For this edition of his monthly column Jon Bigger writes on what’s happening with the forthcoming relaunch of notorious anarchist paper Class War and looks over some of the encouraging signs of people getting spiky in recent weeks.
Britain’s most unruly tabloid is making a comeback. First off though I should explain that I’m involved with this and will likely write something for the publication. So with that disclaimer out the way let’s take a look at what is going on.
Last month I wrote about the need for a radical 2017. In some regards the last month has been spectacular on that front. The United Voices of the World (UVW) held a protest outside Harrods in early January about the way in which the upper class department store steals tips from the serving staff in their cafes and restaurants. There were scuffles, there were arrests and there was widespread and worldwide coverage of the event (Class War were in attendance as well incidentally, having built up some excellent solidarity with UVW starting with the battle the union had with Sotherby’s). Within days Harrods had capitulated and so the workers have won this battle without a strike. See how easily even the Qatari royal family gives up when we scare them? The amount they were stealing is rumoured to be in the region of £2 million per year. This is a major victory for those low-paid workers.
Then we’ve had the A.N.A.L squat liberating mansions in London and opening them up for the homeless. They have garnered some excellent press coverage where they’ve managed to set out exactly why the gross inequalities of capitalism need to be challenged. Over the pond, the black bloc caused mayhem on Donald Trump’s inauguration day. Since then anarchism has been in the news regularly and not just to demonise anarchists, but also to explain it in surprisingly sympathetic tones. Yes, it is OK to punch Nazis. In amongst all the liberal protesting with the witty placards and polite appeals for Trump to stop being such a fascist meanie we are witnessing some hard core direct action aimed at disrupting the spectacle of official politics and create new spaces where communities can be formed and nurtured.
There’s a problem though. We don’t seem to take many people with us and this was a problem before the resurgence in conservatism. Maybe some of the people going on protests for the first time because of the major changes we’re witnessing will come around to a more radical outlook but we do what we do because we want our communities to flourish. These communities, particularly those at the more impoverished end of society, have suffered neoliberal economics and a left that hasn’t given them solutions for decades. No wonder they might see Brexit, the Tories, UKIP and Trump as a breath of fresh air. The left has failed them. There seems a space here for something a little different.
Class War aims to combine politics, class anger, pride and humour to bring a bit of light relief and get people talking again. It’s not going to change the world. It’s not going to introduce political theory to the multitudes. It’s going to be fun and it’s going to take the piss. In the process it will hopefully help build bridges in communities and encourage people to get involved with politics on the streets. We absolutely have to try and reach people so why not a paper again? I spoke to the editor, who told me:
Class War believe the time is right to bring back Britain’s most unruly tabloid. We feel there is nothing on the left that offers anything readable to the majority of working class people other than the dull rags of boredom and despair peddled by bearded trots trying to recruit at every demo or protest up and down the country. We intend to be informative, angry and overall to have a good laugh.
The paper will keep people informed of campaigns going on in communities and workplaces, providing information on some of the best campaigns in the UK. There will also be contributions from housing campaigners Simon Elmer from Architects for Social Housing (ASH) and Lisa McKenzie as well as the UVW’s Petros Elia, who will provide coverage of their campaigns.
I’m told that there is a good chance that we may see the return of some old favourites such as the page three “hospitalised copper” but there will also be new content. There will be a section written by the Class War Womens Death Brigade. Jane Nicholl, one of the people involved with that aspect of the paper told me “it’ll be funny, fiery, feisty and fuck you. There’ll be no safer spaces demands from us or feminist victim bollocks.” She added that the paper will “not be for the faint hearted or the over sensitive!”
Whether this new iteration of the paper is successful remains to be seen and I’m conscious that there will be people who were hoping it would never come back. Bad luck. There is space within anarchism and the broader left for multiple approaches to solving the problems of capitalism and the state. As the editor said to me “we’ve never had it so bad but lets fight back with a smile on our faces.”
The issue will be 16 full-colour pages and is due out in time for the May Day weekend.
To help get the paper going, check out its funding page.