(en) Class War is dead ... long live the class war!

I-AFD/IFA - A-Infos Germany (i-afd_1@anarch.free.de)
02 Aug 1997 03:09:00 +0200


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Recently, the british CLASS WAR FEDERATION has released the summer '97 issue of its paper which is also meant to be the final one. In it, Class War announce that they are dissolving the paper and the Federation. In a long "Open letter to the revolutionary movement" Class War go into their own history and analize their own development as well as that of the broader left in England with a degree of openness and self-critique seldomly paralleled by other anarchist organisations let alone parties or other political groupings. For those who do not know, Class War was a Federation of people inspired by anarchist thoughts that during its thirteen year existance often took a great amount of influence and won much popularity in working class struggles (especially in the anti-poll tax movement) through its provocative, militant politics and propaganda, as well as its media work, entitled "populist" by critics. I am forwarding two articles from the paper to the list since there has not been any mention of this specific issue here so far, which I believe may be interesting for many of the list participants. I don't feel up to typing in the main 14 pages of analysis but recommend everyone to read them, if you can get hold of them. Robert (from the A-Infos Collective in germoney)

*BEYOND THE BULLSHIT* IN A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY... In this issue of the paper we have been as honest and as frank as we can. We have taken the bold step of getting our dirty washing out in public. Being self-critical can seem negative, but we believe that this is now the most positive thing to do. At the moment, there's no other group on the left that has the courage to do what we have done. They will quite happily carry on trudging (and we do mean trudging) along the same path, using the same formulars, spouting the same old tired shit, in blind obedience to their doctrines and leaders. They are never allowed, and never want, to admit that maybe they have got it all wrong. One thing that has set us apart from the the rest of the left is that we have always believed that the working class movement towards revolution is the most important thing, and that Class War would only have a limited part to play in this. To go forward you have to look in the past, to see your mistakes. This we have done over the past few years, and in this issue. It hasn't all been bad: we have had some great times, our politics have been fun and we have had an effect out of all proportion to our size. But at the same time there was always the frustration that for every person involved in the Federation there were another ten who agreed with what we said but kep their distance - people who read the paper regularly, who bought the T- shirt, who flocked to line up behind our banners on marches, but who never felt able to commit themselves further to our organised politics.

THE FED STRIKES BACK You might be dismayed at the basic frankness and tone of this paper. It is a departure from the type of propaganda that we have always produced in the past, but while we may be saying things differently, there is no departure from our politics. In fact, quite the opposite: it is only because we can now see the potential for refounding the revolutionary movement that we are taking the unprecedented step of dissolving the Class War Federation. With sales of 4,000 for every issue, Class War is almost certainly the biggest paper on the left apart from Socialist Worker. For some groups this would be their idea of heaven. Yet it is because we want so much more that we are now dissolving. Our underlying thought is this: If just fifty people organised into a Federation have achieved this much, what could we do if there are five hundred of us or five thousand? The upshot of what we've said here is that we need new ways of organising ourselves that can appeal to all the working class, male and female, young and old, black and white. Class War has gone as far as it can go, and while it still exists our movement will not be able to move on to something better. It's not down to us as Class War to say how we should organise, that's for the men and women who take part to decide. But we are taking the initiative by organising a number of conferences, to create some sort of national forum for revolutionaries. From informal chats we already know there is a groundswell of support for this. Over the next few months we will be pushing the idea as widely as possible and we urge you to do likewise.

MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU As libertarians we aim to motivate rather than lead, empower rather than act as a vanguard. It's a difficult task given the complete and utter political alienation of the working class from both mainstream and radical politics. But if we want to move our politics beyond the shadows of the left - which, not to put too fine a point on it, is fucked - we need imagination, dedication, education, collaboration and a vision. Individually we may have some of the answers, but it's only by collaborating that we can come up with a practical programme which we can get on with. If you agree with the gist of what we've written - bearing in mind that we've written it 'fom the heart', and not as some piece of lefty theory - we appeal to you to get involved. We don't care what you call yourself - anarchist, communist, Sagittarius - but the bottom line will be a commitment to libertarian class struggle politics: party-builders, hacks, cynics and armchair theorists need not apply.

Don't believe the hype: capitalism has not gone away, the class struggle continues and there are huge social battles looming on the horizon. Let's get to work ... SMASH THE STATE DEATH TO THE RULING CLASS ALL POWER TO THE WORKING CLASS

Dates and venues for conferences will be decided over the next few months - you can keep in touch with us by ringing the Hotline on 0117 907 3667, writing to the National Secretary at PO Box 3241, Saltley, Birmingham B8 3DP, or contacting your regional CW contact: SCOTLAND: PO Box 1021, Edinburgh EH8 9PW THE NORTH: Leeds CW, PO Box HH57, Leeds LS8 5XG WALES AND THE MIDLANDS: Birmingham CW, PO Box 3241, Saltley, Birmingham B8 3DP THE SOUTH: London CW, BM Box 5538, London WC1N 3XX

*CLASS WAR IS DEAD... LONG LIVE THE CLASS WAR*

Welcome to Class War number 73. This is the last issue of Class War that will be produced by the existing Class War Federation. But before you rush off and top yourself in despair, let us explain why this is, and give you an idea of how we see the future. We have always said that Class War is different from all the other political outfits in Britain. The biggest difference between us and them is that in Class War we have never had any intention of setting ourselves up as leaders; we were never some vanguard wanting to seize power. Most other political groups only really want one thing - that is the power to tell you what to do for their benefit, not yours. In these pages you will find a no-nonsense, sometimes tough analysis of our failings. We are doing this because we feel our class needs a far better political perspective than those currently on offer from the Left - including Class War. The whole point of Class War was for ordinary working class people to take control of their own lives back from the parasites who think they own this country. So why are we turning it in after 13 years? We are not. What we are about is looking ahead to something bigger, better and altogether more unpleasant for the ruling classes. Basically the paper and the Federation have gone as far as they can in their present form, and it's time for something new. As far as we know none of the usual political parties have ever dissolved themselves, but then, as we said, our politics are different. In order to make more sense of this we need to go back to the beginning of Class War and explain again what we've been up to all these years. Class War was started in the early 1980s in London by a small group who soon linked up with like-minded people and formed a national federation in 1985. We were sick of the whinging lefties from CNT or the Labour Party who were down on their knees pleading with the ruling class to be alittle less horrid in the way that they rule the country. We were inspired by the principles of anarchism to raise the flag of direct class conflict because we know that it's the only way our class can win its freedom. To do this we have to push the middle class out of the way. In the 1980s that meant having a go at all the trendy lefties and pacifists, and so our main issues were class politics and violence. Politicians, then as now, have no time for ordinary working class people; they even try to tell us that we don't exist any more. Class War set out to upset their cosy political world and bring real politics back into the real world. We set out to challenge all the bullshit of 'official' politics by getting back to basics with campaigns like 'Bash the Rich' and supporting any attempt by working class people to have a go at our rulers. This meant siding with the pickets during the miners' and printers' strikes. When most politicians were telling those workers to give up, or negotiate, we stood for them fighting the police who were doing the bosses' dirty work. Our paper was written in everyday language and we made it entertaining to read. This horrified the lefties because no-one ever read their papers, and ours was something ordinary people did read. Class War was a real hit and we sold all the papers we could print. At its height we were selling 15,000 copies, and to be honest we could hardly believe it ourselves! We took the trouble to get Class War sold in quite a few newsagents in working class areas which helped to reach ordinary people that most lefties didn't even know existed. The next important thing we did was to get our ideas across to real people and we found out how easy it is to use the media. By the time the poll tax riots came along, the media thought we had a massive membership and the police practically blamed us for organising all those riots! This showed how out of touch they are because all those people who rioted were quite able to do it themselves and didn't need Class War, or anybody else, to lead them. The truth is that Class War never had more than about 150 members and for most of the time the membership has only been about 50 people. Now we may be pretty wonderful people but we are not super-revolutionaries. What Class war did was to act as a channel for class politics which struck a chord with people involved with those struggles at the time. We gave a voice to attitudes and feeling within our class that had been denied and ignored by the political world for too long. The point of all this is that we only designed Class War for a limited purpose and we now think it has outlived its usefulness - it's getting in the way of people putting together something far bigger and more useful to our class. We have to look at what has been good about Class War - and what hasn't - so that we can learn lessons for the future. One of the best things that Class War did was to aim at ordinary working class people living in the real world. Class War members were mainly working class people who had some experience in revolutionary politics and wanted to make something more useful to our class. Unlike most lefty parties we never had university academics or upper class drop-outs running this organisation. Our members live and work in the real world and we are able to use our political skills to bring politics back into the real world. We steered clear of the strange and isolated twilight zone of extreme left wing politics and ignored the fantasy games of the existing Marxist parties. We also avoided the pointless trap of middle class student politics and let the SWP carry on with its job of pandering to that section of society. Our politics are in total opposition to their left wing elitism, and we fight for working class power so that we can manage ourselves. We focused on what life was like in our communities and after decades of compromise we tried to give our class back a sense of pride. One of the problems we ran into is that lots of people do want us to be their saviours. But the last thing we want to do is make some people think 'leave it all to Class War, they'll sort the bastards out', because we can't and won't. Our aim was to help people to find a way to attack our rulers and organise their own lives. This will not happen if people think that others will do it for them. The Federation remains a tiny group with a big image which has outlived its usefulness. The truth is that we will never grow any bigger in our present form. The appeal of our paper has become too narrow and limited - we have only sold between four and five thousand papers each issue for the last few years. But because it is still there, we can't move on to something better. We now need new ways of organising that can appeal to the whole working class, young and old, men and women, black and white. With a wider base in our class and a better vision of the future, we can build up something much more useful than Class War. This means looking for common ground with all class struggle libertarians and looking forward to the battles of the 21st century. At the moment, we have more questions to ask than answers to give. But we don't see what we write here as an admission of failure or as a rejection of everything we have said and done in the past. Instead we see it as a progression, part of a process. Class War and Class War Federation have only been one attempt by one small group to move our class forward. We have gone as far as we can: the time has come to try something new.

POSTSCRIPT Sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry with Class War. Our most bitter rows have always been amongst ourselves, and the ones during the production of this paper are no exception. After six months of increasingly personalised arguments, the majority of London Class War have decided to part company with the rest of us and have gone their own way. We wish them luck. From the start, the members concerned were suspicious of the ideas expressed in this issue of the paper: while the overwhelming majority of the Federation see these ideas as an exciting way of moving forward, they saw them as a threat. In the end both sides realised that the situation had become unworkable and they decided to walk out. Ironically all this has come at a time when we are calling for an end to the often petty disputes that beset the anarchist scene. Blame as always lies on both sides - we do not pretend that we have behaved like angels in pushing for our ideas. But in truth the dispute had been brewing for some time and a walk-out was probably the healthiest option. At the same time we are aware of no fundamental political differences between ourselves and the comrades who have left: in many ways the whole incident has simply strengthened our argument about the weakness of the Federation and the need to update our strategy. The spirit of this paper is that revolutionaries in this country have no choice but to find ways of working together. The dispute has obviously left wounds, but we hope that these will heal sooner rather than later. ## CrossPoint v3.11 ##

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