Much of the UK commentary about the "protests" and "the cuts"
therefore depresses me as much as the looting and burning. The best
piece I've read on it so far was in The Australian (thanks RCP).
These are youngsters who are uniquely alienated from the
communities in which they grew up. Nurtured in large part by the welfare
state, financially, physically and educationally, socialised more by
the agents of welfarism than by their own neighbours or local
representatives, these youth have little moral or emotional attachment
to their communities. Their rioting reveals not that Britain is in a
time warp in 1981 or 1985 with politically motivated riots against the
police, but that the tentacle-like spread of the welfare state into
every area of people's lives has utterly zapped old social bonds, the
relationship of sharing and solidarity that once existed in
working-class communities. These riots suggest that the welfare state is
giving rise to a generation happy to shit on its own doorstep.
This is not a political rebellion; it is a mollycoddled mob, a
riotous expression of carelessness for one's own community. And as a
left-winger I refuse to celebrate nihilistic behaviour that has a
profoundly adverse affect on working people's lives. Far from being an
instance of working-class action, this welfare-state mob has more in
common with what Marx described as the lumpenproletariat. Indeed, it is
worth remembering Marx's colourful description in The Eighteenth
Brumaire of Louis Napoleon of how that French ruler cynically built his
power base among parts of the bourgeoisie and sections of the
lumpenproletariat, so that "ruined and adventurous offshoots of the
bourgeoisie rubbed shoulders with vagabonds, discharged soldiers,
discharged jailbirds, escaped galley slaves, swindlers, pickpockets,
tricksters, gamblers, brothel-keepers, organ-grinders, ragpickers,
knife-grinders, tinkers, beggars and from this kindred element Boneparte
formed the core of his [constituency], where all its members felt the
need to benefit themselves at the expense of the labouring nation". In
very different circumstances, we have something similar today where the
decadent commentariat's siding with lumpen rioters represents a weird
coming together of sections of the bourgeoisie with sections of the
underworked and the over-flattered, as the rest of us, "the labouring
nation", look on with disdain.
I'd say "disdain" is too mild: disgust and despair might be nearer the mark. Otherwise, this is right.
Dalrymple's view is online at City Journal. Read this essay of his from 2008.