Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Solidarity with the state's monopoly of violence?

On May 10, I will be one of several hundred thousand public sector workers on strike over pensions. At the same time, in London, the Police Federation will be marching against cuts to policing. As 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.

I've explained before why the police will not be getting my solidarity and I have no sympathy for the devil. Others have made similar points in various blogs and articles, and so there's no need to labour the point here. Ultimately, as we saw with the police's actions in Wisconsin last February, the way to bring police into any kind of broader working class movement is "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."

However, Pierce Penniless makes a couple of good points that need to be underlined when it is argued that the police share our interests because they are "against cuts;"
(iv) 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.

(v) 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.

(vi) 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.
The Police Federation's own propaganda (pdf) 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.