Class War Not on Pause

Class War Not on Pause

The Anarchist Communist Group (ACG) responds to the "all in it together" approach of the media and political class.

It is a common tactic of states and capital to invoke the “national interest” and “we’re all in it together” as a means of diverting attention from the class war. Such cries were heard often during and after the 2008 financial crisis, when states and capital protected themselves by turning the screws on workers. However, the current situation with COVID-19 has certainly outdone the 2008 financial crisis in the pleas for national unity. Indeed there has probably not been an occasion since the 2nd World War where the national interest has been so successfully employed (at least in “the West”).

In the UK all parties and governments are largely in consensus, happy to echo this call for unity, any division between Tory and Labour, liberal and conservative, “leaver” and “remainer”, Westminster and Holyrood has been temporarily put aside by the political classes. Journalists and politicians alike, backed up by their tame experts and pet scientists, are happy to raise the myth of WWII - a wartime footing for the NHS, the fight of our lives, etc - to make the argument for unity. Of course the real divisions of society - between labour on the one hand and capital and State on the other - are as present as ever. The effects of this crisis will be felt disproportionally by the poorest - both in the UK and worldwide.

The political consensus is rooted in the unanimity that there can be no more damage to the economy, an argument reflecting the interdependence of the State and capital. Contrary to claims of some social democrats, neo-liberalism has not been a case of capital doing away with the State but rather the State and capital becoming increasing integrated, capital requiring the State to facilitate its exploitation of workers. The current crisis provides an excellent example of this interdependence, with the State stepping in to ensure the economy (i.e. the economic exploitation of workers) continues to function in some manner.

To this end we have seen a series of increasingly interventionist budgets by the UK government to deal not only with the COVID-19 situation but also the demands of workers. As a result there have been some real, if limited, concessions to labour - the covering of 80% of the salary of those workers on a payroll will be welcome relief to some, however, it does nothing for those in precarious employment and many of the lowest paid. And while the demands from some for a “basic income” may have some advantages, particularly at the current time, it would still be part of a series of measures designed to save capitalism not to bury it.

However, despite their intentions, capital and the State may have a harder time than they think in putting the genie back into the bottle. Even before, the additional measures were taken because the COVID-19 crisis workers had forced the 1st budget of this government to the "left" of any since at least 2008. While the conflict between liberalism, already weakened before the pandemic, and (national) populism is currently taking a backseat, it seems likely it will be renewed sooner rather than later. It is not hard to see that the current crisis will feed into the increasingly anti-immigration political climate. Neither liberalism nor national populism offer anything to labour directly but the competition between the two may open opportunities to advance the power of workers. In addition, to supporting worker self-organisation at this moment it is vital that we also look forward to how we can keep and extend any gains we make. To that end the nonsense of national unity, not "being political" and workers and bosses being on the same side needs to be opposed whenever possible.

Original text on ACG website

Posted By

Serge Forward
Mar 22 2020 14:19


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Mar 23 2020 06:08

Would also say the encouragement of mutual aid from politicians going on shouldn't distract from the problems mutual aid addressing being rooted in capitalism and its inability to meet people's needs; mutual aid should be anti-capitalist and not a bourgeois-moral charity act

R Totale
Mar 23 2020 12:21

I would be really interested to hear more about other people's experiences of their neighbourhood groups, and how you navigate the tension between apolitical "all in it together" stuff vs being the ranty politico lecturing everyone, especially given that these groups aren't really formed around any shared analysis or common perspective and that, at least in most places, we can't really claim any kind of "ownership" over them.

Mar 23 2020 12:24
Serge Forward
Mar 23 2020 16:33

My experience. Not so long ago, I suggested the idea of a mutual aid group with my union branch organising committee and local ACG group. As I don't do Facebook someone else set up the page (though I'm an admin for the whatsapp group). The very next day, it had 600 plus members! The group then devolved into areas/wards... all out doing proper mutual aidy type stuff. My contribution to this part is zero, as I'm down with suspected Coronavirus.

My city is solid Labour Party territory, so in the early days, I was at pains to ensure it stayed non-party political. To a degree it has almost managed this, but weight of numbers of Labour Party activists and councillors means that I am aware of their presence, even though they are keeping the LP profile low, to their credit (and for now). So as a network of mutual aid groups, it does what it says on the tin. What it isn't though, is a place for discussing politics, ideas, etc. But I guess if it was, it'd only fall apart in acrimony.

If these groups sustain themselves through the pandemic, then when the urgency is less severe, they could become something more oppositional to the system... or could carry on as means of bolstering the system... or maybe they'll just evaporate. It's what we make of them, I suppose, and the battle of ideas will come later. But already, they show what ordinary people can do without the State, in a way that isn't the usual "what's in it for me?" mindset the system has drip-fed us over the years.

R Totale
Mar 23 2020 17:08

Cheers for that, that's not too different to my experience, except I had less to do with setting anything up and more just got onboard when things were aready in motion (and I don't think I have anything). Because it's so devolved/decentralised, I've just been very focused on my immediate local area, again I think there are definitely LP people involved but they're not making a thing about it. I kind of just wanted to check in case other people were organising rent strikes and stuff already. And sorry to hear you're not well, I hope your neighbours are getting your groceries sorted in a safe and responsible fashion and so on!

Serge Forward
Mar 23 2020 19:52

We're sorted, ta.

Mar 24 2020 01:08
I'm down with suspected Coronavirus.

Godspeed smile