On the weekend of January 24 and 25, riots – “the worst in 40 years” – broke out in at least 10 places in the Netherlands against the imposition of a curfew, from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.
The most vehement reaction came from the mayor of Eindhoven – former Philips city, now Dutch Silicon Valley – who spoke of impending civil war and the need to deploy the army. The Eindhoven youth, and the hooligans who “came from elsewhere”, to wreak havoc in the center of Eindhoven on Sunday from 2 p.m. until early in the morning with fires, smashed windows, and looting of stores, he twice called “scum of the earth.”
We see how rioters in the former textile and machine industry town of Enschedé besieged the hospital emergency room – to the dismay of patients, health workers and their families. Earlier, in the fundamentalist Christian fishing community of Urk, a Covid test facility was set on fire after riots, the ultimate consequence of the conspiracy theories surrounding Covid. Other flashpoints include Stein, in the former coal mining area of the Netherlands, old textile towns such as Helmond and Tilburg, as well as provincial cities such as Roermond, Venlo, Breda, Arnhem, Apeldoorn. In The Hague, young people from the migrant neighborhood Schilderswijk took to the streets, clearly against the police, who had previously been involved in racist incidents. In other cities, this is also a factor.
Politicians seize the opportunity to profile themselves in the election campaign by condemning the riots and demanding more repression. The Covid denying and racist ultra-right and the “Muslim friends” of Green Left are at each other’s throats, holding each other’s supposed supporters responsible for the riots and trying to outdo each other in calling for peace and order. The Security Council of mayors and police is meeting this afternoon to consider a “plan of attack.”
Meanwhile, it is clear to many that the state is democratic only in appearance. The benefits affair has shown – not for the first time, think of the failure to pay compensation for quake damage – that the state does not follow its own rules, treats citizens like criminals with impunity and destroys them completely simply because they have a non-Dutch sounding name. It is also the frustration about this that came out on the streets last weekend.
Here we will not waste words on the street fighters and rioters, who are always drawn to street protests. Above we have already indicated some of the backgrounds of the young people involved in the protests and riots against the curfew. They are part of sectors of the working class, impoverished by de-industrialization, and/or belong to the second, third or fourth generation of migrant workers from Morocco and Turkey. They are often low-skilled, have few job opportunities, live on precarious jobs, on benefits or from their parents, are locked up at home due to school closures or lack of work, often with many in a small space. All the ills of the lower strata of the working class are found here: petty crime, alcoholism, abuse, addiction to drugs and drugs trafficking, etc. We can dismiss this disdainfully with the term lumpenproletariat.
But then we overlook the fact that in the 19th century the lumpenproletariat was part of what Marx called the industrial reserve army, which was incorporated into production in part as working wage laborers each time after a generation. In contrast, today the proportion of the population that is out of work or has too little work to support itself is increasing. Precarity, job insecurity and poverty, is the fate of more and more workers, including the better educated and better paid who imagine that they will be spared as working and middle class people. As council communists, we point out that it is in the self-interest of workers to stand up for the lower strata of their class by offering them a perspective of real struggle.
This also means that teachers and nurses, for example, who before Covid were at the forefront of the struggle against cuts in services and for higher wages, see through the current attempts of the bourgeois left to subordinate their struggle to the elections and to the “democracy” that is supposed to have the last say. Remember how members of the House of Representatives left the temple of democracy in flight to prevent a vote on salary increases in health care! Only by organizing ourselves into struggles in workers’ meetings and elected and re-eligible committees can we organize the struggle.
F.C., 25-1-2021 (translated from an article in Dutch from arbeidersstemmen.wordpress.com)