From Ruth Cashman, Joint Branch Secretary
Many of you will remember that following a racist mass stopping operation at Brixton Tube we started working with the local RMT branch on a campaign around the police. Unfortunately, it petered out as other priorities took over but the reps Stephen and Phil were supportive and have been active in the latest BLM protests. Given the historical moment, it would be good to contact local unions to start that work again. The branch has a great history of campaigning around police violence, racism and surveillance. Below, is a starting discussion document. I wanted to put it as a motion to the Branch Meeting, but I think we probably don’t have enough time to discuss in full so will but to next BC catch up.
I’d appreciate feedback and suggestions on the draft motion below
DRAFT MOTION FOR NEXT BRANCH COMMITTEE
The labour movement and the fight against state violence and racism
The global protests against police violence and racism are an inspiration. We stand with the people against the police all over the world.
What is the labour movement’s attitude to the police and “criminal justice” system here?National Labour and trade union leaders have argued that more police is part of the answer to the problems working-class people face. In its 2017 and 2019 manifestos Labour promised thousands more police, and in between this became a major campaigning demand.
We must seize this moment to assert a different approach.
The existing police force was developed to maintain social order in the interests of capitalism’s ruling class. Hence its hostile relationship today to working-class and in particular BME working-class people, as well as workers’ struggles and other protest movements.
This oppressiveness has become more glaring as society has become more brutal and unequal over years of “austerity”, ie assault on working-class rights and living standards.
A genuinely democratic and equal, ie socialist, society run by and for the working class requires a radically different kind of policing, democratic and rooted in and accountable to communities and workforces.
To move towards being able to replace the existing police with such a system, we must radically strengthen our labour movement – reasserting working-class rights against the rule of profit; educating about the real function of the police; and advocating measures to attack their powers and role in society.
We call on the whole labour movement, trade unions and Labour Party, to campaign for:
1. The right of oppressed people and the labour movement to self-defence against police (and far-right) violence.
2. A comprehensive plan to reduce police powers, including sharply restricting the use of force; aggressive prosecution of police who kill and violate human rights; abolition of stop and search; ending undercover infiltration of social movements; disarming and demilitarisation; repeal of numerous laws over decades increasing police power. Replace the toothless Independent Office for Police Conduct with an elected body with representation from victims’ families etc, human rights and legal aid groups and the labour movement. Restore and expand legal aid.
3. Measures of accountability including subordinating forces to elected local representatives with real control over budgets and operational policy.
4. Reforms to reduce the police’s role in society and stop criminalising swathes of working-class people, including dramatically reducing the prison population; an end to police dealing with mental health emergencies; an end to persecuting working-class youth under the banner of combating gangs; an end to persecuting homeless people; legalisation of drugs; legalisation of sex work; an end to persecuting Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. Get the police out of schools and other institutions.
5. Mobilisation to defeat the Immigration Bill. Dismantle the anti-immigrant apparatus; abolish the immigration police. Halt the Tories’ rush to a hard Brexit.
6. Instead of more police: emergency funding to block a new wave of cuts; reversal of all cuts since 2010; then major increases in public spending – taking collective, democratic control of wealth to ward off a social disaster and begin to meet working-class needs for decent jobs, homes, benefits and services (including youth services, refuges, mental health services, drug rehab, etc). Abolition of anti-migrant restrictions such as NRPF and the NHS surcharge. Reverse privatisation, expand public ownership. Repeal all anti-union laws so workers can drive improval of wages, conditions and social provision – and take action against racism and oppression.
One way or another, society will change dramatically in the fall out from Covid-19. Unless we start to make serious inroads against the wealth and power of the rich and the mechanisms protecting them, it will become more even unequal, brutal, and heavily policed.
We will circulate this resolution to members and more widely, asking for responses, feedback, suggestions, etc, and discuss further.