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Class struggle: the beginning of the end or just the end of the beginning? – by Mal Content.

This will be a more exploratory and speculative piece than my usual. Maybe it’s the drugs I’m on. I don’t mind whether anyone ‘likes’ it or not, this isn’t a game, but we need to come up with some answers, and fast.

Thirty years ago* Murray Bookchin wrote that the ‘particularism’ of proletarian revolution was inadequate to fend off the looming environmental catastrophe. At the time we all expected to perish in a nuclear holocaust rather than an ecological one. Then we thought we were going to run out of fossil fuel, but enough has been surveyed already to cook the planet three times over.

* ‘Remaking Society’ 1989.

Bookchin’s description of ecology and feminism as ‘transclass’ issues grates a bit. If I read him correctly, and I’m pretty new to his work, he postulates that the imperative of human survival would even bring the bourgeoisie on board, but it’s clear by now their even greater particularism can do nothing for us. We see the commodification of morality, with ‘fair trade’, carbon trading and green capitalism. Caring for the environment we are told, is a ‘luxury good’, the commodification of social duties like care of the elderly, and a new trade in the lives of the incapacitated and mentally ill. This is because there isn’t anything specifically human about capitalism. It’s a simple formula for extracting value from labour and the planet; it doesn’t have an end point.

We’ve just been told that there are eleven years left before destructive climate change becomes irreversible. It doesn’t seem to have had much impact on the mass media. Meanwhile rich wankers put fancy cars into outer space. Politicians chat and bourgeois move their fictional money around, we are going to have to save the world because we are the only class that ever does anything.

We could still just fold our arms.

As I pointed out in my rant against fortress Europe, large segments of the earth’s surface are shortly to become uninhabitable, and the dominant political class is frantically trying to re-establish notions of national and folk identity to soften us up for some serious crimes against humanity. The latter concept may become obsolete. Nearly a million people have lost their lives in natural disasters already this Century, and a tsunami that cleared the Netherlands sea defences could kill hundreds of millions.

The proxy war in Yemen holds millions of lives in the balance, potentially a holocaust in the making, as the politicians sit on their hands and make noises off. They’re all too deeply invested in the great game being played out on someone else’s ground, and in the only trade that still shows a return.

We’ve been here before.

Have forty years of neoliberalism left us immune to each other’s suffering? I’ve been told the English Working Class are too busy with their own survival to care about Palestine. I beg to differ, if caring about my Fellow Workers is a luxury or a privilege better I do that than stick my wages up my nose, because my freedom and theirs are inextricably linked. It doesn’t matter whether you appreciate this or not, it happens to be true.

Though Marx’s analysis of capitalist accumulation still works in general terms* the industrial proletariat is no longer the primary driver of social change. The best chance we had of using those productive relations was during the first quarter of the last century, and the establishment of the Comintern put the tin hat on that. Bolshevism was the Wetherspoons of class conflict: take ‘em over, shut ‘em down or make ‘em all the same, a plastic imitation of Working Class culture.

* Like Newton’s laws of mechanics which are fundamentally flawed but perfectly adequate if you want to build a bridge or fire a projectile.

21st Century capitalism is little concerned with the production of things*, and even the production and accumulation of value is simply a vehicle for the reproduction of power relations, capitalism’s sole purpose. It lurches from crisis to crisis, from war to war, ever refining itself as a mechanism for maintaining the dominance of the few over the many. As it lays waste to its habitat and its subjects, it remains entirely successful in this.

* Yet it produces more things than ever!

Tired of the circular arguments over class versus identity? It’s inarguable that there are a few people whose bloated purchasing power, validated by conflict and disaster, keeps the vast majority of humanity in poverty or debt-peonage. There are seven billion of us and most of us are not white, only a tiny fraction are bourgeois. A disproportionate amount of the work is done by women and children. Many of the workers who produce the things, in the gadget, garment and gimmick factories of Asia, are de-facto slaves. If we can’t even free the slaves, or create the conditions under which they can free themselves, we will never be free. We must destroy the economy and the social context in which it resides. It falls to us, in Europe and North America who fall into the hegemonic group to attack the source of the misery.

If we can agree then that capitalism is lethal and must be destroyed, we can sort out what happens next after we’ve killed it. Of course we have to use an intersectional analysis of oppression in both our means and ends, or the disparity in gains will be used to claw them back from us, long before we reach our goal – which must logically be to stop putting relative values on human attributes, needs and abilities. This renders the constitutional left, all political and industrial representation, redundant.

Privilege theory is a useful tool that reminds us that the oppressed often don’t need too much encouragement to oppress each other. Is it difficult to understand that a tool ideally suited to one context is entirely inappropriate in another? I don’t put nails in with a toothbrush or take a hammer to my teeth. Privilege isn’t about establishing a hierarchy of oppression and forming an orderly queue to air our grievances, it’s about the flow of information within the class, using direct experience to put each fragment of class struggle in its own context. Then we can piece together the whole jigsaw, we want to win this don’t we? Now we rush them all at once.

I offer just two examples that illustrate the pitfalls of neglecting this analysis.

A Faustian bargain was struck between capital and labour for most of the last century, to keep women out of the skilled workforce. Negotiation centred on the ability of a male wage worker to support a family on a single wage. His payoff was free domestic labour – in itself a massive subsidy to the bourgeoisie, who had tricked the class into reproducing itself at its own expense – and economic control over his spouse. For the bosses, they faced half as many organised workers as there could have been.

In 1949 Britain’s social democratic settlement collided tragically with cold war politics and imperialism at the state-owned Enugu colliery in Nigeria. The Labour government and TUC tried to impose their corporatist collective bargaining processes on an African workforce that had a syndicalist organisational structure along with tactics familiar to miners everywhere. They had recently saved the British Empire and been led to believe they were going to get a new deal in return, they weren’t going to be taken for mugs. Twenty-two workers lost their lives in the resulting massacre.

There isn’t much point in reflecting on privilege unless you subvert it or do something with it. Suppose an event doesn’t have disabled access; you could boycott it or even picket it, unless you are going there to perform a specific act. On the other hand, if it is necessary to spy on some fascists it would be useful to be white and straight-looking, and capable of making a swift exit, the revolution will not be a safe space, and there will be casualties, otherwise we’re all doomed anyway. What can you find to fuck with? If I had my time again I would study maths and computing and get an I.T. job in a stock exchange, the better to fuck shit up. I believe a dedicated, well prepared insider could destroy capitalism in an afternoon.

If you’re reading this and you work at the stock exchange, go on, you know you want to!

Use what you’ve got: Speak more than one language? We need you. If you’ve got a car, give people lifts, if you’ve got room put people up, if you’re not strapped for the cash you could pay for the meeting venue or at least buy a fucking round. If you see someone sitting on the pavement, give them something, don’t wait to be asked, they’re sat on a pavement and you’re not.

The myth of scarcity.

There isn’t enough: money, work, food, space. We hear this crap all the time from people who actually do know better but think we’re all mugs.

Even the bourgeoisie are beginning to suspect that wage labour and commodity production may not be sustainable. They regularly resort to primitive accumulation and state capitalism, fictitious capital augments itself without the intermediary of commodity exchange, somebody must then be made to need it or it confers no power. Remember capitalism is about domination, and there are other ways of dominating someone than making them work for a living, like knocking them to the ground and standing on them. We might see domination imposed directly, a new pauperage, a massive expansion of the prison-industrial complex.

Food has always been a blessing, its production the basis of stable social life, its consumption the cement of social relationships. Capitalism has made of it a curse, turned it into pollution, an environmental hazard, a source of ill-health and unhappiness, and still people starve. I like Kropotkin’s idea of technologically-intensive urban gardening to feed people at source without the need for wasteful transport and storage. Ah, and which plant grows ever so fast and sucks up water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide like nobody’s business? – Have a think.

Creative destruction.

We’re building the new world in the shell of the old, but we’re being too kind to the shell. Co-operatives, green initiatives, youth and community projects, these are good ideas, so capitalism co-opts them, and crucially, finds a way to profit from them. We should keep these things free of their interference.

The shell must not limit or confine us, even as it’s expanding and absorbing our blows, we have to break it to pieces. Transaction, and its evil twin coercion, can form no part of a humane society. As long as they are at its heart, there will be status, there will be power, and it will be self-perpetuating.

“Let us therefore trust the eternal Spirit which destroys and annihilates only because it is the unfathomable and eternal source of all life. The passion for destruction is a creative passion, too!”

– Mikhail Bakunin: ‘Reaction in Germany’ 1842

A fungal spore alights on a fallen trunk, it embeds itself in the dead wood and weaves its threads between and along the fibres, prising them apart, and taking such sustenance as it needs, spreads out through the forest floor, feeding the living trees and carrying their chemical messages back and forth. It breaks down the useless old material into its components and builds them up into something new and magnificent that blasts more spores into the wind. Countless organisms feed on its body, when conditions are unfavourable it lies dormant, but it never dies.

There are many well-rehearsed arguments against terrorism (vanguard adventurism, revolutionary gymnastics, propaganda by the deed etc). It makes the population feel unsafe and justifies state repression, it separates the revolutionary from their own class, and can corrupt those who practise it. The masses are seldom inspired by bandits and no state that wasn’t already on its way out was ever overthrown this way.

Nevertheless, in a world run by the likes of Assad, Bin Salman, Ergogan, Putin, Trump and Xi, imagine the sum of human suffering and conflict that could be saved by simply blowing the heads off them. That isn’t propaganda by the deed, it’s more akin to clearing up the dog shit in the park. Guerrilla gardening and tyrannicide share a common motivation: making your environment more pleasant to live in. The CNT-E’s assassinations of Cardinal Soldevilla and Bravo Portillo come into that category. We haven’t got time to build a worldwide revolutionary organisation, we could take a leaf from the nihilists*. We are implacably opposed to every aspect of this dead society so we can strike it anywhere, any time.

* Now, according to Volin, Russian nihilism was only an intellectual and philosophical current, and self-styled ‘nihilist revolutionaries’ were just appropriating the name because they liked the sound of it; I don’t know.

Nihilism was a reaction to the partial reforms of a leader who remained explicitly an autocrat*. It was a rejection of style in favour of substance, a rejection of mysticism and mythology in favour of natural science, a rejection of ideology in favour of utility.

* Tsar Alexander the second, killed by ‘nihilist revolutionaries’.

Everywhere there is talk of reform, of liberalisation, of progress, yet the grip of the bourgeoisie, of the spectacle, grows ever tighter. Is global warming being caused only by fossil fuels or by all this hot air? We’ve got used to our leaders being crooks, now we expect them to be clowns as well. There’s so much shit to fuck up.

Like it or not, most political discourse currently takes place online and I see fundamental flaws in it. The most serious I think is the ownership of facts. Facts don’t belong to anyone, they are just objective truths that can be tested empirically*, and truth serves no-one but those who seek it for its own sake. You may feel like an anarchist but if you only consider the facts that support your argument you’re engaging in party politics – and you don’t even belong to one.

* Otherwise they’re opinions.

People online do not so much express opinions as they take positions, and by a ratcheting process tighten that position’s grip on them until they cannot move. We spend a lot of our time exchanging views with virtual strangers, this could be a very good thing, but we’re judging each other not through close association but snippets of polemic. It lends itself to correspondence and confirmation biases, ad hominem, and my favourite: ‘no true Scotsman’.* Just as a person who follows the herd is no use to anyone but the herdsman, having one dud opinion doesn’t make you an idiot.

* I like to regularly scroll through a list of cognitive biases and see where I might have fallen for them. I recommend it as a useful daily meditation.

It seems to me that the proudly-identifying class-reductionists are dividing the class by making arbitrary judgements about who’s allowed to play. We need to abandon cultural conceptions of class entirely. It doesn’t matter whether you listen to hip-hop or opera, or whether you know which fork to pick your nose with, class is a power relation, and it’s pretty daft opposing people who have no discernible power over each other. It’s not just posh people who have a sense of entitlement either, one Trump supporter lamented that: “white people always go to the back of the queue” – well that’s how you queue mate.

It goes without saying the bourgeoisie would like to abolish class struggle altogether, their aim is to de-stratify their market, leaving a socio-economic continuum in which no member will easily recognise a common interest with any other – unless they specifically want to. If they succeed in this have they won? Must we refuse to trust one another or work together? Alternately aspiring and resenting, or sneering at the one next to us on the slope? They told us they’d won when the Berlin wall came down and a certain mirage of Working Class-ism evaporated, but now it’s all up for grabs and the stakes have never been higher.

Well that was a bit of a disjointed ramble, I’ll post it anyway, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible, heh, heh, heh.

Mal C x.

Reminder: We’ve Had Enough! Bristol Demo on March 24th

From Bristol Antifascists:

Calling all South West radicals, please circulate to your members and help spread the word! We’ve had enough! of…

  • The rise of the far right and fascists on our streets
  • Power hungry politicians and the rich that they serve
  • Profiteering landlords and no affordable housing
  • Greedy bosses and the rule of capitalism
  • Poverty and homelessness
  • Racist borders and militarised states
  • Attacks on immigrants and refugees
  • The police
  • Everyday bigotry and oppression
  • The abuse of all species and the planet
  • A culture of patriarchy, homophobia and transphobia
  • Right wing mass media and governments
  • Religious fundamentalism

… The list goes on!

None of this is the fault of refugees or migrants. It has everything to do with capitalism, it’s interconnected forms of oppression and the system of profit over all life on earth. We cannot rely on politicians or leaders to sort our problems out. We’ve had enough of their world. It’s all got to go and it’s up to us.

For a strong working class movement capable of being a real threat to the system. For a new world based on freedom, co-operation and solidarity.

They want us to feel isolated and powerless. But we are not alone. We refuse to be divided and set against each other by the media, politicians or fascists. We share common dreams as well as common enemies and we are stronger together.

Join the march to show we are on the move towards a better world. Meet at King’s Square Bristol BS2 8JW, on Jamaica Street behind Stoke’s Croft, 1pm on March 24th. Spread the words, bring your friends and bring sruff to make noise with!

Anti fracking camp at Leith Hill, Surrey, call out for support.

Europa Oil & Gas are nearing the end of the legal process giving them permission to carry out unconventional drilling in the Surrey Hills, despite massive community opposition. A phase of direct action is likely to begin once the site traffic starts to arrive in October. If you’d like to find out more, see the Leith Hill Protection Camp Facebook page or come and visit the Leith Hill Protection Camp which is in Coldharbour Lane near Dorking, opposite the intended drill site. If you’d like to join the camp, please visit first to meet the core crew.

Contact E-mail

For a world without leaders, elections, jobs, money, nukes or fascists: Radical Workers’ Bloc at Tolpuddle 2016.

naughty boyIt was a lovely sunny weekend, with a superb music line-up. We made some new comrades and enjoyed catching up with the Bognor contingent, Bristol Afed, Swindon A’s, North London, South Wales, West Midlands IWW and many musician friends. Big shout out to the Wob Kitchen for all the tasty vegan meals.

Tolpuddle festival is the Ascot of the left; the various historical re-enactment societies and activist groups rub shoulders in a more or less cordial way and Che Guevara shirts are worn without irony. The Radical Workers’ Bloc idea began in 2011, as a new generation discovered rioting, exasperated with the blatant futility of representative politics. Ever since, in the jolly festival atmosphere, we’ve had frank tactical discussions between Marxists and anarchists, antifascists, environmentalists, trade unionists and hunt sabs. There has been a tacit acceptance of the need for militant antifascism and mass direct action generally.

This was a weird one, the main topic of conversation being the tedious soap opera playing out in the Labour Party. The Westminster freak show is beyond parody, so we understand that the concept of any politician not being a crook or a sociopath is such a fucking novelty it could easily be mistaken for “a new kind of politics”. A good few of our comrades think so: “it isn’t really about Jeremy …” – well you could have fooled us. Each campaign group, union and Marxist party in turn pledged allegiance to the Leader. Even the bands made a point of endorsing Him from the stage. The SWP stall featured a large banner that commanded: “Join the Socialist Workers Party Today!” above a poster of J.C. proclaiming: “We’re the Labour Party and we’re here to stay!” Very confusing.

A more worthwhile discussion is the TUC’s failure to agree a coherent policy on the environment. Unite’s website insists Hinkley nuclear power station must go ahead without delay, plus the third runway at Heathrow– which 13 comrades narrowly avoided prison over recently. We understand there’s still a row going on in the GMB over fracking. If the workers’ organisations are not prepared to take responsibility for the fate of this lump of rock we’re all stood on, then who is? The bourgeoisie don’t give a shit.

Since the weekend three quarters of her majesty’s loyal opposition have voted for a new Trident doomsday machine, they must be stuck on the stench of burning flesh. The Corbyn movement now numbers at least half a million, maybe a million, fair play. So apart from keeping Corbyn what are their demands? They are split on the EU but then so were we. We’d guess they fancy a bit of social Keynesianism in place of the military variety, nationalisation and a progressive tax regime, but how and where are their different agendas going to be reconciled? If half a million people committed to direct action on one single issue – preventing deportation for example – there would be no more deportations. If they announced they would not permit anyone to be evicted from their homes, there would be no evictions. If that doesn’t grab anyone they could shut down fracking, blockade the factories that arm Israel and Saudi Arabia, or stop Trident dead in its tracks.

The only people feeling more left out were the Maoists, whose literature still fumes about the ‘counter-revolutionary renegade’ Leon Trotsky, apologises for the death toll of the Great Leap Forward and offers a defence of the Taliban against western imperialism – bless! I suppose if you actually want a boot on your neck, the left or the right one will do. The retrospective justification of mass murder, though unpleasant, is of little consequence when the perpetrators are a spent force. For sheer convoluted self-justifying, revisionist bullshit they’ve got nothing on Unite’s Executive Council statement on Trident which pre-emptively lays the blame for Armageddon at the door of anyone but the only people with the power to stop it.

Still our seditious anarchist literature flew off the stall, so someone must be reading it, follow leaders all you want, we’ll still be here when you get back. As for paying to vote for one, if anyone’s actually got 25 quid they don’t need it would be better spent supporting political prisoners such as Michelle Smith, a respected community activist, antifascist, and Unite the Union official from Merseyside. This comrade, who has our unreserved admiration, received a one-year sentence last Tuesday for helping the people of Dover defend themselves from neo-Nazis. It is entirely thanks to people like Michelle that the fascist threat is well contained. She is the single mother of two children, we send our solidarity and best wishes for an early release.MerseyAFN

A paypal account is being set up, in the meantime if you would like to donate, or write to Michelle, please send a message to Merseyside Anti-Fascist Network’s facebook page. There will be a fundraising event, Alerta! in Liverpool on sat 20th August 2016. Tickets are £5.

RADICAL WORKERS’ BLOC AT TOLPUDDLE 2016.

Radical Workers’ Bloc at Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival and rally:  Friday 15th to Sunday 17th July 2016. View map

captswing2We’re back again for the sixth year running, with the stall, Freedom Books, the Big Tent and our Wob Kitchen on the campsite catering for our comrades from Friday to Sunday (F.C.F.S). Camp with us, eat with us and march with us on Sunday.  We will have a few of our new ‘Friends of Captain Swing’ T shirts made by the Sabcat anarchist workers’ co-op. If you fancy one for a tenner, let us know through the contact form and don’t forget to include your e-mail address and size. We may ask for a small deposit depending on how much we have to front up – we’re rubbish capitalists!

Pro

We’ve also got a limited number of these left in black or red, also by Sabcat, larger sizes only, but they do work best as a billboard!

Freedom Press

revenge of the working class!

Open Letter to BBC South Today from Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Amber Rudd

amber rudd