This is very much an archive text, which in some ways gives a flavour of the contradictions of that epoch. It was written for the North-West Polytechnic Socialist Society rag (Red Fist), which included everybody in the Poly who considered themselves “revolutionary socialist” in some ways. It was dominated by the International Socialists (now SWP). At that time, I thought of myself as a “libertarian socialist”, and my politics were close to Solidarity (UK), though I was hardly consequential with my critiques of IS, particularly as I shared a flat with 2 members (plus another Trot from the Healyite WRP). I was one of the co-editors of this highly eclectic rag.
The schoolkids’ OZ had some personal interest for me. At the end of 1969, I sent, to OZ magazine, a copy of a text I co-wrote on our experiences as a “guerilla theatre” group invading school playgrounds with a brief 12 minute agit-prop type play attacking the school system (see also “1969 – revolution as Personal And As Theatre”). The kids who were editing that issue of Oz decided to publish half of it. Although this text I co-wrote was not mentioned in the trial at all, it was (strangely) mentioned in an article by the obnoxious Bernard Levin in The Times. Like all liberals at the time, Levin supported the Oz editors against the Tory trial judge and surprisingly mentioned the couple of pages we’d written about how we got constantly harrassed by the cops and eventually arrested as an example of illiberal intolerance. Embarassingly, Bernard Levin was showing support for us.
This critique I wrote in 1971 is quite weak, but still has some interesting aspects.
Screenshots of pages from Schoolkids Oz reproducing parts of the text “From Guerilla Theatre To Courtroom Farce”:
Taken from here.
The defendants in the Oz trial – and Oz magazine itself – expressed part of the modernist movement which broke with the previous archaisms of a more overtly sexually repressed puritan ethic and bland traditional conservative aesthetic of especially the UK. It was part of the modernisation of capital, of its reform taking on especially previous cultural norms.
One could say that Oz magazine was an illustration of the contradictions of the cadre as developed by Cronin and Seltzer in “Call It Sleep” : “The transitional figure in the post-World War ll universe of the modern spectacle is the cadre. The cadre is the answer to the question: where have all the radicals gone. The cadre is the institutionalisation of the two-sided and contradictory nature of the spectacle, which simultaneously sings its own praise and, smelling its own stench, reports it…The cadre is the cetre of the fabled post-war revolution in the world of the commodity. It’s for him that the latest cultural innovations are created. He lives in the new architecture, goes to the modern cinema, pursues the modern dream of liberated sexuality. He is the person who…writes pseudo-critiques of the commodity society and believes them, who finds this world unlivable but still manages to flourish in it. The cadre must appear to be in the vanguard of his epoch. He must be in favour of everything progressive, everything radical, everything that purports to be new, and innovative and stylish…He believes that his educated refusal of inadequate commodities places him above the obedient consumers who believe what they’re told. The cadre simultaneously wants to enjoy the security of submission and the thrill of refusal”
Cronin & Seltzer got this notion of “cadre” from Debord and Sanguinetti, from Thesis 36 of their book “The Real Split in the International”:
“Today, the cadres are the metamorphosis of the urban petty bourgeoisie of independent producers that has become salaried. These cadres are themselves very diversified as well, but the real stratum of upper cadres, which constitutes the model and the illusory goal for the others, is in fact held to the bourgeoisie by a thousand links, and integrates itself into that class more often than not. The vast majority of cadres are made up of middle and small cadres, whose real interests are even less separate from those of the proletariat than were the real interests of the petit bourgeoisie – for the cadre never possesses his [sic] instrument of work. But their social conceptions and promotional reveries are firmly attached to the values and perspectives of the modern bourgeoisie. Their economic function is essentially bound up with the tertiary sector, with the service sector, and particularly with the properly spectacular branch of sales, the maintenance and praise of commodities, counting among these commodity labor itself. The image of the lifestyle and the tastes that society expressly fabricates for them, its model sons, greatly influences the sectors of poor white-collar workers or petit bourgeois who aspire toward their reconversion as cadres, and is not without effect on a part of the current middle bourgeoisie… The cadre, always uncertain and always deceived, is at the center of modern false consciousness and social alienation. Contrary to the bourgeois, the worker, the serf and the feudal lord, the cadre always feels out of place. He always aspires to more than he is and can be. He pretends and, at the same time, he doubts. He is the man of malaise, never sure of himself, but hiding it. He is the absolutely dependent man, who believes that he must demand freedom itself, idealized in its semi-abundant consumption. He is ambitious and constantly turned towards his future – a miserable future, in any case – while he even doubts that he is occupying his current position as well….”