Take a look in the mirror – imperialism, racism and white supremacy in the 21st century

One year on from George Floyd’s murder by US police officer Derek Chauvin I reflect on my own (white) experiences of white supremacy, imperialism and racism, and the research I have done over this last year regarding my own family and country’s conduct.

Read about your history

After watching the world erupt in protest of his killing, and the thousands before and after him, I felt compelled to take a long hard look in the mirror. What is my role in all this? What can I do to change the narrative, to change the relationship between white people and everybody else? What have I done, and what do I know about my own family, my own country’s conduct regarding colonialism, imperialism, racism and white supremacy? And what can I do differently to improve?

These are some of the questions I had when I watched all the riots, protests and demands for change over the summer of 2020. I started off by buying 3 books called ‘We, slaves of Surinam‘ by the black communist Anton de Kom, which became a best seller after 86 years of being published and ‘Poet in the jungle‘ by Roelof Van Gelder about J.G. Stedman, a Dutch/British army officer in Surinam in the 18th century. The third book ‘Roofstaat‘ by Ewald Vanvugt is about the atrocities committed by the Dutch state across the world since the first colonising voyages took place 4-5 centuries ago until the present day. None of the information I read about in these books I had ever heard at school or anywhere else. To be honest, I was in complete shock when I finished them. I had never heard of Anton De Kom, who is in my eyes the Martin Luther King of the Netherlands. I only came across these books after a friend posted about them on Facebook. I am 47 years old and I had never heard of this man, who played such a big role in fighting for equality for black people in my country. I felt ashamed. I felt embarrassment. I felt guilt. And I was starting to wonder what my role is in this horrific history of white supremacy, racism and plunder, and what I can do to change it.

Racism in the family

As I have written about in past posts, my younger sister is adopted from India. She is one-and-a-half year younger than me, and she was 5 months old when she arrived. At 5 months old she had already been past around several carers. First her birth mother, who walked 200 miles from a rural village in Bihar to New Delhi whilst pregnant. Then the Mother Theresa children’s home. Then an American lady and her millionaire Indian husband, and then my parents. My parents have treated her like a Cinderella, second class, and subjected her to the most horrific physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect. In the first year that she arrived, she was in a bad way through malnutrition and scabies, but on top of that she cried 24/7 for a year. She physically rejected my parents attention and showed clear signs of Reactive Attachment Disorder. Off course this disorder was not known back in the 70’s, let alone availability of support and help.

So my question is: is this trend of adopting children from poor countries the new imperialism, the new colonialism, the new racism? I mean my parents’ intention was to help a child who, in their eyes, had very poor prospects of survival let alone development of talents and a career, and to give her a good life.

They never anticipated she would come with a whole host of issues that they were not equipped to deal with, nor had the knowledge of or background for. They never thought about what the consequences are for a baby, a child, a person, who is ripped from their natural environment, her family, her culture, her history at a time she should be physically and emotionally bonding with her mother and father. This child, who is in every possible way so very different from their own, her smell, her cry, her skin colour. How can they keep telling themselves and us children, that she is equal to me and that she will be treated as their child as if she was their own, and then abuse her, neglect her and treat her like dirt?

Towards a socialist system

Why did they not put their efforts and their money into trying to get this country India to the state it should be in, before the British, and I have now found out before them, the Dutch plundered and enslaved its people? If they would have done that, my sister would possibly have been living happily with her family, or at least been adopted by an Indian family. Well, the answer is off course that they did not have the insight, the understanding and the education to think in that direction. We all have been completely brainwashed and conditioned into thinking that we, white people of the West, are superior to everyone else, and we know what civilisation and education is, because look at the state of Western countries. Aren’t we doing great? We have (well, once upon a time) a welfare state, trade unions, holidays and minimum wages and 40 hour working weeks. We have wealth and strong economies.

Che Guavara – symbol of struggle is available at Leftbooks

Racism in the familyYes, we do. Or we did. But where does this wealth come from? From hard work off course! That is what we learn at school, from TV and advertising, from the news even. Generation upon generation is being told this. But it is all a big fat lie. All that wealth comes from plundering, looting and stealing the wealth and enslaving people in the rest of the world and, let’s not forget at home. Because the working classes in the Western world were and are sometimes still treated worse than slaves. Here’s a passage from Friedrich Engels’ (1885) book ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’, in which he says about the bourgeoisie:

They are slave-masters in effect. The factory system ends all freedom in law and in fact. The operative must be in the mill at half-past five in the morning; if he comes a couple of minutes too late, he is fined; if he comes ten minutes too late, he is not let in until breakfast is over, and a quarter of the day’s wages is withheld, though he loses only two and one-half hours’ work out of twelve. He must eat, drink, and sleep at command.”

Engels makes the comparison with chattel slavery in the US specific when he says,

“They are worse slaves than the Negroes in America, for they are more sharply watched, and yet it is demanded of them that they shall live like human beings, shall think and feel like men! Verily, this they can do only under glowing hatred towards their oppressors, and towards that order of things which places them in such a position, which degrades them as machines.”

Wage slavery today

This account really rings true to me today, when we hear about Amazon drivers pissing in bottles, or in a Sports Direct warehouse a pregnant woman delivering on the warehouse floor, extreme surveillance on workers and union busting, de-skilling and fire-and-rehire techniques. My Tesco delivery guy has to hold down 3 jobs to be able to look after his family of a wife and 2 kids. So I think we can safely conclude that racism, white supremacy and imperialism are ways in which this economic system of capitalism uses to still its indomitable lust for profit.

So what I am trying to say is, that only by fighting for a different system, that is not based on the exploitation of natural resources, people and competition, but aims to build on what people need to flourish, only then can we get rid of racism, imperialism and slavery. To start this process, we white people need to start taking a long hard look in the mirror, and see how we contribute to the continuation of these inequalities and exploitations.

Yes we need to pay reparations, yes we need to apologise for the deeds of our ancestors, yes we need to give back all the art, objects, gold and diamonds. Yes we need to tear down those statues and replace them with true heroes of equality. Yes we need to examine our society today and get rid of everything that contributes to exploitation and racism today. That is a massive task. But it has to be done and it is long overdue. And for me and my family, yes, we do need to do what we can to stop the cycle of abuse, and try to build our relationship as sisters in pain. How? I don’t know, I make it up as I go along, but I do know that learning about my country’s past is helping me in this process.

I urge you, if you agree, to join me in the Socialist Party in England & Wales or in the Committee for a Worker’s International (CWI) in your country.

Can poverty, crime and inequality end under capitalism?

A contradictio in terminis

To answer this question it is important to know what capitalism really is. How does it function? Capitalism is a hierchiacal economic system which is build around private property of the means of production in pursuit of profit through competition in the market, where prices for goods and services are determined by demand and supply of materials and wage labour. It is build on the exploitation of workers, and the environment. Because wages are the biggest cost for capitalists, the owners of the means of production (the bosses) are always looking for ways to drive the wages down. They have no influence on the price of raw materials, or the running cost of the factory, or transport, so wages are the way to increase profits. They do this for instance by competition for jobs. By playing the workers out against each other. A great example at the moment is the de-skilling of electricians at the Hinkley Point Nuclear Reactor by two big construction companies. By introducing a new apprenticeship in which candidates do a 2 month course with a job at the end they by-pass expensive fully qualified electricians who train for years to get their qualifications. Off course this also goes to the detriment of safety on site, as these apprentices cannot possibly deliver safe work after only 8 weeks on the job.

Cutting cost on wages is one way to increase profit, and cutting cost on safety another. This can be done by increasing working hours, using cheaper materials, and driving wages down through precarious contracts, zero-hour contracts and bogus self-employment for instance in gig-economy jobs. Every morsel of cost is diverted back onto the worker, or the consumer. An example of this can be found in care work. Many care workers are on zero-hours contracts, have to pay for travel between jobs themselves, and are put under extreme time pressure (15 min visits in which they have to wash, cloth and feed a person). These workers are only paid per visit, time waiting in traffic, travelling between clients etc. is unpaid. Many of these workers, millions in fact, are on such a low wage that they cannot sustain themselves and their families. In April 2019 2 million workers earnt on or under the minimum wage in the UK said the Low Pay Commission (2021) as cited in The Commons Library (2021). In April 2019 the minimum wage was £7.83 per hour for adults over 25 (UK Government, 2021).The average rent in the UK in 2019 was £700 a month (ONS, 2020), so an adult working 40 hours a week would earn £313.20 a week which is £1357,20 a month. That person would have £657.20 left per month = £151.66 per week for all other bills, travel, food and clothing. Off course if you have children or are on a zero hour contract you likely have less than this.

It is no wonder that many young people, who are under 25 and earn significantly less than the above, are driven into the arms of gangs and feel there is no other option than crime to earn a living. Austerity has decimated youth services, education opportunities and apprenticeships. All other public service provisions have been cut to the bone, many local authorities are in enormous debt and face bankruptcy (for instance Northamptonshire County Council, in 2018). The capitalist system looks to privatise all public services, so the market can monetise it and make every aspect of life a commodity, to be bought and sold. The result is massive disparity between rich and poor, and the middle classes falling into the poor category more and more, as slowly the greed of an ever decreasing group of exceedingly rich people have to tap into the wealth of an ever increasing group.

Pamphlet ‘The Transitional Programme‘ by Leon Trotsky, Leftbooks

To control this immense army of poor, capitalists use divisions and inequality to their advantage. Individualism is encouraged and promoted, collectivism discouraged and criminalised. Racism, sexism, homo-, and transphobia and any discrimination of ethnic minorities is rife as a result. As long as people fight amongst each other, anger and frustration is not aimed at the real causes of their suffering; the ruling class, the rich, the big corporations, the state and the capitalist system itself.

Last night I attended a Zoom meeting titled: ‘Is it a crime to be poor?’, with speakers including academics and former prisoners, and it was chaired by a Labour MP. The whole discussion was addressing lots of different aspects of the problem, and many attendees gave hosts of ideas what needed to be done about them. But nobody actually addressed HOW we could achieve them. When I asked why we were not talking about the cause of poverty and crime, namely the capitalist system and how to overthrow it, the answer was: ‘Because it is too big to deal with’. Others were saying that when we chip away at the fringes, deal with smaller issues somehow we could change the narrative and slowly change the system. What a cop out.

In my opinion these types of responses are given by people who don’t have any trust in the power of the working class, in the power of many, many millions of people fighting collectively to overcome their suffering. Yes, it is a huge task. Yes it is very difficult and challenging, but it is not impossible. And, above all, it is the only way it will be able to bring about lasting change for the benefit of all. Think about it. How will the capitalists with their wealth and power respond to ‘chipping away at the fringes’ and single issue responses? Exactly, with force and only a little force is needed to stamp that idea out as it only is done by a few well-wishers and do-gooders. But think about what they can do when millions of people strike and protest at the same time, what can they do when the whole economy is disrupted, like you could see happening during the Covid lockdowns worldwide. There is nothing they can do, because together we, the workers make the world go round. So in my view, our task is to convince our families, neighbours, colleagues and friends of this way. Read Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Leon Trotsky, their ideas are worked out to the letter of what is needed to make this happen, and join the Socialist Party or the Committee for a Worker’s International (CWI)for the section in your country.

Undoing Social Protection

Steve Tombs, The Open University   “It’s going to come to the point where it’s going to affect the residents, the local population, in many ways we are at that point now, public health and protection is being eroded.” Environmental Health Officer, Merseyside   Making Regulation Better   In 2004, Sir Phillip Hampton was appointed […]

Undoing Social Protection

Corporate crime – hidden in plain sight

This week I try to answer some pressing questions around corporate crime. Why is there so little attention in the media around these often horrific and large-scale crimes? Why are there so few convictions and so few individuals held to account for harms that far outweigh the consequences placed on ‘street crime’? Is there anything to be done to change these outcomes?

Off course the issues around this concept are very widespread and take more than a simple blog post to discuss. But I just intent to get you thinking around common assumptions and the way corporate crime is dealt with in the Criminal Justice System (CJS). So first of all, what exactly is corporate crime?

  • Crime committed on behalf of an organisation, or in pursuit of its formal goals (cutting costs, increasing market share, profitability, innovation, and so on).

These include:

  • Financial crimes such as bribery of governments officials;
  • Crimes against consumers, such as price-fixing;
  • Crimes associated with employment relationships (including those related to employee safety); and
  • Crimes against the environment, such as illegal emissions from cars.

(Tombs, 2019, p. 196)

Media silence

There are many examples of corporate crime that is reported on in the media in the first instance, but then seem to disappear as time goes on, and because those crimes are often not prosecuted, let alone sentenced like ‘ordinary crime’, there are no events taking place that could draw the attention towards it again. To see the difference in media coverage you only have to do a comparable internet search. When I typed in ‘criminal’ the results showed at the top many video’s, podcasts and TV shows, but when I typed in ‘corporate criminal’ I got a few law firms, government websites and Wikipedia pages.

This difference in media coverage, as well as the lack of prosecutions, has created a false idea about crime in the collective conscience of people. Also in the academic world there is hardly any research done on corporate crime because it is very expensive and who is willing to fund it? Business isn’t, and governments neither, as their capitalist interests match those of the corporations. Besides, big companies have large pockets and anyone who enters into a legal battle with them (using laws in a system which the most powerful have created) will have to match their expensive legal teams.

This could be one of the reasons why individuals are pursued much more, as they are easy targets, for the media as well as for the CJS. By creating stereotypes about criminals, and common assumptions, divisions are made between certain groups of people, which plays into the hands of the state as it is easier to control people when they are divided. The media profit from this too, because sensationalist articles sell.

One law for us, a different law for them

The way crime is looked at for companies is very different from crime committed by individuals. Companies provide an important economic function in offering jobs and revenue which is used as a justification to approach corporate crime on a forward looking basis. With this I mean that prevention of future harm is the aim, instead of punishing past harms which usually counts for the rest of us (Tombs, 2019, p. 204). While individuals are mostly solely seen as criminals after committing a crime, corporate crime is merely portrayed as a side business, apart from their main, legal activities. Therefore, corporations are not seen as real criminals.

This is in contrast with how individuals are seen with a criminal record. It is almost impossible to find a job after you have served a sentence, and even after minor convictions the label seems to stick for the rest of your life. And in particular if you are young, male and from a BAME community, people are criminalised and targeted. But that is not to say that if you don’t fall into those categories, you are not committing crime, it is just less likely that you are caught and prosecuted.

So when crimes are committed in the corporate world, seldom a company and its leadership are prosecuted or punished. It is often worded as ‘accident’, ‘disaster’ or ‘scandal’ but rarely do you hear the word ‘corporate crime’, which is off course what it really is. This in my mind is all part of how the capitalist class defend their system and interests, which has little to do with justice and equality. The CJS, the economic and legal systems are all rigged in favour of the rich and powerful, and against anyone who doesn’t conform, is in a minority or otherwise criminalised.

Reform or system change

Would it be possible to reform this reality of injustice? Well, there have off course been attempts in several countries with different ‘adjustments’ usually based on a social-democratic model, but still this does not address the structural inequality and oppression that is inherent in the capitalist system. I welcome any improvements and reforms that benefit working class people but to think that reforms can radically change this pyramid scheme I think is utopian. That is because exploitation, inequality and competition are the bedrock on which capitalism is built.

I believe only socialist change can achieve true equality for all, as socialism is built on equality, sharing, community and collective action. It is built around the idea that workers have control over the means of production, and production is done on the basis of need instead of profit. Every aspect of society is democratically decided, with every representative subject to immediate recall and only on an average worker’s wage. Environmental protection, health & safety and quality will be paramount, and with the largest industries taken into public ownership everyone’s living standards will be raised dramatically. Average wages will be much higher, and everyone will have work but work less and have access to education throughout life.

If you like to know more about how this is practically possible please visit https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/ in the UK or https://www.socialistworld.net/ for your country elsewhere, or read this book:

References

Tombs, S. (2019) ‘Deconstructing the criminal’, in Downes, J., Kent, G., Mooney, G., Nightingale, A. and Scott, D. (eds) Introduction to Criminology 2, Milton Keynes, The Open University pp. 185–208. 

Political Crime

An inevitable confrontation for revolutionary socialists

In this sixth edition of articles about criminology concepts in a socialist context I will talk about political crime. Admittingly this also is the subject of this week’s study material, but off course as a socialist I can’t ignore this important topic. To be honest, before I started reading about this last Monday I did not even know of the existence of political crime as a concept. Or perhaps it is more that I never considered it, which is strange because I am a political activist and campaigner.

Defining political crime

Anyway, let’s start by explaining what the definition of political crime is. It is, as cited in Kent (2019, p. 129),

politically motivated acts by citizens challenging the state, which are labelled as criminal, and as a consequence acted upon by the criminal justice system’.

I have to add that this concept is contested by many in the criminology field, including myself even though I am only just starting as a student. What is ‘political’ is contested, as well as what is ‘crime’, because both concepts are defined by the state. And the state, as Friedrich Engels (1977) explains, (cited in Head, 2011, p. 5)

“.. is a tool by the ruling class, a tool for the oppression of one class by another; the creation of ‘order’ that legalises and extends the oppression by regulating the conflict between classes whilst stripping the means and methods of struggle from the oppressed class to overthrow the oppressors”.

In most Western societies only a mere vale of democracy is draped over this concoction and really only officially allows freedom of press, freedom of assembly and equality before the law for all citizens but has always possibilities built into its constitution to declare martial law whenever a ‘crisis’ erupts and the people attempt to defy bourgeois rule (Head, 2011, p. 6). Trotsky observed that in times of economic growth and prosperity states can afford to rule democratically, showing leniency towards industrial action and political opposition but as soon as times get tough there would be no room for manoeuvre. He explained that moving to totalitarianism (in the 1930’s) came from the fact that parliamentary democratic institutions could not stand the pressure of tensions internally, and conflicts internationally (Head, 2011, p. 6).

Marxist criminologists Marshall Clinard and Richard Quinney (1973) as cited in Kent (2019, p. 135) divided political crime in two categories:

  • Crimes against government
  • Crimes by government
Socialism in the 21st century, available at LeftBooks

Unfortunately, because crimes are defined by the state, government can still potentially evade accountability for its own harmful actions, simply by not defining them as crimes.

Remaining options of opposition

Keeping this in mind, it is interesting to see current events unfold after the worst economic downturn since the 1930’s. The Conservative government has implemented legislation criminalising trespass, which deeply curtails legal opportunities for the whole of the working class to agitate, protest and oppose their rule, as well as criminalising traveller communities and the homeless. This is, in my mind, because the government fears massive outburst of anger and protest after the latest lockdown ends. Just this week they have announced a measly 1% pay ‘rise’, a pay cut off course in real terms for nurses, only months after the prime minister and his club of chums was clapping for carers and praising the NHS staff for saving his life from Covid-19. And that is only an example of the complete disastrous handling of the pandemic, the looting of public money by handing track & trace contracts to inept private companies (75% Tory donors). There is also a wave of unfair dismissals of union reps across industries and fire-and-rehire tactics by big companies, lowering the wages and T&C’s of staff. I think all this is political crime by the state and big industry to the aim of at any cost maintaining and continuation of the capitalist system.

So far, besides the big protests last year after the murder of George Floyd by police and several similar cases here in the UK, a big eruption of anger is still at large. But it is inevitable that people will start to engage into struggle, as living and working conditions are severely compromised and the unemployment rate soars. The government can’t delay ending the furlough scheme beyond September, and even with that money it is still a 20% cut in wages which few can afford. It is absolutely depressing to see the endless queues for foodbanks and the soaring rise in domestic violence deaths, especially when it is said that the 10 richest have gained $540B since March 2020.

But are there still means by which the working class can legally oppose and protest? I think it is a duty of any citizen that is aware of the threats and murderous regime (and who can say they aren’t in this digital age) to at the very least call out all injustices, corruption and exploitation to as wide an audience as possible. I think we can all join a union and get active organising in workplaces, and educate ourselves. Still the best option we have is organise, in trade unions, in political parties like the Socialist Party or standing in elections in coalitions like TUSC. We need political representation, not to win in a system which won’t allow that, but to find a path to power, to arm us politically and find and educate as many as possible to lead us in the struggle to a socialist society.

The right to rebel

Democracies rely on the concept of the social contract;

  • an explicit agreement among everyone in society to exchange some individual freedoms and uphold certain responsibilities for certain state protections and so we can live peacefully together (Drake and Scott, 2019, p. 59).

The Russian-American Emma Goldman was an anarchist political writer and activist who challenged the US government by publishing ‘A New Declaration of Independence’ in 1909 by claiming:

When existing institutions prove inadequate to the needs of man, when they merely serve to enslave, rob and oppress mankind, the people have the eternal right to rebel against, and overthrow, these institutions.

(Goldman, 1909, p. 1 as cited in Kent, 2019, p. 144)

Additionally, the UN Declaration of Human Rights also gives provision to uphold the right to rebel against tyranny and oppression (UN General Assembly, 1948 as cited in Kent, 2019). But Goldman really raises the question why it is illegal for citizens to rebel in democratic states, when those states don’t hold their end of the bargain, namely the social contract. I think the answer lies in the fact that to the ruling class the gloves are off when it comes to defending the capitalist system. They have purposely created this whole charade of ‘democracy’ to be able to get away with political crimes themselves and in the process criminalise any act of defiance which could jeopardise their power structure. It really is a dictatorial regime with no solutions to social and political conflict. In fact, it doesn’t offer solutions to any of the problems that face humanity at the moment, and that means time is up for capitalism.

Conclusion

Political crime is a construct of the state to defend the capitalist system against the threat of political or social opposition, by criminalising dissent, protest or other acts of defiance and violence. Even though the UN Declaration of Human Rights state that people have the right to protest, and rebel against oppressive states, many capitalist governments don’t acknowledge or accept it in practise by the way they define crime or legislate. This is how they can evade being held to account on their own conduct. In the long term this doesn’t offer any solution to conflicts which arise in society. I think socialist ideas from great socialists like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Leon Trotsky and Vladimir Lenin offer great potential for solving those massive upheavals we are facing today. I urge you to read their books.

References

Drake, D. H. and Scott, D. (2019) ‘Law and order or harm and disorder?’, in Drake, D. H., Nightingale, A. and Scott, D. (eds.) Introduction to criminology 1, Milton Keynes, The Open University, pp. 55-78.

Head, M. (2011) ‘Introduction: what are crimes against the state?’ [Online] Crimes against the state: from treason to terrorism. Available at https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/open/reader.action?docID=714104 (Accessed 12/03/2021).

Kent, G. (2019), ‘Deconstructing political crime’ in Downes, J., Kent, G., Mooney, G., Nightingale, A. and Scott, D. (eds.) Introduction to Criminology 2, Milton Keynes, The Open University.

A Socialist Police Force

In this second edition in my series of articles about Criminology concepts in a Socialist context I will discuss the concept of a Socialist Police Force. What would that look like? What would the main aim be? How can trust between the community and the police be guaranteed? Would racism, sexism and trans/homophobia within the police be a thing from the past? To answer these questions I will first unpick the concepts mentioned in this title.

By Socialism I mean socialism as a system in society in which the working class is in control of the means of production, the economy is planned democratically to the need of the people instead of profit, and overall a Marxist approach is applied. In this sense the term ‘police force‘ means a democratically accountable organisation which defends and safeguards the interests of the working class within a socialist society.

To move from the situation now towards a socialist police force we in the Socialist Party would argue for a transitional programme which would only come to the fore when the working class take steps towards that direction. Conditions for that to happen have to emerge through struggle, in which working class people will develop consciousness and confidence that through collective action and organisation victories can be won. But those victories can only be permanent through a socialist transformation of society. To quote the article in the last link above:

“If the working class is to preserve the economic gains and the democratic rights that it has wrested from the capitalists in the past, it must carry through the socialist transformation of society. Past gains cannot be preserved indefinitely within the rotten framework of a crisis-ridden capitalism. In transforming society, it is utopian to think that the existing apparatus of the capitalist state can be taken over and adapted by the working class. In a fundamental change of society, all the existing institutions of the state will be shattered and replaced by new organs of power under the democratic control of the working class. While basing itself on the perspective of the socialist transformation of society, however, the labour movement must advance a programme which includes policies which come to grips with the immediate problems posed by the role of the police” (The State.., 1983, pp53-54) as cited in Marxism and the State: an exchange (2006).

Black Lives Matter protester, June 2020

So, what would such a police force look like? Well, it would be acting in the interests of the working class, and be accountable to the working class. Officers would be subject to immediate recall and accountable to a democratically formed workers committee with its base firmly in the trade union movement. But as the conditions of most people will have dramatically changed for the better in a socialist society, over time crime will dramatically change and possibly even disappear. A lot of crime happens as a result of poverty, desperation, unemployment, and inequalities in society. Over generations this can improve dramatically when society turns its attention to the problems causing it. Also the legislation will change as we start to evaluate our values and start to focus on the improvement of health and wellbeing of everyone, as opposed to the all consuming pressure of chasing profit for the few.

I think the police will be tasked with the protection and defence of those values and the working class as a whole from counter attacks by people clinging on to capitalism, and other threats to the socialist state. Trust from the community in the police can only be guaranteed when the police is directly accountable to the community and subject to immediate recall. The community has to guide and lead by debating and making decisions regarding the police’s actions through a dedicated democratically elected committee. Every workplace, so also the police force, will be organised by the workers, so in this case police officers will be in a officers committee who are then accountable to a community committee. But the officers committee would have to defend their rights at work, and make decisions about the work they do and will be part of a national trade union, like every other trade or profession will be.

Within the police force debates will take place about problems and crime and how best to deal with them. I would think this has to happen in cooperation with many other organisations like mental health care, social care, schools, neighbourhood committees etc. and as a lot of legislation will have to change, a larger debate in the whole of society needs to take place. Questions will arise like ‘what is crime’, and how to deal with ‘criminals’. Criminologists will play an important role in this debate and I think society should ask itself, is the penal system as it is today effective and leading to positive outcomes for society?

I think the answer is that it is not effective. There is a whole array of evidence to prove that. I would go as far as to say that a lot of crime happens because of the capitalist system, and that even the penal system is used to make profit (A big part of the US penal system is privatised). I think the whole penal system has to be scrapped and a debate has to take place on how and with what to replace it. The answer is probably a whole cocktail of different approaches, and a lot of additional research needs to be done. Obviously it is not a good idea to just release all prisoners and demolish all prisons. So here also the Transitional Programme will have to play an important role.

But going back to the police force, how do we create a force that is not riddled with racism, sexism and trans/homophobia? In a socialist society any form of discrimination will be fought and the rights of minority groups of any kind will be protected. Malcolm X said : “You can’t have capitalism without racism”. That is because capitalism is build on divisions and individualism. Socialism is build on collectives, sharing and communities. So the very essence of socialism will counter racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination.

Malcolm X banner ‘You can’t have capitalism without racism’

I personally think that socialism is build on the idea that we are as strong as the weakest link, so it’s very important to look after the most vulnerable in society because the stronger they are, the stronger we are as a whole. Another great slogan I love is ‘One for all, all for one’, which points to a similar idea. Maybe serving in the police in a socialist society should be rotated, so the majority of people have a turn to work in it and help shape it, or maybe alongside a permanent core.

In conclusion I think the society would look very different under a socialism and the police would change with it. Undoubtedly a lot of actions and crimes today would not exist in that case and racism, sexism and other forms of oppression will not be tolerated, and in time hopefully disappear. As under socialism the police would be run by and for the working class, and be accountable to it, it would transform to an organisation working towards a very positive and supporting role. I think it would strengthen the foundations of society and protect it from capitalist and other ideological threats, making it a much safer place to live in than the world is today.

Defining the concepts of race, gender, social class and youth

As a criminology student I am looking at the definitions of crime but also more general concepts of race, gender, social class and youth.

Today I was asked in my study material how my own definitions of these concepts compare to the ones in the chapter. And then, as I thought about it I realised that I can’t accept any of those concepts or their definitions. Because as soon as one does, divisions are created and from that stems inequality. As a socialist there is no place for those concepts as socialism sees every individual as an equal and unique part of humankind.

But maybe the only exception might be youth or age (in relation to crime and the law). Because children and adolescents have not fully developed they can’t be treated like an adult for the law. I think this is correct. The debate should always be there about where the line should be drawn though, and this is different in each society, and through time.

As for race, class and gender I think they are social constructs that are in place for the ruling class to maintain control over people. If those concepts would loose their meaning because people no longer identify with them, the whole capitalist system could be undermined. I will explain this a bit further. Let’s take gender. This system is build upon the notion that there are male and female gender roles, of which the male role is valued more and given more power. The power, equality and independence of women is undermined, curtailed and oppressed in lots of ways. For instance in marriage, childcare and parenting responsibilities, work, financial and educational opportunities and also in a sexual and physical way. When women are starting to protest and challenge their roles in society, this would mean that men have to give up some of their power and take on some of the tasks previously done (often unpaid) by women. This would undermine the basis of capitalism which monetises every aspect of life and needs constant growth and profit being made for it to flourish. Many of the tasks done by predominantly women are unpaid, and time consuming like looking after children and housework.

As men are in power under this system it is not difficult to understand that anyone challenging or stretching the definitions of being a man is immediately facing adversity, discrimination and oppression. This is probably why gay and transsexual people are facing more of this adversity than gay women.

But imagine a world where none of these concepts exist. Imagine that every person can express their identity in any way they want without the threat of violence, oppression and adversity because the basis of society is founded on the principle that all people are equal and the first priority is not profit and private property but to achieve the highest possible standard of living for everyone. That is what a socialist society would be like.

Under capitalism this equality is not possible because the essence of it is based on inequality, exploitation and division. It is a pyramid system, where a handful of people reap the rewards of the labour of the majority.

By Kahlo 28/10/2020