The Angry Brigade

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The Angry Brigade
Angry Brigade Resistance Movement
Participant in the Opposition to US involvement in Vietnam and The Troubles
Angrybrigade-logo.jpg
Logo associated with the Angry Brigade, used on the cover of The Angry Brigade by Gordon Carr
Active1968–1970, 1980s
StatusDefunct
IdeologyAnarchist communism
Anti-imperialism
Anti-monarchism
Political positionFar-left
Area of operationsEnglandEngland
Part ofIrish Republican Socialist Movement
Opponent(s)United Kingdom
United States

The Angry Brigade was a far-left militant group responsible for a series of bomb attacks in England between 1970 and 1972. Using small bombs, they targeted banks, embassies, a BBC Outside Broadcast vehicle, and the homes of Conservative MPs. In total, police attributed 25 bombings to the Angry Brigade. The bombings mostly caused property damage; one person was slightly injured. Of the eight people who stood trial, known as the Stoke Newington Eight, four were acquitted. John Barker, along with Hilary Creek, Anna Mendelssohn and Jim Greenfield, were convicted on majority verdicts, and sentenced to ten years. In a 2014 interview, Barker described the trial as political, but acknowledged that "they framed a guilty man".[1] The events were subsequently turned into a play.

History[edit]

Origins[edit]

In mid-1968 demonstrations took place in London, centred on the US embassy in Grosvenor Square, against US involvement in the Vietnam War. One of the organisers of these demonstrations, Tariq Ali, has said he recalls an approach by someone representing the Angry Brigade who wished to bomb the embassy; he told them it was a terrible idea and no bombing took place.[2]

1970s[edit]

The Angry Brigade decided to launch a bombing campaign with small bombs – in order to maximise media exposure to their demands while keeping collateral damage to a minimum. The campaign started in August 1970 and continued for a year until arrests took place the following summer.[3]

Targets included banks, embassies, the Miss World event in 1970 (or rather a BBC Outside Broadcast vehicle earmarked for use in the BBC's coverage) and the homes of Conservative MPs. In total, police attributed 25 bombings to the Angry Brigade. The bombings mostly caused property damage; one person was slightly injured.[4]

Resurfaced Angry Brigade of the 1980s[edit]

In the 1980s the Angry Brigade resurfaced as the Angry Brigade Resistance Movement – part of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement (IRSM).[5][6]

Aftermath[edit]

Jake Prescott, whose origins were in the mining community of Dunfermline, was arrested and tried in 1971. Melford Stevenson[7] sentenced him to 15 years imprisonment (later reduced to 10), mostly spent in Category A high security prisons. Later he said he realised then that he "was the one who was angry and the people [he] met were more like the Slightly Cross Brigade".[8] The other members of the group from North-East London, the "Stoke Newington Eight", were prosecuted for carrying out bombings as the Angry Brigade in one of the longest criminal trials of English history (it lasted from 30 May to 6 December 1972). As a result of the trial, John Barker, Jim Greenfield, Hilary Creek and Anna Mendelssohn received prison sentences of 10 years. A number of other defendants were found not guilty, including Stuart Christie, who had previously been imprisoned in Spain for carrying explosives with the intent to assassinate the caudillo Francisco Franco, and Angela Mason who became a director of the LGBT rights group Stonewall and was awarded an OBE for services to homosexual rights.[9]

In February 2002, Prescott apologised for his role in bombing Robert Carr's house and called on other members of the Angry Brigade to also come forward.[10]

On 3 February 2002, The Guardian reported a history of the Angry Brigade and an update on what its former members were doing then.[11]

On 9 August 2002, BBC Radio 4 aired Graham White’s historical drama, The Trial of the Angry Brigade. Produced by Peter Kavanagh, this was a reconstruction of the trial combined with other background information. The cast included Kenneth Cranham, Juliet Stevenson and Mark Strong.[12]

In 2009, British family care activist and novelist Erin Pizzey was successful in a libel case against Macmillan Publishers after Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain had falsely linked her to the Angry Brigade.[13][14] The publisher also recalled and destroyed the offending version of the book, and republished it with the error removed.[15] The link to the Angry Brigade was made in 2001, in an interview with The Guardian, in which the article states that she was "thrown out" of the feminist movement after threatening to inform police about a planned bombing by the Angry Brigade of the clothes shop Biba. "I said that if you go on with this – they were discussing bombing Biba [the legendary department store in Kensington] – I'm going to call the police in, because I really don't believe in this."[16]

Cultural influence[edit]

Literature[edit]

  • Howard Brenton's 1973 play Magnificence, about a group of far-left revolutionaries in a London squat, is partly inspired by the Angry Brigade.
  • Alan Burns, The Angry Brigade: A Documentary Novel (Allison & Busby, 1973).
  • Gordon Carr, John Barker, Stuart Christie, The Angry Brigade: A History of Britain's First Urban Guerilla Group, 1975 (reissued 2005). ISBN 0-9549507-3-9.
  • The Angry Brigade 1967–1984: Documents and Chronology, Bratach Dubh Anarchist Pamphlets, 1978.
  • David Edgar's 1983 play Maydays features a scene referencing the Angry Brigade.
  • The group are parodied in Doris Lessing's The Good Terrorist (1985), in which a group of naive, young, communist squatters split over whether or not to work with the IRA.
  • Tom Vague, Anarchy in the UK: The Angry Brigade, AK Press, 1997, ISBN 1-873176-98-8. (Issue 27 of punk rock fanzine Vague. An earlier shorter version appeared as an article in issue 16 Psychic Terrorism Annual in 1985, reprinted in issue 25 The Great British Mistake in 1994.)[17]
  • John Barker, Bending the Bars, Hastings, England: Christie Books, 2002 (reissued 2006: ISBN 1-873976-31-3).
  • Stuart Christie, Granny Made me an Anarchist: General Franco, The Angry Brigade and Me, Scribner, 2004.[18]
  • The group and trial feature in Jake Arnott's 2006 novel Johnny Come Home.[19]
  • Hari Kunzru's 2007 novel My Revolutions is inspired by the Angry Brigade.[20]
  • The Angry Brigade, a 2014 play by James Graham.

Radio[edit]

  • Graham White, The Trial of the Angry Brigade, BBC Radio 4. Produced by Peter Kavanagh and broadcast 9 August 2002.

Television[edit]

  • Gordon Carr, The Angry Brigade: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Britain's First Urban Guerilla Group (DVD), BBC, January 1973. Released on DVD in 2008 by PM Press.
  • Gordon Carr, The Persons Unknown (DVD) 1980. Features as a DVD extra on the January 1973 BBC documentary The Angry Brigade: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Britain's First Urban Guerilla Group.
  • Our Friends in the North (BBC TV drama series, 1995), features a storyline in which a main character joins a fictional left-wing terrorist group based on the Angry Brigade.
  • On 16 September 2013 the BBC’s The One Show aired a short documentary on the Angry Brigade, stating: "Joe Crowley discovers how the violent tactics of the Angry Brigade lead to the formation of the bomb squad."[21]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Campbell, Duncan (3 June 2014). "The Angry Brigade's John Barker, 40 years on: 'I feel angrier than I ever felt then'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 14 November 2019.
  2. ^ Horspool 2009, p. 385.
  3. ^ Horspool 2009, pp. 385, 386.
  4. ^ Horspool 2009, pp. 385,386.
  5. ^ "The Angry Brigade 1967-1984 - AK Press". Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 October 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "'Trick questions' protest at Carr bomb trial". Glasgow Herald. 25 November 1971. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
  8. ^ Bright, Martin (3 February 2002). "Look back in anger". The Guardian. London.
  9. ^ Horspool 2009, p. 386.
  10. ^ Bright, Martin (3 February 2002). "Angry Brigade's bomb plot apology". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  11. ^ Bright, Martin (2 February 2002). "Look back in anger". Retrieved 26 November 2016 – via The Guardian.
  12. ^ "BBC R4 – Graham White's 'The Trial Of The Angry Brigade' – Christie Books". Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  13. ^ Jones, Sam; Kennedy, Maev (9 March 2009). "Marr book A History of Modern Britain urgently withdrawn". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  14. ^ "Campaigner accepts libel damages". BBC.co.uk. 1 April 2009. Retrieved 1 April 2009.
  15. ^ Adams, Stephen (1 April 2009). "Andrew Marr's publisher pays 'significant' damages to women's campaigner". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  16. ^ Rabinovitch, Dina (26 November 2001). "Domestic violence can't be a gender issue". The Guardian. Retrieved 20 March 2009.
  17. ^ Harris, Tom Vague, Mucous Membrane, Perry. "Vague Rants – Vaguely Definitive". Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  18. ^ Edgar, David (16 December 2004). "David Edgar · Vindicated! The Angry Brigade · LRB 16 December 2004". London Review of Books. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  19. ^ Ness, Patrick (28 April 2006). "Review: Johnny Come Home by Jake Arnott". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  20. ^ Brown, Mick (31 August 2007). "Make love, then war". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  21. ^ "16/09/2013, The One Show - BBC One". Retrieved 26 November 2016.

References[edit]

  • Horspool, David (2009). "Grovenor Square and the Angry Brigade". The English Rebel: One Thousand Years of Troublemaking from the Normans to the Nineties. London: Viking. pp. 384–386. ISBN 978-0-670-91619-1.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]