New Worker editorial
TORY governments and inner-city riots seem to go together. And everything that David Cameron has done since he came to power just over a year ago has laid the grounds for the spontaneous explosions of youth anger and rebellion that have rocked London and now other major cities in Britain.
The job cuts, the benefit cuts, the youth service cuts — and the police cuts have swept away all the carefully constructed but fragile bridges and pathways out of poverty and deprivation that community members, youth workers, advice and counselling services had been constructing since riots of the 1980s.
Now today’s inner city youths are right back where their parents were a generation ago with no present, no future and being bullied by the state.
The police in their turn have their morale at rock bottom. The Con-Dem Coalition praises them and gives words of support while stabbing them in the back with job cuts, funding cuts and swingeing cuts in civilian support services. Then the Met Chief Constable, Sir Paul Stephenson and his number two both resign under allegations of bribery and corruption — and another police chief in Cleveland is suspended under allegations of corruption.
Public respect for the police has plummeted and the lower ranks are feeling the brunt.
The Government also swept away some of the regulations regarding stop-and-search and disgruntled young police officers have been using thus tactic to make a life a misery for youth throughout London — especially black youth.
The killing of a young black man in Tottenham last Thursday — followed by rumours that he had been shot while on the ground, sparked anger. The Independent Police Complaints Commission immediately began an inquiry. After literally hundreds of deaths in custody, the community knows that the role of the IPCC is to keep all information suppressed until the victim is forgotten by all but the grieving family. And after the cases of John Charles de Menezes and Ian Tomlinson they do not trust the police.
But police at Tottenham police station could have defused the whole situation last Saturday if they had consented to a serious discussion with the family and supporters at the peaceful protest there. Instead they remained in their fortress for hours until a rumour began that a police officer had struck a teenage girl at the protest. Then everything exploded.
This is a rebellion, not a revolution. It has no leaders, very little political consciousness, no focus, no structure and no direction. The young rioters have not yet struck the ruling class with anything except fear. They have hit a lot of petty-bourgeois shopkeepers and some people in their own communities have been made homeless.
Mostly the youngsters seem elated at the helplessness of the over-stretched police to stop them and making the most of it while they can to grab some of the consumer goodies they thought they would never be able to afford.
It is not a race riot — black, white and brown youths have been running together. Their parents are Afro-Caribbean, Nigerian, Somali, Indian, Pakistani, Irish, every community you can think of. And their parents are bewildered and afraid. Mainly they are low-paid, very hard up inner city workers who lead lives of debt-saddled drudgery and deprivation.
But there are extreme right-wingers who will try to portray it as a “race war” and there is a danger of right-wing vigilantism.
And there is a much bigger danger. In the enclaves of the ruling class now and officers’ messes up and down the country there will be heated debates about what a hopeless milksop that Cameron is and plans being formed to step in.
Cameron has few options. He does not have enough police to enforce a curfew — and that would upset business in our 24/7 cities. The army is too small and mostly abroad fighting unnecessary wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. He does not have enough water cannon or people trained to use them.
Even worse, probably at the moment many members of the public, politically naïve, would welcome a “strong” force to intervene and “restore law and order” and we could wake up with a new Government that is fully fascist and racist before the organised Left has got its socks on.
One thing is certain, the police absolutely now must ban the provocative EDL march planned for 3rd September through the Muslim communities of London’s East End.