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(en) Britain, Demanding Critical Thought, or Still Born Aufheben

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 26 Sep 2004 07:59:35 +0200 (CEST)

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Council-communists and autonomeous marxists seems to be on the
antiauthoritarian side... but they are often quite elitists and/or dogmatic.
This is a reply to "Intakes: Death of a Paper Tiger... Reflections on
Class War" found on the Aufheben website on Feb. 21st 2000, but
printed in 1997, Autumn no.6, in their magazine. I chose the title
above to reflect antagonism back to and as a political judgement on
the state of Aufheben. Their hostility towards Class War was
misplaced when in their article (Aufheben No. 4, page 17, summer
1995) about the struggle against the Criminal Justice Act (when
Class War was going strong) they say 'Class War were busy selling
papers rather than fighting with the police'. The reality of that day
for those who were involved in Class War at the time was that
several groups were involved in a lot of the main violence in Hyde
Park and the looting down Oxford Street. But then when did
intellectuals know anything?

Aufheben's method of critique was one of unjustly abstracting and
isolating elements of the Class War package in order to criticise.
This is not the imminent critique of Marxism (autonomist or
otherwise) Nor is it actually aimed at the politics of the organisation.
A consistent approach would critique Class War initiatives in the
class struggle. The tone of the piece tries to take apart the
POPULAR newspaper Class War to point out its supposed failure
to grasp the essence of class, an unfair criticism. No newspaper,
tabloid or broadsheet could do that, and one Class War never
claimed to define. Perhaps we should have produced an 'unpopular'
paper to make them happy?

In my judgement 'Intakes' lost the plot so badly that the entire
article needs dismantling. It is pain fully obvious that throughout
the entire article there was felt a need to denigrate the entire
existence of Class War and what it stood for, a hatchet job from the
same stables as the right wing media that Aufheben weakly try to
analyse. It's really sad that the 'intellectuals' could only selectively
find criticisms, and talk about something they never really
understood or participated in. Basically the criticisms of Class War
were not reciprocally applied. But now, to the article.

'Intakes' make several suppositions which need taking apart. Firstly,
when they said "on those occasions when the group orthodoxy
became an obstacle to action" they do not give an example or the
supposed context. Also, Class War is an organisation notorious for
wanting action and organising it which they contradictorily note
later on in the article. Basically all the way through their article they
misjudge what it was possible to do in particular times and places by
the organisation Class War. Getting the political timing right, the
right time and place is essential for the political 'moment'.

When 'Intakes' says "On the level of appearances, which was
always their main form of existence. Class War was essentially a
marketing concept of the '80s" it is asserting rather than proving its
point. A fault throughout the entire article, which consisted of a lot
of vague assertions and little real proof or analysis (for example
there are no examples of the "boring arrogance" Class War is meant
to have displayed, nor is there any real evidence of Class Wars'
supposed "elitist motive"! So Class War when it organised events
and took part in the fighting during industrial disputes and riots is
only an appearance? So our question to Aufheben is where did we
'appear', why, and how was it our main form of existence? Then
'Intakes' say any event Class War organised was of various kinds of
'opportunism'. If by 'opportunism' (a phrase which is left
unexplained) you mean that Class War as an organisation
substituted itself for the working class this is clearly nonsense, but if
by 'opportunism' you mean that we reject having to wait until the
whole class is ready to act then we're guilty. As working class
people we seek to confront oppression whenever we face it. In the
context of class struggle, its urgency etc. things have to be done. In
this case do all working class people have to digest the complete
works of Marx (or Aufheben) before they are deemed fit enough to
have conducted any sort of class struggle?

By calling the Bash the Rich Marches media spectacles designed
merely to publicise the organisation and keep its personnel occupied
Aufhehen miss the point. A Bash the Rich march was and is a good
idea at the right time, publicising the organisation and keeping the
personnel occupied are the effects of Class War organising a Bash
the Rich march. Class War in the face of inertia by all groups on the
Left was being radical by doing this, putting it's head above the
barricade unlike Aufheben ever. By saying that "Publicising a Bash
the Rich march in advance is like informing the law beforehand of
your intention to hold up a bank" Aufheben show how completely
they have lost the plot. Their ideas really are defeatist logic. So do
you think we can organise large events with no publicity? Do you
really think you can organise anything effectively without
publicising it? So 'revolutionaries' cannot publicise any activities
ever because we might fail.

Then when they get onto criticising the use of working class
language they reveal their theoretical poverty. By calling for a
Yorkshire or patois Class War so that we would have been truly
populist is missing the point. Class War was passed on by people
with Yorkshire and other accents to similar people. Single copies of
Class War would be passed round large working men's and Labour
clubs in the North and be understood by scores of people. Aufheben
also seem to be painfully unaware of their own contradictions and
weak analysis. Another example is where they talk about the
"withering of a combative proletarian culture" and then slag off
Class War for saying young working class men swear a lot. A real
combative working class movement WILL swear a lot (so you'd
better get used to it). There is NO contradiction, nor is it
patronising, in 'educated' working class people spreading the good
word in a working class manner in the streets of Britain.

Because Aufheben never participated in Class War and seldom read
it, their only meeting with Class War appears to have been from the
media. One of the reasons for the existence of Class War was to
provide an antidote to the populist media as 'Intakes' notes. But
where the analysis is wrong is where they say the "desired effect of
all populist journalism (of whatever creed) is to suspend critical
thought on the part of the reader and to reduce choices of opinion
down to a simple duality good/bad, black/white through a simplistic
representation of reality. Constant repetition of this tends to numb
thought and encourage predictable (Pavlovian) responses". This
analysis puts the cart before the horse, firstly it implies that people
are already capable of critical thought which is gradually closed
down (can younger people immediately read well?) and it overlooks
the fact that millions of people already don't necessarily believe
what's in the papers anyway. Sometimes as well - reality is that
simple, to become a class for itself the working class has to have
concrete enemies as Marx realised. Therefore the police are always
to be laughed at and attacked, the rich are always greedy selfish gits
and so on, and Class War did this.

By asserting that Class War was part of the repression of 'critical
thought cretinization process' "influencing the whole of society" is
just absurd. Class War was at its best in class struggle and
encouraged working class people (me included) to realise who its
enemies were and what was needed to do was fight back and go on
the offensive if possible.

Aufheben seem to be under the illusion that the masses want to
read Aufheben, if only they would realise it. It is correct from a
working class point of view to state that insisting on reading or
promoting theory to people is 'elitist' and 'middle class' at certain
times. The working class generally has little formal education and to
insist people like this (from prisons for example) can read and
understand some articles in Aufheben is ludicrous. I can picture an
activist trying to interest my mother in the Aufheben magazine, and
she would politely say "take it back to your University where it
belongs". Aufheben unjustly abstract the notion of tabloid populism
as if there was no working class political content in the Class War
newspaper. When of course working class people even today reflect
on reading the Class War newspaper in a positive light, e.g.
characters from Sunderland South Labour Club.

Aufheben accuse us of dishonesty as well when we produce a
popular newspaper because we apparently are denying the
proletariat theory when Class War ourselves understand a lot of
theory. Aufheben seem to have no concept of learning and assume
that everybody is immediately capable of theory from birth. It's
obvious to us that when we still have illiteracy, that as recently as
the late 1980s 50% of children left school with no qualifications that
there has to be @/left material which is easy to read and
understand. Class War is seen to separate theory from propaganda
by theorists because we realise that building a movement takes all
different kinds of people. As if you could street sell copies of
Aufheben in the rougher areas of Britain...

Aufheben state with glee that proles really do like theory and used
to conduct street meetings by the 100. But street meetings aren't
necessarily educational, and when did Aufheben do a street meeting
anyway? I could imagine them trying to explain the meaning of the
word (Aufheben) to the one bloke who would turn up to a public
meeting called "Aufheben" in Easterhouse. And contrary to the left,
Class War actually did do street meetings. The street meeting in
Gravesend in 1992 had around 100 people gathered to hear Tim
Scargill speak and it was monitored by Paul Condon - then head of
Kent Police... One in the last year in Glasgow was vibrant and very
well attended.

To say we are 'insulting the historical efforts of the working class to
educate itself' is just false and middle class bullshit, with no basis in
reality. What Class War does is in the same league as Paulo Freire
and the "Pedagogy of the Oppressed". The following quotes are
taken extensively to give a feel and meaning to our argument, and
are taken from Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
[Continuum, New York; 1999].

Class War like Freire has worked on the premise that:

every human being, no matter how 'ignorant' or submerged in
the 'culture of silence' he or she may be, is capable of looking
critically at the world in a dialogical encounter with others. Provided
with the proper tools for such encounter, the individual can
gradually perceive personal and social reality as well as the
contradictions in it, become conscious of his or her own perception
of that reality, and deal critically with it. In this process, the old.
paternalistic teacher-student relationship is overcome. A peasant
can facilitate this process for a neighbour more effectively than a
'teacher' brought in from outside. 'People educate each other
through mediation of the world.'

As this happens, the [good] word takes on new power. It is no
longer an abstraction or magic but a means by which people
discover themselves and their potential as they give names to things
around them. As Freire puts it, each individual wins back the right
to say his or her own word, to name the world.

When an illiterate peasant participates in this sort of educational
experience, he or she comes to a new awareness of self, has a new
sense of dignity, and is stirred by a new hope. Time and again,
peasants have expressed these discoveries in striking ways after a
few hours of class: "I now realise I am a person, an educated
person." "We were blind, now our eyes have been opened." "Before
tins, words meant nothing to me; now they speak to me and I can
make them speak." "Now we will no longer be a dead weight on the
cooperative farm." When this happens in the process of learning to
read, men and women discover that they are creators of culture, and
that all their work can be creative. "I work, and working I transform
the world." And as those who have been completely marginalised
are so radically transformed, they are no longer willing to be mere
objects, responding to changes occurring around them; they are
more likely to decide to take upon themselves the struggle to
change the structures of society, which until now have served to
oppress them." [Introduction pages 14 and 15]

he or she comes to a new awareness of self. a new sense of
dignity... "We were blind, now our eyes have been opened." "Before
this, words meant nothing to me; now they speak to me and I can
make them speak"... This radical self awareness is not only the task
of workers in the Third World, but of people in this country as well,
including those who in our advanced technological society have
been or are being programmed into conformity and thus are part of
the 'culture of silence'. [Back page]

Class War has many examples of how it did this, but the best ones
were from prisoner work, copies of which are available from the
London Class War address for an SAE. Spelling and grammar have
been left as they are in the originals, and copies were sent to
Aufheben. This is a very small selection from letters in the Class
War Prisoners archive of around 600 letters. The prisoners' names
have been omitted for security reasons:

"Greetings C.W. First let me congradulate yous for all the Work
and Truth That goes into every issue of Class War especially issue
69 September October 19-95 page 4 prisoners of War Special
feature The War inside Thanks for everything yous Do for prisoners
"Cheers" This prisoner appreciates it and So Do many others Keep
up The good Work".
Prisoner 1, HMP Glenochil, Clackmanshire (north of Edinburgh)
Class War issued a number of prisoner membership cards and
the membership form is reproduced below.

"I recently read your Dec/Jan 95/96 issue while sitting In this
shithole. And I would Just like you to know I thought it was
absolutely fucking brilliant. Its hard hitting, funny and most of all its
straight to the point truthful. I can honestly say it is the best paper I
have ever picked up. I would be very grateful if you could send me
more info on what you do!"
HMP Saughton, Edinburgh

Class War; "what do you think of the Class War newspaper?"
Prisoner 2 "it's OK at times, but a littol Soft for my likeing, so to
HMP Glenochil
[So Class War - dubbed the "Rottweiler of the Left" and an "hate
group" - is too soft for prisoners!!?!]

"Today was the day! I've read and seen my first Class War
(Queen Muther: Scrounger) excellent, would make a remarkable
t-shirt, poster etc. Felt good reading the paper, felt right. Wished I'd
of come across it a few years earlier, better late than never".
HMP Whitemoor, Cambridgeshire

"Many thanks for the swift reply... I am from the worst part of
Toxteth in Liverpool called the Dingle. I am 35 years old and was an
active member of the Toxteth riots which made me politically aware
of the power of mass Rebbelion... I was delighted to see the Class
War banners in the Poll Tax Riots, as you are truly a broad based
group who tries to unite the working classes... And I really want a
Class War prisoner ID card as well, as it is something to be proud
Her Majesties Prison Woodhill, Milton Keynes

(The author of this piece has visited prisoners in 6 prisons in
England and Scotland.)

When Aufheban says Class War avoided dealing with real
contradictions within the working class, it is a thing we could direct
back at them and ask what has Aufheben done. Furthermore Class
War did make attempts to do this, such as articles like "what do we
do when the cops fuck off' about working class people looking after
ourselves when the cops have been kicked out of our areas after the
1985 riots.

The endpiece of their article was trying to use a quote from a Class
War drunk saying that we'll turn the place into rubble in 5 years,
well we did. Class War did take part in the Poll Tax riot and many
others besides making lots of good propaganda as we went. The
brick in one hand and a biro in the other is still a reality today as
well. Class War did have a messy split but now we are free of
'repressed contradictions and repressed self doubt' and Class War
continues in the progressive working class attitude it always has
had. For people who should know the meaning of the phrase "From
A Working Class Point Of View" you really should have known
better. The task we set ourselves then is the same one as is
necessary now - the creation of a combative working class
movement which can begin to mould our destiny under no control
by intellectual leaders where the raw, brutal and vengeful nature of
the beast is released upon its enemies.


The Logic of Marx's Capital - Tony Smith, State University of New
York Press. 1990.

Making Histories: Studies in History Writing and Politics edited by
R. Johnson, G. McLennan, B. Schwarz and D. Sutton. Especially
Chapter 5 - "Reading for the Best Marx: History Writing and
Historial Abstraction", University of Minnesota Press. 1982.
Copied from a link in enrager.org - http://www.geocities.com/aufheben2/animal.html

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