Sunday, September 13, 2009

Some thoughts on the history, strength, influence and potential of the Anarchist movement [1970-2005]

Anarchist ideas are the only effective and coherent ideas which point the way to ending oppression and injustice, and to creating a free society for the benefit of everyone. Yet despite the lessons of history and the cynicism of those trying to control and manipulate society for their own ends, people continue to flood into shitty political parties, polling booths, religious sects, drugs and escapism, the lottery etc etc.

This is a paradox that we seem to be able to do little about, at least in the short term, whatever we do - so let's not give ourselves a hard time... We can only do our best and hope that our time will come, and soon - before the whole fucking planet goes to pot.

So, what are the strengths and weaknesses of anarchist activities in recent times?

The anarchist movement includes formal and specific anarchist organisations, the diverse activities of dozens of local groups, and broader anarchist-influenced groups, networks and movements. Key questions we all have to face include:

· what can we do on a daily basis where we live and work
· how can we contribute effectively within various movements and struggles?
· how can anarchist ideas grow beyond ideological or cultural ghettos into having the influence and effect on our society they deserve?

There is, or should be, continuous interaction and overlap between the specific anarchist organisations/activity and the much larger, wider struggles and movements - with each influencing the other. Just as anarchists work for such movements to move in an anarchist/self-organisation/class-conscious/wider-issues/militant/direct-action direction, so we need to work to enable all anarchist groups to transform themselves into being much more accessible and relevant to the wider tens of thousands of dissidents and activists who can't relate to / avoid / are unaware / or are unimpressed with specific anarchist organisations - or who just get swept up into political parties or single-issue reformism as an end in itself, or just the only show in town.

There's been a very rich history of significant anarchist activity in recent decades. The following is a crude list of some of the most significant anarchist-influenced activities (which many anarchists and local anarchist groups supported or took part in). Some of the activities and movements, at least in part, consciously adopted many anarchist ideas - and in turn also helped influence and strengthen the anarchist movement.

Some current and recent Anarchist organisation and activity (in no particular order):

- the wide range of activities of local anarchist groups - including involvement in campaigns, local newsletters (eg. Hastings Poison Pen came out weekly for 5 years in the 1970s, the excellent papers produced in Bristol over decades etc etc), regular leafletting, interaction with grass-roots community groups and workplace struggles etc...
- local anarchist/radical bookshops and social centres
- 'national' anarchist organisations and papers
- the annual Anarchist Bookfairs (including regional ones)
- SchNews, Peace News, CounterInformation and other radical papers around which wider networks developed

Some anarchist-influenced 'grass-roots' struggles and movements (in no particular order):

- radical environmental movement, including 1970s anti-nuclear energy movement, Earth First!, anti-road-building struggles
- anti-militarist movements and campaigns (especially the anti-cruise blockades and camps in the early 1980s), including the influence of Peace News
- Reclaim The Streets...and anti-capitalist mobilisations (and the early 1980s Stop 'The City' actions)... Maydays... Critical Mass cyclerides
- squatting
- punk movement, and then the free raves/parties movement
- anti-fascist activities
- anti-corporation campaigns (eg. anti-McDonald's/McLibel)
- civil rights / defence campaigns
- freedom to protest struggles... the Legal Defence and Monitoring Group
- women's liberation movement
- Claimants Union movement (‘60s - 90s)... unwaged and unemployed groups (80s - early 90s)
- animal liberation movement
- local community action (libertarian-influenced grass roots groups and campaigns)
- workplace self-organisation of various kinds (eg rank and file building worker, couriers union etc)... community solidarity groups during strikes etc... Miners Strike and Dockers support work... Picket bulletin (Wapping)... the London Workers Group (1975 - 83), IWW
- coherent libertarian/radical cultural and lifestyle projects and movement (music, theatre, etc)
- conscious co-operative movement (mainly in housing, cafes) ...the Radical Routes network
- the Free Schools in the 1960s... libertarian education initiatives and children-centred activities since then... WEA and U3A?
- consciously alternative/radical media projects (eg radical
documentary groups), the indymedia network
- anti-poll tax movement
- right to roam, and 'land is ours' movements
- LETS schemes
- rural libertarian intiatives, including mutual aid.... back-to-the-land /
self-sufficiency / grow and make-your-own networks
- international solidarity campaigns, and 'no borders' groups
- prisoner support groups
- disability civil rights movements
- free self-organised and /or green festivals
- new traveller movements

Of course, each of these movements may have different, even contradictory tendencies and limitations, but they also have strengths and a great deal of potential. Most importantly, millions of people have taken part in such activities and we need to analyse and learn from their experiences to see how the anarchist movement can become the 'idea and movement of choice' for everyone who wants to oppose any aspect of our oppressive global system or create a better society. In my opinion the priority should be to build up strong community-based pro-working class local anti-authoritarian organisations in every town and borough, as well as help create strong grass-roots community groups in every neighbourhood.

At the end of the day, society seems to be dominated by its own internal forces. Sheer will power and doing the right thing often can only make small ripples in a massive pond. But forces shift, major movements can emerge, and real change can happen fast. Then revolution and social transformation become possible. But anarchist ideas will need to be prevalent to ensure a genuinely free and sensible society is created. Let’s all celebrate our activities and efforts, and our history, and continue to do our best.

Dave Morris
- involved with Haringey Solidarity Group

McDonald's and McLibel - the successful humiliation of a multinational [1985-2005] - by the McLibel Support Campaign.

The global campaign against McDonald's
Food is central to our everyday lives, yet we have virtually no control over its production and distribution. The food industry is dominated by multinational companies who for their own profits exploit consumers, workers, the world's natural resources and billions of farmed animals. The way we eat, and even the way we think about food is being manipulated by these powerful institutions and their sophisticated marketing campaigns.

To understand the reality behind the propaganda, some organisations in the 1980s began to focus on McDonald's - one of the most powerful, influential and well-known global companies.

Despite its strenuous efforts, McDonald's was and still is widely despised, and its 'reputation' - along with that of the food industry in general began to sink ever further when put under the public spotlight....

In 1985 London Greenpeace launched annual protests on October 16th [UN World Food Day]. These were protests against the promotion of junk food, the unethical targeting of children, exploitation of workers, animal cruelty, damage to the environment and the global domination of corporations over our lives. The October 16th international protests grew rapidly, despite - and maybe even because of - McDonald's notoriously unsuccessful legal efforts to silence their critics with libel writs (see below). For example, in the years immediately following the successful McLibel battle:

** In 1999, the only year in which there was systematic monitoring of where the protests took place, there were recorded 425 protests and pickets in 345 towns in 23 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, USA.
** In 2000, there were widespread and large protests throughout Italy - at one store in Rome 300 demonstrators succeeded in getting it closed for the day.
** In 2002 for the first time, McDonald's workers joined in the Day of Action - there were walkouts and other forms of protests in many countries co-ordinated by McDonald's Workers Resistance (an international network of McDonald's workers - see

Over 3 million 'What's Wrong With McDonald's?' leaflets were handed out in the UK alone from 1990-1997, and versions are now distributed worldwide in over 27 languages.

See the 'What's Wrong With McDonald's?' leaflet at:

General opposition to McDonald's

As well as the mass distribution of leaflets by thousands of local activists around the world, especially on the annual October 16th Anti-McDonald's Day, the global campaign against McDonald's involved a wide range of people and tactics. Fore example, a snapshot from the late 1990s includes:

- many determined residents' campaigns against new stores, including a successful 552-day occupation of a proposed McDonald's site by residents of Hinchley Wood, S.E. England, campaigns against drive-thrus in Canada, and protest blockades in Voronezh (S. Russia)
- mass anti-McDonald's protests by french farmers, including a 30,000-strong demo
- efforts by McDonald’s workers to organise together to stand up to their bosses (eg. in the UK, France, Russia and Canada), including the creation of the McDonald's Workers Resistance
- a global upsurge of concern over the alarming increase in obesity, heart disease and a range of other serious health problems in industrialised countries. McDonald's identified as a main culprit. This has included a lawsuit against US junk food corporations McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, and Wendys on behalf of millions of customers mislead by the systematic and unethical promotion of unhealthy food products
- there has been growing pressure for bans and restrictions on advertising to children, controversies over McDonald's sponsorship of the United Nations Childrens Fund, and over their involvement in schools and hospitals
- an ongoing international scandal over extreme labour exploitation in China for the production of McDonald's 'happy meal' toys
- McDonald's USA sued and forced to apologise and pay out millions of dollars for deceiving their customers by not revealing beef extract was a content of their supposedly vegetarian french fries
- growing concern throughout Europe, Japan, Australia, US and Canada about the threat to human health posed by beef-related diseases (such as BSE) and genetically-modified animal feed
- food poisoning scandals in South America (Argentina and Chile)
- protests against McDonald's mass use of refrigeration chemicals linked to global warming
- controversies over McDonald's hypocritical 'concern' professed over animal cruelty and general corporate responsibility
- McDonald’s increasingly identified by a wide range of protestors worldwide as a symbol of modern capitalism
- recent falls in their global profits and corporate closure of many stores, with US Executives admitting that recent years have been the "most challenging" in McDonald's 50-year history

The McLibel case

The McLibel trial was described by commentators as 'the worst Corporate PR disaster in history'. McDonald's Corporation issued writs against North London residents Helen Steel and Dave Morris (the McLibel 2) on 20th September 1990 alleging the company had been libelled in the London Greenpeace factsheet "What's Wrong With McDonald's? Everything they don’t want you to know". The McLibel trial began on 28th June 1994, and on June 19th 1997 - after a trial lasting 313 days (the longest trial ever in England) - Mr Justice Bell ruled that McDonald's marketing has "pretended to a positive nutritional benefit which their food (high in fat & salt etc) did not match"; that McDonald's "exploit children" with their advertising strategy; are "culpably responsible for animal cruelty"; and "pay low wages, helping to depress wages in the catering trade."

On March 31st 1999 the Court of Appeal added to those damning findings. Lord Justices Pill, May and Keane ruled that it was fair comment to say that McDonald's employees worldwide "do badly in terms of pay and conditions", and true that "if one eats enough McDonald's food, one's diet may well become high in fat etc., with the very real risk of heart disease." However the Courts ruled that the McLibel 2 had still libelled McDonald's over some points and outrageously ordered them to pay £40,000 damages to the $35 billion-dollar company. The McLibel 2 refused to pay a penny.

On February 15th 2005 the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that the McLibel trial had breached Article 6 [right to a fair trial] and Article 10 [right to freedom of expression] of the Human Rights Convention. This ruling only underlines the significance of the above rulings made against McDonald's, which were made despite all the odds stacked against the defendants.

Background info on the whole incredible case and campaign:
- by visiting
- McLibel film (as shown on BBC) and DVD:

The McLibel 2 interviewed - Helen Steel and David Morris talk about their fifteen year legal battle with McDonalds
From the Alternative Press Review

The McLibel case began in 1990 when the McDonald’s Corporation issued libel writs against people involved with London Greenpeace (an anarchist environmental group which pre-dated the more well-known Greenpeace). McDonald’s demanded an apology and the withdrawal of the group’s anti-McDonald’s leaflets. The leaflet brought together criticisms of McDonald’s business practices made by different movements in relation to the environment, workers rights, cash crops, nutrition, advertising to children and exploitation of animals. It used McDonald’s as a high profile company to take an overall look at the effect of multinational corporations on society.

The McLibel trial itself lasted from 1994 to 1997, with an appeal in 1999. Despite all the odds stacked against the McLibel Two (burden of proof on them, no jury, no legal aid, McDonald’s spending £10m on the case, etc.) they succeeded on many points. The courts ruled that McDonald’s marketing has “pretended to a positive nutritional benefit which their food (high in fat and salt, etc.) did not match”; that McDonald’s “exploit children with their advertising strategy; are “culpably responsible for animal cruelty”; and “pay low wages, helping to depress wages in the catering trade”; that it was fair comment to say that McDonald’s employees worldwide “do badly in terms of pay and conditions”; and true that “if one eats enough McDonald’s food, one’s diet may well become high in fat, etc., with the very real risk of heart disease.”

Incredibly, despite these damning rulings made against the company the McLibel Two were ordered to pay £40,000 to McDonald’s. The McLibel Two refused to pay a penny.

On 15th February 2005 the European Court of Human Rights declared that the case was in breach of the right to a fair trial and right to freedom of expression.

Q. What implications for freedom of speech and the right to protest do you think the outcome of this case will have?

Although we won the case in Europe the ruling actually fudged most of the issues we had argued, and as a result may not have that much impact on freedom of speech. What has had and will have a far greater impact is the mass defiance campaign which has shown that oppressive laws can be rendered unworkable if people defy them.

Early on in the legal proceedings the McLibel Support Campaign (MSC) was set up and run by volunteers on a shoestring from someone’s bedroom, and through open collective meetings. The MSC called for many international days of action against McDonald’s throughout the trial and immediately after the verdict. Thousands of people signed a pledge to say that whatever happened in the court proceedings they would defy the company’s censorship efforts.

Two days after the judge had given his mixed ruling in 1997, and ordered us to pay McDonald’s damages, protests took place at over 500 UK stores and elsewhere around the world. Around three million leaflets had been distributed in the UK alone since the writs were served. This showed McDonald’s that it was futile to attempt to use the legal system to silence people, and they then abandoned their original claim for costs and an injunction to prevent leafleting. They have also never attempted to enforce the damages.

The MSC also ensured that the detailed information about McDonald’s that was emerging from internal company documents and cross examination during the trial was publicized around the world. This acted as another layer of protection for freedom of speech. The pioneering mcspotlight website was set up in 1996 as a library of information on the case and the company—it has been accessed over 100 million times since.

The MSC was also responsible for most of the media publicity, and the networking with wider movements. It offered support to residents opposing local McDonald’s stores, workers standing up to the company, parents challenging McDonald’s sponsorship in schools, etc. A sister group in Nottingham, the Veggies collective, helped coordinate the growing mass leafleting and protests, as well as sending people down to London throughout the trial to provide practical support.
Overall the case spectacularly backfired for McDonald’s. They had issued legal proceedings as part of a long running and largely successful strategy of legal threats to their critics. Instead, this time the campaign had turned the tables and put the company on trial—all their business practices received massive scrutiny during the trial, and the leafleting mushroomed. They haven’t issued libel writs in the UK since, and other companies have been warned not to ‘do a McLibel.’

Q. What else helped you fight the case?

Our background as activists involved in diverse struggles (such as in supporting the miners strike, the anti-poll tax movement, environmental direct action, local campaigns, etc.) gave us a lot of experience and inspiration to draw on. There’s a myth created by the media that we fought this case alone. In fact, it was a collective effort—we could not have fought this long battle without a network of personal support from friends, babysitters (Dave is a single parent), and a whole range of volunteers helping in different ways. That, and the overwhelming support and encouragement we received from all directions. Regarding the court case, so many people volunteered their time and efforts as witnesses, experts, researchers, in-court helpers and legal advisers, etc.

Where we were ‘on our own’ was in speaking in court and finding our way round the 40,000 pages of documents. However, although this was exhausting, it was very empowering to be able to challenge corporate executives face to face, without them being able to walk away.

Q. Where there dilemmas you faced as anarchists involved in such a high-profile case and campaign?

Dilemmas included: how to participate in court procedures without recognizing their right to dictate what the public can say; and having to focus on McDonald’s yet wanting to avoid being drawn into a ‘boycott McDonald’s’ line. We also made a commitment to avoid any ‘anti-Americanism’.

The campaign, in trying to maintain media coverage, tended to focus on the more extreme practices of capitalism and the legal system, rather than their very existence. The establishment media was superficial, inaccurate and largely uninterested in the campaign as a whole, yet we relied on it to publicise the case. In many ways we were lucky it was McDonald’s that sued us, thus guaranteeing a high profile. We were uncomfortable with the idiotic focus on us as a ‘heroic duo’, but speaking to the media was the only way we could ensure getting quotes in the press about some of the issues and the campaigning.

Despite these dilemmas we feel that the wider McLibel campaign contributed to the growth of the contemporary anti-capitalist movement in a number of ways: the long-running, high-profile, yet radical grass-roots nature of the campaign; the focus on the overall effects of a global industry (food) rather than just one aspect of it; the success in defying censorship; and the calls, albeit vague, for resistance and alternatives to the current system.

Q. McDonalds say the world has moved on since this trial and the company has changed—do you think this is true?

No. McDonald’s, in common with other multinational corporations, exists to make profits for the benefit of their shareholders and directors—to that end they continue to exploit workers, children and other consumers, the environment and animals.

In the years since the trial finished McDonald’s profits have dropped, at least partly due to the increasing public awareness of the unhealthy nature of junk food and increased risks of obesity, heart disease and cancer as a result of this type of diet. McDonald’s have introduced so-called ‘healthy’ options to their menus, but this is not because of their concern for the public’s health, it is merely an attempt to capture customers who wouldn’t eat their usual fare.

The reality is that McDonald’s trumpet every minor change and use it as an opportunity for PR and greenwash: fundamentally, the whole system remains the same.
What advice would you give to anti-capitalist leaflet writers about avoiding libel cases?

People should be free to distribute any criticisms which they feel are justified—just as they must have the freedom to organize, demonstrate and campaign against oppression and injustice. Such freedoms have to be continuously exercised and fought for—especially in the current repressive climate. What we publish should be based not on libel laws, but on whether we believe the statements to be true. Our concerns should be who we are trying communicate to while making our publications as accurate and understandable as we can. We will only gain the respect and trust of the public when they can see that what we write is reliable and not invented to suit our own purposes—as happens all too often with the mainstream media and politicians, etc.

Q. What sort of advice would you give to people who are facing legal threats?

We would always encourage people to stand up to bullies—whether corporations, governments, police or whatever—and refuse to be intimidated by legal or other threats. But it’s essential to get organized, to refuse to be marginalized or criminalized, and to constantly engage with wider opposition movements and the public in general. Any movements for change can expect to have to resist and overcome repression. We need to work out how best to transform court cases into arenas around which public debate and struggles can be stimulated and mobilized. ‘Natural justice’ and ‘civil society’ are stronger than we all realize. The rulings of supposedly powerful legal, state and corporate institutions can be successfully opposed.

Q. What do you plan to do now?

The McLibel legal battle is over now but the struggle continues for a society run by and for the benefit of everyone. We are both active in a wide range of activities and campaigns in our local community and with the Haringey Solidarity Group. We intend to continue as a small part of the much wider movement for a better world.

For more info on the case and campaign see
For more info on the McLibel film see

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Haringey's Lost Hospitals with Sue Hessel

Wednesday 9 September at 8 pm
Meetings for the autumn will be at a new venue; the North London Community
House, 22 Moorefield Road, N17. [The old Post Office
building] This is just around the corner from Bruce Grove British Rail
Station, where Bruce Grove meets the High Road in Tottenham.]

Following the vicious round of hospital closures in the 1980s , resisted by several NHS hospital occupations [see our The NHS is 60 booklet], Haringey has suffered from a less dramatic but equally damaging losses of hospitals. In Tottenham High Road both the Prince of Wales and Jewish Hospital were shut, Despite the opposition from campaigners. The Haringey Health Emergency committee , part of the still existing London Health Emergency, was set up with support from Unison Heath branch and the Trades Union Council. HHE campaigned on health issues for some years and several RaHN supporters were part of this. The health provision for residents in the borough took a severe dip from the closures. Sue Hessel describes the events round the Hornsey Hospital closure. In 1998, when the health authorities first tried unsuccessfully to close it, the then health spokeswoman was quoted as saying (People Power saves Hospital", Hornsey Journal, July 23rd 1998) We listened and learned that the hospital was loved and extremely popular, and an essential requirement in the area".

They didn't listen for long. However it would truer to say that the hospital, our last in Haringey, was left to crumble by the Haringey Primary Care Trust. It cost the taxpayer a fortune over the years in security fees, as it lay idle, leaving our community with no services on the site for nearly a decade.

But what is just as scandalous is that when they did manage to close our cottage hospital in 2000 it was with a promise that it would be used to care for the elderly. They silenced much of the opposition saying that there would be sheltered housing, and then that 64 rehabilitation and respite beds would be provided.

The sad tale of Hornsey Central Hospital is a cautionary one, and shows that people should never believe what they are told ! We were never told it was going to be a glorified GP centre with add-ons until recently and certainly not at the time we were "consulted" on its closure. We were not told that it would require the closure of Middle Lane Health Centre or sale of Fortis Green clinic.

A more successful campaign has been described in the RaHN booklet The NHS is 60, published in May last year. Peter Sartori and Paulette Case Robinson were part of a joint action committee working to oppose the closure of Haringey Mental Health Day Hospitals from June 2003 .

The Day Hospital Campaign Group again supported by Unison and HTUC - managed to reverse the loss to MH Users and get one unit re-opened. The campaign has gone on and as the ACTive EIGHT group has functioned as a Europe-wide body advising hospital and health authorities, and generally promoting the interests of Service Users. Again, RaHN supporters were active in this, making history as well as celebrating it.

Haringey Solidarity Group - some activities past and present [1990-2005]

In an attempt to look forward at where HSG fits into any political strategy in Haringey, we first thought we would look back. So, here is a look at what we have done over the last 15 years based on the minutes of our monthly meetings. The information is huge, so this can be no more than a brief and a bit chaotic look. I have tried not to see things as “successes” or “failures”. Where one person will see failure, another will see success. And vise versa.

The obvious place to start, as it was the forerunner of HSG, was the anti Poll Tax Campaign. Much has been talked about this campaign [see our booklet], so I won’t say much. However, we were one of the only local anti Poll Tax groups who stayed together after the defeat of the poll tax. This was a very positive decision. It’s a shame more groups didn’t do likewise. If they had, maybe……. In 1998 we played a large role in organising a national gathering in Bradford, and more recently the local groups Community Action. If the 100 or so anti poll tax groups around London had formed into independent community action/solidarity groups back in 1990 maybe we wouldn’t be reinventing the wheel as we seem to be doing. But, hey, we live and learn…

In April 1991 we had the first meeting as Haringey Solidarity Group and by January 1992 we had formed three separate groups around the borough in Tottenham, Green Lanes, and Wood Green. Not being able to sustain three separate groups we all came back together as HSG in September 1994. I have attached the first (and present) set of aims and principles of HSG. In 1991 we had sub groups of HSG for: the environment; housing; publicity; transport; women; anti racism; industrial; police monitoring; council monitoring; and disability issues. There were something like 30/40 active people though. In the early days we were using an office in West Green Road. Later 1997 we opened up our own office just of Green Lanes, which we have just decided to give up due to the costs involved..

Looking back it’s ironic to see present day issues cropping up. In 1993 we were campaigning (and won) against the council taking parts of our parks for financial gain. In 1994 we were already trying to stop the slow invasion of Controlled Parking Zones and Red Routes. And in 1995 we talked about the future of the Independent Working Class Association (IWCA), which the Hackney Independent group has recently formed out of. Then there is the continual racist attacks we have been a small part in trying to fight: Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign; Tottenham Three Campaign; Joy Gardner, Michael Menson, Roger Sylvester, Winston Silcott Campaign, and most recently the police harassment of Delroy & Sonya Lindo and their family. After 15 years: same harassment different targets. But, at least we have been there to help where we can, sometimes in fairly minor ways.

We have always tried to support other struggles and all we can do here is name a few. If anybody wants more detail just ask. We have supported workers in struggle for the last 15 years where we can. There has been the Arnaouti bakery workers; council workers; postal workers; Building Workers Group; Hillingdon workers; Liverpool Dockers; and of course one of the major campaigns we were involved in the JJ Fast Food workers dispute in Tottenham (see booklet on this for fuller details).

There have been dozens of campaigns we have been part of as well. As a flavour some are: anti MacDonald’s campaign, endless campaigns and demos against Council cuts, campaigning against harassment of local prostitutes, fighting the 1996 Asylum Bill (Act), against the Private Finance Imitative (PFI), campaigning against the unsustainable redevelopment of the Hornsey Waterworks; anti-war / anti-arms trade stuff; going down to Newbury to support the road protestors; helping set up a Haringey Squatters Group; being par of the group in the 1990s who were fighting the Council’s plans to privatize Alexandra Palace and it’s parklands; police monitoring and publicity; trying to help and support other groups around London and the UK who wanted to form HSG type groups; The campaign against the Child Support Agency in 1993/4; supporting the setting up of the Haringey Furniture Project; and putting teams in for a London wide 7 a side football competition.

There have also been a number of campaigns we have started and run in Haringey (sometimes linking up with other groups to form London or nationwide campaigns). Again, because of space, I will be brief. We had a very active claimants group which not only campaigned against the JSA, New Deal and Project work, but for better conditions for workers in job centres. We were linked with other groups to form the nationwide Groundswell claimants network. We met nationally for 2 or 3 years and organised two large London demos. This was one of the first times we had managed to link claimants and job centre workers in one campaign.

We worked with lecturers and students at the College of North East London in Tottenham to fight both cuts to the college and attacks on staff conditions. Linking staff and students was an important part of this one that came from them not us. Tottenham Law Centre was threatened with closure by Haringey Council. Because of our links with the local community we help over a year or so to fight this closure. Without HSG the campaign wouldn’t have been as effective. In 1995 we were part of a larger Haringey campaign to Fight Against Cuts in Education. Again, we linked with other groups around the borough. We were instrumental in planning & calling the initial meeting of a Haringey Anti Racist Group after a number of racist incidents in Haringey. We planned the meeting (with others and secured the venue so those attending felt safe. Unfortunately this group declined quickly once they sought respectability and became the Haringey Anti Racist Alliance, elected steering committees and wanted a lot of council input. It became no more than a talking shop and soon collapsed.

We campaigned against the destruction of some of Downhills Park to make way for private football pitches which would then be hired back out to the people of Tottenham. And we won this one. We were instrumental in starting and part running the Haringey Local Exchange & Trading Scheme (LETS). This worked independently for a few years but eventually joined the larger North London LETS, as numbers were falling. We started a local anti-advertising campaign, campaigning to get billboards removed whilst encouraging 'subvertising' of them. We have continually, over the last 15 years, campaigned against elections both locally and nationally, by trying to leaflet flypost and inform people as to their pointlessness. Each time we tried to use the opportunity to show local people there is a different, and in our view, better way of organizing their lives and communities.

In 2002 we held a week of events around Mayday week. This included stalls, leafleting and a highly successful local Mayday conference. This included producing 15,000 copies of a new free local paper. We've also publicised and taken part in many London Mayday events and national anti-capitalist / anti-G8 protests, and many other countrywide events and initiatives. Every year we do a national mailout to similar local radical groups and centres to encourage better communication and co-operation.

Five years ago some members of HSG came together to form a housing co-op. Although they still do not have housing, the group have stayed together and tried continuously to find land in Tottenham to build a housing co-op and community space. Most recently, it was HSG who initiated the Haringey Against ID Cards campaign, by calling the first public meeting of the group in Tottenham. Some of us are involved in local residents' associations and the group has been able to support them and the Haringey Federation of Residents Associations.

Just a few of the other things I can think of in no particular order were. Women within HSG formed a successful women’s group for 2 or 3 years. We also formed a men’s group to challenge our attitudes as men and look at claims of oppression and overbearing within HSG. This group didn’t last very long! Michael Portillo dared to have a party to celebrate him being a politician for 10 years in Haringey (at Alexandra Palace). After some fierce campaigning work we got a large noisy crowd to the event. The party was “spoiled” for a lot of those attending as the crowd threw eggs, flour, tomatos and more at those attending. Gordon Brown also attended a meeting in Wood Green and was met with customary eggs and stuff. Oh the good old days! And loads of us raised money for the group by working behind bars at festivals. Money which we used to pay for everything we did and also managed to donate to a lot of other groups who needed it including setting up a 'bust fund' to support any Haringey activists arrested.

Throughout the last 15 years there has been one thing consistent within HSG, although this ebbs and flows depending on how strong the group is. That is our solidarity work and propaganda. HSG has produced dozens of leaflets and posters in huge quantities. We must have produced at least 10,000 posters and 100s of 1000s of leaflets on a huge variety of issues. We have regularly been on street corners, at festivals, going door to door giving out this literature. On top of this we have had two regular newsletters “Haringey Community Action” and “The Haringey Independent”. The former got up to 12 pages and 12,000 copies four times a year. There was also a newletter called “Tottenham Free” but before HSG’s time.

We have consistently put up posters all around the borough informing people about a number of issues and generally rabble rousing. Whenever we have heard of racist or fascist graffiti or posters they been removed very quickly. Over the years we have run many stalls, and at our height we had a telephone tree of 40 people so we could react to issues immediately. And every month without fail we mail out our minutes and a range of independent local and national literature to all local residents on our mailing list (currently 120). Lastly the office and our PO Box have come to the rescue of many a group. The office had been used by a number of other groups, as has our telephone, photocopier and postal address.