LONDON — As political and social protests grip the Middle East, are growing in Europe and a riot exploded in north London this weekend, here’s a sad truth, expressed by a Londoner when asked by a television reporter: Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?
“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”
Read full article here. (No really, read it. It’s short but pretty good and really interesting.)
And when it comes down to it, that’s the truth of the situation. Riots in an of themselves don’t achieve anything, but they highlight the unrest and they bring to the front the contradictions within society. They’re a statement to the ruling classes and the media that people are willing to and able to fight back, that there’s a lot of power present. No, in a riot it’s not guided and it’s not directed. It isn’t in itself a revolutionary action. But the act of riot highlights that there is this ostracised and disaffected group, the purpose of being a revolutionary (of any kind be you anarchist or marxist) is to find a way to bring that group into the workers movement, to be able to build and direct that passion and anger from being purely destructive into something creative.
This is why you don’t attack the rioters, because they share your class consciousness and despite not having a philosophical basis for their action they’re still striking back at the same beast. The problem is with the government and the capitalist society that creates the separation and the contradictions that lead to this situation in the first place.
To revolutionaries that I follow who berate the rioters for their actions, you think the media reporting of this is any different than it is in other countries that have riots? You see that’s the point: here we have an American mainstream news article that reports on riots, it talks about how the riot is the only way for people to have their voices heard; it talks about the issue of poverty; it talks about police/resident relations being poor; it talks of long term underlying socio-economic problems. Will our media and has our media been reporting this in the same fashion? Do you think if a riot happened in the US tomorrow MSNBC would be taking the same line, or would they follow suit and ostracise the rioters as street gangs/anarchists/kids out to smash stuff? (Hint, it’s the second option). Every time you reblog a picture of a riot in another country the media and a large chunk of the population there will be making the same complaints about that instance as I’ve seen some of you make about the situation in London.
These are the contradictions of a capitalist media, of self-censorship and of ideological hegemony. This highlights the way that the media reports on issues one way for their home state and another way for other states, the way that capitalism protects itself by separating and dividing societies into not supporting and uniting. You have to buck that trend, you have to look past the facade and at the deeper issues behind it, you have to show a consistent support based on class consciousness and not be sucked into the arrogance and elitism that capitalism uses to de-tooth and declaw those who could oppose it.