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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Youth street crime due to exclusion from society

WHATEVER someone's politics, I tend to take a closer look where they pick up on the themes represented by this anti-knife crime blog.

Here, Unite's General Secretary Len McCluskey picked out my thoughts that the country's riots in 2011 were caused by young people's exclusion from society and employment, similar to this blog's findings that many young people have little to aspire to, thus sometimes taking to the streets - and, tragically, to knife or other violent crime.


Here's an excerpt of his talk if you don't have time to watch the whole thing:


The 21st Century is not ringing out the death knell of the labour movement; it is sending out a call to arms. The apparently endless economic crisis which began in 2008 is seeing to that.
In 1992 Margaret Thatcher claimed, after the election of another Conservative Government, ‘It is a great night. It is the end of Socialism.’
A few years later Tony Blair declared ‘that the Class war is over’. No doubt from the boardroom of JP Morgan or wherever he is now, it may look that way.
John Prescott claimed “We’re all middle class now!”
But don’t worry, of course, the entire evolutionary human history of socialism and class was not eradicated by New Labour.
Would anyone – two and a half years into this Bullingdon Club Coalition – have the pomposity to claim that class has ceased to be an issue in politics today?
Of course this is not political reality; it is a tactic; it is political posturing.
It is used as false evidence that we have nothing left to fight for. It is part of the rhetoric fed to us that says we should not challenge the decisions taken by our elites.
We are taught to believe that democracy is the cornerstone of a modern civilised society; but our Lords and Masters want to define democracy, limiting us to an ‘X’ on a Ballot Paper every 5 years.
This is not my definition of democracy.
They tell us strike action, civil disobedience, direct action and protest are all somehow unpatriotic.
Our history tells us they are not.
That is because our rulers are deeply afraid of Ralph Miliband’s assertion that politics is about conflict.
They believe that, for example, those without hope, without jobs, now looking at cuts in their meagre welfare, that families being shunted out of London because of housing benefit changes should simply out up with it.
Wait for the next general election – that’s if they are registered to vote.
Well I note that some council leaders from our major cities have warned that people might respond with anger and civil disorder.
I would not be surprised. The one thing worse than suffering is suffering alone and in silence.
We have seen remarkable local protests in recent years: from 20,000 defending a hospital in Eastbourne; 15,000 on the streets in Lewisham to 350 people protesting against a library closure.
Look at the 2011 riots in England they exposed the growing ‘disconnect’ in a broken society.
But it was not without reason.
Young people spoke of their frustration at not being able to find employment.
They were excluded from society in the first instance, so what was there to lose?
Those events showed that at a certain level of inequality, the whole concept of “society” starts to be drained of meaning.
The labour movement, protest and working-class politics will continue far beyond the 21st century.
Be assured, protest against inequality is alive and well – look at the work done by UKuncut to challenge outrageous tax avoidance by Vodafone and other giant corporations.
Their message is – if you want to trade in Britain and benefit from our infrastructure and skilled workforce, then pay your taxes.
Last year protests focused on Starbucks.
Initially, of course, protestors faced hostility, vilification and attacks by the media.
But the truth is these tactics work.
When the right-wing media realised that these protestors were on to something, their attention then focused on Starbucks and what followed has been a remarkable public boycott of the company.
It takes courage to risk unpopularity and vilification. But the truth does prevail.
The labour movement’s message must be one of ‘hope’.
It must talk more about its victories and the positive future that it aspires to.
Britain is broken. But it is the system that is broken, not the people.
Trade unions and the labour movement must continue to give hope for a better way of doing things.
They must work to ‘educate – agitate – organise’.
I am proud to associate Unite with these initiatives, and to hope to form a longer-lasting alliance between organised labour and radical protest, even if it comes from outside our traditional movement.
And, as I have made clear before in relation to the trade union laws, while I do not ever advocate violence, nor do I preach worship of the law at all costs.
So my message to capitalism – if you can send a message to a system – is this: Mend your ways or risk mounting social breakdown and disorder.
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