Stoke Newington 8 Defence Group: A Political Statement

Radical History of Hackney note:

This is an eight page pamphlet which seems to have been published at some point between February and May 1972. The contact address given is for a box c/o Compendium, an independent bookshop in Camden (which closed in the year 2000 and is much missed).

I’m not sure what the top left pagination numbers (61, 62 etc) refer to – possibly my copy is taken from a larger document or archive.

As with everything on this site, this material is reproduced here because I think it’s interesting – not because I agree with every word of it.

WOT’S BIN HAPPENING

Last August police raided a flat in Amhurst Road, Stoke Newington, North London. They captured four brothers and sisters, Jim Greenfield, Anna Mendelson, John Barker and Hilary Creek. Two others, Stuart Christie and Chris Bott were arrested upon allegedly entering the flat subsequent to the initial bust. All were charged with conspiring to cause explosions and were remanded in custody. The front pages of the media hinted that at last the Angry Brigade had been caught. In the following months, four more people were arrested and honoured with the same charge. They were Angie Weir, Kate McLean, Chris Allen and Pauline Conroy. Only one, a mother with a four month old baby, was granted bail.

In December the jury at the trial of Jake Prescott and Ian Purdie, both charged with cons­piring to cause explosions with the rest of those in custody, returned their verdicts. Jake was found not guilty of specific acts of bombing but guilty of conspiracy. Judge Melford Stevenson, the armchair terrorist, gave him a fifteen year sentence. Ian was found not guilty. Both had been in custody. for nine months before the trial.

The other ten came up for committal in the beginning of January. Two of them were informed that the Attorney General had decided that there was no evidence against them and had ordered that the charges be dropped “for the moment”. The rest went through four weeks of absolute boredom and were finally committed for trial. Angie, Kate and Hilary were granted bail, exiled to the provinces and placed under house arrest. The rest remain in prison.

At the Ian and Jake trial we were privileged to view the prosecution case against them all.

The Eight were in fact tried in their absence with both the defence and the prosecution assum­ing their guilt and the existence of the conspiracy, throughout the trial. Their charges re­late to a conspiracy which allegedly involves much more than just those bombings claimed by the Angry Brigade. The state is also alleging that bombings and shootings claimed by the First of May Group, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the Wild Bunch and Lotta Continua are also part of this conspiracy. In fact just about every single guerrilla action undertaken by groups from very different political areas within the movement over the past four years has been put down to them. The prosecution is attempting to create falsely the image that the political offensive carried out by the movement in the past four years is the work of a very small isolated gang of madmen.

The Stoke Newington Eight Defence Group has come together in solidarity with those charged. Until now we have been concentrating on organising prison visits, pushing out Conspiracy Notes, organising the lawyer scene and giving as much political and legal assist­ance to those intending to defend themselves as is possible in the circumstances.

The organisation around the legal defence is pretty well together now. There is no longer any question of political or legal compromise;.:either with the lawyers or within the court itself. There will now be two very clearly defined forces on trial: the oppressing class and the movement which it is trying to smash. The object shall be the attempt to create a political dialogue with the jury and to try and heighten the awareness of the power we have as a movement to destroy the control they have over our lives. This confrontation must not be confined to the totally unreal alienating atmosphere of the courtroom for in that situat­ion it will be much simpler for the State to smash them. With the solidarity of a movement behind them they will be able to fight back in a much more meaningful way.

"OUR NEED FOR PROTECTION IS GREATER THAN YOURS"

CONSPIRACY/MOVEMENT

The Old Bailey Show gets on the road this June. It’s going to be called “The Angry Brig­ade Trial”. Yet they haven’t caught the Angry Brigade so most of the cast won’t be there. They haven’t caught it because it’s not a conspiracy or an isolated enclosed unit. It remains unknown because you don’t have to sign a form to join it. The Stoke Newington Eight are the best the State can get to fit the bill. They are eight examples of what it might be: militants who have been active in the resistance to the corporate state and in the revolutionary movement.

And to be in the revolutionary movement is to be part of a social force which is growing in its energy, its power and is coherence. Things happen; the revolution grows and lives not because of a preordained natural process, not because of the manipulations of middleclass leaders but simply because of the needs and desires of people. As we come together, needs, desires, words become less individual; we start to act as a movement by knowing each others desires. Every revolutionary becomes responsible for and is part of each and every revolutionary action. We become a collective; our needs and desires come closer to actual realisation.

Robert Can’s mansion was wrecked by two bombs in a straightforward emotional response by a section of the revolutionary movement. An action presumably carried out, and known in advance by a small number of people. Yet those people are not a conspiracy; to say that is to deny that they are an integral part of the movement. They are a part of the movement every second of their lives: every time they feel great, every time they run and laugh and fuck together; they are a part of the movement when they work with other revolutionaries doing countless other things. Being part of their revolution they are sensitive to the needs and desires of that revolution. On January 12th we had a one day strike, we went on huge marches all over the country, we planned strategies for the future and we bombed Robert Carr.

"Laugh together? Fuck together? This has nothing to do with our way of life."

STATE REPRESSION

The ruling class can only look on the threat of a movement coming together in terms of small sinister groups carrying out subversive actions; in terms of a conspiracy. This is because its position as the ruling class depends on the myth which it itself has created; that of the apathy of the mass of people. In their eyes, “revolutionary conspirators” occasionally succeed in activating the passive oppressed classes into “making trouble” (i.e. opposing them effectively). When people who are fucked over every day of their lives -at work, at home, school, or on the dole- retaliate, this is not a “natural” occurrence, so they say; it is something fermented from the outside. They have to believe this to justify their own position.

This is how they have explained away their setback in the miner’s strike. Whether it was the miners, or just the union hierarchy, who won that struggle, maybe isn’t all that an important a question for the moment; certainly the ruling class lost, and it could only explain this in terms of “small but virulent minorities in our midst” (Carr’s speech after the strike) The spectre of violence everywhere being caused by small bands of outsiders, of conspiracies round every corner, is so clearly false. There were no violent infiltrators using the miners’ “cause” for their own sinister ends -only the solidarity of other workers, students and claimants and women. The violence of the miner’s pickets was justified retaliation for the violence they suffered at the hands of the police on the pickets, and the violence they have suffered for years working in filthy, unsafe pits for pitiful wages.

Similarly in Ireland. Their repression there is based on the following myth: “root out the conspiratorial and criminal IRA and the oppressed communities will go back to their normal, passive, exploited lives”. It has been their repressive policies, based on this myth which has mobilised the catholic communities into a state of insurrection. The ruling class’s response of direct rule is certainly one of a class looking for a compromise solution when it becomes clear that there can he no solution while their power remains there.

CONSPIRACY IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

THE POLITICAL OFFENSIVE

The political offensive against the ruling class got under way when state violence was showing itself in Ireland, and when the state had embarked on its economic and legal attack on the working class over here. The political offensive began when it became clear once again that there is no “natural growth” of democracy and equality and that there is no inevitable progressive development of the working class revolutionary movement. It began when it became clear that the state can and will smash the movement if it feels it can win. The bombings started. The arson and sabotage in factories and schools increased dramatically.

Yet nobody in the Angry Brigade, and none of those who are to stand trial in June has suggested that terrorism and the bombing of property of the ruling class is something which activates the passive mass, because there is no such thing. “The revolution is autonomous rank and file action; we create it ourselves” (Angry Brigade communique 7). In the same communique it attacked the politics of mass parties which work on the same assumptions as the ruling class, the passive working class being represented and led middleclass leaders. It has been clearly shown to them and the ruling class that the working class is not passive at all. It is Angry!

Neither has the Angry Brigade nor any of the defendants suggested that terrorism is an alternative to mass action, or the build up of a revolutionary movement, or a short cut to the revolution. But it was and is an expression of the anger and desires of themselves and of many, many people of the working class. The Angry Brigade is merely one expression of this. There have been over 107 explosions of a similar nature in the past year in this country that the rulers will admit to. And remember the D notices —

Guerrilla action will always be attacked by the straight left. They see the rise of the urban guerrilla as being the catalyst of political repression. In part this has been and is true, mainly for those in the libertarian movement. But in turn it has increased the level of security- and legal-consciousness and continues to organise. But nevertheless the fears of the straight left miss the essential point; that the ruling class offensive is for real. They know what they are doing to us and they expect violence and resistance, as they expect it from any human being who has been robbed, threatened or beaten. Heath made this clear two months after his election in a speech to UNO when he stated that the greatest threat to western civilisation (i.e. capitalism) was the spectre of civil war (i.e. class war) within each country. And when he talks of civil war, he is talking of a military/political offensive against all who oppose the corporate state.

We are going to have to learn real self-defence in the movement here. We have to prepare, and to those who call preparation “adventurist” reply —  “a political strategy without a milit­ary strategy is a program for fascism, and vice versa because they will defeat us militarily”. The movement is not a monolithic closed block. It is made out of actions, large and small. And an action is not an end in itself, but a development to be learned from, improved and changed, as the movement is changed by different actions.

Armed Love is not a slogan; it needs to become a reality. The state uses armed violence as an integral part of its strategy because our rulers know the power of their words to be mean­ingless — because their words are false. Their violence directly contradicts the platitudes they preach. Armed revolutionaries are not criminals. They are human beings who are get­ting together to defend a life which is theirs. We have to defend ourselves because we are being attacked. We are being attacked every time they force each one of us to work in their factories, to live on a means tested pittance, to consume their shoddy poisonous waste they produce to justify the profit system. We are being attacked each time they jail one of us. They have come too far for us to go back now. There is nowhere to retreat to and everywhere to go forward. If we don’t start learning to defend ourselves, we shall be murdered in the streets. Belfast and Derry are the training ground for the British Army.

The violence of the revolution is the desire to make our words and ideas real. Their “social”- peace” is the peace of acquiescent slaves. The peace of the revolution is the realisation of desire.

THE POLITICAL CAMPAIGN

Our own preparation is vital but we know that this preparation cannot be taken out of context, or in isolation from the political development of the movement. This means much more than just the struggle of the working class against the ruling class offensive at the point of production and more than the struggle for control over their work situation. It means the struggle of claimants against the humiliation of a subsistence means tested exist­ence. It means the struggle of women and gay people in their fight against political, sexual and economic oppression. It means the struggle of black people fighting for a decent life in a racist society controlled by a racist government which wants to get rid of them. It means the struggle of tenants in their fight against the “fair” (!) rents act. It means the struggle of all these groups coming together.

This is a long hard struggle. It will be difficult to learn as a movement. how to organise our political strategy so that there are no more setbacks and defeats. It will be even more difficult in face of attacks from the political police which have grown enormously in organisation and number in the past year. The fact that there have been so many raids, the fact that they now habitually seize all political documents that they come across in their raids. The fact that innocent brothers and sisters are locked up, some of them for many years. All this makes it more difficult. Yet all this at the same time creates the dynamic which brings us together.

In the face of these attacks, we must make very clear the solidarity we have with all political prisoners — whether they are innocent, or whether they have from within our move­ment taken up the political offensive. This so far we have failed to do, and the political implications of this are immense. It leaves them with much more of a free hand to rail road those of their own choosing, for as long as they want, with whatever evidence they choose to select.

The trial is now only 8 weeks away. We as the Defence Group may have neither the organisation nor the energy to act as a focal point for all aspects of this campaign. Neither is this a position which is really politically viable or acceptable within a movement as diverse as ours. If other groups independently of ourselves can begin putting out their own leaflets (or reproductions of those from the Defence Group), and organising their own meetings, then certainly the solidarity campaign will have considerably more impact on the trial and the movement.

If we are to survive as a movement, we need to do more than just mouth polite phrases of support and outrage in the underground columns as one of us is sent down for fifteen years: this is what happened to Jake. We cannot shout in defence of comrades who are political prisoners in other corners of the world while remaining blind to the fact that eight brothers and sisters, after a year of imprisonment and house arrest will be appearing alone in the dock at the Old Bailey in June in a confrontation with the state, that is, unless we say:

that those who are captured are a part of us — they have our total support.
that those the state accuses of political offences belong to our movement which
itself, and itself alone, is responsible for its actions.

We stand with the Stoke Newington Eight. This trial is a crucial point in all our struggles with the ruling class. These struggles continue on many different fronts, and it may not be possible for us to come together at this point in a concrete expression of solidarity with the Eight. This we can only discover by rapping with as many groups as possible, at meet­ings arranged in your area.

If any groups are interested in distributing material put out by the Defence Group — leaflets, posters, pamphlets, — or arranging meetings with people from the Defence Group, please contact us by writing to

STOKE NEWINGTON EIGHT DEFENCE GROUP
BOX 359
240 CAMDEN HIGH STREET
LONDON N.W.1

FIGHT WITH THE STOKE NEWINGTON EIGHT

SPREAD THE WORD

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

Published by Beaverbrook Publications L.T.D.

One thought on “Stoke Newington 8 Defence Group: A Political Statement

  1. Pingback: “If You Want Peace Prepare For War” – Stoke Newington 8 Defence Group, 1972 | The Radical History of Hackney

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