Alcohol and Anti-Capitalism
Apologies for the whinge that is approaching. Its been Climate Camp, and I wasn’t there, due to the clash with GreenBelt, and now I’m back, I’ve been trying to catch up on some of the happenings. Sadly, one of the easiest to learn about, given my preferred news sources, is a confrontation between Whitechapel Anarchist Group and many other climate campers.
The story goes something like this: they go to one of the meet up points for the big swoop, and then swoop in to the site with their banner unfurled, despite being asked not to, just like every other group, regardless of how anarchist or otherwise they might be. On arrival at Blackheath, according to their own website, their first priority was to “sort out the supply lines”
You might think this involved fixing the transit of food from site edge to the central and other assorted kitchens, but you’d be wrong. Their first task, they proudly proclaim, was to get alcohol onto what was otherwise a work site. The second, to get a game of football going. Basically, they weren’t prepared to get stuck in at all, and were looking for somewhere else to go and drink.
I take this as merely one example of many; a lot of so-called full time activists do an immense amount of work, often more than 40 hours a week, during their full time. Others, however, get drunk. And not just after work is completed, but instead of doing the work in the first place. Which is all a bit perplexing for several reasons.
First, alcohol is heavily taxed. The cops are paid for with the money they spend on their alcohol. They’re basically funding the state they apparently love to hate. If we all stopped drinking for a week, the treasury would have a panic (assuming we didn’t all celebrate the end of the fortnight). Alcohol funds the state and all its apparatus. Second, check the cans and you’ll discover that, for reasons of cost, most of these heavy drinkers are drinking the output of mega-breweries. So much for wanting to destroy capitalism.
Third, these people talk about notions of freedom. Help, I’m starting to sound like a nagging old school Methodist. But anyhow, where is the freedom in escaping capitalism and dominating power structures only to land up in a heap desperate for your next tin?
It has often been noted that British activists have a significant alcohol problem, and that our movements have become unable to stand up to the collective effects of alcoholism. I have to say, when I first heard this, I was a bit sceptical, but now I find myself deeply concerned. Alcohol can easily be as destructive of a movement as it can of a home. If working class homes are more likely to be destroyed by alcohol, there is no reason to make alcoholism one of the hallmarks of a “class struggle” group, rather, this is exactly why a “class struggle” group (like WAG, who seem to deify this term) needs to stand up to alcohol and its effects.
There is a lot else wrong with the way WAG presented themselves, how they acted incredibly selfishly and demanded everyone fall in line with them. And these are not new attitudes; groups have been using class as an excuse for drinking and being belligerent for years. I often wonder whether they genuinely want a world run on belligerence or if this is just a way for them to identify themselves apart from everyone else. Right now, it threatens the professionalism of movements, something that has taken a long time to build up.
I am worried all of this might come across as being somehow right-wing or whatever. When we engage with movements, we need to put in effort to understand one another across our diversity, and I find that very difficult when alcohol gets in the way of rational discussion (something many working class people are bloody good at).
If we are to be truly revolutionary, we need to stop fulfilling the stereotypes that the media and the state have given us to follow. Only in breaking free of those can we begin to build a new world together.