Class War

From Academic Kids

Template:Anarchism This article is about the organisation and newspaper Class War. See Class war for general information about this subject.

Class War is a UK based anarchist group and newspaper originally set up by Ian Bone and others in 1983.


Origins and stance

The organisation had its origins in Swansea, Wales, developing from a group of community activists who produced a local paper called The Alarm, which focussed on issues such as corruption within local government. Following a move to London, the London Autonomists (including Martin Wright and Pete Mastin) soon became involved and a decision was made to produce a tabloid-style newspaper which would reach a wider audience, particular aimed at young anarchists and pacifists, including followers of the anarcho-punk band Crass.

The articles in Class War criticised pacifism and the Peace movement, arguing the idea that violence is a necessary part of the class struggle. This stance was further justified with the statement that "democratic systems are all supported on a basis of coercion sanctioned by the use of force", and "the ruling class are never more dangerous when they are doing impressions of human beings"!

The argument between political activists about the use of violence is not a new one, nor will it diminish, whilst the struggle for a utopian society continues. Simply put by Class War in ('Britain's most unruly tabloid'):While not giving unqualified support to the IRA you don't have to be an Einstein to realise that a victory for the armed struggle in Ireland would be a crushing blow to the ruling class and to the authority of the British state. 1992 (Class War No.52).

Stand up and Spit

The title of another early Class War magazine, aimed at inner city youth.

The numerous titles released by class war were eventually to be replaced by a national paper just called Class War, this paper declared that the enemy was not just a system-wide abstraction, but each and every person who belonged to the ruling class. It advocated active violence against the wealthy, and the paper used colloquial language and gallows humour. One early cover was of a cemetery, with the caption, "We have found new homes for the rich." Another in 1986 suggested that recently married royal couple TRH The Duke and Duchess of York were "Better Dead than Wed." This cover was reproduced as a poster, which was banned by the Ramsgate Police. Anarchists were required to remove the posters they had put up on a McDonalds fast food retail outlet and on the front of a W.H Smith Bookstore. Class War also collaborated with anarchist band Conflict in releasing a 'commemorative' royal wedding single of the same title. Much of the organisations propaganda is intentionally provocative or illegal.

The paper also featured pictures of injured policemen, "Hospitalised Copper" appeared on page three of every edition. Class War explained that their intent here was to show that people could 'fight back' against the state rather than be 'passive victims'.

Bash the Rich Revels

Inspired by the Stop the City actions of 1983 and 1984, Class War organised a number of Bash The Rich demonstrations, in which supporters were invited to march through and disrupt wealthier areas of London such as Kensington, and Henley (during the annual Regatta), bearing banners and placards with slogans such as "Behold your future executioners!"

A third Bash The Rich event, scheduled to march through Hampstead in 1985, was largely prevented by a heavy police presence, and was acknowledged by Class War to have been a failure.

The Class War Federation

A national conference was in held Manchester in 1986 and proposed that groups and individuals who produced and supported the paper should form "Class War" groups as part of a national federation with common 'aims and principles'. This alliance was soon infiltrated by police, but worse still began to develop an hierarchy leading to its transformation from a loose collection of affiliated but separate anarchist cells into something of a potential power base for socialist infiltrators.

A Class War Federation developed, gaining particular prominence in the anti-poll tax movement of the late 80s and early 1990s. When Class War spokesman Andy Murphy praised those who had rioted in the Trafalgar Square Poll Tax Riots as "working class heroes", Class War gained wider media exposure (including a 'tea time' interview with Ian Bone on the Jonathan Ross Show (see Poll Tax Riots)). 1992 saw the publication of Unfinished Business - The Politics of Class War published jointly with AK Press that set out where Class War came from, and where it wanted to go.

Frustrated at what he saw as "too much dead wood" in the organisation, Scargill left Class War in 1993, to be followed by founder Ian Bone.

Class War was then edited by Bristol Class War, and largely assisted by a group of activists from Leeds who had been strongly critical of the "stuntism" of Bone and Scargill, Class War began to move be perceived by many anarchist as moving in a more reformist political direction. However, riots and disturbances were still linked to the organisation by the British media, and in October 1994 the Class War leaflet Keep it Spikey distributed before a riot in Hyde Park against the Criminal Justice Act, returned the organisation to the front pages.

By 1996, with membership falling, Class War members from Bristol and Leeds launched a "review process" to examine the direction the Federation should now take. This resulted in a rejection of Class War's perceived "violent" image. By summer 1996, Leeds Class War were stating that regardless of whatever the rest of the Federation chose to do, issue 73 of Class War would be the last edition they would be involved in.

Class War voted to produce a special issue of the paper, the aim being to assess its history, role and direction, with a view to disbanding the organisation. This would be followed by a conference in London in 1997 to "reforge the revolutionary movement".

In March 1997, Class War formally split at its Nottingham conference between those who would continue as Class War and those who wanted to disband the organisation. It was argued that the group that had rejected so much of the failed practice of the revolutionary left, was now replicating it. The "quitters" went on to produce issue 73 of Class War - An open letter to the revolutionary movement.

Even its harshest critics accept this was a beautifully produced document, although the intended London conference had to be abandoned as London Class War had decided to carry on producing Class War.

London Class War takes over

Drawing it's supporters mainly from the Hackney area of North London; Class War, under the leadership of a new group of activists moved to a more openly confrontational postion. Active in reclaim the streets, animal rights; especially hunt saboteur activities,cooperation with anti fascist action and founded Movement against the Monarchy. Class War also supported Libertine movements such as the sexual freedom coalition.

Class War developed a libertarian culture which was at odds with the authoritarian, politically correct culture normally associated with the Hard left and openly mocked traditional left groups such as the SWP especially after their cooperation with, what Class War saw as reactionaries, such the Muslim Association of Britain.

For its small size Class War also manifested in a substantial street presence during public disorders such as the June 1999 City riots often as the catalyst of affray. As a result several members have been targeted and arrested by the Metroplitan Police's CO11 unit.

By 2003, Class War had one of the more popular anarchist websites in the UK, and the group had set up sister branches in the USA, Germany, and Australia.

Whilst many people were disturbed by the group's collective policy of direct action "by all means necessary", including violent action, it was stressed in the paper that the real aim of Class War was to support the working class in its struggles against Capitalist exploitation, with the knowledge that the "ruling class" would ruthlessly crush any resistance it deemed weak. Thus violence was a last but necessary option.


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