Anarchy magazine (series 2)

Anarchy magazine cover
Anarchy magazine cover

Complete online archive of the second series of Anarchy magazine, published by the Anarchy Collective in London in the 1970s and 1980s in 38 issues.

Its editors included Charlotte Baggins, Chris Broad and Phil Ruff at different times.

(Our archive of the first series of Anarchy is here.)

Submitted by Steven. on November 24, 2012

Phil Ruff has written about this period in "The Invisible Dictatorship - a short history of Anarchy magazine (second series)" for the Kate Sharpley Library.



3 years 7 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Fozzie on October 26, 2020

There is also a quite good thread on here discussing the different series of Anarchy and the context:

R Totale

3 years ago

In reply to by

Submitted by R Totale on May 10, 2021

Annoyingly, it looks like a fair few of the issues that were most likely to have input from "Graham Coates" aren't archived - looking at his statement, it does seem like he definitely wrote for Anarchy about work (page 22).


3 years ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Steven. on May 11, 2021

R Totale

Annoyingly, it looks like a fair few of the issues that were most likely to have input from "Graham Coates" aren't archived - looking at his statement, it does seem like he definitely wrote for Anarchy about work (page 22).

Good find, super interesting!


3 years ago

In reply to by

Submitted by lurdan on May 11, 2021

Had a look through my copies. The only article signed 'GC' is 'Work and Non-Work' in issue 24. Cant see anything else which springs out as potentially being by him.

Here's a scan of that issue.

Looking through the documents the Inquiry has put online related to him there are a number about Anarchy collective meetings and members of the collective, and a few about Zero, but also some about meetings of the London Workers Group, the Persons Unknown Support Group, and the East London Libertarians, amongst others. Also meetings to plan the Anarchist May Day picnic.

Online here:

In his article about work and non-work he discusses those who do 'imaginary work'

What then, are imaginary workers? They are all sorts of shits - some obvious, some less so. The list is, in all likelihood, end­less, but it includes police, government employees in general (not in totality), arm­ed forces, shrinks, skunk lawyers/solicitors, judges and probably juries (for the extent of their service on it), doctors and consultants, the whole shoddy array of little men, who rip off the people with gear they don't want or even need in their most mundane imaginings. All sorts of bums that shit all over everywhere except themselves. Why are they 'imaginary workers'? Because if you or I or even they were to stop and think about it, they do nothing of any use to anyone without exploiting them. It is dubious even if what they do can be called work at all. True they work at conning us, but that is something else.

Perhaps we should have got him to write a job report for the London Workers bulletin.

R Totale

3 years ago

In reply to by

Submitted by R Totale on May 11, 2021

Thanks for that, have added - could someone let the COPS/Undercover Research lot know that it's now online? Looking at that statement again, he says on page 27 that he wrote "5 or 6" articles for Anarchy, but I suppose if some of them were anonymous there's no way of knowing really. Would all be either 77 or 78, from the sounds of it.


3 years ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Fozzie on May 11, 2021

Thanks Lurdan!

I can let some people know, RT.


2 years 7 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Fozzie on October 2, 2021

@RegionRadPress on Twitter flagged up that a couple of undercover cop reports into meetings of the Anarchy collective have now been released by the Undercover Policing Inquiry:

Special Branch report on a weekly meeting of the Anarchy Collective 19 Oct 1978

Special Branch report on a casual meeting of the Anarchy Collective 09 Feb 1979


3 months 3 weeks ago

Submitted by Fozzie on January 27, 2024

This is now a complete archive - thanks to Kate Sharpley Library for assistance with the missing issues!

Anarchy #01 1971

First Issue of the Second series of Anarchy magazine from February 1971, cover title is Towards a Rational Bisexuality, and many articles concern sexuality and Queer liberation.

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 14, 2018


  • Libertarian Message to Gay Liberation - California Libertarian Alliance
  • The Case for Enlightened Bisexuality - David Godin
  • Women's Liberation: Freedom Through Counter-revolution? - Louise Crowley and Sabot (Seattle)
  • Masculine/Feminine - Betty Roszak and Theodore Roszak
  • Eros and Revolution - a review of Maurice Brinton's "The Irrational in Politics"
  • Wilhelm Reich's Work Theory - Jack Gallego
  • Lesbians as Bogeywomen - Judy Grahn
    Aspects of Anarchy: Sena Hoy - Mike Jones


Anarchy #02 1971

Second issue from the Second Series of Anarchy, published in March 1971 and focusses on the Kronstadt Revolt, Russian Anarchism and the Bolsheviks.

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 14, 2018


  • Why I Am An Anarchist - N Petrov
  • Kronstadt: An Introduction - Paul Avrich
  • The Anti-Climax: Concluding chapter from The Bolshevik Myth - Alexander Berkman
  • The Kronstadt Revolt: Introducton from the 1942 edition
  • The Kronstadt Revolt - Anton Ciliga
  • Kronstadt notes at random - Peter Newell
  • Review of Paul Avrich's book Kronstadt 1921 - Nicolas Walter
  • The Revolutionary Moment: Observations on Anarchy #116 - Andrew Ritchie
  • Triumph of the Spirit? Review of the film Fidel - Peter Neville
  • Aspects of Anarchy 2: Emma Goldman - Terry M Perlin
  • Memoirs of an Ancient Activist - Paul Goodman
  • Manifesto from Sexpol - Wilhelm Reich


Anarchy #03 1971

The infamous "Acid Issue" of the 2nd series of Anarchy magazine.

Submitted by Fozzie on October 17, 2020


  • What It Looks Like according to Dalton
  • A Symposium in Dublin - Bill Dwyer
  • Kinema: A review of the film Battle of Algiers
  • LSD and Revolution: A Statement by Five Comrades
  • LSD as a recreational drug - Donald Rooum
  • Anachoresis or Bust - D.A.P. Blackburn
  • Feed the Head: LSD - The Magic Acid - Bill Dwyer
  • A New Consciousness & Its Polemics - John O'Connor
  • A Proposal For Freedom - Shirley F Fredericks
  • Opus Dei: More Dogmatic Than The Jesuits, More Powerful Than The Mafia - Tony Levene
  • Review: Power And The Market by Murray Rothbard - S.E. Parker
  • Review: The Art of Community by Spencer H MacCullum - S.E. Parker
  • Aspects of Anarchy 3: Franz Pfemfert and "Aktion"
  • Back cover - Adam Zero Strikes Again by Arthur Moyse



Anarchy #04 1971

Fourth issue of the second series of Anarchy magazine, published in early 1971 cover article concerns the class struggle in Poland.

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 14, 2018


  • Kronstadt (poem) - Tuli Kupferberg
  • Class Struggles In Poland - Peter E Newell
  • The Anarchist Revoluton - Nestor Makhno
  • Review of Paul Goodman's New Reformation: Notes Of A Neolithic Conservative - Kingsley Widmer
  • Bakunin and Marx on Nationalism - Stephen P Halbrook
  • Kropotkin's Anarchist Communism (review of Dover reprints) - Nicolas Walter


Anarchy #05 1971

Fifth Issue of Anarchy Magazines second series, the cover issue is on Anarchism in Japan, in two parts.

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 14, 2018


  • Anarchism in Japan. Part One: The pre-war movement - Boris Badinoff and Hiroshi Ozeki
  • Marinus van der Lubbe: Vindicating a Vilified Revolutionary - Marcus Graham
  • The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State - Michael (sic) Bakunin
  • Review of Organisation of Revolutionary Anarchists' Towards a History and Critique of the Anarchist Movement in Recent Times - Peter Neville
  • Review of Robert Hoffman's Anarchism- Terry Perlin
  • Anarchism in Japan. Part Two: The post-war movement - Boris Badinoff and Hiroshi Ozeki
  • Angry Brigade


Anarchy #06 1971

Issue 6 of Anarchy magazine from 1971 on Ireland.

PDF taken from which also includes an interesting overview of the issue.

Alternate PDF taken from - it is missing pages 12, 13, 32 and 33.

Submitted by Steven. on February 21, 2013


  • Introduction
  • The Belfast Police Mutiny 1907 - John Gray
  • James Connolly, Irish Syndicalist
  • The Peoples Democracy: A Brief History - J Quinn
  • Crumlin Jail From The Inside - "Major Mullen"
  • The Great Cement Strike, 1970 - FE (3) C. (Cement)
  • Review of John Henry Whyte's Church and State in Modern Ireland - Bob Dickens
  • Review of Richard Sennett's The Uses of Disorder - Bob Dickens
  • Review of Maurice Manning's The Blueshirts - Seamus O'Cahan




Graphic from page 39 of Anarchy #6 1971
Graphic from page 39 of Anarchy #6 1971

Introduction to Anarchy #6 1971 (second series).

Submitted by Fozzie on April 5, 2020

The 'trouble' in Northern Ireland has been raging for exactly three years now. During that time, well over a hundred people have been killed and many hundreds more injured. Unemployment now stands at 10.8 per cent and the minimum estimate of the number of homeless in the province is 10,000.

Guesses at the amount of property destroyed vary between £12 million and £150 million (the real reason, incidentally, why troops were moved in). Yet here in England how much significance, really, is attached to the struggle? True, the media daily pepper the English public with items of Irish 'news': the latest death here, the most recent incident there and the latest 'assessment' of what may or may not be happening by some pundit/politician wherever it may be squeezed in. But, we repeat: how much significance is attributed to the Northern Ireland crisis? In our view, very little indeed. In a way, that is the most significant thing one can say about it in London politicians, money-makers, civil servants, the mass media, people at large and most of the Left regard the situation as not terribly significant. We disagree.

In 1910,1911,1916,1918-23 and, again, in 1935 (to speak only of this century) Ireland has exploded in the faces of its Imperial masters. Today Westminster continues in its refusal/Inability to realise the true dimensions of the crisis and would 'wish it away.' Meanwhile, the jumped-up councillors of Stormont, dull-witted and vicious, are enabled to determine the actions of the occupying forces. The struggle in Northern Ireland has, in this sense, now reached the stage where it constitutes the greatest internal threat to the existence of the British state seen this century.


Examine the 'reforms' to see what the anti-Unionist minority has 'gained' over the past three years. The Civil Rights demands were . .

demand - legislation

1) 'One man, one vote' - O'Neill's franchise reforms, 1969.
2) 'Disarm the RUC' - Hunt Report, 1969.
3) 'Disband B-specials' - Hunt Report, 1969 and Ulster Defence Regiment formed.
4) 'Take away Housing Trust from sectarian control' - Central Housing Trust formed, 1970.

Legislation has certainly taken place, but in real terms what have been its effects and, more important, how has it been implemented?

1) There have been no local elections nor any Stormont elections under the franchise reforms, - as it was 'too late' to put them into effect. Derry is still ruled by a commission appointed by the government and its electoral boundaries have still not been redrawn.

2) The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), according to the Hunt Commission was only to be issued arms in extraordinary circumstances and riot duty was to be left to the Army, particularly when there was a danger of armed conflict. Practically the entire police force now carries arms openly and the R. U. C. was recently used for riot duty in Derry's Bogside.

3) The 'B 'Specials were disbanded, true. In their place came the Ulster Defence Regiment, predominantly recruited from their ranks. Its number was originally fixed at 6,000. Recently, however, this limit was totally lifted and now units are to be drawn from their own localities just like the old 'B' Specials. The number of Catholics has sharply declined many resigning after internment was introduced. Also, the number of guns in the hands of gun clubs formed by the Ulster Special Constabulary Association and kindred other bodies is now estimated to be more than 110,000. This, besides the illegal arms in the hands of the Protestant vigilantes of the U. V. F. (Ulster Volunteer Force -a proscribed organisation) who openly display them while carrying out evictions in the mixed districts.

4) The Central Housing Trust, founded to prevent sectarianism in the distribution of publicly owned housing, the issue which triggered the civil rights campaign initially. The Housing Trust has aided and abetted the polarisation of the districts rather than the opposite. They have, with the British Army's consent sought ghettoisation as a means of implementing the division between the two communities, which, from the Army's point of view makes 'policing' so much easier. This explains why the Army turned a blind eye to evictions and now actively assist the forcible movement of population.

...A sorry collection of 'reforms' which adds up to a tidying of the graveyard rather than a genuine attempt to break down sectarian barriers. Each one of these 'reforms' has been manipulated by Stormont to polarise the community and at each step it has been assisted by the Army. The Civil Disobedience campaign may yet see the Army evicting Housing Trust tennants for non-payment of rents - another of their attempts at 'community; relations' no doubt.


Internment was in fact aimed at the 'left' political opposition. Its implementation polarised the community in an unparalleled fashion. Violence escalated within half an hour of the internees being seized. Within two hours the entire community of the Catholic ghettoes was In arms. The people instinctively knew that this was a deliberate attempt to crush what political voice they had left.

The Left in England reacted swiftly to tne situation but was lamentably unable to maintain any unity of action. Differant slogans are put out by different groups, more to illustrate the purity of their own politics than to assist the struggle in the North.

The seriousness of the American struggle against the Vietnam war or the brilliantly effective campaign against Australian involvement in Vietnam has yet to evolve. Some sections of the Left have even gone so far in their attempts to have their 'line' heard in Ireland as to indulge in 'socialist imperialism' and have sought or are seeking to found groups in Ireland that will be under London's control, though one presumes that these fronts will be conducted from the safety of Dublin drawing-rooms rather than the bloody and miserable battlegrounds of the North.

Again, the demand issued by Intenational Socialists' [forerunner to UK's Socialist Workers Party - Libcom] front organisation, the Labour Committee against Internment was, "Fair Trial for All Internees"- an obvious sop to its 'respectable' Labour MPs. It was heard by the Northern groups with incredulity and they felt, bitterly, that they had been let down one once more by the English Left.

Three years have passed in the present struggle and even now the only whole-hearted response is from the Irish exile organisations. Too many people who articulate their doubts about the situation do not know what to do. This same problem occurred in America until groups started to actively combat the Vietnam war without the help of 'fronts', 'parties' and the like or waiting for analyses.

The first stage in furthering the struggle in the U.S. was education (Teach-Ins, etc), coupled with mass action. This issue of Anarchy Magazine aims to contribute to the former. Only you can provide the latter.


The Belfast police mutiny of 1907 - John Gray

Police escort scab goods through Belfast

A history of the mutiny of 70% of the Belfast police force during a dockers' strike which brought together Catholic and Protestant workers in struggle.

Submitted by Steven. on February 21, 2013


This article is just an extract from a longer work on the 1907 Dock Strike in Belfast. This unearthing of the Labour history of Northern Ireland is not a purely academic exercise. History, or rather mythologies of history, remain a potent force in Irish politics, and yet the real traditions, the real record of class struggle particularly in the North has been ignored or conveniently buried by bourgeois historians. In published works the 1907 Dock Strike, the first attempt by the unskilled industrial workers of Ireland to organise and fight, rates a few paragraphs, the police mutiny a few sentences. No published work covers the 1919 General Strike, and the unemployment riots of 1934 again rate no more than a few paragraphs.

There is in fact an almost total lack of published work on any aspect of Ulster's modern history. This owes something to the priorities of historians at Queen’s University Belfast, who live in an atmosphere something akin to that at the British Embassy in Uruguay, and when they do concern themselves with Irish history they rarely advance beyond the tasteful days of Grattan’s Parliament. Southern historians have equally neglected Northern history, imbued with middle class nationalist outlook, they have no interest in the labour movement, perhaps consequently view Northern Ireland as an incomprehensible problem, and anyway find rich pickings detailing the activities of “national” leaders and movements.

The troubles of the past three years have led to a spate of new works purporting to put the Northern problem in its historical context. Given the dearth of accurate material provided by academic historians, given that the authors of this new spate of largely journalistic works have failed to do any basic research themselves, it is little wonder that they have adopted the view that the problems of the North are to be viewed as community or sectarian conflict pure and simple. Thus Andrew Boyd writes in the introduction to “Holy War In Belfast”, a work rushed out to take advantage of the riot market, “the long-standing hostility between the two communities has erupted, generation after generation, in violent sectarian riots on the streets of Belfast”. He goes on to claim, “Holy War in Belfast probes to the roots and origins of these riots and traces the first outbreaks back to the 1830’s”. The book is certainly the first that even bothered to cull government reports and describe the actual riots. There is however no attempt to explain why Belfast’s record for religious tolerance in the early 19th century deteriorated into sectarian rioting in the mid-nineteenth century. Consequently for Andrew Boyd and other historians like him history is made by individual bigots who just happened to turn up on the stage of history at a particular moment, and riots are caused by the Joe Bloggs of this world who just happen to turn up drunk with a stone in hand on a particular day. The whole social background to the events is ignored, the terrific pressures on the impoverished agrarian refugees who flocked into Belfast, a new industrial slum, are ignored, the connection between community conflict and class conflict is ignored.

At a more crass level we descend to Patrick Riddell, columnist in the “Sunday News”, and author of “Fire Over Ulster”. If nothing else, his book accurately reflects the kind of ill-informed prejudice which constitutes “knowledge of history” by many Ulster people. Here the tale of community conflict goes further than the mere recital of events looked at through blinkers, the whole situation is viewed in almost racial terms. Northern Protestants and Southern Catholics are both capable of being brutal, but some are more brutal than others. Thus “the Ulstermen defended their state fiercely but they have never in something like 200 years, perhaps not since the 17th century, shown such ferocity as the Southern Irish displayed when they fought their appalling civil war. Ulstermen will strike back but they are rarely cruel and they have to be seriously provoked before they strike back at all” (p.34), and “The Protestant Ulstermen had not descended to such depths of behaviour, such extremes of savagery, as to blow their opponents to pieces with landmines or throw them alive into furnaces”. This was apparently an ethnic trait of the Southern Catholics.

It is true that there are a few Northern historians who have tried to deal accurately with modern history. A.T.Q. Stewart is one of these, his book “The Ulster Crisis” deals factually with Ulster’s resistance to Home Rule, and in particular with the organisation of that resistance. No one can reasonably deny that in 1912 the vast majority of Protestant workers supported the UVF. But a book of this kind does not raise the question why they did so, it does not pretend to cover the experience of the Protestant industrial proletariat in the decade before, it leaves the Patrick Riddells of this world to fill in their own racial explanation, and then on that basis to glory in the resistance.

When we look at the 1907 Dock Strike and the police mutiny of the same year, this simple myth begins to evaporate. We find unskilled workers, mainly Protestant, fighting the employers, many their future leaders in the UVF, we find policemen, many Protestant, mutinying, we find the Independent Orangemen mustering hundreds of Protestant workers under a platform asking Protestants as Irishmen to play their part in the development of Ireland as a nation. To say this is not to deny the existence of community conflict in the North, those who do so bury their heads in sand, it is to say this, community conflict is an expression of acute pressures on the working-class and cannot conveniently be isolated from the question of class conflict, often indeed community conflict has been used as a deliberate safety valve to prevent class conflict. Time and time again the labour movement has almost succeeded in bringing class war to the fore in Belfast. This was true in 1907. It is only when they fail that disillusioned workers seeking other outlets for their despair fall easy prey to the slogans of sectarian war.

It is then a vital task for Northern socialists to learn for themselves the real history of the working-class in modern Ireland, and to broadcast to the masses their true heritage. This work is necessary for those committed to one or other section of the labour movement. The very fact that today the Labour movement in the North is going through its darkest period is witness enough to the fact that mistakes have been made in the past and there are important lessons to be learnt from those mistakes.

Prior to 1907 the Trade Union movement in Ireland was conservative and reformist, and was dominated by skilled workers. Unskilled workers were hardly organised at all, and yet in the two large cities, Belfast and Dublin, were worse off than in large British cities and equally numerous. Larkin arrived in Belfast in February 1907, it was his first visit to Ireland, and he came as National Organiser for the National Union of Dock Labourers. So successful was his message of militant solidarity between unskilled workers in the fight for better conditions that by April 1907 he had recruited approximately 3,000 men to the NUDL. At the end of that month, the Belfast Steamship Company, linked to one of the large cross-channel railway companies locked NUDL members out. They were determined to crush the union while they still had time. Small employers were willing to concede terms to the dockers, it was the large cross-channel companies, linked to the Shipping Federation, which were determined to win. The Shipping Federation was an international blackleg organisation. The blacklegs who came to Belfast had smashed a strike in Hamburg a month earlier. When the Belfast strike was over they were to travel to Antwerp to smash another strike.

When these big guns, led by Gallagher, Managing Director of Gallaghers tobacco factory and Chairman of the B.S.Co., determined to fight, the smaller companies and the City authorities fell into line. In May the striking dockers drove the blacklegs from the quays. Police and military guards were introduced. The dockers could no longer stop the blacklegs working, but Larkin replied by calling the carters out on sympathy strike. The ships could unload at the quays but blackleg carters had to run the gauntlet of angry workers on every street. Carting soon ceased.

The authorities were extremely hesitant in the face of what for them was a rapidly deteriorating situation. They had used force before in sectarian confrontations, but in this case they were threatened by a purely labour dispute, most of the strikers were Orangemen, they had the active support of many Catholic workers, the ship-yard workers, and they were led by a Catholic. Blackleg carters were being attacked in places as far apart as Divis Street, Sandy Row and the Ravenhill Road, indeed on the Ravenhill Road the police had to baton charge rioters.

By July 12 at least 5,000 workers in the City were affected by strikes. At the Independent Orange Order demonstration a collection was held for the strikers and in the following week strike meetings were held in Sandy Row, Ballymacarrett, on the Falls, on the Shankill and in York Street. In the face of this united stand by the unskilled workers of Belfast the authorities were first unwilling to act, and then, when they did prepare to act, found that their instrument of oppression, the Royal Irish Constabulary, would not act for them.

The fateful decision that finally precipitated mutiny was taken on July 18. Members of the RIC were ordered to escort traction engines through the city. The traction engines, equipped with makeshift armour had been shipped to Belfast a week earlier specifically to break the strike.

The police were already overworked without any further extension of their duties. The “Northern Whig” for July 11 reported “the strain on the police is daily increasing and yesterday between 50 and 60 members of the force from Henry Street barracks alone were on duty from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.” As early as June 29 an irate correspondent had described just what sort of work this was “the spectacle to which we were treated yesterday of a waggon-load of goods going to the quay under the protection of a score of constables is a singular one indeed, of course on that basis it would require half the entire strength of the RIC to protect the traffic to and from Belfast harbour and the Railway termini”.

The authorities were over complacent putting this kind of strain on a force which had its own grievances. In recent years there had been two commissions of enquiry into the conditions of the constabulary, but in the words of the “Constabulary Gazette”, one made “paltry recommendations that have never been put into effect, the other, confined to Belfast, has been kept by the state as a secret document”. Policemen’s pay in Belfast varied from £78 to £62 l6s p.a. That is roughly 30s a week down to 24s, a wage marginally higher than that of the best-off dockers and carters. But policemen were expected to live in respectable areas of the city, they had to pay their own tram fares on the way to duty (this affected very seriously suburban constables drafted into the city daily to deal with the strike disturbances). The police were supposed to get 1s extra if they were on continuous duty for more than 8 hours, but complained that they were continually being taken off duty after 7½ hours to avoid payment. It was against this background that a “More Pay” movement had been flourishing in the ranks of Belfast police for some time.

The strike leaders made several references to the conditions under which the police were working. As early as July 7 a visiting speaker from Birmingham, Mr. Jones, commented at a Belfast Socialist Society meeting on the Custom House Steps “the police themselves had been badly overworked from 6 in the morning till 11 and 12 at night and he saw no reason why they should not bind themselves into a Trade Union”. On July 17 Larkin said “the police were working 18 hours a day without any extra pay, and they would go on strike too – only they dared not”.

Indeed the police would not have heeded the strike leaders if it had not been for the all-embracing nature of the strike movement itself. They dared to do what Larkin said they would not, because the more they escorted blacklegs, the more they were jeered by Catholic and Protestant workers alike. When a local police force cannot live peacefully in the midst of any section of the community then indeed its loyalty is threatened.

All forms of agitation in police ranks were of course illegal. This had one fortunate consequence. The rebel policemen used the columns of the “Irish News” to put forward their plans and views, thus leaving a unique record of their activity.

First let us take their attitude to the strikers. Their letters show quite clearly how they had been enormously affected by the strike movement. How they had in some cases unconsciously adopted a revolutionary position on the role of the police in Ireland. “Willing to Strike”, undoubtedly one of the leaders of the “More Pay” movement, perhaps a group, wrote on July 10 referring to the “screeches of the capitalist newspapers in Belfast for the past few days over what they term the gross neglect of duty by the police force of this city in not attacking and batoning the unfortunate strikers who are merely looking for justice from their employers” “the strikers are as ourselves, trying to better their conditions, and if we work together we will wring from the government what I trust the strikers will soon wring from the capitalists – more pay”. “Willing to Strike” wrote again on July 16, in sarcastic vein, “of course we should slaughter all before us to settle this strike for the capitalists, who hate us as much as their unfortunate workmen. When they failed to turn the strike into a sectarian business they thought it would be a good idea if they got the police and the ‘strikers’ into conflict”.

A further letter from “Willing to Strike” appeared on July 22. It told how the RIC officers were doing “all in their power to humiliate the Belfast police in the eyes of the public by turning them into ‘blacklegs’ - to please their friends the capitalists. They tried to make us accept tea from these companies, and put us under an obligation to these ‘English sweaters’, but we indignantly refused to sell our independence”. In an editorial published on the same day the “Irish News” gave extracts from other letters it had received, one included this pathetic passage “it is shameful to see a uniformed peace officer sitting under the funnel of a ‘Puffing Billy’ or taking the other side of the car to the driver and getting hooted and jeered at through the streets. Walking after the prohibited waggons is bad enough, and sometimes one has to run a little”.

Some policemen, aware of the unhappy nature of their role on the streets of Belfast, went on to analyse the role of the RIC in Ireland as a whole. The “Irish News” editorial on the 22nd included the following extract from a letter: “. . . we have never shirked any task imposed on us, no matter how odious it might have been; yet we do not get a living wage. We have made evictions possible from Donegal to Cork. We have left nothing undone that was demanded or expected of us. We regret our past misdeeds”. “Slave”, writing on the same date, said, “The RIC were not established and armed to police Ireland but to soldier it. They were established as a garrison to enable those arbitrary rulers and landlords to impoverish, enslave, and wring rack-rents from the poor unfortunate people of this country – our fathers and grandfathers. These tyrants and landlords were the indirect employers and masters of the police. These masters have nearly all fled, owing to recent land legislation, and the few who remain have no interest in the country; they are merely waiting for their bonus.”

“Willing to Strike” explained in an eloquent statement on passive resistance on July 16, how policemen should act if ordered against the strikers. “Do our duty in a passive manner; do nothing we can avoid. We may be ordered to charge a crowd of ‘strikers’ by our officers, but they cannot make us strike them! We can refuse to identify rioters, for there is no one so blind as he who will not see. In a thousand ways we can turn the law into a farce. This is our only remedy now.”

The use of the police force to escort motor-waggons from July 19 sparked off the mutiny. On that day Constable William Barrett was ordered by District Inspector Keaveney to share the cab of a wagon with a blackleg. Barrett refused. Keaveney appealed to Head Constable Waters who ordered Barrett to do as he was told. Barrett again refused and was suspended. At the later disciplinary proceedings Keaveney explained whose instructions he was following. “Mr. Kemp (the employer) told me that Mr. Morrell (the Acting Commissioner of Police) promised him that a detective would sit with the driver of this motor” (“IN”, August 2).

Barrett, dispensing with the legal niceties of the dispute, explained in a letter to the “Irish News” published on August 8, after his dismissal from the force, “The precipitating cause of the police strike and the subsequent trouble leading to the importation of 6,000 soldiers into Belfast was due to the unwarranted conduct of the Acting Commissioner (Morrell) in having entered into an alliance with the railway companies and masters in order to defeat the carters and dockers in securing the rights they are fighting for”.

Even the “Constabulary Gazette” supported Barrett’s stand, this time on purely legal grounds, they commented: “In the first place if a policeman was necessary he should have been a uniformed man: and in the second place there is, we are informed, an order with which the officers ought to be familiar, to the effect that members of the RIC are directed not to sit with an obnoxious person when on protection duty, but rather to drive on a vehicle behind them”.

Barrett’s suspension was merely the final straw, three days earlier on July 16, “Willing to Strike” had indicated that trouble was brewing: “In a short time a circular will be sent to each of your barracks giving you instructions how to act. In the meantime keep cool; don’t get into unnecessary conflict with the workmen; subscribe as much as you can for their support – and say nothing. Your officers will be against you in this movement and will look for victims.”

The circular was published in the “Irish News” on July 22. The body of it ran as follows: “Comrades – having regard to the letters which have recently appeared in the public press and the feeling of indignation which we are all aware prevails in our midst, the hardships and injustice which are lately becoming unbearable, the despotic rule which prevents us from ventilating this injustice, we cannot refrain any longer from making our views public.”

The circular then referred to “the exhorbitant cost of living and the excessive difficult duty which we have to perform”, and went on to say that the time was now ripe for “a petition setting forth our views on this matter” this to be submitted to the government for due consideration.

The circular was moderate in tone – “we have been told lately to strike, but such is not intended if it may be avoided by granting us the justice which we deem necessary”. Its concluding paragraph ran “now comrades you are not required to do anything underhand or injurious to your position. The press is always willing to assist you. All that is required is justice and no body of men have remained so long waiting patiently for this as the police have”.

The circular gave detailed organisational arrangements for a delegate meeting to be held at Musgrave Street Police Station, at 7 p.m. on Wednesday July 24. “On receipt of this circular you will please hold a general meeting at each station. An intelligent man will be appointed to represent the party, who will enquire carefully into the views of the men, and note same for the information of the general meeting. This man should be appointed by his comrades, he will sign first, the remainder of the party to sign after. Then the list of names should be taken possession of by the selected man.” The representatives were to bring “their list of names, also a summary of views”.

The resolutions to be proposed at the meeting were:-
1. A rise of pay of 1s per man.
2. That our pension on leaving be calculated as three-quarters of pay.
3. To appoint a solicitor to draw up a petition in legal form, and submit same to His Majesty’s Government.
4. To apply to the Inspector-General by wire for his permission to submit same.
5. General.

The day before the meeting, Tuesday, July 23, the authorities acted. Acting Commissioner Morrell issued a circular headed “More Pay Movement” (“IN”, July 25) – “With reference to the circular which has been sent to the several barracks in the City this morning asking the men to hold a general meeting, I have directed that you remind the men that no such meeting can be held without the direction of the Inspector-General – By Order.”

On the morning of the meeting “Willing to Strike” replied in the “Irish News”. He reported that the dissident circular “has been seized in a number of stations by those in charge on its arrival and submitted to the Commissioner” and went on: “Comrades, hold your meeting in Musgrave Street Barracks, as suggested, and if not permitted to hold it there, march in a body to Queen’s Square and hold it there”.

That night between 200 and 300 men defied the official ban and went to the meeting held in the reading room at Musgrave Street Barracks. An “Irish News” reporter attended the meeting and gave a full account of the proceedings (“IN”, July 25). The room was crammed to the doors, but before proceedings could begin a Head-Constable appeared and said that the meeting was banned. The men shouted, “We will hold the meeting”. Barrett said, “Let all the men who are with us stand here” pointing to a corner – several men moved to the corner to the accompaniment of deafening cheers. Then from the stairs came a shout of “Attention!” The men stood to attention and the Head-Constable entered followed by Acting-Commissioner Morrell. Morrell asked angrily, “What is this men? What is this I hear?” There was no answer. Morrell ordered “All the men with three years’ service fall in outside.” There was no answer. He then asked a constable, “What service have you?” “Seven years”, came the reply. Morrell then ordered, “All men of 20 years’ service come forward.” Shouts came from the assembled men, “Not one man of ye go forward,” “Not one of ye don’t.” Morrell proceeded to walk round the room threatening individual men. Barrett then spoke up, “Let no man, let no man tell his service to anyone. We are here to hold a meeting. Why should we be prevented from holding a meeting? It is as much our right as any other men in this City. Don’t allow yourselves to be bullied. If we can’t hold a meeting here we can hold it outside. But in any case you must stand together. Stand together comrades and all will be well.” Morrell advanced towards Barrett and ordered, “Constable, leave this room.” Barrett replied, “No, I will not, I am acting perfectly properly in warning these men against interference. I will not.” Morrell and District Inspector Clayton rushed forward to arrest Barrett, they seized him by the collar, the constable next to Barrett punched Morrell and he went down on the floor. Morrell then punched Constable McGrath and declared him suspended. McGrath replied, “I don’t care about you or your service. I can make as good a living anywhere else.” Then pandemonium broke out. Barrett pleaded for quiet and asked permission to reason with the men. He was again ordered out of the room. Barrett then ordered the men to fall in two deep and march to St. Mary’s Hall, “Come on, I will show you a place where we can hold our meeting.”

The men ran cheering down the stairs and lined up two deep in the yard. Just as the gate was being opened Morrell shouted, “I appeal to you, for God’s sake don’t go any further with this thing. Don’t go outside that gate into the street. Don’t make a disgrace of the policemen of Belfast – I am going into my office. Appoint five men amongst you and I will let them confer with me there. I give you ten minutes to consider this.” The men agreed to this, met Morrell and made arrangements to see him again three days later on Saturday evening. Morrell issued a statement on Friday, July 26, admitting that he had agreed to see the men. “I have agreed to hear the views of the five men selected on Wednesday last tomorrow evening at my office and no more men are to attend unless I send for them” (“IN”, July 29).

The “Irish News” account of the Wednesday night meeting created a sensation. The Tory Press dismissed it as Nationalist rumour-mongering. The “Northern Whig” for example, describing the incident in which Morrell was knocked down, said: “All that happened was that his foot was trodden on.” Barrett, defying police regulations, wrote to the “Irish News” on July 27, under his own name, confirming the “Irish News” account and the “Constabulary Gazette” described the scene accurately “when physical force was resorted to resistance followed. County Inspector Morrell was knocked down and both he and Mr. Clayton were driven from the room; tables and forms were overturned and the police cheered defiance to all authority.”

Tom Sloan, Independent MP for South Belfast and prominent in the Independent Orange Order raised the matter at Westminster on Thursday, July 25, the day after the meeting. The authorities did not yet consider the situation serious. Augustus Birrell, Secretary for Ireland replied “there is some dissatisfaction on the question of pay, but full consideration will be given to any legitimate complaints”.

The serious nature of the police unrest became clear on Saturday, July 30. Morrell had asked to see five men, but by mid-afternoon many groups of policemen could be seen making their way to Musgrave Street Barracks. They had to push their way through a dense cheering throng of strikers for it was clear to the strikers that something was afoot. That morning it had been announced that Barrett was suspended for writing to the press, and that any gathering at Musgrave Street was banned.

Despite this more than 500 and perhaps as many as 800 policemen arrived to pack the courtyard at the barracks. Barrett marshalled the men into ranks six deep. They represented a broad cross section of rank and file policemen in Belfast. A Unionist Councillor, Frank C. Johnston told the “Telegraph” (Monday, July 29) that the gathering was not “of a party (i.e. sectarian) nature at all, as he saw at the meeting members of the force representing the different religious denominations”. Although mainly the younger members of the force, there were men there with 10 or more years’ service.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Morrell and Clayton arrived to try and get control of the situation. Morrell read a statement suggesting that the men should hand in their names and forward a request for a meeting to the Inspector General. At this stage he was loudly jeered and the officers departed in some haste.

Barrett then spoke, he announced his suspension that morning, but he clearly feared that the situation was getting out of hand. He told the men “all I just ask you to do is this – let each and every one return to his barracks. Do your duty loyally and faithfully until this evening week, and then we will hold a meeting”. Many of the men there were dissatisfied with this proposal and there were cries of “Too long” and “We’ll give them one hour to reinstate you”. Barrett replied, “No, we will give them eight days to consider the matter and give us a definite answer.”

He told them that their petition had been forwarded to the Commissioner and that in due course it would go before the Inspector General, a Westminster MP (probably Sloan) had been given a copy. The petition contained the demands which had been circulated several days earlier, it did however contain this last paragraph: “The urgent character of the demands now made by the men necessitates their being urgently attended to, and, acting on our instructions, we have to press strongly, and with the greatest possible respect, for a definite assurance within a week that our case will be favourably dealt with forthwith.”

When this was read out the police broke into deafening cheers, the strikers outside burst through the doors and joined the policemen. Barrett spoke again, he welcomed the strikers saying “it has been alleged that the authorities can put 10,000 men in our place, but there are 100,000 loyal union men in the City who will support us”. He then announced that the next police meeting would be held on the Custom House Steps, and read out telegrams of support; that done he asked the crowds to disperse.

The crowd however was far too roused to simply go away. Barrett was chaired by constables and strikers and carried to the Custom House Steps. Total indecision ensued. There were calls to demonstrate outside the Commissioner’s house, to wreck the barracks, to go to the docks. Barrett persuaded them to avoid violence, and they returned to the barracks. From there they went out by the gate into Townhall Street and to the City Commissioner’s office in Chichester Street. The five district delegates elected on the Wednesday night, including Barrett went in accompanied by a Unionist Councillor, F. C. Johnston, JP. The delegation were informed that Assistant Inspector-General Gamble was to arrive from Dublin at 6 p.m. and would discuss any grievances. At 6 p.m. the crowd reassembled within the barracks. However, it was not until 8 p.m. that Barrett reappeared with the result of the talks with Gamble. He told the meeting, “I am suspended. He has refused to reinstate me.” Once again Barrett asked everyone to disperse. Again both civilians and police suggested that they rush the Commissioner’s office.

At this point the strike leaders appeared for the first time. The men who had demanded action were prepared to stop and listen to the leaders of the dockers, the carters and other strikers. The speakers included John Murphy, Secretary of the Trades Council, Alex Boyd, leader of the Municipal Employees, one of the strike leaders, and also prominent in the Independent Orange Order, and also James Sexton, General Secretary of the National Union of Dock Labourers. Despite their oratory the strike leaders from outside proved less militant, less critical in their assessment of the position of the rebellious policemen than the policemen themselves. Alex Boyd told them “he hoped that Colonel Sir Neville Chamberlain (the Inspector-General) in whom he had every confidence would investigate the matter to the bottom”. When the heat had gone out of the situation, with much talk of this kind, the strike leaders suggested that civilians should leave, and soon after the policemen began to disperse.

By failing to take any immediate action the policemen had already sealed their fate. They had timed their action to take advantage of the existing situation in Belfast, and their sole strength lay in forcing concessions while the authorities were powerless. Instead they attempted to go through legal channels in a situation in which they had no legal rights at all. As a result they had given the authorities eight days’ grace.

The Tory Press were quite aware of the position by Monday. The “Newsletter”, which had dismissed the whole affair as Nationalist rumour, now said, “When we say that these men numbered more than 500, that they met in defiance of orders, and that they or some of them hooted their officers it will be seen that the situation is serious enough and calls for prompt and decisive action on the part of the government.”

The authorities were already moving into action. The Assistant Inspector-General arrived on the evening of Saturday, July 27. He held talks with County Inspector Morrell for most of Sunday. Meanwhile officers, head-constables, and sergeants from all stations met under District Inspectors Kelly, Gelston and Clayton. Stern tactics for dealing with the mutiny were decided upon. Assistance was called for from Dublin, the decision to send in troops, which must have had the support of Augustus Birrell, Secretary for Ireland, was made, six new magistrates were sworn in. There was disagreement, however. District Inspector Kelly of the West division resigned from the force rather than accept a transfer.

The first troops, 500 men of the first battalion of Cameron Highlanders and 700 men of the Berkshire Regiment, arrived in the City on Tuesday July 30.

These signs of impending doom had their effect on the policemen. “Willing to Strike”, writing on Wednesday, July 31, said “Comrades, the demon of division is amongst you. ‘Divide and Conquer’ is the latest move.” Moderates were proposing to go back to square one and submit a new petition to the Inspector-General. Although caught between the authorities intent on repression, and the moderates hoping to salvage something, the “More Pay” movement was still active. On Wednesday, July 31, they send round a circular aimed at the higher ranks who were at that moment preparing to crush them. It was addressed “To the head-constables and sergeants of the RIC desirous of joining in and assisting the movement for increased pay and pensions”. Replies to the following questions were “respectfully requested”:-
“1. Are you in agreement with action of the men carrying on the ‘More Pay’ movement?
2. Do the demands made on behalf of the force meet with your approval?
3. Are you prepared to strike and agitate and co-operate with the men if and when required in order to force the concessions claimed?
4. In view of the fact that the County and District Inspectors and other high placed police authorities are strongly opposed to the ‘More Pay’ movement and in as much as the government have been misled in the past by the representations of these officials as to the pressing character of our grievances and the crying injustice of our case, the men are of the opinion that all our future representations and communications should be direct to the responsible minister of the crown. For this purpose we require to know, are you prepared, notwithstanding disciplinary regulations to the contrary, to support the decision come to, to hold direct communication with authorities other than the police authorities?”

Unfortunately, by the following day, Thursday, August 1, it was clear that “other authorities” were just as unsympathetic as the police authorities. The Under-Secretary for Ireland gave the reply to the petition handed in by the men the Saturday before. His statement included the following: “It is impossible for the government to entertain a petition presented under such conditions of disorder and insubordination, and of which the concluding paragraph is of a threatening nature.” Before any representations were heard there would have to be a “complete re-establishment of discipline”. The petition was “a serious discredit to all the constables concerned”. Constable William Barrett was dismissed and six other constables were suspended.

The next day, Friday, August 2, the day before the next planned meeting of dissident policemen, further blows fell. 200 policemen, most of whom had been involved in the trouble were told to prepare for immediate transfer to distant and scattered country areas. On Saturday morning the “Newsletter” reported that their replacements were already billeted in Lisburn and “the married and senior constables of Antrim, Down and Louth have been communicated with and ordered to hold themselves in readiness to take duty in Belfast when required.” The same morning the “Irish News” reported that most of the men at Mountpottinger, Springfield Road and Musgrave Street Barracks were to be moved that morning.

The price of militancy was now clear. Barrett’s most enthusiastic supporters were being got out of the city before they could cause any more trouble. Any tempted to join in the Saturday demonstration knew what lay in store for them.

The only encouragement for the police in Belfast came from RIC men in other parts of Ireland. At Athenry on August 1, 70 men met, and again the following night despite the opposition of the local DI. They passed three resolutions.

1. They objected to being made herds of.
2. They would stand by any strikers who were victimised.
3. They would support a strike.

Support also came from Tipperary and Nenagh. Cork, however, was more typical. On Tuesday, July 30, the men agreed to apply to the Inspector-General for permission to hold a meeting. On Friday, however, they were refused permission and instead of taking any action decided to wait and see what would happen in Belfast.

Belfast was packed with troops on Saturday, August 3. The English “Daily News” described the scene: “The great industrial centre, crowded with 6,000 soldiers represented an armed camp. It is impossible to imagine a dockers’ strike at Liverpool or Hull producing such a tremendous marshalling of military forces.” The “Constabulary Gazette” voiced the fears that day “the military have been pouring into the city, and it is no exaggeration to say that in all sections of the population there is a reign of terror” and “if the police and the military are set in active opposition the result will be hell”.

A huge crowd gathered, on the Saturday afternoon at the Custom House Steps, and at 4 p.m. Barrett appeared to speak. He told the crowd that “No military can make men work who are dissatisfied with their conditions. Down with blacklegs and cheap labour say I whether in civilian or constabulary life. All men are entitled to a living wage. Complaints are made that we demand redress of our grievances at the wrong time. I quite agree that we ought to have struck out for more pay at the time of the Boer War when there was no military force available in this country”. Barrett had perhaps by now realised his tactical error in not pressing home the advantages held by the policemen. He went on to describe the police as “victims of a degrading system engineered by the successive governments in the interests of the landlord reactionaries against the masses of the people by the manufacture of crime”. He considered that much of the work of the ordinary policemen involved detaining people for offences which only landlords would consider to be crimes, he believed that the RIC was vastly overloaded with District and County Inspectors and in order to justify their existence these men aided and abetted this “manufacture of crime”.

After the meeting Barrett was chaired by the demonstrators and a crowd of between 3,000 and 5,000 followed him as they toured the barracks of West Belfast. The procession went via the Donegall Road, Upper Library Street and Townsend Street, and then along the Falls to the Springfield Road returning by the Grosvenor Road.

For all the noise and clamour the march did not achieve its objectives, the mutiny itself had been utterly crushed. Many of Barrett’s supporters had left on trains from Great Victoria Street that morning, the others dared not appear. For the first time there were signs that sectarian politicians, in particular Nationalists, were more interested in the police mutiny than the labour leaders. The “Newsletter” reported that there was “a large Nationalist element in the crowd”. The “Telegraph” headed its report “NATIONALIST DEMONSTRATION – Ignored by the Constabulary”. Many of the marchers had shouted “Home Rule for Ireland” and there had been signs of tension when the march neared the Shankill.

Nationalists were, of course, interested in the police mutiny, far more interested than they were in the labour struggle. The police mutiny and the introduction of British troops raised for them the purely national question of British force in Ireland. The Dungannon Club, later to merge with Sinn Fein, led by Bulmer Hobson, later a bitter opponent of the Labour movement in the South issued a characteristic statement which included “for too long Irishmen have done the dirty work of their British masters for pay, but some of us are finding out that it pays better to be true to Ireland than to sell Ireland. The RIC are finding out at last that they are the sons of Ireland before they are the servants of the English government, and that if they strike it won’t be the heads of their brother Irishmen they’ll hit.”

The Labour leaders were far less anxious to talk about the police mutiny than the Nationalists. It raised difficult questions for them. When policemen in the South and West supported the Belfast mutineers, did that mean that Belfast strikers and mutineers were expected to throw in their lot with the Southern peasantry? If strikers either fought the military or supported mutineers were they not in fact threatening the whole fabric of British Rule in Ireland? No Labour leader had the courage to spell that message out. They still held to the belief that the strike movement was a strictly economic and non-political affair. But the strike had grown so large that it could no longer remain non-political. The police had mutinied because of the pressures put on them by the strike. When Labour leaders had nothing to say about the mutiny and let it die a quick death, their supporters were simply confused, and what was worst of all, stood by as 6,000 troops came into the City, little realising that once the soldiers had dealt with the police, they would deal with the strikers. Four days after Barrett’s final forlorn meeting on August 3, 1,000 troops were out protecting blackleg carters.

Some Labour leaders did not merely stand by while the mutineers were crushed, they believed that if the strikers showed their loyalty to the government during the mutiny, they might even gain by it. Mr. Appelton, a British TUC delegate, attempted to settle the carters’ dispute during the police mutiny because “there was a very serious danger of a conflict between the police and the military. I felt that it would be of the greatest use to remove one of the elements of danger if possible before Saturday (July 27) because then certain steps were to be taken in connection with the dismissal of some of the police”. Note that Appelton considered the striking carters as “an element of danger” which indeed they were if you were more concerned with the continuing stability of British rule in Ireland.

The episode of the police mutiny illustrates well the main failing of the labour movement in the North, often against all the odds the workers of Belfast have reached the brink of success, but the greater their success the more political questions about the whole nature of society in Ireland and its control are raised. When the labour movement flinches from those questions and claims to be non-political, or turns to British Parliamentary Democracy in its hour of crisis then it is defeated and often smashed. In 1907 they had to work with the police to succeed, they dared not do it and failed.

There is then perhaps a final comment. Events such as these occurred in a decade typified as that when all Ulster Protestants, rich and poor, exploiter and exploited stood shoulder to shoulder against an equally united Catholic population. For those who have perpetuated the myths of Ulster’s history “Willing to Strike’s” words fit well. “There is no one so blind as he who will not see.”

Transcribed by Niall who says I left it 'as written', so there might be a few minor grammar/punctuation mistakes as on the original ('Augustus Birrell' should be 'Augustine Birrell', wagon is spelt 'waggon'...)

Taken from www.wsm.i.e.


The People's Democracy: A Brief History - J Quinn

The January 1969 Belfast to Derry march, organised by People’s Democracy, modell

Introducton by Workers Solidarity Movement (who originally transcribed the article here):

The No6 edition of the British "Anarchy" magazine published in 1970 [actually 1971 - Libcom] was largely given over to articles written by members of 'Peoples Democracy'. This article gives a PD view of the history of the north from 1960 to 1970 including the formation of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) and the origins of People's Democracy.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 4, 2020

Lynch Liberal Reform?

Ten years ago, Northern Ireland was a relatively quiet backwater as far as the rest of the United Kingdom was concerned. True, it had just weathered a sustained campaign (1956-62) by the IRA, but that had failed to weaken the constitutional link between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. In fact, the IRA campaign, which consisted of blowing up customs posts, attacking police stations, cutting down telegraph poles and booby-trapping the odd policeman, had demonstrated the "unity" of the Ulster people - the restraint of the Ulster Protestant in the face of such "terrorist provocation", and the refusal of the Ulster Catholic to support the activities of such "evil men". Some scores of these "evil men" were imprisoned (without trial, of course, but then no one really minded), and when it came to the time to release them, even the Northern Ireland Labour Party, in the shape of David Bleakley (now Minister of Community Relations - 1971 style) was prepared to forgo its usual fence-sitting act and came out against the release of the "murderous" internees.

But a cloud loomed on the horizon, Lord Brookeborough, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland since he stabbed J.M. Andrews in the back during 1943, decided to retire to a local geriatric farm. He handed over the tiller of the ship of state to one of the clever young members of the gentry, one Terence O'Neill, thus giving a kick in the teeth to the nouveau-riche upstart called Brian Faulkner.

Unfortunately, Terence didn't heed the advice given to him by his wiser predecessor and was soon to be seen visiting Roman Catholic convents and photographed shaking the hands of nuns and generally giving the impression that Roman Catholics were almost human. This, mark you, despite the fact that he had hitherto been prepared to play the dutiful Protestant and inserted such ads in the local papers as:

"Protestant Girl required for housework.
Apply to the Hon. Mrs. Terence O'Neill
Glebe House, Ahoghill, Co. Antrim."1

This laxity and liberalism caused such moral degeneration that he was soon led down the slippery slope and was found guilty of inviting the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic to tea and biscuits at Stormont. This action to people who had just suffered at the hands of republican terrorists, was too much, and the rumblings of loyalist discontent were like a Christian Scientist with appendicitis. A saviour was on hand, however, a man of God, who was prepared to lead the children of Israel through the stoney desert of cross-border co-operation to the promised land of an Ulster with the British connection, British finance, and British tolerance for a colonised nation.

This saviour - Mr. Paisley, was a loud-mouthed cleric: scheming, ambitious and bigoted. He knew what his audience liked - the titillation of fornication stories from the bible, laced with modern analogies to the harlot of Rome and its political alter ego, Irish republicanism - and he was prepared to give it to them if that was to be the passport to political success.

He threatened to lead a march of outraged loyalists during the 1964 election campaign on the headquarters of the Republican Labour candidate, who had the effrontery to display the Irish tricolour in the windows of his headquarters. Since the headquarters were situated in the heart of the Catholic ghetto, the incident aided by the police who did the job for Paisely by breaking into the house with axes and removing the offending flag, led to the outbreak of the Divis Street Riots (1964). These were the first riots that Belfast had experienced for thirty years.

Paisley's political star was in the ascendancy. All he needed now was a means of showing Ulster (and the world) that he was more Unionist than the official Unionists. This opportunity came with O'Neill's attempts to transform the cruder aspects of religious discrimination into a less overt form which was more in keeping with the requirements of modern capital investment. His reformism was underlined by the emergence of the Civil Rights movements in Northern Ireland.

During the mid-sixties a group called the Campaign for Social Justice, based in Dungannon, had been assiduously collecting the numbers of Catholics employed by the local authorities and comparing this with the proportion of Catholics in the same area. 2 This they used to determine the amount of discrimination. At the same time a republican front organisation called the Wolfe Tone Society, with the backing of the Communist Party, began to discuss the social and political set-up in Northern Ireland. In 1967, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was set-up mainly as a result of the coming together of these groups. NICRA was based on the the constitution of the English National Council for Civil Liberties. It was liberal in all its attitudes, timid and afraid of confrontation - not very surprisingly when one considers the CP's influence. NICRA's main activity in these days was issuing press statements. They were given an opportunity to do rather more when, in August, 1968, they were invited to lead a march from Coalisland to Dungannon protesting against the corrupt allocation of council houses. 3 A similar march was planned for Derry in October, organised by the local Housing Action Committee. 4 Again NICRA was invited to participate. Among those who travelled from Belfast was a random grouping of Young Socialists, Anarchists, Liberals and some disaffected students.

What occurred in Derry that day - the ban on the march, the batoning of the marchers, and the subsequent police attack on the Bogside has been sufficiently well documented to require no further description here. What is worth examining in more detail is the effect those scenes had on the coachload of young workers and students who had travelled from Belfast that day, and came face to face with the reality of "law and order" in the shape of a baton cracked across the skull.

Some of the marchers were already politically active with a coherent political philosophy - some of them even carried a Committee of 100 banner on the march! - but most had never though seriously about politics or the nature of the state. The most common attitude was one of vague liberalism. The transformation of the vague liberalism into conscious libertarianism, and the widespread support which libertarian ideals received subsequently, was a phenomenon hitherto unknown in Northern Ireland.

Stunned - literally - by the police action, the group licked its collective wounds and in the bus on the way back to Belfast decided to try to get some kind of protest underway in Belfast. It was decided to hold a march in Belfast from the University to the City Hall, on the following Wednesday afternoon. Fifteen hundred people, mainly students, assembled at the University. The direct route to the City Hall let through Shaftesbury Square near Sandy Row. As such it was considered Loyalist Territory and the Reverend Paisley decided to hold a counter-demonstration to prevent the "holy ground" being taken over by "republicans, rebels, anarchists and communists".

The police fulfilled their usual function in re-routing the march away from the square. By the time the marchers arrived at the rear of the City Hall they discovered yet another police barrier in Linenhall Street. Paisley had taken over the front of the City Hall for a prayer meeting (sic). Unable to proceed further, the marchers staged a sit-down for about four hours, then marched back to the University, frustrated at their impotence to carry out a simple protest meeting due the connivance of the police with the loyalists' tactics, but determined to do something about it.

A very noisy, emotional and exhausting meeting took place and lasted until after midnight. Attempts were made by established student politicians to direct the meeting, but these were quickly stifled, for while most of those present were not politically motivated, they were quite determined that they should not be used as pawns by aspiring politicians. In doing so, they showed a healthy disregard for conventional politics and set the tone for all future developments. Bureaucracy was outlawed, organisational authority was to rest with the people, or be delegated to sub-committees with no executive powers and which were to be subject to immediate recall. A committee for co-ordinating the various activities was elected on this basis and the prime criterion for eligibility was that one should be "faceless", that is politically unknown and uninvolved. Of the ten people elected to this committee, two have achieved some degree of notoriety - Mr. Kevin Boyle and Miss Bernadette Devlin.

There followed a series of nightly meetings of interminable length, though the adrenalin-induced feverishness of the participants gave them energy enough to cope with the physical as well as the emotional demands of their involvement. At the second or third meeting a name was decided upon which would encapsulate the desires of those involved to achieve a libertarian viewpoint in contrast to the repressive nature of the state. The name selected was the People's Democracy. But while the intent of the PD at that time was to get involved and oppose the non-participation of the population which passes fore democracy, their political outlook was limited to reformism.

As an early leaflet states:- "The main goal of the movement is the achievement of civil rights, specifically our five stated demands (These were: One man-one vote; fair boundaries; houses on need; jobs on merit; repeal of the Special Powers Act.) The movement is committed also to the principle of non-violent action."

Despite the innocuous nature of these demands, in the Northern Ireland context they were revolutionary. What is more they were being made by a group which cut across the sectarian divide as well as the political fence, comprising Catholics, Protestants (and Jews and atheists), socialists, nationalists, republicans, and liberal Unionists. Because of this they achieved widespread publicity, and soon acquired a facility in controlling the media by reversing the manipulative process which usually passes for independent reportage.

The PD advanced from being a simple protest group to the role of militant campaigners for civil rights. Their flair for publicity demonstrated their recognition of the importance of communications. Tourist posters with "Come to Ulster" slogans had the word "fascist" inserted in the appropriate place. Post-cards advertising the beauties of Ulster were over-printed with pictures of slums and figures for unemployed. A sit-in was staged at the Stormont Parliament on United Nations Human Rights Day. A similar sit-in at the City Hall was followed by police violence and an attempt to snarl up the evening rush-hour traffic. Various attempts were made to march to the City Hall via Shaftesbury Square to demonstrate the right of peaceful procession, but on each occasion the way was blocked by police cordons who were only too willing to accept the analysis of Mr. William Craig to the effect that the PD was "disloyal" and therefore could not march through "loyalist" territory.

However the PD was moving towards a deeper and more fundamental analysis of the Northern Ireland problem and its own role in it. Marches, it was decided, were fine for publicity, but a more positive educational polcy was needed. "The PIP" (Play to Inform the People) was an attempt to start a dialogue on civil rights among the the people, of all types and classes, to point out the injustice existing on all sides in Northern Ireland. To hammer this point home - that injustice is not confined to Unionist controlled areas - we chose Newry as a start. Successful public meetings were held. However, when we continued the PIP campaign in Armagh and Dungannon, physical violence was used against us and the meeting either harassed or broken up.

Behind the statement lies the fact that, confronted with an opposition group which was not Catholic, and which indeed was prepared to attack Catholic corruption as well as Unionist chicanery, the NI Government reacted in the only manner it knew how, by stirring up violently sectarian feelings among loyalists by claiming that the centres of towns were being taken over by Anarchists and troublemakers, who were Catholics in disguise, and who wised to destroy the fabric of society. Having succeeded in engineering violence, the government then made its gesture. Terence O'Neill made his "Ulster at the Cross-roads" speech, which was remarkable from his other speeches only in that it contained more nauseating platitudes and homilies to the paragraph than usual.

Some civil rights groups were taken in by this and arranged a truce with the government. This was particularly true in Derry where the conservative influence of John Hume, later MP, was making itself felt in the Citizen's Action Committee. The PD refused to participate in this truce and said that O'Neill's 5-point reform package was an attempt to gull the people and delay reform. However a march in Belfast - to Stormont - on December 14 was cancelled. This was due to two factors: (a) the liberal Unionists and "moderates" believed that with O'Neill's assurances, the civil rights movement was now unnecessary and should disband: and (b) more importantly, the open nature of the PD organisation, where anyone who attended a meeting was automatically a member and entitled to vote, meant that the movement was subject to being flooded by people hostile to its aims who would use their votes to distort the policy decisions being taken.

This is precisely what occurred over the December 14 march. The University Unionist Club "the Cuckoo Club" managed to pack the meeting with their supporters and on a close vote, the march was called off. At a later meeting however, a further march was arranged, this time covering the 75 miles from Belfast to Derry. The story of that march, the continual harassment, the police partiality, culminating in the highly organised ambushes at Burntollet and Irish Street, has already been told (in "Burntollet by Egan and McCormick), but its effects had massive reverberation. O'Neill who castigated the marchers and ignored their attackers, was shown to be a sham. Within his own party there was a rebellion because he was "soft on civil rights". 5 So he called an election.

Elections in Northern Ireland are usually so predictable that no one pays much attention to them. Fought along sectarian lines, it merely requires one to know the religious affiliation of any constituency to be able to predict the result. Because of this most constituencies were never contested prior to 1969. Terence O'Neill, PM, had never had to fight an election in all his twenty-one years in parliament. But this time, there was something different. The PD decided to put up candidates.

The decision was reached only after much soul-searching. How, it was asked, could the PD ask people to vote for them to put them into parliament when they had been denouncing parliament as a sham and a farce, and politicians as corrupt place-seekers? The dilemma was a genuine one, and not only for the anarchists within the PD. But the PD was not seeking power, nor even parliamentary representation. They recognised however, that for most people, elections are a time when they consider politics and politicians, if only superficially. With their eye on the publicity and the communications opportunity offered by free television time and postal deliveries, they put forward eight candidates. They stressed at their meetings and in their pamphlets that they were not out to merely win seats.

"In the turmoil of the election campaign it is important that we do not forget that, for the Peoples' Democracy, fighting the election is only one of many tactics".

"We are contesting seats, not to joion the carpet-baggers and place-seekers, but because it offers an excellent chance to put our ideas to the people and keep the demand for civil rights in the limelight. For us democracy is a continuous struggle by the people, not just marking a ballot paper every four or five years."

"People's Democracy must become more and more concerned with special issues, on housing ... on jobs ... factory closures ... trade unions. The main idea to push home is that we must depend on the power of the people and put no trust in Stormont".

Already the differences between PD policy and that of NICRA were becoming apparent. The PD was beginning to recognise that there was more, much more, in civil rights than the mere passing of voting laws or anti-discrimination legislation. The realisation of the need for economic and social issues to be raised as well indicated the development and change from being a liberal civil rights movement to a socialist one. The election manifesto included the following points: -

1. An end to repressive legislation. Repeal of the Special Powers Act. The disbanding of the Ulster Special Constabulary.

2. The declaration of a housing emergency. A crash housing programme. All vacant housing accommodation to be requisitioned. The cancellation of the Housing Trust debts to the Central Banks, to allow the Trust to build more houses.

3. A centrally drawn up points system, based only on need for allocation of houses, with a central board of appeal. The drafting of a housing list open to inspection by the public. An end to social and religious discrimination in housing.

4. Immediate state investment in industry to provide full employment and halt emigration. A massive injection of capital by the government to set up industries under workers control in those state-owned factories vacated by those fly-by-night private industrialists.

5. We recognise the right of parents to determine the kind of education they want their children to have. We want the transfer of responsibility for all educational functions to a democratically elected central government. The grouping together of schools, both state and voluntary - starting with secondary and technical colleges - into a comprehensive system integrated on a social and religious basis involving parents, students and teachers in the government of such schools. Cast iron guarantees that there will be no discrimination in the appointment of staff and that there will be no political indoctrination in education.

6. We oppose the existing agricultural policy of the government which involves the clearing of large numbers of farmers from the land in the west and south of the province. We want employment for all members of the rural community in their own area. We feel that the situation in which a few people control huge estates while many others barely exist on very small holdings is unjust. We suggest that these huge estates are broken up and used to form cooperative farms for those small-holders willing to move into them.

7. We are making our demands for civil rights in Northern Ireland. We recognise the right of the people of Northern Ireland to determine their own political future. The border is not the issue. Civil Rights is. Many of our demands in the North are equally relevant in the South and we support those who are working for full civil rights there and elsewhere.

This manifesto can be faulted on many counts; and it has been by those who claim that it demonstrates PD is not Marxist or Socialist, or Republican, or libertarian. But in February, 1969, the PD itself did not claim to be anything specific, other than a militant civil rights organisation. Already though, the need to look beyond the narrow limits imposed by civil rights activity was making itself felt. True, there was as yet no recognition of the roles played by capitalism and imperialism in Ireland, North or South; but the election manifesto quoted above, shows a searching and groping for solutions to to the economic, social and political problems which made Northern Ireland a bigot's dream and a libertarian socialist's nightmare. They show as well a desire to extend the same freedom which existed their own organisation to the society at large, and to give people control over their own lives in industry through a system of workers control, in education and agriculture. The implications, or methods of implementation, had not been thought through, but the libertarian concepts central to a restructured society in which people controlled their own lives were pushing through.

The major flaw, if flaw it be, was in the final point which stated that the struggle was confined to Northern Ireland, and that the border was not an issue. This point was seized upon by some politically sectarian leftist groups which even now, more than two years later, use it as proof of PD's pro-imperialist stance! The criticism would be valid if the PD, at that stage in its development, had claimed to be a revolutionary socialist organisation. It did not so declare itself until October 1969. In February, its membership, while steeped in political activity since the previous October, tended to a adopt a militant stance and then find political justification later. But on the border issue, they were aware that the Unionist government, divided against itself, and under pressure from Paisley on the right, would attempt to reunite their all-class Protestant alliance by revealing the danger to the constitution and to the border. Consequently there was an attempt to bend over backwards in order to placate the Protestant worker and assure him that he was not being inveigled into exchanging "the blue skies of freedom for the greys mists of an Irish Republic", that, in fact, the PD programme was designed to benefit all workers and not merely those on one or other side of the political divide.

Across the Lines

The PD election campaign succeeded in uniting Catholic and Protestant more than ever before, and in the most unusual circumstances. The PD tactic of opposing usually uncontested Nationalist as well as Unionist seats had a traumatic effect on the green and orange tories. In Fermanagh, where there are three constituencies - two Unionist and one Nationalist - the PD stood in all three areas. On polling day, in South Fermanagh the local Orange Order Lodges ferried their members to cast their votes on behalf of the aged Nationalist MP Carron, while in the neighbouring Unionist-held constituencies, the reverse was the case with the local Hibernians turning out in force to support the Unionists against the "red menace" (sic).

There were many other examples of unity in favour of PD, with old republicans sharing polling booth duties with young Protestants. This was further shown in the results themselves where PD candidates did remarkably well. In fact one of them, Fergus Woods, almost did too well in South Down. On the first count, he was elected by nearly 200 votes. There was consternation, not least among the PD workers on the count. On a recount it was decided to add several spoiled votes to the tally of Keogh, the incumbent MP, and so he held on to his seat, to the relief of the PD. In South Derry, the Minister of Agriculture, Major James Chichester-Clark, defeated Bernadette Devlin by 9,000 votes to 6,000, while in Bannside the Prime Minister won on a minority vote against Ian Paisley and Michael Farrell. 6

Back to the Streets

Having used the election as a means of putting their policies across to the people, the PD prepared to carry out their election promise and return to the streets at once to protest against the Public Order Amendment Bill. This was an addition to the arsenal of repressive legislation, and opposition to it by the PD indicated that the path they had started on was to be mainly political. The Civil Rights Association and the various Citizens Action Committees decided not to hold any protests since this would be likely to cause trouble and lead to violence. The PD went ahead and organised sit down protests in six centres - since sit-downs were made illegal in the Bill. Thus the difference between the "political" PD and the "non-political" CRA became more apparent. The chief architects of this politicising of the movement were Michael Farrel, Eamonn McCann and Cyril Toman, who were responsible for developing the lines of socialist thought à la Marx and Connolly, and John McGuffin who ensured that these lines should not be too narrowly drawn and that the libertarian idealism of the early PD should not be lost in a welter of factional disputes and bureaucracy. Marx and Connolly were read and referred to, but not treated in the hushed reverence of holy ikons which is common, on the left. Even "good old Trotters" was spoken of with complete irreverence. Stalin occupied a place close to Sir Edward Carson, Sir James Craig, William of Orange and William Craig.

Throughout the spring and early summer of 1969, the PD continued its programme of politicising the civil rights movement, not only by its agitation on repressive legislation, but by attacks on those conservative elements in NICRA who tried to maintain that civil rights was non-political, and that jobs and housing had nothing to do with it.

A considerable advance in its political outlook occurred between February and Easter when the PD decided to have a march from Belfast to Dublin. This was significant on several counts. It represented a break with the constitutionalism of the election period. It was the first time since 1921 that anyone had attempted to break through the partition mentality which afflicted the Irish people - even the republicans to some extent. Above all it was an indication that the PD opposed the superficial but widespread belief among Catholics that all would be well if only the tricolour were flying over Belfast City Hall. It was an acceptance of the fact that the same problems existed in the "Free" State as existed in the Six Counties, and therefore an agreement with the oft-repeated Protestant allegation that life in the South was a vicious circle of low wages, unemployment, bad housing and emigration caused by low unemployment benefits, the lot compounded by the interference of the Roman Catholic Church in political life.

For these reasons the PD marched south, crossing the border displaying banned books - by Henry Miller and Edna O'Brien!! - in opposition to the South's censorship laws. The march whose route from Belfast to the border had been banned by the Unionist Government, had been swollen by large contingents of revolutionary socialists and anarchist comrades from Britain.

Organisationally, the march was poorly planned, and this led to some tensions and an occasional flaring temper. But politically the march was very important, insofar as it foreshadowed the absolute dominance of socialist thought within the PD. Not that there had been a "take-over" by the socialists from the liberal and uncommitted mass of the organisation, but rather that when confronted with the full range of social, political and economic problems which burgeoned in Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland, the socialists - including the libertarian and anarchist groupings - were the only ones who had a coherent and rational analysis of the situation and who could propose solutions which coincided with the anti-bureaucratic outlook of the membership of the left, and to the point where they accepted as part of PD policy, the establishment of a 32-county Workers' and Small Farmers' Republic.

In the wider context, the political situation in Northern Ireland was hotting up. There was another armed police attack on the Bogside at the end of April during which the RUC broke into the home of Sammy Devenney, batoned his family and himself, inflicting injuries from which he died. Intermittent violence broke out in other areas, Dungiven, Coalisland, and the Ardoyne and Falls areas of Belfast, as the police used intimidatory attacks on the people, against demonstrations, or just out of bloody-mindedness.

On July 12 Orange marches were held, and the usual sectarian speeches made. Major Chichester-Clark, speaking at Moneymore made a violent attack on the People's Democracy in "making a full-time profession of protest". Serious rioting in Derry, Lugan, Dungiven, and Belfast. In Dungiven a man died of head injuries after a police baton charge.

On July 26 the PD planned to hold a march in Fermanagh to highlight the way in which the county was gerrymandered, the high unemployment and emigration from the area. The march and all meetings of the PD in Fermanagh were banned. On the day in question, before any meeting was held, individual members of PD, carrying placards, and walking down the street fifty yards apart were arrested. One of those arrested carried a blank placard. Shortly afterwards, a meeting and sit-down took place at which 53 people including women and children were arrested. At a special court held during that night the women and children were granted bail and the 37 men were remanded in custody.

The cumulative effect of all these incidents rendered inevitable the violence which erupted in Derry during the Apprentice Boys' march on August 12, and which quickly spread elsewhere, notably to Belfast, where police Shoreland armoured cars and Ferret scouts with heaving Browning machine guns led combined RUC, "B" Special and extremist Protestant attacks on the Catholic ghettoes of Falls, Ardoyne and Ballymacarrett. In Derry and Belfast these areas were barricaded off against such attacks and became known as Free Derry and Free Belfast.

These "free" areas were bought at great cost - the deaths of at least eight people, the destruction by petrol bombing of 500 working-class homes and the intimidation and eviction of at least another 1,000 families. Further it was bought at the cost of direct intervention by the British army.

The Barrel of whose Gun?

This created problems for the PD and the left in general. Balanced against their desire to see and end to people being shot down in the streets was their knowledge that in the long term the presence of the military could only make the situation worse. This was shown in leaflets which were issued in Derry and in Belfast. In Derry the opening sentence of the broadsheet stated, "The Arrival of British troops on the streets of Derry is a defeat for the RUC: but it is not a victory for us." 7 The Belfast leaflet asked: "Why have the British Government put troops into Northern Ireland?" and answered that the military were here "to hold the ring while Chichester-Clark tries to liberalise the Unionist Government", and explained how peace and reform in Northern Ireland was to the benefit of British capital at this time, just as sectarianism had been useful in the past.

The "troubles" of August 1969, also saw the end of PD policy of total non-violence, and the adoption of the philosophy of self defence. But while the main burden of defence fell on the republicans during the 13th, 14th and 15th, it was after that the PD came into a position of dominance, mainly due to its capacity for control and communications, propaganda and the media. Radio Free Belfast and Radio Free Derry were established and run mainly by PD. The main policy of the stations was to damp down sectarianism, attack the corruption of local Green and Orange politicians, and put forward a solution in terms of a united working-class combining to overthrow those who had manipulated them and set them at each other's throat. A daily newspaper, "Citizen Press", was put out in Belfast. "Barricade Bulletin", written mainly by Eamonn McCann, was put out in Derry. All these things were done in close co-operation with the local republicans until the ideological gurus were dispatched from Dublin HQ to lay down the "right line" to the local units. It seemed that the local people, in their eagerness to fight against the armed wing of the Unionist Government, had forgotten about the need to adhere closely to the stages theory of historical development. 8 Therefore their attempts to overthrow the reactionary Unionist regime were "adventurist", since they were missing out the very important stage of the "bourgeois revolution". So with the advent of Stalinist directives, the PD, finding its movement circumscribed, once again asserted its own independence by establishing its own newspaper - a weekly called "Free Citizen" - which is still running.

They also decided to break away from the Queen's University, to lose the student image and establish branches in various centres throughout Northern Ireland. In so doing, they transformed themselves from being a loose organised group into a political movement with a clearly defined political philosophy. In the 18 months since then they have proved not only their determination, dedication and staying power, but also they have had not forgotten the ideals which sustained the early PD; opposition to injustice, destruction of political privilege and the establishment of social conditions whereby people would be in a position to control their own lives and their own localities.

J. Quinn.


"Disturbances in Northern Ireland" (Cameron Report).
"Struggle in the North" by M. Farrell.
"The Great Eel Robbery" by M. Farrell
"Free Citizen"
"Northern Star"
"The Sins Of Our Fathers" by Owen Dudley Edwards.
"La Rumeur Irlandaise" by J.P. Carasso
"Burntollett" by Egan and McCormick

  • 1O'Neill's "Protestant Girl" ad appeared in the "Belfast Telegraph" in November, 1959.
  • 2Statistics from "Eye Witness in Northern Ireland" pamphlet by A. Corrigan, 1970 - see chart linked from this page.
  • 3A centrally drawn up points system, based only on need for allocation of houses, with a central board of appeal. The drafting of a housing list open to inspection by the public. An end to social and religious discrimination in housing.
  • 4Immediate state investment in industry to provide full employment and halt emigration. A massive injection of capital by the government to set up industries under workers control in those state-owned factories vacated by those fly-by-night private industrialists.
  • 5We recognise the right of parents to determine the kind of education they want their children to have. We want the transfer of responsibility for all educational functions to a democratically elected central government. The grouping together of schools, both state and voluntary - starting with secondary and technical colleges - into a comprehensive system integrated on a social and religious basis involving parents, students and teachers in the government of such schools. Cast iron guarantees that there will be no discrimination in the appointment of staff and that there will be no political indoctrination in education.
  • 6We oppose the existing agricultural policy of the government which involves the clearing of large numbers of farmers from the land in the west and south of the province. We want employment for all members of the rural community in their own area. We feel that the situation in which a few people control huge estates while many others barely exist on very small holdings is unjust. We suggest that these huge estates are broken up and used to form cooperative farms for those small-holders willing to move into them.
  • 7The "Derry Broadsheet" was turned out by various groups, mainly individual members of the Derry Labour Party, Cyril Toman and myself. "No Victory For Us" one was the first of these and was written by Eamonn McCann. The others came out daily and were duplicated sheets.
  • 8"Stages Theory" Well beloved by our CP brethren. It is basically a mechanistic application of the concept of historical development and progression, i.e., from feudalism, capitalism, socialism, anarchism. The CP and many republicans here believe that Marx stated that in general one has a bourgeois revolution, and therefore we must first fight for the establishment of a bourgeois state, and once that has been achieved, go on to struggle for socialism. We reject this entirely, considering that 1916 was the bourgeois revolution, culminating in the 1921 Treaty. In any case it is not our job to do the fighting on behalf of the bourgeoisie, to put them in power and then see them use that power to crush any libertarian movement which opposed them.


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The Hole: Crumlin Jail - "Major Mullen"

An account of an anarchist's time in Crumlin Road Young Prisoners Centre (Belfast) in the early 1970s.

From Anarchy #6 (second series) 1971.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 5, 2020


I was arrested in a fairly quiet area of Belfast last August, two days after the murder by the army in a fairly small riot, of a youth, Danny O'Hagan, allegedly for throwing a petrol bomb. The incident sparked off a week of vicious rioting all over Belfast, even in areas which had previously seen none. I was out walking with my brother and a friend not far from home when we were picked up by the military and charged with disorderly-behaviour, which at the time carried a mandatory six month jail sentence. Soldiers don't like rioters or riots. By arresting us they were able to get away from the scene to which they had been sent as reinforcements. They vented their anger in the old way.

When arrested I was wearing my black badge. They did not like any explanation that this was in mourning for Danny O'Hagan1 . We were convicted on very thin evidence and sentenced to serve six months. On appeal one soldier was forced to admit that he did not actually make the arrest which he had spent the previous 20 minutes describing. Estimates of crowd size, - given by the soldiers, varied from 12 to 500. We had four further witnesses to corroborate our story but nonetheIess the conviction stood.

Belfast Prison works in much the same way as other British prisons. As Young Prisoners we were entitled to very few privileges in the first month. Pay was 3/- per week and we were locked up every evening at 4.30 p.m. We saw no television, except at weekends, worked seven days a week and suffered the same gruel and disrespect as the other prisoners. We were given jobs in the dining hall and spent our days scrubbing floors and doing equally mundane work.


I worked every day of my committal (including- Saturnalia) except for two days that I spent "sick in cell". For the first few weeks the prison officers made it their duty to let us know our place. After a month we were given a few more privileges; television at 8 p.m. every evening except Sunday and pay on a points system. I was then able to earn as much as 6/3 a week. Making friends was easy. A work squad very quickly becomes a gang. Within these groups there is, on the surface at least, a strong sense of loyalty. I noticed that one or two individuals could hold positions of respect. When the dirty jobs were shared out (prisoners could often decide their own scheme) these individuals got off easy.

Prisons, for some reason, abound with working class people. Throughout the rioting political manouvring has ensured that most of the prisoners came from one side of the sectarian fence. Again the heaviest sentences were given to these people. Consequently the proportions of "Catholics" to "Protestants" in Belfast Prison does not reflect the regional trend.

This cannot be explained away wholly by saying that Catholics do most of the rioting or that no Protestant subversive army exists. This state of affairs manifests itself in the almost complete division of the prison into two camps. The vast majority of the prisoners were brought up in the ghettoes and the prison itself is a system of superimposed ghettoes.

Catholics and Protestants often share the same cell2 . Prisoners are forced to sit where they are put in the dining hail. Mixing occurs. On these occasions, and during "association" the time when all prisoners watch television, this mixing is inevitable. Division is most obvious in the work parties. Some jobs are considered more desirable than others. Dining hall work is not one of them. The hours are longer and one works every day. All members cf the dining hall worksquad (barring the occasional misplaced new prisoner) are Catholics. For long term prisoners the most desirable job is that of orderly. This involves keeping the place tidy and arselicking the screws for confiscated tobacco. The other most desirable job is a trade. This offers the young prisoner the opportunity of finishing his apprenticeship or picking up the threads of a new one, if the facilities happen to be available.


In the Young Prisoners' Centre, while I was there., there was only one Catholic orderly, out of a turnover in my time of about 20 and in the trades, when I went in, there was only one Catholic.

Later a young Catholic, serving eight years for possession of a firearm, was given a job. It was made clear that the reason for this was that he could be watched more closely in that part of the prison. When a vacancy arose a young Protestant serving six months was given it in preference to any one of a fresh batch of IRA men starting sentences ranging from two to eight years for possession of arms.

In Belfast Prison, probably more than in any other, a political prisoner lives in suspicion of everyone else, particularly those of a different political (and often religious) persuasion. During my time I learnt to trust one other individual that I had met there. My politics were known to most of the prisoners but in their minds I was grouped with the republicans. I was seen as a "Catholic anarchist". As a result of this I found it nearly impossible to talk to Protestants, especially those in for political offences.

I was talking casually to one, asked where he lived just for the sake of conversation, and he answered, "I'd be a fool to tell you that". He probably thought I wanted to shoot him sometime outside. All he did by saying that was virtually convince me that he was a member of the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force —Protestant fascist army as distinct from IRA "provisional"—Catholic fascist army).

Short-termers were always suspect. Political prisoners are always on the look out for Special Branch spies. The greater danger is from fellow prisoners who try to make life easy for themselves by arselicking the screws. If they are non-political they may think that they have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by telling on other prisoners. While I was inside two men were shot dead on separate occasions shortly after release. Maybe they had something to lose, their lives.

I firmly believe that there are prisoners in Belfast Prison working directly for the Special Branch. I was told by a fellow prisoner that two men who had been shunned, because they were suspected of this, were granted immediate discharges. I found out more about the IRA in prison, through the idle talk of others than I could have learnt anywhere else. Every pub in Belfast, known to be frequented by subversives, is also frequented by army intelligence and Special Branch, who often make no effort to disguise themselves (they don't actually come in uniform). Spies are in the prison but I suspect that most of them are genuine convicts either arselicking or being threatened by the authorities.


As in probably all prisons the inmates are treated with contempt. It is impossible for a prisoner to make a complaint and, unless suffering from something very small or very serious, impossible to get adequate medical attention. Several genuine protests were made by the prisoners. In December a group of prisoners refused to take their evening meal on the grounds that it was inadequate, as it always is. They were all locked up and asked individually if they wanted to make a complaint. Eleven did. They were brought before the Board of Visitors (the Ministry's impartial non-political henchmen). Their complaint was found to be groundless and the men were confined to their cells without privileges for 22 days. On another occasion prisoners working out in the woodyard refused to work in the poor weather without adequate clothing. The Governor was called for. He told the prisoners to work and this time only one refused.

He was given three days, "on the board". That is solitary confinement on a restricted diet of one pint of soup, one pint of tea and dry bread. Prisoners on the board are forced to sleep on a bare wooden table. Later all prisoners were given special outdoor dress. On another occasion a prisoner, a personal friend, tripped over a log in the woodyard. He hurt his hand and went to see the doctor. Three times in three weeks the doctor diagnosed a sprained hand. On the fourth week he discovered that three fingers were broken. The young man received hospital treatment but by that time his hand was irreparably deformed. Again another friend had his wrist broken in an incident with a screw. He moved from his seat during meal time without permission. The screw, being a playful animal, pulled out his baton and struck the man on the wrist. This was in front of about 200 witnesses.. The man insisted on making a complaint but was told that if he did so he would be punished, for making a groundless complaint. He was offered an already typed statement to sign, accepting most of the blame for the incident. No complaint was made.


Screws are not animals. The one involved in this incident was never noted for brutality, he was just carrying on. Many screws just carry on, making themselves a nuisance, feeling good by being a nuisance and occasionally hurting somebody. But brutality is a fact. I have seen prisoners badly beaten. On no occasion did I receive anything worse than a punch on the jaw but I have seen many prisoners being kicked in the stomach, the testicles and the head, beaten with keys and whipped with the strap of a baton.

Screws have a real hangup for tidiness, but take real pleasure in wrecking cells, throwing beds in the air, pouring piss all over the cell, beds and all and scattering personal belongings everywhere. I have known this to happen to the same cell three time in one day despite the fact that prisoners must always keep their cells spick and span with the floors shining.

Several times in the four months of my incarceration various politicians visited the prison "to investigate allegations of poor conditions". Ex-prisoners had dared to allege brutality, sickening food, inadequate clothing, broken windows in many cells and inadequate sanitary provisions.

Everyone should understand that the people from slums are used to such things. Such people do not mind shitting in poes and sharing a toilet with 74 other prisoners and such people, even if they work in the kitchen, would not wash their hands anyway, even if the facilities were there3 .

Politicians of all parties found the allegations to be groundless. The leader of the main Opposition party at Stormont, Social Democratic and Labour Party MP Mr. Gerald Fitt declared, "I was delighted to see no hint of sectarian friction". Belfast Prison is not a place, he declared, he would mind staying in if he had a few good books. It is the place where he, and his friends of all parties should be.


The Great Irish Cement Strike of 1970 - "FE 3 C. (CEMENT)"

Hugely entertaining account of the Peoples Democracy group's militant support for the six month unofficial strike by cement workers in Drogheda and Limerick in 1970.

From Anarchy #6 (second series) 1971.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 5, 2020

The cement strike began in Eire in February, 1970. The main employer Cement Limited made £6 million profit in 1969. They paid £1,685,000 out to their shareholders, that is over £2,000 for every man out on strike (750). The workers' case was that for a dirty filthy job—dermatitis was an accepted occupational hazard—their meagre wages of £13 16s. plus an 8s. bonus which hadn't been increased for 20 years, was totally inadequate for a 40-hour week.

A massive new plant in Drogheda threatened redundancies and at least an end to overtime on which the men depended in order to make a living wage. They negotiated for a £7 a week rise. The company offered 50s. It was refused. The Labour court approved the offer with the proviso that another pound a week be payable from 1st June. The strike was on. The Irish Transport and General Workers Union behaved despicably, as did the ATGWU.

Only £5 a week was paid out in strike pay, and very little effort was made to black all cement coming into the South, which would have ended the strike considerably sooner than eventually transpired. The strikers themselves, assisted by other workers in solidarity with their cause did manage to destroy 8,000 tons of cement which were hi-jacked at various times when scabs attempted to bring it across the border.

In the North the Peoples Democracy (PD) was the only socialist group to get involved following contacts with the strikers. Money was collected in both Armagh and Belfast for the strikers and leaflets distributed in both towns, and distributed at the border to would-be scabs. Several articles appeared in the "Free Citizen", but as the strike wore on more and more scabs in the North began to take advantage of the cement shortage in the South. Anyone with a lorry could make himself £80 for a 60 mile drive. Various small ports began to be visited by cement-carrying ships. Following representations from the strikers and the PD the Belfast dockers agreed to black all cement coming in, but the trade went on through the small ports of Cushendun, Kilkeel and Ardglass.

The PD began holding meetings in these towns and were well received, -even in Kilkeel, a well-known Paisleyite/Ulster Volunteer Force stronghold. On June 16 the PD went down with a group of 30 people to hold another meeting on the pier at Ardglass where they had been informed by locals that cement would be unloaded. A previous meeting had been well attended by local people and there had been no trouble, so only 30 went along. The PD marched down the pier and began to set up the loudspeaking equipment within earshot of the scabs. There were only three local policemen about, leaning indolently against the wall.

As the people gathered around the car with the microphone, a cement-carrying lorry accelerated into the crowd forcing some of them to jump for their lives. One youth threw a stone at the departing lorry without inflicting any damage and suddenly two tender loads of Royak Ulster Constabulary men, the riot squad, appeared out of nowhere. The youth was seized and dragged into the tender. A PD member went up to ask what the charge was and where he was being taken. He was seized by an hysterical Inspector R. L. Brown and thrown in also. DI Campbell then seemed to go berserk and ordered his men to "get stuck in" to the people standing beside a pile of fish boxes.

Without the hated TV cameras to record their fun and games the riot squad were obviously intent on a bit of revenge. 425, Trevor Little (known jocosely to his friends as "the beast") completely lost control and assaulted three bystanders before he was hauled off by less zealous colleagues, and Sergeant Ferguson and Inspector McFarland excelled themselves with "zest". Within four minutes 15 PD members, including two girls had been arrested. Brown arrived at the tender and pointed at the prisoners saying to his grinning underlings "pick a man and charge him".

The lack of control of the police and in particular their officers surprised even the hardened veterans amongst the ranks of the demonstrators. When DI Campbell was asked by a speaker why people were being arrested he screamed "why don't you all go down south where you belong". None of the demonstrators was from Eire.

The prisoners were taken to the local sty where several had to have medical treatment—Dermot Kelly in particular after an attempt to tear his balls off by Sgt. Ferguson while he was being held by five minions. Two more people were arrested outside the station for "jaywalking", a charge which was altered to "disorderly behaviour", the commonest charge, closely followed by "assault". The two girls and three juveniles were allowed bail, the rest taken to a cell in Belfast and brought to Bangor in the morning where bail was reluctantly granted after guarantees for £1,700 were produced. (It was as well that' most answered their bail since the PD didn't have £170 let alone ten times that amount.)

The trial itself was a travesty. It was held in front of the arch-bigot Walmsley, who announced himself convinced of the moral turpitude of the prisoners in advance saying that the police "had informed him that the words 'pigs' and 'corrupt court' had been found written on a spectator's bench during the three day trial". The PD were ably defended, for free, by Paddy McCrory, Ulster's nearest to a people's lawyer. However, he was unable to be in the court for all the cases since it was held miles away in Downpatrick and his deputy was abysmal. Not that it mattered really. Despite the admitted perjury of various constables and one inspector—whom McCrory crucified in the box, to the dismay of the 70 police who crowded into the small court to intimidate the witnesses—a local man who agreed to give evidence was immediately summonsed himself—Walmsley lived up to his reputation. The class nature of the verdicts were interesting also. The two teachers were acquitted, the student& were fined and eight workers (including one girl) were given sentences ranging from four months to 15 months.

All sentences were automatically appealed. After the case there was much discussion. We had been framed, but we had only ourselves to blame. We knew the police were after us and we weren't careful enough. Either we should have done absolutely nothing illegal OR we should have acted secretly and not got caught. As to the conduct of the case we had fallen between the two stools of treating it as a political trial—which it was—or treating it as a civil trial and doing anything short of a deal to get off. (It is also perhaps true to say that the fact that one of the defendants, who had several previous convictions, had skipped bail, with our prior knowledge, and hadn't helped matters by ringing up Walmsiey, a RM whom he knew of old, on the morning, of the trial and giving his name. "Why aren't you in cour this morning?" asked RM Albert. "You have to catch me first, motherfucker" was the rejoinder, which, however apposite. may not have done his co-defendants any good.)

Obviously a purge was on. Within a week PD members found themselves facing over 100 summonses for everything from squatting to picketing and even 30 summoned for drinking after hours. We replied with articles on police perjury and invitations to sue in the "Free Citizen" and unflattering references to Albert, but we determined not to forget the cement strike. One condition of continuing bail had been an undertaking not to go back to Ardglass and so the campaign was switched. In addition to trying to find the £400 needed for outstanding fines we continued picketing and leafletting.

For no other reason than to harass the police 18 official complaints concerning police brutality—all genuine as it happened—were made. The senior police officer who conducted the "impartial" inquiry subsequently admitted that it had taken up over 1,000 man hours.

However, in Armagh, the peace was disturbed by a strange phenomenon. Within the course of two weeks no fewer that 21 lorries owned by cement scabs mysteriously combusted. Worse still, at the time the police and fire brigade were at the other side of the town dealing with anonymous and malicious phone calls. Subsequently police have told claims tribunals that they believed the fires to be the work of a "well-known local group of political troublemakers", but that no one had been apprehended—an incredible admission of incompetence.

Compensation is hard to obtain unless it can be proved that three or more people were responsible for the conflagration. A certain "plumber" Duffy, himself a former PD member, gave evidence. A pathetic figure, the plumber had been an enthusiastic member until tempted by the big profits to be earned by scabbing he had taken his lorry on the cement run, claiming to be "checking up on local scabs". He had been expelled, somewhat forcibly from the local PD HQ down a long flight of stairs. Speaking as well as he could considering the circumstances he claimed to have been at PD meetings when the names and addresses of local lorry-owning scabs had been announced and that the speaker had said that as a "private individual he was powerless to prevent the righteous wrath of the people". Duffy is, of course, scarcely a reliable witness for his lorry was mysteriously set alight amongst the six remaining Armagh lorries the next week.

The destruction of 27 lorries by person or persons unknown ended the lorry running from Armagh, but the habit had spread unfortunately to Newry where five cement loads were destroyed. Here it is true to say that it was perhaps more due to the zeal of the Newry fire brigade who were summoned on several occasions to parked cement lorries which were, they were informed by local bystanders, on fire. In vain did the drivers protest that this was not so and that the token fire had been extinguished.

The stern-faced and diligent Newry fire brigade, all union members, solemnly hosed down five loads of cement, inadvertently destroying them, but doubtless saving the town from a mighty conflagration. More serious was the irresponsible outbreak of hooliganism, which the local papers maliciously blamed upon Newry PD, when a ship bearing cement attempted to enter Newry harbour and unload. Over 200 local people emerged from their houses and stoned the boat out of the harbour where it was forced to return to Holland without unloading.

After 22 weeks the cement strike ended in partial defeat for the strikers. They were granted more money but it was tied into a productivity deal. The suffering of the strikers and their families had been great and the unions emerged with no credit, nor the English unions which refused to black the cement, nor the "democratic socialist people's republic of Poland" which shipped most of the cement. The cement industry has now been taken over by the government.

The epilogue to the PD's part in the struggle came in October, when the appeals were heard. These resulted in Dermot Kelly being acquitted (he had got 15 months from Walmsley), a clear acceptance by RM Brown, no liberal, that the police had been guilty of both perjury and brutality. Micky McCullough, James Ruddy, Brid McGlade, and Denis Cassin all got their sentences reduced and suspended. Oliver Cosgrove got his seven months reduced to one month, Eugene Cassin and Brian Vallely had to serve sentences of four and six months respectively. John McGuffin and Joe Quigley had previously been acquitted. John Curly who had skipped bail was eventually caught some months later but due to a technicality and the able defence of PD's new lawyer only served two months. Albert Walmsley is still on the bench but a changed man.

The crown prosecutor has been heard to say "that bastard Walmsley's been intimidated by all those phone calls and letters, he's no bloody use for a conviction now". Surely no one believes this harsh judgement! Is it likely that a man of such proven experience and thuggery would allow his judgement to be affected? Those who point to his rapid mellowing are obviously forgetting the consequences of old age. His colleague RM Fox whose house was bombed last month is also a man of stronger stuff than these terrorists! The spell in jail has not affected adversely any of the PD members — eight of whom have now done time, indeed their protests against brutality by warders has even resulted in some of them drastically altering their behaviour, though some say that the explosion outside the house of the notorious screw Madden was in some way influential.

The PD had nothing to do with this and it was only coincidental that he had been named in the "Free Citizen" the week before. The paper is more than willing to sue anyone rash enough to assert otherwise. The lessons to be learned from the cement strike action, only one of the many campaigns the PD engaged in in the last two years, are several. Firstly, more planning before demos. Secondly, concerted courtroom tactics. Thirdly, the power of solidarity, with the dockers who blacked cement in Belfast and Larne, and with the strikers whose meetings we attended in Drogheda and Dundalk and who supported us when we were in court. Finally, the virtues of "self help" and local initiative.


Anarchy: The Great Brain Robbery 1971

Special un-numbered issue of Anarchy magazine on education.

Submitted by Fozzie on October 24, 2020


Anarchy Editors are offering this special issue of 'The Great Brain Robbery' as a substitute for the issue which did not appear earlier in the year. So our subscribers will please note that they will only receive Anarchy (New Series) 1-11 for this years subscription plus this special 'surrogate' issue.


  • Process and Praxis
  • Peters and Kant
  • Models of Education
  • The State, Society and the Individual
  • Integration Through Diversity
  • The Definition of the Situation
  • The Cognitive Wedge
  • Authority and the respect for persons in the context school
  • A note on intelligence
  • Law and Order
  • Education and Social Control
  • What is so special about Educational Ethics?
  • Peter's anti-evolutionary view of human nature
  • Authority splits wants from needs
  • A note on self-regulation and circularity
  • PART TWO: The need for utopian thinking
  • PART THREE: Left progressives in the schooling business - The Rank and File Group - Fraternal Criticism



Anarchy #07 1972

Seventh issue from Anarchy magazines second series. Most articles concern workers councils and workers self management.

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 14, 2018


  • Workers' Councils: translators' introductions
  • Preliminary Notes on Councils and Organisation - Rene Riesel (from Internatonale Situationiste #12)
  • Some Advice Concerning Generalised Self-Management - Raoul Vaneigem (from Internatonale Situationiste #12)
  • A Novel of the General Strike: - Lyman Tower Sargent on Syndicalism and the Co-operative Commonwealth: How We Shall Bring About the Revolution by Emile Pataud and Emile Pouget.
  • Review of Cesar M Lorenzo's Les Anarchistes Espagnol et le Pouvoir - Tom Levene
  • Review of Max Stirner's The Ego and His Own - S. E. Parker
  • Community Relations in Newham - Jerry Westall
  • Shotblaster - Jim Burns
  • The Trial of Politics or the Politics of the Trial (Angry Brigade) - Nick and Bart
  • Editorial Statement


Anarchy #08 1972

Eighth issue of Anarchy magazines second series, articles in this issue mostly cover North America.

"The material for this issue was gathered by Friends of Malatesta, Box 72, Bidwell Station, Buffalo, N.Y. L4222, USA."

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 14, 2018


  • Selections from the Constitution of No Authority - Lysander Spooner
  • Selections from the Anti-mass
  • Northarnerican Anarchism: problems and tasks - Steve Halbrook
  • A New Declaration of Independence - Emma Goldman (from Mother Earth, vol. IV, 1909/10)
  • Sitting Bull in Canada
  • Thoreau on Economy, Slavery and Alienation - Bob Dickens
  • About Malatesta - David Wieck
  • Review: Giovanni Baldelli's Social Anarchism - Bob Dickens


Anarchy #09 1972

Ninth Issue of the second series of Anarchy magazine. This issue focuses on Urban Guerrilla groups.

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 14, 2018


  • Listen Liberals, The Sound of the Peoples' Chemistry - Henry Bonny
  • The Angry Brigade
  • The Red Army Faction
  • Anti-Mass: Collectives as a Form of Organisation
  • Counter Subversion - Emelio Henri


Anarchy #10 1972

Tenth issue of the second series of Anarchy Magazine.

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 14, 2018


  • Craigavon New City - Roger Willis
  • Editorial Comment: Freedom, A Vote of No Confidence
  • Trials and Tribulations (Angry Brigade)
  • A Revisionists Attack Against Anarchism and its Movement - Marcus Graham (reply to Steve Halbrook article in previous issue)
  • Letter - Mary Godwin
  • Aspects of Anarchy: Albert Libertad - S. E. Parker
  • Free 'free' (transport) - Arthur Moyse
  • Review: Stoke Newingon 8 Defence Group's Armed Resistance in West Germany - jl
  • Review: Mathew A Crenson's The Unpolitics of Air Pollution - Josefina Mena
  • Review: Victor Peters' Nestor Makhno: The Life of an Anarchist - George Woodcock


Anarchy #11 1973

The eleventh issue of the second series of Anarchy magazine, many articles focus on prisons.

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 14, 2018


  • The Gartree Prison Riot - Bike
  • The Turn of the Screw (cartoon)
  • The Struggle for Freedom: How Prison Abolition Can Help - Vicky Tudor
  • Vorkuta, Twenty Years On - Peter E Newell
  • The Hip Trade of Porn Capitalism - Mary Godwin
  • The Selling of a Feminist: Review of Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch - Claudia Dreifus
  • The Nature of Non-Violent Fascism and the George Woodcock Myth - Albert Meltzer


Anarchy #12 1973

Twelfth issue of the second series of Anarchy magazine focussing on Spain in the 1970s.

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 15, 2018


  • Power - C.P.
  • The Labour Movement In Spain - Albert Meltzer
  • The CNT Constitution
  • Aspects of Anarchy: Ernest Coeurderoy and Joseph Dejacque - Nicolas Walter
  • I Was Just on the Way to the Launderette When This Uniformed Man Grabbed Me (cartoon)
  • What's Wrong With Freedom? - Jerry Westall
  • Discussion accusations levelled against Freedom's coverage of the Stoke Newington 8 - Jerry Westall
  • Review: Colin Ward's Anarchy In Action - Jerry Westall
  • Review: April Carter's Direct Action and Democracy - Jerry Westall
  • Review - Daniel Guerin's Anarchism
  • Review - Stuart Christie & Albert Meltzer's Floodgates of Anarchy - Miguel Garcia
  • Review - Murray Bookchin's Post-Scarcity Anarchism - R.B.
  • Review - John McGuffin's Internment - Jerry Westall


The labour movement in Spain : Albert Meltzer on Spanish anarcho-syndicalism

KSL: Albert Meltzer was a long-standing supporter of the anarchist movement in Spain. One of our friends suggested we make this article available as one of the best things he wrote. It’s also representative of many of the things he cared about: anarchism, history, emancipation and class struggle.

Submitted by Kate Sharpley on November 3, 2013

On the whole there has been little or no study of the Spanish labour movement. The success of the insurrection against Tsarism so captivated the imagination of the world that attention, from the point of view of revolutionary socialism, has thereafter been riveted on Russia and what concerns its interests. The State “Socialism” that triumphed in that country is no doubt worth studying, if not experiencing: but from the standpoint of any sincere revolutionary - even one who might not consider himself a libertarian - it is surely more richly rewarding to look at the case of a labour movement that could sustain itself through generations of suppression; that could dispense with a bureaucracy; and that could maintain its character of control by the rank and file.

There are, of course, faults and failures. These may be better understood following a study of the working class movement, and dispensing with the criticism of the anarcho-syndicalist offered by Trotskyist sources which make false comparisons out of context with Russia and deal with a period of only three years out of ninety; as a result of which, even among would-be libertarians, the years of struggle and achievement are dismissed with a vague reference to “bureaucracy” which asserted itself at that period, or among Marxists, with a titter - “he-he anarchists entered the Popular Front Government” - as if there was no more to be said on the matter.

The Spanish labour movement had five overlapping phases which can be summed up in five key words - the “international”; the “union”; the “revolution”; “anti-fascism” and the “resistance”. Each represents a different phase and the mistakes, and betrayals appear almost entirely in the fourth (“anti-fascist”) phase.

The significant character of the movement is played down deliberately for a simple reason: it overwhelmingly disproves the Leninist thesis, equally flattering to the bourgeois academic, that the working-class, of itself, can only achieve a trade union consciousness - with the corollary that trade union consciousness must be confined to higher wages and better conditions, and without the guiding hand of the middle-class elitist, would never understand that it could change society.

The “International” Phase

The historians want on the one hand to say that Bakunin was a poseur who boasted of mythical secret societies that did not exist; and on the other hand that he, by sending an emissary (who did not speak Spanish) introduced anarchism into Spain. In fact, ever since the Napoleonic wars - and in some parts of Spain long before - the workers and peasants had been forming themselves into societies, which were secret out of grim necessity.

It is sometimes alleged that “liberal” ideas entered Spain only with the French invasion. What in fact came in - with freemasonry - was the political association of the middle class for liberal ideas (and the advancement of capitalism) against the upper classes, and their endeavour to use the working class in that struggle. But the working class and peasants had a known record of 400 years insurrection against the State. It is their risings and struggles, and the means employed - long before anarchism as such was introduced - that are used by historians as if they were describing Spanish anarchism. In Andalusia in particular the peasants refused to lie down and starve, or to emigrate en masse (only now is this political solution being forced on them): they endeavoured to make their oppressors emigrate - that is to say, to cause a revolution, even locally.

In the eighteen-thirties the co-operative idea was introduced to Spain (relying on early English experience); and the first ideas of socialism were discussed, basing themselves on the experiences of the Spanish workers and also borrowing from Fourier and Proudhon. The early workers’ newspapers came out, especially in the fifties, and revealed the existence of workers’ guilds in many industries, including the Workers’ Mutual Aid Association. Because of the Carlist wars - and the periodic need to reconcile all “liberal” elements - a great deal of this went on publicly, some of it surreptitiously.

The first workers’ school was founded in Madrid by Antonio Ignacio Cervera (fifty years before the more famous Modern School of Francisco Ferrer). He also founded a printing press whose periodicals reached workers all over the country. Cervera was repeatedly persecuted and imprisoned (he died in 1860). It was from the ideas of free association, municipal autonomy, workers’ control and peasants’ collectives that Francisco Pi y Margall, the philosopher, formulated his federalist ideas. The latter is regarded as “the father of anarchism” in Spain. But he did no more than give expression to ideas current for a long time.

During the period of the general strike in Barcelona (1855) the federations entered into relationship with the International Association of Workers in London (later called “The First International”). It was quickly realised that the ideas of the Spanish section of the International were far more in accord with Bakunin’s Alliance than with the Marxists. In 1868 Giuseppe Fanelli was sent by Bakunin to contact the Internationalists in Spain. To his surprise - he barely spoke Spanish and said “I am no orator” - at his first meeting he captured the sympathy of all. Among his first “converts” the majority belonged to the printing trade - typographers like Anselmo Lorenzo, lithographers like Donadeu, engravers like Simancas and Velasco, bookbinders and others. It was they who were in Spain the most active, and the most literate of workers. They formed the nucleus of the International. (Marx wrote gloomily to Engels: “We shall have to leave Spain to him [Bakunin] for the time being.”) By the time of the Congress in Barcelona in 1870, there were workers’ federations throughout the country. The programme on which they stood: for local resistance, for municipal autonomy, for workers’ control, for the seizure of the land by the peasants, has not since been bettered. They did not fail because they were wrong; merely because (like the Chartists in England) they were before their time. There was no viable economy to seize. They could do nothing but rise and fight.

The bourgeoisie had totally failed, during their long struggle with reaction, to modernise the country. The Government persistently retained control by the use of the army and of the system of Guardia Civil which it had copied from France.

Workers’ Federations

In 1871 workers’ federations existed in Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Cartagena, Malaga, Cadiz, Libares, Alella, Bilbao, Santander, Igualada, Sevilla, Palma de Mallorca - taking no orders from a central leadership, standing on the basis of the local commune as the united expression of the workers’ industrial federations, and in complete hostility to the ruling class. It was essentially a movement of craftsmen - as in England the skilled worker became a Radical, in Spain he became an Internationalist. Pride in craft became synonymous with independence of spirit. Just as in England, where the village blacksmith and shoemaker became the “village radical” who because of his independence from “the gentry” could express his own views, and become a focus for the agricultural workers’ struggles - so in Spain he became an Internationalist (a stand which he easily combined with regionalism).

The first specifically anarchist nucleus began in Andalucia in 1869 - due to the work of Fermin Salvochea. It was there, too, that the International became strongest. As the repression grew so the anarchist ideas captured the whole of the working class movement. But the reason was not because Bakunin, Fanelli, Lorenzo or Salvochea had decided to give Spanish federalism a name, or to label it in a sectarian fashion. It was because the Marxist part of the International was growing away from them. During Marx’s struggle with Bakunin he was forced clearly to state his views in a specifically authoritarian manner. The idea of central State authority was precisely what repelled the Spanish Internationalists. The notion that they required a leadership from the centre was something they had already, in their own organisation, dispelled.

The International reached its peak during 1873/4. Its seizure of Cartagena - the Commune of Cartagena - would take precedence over the Commune of Paris for the “storming of the heavens” if greater attention had been paid to it by historians outside Spain.

The Commune of Paris showed how the State could be instantly dispensed with; but its social programme was that of municipal ownership and it was in this sense that its adherents understood the word “communist”. In Cartagena the idea of workers’ councils was introduced - it was understood that what concerned the community should be dealt with by a federal union of these councils; but that the places of work should be controlled directly by those who worked in them. This “collectivism” preceded by forty or fifty years the “soviets” of Russia (1905 and 1917) or the movements for workers’ councils in Germany (1918) and profoundly affected the whole labour movement, which for the next twenty years was in underground war with the regime: bitterly repressed, and fighting back with guerrilla intensity.

The conceptions which the British shop stewards brought to bear on British industry - of horizontal control - during the First World War, of horizontal control to circumvent the trade union bureaucracy - were inbuilt into the Spanish workers’ movement from the beginning. When the workers’ federations turned from the idea of spontaneous insurrections to that of a revolutionary labour movement and began to form the trade union movement, it had already accepted the criticisms of bureaucracy which were not even made in other countries until some forty or fifty years of experience was to pass; it saw in a union bureaucracy the germs of a workers’ state, which it in no way was prepared to accept. Moreover, the idea of socialist or liberal direction - urged by the freemasons - was seen quite clearly in its class context. It was this experience brought from the “International” period that made the labour movement the most revolutionary and libertarian that existed.


The essential regionalism of the Internationalist movement was somewhat different from trade unionism as it was understood in England. Instead of a national union of persons in the same craft, the basis of craft unionism, there was a regional federation of all workers. The federation divided into sections according to function. Thus it was possible for even individual craftsmen to be associated with the union movement, which accorded with the hatred most of the workers had for the factory system anyway. It also meant that when anyone was blacklisted for strike activities, he could always be set up on his own. Pride in craft was something ingrained in the internationalists. The most frequent form of sabotage against the employer was the “good work” strike - in which better work than he allows for is put into a job. It was something they employed even when there was no specific dispute (it is the reason why there were fewer State inspections of jobs for safety reasons and why today - the union movement having been smashed - one reads so frequently of dams breaking, hotels falling down or not completed to time, and so on). For this reason people trusted the union label when it was ultimately introduced and - despite the law and his own prejudices - an employer had to go to the revolutionaries to get the good workmen, or let the public know he was employing shoddy labour. “You are the robber, not us,” was the statement most often hurled at the employer who wanted honesty checks on his workers.

“Regionalism” - the association of workers on the basis of locality first, and then into unions associated with the place of work - was something that concurred fully with the insurrectional character of the movement. Time and again a district rose and proclaimed “libertarian communism” rather than be starved to death or emigrate (the latter solution was, years later, forced on them only by military conquest). It was for this reason that the seemingly pedantic debate began between “collectivism” or “communism” in the anarchist movement - fundamentally a question as to whether the wage system be retained or not in a free society - since this was indeed an immediate issue in the collectivities and co-operatives established with a frequency as much as in modern Israel - though with the significant difference that it was in a war against the State and not with its tolerant assistance.

Formation of CNT

The workers’ organisations persistently refused to enter into political activity of a parliamentary nature. It was the despair of the Republican and Socialist politicians, who were sure they could “direct” the movement into orthodox, legal channels. It was an attempt to divide the movement, not to unite it, that led to the formation of the Union General de Trabajadores (UGT) in 1888. It was a dual union, with only 29 sections and some three thousand members. The congresses of the regional movement - the Internationalist movement which by now was transforming itself into an anarchist one - had seldom less than two or three hundred sections.

In the years of terror and counter-terror that followed, attacks on the workers’ movement led to the recurrent individual counterattacks of the 1900s, resulting in the enormous protests against the Moroccan War that culminated in the “Red Week” of Barcelona. Meantime the socialist movement stood aloof, trying to ingratiate itself with the authorities in the manner of the Labour movement in England - then still part of the Liberal Party. The demand for national-based craft unions (raised by the UGT) thus became identified with the desire for parliamentary representation in Madrid. (History repeats itself: today, under Franco, the Comisiones Obreras are doing exactly the same thing - to gain Stalinist representation in the Cortes.)

The Spanish movement was entering its “union” phase, influenced strongly by the syndicalism of France. The Solidaridad Obrera movement (Workers’ Solidarity) adopted the anti-parliamentarian views of the French CGT whose platform for direct workers’ control was far in advance of the epoch, and which was already preparing the way for workers to take over their places of work, even introducing practical courses on workers’ control to supplant capitalism.

As the anarcho-syndicalist movement developed in Spain after experience of the way in which the parliamentary socialists had gained creeping control of the syndicalist movement in France and debilitated this movement, it was inbuilt into the formation of the CNT (Confederacion Nacional del Trabajo - National Confederation of Labour) that the movement should follow the traditions of federalism and regionalism that prevented the delegation of powers to a leadership. The CNT was created in 1911 (at the famous conference at the salon de Bellas Artes in Barcelona) as the result of a demand to unite the various workers’ federations all over the country - following strikes in Madrid, Bilbao, Sevilla, Jerez de la Frontera, Soria, Malaga, Tarrasa, Saragossa. It helped to organise a general strike the same year (as a result of which it became illegal).

It rose to overwhelming strength during the world war - its most famous test being the general strike arising from the strike at “La Canadiense”. From then on, for 25 years, it was in constant battle, yet the State was never able to completely suppress it.

25 Years of Unionism

The complete failure of some libertarians to understand even the elementary principles of the CNT throughout those years is staggering. When the structure and rules of the CNT were reprinted in Black Flag some comments both privately and publicly left one amazed. One reader thought it was a “democratic centralist” body, when the whole shape and structure of it was obviously regionalist. For years, indeed, a major debate raged as to whether unions should be federated on a national basis at all. Some could not understand it was a union movement, and pointed out the lack of decisiveness in dealing with national (political) problems.

Another saw in the rule that delegates should not be criticised in public “a libertarian version of don’t rock the boat, comrades”, comparing it with the determination of the TUC not to let its leaders (quite a different matter) be criticised. But the delegates were elected for one year only. They could be recalled at a moment’s notice if they were not representing the views of their members. Most of the time, as negotiating body, they were illegal or semi-legal. It was not pleasant for someone who avoided acting as a delegate, and who had the power to recall the delegate if there were sufficient members in agreement, to attack a named delegate in public. That is not the same thing at all as criticising a permanent leader or democratically-elected dictator such as one finds in British trade unionism. Nor is it the same thing as saying one should never criticise anyone at all. (It must, however, be held against the rule that in 1936/9 and after many refrained from criticising self-appointed spokesmen because of this tradition. )

Yet others, bringing a forced criticism of Spanish labour organisation in order to fit preconceived theories, have suggested it was subordinated to a political leadership, the Anarchist Federation playing a “Bolshevik” role (something quite inconceivable) or that of a Labour Party. What such critics cannot understand is that the anarchists relinquished the building of a political party of their own, and that it was only because of this that they had their special relationship with the CNT. Had they endeavoured to give it a political leadership, they would have succeeded in alienating themselves as did the Marxists. (The original Marxist party, the POUM, endeavoured for years to obtain control of the CNT: later, when the Communist Party was introduced into Spain in the ‘thirties, the POUM was denounced as “trotskyists” and even “trotsky-fascists” by the Stalinists. The Trotskyists proper took the line that the very existence of a revolutionary union was an anachronism and they criticised the POUM for trying to infiltrate the CNT rather than to enter, and aspire to lead, the UGT - though the latter was a minority organisation.)

Like many other anarchist groups in other countries, those in Spain were based on affinity, or friendship, groups - which are both the most difficult for the police to penetrate, and the most productive of results - as against which is the positive danger of clique-ism, a problem never quite solved anywhere. The anarchists who became well known to the general public were those associated with exploits which no organisation could ever officially sanction. For instance, Buenaventura Durruti came to fame as the result of his shooting Archbishop Soldevila, in his own cathedral [he was actually assassinated in an ambush, KSL] - in response to the murder, by gunmen of Soldevila’s “Catholic” company union, of the general secretary of the CNT, the greatly-loved Salvador Segui. With bank robberies to help strike funds, the names of the inseparable Durruti, Ascaso and Jover became household words to the many workers who faced privation and humiliation in their everyday life, and felt somehow revindicated as well as reinvigorated.

One must bear in mind the capitalist class was at this time engaged in its own struggle against the feudal elements of Spain (which even resisted the introduction of telephones). The economic struggle of capitalism (palely reflected in the political mirror as that of republicanism versus the monarchy) was an extremely difficult one: it made the struggle of the workers to survive that much more difficult. The employers did not have as much to yield as in other countries where industrialisation had progressed; had they in fact been further advanced, the amount so militant an organisation could have obtained from capitalism would have been staggering.

As it was, capitalism fought a constant last-ditch stand against labour. It was a bloody one, too, and it should not be supposed that individual “terror” was on one side. The lawyer for the CNT, a paraplegic, well known for his stand on civil liberties - Francisco Layret who could be compared with Benedict Birnberg here, who has complained he has been put on a police blacklist - was shot down in his wheelchair by employers’ pistoleros.

It was against such pistoleros that the FAI hit back. Anarchist assassination is taken out of its class context by Marxist critics. They did not think that individual attacks would “change society”, that the capitalist class would be terrorised or the State converted by them. They hit back because those who do not do so, perish.


While the local federations always opposed any form of common action with the republican or local nationalist parties, and sometimes lumped (correctly) the Socialist Party with the bourgeois parties, nevertheless on the whole they deplored the division in the ranks of the proletariat and as the struggle deepened in the thirties could not see why they should be separated from the UGT, or the Marxist parties - the CP, POUM or some sections of the Socialist Party. “Unity” is always something that sounds attractive. But notwithstanding the adage it does not always mean strength. Those who desire it the most are those who must compromise the most and therefore become weak and vacillating.

The popular mistake, too, is to assume that because these parties were more “moderate” in their policies - that is to say, more favourably inclined to capitalism and less willing to change the economic basis of society - they were somehow more gentle in their approach, or pacific in their intentions. Under the Republic the “moderate” parties (which had collaborated with the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera under the monarchy) created the Assault Guards especially to hit the workers, and the CNT in particular. To imagine an equivalent one must assume that in addition to the police, the Army are also on street patrol - as an equivalent to the Guardia Civil - but the Government brings in a special armed force (like the “B” Specials) to attack the TUC. This was a “moderate” policy as against the “extremism” of the anarchists who wanted to abolish the armed forces (which incidentally were plotting against the Republic). That was an “impractical and utopian” idea, said the Republicans and Socialists, who aimed to democratise the armed forces instead by purging it of older monarchists and bringing in young generals like Francisco Franco (whose brother was a Freemason and Republican, as well as a “national hero”), whose “loyalty to the republic would be assured”.


The problem that we are familiar with is that of a labour movement hesitant to take its opportunities, while the capitalist class seizes every possibility of advancing its interests. The problem for Spanish labour was entirely different: namely, that while it was determined and even impatient for Revolution, the capitalist class remained (until only a comparatively few years ago) afraid to interfere politically lest it upset the equilibrium by which the military were the last resort of the regime, and unwilling to move too far ahead industrially for fear of the State power dominated by feudal reaction. Only a few foreign capitalists were willing to take the plunge in exploiting the country. Thus strike after strike developed into a general strike, and the confrontation thus achieved became a local insurrection, for the capitalists were asked more than they would or sometimes could grant.

It is the insurrections which have been more often the concern of historians who inevitably talk of “the anarchists” and their conduct in running this or that local conflict: in reality, the anarchists had helped to create an organisation by which the workers and peasants could run such insurrections themselves. It is inevitable that because of this, mistakes of generalship would occur and it would be futile to deny that a highly organised political party could possibly have marshalled such forces much differently (this was the constant despair of the Marxist parties); but towards what end? The conquest of power by themselves. In rejecting this solution, other problems arose which must be the continued concern of revolutionaries.

What, after all, is the point of accepting a political leadership which might seize power - with no real benefit to the working class, as was the real case in Soviet Russia - by virtue of its brilliant leadership (and its tactical and tacit arrangements with imperialist powers) - or might (as the Communist Party did in Chiang’s China or Weimar Germany) lead, with all its trained “cadres”, to the same sort of defeat the man on the ground could quite easily manage for himself?

One other point must be taken into consideration, and that was the demoralisation of many militants after years of struggle in which enormous demands were made upon the delegates with absolutely no return whatever outside that received by all. There was no problem of bureaucracy (the general secretary was a paid official; beyond him there were never more than two or three paid officials) but then as a result there was no reward for the delegates, who suffered imprisonment - and the threat of death - and who needed to be of high moral integrity to undertake jobs involving negotiation, and even policy decisions of international consequence, that in other countries would lead to high office but in Spain led merely to a return to the work bench at best, or to jail and the firing squad at worst.

It is not a coincidence, nor the result of conscious “treachery”, that many militants who came up through the syndicates [note: Pestana, for instance, once General Secretary, later hived off to form his own political party (the “Treintistas” - after his “Committee of Thirty”).] later discovered “reasons” for political collaboration or entry into the political parties, which alone offered rewards, and every one of which hankered after the libertarian union, which alone had a broad base that would mean certain victory for whoever could command it.

The student-movement-inspired thesis is wrong: the FAI was not a Bolshevik nor a social-democratic party. If it had been, this problem would not have arisen. The problems of Spanish labour in those years were not problems of political control, nor whether the tactics of this party or that party were right or wrong (that is to think of Spain in terms appropriate to the Stalin-Trotsky quarrel, but the dispute between the rival gangsters of the Kremlin is not necessarily applicable in every country). Basically they were the problems of freedom, and of mass participation in its own destiny. We must not delude ourselves that these do not exist.

With this background of the labour movement it was impossible for the capitalist class to switch it round on the basis of nationalism and harness it behind themselves, as they had done with temporary success in many countries in the First World War, and with some permanent (as it then seemed) success in the Nazi era. The Falange tried to ape the workers’ syndicates but nobody was fooled who did not want to be. When the Falange failed in its task, as every attempt of the Spanish bourgeoisie failed - whether liberal, republican or fascist - the Army was brought in, in the classical manner of a ruling class holding power by force.

What took the ruling class by surprise - having seen the way in which the labour movements of the world caved in at the first blast of the trumpet (above all, the fabulous Red Army trained movement of the German workers under Marxist leadership reduced with one blow of the fist to a few, frightened people being beaten up in warehouses) - was the resistance to the nation’s own army by the working people. If at that moment the Popular Front (claiming to be against fascism) - realising its fate would be sealed with the victory of the Army - had armed the people, the rising would have been over. The result of their refusing to do so meant that trench warfare could develop, in which (against heavy arms, and later troops and planes, coming in from the fascist countries) the Spaniards could only resist, keep on the defence, and never mount an attack; hence they would be bound to lose in the finish.

One of the most significant trends shown in July 1936 was the seizure of the factories and the land by the workers. This was an experience in workers’ self-management which was not however unique - since the same attempts had been made by many collectives and cooperatives before - but whose scale was staggering - and which represented in itself a defiant gesture of resistance by the workers which the Popular Front Government wished to play down, and eventually suppress.

For this reason the Popular Front has never since ceased, through its supporters at the time, to harp on one theme only: the International Brigade. But this merits a separate article.

It was not merely the disciplinary and murderous drives by, the Communist Party that destroyed the collectivisation and self-management. One must add to it the fact that as the civil war proceeded, the workers, were leaving the factories in ever increasing numbers, for the front lines, which became ever more restricted.


The fact that the workers had, with practically their bare hands, prevented an immediate military victory and, as it seemed, prevented the rise of world fascism, caused a euphoric condition. The slogan was “United Proletarian Brothers”: the flags of the CNT mixed with those of the UGT. The Communists and Socialists were welcomed as fellow-workers, even the Republicans accepted for their sake. Undoubtedly the whole mass of CNT workers - and others - welcomed this end of divisions which seemed pointless as against world fascism. In time of war one looks favourably upon any allies: no leadership could have prevailed against the feeling that there were no more divisions in the workers’ ranks. On the contrary, those who now aspired to leadership - since the conditions of war were such that leadership could exist - began to extol the merits of their new-found allies.

Those who refer to the “atrocities” of the early period of the Civil War seldom point to the root cause of many of them: the fact that the Republican authority was now officially on the side of the workers. A simple illustration was told me by Miguel Garcia of how, in the early days in Barcelona the group he was with seizing arms from the gunsmiths’ to fight the army, came in confrontation with a troop of armed Guardia Civil, the hated enemy. The officer in charge signalled them to pass. They did so silently, waiting to dash for it - expecting to be shot in the back in accordance with the ley de fuga. But the officer saluted. The Guardia Civil was loyal to the Government. In many villages the people stormed the police barracks demanding vengeance on the enemy. They were greeted with cries of “Viva la Republica”. “We are your allies now. We are the officers of the Popular Front. Ask your allies in the Republican and Socialist parties if it is not so.”

Even so, many anarchists never trusted them.

It was the police and Guardia Civil who were the most vicious to the fascists whom they had to detain, to show their enthusiasm for the popular cause. Later, when the tides of war had changed, they had to be even more vicious to the anti-fascists, to show that they had never ceased in allegiance to the properly constituted authority.

The Compromises

It is relevant to this description of the Spanish labour movement to trace the dissolution of the CNT, since with the drift from the factories it ceased to be a union movement and became, in effect, an association of militants.

During the war what was in effect a demoralisation of many militants set in, and a division occurred between “well known names” and those militants who really made up the organised movement (the rank and file militants, militantes de base), since the demand for unity, understandable as it was, led to a collaboration with the republican government under the slogan of “UHP”. All those who had for years been denied a recognition of their talents - and craved for it - now had their chance. Majors, generals; in the police and in the direction of government; even in the ministries themselves. Those who so collaborated did not really go as representatives either of the anarchist movement or of the labour organisation although their collaboration was passively accepted by most. They took advantage of the greatest weakness of the traditional anarchist movement, the “personality cult” (as witness Kropotkin, individually supporting World War I, and causing enormous damage to the movement which he in no way represented and from which his “credentials” could not be withdrawn for there were none except moral recognition).

The emergence of an orator like Garcia Oliver, or Federica Montseny, as a Minister purporting to represent the CNT was a symptom of these collaborationist moves. Keeping the matter in proportion their betrayals and compromises were effected by the defeat, and were not its cause.

It was, however, this division that disorientated the organisation in subsequent years.

Following the defeat, the libertarian movement was re-established in a General Council in Paris in February 1939. The existing secretary of the CNT, Mariano Vasquez, was appointed secretary of the Council. But this was in no way a trades union. It was a council of war, intending to maintain contact between the exiles now scattered round the world, and in particular those in France, where the majority were in concentration camps, set up with barbed wire and guarded by Senegalese soldiers, as if they were POWs, but under conditions forbidden by the Geneva Convention.

There were no longer meetings appointing delegates subject to recall, nor any check upon the representatives of the movement. Nobody in any case was interested. The working class of Spain had been decisively smashed. Its organisations were in ruins. Those in exile had to build a new life. Those inside Spain were facing daily denunciations leading to the firing squad and prison. The children of the executed and imprisoned were thrown into the streets. Large numbers of workers, were moving to places where they hoped they would avoid notice.

Those publications which appeared spoke only in the vaguest terms about the future. All that mattered was the overthrow of Franco and of Fascism. In the circumstances, a political party - with a policy dictated from the central committee - would have produced a clear line (however vicious this might be, as the Communist Party’s line was after the Stalin-Hitler Pact - one typical symptom being Frank Ryan, IRA CP fighter in the International Brigade, who went from Franco’s prison to become a Nazi collaborator). The libertarian movement was clear only that it was anti-fascist. And that it would have no further truck with the Communist Party.

This was not an unreasonable line to take in the circumstances, but for a fatal corollary to the anti-fascist commitment, which ultimately paralysed the entire Spanish working-class movement and has kept Franco in power to this day. This was that one must therefore accept anti-fascism at its face value and ascribe anti-fascism to the democratic powers which were also fighting against powers which happened to be fascist.

A moment’s reflection will show the falsity of the position. Today China finds herself in conflict with Russia. But she is not only not necessarily anti-Communist (in the Leninist sense), she is not (in that sense) anti-Communist at all. There is no reason to suppose that if China defeated Russia she would end state dictatorship and concentration camps; to ascribe such motives to China is to deceive oneself deliberately. Neither did it follow in 1939 that anybody who happened to be fighting the Fascist Powers were therefore anti-fascist in the same sense that the libertarians were.

Nor had ideology anything to do with it. America, while retaining democracy at home, is perfectly able to support dictatorship abroad. Yet in 1939 it was seriously supposed even by the best of the Spanish militants that Britain and France must “logically” oppose fascism, as if nations went to war merely to impose their ideology. It was more difficult to support their jailer France, but after France fell, Britain seemed to be sympathetic. The British Secret Service enlisted the aid of the Spanish Resistance groups, which sprang up immediately after the disaster of 1940. They sought aid to bring soldiers out of France over the border; they enlisted the support of the “gangs” inside Spain to raid foreign Embassies and sabotage Nazi plans; they sought to co-operate [with] (though it never came to dominating) the Spanish resistance in France. Because Franco’s men were at the time so violently anti-British, it was supposed Britain must “logically” want to overthrow Franco. And it was more “reasonable” to believe in a British victory - a practical proposition - than in Revolution!

Even those in the Resistance who never trusted the British agents, and who insisted on getting paid for any services they gave them, never believed that they could be double-crossed. Yet after a network of unions had been re-established in Spain during the war - and a Resistance built up without parallel in modern history, inside Spain - all the committees were destroyed. None of the militants ever saw cause and effect. Soon after the war, for instance, a meeting was called by the British Embassy for militants of the CNT to discuss the ANFD (Alliance of Democratic Forces) and the possibility of co-operation with the (pro-British) monarchists. CNT delegate Cipriano Mera reported that he could not see the point of it. A few weeks later the entire CNT committee was arrested. Cause and effect have not been seen to this day. How could it have been the British Embassy that was the traitor? Britain was “democratic”, Franco was “fascist”.

One could go on at great length, but it can be seen how the “anti-fascist” period, coming when the union phase had finished, helped to establish a movement in exile, in which no popular representation existed or was required, and acted as a brake on Resistance. After the war, the exiles began to fit into life abroad. What took over their organisation was not a bureaucracy so much as domination by the “names”. There was no longer local autonomy in which all met as equals. For a committee in Toulouse, one was asked to pick “names”. The “great names” came to the fore. But what were these “great names”? They were not the names of the militants of pre-war days. They were those who came to the fore during the era of government collaboration. Among them was a division on many subjects. Some thought they should enter political collaboration with the Republican Government (pointless now that it was defeated, but it still had money stacked away in Mexico). Others wanted a return to independence - but they could not return to being a union. Only the workers inside Spain could do that.

The majority of exiles never want to compromise their position. It is understandable, but it is fatal for the struggle in the interior. In fact an exile movement is basically in a farcical position, for it is giving up the fact of struggle in the country where it exists and trying to carry one on in a country where it does not exist. It thus surrenders its usefulness as a force in the labour movement in the country where it resides; while at the same time holding back the struggle in the country from which it originates - since the considerations that hold one back from action in a more open society are not necessarily valid in the dictatorship. Time and again, therefore, the Organisation found itself in conflict with the Resistance in Spain, being built up by groups such as those of Sabater, Facerias and others.

The Resistance - because of its daring attacks upon the regime - was able to build up the labour movement time and again. It was destroyed many times; and has been re-built. It has expected help from the exile Organisation and received nothing. Worse, it has been held back. For this reason one finds today the whole of the pretended “official” libertarian movement in utter disarray - the Montseny-Isglesias faction expelling all and sundry - striking out in the last gasps of dissolution… above all, denouncing the real libertarian movement inside Spain because it dares to use the name of the CNT; (It is for this reason that organisations like the Federacion Obrera Iberica - to save the recriminations about “forging the seals” of the Organisation which are held as by apostolic succession in Toulouse - have simply changed their name, with the same aims as the CNT of old.)

The Spanish Libertarian Movement, so-called (MLE) is not a union movement, nor an anarchist movement. It is anti-fascist in ideology, but basically it looks to a “solution of the Spanish problem” rather than supporting the Resistance in any way. Time and again the expected political solutions have failed - or rather, have succeeded in the way their authors intended them, leaving the, MLE pathetically declaring that the British, French or American Governments have let them down. Even now, many cannot understand how it came about that Britain did not send an Army in to liberate Spain; why the Government did not even want to do so - and indeed, that elements in the British Government may have considered Spain already liberated - by Franco! These are the people who denounce the Resistance as “impractical”, “utopian” - above all, “violent”! Many will explain that “violence” is wrong. That is to say, it was permissible in the Civil War, when it was legal; and during the World War when, if not legal, in Spanish eyes, it was granted the equivalent status by virtue of the fact that resistance was “legally” recognised in France, but it became “un-libertarian” even “un-Spanish” with the end of the World War!

This colours the attitude towards Resistance in Spain, and nothing marks a greater dividing line. The Resistance was carefully nourished by the Sabater brothers - of whom so little is known [Note:A book on Sabater by Antonio Tellez, trans. Stuart Christie, is coming out next Spring - published by Davis-Poynter. (ie Sabate : Guerilla extaordinary KSL)] - the various bands of the Resistance such as the Tallion, Los Manos etc., by Facerias and others. It had perforce to return to the tradition of guerrilla warfare and activism.

Despite the “official” propaganda in which the Libertarian Movement in Exile constantly invokes the name of the CNT, it is not the same thing at all. The traditions of the CNT are reaffirmed by the Resistance within Spain, which is back in the period of regional committees and local resistance, and is still unable to reconstitute itself on a nation-wide scale - which indeed it may not consider essential.

The period predicted by Marx during which Spanish labour would have to be left to “Bakunin” is, of course, over. The Communists, Maoists and Nationalists of various brands have grown considerably - though socialism and the UGT are dead. Thanks to the folly of “Toulouse” the name of the CNT has been eclipsed by schism. But we note one thing: whenever the struggle in Spain becomes acute, the workers turn to anarchism.

Albert Meltzer

From: Anarchy (Second series) no.12 (1974?) as 'The Labour Movement in Spain' (This article was republished with minor changes as 'The Spanish Workers Movement' in A new world in our hearts: the faces of Spanish anarchism edited by Albert Meltzer. Cienfuegos Press, 1978 p.37-50).




9 years 3 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by jojo on February 22, 2015

Albert Meltzer

What, after all, is the point of accepting a political leadership which might seize power - with no real benefit to the working class, as was the real case in Soviet Russia - by virtue of its brilliant leadership (and its tactical and tacit arrangements with imperialist powers) - or might (as the Communist Party did in Chiang’s China or Weimar Germany) lead, with all its trained “cadres”, to the same sort of defeat the man on the ground could quite easily manage for himself?

There is no point in having a political leadership that intends to seize power today, because one of the great lessons of the first revolutionary wave (1917-21) is that the political leadership cannot substitute itself for the class in any way whatsoever. The class has to seize power, not some political elite. But this was not as obvious in 1917 as it is now. So: to amend what Meltzer says: the class can accept political leadership today, if it wishes too and sees any benefit, because there is no question of a genuine proletarian leadership group substituting itself for the class and seizing power for itself now. If it does its bourgeois.

As to the reference to communist parties in Chiang's China and Weimar Germany, and their trained "cadres", surely these were not genuine proletarian manifestations but the excrescences of bourgeois leftism? The revolutionary wave was well and truly defeated all round the globe by the time of the Weimar Republic - possibly because of the absence of proper proletarian international leadership and organization when it could have mattered in 1917-21 - so that any communist parties around In the late 20's would doubtless be agents of the bourgeoisie.


9 years 3 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by AES on February 22, 2015

Meltzer is not argueing in favour of communist parties or political leadership to seize power for the working class

Anarchy #13 1973

An issue of Anarchy (2nd series) from circa 1973.

Articles on problems faced by working class mothers, the assassination of Italian anarchist Carlo Tresca in New York in 1943, the politics of pregnancy, parenting a child with learning difficulties, Islington Mens' Group, radical education.

This issue scanned in by the comrades at Spirit of Revolt archive.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 4, 2020

Anarchy #14 1974

An issue of Anarchy (2nd series) from 1974.

Contents include: the Building Workers Federation of Australia, Leon Trotsky, Prospects of Anarchy, tv documentaries on urban guerilla warfare, debate about Freedom, George Woodcock replies to Albert Meltzer, obituary of Lilian Wolfe, letters, Why Workers Control Doesn't Work In Yugoslavia.

This issue scanned in by the comrades at Spirit of Revolt archive.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 4, 2020



Anarchy #15 1974

The fifteenth issue of the second series of Anarchy magazine, on Soft Cops.

Submitted by Reddebrek on February 27, 2019


  • Editorial
  • Social Workers - Charlotte and Kathy
  • That's All Very Well, But (response to "Social Workers") - J
  • Alternative Probation - Dave Pickup
  • Soft Cops Down at the Social Security - Charlotte Baggins
  • Why I'm Anti-Intellectual - Kathy Perlo
  • Anarchy In The Navy - Peter E Newell
  • Letters
  • Review: Antonio Tellez's Sabate: Guerilla Extraordinary - P.C. Plodd
  • Review: The New Technology of Repression: Lessons From Ireland - John McGuffin
  • Licence To Ripp Off Children (Social Workers)


Anarchy #16 1975

An issue of Anarchy (2nd series) from the 1970s. Articles mainly about squatting and housing issues.

This issue scanned in by the comrades at Spirit of Revolt archive.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 4, 2020

Contents include:

Editorial - housing and occupations
What's revolutionary about squatting?
All-London Squatters GLC Action Group press statement
Tenant Beware


Anarchy #17 1975

Cover of Anarchy issue 17
Anarchy #17 cover

Issue 17 of Anarchy magazine with articles on healthcare, letters and book reviews.

The article on abortion is particularly bad and concludes with a call for anarchists to oppose their availability via the NHS! It is included on Libcom for information only. (It is followed by a more sensible piece opposing the points made, by a member of the Anarchy Collective who did not participate in the production of this issue because they were opposed to the article being included).

Submitted by welshboy on December 26, 2012


  • Editorial
  • An Apple A Day Won't Keep This Lot Away (medical experiments on human subjects) - Charlotte Baggins
  • Abortion and Racism - Kathy Perlo
  • Objection (to the previous article)
  • Meanwhile, Back In The Wards - Martin P Wright
  • Letters
  • Review: Dr J.S Horn - Away With All Pests: An English Surgeon in People's China - Chris Broad




11 years 5 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by Steven. on December 26, 2012

Hey, thanks very much for this! You know what date this issue was? That would be good to put in the intro

Anarchy #18 1976?

Issue 18 of Anarchy (second series) from the mid-1970s.

The "Class" issue.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 15, 2020


  • The Working Class and Revolution - Martin Wright
  • Opinion - E Sivell
  • Class and Privilege - Chris Broad
  • What Shall We Do With The Unions - Phil Green
  • New Police Rifle - John Northey
  • A Land Fit For Heroes - Anon
  • The Mafia Killed Carlo Tresca - John Northey
  • Letters about the abortion articles in previous issue


Anarchy18.pdf (26.48 MB)


Anarchy #19 1976?

An issue of Anarchy (2nd series) from the 1970s.

This issue scanned in by the comrades at Spirit of Revolt archive.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 4, 2020


Foreword - Which Way Anarchism? - Jerry Cantwell
Fascism In Britain Today - M.F. Wright
Statement of the Anarchy Magazine Collective


Fascism in Britain Today (1976): The National Front, the working class and the lumpen - Martin Wright

Martin Wright on the class composition of support for the National Front, from Anarchy #19, 1976.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 8, 2020


These conclusions and generalisations, arrived at over a considerable period of time, are the results of many long conversations with various individual militants some of whom, in my mind, had progressed beyond the sloganising of the left and had begun to examine more seriously the implication of both present-day fascism and its rival, anti -fascism. As for myself, I have been involved in various anti-fascist activities, so, having read most of the current anti-fascist papers and pamphlets, having attended many meetings, pickets, demonstrations (and incidentally being somewhat pissed-off with the scene) I am not a disinterested observer.

Having a keen interest in the subject I think I may be able to make a small contribution to the re-examination of some of the issues involved. I will attempt to draw conclusions in a context which I think is radically different from the way the subject has been tackled by the left press. I will for the sake of convenience try to deliberately limit my article by concentrating upon the best-known manifestation of fascism in Britain - the National Front. Although the Nat-front has recently split, the more "moderate", opportunist, ex-Tory section breaking away to form the National Party, which represents a pitiful attempt to gain respectability and cast off the fascist image, I don’t think this schism affects my arguments in any way.

The article will be divided into two parts. Part 1 will deal with the relationship between certain sections of the working class and the NF. Part 2 will deal with the fashion in which the left has struggled against the Front.

Part One: The National Front, the working class and the lumpen.

"Working people should demand: -
(1) An end to monopoly control and speculation of commodities
(2) that the Government freeze all food prices by slashing the outrageous profits of these giant food monopolies
(3) a scrapping of the fraudulent 'Price Commission' and the establishment of Government-approved housewives and trade-unionists councils to monitor food price increases in every locality
(4) the rigid control of the big banks and slashing of the present exorbitant interest rates."

- Neil Famell, National Front Industrial Organiser

Who supports the National Front?

The type of person who made up the rank-and-file of the fascist movement in the past, the small shopkeeper, the student, the petty clerk, the landlord, with the occasional lumpenproletarian and "hang-'em-flog-'em" military type, although much in evidence at the leadership end of Nat-front, do not necessarily make up the rank-and-file membership or support. The "traditional" supporter of the extreme right wing of the Conservative Party, the union-bashers and racists of the Monday Club that flooded into the NF after the last Tory government allowed the expelled Ugandan Asians to settle in Britain, is slowly trickling back into the Tory party, attracted by the violent laissez-faire rhetoric of Maggie and Jo (or joined the breakaway National Party). Where then does the NF draw its support from?

The answer is, unfortunately, from certain sections of the working class. The strata of the working class I refer to are the most alienated - super-alienated in fact (although due of course to their super-alienation they are unaware of this); this does not mean they are the most economically oppressed - some of them are though.

A large number of them are exploited by their bosses, but are in a strange position in their relation to their bosses and their fellow workers. These people live in working-class areas, their friends, family, relations, environment are almost exclusively working-class, yet incredibly they are almost totally alienated from their class - within the realm of class-consciousness, that is.

Where are they found?

The environment, the relation to the point of production determines for the most part their consciousness. You will find that they usually work in very small, antiquated, un-unionised factories or workshops. Inside these places they stand on opposite ends of the same wavelength. One lot for example, the minority. These lot may have worked in the same establishment for a considerable period, having built themselves up into a slightly superior position (as charge-hands, foremen, or just by the fact they have been there a long time, they receive more pay and get more overtime) they are deeply rooted into their particular job, and they have some sort of incentive, over the other workers.

The slightly better-off workers may not like their bosses as persons (who does?) but neither do they have much of a regard for their fellow-workers, many of whom are women and immigrants. On balance, then, it would seem their loyalties are divided evenly, but another factor remains, that of interest. They support their bosses' interest. Examples of this are in their attitude to their bosses, crawling, bootlicking; to their fellow-workers, indifference mingled with a callow viciousness which becomes exacerbated if the other workers are immigrants.

These characters can never do too much overtime, never make too many racist, sexist remarks; their traits are familiar - nauseating.

Workers of the same mentality on the other end of the wavelength, who make up the majority of this breed are mostly unskilled and disillusioned (with what ,they don't know) and let the media, with their mostly backward, conservative, racist ideology, do their thinking for them. They are. most importantly, white. Whenever they start a new job in these places typified by foul working conditions, low pay and long hours, they head straight towards the people they can identify with, the people who express like thoughts, the minority referred to above. (I remember the very first day l started one of these jobs a young person who started with me, in the space of a few minutes, made a remark to me: "l don't see why they employ them” - referring to black workers.

Other workers in these places usually consist of large numbers of super-exploited women and immigrants of both sexes. Of course, to a lesser extent, these other workers may be partly responsible, through their apathy, for the prevailing conditions, but when It comes to the crunch and some of these workers start fighting, say, for a union, the backward workers referred to have a choice. If they take the side of the struggling workers they can no longer be thought of as backward; they should rapidly begin to lose some of their reactionary viewpoints and head towards the camp of the revolutionary working class. If they don’t they will regard the struggle as an unwarranted disturbance, stirred up by "outsiders ' or "commies' perhaps, a disturbance on the otherwise humdrum existence that prevails.

Same people — some places

Apart from the small factories mentioned above, even smaller units such as the tiny workshop, the small garange for example, breed reactionary consciousness - why?

Well, here the boss and the worker may do the same sort of job, wear the same kind of overalls and mix socially, like for instance go drinking together. In these places it Is no exaggeration to say that there is very little chance that class-consciousness will develop at that particular point of production. Wherever class lines are hazy, reactionary consciousness develops. People like for example scrap-metal merchants, costermongers, self-employed tradespeople, mini-cab drivers, totters and their assistants are not well known as revolutionary political militants. It is most important to stress that the working conditions briefly described above are located among the most socially deprived areas.

In these areas you will find that for various reasons industry Is quitting, moving to more salubrious areas or just closing down because of the economic crisis, leaving only these small un-unionised factories, or service industries. These areas, lacking adequate social amenities at the best of times (cinemas, hospitals, clinics, schools, other social services) experience a deep blow whenever these services decline even in a small way.

Also, these areas are ravaged by property speculation and massive council re -development which between them create vast tracts of devastation, ringed by middle-class ghettos that push out the working class, and a broad discontent - which manifests itself sometimes in support for right-wing populists and the National Front.

Why the NF? Because, I think, there is a serious lack of a real mass revolutionary movement. In these decaying areas of our large cities, the traditional working class areas of London is where the NF picks up its main support. The large number of votes picked up by the NF in these areas indicates this. People support the NF because it offers easy solutions to complex problems; this involves turning one section of the working class against the other, appealing to the worst kind of irrationalities (like race) by appealing to people who cannot take any meaningful action for themselves and hence hate people who do (industrial militants, squatters). The Front's simplistic but effective propaganda "House Britons First" "Pensioners before Immigrants" appeals deeply to these people.

An examole

A good example of this situation can be found in the London Borough of Islington. Islington is one of the deprived areas mentioned above, and here a breakaway group from the Labour Party, a vile group of fuckers, play on die worst fears and irrationalities of the estranged working class.

They have a fair amount of support, and have formed a "Young Married Couples Association" which has the aim of housing those "bom and bred' in the borough, saying that outsiders' arc jumping the housing queue - the "outsiders" of course being the weakest sections of the working class: unmarried mothers, immigrant workers, most squatters. The Young Married Couples Association at the Town Hall was reported by the local libertarian community paper the Islington Gutter Press, No. 24. The speakers spewed out all the rubbish you could expect, but this rubbish appeals to the worst kind of Irrationality - and it works! The last and worst speaker summed it all up and it’s worth reproducing some of his speech in detail...

"Who gets rehoused in this borough? It's the layabouts and rubbish. A third of the last 1300 homeless families we've rehoused haven't lived in the borough for a year. They come in on Monday and get a house by Tuesday. And this rubbish keeps coming in, in, in! Do you get houses? No'. But these dirty layabouts, squatters, these weirdoes with their beards and sandals, all lousy - they get houses. Look at what the council's doing, they put 5 of these squatters, all single, into Essex Houses. And they gave them cookers, carpets. bedding, the lot. And what do you get? Nothing! And look at the 22 flats, Providence Place, which the council's done up. Who got them? Young couples who’ve lived all their life in Islington? No. They all went to homeless families from outside the borough. . . (He rants on about the local councillors.). . .They don’t represent you these councillors. They don't care about you. . . They’re just a bunch of airey-fairy queers. They drink their cheese and wine in their nice Barnsbury houses and theologise. . . (He then screams about some flats under offer)... The only way we'll get ’em is to frighten the council. They need a good fright. So we've got to crowd the chamber on Nov. 27th. If the squatters can do it, so can we. They're the only people we get in here at meetings. Squatters and layabouts... weirdoes and druggies. It's like a refuse chute in there. And it works for them. These bearded squatters get their flats with beautiful green-tiled bathrooms. It's time we crowded the place out. It’s time there was a smell of roses in the council chamber for a change. Who does this council help? There’s a building in St Paul's Road. Conditioned air. There's a printing press in there, where they print Gutter Press, all out of rate-payer money, our money, where they tell kids to play truant and to hit coppers..."

According to the Gutter Press there was "Great applause. That was it. The meeting was over. There was no discussion." Here is the type of speech, the type of language that appeals to the super-alienated sections of the working class, the type of thing that unless checked manifests itself in growing support for right-wing populists like the NF. The NF not only offers articulation of these outpourings into a coherent political programme, but can offer an organisation, plus the ability to develop these far beyond backstreet public bar mumblings. It is up to revolutionaries to combat this sort of reactionary’ propaganda; if they don't it could be very costly. Revolutionaries should try to bring the submerged sections of the class into revolution. It's not impossible, and if they don’t the NF will.

M.F. Wright

(Part 2 will deal with the left and the National Front.)


Anarchy #20 1976

The twentieth issue of the second series of Anarchy magazine.

Contents include: The Murrays, parenting/children, death of Ulrike Meinhof, Fascism in Britain Today part two by Martin Wright, British intelligence services' data sources,

Submitted by Reddebrek on February 27, 2019

Fascism in Britain Today (1976): The Left and the National Front - Martin Wright

Young Asians, Blacks and Whites confront the NF march in Bradford
Young Asians, Blacks and Whites confront the NF march in Bradford

Martin Wright on fascism and anti-fascism from Anarchy magazine in 1976.

Article typed up by the comrades at Kate Sharpley Library. Notes in square brackets are by KSL. Footnotes by Libcom.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 8, 2020

"Only one thing could have stopped our movement – if our adversaries had understood its principle and from the first day had smashed with the utmost brutality the nucleus of our new movement." – Hitler

Counter-demos, Pickets

How has the left shaped up to the National Front (NF)? The answer is, usually, in the most abject fashion imaginable. For instance… whenever the NF has held a demonstration or a rally the left opposition consists of, for starters, howls of protest to the appropriate local government authorities, ‘Don’t let the fascists use the Town Hall!’

Then, after their protestations have been rejected, they stage the predictable counter-demonstration picket, which occasionally ends with a bust-up involving the police (who protect the fascists with such determination that, so far, there has been no major clash on the streets between left and right). As a sideline, adventurist elements such as International Socialists (IS) might furtively depart from the main march and in a vain attempt to enhance their ‘street-fighting’ image try to tackle the NF by themselves, which results in a number of arrests and injuries with as always the unfortunate ‘breakaways’ coming off far worse than the NF. Meanwhile, as another sideline, tiny cliques of screaming Maoists attack police lines Kamikaze style, and this time they and everyone unlucky enough to be in the immediate vicinity end up getting their heads kicked in by zealous cops. Every shade of leftism is represented during these manifestations, the smaller groups in order to increase their tiny stature adopting violent phraseology which they are incapable of fulfilling with actions.

The platform is always controlled by an ad-hoc committee, with usually the Communist Party (CP) in control behind the scenes. The CP doesn’t use the platform for advocating the use of violence against the NF: sometimes, in fact, in order to convey the impression that they are just as respectable as the Labour Party, they even go so far as to say that anybody using the platform to propagate the use of violence against the NF will be slung off. (As at Hyde Park, where the left successfully closed Speakers Corner to prevent the NF from marching there.)

Tackling The Front On The Street

The left, in challenging the NF on the streets, has for the most part fallen flat on its face, although by the images projected in their papers you would think that every time the NF ventured into the streets they were defeated decisively by a mass turnout of the working-class and the left1 . Unfortunately, or fortunately perhaps, each time the left attempts to reach the NF they are prevented by the police. The truth of the matter is that the left is unable to make a real physical impression on the police or fascists. What happens sometimes is that we have the spectacle of police beating shit out of the lefties, while the NF looks on from a safe distance, sniggering or cheering, depending on how vigorously the cops are laying in. All that’s achieved in these struggles is hundreds of arrests and injuries, and at Red Lion Square (an example of what I’m thinking of) an anti-fascist was killed by the police2 . I think that this is because the left is unable to devise tactics and strategy to suit the situation.


Propaganda directed against the NF has taken on the appearance of a small industry, with even the most obscure left groups churning out a mass of pamphlets. Despite the tremendous amount, all these pamphlets and articles are of a low calibre. They all, for instance, lay stress on the criminality of the leaders of the NF. We are treated to the same old photograph of Tyndall in his nazi uniform. They never go much further, never attempt to analyse why the working class never turns out en masse to smash the Front, or even why large numbers of working class people subscribe to Front-type ideas. They are at pains to point out that NF leaders strutted in nazi uniforms, embellished with swastikas, but who has any use for that emblem now? Today, British fascists parade around using the Union Jack, and it’s ‘unpatriotic’ to insult the flag, isn’t it? (This is the view of the CP more than other left groups.) In a book written by a CP hack, Tony Gilbert, called Only One Died3 , which deals with the government inquiry into the Red Lion Square riots, the author in giving evidence claimed that the NF placing the Union Jack was a ‘misuse’ of the flag.

But this isn’t isolated – witness the revolting behaviour, the chauvinism, of most of the groups involved in the latest anti-fascist movement during the European Economic Community referendum. Most of these groups regard the imperialist bloodbath known as World War Two as – anti-fascist! How many times have we been subjected to speeches containing such gems as ‘Free speech for fascists? That was decided on the streets of Stalingrad… or Berlin’ ad nauseum at anti-fascist events? Too many times, I think.

With the growth of fascism in this county (and indeed, worldwide), with the struggle against it, a magazine exclusively anti-fascist has emerged, Searchlight. The contents are detailed and informative (and I recommend it for this) but on the other hand its tone is legalistic, ‘patriotic’, trade-union oriented. For examples, there are open letters to Roy Jenkins [Labour Home Secretary] requesting him to ban the NF, and articles urging the government to create stronger laws against racism – laws which, as we know, end up being used against anti-fascists like the 1936 Public Order Act. Writers for Searchlight range from IS hacks to right-wing Labour MPs.

The left and anti-fascist tactics

One of the many weaknesses of the left has been shown by their misunderstanding of the use of force. It’s all right for the trots to don their bovver boots and chase a few fascists around the back streets (a task which they find heavy going at times). But what happens when the agro reaches proportions of another dimension? They are, I’m afraid, left high and dry. In London’s Camden High Street the lefties held a meeting to discuss tactics for opposing a Front march. As the delegates arrived they were menaced by NF heavies who told them that they ‘would be back later’. They were, firing a shotgun Chicago style from a car and shattering the window of the building; The reaction of the lefties inside? They called the police! And then? Why, they are surprised by the lack of interest shown by the police!

All these left groups knew where the NF headquarters were at that time (50 Pawsons Rd, Croydon), but they remained un-attacked. Such is the respect the left has for conventional methods. A couple of weeks after this event, the International Marxist Group (IMG) instruct their members to turn up at the Hyde Park rally wearing crash helmets, but even this minimal effort is rendered useless when a police snatch squad pluck an unfortunate from the centre of the IMG defensive circle and arrest him. After the rally has finished the IMGers put their helmets into plastic bags and sneak away in the most nervous fashion.

Worse still, when the NF held their vile ‘march against (black) muggers’ in London’s East End last summer, the opposing anti-fascist march, outnumbering the NF by more than 4 to 1, formed up only five minutes from the fascists’ departure point. Yet when anti-fascists marched off in the opposite direction! - even Searchlight commented, "The counter-demonstration was attended by nearly five thousand people… but this rally had failed to grasp the fact that it was in their power to have halted the fascist provocation, by just non-violently standing in its path before it got under way. Whilst we at Searchlight are against violence and see no point in fighting with the police, we must respect the handful of youngsters who stood in the path of the march only to be batoned by the police."

But more recently, April 24th to be precise, things showed a turn for the better, as at Bradford where counter-demonstators faced 1000 Front marchers. The NF were protected by large numbers of police (as usual); they provoked the violence by damaging Asian-owned shops while the police stood and did nothing. The anti-fascists, though, showed they could fight with some success: bricks, bottles and beer cans were hurled at the Front. Barricades were dragged across the street in an attempt to halt the fascists, and when the police attacked the anti-fascists, they too were showered with stones and bottles, police vans were overturned, and attempts were made to set them on fire, numbers of police were badly injured including numbers of the mounted police.

The number arrested was 30. Contrast this with events in London the same day, when 200 marchers mostly from the nazi ‘British Movement’, were challenged by about 500 anti-fascists. There was a battle in Trafalgar Square between the anti-fascists and the police – mostly members of the Special Patrol Group4 , who brutally beat up the outnumbered anti-fascists, injuring many while police casualties were virtually nil. Twenty-five arrests. I think we have things to learn from both events on the 24th.

Fascist tactics

Front tactics are more brutal than the left’s: anonymous attacks in back streets on militants and immigrants, and even worse, pouring paraffin into immigrant workers’ letter boxes and setting light to it; the list is endless. Then, on another level, attacking the small bookshops and headquarters of sectarian left-wing groups (like Maoists); owing to the distance and size of these groups, few, if any, reprisals need be expected. Pacifists and liberals make excellent targets – they don’t hit back.

When all these attacks are combined, the fascists gain a formidable reputation. The National Front are also becoming more daring in that they attack left-wing demonstrations such as the Troops Out demonstration which was fairly successfully attacked by the NF on 21st February at Shepherds Bush Green. There is evidence that some ultra-rightists, members of the NF included, are training in forests with members of the Territorial Army – and that during these manoeuvres they are armed. On another level the Front pick up most of their members by running in elections; during the last General Election they picked up 113,000 votes (mostly in working-class areas). The Front claim that next election they will field over 300 candidates.

Is It Worth It?

Is it? Well, for groups like International Socialists it provides a fine chance for recruitment, as a reading of Socialist Worker a couple of years ago would prove. For example, it gave coverage to small local demonstrations against the Front; after the demonstration the IS would hold a small meeting where ‘six young workers’ or ‘five Asians’ then joined IS. At Leicester the IS even erected a platform after the large march (with its star speakers) to advertise a meeting that they were holding in the evening – a straightforward recruiting effort.

But, as for fighting them? After all the NF are not supported by the capitalist class who prefer the Labour and Conservative parties to run the State and look after their interests. To receive support from even the most reactionary capitalist elements the Nat-Front must prove themselves a competent labour-bashing, strike-breaking militia, and this so far they have failed to do, although some maverick characters, ex-Military, Stirling5 and Walker6 , have attempted to form private armies to use against the working class.

The Front have been successful in their infiltration of anti-working-class organisations such as the National Federation of the Self-Employed, ratepayers groups, and in some areas are gaining a dangerous foothold in tenants groups and trade union branches (Searchlight is well aware of this). Liberals and pacifists say ‘Leave them alone,’ ‘Fighting them is a prevention of free speech’ or ‘If you fight them, you are just as bad as them’ – head-in-the-sand attitudes which provide a fine argument to do fuck-all.

On the other hand real revolutionaries argue that capitalism and the state are the main enemies; true, but the NF are dangerous for the working class in a way that the ‘legitimate’ representatives of capitalism dare not be. And for reasons I indicated in Part One7 , fascist ideas are taking root in some sections of the working class and the lumpen, so therefore this represents an immediate threat. It is important to tackle them without negating the class struggle; after all the class struggle is the best way to tackle the NF. Small groups of revolutionaries who because of lack of resources or pressing commitments elsewhere don’t attack them directly should make it clear that if they are ‘bothered’ by fascists they will pay them back in an unconventional manner.

Ways To Fight The Fascists

For anti-fascists out on the streets this is a question of tactics. I’m not against fighting the fascists in the streets, as you can guess I’m all for it; the trouble is that it’s totally predictable how they are challenged. Whenever the fascists have a march or meeting, Hey presto: a counter-demo or picket. What should be done is say to occupy the hall that the fascists are going to use, before they turn up, or if they have a meeting make it difficult for them to get out. When fighting the police the anti-fascists should (if there are enough of them, and if they are angry enough) follow the wonderful example of the people of Bradford. When the Front march, instead of forming up miles away from them, the anti-fascists should assemble at the same point the fascists are due to march from, thereby ensuring that they find it impossible to assemble, let alone march.

When the NF held its ‘march against muggers’ a small group of anti-fascists (400) broke from the main anti-fascist march and ran off to meet the fascists. As the fascists were well protected by the police, and there were 1,000 Fronters anyway, the anti-fascists marched on the sides of the march on the pavements, heckling the fascists and threatening them. Because of this no-one joined the Front’s march – because of the constant barrage and because we informed people about what the NF were all about; people did however join the anti-fascists (including lots of kids) and we had a lot of fun and talked to lots of local people. There were about 6 arrests at the end of the march, at Hoxton.

All other things apart, the only thing that will eventually smash the Front is the very thing that will smash capitalism – a mass revolutionary working-class movement. Revolutionaries must work to build this – the most important task of all. An inkling of mass action was shown at Leicester, where the Front held a march in support of the ‘white workers at Imperial Typewriters’, Only about 700 morons turned up to march with the Front. Meanwhile in another part of the city more than 5000 people, including many Asian workers & whole families, joined the march. It was a great occasion because the whole immigrant working-class community was involved in the strike that led up to the marches. Eventually the only thing that will sweep the fascists off the street is mass working-class action. To build a mass revolutionary working-class movement is a political task. As anarchists we must become involved in this, as part of building our anarchist movement, but that’s another subject, comrades.


Events have moved quickly since I finished this article. First of all the ‘story’ dredged up by the porno-Sun about the £600 a week Asians which led to an ‘immigrant invasion’ scare. Secondly the successes of the fascists in the local government elections and [racist Tory MP Enoch] Powell’s new speech. And third the imprisonment of the racist Relf8 and the vile attacks on immigrant workers and students, the worst event so far being the murder of two foreign students by a racist gang in Woodford9

The immigrants have been fighting back – witness the scenes in Birmingham when they fought with the police in an attempt to reach a pro-Relf demo put on by the NF. In Blackburn where the [ex-NF] National Party won two seats in the local elections (from Labour incidentally) the National Party victory march was greeted by shoppers with claps and cheers while a demonstration of trade unionists and Asian workers was met with insults and jeers: ‘Fuck off back to where you come from, you black bastards’. In Hackney an Indian family had their home fire-bombed, while in Greenwich a mosque was vandalised by fascists – and in the East End some mini-cab drivers are using their car radios to coordinate attacks on Asians and so on. But the immigrants are fighting back and we must aid them in their struggles.

I think that if one headline in the porno-Sun and one Powell speech can undo all the propaganda of the anti-racists and anti-fascists of the last four years, we must really consider another approach. I think that what is called for sooner or later is a few decisive battles in the streets that can defeat the fascists physically (Bradford and Birmingham show the way forward). We have tried the other way far too long – the results are nil. (The anti-fascist rioters in Bradford got a very good press, incidentally!) It is after all a question of time when this will happen; the sooner we get it over and done with, the better. The only other thing I want to say is, when we beat the fascists on the streets, why should we then all go home to our beds? Let’s keep the streets, let’s have street meetings, sell our papers on the street and prevent the police from driving us back. When we can do this we will be able to make great inroads. We will be able to build up mass movements to smash capitalism and the state for once and for all!


  • 1This was written before NF marches were successfully opposed in Wood Green and especially Lewisham in 1977.
  • 2Kevin Gately (18 September 1953 – 15 June 1974) was a second year student of mathematics at the University of Warwick who died as a result of blow to the head during police horse charges against a counter-protest to an NF march in central London.
  • 3Only One Died: An Account of the Scarman Inquiry into the Events of 15th June 1974, in Red Lion Square, when Kevin Gately Died Opposing Racism and Fascism (Kay Beauchamp Publications, 1975).
  • 4The Metropolitan Police's infamous paramilitary unit, members of which woud later kill Blair Peach at an Anti Nazi League protest againt an NF meeting in Southall.
  • 5Lieutenant Colonel Sir Archibald David Stirling's "GB75" group of ex-military types, dedicated to taking over rule of the UK in the event of civil unrest.
  • 6Sir Walter Colyear Walker's "Civil Assistance" group claimed to have 100,000 volunteers prepared to break a general strike in the UK.
  • 7Fascism in Britain Today (1976): The National Front, the working class and the lumpen in Anarchy #19.
  • 8Robert Relf was a former British Movement member who was convicted under the Race Relations Act after advertising his house as "For Sale - to an English family only".
  • 9Students Dinesh Choudhri, aged 19, and Riphi Alhadidi, aged 22, were stabbed to death by white youths.


Anarchy #21 1976

Twenty first issue of Anarchy magazines second series.

Contents include: Right To Work campaign, The Murrays, The Left and Ilegality, The Irish Soviets (strikes in the 1920s), letter replying to Martin Wright's article on anti-fascism, factory occupations in France, Notting Hill riots.

Submitted by Reddebrek on August 15, 2018

The Right to Work or the Right to Fight to Live - Martin Wright

Martin Wright reflects on the tedium of the left's "Right To Work" campaign and proposes some less passive alternatives. From Anarchy #21, 1976.

Originally transcribed by Gawain Williams.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 8, 2020


Despite the fact that Britain is deep into yet another economic recession, plunging ever further, with rampant unemployment, runaway inflation, massive public spending cuts and Union-Government controlled wage restraint, the most amazing thing about the crisis so far is that there has been no working-class response. When I say this perhaps I’m exaggerating, but on further reflection, perhaps im not. The rumblings of discontent that we have witnessed lately have been an alarming support for the ultra right organisations like the National Front, which can be illustrated by the large number of voters they are picking up in local and by-elections. On the other hand there has been a reaction to the recent racist success, large militant sections of a semi-political immigrant youth are starting to break out of their traditional subservient roles and organising and fighting against their more immediate oppressors, the police and racists. But again, apart from that, there has been no mass working class response to the crisis.


But what about (for example) the “Right to Work” campaign is not the working-class reply to the crisis - it is that of the left. (You can “fight for the right to work” with the Communist party, International Socialists, Workers Revolutionary Party, the unions, all running their own different campaigns.) What can one say about the “Right to Work” except it’s a cynical attempt by the left parties to mobilise unemployed workers under their banners. Such campaigns themselves are just souped-up versions of the 30s hunger marches, which even during the period were archaic, pitiful and demoralising actions, begging for a few crumbs off the capitalists table, so what are they now? Among the other reactions of the left to the crisis is the mindless slogan “bring down the Labour Government”, meaningless demagogic drivel, for the same people that are calling for the Labour Government to resign, come the next election, apart from putting up their own shabby candidates, will be out on the streets urging the working class to “Vote Labour – to keep the Tories out” Other idiotic ideas include class for more nationalisations, and the banning of overtime, which would mean that many workers would take home smaller wage-packets, that is unless the bosses are feeling generous and pay the workers more money for working fewer hours, which, unless the bastards undergo a complete transformation, they will not.

An endless list of their stupid demands could be drawn up but a reading of their papers will prove just how much out of touch with reality they really are.


I didn’t need much convincing that there must be a better alternative then the “Right to Work” march which took place at the earlier part of the year. The march had walked all the way from North of England, the whole thing had been so placid, so irrelevant, so unnoticed by the general public that the biggest surprise of the whole event was the police attack on the march at Hendon where over 40 marchers were arrested and assaulted by crazed pigs. The final stage of this march passed without incident as about 3000 IS [International Socialists - forerunner to Socialist Workers Party] supporters marched through one of London’s wealthy areas, Kensington, down Kensington High Street past miles of denims shops and antique markets, without provoking one hostile word from the wealthy local inhabitants, who lost no sleep that night after observing such a servile effort. The march finished up with a rally inside the Royal Albert Hall- and we are promised more marches like this in the future.


The real response to the crisis is just simmering just below the surface. One can expect the initial reaction of the frustrated unemployed and low-paid to be very violent, and when it comes it will be totally out of control of the left (although they might get the blame). The whole thing could spark off by something like a riot at an employment exchange in an area like, say, Brixton, which if it spilled out into the surrounding streets could cause the built up frustrations of people living in the area, with its high unemployment, bad housing and large scale police harassment, to snowball (especially if the authorities over-react) and trigger off happenings in like areas. Eruptions like this, if they persist, could lead to the formation of street-committees, defence groups, expropriating and propaganda groups etc. This is inevitable - it will happen sooner or later (we have small disturbances already but they have been contained). The left as usual will attempt to deflect such events and the struggles that develop out of them; how unsuccessful they are depends on our reactions to their defeatist manoeuvres.


Against this background, against the crisis, a much more realistic approach should be made by the anarchist movement. Already moves are being made to build a “Fight to Live” campaign. I don’t know where a campaign like this will find its priorities, but when the disturbances arrive, instead of attempting to deflect such movements as the left will do, we should join in and try to widen the struggle. Already as a response to the London Transport fair increases, a small militant direct action group is running a “deferred payments” campaign. Its successes are limited so far, but its a step in the right direction. For the past few years the homeless have been taking direct action and squatting. (The squatting campaign was initiated by people who included anarchists – the left at the time sat back and howled “Adventurists”.) Right now squatting should be widened to include those working class elements who are hostile, by urging them to squat their unemployed and homeless youngsters and their friends in empty houses instead of waiting for council handouts that will never come. Another recent action that springs to mind is that of the Battered Wives and their struggles, also the emergence of Claimants Unions and prisoners organisations. All such trends should be linked into a “Fight to Live” campaign.

Without a doubt, as a reaction against intolerable food and commodities prices, some people such as the unemployed and low-paid will have to raid large food and clothing stores. We will certainly see this because of the drought, an unforeseen event, which will push up food prices to unimaginable heights; some people will have to raid in order to survive. “Fight to Live” campaigners should actively intervene in all such events (from organising defence groups in semi-insurrectionary areas to mass shoplifting) and in some cases initiate them.


So far I have said little about the organised working class. It is obvious that the exceptional industrial peace Britain is experiencing is thanks to the unions and governments recent efforts. But as the crisis gets deeper and deeper with no sign of an end to it, a social and political upheaval the like of which has never been seen in this country is on the cards. The only question is, when? I think rather than wait for the organised working class to galvanise itself into action (we have been waiting about 60 years, lefties) the unemployed, unorganised and low paid sections should be encouraged to carry out their own actions. We must guard against the left, who will use “revolutionary” arguments like “we mustn’t do anything premature” or “we can’t do anything without the unions”. When a large scale movement starts, the left parties and the unions will be the most dangerous obstacles.

We must make it more difficult, as the struggle progresses, for the government to govern, for the police to keep “order”, for the authorities to rule us and use their powers. “Fight to Live” groups should be autonomous, each group reflecting and reacting to the situation of their own areas and to the crisis in general, choosing for themselves what actions to take or support. “Fight to Live” groups could perhaps be linked to factory groups or real revolutionary groups, again linked, say, to a national network. One thing that should be held in mind as extremely important is that there should be no involvement of the bourgeois “politics”, like marches to the House of Commons, lobbying MPs, canvassing or supporting government election candidates or getting people to join “revolutionary” parties or trade unions – all of which are dead ends. We know the alternatives, we are aware of the consequences, we are not afraid we will “Fight to Live” and as our struggles progress towards other dimensions revolution could be in the air - unless of course all you want is the “Right to Work”


(note from editor- the above article was written before the Notting Hill Riots took place)


The Notting Hill Riots (1976) - Martin Wright

Martin Wright on the Notting Hill riots of August 30 1976. From Anarchy (second series) #21.

Submitted by Fozzie on April 8, 2020


Every year, during the August bank-holiday, Britain’s West-Indian community holds a Carribean-style carnival; with colourful parades, music, dancing and dozens of side events. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country attend. It is held on the streets of North Kensington.

This year, however, the festivities were interrupted on the last day: young blacks harrassed by a police presence numbering 1,600 defended themselves against arbitrary police arrests. At about 5pm rioting broke out between police and young blacks, it spread over the whole Ladbroke Grove area and lasted well into the night. Over 300 police were injured, 35 police vehicles were damaged, several shops had been looted and 60 people arrested.


This is an attempt to sort out the reports in the media, and present them in a manner, as I see it, favourable to the young blacks. (Well you don’t expect a pro-police article in an anarchist'magazine do you?) The large police presence was ’justified' by shady allegations of mass outbreaks of 'petty crime' by young blacks in the crowds. But this was no excuse for the massive police presence.

The young blacks, people with good memories, knew that the police were there for the express purpose of TERRORISING them.

Mass arrests of young blacks is so commonplace, the police so hated, by young blacks, that the police force of the entire country has only a couple of dozen black police officers, Cases involving mass arrests in London alone the Mangrove 9, Metro 4, Oval 4, Brockwell Park 3, Swan Disco 7, Cricklewood 12, Stockweli 10; cases that have involved frame ups and police brutality, are examples of the extreme harrassment suffered by young blacks. Individual cases, random street searches and beatings by the police must run into tens of thousands.

It is not a question of how many police should have been there, that is a question for liberals to pick bones over, the question is: Should the police have been there at all? Only the people who attended the carnival can answer that. Anyone who attended the event must have been offended by the sea of police helmets and uniforms, it was after all a carnival not a political demonstration.

Let us now look at the fighting.


The actual riots were the fiercest and protracted street battles on mainland Britain since the 1936 Cable St. riots. Who won? From newspaper reports it looked as though the police took a real hammering. The battles that raged that day were not like the usual police vs left confrontations, more like the Falls Road battles of the early 70's. Police were knocked over like ninepins by volleys of bricks and bottles (the nearby demolition sites providing ample ammunition). Baton charges were ineffective in dampening the enthusiasm of the rioters as they paid the police back for years of harrassment. Although attempts to build barricades were ineffective, the sheer hostility and mobility of the rioters along with the constant stone throwing drove the police back. The police having no riot equipment such as shields, had to pick up dustbin lids and traffic signs to protect themselves, police also tried charging the crowds with their vehicles, horns blaring, but the intense stoning forced the police to abandon some of them , which were set on fire and several were burnt out. The initiative lay with the youngsters until midnight , when the rioting petered out.


In the aftermath of the riots it was learnt that several shops had been looted, but this was a mere fringe activity, involving as many whites as blacks. Most of the people there were either trying to get away from the riot area or fighting the police. The stalls under Portobello flyover were not looted, they were smashed up and used as ammunition. It is interesting to note the large number of hated transport police that were injured and that a number of their vehicles were burnt out, (The transport police have been involved in beating up young blacks and framing them especially in south London).

The crack Special Patrol Group seemed to inflict most of the casualties on the crowd, mostly randomly, thus helping to spread the rioting, but the ordinary police were hard put to control the situation. Bridges over the Thames were blocked by the police and cars containing young blacks were turned back; but it was too late, blacks from all over london, indeed from all over the country, were at Notting Hill. The Notting Hill riots were a collective reply by the young black community to years of police repression. They were not race-riots but ANTi-POLICE riots by (mostly) unemployed, low-paid, young blacks, the people at the bottom of the economic and social scrapheap.

Two weeks later in Birmingham 300 young west Indians gathered in the town centre after a youngster was arrested for stealing an ash-tray ; a few days later 50 youngsters stoned police outside their station after 5 people had been arrested, not dispersing until early morning.

It seems that this is going to become a more common occurance, probably spreading to other discontented sections of the population. Notting Hill was only the beginning.



Anarchy #22 1977

Anarchy 22 cover "7 Years is Enough [crossed out]" "700 years is too bloody long" [pained on a wall in red]

Including: perspectives for imperialism in Northern Ireland, Riot at Hull jail, Up the Provos - the fight goes on (an anarchist explains why they support Irish Republicans), the political situation now by Martin Wright, letter.

Submitted by Fozzie on January 7, 2024

With thanks to Kate Sharpley Library for providing a copy to be scanned.


Anarchy #23 1977

Cover of Anarchy 23

Including: police tactics, the story of an egoist objector, the worst economic crisis for 40 years, letters on the "up the provos" article in previous issue, review of "the political police in Britain" by Tony Bunyan, article on "The Generator Factory" about working conditions in China, The Murrays, Grunwicks strike, Hull Prison riots, etc.

Submitted by Fozzie on January 7, 2024

NB: The first issue of Anarchy to feature cover art by Clifford Harper.

With thanks to Kate Sharpley Library for providing a copy to be scanned.