Riots : when normal behaviour is meaningless.

Looking back at the Commune coverage of the riots.

Barry Biddulph suggests that we need to find a way to engage with the contradictory and elemental nature of  the recent riots.

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Riots. We should have seen them coming. After all, the combustible material has been stacking up for some time. The majority of rioters who appeared in court were under 24, and from poor neighbourhoods. Strikingly: 41/% of suspects live in one of the top 10% of the most deprived places. [1] We already knew that in Hackney there are 22 claimants for every job. In Haringey, where Tottenham is located, there are 29  claimants for every vacancy. [2]  Youth unemployment  currently stands  at 949,000. [3] Add to these grim figures, the volatile mix of police harassment, affordable housing shortage, cuts in benefits,  resentment at bankers and parliamentary politicians robbing the tax payers, and what do we have? Alienation, and disaffection. As Naomi Klein put it in the Guardian,” When you rob people of what little they have, in order to protect the interests of those who have more than anyone deserves, you should expect resistance.”[4]

Even so, many on the left did not expect this resistance. Furthermore, they did not  like the look of it. The Socialist Party was particularly disgusted. In their opinion, it was a tragedy for small shop keepers, and devastating for working class communities. As if capitalism in crisis wasn’t. The SP leadership was worried about the lack of police numbers. The view of Peter Manson of the CPGB was that the riot targeted working-class people. In a moment of self-doubt, he mused that at one level, it was a collective rebellion but on balance it was without political content with anti social gangs having a moment of power. [5] But the rioters’ most comprehensive critic was  the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. The riot would have no positive effect. Indeed, it would have reactionary consequences. It would strengthen law and order, stimulate racism as well as alienate organised labour. [6] Continue reading “Riots : when normal behaviour is meaningless.”

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the day the EDL didn’t show up

Richard Price reports on last month’s English Defence League and Islamist provocations in Tower Hamlets and the left’s response. See here for an interview with a Bengali secular activist on the same theme.

In mid-May an event was announced for June 20th at the Troxy Ballroom in Limehouse, Tower Hamlets, organised by the UK-IC (UK –Islamic Conference) (1) . The list of speakers was impressive and global including the likes of the Malaysian Sheikh Hussein Lee. And bigots to a man: and, of course, they are all men.  All of them having been quoted as spouting filth supporting violence and rape against women in marriage, killing gays and violent anti-Jewish racism (2).

Sadly, instead of an immediate reaction of east London progressives to oppose this meeting, the EDL (English Defence League) (3) jumped up and said they would march against the meeting. The EDL are an odd crew, a few right wing libertarians ideologically against Islamic conservatism, a few neo-Nazis trying to ferment race riots, but what appears to be a majority who are ‘British loyalists’ i.e. working class conservatives, who support the notion of a ‘Great Britain’ and will fight for that, who, while ignoring the massive loss of power neo-liberalism has wrought on us, are panicked by the almost irrelevant threat of Islamism in the UK.  On the one hand it says it is simply against Islamism and the threat to British liberalism brought by that but its attacks on Islamism end up looking pretty much like scapegoating all Muslims, deeply dangerous in a period when we need to be united against the state as it attacks. Continue reading “the day the EDL didn’t show up”

the cuts agenda and ‘social capital’

by Dave Spencer

When we are talking about building communism from below, we need to know our starting point – the state and the consciousness of the working class.

One of the greatest influences on the theory of this matter and on the consequent policies and actions of local government and of workers in the voluntary or “Third” sector is Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone (2000). In it Putnam introduces the term “social capital”. By this he means any type of social or community engagement whatsoever – formal, informal, to do with friends, work, the family, hobbies, faith, politics, sport, the community. In other words social capital refers to how society works at grass roots, street and community level.

Continue reading “the cuts agenda and ‘social capital’”

a ripple in the storm

Joe Thorne reports on anti-cuts initiatives in Hackney

On the last day of June, nearly fifty trade unionists, socialists, and community activists met in an old church hall in Hackney, east London.  We came together to discuss the wave of public sector cuts which has already begun, and how we can organise to push them back.

Around the city, and across the country, equivalent meetings have been held or will be held shortly.  Many of them, such as ours, will decide to establish campaigns of one sort or another.  The real content of these campaigns, just like the content of the meetings, will differ widely. Continue reading “a ripple in the storm”

building from below in our communities

Steve Ryan reports on the ‘Community organising and tenants’ struggles’ session at our recent summer school.

This workshop was introduced with descriptions from Isabel Parrott (London Coalition against Poverty) and Camille Barbagallo (Friends of Hackney Nurseries ) and a member of the unemployed workers union.

Each illustrated their experiences of community and tenant organising, outlining both the positive and negative sides. It was interesting to hear their views on how they saw the campaigns as political and the experience of interacting with interested parties , especially where sometimes their demands were counterpoised to those parties (Unemployed Workers’ Unions and PCS members working in the Department for Work and Pensions, for example). Continue reading “building from below in our communities”

despite ’empowerment’… people still have power

by Leo Singer

” The College principal says cuts will hit adult education”
“Services have been streamlined and centralised to curb duplication”
” increasing its council tax precept by 4.8 per cent”
“… plans to end funding for elite swimming, switch off street lights at night, cut two recycling centres and close crèches at leisure centres”
“… cutting around 70 jobs, with more to come in future years”

This is just a limited selection of headlines from the local papers all over Merseyside and Wallasey, collected this spring. Local governments are preparing us for a new era, a tightening of belts, expected after the national elections. Similar headlines are easy to find in papers all over the country. No wonder… as shit runs down. Continue reading “despite ’empowerment’… people still have power”

anti-fascism and the BNP in barking and dagenham

by Glyn Harries

At the May 2010 Barking and Dagenham council elections, the BNP lost all their 12 Councillors, all previously elected in 2006. And their national party leader Nick Griffin, who it was suggested would take the Parliamentary seat, only came 3rd, and petulantly walked away declaring Barking and London ‘finished’.

But away from the headlines the actual results in Barking and Dagenham show the BNP nearly doubled their vote from 2006 to 2010, though where they had stood previously their vote did decline slightly. I have used their highest votes in each ward. While it is good news to see the Councillor parasites of the BNP wiped out, the Hope not Hate victory claims are as ever deeply flawed. Continue reading “anti-fascism and the BNP in barking and dagenham”