Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Riot or Revolution

In the 80s at St Paul's in Bristol, in Brixton, Toxteth, Moss Side and Handsworth, dispossessed and frustrated black and white youths looted shops, attacked the police and burnt down buildings. Some years ago, we saw "race riots" in the North at Oldham, Burnley and Bradford. SOYMB has now witnessed similar disturbances again over the last few days in parts of London, and within ear-shot of the Socialist Party's Head Office in Clapham

As businesses go up in flames and mindless mayhem explodes on the streets, there is a stampede on to the political stage from both wings by politicians and their assorted spokespersons. They hold forth loudly to the audience—the “general public”—about what must be done. They shake their fists and point angrily at each other. They make ominous warnings and each tries to win the support of the audience and out-do one another with promises to carry out the right policy. The government declares that “the law must be upheld, people must be protected”. While supporters of the left-wing become greatly enthused by brick-throwing at the police, which they somehow regard as the kind of anti-establishment action of which revolutions are made, or at least from which they can be begun.

Tony Benn has said that rioting is the oldest form of social protest and in that he may well be right. In a time of economic crisis when there is no hope on the horizon, pent up frustration will be likely to burst into violence among those who have not considered the cause of their problems and sought to remove it. The dashed hopes and bitterness of most of those in the recent upsurges were not so much to do with the conditions of employment as the condition of unemployment. Hundreds of thousands of young members of the wealth producing class have left school to go directly on to the ever more miserly dole. The feeling of rejection and uselessness which this creates contributes to their resentment of their environment. The fact that the bursting frustration and desperation expresses itself in the ferocity of the riot is understandable. Capitalism is a social system which is shot through with everyday forms of “respectable” and institutionalised violence from the policemen with guns killing Mark Duggan to the government’s tanks and bombs sent to Iraq. From news headlines and documentaries on the brutalities of Afghanistan or Libya, we are confronted with images of violence as a chosen method of trying to cause social change.

The deeds of those participating in the riots proves to be thoughtlessly destructive. Cars, shops and homes of fellow members of the working class were irrationally ruined. It was a foolish misdirection of anger. The profit-system will not be burnt away, neither will it be dislodged or smashed with bricks. A few riots, even large scale rebellions, can easily enough be quashed by the authorities, and usually the rioters will be the worse for it.

There is no point in youths protesting and conducting running battles in front of the TV crews each evening. Any meaningful action has to be democratic and organised. They would do well to recognise that they are kept poor because the rich are rich. For it is only then that they can formulate actions based on where there interests truthfully lie.


Anonymous said...

Bang on!

JimN said...

These are anti-working class actions by anti-working class thugs.
If they continue they WILL kill someone, if they haven’t already, and it will be workers they kill.
I live in Croydon and I’m a train driver. The rioters I saw last night are same tossers who assault public transport workers on a daily basis for no reason other than they enjoy it. They’re the same tossers who I see bullying and intimidating workers in my local community on a daily basis because they get a kick out of it. The only difference is that they turned out in large numbers and the police had an undeclared stand-off policy.
Fireservice workers do a life-threatening job trying to save peoples lives, but they were attacked last night by these morons.
Then there are the organised professional criminal gangs who are taking the opportunity to systematically raid banks, bookies and retail outlets. A bit of ‘free shopping’ by the local community? I don’t think so. These organisations are run for the benefit of extremely wealthy bosses.
There is no protest here. No demonstration. No class, political or social agenda. It is not a revolution. Just the usual cunts doing the usual shit on a bigger scale. And we are the victims.

JimN said...

Well, it looks like the workers might have to take to their streets and police them themselves against these twats who want to burn down our homes, wreck our communities, terrorise our families and victimise the weak and vulnerable.
Workers in their workplaces may have to refuse to work until they can be given guarantees that attacks on them will stop.
And when the workers do organise to directly protect their lives, families, homes and communities those that advocate this kind of riot as a means to social change should ask themselves one question. Whose side will you be on?

Paddy S said...

I've seen this sort of convulsion before. I left Croydon in the 80s after getting mugged by twenty such 'thugs' armed with bricks and chains, who in fact were very angry young black men and boys who saw everyone white as the enemy. The Brixton riots came soon after and people did get killed. And then, as now, government and press threw their hands up in astonishment and righteous wrath as if this collective insanity had come out of nowhere. Today's 'thugs' perhaps see anyone better off than themselves as an enemy, which is dumb but comprehensible. When you're living down a toilet, everyone above you looks like an arsehole. And why should they respect law and property in a country with bent bankers, bent politicians, bent press and bent police? This was always going to happen. The kids aren't stupid, they see how the system works, and suddenly they see a chance for some payback. Now it's turned into mob rage against property, an emotion we can surely identify with as socialists. I just hope they don't kill someone like they did in Greece when they burned down a bank. We want a revolution to change society, but if we expect to get it in a polite, orderly and law-abiding way taking due account of Health & Safety regulations and proper concern for others, we may be expecting too much.
Paddy S.

hallblithe said...

Chaos but not without class analysis?...

On Saturday night, as rioters in Tottenham threw fireworks and bottles at police officers, one man shouted, “This is our battle!” When asked what he meant, the man, Paul Rook, 47, explained that he felt the rioters were taking on “the ruling class.”

Gwynn said...

Smile! You're on TV:


Look on the bright side -- plenty of overtime for the Old Bill.


Mondialiste said...

Just heard David Cameron and Boris Johnson condeming the rioters and looters as "pure criminality". What a cheek from two former members of the Bullingdon club which used to specialise, when they were the rioters' age, in trashing restaurants just for the fun of it. But that was just high spirits by upper class twits (twats?), wasn't it?

ajohnstone said...

One fellow member has taken issue with this statement "There is no point in youths protesting and conducting running battles in front of the TV crews each evening". And adds "I can't imagine anybody taking any notice otherwise, nor can I imagine any revolutionary scenario that did not start in this way. It's that kind of ivory-tower talk that puts people off us. Better to say that such activities are entirely understandable but they make the poor suffer, whereas a better idea is to make the rich suffer."

Another blog posts "In one NBC report, a young man in Tottenham was asked if rioting really achieved anything: "Yes," said the young man. "You wouldn't be talking to me now if we didn't riot, would you? Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you." Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere.There are communities all over the country that nobody paid attention to unless there had recently been a riot or a murdered child. Well, they’re paying attention now. http://pennyred.blogspot.com/2011/08/panic-on-streets-of-london.html

ajohnstone said...

In a dig at the Britsh government attitudes to protest in countries they don't like Iran made this statement.
http://english.farsnews.co /newstext.php?nn=9005180674

Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehman-Parast urged the British police to exercise restraint against protesters.

Mehman-Parast asked the British government to start dialogue with the protesters and to listen to their demands in order to calm the situation down.

He also called on the independent human rights organizations to investigate the killing in order to protect the civil rights and civil liberties.

Whats good for the goose is good for the gander , they seem to be saying

Gareth said...

I agree with most of what the article says but I don't agree that the shooting of Mark Duggan is an example or 'everyday' violence... How many people have been shot by the police in London as compared to other capital cities? You're right to say that peaceful protest is the way forward. That's reason- after all, we're not Ancient Rome or Nazi Germany- then maybe it would be reasonable to riot like this.

ajohnstone said...

i think you are right, that the statement is over-egging the pudding but it wasn't meant to claim that every day somebody is shot by the police, but rather that it is now being viewed as acceptable when it does happen i.e. an "everyday" event. But lets not forget that there have been 333 deaths in police custody since 1998. No police officer has been prosecuted for any of them.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to break shop windows if I could get away with it. Shops are
the essence of capitalism. Goods for sale, not according to need.
Getting something for free is a concept that the shops use - buy 1
get 1 free - 3 for 2 offers - why shouldn't we have something
genuinely for free?