 8000 were organised in Paris, whilst in Toulouse a Dunlop warehouse was bombed. In Italy protests were organised in Rome, and Milan where 5000 youths gathered to denounce the murder of Bobby Sands. In Milan the British Chamber of Commerce was bombed by the Red Brigades. In Portugal a militant demonstration of thousands of people led by placards saying ‘We are all members of the IRA!' marched on the British Embassy in Lisbon, while in Oporto a British owned club was firebombed. In Greece, the British Embassy was besieged by 1000 demonstrators chanting slogans in support of the hunger strikers. In Spain 300 youths fought the Spanish police in the town of Pamplona during a demonstration against British imperialism. In Switzerland a showroom displaying British cars was bombed in the capital Zurich. In the USA there have been demonstrations of thousands of people in New York, Los Angeles and other cities, while the dockers union boycotted British ships for 24 hours.

Statements and messages of support for Bobby Sands and condemnations of British imperialism flooded in from all corners of the world from the Socialist Countries, from India, from Iran, Mozambique and other countries.

In Mozambique, the semi-official daily Noticias said Bobby Sands died because the British Government refused to accept: ‘The simple and indisputable fact that he was a political fighter. Sands and the IRA were fighting for a united and independent Ireland.'

Radio Moscow broadcast:

‘London would like to drown in blood the movement against repression and discrimination and for human rights and liberty.' In Iran, a street adjacent to the British Embassy has been renamed Khiyaban-e-Bobby Sands 'to honour the heroic death of the IRA freedom fighter.'

These demonstrations of international solidarity after the murder of Bobby Sands followed a growing international campaign in support of the hunger strikers battle against British imperialism.

Iranian solidarity

In the name of God and

In the name of the Heroic people of

Ireland and Iran

Sinn Fein (political wing of the Irish Republican Army) Daring and militant Bobby Sands, member of the IRA and representative of the heroic people of Ireland! Heroic and militant people of Ireland!  

With revolutionary salutations, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran offers its most profound revolutionary congratulations to the heroic people of Ireland and the Irish Republican Army, as well as the heroic Bobby Sands, for the magnificent electoral victory of the captive revolutionary militant Bobby Sands. This deserving election shows the revolutionary growth of people who have risen up under the leadership of their revolutionary vanguards, and are fighting a firm and decisive battle against British Imperialism for their indisputable and ignored rights. This brilliant victory is witness to the rightfulness and the popular base of the IRA and is a punishing blow to the cunning old British Imperialism and dependent reactionaries who have always tried with their raving to misrepresent the heroic struggle of the Irish people and to call IRA terrorists.

The People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran sees this victory as the vanguard of the eventual military and political victory of the Irish people and the complete annihilation of Imperialism throughout the world and wishes a decisive victory for the revolutionary and heroic Irish people.

The People's Mojahedin of Iran congratulate this revolutionary son of the Irish people for this heroic resistance and his relentless struggle whether outside prison or during captivity and during the present hunger strike. The People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran declares his support for the demands of this captive militant which are the crystallisation of all the demands and hopes of the Irish people and asks all revolutionary and progressive forces throughout the world, especially groups, organisations, personalities, workers' unions, lawyers and other progressive and militant institutions in Britain to continue in their support, and to take necessary measures until all the demands of the valiant Bobby Sands are met, so that his heroic hunger strike ends fruitfully and victoriously with full safe-keeping of this heroic son of the Irish people.


Peoples' Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI)

17 April 1981

Translation and Distribution by: Moslem Students Society (UK)



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