The arrests of anti-water charges protesters in Dublin (now spreading to other areas) in the past couple of weeks is forcing the movement to address the question of the role of the Gardaí and by implication the capitalist state as a whole.
The Socialist Party is right at the centre of this issue given that three of the four first arrested for the Jobstown protest against Joan Burton back in November 2014 were SP members and included TD Paul Murphy. As an organisation that describes itself as “revolutionary socialist” their response is of particular interest to others of us on the far-left.
The initial response of the SP leadership to the first four arrests was to decry them as “a disgraceful and criminal waste of Garda time and resources.”
Speaking of this mornings events Joe Higgins TD who has been in the process of visiting the various Garda stations where the public representatives are being held said:
“The arrests of AAA TD Paul Murphy, councillors Kieran Mahon and Mick Murphy and a fourth person who remains to be identified to us as we go to press is a cheap attempt to denigrate and weaken water charges movement as we approach make or break time – bills coming out and need for mass non-payment.
“This is the product of a ‘criminal’ investigation involving six Gardai and an ‘incident room’ in Tallaght since November. Numerous local people and activists have been interviewed over that time during which the investigating Gardaí have constantly enquired about Paul Murphy’s connection with the events of 15th November. Ordinary people in Tallaght and everywhere else will see this as way over the top and a disgraceful and criminal waste of Garda time and resources.”
As it became clear the next day that this was a more substantive attack on the anti-water charges movement they started using the phrase “political policing”.
Four more people have been arrested in relation to the Jobstown protest which saw Paul Murphy TD arrested yesterday.
Paul Murphy TD said: “Today four more people have been arrested in relation to the protest. They were treated to the same heavy handed tactics of having numerous Garda arrive at their door in the early hours of the morning.
“The Gardaí scored a massive own goal yesterday and have scored another one today with these arrests. One of those arrested is a 16 year old who unbelievably had 10 Gardaí arrive at his door.
“According to some of the media the Gardaí plan to arrest up to 40 people in relation to the protest. With four people yesterday and four people today, is this the beginning of a period of 10 days of dawn raids on peaceful protestors? Are the Gardaí planning to make an example of up to forty people to send a political message to the rest of the country that it’s not okay to protest? This is political policing.”
As the extent of the arrests became clear the SP put forward their programme for how to deal with this “political policing”.
We demand that this political policing is brought to an end. The Gardaí should have no role to play in policing community campaigns and struggles by working class people. Democratic community control over the Gardaí is needed as an alternative to the Gardaí being run as a centralised force led by a Government-appointed Commissioner.
So there we have it in black and white. The SP believe that the sharp-end of the captialist repressive state apparatus can be stopped from playing any role “in policing community campaigns and struggles by working class people” by the establishment of “democratic community control over the Gardaí”.
One might immediately wonder how such “democratic community control” could possibly come about given the social role of the guards as defenders of capitalist law and order which at its core is the defence of private ownership of the means of production and the “right” to maximise profits. Obviously no need to organise self-defence of working class communities against the thugs of the capitalist state, presumably it is just a matter of electing enough AAA councillors and TDs.
I guess the SP would also like to see the “scant Garda resources” significantly increased so that these “workers in uniform” could more effectively police the “real crime affecting communities”.
This stands in stark contrast to how Trotsky, the ideas of whom the SP bizarrely claim to stand in the political tradtion of, described the role of the police in the context of the last international economic crisis on a similar scale to what we are seeing now:
“The worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker.”
That is the lesson any revolutionary socialist worthy of the name should be trying to promulgate in the workers’ movement – not the tame reformist fantasies of the Socialist Party. It is necessary to smash the existing capitalist state as a social institution of class rule and replace it with a new form of power based on the self-organisation of the working class and the much deeper and richer day-to-day proletarian democracy of workers’ councils.