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(en) Freedom 6322 Nov 16th 2002 - A very murky message indeed

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 30 Nov 2002 03:23:02 -0500 (EST)


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In 1997, some members of the Class War Federation tried to
wind the organisation up. They intended issue 73 of Class
War to be the last. On 19th October this year, Freedom
published an article called 'The murky message of '97'.
Written by M.H., one of the people involved in this attempt, it
analysed what happened and developments in the anarchist
movement since.
Not all M.H.'s ex-comrades agreed with him in 1997 (the
federation and paper still exist), and they don't now. Here,
Paul Marsh of London Class War gives an altogether different
account.

As a Class War member for some ten years, I was interested
to read M.H.'s article. What made it all the more fascinating
was that sightings of the people behind issue 73 have become
as rare in recent years as red squirrels on Hampstead Heath
(but, it has to be said, not nearly so welcome). In analysing
the world today, and the anarchist movement in particular, it's
essential to look at how we got to where we are. Here M.H. is
guilty of some sorry dishonesty. It's no surprise that he
chooses not to put his full name on the article.
The Class War Federation split at its national conference in
Nottingham in March 1997. The division was between those
who wanted to carry on as Class War and those who wished
to disband (the minutes are available from London Class War,
please send SAE). The split occurred, in part, due to the
extremely dubious methods used to produce issue 73.
When it was discovered that some of those producing the
paper were holding secret meetings for a hand-picked cadre of
members and guests, a parting of the ways became inevitable.
I doubt M.H. is proud of the fact that a meeting was
scheduled in London on 'Women and Class War' with none
of the female members of London Class War invited - but it
would be nice if M.H. at least said he regretted it.
The original intention of the 'final issue' of Class War was to
re-forge the anarchist and libertarian movements, by way of a
mass conference planned for London in 1997. Utterly isolated
in the capital and the south east because of their own
behaviour, M.H. and his comrades were left with nobody to
organise this conference. They had little option but to attach
themselves to an already existing event - Mayday in Bradford
the next year - and tailor it to suit their needs.
Issue 73 reflected the partial nature of its authors. In what was
supposed to be a painfully honest assessment of the history,
theory and practice of Class War, readers instead received
edited highlights. A history with no analysis of the
Anti-Election Alliance campaigns of 1992 and 1997, nothing
about the federation's concept of Communities of Resistance,
nothing about Class War Prisoners or about the group's brief
dabble in electoral politics at the North Kensington
by-election, and nothing on its attempts to work in the
industrial field through groups like Class War Colliers or
Class War Posties.
These were edited highlights, not of the Premiership but of
the Vauxhall Conference. M.H. and co. sold people a pup. It
would've been easier, if less dramatic, had they simply left
Class War to those who agreed with its politics and retired
quietly to tend their gardens.
By May 1998 many of the authors of issue 73 had had their
say and hung up their boots. Many of the Bristol lot, who'd
arguably initiated the whole process, couldn't even be
bothered to travel to Bradford. Rather than re-forging the
anarchist movement, this shower failed even to re-forge
themselves.
Class War was pretty skint in the mid 1990s. After the split,
M.H. and co. were unable to honour commitments they'd
made to supply London Class War with a computer, but they
had the finance to produce a theoretical magazine, Smash
Hits (which was initially free). Enthusiastically distributed by
well-meaning organisations like AK Press and Active
Distribution, this sank without trace after just three issues.
Curiously, M.H. doesn't mention Smash Hits once.
M.H. shows uncharacteristic honesty in recognising that the
sum achievements of the Bradford event were tiny, while
grossly over-stating the event's influence over subsequent
actions like Mayday 2000.
There now appears to be a growing recognition in the
movement that the huge amount of time and effort put into
Mayday is probably unwise. Freedom has contained some
interesting articles suggesting that Mayday, far from being
reclaimed, has been hijacked by those who see it merely as an
opportunity to wear silly costumes once a year.
The working class has never been as shafted as it is today.
With New Labour not even pretending to represent us, a real
vacuum exists in working class communities. Much of the
anarchist response to this appears to be to ignore it, while
concentrating harder on counter-cultural, anti-war and
environmental issues. As an ideology, anarchism doesn't lack
adherents (the Anarchist Bookfair gets bigger every year), but
anarchism in the UK lacks focus and clarity, and worse, at
times it lacks relevance.
We badly need to work together on areas that directly affect
our lives - anti-social crime, the behaviour of local authorities,
the policing of our communities and the prison-industrial
state that's being built up all around us. Those of us in
employment are working harder than ever, are taxed as highly
as ever and are paid as poorly as ever. For many of us, our
working lives will be five or ten years longer than those of our
parents. These are issues that matter.
A core mistake runs through M.H.'s article, and through the
thinking of his comrades. They seem to be unaware that
there's no point in theory without practice. Get everybody
together, pose lots of questions, keep out the oiks from Class
War and they think everything will be tickety boo. It hasn't
worked so far, and it won't work in the future.
While the authors of Class War 73 have largely faded from the
scene, the various national federations haven't. There are
good articles, and I believe good ideas, knocking around the
publications of the Anarchist Federation, Solidarity Federation
and Class War. Freedom has improved considerably, while
the Anarchist Youth Network has added a burst of energy.
Elsewhere, the demise of the Anarchist Black Cross and
Anti-Fascist Action has been damaging and, in some cases,
disastrous. The scandalous lack of support given to jailed
activists like Mark Barnsley, and the way fascists were able to
swan around with virtual impunity in Oldham last year,
illustrates some of the dangers of the movement not getting
its act together.
For activists to work together, trust and honesty are essential.
Activists I talk to and see posting on email lists clearly
recognise this. Perhaps if M.H. wants to come to the party, he
could start by honestly assessing his own work and actions
over the last five or six years and beyond. To paraphrase
M.H., if the ideas of the people behind issue 73 were so
brilliant, why did their new direction amount to so little and
have so little influence?
Paul Marsh
London Class War

London Class War, PO Box 467, London E8 3QX.
Issue 84 of Class War is now out, available from Freedom
Press at £1 (plus 50p p&p in the UK, £1 elsewhere).


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