Class War Not On Pause

Reproduced in full from ACG

It is a common tactic of states and capital to invoke the “national interest” and “we’re all in it together” as a means of diverting attention from the class war. Such cries were heard often during and after the 2008 financial crisis, when states and capital protected themselves by turning the screws on workers. However, the current situation with COVID-19 has certainly outdone the 2008 financial crisis in the pleas for national unity. Indeed there has probably not been an occasion since the 2nd World War where the national interest has been so successfully employed (at least in “the West”).

In the UK all parties and governments are largely in consensus, happy to echo this call for unity, any division between Tory and Labour, liberal and conservative, “leaver” and “remainer”, Westminster and Holyrood has been temporarily put aside by the political classes. Journalists and politicians alike, backed up by their tame experts and pet scientists, are happy to raise the myth of WWII – a wartime footing for the NHS, the fight of our lives, etc – to make the argument for unity. Of course the real divisions of society – between labour on the one hand and capital and State on the other – are as present as ever. The effects of this crisis will be felt disproportionally by the poorest – both in the UK and worldwide.

The political consensus is rooted in the unanimity that there can be no more damage to the economy, an argument reflecting the interdependence of the State and capital. Contrary to claims of some social democrats, neo-liberalism has not been a case of capital doing away with the State but rather the State and capital becoming increasing integrated, capital requiring the State to facilitate its exploitation of workers. The current crisis provides an excellent example of this interdependence, with the State stepping in to ensure the economy (i.e. the economic exploitation of workers) continues to function in some manner.

To this end we have seen a series of increasingly interventionist budgets by the UK government to deal not only with the COVID-19 situation but also the demands of workers. As a result there have been some real, if limited, concessions to labour – the covering of 80% of the salary of those workers on a payroll will be welcome relief to some, however, it does nothing for those in precarious employment and many of the lowest paid. And while the demands from some for a “basic income” may have some advantages, particularly at the current time, it would still be part of a series of measures designed to save capitalism not to bury it.

However, despite their intentions, capital and the State may have a harder time than they think in putting the genie back into the bottle. Even before, the additional measures were taken because the COVID-19 crisis workers had forced the 1st budget of this government to the “left” of any since at least 2008. While the conflict between liberalism, already weakened before the pandemic, and (national) populism is currently taking a backseat, it seems likely it will be renewed sooner rather than later. It is not hard to see that the current crisis will feed into the increasingly anti-immigration political climate. Neither liberalism nor national populism offer anything to labour directly but the competition between the two may open opportunities to advance the power of workers. In addition, to supporting worker self-organisation at this moment it is vital that we also look forward to how we can keep and extend any gains we make. To that end the nonsense of national unity, not “being political” and workers and bosses being on the same side needs to be opposed whenever possible.


Initial reactions to corona pandemic, from the south of England, By Mal Content.

The most striking aspect of the corona pandemic has been the inequality of information, which follows naturally from the inequality of everything else. Most Working Class people are too busy flogging their bodies and souls to pursue a balanced education in the ever-accelerating fund of scientific discovery. This belongs to all humanity but is kept the preserve of the few precisely because of the power it conveys. Some will find on the Internet the virtual equivalent of the bloke down the pub. Rumours abound and fact is half-digested.

In the absence of previous experience and relevant theory the ‘citizen’ – elevated from serf in recognition of the agency we suddenly all have – has to rely on experts, really no more than political appointees, for advice, which is then filtered through the politicians with their political agendas.

We recall Professor David Knutt, one of the most accomplished academics who ever worked for a government, being fired simply for writing an article in the Lancet that contradicted the government’s implausible justification for its drugs policy, a cascade of learned folk resigned in disgust. Capitalism cannot provide us with accurate information any more than it can provide us with clean air and water when it is more lucrative to pollute it.

We are left with stark choices: to trust the hapless buffoons who somehow found themselves in government; to scream for them to exert more coercion on our fellows; to follow the herd in an orgy of virtue-signalling, or to inform ourselves, trust our own judgement and work in practical solidarity and mutual aid networks formed of trusted affinity groups. The recent flirtation with Jeremy Corbyn has left many people still harbouring the delusion that politicians can solve problems in the real world, or that any utilitarian solutions could emerge from under the vast burden of capital accumulation and hierarchical power.

The U.K.’s health minister Matt Hancock has no relevant qualifications whatsoever; he’s a disaster going somewhere to happen. An economist at the bank of England in 2005 he was given responsibility for the housing market, two years before the housing market took out the global banking system. Never mind, the wealth of the global elite has increased steadily year on year ever since, as ours has fallen in like measure. His latest task of overseeing the pillage of public health resources having been superseded, he has been elbowed to the sidelines by the grandstanding pfeffle.

Above all we must approach this as a Class for ourselves, social distancing is a control measure aimed at the poor. Don’t be deluded the rich are cooking their own dinner or cleaning their own shithouses, they are well insulated, they don’t have to go to the shops or the factory and they won’t run out of bog roll. They don’t have to sit on public transport for hours to work in districts where they cannot afford to live. Etc. Etc. It was the rich who spread this so fast, with their pointless ‘business travel’, cruises, annual skiing trips and ‘exotic’ holidays in other people’s misery.

They now feign concern for elderly and infirm members of our Class after years of slaughtering them in droves through poverty and neglect, but what they are actually terrified of is the collapse of the power structure, the house of cards on which they perch their idle arses. As of this morning there have been 7 confirmed cases in the whole of Dorset, I’ve been told not to go to my local boozer but must make a thirty-five mile round trip daily to work in a factory in the next county – where there are 87 cases – or I won’t get paid. Adjusted for population that’s at least four times the risk. We hear the World Health Organisation – a failure in terms if ever there was one – praise the Chinese state for its diligence in basically quarantining people at gunpoint. For the life of me I can’t see a qualitative difference between dying of a disease or getting shot by the cops, neither seems healthy to me.

The Agenda of the liberal-bourgeois-military-industrial state is to preserve the status quo, to maintain the hierarchy of power relations hitherto enforced by property, capital and debt. Everything else, including the death toll, is a secondary consideration to the likes of Boris de pfeffle Johnson, whose career as an amusing after-dinner speaker got interrupted by a spell as Prime Minister. Be ruthless in rejecting notions of national unity across the classes. In the long run we’re all dead, as Keynes put it, but that doesn’t mean we have any commonality of interest in the interim. The money economy is not our problem and we’ll not lift a finger to save it. People don’t need jobs or money, they need food, clothes and shelter, care, education, opportunities for recreation and personal growth. All these things are supplied by the Working Class – it’s time to cut out the middle man.

This isn’t a truce in the Class War, it’s a second front. The explicit strategy of disaster capitalism is to exploit every crisis to increase their class’ domination over ours, it is a sad fact that we must meet this challenge head-on, or we will all lose in the long run. It would be a tragedy if nothing good came out of all this misery. The state is very weak now, if we push hard enough it will break, and we will be free. Betrayed by our institutions and abandoned by our rulers, we have nowhere to place our faith but in ourselves and each other. Just like in 1936, we can take on the external threat and the internal one at the same time. We the Working Class are ultimately responsible for everything that ever was or will be. Don’t be afraid of ruins!

Tower Rewards? It’s Tower Robbery!


Tower robbery
UNISON members working for Tower Hamlets Council and in Community Schools are getting ready to take strike action after smashing through the Tory industrial action threshold of 50% turnout. Members voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action to stop the imposition of a new contract that would worsen their terms and conditions. The ballot result was 98% of members in schools and 89.6% in councils voting to come out on strike!

Strikes will take place on 24 March and 1 and 2 April, with more dates planned after Easter. Camden UNISON will be publicising any marches/rallies and protests that members can support as soon as we have the details. It’s some time since we’ve had a strike across a whole Council and so they need to know fellow trade union members support them. Tower Hamlets UNISON was the single biggest donor to our traffic wardens when they were on strike, and members visited their picket lines and came on our marches so it’s time for us to return the solidarity! Camden UNISON has already agreed to send a message of support and make a donation to to both trade unions involved (UNISON and NEU, the teachers’ union).

The new Council contract will include cutting a range of allowances, slash severance pay, reduce the current flexi scheme and worsen pay on some grades.

The council are ironically calling the new contract ‘Tower Rewards’ but UNISON has rebranded it ‘Tower Robbery’.

The council issued 12 weeks’ notice to all council staff meaning if they don’t accept the new contract they will be sacked and out of a job on the 13 April 2020.

UNISON is now in talks with the NEU to coordinate strike action after teachers impacted by Tower Robbery also successfully voted to take industrial action.

Assistant Branch Secretary, Kerie Anne, said: “The council’s treatment of hardworking and dedicated staff providing public services has been shocking, as has the behaviour from senior managers through the consultation process. Rather than wearing UNISON members down it has had the opposite effect and galvanised the workforce to fight back. Disappointingly senior managers have not spoken to UNISON branch officers for months, preferring to communicate instead by a series of formal letters threatening to take the union to court to stop its ballots and raising other frivolous complaints. Now that they are faced with a concrete threat of a strike that has the potential to shut this borough down, Tower Hamlets Council must abandon its high handed and aggressive methods and begin genuine talks with us to settle this dispute.”


Bristol Radical History Festival Saturday 16th May, 2020

10.00 am to 4.30 pm

Bristol Radical History Group (BRHG) have organised a full programme of events for our 2020 Radical History Festival, in collaboration with our hosts at M Shed.


The 2020 Festival has two main Themes, where once again we will reveal hidden histories, debate and agitate for a future of better pasts:

State and private surveillance of labour and social movements (1792 to now)

Hidden histories of post-war mainland Britain (1945-51)

Programme of events