Monday, August 28, 2023

Kick Out Cars in Croydon (1973) and the Croydon Libertarians

'Croydon Libertarians' were an anarchistic radical left group in the early 1970s. In 1973 they planned a 'Kick Out Cars in Croydon' action involving closing Church Street to traffic (this was more than 20 years before Reclaim the Streets tried similar tactics in Camden, Islington, Brixton and elsewhere).

The action was advertised in the anarchist paper Freedom (7/4/73, notice above) to take place on Saturday 7 April, but it seems that it actually took place the day before on Friday 6 April. Perhaps this was a cunning plan to get a step ahead of the police who were no doubt aware of the planned action. Unfortunately the police knew exactly what was going on as there was an undercover officer from the 'Special Demonstration Squad' ('spycops') infiltrating the Croydon group, known as Michael Scott. He was presumably responsible for the Special Branch report of the demo which was revealed in the ongoing Undercover Policing Inquiry:

 'On Friday 6 April 1973 at 11 am in Church Street, Croydon, a demonstration was held which was intended to alert public attention to the need for that particular road to be made into a pedestrian precinct.  It was organised and executed exclusively by members of 'Croydon Libertarians' and took the form of a length of chain being suspended across the road and secured at either end by padlocks.  In the event the road was closed for little more than five minutes and disruption of traffic was light. It was not quite clear even to the participants why it failed, especially as the event had not been publicised outside the immediate confines of those involved. The participants did not wait to see the immediate effect of their protest but disappeared, to return a short time later to find the chain so longer in position. It was therefore assumed that padlocks had not been securely fastened or that an unsensitive  lorry driver had been responsible for sabotaging the event. Police were absolved from blame as they had not been in evidence'. Plainly the attempt to close the road had been derailed as a result of the undercover police operation. The report named 5 people who took part, though their names were redacted in the report disclosed to the Inquiry.

Croydon Libertarians were one of a number of similarly named groups around the country in this period. An interesting 1989 article on this movement by Max Farrar describes their politics as follows 'What were the libertarian movements of the 1970s? In the late 1980s a clear distinction has to be made between libertarians of the left and the right. Today, the expression has been hijacked by people around Margaret Thatcher, and has been thrust into the headlines by young conservatives who champion a form of complete ‘freedom of the market’ which would include the legalislation of heroin. In the seven- ties, those of us on the far left used the term to distinguish ourselves from Leninists and Trotskyists. It ran alongside the word ‘Liberation’ in the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Gay Liberation Front; it identified us with the historical critique of authoritarianism in the conventional marxist parties but it consciously distinguished us from the antiquated and male-dominated practices of English anarchism'.

The Croydon Libertarians were up and running by 1969 when a notice in Freedom (12/7/1969) said that they were meeting on the 2nd Friday of each month. The contacts given were Laurens and Celia Otter, 35 Natal Road, Thornton Heath, CR4 8QH and Keith McCain, 1 Langmead Street, West Norwood, S.E.27. The Otters were lifelong radical peace activists - he died in 2022 aged 91 (see Guardian obituary) and she died in 2014.

The Croydon Libertarians co-operated with other radical groups locally, including Suburban Press (which the late Jamie Reid was involved in) and the White Panther Party- more to come on that.

That late 60s/early 70s political generation is getting elderly and many have passed, we would love to hear from any people involved in groups like this and the various radical community papers in South London at that time.

See previously:

White Panthers in SE2 - Abbey Wood and the 1970s counter culture

Saturday, August 19, 2023

The Village charity shop, Nunhead Green

Sure, you know about the The Village, Nunhead's friendly Salvation Army charity shop and community café. But did you know it now has a whole room upstairs, full of books, DVDs, CDs and vinyl?


Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Kender Street killing

Shrine on corner of Kender St SE14 and Queens Road where 20 year old Julian Ebanks-Ford was stabbed and killed at weekend (Friday 4th August 2023), so sad.

Thursday, August 03, 2023

Shirkers Rest SE14

Don't think I've given enough love out to the Shirkers Rest, beer shop/bar at 9 Lewisham Way opposite Goldsmiths in New Cross.

They have beers (and cider)

They have events including open mics and comedy nights

And of course they have a slacker aesthetic

Yes there's a 'Never Work' poster and the legendary 1980s 'I didn't go to work today... I don't think I'll go tomorrow' poster. Despite the claims of some cheeky f*cks online to have designed and therefore sell this image, I believe it was actually designed by a nice Leeds anarchist called Brian  who also did some radical Tin Tin cartoon strips. Remember having lots of arguments about this at the time  - along the lines of yes the sentiment's great but many working class people don't have the luxury of sleeping in and losing their job. Something to debate over a pint of Common Sense or whatever you fancy at the Shirkers Rest.