Lies and repression: The state prepares to confront the working class
The economic results from the recent G20 meeting in London, pathetic as they were, were completely drowned out with police lies and violence, attacks on demonstrators, death and injuries meted out by the state, in short terror on the streets of the capital and growing state surveillance and control under the guise of ‘anti-terrorism'. It has become well established for the bourgeoisie to use state terror against anyone who questions capitalism or any organisation that potentially poses it a problem or potential threat. Apart from the infamous killing of Ian Tomlinson, there were other elements that showed concerted action by the police at demonstrations. At an anti-capitalist camp prior to the G20, the 70 injuries reportedly suffered by police turned out to be insect bites, headaches, sitting too long in one place, etc, while the protesters were robbed, assaulted, hassled and abused by the forces of bourgeois order.
The Climate Camp protest at Bishopsgate around the G20 was attacked by the police with organised, nasty violence once the cameras left. The press said ‘random violence' but there was nothing random about it. And since the G20, comes the news that anti-nuclear, Greenpeace and other ecological protesters have been offered bribes to inform on their fellow protesters and it can be guessed, as this is usually the next stage from police informers, to then act as provocateurs.
A man sauntering home from work to watch the football becomes a murder victim of state repression: the post-mortems, the slurs, the cover up even more sickening with its echoes of the murder, lies, cover up and slandering of Jean Charles de Menezes. Again, the risible attempts of the state's ‘independent' police commission that immediately came to the aid of the police with an almost non-existent veneer of ‘investigation' and whose only aim was to stifle the truth coming out.
Both these incidents showed the role of the media, the press and TV, as expressions of the state's propaganda, lies and repression. The BBC night time news never even mentioned that a man had been killed on the demonstration. They all (with one significant exception that we'll look at below) portrayed the event as the police helping a sick man while being attacked by a hysterical mob; "foaming at the mouth", "packs", as the Sun put it.
Obviously the police knew what happened; they were filming everywhere. Rather, the tenor of the media coverage was how wonderful the police were, how they didn't injure many, didn't use tear gas or hoses, etc. Just as the press parroted the lies and propaganda of the state over the war in Iraq and WMD, so too it toed the line here. Channel 4 News, which prides itself on being erudite and investigative, didn't report the police attack on its film crew and reporters, at the same time as Ian Tomlinson was on the floor dying in front of them, until seven days later. The same news teams repeated the police propaganda that Ian Tomlinson was a "drinker" and had "health problems". This was the modus operandi after the Jean Charles de Menezes killing when police briefed for 24 hours that he was an ‘Islamist terrorist' and then it was suggested that he brought it on himself, he had taken cocaine, he had been involved in a rape (there was a ‘witness'!). On Saturday April 4, the City of London police released their own account of a pathologist's report, which highlighted Ian Tomlinson's heart attack, but not the injuries or the blood in his abdomen.
The police have always been like this
Concocted evidence and concocted statements, violence, corruption and repression are nothing new to the police. This is their role for the state and completely overrides the humanity of individual police officers shown here and there. 90 years ago, within a wave of rising class struggle, the police in Britain were involved in trade unionism and the militant strike of 1918. This strike was used by the state to ‘cleanse the police of militancy' and, as the syndicalist and revolutionary militant J.T. Murphy says in his book Preparing For Power, was used "... to proceed with measures for its re-organisation as a more ‘loyal' body... beginning the process which has culminated in the Trenchard measures of 1933 for the transformation of the police into a ‘class' proof militarized arm of the state".
Since then the police have been cosseted, separated from the working class, well paid and well equipped as an arm of repression. They also work with the state's other arm, its media, in promoting state repression through show trials. The Birmingham Six is an obvious case, high profile criminal cases like Colin Stagg and Barry George who had to pay for the clinical assassination of the BBC's own Princess Di. And despite the massive resources available to them, they're not much good at solving crime: the ‘Yorkshire Ripper', the Soham children's murder, where the killer led them a merry dance in front of the cameras (and the police family liaison officer was a paedophile); and the recent scandal of the ‘Black Cab Rapist', while rape convictions have remained at 5% for years.
The police are a political force
There's also the history of police violence against strikes, demonstrations, protests and minorities. At a demonstration against the Vietnam War in 1968, peaceful protesters were charged and attacked in Grosvenor Square by mounted police. In 1974, at a demonstration against the National Front in Red Lion Square, London, Kevin Gately died amid very suspicious police activity. Five years later, the Special Patrol Group, forerunner of today's Tactical Support Group, were heavily implicated in the death of Blair Peach in another anti-racist demonstration at Southall. In the 1980s there were the attacks against strikers and their supporters at Wapping, and the particularly brutal attacks against miners and their families in 1984. To this can be added the criminal negligence involving the police in the deaths of dozens of people at Hillsborough in 1989 as well as the police brutality at Notting Hill in the early 90s.
The Economist reports that: "No policeman has been convicted of murder or manslaughter for a death following police contact, though there have been 400 such deaths in the past ten years alone". There have been 204 fatalities in police custody between 2002 and 2004 according to the New Statesman (20/4/9) and the same issue reports that there have been 174 deaths of black men and women since the late 70s involving the police with zero arrests. There have been cases of a man shot by police for carrying a small pistol type lighter (he was black), a chair leg (someone thought he was Irish), a stark naked suspect surprised in bed, and the completely innocent Forest Gate ‘terrorist' suspect (child pornography was later ‘found' on his computer). The state allows its police to get away with murder.
Police under New Labour
But since the mid-90s and the election of New Labour (and it is not a coincidence), the bourgeoisie has become more intelligent about its crisis, more ruthless in preparing its repression overall and its forces of war against the working class and its militant minorities. The G20, recent events and surrounding issues, show a qualitative step in the role of the forces of repression. The police, the media were wound up for a battle, to sow terror and fear against anyone wanting to question, even in the most innocent way, the failures of capitalism. The ‘kettling' described in the previous World Revolution was a mass arrest sanctioned by the state in order to spread terror and get information on those demonstrating. This ‘psyching up' by the police was no accident or conspiracy, because this is how the state organises and how it will increasingly organise in order to protect itself, the ruling class and its privileges.
Accompanying the expressions of brute force, the dogs and the cosh by police at the G20 (shields and van doors were also used to inflict injuries), has been a whole raft of laws, legislation and surveillance in order to bolster the role of state repression. All this has been strengthened by New Labour over the last 12 years. Tony Blair said in 2004: "We asked the police what powers they wanted, and gave them to them". And Gordon Brown declared, in his usual convoluted way, in December 2007 when the police threatened a strike: "I am the last person to want to be in a position where we didn't give the police what they wanted".
The latest proposals from the Home Office, costed by them at two billion, is for police to have access to all telephone, e-mail and inter-active computer links. According to the Home Secretary, this has been watered down from even more outlandish proposals in order "to protect personal freedom". Personal freedom is a mirage under state capitalism as we are increasingly tracked and recorded at work, at home, at meetings, on the roads and streets - everywhere. The state's budget, technologies, databases and personnel for ever increasing surveillance and intimidation is growing by leaps and bounds. Britain leads the world in social control, in implementing repression and intimidation and the police have been given carte blanche for interpreting legislation as they wish and the judiciary and the media has obliged.
The anti-terrorism measures supposedly aimed at an extremist terrorist minority, are in fact aimed at a far wider range of the population. Even the ‘anti-terrorism' of the state is suspect. Remember the ‘ricin plot' where there was no ricin, the ‘arsenic on the tube' case that involved neither arsenic nor the tube, the ‘bomb factory' that consisted of a cheap kitchen table and a small cabinet that looked like it came off a skip. Added to this can be the recent ‘bomb plot' on shopping centre and night club targets in the north-west of England, foiled in Hollywood-style filmed arrests that involved neither a bomb nor the targets that the police had already briefed to a compliant media and parroted by the Prime Minister. All those involved have now been released without charge.
Not only overt repression
Another element exposed by the G20 demonstration itself is the futility of walking into the police trap and the futility of the balaclava clad violence that is very likely to involve police provocateurs. The bluff from various expressions of leftism about ‘taking on the police' had all the resonance of Hamas threatening to destroy the Israeli army. There is a great importance to street demonstrations, particularly in the capital city and it is essential that more and more workers, students, unemployed, etc., join them. Clowns threatening violence play right into the state's hands and the trap is sprung.
But repression by itself is not enough. Even the Tsarist police under Prince Sviatopolk-Mirskii at the turn of the 20th century realised this and his concerns that repression can just as easily be counter-productive has been echoed by some British police officials today. On May 10 and 11, 1968, overt police repression turned a fairly important strike in France into the biggest mass strike in history.
In Britain, there is a growing concern and awareness of the role of the police, the government and the state. The solemn 20th Hillsborough anniversary was turned into an angry, vocal demonstration at Anfield by tens of thousands when a government minister attempted to speak. The role of the police in London has caused wide concern, discussion and outrage and not just among protesters. Muslims and Asians everywhere are disturbed and angry about the role of the police and the state. Black people and youth have their own stories. Workers at Lindsey came up against the forces of repression but the police were careful.
Anger is building up so it's necessary to have a spout on the kettle, a trip mechanism, a cut off. For the bourgeoisie the Guardian newspaper, amongst others, has been fulfilling this important role: ‘investigating', ‘bringing to light evidence', acting as an ‘opposition', the ‘democratic voice of the people'. All this because the bourgeoisie is well aware that repression alone can be counter-productive - it's no good if Britain today looks like East Germany in the Cold War - and only works effectively when it goes hand in hand with the ideology of democracy. Accompanying the Guardian is the liberal wing of the bourgeoisie: Liberty, the Rowntree foundation, civil liberties and human rights organisations coming up with their various democratic ideas insisitng that ‘the police should be protecting everyone'; ‘proportionate response'; ‘police must abide by the law and put their house in order'; ‘right of peaceful protest' and so on.
Repression and surveillance can and will be used against the working class and its organisations. But it's the idea of democracy and possible reforms of the capitalist system and its deepening economic crisis that is more dangerous than the overt repression of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie has its oppositional forces in place already and these, leftism and trade unionism, along with their nationalism, are no less repressive forces than the police and more important to the bourgeoisie politically in the longer term.