Five years ago we reproduced the whole of “If You Want Peace, Prepare For War” by the Stoke Newington 8 Defence Group and wrote:
“…the Stoke Newington 8 Defence Committee which, not uncommonly, was more interesting than the Angry Brigade itself, a widely-based, politically creative organisation of very different people.” – John Barker
Below is a complete reprint of a Stoke Newington Eight Defence Group booklet. It’s a good example of a document which you see mentioned everywhere but can’t actually read without access to private libraries or the money to pay for antiquarian books. Until now.
There is a lot here to disagree with, but it does perhaps show the sort of debates that were taking place at the time.
The text has now been reprinted with a new introduction and endnotes by the enigmatic See Red Press who kindly sent me a copy. It is a beautiful edition, but the introduction does intensify my unease about the contents:
Regardless of the illegitimacy of the prosecution evidence, it’s likely that at least some of the defendants were actively involved in carrying out the activities of the Angry Brigade. John Barker later said, “In my case the police framed a guilty man.” Bombs and explosions have been associated with anti-authoritarian struggle across the world for centuries, but in more recent years in the UK the idea of ‘terror’ – and its identified perpetrators – have been increasingly individualised and racialised, enshrined in state programmes such as Prevent. It has equally been restricted. Those who undertake direct action against the state increasingly seek to distance themselves from the label of terrorism, often enforcing its use against those with less leverage in society. If authoritarian terrorism is ideology maintained by force, what does, and could, anti-authoritarian terrorism look like? And is there a place for it now, in 2020 in the UK?
The short answer to this latter question is no. A longer answer is: whilst this is an interesting question, it is the wrong one. This is an anti-authoritarian blog and I shall place my cards on the table and say that I would like those in power to be considerably more scared of the rest of us than they currently seem to be. There is a class war raging and we are losing it.
The “terror” card is one weapon in the state’s armoury that is used to divide us. A whole swathe of completely reasonable groups have been accused of terrorism or “domestic extremism” in recent years, including anti-fracking protestors, trade unionists, anti-fascists and volunteers fighting ISIS in Syria.
“Direct action against the state” can take many forms and the Angry Brigade’s tactics are a useful historical example of something that creates a lot of noise but achieves little in isolation.
Reviewing issues of Hackney Gutter Press from the early 1970s shows us that 137 people were identified by the state as Angry Brigade suspects and many of them were subjected to dawn raids, arrests and lower level persecution. At the same time large numbers of radicals were diverted from their day to day community and workplace campaigning to defend arrestees as part of organisations such as the Stoke Newington 8 Defence Group. This collateral damage needs to be included in any analysis of this period.
There are unfortunately no shortcuts to “peace”.
These reservations aside, the booklet is recommended as a useful slice of Hackney’s radical history. It can be got cheap here from AK Press.
Whilst you’re there you may also want to pick up copies of Angry Brigade: Documents and chronology (which includes all of the AB’s poetic communiques sent to the press) and Gordon Carr’s The Angry Brigade: A History of Britain’s First Urban Guerilla Group which is so far the definitive account.
Our previous posts on the Angry Brigade and Stoke Newington 8 can be seen by clicking on the tag below.