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(en) UK, class war 86 - Reviews

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Fri, 2 Apr 2004 08:59:59 +0200 (CEST)


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The Angry Brigade : The Cause and the Case. A history of
Britain's first urban guerilla group Gordon Carr, with preface
by John Barker and Stuart Christie; postscripts by John Barker
and Detective Sergeant Roy Cremer (Metropolitan Police
Special Branch), chronology and index (A4). Christie Books, &15
"The Angry Brigade is the man or woman sitting next to you.
They have guns in their pockets and hatred in their minds.
We are getting closer. Off the system and its property.
Power to the People. Communique 9. The Angry Brigade"
(22 May 1971, following the bombing of Tintagel House)

In the early 1970s a band of anarchists bombed their way around
London. On the journey they blew up the house of the Home
Secretary and attacked the police national computer, based at
Tintagel House. Yet nowadays few people, anarchist or otherwise,
know much, if anything, about the Angry Brigade.

This book by Gordon Carr fills that gap! Until the republication of
his ~The Angry Brigade~, the only two books about them were
Tom Vague~s ~ Anarchy in the UK~ and the Elephant Edition~s
chronology and documents. Neither delved too deeply into the
intricacies of the tale of the Angry Brigade. Stuart Christie~s own
~The Christie File~ dealt with his experience of the time and
particularly the trial of the Stoke Newington Eight. Carr~s book,
first published in the mid-70~s, looks at the activities of the group,
the investigation, the trial – and the aftermath. The
conspiracy trial, which was one of the most political political trials
in modern history, is well covered in detail by Carr. It~s
illuminating and enjoyable, with much to interest the discerning
anarchist.

This appears to be the ~authorised~ version! Both Christie and
Barker~s involvement with the production of the book indicate
that this is as close to the truth as we~re likely to see. Since
they~ve chosen to reissue Carr~s book it also appears unlikely that
after this length of time another book written by participants will
be forthcoming.

~The Angry Brigade~ is a fascinating read, which establishes the
group in the context of their time, a time where the revolutionary
ferment of the late 1960s was settling down. The name ~Angry
Brigade~ was attached to no single group. Several different
~Brigades~ appear to have existed, one operating in the early
~80s, and the Angry Brigade under scrutiny in Carr~s tome is but
the best known and most active. Yet they were not the
~uber-anarchists~ one might have thought! In his review of
Vague~s ~Anarchy in the UK~ at the end of the book, John
Barker makes it clear that at the time he and the others were
drinking and toking a fair amount! Though the Angry Brigade
may have been a bunch of dilettantes when it came to
revolutionary urban guerrilla warfare, their influence on modern
anarchism (and Class War) has been greater through the
communiques they issued than the ephemeral causes they
bombed in support of.
An excellent book which replaces the Angry Brigade in the
position they deserve. Highly recommended.

**** skulls

No Retreat by Dave Hann and Steve Tilzey (Milo Books, &7.99)
Well it had to happen. Go into any book store and you can find
dozens of titles written by old lags recalling their time as Reggie
Kray~s chauffeur or Charlie Richardson~s enforcer. Virtually
every football club has had at least one ~ex-hooligan~ publish his
memoirs of terrace terror. Two jokers who never even were
football hooligans, Dougie and Eddy Brimson, even manage to
make a living writing such books.
No Retreat is the first attempt by two anti-fascists to put down on
paper their memoirs. Hann and Tilzey were both involved with
Anti Fascist Action, probably the most successful anti-fascist
group the UK has ever seen. This book is however very much
their work not AFA~s. Indeed many ex-AFA members have been
quick to point out that Hann and Tilzey were both estranged from
AFA before the groups eventual collapse. Hann left Manchester
after a court case where he was found not guilty of robbing a gay
man, Tilzey was widely deemed as an untouchable due to his work
for Searchlight magazine, and by implication the security services.
But what of the book itself? Tilzey is a better writer than Hann,
and outlines militant anti-fascism in Manchester in the late 70s,
along with his own coming of age, skilfully. His gradual alienation
from the SWP, and their crass approach to any working class
people in their orbit is hardly surprising, but sending someone a
letter expelling them when they are actually in jail for fighting
fascists is a low blow, even for the SWP.
As the 80s wear on, Tilzey outlines his move towards working
with the Searchlight organisation, and his interest in developing
intelligence on and photographing fascists. Given the long term
record that organisation has of buggering about with the left as
much as the right, it is perhaps not surprising that Tilzey stops his
story in 1989 – we are left to conclude that much
of the other stuff he was involved in was so dodgy that he cannot
even bring himself to discuss it. Then again given Tilzey~s
friendship with Searchlight mole (and admitted security services
operative Tim Hepple) he was probably not allowed to say
anything more if the book was to get published.
Dave Hann leads us through a succession of brawls and battles.
Whilst useful to be reminded of how much AFA believed in the
old guerilla warfare maxim of only fighting the battles you can
win, he misses out, deliberately, so much of the politics that was
in and around AFA, and that really led to its success in the UK
and across Europe. Surely the fights took up a minority of the
time compared to that spent leafleting, writing, picketing,
intelligence gathering, reading, putting on gigs, debating? Not in
this account.
Worse by naming names of certain activists, and details of events
that are in some cases very recent, he gives away some scraps to
the enemy. That is for him, and his conscience to justify.
Recapping events can always lead to errors in detail, and Hann is
very guilty of this. When discussing an AFA mobilisation in
Leeds, he accuses Leeds AFA of dithering, waiting for the perfect
opportunity to attack the BNP. Perhaps, but a member of Leeds
AFA later admitted that on one occasion he had actually led
activists away from a confrontation with fascists, on the
instruction of Searchlight.
Indeed with Searchlight getting increasingly discredited in the
anti-fascist movement they threw a bone to their critics in 1995,
informing anti-fascists of the arrival of a mini-bus load of London
fascists into Leeds. Oddly Hann chooses to take the credit for the
subsequent attack himself, insisting it was his own personal drive
and ambition that ensured the BNP were attacked. Searchlight do
not get a mention at all. Curious.
When Hann describes an AFA activity in Bolton as a success with
no arrests (an activist arrested that day was actually jailed) cynical
readers may well conclude that these are not all innocent mistakes
but someone pushing a particular agenda.
Thousands of people made a contribution at some stage to AFA
and they deserve better than this. At the time of writing it is
unclear if a history of AFA, written by some of the final members
of the organisation, is to be published. If so, we hope to see an
honest appraisal of some of AFA~s lows (Bermondsey 1991
anyone?) and some of AFA~s highs. And there were many.

2 skulls.

Dude, Where~s My Country?
Michael Moore
&17.99 or less!

Moore~s last book, Stupid White Men, and his film ~Bowling for
Columbine~ established him as a radical voice. Dude, Where~s
My Country takes another acid look at Bush, September 11, the
War on Terror and Iraq. Although Moore~s style becomes
irritating as you get through the book the points he raises are
(generally) salient and intelligent. If you like your books chatty this
is one for you. If you prefer your reads to be more cerebral then
perhaps you should stick with Chomsky but you should have a
look anyway.
The post-September 11 publishing frenzy, of which this is part,
has seen scores of books of dubious provenance foisted on the
reading public. Most of them struggle to make the points Moore
makes here in any sort of readable style. Michael Moore~s books
may not be everyone~s cup of tea; but he~s a showman and this is
a serious book in comic clothing.
Watch out for Moore~s film about September 11, scheduled for
release about a month before the US elections!

"Carlo Guilani " - 7 inch or CD single, by Conflict
This is an excellent single. If you buy the CD you can watch an
excellent video of Conflict footage plus various anti-capitalist
demonstrations. Top marks to Conflict for keeping Carlo
Guilani~s memory alive. Never forget. Never forgive!


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