Artwork by oneslutriot
Happy ACAB day! Or is it merry ACAB day? I can never remember.
Whether you voted yesterday or never even registered, I want to let you know that you are responsible for this election result. You did this. Personally. You. You allowed this to happen, or maybe even actively participated. Here’s a slow clap for you. Well done.
But that means you can still do something about it.
So now what? The system exists because we allow it to exist. We have become complicit in its continued existence, even we righteous anarchist types, despite knowing how much we hate capitalism, the state and the police, we continue to perpetuate and participate in it. We allow our relatives to become cops, security guards, prison wardens, community support officers, Tories, when really these should be reviled and regarded as social pariahs. They should generate the kind of disgust and exile that currently we reserve for dog-torturers and sex offenders.
Anarchism is about moving responsibility ever away from the state and into our communities and our own lives. It is about striving for autonomy, for self-rule, for the authority of ourselves and our communities to be what protects us from crime, which promotes genuine justice, with respect for human rights.
Yet to suggest such a thing is often seen as ludicrous. How could we survive without the police? We’d be killing each other! The strongest and most ruthless would seize everything! The weak would be left to die on the streets …
This is, of course, exactly what is happening, except contrary to the mainstream view the existence of the police is actively facilitating this scenario.
The most power hungry have convinced us that without them and the cops, we would degenerate to become bloodthirsty, rapacious beasts. They have convinced us that their narrative is the narrative of all.
This appeases the guilt of those whose privilege is shored up by goons in blue, and slaps the oppressed into a cloudy fug of doubt and fear. Yet cops did not exist once upon a time, and today as we celebrate our ACAB day, let us disempower, disarm and disband the police and dare to dream of a world without cops.
Below are some alternatives to police-mandated justice.
1. Restorative justice
When fights and disagreements break out in our squatted communities that the individuals involved are unable to resolve, a tried and tested method of healing and moving on has been to gather together all the members of the crew to address accountability and make justice a community issue.
As an alternative to the combatative and alienating court systems, it remains perhaps the most widespread of the alternatives, with a history of it being used for thousands of years by indigenous tribes.
It is the definitive act of deciding together what our ideas of justice are, together, outside of the prison society.
2. The decriminalization of almost every crime
There’s an old comedy sketch about Dutch policeman Stefan van der Assgracht and his partner, and lover, Ronald sitting in their patrolcar sharing about how the crime rate has dropped significantly since the government decriminalised burglary.
Chuckle chuckle – those crazy Dutch liberals. Yet why would people burgle each other if the disparity in wealth and privelege was equalised? Why would people steal from shops if they had enough to survive from? Would there be so much drugs and violence if people’s basic needs and sanity were being taken care of?
As of 2019 England and Wales have the largest prison population in Western Europe and violent crimes make up a fraction of the estimated 11 to 14 million arrests made every year in the US. In the UK nonviolent crimes make up the majority of the convictions, with an increasing disproportionality between numbers of BAME incarcerated, currently reaching US levels.
Portugal decriminalised drugs in 2001, and introduced policies of harm reduction rather than criminalisation and persecution. Subsequently it has reported dramatic drops in drug-related offenses, the spread of HIV and the number of overdoses. When we visited, we observed a very relaxed and open heroin-user collect money by helping park cars, and then be visited by 2 smiling social workers in hi-viz jackets who checked in on him and gave him clean needles. Once the stigma, hysteria, shame and persecution is removed, drug use and addiction can be seen for what it is: a health issue. It can be considered in the same light as diet, and indeed as concerns around red meat, sugar and additives continue to grow, perhaps some clean scag isn’t the end of the world compared to eating McDonald’s everyday, which definitely contributes to it.
Meanwhile, old lovely liberal Netherlands continues to persecute hard drugs and has been called a narco-state.
Really, who the fuck are they to tell us how to live? If we cause no harm to others, why accept their criminalisation of our choices?
3. Direct democracy at the community level
The state does not want us to be able to organise together. It does not want us to make our own decisions, live our own lives, or even connect with each other beyond socially sanctioned forms such as monogamy or dating apps. It is served best by our individualisation and atomisation from each other, having yet struggled to fully monetise and capitalise on human relationships beyond crude slavery and hookup culture.
Cops definitely don’t want us helping each other or resolving our disputes directly. They would quickly realise how grossly, terrifyingly outnumbered they are. Imagine if XR suddenly turned on them with the same level of commitment that they put into branding, yoga, or passively resisting arrest. They’d seize the government overnight.
The models of the state are designed to suck up all the power available and deny it to the worker class. The worker class regains this power through the development of resilience and capacity, through developing tools and models of self-reliance, purpose, ownership and realisation of the power of multitude. Stronger communities that take responsibility for collective care of each other reduce alienation and social exclusion which are common factors in the causing of antisocial behaviours.
Communites that experience greater control and impact over the immediate factors effecting them, will doubtless experience greater joy and reduced crime as they tackle and find their own solutions through the practice of direct democracy.
4. Community patrols
This summer in London after gangs of youths repeatedly and consistently mugged people on the towpaths of the Tottenham canal network, residents of the boater community began to organise patrols of the waterways with dogs and bikes. They formed phone trees and coordinated through social media, tracking break-ins and incidents and collectively organising to support one another and create a safer environment. The muggings decreased, and the gang were gradually forced into other areas of the network, their names were learned and they became recognisable on sight to a growing number of people. Although the ultimate aim was to then coordinate with the police, the spirit of self-organisation and community self-defence evolved from the fact that the police were completely unable or indifferent to address the issue. Indeed, it was only after the groups began to form that the police took a real interest, no doubt as they sensed their own imminent redundacy and an innate fear of people realising how much power there is in collective organisation. This is something that in fact we do constantly as we mediate our environment and our relationships, creating cultures of what is acceptable or unacceptable behaviour, and then automatically ‘policing’ that through our responses. The above example is only one out of countless more happening globally in a variety of flavours and embodies the praxis of becoming responsible for how people behave in our communities.
This one is a wildcard. Here’s the flipside of the story I told you about the canal defense teams. Some of them carried weapons and had a history of violence. I’m not against that, but certainly you can see how it could escalate. It also kicked off a huge argument online about the use of racial profiling in describing the accused perpetrators of the crime, sparking a whole mess of wounded egos and shitflinging as a long of priveleged white people were suddenly confronted with how deeply uncomfortable and uninformed they were in holding discussions around race.
Community patrols could become police themselves and then be subject to the same abuses, but as a temporary solution they have been making a real impact. Power corrupts, but perhaps withering power won’t have enough time to corrupt, absolutely.
5. Here’s a crazy one: mental health care
The current system has created a mental health pandemic that is without precedent in the history of humanity. It is Biblical in it’s scale, a plague that is decimating our young people and leading to sky-rocketing levels of suicide, self-harm, depression, isolation, addiction, abuse and exclusion. As Mark Fisher wrote in his seminal text on mental health under capitalism, which insists on “treating mental health as if it were a natural fact, like weather (but, then again, weather is no longer a natural fact so much as a political-economic effect).”
Without stigmatizing people with mental ill health, there is an ongoing investigation into links between mental health and crime. There are links between depression and irritability, substance misuse and anxiety, isolation and alienation. We live in a world where advertising shits constantly in our head, surrounded by cut-throat aspirationalism, amoral marketing and an unrelenting assault by capitalism in a dying world. We need better systems to protect our mental health and temper us against the onslaught.
Let’s take control of our lives and communities. It’s now within our reach.
“The long, dark night of the end of history has to be grasped as an enormous opportunity. The very oppressive pervasiveness of capitalist realism means that even glimmers of alternative political and economic possibilities can have a disproportionately great effect. The tiniest event can tear a hole in the grey curtain of reaction which has marked the horizons of possibility under capitalist realism. From a situation in which nothing can happen, suddenly anything is possible again.”
For this piece, George F referenced Our Enemies In Blue by Kristian Williams. The first part is available here.
To celebrate 13/12, there will be a public performance of works in combination with an anti-police street art exhibition to be held in the Aldgate area of London. There are more details here (FB)