The whole point of Class War was for ordinary working class people to take control of their own lives back from the parasites who think they own this country. So why are we turning it in after 13 years? We are not. What we are about is looking ahead to something bigger, better and altogether more unpleasant for the ruling classes. Basically the paper and the Federation have gone as far as they can in their present form, and it's time for something new. As far as we know none of the usual political parties have ever dissolved themselves, but then, as we said, our politics are different. In order to make more sense of this we need to go back to the beginning of Class War and explain again what we've been up to all these years.
Class War was started in the early 1980s in London by a small group who soon linked up with like-minded people and formed a national federation in 1985. We were sick of the whinging lefties from CND or the Labour Party who were down on their knees pleading with the ruling class to be a little less horrid in the way that they rule the country. We were inspired by the principles of anarchism to raise the flag of direct class conflict because we know that it's the only way our class can win its freedom. To do this we have to push the middle class out of the way. In the 1980s that meant having a go at all the trendy lefties and pacifists, and so our main issues were class politics and violence.
Politicians, then as now, have no time for ordinary working class people; they even try to tell us that we don't exist any more. Class War set out to upset their cosy political world and bring real politics back into the real world. We set out to challenge all the bullshit of 'official' politics by getting back to basics with campaigns like 'Bash the Rich' and supporting any attempt by working class people to have a go at our rulers. This meant siding with the pickets during the miners' and printers' strikes. When most politicians were telling those workers to give up, or negotiate, we stood for them fighting the police who were doing the bosses' dirty work.
Our paper was written in everyday language and we made it entertaining to read. This horrified the lefties because no-one ever read their papers, and ours was something ordinary people did read. Class War was a real hit and we sold all the papers we could print. At its height we were selling 15,000 copies, and to be honest we could hardly believe it ourselves! We took the trouble to get Class War sold in quite a few newsagents in working class areas which helped to reach ordinary people that most lefties didn't even know existed.
The next important thing we did was to get our ideas across to real people and we found out how easy it is to use the media. By the time the poll tax riots came along, the media thought we had a massive membership and the police practically blamed us for organising all those riots! This showed how out of touch they are because all those people who rioted were quite able to do it themselves and didn't need Class War, or anybody else, to lead them.
The truth is that Class War never had more than about 150 members and for most of the time the membership has only been about 50 people. Now we may be pretty wonderful people but we are not super-revolutionaries. What Class War did was to act as a channel for class politics which struck a chord with people involved with those struggles at the time. We gave a voice to attitudes and feeling within our class that had been denied and ignored by the political world for too long.
The point of all this is that we only designed Class War for a limited purpose and we now think it has outlived its usefulness - it's getting in the way of people putting together something far bigger and more useful to our class.
We have to look at what has been good about Class War - and what hasn't - so that we can learn lessons for the future. One of the best things that Class War did was to aim at ordinary working class people living in the real world. Class War members were mainly working class people who had some experience in revolutionary politics and wanted to make something more useful to our class. Unlike most lefty parties we never had university academics or upper class drop-outs running this organisation. Our members live and work in the real world and we were able to use our political skills to bring our politics back into the real world. We steered clear of the strange and isolated twilight zone of extreme left wing politics and ignored the fantasy games of the existing Marxist parties. We also avoided the pointless trap of middle class student politics and let the SWP carry on with its job of pandering to that section of society. Our politics are in total opposition to their left wing elitism, and we fight for working class power so that we can manage ourselves.
We focused on what life was like in our communities and after decades of compromise we tried to give our class back a sense of pride. One of the problems we ran into is that lots of people do want us to be their saviours. But the last thing we want to do is to make people think 'leave it all to Class War, they'll sort the bastards out', because we can't and won't. Our aim was to help people to find a way to attack our rulers and organise their own lives. This will not happen if people think that others will do it for them.
The Federation remains a tiny group with a big image which has outlived its usefulness. The truth is that we will never grow any bigger in our present form. The appeal of our paper has become too narrow and limited - we have only sold between four and five thousand papers each issue for the last few years. But because it is still there, we can't move on to something better. We now need new ways of organising that can appeal to the whole working class, young and old, men and women, black and white. With a wider base in our class and a better vision of the future, we can build up something much more useful than Class War. This means looking for common ground with all class struggle libertarians and looking forward to the battles of the 21st century.
At the moment, we have more questions to ask than answers to give. But we don't see what we write here as an admission of failure or as a rejection of everything we have said and done in the past. Instead we see it as a progression, part of a process. Class War and the Class War Federation have only been one attempt by one small group to move our class forward. We have gone as far as we can: the time has come to try something new.