The Conspiracy of Good Taste
A few thankyous need to be said...
First to Howard Slater who wrote me feedback on many early drafts of the thinking that led up to this book. He had been researching into the early history of the labour party, under the title Tribunes and Plebs, so he was in a good position to make all the right noises. It would not have reached completion without his wise encouragement. It was first published as the third part of a three part exploration of what I was about as a struggling 'working class artist'. The first two books were entitled: Collaborations (1987) and Class Myth & Culture (1990).
I had organised Working Press 'books by and about working class artists', an unfunded self-publishing collective which brought out over 20 books between 1987 and 1997 when I was the main person running it. The idea had been to bring attention to the working class voices that tend to be isolated even when they do make it to publication. Then in the late Nineties when the 500 hardbacks I had first printed were beginning to run out Brandon Spivey started his onslaught of praise and enthusiastic feedback. I think Brandon bought and distributed the final three dozen or so of that first edition and then offered to print a new edition redesigned by his mate Terry.
Brandon's unbridled enthusiasm was embarassing, but it also revived my original hopes and goals in doing the book. I had felt I was making a breakthrough in understanding class oppression as something that was not just about lack of money but was a mechanism that violates our integrity.
I had hoped it would find other working class rebels who would be thinking outside of existing frames and taking new approaches to dismantling the oppression. I know the book is an awkward negotiation between formal literary knowledges from established left leaning historians like E.P. Thompson and Pierre Bourdieu and my own life experience as an outsider, dropout, artist, autodidact, self-publisher and working class thinker. Awkwardness is what you meet when you try to forge new concepts against the prevalent current of the middle class intellectual mindset that pervades most publishing and universities. Awkwardness and a sort of patchwork style is what you might expect if you try to explain a life of discordant dislocations of class and ethnic culture. We must celebrate such awkwardnesses as much as we celebrate regional dialect and other re-emergences of oralacy into written forms.
I did get encouragement from many working class thinkers but it was the support and communication from Howard and Brandon that was crucial to this book. It seems to me all progress is this area is down to setting up such connections of all-out support between each other. One of the main planks of class oppression is simple plain discouragement of our ability to think. Negations of our most bold and innovative thinking pour onto us from an early age and from all directions. These put downs along with diversions, distractions and exclusion conspire to keep our thinking quiet. It should be screaming.
Stefan Szczelkun 2001/2004
Web version 2005