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Are police officers "working class?" Why or Why not?

–3 votes
This is a question I get a lot and I am interested in how other Anarchists deal with it.
asked May 6, 2010 by Taigarun (1,910 points)

1 Answer

+10 votes
The assumption behind this question is whether someone who is "working class" will automatically be on a particular side of the class war. This is absurd. There is nothing inherently progressive about being working class just as there is nothing inherently rapacious about being bourgeois. The social interactions that derive from one's class position are what's meaningful, along with how people decide to navigate through the contradictions.

The fact is that cops protect and serve capitalist property relations. This means that they enforce class-based hierarchies, class-based economic inequalities, class-based oppressions (both explicit and implicit), and all the other class-based conflicts that exist in a capitalist system. And in all those conflicts the police always take the side of the bosses, owners, oppressors.

So who gives a shit if they grew up in or identify with the working class? In the performance of their chosen occupation, they are the watchdogs of the status quo, the guardians of capitalism, and the betrayers of whatever marxist essentialists ascribe to revolutionary proletarian self-consciousness. Just like prison guards. Their social role is counter-revolutionary.

Working class people who are not cops can also be counter-revolutionary in case you hadn't noticed from history. So the formulation of the question is ridiculous.
answered May 7, 2010 by lawrence (18,050 points)
I hope I'm far, far away from your revolution when it goes down, cuz your use of the term counter-revolutionary gives me the creeps.
Happy to have you far far away dude since, judging from your other comments here, you can't seem to engage in any kind of authentic communication. Lots of pontificating, lots of posturing, no substance.

When I say "counter-revolutionary" I mean that the social role of police and prison guards is to protect, maintain, and enforce capitalist property relations. This mean that if/when revolutionary anti-capitalist action occurs, the police and others who support capitalist relations will be on the front lines of the struggle fighting against us (I'm presuming you are some sort of anti-capitalist/anti-state radical since you're on this site, but that could be a stretch). The forces of bourgeois law and order will not be limited to the bourgeoisie; plenty of working class and poor people feel themselves to be included in the alienated prosperity that industrial capitalism offers those who support it. If they fight us, we must defend ourselves, our projects, and our revolution. Too bad that gives you the creeps. If you have a different understanding of revolution and counter-revolution, why not tell us. Your empty objection means less than nothing.
To be perfectly honest, your answer struck me as a bit high-handed, which is what prompted my response. I don't read much about revolution and counter-revolution, so if I see too much stuff about counter-revolutionaries, I think khmer rouge and so forth. However, the comment was really just a dumb joke.

I feel that I've made a few good points in my posts, and that posturing and pontificating is an unfair characterization of them. Then again, I can't recall all of the crap I've posted in the few hours since I registered here, so you might be closer to the mark than I think. I'll be the first to admit, however, that they do consist of a lot of dumb jokes and weird jabs born of (mostly) personal angst. I'm sorry, I stopped taking the internet too terribly seriously a while ago. And, given my moniker, one of my goals here is to focus on the absurdity of semantics, especially as they relate to political tropes and memes.

Personally, I think the idea of a mass anti-capitalist revolution is absurd at best, and scary at worst. I believe that the current state of the world represents serious imbalances in the collective human psyche, of which the majority of us are mostly just victims. I don't see the state as an alien structure which is utterly divorced from the human psyche, but rather, as a particularly ugly manifestation of its worst aspects. To me, events that happen quickly on a large scale are just too liable to fall right back into another manifestation of this same condition. I have no problem fighting, on a personal or local scale, to defend myself, my comrades, or an autonomous space (physical or social), but I see that as a very different (and ongoing) thing; I simply can't presume to be anybody else's vanguard, just as I won't accept anybody else as mine.
 
I hate cops as a concept. I bear a mild to intense personal dislike for most of the police officers I've encountered in my life. However, I also empathize with the many individual officers who do, as discerning human beings, actually help people now and again, or simply bide their time and collect their paychecks like any other workers. Of course, from experience we can expect the police and military to react a certain way when shit hits the fan, and the hordes of bullies who joined the force for a chance to crack some skulls in the first place may behave predictably when things get hairy- however, human history is also filled with individuals have abandoned their posts when finally instructed to go ahead and do their real job.

I do have my own view of the struggle, but I have a very hard time applying the concepts of revolution and counter-revolution to it. Thanks for explaining your view of them, though. Minus a few ad hom jabs (I know, I started it- bad habit) and absolute statements, I do identify with and respect what you've written here. We could argue over this for hours, but neither of us would be likely to change our minds in any substantial way, as we're just coming at it from very different places. Anyway, I'm confident that we're both good people doing positive things in this world.

 Also, not that you care, but I'm really starting to hate the word "dude," even though I still use it, for reasons that I'm still working out.

And that, my friend, is the most authentic communication I have to offer this evening.
Oh, it's you, the infamous anonymous pro-capitalist, slinking over from @news. You probably think you'll have a better chance of baiting the more thoughtful posters here, but your reception won't be any better.
Man, you've got me all wrong- I think. This is certainly the fist time in my life anyone has called me a pro-capitalist. I did post some stuff on an article about black blocs that might be taken as pro-capitalist over there right before signing up here, but it was only a couple of comments, IIRC, which I am now having trouble finding. Actually, I'm now not entirely convinced that it was @news where I posted, as the format of the website doesn't look familiar.

So, yeah, I'm not positive, but I think you're mistaking me for someone else. Aside from the ~10 posts I made last night, I haven't posted on any radical forums in a while.

It wasn't my intention to bait, I'm truly sorry you see it that way. It's a bit of a bummer to me that I bothered to put the effort into responding to you honestly, only to be summarily dismissed. But of course, that's my problem.

In the event that we don't cross paths again, I sincerely wish you the best of luck in all of your efforts.
Correction: it was "anarchy news", the article "block-headed." I made three comments, which would be easily identified by date and tone. Anything else out there isn't me, and I doubt that that three comments on a months-old article would earn me any lasting infamy.
Egg on my face, and I apologize. There aren't that many people on the interwebz so I assumed you were the same person who was such a dick on @news. You are a new challenger.

Revolution, to be recognizable and desirable for anarchists, would necessarily entail a refusal of vanguards or any other presumed representative formation. In any contestation over the legitimacy of a current government or the idea of government as embodied in the state in general (or abstract), the police and probably some part of the armed forces would be arrayed against our side. During those moments of revolutionary contestation, the inherent humanity of the cops and/or soldiers would not be an issue. Defense of ourselves, our comrades, our autonomous spaces would be paramount. We can cry after we stop fighting.

I have had more interactions with cops in the last six years of my job than in all the previous years of my life combined; I have seen them at their most human (when grieving for other cops who have died and when they've done crazy things like run into a burning building to help save crackheads) and their least human (beating a mentally ill person who can't really be held punitively responsible for his kookiness). But in a revolutionary situation, none of that matters if we are serious about defending ourselves and our projects.

I am not fetishizing this event called "revolution"; I'm using it as a shortcut description of a cumulative (and eventually irreversible) series of refusals. Refusal of obedience to legislative and judicial authority; refusal of market relations; refusal of indignity; refusal of deferring our needs and desires as human beings; refusal of hierarchy and domination. At the same time it entails a series of prefigurative (that's what the kids are calling it these days) constructions to realize our refusals. Revolution is a process, not an event.

five years later...

lj, to go back to the beginning of this exchange -- you do use terminology that is a red flag for some of us, including me and you, and "counter revolutionary" is definitely one of those warning signs. you can insist that people should check out your history, and that you're different from those other folks who use the exact same phrases (and i, of course, know that's true), but you can also a) use different words, and b) not attack people when they challenge phrases that you are also skeptical about.

...