“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Friday, 26 June 2009

Big Flame - Lotta Fuss

There seems to be, on the internet at least, a revival of interest in the 70s revolutionary socialist group Big Flame. BF was part of a current at the time that styled itself "libertarian" although I failed to see the libertarian content of much of the politics and felt that "non-aligned" might have been a better description. There are others I know who would be a lot less generous but there were some good people around and often the politics was confused rather than malign. Certainly the emphasis on the personal in politics and the importance of sexual politics was very positive. Having said that, there was a strong vanguardist element in this so called libertarianism. I well remember being berated by one of North London's finest for doing (or not doing) something or other, I can't remember what, when as she put it,"there's a whole working class out there waiting to be organised". I can still feel the hackles rising now after all these years.
One of the hallmarks of this strand of politics was almost fetishising activity. It was essential to be doing something, anything. Lotta Continua sent a group over to London and was much admired. This was in a way understandable as they did tend to look like Italian film stars. They were rumoured to be the children of wealthy families. I don't know how true that was but they certainly had some very expensive looking clobber. But boy! Were they active. 
Almost any political movement that could be considered at all left-wing seemed worthy of support, especially if they hailed from the Third World. I mean people like myself, pro-sit anarcho stoners, we may not have had the most razor sharp critical faculties but at least we knew that our politics had nothing to do with North Vietnamese Stalinists, Roman Catholic Irish nationalism or Third World dictatorships in waiting of any sort; no matter how oppressed  the people they claimed to represent. I could never watch Citizen Smith. Too close to the truth mate.
Big Flame itself bit off a tad more than they could chew when they crossed swords with Solidarity. Accusing the likes of Joe Jacobs and Ken Weller of being "middle class pamphleteers" was a big mistake and the response was "Solidarity and the Neo-Nerodniks" a devastating hatchet job on vanguardism, third-worldism and a few other isms besides. Good old Solidarity. They may have been small, but perfectly formed.
Does any of this matter to anyone other than a small group of balding political anoraks? Probably not. Certainly that object of such unrequited adoration,the working class, soldiered on as before. I am confident that today's young militants will make a much better fist of things then we did. What happened in the 70s is of interest only to the extent that those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it. Finally here's a quote from someone who had more influence at the time than Big Flame, Solidarity and the rest of us put together.  
".......... absorb what is useful".   Bruce Lee.

1 comment:

Dr Llarregub said...

Wow, fancy finding a mention of Solidarity here. I was one of the early members and stuck with it till it expired. I wrote several of their pamphlets and even helped recruit the great Bone into Solidarity Swansea. I recall the row with Big Flame and meetings in Liverpool, a physical punch up with a few IS trots, and also Lotta Continua whose cartoons I reproduced for Solidarity Swansea. Ken Weller and myself were big buddies and lived for a while in North Wales, where close by lived Pat Pottle - who helped in George Blake's escape. When Solly ended I teamed up with Chris Pallis and produced a lot of medical research up until he died. So much action. Still keep in touch with old comrades and one of our former Swansea comrades died of cancer a couple of weeks back. She had kept the faith and was writing radical poems till the end. I am banned from contributing to the Incubone blogs, so mention of her death - a loyal friend of Bone during the Stoke Newington 8 campaign - was censored. Still, we had our day. Good of you to remember us.