EPISODES IN BIG FLAME HISTORY: No 2. Big Flame Politics
Posted by archivearchie on May 2, 2009
From time to time, Big Flame published a short introduction to its politics. This post highlights three of these.
This was the year Big Flame changed from a federation of autonomous groups into a national organisation. It had groups in Merseyside, Manchester, Birmingham and West London (an East London group had left – more about that in a later post [see Episode 5]).
A pamphlet was published to set out the politics of the organisation. Click here to view – Big Flame: Our Perspectives and Work (warning: this may take over a minute to appear).
In the years since 1975 Big Flame had launched the Project “Towards a New Revolutionary Socialist Organisation”, participated in Socialist Unity and turned down a call by the International Marxist Group and the International Socialist Alliance for a unifed organisation. By the date of its 1978 Conference, Big Flame had 160 members (probably close to its peak). There were now Big Flames groups in Sheffield, Leeds, Nottingham, South London, North London and elsewhere.
A new pamphlet was published. Click here to view – An Introduction to Big Flame (warning: this may take over a minute to appear).
This one added sections on Big Flame’s History and Structures.
In 1979 the first edition of Beyond the Fragments was published, which struck a chord with Big Flame. By the 1980 Conference Big Flame membership was down to 125, although there were probably members in more places than ever before.
That year Big Flame produced another publication. This one was aimed at new members and sympathisers rather than on general sale. Click here to view – Introductory Guide to Big Flame Perspectives (warning: this may take over a minute to appear).
It was fuller document than those mentioned above, with references to the documents or decisions from which the text derived. It dropped the History and Structures sections but added a Reading list under each topic.
It may seem unnecessary to reproduce here all three pamphlets when there is a lot of repetition between them. However, while there is much consistency, there are also differences or at the very least shifts of emphasis.
· The idea of mass politics – targeting activity at the working class as a whole, rather than layers of activists or leaders.
· A similar view of party and class – at a stage when the conditions are right the working class will need a party, but is the working class organs of popular power than will be of greater importance than the party. Big Flame does not claim to be the party, or even the embryo of the party.
· The phrase autonomy is used throughout. In the first pamphlet the emphasis is on the autonomy of the working class. Later, it is on the autonomous movements of oppressed sectors.
· The first pamphlet gives greater attention to the refusal of work (through absenteeism, sickness, etc) and divisions in the working class The latter one is more concerned with prefigurative politics (not separating what happens before and after the revolution), and struggles in the community and social spheres.
I will return to some of these themes in later posts, in particular the changing influence of some Italian left groups on Big Flame [see Episode 6].