Thoughts on the ongoing insurrection in the UK

Posted on August 11, 2011



The ongoing riots in England are profoundly political.

They erupted at a time when representative democracy and the system of the market economy have reached an all-time low level of credibility among the people. The consecutive years that New Labour has spent in power has proved that no left-wing alternative exists within the political system, because the system itself has succumbed to an inescapable general shift to the extreme right and towards notions and concepts of dictatorial government for the sole benefit of the economic elites.

Voters tried to punish Labour by reinstating the Torries in government, mitigating their innate antisocial proclivities by forcing them to enter into a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. Soon they realized the magnitude of their blunder when the new “coalition” announced plans to curtail public spending, to dismantle much needed state welfare services and to increase tuition fees in universities. Given the uneven distribution of wealth and the monstrous inequality that prevails in contemporary UK society, reduction of public spending in the form of imposing cuts in unemployment benefits, downgrading the national health-care system, withdrawing public funds from education, etc, effectively means a virtual freeze on the process of social mobility, the ever-greater concentration of income and wealth in the hands of a privileged minority and the growing inability of the disenfranchised majority of the population even to meet its basic material needs.

The violence that erupted during the massive student demonstrations a few months ago was only a warning of greater disturbances to come, since no institutional mechanisms exist within the political system allowing the disenfranchised sections of the population, not only to express their opposition to antisocial measures, but more importantly to resist and avert their implementation by the elites. The general strike of public sector workers was another clear sign of alienation and the growing rift between the political and economic elites on the one side, and the bulk of British society on the other.

An even more disturbing sign was the complete indifference with which the coalition government treated the industrial action of the civil servants, the smearing campaign it launched against them and the violent repression and brutalization of demonstrators (remember Jody McIntyre) exercised without any remorse or moral reserve by a police force which has come increasingly to resemble a band of thugs.

The English political and economic elite knows that having lost its legitimacy and being unable to rule by means of ideological coercion, it has to rely increasingly on brute force and ruthless police measures in order to impose its will on the deprived underclass of British society. The killing of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests, the shameful maltreatment of Jody McIntyre by police thugs were only the sad precursors of the shooting of Mark Duggan. And this is the reason why an impartial investigation of Mark Duggan’s murder by the authorities is out of the question. The system needs its apparatus of organized repression intact and has to keep the morale of the security forces high, for the police and the security services are the cornerstone institutions for the consolidation of the emerging British police state.

The underclass has grasped this new reality since they are at the receiving end of the policies of victimization against underprivileged social groups implemented by the systemic elites. They attacked police stations and petrol-bombed police cars, because they reject the dominance of a ruling class which attempts to impose social conformity and subjugate them by brute force. The forced expropriation of goods and products by the rebellious masses (what the systemic media calls «looting») points to the class-nature of the insurrection, since the looters can be said to be acting on the impulse of amassing (in these conditions of a complete breakdown of authority) all those goods and products they will never be able to obtain in the course of their everyday lives.

Under this light, the violence and plight of department stores and businesses is hardly an irrational action. Also, we should not be surprised that mass violence is the chosen method of political intervention selected by the insurrectionists of marginalized working-class areas in every major English city. Most of them are unemployed. They do not belong to the general organized workforce and consequently they do not possess the institutional means to embark on collective action, for example, by means of a strike movement.

Uprisings, sabotage and violent insurrection are the political tools utilized by the marginalized sectors of society and the unemployed so as to resist the onslaught of plutocracy and globalization. In that sense, it is effectively an action of self-defence, a counter-violence aimed against the structural violence which is embedded in a hierarchical social system, which functions through the unequal distribution of all forms of power (political, economic, cultural) among those at the top of the social pyramid and those at the bottom.

The total absence of race as a determining factor in the riots and the spontaneous elimination of ethnic divisions in the process of forming a singular insurrectionary social subject engaged in common action, albeit decentralized and dispersed, is an encouraging sign that the ethnic elements falsely dominating the self-perception of the British underclass are fast disappearing opening the way to the notion that there is only one class enemy: capitalism and the system of internationalized market economy.