The police and the black wageless - Race Today

Queue of people including grafitti "Be A Jerk Go To Work"

A Race Today statement on mugging, policing, unemployment and the refusal of Shitwork from January 1975.

Submitted by Fozzie on May 12, 2024

In the last few weeks crime among young blacks has been the issue. The national press and television have been set in motion by statistical data released by Scotland Yard, to the effect that young blacks commit 85% of muggings in the South London borough of Lambeth.

The Sunday Times devotes almost an entire page of the January 5 issue to introduce its readers to the 'danger signals from Lambeth', the ITV programme TODAY is busily gathering material for a documentary on black youths and mugging; the Guardian (Monday 6th) threw in its tuppenny worth; and at the centre of it all stands Commander Marshall, head of Scotland Yard's community relations department.

A Classic Confrontation

The vast propaganda machine is in motion as Home Secretary, Roy Jenkins prepares to deal with the report presented to him by Scotland Yard. It is a classic confrontation — between the black youth, a distinct social grouping within the West Indian working class, and the state.

Let us be-clear: the issue was brought into the open (and by that we mean into the political arena) by the police. This is not because Commander Marshall is concerned about 'the alienation of West Indian youth from white society', (his words) but because invariably when the police seek to make an arrest, there are always large numbers of youths on hand who intervene to do battle in a show of community solidarity. All efforts are aimed at breaking that solidarity, firstly by political propaganda in the press; and only after support has been weaned away from the youths, is force to be openly applied.

We in Race Today do not deny that there is an increase in street crime committed by young blacks. We will say why this is so, and in the process expose the sides in this crucial arena of class struggle and finally state what our position is.

Refusal of Shitwork

Within the West Indian working class there has developed a distinct grouping of unemployed men and women, which increases at the end of every school year. It is not a reserve army of labour - that is to say, held in reserve to he called upon at the will of London Transport, Fords, night cleaning agencies, hospitals and all other employers of black immigrant labour. Call as they might, the youths have uncompromisingly refused to budge. It is an overwhelming refusal of shitwork. If the labourer does not work, he must do something else in order to acquire the necessities of life and more. What he does or does not do as an alternative depends almost entirely on the power that the social grouping in question could exercise in relation to the dominating power in the society. In this case, it depends on whether the young ref users of work can be mobilised within themselves to legitimise the refusal of shitwork; whether they can win over to their side other sections of the working class (in the first instance those closest to them); whether they can incite by their own activities the imagination of political activists who in turn will place their skills at the disposal of the rebels; whether they could split the bourgeoisie and win over the liberal elements.

By throwing the issue into the open at this time, Scotland Yard has unmasked its strategy for testing every one of these options. Nobody can believe that resorting to street crime is an easy way out. It is a highly dangerous pursuit - loss of life and liberty are the immediate consequences. Ask George Jackson1 . Mugging represents, at this time, that the youth have failed to grasp that getting money by force or stealth from members of the white working class, is itself subversive of their struggle against the slavery of capitalist work. It is not white workers who have the money.

The Wageless and the Waged

The way in which other sections within the working class are won over is not by parading as victim so that others feel some sympathy and remorse. No. Workers are seldom liberals. It has to be shown that it is in the interests of West Indian working class parents, for example, to support the struggle of the unemployed.

What the West Indian worker finds in his pay packet at the end of the week is determined by the level of competition among labourers. The more the competition for the jobs on London Transport, at Fords, in hospitals, the lower the wage.

Before the advent of immigration, work at London Transport was relatively well paid. Competition from the unemployed in the Caribbean, to whom a wage in London was a better proposition than starvation in Kingston, pushed the wage of the London Transport worker down. By refusing to compete, (because that is in essence what they are doing), young blacks contribute directly to pushing the wage of the workers upwards. That goes for all workers, black and white. To support the unemployed is to support yourself. Nor is the refusal of work confined to young West Indians. What else is absenteeism in the mining industry? How else do you describe the resistance to speedups on the assembly line? Only recently the Sunday Telegraph 'complained' that Fords found it difficult to impose the work ethic on West Indian workers. It is clear that young blacks are taking this tendency to its logical conclusion. A defeat for them at this time is a defeat for the whole class.

Already we know who is for and who is against.

Political Responses

Black left organisations define the youths, as the enemy of the factory worker, the enemy of all workers. By producing the term 'lumpen' out of their rag bag of ideological. tricks they hope to rationalise what is actually their treachery to a section of the class that today is seeking to break, once and for all, notions of productivity i.e. that you have to produce for capital before you can get money. They haven't got the courage of their convictions; for not one single organisation has sought to campaign among the unemployed youths with the object of getting them to work in factories, on the buses, on the tubes.

Others, mini fascists that they are, are forming 'Parents against mugging' vigilante groups. Social workers and community relations experts must condemn the youth for they do not want to dirty their hands by being seen by their masters to side with the so called muggers.

Commander Marshall talks with foxy paternalism about the lack of identity among West Indian youth. Lack of identity? There is no other social grouping within the West Indian population whose members are more certain of themselves, who are clearer about who their friends and enemies are, than the unemployed youth. Those who are suffering with identity problems are those who wine and dine with the Commander while they discuss in tutored english police/black relations.

Race Today's Position

We in Race Today stand openly with the refusers of work. We have explained how this action is a source of power for the whole class. We are uncompromisingly against mugging. We see the mugging activity as a manifestation of powerlessness; a consequence of being without a wage. We do not recommend the factory or London Transport. We raise a wage, a social wage for the unemployed, now. Money in our pockets without having to be slaves. Some are already asking whether it is a possibility. To them we reply that five or ten years ago a grant of £6 millions from the Home Office to be spent on the unemployed was not a possibility. The Oval House riot, the Mangrove demonstration, the Brockwell Park battle, all waged largely by the unemployed made that a possibility. It has provided a lot of jobs for community relations hacks and project hatchers who otherwise would be slaves on the assembly line. There is more where that came from.

Race Today Collective
January 1975.

  • 1Libcom note: In 1961 George Jackson was convicted of armed robbery – for stealing $70 at gunpoint from a gas station. He was sentenced to one year in prison. He was to spent the rest of his life - eleven years - in the California prison system, seven in solitary confinement. In prison he read widely and transformed himself into an activist and political theoretician who defined himself as a revolutionary. "Blood in my Eye" his autobiography, is available on Libcom here.