Read an excerpt from Verso author Domenico Losurdo's book Democracy or Bonapartism, which touches on the urban revolts currently sweeping through England, and, as he suggests, soon to ignite the rest of Europe. Translation kindly provided by Gregory Elliott
The 1992 Los Angeles uprising was the flip side of rejection of the principle of proportional representation and of the political decapitation of the subaltern classes. Still subject to a significant degree of racial discrimination; following the victory of the minimalist definition of democracy reduced to a market; no longer regarded as the possessors of social and economic rights; lacking any party organization they could count on; without the possibility of access to the means of information and hampered in their access to the ballot box by voter registration laws; unable, ultimately, to make their voices heard at a properly political level, blacks could protest only by resorting to a kind of urban jacquerie—a furious, destructive rebellion that in no way alters the existing state of affairs.
The social historian of life and labour in Victorian and Georgian Britain John G Rule has died at age 67. Rule was part of a group of young historians who worked under the famous historian E.P. Thompson at the University of Warwick in the 1960s. Among Rule's many prestigious academic achievements is his remarkable chapter on "Wrecking and Coastal Plunder" in Albion's Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in Eighteenth-Century England. His obituary in the Guardian describes his contribution to this collection as follows:
John's contribution to the seminal collection Albion's Fatal Tree (1975) restored to history those Cornish coastal communities which, during the 18th century, accepted the flotsam and jetsam of the sea as a natural bounty to which no laws of property attached; and he destroyed the romantic myth of the Cornish wreckers with their false lights.
Although cautious of the fact that any single, unified explanation for this civil unrest is unlikely to be forthcoming, Hind urges that we cannot treat recent events as mere 'mindless' violence, devoid of political or social meaning.
[..]broadly, any breakdown of civil order is inescapably political. Quite large numbers of mostly young people have decided that, on balance, they want to take to the streets and attack the forces of law and order, damage property or steal goods. Their motives may differ - they are bound to differ. But their actions can only be understood adequately in political terms.
Hind notes that although the rioting may take on the guise of political meaning through the opportunism of politicians and commentators; root causes are at risk of being ignored in the sensationalist media reporting and political point-scoring that will undoubtedly emerge in the aftermath of the unrest.
Highlighting the high rates of youth unemployment, economic inequality, and cuts to youth services, the article draws attention to the deeper meaning of the riots. Speaking of these issues, Hind writes:
All this is the consequence of decisions made by governments and there is little hope of rapid improvement. The same politicians now denouncing the mindless violence of the mob all supported a system of political economy that was as unstable as it was pernicious. They should have known that their policies would lead to disaster. They didn't know. Who then is more mindless?
[...]Those who want to see law and order restored must turn their attention to a menace that no amount of riot police will disperse; a social and political order that rewards vandalism and the looting of public property, so long as the perpetrators are sufficiently rich and powerful.
Vist Al Jazeera to read the full article.
Visit Mother Jones for a basic summary of the causes and effects of the rioting, including a reference to Dan Hind's Al Jazeera piece.
You've probably heard it said a dozen times today: "It's like 28 Days Later out there." Every thirty seconds, there's a new riot zone. I've rarely known the capital to be this wound up. It's kicked off in East Ham, then Whitechapel, then Ealing Broadway (really?), then Waltham Forest... It's kicked off in Croydon, then Birmingham, then (just a rumour so far) Bradford... The banlieues of Britain are erupting in mass civil unrest. (Lenin's Tomb)
Why is it that the same areas always erupt first, whatever the cause? Pure accident? Might it have something to do with race and class and institutionalised poverty and the sheer grimness of everyday life? The coalition politicians (including new New Labour, who might well sign up to a national government if the recession continues apace) with their petrified ideologies can't say that because all three parties are equally responsible for the crisis. They made the mess.
Sujatha Fernandes, author of the forthcoming Close to the Edge: In Search of the Global Hip Hop Generation, reports on Cuba's vibrant hip hop scene for the New York Times, detailing its origins in 1990s American rap music:
Rap was originally an import. In the early '90s, young Cubans built antennas from wire coat hangers and dangled their radios out of their windows to catch 2 Live Crew and Naughty by Nature on Miami's 99 Jamz. Aspiring Cuban M.C.'s rapping at house parties and in small local venues crassly mimicked their American counterparts.
In large part due to their isolation from the United States, however, Cuban rappers began to develop a unique hip hop culture. Says Fernandes: