The Top-Secret Archive in South London: a Word about 56 A
Hidden but not so far, 56 A is a collective settled in S1 from the 80’. Members are of anarchist orientation, hence they avoided paying the rent until 2003 when most of their space was evacuated by the police. Nowadays the group organizes the remaining rooms selling books, keeping an archive, and helping people with their bikes. Although this kind of practices is now considered proper ‘hipsterism’ and new age, the collective distinguishes itself by accepting no founds and respecting the uneasy rules of a socialist living while committing to the memory of anarchism.
“I can’t say that I’m personally thrilled by the idea of anti-G8 protests or the Dissent! rented social centres but I can’t categorically say that something radical or worthwhile will not come out of them. I dont think the anyone would class these centres as ‘direct action’ but there must be an increased possibility of affinity or direct actions happening as a result of social interactions. Any of the famous counter-summit meetings of the last few years had a legal relationship to the State (permission to march, legal zones, sleeping places etc.) but it didn’t stop individuals and groups taking direct action from within these structures”
(Text by Nothing,2016)
The entrance to the collective is located in 56 Crampton Road, but has the guise of a D.I.Y bike shop where you can learn how to fix your bike and buy replacement pieces. As we get in, we find a small room where some people are sitting and chatting. The room is the Radical Archive, it contains publication covering anarchist theories, communist thinkers and living examples of political association that include the history of movements like Zapatistas, Situationists and Sindacalists.
The room’s walls are overcrowded with such dossiers categorized by country: France, Italy and Germany dominate. But the little space does not serves as a memorial to consult only, but also sells articles and books mainly concerning radical theories against capitalism, individualism and racism. They refer to as communists but the literature sold in the shop does not include the party system but remains on the side of associational socialism and community living against the empire and dominant state of government.
According to this belief, they sell independent magazines, known as ‘zines’ which illustrate social and environmental causes to the general public together with academic (but always radical) essays and posters, grouped by unusual categories: environment, punk movement, anarchism, communism, socialism, syndicalism, art theory, human rights, gender etc.
The collective is a multicultural community organizing gig’s, selling anti mainstream food products (as Zapatist coffee) and doing workshops for squatting. However, as we talked to the oldest member, we got to know that the group was facing a moment of decadence due to their submission to the rent and the scarce income from book selling. “Being completely unfounded, the kind man told, we are facing hard times”, and seemed less committed to the cause of decisive action because “I have no time for doing anything”.
This narrowed space is hidden jewel of persisting ideology, solidarity and inspiration for real radical thinkers. The fact they are now paying the rent does not mean that they have been absorbed in the system because the books they sell are unique and usually excluded by mainstream libraries and academies .Since squatting is approved by the UK law but what happens next (giving food and entertainment without license) is not, by keeping squatting workshops and acting as a network for squatters too, 56a promotes the humanitarian idea association and help hampered by rules of bureaucracy and economy.
56a.org.uk. (2016). 56aInfoshop. [online] Available at: http://www.56a.org.uk/rent.html [Accessed 30 Apr. 2016].