Birmingham riots: Against all divisions in the working class

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The riots that took place in the Lozells area of Birmingham during one weekend in October were a further reminder of the threat posed to the working class by the rotting of the capitalist system.

Fuelled by rumours that a young black immigrant had been raped by 3 Asian youths, the tensions between black and Asian 'communities' rose to the point where for several nights clashes took place between black and Asian youths. An IT worker - Isaiah Young-Sam - was on his way home from the cinema when he was stabbed to death. Another man was shot dead not far from the scene the following evening. The rape allegations have so far been unproved, and it seems likely that they were started by rival shopkeepers desperate to put each other out of business.

What led to this situation? It is important to see that the collapse into mob violence is not an isolated event. For many decades the inner city areas of Britain - as in any other country, 'developed' or 'developing' - have seen high unemployment and deprivation. The economic crisis in the 1980s hit these areas hardest and the lack of perspective offered by capitalism has led to proletarians from the younger generation taking out their frustrations in confrontations with the police that offer no way forward. The riots currently sweeping France have exactly the same origin. However, the deepening of capitalist decomposition has added more sinister elements. The remorseless rise of gangsterism and drug-related crime – combined with the strengthening of racism and religious fundamentalism - is eroding away at the basic elements of class solidarity, leading to greater levels of irrational and anti-social behaviour.

Some forces on the bourgeois political spectrum are actively stirring up these divisions. The desecration of a Muslim graveyard in Birmingham in the wake of the riots was claimed by a group calling itself ‘Black Nation’; in fact it was probably the work of fascists out to sharpen racial divisions. But the reaction of the ‘official’ and ‘democratic’ sectors of the ruling class is equally dangerous. They preach multi-culturalism, anti-racism, solidarity between ‘communities’. But real solidarity can’t be built up by the working class losing itself in a patchwork of religious, racial or national identities. Real solidarity means defending the common interests of all the exploited against the interests of the exploiters.

Spencer, 5/11/05.