Workers produced every item working-class rebels took from shops in English cities. Workers also produce all the Middle East’s energy supplies. So what constitutes real “looting”? Is it a London youth, who may never find a job, grabbing a pair of sneakers? Or is it racist British capitalists joining racist U.S. bosses to murder millions in seizing Iraqi and Libyan oil and Afghan gas routes?
The recent rebellions take place in a context of declining U.S-U.K. imperialism. For survival, the depleted British Empire became the U.S.’s junior partner during World War II. Now, rising China, resurgent Russia, and regional powerhouse Iran have the U.S. & Co. on the defensive. So both U.S. and U.K. rulers are implementing an agenda of widening wars overseas and police terror to enforce massive economic attacks on workers domestically.
Since racism is fundamental to capitalism and its drive for super-profits, the racist super-exploitation of black and Asian workers has moved these youth — subjected to the system’s mass racist unemployment and poverty — to openly rebel.
Militant anti-cop uprisings in England come as a mainly healthy reaction to fascist policing. London’s working-class Tottenham district erupted after August 4 when cops gunned down Mark Duggan, a black father of four, on “suspicion” that he had a gun. He, in fact, never displayed one. The rebellion quickly spread to other deprived communities across London, and to the northern cities of Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool.
But although the killing was a source of anger, it was not the primary cause behind the rampage of thousands of black, Asian and white youth that lasted four days before the heavily-reinforced police could clear the streets. The torching of police cars, police stations and public buildings expressed the pent-up frustration and rage of an alienated generation with no opportunities, gripped by poverty, discrimination and joblessness. Many are the second and third generation of their family without jobs. For some African-Caribbean youth unemployment is as high as 50%. A 2007 UNICEF report found that British and U.S youth had the worst quality of life of 21 developed nations.
“We’re sticking it to the police” yelled one woman, “and to the rich” she added. A Tottenham protestor who appeared on a radio show described the events as, “A war against injustice.”
Their fury against the rich echoed the anger most Britons have against the bankers who paid themselves huge bonuses after taking government bailouts and of the blatant looting by politicians of public funds for their private expenses last year. One of the most notorious cases involved the member of parliament who took £80,000 ($130,000) of tax-payer money to subsidize his second home. This year’s scandal of police officials taking bribes from the Murdoch news organization has only added fuel to the fire.
Even the right-wing Telegraph newspaper (8/8/11) had to admit legitimate grievances, “Tottenham’s unemployment is still among the highest in London. Black people are far more likely to be stopped and searched by the Met [Metropolitan Police] than whites.”
Despite the media focus on burning stores, the so-called riots’ main aspect was black, white and Asian working-class youth uniting in fierce battles against the killer cops. The Independent (London, 8/14/11) quoted one terrified cop, “We could hear time after time on our radios, ‘Officer down,’ ‘Officer injured’ and we knew it was bad.”
Actually, that’s pretty good, given London cops’ reputation for racist brutality. The protests’ weakness, however, lies, not in violence (which was unfocused at times) but the lack of a communist movement with the goal of destroying the profit system, the root cause of workers’ ills.
Bosses’ Media Ignore Libya Massacre for London Blazes
Britain’s prime minister David Cameron, who has never done a day’s work in his life, jetted back from vacationing in Tuscany to decry workers’ “criminality” spreading across his country. But the real criminals are “NATO’s air-strikes [on August 8th] at Majer [in Libya which] killed 85 people, including 33 children, 32 women and 20 men. Reporters and visitors were shown 30 of the bodies in a local morgue, including a mother and two children” (Counterpunch, 8/14/11).
Seeking access to Libyan oil unfettered by dictator Khadafy, British (along with French and Italian) bosses avail themselves of U.S. weapons and leadership. NATO supreme commander, U.S. admiral Stavridis, runs the Libya operation.
While London Burns, Oil Wars Enrich U.K. Bosses
And in Iraq, British rulers’ staunch military support for U.S.-led genocide pays off big time, though stability may never arrive. (On August 14, 42 coordinated attacks in ten cities killed 96 Iraqis and wounded 315.) “Iraq’s oil auctions were portrayed as a model of transparency and a negotiating victory for the Iraqi government,” said Greg Muttitt, author of “Fuel on the Fire: Oil and Politics in Occupied Iraq,” quoted in the London Observer (7/31/11): “Now we see the reality was the opposite: a backroom deal that gave BP a stranglehold on the Iraqi economy, and even influence over the decisions of OPEC.”
British forces based in Basra fought mostly near the vast Rumalia oil field, which BP (British Petroleum) had owned from 1927 to 1972. BP, to nobody’s surprise, won the potentially 3-million-barrel-per day Rumalia contract at the “transparent” 2009-2010 auctions. Now it’s revealed that in the 2011 backroom deal Baghdad must pay BP for oil not even extracted from the wells should renewed warfare or OPEC quotas curb production. As for Afghanistan, British troops have concentrated on Helmand province, through which much of the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline may run.
PM Cameron Wants Nazi-style ‘Community Policing’ in Britain; Summons U.S. Top Cop Bratton
Just as in the U.S., British imperialists’ war efforts cost vast sums of money. And, just as in the U.S., the rulers get that cash by stealing from workers with sharp, racist cuts in pay, jobs, health, education, pensions, etc. In Britain, mostly urban African, Caribbean and Asian workers (along with poor white native British and Irish) bear the brunt.
To enforce this exploitation, the bosses employ more intense fascist measures. However, Britain’s police establishment is in disarray. Its two top Scotland Yard chiefs were forced to resign amid the Murdoch payoff scandal to squash the media mogul’s bribery of cops. So to head off future rebellions, Cameron is calling in Bill Bratton, formerly top cop in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, to establish sweet-sounding but deadly “community policing.” It resembles the Nazis’ Judenrat scheme, which turned local Jewish leaders into a network of snitches that led millions to the gas chambers.
In Boston, Bratton employed black pastors. According to a 2008 report from Harvard’s Kennedy School, “The ministers…helped the Boston Police manage negative publicity by the local media after several potentially explosive events [such as] the accidental death of a 75-year-old retired minister who suffered a fatal heart attack during a botched drug raid.” Cameron wishes he had agents like these in Tottenham.
Fascism on the Rise
Fascism is being institutionalized. Government laws, surveillance through a vast street camera operation along with Cameron’s deep cuts in social services impoverishing the working class have become the order of the day. Alongside this is the increasing influence of racist organizations like the anti-immigrant British Nationalist Party which recently took over nearly 10% of the local council seats in the extremely-segregated city of Bradford and has gained enough legitimacy to be included in nationally-televised political debates.
However, workers are not giving these fascists a clear path. Last year when the fascist English Defense League, which has held demonstrations against Asians nation-wide, rallied in Bradford, they were confronted by thousands of anti-racists and local residents, both white and Asian.
The rebellions in England hold important lessons in class struggle. They prove that a militant, multi-racial force of workers can take on and beat “highly-trained” cops. They also show the need for a revolutionary communist party and the outlook of seizing state power for our class, not just winning concessions which capitalism inevitably reverses. (See Verizon strike, p. 3.) Ultimately only revolution led by such a communist party can smash the creators of the world’s largest looting system — capitalism — that gives us police brutality, poverty, mass racist unemployment and war.