On the Anniversary of the August Uprising in 2011
by Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 7.8.2012
Exactly one year ago, the ruling class in Britain was shattered by a mass uprising of the poor, the migrants and the youth. Because of this anniversary we republish the articles we wrote at this time.
* The August Uprising in Britain - A Report of the RKOB delegation on its visit in London in August 2011
* The strategic task: From the uprising to the revolution! These are not "riots" – this is an uprising of the poor in the cities of Britain!
* What would a revolutionary organisation have done? August uprising of the poor, the nationally and racially oppressed in Britain
* Britain: "The left" and the August Uprising 2011
This August Uprising – as we in the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) call it – was a historic event. It marked the entering of the class struggle by the lower strata of the working class and the nationally and racially oppressed.
Despite all its limitations and weaknesses it was definitely one of the most important class struggles in Britain since the miner strike 1984/85. According to Scotland Yard more than 30.000 working class youth, black and migrants on the streets fought against the police and expressed their anger. It forced the Tory/Liberal-Democrat government to mobilize 16.000 police men and women on the street to put down the uprising and even to consider the use of the army against its own population.
We wrote last year: “This uprising was a sign of the things to come. A correct assessment of this event, drawing the right conclusion and employing the necessary revolutionary tactics are of decisive importance because in the coming years we will see a number of similar spontaneous uprisings of the lower or middle strata of the proletariat. And we will see such events not only in Britain again but also in a number of other imperialist countries.”
Because of this we studied and analyzed the August Uprising closely. We published a number of articles and sent a delegation to London. We elaborated the revolutionary tactics in such a situation as good as possible for an organization without a presence on the ground. We also had to acknowledge the pathetic or even openly treacherous position which most of the centrist left took faced with this spontaneous outburst of class hatred. It was certainly a good test to see how revolutionary – or better un-revolutionary – most of the self-proclaimed “revolutionary left” are. We noted last year that this failure is not an accident but rather the inevitable result of the capitulation of centrism to the reformist bureaucracy and labor aristocracy. They are unwilling or incapable to understand the central role of the lower strata of the working class – which include in particular migrants and nationally and racially oppressed. These layers are of decisive importance for the class struggle and in particular for the revolutionizing of the workers movement which is dominated by the labor bureaucracy and aristocracy with all their hatred and ignorance for the militant class struggle.
The most important lesson is the burning necessity to build a new revolutionary Workers International with nationally rooted combat parties. Such parties must be based on the working class and in particular the lower and middle strata and not its well-paid and bribed aristocracy. Only such parties can give a lead in spontaneous Uprisings like the one in August 2011 in Britain.
However such an International – which in our opinion will be the Fifth International based on a revolutionary programme – will not emerge by itself. It needs the conscious and organized efforts of consistent revolutionary communists. Their task is to elaborate the programmatic foundations for such an International and test them as much as possible in the practice of the international class struggle. They must fight against all forms of petty-bourgeois influence inside the workers movement – be it in its reformist, centrist or populist version. They need the closest possible international unity because only as a united collective based on democratic centralism they can intervene effectively in the international class struggle.
In short, what is necessary now is the international unity of all consistent revolutionary communists. This is what the RCIT is fighting for. We appeal to all revolutionaries around the world to join us in this effort to fight jointly for a new revolutionary Workers International!
by Nina Gunić and Michael Pröbsting, 10.8.2011
In contrast to the bourgeois commentators and the middle class left 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 Spain, it is happening in Chile then, it is the nature of an historical moment!"
We agree with his testimony and add: It was high time for the rebellion! Every day, black people and immigrants are discriminated and oppressed not only at work, in education and at the authorities. We are also systematically discriminated by the police, no matter how "good" or "integrated" we are. That is a fact which is not only true in a few countries but all over the world. Our brothers and sisters in Britain are at the point, where they defend themselves against this daily oppression and harassment. We have great respect for this step.
The UK is covered by riots
Protests and street fighting are spreading all over UK. In addition to various areas of London, like Tottenham, Hackney and Peckham, cities like Liverpool, Nottingham, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and Kent are already covered by the so-called "riots". Dozens of shops and businesses are burned to the ground. Even houses and cars were set on fire. Meanwhile, more than 600 activists were arrested, the government has announced its decision to exercise the most severe measures against activists and appealed publicly to all citizens, to report to the police if they know participants of the protests from their own families and friends (!). This was coupled with suggestions that it was not a minor offense, if it fails to give the police report.
Already a 26-year-old man was killed by shot by police. His name was not announced yet - probably not to give the movement even more faces.
Meanwhile, 50 policemen were injured, Prime Minister David Cameron stopped his holiday, and the media claim that residents would demand the use of the British army against the militants. The latter is obviously a warning to what means the British government is prepared to do.
It all started with Mark Duggan, 29-year-old father of four children. He was shot during a planned police arrest. Interestingly, in the British media almost never mentions that Duggan is a black British. They want to hide the motives of the police who killed this unarmed young man apparently for no other reason than racism. The racial oppression of black people, national oppression of migrants, the super-exploitation they experience as workers – all this takes place not only at the workplace and the education system but in all areas of capitalist society. Add to this that it is also not the first time that a black worker was shot dead for no reason.
Poverty, hopelessness, harassment ... resistance!
The bourgeois media also do not show how big the poverty and hopelessness of the British youth is, especially of the immigrants and black people. After all, the government implemented austerity measures, the toughest since the Second World War, which resulted in an unemployment rate of nearly 8%. Unemployment is particularly high among immigrants and black people. One in five black people is unemployed. Already before the Tories came to power every second black teenager between 16 and 24 years was unemployed! Current surveys for 2011 do not exist yet. But it is only logical that the number of unemployed black youth has not reduced since then, but has probably increased rather significantly.
No wonder then that it is mainly the young who are participating in the uprising of the poor. Especially the first two nights the 14 to 17-year-olds have led the street battles. Since then, now, older activists are involved in the uprising.
It is precisely the poorer, the lower, the oppressed layers of the working class – including the young, the racially and nationally oppressed layers – that are often ready to resist against the massive oppression and exploitation. And this part of the working class constitutes the largest mass, the heart of our class.
How absurd is – given the present development - the theory of the League for the Fifth International that the labour aristocracy constitutes the core layer of the working class (at least in imperialist countries like the UK). In fact, this part of our class is – as Lenin put it – "the craft-union, narrow-minded, selfish, case-hardened, covetous, and petty-bourgeois "labour aristocracy", imperialist-minded, and imperialist-corrupte, (…). That is incontestable.
In contrast to the false assumption of LFI, the oppressed, the lower layers of the working class can play a central role in taking the class struggle against capitalist oppression on the streets. This is what we see today in Great Britain.
The political situation in Britain: a pre-revolutionary development
It is crucial that activists in Britain have a correct assessment of the political situation, derive the right political perspectives, and try to implement them – as much as it is possible for them given their strength – into practice.
The worldwide decline of capitalism has also shaken the economic and political system of Britain deeply. Spreading poverty and unemployment and welfare cuts are the result. It is inevitable that this historic crisis of the capitalist system provokes sharp class struggles, including a number of (pre) revolutionary and counter-revolutionary situations. That is why we from the RKOB speak of a world-historical period in which humanity is faced with the alternative "socialism or barbarism".
The uprising of the poor in Britain - as Darcus Howe noted correctly – is part of a wave of revolutionary events in the recent past: the Arab Revolution and the general strikes and occupations in Greece and Spain.
Already in the autumn of 2010 hundreds of thousands of youth held a mass protest in Britain, which culminated in the storming of the Tory party headquarters. This was followed on 26th March 2011 by a day of action organized by the TUC with half a million demonstrators. And eventually on 30 June 750,000 employees in public service went on strike. In short, after the mass protests of the youth in the education sector and the strikes of the trade unions, the lower strata of the working class, blacks and migrants have now entered the battlefield of class struggle with their uprising. All this underscores that Britain is going through a pre-revolutionary development.
What has to be done?
What are the key tasks? The RKOB answers: the goal must be the expansion of the riots - mainly lead by the lower strata of the working class – to the participation of the entire working class. The riots in poor neighborhoods must be transformed to a nationwide revolution. That will not happen overnight and certainly not spontaneous.
Until now, there is no connection, no solidarity with the uprising of the poor from the side of the unions and the anti-cuts movement that existed in Britain since months. But this is necessary in order not to remain at the level of individual street fights, but rather to fight shoulder to shoulder with organized workers who are probably on strike. The RKOB says: activists need to stand up for a radical change within the labor movement, trade unions, progressive parties and alliances. These organizations should not longer stand beside the insurrections. They need to show solidarity with the uprising of the poor. They need to contribute on the extension of the struggle and therefore mobilize workers at their workplace to take active part in mass actions.
The split between the different layers of the working class must be overcome. But we can only overcome the split during a common struggle. Actually the lower strata of the working class is fighting, is acting as the strike team of our class. But the other parts of the working class have to be mobilized now to take part of the insurrections and to fight for the interests and goals of the whole class.
The uprising of the poor should be connected with a general strike of the workers' movement!
The aim must be to connect the so-called riots with a mass strike up to a general strike in the workplace and in education sector. In this way, the working class be united and won over to the perspective of a general strike in connection with an insurrection. By this we mean a general strike, which is associated with the arming of the working class and an orientation to the overthrow of the government and its replacement by a workers' government. Such a workers' government would be a government that rests on mass action councils (soviets), in which the workers and the oppressed in the factories and neighbourhoods are organised and elect their delegates which are at any time replaceable.
Such a perspective must begin with the immediate requirements of combat. Here we have first of all the defence of the urban areas of the poor against the police force. The struggle against police violence requires the building of self-defense units by the activists to protect the urban districts against the repressive machinery of the capitalists - the police and possibly military. The building of such self-defense units must be carried out naturally first of all by those affected in the districts of the poor. But it is also necessary that the organized labour movement - trade unions, progressive parties and alliances - participate in the formation of such self-defense units active. Out of such units could then later emerge workers militias - armed bodies of the working class and the oppressed.
Hand in hand with defending the urban districts the building of action committees must take place. They are an important means to provide the movement with structures and to prevent unelected representatives to sell out the struggle. Such action committees could emerge out of mass meetings in the neighborhoods, workplace and schools where the people elect delegates. These delegates must be permanently accountable for their words and deeds and recallable by the mass meetings. In this way a movement can be build with controllable delegates who can coordinate regionally and nationally and who are constantly under control of the base of the movement. Thus also the biggest enemies in our own ranks, the bureaucrats of the trade unions and the Labour Party, the careerists and traitors can be branded and exposed by the movement.
Today it is more obvious than ever: those in the British Left who stand aside from the riots, reduce themselves to comment on the events or who congratulate the movement from outside but are not part of this movement, those who refuse to close the ranks with the rebels, these people have no right to consider themselves as revolutionary! Because history and the people who make history will judge us and our organizations primarily by our action and deeds, and not by our words.
Looting is no solution!
The resistance of the proletarian youth on the streets of Britain is an important factor. The labour movement must deal with the demands of these young people. It must fight together with the proletarian youth on the streets. But it is also necessary to prevent damages which hit the workers in the neighbourhoods. Workers' belongings should not be destroyed during the insurrections. The labour movement – together with organized committees of the proletarian youth – must make sure that the houses and cars of individuals (mostly of the workers) are not set on fire.
The looting of shops and pharmacies is understandable given the massive poverty of the people. Nevertheless, it is much more useful if these actions are coordinated by the labour movement and the committees of the workers, the migrants and young people. They should not be committed as random looting. Rather the committees have to set the distribution of food and medicine under the control of the labour movement and the committees themselves. In this way all people will receive exactly the goods of daily life that they need. At the same time, this also prevents that the shops and supermarkets will be set on fire. Otherwise it hits the daily supply of the people living there. The credo has to be: everything that helps our class and which from our class can benefit, is good. The arbitrary destruction and the looting of supplies is not part of it!
The Road to Revolution
The ruling class is fighting a preventive war and uses 16,000 police officers (in London alone) against the poor, the blacks and the young people. In contrary to the naive dreams of the petty-bourgeois left, a peaceful transition to socialism is impossible. The path to socialism is bound to the civil war of the workers and oppressed. This civil war must aim to overthrow the capitalist class through a revolution and to expropriate them, as well as to build a workers' government on a socialist basis. The civil war requires participating in its preparations. It requires that the labour movement as well as single activists fight together with the young people during the insurrections. If one has the opportunity to participate at the insurrections it is absolutely necessary to show solidarity not only in words but in actions.
The overthrow of the capitalist class and a successful revolution needs a successful strategy of the working class. We need to build up a revolutionary party of the fighting masses, which is capable of developing and implementing such a strategy and which leads the vanguard of the working class. The revolutionary organization RKOB has the goal to build up such a revolutionary party worldwide.
Today Britain is set ablaze by the so-called riots. It has to be the goal of our class to combine the uprisings of the poor with the strategy to revolution. Revolutions are the locomotives of history - but to guarantee that the revolution can be fulfilled is only given if the revolutionary party becomes its platoon leader. Today the building of such a revolutionary party is more urgent than ever before!
Class against class,
Force against force,
Socialism or Barbarism!
By Michael Pröbsting, Revolutionary Communist Organisation for Liberation (RKOB), 18.8.2011
The uprising of the poor, of the black and migrant people in Britain between the 6th and the 10th of August was a “historic moment” in the country’s history as the black civil right activist Darcus Howe and a number of other people have accurately put it. It was a “historic moment” which ended up in defeat. Why? Because the existing leadership of the workers movement and the oppressed communities betrayed the struggle, left it alone and in most cases denounced it. The most urgent task in the coming period is to build a new revolutionary party which can give future uprisings a perspective to win and to build a socialist society.
Our organisation, the Revolutionary Communist Organisation for Liberation (RKOB), has explained its analysis and perspectives for the uprising in the statement from 10th of August (“These are not "riots" – this is an uprising of the poor in the cities of Britain! The strategic task: From the uprising to the revolution!”, http://www.rkob.net/new-english-language-site-1/uprising-of-the-poor-in-britain/) Based in Austria, the RKOB sent a delegation to Britain to follow the events on the ground, get involved with the activists and get a better understanding of the situation and the tasks following from it. Given the complete failure of the left in Britain to intervene in the uprising and to take a revolutionary position we will elaborate in this statement concretely what in our opinion a revolutionary organisation should have done in this situation.
1. This uprising is often wrongly characterised only as “riots”. This makes it easier for the Tory government and the bureaucrats in the workers movement to criminalise this uprising, to declare that looting was its main focus. A revolutionary organisation in Britain would have said from the beginning that this uprising is in its essence a spontaneous rebellion of the lower strata of the working class and of the racially and nationally oppressed minorities against the police repression and the poverty of the capitalist system. It would have declared that these so called “riots” are in essence a form of class struggle. Of course a form of class struggle with all its weaknesses, its raw and unorganised features, but a form of justified and progressive class struggle nevertheless. It would have explained that while certainly criminal acts happened in the context of the uprising this was in no way its essential character. It would therefore have sharply denounced all those non-revolutionary forces who associate this uprising with the “lumpenproletariat”, who slander it as “cancer” (e.g. IMT/Socialist Appeal), who “is appalled at the current rioting” and reject the uprising as “only damaging for the communities in which working-class people live” (CWI/Socialist Party) or who are vague about the motivation of this uprising (“Some are motivated by hatred of the police and rage at this society – others by the promise of raiding local shops for goods – some by both.”, LFI/Workers Power)
2. Recognising the character of the uprising as a form of class struggle of the lower and oppressed strata of the working class, a revolutionary organisation would have immediately after the beginning of this spontaneous rebellion issued a public call to support and join the uprising. It would have criticised all those reformist and centrist forces which restrict themselves to merely explain why the poor and oppressed take the streets, to explain why this is understandable or who only call for abstract solidarity without raising a finger for practical participation and support for the uprising. A revolutionary organisation would have worked on the basis of the Marxist approach of the founder of the Fourth International, Leo Trotsky, when he explained the abyss which divides Bolshevism and centrism (taking the example of the German centrist Ledebour) in their attitude to the struggle of the oppressed:
„Nevertheless, Ledebour’s position even on this question does not leave the precincts of centrism. Ledebour demands that a battle be waged against colonial oppression; he is ready to vote in parliament against colonial credits; he is ready to take upon himself a fearless defense of the victims of a crushed colonial insurrection. But Ledebour will not participate in preparing a colonial insurrection. Such work he considers putschism, adventurism, Bolshevism. And therein is the whole gist of the matter.
What characterizes Bolshevism on the national question is that in its attitude toward oppressed nations, even the most backward, it considers them not only the object but also the subject of politics. Bolshevism does not confine itself to recognizing their “right” to self-determination and to parliamentary protests against the trampling upon of this right. Bolshevism penetrates into the midst of the oppressed nations; it raises them up against their oppressors; it ties up their struggle with the struggle of the proletariat in capitalist countries; it instructs the oppressed Chinese, Hindus, or Arabs in the art of insurrection and it assumes full responsibility for this work in the face of civilized executioners. Here only does Bolshevism begin, that is, revolutionary Marxism in action. Everything that does not step over this boundary remains centrism.“ (Leon Trotsky: What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat, 1932)
3. As a consequence a revolutionary organisation would not have only called to join the uprising but would have mobilised its members and supporters as much as possible to actually go to the areas of the struggle (Tottenham, Brixton etc.) and to play an active role in the resistance against the police. It would have denounced all those who speak only about solidarity in words but in practise don’t join the class struggle as it is - typical for centrist cowards and windbags. At the same time it would also have sent its supporters to other working class areas not yet affected by the uprising to call for solidarity, to counter the bourgeois lies against the riots etc. It would have sent delegations to trade unions, to the various organisations of the workers movement to urge them to join the struggle, to organise solidarity actions etc. – in short to call for a united front campaign.
4. A revolutionary organisation would have intervened by disseminating revolutionary ideas to help raise the activist’s consciousness from spontaneous outrage and hatred against the system to a political class consciousness. For this it would have distributed leaflet and made agitation and propaganda for the central tasks. Revolutionaries would not have called only for the “right of self-defence” but would have called for building organised workers and oppressed self-defence units now. It would have called for the organisations of the labour movement to come and help build these self-defence organisations. It would have called for councils of action, i.e. mass assemblies in the communities, to discuss the most urgent tasks and elect delegates to coordinate and build a movement of the workers and oppressed. It would have called for spreading the struggle nation-wide by calling the workers movement to join and link the struggle against the police repression and poverty with the movement against the cuts. The perspective would have been a general strike against the cuts, against racism and for the overthrow of the Tory government.
5. A revolutionary organisation would have tried to organise the resistance to drive out the police and to stop acts of vandalism. It would have explained that looting is no solution. It would have argued that the task of workers and oppressed self-defence units is to prevent acts of vandalism, of looting small shops etc.
6. A revolutionary organisation would have issued public appeals for the organisation and the activists of the workers movement to come to Tottenham, Brixton, Birmingham etc and to help organising the struggle. It would have applied the united front tactic to spread the struggle, to organise solidarity, to call for the defence against the police repression.
7. A revolutionary organisation would have called to spread the struggle and to link it with the perspective of struggle against cuts etc and for a general strike. Not at some time later when the bureaucrats might be ready to prepare and build another of their impotent one-day actions but in the concrete situation of the uprising. To call for a link with the struggle against the cuts not at the same time while the riots take place but one, two or three months later (as the IST/SWP, CWI/SP, IMT/SA, LFI/WP etc. did) is a schematic, passive, non-revolutionary approach to an explosive situation of class struggle. It is a refusal to understand the revolutionary dynamic of the class struggle and the call for the activist of the uprising to subordinate to the plans of the labour bureaucrats and their one-day actions.
8. Today after the defeat of the uprising two things are urgent. First, to organise a broad defence campaign against the police repression. Secondly, to draw the lessons, to spread these lessons amongst the activists and to organise the most militant and politically conscious amongst lower strata of the proletariat, the migrants and the black community in a revolutionary, Bolshevik force.
9. Organising a broad defence campaign means to call for a united front of the organisations of the labour movement and the migrant and black communities. Demands must be raised for an independent inquiry of the police murder of Mark Duggan by the workers movement and the migrant and black communities. Release of all those arrested in connection with the uprising, no criminal prosecution, no cuts in the social and communal services! Down with the “stop and search” operations of the police! Build for an indefinite general strike against the cuts, against police repression and to bring down the Tory government! The police and state forces will not behave better in the future – build workers and oppressed self-defence units! For a working class government based on councils of action of the workers, black and migrant communities!
10. At the same time it is essential to understand the central lessons of the uprising and to spread them. The most important lesson is to recognise the huge crisis of leadership of the working class and the oppressed. The uprising of the poor, the black and the migrant people was completely spontaneous and lacked the involvement of any organised structures. It was unorganised because the organised workers movement and the established community leaders betrayed the struggle. They betrayed it by refusing any participation and in most cases even denounced the uprising. The trade union leadership calls only for limited and belated one-day actions. The reformist and centrist left adapted to the bureaucracy and didn’t participate itself in the uprising. It prefers to leave the poor and oppressed alone instead of acting alone and independent of the bureaucracy in the uprising.
11. Understanding the lessons of the August uprising means also to recognise the isolation of the British left and labour movement from the poor and the nationally and racially oppressed. This is not an unexpected situation but the expression of the many decades long isolation of workers movement and the left from these masses of the middle and lower strata of the proletariat. Unfortunately their structures and influential forces are dominated by the middle class and the labour aristocracy. The ignorance of the uprising by this reformist and centrist left is therefore not an accident but the result of their aristocratism. It is now high time to understand the danger of this and the need to overcome this as soon as possible. One step to overcome this was to join the ranks of the struggle of the oppressed. But who has done this? Building the revolutionary organisation in Britain in the coming period is impossible without learning these lessons and recognising the historic failure of the reformist and centrist left in the past.
12. A small revolutionary organisation would most likely not have made a difference to the outcome of the uprising. An organisation of one, two or five dozen activists is under normal circumstances too small to decide the fate of an uprising of the masses. But it could have made a major step in gaining experience, spreading revolutionary ideas and organising activists from the oppressed communities and also made steps in building roots in the community. It is highly urgent to correct the mistakes of the past and build a truly revolutionary, Bolshevik organisation in Britain now. The Revolutionary Communist Organisation for Liberation (RKOB) wants to collaborate with all those who share such an outlook.
The RKOB considers the uprising of the poor, blacks and immigrants in Britain as a "historic moment" - to put it in the words of the black civil rights activist Darcus Howe. The RKOB therefore decided at the start of the uprising to send a delegation of several comrades to London to study the events in the area. For this purpose we reproduced and distributed several English language pamphlets from the RKOB and the youth organization Red Antifa in London. We have outlined our analysis of the uprising and the revolutionary tactics and the necessary lessons from the defeat in three articles. (1) Below we publish the first part of the report from the RKOB delegation.
Thursday August 11, 2011
5:00 PM- 7:00 PM
After almost 24 hours of riding the bus we arrived in London. Even from the bus we could see various shops that have their displays covered with wood. Many police cars were driving past on a regular basis as well as a number of police officers patrolling the streets. We went directly after the bus ride (with all of our gear) to a meeting of the "Coalition of Resistance" platform.
On the way there we met an activist of the platform named Francis. He is an unemployed young black man in his twenties. The meeting resulted in a very interesting conversation about unemployment and poverty in the neighborhood (he is from the Peckham neighborhood) and about how to evaluate of the so-called "riots", the uprising of the young people. A longer conversation results as we are walking for some time to the university where the meeting takes place. In light of the discussions with Francis, it becomes very clear how important it is to build a revolutionary party that has roots in the organized working class and especially in the most oppressed layers within its ranks.
Until now the labor movement has widely ignored precisely these layers; the nationally or racially oppressed, the young people, etc. Due to the ongoing treason of the reformist leadership through their close links with the capitalist system there are increasing sectors of the masses which are not organized in the unions. At the same time however, it is often the most oppressed layers of society that choose the radical forms of protest against that state and the oppressive apparatus. The RKOB advocates that the labor movement organizes the most oppressed layers, and that we as an organization aiming to build a revolutionary party include activists from such layers. Today a large part of the comrades in the ranks of the RKOB are from amongst the lowest strata of the working class. Francis saw this as an positive characteristic of our organisation.
7:00 PM - 9:30 PM
The meeting of the "Coalition of Resistance" has begun. This is an alliance of several left-wing groups and trade unionists that was formed against the austerity policies of the Tory government. Quite a number of speakers are planned for the platform. It is obvious that the audience is made up primarily of activists from different groups and there are few unorganized activists, such as Francis. Therefore the proportion of workers, immigrants, and black activists is very small.
Inevitably the question of the uprising is an issue at the meeting. Two main positions are represented. One position condemns the uprising as "chaotic riots" that bring nothing but harm, even if the anger of the youth is understandable. The other position calls for neither condemning nor supporting the so-called "riots" with an emphasis on a great understanding of the frustration of the youth against the system. The dominance of these views is not surprising given the positions of the left-wing organizations to the uprisings. The labor movement has at best ignored the uprising, and at worst condemned it. This position is shared by the opportunist left. Additionally the young proletarian rebels are exactly from those strata of the working class, which has been largely ignored for decades by the left. This has become particularly obvious today. We recognize to what extent the aristocractism, which we have even identified in the LFI, is present throughout the British left. London iss burning, therefore there are incredible opportunities to intervene in a very radical protest - but the left-wing organizations in fact focus mainly on themselves.
We were only impressed by the fiery speech from a black woman on the panel whose son was killed by the police in May. The mother of Demetre Fraser denounced the police as murders and emphasized how obvious the police violence against blacks is a burning issue. In contrast to the position that the CWI (2) holds, police officers are not "workers in uniform", but part of the bourgeois apparatus which is used against the working class. The slogan "Murderers in uniform" therefore is quiet accurate. At the same time from the podium, however - totally contrary to the obvious facts - it is stressed that only peaceful protests make sense. It is even stated indirectly that support from the Coalition of Resistance will only be given to actions that proceed "peacefully".
After the speeches from the podium there is a round of discussion in which the audience can participate. We, from the RKOB, take part. Nina Gunic, RKOB spokeswoman, confirms that the characterizations of police as murderers in uniform are not only true in Britain, but world wide. She argues that the events in London show just how naive it is to have illusions in peaceful protests. The goal must rather be an indefinite general strike in connection with the organizing of youth uprisings. The government cannot be simply overthrown peacefully. Rather - at a certain point – it will use its apparatus of repression against the general strike. Thus it is an absolute illusion to believe that it is possible to overthrow the government with a peaceful protest. Total solidarity with the uprising of the young people is necessary and the connection of actions by the workers' movement with the uprising is what is needed.
Except us, there is only a female activist from the SWP (3) that emphasizes solidarity with the uprising of the youth. It is obvious that it is currently an unpopular solution in the ranks of the British left. Given the massive uprisings in the past few days this is a pure betrayal against the proletarian youth. Each organization on the ground that now shuns open solidarity and organized participation in the uprisings has failed the test of history.
Events such as this uprising show whether organizations have a Marxist program only in words, or if they are capable to put this into practice and by this shows to be capable to lead the vanguard in the class struggle.It is characteristic for centrism to shuns the latter like the plague. This is true even if the organization has a revolutionary program, as is still the case with the LFI, and certainly not the SWP, CWI or IMT which have centrist programs.
We suspect that interventions in the working class districts of London will be very modest from these forces and are curious about what will happen in the coming days.
10:30 PM - 2:00AM
Later in the evening we try to find out about where there will be more uprisings. We are prepared for any action with both our agitational and propaganda materials as well as practical participation. But the night is rather calm.
Friday August 12, 2011
7:30 AM - 1:00 PM
We're preparing for a day in Tottenham. The materials are packed. The youth community centers of the city and the focal point of the events are our focus. The plan is clear: we will try to talk to the residents of the neighborhood as well as get an impression of the situation on the ground. Moreover, it is important to get a closer knowledge of the area in order not to run into dead ends or similar mistakes during the evening. We get a cheap camera because we are taking photos as well as recording video.
2:00 PM - 7:00 PM
As we arrive in Tottenham we are surprised; there are very few people on the street. We go through the apartment blocks of Tottenham. Children under 10 years old are playing on the streets. An adult comes along now and then. The mood is depressed. We take some time to look around the residential area more closely. There is garbage not just out on the street, but even on the intermediate floors. To a large extent the children wear tattered clothes and are very thin. They laugh and play. As we look around we listen with half an ear to what the children are saying. A young black boy is talking loudly with a friend and says that his older brother has still not come home. His family does not know where he is but the police will surely know. He looks forward to being older because no one will catch him. His parents only say that it was high time for something to happen. One time in the future the police will arrest him anyway, no matter what he had done. At least there was some kind of resistance. But the friend should keep that to himself. The boy's parents do not like that he overheard their conversation.
As Marxists we know that the repression by the police and the entire state apparatus will come over the activists as well as large sections of the racially and nationally oppressed. Because the organized labor movement has still not taken the side of the proletarian youth – and without this it is the petty-bourgeois community leader that act as the only spokespersons.
We get confirmation by a number of reports, that the community leaders mobilize community members to talk to young people in order to stop them from continuing the uprising. The slogan "we do not destroy our own neighborhoods" was spread by the churches, mosques, community centers and other facilities. They urge the people to demonstrate "peacefully." In this way pressure is build up and the protests are stifled.
We go from the residential area over to the main streets. Meanwhile, it is already afternoon. We have become familiar with Tottenham and we get along very well with the people in the neighborhood. They are mostly blacks and immigrants. We get their attraction by our appearance. Most whites in the area are not citizens, but police officers. The workers district has apparently received only rare visits by activist leftist organizations. The MLCP (4) is the only organization that has left their mark in the district using stickers and graffiti.
As we go down the main street up to Enfield (a northern suburb above Tottenham) we are surprised: the shops that were demolished were mostly betting offices. Several shops are covered with wood planks, but these are not the ones with little glass left in their window sills. The betting offices, on the other hand, have fine pieces of glass everywhere which is not easy for someone to clean up. Many stores also have preventive covered the windows with wood, not because they were attacked. This is a fact that both journalists and people would not perceive as they drive past. We were encouraged with this realization, especially because it belongs to an observation that one can only make on site.
We get into a conversation with a young black woman named Laura. At first she is very distant. She does not tell us very much and says that she rejects the "riots". We don’t agree with her but rather emphasize that the uprisings deserve support and that it is important to show solidarity or try to participate. We tell her that we have even traveled from Austria because we believe that this is a very important event and if possible will attend. Of course it is wrong to attack local shops and residential blocks, but if it happens it is because there is no organization to the protests, no leadership. This is not the fault of the young people, but rather the leaders of the organized labor movement. Our English is obviously not the best, but we are able to understand each other. She smiles during our statement and suddenly her tone changes and we see that the statement from her was out of pure caution. She believed us and probably no longer thought we were trying to trick her. She then tells us that her sister and friends have participated in the uprisings. She did not go because her sister did not want her to go. Since then her sister has been in hiding because the CCTVs (video cameras) might have captured her on tape. We talk for a while, then she gets a phone call and we say goodbye.
The conversation was very important because it confirmed to us how serious the political mistakes of the union are not to organize lower layers of the workers en masse. Likewise, there is a lack of a revolutionary youth organization that focuses clearly on these layers. Even though there are a number of leftist organizations in Britain and some even play an important part in the international leadership of these organizations, their distance and ignorance of these layers is more than devious.
Not surprisingly Laura knew of none of these groups. She will not be the only one in Tottenham.
7:00 PM - 12:30 AM
It is slowly but surely getting dark outside. This also increases the proportion of police officers on the street. We can't be traveling for more than two minutes without running into police officers, usually a man and a woman. So far we have only seen white police officers. They wear yellow safety vests that say "community support." This so-called support does not mean that they aren't armed. On the contrary, they are in full gear with just different vests than the other police officers.
What we observe: the police patrolling in vehicles and at every few meters the stop without reason cars to control the drivers. Some of them hide around corners, some behind a bus station such that oncoming drivers cannot see the police car behind it. They not only search the car and write down the information from their identity cards, they also interrogate the drivers asking where they were for the past few days and also urge them to tell if any of the drivers' friends or family participated in the "riots." Not surprisingly we see how the police officers control only the black residents and immigrants with a slightly darker skin tone. Not so much amongst the pedestrians on the street but amongst the car drivers there is a significant proportion of white people. But during our entire stay the police never stopped them once. We constantly hear police car sirens. Likewise, we see how every hour a helicopter makes several rounds over Tottenham.
We notice a phone booth that was destroyed, but only the glass was smashed. The phone itself works perfectly. Also the glass was shattered at many bus stops. Traffic sign posts are slightly bent. The latter probably happened rather before the uprising when cars had sideswiped them, as a single activist would not have the force to bend them. Today we did not see a single dwelling or a single shop that was destroyed. The only things we saw destroyed were: four betting offices (two William Hills, Coral, and one other), a bank, two ATMs, bus stops and the mentioned phone booth.
Despite or perhaps because of the constant police patrols, it remains calm this night – if one leaves aside the constant police harassment. We got news about the ongoing arrest of activists. It is said that there have been more than 1,600 arrested today. The repression seems to be in full force. We suspect that the climax of the uprisings has been crossed. The current slowdown will continue for some time. A massive wave of reactionary agitation is sweeping the country which is hard to put into words. We get several newspapers, all of which denounce the rebels as "looters" and proclaim one or another store owner as a "local hero" because they were against the alleged hooligans and were set up for defense. Interestingly there were no blacks amongst these "local heroes" but most were white with a few migrants thrown in.
The rag "London Evening Standard" (a free newspaper) even launched a campaign report with the slogan "SOS - Save Our Shops!" On the way home, after midnight, we read in today's edition an article about the uncle of Mark Duggan. He is a supposed felon and had more weapons stockpiled than a police station. This clearly attempts to defame Duggan, who was executed by the police, as a member of a family of crime. It is particularly obvious, especially in such reports, that "independent press" does not exist. Under the class system, the press writes in the service of the ruling class. The ruling class in Britain has an interest in denouncing the uprising. The bourgeoisie press is an important tool for this.
We get ready and go home. It's after midnight and leaving aside the police operations there are no further incidents. It is very quiet on the streets. We realize how unusual this is because normally most shops were open until midnight.
(1) Nina Gunić and Michael Pröbsting: These are not „riots“ – this is an uprising of the poor in the cities of Britain! The strategic task: From the uprising to the revolution!; Michael Pröbsting: The August uprising of the poor and nationally and racially oppressed in Britain: What would a revolutionary organisation have done?; Michael Pröbsting: Five days that shook Britain but didn’t wake up the left. The bankruptcy of the left during the August uprising in Britain: Its features, its roots and the way forward.
(2) Committee for a Workers International. The English section is the Socialist Party.
(3) Socialist Workers Party, British section of the International Socialist Tendency whose historic leader has been the deceased Tony Cliff.
(4) Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. A left-Stalinist party based in Turkey/North Kurdistan which has a base amongst migrants in Western Europe.