Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Mindless criminality or revolution?

The current outpouring of seemingly mindless violence at first glance appears to have nothing to do with revolution or demands for social change.

'Out of control teenagers with no respect' is the general categorisation of those who have burnt cars, looted consumer goods and destroyed small businesses in the last few days across England.

However, the causes of this phenomenon are exceedingly complex, and include the failure of leadership within the working class.

Before analysing the current situation let us look at a very prescient prediction by the opportunistic Deputy Prime Minister captured in this Sky News broadcast of 11 April 2010; just before the election which brought him into power, supporting the very policies he was warning against: 

There is a danger in having any government of whatever composition led by a party which doesn't have a proper mandate across the country trying to push through really difficult decisions; I think a lot of people will react badly to them... I think there's a really serious risk [of rioting].

The move from the peaceful protest, so beloved of middle class conscience-salving liberals, to violent disorder, was signalled in the protests against the cuts and the increase in university tuition fees last winter. The presence of those who had been written off politically by navel gazing 'leftists', was a warning ill-ignored by the political class. The disaffected working class youth, articulated very well their feeling of exclusion from any kind of prospects for the future, and their anger at being made to pay for the mindboggling, greed-fuelled excesses of rampant capitalism, whilst the vehicles of such greed were protected from failure, and the architects of the current crisis allowed to continue their champagne lifestyle.

The unreconstructed defenders of capital, represented by the government of millionaires for millionaires, might be expected to exhibit the gung-ho mentality which has led to the acceleration of the attacks on public services, public sector employees and pension rights; the real crime has been the failure of those who would pretend to speak for the working class of this country to find a back-bone. 

The political inheritors of the Blair-Brown legacy, a legacy which wooed the fat cats in the city and positively encouraged the growth of the greed mentality, need to stop wringing their hands and instead step aside and make way for a leadership which will channel the frustration of the disaffected working class, youth and otherwise, into a real movement for change.

The rioting and criminal behaviour over the last few days is not a positive movement for change, to be in any way welcomed or encouraged: it is, however, a real expression of dissatisfaction with the current social order. 

A society at peace with itself does not produce mass criminal behaviour on such a scale: to this extent, such behaviour, born out of social dissatisfaction, becomes a social movement, and is to that limited extent revolutionary.

If one has no hope, no prospects, what sanction is a criminal record?

In the absence of meaningful sanctions and a clear alternative, why expect anything different?

Calls for the army to be brought in, and the use of increased legitimised state force are borne out of an understanding of this equation.

Respect whether for elders, property, or social mores, has to be earnt, and must then be continually justified, if it is not to be lost.

By what authority does this coalition government take money from education, social security, and consumers through VAT increases and spend it on foreign wars, propping up a rotten system, and paying millionaires to preside over the further pillage of the country's economy?

The people looting and burning in the last few days have no respect for a society which in their eyes has given up any right to such respect.

Society will now have to earn back that respect, by changing in a way that values our youth, their aspirations, their abilities.

The task of the left is to show the rapidly increasing numbers of the seriously marginalised and disaffected, that the answer lies not in the aimless wanton destruction of the symbols of the ancien regime, or the expropriation of the trappings of success flaunted by advertising and too expensive for many to obtain without jobs which don't exist, but rather the systematic building of a society that will deserve respect.

The alternative will be the building of an inreasingly authoritarian state, devoid of rights and liberties, in the defence of the property of the few.

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