Saturday, 6 December 2014

The socialist Party and the police

I am long since a member of the Socialist party which has if I like it or not formed a lot of my politics to date. Yes they did many good things and I can say I gained my class politics from them to understand things in Marxist terms if good for me or not. I do think the bits I learnt much of it off my own back too to be honest as the education the SP gave out was hugely patronising and really basic stuff meant for primary school kids I’d say rich bad poor good we need to change this, join our party etc etc. Well I don’t need anyone to tell me I found myself frequently at odes of what the party put out and said as time went on. If not visibly then certainly in my head. One of my first bones of contention was the party’s relationship and views towards the police and the state as a broader identity. I joined in 2011 after the student mass demonstrations of the year before maybe this formed a point of which I wished to join a revolutionary organisation after being a labour party member for a few months before and after the general election which on class lines was a really big one when it came to class. For me even as a very timid and partly non educated political thinker I could still tell that the general election of 2010 was a very political one and a deep sense of unjust that the ruling class were back in power via the Tories and their lackies the Lib Dems and this was not right. I somehow thought labour was for the people and they would be my natural ally in the coming months to years. How wrong I was…. So I joined the SP in hope of better answers. For a while they gave me that but in time I began to question things as I’d always been brought up to do. One of the things that did stand out for me was the Socialist party’s line on the police and whether we should stand in solidarity with them or not. For me the SP was firmly behind the police and many instances can back this up sadly. This for me while students were getting beaten back by the police and riots were happening sparked off by a policeman attacking and killing an innocent black man in Tottenham in 2011 sent me into wonder how the SP could square having solidarity with these people who clearly had it in for our class. In recent years when the police have gone on strike or protested about their pay and conditions we in the SP were urged to support them. This stuck in my throat and I could never bring myself to supporting these agents of the state and lend them solidarity from our class when only weeks before they had attacked students fighting for a better future. It never sat well with me. It is a scene workers are all too familiar with. In a bid for savings, the "gravy train" of rank-and-file pay and benefits is being slashed by the highest earners who remain unaffected. However, sympathy may be muted by the fact that the workers in question are the police. While at first it is understandable to many to have solidarity with the police after all don’t they work for a wage and need to work for their living?? Their role when it comes to the working class and when we fight back is very very telling for me. , "the idea that police neutrally uphold democratically-decided laws has been exposed as a fiction." In the words of Fitwatch; It’s time to wake up –these institutions do not exist to protect us but to subjugate us. They give us enough to believe we live in a free and democratic society whilst protecting capital and those who defend it. What is the use of having rights if the state determines when and where we can exercise them? We are given the right to protest when we’re no threat, but refused the right to even assemble when it’s most critical. If public anger over the government's attacks on the working class ever emerges as anything even remotely radical, the police are the ruling class's first line of defence. Their job is to act against their class interests and either keep us in line or lock us out of the way. Until they decide to spurn that role, they should expect no sympathy. Working class solidarity should not be reserved for those who exist to smash it The SP clearly think that supporting the police and helping them split the state will in some way help the workers movement. The fact workers decide to join the police is lost on them and that workers do not always fight for their own class instincts. The fact that some feel drawn towards the police and the wider state should make us ask questions of why and how this is so. As @piercepenniless from twitter once wrote at “ I’m happy for the police to strike, but the right to strike is taken and retained, not granted, and we should ask why police don’t strike, that is, what police think they do, what they actually do, and so on. ) Extending an abstract defence of the power to withdraw labour into an argument that activists should defend police against funding cuts is logically questionable. It relies on a notion of police as a subsection of a greater set of ‘public servants’ that elides some fundamental differences. If they are so, we should ask, which public, and served how? We defend against cuts because they involve dismantling things like the NHS and welfare services, not because the organs of the state are inviolable goods. Hence this tautologous argument that anti-cuts activists ought to oppose cuts because they are anti-cuts activists elides the reasons that people oppose cuts. This elision is significant. The arguments put by serving police officers as to why they shouldn’t be cut largely involve their subsequent inability to afford water cannon, tasers, routine arming, &c. They also often extend to their need to exist to keep scum (etc) ‘off the street’. This is not benign civil work: it is racist, it victimises the poor, the inconvenient and the vulnerable. Any argument that we attain a moral victory by defending their working conditions and thus enable them to further fulfill their structural role seems to me rather weak. ) Should we not consider the work the police do as obviously and qualitatively different from the work of other portions of the public sector, and should they really fall under this rubric at all — in other words, what kind of work is this work?” Every time there is talk of police marching, striking or in any way protesting, liberals and leftists have put out calls for solidarity and support. This makes me feel very uneasy and now more than ever with events in Ferguson in America and lots and lots of attacks on black people by the police who we are told are there to serve us this is clearly not the case but a illusion to keep the mass’s where they are and in order. There some in the anti cuts movement who have written that "those of us in the anti-cuts movement should be protesting alongside them." Their reasoning is that although there are "the few nasty police," who "we want out," at the moment "our fight is elsewhere." The police who will take place in any march "are ordinary people with families and rents and mortgages," and we should "do for them what they wouldn’t do for us." My train of thought goes off in a somewhat different direction. Unlike these leftists , I don't see the behaviour of the police as an abberation. The fact that they are more aggressive in handling protests now, and are actively seeking to clamp down on dissenters by releasing footage and seeking "suspects," is not just something that happened. You can see it every time there is a serious threat to the established order, from events like Bloody Sunday back in 1911, through the Miners' Strike, Hillsborough and the Poll Tax Riots, to the G20 and, of course, the more recent student protests. In between, there are a myriad of other incidents, such as the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes. Not to mention the Forward Intelligence Teams, DNA databases, arresting people simply to be able to take their details, and other "illiberal" tactics Sumpter cites. As an article in The Commune points out; “Fair-minded people are against “disproportionate”, “provocative”, or “brutal” policing; and presumably in favour of a polite push and shove. This is an appealing message (and it may make sense to accentuate it to the cameras), but is more or less a fiction. Of course, there are incidents here and there where we can say that particular police could have been less brutal. But if the direct action we defend has any content at all, it must mean we supported, and support, concrete attempts to stop the law being passed, up to, including, and beyond the invasion of parliament – and we are in support of people trying as hard as possible to do that. And it is a fiction that the police could have tolerated that, or that preventing it could ever have been done gently. If it could have been, we wouldn’t have really been trying. If the police hadn’t been at parliament square during the student demonstrations of 2010, and if they hadn’t been prepared to act brutally, parliament would have been stormed, and legislation to triple top-up fees and abolish EMA would not have been passed. The brutality of the police is not incidental to the nature of the state, it is essential to it. So you have to pick: the state, and horse charges against children who object to having their pockets robbed; or against the state (which means: against capitalism, for social revolution); and against the police too; brutal or otherwise. Polite fudges are polite – but more or less part of the continuous stream of liquid nonsense which constitutes the news media. This is not a matter of a "few nasty police." If we support the police against cuts to their numbers and their services, then we actively support the institution of the police. That cannot mean anything except the state's monopoly of violence and the cracked skulls of working class activists and their repression. The Police Federation's own propaganda underlines this. The image before us is a line of riot police blocking a road, presumably less able to do their job because their numbers are cut. If you choose to support or join their march, that is what you are standing in solidarity with. Remember that. Every baton swung at the head of a protester just for being in the way. Every horse charge to keep the crowds in line. Every kettle because people wanted to cover their faces. Every taser that kills or paralyses somebody. Every stop and search of youth simply for being youth. Every Ian Tomlinson, Jean Charles de Menezes, Smiley Culture or Mark Duggan. It's on your head as well as theirs. Because you marched to defend it. Yes, the police are working class. They have to sell their labour for a living in order to feed their families this is not the end of the matter though . Nobody made them choose, or stay, in a job which exists to subjugate the same class that they come from - to smash picket lines, choke off dissent, and maintain the dominance of the ruling class. I was once told of a police officer who refused to attack picket lines - and was shuffled around the country until he ended up the constable of a quiet and inoffensive area. He is no doubt not the only one. So, if police can be persuaded to side with the workers and against capitalism, then it is clearly a choice that sees their career either go down the toilet or end altogether. Those still on active service, in the big cities, and marching to preserve their jobs, will be those with no qualms being on the other side of the class war. Thus, I still have no sympathy for the devil. I maintain that "working class solidarity should not be reserved for those who exist to smash it. so lets be clear, the police and their hangers on are not our comrades or on the same side as us and should be treated as such

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