The day we took the white tower [Price Waterhouse occupation, Glasgow, 1984]

At 7:30 am on Tuesday, 4th September, 1984, 12 anarchists stormed a multi-story office block in Glasgow city centre. They went in to occupy the headquarters of Accountants Price Waterhouse, the millionaire outfit which sequestrated the South Wales Miners’ Funds. As the newspapers reported, the operation was executed with military precision. It took the team 10 minutes from entering the building to securing themselves behind metal-sheeted doors on the 13th floor.

About 600lbs of equipment, including hammers, drills, saws and timber, were carried past the startled staff. Lifts were occupied and protests ignored. All the keys were lifted from the security guards desk. Everyone knew his task and skilfully completed it.

Not that everything was perfect. The security guard managed to regain entry to the foyer before all the equipment had been moved in. The elevators were too small to easily accommodate the 8’ x 4’ metal sheeting. An officer had to be ejected from Price Waterhouse as the occupation got under-way. It proved impossible to commandeer all three lifts for the 13th floor and so that area came under police control sooner than planned. An early casualty was the driver who was arrested at the Hire Depot as he was returning the van which the team arrived in.

In spite of these reverses the operation was a complete success. Fire doors leading to the common stairway were nailed-up. The twelve had captured the offices of Price Waterhouse and were securely barricaded-in. The police who arrived at 7.50 am could only rage, threaten and kick impotently at the steel doors out in the corridor as those inside calmly outlined their reasons for their peaceful occupation.

For this was no exercise in bravado but a serious social act. The anarchists were convinced of the need for direct action against Price Waterhouse. Contrary to popular report, this company did not simply carry out a mundane legal job of sequestration against miners; they entered the fight with all the commitment of partisans. Price Slaughterhouse went much further than their law demanded. Not content with seizing the £350,000 administrative funds belonging to the South Wales miners, they proceeded to grab an additional £400,000 in the Provident fund and money collected for hardship cases, food and clothing for families. To permit these gangsters to commit legalised robbery seemed to all Clydeside Anarchists an invitation to more adventurous tactics by the boss class.

By 8.30 am, a senior officer was knocking at the door seeking to parley. He was told: 1) That his minions has threatened violence (true); 2) that all anarchists had been medically examined and photographed the previous day (not quite true); 3) that they had nothing more to say to him and that he should fetch a representative of Price Shithouse to consider some important questions.

At 9 am, a Mr. Campbell arrived. He said he was a Partner and senior executive of the company in Scotland and that he and the staff (30) were seriously put out by the occupation and were anxious to come in and start work. He was informed that the Welsh miners and their families were being even more seriously inconvenienced by the actions of PW. Two conditions were put to Campbell for the evacuation of the building: 1) That the funds of the South Wales Miners be restored to them; 2) that PW undertake no further sequestrations. Campbell said it would take a little time to get a response from the Head Office in Birmingham. The occupants promised to be patient.

An hour later (10 am) Campbell slipped a typed letter over the steel door. In it he acknowledged the anarchist action but replied negatively to both points. However, the note went on to say that if the South Wales Miners would identify those funds which were ear-marked for clothing and food-relief, PW would release them. Campbell was told to wait half-an-hour while a meeting was held to consider the letter. He was reminded by one of the group that there was a lot of valuable equipment in the offices and that any violent action could inadvertently result in an awful lot of damage. (The suite of offices contained about 18 rooms – the entire floor – and was ultra-modern. There were no manual typewriters, only a few IBM golf ball typewriters. But the place was stuffed with terminals, VDUs, word processors, telex machines, photocopiers, etc. – certainly £100,000 worth of equipment. The really valuable stuff, however, was the Diskettes; mini discs containing all the files plus work in progress. About 900 of these were lying around all capable of storing 10,000 words. However, the threat was an empty one as the group had decided not to cause any malicious damage. Nevertheless, it seemed to give Campbell some cause to stay the hand of the gendarmes.)

By this time the building was surrounded by the guardians of law and order. Two 60-foot banners were stretched round the 13th floor reading: GLASGOW BACKS THE MINERS and UNEMPLOYED SOLIDARITY. Electricity had been cut-off, several phones were out and large numbers of police occupied the corridors.

At 10.45 am Campbell was informed that the meeting had considered his letter and would investigate the authenticity of this claim about their willingness to release identified funds.

The next several hours were spent in talks with the South Wales Miners’ headquarters and to PW’s Man Outside The Door. This period was afforded many opportunities to go through extensive filing system. It was a real eye-opener. This multi-million pound outfit has accountancy as only a small part of its business. It concentrates on handling take-over bids, forecasting money market trends, overseas investments, etc. It was clear that a big percentage of the big monopolies are clients of PW.

Dinner was served at around 12 but almost all resisted the temptation of PW’s extensive cellar (Barsac ’79, not a great year, but …) Leaflets were scattered at 5 minute intervals. Supporters were gathering in the streets below and press and news agencies contacted about the occupation and the reasons for it. The South Wales NUM said it was being reported locally and were delighted by the action. Meanwhile, the cops were bored and were boring! Stealthily, they were trying to gain access through the fire door; but it hadn’t simply been nailed up – it was the subject of a superb piece of civil engineering by Castlemilk Constructors (unemployed). The boys in blue were disappointed.

The discussions with the South Wales NUM revealed that they were not prepared to identify those funds which were for the relief of hardship. They claimed that to do so would be to recognise the Courts which was contrary to union policy and in conflict with the Wembley Conference decisions which had been reinforced by the Brighton TUC the previous day. One of the team, Enrico (Malatesta?) in speaking to Emlyn Jenkins (SWNUM) observed that they would prefer not to recognise any court. However, the anarchists did not see the task [as] making demands of the miners but of exposing the scab outfit of Price Waterhouse.

Certainly some publicity was being gained: radio, TV and newspapers were carrying reports of the action and giving garbled accounts of the reasons for it. Leaflets were being distributed at job centres and DSS offices but sympathisers were being warned-off by cops from giving out material near the occupation.

As the afternoon progressed several things became clear: 1) It was not possible to force PW into restoring the miners’ funds; 2) the cops were becoming increasingly restive and seemed likely to indulge in heroics; 3) one of the doors was less secure than the others and seemed vulnerable to a determined assault. Considering these factors it was decided to dismantle the barricades. Campbell of PW conceded that if no malicious damage had been done then charges would not be brought against the occupying anarchist force. There were serious doubts about this.

At 4.15 pm, having removed most barricades, the police were allowed to enter by one door. The 12 militants were invited to collect their tools and belongings and proceed to the exit where large quantities of police awaited them. The steam coming from the Inspector’s ears warned the anarchists what was to come. ‘I’m In Charge Now’ he cried, and went on to announce that the group would be hand-cuffed in pairs, taken to the local station and charged with breach of the peace and criminal damage.

Thereafter, the 12 were subjected to the usual indignities: photographed, finger-printed, given a body-search and locked in single cells for the night. No violence was used but it was particularly hard for those 9 members of the group who were vegans and had nothing but bread and water for 24 hours.

Next day, they were packed six to a cell (5’ x 10’) and later appeared at the Sheriff Court. There they pled not guilty to all charges and were released on bail. Trial was fixed for 10th December.

In retrospect, the group felt that the action was relatively successful – not from the narrow view of publicity for the Clydeside Anarchists – but because it was a positive action on behalf of the miners to the ruling class offensive. The negative aspect lies in the anarchists having to to do the job at all. The impotent and ossified Trade Union seems incapable of anything but a negative reaction to the boss class.

Social democracy and the bureaucratised TU movement have disarmed the working class. Lullabies of class peace, parliamentary and legal paths to social harmony have virtually paralysed the proletariat’s instinct for self-defence.

The group hopes that the action has helped to forge closer links between Clydeside Anarchists and the miners for whom they have campaigned and collected more than £2,000. Perhaps it will galvanise more workers into direct action and show them that defence against the boss is not confined within the narrow limits of branch resolutions and letters to MPs and councillors. At the very least, Clydeside Anarchists have given the lie to those who charge that we couldn’t organise a booze-up in a brewery. Price Waterhouse can testify to that.

Brian Biggins

Glasgow, 13th September, 1984
Original held in the Spirit of Revolt Archive, John Cooper Collection