Flagrant Self-Promotion

Flagrant Self-Promotion

Seven-hundred words discussing an article I wrote a for the Black Flag magazine. It's not super exciting, but helps me clarify the writing process and I'd be glad to get feedback from any interested folks.

I've recently added this article to the libcom library. It's a piece I wrote for the May 2012 issue of Black Flag. In short, it's about a chapter in a book I randomly came across some years back. The book, by MP Gerald Kaufman, is an impressive piece of bourgeois honesty. It's explicitly designed to be read by incoming MPs and high-level civil servants as a guide to the inner workings of British parliamentarianism. As such, Kaufman is freed from the constraints of public consumption and can be open and honest about the functioning of the liberal state in relation to the British bourgeoisie.

I'm really hoping folks will read the piece and offer feedback, so I'm going to use this blog post to discuss some issues I had while writing the article, more than I'm going to be summarising the argument.

Basically, the premise is that the ruling class is capable of incredible honesty if they think they're only speaking to each other. So when it comes to the structural critique communists should be articulating when analyzing the institutions of capitalist society, sometimes it's really useful to let the bourgeoisie make the arguments for us. The so-called “1%” isn't stupid. They can be sharply aware of the role of the state, reforms, inflation—and in this case in particular, trade unions—in maintaining and protecting class society. Such insights are especially useful to counterpose the arguments of liberals and reformists and, hopefully, crystallizing the common sense of the working class at times of social fracture.

(As an aside, I really want to do a study of management training textbooks. They often read like Marx in reverse and are great for helping us strategize in preparation for boss responses to workplace organizing.)

Anyway, my article focuses on Kaufman's chapter on the TUC. More broadly, it's about the role of social democracy in British society.* In parts, it's unavoidable academic, but I tried to keep it accessible.** However, I did have the ongoing problem of struggling to determine my audience. Initially, I'd hoped to put it out as some level of official SolFed literature. It was to be aimed at disaffected trade union militants. So not an introductory pamphlet, but the sort of thing we could hand out to trade unionists who'd experienced the bankruptcy of the union, but don't have a structuralist framework by which they can situate these criticisms.

The problem with that goal was that the long quotes which structure the article aren't great for introducing someone to a structuralist critique. In the end, I sat on the article for months until a comrade and friend in the Black Flag collective told me the new issues was taking submissions. So I took the plunge and submitted it to Black Flag with an eye towards eventually putting it in the libcom library and possibly hosting it on Recomposition Blog as well.

My hope in publishing it in Black Flag is that the magazine has quite a wide circulation within the anarchist community—certainly much wider than the organized class struggle tendencies in the UK. As class activity continues to heat up it will inevitably draw in the more activisty elements of the milieu (a process which can certainly be seen in Occupy). I hope my article will orientate such folks away from an idealised conception of trade unions and towards a focus on self-organisation and unmediated struggle. Plus, with Black Flag I can assume some degree of prior knowledge, allowing me to make some of my arguments in shorthand.

Anyway, depending on the reception, I still might adapt it for a pamphlet. So any feedback—either on this blog or under the article itself—would be most appreciated.

Oh, one final thing, the libcom library addition is slightly difference to what appears in Black Flag. Black Flag—and fair enough on 'em—left out some of the bits directly discussing SolFed strategy and chopped a few bits down for size.


* As I touch on in the article, neo-liberalism may be taking over, but I don't think a retreat from the post-war consensus has fundamentally transformed the role of the interventionist state.

** It's great that the Black Flag collective is always to so willing accommodate its contributors on these matters especially given the limited space in the magazine and all the time and effort of the editors, but I do feel the text in the published article could have been broken up a bit more.

Posted By

Chilli Sauce
Jul 14 2012 03:40


  • When it comes to the structural critique communists should be articulating when analyzing the institutions of capitalist society, sometimes it's really useful to let the bourgeoisie make the arguments for us.

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