Peter Manson writes about the London Riots. What was positive about and what was negative. But rioting itself is no answer to the problems facing the Working Class. Full text of the article is at the link below.
A positive and progressive rebellion against deprivation or unashamed and backward criminality? The reaction of the left to the riots in towns and cities across Britain has been polarised between these two extremes.
As readers will know, what started as a peaceful protest outside Tottenham Hale police station on Saturday August 6 was violently transformed after several hours and eventually sparked full-scale rioting and looting, first in London and then in major conurbations the length and breadth of the country. The original demonstration was against the brutal killing by police of Mark Duggan and their subsequent lying excuses and justifications.
True, rioting represents a collective rebellion at one level and some may say it is a positive that so many reject the state’s authority. But the same can be said about the anti-social gangs that lurk on our council estates. They attempt to replace the state’s authority in a tiny area with that of their own, but the result is generally thoroughly unpleasant. It could also be said that looting effects some kind of minimal redistribution of society’s wealth, but the rioters were hardly Robin Hoods. The designer clothes and trainers they stole are for their own use - either that or to be sold on the black market.
But the SWP can only see the positives: “At some point people pushed to the wall will turn and fight back. That is what is happening now, just as it did during Margaret Thatcher’s reign in the 1980s, the great slump of the 1930s and the great depression of the 1880s - all periods which saw riots in Britain.”
All well and good, but does rioting take our movement forward? While the comrades rather feebly admit, “to stop the Tories more is needed”, they enthuse: “Riots are an expression of anger. As Martin Luther King said, they are ‘the language of the unheard’.”
And looting? Another SWP online article reads: “Karl Marx was exactly right when he talked about expropriating the expropriators, taking back what they have taken from us. That’s what looting by poor working class people represents and in that sense it is a deeply political act.”http://www.cpgb.org.uk/article.php?article_id=1004508#2
“Deeply political”? That is plain crazy. No-one can deny that people react to the circumstances they find themselves in, including the current social and political order. But to rejoice in the ransacking of corner shops is to plumb the depths of idiocy. A “deeply political” act is usually considered to be one guided by an active political agenda.
When it comes to the violence of the rioters, the SWP is in denial: it “was aimed at the police who carry out violent attacks on working class communities on a daily basis, especially against black male youth”. Well, some of it was, as the SWP knows full well, but most of the victims (including the four killed) were not members of the police. Most of those mugged, assaulted on the streets or forced to flee their burning homes were the ‘ordinary workers’ to whom the SWP usually tries to appeal.