(work in progress)
Thursday, August 4, Mark Duggan, a 'real straight up and down respected man' (words of London rapper, Chipmunk) from Tottenham in London, was blasted to death while on his way home in a cab by a mob of cops wielding Heckler & Koch MP5 carbines. 29 year old Mark, father of four young children, lived on the housing estate known as Broadwater Farm, a depressed predominantly Afro-Caribbean area. The area is infamous since the riot of 1985 after 49 year old Cynthia Jarrett collapsed and died of a heart attack as police raided her home. (During the riot a policeman, PC Blakelock, was hacked to death with a machete.) Today, in the words of a resident, 'if you're from Broadwater Farm, police are on you every day, you're not allowed to come off the estate. If you come off the estate they follow you.' They followed Mark Duggan and he ended up dead.
August 6 - The arrogance of the killers in uniform in the face of the protest by the victim's family and supporters, plus the brutal attack on a 16 year old girl by police during the vigil was the last straw.
That night in Tottenham the police station was attacked, police cars set on fire, a double-decker bus ends up a twisted wreck after being engulfed in flames, press photographers are beaten and relieved of their equipment for the decades of lies they have propagated. Bank windows smashed. Countless shops looted, stuff thrown all over the streets. Young guys storm McDonald's and start frying up burgers and chips. Indignant anger clears the brain, flushes out the cops in the head. Collective fury at this latest police murder combines with the daily bullying and humiliation of being stopped and searched, the moralising, the false promises, useless lives, no future, desire for status-affirming 'needs' unattainable due to increased taxes, unemployment and cutting of benefits, 4 million cameras, glaring security cops at the entrance to every store, the colonization of all remaining urban space by trendy bars filled with the noisy chatter of the carefree... that and much more that we don't know and will never experience welled up and fueled the will to smash through the invisible and plate glass barriers that hold everything in place.
The hostages of the open prison, the young people of the ghettos of London, rise up and the capitalists' nightmare finally materialises, as the last link in the consumer chain of submission snaps. It explodes into a free-for-all when, in a flash of illumination the solution to the existential dilemma is found: MUST HAVE/CAN'T HAVE = TAKE. It's simple: learn and apply, possibly burning store to ashes on retreating.
The rioting escalates, scores more people come into the area responding to call outs on twitter to come up and fight the cops and loot shops. Over the following days it spreads to many other parts of London and onward towards other cities.
The rage also spreads beyond the main clashes in Nottingham, Manchester, Bristol, Gloucester, Liverpool, Birmingham. In many incidents the stories escape categorisation or quantification. One thing sure that is not reported and deliberately ignored is the chiefly anti-authoritarian flavour to the uprising, the government and corporations relentlessly branding the people 'scum', 'thieves' and other low simple catchphrases of demonisation. The failure in this to stop young people identifying with the uprising is obvious when it is seen how quickly the riots replicate and need little trigger to begin breaking the Queen's peace. Mainstream media reporting becomes incredibly formulaic, and the bosses make mileage from their scenes of interest in reaching their political objectives, looping the same images over and over, overlaid with the stereotypical talking heads' condemnation and reassurance. The widespread disorder does not stop. The people who lost their fear go outside, collect themselves to attack and take as much as they can.
The police are overwhelmed and beaten by the small fluid groups who don't wait around to be crushed, but instead move quickly, spreading terror in those who can't identify themselves as belonging to the mob.
Some anarchists and 'rebels with consciousness' did rush towards the smoke signals on the horizon. For some only to stop in their tracks, in many cases riveted to the spot as spectators of a scenario never played out in their wildest dreams: crowds of young people queuing up outside high street stores like customers at the January sales, calmly forcing their way inside under the implacable gaze of rows of riot cops, to reappear later with huge bags, even trolleys, overflowing with consumer goods.
Elsewhere, behind the hastily improvised barricades erected and set alight by local kids in back streets as they prepare to greet their daily enemy - the cops in their anti-riot vans - with a hail of bottles and stones, the outsider, immediately recognisable by age and colour, is viewed with suspicion. Who are you? What do you want? In various areas, the odd gang, spurred by the momentary shift in the balance of power in the streets, starts high-jacking people's cars and driving off in them or setting them alight, or trashing and looting corner shops, holding no attraction but for the benefit of diversionary chaos so that other small groups can organise and initiate their own attacks. For some, black clothes and face masks are a sign of organised illegality and command respect accordingly. Each area and particular environment creates differing possibilities and modes of co-operation and confrontation. Still days after the clashes there is a changed air in the glances and atmosphere between those in the different sectors of the clash, put under the same rule. Open fighting against the police and the system they defend is a unifying feature for popular resistance against all regimes.
Very soon it became clear that this seemingly strange police tactic of standing by and watching looters empty stores was no accident, as it had already been reported by right-wing media that the police would let the situation play itself out for 3 days before going in with heavy repressive blows, a story which subsequently disappeared from the news. This standard British counter-insurgency tactic, developed in the colonies and in Northern Ireland, is used in the preliminary stages of the social insurgence to attempt to create a situation of havoc where all the contradictions of the mess of society can exacerbate, to force the false question: Do you want an authoritarian regime to maintain repressive order, or do you want 'lawless chaos'? The question is posed by power to the servile masses, using the rebellious as their spear of inquiry.
The police removed their personnel from the most seriously affected areas, giving space for the riot to literally burn out - letting the 'violence' reach such a point as to deny the intensification which could have resulted had the clash been kept at a certain social level, possibly drawing in anarchists, leftists and angry students.
The front line of the clash – that against cops, police stations, media, politicians, started to disappear as the target of these attacks withdrew or were overcome. This channeled the affray into the requisitioning of goods by uncontrolled masses. The design was to secure the forces of the police following their defeat on the streets in order to prepare the massive repressive operation from CCTV surveillance, snitching and investigation - and provoke a media-boosted backlash from those who identify with the system of work and law demanding that the police enforce a severe crackdown. A backlash which was not only seen in the posses of marauding shop-keepers and British nationalists, but also in the citizenist outcry for an open prison society by tidy controlled individuals not adverse to controlling others.
On Wednesday August10th the moment that power had been waiting for in some form or another occurs. Three young men defending local Asian-owned shops in Birmingham are killed when a car is rammed into them. An irreparable loss for those who knew and loved them, a great gain for power. The articulate appeal of one of the fathers in his heartfelt call for 'peace' (how many rivers of tears were spilled that day for sons killed by the capitalist moloch all over the planet) is relentlessly exploited by the class enemy, just as the resulting coming together of Sikhs and Muslims to defend their structures is depicted as a triumph of democracy. The fact that the divide and rule policy that characterises British power was instrumental in the partition of India and creation of Pakistan, an operation that resulted in over a million dead, has been erased from the annals of history. Rule Britannia! This Disney-like multicultural paradise is a fragile mosaic of erstwhile plundered peoples seeking to survive, living shoulder to shoulder each with their miserable prospects of inclusion or exclusion according to their capacity for collaboration, subservience, and self-mutilation.
One part of the equation that has been totally ignored over these days are the producers of the much coveted goods themselves. Crimes spring from fixed ideas. The sacredness of property is one of these ideas and is the crime par excellence that is dangled before the disinherited masses. Just as war is disconnected from murder in the psyche of the common man or woman, the plunder of the resources of the planet and subjection of the invisible producing slaves is totally absent from their diatribes about 'stealing' and 'looting'. What is a high street store in flames compared to the existence of the store itself? Every supermarket is a 'crime scene', MacDonald's and Coca Cola are veritable motors of mass destruction. After babbling sensational accounts of the riots from the teleprompter, the newsreader's disapproving frown erupts into a beaming smile as she announces the news that Apple has surpassed Exxon Mobile to become 'the world's most valuable company'. Wonderful Apple, such style, smart gadgets. Perhaps the searing profits should be put down to good management as we read in the daily press: The man now running Apple, Tim Cook, had a delicate job last year. After nearly a dozen workers committed suicide at Foxconn, a contract manufacturing plant in China, he flew to visit the company – and pressured them to improve working conditions. One move was to hang large nets from the factory buildings.
To see the recent events as something that do not concern anarchists and conscious rebels would be just as absurd as to simply take them at face value and join in the looting spree for a moment of quick gratification or to be 'in the reality of the struggle'. That doesn't mean staying at home safely out of the way of these amoral 'greedy' rioters. What can a movement of predominantly vegan, bicycle-riding anti-commodity anarchists or their moralising anarcho-workerist counterparts have to do with the pluri-appropriation of plasma screens, trainers and fashion labels? The dividing line, which anarchists cannot stomach in spite of their heritage, is that the rebellious protagonists of the past days were not fighting for the noble cause of 'freedom' but were fighting for themSELVES. Selves alienated and stunted by the voracious reality they have been born into, spurred into action in an immediate assault on forbiddance. Now they are being demonised by those who should know better, for their lack of 'political awareness' and altruism. In such situations anarchists can only take stock and seek to put into action elements of a projectuality that is already being elaborated and experimented in small agile groups. What is evident from this flash-point of insurrection is that the anarchist movement, for want of a better term, here in Britain, is largely inadequate as to be insignificant in terms of the attack and the capability to prepare a line of flight beyond the existent, let alone during a mass riot.
If the uprising has caught us unprepared, if we have not already found our affinities, worked out our ideas and put into practice minimal attacks on the reality of dominion and class oppression, it is not from the 'children of men' that we will get the best indications to enter and extend the struggle. Anarchists risk being passive spectators, 'provocateurs', or simply clumsy gatecrashers of someone else's party.
Some comrades have already begun the trajectory of their own projectuality, their own experimentation and attack, which has also materialised over these days alongside or within some of the attacks on the structures of the consumer god and its servants. Without flags, banners or high-sounding political claims. Others are asking themselves how to move in that direction, how to carry on now that 'society', the great myth, the centuries-old swindle adapted to the imperatives of the corporate cartels defended by their servants, government, cops and media, is being reasserted.
Now the party's over, the CCTV footage is being analyzed, facial recognition software is being deployed, the snitches are queuing up for payment. 'Wanted' photos are being displayed on huge 'digi-trucks' driven throughout the cities. People's doors are being smashed in by screaming gangs of riot cops wielding battering rams. Families are being given eviction orders in the old fascist ardor for collective punishment. Welfare payments are to be discontinued. Kangaroo courts are working 24/7 and the cell doors are slamming shut as the “community” is polarised in open conflict. Almost 2,000 arrests so far. Police and politicians argue the toss as to who subdued the battle and Twitter and Facebook have been saved from banishment by becoming the instrument of the good citizens. The broom has been stolen from the reprobate witch to become the symbol of citizenship as hundreds sweep and sweep in this neo Civil Defence corps.
The media and soft cops are hard at work to find the magic formula, the new superglue to hold together the untenable. On the margins, some good anarchists and leftists will give a hand, no doubt.
Nothing will ever be the same after what has happened over the past few days. Our task is not to join forces with the recuperators but, using every means, to start to identify significant objectives and contribute to creating the conditions where the excluded, on whose backs they come into existence, can do something to destroy them.
We are moving into a phase of new, more brutal, more fascistic levels of repression with full consensus of reawakened, engaged citizens. The way has been paved for acceptance of the next stage in British neo-fascism, the Olympics and the related massive installations for surveillance and control.
The struggle against the existent continues, opening up new encounters and fields of experimentation to combine with the unyielding ingredients of all our interventions: affinity, solidarity and self-organisation of the attack.