Protests turn to Riots as Working Classes Vent Their Anger
by Ben Maisky
Wed 10th Aug 2011
The recent London riots have created quite high levels of interest as a hot topic for discussion across the country and the media. Yet it has caused large levels of division and the line is quite distinctively a classist one. It all began in Tottenham, a traditionally more working class neighbourhood of the London boroughs, but it didn’t begin as a “riot” which is the word now used by many pundits and commentators. The protest began as a source of anger and resentment at the death of Mark Duggan a 29 year old man shot dead by fire-arms police, who then lied to try and either cover up incompetence or blatant racism. Either way this as another clear sign of police brutality coupled with the extreme austerity measures hitting an impoverished area caused a backlash that neither the police nor the government seemed to “expect”. The protest, peacefully demonstrating anger at the murder of a local member of the community saw the beginning of unrest after a young girl who approached the police lines was also brutally subdued by riot officers. This in turn sparked an angry response from a crowd who already had grave misgivings about the police; this aggression was treated with much more brutality from the officers, but also ignited a burning sentiment that has been smouldering for months, especially since the new coalition took to the halls of power. The riots now no longer encased in just Tottenham or even London but now spreading across the country in many of the nations large urban cities, highlight the true anger of the working class people. While the media and the middle-classes are quick to condemn the rioters, little attention is paid to the climate to which these riots sprang from. While many of the papers are quick to display sensationalist headlines and then go on to deride the people who have taken up their grievances against the state. The true organic nature of these riots is highlighted by not only the lack of “organisation” that has gone into them, but also the variety of the people involved, highlighting a common struggle not restricted by ethnicity, gender or age, but a truly spontaneous class struggle against the state. These riots are part of a bigger struggle. The struggle is against not only the police or the government but against a system that has continued to deprive and neglect these people who live in destitute areas of the nation, jobless and hungry and now very angry. The conservative attitudes perpetrated behind most of the mainstream presses headlines and sensationalist stories are quick to resort to words such “opportunists” and “criminals”, but in reality these people have had no “opportunities” to escape their predicaments which have been exacerbated by the current governments imposed austerity measures, add into the tinder box, decades of police brutality and the inherent racism of the system, anger has finally peaked and the working class people have fought back. The “liberal” attitudes to the riots also highlight the continuing ignorance and fear of the working classes, while “left-leaning” liberals are quick to take up causes such as free education or an end to the ongoing austerity measures, they would rather do it in the comfort of “peaceful” demonstrations. This is clearly noted with the student protests, which began last year and saw the destruction of the Tory HQ with which the media pointed the finger again at “criminals” and “opportunists”, but also saw condemnation among much of the middle-class “liberal’s” of society, and even among supposedly “left-wing” organisations including the Labour Party and the majority of the Trade Unions. Yet these same “liberal’s” also highlight their Orientalist attitude, congratulating the (un-civilised?) peoples of the Middle East and North Africa for their riots, but because their introducing “democracy” (always a component of “civilised” society for liberals) as well as raising their fists at the austerity imposed on them by the recession and therefore worthy of much praise, even though their grievances are in essence the same as those of the British working classes, just more acute due to the lack of political freedoms allowed to them. Another lie that is currently being perpetrated is the idea that this was un-expected. The high levels of riot police already at the protest highlight the expectations that this anger might overspill into a “riot”, (this is clear from the high levels of policing at many of the recent demonstrations, especially since the student protests of last year)and the numbers of police deployed stands the test of the levels of awareness of such a “riot”. The framework for all of the recent protests and demonstrations from the student demonstrations, the demonstrations between the far-right and anti-fascists (the rise of fascism coincides with a middle-class fear of the majority of the elements that make up this struggle) and the the riots across not just the Middle East against dictators, but the riots in Spain, Ireland, Greece, the US and across much of the globe, highlight the affects of Capitalism in crisis and the depth of the damage done to these communities by the recession. Not to mention even the coalition partners warned (prior to the elections) that austerity measures would lead to such incidents. So the idea that this was un-expected is more than just farcical, but a bare-faced lie. The “riots” are part of a greater struggle and being made up of many different people, they are multi-faceted and as already expressed organic, this has unfortunately led to levels of looting (and worse still, in some cases of small businesses or individual properties), which the media is quick to highlight and explode, but it’s also led to cases of violence against fire-fighters, members of the press and public alike. While we should show our condolences for those who are unfairly adversely affected by the “riots” we should still recognise that the grievances and frustrations of the people involved in these “riots” are real and should have been addressed, these riots are decades in the making and not just a few bored criminals taking to the streets.