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Volume 41 Number 25, August 13, 2011 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

The Youth Are Being Denied a Future:
They Must Not Be Criminalised!

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The Youth Are Being Denied a Future: They Must Not Be Criminalised!

Open Letter to David Cameron - Riots, Jobs and Education

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The Youth Are Being Denied a Future:
They Must Not Be Criminalised!

Photo: Liverpool

The unrest of the youth which exploded on the streets of London and other cities is a response to the anti-social offensive of this and previous governments, and in particular to the state offensive against the youth. The trigger was a loss of life: the shooting of the unarmed 29-year-old Mark Duggan by the police in Tottenham. This much even David Cameron has been required to admit. The government’s response to the anger of the youth and their refusal to accept the authority of the rich takes no account of its context and the social conditions of the youth and that of whole communities. It is making the whole issue one of law and order, and is acting to brand the youth as common criminals, absolve itself of any responsibility and put in place further repressive measures both against the youth and against society as a whole.

Hackney North London
Photos: Hackney and North London

Already over 1,600 arrests are reported to have been made. If this is the number of arrests, how many then were involved in the riots? Does this not itself give the lie to Cameron’s narrative about the issue being one of theft, pure and simple? It could also be asked about these figures whether perhaps the police are using the situation to further harass the youth, and take retaliation for the challenge to their authority. Either way, the courts themselves are reported to be in chaos, with many trivial cases being sent to the Crown Courts where sentences of over six months may be imposed. The mass of the youth are being victimised and scapegoated.

Clapham Junction Clapham Junction
3 Photos: Clapham Junction

Clapham Junction The chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales has described the unrest and rioting among the youth as a seismic event. Seismic events have their causes and their contexts. Those in authority cannot stem the movement of the tectonic plates, but they ignore them at their peril, and if they continue to ignore science, build on earthquake zones, refuse to take precautions and blame the victims for their own fate, then they are the ones guilty of criminal irresponsibility. Riots are not unknown. The community uprisings of the early 1980s were again a response to the anti-social offensive, privatisation and destruction of the social welfare state of the Thatcher era. Those years also saw an increased offensive against the youth, especially the African-Caribbean youth. It is not coincidence that the present flashpoints have been among the same communities as the so-called “austerity measures”, cuts and stepped up harassment have stoked up anger amongst the youth. Nor that the deaths of Cynthia Jarrett in Tottenham and Cherry Groce in Brixton as a result of police actions in 1985 were the sparks for the outpourings of anger at that time. Riots after the uprisings in the suburbs of Paris have hardly ceased, though largely unreported. Again, the spark for the massive riots of 2005 was loss of life, as two young people were electrocuted fleeing from the police.

The killing of Mark Duggan in Tottenham proved to be the last straw in a line of shootings at the hands of the police and at least 333 deaths in police custody since 1998, over which there has not been a single police conviction. In Haringey, the borough which includes Tottenham, the unemployment rate is 8.8%, double the national average. Youth unemployment in London as a whole stands at 23%. In March, Haringey Council approved cuts of £84 million from a total budget of £273 million, and there was a savage 75% cut to the Youth Service budget, including the closing of the youth centres, and the brutal reduction in other services for children and young people. Alongside the closure of Connexions services and youth services have gone the closure of vital street level advice and legal services. This is anti-social vandalism of the first order. Nationally, the gap between rich and poor has been dramatically increasing, the top richest 10% being 100 times better off than the poorest according to some figures, which actually appear to play down the gap.

In Britain, the workers, women, youth and students have not been simply amusing themselves with demonstrations, occupations, strikes and demands for the alternative over the past year. The working class and people have been saying no to the anti-social offensive and showing concern and responsibility for the fate of society. The youth in particular on the demonstrations upholding the right to education have been subjected to police “kettling” and charges of mounted police. For Cameron to moan about the “broken society” and take no responsibility for its wrecking is the height of arrogance, and to blame the youth for lack of respect is to deliberately turn truth on its head.

It is certainly no solution to the problems for the rich to act with self-righteous indignation, and for the politicians who represent them to deliberate over the use of water cannon, crowd control, curfews, plastic bullets and even armoured vehicles and the army as per the north of Ireland during the “troubles”. Not only will these measures not solve the problems of Cameron’s “broken society”. To suggest so is to further prepare the conditions for a fascism where to show rebellion against a government which acts on behalf of the rich is to be branded anti-social and a criminal.

In his statement delivered to Parliament on Thursday, David Cameron has shown that the state is preparing the ground for further repression and for the police to act with impunity. This must be seen not only in the light of acting to stop the rebellion of the youth, but also to prepare the conditions for taking action against future struggles of the workers and youth. The government would also like these draconian powers in place for use during the 2012 Olympic Games.

Having created the conditions for these riots among the youth, generally through the anti-social offensive against all sections of the people as well as targeting the youth for attack, and having specifically engineered them through the actions of the police in various ways, the Coalition united with the parliamentary opposition, is bringing in “strong government” as the way to deal with them. Of course, far from resolving any of the issues and offering a way forward for the youth, such “strong government” will further block them, increase their anger and frustrate their demands.

The propaganda of the rich and powerful has gone into overdrive in ramming down the people’s throats its version of events. The government and the monopoly-controlled media are to be vigorously condemned, not only for their lack of compassion and wilful denial of what is happening before their eyes, but for whipping up hysteria against the youth. The state-inspired petition to remove benefit payments for those convicted of their part in the riots is just one example. This is a vicious move by the ruling elite to take society back to the Middle Ages where everyone must fend for themselves and to be a vagrant or steal a loaf of bread was a hanging offence.

It must be emphasised that not only are the youth being denied a future, but they are also being blocked from even envisaging a future in which they can participate. The state itself promotes violence and anarchy which it then blames the youth for taking up. It is doing so under high-flown phrases such as “respect for society” and “the responsibility to protect”, which it is floating internationally. For what this means one has only to look at Libya. The British government is participating in the criminal bombing of a sovereign country as a “solution” to a so-called lack of legitimacy by the government in power. This bombing is causing death and destruction, as the NATO forces continue to kill hundreds of Libyan people, including children, and wantonly destroy public and private buildings alike with their attacks on the capital, Tripoli, and other towns and cities.

The daily experience of the youth that are now being targeted as “criminals” is one of police harassment, of stop and search, of repression at the slightest pretext. When the youth step out of line, they increasingly come up against a conscious policy of “shock and awe” on the part of the police. Such a policy of the state is then packaged in various television programmes to reinforce the point, and drive the youth to actions and lifestyles which serve to harm their own interests.

The working class and people cannot accept that state repression be justified by the recent events. Neither can they accept that the youth be ghettoised and criminalised in this way. The working class and people must frustrate the plans of the ruling elite to divert them from resolving the problems of society and creating the alternative, and cannot allow the state to make the “criminality” of the youth the issue and the problem in society. Neither is it acceptable for the government to blame the “breakdown of the family” and other such accusations which make the people responsible for their own problems. This is an attempt to stigmatise the communities, to impose the values of the ruling elite on them, and to let the government off the hook as being responsible for the people’s welfare. To describe the actions of the youth as those of “mindless thugs” and the like is to deny that those in authority are denying them a future, and that the government itself is responsible for the disintegration of the rule of law both nationally and internationally.

What the workers and the youth see is the rich further enriching themselves from the public treasury, taking what they want without compunction. As the financiers and monopoly capitalists take their bonuses, their bailouts, their golden handshakes, and flaunt their luxurious lifestyles ostentatiously, the working class and people are outraged that this is “legal” while the rioting and looting of the youth is “illegal” and “criminal”. The people have also been treated to the spectacle of many of their so-called representatives in Parliament, helping themselves to falsely claimed “expenses”. Even the way Parliament conducts itself is abhorrent and uncivilised under the veneer of being the most democratic institution. At least the youth uphold honour and respect. It must also be pointed out that this present unrest has come at a time when the scandals of phone hacking and gangsterism in the highest places were coming to a head, when the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police had had to resign, when the connections between government and the monopoly media were becoming ever more exposed. Now all this has been swept under the carpet, and anyone involved in petty looting has been painted as the most heinous criminal and threat to society.

Furthermore, as to the pious words about wrecking communities, the hypocrisy of the government knows no bounds. This and previous capitalist governments have presided over the comprehensive destruction of the manufacturing base of society. The example of Bombardier in Derby and the united action of the whole community in condemning the government’s irresponsibility and lack of concern is a recent case in point. And then the government has the gall to accuse the youth who are at the sharp end of this wrecking of society as themselves being the wreckers.

A society based on the people’s welfare would involve the youth in taking responsibility for their future. It would recognise the fact that the youth are born to society and naturally gravitate to working together to solve its problems. It would recognise that the youth, along with other sections of the people, have their claims on society. But the Cameron government recognises none of these things and its own responsibilities, but would drive the youth to extinction rather than sanction their claims.

The culture of vengeance, reprisals and vigilantes being promoted by the state must be resolutely rejected. It is true that working people cherish their community, but this must not be transformed by the state into channels which do not serve their interests. It is against the state and its successive governments with its cartel parties and its marginalisation of the people from political life that the anger must be directed. Far from the people rallying round Cameron’s “Big Society”, this very same “Big Society” must be seen as the government’s refusal to solve the underlying socio-economic problems of society, the increased transfer of social wealth to the rich and powerful, and its determination to block the progress of society.

No to the criminalisation of the youth!
State repression must not pass!
Hold the government accountable!

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Open Letter to David Cameron - Riots, Jobs and Education

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