BY Simon Denny AND Joanna Pope | 22 JUL 20 | Opinion
Featured in
Issue 212

Simon Denny and Joanna Pope's Board Game for Class Warfare

Take advantage of 'crisitunities' to defend the rights of workers - or exploit them

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BY Simon Denny AND Joanna Pope | 22 JUL 20 in Opinion

Class Struggle is a board game created by New York University professor Bertell Ollman, first published in 1978. Designed as a socialist alternative to Monopoly, Class Struggle sold around 230,000 copies before going out of print. Like Monopoly (1935), it resembles The Landlord’s Game, designed by Lizzie Magie in 1902 to illustrate the monopolist tendencies of the property market.

This unauthorized update of Class Struggle has 84 squares, each of which represents a step along a speculative path towards revolutionary confrontation between capitalists (blue) and the working class (pink). Following Rosa Luxemburg’s famous dichotomy in The Junius Pamphlet (1915), the game’s outcome is either a ‘transition to socialism or regression into barbarism’. For Luxemburg, barbarism was embodied in the imperialism and inhumanity of World War I, with its cruelties facilitated by modern technologies. 

Simon Denny and Joanna Pope, Class Struggle, 2020. Courtesy: the artists

The potential strategic victories (‘assets’) and losses (‘debits’) faced by workers and capitalists have changed since 1978. We have updated some of the game’s squares to reflect new actors, sites of conflict and axes of struggle. However, we have left the board’s more prescient squares – such as ‘Capitalists control congress’ or ‘COLD FEET: Miss as many turns as you have allies’ – untouched. 

While the game centres around conflict between capitalists and workers, players are also able to form alliances with so-called ‘minor classes’. In our version, these potential allies are members of the precariat – from couriers to care workers – and of the eco-precariat: an emerging group of tree planters, carbon counters and other vulnerable environmental service workers. 

Class Struggle is also punctuated with Chance squares, renamed ‘Crisitunity’ in our version – a neologism combining ‘crisis’ with ‘opportunity’. Landing on a Crisitunity square sees players confronted with one of six anthropogenic disasters, such as a flood or epidemic. These systemic shocks can drive society into crisis, erasing gains made by capitalists and workers in their respective struggles. Or, players can use these events to their advantage, taking them as an opportunity to further their mission.

This article first appeared in frieze issue 212 with the headline ‘Class Struggle 2020’.

Main Image: Simon Denny and Joanna Pope, Class Struggle, 2020. Courtesy: the artists

Simon Denny is an artist. In September, he will have a solo exhibition at K21, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany. He will also participate in the 7th Athens Biennale, Greece (25 September–29 November), and Belgrade Biennial, Serbia (opens 16 October). In March 2021, he will have a solo exhibition at Petzel Gallery, New York, USA. He lives in Berlin, Germany.

Joanna Pope is a researcher and composer. She is a contributing editor of Uneven Earth, a regular contributor to The Syllabus and communications officer at the non-profit Promoting Economic Pluralism, London, UK. Her debut EP Fantasias for Lock-In was released on TT in 2019. She lives in Berlin, Germany.

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