The events around the G20 demonstrations have underlined the fact that, when working people stand up against capitalism, sooner or later we come slap up against the capitalist state. The police were talking up the prospects of violence well before the G20 began. Ian Tomlinson was killed by riot police on his way home. He wasn’t even part of the demonstration against the G20, just a worker going about his business. Complaints and evidence about heavy-handed and brutish policing are pouring in. Des Heemskerk led a group of workers in Basildon, concerned only about protecting their jobs, to occupy their factory – Visteon. They came up against police in full riot gear with slavering dogs on hand.
In times of class peace many workers believe the police are there to preserve law and order, catch burglars and such like. Coppers do help old ladies cross the street and they certainly spend a lot of time dealing with anti social behavior that capitalist society perpetuates, but that changes as soon as we begin to take action. Though drawn from the working class , the police as a body act as agents of the establishment, defending the bosses against the workers, not once or twice… but every time.
Generations of workers have learned this painful lesson in the course of struggle. Thirty years ago Blair Peach was killed in Southall as the Asian community defended itself against fascist attack, an attack aided and abetted by the police. Forty years before the police had seen themselves as the protector of Moseley’s blackshirts against the anger of the local working class in Cable Street. Blair Peach was killed by the Special Patrol Group. There was an outcry against their thuggery and they were disbanded. Now the Territorial Support Group have been seen playing the same paramilitary role at the G20 demonstrations, often concealing their police numbers so they and their assaults can go unpunished.
Make no mistake. This is not an excess of enthusiasm, not a matter of inadequate training, nor a case of individual police officers panicking when they find themselves outnumbered. This is institutional violence. It goes way beyond the ranks of the police themselves. They are only the instruments of the capitalist state. In Plymouth five young people were arrested on the eve of the G20 meeting, under the Terrorism Act, guilty only of spraying anti-capitalist graffiti, hundreds of miles away from the summit. The Terrorism Acts have been used extensively to make arrests in the North West and create an atmosphere of hysteria allowing the state to curtail our liberties. Remember the Ricin plot in 2002? No poison was found and nobody was put on trial. There have been other dawn raids and mass arrests that have failed to throw up any suspects. But they achieved their real aim of creating an atmosphere of alarm and suspicion, resulting in further anti-democratic measures. At the same time as the G20 114 people were arrested in the Midlands for ‘conspiracy.’ They had done nothing. They were green protestors – conspiring to stop capitalism polluting the planet. Clearly the state is building up a regular stockpile of special laws a mass of contingency plans. Against whom? The people the ruling class fears most – an aroused working class. They understand that fully mobilised we won’t stop till we have torn up capitalism by the roots and wiped out their grotesque privileges.
Bodies of Armed Men
Over a hundred years ago Engels wrote, “This public power exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men but also of material adjuncts, prisons and institutions of coercion of all kinds.” Since then the apparatus of state repression has been enormously expanded. CCTV is everywhere except, mysteriously, at Stockwell tube when police shot Jean Charles de Menezes dead. The capitalist state is our enemy and we have to be prepared to fight it. Democracy? But don’t we live in a democracy? The state is really deeply undemocratic and Parliament is little more than window dressing, while under capitalism big business takes all the important decisions.
Top functionaries in the state machine are drawn exclusively from the ruling class and vetted against anti-establishment attitudes. The armed forces take an oath to the Queen, not to Parliament. Would they be used against a socialist mass movement, as General Pinochet launched a coup against the socialist government of Salvador Allende in 1973 in Chile? In the 1970s spies and retired generals in Britain felt themselves entitled to formulate coup plots against Harold Wilson, a right wing Labour Prime Minister governing at a time of crisis. Any serious movement for socialism in this country would meet the resistance of the capitalist state. The ruling class will throw anything at us in defence of their wealth and privileges. We know that in Venezuela, a revolution is in process and millions of ordinary people are actively involved in the political process. Mass involvement is our only defence against the capitalist state in trying to transform Britain along socialist lines, and that is ultimately how we will change society.