The Kinder Mass Trespass & Labour's Greenwash

marksimonbrown mark at
Tue Apr 24 16:28:49 BST 2007

Over the weekend of the 21st and 22nd of April, people gathered to
commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout.

Much [was] made of this anniversary. Indeed, there [were] several
guided walks, exhibitions as well as a 'celebration' evening at New
Mills Town Hall on Sunday 22nd. The Trespass is rightly celebrated as
a hugely important event in a struggle in which ordinary people strove
to reclaim land which was once held in common, that which has been
stolen by the ruling class and policed and treated as if it were their
own back garden, leading eventually to the creation of National Parks.

The local MP, Tom Levitt, [made] the most of the limelight at the
sunday evening event. You wouldn't expect anything else from such an
opportunist, always eager to be seen in the foreground at a photo

But if Benny Rothman (one of the best known Trespassers jailed for
riotous assembly in 1932) were here, I'm pretty sure he'd have cause
to object to Levitt's presence. Putting to one side the issue of
Levitt's lick-spittle like (continued) backing of the Labour Party's
war in Iraq plus his advocacy for the spending of countless billions
on the replacement of Trident Nuclear weapons, he is a leading
advocate of the Longdendale Bypass. But doesn't an MP love a
contradiction? It's called having your cake and eating it: the man who
will be introducing tonight's soiree, celebrating the trespassers and
the National Park, is also the man who is declaring war on that same
Park. He's brought the Environment Minister with him especially. As if
we need our noses rubbing in it.

Why am I sure that Benny Rothman would object? Because he dedicated
his life to society's struggles, not least that of the destruction for
the environment by the forces of conspicuous consumption and
capitalist accumulation. He played his part in objecting to and
campaigning against many of Manchester's road schemes, as well as the
destruction of Ashton Moss by Tameside MBC. But in 1994, at age 83, he
took part in another Mass Trespass, this time upon what remained of
Twyford Down, where construction of the M3 motorway was underway after
protests and mass actions against it. At the time, he wrote an article
for publication in the Countryman magazine about his day. He saw no
need to make a fuss about his actions - for him, this protest was the
natural thing to do and he was energised by the then nascent radical
environmental movement whom he regarded as comrades in the same fight,
a parallel that went completely over the heads on many so-called
radicals on the left.

Although Benny's presence at the 1994 Trespass is not widely known,
the relevance of this event to the situation we face in the
Longdendale Valley andGlossop could not be clearer. Just as the Tories
carved up many of the green places in this land in the 1990s to built
pointless and ultimately fruitless roads, the Labour government and
their Barons in local government are proposing a new wholesale
onslaught on the countryside, and all of this at a time when they
preach to us about preserving the environment, curbing carbon
emissions, and consuming less. This road and others will fundamentally
contradict each of those so-called priorities. It's a lie -Greenwash
masquerading as 'business as usual'.

The Mass Trespass was a tactic in the strategy of reclaiming the land
from those who accumulated it as conspicuously as they did their
wealth. In the times of the 6 day week, Sunday held a chance to walk
the wild land in order to defeat spiritual poverty and leave aside
material poverty, even if only for one day. 75 years later, the
struggles we face are about preserving what we have fought for as well
as the land itself, and about advancing a movement to change a mode of
production that threatens our very existence as a viable species.

 Benny Rothman's Twyford Down Mass Trespass recollections:
(thanks to blooger  Children of Lewin providing this on the Stop the
A57/A628 Bypass Blog):

The following text is copied verbatim from a piece of writing Benny
submitted for publication in the Countryman magazine after taking
place in the Mass Trespass at Twyford Down on July 4th 1994:

I arrived at Twyford a day before the scheduled Mass Trespass in
opposition to the Criminal Justice Bill, and this gave me the
opportunity to look at the site where such destruction of the
environment had taken place and where history of the fight to oppose
this devastation had been made. It also gave me the opportunity to
meet up with the people who had led this now famous campaign of

The cutting to carry the road stood out glaringly white, broken chalk
rock in the surrounding sea of green vegetation. Already some of the
road had been surfaced and work was in progress with tarmac carriers,
rollers and earth movers moving in the new surface. What was most
outstanding was the constant movement of four wheeled vehicles
carrying Group 4 security guards patrolling the road endlessly. No
wonder the contractors are putting millions of pounds aside to
maintain this picture of warlike hostility to any opposition. Hardly a
sign of consumer friendly cooperation at this stage, more like an army
of occupation in hostile territory.

My guide to the site was a young chap who was on the large list of
people who had been served with injunctions prohibiting them from
setting foot on the cutting and road, or with a hefty fine or term of
imprisonment or both. The manner in which this group of 'injunctees'
had been identified is a story in itself. Some of them had already
served terms of imprisonment, for violating these injunctions. Many of
them including young women have already been in jail and in some cases
badly beaten up.

We walked into the surrounding countryside, rich in chalk down flowers
which had grown there undisturbed for hundreds of years, many
varieties of orchids, masses of dropworts, poppies and a host of
flowers new to me. I also had pointed out to me the eroded roadways
used by early inhabitants called dongas.

I wondered as I walked whether or not this rich harvest of flowers
could survive the pollution which would come with the opening of the

When I was taken to the offices of the campaigning body called Road
Alert, I could see how difficult it was for them to carry on, with
only crap furniture no real tables, old gift computers and office

They had very little more than tremendous enthusiasm to carry them
forward. They were young in years but already old in accumulated
experience, in touch with protest groups from all parts of the country.

I met ... an attractive young woman who had already served sentences
of 28 days and 10 days for contempt against the trespass injunctions.
She like many other young people had abandoned their jobs and degree
courses at university to take part full time in the many protest
groups. They were answering calls from all parts of the country.
Organising and arranging press interviews drawing posters, checking
arrangements for the 10001 minor events which were due to take pace.
Far from being eccentrics they seemed to be very down to earth
intelligent youngsters.

I looked through the masses of photographs and press cuttings that
they had accumulated, and saw some of the excellent posters they had
made and mounted for exhibitions. It was of course all done on a

I later hurried out with my guide who was due to give an interview to
a local television station, after which I was driven to a little
village by the river Hamble where I was given overnight hospitality,
fed like a lord, and next morning transported down to Twyford where
after helping in the general erection of a small marquee and odd tents
and posters, I took part in a large press 'conference' I think it was

As speakers and representatives from many organisations were being
interviewed photographed and videoed, more and more were arriving. I
had already given an interview to a local radio station by phone the
night before, and I met up with many more papers magazines and
television crews at that gathering in the open at at the hillside of
St. Catherines Hill.

Then the crowds grew, and the temperature rose. Percussion bands
played, music from a variety of instruments throbbed, chanting and
signing from different groups all unrehearsed and spontaneous arose
from all sides, and amid all this hubbub interviews were taking place.
At one point I was in discussion with Joan Bakewell on camera but
whether or not anything could be made out in the general explosion of
activity and noise I don't know. Camera were clicking, video and cam
corders were clicking, and vast crowds were milling around. A platform
of sorts had been erected, and I was meeting up with old and new
acquaintances. Friends I had not seen for years came forward. I knew
some, but could not remember others but it was all one happy
determined band.

And still the sun blazed down and the temperature rose. I don;t know
if I was showing signs of distress, as unfortunately I had left my sun
cap in my rucksack which was buried in an immense pile of bags and
rucksacks so I had to take the full impact of the sun. Many good
friends brought me water which dozens of the audience were drinking
from plastic bottles, lukewarm but very welcome, fruit was being
handed around, especially strawberries for which the area (Hampshire)
was famous before many of the strawberry fields were converted into
Posh housing and of course offices.

The Chairwoman of the meeting was doing an heroic job. Literally
hundreds of speakers were coming to the platform and wanting not
merely to be introduced, but wanting to 'say a word or two'. Still she
coped marvellously and as I was saying my own word or two, the banners
wee being picked up and an immense crowd set off onto the trespass
along the main footpath with dozens of other groups from the hillsides
following on along other footpaths.

Meanwhile I was being taken care of by the father and mother of one of
the committee, with instructions to make sure I got to Winchester
Station in time for my train. The masses of protestors walked on, with
no signs of police or security guards, unto we reached a pushed over
fence onto the Twyford Down Cutting. There was a small group of police
and security guards assembled at that point wisely standing way back
and looking on. A short distance beyond that point it was gong back
time for me, and together with my escort we turned back and after a
long walk finishing off by the riverside reached a road where I was
given a lift down to the station.

I was in good time with minutes to spare, only to hear an announcement
from the railway loud speakers that the train to Manhchester would be
late owing to a fire close to the line. Ultimately, I got back to my
home about an hour later than I had expected, tired and sunburnt but
very pleased to have been in such good company and for such a worthy

The anti climax came on Monday when I looked through the Sunday and
Monday papers to see what coverage had been given to the event. There
virtually had been a complete blackout of the vent either in the
newspapers and on radio and television.


The largest event against the Public Order Bill which will probably
become law during this month unamended in all its injustice, its
attacks on liberty, and its probably effects in the future was surely
worth some coverage somewhere. Dozens of journalists were in
attendance, with cameras and television crews why the blackout on news.

Could it be political, or economic. I can only see that frustration
and bitterness at such treatment of the public affected by many of the
matters which the government was endeavouring to bottle up with this
Public Order Bill will blow up in the faces of the inept politicians,
and their 'politically correct' supporters in all quarters. They might
get he genie in the bottle but can they keep it there. I have seen the
determination and courage of the young people in this campaign, and my
prediction is that even although the legislators might win on paper,
they will lose on the ground. The more support we can give to
campaigners involved in the numerous battles for social justice taking
place the sooner we can end the farce of so called democracy and the
abuse of power...

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