Anarchy in the UK by Tom Vague

“That well-known group of demolition experts.”

The Vietnam War is raging in Southeast Asia, Carlos the Jackal is on the loose, the Red Army Faction rampages through Germany, and in Britain, the Angry Brigade becomes a household name. These were “angry times”–a time of social unrest, hijacking of planes, and then when bombs started going on in Britain, at first, it wasn’t clear who was responsible ….

It’s 1970, and the first “Communique” from the Angry Brigade is received by “The International Times.” Communique 1 claimed responsibility for machine-gunning the Spanish embassy to protest the sentencing of Basque nationalists. Then with the advent of the new Industrial Relations bill in Jan 1971, the home of employment minister, Robert Carr is bombed, and the Angry Brigade send communique 4 claiming responsibility. Following the bombing of Carr’s house, 6 Conservative party offices are firebombed, and there’s another communique. At this point, no-one had heard of the Angry Brigade, but they can no longer be ignored. As a result, the Special Branch formed a unit to work on cracking the case.

By August 1971, several people were arrested for conspiracy in what became known as the trial of the Stoke Newington 8, and what followed was “Britain’s biggest conspiracy trial.” With 1000 plus pages of evidence, over 800 exhibits, and more than 200 prosecution witnesses, the prosecution sought to prove that the 8 accused were involved in a conspiracy with “the intention of disrupting and attacking” society. The evidence came down to the possession of gelignite and handwritten envelopes which included some of the communiques to the newspapers. The big questions during the trial included whether or not the gelignite had been planted. The prosecution’s case essentially boiled down to the elements of “conspiracy”–the accused did not actually have to plant the bombs (a total of 25) to be guilty of conspiracy–they just had to “know what the agreement” about bombing was.

Anarchy in the UK: The Angry Brigade begins with a decent explanation and overview of Situationist theory–including a glossary. There’s some detail here regarding the unrest amongst French students, the 1968 student riots, the Society of the Spectacle, etc. The author, Tom Vague’s style is relaxed (if you’ve ever read any of Vague’s books, you know what I mean), and he follows the events in typical chronological, very brief style. Vague includes all of the communiques from the Angry Brigade and heavy emphasis is on the trial. There are black and white photos of those involved in the case, and since there’s an extensive cast of characters here, be prepared to take notes.

For those interested reading more on the Angry Brigade, Gordon Carr’s book: The Angry Brigade: The Cause and the Case is the best source I’ve found on the subject, but it’s not easy to find a copy. Vague’s book is not as through source but it’s easier to find.

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