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It's not from the reporters and well-heeled media pundits where you can find insight into the London riots, but from the people they are obliged to interview, argue Joe Glenton and Jo Gough.

Three days of rioting have left many with the frustration of not living in London, and those in London with the frustration that London transport makes getting to flashpoints near impossible. This is the same frustration many activists felt when the Egyptian brothers and sisters felled Mubarak and comrades were there in the square in Cairo to see it done. It’s the frustration of missing something big.

The riots in London tell us things, even through the laughable reportage. The riots tell us that people are angry. The mainstream media is desperately trying to ignore the roots of this anger (this would mean they would have to be addressed), but thankfully they are still obliged to interview. It is here where analysis of the riots can be found. Archive interviews show Nick Clegg and youth in Tottenham predicting riots due to the cuts. Today, the most coherent voices from the commentators have been those of Darcus Howe, writer and broadcaster, and of one Dr. Clifford Stott writing for the Independent.

Mr. Howe’s interview began with the BBC anchor asking, ‘are you shocked by what you’ve seen?’ he responded with ‘no not at all’ and proceeded to explain that none of this was new and none of this had been impossible to predict. From then on the anchor woman was visibly channelling Ben Brown of McIntyre fame.

Tottenham has one of the highest levels of unemployment in the country and services are being cut. That is before the excessive stop-and-search tactics against young blacks are even addressed. Among these harassed young people was Mr. Howe’s own grandson who, he explained, had been stopped so many times he could not count them. Howe refuted the ‘rioting’ tag, calling it an ‘insurrection of the people’ and compared it to the events in Syria.
What is being seen here is not the ‘yobbery’ of establishment wet-dreams. Yes, looting has taken place, but this is an aside focused on to intentionally detract from the broader understanding of what is going on. People are on the streets in response to seething resentment, sparked by the police killing Michael Duggan, a man alleged to have had a gun in a sock.

The issue at hand, which remains to be properly analyzed in public forums, is the Why question, so critical, obligatorily asked by the media, but rebutted before people can get their answers out. This absence of a Why discourse is as apparent in this situation as it is in the question of why we are hated in the Middle East, why alienated young men plotted and carried out a series of attacks in London a few years ago, why the students revolted last year… Why are people rioting? If, as Dr. Stott argues, riots cannot be understood as an explosion of mob irrationality, then there is a set of rational drivers behind this. Further, Stott points out that the whole chain of events is pitched to us as if the people involved had appeared from outside our society. Take a step backwards, turn off the TV and it seems clearer; these people are not only a part of our society but are, like their actions, a product of its structure.

The key is to understand it and to understand why it is happening. The goods taken, it appears are clothing, jewelry and electrical items. Stott points out that these are increasingly unattainable by the impoverished and costly items can be sold on. Again a rationale emerges. People are poor, they are angry about it and they are driven to take what they need by that same impoverishment. The vandalism and robbery now being focused on is mainly against profit making companies, businesses who are increasing the cost of their goods whilst people cannot afford their weekly food shop, let alone the goods they are meant to aspire to have.

Yes, buildings have been set alight and small businesses hit. But this violence pales in comparison to what our government is doing abroad in unjust wars, daily, and killing thousands of innocents. Over a million in Iraq alone. So lets get this clear, the real violence is state violence. Four million children are growing up in poverty, there is no help to stay at college, university is too expensive, and oh, by the way, there are no jobs to go into and no youth services to stop you becoming a poverty-stricken adult. The cost of living is increasing, jobs and benefits are being slashed and the public sector is under threat.

If Mr. Howe was correct that this is an insurrection, then it follows that it is the task of revolutionaries to engage with it. The fight back needs to be organised and politically focused. We need to point out that rather then taking goods from local shops, the energy which is resonating ought to be directed upwards to our millionaire government and rich, old, white businessmen in suits who are the architects of people’s miseries. There is an energy here which should not be wasted.


#1 RE: Darcus Howe’s Timely InsurrectionTom 2011-08-10 08:04
This is a ridiculous article. Get your facts right before you start waffling this utter nonsense. These people aren't unhappy with the system, government, foreign policy or their financial positions. These people are teenagers that think they can get away with looting in a consequence free environment. They are not targeting only large profit making businesses, they're stealing alcohol from off licenses, burning down party supply shops, gift shops, cafes, peoples homes They're wearing expensive trainers, filming the carnage on iPhones.. These are not crusaders of impoverished London, they are opportunistic thugs that have seen how far people can push things in the cuts marches and fancy their chances at mass looting and destruction. And 1 million innocents killed in Iraq?? Do some research before you take these random pockets of information and awkwardly apply them to your loaded analysis of this situation.
#2 RE: Darcus Howe’s Timely Insurrectionsteve 2011-08-10 08:36
You two authors really are on a different planet. LISTEN to the words coming out of the Youths mouths. WATCH the common criminals and judge them by their acts.
I hope its really just your misguided middle class upbringing that makes you write such drivel.
Poor show counterfire.
#3 RE: Darcus Howe’s Timely InsurrectionChance 2011-08-10 08:47
How about you do some research you ignorant turd. Between sanctions and military actions there have been well over 1 million civilian deaths in Iraq. I'm guessing you are a pro-democracy person too. If so, then you can hardly have any footing to judge those who vote in the streets for no-one. Yes, it is unfortunate when people's livelihoods (not huge wealth generating machines mind you) are destroyed, but the total current situation globally is the even greater tragedy and it must be stopped and it will be stopped. Which side are you on? Are you for freedom, or are you just another sycophant drone?
#4 RE: Darcus Howe’s Timely InsurrectionSteve 2011-08-10 09:32
Tom- WOW your ignorance and naivety is cute.
#5 RE: Darcus Howe’s Timely InsurrectionDaniel Factor 2011-08-10 09:54
Well healed media pundits...

It is also well healed middle class left-wingers who are offering their insights into the riots.
What nobody from the Left can explain is how burning people's homes is a justified response to racism and poverty.
#6 RE: Darcus Howe’s timely insurrectionlyapunov 2011-08-10 10:16
dan - not sure how 'well healed' (?) this local resident is but he's a sure as shit more insightful than boris johnson who stands there dumbfounded. perhaps you should watch it before making assumptions about what working class people do or do not say about this.
#7 RE: Darcus Howe’s timely insurrectionDR EXE 2011-08-10 14:01
You are deluded, I was in the middle of what was happening in Croydon and your take on event is crap. The comparison between what the goverment is doing in Iraq ands what these rioters are doing back home doesn't hold water. The people being attacked aren#'t those giving orders or even supporting the people that do.
Get out yor ivory tower, the things I saw where the same kids who have been killing each other for years in a wave of narco capitalism, they are no better then the goverment only more savage.
The North East of England and Glasgow have far higher levels of poverty and deprivation then Tottenham, Enfield, Ealing and Hackney but the response has not been the same.
#8 RE: Darcus Howe’s timely insurrectiondavid Jamieson 2011-08-10 14:31
First Comment "These people arent unhappy with the system"

Your right- the rioters are perfectly happy - thats why they are rioting. Because thats what happy citizens do - they riot. Thats why the wealthiest suburbs are the ones with all the rioting. The rioters aren't fed up with the racism, repression, poverty and so on. they woke up one day and thought - i'm in such an especially good mood this morning I'm going to riot.
#9 Organized RageMick Hall 2011-08-10 15:44
Jo and Joe,

Good piece, keep up the good work, it is imperitive an alternative to the MSM crap get out there.
#10 deprivation demnialAdrian Cousins 2011-08-10 16:34
Quoting DR EXE:

The North East of England and Glasgow have far higher levels of poverty and deprivation then Tottenham, Enfield, Ealing and Hackney but the response has not been the same.

Glasgow experienced a riot earlier this year -

and as for the relationship between poverty and rioting this map says it quite clearly:
#11 RE: Darcus Howe’s timely insurrectionnate 2011-08-10 23:12
Let the oppressed speak for themselves!
#12 RE: Darcus Howe’s timely insurrectionJade 2011-08-11 14:12
Why do people constantly assume it's one or the other- i.e mindless opportunistic thugs OR angry poverty-stricken deprived kids? Is there not a chance, given the sheer numbers out there rioting (including graphic designers, teaching assistants and post-graduates) that it the undercurrent consists of the angry and oppressed, joined by those looking for some free clothes?

They are not mutually exclusive causes, and the Government need to snap out of their fairy-tale bubble of privilege and wealth. Continue rightly forcing the looters and vandals to face up to the consequences and punishment, but they should just know it will have zero credibility or effectiveness if they do not face up to their own crimes against the nation too.
#13 RE: Darcus Howe’s timely insurrectionalistair 2011-08-11 22:43
Quoting Tom:
1 million innocents killed in Iraq?? Do some research before you take these random pockets of information and awkwardly apply them to your loaded analysis of this situation.

The 1 million figure for deaths in Iraq comes from a projection of figures in a study in the Lancet medical journal, a well respected scientific publication. In 2006 the study gave the figure of 655,000. Given increasing casualty rates 1 million is a good estimate for the total in 2010. See
#14 RE: Darcus Howe’s timely insurrectionJohn Hunter 2011-08-17 10:44
Mr Howe, as we now know, was completely wrong when he said that these riots were an insurrection. In the main, after the first Saturday political protest in Tottenham, this was clearly a criminal enterprise by gangs and/or individuals.

What sort of revolutionary energy burns down houses in which workers live and burns business's that make workers unemployed? What sort of revolutionary energy loots shops, assaults/ robs workers and in some cases kills them?

In fact I was in a small supermarket when a group of about 30 youths many covering their faces with masks who couldn't get into the shop to cause mayhem or to loot because the staff had closed the entrance door started throwing bricks(?) at the glass shop window which shattered.

At this point we all then moved further into the shop. I saw a small terrified child crying with her Mother trying to comfort her and another older women continually screaming "You can't lock us in here, I've got to get out" while these youths were marauding outside. It was all very scary. Obviously all the staff were workers and like me I presume all the shoppers were also workers.

If these rioters had looted Joe Glenton and Jo Gough houses or even burnt them down would they still be saying that it's the task of revolutionaries to engage with it? The rioters in the main were not fighting for a political cause, they just wanted a free TV or trainers or alcohol. These rioters are in fact what Karl Marx called the "lumpen proletariat" and one should be very aware of this distinction and not think that this criminal energy can be directed in a more "organised and politically focused" way.

Nor do two wrongs make a right.Just because what the government is doing in Iraq etc is wrong does not make rioting/ looting/burning down houses right.

Only a relatively small number of people were involved in the riots. No, this was no insurrection and one must make a distinction between revolutionary energy such as the G20 demonstrations or the recent student demonstrations and looters/criminal energy for obvious reasons.

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