The new issue of the academic journal Twentieth Century Communism has published my paper on how Class War and Red Action responded to the rise of multi-culturalism and identity politics on the wider left. It appears in a special issue 'The Cultural Turn' which considers the development of cultural politics among revolutionaries.
The article is based on a paper I gave to the Communism Specialist Group at the "Communism, Class and the Cultural Turn" conference in Durham in January 2014, and has the very long winded title "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction: two responses on the British left to the rise of identity politics - the cases of Class War and Red Action".
Its argument is explained in the following abstract:
The 1980s may be seen as an era where a profound shift occurred on the left. The anti-racist and multi-cultural approach of Ken Livingstone’s GLC, and that of a series of local authorities, was accompanied by a developing women’s movement and the positioning of questions of gender, race and sexuality at the centre of left wing politics. In cultural terms Marxism Today was perhaps the most profound example of this new focus.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This paper focuses on two revolutionary organisations emerging in this period – Class War within the anarchist movement and Red Action in the Marxist tradition. Both developed broad intellectual justifications concerning the overwhelming primacy of class and as such serve as important footnotes in any historiography of twentieth century left politics in the United Kingdom - a 'lost left'.
Whilst Red Action were to go on and produce some of the most valuable critiques of multi-culturalism to emerge from the left, certainly in the early days of New Labour, the road for Class War was at times a lot more rocky. The concerns which emerged within Class War that its focus on class politics meant it was marginalising issues of race and gender is perhaps a further example of the maxim that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.