[lbo-talk] London Riots anew

Lenin's Tomb leninstombblog at googlemail.com
Mon Aug 15 17:23:38 PDT 2011

On 16/08/2011 00:51, James Heartfield wrote:
> Richard Seymour writes ‘Bespeaks .. conflagrations ..belies’ (It is not the kind of talking that is going to help you to get down with those you dare to call ‘the kids’.)

Nor is it likely to get me 'down' with those decent, salt-of-the-earth working classes whose concerns you are vocalising. What to do?

> All of this blather, though, is a sorry excuse for a lot of bad behaviour.
> Scores of people burned out of their homes – not by riot police or CS gas canisters, but by looters.
> Three men dead after being run over protecting their corner shop. A Gay bookshop done over. A Malaysian student robbed on the ground.

And if I'd attempted to 'excuse' any of that, you would have a point.

> Richard has a tall order backing his party ‘line’ that this vandalism is in truth the coming revolution.

Of course, there is no such 'line'.

> His comrade Gary MacFarlane writes in this week’s Socialist Worker: ‘Karl Marx was exactly right when he talked about expropriating the expropriators, taking back what they have taken from us. That's what looting by poor working class people represents and in that sense it is a deeply political act.' ('One of the Most Powerful Expressions of Anger', Socialist Worker, 13 August 2011)
> But the rioters were not ‘expropriating the expropriators’ they were wrecking their own neighbourhoods.

They two main things they did were: 1) fight with police, and 2) loot from chainstores and small businesses. Neither conform to the facile narrative of criminal opportunism that you and David Cameron argue for. Both are certainly political acts, and must be interpreted in that light. You, of course, wholly ignore both facts.

> That is why fully ninety per cent of Britons polled think that there is absolutely no excuse for the rioters behaviour. Those respondents are not in the grip of false consciousness. They just don’t think that it is a great thing for a lot of young men to smash up the neighbourhood, without any obvious reason other than having a lark.

Even the most reactionary pundits haven't reached for that line yet. They've blamed it on 'gangs', they've blamed it on whites becoming black, they've blamed it on single mums, failing families, broken Britain, consumerism. Back in the day, the John Birch Society used to blame rioting on communist conspiracy. You are the first to float the suggestion that they were simply "having a lark". As sociological explanations go, it's feeble even by the standards of Sp!ked. There is a rich literature on rioting, with its attendant phenomena of looting, assaults, vandalism, etc. Most of it focuses on a combination of factors - racial oppression, police violence, class injustices, ethnic hatreds, state crisis, etc. If I come across any of it that concludes "they were just having a lark", I'll be sure to let you know.

> Lastly, it is right, of course, that the looters are not defiant in the courtroom, and have listened to the advice of their briefs. But the reason that they are not defiant is because they were not political protestors in the first place.

James Heartfield, omniscient and oracle. Impressed as I am by these terse, apodictic insights, I shall stick to my own path of research.

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