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With the working class youth of London – against the police

Statement by Workers Power – 8 August

For the third night running, working class youth are on the streets of London fighting the police in running battles. By the evening of Monday 8 August, the uprising had spread to Hackney, Lewisham, Peckham, Croydon and Birmingham with skirmishes in Clapham, Seven Sisters and dozens of other locations. Workers Power stands foursquare with the youth.

The uprisings are an expression of rage at racist police killings, daily police harassment, and underlying it the surge in youth unemployment and savage cuts in benefits and local services including youth services.

The shooting of Mark Duggan and the contempt the Tottenham police showed for his family and the peaceful protest on Saturday were just the spark that lit the fuse. On the 30th anniversary of the Brixton Riots of 81 it was not forgotten by people on the streets and across Tottenham that this most deprived borough is also the scene of the most intensive uprising against the police in the 80s – the Broadwater Farm uprising of 1985.

Police racism against black people was one but not the only spur to the clash and there are reports that white and even Orthodox Jewish people supported the defence of the demonstrators after police attacked a 16 year old girl, a report systematically excluded from BBC coverage by Monday

The battle in Tottenham drove back police momentarily sufficient to allow poor local youth to attack shops and steal goods. One arson attack on a store burnt out workers’ flats above. Now the risings are spreading across London to Walthamstow, Hackney, Brixton, Enfield, Lewisham and Peckham – and now Birmingham. Some are motivated by hatred of the police and rage at this society – others by the promise of raiding local shops for goods – some by both.

Why did the rioting spread? Youth – especially black and Asian youth – have a similar experience of police violence; the death of Mark Duggan had direct and recent echoes in Brixton and Croydon with the killing of Smiley Culture, and in Birmingham with three deaths in police custody: Demetre Fraser, Kingsley Burrell and Lloyd Butler. Youth unemployment stands at nearly one million and up to 50% for young black men, with university out of reach, college expensive, courses cut and benefits slashed; all local councils have axed youth services, some by up to 75%. As one Tottenham resident told the BBC, “This how we get change here. After ’85 [Broadwater Farm uprising] we got a brand new swimming pool. It wasn’t coming here before.”

 Our stance is clear: we are 100% for the people on the streets and against the police; we support organised self-defence of demonstrations and working class communities; we demand police off the streets; we demand a popular inquiry of delegates from the local community to determine responsibility for the shooting of Mark Duggan and to investigate police racism and corruption; we demand the release of all detainees from the uprisings and the dropping of all charges.

We oppose looting not from the standpoint of the petit-bourgeois proprietors but from the standpoint of the working class: the lumpenproletarian priority in these situations is to enrich themselves momentarily. However, where there has been stealing of basic necessities, like food and clothes, this is entirely understandable.

The proletarian priority is to unify and strengthen the working class against the state and the system. Looting divides and weakens the working class struggle. So too do attacks on firefighters and paramedics, who are not part of the repressive apparatus but workers, who also face cuts. However, we oppose all police repression and call for organisation of the protests to assert restraint, not police control.

We call on the labour movement to denounce leading and local Labour politicians who speak out not for the people but for the police, and who always put the voice of local propertied people before the voice of the propertyless youth. We denounce the Blairite David Lammy, MP for Tottenham – whilst Bernie Grant then MP for Tottenham denounced the police aggressors in 1985, today Lammy denounces only the youth. We call on the trade unions to add their support to defence campaigns, to call Labour MPs to account, to back local community inquiries into the real causes of the events. We denounce Lee Jasper, Ken Livingstone’s former adviser, who went on Channel 4 News to demand more and swifter police action in deprived areas, who failed to call for justice for Mark Duggan’s family but merely for a police family liaison officer.

Above all we demand a real campaign of direct action against unemployment, homelessness and cuts. The whole working class movement should fight for an end to all job cuts, a massive programme of public spending on useful jobs financed by taxing the rich and expropriating the banks, and an end to the whole cuts programme of the Tories including cuts in services and benefits. This means a general strike to bust the cuts, bring down the Tories and open a fight against this system itself.

The unemployed and the youth are ready to fight – they are showing fearlessness and militancy against the police. We fight for an unemployed workers’ union and a revolutionary youth movement.

The explosion of riots across Britain is an historic event, part of a crisis of the system as a whole, which continues across the world.  Like the banlieues uprisings in France in 2006 it is a sign of things to come. While thousands of youth take to the streets against a system of hopelessness and despair, the leaders of Britain, America and Europe rot on their feet, unable to prevent the meltdown of their financial system and demanding ever more sacrifices from the people. Out of the mass upheaval, from among the desperate youth and the workers driven to fight, a new revolutionary organisation needs to be assembled, to direct the rage of the people against the cause of our suffering and to fight to take the power.

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