Victory to the Dongas

First published in ELPAN No.1

The Dongas are a tribe of about 40 people who have settled in Twyford Down. They have named themselves after the ancient trackways which converged on Twyford Down. Some of these were up to 20ft deep. They have gradually come together over a year, are mostly under 25 and have few possessions beyond a goat, an axe and some bits of canvas, bedding and rudimentary cooking utensils. One of them told a reporter "Call us indigenous Albion, if you like. We have chosen this. We are passionate about Life." (Guardian, 15th Dec)
On 9th December, the day of the Lunar Eclipse the Ministry of Transport and Tarmac joined forces mounted a vicious attack on them in pursuit of that notorious piece of vandalism known as the Winchester Bypass. After Winchester College successfully took the Dongas to court (the college made a cool £300,000 by selling land given to them to protect from development), 80 security men with bulldozers steamed into the pathways ripping up trees. The Dongas resisted as much as they could, throwing themselves in front of bulldozers and climbing trees.
As Professor David Bellamy said: "I have been in many protests around the world in some very hairy countries and have never seen such unreasonable force used, especially on women. These boys were putting the boot and fist in and they didn't care if they were men or women. There were ministry people there but no one tried to call them off. The security men went completely over the top." (Guardian, 15th Dec)
While David Bellamy adopted the pose of 'outraged observer', the Friends of the Earth washed their hands of the matter. Eventually seventy police were drafted in to mop up the last of the resistance on 12th December. It is clear that such reformist organ-isations will always back off even before push comes to shove.
Meanwhile the "War against the Hippies", is a part of a major propaganda effort to isolate and destroy some of the most intransigent elements who refuse to subordinate their lives to the latest money-making schemes of big business.
The danger of trusting such reformist groups can be readily seen in the revolting Glastonbury Festival, whereby the Free Festival at Stonehenge was diverted up the garden path. At first an entrance fee was extorted on the grounds that it was going to charity, but the travellers were allowed in free. Word got round, so others felt they also had no need to pay. Last year the travellers who had created the festival were driven away by the organisers. Security was organised to extract money from anyone attending. Meanwhile, the money so raised gets distributed around various local landowners and a whole host of entrepreneurs have been encouraged. A small amount trickles down to green 'charities', whose social practice ends up encouraging complacency and denying support to such as the Dongas. This is a stitch up.
A festival which you have to pay to attend is not a festival, but a money making business. There has been a struggle for free festivals now for over twenty years. In that period, whether through a conscious choice or in consequence of the draconian housing and benefit laws concerning young people, the number of travellers in Britain has increased from 3,400 in 1965 to 13,500 in 1992. (Squall No.3)
The government is planning more legislation against travellers. This is part of a policy to increase homelessness, particular when seen in conjunction with their plans to make squatting harder.
What appear as gross stupidities to the liberals, make clear sense when seen in terms of the class interests dominating society. The attack on council housing, squatting and the travellers means that private landlords will be able to extract higher rents for more and more cramped living quarters.
Of course the notion that anyone can own land is simply a justification for robbery. No-one can own land anymore than they can the sky. The notion of land ownership simply serves to cover the brutal oppression exercised first by feudal lords and now by the capitalists.
The LPA is planning a study of the "War against the Hippies" which as far as we can see certainly goes back to the struggles to make the Isle of Wight a Free Festival, and the plans of the London Street Commune to open up mass squats in London. We would welcome any assistance in this by participants in these struggles, or people who have any leaflets, articles etc., that may have appeared over the last twenty five years or so.

Squall, the magazine for Squatter-Homeless is available free from;
2 St. Paul's Road, London N1 2QN

Traveller and Gypsy Action Group can be contacted at:
16 Greenhill Close,
Winchester, Hants
SO22 5DZ
Tel: 0962 861 685

Return to ELPAN No.1
Return to LPA Home Page