Radical media, politics and culture.

Classwargames Communique Number 6

Classwargames Communique Number 6

In the legend of the founding of the Order of the Garter, medieval England’s most prestigious military order, Edward the Third plays Chess with the Countess of Salisbury. Queens, bishops, rooks, knights and pawns would decide this battle of the sexes. Edward Plantaganet staked a King’s ransom, in the form of a ruby, for the Countess’ virtue. Checkmate – the domination of one sex over another. How different is Debord’s game from its illustrious predecessor! This time around, the two players are loving comrades not rival aristocrats. In their book of The Game of War, Guy Debord and Alice Becker-Ho take on the roles of South and North. This illustrative contest is a marital affair: the tabletop becomes an erogenous zone where the inventor and his wife face each other in libidinous combat. Foreplay begins with North’s fond caress of South’s western arsenal, which soon succumbs to oblivion. Responding to this advance, South runs his cavalry up North’s left flank, and then North invitingly shifts her balance eastwards. Seizing the initiative, South fondles the tip of North’s mountain range before engaging in a penetrative action which comes tantalisingly close to entering North’s central arsenal. But, in a sudden forward thrust, North counter-attacks, her forces enveloping South who – with one flank now fully exposed - lingers in a fort before retreating back into his own territory. Finally, experiencing the ‘little death’ of surrender, South’s army becomes flaccid and resigns – totally exhausted - from combat.

The King and the Situationist had one thing in common: they were both beaten in a wargame by a woman. Yet, for the Countess of Salisbury, her victory was as much her undoing as a defeat would have been: the jewel in her possession being taken as proof of the yielding of her honour. Edward’s game of Chess was one of aristocratic domination, and led to the gesture of donning the Countess’ garter: the patriarchal symbol of the inner circle of the English elite to this day. In contrast, Alice’s victory over her husband was a cause for mutual celebration. In their Situationist wargame, competitive play stimulated psychological intimacy between the sexes. Winning or losing were equally pleasurable experiences. In both stories, the woman defeats the man in a simulation of military combat. But it is only in the account of The Game of War that the vanquished gladly shows his respect for the vanquisher. When Guy and Alice moved their pieces across the board, playing at war was making love by other means.

Their erotic, illustrative contest demonstrates how solidarity is one of the key principles embedded within the rules of The Game of War. An isolated unit is vulnerable, easily defeated in combat and always at risk of being outflanked. But a group of pieces that remain close together become comrades-in-arms, sharing their fighting abilities and supply networks with each other. By rewarding solidarity in its play, The Game of War acts as a tool of anti-militarisation in our revolutionary activities. It is the bourgeoisie who proclaimed the romantic general – Cromwell, Washington and Bonaparte - as the saviour of the nation. It is the bureaucracy who worshipped the man in uniform - Trotsky, Mao and Che – as the hero of the masses. The proletariat isn’t going to make the same mistake. Our revolution won’t be militarised – it will be eroticised!

Ludic Labour!