Although I haven’t published a blog on the current terrible situation in the UK, I have been busy posting comments on Facebook and I also wrote a letter to the ‘Weekly Worker’ newspaper which I hope they publish, condemning not only the riots but the idea, shared by the U.S. Constitution, that there should be a ‘right to bear arms’. Just imagine how much worse things would be if guns were even more freely available, bearing in mind these riots started when police shot a gang member who was armed with a gun. OK, so it hadn’t yet been fired, but who knows what might have happened? The fact is anyone with a gun is going to be seen by armed police as a legitimate target. Even if they throw the weapon down, they could have more guns on their person.
The riots which broke out all over London then spread to other cities were all caused mainly by young people, some not even teenagers yet, and they seemed to regard it as ‘fun’ to riot, loot and set buildings on fire, including people’s livelihoods and private homes. The parents of many of these teenagers and young people must be regarded as criminals themselves and accessories to their crimes as most of the kids are too young to have homes of their own. Therefore they must be coming back to their parents’ houses loaded with stolen goods looted from stores in the riots.
Now people have died because of the riots – three men of Asian ethnic origin deliberately run over in a car as they tried to defend their neighborhoold from rioters, and an elderly man in his 60s also has suffered life-threatening injuries. Many have lost their homes.
The reaction of the police and authorities has been too slow, too little and too late. Both the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London were abroad and did not come back for days.
As to the police, they are now doing their best to contain the riots and prevent further outbreaks, but what have they done, or been allowed to do, over the past few years when teenage armed gangs based around drug culture ruled whole areas, stabbed and shot each other over territory wars, etc.? Precious little despite Operation Trident (investigating black-on-black murders and gun crime). The reason is possibly ‘political correctness’ and fear of stirring up more racial prejudice and violence.
Not all the gang members and looters are black or of ethnic origins, but the fact that a large percentage are has perhaps been part of the reason the government has been reluctant to crush the gang culture before it got completely out of hand and created this total anarchy on our city streets.
There are widespread calls to bring back National Service, if not for all teenagers, at least for those involved in the looting and rioting. I think this would be the worst possible thing; putting guns into their hands and training them in better ways to kill people then sending them abroad to places like Afghanistan to kill, rape and loot civilians at will, which is probably what would happen.
However compulsory community service for all teenagers (male and female), and certainly for all in armed gangs, found with knives or guns on them, and for all involved in the riots and looting is something I would fully support. Indeed I have been urging for compulsory community service for all teenagers or at least those in gangs for quite some time. This community service would not be military, but would be a disciplined environment (possibly boot camps for the most rebellious) in which they learn respect for society, and to help the most vulnerable, including the elderly and disabled. Also where they learn to improve the environment by cleaning up graffitti, and in the latest situation, rebuilding the communities, shops and homes the rioters and looters have destroyed.
As to how to prevent armed gang warfare, rioting and looting on our city streets, well I’ve not seen a policeman around my council estate or the surrounding streets for I can’t think how long, except after serious incidents have already occurred. Not even last nite and Clapham Junction (scene of arson, rioting and looting) is less than half a mile away. Other areas, including Wood Green next to Tottenham, had a huge police presence, so probably did Clapham Junction itself. But this is only for a few nites, this level of policing cannot be sustained as it involves cancelation of leave, extra shifts, drawing in police from other areas, etc.
Despite all this the government still intends to go ahead with cutting the numbers of police (already invisible in normal circumstances on our streets, until after incidents have already occurred). They have also cut many other public services, including those which would be helping to get unemployed and bored youths off the streets and into useful activities or even jobs.
I am basically a pacifist, but I have long argued that in this age of armed gang warfare on our city streets, and now rioting, arson and looting, we can no longer have the luxury of an unarmed police force, still less an unarmed police force which is not constantly visible on our streets.
Most other countries have lightly armed police visible on their streets, and I see no reason why Britain should be the exception. Even unarmed police constantly patrolling would be a deterrent, but we cannot expect our police officers to effectively confront armed gang members and rioters like we’ve seen this past week unless the police officers have some sort of weapons better than truncheons to defend themselves and apprehend the law breakers.
As to ‘stop and search’, a very sensitive issue, it is time to stop pussy-footing around. The police cannot operate effectively with one arm tied behind their backs. They must be allowed to stop and search all those in the community they feel are most likely to be carrying arms, and as I’ve said before on these blogs this is not likely to be some wealthy person living in Hampstead. It is much more likely to be a teenager living on run-down council estate with a high crime rate. It is also a fact that a large percentage of these teenagers will be of ethnic family origin.
This fact must not prevent them being stopped and searched. Indeed all law-abiding citizens should be willing to be stopped and searched by police, but inevitably this must be targeted and teenagers must get used to being stopped and searched very regularly at least until this gang culture and the rioting culture has been banished from our society. Only then can we hopefully return to something approaching normality.
As to how to defeat the rioters and looters, there must be a permanently increased police and security presence on our city streets, and if necessary the army should be brought in. They should, in any case, be brought back from places like Iraq and Afghanistan where they have no right to be in the first place, and combatting the anarchy in our cities would be a much more worthwhile job for them. Any world policing should be done by a UN force under the authority of the UN General Assembly, not by the UK, USA or NATO alone.
On our city streets baton rounds (plastic bullets) and water cannon should be deployed in riot situations. Curfews should be announced. If these measures don’t work, then it may be necessary to even declare martial law and announce that looters and rioters will be shot on sight with real bullets by the army. If this sounds very extreme from a pacifist, and likely to create more racial violence especially if a young black person is shot by police, then I say it cannot get much worse than it already is. Hopefully just the threat of shooting on sight with live bullets any looters or rioters will have the required deterrent effect.
However this is only half the story. In the longer term serious efforts must be made to totally reform our sick materialist society. Dangling expensive luxury goods in front of the eyes of those who cannot afford them and implying everybody should have them is asking for trouble, but this is the capitalist system, especially in the wake of Thatcher’s ‘get rich and damn everybody else’ society.
What is needed is a good dose of old-fashioned Socialism – real Socialism which puts the emphasis on a caring society and comradeship. Where there are no overpaid, over-perked, corrupt bureaucrats and politicians. Or indeed a good dose of Humanism or any religious creed which does not divide people, but teaches them decent, civilized behavior and concern for other people, especially the disadvantaged. Any creed, in fact, which places spiritual values above materialistic ones, which places the good of society and other people above personal material gain.
There are, however, no excuses for the kind of scenes we have seen on Britain’s city streets this week. Capitalism and materialism is no excuse for this type of behavior, which will make things much worse and not change society for the better. Working-class people are one of the main victims of this violence, not the rich in their millionaires’ apartments and mansions, nor the politicians and others in the leafy affluent suburbs and rural towns and communities. That is not a call to take the violence into these affluent communities, it is just pointing out the fact that the rioters, arsonists and looters are making working-class people live in fear, and in destroying businesses making the unemployment situation even worse.
Any change in society must be brought about by disciplined, organized worker and unemployed people’s solidarity operating thru the ballot box and trade union movement, thru worker and consumer cooperatives, and similar initiatives. Only if and when the peaceful and parliamentary road is blocked should more direct action be taken, and then this must be restrained and organized, such as widespread strikes to enforce the will of the people. Peaceful revolutions brought about the collapse of many dictatorships abroad, but violent revolutions nearly always brought about a repressive regime, often with brutality and injustice towards the very people they sought to champion.
Yes it may be necessary in extreme circumstances where innocent lives are threatened to resort to arms, but these must always be discriminate and never indiscriminate. They should only be used in extreme life-threatening situations and then only by fully trained, disciplined security forces whether these be the police, security forces of the UN or individual nations, or indeed disciplined workers’ militias seeking to prevent striking workers from being shot.
Giving every person the ‘right to bear arms’ is a recipe for disaster. It is turning a blind eye to so much armed gang warfare that has brought us to the present catastrophic situation.
I await to read the response of readers and column writers of the Weekly Worker tomorrow to the riots, arson and looting. I have already told them, in my letter which I hope they publish, that if the response does not satisfy me I will cut my recent ties with both the publication and its sponsor, the CPGB Provisional Central Committee. One question I have asked in this letter is what the ‘right to bear arms’ in their policy actually means: the right of who to bear what arms and in what circumstances? If it is giving every maniac a gun, I said, then I’m outta here.