SOME PAST TENSE TEXTS:
things we wrote
(or our friends wrote for us)
• Occupational Hazards: Some Inspirations and issues from our history.
Through the 1970s, '80s and early 1990s, more than twenty hospitals were occupied in the UK, either by NHS workers or people from local communities, or both, usually to prevent closures of wards or buildings, Occupational Hazards recunts the stories of some of these actions, with first hand accounts of some, and raises soem questions about controls the occupations and work-ins. Can these tales of past events be useful in the face of the current crisis in the NHS? Download a PDF.
• We Remember the Rotunda. For a few short years nearly two centuries ago, a buding on London's Blackfriars Road was the most influential political meeting space of its time...
the Dig Up the New River!
North London's New River is 400 years old... But much of its length is buried, or locked away. The New River's history is intimately bound up with the rise of capitalism; but could we dig it up, as part of a transformation of life...?
• Everywhere, and Nowhere: Towards an Account of the 1926 General Strike in London.
Some thoughts and analysis of a cataclysmic event in British working class history, which questions some of the established myths about May 1926; followed by accounts of how the Strike was organised and progressed in different areas of London.
Defiance: The Spitalfields Silkweavers, London's Luddites?
For centuries, silkweaving was one of London’s biggest industries, employing thousands in the East End. Through the 18th century, the silkweavers fought to defend their wages & conditions: their tactics included strikes, riots, sabotage and more. In some ways the issues they faced, and the methods they used, anticpate those of the later Luddite movement; but with crucial differences.
Poor Man's Heaven: A
14th Century peasant Utopian song, The Land of Cokaygne, and how it
expressed the subversive desires of the time – in opposition to the poverty
and misery of the lives of the poor.
This is the short version, a much extended text has recently been published by past tense as a book.
• Reds On The Green: A Short tour of Clerkenwell Radicalism. A radical history of the Clerkenwell area of North London, its characters and events; charting the changing fortunes and developments of the communities, classes and individuals involved. It also offers some passing comments on the Clerkenwell of today.
• Down With The Fences: Battles against enclosures in South London. Most of the open spaces - commons, woods, greens - that exist in South London remain today because they were preserved from development by collective action. Whether by rioting, tearing down fences, or by legal agitation, many of the parks and commons we know and love would have been lost if they hadn't been actively defended.
• The Mayor of Garratt: Mock Elections in 18th Century South London. In the 18th Century mock elections for the fictional office of Mayor attracted huge crowds to the tiny South London hamlet of Garratt. Thousands of people flocked to a huge rowdy satirical pisstake of the election process of the times. The candidates were always poor tradesmen, usually with a drink problem and sometimes with a physical deformity...
Nine Things that Aren't There: a Manoeuvre
Around the Elephant and Castle. By Christopher Jones.
"Criss-crossing the place called the Elephant and Castle, a local just South of The Thames in London Town, is the right way to go about things.This is because there is no other way to pass through this terrain."
Southwark Knives. By Christopher
"Walking down Crampton Street at 1 am... There is a full moon above that lights up my movement of foot over foot on the paving slabs below. I look at the fenced-in wild land that sits on the junction of Crampton with Amelia Street. I remember the non-space fondly. I played games there. Have milked poppies there. Enacted with friends".
• The Southwark Pudding Wonder Is Over: A past tense leaflet produced for Mayday 2002. The looting and scoffing of a huge pie by the slumdwellers of the Mint...
Set the People Free: Opposition
to ID cards in North London, 1950/2006. By David King.
During the Second World War the government introduced compulsory ID cards as part of their emergency measures. It was not until seven years after the War that ID cards were finally withdrawn. Clarence Willcock was instrumental in this process; his refusal to show his ID card when stopped by the police in North London raised questions about their use in peacetime Britain and contributed to the withdrawal of the cards in 1952.
Produced as part of the campaign against the re-introduction of ID cards... Obviously wildly successful since the attempt has since been abandoned...
The Communist Club. By Keith Scholey.
The Communist Club, originally a political social club formed by German émigrés, played an important role in the radical politics of London and Europe during the mid to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It linked Chartism, utopian socialism, the First International, early anarchism, the first Marxist groups in Britain, and formed an important connection between the British and Continental European (German, Russian) socialist movements.
A Shabby London Suburb: A walk
around the working class & radical history of Hammersmith.
Revolting peasants... heretics... civil war agitators... chartists... suffragettes... socialists... irish republicans... anarchists... suffocated tory MPs with satsumas in their mouths... Hammersmith has seen it all.
With the aid of this pamphlet you can wander the streets of one of West London’s finest neighbourhoods, delving into its proud and rebellious history...
The Burning of the Albion Mills.
The Albion steam-powered Mills were the first great factory in London, an industrial wonder of the time. But the mills were widely resented by millers and workers. In 1791 they burned to the ground. Arson was strongly suspected... Crowds gathered to celebrate the Mills destruction, ballads were written and sung on the spot…
Down With the Austrian Butcher: A Vicious Military Man Gets What
he Deserves, 1850.
The vicious Austrian General Haynau and what happened to him when he met the draymen of Bankside in 1849.
• Burning Women: The European Witch hunts, enclosure and the Rise of Capitalism. Understanding the witch trials of the 16th and 17th Centuries is a vital part of understanding the rise of capitalism, the family, women's roles and our relation to our bodies. A brief overview of the economic, social and ideological reasons for, and effects of, the massacre of women that took place during the rise of capitalism. Download PDF.
Newell and Kett's Rebellion: Norfolk's Great Revolt against Enclosures,
1549. By Peter E Newell.
In 1549 England was rocked by a major revolt in Norfolk against enclosures. Rich landowners were fencing off lands and woods, mainly to make agriculture more profitable; in the process depriving poor labourers and small farmers of small plots of land for grazing, growing food, and preventing them from gathering wood for fuel. This caused major upheaval and poverty, driving people onto marginal land & into cities. Enclosure was a vital engine for the rise of capitalist agriculture, but this wholesale robbery of access to land was resisted for centuries, often by force.
Kett’s Rebellion in 1549 was the largest act of resistance: 1000s of Norfolk yeomen and labourers took arms against their landlords. Peter E. Newell’s account, made personal by his ancestor Symond Newell's played involvement in the Rebellion, relates the background to the revolt, the personalities involved, and the dramatic outcome...
Rare Doings at Camberwell: radicals, subversion
and social control: a short tour through Camberwell's underground history.
A wild ramble through London SE5's murky past, featuring a dubious cast of rowdy fairgoers, proletarian artists, rioting chartists, squatters, feminist authors, mad folk, anti-fascists... and the occasional transexual trotskyist housing officer.
• A Post-Fordist Struggle: Report & reflections on the UK Ford-Visteon dispute 2009.
to my Ears: Canned Music & Class Struggle; Public space and muzak as
"Muzak... the equivalent of Chinese water torture... for forty hours per week... horrible." (former shop-worker).
Originally piped into workplaces to improve productivity, muzak has now invaded public space like a cancer everywhere, from lifts to shops, transport, toilets, telephones... Used in shops to create an atmosphere that makes what is on sale more saleable and appealing, Muzak is a commodity that, by being consumed, encourages you to buy other commodities; neatly illustrating the old situationist slogan "culture - the commodity that sells all the others". From drumming more productivity from workers in World War 2, through bamboozling shoppers into spending more, to modern developments in music and sound as social control; Muzak to My Ears recounts a brief history of muzak and analyses its role in our continuing alienation.
Rights of Common: The Fight
Against the Theft of Sydenham Common and One Tree Hill
Many open green spaces that we take for granted today still exist because in the past they were preserved from enclosure and development by both legal and illegal resistance. The battles to save two such spaces in South London, Sydenham Common & One Tree Hill, saw legal shenanigans, rioting, intrigue and violent death...
All elections are a JOKE! let's treat them with
the contempt they deserve
A free leaflet distributed round the time of the 2010 General Election.
The South London Women’s Hospital Occupation
The inside story of the work-in and occupation of a women's hospital faced with closure... Might as well get prepared for the hospital closures they lyingly tell us aren't coming up...
Lambeth Council 1988:
Eggs, chips and strikes
A first hand account of resistance to local council cuts from our own history. Some things seem like ancient history: others resonate very much today...
• They Can't Extinguish the Fire: Some thoughts After the Student Riots of 2010.
• Going Underground: A communique from the past tense Gongfermers' Cell
• Call This a Jubilee? Some thoughts on the 2012 'Diamond Jubilee'.
in South London
For centuries people have been celebrating May Day in South London. This pamphlet includes the stories of Walworth and Bromley May Queens, May Games in Greenwich Park, the Deptford Jack in the Green, demonstrations in Bermondsey and Woolwich, Horse Parades on the Old Kent Road, Maypoles in Kennington and St Mary Cray, festivals on Clapham Common and at Crystal Palace, and much more besides.
things we stole
or reprinted with permission... cos we liked them
• A Glorious Liberty: The Ideas of the Ranters. By A.L.Morton
The Ranters formed the extreme left wing of the sects which came into prominence during the English Revolution. Heretical, impassioned, possessed: their contemporaries accused them of spending their time “in drunkenness, uncleanness, blasphemous words, filthy songs, and mixt dances of men and women stark naked.” They were fiercely repressed by the authorities. AL Morton recounts the ideas, activities and fate of these intriguing 17th Century mystical anarchists.
• Nine Days In May: The 1926 General Strike in Southwark. The events of May 1926 in the (then separate) South London Boroughs of Southwark and Camberwell: how the strike was organised on the ground, pickets' clashes with scabs and the police, attempts to distribute news and information about how the Strike was going. Personal accounts by local Strike activists: an insight into a crucial battle in British working class history.
• The Corruganza Boxmakers Strike. In August 1908, 44 young women workers at Corruganza Box making Works in Summerstown, South London, went on strike against a reduction in their wages. None of them had ever struck before. Fascinating account of their experiences, much of it on their own words.
• The Story of William Cuffay, Black Chartist. Black tailor William Cuffay was on of the leaders and martyrs of the Chartist movement, the first mass political movement of the British working class. Cuffay suffered for his political beliefs and activities: in 1848 he was convicted of treason for his involvement in plans for an insurrection in London - he was transported to Tasmania for life.
• Kennington Park: Birthplace of People’s
Democracy. By Stefan Szczelkun.
Just 150 years ago Kennington Common, later to be renamed Kennington Park, was host to a historic gathering which can now be seen as the birth of modern British democracy. In reaction to this gathering, the great Chartist rally of 10th April 1848, the common was forcibly enclosed and the Victorian Park was built to occupy the site. Fascinating Information and Stunning Revelations Including: Public Executions • A Radical Black Methodist • The World’s First National Labour Movement • The Chartists • The Significance of 10th April 1848 • The World’s First Photograph of a Crowd • The Occupation of Our Common by the Royal Park • The Horns Tavern and Charlie Chaplin • The Princess of Wales Theatre • The Scandal of the Unmarked War Grave • The Squatters • ‘Red Ted’ • The Return of the Commons Spirit.
• Last orders for the Local: Working Class Space v. the Marketplace. Theme Pubs and other disasters.
Inspired by the destruction of most of the best pubs in our locality and the increasing difficulty in finding a pub with a bearable atmosphere to enjoy a drink in, Last Orders for the Local? casts a critical eye over recent changes to pub environments and the emergence of Theming as a marketing factor in various fields of leisure and consumption; and ponders how this connects to the balance of class forces and changes in the way we relate to history and memory.
• May 68: Spot the Workers' Autonomy.
A text translated from French raising some questions about established myths and reality in the uprising in France in May-June 1968. Ten million workers were said be on strike during these events; a strike wave brought under controlled and neutralised by the Communist party and CGT union. But how autonomous was this wave? how much did the CGT and its militants direct the strikes and how much did workers themselves break from these structures? With first-hand accounts from some strikers and activists involved. Download as a PDF.
Reader Flattery: Iain Sinclair and the Colonisation
of East London.
Iain Sinclair is familiar as a psychogeographic chronicler of London's East End in transition from Dickensian darkness to socially cleansed sterility. But is he an enemy of the urban enclosures or a literary estate agent, a seer or a voyeur? John Barker offers a stylistic analysis and some embedded psychogeographic reportage of his own.
• Rent Strike: St. Pancras 1960
By Dave Burn. A classic account of the struggle of the council tenants of St Pancras (now part of the London Borough of Camden) against rent rises. Worth a read in 2012, when social housing is very much under threat, and benefit cuts could impact heavily on council tenants.