The Battle of Lewisham

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From spring 1977, the pace of the protests quickened. On 23 April, a 1,200-strong National Front march through Wood Green was opposed by some 3,000 anti-racists, members of Haringey Labour Party, the Indian Workers’ Association, local West Indians, trade unionists, and members of Rock Against Racism and the Socialist Workers’ Party. While Communists and churchmen addressed a rally at one end of Duckett’s Common, a contingent of anti-fascists organized by the SWP broke away and subjected the NF column to a barrage of smoke bombs, eggs and rotten fruit. Some 81 people were arrested, including 74 anti-fascists. Still, anti-fascists held that the Wood Green mobilization had been a victory: reducing the NF to ‘an ill-organized and bedraggled queue’.

According to Ian, ‘We pursued the Nazis – large amounts of things were hurled at them. We didn’t stop them, but they got a very vigorous response.’ Balwinder remembers ‘coming out of the Tube station and finding a whole gang of NF giving out their racist filth. Fortunately there were also many anti-racists present who directed us toward the common. Then as the National Front march came around the corner of the common suddenly they came under an attack of flour, eggs, tomatoes and worse.’

The police had relatively few officers on duty and the left had a relatively free hand to frustrate their opponents.[1] Richard recalls an angry, confident counter-demonstration: ‘Someone had the wit to set off a smoke bomb. There were Turkish, Greek and black kids fighting against the Nazis.’ Anna from Islington also found herself at Wood Green, and recalls watching the young people throw anything they could against the National Front: ‘All the shops lost one shoe in every pair.’ Another anti-Nazi veteran, Andy, remembers protests getting hotter and hotter: ‘We had a crack at the Front at Wood Green, and I felt that we got very close.’

Jerry Fitzpatrick was then working full time for the Socialist Workers Party in central London. He was sent to Wood Green and played a prominent part in organizing the protests at Duckett’s Common: ‘I’d come from an Irish background. I had been at Derry in 1969. I had seen the resistance on the Bogside – that was a factor. We wanted to organize in the same way. We had a keen eye on confronting the NF.’ The smoke bombs that Richard recalls were in fact marine flares. ‘I bought them from a boatyard. I thought they would make an effective public spectacle. We sought a non-violent context. But we were willing to sharpen the demonstration, to give a sense of colour and cover as people confronted the Nazis.’

The left has had long had a presence in Haringey, and 25 years on from the protests, many local people are willing to describe their memories. Dave Morris, later a defendant in the famous ‘McLibel’ trial, attended as part of an anarchist group. He saw the anti-fascists charge the National Front march, but remembers that the NF were eventually able to regroup and continue along their way. Morris then recalls the police removing the public and protesters from the pavements at the side of the NF march:

“Somehow I got through, seemingly the only one who did at that time. For half an hour I walked alone alongside the fascist demonstration as it completely dominated the streets, protected by police who cleared away most of the public in general. It was eerie . . . After getting increasingly funny looks from cops and marchers despite my innocent whistling and humming and pretending to admire the cracks in the paving stones, I sloped off.”

Another anti-fascist protester, David B., was even closer to the centre of the fighting. His diary provides a vivid record:

“We walked to Turnpike Lane where the counter-demonstration was assembling in the presence of vast numbers of police . . . We met up with Steve and watched the Front march form up a hundred yards away, with plenty of verbal exchange between the two sides. It seemed incredible to me that the police could allow such an obviously explosive confrontation to occur . . . A little way along Wood Green High Road the march was attacked. Red smoke bombs filled the air and a battle was soon under way. Everything that could be thrown was thrown at the fascists in an attempt to stop the march. Police horses appeared on the pavement, and if shoppers got in their way that was hard luck.”

David and his friends eventually found themselves standing outside the school in which the National Front was holding its post-march rally.

“I suggested that we try and go inside. At this point Steve said we were crazy and left. There was some dispute at the door about whether to admit us but finally we got in and I heard a couple of minutes of the meeting. ‘If they’re black, send them back’. The atmosphere was one of rabid anti-intellectualism, clearly thought was a sign of weakness. Then somebody said ‘they’re commies’, and we were recognized as anti-fascists, which I thought was obvious anyway. The mood was ugly so we made to leave but they weren’t able to restrain themselves, we were jostled and pushed out. Robin, a yard behind me, received a number of blows and kicks until blood was running from his nose. Some of this happened outside, but the police stood around nearby, ignoring it.”

This was the rally at which NF leader John Tyndall declared, ‘I think World War Three has just started out there.’

Still more fighting took place later, on the trains heading back to London. According to Gerry Gable,

“the British Movement sent in its Leader Guard. They were not just good street fighters but had received paramilitary training from former Special Forces officers. At first they did a lot of damage, but as the train journey away from Wood Green continued they were cut down and down until finally a handful of them remained battered and bleeding and they made their escape.”

The experience of seeing the National Front at close hand convinced David B. that anti-fascism was an urgent necessity. ‘It had been quite a day. I’d never been through a demonstration like it and left determined that the National Front must be opposed with absolute ruthlessness wherever it dares to appear. Any illusions I may have had about non-violent means of opposing them were destroyed in that school.’[2] Ted Parker travelled up from south-east London to be at Wood Green. ‘What I really remember from Haringey is how close we came. The National Front were brought in by the police, with a lot of protection, a lot of secrecy. We didn’t really think we could stop them. But one day, we would.’ Jerry Fitzpatrick was also thinking towards the future: ‘I drew two lessons. First, we needed logistics, more supporters in the set area, more street planning, a better sense of what the police tactics would be. Second, there had to be an intense effort towards organising among the local community.’

Two weeks after Wood Green, the National Front attempted to hold an election meeting at Shoreditch School in Hoxton. Five hundred people turned out to prevent them.[3] The mood was hardening. The magazine Race Today called for black defence patrols in the Brick Lane area of the East End. But the attention of activists was moving quickly from east to south London, and to Lewisham in particular.

The real muggers

The roots of the protest in Lewisham go back to a police campaign against young blacks. In May 1977, 21 people were arrested and charged with conspiracy to steal purses. This action was perceived locally as a crude attempt to create some kind of anti-mugging backlash. The journalist Paul Foot described the character of the arrests:

“5.30 Monday Morning. Six policemen break down the door of 21 Childeric Road in Deptford, South East London, with an axe. Another six smash down the back door. They pour inside, overturning furniture, ripping open drawers, and turning people out of their beds. Christopher Foster, aged 16, is frog-marched into the road in his underclothes. Insults and questions are shouted at him. He and four other young people in the house are rushed to Penge police station. These include Cathy Cullis, a young white girl. She is stripped to her underwear in a cell. Two policemen come and joke about the ‘disease’ she has caught living with black people.”[4]

The action was recorded within the Lewisham force as ‘Operation PNH’. The acronym was said by local activists to stand for ‘Police Nigger Hunt’. Over 60 black youngsters were detained, and 18 of them charged. Campaigns were then launched in their defence.

Rumours came out about the treatment of the Lewisham defendants. They were only accused of being petty criminals, but the police had assaulted them, smashing down people’s doors before arresting them. It had been an apartheid-style raid. Tony Bogues of Flame and Kim Gordon of the Socialist Workers Party met up with David Foster, who was the father of one of the defendants. They set up a defence committee. Later Gordon spoke to Prince Charles outside a black youth club that the prince was visiting. The prince suggested a meeting between the police and the defence committee.[5] Police Commander Douglas Randall then agreed to a meeting where he would speak to the families of the defendants. Slowly, more of the defendants agreed to take part, until a majority of them were involved. The police were pushed on to the defensive. They then responded by arresting members of the defence committee, adding another three names to the original Lewisham 18.[6] Tony Bogues has clear memories of David Foster:

“David was an ordinary, nice fellow who had believed in the early stages of his life the myths about British justice, but on arriving in Britain he was immediately aware of the question of race. How could he deal with race, raise his kids and still be respectable? David did it with a certain dignity. We sat down and talked with him for days. His house became the community house. There were large meetings, quiet meetings. The question of self-defence from the fascists and the police came up in discussion with the youth. We spent a lot of time, a lot of time, persuading people to work with us.”

Gerry Gable was then a journalist working for London Weekend Television.

“The Evening Standard was running horror stories about young black muggers. They showed an elderly lady battered and bloody and said that blacks had mugged her. We found the battered lady and she had not even seen her attacker as she was pushed down from behind. We met mixed-race gangs where a white kid would be used as the stop as no person in their right mind would stop if a couple of black kids asked them the time. Many of the victims of purse stealing on the local bus queues were black women. When the police approached the victims and asked them to give evidence there was a universal refusal as they hated the police more than those who stole off them.”

Summer 1977 also saw the climax to the picketing at Grunwick in north-west London, and many of those who took part in events at Lewisham were graduates of the Grunwick picket lines. The first mass pickets in support of the striking film-processing workers took place in the spring of 1977, when Right to Work marchers who had walked to London from Manchester joined the strikers to express their support for them. From 23 May, a number of left-wing newspapers including Socialist Worker began to call for mass pickets. Slowly the number of large protests grew. By June 1977, these were taking place weekly, and then daily. On Friday 17 June, 1,500 people turned out to support the 100 or so Grunwick strikers. The following week, members of the police Special Patrol Group were used to send non-union, ‘scab’, workers across the picket lines. The violence escalated and was soon being shown nightly on national television. This was one of the first all-out strikes where the workforce was composed almost entirely of immigrant labour. Many identifiable leaders emerged, not least Mrs Jayaben Desai, chair of the strike committee.

On 9 July, the owner of Grunwick, George Ward, was able to defy the picket lines by bringing in support mobilized by the National Association for Freedom. NAFF turned out 250 volunteers and 150 vehicles. Two days later, on 11 July, the National Union of Miners called for a day of action in support of the Grunwick strikers. Some 20,000 people turned out, outnumbering the police three to one. Twenty-four pickets were arrested. A second national mobilization was called for 8 August (the week of the Lewisham marches), but called off at the instigation of the strikers’ union, APEX. Together with the police and the courts, and shielded by the equivocal support given to the strikers by their own union, Ward was just about able to keep his plant open.[7]

At the same time as Grunwick, there was a strike at Desoutters in north London. Mike was a member of the support group, and later took people from that dispute to Lewisham. ‘One of the most active stewards was ironically a member of the Front. He held together one of the gates during the strike. He received a phone call from Tyndall putting pressure on him to break with the strike. In the end, he left the Front.’

In south-east London, meanwhile, the mood was rising. Ted Parker was the Socialist Workers Party district secretary. He describes how ‘there were different groups in the party’. One was the black socialist group Flame; ‘they leafleted the whole area for weeks’. One of its leading figures was Tony Bogues, a socialist from Jamaica who ‘looked more like a poet than an activist’. Some support came from Thames Poly. The SWP also backed workers at Reinforced Steel, who occupied their plant against the threat of closure.

‘Lewisham was the climax’, recalls Tony Bogues, ‘of a series of activities in the black underground.’ Bogues himself had only been in London for a year, having arrived from Jamaica.

I came from there, the Manley regime, the destabilization attempts being run by the CIA. We said that Jamaica should not become the next Chile . . . My politics was all about self-organization. There was a way in which you talked with working-class people. You started from what they thought. It was a different style from the British left. We didn’t leaflet people. We asked what they thought . . . I made initial contacts, with the people in Flame, and also with family, friends, the sorts of people you drink with in the bar. After a year, I knew a lot of people, some friends, some political. There were the people in the SWP. Kim Gordon was militant, quick-witted. The International Marxist Group had a guy called Fitzroy, from Nigeria. There was the Black Marxist Collective in Croydon. It was a different kind of politics, based on the immigrant cultures.

Parker himself had been brought up in Folkestone, in a very patriotic family. He joined the Royal Air Force at 16, on a three-year apprenticeship. They had education classes at the base, which set him thinking. Together with a friend, Mike, he joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. They were court-martialled and given eight-month sentences. A campaign was launched on their behalf. Parker later ended up at the London School of Economics during the heady years of 1966–9. In 1967, he toured South Africa, delivering clandestine leaflets for the banned African National Congress. By the mid-1970s, he had been a union activist in the print union SOGAT and the lecturers’ union ATTI. Through 1977, Parker recalls,

“we had been selling Socialist Worker in Lewisham Town centre. The Front would storm in and break us up. We had to rally as many people as we could to protect us. People used to come down from east London to help us out. There was one estate in Catford, where most of the Front lived. It became notorious for racist attacks. They also attacked a Sikh temple in Woolwich.”

On 18 June, the central committee of the Socialist Workers Party wrote to their counterparts in the political committee of the Communist Party suggesting that their parties should agree to work together around two very specific areas: the defence of trade union rights to strike and  ‘joint meetings of the committees of our two parties responsible for anti-racialist activities, with a view to launching a joint campaign within the Labour movement to drive the fascists off the streets’.[8] Events on the picket lines at Grunwick may have influenced the first suggested area of joint activity; events in Lewisham certainly shaped the second.

On 2 July, members of the National Front attacked a demonstration in support of the Lewisham detainees. One teacher was kicked unconscious by the fascists. Although this time it was the left that was under attack, the police still managed to arrest 23 anti-fascists alongside 27 fascists.[9] Dave Peers of the Socialist Workers Party warned his comrades to expect further attacks:

“The attacks on the demonstration by the Nazis – and in turn by the police – are the culmination of a month of growing fascist and police harassment in the area. We have received well-founded reports that this represents a change of tactics by the Nazis . . .

We have been informed that their South London branches have been given a free hand to attack left-wing demonstrations. This is a danger that no anti-fascist – SWP member or not – can ignore. The local SWP will be contacting trade unions, Labour Parties and all anti-fascists in the area to defend the right to demonstrate and to meet in public free from fascist harassment.”[10]

Although the Socialist Workers Party appeal to the Communist Party for joint action proved unsuccessful, it did focus attention on the next set of demonstrations due to be held in the area. The National Front called an anti-mugging march for 13 August, to assemble near New Cross station. An All-Lewisham Campaign Against Racialism and Fascism counter-protest was organized. The police planned to route it far away from the NF march. The SWP and the Lewisham 21 defence committee promised to challenge the NF. According to that week’s Socialist Worker,

“Panic is breaking out in high places as the Nazis of the National Front prepare to march through Lewisham’s black community this Saturday. Newspapers like The Sun and the Daily Express have called for the march to be banned. So have a number of Labour MPs and the Labour-controlled council. Their concern is not so much with the threat to black people as with the pledges being made by the left to stop the Nazis marching, regardless of what the police do.”[11]

The sky darkened

On 13 August, around 6,000 anti-fascists, including large numbers of local black youths, prevented around 800 supporters of the National Front from marching through Lewisham. The original NF demonstration was publicized as an anti-mugging march, to tap into the furore cause by the arrest of the Lewisham 21. Activists were determined to halt the NF and prevent them from gaining control of the streets. The police, armed with long batons and perspex shields, were equally determined to keep the march going. Although many groups were represented at Lewisham, it was members of the Socialist Workers Party who took the lead in organizing the confrontation with the fascists.

By mid-June, Jerry Fitzpatrick had received word of the planned National Front march.

“A group of us set up headquarters in a building on Clifton Rise. We occupied a house and used it as an organizing centre. Norma, a local activist, was central to this organization, and Ted Parker. We created an atmosphere among black youth. People came in to collect leaflets and posters. You got a sense of people organizing things themselves. There was one incident – it was a small, trivial thing, really. About three weeks before the demonstration, the police were chasing a black youth, and he ran into our building. They grabbed him, and me too, accusing me of providing him with a false alibi. In court, we provided him with a solicitor. He didn’t get off, but it was a light sentence. In the days after, I had a really strong sense that the barriers had come down. The word went round that we would help people against the aggressive police.”

The organizers called for backing from different Lewisham groups. According to Fitzpatrick,

“There were lots of Irish people who provided us with logistics and support. They were hardier than some others. And there were other ways in which the Irish community contributed. There was an Irish hall next to our centre. We were allowed into there, and into the Irish pubs and dances, to raise money, to speak about the NF as the latest incarnation of British imperialism, and to appeal for support.”

Steve Jeffreys was a member of the Socialist Workers Party central committee:

“We had so many plans for Lewisham. I’ve never been on a demonstration that was so well organized. We knew that coaches were coming from all over the country. We knew from Lewisham that there would be a kind of local uprising. We discussed hiring a lorry, and using that to block the road, but we thought that would put the organizational details in front of the politics. We knew we had the numbers; we didn’t need to militarize the struggle. We planned groups – for when the NF attacked, the police, we had everything planned in advance. There are lots of times that I’ve heard people talk about demonstrating, maybe even confronting the police, but never with the sort of confidence that we had then.”

Ted Parker attended the High Court hearings that discussed whether the National Front march should be banned. He was interviewed in the Lewisham Mercury. ‘I tried to draw parallels with the Battle of Cable Street in the 1930s. Mosley had been anti-Semitic and violent. In Germany, the fascists were allowed to march. But in Britain, at Cable Street, they had been stopped.’ What about the police? he was asked. ‘I said I had a friend in the police who hated the Front as much as I did. But if the Front march, and the police protect them, we’re ready to fight if that’s what it takes.’

Parker’s other jobs included purchasing the rotten fruit to throw at the National Front. ‘We bought marine flares to signal where people were needed – we’d learned that from Wood Green. I went to the market and brought absolutely barrel-loads of rotten fruit. We gave that to people in carrier bags.’ By the week of the demonstration, Parker’s greatest fear was that the NF would somehow get to the demonstrators, by attacking them the night before. He was not the only one to consider that possibility. According to Jerry Fitzpatrick, ‘The day before the march, the police raided the centre. They were looking for megaphones, banners, the things we would need for the demonstration. But they found just two walkie-talkies. We were expecting raids and had already cleared out.’

Parker spent Friday evening in Brockley.

“We looked at the terrain. We were absolutely sure we could win. The plan was simple; we would try to get as many people as possible to Clifton Rise, New Cross Station. We knew the police would try to keep the groups separated, on each side of the railway lines. We’d make some effort there, at the beginning, but it was a feint really. If we couldn’t stop the Front at Clifton Rise, we would let the Front go North along New Cross Road. Smaller groups would ambush them. We’d leave a few people in New Cross to protect the families of the Lewisham 21. But our largest number would turn round and march quickly along Lewisham Way. That’s where we were going to make a real effort. The police would try to stop us getting across the bridges. We’d have to storm any barriers. But we’d then hold Lewisham High Street. There was no way the Front could get through.”

Some of the group later returned from Brockley to Lewisham, in an attempt to drum up last-minute support for the mobilization. Andy was there:

“There were four of us from the leadership, and a group of young black comrades who’d joined the SWP recently. We spent the evening touring round Lewisham. We met people on the estates, black kids, gangs and their leaders. We talked to people. We explained that tomorrow we’d be organizing the biggest march that any of them had seen, that we’d take on the NF, and also the police. Some people didn’t know what to make of us – they were calling us this and that. But we talked to a lot of people. And the day after, you got a real sense. There was a large group of black people. Hundreds, thousands even. They were waiting and watching. And when things really kicked off, they got stuck in.”

Tony Bogues of Flame has similar memories: ‘The night before the demonstration, we drove around the entirety of Lewisham. We knew that the violence was going to happen. We said to the fascists – if you come into our community, we’ll stop you. We knew what would happen.’

The Socialist Workers Party was not the only local group to call an anti-National Front protest. The day began at 11 a.m. with a march called by the Communist Party, Catholic organizations, councillors and members of the All-Lewisham Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (Alcaraf). Mayor Godsif of Lewisham and Mervyn Stockwood, the bishop of Southwark, led the march. Each of the three main parties was represented. The 4,000 people who took part expressed their opposition to the NF, and then many of them left the scene. According to the Sunday Times, ‘The [marchers] wanted to demonstrate peacefully against the National Front by marching from Ladywell Fields along Lewisham High Street and Lewisham Way to Railway Grove. Although this was perilously close to where the National Front was due to assemble, Alcaraf argued that its march would be over at least 90 minutes before the Front assembled.’[12] Dave Widgery was less kind towards these moderates, ‘The official protest march, including the Catholics, the councillors and the Communists, made indignant speeches against fascism in Lewisham and carefully avoided going within two miles of the fascists who were assembling behind the British Rail station at New Cross where the atmosphere was less forgiving.’[13]

Having taken part in the first demonstration, members of the Socialist Workers Party then handed out a leaflet calling upon the demonstrators to join a second protest, which would assemble at the National Front’s planned assembly point. In Jerry Fitzpatrick’s words,

“In the negotiations leading up to the demonstration, we tried hard to persuade the other groups, the Communists and the church people, not to call a counter demonstration at the same time at a different venue, but to organize theirs in such a way that if people then wanted to march with us, they could. In the event we succeeded because their demo finished in time for the bulk of them to join us at Clifton Rise. There needed to be a broadening of our appeal. If we were seen simply as boot-boys then we would fail. We had to convince the Communist Party, the Labour Party, the trade unions to join with us and broaden our support.”

Some refused the call. A Communist Party leaflet expressed that organization’s hostility: ‘We totally oppose the harassment and the provocative march planned by the SWP.’ The leaflet attacked ‘those who insist on the ritual enactment of vanguardist violence’.[14] Yet hundreds did join the second march. According to Ted Parker,

“We knew one pivotal thing was to get as many people as possible from the first march up to Clifton Rise. We had lorries on the first march, telling people what the plan was, urging them to join us. The fascinating thing was that people wanted to march to Clifton Rise, but they just wouldn’t line up behind an Socialist Workers Party banner. You could see it. We had the numbers. Eventually, we found some members of some other group like the IMG with a banner for some united campaign against racism and fascism. People agree to group behind that. It taught me a lesson for later – many people would support a united campaign, they didn’t all want just to line up behind the SWP.”

Red Saunders was part of the crowd who joined both the first and second demonstrations:

“What I really remember is that there were all these Christians and Communists, telling us to go home. Most people stayed. But we were all just milling about, when this old black lady, too old to march, came out on her balcony. She put out her speakers, as loud as they could, playing ‘Get up, stand up’. That did it for me.”

Pete Alexander recalls attending the Communist-led demonstration and successfully encouraging many people to march with him and join the second protest at Clifton Rise.

“I was part of the SWP contingent sent on to this march. Not only was this part of our general approach of backing all mobilizations against the fascists (we were very non-sectarian); it was also so that we could pull people to the counter-demonstration at New Cross. Until Lewisham there were still many people – students especially – who were confused about the best way of fighting fascism. We were actually pretty successful. I and the people I pulled arrived at New Cross just as the fun began.”

Angus MacKinnon, a journalist on the New Musical Express, actually missed the first protest, arriving directly at Clifton Rise, ‘On the day’, he wrote,

“I arrived at New Cross and couldn’t get any further. It was about eleven o’clock and there were already a lot of people there – most were trade unionists. It said in the press the next day that there were three thousand, but it must have been twice that number. They said it was the standard rent-a-mob. It wasn’t. Many had come from all over the country, for the same reason as myself – enough was enough.”

Similar feelings were expressed by Bev, a graduate student who came to the demo with socialists and trade unionists from Nottingham. ‘I had no idea what to expect, but there was such a strong feeling that the National Front shouldn’t be allowed to hold their march unchallenged.’[15]

The fighting began near Clifton Rise at 1.30. According to John Rose,

“The whole of New Cross High Road and the top of the Nazis’ intended assembly point, Clifton Rise, was occupied by anti-fascists. It was then that the police made their first, unprovoked attack. Foot police tried unsuccessfully to clear a path for the Nazi march, and then mounted police moved in. They too, were soon forced to retreat – but not before the police had taken revenge by grabbing people at random. Unable to clear the top of Clifton Rise, the police finally made the Nazis move up onto the main road through a side road 200 yards along. The Nazis were allowed through police cordons to join the march by showing their Nazi membership cards. Suddenly, hundreds of police and a score of police horses began to charge down the road clearing a path for the head of the Nazi column. The crowd of anti-fascists exploded. Sticks, smoke bombs, rocks, bottles, were thrown over the police heads at the Nazis.”[16]

Anti-fascists and the local community fight with the National Front and police at Lewisham, 1977: Clifton Rise

‘As the Nazi honour guard swung on to Lewisham High Street,’ Paul Holborow continues, ‘you had the marvellous sight of the master race scuttling away. I remember one on his knees, hiding behind a policeman, himself desperately trying to hide from the bombardment.’

Another activist, Einde, has described the battle that followed. He was a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party, from Derry, then studying sociology at City University in north London. Einde recalls joining big crowds at the junction in New Cross, which was located strategically between the two nearby metropolitan stations. It was also the top of a hill, a natural vantage point:

“There was a huge police cordon between us and the NF’s meeting place. As the Front march set off, it had to come out on to the main road at the bottom of the hill. We had linked arms by this stage and were facing the police cordon that stood between us and the NF march. I was with the comrades from the university in about the seventh or eighth line. To be quite honest I didn’t want to be in the first row as I knew what was supposed to happen.

The plan was simple. The fascist march was located downhill from the anti-fascist contingent. As the National Front neared, their opponents would see the march side on. On hearing a signal, anti-fascists would charge down the hill at the NF group.

The sign to attack was delivered by Jerry Fitzpatrick. ‘Jerry had glasses and busy fair hair’, Einde remembers; he was ‘a wheeler-dealer, a magnificent organiser’. Fitzpatrick and other stewards had decided not to confront the main National Front honour guard, composed of the hardened street fighters, marching at the front of their contingent. Instead, the comrades from the SWP would pile into the middle of the fascist procession. Einde remembers Fitzpatrick standing on a box, by the traffic lights, waiting for the NF as they crossed the road at the bottom of the hill.

We charged down the hill against the police cordon. The rows of demonstrators in front of me broke under the strain of the pushing, but by the time our line came to the front, the police cordon had weakened sufficiently and we broke through into the middle of the march. I can remember that we grabbed an NF banner and in a tug of war we managed to get it off them, all the while maintaining linked arms – how we did it I don’t know. Eventually the police managed to push us back, but I remember that there was a hail of bricks from some convenient building sites alongside the route of the march and assorted other stuff, including at least one dustbin.”

The anti-fascists’ charge had a dramatic effect. Pete Alexander recalls, ‘I still remember seeing National Front marchers with green faces. They were so scared. I’d never seen people go green before.’

These memories are confirmed in Dave Widgery’s account:

“In New Cross Road, just down from Goldsmiths’ College, a crowd of 5000 anti-NFers had assembled by midday. People gently milled; here surging forward under banners that sprang and swooped like kites, there breaking out into feminist war whoops, elsewhere shouting recognition in noisy South London patois . . . At the front, a ram-packed contingent of South London Afro-Caribbeans cordially but expertly blocked off the police’s first attempts – uphill and on foot – to open a way for the NF . . .

An officer with a megaphone read an order to disperse. No one did; seconds later the police cavalry cantered into sight and sheered through the front row of protesters.”

So, continues Widgery, it might have ended,

“except that people refused to melt away from the police horses and jeer ineffectually from the sidelines. A horse went over, then another, and the Front were led forward so fast that they were quickly struggling. Then suddenly the sky darkened (as they say in Latin poetry), only this time with clods, rocks, lumps of wood, planks and bricks . . . The Front found it most difficult to dodge this cannonade while upholding the dignity appropriate to a master race inspecting soon-to-be-deported underlings. The NF march was broken in two, their banners seized and burnt.”

According to the report that appeared in the Sunday Times,

“Hundreds of demonstrators attempted to force the police cordon but reinforcements appeared and moved steadily through the stamping crowd in single file. A woman in a green mac was crushed on a [wall] outside a house. In New Cross Road, National Front supporters numbering about 1,000 were met with a hail of bottles, bricks, wood blocks, beer cans, smashed paving stones and smoke bombs. Mounted police charged up, clearing a way for the marchers. Police snatch squads darted into the yelling crowds, seizing missile-hurling youths.”

‘After about 20 minutes of confusion’, the paper continued,

“the police regained control of the whole of Clifton rise and the top of New Cross Road. Their tactics then were to hide the National Front in Achilles Street and then send the marches up Pagnell Street into New Cross Road and on their way to Lewisham. The plan almost worked. The left-wingers were milling around at the top of the Front column emerging from Pagnell Street [But with the police outnumbered on New Cross Road, left-wingers were able to charge through and catch the middle of the National Front demonstration] . . . When they reached the march, a wedge of police tried to hold the two sides apart. But demonstrators simply hurled the ammunition they had collected along the way at the Front and the police protecting them became sitting targets.”[17]

To summarize the events so far: the National Front arrived at New Cross Road at about 1.30 p.m. They tried to assemble at Clifton Rise. There they were attacked, and when they did set off, their march was broken up by the group including Einde and Jerry Fitzpatrick. But the police charged back at the anti-fascist demonstrators, who then broke away. The NF were just about able to reassemble, and then they marched east along New Cross Road in the direction of central Lewisham. Crowds threw fruit at the retreating members of the NF. Smaller groups attacked them from the side streets.

One group of anti-fascists was caught and held by the police at Clifton Rise. Morgan was a young Irish steelworker and a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party. His workplace, Reinforced Steel, was a small factory owned by British Steel. Having come out on strike in support of a group of nurses at the local hospital, Morgan’s fellow-workers were then threatened with the sack, and responded by occupying the plant. In the weeks running up to Lewisham, Morgan found himself attacked and threatened by members of the National Front. One work colleague, a former NF supporter, even came to warn Morgan that he was being followed. ‘They attacked us on the High Street, they also attacked Labour. That was regular.’ Two of his work colleagues joined Morgan on the anti-NF protests. But they got no further than Clifton Rise. Arriving there after 2 p.m., Morgan and his friends found themselves penned in by the police, and unable to march. His group was held like that for several hours.

Much larger numbers, however, were able to follow the anti-fascists’ original plan, and march east along Lewisham Way. Ted Parker led on a megaphone, shouting ‘Defend the clock tower!’ Why the clock tower? ‘It’s right in the middle of Lewisham. If we went anywhere else, I was worried the police might pen us in, and lead the NF through by one of the side streets.’ Marching east, anti-fascists were actually walking along a similar route to the National Front – but along a shorter and more direct way – and without the fighting that slowed down the NF march. By 2.30, this large contingent had arrived at central Lewisham, about the mid-way point in the NF’s planned route. In this way, they were able occupy the ground before the NF arrived.

Lewisham: route of the demonstration and counter-demonstrations

David L came from a Jewish background in north London. These protests were part of a life’s struggle against racism. He recalls the diversity of this anti-racist march, the presence of women’s contingents, alongside a few members of the Trotskyist group Militant:

“There was a large contingent from Women against Racism and Fascism. Next to them was a Militant contingent. At one point, the main women’s steward said, ‘Right, women this way.’ Someone from Militant then chipped up, ‘Oh, can I have one?’ It was all the stewards could do to persuade the women, ‘Massacre them next week, it’s the Nazis we’re after today.’”[18]

Charli from the International Marxist Group takes up the story:

“When my contingent reached the police, we couldn’t turn round because at that point the demo came to a complete halt . . . We were the first banner, and marching with no police ‘escort’ at all, but by the time we’d done half a mile there was a group of black youth, generally in the 14 to 20 age range, demoing ahead of us, and this group grew until it was maybe 400-strong as we went along. Big contrast between the all-black youth ahead of us and the 95 per cent plus white contingents from the original demo. There were people hanging out of windows and waving and cheering as we went along. Totally amazing. Made you feel good.”

Jerry Fitzpatrick agrees. ‘There was a buzz on the day, a networking. It wasn’t communicated by posters or leaflets, but by people talking. This was West Indian youth making a stand.’ Where had all the numbers come from? Charli continues:

“There was a difference between April and August, in that Turnpike Lane was predominantly white at the north . . . It is these areas, white ghettoes where there is racist fear but very little experience of actually living among black or Asian people, where the fascists have gained most support and tactically the NF were marching hoping to win support. Lewisham, on the other hand, was a predominantly black area and an NF march there could only be seen as an insult to the locals.”

By 2.30 p.m., the bruised remnants of the National Front march had reached Lewisham train station. The marchers could then look south, where the whole of Lewisham was occupied by the largest group of anti-NF protesters, outnumbering the police and the NF several times over. Not daring to continue along their planned route, the NF headed north towards Blackheath, where they stopped in a deserted car park and NF leader John Tyndall gave a short, concluding speech. Tyndall called for the police to be armed with guns. His followers slunk away.[19]

By 3 p.m., the National Front had been dispersed. Yet the euphoria that greeted this news was diminished as people realized that the police were still determined to clear all anti-fascists from the streets. Ted Parker was now at Lewisham clock tower. ‘There was a tide of people blocking the road. There were no signs of the police at all. Marchers were even redirecting the traffic. Then the police began to appear.’ The Sunday Times blamed the subsequent fighting on the left: ‘The most violent scenes came when some 3,000 demonstrators realized that a secret arrangement between the police and National Front had allowed the NF marchers to slip away. Enraged left-wingers rioted along Lewisham High Street, smashing windows, wrecking police vehicles.’[20] It would be more accurate to say that people were defending themselves from the police.

By 3 p.m., Einde was standing near the clock tower:

“This was where the Nazi march was supposed to come on to the High Street. The police attempted to clear this area several times, but without success. Then they brought out the horses. This was the first time I’d ever encountered police horses. It’s quite a frightening experience, but together with some other comrades we got the people to link arms facing the police lines and retreated slowly and without panic. Shortly after we heard that the National Front had had to break off their march and hold their rally in an isolated car park. At that time the pavements along Lewisham High Street were being newly paved with conveniently sized bricks. These were used to pelt the police. It was quite terrifying at first. We were occupying the street facing a line of police. Behind us were large numbers of young blacks who were lobbing half-bricks over our heads into the middle of the police – miraculously none of us seemed to be hit. The police would charge us, our line would part and the young blacks would simply melt away into the side streets. Then the whole thing was repeated facing in the other direction. At some stage the police brought out the riot shields, the first time they had been used on the ‘mainland’.”

Pete Alexander takes up the story.

“The black youth were especially interested in attacking the cops – after Operation PNH and much else this was understandable, and this is partly why the riot became blacker as the day went on. A lot of SWP members also enjoyed having a go at the police. We were fed up with them defending the Nazis and many of us had been unfairly arrested and intimidated by them, and there was probably a matter of solidarity with the black kids. It wasn’t just the fascists who were beaten; it was also the cops. Heavy drink cans and bricks were used to knock them off their horses and they had to resort to trying to clear the streets using cars at high speed.”

Now that the fascists had left, the conflict that remained was a battle between anti-fascists and the police. Charli was there:

“I saw the riot shields in use outside the Odeon cinema, and later further south towards Ladywell there was a police motorbike abandoned, covered with green paint and on fire. Lots of dented and scratched police transits with big holes in their windows were zooming round, but there was no other traffic whatsoever. There were bricks and stones all over the street, but I saw just one smashed shop window. I heard later that there had been a lot of confrontations between local youth and police in Lewisham that day, obviously related to the huge police presence due to the demo but not directly concerned with it. Just the usual provocations writ large.”

A third of the entire Metropolitan Police force was on duty that day. It was the first time that riot shields had been used on the mainland, and even on their own terms, the police hardly knew how to use them. BBC footage shows the police in gangs, three or four officers at a time, running behind their great over-sized screens. The officers charged, in broken lines, arresting more than 200 demonstrators. People were clubbed, as they stood, grabbed and taken. Police and protesters could reach out and touch. There were no lines, just a mêlée.

John, a teacher from south London, was caught up in the fighting. He was arrested, charged and accused of having planned the events:

“I had been spotted by snatch squads operating at the end of the day as the demonstration was dispersing. I was clubbed, kicked and punched by police armed with riot gear and shields. I ran but was run down by a police motorcycle, and bundled into a Special Patrol Group carrier. As the van raced through the streets, they amused themselves by trying to jump from the seats on to my head. It proved more difficult than they had imagined. They could only break the bones in my hand. I was charged with police assault; the assault of an unknown member of the Metropolitan Police force, who was never produced or named.”

Maeve was a young black teacher, of South African origin. She worked at the same school in south London as John. In the run-up to the events at Lewisham, she recalls sticking up posters for the demonstration. A prominent activist, she was sure that she was going to be arrested. ‘I washed my child’s teddy bear. I took him to my mother’s. I didn’t want her to say anything, if she had to look after him for several days.’ Maeve recalls being at Lewisham Way, as the police lines scattered. ‘I was cut off, round the back from the clock tower. The police were really abusive. One said to me, “If I wasn’t in this uniform, I’d show you, Nigger.”’ Maeve was separated from her brother, who was also marching, and from other activists. By now, the crowd was much younger and blacker. ‘I remember one of the organizers was on the megaphone shouting to us to all link arms, but when I turned to the people next to me, they just laughed.’

The crowd was more divided than it had been earlier. Parts were also angrier. According to Parker,

“The cry went up from the marchers, ‘Let’s go to Ladywell station’, but we meant to go to the train station, to go home. The black youth took it up, ‘To Ladywell, Ladywell police station’. That was the nearest police station. I heard later from people who’d been arrested earlier in the day that just as we were getting ready to depart, suddenly all the cops stopped doing any paperwork. They began preparing the building for what they saw as an inevitable attack. And the black youth did go there. They stoned the station.”

After several hours of fighting, one thing was clear: the National Front had failed to pass. According to Dave Widgery’s Beating Time,

“We were frightened and we were brave and proud and ashamed at the same time. As the day became more brutal and frightening, and the police, furious at their failure, turned to take revenge on the counter demonstrators, there was one big flash of recognition on the faces in the groups: between dread and socialist, between lesbian separatist and black parent, between NME speadfreak and ASTMS branch secretary. We were together . . . the mood was absolutely euphoric. Not only because of the sense of achievement – they didn’t pass, not with any dignity anyway . . . but also because, at last, we were all in it together.”[21]

Maeve’s strongest memory is similar, of an overwhelming feeling of elation that sustained her for weeks afterwards.

The last word belongs to Ted Parker.

“I was on Lewisham High Street, with a megaphone, when I was hit on the head by the police. After that, I was completely groggy, my mind went, my memory. I think I must have bumped into a couple of comrades. They wanted to take me to Lewisham hospital, but I insisted they take me to one in Westminster, so I wouldn’t get arrested. Next thing, I wake up in hospital. I don’t even know what day it is. I was even thinking – maybe it was the Friday, we’d been attacked, and the whole thing never happened. I ask the nurse, the patients. It was OK, it was the Sunday. Was there a riot? There had been. I couldn’t remember a thing. I phoned my wife, and said, ‘I’m in hospital, I’ve lost my memory.’ She said, ‘That’s the tenth time you’ve rung me with the same cock and bull story.’ Then I was feeling shaky again. I phoned Jerry Fitzpatrick from the hospital, and I asked him, ‘How was it? Did I do all right?’ He said, ‘Ted, you were bloody marvellous.’”

Who will defend the communities?

After Lewisham, the media took the side of the police. Daily and weekly newspapers ran with the hundreds arrested and the 50 policemen injured, ignoring the causes of the protest and portraying the conflict as a senseless battle between two parallel sets of extremists. The front page of the Sunday Times reported David McNee, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, condemning the ‘determined extreme element’ of the left for preventing a ‘lawful march’ from taking place.[22] The Sunday People featured the headline, ‘Bobbies pay the price of freedom’. A leader in The Times blamed the Socialist Workers’ Party, ‘whose members and adherents, some of them armed with vicious weapons, came prepared to fight. That their belligerent intent so soon transferred itself from their avowed enemy, the Front, to the police is an appalling indictment of their true philosophy.’ The Daily Mail used a front-page picture of a policeman holding a studded club and a knife, weapons supposedly found at Lewisham, and beside him was the headline, ‘After the Battle of Lewisham, a question of vital importance, now who will defend him?’ The Daily Express went further: ‘We have no time or sympathy for the Front . . . All the same, the Front does not go in for violent attacks on the police or on authority.’ Journalist Hugo Young, then working for the Sunday Times, solemnly announced that the SWP was ‘a forerunner of the forces of darkness’. Tory leader Margaret Thatcher informed the press that ‘Your Communism is the left foot of Socialism and your Fascism the right foot of it.’[23]

Linsday Mackie of the Guardian was no more sympathetic to the demonstrators, only more detached, asking in a strangely dispassionate manner whether the police could claim any sort of victory.

“Mr David McNee, Metropolitan Commissioner of Police . . . advised the Home Secretary, Mr Merlyn Rees, that his force could control events in Lewisham; and the many calls to ban the march were therefore not successful. With 56 of his men injured – 11 of them seriously enough to be detained in hospital – Mr McNee on Saturday night said that the violence in Lewisham was the result of an ‘orchestrated and violent attempt’ by extremists to prevent the National Front march taking place. He said that the police function was to deal ‘effectively and impartially with breaches of the law’ and he said that this was done on Saturday.”[24]

Several Labour Party voices claimed that Socialist Workers Party demonstrators amounted to ‘Red fascism’, an equally despicable counterpart to the National Front. The Daily Mirror claimed that the SWP was ‘as bad as the National Front’, while Michael Foot, a left-winger since the 1930s, insisted that ‘you don’t stop the Nazis by throwing bottles or bashing the police. The most ineffective way of fighting the fascists is to behave like them.’ The Liberal Party called for a ban on marches by ‘extreme left-wing organizations’. Sid Bidwell, the Ealing Labour MP and a one-time revolutionary socialist, announced that he had time neither for the NF nor ‘for those crackpot adventurers who have yet to take their part in responsibility in the real Labour movement. We cannot counter them by a strategy of trying to out-thug the thugs of the National Front, because we have the strength to do otherwise.’[25] As well as the press backlash, the SWP had to deal with attacks from members of the NF. They threatened known socialists, broke the windows of several SWP members’ homes, then attacked and set fire to the party headquarters in September 1977.[26]

After the deluge

Despite the consensus in the national press, a few voices did attempt to stem the flood of the anti-anti-fascist backlash. The New Musical Express devoted an entire page to a free-wheeling subjective account of the march, written by Julie Burchill and Tony Parsons: ‘the unforgettable faces of marching Nazis were the stuff of nightmares; they looked twisted, sick, bigoted, and ultimately pathetic’. Tom Picton of Camerawork observed that the Fleet Street papers blamed anti-racists for the violence at the Lewisham. ‘None of [the papers] will accept that it is a violent act to march through any community, mouthing racist slogans and carrying racist placards.’ Socialist Challenge, paper of the International Marxist Group, announced that Lewisham had been ‘a victory for us, and a defeat for the police and government’.[27] Philip Kleinman penned one of the sharpest comments for the Jewish Chronicle, a paper hostile to the socialist left. Kleinman pointed out that the very purpose of the National Front was to stir up race-hatred. ‘When it marches through an area with a large immigrant population, its purpose is precisely the same as that of Mosley’s blackshirts – to stir up communal strife with the hope of reaping an electoral advantage.’ He concluded, ‘whatever their defects, the Trotskyists have the right attitude to the National Front and should not be left alone to stop its provocations’.[28]

It soon became clear that the main effect of the Lewisham protest had been to boost anti-fascists. John Savage, a historian of punk, describes how Rock Against Racism took on a new urgency, with the Clash now speaking openly against the NF: ‘the National Front had “won on points” [in the press] . . . but Lewisham saw Rock Against Racism and the Socialist Workers Party winning hands down in pop culture’.[29]

Socialist Worker showed a front page of celebrating black youths, watching as the National Front were forced to retreat. ‘We stopped the Nazis . . . and we’ll do it again!’ The paper also ran an interview with David Foster, whose son had been one of the original Lewisham 21:

“The National Front have done everything in their power to whip up hatred between black and white. They have brought racial violence and destruction to a peaceful community

On 2 July, when we marched for our children who have been arrested, the National Front showed who are the violent ones.

They attacked our demonstration; threw acid in the eyes of one young girl and broke the jaw of another.

I haven’t heard anyone around here complaining about the violence on Saturday.

What they would say is: If the National Front had been allowed to march, there would have been much more violence in the community.

I don’t agree with everything the Socialist Workers Party says, but they were the only organisation to stand up for the rights of black people here.’”[30]

The Communist Party’s paper, Morning Star, had been fiercely critical of the Socialist Workers Party in the run-up to Lewisham. In the aftermath, its attack was hampered by the fact that many Communist Party supporters had joined the second march. One article again condemned the organizers of the second demonstration while praising the ‘courage and determination’ of those who had taken part. Another article quoted a manual worker from the borough: ‘The National Front won’t be showing up here for a long time.’[31]

The socialist monthly Women’s Voice interviewed Faith Foster, a West Indian woman whose son had been arrested as part of Operation PNH. Faith then attended the Lewisham demonstration, and described her feelings of joy when the police and the fascists were forced back:

“The National Front couldn’t march through Lewisham. We wouldn’t let them. We stuck to our word, ‘They shall not pass.’ I caught the bus into Brookley with my friend to see the end of the march, as I couldn’t go all the way; my daughter had only just come out of hospital after having her appendix out and couldn’t be left for long. We walked down Ladywell Road and what I saw, my heart was laughing inside. I had not been happy for so long . . . I was really, really happy.”[32]

One of the strongest arguments made, even at the time, was that physical confrontation had prevented the National Front from taking control of the streets. In 1976, the NF was able to turn out up to 1,500 members on its marches. By spring 1977, and Wood Green, the figure had fallen to 1,000. At Lewisham it fell again. Afterwards, the NF was never able to march again in significant numbers. The membership simply did not trust their leaders to protect them.

John from south London recalls a mood transformed: ‘After Lewisham, the atmosphere changed. We intimidated them, for the first time. Now you could wear anti-racist badges in public, on the tube or at work. The atmosphere changed entirely.’ According to Ian,

Lewisham raised the profile of the Socialist Workers Party enormously. We were denounced all over the place, but in my workplace that didn’t rub off at all. If you just read the newspapers you would get the impression that SWP members wouldn’t dare show their faces in the street, but I went to work with my badges on, and nobody batted an eyelid.

Jerry Fitzpatrick says that ‘Lewisham was our Cable Street. We had in mind the slogan from 1936, “They shall not pass.” It was our generation’s attempt to stop fascism. It was rugged, scrappy. It got bad publicity. But it was a real success. The NF had been stopped, and their ability to march through black areas had been completely smashed.’

National Front News ran its own version of events, ‘Red Rioters Fail’, maintaining that ‘fine Police organisation’ had enabled their group to march safely to Lewisham. The NF was ‘now poised to inflict a savage revenge on Labour at the next General Election’. Spearhead also neglected to mention the breaking-up of the NF march, with Martin Webster writing that ‘The NF column marched from New Cross in the northern part of the Borough to the prearranged open-air meeting place off Lewisham High Street at the southern end of the Borough’, as if that was all that had happened.[33]

Gerry Gable gives a very different account:

The Lewisham march marked a watershed for the NF. For as long as they could remember they could get away with murder when it came to street conflict with their opponents. Then after weeks of short engagements around the Lewisham street sales, the police moved in and arrested more Nazis than anti-fascists.

A large section of the executive was opposed to going into the streets. They said it would end up with a head-on clash and as the police were already hostile in the area it might be a serious mistake to get on the wrong side of the law. Of course, they were now being challenged on the streets all over the country.

‘A lot came of the events at Lewisham’, writes Dave Widgery.

The black community, who had successfully defended their patch, had had a glimpse of a white anti-racist feeling which was much bigger and more militant than the liberal community-relations tea-parties might suggest. A lot of ordinary people thought it was a Good Thing that the little Hitlers had taken a bit of a stick. Every little racialist was much smaller. Many people who had reservations about direct action found themselves regretting they had not been there too.[34]

‘Two-thirds of the people who marched with the NF at Lewisham’, claims Red Saunders of Rock Against Racism, ‘never marched again. Lewisham pulled back the Union Jack to show the swastika underneath. If you’re not ready for physical confrontation, you never come again.’ According to the paper CARF, such was the scale of the setback that ‘if I was a National Front member I’d be hitting the bottle by now’. The fact that the size of the NF contingent had sharply fallen between Wood Green and Lewisham was taken as evidence that opposition was working: ‘many NF members are bloody angry with the leadership for putting them at risk’.[35] It really was a terrible defeat for the Front.

[1] D. Widgery, Beating Time (London: Chatto and Windus, 1986), p. 45.

[2] These two accounts are taken from D. Renton, K. Flett and I. Birchall, The Battle of Wood Green (London: Haringey Trades Council, 2002), pp. 15–17.

[3] A. Deason, ‘Socialists march where blackshirts ruled’, Socialist Worker, 7 May 1977.

[4] P. Foot, ‘Police on racist rampage’, Socialist Worker, 11 June 1977.

[5] ‘A mugging – but the police look the other way’, Socialist Worker, 25 June 1977.

[6] J. Adams, ‘Behind the “Lewisham 21”’, New Statesman, 9 September 1977.

[7] J. Dromey and G. Taylor, Grunwick: The Workers’ Story (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1978).

[8] ‘An appeal for united left action’, Socialist Worker, 18 June 1977.

[9] South London Press, 7 October 1977.

[10] D. Peers, ‘Poison!’, Socialist Worker, 9 July 1977.

[11] ‘Nazis off the streets!’, Socialist Worker, 13 August 1977.

[12] W. Ellsworth-Jones, J. Ball and M. Bilton, ‘214 seized, 110 hurt in clashes at Front march’, Sunday Times, 14 August 1977.

[13] Widgery, Beating Time, pp. 45–7, 45.

[14] C. Rosenberg, ‘Labour and the fight against fascism’, International Socialism Journal, no. 39 (1988), pp. 55–94.

[15] J. Savage, England’s Dreaming: Sex Pistols and Punk Rock (London: Faber and Faber, 1991), p. 393; Widgery, Beating Time, pp. 45–7.

[16] ‘The day we stopped the Nazis . . . and the police ran amok’, Socialist Worker, 20 August 1977.

[17] Ellsworth-Jones, Ball and Bilton, ‘214 seized’, 14 August 1977.

[18] The story is perhaps apocryphal. The size of the WARF contingent is certainly exaggerated. The story is accurate, however, in conveying the confidence and the unruliness of the crowd.

[19] ‘John Tyndall’s vision’, Camerawork, Lewisham: What Are You Taking Pictures For? (London: Half Moon Photography Workshop, 1977), p. 6.

[20] Ellsworth-Jones, Ball and Bilton, ‘214 seized’, Sunday Times, 14 August 1977.

[21] Widgery, Beating Time, pp. 45–7, 45; Rosenberg, ‘Labour and the fight’, pp. 55–92, 75–9.

[22] Ellsworth-Jones, Ball and Bilton, ‘214 seized’, Sunday Times, 14 August 1977.

[23] Sunday People, 14 August 1977; Daily Mail, 15 August 1977; Daily Express, 15 August 1977; New Statesman and Nation, 29 September 1978.

[24] L. Mackie, ‘The real losers in Saturday’s battle of Lewisham’, Guardian, 15 August 1977.

[25] C. Bambery, Killing the Nazi Menace: How to Stop the Fascists (London: Bookmarks, 1992); p. 33; ‘Liberals call for ban on Front marches’, The Times, 15 August 1977; Rosenberg, ‘Labour and the fight’ p. 77.

[26] D. Thomas, Johnny Rotten in his Own Words (London: Omnibus, 1988), p. 22; ‘What the Nazis did to our HQ’, Socialist Worker, 10 September 1977.

[27] T. Picton, ‘What the papers said’, Camerawork, Lewisham, p. 7; T. Ali, ‘The lessons of Lewisham’, Socialist Challenge, 1 September 1977.

[28] The Times, 15 August 1977; A. Callinicos and A. Hatchett, ‘In defence of violence’, International Socialism (1977), pp. 24–8.

[29] Savage, England’s Dreaming, p. 395.

[30] ‘The Battle of Lewisham’, Socialist Worker, 20 August 1977.

[31] Morning Star, 26 August 1977; Rosenberg, ‘Labour and the fight’, p. 77.

[32] Women’s Voice, September 1978; CARF, no. 3, October–November 1977, p. 11.

[33] ‘Labour hysterical as “Smash the NF” campaign flops’, National Front News, no. 11, winter 1978; M. Webster, ‘Establishment conspirators and Red mobs fail to stop National Front advance’, Spearhead, September 1977.

[34] Widgery, Beating Time, p. 49.

[35] CARF, no. 3, October–November 1977, p. 10.

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2 responses »

  1. hi, i’m a dyke researching the lesbian strength march of 1988, i remember there being a national front march in london on that same saturday and the police rerouting us to avoid them. have you got any advice about how i could find out if this was so???
    ps nice site

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