the Disillusioned kid: It's Criminal! Part 2.
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Sunday, October 31, 2004

It's Criminal! Part 2.

Robin's comments on my earlier post about burglary and progressive responses suggest that some clarification and elaboration on the point might be in order.

Robin says that he "can't actually remember encountering the 'making excuses for crime' people that the IWCA article talks about." And asks, "Just who are these people?" His point is sound, the cited article, by Dave Abbot, goes further than I would. It argues that "the Left" makes excuses for criminals, where I would contend that this is merely a perception. The important thing is that it is a widely held perception and one which "the Left " has done little to discourage.

Consider for instance this article from the Socialist Worker, arguably representative of the wider "Left", but certainly the organ of the largest organised "revolutionary" group. It makes many justified points about the consequences of New Labour's policies on working class communities, but has nothing to say about the consequences of anti-social behaviour by members of those communities on other members. Those who have to lives with these consequences cannot ignore them so easily. The article also has little to say about immediate solutions, focusing instead on platitudes about "a wider framework of secure, well paid jobs and good social services." As Abbot notes,
[T]he problem is having to deal with the impact of crime on working class communities in the here and now. We all have our ideals for how society should be but for people living in areas plagued by violent assaults, robbery, burglary and drug taking, they want to know what will be done to make their neighbourhoods safe again. For them, crime is an immediate problem which severely curtails their sense of freedom and vague promises of how the world could be in the future under a different economic and social system understandably don?t have any resonance.
I don't claim to have all the answers as to how we should propose "to make their neighbourhoods safe again," but I firmly believe that it is crucial that we ask the question, to do otherwise is to condemn ourselves to obscurity and irrelevance.

As to Robin's talk of "clueless 'anarchists'," I don't fully understand the significance of the quotation marks, so I'm not sure if he's referring to those who supplant reasoned political analysis with ill-considered anti-authoritarianism, or if it is intended as a criticism of the anarchist movement (such as it is). If he intended the former, than he is probably right. As to the latter, I don't think that anarchists are any worse than progressives of other stripes, indeed some are much stronger. I, for instance, often describe myself as an anarchist, although this is often for wont of a better term, rather than because it is a particularly accurate description of my politics. Additionally, SchNEWS published this article, making many of the points I've tried to express.

That said, anarchists might be more supportive of actions which are deemed "criminal" by the system, but which are quite different from the anti-social crimes I have focused on above and which I don't think are necessarily wrong. Consider theft for instance. My position on whether it is right or wrong in different circumstances has little to do with what the law says, but is instead informed by moral consequentialism. I am opposed to people breaking into other people's houses and stealing from them, primarily because of the psychological effects on the victims, which can often be serious. I don't, however, have a problem with people shoplifting from faceless corporations. I'd do it if I thought I could get away with it and only yesterday I was arguing for mass shoplifting as a potential political tactic. Many self-described anarchists would probably agree with me on this issue.

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