I wrote this document in 1969, when I was in my ‘twenties and active in the movement against the Vietnam War. Four years earlier, while a student at Sussex University, I had become a member of the Labour Party, attaching myself in particular to the "Militant" tendency which was influential in Brighton at the time. I supported "Militant" because they seemed to be the only part of the Labour Party who would not make compromises with capitalism in general or Harold Wilson’s collusion with the United States war effort in particular. "Militant" was a Trotskyist organisation of about 100 members, grouped together since 1964 to read the basic works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky and apply their lessons to our political work. More on All Power to the Labour Government
Throughout most of our history, humans have lived as egalitarian hunter-gatherers. If human beings prove happiest and healthiest under conditions of freedom and equality, it’s because these were the political conditions under which we evolved. My experience of ‘Reclaim the Streets’ and the Liverpool dockers brought home to me the extent to which broadly ‘hunter-gatherer’ principles of networking and self-organization are being rediscovered by those environmentalists, anarchist and socialists at the forefront of radical political activism today. My appreciation of these connections is perhaps best captured in the following interview, in which I was asked about my involvement with ‘Reclaim the Future’ in the years between 1994 and 1997.
Interview with Chris Knight and Pauline Bradley on 9th March 2002. Video recording by Peter Woodward and transcription by Heather Stephenson. Edited by Alan Woodward. More on My politics
(I do science; I also do political street theatre. Unlike the science, my theatrical output is not to be interpreted literally or taken too seriously!)
The Government of the Dead presents:
A travelling circus in which governments fall, Parliament is sacked and politics exceed the wildest possibilities of art….
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Launching Mister Mayhem’s ‘Project to Destroy the Labour Party’
“In Knight’s parallel universe, he will become general secretary of the Labour Party, while John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, replaces Mr Brown as leader.”
David Cohen,“Meet Mister Mayhem”, London Evening Standard, March 23 2009.
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What’s in a name?
What’s the ideal name for the new party of the working class? You’ve been bombarding us with ideas:
1. The Gordon Brown Nightmare Labour Party
2. The Walking Dead Zombie Labour Party
3. The Astonishingly Resurrected Labour Party
4. The Radioactive Mutant Labour Party
5. The Monster Raving Loony Labour Party
6. The Street-Fighting Direct Action Labour Party
7. The ‘Bash-the-Rich’ Anarchist Labour Party
In the end, however, we decided to call ourselves, very simply,
“THE Labour Party”
SHORT VERSION: The best way to destroy matter is to force it into contact with anti-matter.
1. ‘New Labour’ is currently impersonating our party. We want to seize back the name, preventing our enemies from using it any more. By identifying ourselves as ‘The Labour Party’ and printing membership cards, we’ll force ‘New Labour’ to react. Will they take out a High Court injunction against us? However they respond, it will trigger a public contest between ourselves and ‘New Labour’ as to who has the right to campaign and recruit members under this name.
2. John McDonnell’s ‘Labour Representation Committee’ already exists. This must form the core of any resurrected Labour Party with trade union affiliates capable of displacing ‘New Labour’. Although no decisions have as yet been made, the LRC can be expected to re-name itself as the Labour Party once it splits from ‘New Labour’, as seems likely soon.
3. ‘The Labour Party’ was the name printed on every ballot when we won the May 1st 1997 General Election and subsequent elections. ‘New Labour’ dared not print its name on any ballot paper in any election: Blair and his coterie knew they would lose if they did. We won the vote, but they stole the power. It’s time we seized back that power.
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While our party is nothing if it’s not an all-night mayhem party – the party to end all parties – our more serious political friends have been demanding to read the small print. At the risk of sounding boring, here’s what’s been worked out so far.
SERIOUS STUFF. LONGEST AND MOST TURGID VERSION:
1. THE Labour Party is the PARTY OF LABOUR. ‘Labour’ is meant in the dictionary sense, as in ‘labour is the source of all value’. Our job is secure political representation for our class. We oppose capitalism and will be replacing it with freedom and socialism, guaranteeing a home, a job and a future for all.
2. THE Labour Party is a broad church. But not so broad as to include free-market ideologues, benefit-cheat, tax-dodging MPs, war criminals, corporate and financial criminals or fascists. We’ve nothing in common with ‘New Labour’, an entryist organization of Thatcherites who for too long have been impersonating our party. Their ‘Labour Party’ is now thankfully dead. Surviving remnants may cling to the hope that it can somehow be ‘reclaimed’. We say: Repudiate the corpse! Sever all links with it! Fight with us to bring LABOUR to POWER!
3. The Party of Labour is not wedded to any specific ideology. As an umbrella uniting multiple ideological strands, we view ourselves as a direct action working class Parliament. The Labour Party welcomes affiliations from all sections of the trade union, co-operative, green, socialist, communist, anarchist and anticapitalist movements.
4. In the past, Labour has been an electoral party. Yes, we’ve shouted at anarchists, expelled socialists, barred communists. Yes, we’ve believed in the British parliamentary system. Yes, we’ve spent ordinary workers’ trade union subscriptions to sponsor career politicians eager to become Councillors and MPs. Yes, we’ve repeatedly won victories in elections.
5. But why keep fighting elections if the system keeps denying us power? Why sponsor people in Parliament if they switch sides once in office for their own private gain?
Beyond electoral politics lies the struggle for real power in the workplace, in the streets, in the media and in society as a whole. Having gained legitimacy on the electoral plane, our task now is to translate office into power. This means mobilizing our extra-parliamentary strength and overcoming the resistance of the rich.
6. Are we advocating a proletarian dictatorship? We want freedom, not dictatorship. But the rich have enjoyed their dictatorship for too long. They’ve fixed things to ensure that regardless of how you vote, they’ll still be in power. The time to turn the tables on them is now. How can you have democracy without dictating back to the dictators? Democracy means stopping politicians from accepting bribes. It means deploying the full force of the law. Instead of one law for the rich and another for the poor, let’s apply the same law to all. Let’s have a crackdown on crime – starting at the top. In a free and democratic society, no-one is above the law.
7. THE Labour Party under present circumstances has no special interest in holding parliamentary elections. Before yet another election, why not act on the mandate we already have? It was not ‘New Labour’ whose name was printed on every ballot when we defeated the Tories on May 1, 1997. On that date and in each subsequent election, the victorious party was ours. The people voted Labour but the capitalists stole the power. Let’s take it back.
Feb 24: Mardi Gras
Interviews & Articles
May 23: Sack Parliament!
May 1: May Day Merriment, Bank of England
April 11: Justice for Ian Tomlinson
April 1: G20 Meltdown, Bank of England
Demotix. Government of the Dead picket Parliament. (June 2009)
Press TV, Canon. Chris Knight debates with Vice President of the Police Federation of England and Wales, Simon Reed (May 2009)
Times Higher Education. Anarchist scholar sued over v-c web disclosure (April 2009)
Times Higher Education. ‘Mr Mayhem’ lifts lid on UEL charges (April 2009)
The Guardian. G20: The revolution will be taught (April 2009)
BBC News. G20 protest professor quizzed (March 2009)
BBC News. G20 protest professor suspended (March 2009)
CNN. Chris Knight, G20 Meltdown (March 2009)
Evening Standard. Meet Mister Mayhem (March 2009)
Evening Standard. Professor Chris Knight renews threats against G20 police (March 2009)
Open Anthropology. Anthropologist Under Attack: University of East London Punishes Chris Knight Over His Public Speech (March 2009)
The Guardian. G20 protests: The laughing Professor (March 2009)
The Guardian. Professor suspended over claims he incited G20 violence (March 2009)
The Guardian. Alternative G20 summit cancelled (March 2009)
The Guardian. G20: The alternative summit will go ahead (March 2009)
The Guardian. Academic questions (March 2009)
Telegraph. Academics and ex-model lead demonstration against G20 summit (March 2009)
Telegraph. G20 protest leaders: the professor, the page 3 girl and the people-watchers (March 2009)
Telegraph. G20 – Protesting Professor Chris Knight (March 2009)
Telegraph. G20 Summit: university professor suspended over bankers ‘hanging from lampposts’ comment (March 2009)
Times Online. G20 protesters take fiery rhetoric and bunting to ‘big tent City’ (March 2009)
Times Online. Anarchist professor Chris Knight suspended after G20 ‘threat’ (March 2009)
Download the New Labour turned upside down posters here.
Chris Knight. Unpublished typescript, c.1982
‘Science’, according to Leon Trotsky, ‘is knowledge that endows us with power.’ In the natural sciences, the search has been for power over natural forces and processes. Astronomy made possible the earliest calendars, predictions of eclipses, accurate marine navigation. The development of medical science permitted an increasing freedom from and conquest of disease. The modern advances of physics, chemistry and the other natural sciences have today given us an immense power to harness natural forces of all kinds and have utterly transformed the world in which we live.
by Chris Knight
University of East London
In 1844, following a four-year voyage around the world, Charles Darwin confided to a close friend that he had come to a dangerous conclusion. For seven years, he wrote, he had been ‘engaged in a very presumptuous work’, perhaps ‘a very foolish one’. He had noticed that on each of the Galapagos Islands , the local finches ate slightly different foods, and had correspondingly modified beaks. In South America , he had examined many extraordinary fossils of extinct animals. Pondering the significance of all this, he had felt forced to change his mind about the origin of species. To his friend, Darwin wrote: ‘I am almost convinced (quite contrary to the opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable’.