An insurrectionary call to arms from the early 1980s. Article from Xtra! issue 6.
Stumbling bleary-eyed into the 1980s a quick review of the political situation reveals a firmly entrenched, reactionary, monetarist government and a rapidly deteriorating economy. The state machine is becoming increasingly authoritarian, while the Labour Party, Trade Unions and Left have had the door slammed in their faces, leaving them helplessly bleating as the government implements its policies. Those very policies which were elaborated and presided over by the last government. The dreaded ‘cuts’.
But enough of this. We should by now have a comprehensive idea of what is going on. The point is, what are we going to do about it? Where do we go from here? We are not remotely interested in ‘kicking the Tories out’ Kicking the Tories maybe. We consider the Labour Party, Trade Unions and Left as deadly enemies. Just another pack of aspiring exploiters, bosses and police.
We are well acquainted with the fact that the working class in this country is the most politically backward in Europe. But this is applicable to the other classes too. Even more so, perhaps. The present government represents the ideological desires of these revolting middle classes. Despite reading and hearing about political and industrial violence, the really exceptional thing is that it is abysmally lacking. Look at the Grunwicks strike. Sure, there were hundreds arrested and injured, scores of mass pickets. But the whole contest was dictated by the police and unions. It is irrelevant that the whole sad strike was for union recognition, the point is that not once outside those factory gates did that particular struggle transcend legalism. Despite the fantasies of the Press and right-wing Tories.
At one point, through the sheer pressure of the crowds, a garden wall collapsed. The pickets passed the bricks overhead and gave, GAVE them to the very pigs who had been beating them up. But this is England, it’s not like France or Italy. Yet.
The result of the whole sorry episode is too well-known to elaborate here. It’s the same as any strike ‘won’ or ‘lost’. The system remains, the unions keep their grip on the working class. So far the Labour Party and unions have it all sewn up. They have succeeded in preventing the only thing that can take us far beyond the pitiful story so far. And that is class violence.
At the moment violence is dominated by the police and state - it’s on their terms. But this could be changing very soon. We don’t deny to a great extent the unions and Labour Party are manipulating a somewhat willing group of people. They couldn’t get away with it if the working class had a revolutionary proletarian consciousness. But as it hasn’t, the Labour Party and unions can pump out any amount of nationalist, legalistic garbage about our ‘constitutional, patriotic government’ (Jenkins) to the cheers of militant workers.
There is a world of difference between militants and revolutionaries. Sections of the British working class are very militant when it comes to defending their ‘rights’. There is, however, not even a tiny section of the class that has a clear revolutionary perspective, or anything approaching it.
The crisis is cutting deep into the actual structure of the working class. The economic situation and, to a growing extent, the new technology, are decimating the working class with redundancy and mass unemployment. The state has made no social preparations. Except, of course, to increase police numbers, repressive laws and the number of snoopers. Those thrown on the scrapheap can expect no aid or sympathy from the state. It is from these marginalised elements that we will draw our support.
The state has for some considerable time been making preparations for civil strife. I can only think the forces of law and order must be embarrassed at the lack of class violence. Whether it is the nuclear power question, strikes, any social issue (barring race), the state must be very pleased at the way in which they are fought. That is, in terms of submissive, non-violent, constitutionalism.
Without violent confrontation with the forces of the state, the working class will never break through the deadly, stultifying condition which enmeshes it today. Seventy years ago Sorel, despite all his other faults, understood that the class becomes decadent without class violence. Without a willingness to confront and attack capitalism physically, the state, authority, institutions, will continue to flourish. Which will mean the ever-increasing subordination of every individual not part of the ruling classes, to every facet of the system.
What about those who claim to be acting and fighting for the working class? The Labour Party and unions are 100% part and parcel of the capitalist system. In power they are exactly the same as any other government. In opposition they are pathetic. One cannot expect these organisations to fight on behalf of the working class.
These are, in fact, the police of the working class. They must be fought at every single level. We have no intention of struggling to assist these contemptible technocrats into the seats of power. Once installed they would proceed to unleash the full fury of the state on any group of workers which really wanted the system destroyed.
The same applies to the Left. These creeps, mostly the sons and daughters of the opulent, constitute themselves into so-called ‘vanguard parties' and verbally abuse the Labour Party and unions. But it’s really a smokescreen. They are their bastard offspring, so are only critical on an unrevolutionary plane. The function of the Left is to be militant, to appear to be revolutionary so as to attract people who are searching for a way to change this hateful system. But when it comes to the crunch they are out there touting for the Labour Party and unions. ‘Defend the unions’, ‘Vote Labour, keep out the Tories’. If by some chance one of these groups were catapulted into power... well a quick look at the history books and at present ‘workers’ states’ is lesson enough. We support the struggle of workers in these countries as we support the struggle of workers everywhere.
It is interesting to look at the composition of the Left. It is mostly middle-class. The section of the middle-class which tends to come into contact with the working class - teachers, social workers, probation officers - the very people used by the system as its social police. But if the membership of these ‘vanguards’ were exclusively plebian it would make not one iota of difference to us. Politics is what counts and their politics place them fairly and squarely in the camp of counter-revolution. The Left is the final safety valve of the system. It also represents an immediate threat, as people tend to see it as the genuine opposition. They little realise the answers lie in their own hands.
The Left’s main preoccupation at the moment is the recuperation of struggle into support for the return of the Labour Government and a defence of the unions against ‘Tory’ laws. Already they are marshalling the working class into meaningless one day strikes, demonstrations herded by hundreds of police. At these totally passive events the main topic of the speakers is how we should all troop out to the polling booths four years hence to vote Labour.
But one could write volumes about these people. We should look at the groups and ideas that are close to us, those that believe in class war, have a class analysis, and see the need for workers’ autonomy. First we have the ultra-Left, in the shape of World Revolution, which is Marxist. The positive thing about this organisation is its clear understanding and rejection of the Left and unions and its defence of class autonomy and class positions. All these positions are discussed in its publications. However negative points include its bolshevism (pre-1919 variety they claim) and the fact they still see the need for the state. Even if they do qualify this by saying power should be placed in the hands of the revolutionary workers’ councils.
As well as this, World Revolution has constituted itself into a party, ironic considering it would be hard pressed to raise a couple of dozen people for any event. Also ironic is the fact that most of its members are not working class and have no working class presence despite their class positions. Although they see the need for revolutionary intervention their own intervention consists merely of verbal opposition and the distribution of leaflets. An archaic, useless exercise — the present situation demands action.
Other ultra-left groups such as the Communist Workers’ Organisation are more authoritarian. They make no bones about the fact they would institute a dictatorship with its accompanying police force, prisons, and repression against sections of the class refusing to endorse the plans of the party. This clearly places them on the side of counterrevolution.
Next come the anarchists. Anarchism represents a definite revolutionary working class trend. It advocates smashing and abolishing the state and the decentralisation of power. It calls for the abolition of capitalism, alienation and for the total liberation of the individual. I do not have the time or space to talk about the historical anarchist movement. Hundreds of books have been written on the subject, most admittedly by liberal historians who distorted the truth. It cannot be said that anarchism has never fought for counter-revolutionary goals, but it does represent the only continually revolutionary mode of thought with any sort of mass following in the working class, unemployed and young. If not in this country, certainly in Europe. It is not scared to engage in violent confrontation with the forces of the state, against property and authority. But, being a diverse set of ideas, it contains certain ideologies which are counter-revolutionary.
Anarcho-syndicalism was at one time, the start of the century, a revolutionary creed. Its stress on class struggle, class autonomy class war and direct action are a case in point. However, today unionism of any form is counterrevolutionary. It is impossible to build any large-scale permanent organisation to combat capitalism, for it would be only a matter of time before it would be recuperated. All trade unionism is counter-revolutionary. If we encourage the working class to subscribe to it we are helping to spread confusion. Besides part of the struggle is against unionism in all its forms. And at the moment there is no demand from the working class for revolutionary unionism.
Of course that is not to say that at the moment the working class is crying out for autonomist organisation, far from it, in fact the extremities of alienation and the total estrangement of the working class from revolutionary proletarian ideas mean just the opposite is occurring. Only a fool would say otherwise. Many anarchists are not revolutionary at all, being nothing more than extreme liberals. Some are nothing more than leftists.
Anarcha-feminism is another good example. And I would like to discuss some of its implications. Being based on biological determinism, feminism negates class struggle to a war between the sexes. Men are crudely regarded as having a vested interest in the oppression of women. This means in essence that there should be class collaboration between women of all classes, against men. The anarcha— feminist magazine, Zero, (now defunct), by the time it had produced issue number two, had an article demanding that the original jail sentence imposed on rapists be implemented.
But why rely on the very institutions that daily crush us — the courts, law and prisons? What is wrong with direct action? Why not burn his car, beat him up or even paint in ten foot letters ‘A Rapist Lives Here!’ on his house? And the same applies on other levels. We must do things ourselves, outside the repressive, conventional framework. It is interesting that people like this should turn to bourgeois institutions - the very institutions we must utterly destroy. One of the reasons people like the Zeroids are incapable of confronting violence in society is because they have adopted a disarming ideology. They see aggressiveness as male, therefore bad. In fact aggression is an emotion, neutral, neither good nor bad, it just exists.
But this society knocks all emotions out of us that spell the possibility of resistance, turning them inwards or using them for its own ends. Aggressive emotions are actually something that we have to rediscover in ourselves. We have to be combative, and yes, I’ll say it, more violent, when it comes to confronting this death culture. If we ‘lower orders’ were more aggressive we might be in a better position to overthrow the system. Pushing garbage serves to disarm us from within - and all in the guise of anti-sexism.
Is it coincidence the people who peddle this passive attitude are mostly middle-class? That they never experience the daily violence done to us in schools, workplaces, dole queues, prisons, housing estates? Hence all this stuff about patriarchy. Do they think all men are tribal elders in some remote Indian Village? The only remote thing is their distance from the horror of everyday life.
We stand 100% against all forms of sexism, all forms of restraint on our bodies and minds by the state’s laws and morals. We think women need to be more aggressive, we are totally against the passive nonsense expounded by these self-proclaimed non-sexist men. All this fuss about sexist advertisements. We hate the WHOLE commodity spectacle, not just its particular abuses of women’s bodies. The whole set up is offensive. We don’t bother using a sliding scale to determine who is more oppressed - a young male, black, unemployed, or working woman. What counts is the destruction of the system, this present order. Sorry to spend so long on this subject, but it just happens to be ‘doing the rounds’ at the moment.
Some of us are anarchists, others are not, but it seems to me we work in the anarchist milieu more than anywhere else. We also draw the bulk of our support from this area. This is not to say we don’t heavily criticise various aspects of anarchism, we do. Still I would like to move on to disturbances that have happened in recent times.
I would like to talk about the political violence that has occurred. We condemn all nationalism, therefore not only do we condemn the IRA’s terrorism against the civil population, but more important I think, we reject their politics. The only thing that has really brought politics back to our terrain, the streets, has been the struggle against the NF. The streets of Lewisham, Bradford Birmingham and Southall have seen direct confrontation involving the NF, the police protecting them, the Left and the people under direct attack by Nazi thugs - young blacks and Asians. Despite their claims the Left, except on a couple of occasions has done everything to avoid confrontation. Their latest attempt at recuperation has been the formation of the Anti-Nazi League. It is quite interesting that the various factions of the Left should unite to defend ‘democracy’. Defending democracy means defending the status quo.
We have no interest whatever in defending any part of the system, in preserving the present state of affairs against a non-existent fascist menace. There is a degree of irony in the middle class Left fighting the plebian fascists. But we see tremendous liberating possibilities in these confrontations. Where else do we get the chance to strike back against the police? Some anarchists are against these confrontations. But what else do they suggest? Some suggest talking to individuals in the Front. That is OK we agree to that, we would even talk to individual leftists sometimes. However, when the Master Race decides to invade working class areas, with a huge phalanx of police protecting it, the only dialogue the marchers understand is that of the bricks and bottles we attack them with.
Some people want to ban their marches. But we don’t want the state to defend us against Nazi thugs. We know what their help consists of. We are the receiving end of it. The state is not frightened of the NF, it is frightened that the reaction against them might spill over into other issues. As indeed it has. These confrontations provide us with much needed practice for the future.
However the real possibilities of confrontation were shown at the first Notting Hill riot where the police were heavily defeated and where young blacks showed their contempt for this society by looting shops and burning police cars. In a way the NF marches and the Notting Hill confrontations could be regarded as set-piece battles.
But this April the Bristol riot, or semi-insurrection, again showed us the future in no uncertain terms. Again the most alienated sections of society; unemployed young blacks initiated and bore the brunt of the fighting. Well co-ordinated, the fighting forced the police to withdraw from the area and as the pigs pulled out the rioters looted the shops, taking the goods that society denies them.
Some whites joined in and it is even reported that a couple of old age pensioners wheeled a trolley of goods out of a gutted supermarket. As half a dozen police cars burned, the local bank went up in flames, burned by the very people who would never cross its threshold. Skinheads, the very people who would be marching with the NF in other circumstances, joined in on the side of the blacks. This proves that action is dialogue - all the liberal platitudes in the world make no difference. THIS is the start of a new form of communication. These actions, spearheaded by the marginal elements, could present a real menace to the existing order if they spread to the working class.
Because there is no revolutionary consciousness in the working class, or even in the marginal elements, we tend to draw our support from individuals. These individuals come from the low-paid sections of the working class, the unemployed, and students. Most of us commit various crimes to support our pitiful incomes Most revolutionaries tend to come from the middle-class because they have the time and the education. The rest of us are struggling day to day just to survive. The Left began its long march through the institutions ten years ago, many becoming teachers and lecturers. When we pass through it will be to wreck them. We must not be confused by the so-called autonomous movements. There are none.
The women’s movement is not autonomous, it is closely allied to and infiltrated by the Left and Labour Party. The much touted ‘Beyond the Fragments’1 proves that the women’s movement is extra-parliamentary, not anti-parliamentary. The women on the marches and in their campaigns and meetings do their work ‘outside’, while the ‘real’ work is done in the Houses of Parliament by Left-wing MPs. As if THEY had anything to offer us. Only the middle-class ever seems to benefit from these changes of law anyway. We are not fighting just to make life more cosy for these bastards. These people are living off our backs just as much as the Royal Family and the rich.
Our interventions, although we do distribute leaflets, we prefer to be physical whenever possible. We intervened in the ‘Debate of the Decade’2 , not in order to have a nice little chit chat with the middle-class trendies posing as revolutionaries within. We intervened to break it up, to confront the likes of Benn and Paul Foot. We were there to show our disapproval of leftism in more than esoteric terms. The vile Benn drew the brunt of our fury, coming out with gems such as ‘The last Labour Government saw a definite shift of power into the hands of the working class’. We exploded, and why not?
We demanded in no uncertain terms to know how many prisoners had been freed. How many public schools they had closed. Why they hadn’t even stopped the brain police - teachers - from brutalising kids in those prisons called schools. All they gave us was more police, more state control, heaped more shit on. us.
We could have rushed the platform, pushed aside the knot of ex-public schoolboys, but unfortunately we did not. We were still restricted in our actions, although we numbered three dozen and they about two and a half thousand, we had the upper hand. We were prepared to defend ourselves and we soon saw the stewards off. We made it clear we were not frightened of them (and we weren’t), but instead of wrecking the entire meeting we left because some of us were getting bored. There was no point in trying to convert lefties, they have vested interests, just as much as any Tory. After all they are our future leaders (or so they think).
These interventions are mostly for our benefit, to boost our confidence, to push ourselves to greater extremes, to attract people who are not deterred by political norms, who want actions not hot air. While we admit some of our interventions have been abortive, others haven’t. Like the time we took over the front of a big TUC march and when it ended busted up a meeting presided over by an ex-Prime Minister, fighting the stewards and leaving before the police came.
When future disturbances occur we will be there, as we have been in the past, fighting, burning banks, extending the action, attacking police stations, moving out into the middle-class areas, taking the battle into enemy territory. Even now on the fringes of marches, we break away, bricking shop windows, picking off isolated targets. We haven’t the numbers yet to engage in full confrontation, by ourselves, with the well-trained police. So we will continue our hit and run tactics, although we join any confrontation we think worth it. We will defend ourselves from any attacks by fascist OR leftist thugs, because don’t think the Left will put up with endless provocations. The closer we get to the mark, the harder it will become.
We prefer the small group structure where we can get to know and trust each other. We act in concord with likeminded individuals and groups, putting out the ‘buzz’ whenever something interesting appears. We pick and choose when we decide to initiate our actions. But we are finding it necessary to intervene more often, in greater force, and in every sphere - not just demos and meetings. We will spring surprise attacks on property, shopping centres, make ourselves felt on every level.
It’s not only for ourselves, but for all the alienated — like the young skinheads in the East End, who belong not with the NF and BM but with us. We are expanding and educating our minds by confronting the whole rotten fabric of this society, the ‘culture’, useless commodities, morals, laws, ‘politics’, which have nothing to offer us except increasing misery. We have nothing to lose, we won't be bought off or distracted by useless campaigns, which after all mean asking THEM not to be so nasty. The state and authority are ready, don’t think the riot shields at Lewisham appeared out of thin air. It’s up to us to be ready too.