Stuart Christie (1946-2020) & the Stoke Newington Eight

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2020 by kmflett

Stuart Christie (1946-2020) & the Stoke Newington Eight

Stuart Christie died a few days ago

He was one of the great figures of the post-1945 left although I suspect that description wouldn’t have pleased him.

It is 40 years since the arrest of some of those who became known as the Stoke Newington 8 on 20th August 1971 at 395 Amhurst Rd.

Some, though perhaps not all of those arrested, were members of the Angry Brigade. Hardly the Italian Red Brigades or the German Red Army Faction, it did however use the technique of bombs to highlight its hated of the capitalist system.

No one was hurt in its bombing campaigns from around 1968 to 1972 but no doubt for those involved the terror was real enough.

There are some partial accounts of the Angry Brigade, including one very good one by Stuart Christie- Granny Made Me An Anarchist. Christie was tried and acquitted for the Angry Brigade attacks. Christie was certainly framed by the police, a reminder of the longevity of their illegal methods.

The early 1970s, the period when Ted Heath ran a Tory Government dedicated to an early version of Thatcherism, saw the biggest period of industrial upheaval in Britain since just before the First World War.

The Pentonville Five, dockers complaining about changes to the way work was done on the docks were jailed and released by the intervention of the previously unheard of Official Solicitor as the TUC called a General Strike.

These were heady days and the militancy worked. As the miners struck in 1974 Heath declared a Three- Day week in industry and called a General Election on the theme of ‘who governs Britain, the Tories or the Unions’. The electorate, returning a Labour Government determined the correct answer was the Unions.

In this context the activities of the Stoke Newington 8 appear to be a blip. They did not threaten capitalism, or even put a dent in profits.

We do not have a full account of what they were trying to achieve, any more than the Luddites or Captain Swing rioters of the nineteenth century felt moved to ‘tell all’ even in their old age.

Yet while the tactics were a failure particularly at a time when the structure in society that did have the power to shake capitalism-the organised working class-was moving into serious confrontation with the State, that is not the last word on the Angry Brigade.

Their targets included a TV outside broadcast van at the November 1970 Miss World show at the Albert Hall and the Biba fashion boutique.

They were undoubtedly influenced by the ideas of the Situationists and the ‘society of the spectacle’. When, forty years on, pay remains very much unequal despite the Equal Pay Act and sexism remains a major issue in society, while consumerism and the marketisation of society is a major concern of the left, the agenda that the Angry Brigade fought on appears remarkably prescient, even if the methods are not appealing.

At the Angry Brigade trial the judge claimed ‘conspiracy could be a nod or a wink’ as the bombings went despite the detention of the Stoke Newington 8.

They deserve to be remembered as part of our history. They raised awkward issues for society 40 years ago in awkward ways. They are awkward issues still and still worth getting angry about as well

One Response to “Stuart Christie (1946-2020) & the Stoke Newington Eight”

  1. […] the broader left the Canary and historian Keith Flett added their takes, but the celebrations of his life from within the movement he helped build […]

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