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Branscombe Looters Show the Way!

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Red Marriott's picture
Red Marriott
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Jan 24 2007 15:27
Demagog wrote:
What does mass looting in riots (or riots themselves for that matter) have to do with the proletariat, revol?

In the Russian Revolution, the most class conscious Petrograd workers condemned looting on the grounds it would disgrace the revolution in the eyes of the world proletariat.

"Those left and ultra-leftist 'marxists' who routinely dismiss rioting as a valid form of working class struggle (yet still slavishly take Marx's word on everything as gospel) ignore the fact that Marx himself participated enthusiastically in three 1855 riots of the London proletariat during mass demonstrations against proposals to restrict pub opening times. On successive Sundays working class demonstrators streamed out of Hyde Park into nearby rich areas such as Belgravia, rioting and assaulting the rich and their property. According to his companion, Liebknecht, Marx came close to being arrested. Marx later wrote, "We saw it from beginning to end and do not think it an exaggeration to say the English revolution began in Hyde Park yesterday." (Unfortunately, it was an exaggeration.) So despite what moralistic ultra-leftists and bourgeois alike may say, Marx clearly saw rioting as a radical weapon of the proletariat."

Demagog shows his lack of humour, ignorance of history and the 19th century morality typical of some ultra-lefts. In those coastal areas smuggling, looting of wrecks etc are centuries-old traditions of re-appropriation of wealth by workers and their communities - i.e. part of class struggle and class war. Shock horror, workers steal from the bosses, how undisciplined and politically backward.roll eyes This moralistic idea that there is a respectable working class that would never behave like that and turns it's nose up at such looting and rioting is the real divisive element; it's the same morality as the SWP, e.g., except, rather than outright reactionary condemnation a la Demagog, when there's a riot SWP always claim that the demonstrators only acted in self-defence against cops - they say this in the hope that 'respectable' proles (i.e. often the most passive and conservative) will not be put off leftism by images of violence. The idea that proles would ever have reason/autonomy enough to choose to take the offensive is also not to be encouraged. Pandering to this is only to perpetuate the Victorian notion of 'deserving versus undeserving poor'. Which means supporting dominant notions of bourgeois morality and promoting the most conservative aspects of working class morals.

The left-comm moralist - the supposed embodiment of advanced class consciousness - is outraged at any practical critique of property relations, unless officially sanctioned by workers councils! Fantasists... It shows how much they see workers as the ruling class do - as needing to be disciplined by their role as wage slaves - and they fear every much as the bosses when workers challenge that role by acting in a self-organised way without first applying for permission from political or economic bosses. Those who seek a dominating influence over 'the workers/the class' see only chaos in such situations - little opportunity for 'the vanguard' to lay down the law/line - whereas these events are often actually themselves moments of spontaneous self-organisation, and so educational in their own way. You think workers never steal from work? - is that 'petit-bourgeois individualism'?!

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Jan 25 2007 11:14

Firstly, I'm well aware that "wrecking" and smuggling is a traditional approach on the Devon and Cornish coasts. This devastating argument clearly invalidates everything I was trying to say.

Although wrecking (thanks to radar) is slightly less common these days, smuggling certainly still carries on but it's mainly drugs and immigrants these days. Piracy was also a traditional pastime of those cast out of society, especially in the New World and is making a come back around African seas and Indian Oceans. Are you seriously suggesting that these acts of desperation (at best) or simple anti-social, malignant impulses (at worst) constitute a challenge to the system.

The bourgeoisie is the class of thieves, pirates, "robber barons", smugglers, etc. par execellence and somehow I don't think following their example is going to lead the way towards a new society.

The "ultra-leftist" critique of rioting, looting, etc. doesn't spring from a "fear ... when workers challenge that role by acting in a self-organised way" as Ret supposes. It is precisely because such activity represents a momentary loss of organisational capacity, a retreat from a fully conscious attack on the political and economic structures of society that we critique it. Riots and looting are not the actions of a social class fully conscious of its own capacity to take up the organisation of a new social order but that of an unconscious mass, raging like a wounded animal against its captor.

The fact that the bourgeoisie itself sees no danger in such activity is shown by the great pains they make to publicise every incidence of it, reducing a gigantic, organised movement with a growing consciousness such as the French student movement last year to the actions of malcontents burning cars.

Workers demonstrations undoubtedly have to defend themselves against the police but they need to do so in a sober manner, because the latter will undoubtedly do all they can to provoke a riot. The police and the bourgeois state want riots, they need riots because it allows them to justify (especially in the democracies) the use of extreme force to break up demonstrations.

Finally, the demonstrations the Ret refers to were not simply about "pub opening times" even though this was a factor. It was actually part of a wider response to a bill that was shutting down everything on Sundays to try and force workers to go to Church. This included shops and meant in practical terms that workers would not be able to buy goods because they worked a six day week and could only shop on Sundays.

You can read Marx's own account here: http://www.marxists.org.uk/archive/marx/works/1855/06/25.htm

There seems little mention of rioting and looting in that account, although certainly workers acted menacingly towards the upper classes in the last hour. But Marx's account is curiously silent on looting, rioting, assaults, etc. Instead, the points that Marx underlines about the demo was its mode of organisation. The crowd resisted police attempts to arrest Chartists and other speakers. And rather than battling the police for possession of Hyde Park, the demonstrators outwitted them and turned to Oxford Market. The violence employed - for undoubtedly there was some - was done in a defensive, organised way with the purpose to defend the demonstration itself and the proletariat's best speakers and agitators.

It was not violence as end in itself, not pointless wrecking and burning or seizing consumables for personal consumption or profit.

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Jan 25 2007 14:16

Will revolutionary violence be completely controlled and planned? Riots are not only an inevitable but often justifiable expression of class anger now and at times of heightened collective militancy. They can be defensive actions in themselves and not the sole means for social change. What about the classic examples from Brixton to the banlieu car burnings - should they have been condemned outright or recognised as something, in nearly every case, distinct from how they’re portrayed in the bourgeois media? Sure, they were unsustainable and insufficient at bringing about real change but they’re just one means amongst many, wherein the breaking of social order could result in greater and more organised activity. Given their respective positions though, what else do you think they would’ve done? Those French kids being hounded by the violence of the police? They should be ashamed to have disgraced fellow lumpens around the world - a disgrace btw, mediated and set in the morality of the status quo.

You sound well-meaning, but rather Christian.

(No, of course I don’t include the shipwreck looting in this. I don’t really condemn it either.)

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Jan 25 2007 15:59

Hey Volin

No, obviously revolutionary violence can't be completely controlled but nonetheless, this is surely the aim isn't it? Even without the machinations of the bourgeoisie, many aspects of class violence are recuperated by dubious criminal elements. For example, in 1918, many units of the CHEKA and Red Guard, etc. were actually formed spontaneously by groups of workers taking the revolution into their own hands. On the one hand, this initiative was laudable, but as many Chekists said at the time it also opened the doors to many criminal gangs who took to extortion, robbery and downright theft and simply called themselves CHEKA. Slowly these groups were brought under the centralised control of the Soviets and Sovnarkom, but it took a while to completely purge the newly formed organs of criminal elements.

Riots, although inevitable in some situations, are not necessarily desireable. The riots in the banlieus certainly expressed the immense anger of the most disenfranchised elements of society but they constituted a negative weight on the demonstrations overall. Did the rioters have a mandate from the rest of the class and the organs the students had created to control the struggle? Were the actions planned collectively? Or was this simply the anger of a minority - however justifiable - imposed on the mass of the movement through violence?

Even worse, many of the student protesters were assaulted by the rioters from the banlieus and/or caught up in the police repression. This profoundly demoralised the students who simply couldn't understand why the banlieu-youth were attacking them when they should have been on the same side. The police, on the other hand, understood this all very well - there were undoubtedly police agents present as agent provocateurs and the police deliberately engineered the situation on the March 23rd demo where they drove the banlieu rioters towards the more restrained parts of the demonstration.

The fact that these were not trivial matters is clear from the fact that the problem of "wreckers" was raised in the assemblies that were controlling the wider movement. While leftists pushed for violent retalliation - union stewards actually lent a hand to the CRS beating the rioters up! - the assemblies mandated delegations to go and discuss with the "wreckers" in an effort to bring them into the wider movement.

The critique of rioting doesn't spring from pacifism, conservatism, moralism, or anything else. It comes from the needs of the movement itself. What most frightened the bourgeoisie about the Russian Revolution wasn't the fact that the exploited masses overthrew their rulers - although that was bad enough - but that the movement wasn't characterised by the orgy of violence that they predicted such "rabble" would indulge in. The application of violence in the revolution itself varied considerably from Moscow to Petrograd. The latter workers were far more organised, class conscious, and determined - and the bloodshed in Petrograd was correspondingly lower. Moscow on the other hand was characterised by hesitation, vacillation, less solidarity and unity between different sections of the working class and the result was far bloodier.

The revolution will inevitably involve class violence but for this to be effective it must be controlled, organised and mandated by the class as a whole. Uncontrolled violence by minorities - which is often turned against the masses themselves precisely because of its uncontrolled nature and openness to manipulation by the bourgeoisie - is no better than terrorism. It also bears rather uncomfortable similarities to the way that state organs (i.e. organs of violence) escaped the control of the mass of workers in the Russian experience and became instruments of counter-revolution. If the class cannot take control of its application of class violence it will have no hope of ever restraining the worse excesses of these state organs in a post-revolutionary situation.

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Jan 25 2007 16:18

The Hungarian Uprising produced Soviets immediately which were in undisputed control of many towns and cities. The Watts Riots were an explosion of anger, undoubtedly, but anger without direction, without consciousness means nothing.

And Revol, are you seriously suggesting there was anything proletarian in the collapse of the Berlin Wall??? If so, I'm simply stunned.

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Jan 25 2007 16:39
Demagog wrote:
Firstly, I'm well aware that "wrecking" and smuggling is a traditional approach on the Devon and Cornish coasts. This devastating argument clearly invalidates everything I was trying to say.

Nothing devastating about it - just something you appeared to fail to take account of.

Quote:
Piracy was also a traditional pastime of those cast out of society, especially in the New World and is making a come back around African seas and Indian Oceans. Are you seriously suggesting that these acts of desperation (at best) or simple anti-social, malignant impulses (at worst) constitute a challenge to the system.

I never mentioned piracy - but are you seriously suggesting that in the workplace of the ship there was no class struggle? (Workers were often press-ganged into the job.) More ignorance of history; pirates rebelled against the brutal military discipline - the officer class representing capital's imperialist ambitions - and established more egalitarian relations on board. Piracy hampered for decades imperialist profiteering and expansion on trade routes. Piracy is sometimes romanticised by historians - some pirates became wealthy themselves, though life expectancy was short - but to ignore the class aspects of the situation and reduce it to simple banditry is standard bourgeois historical mystification. Go read some Linebaugh.

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The bourgeoisie is the class of thieves, pirates, "robber barons", smugglers, etc. par execellence and somehow I don't think following their example is going to lead the way towards a new society.

"Thank you, 'Outraged Comrade' of Tunbridge Wells. Socialist Worker Letter of the Week." Your response is well overblown, no one suggested it as the pinnacle of revolutionary activity, but nor is it the depths of depravity as your churchmouse morality fears. Your denial of any positive collective working class gains in such activities as evading taxes, stealing from the ruling class etc is absurd and reactionary and flies in the face of social history. The dockers who pilfered for hundreds of years a large percentage of cargoes passing through the world's docks would have laughed at your prissy schoolmarm notions of 'proletarian morality'. Obviously they lacked sufficient class consciousness; the bosses loved containerisation cos it reduced labour and minimised such pilfering, thereby cutting the 'social wage' of dock communities.

Or are you going to say that when dockers break open and loot containers at work it's class-conscious and organised - but when proles do it on a beach it's 'depraved' etc?

Quote:
The "ultra-leftist" critique of rioting, looting, etc. doesn't spring from a "fear ... when workers challenge that role by acting in a self-organised way" as Ret supposes. It is precisely because such activity represents a momentary loss of organisational capacity, a retreat from a fully conscious attack on the political and economic structures of society that we critique it. Riots and looting are not the actions of a social class fully conscious of its own capacity to take up the organisation of a new social order but that of an unconscious mass, raging like a wounded animal against its captor.

So every strike or demonstration is the action "of a social class fully conscious of its own capacity to take up the organisation of a new social order..."? No, but you still support them. And wouldn't the ICC characterise most union-led strikes as "a loss of organisational capacity" of the workers involved - by their delegation of the leadership of the strike into the hands of the union bosses? Your arrogant dismissal in patronising contemptuous language of proletarian riots is divisive and anti-working class. For a far more subtle marxist evaluation of rioters see; http://libcom.org/library/nine-year-old-leader-clr-james

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The fact that the bourgeoisie itself sees no danger in such activity is shown by the great pains they make to publicise every incidence of it, reducing a gigantic, organised movement with a growing consciousness such as the French student movement last year to the actions of malcontents burning cars.

In fact not all riots are well publicised - in the 90s local riots in the UK were often only reported locally at best. And your neat division between an 'organised movment' and 'malcontents' betrays your own prejudice and narrow-mindedness more than any reality. The fact that some of the 'organised' French students also fought the cops and rioted refutes your claims. They saw it as an extension of their struggle. You are incapable of grasping the fact that proletarians (i.e. not just workers) can organise themselves in ways to contest power other than at work. Striking workers also sometimes riot, sometimes it's an effective tactic, riots and violence also occur in revolutions, and not always pre-planned or sanctioned by 'officials', shock horror. How offensive that must be to the commissar-in-waiting mentality. Spontaneity is a factor in social movements and revolutions - not one to be fetishised or relied on exclusively, but important nevertheless. Your evident fear of it is revealing.

The fact that you seemingly a-historically dismiss ALL riots only shows your reductive notion of class struggle as only occurring significantly in the workplace; this effectively creates a hierarchy of valuation of struggles. Revolution is a transformation of all social relations, not only those in the workplace, important and central as those are. Wage slaves are not only that and we have other aspects to our lives, other needs and desires that have to be confronted in diverse social arenas. Workerism reduces the proletarian to the same functional role that capital does and has as little understanding of the full subversive potential.

Quote:
Workers demonstrations undoubtedly have to defend themselves against the police but they need to do so in a sober manner, because the latter will undoubtedly do all they can to provoke a riot. The police and the bourgeois state want riots, they need riots because it allows them to justify (especially in the democracies) the use of extreme force to break up demonstrations.

The State feels no need to break up 99% of demos here, and needs no excuse when it does - anyway, I thought the ICC line is that demos are bourgeois distractions organised by the left wing of capital? Presumably you should rather that people don't resist when the state does try to break them up, as that would give them the excuse... to break them up? Often the only effective defence of a demo being attacked is a riot. But presumably demonstrators should get a vote of confidence from the executive committee of the working class before they start to defend themselves...

Strange how the biggest recent wave of riots here, in 1981 and 85 were definitely not wanted by the State and they responded by pouring millions into new investment in these areas. Those riots were often also a response to police brutality, including murders, of black people; the riots made the police back off and let them know they couldn't commit racist murders or endlessly brutalise working class youth with no comeback. So riots probably stopped cops killing more proles. I don't think the state liked the Poll Tax Riot either. The fact that I actually have to explain this to you shows the narrowness of your outlook.

Quote:
the demonstrations the Ret refers to were not simply about "pub opening times" even though this was a factor. It was actually part of a wider response to a bill that was shutting down everything on Sundays to try and force workers to go to Church. This included shops and meant in practical terms that workers would not be able to buy goods because they worked a six day week and could only shop on Sundays.

True enough.

Quote:
You can read Marx's own account here: http://www.marxists.org.uk/archive/marx/works/1855/06/25.htm

There seems little mention of rioting and looting in that account, although certainly workers acted menacingly towards the upper classes in the last hour. But Marx's account is curiously silent on looting, rioting, assaults, etc. Instead, the points that Marx underlines about the demo was its mode of organisation. The crowd resisted police attempts to arrest Chartists and other speakers. And rather than battling the police for possession of Hyde Park, the demonstrators outwitted them and turned to Oxford Market. The violence employed - for undoubtedly there was some - was done in a defensive, organised way with the purpose to defend the demonstration itself and the proletariat's best speakers and agitators.

The article you link to is not the only one Marx wrote about those events, and writings by others give more details of the rioting, which Marx in no way condemned. 749 windows smashed in rich areas, the ruling class threatening the use of cannon etc.

Quote:
It was not violence as end in itself, not pointless wrecking and burning or seizing consumables for personal consumption or profit.

What is wrong with seizing consumables for personal consumption?! So good revolutionaries always pay for things?! Your mind must be one of the last refuges of the ideals of all the anal do-gooders seeking to 'improve the moral hygiene of the lower orders' - fortunately you are two centuries too late. The dustbin of history is full of such self-importance...

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Jan 25 2007 16:40

On the question of violence, here is a view of a French student, written and distributed during the anti-CPE movement;

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CONTESTATION OF MISERY OR MISERY OF CONTESTATION

The question of violence in demonstrations is always posed. It's about time that we reflected on the significance of a violent act in the context of struggle, in a situation of a power struggle. Demonstrators have never been so disciplined as in our epoch. This acceptance of "orderly, thus respectable" demonstrations is no longer made by tight police supervision which dissuades urges from being expressed: the police are present in our heads.

They've ended up making us internalise this belief in the necessity of having to appear respectable in the eyes of the cameras and of "public opinion". And if there are still "casseurs" who have infiltrated the demos, who of course aren't there just to break things or to provoke confrontation, the supreme weapon of orderly revolt is unleashed: a demo steward who co-operates with the police, who plans the route of the demo with them, predicting the "risks of things getting out of hand", self-proclaiming themselves "responsible" as against the "irresponsible", respectable against those who are unrespectful, legitimate as against those who have no legitimacy whatsoever.

But let's open our eyes! Who wants to play the media game again and again, to focus on the idyllic image of reasonable dignified youth they want to impose on us and where we end up by personifying the exemplary "good child" in these demonstrations that would like to be peaceful? What is dignity in a world where nothing is dignified?

They say to the homeless, to those who are precarious, to angry youth, to the forgotten ones on the estates, to housewives, to those who've been sacked, to everyone who's been sacrificed to flexibility - "Don't get angry, at least not too angry, keep patient, stay calm, choose the voice of rationality and moderation, stay dignified, even when it's a question of your social death, of your economic survival, of your poitical disillusion, be dignified, and don't show solidarity with those people who de-legitimise your movement, who want to steal your dignity". But for how long must we play this smelly little game? We have nothing to lose, not even this dignity, which is nothing but an invented fiction maintained to convince us that we have to hold on to something in this generalised decay.

So let's reject this moralistic discourse which pollutes our revolt, let's refuse to delegate the care with which a demonstration steward protects us from our own fury. Let's banish from our vocabulary the terms "casseurs" and "irresponsible" which we apply to ourselves, and which in fact only help neutralise our insubordination towards authority.

To be responsible is to be lucid, is to refuse to be scared of confrontation, since we want a power struggle without weakness and without compromise.

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Jan 25 2007 17:40

Excellent post, Demogorgon. Ret has tried to recruit Marx for his apologia for riots before, in the thread about the mass strikes in Bangla Desh, where he argued that the burning down of factories which occured during the strikes was a valid expression of the class struggle. In fact his real inspiration is not Marx, but Bakunin, whose enthusiasm for acts of pure destruction went together with a view of the proletariat as an unconscious force of nature, needing the hidden direction of the 'International Brotherhood'.
Ret's preference for individualistic acts of violence over the real self-organisation of the class is shown in a very concrete manner in this situation. The burning of the factories was certainly a weak point of the movement, a product of deep but blind and unreflective anger; it is virtually inconceivable that this was the result of a real debate among the workers, but even so the first duty of a revolutionary in such a situation would be to try to convince his fellow workers that this was a dead end response that would only further destroy their capacity to make a living, and to call for general assemblies 'on the spot' to discuss the methods that would really extend and strengthen the strike movement.
Marx for his part was very clear that the workers had to move beyond the destruction of the means of production as a weapon of the struggle. And in fact he argued in the Communist Manifesto that they already had. Which makes our 'anti-conservative' supporter of riots a partisan of methods that were already grasped as 'primitive' by the mid-19th century
The 'reflections' Ret offers us on the violence in France is also rather conservative in its implications: if you refuse to criticise rioting as a method, for fear of being identified with the hypocritical condemnations of the bourgeois media, you offer no way for the movement to take the struggle onto a higher level. You are merely justifying what is, rather than showing how things can move forward from the real premises that exist already.
Furthermore the extract poses a false dilemma which was taken to its insane zenith by the GCI, whose leaflet called on us to "spit on the democretinism of the general assemblies" (see http://en.internationalism.org/icconline/july_06_gci). The false choice is this: either you are for the control of the movement by the unions, or for the uncontrolled actions of the 'casseurs'. But in fact the appearance of the general assemblies (regardless of what weaknesses they may have had)offered a real alternative to both.

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Jan 25 2007 18:45

This just keeps getting better and better

Quote:
Police say they have had reports of large numbers of Merseysiders travelling to Branscombe beach, along with many others from all over Britain, to sift through the wreckage of the MSC Napoli.

One village resident said he had spoken to Scousers who had travelled down in search of cargo.

He said: “I stopped to help a van that had broken down and it was full of people who said they had come down from Liverpool to see what they could find.

“They told me they knew of hundreds of others who were renting vans and heading this way."

The scousers are coming! The scousers are coming! grin

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Jan 25 2007 19:00
Alf wrote:
Ret has tried to recruit Marx for his apologia for riots before, in the thread about the mass strikes in Bangla Desh, where he argued that the burning down of factories which occured during the strikes was a valid expression of the class struggle.

Not true - where is this mysterious thread? I defended their burning of factories in a news article, though I wouldn't call it 'apologia', yes, as a valid tactic. Your argument against amounted to the fact that they were depriving themselves of jobs by doing so. The Bangladeshi garment industry is still expanding with little or no unemployment afaik, so that is not true and would likely have been taken into account by the workers - they are obviously not as a-historical as you are in their weighing up of tactical, historical, choices. By the same logic you could argue that workers shouldn't strike as this might lead to loss of business for the company and therefore unemployment for some workers - or even eventually bankruptcy of the firm. Maybe we also shouldn't have demonstrations just in case an ambulance carrying a sick worker to hospital is delayed by the crowds.

Quote:
Ret's preference for individualistic acts of violence over the real self-organisation of the class is shown in a very concrete manner in this situation.

Class violence outside the workplace is often 'self-organised'. Not all proletarian violence is 'individualistic' - why do you always assume so and try and dishonestly characterise it as such? That attitude is no better than the bourgeois press, worse in fact as it pretends to be 'communist'.

Quote:
The burning of the factories was certainly a weak point of the movement, a product of deep but blind and unreflective anger; it is virtually inconceivable that this was the result of a real debate among the workers,

Meaning, you don't really know if it was discussed, but it doesn't fit into your cliched picture of massed ranks of orderly workers receiving consciousness from the advanced heads of yourselves, so fills you with moralistic fear just as it does upstanding union leaders and labour politicians. You have only exhibited your trade union/christian/vanguardist/pacifist moralistic consciousness. You need the proles to make you class conscious.

The 2006 garment workers revolt went on for a month, over 400 factories burned - you think workers are so dumb they wouldn't have discussed tactics in that month? Your assumptions are based only on your own prejudices - the 'educators' need educating.

The French leaflet was posted to refute Demagog's all-too-neat division between good wholesome anti-violent students versus 'depraved' 'malcontents' (a revealing choice of term, 'malcontents' - those who don't fit into your orderly categorisations.)

The rest of Alf's post avoids dealing with what I said in favour of a crude Stalinist-type amalgum technique trying to equate my views with Bakunin, the GCI or whoever. So are dockers (presumably other workers too) reactionary, individualistic, undisciplined, 'depraved' by stealing at work?

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Jan 25 2007 19:01

Hi

Quote:
What does this thread have to do with the destruction of the means of production?

Indeed. There are cities that need to be dismantled too.

Love

LR

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Jan 26 2007 00:12

"The rest of Alf's post avoids dealing with what I said in favour of a crude Stalinist-type amalgum technique trying to equate my views with Bakunin, the GCI or whoever. So are dockers (presumably other workers too) reactionary, individualistic, undisciplined, 'depraved' by stealing at work?"


"You have only exhibited your trade union/christian/vanguardist/pacifist moralistic consciousness"

For someone protesting against amalgams, that's quite an amalgam. But no matter. The point is that dockers pilfering things from the docks has been going on day after day for year after year and changes nothing, challenges nothing, offers no lessons for the future. Of course it's understandable, inevitable, etc, but in no sense is it the activity of a class for itself. Are you seriously putting this forward as a method for the class to defend itself as a class against the avalanche of attacks on its living standards today?

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Jan 26 2007 00:37

But my amalgam is accurate, yours isn't. wink

Again, you avoid most of my points - but it's the ICC who ratchet up day to day examples of class struggle on the job and try to portray them as crucial make-or-break evaluations of the state of class struggle and reductively ask whether or not they are the universal model for the class struggle. No one else is dealing in these absolutes. Your theoretical poverty and anti-working class moralism has been revealed - job done.

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Jan 26 2007 06:12

This thread is hilarious, especially demogorgon and alf's posts!

Fuego Revolucinario
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Jan 26 2007 08:32

I got an aquaitance living that way and have been there many times in the last decade or so. It's middle class milieu - period. Surely we won't think that these 'genteel polite' folks with a prim and proper respect for private property stayed away at home when all this was going on? It doesn't really represent working class cos it weren't just that class down there looting. Yes, middle class ain't the bourgeois, but their loyalty is not exactly to the classes 'underneath' them but to the those above them. So hardly on our side of the struggle. I'm not sure why it should be considered to represent our class at all, and why there's a discussion if it's a class conscious act.

What's happening out there is more an expression of life in capitalism which commands to consume and to have fetish with commodities, not an expression of struggle against it. Were this an act involving workers looting a factory and redistributing the goods to those who needed it in the community, then this may be a sort of revolutionary act perhaps - but opportunistic looting of a ship is just a reaction of people acting upon a pavlovian materialistic impulse.

Extra-legal behaviour does not indicate class consciousness, one must judge the motivation, not the behaviour, if judge one must.

Quote:
Watching people scavenge through the broken bones of other people's lives, like vultures. A real expression of the dignity of our class. Right.

80% of my snail mail goes regularly missing, some of my bones been picked on by vultures too. Somebody's lifted my perfume at work and some nurses money went missing. Down the factory here workers take home some of the material they assemble and even the toilet rolls from the staff toilets. The whole nation does shit like this every day, it's just not televised and moralised about in the media like this incident. If we look at psychology we may get to self-fullfilling prophecy here. If you're told over and over what a scum you are, you might soon to live up to that expectation. What exactly is there to encourage folks to behave with dignity? I'm not saying they shouldn't behave with social responsibility to others and with dignity. I'd love to see that happening. I'm just saying there isn't much inspiration to behave along those lines in the society.

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Jan 26 2007 08:46
Fuego Revolucinario wrote:
What's happening out there is more an expression of life in capitalism which commands to consume and to have fetish with commodities, not an expression of struggle against it.

commodity fetishism isn't a moral critique of liking stuff, it's the fact of capitalism that social relations between people are manifested as market relations between things. I mean i don't think anyone, except perhaps lazy riser who's not a communist and has, er idiosyncratic politics, is suggesting this is a revolutionary act. but if i was down there i'd have gone and had a look. flogging a brand new BMW bike would put a bit of cash in my pocket, without having to do wage labour or live off others'. what's wrong with that?

there does seem to be an almost religious fervour amongst the critics of the looting, people in general are a "pavlovian" "mass", a "disgrace" no less, whereas we enlightened prophets of revolution reject the "materialistic impulse" ... i mean what's wrong with nicking from work? it's not class struggle, but it's silly not to. i'm not going to go and spend my wages on stationary when i can get it for free on the boss' profits (i'm not talking about peoples' letters etc here, but company/employers' property).

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Jan 26 2007 08:48

That was very well put, Fuego!

Ret, talking about avoiding the issue, I didn't notice that you had mounted a defence of workers burning their own workplaces down as a possible means for taking the struggle forward (and not just as an observation of what goes on on a daily basis). All you did was compare it to striking because that might also result in workers losing their livelihood.

Yes, there are risks in any act of class struggle. But one of the advances for the workers' movement in the 19th century was the move away from machine breaking and the use of the strike weapon. Very often organised workers made sure that the factories weren't damaged during strikes. This wasn't out of attachment to bourgeois property, but was linked to the growing recognition that the working class was the class of the future - that at some point it would need to use the accumulated means of production for its own liberation.

I'm not sure what Lazy's reference to "dismantling cities" was - perhaps the thread jaycee began on 'Cities'? I am aiming to add something on that thread to back up his argument that the 'abolition of the distinction between town and country' did mean, for the marxists of the previous century, the conscious dismantling of much of the existing cities. No doubt it will also involve the extensive dismantling and radical restructuring of much of the existing means of production as well. But this will be a conscious act by an organised revolutionary class, the polar opposite of the kinds of destructive actions some people are defending on this thread.

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Jan 26 2007 08:50

Ret Marut Wrote:

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"But my amalgam is accurate, yours isn't.

"Again, you avoid most of my points - but it's the ICC who ratchet up day to day examples of class struggle on the job and try to portray them as crucial make-or-break evaluations of the state of class struggle and reductively ask whether or not they are the universal model for the class struggle. No one else is dealing in these absolutes. Your theoretical poverty and anti-working class moralism has been revealed - job done."

Ret Marut is certainly happy to conclude he's 'done a job' on the positions held by Dermagorgon and Alf. His amalgam is better than theirs: a wonderful assertion to 'win' a discussion (rather than to clarify it). Job done indeed.

And what is that job? To glorify riots in general, to put them on the same level as more or less conscious, collective, self-organised struggles of the working class (employed and unemployed). To call making a critique of riots (a la banlieu) which materially worsen the already impoverished conditions which gave rise to them, a ‘moralistic’ stance.

Even at the immediate, practical level it should be clear: if we take the example of the riots in the French suburbs, which were directed not at the posh suburbs of the French bourgeoisie, but at their own working class neighbourhoods, apart from further wrecking already impoverished proletarian areas, apart from actually increasing, to the point of marshal law, the very presence of the cops whose racism and brutality brought them on the streets in the first place, what else did these riots achieve? The introduction of even more repressive measures, the empty promises of a few more factories in the ‘deprived’ areas, more social workers, more ‘leisure centres’ and, of course, the attempted introduction of the infamous CPE, presented precisely as a ‘solution’ to youth unemployment.

Whereas, the following spring, the combined, organised, increasingly class-conscious action of worker-students and proletarians in work actually forced a retreat, albeit temporary, by the French ruling class. It achieved its objectives.

Certainly both movements sprang from the same social conditions: the decay of bourgeois society. But one holds a perspective for changing what is, the other expresses a blind alley, the very absence of perspective. There are some binary evaluations which can be made.

And for pointing this out, communists, who attempt to defend the interests of the class as a whole, who attempt to depart from the perspective of what pushes towards the creation of a human community, are moralists? Ret, you haven’t convinced me. Au contraire.

***********

All of which seems far away from Branscome beach. Has anyone bothered to note that the lads who made off with the vineyard owner’s goods have returned them? Make of it what you will.

For myself, I must admit I was a bit wavering, a wee bit ‘centrist’ on the issue which, as everyone seems to agree, was not the most crucial facing the working class at present.

As a beachcomber myself, I found all the bourgeois claptrap about looters quite absurd, still do, although Dermagorgon’s initial intervention made me think a little more deeply.

Like theft from work (the main form of which, for many of us, is the ‘theft’ of time spent being exploited) making off with the spoils of the sea is neither here nor there: it hardly represents a revolt against capital - it’s not specific to bourgeois society: as long as it exists, it’s just an indication that we still live in the realm of necessity, in class society.

My own feeling was that the issue of ‘looters’ tended to detract from the more important reality that here was a rusty old tub, already once broken and glued together again in a shipyard in Vietnam (no dis to Vietnamese shipyard workers – that was the result of ship-owners and yard bosses trying to reduce costs and cream off as much profit as possible) being let loose on the high seas to founder once again, causing ecological mayhem and representing a real threat to human life: an apt analogy for decomposing HMS Capital.

Like I said, Dermagorgon and now Fuego Revolucinario have made me think again. And it all started out as a bit of fun!!!

There’s also another discussion, even more tangential, to be had on the historical issue of pyrates (a subject raised neither by Ret Marut nor Dermagorgon but by Blacknedned, I think.) It’ll have to wait: my choice of reading on the subject: Christopher Hill’s ‘Liberty Against the Law’ (and yes, I know he was once in the Stalinist CP)

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Jan 26 2007 08:53
Lurch wrote:
Has anyone bothered to note that the lads who made off with the vineyard owner’s goods have returned them? Make of it what you will.

yeah i mentioned it on page 1 iirc wink

Lurch
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Jan 26 2007 09:22

So u did. Sorry: missed it in all the excitement. Make of it what you will.

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Jan 26 2007 09:26

wink

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Jan 26 2007 09:32

Joseph K. - The beer bottle of reason in the insane shipwreck of a LibCom discussion.

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Jan 26 2007 09:57
revol68 wrote:
waiting for the rest of us lumpens to catch up.

Tagline.

revol68 wrote:
the benevolent light of decadence theory.

Tagline.

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Jan 26 2007 10:21

Hilarious? Rather worrying really that such elementary aspects of the workers movement need to be restated.

The problem with the whole methodology applied by both Revol and Ret on this thread is that it accepts uncritically any activity by workers in response to capitalism.

Ret's piece on piracy is especially revealing of this method. While piracy (some aspects at least) was certainly a reaction to the dreadful privations inflicted on sailors this does not make it an aspect of class struggle. Like it or not, it was banditry and the pirates led a parasitical existence by expropriating the labour of others.

In the modern world, the increasing gangsterisation of youth in the urban slums is undoubtedly a product of desperate living conditions are we then to say this has a revolutionary content, simply because these elements often clash with the police and "challenge property relations" by indulging in petty theft and burglary. Is shoplifting revolutionary? How about drug dealing? Joyriding? Vandalism? Tax evasion? Ram raiding?

All these activities can be likened to religion in that they are the "sighs of an oppressed creature" and both a product and protest against real distress. But, like religion, they have no revolutionary content whatsoever and constitute a weakening of the class's ability to see itself as a revolutionary class capable not simply of revolting against its own misery but also of reorganising society.

For the forms of anarchism that have been expressed here, it seems it is the revolt that matters. For all the rhetoric, this approach boils down to Bernstein's "The movement is everything, the final aim is nothing" and leads to a fundamental inability to distinguish proletarian forms of struggle (i.e. struggles that bear the seeds of a new social order) from impotent revolt. Individualistic revolt such as criminality, rioting and theft is lumped together with class action (Ret) while for Revol mass movements of an entirely different order such as the Hungarian Uprising and collapse of the Berlin Wall are both seen as expressions of the proletariat, the net result that all these things are all lumped together in some amorphous mass of "contestation".

It also explains why so much of anarchism is unable to break away from its confusions over national liberation, anti-fascism, unionism, etc. and follows Trotskyism in its support for bourgeois movements because "that's where the movement is" without questioning the real class forces at work.

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Jan 26 2007 13:31

Am I missing something here? How did a thread highlighting a degree of amusement on the idea of people being condemned for walking off with stuff that would be written off and claimed under insurance anyway turn into a description of the 'confusions' of anarchism?

It's not like anyone was claiming looting shipwrecked stuff was a model for revolution.

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Jan 26 2007 14:14

Most responses to myself and others I find indirect and dishonest. Most have distorted what I said, put words in my mouth, simplistically amalgamated me with this or that and evaded most of my points. (Enough has been said and answered - or not in the case of the ICC - to judge for one's self.) The loaded terms used are revealing; to defend rioting is 'glorification' or 'apologia'. The 'job done' was done largely by the ICC themselves - e.g., they could not even bring themselves to condone stealing at work, they barely 'excused' it. That is anti-working class moralism. As I said;

Quote:
Your denial of any positive collective working class gains in such activities as evading taxes, stealing from the ruling class etc is absurd and reactionary and flies in the face of social history.

Demagog distorts my views on piracy - he failed to see that piracy was partly grounded in a rebellion against the class relations in the workplace of the ship (and, therefore, the wider society) - by pointing out his uninformed reductive approach I am accused of 'glorifying' piracy. A lie, as anyone who can read can see.
Another lie;

Demagog wrote:
The problem with the whole methodology applied by both Revol and Ret on this thread is that it accepts uncritically any activity by workers in response to capitalism.

You jump from our opposition to your moralism to all sorts of incredible conclusions.

tigers... wrote:
It's not like anyone was claiming looting shipwrecked stuff was a model for revolution.

Exactly. The ICC and co repeat the same errors of distorting the arguments of others;

Quote:
it's the ICC who ratchet up day to day examples of class struggle on the job and try to portray them as crucial make-or-break evaluations of the state of class struggle and reductively ask whether or not they are the universal model for the class struggle. No one else is dealing in these absolutes.

Lurch accuses me of 'glorifying' riots (implying that any defence of riots is uncritical and absolute) - so support/defence is automatically 'glorifying'? - I look forward to your next 'glorifying' of a strike then. Again, absurdly it is denied that riots can be 'collective', 'self-organised', 'conscious' etc. He ignores my examples that contradict his arguments - of riots that actually led to some long term improvements in local working class conditions, via greater investment and less brutality from cops. He also avoids the facts that French students also were violent and violence was part of the student movement, no matter how uncomfortable/inconvenient that is for the moralist analysis. (Btw, Lurch, I'd recommend Linebaugh - ex-student of EP Thompson, fwiw - & Rediker; 'The Many Headed Hydra - Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic' on pirates and much else, though they do sometimes slightly romanticise them.)

There are plenty of non-anarchist communists who support proletarian riots on occasion - yet Demagog concludes by again dishonestly amalgamating all those who disagree with him with 'anarchist' nat-libbers, tail-enders of Trots etc. Whereas it is his morality and self-righteous condemnation that is far closer to the most conservative aspects of leftism.

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Jan 26 2007 15:50

What is your "job" exactly Ret? We have had numerous threads in the last few weeks in which the ICC, its supporters, and many others who are not remotely supporters of the ICC have tried to argue for basic internationalist positions against the "anarchist nat-libbers and tail-enders of Trots" (eg over Venezuela, national liberation, Lebanon). You were hardly present, if at all, in these threads. But give you a chance to "expose" the ICC as dishonest liars and Christian moralists and you leap in with all guns blazing. Is this your job as you see it, your passion, to defend...what exactly, against the evil encroachments of the ICC?
I have no problem with the criticism of your position as one that glorifies riots. Of course, it's drawing out the logic of what you are saying. And of course what you're saying is not as crude as the likes of Class War's 'Kill a Copper, Bash the Rich' rhetoric; you're far too sophisticated for that, and your approach is actually a much more effective means of convincing the serious-minded that there may be a way forward in, say, the actions of the banlieux rioters last year, or that stealing at work is something more than an individualised response to daily misery.
Perhaps there is a basis for discussion because we may mean different things when we talk about riots. The CLR James piece that you link to, for example, describes a kind of collective action, a form of spontaneous organisation in the streets. Often real workers' actions are denounced as riots when they are no such thing. But I don't think you are interested in a discussion. You seem to be far more interested in "winning" against us and in "exposing" us; and in doing so you are prepared to paint the most distorted possible image of what we stand for - good little law abiding workers kept in their place by Christian morality, and all the rest. If you stopped using such caricatures, perhaps you'd be better placed to complain that we are exaggerating the degree to which you support non-proletarian forms of action.

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Jan 26 2007 15:56

Ret accuses the ICC of being disenginious:

Quote:
Most responses to myself and others I find indirect and dishonest. Most have distorted what I said, put words in my mouth, simplistically amalgamated me with this or that and evaded most of my points.

I think that the same charge could be laid at his door.

Jsut to give a couple of examples,

First he quotes from Tigersis killers saying:

Tigeriskillers wrote:
It's not like anyone was claiming looting shipwrecked stuff was a model for revolution.

Which seems to me to completly ignore this early comment:

Joseph K. wrote:
Demogorgon303 wrote:
JosephK wrote:
i don't think anyone is seriously claiming this is "revolutionary activity"

Umm ...

JosephK wrote:
autonomous self-organised groups of workers re-appropriating bourgeois property

jesus christ i had a feeling you'd do that roll eyes

there's a clue in the spoof class war stickers i posted up that i'm not taking this thread particularly seriously. and lazy riser's ... lazy riser.

Now, I think that the worst charge here that can be levelled is failing to understand JosephK's sense of humour. The fact remains though that it was said.

and second:

Ret Marut wrote:
The 'job done' was done largely by the ICC themselves - e.g., they could not even bring themselves to condone stealing at work, they barely 'excused' it. That is anti-working class moralism.

What Alf said was:

Quote:
The point is that dockers pilfering things from the docks has been going on day after day for year after year and changes nothing, challenges nothing, offers no lessons for the future. Of course it's understandable, inevitable, etc, but in no sense is it the activity of a class for itself. Are you seriously putting this forward as a method for the class to defend itself as a class against the avalanche of attacks on its living standards today?

I don't see the 'moralism' there. Are you saying that stealing things from the boss offers a perspective to the class.

I could go on, but I will leave others to judge if people's ideas are being distorted here.

On the point of glorifying riots, Ret claims that he is not doing this. He must admit though that lots of anarchists do.

To us riots offer no perspective to the working class. When workers riot it is in my opinion a demonstration of weakness not strength. If we look at two examples from the late 80's in England, I will try to explain my point. The Wapping dispute from 1986 to 1987 was intensely violent. The postman's dispute in 1989 had virtually no violent incidents. One could put this down to the fact that the printer’s dispute represented a more mature struggle. I would put it down to the fact that the Postman's strike was virtually 100% solid (in my district, SW London, there were two scabs out over 3000 workers) , and the workers didn't need to set up barricades and confront the police on their picket lines. At Wapping, as you know, there was a scab labour force, and the conflicts revolved around stopping them going in, and papers coming out. If the movement had been stronger, the Wapping strikers could have persuade the scabs not to work, and wouldn't have been forced to confront the state with rioting as they were.

Continuing on the same point, I would say that some of the Wapping strikers, and certainly most of the anarchists involved in the dispute ended up fetishising violent activities. This was certainly supported by the unions. I, myself went on flying pickets, which were organised by the NGA chapels, and even saw Tony Dubbins, General secretary of the NGA, throwing a brick at a scab bus one night.

I think though that the way to win the dispute involved extending it to the rest of fleet street to workers who were all suffering from the same attacks, and that the violent struggles trapped the more militant workers into a rut, which offered no perspective about how to win the dispute.

I would also like to add that some of Demogorgan303's calls for violence to be organised by committee seemed to be taking his position to ludicrous extremes.

Devrim

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Jan 26 2007 16:07

Alf, re: the CLR James example - i think you're at crossed purposes. I would say he describes a riot, and from my limited experience of public order situations i would say such spontaneous self-organisation is far from rare, whereas you seem to distinguish spontaneous self-organized street violence from 'rioting' which is directionless. i would say the word riot covers both as a descriptive term, whereas there is of course the need to look at the specifics of a given situation rather than make blanket generalisations.

Dev, re: Wapping, there is a difference between recognising that the need for violence inversely reflected class solidarity, and opposing the violence is there not? (you could say by embarking on violence the strikers abandoned any hope of persuading other workers not to scab - this may well be the case, but does that mean the should have allowed the scabs unfettered access?)

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Jan 26 2007 16:27
Joseph K. wrote:
Dev, re: Wapping, there is a difference between recognising that the need for violence inversely reflected class solidarity, and opposing the violence is there not? (you could say by embarking on violence the strikers abandoned any hope of persuading other workers not to scab - this may well be the case, but does that mean the should have allowed the scabs unfettered access?)

I think that you may have partial misunderstood me. I don't think that there was any way to persuade those workers not to scab, so the fact that the violence would have made it more difficult is irrelevant. I was saying as you rightly say that 'that the need for violence inversely reflected class solidarity'. I was talking about the way that some anarchists fetishise violence for its own sake. The fact that a struggle is violent doesn't mean that it is necessarily good. The important things are how workers organise themselves, control, and spread their struggle. I think that the violence was offered by lots of people as the way to win the dispute. I think that the way to win the dispute was to widen it to the rest of fleet street, where workers on all papers were under the same threat that had already been executed at Wapping. That does not mean that we condemn workers fighting against the police, but there are times when we have to say that set piece battles against the police do not offer any perspective to win dispute, and can in fact become a diversion from the way to win a dispute.

Devrim