We are a Mass Movement! Class Struggle is not Dead

Vote for nobody  graffiti

Vote for Nobody!

Over 3 million in the UK – that is the number of people involved in a movement that I am proud to be a part of. Each year, we refuse to register our names and addresses with the government’s “electoral register” [1]. We don’t care that this is technically against the law, [2] and we don’t care about not being able to vote – we hate all politicians anyway. The media tell us that we are just apathetic, that not voting can’t be an act of rebellion, even a small one. But why not? With over three million of us not even registered – it is obvious that none of us are alone. We are not organised, true – but then we don’t need to be. Our message is obvious: politicians are worthless to us. So worthless they are not even worth an X in a box. This is just one example of the rebellions going on around us every day – and most of them are less passive too [3]. Every time we shoplift something instead of paying for it, every time we refuse to grass our neighbours to the police, and every time we stand up for each other at work – that is an act in the class struggle. This short article will look at why we need to take these acts further, and some of barriers we will need to overcome along the way.

Acts of rebellion like shoplifting can make our lives better. Many of us would even struggle to get by without them [4]. But there is still plenty of room for improvement. The more we stand up to the rich, the better organised we are, and the more we have each others’ backs – the better things will be. If you look at shoplifting as something political then all of this is common sense. It doesn’t always feel like it, because television, newspapers, and preachers all constantly tell us that things like shoplifting are ‘crimes’ that we should feel ashamed of. If we are in debt or out of work then these people tell us that it is our fault. Many of us feel ashamed to tell anyone else that money is tight, or that we have a criminal record. However, the “morality” of most news reporters and religious preachers is obviously wrong if we look at the facts. Everything that the rich have was originally taken by force in wars and “colonisation” – in other words it was “stolen”. There are nowhere near enough jobs for everyone to be able to have one [5]. And countless people are short of money or in debt – because the rich have fucked up the economy! So there is no reason to feel shame for having problems like unemployment or debt – the rich created them, not us. There is also no reason we shouldn’t give them a taste of their own medicine – taking more of “their” things by force and standing up to them. So lets ignore them when they call us “apathetic” or “criminal” – if we hold our heads up high, rebel more, and get better organised then there is no limit to what we could do.

Your waitress's legs get a lot of excercise on the job. When the revolution comes, she'll outrun you. TIP WELL!

Cartoon from RedandBlackSalamander

Shoplifting happens at the places where we’re meant to spend money, but small rebellions happen at the places we get money too – in jobcenters and at work. Strikes happen sometimes, but there is also a low-level class war being waged. Plenty of people slack off, steal from work [6], or call in sick every day. So long as it doesn’t hurt other workers too much, why not? The profits of our bosses are stolen wages – they get them by selling things made with our hard work, so there’s nothing wrong with trying to get a bit back. But some people go further by conspiring with other workers. Here’s a small example that comes to mind: one mate of mine works in a restaurant. Once when a posh customer was being a dickhead, the waitress she was on shift with added money to the customer’s bill and shared it with her. Another friend has a story about a factory where she used to work. Everyone there would take it in turns to sleep on shift, while the rest kept an eye out for the boss so no-one got caught. These are all small examples – but they show the kinds of things that we get away with without much effort, on a daily basis [7]. When “Left Wing” academics tell us that we need to “get organised”, they normally mean joining a trade union. The fact is we already do “organise” – we just don’t want to be part of their bureaucracies and power games. But imagine what it would be like if we formed real unions along the lines of the rebellions I’ve been talking about. If every time a benefits claimant got sanctioned, a hundred-strong mob turned up outside the job centre? Or if every time we wanted something more from our bosses (more wages, more holiday), we just made their business unworkable till we got it? This is something we could achieve!

Baliff alert? We're prepared!

Some “culture of resistance” from the poll tax rebellion

On the other side of all this, the rich will not stop fighting until they have everything – total control of our lives and total ownership of everything we make and use. Governments repeal as many of our rights and benefits as they can get away with. Bosses cut our wages and increase our workload the second we give them the chance. Shop owners and landlords charge us as much as possible for the things we need. Even if things are bearable now, if we all settled down and stopped fighting then things would get worse very fast. So when any of us do manage to “make it” and get some reasonable level of income, or stable housing – the fight is not over and that is no excuse to abandon everyone else. One of the big barriers we face is just this – people who are in a similar situation as us, but who still try to stop us rebelling. Too many people have the attitude that “if I can’t get away with it then no-one else should either”, and will even help arrest shoplifters and grass on benefits “thieves”. The worst offenders call themselves the “lower middle class”, and try to adopt the culture of middle class people while looking down on the rest of us. The “upper middle class” laughs at these deluded people, but they are a serious problem for us [8]. If we’re going to challenge them then we need to create more feeling of solidarity in our communities, and to stand up for each other. We need to build what academics call a “culture of resistance” in our neighbourhoods and workplaces – where grasses and scabs feel ashamed to walk down the street, not the people who fight back and stick together.

So to sum up, all our lives would be better if we took our every day rebellions further – doing more, involving more people, being better organised [9]. To make this possible we need to create a “culture of resistance”, where people have each other’s backs and don’t feel ashamed to admit to things like shoplifting or being in debt. If we keep at it with all the passion and dedication that we can – maybe one day we can even get rid of the rich forever. We’re already part way there, we just need to go further and act with more confidence. Let’s make it happen!

Riot photo

Let’s make it happen!

[1] http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-23346533
[2] http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2001/341/regulation/23/made
[3] For example, according to one survey, more than ten percent of people in the UK admit to shoplifting. At least one third of people have stolen from work, and the same number have downloaded pirated music. Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1211629/How-80-think-OK-steal-work-study-reveals-wavering-moral-compass.html
[4] http://www.theweek.co.uk/uk-news/uk-austerity/50665/mothers-steal-feed-children-poor-rely-food-banks
[5] http://www.theguardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2012/feb/06/unemployment-vacancies-ratio
[6] http://www.submedia.tv/steal-something-from-work-day
[7] While we’re on that – one survey showed that about 43% of people in the UK admit to having pulled a sickie at least once. Source: http://www.tlnt.com/2011/09/01/survey-workers-everywhere-call-in-sick-when-they-arent-sick-at-all/
[8] For example, about a quarter of the people who get caught stealing from work are found out because someone snitched on them. Source: http://www.statisticbrain.com/employee-theft-statistics/
[9] As an example – look at the 200 people in Spain who looted a supermarket in broad daylight:http://elpais.com/elpais/2013/08/30/inenglish/1377875386_327683.html ; or the “robin hoods” in Greece: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/greece/2686331/Greek-Robin-Hoods-rob-supermarket-for-food.html . For your own safety, I suggest you read the article on black bloc tactics before taking part in any redistribution of food – https://theviolentminority.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/black-bloc-tactics-a-quick-guide/


4 thoughts on “We are a Mass Movement! Class Struggle is not Dead

  1. alanjjohnstone

    Indeed it was the issue. Something they could identify with. But also the sense that they knew they could contribute to actual change (illusionary or not, the belief existed there would be a difference and i agree in normal politics the choice isn’t always worth picking sides…evil and lesser evil.)

    That when people are politically engaged (and usually there is not much reason for them to be) the vote is one effective means they recognise of their voice. The reality is when they believe it is important they cannot be stopped from using it as James Connolly recognised when the IWW dropped its political action clause, and his comment was “Just try and stop workers from using it”….Out of millions of votes the spoiled ballots in the referendum was about 3000.

    Surely our task is to create the conditions where people are aware of their power in all aspects of the struggle…their trade union vote…their council vote…their parliamentary vote…it is the person behind the X in the battle of ideas that matters not the actual vote.

    The vote and parliament is a tactic…to be used when it can be useful. To dismiss it on principle in all circumstances is doctrinaire.

    1. theviolentminority Post author

      I wouldn’t say that elections are about choosing between evil and lesser evil – it’s more like good cop, bad cop. Sure the Tories shout at us, while labour makes us cups of tea and sits us down for a “friendly chat”, but at the end of the day all parties are as keen to sell us out as each other. I could give you examples, but I’m sure you know them already.

      I tried voting once and it didn’t feel powerful at all. Someone I knew who had been campaigning for a party to win, left when that party betrayed everyone and now so far as I know she’s given up any politics altogether. So, I don’t seen how that tactic helps to make us “aware of our power”.

      With those other kinds of votes you talk about, council votes don’t seem to mean much at all. Everything we ask for, councillors always tell us that they are powerless! Trade union votes are a bit better. But how many times do people vote for things, and then get told by the union leaders that we can’t do them, that our strikes aren’t official? How many times have they forced us to go back to work, because the boss’s lawyers found a problem with the wording on the ballot? How many strikes have trade unions deliberately sabotaged? Lots, I think is the answer! So, I don’t see how trade unions really make people feel powerful either. Maybe if the unions were totally reformed or replaced with something better – but right now they don’t empower me at all.

      But what I have seen locally and at work is that using “anarchist” tactics is at least as effective as trade union bureaucracy, and definitely quicker. So if we do want to “get organised” I’d say that just getting together and taking action around things that effect us is a far more practical way to empower people.

      As well as that, looking around at all my friends, I’d say that most of them have got far more from the every-day “direct action” I talk about in my article than they have from unions. There is a class struggle going on right now in the aisles of supermarkets and in the streets of our neighborhoods. Maybe the left should start there – by encouraging and helping those struggles – rather than telling us to get involved in parties and unions that we lost all faith in a long time ago, which will do nothing more than betray and disempower us?


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