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Tony Platt

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“Street” Crime: A View from the Left

Originally published in 1978, this essay by Tony Platt points out that the phenomenon of “street” crime had been largely ignored by the US Left. It is treated moralistically and attributed to the parasitical elements in capitalist society, mechanically following Marx and Engels’s early formulations. “Street” crime is either glossed over as an invention of the FBI to divert attention away from the crimes of the ruling class or romanticized as a form of primitive political rebellion. Whether it is a form of reactionary individualism, or a fiction promoted by the bourgeoisie to cause confusion and false consciousness, or another manifestation of class struggle, is not a matter of theoretical assertion and cannot be decided by dogmatic references to Marxist texts. What is first needed is a thorough investigation of the scope and nature of “street” crime, concrete information about its varieties and rates, and an appreciation of its specific historical context. This essay sets out to summarize and analyze the available information, thus providing a realistic basis for developing political strategy. In summary, Platt argues that the Left needs to take twentieth-century intra-working-class crime more seriously and not concede this terrain to the Right.

street crime, Left response

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 40, Nos. 1-2 (2013): 216-230

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