There is every reason to be shocked by the murder of the two 17-year-olds who were stabbed in London and Manchester, at the weekend. Why should any youth - or anyone of any age, for that matter - be subjected to such a violent death? And why would a young person carry out such a brutal attack so gratuitously and so randomly?
Not for the first time, this issue has caused an uproar in the media and among politicians. Channel 4 even happened to have a programme already scheduled for this Monday, on the very issue of knife crime among youth.
But once again, we've been flooded with a tide of hypocrisy. Some politicians even went so far as to call for the latest spate of stabbings to be treated as a "national emergency", just like terrorism, and for the government to summon a"Cobra committee"!
All this hype is nonsense, of course. No matter how horrific these “youth on youth” stabbings may be, they are not new and, fortunately, they still remain quite rare, according to the police's own figure of 46 perpetrators under 18, for the whole of 2018.
More posturing and politicking
But never mind. Many just saw in these stabbings and in the indignation they caused, a golden opportunity to advance their own agendas, by blowing the situation up out of all proportion.
So, instead of focusing on the root causes of the problem - as some social activists and youth workers tried to do initially - a whole campaign has developed in the media and within the Westminster bubble, blaming the rise in knife crime on the fall in police numbers over the past years.
Predictably - and quite logically - May was blamed for the Tories' past cuts in policing budgets. However, not only did she come under attack from Labour on this issue, as was to be expected, but she was also challenged along the same lines by her own Home secretary, Sajid Javid! After all, being a leading contender for May's position as Tory leader, Javid was not likely to miss this chance to pose as a champion of law and order and as a mouthpiece for the police's demands!
But would putting more "boots on the ground" be likely, in and of itself, to resolve the problem of youth or knife crime? If it was, the USA, which has 60% more police than Britain (in proportion to the size of its population), should have a very low youth crime rate. But, instead, it has, by far, the highest youth crime rate among the rich countries!
What's more, those politicians (and senior police officers) who demand a sharp increase in police numbers also demand that the cops should return to systematically using the notorious "stop-and-search" policies of the past. Never mind that, by systematically targeting the poorest, these policies also systematically targeted ethnic minorities, thereby encouraging racist behaviour among police and further fuelling anger - the same kind which has sparked off many inner city riots in the past.
The government’s violent cuts
So, increasing the number of "boots on the ground" may reassure parents who are afraid for their kids - and this is precisely why most politicians are demanding it. But rather than being a protection for the youth, an overbearing and violent police presence may, on the contrary, just fuel frustration further in the poorest areas.
Because, of course, it is always the poorest areas - those which are most affected by under-employment and the general degradation of public services and infrastructure - which are most likely to attract the attention of the police.
Indeed, if policing cuts have been significant, those experienced by youth services have been even more brutal: council funding fell by 62% between 2008-09 and 2016-17! No wonder young people are drawn onto the streets and possibly into trouble.
What is more, according to the Department for Education’s most recent figures, 7,720 young people were permanently excluded from schools in 2016-17. Of these, more than half were in year 9 or above. And here again, excluded children were 4 times more likely to be the ones getting free school meals, from poor families. They were six times more likely to be excluded if they had special educational needs! What kind of system excludes the children most in need of special help? The answer is, of course that schools, like social services, have been suffering such drastic budget cuts for so long, that they can no longer even do the bare minimum.
So yes, youth knife crime is a symptom of this sick, profits-first, society and yes, it may well be getting worse. As the working class is increasingly made to pay for the crisis, our youth see fewer and fewer prospects in front of them. The system offers “no future” and they know it. Which is why the fight for a socialist system based on production for need, not profit, has to be on the working class agenda - and it’s urgent!