Wednesday, August 10, 2011
London burning: situation excellent!
The past several days have seen the financial capital of the world in flames. It is a striking illustration of the contradictions between a tiny handful of super-rich parasites and derivatives traders whose greed knows no bounds, who are at the heart of what it means to be rich in London, and an entire underclass of unemployed, under-employed, precariously employed and low paid workers and youth who have lost faith with the system.
The capitalist media universally decries the spontaneous violence unleashed in the wake of what can now only be described as a police assassination. Isolated cases of thuggery are highlighted to condemn rioting.
However, nothing can hide the fact that these are the actions of disenfranchised and marginalized communities who have no stake in the system and no interest in behaving according to its rules and its values.
There is no doubt that the blind fury on display creates unintended victims. But overall the situation is excellent. From the immediate community reacting against the police killing, the rioting has spread across London and to other cities in the ignited kingdom. This alone shows that the system is in crisis of unprecedented depth and breadth, that the social tinder is so dry that a single spark has indeed ignited a prairie fire.
As Mao Zedong said of the peasant uprisings occurring in his native Hunan Province in the mid-1920s, our attitude can either be “It’s terrible, it’s terrible” or “It’s fine, it’s fine”.
There will be lessons to be learned about how to organize consciously around demands for change, how to avoid blind lashing out and to more effectively direct the anger and select appropriate targets that have a political significance. Already there is a wealth of experience coming out of the young people’s use of social media to concentrate their forces for quick assaults on symbols of the system and for rapid dispersal in the face of police response. Police have already said that the use of water cannons, threatened by the British Prime Minister, are of no use against such highly mobile groups.
The situation is excellent!
Appendix 1: A term which has become current over the last decade to describe that section of the working class, the proletariat, whose employment circumstances are particularly precarious, is the precariat. See Guy Standing’s “The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class”.
Appendix 2: Mao Zedong’s “Report on an Investigation into the Peasant Movement in Hunan” can be read here: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-1/mswv1_2.htm . In addition to the question of “it’s terrible” vs. “it’s fine”, Mao also discusses the question of “going too far” and the “movement of the riff-raff”.