The Warrington Bomb and Red Action

Recently, BBC North West’s Inside Out programme conducted an investigation into the 1993 Warrington bombing. Ending the police’s embarrassment of not catching the killers of Johnathan Ball and Tim Parry was, seemingly, the motivation. Inside Out speculates that the perpetrators of the lethal bombing were Jan Taylor and, Red Action member, Patrick Hayes. Inside Out asks that when the police were looking for Irish suspects; should they have been looking for a rogue IRA active service unit made up of Englishmen.

The documentary’s evidence supporting their claim leaves some questions. First is the linking of the bin bombing and gas works bombing in Warrington to the Harrods bin bombing and the bombing of a gas works in Tyneside. They are linked by target but, it is also implied, by suspects. The Tyneside gas works was bombed by an Englishman; the Warrington gas works by Irishmen. That the Warrington gas bombing was conducted by Irishmen wasn’t mentioned in the documentary. Partially based upon this faulty evidence the programme reasons that the Warrington bin bombing was carried out by the Harrods bin bombers: Hayes and Taylor. The film insinuates that English IRA active service units were attacking similar targets but Warrington gas bombing was done by Irishmen.

Another problem with the same targets, same nationality of suspects theory is that Hayes and Taylor were also convicted of bombing a train. Where does the train attack fit in to Inside Out’s story?

Inside Out uses Hayes’ Red Action membership as more evidence of guilt. Firstly, the programme doesn’t make it clear that only Hayes was a Red Action member, Taylor wasn’t. The programme also points out Red Action favoured “chicken-box bombs”, like the one used by Hayes and Taylor. The fact is that Red Action has never been found to have bombed anything. The implication is that Red Action had a bombing campaign but they did nothing of the sort. Why would Red Action favour a certain bomb when they had nothing to do with bombing?

Red Action is painted as a shadowy organisation. Whilst certainly secretive it was hardly unreachable. The Independent, ITV and the BBC had all interviewed Red Action. The organisation was very openly pro-IRA, it was on the front of its newspaper and on its stickers; it wasn’t a secret. It was not the underground network Inside Out would have us believe.

Red Action Sticker

Red Action Sticker

Another claim is that the (or these?) English IRA active service unit were rogue or not in the loop. It is pointed to that the IRA was already at the peace table so why would they need to continue bombing? Furthermore, the polices’ claim that the IRA didn’t use the correct code words is their evidence of the bombers being rogue. But the IRA disputed that the wrong codes were used at the time. It’s a ‘he said; she said’ situation in which the truth may never be known.

Inside Out’s own evidence can be used to dispute the rogue unit idea. To provide evidence that there was a campaign to bomb certain targets in England they discuss how the IRA’s top man in England was caught with a list of targets, including gas works, and semtex. If the orders were coming from the IRA’s leading volunteer in England how were the active service units rogue or acting alone?

The evidence presented implying the guilt of Patrick Hayes and Jan Taylor is hardly clear cut. The idea that English IRA units were bombing the same targets isn’t true and the idea they were rogue has little evidence. I believe the documentary provides more questions than answers. The simplest being what was the purpose of documentary? And why now?

Read more:

The Arrest of Patrick Hayes

Patrick Hayes statement in Red Action following his arrest. 

Charge of the New Red Brigade, The Independent. This article asks who Red Action are following Hayes’ arrest.

Violence with Violence, World in Action (ITV) investigates anti-fascist groups.

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Interview with Dave Hann

Street Voice Interview
I had a phone call last summer from Dave Hann asking to interview me on my experiences in the anti-fascist movement in Brighton. It was for a book that he was in the process of writing. I was happy to see Dave and talk about my own experiences opposing the National Front and fascism in Brighton. I was active in Anti-Fascist Action from 1986 till about 1992 and was on its Executive for about three years, but to the best of my knowledge we hadn’t met before.

All I knew of Dave was from a book ‘No Retreat’ [Milo Books, 2003] that he co-wrote with Steve Tilzey. Dave had been Chief Steward in AFA’s Steward Group in AFA’s Northern Network and what I had read of his had impressed me, as well as filling in a number of gaping holes in my memory. The period after 1979 in Brighton had been one where the National Front, after ditching its electoral pretensions, had embarked on a policy of attacking left-wing groups and meetings, particular anything to do with Ireland and the Troops Out Movement.

In Brighton the Anti-Nazi League had been reformed in 1980 to meet the threat, but unlike its later reincarnations under the SWP’’ control, the ANL in Brighton had been dedicated to physically as well as politically defeating the NF on the streets. For some 3 years we battled it out in Brighton, opposing 3 NF demonstrations through the town, their regular paper-sale at the football ground and ensuring that they were unable to harry or attack socialist or left-wing meetings. Brighton had been the stopping off point for their international contacts, people such as the Italian Fascist Robert Fiore. 19A Madeira Place had been their base and their leader in Brighton a UDA member, Steve Brady. Brighton was also the home of the leadership of Britain’s fascists – from John Tyndall of the BNP (or the New National Front then) to people like the publisher for the international neo-Nazi scene Anthony Hancock to the deputy leader of the NF and the author of ‘Did 6 Million Really Die’ Richard Verall (Harwood).

Dave’s experiences in AFA tended to be from the mid-80’s onwards against the BNP and Combat 18, whereas the main threat in Brighton had occurred in the early 80’s. Dave was a member of the main group in AFA, Red Action, whose leaders had been expelled in the 1970’s from the SWP for ‘squaddism’. This was at a time of growing violence from the NF and British Movement when it was recognised that fascist terror couldn’t be allowed to go unopposed and that the Left had to get organised.

In No Retreat Dave describes the battle against the fascists in the North of England, where the rise of mass unemployment under Margaret Thatcher and the decline of traditional working class industries such as the mines and docks, and of strong and militant trade unionism, had left youth in particular prey to the simple racist message of the fascists. Despite considerable police harassment, which resulted in a number of anti-fascist militants being jailed, the AFA Steward Group that Dave led was directly responsibility for the BNP foresaking the marches, demonstrations and pickets, with the ensuing violence that resulted, in favour of the electoral strategy of today’s BNP.

Dave’s account of what happened is a riveting read although it begs almost as many questions as it answers. Questions such as how the anti-fascist movement needs to adapt to meet the new BNP tactics, whether or not the BNP is still a neo-Nazi party and the bigger question of building a socialist and left movement which can take on board the social and class issues that the fascists feed upon. At a time when we are poised for a new Conservative government, poised to make savage cuts, these are not idle questions. We have a New Labour Party that has been captured for neo-liberalism and trade unions who are a shadow of their previous selves coupled with the antics and self-indulgence of a myriad of far-left sects.
Equally pertinent are the lessons to be drawn from what happened to AFA. Although Dave only mentions it in passing, one of the key problems within AFA became Red Action itself. A number of anti-fascist militants told me that they had been physically threatened by a RA determined on taking over AFA. Even more disturbing was the arrest and conviction of a senior member of AFA and Red Action for having taken part in the bombing of Harrods. It is difficult to imagine a more fundamental political mistake. Most people in AFA were supporters of Irish Republicanism and wanted to see the troops withdraw from Ireland. It was inevitable, given the close links between the Loyalists and the fascists that Irish Republicanism and the anti-fascist movement in this country were natural allies. But that did not mean therefore that AFA should take up any particular position on Ireland, especially when it came to supporting the military war of the IRA. I know at first hand that comrades left AFA as a result of this.

Dave was ostracised and criticised by RA, but never openly. In his book he gives some details of this. Instead of debating any differences, they were dealt with in a factional and bureaucratic manner. RA had decided to wind up AFA and form an Independent Working Class Association which won 3 council seats in Oxford and gained a respectable level of support in Hackney and Islington elections but has now virtually disappeared off the radar. In the process the IWCA moved rapidly to the right and its first councillor and leader in Oxford supported the Iraq War!

Dave and I spent a pleasant afternoon discussing various issues, although I was mainly the one answering the questions. I had many questions of my own to ask but I decided to leave it to another day. It was therefore a great shock when I learnt that Dave had been suffering from cancer and barely 3 weeks later he suddenly died at the young age of 48. Dave really was one of the unsung heroes of the anti-fascist movement that took over mine and so many others peoples lives for years. Anti-fascism was a cause worth devoting a major part of one’s life to as we were determined to prevent a repetition of what had happened in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.

In Brighton Dave was active in community campaigns such as one to stop Tesco opening a superstore in London Road. He was also actively involved in football having spent much time on the terraces of Man Utd.

Dave leaves a partner, Louise, who has also been part of the anti-racist movement and an active socialist, for many years as well as three children, a son aged 14 and two girls aged 19 and 11 as well as a young woman, Jessica, with a previous partner. It is a testimony to Louise’s commitment that very shortly after Dave’s death she was on the streets of Saltdean helping organise the defence of the Deghayes family, a member of whom, Omar, had been freed after a big public campaign from Guantanamo prison. We wish them all well. Below is an interview that Dave Hann conducted with an indie music online publication called Street Voices.

Rest in Peace Comrade. You Deserve It. Tony Greenstein

Street Voice: First off how did you feel your first book ‘No Retreat’ went down?

Dave: I think its gone down really well. Its been nearly five years since the book was first published, and its still selling a few dozen copies every month. Funnily enough I was flicking through Mark E. Smith’s biography the other day in a bookshop, and No Retreat gets a favourable mention in it.

I think the most positive thing that has come out of it has been the letters and emails I get from anti-fascists in countries like Serbia, Poland and Russia, where the fascists are fairly rampant, saying how much the book has inspired them.

Street Voice: You obviously got a lot of criticism off both the far left and far right so how did you go about dealing with it?

Dave: I obviously expected criticism from the far-right. After all, a book detailing the cowardice, and lack of street-fighting prowess of the master race was hardly going to be a favourite bed-time read for your typical fascist. I’ve really enjoyed watching them whinge and moan about the book on Internet forums and discussion pages. The criticism from Red Action was also expected, because of the manner in which we parted company. The pure bitterness and bile of the criticism took me aback a bit, but in the end it just made me more determined to carry on writing. What was disappointing was the small number of so-called anti-fascists (London Class War mostly) who joined in the attack on me and Steve without ever taking the trouble to find out our side of the argument. I think anonymous slanders and personal abuse on Internet forums from people I’ve never met is cowardly, repellent and sinister. It says more about them than I ever could. These people would claim to be working towards building a fairer society, but if this behaviour is typical, then whatever they built would be little different from anything the BNP envisage.

Street Voice: It’s also fair to say there were some independent folk who thought you glamorised the violence so any opinion on this?

Dave: Funnily enough, Mensi complained that the violence in the book was understated!! In other words he felt it didn’t portray the real levels of violence that actually occurred. I think the violence of anti-fascists should be put into context however. Fascists in Britain have been responsible over the years for the murders of Black and Asian people, the stabbing and maiming of political opponents, and the fire-bombing and nail-bombing of left-wing bookshops, gay pubs, etc etc. On the other hand, anti-fascists rarely went out tooled-up, and if they did they were usually armed with a blunt instrument rather than a blade. I think you have to have been under attack by fascist gangs to understand why non-violence could never work under those circumstances.

Street Voice: You’re currently writing your second book which covers the history of Anti Fascism so can you give our readers any information about it?

Dave: The book is provisionally entitled, ‘A Cause Worth Fighting For,’ and it details the history of anti-fascism in Britain from the perspective of the people who were actually on the streets opposing the fascists. It goes right back to very first anti-fascists in the 1920’s, and finishes at the turn of the century with the demise of AFA. Its all based on oral interviews with people who took part in the various battles at Cable Street, Olympia, Balls Pond Road, Red Lion Square, Lewisham, Waterloo, etc etc. A lot of the stuff in the book is brand new research, and I’ve uncovered some really interesting stuff on obscure anti-fascist groups like the New World Fellowship, the Blue and White League, and the Yellow Star Movement. The book has been an absolute pleasure to write and research, and I’ve met some wonderful people whilst writing it.

Street Voice: Have you a publishing date for the book yet?

Dave: Not as yet. Its very nearly finished, and I’m hoping that it will hit the bookshelves some time next year

Street Voice: Being as you wrote ‘No Retreat’ with your mate Steve Tilzey I would have thought you two would have been up for doing another together? Is this something he didn’t want to do or did you
feel you wanted to write this book on your own?

Dave: Steve wasn’t really up for it. It was hard enough to get him to write his bit for No Retreat, and he actually lived through everything he wrote about then. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how difficult it would be to persuade him to spend a few days researching some obscure anti-fascist group in a library or whatever, and then get him write up his findings and send them to me. The book would have to be printed on waterproof paper, because we’d all be submerged under rising sea levels by the time it finally came out. Steve would be the first to admit that he’s not really a writer, but he has helped out with a couple of little things here and there.

Street Voice: The BNP have been keeping themselves busy but there’s been almost no opposition to them. Do you think it’s time for AFA to be re-launched to bring Anti-Fascists together as one again?

Dave: We have been faced with this problem before in Britain, during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s for instance. The forces of anti-fascism were very thin on the ground, but as the fascist threat increased, so did the opposition, eventually culminating in the launch of RAR and the ANL, so there is still hope that something can be got off the ground. The difference between then and now of course is that a lot of the old communities based around the docks, the steel yards, the mines, factories etc, are broken up, and the traditional ties that bound these communities to the trade unions, the Labour Party and the left are gone. The Labour Party has abandoned them, the left are too busy with their endless cycle of marches, meetings and paper sales, and this leaves them easy prey for the fascists. This process boosts the BNP, while at the same time undercuts the supply of anti-fascist recruits AFA has had its day. When Red Action dismantled AFA and formed the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA), they threw the baby out with the bath water, and this allowed the fascists the space to grow. Sadly, it is only now, a decade later, that they are beginning to realise their fatal mistake.

Street Voice: OK I know we have Antifa but that’s largely anarchist based and probably wouldn’t appeal to the average person on the street so who else is there?

Dave: There is no single organisation doing it at the moment. Just a few small grouplets doing bits and pieces of worthwhile stuff. Some of the community-based work done by IWCA for instance, if it was combined with militant anti-fascism, and taken on board by some of the larger left groups would shake the situation up a bit. I think the IWCA has reached the limits of what can be done with a small number of dedicated, but somewhat paranoid and intolerant individuals, but their politics should not be discounted as readily as their personalities.

Street Voice: While I like to remain positive about Antifa it’s hard to take them seriously at times when their members and the likes of Watmougth and Wigan Mike just threaten each other on the likes of Indymedia?

Dave: Antifa seems to be making the same mistakes as some of the least politicised elements of AFA. For instance I’ve seen several “Antifa Hooligans” and “Antifa – Fighting the Fascists – What else ya gonna do on a Saturday” stickers around town recently, that make you shake your head in disbelief at their sheer stupidity and lack of political message. Can anyone tell me what the point of these stickers is? Do they think the general public will see these stickers and go, “Oh ok, I won’t bother going to Asda this afternoon, I’ll join a crew of anarchists and get in punch ups with fascists instead.” From the outside, Antifa (like a lot of anarchist groups), looks like a small clique of like-minded individuals, who all know each other, are roughly the same age, all dress the same, and have the same lifestyles and musical tastes, etc. There appears to be no attempt whatsoever to broaden their appeal to the general public as a whole. I could be wrong, but I’ve not seen them attack the BNP on a
political level in working class communities, or attempt to offer their own solutions to the problems faced in those areas. There seems to be far too much emphasis on ambushing some of the smaller Nazi and bonehead groups, who, while they might prove occasionally troublesome, do not offer anywhere the same margin of threat as the BNP.

Street Voice: Would you agree there’s no longer a Socialist alternative for working class folk any more on the streets of Britian?

Dave: I’d agree that there is no socialist alternative in Britain at the moment, and sadly I think things will get worse before they get better. This directly impacts on anti-fascism, as in the past, socialists have formed the backbone of many anti-fascist movements. I believe we will have to come to a situation in the future where desperation forces whatever disparate forces are left to unite on some commonly agreed platform, before we can start to move forward again. Hopefully the bitter struggles and disappointments in between will have burnt off the careerists, the egoists, the sectarians and the weirdos.

Street Voice: Can you see the BNP getting a couple of seats in parliament if there’s no real opposition to them?

Dave: That’s a very real possibility. Remember, its not so long ago that people would have said you were mad if you’d told them that the BNP would have 50 plus councillors. I think we’re more likely to see an MEP, or a couple of MEPs first however. The economic downturn will only exacerbate the problem, although it might also open up opportunities for the left if they can stop their infighting for long enough to take advantage of them.

Street Voice: Did you hear that Simon Shephard from C18 is claiming political asylum in the U.S.A. since being found guilty of race hate charges in the UK? What did you make of that?

Dave: I didn’t hear about that. Its typical of the contradictions that lay at the very heart of fascist politics however.

Street Voice: Personally I think it’s a cop out with American and British Govts bailing out some of the banks so why do you think people just sit back and accept shit like that?

Dave: People feel disenfranchised from the political system. They see very little difference between the main political parties, who are all in the pocket of the major capitalists, and they feel powerless to effect change, which is exactly what the Govt wants. They see over a million people march through London in an effort to stop their country going to war, which you think might have given any government pause to contemplate, but their voices are completely ignored and the war goes ahead regardless. People feel their voices aren’t being heard. So at the one end you get low polling returns as people despair at the system, and at the other end you get people voting for the BNP, some for racist reasons, but others because they are seen as not being part of the establishment.

Street Voice: Moving from politics do you still get down FC United?

Dave: As often as I can, which is not as often as I’d like.

Street Voice: How are they doing as a football club?

Dave: After three consecutive promotions, they appear to have hit a plateau this season. Crowds are holding up reasonably well though, but the Development Fund, which was started in order so that the club can buy/build their own ground still needs your pennies. Incidentally, a couple of seasons ago, the BNP tried to muscle in on the club, but they were sent packing by anti-fascist FC fans and ordinary supporters. The final straw came when the entire Cemetery End started chanting “You can stick your BNP up your arse,” at them. The whole club has been built by ordinary working class people, and just shows what can be achieved when people have a sense of purpose and a commonly identified goal.

Street Voice: Apart from your job and writing your book what else does Dave Hann like to do?

Dave: Well I used to coach a youth football team until last season, which was reasonably successful (the boys won a couple of trophies and once went a whole season undefeated), but that has come to a close now, although I’m still involved with my son’s new team. I’m also involved in a couple of local campaigns, one to stop a massive Tesco’s redevelopment in town, which will put dozens of small shops out of business. These days, if I see a campaign that I agree with, I’ll help out in whatever way I can, no matter who initiates it. Apart from that, I like to do absolutely nowt. Lazy git that I am.

Street Voice: Anything you’d like to add?

Dave: know this interview has tended towards pessimism, but people need to stop picking pointless arguments on Internet forums, and get out there and start looking at ways to unite around a common goal. Undercutting the BNP’s potential base of support, by forcing them out of the areas where they have become embedded, and presenting people with a viable socialist alternative would be a good place to start.

Update 17

I haven’t done an update since October. So here is a round up of what’s changed since!

Three new academic articles have been uploaded

1. Contesting the ‘authentic’ community: Far-right spatial strategy and everyday responses in an era of crisis (Ince, 2011)

This article discusses AFA and the IWCA’s strategy in displacing and replacing the far-right as the radical alternative.

The idea that voting alone will eliminate far-right and fascist politics is fundamentally flawed. Politics takes place in the hearts and minds of people; in their streets, communities and homes. The struggle against the far right is in part a struggle over the spatial articulation of and claims to authenticity in differing understandings of working class values. Authenticity, I argue, is primarily a politico discursive tool to which competing politics lay claim, perching on the ill-defined border between reality and artifice.

2. The Politics and Culture of FC St. Pauli: from leftism, through antiestablishment, to commercialization (Petra Daniel & Christos Kassimeris, 2013)

Transforming football stadia to political arenas is an old phenomenon, particularly, when clubs boasting a glorious past are involved. FC St. Pauli has certainly been instrumental to developments in its immediate environment though not so much for its success on the pitch, as for the socio-political views that its fans have been projecting ever since the mid-1980s. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to contextualize the same fan (and club) ideological background that has attracted worldwide attention in the light of the game’s contemporary transformation.

3. ‘The birthplace of Italian communism’: political identity and action amongst livorno fans (Doidge, 2013)

Since the 1980s, there has been a shift to the right on the curve of Italian stadiums. Livorno stands apart as one of the few Italian clubs to maintain a resolute Communist identity. They draw on a variety of Communist images and this helps define their actions. Through political protest, charity and matchday choreographies, Livorno fans reflect and resist specific aspects of football in a globalized world.

New Posts

Visit the La Zineteca: Punk and Ska Fanzine Library, issues of Leeds United anti-fascist fanzines are now available here, The Big Issue revealed evidence of police infiltration of AFA, read what Class War had to say on Red Action and the IWCA and visit the fantastic anti-fascist resource blog called Lewisham ’77.

I have also posted two Red Action articles: Time to Dump Multi-Culturalism and Red Action on Multiculturalism.

Liverpool based Cairde na hEireann have published a report on anti-Irish racism in 2012. I found a great article on Celtic Fans Against Fascism  read it here and, lastly, I found an interesting article on Red Action and it’s support of the militant Irish Republican movement.

New Book

In the time since the last update an invaluable new resource for those wishing to learn about militant anti-fascism has been published. Largely an oral account, Physical Resistance by Dave Hann is now available. My thoughts on the book are also viewable here.

Your Archivist

Lastly, since October we have received 35,000 more views taking the archives total page views to 85,000; from New Zealand to Mozambique to Chile to Kazakhstan to Ireland and Canada.

The Archive has also received generous donations and with these funds I am looking to move to a much better, custom website in the near future.

Yours,

The Archivist.

Physical Resistance: Thoughts and Reply to Renton

Part 1

Unfortunately I am thousands of miles from my copies of Beating the Fascists, No Retreat and Anti-Fascism in Britain which I think would be extremely useful in a full and detailed review of Physical Resistance. I am having to make do with my computerised notes of Beating the Fascists, sadly I chose only to word process my notes after reading No Retreat and Anti-Fascism in Britain. Following reading Dave Renton’s review of Physical Resistance I decided to write down a few of my thoughts of the book and his review. My focus will be on the latter chapters as this is the period where I have mostly researched. I welcome any response and correction.

Physical Resistance: A Hundred Years of Anti-Fascism has given those interested in the study of in militant anti-fascism a wealth of important and interesting events which have laid undiscovered, exciting long oral accounts of former activists and a number of questions to attempt to answer. These long oral and written accounts are woven with Hann’s narrative. Sadly Dave Hann died before he could finish his work but his long term partner, who also writes the introduction, has stepped in and finished the book well with the circumstance. However, as Renton points out there are points in the book which are under-analysed and leave the reader asking for more detail.

Firstly, Renton’s review; I believe it contained a number of factual errors. One such error is the statement of Hann being in the Red Action leadership, my research and interview with former Red Action members (and subsequent communication) did not give Hann as a national figure in Red Action but he was key to Anti-Fascist Action and Red Action organising in Manchester. Renton, disingenuously, says that Beating the Fascists finishes when it reaches the Battle of Waterloo in 1992. In fact, BtF continues for a further 100 pages which includes, amongst other events: the 1993 Welling demonstration, the conflict with Combat 18, the BNP declaration of “no more meetings, no more marches, no more punch ups”, ‘Operation Zero Tolerance’ and the development of the Independent Working Class Association.  Furthermore, Renton comments that AFA decayed following the Battle of Waterloo, however, issue 3 of Fighting Talk (June 1992), the Journal of AFA, lists 22 branches by issue 12 (November 1995) the number of branches peaked at 38 until it began to fall.

Renton also says that Hann is a “little self-serving” due to almost all interviews being with militant anti-fascists. Perhaps the subtitle “A Hundred of Militant Anti-Fascism” would have been more apt, but, I think Renton does Hann a disservice. As Renton points out Hann gives kudos to the ANL and other non-militant successes and, even, gives the UAF laurels for the BNPs 2010 local election defeat.  I think Renton’s short dismissal of BtF and AFA in this review opens him up to the charge of self-servicing his anti-squaddism.

Turning to the book itself, as I earlier commented I thought the book is under-analytical in places. One such area is the collapse of the National Front following the 1979 general election. A conclusion to whether Hann thought the ANL or Thatcher’s hard talk against immigration was the primary or most important cause for the NF’s demise is not offered. Another section where I was hoping for more evidence, detail and conclusion was the 1988 Red Action split; Renton also says most early Red Action members left. Further information and explanation would have been interesting; perhaps Red Action’s archives will shed some light onto this period. Similarly, the AFA split between Red Action and the anarchist elements is light on details and analysis.

One question I asked during my undergraduate dissertation research was on the divisions between AFA members, particularly women. One of Hann’s interviewees provides a glimpse of a division; that between “hit men” and “foot soldiers”. During my research I was convinced that a division between organisers and fighters didn’t exist, the organisers were also got their hands dirty. The division between the “hit men” and “foot soldiers” also, allegedly, manifested socially as well as tactically. Who were the “hit men”? Red Action members or simply the best fighters.

Regarding women, two of Hann’s female interviewees’ tales tell of a gender role divide of duties in AFA which seems to correlate to my results. That’s not to say the duties of ‘spotting’ or checking out a pub for fascists was looked upon as less brave in fact my results showed my interviewees thought these acts required much more courage than the fighting. Although, more investigation into this by Hann would have proved interesting I think, particularly when AFA and militant anti-fascism is often charged with chauvinism and machismo.

An interviewee also speaks about AFA’s support for the IRA. Although Red Action’s strong support for the IRA is openly known and AFA stewarded republican marches against loyalist and fascist attacks, AFA was supposed to be a single issue campaign. For this interviewee the extent of the IRA support was uncomfortable. To what extent AFA as an organisation supported the IRA is not dealt with in depth and it does raise an interesting point as to what people’s experiences of IRA support were within AFA.

Hann also gives an insight into the continuation of militant anti-fascism post-AFA. He accounts both No Platform and Antifa, and, I think, it gives the impression that Hann supported the continuation of a violent street strategy and a rejection of the IWCA’s approach of following the BNP off the streets and into the electoral arena. But his position doesn’t seem clear. Any comparison between the post-AFA movements and AFA is also lacking.

To more general points: I’m surprised no Red Action literature appears in the bibliography, I think it’s a shame footnotes weren’t used in the book, as they are so useful to students of anti-fascism, also, there are few details on AFA in Scotland which is a shame. Lastly, there are a few errors in the writing such as Tyne and Wear Anti-Fascist Association is listed as Tyne and Wear Anti-Fascist Action and the Kindle version is littered with hyphenated words in the middle of the page which I found annoying.

To conclude, the book is a valuable read for all those interested in the Communist Party’s role in anti-fascism, the British volunteers in the Spanish Civil War, opposition to the British Union of Fascists and the later history of militant anti-fascism. An excellent and unmissable source for students and those interested in British militant anti-fascism.

Left Archive: Red Action, Issue No. 68, Summer 1994 – REPOST

The following article is a re-post from Cedar Lounge Revolution

To download the above file please click on the following link: REDACTION

Recently Red Action posted much of their archive online, and this can be accessed here. That includes the above document, but since this was already acquired for the Archive and scanned in it seemed appropriate to include at least one example of the output of the formation (and as it happens we’ve been promised some more documents in the future with a specifically Irish orientation).

Red Action appeared in 1981 when members were expelled from the Socialist Workers Party for squadist activities. Consequently in outlook it positioned itself as an self-avowedly forceful response to the threat of fascism and racism as well as cleaving to a strongly working class centred position. In the 1980s it joined the RCP led Red Front (as can be seen in this document from the RCP in the Archive). Interestingly it transitioned into community based politics in the late 1990s and on into the 2000s, and former members were heavily involved in the Independent Working Class Association which went on to win council seats and only relatively recently became inoperative.

This document is of particular interest because while it demonstrates all the political approaches outlined above it furthermore relates to one key aspect of Red Action, that being an strong identification with Irish Republicanism – it is notable that in other documents available on the Red Action site Thomas ‘Ta’ Power of the IRSP, later assassinated by the IPLO, is quoted. The cover story notes that Patrick Hayes, an English born member of a PIRA active service unit, imprisoned for a short bombing campaign in England in the early 1990s, was a former long standing member of Red Action (for more on this see this from the UK Independent which gives a subjective but interesting overview).

As the editorial accompanying Haye’s statement at the Old Bailey on his imprisonment notes:

As an organisation, Red Action has from the outset supported the right of the Irish to bear arms in principle and supported the military campaign as a TACTIC. Where we see a synthesis between republicanism and revolution Trotskyism seeks only contradictions, and so while paying lip service to the principle of self-determination the middle class left has with a few exceptions been an unswerving critic of its implementation.

It continues:

Of course no one in Red Action knew when, or precisely why, Patrick Hayes took the decision to join the IRA, but from his own testimony it is clear that he regards support for the military campaign and taking part in it more a matter of emphasis than some ‘quantum leap’. Pat never made the media inspired ‘graduation from being a weekend radical to becoming an IRA volunteer’. As in the case of Portinari [a Loyalist gunrunner] the explanation is quite simple. He never was a weekend radical. He is, and always was in whatever capacity a revolutionary.

In some respects these quotes also offer an insight into other aspects of Red Action, namely a strongly critical view of other contemporary further left formations, particularly those with a Trotskyist orientation – albeit it itself came from a Trotskyist heritage. It also held a strongly working class position that saw itself as deeply at odds with the middle class both in class and political forms or in its analysis that other further left formations were distorted by that class.

This combative stance is exemplified by a number of articles in the document on Trotskyism, including ‘Trotskyism’ with No Illusions which lambastes both the British Labour Party and ‘the Trotskyite Left [who] without exception line up with the bureaucracy in defence of the status quo, [whereas] we stand with the working class against the bureaucracy’ and within the working class; with the anti-racists against the racists.’. There is also an article which takes as its starting point the then recently published final edition of the SWP’s Tony Cliff’s final volume of his biography of Trotsky which is sub-titled ‘The Real History of the Fourth International’.

The emphasis on Irish Republicanism is evidenced throughout the text with highly critical articles on the Troops Out movement (and which is also in passing highly critical of the RCP) and a page devoted to “Dispatches from a war zone” and which in this instance dealswith informers and pro-British agents.

 

 

There’s also a piece under the heading ‘Beyond the Pale’ for Red Action in Ireland, complete with PO Box. The accompanying article, ‘Guns, Drugs & The Community’, outlines the history of the development of the drugs issue in working class Dublin and how Concerned Parents Against Drugs (CPAD) became pivotal in ‘the fight against drugs’. The article notes that ‘The Left’s attitude to this genuine instance of working class people taking control of their lives has also been pathetic. From the SWM’s denunciation of CPAD as vigilantes, to the serious serious damage done to the anti-drugs campaign by the Workers’ Party’s allegations of addicts being kept against their will in France, the left in Dublin has been a hindrance to the CPAD. Sinn Féin are the only group on the left who can claim any credibility from the fight against the drug pushers. Contrary to the allegations of SF infiltration of CPAD, the SF activists actually belonged to the working class communities under threat and had every right ton involve themselves in the fight against drugs’.

In the latter there is the following reference: CPAD wants addicts to be sent to treatment centres where they might actually have a chance to get off drugs. CPAD have in the past sent addicts to the Le Patriarche centre in France but a Workers Party created controversy and lack of resources meant this could not be continued’.

 

Archivist: there are also some interesting comments on the original post which are worth reading.

 

See also: The Arrest of Patrick Hayes

Newspaper Articles on Red Action, Anti-Fascist Action and Fascists

Below are all the articles from The Guardian which mention either Red Action or Anti-Fascist Action. There is also an Independent article in there.

There is also the Scrapbooks. These contain hundreds of newspaper articles on fascism and racism and its opponents.

Related Posts:

Pre-War Newspaper Articles on Anti-Fascism

The Arrest of Patrick Hayes

I’ve not figured out how to copy or download the video from the ITN Source website. If anyone knows please comment or email at antifascistarchive@gmail.com. Click the links to view the video. — Thanks to Dan who downloaded these videos for me.

Patrick Hayes was a leading AFA member until his conviction. 


2 March 1993: Two men were detained in London in connection with the Harrods bomb on 28.1.93. Jan Taylor and Patrick Hayes were arrested at an address in Stoke Newington. Shots were fired at police as the men were arrested, and the development comes after officers released security video material of two men wanted in connection with the incident.

13 April 1993: Patrick Hayes and Jan Taylor appear in court charged with the bombing of Harrods and other incidents.

13 May 1993: Two Englishmen, Patrick Hayes and Jan Taylor who belonged to the IRA and took part in mainland bombing campaigns have been jailed for thirty years. The judge said they were evil men and neither of them showed any remorse for their actions.

18 September 1996:  The Home Office has confirmed that the sentences of 14 IRA terrorists will be re-examined because of contaminated equipment at a government forensic laboratory in Fort Halstead.