ALARM on the riots

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Aug 13 2011 09:14
ALARM on the riots

Came into my inbox yesterday:

Understanding The Riots - Where Next?

Since last Saturday, a situation has escalated around the UK, with eruptions of long-repressed anger in most major cities. Whilst this anger may have certainly, at times, taken on forms that we disapprove of, we all know where this anger comes from. We are all suffering at the moment. Trying to make ends meet can be a living nightmare – benefits, jobs and healthcare going down the drain whilst the cost of housing and living rises sharply. Not to mention systematic Police harassment on our streets, daily injustice and deaths in police custody. For those right at the bottom of the pile, the young and unemployed, it seems like everything they were brought up on was false. The promise of easy credit, easy access to consumer goods, an education and social support. All this just disappears into smoke when the rich decide we don’t deserve it anymore; when they are desperate to save their system from the consequences of their own greed.


We condemn:

* The police, the political elite and the media for creating an atmosphere of fear, justifying greater state repression.

* The opportunism of the EDL/BNP and other far right groups

We refuse to condemn:

* People who looted high street chain stores, pawn shops, betting shops, banks and other symbols of capitalism.

* People who attacked the police, police property, courts, probation services and other symbols of the state.


We are inspired by:

* All the people who stood up for each other in the face of attack by the police and other violent gangs

* The communities that stood outside preventing arson to neighbouring flats, houses and locally-owned businesses.

But whilst we are categorically against the arson of homes, the muggings and the burglaries, are we really surprised this is happening? Here is a whole generation brought up on Thatcherism and Blairism – two ideologies that totally glorify individualism and ruthless competition. That have gone out of their way to destroy working class solidarity and colonise our areas with wealthy young professionals. That place those who trample on their communities for their own personal gain up on pedestals. These ideologies have BRED gangster behaviour amongst the poor and the only way we can counter such behaviour is by rebuilding our community spirit NOW, in spite of these doctrines, out of the ashes of this rebellion.

We are also categorically against any notion that greater police powers are a remedy to this situation, that the violence of the state and of capitalism is somehow preferable to the violence of those in our communities. Even if it was preferable, it would solve nothing – the problem here is inequality and injustice. Only we can bring about equality and justice; working together to advance our collective interests. We believe that when we build strong communities, we have a better chance of fighting back and winning. When we assemble to support each other through the difficulties of recession, instead of hiding away in our homes. When we get on the streets to defend our communities from any kind of attack. When we strike against our bosses instead of taking it on the chin. When we allocate resources for the benefit of the many and not the few. When we organise to take back what is rightfully ours instead of submitting to the thieves in Westminster and the City. When we target the rich and the state and not each other.

Whilst the riots may have taken their toll on our communities, there is no turning back now. We cannot wish them away. The screams of our youth have been heard; its time we turned them into the battle cries of our class.

Quote:
Against ALL attacks on our community! For EVERYONE against the system!

ALARM! – All London Anarchist Revolutionary Movement

www.soundthealarm.org.uk

www.facebook.com/Alarmists

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Aug 13 2011 09:44

Some good bits, but...

I'm not sure about about "local businesses" thing. Should people in the city have been defending banks? Is the local estate agent down the road part of my "community"?

EDITED for friendliness

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Aug 13 2011 09:21

Oh hell let's not start the OTT dissections again wink

Mark.
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Aug 13 2011 10:05
Chilli Sauce wrote:
I'm not sure about about "local businesses" thing. Should people in the city have been defending banks? Is the local estate agent down the road part of my "community"?

Where I am "local businesses" would mostly translate as Asian shops, restaurants and takeaways, one reason I'm glad that nothing kicked off here.

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Aug 13 2011 10:10

Then why not say something like 'acts of solidarity' in defence of immigrant communities instead of going all petit-bourgeois?

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Aug 13 2011 10:47

hhmmm I dont know about the petty Bourgeois thing. I mean I think it kinda depends. Some tiny shop owner who doesnt employ anyone is not exploitative. I would be against looting their shit as lots of the poorer members of the petty bourgeois are just proles who couldnt get a job.

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Aug 13 2011 11:15

Couldn't get a job but have the capital to buy a shop and stock?

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D
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Aug 13 2011 11:19
flaneur wrote:
Couldn't get a job but have the capital to buy a shop and stock?

Theres a couple of people on my high road who have tiny little stands, I cant imagine they cost much at all.

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Aug 13 2011 11:30

I agree that 'locally owned businesses' is not the best phrase to use. Owner operated businesses (or something with the same sense, but less clunky) would be better. Whether a business only operates in one area or not doesn't determine whether it exploits workers. This fetish of localism has lead to some social democrat types I've seen describe businesses with dozens of employees as 'working class businesses'. Additionally, some people set up networks of businesses in their local area, and act like the most exploitative ass holes you can imagine. Such 'local businesspeople' are the not redeemed by the fact they only fuck over people in their post code.

I also don't think communists should be using the term community much. After all, in capitalism, there is no material (only ideological) community. We see people in terms of the material reality of class: not communities (or nations, or races, etc.)

action_now
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Aug 13 2011 11:39

some of the ridiculousness that has come from so called anarchists is amazing, but unfortunatly not unexpected. what's with this fetishisation of little shops? to me it strikes as an underlying need lust for acceptance by many people, often falling in line with populist sentiment- 'we're not that off the wall, don't trash your community!'. what the fuck is with that? at the end of the day it is a business, and not only that, they charge far more than big shops, aswell as not giving the benefits of them, higher wages, opportunities for binning and other things that im sure you can think up. this is not to say that small shops are more exploitative, but i don't really care and i won't be doing my shopping at a corner shop if i can help it, far to expensive. as said by some people, rioters and their sympathisers, these shops weren't just targets cos they were there, but also cos they sell goods that many can't afford. think about it. make friends, not communities- as was recently said in seattle.

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Aug 13 2011 12:10

When the factory I worked in closed in the 1980s, I knew of two fellows who wanted to use their redundancy money to get started as (a) a newsagent, and (b) buy an ice-cream van. They were in their mid-fifties and therefore ‘unemployable’ with family responsibilities. Being a bit younger and a free agent I opted to become a student and get ‘retrained’. I don’t believe any of us really changed social/economic classes and if anyone disagrees I suggest trying a breath of air outside their ‘anarchist/Marxist bubble’.

Mark.
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Aug 13 2011 12:15
flaneur wrote:
Couldn't get a job but have the capital to buy a shop and stock?

Mostly the shops are rented. You're talking a few grand to set up a corner shop or a takeaway. With the Asians where I am I think it's often with money borrowed from the extended family. A lot of them weren't born here and have no qualifications. Setting up their own shop is an alternative to unemployment or badly paid jobs.

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Aug 13 2011 12:49
action_now wrote:
some of the ridiculousness that has come from so called anarchists is amazing, but unfortunatly not unexpected. what's with this fetishisation of little shops? to me it strikes as an underlying need lust for acceptance by many people, often falling in line with populist sentiment- 'we're not that off the wall, don't trash your community!'. what the fuck is with that? at the end of the day it is a business, and not only that, they charge far more than big shops, aswell as not giving the benefits of them, higher wages, opportunities for binning and other things that im sure you can think up. this is not to say that small shops are more exploitative, but i don't really care and i won't be doing my shopping at a corner shop if i can help it, far to expensive. as said by some people, rioters and their sympathisers, these shops weren't just targets cos they were there, but also cos they sell goods that many can't afford. think about it. make friends, not communities- as was recently said in seattle.

to be fair no one here has defended small shops with employees. Just those that are completely self managed.

To take this to an extended scope, there are literaaly tons of people in poorer countries who get by from selling shit. Sometimes they have a small stall or say a tiny bit of space in a market where they put down a bit of carpet and sell fruit. Would you be OK with looting these 'businesses'? These people from my experiences are predominantly worse off than those with jobs

The situation in the UK is certainly different but as Mark/Auld-bol pointed out there are certainly people who own businesses without employees who are by no means well off. Hell, I've known a fair few people who grew up relatively poor, on council estates whose parents owned a market stool

Would you be ok with looting a workers Co-op? I seem to remember discussion on here about a sol fed/IWW or something member losing his job and then starting a little business on ebay to pay the bills. Would looting them be ok?

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Aug 13 2011 14:14
Mark. wrote:
flaneur wrote:
Couldn't get a job but have the capital to buy a shop and stock?

Mostly the shops are rented. You're talking a few grand to set up a corner shop or a takeaway. With the Asians where I am I think it's often with money borrowed from the extended family. A lot of them weren't born here and have no qualifications. Setting up their own shop is an alternative to unemployment or badly paid jobs.

That's still a few grand more than a lot of folk can get their hands on. And whilst I understand that, so what? A lot of managers or supervisors take those jobs primarily to gain a better foothold or to earn more money, often working for slightly more pay or longer hours than those they manage. That doesn't mean you should be chums with them though.

Also D, when you start comparing bricks and mortar shops to fruit stalls and a bloke on ebay selling used clothes, it's a bit like apples and oranges (ho ho).

Mark.
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Aug 13 2011 14:24
flaneur wrote:
Also D, when you start comparing bricks and mortar shops to fruit stalls and a bloke on ebay selling used clothes, it's a bit like apples and oranges (ho ho).

I don't actually see that much difference between renting a small shop and a market stall.

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Aug 13 2011 15:35

Well, we can all probably agree that there are various levels of 'capital' that go into into ebay accounts, fruit and veg stalls, a small shop with no employees, a family business, etc, and which of these constitutes "petit bourgeois". But these are all "local businesses" and I find it odd that anarchists have bought into the sort of populism regarding 'big business' being the enemy.

action_now
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Aug 13 2011 15:57

.

action_now
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Aug 13 2011 15:56
D wrote:
action_now wrote:
some of the ridiculousness that has come from so called anarchists is amazing, but unfortunatly not unexpected. what's with this fetishisation of little shops? to me it strikes as an underlying need lust for acceptance by many people, often falling in line with populist sentiment- 'we're not that off the wall, don't trash your community!'. what the fuck is with that? at the end of the day it is a business, and not only that, they charge far more than big shops, aswell as not giving the benefits of them, higher wages, opportunities for binning and other things that im sure you can think up. this is not to say that small shops are more exploitative, but i don't really care and i won't be doing my shopping at a corner shop if i can help it, far to expensive. as said by some people, rioters and their sympathisers, these shops weren't just targets cos they were there, but also cos they sell goods that many can't afford. think about it. make friends, not communities- as was recently said in seattle.

to be fair no one here has defended small shops with employees. Just those that are completely self managed.

To take this to an extended scope, there are literaaly tons of people in poorer countries who get by from selling shit. Sometimes they have a small stall or say a tiny bit of space in a market where they put down a bit of carpet and sell fruit. Would you be OK with looting these 'businesses'? These people from my experiences are predominantly worse off than those with jobs

The situation in the UK is certainly different but as Mark/Auld-bol pointed out there are certainly people who own businesses without employees who are by no means well off. Hell, I've known a fair few people who grew up relatively poor, on council estates whose parents owned a market stool

Would you be ok with looting a workers Co-op? I seem to remember discussion on here about a sol fed/IWW or something member losing his job and then starting a little business on ebay to pay the bills. Would looting them be ok?

i don't want a world of small businesses, i'm no mutualist. anyway in a riot it would most likely get looted anyway, since y'know, they probably have things people want.

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Aug 13 2011 15:58

Tbh i think the formal distinction between proletarians and petit-bourgeois can be over stated. These days lots of former employees are notionally self-employed, and even own their own tools etc, as part of casualisation. On the other hand, shop keepers are pretty much stereotypical petit-bourgeoisie.

I'm not sure the value in scouring statements for the odd objectionable word and fixating on that point, but i guess this could reflect a couple of things. On the one hand i get the impression there's quite a lot of 'localism' in the London anarchist scene and ALARM seems to be in that mould (perhaps following HSG? hard to tell from down here). i'm thinking of stuff like the Broadway Market occupation etc.

On the other, you can make a moral argument that destruction of petit-bourgeois property has concrete human consequences in a way more corporate property doesn't, and thus should be considered more seriously. I don't subscribe to that argument, and plenty of small business owners are utter, hyper-exploitative scumbags, but it's probably not something to be dismissed out of hand either.

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Aug 13 2011 16:30

JK, Broadway Market was in Hackney.
There is the Ward's Corner campaign (just won) though. But that was about preventing a gated community being built and cheap local shops being closed.

I don't think you should necessarily write people off but owning shops (even if the premises are rented) pretty much puts you on the wrong side.

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Aug 13 2011 19:52
action_now wrote:
i don't want a world of small businesses, i'm no mutualist. anyway in a riot it would most likely get looted anyway, since y'know, they probably have things people want.

I don't want a world of small business either. I don't see how me saying looting from self managed shops/stools etc where no worker exploitation exists is wrong equates to wanting a world of small businesses.

The poor sections of the petty bourgeosie make up large ammounts of the worlds poor (if you consider anyone who sells products to be petty bourgesoise). I really don't see how robbing from them is either right, in a moral sense, or beneficial to goals of Communism.

flaneur wrote:
Also D, when you start comparing bricks and mortar shops to fruit stalls and a bloke on ebay selling used clothes, it's a bit like apples and oranges (ho ho).

I don't really see any fundamental difference between renting a shop as oppossed to a stall. Could you elaborate on why there so different.

I should also say I agree that to label 'big business' as the enemy and to glorify local businesses is completely wrong and counterproductive. I just still dont see it as OK to loot from non-exploitative sections of the petty bourgesoise.

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Aug 13 2011 20:59

I've been mulling over the subject of small businesses quite a bit lately and I have to agree with JK here. I work in a small business which people around here would see as being 'part of the community' or something. My boss doesn't really make a lot of money and works 7 nights a week. However following the argument from some people on here, would it be okay for me and my coworkers to, say, go on strike? Militant action in my workplace could make my boss go bust. I don't really see the difference between that and looting tbh.

edit:

Quote:
I just still dont see it as OK to loot from non-exploitative sections of the petty bourgesoise.

I would suspect that there are a very small number of 'locally owned businesses' who don't actually have any employees apart from the owner. It generally takes more than 1 person to run a curry or fish and chip shop.

In my experience plenty of small business owners can be absolute bastards. They get used to being able to boss people around all day and the fact that their profit margins tend to be slim means they squeeze their workers as hard as possible. They have to.

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Aug 14 2011 01:34
Quote:
However following the argument from some people on here, would it be okay for me and my coworkers to, say, go on strike? Militant action in my workplace could make my boss go bust. I don't really see the difference between that and looting tbh.

Yes.

And, wtf?

bootsy
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Aug 14 2011 01:48
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Quote:
However following the argument from some people on here, would it be okay for me and my coworkers to, say, go on strike? Militant action in my workplace could make my boss go bust. I don't really see the difference between that and looting tbh.

Yes.

And, wtf?

I don't understand what you mean?

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Aug 14 2011 03:50
bootsy wrote:
I've been mulling over the subject of small businesses quite a bit lately and I have to agree with JK here. I work in a small business which people around here would see as being 'part of the community' or something. My boss doesn't really make a lot of money and works 7 nights a week. However following the argument from some people on here, would it be okay for me and my coworkers to, say, go on strike? Militant action in my workplace could make my boss go bust. I don't really see the difference between that and looting tbh.

edit:

Quote:
I just still dont see it as OK to loot from non-exploitative sections of the petty bourgesoise.

I would suspect that there are a very small number of 'locally owned businesses' who don't actually have any employees apart from the owner. It generally takes more than 1 person to run a curry or fish and chip shop.

In my experience plenty of small business owners can be absolute bastards. They get used to being able to boss people around all day and the fact that their profit margins tend to be slim means they squeeze their workers as hard as possible. They have to.

I absolutely think you and your workers should be able to go on strikes and I agree a lot of the small business are just as expolitative, if not more, than their big business counterparts. I've never defended small time bosses from strikes/ looting.

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Aug 14 2011 07:12

i think its a good statement, i'm in both alarm and solfed, and as solfed found out you're never going to write the perfect statement that appeals to everyone so while we should always engage critically i think nitpicking is a bit silly, anyone who has sense knows politics isn;t based on perfectly worded statements

What i liked about both statements was that they weren;t arrogant, they didn;t try and ''support everything'' or ''condemn everything'' and most of all, unlike the hysterical shrieking of the SWP they both didn't arrogantly assume that we need to be seen to be ''leading the class'' or assuming we know what all of the thousand of ''rioters'' thought or trying to fit events into a neatly packaged narrative about ''the cuts'' or ''the youth''. I particularly liked the bit where alarm said ''we are inspired by''....thats good wording and most of all its honest.

And to be frank chilli, your just as guilty of over simplifying things, many 'local shops'' in the areas affected are small and closely linked with family and community structures, there are loads of things we'd criticise about even solely family based businesses and similar market stalls and their extremely hierarchical and lets be frank often patriarchical nature, but we also recognise that class and community are two complex concepts that can't always be reduced to simple black and white terms. In the same fashion we'd criticise the hiearchical and exploitative elements of gang culture but we wouldn't call kids who deal a bit of weed ''petit bourgeois'' anymore than the guy who runs a tiny fruit and veg stall', thats simplistic marxist hogwash. Capitalism reduces us all to the status of being our own pimps, selling ourselves and anything else we can get our hands on to get by, thats life.

Also people coming in from ''outside'' is whether we like it or not being pereceived as an atack on ''the community'' (eg turkish response) and is being seized on by the state in an attempt to stir up racial tensions. We can't just ignore that.

In short as both the alarm and solfed statements have tried to convey this is a really complex series of events that can't be reduced to simplistic sloganeering, both groups are trying to engage on the gorund with these events. These events have happened, they have created a massive rupture from social peace and have meant everyone is talking politics, and not with a capital p either. Their is also a shitstorm of reaction from the ruling class to deal with right now aswell.

I was in tottenham yesterday and got talking to an old lady, she asked about our flags and i told her i was an anarchist, slightly wincing as i expected a bring back hanging tirade similar to the one my nan down in southwark, much as i love her, had given me about events. Instead however she started talking about how she'd grown up in in WW2 ''at the front'' (eg somewhere in eastern europe), living in ruins, and then basically said taht if the ''rebels wanted to overthrow the government'' they should do so, not burn working peoples homes, why don't they burn their mansions she added albeit more for rhetorical effect. However, later i went to walthamsow for a libraries demo, loads of people came up with their kids talking about striking about local services and how crap the union bureaucracy was and how we needed to act now and an old asian guy saying how he used to vote with his feet, but some of the same peoples comments were as i expected reactionary as fuck when it came to the riots, especially from those in the muslim community (perhaps depressingly predictable really). Well i guess all i'm saying is we can't whitewash these events or hide them under simplistic slogans, we have to critically engage with them and their fallout.

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Aug 14 2011 09:55
bootsy wrote:
Chilli Sauce wrote:
Quote:
However following the argument from some people on here, would it be okay for me and my coworkers to, say, go on strike? Militant action in my workplace could make my boss go bust. I don't really see the difference between that and looting tbh.

Yes.

And, wtf?

I don't understand what you mean?

Drunk posting. Dangerous.

What I meant was, yes, it's totally fine to strike against a small business owner. The "wtf' bit refers to, basically, since when have anarchists given a shit about making a boss "go bust"? (And how and why is the equated--apparently negatively--with looting?)

Of course, you don't want to 'strike yourself out of job' and outside of a revolutionary situation where widespread groups of workers have come up against the limits of forcing concessions from capital and expropriation becomes a necessity, 10 workers probably won't be able to bring their shop under worker control. But, fuck it, that is the long term goal and I find it very odd that it's being criticised on these boards.

CantDo, I actually agree with you largely, but there's a difference between writing an imperfect statement (an inevitability) and buying in to populist rhetoric. We're anarchists and anti-capitalism is fundamental to our beliefs in such a way as it demands if we're going to be supporting 'businesses' of any kind it needs be in an explicitly qualified way.

bootsy
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Aug 14 2011 10:16
Quote:
What I meant was, yes, it's totally fine to strike against a small business owner. The "wtf' bit refers to, basically, since when have anarchists given a shit about making a boss "go bust"? (And how and why is the equated--apparently negatively--with looting?)

Chilli I was making a comparison between workers in small businesses striking and looting because I don't see a big difference between them in this instance. Both can have potentially disastrous effects for a small business owner. The reason I made the comparison was because some people here such as Mark. and indeed ALARM have said they're against looting small 'locally owned' businesses and I'm interested to see whether they would be opposed to workers in those workplaces striking.

Mark.
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Aug 14 2011 10:43
bootsy wrote:
The reason I made the comparison was because some people here such as Mark. and indeed ALARM have said they're against looting small 'locally owned' businesses and I'm interested to see whether they would be opposed to workers in those workplaces striking.

Obviously I'm not opposed to them organising or going on strike. It's not the same as looting the corner shop.

Caiman del Barrio
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Aug 14 2011 11:00
cantdocartwheels wrote:
What i liked about both statements was that they weren;t arrogant, they didn;t try and ''support everything'' or ''condemn everything'' and most of all, unlike the hysterical shrieking of the SWP they both didn't arrogantly assume that we need to be seen to be ''leading the class'' or assuming we know what all of the thousand of ''rioters'' thought or trying to fit events into a neatly packaged narrative about ''the cuts'' or ''the youth''.

Agreed. Unfortunately, due to high stakes and rushed urgency, the propaganda for the Deptford demo ended up aping "IT'S THE CUTS" line. As has been pointed out, the cuts are largely yet to have had any serious social repercussions (which kinda makes me gulp a bit lol...).

They still 'condemn' some shit though, which I think is largely redundant. What's the point in condemning a fire unless you're prepared to throw foam (more effective than water I learnt) on it?

Quote:
In short as both the alarm and solfed statements have tried to convey this is a really complex series of events that can't be reduced to simplistic sloganeering, both groups are trying to engage on the gorund with these events. These events have happened, they have created a massive rupture from social peace and have meant everyone is talking politics, and not with a capital p either.

Exactly. Although I think the right has largely won here. I can see evidence of this both nationally (new laws re social unrest, police force bolstered and empowered) and locally (where middle class gentrifiers are explicitly organising 'apolitically' in response to their indignation at a locally based 'political' march).

Quote:
I was in tottenham yesterday and got talking to an old lady, she asked about our flags and i told her i was an anarchist, slightly wincing as i expected a bring back hanging tirade similar to the one my nan down in southwark, much as i love her, had given me about events. Instead however she started talking about how she'd grown up in in WW2 ''at the front'' (eg somewhere in eastern europe), living in ruins, and then basically said taht if the ''rebels wanted to overthrow the government'' they should do so, not burn working peoples homes, why don't they burn their mansions she added albeit more for rhetorical effect.

This is quite a common comment I heard from neighbours etc. A lot of locals were scared of the possibility of a demo going violent, but then others responded with "well at least then it'd be for a cause no?" Rather bizarrely, I met people eulogising about the EMA and fees demos, which were roundly denounced at the time! (Likewise, Paddick getting all dewey-eyed and nostalgic about the Brixton riots in 85, which he played a large part in suppressing!)

I know there's a slightly mechanistic understanding of 'politics' going on there, but I think the violence fetishists need to get real a second here. Whatever our thoughts on looting, it's actually a pretty high risk strategy compared to the collective benefits they bring. As the film reviewer in the Standard pointed out, it seems like looters temporarily got high on the uber-consumerist drug, and were sucked into the capitaist lie of commodity equalling joy. Now, with the buzz wearing off and with them either in the nick or laying low to avoid it, they must be asking themselves if it was worth it.

Of course, it's very hard to actually really discuss these riots, cos it's exposed all of our national/social faultlines and has been extremely emotive across class lines. Very few commentators have really managed to reflect the complexity of the last week's events and ALARM and SF should be commended for at least attempting it. I, for one, was hugely encouraged by the anti-police riot in Hackney and then utterly deflated by events in Croydon, Ealing, Birmingham, not to mention the gangsterism I saw in Deptford.

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Aug 14 2011 11:15
bootsy wrote:
Quote:
What I meant was, yes, it's totally fine to strike against a small business owner. The "wtf' bit refers to, basically, since when have anarchists given a shit about making a boss "go bust"? (And how and why is the equated--apparently negatively--with looting?)

Chilli I was making a comparison between workers in small businesses striking and looting because I don't see a big difference between them in this instance. Both can have potentially disastrous effects for a small business owner. The reason I made the comparison was because some people here such as Mark. and indeed ALARM have said they're against looting small 'locally owned' businesses and I'm interested to see whether they would be opposed to workers in those workplaces striking.

Ah, fair enough, I drunkenly missed the thrust of your post. My apologies if I came across like a dick.