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Grave Riddles Manifesto for a Revolutionary Movement with a

Chance of Winning.
Prof. G. Riddle, November 2011.

Let me get one thing straight: I dont think anything less than a revolution in the
economic foundation of Western (but now global, although if we do it soon we might be
able to avoid dragging the whole world with us, they might like to try other social forms
other than capitalism/socialism/fascism) society is adequate to change the radical
inequality and exploitation that we have accepted as part of everyday life. In other
words, I am a good Marxist and believe that changes must happen at the economic base,
and that these changes will most probably require force, i.e. civil war. However, I think
we are at an impasse at the moment, on the one hand capitalism is hegemonic and its
ideology so ingrained in our everyday lives it is like the air we breathe. On the other
hand, we, as anti-capitalist political activists and theorists, can no longer retreat to the
extreme left and blame the masses for lack of engagement. We must face the reality of
hegemony and that in order for there to be a revolution we need to do a hell of a lot of
work, from the ground upwards.
There is no proletariat. Is that true? If it is, why isnt there a proletariat? How did the
original proletariat arise? I dont have definitive answers to these questions, but the
history of the proletariat is very important. History is important. It teaches us that a lot
of work went into the creation of an effective working class movement, which in Britain
may not have achieved socialist revolution, but it did achieve real social change at the
level of reform. And then there are some people who believe that these reforms lead to a
crisis in social-democratic capitalism that could have turned into a natural (although
probably still violent) revolution. Except the ruling classes saw this coming and hastily
introduced neo-liberalism in an international ideological coup.
Things are different now. One of the main goals for us to achieve is a consciousness of
just how unfair capitalism is, taken at the domestic and global levels. We could wait for
the coming apocalypse of total global capitalist saturation: exhaustion of resources and
the ecological collapse of the earths ecosystem. In eschatological terms, this will be the
endgame; capitalism will either destroy us all or this crisis will force an evolution in
society. The problem is, our world will be totally devastated in the process. I believe that
we dont have to wait, and that there are certain things we can do at the superstructural
level (education, culture, politics, work) that will get us closer and quicker to a
revolution by choice.
But we also dont want a bourgeois revolution, which would put a new ruling class in
power in place of the old one. This revolution by choice will have to be a popular one,
the will of the working people of this world, and at the point when this popular
consciousness reaches a critical mass, it will take care of itself. But in order to get to this
point, we need to start at the beginning again, with radical public free education, an
open democratic media, a real socialist party to counter the centrist non-politics of the

Labour-Tory-Liberal deadlock and also a new attitude to the workplace. I think these are
practical steps that admittedly are very difficult to do, but will have real and positive
results in the future. We might not live to see the revolution, but that doesnt mean we
can sit around and wait for it, or cynically blame everyone else for their laziness
and/or stupidity.
So I have put forward three (there were supposed to be four but I ran out of steam)
points that need to be dealt with in order for there to be a revolutionary movement with
any chance of winning. These points will appear as serialized blog-posts in the next
couple of days. The missing fourth point involved the removal of the Tory-Liberal
coalition government as an affirmation of the political power of the people. In summary,
this would have talked about how we are close to kicking out this miserable excuse for a
government, pretty much everyone I speak to on a day-to-day basis hates David
Cameron, and I think the only ones who actually support them are the rich and powerful
minority that run this country. If we can keep up the pressure and end up kicking the
bastards out before their time is officially up, I think this will have hugely positive
effects on the political morale of the people. Ok, we will end up with Labour, who are
also shit and will do nothing different (Ralph Miliband will be turning in his grave), but
we might feel like we can make a difference by engaging in politics, and the new
government might actually have to tell the truth and follow through with their promises.

1, Destroy the media

The question I always end up asking myself while sitting in my local social club is, why
are the working-class even more conservative than the Tories?. I think part of the
answer involves the mainstream media, especially newspapers and television. The
average working class person will not use the internet to get an independent source of
news, neither will he or she get a sample of papers to construct a balanced point of view.
This isnt a matter of individual blame, or even blaming the masses for their ignorance.
I personally have given up on the news because I dont trust any of the mainstream
media outlets, not even The Guardian, and I really havent got time to do a bias
analysis every time I am interested in a story.
I personally came to realise the inadequacy of the mainstream press after the Millbank
protest last year. I was there, I watched it all happen. Then I went home and watched the
news (on all freeview channels), read the papers. It took at least two days before The
Guardian started to question the immediately disseminated hijacked by anarchists
bullshit. People defend the BBC, perhaps out of some nostalgia for the golden age of
public service broadcasting (an elitist institution anyway) but the BBC coverage was
appalling. I struggled to watch their reporting of the London riots earlier this year, and
ended up watching it on Sky News, purely because they had the resources to actually
capture live footage, instead of endlessly repeating the same three or four scenes of a
burning furniture shop, the poor guy getting mugged, etc. Ok, the BBC have to compete

with privatised networks, and perhaps they have to be careful not to piss the
government off. But fuck off, really. Everyone accepts this now? And their science
programmes couldnt be more patronising.
Looking at The Guradians timeline of the recent media scandal, it all begins with the
Royal family and a couple of News of the World reporters who had managed to acquire
information that only people within the inner circle of the Royal family could have
known. Subsequently, the reporters are sacked and Andy Coulson resigns claiming not
to have known anything about it (the independent Press Complaints Commission
cleared him of any wrong doing). A couple of years later Coulson is employed by David
Cameron as media advisor. In 2009, Nick Davies of The Guardian (now hero of liberal
media democracy) re-opens the News of the World phone hacking case, revealing that
News Group paid more than 1 million to silence a legal case that would have revealed
more incriminating evidence. Davies also suggested that a whole range of society had
been victim to phone hacking, from celebrities to politicians to ordinary people.
This kicked off a new round of defences by everyone, including the MET commissioner
John Yates and Rebekah Brooks from the House of Commons. And then in 2010 we have
a turnaround by the House of Commons based on a culture, media and sports
committee report saying that Goodman couldnt have acted alone. The story explodes
into a whole collection of damning evidence and spiralling investigations implicating
many people, coming to a head with the story that the News of the World hacked into
the voicemail of Milly Dowler in order to convince her parents she was still alive. 2011
saw the media scandal unfold fully, the News of the World closing after 168 years, and
the Murdochs standing trial
However, the story isnt finished yet, and it has faded to the background of media
coverage (predictably). The most disturbing aspects of the scandal, which are touched
on by the above timeline and missed by the majority of popular articles and reports, are
the links between the media scandal, the government and the police. David Cameron
employed Andy Coulson, allegedly not knowing anything about the Royal family media
scandal and then letting him go as soon as the whole business came back into the public
sphere. The police failed to re-open the phone hacking case two years ago, despite
strong evidence and accusations that the News of the World bought the contact details
of their phone hacking victims from the police, effectively assisting them in the crimes
that they are now investigating people for.
These disturbing allegations represent the political core of this whole scandal. The
reflexive mainstream media version of this scandal, on the other hand, is a carefully
controlled de-fusing of a potential political crisis, which would strip bare the
relationship between the government, media and repressive state apparatus of the
police. This much seems obvious to us paranoid Marxists and left-wing political activists,
but for this relationship to become apparent to the general public would perhaps create
a totally irreparable shit storm for the hegemonic neo-liberal status-quo.

But whats this got to do with revolution? Well, I think that this media-governmentpolice hegemony is the most immediate thing preventing a popular revolution. I mean,
before revolution we need a public that is able to think for themselves. We need an
independent media that at least attempts to give the news free from Tory and capitalist
ideology. Yes, I know this is a utopian fantasy, and there is the unavoidable function of
the media as an ideological state apparatus (and the media needs money, etc).
Therefore, if we are to have and help create a genuinely popular movement against neoliberalism, then we will need to destroy the mainstream media first.
How do we do this? I dont know. But I think the kind of investigative journalism that
finally breaks these scandals is a good start. The problem is that the mainstream media,
especially when criticising itself, can only take it so far.. Call me a conspiracy theorist,
but if we extreme lefties are right, and there is a media-government hegemony, then this
hegemonic power nexus will be able to close up any such an investigation if it remains in
the hands of the mainstream media. But we have got the Internet, and it hasnt quite
been co-opted by censorship laws, intellectual property rights and capital. There has
also been a resurgence of citizen reporting and independent online media initiatives.
Radical people are doing their best, and there is widespread public involvement in nonhegemonic media. But the more of us that get involved, the more powerful this countermovement will be.
Lets push this media scandal all the way to the truth, expose David Cameron, Tony Blair,
the police, the Murdochs, the whole fucking web of corruption and ideology. Then, when
the mainstream media is broken, we have a chance creating an alternative, not even
necessarily a socialist media network, even just a properly independent and
democratic one would do. And not just a return to some kind of BBC golden age,
because this was still based on an elitist idea of education, combined with what media
theorists call a top-down distribution model of information (centralised, one-to-many).
A radically democratic media would be de-centralised and yet funded through noncommercial means. I dont know. The point is that the mainstream media-government
hegemony is the iceberg to break any revolutionary cruise-ship romance, and also is
what is preventing any critique in the public sphere of the status quo.
2. Bring back radical adult education
According to an article on infed (who appear to be a genuinely not-for-profit site
trying to articlualte an open history/encyclopaedia of education) called Adult Schools
and the Making of Adult Education, adult education began with the need for the Church
of England to teach people how to read the Bible. This initiative caught on more in
Scotland and Wales than in England, with some 3000 schools opened by 1737 1761 in
Wales alone. Adults were allowed to attend the evening classes and Sunday schools, but
these free schools were mainly aimed at children.

The first proper adult school is said to have begun in 1798 in Nottingham. This was
followed by others in London: Southwark in 1814 and another at the New London
Tavern, Cheapside in 1815. These first adult schools were still very much linked to
religion, with a strong involvement from Quaker societies. In Birmingham, two Quakers
Joseph Sturge and William White formed the Serven Street school in 1850, which
broadened its curriculum to include evening classes in arithmetic, geography and
grammar. They also emphasised widening and retaining participation, helping to foster
such co-operative mutual aid activities such as book and library clubs, savings banks,
sick funds and temperance societies. Eventually a National Council of Adult Schools was
founded in 1899 to promote and federate these existing adult schools.
These adult education provisions peaked in number leading up to the First World War.
By 1910 there were something like 1900 schools with about 114,000 adults attending
classes. These schools were still closely associated with religion, and the two
educational principles set out in a 1907 statement for these schools were 1) The
reverent study of the Bible as the central feature, and 2) Democratic, non-sectarian and
non-party methods of working.
So this was far from a radical (socialist) political project, and there is a certain amount of
hypocrisy in maintaining that the schools should be ideologically informed by the Bible
and not by sectarian politics. But anywayThe reasons for the decline of this type of
adult education are, according to infed: the War, which obviously reduced the
numbers of participants and teachers; the creation of the Workers Educational
Association (WEA); and the mood of the time, which seems to be that men, the ratio of
men to women being 2:1, were put off by the religious nature of the schools (women
stayed longer).
After this we pick up the history of adult education again with the WEA, which
nowadays offers the same kind of flaccid education as Further Education evening
classes: pattern cutting, art, back to work skills, literacy, numeracy. Im not putting these
course down in principle, especially not numeracy, literacy and back to work training
(ask me about my experiences with the jobcentre and New Deal!). Its just that I expect a
little more from the WEA, an organisation linked to the working class as a political class
with expectations beyond the hobbies allotted to them by the ruling class. In fact, there
is current course on the WEA website that made me pay attention, called Understanding
Politics. The course aims to break down barriers to increase womens participation in
public life; provide tailor made training for women at grassroots level; strengthen the
voice of women in Balsall Heath (in Birmingham); etc. Strong stuff, excellent work! Much
more like the kind of educational provision to encourage political consciousness.
On the WEA website we get a Brief History of the WEA, written by Trudy Jackson. The
WEA started as a collaboration between itself and the University extension classes that
had already existed, which the WEAs co-founder (along with his wife) Albert
Mansbridge had been attending for years. So you know what Im going to say: the WEA

started out as an organisation subjugated to the already elitist system of University

However, the WEAs emphasis on tutorials rather than lectures marked an attempt to
make further education more relevant for workers, and not just a way for the University
to feel like they are making an effort. There was also an emphasis on social and
economic studies in the early part of the association, which makes sense considering the
strong links with the unions. Nationally, WEA were organised as a branching system,
with regional groups of students. By 1945, there were over 800 branches across the
country, a figure that hasnt really changed since. It is also worth noting that Raymond
Williams was a WEA tutor for many years, someone whom I respect a lot. (Karl Marx
also ran some community workshops for the working classes in Soho, in the early days
of his involvement in the Communist League).
At the UfSO, we have been giving the University a lot of shit, and rightly so. It is a racist,
elitist, sexist, bourgeois institution. The adult education movement was something
different to this middle class fortress of culture, even though it eventually became
absorbed and neutralised by the status quo, it was nevertheless an invaluable resource
for the emerging political consciousness of the working class. The international working
class achieved real victories in the 20th century. Although no revolution happened in
Britain, they won (and we still have) state funded primary and secondary education for
all, a nationalised communications and transportation infrastructure, welfare and a free
national health service.
We need to create a network of radical community adult education groups within our
immediate areas, running workshops on critical thinking (non-reified philosophy),
cultural and media studies, Marxist economic theories, political history, etc. Basically all
subjects that will help open minds and lever out some of the ideology and other bullshit
that has been sedimented in the popular/public consciousness. This will not be a matter
of academics lowering themselves to the masses. It will be a collaborative learning
experience, tutor and students learning from each other and working towards the
production of a piece of writing, or a film, or a political party, or whatever. Along with
the destruction of the mainstream corrupted media, the growth of a radically noninstitutional education network will be a very powerful weapon against hegemony and
neo-liberal capitalism. A new proletariat will need to have the critical powers and vision
to sustain a global socialist (or whatever you want to call it, true democratic, anarchosydicalist just not fucking capitalism, or fascism!) movement
3. Fighting competition in the workplace
In Karl Marxs Capital Volume 1, somewhere in the final section of So Called Primitive
Accumulation, Marx re-tells the story of a guy who emigrates to Australia intending to
set up a profitable capitalist colony. He takes with him capital, in order to provide the

means of production and the subsistence needed for him and his workers for this
production when he arrives. He also takes with him the work-force. The only problem is
that he forgot to take with him the relations of production; that is, the dependence of the
worker on the capitalist for his/her means of survival. This was crucial because the land
in Australia upon which he planned to form his capitalist colony was still held
in common, and the people required no capitalists to provide them with subsistence, as
they could just get on with producing for themselves. No private property = no
capitalism. As Marx says, this guy made the mistake of thinking that capitalism was
a thing and not a relation between people mediated by a thing (the commodity).
Marx theorised the concept of primitive accumulation to explain how capitalism came
about in the first place. So he looked at the enclosures of the commons towards the
end of the 18th and early 19th centuries in England. The commons were enclosed,
creating a landless working class, who then have to sell the only private property that
they have left, their labour power, in order to be able to afford to live (renting from
It is important to note that this is an over-simplification, and primitive accumulation
isnt always this straightforward, and perhaps never has been. But this structure has a
lot of explanatory force. It explains how the relations of production came about. It also
explains a lot about how modern capitalism works: the various methods that capitalism
uses to create new markets, or to stimulate growth war in Iraq (to free up oil supplies),
intellectual property rights on the Internet, the privatisation of common goods like the
NHS education and the welfare state, and so on.
One really crucial phenomenon the concept of primitive accumulation illuminates is
how the so called division of labour came about. This idea has lost its original meaning
over time to mean something like a positive and necessary way to get anything done,
pretty much anywhere. Of course this is a tendency in capitalist ideology, to pervert (or
reify) original meanings until they become empty truisms. But originally the division
of labour it had a definite meaning: it is the process of individuation, first splitting up the
people into new class divisions between workers and capitalists, and then the further
division of the workforce into individual workers in competition with each other. So
going back to primitive accumulation, when the capitalist class, by use of force or
government intervention, displaces a people from the commons, it also individualises
them into workers because the only thing they have left is their individual labour (which
then becomes alienated from them in commodity production).
Now that the relations of production are in place, the capitalist can (or must) create
competition within the work-force to drive productivity and push for ever higher levels
of exploitation and therefore super-profit (remember that exploitation in terms of
wages and standards of living are always relative, i.e. the minimum wage is relative to
the amount of profit made by capitalists and the cost of living for the worker). This is

why solidarity is such an important concept in anti-capitalist struggles. In the early

days of commodity production, when it involved mass production and concentration of
the work force in factories and working class towns/cities, this division of the workforce
was in danger of being overcome in favour of solidarity, and perhaps eventually
This sounds very dramatic now, but what allowed Marx to so confidently predict the
collapse of capitalism as an inevitable process was not only the then blatant and
simplified contradictions within capitalism, but that socially the work-force was already
together and already in control of the means of production. On paper at least, the
workers really only had to form unions and kick the capitalists out of the factories. In an
already socially and geographically consolidated working class, It would only take the
spark of revolution to ignite a transformation in the relations of production.
However, in reality things werent so simple. The consciousness of the proletariat (the
political self-awareness of the working class) in advanced capitalist countries was not
quite ready for this transformation, and in the countries where socialism actually
happened, they hadnt gone through the capitalist transformations of society and
production. The communist revolutions were easily co-opted by a new ruling class, often
with horrible consequences.
In advanced Western capitalist societies, especially in America, technology saved the day
for capitalists and transformed the manufacturing process so that industry wasnt so
dependent on labour. Workers were now in competition with machines, and they would
always lose because it is impossible for a human being to be as exploited as a machine.
The mechanisation of labour meant that there would be an increasingly redundant
labour force, which means that there will always be someone else who can do your job
for cheaper, work longer hours, survive on less money, live in a country where the
government ignores labour rights, etc.
The next phase of capitalist hegemony is the reintroduction of liberal ideology, in the
form of neo-liberalism. And so back to primitive accumulation the gains of the
international labour movements in Western society created an economic stalemate
between socialism and capitalism (within national boundaries and internationally in the
wider ramifications of the Cold War). Certain infrastructures and social provisions were
socialised, and capitalism was regulated by the nation state. Growth stalled and
unemployment rose. Panic ensued in what was still fundamentally an increasingly
global capitalist system. Western democracy was faced with two options: socialism
proper, or a new phase of liberal capitalism. And then we have the Thatcher-Reagan
socio-economic pincer move, and neo-liberalism is invented by the Chicago School of
Economics and institutionalised by these two horrible excuses for human beings.
The first tactic of neo-liberalism, within a strategic return to primitive accumulation as
the primary source of capital growth, is to turn the commons of social democracy into
private property. That is first: opening up social housing, the welfare state, the NHS,

education, the communications and transportation infrastructure, technological

research to capitalist speculation, by privatising them (turning what is common into
private property). And second to release the constraints put on capital accumulation, so
that there is no restriction to the exploitation of the workforce in order to create superprofit. This all conveniently makes the workforce desperate for work, no matter how
degrading and cheap it becomes, as there is no security, support or protection from the
state. We can now see why the neo-liberal state wants to specifically abolish the welfare
state and public services, because these make the people less dependent on capitalism
to provide them with the means for survival; these social provisions blunt the
competition within the workforce, and also within the reserve army of labour (broadly
understood as the unemployed and about to be unemployed, now called precarious
Today capitalism is hegemonic (without ideological alternatives) and has total control of
society. We are all convinced that there is no working class, in England especially we
believe that we live in a classless society (thanks especially to New Labour). The
government fully supports, if not pre-empts (to ensure growth, especially today after
the so-called financial crisis, all primitive accumulation justified under the banner
of saving the world economy) all measures to split up the solidarity of workers, to pit
them against each other in a bloody fight to the death and to make sure there is no state
support to reduce the competition between the workers.
The point of this long story of industrial and post-industrial capitalism (apart from the
re-telling of history being crucial to fighting hegemony) is that we need to fight this
division of labour whenever and wherever we can. We can do this at work by acting in
solidarity with each other. The history of the division of labour is crucial to giving the
concept of solidarity a real social meaning. In fact, solidarity shouldnt be a concept at
all; it should become a definite social relation. Just like the one capitalism relies on for
the creation of surplus-value. We need to work on this solidarity until it is
the dominant social relation (and then we are ready for revolution!)
Itll take time, but slowly we can create a society based on solidarity. We can start the
process at work, by talking to each other as real people and not as things (i.e.
commodities, or abstract labour, or in more everyday terms, that cunt over there who
wants my job or who pisses me off because is he/she is this that or the other, and so
on). We should do each other favours that do not rely on a speculative advantage in the
future. We must always stand up for each other when we can (of course this is the most
difficult thing to do at work, because we have no power to stand up for ourselves or each
other. But to do this is actually a spectacular form of solidarity). We should notice the
class structure of our workplaces (whether there is a division between say office and
warehouse/factory floor, and if there is, flouting it constantly! You will never be sacked
for being nice!)

I think the interesting point about a lot of post-Fordist wage work is that we get paid per
day/month/year (ok not everyone has the luxury of a contract). This can work to our
advantage because we arent as monitored as we were 100 years ago. Do your work
quicker and better than you are usually inclined to do and spend the rest of the time
secretly writing, or thinking, or doing favours for colleagues, or researching if you are
able to surf the internet, etc. Steal some of that surplus value back and use it against the
fuckers. But be careful! Work environments are subtle in their panopticon-like
monitoring of productivity. Often you will find one of your colleagues grassing you in, or
worse, you feeling guilty and working harder instead!
Solidarity as a social relation isnt something we have yet, and it will only become
definite on a healthy foundation of mutual respect and cooperation. In the mean time,
we can hold the concept of solidarity above and against capitalist work relations and
work towards it, together. Our bosses cant really complain if the work gets done, and if
you and your colleagues can create a good argument why working together is better
than working against each other, as long as money is being made they wont care. This is
just a strategic plan; it might seem counter-productive and demeaning, to work out how
to make money better for someone else (we are doing this anyway), but you can secretly
know that this is a long-term war and you are making progress towards a united workforce that could one day be called the proletariat again. Post-Fordist workers of the
world unite!!