Xtra! #2 Jan 1980

2nd issue of Xtra!

Contents include: Xtra! collective member gives evidence at inquiry into NF HQ Excalibur House, protest march against Excalibur House, early days of Thatcher government, overview of the NF and how to infiltrate it, what to do when you're facing trial, French Anarchist Federation conference report, the S.A.S. - its history, training and ideology, disruption of Labour Party mass meeting, critical reflections on anarcha-feminist conference, anarchism and fascism - the Italian connection, contacts.

Submitted by Fozzie on July 18, 2020

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Xtra-02.pdf (6.75 MB)

Comments

Fozzie

3 years 7 months ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fozzie on July 27, 2020

Thanks once again to the donor for a scan of a complete issue.

Boris Sev

3 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Boris Sev on November 1, 2023

The article on the SAS (Special Air Service of the British Army) in "Xtra" Issue 2 wasn't satire, given that the author X was actually a member of the SAS at the time. admin: real name removed. Our site guidelines forbid disclosing people's real names and private information without their consent.

This was the guy who

* started the London Anarchist Bookfairs,

* became a longtime fixture at the Freedom building in Whitechapel, and

* wrote the activist manual "Bumping Back" and the novel "Dangerous Men" under the name "L Hobley."

The really interesting question is how the fact that he was in the SAS was handled in the London autonomist or "clever anarchist" or politico-situationist scene.

It was never questioned or problematised. It was kept in the know of a few individuals, who basically took the attitude "Let X be X. He's a Stirnerite, you know."

Those who weren't in the know didn't get put in the know, and so they couldn't make an issue about it. Which worked well, because many of them would have favoured kicking the SAS man out, as far as it was possible to kick him, had they actually known he was in the SAS.

Perhaps they should have guessed. Who can say now?

As things were arranged, though, they didn't even manage to ask any questions about it. These would have included

1. "Have you served in Ireland?"

2. "What operations have you been on?"

3. "Does anyone senior to you in rank know you're an active anarchist? Because we thought British soldiers weren't allowed to be involved in politics. So did you get special permission then?"

In my experience, those who recommend the text "The Tyranny of Structurelessness" usually practice it.

Because if for example there were a fixed organisation with membership, and say monthly meetings of all members, someone would have brought the guy's membership of the SAS up.

Fozzie

3 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Fozzie on November 2, 2023

It seems wildly unlikely to me that some people knew that this guy was in the SAS in 1980 and yet this has not become common knowlege in the intervening 40 years.

Parts of the the London anarchist scene are fuelled entirely by gossip and grudges and yet somehow this has remained a secret until yesterday?

Boris Sev

3 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Boris Sev on November 2, 2023

Great - then you will have to revise some assumptions when you check this out and verify it, which I urge you to do. The best thing would be to speak to those who were leading lights in Xtra. You might also speak to X himself, who I think will probably admit it.

Also read those two books. I'm not sure whether anyone has reviewed them here yet.

"Why has this not become common knowledge?" is absolutely the right question to ask.

The attitude "He's OK - he's of the Stirnerite faith" would be my summary of how some of those who knew about it justified being OK with it.

As I understand it, X was in 21 or 23 SAS not 22, just to be clear.

I haven't re-read every edition of Xtra, but I noticed that in one issue two comrades were named (by their first names). These two to my certain knowledge both knew of X's ongoing special forces service, which he didn't hide from them.

And, again just to be absolutely clear, in case anyone who is looking at this 40 years later might get the wrong idea, X is NOT, repeat NOT, the same person as Martin W.

Fozzie

3 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Fozzie on November 2, 2023

I think the onus is on you to provide evidence for your claims. As far as I'm aware I've never met X.

Boris Sev

3 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Boris Sev on November 2, 2023

Fair enough. If you don't wish to dig into it, that's fine.

I feel no onus though. X is contactable easily enough. So is at least one of those two guys who were involved in Xtra and named in it. I would imagine they would both talk to you freely after all this time if you did decide you were sufficiently interested. As no doubt would a few others.

I just thought I would put a note here on your copy of the issue of Xtra that included the SAS article, and give the refs to the two books, and put in something about the "tyranny of structurelessness" too because IMHO that's kinda the right area to be thinking in when addressing the question of how TF did this stay so little known for so long.

Boris Sev

3 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Boris Sev on November 2, 2023

From the SAS article in "Xtra", issue 2, January 1980:

"I once watched two SAS NCOs trying to work out which way you do an about turn. Eventually they got it wrong and there is now a group of SAS recruits with a very distinctive form of drill."

He's hiding it in plain sight, to coin a cliché.

And this was still a few months BEFORE the Iran embassy siege which was when the SAS first drew public attention in a big way. There weren't any Andy McNab novels at that time. The SAS weren't yet the "glory boys" that they became (somewhat to the disdain of their naval cousins the SBS).

You talk of "evidence", @Foz, but I'm not trying to put anyone on trial. I'm for truth and reconciliation. And I think there are lessons to be drawn about organisation, and that if organisation had been better (somehow - goodness knows how that would have been achieved, but it should have been) then people would have asked X the three questions I asked (1. Ireland, 2. What ops, and 3. Did he get clearance to be an active anarchist. And probably others too.) The third question is interesting because there is surely no way (not even now, and definitely not pre-embassy) that a serving member of the SAS would write about the SAS in a periodical without getting clearance, let alone engage in other anarchist political activities.

Boris Sev

3 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Boris Sev on November 2, 2023

admin: links revealing personal information removed

X is a Restaurateur. [...]
Their most recent appointment, in our records, was to FRIENDS OF FREEDOM PRESS LIMITED on 2015-07-27, from which they resigned on 2016-06-22."

Truth and reconciliation is definitely the way.

Benefits:
1. Some tough lessons about organisation, and who needs to know what and about whom. I don't know what the lessons will be. Probably nobody will be pleased with them.
2. An amazing story waits to be told here.

Boris Sev

3 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Boris Sev on November 2, 2023

I've emailed X to draw his attention to this thread and ask him to come here and comment, which hopefully he will.

libcom

3 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by libcom on November 6, 2023

Everyone please note that we do not allow revealing people's private information without their consent here. Real names have been edited out. Please desist from using real names in future.

Boris Sev

3 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by Boris Sev on November 8, 2023

At this moment I am looking at the Special Demonstration Squad's annual report for 1979 which has been submitted to the Undercover Policing Inquiry. This states that SDS officers had penetrated or gained access to the London Workers' Group, the Rising Free Collective, the Freedom Collective, Persons Unknown, the "Autonomous Group" formerly the "LSE Monday Club", the Direct Action Movement, and the Revolutionary Prisoners' Group.

https://www.ucpi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/MPS_0728963.pdf

One anarchist group had its name redacted in that document.

What purports to be and probably is the 1980 report is here:

https://theferret.scot/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Special-Branch-report-on-SCRAM-one.pdf

This too has a reference to an anarchist group redacted. The unredacted references this time include a reference to the "Krondstat [sic] Kids (formerly the Autonomous Group)", and the Rising Free Collective, London Workers' Group, and Freedom Collective all appear again.

At that time the SDS says it had 12 operational field officers, so we can reasonably run with the hypothesis that not every anarchist group mentioned had a unique officer who had penetrated or gained access to it. Bear in mind that the SDS was also acting in Trotskyist and "Marxist-Leninist" circles.

So start looking for individuals in whom different anarchist groups overlapped and in particular different anarchist scenes for which you wouldn't have thought it was in keeping with their respective politics for them to overlap.

Look for example at the overlap between the "clever and Situationist-influenced" types, autonomo-workerist types, and the Freedom scene. Should there have even been an overlap of the first two scenes with the Freedom scene? Y'know, FREEDOM, widely viewed by the aforementioned as a hive of liberalism. Probably not, but nonetheless there was one. Step forward, Mr X.

Those who are interested in this stuff should read the book "Dangerous Men" authored by the pseudonymous "L Hobley".

I am not suggesting that the person who used the name "L Hobley", whose real name is known to me, as are a number of his other pseudonyms, was "plod". "L Hobley's" attitude to "plod" is quite clear and it's pretty much what you would expect from someone who's been in the SAS.

One of the most interesting features for me is how the SAS man was defended, and shielded from criticism, by practically the entire "in-crowd" (not that it was very big) in the Rising Free - Persons Unknown - Xtra scene. I'm not especially interested in how the said SAS man became a long-term fixture at the Freedom building and at the London Anarchist Bookfair, but I think there are others who will be interested in those angles.

Even given NORTHERN IRELAND and the role of the British army including the SAS in that region, this SAS MAN didn't get into trouble among ANARCHISTS, not even in NORTH LONDON areas such as ISLINGTON. Instead he basically became Trusted X and was handed "the keys", which in fact he still keeps and uses. (Or at least he did until a short period of time ago. My information is that he has suffered a stroke. Let us hope he fully recovers and can then answer polite questions.)

Need I say - perhaps I do need to say, so here it is: don't trust anybody who's in the SAS, and don't let it go when someone says you should and says "Oh don't worry about X. That's just how he is."

Any mode of organisation that would have been unaccepting of this SAS man would have been superior, at least in this respect, to any mode that accepted him. That is possibly not a welcome point for anyone, but its truth seems to be inarguable and the conclusion should be that none of us were wholly right about organisational matters and we should all look at organisational questions that we might not be especially inclined to look at.

westartfromhere

3 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on November 9, 2023

Infiltration by agents of the state is just one pitfall of organisational forms of anarchism. When I typed in, organic, anti-organisational form of anarchy, I came to this:

'...the anti-organisational current which had its roots in the theorisations of Kropotkin. In Kropotkinist * theory, in fact, the aim of revolutionary action is always a society where “everyone gives according to their ability and everyone receives according to their needs”, in other words – communism. But this communism is understood as a natural harmonious state which humanity would inevitably tend towards as a result of two parallel causes: the inborn, natural solidarity of Man and the idea of the basic goodness of the human soul which lead to a preference for any form of spontaneism. Furthermore, once it has been freed from capitalist dominion, scientific progress (which capitalist domination uses to distance Man from nature) will be a potent factor in the formation of a new Man who will be conscious and in harmony with nature.'

Boris Sev

3 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by Boris Sev on November 9, 2023

Are you an Artificial Intelligence bot? Anything that more than one person cooperates on has to be organised in some way. State infiltration and influence is a practical question, not an abstract theoretical one or one that should be reasoned about beginning from what communism will be like in the far future, or how to read Kropotkin.

I think the answer to the question I raised is to do with encouraging everyone who's even remotely involved, who's viewed as being there in good faith and having their "heart in the right place", and who may not be giving off great clouds of charisma compared to those who are "clever" and "experienced activists", to say what they think and how they feel.

Because I can tell you, if even one person had FORCED a proper conversation about this guy Mr X being in the SAS, it would have been like saying "Rumpelstiltskin" and he would NOT have been allowed to stick around in any part of the anarchist scene much longer.

The whole way it worked, for him to stay put, was that when some "junior element" kind of began to question his activities (as you can imagine people did), a "senior" element would say (in effect) "Don't worry, we know about him, he's a Stirnerite, oh yes and I'm really clever, and so are my fellow seniors, but thanks for your input."

That's how potential difficulties for the SAS man's presence were squelched, strangled.

As you might imagine, he was doing various illegal stuff. (No surprise there!) Often these things would involve skills he was learning and practising and not just in the Brecon Beacons. The atmosphere was "Let's not talk about Mr X. He's okay. Okay?" He's also, of course, highly intelligent, as comes through clearly in the two "L Hobley" books (albeit not in the poetry he's written in his later years which is awful).

And I'm not saying those protective senior elements were state agents. Most probably weren't. Just naive and secure. (Too damned secure!)

As it happened, nobody got to a position to shout "Rumpelstiltskin", and Mr X has stuck around for 40 years and become pretty much a lynchpin of the anarchist movement.

Steven.

3 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by Steven. on November 10, 2023

That's terrible if he has had a stroke, I hope he gets well soon.
In terms of what you are alleging, can I just try to understand it properly.
You are now talking about police infiltration, so are you saying he was also a police officer?
Or if just the SAS, are you saying that he was formerly in the SAS, or that he was actively the whole time he was also involved in the anarchist movement?

westartfromhere

3 months 2 weeks ago

Submitted by westartfromhere on November 10, 2023

Anything that more than one person cooperates on has to be organised in some way.

Was the August 2011 insurrection in the UK organised? No, it was a spontaneous counter-action to state terrorism. Yet thousands co-operated in the battle against the forces of order and expropriation of former merchandise. This anarchical operation had a more detrimental effect—to capital—on the value of capital than anything anarchists have ever achieved in Britain.

Submitted by Boris Sev on November 11, 2023

Steven. wrote: That's terrible if he has had a stroke, I hope he gets well soon.
In terms of what you are alleging, can I just try to understand it properly.
You are now talking about police infiltration, so are you saying he was also a police officer?
Or if just the SAS, are you saying that he was formerly in the SAS, or that he was actively the whole time he was also involved in the anarchist movement?

Taking your questions in turn:

1. I am not saying he was a police officer. But the SDS was a serious and capable outfit and there would have been liaison with the army at some level, just to make sure they didn't obstruct each other. ("Tread on each other's toes" would be too mild a way of putting it.) Given the level of SDS access, they must have known Mr X was in the SAS. We can take that for granted. (It's also reasonable to speculate that the army - although not necessarily the SAS - surely had some assets inthe many red flag-waving parts of the London or London-centred left that showed a special interest in Northern Ireland, so police-army cooperation would have been a "thing".) The documentation presented to the UCPI says SDS officers had either "penetrated" or "gained access" to various (mostly named) anarchist groups. "Gained access" to might cover chats with a (highly skilled) SAS guy who was on the inside as well as things like doing the electrics and plumbing which had a smaller element of "humint". There is stuff about the police in "Dangerous Men" and also in "Bumping Back" which may repay close study. Mr X obviously knows some aspects of police work well and he also has a good grasp of how to bend cops to his will.

2. I am saying he was in the SAS (not 22 but 21 or 23) while he was in Xtra and for a while afterwards and while he was establishing himself in the building in Whitechapel, and this was known to several comrades. So yes, this was while he was in the anarchist movement. But I doubt he was rolling over stone walls showing a minimal silhouette or doing much abseiling 30 years later when he was still in the anarchist movement. We are talking about training and exercises and whether he went on any ops I don't know but would like to know. Certainly the SAS (or any other part of the armed forces) would not allow someone e.g. to be an activist in a major political party without formal permission from them, so in any scenario he would have been discussing his anarchist activities with senior officers. Never mind the whole ethos of being a self-starter and a self-reliant individual that is at a premium in that elite part of the British army. They wouldn't have said just get on with it, everyone's got to have a hobby, and most of us types like to have challenging ones, and come and see us if you ever need to. They know their guys love their brand (even several who have fallen out with the regiment are fiercely loyal to it), but that isn't sufficient to be certain that nobody will ever be turned (e.g. by the IRA), go native (see what he says about the Angry Brigade), or for that matter go rogue (sure, they select for psychological stability, but sh*t happens - these guys know all about living in hedges). I'd like to know whether he applied to the SAS while already in the army (or as reservist who'd finished his service), or as a walk-in, which it's possible to do with both 21 and 23 AIUI.