II. Understanding of the August Uprising


Of course the bourgeoisie was frightened by the August Uprising and unleashed a huge propaganda wave of hatred against the rebellious youth and oppressed. This is not surprising, indeed in a class society it cannot be otherwise as that the ideological apparatus – to which the media (including the internet) belongs – serves the ruling class. Those who own the media apparatus call the shots.


However if the bourgeois journalists write not for the masses, but for the ruling class, they don’t need to create an ideological fog but have a more realistic understanding of what is going on. A good example for this is a recent article in one of mouth pieces of monopoly capital, the US Forbes Magazine, called: “The U.K. Riots and the Coming Global Class War”. This article, shortly published after the Uprising, openly describes this event as part of the class struggle and as a phenomena which will globally spread:


The riots that hit London and other English cities last week have the potential to spread beyond the British Isles. Class rage isn’t unique to England; in fact, it represents part of a growing global class chasm that threatens to undermine capitalism itself.” (2)


The author fears that this will lead to a strengthening of right-wing and left-wing extremism: “This expanding class war creates more intense political conflicts.” The article concludes pessimistically from the bourgeoisies’ point of view: “But modern society (…) must deliver results to the vast majority of citizens. If capitalism cannot do that expect more outbreaks of violence and greater levels of political alienation — not only in Britain but across most of the world’s leading countries, including the U.S.”


And indeed the whole reaction of the British government to the uprising demonstrates that they understand it as a serious danger, as a spontaneous form of revolutionary class struggle of the lower strata of the proletariat. This is the reason why the Cameron government mobilised 16.000 police officers on the streets and threatened to use of the army against the uprising. This is why the government is now imposing a 30-day ban of any demonstrations and marches. (3) In short: the counterrevolutionary measures of the British government show that the ruling class understood the revolutionary potential of the August Uprising.


But not only does monopoly capital understand the class struggle character of the Uprising. Also a number of people and organisations with roots amongst the oppressed characterise it as a justified rebellion, not simply as riots. As we already quoted in our recent articles the 68-year-old former black civil rights activist Darcus Howe expressed very well what is involved in the so-called "riots" in Britain's cities. In an interview with the BBC (which this capitalist state television put off soon from their website), he explained:


"I don't call it rioting, I call it an insurrection of the masses of the people! It is happening in Syria, it is happening in Clapham, it is happening in Liverpool, it is happening in Puerto Spain, it is happening in Chile then, it is the nature of an historical moment!"


Another well-known anti-racist writer, the Tamil-born director of the Institute of Race Relations and long-time editor of the Journal Race & Class, Ambalavaner Sivanandan, wrote a statement at the end of the Uprising which stated defiantly: “This is not the end of rebellion—it is the beginning” (4)And John Pilger, also a radical journalist, characterised clearly the so-called riots as an “insurrection”. (5)


Several organisations with direct or indirect links with the oppressed layers of the black and migrant people also made clear that they do not consider the Uprisings as simply riots or “mindless acts of violence”. The Black-nationalist African People's Socialist Party and the Uhuru Solidarity Movement called for “Solidarity with the rebellions in Britain!” and stated: “We support the right of the African community to fight back against the injustice and oppression imposed on their communities by the British white power government. The Uhuru Solidarity Movement is in unconditional solidarity with the African population of Britain who are courageously resisting the oppression and colonial domination of their communities. (…) It is this relationship between colonizer and colonized that is at the root of what is happening right now on the streets of London.” (6)


While we criticise the characterization that the Uprising is “a conflict between colonizer and colonized” as false it is certainly correct to refer to the relationship of imperialist oppression behind this event.


And despite its ultra-Stalinist policy the CPGB-ML – with its chairman Harpal Brar, who was the long-time leader of the Indian Workers' Association in Britain – managed to understand better than many so-called Trotskyists what was the meaning of the August Uprising. Instead of describing the uprising as about criminal looting, they did put it in the context of the “working class fight back”. (7)


Of course all these people and organisations mentioned above have no political perspective for the Uprising to win. They offer – if anything – a black-nationalist or Stalinist, abstract-propagandist outlook. Therefore they present only ways which weaken the working class and harm it.


But as we will see, in opposition to the majority of the left-reformist and centrist forces they at least recognised that these so-called riots were an authentic uprising of the youth and the oppressed.




(2)           Joel Kotkin: The U.K. Riots and the Coming Global Class War, Forbes, 8/15/2011, http://www.forbes.com/sites/joelkotkin/2011/08/15/u-k-riots-global-class-war/


(3)           David Hughes: Marches banned after day of banned protest, 20 August 2010, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/marches-banned-after-day-of-banned-protest-2057870.html


(4)           Ambalavaner Sivanandan: ‘This is not the end of rebellion—it is the beginning’, 16 Aug 2011, http://www.irr.org.uk/2011/august/ha000011.html


(5)           John Pilger: Damn it or fear it, the forbidden truth is an insurrection in Britain, August 19, 2011, http://www.johnpilger.com/articles/damn-it-or-fear-it-the-forbidden-truth-is-an-insurrection-in-britain


(6)           Uhuru Solidarity Movement: Solidarity with the rebellions in Britain! 10.08.2011, http://uhurusolidarity.blogspot.com/, http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2011/08/483268.html


(7)           CPGB-ML: Rage against capitalism. The working class fights back, 9. August 2011, http://www.cpgbml.org/index.php?secName=statements&subName=display&statementId=42


Chapter 1: An uprising which the left missed

Chapter 3: Zizek and the "zero degree protest"