Friday, August 12, 2011

Challenge the hate-filled state

The low level of debate at the emergency recall of Parliament underlines the yawning gulf between rulers and ruled, and the establishment’s poisonous hatred for working class youth.

Prime Minister Cameron claimed the uprising on streets around the country was 'criminality, pure and simple' - an intellectually bereft characterisation in a country where the entire social, economic and political structure is shaking.

MPs bayed for water cannon and baton rounds and censorship of social networking sites. Ed Milliband called for police spending cuts to be reversed and joined blanket condemnation of the rioters.

The police have shown a more sophisticated understanding of events than politicians. And they were also quite afraid of furious gangs ready to fight them. As one young woman said, the aim was to show the police that people control the streets and 'can do what they like' there.

The prevailing mood on the left has been one of ironic comment. It is pointed out that flat-screen TVs were high on MPs' looting lists too. The hypocrisy of condemning criminality when politicians, police and newspapers have been hiding each other's lawbreaking is also highlighted. Others point to politicians weeping over high streets already devastated by out-of-town shopping centres, with one in seven shops empty across the country.

Governments and corporations are desperate to kick start growth by getting people back spending on precisely the goods people were helping themselves to. And yesterday, Chancellor George Osborne was telling MPs that Britain is a 'safe haven' for investors precisely because of the brutal programme of cuts that led to youth clubs in Tottenham being shut.

Alongside this post-modernist irony, it is said that this is a non-political movement without a goal, it has no future, and we must 'condemn the violence'. This takes the appearance of the riots and compares and contrasts it to other aspects, when in fact these are all moving and developing parts of the same violent whole which is the out-of-control capitalist crisis that has the planet in its grip.

These moving parts are not outside of the political realm but inside it. You could say that politically the riots were more realistic than the student fees protests, because the youth were not asking the government or the police to change course - which they won't - but simply fighting them.

This new part - angry working class youth - has emerged with dramatic force. It will not disappear, but interact with other parts and with the global whole, each changing and conditioning the next phase.

In the meantime, hundreds of youth will be criminalised. A 23-year-old man with no criminal record was jailed for six months for taking bottled water from Lidl. Rioters are being held in custody for charges where they would normally be bailed. Hundreds will go to jails and young offender institutions already bursting at the seams, with inhuman conditions. Others will be stuck with fines they will never be able to pay.

We must not abandon the youth to the tender mercies of a hate-filled state. The challenge is to break decisively from the illusion that the current system of rule can offer us any kind of decent future.

The formation of People's Assemblies to defend communities, jobs, services, education and housing, is the positive way forward. Representing all parts of the community, they can do a better job of protecting facilities and small businesses. Capitalism only wants young people working for minimum wage or spending up credit and store cards. It has no regard for them as individuals. Within the People's Assemblies they can represent their views, enjoy respect, and have a decisive role in forming their own future.

Community gatherings are already taking place in Lewisham, Clapham and Tottenham and other areas. There is a desire to mend the damage to town centres, small shops and people’s homes as well as address the deeper causes of the riots. This offers the opportunity to discuss practical ways to replace the bankrupt political establishment. The development of assemblies for the widest possible debate and action is the order of the day.

Penny Cole

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