Anarchists respond to the London riots - Solidarity Federation

Riot police in Hackney - photo by Henry Langston from viceland.com

With media sources blaming “anarchy” for the unfolding violence in London and across England, the North London Solidarity Federation has released the following statement as a response from an anarchist organisation active in the capital.

Over the last few days, riots have caused significant damage to parts of London, to shop-fronts, homes and cars. On the left, we hear the ever-present cry that poverty has caused this. On the right, that gangsters and anti-social elements are taking advantage of tragedy. Both are true. The looting and riots seen over the past number of days are a complex phenomenon and contain many currents.

It is no accident that the riots are happening now, as the support nets for Britain's disenfranchised are dragged away and people are left to fall into the abyss, beaten as they fall by the batons of the Metropolitan Police. But there should be no excuses for the burning of homes, the terrorising of working people. Whoever did such things has no cause for support.

The fury of the estates is what it is, ugly and uncontrolled. But not unpredictable. Britain has hidden away its social problems for decades, corralled them with a brutal picket of armed men. Growing up in the estates often means never leaving them, unless it's in the back of a police van. In the 1980s, these same problems led to Toxteth. In the '90s, contributed to the Poll Tax riots. And now we have them again - because the problems are not only still there, they're getting worse.

Police harassment and brutality are part of everyday life in estates all around the UK. Barely-liveable benefits systems have decayed and been withdrawn. In Hackney, the street-level support workers who came from the estates and knew the kids, could work with them in their troubles have been told they will no longer be paid. Rent is rising and state-sponsored jobs which used to bring money into the area are being cut back in the name of a shift to unpaid "big society" roles. People who always had very little now have nothing. Nothing to lose.

And the media's own role in all of should not be discounted. For all the talk of the “peaceful protest” that preceded events in Tottenham, the media wouldn't have touched the story if all that happened was a vigil outside a police station. Police violence and protests against it happen all the time. It's only when the other side responds with violence (on legitimate targets or not) that the media feels the need to give it any sort of coverage.

So there should be no shock that people living lives of poverty and violence have at last gone to war. It should be no shock that people are looting plasma screen TVs that will pay for a couple of months' rent and leaving books they can't sell on the shelves. For many, this is the only form of economic redistribution they will see in the coming years as they continue a fruitless search for jobs.

Much has been made of the fact that the rioters were attacking “their own communities.” But riots don't occur within a social vacuum. Riots in the eighties tended to be directed in a more targeted way; avoiding innocents and focusing on targets more representative of class and race oppression: police, police stations, and shops. What's happened since the eighties? Consecutive governments have gone to great lengths to destroy any sort of notion of working class solidarity and identity. Is it any surprise, then, that these rioters turn on other members of our class?

The Solidarity Federation is based in resistance through workplace struggle. We are not involved in the looting and unlike the knee-jerk right or even the sympathetic-but-condemnatory commentators from the left, we will not condemn or condone those we don't know for taking back some of the wealth they have been denied all their lives.

But as revolutionaries, we cannot condone attacks on working people, on the innocent. Burning out shops with homes above them, people's transport to work, muggings and the like are an attack on our own and should be resisted as strongly as any other measure from government "austerity" politics, to price-gouging landlords, to bosses intent on stealing our labour. Tonight and for as long as it takes, people should band together to defend themselves when such violence threatens homes and communities.

We believe that the legitimate anger of the rioters can be far more powerful if it is directed in a collective, democratic way and seeks not to victimise other workers, but to create a world free of the exploitation and inequality inherent to capitalism.

Posted By

Rob Ray
Aug 9 2011 13:19

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Rob Ray
Aug 9 2011 13:20
piter
Aug 9 2011 14:10

I feel that it's a bit too defensive "we are not involved" blah blah...

why not saying that attacking property and instruments of state repression is something legitimate and something that revolutionnaries would have to do (not in the same ways as the rioters do maybe, but still it will have to be done).

condeming the bad some rioters do must be done, but it must also be said that some others can be approued. that there is also some good in the riot, that it shows the possibility to contest the police, to contest the rule of the bourgeoisie, that at time people can and do feel ready to gather for some struggling against it, etc...

Rob Ray
Aug 9 2011 14:19

We're not disowning the rioters (in fact we specfically say we aren't), we're saying we shouldn't be used as a bogeyman so people can go back to their telly safe in the knowledge it's just crazy anarchists/chaos merchants and nothing to do with them.

And fundamentally, apart from the fact that there's debate within solfed over what exactly should be supported and it would be undemocratic to try and lead people's views when we don't have consensus, we have no idea what's going on in most of the riot spots or who's involved and why. It would be pretty stupid to throw in pro or anti on "the riots" when we don't know owt.

Malva
Aug 9 2011 14:22

Wouldn't the term 'democratic' be a bit misleading for people unfamiliar with anarchist conceptions of democracy? It looks a bit like you are advocating the parliamentary system, even if you're not.

soc
Aug 9 2011 14:46

@malva I would go even further. The term, democratic could refer some sort of majority based oppression, and anarchist using this term is more than misleading. It is harmful. What many understands among us, democracy is pure and simply the dictatorship of the proletariat based on communities. That is, it has nothing to do with democracy at all.

Regarding the statement, I woulprefer an action plan to the coming hours and days. If solfed could offer some gathering points to establish anarchist presence in north london, I would be happy to take part of it!

anessen
Aug 9 2011 18:03

Amen.

JoeMaguire
Aug 9 2011 18:04

I think most of us will know what was meant by the last sentence, but someone not overtly familiar with SF and libertarian communism may think it means a parliamentry road to social change.

Rob Ray
Aug 9 2011 18:15

Not if they read the rest of the site wink.

eyyamguder
Aug 9 2011 18:25

The London rebellion is a rebellion against the commodity, against the world of the commodity in which worker-consumers are hierarchically subordinated to commodity standards. Like the young delinquents of all the advanced countries, but more radically because they are part of a class without a future, a sector of the proletariat unable to believe in any significant chance of integration or promotion, the London youth take modern capitalist propaganda, its publicity of abundance, literally. They want to possess now all the objects shown and abstractly accessible, because they want to use them. In this way they are challenging their exchange-value, the commodity reality which molds them and marshals them to its own ends, and which has preselected everything. Through theft and gift they rediscover a use that immediately refutes the oppressive rationality of the commodity, revealing its relations and even its production to be arbitrary and unnecessary. The looting of the London districts was the most direct realization of the distorted principle: “To each according to their false needs” — needs determined and produced by the economic system which the very act of looting rejects. But once the vaunted abundance is taken at face value and directly seized, instead of being eternally pursued in the rat-race of alienated labor and increasing unmet social needs, real desires begin to be expressed in festive celebration, in playful self-assertion, in the potlatch of destruction. People who destroy commodities show their human superiority over commodities. They stop submitting to the arbitrary forms that distortedly reflect their real needs. The flames of London consummated the system of consumption. The theft of large Plasma TVs by people with no electricity, or with their electricity cut off, is the best image of the lie of affluence transformed into a truth in play. Once it is no longer bought, the commodity lies open to criticism and alteration, whatever particular form it may take. Only when it is paid for with money is it respected as an admirable fetish, as a symbol of status within the world of survival.

Looting is a natural response to the unnatural and inhuman society of commodity abundance. It instantly undermines the commodity as such, and it also exposes what the commodity ultimately implies: the army, the police and the other specialized detachments of the state’s monopoly of armed violence. What is a policeman? He is the active servant of the commodity, the man in complete submission to the commodity, whose job it is to ensure that a given product of human labor remains a commodity, with the magical property of having to be paid for, instead of becoming a mere television or a game console — a passive, inanimate object, subject to anyone who comes along to make use of it. In rejecting the humiliation of being subject to police, the youth are at the same time rejecting the humiliation of being subject to commodities. The London youth, having no future in market terms, grasped another quality of the present.

anessen
Aug 9 2011 18:31

That's nice and everything, but they're burning down people's homes and private possessions like their cars. I don't care what you happen to think of private owned cars, but some people do rely on their transport to put food on the table. Of course if you've lost your home over the past few nights, this is not such a big concern...

This kind of thing is terrifying to the innocents caught up in it and does *nothing* to strengthen our position.

Gareth woz ere
Aug 9 2011 18:47
Django
Aug 9 2011 18:49

Looks like the traffic has brought the Solfed site down.

no1
Aug 9 2011 18:54
Quote:
Looks like the traffic has brought the Solfed site down.

yes. With all the anarchy this year we need to get a new server.....

Cooked
Aug 9 2011 19:14
no1 wrote:
Quote:
Looks like the traffic has brought the Solfed site down.

yes. With all the anarchy this year we need to get a new server.....

Come on, someone direct traffic to a static text file file with a statement! People won't come later when the severs are up.

koll
Aug 9 2011 19:18

For fuck's sake! What is this? This is a collective outpouring of rage, that is, yes ucontrolled and wild. The criticism should lie with the ultra-left and anarchist organisers for doing a terrible job organising in these communities and direct and channel this anger.

A low level civil war occurs in working class communities across the country every day. People are burgled, mugged, attacked. This is sickening and tragic but for you to abandom them ('deserve no support...') like the labour party and other faux left wingers just because this has been thrown in your face by the media is outrageous.

You usually have a good line and thoughtful comments. But this piece shows you've been spooked like the rest of the spineless left.

You should show support to both the rioters AND working people. Here's a better account doing the rounds on twitter http://anticutsspace.wordpress.com/

Rob Ray
Aug 9 2011 19:28

Spooked? Hardly. We've specifically said we don't condemn the rioters other than those who have hurt their own class and precisely what the statement does is call for a more channelled anger.

I'd argue that it's far more a sign you've lost your head if you're running around calling people who burn out homes heroes.

Steven.
Aug 9 2011 19:51

I think this is a good statement - the only thing I can think I would change would be the reference to banding together to defend our homes and communities, to say that this could equally mean against antisocial criminals or against the police.

jef costello
Aug 9 2011 19:54

http://hackneyunites.blogspot.com/2011/08/message-to-youth-of-hackney.html
Not sure if I entirely agree with it.
I think the SolFed statement is good, I'm thinking of forwarding it to some people who've completely written off everyone on the streets of Tottenham as a criminal.

Sologne
Aug 9 2011 20:37

This is the biggest load of cobblers Ive read in a long while. I was working for the labour party from the age of 3, posting leaflets with my parents. Socialists would rather vote Tori than 'condone' in any shape or form what is going on, on the streets of the UK. Look at the generations that fought in the wars.....no bleating and feeling sorry for themselves....they got on with it.
My parents would do any job that paid money...dustman, cleaner, nothing was below thier dignity...dignity was paying their way. I work with the unemployed. Where I live there are a lot of jobs, none which suit the people I work with who are apparently expecting to have an office, secretary with no qualifications...no education...well guess what? if you dont have an education life is hard...not too hard if you sit on your but and decry every government....People in third world countries do way less bleating and complaining than the often obese, lazy and non working element of society out there that expects a job, expects everyone to run around...provide them with new kitchens and bathrooms in their social housing...well guess what....go get a job...get off your fat bums and work. As a true socialist I would wash these 'rioter' off the streets with water canon....tazar the ones left standing and when they wake up tomorrow...they would find themselves in the army...in Afganistan...there they can find out that the other side fights back. They would also not collect their pay till full restituion is made to the shopkeepers and homeowners who these little scroats have burned out. The is human flotsam and jetsam and not worth anything till they wise up and realise its what you can give not what you can take that makes society work!

Admin edit - republished by popular demand

plasmatelly
Aug 9 2011 20:44

can this be taken onto a forum topic? it's bleeding hard to read as a library piece. neutral

Ramona
Aug 9 2011 20:50

plasmatelly, feel free to start one and put up a link to the original piece if it's easier on the eyes

Rob Ray
Aug 9 2011 22:39
Quote:
I was working for the labour party from the age of 3

The same Labour party that pushed the privatisations and attacks on the welfare state that Thatcher couldn't? Yeah I'm sure you're socialist as fuck Mr "put them all in the Army" (where presumably they can learn to be better socialists themselves by shooting people in foreign climes).

Joseph Kay
Aug 9 2011 20:53

The fact Labour party activists like Sologne come out with such reactionary drivel is a good part of why proles are rioting. Thinly-veiled class hatred. P.S. Where is this land of plenty where there's loads of jobs? Last time I checked claimants outnumber vacancies by 5:1 nationally, and far worse in the places rioting's happening. And fwiw 'people in the third world' do shitloads of rioting, strikes, squatting and occupations, but they're about as visible to your average Labour party activist as those on London estates.

Rob Ray
Aug 9 2011 21:10
klas batalo
Aug 9 2011 22:26
The Central Scr...
Aug 10 2011 00:23

SO; WHO DID THE MOST HARM YESTERDAY ?
A few hundred poor rioters who looted and wrecked buildings amounting to a few £Million because they are dissafected with a system that allows police to get away with murdering civillians; or is it the handful of wealthy capitalists who wiped £46,000,000,000 (that's right 46 BILLION) off the markets because they value personal wealth over humanity?

Caiman del Barrio
Aug 10 2011 00:26
Quote:
PLEASE FORWARD WIDELY

emergency demonstration against the cuts which caused the riots. today (wednesday 10th) 6.30pm from the anchor, deptford high street, to lewisham town hall, catford.

From a street assembly in Deptford.

The Central Scr...
Aug 10 2011 00:53

Whilst the Metropolitan Police initially claimed Mark Duggan was armed and opened fire on them, they have since retracted the statement and there is no evidence to support the initial claim.
And what of the other thousands of unarmed civillians who died at the hands of the police without a single officer being reprimanded. Here's a short list to jog the fickle memories; Jean Charles De Menzes - unarmed man killed on a his way to work on a crowded tube train at Stockwell; Blair Peach - murdered by a sergeant in the notorious SPG; Ian Tomlinson - peacefully on his way home from work but struck down and killed by a specialust riot officer; Cynthia Garret - unexplained death in her own home at the hands of police - this sparked the original Broadwater Farm riots in 1985; then there's Liddel Towers, Joy Gardner, Roger Sylvester, or haow about the 96 innocent and unarmed people who died at Hillsborough football ground through crass incompetence of senior police offiecrs etc. etc - but not a single reprimand against the officers involved -they all retire with golden handshakes.

And that's not even including those who have died at the hands of 'the establishment' - have you forgotten already the unarmed and widely respected Dr David Kelly - his only crime was to tell the truth and embarras a lieing prime minister. We are told that the streets of London would tonight be patrolled by 16,000 police officers; in my mind that means there are 16,000 dangerous killers on the streets of our capital city tonight.

I remeber a time when unintelligent, violent men with shaven heads were called skinheads; now we call them police officers.

Skraeling
Aug 10 2011 02:43

I don't like this statement. It seems that SolFed are so concerned about the image of anarchism and your organisation and have been that they've failed to support the totally legitimate and mass proletarian shopping expedition that has been going on. You seem to be like most leftists when direct action occurs, 'we understand it, but we don't condone it.'

After all, the mass looting by english proles is a limited form of communist distribution in action, but I guess for many anarchists their support for communism is fairly wafer thin. I'd always support proles actually practicing a limited form of communism during riots, so they can freely take back what has been taken from them over their lives. It's a (albeit limited and contradictory and consumerist) form of class revenge, a form of expropriation. Sure it's messy, and Sol Fed are right to condemn the anti working class violence and the burning of homes and cars of working class people. But there are also positive elements in the riots, namely the looting.

Rob Ray wrote:

So there should be no shock that people living lives of poverty and violence have at last gone to war. It should be no shock that people are looting plasma screen TVs that will pay for a couple of months' rent and leaving books they can't sell on the shelves. For many, this is the only form of economic redistribution they will see in the coming years as they continue a fruitless search for jobs.

Much has been made of the fact that the rioters were attacking “their own communities.” But riots don't occur within a social vacuum. Riots in the eighties tended to be directed in a more targeted way; avoiding innocents and focusing on targets more representative of class and race oppression: police, police stations, and shops. What's happened since the eighties? Consecutive governments have gone to great lengths to destroy any sort of notion of working class solidarity and identity. Is it any surprise, then, that these rioters turn on other members of our class?

This reads to me weird. The riots to me look like class riots. Yet you're claiming that the riots are an example of disintegration and decomposition and a lack of solidarity and identity amongst the working class? Huh? The rioters showed a tremendous degree of solidarity in looting shops and redistributing the goods therein. The mass looting is an example of working class attack, not retreat.

And is it right to claim that only young people from estates are involved? Surely other have participated in the rioting and looting. I heard reports that mothers etc were involved.

revol68
Aug 10 2011 02:56

If it reads weird to you the problem is you. He didn't say they weren't class riots per se, he was pointing out that the riots lacked the same degree of political direction as those in the eighties, something far from shocking when one looks at the decompositon and atomisation of the working class after wave after wave of anti working class legislation and social policies quite deliberately aimed at fracturing the working class eg the rise of the much discussed "underclass", those who are by and large excluded or as Endnotes put it "exists now only to be managed: segregated into prisons, marginalised in ghettos and camps, disciplined by the police, and annihilated by war".

To ignore these factors in a bid to paint oneself more communist than thou in an unthinking celebration of massively contradictory events as these have been is idiotic and political counterproductive, replacing sloganeering and prefab cheerleading for an actual class analysis.