Sunday, November 11, 2007


Sir Ian Blair wore his poppy with pride this week as he appeared before the London Assembly and refused yet again to resign. Doubtless Jacqui Smith and Ken Livingstone were likewise sporting poppies when they publicly backed Blair's position over the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, despite the Met's court conviction over the death and the IPCC's condemnation both of the operation which killed de Menezes and of Blair's personal attempt to prevent their investigation. Indeed Smith and ACPO have made a special point this year of announcing their support for Remembrance Sunday commemorations, and probably hundreds of poppies will adorn the chests of officers today as they police Royal British Legion events around the UK.

Tories and Liberals alike have demanded Blair's resignation, but New Labour has stood by him. In media interviews Livingstone has defended the killing of de Menezes with the words "these things happen", a phrase which echoes Blair's own comment soon after the 2005 shooting that it was just "one of those things that happen" during armed police operations. While many have been shocked by the callous arrogance and complacency of this attitude, in fact it is no more than an unusually frank acknowledgement of the role of the police and the nature of state violence.

Violence is inherent to the state as such. This is true not just of "bad" states, "rogue" states, dictatorships or "oppressive régimes": it is true of all states, by definition. The state perpetuates itself through legalised violence against its own population, whom it may "legitimately" intimidate, imprison, injure and kill, and against the populations of other states, whom it may treat no less and often more brutally under the aegis of war. The police and the armed forces are two sides of the state's bloody coin:

The supreme law of the State is self-preservation at any cost. And since all States, ever since they came to exist upon the earth, have been condemned to perpetual struggle -- a struggle against their own populations, whom they oppress and ruin, a struggle against all foreign States, every one of which can be strong only if the others are weak -- and since the States cannot hold their own in this struggle unless they constantly keep on augmenting their power against their own subjects as well as against the neighborhood States -- it follows that the supreme law of the State is the augmentation of its power to the detriment of internal liberty and external justice.

Thus those who are calling for Blair's replacement are doing nothing to prevent further killings. On the contrary, in wishing to re-establish the "honour" and effectiveness of the Met they seek simply to re-legitimise the arming of the state against ordinary people, in the name of the "anti-terrorism" which itself licenses terror -- in Bakunin's words, "this flagrant negation of humanity which constitutes the very essence of the state."

So much, then, for the two minutes' silence, the poppies, the Queen mooching around the Cenotaph with a face like a slapped arse. Remember the wars, remember the dead and the wounded, remember Gordon Brown's paean to wartime courage and the glorious cannon fodder, remember anything you like as long as you also forget the freedom that lives in your own dreams and desires, in Mad Love and the Marvellous, in the necessary interdependence of all organic and inorganic life on earth ... Open the prisons! Disband the army! Abolish the police! And remember your own revolutionary dreams of poetry and freedom, because they are within our collective grasp, not just in some far-off political future but now, here, tonight.


Non-UK readers who are unfamiliar with the background of the de Menezes case can find information, including a detailed timeline of events, at

Whoops! These things happen.

1 comment:

Paul Cowdell said...

"… public force exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men, but also of material appendages, prisons and coercive institutions of all kinds … it becomes stronger in proportion as the class antagonisms within the state become sharper and as adjoining states grow larger and more populous. It is enough to look at Europe today, where class struggle and rivalry in conquest have brought the public power to a pitch that it threatens to devour the whole of society and even the state itself.

"… As the state arose from the need to keep class antagonisms in check, but also arose in the thick of the fight between the classes, it is normally the state of the most powerful, economically ruling class, which by its means becomes also the politically ruling class, and so acquires new means of holding down and exploiting the oppressed class …

"The state, therefore, has not existed from all eternity … At a definite stage of economic development, which necessarily involved the cleavage of society into classes, the state became a necessity because of this cleavage. We are now rapidly approaching a stage in the development of production at which the existence of these classes has not only ceased to be a necessity, but becomes a positive hindrance to production. They will fall as inevitably as they once arose. The state inevitably falls with them. The society which organizes production anew on the basis of free and equal association of the producers will put the whole state machinery where it will then belong - into the museum of antiquities, next to the spinning wheel and the bronze ax."
- Friedrich Engels