Review: Labour – a party fit for imperialism

Robert Clough – second edition
Order the book from here:

A lot of radicals I’ve spoken to have bemoaned what they regard as the passiveness of the working class in Britain relative to continental Europe. There’s no point in just moaning about this – we have to get to what’s causing this passivity and do whatever it takes to remove it.

Over the years, I’ve read various pieces and the occasional book about how the ruling class in this country have, to date, always managed to throw enough crumbs at the upper sections of the working class to dissuade them from open revolt when things get bad. The ruling class have more often than not been able to successfully implement a policy of divide and rule by demonising the lower sections of the working class as feckless scroungers – a tactic that is willingly carried out by an overwhelmingly right wing media.

There’s the elephant in the sitting room – the legacy of empire. Let us not forget that it was the spoils of empire that enabled the ruling class to buy off the upper sections of the working class and forestall any serious risk of an uprising when things have got tough. It was the wealth leeched from Britain’s colonies that helped to fund the Welfare State after the end of WW2. A leeching that played no small part in the independence movements and revolts against British rule from the 1940s onwards.

All along the ruling class have had a willing assistant in this project – the Labour Party. What Labour – a party fit for imperialism does is offer a forensic examination of how the party really represented the interests of the skilled sections of the working class and saw it’s role as managing the more precarious sections of the class. From the outset, Labour realised that the spoils of empire were needed to give the skilled members of the working class the standard of living they thought they deserved. Hence, while there may have been some debate about how those spoils were extracted to be brought back to Britain, Labour has always had an interest in defending the imperialist project.

Until the legacy of empire is finally exposed for what it really is and consigned to the dustbin of history, the project of bringing about radical change in Britain will be getting nowhere. Labour – a party fit for imperialism provides the toolkit needed to debunk the toxic legacy of empire. However, what it also does by revealing Labour’s historic complicity in the project of imperialism is show the enormity of the task we have in slinging the legacy of empire into the dustbin once and for all.

The task of exposing Labour’s complicity in the imperialist project is not helped by the slavish devotion of the ranks of Momentum supporters to their messiah, Jeremy Corbyn. At the moment, it’s this plus the Trotskyists such as the Socialist Workers Party who support Momentum that’s posing one of the major barriers to building a movement that will bring meaningful, radical change. While we may not always see eye-to-eye with the Revolutionary Communist Group who brought out Labour – a party fit for imperialism, when it comes to the task of exposing Labour’s sordid role in promoting the imperialist project, we regard them as valuable allies…

Dave (the editor)


Our ground rules for 2018

As we’ve written previously, 2018 has the potential to be a volatile and unpredictable year where we will have to be on our mettle: Looking back and looking forwards We’re writing this piece in the spirit of openness so people can know what to expect from us over the coming year. It covers who we ally ourselves and network with. It also covers what we do in a bid to try and try to get people to have more realistic expectations of what we can offer.


We’re not empire builders but we do want to work with other groups on an ad-hoc basis in an informal, flexible network, linking up and supporting each other as and when required. When we work with a group, we’re not expecting ideological purity or an exact match with our beliefs – if we did apply these criteria, life would get very lonely indeed! Obviously when we work with a local community group, we do undertake a check first to make sure there are no racist / reactionary elements lurking within.

When it comes to political groups and organisations, we’re happy to work with them on an ad-hoc basis on issues of mutual concern. Which is why we’ve found ourselves out on the streets with the likes of Focus E15 whose work is facilitated by the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG). Focus E15 are a housing activist group – with our alliance with Basildon & Southend Housing Action, we’re also housing activists – why shouldn’t we work with the likes of Focus E15 when there are areas of mutual concern?

With the anarchist movement in a state of flux after the fallout from events at the London Anarchist Bookfair (28th October, 2017), we’re taking a bit of a step back when it comes to our engagement with it. This is down to us not wanting to get dragged into the debate around the issues of gender and identity politics that informed the tensions at the bookfair. Given the areas of activity we engage in and our lived experience, we don’t have a detailed understanding of the issues of gender and identity politics behind the tensions and as such, feel it’s not our place to comment upon them.

Obviously we extend our solidarity to those comrades who feel threatened because of their identity and sincerely hope that the movement will reach a point where people no longer have to hide who they really feel they are because they fear being on the receiving end of repressive behaviour. We’re aware of forthcoming discussions aimed at trying to find a way forwards for anarchism in London after recent events – we hope that all involved succeed in this aim.

Needless to say, whenever possible, we will still be out with our comrades from Class War… As things stand at the moment, they’re about the only anarchist group in London actually out on the streets doing actions in their usual irreverent, theatrical style and it would be rude of us to not support them when we have the chance to do so:)

Having said this, we expect to be out and about in 2018 with groups and organisations who are not from the anarchist tradition such as the RCG, the United Voices of the World Union and the like… We’re not making any apologies for this – as one of our number comes from an anti-imperialist, communist tradition, why shouldn’t they continue to express this as a component of their politics, particularly as imperialism is still a major issue in the global imbalance of power?


South Essex Radical Media, as you can tell from the title, is primarily a propaganda group. A key part of our propaganda is about encouraging people to act collectively to start to bring about radical change. It’s also about encouraging the formation of a network of grassroots groups who will work together as and when required and are willing to learn from each others experiences and exchange ideas and skills.

We work closely with Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) who are community and housing activists. They see their role as holding the council to account and encouraging residents and tenants to start collectively taking action to improve conditions on their estates. BASHA see their role with tenants and residents as facilitators and they’ll willingly provide whatever support is needed to help a group get off the ground – we take an active part in that when a propaganda aspect is needed. What BASHA and we will not do is hold the hands of a group forever – we want to empower people to collectively act for themselves, not to become a client group of ours because we simply don’t do client groups!

We refer you to this piece we wrote recently which we hope will make things clear: It’s down to us but most importantly, it’s down to YOU!


At the moment, we write the majority of the content that goes up on our blogs. That’s not an ideal situation as we really would like all of our blogs (and any papers we produce) to be collaborative projects. Ideally, we’d only be writing around twenty to thirty percent of the content and editing the rest written by people who support our vision for bringing about radical change from the grassroots upwards.

As we’ve mentioned previously, we’re into networking and alliance building as a strategy for building a movement that can bring about meaningful change. A key part of building that is having blogs (and papers) which reflect the strength and diversity of these networks and alliances so, please start sending in your reports, thoughts and musings and let’s open things up!

This also applies to distribution of our papers which currently is a right pain to undertake. On the basis that many hands make light work, any help with distribution will be greatly appreciated: Stirrer No.4 off to the printer

Trying to find a way forward

Where we are

Surveying the political, economic and social landscape, the curse ‘may you live in interesting times’ has never seemed more apt. The last couple of years have seen a series of political events that have caught most commentators off guard and there’s a feeling that the world is becoming more unpredictable and volatile by the day. To any rational observer of a radical persuasion, it’s clear that the political, economic and social system we live under is in crisis. Just one symptom of this are the divisions among our so called rulers over Brexit – these are not just about the arguments for and against but also what it actually means and how to implement it. They’re giving every appearance of not having a clue and are basically winging it from day to day.

We’re in a situation where a reasonably united radical movement should be putting a fractured, divided ruling class on the ropes while pressing the case for fundamental change and the overthrow of a system that’s reaching its use by date. There are groups and people out there fighting the fight but the ones we’ve worked with and stood alongside in solidarity tend to come from outside of anarchism. Focus E15 and Movement For Justice are two we’ve stood with this year in various forms, mainly because they get on with the job and aren’t prone to endless pontificating – more on this later…

What follows is a subjective piece based on our experiences. We hope people will recognise that we’re using these experiences as our contribution to what needs to be a constructive discussion on moving the various currents of opposition that are around forwards in a way that brings about a badly needed element of unity.

Building from the grassroots upwards

When it comes to ways of building a movement that’ll bring about fundamental change, there has to be a base at the grassroots on our estates and in our neighborhoods, in our workplaces and our colleges. As to how building from the grassroots happens, sorry folks, there’s no definitive template you can apply. From our experience in working with Basildon & Southend Housing Action (BASHA) every estate is different and has it’s own issues and characters. It’s a case of learning from the experiences of others and then working out how to apply them to the situation you’re facing while always bearing in mind the ultimate aim of what you want to achieve. What follows are our experiences of working at the level of the estate and neighbourhood…

There was one very important lesson we learnt from our Independent Working Class Association (IWCA) days, particularly when we stood in the local elections in the Stanford East & Corringham Town ward in 2007 and 2008. The lesson was that the vast majority of people are apolitical and generally don’t think about politics until it’s coming close to voting day. That’s if they’re intending to vote – bear in mind that when it comes to local elections in our area, the participation rate tends to hover round the 30% mark. Another lesson is that when you start talking to people on the doorstep, pinning them down to a particular part of the political spectrum is not easy. Someone may be quite radical on some issues but reactionary on others – you just have to use your own political nous to decide if there’s a basis for a dialogue in these situations.

Doorstepping isn’t the time or place to start adopting a holier than thou attitude with the person you’re talking to. We found that listening to someone in order to understand where they’re coming from without interrupting or hectoring them generally earned us enough respect to start a dialogue or debate. Sure, we did come across a few hardened racists and bigots and it soon became clear we’d be wasting our time pursing the argument with them as well as potentially compromising our own security. In those situations, we found it best to politely terminate the exchange and move on while making a mental note of where the bigots lived.

When it comes to gaining respect, one thing we have found from our experience that works is getting your hands dirty by getting stuck in on activities such as a neighbourhood clean up or building a community garden. Whether it’s organising it, facilitating the residents in running it or going along and learning some lessons from well organised residents who know what they’re doing will depend on the situation you face on the ground. The thing is getting stuck in and being seen to do so…

To reiterate, it’s a case of what needs to be done and what works given the circumstances and the resources to hand. Our experiences are determined by the demographic we’re dealing with and the political colour of the local authority area we’re working in. The issues and solutions we deal with and offer are going to be very much different from those facing activists in a London borough such as Newham. Having said that, the experiences of activists operating in all areas regardless of the different circumstances they may be encountering need to be shared to put all of our struggles into a broader, unifying context.

Getting the propaganda right

From our experiences with the IWCA and subsequently working with BASHA, we’ve realised that writing propaganda that appeals to ordinary working class people is a tough call. With the Stirrer and it’s predecessor the Heckler, we still feel that we’re on a learning curve and that we’ve still got a fair way to go before we really crack this one. We’re trying to do a number of different things with our blogs and papers…

Firstly, we’re trying to put our anarchist / radical spin on events happening across the area we cover and using that to point out that the system we have is no longer fit for purpose. We’re trying to do this in a way that’s not preachy or hectoring and acknowledges that there are a fair number of people who have been at the wrong end of the system and are sceptical about what (if anything) it has to offer. If we’re writing about the situation on some of the more troubled estates such as the ¾ in Vange, we’re acutely aware residents there know what’s wrong and what they want are some pointers or support that will start to bring about change.

Secondly, we’re doing our level best to inspire people to start changing things on their estates and in their neighbourhoods. Along with our partners at BASHA, we can’t be and don’t want to be everywhere leading the fight for change. We actively want people and groups to start agitating and organising for change on their own account with our role being to nudge them in the right direction when it comes to their politics and analysis and to offer practical support as and when we can.

With facilitating grassroots action there really is no blueprint for how to do this – it’s entirely dependent on the individuals making up the group who want your assistance. Sometimes you have to accept that there’s going to have to be a bit of a political journey, at others times you may be pleasantly surprised at how much people actually ‘get it’. We have to start with where people actually are and work from that point because a perfectly formed group with just the right politics just isn’t going to pop up in your neighbourhood in the current political and social climate. Which means that we cannot afford to sit back when it comes to our propaganda – it’s something we constantly review and if it’s not working, it gets changed and will keep on being changed until it does bloody work!

The point we’re trying to convey is that all of us need to think about the audiences our propaganda is aimed at and what results we want from disseminating it. This is as much a reminder to ourselves as it is pointing out that a lot of material produced by radical and anarchist groups could be a lot better. We’ve probably been as guilty as everyone else of turning out papers and blog posts for the sake of it rather than thinking what we want to get from each one. It’s relatively easy to write material for people who are already engaged in politics and activism – it’s a lot harder coming up with something that will appeal to and engage people who are pissed off with the way things are going but have had no prior involvement with political or campaigning activity.

Building alliances

When it comes to alliances, out here in southern Essex, we take a pragmatic attitude. We cannot afford to be political purists – if we were, we would be very lonely… So yes, despite the bashing of Labour’s shameful record on social cleansing in London in the name of ‘re-generation’, if our friends at BASHA find a Labour councillor who can work the system and get things done for them on the estates, we’re happy to use them to secure our aims – the emphasis being on ‘use’… Resident and neighbourhood action groups come in all shapes and sizes – while we always undertake a process of due diligence on them, on the basis that we start with where people are, more often than not, we’ll work with them.

When it comes to working with political groups anarchist or otherwise, it can prove to be a little bit problematical… We work with Class War on housing and other issues as well but as for the other anarchists in London, sadly we’re wondering where they are a lot of the time… As stated earlier, we’re pragmatists and if a group is heading in the same broad direction of travel that we are on an issue such as housing, we’ll work and stand in solidarity with them.

Which is why we’ve stood in solidarity with Focus E15 a fair few times over the last couple of years, not least because social cleansing from Newham has a direct impact on the housing situation out here in Essex. Yes, we’re well aware that the work of Focus E15 is facilitated by the Revolutionary Communist Group (RCG) and as anarchists, we shouldn’t have anything to do with them. Sure we don’t see eye to eye with the RCG on everything but where it counts for us on issues such as housing we do. They stepped up to the plate a few years back to facilitate Focus E15 and for us as housing activists, to not work with them because of differences over what happened a hundred years ago during the Russian Revolution would be a gross dereliction of our duty.

Given the way things are going and the threats we face, we need allies. It doesn’t have to be any formal alliance – just a tacit understanding that on certain issues we have a common aim and that it makes sense to work together on those issues. We see this as a fluid, flexible way of working where we work together with groups as and when the need arises and not get too hung up about differences while we’re trying to get a result. Taking this stance means we tend to work alongside groups who are at the sharp end of things and who generally are happy to work in flexible alliances as and when required. Just imagine what could be achieved if people just eased off the dogma pedal a bit and took a more open approach to who they worked with…

Identity politics has to recognise the need for unity

For the record, this is what we’ve had to say about the issue of identity: Is identity fixed or does it change? While we have some very strong reservations about identity politics and the call out culture that accompanies it, there are certain strands of thinking on intersectionalism that make some useful and salient points: Intersectionality – some tentative thoughts We’re giving you these links rather than re-hashing all of the arguments here in this piece which would make it unwieldy to say the least…

We understand that identity politics had its origins with particular oppressed groups justifiably fighting for their rights. What concerns us is the way that some people have twisted the meaning of identity politics so that it becomes a parade of competing victimhoods as opposed to a fight against oppression. Which is why we see hope in some currents of intersectionalism which while they draw attention to the varying and sometimes shifting oppressions people experience, they’re placed in a broader structural context and seek to aggregate the different struggles people are pursuing. This may well be over-simplifying things but while we have no issue with people’s different experiences and cultural backgrounds being respected, we want to see unity when it come to the fight for justice. As a matter of urgency, we have to work out what unites us so we can build the movement we need, sooner rather than later.

We’ll say it again – we’re in a period of great uncertainty and potential volatility… If the various strands of radicalism and anarchism could bury their differences and work together, the current situation could be the best opportunity we’ve had in a generation or more to seriously start to bring about radical change. However, if the current level of toxic fractiousness that’s all too prevalent in radicalism continues unchecked and we remain divided and fighting among our selves, we’re facing the direst threat there’s been for many generations.

We’re not just talking about the threat to us as activists which potentially is dire enough but to the working class, regardless of ethnicity, race or gender who as we’ve already seen with social cleansing from London and the Grenfell Tower disaster, face a direct threat to their existence. A fair number of middle class activists may not see this threat – those at the sharp end being forced out of the capital or having to constantly look over their shoulder in fear of the immigration squads or a racist attack live with it every moment of their lives. In these circumstances, can we really afford to continue to squabble among ourselves?

It has to be said it’s given us no pleasure to have to write it. We want to find ways of moving things forward in what is a challenging and difficult period so we can all realise our aim of overthrowing the crap we have to put up with and bring in a saner, just, equitable and sustainable society. We’re aware that many of you will not agree with this piece. For the record, we’re more than happy to receive constructive criticism and engage in a reasoned debate about the points we’ve raised.