Lessons from London

Posted on August 11, 2011 by

The uprising among London’s Afro-Caribbean and other residents in that city’s poorest area was triggered by a racial incident reminiscent of L.A.’s Rodney King riots 20 years ago. 

Instead of tackling desperate conditions and high unemployment, the world’s “democracies” are imposing austerity budgets and cracking down on dissent. 

While the crisis in England is rooted in the British Empire’s particular colonial legacy, the U.S. government is also proving incapable of responding to a battered economy. 

Will America’s working-class rise up? 

There may be some signs of that, with a slight uptick in union activity (see Erik Loomis’ piece in Alternet). 

Could the American Labor Movement really reach out and organize our nation’s workers and unemployed? 

Recent strikes, contract victories and a more balanced National Labor Relations Board are giving union activists a margin of hope. 

Will America’s corporate, financial and political elite take a lesson from the violence in Tottenham and share a piece of the pie with the “bottom 90 percent” of its citizens? 

Not unless they’re forced to.

Comments (4)


  1. Charlie King says:

    Your tone worries me as it implies a threat of violence by workers, this is not the message the American Labor Movement has historically sent or should be sending. Very disturbing.

    • Lou says:

      I’m absolutely not advocating violence but pointing out what can happen when the system delivers extreme inequality; and how unions can be the instrument for closing that gap.

  2. Don Keefer says:

    That’s right: You don’t have to advocate violence to warn, or fear, that it is virtually inevitable, given the Big Swindle (The Hostile Corporate Take-Over of America) which our so-called financial “elites” continue to perpetrate, politically unopposed and criminally unpunished, on the entire world. People (non-elites) are already demonstrating en masse, and sometimes violently rioting, in the streets of Athens (birthplace of democracy), Italy (which knows a thing or two about imperial decline), Spain (ditto), England (ditto), Ireland (where they understand exploitation), the Arab world, and even Israel in response to the corrupt and unrepentant acts and attitudes of the thieves and frauds (whoremongers and warmongers) on Wall St. The peasants (including the late great middle class) have no bread? Well, “Let them eat cake!” (and we all know how well that story ended). As the song says, “With/Without: Who’ll deny that’s what the fighting’s all about?”
    Does American “exceptionalism” really mean we will be the only ones NOT to fight back? Are we really “The Land of The Free, Home of The Brave” if we timidly and docilely (like “a nation of sheep”) allow ourselves to be enslaved by Wall St-incurred Debt, and fail to challenge or confront our new Masters, those who would make “Peasants” of us all?

  3. Rod Bradley says:

    While I am pro-worker and am one myself — and even more pro “the little guy” — I am dubious about the union as the answer — first of all, I have seen first hand how the union hierarchical structure creates its own elites — and worse, its own corruptions. Right now I have a friend who is a union guy who works as an airline mechanic. In short, the union protects the guys who don’t work equally with the guys who work. His crew consists of people who actually believe they should work for a living. The crew on the prior shift, plays video games and watches movies throughout the shift. Complains lodged are dismissed. The airline knows, everybody knows, but nothing changes. Nothing will.

    I would like to say this is rare. I wish I could. I will say this is very minor corruption compared to the major corruption of management. Small potatoes. But one feeds the other.

    Alas, unions may start off as necessary and good, but they, like all institutions, are subject to corruptions. And I think the division of people and labeling them as “labor” in a collective way, isn’t culturally very modern or progressive.

    I wish I were wrong. But I think this is reality.

    We have a class society in this country based on economics. A person is measured by their economy.

    The vast majority of “peasants” in this society are independent contractors or fly-by-night dispensable servants of this or that corporation.

    Don K is eloquent and correct that need to wake up the political oligarchy, themselves the servants of forces far beyond those without imagination or courage like our current president. (I don’t blame him. He is an ordinary man with an extraordinary ego but no inner core or vision when it comes to the promises he made and the expectations he raised.)

    We are, as a people, still getting enough crumbs to get more angry about cultural nonsense and expressing our ignorance (the tea party folks) than to get truly angry that our political masters are, for the most part, looking after only themselves.

    We need to get to Washington en mass.

    We need to recognize actual common sense heroes like Senator Bernie Sanders.

    Talk here is cheap. Talk is like Obama. Very cheap. No action. Unless our words are action, they
    are meaningless. I too am guilty.

Leave a Reply