Venezuela, Corbyn and Labour MPs

August 7, 2017 at 7:00 pm (democracy, labour party, Latin America, left, posted by JD, protest, reformism, riots, solidarity)

The following discussion article was published by The Clarion a few days ago, before Corbyn’s statement today.  Comments are invited both here and at The Clarion (see bottom of this post). Coatesy provides an excellent survey of other leftist views re events in Venezuela, here.

Venezuela, Corbyn and Labour MPs
By Sacha Ismail

On 2 August the main headline on the front page of the Times read: “Labour MPs urge Corbyn to condemn Venezuela”! Labour MPs are using the crisis in Venezuela to have a fresh pop at Corbyn.

No doubt some Labour MPs are genuinely concerned about human rights abuses in Venezuela. But the campaign as a whole is both bad politically and deeply hypocritical.

I don’t say that because I am a fan of the Maduro government. I do not believe it is socialist – socialism or even a workers’ government can only be created by the self-organisation of the working class, not Bonapartist type populist regimes. Moreover in the recent period Maduro has taken an even more authoritarian turn, with many of the social gains made under the government of Hugo Chavez – also not socialist – in danger or already gone (see this statement by Venezuelan socialist organisation Marea Socialista for a useful explanation). We should be supporting Venezuela’s beleaguered but substantial labour movement and particularly the wing of it critical of Chavismo from the left – not the government.

 A protester throws rocks during clashes with Venezuelan security forces near a military base, which was attacked by rebels on Sunday. A protester throws rocks during clashes with Venezuelan security forces near a military base, which was attacked by rebel soldiers on Sunday. Photograph: Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters

But despite this and despite human rights abuses which are almost certainly taking place and getting worse – and which we should not be afraid to criticise – the dominant forces of the Venezuelan opposition do not represent a better alternative. Despite undoubtedly having some popular support, they are a right-wing, anti-democratic movement which is using popular dissatisfaction and supposed concern for democracy as a cover for its real agenda. They collaborate with a US government that has long sought to overthrow the “Bolivarian” regime for old-fashioned capitalist and imperialist reasons.

The current movement is the descendent, so to speak, of the right-wing coup against Chavez in 2002, which was defeated by mass popular mobilisation. The cause of democracy and the working class will be set back if it succeeds.

We can also question to what extent many Labour MPs are motivated by genuine concern for democracy and human rights. They seem determined to ignore the fact that the Labour Party leadership has issued statements criticising the Venezuelan government (through shadow foreign office ministers Emily Thornberry and Liz McInnes, admittedly, not Corbyn – but Corbyn’s spokesperson has endorsed them). Is their problem that it is insufficiently enthusiastic about the right-wing Venezuelan opposition, or do they just not care about the facts at all?

And in addition to the Labour right’s silence about the nature of the Venezuelan opposition, the right-wing MPs’ broader record speaks for itself.

Many of those leading the charge against Corbyn on Venezuela broke the whip and abstained when the Labour Party pushed to end British support for the disgusting Saudi war in Yemen – something I am still genuinely slightly astonished by. Angela Smith, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Venezuela member quoted widely in the press today, is a case in point. (She also abstained on the Welfare Bill, in case you were wondering.) Such people support “democracy” as long it serves the interests of British capitalism and the Western powers. Labour MPs supporting Narendra Modi when he came to the UK was another shocking example.

Perhaps Corbyn could do more to use his influence to stop human rights abuses by the Venezuelan government. I’m sure, judging by his previous statements, that he has illusions in Venezuela along with other “progressive”, “anti-imperialist” developing world regimes. That’s something The Clarion might look at in the near future. But this campaign to condemn him over Venezuela is fairly absurd and in many ways disgraceful.

Let us know what you think? Write a reply?

Permalink 2 Comments

Ukraine in flames

February 20, 2014 at 6:38 pm (Europe, posted by JD, protest, riots, Russia, stalinism, thuggery)

Anti-government protesters clash with riot police.

Above: protesters behind metal shields in Kiev’s Independence Square, Tuesday

From Richard Greeman

Dear Friends,

As the uprising in the Ukraine seems to be coming to a crisis after weeks of mass demonstrations and occupations, I would like to translate for you the following letter received last week from Julia Gusseva, the Russian translator of Victor Serge and co-organizer of the International Conference of Independant Labor Unions in Kiev last November. Julia, an activist since the ‘80s, is one of the founders of the Praxis Center in Moscow, and writes from an anarcho-syndicalist viewpoint.

Dear Richard,

You ask what we think of the situation in the Ukraine. In fact, the Ukrainian movement is a part of the wave of civil protests that has been unfurling for the last few years in every corner of the world (“Arab Spring,” Occupy Wall Street, Indignados, the movements in Greece, Turkey, Russia …). In the Ukraine, the pretext was the refusal of the President to sign the agreement on association with the countries of the European Union. In this semi-authoritarian country, a large part of the population considered that association as a step toward democracy, rights, higher social standards, etc. The positive demands of the movement are democratic (return to the 2004 Constitution, new, free, honest elections, etc): the people are fighting for their full rights. The main thing is that the movement is self-organized (autonomous) everywhere around the country, with activists occupying the town halls, etc. The same labor unions who participated in our conference in Kiev last year have recently formed the all-Ukraine strike committee.

As far as the “leading personalities” of the movement are concerned, we see the same thing as in Russia, Turkey, etc: politicians who are trying to put themselves at the head of the movement, but whom the great mass of protesters does not at all recognize as their leaders. Yes, there are various political currents in the movement, including Ukrainian nationalists (and also the Left, which is part of the “citizen sector” of the protesters), but the vast majority – as in Russia and elsewhere – are regular citizens, non-party political activists.

Kiev has already seen police violence (before the current clashes – RG ) causing hundreds of injuries and (at least 70 at present -JD) deaths; this means the movement will not stop half way and fade out. Besides, the President is inclined to give in to popular pressure (there is no doubt that Putin would have acted differently in his place!) So there is a good chance that the popular movement will triumph and, on the condition that the politicians don’t turn it to their own ends, will make the Ukraine a freer and more democratic country than it is today.

Je t’embrasse, Julia


Asked about the publicity given to the presence among the demonstrators of right-wing and nationalist elements (both in the mainstream media and on the Left), Julia referred me to this article, refuting what she called “Putinist/Stalinist insinuations about democratic revolutionary movement in Ukraine.”

Permalink 6 Comments

Germany 1953: when workers rose against Stalinism

June 22, 2013 at 3:54 am (AWL, Germany, history, Human rights, internationalism, Jim D, Marxism, riots, Shachtman, stalinism, trotskyism, USSR, workers)

From the Workers Liberty archives:

Like a brilliant gleam of light in the gathering darkness of the post-war years, the rising of the German working class has already shattered myths and shamed despair. It has already answered a host of questions that had been passed by those who became panic-stricken before the seemingly invincible strength of Stalinist tyranny.

These June days may well go down in history as the beginning of the workers’ revolt against Stalinism — the beginning, in the historical view, quite apart from any over-optimistic predictions about the immediate aftermath to be expected from this action itself.

Is the Iron Curtain empire monolithic? Have the workers of East Europe been so duped by Stalinism as to become cowed creatures, hypnotised, straightjacketed by the Stalinist ‘mystique’? Has the working class lost its revolutionary dynamism? Is the Russian power so solid, or all-intimidating, within that there is no hope of stopping its menace except by Western military might and the third world war? The German working class has given an answer, and it is the answer we Independent Socialists have looked to.

Beginning as a spontaneous, peaceful mass demonstration against the latest speed-up decree increasing work norms, in 24 hours it necessarily became a battle with the real power in the country, the Russian troops. Beginning as a movement for economic demands, it was at bottom, and quickly became overtly, a political demonstration.

Five hours after it began at 9 am on June 16, the regime had already capitulated on the immediate issue of speed-up, withdrawing its ukase.

On the second day of the action, Russian tanks, armoured cars, artillery and soldiery had taken over from the East German police, who had refrained from blocking the riotous demonstrators.

In the vanguard of the march, and apparently its inspirers, were several hundred construction workers…

(Hal Draper, Labor Action, 22 June 1953)

For the full article by Hal Draper, and more by Max Shachtman and others…

Click here to download as a pdf.

Permalink Leave a Comment

‘Riot speech woman’ Pauline Pearce sings Summertime

August 21, 2011 at 4:43 pm (good people, jazz, Jim D, riots, The blues)

Because of dramatic domestic events, it’s been a while since we had any music on Shiraz: so who better to feature than the Hackney ‘riot speech woman’, Pauline Pearce? It turns out she’s an accomplished jazz singer who has at least one excellent recording to her name. Here she is singing (rather appropriately) the Gershwins’ ‘Summertime’:

And I apologise most profusely for having described her in an earlier posting as “elderly”…

Permalink 1 Comment

Matgamna on the riots

August 16, 2011 at 11:11 pm (AWL, Jim D, Marxism, riots)

There seems to have been some dispute about what Sean Matgamna said/wrote about the riots. To settle matters once and for all, here’s his article of 9th August  2011,  from the Workers Liberty website:

The rioting, looting and burning that is sweeping across London and outside of London – so far, in Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Nottingham and Liverpool – can have no directly positive effects on the lives of those who riot or on the lives of their families. The very opposite is true.

They are destroying some of the social facilities they rely upon, as for instance, firing a block of working class flats in Tottenham and buses in Peckham.

In politics the effect will be to strengthen the ‘law and order’ Right and push a lot of new people in their direction.

Many of those who have learned to loathe the swindlers who run our society will feel themselves pushed into supporting those who serve the rich, the looters at the top, in horror at the rioting, burning and looting at the bottom.

They will be further alienated from the young people in Lewisham, Peckham, Nottingham.

The rioting will alienate the organised labour movement, even those large sections of it which will instinctively sympathise with the plight of the people in the riot hit areas.

These outbreaks in areas with large black population, and involving  young black people, cannot fail to stimulate and strengthen racism. They will help those such as the EDL in fomenting a ‘them and us’ view of British society. The fact that Asian and Muslim shops have been burned out and looted and that many of the rioters were white will not lessen or off-set that.

The current explosions demonstrate yet again that there is a large segment of the working class – almost an underclass – that feels itself to be outside society and radically at odds with it. The looting and burning can only deepen that sense of separateness on both sides.

But denouncing the riots as ‘pure criminality’ is simply stupid – the refuge of those who don’t want to understand. However many gangs exist in these areas and however much opportunist looting contributes to the outbreaks, it took more than criminal gangs to ignite these explosions.

Those who are loudest in condemning the rioters and looters – the media, the politicians, the police, the racist and ‘anti-foreigner’ agitators and, soon, the vengeful magistrates – bear much of the blame for these outbreak. 

And they serve those who carry the main blame for the state of the British society in which this is happening – the bankers, the factory owners, the giant store owners and the stock exchange gamblers. They are responsible for creating the conditions and the mind-set that has led to the rioting and looting that is sweeping through Britain like an August grass fire.

The deprived young people who have come out on the streets to fight those they see as their enemy, the police, and to grab a little instant prosperity have good reason to feel that they are outsiders, that they have been excluded.

Many are either unemployed or working in dead end, unskilled, low paid jobs.

They have come through the education system maimed and semi-literate. They live in a society where great robbers and swindlers are admired whether they are legal, semi-legal or downright criminal. Where they enrich themselves without any regard for other people.

Why, many of them will think, shouldn’t we help ourselves by looting shops and great stores, in a world where bankers can loot and get away with it?  Where the politicians who serve them have looted society to bail out the bankers. 

No matter how inattentive to politics many of the young people may normally be, they will have gained a general impression about what has been going on at the top of society.

That the politicians, the press, the police and the courts that will soon send god knows how many to jail, serve those looters at the top of society – the young people know that too.

Many of the rioters in London live side by side with the very wealthy – the towers of Canary Warf are visible from half the London riot zones.

But there is nothing for the left to romanticise in these outbreaks, by giving them titles such as ‘insurrection’ and ‘rebellion’.

The irony in the situation is that if anything at all positive comes out of the riots for the people in the riot-stricken areas, it will be to scare the Government into increased investment in these areas. The outcome of the widespread rioting in 1981 was to stimulate Government attention. They bought-off local leaders, and put money into social facilities in the affected areas.

That did not change anything fundamental.

The labour movement must defend those young people who will now be hauled into the legal system. It must insist against the capitalist Establishment – the politicians, the press and the courts – that the responsibility for their blind raging anger lies squarely with those who run the Establishment that will now seek vengeance against them.

Permalink 10 Comments

The racism of David Starkey

August 14, 2011 at 8:15 am (Asshole, BBC, Jim D, Racism, riots)

Many people, even on the left, are inclined to indulge David Starkey as a bit of an eccentric, a colourful character, someone who at least gets a debate going, etc, etc. His appearance on Friday’s BBC 2 ‘Newsnight’ revealed him to be a thoroughly nasty Powellite racist:

“The chavs have become black. The whites have become black.

“A ­violent, destructive, ­nihilistic gangster culture has become the  fashion and black and white, boy and girl, operate in this ­language  together… Jamaican patois… that’s why so many of us have this sense of literally living in a ­foreign country” etc, etc…
NB: Starkey’s reactionary bombast and constant interruptions also succeeded in preventing the two other guests on the show from having a fair opportunity to put their points. Owen Jones, for instance, has a lot of sensible things to say given half a chance.

Permalink 21 Comments

Wandsworth Council and the return of the Mad Official

August 13, 2011 at 12:43 pm (crime, Human rights, law, literature, London, Marxism, reaction, riots, Roger M, Tory scum, welfare, workers)

Guest post by Roger

The story that the Tories flagship
Wandsworth council are to try and evict the mother of a 17-year old rioter who has not
even yet  been convicted by the
reminds me of The Mad Official – an article GK Chesterton wrote a

century ago:

Going mad is the slowest and dullest
business in the world. I have very nearly done it more than once in my
boyhood, and so have nearly all my friends, born under the general doom of
mortals, but especially of  moderns; I mean the doom that makes a man come
almost to the end of thinking before he comes to the first chance of

But the process of going mad is dull,
for the simple reason that a man does not know that it is going on.
Routine and literalism and a certain dry-throated earnestness and mental
thirst, these are the very atmosphere of morbidity. If once the man could
become conscious of his madness, he would cease to be man. He studies
certain texts in Daniel or cryptograms in Shakespeare through monstrously
magnifying spectacles, which are on his nose night and day. If once he
could take off the spectacles he would smash them. He deduces all his
fantasies about the Sixth Seal or the Anglo-Saxon Race from one unexamined
and invisible first principle. If he could once see the first principle,
he would see that it is not there.

This slow and awful self-hypnotism of
error is a process that can occur not only with individuals, but also with
whole societies. It is hard to pick out and prove; that is why it is hard
to cure. But this mental degeneration may be brought to one test, which I
truly believe to be a real test. A nation is not going mad when it does
extravagant things, so long as it does them in an extravagant spirit.
Crusaders not cutting their beards till they found Jerusalem, Jacobins
calling each other Harmodius and Epaminondas when their names were Jacques
and Jules, these are wild things, but they were done in wild spirits at a wild

But whenever we see things done wildly,
but taken tamely, then the State is growing insane.

For instance, I have a gun license. For
all I know, this would logically allow me to fire off fifty-nine enormous
field-guns day and night in my back garden. I should not be surprised at a
man doing it; for it would be great fun. But I should be surprised at
the neighbours putting up with it, and regarding it as an ordinary
thing merely because it might happen to fulfill the letter of my

Or, again, I have a dog license; and I
may have the right (for all I know) to turn ten thousand wild dogs loose
in Buckinghamshire. I should not be surprised if the law were like that;
because in modern England there is practically no law to be surprised at.
I should not be surprised even at the man who did it; for a certain kind
of man, if he lived long under the English landlord system, might do anything.
But I should be surprised at the people who consented to stand it. I
should, in other words, think the world a little mad if the incident,
were received in silence.

Now things every bit as wild as this
are being received in silence every day. All strokes slip on the
smoothness of a polished wall. All blows fall soundless on the softness of
a padded cell. For madness is a passive as well as an active state: it is
a paralysis, a refusal of the nerves to respond to the normal stimuli, as
well as an unnatural stimulation.

There are commonwealths, plainly to be
distinguished here and there in history, which pass from prosperity to squalor,
or from glory to insignificance, or from freedom to slavery, not only
in silence, but with serenity. The face still smiles while the
limbs, literally and loathsomely, are dropping from the body. These are
peoples that have lost the power of astonishment at their own actions.
When they give birth to a fantastic fashion or a foolish law, they do not
start or stare at the monster they have brought forth. They have grown
used to their own unreason; chaos is their cosmos; and the whirlwind is
the breath of their nostrils. These nations are really in danger of
going off their heads en masse; of becoming one vast vision of imbecility,
with toppling cities and crazy country-sides, all dotted with industrious
lunatics. One of these countries is modern England.

Now here is an actual instance, a small
case of how our social conscience really works: tame in spirit, wild in
result, blank in realisation; a thing without the light of mind in it. I take
this paragraph from a daily paper:

“At Epping, yesterday, Thomas
Woolbourne, a Lambourne labourer, and his wife were summoned for neglecting
their five children. Dr. Alpin said he was invited by the inspector of the
N.S.P.C.C. to visit defendants’ cottage. Both the cottage and the
children were dirty. The children looked exceedingly well in health, but
the conditions would be serious in case of illness. Defendants were stated to
be sober. The man was discharged. The woman, who said she was hampered by the
cottage having no water supply and that she was ill, was sentenced to six
weeks’ imprisonment. The sentence caused surprise, and the woman was removed
crying, ‘Lord save me!'”

I know no name for this but Chinese. It
calls up the mental picture of some archaic and changeless Eastern Court, in
which men with dried faces and stiff ceremonial costumes perform some atrocious
cruelty to the accompaniment of formal proverbs and sentences of which the very
meaning has been forgotten. In both cases the only thing in the whole farrago
that can be called real is the wrong. If we apply the lightest touch
of reason to the whole Epping prosecution it dissolves into nothing.

I here challenge any person in his five
wits to tell me what that woman was sent to prison for. Either it was for being
poor, or it was for being ill. Nobody could suggest, nobody will suggest,
nobody, as a matter of fact, did suggest, that she had committed any other

The doctor was called in by a Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Was this woman guilty of cruelty to
children? Not in the least. Did the doctor say she was guilty of cruelty to
children? Not in the least. Was these any evidence even remotely bearing on the
sin of cruelty? Not a rap. The worse that the doctor could work himself up
to saying was that though the children were “exceedingly” well, the
conditions would be serious in case of illness. If the doctor will tell me any
conditions that would be comic in case of illness, I shall attach more weight
to his argument.

Now this is the worst effect of modern
worry. The mad doctor has gone mad. He is literally and practically mad; and
still he is quite literally and practically a doctor. The only question is the
old one, Quis docebit ipsum doctorem? Now cruelty to children is an utterly
unnatural thing; instinctively accursed of earth and heaven. But neglect of
children is a natural thing; like neglect of any other duty, it is a mere
difference of degree that divides extending arms and legs in calisthenics and
extending them on the rack. It is a mere difference of degree that
separates any operation from any torture. The thumb-screw can easily be called
Manicure. Being pulled about by wild horses can easily be called Massage.

The modern problem is not so much what
people will endure as what they will not endure. But I fear I interrupt….
The boiling oil is boiling; and the Tenth Mandarin is already reciting the
“Seventeen Serious Principles and the Fifty-three Virtues of the Sacred

Chesterton,  A Miscellany of Men 1912

(Lest anyone think Chesterton was
exaggerating, around this very time one of my own grandparents and his siblings
was having to hide out in the back alley whenever a council inspector was
spotted making his rounds – as having several adults and 14 children living in
a 2-up, 2-down house resulted back then not in you being given a bigger house
but in either immediate eviction or the parents being carted away for precisely
the same offense of ‘neglect’).

The Tories who are now demanding
the collective punishment of whole families for the crimes of their literally
out of control offspring exhibit their own form of this madness.

No middle or upper class parent
can have the slightest comprehension of what it is like to bring up a teenage
child on the worst inner city estates and of the extraordinary levels of
character, self-sacrifice and above all luck that is required to keep them out
of trouble – just as Chesterton’s doctor and magistrates could have no
understanding of what it was to bring up a large family in a primitive cottage
on a labourer’s wage.

The Tories themselves claim that
the problem is one of unstable and dysfunctional families – so they seek to
solve it by removing the one actual element of stability remaining in the young
criminals lives – a home.

As long as that home and a family
unit however dysfunctional remains then it is at least possible to conceive of
the feral teenager coming out of jail or whatever they call borstals these days
and make positive choices that could transform their lives.

So let’s destroy that one element
of relative stability: let’s throw the whole family on the streets and deprive
them of their benefits – as if you want to reduce crime then how better to do it
than to massively increase the class of people who have no other option left than
to steal and beg.

While I am apparently one of the
few Marxists who still remembers the concept of the lumpenproletariat and that
it represents a fundamental social problem that the Bolsheviks could only solve
by the firing squad and the labour camp, this is one line I will stand with the
bleeding heart liberals to defend: collective punishment is insane and immoral.

Permalink 7 Comments

Listen, for a moment, to Tariq Jahan

August 11, 2011 at 5:10 am (good people, Jim D, riots, solidarity, truth)

Let this extraordinary man speak for himself:

Sometimes further comment seems almost impertinent…


Permalink 5 Comments

Pauline Pearce speaks out

August 10, 2011 at 5:39 pm (Johnny Lewis, protest, riots)

By Will Stone, in today’s Morning Star:

A HACKNEY woman watched online by almost a million nationwide after she was videoed denouncing the riots spoke exclusively to the Morning Star on Monday following her speech.

Dalston resident Pauline Pearce gathered a crowd in Hackney’s Clarence Road shortly before 9.30pm on Monday night as rioters and stragglers hung about in the street among burnt out cars, vans, bicycles and motorbikes.

Masked youths threw stones and bricks at riot police while others continued to loot an off license that was broken into earlier in the day.

Glass bottles were lobbed at newly arriving riot police vans entering Clarence Road to provide back-up to the handful of officers trying in vein to keep the road under control.

Holding a walking stick and standing in front of a graffitied was, Ms Pearce bravely addressed rioters holding bricks and stones who had stopped to listen to her.

She told onlookers: “Go home. People need to get back to reality not blowing up people’s property or burning up people’s shops when they’ve worked so hard to start their own business.

“The woman up the street, she’s working hard to make her business work and you lot want to go and burn it up for what? Just to say that you’re warring and you’re ‘bad man.’

“This is about a man who got shot in Tottenham, not about having fun and busting up the place. Get real.

“You should be doing it for a cause. If we’re fighting for a cause, let’s fight for a cause. You lot piss me off. I’m ashamed to be a Hackney person.

“We’re not all gathering together and fighting for a cause.

“We’re running down Foot Locker to get new shoes.”

Moments later she told the Morning Star: “I feel hurt by what I’m seeing. This is not what I’ve lived here for decades to witness.

“This is a riot for rioting’s sake. It’s not about fighting for a cause or against injustice. That’s what real protesting should be about.

“Instead I’m seeing my local community being smashed up around me, young children crying, innocent people’s cars and bikes being destroyed and families being terrorised by threat of being burned alive.”

Permalink 7 Comments

The establishment thought they could carry on laughing at the poor on Jeremy Kyle for ever. It turns out they couldn’t

August 9, 2011 at 2:58 pm (James Bloodworth, poverty, riots, socialism, the cops, youth)

By James Bloodworth; cross-posted from ‘Obliged to Offend’

The political reaction to the riots has already begun, with Cameron flying back
from his holidays amidst increasingly enthusiastic talk of the military being
deployed on British streets. Last night the rioting spread out of London and
erupted in Birmingham, Nottingham, and if reports are to be believed, Bradford.
The reaction of the media and politicians thus far has been a demonstrable sense
of not knowing how to react. As one Tweeter put it: “Simply repeating that the
looting is ‘pure criminality’ is like telling us the sky’s blue. We know that.
Why are our youngsters pure criminals?”.

It is a thoroughly dispiriting
sight to see large swathes of London engulfed in flames. Widespread looting is
taking place and the police everywhere appear overwhelmed by the sheer numbers
involved. To make a slightly fatuous comparison, it brings back memories of the
school playground on those once-a-year occasions when a sort of mass
disobedience erupted, the very psychological stability of the crowd
disintegrating as events unfolded.

Jody McIntyre has been sacked
from his position on the Independent for allegedly “inciting violence,” after a
Tweet encouraging the rioters; calls are being made to shut down London’s mobile
phone networks and target those using social networking sites to plan more
unrest; and the Etonions leading the country have been forced to fly back from
their European villas. I think I failed to mention that the stock market is in
freefall, too.

The response of the establishment thus far has been to
close ranks. Both Labour and the Conservatives are speaking in a unified voice
in a desire to attach themselves to the groundswell of reaction that is surely
on its way. Old Labourites who have accepted the “inevitability” of the
free-market can be heard dismissing the grievances of the rioters as “not
genuine,” rendering true the cliché that what was in the past “a response to
injustice” is always in the present “totally unacceptable”.

The reaction
of most comfortably-off people has been to dismiss the violent scenes as the
result of an over-indulged poor, giddy on benefits, feral and spoiling for
violence. This impression of the underclass, if you wish to call it that, is
acquired from television shows such as Jeremy Kyle and the reactionary press. In
reality, most people rarely come in to contact with those languishing on
Britain’s inner city council estates.

One ex-police officer on
television today remarked that the rioters appeared to be motivated by, not so
much a cause, as sheer, naked greed. The “greed is good” mantra is about the
only thing that has trickled down to the
very bottom of society in recent years. As Sean Matgamma points out:

“The deprived young people…have come out on the streets to fight
those they see as their enemy, the police, and to grab a little instant
prosperity…They live in a society where great robbers and swindlers are
admired whether or not they are legal, semi-legal or downright criminal. Where
they enrich themselves without any regard for other people.”

It seems quite likely that within a few days the talk will
move from reaction to offensive, spurred on, if I can say it without causing
confusion, by the forces of reaction. The law-and-order brigade is already
making itself visible in the guise of talking heads on the BBC news. The rioting
will give them the excuse to offer simplistic yet satisfying solutions to the
more complex problems of widespread poverty and the resulting hopelessness.
There are already reports of black people in London who are wearing new trainers
being stopped and asked for receipts, with the threat of arrest hanging over
their heads if they don’t provide them.

There is a lot of class hatred
swilling around right now; and however unpleasant the looting and destruction of
livelihoods is, the truth is that the hatred and spite directed for many years
at the underclass is being reflected back at so-called civilised society in the
crooked mirror of deprived estates up and down the country.

And therein
lies the establishment’s mistake: They thought they could go on laughing at the
poor on Jeremy Kyle for ever. As it turns out, they couldn’t

The Guardian has published a complete list of all the action, here. H/t: Roger

Permalink 7 Comments