Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Police-State Violence

I have been keeping a relatively close watch upon not only both 2008 national conventions – the DNC as well as the RNC – but the protests against them and the police provocation of and reaction to the protests also. There are many people who appear shocked and outraged that the state police trapped by way of encircling a peaceful march and protest in Denver for several hours, kicking the media out of the area and then, after hours, illegally arrested after unnecessarily provocative aggression, hundreds of peaceful protesters on willfully fraudulent charges. There are just as many people – as is evident by the number of hits the video documented evidence has garnered online – outraged over the case of a high-profile example of police violence in New York when a police officer standing in the middle of the street decided to disrupt a peaceful biking protest by walking over towards an oncoming biker and body checking him onto the sidewalk and subsequently charging the biker with assault on a police officer among other fraudulent offenses.

These instances can only come as a surprise to those who have not fully reviewed the history of power relations not only in America, but globally all throughout history. It is simply a truism that where a state power exists, so too exists state enforcement mechanisms, i.e., state police, national guard, military power, economic concentration and so on, and it is equally true that state powers exist so as to ensure and protect the power of the state and its operators and interests (in the case of America, to protect the “minority of the opulent” against the “rabble masses” as James Madison so bluntly phrased it at the Constitutional Convention; in effect to protect the status quo class structure of domination).

This has historically been the case, whether with regards to nobles and serfs, or CEO’s and workers; the hierarchy has existed for centuries. Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in The Prince: “In every republic there are two different dispositions, that of the populace and that of the upper class…all legislation favorable to liberty is brought about by the clash between them,” his observation, put into writing in the sixteenth century, remains true to this very day. It was later observed rather eloquently in the Communist Manifesto that “[t]he history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Free man and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”

The fantasy that state police exist primarily so as to protect the public would be hilarious if the opposite were not so violently the case. America’s labor history reveals the extent to which the state police will beat and murder in the interests of those in power. The thirties are replete with Pinkerton’s beating and killing workers attempting to unionize their workplaces and obtain living wages; cracking skulls with batons, shooting people in cold blood.

In Subterranean Fire Sharon Smith describes the Ludlow Massacre as illustrating “the level of wanton violence corporations inflicted upon striking workers in this era. On the morning of April 20, 1914, the private army of John D. Rockefeller’s Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, along with state troops, opened fire upon striking mining families sleeping inside their tent colony. The minors fired back for hours, but eventually ran out of ammunition. The guards then went on the rampage, drenching the tents with oil and setting them on fire, beating and shooting the now unarmed miners while smashing up their personal belongings. Thirteen women and children burned to death, and three strikers were executed on the spot. The strike did not end there – rather, it turned into an all-out war. The UMWA, the Colorado Federation of Labor, and the Western Federation of Minors issued a joint call for their members to take up arms, distributing weapons and ammunition. On April 28, the minors defeated both state and private troops. President Wilson responded by sending the U.S. Army to occupy the region, which they did until delegates to a UMWA conference finally surrendered in December, after more than a year on strike.” America’s labor history, as well as most of the world’s also, is replete with just this sort of murderous hostility of the state and major centers of power (corporations and so forth, for instance: John D. Rockefeller’s Colorado Fuel & Iron Company) towards the working class and social progress.

That the state powers would behave in such a capacity was already taken as a matter of fact by the more observant, Machiavelli (previously cited) and, as I like to quote (due to its precision), Rudolf Rocker’s observation in Anarcho-Syndicalism that: “As long as within society a possessing and a non-possessing group of human beings face one another in enmity, the state will be indispensable to the possessing minority for the protection of its privileges.”

There is also the long and bloody history of the systematic campaign of genocidal oppression of the Native American Indians - being sent on order of President Jackson, for instance, on a murderous expulsion along the “trail of tears” - the institution of slavery, the hatred of racism and the far-reaching consequences of both, the subjugation of women, the oppression of gay people and so on. In all of these cases, the state reflected the interests of the minority elite (corporations, highly concentrated centers of capital and so on) who supported the status quo class, race and sex relations. It was only through major and sustained popular social protests and movements that the state and corporate sectors were forced to concede civil rights.

There is then the violent history of COINTELPRO and various other secret state sponsored programs of subversion and terrorism. J. Edgar Hoover (a rabid racist) “rose to national prominence when he was appointed chief of the General Intelligence (anti-radical) division of the Justice Department in 1919, shortly before the notorious ‘Palmer raids,’ in which some 4,000 alleged radicals were rounded up in 33 cities in 23 states…” Noam Chomsky writes. “The ‘Red Scare’ served to control labor militancy, dismantle radical parties, frighten liberals, and buttress an interventionist foreign policy. Hoover’s FBI undertook the very same tasks, and has conducted them with considerable success.”

COINTELPRO was responsible for the deaths and detainments of countless radicals, union leaders, civil rights leaders and so on. An infamous example of the murderous capacity of COINTELPRO is the violent assassination of the Chicago Black Panther, Fred Hampton who was shot in his head with a shotgun as he lay asleep or otherwise incapacitated in his bed. As Chomsky writes: “…Fred Hampton, who, along with Mark Clark, was murdered in a pre-dawn Gestapo-style police raid – the phrase is accurate – in December 1969, with the complicity of the FBI, which had turned over to the police a floor plan of his apartment supplied by an FBI provocateur who was chief of Panther security. The floor plan no doubt explains the remarkable accuracy of police gunfire, noted by reporters. Hampton was killed in bed, possibly drugged; according to eyewitnesses, murdered in cold blood.”

This is but one example of the extent of COINTELPRO’s operations. Chomsky goes on to write that “[t]he record, which is by now extensive, demonstrates that the FBI was committed to attacking the civil rights movement, blocking legal electoral politics, undermining the universities and cultural groups (e.g., the largest black cultural center in the West, in the Watts ghetto), and disrupting political activities of which it disapproved by any means required, including the extensive use of provocateurs, arson, bombings, robbery and murder.”

COINTELPRO also relied upon illegally obtained information through spying and other unjust means of coercion (break-ins, beatings, etcetera), reminiscent of the Bush Administrations warrantless wiretapping and the recently exposed Maryland State Police’s illegal, undercover spying operation of Peace and Anti-Death Penalty Groups.

There is also the history of the 1968 Democratic Convention, the protests against it and the ensuing police violence and riots. With the continued, unpopular war in Vietnam, the military draft, the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and general state violence and corruption, there was massive popular opposition to the Democratic party. This was made manifest most explicitly through the protests of the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Many were wary of having protests in Chicago (such as SDS organizers), considering that then-Mayer Richard J. Daley “called on police to ‘shoot to kill’ rioters following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in April,” as Issue 60 of the ISR quotes.

The ISR then puts the following question to Wayne Heimbach (a former SDS organizer and witness to the events): “The violence at the Democratic Convention has been historically referred to as a ‘police riot.’ What do you think of this?” Wayne responds by saying that “[t]he police were a disciplined force in Chicago. If they were told to do something, they did it. If they were told not to, they didn’t. This is not to suggest that they weren’t excessive, it’s rather to suggest they were told to be very forceful in their work…The police were quite efficient in moving in formation to force protesters from different sections of a neighborhood into smaller and more controllable areas. Riot implies they were somehow out of control. Generally that was not true. Even when they were particularly violent – like when they targeted protesters who had already been bandaged – you felt it was part of a larger plan…”

Wayne makes visible, by reference to physical events, a crucial point. It’s not that the state police are rioting and completely out of control, they are almost methodically doing just what they were instructed to do: to provoke, disrupt and dismantle, by any means required. In most instances wherein there is on display state-violence against the state’s own population, the state is not protecting you, “it’s population” (a terrible phrase, clearly derived straight out of the lexicon of totalitarianism, due to the inherent implication that a population is the property of the state), it is protecting itself, it’s affiliates (CEO’s., state representatives and so on) and its power from people like you, it’s own population.

There’s a term for a state which relies upon the subversion, disruption and repression through violence of state police, military and generally armed forces to repress mass social movements disliked by those in power, it’s called a “police-state.” Which, when the peaceful Denver protestors began to be encircled by riot police in full gear who were closing in on them and about to become violently aggressive, they pointed out by rhetorically chanting “What does a police-state look like? This is what a police-state looks like.”

12 comments:

Renegade Eye said...

In the Twin Cities, some 800 people were arrested including Amy Goodman.

One person I know had his house raided, before the demos. He was never an anarchist. He housed some out of town videographers.

I only took part in legal, large activities. I didn't think the politics was worth arrest. See my blog.

Dave Marlow said...

Impressive analysis, as usual.

I feel like your critique of police presence doesn't translate into a full critique against the state. Even Rocker's quote is conditional: “As long as within society a possessing and a non-possessing group of human beings face one another in enmity, the state will be indispensable to the possessing minority for the protection of its privileges.”

A workers' state eliminates the minority element that makes the state so perverse and oppressive. If you cross-apply this, you end up with the conclusion that the police are only a means to an end, as you point out. They defend the ruling class. If the workers are to become the ruling class, any appendages of the state become proletariat in character.

JDHURF said...

Renegade Eye:

Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! was arrested after attempting to find out what happened when two DN producers were arrested. She kept telling the officers that she was an accredited journalist with a convention floor pass (not a particularly easy pass to come by, I hear) and had a member of the secret service come up to her and rip it off her neck.

I heard about the house raids. It happened to the same house twice, and I am well sure that the police targeted that particular house because it was housing the I-witness video collective which has been in the past so effective at fighting police corruption, fraudulent charges and so on through video documented evidence.

Protesting at either party’s convention isn’t something that, unless circumstances were radically different, I would even contemplate. Not only because, like you, I find the ideology and politics largely unworthy, but also because I don’t see any practical purpose in these instances that would warrant potential felony riot charges or even a misdemeanor charge.

I will check out your blog shortly.

Comrade Dave:

My post was initially going to only discuss police repression, of protests, srikes and so on; it was during the process of writing the post that I realized I could tie in a few additional points about the state apparatus, its function and its interrelation with and dependence upon the police force.

There is not in my mind any such thing as a workers’ state. A true workers’ society, if and when it exists, doesn’t require the state apparatus and as soon as you place workers’ representatives in a position of the state, even had they been life long proletarians, they are now no longer workers, they are representatives.

Mikhail Bakunin insightfully pointed out that a “proletarian state” constituted by “ex-workers” represents “not the people but themselves and possessing despotic powers”; it “can never give way to anything but tyranny of a ruling minority.” He wrote that “if the proletariat is to be the ruling class, then there will remain ‘another proletariat’ subjected to the new pseudo-proletarian rule.” When you take someone from the working class, someone impoverished, and then place them in something of an opposite environment, it is virtually common knowledge that they, the impoverished, have a great difficulty for moderation (rappers or other entertainers who, after escaping life in the violent, crime ridden “ghetto” urban centers, purchase mansions, multiple cars, designer clothing and so on; there is actually a term for this sort of behavior when regarding oppression and oppressing in psychology. A victim of oppression, racism, hatred and so on are statistically then far more likely to themselves also oppress and hate other different races, sexual orientations and so forth.)

A workers’ state may theoretically eliminate the “minority element” that had previously occupied the state, the bourgeoisie; but in its turn is instituted a new minority element: the likely soon to be corrupted ex-worker Bakunin wrote about, the pseudo-proletarian state.


Thank you for stopping by and commenting, comrades.

Anonymous said...

tell what u want...but Mr.Bush has made the world a lot safer after the war on terror.

JDHURF said...

anonymous:

Your statement, for which you offered no evidence at all, is precisely the opposite of what the facts clearly bear out: Bush’s nearly unprecedented hegemonic aggression, manifested most clearly as well as most tragically in the devastating military occupation of Iraq - the predicted consequences being the deaths of scores of innocent civilians, men women and children noncombatants, displacement of Iraqi refugees, devastation of Iraq’s economy, unemployment runs at somewhere around eighty percent, instigated sectarian and ethnic violence and so on – where, before Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, Iraq had no direct connections to al Qaida (Bin Ladin hated Saddam, he wanted him killed; in fact, one of Bin Ladin’s citations which he claimed warranted 9-11 was Washington’s refusal to allow the mujahidin to wage jihad on Iraq and also Saudi Arabia*) Iraq thereafter became and has remained ever since a training ground for terrorism, where terrorist groups can send people to train and get real-life combat experience, which is what they’re doing.


* It must never be forgotten that it was, after all, the CIA who had organized, trained and armed the mujahidin – which later became al Qaida, after the CIA had abandoned them after their role in U.S. foreign policy had expired – for the U.S.’s proxy war with the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...

what I meant was USA is safer than ever . After all Ladan must be trying hard to attack and he didn't suceed and all the credit goes to Mr.GWB

JDHURF said...

anonymous:

You must not be following along very well. I just pointed out that what you “meant” was entirely opposite of what the facts illustrate. Case in point: the United States of America, many of its “allies” and the world in general is far less safe as a direct consequence of the Bush Administration, beginning with the release of the National Security Strategy in the fall of 2002.
As Noam Chomsky writes in Hegemony or Survival, “One well-known international affairs specialist, John Ikenberry, describes the declaration as a ‘grand strategy [that] begins with a fundamental commitment to maintaining a unipolar world in which the United States has no peer competitor,’ a condition that is to be ‘permanent [so] that no state or coalition could ever challenge [the US] as global leader, protector, and enforcer.’ The declared ‘approach renders international norms of self-defense – enshrined by Article 51 of the UN Charter – almost meaningless.’ More generally, the doctrine dismisses international law and institutions as of ‘little value.’ Ikenberry continues: ‘The new imperial grand strategy presents the United States [as] a revisionist state seeking to parlay its momentary advantages into a world order in which it runs the show,’ prompting others to find ways to ‘work around, undermine, contain and retaliate against U.S. power.’ The strategy threatens to ‘leave the world more dangerous and divided – and the United States less secure,’ a view widely shared within the foreign policy elite.”
The same analysis held for the invasion and continued occupation of Iraq and U.S. involvement with Pakistan and the military dictator who has been forced to resign finally, Musharraf; the same holds true for U.S. saber-rattling towards Iran, covert undermining of democratic processes in Latin America (especially Colombia, Venezuela and Bolivia) and around the world.
For it to be this late in the game, with mountains upon mountains of documented evidence piling upon your now archaic sound-bites and received political platitudes, and for you to still blindly say such things in the face of such staggering counterevidence, is suggestive of just how subservient you are to the party line, no matter how at odds with reality it is.

Anonymous said...

I'm not bothered about the world. My world is our blessed country USA. Mr. Bush has forever stopped another 9-11 from occuring. Sheesh you leftist should stop critizing our beautiful country so much or else you should pack your bags and leave else where...like in Russia or China for eg.

PS: why do leftist hate America and the freedoms it provides so much?!!?

JDHURF said...

anonymous:

Standard state-reverential propaganda from the right. The United States is not an isolated nation, it is a nation with global hegemonic military power which spans the globe. Anyone concerned about the security of the United States is also concerned about Pakistan, Iran, Israel, Venezuela, Bolivia and so on; they are all inextricably linked. Furthermore, it is the relations between the United States and the rest of the world that I was clearly talking about, namely, Washington’s abuse of power and assault on democracy.
It must come from a very deep totalitarian pulse within you to suggest that people critical of the government governing the country in which they live should just be good little Stalinists and shut up or move. Your PS question is yet more standard rank-propaganda, again derived straight out of the ideology of totalitarianism. “Leftists” hate neither America as a country and people nor the freedoms which still exist. You, like the Stalinists, have confused the country and the people with the government. One can love America, its freedoms, its culture and so on, and yet still take issue with the government and its policies (I, unlike you apparently, reject totalitarian ideology).

Here is a blog post I wrote specifically addressing this issue:

Anti-Americanism and Totalitarianism

Fct said...

JD,
I've heard McCain say that he refuses to pull out of a war that is unfinished, as it would only put America in more danger, and that we need to be victorious, that all hope is NOT lost.

Do you approve of postion vis a vis Iraq? Is Iraq a lost cause and is there no way America can win this and do you think they are building a case for war on Iran

JDHURF said...

fct said:
“I've heard McCain say that he refuses to pull out of a war that is unfinished, as it would only put America in more danger, and that we need to be victorious, that all hope is NOT lost.”

McCain also holds to the unique position that the United States should have never pulled out of Vietnam.
McCain’s so-called position that to cease the unjust, illegal and immoral military occupation of Iraq would place the United States in more danger than the invasion and continued occupation already has is not only negated by naked fact - I refer you to, in part, the discussion in one of my above posts about the repercussions of the invasion and continued occupation of Iraq (i.e., an increase in terrorism and so forth) – and most of history, but at this point, we must be honest, just plain blind-stupid-crazy.
The hope Washington operators have for Iraq is irrelevant, only the hope of the Iraqi people themselves is relevant here, as is their will, being as clear as it could ever be.

Fct:
”Do you approve of postion vis a vis Iraq? Is Iraq a lost cause and is there no way America can win this and do you think they are building a case for war on Iran.”

I certainly do not support McCain’s stubborn and suicidal position and neither do a majority of all of the people who live on the planet Earth, literally - which certainly throws light on all of this “spreading of democracy,” apparently the will of the Iraqis doesn’t come into consideration when discussions of withdrawal come up.
It’s a disgrace that the Bush administration rhetorically trumpeted and continues to trumpet democracy and freedom as he illegally invaded and still occupies Iraq in an obvious aggressive move to gain access, and much more importantly, control over Iraq’s oil resources.

It’s not about whether America can win in Iraq or not; although, if by “win” you mean help create a peaceful, flowing democracy in Iraq, no, that is not even remotely possible so long as an aggressive foreign military occupation suffocates the country.
There is no doubt that “they” have long been saber-rattling towards Iran, but I very highly doubt military action against Iran before the next President is sworn into office. I also very highly doubt that, excluding some criminal scandal, that McCain will succeed Bush as President.

elijeremiah said...

JDHURF,

This is another excellent entry. I think you did a good job of showing how egregious police force is an inexorable part of the state.

Very insightful stuff, as usual.