Some beefy looking short haired comrades arrived at Harrow last week and were immediately challenged by some local Asian lads as to why they were there. ‘We come to beat up some fascists’ was the reply – received with a whoop and thumbs up. It illustrates the point that there are no ‘outsiders’ in the working class and people are generally welcomed to participate in local struggles wherever they are from. One group that made this point more forcibly than most was the French group of politicised gangsters OS CANGACEIROS. I know of no other group that comes anywhere near to them in the political spectrum. I spent a couple of months with some of them during the early days of the Wapping strike.
They had come to join in the action.- complete with sling shots, rice flails and an array of martial arts weaponry. They didn’t announce their arrival, produce literature, or even take part in the mass demonstrations. They operated on the margins seeking always to inflict damage and escalate the struggle to the point of no return. If asked who they were however thy would reply honestly. I was incredulous when they told me they’d been in Toxteth in 1985.
Spotted by some Toxteth rioters they were asked where they were from. ‘Marseilles’ and ‘Lyon’ came the reply ‘to join the riot’. They were reeived with gob smacked scouse ecstacy. People knocking on doors to get others out to hear they were from France. They’d also been in south Yorkshire during the miners strike. Wherever there was trouble in Europe they went there.
They being a network of criminals who robed, sabotaged, and acted against all parties. In 1985 a series of gaol riots rocked the French prison system. Os Cangaceiros were active both in the gaols and the streets initiating a year long campaign of sabotage on the rail and metro systems. Two of them were sitiing in my flat in Hackney in Feb 1986 – ready for another night out at Wapping –when news came on the telly of a court hostage taking in Lyon.’ It is our comrade Abdelkharim Khalki’ they said of the armed hostage taker.’He is our mate , we must go to Lyon. They went. I imagine they are still out there somewhere today. There are no outsiders in the working class.