The anarchy of the market is far more devastating than the supposed anarchy on the streets. The bankers and businessmen have enriched themselves more effectively than any looter.
Why people are rioting
The riots that swept large parts of London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Bristol last night are an explosion of bitterness and rage.
This is what happens in a society of deep and growing inequality, where there are great pools of unemployment and poverty, where there is systematic police harassment and racism, and where many young people feel they have no future.
Just as with the student protests last year, it is the “lost generation” created by the Tories who are at the centre of these struggles—although many older people were also involved.
The factors that made them rebel affect millions. The riots are not about “criminality” or “mindless violence.” Political slogans such as “Whose streets, our streets,” demands for “Justice” and denunciations of the police have featured in all the protests.
The backdrop is the deepening of the capitalist crisis. The anarchy of the market is far more devastating than the supposed anarchy on the streets. The bankers and businessmen, who continue to grab bonuses even as wages are hammered, have enriched themselves more effectively than any looter.
Police racism and brutality
In Tottenham the flashpoint was the police killing of Mark Duggan—and the lies and callous treatment of his family and friends which followed. This is just the latest episode in a history of racism and police brutality in the area.
No police officer has been found guilty of a death in custody in the past 40 years, despite deaths averaging one a week. Earlier this year, thousands marched in southLondonover the death of reggae artist Smiley Culture, who police accused of stabbing himself while they were in his home.
These incidents are the sharp end of police racism. But the harassment of young black and Asian people is a daily feature of life in Britain. Black people are 26 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than white people.
Already, during these riots, hundreds of people have been arrested. There will be a further clamour from the press and politicians for revenge, and to hand the police even greater powers. We utterly oppose such measures. Far too many rights have been stripped from us already.
The scandals in the Murdoch press highlighted the corruption of the Metropolitan Police. Their brutality and racism are clear to millions. The last thing we need is to strengthen their hand.
The Tory attacks
Equally the riots would not have happened without the attacks being launched by the Tory-led government.
In Haringey, theLondonborough that contains Tottenham, 54 people chase every job vacancy. Eight of the 13 youth centres are due to close because of the government’s cuts.
Last year the government took Education Maintenance Allowance from 630,000 young people and tripled university fees, putting up a great “No entry to education” sign to most.
Britain is already less equal that at any time since the 1930s. While many of those who left school last month face a future without hope, the combined fortunes of the 1,000 richest people inBritainrose £60 billion in 2011 to nearly £400 billion.
The £81 billion of cuts decreed by David Cameron’s government will mean hundreds of thousands of job losses, devastated communities and services destroyed.
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.
The riots are also a judgment on the utter failure of Ed Miliband’s Labour Party to offer an alternative to the Tories. All the political parties offer essentially the same recipe, just as now they have no solutions except water cannon, prison sentences and the army on the streets.
Resistance is the answer
Riots are an expression of anger, as Martin Luther King said, they are “the language of the unheard.” But to stop the Tories more is needed.
We need more protests like the huge demonstration on 26 March and the strike by 750,000 workers on 30 June. Such struggles can unite desperate young people and workers who face job cuts, attacks on pensions, huge wage reductions and worse conditions.
We call for the TUC, trade unions, and campaign groups to hurl themselves into the fight against the cuts, poverty and racism. We call for building events such as the demonstration against the English Defence League in east London on 3 September, the protest at the Tory conference in Manchester on 2 October, and the coordinated strike by more than a million workers planned for November.
A real solution to the despair that creates riots will need a different sort of society, where the needs of the vast majority, rather than a tiny elite, come first.