Blame the establishment for the riots!

Submitted by dalcassian on 9 August, 2011 - 10:25

By Sean Matgamna

The rioting, looting and burning that is sweeping across London and outside of London - so far, in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Nottingham and Liverpool – can have no directly positive effects on the lives of those who riot or on the lives of their families. The very opposite is true.

They are destroying some of the social facilities they rely upon, as for instance, firing a block of working class flats in Tottenham and buses in Peckham.

In politics the effect will be to strengthen the ‘law and order’ Right and push a lot of new people in their direction.

Many of those who have learned to loathe the swindlers who run our society will feel themselves pushed into supporting those who serve the rich, the looters at the top, in horror at the rioting, burning and looting at the bottom.

They will be further alienated from the young people in Lewisham, Peckham, Nottingham.

The rioting will alienate the organised labour movement, even those large sections of it which will instinctively sympathise with the plight of the people in the riot hit areas.

These outbreaks in areas with large black population, and involving young black people, cannot fail to stimulate and strengthen racism. They will help those such as the EDL in fomenting a ‘them and us’ view of British society. The fact that Asian and Muslim shops have been burned out and looted and that many of the rioters were white will not lessen or off-set that.

The current explosions demonstrate yet again that there is a large segment of the working class – almost an underclass – that feels itself to be outside society and radically at odds with it. The looting and burning can only deepen that sense of separateness on both sides.

But denouncing the riots as ‘pure criminality’ is simply stupid - the refuge of those who don’t want to understand. However many gangs exist in these areas and however much opportunist looting contributes to the outbreaks, it took more than criminal gangs to ignite these explosions.

Those who are loudest in condemning the rioters and looters – the media, the politicians, the police, the racist and ‘anti-foreigner’ agitators and, soon, the vengeful magistrates - bear much of the blame for these outbreak.

And they serve those who carry the main blame for the state of the British society in which this is happening – the bankers, the factory owners, the giant store owners and the stock exchange gamblers. They are responsible for creating the conditions and the mind-set that has led to the rioting and looting that is sweeping through Britain like an August grass fire.

The deprived young people who have come out on the streets to fight those they see as their enemy, the police, and to grab a little instant prosperity have good reason to feel that they are outsiders, that they have been excluded.

Many are either unemployed or working in dead end, unskilled, low paid jobs.

They have come through the education system maimed and semi-literate. They live in a society where great robbers and swindlers are admired whether they are legal, semi-legal or downright criminal. Where they enrich themselves without any regard for other people.

Why, many of them will think, shouldn’t we help ourselves by looting shops and great stores, in a world where bankers can loot and get away with it? Where the politicians who serve them have looted society to bail out the bankers.

No matter how inattentive to politics many of the young people may normally be, they will have gained a general impression about what has been going on at the top of society.

That the politicians, the press, the police and the courts that will soon send god knows how many to jail, serve those looters at the top of society - the young people know that too.

Many of the rioters in London live side by side with the very wealthy – the towers of Canary Warf are visible from half the London riot zones.

But there is nothing for the left to romanticise in these outbreaks, by giving them titles such as ‘insurrection’ and ‘rebellion’.

The irony in the situation is that if anything at all positive comes out of the riots for the people in the riot-stricken areas, it will be to scare the Government into increased investment in these areas. The outcome of the widespread rioting in 1981 was to stimulate Government attention. They bought-off local leaders, and put money into social facilities in the affected areas.

That did not change anything fundamental.

The labour movement must defend those young people who will now be hauled into the legal system. It must insist against the capitalist Establishment – the politicians, the press and the courts - that the responsibility for their blind raging anger lies squarely with those who run the Establishment that will now seek vengeance against them.

9 August 2011


Submitted by jean (not verified) on Thu, 11/08/2011 - 15:49

"The resources put into the school where I worked, in addition to teachers that is, whether in alternative projects for dissafected young people, counsellors, art therapists, inclusion workers, Special needs assistants and Learning Mentors was staggering".

I agree with you that the work inside schools is staggering, and that it does not reach some kids. Maybe the reason is that the incredible work is being done, by very dedicated people, despite the education system, rather than because of it. Teaching Assistants and Learning Mentors spend a lot of their time, not assisting in the academic learning, but in trying to convince the kids they work with that they are not 'crap' or 'losers' or 'failures' or any other amount of derogatory terms they pour on themselves. This is a very good use of a teaching assistant's time. But it is done against a backdrop of other messages. "If you don't get 5 A-C's", "if you don't pass your SATS", "if your school is not at the top of the league tables", "if you don't achieve now, you will miss your chance", "this is your only chance, don't throw it away". For a child coming from a home where learning is not the norm, or who won't, for whatever reason, make the grade, the message is 'you're crap'. And that message starts right from primary school. Such kids come to secondary school already with an overwhelming feeling of failure and a deep desire not to be there. Add to that the general message given by the media, advertising and government propaganda, that 'making it' means owning things, being rich and everything else that is out of reach, then the self-loathing is reinforced. Add to that those kids whose families, for whatever reason, are not able to be a source of support, then some of these kids are in free fall with no "moral compass" pointing the way. I thought the picture on the TV of the Malaysian boy being supposedly helped whilst actually being robbed was awful. There was no getting away from the fact that this was an incredibly two-faced, anti-social act rather than a kick at the face of authority or the establishment. We don't have to like the behaviour, and we certainly don't have to support it or make excuses for it. But we should try to understand it. Why are more kids falling into the underclass? I remember, when the cuts were being put through my local council, talking to one of the council officers responsible for social services. It was very clear that, though on the face of it, the council could claim that they were not hitting front line services directly, they were, by removing other back up services, pushing many families who at the moment hovering on the brink of coping, down into the place where statutory need is acknowledged. Since then, last October, when we had no academies, we now have three. That is three schools who will reinforce the whole ideological notion that there are kids who are 'crap'. What a terrible indictment of our education system that is. Kids aren't crap. Society creates the conditions in which kids do crap things. And our society is doing so with ever-increasing vigour and then wringing its hands with anguish at these terrible kids who have "lost their moral compass".

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