The Story So Far, in Summary.
Since Saturday night, the UK has seen disorder on an unprecedented scale, with eruptions of mass anger appearing in major cities and towns all over. Here we look at some of the different aspects of this disorder and attempt to offer some analysis.
1) The shooting of Mark Duggan, the community response.
Mark Duggan was clearly the victim of an extra-judicial execution by the state. The police bullet lodged in the police radio clearly confirms this. Mark Duggan was one death too many at the hands of the Police. The community responded by coming out in solidarity with Mark’s family to ask questions of the police on a demonstration at Tottenham Police Station. There was no violence on this demonstration until a Police officer started beating a 16 year old girl with a baton for no justifiable reason at all, providing a second catalyst to an already angry community. The situation escalated and before long Tottenham went up in flames. This was, plain and simple, war between the police and the community, with symbols of wealth and power being attacked along the way. Fires did spread to domestic premises, yes. But they were not the target of attacks. Similar disorder in nearby areas with similar social & economic grievances.
2) Stop-and-searches implemented, the third catalyst.
In true Met Police style, Monday saw aggressive and “intelligence led” (see also: anti-working class and racist) stop-and-searches implemented in working class areas accross London. Unsurprisingly, it kicks off in these areas as well, with corporate targets attacked and police fought before being pushed back into residential areas, where barricades were erected. However, this tactical shift on the part of the met – to clear commercial centres and to contain disorder in residential areas meant that the anger and frustration people needed to express got taken out on their own communities. This third night of rioting saw things take a clearly anti-social turn, with muggings and domestic burglaries taking place, as well as attacks on people. However, this did not happen on the scale that was implied (most of the attacks were on the police and businesses). That said, the anti-social aspect is undoubtedly unacceptable and should be challenged whenever possible. We should never take out our anger on each other in times of conflict with the state any more than in times of ‘peace’. But let us not forget why this is happening – because the state thinks nothing of us and our communities, because the private interests of the rich and powerful and the process of gentrification is far more important to them than any of our struggles. Because we have a whole new generation of people brought up in the most alienating, disengaging and hostile circumstances ever known, for the benefit of a global economic system that keeps the majority of people in poverty to feed the extreme wealth of a few.
3) Rioting spreads outside of London
It should be no surprise that Birmingham was the second to go up, with West Midlands Police being second to the Met for racist murders. It is not long before working class cities and towns accross the UK are looting commodities from chain stores and attacking the police. Commercial areas lie in ruins accross the UK as the police are desperate to regain control.
3) Public backlash, callls for the state to “get tough” on the rioters
In realising that the state was more busy defending commerical interets than community ones, working class areas become divided over supporting/understanding the factors that cause the riots and calling for an increase in the violence of the state as a means to quell the disorder. Those who do not have an understanding or an experience of what the rioters have experienced become desperate to return to capitalist social peace, without grasping the fact that it was that very ‘social peace’ that is to blame for the extreme anger of the most oppressed sections of the class. Rubber bullets authorised for use as a result.
4) Rioting continues outside of London due to reshuffle in Police resources.
Commercial centres accross the UK go up on Tuesday because all the cops are in London. London is relatively quiet despite heavy-handed stop and searches.
5) Community clean-ups, Community assemblies.
Community clean-ups begin on Wednesday. Whilst it is always encouraging to see people respond to a situation as a community and engage with each other, these clean-ups will be doomed to failure if they are simply part of a process of collective denial over the severity of the social and economic situation in this country. Are you cleaning up your community as a self-organised solution to the inadequacy of the state? Or are you cleaning up your community to, quite literally, sweep all memory of this disorder and unrest away and return to normality (only for this to happen again and again)?
Far more interestingly, Tuesday night saw community assemblies in Haringey and Hackney, which called for a demonstration that seeks not to condemn nor condone the disorder, but to instead articulate an understanding that without a future for the younger generation, this is bound to happen again and again. This is an initiative that should be supported wherever it occurs.
As anarchists, we MUST NOT CONDEMN the riots. That is, we should support the vendetta against systemic police repression and the vendetta against capitalism and the rich. All serious anarchists will be able to relate to that feeling of total anger at this vile society. The playing field has been in desperate need of a levelling – we have taken a beating every day of our lives for far too long.
We should not support or excuse the anti-working class behaviour of some of the people who took part in the riots.
The kind of people that think its okay to rob off their own will do that in their everyday lives anyway. People who mug others are often desperate and opportunistic. Why is it surprising that they see a greater opportunity for these behaviours to take place when the cops are caught up with angry people fighting back against years of oppression and misery? Also, why is someone getting mugged in Hackney now a national news item when no one gave a shit before?
Yes, we hate mugging. Yes we hate domestic burglary. We dont think we should be fighting amongst ourselves and victimising each other. But there is also a huge part of this that is about making the state and capital pay and that cannot and should not be forgotten.
We have also heard alot about how people shouldn’t be targetting local businesses in their own community. By and large, we agree that it is not tactically wise to do so. However, do you not think that this speaks volumes about the degree of inequality in the UK? When the working class is so impoverished it sees those in the middle class of it’s locality as the enemy? That feels the gulf between their social experiences and opportunities that painfully?
Lets also not forget the fact that the robbery of the ruling class is far greater and far more violently enforced than any opportunistic street mugger could ever envision.
As anarchists, we should also support aspects of the community response to the riots. That is, we should engage with the emerging discourse on what form and function communities should take and meet people in our areas who want to help and support each other and achieve positive social change. We should also engage with these processes to steer them away from the blaming, shaming and alienating of the rioters and instead towards a more pragmatic and inclusive approach. That is to say, we should support community responses that seek to bring the class together and crush the divisive and anti-working class aspects of them; the idiots who want to unite under the banner of greater police power and a masochistic desire for greater violence on the part of the state.
We should also be there to keep the role of the middle classes at bay. That is not to say that we unthinkingly hate everyone who is middle class, but that we recognise the middle classes have a tendency to take over and to transform organisations into just another institution for the advancement of their own class interests. If they have any respect for the complexities of this situation, they will understand that this is something they will largely have to stand aside on. We cannot let the interests of the gentrifiers gain even more privilege and power than they already enjoy. We cannot let them stitch up these actions for their own advantage. We have seen on the news what alot of these people think of us, how the self-proclaimed “educated classes” don’t know their arsehole from their elbow when it comes to the situations we face on a daily basis. How they are always interviewed complaining how they have lost all their worldly goods. Sure, it’s not nice and we certainly wouldnt wish it on anyone. But the fact that it is those who have lots of worldly goods in the first place who are put up on a pedestal for us all to feel sorry for is truly sickening. Intensive gentrification has decimated our communities on a scale far greater than any of the urban riots have. More local businesses have gone under from the Westfields, Starbucks and Waitroses of this world than any expression of class anger.
And this is what this essentially comes down to – class anger. The longer this class anger is repressed, the more ferocious and imperfect it is when it is unleashed. When people look to condemn the acts of the rioters as being indiscriminate and without any real focus or direction, we remind them that this is the logical concequence of a society that is hyper individualistic and socially violent. When people say it isn’t like the the riots in the 80s, we say OF COURSE NOT. Because since then, we have had the most aggressive and repressive periods of capitalism ever, with extreme social alienation, inequality and a propaganda machine that has aimed to break down community identity and class solidarity at any cost. All for the interests of the ruling class scum that are responsible for the financial crisis and the austerity measures that will undoubtedly make our lives a misery for years to come. Both the riots and the community responses are flawed and imperfect. But with a push in the right direction, both could contain what is needed to start building a better future for all of us. We cannot shrink away from this or wish it away. Our rallying cry as anarchists should be maximum engagement and uncompromising criticism of all divisive aspects.
We want a better future for ourselves, now is the time to build it!