I agree with nearly all your comments on ASBOs. Many people have been convinced that there is a massive problem with crime. Old people are afraid to go out of the house at night. As soon as people (particularly the elderly) see a group of young people, they think automatically they must be up to no good.
I recently received a questionnaire from my local Council about crime and anti social behaviour. Rather than giving the answers they obviously desired from the questions asked, I said that something should be done about local planning policies which led to new houses being built in such a way that they encouraged problems with neighbours. Something should be done about inconsiderate homeowners parking cars and blocking pavements. Finally I said they should stop frightening people with questionaires like the one I had been sent.
However, having been the parent of two children, I also know that there are problems that need to be dealt with. For nearly ten years my children couldn’t go out of the house because of anti social behaviour from other young people. This is not some run down council estate, but a semi-rural estate of detached and semi-detached houses. Nor were the main young people involved from a deprived background — far from it.
The intimdiation was not confined to my kids, but the whole family and grandparents. As a local councillor I had to deal with many cases like this, and much worse. There clearly is a problem which has to be addressed.
As a Marxist my approach to crime and criminals (and unfortunately many of those who begin with serious acts of anti-social behaviour either already are, or go on to become criminals of some sort) is that which Marxists developed long ago.
I understand the social roots of this behaviour. I have sympathy with those who resort to such activity because of understanding the social roots that lead to it. But that is not to be confused with condoning such behaviour, or siding with those who commit such acts against those (usually working class people) who are the victims.
The lumpen elements that are involved in anti-social, and especially criminal, behaviour are the source not of support for militant, working class, socialist politics, but are fodder for the far right. The ordinary working class people to whom our propaganda and activity are most often the victims of such behaviour.
We must not be carried along in the moral panic engendered by the media and taken up in populist fashion by Blair. But we cannot bury our head in the sand and pretend that there is no problem. I cannot accept the comment that behaviour such as hurling abuse at people constitutes normal “friction” (especially when such behaviour is usually the tip of an iceberg).
It’s okay criticising Blair’s policy on ASBOs, but the fact is the vast majority of people support them. If we want to criticise them, then we should be prepared to offer an alternative that deals with the very real problems that ordinary working people do face from such behaviour.
The ideal solution would be for estates to be managed by committees of tenants and residents, who would be able to draw up their own ideas of what was needed both to improve the environment in which they lived, and to take control of policing their own neighbourhood.
Unfortunately, we live in a society where people have been encouraged to leave everything up to somebody else, and in the areas where this would be most needed the degree of violence and intimidation is so great that few people would be prepared to risk their lives in such a course of action.
Arthur Bough, Staffordshire