Archive for the ‘Communism’ Category

Datacide conference review by history is made at night

November 22, 2008

Check out Neil’s review of the conference and party HERE

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Datacide conference review on uncarved.org

November 21, 2008

John Eden has written a review of our recent event, check it HERE

Datacide 10 OUT NOW!

November 2, 2008

OUT NOW: with 56 pages the biggest datacide so far, it’s full of features and reviews.
Secessionist Outernational: Self-Exile and Poetry, Howard Slater: Convergent Suggestion – on Surrealism and Organisation, JR: Denial Networks – On Crisis and Continuity in the 9/11 Truth Movement, Neil Transpontine: A Loop Da Loop Era – towards an (anti-)history of Rave, CF: Radical Intersections, Controlled Weirdness: You’re Too Young to Remember the Eighties – Dancing in a different time, The Reverend: More than just a Night out – Rave as confrontation, Dan Hekate: All things fall and will be built again, Rafael Castellanos: Visible and invisible fragments of experiences (About Bogotrax festival), Hans-Christian Psaar: Commodities for the Jilted Generation, Alexis Wolton: Teknival and the emancipatory potential of technology, Riccardo Balli: Audio-Philosophical Dwellings.
Stewart Home on Peter Whitehead and the Sixties, Nemeton on Boris Mikhailov’s Unfinished Dissertation, JR on “The Description of Bankruptcy”, CF on François Genoud, Nemeton on “Everybody talks about the Weather… We don’t: The Writings of Ulriike Meinhof”, Balli on “Situationism on Wheels”, CF on “Battlenoise!” and the ideology of Martial Industrial, Plus record reviews, charts, Bloor Schleppy, End of Vinyl?, Pencilbreak and more.
available for EUR 3.00 from praxis.c8.com/catalog now
or from good stores and mail orders soon!

Conference 2008

October 15, 2008

Datacide Conference 2008 TIMETABLE

Doors open: 15.00

15.30 – Christoph Fringeli: Introduction to the conference and some thoughts on Hedonism and Revolution
16.15 – Hans-Christian Psaar: Kindertotenlieder for Rave Culture
17.00 – Lauren Graber: Countervailing Forces: Electronic Music Countercultures and Subcultures
17.30 – Alexis Wolton: Tortugan towerblocks: Pirate signals in the 90s
18.00 – John Eden: Shaking The Foundations: Reggae soundsystems meet ‘Big Ben British values’ downtown
19.00 – BREAK
20.00 – Neil Transpontine: A Loop Da Loop Era: towards an (anti)history of ‘rave’
21.00 – Stewart Home: Hallucination Generation

DISCUSSION

Downstairs:
23.00 – Mario D’Andreta (Alien City Soundscapes)
24.00 – Line Destruction (Spine)
24.45 – Circuit Parallele (Spine, Hekate)
1.30 – The Wirebug (Hekate, Coven H, London)
2.30 – DJ Controlled Weirdness (Unearthly, London)
3.30 – Blackmass Plastics (Dirty Needles, U.K.)
4.30 – Kovert (Criticalnoise.net, Datacide, London)
5.30 – El Gusano Rojo (Hijos de Puta)

After the MIKZ has been closed down the event is now taking place at the
K9, Kinzig Str. 9, 10247 Berlin-Friedrichshain
nearest public transport: U5 Samariterstrasse
start from 15.00

Datacide Conference 2008 and Party
DIA DE LOS MUERTOS

31.10.08

K9
Kinzigstr.9
10247 Berlin-Friedrichshain

Doors open 15.00
Conference start at 15.30

Christoph Fringeli: Introduction
A brief introduction to Datacide, where it’s coming from and a brief introduction to the new issue and the conference.

Christoph Fringeli: Hedonism and Revolution
Will true pleasure only exist after the revolution, or will it be indispensable to even lead to the revolution?
Proclaiming the revolutionary as a “doomed man” without “personal interests”, the anarchist Sergey Nechayev set the pace for an ascetic image of the revolutionary that would be picked up by the direct heirs of Bakuninism: the Leninists. An “ideal” of a person without desires and only one passion – the revolution – was supposed to bring about a society of human fullfillment, something that had to go wrong, and end in the misery of the Maoist and Trotzkyist sects. But there has always been a hedonist counter-tendency to this, from Fourier to Sexpol to the Commune movement and the counter cultures of the 60’s to the 90’s. CF will examine some of the tensions and discussions that took place in the 70’s and ask if they have any relevance now.

Neil Transpontine: A Loop Da Loop Era: towards an (anti)history of ‘rave’
(History is Made at Night)
‘In 2008 the UK media have been full of stories about the ’20th annversary of acid house’. Neil Transpontine critiques this conventional history, and celebrates instead the multiple trajectories that converge and pass through the various sonic, social and chemical phenomena grouped under that unstable term ‘rave’. It is a story that takes in not just 303s and 808s but gay riots, carnival uprisings and underground jazz clubs in 1940s Europe’.

Stewart Home: Hallucination Generation
Looking at some of the more occulted aspects of the counterculture in 1960s London. How some of the key figures in the development of the scene rarely make it into the histories. Terry Taylor the first person to mention LSD in a British novel, and the inspiration
for both Absolute Beginners and Mister Love and Justice by a better known writer Colin MacInnes. Detta Whybrow and the first major LSD distribution network in London after the drug was made illegal. Alex Trocchi, drug dealing and black powers. Plus the Notting Hill’s problematic writers of the 1950s who later occupied positions on the outer fringes of the counterculture.

John Eden: Shaking The Foundations: Reggae soundsystems meet ‘Big Ben British values’ downtown
John Eden will examine the contribution reggae soundsystems have contributed to British culture and identity, and what they can teach the global mp3 generation.
John has contributed writing to a vast number of independent publications over the years and currently co-edits Woofah magazine – “a completely DIY rag covering reggae, dubstep and grime”. He has run his own uncarved.org website since 1997.
He began unleashing his musical taste on the world in the mid 80s by wrestling all-comers off the stereo at house parties and standing guard whilst his carefully compiled cassettes played. More recently he has contributed sets to the respected Blogariddims podcast series and played records at a bewildering array of obscure London venues.

Hans-Christian Psaar: Kindertotenlieder for Rave culture.
It´s a common myth in music subcultures to think of themselves as independent. But what happens? Commodities get produced and sold on the market to consumers. No matter if those consumers wear dreadlocks or suits. Rebellion and subversion are labels to sell capitalist goods in the cultural industry. Be creative! Have fun! Those are the new imperatives of post-fordist capitalism and its cultural economies. The talk will show on the examples of The Prodigy and Kid606 how rave music is branded and sold.

Lauren Graber: Countervailing Forces: Electronic Music Countercultures and Subcultures
This paper will open with a discussion of how counterculture and subculture have been defined, and then ask what is at stake when we seek to assess divergent avenues within electronic music in these terms. Central to the operational imperative of subculture is the solidification of style and genre – visible and audible signs connoting sameness and belonging. The tactics of visibility and disappearance enacted as subcultural and countercultural everyday practices will be drawn out through a commentary on the book “Psychedelic White: Goa Trance and the Viscosity of Race” and other oppositional tendencies in experimental electronics.

Alexis Wolton: Tortugan towerblocks: Pirate signals in the 90s
After a clampdown on pirate activity at the end of the 80s, the housing estates of London saw a renewed explosion of pirate stations in the early 90s. During the 90s commentators enthusiastically linked the pirate stations with Hakim Bey’s ideas on pirate utopias, information networks and self-organisation. A decade later the pirates still exist, their relationship to the world radically changed by the internet, but the positivist optimism of 90s technoculture has waned, many of its hopes recuperated by Capital.
A discussion of the history and legacy of pirate radio, the theories of self-organisation that accompanied it and current ideas on participatory media.

OPEN ENDED PANEL DISCUSSION

PARTY:
noise:_____from 23h
Mario D’Andreta (Alien City Soundscapes)
Line Destruction (Spine)
Circuit Parallele (Spine, Hekate)
The Wirebug (Hekate, Coven H, London)
DJ Controlled Weirdness (Unearthly, London)
Blackmass Plastics (Dirty Needles, U.K.)
Kovert (Criticalnoise.net, Datacide, London)
El Gusano Rojo (Hijos de Puta)

Main Features of Datacide 9 online

September 6, 2008

It’s long overdue – but finally we put up some of the main features of Datacide 9 in the archives at http://datacide.c8.com

Howard Slater:
LOTTA CONTINUA – Roots Music and the Politics of Production

YOU MUST HELP YOURSELF:
NEO-LIBERAL GEOGRAPHIES AND WORKER INSURGENCY IN OSAKA


Christoph Fringeli:
ANTI-IMPERIALISM – Bankruptcy of the Left?

COIL INTERVIEW 1986
Originally published in „Vision 2 – Turn To Crime“ by CF

Christoph Fringeli:
Anti-Semitism from Beyond the Grave
Muslimgauze’s Jihad

Bifo in Osaka

July 15, 2008

Franco Berardi, better known as the Italian media theorist Bifo, was in Osaka, Japan last week as part of a tour that brought him to the protests against the G8 meeting in Hokkaido. He gave a talk on media activism at an event organized by Remo, a local media collective, where he discussed not only his own activity in Italy but posed some critical questions to the audience about the situation in Japan.

He began by playing a short documentary on Telestreet, a pirate television project organized around Italy that seeks to create self-media and challenge the existing media monopoly held by people like Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian media magnate turned prime minister. This project began in 2002 and spawned over 200 local stations that spread about cities in a cellular model: from their mixers to transmitters to transmitters,

For around 500 euros you can get set up with the basic infrastructure to broadcast: an aerial, cables, transmitter and amplifier. It’s possible to transmit from an ordinary roof-top TV aerial, though many of the TeleStreets use more expensive transmitters that allow them to broadcast further. On average they broadcast to around 1km, depending on the terrain. The better ones up to 3kms. Only a couple, such as TeleImmagini?, broadcast 24 hours a day. Some a few hours a day, others once a week, others sporadically. The TeleStreets broadcast mostly in the shadow of commercial stations, in areas where that stations’ signal it not receive clearly or at all.”

The stations and the support around them become micro-networks and their output can be accessed by any television set within range. Operators geared their new pirate studios towards relaying information about local organizations, struggles, factories, neighborhoods, news, music…

Public access with teeth? More like the public accessing itself, decrypting the codes that turn receivers into transmitters.

Telestreet and the depth of activity around it did not emerge from nowhere. Its operators are products of an experimental tradition with and against media and network technology connected deeply with the autonomist left in the country.

“While being an extremely recent practice, the street television movement draws on a history of experiments with independent media carried out since the seventies by the “creative wing” of the Italian autonomist movement. In particular, many of the figures involved in setting up Tele Orfeo in Bologna played a large part in the pirate radio station Radio Alice, whose launch in Bologna in was fueled by public disillusionment with the commercial media landscape that was just then beginning to take shape. As the organizers suggested in a 1977 statement, communication was central to their radical struggles: “Capital’s program: communication within itself, neutralization of communication that is exterior to it. Its tactic: to disconnect communicative relationships from their objects, desire, power, truth… Communication is subversive: Power knows this… Our program: Subversion. Its means: Communication. Its content: Information. (Radio Alice, 1977) Broadcasting with a transmitter retrieved from an old army tank, Radio Alice chronicled the insurrectional events of 1977 in Bologna and its politics condemned by both the Italian state and the Italian Communist Party (the PCI).”

Against this uncontrolled communication and subversion, which bypassed the existing forms of media representation and had begun to overcome them, Bifo described a focused effort on behalf of the ruling media conglomerates during the 1980s and 90s to attack the pirate media by pushing advertising and commercial television onto the airwaves, “a political aggression against society” that aimed not only for media control but (more fundamentally) to break down social solidarity. To some degree this counter-offensive succeeded and radio and television were more and more in the hands of media barons. Telestreet was brought together precisely to oppose this media paradigm with a broad auto-productive praxis. What effects did it have? Bifo disappointingly describes Telestreet as ‘a failure’. Not in the sense that the stations have ceased operation or been abandoned, no it is that Berlusconi the media king has won re-election in 2008 despite their efforts; to him this shows that they failed to go far enough. That they still have a long way to go.

This honesty struck me. How many are actually willing to admit the failure of a social movement, despite its contribution to real creative autonomy, in order to examine what a movement has achieved with no holds barred? It seems quite rare, especially on the radical left which too often prioritizes ‘movement’ above anything else. It is perhaps this lack of reflection, the peer pressure urge to always ‘look on the bright side’ which characterizes the aftermath of the G8 protests in Hokkaido, which Bifo’s visit coincided with. Coming nowhere near to the goal of ‘shutting down the summit’, the protests were largely characterized by complacent marches in the shadow of $280 million dollars sent on security and 21,000 police goons lined up against a mere 1,000 or so protesters. From the beginning, the organizers formally negotiated with the police and paid the price: the marches passed nowhere near the meeting site and instead were forced into routes through the countryside at obscene distances, epitomized by a 22km daytime march through mountains and forest roads that only 100 people attended after the vast majority of participants denounced it and refused to attend. Despite the ‘good behavior’ of the organizers, four activists were nevertheless arrested for pathetically arbitrary reasons, such as having three people at a time on the sound system float (only two were allowed). Media coverage was mostly absent, even in ‘independent media’ despite the presence of hundreds of cameras. It is safe to say that the protests were not noticed at all, and even on their own limited terms were failures. Will there be people brave enough to admit this?

What success the G8 protests achieved was found in bringing together new interactions between Japanese anti-capitalists and internationals. Bifo’s talk was one of these, as well as the longer series of informationals and events held in major cities and Hokkaido. Having been to the marches, it seemed that Bifo had critiques of his own. After briefly introducing his activities with Telestreet and pirate radio, he turned the arrows the other direction. ‘I have had enough of talking about Italy and Europe…I want to know what goes on here.’ He noted the feeling of strong difference he felt from actions like Paris and Genova, the relation between the activists and the police, between the marchers and the city. The straight lines. The people calmly drinking coffee while others are brutally arrested for the crime of making music. He moved to tear away at the usual expectations: ‘all of this, workers movements, student movements and so on are in the past’. We need a refoundation, to find resistance in phenomenon which express the emptiness of capitalist socialization, ‘the loneliness, the depression, the suicides’. But where is this to be found?  Bifo points out the hikikomori (the pulled away), defined by

“the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare… as individuals who refuse to leave their parents’ house, and isolate themselves away from society in their homes for a period exceeding six months.[2] While the severity of the phenomenon varies depending on the individual, some youths remain in isolation for years, or in rare cases, decades. Often , hikikomori start out as school refusals, or tōkōkyohi (登校拒否) in Japanese.

While many people feel the pressure of the outside world, and may feel uncomfortable in public (or social anxiety), a hikikomori reacts by complete social withdrawal to avoid all outside pressure. In some cases, they may lock themselves into their bedroom or another room of their parent’s house for prolonged periods of time, sometimes measured in years. They usually have few, or no friends. A hikikomori’s days are characterized by long spells of sleeping, while their nighttime hours are often spent watching TV, extensively playing computer games, surfing the Internet, reading, trading the stock, Forex and other derivatives markets (i.e. stock future indices) or other non-social activities.”

Some in the audience seemed to react against his reference to this phenomenon. Perhaps because dependent Hikikomori are often of the middle or upper classes, true enough.  Yet we are talking not only about the privileged few who can surfboard on their parents, but a phenomenon that wears away at everyone involved in the drudgery of working for a wage under conditions dictated by ‘social superiors’.  The tendency towards withdrawal stems from a broad despair directed not only at the harsh hierarchies of everyday life, but life lived in the absence of any social safety net.  The fetal position is easier than the fear of falling: just ask millions of Japanese workers who express their dissatisfaction in the workplace by feigning sickness, or making themselves sick.  Bifo does not intend to claim the hikikomori as a positive social subject, one that could herald a better world. No they are a genuine expression of the rage and helplessness felt at the old one, the complete inability to act, the total loss of subjectivity. They express the starting point of anti-capitalism in a society which finds capital invading everything: they are the roots rotted at the bottom of the cavity. In forcing his audience’s eyes away from the spectacular banners of protests and ‘great causes’, Bifo forces us to rethink where the wail of misery against this society is really produced.  And perhaps he has also hinted at a plight of the left, which finds itself preferring to withdraw into inward circles.  How did we get here?  What is the way out?

To the audience’s amusement, Bifo closes by declaring ‘Hikikomori of the world unite!’, urging us to find ‘what is hidden in daily life’ and use that in ‘moving towards solidarity and subjectivity’.

Repression and the Riot Situation in Kamagasaki (Osaka) related to G8 Meeting

June 18, 2008

Over the past week and a half, an unprecedented political crackdown has been enacted in advance of a series of economic summits around the country. Despite this, the brave workers of Kamagasaki stood up against the stiff security environment in riots against the brutal beating of a day laborer over the past five days. The twin situations of repression and revolt deserve to be examined in more detail.

Repression

In the run-up to the series of summits, over 40 people were arrested in pre-emptive sweeps of broad left and anarchist groups.
On May 29th, 38 people were arrested at Hosei University in Tokyo at a political assembly against the G8. These large-scale arrests were carried out by over 100 public security agents after the students staged after a march across campus protesting the summits. All of the arrestees are still jailed, and among them are apparently some leadership of the Chuukaku-ha Leninist organization, one of the largest organizations of its kind in Japan.
On June 4th, Tabi Rounin, an active anarchist from the Kansai region, was arrested on accusation of having his address registered at a location other than where he was living. When arrested, his computer, cell phone, political flyers and more was taken from him; these items were used when detectives interrogated him, asking him about his relationship to internationals possibly arriving for the G8, as well as his activity around Osaka. He would be the first obviously political arrest masked as routine police work.

On June 12th, an activist from the Kamagasaki Patrol (an Osaka squatter and anti-capitalist group), was arrested for allegedly defrauding lifestyle assistance payments. This person has been constantly followed by plainclothes police and even helicopters during demonstrations. Clearly, his arrest was planned with the idea of keeping him away from the major anti-summit mobilizations and he will be held without bail for the maximum of 23 until the summit is over. The office of an anarchist organization called the Free Worker was raided in order to look for ‘evidence’ in this comrade’s case.
The same day the Rakunan union in Kyoto was raided, with police officers searching their offices and arresting two of their members on suspicion of fraudulent unemployment insurance receipt. One of these two arrested are accused of funneling money received from unemployment insurance to the Asian Wide Campaign, which was organizing against the economic summits.
In the meantime, Osaka city mobilized thousands of police with the pretext of preventing terrorism against the summit, setting up inspection points and monitoring all around the city. But the strengthened state high on its own power inevitably deployed it in violence, and turned the day laborers of southern Osaka against it in riot.
Revolt
Kamagasaki is a traditionally day laborer neighborhood that has experienced over thirty riots since the early 1960s. The last riot in Kamagasaki was sparked in 1990 by police brutality and the exposure of connections between the police and Yakuza gangs.
The causes this time were not much different. A man was arrested in a shopping arcade near Kamagasaki and taken to the Nishinari police station where he was punched repeatedly in the face by four detectives one after another. Then he was kicked and hung upside down by rope to be beaten
some more.
He was released the next day and went to show his friends the wounds from the beatings and the rope. This brought over 200 workers to surround the police station and demand that the police chief come out and apologize. Later people also started demanding that the four detectives be fired.
Met with steel shields and a barricaded police station, the crowd began to riot, throwing stones and bottles into the police station. Scraps with the riot police resulted in some of their shields and equipment being temporarily seized. The riot stopped around midnight with the riot police being backed into the police station. The next day they brought over 35 police buses and riot vehicles into the Naniwa police station with the intention of using these against the rioters.


During the riot, the police surveilled rioters from the top of the police station, from plainclothes positions and from a helicopter. Riot police with steel shields were deployed all around the neighborhood in strategic places to charge in when the action kicked off. The workers organizations which by the second day were maintaining the protest had chosen a good time to do so because the police department proved unwilling to unleash the direct, brutal charges seen in the 1990 riot due to the international spotlight focused on them. On Saturday a police infiltrator was found in the crowd, pushed up against a fence and smashed in the head with a metal bar.


(A shield captured from cops by riot participants)

The riot has lasted since the 13th and every night there is a resumption of hostility between the day laborers and the cops. Workers so far refuse anything less than the fulfillment of their demands in light of the police brutality incident. Despite the call from more ‘moderate’ NGOs to ‘stop the violence’ there has been no let-up in hostility towards the police, although the real level of violent confrontation is not as strong as the weekend of the 13th-15th. The riot has been characterized by the participation of young people as well as the older day laborers in confrontation with the police. As the guarantors of everyday exploitation under capitalism who have to assertively maintain the constant dispossession of the urban working class, the police have many enemies. This they are finding out every night.
Over the past couple of days there have been points where more than 500 people have gathered and rioted around the neighborhood. Police have responded mainly by defending the Nishinari police station, their home base, while getting back up from the local Naniwa police station, which has a riot countermeasure practicing lot, and holds tens of anti-riot vehicles. Despite this mighty arsenal, the police were perhaps surprised when they deployed their tear gas cannon on the first day only to be met with cries of joy and laughter. The use of force no longer has any spell of intimidation, it is simply expected.
Still, the combined brutality of the police and their riot vehicles has netted over 40 arrests (including of many young people), many injuries and even blinded one worker with a direct shot of tear gas water to his right eye.
The struggle here is inevitably limited by the particular situations of day laborers, who are dispatched to their job sites and have no direct access to the means of production that standard wage workers would. This prevents them from for instance calling political strikes against police brutality, and hitting powerful interests in the city where they really hurt. As workers deprived of these means to struggle, the day laborers will always have the riot as a method not only of collective defense but for also forcing concessions from the city in the form of expanding welfare access, creating jobs, backing off of eviction campaigns etc. While these are more or less important gains strictly in terms of survival, it is important to explore the possibilities of spreading the antagonism of the Kamagasaki workers to the larger population of exploited people in order to imagine doing away with this power structure once and for all.
It is unclear exactly where the situation is headed, but we can know for sure that the real repression in Kamagasaki will arrive after the summits have ended and the focus is off of the Japanese government. Then we will see the raids, the arrests and the scapegoating of particular individuals for the righteous outburst of class violence that these riots are. Instead of quietly accepting their fates as people to be trampled upon, the participants have directly attacked the wardens of wage labor who guarantee the violence of everyday slum life.
Overall, the ongoing repression against those involved in organizing against the G8 summit as well as Kamagasaki should not convince anyone that the ruling class here is once again afraid of the working class. In repressing certain left groups organizing against the economic summits, the Japanese government is more interested in preventing a movement from emerging that starts to question capital at the macro level, than actually attacking an existing one. On the other hand in Kamagasaki, the state tries to deny the possibility of antagonism in a major metropole and the visibility of this revolt, for fear of it spreading. This is why most news reports have blacked out the ongoing riots in Kamagasaki. The concreteness and universality of the Kamagasaki revolt truly threatens to expand beyond the borders of police violence. Visitors to Kamagasaki from near and far have over the past five days participated and found their own struggle in riots fought by total strangers. The ruling class fears and knows that it cannot control this horizontal sympathy and the real practice of revolt that accompanies it.

Local Elections in England and Wales and the failure of the Left

June 16, 2008

The results are out and so is the mainstream analysis (and sorry for posting this a little bit late – you may have already forgotten). As a result of the May 1st elections, England and Wales have gone through a right wing shift, Boris Johnson has been elected mayor of London, and the Tories are on a roll to win the next General Election.
So what, you may think after the transformation of the Labour Party into “New Labour” there surely is very little difference between the two main parties in Britain. Many aspects of Thatcherism have been perpetuated by the Blair government, nothing whatsoever has been retracted or turned back. The poll tax fell when the Tories were still in power, the council tax was not abolished by Labour, nor were the amendments to the Criminal Justice Act 1994 revoked. Of course not.
It’s hard to see why anyone would have any illusions about the nature of the Labour Party even in Kinnockio’s days. Or in any days.
But then there is the history of the British Left, and most of the British Left have for many decades regarded Labour as the political party of the working class, no matter what the actual policies of the party were. Granted, more than, say, the German SPD, Labour has adhered to more Keynesian measures in the post war years, has advocated and pushed through nationalisations and council housing. Anything they have done and achieved under Atlee, Wilson or Carrington merely shows them to be on the left wing of Capital, at best.
Nevertheless the Labour Party has been regarded as the “party of the working class” by generations of communists who believed that it was aberrant maybe in one way or another but could eventually be transformed back into that grand manifestation of the “class for itself”.
The Communist Party of Great Britain tried again and again to gain affiliation to the Labour Party. Later, various trotzkyist sects tried to subvert it in numerous attempts at “entrism”. The CPGB therefor never became the same kind of mass party as the KPD in Germany pre-1933, or as the communist parties in Italy or France in the post-war years.
To see it in a less grandiose way, one could possibly argue that up to the early 90’s Labour was a noticably lesser evil than the Tories. Fine if you wanted to follow the “lesser evil” kind of line.
Certainly most of what was called “hard left” in the 80’s would have agreed to that (minus class-struggle anarchists and left-communists). But reasonably speaking, anyone in their right mind would have changed their mind by the time Anthony Blair became party leader and eventually Prime Minister.
Nevertheless these discussions don’t seem to have disappeared – on the contrary they come up again and again, although there are also more or less half-hearted attempts, usually quite unsuccessful ones, to create an electoral alternative to the Labour Party.
One of the problems of these attemps has been that they usually consist of competing Trotzkyist sects, and that the Socialist Workers Party – being the largest one of them – usually plays a leading role.
This was the case in the Socialist Alliance in 2001. It included all the usual suspects from the Socialist Party (formerly Militant), the Socialist Workers Party, the Communist Party of Great Britain, the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Workers Power, and the International Socialist Group. It ran on a distincly moderate “left wing” plattform, not substantially different from “Old Labour”.
In fact the program of the SA was a particularly explicit example of a reactionary Leninism. The basis of their program was that the working class was not ready for a revolutionary party, that instead it would opt for what essentially was a maintenance of the old Labour Party. Eventually the enlightened leadership could slip the class its consciousness (except until then the Trotzkyist bureaucrats wouldn’t want to know anything practical about revolution since it would mean the abolishment of their positions which they wold have acquired by then). In any case it decided that an openly revolutionary program was not an option because the working class wouldn’t be ready for it, but had to go through a political “centrist” stage that would mysteriously lead it from a reformist to a revolutionary position.
Obviously this is absurd.
After the rather sobering results came in, the SA ungloriously disbanded and the various factions could revert to the constant bickering so constitutional of the scene.

But of course the next elections would come up and there would be another twist and turn in the left-of-Labour scene. Indeed the next step was so far the most dubious one, leading to an electoral collaboration between the SWP and the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), the British arm of the notorious (essentially clerical-fascist) Muslim Brotherhood.
This in effect ended any “genuine” left wing leaning of the SWP and demonstrated it had become an organisation ready to abandon any principles whatsoever in the hunt of electoral success and thus positions in the state for its bureaucratic leadership.
Not surprisingly the working class largely can be assumed to be either seeing through the machinations of the wanna-be political careerists so as to either ignore their sorry proposals altogether or with a conscious decision not to waste their ballot paper anyway, and use it as toilet paper instead.
Nevertheless the new “Unity Coalition” under the name RESPECT managed to get the notorious George Galloway elected as a Member of Parliament in the last general elections.
It didn’t take long until internal tensions in Respect came to a head in 2007, leading to an acrimonious split in the party between the Galloway wing and the SWP wing, and thus the two factions were standing against each other by the time of the spring 2008 local elections with disastrous results for both of them.
The SWP wing ran Lindsey German for mayor of London – German had run as mayoral candidate already for Respect in 2004 – with an abyssmal share of the vote. The SWP tried to continue the Respect continuum as the “Left List”, bizarrely trying to catch on to the “success” of Die LInke in Germany, another left reformist attempt at electoral/bureaucratic “success” on the left of social democracy.
Lindsey German is certainly no Rosa Luxemburg or Alexandra Kollontai – her absence of charisma is about as explicit as the absence of revolutionary principles in the SWP.
At the same time Galloway tried to continue on the same “popular front” plattform of the old Respect in coalition with islamist elements.
Both failed miserably.
But what did the other, smaller, far-left organisations do in this context?
Generally they had nothing better to do than bicker about “critical support” of either the Left List or …. the Labour Party… or run their own lists as the Socialist Party as well as the “Morning Star” Communist Party of Britain did – with deplorable results.
One can only regard this kind of fetishism towards Labour (whether it is directed as a support for current Labour, or a nostalgic “refoundation” movement of “old” Labour) as bizarre, except that it can’t even be associated with any fun, glamour or pleasure. It simply a very grey bureaucratic kind of career path. Not only that: it is the failure to make it work even as such, again and again. It’s a cul-de-sac in any respect.
In any case, these vain mobilisations illustrate once again with increasing urgency that if there are genuine revolutionaries left in this milieu, they have to abandon the counter-revolutionary organisations constituting the “radical left” of capital, throw them in the dustbin of history and start building a new revolutionary communist movement.

An overview of the British radical left party press.

February 3, 2008

An overview of the British radical left party press.

The radical press in Britain still consists largely of the papers of the various organisations that situate themselves in the left radical milieu.
A visit in Housmans Bookshop in King’s Cross can easily yield a mostly depressing collection of papers by the saddest of organisations. What exactly is their purpose in this world? We try to find out by reading their publications.

For different reasons I have left out some papers from this article, such as News & Letters and Solidarity, as well as the anarchist and ultra-left/left-communist press.

The most industrious people around are no doubt the Trotskyists, where the work ethic has reached all time heights.
Socialist Worker is the most well known and most populist paper. It’s the weekly paper of the Socialist Workers Party. The SWP is the largest of the Trotskyist organisations in Britain, but has recently abandonned many left-wing essentials in order to form a partnership with the Muslim Association of Britain (an offshoot of the clerical-fascist Muslim Brotherhood) in the electoral party Respect, which won one seat in parliament with George Galloway (see Anti-Imperialism article in the last datacide).
While Socialist Worker will still embrace communist positions if they are located in the past, recent highlights are the fight against supposed “islamophobia”, thereby at least tolerating reactionary proto-islamist positions.
Looking at other publications of the SWP one gets the impression that the more “popular” they are supposed to be (Socialist Worker being the most “popular”), the more opportunistic the politics are.
The SWP is notorious in Britain for trying to instrumentalize any “popular movement” and creating front organizations; in the past it was the Anti-Nazi League, or their involvement with the campaign against the Criminal Justice Bill, then it’s the struggle with their new Muslim Brotherhood comrades. After the recent split in Respect (mainly between Galloway and the SWP), it is currently unclear what the next steps will be.
This doesn’t mean that there is a core in the organization upholding the central principles of Leninism and ultimately coming forward with a revolutionary program, although to make that impression may well be the plan of the Central Comittee. As undesirable such a Leninist concoction would be anyway, it is more likely that the organisation gets poisoned a little bit more every time it delves into new lows of opportunism.

But the SWP are by no means on their own down there.

The News Line is the daily paper of the Workers Revolutionary Party, another Trotzkyist sect – once upon a time the strongest of the said, but after a debilitating split in 1985 merely a shadow of its former self. Long gone are the glory days when John Lennon used to donate money (to their predecessor organisation, the Socialist Labour League), and – later – actress Vanessa Redgrave was a prominent member. Nevertheless they still manage to publish The News Line almost every day. In the early 80’s News Line was accused of being financed by Libya, a claim that was at first fiercely disputed, but after the split confirmed by former members.
Who continued to finance the operation since then is unclear, some have suggested Ba’athist Iraq, which begs the question how they could have maintained operations since 2003.
Consistent with the above however is their extreme anti-imperialism (supporting the Taliban during the Afghanistan war) and their radical “anti-Zionism”.
There are sources who say that News Line/WRP have not just earned their money for providing a forum for pan-Arab and islamist ideology in the British Left, but also for spying operations on Iraqi opposition to the Ba’ath regime and on prominent Jews in Britain.

Competing for the title of the most “anti-Zionist” organisation is also the Spartacist League, publishing the paper Workers Hammer. Apparently believing that a bit of anti-Israeli propaganda is always worth front page news, or some sort of back entrance to the consciousness of the proletariat.
August Bebel called it the “Socialism of the stupid guy”, but a hundred years on this is still striving.
Much less of the coverage, compared to the two other rags so far, is dedicated to social struggles, some is covering the history of the revolutionary movement, but much more content is dedicated to recent splits in other Trots organisations. For example they go to extraordinary lengths writing about the split in Workers Power, a rival Trotskyist sect, mainly of course in order to present their own position as superior to the ones of the competition.
To be as intransigent as possible leads to radical contortionism, at least in the Trotskyist scene. The Spartacists (or Sparts as some former members jokingly refer to them) certainly manage to outdo the competition by standing up for Stalinism at the same time as referring to it as a “political counter-revolution”.

Then why not be all out Stalinists like the New Communist Party, who publish the weekly New Worker?
Once upon a time there were Marxist-Leninist “parties” oriented toward the Albania of Enver Hoxha, glorifying poverty and voluntary exploitation in the name of the nation.
For those who want to present famine+nukes as a revolutionary concept, North Korea is the role model today.
While the Sparts still involuntarily have to employ some pseudo-dialectics, the hardcore Stalinists can only hope that the cheques keep coming from somewhere as their revolutionary concepts have ground to a halt.

It gets (maybe surprisingly) a bit more interesting again with the wreckage of the traditional Communist Party of Britain, or: Great Britain respectively.
Predictably the result of a split, the CPB is publishing the traditional daily, the Morning Star, while the CPGB is publishing the Weekly Worker. Both position themselves in the tradition of the Communist Party of Great Britain, that officially existed until 1991.
The Morning Star is similar to Socialist Worker as a publication that tries to create a broader left wing front with all the clichés intact; appearing daily it’s the only of the above papers which is available at selected newsagents. It grew out of the Daily Worker, the historic daily paper of the (historic) CPGB.
In this context more interesting is the Weekly Worker, where it appears that some Trotzkyists have take over the direction. They seem to regard their own (new) CPGB as a nucleus out of which a “new Marxist Party” should develop over the next few years. Thus they criticize Respect as well as the idea that the Labour Left could take over the party again and make it a party of the class again.
But of course it has been a running gag in the British left to create a “real” working class alternative to the Labour Party.

A few years ago, the electoral coalition Socialist Alliance was supported by most of the above organizations; since then the SWP pulled out to try their luck with Respect, and the SA has folded and the scene is in disarray.
This is just as true for the whole range of other smaller sects such as the recently split Workers Power, and (product of the split) Permanent Revolution respectively.

One has to wonder what the function of these organizations and papers actually are in current society. One would automatically assume them to be the fighting organizations of the working class to overthrow capitalism, but that doesn’t seem to be congruent with reality.
Maybe they are the nuclei of such an organization existing due to the ebb in actual revolutionary struggles.
Or maybe they have a completely different function.

Our thesis is that they have basically 2 different functions. One is to split the audience: Usually people are put off by just about anything these organizations bring across, both form and content. Only a tiny minority is attracted to the prospect of this sort of revolutionary struggle, often on the basis of a view of the past, and with a desire to repeat or complete the glorious revolutions of the past. This minority is usually not going to function as a “constituency”, instead they will become militants themselves.

This explains how the various sects can reproduce themselves without having much of a basis or constituency.
They suck up generation after generation of young people who “really want to do something” against the capitalist nightmare, either to spit them out disillusioned and frustrated, or to keep them in the bowels of Trotzkyism (or Stalinism), getting slowly digested in their journey from one split to another and one sect to another.

Thus their function is – to adopt their speak for a moment – objectively counter-revolutionary.