Library Dissertation Showcase

The Demolition Diner and the summer of 84: an exploration of the space and time of the Bristol student anarchists of the mid-1980s

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2020

Local studies of Anarchism are often key to understanding the bigger picture. This study focuses on the student anarchists at Bristol university during the mid-eighties. It draws primarily from interviews with four anarchists who all enrolled at Bristol in 1983 and 1984 as well as being supplemented by materials produced by the anarchists at the time. The national historiography of the time sees there as being two currents during the 1980s, Liberal Anarchism and Class-Struggle Anarchism. This study accepts these currents but attempts to nuance the divisions that Franks and Cross have suggested. It argues that the difference of ideas did not create entirely segregated spaces between Liberal and Class-Struggle Anarchism. It firstly explores the personal narratives of the participants, making note of key events that shaped the Bristol movement and then discuss the importance of considering personal connections in radicalisation towards Anarchism. It then engages with the concept of space, seeking to place the student anarchists firmly within the space of their city and university. The local both gave this movement its own character as well as helping to push the local movement into the wider national currents. Finally, it considers the importance of the politics of the time. Protest movements in the form of CND were growing opening up spaces for radicalisation. The second-wave punk scene clearly articulated Anarchism to people and allowed for new spaces to explore radical politics, even to those uninterested in the music. The politics of Thatcherism also stoked class antagonism through its attacks on unions. At the same time, the disruption of the independence of universities was keenly felt by student anarchists. Taken together this study will show key local and national currents that shaped anarchists at the time and how they fit into a national narrative.

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