As expected the state is warming to the task of cracking down hard, as they like to put it, on looters/rioters past, present and future. Cameron and May have been strutting around talking tough about what they are going to do.
Cameron has now said that the use of Water Cannons are OK saying “we needed a fightback and a fightback is under way.” They are trying to revive the “wartime spirit” with the rioters cast as the Third Reich. Tommorrow we can expect a parliamentary session full of such fighting talk and bluster, mainly from people who have never even been inside a council estate. We would hope that at least Labour might pick up on the real issues but that will be, we suspect, somewhat unlikely – in all probability they will join in the chorus of attacks, as one with the Tories and the rest. London Mayor Boris Johnson has criticised police cuts as part of his rather too obvious campaign to be Cameron’s successor. Yesterday he popped up in South London to praise the cleanup by local people, making such a chaotic speech that the people around him started to get angry and heckled him. It was as though Will Hay had turned up instead. Later on in the day he was seen to be walking around with a broom! He wants to transfer money from the fire brigade budget to the police budget to make ends meet – so you will burn to death but at least you know you can still be arrested at the same time!
Naturally no-one at Westminster is remotely interested in looking at why these events have happened. All the talk is of criminality and badly-behaved kids. But we should ask one question. If this is just about criminality then why don’t we see riots and looting all the time? The truth is that the gangs who were clearly involved in a number of the incidents normaly find far safer and more profitable way of making cash e.g drugs etc. However, they were sucked up into a mood which has been brewing for some time and exploded on Saturday night. Things have died down for now in London but trouble has spread out into other cities in the UK. The same mood of anger and frustration exists everywhere. When people are treated like rubbish and given nothing then we should not be surprised if they lash out in rage against the machine. Each spark has set up another. Things may get worse again in London at the weekend, they may stay quiet. Whatever happens, the real root causes of these disturbances will not have gone away. The Tories have shrugged off suggestions from the likes of Ken Livingstone that the cuts in services – especially youth services – have had an effect. They would be wise not too. Water Cannons and Batton charges cannot eliminate the long term damage done by capitalism and their representatives in Westminster.
We are no nearer to an answer as to why the young man, Paul Duggan, who was shot by the police on Thursday came to meet his fate. For many this death has come to symbolise the real attutude of the police towards working class communities. Young people in particular have felt this – as one girl put it “they don’t treat us with respect.” For the police you are quilty unless proved innocent so far as the youth on the estates are concerned. We understand that in a capitalist society the police, along with the armed forces, are there to protect property and wealth. They are the last resort of a capitalist state which exists, behind all the smoke, to protect one class against another. One interesting development has been the appearance of vilgilante forces – local people coming together on the street to protect their homes and shops, mainly in the poorer areas of the capital. The police have positioned large numbers in the wealthy shopping areas but continue to leave other parts to fend for themselves. In todays Standard newspaper, one letter compains about the lack of protection in Tottenham over the weekend, warning that proper support will be needed to rebuild “rather than leaving us at the mercy of commercial developers.” The trouble is that this is what capitalism is all about – ripping off communities for maximum profit whatver the costs. They do not care about communities or jobs or housing or service, just how much money they can make. This is a system that has failed as we have seen with the continuing chaos in the world economies and financial markets. They have no solution to the crises other than to pass the bill onto the masses in the hope that they will take up the burden. We say no!
In seeking an explanation of these events in the crisis and decay of capitalism, we also need to understand that these riots will achieve nothing in and off themselves. The ruling class have quickly seized on this as an excuse to give the estates a good hammering. The only real force that can change things is the organised working class. This is what the bosses really fear. Young people angry about how they are treated need to understand that they must fight against the system as part of the struggle for a socialist society. Before the last election Cameron and the Tories spoke all the time about Broken Britain. Since they sneaked into office, nothing has been said about this. Well Britain is clearly very broken and requires a fundamental change to fix it – a socialist one.
This article was first published on August 10, 2011 on Socialist Appeal.
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This post was written by Steve Jones