Regarded as Britain’s ‘first urban guerrilla group’, The Angry Brigade has somewhat faded from our collective memory as a result of the large shadow cast upon it by its far more notorious neighbour the IRA. Yet during the 1970s, the group was very much a household name, as it benefitted from the economic turmoil and political malaise that plagued the decade. For some, the radical left-wing, student-led terrorist group still retains a cult status as a group of disaffected youths standing up against the establishment.
Modelled on other international left-wing revolutionary groups of the time, such as the Red Brigades in Italy, the Weather Underground in the US, and the Red Army Faction in Germany, the establishment of The Angry Brigade was testament to the wave of political radicalism that swept across the Western World during the 1960s and 1970s. Between August 1979 and August 1971 ‘The Angries’ launched a string of bombings against the heart of the British establishment; offices of government and big corporations were hit, whilst the dwellings of several MPs within Edward Heath’s conservative government also fell victim to their campaign, most notably Robert Carr’s, the home secretary, in January 1971. Yet out of the 25 bombings police attributed to the Angry Brigade, no deaths occurred. This was representative of the group’s intention to keep collateral damage to a minimum in order to gain wider media exposure to their cause.
Although the group was effectively stamped out by the police before it could gain real momentum, it was during the protracted trial of the Stoke Newington Eight in which it fully gained its cult status. Charged with Conspiracy to Cause Explosion, the four poster-children of the movement (John Baker, Hilary Creek, Jim Greenfield and Anna Mendelson), gained the support of other left-wing groups in what became an act of solidarity against Heath’s government. The media frenzy which surrounded the trial portrayed it as a cause-célèbre, whilst “I’m with the Angry Brigade” badges were sold at various strike protests throughout the country. As a result, the group became a byword for the oppositional zeitgeist of the 1970s that many came to embrace.