Peoples Democracy Statement on the National Smash H-Block Campaign

The National Smash H-Block Campaign has acheived a great deal in the period since it was set up. It has given new life to the campaign in the North and begun to develop the massive support and sympathy existing in the South. The campaign has moved forward not only on the streets but in other areas as well. Trade union committees have been built and support mobilised in the women's movement and amongst students. To a certain extent the heightened struggle around the defence of the Armagh prisoners is an outcome of the committee's work, although directly organised by Women Against Imperialism and the women's movement. In short the national campaign has breached the wall of silence around H-Block and Armagh and legitimised the struggle in defence of the prisoners.

The Peoples Democracy believes that a strategy for future action can best be built on an analysis of the activities of the campaign so far. In our view the clearest point to emerge is that an open campaign around the five demands has not succeeded in drawing into the campaign 'liberal' support or the support of political groups outside the anti-imperialist movement. It is true that O'Fiach and the SDLP have felt the pressure of the campaign and have made statements but they are as far away as ever from any real activity and have in fact tried to arrange a compromise deal behind the backs of the prisoners. The success of the five demands lies in the fact that they provide an open and non-exclusive focus for the organisation of all the different currents of the anti-imperialist movement and a firm base for reaching beyond that movement to the mass of the Irish people.

The Peoples Democracy must also say firmly and clearly that the five demands do not reduce themselves to a 'humanitarian' appeal on behalf of the prisoners. Instead they hang together to make in total the clear demand: Political Status for Political Prisoners. We welcome the support and the activity of those motivated by a basic human concern for the prisoners but in our view a campaign mounted on this basis could not be successful. The British are not oppressing the prisoners simply out of inhumanity and sadism but from the desire to oppose the political demands of the prisoners and to refuse political recognition to those who oppose their presence in Ireland. The supporters of the prisoners are reacting not only to inhuman conditions but also because they support the aims of the republican and socialist prisoners. Any mass struggle in support of the prisoners will eventually confront the full force of British imperialism. We must not exclude those who do not yet accept this but it is our duty to put forward our own views while we act together in the campaign.

How then can we extend and develop the successes so far? Firstly, there are some simple organisational changes which will help; the setting up of a national office and organiser will help to co-ordinate and direct the activities of the campaign. More importantly, there is the question of democracy. The base of the campaign lies with the local groups and political organisations. Their delegates must coordinate events, oversee the national direction of the campaign through frequent deIegate conferences. (These are not opposed to open conferences like today's which help to publicise and build the campaign).

The campaign has been successful not just as a focus of street demonstrations but also in extending into other areas of struggle like the trade unions. Sub-committees like the trade union committee should be established in the student's movement, the women's movement and for cultural and sporting organisations.

But above all the campaign must remain open. Extra demands formally accepted by this conference would have the effect of excluding support. We must recognise that the campaign will face the problem of other elements of repression and eventually the problem of imperialism itself. However these views must not be imposed from the outset but must be fought for in struggle as they pose themselves in reality, so that the vast majority of militants can see their truth and relevance.

Peoples Democracy asks you to support any resolutions that fall within the general guidelines laid down in this leaflet.


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