UK Riots (was NHS Reform)

31 posts / 0 new
Last post
UK Riots (was NHS Reform)
Printer-friendly version

The discussion that follows was prompted by the article: NHS reform: Government 'U-turn' continues same cost cutting. The discussion was initiated by kinglear.
Below is the discussion so far. Feel free to add your own comments!

You can call the cuts to the

You can call the cuts to the NHS 'reform' if you want. It's probably the bourgeoisie's preferred word. But really it's an example of looting. The bourgeoisie are a class of looters. They looted Africa in the 19th century; and they've more or less completed their looting of the whole planet as an Eco-system in the 20th. Now, as their economic system collapses around them, they are reduced to more local looting. They are doing it to the NHS, welfare services, libraries, youth clubs, all education that isn't private, in short, to all benefits they have so generously bestowed on the working class in return for that class going along with it's own exploitation ie looting.

Yet now, when suddenly we have young people all over England (and doubtless elsewhere in the world) going in for a bit of their own looting, the bourgeoisie is angered and outraged. This is unacceptable they scream. This is criminal! They don't appreciate however, that what is truly criminal is that the lives of these largely unemployed, badly educated, totally impoverished youth with no expectations for an improved future, have been looted and ruined by the bourgeoisie and their exploitative system, since the day they were born.

That the young have been reduced miserably to riots and looting is a sad and unhappy business. But there is a hope. As the working class begins to fight back against it's own lootation, as surely it must in time, then these alienated young people will see a sign of hope, and joining the proletariats' class struggle against the destructive, criminal force of capital will be freed from the stultifying horror of life under it's rule, and the need to riot and loot.

looted by the bourgeoisie

 That's a pretty good way of describing what's going on here. We are discussing the meaning of these riots and hope to get something out soon. All thoughts are welcome.  

Red Hughs
The bourgeois indeed has

The bourgeois indeed has always been a class of looters...

One distinction is that the 19th century bourgeois looted and built.

The present day bourgeois seems to be more purely looting - an incoherent "policy" by default.

The goal of the wealthy-but-not-super-wealthy everywhere is to "get rich and get out" but the question of where to go thus becomes a bit of a problem for them...






There's a good piece on the

There's a good piece on the riots on the ICT website. It talks of them being an "indication of incipient social collapse", a "social environment which is crumbling", "an increasingly harsh and violent world" of "capitalist crisis and decay". One could say capitalist decomposition. The article makes the point that life at the bottom of capitalism reflects the life of it at the top, cut-throat competition, each for themself and a get what one can outlook. There is also the element of gangs, that substitute for solidarity and community, and gangsterism that is also reflective of decaying capitalist society. 

As the article says, it's not the responsibility of communists to denounce looting but to situate it in the unfolding of the crisis of capitalism overall. I've not been convinced by the idea of "collateral damage" by some elements on libcom, that is that if people get hurt they are victims in a war being fought. I think that workers being burnt out of their homes and attacked in the streets is a negative development and the idea of "collateral damage" is again a reflection of capitalist ideology.

Police and state repression will now increase apace in line with the increase that was already taking place, which itself wasn't an insignificant factor in the present outbursts. But as the ICT says, these events have been building up for some time under both Labour and Tory governments. The police are saying that they will get serious now against the "kid glove" role they played in the student protests - as if they were "kid glove" in their attacks on the protests and the protesters.

Incidentally, I the libcom site is presently down, whether through increased traffic or not I don't know.


Re-invent the wheel?

I agree with Baboon: the ICT article on the riots is a good and speedy first response. True, it doesn't go into the roots of decomposition - the historic social stalemate between the major classes - though it's there by implication. So a "heretical" suggestion: with a short introduction, and with all due acknowledgement of and links to the source, why not reproduce it? The ICC uses material from other organisations (ie the reflection on Greece) and further, future articles could expand and go into issues in more depth. Sometimes, however, time is of the essence..... It would also be a statement in practice of the underlying unity of left communist principles and analyses and a concrete demonstration of the struggle against sectarianism. Just a thought.

I tend to agree with the

I tend to agree with the above, particularly that the section of the ICC in Britain appears to be quite late in effectively addressing this question (which it already has positions to base itself upon and its international importance).

I also think that the Admin should change the name of this thread and make it clear to a casual observer that there is a discussion on the riots going on in the website of the ICC's section in Britain.

I am sure the comrades in

I am sure the comrades in WR are working on something. I thought the ICT rejected the notion of decomposition as utterly "idealist"?


I'm sure they are. The ICC's reaction (and not just in English) to events in Spain, Norway, Israel and elsewhere show they are well on the ball during the "quiet summer". Neither do I wish to paste over important diferences between the two left communist organisations (decomposition being one of the ICT's current incomprehensions, as JK points out).

Nonetheless, the need for a speedy communist orientation on an event that has gripped the world, takes precedence. And if (maybe Baboon and I assume too much here) the ICT statement can fulfill that task while further, more in-depth reflections are prepared, well why not?

I have often been sickened by the ICT (or its forebearers') refusal to work with the ICC on statements of basic, common importance (the Gulf wars are just two examples). The ICC is bigger than that: always has been, IMO.

Also agree with Baboon: can "we" (in inverted commas, to recognise how easy it is to give advice from 'the outside', while real, concrete, militant work demands constant committment) change the title of this thread?



Change of title for the thread

 It is clear that this thread is about the riots so it would be better to have a different title, it would help others to join in the discussion as well.

These are important events and because of this as an organisation we want to provide the clearest framework we can, and comrade JK is right to say we are working on it.  So we ask comrades to bear with us. The wait will be worth it!

Thread title changed...

The title of this thread has been changed to take into account the recent developments. Just to reinforce what Ernie has said, please bear with us. We are in the process of taking position on the riots (and the News International scandal for that matter). Whatever happened to the 'silly season'?!?!?

The wait will be worth it

The wait will be worth it according to Ernie, so we'll wait just to add to the tension. In the meantime, it doesn't stop us from supporting and welcoming the position of the ICT, which is a proletarian response.

I caught up with some of the discussion on libcom and there are explicit references on there, in response to the idea of these type of riots being expressions of class struggle, to capitalist decomposition as being the fundamental cause.


UK Student debt loads to double for those starting university in 2012. Maybe education isn't all its cracked up to be. Seems Cameron's "broken society" is only going to get worse. As the article says,

"The National Union of Students (NUS) said it was worrying that the survey shows that almost 25% of the debt graduates are likely to have will be owed to sources other than the Student Loans Company. President Liam Burns said: "The fact that the Government thinks it's OK to hang an amount of debt equivalent to a small mortgage over someone's head while they study is one thing, but leaving young people reliant on commercial credit just to stay in education is scandalous."

Of course, this has been the fate of many young people in the U.S. for decades........

The ICT have many excellent

The ICT have many excellent articles on their web site: they are usually brief, to-the-point, and well-written. The ICC also have many excellent articles too. A literary critic might point out differences, but they don't matter. What matters is that both organizations put forward their analyses of the bourgeoisie's predicament, and explain the proletarian solution. So it's a bit mean to find irresistible a jab like "I thought the ICT rejected the notion of decomposition as "idealist"?", as if this is a key issue.

But back to the looters. Cameron is beginning to be a perceptive critic of capitalism himself. First we had the "broken society" and now we've got the sick part too. Parts of our society are sick, proclaims the prime minister, who seems only to have noticed this recently. The working class could have pointed this out to him long ago. We could also tell him why it's sick and broken, and why this makes ridiculous his other idea of "the big society" in which workers are supposed to make sacrifices to save capitalism, by putting money in it's begging bowl.The bourgeoisie world-wide appear to be in denial of what's really happening to their system, as if, like the Third Reich, it's expected to last a thousand years. But they will use the looters as an excuse to tighten up repression. Where is the working class in all of this? When will we fight?

The issue of decomposition is

The issue of decomposition is about as key as they get, I think. The reason for my "jab" was the fact that Baboon was pointing out quotes from their statement that would seem to indicate some recognition of "decomposition" without using the term. I found that odd given the ICT have expressely condemended the ICC's analysis of decomposition for quite some time, that's all. Sorry if this came off snarky, that wasn't the intention.

I find Cameron's statements intriguing also. The UK is "sick," and "broken," "Multiculturalism has failed," etc. Its hard to imagine a U.S. politican using such language to describe the "greatest country on earth," whatever its problems.

JK’s claim that

JK’s claim that “The issue of decomposition is about as key as they get” is telling. The ICT’s excellent article gives the same account of the social dislocation caused by capitalism in crisis that we would expect from the ICC. The difference lies in in the way that the ICC has built a theoretical framework around it (pace ‘parasiticism’, ‘the left in opposition’ blah, blah blah) – these frameworks become a way of defining the organisation against others (a consequence of 40 years of isolation) but also unfortunately serve to polarise debate and put off militants who might be gravitating towards communist positions: creating an elaborate (and unnecessary) theoretical superstucture that can be presented as ‘key’. KT’s suggestion that the ICC republish the ICT statement is an excellent one, but wont happen – both groups are locked into their own group identity, to the despair of those of us who see that what both organisations have in common overwhelms their differences. It’s at moments of crisis, like today’s, that such mutual suspicion becomes tragic.

So if the ICT appear to talk

So if the ICT appear to talk about decomposition without using the actual term, well what's wrong with that? Is it so vital a word? Will it's lack of use derail the revolution? I hope, quite selfishly, the ICC won't use the ICT's article but will publish their own, on the grounds that two articles are better than one, and they will complement each other. But I take shug's point that there exists a number of us who regret the separation of ICT and ICC - and indeed all other proletarian groups isolated from each other - "to the despair of those of us who see that what both organizations have in common overwhelms their differences." But I appreciate that forty years of isolation, separation, and a need to be on the defensive, is not easily overcome. That is all passed now however. So: Proletarian organizations of the world unite. You have nothing to lose, and we, the working class, have everything to gain.

RIOTS - Not the main feature of decomposition

Having been one of those who asked the ICC to switch this thread to the GB riots (is anyone calling them social revolts?) I'm unwilling to stray too far off topic. Five people have died (along with the riots themselves) and the bourgeoisie is now indulging in an orgy of 24-hour kangaroo courts, recriminations (between police and politicians, between different political factions) and plans for future repression. What unites all these factions, of course, is a determination to use this product of decomposition against the working class - ideologically and materially. We'd expect nothing less.

Regarding some of the comments above: perhaps they'll be better taken up in more detail elsewhere. For myself, while I agree with Shug that different "theories" should not be used just to define one organisation against another, I don't think this can be an argument against developing 'theorey'. I presume Shug himself adheres to quite a few, including, perhaps, an opposition to the idea that trades unions can be used to further working class struggle, or perhaps the idea that capitalist society is no longer a progressive mode of social organisation.

Regarding the theory of decomposition, I'll just say that this is more than a mere descriptive envelope for a few riots here or there but something much deeper stemming from the phase of class relations revealed by the collapse of the former Eastern Bloc over 20 years ago. To be radical is to go to the root and not remain on surface appearances. This shouldn't be a barrier to discussion but, on the contrary, should promote it. It's undeniable that this discussion doesn't always happen, or happens in 'bad faith' marked more by a willingness to score points rather than to understand and deepen. We all have a role to play in this process.

Engels said...

"A class which bears all the disadvantages of the social order without enjoying its advantages…Who can demand that such a class respect this social order ?"

The Condition of the Working Class in England 1844

Not a vindication or justification of the riots, nor  an underplaying of the social disintegration and failure to integrate new generations of proletarians they represent, but still worth recalling, I felt.

I don't think decomposition

I don't think decomposition is just a "word." The ICC have put it forward as a fundamental analysis of the period, a key to understanding the historic stakes of this era of captialism. If on the other hand, you believe the theory of decompostion is idealist you will likely come to other conclusions. If the ICT is producing a leaflet that seems to acknowledge decomposition, that is a major development. The notion that we should avoid having "key" concepts or even a theoretical framework because they promote a "group identity" seems to reflect a modernist suspicion of organizations altogether. 

We don't know yet if anyone is calling the events in GB "social revolts," because we are still waiting for WR's statement.

jk1921 says: "We don't know

jk1921 says: "We don't know yet if anyone is calling the events in GB "social revolts," because we are still waiting for WR's statement." Isnt this a peculiar thing to say? KT also wonders whether anyone is calling the riots "social revolts". But the two of you will have to wait till WR tells us what they are!

I think "decomposition" is a very helpful concept for understanding what's happening, though I've only just caught up with the idea that it stems from the collapse of the soviet empire. My fault. I don't see however why anyone would think it was an idealist thing to come up with, nor why that should be held against them for ever if they did think that, for whatever reason. In any case it's a beautifully descriptive word for the condition the bourgeoisie's society finds itself in, and the riots prove that, as does the silly argument the bourgs are having about who is to blame. It's amazing that they can't see it's their wonderful, disintegrating, economic system. For who can demand that the working class, or anybody else, respect this social order? Nobody does anymore. It stinks. Engels hit the nail on the head.

We Don't Know Yet ...

Thank you JK ,

I know what Kinglear means but I think your statement is an honest expression of the place of Revolutionary Organisations in the class struggle .

I am just a simpleton : I seek guidance : I am lazy : I can' t be arsed to do the work the ICC do .....

That's why I am content to wait perhaps even more than 72 hours for a far more solid response ..if that's all right with his majesty the KIng ? :@} ( I have a bus pass too so we can be blunt can we not ? )

BUT : 

if you read the articles on Decadence and decomposition : and start to really think about how they are NOT synonymous with Barbarism ( which itself can be clarified : organised barbarism : WW II : chaotic barbarism : random acts of 'revenge-against-oppression' ( including burning proletarian homes ) then you might find that answers to many of your questions have been there for at least 7 years .

And if you read the articles in WR 102/103/ ' Why Have The Proletariat Not Overthrown Capitalism ?' ( a pretty honest question eh ? ) then maybe you will see that the ICC has really done its job in 'laying down clear class positions' in advance of the problem - whether general or specific't that what the 'avant-garde ' is supposed to do ? 

Not because the ICC are psychic .....they are just ......well..... forensically correct ( in my opinion ) as far as the 'movement ' of the revolutionary milieu is concerned ........and - fear not - I am not a member ...having fallen out with them more times than I care to recount : trouble is 'in the final analysis' ( as Marx liked to write ) I could never fault their assessments of the 'Bilan' : the balance sheet of class forces and how it theoretically affected the course of proletarian action .


Which brings me on to my next point re : the CWO/PCI or whoever :

a) 'Decadence is 'outside Marxism' .......what on earth does that mean ? Marx himself devoted his whole life to delineating the birth , growth , ascendancy , decline of 'all hitherto societies' : i.e. he wrote the book on class struggle ...

b) SO when the PCI say that decadence is 'outside Marxism' I can scarcely contain my laughter : if WW II ( one blatant example of Capitalism looking for a way out of its decadence and the crisis of over -production ) is 'outside Marxism' , they are saying that WW II is outside History ....ahahahahaha ! ( sorry couldn't contain it any longer)

c) The PCI also describe the thousands and thousands of words - well-founded critique - as a 'hazy idea' : christ ! how often have I wished that the ICC would put forward just ONE 'hazy-idea' know ...just for a simpleton like me..... but NO always solid stuff

I just don't get it : it's as if other groups in the milieu - to whom of course is due just as much respect ( if deserved ) - think that the ICC over 30 plus years have done all this unpaid work ( HA !) just to - pardon my French - f*ck up everyone else .......ludicrous , pathetic , why waste time 'defending' positions against cubist thinkers with a solipsistic agendas ?


We Don't Know Yet ...

Double post...

Thank you A Simpleton for

Thank you A Simpleton for your link to the article on Decomposition which I haven't read before. I am shattered by it! It may have been there for seven years, but I have only had access to the Internet for eight months. (This is my own fault. But it's also my excuse.) So I have exposed my ignorance. But one useful thing that came out of that, A.Simpleton, is that it provoked you into an actively useful response for which I am grateful.

Something that doesn't happen enough on this forum - in my opinion, if I still have any legitimacy left - is that in discussing the riots and Decomposition, people actually began to exchange views in a sort of open reciprocal way: without the weight of those who know, scaring off those who are trying to find out. But it's time to get back to my reading. Thank you.

The open reciprocal way ...


Thank you for your kind words : but believe me I was simply passing on the contextural revolutionary reading I was motivated to do by these dramatic , if chaotic ,events : forced off the 'sofa of my lethargy' .

Your - as always - forthright and human comments in the face of the 'experts' ( 'they' don't mean to scare us off but....) is actually what encouraged me to return .


The 'uneveness' of development in both the forces and relations of production throughout the globe is not only a problem for The Urban Proletariat , it is self evidently a problem for the 'avant-garde' .

It is vital that there is clarity ....but , when any attempt to make a difficult concept 'understandable' with an even slightly over-simplified analogy or whatever , is sliced to pieces with the scalpals of revolutionary erudition , I think ....Oh well......and the drift back to the sofa begins .

I meant it when I said I had fallen out with the ICC many times : but these were NOT for reasons of principle or practice : just personal and therefore at least 50% my fault :@}


They really have covered so much ground theoretically , consistently , and practically : and even this doubting Thomas returns to their literature alone if he needs the real News At Ten .



I think that in response to

I think that in response to some of the above (and A.S.), we should also use the ICC's search facility for uncovering texts and positions. There's plenty on riots as such - and though the position to come will be nuanced, it will not (or shouldn't be) fundamentally different than discussion and positions before. The same applies to decomposition.

I agree with the gist of A. Simpleton on positions and agree with KT that the question of decomposition, capitalism rotting on its feet in the absence of decisive class struggle, is much deeper than the question of riots here and there.

However, I totally support jk's questioning of the position of the ICT regarding decomposition. I don't see it as "mean" but as an obvious political observation faced with what clearly appears to be a contradiction in the ICT's position. The ICT put forward a position on the riots (that I and others here support) that has its fundamental roots in the decomposition of capitalism. Why can't the ICT call it this? It can't because this group now sees "decomposition" as the "property" of the ICC and, in defence of their own chapel, any joint understanding, any unity of coherence, cannot be acknowledged. Worse, and as a logical consequence of this territorial defence, any apparant unity of position has to be argued against in torturous "polemics" that get ever more removed from the point - and the point being the best defence of proletarian positions.

As far as I can see, for the ICT it's exactly the same with the analyses of the machiavellianism of the bourgeoisie, imperialism and other questions, where the unity and coherence of the communist left faced with the working class and its enemies, cannot even be mentioned and where all the emphasis is put upon what the so-called differences are.

Torturous Polemics ...

Most welcome words from Baboon : and I think I agree with your 'intuition' that for some reason OTHER than clarity of class position : some groups almost feel 'obliged' to disagree ( even when they actually hold the same basic stance ) to define some mysterious 'milieu territory' : clarity of detail is important but.... the fragmentation of the 'avant-garde' is as much a challenge as the fragmentation of The Working Class .Red Hughs has written some excellent 'bridging' submissions ( re 'workerism' and so forth ) trying to at least give the benefit of the doubt to a text , although as he writes on another thread : 'it's hard to envisage a groups platform from what they have 'omitted ' to say '

I like your formulation : but the reason I say that I -as it were- read WR or IR first if I want to get the real news is because I just don't feel they consider they have 'sole rights' over these positions : they welcome discussion without sliding into centrism etc. and - quite frankly - they have taken so much 'torturous polemic' over the years that they are disinclined to dish it out gratuitously ...and I think that is the important word : in the face of a class enemy , they dish it .

When Bakunin was just plain wrong , Marx did not hesitate to cry '...schoolboy asininity ! ' when it was important....

Equally there was a lot of 'torturous academic back biting' from the man himself , especially in the early years . 

I don't know about you but I am happy to be 'educated' and obviously revolutionaries have 'an agenda' but I gave up trying to pick my way through the 'other agendas' that you ( I think quite reasonably ) see traces of .

When/if I find a desperate fault in any ICC position : I ask and if not satisfied then maybe I'll buy another newspaper :@} ( not The Daily Mail )

Just thinking aloud  , but do you feel that there is almost a taboo on agreement ?



statement on riots

OK - statement on riots now up; comments encouraged.

It was worth waiting for. I

It was worth waiting for. I like that kinglear's comments on the "looting" and murderous bourgeoisie have been integrated and the fact that it's those at the bottom who are the hardest hit. I think it right to highlight the "anti-riot" campaign of the ruling class because that's the major factor now and the repression will be general at all levels against the working class in and revolutionary minorities in particular (the police were already spending tens of millions of pounds on infiltration and manoeuvres among relatively harmless groups, so it doesn't take much working out).

The crisis and the attacks will continue and the bourgeoisie have made it clear that the future lies in repression and not re-building. The weaknesses and anti-working class nature of some of the worst aspects of the riots themselves are rightly condemned as obstacles to the struggle. I think it correct to draw from this that this will not be a "positive" factor in the development of the class struggle in the UK but will act as an impediment to it.

Its not a question of being

Its not a question of being told what the riots are by the all knowing WR, rather its a matter of waiting for a statment from the left communist organizations on the ground, who have a much better sense of the nature of events than what I can gleam from the bourgeois media; in order to make an assessment.

After reading the statement, I am still unclear as the extent to which the ICC sees these events as part of a broader "social revolt" against austerity verusus an anti-social ourtburst of violence, a true reflection of social decomposition itself. I suppose its not out of the question that there elements of both (dialectics!). However, this begs the question of why in the UK (and similarly in France in 2005) the social explosion mostly took the form of anti-social riots, while in Tunisia. Egypt, Spain and elsewhere they were mostly peaceful assemblies occuring in the public square of the city (In the case of Egypt and Tunisia, it was the state that attempted to incite rioting and looting, etc.) What does this say about the balance of class forces in the UK and the "advanced" countries more broadly? What does it say about the nature and structure of the various states involved? Finally, what does it say about the depth social decomposition has already reached?





Thread ´locked´...

Can we take this thread as being locked and moved to the "Riots in Britain" thread? Thanks. :) B.