Ronnie Sookhdeo Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Ronnie Sookdheo

Carnival Spirit

Despite the Police

(September 1978)

From Militant, No. 421, 1 September 1978, p. 16.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The 1978 Notting Hill Carnival, which attracted a quarter of a million people over the Bank holiday, was a tremendous success. This was despite the provocations and inflammatory warnings of mass muggings and widespread pick-pocketing issues by the police in the days leading up to the event.

But the success of the carnival was mainly due to the black youths who demonstrated time and again that they were not going to be intimidated and provoked into a confrontation with the police even when this included such pointless exercises as the cordoning off of half of Portobello Road, the main focal point of the celebrations.

The persistent drone of the police helicopter that hovered above, and the police cine cameras blatantly spying on the crowds from the overhead Westway motorway, heightened the tension. It was partly these tactics of an unnecessary show of strength by the police that were responsible for the outbreaks of violence later on Sunday evening which led to the arrests of 42 people.

In the aftermath of the carnival there will inevitably be the call from conservative sections of the community to ban it from the streets and confine it to enclosures like the White City. But it would be completely wrong to justify the banning of the carnival on the grounds of 42 arrests – which, by coincidence, is exactly the number arrested at the Spurs match last Saturday, which only attracted a fraction of the people present at the carnival.

The Borough council and the government must recognise that the black community, who compromise 10% of the population of this area, face huge social problems which are the direct result of the capitalist system. Although, ironically, they reside in the wealthiest borough in London they live in the most appalling overcrowded, squalid houses. Next to Lewisham they have the highest proportion of black youth unemployment.


Black youth need to get organised in a campaign to end their mass unemployment, to destroy their slums, end police harassment and to drive out racialism.

At the carnival the local Labour Party Young Socialists and PNP Youth were out leafleting, selling the ‘Left’ broadsheet against racialism, PNP Youth Bulletins and Militant, and recruiting new members. Along with paper selling and a bookstall we had the best political showing over the two days.

Black youth must fight back against the real criminal in this society – the landlords, bosses and profiteers! Join us in the organised labour movement in the fight for a socialist society where life can be colourful and happy not just at carnival time but all year round.

Ronnie Sookhdeo Archive   |   ETOL Main Page

Last updated: 28 August 2016