It has now been three days since riots began in North London after police shot and killed a man reported to be involved with a local drug gang. According to at least one source, the fact that the riots appear to be organized using the relatively secure Blackberry network is evidence that British drug gangs are leading the riots in reaction to recent, highly successful police efforts to terminate many drug gang operations. The reasoning is that unemployed teen punks would not be able to afford Blackberry's. So, it must be drug gang members. Supposedly, the British police are "allowing" the riots to continue (for three days now?!?) so they can get plenty of photos of gang members organizing riots on their Blackberries. Oh, and to sway the "civil liberty types" toward further expansion of an already oppressive police state in Britain:
On my last few visits to Austerity Britain(TM) I have been struck by both increasingly visible poverty and increasing electronic surveillance, particularly in urban areas. Public spaces are tense, fearful, surveilled. You can't pull out a camera at a station. But their cameras are watching you from several angles. It's not healthy at all. Orwellian, alienated. -- Headrush - Ed Webb's Dickinson Blog: On the riotsWell, all the above might be true, but it does not explain the anger and frustration of this man, who calls the riots "an insurrection":
Moreover, there's the little fact that the scenes being played out in Britain have also been played out in a number of other countries the past year - Greece, Italy, Spain, Iceland, Tunisia, Egypt, and many others. Almost all those "riots" have been clearly liked to the economic devastation caused by the bad idea of economic neo-liberalism.
But here's the reality. In the U.S., we've only just begun down the austerity path. The massive budget cuts to social services have yet to be implemented. That's not the case in Britain, where almost all youth job training programs and youth activity community centers were shuttered months ago. There were some people I pay attention to who warned not too long ago that the austerity drive in Britain, and in Europe generally, would eventually result in a violent social explosion. As the man in the interview above notes, to warn about these facts is not to condone them; though, that is the way the PR protectors of the world's oligarchs will try to spin it. I pay attention to these people because they have been correct time and time again the past few years on issues of political economy (such as how much criminal fraud was involved in the financial collapse, or Barack Obama being a Reaganite conservative rather than a progressive) while all the professional pundits have been wrong - often catastrophically and categorically wrong .
One of these people is Ian Welsh, who wrote over two weeks ago:
Meanwhile in England, the Cameron government’s massive slashes to education hit virtually all at once, making an entire cohort of young people know exactly who just did their level best to destroy their lives. This is important, to put it bluntly, young males who don’t have enough money to settle down with a young female are extraordinarily dangerous to the state.Welsh entitled his article of July 10, 2011, Thank God for our enemies, which may not make much sense as a totle until you read the whole piece.
What is interesting about both of these things, and many others recently, such as the austerity bills and various legal rulings from the Supreme Court which don’t even pretend to follow precedent, is how the velvet glove has come off the iron fist of state and corporate repression. The elites think that there is nothing ordinary people can do. Whatever the elites do, no matter how harsh, the hoi polloi can only submit. And if they don’t, well, so much the worse for them.In that article just over two weeks ago, Welsh also wrote, "Laws which do not have at least the appearance of being evenly applied are not just, are not perceived as just, and become legitimate targets for breaking." Today, Welsh has a quote from The Guardian with some truly amazing statistics:
And yet the system is cracking up. A large part of why all of this is being done is to create ever bigger corporations and ever richer western billionaires, so they can compete with the oilarchies. But recently Russia been minting billionaires faster than US. It’s really hard to state how startling that is. America’s rich have done everything they can to rig the game so they will get richer, they have a bigger base economy to work off of, and they’re still losing the Red Queen’s race. No matter how much they repress their own population, they can’t keep up with the folks who have the real gold of the modern economy: black gold.
Unfortunately, as stupid, venal and brutal as our enemies are (and if they aren’t your enemies you’re a fool or getting a pay check, or I hope you are), our leadership is even more stupid, venal and cowardly. This entire generation of leadership on what passes for the left is beyond contemptible. If they are not outright sell outs of the interests of those they claim to champion, then they are willing to betray anyone but their members, and if with rare exceptions (in the US, basically, the gay leadership) they are cowards, unwilling to risk themselves in any way, unwilling to actually fight. They cavill and moan and condemn anyone who actually fights back. Watching fools demanding that the man who threw a pie at Murdoch be condemned for violence was beyond sad, it was a farce. Violence? It reminded me of all the hand wringing when an Iraqi threw a shoe at George Bush, a war criminal and mass murderer. Oh dear.
And so, while the young are being radicalized, the leaders of the left are unable to provide leadership.
One journalist wrote that he was surprised how many people in Tottenham knew of and were critical of the IPCC, but there should be nothing surprising about this. When you look at the figures for deaths in police custody (at least 333 since 1998 and not a single conviction of any police officer for any of them), then the IPCC and the courts are seen by many, quite reasonably, to be protecting the police rather than the people.Or how about this, from this evening recommended list on DailyKos: Police Crimes And Repression Revealed: 10 Black Men In Illinois Exonerated By DNA Evidence.
The great tragedy of President Obama's failure to bring the financial and banking system to heel, and to do nothing as the banks engaged in open fraud and forgery to try and ram through as many home foreclosures as possible as quickly as possible, is that people's belief in the fairness of the system is destroyed. And that belief will not be restored overnight. Or in a week, or a month, or a year. There are still people alive today who loudly proclaim a distrust for banks or for the stock market based on their experience of the First Great Depression in the 1930s. In a very real, fundamental way, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 was the last chance for "the system" to get it right, and begin the task of implementing fundamental reform. That his administration and his defenders now seek to deflect criticism by singing the praises of "incrementalism" is merely one more marker that the system is irreparably broken, and we have descended into an era of not only institutional collapse, but of a crisis of legitimacy of the very systems of government and political economy themselves. And when peaceful change is no longer possible, what is happening in Britain - or Greece, or Egypt, or where ever - follows as certainly as night follows day.
The day after the riots in London began - and there is now rioting reported in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool, and other cities - Welsh wrote this:
The Conservative austerity measures are destroying the possibility of a future for a generation of young people. There is this weird idea amongst English elites, which I encountered in person during my London visit, that the problem in England is their welfare culture. In other words,after a financial crisis virtually entirely caused by the rich, the response has been to slash spending on the poor and middle class to pay for bailouts for the rich, who, by any sane reading of the crisis, caused the disaster.And on that note - destroying the future - I will leave you with this song, from the Sex Pistols, from 34 long, increasingly painful years ago. Can you hear the anger and rage in the song? That was 34 years ago. What has gotten better since then? We have the internet to vent now? There's a Starbucks or McDonald's on every corner?
UPDATE: It's worth reading London Riots: A Symptom of the ‘Burning’ & ‘Looting’ of UK Public Services; here's an important excerpt:
In a video produced in the final week of July by The Guardian, teenagers from the area react to the Haringey council’s decision to shut 13 youth clubs. They tell The Guardian the clubs were a place for youth to go when they wanted something to do. Youth could make music and produce videos. People went to the youth clubs every day, but now they are out in the streets. Police are pulling youth over for stop and searches and gangs are out running into each other and getting into fights. The report closes with one teenager saying, “There’ll be riots.”And think about this: if all the factories, mines, farms and other economic enterprises that have been shut down the past three decades by the globalizers' drive toward "cheaper labor" - if all those facilities had been shut down in the course of one day or ven one week or one month, the massive economic devastation wrought would appear to be the most monstrous act of terrorism ever. For thirty years, people in affected communities have protested and tried to make their voices heard, but they have been instructed by the corporate media that they have no choice but bow before the dictates of the "free market" and accept their place in the new, de-industrialized wastelands.
A chilling interview with one youth from an NBC News report has been circulating. A television reporter asks, “Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?” The young man responds, “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?” The TV reporter doesn’t have anything to say to that. So, the young man continues:
Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said , “A riot is the language of the unheard.”