Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Set Up Workers Defence Squads To Defend Our Communities

Workers communities, throughout the country, are coming under sustained attack from gangs of lumpen youths. Luckily, despite properties being set alight, in these communities, many of them where people live, no one, so far, has been killed.
The police seem unable, and unwilling to defend workers' communities from these gangs, and, without it being safe, no one can expect firefighters to go in to put out the fires. It was reported, last night, that, in one area of London, a group of Turkish Cypriot men organised themselves, and chased off the thugs and looters. That is the action workers need to take. We cannot, and should not rely on the Capitalist police, still less should we be calling for increased state repression through such things as water cannon, curfews, or the intervention of the military. The answer lies in our hands, as it always does.

As Marxists, we understand the basic causes of social phenomena such as this. Capitalism breeds, the kinds of despair, and the kinds of individualism that leads to all kinds of criminal activity. It also creates that layer of society that provide the human material for such activity - what Marx called the Lumpenproletariat.
But, for all that we understand the economic and social causes of that phenomeneon, it has never been a part of Marxist thinking to see such elements as in any way, progressive, in any way our allies, or their actions in any way supportable. On the contrary, these lumpen elements are generally not only separated from, but hostile to the organised Labour Movement, and everything it stands for. Their extreme individualist ideas, leads them, instead, to be easy pickings for all kinds of reactionary organisations, such as the fascists. The kinds of lumpen elements involved in these actions, are the kinds of people who on another day, would be joining in with the EDL, in rampaging through workers communties.

The first step is to bring our communties under our control. Firefighters need to feel safe when they go out to fight fires. Local Trades Councils have a role to play here. They can use their channels to get other local Trades Unions to organise themselves into Workers Defence Squads that can go out with fire crews to ensure that they are protected from the thugs. In the same way, local Tenants and Residents Associations should organise themselves to set up such Defence Squads to defend their areas, by organising local patrols of the area.
That is what workers in Egypt did, for example, to protect their communities. Because the police are part of this problem, and have, in any case, shown they cannot be part of the solution, those Defence Squads should demand the Police keep out of their areas, as well as the thugs. Of course, if individual policemen who live in the area want to volunteer their services and expertise to the Defence Squads, then we should accept.

The basic causes of this outbreak are pretty clear. On the one hand, we have a section of society that over many years has been growing, and which is essentially separated off from the rest of society. At the same time, these lumpen elements have often found that they can just get away with stuff. The kinds of social control that used to exist within working-class communities have broken down.
Workers have been encouraged not to rely on themeselves, but on the Capitalist State. That is not just in relation to things such as Welfare, but every other aspect of their lives. At most, all they are expected to contribute to what happens in their lives is to vote every few years. We have to end that, and regain control of our lives, and end our crippling dependence on the bosses' state.

The kids, and mostly they seem as if they are just kids of around 13-14, have got away for years with all sorts of anti-social behaviour. Ordinary people in local communties have let them get away with that, and the police have had no means or inclination to really stop it, other than by bureaucratic, and repressive means. The consequence has been that a generation, that grew up being able to act in this way, essentially without sanction, now are the parents of the kids following in their footsteps. Ordinary workers see it every day, in the response of those parents to any criticism of their kids, be it in the communities, on the estates or in the schools. Workers have to stop that too. It can't and shouldn't be attempted on an individual basis. We have seen the result of that when individual workers have attempted to intervene, and been killed for their efforts. It can only be done as with every thing else the working-class seeks to achieve, by workers organising themselves, and acting in a collective and democratic manner.

Dianne Abbott, accurately described what was going on as "recreational looting", that seems to be right. None of what has happened seems in any way connected to the original shotting of Mark Dugan. It seems that TV pictures of looting has simply triggered copycat looting in other parts of the country. That these kids have resorted to this action, is, however, understandable. They have grown up in a society where advertising, and other media force down people's throats all of the images of a consumerist society, and the lifestyles that go with it.
They see, even some of their friends who get picked up by football clubs, who overnight get paid up to £5,000 a week as a 16 year old. They see, people appearing on TV shows like Big Brother, who as a result of bad behaviour, and the kinds of anti-social attitudes that are normally condemned, become celebrities, again with huge incomes. And, of course, they see the bankers and top bosses, who having ruined the economy, walk away with millions of pounds in bonuses, and incomes.
Meanwhile, the Liberal-Tory Government, just as the Thatcher Govenment did in the 1980's when similar riots erupted, cuts basic services within communities, whilst talking about tax cuts for those on higher wages.

In London, we have billions being spent on the Olympics. We are told that it will help regenerate communities, but everything we have seen before tells us it won't.
What we have is expensive faciltiies being created for elite athletes, meanwhile sporting facilities for ordinary workers, such as swimming pools, playing fields, sports centres etc. and other recreational facilities such as Libraries are being closed down.

On the other side, we see what I had predicted, some time ago, in my blog A Bit Of A Pickle. The Liberal-Tory Government has been attacking important sections of the very Capitalist State apparatus upon which every Government relies. It was inevitable that the State would fight back in various ways. I pointed out, last year, that top cops were saying that riots would likely erupt, and that they would not be able to cope with them due to the cuts. The top cops will, of course, use the riots to demand more resources, and there will be sections of the Tory backwoodsmen who will be keen to give it to them. For the rank and file coppers, they are facing wage freezes, job cuts, increased pension payments, and poorer pensions. Who could blame them for feeling less than keen to risk life and limb under those conditions.

Our solution to these riots, the looting, and the risk they pose to workers communties should be the same as our response to the EDL, and others who threaten us as workers.

* No confidence in the Capitalist State;

* Get the Police and the Thugs off our streets;

*Set up Workers Defence Squads in every community;

* Organise Democratic Neighbourhood Committees, and Workplace Committees to run our communties, and control our defence.


Jacob Richter said...

I don't know. This is derived from Trotsky's picket squad agitation in his TP. It really doesn't sound political enough, unlike:

The expansion of the abilities to bear arms, to self-defense against police brutality, and to general self-defense, all toward enabling the formation of people’s militias based on free training, especially in connection with class-strugglist association for people of the dispossessed classes, and also free from police interference by the likes of agents provocateurs

[Class-strugglist association: Full, lawsuit-enforced freedom of class-strugglist assembly and association for people of the dispossessed classes, even within the military, free especially from anti-employment reprisals, police interference such as from agents provocateurs, and formal political disenfranchisement]

Which in turn is inspired from the Erfurt Program. Of course, and pertaining more to the self-directional demand for freedom of class-strugglist assembly and association than to militias, much of the established Marxist tradition is hardly spotless when advocating the crude heuristic of something like “peaceful means where possible, and violent revolution when necessary.” When considering questions of civil disobedience and resistance towards police brutality, a more useful heuristic would be something along the lines of “legal means where possible, extra-legal and illegal ones when necessary, and with the non-worker authorities themselves determining the level of peace or violence.”

Boffy said...

I've covered all those other demands in numerous other posts, such as "Proletarian Military Policy". If I had to set out a full political programme for every post I write, not only would I not have any time to do it, but it would be unreadable.

And, in fact, the workers who have spontaneously established Workers Defence Squads up and down the country did not wait for approval from the Capitalist State to bear arms, they did it anyway. Its the difference between propaganda and agitation. Here and now, what is required is agitation to equip workers with the immediate ideas and tools to deal with the situation. It makes little sense to call for a militia, and everything else, if workers do not even set up Defence Squads, or of they are ephemeral, because the riots die down.

Now they have been set up its necessary to draw the lessons, and move to the next stage. Regularise the squads, link them up, raise other political demands for them being legitimised by law, and so on, all of which I have set out in previous posts.