We offer unapologetic solidarity and support to those involved in the UK uprisings these past nights. This sentiment extends to both the rioters and to those communities affected by them. We also acknowledge that the unrest has ruined many people’s livelihoods, and homes have been burnt and agree that these will always be the wrong targets for attack. But we know that this sort of looting and destruction are the last actions of the completely impoverished and disenfranchised.
Once again, politicians, the media, and police chiefs tell us that ‘criminal elements’ have ‘hijacked’ legitimate grievances and that ‘thugs’ and ‘outsiders’ are responsible. As the riots spread across the capital and country there are fewer and fewer ways to be an ‘outsider.’ If not ours, then from which society are these rioters?
If the media want to deny one thing, it is that these riots are popular. But surely thousands of masked men and women cannot be “no-one”? Or are they to be deemed of less worth simply because they are unemployed in a country with no more jobs.
Theresa May tells us that ‘violence is never justified’ – yet the police killed Mark Duggan and our government bomb Libya every night. Nick Clegg has said ‘this is nothing but pure criminality’ – yet he predicted exactly this unrest in the election campaign when warning against austerity measures implemented by a government with no mandate. And Boris Johnson, naturally, informs the public that the only people to blame for the rioting are the rioters themselves.
We believe a state monopoly on violence will always destroy communities. We believe that criminality is no good test of whether an action is right. We put the blame for the riots solely on the structural inequalities inherent and persistent in our country and the continued theft of the material resources of the working class. Simply put, the conditions of many today are poverty, experienced alongside marginalization and racism at the hands of the state. They call this an “austerity programme.” They shall reap what they sow.
Community leaders have been wheeled out to continue the division of communities into the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, as if their communities are not united in suffering oppression and poverty. We urge them not to desert anyone from their community. The Labour Party has clearly abandoned any pretence of representing the working class we see on the streets. MPs Dianne Abbot and David Lammy premise their condemnation of the unrest on the bizarre opinion that those involved are not “representative of the community” but when whole council estates in Hackney come together to destroy CCTV cameras, and attack the police who routinely brutalise tenants, we know this premise is false. In the last few days we have seen an alienated working class on the streets, young and old, multicultural – and united.
The spark for this uprising was the police killing a man, which they subsequently misinformed the family and the public about. From Blair Peach to Cynthia Jarret, from Ian Tomlinson to Smiley Culture and the 1000s of others killed in police custody down the decades, the police kill people and then they lie about it. No-one honestly doubts this any more, and the police surely cannot have expected to continue this disgusting pattern with impunity forever.
The combustion on the streets of London is an indictment of the state of the country, the tragedy of lost homes a painful indictment of today’s society. And yet these events will continue to be likely whilst the working class and black communities suffer oppression at the hands of global corporations, austerity measures, and the police. When the working class community begins such a fight, there can be no doubt where loyalties should lie: With ALL of them and against the police and government.