Thursday, July 20, 2006

It's time to make the state all nice

Coming back tonight from the WDM meeting I had my second racist incident on a Cambridge bus. It's weird, I still think of Cambridge as a woolly liberal town but in the space of a year here I've seen the same number of racist incidents as I did in ten years in Colchester.

For me? Why thank you Bobby!Anyway, as I watched the police cart the young gent away, and with the phrase "It's not Pakistan, it's not Pakistan" still ringing in my ears (the man's a genius - I really hadn't noticed) I thought it might be a good time to reprise an argument I had a little while ago about whether "All coppers are bastards"

It cropped up because someone was boasting about how they'd refused to give diversity training to the police on the basis that it would make them more effective at their job. As their job is repression of the upsurgent masses this would clearly be a bad thing.

My argument was pretty simple. Would you rather a policeman that beats you up because you're black or one that pursues racist attackers vigorously? Would you rather a cop that says all women should get a slap now and then to keep them in their place - or should they take domestic violence and rape seriously?

The role of the state, and the police specifically, in a capitalist society is to maintain the status quo, keeping things nice and safe for capital. Sometimes this means suppressing subversion, sometimes this means maintaining an illusion of an equitable society and sometimes it means actually ameliorating real problems.

Capitalism creates unemployment and benefits were introduced to help maintain the out of work workers at a level so they didn't take to stealing and rioting - but that doesn't mean we should abolish the dole. Likewise the law is their law not ours - written by, passed by and adjudicated by the rich. But is that an argument for mugging old ladies? These contradictions are not logical inconsistencies but lie in the real world.

Peta activist dressed as pig arrestedThe role of the police is to be the armed servants of the state, but world history has shown the police have at times been with the revolutionary classes, or split and some cops have sided with those who would make a better world.

The left is generally absolutely unable to learn from the dictum divide and rule with our obsession with placing everyone in the category of 'enemy' and attempting to take them all on at once - perhaps a more effective strategy would be to set the police upon each other - the anti-racists against the racists, the sexist fuckers against the progressives, those willing to obey any order, and those willing to question their superiors.

I don't know - perhaps that's a bit radical for the left to take on board though.


Renegade Eye said...

I'm old school. The cops will be won over, after their defeat.

Jim Jay said...

That's a nice way of putting it :)

Ed said...

Interestingly enough Chris harman seemed to concede that cops are a necessary evil under capitalism in a recent article in SW. At least that's how I read it.

Jim Jay said...

Had a look but couldn't find it. I did find this from Chris Harman Can police be on our side? from 2002

Which to be honest is a bit of a mechanical 'all coppers are bastards piece'... do you know what the article was called - or could you find a link? I'd be interested to hear what he had to say.

Jim Jay said...

Ah hold on - there's a piece in Socialist Review... here

Where he states that "recently, I served on a jury at a rape trial. I could hardly take the attitude that the police are the enemy and that therefore the accused should be released regardless of the evidence." Interesting stuff.

In the same edition there is also a piece by Mark Steel on the police. Bloody excellent.

Ed said...

Yeah, sorry, that's the one - SR not SW. He almost seems reasonable in that article doesn't he?

Jim Jay said...

Yeah - it's a nice little piece - Harman is always much easier to read than listen to...

Incidently I was going to come back on Ren Eye's neat little aphorism (which I do like)

One of the points I should make is that of course in some parts of the world the police have been on the side of the movement without having to be defeated - in South America for instance in the last ten years there are a number of instances of gun battles between police and army during upheavals.

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