Sunday, 24 June 2018

Is Class Still Relevant? An Anarchist Communist Perspective

The following was a talk given by an ACG member at a Rebel City Collective meeting at the recent AntiUniversity in London


It has become increasingly popular amongst academics and others that the working class is either tiny or no longer a key player in the struggle for a new society. They base this on the fact that in many western countries, eg the US, the industrial working class has declined as a result of deindustrialisation and the movement of factory production overseas. The implication is that ‘class struggle’ is less important and the focus should be on ‘people’ or other oppressed groups. In fact some would go so far as to argue that the white, male working class is reactionary and more of an enemy than a key component of revolutionary struggle.
Definitions
Before we proceed to argue that class is indeed still very relevant, we first need to define what we mean by the working class. It is a structural relationship between two classes: those that own the means of production and distribution (the ruling class) and those that do not own the means of making their own livelihood and therefore have to sell their labour power (the working class). It does not just include those who do paid labour. It also includes the unemployed and retired workers as well as those who do unpaid labour in the home. These people do not own the means of production and have to depend on others – therefore still working class. It is not:
  • An identity: even if you do not identify as part of the working class, you still are.
  • By being part of the working class you are not asserting your identity with any particular characteristics or lifestyle. In fact, the struggle is to abolish the working class as much as it is to abolish the ruling class; no classes, only humanity.
  • Not a moral category. Being working class does not guarantee that you will be a good person or have the right politics. And, being born into the ruling class does not mean you are automatically a bastard.
There are several groups who do not fit neatly into either the working or ruling class. Within the working class there will be those who are much better off than others and/or hold positions of power over others, eg managers and foreman, doctors, lawyers. Within those who own the means of production, there will be some who own small amounts of property, eg shopkeepers, small farmers etc. These groups potentially could either support the aspirations of the working class or could side with the ruling class. Though they could be referred to as middle class, it seems more useful to keep the basic two class model, recognising that there are layers within those classes.
Evidence for the existence of class
It is obvious from wealth (land, houses, stocks and shares etc) statistics – the best indicator of owning the means of production – that there is great inequality in ownership, supporting the view that some are able to make a living by owning and controlling this wealth and others are not. 68.7% of the world’s population own 3% of the world’s wealth. The richest 10% of households own 45% of wealth. The poorest 50% own 8.7% (www.equalitytrust.org.uk/scale-economic-inequality-uk). Ownership of land is another key indicator. 69% of land in the UK is owned by 0.6% of the population. 70% of land is agricultural land and 150,000 people own all of it. UK housing is concentrated on 5% of the country’s land mass so people owning their own home represents a small amount of total land ownership. 1/3 of British land is still owned by aristocrats. 432 people own half the land in Scotland. Even these statistics do not give the full picture as much information about who owns what is shrouded in secrecy. And, wealth is not the means of production. Many people may own their own home or a few stocks and shares but this does not give them access to the means of production. In any case, we only have to look around us to see that the vast majority of people have to sell their labour to survive.
Class struggle is central
If we are going to create a new society based on equality, co-operation and justice then we will have to collectivise the means of production and distribution, thus abolishing the ruling class in any form. As Malatesta said:
Let there be as much class struggle as one wishes, if by class struggle one means the struggle of the exploited against the exploiters for the abolition of exploitation. That struggle is a way of moral and material elevation, and it is the main revolutionary force that can be relied on.” 
The struggle against the ruling class is a struggle against capitalism which permeates all aspects of life: it is an economic and social relationship maintained by the power of the State and supporting ideologies. Work is not just exploitation. It is alienating and mentally debilitating, affecting life outside of work. Capitalism affects our lives at home and in our ‘spare’ time. The working class is exploited through consumerism, encouraged to spend and get in debt to keep capitalism going. The State is the means by which the ruling class retains and enhances its power. It is not something that can be ‘captured’. Climate change is caused by capitalism and it is the working class that suffers the most. War is central to capitalism – for resources, markets, to maintain dominance. It is the working class that suffers from war. Capitalism uses other systems of oppression to maintain itself and to enhance exploitation and profits, eg patriarchy and racial oppression. For example, the slave trade was essential to the development of capitalism in Britain. Religion must also be challenged. It props up the ruling class as well as patriarchy and racial oppression by promoting reactionary ideas. It encourages people to submit to authority and to have illusions that they will be rewarded for their suffering in heaven. Therefore, class struggle is:
  • Fighting low wages, poor conditions and alienation at work.
  • Fighting for a decent home at fair rents – more public housing.
  • Fighting for a good quality of life: health care, healthy and cheap food, green spaces and clean air.
  • Fighting against homelessness, universal credit and other attacks on those who are most vulnerable.
  • Fighting against all States.
  • Fighting patriarchy and racial oppression.
  • Resisting the domination of consumer culture and creating our own culture of resistance.
  • Challenging reactionary ideologies such as religion.
  • Fighting against wars and climate change.
Distinction between class and oppressions: not class reductionist
The vast majority of people are working class. It is in their interest to overthrow capitalism for a number of different reasons, not just because of exploitation at work. There are other oppressions that exist in society, linked to capitalism but with their own dynamic and impacts. There are many ways that class struggle is linked to the struggle against oppressions; patriarchy and racial oppression are embedded within capitalism. Capitalism benefits from unpaid labour in the home and was based on the slave trade. Oppressed groups are often the worst affected by capitalism and State violence. The culture and ideology of capitalist society, supported by religion, encourages bigotry and conservatism towards non-conforming sexualities and genders. And, even if the oppression does not seem to directly relate to the class struggle, it is wrong and must be fought. We cannot create an anarchist communist society as long as there are any oppressions.
However, there are some distinctions. The class struggle aims to abolish all classes. The fight against patriarchy and racial oppression does not seek to abolish men or whites but to completely transform the relationships. Though the fight against oppressions may take priority for those oppressed at different times, ultimately they will only achieve full liberation as working class women or people of colour when classes are abolished. In addition, being part of an oppressed group does not mean that you are working class. Therefore, women, people of colour, LGBT+ could also be part of the ruling class and therefore the enemy.
Conclusion: Building an effective revolutionary movement based on class struggle
The working class, as the vast majority of people, is diverse and often divided. We need to unite together, show solidarity for all struggles even if they do not affect us directly, and tackle the divisions that exist within the working class. Only then will we be successful in our struggle against capitalism and for anarchist communism.

Save Our NHS?


Save Our NHS?


Healthcare in the UK is by no means ‘socialised’, as critics in the US claim. Though healthcare in the UK is undoubtedly better than healthcare in the US – just as other countries have better healthcare than the UK – it is still subject to the pressures and dynamics of capitalism, existing as it does in a capitalist society. It has also been increasingly marketised over recent decades, with attacks on both social provision and NHS workers coming under the cover of ‘privatisation’. The introduction of payment by results has introduced a market in health services. Many non-frontline services have been privatised or contracted to companies like DHL. The introduction of wholly privately owned and operated ‘NHS treatment centres’, the rollout of Private Finance Initiatives etc all represent part of the same project of ‘rationalising’ social provisions to the benefit of the overall capitalist system. Even the NHS in its classic form, as the centrepiece of the post-war welfare state, came as part of the attempt to stave off prewar-style class conflict and integrate the working class more closely into the state following the end of the war.  Its aim was to provide a healthy working class that could fight and die for the bosses in their wars (our masters struggled to find enough fit cannon fodder for their First World War) and healthy enough to slave for their profits in paid jobs and in unpaid childcare and housework. In addition, capitalism needed to stabilise itself after the turbulence of the 1920s, in a change of tactic well-known as the ‘post-war settlement’.
We need to defend health services, but critically. The NHS was never ‘ours’ and it is far from perfect.

Since the inception of the NHS, consultants were allowed to use NHS time and resources for their private gain, freeloading that the Daily Mail and their mates are happy to ignore. Drugs and equipment were left in the hands of private corporations, burdening the NHS with enormous costs as companies sought to make maximum profits from their monopoly. The Health Service treats our illnesses as individual cases, but most of our illness is due to economic and social conditions that we face collectively: unhealthy and dangerous workplaces, overlong hours and night time working, pollution from factories and cars, poor food, unhealthy housing, lack of trees and greenspaces, all exacerbated by racism and sexism for large sectors of the population. In the 1960s and 1970s women highlighted how unequally they were treated, particularly around childbirth. They won some improvements through struggle, but we are still miles from a genuine community health service.

We know that the current Tory government is making massive cuts to health services with closures of hospitals, casualty departments, rationing of services by age, cuts to services for the elderly and people with disabilities, near frozen wages of overworked staff etc. The whole idea of running healthcare as a business is contradictory (treatment based on ability to pay rather than need), and only benefits the well-off who can always pay for treatment, and the drug companies and other corporate vultures who are taking over more and more of the health service. The whole idea of ‘choice’ in this context is similarly a nonsense. We don’t want to choose which doctors or hospital service to use (the one round the corner or the one 20 miles away?). We need local services, all of which are accessible and good.

Who is to blame?

What is causing the ongoing and deepening crisis in the NHS (and) the ‘lack of money’? Is it:
·       All those old people selfishly ‘bed blocking’ hospital beds rather than going home unwell and dying quickly so that they are no longer ‘a burden’.
·       The obese smokers and drinkers: no not the rich ones, and as always, blame the consumer, not the producer (the alcohol and tobacco industries have no responsibilities).
·       Migrant workers and ‘health tourists’ (the first pay taxes too, and the second cost less than the NHS pencil budget).

None of the above!

Back in 2005 the now Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, co-wrote a pamphlet calling for the replacement of the NHS with a market insurance system, with the heavy involvement of private enterprise. A fox in charge of the hen coop! The policies pursued are obviously part of a death by a thousand cuts and a ‘privatisation by stealth’ strategy. The idea that the slow death of the NHS is just down to the Tories is delusional however. The PFI (Private Finance Initiative) was a Conservative idea they left on the shelf, with little of it being implemented.  It was Labour’s Tony Blair and Gordon Brown who activated it when in government: schools and hospitals were built with finance from the private sector (banks etc) who then leased them to back to the government, who paid for them over the long term on a mortgage basis at a much higher cost (40% more). Old hospitals were closed, so overall there were fewer beds. Labour also introduced ‘the market’ into the health service, the equivalent of putting leeches into a blood bank, and introduced Foundation Trusts. These Labour policies left the NHS with debts of £81.6 billion, and they together with massive ongoing cuts are the cause of the crisis.

What Do We Want, And How Do We Get There?

We need to stop hospitals, casualty departments etc being closed, attacks on GPs, staff cuts, freezing of the wages of health service staff (which are cuts as rents, food etc go up). We need to stop the increasing marketisation of the NHS. We need to stop the NHS being run as a business concern, with vastly overpaid administrators at the top, with at least 800 of these on six figure salaries.
We need to end the rigid hierarchies in hospitals, where decisions cannot be questioned, as witness the recent revelations about Gosport War Memorial Hospital where over 450 patients died after being prescribed dangerous painkillers and with according to a recent report: “patients and relatives powerless in their relationship with professional staff”.
We need to end the grip of drug companies on the NHS. In 2016 alone, the NHS payed these companies £1 billion for drugs for arthritis, cancer, MS, etc. The research for these drugs was funded by public money. “Big pharmaceutical companies are ripping us off by taking over drugs developed primarily with public money and selling the drugs back to the NHS at extortionate prices”.
Heidi Chow, Global Justice Now.

How we do this is crucial however. If we use the same old tired methods of petitions, relying on union bureaucrats, trusting in political parties (whoever they are) not only will we probably lose, but we will remain powerless, divided, and with an illness service that doesn’t meet our needs or tackle the causes of our ill health. We need to methods and organisation that empowers us: to organise ourselves, control our own struggles, without leaders, and to use direct action methods: occupations, work-ins, strikes, work to rule etc. We need to break down the barriers between staff and patients, carers and service-users, workers and unemployed to link our struggles.

What do we want? - A free health service controlled and run by the staff and users. An emphasis on empowering people through helping them to educating themselves in groups about their bodies and health (e.g. books and pamphlets such as ‘Our Bodies Ourselves’ and the collective work in the last wave of feminism). Communities working together to tackle the causes of ill health: dangerous and unhealthy workplaces, an unhealthy, car-based transport system, poor food, widespread pollution, lack of green spaces for relaxation, and exercise etc. Move away from processed and unhealthy food, and from the current over-reliance on drugs. Again, self-organisation and direct action are key. But surely this is pie-in-the-sky? No, we are drawing on what people have done, and are doing, both here and abroad. In Greece, massive health cuts have resulted in health workers running hospitals and clinics etc for free, with the support of their local communities.
        

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Crowdfunder For Rebel City

London Anarchist Communist Group is one of the anarchist groups and organisations editing, writing for, and distributing the London-wide free anarchist paper Rebel City. Please think about contributing to this crowdfunder:
https://www.gofundme.com/rebel-city-publishing-fund

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

No War But The Class War


No War But the Class War
London section

Following a proposal by the Anarchist Communist Group which was supported by the Communist Workers Organisation and the Guildford Solidarity Group an inaugural meeting of this grouping was held on 2/6/18.

Presentations were given by speakers from the ACG and the CWO. Speakers pointed to the fact that the current international situation was one in which the drive to war was visibly increasing. The most obvious example of this was the present conflict in the Middle East where major powers were directly involved and the prospect of a wider war in which more local powers became directly involved and the major powers confronted each other was increasing. The conflict in the Ukraine and the standoff in the South China Sea were further examples. The drive to war was an outcome of the capitalist crisis which was driving the capitalist class to more open imperialist interventions together with trade wars and, of course, more vicious attacks on the working class. War was a direct consequence of the capitalist system and in the longer term the only way in which war could be avoided was the overthrow of the capitalist system and the establishment of socialised production. The only force able to do this was the working class acting on an international basis opposing all factions of the capitalist class. However the working class was weakened by divisions, divisions which the capitalist class was attempting to widen. The foremost of these was nationalism which was clearly used in the Brexit referendum, the US election and the small nation nationalism of the likes of Scotland, Catalonia, and Kurdistan. Nationalism would be used to justify future wars and recruit workers as cannon fodder. The only route to preventing war was the class struggle, and this means a struggle against the national ruling class in all nations. The slogan under which this struggle should be conducted was, “No war but the class war!”

Following the presentation there was an hour of discussion after which the meeting agreed to set up a group of facilitators. One was nominated from each of the organisations supporting this iniative. An email list of those supporting the London No War But the Class War was compiled and facilitators were tasked with keeping supporters informed of further meetings or actions. Further publicity would be agreed by the group of facilitators.

London NWBCW

Introducing the Anarchist Communist Group


Introducing the Anarchist Communist Group
The Anarchist Communist Group was set up in February 2018.  Since then we have published two issues of our paper The Jackdaw, published two pamphlets and set up a comprehensive website (www.anarchistcommunism.org)
The London group is involved in a number of activities:
·        organises discussion meetings
·        works with the Rebel City Collective to produce Rebel City
·        Does street distributions of both Rebel City and the ACG newssheet The Jackdaw
·        Runs a blog and a Facebook page
·        organised five antiuniversity events to introduce key class struggle anarchist ideas to a wider public, together with the Rebel City Collective
·        held a stall and presented two meetings at the Radical Bookfair (Land and Liberty and No War but the Class War with the Communist Workers Organisation)
·        supported workplace and solidarity pickets
·        have plans with the Rebel City Collective to introduce a wider range of people to anarchism by speaking to students in FE colleges and sixth forms
·        individuals participate in different campaigns including Land Justice and the Industrial Workers of the World/Angry Workers organising campaign in West London
Though we have much in common with other revolutionary anarchists, we believe that we have a distinct contribution to make to the building of a libertarian revolutionary working class movement. If you are interested in finding out more about the ACG, as well as the work of the Rebel City Collective, come to an informal meeting on June 21st at the May Day Rooms, 88 Fleet Street EC4 1DN at 7-9 pm. Refreshments provided.




Wednesday, 6 June 2018

ACG Events At AntiUniversity 2018 in London

Whatever Happened to the Revolution?
Convened by Anarchist Communist Group
Sunday 10th June 2018
3pm-4.30pm
Conway Hall, Brockway Room, Red Lion Square, WC1R 4RL
Most of our time is spent having to resist attacks on all fronts - bosses, the government, and all the general injustices of society. But many of us hold in our hearts a hope for a completely different society. Isn't it time we put Revolution back at the top of the agenda? What do we need to do to make it a reality rather than just a vague hope at the back of our minds? Anarchist communists believe firmly in the possibility of working class revolution. This talk/discussion will first present anarchist communist ideas on revolution before opening up to general discussion about revolution today. Some of the questions to discuss are: What do we mean by revolution? What steps can we take now? What are the obstacles?

Anarchist Fitzrovia: a walking tour
Convened by Anarchist Communist Group
See where Frank Kitz, a leading light in the Socialist League, met with others and downed a pint or two in the process. Visit the sites of Louise Michel's Free School, the German anarchist Autonomie Club, Lilyan Evelyn's anarchist Ferrer School, the haunts of the celebrated Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta, the soup kitchen set up by refugees from the Paris Commune.
Goggle at the building that housed the (in)famous Malatesta Club of the 1950s. See where anarchist sympathiser and artist Augustus John drank. Stand outside The grocer shop of Albert Richard, hero of the Paris Commune, who sold only red beans and rejected reactionary white beans.
Linger at the newsagents run by Armand Lapie, scene of doctrinal disputes. Pause at the spot where the colourful anarchist Xo d'Axa played his barrel organ. All this and much more.
Sat 9 June 2018 15:00 – 17:00
Meeting at Great Portland Street Tube entrance

Friday, 1 June 2018

No War BUT THE CLASS WAR : PUBLIC MEETING JUNE 2nd

    1. NO WAR BUT THE CLASS WAR
      PUBLIC MEETING/DISCUSSION
      As capitalism’s economic crisis deepens our rulers are determined to make the working class pay for it by increasing exploitation and reducing wages and living conditions.
      All across the world, the capitalists and their political puppets are also trying to prevent any united working class fightback by widening divisions in the working class, such as nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual preference. The xenophobia whipped up before and after the Brexit campaign, the Trump election campaign and the election campaigns of nationalist governments in Hungary and Poland are a few recent examples of what is happening and what is to come.
      At the same time national states are trying to push the crisis onto capitalists of other states or blocs of states by trade wars. And history tells us that trade wars are the prelude to shooting wars. While imperialist proxy wars continue to rage in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe, and while a new conflict with Iran is being stoked up, increasingly intense global conflicts are being prepared.
      Nationalism is the main tool being used to recruit workers to support their rulers in these wars. No faction of the capitalist class is worth supporting and none is “a lesser evil”! The alternative is not to do nothing. There are already voices being raised under the banner of “No war but the class war!” to challenge the fate that the capitalists are preparing for us.
      Join them in a public meeting to find out more and make your own contribution:
      When: 2 June 2018 at 1400hrs
      Where: London Radical book fair, Goldsmiths University, 8 Lewisham Way, SE14 6NW
      Hosted by: Communist Workers Organisation & Anarchist Communist Group
      Also supported by Guildford Solidarity-IWW