Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cables from the class war (Aug 9) - the World spinning on its axis

For some today's big news is the collapse of markets in Asia (sorry, haven't checked Europe yet as I write this but Seoul trading was interrupted, what means that it fell 10% in a single day) but for others, specially in Europe, the big news continues to be the massive riots that cannot anymore be said to be only of London, as the revolt has extended to several other cities.

I will begin with the English uprising. It may look as mindless violence but there is just too many people burning things and confronting the police to be just a random outburst or even racially motivated. Because even if racism by police may be part of the issue there is much less concern today about racism in general by both sides. A blogger cited by BBC wrote:

These children don't know anything about Broadwater Farm. They don't even remember the Stephen Lawrence case. Mention 'institutionalised racism' and they look at you blankly. But, regardless of this, the culture of mistrust and suspicion against the police is endemic.

So it's not (or not just about race) nor mindless youth violence... it is about class war: the poor against the dogs of the bourgeois. And for a change the poor are making a dent and they are enjoying it.

And it is an interesting form of class self-organization we should not ignore at all. Instead of twitter they are using blackberry and instead of nonviolent protests (failed thanks to police 'kettling') they are resorting to all out urban guerrilla.

It is, I understand, much like the "indignants" of Spain: the lack of clarity of the demands and goals is the same, the methods of e-organization are not that different, only the methods of making the point are different. But as we have seen in Greece both methods can go side by side at times too (even if this raises contradictions).

Something very important so far is that nobody has been killed (update[es]: one person, 26, has died, he was shot inside his car in an unclear incident in Croydon) in spite of the widespread rage and fire and that most of the targets of anti-commercial fire and looting have been outlets of large commercial chains or luxury shops such as jewelries (who could resist the temptation of looting a jewelry in a chaos like this, really?)

See this The Guardian opinion article by A. Topping, for example, if you want to grasp what is going on, why. This is clearly a new revolt of the banlieus, just that at the other side of the Channel.

Much more diverse takes on the English uprising can be found at American Leftist, who makes a quite complete review of what is being said about this revolt.

Another very good take and almost a must read is this street report on what happened in Hackney yesterday, published at The Commune. It really describes what's happening for what it is: the poor have arisen, even if they maybe only aim (by the moment) to loot some stores and make some noise, they are anything but mindless:

The businesses that were damaged on Mare Street were fairly targetted: businesses seen as parasites like the bookmakers, cashconverters and so on; a bank; and places with valuables such as a sports shop and a jewellers. The petrol station was also looted for drinks and people handed out bottles of water to strangers. The only cafe looted was one which is a big chain and also has no atmosphere and really crap tea so I had no problem with it. (...) The line between spectators and participants wasn’t clear. There was only one attempted mugging which was broken up quickly by the crowd.
However later in the night the reporter did not feel so cheery, as there were robberies within the crowd and "innocent" stores were targeted too.

Also at The Commune, D. Harvey adopts a Situationist stand before the riots: 

What is new about these riots is they look perversely un-political, and almost purely economic.  This has so far not been a riot against the police as such, but against shiny glass shop windows.

[On the cautious proclamations by Autonomist organizations] as if it even matters how we choose to balance it, or what we think about it – we are irrelevant, our judgement is irrelevant, and any attempt to pass moral judgement between different kinds of violence is a betrayal of the revolutionary principle.

In any case the most outstanding news within this big news item are that the revolt has extended to at least Birmingham, Liverpool, Nottingham, Bristol and (lesser) Leeds. While the unrest in London does not seem to end. From the BBC source:

Also not just the government has suspended vacations but also have London mayor B. Johnson and even Parliament has been recalled for Thursday.

Asian-American market crash

Another big news today is the Asian stock market crash. I say Asian because, even if Europe has been troubled, it has stood much better, surely thanks to the fact that the European Central Bank finally announced a mass intervention on Sunday, forcing speculators to stop their bets against the solvency of Eurozone members (is this a market or a casino?) 

Whatever the case Seoul trading floors reached their safety limit of 10% and trading was suspended for cool off until tomorrow. It is not very clear what the markets are reacting to but we can all think of the S&P downgrading of US debt or the horrible prognosis of a radioactive (and worse: mismanaged) Japan... but we knew all that months ago, right? The Chinese rating agencies had the US as AA (without "plus" and with "negative outlook" remark) since at least a year ago and nobody even blinked.

In any case the US markets are reacting Asian style, what is probably bad news. We'll see.

Rumsfeld to trial for tortures

More news from the USA is that Ronald Rumsfeld will be judged as main ideological culprit of the tortures inflicted against US citizens Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel for months. This only happens because the victims are US citizens, would they be Afghan or Arab nobodies they'd be still rotting at Guantanamo Bay. 

··> BBC.

Jackie Onnassis: Lyndon B. Johnson murdered JFK

Secret tapes revealed 17 years after the death of the famous first lady reveal her conviction that Johnson was at the center of a conspiracy to murder her husband. She feared that revealing these tapes could cause retaliation against her family and that is why they have been kept secret for so long. 

··> Daily Mail

Japan: government hid radiation spread maps to avoid responsibilities - akin to murder

Avoiding responsibilities is something you would not normally expect from the managers of one of the major powers on Earth, yet that is what they have been doing all this time: to avoid criticism and responsibility. Sadly for the Japanese people this attitude seems to be all-pervading in their administrative and corporative decision-making ranks.

It makes one almost missing the times when they were forced to commit ritual suicide for much less.

... the forecasts were left unpublicized by bureaucrats in Tokyo, operating in a culture that sought to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism. Japan’s political leaders at first did not know about the system and later played down the data, apparently fearful of having to significantly enlarge the evacuation zone — and acknowledge the accident’s severity. 

··> New York Times (quite longer story).

Spanish priests reject Pope's visit

€60 million public expenditure totally unjustified in times of budget cuts, even for the Pope's most loyal hypno-slaves ··> The Guardian.

Basque Country:

Plentzia social center (gaztetxe) closed without notice. Occupants could only retrieve their stuff because neighbors notified them. ··> Sare Antifaxista[es].

Conflict of the flowers at Pamplona. Flower homage to murdered Trotskyist, Germán Rodríguez, killed by police in 1978, removed by City Hall (in the hands of pro-Spanish conservatives/neofascists). Popular reaction brings new flowers and calls to bring them every 8th day of every month.

··> Ateak Ireki[es], Sare Antifaxista[es].

25% of Basque political prisoners is ill, 6% is severely ill ··> Ateak Ireki[es].

Technology: new data storage disk is "stone-like"

Something that has always worried us and specially those with need to store data for long periods, eventually forever, like historical archives, libraries, universities... is the issue of information degradation and loss. The new M-disk claims to be as resistant as if written on stone, yet compatible with today's DVD technology. ··>  Computerworld.

Today's song: London's burning (The Clash again) with fresh images just posted yesterday at YouTube:


  1. About the London riots. Yes, it´s wrong to see them just as “mindless violence”, but it´s dangerous to forget about that part of the problem. My wife is from Harrow and I have friends in some of the looted areas (Peckam, Ealing). I find difficult to be objective when corner shops are destroyed, when beauty parlors or baby cloths shops are ransacked, when windows are smashed to get some booze and fags. So I don´t think is fair comparing these riots with the “indignados” (I´m from Madrid by the way).

    I see these riots as a kind of existential “don´t give a fuck”, a very bad symptom of what it´s in store. Understanding the social roots of them is crucial but we have to be careful where our explanations (sometimes justifications) lead. As you said in another post, the Nazis are already hunting pakis, and that’s very dangerous. It´s easy to provoke a vigilante state of mind in this situation.

    This is a very interesting article from The Independent by Camila Batmanghelidjh (I have some problems with the idea of charities as a solution for social exclusion but found it interesting anyway).


  2. Sorry that your comment went to "spam" automatically. Solved.

    I think that the article of the Independent is quite good at pointing out what's going on, how the "banlieu system" and unemployment, so to say, is excluding a good deal of society from the very reality of society itself.

    I am not sure why the Spanish banlieus, which do exist, have not exploded the way the French and English ones have done but I presume that it's largely because the population of foreign origin is not yet rooted and lack the confidence, while both regular Spaniards and Gitanos have other systems of feeling integrated or even disintegrated under the more than usual police boot.

    However with the current levels of unemployment and the destruction of the minimalistic public safety net, it is not far the day that Spanish youths will do the same. In fact, unconsciously, the "indignados" movement may be rebelling against such an immediate and quite apparent future of 'chabolismo' and desperation.

    But I agree that the comparison has its limitations. They both respond to the same kind of injustices but do in different ways and the way of the riots is less productive because it is a magnet for the worst elements at the margins of society who respect nobody at all. It is also repulsive for large sectors of people who still want to be part of society in spite of all and it is unable of creating any sort of political organization, leaving that space to the Nazis of the EDL and the like with potentially catastrophic results.


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