Peter Walker “London 'slave' group went from figures of fun to tiny underground commune”

Aravindan BalakrishnanのWorkers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thoughtがあったのは倫敦のBrixtonという地域だが*2、そこは1970年代には様々な左翼集団が蝟集していた場所であった。その頃の、Balakrishnanグループの活動とBrixton界隈の左翼の様子;

A handful of the surviving pamphlets from Balakrishnan's group uncovered by the Guardian present a view in which the Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev was "revisionist scum" for rolling back Stalin's policies, and China's "great, glorious and correct" communists were poised to liberate the world.

Balakrishnan's group was seen as fringe even for the era, recalls Paul Flewers*3, a historian of far-left groups who was himself a follower of the Revolutionary Communist party.

He said: "In comparison to the rest of us, they were like a strange sect compared to a C of E vicar. We'd have our own paper sales in Brixton at the time, by the station. They'd turn up with their flyers with pictures of Mao on them, and we'd queue up to get them. After our sales were over, we'd go down to the pub and have a good laugh at them. It doesn't seem so funny now."

The pamphlets show a group that was almost as obsessed by leftist "revisionists" as by the government or the group's perpetual nemesis, the police.

An issue from May 1976, emblazoned with a profile of Mao – who at that point was months away from death and thinking more of his own succession than plans to liberate Brixton – spends seven densely typed pages railing against Britain's trade unions, or "agents of the fascist bourgeoisie within the working-class movement".

Bob Nind, who as vicar of St Matthew's in Brixton was in contact with many political and community groups, recalls a neighbourhood where unused buildings were common and every variety of organisation sprang up in cheap rented offices or squats.

He said: "Many collectives were just people who wanted to make some changes in society, and wanted to make all their decisions together, which was usually fatal in the end. Others were more idealist.

"The Workers Revolutionary party would meet in the crypt of St Matthew's, where they seemed to be singing hymns most of the time. They weren't hymns but they sounded like hymns if you didn't hear the words. On one occasion, at the same time at the other end of the crypt was Chris Patten and the Conservatives. It was an interesting sort of time."

In general, Nind remembers, the far-left groups tolerated each other, with resentment aimed at a police force, which mainly lived in barracks outside the area, tensions which soon led to riots in Brixton in 1981.

"The emphasis was very much more on the attitudes of the police towards the young black community. I think everybody was beginning to feel that."