Astrid Proll – on the run in Hackney

Astrid Proll: under arrest in Germany

In Germany

Astrid Proll was a household name in the 1970s along with her comrades Ulrike Meinhof, Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and other members of the Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Faction – aka The Baader-Meinhof gang).

Astrid’s older brother Thorwald Proll introduced her to the circle of radicals that would become the RAF – indeed, she would be one of its founders. The group’s politics were broadly anti-imperialist: opposed to the Vietnam war and outraged by the prominence of former Nazis in West Germany. The state would brand them “anarchist violent offenders”, but most anarchists I know would categorise them as Maoists (and point out that urban guerilla movements with no connection to the working class do not end well).

On 2nd April 1968 (before becoming the RAF), the group had organised arson attacks on two Frankfurt department stores. This was in revenge for the killing of Benno Ohnesorg (a protestor shot by a policeman during a demonstration opposing the Shah of Iran’s visit to West Berlin. The killer would eventually be revealed as an East German Stasi agent) – and also against the ongoing Vietnam war. Days later, Baader and several others including Thorwald Proll were caught by the police and imprisoned.

Baader was eventually freed by armed members of the group during a staged interview with Ulrike Meinhof at a library on 14 May 1970. Astrid Proll was the getaway driver. She was also involved in bank robberies around this time to raise funds for the RAF’s operations and underground existence. She became one of the most wanted women in West Germany.

Proll and RAF member Manfred Grasho were stopped by the cops on 10 February 1971 but managed to get away under police gunfire. It was falsely claimed that she had shot at the two officers attempting to arrest her. However in Hamburg on 6 May of the same year, Astrid was finally caught after a pump attendant at a petrol station recognised her from a wanted poster and alerted the authorities. She attempted to flee but was surrounded by armed officers and arrested – and then charged with offences including attempted murder and robbery.

In November 1971, Astrid Proll became the first of several RAF members to be held in solitary confinement in the new “dead wing” of Cologne-Ossendorf prison. She was 24 years old. The “dead wing” or “silent wing” was an ingenious facility of six cells in which the walls and furniture were painted entirely white. A bare neon light turned on 24 hours a day was supplemented by meagre daylight through a narrow slit too high to see out of. The cells were designed so that no external sounds could penetrate them. It was forbidden for prisoners to hang pictures on the walls.

These conditons amount to torture and would be one of the factors that led subsequent RAF prisoners to go on hunger stirke. Proll spent two and half years in solitary confinement (four and half months of which were in the dead wing). She developed circulatory problems, difficulty breathing, panic attacks and was sometimes unable to walk.

On February 4, 1974 Astrid’s trial was adjourned because of her ill health, and she was granted bail. Shortly after this she fled West Germany under a false passport. After spending some time in Italy, she arrived in London in August 1974.

Astrid in London

I fled to Britain […] and realised how overtly ideological and misguided the German left had become. In Britain the left was more pragmatic and had more realistic goals; it was also more tuned into the real world. A concept as deluded as “armed struggle” would never have come to pass here.

Astrid Proll, The Matured Spirit of ’68

Precise details of Astrid’s early time in London are hard to pin down. She seems to have moved around a lot, living in Holland Park, Mile End and Kilburn as well as several addresses in Hackney. In interviews she has mentioned the support she received from feminists, squatters and Hackney members of the libertarian marxist group Big Flame.

Using her false passport, Astrid got married to Robin Puttick at Stepney registry office on January 22, 1975. She took the name Anna Puttick. This is generally believed to be a marriage of convenience as she was on the run – and a lesbian. As she told Iain Sinclair “I had to have papers, I was so German.”

Living in Hackney

“Solidarity was the precept of the counterculture. The squats were the material basis and preconditon for the emergence of political activism, art and alternative life. These houses, removed from the circulation of capitalist valorisation, were open spaces for experimentations of all kinds towards a life lived without economic constraints”

Astrid Proll, Goodbye To London

So where did she live?

Several contributors to the Kill Your Pet Puppy website mention her being hidden away in the squats of Brougham Road near Broadway Market (the street would later be an epicentre of anarchist punk activity in the 1980s).

Court documents from the time mention her “first squat” at the end of 1974 being 25 Marlborough Avenue E8. Astrid herself in Goodbye To London recalls “squatting with a female friend in a former shoe store in Broadway Market” and she told Iain Sinclair:

“When I heard about the death of Ulrike Meinhof in Stammheim Prison, I lived in a street that no longer exists, Lamb Lane. Beside London Fields. I lived around Broadway Market a lot. There was a huge women’s movement thing, a whole scene.”

Meinhof died in mysterious circumstances on 9 May 1976. The general trajectory of the RAF after Astrid left Germany had been increasingly desperate. Life in exile would have been stressful, but must have seemed like the better option.

There was a thriving alternative scene in the capital at the time and Astrid mentions attending women-only dances as well as suppoting the striking Asian women workers on the picket lines at the Grunwick dispute in West London. But the past was never far away…

Writer Philip Oltermann suggests that Proll and “a group of lesbians from Bow” were in the crowd of 80,000 at the free Rock Against Racism / Anti-Nazil League gig in Victoria Park on 30 April 1978. He mentions her “panic rising” when she saw the RAF logo onstage on the t-shirt worn by Joe Strummer of The Clash:

Joe Strummer’s Red Army Faction t-shirt at Victoria Park Rock Against Racism gig 30 April 1978

(Incidentally the burgeoning “punkademic” industry seems inexorably drawn to making connections between the RAF and punk. Personally I think it’s clear that Strummer was a poseur with a nice turn in protest music and social observation, but he was sorely lacking in political analysis. Tom Vague concludes his RAF book with a fantastic photo of Sid Vicious and John Lydon posing in front of a Baader-Meinhof wanted poster in Berlin in 1977. In the same year anarchist punks Crass pasted up a poster near Covent Garden’s Roxy club with the slogan “Germany got Baader-Meinhof, England got punk but they can’t kill it”. I’d say one t-shirt, one photograph and one poster were slim evidence, but I’m not a lecturer with a quota of publications to fill. I’d be much more interested to hear about what other gigs Astrid Proll and her social circle were going to in mid-70s London…).

“I always knew that a photo of me could give me away and destroy my London life. So I avoided being photographed. When the book ‘Hitler’s Children:The Story of the Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Gang’ was released, female friends went out and stole the book off bookstore shelves or tore out the pages with my photograph”

Astrid Proll, Goodbye To London

Friends from the time mention her being a good neighbour and putting down roots:

“The children would be in and out of her house at the weekends, she’d be delighted on the occasions they stayed the night there because she revelled in their company and because it left me free. [She put] all her energy into her work, into friendships, into the squatting and local communty as a whole.”

Anonymous friend quoted by Friends of Astrid Proll

This lifestyle and support network would do a fine job of keeping Proll out of sight of the authorities… for a while.

“Women Work In Hackney”

Astrid’s work in London is better documented than where she lived. Each of her three jobs had a Hackney connection.

In the Spring of 1975 she was employed as a gardener by the council:

“I went to get a job with Hackney Council. I was a park keeper. In Clissold Park, my favourite park. I was working with an Irish guy, raking, mowing. They threw us both out, him and me. After six months. […] I had Clissold Park. I had London Fields. I had a little park which was in Shoreditch. It was around a church, a little garden. I had to go out in the morning and open it.”

Quoted by Iain Sinclair

Hackney Council also paid for Astrid to train as a car mechanic:

[…] in 1976 [she] enrolled on a government training course in car mechanics at Poplar Skill Centre. She left the course with a City and Guilds Certificate and, [had] taken an evening class in welding […] She had obtained all the necessary qualifications; national insurance card, union card and driving licence in the name of Senta Puttick.”

Court documents

She was apparently the only woman on the training course. Car mechanic was an unusual profession for a woman in the 1970s and especially one trying not to attract attention. Not to mention being photographed for an exhibition:

Alleged photo of Astrid Proll by The Hackney Flashers

I’ve used this image before in a piece about radical photography collective The Hackney Flashers and hadn’t noticed the connection. The exhibition was in 1975 and is interesting as it connects Astrid Proll with the radical feminist groups of the time.

“I did not live underground in England,” she insists. “I lived with other youths who also read Marx and idealised the working classes. I worked on the shop floor and as a car mechanic. This attitude was very admired in the Seventies.” 

Quoted by Tina Jackson

Her new skills got her nicknamed “Anna the Spanner”. She put them to good use, running a car maintenance class for women and in 1977 got a job at the iconic Lesney factory next to Hackney marshes. Lesney’s made “Matchbox” toy cars and was a big employer in the borough. She started as a fitter’s mate and was eventually promoted to be a supervisor. She was a member of the Amalgamated Electrical union. (Speculation – the Big Flame group were quite big on this sort of shop floor activity?)

“At work, Anna had to cope with the suspicion, ribaldry and loneliness that comes with being the only woman in a traditionally male job. At Lesney’s some of the men wouldn’t work with her because she was a woman, and one of the supervisors was always really down on her. Anna is an inspiration to me, and to other women, in her determination to fight this sex discrimination and not let herself be discouraged.”

Anonymous friend, quoted by Friends of Astrid Proll

In late 1977 she got a job training young offenders as mechanics at Camden Enterprises on Finchley Road, West Hampstead. Accordng to journalist Tina Jackson she subverted the training programme by “showing some of her students how to use the skills she’d taught them to steal cars”.

It would be her last job in London for some time…

Arrest

On 15 September 1978 a couple of uniformed policemen visited the Camden Enterprises workshop. Astrid’s manager Vincent Wilcox assumed they wanted to speak to him about a motoring offence. He soon realised he was off the hook:

“The next moment about ten plain clothes officers from Scotland Yard came in and took her up to the recreation room, pushed her up against the lockers and searched her.”

Quoted in BBC: On This Day

Proll did not resist arrest. It is heartening that she doesn’t seem to have been grassed up by anyone in the London counterculture:

“I was most likely recognised by a policeman when I accompanied a young man who was always stealing cars and getting into trouble to the police station. As the officials from Scotland Yard took me away from the garage, the young men looked at me, stunned. I just said ‘I won’t see you again’.”

Astrid Proll, Farewell To London

She quickly released a statement through her solicitor: “I have lived in England for the past four years – I have no contact with the Red Army Faction and I have tried to settle down as best I could in the circumstances.”

The RAF women had long been salivated over by the media and so Astrid’s arrest was predictably sensationalised. Her contacts were interrogated by reporters and every aspect of her lifestyle picked over:

Tabloid press cutting reproduced in Tom Vague’s Televisionaries: the Red Army Faction story

Proll would later tell journalist Kate Connolly “The British tabloids were one of the most terrifying things I have experienced.”

Campaign

"Free Astrid Proll" graffitiin West London from Christopher Petit's film "Radio On"
“Free Astrid Proll” graffiti in West London from Christopher Petit’s film “Radio On”

Whilst Proll was being held and questioned at Paddington Green police station, her support network sprang into action:

Graffiti backing her rapidly appeared. Lee Nurse and a friend cycled late one night down to Old Street where they painted ‘No extradition for Astrid Proll’ across the top of the large ventilation shaft in the centre of the roundabout. It remained in place for many years and only disappeared when the new ‘silicon roundabout’ appeared as part of the transformation of the area into a ‘technology hub’

Christine Wall

One of the most remarkable things about the story of the RAF is the widespread support they seemed to have had in West Germany at the time – with some estimates suggesting 10,000 sympathisers. Similarly in London, the “Friends of Astrid Proll” solidarity campaign appears to have been sizeable and multifaceted.

Poster for November 1978 benefit gig

“The Passions and the Nips, Shane MacGowan’s pre-Pogues group, appeared at a Rough Theatre benefit for the defence fund of Astrid Proll of the Baader-Meinhof gang”

Tom Vague

“We actually helped to organise the Astrid Proll thing because she was a friend, we knew her as Anna and she worked as a mechanic teaching young people at a youth project in North London. I remember her being very interested in my old Vauxhall and then later reading about her Baader Meinhof exploits, it seems she was their getaway driver! I also remember Crass phoning up and desperately wanting to play at the gig (being anarchists I suppose they would), but there wasn’t space on the bill for them. They were very disappointed. It was a good gig, well attended if I remember correctly.”

Richard Williams, drummer for The Passions

The gig was followed by a discussion at the Scala Cinema and a film benefit at the Womens Art Alliance, showing “Shirin’s Wedding” – which is about the unfortunate life of a young female Turkish migrant to West Germany:

Discussion advertised in anarchist newspaper, Freedom 14 October 1978
Benefit notice from feninist magazine Spare Rib #77

Singer Nik Turner (most famous for his time in Hawkwind) was inspired by Proll’s plight (and apparently her time squatting in Brougham Road?). The first single by his new band Inner City Unit was originally called “Solitary Astrid”. However “to avoid controversy” the song was given the title “Solitary Ashtray”. Which does beg the question why the b-side was called “SO T RY AS I D” (“so try acid”)?

Before performing the song in Bristol in 2016, Nik told an amusing tale of donating to the Friends of Astrid Proll support fund – and because of all this being raided himself by Special Branch for drugs and terrorist materials.

This cultural solidarity provided the funding and wider context for the political work being done. Astrid was transferred to Brixton prison shortly after her arrest. Friends of Astrid Proll organised pickets of the prison and protests at Bow Street Magistrate’s Court where her case was being heard:

The Times 10 April 1978
Demo notice in Freedom, December 1978.

Brixton was – and remains – a male prison. There were two other female prisonsers at the time: Iris Mills (an anarchist arrested as part of the “Persons Unknown” case – who would be acquitted) and young Palestinian activist Khloud al Mugrabi (who may have been Iraqi or Lebanese? And spoke no English). All three were “Category A” prisoners – requiring maximum security.

Proll was allowed visitors though – and was able to write letters to supporters that were used in their literature.

Naturally one of the objectives of the campaign was that Astrid be transferred to the female Holloway Prison in North London. Alongside this the main demand was that she should not be extradited on the grounds that she would not get a fair trial in West Germany and that the new anti-terror laws there were draconian.

She was understandably terrified of returning to Germany as she was still suffering from the trauma resulting from her imprisonment in the “dead wing”:

“Not even today, six years later, have I completely recovered […]. I can’t stand rooms which are painted white because they remind me of my cell. Silence in a wood can terrify me, it reminds me of the silence in the isolated cell. Darkness makes me so depressive as if my life were taken away. Solitude causes me as much fear as crowds. Even today I have the feeling occasionally as if I can’t move.”

“I do not expect to survive if I return to Germany.”

Astrid Proll quoted in Friends of Astrid Proll literature

Three leaflets from Friends of Astrid Proll are available as PDFs here.

Extradition and Trial

Various attempts were made to thwart the extradition process including Astrid applying to be a British citizen by dint of her marriage and several years of residence. This was a longshot – complicated by her using false papers to get married and the lack of affection for her by the British state and media. The case is still cited today in legal textbooks.

The legal battles were eventually exhausted and Astrid returned voluntarily to Germany in June 1979. Her trial there commenced in September and went a great deal better than anyone was expecting.

The most serious charge was of the attempted murder of police officers during an attempted arrest back in February 1971. This was dropped when it emerged that the state had evidence all along that she hadn’t opened fire.

Astrid Proll leaving her trial in Germany 1980.

In February 1980 Astrid Proll was sentenced to five-and-a-half years for bank robbery and falsifying documents. But as she had already spent more than two thirds of her sentence in British and West German jails she was released immediately. She was 32 years old.

Freedom and aftermath

The British Home Secretary banned her for life from entering Britain. After a lengthy legal battle she was allowed to return in 1988.

She studied film and photography in Hamburg and subsequently worked as a picture editor for the German magazine Tempo and The Independent newspaper in London.

Her 1998 book Baader-Meinhof: Pictures on the run 67-77 apparently documents the pre-London years (and is now prohibitively expensive).

In 2010 she contributed to the exhibition “Goodbye To London: Radical Art & Politics in the 70s” and edited the accompanying book which includes some excellent material about squatting, LGBT culture, Hackney Flashers, Grunwick etc – as well as an essential foreword by Proll that is quoted above.

Sources / Plagiarism / Further Reading

Anon – The Passions: Frestonia, Fiction and Friction (The Passions website)

Jean Barrot – Letter on the use of violence (1973)

BBC “On This Day: 15 September” – 1978: German terror suspect arrested in UK

Kate Connolly – Astrid Proll’s journey to Terror Chic (The Guardian 6 October 2002)

Friends of Astrid Proll – The Court Situation (1978)

Friends of Astrid Proll – Freedom For Astrid Proll (1978)

Friends of Astrid Proll – The Case Against Her Extradition (1978)

A. Grossman – “State-Fetishism”: some remarks concerning the Red Army Faction (1979/1980)

Tina Jackson – The Terrorist’s Family Album (The Indepedent 8 October 1998)

Andre Moncourt & J. Smith – The Red Army Faction: A Documentary History volume 1 Projectiles For The People (Kersplebedeb & PM Press 2009)

Philip Oltermann – Keeping Up With the Germans: A History of Anglo-German Encounters (Faber & Faber 2012)

Astrid Proll (ed) – Goodbye To London: Radical Art & Politics in the 70s (Hatje Cantz 2010)

Astrid Proll – The Matured Spirit of ’68 (The Guardian 19 March 2011)

Iain Sinclair – Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire: A Confidential Report (Hamish Hamilton 2009)

Nik Turner / Inner City Unit performance, The Louisiana, Bristol 25 August 2016 Youtube

Tom Vague – Euroterrorism: Well It’s Better Than Bottling It Up (Vague #201988)

Tom Vague – Televisionaries: The Red Army Faction Story 1963-1993 (AK Press 1994)

Tom Vague – Westway Psychogeography Report 3 (Colville Community History Project #13, October 2015)

Christine Wall – Sisterhood and Squatting in the 1970s: Feminism, Housing and Urban Change in Hackney (History Workshop Journal #83 Spring 2017)

Various – Brougham Road, Hackney, London E8 (Kill Your Pet Puppy 15 May 2008)

Legal documents

Puttick v. Attorney-General and Another 1979 April 30; May 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 http://uniset.ca/other/cs4/puttick1.html

Regina v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, ex parte Puttick 1980 Oct. 31; Nov. 14 http://uniset.ca/other/cs4/puttick2.html

Puttick Orse Proll v Secretary of State for the Home Department Immigration Appeal Tribunal 9 August 1984 https://www.refworld.org/cases,GBR_AIT,3ae6b6571c.html

The sad story of Fred Demuth – Marx’s son in Hackney

“I can’t help feeling that Freddy has had great injustice all through his life.”  – Eleanor Marx

 

Photo of Frederick Lewis Demuth 1851-1929

Frederick Demuth 1851-1929

Frederick’s Demuth’s story is a convoluted one which is contested by a number of historians – and tainted by hostility or deference to his alleged father. This bias makes it difficult to do justice to Demuth himself. 

People have strong feelings about Karl Marx, so I’ll put my cards on the table from the outset and say that reading his books has helped me to understand the world. I would thoroughly recommend David Harvey’s lectures about Capital which can be viewed on Youtube or downloaded as mp3s. As an individual Karl seems as charming and annoying and brilliant and messed up as the rest of us – if not more so. More on that later.

We have some travelling to do before we reach Hackney, so please bear with me…

Marx – married and on the move

Karl Marx married Jenny von Westphalen in 1843. They had been engaged for seven years and had known each other since childhood. In October 1843 the Marxes moved from Jenny’s family home in Kreuznach (near Frankfurt) to Paris. It was a busy time. Karl wrote for a radical journal, met lifelong comrade Friedrich Engels for the first time and began his expansive study of political economy that would be the basis for Capital. The couple’s first daughter Jenny Caroline was born in 1844 (the convention is to use the second name to avoid confusing the Jennys, as we will see).

The Marx family were kicked out of France in 1845 and headed to Brussels. Jenny Marx’s mother was worried about them and sent her housekeeper Helene ‘Lenchen’ Demuth to help. Lenchen stayed with the Marxes for the rest of their lives.

Jenny Laura Marx was born in Brussels in 1845. The Marx family and Lenchen decamped to London in 1849. The two junior Jennys were followed by Edgar (1847); Henry Edward Guy (1849); Jenny Eveline Frances (1851) and Eleanor (1855). That’s six children born to Jenny senior in 11 years. But that wasn’t quite the end of it…

Helene Demuth gave birth to Frederick Demuth on 23 June 1851 in the Marx home of 28 Dean Street, Soho. She was not apparently in any kind of “respectable” relationship at the time, so young Freddy was fostered out. The Marx children assumed (or rather, were helped to believe) that frequent visitor Engels was responsible. But Helene never spoke about her son’s father.

It is now generally (but not universally) believed that Karl Marx was actually Frederick Demuth’s father. This means Karl was shagging Helene whilst his wife was pregnant with Jenny Eveline. His letters from the time mention that he went into hiding in the British Library for many days when Lenchen’s pregnancy would have been discovered.

Frederick Demuth in Hackney

Freddy Demuth as a dashing Hackney lad

Frustratingly little is known about Frederick Demuth’s life compared to his birth. (If you know more, or where to find out more, please leave a comment!)

Freddy was fostered by a family named Lewis in East London. He trained as a skilled fitter and turner (lathe operator – possibly gun-smithing) and left his foster family and “rough childhood” as early as possible.

Ellen Demuth

In January, February or March 1873 Demuth married the Irish gardener’s daughter Ellen Murphy (b 1854). The couple lived in Hackney in the early 1880s and had a son, Harry (aka Frederick confusingly) in 1882.

The tomes of Marxological correspondence show that Eleanor Marx maintained a friendship with Freddy from at least the 1880s onwards.

When Karl Marx died in 1883, Helene Demuth became Engels’ housekeeper (Jenny Marx senior had died a few years previously). Harry Demuth would later recall his father taking him to visit granny Helene at Engels’ Regents Park Road home.

Eleanor continued her efforts to bridge the gap between Freddy and his presumed father Engels:

“Freddy has behaved admirably in all respects and Engels’ irritation against him is as unfair as it is comprehensible. We should none of us like to meet our pasts, I guess, in flesh and blood.”

Perhaps because of this Freddy was invited to Engels’ 74th birthday party in November  1894. But there was no time to develop things further – Engels died the next year. He left nothing in his will for Freddy, but the “legitimate” Marx children were included and are said to have given him regular support. There are contested suggestions that Engels confessed that Marx was actually Freddy’s father on his deathbed.

One account states that Eleanor Marx introduced Freddy to Clara Zetkin as “my half brother” during the Second International’s Congress of 1896 in London’s Queen’s Hall, Langham Place.

In February 1888 Freddy joined the Kings Cross branch of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers as a skilled fitter. The ASE would shortly become the third largest union in Britain and embark on a lengthy strike for an eight hour day. (Workers’ struggles around the length of the working day was one of the themes Karl Marx tackled in volume 1 of Capital which had been published in English in 1887.)

When Helene “Lenchen” Demuth died of cancer in 1890 she left all her worldly goods – including ninety-five pounds – to Frederick Lewis Demuth of 25 Gransden Avenue, Hackney.

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The site of 25 Grandsden Avenue

That side of Gransden Avenue is now a building site, but our comrades at Past Tense have written about the area as part of their essential Hackney Walk:

London Fields east: Mentmore Terrace, Sidworth Street, Lamb lane, Gransden Avenue:

 

Sidworth Street was the site of a V2 bomb during the war and in the 1960s and 1970s industrial unties built.

 

In 2010 one block (13018) was squatted as Urban HapHazard Squat. Some buildings around Sidworth Street and Mentmore Terrace are currently squatted, some with the knowledge/permission of the property owners.

Properties round here bough by local council after WW2 (bomb damage & slum clearance) and in the 1970s. During this time there were several traveller sites on Lamb Lane, Gransden Avenue and  Mentmore Terrace. In the 1980s a site on Gransden Avenue/London Lane was being considered as a permanent local authority traveller site.

Freddy’s son later recalled that they inhabited the first floor of the “ramshackle” house, with the Clayton family on the ground floor. Henry Clayton worked with Freddy at Paterson and Cooper, a firm of electrical engineers and scientific instrument makers based at Telegraph Works, Pownall Road, Haggerston.

The 1891 census has the family of Frederick, Ellen and Frederick jnr still at Gransden Ave. Freddy is listed as engineer and fitter. But by the 1901 census only the father and son remained.

In 1892 Freddy’s wife Ellen had left him to run away with a soldier. She also nicked most of his possessions, as well as £29 belonging to a workers’ benevolent fund that comrade Demuth had been entrusted with. Ouch. Eleanor Marx pulled some strings and bailed him out with the assistance of her siblings.

Freddy posing with Hackney Social Democratic Federation comrades

Harry Demuth told journalist David Heisler about his father’s political activity increasing around this time, including being an avid reader of the socialist newspaper The Clarion and his membership of the Hackney Social Democratic Federation, attending their meetings at the Rendezvous Cafe at 155 Mare Street and the British Oak Tavern on Lea Bridge Road. There is also mention of Freddy being one of the founders of the Clapton Park and District Co-Operative and Industrial Society at 28 Brooksby’s Walk in Homerton. Harry recalls his father studying the works of Marx and Engels and having their pictures on the walls of their family home.

We also know that Freddy was a founder member of the Hackney Labour Party. (When was this? The Labour Party was founded in 1900, but its first showing in Hackney parliamentary and council elections is 1922. Separate Hoxton ran a Labour candidate in the 1919 council elections though).

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54 Reighton Rd

By 1911 Freddy was boarding at the slightly more upmarket 54 Reighton Road in Upper Clapton. `His profession is listed as mechanical engineer – working with fountain pens. He was boarding with the Payne family. Alfred Payne had also been a founder member of Hackney Labour Party and went on to become mayor of Hackney between 1919-20.

Harry lived elsewhere at this point, working as a cab driver before briefly emigrating to Australia.

Freddy (front and centre) convalescing from a period of illness, 1912

In 1914 Freddy started working at the Bryant and May factory in Bow, initially as a fitter and then as a foreman. He’d previously had roles at Gestetner (Lea Valley) and stamp printers De La Rue (Bun Hill Row). In 1924 he retired at the age of 73. He was still a member of the Hackney branch of Amalgamated Engineers Union.

Freddy died of heart failure in Upper Clapton in 1929, outliving all the other Marx children. At that point he shared a house with Ellen “Laura” Payne, the widow of Alfred Payne. Freddy’s son Harry was for some reason named as his nephew in his will – he got the surprisingly large sum of £1971 12s 4d. Rachel Holmes suggests that this inheritance may have been a product of the financial support Freddy had received from the Marx siblings.

Yvonne Kapp has Frederick Demuth’s last address as 13 Stoke Newington Common:

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13 Stoke Newington Common

The hazards of moral judgements and historical perspective

“[Karl] did not love the boy, the scandal would have been too big.” – Louise Kautsky

There are two very polarised perspectives on Frederick Demuth and they are both entirely wrong.

Socialists and Communists generally gloss over Freddy’s existence as an unfortunate event that is either an interesting footnote or something that demonstrates the steps that the workers’ movement had to take to defend itself from attacks in the media.

Generally, if he is ever mentioned at all, Freddy is one weapon in an arsenal of tools used to attack his father. If you listened to conservative commentators you would know that Karl Marx was a terrible person who never worked a day in his life (in fact he was paid as a journalist and author) sponged off factory owner Engels (partly true – although Engels was more than willing to help out his objectively more talented comrade) and more seriously raped his servant. The latter claim is of course impossible to prove or disprove now.

The few accounts we have of life in the Marx family household seem to indicate that there was a great deal of mutual affection between Karl, Jenny senior and Helene. That said, there is clearly a power imbalance between employer and employee which makes it difficult to know how complete consent can be in a sexual relationship which takes place in that context.

We also know from accounts of the Marx household and the wider historical context that finances were tight (and often desperate) – and that “respectable” families did not include children born out of wedlock.

Karl Marx shouldn’t have shagged his housekeeper. But he did. Is this a stain on his character? Yes it is. Does it undermine his ideas? Not really, but it is a black mark for sure.

They think only of two individuals and forget the family. They forget that nearly every dissolution of a marriage is the dissolution of a family and that the children and what belongs to them should not be dependent on arbitrary whims, even from a purely legal point of view.

On a Proposed Divorce Law, 1842

 

The change in a historical epoch can always be determined by the progress of women toward freedom, because in the relation of woman to man, of the weak to the strong, the victory of human nature over brutality is most evident. The degree of emancipation of woman is the natural measure of general emancipation.

The Holy Family, 1844

The nucleus, the first form of [property] lies in the family, where wife and children are slaves of the husband. This latent slavery in the family, though still very crude, is the first property …

The German Ideology, 1846

In the above quotes, Marx recognises the unequal status of women in capitalism and the effect that the dissolution of a family can have on children. He would also have been only too aware of the differences in class between him and his housemaid – and the consequences of their relationship being discovered.

Marx and Engels’ vision for a new world included some laudable words about women and relationships:

It [communist society] will transform the relations between the sexes into a purely private matter which concerns only the persons involved and into which society has no occasion to intervene. It can do this since it does away with private property and educates children on a communal basis, and in this way removes the two bases of traditional marriage, the dependence, rooted in private property, of the woman on the man and of the children on the parents.

Communist Manifesto, 1848

But the world of 1848 (and 1851 when Freddy was born) was even further away from that than we are now. Marx fostered out Freddy because that is what most people in that situation would have done at the time – and because a public scandal about his family would undermine the work he was doing. He behaved in accordance with his class, which meant oppressing his servant even more than usual when the chips were down.

I am not married. I am writing this whilst my daughter does her school homework at the same table. I am able to do this without controversy because of the work done by feminists and the workers’ movement over the last 167 years to loosen the strange-hold of conservative values on the family and child rearing. Marx’s contribution to this process of social change cannot be ignored.

Having said that, parts of the left would still rather cover up a scandal than address the failings of the men it elevates to leadership positions. In 2013 the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party was rocked by accusations that it had covered up allegations of rape and sexual misconduct against one of its leading members. As one of the female victims said at the time: “They are putting the interests of the party above the interests of the women.”

The personal remains political. Which brings us back to Frederick Demuth.

If you subtract the question of his father from the equation, Freddy’s life remains interesting and worth celebrating. He escaped a harsh childhood and a horrendous marriage breakup and still managed to retain his humanity – his capacity to care for others. His years of union work and political activism are the quiet, patient building blocks out of which we will construct a better world.

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Notes and sources

I first heard about Frederick Demuth during a talk given by Barry Burke and Ken Worpole at Pages Bookshop in 2015. So thanks as ever to them for all the work they did on Hackney’s radical history before I even got started.

I have used the following for this piece:

Eduard Bernstein – What Drove Eleanor Marx to Suicide (1898) – includes a number of letters from Eleanor `Marx to Freddy that demonstrate he was her main confidante towards the end of her life.

Terrell Carver – Marx’sIllegitimate Son’ …or Gresham’s Law in the World of Scholarship – a useful dose of scepticism on the Marx-paternity claim.

Hal Draper – Marx and Engels on Women’s Liberation

Edna Healey – Wives of Fame: Mary Livingstone, Jenny Marx and Emma Darwin (Bloomsbury, 2011)

Rachel Holmes – Eleanor Marx: A Life (Bloomsbury, 2014)

Yvonne Kapp – Eleanor Marx: A Biography (Verso, 2018) – the main source. Appendix 1 especially.

Yvonne Kapp – Writing Eleanor Marx  – includes an account of the Demuth family contacting her after being messed about by a journalist who stole their family photos.

Frances Wheen – Karl Marx (Fourth Estate, 1999)

Two newspaper articles from the David Heisler interviews in the early 1970s:

ABC Madrid – El Hijo Que Carlos Marx Trato De Olividar (“The son that Karl Marx tried to forget”) (1974)

Der Spiegel – Marx: Ungeliebter Sohn (“Marx: Unloved Son” – google translate) (1972)

History Workshop Journal: Feminist squatting in Hackney

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The current issue of HWJ includes an excellent article by Christine Wall titled “Sisterhood and Squatting in the 1970s: Feminism, Housing and Urban Change in Hackney”.

Fortunately for us non-academics, the piece can be read in its entirety online rather than being stuck behind a paywall:

https://academic.oup.com/hwj/article/83/1/79/3862507/Sisterhood-and-Squatting-in-the-1970s-Feminism

There is a particular focus on the area around London Fields / Broadway Market:

By the late 1970s an estimated fifty women-only households were scattered throughout the streets behind Broadway Market, including one continuous terrace of seven women’s squats on Lansdowne Drive. The majority of these women identified as lesbians.

But squatting communities in Ivydene Road and Amhurst Road are also mentioned, as well as some very readable recollections of feminist squatting culture and activism.

 

A Radical History of Hackney Parks

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“The Park is called the People’s Park
And all the walks are theirs
And strolling through the flowery paths
They breathe exotic airs,
South Kensington, let it remain
Among the Upper Ten.
East London, with useful things,
Be left with working men.

The rich should ponder on the fact
Tis labour has built it up
A mountain of prodigious wealth
And filled the golden cup.
And surely workers who have toiled
Are worthy to behold
Some portion of the treasures won
And ribs of shining gold.”

An ode to Victoria Park, 1872
(from Victoria Park, East London: The People’s Park)

The text below was originally published as a pamphlet, bashed out for the Radical History Network meeting on “Community Empowerment and Open Green Spaces”, July 10th 2013. (I have a couple of the pamphlets left – drop me an email if you want one.)

It’s full of holes, a work in progress. Get in touch with additions, criticisms, comments.

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1275 The area that is now London Fields was recorded as common pastureland adjoining Cambridge Heath. In 1540 the name London Field is found recorded as a separate item consisting of around 100 acres in changing ownership of land. London Field was one of the many “commonable lands” of Hackney where the commoners of the parish could graze their livestock on the fields from Lammas Day (Anglo Saxon for bread mass), August 1st, celebrating the first loaf after the crops had been harvested, to Lady Day, March 25th. This arrangement was known as Lammas Rights and was protected by law. (from here)

1700s In the Marshes towards Hackney Wick were low public houses, the haunt of highwaymen. Dick Turpin was a constant guest at the “White House” or “Tyler’s Ferry” and few police-officers were bold enough to approach the spot.

1750 onwards Clissold House (originally named Paradise House) was built, in the latter half of the 18th century, for Jonathan Hoare, a City merchant, Quaker, philanthropist and anti-slavery campaigner. (His brother Samuel was one of the founders of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade.). The grounds of the house went on to become Clissold Park.

1793 Big open-air demonstration on Hackney Downs, in support of the revolutionary gains in France. The tutors Richard Price, Joseph Priestley and Gilbert Wakefield organised lectures on the French Revolution at the New College, a non-conformist academy (“by-word for revolutionary opinion”) at Lower Clapton.

1840 Abney Park Cemetery opens as the first fully non-denominational burial ground in Europe (where anyone could be buried, but especially non-conformists, dissenters etc). Many anti-slavery campaigners are buried there.

1845 Victoria Park is opened following a petition by 30,000 local people to Queen Victoria. “There was no bathing pool provided and local youths were in the habit of bathing – naked! – in the adjacent Regent’s Canal.  Attempts to police such shocking behaviour were unavailing and within a few years a pool was provided in the park itself.” – Victoria Park, East London: The People’s Park

1848 Chartists meet at Bonners Park (near Victoria Park) to march on Parliament.

1860s Hackney Downs open space (originally common land) preserved as parkland as a result of pressure by the Commons Preservation Society.

1866 Widespread pickets and demonstrations for universal male suffrage as advocated by the Reform League during summer. After disorder at Hyde Park the Tory government banned all protest meetings throughout London. The ban was widely ignored; a huge “illegal” rally took place in Victoria Park.

1872 180 acres in Hackney are preserved as public open space and protected from the encroachment of development. Including Clapton Common and Cockhanger Green (now boringly called Stoke Newington Common).

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In the 1880s the grounds of Clissold House and the adjacent Newington Common were threatened with development, and two prominent campaigners, Joseph Beck of The City of London and John Runtz of The Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) persuaded the Board of MBW to buy the land and create a public park. (from Clissold Park User Group, as was the image above)

1885 William Morris speaks at Victoria Park:

The political culture of the day was not simply confined to the clubs and indoor meeting places. The open-air meeting, whether in the park, or on the street corner, remained the principal forum for addressing the uninitiated, convincing the unconvinced, spreading the word. William Morris was one of the mast well known public speakers for socialism of the period, and visited Hackney often. There is a fine portrait of him speaking to a crowd in Victoria Park in 1885 in Tom Mann’s Memoirs:

He was a picture on an open air platform. The day was fine, the branches of the tree under which he was speaking spread far over the speaker. Getting him well in view, the thought came, and has always recurred as I think of that first sight of Morris – “Bluff King Hal”. I did not give careful attention to what he was saying, for I was chiefly concerned to get the picture of him in my mind, and then to watch the faces of the audience to see how they were impressed…. Nine-tenths were giving careful attention, but on the fringe of the crowd were some who had just accidentally arrived, being out for a walk, and having unwittingly come upon the meeting. These stragglers were making such remarks as: ‘Oh, this is the share-and-share-alike crowd’; ‘Poverty, eh, he looks all right, don’t he?’ But the audience were not to be distracted by attempts at ribaldry: and as Morris stepped off the improvised platform, they gave a fine hearty hand-clapping which showed real appreciation.

(From Hackney Propaganda: Working Class Club Life and Politics in Hackney 1870-1900)

1887 Free speech demo in Victoria Park in March.

1889 Clissold Park was opened by the newly formed London County Council (LCC). The two ponds in the park are named the Beckmere and the Runtzmere in honour of the two principal founders.

1926 Victoria Park is the site for some enthusiastic speeches in support of the General Strike. The park is closed briefly to the public during the strike when the army is stationed there – for reasons which seem to be unclear.

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1930s Hackney Red Radio (a branch of the Workers Theatre Movement) perform agit prop and pro-working class skits and plays. The group performs in parks, streets etc, including London Fields, where they are pelted with over-ripe tomatoes by an unappreciative audience on one occasion.

“We are Red Radio,
Workers’ Red Radio,
We Show you how you’re robbed and bled;
The old world’s crashing,
Let’s help to smash it
And build a workers’ world instead.”

1936 British Union of Fascists holds regular rallies in Victoria Park including clashes with anti-fascists. Also a large anti-fascist meeting in July organised by the Trades Councils of North and East London: “A mile long procession headed by a brass band culminated in a large public meeting which declared its unalterable opposition to fascism and to the war which it would inevitably lead.” Fascists attempt to march through East London in October for another Victoria Park rally, but are prevented from doing so by anti-fascists: The Battle of Cable Street. They did not pass.

1939 Trenches are dug in Hackney Downs, Victoria Park and other open spaces at the outset of the 2nd World War.

(There is a bit of gap here! Can you help fill it? What happened between the 1930s and the 1970s?)

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1978 80,000 attend huge Anti-Nazi League concert in Victoria Park (apparently the stage was in Hackney but the audience was in Tower Hamlets!).

1980s Three GLC-organised festivals in Victoria Park. Two are themed around peace / against nuclear weapons – including one on Hiroshima Day, 6 August 1983.

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1981 Funk The Wedding concert takes place in Clissold Park on the day of the marriage of Charles and Di. (from History Is Made At Night, as is the image above)

1983 Clissold Park Free Festival, August?! (mentioned here, any further info welcome)

1990s The demolition of London Fields Lido is resisted by the people of Hackney, including standing in front of the bulldozers. Local people led campaigns to reopen the Lido and cleared away vegetation. The children’s paddling pool which was closed in 1999, was reopened by local people for summer seasons. In 1998 the Lido was squatted for housing, a café and communal events. In August 1998 there was the Carnival of the Dispossessed, a benefit for Reclaim The Streets. The Lido was squatted for a second time 2002-2005. (From Past Tense)

1990 Hackney residents burn Poll Tax bills in Clissold Park.

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1991 Anti-Fascist Action sponsor Unity Carnival on Hackney Downs:

“AFA had surprised everyone by organising the biggest anti-fascist event for over a decade, drawing 10,000 people to the Unity Carnival on Hackney Downs. Supported by a wide range of organisations, from the Hackney Joint Shop Stewards Committee, to the Fire Brigade Union, the Carnival programme again drew attention to rising levels of race attacks and urged people to become pro-active: ‘We have organised today’s event to draw attention to the growing number of racist attacks especially in east London. The fact that some sections of the community virtually live under siege is unacceptable and we hope you are prepared to do more than just come to this symbolic show of unity. Support the activities on the back of this programme to get organised and do something to stop racist attacks.'”

Sean Birchall – Beating The Fascists: The Untold Story of Anti-Fascist Action (Freedom, 2010) p250

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1994 Hackney Homeless Festival, Clissold Park – 30,000 people. Clashes with police afterwards. (image by Jamie from tribe.net)

1996 Hackney Anarchy Week, a ten day festival including a punks’ picnic and 3-sided football match in Clissold Park.

2007 After much resistance and protest, the Manor Garden Allotments (near Hackney Wick, but apparently not technically in Hackney!) are demolished to make way for the Olympics. Similar struggles take place on Hackney Marshes (where football pitches are closed to make way for a coach park)

2012 A small “Occupy London” camp sets up briefly in Haggerston Park.

Sources/Acknowledgements

http://www.londonfieldsusergroup.org.uk/

http://www.clissoldpark.com/park-history/

Victoria Park, East London: The People’s Park

Barry Burke and Ken Worpole – Hackney Propaganda: Working Class Club Life and Politics in Hackney 1870-1900 (Centerprise, 1980) (William Morris)

Barry Burke – Rebels With A Cause: The History of Hackney Trades Council (Centerprise. 1975)

History Is Made At Night (Funk The Royal Wedding)

Past Tense (London Fields Lido)

Getting Involved

Hackney Council’s list of Park User Groups.

Further Reading: Modern

The Rise of the Friends Groups Movements, by Dave Morris

Finsbury Park: A History of Community Empowerment, by Hugh – Friends of Finsbury Park

The Community-Led Transformation of Lordship Rec, by Friends of Lordship Rec

Further Reading: Older

Down With The Fences: Battles For The Commons In South London, by Past Tense

Subversive of Public Decency: Open Space In North / North East London: radical crowds, immorality, and struggles over enclosure, by Past Tense (not online yet)

Hackney People’s Press issue 10

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Hackney People’s Press #10 (April 1974).

Tabloid-size newspaper, 8pp. Illustrated. A local paper formed by a merger between Hackney Gutter Press and Hackney Action in 1973. Front page story on the upcoming trial of five women who were evicted from their squat at 190 Amhurst Road in May 1973. Also: working conditions at Ford’s Dagenham plant (illustrated with a graphic which borrows Jame Reid’s spoof ‘Fraud’ logo); reports on homelessness and squatting; more

[stolen from here – anyone with more info on Hackney People’s Press or copies that can be included on this site should get in touch]

From the National Archives site:

The Hackney People’s Press was an amalgamation of two earlier radical newspapers – Hackney Action and Hackney Gutter Press. Hackney Action was founded in June 1982 by Centerprise, who aimed to ‘promote a people’s paper. One that will reflect the feelings and attitudes of the people in the borough of Hackney.’

Hackney Gutter Press was founded circa 1971 ‘by a group of people who are involved in organised activities such as Claimants Unions, squatting, Womens Liberation, playhouses for children, food co-ops.’

The first issue of the People’s Press, was issued in May 1973. Run by a collective, the paper reported on local and relevant national radical issues, but from the early 1980s experienced difficulties in keeping enough people involved to produce and distribute the newspaper.

The collective produced 109 issues (including the first five from Hackney Action), the last of which appeared in June 1985. [link]

Text from the scan above:

BROADWAY MARKET SCHEME: THE PLANNERS MOVE IN

The Greater London Council nave taken over a shopfront at 28, Broadway Market to explain to the people living nearby what their plans for their area are. And to get their participation.

It’s a bit late, isn’t it? For many years now, the authorities have deliberately allowed the Broadway Market to run down and have been compulsorily purchasing houses since the mid sixties. They now own over half the houses in the area. Where did the idea of re-development come from? Why couldn’t there have been meetings of local people to discuss the future of the area and to decide the form the planning should take?

THE PLAN

The re-development area stretches from Queensbridge Road to London Fields covering an area of 39 acres; with 600 houses, around 2500 people, 100 shops, 6 pubs and 23 factories or workshops.

The GLC sent round a survey to less than a third of the families, asking them whether they wanted re-housing in Hackney or not. They never asked them if they woutd like to stay where they were. Or whether the area should have been made a General Improvement Area like De Beauvoir, and houses done up by the landlord or council.

Area allowed to run down

And now it’s too late! The GLC has bought up so many houses and left them empty that the whole area is “run down”, so that people want to get out. Their excuse is that the Public Health Officer declared some houses unfit. But with proper maintenance and money spent, improving the area, the houses would be attractive and yet another com-munity would not have to be des-troyed. That’s their scheme! To make sure the area wants redeveloping by making it unbearable to live in. It doesn’t matter to the planners that most of the people living there have lived their all their lives. and have relatives and neighbours and good friends in the next streets. Two thirds of those answering the GLC survey had relatives in Hackney and over half wanted to stay.

It doesn’t matter to the planners that people being “cleared out” to make way for new houses won’t be able to afford the rents. The planners say – “They can get a rent rebate.” But it’s council policy to house you in accommodation they think you can afford without a rebate.

How high the rents?

Hackney Peoples Press asked various officials of the GLC what the rents would be.

They said they don’t know.

They are saying that people will be able to move back to the area, but we suspect that with the City being so near the rents will be well out of reach.

Why are they doing it? We were unable to get a sensible answer from them. They did tell us that when completed the area will house less people than it does now!

Given the acute housing shortage, it seems crazy to be planning less housing rather than more.

How high the cost?

Again, were unable to get anything tangible from the GLC. They do admit to paying over £4 million for the land alone. The officials working at the Exhibition referred us to Mr. Dean of the Valuers Department. He said: “What relevance has it got whether it is £20 million or £200 million: it’s just a figure.” A figure made up from our rates. We feel that it should be publicly available information how much they are spending on destroying a community to provide less housing. How much would it have cost to rennovate the empty houses, and put a bathroom and a larger kitchen in every house that is going to be demolished? We can’t know for certain because they won’t tell us, but it would surely only be a fraction of what its going to cost to rebuild the whole area.

‘Going up in the world’

What wIll the new houses be like? In the exhibition they look very glamorous. It seems as though each house is separate and each has its own garden. In fact, there will be long rows of identical terraced houses with a strip of garden – separated between houses by chains! CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

[Broadway Market has of course seen its fair share of planning/gentriciation scandal in this century also – see Hackney Independent for more on that]

Amhurst Road Squatters on Trial

The trial began on Wednesday of 5 women who were evicted last May, from 190, Amherst Rd. where they squatting.

On that day the police arrived, led by Inspector Hilliard (previously attatched to the notorious Special Patrol Group), and with the help of a local builder, evicted the women inside by force. The women were subsequently charged with assault. This was necessary (from the Police point of view), since the police are not legally entitled to evict squatters: their case is that they were present merely to prevent a breach of the peace, and the assault charges must therefore be seen as a smokescreen to cover their own illegal activities.

So far in the trial, we have had three days of prosecution evidence, and Mr. Hughes (who summoned the police in the first place) has admitted under cross-examination that his intention was to enlist their aid in forcibly evicting the women. (He himself had no authority either from the owners of the property, or from anyone else, to forcibly evict anyone from the premises, where he was merely under contract to do some redecorating work.)

The police continue to maintain that their role was purely to stand by, in case of need to prevent trouble, though their evidence, vague on many points and conflicting on others, is beginning to look less and less realistic, despite their being professionals in the witness-box.

They are relying on lurid accounts of how they were attacked by the defendants, in order to cover up their own illegal action and the use of force and violence on the six women brought to trial.

This is an important case, for if the police are allowed to get away, with this kind of operation once, they will no doubt feel freer to harras people in the future.

[359 Amhurst Road was raided by the police in 1971 in connection with Angry Brigade activity]

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Hidden Histories: Common Land and Squatting in Hackney

The good people at Past Tense have uploaded the notes and commentary from their guided walk earlier this year.

Lots of interesting information on the history of places like London Fields, Brougham Road, Broadway Market, Mare Street, London Lane and even the Town Hall.

Seems to be missing the images at the moment, though?

Squatting history walk in Hackney, July 17th

I heard about this via the nice people at Past Tense.

Hidden Histories: Common land and squatting in Hackney

A walking tour of central Hackney revealing the histories of common land use and squatting over the centuries.

Sunday 17 July 2pm

Meet at 2pm outside the Lido on London Fields.

The walk will last about 2 hours, followed by a picnic in London Fields

All welcome!

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Hackney Anarchy Week, final programme 1996

NB: This updated programme was published on the first day of the festival – Friday 24 May, so events on that day are not included.


All Week

Squat Cafe • Cheap vegan food • Every evening 18.00-23.00 • Note the cafe provides food only and not accommodation

“Mistakes” art exhibition • Barnabas Hall • Mon-Thurs afternoon & evening (not Wednesday evening)

The Wormfarts of Art open exhibition • Bring your own stuff as well • The Factory Squat • Daily 17.00-21.00

Saturday 25 May

14.00 • Anti-Fascist 5-a-side Football Tournament • Teams indude: Legal Defence & Monitoring Group, Class War, Rugger Bugger FC., The Nation’s Vibration, Hackney Patients’ Council, the Albion, Squall, Active Badminton Crew, the Co-ordinators + teams from Bradford, Brighton & Bristol + many more • Sign your own team up on the day • Bring balls! • Clissold Park • free

16.45 • Facilitating Meetings • workshop • Squat Cafe • free

18.00 • Defending demonstrators • workshop • Legal Defence and Monitoring Group • Squat Cafe • free •

20.00-02.00 • Dub Soundsystem • The Nation’s Vibration • The Factory Squat • £donations

Sunday 26 May

16.15-20.15 • Films at the Rio • 16.15 Themroc (dir. Claude Faraldo) + 18.20 Un Chien Andalou (dir. Luis Buinuel) 8.40 Ghosts of the Civil Dead (dir. John Hilcoat) • ABC prisoner support group stall • Rio £4.50/3.50

19.30 • Visions of Poesy • Riff Raff Poets • Hackney launch of this anarchist poetry bock with readings from contributors • The Acton Arms • £2

20.00 • Exploding Cinema *A visual feast – no budget and low budget shorts, films, videos and live performance • The Factory Squat • £3

Monday 27 May

All day

• Three P Pirate Radio • 102-106 FM • straight out of the ghetto with kicking music, deliberate fun and hard-hitting politics

The WormFarts of Art exhibition opens • see All Week

13.00-18.00 • Small Press (Book) Fair • Books, comics, zines, records, Tshirts, underground’s finest • Expect to see AK Distribution, Active Distribution, A Distribution, Black Flag, Slab-O-Concrete, Bypass, ACE, McLibel, Squall, Freedom, Survivors, Between the Lines, ASS, Hackney green groups and many more … • Barnabas Hall • free

19.30 • Anti-Election Alliance Meeting • Class War and the Anarchist Communist Federation (ACF) • Barnabas Hall • free

Tuesday 28 May

11.00 • Perspectives of Anarchism • workshop • Barnabas Hall • free

12.30 • Picket of McDonalds • Meet outside McDonalds, Narrow Way, Mare Street, Hackney E8 • (BR and buses: as Samuel Pepys)

14.30 • McDonalds under the Grill: lessons for fighting multinationals • McLibel Support Campaign • The essential tool kit for taking on greedy corporations with live demonstration by McSpotlight (http://ww.mcspotlight.org/) • Barnabas Hall • free

16.30 • The Unabomber Manifesto – Key Ideas • discussion • Barnabas Hall • free

19.30 • Survivors Poetry & acoustic music night • Survivors Poets • Readings & performance by survivors of the mental “health” system with Billy Childish, Dave Russell, Ray Wilmot, Fiona Branson • Barnabas Hall • £2.50

19.30 • Sexual Freedom • workshop + cafe + risuals • From free lore to the Spanner trial, with especially sexy steamy food at the cafe • Squat Cafe • free

20.00 • Acoustic night • The Astronauts, The 1926 Committee, the Dole Claimers, Dr Feelshite • The Acton Arms • £2

Wednesday 29 May

14.30 • Training day for autonomous communities in space • Association of Autonomous Astronauts • Barnabas Hall • free

19.30 • Politics and Inner Change • Discussion • Unity Club, upstairs meeting room • free

20.00-24.00 • A Night of Extraordinary Acts • Comedy night compered by Tony Allen • With Mark Kelly, Mr Social Control, Col. Fitz, Steve Ignorant, Rory Motion, Julia Palmer, Jenny Moseley + more • Chat’s Palace • £2. 50/4.00

20.30 • late addition • Grunge, punk, reggae: Penalised, Brassic Park, possibly NothingFace, possibly P.A.I.N and other bands (subject to alteration) • Acton Arms • £1.00 21.00 •

Uncle Bob’s Special Film Night • Noam Chornsky’s Manufacturing Consent + Cable Street footage (60th anniversary) + more • Technobabble • free

Thursday 30 May

7.30 • Reclaim The Streets action Stop the Commuter-Polluters • meet outside Chat’s Palace • People on bicycles needed

15.00 • Anarchism & Mental Health • talkshop • Barnabas Hall • free

18.00-19.00 (maybe longer) • Organising in the Education Industry: Discussion for students and workers, what to do in terms of organisation and resistance. Barnabas Hall • free

18.45-23.00 • Ken Loach double bill • 18.45 Riff Raff + 20.30 discussion with Ken Loach + 21.15 Land & Freedom • Rio Cinema • £4.50/3.50

19.30 • Anarchism, Islamic Fundamentalism & the Kurdish Struggle discussion • 5th of May Group (Turkish/Kurdish anarchist group) Barnabas Hall • free

20.00-23.00 • Out-take charity event • Academy 23, the Apostles, John Antiss (queer poet), Sam & Mono band (anarchistic cabaret) • Out-take – Gay & Lesbian Survivors of the mental “health” system • Chat’s Palace • £5/:.3)

Friday 31 May

17.45 • Critical Mass • Regular monthly action • Cyding mayhem in central London, meet on South Bank below Waterloo Bridge • Followed by films at Squat Cafe (see below)

20.00-01.00 • Stricknien D.C., Terminal Heads, Substandard, The Restarts, Walking Abortions • Reknaw • Venue t.b.c., look out for posters • £3

20.45ish • Critical Mass film night • Screening of Return of the Scorcher, film from California that gave Critical Mass its name • Starts after the regular London Critical Mass • Squat Cafe • free

21.00 • Farrago Poetry Slam Poets vs. Rant Poets • Farrago Poets, MC John Paul O’Neill • Current Farrago London slam champions – Mark Rathmell, Annie Byfield, Brian Lynch – against the Rant Poets – Steve Tasane, Gabby Tyrrell, Vic Lambrusco, Annie Rouse • Squat Cafe • suggested donation 12

20.00 • Bad Attitude magazine party/benefit • Women only, mesas guests • The Factory Squat • t.b.c STOP PRESS: Now on Sat 1 June

Saturday 1 June

12.00-14.00 • Critical Mass 2: This time it’s Hackney • Cycle ride through Hackney from London Fields to Clissold Park (and the Punx Picnic) • By Pub on the Park, London Fields • free

14.00 • Punx Picnic • Reknaw • Possibly with the Tofu Love Frogs • Post-picnic gig at the Albion • Clissold Park • free

17.00 (after Punx Picnic) • Aus-rotten (USA), Oi Polloi, Special Duties, The Nerves, MDM, Coitus, Red Flag 77, English Dogs, The Varukas • Reknaw • Venue to be announced at the picnic • £4

20.00 • Bad Attitude. see Friday 31 May

LATE • United Sound Systems party • Phone for venue details on the night 0181-959-7525 £donations

Sunday 2 June

15.30-19.00 • Mad Hat Tea Party • Requirements for attendance: bring a hat • Bands – Dead Dog Hat, Ming Hat, Dole Hat • Springfield Park, outside cafe • free

19.00-22.30 • HHH Video Evening • HHH cooperative • Screening of first edit of the “official” Hackney Anarchy Week film made by HHH throughout the week + HHH films “It’s a bit rough, ain’t it?”, Spikey, ARCH, 75A, demolitions etc. • Samuel Pepys upstairs

Organising groups

5th of May Group • PO Box 16881, London 118 7L

ABC-Anarchist Black Cross • c/o 121 Bookshop, 121 Railton Road London SE24

Anarchist Communist Federation • c/o Freedom Press (address below)

Association of Autonomous Astronauts • BM Box 3641, London WCIN 3XX

Bad Attitude • c/o 121 Bookshop (address above)

Class War • BM Box 357, London WC1N 3XX

Critical Mass • just turn up

Exploding Cinema • 0956-823712

Farrago Poets • 106 High Street, West Wickham, Kent BR4

HHH • email: HHH@phreakintermedia.co.uk

Riff Raff Poets • c/o Freedom Press, 84b Whitechapel High Street London E1 7QX

McLibel Support Campaign • 0171-713-1269

McSpotlight • http://www.mcspotlight.org/ & email: info@mcspodight.org

Nation’s Vibration • 0171-639-8702

Out-Take • Derek 0171-613-5326

Reclaim The Streets • 0171-281-4621

Spare Change Press • Box26,136-138 Kingsland High Street, London E8

Survivors Poets • 0171-916-5317

United Sound Systems • 0181-959-7525

Bust Info

Look out for the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group bust cards and carry them at all times.

These are their recommended solicitors:

Moss & Co. • 0181-986-8336, Pager 01459-103582

MacCormacks • 0171-790-4339

Thanks to Hackney Squatters Collective, 75A, 67A, the Factory, Chat’s Palace, Charles @ the Rio, Rick, pHreak, Tao Links, Calverts, Giles and all the groups & individuals who organised events this week. See you next year!

Venues

Free maps from the council, try Hackney Town Hall

Acton Arms • 296 Kingsland Rd (corner Arbutus St), Haggerston E8, 0171-254-7056 • Bus 22A, 22B, 67,149, 243, 243A, N243 • Access: ground floor

The Albion • please note the Albion is now being boycotted

Barnabas Hall • 109 Homerton High Street, Homerton E9 • BR: Homerton, Bus 228, 236, 276, 52, W15 past the door; 221., 30, 38, 55, 106, 253, N38, N253 nearby • Access: ground floor

Chat’s Palace • Brooksby Walk, Homerton E9 • Buses and BR: see Barnabas Hall • Access: good

Clissold Park • Stoke Newington Church Street/Green Lanes N16 • Bus 73, 106, 141, 171.

The Factory Squat • 8 Shelford Place Industrial Estate, Stoke Newington Church Street N16 • Bus 73, 141, 171 Tube Arsenal • Access: ground floor

London Fields • Pub on the Park, Martello St E8 • on your bike

Rio Cinema • 103 Kingsland High Street, Dalston E8, 0171-254-6677 • BR: Dalston Kingsland, Bus: 67,76 (not Sun),149, 236, 243, 243A, 8243 past the door; 221., 228, 30, 38, 56, 277, 38 near­by • Access: good

Squat Cafe • 67A Stoke Newington Road (entrance on Princess May Road) 816 • BR: Dalston Kingsland, Bus: 67,76 (not Sun),I49, 236, 243, 243A, 8243 past the door, 236 goes near • Access: lots of steps

Samuel Pepys • Mare Street, Hackney E8 (next to Hackney Empire), 0181-533-7709 • BR: Hackney Central, Hackney Downs, Bus 221., 228, 38, 48, 55,106, 236, 253, 277, D6, N26, H253 past the door, 30, 56 nearby • Access: poor, up stairs

Springfield Park • Spring Hill ES, near Clapton Common. Bus: 253 outside, 106 nearby

Technobabble • 40 Underwood Street, Hoxton NI • Tube: Old Street, Bus: 43, 76, 141, 214, 271 nearest, 55, 243, N243 nearby • Access: poor, up stairs

Unity Club • 96 Dalston Lane, Dalston E8 0171-241-0923 • BR: Dalston Kingsland, Bus: 22k 30, 38, 56, 236, 277 • Access: poor, upstairs

Food

all cheap with vegan & vegetarian

Squat Cafe • cheap vegan food every evening 18.00-23.00

Pumpkins • 76 Clarence Road E5, 0181-533-1214 • 12pm-21.30pm veg & vegan

Cafe Alba • 183 Mare Street E8, 0181-985-8349 • Mon-Fri 12.00-15.00 & 18.00-23.00, Sat & Sun 12.00-23.00

Centerprise • 136 Kingsland High Street E8, 0171-254-9632 • 10.30-17.00

Info updates during the week

Posters at events • Squat Cafe noticeboard • http://www.pHreak.co.uk/anarchy/ • pHreak bulletin board • email: anarchy@phreak.intermedia.co.uk • HAW @ BM Active, London WC IN 3XX

Message From The Organisers

So it’s finally happening, but what is it and why? First, it is whatever you “the people” make of it, if riots and insurrection ensue during or following the week you can bet we’ll be blamed or cele­brated, depending on the bias. All that the co-ordinators have done is in fact what you see on these pages of the pro­gramme. We asked those who call themselves Anarchist or Anarcho-something to do their thing during this week. Hackney Anarchy Week is therefore just a concentrated reflection .of what the Anarchists of Hackney and London are, however weak, disorganised, diverse or dynamic that is. For those who are unfamiliar with Anarchist politics it may seem confusing but take heart that there are people who believe in chang­ing things away from the tired hypocrisy of government and trendy left (and right) wing revolutionar­ies who can’t see past their paper sales!

We did not aim to provide a Hackney Anarcho-Butlins Holiday camp. The festival has come through a Do It Yourself structure and we see it as an on­going path for the week and the eventual revolution itself. Hackney Anarchy Week did not ask the council for any­thing, and in fact all they have done is attack us, and we do not expect to be asked of anything ourselves. We want to inspire. to bring together, to celebrate and to advertise, not to patron­ise, regulate or act as benevo­lent guardians of revolutionary anger. We’ve done something, it won’t end here, what about next year’?

Dedicated to Albert Meltzer, Emma Cray and Joshua Compston for lives of dedi­cation and enthusiasm.

The Bread and Circuses Roadshow

Are you fed up with an unsatisfying, meaning­less existence’? Would you like to do something about it’? Fancy researching Ozone-hole depletion in Antarctica’? Or maybe doing that bit of metal- sculpture that you always want­ed to’? Or maybe trading in your polluting car for an environmen­tally-friendly pony and trap’? Wanna get a band together’? Or just get a break from the con­sumerist treadmill for a few years?

Well, tough shit. You can’t and there’s nothing you can do about it, because that’s the way it is. Yes, welcome to the BastardWorld (TM) Bread and Circuses roadshow. Here’s the low-down… what would you really like to do with your life instead of the dead-end tread­mill existence you’ve been allo­cated’?

Yes, that’s right, just fill in the triplicate form enclosed and return it to the Department of Social Control. Then, after it’s been bent, folded, mutilated and stapled, lost, found, lost again and then put at the bottom of the pile enough times, we’ll arrange for you to see a group of our own hand-picked professionals doing exactly what you’ve always wanted to do but aren’t allowed to. Remember, all the interesting jobs are reserved. If we allowed the likes of you to get a look in, there wouldn’t be any plum jobs to hand out to the privileged members of society, their offspring and their min­ions.

Musn’t grumble, otherwise we’ll stitch you up as a social deviant and send you off for rehabilitation therapy and find a dozen good reasons why you shouldn’t get a look in. So remember, get into vicarious living, because that’s all you’re gonna get. Don’t get any funny ideas about voting in a different government to change things at the next election, because it won’t make a jot of difference. Why? Easy, because all the political parties are just another aspect of tile Department of Social Control’s very own “Bread and Circuses” roadshow. We’ve had it all sewn up long before you were even born and were not about to change any­thing for some little git like you. Sure, everything’s bullshit and we don’t care because, we don’t give a toss. Get used to it. We control everything and that includes you.

Don’t like it’? Well, there’s nowhere to go, buddy. So you can either put up and shut up or check out.

Albert Meltzer

A life time of Anarchist struggle ended this month with his death. A public procession to his memorial service is planned for 10am Friday, 24. March from Celestial Gardens, off Lee High Road, Lewisham, SE 13. Bring Black Flags, respect, but no Golden Angels.

There follows an excerpt from his recently published auto-biography Couldn’t Paint Golden Angels, Sixty Years of Commonplace Life and Anarchist Agitation:

“Personally I want to die in dignity, but my passing celebrated with jollity. I’ve told my executors that I want a stand-up comedian in the pulpit telling amus­ing anecdotes, and the coffin to slide into the incinerator to the sound of Marlene Dietrich. If the booze-up can begin right away, so much the better, and with a bit of luck the crematorium will never be gloomy again. Anyone mourn­ing should be denounced as a repre­sentative of a credit-card company and thrown out on their ear. Snowballs if in season (tomatoes if not) can be thrown at anyone utter­ing even worthy cliches like “the struggle goes on” and should any one of a religious mind offer pieces of abstract consolation they should be prepared to dodge pieces of’ concrete con­frontation.”

Reclaim the Streets…

…is an autonomous group who take direct action against ‘car culture’. Hackney has the lowest propor­tion of car ownership in London, yet every morning and evening commuters bring their pollution through Hackney on their way to the City. Stop the Commuter- Polluters and join the RTS action. Thurs, 30 May. Meet outside Chat’s Palace at 7.30 am.

Hackney Anarchy Week, 1996

This ten day festival in the borough was inspired by the London-wide “Anarchy In the UK” festival of 1994. It commenced exactly 15 years ago to the day.

HAW was the culmination of six months of a small crew  holding at least weekly meetings, originally held in a squatted social centre around Newington Green, and then HQ was set up in a squatted block on the corner of Kingsland High Street and Princess May Road. Contacts were pooled, favours were called in.

The main programme was a massive foldout thing (click on the images for bigger versions):

The inner pages of the programme included a Hackney Timeline and other material which will appear here shortly.

There was also a Hackney Anarchy Week film – does anyone fancy getting that up on Youtube?