Undercurrent journal

Online archive of undercurrent, an anti-state communist publication from Brighton in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

An archive of undercurrent's website can be seen here.

Submitted by Fozzie on May 3, 2021


Splits and Fusions

3 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Splits and Fusions on May 4, 2021

I wondered what Undercurrent was- picked up a tatty copy of issue 8 very recently from Housman's.

Contemporary with Aufheben and publishing from the same address...


3 years 1 month ago

In reply to by libcom.org

Submitted by Fozzie on May 4, 2021

Thanks Splits - they were I guess on the communist end of the anti-capitalist movement of the time. There were some contributions from them to things like "Reflections on J18"

I think there was some connection or mutual appreciation with Antagonism too but that might be me misremembering.

Undercurrent #6

Sixth issue of Undercurrent from late 1990s.

Submitted by Fozzie on May 3, 2021


An underlying question whenever producing texts in the context of radical politics (or rather: anti-politics) is the relation between theory and practice. The complete rejection of any kind of theoretical critique, not uncommon in the broad milieu in which the undercurrent is located, is most of the time a barely disguised anti-intellectual resentment, which is not to confuse with a critique of the intellectual in his or her relation to the division of manual and intellectual labour. The incoherence of this rejection stems from the neglect of the fact that the praised practice, opposed to the useless babbling of the theorists, is always based on some "theoretical" concept of society. The reluctance to make these implicit assumptions explicit and thus make them the subject matter of a critical scrutiny ultimately prevents practice that knows itself. Marx writes somewhere that the distinct feature of proletarian revolutions is that they again and again pause to relentlessly criticise themselves. After all, while bourgeois revolution is the merely political expression of socio-economic developments - and thus blind execution of something already accomplished -the radical transformation of society, also known as proletarian revolution, is the complete upheaval of all the existing social relations which claims to end pre-history by for the first time consciously organising society. Critique, the theoretical anticipation of this transformation, is essentially negative. It seeks to destroy that which, while claiming to do the opposite, perpetuates the existing misery.

These big words, however, must seem ridiculous in the present situation. The type of self-critique Marx envisaged is necessarily obsolete given the absence of a significant movement that at least claims to be revolutionary. This touches upon the question of class on which we have sometimes conflicting views. Only some of us claim that there is a permanent "hidden" class struggle behind the appearance that the class has been incorporated into capital by transformation into ordinary wage-earners and citizens. Here is not the place to discuss these things. We are aware that as a whole, the undercurrent is remote from advancing a coherent line of argumentation. This becomes obvious when reading the piece of text on the following page and the critique of the campaign against the G8 summit in June. Ironically, some of the points made against that campaign in this issue could easily be applied to the contentious piece of text which some of us would rather not have seen printed. The poetic pathos was rejected by some as contributing virtually nothing to a political discussion while instead spreading a quasi-religious and mystic aura ("the air we breathe" etc.) that appeals to emotion and discourages critical reflection.

Put this dispute aside, we agree on the necessity to reject the notion of the all-encompassing "we" (comprised of all those involved in any kind of "oppositional" movements) that entails the demand to be always constructive (since we all want the same...) and thus inhibits the development of radical critique. In this sense, we don't expect this issue to be particularly popular, especially among animal rights activists and those in favour of spectacular global raves.


Editorial for undercurrent #6

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

editorial for undercurrent # 6

An underlying question whenever producing texts in the context of radical politics (or rather: anti-politics) is the relation between theory and practice. The complete rejection of any kind of theoretical critique, not uncommon in the broad milieu in which the undercurrent is located, is most of the time a barely disguised anti-intellectual resentment, which is not to confuse with a critique of the intellectual in his or her relation to the division of manual and intellectual labour. The incoherence of this rejection stems from the neglect of the fact that the praised practice, opposed to the useless babbling of the theorists, is always based on some "theoretical" concept of society. The reluctance to make these implicit assumptions explicit and thus make them the subject matter of a critical scrutiny ultimately prevents practice that knows itself. Marx writes somewhere that the distinct feature of proletarian revolutions is that they again and again pause to relentlessly criticise themselves. After all, while bourgeois revolution is the merely political expression of socio-economic developments - and thus blind execution of something already accomplished -the radical transformation of society, also known as proletarian revolution, is the complete upheaval of all the existing social relations which claims to end pre-history by for the first time consciously organising society. Critique, the theoretical anticipation of this transformation, is essentially negative. It seeks to destroy that which, while claiming to do the opposite, perpetuates the existing misery.

These big words, however, must seem ridiculous in the present situation. The type of self-critique Marx envisaged is necessarily obsolete given the absence of a significant movement that at least claims to be revolutionary. This touches upon the question of class on which we have sometimes conflicting views. Only some of us claim that there is a permanent "hidden" class struggle behind the appearance that the class has been incorporated into capital by transformation into ordinary wage-earners and citizens. Here is not the place to discuss these things. We are aware that as a whole, the undercurrent is remote from advancing a coherent line of argumentation. This becomes obvious when reading the piece of text on the following page and the critique of the campaign against the G8 summit in June. Ironically, some of the points made against that campaign in this issue could easily be applied to the contentious piece of text which some of us would rather not have seen printed. The poetic pathos was rejected by some as contributing virtually nothing to a political discussion while instead spreading a quasi-religious and mystic aura ("the air we breathe" etc.) that appeals to emotion and discourages critical reflection.

Put this dispute aside, we agree on the necessity to reject the notion of the all-encompassing "we" (comprised of all those involved in any kind of "oppositional" movements) that entails the demand to be always constructive (since we all want the same...) and thus inhibits the development of radical critique. In this sense, we don't expect this issue to be particularly popular, especially among animal rights activists and those in favour of spectacular global raves.


The Paris Commune of 1871

Submitted by Fozzie on May 3, 2021

Recently, the Sussex University library dedicated part of its space for a small exhibition on the Paris Commune. At first this came with some surprise: how was it that, in the midst of the boredom of academic life and the total lack of interest in any issues of importance, the library was willing to commemorate one of the most crucial proletarian revolutions of the nineteenth century? Yet, our surprise quickly vanished when we gave this exhibition a closer look. Not only is the exhibition of a purely academic nature (looking at historical events as spectacles and thus a-historically), but it is also taking the Commune out of context, describing it by using some of the most common illusions found in the bourgeois world. This article comes as a response to the exhibition. Our aim is not to convince the people responsible to take into account another perspective, thus falling into the liberal ideology of ‘all views should be heard’; rather, we aim to remind them that, even in the Disneyland they construct, the distortion of history does not go by unnoticed.

The Paris Commune emerged at the end of the war between Prussia and France. The defeat of France in the battlefields brought the Prussian army outside Paris, with the subsequent result of the formation of the National Guard. “Paris could not[…] defend itself without arming the working class, without transforming it into a military force and without training it militarily for war. But when Paris is armed, that means that the revolution is armed.” (K. Marx, Declaration of the General Council of the International Association of Workers for the civil war in France in 1871). When the chief general of France, Thiers, decided to surrender to Prussia the armed people of Paris refused to give back their weapons and declared the Paris Commune.

The library exhibition claims that this was a result of the nationalistic ideas of the masses and the fact that “… many Parisians who had borne the brunt of the recent German offensive on behalf of their country only to have surrender forced on them, felt angry and betrayed” (quote from the library exhibition). Yet, this presupposition clearly ignores a variety of facts visible to anyone who looks at the Paris Commune: firstly, on the 30th of March, the Commune declared that all foreigners could be elected in the Commune because “… the flag of the Commune was the flag of international democracy”. Secondly, this explanation fails to explain –or comprehend- the fact that the Communards destroyed on the 12th of April the monument of the victory of Vendome for being a symbol of nationalism and hatred among the people. The crucial role played by the foreigners in, and their treatment by, the Commune simply forbids the allegation that the uprising was a result of national pride.

Contrary to the ideological utterances found in the library exhibition, the Commune was to serve as the lever for uprooting the economical foundations upon which rests the existence of classes, and it did so by establishing its dominance over the organisation of social life on the basis of a rejection of capitalist social relations and of the state apparatus.

The establishment of the Commune started with the formation of the municipal councillors, chosen by universal suffrage, responsible and revocable at all times, the majority of whom were workers. For the first time after 1848, the streets of Paris were safe, and that with the absence of the police. “We, said a member of the Commune, hear no longer of assassinations, theft and personal assault; it seems indeed as if the police had dragged along with it to Versailles all its conservative friends.”

At one point, the library exhibition claims that although “… from the very outset the Commune was associated in the public mind to Marxism, [but], beyond the similarity in name, the Commune had nothing to do with communism” (quote from the library exhibition). But what is communism if not the conscious decision of the workers themselves to take control of their lives through an armed revolution? How can this claim be accepted when all the acts of the Commune (abolition of private property; abolition of the military service; abolition of the rents owed to the rich; the creation of workers’ councils by giving all power over the factories to those who worked in them; the equation of all salaries in the Commune to those of the workers; etc) point to the direction of the destruction of the class based society and of class dominance?

As soon as Thiers had realised what was going on, he begged the Prussians to help him liberate Paris. The refusal of the Germans meant that Thiers was to perform the task by himself. The army started gathering in Versailles, and the battles with the Communards began. Although the Communards managed to hold their positions for some time, the constant bombing of Paris and the lack of co-ordination eventually led to the downfall of the Commune. In the aftermath, more than 20,000 people were executed, whereas thousands were imprisoned or exiled.

Surely, many mistakes were committed. The refusal, for example, to seize the French National Bank at a time when money was desperately needed was of vital importance. Or else, the existence of the armed artists who defended the Notre Dame from the arsonists in the name of an eternal aesthetic value, signified that the Communards were still indecisive in regards to their objectives and aims.

The internal problem of coherence does fall upon the spectre of the Commune, but “… it is time to examine the Commune not just as an outmoded example of revolutionary primitivism, all of whose mistakes are easily overcome, but as a positive experiment whose whole truth has not been rediscovered or fulfilled to this day.”(Internationale Situationniste, Theses on the Paris Commune, 1962)

The attempt to present the Paris Commune as a nationalistic revolt, mainly characterised by a senseless mob1 unable to even understand its own powers, testifies for the desire to eradicate the historical memory of any struggle for human liberation. Yet, what appears to have been one of the failures of the workers’ movement, remains one of its most important successes so far.

  • 1At some point of the text accompanying the library exhibition, it is claimed that “… the generals were taken into custody by their own men and clumsily shot in front of the mob”. Surely, the geniuses who wrote this might have done a little more research before uttering such nonsense. What actually happened was that the two generals (Lekonte and Thomas) ordered their troops to open fire at an unarmed workers demonstration. When the soldiers refused, the generals started swearing at them with rage, something which resulted into the soldiers turning their guns against the generals themselves and shooting them instead. Clearly, this was an act of justified proletarian outrage and not one of a ruthless mob as they wish to present it.


The longer the list, the better the action

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

The longer the list, the better the action

The campaign against the economic summit
undercurrent #6

On June 18th, leading politicians of the eight biggest economies will gather in Cologne (Germany) to talk about the future of the world economy and as almost always, this will be the target of protests. A world-wide alliance is forming which is according to the bulletin of the British activists' driven by the "recognition that the global capitalist system is at the root of our social and ecological troubles." But what sounds like a point of departure for a critical analysis is unfortunately all the campaign has to say about its position. Instead of going beyond this kind of commonplace, it simply states that "a global movement of resistance is rising", and reading the few propaganda leaflets produced so far one soon realises that it is all about quantities. We are thus told that there were lots of people on the streets at last year's economic summit ("...2oo,ooo people in India..."), lots of agit-prop material has been produced ("20,000 lovely little folding leaflets..."), lots of different groups are involved (incl. trade unions, peace groups, church against poverty, national union of students - to name but a few) and, last but not least, the campaign bursts of fantastic ideas for action: "giving out free food...lots more custard pies...laughing all the way to the bank...sound system in balloon floating above the City!".

Them and us

"We are more possible than they can powerfully imagine" the campaign trumpets - but this them-versus-us-logic is odd on several counts. Not only has global capitalism - the alleged target - nothing to do with a simple "them". What is more, the collective "us" that is being invoked is utterly vague - "a growing alliance of social and environmental movements". The only thing all the different groups have in common is that in one way or the other they are affected by global capitalism - but that, again, is merely a commonplace, insufficient as a basis for collective resistance beyond the symbolism of raving a couple of hours against the gathering of some character masks in Cologne. But far from being a minor mistake of the June 18th campaign, this indifference towards the social content of movements is its very essence. In their own words: "The longer the list, the more effective the action." Following the requirements of media representation, it seeks to bring together masses. The result is pure mystification. On the one side, we have the apocalyptic scenario - "economic crisis, the millennium bug, environmental crisis, war famine, poverty" - which then is countered by the celebrated diversity of countless movements all around the world. The assumption is that anyone suffering from the present social order is by his very nature for its overthrow. Yet the vast majority of the groups and movements listed are directed against specific consequences and aspects of capitalism. The secondary weaving together of all the single-issue-movements leads not to a rejection of the totality of society - quite the reverse, it is simply an incoherent patch-work of people who, at least for a day, come together and party - or throw some custard pies in somebody's face.

"Global Capitalism"...

Preoccupied with listing groups and original ideas for actions, the campaign has dispensed with critical analysis. This is an immediate consequence of the aim to be as broad as possible: Any clarification of the political objectives of the June 18th campaign would reveal the lack of a political consent between e.g. the Zapatistas and the NUS, the trade unions and autonomist groups. This kind of short-sighted campaigning is based on the very absence of a clear critique of "global capitalism" in order to suit virtually everybody. What remains of the proclaimed anti-capitalism is but a bunch of slogans.

However, while radical critique of capital is obviously out even amongst those who pretend to practically oppose it, various resentments against certain aspects of the present-day situation are rather growing, with "globalisation" being buzz-word number one. The talk of "global capitalism" the campaign displays without any clarification is perfectly well in harmony with the present media hype about globalisation. This consists mainly of bemoaning the fact that, confronted with an apparently unlimited fluidity of global capital, the power of the nation state is vanishing . Virtually everyone has a dislike for "globalisation": Left-wingers are concerned about the future of democracy - since the politicians who are now allegedly rendered powerless were at least democratically elected whereas citizens have no say in the decisions that the vicious executives of multinational corporations take. Subcommandante Marcos, spokesman of everybody's darling, the Zapatistas in Mexico, sees the organic cultures of peoples being threatened by the evil forces of globalised finance capital. The French fascists of the Front National reject it as an attack on the sovereignty of the nation state and a threat to national culture. The recent campaign against the MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investments), in many regards similar to the present June 18th campaign, drew exactly upon this ideology: As the MAI sought to give foreign capital a better position against national legislation, the opposition against it displayed a sometimes extreme nationalism and was practically propaganda for the state.

A common response to globalisation is thus the call for a re-regulation of the economy by the state. Neo-liberalism, another buzz-word used basically synonymously, is often countered with the demand for a Keynesian policy, popular especially among traditional lefty social democrats and trade-unionists. Keynes acknowledged that in order to prevent crises, the state has to intervene actively into the market by directly creating jobs (which, according to Keynes, could practically mean to make people dig holes and fill them afterwards) and generally raising demand (to compensate capital's tendency to over-production). It is not at all surprising that in the present situation lefty intellectuals like Eric Hobsbawm proclaim "the end of neo-liberalism" and beg New Labour to adopt a more Keynesian strategy of taxation and redistribution. In general, there are hopes that the current hegemony of social democratic governments in Europe could clear the way for an alternative to "neo-liberalism". While the June 18th campaign does not rally for social democracy, the vague opposition to "global capitalism" it spreads is totally compatible with addressing the state as a supposed counter-pole to the market. And in fact, many of the movements the campaign is glad to have on board work along these lines.

"The heart of the economy"

The uncritical concept of capitalism the campaign seems to subscribe to is illustrated by the concentration on the financial sector of capital: the global actions will take place in the financial districts, understood as the "heart of the global economy". While production appears to be merely a technical process in which useful things are made, money and financial institutions are regarded as the essence of capitalism. Yet although capitalism cannot dispense with a developed banking system, it essentially depends on the production of surplus-value through the exploitation of wage-labour. The vast sums of value circulating in the banking districts represent the successful result of this process - and if they don't, the next crash is imminent. Therefore it would rather make sense to occupy some factories - if there is such a thing as "the heart of the economy" it lies there and not at Barclays' Bank.

This may sound like an irrelevant footnote. But one has to keep in mind that especially the recent crises in the financial sector have nurtured resentment against finance capital and prompted calls for a re-regulation of the world economy. The Times stated last summer that "the IMF's reputation has sunk to its lowest since the body was set up in 1944", and social reformists come up with proposals about taxation on "unproductive" speculative capital (so the state can redistribute money for the benefit of all and create jobs...). The campaign's concentration on the financial institutions fails to distinguish itself from these productivist and populist tendencies.

This misleading fixation on finance capital seems to be corrected by the second target of the campaign, the multinational corporations. But why privilege multinationals? Are national corporations less capitalist? Are small enterprises any better than "big business"? Significant parts of the campaign seem to stick to these notions: community-based cornershop versus Somerfield's, small peasants versus agro-capital and so on. "Small is beautiful" was after all a fairly popular slogan among eco-activists.

This perspective on capital gets professionalised by groups like Corporate Watch and the many initiatives busily cataloguing the many sins and crimes of individual corporations, which practically means, most of the time, launching boycotts and thus spreading the idea of "consumer's power". Thus, the opposition to Shell is based on their involvement in Nigeria, we are supposed not to eat certain chocolate bars because Nestle does this and that and so on. The critique of the fundamental logic of capital is replaced with a positivistic and moralistic approach. All this neglects the insight that capital in all its forms deserves abolition - and the family owned sweat-shop is by no means any less annoying as a workplace than AT&T.

Confusion and pseudo-practice

All this is not to say that the June 18th campaign would be in favour of sweat shops and state regulation, nationalism or social democracy. It is none of this, but at the same time shows no interest in analysing the dead-ends into which the articulation of social discontent runs today. Instead it employs a naive strategy of immediacy: the imaginative hippy-individual who "takes his desire for reality" is depicted as the ultimate response to global capitalism which essentially is comprised of banks and corporations, run by "them", the evil inhuman managers and yuppies. Everything is supposed to be so clear-cut and self-evident that any further reflection can be dispensed with - hence the ignorance of the many ideological and practical ways in which opposition gets neutralised (if it is not complicit with capital right from the beginning, as probably most of the groups on the campaign's list are anyway). The call for mass action amounts to confusion about the social objectives of the alleged "global resistance" and ultimately leads to mere pseudo-practice, i.e. much ado about nothing that gives those involved the illusion to lay the ground "for huge social and political changes".


A critique of animal rights ideology

Are animals a class? It is a sign of our times that many people probably respond to this question with a resounding: "Hmmmm, this takes some consideration.", instead of a prompt: "No, bollocks."

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

Foxes killed in hunts or cats tortured for whatever obscure purposes figure more prominently in the compassion-economy of the average decent citizen than someone like Simon Jones, a Sussex student taking a year off who was killed on the first day of his new shit-job which he was forced to take under the Blairite New Deal regime. Animal rights actions -- ranging from granny-friendly Sunday demos in the countryside over the absurd hunger strike of Barry Horne to the terrorist acts of the Animal Liberation Front -- receive vastly more attention than "people's" rights actions of any kind. The reason why all this is so can be found in the reformist ideology at the heart of the animal rights dogma(1).

Animals constitute the perfect victims -- they don't talk back. In contrast to oppressed people, who may not only be oppressed, but also racist or sexist themselves, animals are only passively suffering. This means that the activist is not required to deal directly with the objects of her activism. Instead, she will constantly inhabit a necessary role. Since animals cannot liberate themselves, the human liberator is needed. Since animals cannot decide their own fate (presupposing that a concept like "fate" applies to animals), the human liberator will always be necessary to take decisions for "her" victims(2). This gives the activist the gratification of being essential to the struggle. In contrast, would the aim be the liberation of humans who suffer under the capitalist system, who are forced into spirit- and, as in the case of Simon Jones, literally body-crushing work, the activist must loose her vanguard role rather quickly and the victims must become agents of their own freedom struggle. This loss of position can be an uncomfortable prospect for certain kinds of activists and the cause of animal liberation, where the power position of the liberator is guaranteed, appears as a welcome alternative.

This, however, does only demonstrate that animal rights activists are not and cannot be revolutionary, but not the twisted nature of their ideology. For animal rights activists, the alleviation of the suffering of animals, which is real and despicable, is and in their view should be the central issue of the struggle for freedom. This has multiple implications. For one thing, it places the suffering of animals on a higher level than the suffering of humans. This is the result of either self-hatred or an utterly twisted ideology of history. In the former case, animal rights activists see humans as using, abusing, torturing and killing animals for no apparent reason. This is, however, the fallacy in their argument. It is, of course, fairly easy not to be personally implicated in the process of animal exploitation (everyone can become vegan, for example). But this focus on immediate personal action, which is one of the reasons that make the movement so popular, simultaneously obscures a larger theoretical perspective which would make clear that animals are at present treated the way they are out of purely monetary motives. It is thus not some evil inherent in human nature that is responsible, but an economic system that in the name of profit commodifies everything.

Some animal rights activists recognise these contradictions within the movement and instead have dreamt up a bizarre theory on oppression. They recognise that humans aren't all bad and that humans in their roles as workers, women, minorities, or generally as the alienated are just as exploited as animals. Now, the theory goes that the exploitation of animals is the first and central instance of oppression. All others, wage-slavery, sexism, racism, etc. are outgrowths of this first oppression. Hence, we have to fight the exploitation of animals and everything else will fall into place. In other words, if only people learnt being nice to animals, they would learn to be nice to each other as well. It is rather futile to elaborate this strange perspective any further. Suffice it to say that Hitler was a vegetarian and loved his German Shepherd dogs.

However, all this weirdness pales into insignificance when one analyses the reformist consequences of animal rights ideology: The narrow-minded and fanatical insistence that the most important problem to fight against is the suffering of animals. In essence this means that they really see nothing wrong with the economic order as it is, if only it weren't for those nasty experiments on animals and slaughterhouses. Many liberal activists within the movement freely admit that this is their position, epitomised in their heroine Anita Roddick, the Body Shop founder (and the administration's favourite Sussex graduate), who managed to become one of the richest people in Britain with her brand of compassionate capitalism. Nevermind that she busts unions in her overseas factories; after all she really cares about these people and knows what is best for them. Unnecessary to discuss, these people are enemies, whether they like animals or not. However, within the animal liberation movement there are those self-styled revolutionaries who consider themselves as some sort of chosen people who have seen the light. Prime examples of this attitude is the Animal Liberation Front, but also those Hunt Sabs who are convinced that their paramilitary games in the countryside are an important contribution to the class struggle. The important thing to remember is, however, that the capitalist system does not need fox hunts or slaughterhouses. If anything, it would probably be better off without them as it could serve as propaganda on how compatible this mode of production is with good, healthy, enlightened values. And it is exactly this which is the central fault of the animal rights ideology. It does not attack the core of the problem, it does not attack the capitalist order.

As mentioned above, for the liberals (many of them with a post-68 sell-out trauma), this is the beauty of it. They can live out their fantasies of political activism without disturbing suburbia. But the more radical animal rightists, whose dedication this article neither doubts nor belittles, should consider how much difference it would make to them and to the living conditions in this world if only animal oppression was eliminated and the rest remained the same. Surely, the conclusion can only be that animal rights are not on the top of the priority list. Of course, a struggle aimed at, to use a trendy term, the heart of global capital takes a lot more uncomfortable analysis and vision than the simple animals=good, people=bad logic. But at least it is a struggle for liberation and not for a reform of a murderous system. This is not to say that animal rights should not be on the list of priorities as even a minor achievement like, say, the abolition of wage labour not automatically would entail a better treatment of animals.

Because there are much more important targets to attack and animal rights activists waste time and energy on a side-issue, they essentially serve to sustain the status quo. And in this context it is not a coincidence that animal rights actions receive much more media attention than real revolutionary actions. By focussing in on this kind of activism, the media and public debate function as PR agencies for the animal rights movement even when condemning it. In this way it draws people who have energy and political dedication away from the real struggle and keeps them in a safe realm in which the system can prove its generosity by apparently reforming itself as a consequence of public pressure -- wonderful, a people's democracy! Yet everything remains the same, expect for the system that has become stronger and in that way can more effectively go about its business of exploitation.

(1) We use reformism not in the strict sense, i.e. the legalist and parliamentary "road to socialism" through "gradual improvements" as opposed to a revolutionary strategy, but simply as a term for those who aim to change minor aspects of the present society while not contesting it as a whole.

(2) Tragic-comical results of this abound. Animals that are "liberated" from laboratories often either die in nature or return to the laboratories, because they are unable to survive by themselves. Another popular occurrence is the "liberation" of large numbers of one species into one area which consequently wreaks havoc on the eco-system of this area, killing loads of indigenous animals.


Schools of Revolt

Undercurrent on education struggles in Greece.

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

For the past two months, the greek educational system has been brought to an almost complete standstill. A vast number of schools has been occupied, followed by numerous universities. Technical schools have joined in, a situation which no longer resembled the traditional occupations which take place near the Christmas holidays every year. In the streets of Athens and other major towns of greece, militant demonstrations of vast numbers took place, not experienced for a long time. Also, big road blocks by pupils were witnessed all around greece. Their common basis: the fight against the new education law 2525, which aims at restructuring the education system towards the advanced needs of capitalism. The ruling classes have started to react with panic, while the media have joined in the propaganda of the State, constantly speaking of non-educational elements taking over the occupations to turn them into drug-trafficking places. At the time that this article is being written the situation has not changed. A first analysis of the events is attempted here, with the underlying purpose of shedding light on a struggle that seems to escape the limits of education and to extend its critique to the totality of contemporary society.

Being still the most backward country of the European Union, greek capital has realised the imminent need to speed up the process of modernisation of the social relations - something the right-wing governments were obviously not able to accomplish. The election of K. Simitis (a personality heavily favoured by his European counter-parts, as their remarks following his electoral victory clearly demonstrate) as prime minister of the social-democratic government indicated that greece was entering a new phase of drastic changes. The PaSoK government was dedicated to implement the needs of capital, but it was under serious pressure to speed up this process in order to meet the requirements of the Maastricht Treaty and to join the 'festival' of the Single Market. It adopted a Thatcherite attitude and showed from the very beginning that nothing opposing their plans would be tolerated. Starting from a gradual restructuring of the work relations, and moving on to decreasing the number of farmers, the road to structural modernisation (read: hell) was paved with the determination of the government, the collaboration of the unions and the occasional use of the riot police. But this road had to eventually go through the educational system. And, as the integrated unionists exclaim, since the educational system is the channel through which the labour force is allocated in the production, its re-organisation was inherently necessary in every step of the restructuring of greek capital. Yet, their plans for the educational system did not proceed according to their wishes.

The greek educational system in the past

The emergence of social democracy as the commonly accepted model of social organisation in the 60's and 70's indicated a major opening of what was formerly a highly selective, elite school system to the majority of the population. Under the ideological banner of 'equal opportunity', the new school system was created so as to adapt into the populist outlook of the state, but its democratic image could not balance the reality of a class based society. The new educational system, being responsible for the selection of the future labour force, suddenly found itself at the centre of the major social conflicts.

The gradual collapse of social democracy highlighted the anachronistic character of the social democratic educational system. Important changes started to be considered, and the right wing government of the late seventies and early eighties attempted the first reforms, focusing on the need of directly connecting the universities to the market and introducing the notion of specialisation. Although these plans did not succeed under the conservative governments, the election of PaSoK in 1981 managed to gradually implement these changes.

In the winter of 1990-1991, the second major attempt of the right wing government to adapt the educational system to the advanced needs of capital was introduced. A major conflict broke out, quickly turning into a political crisis, with the eventual resignation of the minister of education. Once again, it became obvious to the ruling classes that the necessary changes had to be implemented by the 'socialist' PaSoK. Thus, in 1997, PaSoK voted in parliament (during the summer holidays of course) for the educational law 2525.

The law 2525/97

The new super-law is obviously all embracing. Starting from the teachers in the schools, it is then extended to the pupils and it finally alters the university system. Its overall purpose? The creation of the education-market, functioning totally on terms of its laws and priorities.

Concerning the teachers, the law essentially abolishes the previous way of employment. Under the old system the teachers would enter their name in a year list and wait to be appointed by the state. Although this system had its faults, it basically forced the state to treat all applicants on an equal basis, and it guaranteed permanent employment for those who were appointed. With the new system, this is being replaced with a further exam which effectively introduces the notion of failure, and forces those who fail the exams to become flexible/temp workers in search of employment outside the education system. In essence: it decreases the number of teachers by rendering those who fail unemployed, and, more importantly, personally guilty for their unemployment. For those who manage to pass the exam, a destiny not much better awaits them: their permanent assessment by state officials, with the ultimate aim of making them totally obedient workers.

In relation to the pupils, the new law transforms the schools into race tracks of competition. It attempts to decrease the number of those going into higher education and it does so by altering the system of entrance. While in the past, those who finished school would have three chances to go through an exam system in order to get into university, this is now being replaced by a constant exam period during the final years at school, which, among others, means that pupils now only have one chance to get into University. Those who do manage to get the paper indicating that they have finished school will be allowed to enter university, but the fact is that even less people will actually be able to get hold of that paper.

Through constant assessment in the school, the workload will be severely intensified. The fragmenting and alienating competition among the pupils will be increased, since high achievements in school will now be determinant of the pupils' future, and the class divisions already existing within the schools will be enlarged. Under the new system, those who do not 'perform' as well as the others will be sent to the TEE (technical schools), thus ensuring that their labour force is not wasted but skilfully absorbed in the production. The distinctions between the 'good' obedient pupils and the 'bad' disobedient ones will become the everyday experience of the pupils and the hallmark of the 'new' innovated education system.

Regarding the university students, the new law contains a series of changes in the programme studies that essentially indicates a shift to more market-oriented programmes. The university degree will suddenly be measured in terms of the credits that the individual student has collected throughout the years of university/misery life, in contrast to the previous system where every degree carried the same value regardless of the grade, thus increasing individual competition. But even when the students have managed to get the degree, they will then be forced to follow the new "flexible" studies' programmes (PSE) which will 'upgrade' their degree (i.e. add credits to it), and render them more flexible to exploitation. The new system brings forward the concept of 'life-long training', which effectively means that the students will constantly try to equip themselves with the 'necessary' qualifications to find what in the end turns out to be a temporary job, since the employer will prefer the graduate with the more modern qualifications (i.e. the more credits). Unemployment then cleverly becomes a matter of personal failure: it is your fault that you can't get a job, because you are unable to follow the PSE in order for your degree to be upgraded to the level of advanced exploitation.

The State presents, the Media represent

Although resistance to this law seems a rather obvious reaction from all sides, it is quite important to stress the crucial role played by the government and media propaganda in determining the public opinion against any sort of resistance to the government's plans. By pointing at the previous nature of the education system, and specifically at certain parts of it that were commonly accepted as wrong, the government aimed at presenting its reforms as an attempt to rid the educational system from all these undesirable elements.

Thus, for the teachers, the negative aspects of the old system were severely emphasised (the fact that some teachers had to wait for a long time before being appointed was prioritised as a negative aspect in relation to the plans of getting rid of a large number of them), so as to present the exam system as providing a more direct and meritocratic way of employment (or should we say unemployment). Moreover, the exams were supposed to improve the level of teaching, an argument which worked in a twofold way: on the one hand it appealed to those (parents, etc) who were complaining about the low level of teaching experienced in the state schools (without however questioning the fact that taking a three hour exam does not improve anyone's level. It has to be noted that the official language of the State sometimes replaced the minimal ability of thought among its passive recipients.) On the other hand, it created a further fragmentation between the pupils and the teachers, since, apart from seeing their teachers as personally responsible for the oppression and alienation they experience, the pupils sometimes identify these problems as stemming from the low level of the teachers. Thus, some pupils were ready to accept the proposed reforms as a means of improving the situation in the schools. Yet, although it is unavoidable, and indeed healthy, for the pupils to direct their anger towards those who represent this alienation, one of the most promising things of this movement was the fact that the pupils refused to accept the propaganda of the State and did make minimal -but crucial- connections with those of the teachers' who refused to accept the law and who, in one way or another, continued the movement of June.

In terms of the pupils the propaganda was more skilfully disguised. The old system of entering university through an examination at the end of school was indeed appalling. Pupils were supposed to learn whole books by heart, and were assessed almost in relation to how many comas and words they forgot to add when memorising the texts in their exam paper. Thus, when the minister proclaimed that with the new system everyone with a paper saying that they have finished school would get in university, a lot of people fell for it. Moreover, even when the actual reality of the new law started to become known and understood, a lot of people were ready to accept it on the pathetic grounds that at least some changes were made in the education system.

As for the students, not much needed to be added to the already generalised feeling of competition and submission to the new needs of capitalism. The majority of the students in greece already accept the status quo, and even if a lot of them voted for the occupations, it seemed as if this decision was more influenced by their desire to extend the Christmas holidays by a few weeks, than any actual opposition to the law. Moreover, the fact that quite a lot of students' occupations started to collapse one after the other shortly before the official holidays, indicated at that time that the students were not prepared to lose their term. Needless to say that once again, the social role of the student was exposed for what it actually is: a passive and universally despised role.

The pupils' occupations

The first occupations of the schools started in late October. Soon they spread out, and by early December more than 1000 schools (there are about 3500 schools in greece) were occupied, followed by numerous university occupations, all with the same 'demand': the complete withdrawal of the new law 2525/97. However, the form that the struggle took was not always as promising as its numbers.

So far as schools are concerned, it is crucial to understand that they are very separated from each other, something which does not allow a direct and constant solidarity among them. Apart from the spatial distance and a lack of communication channels, the schools are separated from each other on the basis of a peculiar but strong factor: the pupils of one school tend to identify with 'their' school as being 'the best' in the area, and disregard all other schools. This self-imposed ghetoisation makes some pupils very reluctant to accept -or sometimes even consider- the attempts of students or teachers (or whoever else) to extend the struggle and make valuable connections with other sections of society, a fact which is worsened by the existence of a 'Communist' party-led 'Pupils' Committee' which pretends to be the only true representative of the pupils' movement.

Loyal only to its dogmatism, the 'Communist' party (KKE) calls for local road blocks instead big demonstrations, and tries to eradicate any radical expressions of the pupils, who in the midst of the revolutionary situations they create, start to develop a more rigid critique of contemporary society and of its lackeys.

However, the 'Communist' party is obviously not in control of the movement, and many pupils have reacted very reasonably when facing them -in many schools, representatives of KKE have been violently kicked out. Furthermore, autonomous committees have been created to counteract the KKE one and their actions and leaflets managed to overcome the dead end of KKE's ideology and to radicalise the content of the struggle.

The Students

The students' position is different from that of the pupils. The experience of the political students has led them into rejecting the dogmatism of KKE, but has not led into a critique of ideology as such. Hence they are massively drawn into splinter left wing groups whose only difference to KKE is proportionate. Unable to understand or analyse contemporary society in a revolutionary way, the militant ideology of students stops them from developing a critique of student life. As such they only relate to the struggles in a spectacular way.

The most striking example is that of NAR (New Left Trend), a splinter group which disassociated itself from KKE only a few years ago, and which enjoys a certain dominance in the student milieu, but which has not equally disassociated itself from the dogmatism of Stalinism. Although more populist than actually Stalinist, NAR has always tried to impose itself as the uncontested leading group of any student struggle, with the purpose of increasing its power base and improving its militant image.

The rest of the left wing groups have not so far managed to contest the dominant image of NAR. Even though they personally disagree with its practices, they have proved totally useless in confronting them at a collective level.

However, it needs to be pointed out that not all student groups are in the same pathetic position. Some anarchist or autonomous groups have appeared with a more rigid critique of university, and they have tried to point out that the struggle is not a merely educational problem, nor is the specific law only a problem of education. In their leaflets, they have pointed out that the struggle should not confine itself to a mere opposition to this specific law but should extend to a generalised critique of the society the ruling classes are trying to build.

Although much credit should be given to them, their correct understanding of the underlying purposes of the law does not always lead them into an understanding that even if the law in itself was withdrawn, this would represent an important victory since it would mean that state and capital would be abandoning one of their major tools of modernisation in greece. Thus it is quite common to read anarchist leaflets stressing that the law 2525 should not be considered a priority, an argument which sometimes gives the impression that the particular struggle does not interest them.

The struggle continues...

The hopes of the government and the minister that the situation would de-escalate after the Christmas vacations were not satisfied. The pupils increased the amount of occupied schools, and the militant demonstrations did not stop. Yet, some things had changed.

For the government, the continuation of the struggle transformed the educational problem into a major political crisis. The stubborn attitude of the minister now demanded the (unwilling sometimes) support of the rest of the government, whereas the majority of the newspapers started demanding a solution dictated by the prime minister himself. At the same time, the government initiated a 'crisis committee' (composed of the ministers of education, law and order, internal affairs and justice) with the purpose of resolving the problem. The result was a major 'campaign' of 'distressed' parents (read: members of the party of PaSoK) attacking the occupied schools with the aim of physically stopping them.

On the other hand, the students' occupations were also increased, indicating that the pupils and students were determined to continue the struggle until the law was totally abolished. The pupils' response to the 'distressed parents' only meant that even more pupils stayed in the occupied schools to protect them, and that their dedication to the struggle became more fierce.

At that point the opposition party of the right wing proposed a vote of no confidence against the minister of education in parliament. This was a decisive move. At first it was treated with contempt by the left, since it indicated that the whole of PaSoK would be forced to fully support the minister of education, and as such he could not resign in the near future. However, this move was cleverer than that. The subsequent support of the whole party meant that the education problem was now officially a government crisis that could no longer be resolved by positioning the minister as the scapegoat, followed by a resignation from his post. The proposal of the opposition party meant that either the prime minister would force the minister of education to resign (thus causing serious internal problems) or else that the whole government would have to resign.

The struggle now

The situation at this moment seems to be at a halt from both sides. The passing of the law 2525/97 remains an unavoidable necessity for the government and Capital, but the situation seems to indicate that the government will be forced to back down, since the pupils are in a position now that they have nothing to lose by continuing for a few more weeks (whereas the government has).

The situation at the moment is explosive. The government's last chances depend on terrorising the pupils (Arsenis declared that many schools have effectively lost the winter term and would thus have to repeat the whole school year), while the pupils strongly depend on whether connections will be made with other sections of the population.

At this point, the necessity for the continuation of the struggle poses itself historically; the fight against the law 2525 will either go beyond the limits that the various professionals (unionists, students, 'communists', etc) seek to impose on it, or it will collapse. For the outcome will not only determine the future of greek modernisation, but it will also prove to be the basis upon which further struggles will be fought.

February 1999

(Some ideas for this article have been ripped off from the greek magazine TPTG )

An account of the June events outside the exam centres of greece is available at the Collective Action Notes website


this article was written when the pupils' movement was still going on, and reflects all the hopes that we carried at that time. Unfortunately, the movement lost, the education law 2525 was passed and nothing remains today of the struggle (apart of the proletarian memory). This was a crucial development. Greece had not seen a major struggle kick off since the early 90's, and many people (including us) placed many hopes on the potentials of the movement of 1999. To have won that struggle would have meant that the proletarian experience would have had a - small but important - victory in its history, a fact that would have aided it to face the struggles to come. These hopes were never realised. The results of this can be felt today.

When a new law announcing major changes in the work relations (institutionalisation of flexibility, temp work and the rest of capitalism's modern inventions) was announced last summer, many people thought that a fierce resistance would emerge. Workers were openly coming out saying that blood would have to be spilled before such a law would pass, the union hacks seemed to be at a loss, and the government was desperately trying to find some leeway through which its changes would be accepted with the less reaction. But, and although the situation is still ongoing, it seems to be the case that no major reaction is on the table. The General Confederation of Greek Workers (the main union) did call for two one-day general strikes before christmas, but participation in these was all but promising... Nothing is lost permanently and so long as the class struggle exists all hopes are permitted, but we cannot fail to notice that, had the law 2525 been scrapped due to the class struggle, further struggles would have had a ground upon which to stand and unleash their terrible, but yet only potential, strength.


Undercurrent #7

Seventh issue of Undercurrent.

Submitted by Fozzie on May 3, 2021

NATO's War Against Yugoslavia

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

Nato's war against Yugoslavia
undercurrent #7

Officially, Nato's war against Yugoslavia was "a battle for the values of civilisation"(Blair). Yet the proclaimed concern with the humanitarian situation in Kosovo is nothing but war propaganda. Nato states back regimes worse than Milosevic's and the purported sympathy for the refugees gives way to hostility as soon as they enter Western countries. More fundamentally, the statesmen allegedly worried about the Kosovo Albanians administer a form of society which with necessity causes immense human suffering (and whose only possible legitimisation lies therefore in the lack of any better alternative). In order to understand the war in the Balkans, we need to examine the driving force behind Nato intervention.

Far from being simply dragged into the conflict, Nato wanted war and instigated it. The so-called negotiations in Rambouillet were obviously intended to spark off war. Yugoslavia was presented with a treaty it could not sign: it demanded free access to the whole of its territory for Nato troops and would have thus meant the end of territorial integrity and sovereignty. The point is not that we care about the sovereignty of states, but simply that this treaty was obviously meant to be rejected by the Serb side as it was a clear provocation. The Western powers were not unanimously anti-Serbian before the war. While Germany revived its anti-Serbian policies from the Nazi period in the early 90's, promoted secession on ethnic-nationalist grounds and consequently (though not overtly) supported the nationalist Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the US main concern was to avoid the Greater Albania the KLA was aiming for, since that would de-stabilise the region even further[1]. Until December 1998 the US tried to prevent the arms supply to the KLA, and labelled it a terrorist organisation, giving Milosevic the go-ahead to militarily suppress Kosovar-Albanian separatism. However, this policy was abandoned when the US suddenly turned against Milosevic, a shift confirmed at Rambouillet, thus making war inevitable.

But why was Nato so keen on war? A common interpretation of wars waged by capitalist powers is to point out "economic interests" in the region concerned. Yet this is not the case with Kosovo. The war against Serbia differs from the Gulf war 1991, in that there is no oil and nothing comparable to it. The Rambouillet treaty in fact demanded that "the economy of Kosovo shall function in accordance with free market principles", but it seems unlikely that this was the objective behind the bombing. Although Yugoslavia still has a high level of nationalised industry (possibly an indication of working class resistance to privatisation projects), it no longer seems necessary to initiate bombing campaigns in order to open up markets. The last decades witnessed a failure of all attempts at state protectionism, from the Eastern bloc to Latin America. Furthermore, what has Western capital to gain in Serbia, let alone Kosovo, by far the poorest part of former Yugoslavia? There is no shortage of cheap and obedient labour around the globe. If this was the primary problem of capital, it would queue up in Russia or elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Yet investment in the former Eastern bloc is low and highly selective. Most parts of Eastern Europe are very unlikely to become centres of investment; in fact, it looks as if the bulk of the population is simply redundant from the standpoint of capital. The carve-up of Yugoslavia throughout the 1990s followed this trend in so far as those regions most likely to be integrated into European capitalism -Slovenia and Croatia- broke away from the Yugoslav state, leaving behind the less competitive regions[2].

A similar interpretation of the general rationale behind the wars of the major powers was put forward in the "No war but the class war! Discussion Bulletin" from London. The purpose of the war from this perspective is "...to open up these regimes' economies to the free market. This is not so much done by overthrowing the government but by decimating and demoralising the working class and wiping out the rebelliousness that caused the problem for capital in the first place"[3]. This claim, however, is rather problematic. On the first hand, while the pro-market restructuring in the 1980's faced severe resistance from a working class defending its living conditions (see article in this undercurrent), we have not come across any major signs of proletarian "rebelliousness" in Serbia in the years following the civil war - there was a pro-western, pro-democratic liberal opposition to Milosevic, but this can hardly be termed "proletarian". Of course, the fact that we have not come across anything does not mean that there was nothing like that going on. But the only recent signs of resistance mentioned in the 'No war but the class war'-Bulletin are desertions by Serb soldiers, which although by far the most promising moments of this war, cannot be used retrospectively to explain the emergence of the war in the first place[4]. Secondly, as argued above, the underlying assumption that capital has any significant stake in the region seems at least doubtful.

The theatre of imperialism

Far from following any "economic logic" in the narrow sense, the role of the West in former Yugoslavia is that of the world police monitoring the permanent crisis in this part of the capitalist periphery. Its rationale is not, as was the case with old-style imperialism, to dominate countries politically and militarily in order to exploit them, but to prevent chaos and instability, to safeguard the capitalist centres against the massive influx of refugees. Another dimension of the war was the clear strategy of the West to diminish Russia's sphere of influence in Europe, by edging it out of any post-war settlement, something that Russia seems unwilling to accept, as the recent minor confrontations between Russia's and Nato's ground forces suggest.

Yet whilst this is something of a common interest, Yugoslavia has furthermore become the battle-field for strategic rivalries amongst the powerful capitalist states. Ever since the collapse of the cold war order, the whole system of world politics is in transition, the direction of which seems uncertain. US hegemony has been questioned by the emergence of a strong European bloc. Reunified Germany in particular clearly aspired to gain more autonomy in its foreign policy. For example, it escalated the Balkan conflict when it independently recognised Croatia and Slovenia in 1991, thus signalling that any ethnic-nationalist secession will be welcomed by the new powerful German state (see, again, ...in this undercurrent).

The massive US involvement in the bombing campaign against Yugoslavia served the purpose of underscoring US hegemony and ensuring that, in the future, the US will maintain its influence in Europe. The priority is not so much to assert a certain policy, but to stay in Europe in the first place. The main vehicle for this is Nato. The war provided Nato, deprived of its former enemy (the USSR), with a new rationale, just in time for the 50th anniversary celebrations of Nato in April. It is no exaggeration to say that the war was actually fought over Nato's future: during the Rambouillet negotiations, the Yugoslav side was willing to accept an international UN force in Kosovo, while the West insisted on Nato presence. (And since now Kosovo is ruled by a UN mission consisting of Nato forces, both sides can claim to have won). Furthermore, it was an excellent opportunity for Germany to finally fully re-militarise its foreign policy and thus gain the status of a completely sovereign nation state. Britain, the most hawkish among the Nato states during this war, could gain international profile, and is now symbolically "rewarded" with getting Pristina, the capital of Kosovo according to the plans for the military occupation. During the war, British papers questioned the US capability of being the world power due to its reluctance to deploy ground troops, while the US annoyed Britain with delaying the movement into Kosovo until the arrival of US troops - to ensure their share of the "glory of liberation". This way, the "humanitarian war" became the theatre for international rivalries -although it happened in Serbia and Kosovo, it was not exclusively about Serbia and Kosovo.

Communism or Barbarism

Kosovo will be a Nato protectorate under the formal organisation of the UN. Whether it will, in the long run, remain with Serbia, i.e. in Yugoslavia, become independent or join Albania is a matter of speculation and neither option will improve the situation of the people living there. The preoccupation with these formal-legal questions displaces the simple truth that whatever the political framework, the economic prospects for the region are grim and mass unemployment inevitable; and as long as capital exists, the only thing worse than being exploited is not being exploited, i.e. being redundant.

This fate is one Kosovar-Albanians share with most people in Serbia - already now, an estimated 40 per cent are unemployed in Serbia, and an opening up to the Western market will simply speed up the process of slashing jobs in inefficient industries and services. In the end, those with crap jobs will be the lucky ones, and this real absurdity underscores the fact that capital deserves nothing less than complete abolition. The current talk about a "Marshall plan" for the region that invokes notions of the relative prosperity in Western Europe after World War II merely seeks to veil the bleak future of the population of Kosovo. It appeals to the equally common-sensical and non-sensical idea that with a bit of good-will, hard labour and sufficient money, one can establish flourishing capitalist production anywhere and any time - an idea shared by considerable parts of the anti-war-movement that demanded economic aid (read: capitalist development) for the Balkans.

Eastern state capitalism has imploded, and all Western-style free market capitalism has brought about is an exacerbation of the living conditions which nurtured ethnic barbarism. Although, in contrast to the bulk of the impoverished population, the elites in the Balkans certainly benefit from nationalism, it is misleading to deduce from this that nationalism was a mere "tool" used by them as a means of manipulation, a view that invokes a false image of the Yugoslav population as passive and malleable. In fact, nationalism was only the last resort for many; in a world of abstractions, the eternity of "ethnic" identity, of blood, seems to promise security and survival. The less the market provides living prospects, the more desperate the ideological need to seek refuge in the good nation state that 'truly serves its people'. That the Yugoslav state has nothing much to offer to its inmates except poverty and repression, appears not as the nature of peripheral states per se, but as a malignancy stemming from the "wrong ethnic" basis of that state. Just as the new Palestinian quasi-state has brought about the replacement of Israeli police by Palestinian police, a future Albanian authority in Kosovo - possibly to be provided by the KLA - would differ from the Yugoslav one only in its uniforms and victims (Serbs are already leaving Kosovo in their thousands). The practices of the KLA, aspiring to run the ruins of Eastern state capitalism, anticipate the essence of the state they plan to establish. The KLA began its career with attacks on Serb refugees in Krajina, and then on Serb police and civilians in Kosovo[5]. Yet the violence of the state-to-be is also directed against its future subjects: during the mass exodus of Kosovar Albanians in the last of couple months, the KLA intercepted the refugees' convoys and recruited men for its heroic "liberation struggle" -with force, if necessary. Freedom for Kosovo is precisely the opposite of freedom for those living in Kosovo. For in reality, "National liberation consists of the liberation of the guerrilla chairman and its national police from the chains of powerlessness"[6].

Contrary to the rhetoric of Western civilisation vs. barbarism, capitalism and ethnic slaughter go hand in hand. Ethnic cleansing is just another form of the generalised competition in capitalism, marking the transition from decaying capitalism to a society of gangs and rackets. Genuine communism - not the caricature the Eastern bloc was, but a society beyond wage-labour, state, and the market - is at the same more necessary and less likely than ever.

"The irrationality of the existing society changes all partial 'rationality' into irrationality and turns rulers and ruled alike into prisoners of circumstances beyond their control. Obviously, the war...makes 'no sense' even to the capitalist, for it cannot serve as an instrumentality for arresting the historic decline of private-enterprise capitalism. It only attests to the fact that capitalism has become a purely destructive social system and that it will remain such until the people of the earth put an end to it"[7]. The independent US-American communist Paul Mattick wrote this 33 years ago about the war in Vietnam, yet its relevance remains disturbingly intact.

[1] One should not forget the Albanian revolt of 1996/7 that led to the collapse of the Berisha government which the West highly favoured for keeping the borders between Albania and Yugoslavia/Kosovo well -policed.

2 This process is analysed in the article "The Workers Have no Fatherland..."

3 No war but the class war! Discussion Bulletin, No. 1, London, April 1999. C/o PO Box 2474, London N8 OHW, or e-mail [email protected]

4 A good account of these desertions which started in mid-May can be found in No war but the class war! No. 3

5 Le Monde Diplomatique, Paris, May 1999

6 Breakdown Notes, Nightmare and hope in the Balkans, London, April 1999

7 Paul Mattick, 'The United States in South East Asia', International Socialist Journal, Rome, March 1966


The Anti-War Movement

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

The "anti-war-movement"
undercurrent #7

There was no militant response to the war in Britain, as in most Nato countries (Greece seems to something of an exception, but the protests were fuelled by nationalism and encompassed the whole political spectre). With a professional army, the war did not affect the lives of people here in any significant way and was merely something happening on TV, and the current political apathy in Britain was surely no fertile soil for mass resistance against the war. Furthermore, the war propaganda of a new humanitarian internationalism succeeded in silencing criticism and paralysing opposition to the war, and the obvious lack of immediate economic interests in the region helped underpin the image of Nato as the humanitarian peace dove who only bombs to avoid worse suffering. Whoever spoke out against Nato's war was denounced as a lackey of the Serb regime and compared with the appeasers of 1938. At the least, anyone opposed to the bombing of Yugoslavia was asked what else one could do, since "we have to do something". Many on the left who still opposed the Gulf war in 1991 now found themselves cheering Nato's war on the grounds of preventing "the next Holocaust". We don't care what Ken Livingstone and the likes do, but this was certainly a phenomenon not confined to Labour MPs and newspaper columnists. At least, the humanitarian card that belligerent politicians the media played made things too difficult to take an anti-war-position. It is worth noting that the entire "direct action"-scene, normally bursting "to do something", was silent about Nato's war. There was a symbolic scene in Brighton, when a several thousand strong animal rights demonstration passed the anti-war-vigil consisting of a dozen people. SchNews, the weekly news-sheet representing the direct-action scene, ran precisely one article throughout the whole time of the war. For this political milieu it was as if the war was not happening at all and one could go about one's business of writing about trees, parks, GM food etc..[1]

However, the anti-war-movement was a failure not only in terms of size, but also as far as its political content is concerned. It was a bizarre alliance of remnants of the peace movement, Trotskyist groups, some Labour left-wingers and sometimes even Tory MPs. One regretted every demo in London one had attended together with this mixture which was completed by Serb nationalists displaying their stupid flags. The only consent was the opposition to Nato's bombing campaign; apart from that, Tories could moan about the absence of a true national interest in the war, Labour MPs showed themselves shocked that the sacred international law was broken, while Trotskyists chanted their "welfare not warfare"-slogans, thus demanding the better political personnel that is wise enough to invest "our" money usefully into hospitals instead of bombing hospitals elsewhere. Though not dominant, anti-American propaganda by old Stalinists also resurfaced: while the British PM was the pace-maker calling for ground troops, the anti-war demonstrations displayed nationalist "Yankee go home"-placards showing the map of Britain in the colours of the US flag.

On top of that, many of the Trotskyist sects supported the idea of Kosovan independence. Consequently, the focus of their "critique" was to accuse Nato of having "sat back and done nothing while the Kosovars have been systematically massacred and driven from their homes". By idealising the nationalist terrorists of the Kosovo Liberation Army as freedom fighters, by spelling out freedom as "nation state", these sects reinforced the fundamental ideology of national self-determination that dominates the conflict in the Balkans. The "independence for Kosova" Workers Aid for Kosova demands is the definite formula for further ethnic cleansing - this time against the Serbs, who are already now leaving Kosovo.


[1] Two characteristics of the direct action scene, though, make this failure no surprise. Firstly, it thinks in clear-cut moral oppositions: good vs. bad. Secondly, it is based on the expectancy of immediate effects of their action. Obviously, both things did not apply to the war since there were no "goodies" and no realistic perspective of ending the war through protests.


The Workers Have No Fatherland

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

The workers have no fatherland....


No understanding of the conflict in Kosovo can even be attempted without a clear picture of the development of that Balkan region in the past years. The collapse of Yugoslavia, following the international collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the USSR, and the re-structuring of the region along world market standards resulted in a mayhem of barbaric war and nationalism. The regional differences of the previous economic organisation of Yugoslavia, which the Titoist regime tried to keep controlled through state subsidies and constitutional changes, clearly dominated all the post-socialist economic structural changes, overshadowing the fierce class struggles of the late 70's and early 80's, and thus providing nationalism with a material basis. The bureaucratic elites used this and sought to nationally 'unify' the disobedient proletarians by separating them.

As it was proven, the unified resistance to both nationalism and the subsequent war by the Yugoslav working class was not strong enough to overcome the superficial divisions among the Balkan proletariat. The end of the war in Yugoslavia with the Dayton agreement in 1995 was a victory of nationalism and, as such, decreased the chances of a coherent proletarian offensive against capital, leaving the region open to further explosions of nationalist violence and war, as the current war in Kosovo clearly demonstrates.

The conclusions that can be drawn from the situation are rather pessimistic. Not only the Balkan proletariat (the internal enemy) has failed to successfully resist these developments, but even internationally, the opposition to the war has been ludicrous. Yet, some of the recent developments in the Balkan region, indicate that proletarian resistance has not faded away. The numerous mutinies and desertions in the Serbian Army showed that, amidst Nato's bombs and Serbia's strict martial laws, there were proletarians who chose to be enemies of 'their' state. And this was one of the most inspiring and rational moments in this irrational war.

The nature of the Yugoslav Economy

Ever since Tito disassociated socialist Yugoslavia from the USSR in 1948, the country worked on the basis of so-called workers' self-management and state planning. In contrast to the rest of the Eastern bloc, Yugoslavia's economy was more open to western capital, and as such during the cold war Yugoslavia was seen as a mediator between the Western and Eastern economies. This facilitated the relative prosperity of the country. However, the socialist determination to smooth the antagonism between labour and capital through the absence of a proper labour market and the dedication to full employment meant that labour discipline was not maintained: the state-regulated labour market prevented the mass sacking of workers, resulting in low levels of unemployment. The discipline of the workers of Yugoslavia was thus not as easy to maintain as in the West.

Yet the Yugoslav economy was also characterised by great differences among the various regions. Slovenia and Croatia were more developed regions because of their closer connections with the Austrian-Hungarian empire, German capital and lack of serious infrastructure damage during the 2nd World War, whereas Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo were primarily agricultural areas. Serbia constituted the middle ground and embodied the administrative functions of state economic planning. These regional differences were kept under relative control through state subsidies to the less developed regions, and through constitutional arrangements. Eventually, however, the peaceful co-existence of the different regions was undermined by the radicalisation of the working class[1], and the accumulation of money-capital in the more developed regions.

The development of the economy in the 50's and early 60's had increased the number of industrial wage-labourers[2]. When the first liberalising reforms were initiated in the 1960's by a faction of the Yugoslav ruling class which favoured the facilitation of the accumulation of money-capital in the more developed regions, this working class reacted forcefully through wildcat strikes and violent confrontations with the Yugoslav police. This radicalism influenced a faction of students, and in 1968 a student revolt exploded which sought to unite the existing class struggle with a coherent critique of alienation, thus making the qualitative step towards a major offensive against capital. At the same time, big riots broke out in Kosovo which, although termed nationalist, reflected the reaction to the economic reforms of one of the poorer regions more than its ethnic divisions.

The student revolt was suppressed by the state machine, and as a response to the Kosovo riots, further subsidies were made to the less developed regions. However, the growing intervention of the banking system in the economy meant a re-orientation towards profit making and thus less money to the 'inefficient' south.

The International Crisis and Proletarian resistance

When the international crisis of the 70's hit Yugoslavia the impact was devastating, and soon the ruling class was looking for ways of dealing with the huge internal crisis. Thus, in 1974 constitutional changes were introduced which reduced the power of the Federal state and attempted to accommodate regional differences. The regions were transformed into autonomous regions, and Yugoslavia into a confederation of semi-sovereign states which had independent economic policies, police and the right to veto Federal decisions. However, none of the changes satisfied the regions, which, as a result of the growing economic differences between them, had already started reacting to economic reforms on a regional basis. The more developed regions were dissatisfied due to the political restrictions on the flow of money- capital, Serbia reacted to the loss of power of the Federal state, while the less developed regions were concerned because the regional restructuring positioned them as a permanent 'third world' within Yugoslavia, since the reforms did not affect the structural reasons for their gradual impoverishment. Gradually, regional tensions created a material basis for the development of nationalism.

The inability to cope with the crisis led Yugoslavia to join the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1980, which automatically imposed heavy austerity measures which shifted the burden of the crisis to the working class. The proletariats' nasty habits of wildcat strikes and riots were demonstrated once again, but the IMF proved to be successful. The rise of unemployment and the decrease of the real wages of the workers indicated that the western-style regulation of the labour force was more efficient in imposing labour discipline than its socialist counterparts. Yet, this was not sufficient, and the elites of Slovenia and Croatia started considering the prospect of secession from Yugoslavia as a more efficient way of coping with the crisis.

At the same time the conditions of the IMF and subsequent government measures which clearly favoured the more developed regions further ignited regional tensions. In 1981 big riots broke out in Kosovo, again more of an indication of growing impoverishment than a clear nationalist expression. However, it was now clear that the propagation of nationalism was facilitated by the ongoing economic impoverishment of the less developed regions.

In 1986 further riots were reported in Kosovo, and separatist voices were now more visible, although not yet dominant. However, the situation had changed from previous years. By now, Serbian nationalism had already begun to be propagated by a number of intellectuals.[3] The fact that many Serbs left the economic poverty of Kosovo and moved towards Serbia where there were more chances for them to survive, was exploited by the growing nationalist faction of the Serb bourgeoisie as a sign that Serbs were being driven out by Albanian nationalists. The result was an escalation of the institutionalised discrimination against the Albanians (declaration of martial law in Kosovo), a process which essentially meant that Kosovars did not only have to face the poverty of the region, but ethnic racism as well. The mass sacking of Albanian workers on the basis of their ethnic origin was a step taken by the Serb nationalists which almost necessarily implied a nationalist response on behalf of the Albanians.

By 1987, in the more developed regions of Slovenia and Croatia, demands for further liberalisation and the withdrawal of the political restrictions on the accumulation of money-capital, were conjoined with demands for national independence. The Serb bourgeoisie was divided between those who wished to maintain a unified Yugoslavia but were incapable of halting the economic developments which gave rise to nationalist aspirations, and those who chose to oppose the separatist tensions through Serb nationalism. The latter's claim was simple: any non-Serb nationalism was to be dealt with militarily. At the same time, further attempts to integrate the Yugoslav economy into the western market took the form of mass sackings, wage decreases and constitutional changes in the legal aspects of capitalist exploitation (abolition of the pseudo-self-management, liberalisation of the labour market, decentralisation of the banking system, etc). Resistance to these plans was fierce[4], forcefully demonstrating that suppression of proletarian resistance was the only way through which the Yugoslav economy could be adjusted to its new standards. The interests of western capital and of the local bureaucrats of Slovenia and Croatia became identical.

The legitimisation of capitalist social relations was in need of a new political structure, which at this point could only take the form of new nation-states which would divide, police and re-compose the proletariat on the basis of national identity.

The nationalist faction of the Serb bourgeoisie found its expression in Milosevic, whose nationalism reached its peak in 1989 when he organised a rally in Kosovo to propagate Serb nationalism, at a time when 81.9% of the population[5] (the overwhelming majority of whom are Albanian) were living below the poverty line! Soon after, the autonomous status of Kosovo was revoked and the region was re-integrated into Serbia.

Nationalism and Anti-nationalism in Yugoslavia

Meanwhile however, the international context was rapidly changing. The Eastern Bloc collapsed, and the subsequent instability brought about a further ignition of nationalism, since the Slovenian and Croatian elites saw this as an opportunity to proceed with the dismantling of Yugoslavia.

Yet the moves towards nationalism did not proceed unopposed. Seeing the growth of nationalism as an attempt to divide the working class, significant parts of the Yugoslav proletariat set up independent trade unions and anti-nationalist organisations, coupled with a new wave of wildcat strikes[6]. The continuing attempts at privatisation and dismantling the 'self-management' structures were fiercely opposed throughout all regions. Nonetheless, such unity was hard to sustain. In the midst of nationalist hysteria, the promises of material gains that a potential independence could bring to the workers of the more developed regions (at the expense of the Serb minorities) won the day.

In June 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared independence[7]. The Serb-led Federal Army chose to respond by declaring a state of emergency and by sending troops to take over Slovenia's border posts and the main airport. But the Slovenian army proved to be well prepared and managed to resist the Federal Army's forces. At the same time, the internal enemy in Serbia used the anti-nationalist organisations and the independent trade-unions as the basis for an anti-war movement, resulting in massive desertions[8] and big anti-war demonstrations. The independence of Slovenia was a matter of fact in only 10 days.

In Croatia things developed in a totally different way, since there was a significant Serb minority which proved to be a problem for Croatia's independence. The consequent repression they faced following the declaration of independence of Croatia, enabled the Serb bourgeoisie to present their military response as a natural response aiming at protecting the 'Serb brothers and sisters' facing persecution.

Western Intervention in the Balkans

Western interference in the war placed the Yugoslav conflict more deeply in an international context. Yet, the interests of the Western countries differed. In Europe, the first country which openly favoured the break up of Yugoslavia was Germany[9]. The collapse of the Eastern Bloc and the re-unification with East Germany had boosted Germany's imperialist aspirations south-eastwards. The immediate recognition of Slovenia and Croatia without any prior arrangements[10] demonstrated that Germany was very keen on creating a German sphere of influence in the Balkans. And although the rest of the European Union shared neither the interests of Germany nor its determination, their pre-occupation with spelling out the Maastricht Treaty, as well as the long-run interests of a westernised and competitive Slovenia and Croatia, led them to adopt the German line. When the EU was placed as the mediator between Slovenia, Croatia and Yugoslavia, the break-up was a fait accompli.

US capital, on the other hand, was at first more eager to keep Yugoslavia unified so as to ensure that the shock therapy loans of the IMF were repaid. However, when the developments in the Balkans changed due to European intervention, the US realised that their policy towards Yugoslavia would leave them out of the game, and that competitive and independent republics in the region might well be more suitable for US interests. Germany's moves, which by now had the support of the EU, posed the threat of European superiority in the Balkans, a development most definitely not favourable to US/Nato dominance in Europe. As a result, a new approach to the Balkans was sought, and most specifically one which would not merely condone the one held by the European States.

In January 1992 the US intervened in the conflict by pushing the Izetbegovic government in Bosnia to push for independence[11]. Aware that the military infrastructure necessary for a proper intervention in the Yugoslav conflict could not be provided by the European states[12], the US-led Nato force called for an air-borne 'bombing campaign'. This strategy ensured that, since no US troops would be coming back to their 'mother-country' in body-bags, anti-war resistance would be minimal. Coupled with a skilfully constructed spectacle of humanitarian ideology, the first bombs in Yugoslavia landed with the blessing of the liberal population of 'Western civilisation'.

After the War

The war ended with the Dayton Agreement in 1995, which simply confirmed that Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia were independent republics. The process of restructuring these new nation-states took mainly the form of austerity measures and repression of any dissidence on the basis that 'all need to sacrifice for this newly acquired national freedom', the attempt to reconcile class antagonisms under the watchful eye of the national leadership. Economic development however has been confined to Slovenia and Croatia - due to their previous connections with West European capital and not least in Croatia due to Tudjman's dictatorial rule. In Bosnia however, foreign investors do not seem to be queuing up outside the borders. In fact, Bosnia has remained a wrecked landscape, with unemployment levels much higher than the pre-war period. The war for national independence made Bosnia a military protectorate of Nato, whose prolonged presence in the area was probably meant to ensure that the agreements (such as the economic embargo on Serbia) were kept by all sides.

Yet the Dayton Agreement completely ignored the issue of Kosovo and the Albanian population which, since the revocation of its autonomous status in 1989, felt all the more abandoned by the West. By 1992, in the middle of the civil war in Yugoslavia, the Albanians in Kosovo started looking to Albania as the possible saviour of their deteriorating living conditions, a shift that alarmed the western powers, and more particularly the US.

'Communist' (read: state-capitalist) Albania had never supported the cause of the separatist Kosovars, for the simple reason that such an approach would have endangered Hoxha's important trade relations with Yugoslavia. As such, up until the 1980's, Albania had better relations with Belgrade than with Kosovo, a fact that alienated many Kosovars, but which never reached any serious degree because -as we mentioned- there was no dominant separatist Kosovar-Albanian movement.

The developments of the 80's and 90's however had led to the emergence of separatism in Kosovo. The collapse of the Eastern bloc and the anticipated changes in Albania itself led many Kosovar-Albanians to believe that these changes would also affect Albania's relation to Kosovo. And when the democratic party of Sali Berisha won the 1992 elections, the expectation was that a westernised Albania would pay more attention to its Kosovar 'brothers and sisters'.

The West however had a slightly different opinion on the matter. Berisha was certainly used to bring about stability in Albania and he received considerable subsidies by the West for beginning a process of integration to the world market. Yet, the most crucial purpose of the deal for subsidies was to ensure that the borders between Albania and Yugoslavia (and Kosovo) were kept well-guarded. The reason for that was that the West feared that separatists Kosovar-Albanians might take advantage of the chaotic situation caused by the Yugoslav civil war to push for Kosovar becoming independent from Yugoslavia to join the 'Greater Albania'.

Berisha proved to be a loyal dog (he was after all a find of British Intelligence). The borders were kept closed, and no connections existed between the government of Berisha and the Kosovars-Albanians.

However, when the war ended, so did the subsidies to Albania. The West had no direct interest in maintaining this 'economic aid', and Berisha was left alone. His economic policies from then onwards were disastrous. On the one hand, he created fake pyramids-enterprises (with Italian and Greek capital in the background) to which many people in Albania 'invested' their minimal incomes; on the other hand he facilitated emigration as a way of increasing the state revenue, aware of the fact that the money earned by the immigrants abroad would soon find their way back into Albania. Yet, when the pyramids collapsed and the people's 'investments' went up in smoke in 1996, even Berisha's repressive regime was not able to control the masses of proletarians, disillusioned by the sudden tremendous impoverishment. A revolt broke out and soon after the total collapse of the state followed.

The West did intervene in order to bring things back to 'normal', yet in this case the intervention was not accompanied by either humanitarian ideology nor spectacular media coverage, since the only atrocities committed were those of the hated secret police of the West's favourite Berisha.

However, an important result of the Albanian revolt was that the formerly well guarded borders between Albania and Yugoslavia were no longer 'well guarded'[13], and some of the 750,000 Kalashnikovs appropriated by the proletariat soon reached the emerging KLA in Kosovo.

The Next Day in the Balkans

The immediate background to the war, its actual process and implications will not be discussed here -they have been sufficiently dealt with in the 'Nato's War Against Yugoslavia' article. It is however interesting to look at some of the implications of the war in Kosovo for the neighbouring Balkan nation-states.

Firstly, the war provided the West with the opportunity to restructure Albania. On the one hand there was the KLA which (forcibly or not) re-appropriated the Kalashnikovs of the revolt for its national liberation army, and, on the other hand, the mediocre government of Fatos Nano in Albania gave control over the country to Nato's forces. The reason for that was that the Albanian revolt of 1996/1997 was never suppressed, but had simply withered away due to its own contradictions. And although no one could speak of a revolutionary situation in Albania before the war in Kosovo, the fact remains that the Albanian proletariat was still armed. And, potentially, when the proletariat is armed, the revolution is armed.

Secondly, although, as we've argued, the West does not have any direct capitalist interests in Kosovo or Serbia, Greece and Italy do[14]. It is thus no surprise that the countries with the most investments in the area were at the same time the most 'reluctant' ones to condone Nato's bombing campaign. It is equally of no surprise that, following an invitation by the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, the capitalists who have major investments in the Balkans pointed out the strategic location of their factories so that they were not going to be bombed by Nato -and they weren't. This information is crucial in understanding the majority of protests against the war in Greece, most of which were unofficially supported by the government. The fact is that the Greek government had absolutely nothing to lose from tolerating a bit of anti-Americanism within Greece, let alone one coupled with Greek nationalism. The majority of the protestors in Greece went along with this, overlooking the fact that Greece is in Nato. Furthermore, by keeping a distant solidarity with Serbia, Greece ensured that it could position itself as a "...favourable negotiator-mediator for the western businesses who will be potentially interested in investments in the region" (Economy and Business, ELEUQEROTUPIA, Greek Journal, 10-11 April 1999). The over-enthusiasm about the Greek protests against the war, visible in many of the anti-war literature, was hence gravely misleading.

(lots of info for this article from Aufheben #2 and Wildcat [UK]: From Wage-Cuts to War)

[1] We're not of course implying that the class struggle was directly responsible for the eventual collapse of Yugoslavia, but that the dynamic of working class resistance forced the ruling class to respond with attempts to divide the proletariat - nationalism was one of the most crucial ones.

2 From 1953 until 1965 1 million peasants were turned into wage labourers, Aufheben no. 2, 'Yugoslavia Unravelled', 1992

3 In January 1986 the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences produced a manifesto of xenophobic nationalism called the Memorandum, in which, among other nationalist bullshit, an ultra-nationalist movement of the 2nd World War, the Chetniks, was praised. Its purpose was to activate the authorities against the supposed genocide of the Serb population in Kosovo.

4 1500 strikes and 385,000 strikers in 1987; 1360 strikes in the first months of 1988.

5 At the same time, in Slovenia the percentage is only 2.9%. Once again, this testifies for the fact that the economic crisis affected the different regions in different degrees.

6 One important incident being the occupation of the parliament by 5,000 Serb and Croat strikers.

7 Even the bourgeois press was forced to draw the connection between this move and the class struggle: as the Financial Times pointed out (June 27, 1991), the moment that Slovenia and Croatia chose to declare independence coincided with a 700,000 strong strike in Serbia.

8 From the beginning of the war since the summer of 1993 it was reported that 80% of the Federal Army's conscripts had deserted.

9 Austria and the Vatican had also shown that they favoured the independence aspirations of Slovenia and Croatia, but their influence and dynamic cannot be compared with Germany's.

10 The European Union's demand for assurances that the Serb minority of either Slovenia but most importantly Croatia was to be protected was by-passed by the German government.

11 Bosnia was divided between the Bosnian Croats, the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims, none of which were a clear majority. Any attempts to independence led with mathematical precision to barbaric war.

12 As we mentioned, the European States were more concerned at the time with the Maastricht Treaty and with the economic implications of a European monetary unification. Clearly, the necessary military expenditure for the Balkan conflict could not have been justified amidst massive austerity measures imposed by the Treaty.

13 The Army of Albania had deteriorated since the soldiers either went home or joined the revolt.

14 The Greek Telecommunications company (OTE) and its Italian counterpart recently bought 49% of Serbia Telecom, while OTE by itself already controls 35% of the Romanian Telecom and 51% of the Bulgarian Telecom. Furthermore, the Greek Steel Industry MUTILHNAIOS has signed a 5 year contract with the Trepca mines in Kosovo; the dairy products company DELTA invested 4 billion drachmas (aprox. 10 million pounds) in an ice-cream factory in Belgrade; and the construction company DIEKAT participates along with other companies in the construction of the Belgrade Metro. Meanwhile, one of the most important FIAT factories is in Yugoslavia.


Critiques and Caricatures

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

Critiques and caricatures: a response to undercurrent

Critiques of the June 18th action, its aims, organisation and general relevance, are important and to be welcomed. Theory, critical or otherwise, is too often rejected in favour of action when we need to combine theory and action, fostering, articulating and inhabiting the tension between them. Lest this response be taken as saying all is fine with the aims and focus of the action let me emphasise it isn't.

There are fault lines running through it - many of which the critique from undercurrent identifies. If the critique helps to bring out and transcend the problems and contradictions of the June 18th action then it will have been worthwhile but if it elevates one position while parodying all others then it amounts to little more then theoretical point scoring

The long list campaign against the economic summit

The lack of theoretical flesh on the bones of the June 18th action has been pointed out by the Sussex university zine undercurrent. In an article entitled "The longer the list, the better the action" they argue that, on the strength of the first few propaganda leaflets, the organisers of June 18th are more interested in numbers then analysis; in how many groups they can get involved then in the commonality between them; and that this in turn leads to lowest common denominator theory and a spectacular practice. Such criticisms are well-placed and ultimately helpful, food for thought for those involved, but the article repeatedly falls more into caricature then critique - tending, in turn, to critique its own caricature rather than what the leaflets said or what might actually be happening.

The quote the article takes for its title - "the longer the list, the better the action," is part of a sentence from a leaflet encouraging involvement in the June 18th action. True enough, it' s not true - a list that included the likes of, to use their example, the French Front National, would make for a longer list but a scarily incoherent action. To use this snippet though, as the writer does, to confirm the "campaigns"

"essence" as "indifference towards the social content of movements" and to suggest that June 18th is all about masses and quantities is indicative of the writers disingenuous selective reading. The first part of the sentence reads: "We will only realise our collective visions by taking action together" then lists some

likely suspect sectors - unwaged, students, workers, etc, before finishing "the longer...". You could be forgiven for assuming this meant that the listees should share some collective content but, fair enough, the 'visions' referred to could do with some focus.

With the articles subheading though, "the campaign against the economic summit" we are immediately in the realms of caricature. Nowhere in the leaflets produced or organising meetings held has it been suggested that June 18th is a campaign against the economic summit. The June 18th action can at most be called a co-ordination, not a campaign, and is, at best, precisely the rejection of the totality of the present social order that the article calls for, not an event opposing economic summits.

From this unpromising start the article goes on to contend that "the campaign" posits a incoherent, vague, them and us logic; has dispensed with any critique of capital and critical analysis generally; is fixated on financial institutions and multinationals; has a positivistic and moralistic approach; all amounting to confusion and mere pseudo-practise. Such insight after reading a "few propaganda leaflets" is surely commendable but leaves little room to practise what you preach and do more than scratch the surface of a subject.

To expect critical analysis from an A5 leaflet is possibly asking too much. While to conclude the rejection of radical critique (read as our radical critique) from such a leaflet is going too far. Tell the many people on the J18 email discussion list - an international forum for interested groups and individuals set up at the start - that, "further reflection has been dispensed with." They have been analysing and reflecting on capital, state, resistance and the like, for some time now. There are also groups around the UK organising meetings to discuss the plan where no doubt, some reflection may slip in occasionally. Then there is the London networks 'What is Capitalism?' conference - organised precisely for "further reflection." The writer of the article may not have known all this but then if "the essence" of "the

campaign" has already been revealed there is no need to find out.

In fact the lack of a critical analysis of capitalism in the direct action movement and its almost complete mystification in social life generally, is part of the point of organising the action. If a "recognition that the global capitalist system is at the root of our social and ecological troubles" was "commonplace" we might be in more encouraging times. The commonplace, in this instance, is for most people an obscurity.

Us and them

Juxtapositions for the sake of a propaganda leaflet such as, "We are more possible then they can powerfully imagine" are hardly to be taken as conclusive evidence of something's "logic" or "essence". Propaganda - at least that which aims to get people active - often involves simplifications of a subject. By

definition it aims to persuade or convince people and, yes, those working on J18 would like people to get involved and may initially be less concerned to ask to see the groups' theoretical credentials; or to check whether or not they are "complicit with capital". Furthermore the assumptions made in the text that our/their collective resistance is basically "raving for a few hours" or "throw(ing) some custard pies" might ring hollow for participants in 'the south' where doing either is not exactly top of the agenda.

Far from positing a crude them and us the claim is that our problems are systemic, inherent within the socio-economic order. Interpretations as to the fundamentals of this order may differ, as may the methods for its disposal, but the need to act collectively is clear. Who knows, action may even affect their/our interpretations. Maybe even, a way into an understanding of capitalism is through the

'globalisation' debate that the article sneers at.. To denounce those who haven't reached your understanding yet is akin to the vegans who attack potential vegetarians for not going far enough thus sending them straight back to the meat counter.

That there are, within the June 18th network, conflicting views, simplifications, confusions and hopes of getting a diversity of groups involved, is undeniable. Such are the concerns of practise. The luxury of everyone acceding to your understanding or agreeing with your ideas and practices is often unavailable in small unified groups let alone large diverse movements. This is, of course, where analysis, argument, dialogue and discussion comes in.

The heart of the global capitalist economy

If June 18th is just a few leaflets, then a few thousand people occupying the City for a day then it might well be exhilarating - reason enough maybe - but it won't add up to abolishing capitalism. That will require a more consistent praxis. Then again, to be so sure of where a "weaving together of all the single issue movements" leads, that it is "simply an incoherent patchwork ", is to forget that the outcomes that result from a practise are not always the ones intended. That the secondary effects may be wholly unexpected. This of course cuts both ways and is no reason to dispense with analysis or intention but just maybe, looking for the potential and possibilities of a situation is as useful as dismissing it in advance.

The coinciding of J18 with the G8 summit is not to put pressure on bad corporations via nation-states but to show the collusion between state and capital and the necessity to overthrow both; to contend that exploitation is also a political matter not just an economic one. That this is not bluntly said - and arguably it should be - owes more to a desire to open a debate before concluding it, and to the perceived role of a propaganda leaflet, then any rejection of critical analysis. Starting from a recognition of the multiplicity of positions and interests - irreducible to a single analysis - and tentatively endorsing this divergence, the unity is then aimed at precisely the recognition of exploitation by capital from different but complementary experiences. It doesn't presuppose that unity but attempts to open a space for critique that is available to all.

To claim, as the writer does, that "if there is such a thing as "the heart of the global economy"" it "would rather make sense to occupy some factories" - makes no sense at all. Besides the literalism of its interpretation of a slogan, the autonomist insight that all of social life under capitalism tends to become a factory for the exploitation of surplus value - not only wage-labour but the free work of students and housewives etc - means that June 18th is an occupation of "some factories": the social factories of the city streets and squares.

And while June 18th may well be "in many regards similar" to the campaign against the MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investments) - although the similarities are unspecified - there is at least one huge difference. The campaign against the MAI was mainly a lobbyist, letter writing opposition to one re-regulatory element of capital, the June 18th co-ordination is rooted in a direct actionist opposition to capitalism, full stop.

Practising pseudo-confusion

A call for mass action might indeed "amount to confusion", if that was what was being called for. It isn't. On the contrary, autonomous actions - co-ordinated and focused - are being called for. Hopefully by those who have thought about what they are doing and why. One of the main organising principles of J18 is autonomy for the groups and movements involved. Meaning in practise encouraging self-activity and being less quick to dismiss other approaches. Not to build "a mass" but to make connections, encourage debate, open dialogues. Whether such confusing activity is leading "ultimately (to) mere pseudo-practise" is to be decided by those who know the true practise presumably - we await their instructions...

The article ends with a summation of "the campaigns" strategy as naïve, using a slogan from the leaflet as illustration, but while "imagine taking your desires for reality" is on the leaflet it is hardly "depicted as the ultimate response to global capitalism" . The June 18th action may well be naïve but it is not just a "strategy of immediacy" by "hippy-individuals" against the evil "them". That this is just clear-cut misrepresentation is self-evident. There are other "slogans" on the leaflet, which the writer does not mention, such as "imagine a society based on mutual aid, sharing and respect for nature" and "imagine a world where people have control of their lives and communities". A less condemnatory reading may have suggested that those involved do feel creating a different world will require thought, collective action and an ongoing process and have presented some constructive ideas to pepper the criticisms.

If the June 18th action is not the activity of a "significant movement that at least claims to be revolutionary" it is at least significant for revolutionaries; and if its participants, like the theorists at undercurrent, are "remote from advancing a coherent line of argumentation" they are, at least, advancing arguments. As an attempt to put capitalism back on the agenda of resistance at a time when its logic is further cloaked in mystification; as a contribution to the rebuilding of international solidarity at a time of rekindled nationalism and as a forwarding of informed imagination at a time when radical visions are seen as withering away, the June 18th action deserves, not caricatures, but the sharpest of critical engagements.


Occupy and Know

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

Occupy and Know
undercurrent #7

This has been a year of occupation at universities around the country, kicking off a tide bound to continue, and mocking the idea that students as a group have become impotent and apathetic. Whilst the ransacking of student pockets certainly serves to focus many students even more determinedly on their future careers and CVs, debts and salaries, it is a kick in the teeth for other students less proccupied with the future, and more concerned with the present in which the chances of higher education for certain sectors of the population, or for any reason other than raising job prospects, are becoming ever more remote.

This academic year students, who at first seemed docile beyond the wildest dreams of the government, acted and occupied, having finally noticed that protesting to the government about fees and no grants is simply pissing in the wind, though useful experience and a pseudo-activism for those pursuing a prestigious career in politics. Occupiers at Sussex and other universities dispensed with attempts to gather support from professional politicians and instead took action in their own right; there were long-running occupations in London, at Goldsmiths and at UCL over tuition fees and the abolition of the grant, and also at UEL (University of East London) over the cutting of courses, staff sackings and the reduction of computing facilities. The Camberwell Art College occupation in March was over shoddy equipment, under-staffing and accomodation, and over library access at the SOAS library occupation earlier in the year. Occupying has become ever easier, ever more obvious, and is quickly becoming the only possible course of action.

Within the Sussex occupation[1], the absence of leadership, the refusal to package the action neatly into media-sized portions, the indifference with which the vice-chancellor's attempts to speak to the occupiers (scratching at the windows at all hours - do try to get some sleep, Alistair!); all these underlined the fact that this was no stunt aimed merely at getting attention from newspaper-readers over their cornflakes, but instead a genuine event occurring inside Sussex House and not in the communications ether. Negotiate with the V.C.? Our only negotiation was our physical and intransigent presence at the nerve centre of his business; nothing to discuss when our demands were on his table (no expulsions, no repercussions). That students have absolutely nothing to discuss with university management was well illustrated at the chaotic open meeting after the occupation, where Smith tried to present his trusty I'm-a-reasonable-man credentials, but barely kept his cool under the onslaught of questions/comments/accusations, and whose personal opinions about fees were displayed as just that - the personal opinions of a bureaucrat with only the power to carry out orders. Universities have been handed the dirty job of collecting fees, losing £1000 from Local Education Authority income for every £1000 due from a student. It is the universities who are left short when students refuse to pay, and it is in the universities and not in Parliament that the battle is therefore being fought.

The laughably compromised NUS can have no moral right to represent students: the real possibility of the scrapping of fees in Scotland recently was deftly deflected on a nod and a wink from the NUS. It was they who suggested a 'review' on fees to let the LibDems off their promise to scrap fees; they leapt decisively to the defence of the Labour government when it was threatened with the embarassing and damaging prospect of no fees in Scotland. Under the control of Andrew Pakes, New Labour lover, and his obedient majority of cronies on NUS Executive, the NUS is barely worthy of a moments' thought to determined student activists. It was, therefore, very kind of a group of students to have paid the NUS headquarters a visit on the 8th of June...

On the occasion of an NUS NEC[2] meeting, a band of about 15 students stormed through the doors of the NUS headquarters in Holloway Road, London, suddenly bored of ignoring this New Labour-dominated organisation solidly following its orders with such seeming impunity. At the annual conference in March, despite the usual challenge to the leadership by left-wingers, the vile Andrew Pakes was slipped back into position as President for another year, despite his own admittal of his intention to ensure the 'smooth implementation' of fees. Not hoping to persuade the NUS exec. to suddenly meaningfully represent student interests, nor with any expectation that they might see the light, but with the simple wish to give them a right good slapping and a bit of real confrontation, unmediated by a conference hall and a compliant chairperson, students paid them a visit.

The familiar cry - 'Get the doors shut!' - went up from Pakes' sidekick as he spotted the laughing invaders, but it was already too late. They were in and up the stairs to the executive offices like a shot, with the Labour elements of the executive right behind them. Occupiers were joined in their office by sympathetic members of exec. while fuming Pakesites attempted to block doorways. Andrew Pakes gave a marvellous impression of a brainwashed drone by repeating an accusation, like a broken record, of harrassment, victimisation and intimidation of 'his' staff. Although this was a lie and denied, and he was told not to worry his head about a matter that was already being dealt with between occupiers and staff members and union, he was unable to say anything else for the four hours the occupation continued.

For the forthcoming academic year, plans are rolling into place for mass non-payment of fees. Thousands of non-payers are set to put the government in an impossible position - to de-register them all would only create a mass movement of disenfranchised, radicalized students with way too much time on their hands. There exists the possibility of the defeat of fees despite the impotence of officially sanctioned channels of representation and protest, and for the setting of yet another precedent for autonomous non-compliance and resistance, not to mention the politicization of a generation of students.

But the abolition of the student grant threatens to leave the government and the NUS sniggering into their sleeves at easily-distracted student activists. Throughout all the debate and polemic about fees, the issue of the grant has been trying to stay in the game, resurfacing every so often with an 'of course, the real issue is the abolition of the grant'. In practical terms, for students with no outside financial support[3], of course it is. Current third-year students with grants receive £1800 a year, enough to cover much of their rent at least, though they will still usually need to take out loans as well. But the prospect, this forthcoming year, of £4000 a year loans with no grant is one which very effectively excludes many thousands of prospective students, from those with children to those over 55 (no loans available) to those who simply have no intention of enslaving themselves to a large debt for the foreseeable future. We will have failed, despite victory over fees, if we do not take decisive and focused action against the scrapping of the grant. The increase of many students' loans and debts to £12,000 and more forces students to purchase for themselves a meaningless future as indentured slaves, forever owing the company store.

[1] The Goldsmiths occupation was initiated at a quorate UGM and Student Union-led, which carried over into the occupation where meetingswere run along the lines of UGMs with proposers of motions etc. and routine voting. The Sussex occupation, in contrast, ran on the basis of consensus as far as possible, with voting reserved as the last resort for particularly contentious issues, and no leaders or even spokespersons.

2 Confused by all these TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms)? NEC = National Executive Committee, CFE = Campaign for Free Education, NUS = National Union of Scabs

3 These students do not pay fees - they are means-tested with payments of up to £1000 starting at a parental income of £26,000. Most £1000 tuition fees were paid up promptly this year by students with cheques from their parents.


Reply to Critiques and Caricatures

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

Reply to Critiques and Caricatures: A Response to Undercurrent
undercurrent #7

While claiming that critique of J18 is much needed, the author to the reply dismissed ours as a caricature. We would be the last ones to deny that there has been a lot of caricaturing going on. But the only reason why our text might give that impression, is that its object - the information we have about J18 - is itself caricaturing the world of capital.

Our critique of J18 consisted of a number of related points: the fixation on finance capital and evil multinational corporations, the participation in the hype about "globalisation", accompanied by a problematic localism, to name but the most important ones. The response evades these issues and instead repeatedly claims that the meagre basis on which we wrote our critique led us to distort the issue. However, we criticised precisely that there is nothing further than this "meagre basis" - that is a few leaflets - on which the J18 campaign/co-ordination (whatever difference that makes) is based. It is not our fault that a few small leaflets are so far all the co-ordination has published - it is the very problem. Fair enough, there have been e-mail and other discussion groups, but they are private discussions. It is the publications made publicly available that represent a certain underlying consensus, and as such are to be taken as expressing the gist of a campaign. Otherwise, what would their purpose be? That to the present day not a single pamphlet bringing together "the multiplicity of positions and interests" has been put out underscores our claim that crucial questions are being neglected in order to keep up a superficial unity of action.

Instead of engaging with our critique, the writer explains to us the thorny path of bringing together the various movements around the globe. This obviously requires not asking for "groups' theoretical credentials". Yet while it is apparently too arrogant "to check whether or not groups are complicit with capital", this political indifference does not prevent the writer from claiming that "June 18th...is rooted in a direct actionist opposition to capitalism". This contradiction remains a mystery to us, but our main point was something else: that a mobilisation of this type avoids a critical theory of capital and consequently reproduces ideology.

Of course, we are not in any way questioning the necessity of practice and we consider many of the actions planned for the day worthwhile. However, the reply to our previous article, as well as J18 generally, considers theory at most a secondary issue. The main focus is in the 'action', and any critical reflection is postponed indefinitely. Even more flagrantly, the author bets on the idea that "the outcomes that result from a practice are not always the one intended" and that "the secondary effects may be wholly unexpected"... In other words, never mind if we reproduce social-democratic ideology, it might accidentally still end in social revolution.

Not only do we find in the response to our article no refutation of the points we make, but unfortunately they seem more relevant now than before: the latest agit-leaflet is worth quoting at length to illustrate this. It claims: "Our planet is actually run by the financial markets - a giant video game in which people buy and sell blips on electronic screens, trading life for money in their search for higher profits. Yet the consequences of this frenzied game are very real: human lives, ecosystems, jobs and even entire economies [!!sic.!!] are at the mercy of this reckless global system". In reality the world is, of course, not run by the financial markets. Capital is a system of relations of production of which the financial markets are but a (necessary) offspring. To fixate the attack on them is to turn the world upon its head, resulting in such absurdities as complaining about the damages made to "jobs" and even "entire economies" which are apparently just as innocent as "ecosystems and human lives". Since of course these "entire economies" are capitalist, this J18 statement affirms what it pretends to attack[1]. This feels like stating the obvious.

Although no one can deny the importance of financial markets, this passage simply reasserts a view of capitalism we tried to refute in the last article. Is this the further reflection resulting from the "what is capitalism?" conference?

This misconception of finance capital was one of the points we tried to raise, and not, as the writer claims, that nothing matters except the factories. We mentioned the factories in order to attack J18's fixation on the financial centres; a fixation that is an obstacle for a critique of production. Of course, capital forms all of social life and not just production in the factories, and reclaiming the streets is one adequate response to this.

The J18 co-ordination is undeniably one between many different groups with radically opposing views. This on the one hand shows a serious lack of consensus, and a blurry amalgam of groups that don't even necessarily have the same basic aims. On the other hand, and paradoxically, it is also the expression of a consensus: anything will do, as long as it fits with the vague anti-globalisation attitude. That, as we noted, this resentment can also be found on the political Right, e.g. the French Front National, does not seem to bother the author - instead, he claims that we suggested that J18 would like to include the Front National in its long list. Obviously, we never did, but the co-ordination is already, even without any Fascists, "scarily incoherent".

Since the author dismissed our article as a mere caricature and did not engage with the points we raised, there is nothing new we can say. Except maybe that "Economies versus Financial Markets" - this latest caricature of anti-capitalism - is even worse than the stuff we had referred to in the last undercurrent. It seems that our critique was not a caricature, but rather an understatement.

[1] For an analysis of how capital presents itself in such a way as to facilitate the emergence of an "anti-capitalism" that is a one-sided attack on the abstract side of capital while affirming the "concreteness" of labour and production, and how furthermore this "anti-capitalism" relates to anti-Semitism, see Moishe Postone, 'Anti-Semitism and National Socialism', in Germans and Jews since the Holocaust: the changing situation in West Germany, ed. Anson Rabinach/Jack Zipes, New York and London 1986. We do not, however, want to suggest that J 18 is anti-Semitic.


Undercurrent #8 Summer 2000

Eight issue of Undercurrent.

PDF courtesy of Sparrows Nest archive.

Submitted by Fozzie on May 3, 2021


There seems to be a changing atmosphere in the UK. At a time when everything seemed to be relatively tranquil, when, despite the various mini-actions here and there, conformity was successfully maintained, the sudden explosion of the J18 events last summer came to shake the spectacle of social peace. After a while, and before anyone had managed to fully grasp the consequences and implications of J18, another explosion of violent confrontations with the state took place in Euston on N30. In another part of the capitalist world, not unconnected to events in Britain, another confrontation broke out between the guardians of this world and thousands of protesters in Seattle, followed by another round of disturbances in Washington in April 2000. For the first time since the 60's, the US experienced major civil disturbances around a political issue (since riots like, for example, in LA in 92 were primarily social and not political). Similar expressions of antagonisms have appeared all around the world. In Greece, angry proletarians ensured a warm welcome for Clinton in November, while a wave of arrests and raids by the police in Italy and Germany in the last few months have been interpreted as preparation by the state against emerging struggles following the restructuring of social relations. At the same time, the amount of (wildcat) strikes in the UK have increased, making us wonder if these are signs of approaching change. Yet, behind the reality of explosions of antagonisms lies the truth of increased capitalist domination, war and ideology.

Recent developments in France have seen the realisation of the long-time demand of the left for a 35 hour week, exposing its inherent reformist and reactionary character, since its realisation not only accommodates and facilitates the changing nature of the same capitalist exploitation, but also increases it. Its immediate result, i.e. the shortening of the working day, means (among others) the intensification of work, while the increased flexibilisation of labour visible everywhere in the western world increases the atomisation and fragmentation of the proletariat. Propagated by the left representatives of capitalist domination, and their hippie counterparts, these developments have hardly been contested, testifying once again to the position of social-democratic ideology and subculture at the cutting edge of capitalist innovation. The initially inspiring class struggles that kicked off in Greece against the modernisation of the education system1 - and with it the restructuring of work relations - never managed to create a community of struggle capable of counteracting capital's offensive and were thus quickly neutralised. Moreover, soon after the end (?) of the Kosovo war, another war started in the North Caucasus, when Russia attacked Chechnya under the pretext of anti-terrorism, a saga of barbarism and destruction for which reactions have limited themselves to either liberal appeals for humanitarian (bombs) help or leninist (anarchist) support for national liberation.

None of the confrontations mentioned above addressed any of these issues. The June events in the City of London, however inspiring they might have been for the participants, seriously ignored the Kosovo war, and were problematically focused on finance capital. In Seattle and in Washington (though in Washington some radical tendencies tried to fight against this), the dominant ideology of the protestors was centred around institutions like the IMF and the WTO (a consequence but not a cause or at the root of advanced capitalism) and the demands for their democratisation...And while the riots that welcomed Clinton to Greece were positive, one cannot fail in noticing the reactionary character of anti-Americanism, a powerful ideology which mystifies capitalism by projecting its origins as lying in the distant US instead of the in everyday of Greek society.

In this issue we deal with the war in Chechnya, as an expression of capital's necessary tendency for war. At the same time we attempt to highlight some of the problems of the new 'anti-capitalist' movement, hoping in this way to critically contribute to its potential development. We found Goldner's article on Seattle an interesting starting point for such an attempt. We also consider the emergence of call centres, in an attempt to understand if they herald a new composition of class.

  • 1See "Schools of Revolt" in Undercurrent #7, and "Heavy Burden for Young Shoulders" (TPTG) in Collective Action Notes website



Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005


Only a few months after the end (?) of the war in Kosovo, another war started in the Caucasus region. Russia staged a full-scale attack on Chechnya, with the official aim of destroying the terrorist cells functioning there. So far, the war has proved to be a steady, yet gradual, military victory for the Russian army. Its immediate result is the consolidation of the Yeltsinite apparatus in power, the reaffirmation of that disgusting element of contemporary social life called national unity in both Russia and Chechnya, the complete devastation of the population and the economic structures of Chechnya and the reassertion of Russian dominance over the north of the Caucasus.

The need to understand the ongoing war in Chechnya does not originate from a humanitarian concern about the catastrophe in the Caucasus. To take a humanitarian side means to set aside the class nature of capitalist society, and to appeal to a morality which is both misleading and useless in explaining the current situation. Rather, the need comes from the realisation that one form of violent resolution of social antagonisms in one part of the capitalist world corresponds to a 'more peaceful' one in another part, both constituting the different sides of the barbaric world of capital.

This war is neither a clash of the Christian and Muslim civilisation, nor - an even more stupid view - Russia's attempt to get revenge for the previous lost war in 1994-96. Every war in contemporary society represents an attempt to violently resolve the contradictions and social antagonisms which appear all the time in a class society ruled by capital and its 'voracious appetite' for surplus value. In the peripheries of capitalism, such as Chechnya, these contradictions take the form of archaic and pre-capitalist production processes, combined with which is a lack of a modern state, the necessary mediation for the creation of the conditions of uninterrupted (until the next break up of class struggle, that is) capital accumulation. For the aspiring modernising faction of the bourgeois class in Chechnya, the need to find a way to facilitate the emergence of commodity production, and to break away from the isolation imposed by Russia's dominance in the region, mathematically led to the boosting up of nationalism, i.e. the abstract community of capital. On its part, the Russian bourgeoisie attempts to hide the devastating reality of its economic reforms, whose only result is the impoverishment of the proletariat, through the unification of the population under the banner of the biggest of all lies: national unity.

The Caucasus region, which used to provide almost 45% of oil production for the Soviet Union, has been broken down into a mosaic of ethnic groups and semi-nations, and its relative stability stems from the fact that the interests of Russian capital force it to provide many of these semi-nations with big percentages of their budget in order to avoid their total disintegration. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, oil production has drastically decreased, the industrial plants have been largely abandoned due to a lack of technical expertise formerly provided by the Soviet Union, and the economies are only sustained through the illegal trade of drugs and weapons (1). The rapidly increasing population of these countries, when not involved in this trade survives through petty agricultural production. For the countries of north Caucasus which belong to the Russian Federation, a minimal level of stability is maintained through Russia's subsidies. For those who chose independence from Russia but were unable to create profitable links with the west -e.g. Chechnya-, the only way out of this dead end is the constant attempt to expand towards any direction which would give them access to some of the areas resources. This constant stirring up of trouble however gravely threatens Russia's interests.

Although the collapse of the eastern bloc in 1989 meant that the eastern industrial economies were to be gradually integrated into the western free market, it was obvious from the very beginning that such a process was not going to be harmonious. Not all eastern economies had either the same impetus or the same financial capabilities to become fully operating economies of the type needed by western capitalist development. It was seen as unavoidable that, at least for a long time, many eastern countries would be left outside the parade of integration and would be dumped into the 'third world' providing a source of a cheap and mobile labour force.

Regardless of the peculiarities and potentials of the economies of each country as it was formed after the collapse of the eastern bloc, all were destined to go through a privatisation process, a short sharp shock of mass unemployment, and a steady declining of the living standards of the proletariat. On top of all that it was proven that in some cases integration to the western market presupposed a break up of former countries, either in order to nationalise -and thus neutralise- the emergence of fierce class struggles (as was the case in Yugoslavia) or simply as a practical facilitation for the abolition of state subsidies from the richer parts of former republics to the poorer ones (as was the case for Czechoslovakia).

The abolition of state ownership of the means of production and of state control over the production process as hindrances to private capitalist accumulation also meant, by definition, that former notions of state protectionism or full employment were quickly abandoned. The mass of proletarians in the eastern countries had to suffer a steady decrease of their living standards, until the 'miracle' of the free market would restore all their previous aspirations towards the western economies that western propaganda presented them as so eager to join. Yet there is no miracle in free market capitalism. The fact is that capitalist accumulation and the full cycle of valorisation of capital cannot be realised at any given moment of time in any given place. It was considered as a given from the beginning of the process of integration that many countries would simply not make it in the world competition. And the fact is that so far only a few countries {Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech republic) have managed to integrate themselves -with low levels of economic growth- in the fiesta of western capitalism. For the rest of them a fate even worse than capitalist development awaited -as we said in the previous issue, there is one thing worse than being subjected to capitalist integration and that is being redundant for capital.

The economic policies dictated by the West meant that economic growth was simply not a likely development for many of the Eastern states, and Russia seems to be one of them. Dismantling of 'uncompetitive' industries, drastic reductions of state subsidies, letting prices go free and thousands of proletarians off work has only managed to devastate the population. And even if the ideological propaganda of the West wants to see a positive -yet gradual- development, the reality is far from it. Life expectancy has dropped to levels similar to many 'under-developed' -to borrow a capitalist vocabulary- countries in Africa, wages have been frozen for massive lengths of time and in many cases not even paid (as well as taxes obviously), while health provisions are almost non-existent. It seems to be the case that so far the only thing achieved by the integration process is the formation of a corrupt state apparatus, for which the notion of capital accumulation refers to the pockets of old party officials and cunning entrepreneurs. The conditions for 'normal' capitalist development are strikingly absent. The recent scandals in which it was proven that IMF loan money was neither used for the re-payment of old debts nor for providing potentials for future western investments, alarmed western capital to the degree of publicly admitting that even for a free market economy, a strong, stable and regulatory state is necessary to ensure that social and not individual capital is prioritised. And if the objective of western capital is to create the conditions for the 'normal' cycle of valorisation (2), the necessity of some sort of organisation of production overseen by a stable state, which ensures the 'smooth' process of capital's creation of value is strikingly obvious. With the country's GNP at 50% of its former status, and with a political scenery as explosive as the bombs which hit Moscow last summer, it becomes increasingly surprising how the bourgeois press insists on calling Russia's development a progress. In light of this, the over-optimistic utterings seem more like attempts to hide the fact that other possible alternatives to Russia's contemporary performance -be it a disintegration and collapse of the Russian Federation, a return to massive nationalisation or a proletarian uprising- are even less favourable for both Western and Russian capital.

Western policy towards Russia is contradictory. On the one hand, Western capital is blatant in its denunciation of the nationalist factions of the bourgeoisie, fearing that the rise of a nationalist party in power would jeopardise Russia's commitment to the IMF economic reforms. On the other hand, by constantly undermining Russia in their international dealings, western capital creates the conditions for the rise of support for the nationalist factions, since Yeltsin and his lackeys are seen (for obvious reasons) as the pro-western modernisers who have brought the Russian economy to the brink of total collapse (3).

Already before the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with the soviet administration facing huge internal problems, the Russian policy towards the various republics was summarised by the Kremlin's statement in August 1990: "take as much independence as you can incorporate". By supporting the separatist/de-centralising tendencies in the republics, the Moscow administration was hoping to get rid of the unnecessary spendings of the Russian budget towards the republics. This selective federalist approach led many of the former Soviet Union states to take their chance in the world market, something which presupposed the destruction of the soviet bureaucratic institutions and their replacement by new structures capable of legitimising the political power of the new leaders and incorporating the newly formed states to free market capitalism. Yet, the adoption of integration policies to the western-led world market were only made by those states which managed to gain control of the oil and gas resources formerly exploited by the Soviet Union (such as Georgia and Azerbaijan), whereas the rest chose to keep close to Russia which, although economically ruined, still provided many of them with the biggest percentage of their budget (e.g. 90% of the budget of Daghestan, 60% or so of Armenia, etc).

As soon as Russian capital managed to -even temporarily and with big problems- stand on its feet, it returned to the newly independent states and tried to reassert its dominance over the exploitation of the available resources. Major diplomatic and economic conflicts -primarily concerning the exploitation and transport of the oil in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan- broke out between Russia, Turkey, western oil companies and the oil-producing countries. Turkey had tried after the collapse of the Soviet Union to gain important influence over resources in the Caucasus, an attempt which was ideologically filtered with appeals to the 'forgotten Turks' of the region. Yet, its wish to retain good relations with Russia (4), the lack of incentive of its NATO allies and serious internal social problems (such as the Kurdish separatists) did not allow such a development to take place. The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh area was seen as a chance for both Russia and Turkey to establish good relations with Azerbaijan (and its oil). Yet, Russia's unwillingness to accept Turkey as the mediator in the conflict, as well as pressure from the West (5), meant that Turkey's interference in the conflict was reduced to a mere diplomatic -and thus verbal- war. For the modernising faction of the bourgeois class of Azerbaijan, the issue was further complicated. On the one hand it was eager to assert its independence from Russia and to gain support from the West, a policy which resulted in the establishment of good relations with Turkey and western companies. On the other hand, it soon realised that neither Turkey nor the West were going to provide military help for solving the problem with Armenia, since any mention for such an interference immediately received threats from Russia. Thus, it turned towards Russia, hoping that the latter would exert its influence on Armenia for a quick solution. In return, oil deals favourable to Russia were discussed.

Although Azerbaijan decided to join the CIS (Confederation of Independent States), it kept balancing between Russia and the West in terms of oil interests, seeking a solution to its ongoing war with Armenia and a favourable economic deal for its oil. In March 1993, and with the more dynamic entrance of western companies in the "debates", the decision was taken to built an oil pipeline from Baku to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, a result which seriously threatened Russian interests in South Central Caucasus.

In an attempt to restore some dominance over the region, Russia tried to maintain control -either militarily or politically- of the remaining countries (which were dangerously flirting with the west) and with the regions' oil and gas resources. When Chechnya blocked the pipeline which transferred oil from the Azeri port of Baku to the Russian port of Novorosisk, Russia decided to react in a dynamic way. A full scale attack on Chechnya was ordered in late I994, but the ridiculous organisation of the army, the lack of incentive of the Russian conscripts (6), the internal resistance to the war (7) and the fierce resistance of the Chechens led to a Russian military defeat in 1996.

The victorious Chechen ruling class tried to take over the task of modernising Chechen society to a degree capable of facilitating the dictatorship of capitalist economy. Although the former Russian army official General Dudayev, aimed at establishing a special status for Chechnya within the framework of the Russian Federation, the experienced guerrilla fighter Basaev (8) and the new president Mashadov, overwhelmed by the military victory over Russia, began the initial steps towards the formation of a proper nation-state, only to realise that any sort of economic restructuring proved to be an almost impossible task. The problem of the modernisation of the economy posed itself as a direct result of the development of history: the underdevelopment of the productive forces impeded the social structures which would make the transition to free market capitalism an immediate possibility. The expertise needed to function the industrial plants was as gone as the Russian technicians formerly positioned in Chechnya, who fled due to the war and sought refuge in Russian territory. Economic assistance from anywhere else than Russia was highly unlikely.

In the aftermath of the 1994-96 war the only thing left in Chechnya was national pride -and that was definitely not enough for an economic recovery. Yet the problems that the Chechen economy faced were not simply a direct result of the destructiveness of the previous war. Even before the war, during the years of 'independence' (1991-1994), the new state mechanism had come across extreme difficulties in its attempts to escape the fate of Chechnya becoming a mere pathway for international illegal trade. Although president Dudayev himself seemed to have tried to maintain control over prices (at a time when prices were being set free all over the former Soviet Union), the laws of the motion of capital dictated that 'good national will' was not enough to halt the downslide of the Chechen economy. Goods were being purchased in Chechnya en masse and then sold above their price anywhere across the 300 kilometres long border. Soon, and regardless of the measures erected to halt this development, the Chechen economy was nothing but a centre of illegal trade.

In terms of the oil in Chechnya the development was similar. Although production of oil had fallen drastically from the early 80's, Chechnya still had three oil refineries which could have been used to boost some hard cash in the economy. In fact, Dudayev did try to make some oil deals with the West, without however any results (9). At the same time, entrepreneurs tried to extract oil for themselves by making holes in the pipelines, something which created an illegal trade of oil, but which, being beyond state control, damaged the budget rather than relieving it (so much for national unity!). On the other hand, proletarians trying to survive dismantled the refineries and tried to valorise their acts of sabotage by selling them to the market. For that part of the population which did not (or could not) resort to this trade, the situation was worse. Even when Chechnya was still part of the Soviet Union, and subsidies were running high, the rural proletarians faced chronic unemployment of about 40 per cent, their survival being dependent on the possibility of seasonal migration to Russia. After independence however, this was no longer possible. As a result, most of them turned to primitive forms of agricultural production.

In this disintegrating society, the Islamic religion found a foothold. Financially backed to a certain degree by Saudi Arabia and other middle-east Islamic states, Muslim preachers found their way into the mountainous region of Chechnya with the aim of spreading the word of Islam, and establishing Islamic law. Although the rise of Islamic fundamentalism is overrated and thus highly misleading when used as the only explanation of the situation in Chechnya (and the rest of the Caucasus, for that matter), it is significant as an indication of the ways in which the Chechens, faced with the devastating characteristics of post-Soviet society, try to re-organise their everyday lives. For the disenchanted and lumpen youth of Chechnya and Daghestan, which organises itself in gangs in order to face the increased poverty and the corrupt 'nouveau-rich', "...Islam appears as the only force capable of replacing the old certainties and clear social order which was previously provided by the soviet system' (10). As a result, Basaev and other Chechen warlords turned to Islamism during the 94-96 war, as the Islamic sariah proved an effective tool in providing the necessary discipline of the soldiers. Yet, after the war, the rising ruling class found itself torn between armed Islamic warlords -who saw in Islam a new collective identity which would guarantee the obedience of the population -and bureaucrats, supporting the continuation of the soviet institutions. The violent conflicts between them increased the confusion and uncertainty of the Chechen population whose initial collective expectations after 'independence' turned into the need for protection from the Islamic warlords through clientelist relations. Although it was firstly the marginalised youth, which grew up in the post-soviet chaos, that identified with Islamic fundamentalism, gradually, and since no coherent alternative appeared, Islam turned into a new unifying ideology of the state by integrating all political forces. Even Mashadov flirted with this peculiar Caucasian wahhabitism, a mixture of hardcore and militant Islamism that Saudi Arabia refuses to accept as a real descendant. If finally the ruling class chose Islamic fundamentalism as its ideological vehicle for the capitalist restructuring of Chechnya, the consequences of such a choice had the opposite effect. The 'moral economy' that the wahhabites promoted did not contribute to a smooth reproduction of human capital. The ruling class sought the solution of the dead-end in imperialist expansion.

In August 1999, a group of Chechen nationalists -or Islam fighters if you wish- and mercenaries led by Basaev and the Afghani (or Saudi, opinions vary) Khattab invaded the neighbouring Daghestan in an attempt to financially exploit the gains from a direct access to the Caspian Sea and to escape from the economic blockade imposed by Russia after the war. The Chechen government kept an uneasy distance from this invasion, stating that it represented a 'personal affair' of the Basaev-Khattab duo, or an 'internal affair' of Daghestan, or even a 'conspiracy of the West and Moscow'. The Islamic invaders were particularly polite to the Daghestani cops, whom they treated as '...brothers' and to the local population, allowing them to leave if they wanted -something which they did en masse. In themselves, the leading Islamic clans of Daghestan were not particularly happy about this invasion, and even though the Chechens labelled the invasion 'an Islamic revolution against the infidel Russians', whose expressed aim was the destruction of the 'corrupt apparatus' and the 'liberation' of the population of Daghestan, the latter not only refused the unification with Chechnya, but was eager to join the Russian forces that were sent to fight back the Chechens.

For Daghestan, a member of the Russian Federation since 1992, and one of the most heavily populated areas in the Caucasus, the prospect of unification with Chechnya was particularly undesirable. In a country of 2.1 million people and of 40 distinct ethnic groups, withdrawal from Russia would almost certainly mean civil war amongst the various clans. Furthermore, and most importantly, they would lose 90% of their budget which at the moment comes from Russia (11). And although industrial plants hardly function, agricultural production is at a pathetic state, and unemployment has risen well over 30% (others speak of 80%!), financial help from Russia is seen as the only way to maintain the existing social peace which, at least, brings some wealth to the clans at the top of the hierarchy of the Daghestani society. Furthermore, the possibilities of seasonal migration to Russia, which temporarily relieves the impoverished unemployed population, would no longer be possible. Not to mention the fact that unification with Chechnya would mean, if Islamic law was to be followed, a re-distribution of the existing wealth, something highly unfavourable to the chieftains of Daghestan.

In response to the Chechen invasion of Daghestan, Russia send a considerable military force and managed to drive the Chechens out by the 30th of August 1999. The reason for Russia's decision was not, as it was claimed, a counter-attack against Islamic fundamentalism, but the knowledge that should Chechnya control Daghestan, the oil pipeline that was built through Daghestan to bypass Chechnya was going to fall into the hands of the Chechens. Moreover, Russia's other plan for another pipeline from Kazakhstan to Novorosisk, whose foundations were laid on May I999, was also threatened.

As soon as this excursion was over, bombs started flying all over the place in Russia claiming more than 300 dead, and before anyone knew it, a full scale attack was launched against Chechnya, with the official aim of getting rid of the Chechen terrorists once and for all. Although the process of identifying those responsible for the bombs was surprisingly fast, and the real origin of the bombs is still highly contestable (12), the result was the same: with the excuse of counter-terrorist activity, the Russian state gathered its forces and attacked Chechnya (13). Thus started the second military excursion of the Russian military in Chechen land which, in contrast to the previous one, has for the time been much more effective, since it follows the example set by Nato in Kosovo, summarised by the cynical 'bombs good, body bags bad'.

So what does Russian capital have to gain from this military attack? On the one hand, it is important to look at the internal situation of Russia itself in the beginning of the war. With parliamentary elections coming up on December 19th, and presidential ones in the summer of 2000, it was obvious that Russian capital was reaching dangerous rimes. With a constant decrease in living standards and growing poverty, with unemployment reaching explosive levels, and with no visible prospect of any escape from the imposed economic reforms, there was a growing realisation that the period of economic reform is a mere disguise for setting the basis for capitalist dictatorship. And although Yeltsin's administration of post-Soviet Russia was a disaster, it had at least managed to retain some social peace. But Yeltsin's rule was coming to a constitutional end, and widespread dissatisfaction (14) could well be channelled towards less stable factions of capital's administrators -be it the neo-stalinists of Zuyganov or the incompetent centre-left. Any such election result was unwelcome by both the west and the local ruling class for reasons of stability. Combined with that was a feeling of isolation (summarised in the popular belief that "the whole world is conspiring against Russia") resulting in resentment towards the west, which has had the effect of fuelling a nationalist trend to every single party running for the elections in December. This resentment was pretty evident during the Kosovo war, yet its roots lay more in the ongoing process of economic reform which for the Russian proletariat is a process of growing impoverishment, and for which some see the west as responsible (15). Although this feeling of isolation could to a certain degree be channelled towards the external enemy (the US, the west, etc), and thus mystify the true nature of capitalist social relations, it was unable to provide stability inside Russia. A growing number of strikes and social turmoil testified that even the nationalism of the political parties could not accommodate the alienation of the disintegrating Russian society. Only the Chechen war managed to put the national above the social question, thus allowing Vladimir Putin to win the elections and continue with the economic reforms that Yeltsin started, with the knowledge however that its temporal prolongation could turn things on their head and render it a potential danger for social peace in Russia.

Externally, the attack on Chechnya represents an attempt of Russian capital to maintain some control over the explosive region of the Caucasus, whose oil and gas resources are vital to the Russian industry (16). Although the loss of the dominance over the majority of oil resources in the Caucasus is now considered a given for Russian capital since two alternative oil pipelines have already being built which bypass Russian controlled land, Chechnya's invasion of Daghestan threatened the last remaining oil pipeline which brought oil to Russia through Daghestan. Furthermore, by achieving military victory over Chechnya, Russia does not only pursue its immediate economic interests but also pre-empts any domino effect that could result from Chechnya's insubmision, and which could potentially even lead to the demise of the Russian Federation. At the same time, this -so far -successful war gave Russia an opportunity to revitalise itself. Through the boosting of the moral of the army -the war was seen by many russian conscripts as defensive - and its modernisation, Russia is given a chance to prove that she (as much as the West) can also act like an exporter of protection in the periphery, a very modern commodity.

Basically, the central problem in Chechnya is reminiscent to that of Kosovo in the Balkans. With a backward and unproductive agriculture, with the rising problem of overpopulation, with high levels of unemployment, and a severe lack of capital accumulation, the problems that Russian capital faces in the Caucasus go far beyond the 'threat' of Islamic fundamentalism or the loss of oil pipelines which, although important, have seen a big decrease of their production rates for many years. As in Kosovo, the problem of the reproduction of human capital is visible. It has become increasingly obvious that a future process of modernisation of the Chechen economy requires the abandonment of unproductive forms of agriculture, the suppression of illegal trade (which, although beneficial for individual capitalists, does nothing to accommodate the dominance of social capital) and the integration of the population into modern capitalist structures, i.e. their proletarianisation. As soon as it was clear that the wannabe modernisers of Chechnya (Basaev and Mashadov, etc) were unable to perform these necessities with considerable success, war presented itself as the only possible resolution of the contradictions of the Russian Federation.

The Russian attack has also had the effect of re-igniting Chechen nationalism and uniting the nation against the 'common enemy', something that Basaev himself jokingly admitted to as soon as Russia began its attacks. In face of widespread dissatisfaction with the pathetic state of Chechnya, social peace was, in Basaev's words, hard to maintain for much longer. For the aspiring modernising faction of the bourgeois class, whose links to Moscow are well-established (17), the nationalisation of social antagonisms is the only positive development.

In general the west has kept rather silent during the war in Chechnya, a result of the west's complex position. On the one hand, western interests for Caspian oil have led to an aggressive policy towards Russia which has effectively drawn Russia out of south-central Caucasus. US presence in Azerbaijan -either directly or with Turkey as a middleman- and in the Ukraine, seriously influenced Russia's decision to embark into another military expedition to retain some control in the North Caucasus. Similarly, the EU's policies -such as aid programmes in Eastern Europe etc.- were aimed more towards the EU's internal interests rather than the Russian ones (18) , and were generally disastrous for Russian interests. In this way the west has forced Russia to acknowledge its loss of dominance over the Caucasus and thus to attempt to maintain at all costs the parts which she can still control.

At the same time however, faced with the potential of an uncontrollable motley crew of armed-to-the-teeth warlords who dangerously flirt with the Islamic states of the Middle East, and who want a share of the regions resources, the west definitely prefers to have Russia in charge of both the existing resources and their further development.

The underlying principle is the fact that, although Russia's economy needs to be kept in check, it is crucial for western capital that it develops enough to be opened towards western investments and to be made a capable competitor/partner in the world market.

The war in Chechnya is a consequence of the nature of post-Soviet society, in the same way as the Yugoslav war or the war in Kosovo. It is an expression of the attempts to integrate the 'underdeveloped' parts of the capitalist world into the global division of power.

The outcome of the war might be favourable to either Russian capital or the Chechen ruling class, yet whether Russian or Chechen, wherever capital dominates there are only slaves. As such, the development of capitalism brings with it the subversive element that constantly threatens the established order and the explosion of class struggles is as unavoidable as capitalist society presents itself to be. In the current situation, this radical element has not been expressed, and thus to take either side in this conflict means to prioritise one form of capitalist development to another. To support that is, either the interests of Russian capital, or the national-liberation capitalism of the aspiring modernisers of Chechnya. This however, is the task of bourgeois ideology, not radical/revolutionary critique.

(1) "Daghestan has become the centre of illegal trade and smuggling. Ingushetia the peripheral centre of the illegal trade of gold and drugs. North Ossetia the main producer of illegal vodka and a point of transport for the tycoons of alcohol", (Le Monde Diplomatique, December, 1999)

(2) Although even that seems uncertain since, for example, during the whole period of economic reform in Russia in which hundreds of uncompetitive industries were shut down, not one single factory or industrial plant has been built! (Aufheben, #8, page 7, footnote 11)

(3) For some (see Aufheben, #8, article on Kosovo war), these historical developments were used to explain Nato's recent war in Kosovo. However one-sided this view seems though, it proves to be useful when dealing with the war in Chechnya. In accordance to this view, put forward by Aufheben, western capital was forced to realise that, faced with widespread dissatisfaction for Yeltsin's commitment to the western-led economic reforms, and with the Russian economy even more seriously damaged by the financial crisis of 1998, their loyal subordinates of the Yeltsinite apparatus might not survive the next elections, and that the nationalist factions of the Russian bourgeoisie might take control of the economy and threaten the -necessary for the west- economic reforms, by imposing a re-nationalisation of the economy. By attacking the last ally that Russia had in Europe (Serbia), Russia's isolation would be firmly established, and the weakness of the ultra-nationalist faction of the Russian bourgeoisie exposed -they would not be able to support their 'Slav brothers'. Thus, the US's decision to embark into a Nato offensive in the 'insignificant' area of Kosovo was essentially an attempt to show Russia that there can be no alternative to the IMF imposed economic reforms and that military force will be used to demonstrate the isolation of Russia and thus the necessity for following the western-led reforms.
The development and outcome of the Kosovo war however verifies that this view was problematic. On the one hand, this view ignores recent developments in the Balkans themselves and problematically focuses on Russia (and the US) to explain a war in the Balkans. On the other hand, and perhaps more importantly, although it is a fact that Russia's isolation was publicly demonstrated, the result of the war was not the strengthening of the Yeltsin apparatus, as the view implies, but rather its weakening. Although the nationalist tendencies of the Russian bourgeoisie were seriously impaired (as the election results show), Yeltsin's position was undermined since Russia's international position was undermined. In this way it is hard to see how Aufheben can claim that the result of the Kosovo war would be to pre-empt any alternative to the economic reforms of the IMF. Yeltsin's faction, which is seen in Russia as primarily responsible for the pro-western policies, was discredited due to its inability to cope with the Kosovo crisis. Through its successful appeal to national unity the economic reforms imposed by the west have been prolonged rather than threatened. What the standpoint of Aufheben ends up with implying is that western capital collaborated with Yeltsin to ensure that both Yeltsin's position, and the economic reforms, would remain unchallenged. Yeltsin's position after the war though, was not as safe as this view implies. In fact, the only thing that managed to save Yeltsin's modus operandi was the war in Chechnya, which managed to boost up the illusion of national unity, i.e. the necessary prerequisite for the continuation of the economic reforms, by setting aside the social reality of exploitation, and neutralising its potential explosiveness, through appeals for national unity.

(4) "In 1994 more than 250 Turkish firms were working in the Russian market, especially in the construction business. Russia was easily the most important trading partner Turkey had in the CIS accounting for about five times its volume of trade with all the Turkic republics combined", in Contested Borders in the Caucasus, Chapter VIII, 'Turkey's Policies in Transcaucasia'.

(5) Although Turkey wished to support Azrebaizan and not Armenia (for historical reasons as well), it seems to be the case that the influence of the Armenian diaspora in France and the US was strong enough to 'convince' Turkey not to take any drastic steps.

(6) Most of them preferred to sell their weapons to the Chechen nationalists than engage in war with them, something which provided the Chechens with modern weaponry and undermined the Russian army. In the most recent war on the other hand, apart from the barbarism of the thousands of murders, mutilations, rapes, of the destroyed houses and the looting, the trade of dead bodies and hostages is blooming. The Russian generals of the 'security zone' sell the dead Chechens to their families and the prisoners to the Chechen rebels who collect ransom from their families, sharing them afterwards with the Russian officers.

(7) On the one hand there were the mothers of the conscripts and the general outrage of the population, and on the other hand there was a faction of the ruling class (politicians, media, etc) which, frightened by the popular outrage, understood that the moment was not right for such a military expense. The war of 94-96 did not have the support of the majority of the Russian or Chechen population, and that explains why no nationalist conflicts from below appeared. In contrast, the Russian mothers which took to the Chechen villages, while the war was still going on, looking for their children, stayed in Chechen houses and often ensured the liberation of their sons. It is also hardly known that the Chechens named the main street of Grozny, Gorbachev, honouring him as the father of democratisation and of perestroika.

(8) Trained by the Russian army during the 92-93 war between Abhazia and Georgia, Basaev fought with the Russians in support of the former. More than anything else, Basaev seems to be an opportunist: in the autumn of '96, a while after the victory of Chechnya over the Russian army, Basaev started created a cosmic image of himself, grooming his beard and appearing well-dressed for the interests of his electoral campaign, scorning the Islamic candidates for their 'newly-acquired' Islamism. This did not however stop him from invading Daghestan in 1999 dressed in the colours of the 'Islamic revolution'.

(9) Some evidence suggests that a Texan based oil company approached the Chechen government, but was soon discouraged from making any deal by a dispatch of the US embassy in Moscow. After that, Chechen officials made many business trips to European countries, trying to make new deals. These were not met with any success though, either because of the incompetence of the Chechen delegates, or because no western company was willing to invest in the uncertain economic and social environment of Chechnya.

(10) GM Derluguian, 'Che Guevaras in Turbans', New Left Review 237

(11) In late August, in a meeting between Yeltsin and Magomedov (president of the State Council of Daghestan) the Russian government promised a further help of 300 million roubles.

(12) In the town of Ryazan the Russian security forces were caught while planting explosives in an apartment building (in the Economist, October 9th 1999)

(13) The excuse of counter-terrorist investigations was not only useful for the Russian state at an external level. As soon as the bombs went off, the police used it as an excuse to arrest and interrogate hundreds of people in Moscow, most of which were not (surprisingly enough) Chechens but Russians.

(14) Opinion polls showed that 90% of the population did not feel very strongly about Yeltsin (see Socialist Action, December 1999, 'Russia Prepares for Elections')

(15) This view was re-inforced by the economic crash in August 1998 that many directly linked to the western-imposed harsh economic reforms.

(16) Even until 1993, Russia had not stopped the oil going into the refineries of Chechnya with the blatant excuse that such an action would threaten Russian interests.

(17) A big scandal erupted in Moscow when it was proven that B. Berezovski, the model self made Mafioso businessman of the Russian economy who controls major oil companies and most of the media in Russia, as well as being the major influence behind Yeltsin's "Family", has never stopped his financial connections with Chechnya and, more specifically, Basaev.

(18) "Money was being channelled to Western consultants rather to the needs of Russia's people and their economy", and " ... Europe's leaders have been guilty of pursuing short term interests, such as the disposal of the EU's agricultural surpluses under the guise of food aid to Russia..." (Le Monde Diplomatique, December 1999). Of course it reaches the limits of stupidity to claim that any sort of economic policy could be aimed at meeting the needs of the population, yet the remarks are indicative of the EU's attitude towards Russia.


Practice and ideology in the direct action movement

Anti-capitalist protesters gather at Liverpool Street, June 18 1999.
Anti-capitalist protesters gather at Liverpool Street, June 18 1999.

Undercurrent's contribution to a critique of the politics of anti-capitalist protest.

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

"The call to abandon their illusions about their condition is a call to abandon a condition which requires illusions".

Recent explosions of discontent (such as in Seattle in November or in the City of London on J18) have expressed themselves in ways not worthy of their radical practice. The radical content of their practice (such as violence against the police, destruction of property, the sense of collective strength against the state) has been accompanied by a distorted image of capitalism which insists in seeing capital as nothing more than the financial centres, the 'dodgy' companies (as if there are 'non-dodgy' companies), and the shadowy international organisations (such as the WTO, the IMF, the World Bank, etc). They identify capital with its most superficial appearances, failing to see it in its totality. On the other hand, these actions definitely inspire the people involved in them, they do cause considerable trouble for the gatekeepers of law and order, and they do spoil the routine of the day-to-day business of the muppets who are being targeted. The problem immediately arises: how can the reformist language of the protests co-exist with their subversive practice?

In a sense, the two are not in contradiction. Movements are never homogenous (practically or theoretically) but rather consist of contradictions and immediate limitations, which could potentially be overcome the more the movement develops. Moreover, however much the official language of a movement represents its content, no homogeneity exists: the people involved in re-appropriations and violent acts of disorder are not necessarily the same who draw up the ideology underlying the actions. At the same time, contrary to appearances, there is nothing intrinsically contradictory between having the desire to destroy the existing world and its glass window and having misconceived ideas of the same world. The history of the revolutionary movement against capitalism is full of examples of such tendencies.

But the above explanation quickly dissolves into a problematic excuse, especially when it is used to pre-empt any radical critique of these struggles. In the two previous issues we carried what was later to be termed a harsh and unjustified attack on the expressed theory of the events leading up to J18. We were essentially attacked for being too dismissive, arrogant and 'idealistic' when dealing with J18. Some of the criticisms expressed were truthful. Our analysis of J18 was indeed problematically focused on the expressed ideology of the movement and not its real content. It would definitely be more accurate and complete to look at the history of the movement that inspired actions such as J18, and to have a more radical approach to its limitations.

However, and without getting into arguments about how our critique was practically and temporally limited (we were, after all, writing before J18 happened and could not have known exactly how it would develop), our critique has largely been confirmed. Regardless of the radical expressions of actions such as J18 and the 'battles' in Seattle (1), most of our critics end up with dismissing any critique of the ideology of the movement, i.e. part of its content. In an attempt to counter-react against our critique, the result is a rather uncritical approach to reformist and reactionary expressions. There are no apologies to be made. Radical critique is not about exchanging compliments, but about looking at the limitations of movements which claim to be anti-capitalist and trying to contribute to their development. The task of over-emphasising the 'sexy and inspiring' sides is better left to the various direct action conferences and gatherings, whose only purpose seems to be exactly that: big doses of self-reassurance and the absence of critical engagement.

The direct action movement primarily comes out of the anti-roads struggles of the early 90's. Developing as a response to the attempts to accommodate part of the emerging needs of capital which took the form of ambitious road-building schemes, the anti-roads movement was a struggle both ancient -reminiscent as it was of the peasants' attempts to resist the early stages of capital accumulation through land occupations - and contemporary -resisting the needs of advanced (western-European) capitalist development.

Despite its incoherencies and internal inadequacies, the anti-roads movement expressed a side of the class struggle. It did so by attacking (theoretically) the ideology of capitalist progress, and by resisting (practically) the attempts to further alienate people from their immediate environment, by turning it into dead space whose only purpose is the facilitation of the dictatorship of the economy. For those who took part in these struggles, the potential for moving beyond its immediate limitations was visible -and by many, this was realised. Scientific progress (2), the ideological filter for the justification of capitalist modernisation, was exposed as rooted in capital's interests. Democracy, the powerful ideology of capital, was (practically, at least) rejected and replaced by collective action. Many of the seemingly uninterrupted plans for the creation of massive roads were seriously delayed and, in some cases, abandoned.

In the process of its development, the anti-roads movement created a community of struggle against capital and the state, but -as it can be observed today -one which was only a small island within the capitalist desert. However inspiring and creative the communities of struggle of the anti-roads movement were, they were problematically based on the limits of an ecological movement (not to mention subculture and life-stylism) (3). Even though in some cases positive links were made with the locals, these never managed to move beyond immediate necessity and towards the formation of a long-standing basis for anti-capitalist struggles.

Despite its antagonistic relation to capitalist modernisation, the anti-roads movement was unable to break its isolation and to transform itself into a generalised movement which would link the ecological movement (by overcoming its inherent reformism) to the overall movement against capital in its totality. As is usually the case with movements that fail to address their history critically, today the direct action movement is unable to realise that its foundations lay on the alienated result of struggles which never managed to contest capitalist reality in its totality. Based on the corpse of subculture and life-stylism, the direct action movement finds itself rejuvenating ideologies which were already wrong when they first appeared. It fails to understand its inherent contradictions, replacing critique with an -almost -incomprehensible enthusiasm.

People have tried to overcome the problems arising in the direct action scene by claiming it is essentially a problem of theory and practice. The two of course are not separate. Whoever claims that 'theoretical' interventions are inferior to 'practical' ones is either stupid or paternalistic. The two complement each other or they are both useless. To prioritise one over the other is simply to separate our struggle against capital and to justify the existing division of labour which gives a raison d'être to the numerous 'professional revolutionaries'. The problems faced by the direct action scene are not, in this respect, the results of a contradiction between theory and practice. Both theory and practice of the direct action movement are reflections of our present situation, primarily characterised by the absence of a widespread movement contesting of capitalist normality. In this environment, it is not a surprise that the direct action movement seems stuck in its contradictions.

The tendency is there, especially at non-revolutionary times, to applaud the emergence of any violent confrontations between proletarians and the state. And to a certain degree it is justified, for it is for many of us an escape from a routinely organised life which offers nothing at all. It carries however the danger of fetishising incomplete expressions of our struggle and thus perpetuating their existence as incomplete. To organise 'days against capitalism', even if that in itself marks an important step forward from the super market of single issues that most of the direct action movement is involved in, is nothing but an expression of our inability to attack capital in its root in a systematic way. Capital is a social relation, and hence our struggle against it is either centred on our everyday life or it is nothing. The only use of 'days against capitalism' is that it provides a chance for many of us to meet outside of boring political frameworks and to collectively express our disgust at the existing world (4). But that's about it. However positive that may be, it does not in itself point towards the emergence of a 'global anti-capitalist movement'.

The movement around events such as J18 and Seattle is largely disconnected from existing struggles against capital's offensive against us (5). However much the direct action scene has picked up the term 'anti-capitalism', and however that may in some ways be an advance, it is common place that capitalism is essentially a system of production. None of the 'sexy and inspiring' actions that took place under the banner of 'anti-capitalism' were in the slightest focused on the production process. Instead, the focus was on finance capital, international monetary institutions and the illusory opposition between 'free trade' and 'fair trade'. The 'targets' that the direct action scene has chosen thus far represent capital's mechanisms for the regulation of decisions already made in the production process.

We are not, as we have pointed out before, fetishising the factory. Production is not only taking place in the factories. But 'anti-capitalism' is not an idea that people pick up on, but a tendency, a movement, arising out of our social conditions (the first of which is our relation to work) aiming at destroying capital in its totality. However important finance capital or the IMF is, a partial attack on capital can only have partial results. And half-made 'revolutions' only dig their own grave.

Failing to identify any 'sexy and inspiring' situations outside its own, the direct action movement stands in the fringes of social antagonisms. Most of its preoccupations do not arise out of immediate social conditions, but are in many cases the result of essentially moral considerations which accompany a specific lifestyle. We thus have the bizarre spectacle of direct action activists choosing which struggles to take part in, a remnant of the direct action's background as a super market of single issues. The refusal to take part in struggles which do not fit the common denominator of 'sexy and inspiring' by some people simply shows that in fact they do live in a 'political comfort zone' (at least in their minds) in which we have the luxury to decide which part of the totality we will attack, usually a different one every day.

What used to be only a potential danger of creating a separate 'class of revolutionaries', with a specialised position in subversive struggles, is now a reality for the direct action movement. The militant role is the dominant spectacle of the direct action movement and it is aware of it. The role of the militant has been properly discredited elsewhere (7) so it is of no point to get into it again. It is interesting however to see the development of the radical part of the direct action scene towards a bizarre fetishism of violence. Although it is right to attack the pacifist elements and to expose their reformism (8), this has resulted in a glorification of violence which seems detached from the social reality that gives rise to it. "The materialist conception of violence excludes any principled position, either in favour of these methods or against them. It does not revert the principles of the bourgeois society in order to transform [violence] into an absolute good, nor does it condemn it as an absolute bad." (Barrot)

The more capital tries to complete its domination upon our lives, the more is our need for a community intensified. This is reflected in every struggle against capital, which is, most importantly, our attempt to connect with other people and to transcend the isolation imposed to us. Yet, the danger of creating a pseudo-community is obvious. In line with the uncritical adoption of the militant role, the direct action movement has tried to fight against isolation by creating a pseudo-community of activists, separate from the rest of 'normal people', one which possesses a clear revolutionary consciousness that people are simply waiting to learn. Like a petty-bourgeois family, the direct action movement sees itself as the centre of the world, and conceives itself as the community, seeking to recreate itself as such in every opportunity. This illusory community is strongly sustained through constant self-reassuring 'sessions', in which the supremacy of the direct action scene is skilfully demonstrated. This is usually done in comparison to the 'boring lefties', to which the direct action movement stands opposed to as the enlightened militants. Obviously the lefties are boring and their ideas of action are neither imaginative nor inspiring, but that's not the real problem. This opposition fails to expose them as what they really are, i.e. capitalist organisations. Instead, the well-intentioned critique is misplaced and ends up implying that the main problem of the lefties is their lack of imagination! It becomes obvious that this 'critique' of leftist organisation is more directed towards the re-affirmation of direct action activists as the proper revolutionaries rather as an attempt to expose the leftists' counter-revolutionary function. It is surprising to see how anarchists consider it as an integral part of their identity to constantly attack trotskyists, something which is done by simply pointing at the hierarchical structure of their party accompanied by a necessary denunciation of any sort of authority. Yet, even this critique would be useful, if only they directed it against the direct action movement itself, whose structure, although more fluid, also includes hierarchical tendencies.

Similar to the leninist conception of the vanguard party which they so much despise, the direct action scene shares many of its characteristics. The notion that 'normal people' only need to get in touch with their ideas in order to become revolutionaries, the educational tone of their public outreaches ("a festival of anarchist ideas" or "a spoof newspaper...explaining anarchy"), the idea in general that revolution will only occur when 'normal people' come in contact and get influenced by the 'revolutionary consciousness' that the direct action scene is so full of. At the same time, leftist parties are slagged off in every chance because of their 'vanguard-ism'.

In terms of organisation, although the claim is that the direct action scene consists of 'autonomous' and non-hierarchical structures, the underlying agreement is that things like june 18th or Seattle could never have happened unless they were properly organised. Regardless of the non-hierarchical rhetoric, this fact exposes once again the separation between the 'professional activists' and the 'normal people'. In this way, the 'non-hierarchical' Direct Action Network behind the events of Seattle was able to impose a set of rules and guidelines (9) for those who wanted to take part in the 'anti-capitalist' actions prepared for the WTO conference -to which most objections concerned the actual content of the principles without challenging the notion of principles as such-, while the 'anti-authoritarian' anarchists behind the Mayday preparations have also adopted similar 'principles' and rules in order to exclude the hierarchical trotskyists (10). The illusion that hierarchy can be abolished through the drawing out of 'anti-hierarchical' principles, shows that they (as much as the direct action movement) have an ideological conception of hierarchy, failing to see it as a problem to be overcome by the development of our struggle.

Part of the 'anti-globalisation' ideology of the direct action movement is the focus on its consequences on the 'underdeveloped' countries, an effect of which is the fuelling of uncritical support for liberation movements in the third world, a practice reminiscent of leninist babble. The struggle of the Zapatistas in Mexico, the landless peasants in Brazil, maoist guerrillas in Tibet etc., all have received enthusiastic and uncritical support, justified through the argument that 'we', as westerners, who live in the 'political comfort zone', cannot possibly criticise the struggles of people whose experiences and struggle we cannot 'understand', being as they are, so far beyond our 'zone'. But, these struggles are relevant to us only to the extent that we can learn from them and relate them to our struggles. Finding a minimum common denominator between the various struggles in various parts around the world, the direct action scene ignores the content of these movements, and attempts to create a spectacle of unity. The fact, for example, that the Zapatistas are speaking about national unity or civil society, or that the maoist guerrillas are (simply) maoist, is obviously irrelevant for the direct action militants. Instead, the focus is on the spectacular elements of these struggles (people in balaclavas and guns in proper guerrilla fashion). Any radical critique of their content is redundant.

The separation between developed and underdeveloped countries, between 'political comfort zones' and third world national liberation struggles with immunity to radical critique because of their 'revolutionary' spectacle, is by far the biggest pile of shit to come out of the direct action scene. Bizarrely, twenty years ago, revolutionaries would not have the slightest hesitation in discrediting any such bollocks as leninist. Today though, everything is justified if it fits the recipe: sexy, inspiring or exotic.

In the midst of enthusiasm and grandeur, the direct action movement sees a growing anti-capitalist movement everywhere. This illusion stops them from recognizing that, in its present form, the direct action movement is going nowhere.

(1) It seems to be the case that the 'battle' of Seattle was predominantly characterised by extreme police brutality and by peace-types violently (!) protecting property rather than destruction of property and attacks against the cops. Hardly what we would call a 'battle'.

(2) Like gardening in a graveyard: there are some flowers, but rooted in death and decay.

(3) A more general analysis/critique of the anti-roads movement can be found in Aufheben, #3, 1994, 'Can We Slay the Roads Monster?'.

(4) Recent developments in the direct action scene indicate a neglect of its most important elements: rather than a genuine attempt to understand and move forward from J18 and Euston (N30), the tendency is one of a return to a green agenda (guerrilla gardening) and an anarchist conference.

(5) An example of that is rightfully pointed out in Do or Die, #8, 'War is the health of the State: An Open Letter to the Direct Action Movement'.

(6) Most activists, for example, refuse to take part in struggles against the unemployed benefit cuts, although most of them are unemployed themselves. These struggles are not, obviously, as 'sexy and inspiring' as occupying the offices of Shell for an afternoon or dressing up like a turtle downtown Seattle.

(7) The SI provided a very concise critique of this counter-revolutionary tendency. For more recent attacks on the militant role see the useful, yet somewhat hesitant, critique in Reflections on June 18th, 'Give up activism'.

(8) Although to talk about 'pacifism as pathology' really misses the point (see Do or Die #8, review of 'Pacifism as Pathology'). In fact, the proposed remedies for this are as 'pathological' as the 'disease' it aims to 'cure'.

(9)The problem is not the 'undemocratic' nature of the Direct Action Network. If the majority of people abided to these rules, this meant that there was already an agreement as to their content. To claim that it was these 'rules and guidelines' which prevented people from using violence is obviously wrong.

(10) It was both funny and extremely sad to see the way in which 50-60 'anti-authoritarian' anarchists spent one hour of the mini-conference in order to exclude the one member of the (trotskyists) workers' party, a process which was justified later on with the claim that 'we don't want to be shot like partridges'. Obviously, according to the anarchists, that was a likely possibility of Mayday...

Undercurrent #8


Seattle: the first US riot against 'globalisation'? - Loren Goldner

Loren Goldner's article for Undercurrent #8 on the anti-WTO protests which took place in Seattle in 1999.

Submitted by Ed on July 24, 2009

Mass politics in the streets disappeared in the U.S. between 1970 and 1973. In retrospect, it is clear that the years 1964 to 1970 were not a "pre-revolutionary situation", but anyone who lived through those years as an activist can be forgiven for thinking it was. Any number of people in the ruling circles shared the same error of judgement. The black urban insurrections of 1964 to 1968, the working-class wildcat rebellion (often led by black workers) from 1966 to 1973, the breakdown of the U.S. military in Indochina, the "student" and "youth" rebellions, and the appearance of militant feminist, gay and ecology movements were all indicators of a major social earthquake. Thirty years after they ended, the "sixties", for the left and for the right, still hang over American society like smoke after a conflagration.

The "oil crisis" and world recession of 1973-75 closed that era, and the revolutionary movement in the U.S. and everywhere else has been retrenching and regrouping ever since. If the ebb has seemed deeper in the U.S. than in Europe, it is only because U.S. capital is the cutting edge of the dismantling of the old Keynesian "social contract", such as it was, a dismantling in which Europe is still at the halfway point. The ebb of open struggle in the U.S., punctuated briefly but hardly reversed by actions against the Gulf War in 1990-91 or by the Los Angeles riots of 1992, expresses a vast "recomposition" of class lines in a world restructuring of capital. Many formerly successful forms of struggle, most notably the wildcat strike, have all but disappeared. The movements of the sixties were internationalist in sentiment, but they rarely transcended the national framework in practice. However much one wants to quibble about the reality of "globalisation", it has been clear for a long time, even to avowed reformists, that any meaningful strategy, even in the day-to-day sense, has to be international, or better, "transnational", from the outset to win anything worth talking about. "Think globally, act locally" may sound like a solution, but its practical result usually comes down to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Some American and Chinese workers may have had a more radical consciousness, and perhaps were even more internationalist rhetorically, in the 1920's than today, but today conditions exist in which they are compelled, practically, to make internationalism concrete in a way that was unthinkable in the 1920's. Awareness of the need for a global strategy has been around, and widespread, for a long time, but it has been extremely difficult to make practical. The reformists at places such as the Institute for Policy Studies, supported by a few capitalists, are working hard to develop something like a "global Keynesianism" and a "global welfare state", once they solve the little problem of the "separate body of armed men", the sovereign nation state, which has not exactly disappeared. Meanwhile, the "centrist" Clinton administration has since 1993 pushed through NAFTA, the WTO, the ASEAN agreement, and the dismantling of welfare, a set of attacks on working people in America that would have been opposed in the streets if undertaken by the "right". It has delivered everything the globalists have asked for.

American workers have reacted to this situation in contradictory ways. There has been an important protectionist sentiment among American workers for a long time: "Buy American", "Save American Jobs", "Park Your Toyota in Tokyo", support for anti-immigrant legislation, occasional violence against Asians, the vile anti-Mexican propaganda of the Teamsters, the USW's (United Steel Workers) anti-dumping campaign, or the working-class electoral base for Buchanan's "Fortress America" are all ugly examples of this. Beyond it all ultimately lies the sentiment: lay off someone else, or don't hire someone else, and save my job, not to mention a fair dose of anti-Asian, anti-Latino racism. Many workers have been won over to sympathy for their employers, who are beleaguered by imports, and have swallowed big concessions on that basis. On the other hand, traditional unions such as the UAW (United Auto Workers) as well as respectable reformist opposition groups such as Labor Notes have made some serious attempts to hook up with workers (usually along industry lines) in Mexico, Asia and Europe, but strictly within a union and often corporatist framework. There have been some co-ordinated job actions in auto between the U.S. and Mexico, or the Bridgestone-Firestone campaign of U.S. and Japanese workers. But all these actions have been strictly under the control of some faction of union bureaucrats, in or out of power, and represent the extension of sectoral trade union reformism to a world scale.

There exists an inchoate desire in the U.S., including among some American workers, (which surfaced during the campaigns against NAFTA or 1995 "fast track" legislation), for a DIFFERENT KIND OF INTERNATIONALISM than that offered by either the globalist ruling class or by the timid actions of official unionists who unquestioningly accept the framework of capitalism.

If, as seems to be the case, the world economy has become a "negative sum game" for workers, a "race to the bottom", then a "different kind of internationalism" would mean creating a situation for a "positive sum game" in which workers can concretely fight for their own interests on a CLASS FOR ITSELF basis, in a way that implicitly or, better still, explicitly, recognises the practical unity of interests of working people in the U.S. and China, Japan and Bangladesh, Italy and Albania. Since society, like nature, abhors a vacuum, without this kind of perspective, the protectionists and/or the anti-protectionist, internationalist reformists will rush in, and contribute to a new anti-working class reshuffling of the deck, in the capitalist "sum which can never be a totality", as Bordiga used to say.

From a revolutionary viewpoint, it is easy to be sceptical about the events in Seattle. The American participants, both among the trade union contingent and the direct action groups, were overwhelmingly white, in a country in which 30% of the population is now constituted by people of colour. The slogan "Fair Trade, Not Free Trade" could certainly be seen as a slightly-concealed variant of protectionism by those (and there were many) who wished to do so. The dominant nerve of the demonstrators was activated by the very real prospect of little groups of transnational corporate appointees overruling and overturning national labour and environmental laws and agreements, but just behind that animus was, for some, the idea of Chinese bureaucrats having such influence. Steel workers threw foreign steel into Seattle harbour and others held a "Seattle Tea Party" against foreign imports, with China the obvious main target. Few questioned as vociferously the negative impact of WTO entry on CHINESE workers, who obviously could not be present.

Throughout, the trade union bureaucracy remained firmly in control of the worker contingents, (determined, and successful, in their plan to have nothing but a peaceful, disciplined, unthreatening march independent of, if not indifferent to, the "crazies" of the direct action groups), and few if any workers seriously challenged that control. The animus of the Sweeney leadership of the AFL-CIO clearly came from the sense of "betrayal" at the recent US-China agreement on China's entry into the WTO. The failure of the Seattle meeting took the Democrats off the hook of having to push hard for China's entry into the WTO in an election year, when both the USW and the Teamsters have clearly gone for the protectionist option. Clinton's kind words for the rights of the demonstrators should be seen in that context, particularly after it became known that powerful forces at the top had pushed for heavy repression when the police lost control on the first day, and that US Army intelligence units disguised as demonstrators had been all over the place with concealed lapel cameras and all the new paraphernalia of the technotronic, "New Paradigm" surveillance state. In the Boston area, where I live, much of the "post-Seattle" organising has an even more overtly protectionist agenda, with repugnant slogans such as "Not One More American Job to Mexico", and I doubt that this is exceptional.

Nevertheless, despite all the elements of "uneven", parochial or simply reactionary ("Buchananite") consciousness it may have contained, one has to characterise Seattle as a breakthrough. There was, in the patent lack of official preparedness for what happened, an unrepeatable singularity (no international trade summit will ever again take place, anywhere, with so little readiness for heavy repression) an opening to exactly that element of the unknown and unexpected that characterises a situation momentarily beyond all manipulative control, whether by the state or the unions or the "left", when power lies for a moment "in the streets". In 24 hours, Seattle ripped away the "one note" unanimity of the tolerated "public discussion" of international economic issues of the past 20 years or more.

Millions of people who never heard of the WTO learned what it was, and what it does, more thoroughly than through decades of peaceful opposition and think-tank chatter. Even strongly protectionist American workers were thrown together in the streets with activists, including worker activists, from 100 countries, and had to confront the human face of the producers of "foreign imports" in a way that had never previously occurred on such a scale, not to mention in such an open situation (as opposed to tedious international trade union conferences of bureaucratic delegations). Teamsters, bare-breasted Amazon lesbian warriors and tree-huggers were thrown together, and talked, on an unprecedented (for the U.S.) scale.

The Seattle events gave a concrete target to opponents of the seemingly abstract forces that have made serious action on the appropriate level so difficult for so long. In accounts I heard from people who had been there, and in material I was able to gather, there was a genuine whiff of the spontaneous awakening, in the heat of confrontation, to the power of capital and thae state that has not been seen in the U.S. since the sixties, a genuine demonstration by masses in motion of the truth of the Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach, to wit that classical materialism "does not understand sensuous activity as objective".

The great majority of demonstrators in Seattle, particularly in the direct action contingents, had not been born or were children when the sixties ended, and had never experienced their own power in the streets in this way, anywhere. Trite as it may sound to the small numbers of sixties activists who still consider themselves revolutionaries, and who are jaded from having been through it all before, a first clubbing, a first tear-gassing, seeing the police go berserk against people detained in a holding cell, a first concrete experience of what bourgeois "rights" really mean when the state tears them up in a confrontational setting, is an irreversible crossing of a threshold, an irreplaceable experience of collective power and of the role of those who job is to repress it. People who go through this, whatever the consciousness or intentions that brought them to Seattle, can never be the same.

The brief, ephemeral opening of the sense that "nothing will ever be the same" experienced by some in Seattle and in the wake of Seattle will close again quickly (just as the opening, such as it was, of the LA riots, or that of the December 1995 strike wave in France, closed quickly) without a strategy for a real internationalism, an internationalism in which criticisms of slave labour in China or child labour in India are joined to, e.g. a practical critique of the mushroom-like proliferation of sweatshops and prison labour in the U.S. A perspective encompassing the most oppressed layers of the working class and its allies is always a safeguard against the parochialism, including militant parochialism, which sets the stage for a "reformist" reshuffling of the capitalist deck, as occurred in the 1930's and 1940's.

Ever since "1973" closed the era of meaningful "wildcat" direct action on the shop floor of one factory, the workers' movement in the U.S. and many other countries has been groping toward a new concrete terrain on which to fight something beside endless losing local battles against plant closings and downsizing, or outright reactionary battles demanding in effect that the layoffs happen "somewhere else". In their greatly heightened global mobility, the capitalists stole a march on the world working class that more than 25 years of losing and defensive struggles has not yet overcome. If Seattle is in fact to be a positive turning point, at which history did in fact finally turn, it can only be on the path to solidifying and greatly expanding this terrain.


Preliminary Notes on Recent Call Centre Struggles

Article on the growth of call centres and struggles within them, focussed on Brighton in the UK.

Submitted by libcom on December 14, 2005

From undercurrent #8

Call centres are appearing everywhere. Representing a new way of integrating telecommunications and computer technology into the process of reshaping the division of labour, they are predominantly situated in the circulation process of capital - although some are within the production process itself. Bosses and politicians herald them as an example of the future of labour. Britain, whose national economy revolves around the finance sector, has 40% of the total call centres in Europe and this number is increasing every year. It is estimated that there are 350,000 workers employed in 4000 call centres, expected to rise to 500,000 in the next three years.(1)

In Brighton, they are literally on every street corner, as well as in the surrounding towns. Sucking-in the student, unemployed and casual workers which make up a large proportion of the local labour-force, a mere cursory glance reveals numerous telemarketing companies, telecommunication companies such as BT, Cable and Wireless and Ericsson, financial companies such as Lloyds/TSB and American Express (the largest employer in the Brighton area), as well as privatised utilities such as Seeboard. In a town like Brighton, with an economy primarily based on the retail and service sectors, call centres are seen by many workers to be a stop gap to something bigger and better (a thousand and one ways of avoiding the fact that you are and will remain a proletarian). Yet, some of the underlying antagonisms between workers and capital have started to take shape.

Before Xmas, workers at BT struck for the first time in 13 years. Occurring in the 150 and 151 repair (call) centres, it has been claimed as the first strike at a call centre in Britain. A series of three one-day strikes had been called by the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) in protest against the increasing influx of agency workers (seen by the permanent workers for what it was: a strategy for lowering their wages and eventually replacing them with the lower paid agency staff) and the heavy handed pressure and intensification of work that management imposed on the workforce. However, only one of the three-day strikes actually happened, since the CWU and the management naturally came to some sort of agreement over increased union recognition in the workplace.(2)

The labour force at BT call centres was at that time supplied by the employment agency, Manpower. However, in March 2000, they lost this contract to Hays Management Consultants, who, though promising not to cut down wages, did exactly that on the first day that they took over from Manpower. After promising that there would be no pay cuts, in one day they slashed at least £30 from most workers' pay packets by reducing the evening rate from time and a half to time and a quarter. Hays had hoped that there would be little reaction to these measures, but subsequent events showed that they were mistaken. On the first day, many workers walked straight out of the job refusing to sign the contract which would mean their acceptance of the pay cut. Others responded by taking other action: large amounts of overseas phone calls were reportedly made, apparently totalling over £15,000. One call was claimed to have been made to the speaking clock in Zimbabwe with the receiver left off the hook over night; as well as this, top of the range stock was sent out to householders with faulty BT equipment. Many worked-to-rule, refusing to perform any 'extra' tasks than the ones in their job description. And whereas before the office had been a tense and hostile environment, now it was coloured by workers chatting merrily and putting their feet up disguising their refusal to do any work. Although, it is not possible to measure how many agency staff have left BT in Brighton in the last month, constant recruitment by Hays suggests that they have a constant shortage of staff. And due to the reaction of the workers they have been forced to suspend their pay cuts for at least a few months.

This is only a basic description of last month's worker activities in Brighton - there is not space here to go into more. We are also sure that plenty of other actions, which we are unaware of, took place at other BT call centres all over the country. These tensions could be the precursors of future struggles to come. Take Pembroke Dock in South West Wales for example, where the decline of manufacturing industry has created the space for call centres - specialising in e-commerce - to start moving in, to the extent of renaming the area 'Cyber Bay'.

Pembrokeshire's economy was previously based on the energy industry. Today, out of the four oil refineries, only two remain, whilst the local power station was shut down under pressure from environmental groups, like Friends of the Earth, who protested against the proposed burning of a high-polluting mineral, Orimulsion. While the burning of Orimulsion was obviously not very pleasant, the attitude of the Greenies exposed once again their disgusting ideology: none of them are complaining now that the call centres are being established, while the local people, desperate for any work, are pushed into working in the new sweatshops for £4.60 an hour. With unemployment levels at 13.2% (3) the bosses couldn't be happier: seen on the one hand as providing the local labour-force with the 'opportunity' to escape unemployment, on the other, the call centres are welcomed by the local bourgeois factions as the key to the economic revival of the region which has become like a ghost town since capital abandoned the manufacturing industry. The Pembroke Dock call centre was built even before it had a company to fill it, while due to the low skill levels of the local workforce, a special call centre training camp has been built near by. As in Brighton, employment agencies are to supply the workforce for the new call centre and it is Manpower who have the contract at the present time. How long it will be before the proletariat of South West Wales sees through the bullshit of the myth of the cyber-god of exploitation remains to be seen.

This is a mere preliminary analysis of workers' activities in some of the new 'sweatshops'. The emergence of call centres has been treated by bosses and capitalists from all around as signifying a new composition of social relations, an ideological approach filtered through constant references to the merits of the service and information society. For us, their ideological mutterings are mere disguises for their attempts to constantly expand capital's 'voracious appetite'. It is not in our interests to solve the problems of the economy, but to aim for its complete destruction. For that reason, taking on the proposal made by the German Communist group, Kolinko, we intend to investigate call centres as new areas of workers' concentration and thus areas of potential subversive struggles.

We welcome all correspondence, contributions and exchanges.

(1) Revolutionary Perspectives #16

(2) Some of us went to the picket line in Brighton where we encountered some disgusting CWU leaflets, calling on workers to work harder for shareholders. This speaks for itself.

(3) In nearby Milford Haven the rate is nearly a fifth of the working population(18.4%), in Tenby it is 14.2% while in Haverfordwest it is less at 7.7%.


Class war in Barcelona - Jean Barrot, 1973

The following text is the translation of a pamphlet of the group Mouvement Communiste, written in 1973 by Jean Barrot (aka Gilles Dauve), as a means of solidarity for some Spanish revolutionaries arrested in Spain facing harsh penalties.

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

Undercurrent #8

It might seem a bizarre selection, considering that the armed struggle (which so much shaped the struggles of the 60's and 70's) is largely non-existent today in Europe, especially so in the UK. Yet, the text does not simply deal with the armed struggle. It deals with the issue of violence in general, not in an abstract way but in clear connection with the social movement of the proletariat. Taking it out of the limited framework of the situation in Spain in the 70's, we believe this text to be a useful critique/analysis of the fetishism of violence, a tendency which is also visible in parts of the direct action scene in Britain.

Introduction to the Greek edition of 1974 (??)
The Spanish State arrested in the end of September 1973 around ten revolutionaries, whom it presented as 'gangsters'. Three of them are threatened with the death penalty. They could be sentenced by a court martial and executed within 48 hours.

If some of them indeed robbed banks, they did so to fund the printing of texts that are circulating in the radical workers' movement of Barcelona. And if a policeman died, that happened after an ambush of the police.

The point is to understand what some proletarians are historically forced to do. Violence is always a means for the satisfaction of a demand: in Spain, where the police shoots unarmed strikers in cold blood, violence appears directly as a social relation. The simple writing of texts or the circulation of pamphlets carries the penalty of many years in prison. Thus those who want to resist exploitation resort to violence more often than in other countries.

Democracy drowns workers struggles through politics and reformism. Fascism has fewer reservations and crushes them with violence. Whoever recognises in the State the monopoly of violence denies the proletarians the right to abolish their condition: wage labour.

Those of the Spanish proletarians who managed to escape into other countries are now wanted by Interpol as criminals. The democratic and fascist States help each other: the international arrest warrants allow their handing over to the Spanish police. Many of them are threatened with the death penalty.

In order for us to save them the truth has to shine about the real -proletarian- nature of their activities. Whoever does not expose the lie becomes a collaborator not only of the Spanish state, but of the French and all the others.

Class War in Barcelona
On the 16th of September 1973, the police caught two Spanish revolutionaries after the attack against a bank near the French border. A wave of arrests in Barcelona followed. During one of them, on the 24th of September, a member of the "guardia civil" was killed, while the culprit of the murder was seriously wounded. The Spanish police and the press want people to believe that it was a bunch of gangsters. There are at least 12 with charges against them, three of which are threatened with the death penalty.

In reality the attack on the bank was part of a series of armed actions, which started a few years ago by various amorphous autonomous groups in the area of Barcelona. The purpose of these actions was to collect money for the support of revolutionary activities in the workers' movement. Anyway, many of the groups signed their actions as "Autonomous Groups of Struggle", thus showing with the common signature the common character of their actions, although they do not in fact consist of a single structured organisation. These actions did not have a political purpose, in the sense that politics consists of actions on others, they did not aim for the coordination and organisation, the formation of recognised power that seeks a position in society. The bank robberies did not turn the bank robbers into vendettas of the spectacle, they did not aspire to capture the imagination, but merely provided the material means for action in a country where a large quantity is often needed. (For example, illegality often makes the publication and circulation of texts difficult and costly). Whoever blames them for their actions is even further back than Proudhon, who knew that property = theft. Of course theft does not destroy property. But it is a means -limited but useful in many cases- for the organisation of the struggle against the world of property. It is totally useless to express a priori judgements "in favour" or "against" methods whose use is the matter of circumstances, thus in the final analysis a matter of social conditions. These actions cannot be made irrespective of time and place. It is not by chance that in the beginning of the century the Russian revolutionaries resorted to similar actions in a society swept by brutal repression, in a State which -as the Spanish one today- did not hesitate to drown unarmed workers in blood.

The materialist conception of violence excludes any principled position, either in favour of these methods or against them. It does not invert the principles of bourgeois society in order to transform terrorism into an absolute good, nor does it condemn it as an absolute bad.

The revolutionary does not steal in order to give to the poor, like the French maoists who distributed caviar to the immigrants. He steals in order to satisfy a -social- need of the revolution. Of course, to the degree that he explains his action (something that the Spanish comrades did repeatedly by addressing those present in order to express the purposes of the robbery), his action gains a new dimension. It reveals the existence of another social movement, of a different dynamic within society, and this revelation is subversive. But this is a consequence, a mere secondary result. Those who resort to armed violence with the main aim of wining over the spirits or the hearts in order to extort pressure for their official recognition, either fail or they impose themselves as the new power (for example: the Palestinian commandos in the first case, the Irish IRA in the second).

In reality it is capital which by its very nature robs and expropriates, stripping people from their environment at all levels. It denies people, even things (see the polluted nature) from their being in order to integrate them, it transforms them into its objects, its monsters -since they are neither themselves nor solid spanners of capital- and all they know is a divided life and society. It is very natural then that those who rise against capital engage into all sorts of re-appropriations: material, psychological, theoretical, and also economic or financial. So long as capital exists, money remains the privileged mediator of all social activity. So long as the enemy triumphs it imposes its mediation everywhere, without exempting revolutionary activities. In some cases, radical people or groups are inevitably led to the violent appropriation of sums of value, even though their purpose, their same logic and their being, directs itself against all forms of value. This will surprise and scandalize only those who do not need means for action simply because they are not active or those who have a bureaucratic mechanism (state capitalist organisations), or in the extreme cases those who have the support of a State (like the Spanish Communist Party which is supported by Russia).

In parallel with the terrorist actions, the workers' movement of Barcelona developed an effective network of connections, especially with the proletarian libraries and with the active engagement in the autonomous workers' struggles. We would have to remind that after the double defeat of the proletariat (which was crushed after the coordinated attacks of fascism and of anti-fascism), the Spanish proletarian movement experienced a rise at the beginning of the 1960's; this rise was expressed in 1962-65 with the appearance of the "Workers Committees", as a direct result of the wave of spontaneous strikes which started from the mines in the Asturias. In 1966-68 all the traditional parties and organisations infiltrated the Workers' Committees (in fact the CP infiltrated in the state union C.N.S.), took control of their leadership and transformed them into reformist structures. In between 1968 and 1970, the impact of the French and Italian movement, in relation to the Spanish situation, caused within the Workers' Committees a series of ideological struggles, splits, and, in general, developments in the direction of the extreme-left. After, in 1970-73, there is a rise of workers' struggles which refuse the bureaucratic and hierarchical controls (burning of leaflets, kicking political members out of workers' meetings, etc). Exactly this phenomenon is what the State is trying to attack, by equalising all those charged and those in prison, which it tries at the same time to destroy and to slander (one aim facilitates the latter). It aims at the destruction of one of the expressions of the autonomous action of the Spanish proletariat.

Decisively opposed to all forms of reformism and of democratic anti-fascism, these groups and circles had as an eventual aim the proletarian programme of abolishing wage labour and of exchange. It is characteristic that they translated and distributed a series of French communist texts, like J. Barrot's study of the Russian Revolution, the introduction of the book "La Bande a Baader", an article of "Negation", and Beriou's text about Ireland. Moreover, they showed a zealous interest in reading Pannekoek and Bordiga, without however theoretically following one or the other.

With the progress of these actions, some elements who have resorted to robberies decided to abandon such activities. The robberies had proven useful of course at the beginning of the movement (we are not able to say whether their influence was decisive), but in the next phase they were becoming increasingly pointless and dangerous. We ignore today why and how the comrades who were arrested on the 16th September organised another robbery; we therefore refrain from forming an opinion on the matter until more information is available. It is however certain that the State aims with this chance of diminishing the seeds of the totality of those activities" 1) by presenting the actions of armed struggles as gangsterism, but mostly 2) by equalising the most radical elements of the workers' movement who had no relation with these actions with the actual culprits. We have to do whatever is possible to make the truth shine on these two points, without mixing them up.

Revolutionary violence is not another means that is used because other means were proven to be ineffective. Neither is it a defense against an attack, as if we always have to defend a violent action by presenting ourselves as "defensive". The theories of defensive violence simply play the game of the enemy. Moreover, it is not an end in itself and does not find its justification in itself. It is used (as material violence, psychological violence, etc) for the accomplishment of an aim. In this sense it belongs in every society, even in the communist one which will include conflicts since every relation implies a conflict. Neither harmony nor anarchy exist in an absolute and static situation; one determines the other. In the communist society, individuals and groups -who will have the capability of transforming their lives all the time- will have conflicts and at the same time the means to deal with them without hurting or mutilating others or themselves. The very content of "violence" thus gets a sense so new, that the term is used here only for technical reasons: it's the language of the contemporary-prehistoric society.

Violence is the essential character of the existing society against the contradictory nature of capital. Even in periods of prosperity and peace capital destroys goods and people, it leaves certain productive forces unused, it creates hunger. It is well known that the car has killed more French people than the 2nd World War. Violence is also ideological: forcing people to speak a specific language, erasing the local historic past, imposition of a strictly defined sexual practice. Capital even accomplishes the murder of the dead, i.e. of the past labour accumulated by previous generations, when it neglects or destroys the material infrastructure that it does not want or does not want to maintain. Capital, simply through its function, deteriorates, and crushes the bodies and spirits. The truncheon is an exemption. The "police State" is a component element and the product of a much more generalised phenomenon.

Collective resistance against capital includes violence as a means for the destruction of oppressive social relations. Or actually, something more: isolation is abolished in a collective practice that is, among others, violent. During the revolution, the human community re-emerges through violence. Violence is a means for the alteration of the relations of production and its use towards that direction is a collective act. Thus, violence becomes a positive way of refusing the social organisation, from the moment it goes it turns against its roots.

Some individuals or groups are forced to organise the collective use of violence in order to impose the satisfaction of their demands. In contemporary France, rarely is the issue of revolutionary violence posed in radical activities; but it becomes an issue of increasing vitality when the struggle against the State, the left and of the extreme left, takes the proportion of an open conflict and it is necessary to impose yourself practically in order to be able to express and to develop certain activities. In Spain, social relations promote a more pressured need to resort to violence, including armed struggle: in this way certain "military" duties are more pressing. But, even in this case, violence is the result of social needs that cannot be met otherwise, and not of the self-empowering logic of military mechanisms, cut off from social life and composed of people who have understood the need to resort to the armed struggle and as a consequence are organised and they recruit for that purpose.

The movement is forced to resort to violence, and in the organisation of this violence, in order to meet certain needs. Of course in this sector, total improvisation leads to failure. But also a constant and specialised organisational form will not have better results. The "preparation" for the use of violence is not the task of organised groups with exactly that perspective: it is a matter of bonds and means that exists within the proletariat and through it. The proletariat is not only the "outcast" and the negation of this society: in order to refuse its condition, it puts into practice the very means that the "proletarian experience" offers to it, its social existence and its function. It finds within its own being the elements of its programme, but also the means to realise it. At a social level, the armed struggle is conducted mainly in the network of relations that are a consequence of the proletariat's existence. The "preparation" for revolt is mainly a matter of theory, engagement in the social struggles, contribution to the progress of certain ideas, creation of relations and contacts, etc. There is no need for the creation of "specialised" military units with a label and with an organisation aimed at the use of violence. Every single action can be accomplished with the collaboration of individuals and groups which are neither organisationally constructed nor specialised; and it should be judged in accordance to its content and not to the logic of specialised "military" groups. The need for a label means that an organisation of armed struggle adopts as a criterion violence itself and not activities connected to real needs. The Guevara logic of guerilla fighting consists of exactly the creation of a military pole unconnected to any social movement. When a group considers itself the nucleus of a future "revolutionary" army, it acts outside of the proletariat and in most cases against it; it thus tends to be transformed into a micro-power, to a kind of preliminary State which stands as a candidate for the replacement of the old state mechanism.

In Spain there is a direct connection between revolutionary activity and "military" infrastructure, since every activity comes into conflict from the very beginning with the military violence of the State (repression of strikes, of gatherings/demonstrations, of the distribution of texts, etc). The necessity of a "military" infrastructure, i.e. of an organisation of violence, is thus obvious. But there exists a problem: what sort of infrastructure? In our opinion this infrastructure should not be an end in itself, but should be the instrument that allows the realisation of the rest of the activities, because it is them that play the decisive role. When for example a brochure is printed the problem is for it to circulate, and not to maintain a "military" structure which might be necessary for bringing it in the country from abroad. The revolutionary organisation organises the various specific duties that compose its reason of existence, and not itself. Its aim is not hijacking struggles in order to include them into its accomplishments: on the contrary, it makes sure that its activity theoretically and materially belongs to all, and that it helps, to an increasing extent, the initiatives which do not stem from itself and are beyond its control. Political organisations do the exact opposite. It should be added that the former way of organisation proves to be more effective against repression.

Of course there can be groups of struggle, but only as means for the class struggle. The purpose is the most effective possible expression of the subversive perspectives within the social struggles -which include the potential for armed struggle within this framework- and not the existence of well-organised and ready-for-all military groups. In the latter case, the groups that were formed outside the proletariat will remain external to it. The organisation of the organisation, on the one hand, and the organisation of the specific activities on the other, result into totally different relations within the social movement and the working class.
The practice of the Spanish revolutionaries did not aim either at the formation of a military mechanism nor to terrorism against individuals or buildings which represent the existing order of things, but the accomplishment of a limited material function. But every activity reproduces the conditions of its existence which tend to perpetuate it beyond the limits of its function. The less powerful is the social movement, the more the means are transformed into objectives. Thus the organisation of armed activities in illegality tends to create its own self-empowering logic: new financial needs, reasons for new robberies, etc. The only way for one to escape this dynamic is to have a clear conception of the targets of the movement. It is much more important to create groups of workers and to perform robberies if they think that it is useful, than to organise a military mechanism. The decisive criterion is not either centralisation or autonomy: the importance lies in the content of their activities. If they proclaim themselves as a constant and specialised mechanism, they lose all contact with the social struggles. There is the proletariat that struggles and there are individuals who organise themselves and might potentially decide to commit a robbery; not a military organisation from which stem all the rest as logical consequences. When it is necessary the social movement resorts to violence. And [translator's note: illegible word], those who do not use it, explain it and justify it theoretically.

The danger would be to recreate, under the pretext of practical necessities, a new type of a professional revolutionary, who stands out of the proletariat, not by inserting consciousness to it, but by fulfilling a duty that the proletariat, "left to its own powers" is unable to fulfil. We would thus revive "leninism", by substituting a violent act of the proletariat (to which we belong) the activity of groups (whether centralised or autonomous) composed by specialists of violence. The history of the movement shows that the groups of struggle that are organised outside of the proletariat end up, regardless of their good intentions, to autonomise themselves from the class struggle, by recruiting people very different from revolutionary proletarians and acting on their own behalf: for money, for self-projection or simply for their survival. This is what happened to the Bolsheviks. The understanding of the phenomenon is a necessary precondition of a radical critique of leninism.

Revolt destroys people and goods, but with the purpose of destroying a social relation and to the degree that it succeeds. Violence and destruction are not identical. Violence is mainly the appropriation of something with dynamic means. Revolutionary violence is a collective appropriation. Although capital needs to destroy in order to triumph, the communist movement on the contrary means the control of people over their lives. The "positivist" or "rational" or "humanitarian" conceptions neglect the real problem.

State-capitalists insist on the acquisition of power, whereas the point is the acquisition of the ability to act, to transform the world and ourselves. We do not need structures of power, but the power to change the structures. Moreover, they speak about arming the proletariat without connecting that to the content of the movement. Civil war plays the game of capital when it does turn against it. The problem is not arming the workers and their armed struggle, but the use of their weapons against commodity relations and the State. Civil war is not the absolute good opposed to the absolute bad of the imperialist war. A civil war can be totally capitalist and in fact posits two factions of the bourgeois state as opposed. The criterion for its evaluation should be the productive relations and the army: so long as commodity relations, and the military violence that upholds them, triumph, there is no movement towards the direction of social subversion. We always have to pose the question what does violence do, what do the workers do, even if they are organised in militias; if they support a power that maintains capital, it is nothing but a more developed form for the integration of workers to the State. The war in Spain brought into opposition two forms of the development of capital, different but anti-proletarian nonetheless. As soon as the workers' militias, that were formed to fight Franco's coup, accepted to be integrated in the democratic State, they made peace and they prepared a double defeat: against Democracy (crushing of the proletariat of Barcelona in May 1937) and against the nationalists. In this case the proletarian movement was once again a matter of content and only after that a matter of form.

In non-revolutionary periods, radical groups may have as a duty -among others and when it is needed- an organised violent practice. But they cannot act as an armed faction or a military part of the proletariat. Simply these revolutionaries remain proletarians like the others, who are led to enter a moment of armed struggle that results in a certain degree of illegality. The danger is for them to consider themselves as a separate and autonomous group, destined to use violence indefinitely. If they proclaim themselves and they act as specialists of violence, they will have a monopoly over it and they will detach themselves from the real social needs that exist in the subversive movement. Indeed they will tend not even to express their own needs. In relation to the rest of the proletariat, they will be transformed into a new power which seeks its recognition, as a mechanism which is at first military and then political.

The term "terrorism" could be used in a wide sense as the use of terrorism: in this sense capital is by nature terroristic. In the narrow sense, as a particular practice or some times strategy, it is the application of violence in the vulnerable parts of society. When it is not a constituent element of a social movement it leads to a violence detached from social relations. In countries where there is a harsh repression and in which the working class is atomised, there is a dynamic of terrorism in the cities that soon appears as the conflict between two mechanisms: of course victory belongs to the State. In the same way as workers often consider political struggles as a world above them, they often observe the conflict between the State and the terrorists, counting the victims. In the best of cases they feel a moral solidarity. We can in fact wonder if this conflict doesn't actually help in maintaining the social problem as secondary.

The means can potentially be transformed into the aim: here's a truth that does not only apply to violence. Theory, for example, a means for understanding and acting more effectively, can be reduced to a substitute for action. The results of this phenomenon are nonetheless very serious in the case of violence. Nobody can play with the "armed struggle". There are actions which, even though the point is not to "condemn" them (that is the function of judges), we can neither support them or consider them a positive fact. Capital desires the self-destruction of radical minorities. It forces certain revolutionaries to feel that they can no longer stand it: a way of neutralising them is to force them to take up arms against it. We are not referring to "agent provocateurs", but to social pressure. In such a case we cannot say that certain comrades were forced to act in this way and that's all. For a function of the social movement, as well as of the revolutionary groups, is to organise the resistance against these pressures. Of course theory does not fix everything. The understanding of a thing does not mean that a correspondent practice will follow. But theory is a part of practice and that we cannot ignore. Those who condone or refuse to criticise any violent act, fall into the trap of capital.

There are two illusions. It is thought that violence, because it is more directly related with reality, transforms it more than, for example, texts. But violence, in the same way as texts, can be used as a substitute of another practice. To be revolutionary has as a criterion a real tendency towards subverting the existent. Baader initially wanted to awaken the German proletariat, but he found himself isolated, not numerically but socially. At this point we have to deal with the other illusion, concerning the violence of the "masses". The criterion is never numerical. A small numbered minority can accomplish positive violent actions, if it is part of a social movement (something that applies to non-violent acts as well). Subversive action does not need to find refuge within the masses nor does it try to impress them with particular actions. By definition, those who oppose "minority violence" to the "violence of the masses", use the term masses while referring to the mechanisms that organise them, the big parties and the trade unions.

The more contradictory society becomes, the more it separates and atomises people, the more it intensifies the need for a community. Violence is revolutionary and it contributes to the formation of the human community only when it attacks against the foundations of the existing society. When it merely maintains illusions of pseudo-community, it is counter-revolutionary and it leads either to the destruction of subversive groups or to their transformation into extra power structures.

These observations are nothing but a small contribution to the discussion of the problem and they were collected hastily with the purpose of helping the Spanish comrades. Those imprisoned need, on the one hand, the truth to shine in relation to the revolutionary character of their energies and also the press to be notified of their case so that pressure can be exerted to the court; on the other hand, the revolutionary movement has to take care of their defence and the clarification of their actions. "Revolutionary" help cannot but come from the subversive elements themselves. In fact the second duty is a precondition for the first one, for it is not possible to expect the left or the extreme-left to essentially help people who fight against them.

Solidarity has no meaning outside of a practice: for that reason the usual campaigns "against repression" are by definition self-advertising actions of the organisations undertaking them. The individual can only offer his sympathy and the organisations that specialise in solidarity gather these individuals without doing anything. Solidarity suffices itself with organising solidarity. It is in fact highly reactionary when it condemns "scandals", at the moment when the supposed scandalous fact is a simple result of a cause which is conveniently placed outside the scope of critique. They thus end up denouncing or re-arranging the most obvious facts of social repression, while at the same time they save or modernise the whole.

Properly speaking the revolutionary movement does not organise any particular support. Its members -individuals or groups- support each other naturally through their activities and give each other the necessary help. The problem of "support" is only existent for those outside of the revolutionary movement. The subversive movement supports only those who need help through deepening its action, both in the field of relations and contacts and in the field of theory.

It goes without saying that when we fight for the accused to have a "political" trial we do not demand any sort of privilege for the "political" prisoners as opposed to the "criminal" prisoners. We might identify in their gangsterism capital's extreme tendency to live with clear cons and to create businesses without capital, and in turn show that the accused of Barcelona are not gangsters. Yet that is far from demanding any form of superiority of the "political" prisoners as against the "criminal" ones. As if any person who knows how to reproduce some Marx quotes has an advantage over others!! "Political" prisoners are not superior from the others. We do not demand this quality to be recognised in the name of a principle, but as a tactical means for decreasing their penalties.

Mouvement Communiste, 1973



Beasts of Burden - Review

A review of the pamphlet Beasts of Burden by Antagonism Press (1999) from undercurrent #8.

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

This pamphlet appeared recently with the expressed aim of being read by 'people interested in animal liberation who want to consider why animal exploitation exists, as well as how', and 'by those who define themselves as anarchists or communists who either dismiss animal liberation altogether or personally sympathise with it but don't see how it relates to their broader political stance'. Its overall argument is that animal and human exploitation are intrinsically related, and that the fight for communism is inseparable to the struggle against animal exploitation.

In general terms the pamphlet is very good. It traces the history of animal exploitation and it attempts to link that with the history of human exploitation by capital (and not only). A variety of valid points are made: the practice of animal exploitation is directly linked to the needs of capital and its ongoing quest for profit, instead of being characterised as an abstract 'evilness' of humans in general against animals.

More particularly, the author identifies that there exists a striking commonality between the exploitation of humans and animals, and this is traced back to capital's domination over our lives and its subordination of every human or animal need to the needs of valorisation. The author thus says at some point: "...with animals and with humans, the factory system aims to restrict the movement of the body to maximise profit", or, further on, "....[both animals and humans are treated as] an inert, unthinking object, whose creative, bodily, emotional needs are ignored...".

Furthermore, the practice of mass extermination is linked to the treatment of 'unproductive' and 'redundant' (from capital's point of view) humans and animals. Vivisection, this disgusting element of advanced capitalism, is openly linked to particular interests of capital, whereas medical research (whether it uses animals for experiments or not) is exposed for what it really is: a profit-oriented business which "...would rather let people die than allow their patented products to be made available on a non-profit basis".

Moreover, animal exploitation is shown to be interrelated to capital's projection of itself through commodity fetishism. The fact that animals are only seen as commodities with a 'natural' exchange value attached to them, instead of living organisms (in the same way that humans are seen as such) is stressed, as well as the way in which capital's marketing practices manage to conceal this ("...pork not pig, beef not cow").

Coming to the analysis of political struggles, certain aspects of animal liberation are strongly criticised. The practice of boycotting particular companies for their part in animal exploitation is correctly discredited as a misleading view which ignores the totality of capitalism, while the disgusting practice of attacking workers in animal factories as equally responsible for the maltreatment of animals is shown to be a fucked up practice which shows a "...lack of understanding of the dynamics of present day society, of a class analysis...".

Finally, the author is quick to renounce any notion of 'animal rights' in the same way that 'human rights' are attacked as a capitalist construction aimed at disguising existing inequalities and exploitation, and as an institutional construction for the facilitation of capital's domination.

However, despite these valid points the article encounters a number of problems when trying to argue that "...the development and maintenance of capitalism as a system that exploits humans is in some ways dependent upon the abuse of animals."

In tracing the history of animal exploitation, the author makes the remark that in primitive societies, humans were initially vegetarian, thus trying to assert that there is something natural about choosing this sort of diet. Yet, he fails to recognise that in these primitive societies most habits were determined by necessity and not by a conscious and moralistic choice. A totally unjustified glorification of primitive societies follows from this approach, resulting in the author saying that "...[primitive] communities typically live in a harmonious relationship with their environment; it is their home and their provider and it is not their interest to destroy it, by for instance, exterminating animal species". Again, the author mistakenly glorifies the primitive community by presenting only one aspect of it and ignoring that this 'harmonious' relationship was also dangerous, limited and dictated by a kind of necessity which we have nothing to be jealous for. The wild characteristics of animals of that period, which the author addresses in a positive way, also resulted in the constant fear of humans of being consumed by them, and was also partially responsible for people's choice to 'domesticate' themselves and the animals. Moreover, to claim that people's harmonious relationship with their environment led them to refrain from destroying it implies that 'people' (in general) today have an interest in destroying the environment, an attitude which comes in contradiction with the way in which the author later on links the destruction of the environment with the class nature of society and not with 'people's' attitude in general.

At another point, the author quotes Cammate who argues that "...out of the 'animal husbandry' grew both the notion of property ad exchange value', a view which wrongly implies that exchange value (i.e. the mode of appearance of things produced as commodities) existed long before production was generalised commodity-production.

It becomes increasingly apparent that, in analysing the origins of animal abuse, the author exaggerates its development and argues things like "From the earliest stages of domestication meat consumption was the conspicuous display of dominant ruling power" (our emphasis), thus implying that even today, the same social status is given to meat-eating. Moreover, this exaggeration reaches ridiculous levels, when the author implies that even the practice of war between humans was only made possible because of the domestication of animals and the attachment of value to their ownership. The fact that conflicts over things of value was the origin of war between humans is clearly irrelevant of what exactly these things were.

This reversal of subject and object is further committed by the author, when he argues that primitive accumulation primarily dependent on the animal industry, in the sense that peasants were driven off from their land in order to make room for sheep. Although primitive accumulation was generated through the exclusion of peasants from the land, to argue that the animal industry was its primal motor only results in mystifying the origin of capitalism. Sheep were only an expression of capital's development and not its underlying motor. The author exacerbates the argument when claiming that "the animal industry was the starting motor of primitive accumulation, without which the subsequent gains for the ruling class (the creation of a proletariat, access to mineral wealth, etc) may not have been accomplished". The fact that sheep happened to be vital for primitive accumulation in its starting points does not imply in any way that capitalism would not have developed if animals were not regarded as commodities.

Coming to a more contemporary analysis of capitalist social relations, the author states that "...the development of the factory for humans in the modern period was influenced by [the] long history of factory farming", and that "...the origins of the assembly line production are to be found in the US beef packing yards of the late 19th century". To say that the assembly line production process started in one part of industry and later influenced others because of its effectiveness in innovating capitalist production, again says nothing about the actual product of this industry. And although it may be the case that "...Henry Ford acknowledged that the idea for the automobile assembly line 'came in a general way from the overhead trolley that the Chicago packers used in dressing beef'...", this is irrelevant. The fact that the first industry to use assembly-line organisation of labour was animal-related does not mean that it could not have been another industry. There is nothing inherent in the animal industry which makes it the cutting edge of technological/exploitative innovations in the factory system, and thus the link between the development of the factory system and animal abuse seems, to say the least, highly coincidental.

In his examination of the animal liberation movement, the author argues that there is something inherently subversive in its practice, something which is initially based on the fact that "...given that we have argued for the centrality of animals to capitalism, a movement challenging the position of animals could hardly help but impact on capital". However, if that centrality is challenged, the argument collapses.

In a way it is right to argue that "...saving [the] animals from suffering and an early death directly confronts the logic of capital, abolishing their status as products, commodities and raw materials by reinstating them as living beings outside of the system of production and exchange". From another standpoint though, the same argument could be made for shoplifting, which, in a similar way abolishes the exchange value of commodities, and reinstates (in a sense) their use-value. Yet, it would hardly be plausible to argue that capitalism is threatened by it. However positive shoplifting is, it essentially expresses a need for 'free consumption' of the existing commodities, and not a subversive relation to a system of commodity production. The re-appropriation of some commodities does not necessarily imply a starting point for a generalised critique of capital in its totality, and saving some animals from a lab is no more a pathway to revolutionary consciousness than a variety of other situations, which might even occur in meat-eating environments.

Following the general argument that humans and animals are equally mistreated by capital, and that the exploitation of the former is interrelated to that of the latter since both are considered as commodities, no obvious connection is made between the struggle of proletarians against capital and the struggle for the liberation of animals. Nobody would deny that animals are treated in despicable ways, and that this stems from them being seen as commodities. But this does not convincingly result in equating the struggle for the liberation of animals with the movement of communism.1 In other words, although it is indeed shown that generalised animal abuse is as much a result of capitalist social relations, reading the pamphlet did not result in realising the inseparability between the struggle for communism and that of animal exploitation. It merely re-asserted the fact that animals are as much commodified as humans.

Communism is in fact the reconciliation of man and nature, and the end of the domination of one by another. Yet, the arguments brought forward in Beasts of Burden never manage to confront the inherent moralism of the animal liberation ideology, regardless of whether it can be shown that animal abuse is historically constituted.

At times when revolutionary practice is strikingly absent from our everyday life, when the movement that abolishes existing conditions appears to be in (temporary) retreat, and when the animal liberation movement attracts more people than struggles against capital per se, the pamphlet seems misplaced. Unless, that is, it convinces activists of animal liberation to reconsider the class character of animal abuse and to direct their attacks towards the society which gives birth to such practices and not merely one if its appearances.

Libcom note: the authors of Beasts of Burden responded to this review here.

  • 1At some point in the pamphlet, the author argues that "...Marxist political economy adopted the enlightened project of the domination of nature in its entirety with the natural world being perceived as an unlimited raw material for industrial progress", but with the development of capitalism and the ongoing destruction of the ecological system, "...some communists have begun to criticise this model". In fact, communists criticised and fought against this Stalinist model which identified revolution with the development of the productive forces and industrialism long before the destruction of the environment became the starting point of such a critique, and even for Marx communism "...as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism, and as fully developed humanism equals naturalism..."(Early Writings).


Review of 'Reflections on J18' - Undercurrent

Undercurrent's review of the critical 'Reflections on J18' pamphlet on the 'Carnival Against Capitalism' which happened in London in 1999.

Submitted by Ed on July 24, 2009

June 18 saw the biggest riot in London in years. A broad alliance of mostly ecological groups had called for a "carnival against capital" as on that day the political character masks of the world's eight biggest economies had their annual summit in Cologne, Germany. The event itself was as diverse as the alliance that had initiated it. Many enjoyed the sound-systems, some got pissed, others smashed up London's financial centre. This disrespect for private property and the cops is certainly correct; however, in what relation does the actual street fighting stand to the political contents of the campaign that led up to June 18? Is the whole "party as protest" approach an adequate form of resistance?

"Reflections on june 18", a booklet published last October, brings together a near twenty "contributions on the politics behind the events that occurred in the city of London on june 18". It is fortunately not preoccupied with the technical details that often substitute analysis, and it hardly bursts of riot euphoria. Quite the reverse - "paulp." thus writes: "it has always been a mistake to fetishise street rioting…and constantly try to read something social revolutionary in it. (...) Smashing windows is smashing windows...and throwing things at police is throwing things at police, a buzz yes, but none of these things automatically imply the refusal of capitalist wage labour and commodities, the creation of common wealth and the building of world human community." Instead of celebrating J18 for the damage done, most pieces develop critique of J18 in regard to both the ideological contents of the pre-J 18 propaganda as well as in terms of the form of activism and street party.

As far as the content of the mobilisation is concerned, many contributions underscore the critique we advanced in our last two issues (which are, by the way, also included in the booklet), i.e. most importantly the highly problematic notion of "globalisation" and its implications. Too often when people talk about "global capitalism", it seems that what they reject is not so much the noun but the adjective: as if local or national capitalism was any better. Dutch activists point out that "the critique of free trade has long been a speciality of the extreme right, and has proven to easily turn anti-Semitic"; a point supported by the forceful polemic by George Forrestier which, amongst many other things, takes issue with the anti-Semitic implications of the "fetishistic and reductionist attack on financial capital". The focus on the evil bankers the J18 propaganda had is obviously something that many find, if not even dangerous, then at least completely misleading. It manifests a reified view on capital which misses the crucial point: that capital is a social relation we all reproduce permanently by working or buying commodities. Thus, a series of articles stresses the necessity to attack wage-labour and the state instead of joining the ranks of those lefty reformist ideologues who oppose democratic state regulation to "globalisation", symbolised by the cosmopolitan, a-national financial centres. Whilst it is a nice surprise to see this central ideological notion of J18 being under massive attack, it in fact gets redundant after a while -some articles merely reassert the points made by others but don't come up with new arguments.

If capital is not the sum of evil corporations and banks but a totality of social relations, then this also affects questions of strategy and forms of resistance. An article titled "Give up activism" states: "Our methods...are still the same as if we were taking on a specific corporation or development, despite the fact that capitalism is not at all the same sort of thing and the ways in which one might bring down a particular company are not at all the same as the ways in which you might bring down capitalism. (...) So we have the bizarre spectacle of 'doing an action' against capitalism - an utterly inadequate practice." The point is not to combine existing particular campaigns kept running by activists. Rather, the role of the activist, an expert in social change, in itself is quite problematic because it considers capital and revolutionary opposition to it "an issue" separated from her life just as chopping rain forests or road construction is "an issue". Yet capital is not something in the vicious city - "them" - where you can go and protest, but it is virtually everywhere and most importantly it is based on our everyday practice. What is involved here is also the relation between the activist community and what is often patronisingly referred to as "ordinary people". While it is true that revolution won't come about by everybody becoming activists, the claim that "…of course class struggle is happening all the time" sounds like whistling in the dark. It is telling that the same contribution ends by stating that "activism is a form partly forced upon us by weakness", i.e. the downturn in (class) struggle. "It may be that it (activism) is only capable of being corrected by a general upsurge in struggle when we won't be weirdos and freaks any more" - so, there we have the "us" again that the author set out to question by reference to class struggle which is initially presented to be almost something as a law of nature (here: second nature, i.e. society). Another contribution suggests that the contemporary proletarian silence "is not apathy at all" but a sign of collective intelligence as they have learnt the hard way over decades not to get dragged into every limited partial struggle, particularly in cases where there is no chance of winning." (paulp., Mustn't grumble).

However, the booklet mainly represents the diverse and contradictory positions around J18. While "Give up activism" belongs to the most inspiring pieces in the booklet as it criticises the political forms of the direct action scene fundamentally, the following text comes up with a lengthy proposal for how to make activist campaign politics even better - i.e. it wants to make things worse by not only keeping the focus on finance capital, but furthermore concentrating on nodal points instead of aiming at its totality because this "remains an abstract proposition for most people". This is the patronising way in which teachers talk about how to enlighten their pupils - make it simple!

There are a bunch of stupid contributions like that one, but as a whole, "reflections on june 18" is encouraging through its sharp criticisms which alone can get us further. However, it remains a mystery to us that the Kosovo war which hardly found the attention of the activist community busily preparing for the big event is quite absent from these critical contributions - because for us this lack of involvement in the anti-war-movement says as much about the shortcomings of the direct action scene as does the critical analysis of J18 propaganda and activist forms.


Workers Against Work - Review

Submitted by libcom on July 24, 2005

This 400 page book is also available in a much shortened pamphlet version, which is probably easier to get hold of, and despite sounding dull as shit it's actually really interesting. It deals with the situations in France and Spain during their Popular Front governments of the 1930's, focusing on developments in Paris and Barcelona, drawing out the differences and similarities between the two. As Michael Seidman points out, there are a lot of books available on this period in both countries -what distinguishes this one is it's focus on the everyday lives of workers, rather than the actions of the unions, political parties, military forces etc that usually make history. What this reveals is that workers consistently tried to avoid work as best they could, a fact that's usually been hidden or ignored by the left.

France and Spain in the 1930's were in very different situations. In France a dynamic bourgeoisie had created a modern industrial economy, separated church and state and generally put the military under firm civilian rule. In Spain, however, even the most modernised areas as Catalonia were economically backward compared to France, the clergy was still a very powerful conservative force and the armed services were almost autonomous centres of right wing and fascist activity. In France the labour movement had been accommodated to an extent and was geared towards reformism, while in Spain it had little choice but revolutionary struggle. Despite these differences in both countries there was a widespread refusal of work, which proved a problem for both the anarcho-syndicalists who controlled most Barcelona unions and their reformist socialist and communist counterparts in France. Although they had many political differences, they were both committed to an ideology of glorifying work and developing the productive forces. For example, both resented capitalists as 'unproductive' and 'parasites', contrasting them with the hard working masses.

In Spain, where a revolution had given unions control of industry, they were faced with a dilemma -the ongoing war against Franco needed increased production, but workers refused to work any harder now their organisations controlled the factories than they did before. In fact they often tried to work less! The anarcho-syndicalists thought that all that was needed was for the workers to control industry and run it themselves. Workers showed sod all interest in doing so, however -in many places the only way to have mass meetings was to have them during the day, at the expense of production. Instead workers preferred to avoid work as much as possible by working slowly, leaving early, calling in sick and even insisting on respecting every religious holiday that could be found (not that many felt like using their Sundays to go to church). Faced with this the anarcho-syndicalists ended up abandoning their idea of workers control and tried to force people to work harder, re-imposing piece-work, factory discipline and so on. Not recognising a conflict between their goal for a free, stateless society and their ambition to run and develop industry, they put production first, even to the extent of becoming the world's first (and hopefully the last!) anarchist government ministers.

In France, where the unions were never actually in control of the economy, they were in some ways more consistently supportive of workers actions, since workers resistance to work was still the bosses problem and not theirs. However, serious differences still emerged between the rank and file and the leadership, which largely supported the popular Front government. After the Popular Front's election victory, a massive wave of strikes and factory occupations took place, "sensing a favourable political climate...2 million workers impulsively left their machines or laid town their tools in May and June 1936" (p. 220). Although concessions from the employers largely defused the situation, direct and indirect resistance to work continued at a high level, taking many of the same forms as in Spain. The left blamed this on the bosses, fascists and saboteurs rather than the working class they claimed to represent, when in fact it was workers resistance to work that created some of the Popular Front's most difficult problems. While enjoying the Popular Front's reforms, such as the creation of the weekend as holiday, workers refused to take up their side of the 'deal' and take on the left's vision of happy proles working harder. Instead they tried to reduce their worktime still and the state to maintain and increase production, eventually managing to restore a large measure of work discipline.

By revealing this hidden history of working class people refusing to identify themselves as workers, Seidman contributes to our understanding of what revolutionary change actually means. By glorifying production and the role of 'worker', groups with the best intentions ended up forcing actual working class people into the roles and factories they rejected. People will not willingly work at things they don't like, even if they can control their own workplaces, and no amount of revolutionary speeches or even revolutionary situations seems to change that. (The fact that such an obvious statement should sound surprising coming from most left/revolutionary groups shows just how many myths they've created about working people). Given that people won't work at the kind of shitty jobs that form the basis of the economy unless they're forced to, (whether just by having to survive in a world of wages and commodities or by more blatant coercion as well) we come to a choice between maintaining the state, perhaps dressed up as workers councils, unions etc and the industrial system, or getting rid of both. Seidman concludes that the State can't be abolished until a science fiction utopia of robotic production has been achieved, but there's no reason to take the current level of industry as a given. Just what level of technology and production people would want to maintain in a free, classless society we can't say, but it's safe bet that it wouldn't include the heavy industry and factory system developed by the inhuman needs of capital and currently fucking up both workers health and eco-systems around the world.