For much of Britain’s working class, long shackled by unemployment, debt and neglect, and particularly for our black and minority ethnic workers, who are also subject to ingrained institutional persecution, incessant harassment and arbitrary arrest, the oppressive character of the British state requires no elucidation.
However, there remains a significant section of the population that continues to be duped by the fable of British democracy. It is the duty, therefore, of communists to destroy this crumbling façade; a job made easier as the state increases repression during the ongoing financial crisis.
In December 2011, responding to increased public unrest and clearly anticipating more, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) published a report highlighting the existing legal power of police to shoot ‘arsonists’ if they are deemed to be ‘endangering life’. Whilst lip-service was paid to this tactic being a ‘last resort’, its inclusion within the report, and its subsequent promotion in the bourgeois press, is a thinly-veiled endorsement of the use of live ammunition by police against protestors who are deemed threatening to the British state.
It is a blueprint that authorises the murder of those who deviate from the usual routine and futile avenues of protest, and it must be made clear to workers that, as seductive as the rhetoric on ‘protection of the public’ is, it is a fig-leaf intended to disarm us.
The police were not concerned about the protection of Mark Duggan as they publicly executed him. Claims that he was armed and dangerous have been shown up as false, since the gun it was said he was carrying about his person had no trace of his DNA on it. If the police’s aim had been merely to protect themselves and the public against someone they really believed to be dangerous, that could have been achieved without killing Mark Duggan. He could be told to hold his hands over his head after he left the taxi, or he could have been shot with tranquillisers rather than with bullets.
The police shot to kill in order to intimidate that section of the local population who are inclined to rebellion, no longer meekly swallowing the bourgeois propaganda and lies that generally serve to hold the working-class population in check.
The police are equally unconcerned about the dozens of people who have died in their custody or in immigration detention camps. Just as little were the British military concerned about the protection of the 14 civilians they murdered in Derry in 1972, or the many others killed and wounded by them over the years of occupation. The briefest of inquiry would reveal that their loyal concern lies with the protection of private property and the perpetuation of the capitalist system of class oppression.
The police report, commissioned by the sameTheresa May who last year called for the Human Rights Act to be scrapped, also promotes the use of plastic bullets and water cannons against protestors. Plastic bullets, which are perversely pitched as ‘non-lethal’, have killed 17 people, including nine children, and injured and disfigured many others in the north of Ireland, whilst high-pressured water canons, routinely used in such bastions of democracy as Egypt, will disperse, or indiscriminately sweep away, anyone officers deem undesirable.
Meanwhile, a huge ‘security’ operation is presently being mounted in London, ostensibly for the 2012 Olympics. To ‘secure’ the games, a massive $1.6bn is being spent on providing 23,000 security guards and 7,500 military personnel inside the various Olympic venues, with another 7,500 soldiers and 12,000 police outside. On top of these 50,000 troops, there will be spy drones circling the skies, warships anchored in the Thames, attack helicopters on standby and ground-to-air missiles ready to launch.
Yet as RT has pointed out, such measures “may not only turn the capital into a city under siege, but simply prove to be ineffective”. In reality, however, the threat of bombing is just an excuse to get British people acclimatised to the realities of life in a police state.
As Nick Pickles, director for Big Brother Watch, told RT: “I think it’ll be an absolute tragedy for Britain if the largest part of the Olympics legacy was a surveillance legacy, where we install all this equipment in the name of national security and when the Olympics are over we keep using it.” (‘Missiles, spy drones and warships: Here come the London Olympics’, RT.com, 30 January 2012)
A fair amount of liberal concern has been directed at the growth of Anglo-American state repression over the past decade or so. Academics and social commentators have written extensively on the ‘post-9/11 society’ – the morally conservative state in which individual civil liberties are surrendered to the promise of ‘collective security’.
Some critics have gone so far as to dissect the official account and show how the ‘war on terror’ paradigm has been manipulated to enrich a small clique of rotten politicians and corporate associates. But this analysis is limited: if we restrict our attention to the policies of a specific government, or a political culture of a particular period, rather than widening our study to reveal the irreconcilably oppressive nature of the system as a whole, then we are accepting that the system can be reclaimed or purified. It cannot.
A scientific Marxist analysis reveals that the capitalist system is in continuous decay. As its contradictions are intensifying (between bourgeois riches and proletarian poverty; between imperialist plunderers and colonial slaves), its mechanisms of repression are deepening.
And it is clear that in order for a small minority to be able to physically keep control of the poor majority, the state must exert mental pressure, too.
Britain’s leading politicians, military commanders, industrialists and city bankers cannot openly declare their intent to loot public funds, wage war and criminalise dissent. They therefore have to gain support, or at least pacify large sections of the people, by demonising sections of the working class and dividing our collective strength, and by manufacturing an agenda of ‘public protection’, thereby obtaining a certain amount of consent for the implementation of their repression and making it seem natural and inevitable.
Marxism long ago showed that the modern state is an organ of class domination; a weapon for the control of the majority by a small, exploiting minority. Despite appearances of democracy, which have been carefully cultivated over several centuries, the British imperialist state machine remains one of the most repressive on earth. It is the role of communists to refute the state’s deception, expose the divisive narrative that pits worker against worker, demonising sections of our class, and to prove this irrefutable fact.
Lenin wrote in 1917 that “A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and therefore, once capital has gained control of this very best shell, it establishes its power so securely, so firmly that no change, either of persons, or institutions, or parties in the bourgeois republic can shake it.” (The State and Revolution)
But whichever way it presents itself in the good times, even the most ‘democratic’ of capitalist states is still essentially a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Now that the bad times have hit again, with monopoly capitalism lurching from crisis to crisis, the ruling class is trying frantically to save itself at the expense of the workers, who are being plunged into increasing poverty and want.
With poverty comes disaffection, so the bourgeois state is increasingly being forced to move away from its ‘democratic’ emphasis on controlling the masses by deception into employing more direct and brutal means of repression. Behind all the talk of the ‘threat of terrorism’ and the ‘threat of rioting’ lies the real fear: that the downward spiral of poverty and war brought about by the worldwide capitalist economic crisis will be the spark that finally ignites Britain’s dormant workers and impels them to create an inferno for the capitalist system itself.
That is what our rulers are preparing for. They do not want to protect us, but themselves; it is not our safety and security on the streets that concerns them, but their own hold on wealth and power. And that is why we are seeing a steady increase in police powers and witnessing the gradual transition from an unarmed force to an armed one.
It remains the task of the working class, far from campaigning to re-elect the bourgeois Labour party, reshuffling the faces of oppression and prolonging the lifespan of this moribund system, to identify the eternally repressive nature of imperialism and organise to overthrow it once and for all.