The title of this post isn’t really a view I ever expected to find myself expressing. To put it mildly, I am really not a fan of the fucking filth. But I have to admit that I am genuinely impressed by how they’ve been behaving in Wisconsin. As radical folk singer Ryan Harvey reports, cops have actually been showing solidarity with striking workers rather than repressing them.
It should, of course, be noted that “cops for labor” is a contradiction in terms – cops can only show solidarity with workers by refusing to play their role as cops. But, even if they don’t see it in those terms themselves, that does seem to be what’s happening here.
Of course, since I don’t have any particular desire to take on the SAS or the RAF in a straight fight, and I’ve never had any sympathy for the mad vanguardist ideas of the urban guerrillas, I’ve always recognised that any meaningful challenge to the system can only succeed if a high proportion of the people employed by the state to repress us start to sympathise with the revolt and abandon their role as part of the state. But I’d always known it as an abstract intellectual truth, not something I ever expected to see confirmed in real life, and even then I found it easier to imagine in terms of soldiers mutinying, which there are plenty of examples of, than in terms of cops… well, cops not being bastards.
Thinking about this draws my attention to one of the most impressive features of the wave of class struggle we’ve seen in recent months, which is the way that it’s given vivid practical examples of things that I’d only ever known as abstract ideas. International solidarity between workers (or, worse, between proletarians) sounds like such a dry piece of tedious political jargon until you’re reminded of what it really means. It looks like this:
People getting to eat free pizza donated by people in other countries in support of their struggle. Beautiful. And tasty.
When I started this blog, way back in September, I chose the name “Cautiously Pessimistic” because pessimism seemed the only sane response to my experience of the world so far. I’ve always known that it’s possible for the least promising periods to suddenly erupt into stunning struggle, but all my reference points for that idea were in the distant past, not anything I had a real connection to. My first major political experience was campaigning to stop the invasion of Afghanistan (that happened) and then the invasion of Iraq (in case you’ve forgotten, that happened too). For most of the last decade, the international scene seemed to be dominated by George Bush, and at a distance of a few years it’s worth taking a moment to remember just how much of an utter bastard he was. When his eight years were finally up, things didn’t seem to get any better, as the terrifyingly mad Tea Party seemed to be the only force capable of mobilising popular protest in the US. And things were no better at home: as a good anti-fascist, I spent a lot of time asking people to “stop the fascist BNP”, and watching helplessly as they grew in support, got some people elected to the European Parliament, and were joined on the far-right by the EDL, who the left talked a lot about smashing and fighting but didn’t seem particularly capable of actually challenging in practice. Over on the green side of things, we could watch as Climate Camp started off as a radical direct action movement with roots in anti-capitalist groups like Earth First and ended up feeling like a cross between Glastonbury and the Guardian, as liberal hippies invited the cops in for tea. I’d throw myself into support for the few strikes that came along, which almost always ended up in the union leaders settling for crumbs. And, by late 2010, we had the constantly-increasing effects of a recession to enjoy as well. In short, I knew that a massive increase in the class struggle was possible, but I knew it in the way that it was possible for people to go to the moon. It just didn’t seem like something that might be relevant to my life at any point in the forseeable future.
Now, a few months later, so much has changed. The idea, which I’d always vaguely accepted, that ordinary people are capable of spontaneously taking militant direct action with little or no encouragement from self-styled revolutionaries became a thrilling reality at Millbank and the protests that followed. In Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, we’ve seen people coping successfully with the problems of organising their own lives when the state breaks down. International working-class solidarity, direct challenges to the state, police discipline breaking down… so many beautiful ideas have, for the first time in many people’s memories, become practical realities.
Of course, I’m still not a simple optimist. I recognise that this stage of the fight won’t end with a global anarchist communist revolution; sooner or later, the world’s rulers, perhaps joined by a few new faces, will find the right combination of repression and concessions to restore stability, and whatever victories we’ve managed to win will be used as a way to maintain the status quo, as proof that things aren’t really so bad after all. But things will never quite go back to the way they were before. Before this, I kept myself going through hard times with the thought that perhaps, one day, we’d see events like those of 1917, or 36, or 56, or 68, or even 89. In the hard times to come, I’ll be able console myself by holding out hope for a return of the spirit of 2010 or 2011.