Right Up Against the State

A few years back, Amber Rudd resigned as Home Secretary in the midst of the controversy over the government’s treatment of those known as the Windrush generation, and their relatives with its “hostile environment” policies designed to deter illegal immigration.

On Rudd’s watch, an extreme right-wing group, National Action, was proscribed as a terrorist organisation. Announcing the ban, then Home Secretary Amber Rudd said: “National Action is a racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic organisation, which stirs up hatred, glorifies violence and promotes a vile ideology, and I will not stand for it.”

“It has absolutely no place in a Britain that works for everyone.”

Migrants from Commonwealth countries, who were encouraged to settle in the UK from the late 1940s to 1973, were, by the same government,  being wrongly declared illegal immigrants and targeted by state bodies for deportation in a systematic denial of their citizens’ rights.

The effect was similar to policies National Action advocated: Only they did not have the Home Office, police, border force and Department for Work & Pensions to implement the policies.

The target of a mainly young, small band of immature activists from the far right of the political spectrum, with their political stunts and inflammatory behaviour eventually drew the attention of the guardians of the state.  That it was the state that organisationally smashed the far right National Action reflects the dominant social democratic morale that can be recalibrated if thought required.

2020 saw a series of criminal cases involving activists involved with the legally banned National Action .

READ more here

100. Lal Salam! Red Salute!

In Memorial

JAGMOHAN JOSHI, General Secretary of the Indian Workers Association of Great Britain (IWA GB), died from a heart attack on June 3rd 1979 leading a 4,000 strong demonstration in London against state racism, discrimination, police brutality and immigration controls.

Born in Hoshiarpur in Punjabi, India, in 1958, at the age of 21 he came to Britain to find a livelihood. He continued to be deeply involved in community and communist politics. [See The IWA (GB), Indian Communists & the AIC] He upheld the People’s Republic of China under Mao Zedong as a great beacon of socialism, and fought for Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought against revisionist and Trotskyite distortions of Marxism. Former members of the Birmingham Communist Association in tribute to his contribution noted:

Joshi’s communism was quite clearly not of the Eurocentric type that has typified the white left for so many years. For some of us, he was instrumental in opening our eyes to the realities of oppression in the Third World and the significance of the national liberation struggles. He did not see racism as a diversion from the class struggle – as something that will simply be resolved with the socialist revolution, but stressed the importance of black struggles. [Remembering Comrade Joshi Class Struggle, June 1983]

He stood for building alliances of all people opposed to racism, however he never accepted that the struggle was only against open fascism and not against the system which breed and promote racism. The Times described Joshi as “uncompromising and thoughtful Maoist industriously working for broad-front multi-racial British militant organisation”. Partially true: the IWA was his prime focus, but he helped bring progressive campaigning organisations in Britain together in the 1960s Joshi initiated the formation of the Coordinating Committee Against Racial Discrimination (CCARD), a broad based campaigning committee of 26 organisations, fronted by Victor Yates, MP for Ladywood, who was the first president. Maurice Ludmer of the Jewish Ex Servicemen’s Association and editor of Searchlight anti-fascist magazine played a significant role, together with Jagmohan Joshi and academic, Shirley Fossick, who later married Joshi. In 1968 he led the Black Peoples Alliance and organised marches of up to 15,000 people, however such a heady mix of pro-Maoist and Black Power activists proved an unsustainable agenda in the absence of a unifying revolutionary party. In the 1970s the Joshi-led IWA continued to challenge through participation in the Campaign Against Racist Laws (CARL).

In innumerable struggles against racism, he and the IWA GB played a leading part. There were many struggles in the community, including the rights of Sikhs to wear turbans, and against discrimination in public places, e. g. the refusa1 of many pubs to serve black people. The IWA has always supported and fought to maintain the culture of their own people. This is shown in such things as support for Punjabi schools and the promotion of cultural activities at all IWA events. The Indian Workers Association led by Joshi campaigned against discrimination and social exclusion facing Indian and other black and Asian migrants in Britain through poor housing conditions, employment inequalities such as the segregation of facilities in factories where its members worked; the operation of a ‘colour bar’ in employment and education, as well as in shops, public houses, and other leisure facilities; and the restrictions of immigration legislation introduced during the 1960s and 1970s. The IWA supported industrial disputes involving black and Asian workers at a number of workplaces in the Midlands and expressed broad solidarity with the Trade Union movement – attending May Day rallies, encouraging members to join trade unions and supporting the miners strikes of the early 1970s and 1984-1985 – although it also campaigned against racial discrimination within trade unions. [See The Rise and Fall of Maoism: the English Experience]

He clearly saw the importance of the struggle against racism, and recognised the effects of racism and imperialism on the working class in this country:

“Racialism in white workers is class collaboration and fatal for the working class struggle.” and “Loya1ty to the British nation is loyalty to the class that controls it i.e. monopoly capitalism. The white worker must reject such loyalty. Loyalty to Britain is loyalty to British imperialism. The white workers owe loyalty only to proletarian internationalism.”

He argued very strongly against the idea that black workers must not expect white workers to support them in their fight against special oppression, but must themselves support the economic struggles of white workers under white leadership as the best means of indirectly achieving their economic and political emancipation.” He saw this as totally incorrect like that other argument” that workers and peasants in colonial and semi-colonial territories should wait patiently for the workers in the metropolitan countries to overthrow the imperialist power.” [Quoted in Remembering Comrade Joshi Class Struggle, June 1983]

At home and abroad, Joshi was involved: in campaigns to stop atrocities on India’s poorest people, the Dalits or so-called “Untouchables”, and in 1975, Indira Gandhi put India under a State of Emergency. The Alliance against Fascist Dictatorship in India was formed, in which Joshi and the IWA GB played a leading role, continued to campaign for the release of the 100,000 political prisoners still held by the new Indian Government after Mrs Gandhi’s downfall. He led the movement when Gandhi visited Britain in 1978, which prevented her speaking in Southall and Birmingham.

At a Memorial meeting 1,500 people packed Birmingham Town Hall on June 17th 1979 to hear speeches, poems and songs including the chorus of IWA (GB) youth and The Banner Theatre Group in Joshi’s honour.

“Comrade Jagmohan Joshi belonged to his community, but also to all people who fight racism, fascism and imperialism. The greatest contribution we can make to his memory will be to carry on the struggle”.

Words spoken by his widow Shirley Joshi but sentiments repeated throughout the day.

It is a tribute to comrade Joshi’s style of “uniting all who can be united” (noted a report in Class Struggle) that many different political and social trends were represented and Comrade Joshi’s history was recalled by many speakers: representatives of Bharatiya Dalit Mukthi, an organisation of Dalits, Bangladeshi, Kashmiri, Afro-Carribean and Azanian organisations spoke.

Maurice Ludmer, Chairman of the Birmingham Trades Council, and editor of Searchlight anti-fascist magazine, said “my association with comrade Joshi goes back 22 years. He used to discuss with me in a room above a hairdressers in Soho Road, Handsworth. Within a few years the IWA (GB) had built a membership of 28,000. Unlike many whom the press and the race relations industry claim as immigrant leaders, Joshi genuinely had a mass base”. He pointed out “The IWA (GB) played a major role in the trade union movement in Britain. Many of the sweatshops in the “Black Country” were organised for the first time by Indian workers. Comrade Joshi stood shoulder to shoulder with the whole working class in this country”.

Amrit Wilson spoke on behalf of AWAZ (Asian Women’s Group) and pointed out how Comrade Joshi fought against male chauvinism and was anxious for women to play a full part in political life.

A leader of the Sikh temple in Smethwick paid tribute. The “Friends of India”, an organisation whose basis is Hindu nationalism, but which united with the IWA (GB) in the fight against Indira Gandhi’s fascist rule, sent a message of support. A representative of the Wolverhampton Anti-Nazi League spoke of his devotion to the anti-racist and anti-fascist struggle.

From the Left in Britain, the Maoist RCLB and Communist Workers Movement praised comrade Joshi as a great communist and an outstanding fighter against imperialism. The CWM pointed out that Comrade Joshi had put into practice the Leninist line of uniting the struggle of the working class in the advanced capitalist countries with those of the oppressed nations and peoples. The CWM speaker spoke glowingly of Comrade Joshi’s work to build the IWA, unite the national minority communities and unite them with the rest of the working class, uphold Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong thought and build the revolutionary Communist party in Britain and stressed that Comrade Joshi had made, “important contributions to the struggles of the British and international working class.”. New Age, No. 14, June 1979

Political opponents, speakers from the “Communist” Party of Great Britain, Socialist Workers’ Party and International Marxist Group took the platform to acknowledge his great achievements.   Class Struggle June 28-July 11th 1979 Vol.3 No.13

An accomplished Urdu poet, writing under the pen-name of Asar Hoshiarpuri.his own words made a fitting epitaph:

“We are fighting for the light, and if I am sacrificed, it doesn’t matter;

For there will be others who will see the dawn”

Joshi (2nd left) Avtar Jouhl (far right)Avtar Singh Jouhl


 

Olive Morris (1952-1979)

October is Black History Month in the UK

worked as a feminist, anti-racist community organiser and squatting activist throughout the late 60s and 70s in south London . This short biography of south London based anti-racist community organiser Olive Morris throughout the late 1960s and 70s was adapted from Emma Allotey’s original piece.om


Olive Morris was born in Jamaica in 1952

  • She lived in South London from the age of nine
  • Olive was a member of the British Black Panthers
  • She was central to the squatter campaigns of the 1970s
  • She left Tulse Hill Secondary School without any qualifications and later went on to study at the London College of Printing and at Manchester University.
  • During her student years in Manchester (1975-78), Olive also became involved in the community struggles in Moss Side, contributing to the formation of the Black Women’s Mutual Aid and the Manchester Black Women’s Co-op.
  • She helped to set up various women’s groups, including the Brixton Black Women’s Group and the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent

In 1979 Olive Morris died of non Hodkin’s lymphoma aged 27 at St Thomas’ Hospital. She is buried in Streatham Vale Cemetery.


One early example of Olive’s political activism was when she intervened into the arrest of a Nigerian diplomat for a parking offence in Brixton in November 1969. She was physically assaulted and racially abused by the police and was arrested, along with six other people, fined £10 and given a three month suspended sentence for two years. The charge was assault on the police, threatening behaviour and possessing dangerous weapons.

Olive became a member of the youth section of the Black Panther Movement (later the Black Workers Movement). The Brixton Panthers had their headquarters at Shakespeare Road in a house that was bought with money donated by John Berger when he won the Bookers Prize. Members of the Brixton Black Panthers included:

Althea Jones    – medical doctor
Farukh Dhondi – broadcaster and writer
David Udah    – church minister
Darcus Howe – broadcaster
Keith Spencer – community activist
Leila Hussain – community activist
Olive Morris    – community activist
Liz Turnbull    – community activist
Mala Sen         – author
Beverly Bryan – academic and writer
Linton Kwesi Johnson – writer and musician
Neil Kenlock   – photographer and founder of Choice FM London

sabarr

Olive was also a founding member of the Brixton Black Women’s Group. Many political organisations were based in and around Brixton, which was a venue for counter-culture political activity.

Olive was also a squatter and squatted 121 Railton Road, in Brixton in 1973. She was photographed scaling a wall on the cover of the Squatter’s Handbook. The squat became an organising centre, until closed in 1999, for community groups such as BASH (Black people Against State Harassment) as well as housing Sabarr Bookshop, which was one of the first Black community bookshops.

In 1975, Olive moved to Manchester to study a degree in Economics and Social Sciences. She was a member of the National Coordinating Committee of Overseas Students, which campaigned for the abolition of fees for overseas students; off–campus, she was involved in the work of the Manchester Black Women’s Cooperative and the Black Women’s Mutual Aid Group.

Olive visited Italy and Northern Ireland in 1976. In 1977, she visited China and wrote a piece entitled “A sister’s visit to China” which explored the role of China in anti-imperialist struggles. It was published in Speak Out! The Brixton Black Women’s Group newsletter.

Olive, along with Stella Dadzie and others, founded the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) in February 1978. OWAAD held its first conference at the Abeng centre on Gresham Road in Brixton. (The Abeng Centre was a centre that Olive helped to establish along with Elaine Holness and other members of the community; it is now renamed the Karibu Centre).

After University Olive returned to Brixton, working in the juvenile department of the Brixton Community Law Centre where she was involved in the campaign to scrap the SUS laws.

She criticised the strategy of the Anti-Nazi League focusing on fighting the far right, while largely ignoring the impact of institutionalised racism on the lives of Black people: the role of the police, educational system, etc.

Don Lett, a member of the Movement explains in an interview by Greg Whitfield, that

“It all seems so easy now, the very word just rolls off your tongue, “Black British”, but for awhile back there, it wasn’t so simple you know? Fundamentally the Black British and the Black American experience was different, right from source. Black Americans were dragged, screaming and kicking, from the shores of Africa to an utterly hostile America, whilst my parents, they bought a ticket on the ‘The Windrush’ bound for London! So, right off, you have it there, a major fundamental difference. So even though I attended the Black Panther meetings, proudly wearing my Angela Davis badge, read “Soul on Ice”, there was still so much more that we needed to do. It’s true that we became aware, became conscious in many respects and that was partly due to those Panther ideologies, but the total relevance of that movement just didn’t translate into the Black British experience.”

MORE AT https://rememberolivemorris.wordpress.com/about/

newspaper


 

Research Note ~ Caribbean Workers’ Movement

October is Black History Month in the UK

The struggle within the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination and the transformation of the pressure group towards advocacy of Black Power in late Sixties Britain needs no retelling as it was recorded in The Politics of Powerless (Heineman (1972) IRR/Oxford University Press). That account explored the personalities and issues involved. This note looks outside it three years tumultuous existence to focus on the drivers of radical change identified in the standard narrative as Johnny James and Ralph Bennett. Both men were founders of the London-based CARIBBEAN WORKERS’ MOVEMENT in 1965. Bennett was general secretary; James, head of publications. Both were political workers for Labour Party activist, Dr. David Pitt in his Greater London Council (GLC) constituency of Hackney. (In 1975 Prime Minister Harold Wilson was to appointed Pitt to the House of Lords as Lord Pitt of Hampstead). They were co-opted at Pitt’s insistence onto the Executive Committee of C.A.R.D. – Campaign Against Racist Discrimination. James was assistant general secretary for membership and chairman of the International Committee. Their impact on the civil rights lobbying group reflected the growing radicalisation of self-organisation and political advocacy within Britain’s immigrant communities against the racist discrimination experienced in British society. The turn to community action was not as new as contemporary commentary would suggest. What was heard loud and clear was the anti-imperialist sentiments and concerns expressed.

Johnny and Ralph were both editorially involved in the single sheet one penny newsletter published from 1965 to 1967 by the Caribbean Workers Movement. In August 1965 the Caribbean Workers’ Weekly editorial asked:

“What are the principles which guide truly socialist actions? What would be expected from Socialist leaders, parties and groups?
The overriding feature of their policies and actions must be the furthering of the interests of all working people against their implacable enemies, in our case world imperialism led by US imperialism and British Imperialism with their local stooges.”
(Caribbean Workers’ Weekly Vol 1 # 7 August 1965)

Reflecting left-wing Marxist attitudes of some of what are now referred to as the ‘Windrush Generation’, the newsletter covered a wide-range of topics, including parliamentary democracy, economic power, maintenance of the colour bar, Caribbean politics, and the use of British military forces in the Caribbean. The publications of the CWM was concerned with promoting ‘true’ socialism to the island countries, to campaign for national independence , to defeat the common enemy – imperialism, led by the ruling classes of the USA, Britain, France and others and domestically, reflective of their internationalism, to participate “in all anti-colonial, anti-imperialist, and anti-fascist activities for the benefit of working classes in all parts of the world, thus playing our proper role in the international working class movement against imperialism.”

The first issue of Caribbean Workers’ Weekly appeared July 1965 with the front page news calling for ‘Hands Off Dominica’ and comments on Jamaica’s economy and the Commonwealth Conference. The reverse has thinly-detailed article on the Klu-Klux Klan in Britain, and more substantial piece on ‘US aggression in Vietnam’. That formula was repeated in subsequent issues.

carib

The focus of the newsletters was mainly on Britain and those in power in the Caribbean – articles on the use and abuse of political, policing and military powers, as well as corruption and financial largesse within capitalist regimes abound – but wider global concerns are reflected too, with many articles and cartoons attacking the pernicious influence of the United States in Caribbean affairs. An editorial on parliamentary democracy wrote of shedding illusions in the wake of “what flimsy structures these imperialist devised constitutional institutions proved to be.” Economic power it asserted remained with the monopolists, and it questioned the treacherous Caribbean leaders “how much easier the job of imperialists is made with local stooges to do the jobs for them.”

The Vietnam War, the rise of Black Power in the USA, and the Cuban Revolution and its support for those overthrowing the Anglo-American imperialist yoke are all covered.
Its audience was those who “escape from overwhelming unemployed and destitution by emigrating to the metropolitan country as cheap labour.” [The Carib Vol.1 No.5 February/march 1965]

Amongst the activities it carried were advertisements for film shows of Cuba’s “Island Aflame’ in the Labour Hall in Stoke Newington, and a fund-raiser party at Benthal Road both in the North London N16 district. There were monthly meetings at the Lucas Arms, the venue that marked the open declaration of the anti-revisionist movement with the creation of the Committee to Defeat Revision, for Communist Unity that some members of the CWM had been involved in. The CWM, working in a similar field, continued to reflected those early anti-revisionist concerns with the Caribbean Workers’ Weekly exposing an activist, P.Sealy, as “a Caribbean stooge of the revisionist CPGB” [Caribbean Workers’ Weekly #41 April 16-23rd 1966]. The opposition to the politics of “The British Road”, the CPGB’s political strategy was evident in the position taken by the CWM on domestic and international issues. The newsletter argued,
“there is no fundamental difference between the Tories and Labour government since they both want capitalism.” [Caribbean Workers’ Weekly #38 March 26th-April 2nd 1966].

Vietnam was a weekly solidarity feature carrying reports on the war and agitation support. There were explicit and trenchant criticism contained in its articles. Typically, the article, headlined “Struggle – defeat Imperialism” wrote of the “bloody nature of imperialism, particularly US imperialism” and the need to “distinguish false friends from true friends… We are struggling resolutely for unity among Caribbean anti-imperialists.”
Using the mimeographed technology of the day, the CWM produced other literature, along with the demanding schedule of the weekly Caribbean Workers’ Weekly. There was the CARIB that carried more lengthy Marxist analysis. The Carib saw its first issue in July 1965, a stencil and staple publication of roughly 12-16 pages, published with the then recently re-badged tag ~ Caribbean and Latin American Workers.

The Carib generally appeared every two months (although it had gaps through an irregular publication schedule). There was a series called Caribbean Organisations for Mass Political Education, which covered scientific socialism and Caribbean history.

Originally from Guyana, in north-eastern South America, Johnny James, active within the London Left, had contacts with other small left-wing pro-Peking organisations in London. Principal amongst them was another anti-revisionist group, the London Workers’ Committee led by elderly general practioner, Dr Alexander Tudor-Hart, which produced the monthly Workers’ Broadsheet. The radicalising Universal Coloured Peoples’ Association led by Obi Egbuna, a Nigerian-born novelist, playwright and Marxist- pioneer of the Black Power movement in Britain. See: https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/uk.secondwave/bufp-blf.pdf

Along with these groups and individual supporters, Heinneman argues that for varying reasons related to internal IWA (GB) politics, James also secured the cooperation of the Indian Social Club in Southall in the struggle to transform CARD into a more militantly active organisation. He judged that James, the “40-year old accountant” communist, had always been orientated towards realising radical change in the home islands than towards eradicating discrimination in Britain.  [Heineman (1972) The Politics of Powerless. IRR/Oxford University Press p197]

An alternative evaluation would illustrate the cross fertilisation within London’s anti-revisionist milieu as James, preceding his emergence at the contentious CARD convention in 1967, had an established political record that included involvement in the Communist Party as a London District Committee member from Stoke Newington. Johnny James had been expelled from the Communist Party of Great Britain.  James, along with 14 signatories had associated themselves “with the principled stand” and “fundamentally correct ’Appeal to All Communists’”, Vanguard, newspaper of the CDRCU, critics of the revisionist communist party, carried a statement in solidarity stating the party leadership had substituted insults for serious political discussion, indulged in “vulgar lies” “damaging slanders,” “scurrilous practice”.

ACTIVE IN CDRCU


After the departure of the editorial team of Evans and Jones, Johnny James was a named editor of Vanguard (along with Dave Volpe, Jack Seifert, and Michael McCreery). The fluid nature of parts of the anti-revisionist movement in London was illustrated by some of the dual membership held at that time by The Carib editorial team. They were simultaneously active in both organisation sharing similar political outlooks and orientation. It was not only in the pages of Vanguard that displayed their sympathies: Paul Noone, John James and Dave Volpe were the CDRCU’s platform speakers for the release of arrested Indian communists at a Conway hall meeting in March 1965.

Carib was advertised in Vanguard (Vol1 #9 October 1964) and carried a three part article by James described as a lecture to “advanced cadre of the Guyana National Liberation Movement”. (See: Vol 1 # 8&10). In his article “We Must Fight Racism”, James wrote unsurprisingly dismissively of government initiatives ,

“Let us call upon the Labour Government to act against racism not just talk: and let us expose it when it fails to act. Only the mass struggle of the people can stamp out racism and Fascism.” https://www.marxists.org/history/erol/periodicals/vanguard/1-11.pdf

Ahilya Noone (of Carib’s editorial team) submitted articles on Cuba and a substantial piece called “Women under capitalism” raising the demand “to free her from the shackles of domesticity” (Vanguard Vol 2 #1 January 1965). Not only her and James’ presence provides evidence of the symbiotic relationship as Paul Noone, also on the editorial team of Carib (and later a member of the London Workers’ Committee) joined Vanguard’s editorial team after McCreery’s death, However John James was no longer on the editorial team by the start of 1966. His comrade Paul Noone was still there but his published article “Some Methods of Work” [Vol 3 No.1 1966] was headed “Polemic”.
Noone shortly departs amidst the disintegration of the CDRCU. Work continued on The Carib before its demise sometime in 1967. That year developments within the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination had preoccupied the activists’ time.

James was once more in the public limelight with the events at CARD labelled as one of the dangerous Maoists. James “always wore a Mao button on his lapel” according to Diane Langford’s memoirs, a volunteer in the CARD office.

CARD’s November Convention

The influence of the input of grassroots radicalism was evident at the third annual convention of CARD at Conway Hall on November 4th 1967. Delegates gathered before posters of radical organizer Robert Williams, who advocated armed Black self-defense, and Pan-Africanist organiser and Kenyan Independence leader Jomo Kenyatta. They stood before signs that reflected some mantras of CARD’s early history, declaring, “Outlaw racial discrimination. Provide effective laws,” but also ones that imagined new features for the organisation, including one that stated, “Black Power means liberation, not integration as third-class citizens.” [Kennetta Hammond Perry (2016) London is the Place for Me: Black Britons, Citizenship and the Politics of Race. Oxford University Press p240]

Reflecting a consciously internationalist approach to anti-racism that would incorporate the struggle against imperialist rule, the radical coalition clashed with those whose domestically orientated approach was limited to state-sanctioned integrationist measures. In line with the words of Mao Zedong, “The evil system of colonialism and imperialism arose and throve with the enslavement of Negroes and the trade in Negroes, and it will surely come to its end with the complete emancipation of the black people”  James contended that the majority who viewed their plight as part of a wider freedom struggle were frustrated by what he described as “white liberals and a few Uncle Toms” who did not support internationalising CARD’s mission.

The Convention ended with the election of a new, predominately Caribbean national council, described in a hostile media, in the words of Anthony Lester QC, a member of the Society of Labour lawyers and one of the defeated leaders, as “a racialist takeover” of CARD. In a press statement issued in November1967 by Johnny James, one of the organisation’s newly-elected militant black leaders, had all the hallmarks of a Black Power perspective.

“Let it be quite clear that I do not like speaking to the white imperialist press reporters’, James began,’ because by nature they have to lie and distort everything one says to carry out the orders and wishes of their masters’?
(Quoted in Rosalind Eleanor Wild (2008) ‘Black was the colour of our fight’ Black Power in Britain, 1955-1976 p74 ~ PhD Thesis University of Sheffield)

At the following December’s delegate conference David Pitt retained the chairmanship of the organisation but the liberal minority abandoned the organisation, and walked out.
In the aftermath of CARD, the activists were united in the London Workers’ Committee, which emerged from the demise of the CDRCU and fusion in 1966 of the “Islington Workers’ Committee” with a group based in South London. In May 1968, the LWC formed the “Working People’s Party of England” led by a team with an ex-communist veteran from the Spanish Civil War Chairman, Alex Tudor-Hart and with Jonny James as Foreign Relations Secretary. His fellow group member, Dr Alex Tudor-Hart was a new officer of CARD following the routing of the liberals, joining Johnny James (Assistant secretary and organiser), CWM members S. Ennis and Ralph Bennett. And there were other individuals involved from the anti-revisionist movement (like Ranjana Ash) whose contributions were less publicised but no less significant.

 


END NOTES
The Movement for Colonial Freedom
The centre of CWM activities was a small top floor office near King’s Cross at 374 Grays Inn Road courtesy of the Movement for Colonial freedom, a leading anti-colonialist campaign group and civil rights advocacy organisation. Founded in 1954, headed by Fenner Brockway, it was an amalgamation of the British Branch of the Congress Against Imperialism, the Central Africa Committee, the Kenya Committee and the Seretse Khama Defence Committee. The MCF challenged pro-Empire views within the labour movement and wider British society and sought to make the moral and political case for international labour solidarity and decolonisation. The anti-revisionist London Political Organisation contact address was Evan Gibbon’s, a member of the Communist Party in Vauxhall, who was expelled by the London District Committee in March, 1964. He was on the Central Council of the Movement for Colonial Freedom.
At times the MCF shared its cramped London office with representatives of various independence movements, including the Uganda National Conference, the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union and the Zambian United National Independence Party. This reflected the increasingly transnational political and personal networks of the 1950s and 1960s which involved British left-wing activists and nationalist, socialist and anti-colonialist immigrants and exiles from European colonies present in Britain. The three-way relationship between the Labour Party, the MCF, and the CPGB and the “taint of communism” for mainstream political respectability saw the creation of a number of other single-issue campaign groups, including among others the Anti-Apartheid Movement (UK), the Committee for Peace in Nigeria (established during the Nigerian Civil War) and British Council for Peace in Vietnam, the Chile Solidarity Campaign Committee, War on Want and the World Development Movement. In 1970 the Movement for Colonial Freedom was renamed as ‘Liberation’.
Obi Benue Egbuna (1938–2014)
Nigerian novelist and short-story writer, educated at the University of Iowa and Howard University, Washington, DC. He lived in England from 1961 to 1973, where he became involved in the Black Power movement. Radical and impassioned, Destroy This Temple: The Voice of Black Power in Britain (1971) describes his spell on remand in Brixton Prison and the general political turmoil during this time. The problems he encountered when he returned to Nigeria are described in The Diary of a Homeless Prodigal (1978). He retained his Pan-Africanist politics throughout his life. His first novel, Elina (1978; first published as Wind versus Polygamy, 1964), caused great controversy in its sympathetic portrayal of a polygamous chief. Other novels include The Minister’s Daughter (1975), which sets a young student against a corrupt government minister; and The Madness of Didi (1980) in which the eponymous former priest and college professor, a thinly disguised self-portrait, is a hero to the young, but due to his radical past faces suspicion when he returns to his native village. All Egbuna’s novels display a sardonic sense of humour, as did his play The Anthill (1965). His collections of short stories include Daughters of the Sun (1970), Emperor of the Sea (1974), and The Rape of Lysistrata and Black Candles for Christmas (1980).

55. The British Upper classes & the Nazis

newspaperIn 2015 what surfaced was a black and white film obtained by The Sun tabloid: the seven-year-old future Queen and her mother are seen raising their rights arms to perform the Heil Hitler salute. The 17-second clip ends with the Queen’s mother and her Uncle Edward saluting.

“I don’t think any criticism of a seven-year-old child would be remotely appropriate and I don’t intend to make any” said Board of Deputies of British Jews President Jonathan Arkush condemning criticism of the Queen after a film of her giving a Nazi salute was revealed.[i]

Indeed the child and her younger sister Margaret did not know the symbolism of what they were doing, although it raises questions about what kind of dysfunctional family would teach the Hitler salute to children. Obviously it was Edward – known within the family as David – who had urged his sister-in-law and ignorant nieces in fascist horseplay.

Jonathan Arkush voiced a common response: “It’s really important for us not to judge this event with hindsight. Obviously the Nazi salute now carries horrible memories and bitterness for us, but I do not think for one moment that it would be appropriate for me to suggest that the full horror of Nazi Germany was known at that point.”

There is a much more sinister undertone to the story. There is a vast news cuttings collection, TV documentaries and scholarly studies that point to the affinity and unsavory historical connections between the British upper classes and Nazi Germany. However it is easier to avoid “the challenging past” if speculation replaces disclosure, after all rumors, never proved definitively the narrative and the Royal Archives have always ensured that letters from German relatives of the royal family in the run up to World War II remain closed.

No members of the current Royal Family have Nazi sympathies. Occasional lack of Prince Harry Nazi-Costumejudgement or ‘bad taste’ is shown: the racism passed off as Prince Philip’s gaffe, “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.” (to British students in China, during the 1986 state visit).[ii] Or the 20-year-old Prince Harry after the publication of a photograph showing him wearing Nazi insignia at a private party. It runs in the family: Edward, then the Prince of Wales, future King Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor, his racism on a visit to Australia in 1920. He wrote of Indigenous Australians: “they are the most revolting form of living creatures I’ve ever seen!! They are the lowest known form of human beings & are the nearest thing to monkeys.” [iii]

The Duke of Windsor’s dalliances with the Nazis, detailed in cables, telegrams and other documents, has been examined over the years by historians and journalists. With the former King Edward VIII the smoking gun seems more evident as he is widely thought to be Nazi sympathizer. Although there is a common defence along the lines that whether the reports on the Duke of Windsor accurately reflected his thinking at the time or whether they were merely inaccurate cocktail party gossip is impossible to tell from the diplomatic reports.

The weight of evidence from others tips the scales unfavorably:

British diplomat Sir Robert Gilbert Vansittart wrote in his diaries that in the early 1930s the Prince of Wales, expressed his full support to Hitler’s dictatorship, turning a blind eye to the persecution of Jews.

His pro-German feelings frequently found expression in indiscreet remarks that were not only insensitive to the brutalities of the Nazi regime but critical of “slip-shod democracy.” In July 1933, he told former Kaiser Wilhelm II’s grandson, Prince Louis Ferdinand, that it was “no business of ours to interfere in Germany’s internal affairs either re Jews or re anything else.” “Dictators are very popular these days,” Edward had added. “We might want one in England before long.”[iv]

READ MORE

 Duke of Windsor    Section 2

 Nazi in the family  Section 3

British enthusiasts for Nazi Germany  Section 4

 Cultural exchange  Section 5

 Readings  Section 6

 

[i] Questions prompted by royal Nazi salutes. https://www.bod.org.uk/questions-prompted-by-nazi-salutes-of-royals/

[ii] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/05/04/48-prince-philips-greatest-gaffes-funny-moments/

[iii] Godfrey, Rupert, ed. (1998), “11 July 1920”, Letters From a Prince: Edward to Mrs. Freda Dudley Ward 1918–1921, Little, Brown & Co.

[iv] Fact-checking ‘The Crown’: Did the Duke of Windsor plot with Hitler to betray Britain? by Michael S. Rosenwald December 30th 2017 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/12/30/fact-checking-the-crown-did-the-duke-of-windsor-plot-with-hitler-to-betray-britain/?utm_term=.127e79ece0cd

42. Independent radical black politics: looking at the BUFP & BLF

uk-black-powerThere is a history after Empire Windrush docking in 1948. Since then the involvement of black Britons in the assertion of their own equality in post-war Britain receives little recognition or acknowledgement. There is a rich vein to explore and acknowledge with the varied and complex history of self-organizing within different minority communities that have help shaped British society through expression of their political awareness, active democracy and involvement against the racism of state and society, raising the demands for equality and justice.

Even a narrow focus on any decade in recent British history brings to light a varied and complicated history of struggles for civil rights and justice to be respected in terms of family rights, immigration, employment, defence of communities from racist attacks and policing that was as vibrant and heroic as its American counterpart. The organisation of independent and emphatic opposition pointed to a disengagement and alienation away from existing channels within “the system”.

While the British media focused on the sensationalist and the individual in its coverage, promoting the “Spokesman”, presenting a leader to explain the complex social movement as with Tariq Ali and the anti-Vietnam war protest, there were self-seeking individuals long gone who could rise to the occasion : self-proclaimed leaders were clearly open to skilful media manipulators, self-publicists ever ready with a flamboyant soundbite for journalists, who made them their first ports of call for information on Black Power. This gave them a public profile that was entirely out of proportion to their influence in the black community and often led to their personal opinions being reported as the policies of their organisations. This of course, meant any discussion of the philosophy or stance on issues were through that distorted prism of that individual.

The focus here is introducing the organisational form that independent radical black politics was active in Britain. There are two organisational expressions of Independent radical black politics that reflect a drive for self-assertion, the Black Unity and Freedom Party and the Black Liberation Front, both born out of the same short-lived organisation with the deceptively old fashioned name of the Universal Coloured People’s Association.

UCPA was founded on 5 June 1967 at a meeting in Notting Hill, with seventy-plus at the founding meeting elected Nigerian playwright Obi Egbuna as their president and Roy Sawh as his second in command. At the founding of the Universal Coloured People’s Association (UCPA) in June 1967 it had a clear self-identification as a Black Power organisation – the UCPA’s newspaper was the Black Power Newsletter. Nigerian Obi Egbuna, president of the UCPA and soon founder of the Black Panther Movement (BPM), and Indian Ajoy Ghose, UCPA member, founder of the Malcolm X Montessori School. The UCPA developed in the wake of the visit of Trinidad-American activist Kwame Touré (Stokely Carmichael) speaking at the Dialectics of Liberation Conference in London[i]. Although British Black Power clearly drew inspiration from its American counterpart namesake and the struggles against imperialism, both in the countries from which its members had emigrated, and in Britain earlier in the twentieth century.

By September 1967 Sawh and his supporters had left to form a tiny splinter group. Seven months later, Egbuna He called the UCPA annual general meeting six months earlier than planned in April 1968, resigned as chairman, and founded the British Black Panther Movement, which advertised itself as a revolutionary socialist group. The U.K. Panthers aimed to spread what they termed “black consciousness” through meetings that showcased poetry, music, and film from the West Indies and West Africa.

It was intervention in CARD – Campaign Against Racial Discrimination – that drew publicity: media reports highlighted the role of Black radicals in an article headlined’ Six quit executive of anti-racialist body: “Maoist take-over” fear’ and The Times reported that the UCPA, ‘an organisation standing openly for Black Power’, had helped bring CARD to ‘crisis point.[ii]

It was the London organisations that had the most members and by far the greatest influence and impact reacting to the social and economic conditions that gave rise to black political radicalism in the 1960s and 1970s. Militant black politics was a reactive rather than an aggressive phenomenon, doctrinal rigidities that splintered the groups and eventually led to a divide between cultural nationalist organisations like the BLF and Marxist-Leninist groups like the BUFP and BPM, which balanced their focus on race to class. Like many Black Power organisations the BUFP was particularly inspired by Chinese Communism and Chairman Mao, yet never a part of the party building project that others engaged in. At the outset the BUFP used its official journal, Black Voice, to proclaim its ideology to be “Marxism-Leninism”. In 1990 it revised this to “Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Tsetung thought” and in 1997 changed it again to “Scientific Socialism”.

From the demise of the UCPA arose the two main trends of culturalism nationalism and Black radical left groups.

Socialist elements within the Universal Coloured Peoples Association unitedBUFP1971 with the South East London Black Parents’ Organisation Fasimbas, set up by George Campbell at the end of the 1960s .The Black Unity and Freedom Party held its first congress in London on 20 July 1970, deliberately selected as the commemorative day of the Cuban Revolution.

Former UCPA member George Joseph was elected its general secretary. Alrick (Ricky) Xavier Cambridge, Danny Morrell and Sonia Chang among others were involved in its foundation. In its early years the organisation had three branches, two in London and one in Manchester at the same addresses as the former UCPA rented offices. The BUFP was never a wealthy organisation and therefore lacked capital to invest in activities such as publishing. As well as street sales of Black Voice, the organisation relied on membership contributions and collections at its public meetings. It never paid its officials or members.

Former UCPA members would have been quite familiar with the BUFP’s discussion groups, demonstrations and pamphlet-producing activities and comfortable with new initiatives like summer Schools for black children. ‘We met regularly and we did a lot of campaigning, for example we did a campaign on the [1971] Immigration Act and we did various things with children – we used to have an annual Christmas party’, recalls Lewis, ‘We were also always involved in solidarity work with the African liberation Movements at the time because Angola and Guinea were Portuguese colonies, Ian Smith had declared UDI and there was an armed struggle for national liberation there. South Africa was under apartheid, so we were active participants in the South African liberation movements”‘.[iii]

The BUFP had never been the clandestine, underground organisation and it never contested elected seats either at national or local levels of the state. From the very start BUFF aimed to develop a Black revolutionary organisation; the first principle stated by the BUFP Manifesto is that it recognised ‘the class nature’ of British society; the second point was the recognition of class and class struggle, resulting in the revolutionary Leninist commitment to ‘the seizure of state power by the working class and the bringing about of socialism’.1992 BV cover

Distancing itself from what it viewed as reactionary Black Nationalism, therefore, the BUFP maintained class above racism as the primary source of oppression in society. What it did not do was belittle that impact racism had. In its activity it sought to address the inequality and damage wrought through racist oppression and practices upon the black communities. The first two points of the BUFP’s Manifesto made this explicitly clear. ‘We recognise the class nature of this society’, stated the first clause. ‘We recognise the necessity for class struggle and the absolute necessity for the seizure of state power by the working-class and the bringing about of socialism’ added the second.

As one-time member, Professor Harry Goulbourne, explained:

“The working classes had imbibed the racism of the capitalists; workers, organised or otherwise, had allowed themselves to become divided, seeing colour or race or culture as being more important than objective class interests. In Maoist terms, they had allowed secondary, non- antagonistic contradictions to over-ride the fundamental contradiction between capital and labour. This fundamental basis for organised opposition to, and resistance of, exploitation and the divide and rule tactics of capitalists, was seen to be frustrated and revolutionary action by white workers and their organisations was not to be expected in the foreseeable future.”  [iv]

What this was theoretically built upon was the notion of the effect upon the working class in an imperialist country. Lenin argued, following Frederick Engels, that an aristocracy of labour had emerged in West Europe. This meant that with the emergence of reformist social-democratic parties and trades unions, capitalists were able to gain the support of the working classes by offering non-essential reforms of capitalism. Union leaders played a crucial part in this process, because it is through them that the ‘deal’, or class collaboration, has been effected.

For the BUFP events in Britain, the Caribbean, Africa and elsewhere were properly to be understood in class terms. In colonial wars the notion was of ‘people’s’ struggle for national liberation as the first step towards emancipation from capitalism and imperialism. The group condemned the black bourgeoisie as ‘Uncle Toms’ as vehemently as it condemned capitalism and imperialism. The BUFP also sought more actively to work with white radical groups than most black groups did, not because they were white but because these groups shared or had similar ideological orientations as the group, that is to say, they placed the emphasis on class, not colour/race or gender.

Black workers were placed at the forefront of revolutionary politics in Britain. Given the history of white working class organisations which marginalised black workers’ interests, it was important for blacks to organise themselves autonomously. It was argued that they constituted the most exploited, the most marginalized and therefore the most class conscious element within the wider working classes. This view was also supported by the observation that where white liberals joined black organisations their superior resources usually result in whites controlling the agenda. Additionally, taking a principled stand to maintain its independence of thought and action, the BUFP was consistent in refusing to accept funding from national or local government departments, or charity foundations.BSWM 1989

BUFP sought to play a leading part to rebuild the Black movement, “to fight all attacks on our community by the State, racist organisations, institutions and individuals.” This includes the fight against the mis-education of black children   in state schools. This educationally subnormal (ESN) system, now replaced by special needs sections in schools was challenged by the Black community, hence BUFP launched the first Saturday school “to cater for the needs of our children”.

While most of the activities in which the BUFP engaged could be described as of a community welfare nature in Goulbourne’s account of the BUFP in the early 1970s, their community building work was guided by consistent and deeply committed political perspectives. Opposition to attacks upon the community were vigorously publicised through their paper, Black Voice, whether it was through localised campaigning or part of wider national mobilisations, throughout its existence BUFP members were active challenging racism, in its many incarnations, that affected black lives and communities in Britain.1981 Black Peoples Day of Action

Before the horrific attack at New Cross, a decade earlier the BUFP had campaigned around an attack at Sunderland Road in January 1971: 1971 Black Voice  three petrol bombs thrown into a black people’s party in a house in Sunderland Road, Ladywell, injuring 22l people, several of them seriously. Two white racists later jailed for the attack. In the week after the attack, eight members of the Black Unity and Freedom Party are arrested after being hassled by police on their way back from visiting the injured in Lewisham Hospital. This leads to a march by 150 people to Ladywell Police Station a few weeks later, and more arrests.

Attacks on members of the group by the police in the early 1970s led to several confrontations and locally celebrated court cases. The group’s support, for example, of the struggles of others such as the Irish against the 1971 Internment Act, or the trades unions’ demonstrations against the 1971 Industrial Relations Act, again led the BUFP into confrontation with the authorities. BUFP members were involved in numerous defence campaigns right up to the transformation of the organisation in 1999 as the African People’s Liberation Organisation (APLO).

The journal Black Voice, exposed evidence of police brutality towards the black community, and became integral in campaigns against these crimes. Their pamphlet ‘Who killed Aseta Simms?’ exposes the suspicious death of Aseta, who died at a Stoke Newington police station during the night of 13 May, 1971 in circumstances that the a doctor, apparently representing the police commission, who examined the body was reported to say that he could not ‘… say what was the cause of her death’[v]. She had bruises to her face and swelling to her brain ‘consistent with someone who had been beaten’, but the inquest into her death came to a quick conclusion: death by misadventure. The North London branch of the party led a campaign, involving publications, demonstrations, meetings, etc., to demand a public enquiry into the circumstances of Mrs Simms’ death.

According to its Wikepedia page[vi] , “even during its heyday in the early 1970s the BUFP was an extremely small organisation, never having more than about fifty paid-up members. For most of its history membership fluctuated between about 10 to 15. Its low point was in 1983, when following a split, it dwindled to just three regular members for a few months. However, its members were always very highly motivated, studious and committed activists.”

Members were particularly visible in support of public black community protest campaigns and demonstrations involving alleged ‘police brutality’ and other allegations of “racially motivated” violence such as the New Cross Fire march in 1981.1981 BUFP New Cross Massacre  Therefore, anyone attending community demonstrations in support of, for example, Cherry Groce (shot by police), Joy Gardner (died during a violent deportation) or Colin Roach (shot inside a police station) would certainly hear a BUFP member lecturing the assembled crowd about the ills of capitalism and its links to racism through a megaphone.

The BUFP was also ahead of the rest of the radical left as it visibly pay more attention to the issue of sexism and the role of women in the movement. Criticism of the prevailing sexist attitudes expressed in the Black Power movement both in the United States and the radical scene in London was well-deserved. By the early 1970s, openly denigrating women was no longer acceptable in the movement and the BUFP, BLF and the female-led BPM all had written policies on the correct treatment of their female members. A two-day National Conference on the Rights of Black People in Britain in May 1971, jointly organised by the BUFP and BPM, included a dedicated women’s session entitled ‘”Black women want freedom”- Black sisters speak out!”. The conference programme contained a page on women in the movement written by the BUFP’s Black Women’s Action Committee (BWAC). Black Voice also regularly carried articles with titles like, ‘Male Chauvinism is Counter Revolutionary’ and ‘The Role of Women in the Vietnamese People’s Resistance’.

The initiative in the formation of OWAAD (ORGANISATION OF WOMEN OF AFRICAN AND ASIAN DESCENT) in the late 1970s represented a major turning point in the political consciousness of many Black women, an activist organisation for British black and Asian women founded in 1978, founder members included Stella Dadzie and member of the British Black Panther Movement Olive Morris. It has been called a watershed in the history of Black women’s rights activism. See 1985 BUFP OWAAD The Rise and Fall Of O.W.A.A.D.

BLF leafletBlack Power groups in Britain

The split from the UCPA, reconstituted itself as the Black Panther Movement (BPM) and its offshoot the Black Liberation Front (BLF). Beside members in London, the BPM had Birmingham and Hull branches as well as an offshoot organisation, The Black People’s Action Collective with branches in Birmingham, Nottingham, Leeds and London.

The lines of difference with the BUFP involved their understanding of the concept of Black Power and the place of the class struggle in the fight for equality in Britain and elsewhere. The BPM placed the emphasis on cultural awareness and the unity of all blacks, and were ‘cultural nationalists’ given to cross class alliances. This meant that African history, culture, dress, hairstyle and so forth were of predominant importance to them. They too had an internationalist focus on events in the Caribbean and elsewhere in the Third World. Black Power reached its critical mass and achieved its greatest successes, its high water mark was, perhaps, the Mangrove Nine trial of October to December 1971.

In 1970, Special Branch produced a ‘security and intelligence’ report assessing the  “significance of recent incidents in the general context of community relations and relations between the police and coloured communities in London and giving separate Special Branch general comment with some detail about organisations and personalities.” [vii]

According to the Special Branch assessment “Black Power is at the heart of all militant action by West Indian members of the community.”   Based on that assessment, covert action was undertaken to watch and collect information on individuals and groups, and to ‘harass’ particular individuals deemed to supporting ‘Black Power’ activities. Attempts were also made to criminalise those identified as ‘Black Militants’ and as a threat to ‘harmonious community relations’ and ‘law and order’ in society. A theme evident in the fictionalised account of the black Britons who took on the system in the 1970s – and the real-life counterintelligence unit who tried to crush any black activism portrayed in the 2017 Sky Atlantic six-part series , Guerrilla, a political drama by John Ridley.[viii]

There was the case of Tony Soares, discussed below, a well-known member of the Black Liberation Front who was one of the first proponents of Black Power in the UK. Soares was charged for his editorial decision in allowing an article on making Molotov cocktails (from Black Panther Community Newspaper – Vol.4, No.2) to be reprinted in Grassroots Community newspaper.

Winston Trew explores the little known case of the ‘Oval 4’ in 1972 that saw four members of the Fasimba arrested after a fight with plainclothes police at the Oval underground. Charged with theft, after a five-week trial at the Old Bailey the ‘Oval 4’ were found guilty of attempting to steal, theft, and assault on police. All were jailed for two years in November 1972. In July 1973 they were released from prison after a ‘successful’ appeal.  [ix]

The Mangrove Nine trial was regarded as political not just because it involved black people protesting against the Metropolitan Police but also because the defendants had been the subjects of police surveillance (and harassment in the case of Frank Critchlow) for a long time because of their Black Power activism.

The Mangrove Nine trial lasted for eleven weeks between 5 October and 16 December 1971 and was widely covered by the press in Britain, as well as attracting significant interest abroad. The nine black defendants were charged with riot, affray and assaulting police officers, after a march on 9 August 1970 against police harassment of the Mangrove Cafe in Notting Hill ended in violence. The police said that the fighting at the end of the march had been part of a well organised and pre-planned riot by black agitators. The defendants countered that a disproportionately large and antagonistic police presence had deliberately provoked the marchers.

The story of Britain’s Black Panther that challenges a more palatable and benign version of 1970s history emerges from a biography of Darcus Howe, which offers the first detailed history of Britain’s little-known Black Power movement, claims that the racism it fought is being overlooked in modern narratives about the nation’s past. Howe, himself proved to have a contentious media career – by 1995, the BUFP regarded Howe as a “sellout” – however the biography by Paul Field and Robin Bunce, recounts the development of the early Black power movement and subsequent trajectory of its activists.

The Black Liberation Front

The Black Liberation Front was founded at the start of 1971 by the former Members of the North and West London branches of the Black Panther Movement. Its headquarters were at 54 Wightman Road, formerly the BPM’s North London branch address. Started in mid-1971, its newspaper Grass Roots, was edited by a variety of different people including Tony Soares and Ansel Wong.

Two incidents had propelled the BLF into a wider spotlight:tony Soares charged

Its September 1971 issue contained a reproduction of a page from the American Black Panther Party newspaper, which featured instructions on how to make a Molotov cocktail. Although The Black Panther, from which the ‘recipe’ was taken, was legally available in radical book shops and even some libraries, in March 1972 the BLF’s Tony Soares was charged with attempted incitement to arson; bomb-making; possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life and murder of persons. The Defence campaign received wide support and publicity. The manifest injustice of the charges brought against Soares and the behaviour of the judge in the 1973 trial won the BLF much publicity and public sympathy, which was marshalled by the well-supported Grass Roots Defence Committee. On the other hand, the time the BLF’s linchpin Soares, spent absent from the movement and the strain the trial put the BLF under undoubtedly burdened the organisation. In 1977, he left the organisation for entirely unrelated reasons.

The Black Liberation Front hit the headlines again, in October 1975, when three young black men claiming to be part of the Black Liberation Army, a supposed adjunct of the BLF, attempted to rob the Spaghetti House restaurant in Knightsbridge and ended up taking eight members of its staff hostage for five days. [x]

The BLF represented the more cultural-nationalist vein of Black Power thought, partly sprang from a grave disillusionment with white society at all levels. Dismissing ‘Orthodox Marxism’ as ‘irrelevant to the Black struggle’, because it was ‘drawn exclusively from Western proletarian experience, the BLF argued that ‘Real communism represents a way of life that was already in existence in parts of Africa and Asia before the coming of the white man’. The BLF’s reasons for not wanting to work with whites did not just have their basis in theory, but were a reaction to white working-class and trade union racism. ‘Organised, militant and so-called progressive workers supported Enoch Powell’, its pamphlet explained.[xi] This separatist perspective meant that the BLF focused entirely on organising within the black community and withdrew from activities, such as demonstrations, that were intended to provoke a response from the white community.

‘As a small minority in Britain, we cannot claim we will liberate the country or change its system. That is something the native working class must do for itself, announced an editorial in Grass Roots, ‘[Our] sole concern is survival for Black people in Britain and socialism in their homelands’! [xii]

Outside of the black community the BLF was best known for Grass Roots .  Issues Grassroots headpublished in 1976 and 1978 cover similar issues to those included in other radical and left-oriented press disseminated local black news as well as information about revolutionary struggles throughout black diasporas – racist attacks, police harassment, unjust deportations – but the paper indicates its commitment to what has been described as ‘cultural nationalism’ by its exclusive emphasis on issues relating to people of African origin. The BLF at the time seemed to attract the younger, more black nationalist, more black conscious youths. The significance it placed on education, family life, and ‘black heroes’ (where black is the code for African), and the stress it gave to Africa Liberation Day (celebrated in May 1978 with a march and a week-end of cultural and educational events) indicated its aspiration for a social and cultural life in the UK which is quite separate from that of white citizens. [xiii]

The BLF established community self-help institutions like bookstores, Headstart Grassrootsprograms, Saturday schools, women’s groups, and housing for squatters, especially women and children. Self-help initiatives like these became the foundation of the black feminist movement in 1970s Britain, and grew into lasting social welfare institutions.


In mid-1980s a series of popular pamphlets was published by the Black liberation Front that when developed had been first intended to serve as starting points in the discussions which began to take place within the Black Liberation Front in the late 1970s that challenged the narrow nationalist political line, which the organisation had followed up till then.

That political refinement dealt with many questions which were seen as important to the organisation to break away from its narrow nationalist past and to build a more revolutionary understanding of the rising struggle of the Black community.

There was a dual purpose in the publication of the Black Liberation series: in providing an understanding of the organisation’s general political position, there was available a popular and accessible explanation of the philosophy and ideas of the BLF and as a contribution to the ongoing discussion within the Black Liberation Movement.

No. 1:    Understanding Society                     BLS1

No.2:     Capitalism and Socialism                 BLS2

No.3:     Racism                                                  BLS3

No.4:     Pan-Africanism                                   BLS4

No.5:     The Black Community in Britain    BLS5

No.6: Who Controls Africa?                            BLS6

These ranged from general questions, such as understanding how societies work, to more specific ones such as the structure of the Black community in Britain. These discussions were a clear example of the development of the organisation’s political understanding since it had published, at the start of the 1970s, the pamphlet “Revolutionary Black Nationalism”. What remained consistent was an internationalist perspective drawing inspiration from the lives and example provided by such icons as Amilcar Cabral and Malcolm X, and in the space devoted to the struggles in Africa given in the pages of the BLF’s newspaper, Grassroots. The celebration of African Liberation Day remained a highpoint in the organisation’s year.ALD 87

The Africa Liberation Committee was a coalition of black groups first formed in 1972 to organise Africa Liberation Day (25th May) celebrations each year. In 1982 after a low ebb in the ALCs work the committee was re-organised and reconstituted. The New committee now comprises the Black liberation Front, The Brixton Defence Campaign and the Black Unity and Freedom Party. Part of the aims of ALC was to provide a platform in Britain for representatives of those involved in struggles taking place on the African continent.

The Black Socialist Workers Movement, consists mainly of comrades formerly involved in the B.U.F.P, spoke of the realignment and regrouping, in organisations like the B.U.F.P. and the B.L.F. in the early 1970s which resulted in the numerical decline of these organisations, and the emergence of a new class orientated revolutionary socialist philosophy in Black organisations. Indeed, the Black Panther Movement changed its name to the Black Workers Movement (BWM) in 1973 to reflect a change in emphasis that black workers should be in the vanguard of the battle against racism and its progenitor capitalism. BSWM noted, “the Black nationalist elements, tended to re-emerge in state financed organisations as paid community workers, whilst the socialist elements, have organised independently of state funding and work towards, a more- developed and class positioned political perspective”[xiv] Equally critical of the petty bourgeoisie and their attempt to take leadership of the black communities were, their old comrades in the BUFP. see 1983 BUFP Peti-bourgeois The Politics of the Emerging Black Peti-Bourgeois . Black Voice Vol.14 No.1 1983.BPCJ 1985

The Black Liberation Front had believed that racism was a much greater source of oppression than class and therefore collaborations with white people, especially the white working class, which it identified as the most racist section of society, were ill-advised. ‘Nobody can tell a Black worker that he must unite with a white worker when all the time the white worker tells him to get back to where he came from’ advised a BLF pamphlet from 1971.

There were political developments within the black communities as BLF later explained that:

The real nature of the British state’s new found concern for Black people was soon clear however, when the first target of the laws against incitement to racial hatred turned out to be Black political activists and not the racist gangs which were notorious for inciting and organising violent attacks on Black people. Nevertheless the state’s “race relations” legislation was to have a further effect on the Black movement, in that it opened the door to those who had been knocking on it for years. The Black petty bourgeois who had for years tried to persuade the British capitalists to “outlaw racism”, and who were convinced that the struggle for Black freedom could best be carried out by the oppressors of Black people, greeted the creation of the race relations industry with joy and saw it as a great new opportunity. As a result many deserted the independent Black organisations to take up jobs with the Race Relations Board and with the Community Relations Commissions. Despite these developments the Black Power movement in Britain in the late sixties and early seventies which reflected the more militant political tendency in the Black community, sent a cold shudder don the back of the British state. The state replied with a police onslaught against those Black people who were politically active. Cases such as the Oval Four, the Mangrove Nine and the attack on Grassroots were the result of direct state action against the militant section of the Black movement. However the Black community did not remain passive in the face of the police attacks, and throughout the seventies and into the eighties Black resistance grew both in size and intensity leading to such major clashes as the 1976 Nottinghill Carnival and the 1981 Brixton and Toxteth uprising. Nevertheless by the mid- seventies the organised and militant section of the Black movement had rapidly declined both in size and influence from its high-point in the early seventies. This decline in part coincided with and was partly due to the state’s Urban Aid programme, which for the first time made money available for the funding of projects to meet the social and cultural needs of Black people. The focus of organised Black activity was moving away from the political organising of the Black community and drifting towards the running of projects. [xv]

 

BLF2

The radical black groups were not immune to the general malaise that affected the rest of the political left in the late Twentieth Century, The demise and dissolution of activist organisations was mirrored in the failure to relaunch despite various initiatives aimed at “rebuilding the black movement”, the organisations were by the mid-1990s, more of a marginal fringe force. The BUFP in 1998, after two years of internal discussion and public consultation, the African People’s Liberation Organisation (APLO). The APLO was far more Afro-centric in its rhetoric and programme. The lack of the word “party” in its title was of crucial significance – signalling a potential retreat from outright battles in the political arena. A few months later the BUFP convened for the last time and formally transferred all of their collective assets to the new organisation, before permanently adjourning their last General Meeting.

 

 

ENDNOTES

[i] http://www.dialecticsofliberation.com/1967-dialectics/

[ii] The Sunday Telegraph, ‘Six quit executive of anti-racialist body- Maoist take-over fear’, 4 December 1967,p . 9 and The Times, ‘Threat to CARD from extremists’,7 November 1967,p . 11.

SEE Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr. The Politics of the Powerless: A Study of the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination. ( London: Oxford University Press 1972). A Times news team wrote that ’the ominous lesson of CARD … is that the mixture of pro-Chinese communism and American-style Black Power on the immigrant scene can be devastating’ Times News Team, The Black Man in Search of Power (London, Nelson, 1968).

[iii] Former member Lester Lewis, interviewed by the R.E.Wild, 14 September 2004. Quoted in Rosalind Eleanor Wild, ‘Black was the colour of our fight. Black Power in Britain, 1955-1976. Thesis 2008 Sheffield University p96

[iv] Professor Harry Goulbourne (2000) Africa and the Caribbean in Caribbean consciousness and action in Britain

[v] BUFP Who killed Aseta Simms? 1972, p.3

[vi] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Unity_and_Freedom_Party

[vii] National Archives: Home Office HO 376/00154

[viii] http://www.historyextra.com/article/feature/guerrilla-real-history-british-black-power

[ix] Trew, Winston (2012) Black for a Cause…Not just Because. TaoFish Books. http://www.blackforacause.co.uk/

[x] See: Jenny Bourne, The line between the political and the criminal can be a blurred one. The Guardian, Monday 26 September 2011

[xi] BLF, Revolutionary Black Nationalism’.1971: 3

[xii] Grass Roots 1:2 (7 July 1971), p. 2.

[xiii] Max Farrar Social Movements and the Struggle Over ‘Race’ in Perspectives on Democracy and Protest http://www.maxfarrar.org.uk/docs/StruggleOverRaceMerlin1.pdf

[xiv] BWSM. The Black Worker Editorial Vol3 No.2 1987

[xv] BLF, The Black Community in Britain. Black Liberation Series No. 5

 

* Heavily indebted in use of the following sources

Black Voice & conversations with Dannie Morrell

Rosalind Eleanor Wild, ‘Black was the colour of our fight. Black Power in Britain, 1955-1976. Thesis 2008 Sheffield University

Goldbourne, Harry .Africa and the Caribbean in Caribbean consciousness and action in Britain. David Nicholls Memorial Trust 2000

 1991 BUFP march

Further reading

Angelo, Anne-Marie. “We All Became Black”: Tony Soares, African-American Internationalists, and Anti-imperialism.

Bourne, Jenny “Spaghetti House siege: making the rhetoric real” in Race & Class, October 2011

Robin Bunce & Paul Field, Obi B. Egbuna, C. L. R. James and the Birth of Black Power in Britain: Black Radicalism in Britain 1967–72 . Twentieth Century British History, September 2011. Volume 22, Issue 3, 1, Pages 391–414

Robin Bunce & Paul Field. Darcus Howe: a political biography. Bloomsbury 2015

Goldbourne, Harry .Africa and the Caribbean in Caribbean consciousness and action in Britain. David Nicholls Memorial Trust 2000

Trew, Winston N .Black for a Cause… Not Just Because…: The case of the ‘Oval 4’ and the story it tells of Black Power in 1970s Britain. 2015 

40. A varied and complicated history of struggles for civil rights and justice

Black History Month is celebrated in October in the UK.

For many young Black people in Britain, one would argue that it is very easy for them to recall the names of US Civil Rights icons, better than any standout Black UK Civil Rights activists who fought the struggle .Generally more is known about the Civil rights struggle in the United States than any contributions over that same period of the involvement of black Britons in the assertion of their own equality in Britain.

Even a narrow focus on any decade in recent British history like the 1980s brings to light a varied and complicated history of struggles for civil rights and justice to be respected in terms of family rights, immigration, employment, defence of communities from racist attacks and policing that was as vibrant and heroic as its American counterpart.

1969 Black power newsletter

We also had a Black power and Black Panther movement in Britain, and this was the first such branch outside of the US. And how well known are Olive Morris (1952 –1979) a founding member of the Organisation of Women of African and Asian Descent (OWAAD) in London and established the Brixton Black Women’s Group and Darcus Howe (1943 –2017) broadcaster, writer and civil liberties campaigner. There are books on Rosa Park and students study the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 but know nothing about Paul Stephenson and the bus boycott that took place in Bristol in 1963? He also went to trial for refusing to leave a pub until he was served beer, knowing that it was common practice for some pubs to show signs stating “No blacks, no Irish, no dogs”. Likewise the famous and lauded March on Washington in 1963, a people mobilised like the Black Peoples Day of Action when up 20,000 people marched from New Cross to Central London in protest at the burning to death of 13 black teenagers at a party in New Cross.

1981 Black Peoples Day of Action

A lot of October’s black history seems to revolve around American and African history, why isn’t black British history as readily available. There is a rich vein to explore and acknowledge with the self-organisation of communities, their political awareness, active democracy or even active involvement against the racism of state and society, raising the demands for equality and justice.

Throughout the 1980s there were a whole spate of campaigns in response, not to the individual racist or right-wing provocations ,as in Lewisham in 1977, but to what was seen as ‘racist state attacks’ upon the minority communities and its life. The mushrooming of opposition and solidarity in London alone that involved a number of Black community based groups and empathic defence campaigns such as the Black Action Group, Black Liberation Front, Black People’s Campaign for Justice, Cherry Groce Family Support and Community Defence Campaign, the Cynthia Jarrett Campaign, Newham 7, Southall Rights, Bangledesh Divided Families Campaign, Roach Family Support Campaign, the Wilson Silcott campaign, Broad Water Farm Defence Campaign, the Tottenham Three campaign.

BV what price

There were various local community based initiatives, such as the Hackney Anti-Deportation Campaign ,and mobilisation that had a national reach such as the Anwar Ditta Family Campaign, now used as teaching material in citizenship classes. Coverage to such citizen participation was given in the minority press, in campaign literature and in publications like “Race Today” and “Race & Class” still produced by the Institute of Race Relations.

community protest

Such ephemeral activism was outside of the established political structures where there was a push for the creation within the Labour Party for a Black members Section as a pressure group throughout the late 1980s. That group split when four members of the Black section who were prospective Parliamentary candidates – Paul Boateng, Diane Abbott, Russell Profitt and Bernie Grant – condemned fellow prominent member, Sharon Atkins for publically stating that “it was more important to represent the interest of Black people than to win a seat for Labour.”. The four Black parliamentary candidate issued a statement endorsing the disciplinary action taken against Atkin, “our overriding interests [is] getting Labour into Government…nothing can be allowed to get in the way of this.”

racist murders

However that historical legacy remains in library archives, a neglected aspect of modern British society subject to an amnesic indifference that smothers different voices. The curriculum currently evades the contributions that Black Britons made towards the Civil Rights movement in Britain .The book, “Black Star, Britain’s Asian Youth Movements” is an exception, providing the historical narrative of one of those trends in society that often receive scant coverage in more mainstream and educational history books. It traces the birth of the Asian-based youth movement engaged in community self-defence and involved in the trial of the Bradford 12, acquitted when offering a community self-defence plea to charges of preparing petrol bombs.

 

The combination of welfare and campaigning work by organisations like the Indian Workers’ Association (established 1938) reflected its Punjabi roots and it remained concerned with political and social developments in India. The IWA (GB) campaigned against the repression of political opponents, particularly Indira Gandhi’s government imposition of a State of Emergency between 1975 and 1977, in the Alliance Against Fascist Dictatorship for People’s Democratic India.

The attempt to build militant broad campaigning organisation was seen in the early 1960s Joshi initiated the formation of the Coordinating Committee Against Racial Discrimination (CCARD), a broad based campaigning committee of 26 organisations fronted by Victor Yates, MP for Ladywood. It was formed to oppose the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Bill. The IWA, in conjunction with other bodies such as the West Indian Standing Conference, and the Standing Conference of Pakistan, fought hard against this legislation, putting together a pamphlet entitled Victims Speak and posting it to each Member of Parliament. Unsuccessful in this campaign, the Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) inaugurated in February 1965. In April 1968 IWA leader Jagmohan Joshi (1936-79) convened the Black People’s Alliance, attracting 50 delegates representing 20 Indian, Caribbean, Pakistanis and African organisations throughout Britain.

Paikar 1986 cover

Throughout the 1970s Joshi’s IWA continued to challenge state racism through participation in the Campaign Against Racist Laws (CARL) and the Campaign Against Racism and Fascism. They campaigned on many fronts supporting a   strike by Asian workers in 1965 at Courtauld’s Red Scar textile mill in Preston and, in May 1974, Asian workers at the Imperial Typewriter Company in Leicester on strike over unequal bonus payments and discrimination in promotion. Later involved in landmark struggles in support of the Asian women workers at Grunwick photo processing plant in north west London.

Organisation like South Asia Solidarity Group, Newham Monitoring Project, Pakistan Workers’ Association all point to the lesser known histories that contribute to modern British society. These largely unacknowledged contribution that provide both legacies and lessons that can enrich the experience of Black History Month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

37. Remembering Ahmed Cheikh of African Dawn

Just as reading poetry is a poor substitute for a performance, these words cannot convey the warmth of personality, the optimism and energy that came from the person of Ahmed Cheikh. Cheikh was a Pan African activist poet who, best known as a cultural activist, contributed, as part of the Political Economy Study Group, to the first edition of Eurocentrism and the Communist Movement . Even in the cold London streets, his activism reached out as an African citizen of world against injustice. He helped found Black Action for the Liberation of Southern Africa (Balsa) which worked with the Black Consciousness Movement of Azania and the Pan-African Congress to break the stranglehold of Anti-Apartheid Movement’s sole recognition of the ANC, and supported the neglected, less fashionable struggles as in Eritrea.

He was principally known as a poet and founder member of the poetry and music collective African Dawn. They released a couple of LPs – African Dawn and Chimurenga – and were part of the development of a revolutionary solidarity culture throughout the 1980s and 1990s. A regular at the old Africa Centre in Covent Garden and ever present in social evenings to recite poetry accompanied by traditional African instruments played by “African Dawn”. He worked with other artists like the poet Pitika Ntuli – member of Pan African Congress – of Azania (South Africa) and when not at a solidarity evening or promoting art events and exhibitions, he was busy on the Poetry circuit,

Perhaps Cheikh’s best known political statement – calling it a poem does not convey the resonance it produced – always performed with gusto and empathy through his lyrical and sonorous performance, “Please do not call me South Afrika” was produced as a fund-raising poster by the RCLB who had published it in their paper.

 

Please Do Not Call Me South Afrika

I am Azania land of black folks Grain grown when stones were still as soft as butter. I am Azania land of Zenji Truth made redundant by the tyrant´s gang I am Azania I ran wild and free – I tamed iron long before the steel-ore plunderer came.

I have seen kingdoms rise I have seen kingdoms fall. I once stretched my hands up to the coast of Somalia. Deep deep by the great walls of Zimbabwe. There my name is entombed. I am Azania once land of hospitality.

I flung my arms to captain Diaz en Vasco da Gama for I thought them lost. We sang and ate, danced and laughed. I had plenty to give for I knew nothing of their design. Then one day, one infamous day in 1652, the treacherous seas belched forth. Three drunken ships at table bay Dromedaris, Reiger, Goede Hoep.

As dusk was inching We met We crushed. Their ribs into our Assegais my sons and daughters fell too, in a hail of settlers´ bullets. Battles of yesteryear are engraved in my memory. I praise you sons en daughters of Thaba Bosio, Isandlawane, Sandile´s Kap, Keiskamahoek, Bloodriver I praise you all.

I am Azania – land of Black folk. I bent but not break. My name it self – a platform and programme scattered the white mists over Kliptown. I am Azania Mangaliso Sobukwe heard my call – then there was Sharpeville. I am Azania the name reconcilled with itself in deeds of Bantu ka Biko

The name wrapt up a forest of black fists in Soweto. I am Azania – battered flesh in the Bantustans, Sturdy voices of Robben Island. I am Azania – the mind vintilates back its own breadth, sweat, tears en blood trapped in gold particles. I am Azania – mourn made murmuring murmuring made cry, cry made shriek, shriek drilling in the settlers´ears.

I am Azania – the feared black bull in the tomentors dreams. I am that black dot on the boers white history books. Black consciousness unbound only the pure I take for I have no time I am Azania land of ZENJI – burning truth churns the tyrants- gang truth made the dream and dream made the truth Please do not call me South Africa.

*

He was not only an exponent of revolutionary culture but also authored a study, David M.Diop: The Aesthetics of Liberation [Ahmed sheikh text], as part of the exploration of the tradition and politics of Orasture, the aesthetic of African creativity and its implications for black artists.

ahmed-cheikh.png

Ahmed Cheikh was born on 26 November 1954 and died 12 September 2009 in his home Town of Dakar, Senegal.

Families and friends of Cheikh Ahmed Tidiane Gueye organized a memorial event in the Institute of Education, University of London on 28 November 2009. It was an event, featuring various artists and poets with traditional African instruments, reflecting his progressive ideas and development in revolutionary thought and spirit.

Petros Tesfagiorgis recalled the internationalism that characterised Chiekh’s solidarity with the plight of the people of Africa including the cause of Eritrea through music and poetry. In 1996, at the Municipality Hall of Asmara, Ahmed was on TV-ERE reciting poems in commemoration of Abdurrahman Babu (1924-1996) a leading African Maoist thinker and statesman from Tanzania.

“What was remarkable was that when Sheik was introduced to the audience, he stood gracefully tall in his long Senegalese robe looking at the audience silently for few seconds. He then opened his mouth by saying, “I am happy to be in liberated Eritrea and among my people”.

“He then looked straight into president Isaias’s eye – an invited guest himself- who was sitting in front row, and expressed his profound concern that African leaders get to power in the name of the people but forget their promise once they assume power; he said it with extreme seriousness as if he was reminding the President not to take that road. That was the beauty of Sheik, he does not compromise when it comes to the rights of the people. “

 

In his last recorded interview Cheikh talks about the role of Pan Africanism, socialism, and the responsibility of the artist.

He said, “Artists have a responsibility to shake things where they are dormant”. Through his internationalist reach and anti-imperialist consciousness, he lived up to that responsibility.

____________________________________________________________________________

 

Posting draws upon:

Petros Tesfagiorgis, Tribute to the late Sheik Ahmed of Senegal, a poet and a friend of Eritrea December 2009

http://asmarino.com/articles/458-tribute-to-the-late-sheik-ahmed-of-senegal-a-poet-and-a-friend-of-eritrea-and-x-mass-remembrance-of-all-prisoners-of-conscience.

In Memoriam: Cheikh Ahmed Tidiane Gueye (26 Nov 1954 – 12 Sep 2009)

Posted on 21/05/2014 by theworkersdreadnought

https://theworkersdreadnought.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/in-memoriam-cheikh-ahmed-tidiane-gueye-26-nov-1954-12-sep-2009/

32. America’s Maoist Mushrooms

Observers of the revolutionary Left in the USA saw around 2016 a flourishing internet presence by the emergence of nearly a dozen collectives in the U.S. which aspire to promote Maoist politics. The newly emerging forces of mainly student and young people organising in local collectives . Far greater details and named individuals are discussed in the polemical documents from the myriad of organisations that have sprung up throughout the US. This post provides the broad contour of developments and issues that have engaged these newly emerging Maoist forces.

NCP(OC) to MCG & beyond

The founding congress of the East coast based New Communist Party (Organising Committee) had been held in early 2013. It described itself dramatically  as “inside the belly of the U.S. imperialist beast”,  a new group of US-based communists established to struggle for the construction of a genuine proletarian revolutionary party guided by the theory of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and equipped with the basic programme of socialist revolution. untitled

These new Maoists drew upon the symbols and iconography of the Chinese Cultural revolution. Clearly internationalist in outlook, it expressed its desire “to learn from the revolutionary and peoples’ struggles presently in India, Nepal, Peru, the Philippines, Turkey, and other countries”.

The Congress Report (released May 1st) stated, “Delegates began with a sober assessment of the present numbers and minimal influence of communist revolutionaries among the proletariat and oppressed masses in the US.” The NCP (OC) identified the necessity for “the coalescence of the dispersed advanced elements of the class into a revolutionary party”. It clearly saw the need to build the party, and it had national aspirations: “Rather than engaging in wishful thinking for a future party to arise spontaneously out of the mass struggles, every communist has the responsibility to immediately take up and share the effort in the central task of party construction. This is possible only with the organized accumulation of subjective forces for a proletarian revolutionary party guided by MLM.”

It placed its birth within the context of “the decisive defeat of the 1960s-1970s wave of class and nationality struggles. The New Communist Movement, unable to produce a genuine proletarian revolutionary party or at least set the course for the construction of such a party, was co-opted into the left-wing of the state apparatus and dissolved into today’s brokers of capital in Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). Fragments of the New Communist Movement also ended up in self-marginalization, as a result of their lack of a mass line practice. Other leading elements of the nationality struggles, as well as groups of anti-imperialist guerrillas, without a clear guiding theory, proletarian party, political strategy for revolution, practice of mass line, and military strategy for People’s War were separated from the masses and easily smashed by the state, leaving in their wake only a scattering of prisoner support committees.” [ Document | Political Resolution, April 30th 2013]

Drawing upon the conceptual heritage expounded most systematically upon in Moufawad-Paul’s Continuity And Rupture and Marxism Leninism Maoism and Mao Tse Tung Thought are not the same by Comrade Ajith , the organisation’s self-identification argued that “to be a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist is not to ‘add up’ the achievements of Marx, Lenin and Mao. Rather, MLM draws out lessons, in the form of ruptures, from the practical experience of the proletariat and the people, concentrated in the events of the Paris Commune, the October Revolution and the Chinese Revolution, in particular the sequence of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. In the uniform cloth of history, these events constitute knots of accumulated and intensified contradictions.” There was a conscious stress on the ideological basis for guiding the organisation’s practice, and within the year the founding text, Principles of Unity, was criticised for containing :

…an empiricist distortion of Maoism, in which we conceived Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as a simple and undifferentiated addition of the various historical achievements of Marx, Lenin, and Mao. This descriptive—that is, ideological—account of Maoism …. We are now approaching the problem of constructing a genuine theoretical concept of Maoism via the opposite path, namely: what are the ruptures through which Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is constituted?     [Document | Maoist Communist Group Founding Statement 2014]

ncp lc

IDENTITY POLITICS

In an echo of the “Fight Revisionism, Fight Self” subjective line that was evident in the Cultural Revolution, and the recognition that the “personal is political”, the organisation adopted resolution against patriarchy, and ratified its Principles of Unity upholding a proletarian feminist position, and a resolution on the queer struggle.” Its involvement in identity politics and around the campaign for Trans rights identified the continuing tread of western Maoists involvement in the “personal is political” that initially surfaced in the Ninteen Sixties Women’s Movement and Gay Rights campaigning. The caveat to support was that while “identity politics names real forms of oppression, because it lacks a materialist analysis, identity politics cannot formulate an effective practice to challenge the basis of oppression. Thus it lapses into liberalism, proscribing recognition and reform where we need revolutionary advance.” Course_Correction (2016)]

In 21st Century Maoism the intensity of the line struggle was more to the fore and given an ideological importance that had been underplayed in earlier organisations and parties. The inability to address the liberatory rhetoric with the practice of individuals came to paralysis and split the new Maoist trend in the US.  [ The positions against patriarchy were explained in a text accompanying the Anti-Patriarchy Rectification Campaign, July 13, 2013: and Self-Criticism and Summation on Patriarchy March 2014.  ]

Following the First Congress, the NCP(OC) was involved in two major contradictions;

that with a student organisation it influenced, and within ten months, the organisation “expelled multiple founding members in multiple cities for male chauvinism. The expulsions and related discussions consumed much of the internal activity of the organization. This rendered the central organs and particular units otherwise dysfunctional for substantial periods of time”.

The error of commandism was  said to be applied with the New York based Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee, although this was explained as: “the problem of our lack of effectiveness was referable to a bureaucratic-technical separation rather than so-called ‘militarization’ or ‘authoritarian control.’”  [ On Rectifying Past errors: Document by the New York City branch of the NCP(OC) Regarding the recent split in our organisation. March 2014]

Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee RSCC Document – was founded in February 2012 as an organization uniting revolutionary-minded youth and student activists throughout the City University New York’s 24 colleges and graduate schools located across New York City’s five boroughs. It identified as an anti-capitalistic, anti-imperialist and Proletarian Feminist organization. Its activism included CUNY student protesters filmed confronting former four-star General and Director of the CIA, David Petraeus on the streets in September 2013. In the midst of internal patriachical struggles, the RSCC secretariat disintegrated as four out of five members got suspended from CUNY. It dissolved in April 2016.

In February 2014 a faction resigned its membership in the New Communist Party (Organizing Committee). It charged the NCP(OC) leadership with an inability to resolve the issues without reverting to a bureaucratic suppression of the isues e.g. “an ex-member of the OC harassed several Maoists in the US, for which the OC only issued apologies to the victims they were favorable to, neglecting to take responsibility and apologize to those they personally disliked”. The party building orientation and exercise of mass line was set aside for “it acted as a clandestine organization and objectively set on the path of building a militarized party”. There were charges bad political practices, of violating democratic procedure and respect for organisational independence e.g. “An OC member sat in on and participated in an entire RSCC meeting without being a member with democratic rights in the organization.” The contradictions between those, who would work as the Liaison Committee, and the NCP(OC) had been “careful to identify the principal contradiction so as to avoid making these mistakes in the future. The issue is that the mass leaders, all of proletarian background, were subjected to the incorrect line of the formal leadership, who are of petit-bourgeois backgrounds. While we all constitute the vanguard of the proletariat, our social classes will inform our political lines. Thus, the leadership put into command the politics of a Gonzaloite deviation (which failed in Peru).”            

[Preliminary Statement of the NCP(LC) Regarding The Split With The NCP(OC) March 7th 2014]

Gonzaloite Deviation?

March 2014 , Maosoleum website declared itself an organ of the New Communist Party (Liaison Committee), NCP(LC) Documents “ formed after a split with the NCP(OC) on the basis of a line struggle between a Gonzaloite deviation and Maoism proper… We now span several cities and are leading mass work in NYC guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism through our student mass organization, the  Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee (RSCC) and internet mass organization, Maosoleum.” There was National Liaison between the NYC Branch, Kansas City and Red Guards – Los Angeles.

Liaison Committee was said to be formed due to fundamental differences over the question of party building: “Our main difference was that whereas the OC chose to pursue a path of clandestinity with an insular focus, we argued for a need to be open to the masses and to have an outward focus to uniting the advanced.”  NCP (LC) Document TOWARDS A MAOIST PARTY

When challenged it was the PCP who first put forward Maoism as a higher stage of Marxism, and were struggling for a decade for the RIM and later others to take that position, so “What exactly do you mean by gonzaloite deviation?”

maosoleum replied, We have described Gonzaloism thus:

1) Commandism – “Jefatura” line

2) Armed Monolithic Party – Party argued as clandestine by nature under all conditions and the armed struggle as the primary organizational goal of the revolutionary party – no separation between army and party, and no separation between politics and gun, but a unified command. This is opposed to Mao’s “politics in command” perspective, and Lenin’s criticism of Blanquism, which is the origin of the idea of the unification of the military and political.

3) Unified People’s War – the Hoxhaist perspective, counterpoised to protracted people’s war – we touch upon this in our article “What is Protracted People’s War?”

4) Third period revivalism without the actual social force – a form of left opportunism. Most clear in the declaration of governments like Venezuela’s as social-fascist.

Interestingly, Chairman Gonzalo rejected the universality of Pensamiento Gonzalo making it clear it was an application of M-L-M to Peruvian conditions and nothing more, and indeed Gonzaloism is more identified with the Proseguir line in the PCP, the line that Gonzalo and Asumir rejected.

While the internal matters of the PCP are their and only theirs, we do feel that the application of these principles as universals is an error. Of course, some of the Gonzaloites deny they are Gonzaloites, but for us it shorthand for that set of politics which we consider not to be a correct application of M-L-M to the conditions of the USA today.

Gonzalo and the PCP stand in our history as shining examples of struggle, but ultimately, as we point out, defined principally by historical failure. While even in historical failure there are successful and positive experiences, it is dogmato-revisionism to embrace without summation and criticism those experiences. A full summation of the Peruvian experience has not been made, but we have made a partial summation of its application to our conditions, and identified Gonzaloism as a left opportunist deviation, and we would be liberal if we didn’t combat it.

PAPER POLICIES Vs REAL LIFE PROBLEMS

A critique of the internal life of the NCP(OC) summarised the dysfunctionality of the organisation and political liberalism:

The NCP(OC) has been decimated and rendered invalid as a real Organizing Committee, and instead has alienated and isolated itself from the masses, including the masses of women, queers, and other people directly oppressed by patriarchy, not principally because it incorrectly handles the contradictions among the people, but because it has assumed a line of whateverism and commandism in its internal functioning, refuse to make self-criticism in good faith, and uses the communist struggle against patriarchy as an opportunist shield to avoid dealing with all other questions, including the patriarchal behavior on the part of its leadership on the basis of alleged allegiance to proletarian feminism.

[NCP(LC) A response to the NCP(OC): Gender Whateverism is not Proletarian Feminism. March 2014 ]

The NY Branch was said to have sought to promote its initial admonitions against patriarchal behaviour, issued in 2014 as the correct basis for resolving the contradictions that surfaced in the LC prior to its dissolution. [NCP (OC) “Self-Criticism and Summation on Patriarchy,” March 5, 2014.]

The remnant of the NCP(OC) quickly become rebadged as the Maoist Communist Group. From its perspective, the primary contradiction driving the split of the “Liaison Committee” from the New Communist Party-Organizing Committee (NCP-OC), which led to the formation of the Maoist Communist Group (MCG), was the refusal of the LC to accept the expulsion of individuals guilty of misogynist violence. Clearly, in the experiences of the NCP(LC) and MCG(NY) was illustrated the phenomenon of self-declared leaders of the movement , divorced from the actual needs of organizations and of the class struggle. For a while the NCP(Liaison Committee) seemed to be the more relevant, effective organization. However, after a polemic authored by an autonomous Marxist-Leninist-Maoist collective based in Texas, the Red Guards AustinRed Guards Austin Documents We Will Not Integrate into a Burning House: Polemic on Bad Gender Practice in the Liaison Committee for a New Communist Party (NCP-LC) April 2016, it became clear that the some members of the Secretariat were clearly guilty of sexual assault while others covered for them. It came out the organization was being run in a commandist, patriarchal, and dogmatic direction. This formed only the most apparent aspect of a fundamentally reactionary and patriarchal political and ideological line, which resulted in the implosion of the Liaison Committee. The NCP(Liaison Committee) disbanded.

In April 2016, following the dissolution of the New Communist Party – Liason Committee (NCP-LC), the Boston and Richmond branches of the Maoist Communist Group (MCG) published a document titled “The Externalization of the Anti-Revisionist Struggle is the Negation of Proletarian Politics”. Although this document was an attempt to sum up the disagreements that the Boston and Richmond branches had developed with the New York branch, further criticism from Boston MCG of the Richmond contribution to the joint text drew attention to its opposition to ‘Left Adventurism’ and concern of drawing upon the anti-maoist politics of the Brigate Rosse.

[The_Externalization  and   Self-Criticism: Unprincipled Struggle and ‘The Externalization’ Piece July 2016]

Following these experiences, the NCP (OC) was dissolved upon the founding of the Maoist Communist Group, the “new name reflects the central task of the moment: ideological consolidation, and in particular, the forging of a principled unity regarding what we mean by ‘Maoism.’ Only in this way can we lay the foundation on which a Maoist Communist Party can be built.” MCG in action : “Our tactical slogan, Struggle Committees Everywhere!, guides our mass work. We support the organization of struggle committees – autonomous people’s organizations – in neighborhoods, buildings, workplaces and schools, everywhere that the people are engaged in struggles against the class enemy. We seek to unite the broad masses in mass organizations under proletarian leadership. The development of the advanced into communist cores will form the basis of a future party.” https://maoistcommunistgroup.com/about-mcg/

dot-commie

To summarise , and draw upon Revleft cyberchat : it suggested that while it may have appeared that the work of NCP(OC) and -(LC) was leading the development of Maoist politics in the US, the adoption of Maoist theory had gained momentum beyond what either of those organisations had accomplished, as many of the self-identified communists out of this new generation were also self-identified Maoists.

The largest Maoist presence was in NYC however their network of mass organizations and fronts extended far beyond. RSCC Philly had a network of probably around 30-40 people in its various organizations (SJP, Students Without Borders) while it had a core membership of about a dozen people. NYC RSCC alone had 40 members which commanded the SJP’s and SWB along with a number of other organizations and network, at their height the total amount of students in organizations controlled by the NYC branch was at least 100 probably more. The Red Guards in Austin, LA and also the Kansas City Progressive Youth Organization was affiliated with them. Saying it was one of the largest US party building attempts in the 21st century is not inaccurate.

The split between LC & MCG saw repudiation of NCP(OC) practice by both organisations, as well as polemical criticism by the city collectives. A Summation of the Kansas City Revolutionary Collective’s Experience with the Former NCP(LC) was published as Bury the Ashes .

It may be sad that the NCPs are gone, but given the behaviour of some of the leadership, the organisations needed to die and it is clear that the Maoist movement lives on without them. While there may be no single Maoist national organization,  there are developing organizations in different parts of the country: the Progressive Youth Organizations in Kansas City [ StP Kansas City Document ] or St Louis (both founded by Maoists), or the Red Guards in LA and Texas. Although relationships between these groups have seen deterioration with polemical exchanges between Red Guards Austin and  Saint Louis Revolutionary Collective .

The Red Guards Austin do not seem to have many problems with misogyny but within RSCC and the LC-NCP it more or less allowed people with enough charismatic authority to claim a mastery of feminism while very few people were educated in what misogny actually looked like on an intrapersonal level. For example there were constant comments from the male comrades about how the woman comrades “Weren’t politically developed enough” . One Philly RSCC comrade noted that although RSCC had near gender parity (for those not familiar, a close to 50/50 ratio of men and woman) strangley the woman comrades would almost never talk. In an observation – not restricted to the US left experience – the reluctance to talking in political circumstances because of male cultural dominance. It is not an uncommon remark for ex-rscc woman to make.

The Red Guards Austin operate a Serve the People programme which consists in providing people free things and trying to get them to read communist literature. When described as red charity, RGA comrades will respond that it is all quite political and that also they interview residents to ask what their concern is.

The anti-gentrification work targets small business owners who are perceived as gentrifiers for example they are targeting a cafe for offering cat cuddling services.

Red Guards Los Angles has similar efforts and have similar practice in that they have Serve the People programs and their anti-gentrification work “Save Boyle Heights” which largely consists in disrupting art venues which open up in the area and propagandizing against “bourgeois art” and artists.

 RGLA , like other groups elsewhere are challenging the settled Left – the youthful idealism, energy and crass militancy and ideological fervour is reminiscent of their role models from the Cultural Revolution , and they evoke similar responses. Hence the ‘Right To rebel’ entitlement to challenge existing politically forces e.g. the political attacks in Boyle Heights expressed in the article Be with the people, stand against Carlos Montes! By Red Guards – Los Angeles:

“Long-time Chicano activist, former Brown Beret, current member of Centro Community Service Organization and supporter or member of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Fight Back) (FRSO-FB), Carlos Montes has repeatedly attacked members and supporters of Red Guards – Los Angeles (RGLA) through slander, libel, consistent snitch-jacketing (which appears to be standard protocol within FRSO-FB) and even sending his supporters to physically intimidate our supporters and wreck RGLA-affiliated events or actions.”

One cybergossip opinion was that “They are active that is no doubt and they orient towards the correct people, the working class neighborhoods of Austin. However their political work is crude volunteerism maintained by hyper discipline which I can not imagine is healthy. Some of these comrades do political work from 8 in the morning till 6 or 7. All work and no play does a good gonzaloite make apparently. Speaking of such I’d argue that most of their volunteerism stems from their gonzalo admiration. All of their organizations are bent to propagating towards people and recruiting them yes but I don’t see attempts at organizing the working poor. Organizing on behalf of them yes, by giving them free food and harassing gentrifies but not organizing them into tenant unions, solidarity networks, trade unions, or any other form of organizations where average people fight for their issues by themselves for themselves.”

Maoist Communist Group, the other attempt at building a Maoist Party. Unlike the LC-NCP and to a lesser extent the Red Guards and even a lesser extent the Progressive Youth Organisations, they are quite quiet about themselves. The other branches accused them of not communicating with them: “ the NYC chaps are a bit recluse”.  Yet in their defence, the  largest concentration of members in NYC MCG did put a great deal of emphasis on summing up experience, engaging in protracted mass work, and forging a mass political line out of that mass work, rather than simply undertaking propaganda around a pre-existing political line.  see Maoist Communist Group’s Three Documents that briefly reviews the split.

 The MCG Richmond branch had ran the now defuncted website blog signalfire.org that publicised  struggles worldwide, particularly the CPI(M) in India, and were involved in prison support work . And the MCG Boston branch evolved into “Mass Proletariat” Mass Proletariat Document . It published a document which was a veiled jab at Red Guard Austin. RGA responded and they have remained quiet ever since disdaining online communication as they do.

Other city collectives such as Kansas City Revolutionary Collective self-identify as Maoist propaganda group. This is the cadre formation that formed after the dissolution of the LC. Previously the Progressive Youth Organization was led by a person who was supposed to be the local liaison to the national LC although the LC did not have a branch in Kansas.

May 1st, 2016.

“Today we are excited to announce the formation of a new Marxist-Leninist-Maoist collective in the Kansas City metropolitan area: The Kansas City Revolutionary Collective (KCRC). This is no small announcement as Kansas City has been without a Communist movement for some time now.”

The St Louis Progressive Student Organization  formed a Revolutionary Collective instead of an Red Guard grouping. It is suggested that the choice of group name partly reflects a political orientation in that ‘Revolutionary collectives ‘ are perceived as generally not holding as high an esteem for President Gonzalo as the Red Guard Austin and Red Guard LA have. The Red Guards – Philadelphia even include an excerpt from the Fundamental Documents issued by the Communist Party of Peru in 1988, along with Long Live Marxism-Leninism-Maoism! as representing the basis for ideological unity of Red Guards – Philadelphia.

Still, other third stage Marxism-Leninism-Maoism formations are appearing in TacomaTacoma Maoist Collective Document] Queen City [ Queen City Maoist Collective Document] and Tampa [Tampa Maoist CollectiveDocument] While these groups are small in membership and reach, they are active groups facing up to the challenge of class struggle in modern America; as yet it is probably too early to claim a new Maoist tide is rising in the US, but the resistance is growing.

 

 

APPENDIX : NCP(OC) 2013 Anti-Patriarchy Rectification Campaign

Like other bourgeois and reactionary ideologies that must be continuously defeated through two-line struggle, the patriarchal values and male chauvinist practices that dominate this society have their reflection inside the communist movement and within communist organizations. They must be confronted and overcome through class struggle, inner-organization struggle, and inner-struggle. Like those who “wave the red flag to oppose the red flag,” groups, tendencies, and individuals can pose intellectually as feminists while at the same time failing to politicize women, commodifying and objectifying women, and engaging in abusive male chauvinist behavior.

Maoists are not afraid of criticism. Truthful criticism from others should be embraced without anger, in order to strengthen oneself, to improve one’s practice, and to better serve the people and the proletarian revolution. Self-criticism should be made openly and willingly whenever one has done wrong, without prompting by comrades and the masses. There is no place for the individualist ego, a belief in one’s own self-importance that throws up a defensive barrier in the face of truthful criticism, refuses to conduct genuine self-criticism and hides one’s mistakes, and evades rectification.

Practicing criticism and self-criticism, communists in general are guided by the principle that we do not fear criticism “because we are Marxists, the truth is on our side, and the basic masses, the workers and peasants, are on our side” (Mao Zedong).

For our anti-patriarchy rectification campaign, the NCP (OC) in particular is guided by our Resolution Against Patriarchy stating: “We call upon communists who have made patriarchal errors in their lives to carry out honest accounting, self-criticism, and rectification of their mistakes.”

In the inner-organization struggle and inner-struggle against patriarchy, we have noticed several manifestations of liberalism that must be identified and rooted out. We point these out here because they prevail among many communists in the US and are also by no means exclusive to communists.

-Failing to criticize male chauvinism among comrades when it appears that there are no immediate political consequences for lack of criticism or that there are negative social consequences for making criticisms.

-Consistently giving lower priority to the struggle against patriarchy, especially to the inner-struggle to transform oneself in practice into a proletarian feminist, even though this is a central and strategic question for the socialist revolution in the US. The communist movement in this country largely exists as a scattering of committees and advanced individuals. In such a landscape, unremolded male chauvinist thinking and practice in even a single individual has an exaggerated effect and can function as an obstacle to the immediate advance of the movement.

-Discussing the need for revolutionary women’s organizations in the abstract, or pointing to women’s mass organizations in other countries as models of what need to be built in the US, when the main problem in a particular situation centers instead on the thinking and practice of individual communists. This involves reducing the women’s question from a political matter into simply an organizational matter. It is an easy way to avoid the difficult process of reflecting on individual beliefs and actions, their origins in social practice and life experiences, and what needs to be done to consciously transform them.

-Posturing as a militant against women’s oppression and even verbalizing extreme positions when there is a broad injustice in society against women, but becoming guarded when one’s own practice is questioned or one’s own patriarchal privileges are at stake.

-Resting content with areas of political work that have over a period of many years achieved little to nothing in the development of women’s participation and leadership as communists. Justifying this prolonged stagnation with the notion that politics is traditionally an arena for men of the ruling classes and that it will take a long time to change this situation, failing to recognize that Maoists struggling in far more unfavorable conditions have made far greater advances.

-Failing to study the Marxist position on the women’s question, despite years of being a communist and gaining a theoretical and historical grasp of many other subjects.

-Resting content with having a familiarity with various contemporary feminist theories, which have little to do with the mobilization, organization, and politicization of the masses of toiling women from a Maoist perspective. Believing that theoretical familiarity with different feminist trends makes one a feminist in practice. Paying lip service to feminism while still using male chauvinist language.

-Promoting images of women engaged in militant struggles far away in other countries, but doing little to nothing to develop the capacity of the women around oneself to take up more and better political work.

-Viewing organizational work, planning, and logistics as “bureaucratism,” preferring informality in their place. Using social settings for political strategizing and decision-making, leading to a “boy’s club” of the self-selected. Consistently failing to follow through on organizational tasks in a timely fashion and being unable to meet deadlines. Consistently conducting work in a frenzied and last-minute manner, without the advance preparations necessary for those who have little experience in political work, have domestic responsibilities, etc. to become full participants.

-Finally, using the process of rectification, and its emphasis on remolding rather than strictly punitive organizational measures (e.g. suspension, expulsion), as a way to in fact evade rectification.

Each of these manifestations of liberalism must be identified by communists and uprooted through inner-organization struggle and inner-struggle. Some of them are likely to be familiar to other revolutionaries, such as anarchists and revolutionary nationalists. Problems of liberalism are compounded by amateurishness, a major shortcoming among communists in the US, many lacking developed experience in revolutionary struggle.

This is not an exhaustive list. It addresses only some of the main types of liberalism among communists and within communist organizations. It is not meant to assess the contradictions confronted in mass work among women, which have their own particularities and deserve a separate summation in their own right, investigating for example how the notion of “sisterhood” in capitalist society often covers up the reality of competitive individualism among women of the oppressed classes and determining how to fight against this.

As its first major internal campaign, the NCP (OC) carries out its Anti-Patriarchy Rectification Campaign to strengthen our organization along the line of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and proletarian feminism. It involves regular criticism and self-criticism that examines individual thinking and practice, behavior in personal relationships, the impact of patriarchal values and male chauvinism on our lives from childhood on, the division of domestic work, and the division of different types of organizational work, e.g. administrative work vs. theoretical work. It also involves a renewed focus in the fields of theory, propaganda, agitation, and struggles on the strategic importance of the battle for women’s emancipation.

As stated in the Resolution Against Patriarchy of our founding congress, “Women of the exploited and oppressed classes must be politicized and organized into a proletarian feminist movement. A revolutionary movement of women must emerge to play a decisive role in the struggles of the proletariat and the oppressed masses, and these struggles must make themselves into indomitable weapons for women’s emancipation.” None of this can be achieved if the initial accumulation of forces is carried out on a basis that allows patriarchal values and male chauvinism to fester and does not continuously wage struggle against liberalism in this area.

  •  

30. The Bradford 12

On July 11th 1981 the news that vanloads of skinheads were planning to invade Bradford’s main Asian area spread. Only a week before coachloads of skinheads had attacked Southall’s Asian community. It was community self-defence, not the police that had protected Southall.

1981 had already witnessed uprisings in Bristol, Brixton, Liverpool and other cities of working class African-Caribbean & Asian youth, joined at times by white youth, angry about poverty, unemployment, racist attacks and police harassment.

On the other side, racist skinhead thugs had invaded Black (mainly African-Caribbean and Asian) communities attacking people on the streets and in their homes.

In Bradford, the recently-formed United Black Youth League (UBYL) responded by mobilising youth and organising in the community’s defence. They prepared petrol bombs, that were never used, in case they were needed to construct ‘a wall of fire’ to keep the fascists out.

Some weeks later the unused petrol bombs were found and 12 activists from the UBYL were arrested in dawn raids across Bradford and charged with conspiracy to make explosives and to cause explosions.

The Twelve: Tarlochan Gata Aura * Tariq Ali * Jayesh Amin * Giovanni Singh * Praveen Patel * Ishaq Mohammed Kazi * Bahram Noor Khan * Masood Malik * Vasant Patel * Saeed Hussain * Sabir Hussain * Ahmed Mansor.b12poster

A defence campaign was formed; thousands marched in Bradford and Leeds initially under the slogan ‘Whose conspiracy? Police conspiracy!’ Over the months the case of the Bradford 12 was publicised and supporters organised. Almost a year later, a trial begun which exposed the scale and intensity of everyday racist violence and the extent of police racism faced by their communities.

Hundreds attended in support of the defendants at the court each day. court

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The Defence campaign ensured information bulletins [ b12-leaflet-report-1 b12-leaflet-report-2  b12-leaflet-report3 ] were produced and distributed nationwide, along with daily press releases to highlight the trial. Campaign supporters received internal updates [ 1982-may-bulletin-4 ] and responded to calls to protest. The defence to the charges was community self-defence. The petrol bombs were made ~ We were forced to, to defend our communities from the threat of an invasion by the far-right National Front. We knew from previous experience there would be no police protection. The twelve and their legal team set out to educate the jury about the realities of racist violence for them, their families and for black people in Britain. The Defence campaign also saw that reports  [ 1982-stark-report] were compiled and submissions made about the extent of racist violence.  The jury responded by acquitting them– the trial of the Bradford 12 proved the importance of solidarity in the struggle for justice.

 

Source materials on the Bradford 12

cs-october1981  Free the Bradford 12. Class Struggle Vol.5 No.10

cs-december-1981 Bradford 12: Defence Campaign is Growing. Class Struggle Vol.5 No.12

Text of an early leaflet: brad12

FREE THE BRADFORD 12

FREE OUR BROTHERS NOW

Tarlochan Gata Aura * Tariq Ali * Jayesh Amin * Giovanni Singh * Praveen Patel * Ishaq Mohammed Kazi * Bahram Noor Khan * Masood Malik * Vasant Patel * Saeed Hussain * Sabir Hussain * Ahmed Mansor.

Framed by the Police. Charged with Conspiracy,

Facing LIFE IMPRISONMENT

‘BRADFORD 12 ARE FRAMED BECAUSE THEY FOUGHT STATE RACISM

Everyday our families are split apart by the racist Immigration Laws. Our homes are raided by Immigration Officers. We are harrassed by the police on the streets and arrested on any pretext. We are criminalised through arbitrary charges confirmed by the racist judiciary. They played a major role in the struggle of Anwar Ditta, Jaswinder Kaur and Nasira Begum against the racist Immigration laws and of Gary Pemberton against the lying West Yorkshire police.

THE BRADFORD 12 ARE FRAMED BECAUSE THEY DEFENDED THE BLACK COMMUNITY

Our mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers are attacked and murdered in the streets. The police do nothing. Our homes and places of worship are burned to the ground, nobody is arrested. Families are burned to death. The murderers and firebombers speak openly of their organised violence against our communities. In Bradford people face racist attacks everyday. For example on July I4th a white gang with a petrol bomb attacked an Asian Schoolboy. On July 24th two Asian homes were gutted by racist firebombers. The only Conspiracy is Police Conspiracy – DROP ALL CHARGES NOW

POLICE STATE IN ACTION

For years Britain has been a police state for black people. This year the repression has been stepped up by paramilitary attacks on the black communities – the army of occupation in Brixton, police vehicles crushing people to death and CS gas bullets in Liverpool and highly developed surveillance techniques all over Britain. In Bradford black youth have faced increased surveillance over the last 18 months. The ‘riots’ were an excuse to arrest our brothers and frame them for conspiracy. While the racist attackers of Asian homes on the 24th of July are out on bail, our brothers are being held in prison and refused bail’.

A Call to Action

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cs-april-1982 Free the Bradford 12 Trial starts April 26. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.4

cs-may-1982 Free the Bradford 12! Class Struggle Vol.6 No.5

cs-june-1982 Self Defence Is No Offence. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.6

cs-july-1982 Bradford 12 Victory Self Defence Is No Offence. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.7

b12victorylop July 1982 Self-Defence is no offence! How the Bradford 12 won their freedom. Leeds Other Paper

cs-august-1982 A Victory for Black People. Class Struggle Vol.6 No.8

1983 b12   RCLB on the Bradford 12 Campaign. Anti-Racist Anti-Fascist Bulletin

1983  rt-on-b12-trial-copy  Reflecting on the Trial of the Decade: The Bradford 12. Race Today Collective ‘The Struggle of Asian Workers in Britain‘.  

bradford_011b

30 Years on ~ Bradford 12: lessons for organizing

Institute of Race Relations July 28th 2011

An event in London marking the Bradford 12 thirtieth anniversary was a celebration and an education for resistance.

Thirty years ago, on 10 July 1981, twelve young Asians were arrested and charged with conspiracy to cause explosions and to endanger life, after a crate of home-made milk-bottle petrol bombs was found. (In fact thirteen were arrested, but the thirteenth, the only woman, Shanaaz Ali, was released without charge.) A defence campaign was formed; thousands marched in Bradford and Leeds under the slogan ‘Whose conspiracy? Police conspiracy!’ and hundreds attended the trial each day. But the defence to the charges, not disclosed in advance of the trial so as to surprise the prosecution, was community self-defence. Yes, we made these petrol bombs, the young men said. We were forced to, to defend our communities from the threat of an invasion by the far-right National Front, against which we knew from previous experience there would be no police protection. The twelve and their legal team set out to educate the jury about the realities of racist violence for them, their families and for black people in Britain. The jury responded by acquitting them.

The events organised in Bradford and London on 16 and 23 July respectively, by some of the Bradford 12 with the South Asia Solidarity Group, Newham Monitoring Project and CAMPACC, celebrated the victory, but went further, asking what are the lessons for today’s generation, for divided and ravaged communities in a globalised world.

Speakers from the twelve, Shanaaz Ali, the men’s solicitors Ruth Bundey and Gareth Peirce, anti-racist organiser Dave Harrison and writer and campaigner Amrit Wilson spoke in the morning session at the London event, ‘Legacies and lessions’, at SOAS’ Khalili theatre. To an audience of veterans and neophytes, grandparents and young people, they sketched a history of popular, street and police racism, of anti-racist campaigning and community organising at a time when, as Amrit Wilson reminded us, ‘Black’ was a political colour and when multiculturalism came from below, rather than through state policies designed to pit communities against each other in competition for funding. Tariq Mehmood reflected on the importance to the United Black Youth League in 1981 of not seeking public funding, a policy fostering self-reliance and independence which needed to be re-learned by groups addressing today’s challenges, whether of youth criminalisation, deaths in custody, anti-terror policies or Islamophobia. Gareth Peirce observed that for the state, the lessons of the Bradford 12’s victory were clear: if juries could not be relied on to convict, abolish them – by finding administrative alternatives to trial such as control orders; and if acquittals were based on evidence, abolish it – by instituting processes of secret evidence so that those dubbed ‘terrorist’ were not told why, leaving them unable to fight the label and the punitive measures which followed.

In the first afternoon session ‘Resisting the British state’, a wide range of speakers outlined contemporary challenges and campaigns. Mary Pearson of the Troops Out Movement referred to the 5,000 British troops still stationed in northern Ireland. Marcia Rigg spoke of her brother’s death in custody and the mutually supporting and strengthening role of the United Families and Friends Campaign, which is holding its annual march later in the year. Frances Webber of the IRR (who was a Mackenzie friend[1] for one of the Twelve, Tariq Mehmood, during the trial), spoke of the similarities and differences between then and now – from the NF to the EDL; from immigration policies separating families to globalised policies treating people as commodities; from popular and police racism to monoculturalism, thought and speech crimes, and new geographies of racism. Dan Glass of Plane Stupid/So We Stand described the two and a half-year campaign starting with the arrest of 113 climate change activists in a Nottingham hall in 2009, in which he put to good use lessons in campaigning learned from the Bradford 12. (Of the twenty-six charged, the trial of six was abandoned when Mark Kennedy’s role as a police agent provocateur was exposed, and twenty activists’ convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal a week ago.) Dan’s talk illuminated the links between environmental campaigns and anti-racism which the emerging activist group So We Stand is committed to strengthening. Deniz Arbet of the Kurdish Community Centre (KCC) spoke of the struggles of Kurds for recognition and against criminalisation through the anti-terror laws. And Hamja Ahsan gave a moving speech about his brother Talha’s five-year imprisonment for extradition to the US on conspiracy charges (for which no evidence is needed), and read some of Talha’s beautiful poems, written in prison.court3

The last session of the day, ‘Imperialism then and now’, looked beyond our borders. Samarendra Das, from South Asia Solidarity, reported on the role of the Department for International Development (DfID) and of large NGOs in supporting mining corporation Vedanta, whose bauxite mining in India had, he said, led to thousands of deaths of mainly indigenous people through forced displacement, accidents and police operations and famine in a devastated environment. He spoke of the popular struggles which have been supported by international solidarity. Jawad Sabah of Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation (IDAO) recounted and then demolished the myths behind western intervention in the ‘Arab spring’, and Leila Khaled of the Palestine National Council sent solidarity greetings to round off a stimulating and rewarding day, full of reflections and new connections – the sort of day that sends participants out recharged for resistance.

http://www.irr.org.uk/news/bradford-12-lessons-for-organising/