london forum on big flame

This August The Commune in London has staged a series of meetings on communist organisation, and we have already looked at the examples of Kamunist Kranti in India and 1960s-70s Italian group Potere Operaio.

The final meeting in the series is on Big Flame, a  British libertarian Marxist group in the 1970s. The discussion will be led off by a worker active in Merseyside car factories at that time. All welcome – the meeting is from 7pm on Monday 30th August at the Lucas Arms, Grays Inn Road, near King’s Cross (note change from original venue). Continue reading “london forum on big flame”

what ‘went wrong’ with the winter of discontent?

Often portrayed as responsible for bringing down a Labour government and ‘letting in’ Thatcher’s Tories, the 1978-79 ‘Winter of Discontent’ remains a high point in the history of the class struggle in Britain.

by Sheila Cohen

The Winter of Discontent (WoD) has not had a good press – either from the right or, less predictably, from the left. The most recent diatribe against this historic wave of struggle comes in a relatively recent publication whose author claims that “The Winter of Discontent marked the democratisation of greed…It was like the spirit of the Blitz in reverse”. A former Labour minister’s comment on the WoD that “it was as though every separate group in the country had no feeling and no sense of community, but was simply out to get for itself what it could” is used to illustrate “the callous spirit which characterise[d] the disputes”. Continue reading “what ‘went wrong’ with the winter of discontent?”

the limitations of corporatism: discussion on 1960s-70s trade unionism

The next of our London reading groups on workplace organising and trade union theory takes place on Monday 25th January. We will be looking at the 1960s-70s upsurge in the labour movement in the UK and the “limitations of corporatism”.

The meeting takes place from 7pm at the Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, near Old Street. See below for the recommended reading material and the questions for discussion. Continue reading “the limitations of corporatism: discussion on 1960s-70s trade unionism”

discussion meeting on 1960s-70s trade unionism, monday 25th

The next of our London reading groups on workplace organising and trade union theory takes place on Monday 25th January. We will be looking at the 1960s-70s upsurge in the labour movement in the UK and the “limitations of corporatism”.

The meeting takes place from 7pm at the Artillery Arms, 102 Bunhill Row, near Old Street. See below for the recommended reading material and the questions for discussion. Continue reading “discussion meeting on 1960s-70s trade unionism, monday 25th”

recession and the rank-and-file

Sheila Cohen explores the relation of capitalist crisis to upturns in working-class struggle

Clearly, it’s difficult in the midst of the current “double dip” recession to predict whether further key struggles will follow the Vestas and Visteon occupations, or indeed the less obviously recession-related struggles of engineering construction workers, Leeds refuse collectors and postal workers – not to mention current disputes affecting airline employees, tube workers and bus drivers. The list could go on, and indeed has spurred recent thoughts of a “mini-upsurge” – but are these struggles symptomatic of recession or simply of the general (and grim) rigours of an unrelenting neo-liberal capitalism?

It has never been straightforward, historically, to work out whether recessions spark resistance or dampen it. The arguments are obvious on both sides of the coin – capitalist crisis, with its persistent tendency to dump the effects on the working class, can spur struggle through anger and desperation (the nothing-to-lose syndrome) or suppress it through the terrible fear of job loss, a disaster for working-class families. To use a wise old footballing adage, “It could go either way” – but which way will it go? Continue reading “recession and the rank-and-file”

big flame (1970 – 1984)

The Commune has been described by some observers as promoting some similar political ideas to a ‘libertarian marxist’ group called Big Flame which existed between 1970 and 1984.  While we have no particular connection to the group, some of its material, recently made available online, makes for interesting reading.

The group, which probably counted around 160 members at its peak, was named after a television play directed by Ken Loach, about a fictional dockers’ strike and occupation on Merseyside. Continue reading “big flame (1970 – 1984)”

cesare battisti, ‘goodbye mr. socialism’ and ‘new thing’

Cesare Battisti is a militant of the 1970s Italian extra-parliamentary left, having been a member of Armed Proletarians for Communism. Along with many other activists of the period he fled Italy to avoid the wave of repression which closed the decade, and now has a precarious political refugee status in Brazil, as the Italian state continues to seek his extradition.

The two books reviewed below – Goodbye Mr. Socialism, by Antonio Negri, and New Thing by Wu Ming 1, are linked to Cesare Battisti’s record as a militant and the wider movement in Italy to which he belonged. By Leo Vinicius.

rome68

1. On the hunt for dissidence: from Negri to Battisti, two examples representing many

In the class struggle victory is never final, no matter for which side. The struggle is ongoing. It is continuous and does not respect national borders, and the case of Cesare Battisti [1] shows us this once more. The defeat of the social movements and extra-parliamentary left in Italy would not have been decisive – and it happened for this very reason – until Cesare Battisti fell victim to the Italian State’s and bourgeoisie’s desire to incarcerate him. Continue reading “cesare battisti, ‘goodbye mr. socialism’ and ‘new thing’”