Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Criminality and Riots

The recent riots didn’t happen in a vacuum. As with all riots, these outbursts of anger obviously runs far deeper. Looters don’t just wake up one day and start a riot. Poverty, distrust of police, and high unemployment create the perfect storm necessary to give criminals cover in an outburst of legitimate anger and resentment. Governments create situations where justifiably angry people swell the ranks of those in it just for the money and mayhem. Police abuse (such as what is suspected to be the judicial murder of Mark Duggan) can be enough to tip the scales. Riots are a poor form of protest, because they quickly lose meaning, lose purpose. It doesn’t matter that the victims of many of these attacks and lootings are also poor. Soon the riot is all that matters, not the underlying issues. Yet it’s important to understand what leads people to this point. It’s not enough to say they are criminals and thugs. Of course some (or many) are. But why are they? Class and racial tensions are at the heart of these riots.

Britain, one of the world's major economies, has a bigger gap between rich and poor than more than three-quarters of other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, according to a 2008 report. Charities in Britain say that inequality is most keenly felt in London.

"It's us versus them, the police, the system," said an unemployed man of Kurdish origin in his early 20s, sitting at the entrance to a Hackney housing estate with four Afro-Caribbean friends who nodded in agreement. "They call it looting and criminality. It's not that. There's a real hatred against the system," he added, listing what he saw as the police prejudice, discrimination and lack of opportunity that led him and his friends to loot shops, torch bins and hurl missiles at police on Monday. "There's two worlds in this borough. More and more middle classes are coming and we're being pushed out. The shops are pricing stuff like it's the West End, we can't afford the rents. We're the outcasts, we're not wanted any more. There's nothing for us."

"The politicians say that we loot and rob. They are the original gangsters. They talk about copycat crimes. They're the ones that's looting, they're the originals," said another man. He said politicians were the real criminals, and pointed to the expenses scandal.

Another pointed to alleged payments made to the police by journalists, claims currently under investigation as part of a wider phone-hacking scandal centred on the now defunct News of the World newspaper, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp media conglomerate. "Everyone's heard about the police taking bribes, the members of parliament stealing thousands with their expenses. They set the example. It's time to loot," the youth said

"Youths are frustrated, they want all the nice clothes. They ain't got no money, they don't have jobs," a 41-year-old youth worker told Reuters, stood outside the Pembury estate, the scene of much of the trouble on Monday night and home to mostly young black people. "To live, to have money in their pocket, they have to thieve, they have to rob. The people that run this country, they got money, they are rich, they got nice houses. They don't care about poor people."

Haringey, the borough that includes Tottenham, has the fourth highest level of child poverty in London and an unemployment rate of 8.8%, double the national average, with one vacancy for every 54 seeking work in the borough. In 2007 Hackney was ranked the second most deprived local authority in England, behind Liverpool. The poor say they have been hit hardest, with people in Hackney pointing to the closure of many services. More than 10 percent are unemployed. Some 11,000 people rely on state benefits to live, meaning some 24 people are competing for every available job. A small one-bedroom flats regularly cost some £300,000. According to the council, Hackney is ranked sixth out of the 32 London boroughs in terms of crime.

Professor Mike Hardy of the Institute of Community Cohesion said it was not just the division between rich and poor that caused the problem, but the fact they lived so closely together. Pricey organic food shops stand next to pound-shops. "There is a much greater visibility of the difference," he told Reuters. "In London, the current troubles are almost focused entirely not on a cause or a protest, but on greed and personal want. 'I haven't got something and I can take it'. "

You don’t respond to inequities by setting the world on fire without having a clue as to what to do next. That just means chaos. Most people would reject such behaviour and, given the choice, prefer authoritarian government. The SPGB does not glory in "class violence" just for the sake of kicking the shit out of our oppressors. The Left like to call the riots "uprisings". It is wishful thinking of the type they are specialists in. These are in fact the directionless expression of frustration and bewilderment at rising unemployment, inner-city poverty and the type of crushing boredom associated with social decay rather than the stirrings of a potential revolutionary vanguard. The rioting that has been taking place is unlikely to get the participants involved very far except to police cells and youth detention centres.


Bill said...

ajohnstone said...

"...Most people would reject such behaviour and, given the choice, prefer authoritarian government..."

When disorder broke out in France in 2005 in somewhat similar circumstances the political right was the major beneficiary. Sarkozy's rise from interior minister to president owed a great deal to his role in condemning the Paris riots.

ajohnstone said...

A look at what's happening. This is what the rioting and looting is all about. It should all have been expected long ago.

ajohnstone said...

Again what comes around , goes around.

Libya's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaaim said, "Cameron and his government must leave after the popular uprising against them and the violent repression of peaceful demonstrations by police.”

“Cameron and his government have lost all legitimacy. These demonstrations show that the British people reject this government which is trying to impose itself through force,” he added.

Kaaim asked the UN Security Council and the international community not to stay with their “arms crossed” in the face of the flagrant violation of the rights of the British people.

Cameron announced that a “fight back is under way” and that he would not let "phony concerns about human rights get in the way” of silencing the protesters.

He has ordered the British police to deploy 16,000 officers in London streets and authorized them to use rubber bullets and water cannon in order to regain the control of the crisis-hit cities across the country.