Joe Thorne looks for the meaning of the recent wave of inner city riots
Eventually, it always explodes. But what dream has been deferred, how, and by whom? Who are the rioters, what motivated them – and does it matter? Was there a radical kernel to the riots which would speak to us, if only we would listen? Or were they the mute reflex of a nihilist or egoistic sub-generation of looter-consumers – pitiable, and understandable, but nothing more?
To the former idea corresponds a romanticised account of the figure of the rioter as a new vanguard-subject in the class struggle, flawed, but in essence communistic. To the later idea corresponds the view that the rioters need to be rescued by the political programme or organisation of some other segment of the working class: the primary significance of their disorder is as a moral rebuke to the movement which has forgotten them. Both are attempts to constrain a complex reality under too-easy an analysis. There is no ‘essence’ to the riots; beyond their expression of a particular phase in the recomposition of the class-relation in Britain’s inner cities. As we shall see, the riots were partly products of a real, positive and intentional class consciousness, albeit the consciousness of a very particular sub-section of the class. There were also elements in it that were not only nihilistic and selfish, but vicious and cruel. Continue reading “…or does it explode?”