The Tottenham Dynamic 91


I am not going to post much yet on events in North London, because I do not understand them. I have a strong urge to sympathise with those rioting as an oppressed underclass, but am well aware that they come from an urban sub-culture which I despise in virtually every aspect, and has no connection to working class tradition or ethics. Nor does this seem genuinely to relate to an embattled ethnic community feeling it is defending itself, as in Broadwater Farm or Bristol. You have to look back to events like the Gordon Riots to find parallels that seem to make any sense. The arson and looting is not justified, full stop.

On the other hand, it is impossible not to note that some of the key looting targets – Aldi, Lidl, JJB sports – are themselves emblematic of our deep, dark social divide. They are places Boris Johnson and David Cameron and most of the aspirant middle classes would not be seen dead in. That the looters come from a deeply ignorant, viciously materialistic, educationless sub-culture that ought to be despised, does not mean that the individuals themselves could never have been different, given opportunities they did not have. It is not to sympathise with the actions of the vicious, to ask how we created them in such numbers.

That police kill people too readily and with too much impunity is undoubtedly true. But that is only the spark. The existence of the gunpowder is the real problem. The existence of a society in which the gulf between rich and poor grows ever wider, and there is never even the remotest prospect of socially productive labour for a great many, was always likely to have these results.

These riots are not an isolated phenomenon; but together with the excesses of the banks and the collapse of public services, are all part of a much wider malaise as the capitalist engine has stalled in a vast mesh of corruption and croneyism.


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