Chapter 5 - Against the state

In what way can this understanding of the capitalist state help us out of our predicament as socialists within and involved with the state? Can it help us to see and use opportunities for acting as socialists not just after hours but actually within our work or within the moments of our contact with the state?

One or two things can be concluded about struggle. First it is clear that class struggle is not something that happens just at moments when the working class is feeling strong. The theory of capitalism, as we have been discussing it, explains that capital and labour are locked in a structural antagonism, a fundamental relationship of daily exploitation. Our experience, too, tells us that if we don't push back we will be pushed over. So class struggle is an unavoidable, everyday matter. It is not open to choice, it is not some kind of optional extra.

More – this fundamental antagonism does not exist only in industry. It permeates every aspect of our lives including our relationship with the state. Indeed, as we saw, the very existence of the state arises from the necessity to impose and re-impose social relations which deflect class conflict in such a way as to obscure the basic class division in society. It is often hard to recognise as class struggle our many small acts of daily resistance, like getting a relative admitted to hospital, or obtaining an 'exceptional needs' payment. But it is important to remember that it is precisely because the state constitutes us as individuals, patients, parents, families and citizens, pushing us onto ground where almost inevitably we end up fighting back individually, or as ineffectual 'interest groups', that capital is able to impose the social relations which maintain the exploitation of labour.

Nonetheless, we should not get caught in capital's ideological trap. Our daily tussles with the state may appear to be very individualised, but they are essentially a matter of class conflict. Our daily contact with the state is a crucial arena of class struggle.

In the past, however, if as socialists we have concerned ourselves with struggles with the welfare state at all, we have tended to concentrate on questions of resource provision: more and better housing, more hospitals, better teacher-pupil ratios and higher pensions. Increasingly, however, we are coming to realise that it is not enough to fight to keep hospitals open if we do not also challenge the oppressive social relations they embody; that it is insufficient to press for better student-teacher ratios in schools if we do not also challenge what is taught or how it is taught. Socialists involved in struggles over resources are realising that many people choose precisely not to give their support to 'fighting the cuts', defending or extending the state apparatus, because they quite reasonably have mixed feelings about the social relations which state institutions embody. What has been missing is conscious struggle against the state as a form of the capital relation.

The theory of the state, as we understand it, shows that there is scope for this. As soon as you abandon the idea of the state merely as an institution, as a function, and begin to recognise it as a form of relations, a whole new way of struggle opens up. It is possible to see many courses of action that can challenge the form of the state's processes while we stay within the state. That is the point: such actions cannot be taken from outside the state, only from within.

More important, it becomes clear that challenge from within is essential. Because the state is a form of relations, its workers and clients, if they do not struggle against it, help to perpetuate it. We are implicated in the imposition of capital's social relations. Without oppositional action, we actively perpetuate and recreate a capitalist and sexist and unequal society, not merely by default but through all that we do. We may not make many of the important, top-level decisions or wield any of the serious sanctions. But in a practical day-to-day sense, state workers are the state. It only goes forward on our activities. To a lesser extent, all who are in a relationship with the state, cooperating with its services to reproduce labour power and attitudes in the family, are part of the state too.

The fact that we are part of the state, in one way or another, however, gives us a small degree of power for change. This work of cleaning, caring, teaching, representing, moulding cannot be done by computer. Microchips are not enough to sustain and reproduce capital's social relations. This means we can understand and interrupt the process.

To summarise so far:

* Class struggle is an unavoidable, everyday matter.
* Our daily contact with the state is a crucial arena of class struggle.
* It is important to struggle against the state as a form of relations.
* Being within the state, we need to oppose the state from within.

So, while we may have no choice at all about being in struggle, we do have a choice about how to wage our particular part of it.

There seem to be three main philosophies socialists have about the state, three approaches to everyday decisions that have to be made. One is to get in there and 'use the system for working-class advantage'. People adopting this strategy tend to feel it is ultra-left and unnecessarily negative to turn down opportunities for work and for provision offered by the state. Best to make what we can of a bad job. In this spirit, community workers lead working-class people to take part in local government participation exercises, schooling them in committee procedure and public speaking, in the hope that they can get a fair deal by stating their case through the proper channels.

A second response springs from pessimism. Some socialist state workers say 'it is mere idealism to suppose that as state workers we are anything but state agents'. They feel there is nothing we can do, or should theoretically hope to do, from within our state jobs. Real, pure, working-class struggle can only be waged from outside the state. In this vein, also, people engaged in campaigns may wish to keep state workers well clear of them. 'Keep the council's community workers out of our housing struggle.' Even in their free time and after-hours, state workers may be unwelcome - for instance in some key office in a trades council or a neighbourhood council.

The third common stance towards the state is that of using the law, or state provision, to enable us to carve out a little corner in which we have freedom to organise things in our own way, a non-capitalist way. We may use state-paid salaries or state permission to set up a 'free school' for a small group of children, or a common ownership housing scheme or workshop. The idea behind this is that we may be able to make a little convivial, socialist clearing in the woods, which can encourage us and be an example to others. This may or may not work – but it is not enough.

Indeed that applies to all three of these ways of thinking. In certain instances all of them can be right. Taken as a whole, they are never enough. As socialists, we have consistently underestimated both the necessity and the possibility of opposing from within.

What kind of struggle?

'Socialism is not a fixed, unchanging doctrine. As the world develops, people's insight increases and as new relations come into being, there arise new methods for achieving our goal.'
Anton Pannekoek

What do we mean by opposing, or resisting, or challenging the 'state form'? We have seen how the reality of working-class conflict with the state is that it is not-simply about fighting over resources, it is also about resisting oppressive social relations, the way that problems capital has created for us are defined as 'our' problems. It is resisting your doctor's insistence that your illness is your fault. It is deflecting the Social Security's attempts to seek a 'head of household', however inappropriate the circumstances. It is rejecting the way racist practices in state institutions become redefined as our 'language problem'. Given the close connection between class and sexual hierarchies, it is also insisting on our right, as women, to choose when and whether we have children; whether to work outside or inside the home; whom to live with. It is, for all of us, defining our sexuality in our own terms.

It is of critical importance, then, that we challenge the state not only as an oppressive apparatus that must be destroyed and replaced in the long run; and not only as an institution which provides us with certain needed services and resources in the short run; but also as a form of relations that has an adverse effect on the way we live today. The state is not like a pane of glass - it can't be smashed in a single blow, once and for all. We are entangled in the web of relations it creates. Our struggle against it must be a continual one, changing shape as the struggle itself, and the state's response to it, create new opportunities.

There are no general rules that we can offer each other about how to choose to wage our struggle, because each situation we experience is different and imposes its own contradictions on us.

Perhaps there are questions we can ask ourselves, however, about each set of circumstances in which we find ourselves:

As state workers we can ask:

*What kind of social relations are involved in our jobs? Is there a hierarchy? Do women and men have different roles? Do people of different races have different roles? Could things be organised differently? .
* What kinds of categories of people are we meant to relate to? Individuals? Families? Tenants? Patients? Is this way of thinking about them as a group helpful or confusing? Could we relate to them differently?
* How are the problems we are meant to be solving, sorting out and so on, defined? Who has made the definitions? Are they problems for the working class or' for capital? Could the problems be defined differently?
* What do the people we are supposed to relate to really need? Can we help them say it? Do the procedures we are meant to observe help or hinder this expression? Can we avoid them?
* Are we involved in resource management? Keeping people off buses? Out of nurseries? Deciding priorities? How could we do it differently?
* Does what we do help develop autonomy and self-organisation or passivity and dependence? How could we help people struggle from where we are?

As clients of the state, and in our domestic relations we can ask ourselves:

* How is my problem being defined for me? How would I define it for myself? How can I act on my definition?
* How am I expected to behave? How do I want to behave? What costs which I incur for behaving my way? How can they be minimised?
* Who are the other people who experience the same problem as me? Who is implicated in causing me a problem? Who can give me support in defending my choice? Can I offer them anything?

The answers to these questions that we ask ourselves and each other may help us to understand our role as bearers of capital's social relations and give us a lead to action, helping us to see more clearly the choices we have to make.

Material counter-organisation

'We don't set one organisation against another, but rather one type of organisation against another type ... You don't oppose the bourgeoisie by imitating its organisational schemata.'
Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Jean-Pierre Duteuil for the March 22nd Movement, in The Student Revolt, Panther, 1968.

Asking questions and coming to understand our role as bearers of capital's social relations is an important activity, but it is not an end in itself. Challenging the 'state form' does not just involve entering into arguments about definitions. Our challenge can take place not just at the level of ideas and argument, but also at a material level through counter-organisation.

For social workers this may mean not only confronting the idea that people's inability to manage on a low income is the result of personal inadequacies, but finding ways to embody this analysis in practice, for instance by helping 'clients' organise collectively to challenge the level of benefit they receive, and refusing to give them individual advice about budgeting. For teachers, it may mean introducing collective working rather than competition between students and organising with other teachers and perhaps even with students and parents too to defend this approach. For health workers it may mean not just pointing out the links between capitalist society and ill-health, but fighting for the right to give assistance to others involved with struggles against the causes of ill health (tenants with damp, workers facing a factory hazard) as part of their NHS work. These actions are material because they involve the concrete provision of skills and resources. They involve counter organisation in that they challenge bourgeois class practice.

The link between state workers and groups using state provision can be made most effectively, not by passing motions, but by action. For state workers this may mean providing concrete skills, resources or perspectives which assist the struggle of the 'client' groups - and being prepared to struggle within our own context to defend our decision to do this.

The essential point is to find some way of expressing our particular struggles as class struggles, to struggle in such a way that our action does not damage other sections of the working class, but rather overcomes the fragmentation of interest which capital tries to impose. It does not simply mean using class rhetoric, joining in mass pickets. Those things are all necessary, but they are insufficient. Material counter-organisation means thinking of our particular struggles as class struggles and trying to find some way to express that in our material organisation.

Much political debate in relation to the state has focused on the problems of making alliances between workers and 'consumers'. Progressives involved in 'community politics' for instance, always advocate writing for support to the Trades Council as the first stage in any campaign. The kinds of counter-organisation that we'll describe below, however, do not involve making institutional links between people involved in different relationships to the state, but rather propose concrete activity which by its nature asserts our common class interests. An important point, too, is that counter organisation does not mean giving assistance to an abstract class struggle, someone else's struggle. By definition, it is our struggle.

As we develop our material forms of struggle we should make sure that they are our own forms, that they do not mirror those of the state and capital. We would like to live in a socialist society, but we cannot yet do so. The least we can do is to organise a socialist struggle, building organisations and practices that prefigure socialism – a socialism free from sexism and racism and other practices in which we oppress each other.

Counter-organisation involves asserting our needs, our definitions. In the context of inescapable daily class antagonism, it means rejecting roles, ways of doing things and definitions which deflect and obscure this conflict. Oppositional action involves acting on our own understanding of class realities. At the same time it also means creating new social relations to replace the deforming ones through which the state contains class struggle. Counter-organisation challenges the traditional boundaries between 'clients' and workers and the non-class categories which we have described. The forms of organisation we have described involve ways of relating to each other which are anti-capitalist and at the same time, in a partial and temporary way, also socialist and feminist: moves towards collective rather than hierarchical ways of working, new relationships between men and women, between adults and children. It is using the ends which we seek as the means of achieving them. This is sometimes called 'prefigurative struggle.'

This approach leads us to reject the kind of political practice which involves thinking entirely in terms of demands. While it is important to demand resources, one thing we cannot ask for is new social relations: we have to make them. Relationships forged in the struggle are not a pleasant by-product of our activities, but an essential part of that struggle. They also let us see what might be possible in a post-capitalist society.

This is also a politics which recognises the need to reintroduce a measure of imagination into our political practice. The analysis in Chapters 3 and 4 explained why so often what we want is not even on the agenda of the state. We want housing that is better than 'adequate' and that meets the needs of all people, not just those of the nuclear family. We want health care which helps us control our own bodies and fight the causes of ill-health; education aimed at encouraging co-operation not competition; a social security system which does not bind women into the family. We know none of these things are possible within a capitalist framework. Yet to limit our action to demands for 'more of the same' is to fail to take the opportunity to challenge capitalism fundamentally by rejecting its agenda, its definitions, its social relations, and thus threaten its stability. It also causes us to miss an opportunity to elaborate for ourselves the kind of social organisation we would like to see.

Relations means sex and race

When you recognise that the struggle you are involved in is against a certain form of relations it becomes clear that anti-sexist and antiracist actions are an intrinsic part of them. Among the economic demands so often posed by the trade unions, our demands as women or as racial minorities so often seem to be extras tagged on. Now we can see their centrality.

We know that the age-old pattern of unequal relations between men and women has permeated capitalism from top to bottom. The subordination of women is an integral part of the mode of domination that the state is involved in imposing. We have seen how it is implicated by its policies towards the family and women's work, and by the daily practice of its many institutions. So our struggle against sexism and against many aspects of the family that seem to us constraining and deforming is an essential part of the struggle against the 'state form'.

An aspect of the capital relation and the mould which the state tries to impose is challenged every time men and women refuse to define their relations in terms of marriage or try to form continuing alternative types of household. As women in the domestic situation, every time we make an autonomous choice about how we live 'we are acting politically in relation to the state. The question women face is to understand what the choices are and how to defend them once made. The other side of the coin of women's subordination is the not merely dominant but domineering heterosexuality of the culture we live in, which discriminates so painfully against gay men and women and asexual people.

Again, once we focus on the relational aspect of the state we see racism and imperialism within the capitalist system take on a particular significance. The autonomous struggles of Caribbean or Asian people in Britain, and of Irish Catholics, are in themselves an important challenge to the state.

Now we have identified the kind of predicament we are in, the kind of state we are up against and the kind of struggle we want, we should look at what resources we currently have, what help can be expected from traditional forms of working-class political organisation: socialist parties, and the trade unions.

Disappointment in the parties

We have always looked to political parties for ideas about how best to struggle, but it is striking that none of the people we interviewed felt that political parties had anything useful to say about the situation in which they found themselves. They seemed to share the view that neither the social-democratic parties ('the state is on our side and we need more of it') like the Labour Party and increasingly the Communist Party, nor the revolutionary parties ('the state is the enemy and we must smash it') had very much to say about what they should do in their daily practice in relation to the state.

Despite the fact that so many people these days are employed by the state, in particular a very high percentage of socialist militants, both kinds of parties have tended to imply that if you do not work on the factory floor, then political activity must be a matter for evenings and weekends. This does not mean that state workers have been discouraged from activity at the workplace, but that in practice such activity has been confined to trade-union pressure on pay and conditions. This is clearly an important area of struggle, especially for the low paid – it may be more contradictory for some state 'professionals' who already enjoy high salaries and privileged working conditions. But it is not enough. It does nothing to challenge capital's division of our day into 'work' and 'home'. And how do we find the energy to struggle at all if our 'home' worries are never on the agenda?

Ironically, the political parties seem to ignore reality: the politics of work and home. Work is seen only as 'an economic relation; home is defined as 'private'. At worst they represent our worries about developing a coherent practice in relation to the state as a diversion from more important political tasks. At best, struggles over such matters as how and what to teach in school; what social work is or could be; what domestic relationships are or could be – these things are valued as an added extra.

In many ways, the failure of socialist parties so far to address themselves to our predicament with regard to the state is understandable in the light of history. The role of the state in class struggle today is not the same as it was in the days when 'classical' marxist theory was developed. The problems of understanding the role of the state in class struggle posed itself rather differently for Lenin, for example. In the society for which he was writing, workers didn't have the same daily round of contacts with the state educational and welfare agencies, nor did the state scrutinise all wage agreements or maintain such close links with their trade unions. The individual socialist's most frequent direct contact with the state agents was likely to be with the most overtly repressive parts of the state apparatus (police and army) and, although this contact was certainly important, it presented no obvious theoretical difficulty.

Moreover, partly because of the limited extent of state intervention, socialist political activity was much more clearly concentrated in the party. Accordingly, Lenin could base his writings on the state upon the assumption that the party existed as a mediating link between the socialist and the state and that, consequently, the only question about the state was the question of the party's strategy against it.

These discussions were, and still are, of great relevance to socialist practice. The injunction to smash the state is as important now as it ever was. But it is not sufficient. It does not adequately tell the socialist in daily contact with the state what smashing the state means, and how s/he can shape her daily activity in such a way that it becomes part of the struggle for socialism. For a teacher in a classroom, the nature of the state is absolutely central, but party strategy will be peripheral to her activity in the classroom unless it addresses the problems she faces there. Or again, take the example of council tenants taking action to compel the local council to eradicate dampness in their houses. Their relation to the local authority will generally be one of direct confrontation. Although individual members of a tenants' group may be members of political parties or groupings, the group's struggles rarely take the form of party struggles (and certainly this is unlikely to be the most effective way of pursuing them).

Besides the limited range of issues to which the parties appear able to address themselves, a further disincentive to many people to joining them is the nature of their internal structure and ways of acting. The narrow conception of 'the political' which tends to exclude 'the personal' from its scope, and which has affected the choice of issues on which to struggle, has often adversely affected internal organisation too. Parties are in the main based on methods of representation in which the leadership gets detached from the base. Often they seem to be insufficiently aware of what is oppressive for women, black people, homosexuals or people with little formal education. This has limited the practical use of the parties to many potential members who feel excluded, subordinated or underestimated within them.

These are some of the reasons, perhaps, why many socialist militants choose not to join a party at all. It is not to say that 'party' is irrelevant. People involved in struggle need others with whom they can develop their ideas, we need mutual support, a class memory. Diffuse, spasmodic and localised activity will not in itself be enough to bring about the fundamental social change that is needed. The parties, though, are contradictory. And in the absence of some major rethinking and restructuring, we are not able to look to political parties for ideas or support in the particular matters explored here: everyday practice in and against the state.

Frustration in the unions

The second traditional channel for class struggle is the trade unions. Many state workers in recent years have become unionised. Public sector union membership has grown dramatically in the last decade. This development is valuable. It has begun to give the lowest paid state worker a new dignity. A black woman hospital worker said to us: 'We used to get treated like dirt, but since the union became more active, they've got to treat us with more respect.' And union membership has helped some state 'professionals' to begin to see themselves as workers, and to see their relation to the working-class movement.

People we interviewed in chapter 1, however, found that joining a union was not a sufficient answer for them. The agenda of most public sector unions is long on pay and conditions, but short on matters concerning the content of the worker's job. Questions like the school examination system, the relationship of workers to patients in hospital, or the complexities of the social work relation, do not take up much time in union meetings. More to the point, public sector union practice seldom if ever challenges the social relations implicit in the state. It doesn't challenge hierarchy, division of labour. Often quite distressing sexist and racist discrimination goes without comment. Many state workers feel that they get little help with a lot of the things that, as socialists, worry them about their job. At worst, unions mirror the contradictions of the state organisations in which they have come into existence.

In the wake of unionisation in the public sector, there has followed a rapid growth of oppositional movements within the unions - such as the National Union of Teachers Rank and File, NALGO Action, and Redder Tape (in the Civil Service). Although very important as a challenge to bureaucratisation in the union they have not provided the answer to our predicament about the state. Their activity often concentrates on producing a more militant version of the union's demands.

The implications of conventional union action in the public sector were highlighted by the winter strikes of 1978-79. These strikes, which involved hospital workers, refuse workers, gravediggers, school caretakers and others, painfully demonstrated the contradiction between the need to defend the living standards of public sector workers and the immediate consequences of this action for the people who depend on the services these workers provide. It was those who could not afford private treatment who were most distressed by the disruption of the hospitals. It was women, especially working mothers, who were most worried by school caretakers refusing to open school gates and by later action by the NUT in refusing to supervise dinnertime, letting children loose to eat in the chippy and run on the streets.

The leadership of the public sector unions reasoned that pressure put on the people by the interruption of public services becomes, indirectly, pressure put on the state, which will then accede to union demands. But in this way the weakest, already suffering from the mean level of state services, doubly suffer from their withdrawal. Even this strategy is not available to certain groups of state workers, who do not have a ready 'public' to use as their weapon: research workers, for instance, and community workers.

The impact of the winter strikes on the state and on capital was difficult to assess. And newspapers and television stirred up the issues, scapegoating the strikers. But many people not known for their right-wing views commented that they were hurting ordinary people more than the government. It became clear that in future periods of industrial action more imaginative forms of action would have to be developed.

Further, strikes in the public sector have not always been particularly successful in terms of their objectives. We cannot pretend that withdrawing labour has the same effect on the state as on private capital. Precisely because it hurts working-class people more than the state, such action does not impose very effective sanctions on the state. Indeed, a strike in a hospital, for example, may be partially welcomed by management because its tight financial position is eased by not having to payout wages during the strike. Taking the private sector as a model for action is not appropriate.

Strike action is important for building up confidence in self-organisation, and an ability to struggle further together. It breaks down the isolation imposed in the workplace; the experience of a picket line, blacking movement of goods and services, illustrates dramatically working-class solidarity. And an ability to defend wages and conditions is necessary before any further developments can be expected.

[The following text appears in a separate box on page 89]

Heralded by the press as a 'wreckers' charter’, NUPE's leaflet sets out some new ideas about fighting the cuts aimed specifically at hitting at management.

*Work to rule and refuse to cooperate with employers who are making cuts.
* Rearrange work schedules - without discussion with employers to offset the effects of cuts.
*Refuse to work with private contractors.
* Hold meetings, demonstrations or token strikes at times when it will hurt the employers most.
These' are just outlines of what can be done. The most effective tactics will depend on the kind of work being done by our members and the nature of the cuts the employer is trying to make.

How it can work

If you are confronted with cuts - get your Union Steward or Branch Secretary to organise a meeting where all of the workers affected can discuss the most effective action. A few examples will show how:

I. The number of town hall cleaners is cut. Members decide to reduce their workload to compensate for the cuts. They agree that the council chamber committee rooms, mayor's parlour and offices of the senior council officials will not be cleaned.

2. A hospital is understaffed because of cuts. Catering staff re-arrange work schedules which make it impossible to provide refreshments for any meetings held at the hospital. Nursing staff insist on adequate cover for wards at all times Porters find it impossible to undertake any jobs other than those strictly laid down in their official duties.

3. Catering staff at town hall hold a token strike which makes it impossible to serve meals to the council members' dining room when the council is meeting.

4. School meals staff, when numbers are reduced or hours cut, refuse to accept extra work or to work faster. The serving of meals is delayed, clearing up is delayed and classes cannot resume on time.

These are just a few examples but they show how NUPE members can force employers to face up to the consequences of any cuts they make.

However, state services, as we have seen, have not developed simply in response to working-class needs and demands. On the contrary, they have as much to do with maintaining the capital relation as with mitigating its harsher consequences. There must therefore be ways in which 'industrial action' can damage the state without disrupting so divisively the provision of needed and useful services to the working class.

The effect of the current policies and practices of the public sector unions has been that many people who are really concerned about their work, who chose it precisely because it was 'worthwhile' work, of use to people, often refuse to join a union. It is not only reactionaries who have been non-militants. People feel 'if you care for people you can't join in with the union'.

The result of the unions' inability to disentangle the contradictions of the state, to recognise that it is the state's resources we need, its relations we don't, has had two harmful effects, therefore. The trade unions are not as big or as strong as they otherwise might be. And 'clients' of state services have not been able to give their wholehearted support to union action.

Autonomous struggles

We saw that (especially in the 1960s) struggles sprang up outside party and union frameworks. We mentioned the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the Women's Movement, the actions of racial minorities and of students. We saw that what was significant about them was that they were not limited, as parties and unions so often are, to negotiating the best terms possible within a totally unacceptable mode of production, but rather that they challenged and confronted capitalist social relations by raising questions that are entirely unresolvable within it. It is no coincidence that, in order to do this, they stepped outside conventional forms of socialist organisation. To oppose relations you need to develop new relations of struggle too.

A second important characteristic of these movements is that they assert that the first step in entering struggle is to understand and act on our own, first-hand experience. This contrasts with the parties, which, drawing their membership from a wide range of people, in many types of situation, offer them a line, and the line is brought to bear in the analysis of each new situation as it develops.

The respect for first-hand experience has, for instance, been an important underpinning of this book~ It is-reflected-in the way we have tried to begin a discussion of theory and tactics with the carefully recorded words of people who are actually involved. Listening to what people have to say and helping others to hear it is the only way to understand capitalist relations. They are essentially personal.

Because it more effectively challenges relations, autonomous struggle can sometimes be more threatening to the state than party and union practices - so often pitched at the level of resource demands for more pay, or more houses. However, many of the struggles that have gone under the name 'community action' have illustrated the weakness of autonomous organisation. It is based on first-hand experience of bad housing, homelessness, the indignities and impoverishment of 'claiming', the rip-off of supermarket shopping and so on. But too often it has not moved 'onwards from the sharpness of the personal experience to a realisation of the source of the predicament. Community organisations have often been small and short-lived, competitive and divisive. They have failed to understand the nature of the state and have sometimes been co-opted by the mechanisms the state has produced to integrate them. A consciousness of class was often missing.

Secondly, just as what the party and the union have to offer is so often 'after-hours' activity, attending meetings and distributing leaflets rather than actually transforming the way we do our job from nine till five, so autonomous struggle has often been more a question of consciousness-raising than material counter-organisation.