When the Centre was established in Haverstock Hill, Miguel and I plunged into a series of meetings up and down the country, and throughout Europe, speaking on behalf of the Spanish prisoners. We encountered a lot of enthusiasm on behalf of the Resistance, and this coincided with a rise in industrial resistance at home, so I was kept busy. Fleet Street printworkers usually worked a seven-day week, and a lot of my spare time was devoted to bringing out Black Flag and working for the Black Cross, all voluntary. It may sound impossible, but a lot can be achieved with a laidback approach. For instance, I would take weeks on end without days off and then have them in lieu, travelling to Cologne or Copenhagen, and combining a holiday with a tour speaking in defence of Spain and also in explanation of Anarchism and Syndicalism.
All the time I was at work I got calls (one advantage of working on telephones) to help out with such matters as finding jobs for visiting Spanish workers, sometimes on the run from a prison sentence for their beliefs or organisation. It was difficult before Spain was in the EEC as there were only two types of jobs — those chosen by the British Government, ill-paid and sweated, and those without cards, usually worse-paid and slave-driven. And of course there was the au pair racket (still not resolved but diminished) where girls came “to study English” and became virtual domestic possessions. They were bullied into thinking they would be deported if they complained. So far from having paid overtime they never even had time off.
If they had friends who got to know the Centro Iberico, a Spanish woman contacted them and persuaded them to leave, assuring them there would be no comeback from the employer that could not be countered. Miguel and I or some other friend would go round by car to collect them, sometimes to confront irate middle-class housewives who became abusive when realising they were being forced to do their own work for a day or so. If the husbands were in they became aggressive and Miguel learned to swear fluently in English and extended my knowledge of how to do it in Spanish.
It nearly, but never quite, came to blows. The girls were usually terrified the Guardia Civil would intervene, having come from a country where, in the whole of their young lives, strikes were criminal and workers had no rights, but in Golders Green where we had news of most of the Spanish au pair “students” there were no tricorne hats.
We invariably got them more rewarding jobs, at that time plentiful despite restrictions. Domestic help under the pretence of au pair diminished but unfortunately was replaced by Filipino domestic slavery with no pretence of teaching the language.
While I was at the Daily Sketch a colleague asked me bewildered, after having passed over many personal calls of this nature, “Are you a sort of Republican Spanish Consul?” Later a Valencia paper referred to me in a survey of British anarchism as “a friend of the Spanish exiles in their darkest days”. Both remarks made me very proud. At least everything I did was not in vain. I was a barrack-room lawyer at heart, I suppose.
My main contribution to Spanish Resistance in those last days of Francoism, though, was support for the libertarian prisoners of Franco. The name “libertarian” was still, at any rate in Spain, used only by the anarchists and syndicalists; the hi-jacking of the name by right wing private enterprise people not yet having become widely known outside the USA — it still signified “libertarian socialist” as opposed to “State socialist”.
Many Spanish people could now travel out from Francoism, and the opening up of the labour market in Germany and elsewhere in the boom years meant whole towns in Andalusia, for instance, became ghost towns. Genocide had been followed by exodus. The estates now needed all the labour they could get, and the regime could no longer go round killing haphazardly — it was under scrutiny by tourism. That was why it jailed, but as discreetly as possible, and why Christie’s publicity when in Spain had been embarrassing, and Franco’s apologists spoke of him first as a “misguided lad” and then as a criminal. But because there were fewer Resistance fighters and prisoners than in the darkest years of Francoism, their plight could more readily be pinpointed.
The political climate was changing, nothing demonstrating it more clearly than when a Scottish football team visited Barcelona and the fans were drunk with an unexpected sporting victory, unlimited licensing hours and cheap booze. They tore into the police who did not know how to deal with them. They brought out the Guardia Civil but even the dreaded tricorne hats could hardly massacre visiting football enthusiasts. Barcelona went wild with delight at seeing the tables turned on its traditional enemy. From that time on the omnipotent police State was shattered. I had the fantasy that should Hitler have won the war the Gestapo might have eventually atrophied with routine acceptance and relied only on the memory of its greener days to make illegally-parked motorists cower. I prophesied, admittedly jestingly, at many meetings that this would happen even in Russia with the dreaded communist police in years to come.
Crossing the border just before Franco died the scene did not seem to have changed — we got through OK, the guards courteously waving through an English car, while Miguel sat at the back of the car, unusually humble, his passport at the bottom of the pile, giving his profession as “Interpreter-Guide”. He was grossly disappointed with the changes in Barcelona especially when he went to find papers he had hidden in his mother’s house years before, to find his brother-in-law would not let him in, as an ex-convict no less. His sister had given up the struggle on marriage, and most of his family were dead or dispersed. His wife had broken with him in his years of prison, he did not know his son, only former neighbours spoke of him affectionately. Waiting for him in a bar near his brother-in-law’s house, an old Catalan told me that the place to which my friend had gone really belonged to an old confederal family but the present householder was no good, a desdichado who traded on the regime. What a blow it would be for the real owner, if he came back, a man who was really a saint. The description hardly fitted Miguel, but it was he and when he came into the bar they recognised each other. The local offered to get some of the townspeople to force their way in and discover the deeds hidden in the floor, but Miguel asked if he expected him to evict his own sister if they found them — which confirmed the old man of his saintliness.
Throughout France we had to go out of our way to stop in different towns where an incredible number knew Miguel as el tio de Barcelona (“Uncle Barcelona”). Only in Spain everything seemed dead and him forgotten. But this was on the surface. Behind it was a bursting out of young Spain, and a determination among many to renew the struggle of historic Spain. Oddly enough, more people were prepared at first to speak openly to me, as a foreigner, than to Miguel. He learned to leave the opening of conversations to me at this point of time, and got impatient at my slowness in starting to talk to everyone I met.
It was incredible how Spaniards had come to distrust one another, but also how they were unwinding. An American we knew became friendly with a girl who was at the University, also an anarchist. But she implored him not to say anything about it when he met her parents. She had no idea how they would react. Her mother questioned him closely about his job and wanted to know to which union he belonged in the States. Thinking she wouldn’t know what it was, he said “The IWW”. She lit up immediately and confessed she had been in the CNT in Tarrassa. When her own father had been taken by the Falange, her mother had gone to beg for his life. They not only shot him in her presence, they gave her castor oil, shaved her head and made her run down the street with bullets flying at her feet. Thereafter the widow had warned her children never to say a word about their beliefs, not even to their spouses or children when they married.
She had kept silence all these years and now found she had an anarchist daughter. When the son came in, mother and daughter were still talking about what the father’s reaction would be. The surprised son confessed he was in a clandestine CNT union, and they were all laughing about their newfound discovery of each other and if Papa would say he was in a nest of vipers, when the latter came in from work and wanted to know what the joke was. They plucked up courage and told him whereupon he whipped the CNT rulebook out of his pocket and asked for their back subscriptions. The whole family had kept their secret from each other all those years and it needed an American novio to act as catalyst.
This was typical of was happening all over Spain, but especially in Catalonia. I think I was in order being optimistic for the future and telling meeting after meeting from Birmingham to Berlin that Franco’s protegé and designated successor, Juan Carlos, younger son of one of two Pretenders with equally disputed claims to the throne, should not trouble to take more than a travelling bag with him when he returned to his ancestral home.
Unfortunately, I was not the only one to observe what was likely to occur when Franco died, clinging to power to the last breath. The others were silently making preparations. Our people weren’t.
“Obsessed with the press” though I might be, according to a hostile reviewer of Floodgates, I was only contacted by them in connection with Stuart, especially in the sixties. Then, they were convinced he was responsible for every act of rebellion that occurred and a lot that didn’t. For a couple of years when I was sitting in the Albion pub in Ludgate Circus journalists would nudge each other but nobody had the courage to interrupt me at Sunday lunch (for me, then the finest English cuisine in London). “Like butting in on feeding time at the Zoo,” was the unkind way one of my workmates described it when I was once thus accosted. It was only when I was occasionally drinking with friends and one or another journalist would home in, and I would think they were their acquaintances, that they ever managed to approach me to get information. They got discouraged with this after I gave them some tips even more ludicrous than the ones they could make up themselves and when my friends tumbled to what I was doing, they would seek to cap them. On one occasion — it wasn’t me that time, honest — somebody sent an aspiring young sleuth with a camera to watch Croydon Town Hall for days, waiting for it to be blown up.
I don’t know what he thought Stuart did in his tea break, but I do see why some of the allegations made against Black Flag were so bitter. They could have forgiven a “Dreadful Massacre at Croydon” Exclusive but not standing round in the rain for days catching cold to no purpose, unable even to charge it to expenses.
An amusing sideline on these incidents was when I finally met the hostile non-violent non-reader reviewer of ‘Floodgates’ in ‘Peace News’, a somewhat embittered Christian Pacifist named Otter, who considered himself an anarchist of the ‘Freedom’ type. During some march or other I had stopped for some natural relief. While not addressing me directly, when he came in he angrily denounced me as a terrorist to the surprised peers. I ignored him and they gave furtive looks at each other, not wanting, in the manner of gentlemen in gents, to appear to be interested in each other, but wondering which one was about to blow the place up.
The series of attacks on government institutions, finance houses, recruiting offices, lawyers’ chambers, embassies, major firms, Spanish Government offices and so on, had been collectively known as the Angry Brigade, as if it were a single cohesive force directed by one commanding officer or even by one small group. As the press could not conceive of volunteers, there would have had to be huge sums paid to any mercenaries they hired, and after it was all over journalists were commenting on “how amateur” the whole business was. They obviously would have preferred to find professionals. Though the press used the word “terrorism”, not a single life was lost nor a single person harmed in these explosions, another factor which earned the entire operation the sneers of officialdom, who thought they would have if they could have, or maybe that they should have, So convinced were the media that the police were dealing with a unified force they were puzzling why Lady Beaverbrook’s car should be sabotaged and what significance she could have for the Angry Brigade. They did not even look at the supposition that, far from being also obsessively concerned with the press, the perpetrator might have thought it was the car of the media baron himself. True Lord Beaverbrook had died and his son hadn’t taken the title but everyone didn’t necessarily appreciate that, and the car was always ostentatiously parked outside the Daily Express building.
Most of the other targets were spot on, and if at first the public at large had reservations about attacking ministers’ houses or the value of sabotaging fashion shows and shops (a Situationist tactic), when one spoke to ordinary people they were delighted at the anarchist targets such as attacks on property speculators’ offices, and even amused at an attack on the Lord Chancellor’s office, which caused horror in the press for the insult to his high judicial standing, far beyond politics as they saw it. Not only I viewed matters in that way, but a jury, picked at random, earbashed for eighteen months by the cream of the legal profession, thought similarly. They found guilty only four who were caught “bang to rights” and recommended clemency in that case, They implicitly accepted that in the case of spontaneous revolt, the police had selected a few representatives of the political factions concerned and fitted them up.
The journos failed to understand what the Angry Brigade was all about, let alone the Stoke Newington Eight (which was not identical), and tried to reduce it to a conspiracy of a few people convicted of certain related offences, as if that said everything. But Grub Street was worse. One smartarse named Oleg Bitov, writing in a book Bitov’s Britain (1985) for Viking Penguin (often none too choosy what rubbish they publish under their imprint) made light of heavy sentences he didn’t have to serve, and pretended they didn’t exist. Feigning superior knowledge of all and everybody, Bitov said, “A story circulating in intelligence circles provides an amusing insight into the effectiveness of Britain’s counter-insurgency forces” and, one may say, into Mr Bitov’s own level of intelligence.
“During the early 1970s, there were a number of minor incidents involving explosives (none of which went off), planted apparently by a group of student anarchists calling themselves the Stoke Newington Seven or the Angry Brigade. It was only after the Seven were brought to trial that lawyers for the defence discovered that five of them were Special Branch plants and the other two infiltrators from the CIA. Being from different sections, none of the Special Branch officers had known that the others were also undercover operatives, nor had there been any liaison whatsoever with the CIA. Apparently the ‘cousins’ were not on speaking terms with one another for some time after this embarrassing incident.”
Could Mr Bitov have been reading that old reactionary G. K. Chesterton’s Man Who was Thursday, in which this unlikely contretemps actually occurred (six of the seven “anarchists” were detectives, the seventh was apparently God) the night Tory Minister Robert Carr was seen on TV watching his wrecked front door?
Who was this knowledgeable Mr Bitov, who thus cheerfully despises anarchists and police alike as shoddy poseurs, in an amalgam of G. K. Chesteron and Joseph Conrad? After having defected to England from the KGB and spreading his little load of propaganda, he re-appeared at a press conference in Moscow when he claimed to have been drugged and kidnapped by British agents in Rome and held captive in London, presumably long enough for his publishers’ cheque to clear into his bank account, and a quick trip to C & A and Harrods.
The late sixties and early seventies were a brief morning of popular support for anarchism in Britain. It seemed to break the back of the quietists who fled from the monster whose claws they thought they had trimmed out of existence. Freedom tried to advise the activists by saying “if they had asked us beforehand, we would have told them nothing could be achieved by violence” or something of the sort, but it had no audience any longer. I recall a delicious moment when one of their group came along to a Black Cross meeting and explained in a firm schoolmistressy tone, “We have been quite tolerant of this behaviour long enough. We have done as you said and given food parcels to prisoners in Spain and remand prisoners here and we will continue to do so. But we want it understood this sort of thing has got to stop”. Like the press and police, they followed the line that it was a small group of unruly individuals who were responsible for everything.
The New Left was a bit shattered by the events, and staggered by the drift to real anarchism. Some sections denounced it outright as a police plot. A hyper-pacifist even suggested the Home Secretary Robert Carr was behind it in order to discredit the anarchists, and to throw people off the scent had arranged for his own home to be a target. Greater devotion to discredit no man could have than this. Some of the new student-led left would have loved to claim it all as their own, as they did revolutions or explosions abroad, but to claim leadership would also be to claim responsibility, and they weren’t having that at any price. Some of the neo-Leninist advance guardists expressed ‘sympathy’ with the ‘unthinking masses’ who without the ‘leadership of the advanced educated minority’ carried out these acts. They dropped hints like, ‘Angry Brigade, be careful, the man who went to Liverpool with you is a pig’, thus making it plain they were still Leaders but disowning the blind ‘masses’ who were taking their advice to rebel too seriously.
The reason was, despite the press talking of conspiracies and public enemies, the whole affair was popular and became more so. After the first few incidents it was clear to all that the normal working person was in no way at risk, and that it was directed at their perceived enemies or at any rate what could be seen to be regarded as such even by people who disagreed they were. That was reinforced by the unbalanced press reaction and the unbridled police campaign. “Commander X”, later revealed to be Commander Bond, who unlike his fictional namesake dared not speak his name while it was going on, led the campaign.
I heard a few criticisms of the events, but they mostly were about the less-understood Situationist angle such as the wrecking of the radio van at the Miss World competition rather than at the anarchistic targets such as Government buildings. All such reservations subsided into admiration when property speculators were targetted and from then on I kept getting suggestions as to whom “they” should do next, from banks to night clubs.
Some were extreme. One printer offered me a plan of the underground workings of London, obtained from his cousin a cable-layer. I don’t know what he expected they were to be used for. In the pub at lunch time a stranger offered a plan to put a bomb in the Spanish Church underneath the pew where the Ambassador may have sat. As no consideration was given to the fact that it would have taken a large part of the congregation with it, I assume he was a nutcase or an agent-provocateur. It made no difference either way as the Angry Brigade didn’t ask me beforehand what they should do and if they had I would have told them that anybody who needed my advice didn’t deserve to have it.
In the midst of the excitement the Daily Sketch closed down. It had been failing for years. We anticipated problems in getting new jobs but the print unions were still powerful enough to get their members back to work almost immediately. It was not the same with the more glamorous jobs, such as sub-editors. Journalists usually have a short working life anyway, like actors, unless they achieve stardom. At least they found jobs of a sort, though more humdrum. One sub who had despised copytakers and unionised endeavours in particular was delivering milk to my door four months later, and bewailing the change of circumstance in which I had moved over to the Daily Telegraph while he, a firm supporter of the Establishment, had nobody to fight his case.
The search under Commander X-Bond seemed to take two paths. One, which he seemed to prefer, was also favoured by Sergeant Roy Cremer of Special Branch, who was the “anarchist specialist” and naturally wanted to justify his existence. That seemed to be to pursue Stuart Christie, who responded to the challenge by leading them a merry dance when he went to and came from work at William Press, allowing them to follow the wrong car for hours by the simple process of changing with a workmate.
Special Branch interviewed me on one occasion, and it was quite plain they were searching for the “Spanish angle”. I agreed to go to Scotland Yard rather than the local station because I thought I might find out what was going on. I was not disappointed. Their interviewers included Military Intelligence as well as Special Branch, and their questions ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. “What is the difference between the CNT and ETA?” “Who did you see in Paris?” “Who are Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?” (Subsequently I saw the film but I never saw the connection yet).
It got to my being asked if I believed in violence, so I retorted, “What would you do if somebody tried to rape your sister?” The officer had no experience of the times when conscientious objectors were asked that very question by tribunals and it seemed at times almost to be what two world wars were about. The officer gasped and said, “What a ridiculous statement. How do I know what I would do? I haven’t the faintest idea — it’s like asking me what I would do if a Black family moved next door” — as revealing an admission as Lytton Strachey’s reply that he would interpose himself between the German soldier and his sister.
The questions were puerile, but I answered in kind, for example, “in Paris? I saw Josephine Baker in the Folies Bergere”, which got a snort. To the question, “When do you reckon the Spanish war finished?” — I answered promptly “March 1939?” which would have been awarded points in a quiz show but at which they gave up. I asked if I could add some remarks privately with the tape recorder turned off. They must have thought I “came up the Clyde on a bicycle” and eagerly agreed. I said I wanted them to know that I detested anti-social violence and that if I thought anybody was guilty of it I would deal with it myself. Everyone was cheered up by this and someone said cordially they relied on the co-operation of public-spirited citizens like myself, overlooking that our views of what was anti-social might differ sharply.
That may not have been the view of the elusive commander X-Bond since a couple of weeks later I got raided, which suggested that my answers, though strictly truthful if unhelpful, were not sufficient to let me off their hook, though the daring antics of the AB were totally beyond my middle years and girth. Normally police raids in this operation took place in the early hours of the morning, people being got out of bed and even doors smashed down while they were sleeping. Maximum publicity was always given, thus even though no arrests were made, a healthy warning was given to all concerned that it was unwise to be under suspicion even if one had done nothing. Inspector Habershon later told the press that no members of the “orthodox left” such as the Communist Party had been raided, which made it plain that all the raids were politically motivated pour encourager les autres.
In one raid in Hornsey they point blank told the startled tenant (in the flat below the one they were seeking) they were looking for anarchists. She asked “What does that mean?” and they said, “Well, people against the government”, and she timidly admitted her husband had, against her advice, voted Liberal, and had thought it was legal though she told him he should not have mentioned it to anyone. A shout from upstairs “Okay, sarge, this is the flat — there are Anarchist books on the shelves” affirmed the more specifically political nature of the raids, which yielded nothing beyond the outlook of the inhabitants, who were less terrified by the exposure than the lady on the floor below.
However, in my case they reasoned I would have to be raided at work, and notified the security officer they were coming in to search my locker in the health and safety TU representatives room. He advised the management, and they said plainly this was out of order. Wage negotiations were going on, a strike had been threatened, and everyone would have thought the management had called in the police. If they wanted to search my locker, the management suggested, they could do it in the small hours of the morning when the last shift had gone and the cleaners not yet arrived. This would have spoiled the whole purpose of the exercise, and Bond turned it down contemptuously, but was amazed to find out afterwards his instructions had been overlooked.
“Who had the temerity to override my orders?” he demanded angrily.
“The Home Secretary”, Cremer told him. It was fear of the dreaded workers that caused the management to intervene with the government, not concern for the rights of the individual. They just wanted to get a paper out. One can see why some politicos refer depreciatingly to those days when members of print unions could afford to be against the government.
Inspector Habershon came on the scene via the local CID when Home Secretary Robert Carr’s house in Finchley got attacked. He was as quiet and methodical as Bond was bumptious and extrovert, and pursued a different line of enquiry. Possibly in Finchley he had been used only to Conservative crime. What struck him was a series of cheque frauds involving some students, whom he assumed to be Anarchists and were in fact Situationists. It seemed he let the frauds go on while he watched the people. It may have appeared odd to him that people “on the left” should be involved in something assumed to be the prerogative of those “on the right” and reasoned that they must be trying to raise funds for illegal activities. In fact rarely do people “raise funds” — what they raise is cash — though naturally, just as when they raise cash by legal means such as working for it, they may well contribute to funds. The notion that the Angry Brigade needed to be “financed” was grotesque.
But Habershon was working on his line of approach while the anti-Christie section worked on theirs. They even persuaded a tabloid to advertise a huge reward for the “man behind the Angry Brigade” while dropping heavy hints as to whom they thought it was. Then Jake Prescott and Ian Purdie fell into their hands. Purdie, while in prison on a charge of bombing the Ulster Office in London in 1969, had propagandised heavily, and when released mixed with suspect anarchists and situationists. He influenced Prescott, who was released and later re-arrested, when he was alleged to have “admitted involvement” to another prisoner, though it is more likely that what he expressed was agreement with the actions and may have been misinterpreted or deliberately misrepresented, hardly unlikely in view of the substantial reward offered, though never paid.
A lot of people were doing things more or less in sympathy with the Angry Brigade. Given its actions it was difficult not to. Some took it upon themselves to write manifestoes for the Angry Brigade though not necessarily involved in it, but ready to propagandise its clear aims. Purdie and Prescott both got arrested and charged. Some of the actions, like the attack on the Post Office Tower, occurred while they were under arrest and being charged. They were accused of “conspiracy” on the basis of “a nod or a wink is sufficient” to justify that vaguest but most dangerous of charges. Purdie’s top line barrister took a better paying case at the last minute, leaving him with a deaf elderly barrister for whom everyone in the profession was sorry. Purdie did not give evidence. This is usually taken to mean that one dare not face being cross-examined but in this case the prosecution did not like to say that, as it might have been because his barrister couldn’t hear. There was no case against him otherwise and he was found not guilty.
The jury were sympathetic. The fact is the Angry Brigade were so popular the jury would certainly have found Prescott not guilty too. But he had the misfortune to be better represented. On cross examination he admitted writing some envelopes, and the judge ruled that this was enough to find him guilty of conspiracy. He could easily have denied it and the jury would have found him not guilty. I suggested to the defence committee it would be safer to deny everything, and recommended a handwriting expert should see if it was Jake’s handwriting at all, or perhaps analyse whether the writer was the perpetrator of the alleged acts.
I recommended graphologist Manfred Lowengard, the former husband of a good friend. Unfortunately once in Berlin an official had asked him to analyse some handwriting, and he had characterised the writer as unstable, neurotic, and with dangerous psychopathic tendencies. The terrified official, who had been acting for President Hindenburg, said that it was the handwriting of the new Chancellor, Herr Hitler, who had been granted dictatorial powers. Manfred prudently took the next boat-train to England. He wasn’t prepared to face that type of political hazard again and backed out of the case, while Prescott was quite ready to admit to such a trivial matter anyway. To the surprise of the jury, the judge sentenced him to fifteen years jail for his folly in telling the truth.
I may say of Manfred that he was called to give evidence in Germany on one of the interminable cases involving Mrs Anastasia Tchaikovsky, who claimed to be the supposedly executed Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia, and was also known as Anna Anderson. The case for the relatives who denied her claim seemed to rest on the fact that they could not admit that the daughter of the Tsar had been raped and an illegitimate child resulted. They could accept she had been killed (that was consistent with her dignity) but not raped, and with issue. The fact that the claimant knew every secret detail of her past life was, they explained, because the real Grand Duchess had been high-spirited and mischievous and after being shot had entered some factory girl’s body to torment the royal family, who did a pretty good job of it on Anna/Anastasia herself. I do not know if the spirit could influence the handwriting too. Fortunately for European Royalty, a tissue of the flesh of Mrs Anna\Anastasia Manahan, formerly Tchaikovsky (nee Romanov or Schanzkowska, which the case was all about), was found years after her cremation, when genetic fingerprinting could prove she was not related to Prince Philip. If the Greek Royals had exchanged roles with the Romanovs, Philip might have been proved an impostor.
Manfred was very closely questioned by the opposing lawyer, a former Nazi finally cleared after the war under the denazification law and re-admitted to the German Bar. He cast doubts on Manfred’s credibility. “You are a British handwriting expert, known as the Sage of Hampstead, we are told,” he stated. “Yet you speak faultless German”. Manfred replied, “I can claim no credit for that, but thanks to your Fuhrer I also speak fluent English”.
The Angry Brigade was a name used not always by the actual people concerned, and was a spin-off from the International Revolutionary Solidarity Movement and First of May Group but it also blended with situationism with which they had nothing in common. On the Continent this led to a clash. Here it was otherwise. The situationists normally had no class consciousness and anyway were opposed to all forms of active opposition, even anti-parliamentary, on the grounds that everything was packaged by the oppressive society and parcelled back in acceptable form by the universities. This was true enough in general, and also applied to themselves in particular. It applied very much to the pseudo-anarchists to be found first in the peace movement, then to the various offspring that came from it. It did not apply to the genuine anarchist movement, and some working class youths from higher education, who were influenced by French situationism saw that too and went along with action coming from Spain rather than sloganising coming from France. The situationists seized on the student involvement in the Paris barricades as if they had been responsible, but the whole business of the “society of the spectacle” was a bit of a joke and finished up as a diversion in art galleries.
Though on the Continent this led to a sharp division between anarchists and the situationists and various Marxist trends (though the press saw them as one), here the strands, though smaller, briefly made up one movement and all their separate actions were referred to as the Angry Brigade from propaganda manifestoes sent out.
The European Resistance began as a rearguard attack on continued Francoism but expanded to fight neo-Nazism and the trend to what is now call “Thatcherism” (capitalism without apologies) but which goes back to long before she took office. It collapsed because everywhere in Europe its success induced Government agents of one sort or another to move in and take over, or if they could not, to emulate the methods and adopt similar or even the same names. With neo-Marxists and nationalists growing in influence, and preferring some governments to others, when they pretended to be resistance movements to fight the cold war under another name, professional guerrillas set up shop and the Intelligence game had a field day. It never occurred to this element that every government, however ‘nationalist’ or ‘socialist’, had police forces which liaised. The press referred to it all as “Anarchism”.
© Copyright: 1996 Albert Meltzer
Published by AK Press Book details and the Kate Sharpley Library.
Marked up by Chuck0 in 1996, originally posted at http://www.spunk.org/library/writers/meltzer/sp001591/angeltoc.html
(Reproofed by KSL May 2010).