Riots: Rightful rage or counter-productive?
Some of your analysis of the riots across Britain (Socialist Worker, 13 August) is true. Young people have no hope, and have been brought up in a culture valuing commercialism above all else.
Your analysis is better than the rubbish coming from the government, but don’t excuse the looting and violence by young people.
Sue Herbert, by email
Tottenham’s uprising after the killing of Mark Duggan is a serious warning to the police, government and the local authority.
First, the collective memory does not forget our own history of police killings.
Cynthia Jarrett’s death started the Broadwater Farm fightback against police harassment in 1985. Then there was the stitch-up that saw Winston Silcott imprisoned for 18 years.
Nor will we forget the years that Roger Sylvester’s family went through, failing to get an answer as to why their son had been killed after policemen jumped on him outside his house.
David Lammy MP should not forget that all the peaceful action that took place to get answers to Rogers’s death, including a 1,000- strong march, got no satisfactory explanation.
Secondly, go through Tottenham on any given day and those being stopped by the police will be young black men. They don’t forget!
Thirdly, Tottenham is very poor. The cuts are hitting us hard and there is mass unemployment among young people. Government cuts in youth funding and the Education Maintenance Allowance leave many with little hope. And, the cuts have yet to really bite.
The tragedy is that our own community gets trashed to make our rulers sit up and take notice—but do they listen? If they don’t they will be seeing a lot more uprisings, and sooner than they think if we are expected to continue paying for their crisis.
Alan Watts, North London
in August 1965, Martin Luther King visited the Watts district of Los Angeles, California, after a riot sparked by police brutality and racism.
The riots had consumed a thousand buildings in the locality and resulted in damages estimated at $40 million. King was surveying the damage when he met a group of young men claiming victory. He was astonished.
“How can you say you won when 34 Negroes are dead, your community is destroyed and the whites are using the riots as an excuse for inaction?” he asked them.
“We won because we made them pay attention to us,” they answered.
King went away with a new insight into urban insurrection. From that point on he called riots “the language of the unheard”.
I recalled that when reading the establishment’s reactions to the recent riots.
People don’t think they can get justice from any quarter in this country any more. They don’t think anyone is listening to them. And they have responded in the language of the unheard.
Sasha Simic, East London
You are right to point out the reasons why people are angry—and that their “greed” is small beer compared to that of MPs and bankers.
But your uncritical attitude is simply wrong. People who set fire to buildings where people live are turning against their own kind in mindless brutality. Many of the looted shops belong to small shopkeepers—who have now rightly organised to defend themselves.
None of my workmates feel inspired by what is happening—instead people feel scared. The looting has been counter-productive.
Instead of the spotlight being on police for their killing of Mark Duggan, the main criticism is that there are not enough of them.
It is likely that the police budget will be increased—which can only mean further cuts for health and education. These looters are as alienated, and as effective, as people who piss in the lift of their own council block.
Annie Nehmad, by email
Why do we expect higher moral standards from individuals than from businesses and governments? I hate seeing the destruction and looting of things that people have worked all their lives for.
Cowboy companies are queuing up to loot profitable parts of the NHS. The last government used violence to destroy the infrastructure of Iraq so it could loot that country for oil.
And tax-dodging companies are looting this country with impunity.
The example that’s being set is that it’s OK to be opportunistic and greedy in disregard of the law if you are rich and powerful. When these kids have a brief taste of power, why are we surprised that they follow the despicable example of politicians and their cronies?
Michael Coulston, South London
The youth have had enough. There is no future and they know it. The so-called justice system will make an example of them.
Power to the people. Rise up, for all you have to lose is your chains.
Kevin Flanagan, by email
Slogan is a danger to us all
Well done to Kieran Crowe, (Socialist Worker, 6 August) for marching in support of Bombardier workers in Derby, and highlighting the disgusting attitude of former Unite union leader, Tony Woodley.
In his speech at the final rally Woodley called for “British jobs for British workers”.
Don’t these union leaders realise the dangerous avenue they are going down with that slogan?
Don’t they realise that migrant workers—alongside British workers—are coming under severe attack with all these cutbacks?
What if that slogan was heard by any English Defence League supporters lurking in the background? It’d be music to their ears!
Don’t the union leaders realise the danger of the fascist British National Party?
A slogan of this nature only turns the workers of one country against the workers of another. That’s dangerous.
Yes we have to fight for the right to work and for better standards of living and working conditions.
But promoting the slogan of “British jobs for British workers” will not solve the present crisis. And where would our society be without migrant workers?
Down the toilet.
What we need is jobs for all of us, shorter hours and decent pay. This can be achieved by uniting all workers.
Charlie Dowthwaite, Barrow-in-Furness
Firms have ruined the Niger Delta
A recent United Nations (UN) report has exposed the devastation oil firms such as Shell have wreaked on the Niger Delta.
The three-year investigation found that Shell and other oil firms systematically contaminated a 1,000 square kilometre area of Ogoniland in the Niger Delta over decades.
This has had terrible consequences for human beings and wildlife in the area.
The UN demanded the oil firms come up with more than £600 million for the clean-up, which could take 30 years.
There is heavy contamination of land and underground water courses, sometimes more than 40 years after oil was spilled.
Drinking water has dangerous concentrations of pollutants.
Most of the spill sites that oil firms claimed to have cleaned up are still highly contaminated.
More than £30 billion of oil has been extracted from the area but most people are worse off than before the firms came in.
This all confirms why so many people in the area, including Ken Saro-Wiwa who was executed for his opposition, have campaigned against the oil firms’ domination.
Peter David, North London
No rise in racist attacks
It was great to see the fabulous community festival in Camden, north London, headed by Love Music Hate Racism (Socialist Worker, 6 August).
It was a great sunny day of music, poets and stalls all promoting anti‑racism.
However I was disappointed to read in the report that this event “was arranged following a rise in racist attacks in the Chalk Farm area”.
We have lived in this area for the last 32 years—our family live here too.
It is not the case that there has been any rise in racist attacks here.
We are happy to say that we live in a community that is very multicultural, like many others.
We have not seen racist attacks and certainly no rise in any such attacks.
It was a lovely day and I hope it is repeated again but not for wrong perceptions of our community.
Mandy Berger, North London
Bigot behind police support
David Cameron was quick to praise the million people who signed up to the “Supporting the Met police against the London rioters” Facebook group last week.
The founder of the group is Sean Boscott, who bloggers quickly uncovered as a disgusting racist.
He had made a number of bigoted “jokes” on his Twitter page.
One comment was, “So the story of Barack Obama rising to become President is being chronicled in a new film. It’s called Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
The pro-police Facebook page had mysteriously disappeared from Facebook by Friday of last week.
Surely the prime minister should be checking the roots of a group before he uncritically praises it?
But all he cares about is cracking down on the young people and others opposing his brutal rule.
Simone Murray, Carlisle
Spain strikers will score
Resistance to the economic crisis is spreading to the most unlikely places.
Footballers in Spain’s top two divisions, who are some of the best paid people on the planet, have voted to go on strike at the start of the season.
They are angry that some indebted clubs are failing to guarantee the wages of players, and in some cases have not even paid them.
A number of clubs are in financial crisis despite the huge sums of money in football.
The players are rightly saying that they and their colleagues should not be the ones to pay for the problems.
As in previous cases when footballers have threatened to strike, they are doing it for reasons that everyone should support.
Because of the amount of money and the media’s focus on the sport, players have a lot of power.
They can sometimes use their strength to good effect.
Michael Woodgate, Edinburgh
Mail is model hypocrite
The Daily Mail showed its hypocrisy once again recently.
In its online edition it showed its “Outrage over shocking images of the 10-YEAR-OLD model who has graced the pages of Vogue”.
It criticised the “provocative images of Thylane Lena-Rose Blondeau” who “reclines among leopard print pillows, her rouged lips pouting at the camera”.
It then showed its disgust by publishing four such large pictures of this young girl in various poses.
Many people are rightly concerned about the sexualisation of children under capitalism.
But no one should be fooled by the Daily Mail’s insincere peddling of this story.
Katherine Branney, East London