About the social and economical background of the riots in Britain

As you will have seen from the media coverage there has been riots across Britain. That riots have taken place is not surprising as large sections of the British working class live in poverty and social deprivation. Many working class communities in Britain have never recovered from the closure of traditional industries coal mining, steel making engineering and so on.

This dates back to the 1970's and 1980's when Britain's manufacturing bases was decimated. In the early 1980's with millions unemployment rioting took place in Britain. The riots were largely concentrated in the "inner cities" and on "council estates" these areas are vast local government built housing estates and are some of the poorest communities in Britain. Though the inner city areas tend to have high immigrant populations the council estates tend to be dominated by white working class. In the 1980's the media at first attempted to portray the riots as "race riots" but the fact that so many white working class on council estates were also taking in part in riots forced the media to drop the attempt at blame the riots on immigrants.

Though Britain to a degree has recovered from the loss of manufacturing, the collapse of working class organisation has meant that the wealth in Britain has been increasingly concentrated at the top of society. Britain is now as unequal a society as it was in the 18th century. The situation in the inner cities and on the council estates has has in many ways become far worse since the 1980s, the wealth is concentrated among the top 10% of the population poverty has increased for the bottom 20% of people. Unemployment is high in general and youth unemployment is massive on council estates and in the inner cities . Crime is high in these areas and drug taking and drug related crime is also widespread. Mortality rates are far higher in these areas than in the richers areas of the country. Social deprivation is high and life is pretty bleak in general with the majority constantly struggling just to survive. It is therefore not surprising that as in the 1980s the latest riots have been concentrated in the inner cities and on council estates.

The state and service sector over the last 20 years did to an extent fill the gap left by the loss of manufacturing jobs but these jobs are often part time and low paid. The wages in the state and service sector are so low they often have to be "topped up" by state benefits. So even those in work are also in receipt of state benefits. As part of the cuts now taking place in Britain it is workers in the state sector that are being hit hardest with hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs being lost. So it is the poorest areas that have since the loss of manufacturing been dependent on state sector jobs that are suffering most from the job cuts.

In the inner cities and on council estates life is hard particularly for young people. As in any recession the first thing that the employers do is stop hiring workers which means that there simply no jobs for young people leaving school. Officially there is I million young people unemployed in Britain the figure is in reality far higher. Further the media and the government has over the last few years been attacking the unemployed as "scroungers" unwilling to work and happy to live of state benefits. They have not only cuts benefits they have made life much harder for those claiming benefits with people being constantly harassed, checked and forced to prove that they are looking for work.

Needles to say anger has built up among people on council estates and in the inner cities and in particular among young people who are constantly being harassed by the state and the police. Young working class people also find themselves being portrayed by the media and by politicians as stupid and violent. A new derogatory word "chav" used to describe young working class people is now in every day use in Britain. The depth of hatred among young people can be gauged by how fast the riots spread. There has been an explosion of hatred by the disposed and the abandoned.

The problem being is that the anger of young people has no direction. Though the bulk of the rioting has been directed at large shops some shops and houses in working class areas have also been attacked creating fear in some working class communities. The anger is not organised though hopefully that will change as things develop.

The reformist unions in Britain have never sort to organise in working class communities and among the unemployed so the idea of the unions means nothing to most young unemployed workers. As part of the Solidarity Federation moves to becoming a functioning union we have been in the process of developing a community strategy aimed at ensuring that as an anarcho-syndicalist union we organise in both the workplace and community.

Over the last week the Solidarity Federation has being issue statements aimed at reflecting the true nature of the riots. Some of our comments have been picked up by the national media and as a result our web site has crashed on several occasions as people have looked for more information. We will also be distributing leaflets in working class areas.

But the Solidarity Federation aim is to built a permanent presence in working class areas. Our aim is to become a part of the workers daily struggle against capitalism.

SF-IWA International Secretary


  1. french translation: http://aitinfos.free.fr/spip.php?article9

  2. ok. I copied and pasted it. merci!