Correspondence: Subversion #21

Discussons on resistance the Job Seekers Allowance, and a member of Class War's views on nationalism.

Dear Subversion,

Regards the JSA and all that, here are a few points I would like to add. Claimants are not the same thing as workers who are unemployed, and not all claimants are necessarily working class. To the contrary, in areas like Brighton or London quite a large number of claimants are middle class. Claimants do not struggle they just make claims, just like commuters do not struggle they just commute and TV viewers do not struggle they just consume TV. It is proletarians who struggle (in the social revolutionary sense of the word struggle). The term "claimant", like "commuter"; or "TV viewer", is a term that integrates individuals into a capitalist citizen role under the system while concealing class differences and contradictions. It is unemployed proletarians we should be interested in rather than "claimants".

Also, to focus primarily on the JSA is in practise a nationalistic approach, even if this is not consciously intentional. It delineates struggle around the specific technicalities of the national bureaucracy only. Maybe this has to do with a continuing patriotic sentimental attachment to the british imperial welfare state. This immediately cuts the struggle up and undermines the possibilities for internationalism. The JSA doesn't necessarily mean a thing to unemployed proletarians in Los Angeles or Paris or Johannesburg or Seoul or Mexico City. But things like casualisation and workfare and prison labour are immediately international things for proletarians in many parts of the world. Why therefore an insistence on focussing so heavily on "claimant" issues and the "JSA" by people like groundswell and brighton autonomists?

If unemployed workers are to coalesce and fuse together with other workers in struggle, it is a thousand times more important for them to do so with workers like the dockers and their community or striking transport workers or prison work strikers than to waste time with the complete red herring and diversion of linking claimants to civil servants. Indeed the process of subordinating the struggles of unemployed proletarians to "claimant" activism and campaigns and then subordinating these campaigns in a verticalist and corporatist way to the narrow sectionalist demands of their immediate supervisors in the bureaucracy's chain of command (dole officers) is the surest way of keeping unemployed proletarians isolated and weak.
Yours for social revolt,

P (Reading)

Reply

We are not sure about P's use of the term "middle class", which is often used to describe people who are simply white collar workers. Most "claimants" are people who would ordinarily have no access to the means of existence except through selling their labour power for a wage or salary, which defines them as working class at least in economic terms, if not in a revolutonary sense. Workers, waged or unwaged, need to go beyond the categories of their job, or identification as "claimants" or "consumers", to identify as a class with common interests against the whole capitalist system. But this is not just a matter of language. It is something that can only be forged through practical struggle.

Many groups may call themselves "anti-JSA", since this is what spurred the present round of resistance, but this doesn't automatically restrict them to a narrow (potentially reformist) outlook. Some of the groups, including many involved in the Groundswell network, have recognised their common interests with, for example, the French unemployed workers who recently occupied "dole" offices in France, or the Liverpool dockers fighting casualisation. In this last instance they have made useful contacts and engaged in joint acivity.

We in Subversion would not suggest that any section of the working class should "subordinate" its struggle to the struggle of any other section. We support attempts by unemployed workers and dole office workers to fight together where this is practical, but agree that it is important not to prioritise this over linking with other workers in struggle.

OPEN LETTER TO SUBVERSION

Subversion: you can’t tell the difference between tactical interventions in the working class i.e. the Class War paper, our political beliefs. You also try to grossly simplify a really complicated situation, & never attempt to see any positive actions (in e.g. the IRA) because this upsets your ideological purity. You also never comment on loyalism its loyalty to the British capitalist state.

For example during the recent wave of riots loyalist mobs were attacking working class catholic areas with UVF gunmen for safety. The word got back to the boys (IRA) & out came the rifles & the loyalist mob was taken out of the area. The IRA recently historically armed because of this very reason in the late 1960s.

So, we see that the working class are at least part of the IRA & also call on it for support in certain situations. What would Subversion suggest doing in the situation above on the streets of Belfast? Call the IRA ìmurdering scumî like you have before? Excuse me while I laugh.

Not being personally clued up on the nature of the entire republican movement I dare say there may be some ìbourgeois nationalistsî in it, but the ruling classes will split in any revolutionary situation. The IRA is a broad church (a bit like Class War) & it is unrealistic to condemn it or write off the militants within it as you do.

At its core Class War supports ìindependent action by the working class for its own, independent class interestsî but also realises that social life is complicated & that interventions must be made on a realistic basis. We do not support counter revolutionaries ever.

What we do support is working class people defending themselves & their communities by whatever means they see fit & realisable, & offer conditional support to working class people in struggle everywhere. ìCoolî is a euphemism for ìconditional supportî, & we donít print stuff like you write because it has no relevance to peopleís daily lives in war torn Belfast.

In an individual capacity, D.C. ( a member of London Class War)

SUBVERSION REPLY:

1) If you say something for "tactical" reasons that is not what you actually believe, then this is lying to the working class, the sort of thing we expect from Trots and Stalinists and is absolutely unacceptable for revolutionaries.

2) It doesn't add anything to the debate to accuse us of "ideological purity" simply because we disagree about something, or because we think an issue is more crucial than you do. For instance, if there was a radical organisation around that believed in supporting the British Army ( or maybe had some people who supported it and some who didn't) you would condemn such a view without hesitation, as we would. You would not be impressed by the argument that this was a tactical question, and that you should abandon your "ideological purity".

In Subversion, we firmly believe that the IRA is every bit as reactionary as the British State and its army. We see no difference in supporting either of them. It's just that one of them has the support of the Left for its anti-working class programme. This is no different from supporting the Bolsheviks against Kerensky, or Labour against the Tories.

This is the crucial question that we disagree on, and if we are right, then this is clearly a major issue dividing a revolutionary position from a counter-revolutionary one - not a question of "obscure pedantry" or "ideological purity", so you can't logically accuse us of that as part of your argument, only as part of your conclusion, which you have to establish beforehand by concrete argument.

3) We don't write about the Loyalists for the same reason we don't write about the Tories - our readership is highly unlikely to include closet Tories or Loyalists, and we don't want to waste time preaching to the converted. Our readership does, however, include some people who are at least partially sympathetic to Labour, and to Irish Republicanism, so these are important issues to tackle.

4) In a situation of wholesale sectarian division like Northern Ireland, working-class people will often in desperation find themselves forced to turn to the paramilitary power of "their" community for self-defence - this is just as true of Protestant workers relying on Loyalist paramilitaries as it is of Catholics relying on Republican ones, so in itself this is not an argument that the IRA is different from the UVF etc. Similarly, most working class people in Britain, when faced with anti-social attacks by e.g. burglars, muggers or rapists, would turn to the Police for (the vain hope of) protection. In all of these cases it is the apparent absence of an alternative that makes people seek help from those quarters - but none of this means that those bodies are not anti-working class.

5) The working class is most certainly not "part of the IRA". It is a wholly bourgeois organisation. It is NOT a "broad church". The fact that members may come from a working class background does not change this, otherwise we would have to say that at least some fascist organisations, not to mention the Armed Forces of many countries, were working class organisations!

What determines the class nature of any organisation is its political nature, i.e. what its programme is, what it is striving for. The IRA, like all other national liberation movements in the world, aims at a capitalist society, differing from their enemies only in where the borders are going to be, or which faction of capitalism is going to be calling the shots in "their" territory.

6) The ruling classes will NOT split in a revolutionary situation. Far from it - it is in periods of class peace that factional differences within the ruling class have greater expression; when the capitalists feel their very existence is under threat, they will forget their internal quarrels and unite against the working class.

7) You say that although you support class action for class interests, life is "complicated" and we must be "realistic". Such talk is the age-old language of opportunism, behind which countless former revolutionaries have betrayed their class and ended up supporting the vilest, bloodiest reaction. You are on a slippery slope.

8) You say you don't ever support counter-revolutionaries and in the very next paragraph admit that you give "conditional support" to those vile capitalist scum, the "cool" FLN of Algeria.

You need to think about what it means to give "conditional support" to the kind of political movement which has oppressed and slaughtered members of our class in country after country around the world.

To conclude:

People like Mandela, Arafat, Ho Chi Minh, Gerry Adams, you name it, have been prevented by the particular circumstances in those countries from using electoral means to achieve their aims. So they have had to use military means - to achieve REFORMIST objectives.

You can see clearly enough that the opposition of parties such as Labour is merely Tweedledum aiming to replace Tweedledee. But you are easily suckered by parties and organisations whose ONLY difference is that they use guns and bombs to achieve similar ends.

Stop looking at their guns and take a look at their politics. Then you might wise up to the fact that these bastards are our class enemy.

Reply to Subversion

Hello again, thanks for the reply but you did not answer my other questions about prisons, crime & football hooliganism (not an abstract question of support for all hooligans, but a look at the good things some hooligans do).

To get to your points on Ireland, I used "IDEOLOGICAL PURITY" to summarise many points. I will develop these here below. When I said "tactical reasons" this meant that we do not believe in writing people off before finding out what the real conditions are like. You do not get into people's real worlds by being an outsider & that is what Subversion are doing. For you to say that we should only be "pure revolutionaries" puts you into a fantasy realm of separation from concrete struggles, & also means that we would have to question things like signing on because it implies support for the capitalist state!

You mentioned that the IRA have an "anti working class programme". Where is it & what does it consist of , or are you implying it (making it up)? If all members of the IRA would agree on one, I would be surprised. Also, do you really believe the IRA has a chance of establishing itself to become a government in a united Ireland (because this appears to be the logic of your position). Given the huge dominance of the British state this appears unlikely unless in a period of a highly intensified class struggle in England, Scotland & Wales we can force the ruling class with its imperialist mind set to get out of Ireland. If so, I would imagine that revolutionary fervour would have gripped the Irish population so it would not tolerate authoritarian government (or any government).

A revolutionary position recognises the legacy of 300 years of British imperialism & the necessity of entering into debate with the oppressed. Our intervention is designed to find our what are the possibilities given the historical reality of imperialist oppression.

You still refuse to talk about loyalism & its scabby loyalty to the British capitalist state. What a perverse logic you have. You assume your readers like the IRA (god knows why given your record), & you refuse to talk about the transplanted loyalists & their political beliefs & allegiances. So we have it complete. You've no strategy & no full political discussion (& possibly indirectly a hatred of working class Catholics).

By not looking at the British capitalist state's imperialist history YOU CAN SAFELY ignore loyalism's allegiance to the anti working class (Catholic) ideology of the British state. You do not distinguish between what sort of actions are the ones we would support in response to the violence by the British state.

I find your emotive language to be amusing because you are obviously would be intellectuals with elitist views who have found themselves a niche. From your safe little homes you deny 300 years of Imperialist history, intervention or research into the resistance in the North of Ireland. What's more, YOU are not interested. If Germany had won World War 2 & we were subject to imperialist occupation, & we had managed to get a huge bomb to go off in the financial heart of Berlin. Would you be happy? I know I would. I know it is not working class self activity on a mass scale, but imperialist occupations do create exceptional situations.

WHAT ARE the actions you would support against the next example of British Imperialist aggressions that always lead to working class catholic deaths or injury? OR DO YOU DENY THE OPPRESSED THE RIGHT TO RESIST?

It is not that we are gun worshippers, but it is the concrete actions of the working class to Imperialist aggression on a mass level from which we draw our respect for these people e.g. Free Derry, & the widespread rioting this year. Now you have no respect & do not want to consider the concrete reality of life in the North of Ireland. What you present is a picture of "IRA Scum" in an abstract, ahistorical (without history) manner. Quite like that presented by the British media, & this is not a Marxist or Anarchist position (so who are you?)

. In answering your point 5 you say that "the class nature of any organisation is its political nature". However, you have only to look at a a lot of "revolutionary groups" to see that this is not true. Middle class people who are in a "revolutionary working class organisation" have been one of the greatest barriers to revolution because REAL working class people can see them to be the fraud they are. Therefore it is the class composition of the organisation, plus its political programme which determines the class nature of any organisation.

I happen to recognise that working class people make a lot of ideological choices. Unfortunately, a lot join the police, or are born into loyalism, or form many armies around the world. But this does not alter the fact that continued allegiance to the British capitalist state (or any state) makes them the enemy of the revolutionary working class in whichever country. It is time that a lot of people realised that working class people carry with them a lot of ideological beliefs which inform the decisions they make. Often you have only got to look at your own family to see that this is true. The loyalist working class have chosen to ensure their relative economic dominance by continued allegiance to the British state, a bit like scabbing.

Our "conditional support" does not mean we support the slaughtering of our class & it's crass ignorance & stupidity to assert that it does. Generally, "cool" as a word meaning "conditional support" means we respect the initiatives taken towards self management & violent resistance e.g. to the Imperialist capitalist British state (or any other state). Mainly by the people, & not their political leadership. This is not "opportunistic", but is designed to discover what is the real meaning in real conditions for the people concerned & what is the potential for revolution. This is the real strategy of liberation.

What you are advocating is a type of ultra left imperialism whereby you indirectly end up supporting the British state, it is Subversion who are on the slippery slope.

D.C. (London Class War)

Subversion Reply

1) The phrase ìpure revolutionariesî is yours, not ours. We DO NOT believe in separating ourselves from concrete struggles, but we support ONLY the concrete struggles of the working class, fighting for working class interests. The IRA is a capitalist force fighting to maintain the slavery of our class under new bosses.

What you are doing is supporting an anti-working class proto-state in the name of being ìtacticalî - this just underlines the points we made about opportunism in the first reply.

2) Sinn Fein published their programme (Eire Nua) long ago. Besides, even if you havenít read it, you canít seriously doubt that the Republican Movement is nationalist. It hardly matters if they disagree about this or that detail. So do Labour, or the Tories, about their own programmes. Your problem is that you donít think nationalism per se is counter-revolutionary.

3) As to whether the IRA has a chance of coming to power, this is indeed extremely unlikely, but so what? After all, we agree that Fascism should be opposed even though Fascist groups in Britain have even less chance of ever coming to power.

The point about revolutionary fervour preventing an authoritarian government coming to power is clearly not true, because there have been many ìrevolutionsî of the sort dominated by nationalist ideas such as the IRAís and authoritarian ìrevolutionaryî governments are the norm as a result.

Even more radical upsurges, involving a major element of independent class struggle, such as the Russian Revolution, give little grounds for complaisancy. The Bolshevik party was far more plausible in its radicalness than the Republican Movement (which is why even many Anarchists joined it during the revolution) and yet we all know that Leninís government created a brutal state-capitalist regime almost unrivalled in its savagery.

4)Thereís little to add about Loyalism except that you yourself are an example of one of our readers who is soft on Republicanism - we have yet to see any evidence of Loyalist sympathisers among our readership. As to the point about us hating working class Catholics (a contemptible remark) it is perhaps worth pointing out that I myself, the author of these two responses plus our original Open Letter, am a working-class, part-Irish, Catholic (by upbringing).

5) The points about Germany are a dead giveaway. The logic of one form of nationalism does indeed lead onto other forms! You admit that if Germany had won the war you would support Britain!

For the record, no we most certainly WOULD NOT support British bombing of Germany, regardless of whether the German ruling class dominated Britain. We repeat: we ONLY support struggles of the working class (regardless of country) against the ruling class (regardless of country).

6) When you ìdefineî the Marxist and Anarchist positions and say ìwho are you?î you give a good illustration of why we disdain labels. They encourage people to put everyone in neat categories or boxes that can be dismissed without actually listening to what they are really saying. We have never claimed to be Marxist or Anarchist, and if that means people find it harder to put a neat label on us, tough.

(For a good summary of what in Subversionís view distinguishes revolutionaries from the Left (in all its varieties), see the article ìThe Revolutionary Alternative to Left-Wing Politicsî in Subversion 16).

7) You are right that the class composition of an organisation as well as its political programme determine its class nature, but we might disagree about who is middle-class and who is working class (see correspondance on this issue in previous issues of Subversion).

But who are these middle class people in revolutionary organisations who you say have been such a barrier to revolution? If youíre referring to Trot groups, they are in our view capitalist organisations (with a state-capitalist programme).

8) You then repeat the same points about ìconditional supportî, contradicting yourself by saying a) you donít support the slaughtering of our class, and b) "...'cool' as a word meaning 'conditional support' means we respect the initiatives taken towards self management & violent resistance to [capitalist states]. Mainly [!] by the people, & not their political leadership.î

This correspondance was started by Class Warís use of the word ìcoolî to describe the FLN of Algeria. Their ìinitiative towards self-managementî etc. was to crush the working class and create a new capitalist regime (which, to my knowledge, even the most gullible of Trots have never called a ìworkersí stateî!).

It is this casual blurring of the line between struggles of the working class and the actions of bourgeois states or proto-states (such as all national liberation movements) that cause us to describe Class War as opportunist.

9) Your final point about ultra left imperialism is not totally clear, but if you mean that to fail to support one side in a war necessarily means to support the other side, then this surely applies in all wars.

Is this not tantamount to saying that the only choices that exist are between this group of capitalists and that group, with us workers as nothing more than cannon-fodder on one side or another?

Is this not an utter denial of the existence of a class, the working class, with its own independent interests separate from those of the capitalist class?

For all that they may sometimes make war on each other with the utmost savagery, our rulersí interests are fundamentally and diametrically opposed to ours. We should never abandon our class interest by siding with any of our enemies.

And for all that they make war on each other, the capitalists are in every country united in support of their class interest, which they pursue when necessary with single-minded fervour. We should be as single-minded in support of ours!