This is a contentious issue among the left do we support the police and are they workers in uniform or simply agents of the state. Strong arguments can be made for both case’s I’m still indifferent to the debate myself I have never really found the police to be an issue but I’m yet to experience how they can act. We all know the police’s record of attacking pickets during the miners strike and their role in the Wapping dispute and the police violence we hear about a lot. But if there is the chance we can win some of them lower ranked layers to the labour movement then I don’t think we should turn our nose up at it.
With the half a million out on strike on Thursday the 10th of May a little less known demonstration was going on too. Up to 35 thousand off duty police officers were marching in central London.
Their issues included 20% cuts to the police service, which is leading to redundancies, opposition to the Windsor Report on the Police Service, which includes cuts to pay levels and conditions on top of a two-year pay freeze and increased pension contributions, and opposition to privatisation of core police functions.
Socialists who went to intervene in the police demo were wondering what the response would be. The answer surprised us.
An estimated 35,000 off-duty officers marched, fuming with the government over the above issues. So much so that they snatched all the leaflets from the handful of Socialist Party members there - we underestimated the response we would get! - And over 50 copies of the Socialist were sold.
Many officers politely declined to take leaflets or buy our paper. Some said they were non-political and were surprised to learn how many of their colleagues had bought a copy.
But there were very few hostile responses. And we made it clear to those who wanted to talk that we have strong criticisms of the policing of demos, picket lines and communities [see articles: Grim toll for hidden police racism and After the Riots from the socialist)
But we welcome any action that brought the Police Federation and ordinary police officers closer to the trade union movement if they are going into conflict with their employers, the government and police authorities.
We supported their call for the right to strike, which they may ballot for soon and will have to fight for if they win the ballot.
But this is truly the sign of a government and capitalist society on the rocks when sections of its state feel the need to demonstrate against it! The police are used by the government to frighten people off from demonstrating, as brutally experienced by students in 2010, but developments like this could help to weaken their use against strikers and demonstrators in the future.
Ordinary police officers are still bound to the wage labour system that keeps capitalism afloat and as such should like other workers have the right to strike. The fact that it is still illegal for the police to strike is a key tactic in protecting their state for the capitalist system to survive if police did strike this could split the state and if not careful could be drawn into the ranks of the labour movement. I think we’re still a long way away from that it may never happen but we cant rule it out or turn our backs when the police yes the police are protesting against this government we must stand with those who do wish to protest and campaign against cuts it could be another feather in our cap in building the movement against all cuts.