Introduction to the book "Unfinished Business" by the Class War Federation.
WHY CLASS WAR?
The Class War Federation is not another party seeking to gain power or a new way of telling you what to do. Class war is what happens when ordinary people have had enough of being pushed around and decide to fight back.
We live in a society severely split along the lines of class where capitalism, the State and the ruling class dominate. Our class, the working class, are here - at the centre of history. Indeed, all history to date is that of the conflict between us and our enemies who try to exploit and dominate us.
A Sense of Tradition
The Class War Federation in Britain is part of a long and honourable tradition of working class resistance to oppression. We stand with the peasant revolts of 1381, 1450 and 1549, the Edinburgh 'Porteous' rising of 1736, the Levellers in the English civil war, the 'United Englishmen', the Luddites and 'General Lud', the East Anglia rising of 1816 and the 1820 Scottish Rising, the 'Captain Swing' rural workers revolts of 1830/31, the Bristol riots of 1831, the Pentridge and Grangemoor uprisings, the naval mutineers of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries from Spithead to Invergordon, the army mutinies in India, the London Mob of the 19th century - the most political and feared mob in Europe that kept the Royal Family off the street! The 'Battle of the Braes' on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. The miners and railways strikes of 1910 and 1911, the heroic mutinies during and after World War One, the Glasgow and Luton rioters of 1919 (amongst many others), the general strikers of 1926, the unemployed workers movement battles with the police in the 1930's from Glasgow to Belfast to London, the 'Battle of Cable Street' in the East End of London against the police and fascists, the volunteers that went to fight fascism in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, the mutinies and strikes of World War Two, the soldiers squatting movement immediately after, the 'teabreak' strikers of the 1960's, the mass strikes of the 1970's and the battle of Saltley gate of 1972, the Grunwicks strikers of 1977, the 1979 Southall rising against the fascists and the police, the urban and rural rioters of the 1980's starting with Bristol in 1980, the great miners and printers strikes of the 1980's and the poll tax and prisoners revolt of 1990 when the jails and Central London burned! This is our tradition and our roots and we are proud of it.
We are still here. And until wage labour, capitalism and the State are destroyed there will always be a working class. The working class are a varied bunch of people who have certain things in common - as this book shows. The pathetic attempts to wish us out of existence by the middle class intellectuals of the Left and Right only confirm the crisis that their ruling class masters are experiencing in keeping control of us.
The Failure of the Left
While there is much that is useful in the works of Marx, the interpretation that Lenin gave to him has been a complete disaster for our class here in Britain and around the world. Lenin's insistence on the Party' taking control of the revolution, the State and the capitalist economy was completely wrong.
During the early years of this century there was massive and growing conflict between our class and the capitalists all around the world. They were far more vulnerable then than they are now. Just before the First World War many felt we were on the edge of a Europewide revolution, but that war bought valuable time for the capitalists. Things came to a dramatic climax in Russia during the war in 1917. There, Lenin's Bolshevik party hi-jacked a popular revolt and ruthlessly destroyed opposition by the most advanced sections of the working class - the sailors of the Baltic fleet at Krondstat and the Ukrainian peasants movements amongst others. Lenin and Trotsky even prided themselves on the 'red terror' they had unleashed.
In our view the Russian revolution did not go wrong when Stalin seized power. It went wrong when the Bolsheviks seized control of the Soviets in October 1917, after the popular uprisings of February that year. The rise of the dictator Stalin was not an accident but a direct result of the policies of Lenin and the Bolsheviks. The same disastrous experience has been repeated all round the world where Lenin inspired parties have seized power - in other words all the countries that have claimed to be 'communist', which is an insult to the meaning of the word. The tragedy of Russia has cost our class dear and set back the revolution many years, while the dead hand of Lenin has stifled development in the Left. Nowhere is this more true than of the British Left. It is only with the military, economic and political defeat of the Soviet capitalists by the Western capitalists that the Left are starting to reconsider what they have done - hardly inspiring confidence in their future performance.
There were people who saw the Bolsheviks and Lenin for what they were and suffered the organised wrath of the Communist Party such as John Maclean of Scotland. Later, the better members of the Party, such as Harry McShane, left after becoming aware that it was nothing more than a tool of Soviet foreign policy. Since then the British Communist Party has dissolved, changing its name and saying that class is no longer an issue.
From the tragedy of the USSR and Marxist-Leninism we move on to the farce of the British Left in the 1990's. This sorry collection does not make a pretty sight! The organised Left parties have all but collapsed in the face of the recent attacks of capitalism. This has been paralleled by a retreat of the 'intellectual' Left. Their main activity is now self-indulgent and obscure investigations into the meaning of capitalist culture. The end result of this long road of shame is the Left asserting that the working class either no longer exists or is of no importance. It's a strange coincidence that this is happening at the same time our society is becoming increasingly split along the lines of class and when attacks by the ruling class on us are becoming more and more savage, with resulting large increases in unemployment, homelessness and old-fashioned poverty.
We believe that one of the reasons for this failure of the Left lies in the fact that they are either composed of, or are controlled by, middle class people. A typical failing of the middle class (due to their conditioning) is to be unable to see beyond the end of their noses: they see the world as a reflection. of themselves, and their hopes and concerns as the reality for others. To them the working class are merely stage props for their plans to "save the world" or reform capitalism. As a class they are encouraged to see themselves as 'the conscience of capitalism' - poor sods! Thus they approach left-wing groups with the same zeal and cruelty that their earlier generations took up missionary work in Africa.
The new concerns of the British Left now reflect the political, economic and cultural aspirations of the middle class more than ever before. Within the Left, and liberal movements such as ecology and feminism, debate is conducted within a narrow band of 'acceptable' options. This is hardly surprising. The privileged intellectual elites that compose these groups possess the means to make life uncomfortable for their ruling class masters but lack the will; their self-interest and laziness condone the misery and exploitation of others.
This explains why the choices the Left present to us are useless whether it is "Vote Labour Without illusions" - by the Socialist Workers Party or support dictators like Saddam Hussein - by the Revolutionary Communist Party. Both are equally wrong and more importantly, equally harmless to capitalism.
Despite all this we acknowledge that there are many fine people doing good work in the Left and the anarchist movement who have a genuine commitment to the working class and revolution. We want to show them that there is another way and a better way.
The Middle Class: An Important Warning
With all we have said so far you might think we hate all middle class people. Not so. Their class has a history of producing courageous fighters against oppression that they can be well proud of. While there is much that is distasteful about the activities of the middle class as a whole we recognise the fact that before and during a revolution the middle class will split and part of it will side with our class. Just as we know that the working class will split during a revolution and part of it will side with the bosses.
Just promoting hatred for the middle classes obscures the real target of our anger - the ruling class. It is no coincidence that the fascists do exactly that, at the bidding of their ruling class masters. The middle class concern us as just another obstacle on the road to revolution, no more, no less.
We know only too well that revolution means civil war. If you are looking for Mickey Mouse politics you had better go elsewhere.
The Class War Around the World
All over the world capitalism is running into huge problems and becoming increasingly unstable. The massive amount of debt in the world economy is like a time bomb ticking away. The three major trade blocs of North America, Europe and Japan are increasingly in competition with each other for markets and resources. They in turn are in conflict with the rest of the world for access to cheap resources and labour. The developing world is going to continue to get a hammering from the so-called First World nations both economically and militarily. Famine and desperate poverty are what many of our class are experiencing there. On top of this huge sums of money or to use the correct term - capital - are now moving around the world by electronic means in search of the quickest biggest profit. This is adding to the tendency of chaos in the capitalist system that many of us experience in our day to day lives.
The rise of the super trade blocs and 'loose' money means the nation-state is no longer as important for the capitalists as it once was - indeed it is now an obstruction. It is an obstruction because the capitalists want to move to ever larger forms of social and economic organisation. This rapid change around has left many of the European ruling classes behind, especially those involved in running the State such as senior politicians. Their solution is a wave of nationalism encouraged by these upper class groups who are scared of losing their sacred nation-state in the EEC. This is one of the reasons that ex-Prime Minister Maggie Thatcher got-the boot from her mates. This wave of nationalism (Britain, France and Germany as well as that in Eastern Europe where it is leading headlong into bloody conflict) and its accompanying racism is also serving to distract us from the rapid reorganisation that the EEC is undergoing. It is going to be a super State with super-exploitation for our class, with the capitalists playing off one region against another for low wages. Whether this re-organisation of capitalism will go smoothly or disintegrate into chaos and war as in the USSR we cannot foretell.
Imperialism Is Alive and Well
Now, more than ever, the major capitalist powers and States, also called the "First World" or the "Developed World", need to intervene economically and militarily in other areas of the developing world where people and countries show any signs of breaking with or bypassing their control of the global economy. Some examples include; the United States in South America, Belgium and France in Africa, Britain in South Africa and the Falkland/Malvinas Islands. No area of the world can be allowed to go its own way. If it does it becomes a dangerous threat to the "world order" of capitalism. The stakes for the capitalists are huge. They desperately need to keep access to the markets and resources of the developing world.
"Between 25% and 33% of the exports of developed countries, and nearly 40% of US exports, go to the Third World. The major banks have lent many times their capital base to Third World countries and have made a fat profit in the process. Now the banks want their money back or at least to carry on making fat profits."
"AID - the West's False Handout" - Teresa Hayter, in New Socialist February 1985.
The so-called First World States are increasingly having to struggle to control and contain the economic changes in the developing world. This growing conflict is another source of instability and chaos in capitalism. To keep the upper hand in the world economy the First World will do nearly anything, and it is their actions here that give us the clearest picture of what we are up against. Famine, war, genocide, death squads and more, are what are people are facing around the world at the hands of the international ruling class and their regional supporters. Among the many examples that come to mind of this whole process are Ethiopia, Eritrea, Vietnam, Cambodia, East Timor, El Salvador and Nicaragua.
Here, in countries like Britain, our biggest problem is ignorance, largely due to the media's distortions. Taking Vietnam and Nicaragua as examples the journalist John Pilger makes a good point;
"The United States gained a significant if partial victory [in Vietnam]. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, American policy was never concerned with Vietnam alone, just as it was not concerned with Nicaragua alone. In Vietnam the short term "threat" came from a nationalist leadership concerned with domestic needs rather than with the demands of the United States. The long-term threat to America was that of a development model which other countries might have followed; and exactly the same was true of the Nicaraguan "threat". Far from being beaten in South East Asia, the United States has devastated, blockaded and isolated Vietnam and its "virus" and has subordinated to American interests almost every regime in the region."
"Heroes" - John Pilger.
When we say the choice facing us is barbarism or revolution we are quite serious.
Nationalism is one of the key ways of keeping our class divided. At the moment Britain is fighting an extremely dirty colonial war in Ireland that any banana republic could be proud of. That this war has gone on so long is a measure of the strength and arrogance of British nationalism. The scale and courage of the resistance to the British State in Ireland is massive. The response of much of the Left and anarchists is shameful. On one hand there is the cynical opportunism of groups like the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), while on the other hand groups like Militant and some of the anarchists just splutter a load of reactionary, moralistic nonsense at every outbreak of violence. Ireland is a classic case of the false choices that the Left present our class with. One is that the IRA, INLA etc. should have our unconditional support, the other is that they are just evil murdering scum! We are not impressed with this. The IRA, Sinn Fein, INLA etc. do not have unconditional support in Ireland from their own supporters - there is criticism, naturally. As for viewing the Republicans as evil, murdering scum, we suppose those groups that take this view would say the same of anybody who uses violence against oppression.
To those that say the struggle in Ireland is merely a nationalist one we say no. Of course nationalism is present (as it is in every struggle against the occupying forces of imperialism) but it is not the only element involved. We have much to learn from the Irish struggle against the British State and from similar struggles elsewhere. Please see Chapter One and the Irish appendix for further discussion.
MOVEMENTS ORGANISATIONS AND REVOLUTIONARIES
These things mean many different things to many people. Its best to be clear about what we mean right at the start.
When we say create a "working class movement" we are not talking about the Class War Federation or any other political group. The "movement" we have in mind is a large and growing number of people that come from very different backgrounds, experiences and places to work together to destroy capitalism and the State. This movement will be very diverse in nature yet it will have clear agreement on basic ideas. Within this movement there will be a variety of organisations reflecting different backgrounds and needs. The control of this movement will not lie in any party, central committee or group of intellectuals, power will lie in the hands of people themselves. Such a movement is far from being a pipe dream. It is the engine that drives the revolution, history is full of examples (Russia, Spain, Nicaragua, Cuba, Portugal.)
Political organisations exist to achieve certain objectives. One of the objectives of the Class War Federation is to help in the creation of an international working class movement as outlined above. As far as we are concerned the more organisations that exist to further these kind of basic objectives the better.
There is no such thing as a full-time 'professional' revolutionary, although there are people who think they are! We are 'amateurs' and combine revolutionary work with everyday life. In the process we change and so do our lives. Revolutionaries are ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
The Class War Federation
The Federation contains people who may describe themselves as anarchist, communists or socialist. More important than these 'off the shelf labels' is what these people really think and what brings them together. We believe that the ideas and politics you have are more important than what you call them. There are no pure traditions. Anarchism was a split from the communist movement as a reaction to authoritarian Marxism. It is important that we should learn from the past to make the 'politics of today'. We feel that the Left, including the anarchists, have forgotten some of the basics that earlier generations of revolutionaries and class warriors knew so well. We don't intend to allow ourselves to forget the two most basic tools that a good revolutionary needs; firstly, is to be able to communicate clearly with other working class people in every possible way. As an older revolutionary pointed out when looking at the Left in the 1970's:
"The intellectuals are writing for one another instead of for working class people; they seem to think that workers can't read!"
Secondly is the need to care about people - and each other. And, just to set the record straight: the Class War Federation does not think that music, drugs or fashion will change the world. The Federation has no links with, or interest in, the animal rights movement.
Throughout this book there are quotations from past and present writers. These are intended to help illustrate our ideas and show some of the sources and traditions we draw on as inspiration. They do not indicate complete agreement with that author's ideas.
We hope that after reading this book you will be stirred to participate in the fight against oppression and that questions will be raised that you will have to find answers to. Of course we would like you to get involved with the Class War Federation but more than that we hope that you and others get together to fight back in your own ways.
OUR TIME HAS COME