The importance of revolutionary consciousness and ethics
The moral crusade has begun. Mass media, middle classes and other sectors of British and Londoner population (including a significant number of the very same poor and working class) have united their voices and brooms against the evil looters and rioters, against the offspring of Satan himself.All over the place we are fed with the same propaganda, the same relentless repetition of manufactured messages. Once and again we hear those depictions of looters with horns, tail and wielding a trident, maximum expression of greed and selfishness whose actions cannot by any means be blamed to the welfare cuts, poverty, gang culture, lack of prospects and other social plagues. That does not exist in London, according to the Tories everyone here gets what he or she deserves, nothing more nothing less. The most perfect meritocracy reigns in the eternal city as well as all over the UK.
On the other side the social democratic pseudo-criticism acknowledges some of the facts that so obviously led to the rioting such as the impact of welfare cuts in the most impoverished communities and ethnic groups of the capital but also praising the police and making clear that cuts should not affect the security forces. There are certain times in live in which one just cannot be friendly with everyone and this is something that these people totally fail to notic (after all that is not their function). Clearly, stating the obvious for everyone who does not normally go shopping in Harrod’s three times a week while trying to keep friends with the ones whose useless role actually triggered the street fighting can be regarded as nothing but sheer clumsy and meaningless babbling.
Then we have the political extra-parliamentarian, Anarchist, Autonomous and Marxist realms who still today are engaged in endless discussions and interpretations of these events, desperately trying to make reality fit into their own ideological constructions so that they can subsequently call their fucked-up analyses the ultimate and most accurate account on the London riots. Thus one has had to read and hear talking about “the next generation of social rebels” (by those more inclined to Bonanist Insurrectionist Anarchism) and the potential “revolutionary subject” in which the looting kids could become should they get (as it is always mandatory in these cases) the right type of “class consciousness” (read here: the right sort of indoctrination which happens to be the one my political sect professes and no other). I would like to know who is going to be the first pretty boy/girl trying to approach a group or individual of these young representatives of London’s underclass and how their attempts to enlighten them end up. We all know too well that such a thing is not going to happen and if it does it will most likely result in the kids taking the piss out of the puzzled propaganda man in the best case or with another nasty piece of sensationalist news in The Sun in the worst.
Of course cheap moralistic accusations and reactionary attitudes have to be ignored if we want to get a proper anarchist, revolutionary and precise assessment on the whole situation and its subsequent repercussions which indeed will be extremely deep and important in the years to come. On the other hand unrealistic triumphalism and deluded points of view reflecting what we wish the situation to be like rather than what it is happening in reality (with all its pros and cons) should be equally avoided at all costs if we really wish to seize the situation properly and make sense of it in the most tactically effective way.
Yes, the “rude boys”, the “chavs”, whatever one wants to call them, are the product of a tough social environment, economical austerity, broken families and many other issues that have always traditionally plagued the difficult lives of the poor and oppressed, of those at the bottom of the social pyramid. But also yes, the behaviour of these young guys in their daily lives as well as during some instants of the looting is sparkled with episodes of the most horrible cruelty towards each other and towards other people. Their attitudes in many occasions mimic and reproduce the values of capitalistic individualism, dog eat dog competitiveness, emptiness and selfish profit seeking. Their circumstances have indeed had a huge impact in making them the way they are but any possible change in their current state of affairs relies ultimately on them and in nobody else.
Here lies the real drama, the issue that should bother true revolutionaries, beyond any sort of doctrinal debate and pointless analyses based in 19th century (or even 1970’s) obsolete ideologies. There should not be room any more for the nefarious amorality so keen to some leftist and anarchist tendencies for whom social transformations are mainly the making of impersonal forces beyond human control such as the “Laws of History”, economical crises and the like. Likewise, the clearly overrated theory according to which mere participation in a riot or political movement suffices by itself to cast some sort of revolutionary consciousness in people who had never taken part in something like that before has never passed the test of reality and should be consequently taken with a (pretty big) pinch of salt. Actually the latter only appears to happen in a number of cases in the same way that does not in many others, probably in the majority of them. Besides nothing guarantee that the recently acquired political awareness will last for long. In full honesty it usually does not last longer than the very same episodes that gave rise to it unless there is some sort of ongoing movement to get involved with on the long run.
In the same way there is no doubt that taking part in a riot gives a lot of strength and self empowerment, helps one to realise their own power and capabilities… but this can also go in many ways depending on the level of political consciousness. The self-empowerment of a rioter who is not very aware (or not aware whatsoever) of the political meaning of his/her acts can indeed take a very nasty turn which is much less likely to happen to more politically aware rioters. Every riot contains in itself the risk of having good and honest people hurt. However a reaction like that of the Greek rioters of 2008 who raised 13000 Euro all over the country to pay an elderly lady who had had her kiosk burnt in the insurrection is not likely to happen in London, not in the short term at least. Hence, consciousness and understanding of what one does and why should come first than anything else.
Circumstances are important but so it is the will power who accepts to play with and against them in order to effect a meaningful, durable change. If it is true that most social revolutions begin with uncontrollable events, so many times tragic, dramatic, ugly, nasty, cruel… it is not less true that no revolution worth its name has ever been carried out without taking into account ethics, values and a conscious personal effort towards self-enhancement as a human being. Like it or not ethical issues play a crucial part in revolutionary processes be it for good or (as so many times have occurred unfortunately) for bad.
It was one said that slaves may stage rebellions but cannot organise revolutions and such a statement applies perfectly to the issue being discussed here. The London rioters, like their peers from the French “banlieues” back in 2005 have so far behaved as slaves possessed by the most understandable and terrible rage. They have unleashed a chain of actions and reactions that has brought many old questions back to the forefront. Their anger has been by all intents and purposes the most political event the UK has seen for the last 10 years at least. There is only one question left… how can they get a consciousness capable of turning them into a real threat towards capitalism and the state, exception made of some immediate feelings and intuitions they may have expressed to the media or in some hip-hop lyrics before, during and after the events. As long as they do not answer this question to themselves their attitude will be nothing but reactionary as their only plausible demand seems to be that of full access to the haven of consumption and nothing more.
Good jobs, the latest sport car, laptop, tablet, I-phone, video-game, pair of trainers… The radicalism of a given action does not lie in the amount of fire or molotov cocktails employed to make a point but in the contents, in the substance, in the aims that are consciously and coherently pursued through a given action or course of actions. Ideally the fire should come afterwards. Many may contend that things in live do not normally obey to any rational pattern or happen in an orderly fashion but follow twisted, complex and so many times unexpected paths; fair enough then but at least once the things have calmed down for a while what should be following is a certain degree of discussion, self-criticism and reflection which does not seem to be happening at all. It would be absolutely unrealistic to believe that such a thing could be going on right now among the ranks of these kids’ groups of peers as it is not definitely happening SEROUSLY SPEAKING among the plethora of UK’s radical groups if one has to judge for what has been said and published during the last year apart from a few exceptions.
So what’s next then. How can that massive chasm between these guys and the rest of the people, among their gangs and among one another be overcome. Within their own scale of values being the crew’s biggest bastard earns you respect. Such a respect is measured in pure and simple fear, the more the others fear me the more respected I will be. This is their world, this is what life has taught them, this is capitalism and state ideology in its most honest and brutal expression, hierarchy, oppression, pure and simple cruelty towards the weak. Most of the guys who die in a year do not fall under the bullets of the police but under those shot by another guy, by a rival gang or by both. Their attitudes towards girls or women are not in many cases much better than the treatment they dispense to the police. And the worst thing of all… they are in a world apart and hold no intention whatsoever to speak to anyone outside of it. All communication channels are closed. Realizing this is not a display of sanctimony but an account on what reality is like and how challenging the situation really is. Everybody knows that the mass media lie but such a statement should not be abused in order to delude ourselves. This reality exists, it is there and dealing with it will not be a piece of cake for anyone.
Discussion on the issue of the so-called “lumpen-proletariat” and the revolutionary potentiality of the “criminal element”
It has happened before in History that under certain circumstances of social unrest and revolutionary hopes criminals and members of what has been known as “lumpen-proletariat” or the “underclass” have turned into committed and sincere revolutionaries. Such a possibility if probably overrated and exaggerated in many cases is something that could get to happen if a solid anarchist, freedom fighting and/or revolutionary movement developed or if the boys themselves decided to become revolutionaries by their own intention although this appears to be very unlikely right now. If we look at it from a historical and ethnographic perspective we see how the type of societies within which bandit heroes the like of the different “Robin Hoods”, “Durrutis” and “Paleokostas” rose up are characterised by a strong sense of community and solidarity among the members of their lowest classes. These are contexts as well in which the actions of social bandits usually coincide with a strongly and highly politically charged popular ethos which would manifest itself through the existence of dense networks of organisations such as autonomous popular groups, revolutionary trade unions or popular associations of may kinds .
We are also looking at societies whose means of mass indoctrination are not so well developed as in the present society, where the rural world still exists by and for itself as a segregated cultural entity and has not yet been turned into a mere food supplier for the cities. The bandits are usually the sons of peasant families or come from a working class family that has just left the countryside and struggles to find its place and make a living in the chaos of the urban jungle. Social bandits have rarely undergone, let alone succumbed to the process of consumerist indoctrination through schooling, advertising and pressure from families, peers and teachers to become rich and get the money to buy what they want.
What we have before us is a totally different picture for the mind of the rioters has been relentlessly fed with rubbish ever since they were born telling them what their aspirations should be only to block later any access to them or at least make them much harder to attain than for members of the economically stronger and often white (although not always) social classes.
The truth is that the transformation of the so-called “lumpen” or “underclass” into a revolutionary force capable of staging a radical anti-capitalist and anti-state transformation should not be excessively romanticised. It is true that for example, many Parisian and French gangs from the 1960’s known as the “Bloisson noires” joined the insurrection of May 68 but it is not less certain that most of the SS and SA shock troops within the National-socialist party in the 1930’s Germany were also made up of many members of Munich and Berlin’s underground and served the Nazis very happily from the very beginning of their rise to power, from the “Beer Hall Pustch” all the way to the very same War itself. It is this ambivalence what should make anarchists wary about looking at the reality around us as we would wish it to be rather than as it actually is in this (in addition to many other) subjects.
Those members of the urban population who belong to non-white and European ethnic groups on the other hand have had those aspects of their culture that might have posed a real difference or a direct challenge to white European Western values conveniently nipped in the bud by the hypocritical as well as propagandistic policies on UK’s “multiculturalism”. What results of such a process is nothing but a light version of the original culture. Thus, those aspects of foreign or “exotic” cultures that prove to be more superficial, colourful, and above all marketable and easy to turn into an economical and ideological asset useful to present a picture of England and its capital as a “tolerant” and open tourist destination are the only ones allowed to exist. The reaction of many people among these oppressed ethnic groups then normally consist of closing ranks and turning to an acritical glorification and “pride” for their own cultures of origin, turning a blind eye on their flaws and assuming that anything different from Western culture has to be good just for being non-Western. This, as everybody should know by now, it is not always the case.
Conversely the cultural elements that may truly hint about the possibility of organising communities, administering justice, deal with social conflicts, distributing economical production etc… in a way different from the Western one are automatically dismissed and ignored. If something does not turn a profit it incurs straight away in the worst possible capital sin, therefore no help, no money, no media attention deserves to be spared on it. Thus how when it comes to “multiculturalism” the cultural “shell” is sold and the real substance thrown away. This and no other is the real nature of Western multiculturalism the subsumption of “difference” into simple, harmless “diversity”.
Such realisation should not make us jump into the slippery slope of an uncritically blind support to absolute cultural relativism for every culture and not just the Western one carries its own share of unacceptable and nasty features, costumes and beliefs. However the point has been made I presume, that many useful and positive elements from different cultures that may challenge capitalism and the state are doomed to be segregated from the haven of Western multiculturalism.
Going back to the possibilities that the present social context in the UK may offer to the emergence of social bandits or criminal heroes turned into revolutionaries we cannot look at such possibility with any sort of optimism. Yet as difficult as it may be, perhaps it is not utterly impossible. Anyhow, what can by no means be justified any more is any sort of passivity from the anarchist and revolutionary realm in such a difficult times like the ones we are currently living in. If we want we can provide some elements that may help to cause that in the long run some of these kids decide to become revolutionaries. Re-building a wide community network and a genuine revolutionary culture able to fight back (also rioting if necessary) against the offensive that state and capitalism will be launching in the years to come beyond leftist and reformist delusions of returning to the full employment and Welfare state society within capitalism is our best tactical option, probably the only one we have got at the moment. And to do this what is needed is anything but delusions and fucked up pseudo-analyses romanticising and idealising what actually happen during the riots as well as the characteristics of their protagonists.
The development of an honest, open revolutionary consciousness and its spread at the length and breadth of society is increasingly becoming our most important and basic duty. Social war in the streets is important but it can never be waged if it does not go hand in hand with a war of ideas.
It is not the end of Welfare State but the Welfare state itself what is to blame
We are living the time that has seen the death of the moral individual and real community. The present tyranny of post-modernist pseudo-human condition considers any sort of comprehensive ethical principle as a nuisance, a mere obstacle in between one’s own individuality and what has allegedly become its main purpose in life; irresponsible, carefree, hedonistic self-gratification. What matters nowadays is not to lead a constructive, dignified, ethical, fertile existence based on a strong feeling of belonging to a given community and a set of values historically and culturally produced by it. What life is really about (so we are ordered to believe every day by thousands of media messages) is to have fun no matter how, regardless the consequences that our actions may have on others and always following what has been dictated to be such a concept of “fun” by the powers of capital and the state (mainly being stupid and earn enough money to get pissed on the weekend, own an I-phone and hire as many video games as you can).
The sacred principle of self-interest has reached its peak in our present society and so the sort of pseudo-human beings that it produces, especially within the cultural context of English speaking Anglo-Saxon countries. This and no other is the main catastrophe sponsored by capitalism and state domination, the sheer impoverishment of live, the wanton destruction of those human qualities that still gave humanity a certain sense of dignity and cohesion in face of the most difficult circumstances. We may be crossing the threshold towards a time in which a no longer human sub-species used to utter obedience and security paranoia, in principle not very inclined towards rebellion but still capable of staging one always for the most banal, shallow and primitive “reasons” will be mass produced by the propaganda apparatus and the tyranny of controlled desire.
Many anarchists and leftists still literally expect that an ongoing worsening of economical conditions and the fantasy of a collapse of capitalism wrongly perceived as “just around the corner” will give rise to the necessary “revolutionary consciousness” that will wipe oppression once and for all from the face of the earth. At the same time many among them coincide in blaming “the cuts”, and the undermining of Welfare state as the evil that must be fought against by all means necessary totally failing to recognise the most important problem of our times namely; the practical death of community and responsible individuality.In other words, the unsung tragedy of our times is that of the extinction of community spirit as such along with a well understood concept of the individual as a person with both free will and responsibilities towards him/herself and towards the others, with the capacity and duty at the same time of reflecting in their behaviour and take accountability for their mistakes. All this is nearly gone and we do not seem to feel very concerned about it.Simply state and capitalism have been making their duty to destroy the sort of attitude that used to lie in the basic psychological make up of any revolutionary, freedom loving behaviour in order to create the perfect slave for the last 5 decades at least especially after the 2WW, when Welfare State was established as the main ideological and material weapon against the cause of freedom and equality.
Against this massive operation of mind-narrowing aimed at instilling cowardice and conformism everywhere in society the antediluvian theoretical frameworks of most anarchist and leftist schools of thought can do nothing at all. The enemy has not stopped evolving and developing new weapons as well as new arguments to literally convince people that it is better buying the artificial freedom provided by market seductions than leading a live of their own even if personal dignity must be endured with a great deal of difficult moments and sometimes suffering. Rebellion, ideals, values… all this is not fashion any more… it is so 1960’s!!… so what does the answer of Anarchism, Leftism and most residual revolutionary currents to this state of affairs consists of?… apparently just remaining stuck in old fashioned economical determinism or in the unmovable, eternal truths of Marx, Bakunin, Saint Bonanno or Netchaiev… or coming up with insane inventions such as that of waging “war on society” as a whole…
There is something about economical determinism beyond the very true acknowledgement of the importance of economical issues in people’s life. When economicism is overstretched and taken as the magical formula bound to explain everything under the sun what we can be expected is nothing but some kind of prophetic thinking that usually does not work at all. People take resort to rebellion when they can take no more, and when the right set of “objective conditions” (always of a material-economical kind of course) takes place. That is all. That is how for Anarchism, Marxism and Leftism in general whether reformist or revolutionary self-interest also constitutes after all, the main reason to rebel. So one does not abandon selfishness until everything becomes so fucked up that no option is left but unite with the others and fight. No wonder that in most cases a few reforms from the state are usually enough to break a false sense of “solidarity” that does not last beyond a specific single-issued struggle. But what is even more striking is the fact that after more than 200 years in the History of these movements such a view has always remained unchallenged at the core of the aforementioned ideologies and that their subsequent developments which is to say; anti-capitalist and anti-state ideas share one of the main traits of those “bourgeois” ideologies opposed to them be these fascism or liberal representative democracy.
Hence how so many people, lefty and even anarchist organisations have traditionally failed to notice the long history of rejection to the use of money, the implementation of the logic of mass-production and the anti-ethics of self-interest, personal profit and “prosperity” to their habitats seen in many historical moments and communities. As people saw in the latter a threat with the potential to thwart their specific community traditions, personal autonomy, freedom of action and movement, beliefs and way of life many reacted in ways similar to that of the Luddites in this country for instance as well as others before, at the same time and after them.
The core question here is that we need to realise that self-interest and competition, although always present in human life, do not occupy such a central role in the existence of most human beings and the idea of its centrality is nothing but mere propaganda that has been forcefully embedded in collective mentality in order to turn us into a reflection of our masters. If we carry on basing our political activity in the assumption that people will react when “the situation gets to an unbearable point” we will be just gambling and doing not revolutionary activity at all since a situation of total material deprivation and anomie (history speaks volumes about this) very few times lead to a revolutionary social change compared to the amount of times in which it has served as a support for reactionary regimes if not to pure social cannibalism.
Rebellions are not the same as revolutions. Material conditions alone may lead to uprisings with the potential to lead towards literally anything and not necessarily to a positive outcome or a social improvement. However if what we want is a social revolution with a total change of social and economical relations, destruction of the state, prisons etc… then we need a new type of ethics, we need to develop convincing and accurate analyses and the appropriate sort of actions for every single occasion. We need a voluntary and never imposed regeneration of the human individual to be made as much extensive as possible to the general society, perhaps through a generalisation of serious and mature debate, reflection and actions fitted to the new levels of analyses and ethical excellence displayed. Eventually we need to work in all this before any sort of catastrophic event, societal collapse or armed conflict breaks out. In other words; this is the most important job right now, even if it entails to slow down a little bit and stop hiding our lack of tactical intelligence, debate and knowledge of the world around us behind the appearance of a restless as much as sterile activism. One of the features that makes Anarchism great as a revolutionary potency has always been the all too often forgotten notion of behavioural example, the dignity of doing at all times what is right and fair expecting nothing in exchange. So we should do as groups as well as individuals.
Going back to the matter of the summer riots, it amazes me how among so many sanctimonious explanations insisting in pinning down cuts, economical poverty and other stereotypical half-truths as the main reasons for the riots to happen almost everybody has failed to see in the feelings created by Mark Duggan’s murder and the constant stop and search humiliating policies one of the main triggers. The latter are not sheer material reasons to rebel but something much deeper than all that. Perhaps it may reveal after all a glimpse of these part of humanity that seems to have been lost nowadays. Pride, loyalty, dignity, solidarity, self-respect… formed part of the powder that somehow ignited the rioting despite all the negative aspects of it and its many flaws. On the other hand however, it would be utterly stupid to expect too much from the actions of people who have been indoctrinated to behave as the poor version of any city executive. What varies here is just the social extraction and the unequal opportunities to access a materialistic haven that otherwise both social groups crave for in equal measure. If there is not a conscience of what is being done in the rioter´s brain his actions will always lack the potential to transcend the stage of a child wiping because he wants a candy.
It should not be forgotten as so many activists possessed by an irrational and stupefying optimism have been doing so often that many among these guys are all too used to attack each other for the most spurious reasons in a regular basis. Thus no “revolutionary subject” capable of realising a “redistribution of wealth” can emerge just from “material conditions of deprivation” alone. The “get as much as you can grab” behaviour displayed by most rioters does not stem from a conscious desire for socialisation of wealth but from sheer selfishness and sometimes even competition with others to get more than them. The experience of looting in the riots was a private act and nothing more than that all the way long and it never went beyond such instinctual, primitive stage. It seems to me so that more than just blind rage a political consciousness is on the other hand much more needed. Moreover, this is not usually acquired just through the sheer experience of poverty alone but through personal will power along with the determination to learn from one´s mistakes and fight for something meaningful. In the end the emergence of a revolutionary subject boils down to a firstly personal and only subsequently collective decision. There is not such a thing as an “still unconscious but potential revolutionary”… There is not revolutionary collective or individual but the one who consciously chooses to be so and acts as such, end of the story. The rest is just self-delusion; again looking at reality the way we would like it to be rather than as it is, no matter how much or how little we like it.
A few words on “community”
Community, probably one among the most over-used and degenerated words in English vocabulary. 21st century new speak, with all its extensive collection of euphemisms is aimed at making the plans of the state and capitalism pass for something positive for the exploited and dominated ones. Our masters re-invent the language in the way that most suits their interests showing no hesitation at all in borrowing terminology from former revolutionary and liberation movements. But really, what does our masters call community?, does it have anything to do at all with what could be good for people?
The truth is that no community exists any more in the UK. Draconian legislation combined with the expansion of the police state to every single aspect of live are the solutions found by our masters to impose the forceful state of tense pacification needed by them to carry on with their business as usual. All those posters of smiley faces telling every one the right and wrong way of conducting themselves in public, all the legislation on “hate crime” supposedly oriented to end racism and sexism, to promote “multiculturalism”… every single intervention or campaign promoted and funded by the state are nothing but a smoke screen. Philanthropic messages used to hide the ultimate issue, the core objective of such policies which is no other than maintaining public order at all costs through a large increase in the capacity of the state to intervene in every aspect of individual existence.
Truly healthy communities can only exist outside and against the influence of capitalism and the state. The latter are by their very same nature anti-community forces, heralds of a totally distorted and poisonous concept of individualism that sanctions cruelty, competence and dominion over others as a natural way of life.
Hence that all those states populated by either overworked or benefit dependant highly deranged individuals and their not less deranged families, left to rot at their own devices but at the same time receiving the propaganda according to which they too will some day be able to become the owners of that car or those expensive sport shoes, can be considered anything but a community. At most they might form massive heaps of people living on top of each other in the cheapest housing available, stubbornly fighting against one another instead of uniting forces against a common enemy just because they are continuously having their brains worked upon by “education”, media messages and stressful lives to prevent them from thinking too much about their situation.
However alienation can never be used as an excuse to clear those who suffer it from a certain degree of responsibility on their own misery. Alienation always goes hand in hand with the negligence and unwillingness of the population who suffers it to accept their own responsibility in perpetuating this cycle of to a great extent openly tolerated oppression. To acknowledge that in the end they are being fouled every day and that no benefit allowance can restore the slightest lease of dignity back into their precarious lives. Victimism alone never applies to social situations beyond certain degree of complexity, beyond the sheer limit of physical survival and places where starvation for example are a common occurrence. Obviously this is not the case of any UK urban agglomeration… yet.
Community; within the current police state this word is clearly being used to hide what it is really going on, to define what could not be defined otherwise than a sheer human landfill, a depot for the wrecks of 3rd class inhabitants of the UK’s urban hells. Haunted by all the ailments of poverty, drugs, underpayment, dependence on the twisted mechanism of the benefit system and propaganda the populations of this places can be expected anything but cooperate, unite and fight. If they ever dared to do something like that the threat of taking away their job seeker allowances, income supports and other benefits would suffice to deactivate them. Once again, God bless the Welfare state.
The solution to such a grim scenario though does not imply a renunciation to community as such. Humans are social animals and the “war on society” promoted by those Nihilist so in fashion now a days cannot be considered anything but a hallucinatory reaction of those too impatient to accept that the long way of social war has its ups and downs. Every human group or community has problems, power relationships and different synergies playing inside them. That is part of the very same problem of live in general. Many affinity groups, no matter how nihilists they might claim to be have informal leaderships well established within themselves.
The question is not denying this negative complexities but learning how to keep them at bay, how to give them a positive dimension and use and how to detect them before they degenerate into a new form of oppression. Such is the duty contained by the revolutionary effort. The fact that no human group, community or even individual will ever be totally free from the risk of being taken over by its dark side should not discourage us from trying to bring about the best qualities of humanity, whether individual or collective and making them stay permanently. It should be made clear once and for all that revolution, social war means, above all self-improvement and constant effort, that there is not a defined end to it other than constantly striving to get ourselves and our communities better and better provided they are worth and healthy. Revolution means to correct any wrong doing in the best possible manner.
The riots and austerity Britain in context
Capitalism is clearly not coming to an end but enduring a period of deep crisis in those countries that traditionally embraced it with the greatest faith in its condition as a reflection on what human nature must or rather should supposedly be like. Laissez-faire, cut-throat, survival of the fittest initial capitalism was followed in time by the most approachable “Welfare state” version of itself through which the state was made to appear as the great provider, the saviour of the poor. However the real cost of maintaining a welfare state in Western countries was well felt in those other nations of the so-called “Third World” whose resources have been systematically plundered so that we can keep our high levels of consumption and “welfare” going on in the rich countries.
Back at home, the increasing delegation of many functions historically developed by grass roots organisations of the old workers movement to the state lead to the near disappearance of any sort of community self-organisation outside and opposed to the binomial state-capitalism. If the classical worker’s movement, especially in its anarchist branch aimed at eventually (although some sooner than others) overthrow the state, now the latter has come to be considered as some sort of inevitable necessary evil.
In this matter the influence of most communist parties worldwide along with every single social-democrat party and sadly enough some anarcho-syndicalist formations proved totally nefarious. Most of them failed to notice and so to criticise and attack the ever increasing and nowadays seemingly unstoppable power of the media and state propaganda to mould the minds of the oppressed, seduce them and turn them into willing accomplices of the system while remaining stuck in their traditional economicism. The notion of indoctrination and mind manipulation of the masses could not otherwise be challenged by a left highly dependent on the whims emanated from their Moscow chiefs, experts themselves in the crafts of propaganda as they were. Trade-unionism did also its share in this matter by doing their best to turn the struggle of the working class into a mere quarrel about salaries, funding (especially their own) and contracts… in other words; they brought corruption to the worker’s struggle by burying revolutionary ideals and alternative organisational proposals in a thick layer of oblivion and reducing everything to money issues.
In a world in which badly understood commercially oriented individualism was set loose, any value regarding community, effort, struggle had by force to become something from the past, some sort of old-fashioned boring verborrhagia. Skills on how to self-organise at the most basic levels were lost and the poor were turned into some sort of state aid junkies, constantly striving to gain access to the new panacea in exchange of their dignity, their individual skills to self-organise (and those of their descendants), their own popular culture and their consent to be listed, managed,filed and eventually computerised this is, better controlled by the state. Former dead zones in terms of space and time where the control of the state and so as well of capitalism could not reach were lost forever. Only nowadays, in a moment in which Welfare state has finally become impracticable and the whole social space belongs to the enemy such a loss is becoming clearer than ever. CCTV networks provide us here with the best possible metaphor about this catastrophic loss.
Applying what has been said above to the context of the urban areas (especially those located in London) where the 2011 Summer riots took place we find the perfect manifestation of such a degree of decomposition at all levels, being this mental or physical, spiritual or material.
Many have rushed to blame the lack of proper educational facilities in these neighbourhoods, the state of their schools due to lack of funding and the elitism implicit in the management of monetary educational assignments through “League tables”. Although provided with a certain degree of truth this views are anyway highly misguiding since they fail to notice the very fact that schools, as it happens as well with the whole educational system from the lower to the highest ranks constitute nothing but the official and most immediate apparatus of capitalist and state propaganda. All those progressive statements about compulsory schooling as a great gain for the most disadvantaged social strata fail also to appreciate two questions here: Firstly that such an ideal application of education as a vehicle for social mobility has never worked completely under capitalist conditions. The rich have always found alternative ways to give their offspring a better and more privileged chance; hence private schools and universities or the invention of “masters” and “Phd’s” as an extension to the completion of a mere three or four years degree. Secondly it is not true that schooling was created out of some sort of philanthropic turn within capitalism. School no matter how religious or lay it may claim to be, is the institution for the domestication of the youth. It never was and will never be the solution to “social divide” and the promoter of “equal opportunities” so dear to social-democracy and Leninism.
So the mind of the youth is moulded by the education system for a reason. The “reason d’etat” is always present in every single paragraph of the syllabus and the national curriculum. Having their younger members kidnapped at the most tender age to get the ideology of the system well shoved up in their brains is not the best option for the working class to stop being waged slaves and break free from their condition some day. The thing is so self-evident that all the emphasis placed by so many and so well-intentioned leftists in causes like the one begging to increase funding for schools should begin to sound as what it truly is; a very bad joke.
Let us be clear and settle this point once and for all; the reason why so many parents from poor backgrounds send their children to school is that they do not have enough time out of work to look after them by themselves. They just need some place where to “stash” the kids while they are not around the house. Everybody knows at least in London that sending a kid to certain schools equates to the fact of preventing him or her from becoming an ”achiever” within the logic of capitalist labour market and dooming them to a future of bad salaries, benefits and misery. The state knows this and so it does not bother wasting any money in schools where the teachers are constantly overloaded with the expectation of super-humanly fixing those “behavioural faults” of their pupils that parents failed to correct at home in the first place.
Instead what the state might well be arranging for this dangerously increasing segment of the population is their future welcoming to the ranks of the Army and the security forces as fortress Britain and the world in general begins to undergo a new era of uncertainty, crises, rival super-powers struggling to take over the role of the presently declining USA empire, new regional conflicts and scuffles for markets and resources. All of it leading to a dramatic increase in the militarisation of public live and spaces, whose first stages we are currently witnessing in London via the golden excuse of Olympic philanthropy and pseudo-humanism. From the airports straight into the big metropolis. Social engineering of crowd control. State and capitalism foreseeing the exponential growth of an enemy within, among their increasingly impoverished population. The military, the police, private security companies and TSG as the greatest employers of the future. What is coming does not look good.
Will the rioters of today become the cops, hitmen and military of tomorrow?
Also, and since the all too useful and politically motivated connections between the mob, narcotics, petty crime and the police in times of crises and social disintegration should never be underestimated; should we also wonder if those among these kids who would not make it into this sort of “jobs” could get to be put to a better use as drug dealers, pimps or “black market” smugglers?… One thing is for sure; such a grim state of affairs could only be averted by the conscious action of those targeted to be its victims beyond any delusional reformism aimed at finding false solutions within the very same structures that create the problems. State and capitalism are these structures. The more the individuals buy into their mindset the more they become their willing slaves. Change must begin in the field of thinking, consciousness and ethics as much as in the field of street action.
What can we anarchists do about this?
True crises or early revolutionary situations normally involve a lot of improvisation but it is also true that the more prepared we are beforehand the better we will be able to respond to any challenging and potentially social changing event. The opposite is just as right; the more ill prepared and caught by surprise we remain the worse will we be able to react (if anything at all) and the less capacity to manoeuvre within the new terrain and flow of events we will count on.
So what we need to really start working on with no more delay is in reaching a certain degree of consensus and cooperation among different groups and schools of thinking within Anarchism, overcoming the present tiresome and pathetic sectarianism that characterises “the movement” (if such a thing actually exists which is dubious) in the UK. We need then to develop a fair level of tolerance with each other as well as a diversity of tactics liable of application under different conditions according to different practical and tactical approaches. We need to learn to cooperate with each other whether individually or collectively and to welcome internal differences turning them into a source for the whole movement to get enriched rather than impoverished and mutilated which is what happens now a days. An overarching common policy of collective understanding and diversity of tactics needs to be urgently and consciously implemented the sooner the better for time my friends is fucking running out.
Also the cultural level must be increased among most militants. We must begin seriously reading, studying and analysing the world around us in an innovative way beyond the dusty old ideologies from the 19th century as much as from those of the 60th and 70th decades of the former century. The latter obviously also includes Bonanno’s writings and Nihilism among many other authors and collectives whose contribution may be highly valuable (nobody is denying that in here) but finds itself indeed scattered with flagrant flaws that must be either corrected or done away with forever. No anti-intellectualism can justify any negligence about this. Brain work is as much important as showing muscle in the streets. It is about time for all of us to start asking ourselves about the biggest and most important questions such as economy, radical Anthropology, study of the military and the way in which the enemy works, intelligence gathering, tactics, strategy, political Philosophy and analysis of current affairs. A proper Anarchist independent discourse, actualised and adapted to the present times is still badly needed and no many British militants seem to worry too much about it. As long as we do not solve this problem our proposals will remain secondary and highly laughable, leaving the massive chasm in between Anarchist and those parts of the common population more likely to suffer the impact of the ongoing civilisation crisis untouched or even worse, making it more and more broad. We are not living through a crisis like others before but something much bigger than that.
These times we are going through are History on the making and we need to be prepared to navigate them as much dynamically as possible. We need to free ourselves and our movement from the curse of being always following others, tailing them in demonstrations, in the riots, in political actions of any kind. We need our own space and scope of action and it must be a seriously organised and efficient one, encompassing all of us and all sorts of tactics from peaceful resistance to open armed struggle.
Perhaps, when the next riots come to happen (if they do) we will be in a position to take to the streets and do our own messing around rather than just pathetically following whoever might be petroling stuff or looting at the time. Perhaps we will be able to carry out our own actions and sensibly choose our own targets engaging at the same time with other rioters from the so-called urban “underclass” just by means of sheer example. Perhaps that is the way of developing some alliances and mutual cooperation with them rather than by trying to uselessly preaching around about something they might not feel very inclined to hear, at least initially.
We need to get engaged with common people and make our message more public, visible and ubiquitous. But the achievement of this must be preceded by a whole change of mentality among all of us. We must become more open, tolerant and honest with each other. Our differences should be sported as a sign of openness, heterodoxy, resourcefulness, equality, and freedom and not as the shameful spectacle of infighting, back-stabbing and pointless gossip into which we appear so keen to turn them. Difference is a blessing, not an obstacle. At least that is the way it should be. Let us leave then the “unique revolutionary ways” to the authoritarians… unless we do not differ from them as much as we may think… do we?