Bonfire Night clashes — A product of capitalist decay

— Sara Al Disi
— Edinburgh

Bonfire Night came to a rebellious end as young people clashed with the Police in parts of Scotland. Police Scotland reported 8 minor injuries to officers and 2 damaged vehicles after clashes in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Dundee, with fireworks and petrol bombs thrown at riot police.

The most serious incident occurred in Niddrie, southeast Edinburgh, where up to 100 young people got involved in the clashes. Videos circulating on social media show an overwhelming force of hundreds of police in full riot gear standing in line blocking Hay Avenue and advancing towards the intersection at Niddrie Marischal Road.

Teenagers directed fireworks towards the police lines, while a few petrol bombs were also thrown, causing officers to retreat before charging forwards again. Residents and bystanders filmed the incident from multiple angles. The police made several arrests, and claimed that the attacks were organised and orchestrated by adults who allegedly “supplied the weapons” to the youth.

A barrage of condemnations were expressed in the hours after the clashes, including from Cammy Day, the leader of Edinburgh City Council, who called the scenes “disgraceful” and called for a ban on selling fireworks to the public. First Minister Humza Yousaf said that those responsible “should feel the full force of the law”. Agreeing with him, the Scottish Conservative justice spokesman Russell Findlay said “Police Scotland need sufficient resources to tackle these thugs.”

In a classic bourgeois fashion, these politicians viciously malign young people from deprived areas as “thugs”, troublemakers, etc and refuse to address the root of their problems. More “law and order” is not the answer to young people feeling alienated and discontented with the political establishment that looks down on them in every way.

Police Scotland set up Operation Moonbeam to tackle Bonfire Night disorder in 2018. Clearly it has not stopped the issue, but the deployment of hundreds of riot police has only served as a provocation for wider “disorder”. Locals blame the Police for escalating normal gatherings of young people, labelled as “anti-social behaviour”, into these violent incidents, such as the minor rioting in the Kirkton area of Dundee last Halloween.

Niddrie is amongst the most deprived areas in Scotland according to the Scottish Index for Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), which takes into account wealth, health, crime and unemployment. Niddrie is also the poorest neighbourhood in the capital.

Only a few miles away however, Craiglockhart is the most affluent area in the whole of Scotland. This stark difference is not lost on the people of Niddrie, who see that the people who most loudly condemn them and their children live in a completely different world of material comfort and security.

The capitalist system breeds hopelessness and alienation; the accumulation of wealth at one end of society, and misery at the other. These young people in Niddrie have seen nothing but poor housing, badly looked after schools and falling standards of living from their parents’ generation to theirs. In recent years, they are being punished even further by inflation, austerity and police hostility.

They have seen promises broken and forgotten by politicians – the mouthpieces and guardians of this system. Deep poverty has increased in Scotland over the last two decades according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), with a third of Scottish people at least 50% below the poverty line. The JRF also exposed the educational attainment gap – which the previous First Minister promised to close – to be still high enough that poor pupils have about half the chance of achieving basic numeracy standards as others by age 12-14.

They also receive a lot of attention from a hostile police force that is racist, misogynistic and a constant source of acrimony in poor communities. People in the poorest areas recognise more than anyone else the real role of the police, in protecting the rich and the capitalist establishment, which they immensely and rightly blame for the conditions they live under.

The anger of the poor and working classes is rising as the capitalist system slips deeper into crisis. Combustible material has accumulated for years, waiting for a spark to light it up. This anger breaks out in riots and cat-and-mouse clashes with the Police, but this is ultimately a loser’s game.

The anger and energy of the working class must be directed towards a real solution of our problems: a revolution that upends the current order of inequality and exploitation. We must overthrow the rotten capitalist system causing this misery, and transform society along socialist lines.