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Branscombe Looters Show the Way!

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Joseph Kay
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Jan 26 2007 16:39
Devrim wrote:
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.

we all know that some anarchists, certainly many, and perhaps most fetishise violent struggle. and this website is certainly a break from that dubious tradition. i'll let Ret speak for himself, but i don't think anyone here is fetishising violence per se.

baboon
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Jan 26 2007 17:24

I wouldn't say that the Ealing comedy "Whiskey Galore", a film based on the true story of tens of thousands of cases of Scotch being landed on the Hebredian island of Eriskay, was funny. Mildly amusing, but not funny. Funny was a TV comedy skit on the same story, where instead of whiskey being landed, it was bags of heroin. It started with fishermen loading their large pipes and smoking pipefuls of high quality smack and it all went downhill from there. It was funny and edgy. Edgy because the TV skit was closer to many important aspects of what happened to the fishing community on Eriskay, than some of the unbearable, "celtic" whimsy of the film. In fact the fishing community on the island was destroyed. Many families and particularly the men, were harassed and hassled by customs and police for ages. Threats, humiliations and intimidation from the authorities went on day after day. Many fishermen were jailed, one for seven years. They were helpless in the face of the power of the state.
Now, because members and sympathisers of the ICC have defended working class positions over the Bransombe events, the predictable attacks of the anarchists follow: "tedious cunts", no friends, "wankers", no sense of humour (unlike the website's resident clown, OscarWilde68 presumably) and so on. What was said in the first part of the discussion by what I understand to be anarchists, was that the events at Branscombe was "appropriation", "show(ing) the way" (no less), "automous self-organised groups of workers". Mainstream anarchism actually does see this as an element of class struggle and this is underlined by revol with his "black folk" (?) in Watts, and the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event from which the working class as a class was entirely absent.
There is no real understanding from the anarchists on this thread what class struggle really is and there is precious little understanding of the difference between that and petty theivery. There is just the celebration of lumpenisation.
I agree with Lurch: the ship shouldn't have been attempting to go through those seas at the time - the weather conditions were atrocious, especially for that patched up vessel and the risk to the workers on board.

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Jan 26 2007 18:14

baboon, you may not get my sense of humour but as i've said i was joking to Demogorgon303 and Devrim's pointed it out too, it's a bit silly to carry on quoting my piss-take comments as proof of what 'the anarchists' are saying. i'm not saying you're humourless drones here, but i'd have thought the spoof class war stickers may have indicated my less-than-serious tone on the first page wink

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Jan 26 2007 19:10

Hi

Ha ha. One look at this thread and it's obvious that The Branscombe Looters were politically in advance of the entire Left, including it's anarchist and Internationalist Communist currents.

Love

LR

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Jan 26 2007 19:18
baboon wrote:
(unlike the website's resident clown, OscarWilde68 presumably) and so on.

Jesus the ICC are bad at flaming - he'll be strutting around for weeks on that comparison.

Mind you I can see why the ICC would have it in for the original Oscar, he did proclaim that 'consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds'.

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Jan 26 2007 19:43

Alf - if you bothered to look, you'd see that all I've written about Bangladesh & Nepal in news articles is consistently anti-national liberation. And I have occasionally engaged on that issue here, but I find the debates (partly cos they're one of the specialist pet issues of the ICC) mainly (with occasional exceptions) repetitive, circular and uninteresting, just endless repeating of polarised positions. And as we know, the nat-libbers would be challenged whether the ICC were here or not.

I genuinely find the ICC's views on this thread topic anti-working class. As well as their moralism, they have continually taken examples of day to day aspects of class struggles and dismissed them cos they're not revolutionary - yet no one was pretending they were. Dev appears to continue this absolute polarisation when he tries to show how I was 'disingenuous'; JK's comment on "autonomous self-organised groups of workers re-appropriating bourgeois property" - even taken at face value - is not proof to me at all that he is claiming it as revolutionary activity. I could use that as a description of a group of workers nicking stuff from work, organising ways collectively to smuggle it out of the workplace etc - I would say that's part of the wider class struggle, but I wouldn't claim that it was revolutionary. Only the left-comms seem to be inventing some contradiction out of that.

The example of dockers' pilfering is also part of class struggle - if you can't see any class struggle in the everyday then it's you, not me, who fail to understand what class struggle is. Dock pilfering was an immense dent in bosses' profits internationally and a regular source of conflict - the cost-effectiveness calculations on introducing containerisation were based partly on this issue.

Contrary to what has been dishonestly implied repeatedly, I don't have a blanket support for all riots or violence any more than all strikes - the content and intention of the acts is what matters. Of course some violence is pointless or worse. But why imply that supporting riots as a sometimes valid tactic is always a mindless fetish of violence?

And Alf now completely contradicts all that he & co said before by saying "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 the whole CLR James article is explicitly about a riot, the Moss Side one, part of the great wave of 1981 riots that gave Thatcher sleepless nights. No need to split hairs about it - it says in the 1st para it's about "the riots which took place in Britain during last summer" and goes on to refer to an incident in the Moss Side riot of the actions of some "youths...led...by a nine-yr-old boy." Hardly a "workers' action" then. So you are actually agreeing with me that riots can be 'collective' and 'organised'!

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Jan 26 2007 20:22

In 1981 we characterised the various movements like Brixton, Bristol, Moss Side (but also Amsterdam, Zurich, etc)etc as 'social revolts' in which the young unemployed played a considerable part, often provoked by police repression and racism. We attacked the hypocritical condemnation of the 'rioters' by the media, but at the same time showed the weakness of such movements, which in themselves didn't offer a perspective for developing the struggle of the proletariat as a class. As a matter of fact we ourselves sometimes got a bit carried away with enthusiasm at the early stage of this succession of revolts (around the time of the Brixton events). We developed a clearer view as the movement went on. But it should be recalled they still contained elements which showed a certain collective approach: massive demonstrations outside police stations, joint involvement of white and black youth (when the press were talking about 'race riots'). However, there is quite a distance between 1981 and the kind of action that predominated in the banlieux last year, where long term unemployment, the general erosion of class identity, the growth of the power of urban gangs etc has pushed to the fore the purely destructive aspects typified in the burning of buses, schools, neighbours' cars, gyms etc, which seemed to be the main 'activity' of the rioters. This is the trajectory urban social revolts have taken in the absence of a massive class response to the crisis. They have tended to degenerate into 'riots' in the most negative sense of the term. What was encouraging about the movement against the CPE in France was precisely that it began to grasp the need to offer a perspective to the youth of the banlieux that could channel their energies in a far more positive direction. It was a concrete demonstration of what we mean by the proletariat showing the way forward.

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Jan 26 2007 20:39

Hi

Quote:
It was a concrete demonstration of what we mean by the proletariat showing the way forward.

Indeed. By ignoring communists' pleas to love-thy-neighbour they destroyed stuff and wrecked the legislation. It’s a good job the proletariat has a different idea of “the way forward” than the politico swamp.

Love

LR

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Jan 26 2007 21:03

Happy to keep you smiling Revol

Lazy:
"Indeed. By ignoring communists' pleas to love-thy-neighbour they destroyed stuff and wrecked the legislation. It’s a good job the proletariat has a different idea of “the way forward” than the politico swamp".

What wrecked the CPE legislation was not people 'destroying stuff' but the threat of a massive extension of the strike movement to the wage-earners who were increasingly taking part in the demos.

tigersiskillers
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Jan 26 2007 22:01
baboon wrote:
OscarWilde68

There´s a joke there about decadence theory, but I wouldn´t stoop so low.

Lurch
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Jan 26 2007 22:23

Lazy Riser quoted the ICC’s Alf saying

Quote:
It was a concrete demonstration of what we mean by the proletariat showing the way forward.

And from a fairly long post, that’s all Lazy could summon up.

And he followed it with his own commentary:

Quote:
Indeed. By ignoring communists' pleas to love-thy-neighbour they destroyed stuff and wrecked the legislation. It’s a good job the proletariat has a different idea of “the way forward” than the politico swamp. Love LR

Hey Lazy, you’re so laid back and cool, I’m not even certain what you’re referring to. But the quote you highlight was mentioned in connection with the workers’ and students struggle in France, Spring 2006. What this struggle “destroyed” was the French ruling class’s plan to introduce the CPE, an attack on all workers and their conditions of ‘service’, dressed up as an ‘initiative’ to ‘help’ youth unemployment and thereby ‘cure’ the ‘ills’ of the previous winter’s riots. What marked the success of this movement was not its violence (the presence or lack of it) but the self-organisation of the class, the extension of its struggle to wider and wider sectors of the working class, its utilization of lessons from the past to confront problems of the present and the future, the politicisation of the struggle.

It was a moment. An important moment. It’s past, gone. But it’s rich in lessons, unlike the suburban riots a few months earlier which achieved – I assert in opposition to Ret Marut – nothing but promises

How can you say, Ret, in the face of marshal law, of heightened powers of stop and search, of officially sanctioned breaking into workers’ homes at will (whereas before, the cops broke into homes at will, but it wasn’t ‘legal’) that the ‘riots’ pushed the cops off the streets?

Ret and Revol: You’re the folk with the problem in relation to violence, how to understand and use it. And, as a particular bette noir, you’ve a problem with the ICC’s alleged distain for the real nitty gritty of the world, of proletarian existence, where all is indeed not all pure and pristine. Take a little time to consider the following.

The Times, last Tuesday, (Jan 23, page 29) carried a major article on the German ruling class’s refusal, at this stage, to consider parole for Brigitte Mohnhaupt, member of the Baader-Meinhof (later 'The Red Army Faction’) who has been rotting in jail these past 29 years.

I’ve been surprised that Libcom hasn’t picked up the issue, but that’s beside my main point.

Which is that, 30 years ago,

Quote:
“The formidable ideological campaigns of the European bourgeoisie on the subject of terrorism (the Schleyer affair in Germany, the Moro affair in Italy), fig leaves covering a massive strengthening of the terror of the bourgeois state, have made the problem of violence, terror and terrorism a major preoccupation for revolutionaries."

In short, reality obliged the ICC (and others) to talk explicitly about violence. The article continued:

Quote:
“These questions are not new for communists: for decades they have denounced the barbaric methods used by the bourgeoisie to maintain its power in society, the savagery which even the most democratic regimes unleash at the slightest threat to the existing order. They have been able to point out that the present campaigns are not really aimed at the gnat bites of a handful of desperate elements from the decomposing petty bourgeoisie, but at the working class, whose necessarily violent revolt is the only serious threat to capitalism.

“The role of revolutionaries has thus been to denounce these campaigns for what they are, as well as showing the stupid servility of the leftist groups, for example certain Trotskyists, who spend their time denouncing the Red Brigades because they condemned Moro ‘without sufficient proof’ and ‘without the agreement of the working class’.

(Introduction to Terror, Terrorism and Class Violence, International Review 14, Summer 1978.)

The article itself begins as follows:

Quote:
“To recognise the class struggle is straight away to accept that violence is one of the inherent, fundamental aspects of the class struggle. The existence of classes means that society is torn by antagonistic interests, irreconcilable conflicts. Classes are constituted on the basis of these antagonisms. The social relations between classes are necessarily relations of opposition and antagonism, i.e. of struggle.
To claim the opposite, to claim you can overcome this state of fact by good will, by collaboration and harmony between classes, is to leave reality. It’s completely utopian…”

It continues elsewhere:

Quote:
“The existence of classes, of the class struggle, necessarily implies class violence. Only snivelling wretches or rank charlatans (like Social Democrats) can reject this. In general, violence is a characteristic of life and has accompanied its whole evolution. Any action involves a certain degree of violence. Movement itself is a product of violence because it is the result of a continuous break in equilibrium, deriving from the clash of contradictory forces. It was present in the first human groupings, and it doesn’t necessarily express itself in the form of open physical violence. Violence means anything involving imposition, coercion, a balance of force, threats. Violence means resorting to physical or psychological aggression; aggression against other beings, but it also exists when a given situation or decision is imposed by the mere fact of disposing of the means to such aggression, even if these means aren’t actually used. But while violence in one form or another existed as soon as movement or life existed, the division of society into classes made violence a principal foundation of social relations, reaching its most infernal depths with capitalism.

Any system of class exploitation bases its power on violence, an ever-growing violence which tends to become the main pillar holding up the whole social edifice. Without it society would immediately fall apart. A necessary product of the exploitation of one class by another, violence, organized, concentrated and institutionalized in its most fully worked-out form in the state, becomes dialectically a fundamental precondition for the existence of an exploitative society. Against this increasingly bloody and murderous violence of the exploiting classes, the exploited and oppressed classes can only put forward their own violence if they want to liberate themselves. To appeal to the ‘humane’ feelings of the exploiters, like religious thinkers a la Tolstoy or Gandhi, or the rabbit-skinned socialist, is to believe in miracles; it’s asking wolves to stop being wolves and change into lambs; it’s asking the capitalist class to stop being a capitalist class and transform itself into the working class.

The violence of an exploiting class is an inherent part of its nature and can only be stopped by the revolutionary violence of the oppressed classes. To understand this, foresee it, prepare for it, organize it, is not only a decisive precondition for the victory of the oppressed classes, but will also ensure this victory with the least amount of suffering. Anyone who has the least doubt or hesitation about this is not a revolutionary.

That’s just the first few paragraphs. If you want to criticize the ICC’s take on the subject, read it all and return.

http://en.internationalism.org/ir/014_terror.html

Things have moved on from that time: terrorism today does not carry the same connotation as it did in the late 70s, though the bourgeoisie’s hypocrisy is a constant.

So too is the proletariat’s attitude to its own necessary deployment of violence.

I write about violence to banish violence: it really isn’t the issue whether we’re talking about riots, or the class struggle or the difference (or in the view of some, the similarity) between the two. Continue the discussion: certainly: Just stop raising false issues.

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Jan 26 2007 22:26

Hi

Alf wrote:
What wrecked the CPE legislation was not people 'destroying stuff' but the threat of a massive extension of the strike movement to the wage-earners who were increasingly taking part in the demos.

Uncharacteristic support for Trade Unionism there.

Quote:
Hey Lazy, you’re so laid back and cool

Cheers. I'm rich and good looking too.

Love

LR

petey
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Jan 26 2007 22:44
Jack wrote:
Yea, remember the shit we got from Class War and (ex) wombles people for not "unconditionally" supporting the Banlieu riots.

just popping in here to say that that was a very good moment for this board. it was early-ish in my term here and i was impressed.

back now to your regularly-scheduled crossfire.

Lurch
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Jan 26 2007 22:49

Lurch wrote

Quote:
Hey Lazy, you’re so laid back and cool

Lazy wrote

Quote:
Cheers. I'm rich and good looking too.

Now I'm interested.

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Jan 26 2007 23:10

Revol says:

"Well there's no doubt that was part of it but what kept the momentum up was the confrontational manner of the youth, how they blocked railway lines and motorways and fought back when the police tried to remove them. If they had just sat back in their assemblies and waited for waged workers to come out enmasse it would have failed, rather they pushed the issue to a point that meant the rest of the working class was brought into it".

This introduces a false separation between the assemblies and the action on the streets. Where the movement was at its strongest and best organised, the 'bloqueurs', the mass pickets, were mandated by the assemblies to carry out these actions. This is the whole point about the council form of organisation. Far from being mere talking shops where people just 'sit back', assemblies and councils overcome the rigid barriers between thought and action, theory and practice.

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Jan 27 2007 01:31
Lurch wrote:
How can you say, Ret, in the face of marshal law, of heightened powers of stop and search, of officially sanctioned breaking into workers’ homes at will (whereas before, the cops broke into homes at will, but it wasn’t ‘legal’) that the ‘riots’ pushed the cops off the streets?

I can only 'say' it because, once again, someone is putting words in my mouth I never said - what are you talking about? If you're distorting the meaning of what I said about there being less police brutality after the Brixton riots, for example, then that's your problem. It seems to be you (intentionally or not) who's 'raising false issues' -

Quote:
the suburban riots a few months earlier which achieved – I assert in opposition to Ret Marut – nothing but promises

You seem to be referring to some comments you imagine I made about French riots - but the only comment I made was this to Demagog;

Quote:
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.

Maybe you are mistakenly mixing up my comments about the aftermath of UK riots in the 1980s by thinking I was referring to recent French riots - if so, then read more carefully before making accusations.

Btw, you ICCers want to get your 'line' agreed on rioting - Alf recently admitted that they can sometimes be 'collective' and 'organised' - something Lurch and Demagog previously completely dismissed.

We are not going to agree on this, so I can't see much further point to it.

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Jan 27 2007 04:04
Joseph K. wrote:
we all know that some anarchists, certainly many, and perhaps most fetishise violent struggle. and this website is certainly a break from that dubious tradition. i'll let Ret speak for himself, but i don't think anyone here is fetishising violence per se.

VIVE RAVACHOL!!!!!

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Jan 27 2007 13:21

Hi

Quote:
i don't think anyone here is fetishising violence per se.

I don't generally, but I am at the moment. I'm surprised you're not a wrestling fan yourself, JK.

It takes a dusty old ideology to set the boundaries of appropriate behaviour, but in doing so it fails to realise and act on what is positive in the refusal of constraint.

As to the CPE, Sarko would have been overjoyed at a 1978-winter-of-discontent style situation in France, for obvious reasons.

Love

LR

Lurch
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Jan 27 2007 14:24

Ret Marut wrote:

Quote:
Maybe you are mistakenly mixing up my comments about the aftermath of UK riots in the 1980s by thinking I was referring to recent French riots - if so, then read more carefully before making accusations.

Yes, I did mistakenly mix up your comments. You have my apologies for that.

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Jan 27 2007 14:26

Well, thank you.

xenia
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Jan 27 2007 14:38

This is a very interesting discussion all, and apologies for intruding with a question that is tangential to the specific thread topic, but I have a question regarding the following quote from the article you referred to, Lurch:

"To appeal to the ‘humane’ feelings of the exploiters, like religious thinkers a la Tolstoy or Gandhi, or the rabbit-skinned socialist, is to believe in miracles; it’s asking wolves to stop being wolves and change into lambs; it’s asking the capitalist class to stop being a capitalist class and transform itself into the working class."

I have read a lot of Trotsky's work and never once did I read any Gandhi-ism into it - Trotsky was a 'religious thinker'? How so? Trotsky, a pacifist? A tool of the national bourgeoisie (as Gandhi was)? Perhaps someone could point me to a thread where these issues are discussed in more detail, where these accusations are explored and justified somehow?

Lurch
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Jan 27 2007 14:45

Glad I'm not the only one who makes inadvertant errors when reading: xenia, I think if you look closely at the quote you reproduced, I think you'll find it referred to Tolstoy, the author, not Leon Trotsky. Cheers

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Jan 27 2007 14:48

Hi

Ha Ha. Candidate for "Best First Post Ever" from xenia there.

Love

LR

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Jan 27 2007 14:50
Lurch wrote:
Glad I'm not the only one who makes inadvertant errors when reading: xenia, I think if you look closely at the quote you reproduced, I think you'll find it referred to Tolstoy, the author, not Leon Trotsky. Cheers

Oops - thanks, Lurch! I guess I lost concentration towards the end of all that interesting discussion:-) Also, I'm relieved at my error - it was a truly astounding thought that anyone could make such a comparison!

xenia
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Jan 27 2007 14:52
Lazy Riser wrote:
Hi

Ha Ha. Candidate for "Best First Post Ever" from xenia there.

Love

LR

Yeah - (insert blushing smiley here - haven't found the emoticons yet!)

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Jan 27 2007 15:24

Reminds me of how, for many years, I would read "pubic hair" as "public hair".

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Jan 28 2007 15:54
dem wrote:
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 banlieue youth attacking demos was largely an invention, of the few examples we found of it one was where the police had been observed (I believe I had four independent sources for it) allowing people through their lines to attack the demo. Having recently been approached by a french undercover cop it would not be too hard for them to pass as banlieue youth. Also there was a lot of resentment towards the anti-CPE movement, many living in the banlieues felt that this was in fact future civil servants and the like defending their futures and holding back a helpful law. I doubt many of these rioters held this opinion. Where we are talking of the riots taking place in demos these had varying degrees of militancy and political relevance. The burning of cars in the banlieues had little to do with anything. (I was surprised to read the ICC description of the 'organised' gangs carrying out the bus burnings. I have to say that it didn't seem that way to me at all. The first one perhaps the rest were simply a snowballing reaction, which stopped dead for two main reasons. The bus services were discontinued into the banlieues and the widespread anger (and fear) caused by the serious injury of a woman during one of these burnings.)

With regard to riots the explosion of anger must be looked at slightly differently. Riots are not one person losing their temper and lashing out. They take place over minutes or hours rather than seconds. Riots die down and re-erupt. In the case of the french rioting destruction of property became the aim. Get on the strike, set a car of fire get out of there before the police arrive.

Quote:
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.

Alf, there is something in everyday resistance. We all know we do not receive the value of what we produce, the next step is to realise that it is not right/natural that we do not. Stealing from work is in many ways a reaction to exploitation. Also I find the Us and Them attitude and the sense of collusion between the workers is a form of solidarity. From when we cover for someone who's late, to when we all refuse to do overtime because they've messed us about with hours to the point where we take over the means of production it is all about solidarity. I'm not convinced picking stuff up off the beach is a good thig but you'll never persuade me it;s a bad thing. My favourite line was the one that pollution was being caused by people breaking open oil containers to look for valuables.

Quote:
What was encouraging about the movement against the CPE in France was precisely that it began to grasp the need to offer a perspective to the youth of the banlieux that could channel their energies in a far more positive direction.

There was engagement Alf, but one of the problems was that they failed to engage with banlieue youth on a wide scale and also with workers. IF class consciousness had really taken root they'd have kept going until the CNE and the rest of the umbrella law was rolled back (there was a legal challenge to the CNE recently, I'll have to check on its progress)

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Jan 28 2007 19:06

Jef

An interesting post that makes a real effort to engage with the debate. But the first part concerning the French movement seems contradictory. You seem to play down the points I raised about the way the police manipulated the banlieue youths, yet you confirm it happened in the next sentence. Also you say that there was widespread resentment towards the students but then say the rioters didn't have that opinion. Who did? The workers who were beginning to join the movement? Or those rioters, manipulated into attacking the students? I'm just not sure I'm following what you're saying here.

The rest of what you say about the car burning and bus attacks underscores what myself and others have been saying on this thread, that wanton violence is impotent and pointless and "had little to do with anything". Well, not to do with the proletariat anyway. But it has nonetheless been presented by some political currents as being authentically proletarian. Where do you stand on that?

As far as everyday resistance goes, I think there is some confusion here as you identify clear examples of collective solidarity (ranging from simple covering for each other to overtime bans) with others such as petty pilfering. The first category is - and can only be - a collective response to exploitation. Theft is usually an individual response whether that be printing personal letters or cyber-slacking or pocketing items, simply because it's done in secret in order to avoid discovery and resulting discipline from the boss.

More importantly, whether it's "good" or "bad" misses the point. It is itself an expression of weakness in the class. Worse, it presents a barrier to the class seeing itself as a collective because it reinforces a sense of individual agency, that you or I can somehow "get back at the bosses".

Finally, I think your seemingly negative comments about the development of class consciousness during the French movement completely underestimates what was actually achieved. You seem to expect movements like this to throw up a revolutionary consciousness overnight. Class consciousness doesn't (and cannot) develop this way, instead

"proletarian revolutions, like those of the nineteenth century, constantly criticize themselves, constantly interrupt themselves in their own course, return to the apparently accomplished, in order to begin anew; they deride with cruel thoroughness the half-measures, weaknesses, and paltriness of their first attempts, seem to throw down their opponents only so the latter may draw new strength from the earth and rise before them again more gigantic than ever, recoil constantly from the indefinite colossalness of their own goals – until a situation is created which makes all turning back impossible, and the conditions themselves call out: Hic Rhodus, hic salta!" - The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, Marx

The student movement fits perfectly into Marx's description of the class struggle here. Just as its power was at its height, it suddenly fades and dies. This is because often the practical actions of workers (driven by the conditions of the struggle) moves far ahead of their immediate consciousness. It's like driving a car without a map, when they reach unknown territory they suddenly become disorientated and retreat to familiar terrain. But the experience remains with the mass of the class and most especially its politicised minorities who can then draw out the most important lessons for its next movement and propagate those lessons to the mass of their class.

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Jan 28 2007 21:28

In his departing post, Ret argues that the ICC has distorted his and others' arguments by claiming that they see things like nicking stuff from work as 'revolutionary', whereas they just see it as part of the everyday class struggle. But you could say that the most evident forms of autonomous class struggle - such as strikes outside the unions organised by general assemblies - are also not 'revolutionary' in any immediate sense. The real issue is whether a particular form of action is part of a historical dynamic, a trajectory that can ultimately lead to the constitution of the class as an independent force. We are saying that stealing stuff from work doesn't have this dynamic. It's an expression of daily life in class society, but it's not the expression of a movement that can lead towards its abolition.

Ret also tells us to get our 'line' sorted out on riots. I guess it makes a change from being accused of being robots who all say the same thing and spout an unchanging dogma. If there are different nuances, whether in the different posts, or in different articles on riots that have appeared in the ICC press over the years, it's because we (and I include our sympathisers in this) are trying to relate to a changing reality and to clarify through discussion and observation.

Joseph K may be right that there has been a certain amount of arguing at cross-purposes, because the term riot can mean different things to different people. But I think this thread has shown that there are real differences when it comes to defining what constitites class struggle and what doesn't, and in so far as it has brought out those differences and began a debate about them (as in Jef's last post, for example), it has been a useful discussion.

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jef costello
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Jan 29 2007 01:16

Thanks Demogorgon I think I phrased myself badly and tried to say several things at once.

Demogorgon303 wrote:
But the first part concerning the French movement seems contradictory. You seem to play down the points I raised about the way the police manipulated the banlieue youths, yet you confirm it happened in the next sentence.

I meant the idea that it was widespread was a fiction. There was one definite icident which we reported, and in that case as I said, there were witnesses to police allowing these people through their lines. So the idea that the banlieue rioters (assuming that they are one and the same) attacked anti-CPE demos is almost entirely false.

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Also you say that there was widespread resentment towards the students but then say the rioters didn't have that opinion. Who did? The workers who were beginning to join the movement? Or those rioters, manipulated into attacking the students? I'm just not sure I'm following what you're saying here.

I meant people who have to live in the banlieues, the socially excluded, those on low salaries. My point was that this view was one of the things that stopped a real spreading of class consciousness.

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But it has nonetheless been presented by some political currents as being authentically proletarian. Where do you stand on that?

I'm not sure I have a particualrly strong position. I think organisation is necessary to prevent violence becoming couner-productive although my view of counter-productive may not be the same as yours.

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As far as everyday resistance goes, I think there is some confusion here as you identify clear examples of collective solidarity (ranging from simple covering for each other to overtime bans) with others such as petty pilfering. The first category is - and can only be - a collective response to exploitation. Theft is usually an individual response whether that be printing personal letters or cyber-slacking or pocketing items, simply because it's done in secret in order to avoid discovery and resulting discipline from the boss.

Well in a fair few places that I have worked we stole stuff together. After I was sacked (for theft) a group of my colleagues went to the manager to try to get my job back. They didn't manage it but it was really nice to hear that they'd even tried.

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More importantly, whether it's "good" or "bad" misses the point. It is itself an expression of weakness in the class. Worse, it presents a barrier to the class seeing itself as a collective because it reinforces a sense of individual agency, that you or I can somehow "get back at the bosses".

Well I think that any resistance breeds further resistance.

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Finally, I think your seemingly negative comments about the development of class consciousness during the French movement completely underestimates what was actually achieved. You seem to expect movements like this to throw up a revolutionary consciousness overnight. Class consciousness doesn't (and cannot) develop this way, instead

The anti-CPE stuff stopped short. If you look at the more politically conscious stuff they (CNT et al) were all calling for the rolling back of the entire umbrella law, rathe than simply the CPE. I have a lot of respect for what they achieved, I wish we could do something like that in Britain, but I still must raise points that I think are valid. I don't expect them to throw up a revolutionary consciousness overnight, but I do want them to lay the basics for this. And by not calling for the repeal of the entire law they failed to create true links of solidarity and stopped at the end of their own interests.
This may be problematic, I'm tired and probably haven't expressed the last part too well.