Monday, August 8, 2011

A Skirmish in the Class War Breaks out in Tottenham and Greater London

Lost is why Mark Duggan was shot. He was, according to some residents, a crack cocaine dealer who routinely carried a gun. So what?

Everyone is taken by surprise. Everyone is blaming the police, short-handed on account of austerity cutbacks. And the United Kingdom's elite were caught on their summer vacations:

David Cameron fiddled with the foil on a bottle of pinot grigio in Tuscany; deputy prime minister Nick Clegg quietly recovered at home from his getaway in sunny France; and chancellor of the exchequer George Osbourne remained ensconced at a hotel somewhere in Beverly Hills.
Not Tottenham's youth who had no place to go on their summer holidays but out on the street, primed for the Metropolitan Police's reviled stop-and-search policy.
A wider context for the riots ... must include the impact of David Cameron's controversial austerity measures. Tottenham is among the communities worst affected by Cameron's budget, which drastically cuts programs for the young, poor and voteless. Funding has been cut from more than 380 youth charities across Britain, and Harringey Council, which covers four of the five riot areas so far, recently closed eight out of its 13 youth centres. The Harringey youth services budget was slashed by 75 per cent.
Don't get me wrong. I don't like class war when it's open and declared. It's ugly and costly. The collateral damage is cruel and extensive among the innocents and bystanders. But the head of the ostrich of the Western world's wealthy classes is deep in the sands of their beach resorts. What happens in Tottenham and other areas in London, are not likely to stay there.


  1. Who knows? Maybe England's next big export will turn out to be Revolution.

  2. How right you are! Mary Riddell nails this truth to the tree of Life:

    No one seemed surprised .... Feral kids with no jobs ran amok ... this was a riot waiting for an excuse. In the hangover of the violence that spread through London, the uprisings seemed both inevitable and unthinkable. Over a few days in which attacks became a contagion the capital city of an advanced nation has reverted to a Hobbesian dystopia of chaos and brutality ....
    This is the most arcane of uprisings and the most modern. Its participants, marshalled by Twitter, are protagonists in a sinister flipside to the Arab Spring. The Tottenham summer, featuring children as young as seven, is an assault not on a regime of tyranny but on the established order of a benign democracy ....
    Among several obvious answers, one is a failure of policing. The evidence so far points to more ignominy for the rudderless Met, as doubts emerge over whether Mark Duggan, whose death inspired the initial riots, fired at police. The stonewalling of Mr Duggan’s family precipitated the crisis, and the absence of officers to intervene in an orgy of looting led to a breakdown of order suggestive of the lawless badlands of a failing state .....

    .... these are no race riots. The Eighties uprisings at Broadwater Farm, as in Toxteth and Brixton, were products, in part, of a poisonous racism absent in today’s Tottenham, where the Chinese grocery, the Turkish store and the African hairdresser’s sit side by side.

    So blame unemployment and the cuts. It is true that Tottenham is among London’s poorest boroughs, with 10,000 people claiming jobseeker’s allowance and 54 applicants chasing every registered job vacancy. In other affected boroughs, such as Hackney, youth clubs are closing. Unwise as such pruning may be, it would be facile to suggest that homes and businesses have been laid waste for want of ping-pong tournaments and skateboard parks.

    The real causes are more insidious. It is no coincidence that the worst violence London has seen in many decades takes place against the backdrop of a global economy poised for freefall. The causes of recession set out by J K Galbraith in his book, The Great Crash 1929, were as follows: bad income distribution, a business sector engaged in “corporate larceny”, a weak banking structure and an import/export imbalance.

    All those factors are again in play. In the bubble of the 1920s, the top 5 per cent of earners creamed off one-third of personal income. Today, Britain is less equal, in wages, wealth and life chances, than at any time since then. Last year alone, the combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people in Britain rose by 30 per cent to £333.5 billion.

    Europe’s leaders, our own Prime Minister and Chancellor included, were parked on sun-loungers as London burned. Although the epicentre of the immediate economic crisis is the eurozone, successive British governments have colluded in incubating the poverty, the inequality and the inhumanity now exacerbated by financial turmoil.

    Britain’s lack of growth is not an economic debating point or a stick with which to beat George Osborne, any more than our deskilled, demotivated, under-educated non-workforce is simply a blot on the national balance sheet. Watch the juvenile wrecking crews on the city streets and weep for all our futures. The “lost generation” is mustering for war.

    This is not a cri de coeur for the failed and failing. Nor is it a lament for the impoverished. Mob violence, despicable and inexcusable, must always be condemned. But those terrorising and trashing London are also a symptom of a wider malaise. In uneasy societies, people power – whether offered or stolen – can be toxic .....

  3. .... What price the Big Society as Tottenham, the most solid of communities, lies in ruins? The notion that small-state Britain can be run along the lines of Ambridge parish council by good-hearted, if under-funded, volunteers has never seemed more doubtful .... London’s riots are not the Tupperware troubles of Greece or Spain, where the middle classes lash out against their day of reckoning. They are the proof that a section of young Britain – the stabbers, shooters, looters, chancers and their frightened acolytes – has fallen off the cliff-edge of a crumbling nation.

    The failure of the markets goes hand in hand with human blight. Meanwhile, the view is gaining ground that social democracy, with its safety nets, its costly education and health care for all, is unsustainable in the bleak times ahead. The reality is that it is the only solution. After the Great Crash, Britain recalibrated, for a time. Income differentials fell, the welfare state was born and skills and growth increased.

    That exact model is not replicable, but nor, as Adam Smith recognised, can a well-ordered society ever develop when a sizeable number of its members are miserable and, as a consequence, dangerous. This is not a gospel of determinism, for poverty does not ordain lawlessness. Nor, however, is it sufficient to heap contempt on the rioters as if they are a pariah caste.

    One of the most tragic aspects of London’s meltdowns is that we need this ruined generation if Britain is ever to feel prosperous and safe again. If there are no jobs for today’s malcontents and no means to exploit their skills, then the UK is in graver trouble than it thinks ....

    Financial crashes and human catastrophes are cyclical. Each reoccurrence threatens to be graver than the last. As Galbraith wrote, “memory is far better than the law” in protecting against financial illusion and insanity. In an age of austerity, there are diverse luxuries that Britain can no longer afford. Amnesia stands high on that long list.

    Yes, Yes and Yes! A brilliant synopsis!

  4. It's only "class war" when the the poor fights back. Maybe the teabaggers holding signs these last couple of years saying the "tree of liberty needs to be refreshed with blood..." were on to something after all.

  5. Don't worry; ours is coming. The Klanbagger Kompromise to raise the debt ceiling has guaranteed it. I don't know why it hasn't happened already.

  6. Enough of this Bolshevism! It used to be, when law enforcement was over extended, looters were shot in the act. Like Cameron says: if they're old enough to pillage, steal & burn, they're old enough to pay the price. Shoot'em down!

  7. Vigilante, Your analysis was excellent. Mary Riddell's was eloquent and brilliant.

  8. Marx on the Lumpenproletariat.

    Marx also mentions the "dangerous class" or the social scum. Among the members of this group are "ruined and adventurous offshoots of the bourgeoisie, vagabonds, discharged soldiers, discharged jailbirds .. pickpockets, brothel keepers, rag-pickers, beggars" etc. (Bottomore, p. 292). This is the lumpenproletariat. He does not consider this group to be of any importance in terms of potential for creating socialism, if anything they may be considered to have a conservative influence. Other writers and analysts have considered them to have some revolutionary potential. One of the main reasons for mentioning them is to emphasize how capitalism uses, misuses and discards people, not treating them as humans. Today's representative of this class of lumpenproletariat are the homeless and the underclass.

  9. This is a good point. These little shitty thieves are stealing from the working class and burning down their places of employment.

    Furthermore, Petro makes a valid point. I hear from listening to the BBC that these kids are simply booked and released. Law enforcement is overwhelmed and is reduced to a revolving door which reward theft and arson. I'd rather the UK pull its troops out of Afghanistan bring them to London and shoot the little buggers down when they show their hoodies past curfew. How do you like them apples?