Caught Learning – after Bertold Brecht – describes a rejection of ready-made explanations, of the mystery of genius, of the separation of intellectual and manual labour. For Brecht, to be caught learning is to admit (and commit) to a kind of learning unfit for capital and the bourgeois professional. It is a form of co-learning, inquiry and knowing at odds with the logic of the academy, the market, the role of the specialist, citizenship, etc. It points to curiosity rather than certitude and at the same time acknowledges the merits of ‘crude thinking’ (thinking in general terms) over the sophistry of bourgeois non-communication.
We borrow Brecht’s phrase as a moniker for a group that aims to provide a limited kind of infrastructure for the kinds of self-learning and organising that interests us. The impetus for this initiative is to understand and respond to ongoing structural and political violence, to reactionary ideologies, and to the dull compulsions of capitalist hegemony. This initiative is important to us, because those of us with a commitment to radical social change have less time, less resources and money, less social benefits, higher living costs to navigate, and worse working conditions. Austerity has exacerbated existing funding crises for sympathetic institutions, and rent has all but destroyed the possibilities of utilising social spaces for radical ends.
The decomposition of the working class and large-scale social movements we describe above is the reality we face and the reality we want to overcome. We aim to practically foster conviviality and collective self-learning in the face of isolation, fragmentation and mis-information under advanced capitalism. We aim to support existing friendships, encourage new friendships and social relations, and develop new forms of peer-support based on co-learning, fun and the critique of everything we despise. We do this by hosting events and talks, by screening films, and by facilitating reading groups and collective public walks. We also aim to activate a mailing list that combines the sharing of resources and announcements, critical conversations, ranting and spleen, speculative ideas and inquiry, and solidarity, co-support and advice.