Saturday, 26 February 2011

What the Wisconsin Police Union's show of solidarity means

For almost two weeks, workers have occupied Wisconsin's State Capitol building. They took over the building on February 16th, and hundreds of people have been camping out each night since. Now, official plans to bring this to an end have been foiled in the most extraordinary way.

According to The Understory, radical folk singer Ryan Harvey broke the news on Facebook today;
Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: ‘We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!’ Unreal.
He offers a fuller dispatch from the Capitol, which is worth reading, here.

It is worth noting just how monumental an event this actually is. As The Commune, among others, have noted before, the police's role in society is to serve the state and to contain or put down dissent. In Britain, the latest example of that came from their behaviour during the student protests. In the Arab world, the point is made far more brutally.

This is why I have previously argued against showing solidarity with the police when they are marching against cuts imposed upon them. After all, "working class solidarity should not be reserved for those who exist to smash it."

That said, I have previously made the point that winning agents of the state over to our side of the class war is not unthinkable. The 1920 Listowel Police Mutiny and the role of soldiers in war resistance and revolution are just a couple of examples. As such, "we should not be willing to write off an entire segment of society as “class traitors” until we have at least made the effort to show them that there is a choice and to offer a perspective on solidarity and rebellion."

The police in Wisconsin appear to have taken such a perspective on board, and that being the case it is not unthinkable that we could agitate for the same response from police forces elsewhere.

However, this should not be taken lightly. We cannot win the apparatus of the state to our side, and the police in Wisconsin have effectively surrendered their role as law enforcers to stand with the working class. And that is the point: not appealing to "good cops" to show mercy, but by encouraging mutiny in state ranks and asking those in uniform to remember where they come from.