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Beyond Resistance

Unmasking the state

Unfinished Business


Game over as the Met's mask slips

Just in case any student still thinks that the police’s role ought to be to facilitate protests and demonstrations, the commissioner of the Met, Sir Paul Stephenson, has put them right. As they showed in London on Wednesday, the police as a state force have other loyalties.

They kept a mainly teenage, mostly peaceful group of protesters against the rise in tuition fees hemmed in between police lines for over nine hours in the freezing cold. This was after a police van was conveniently left isolated and promptly vandalised.

Stephenson defended the notorious “kettling” operation, describing the area as a “crime scene”. What rubbish! The police on the ground were under orders from Scotland Yard and no doubt the Home Office. The clear objective was to demoralise the school and university students by denying them the right to move through the streets.

Michael Chessum, a co-founder of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts, was right when he commented:

It is the kind of policing we saw on Wednesday that creates disorder. If you refuse to allow people, many of them young, first-time protesters, the right to walk down the streets of their own capital city, and then 'kettle' them in Whitehall for eight or nine hours, people are going to get frustrated.

As Jenny Jones, a Green Party representative on the Metropolitan Police Authority which questioned Stephenson, pointed out, the effect had been to “imprison thousands of people”, adding:

You kept people for nine-and-a-half hours. You punished innocent people for going on a protest. How can that be right? I just do not see it.

Stephenson does not have to account for tactics to the MPA and he told – or rather warned – the authority that the “game has changed and we must act”. In recent years the Met had reduced the numbers of officers deployed to tackle demonstrations, he said. "Regrettably, we are going to have to review that. We are going to have to take a more cautious approach."

The Met chief’s statement is a clear indication that the police are preparing to suppress mass civil disorder which is an expression of the anger that the spending cuts and the consequent rise in tuition fees – have already provoked and which is bound to intensify.

In practice, it is not that the “game” has changed but that the mask has slipped. How the police like to portray themselves and the reality of their actual role in the power structures of the state is usually obscured by anodyne statements like “serving the community” and “protecting the public”.

But when push comes to shove, when resistance to government’s policies strays beyond marching from point A to point B or signing petitions and actually expresses social frustration and anger, the role of the police is solely to protect the state. Before most of today’s student marchers were born, the police showed their loyalty by brutally attacking pickets and communities during the 1984-5 miners’ strike for jobs.

So this is not some “neutral” state that is just a little too skewed towards big business and property, which can be redirected to serve a more progressive purpose. The modern state evolved alongside and in response to the needs of capitalism and is geared in every way to sustaining and developing the profit system. So when, for example, the financial markets insist on spending cuts, the state – and its political expression in the form of the government – jumps to attention.

A strategy for resisting the cuts and the rise in tuition fees must, therefore, incorporate the vision of creating new democratic social and political structures, building on the ideas like People’s Assemblies. Then the game of capitalist rule will really be over.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor
26 November 2010

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Your Say

Jonathan says:

The necessity to resist is clear. More than trying to demoralise them I believe they also were taking their measure. If so they will be told they have to up their game. But when 13 year old youth, it seemed, identified the trap regards the vehicle and immediately intervened to stop others as they fell into this mechanical provocation then the attempt to demoralize after will be ‘chewed over’ and spat out. Then this ‘kettling;’ which has been used increasingly as a means of war is a blunt weapon. But as with the cosh they are willing to use blunt weapons. What is said in the above though is essential and the youth, and others being drawn in a layer at a time, will come to it. We watch with much admiration while, I hope, learning the lessons as the proceedings unfold before it comes to our turn. But the Met and no doubt the Home Office will have taken a measure of these youth. And soon Justice will learn. Internationally bankrupt capitalism has only the last throw of the die: break them all. And the state realises it will have to up its game; for the cuts to everything will be resisted so forced imposition won’t work: it will be ‘break them all’. These students in their opposition to the particulars of the cuts and threats on education and their automatic linking it to the whole issue of society are clear: ‘It’s about standing up for everyone’ the youth and all those connected with their hopes and dreams as well as directly with education know the stakes. And these youth will take all these lessons ‘home’ and they will register the issue of the Italian students, and no doubt use the web to search and swap with. And home is a community issue, none of which is lost on them, their families, or the communities. I, for one, look forward to seeing them applying the skills they have learnt in the education system they are defending to the very defending of it, from art to media studies, from maths to English (or Italian, or wherever they are, or when not, can respond to), from history to library studies – all of it.

And they and their organisations must join with others in Assemblies and their fiery presence on the Assemblies comes with lessons of practice, as well as the patience and nerve shown by the 13 year olds. The Assemblies are now seen as the only forum for a collective decision making, even if some would like ‘their form, this form’ – the first issue to be sorted out, in my mind, to link the particular organisations together as one - where debate can take place, democratic decisions be made and then organisation to press forward. This is the history they will draw on – strike as one. All those under threat, all those conscious of the threat must now realise this must happen. The web itself cries out for its use. Youtube on coverage, others for the like of AWTW: all must be brought together world wide. Ireland propelled the issue forward and any debate as to the problems can only really be debated to a solution then implemented in Assemblies.

Indeed the Met Chief is right on one thing – the game has changed – and he, and his political masters will be fearful, and it is fear, of how all will now ‘act’. They will not only look for dissention (in reality a healthy matter I think) but try to work out how to sow it. And the little drama over the vehicle shows they are already playing with ideas, and then will come the usual. It is the unusual that must be met. Most of all, though, is the very real issue, it is time for alternative rallying points, theoretically is pretty obvious: physically it must be Assemblies. The first impetus this gives is to remove the illusions as to Parliament and parliamentarians: those trapped in Parliament will also give up their remaining illusions and be and if at one with those outside will soon give the outside their backing. The fish rots from the head down. So really the lines are being drawn outside and it is first of all the order of battle: this the Met Chief has admitted. Defence of education is not surprisingly a crystallising matter and the youth having been thrust early into the fight also crystallises the social question. All these actions in which they state sees ‘civil disorder’ are presented backwards for the actual disorders are the cuts and the deeper disorder the whole plan of the Parliament: the dictate of the Boardrooms on which so many of the ‘Honourable Members’ sit.

I hope the youth involved in these demonstration can read the ‘Unfinished Business’, it rather makes the point that the miners could see that within their return to work was not really a defeat as a suspension of hostilities. Much effort as is needed should be applied to get it the book out. The aggressive nature of the state is understood, why it is so needs study. ‘Unmasking the State’ and that are necessary readings, a guide to what is confronted.

Pat says:

We as tax payers pay for this assault, wonder if we stopped paying their wages, would they be so keen to carry out governments bidding ? Someone should remind the police about who their actual bosses are.

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