- Created: Monday, 18 June 2018 13:57
- Written by FRFI
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! no. 3 July/August 1981
On the nights of 3-5 July, the flames of revolutionary rebellion lit up the streets of Liverpool 8. Then on 7-9 July they spread to Moss Side Manchester. Hundreds of black and white youth united in common hatred of their oppressor, the British state, engaged in fierce battles against the racist police.
After hours-long pitched battles, and to the terror of the ruling class, the youths drove the police out of Liverpool 8. Liverpool 8 became a no-go area for the forces of British imperialism. In Moss Side Manchester, hundreds of working class youth laid siege, two nights running, on Moss Side police station.
The revolutionary youth of Britain from St Paul's to Brixton and now from Southall to Liverpool 8 and Moss Side and Brixton again — are learning fast the lessons of the revolutionary Irish people's struggle against British imperialism. No wonder a policeman in Liverpool 8 in his moment of defeat and despair uttered: 'To think this is England – it was more like Belfast.'
In the heartland of British imperialism, we are witnessing the emergence of a truly revolutionary working class movement. The RCG alone in seeing in black youth the vanguard forces of the British revolution has again been proved correct. The corrupt and imperialist Labour Party and its middle class allies with their peaceful constitutionalism belong to the past. The future of the communist movement in Britain is with the forces of St Paul's and of Brixton, of Southall and of Liverpool 8 and Manchester — the forces of revolution.
The uprisings of black and white youth sweeping through the country reached Moss Side Manchester on Tuesday 7 July. The youths' target was the hated notorious Moss Side police. Following street fighting on Tuesday night black and white youth responded to dawn house to house raids and arrests. Throughout Wednesday they slowly gathered on the corner of Princess Road and Moss Lane — waiting and watching. By 9 o'clock over 400 youth started moving towards Rusholme. They evaded police vans frantically trying to stop them and by 10.15 they had laid siege to Moss Side police station — the institution from which the racist and repressive defenders of privilege and corruption organise their brutality.
The rightful anger and hatred of the youth expressed itself in bricks and petrol bombs. In the ensuing battle the police station was severely damaged and 9 police vehicles destroyed. The cheering youth, by then 1,000 strong made their way down Princess Road. The police were powerless and the people who have nothing ruled the streets.
On Clairmont Road a bus was stoned. Immediately the cry went up 'Not the buses! Not the people! We want the bastards, the police!' As the youth moved they set cars alight to p(-event the police following them. And as police vans sped round them they were stoned to the cry of `Stand and fight'. Throughout the night fierce fighting continued against the hated police. By early Thursday morning 46 black and white youth had been arrested. But the youth were undaunted.
On Thursday Chief of Manchester police gave a press conference where he announced that outside forces must have been responsible for the uprising as ‘the people of that area did not have the intelligence’ to fight as effectively as they did. The youths' response was to once again on Thursday night lay siege to Moss Side police station and again throughout the night fought the police with bricks, stones and petrol bombs. By the end of the fighting over 200 youths had been arrested. Anderton called the uprising guerrilla warfare. War it is. Black and white youth, who under this system have nothing but unemployment, poverty and racist harassment have declared war on the system that oppresses them and the police who defend that system.
Communists stand uncompromisingly with the youth who will now have to conduct a battle to defend themselves and their community against house to house raids, arrests and frame-ups. But middle class socialists have already expressed their opposition to the youth and to revolution. The SWP in words declared support for the youth, but then wrote that revolutionary uprisings 'only bring more racism and more police harassment', that is they attacked the youth. As one black youth declared 'We are fighting for our freedom'. And the reality is that freedom can be obtained only by revolutionary uprising.
LIVERPOOL 8 ERUPTS
On the weekend 3-6 July the police reaped the harvest of constant harassment of black youth in Liverpool 8, just as they had in Bristol and Brixton. On the same night as the uprising in Southall the rising tide of the oppressed reached Liverpool. By Sunday morning black and white youth were using the barricades and the petrol bomb against a notorious Merseyside police force.
Sunday night of 5 July saw over a thousand youth, black and white, drive the police out of the centre of Liverpool 8, and for a period of time establish a no-go area. It was a revolt of people who have nothing to lose, no jobs, no privileges, nothing. They attacked the police, who through their constant harassment, and brutality have made their lives desolate. In so doing, they showed all the inventive improvisation, of working class insurrections. The involvement of so many hundreds of white youth alongside the black youth of Liverpool 8 was a gratifying sight.
These events were an absolutely decisive confirmation of the leadership role that the black working class has. The black youth by fighting against their own oppression, had lit a beacon to which all working class youth were attracted — working class youth whose own lives have been ruined by redundancies and unemployment. This was their answer to the opportunist leaders of the Labour Party and the trade unions who have refused to fight unemployment and poverty.
There were three clear stages in the uprising.
Stage One: Friday night a police task force invades Granby to arrest a black youth on a motor cycle. In one sense a normal event in the endless cycle of racist police harassment. But this time a crowd gathers. The motor cyclist is liberated and they stone the police. In revenge the Police arrest Leroy Cooper. Leroy Cooper It was revolt of comes from a family plagued by police harassment, as detailed in FRFI 5. He is charged with assault and grievous bodily harm, and locked away in Risley Remand Centre. The policemen and panda cars which appear in the area are stoned regularly.
Stage Two. Saturday: the area is saturated with police throughout the day. In the evening a patrol of four is set upon and scattered. The police withdraw. The youth are not satisfied. They want the police to come in force so they can inflict a decisive defeat on the oppressors. The crowd gathers at the junction of Marlborough Street and Upper Parliament Street. A mobile hut at a roadwork site there is set alight. After 30 minutes the fire engine arrives. The fire is put out. But then the barricades are built. Planks, barrels, traffic signs are thrown together at the junction. Street lights are destroyed and stones gathered. The police cannot take this. Within 20 minutes they appear at the eastern end of Upper Parliament street but turn round as they see the youth charge. The police reappear at the west end and advance. A hail of missiles. They charge. The youth fall back to regroup and then with a barrage of missiles and petrol bombs slowly drive the police back. Cars are driven at the police. They fall back further. Elation — a victory. Defences are consolidated as cars are moved up, turned over and set on fire. More petrol is obtained. Regular stoning of the police continues. Their visors and shields seized and used. It is clear that the police are so weak that they can do nothing until reinforcements arrive from Manchester at 7 o'clock. Then the pitched battle starts anew as they try to drive away the black youth, who are supported by some white youth. 70 police are injured out of 200 by the time it is over. They take their revenge on their few captives, four in all who are viciously beaten.
Stage Three Sunday: Mobilisation. On the barricades there had been frustration the previous day. Enough people to make the police stand off but not enough to drive them away. Youths from all over Liverpool, Lodge Lane, Edgehill, Everton, are promised. At 9 o'clock they start to gather. Buildings are fired in Upper Parliament Street. The police are able to contain it but more youth gather. The main confrontation is in Kingsley Road at its junction with Upper Parliament Street. From 10.15 to 11 o'clock an intense battle rages as more and more youth arrive with balaclavas and crash helmets. The pressure grows. Cement mixers and a vintage fire engine are pushed into the police lines. Suddenly the police lines break and split into two in Upper Parliament Street. They are driven back under a constant barrage. More cars are driven at the police. Then a JCV dumper is used. Its shovels swinging an arc at the police lines. Riots shields, earlier a prize trophy, litter the road. Helmets replace them as a symbol of victory.
The Racquets Club, symbol of privilege and wealth, in the midst of poverty, is set afire. Then the National Westminster Bank. This one the only drive-in bank in the whole of England, situated almost as a deliberate insult in the poor working class area. Expropriation is wide-spread. People who have not been able to afford more than the dullest essentials regale in the possibility of acquiring luxuries, electrical goods and more meat than they could dream about. It has become a festival of the oppressed. From all over Liverpool the youth have come.
The promises of the Labour Party and trades unions, promises which have been cynically empty, fiascos like the People’s March to Nowhere have been made a nonsense of by the direct action of the youth. LPYS opportunists who try to leaflet the revolutionary fighters, have their leaflets torn away from them by black youth. They are asked do they support the action. They cannot say. They are told to leave or face the wrath of the youth. They disappear.
The police and the state they represent have been defeated. Symbols of wealth and privilege like the Racquets Club, the Fiat Garage, the National Westminster Bank, have been destroyed. The police can only recover by drawing reinforcements from all over the North West and using CS gas for the first time in England. Police had plastic bullets at hand and were ready to consult the RUC for advice.
The events are a microcosm of the English revolution. It is started by black youth fighting an incident of racist harassment. They developed it into a confrontation with their oppressors. This example attracts hundreds of white youth who follow their lead. The result: unity in struggle and a defeat for the racist state. The massive involvement of white youth on Sunday at least equal in numbers to black youth shows how white youth are now willing to take up revolutionary action side by side with black youth. The opportunists have been swept aside and the oppressed have a festival.
On Friday 3 July the black people of Southall gave a resounding answer to the fascists. Following in the revolutionary footsteps of St Paul's and Brixton they used the barricade, the brick and the petrol bomb to defeat the fascists and the police.
Fascist outrages are taking place on a horrific scale in London. The normal cowardly method used by these thugs is arson attacks against sleeping families, or attacks on lone black people in the streets. Only the night before the Southall events, a Pakistani woman and her three children were burned to death in an arson attack in the East End. Police complicity with these attacks has caused the confidence of fascists to grow enormously.
Hence on 3 July, four coachloads of skin-heads entered Southall. They attacked and abused Asian women and vandalised Asian's shops. Then they got their come-uppance.
The black community in Southall is organised to defend itself and knows exactly how to do so. Within a short time, hundreds of black youth were on the streets, barricades set up and a counter-attack launched.
As is normal, the police tried to protect the fascists from the people's anger. In every instance where racist attacks take place, the police cover-up for the culprits. In Southall, the people well remember how, on 3 April 1979, the police, defending an National Front (NF) meeting, violently attacked black protesters, killing Blair Peach, injuring 1,000 people and arresting 342 more.
On 3 July the police too were seen for the racists they are and were attacked as they tried to protect the fascists. The skinheads had taken refuge in the Hamborough Tavern and the police had cordoned it off to allow the rats to slink away. Black people fought fiercely and the police were beaten back and finally forced to retreat in disarray. Petrol bombs rained down. A coach was set ablaze and pushed into the Tavern which itself then went up in flames. Police vans were overturned and burnt out. Fighting raged for several hours over a wide area. A tyre depot and petrol station were set on fire. Barricades made of cars were thrown up.
Virtually every week a new chapter in the fightback of black people is written. Southall, St Paul's, Brixton, Coventry, and now Southall again. At each stage the fight becomes more organised. At each stage the techniques of street battles are perfected. On the very same night as Southall fought back, black youths in Liverpool engaged in a pitched battle with the police lasting two hours. This followed a police attempt to arrest a youth who had suffered a motor-bike accident.
In contrast to the Labour Party and its middle class allies, black people are the forces of the future and demonstrate ever more clearly, the revolutionary road.
What we say
The British ruling class has responded to the uprisings in Southall, Liverpool and Manchester (and those that are daily occurring on a smaller scale in other cities) with plans for greater repression.
CS gas has now been used. Special 'riot' equipment has been given to the police. The government has talked of using troops as a 'last resort'. The parents of young people involved are to be made to pay heavy fines. A new Riot Act is being contemplated.
The British ruling class is well-practised in the art of repression. Today it uses outright terror against the Irish people. And it is now using that experience to try and stamp out the early stirrings of a revolutionary movement in Britain. It must not be allowed to succeed.
In the face of this the people must prepare and must keep in their own hands the organisation of their area and the defence of those arrested.
All too often, as after the Brixton Uprising, the people's struggle is undermined by middle class and collaborationist elements who falsely claim to speak for them. There is no organisation of the defence of Brixton in which the youth of Brixton are involved.
The experience of the uprisings in St Paul’s and Brixton and their aftermath is there to be drawn on. In Brixton, raids, police thuggery and the courts have been used to try to punish and demoralise the people. To prevent this happening elsewhere there must be a massive militant and effective campaign to defend all those who have been arrested.
Communists fully support the stand taken by the people of Southall, Liverpool and Manchester. Communists will fight side by side with the people to defend their rights. In these early stirrings of revolution we see the future. A future in which the police and the capitalist system they defend will be swept aside and the rule of the workers established.