Direct Action (SolFed) #08 1998

Headline: "PersonaLife: how's yours?" - photo of a kids sitting on a sofa.

Issue 8 of this anarcho-syndicalist magazine from 1998 themed around lifestyle: sexuality, gender, parenting, etc.

Submitted by Fozzie on August 4, 2022

Complete contents in PDF at the foot of the page. Some contents as text below.

PersonaLife: Contents

  • A tosser in lads clothing: Marketing directors dream of connecting with 'youth culture'. Isn't this a dream come true?
  • Testosterone not guilty: ‘New evidence’ indicates there is more to it than aggression = testosterone. Surprise, social control has a hand.
  • direct actions: Tameside care workers, Birmingham Northern Relief Road,
    Weights Farm, Genetic Crop Disruptions, Body Shop, Hillsborough Justice Campaign.
  • eventspage - New: Selected Solidarity Federation gatherings and events.
  • news and comment: Minimum Wage, Millenium Dome, Campsfield
  • international news: Russia, Kosovo, Korea, Puerto Rico, US, Germany, Italy, Belgium.
  • globalfocus: Norway, struggle under a midnight sun.
  • Political Parenting: A woman’s right to choose? New Labour plays happy families...
  • Queer among equals: While the establishment is ever intent on fanning the flames of social stigma, real people seek real and effective ways of fighting back.
  • letters: Football, psychiatry, veganic farming & Ireland.
  • faqs: Personal anarcho-syndicalism: frequently asked questions answered
  • blairedvision: Deathdealers - New Labour brings forth new plans to sell more arms to kill more people than Major ever dreamed of.
  • PersonaLife Reviews:
    Feature: Paranoia Paradise: reviewing gender and sexuality (3 books)
    No Boundaries: New travellers on the road - Alan Dearling
    Blood Magic: The anthropology of menstruation - Buckley & Gottlieb
    Obedience to Authority: An experimental view - Stanley Milgram
    Jargon Watch: a pocket dictionary for the jitterati - Hardwire
    Social Policy: an anarchist response/When we build again.. - Colin Ward
    Empty Cradles - Margaret Humphreys
  • music reviews
    Bear - Every Generation Gets the Pop Stars it Deserves
    NoMeansNo - The Dance of the Headless Bourgeoisie
  • Book reviews
    Anarcho-syndicalism in Practice - Jura media
    Seven Stories - James Kelman.
    Nora’s Place.. - Tom Leonard
    Rage and Reason - Michael Tobias.
    An Idol Killing - Mark White.
    The Siege of Gresham - Ray Murphy
  • Periodical reviews: ABC - Taking Liberties, Organise! - Rebel Worker
  • closerlook: Britain’s unknown war - Brian Nelson revealed the massive collusion; the British State helped Loyalists kill people in Northern Ireland. How can the RUC be trusted with their new ‘anti-terrorist’ powers since the Omagh bombing? What nationalist and imperialist motivations lie at the heart of the matter?
  • Young Property: Discipline and punishment. From ID cards to sexual abuse, young people are cheap property, or worse still, play objects for brutal games.

A tosser in lads clothing

Marketing directors' dream of connecting with ‘youth culture’. Isn’t this a dream come true? The new lad has escaped from the pages of the weekend broadsheet style supplements. He has become a reality from a newspaper myth. His creators would claim he is a redefined British male. More likely a repackaged bundle of old sexist prejudices. Yes, the new lad is here, and yes, the new lad is a shallow, inane, rehashed 90’s product.

The prime newspaper myth was that there was anything remotely new about being a lad. Self-obsessed, ego mania with anti-aesthetic (i.e., if it contains subtlety, it’s crap) is familiar to anyone who has ever been near teenage boys. What the latest mythical incarnation of the new lad has done is mix this traditional potion with other ingredients. Namely, with the worst strains of machismo posturing of working class blokes down the pub, and some confused pseudo-irony.

Worse still, the new lad proponents have sought to justify it all, and have packaged and sold it to middle class media bores who have taken to coke and designer beer and the smart casual look of the 90’s football hooligan. Obviously, if they really wanted to adopt working class culture, they should have gone for angling, and spent hours sitting by the side of a canal in an industrial estate.

wank mags

One bit of irony seemingly lost on the whole laddist milieu is that the main gain of the new lad media grope-in has been to generate a series of wank mags for those who were always too hypocritical to take their hands out of their pockets long enough to reach the top shelf. A whole new series of soft pornography has ensued, which objectifies the female form even more than the traditional top shelf mattress bolsters.

It is the alleged ‘knowingness’, the self proclaimed sense of irony, which really is the worst aspect of this phenomenon.. ..the sense of ‘we know it’s a bit dodgy, but hey it’s only in fun’, and ‘we know women are people too, honest’.. This is what allows jokes about men beating up their girlfriends to be met with cheers from a TV audience. Really, it is not ironic, it is not ‘knowing’; it is crass misogyny.

sex attached

To really redefine our relationship to sex and fun, and to celebrate both, we need to counter the detachment and exclusion. This cannot be done by glossing over the real but unacceptable view of the heterosexual male as leering moron. The way to redefine masculinity is not through a servile wretch, always apologising for itself. Neither is it remotely fruitful to retreat into puerile jokes and hide behind a bottle of beer. It is to celebrate sex and the human form - and let’s not pretend that this is remotely what the current breed of men’s magazines are doing. Nor is it what all these ‘clever’ adverts are doing. We still live in a society were it remains acceptable to use naked women to sell a car (as long as it is with a wink) or a magazine or newspaper (wink optional, dribble more likely) but you can’t show an erect penis, even in a serious drama.

What anarcho-syndicalists argue for is free expression, in all its aspects. I am not seeking a new Puritanism, I am seeking out a new celebration of life, of fun and of each other. Eroticism and erotic materials - including stuff generally termed ‘pornographic’, is part of this fun.

At the same time, to pursue the freedom to enjoy, we have to collectively think up and make a new society. This means, among other things, going to lots of dull meetings and very non-sexy marches in the duller bits of London. In between, we are having fun in clubs and pubs, fancying people, forming and maintaining relationships. We are about living life (well, in between work and writing this for DA..).

New Laddism is all about a retreat from life, to the glossy safe and sanitised reality of the new wank mags. New Laddism is where all of life is available in edited highlights and without all the toil, the work, the responsibility, and the need to think. You cannot celebrate life by hiding from it in advertising soft focus wet dreams.

Testosterone not guilty (well, not quite)

Aggressive loutish lads are often considered to be ‘testosterone fuelled’. More testosterone means increased, unfocused aggression; less of it means calm and controlled behaviour. Or does it?

The link between aggressive behaviour and the group of hormones commonly referred to as testosterone is more tenuous and certainly more complex than many scientists would have you think.


Undoubtedly, there does appear to be a link between aggression and testosterone, and indeed, if the source of the latter is removed (say by castration), levels of the former are often seen to drop. But increase levels, and initially there is no observable change. In fact, it takes a massive increase to more than double normal levels to effect any noticeable response.

Most importantly, even when aggression levels are increased, it is not random and flying out wildly, but channelled down the socially prescribed paths that are available. In a hierarchical primate society, a male primate with suddenly massively increased levels of testosterone coursing through its body would not go on a random attack, it would still treat higher ranking primates with due respect, but would become a complete sod to lower ranking primates.

Basically, testosterone facilitates increased levels of brain activity, but not that associated with aggressive behaviour. The cause of aggression is not simply the presence of testosterone, but its interaction with other biological processes, and particularly, the social environment.

loutish females?

In spotted hyenas in Kenya, females apparently have a lot more of a testosterone related hormone than males. Females are larger, with greater musculature, and tend to be socially dominant. In a colony that has been transplanted to California, the physically identical females have similarly high levels of the hormone and are similarly larger and more muscular than their male counterparts. However, the level of social domination has been considerably delayed in the captive, controlled, California colony. A large element of the learnt ‘wild’ behaviour was lost.

social insecurity

There are clear signs, then, that there is a balance between the environment and biology. Certainly, it is not a straightforward case of biological determinism (the idea that ‘physical biology explains all’).

Dodgy scientists, money grabbers and politicians can be relied on to bend the truth to suit their own perverse ends. But however much ‘socio-biology’, ‘neurology’ and ‘genetics’ research is done, there is little chance of a fresh outbreak of the biological determinist picture they try to paint.

In reality, biology (through the existence of life) provides potential, and the environment shapes this potential. Aggressive behaviour is shaped by a flawed social system, such as this one we live in. Creating a better environment, physical and social, is the only way to fundamentally alter this cycle of aggression. And by the way, you only get research into ethically dubious areas when you live in an ethically dubious society.

Political Parenting

A woman’s right to choose? New Labour plays happy families... The nuclear family is in decline. Social change is rapid throughout the ‘developed’ world. The signs are clear; rising divorce rates, falling birth rates, more women entering the workplace, more lone parents, gay couples living open lives, and so on. While many people have good reason for huge sighs of relief at the passing of the nuclear family, New Labour is planning the next move...

The post-war ideal of the family in which the father goes out to work while the dependent mother stays at home to mind the children no longer matches social reality.

In America, this social change has led to a right wing backlash, with the steady growth of a highly-organised pro-family movement which is socially conservative, overtly anti-feminist and anti-homosexual. To get their reactionary message over, this pro-family movement has focused in on the growing number of fatherless families, claiming that they are the cause of much of society’s woes, from rising crime to lower educational aspirations, to increasing incidents of child abuse. They see the ‘solution’ in a host of regressive legislation, including stricter divorce laws and savage welfare cuts. They even advocate laws to make sperm banks and fertility services strictly only available to heterosexual married couples. Mothers attempting to raise children without the presence of a man are the cause of the downfall of civilisation as the conservative right knows it.

In Britain, the pro-family lobby remains in its infancy compared to the US. The strongest indication of its influence occurred in the early 1990’s, when an ideological onslaught by the Tories was launched against lone parents. This reached a peak in 1993, with Tory ministers lining up to castigate lone parent mothers as welfare scroungers, the cause of moral decline, rising crime and Britain’s growing "dependency culture." The ‘popular’ press supported these attacks, with numerous articles attacking lone mothers - the headlines "Single Parents Cripple Lives", in the Telegraph, and "Wedded to Welfare" and "Do They Want to Marry a Man or the State", in the Express, are typical examples.

Unfortunately for the Tories, these attacks did not go down too well with voters in general and women in particular. As the election approached, with their support among women plunging alarmingly, the Tories panicked and began to stress their commitment to lone parents and working mothers. However, this dramatic policy shift came too late, only serving to portray the Tories as confused on the issue of the family.

new saviours

New Labour sought to cash in on the Tory’s lone parent fiasco, portraying the Tories as a sexist, backward-looking and male-dominated party, while portraying themselves as the party of women’s equality and cultural diversity. Central to this theme was the idea that work empowered women, so it must be encouraged by the Labour Party, through the introduction of greater state provision of child care. Great play was also made of the fact that they had acted to ensure a greater number of women MPs entered Parliament. These new women MPs were going to end the culture of confrontation that had characterised the male-dominated British political scene for so long. New Labour would govern based on ‘women’s’ values of care and co-operation.

Behind all this gloss, New Labour’s commitment to the two-parent family was little different to that of the Tories. They too saw lone parent families, not as a different yet equally valid way of raising children, but as a problem to be solved. A pre-election document produced by Labour on parenting is full of the same bigoted stereotypes that had typified the Tory attacks on lone parents. The section entitled "Children living with lone parents" demonstrated its contempt with such ‘positive’ sections as "Parenting Problem Areas", "Children in Public Care" and "Children with ‘Attention-Deficit’ Disorders".

the new reality

One real difference between New Labour and the old Tories’ approach, was that they recognised that lone mothers could not be driven into marriage. They accepted that lone-parent families were a social reality, and they have now brought forward policies designed to mitigate the ‘problems’ that lone parenting supposedly created.

The centrepiece of New Labour’s new policy is the idea of forcing lone-parents, particularly women, into paid employment. This has a number of attractions. Firstly, it will save money by cutting welfare payments. Secondly, the plan is that lone-parent women and their children can be weaned off their current ‘dependency’ on welfare. The main mechanism to be used is the stick of cutting benefit and introducing a harsher welfare regime for lone parents. If there is a carrot involved, it is in encouraging lone parents into work by providing tax breaks and more childcare.

Accompanying the general economic blackmail of single parents, Labour plans to introduce some form of direct state control over ‘wayward’ children and ‘bad’ parents. The notion of ‘problem families’ is to be taken seriously, and these families are to be forced into line. As yet, they appear unsure of just how state intervention can be made to work in this area. Watch this space.

new families?

Labour’s approach to lone parenting forms part of its wider approach to women and the family, which is based on vague words about equality within the household and women’s right to paid employment. Labour argues that, in order for the family to survive, it must become a democratic institution, with women having an equal say and the opportunity to pursue a career. This differs clearly with the American New Right, that argues for the woman’s place in the home as a child raiser (and by implication, against any other role for women).

However, the fact that Labour’s attitude is couched in feminist language should not lull women into a false sense of security. Labour’s thinking is completely in tune with free market orthodoxy, and modern capitalism has no intention of driving women back into the home. On the contrary, a modern service-based economy requires increasing numbers of women to join the workforce. But capitalism’s requirement for more women workers has little to do with women’s rights and everything to do with the greater exploitation of women.

new slavery

Just how in tune the Labour’s approach is with market capitalism can be gauged from the pages of ‘The Economist’. In a recent in-depth special survey on working women, the magazine stressed its feminist commitment by welcoming the growing number of women workers and rallying against workplace inequality. In distancing themselves from new right thinking, the authors made it clear that, even if the increased number of women workers is undermining the ‘traditional family’, this is no reason to "drive women back to the stove". They also proposed avoiding the problem of falling birth rates leading to a future shortage of (cheap) labour, by increasing state support for working mothers and liberalising immigration laws.

The Economist’s free market feminists went on to point out that "women workers have been a godsend to the booming US economy...they usually cost less to employ, are more prepared to be flexible and less inclined to kick up a fuss if working conditions are poor...with far fewer of them in unions." Part of the survey had a section entitled "Our Flexible Friends", which dispels any illusions about the free market attitude to women.

new patriarchy

While the dangers of the pro-family movement in America are reviled by many in Britain, there is little discussion of the dangers and implications of Labour’s policies on the family and the role of women. This is understandable, given the Labour smooth talk about empowering women and women’s equality. Hardly a word is mentioned of how, having ‘empowered’ women into the workplace, they intend to tackle the greater exploitation and inequality women face when they get there. Nor do we hear much from Labour about the social inequality women suffer, which means many have to accept low paid temporary work in the growing service sector. Such structural sexism can only worsen as more women are forced into the (still) male-dominated world of paid work. Meanwhile, unpaid work in the home is still done by women - despite talk of ‘new men’. Research repeatedly shows that the burden of raising children and running the household remains overwhelmingly the task of women.

The current reality is that the only way women can gain even the very limited economic independence gained from paid employment is by finding ways of combining housework with paid work. Little wonder then that the only way this can be achieved is by accepting ‘flexible’ hours and part-time working.

Patriarchy and capitalism combining to exploit women is hardly new. What is new is that this is being dressed in the language of feminism. No one should be fooled by this ploy. Labour’s policy towards the family differs from the Tories only in that Labour is tailoring the family to meet capitalist needs for an increase in the number of women workers. In this respect, as in many others, Labour is in tune with modern capitalist thinking. Though we may find the ranting of the American new right obnoxious, in the long term it may be Labour’s ideas that prove to be the more dangerous

Young Property

Discipline and punish. The cycle of abuse continues. Young people are cheap property, or worse still, play objects for brutal games.

Before "Cheap Labour" was elected to power last year, Jack Straw, then Shadow Home Secretary, advocated a curfew for children. He planned to ban children from the streets after 9pm. The curfew plan was couched in terms of ‘empowering local communities’. It would have little effect on the children of the rich, but it would severely infringe the lives and liberties of working class children, who have only the street in which to play.

At present, the curfew plan is one plank on a raft of repressive measures which have originated from one of Cheap Labour’s many expensive think-tanks. Near the top of the Government’s wish-list, is the idea of a

national identity card for young people.

Initially the scheme is voluntary, and carrying the card will be mandatory for young people wanting to prove they are legally old enough to purchase scratch cards, alcohol, cigarettes, solvents, and to hire videos. The Citizen’s Card, as it will be called, may not be compulsory, but it has all the trappings of any National Identity Card, including photo and hologram. It is the thin end of the wedge, and will lead to a National ID card for everyone, regardless of age. The government has chosen young people as an easy target, so that we will become used to the idea of young people being asked to prove their identity wherever they go. And when they are ‘old enough’, they will be ‘offered’ a New Deal (which one is not permitted to refuse), and be put to work on ‘market’ wages - because Cheap Labour don’t believe in a minimum wage for younger workers.

The Citizen Card Planning Group is currently negotiating with 16 Trade Associations, the National Lottery and Railtrack. In addition, there have been pledges of support from the Tobacco Manufacturers Association and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents. Businesses and industry have been asked for £330,000 to start the scheme up. And by the way, all card applicants will be asked to pay £5 and provide their own photos.

The Citizen Card and those corporations supporting it should be rejected and boycotted. On the latter, older people need to be prepared to help out with the boycott of cards. Why co-operate with a card which (a) is designed to assist in strengthening Government information networks, not merely prove age, and (b) will be expanded - so it will be YOU next? Unless, that is, the Citizen Card is deemed unenforceable. Don’t give it a chance, give young people a chance instead.

Libcom note: from here: