27 October 1968
Travelling down to London today for the second big anti-Vietnam war demonstration, the latest issue of Tariq Ali’s Black Dwarf newspaper circulates on the coach. The front page carries, in large poster type, just the words: “DON’T DEMAND – OCCUPY”.
The Black Dwarf was a political and cultural newspaper published between May 1968 and 1972 by a collective of socialists. Named after a radical 19th-century publication, the Black Dwarf asserted continuity with its predecessor by numbering its first issue “Vol 13 Number 1”. It quickly established itself as the house journal of the anti-Vietnam war movement and the wider New Left politics that was developing around it. Edited and published by Tariq Ali, then a prominent member of the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign and a fiery orator. In 1970 the editorial board split between Leninist and non-Leninist factions, the former, including Ali and other members of the International Marxist Group, went on to found the Red Mole.
The front page of the first issue showed a photo of triumphant students in the Paris May events with the slogan: “WE SHALL FIGHT WE SHALL WIN: PARIS LONDON ROME BERLIN”.
The next issue’s cover announced: “STUDENTS – THE NEW REVOLUTIONARY VANGUARD”, a sentiment that caused apoplexy among old-guard Marxists.
Then came: “DON’T DEMAND – OCCUPY”. Earlier in the year, Hornsey College of Art had been occupied by its students – led, incidentally, by former Labour minister Kim Howells (currently and perhaps ironically chairman of Parliament’s Security and Intelligence Committee) – demanding participation and a more relevant curriculum. With the Black Dwarf’s enthusiastic encouragement, occupations followed at Colchester, Hull, Brighton, Coventry and the London School of Economics.
The paper was supposed to appear weekly, but seldom achieved this, partly because printers kept refusing to print it. Banned by many retailers like W H Smith, it depended upon voluntary street vendors for sales, and frequently ran out of money. Even so, for a while, it was a brilliant and effective mouthpiece for the rebellious youth of the day.
The editorial and production group included Ali, Clive Goodwin, Robin Fior, David Mercer, Mo Teitlebaum, Adrian Mitchell, Sheila Rowbotham, Sean Thompson, Roger Tyrrell and Fred Halliday.