Police and Law enforcement.

Chapter Twenty-eight of The Authority of the Boot-Maker.

The police are natural enemies of the Working Class; there will be no place for such an institution in a free society. I make this observation not as an anarchist troublemaker but based on an analysis of what law enforcement amounts to, who commissions and directs it, how it is organised and what it is intended to achieve. Let’s return to the history books.

Anglo-Saxon communities were bound and protected by the concept of frankpledge (frith-borh) or collective accountability, based on the administrative unit of tithing, a voluntary association of ten households, grouped in turn into hundreds, then into shires. Members of the tithing swore to be responsible for each other’s good conduct and to present for examination any of their number accused of an offence, or stand surety for him. On witnessing a crime, each was obliged to raise hue and cry and all were to assist in the pursuit and apprehension of the offender. Mutual responsibility to keep the peace was ultimately underwritten by the hundred’s land holding; the arrangement became compulsory under the Danelaw of Canute II. After the Norman Conquest all property was held in feudal title for the monarch; so as serfs could not offer surety, the lords became responsible for justice on their Manors, administered by constables and sheriffs (shire-reeves) backed by the legal authority of the crown.

During the period of the great expropriation, from the 14th century onward, as the means of subsistence were progressively filched and feudal support arrangements removed, the newly landless were apt to roam around in search of the best wages, or commons and wastelands where they could live for free. Then as now, a lack of enthusiasm for waged labour was regarded as a sign of depravity, and choosing one’s master weakened the power relation. A cat and mouse game ensued; a succession of Poor Laws was devised to prevent the new free proletariat from moving about and maximising the return for their efforts. ‘Rogues, vagabonds and sturdy beggars’ could be forcibly expelled, flogged, or compelled to work at the local rate. Henceforth, poverty created by the state would be an offence punishable by the state.

From 1601 Poor relief was the responsibility of the parish, administered by churchwardens and justices of the peace; with the church lands privatised, a poor rate had to be raised from property owners, who were also the landlords, employers and justices. The 1662 Settlement Act, which applied to anyone paying less than £10 per year in rent or property tax, only permitted travel if the settled parish issued a certificate agreeing to pay the cost of removal in the event of the labourer becoming eligible for poor relief. Now the bosses had control of migration, which allowed them to safely lower wages, or move the workforce around to suit themselves.

The Game Laws put an end to the “great mischief” by which “inferior tradesmen, apprentices, and other dissolute persons neglect their trades and employments” to supplement their diet by hunting and fishing. In the years 1739 to 1745 a spell of freak cold weather stalled industry and caused crop failure across Europe, killing about thirty-eight percent of the population of Ireland. In 1741, the government responded to the economic recession by making sheep theft a specific capital offence. Crucially the death penalty gave judges discretion to commute to transportation, so that surplus rural labourers who fell into this poverty trap could be condemned to slavery in the colonies.

“Legal constraint to labour is attended with too much trouble, violence, and noise, creates ill will etc., whereas hunger is not only a peaceable, silent, unremitted pressure, but, as the most natural motive to industry and labour, it calls forth the most powerful exertions …”

– Rev. J. Townsend: ‘A Dissertation on the Poor Laws,
By a Well-Wisher to Mankind.’

At the turn of the 19th century the industrial revolution was spreading into agriculture and threshing machines abolished a quarter of the work in a few decades. Land enclosures proletarianised the peasantry and stole the commons, resources that had supported them since prehistory. The ruling class wanted to have their cake and eat it, to create a ‘free market’ for agricultural labour whilst retaining the rigid social hierarchies inherited from feudalism and preventing economic migration. The Speenhamland system of poor relief, adopted in the 1790s, subsidised poverty wages from the parish rates according to family size and the price of bread.

Relief was tied to the parish of birth and set by the local magistrates. Paupers were obliged to take such work as was offered, and vagrancy laws stopped them crossing parish lines to look for better pay or the dwindling common land where they might live for free – “every man must have a master”. Landowners were thus guaranteed a captive pool of cheap labour to use as they saw fit, and to this indignity was added the further degradation of dependence on charity in return for servile conduct.

Steady employment gave way to hire by the day, or the hour, wages fell, and the bread ration was cut. There are tales of paupers being auctioned and harnessed to carts with bells around their necks. Tithes, rents and taxes rose, the bosses amassed great fortunes and ratepayers complained about the cost of poor relief. These included small farmers who didn’t like it either, when one laid off their hands, others would do likewise: “if I must pay his men, he shall pay mine”.

Prompted by the French Revolution and threats of invasion, yeomen cavalry were raised, low-grade gentry who were given a uniform, a horse and free grog then turned loose on the Working Class, as in the Peterloo massacre of 1819*.

* That same year, the government of South Carolina established mandatory slave patrols, a form of yeomanry. Since 1671 there had been slave patrols that brought back runaway African-Americans to be tortured and killed. Prompted by two attempted insurrections, the new law compelled all white, adult males to serve in the patrols, so that the whole of white society was deputised into the subjugation of the majority (in the Carolinas) African-American population. Patrols were given carte blanche to enter dwellings, detain slaves and dispense summary justice.

On 25th November 1830, at the height of the Captain Swing uprising, labourer John Hardy was killed in action against yeomanry near his home at Tisbury in Wiltshire. Four hundred quarrymen and agricultural labourers had confronted the landowner and local M.P. John Benett at Pyt House to demand two shillings per day, the quarrymen were at that time on three and a half pence. Instead Benett read a royal proclamation against riot, then offered five hundred pounds to any worker who would inform on ten others.

The workers were unmoved and destroyed Benett’s threshing machines. They were engaged in woodland by a troop of yeoman cavalry that had pursued them from nearby Hindon. A pitched battle ensued as the workers fought back with hatchets, pickaxes, hammers, sticks and stones, knocking Benett unconscious. All day, running battles were fought across the Vale of Wylye and barricades erected on the Warminster road. Hardy was shot dead and twenty-nine others captured. At Benett’s insistence the cavalry denied the injured prisoners water on the journey to Fisherton Gaol. A witness wrote: “the blood did trickle out of the wagons the whole way to Salisbury …”

Captain Swing didn’t start as an insurrection against the status quo but was the response of necessity after a series of bad harvests threatened the rural proletariat with starvation. Just as modern unrest is often not specifically anti-capitalist but motivated by a sense of unfairness and injustice, they aspired to no more than providing for their families as in former times. “We don’t want any mischief, but we want that poor children when they go to bed should have a belly full of tatoes” Labourers initially trusted their masters would do right by them if reminded of their obligations: “ye have not done as ye ought” – sound familiar? The logic of Swing was simple and infallible: they had been raised to understand they must work to live, they must earn wages or starve as undeserving paupers, therefore they would break the machines that took their work and demand a wage for doing so. The going rate was about forty shillings per machine. The gentry and clergy that lived so well at their expense could provide them with food and beer as they worked – or else.

Meanwhile in the cities radicals agitated for political reform and the Duke of Wellington’s tory government dug its heels in. Dissenters and ranters went around the country preaching everything from the second coming to full communism. There were revolutions on the continent and Kent villages flew tricolours or pirate flags as symbols of rebellion. A demonstration was called for the 9th November at the Guildhall to disrupt the inauguration of the Lord Mayor, to be attended by Wellington and the King. The authorities decided to cancel the day before.

Moving Westward from Kent Swing became a mass movement. The workers were joined by poachers and smugglers, formed alliances across parish and county borders abetted by agitators on horseback. Swing entered Wiltshire and Dorset from Hampshire, then on to Gloucestershire, and touched the industrial midlands where King Ludd reigned twenty years earlier; it reached Cornwall, Norfolk, Hereford and Carlisle. Jails were opened and prisoners released. Magistrates informed the Home Office that two-thirds of the rural population were involved in machine-breaking.

By the end of the year it had brought down Wellington’s government. It also achieved a general increase in wages and lowering of tithes and rents. Many farmers sympathised and voluntarily acceded to the workers’ demands if their neighbours would follow suit, refusing to be sworn in as yeomen or constables, and were invited to join in and take back their taxes. The mechanisation of agriculture was delayed, but that was never the root cause of the misery. The problem wasn’t the machine, but its use to produce wealth for the owner rather than food for the worker. Swing challenged the hierarchy in two important ways: it assumed a parallel moral authority independent of church* and state, but above all it was mobile; the Working Class were not supposed to move around without permission or invitation.

* It’s instructive that a common form of passive protest at the time was for villagers to walk out of a sermon and smoke their pipes in the churchyard.

In the cities, stipendiary police and mercenary ‘thieftakers’ were available for hire by churches, companies of merchants, traders and insurers to protect their property. These were supported by ‘strawmen’, professional witnesses who would perjure themselves for a fee.

“They [The Bow Street Magistrates] were the heads and directors of such police as existed at the time; and like the French, “Chiefs of Police,” they not only arrested, but examined, the prisoner who was brought to them by their officers; hence the common phrase, so familiar by repetition, “of being brought up at Bow Street.” The list is not a long one. Though the Bow Street office was not formally constituted by Act of Parliament until the year 1792, these magistrates administered justice there for many years before. We find Henry Fielding, the novelist, there in 1753…”

– Percy Fitzgerald: ‘Chronicles of Bow Street Police-Office’ 1888.

The Police Offices were later termed Police Courts, then Magistrates Courts; to this day, the ‘Police Magistrates’ will rubber stamp anything the police charge you with if they possibly can. In 2011-2012 conviction rates in the Magistrates Court were 60% as against less than a third in the Crown Court, if guilty pleas are included the figure rises to 87%, and bear in mind solicitors will often advise a guilty plea regardless of the facts, as the burden of proof at police courts is in effect, on the defendant. In industrial disputes bogus charges are often used to give the employer an excuse to sack organisers.

The modern concept of police as a uniformed, centrally controlled conduit of state power originated in pre-revolutionary France, the word, from the Greek ‘polis’ meaning city, was imported into English in the 18th century and at first only used pejoratively. In 1786 the Dublin Police Act created an armed, uniformed force of 40 mounted and 400 foot constables patterned after the Gendarmerie Nationale, its function was entirely political, to put down unrest against the English occupation.

“England in the 18th century had no public officials corresponding to either police or district attorneys. Constables were unpaid and played only a minor role in law enforcement. A victim of crime who wanted a constable to undertake any substantial effort in order to apprehend the perpetrator was expected to pay the expenses of doing so. … In 18th century England a system of professional police and prosecutors, government paid and appointed, was viewed as potentially tyrannical and, worse still, French.”

– David Friedman: ‘Making Sense of English Law Enforcement in the 18th Century’.

The French police force was transformed into this present-day malignancy by Napoleon Bonaparte’s minister of police, Joseph Fouché. The father of the modern ‘security state’ came to prominence as enforcer for the revolutionary National Convention, was responsible for mass executions which accounted for several thousand citizens, and having served both Republic and Emperor, briefly worked for the restored monarchy. Fouché’s innovations included secret police, routine censorship of the written word and a paranoid surveillance culture maintained through a network of paid informers.

“Marked at the outset by fanaticism, which, though cruel, was at least conscientious, Fouché’s character deteriorated in and after the year 1794 into one of calculating cunning. The transition represented all that was worst in the life of France during the period of the Revolution and Empire. In Fouché the enthusiasm of the earlier period appeared as a cold, selfish and remorseless fanaticism; in him the bureaucracy of the period 1795-1799 and the autocracy of Napoleon found their ablest instrument. …

… He sought for power and neglected no means to make himself serviceable to the party whose success appeared to be imminent.”

– From his entry in the ’Encyclopædia Britannica’
Eleventh Edition 1911.

That’s what happens when people have power to compete for. Nevertheless, his methods were widely admired and copied, especially in Russia.

The English rural worker had been disciplined by the seasons, so often rose and retired with the sun; periods of intense activity were interspersed with light labour and slack times during which common land could be utilised to supplement household income. The separation of work and leisure and even the habit of only sleeping once per day are all consequences of the wage labour system. For most of human history people would cease their exertions at dusk and sleep, rising later to eat and socialise. Leisure time was occupied by the village calendar with its feasts, fairs and saints’ days. The peasantry having been expropriated from their land and set to wage labour, the nature of the work brought them into close association from day to day in the factory environment, where their individuality was subordinated to mass production methods; the pace of work being dictated by the machine. At the same time they had been dragged away from the countryside and crowded into the new industrial towns, living cheek by jowl in unhealthy slums.

“No economist of the day, in estimating the gains or losses of factory employment, ever allowed for the strain and violence that a man suffered in his feelings when he passed from a life in which he could smoke or eat, or dig or sleep as he pleased, to one in which somebody turned the key on him, and for fourteen hours he had not even the right to whistle. It was like entering the airless and laughterless life of a prison.”

– B.B. & J.L. Hammond: ‘The Town Labourer 1760-1832:
The New Civilisation.’ (1917)

Their quality of life was much reduced, and from time to time their conditions would have to be made even more wretched in order to induce them to compete amongst themselves for work no one wanted to do, which remains the case. One of the consequences of the creation of ‘free proletarians’ was that the iron discipline of the machine age ended at the factory gates; this created a problem for the masters. A mass of very unhappy people were being trained to think and act as a unit rather than as individuals then turned loose every night; how would they react when threatened? If General Ludd could tie up sixteen thousand troops for three years and Captain Swing bring down a government, the Industrial Worker stood a fair chance of tearing the bourgeoisie a new arsehole.

“Though Marx predicted the inevitability of revolution at the climax of industrialization, history has shown that modernizing societies are much more prone to severe conflict during the early and early-to-medium phases of industrialization. The low wages and extreme economic pressures of the earlier stages of industrial development, together with the concentration of masses of alienated workers in new urban environments, created potentially explosive conditions that become attenuated in the later phases of industrialization.”

– Stanley G. Payne: Foreword to ‘The Spanish Civil War: Revolution and Counterrevolution’ By Burnett Bolloten.

The Peterloo massacre led to outcry even amongst the petty bourgeoisie. The class interest of the yeomanry was too obvious. Robert Peel introduced Fouché’s system lock, stock and barrel with the formation of the Metropolitan police. Peel said things like: “workingmen (sic) must be disciplined by workingmen”, he wanted the Working Class complicit in its own oppression. Hitherto the bosses’ side in class warfare had been taken by the military, but in the interest of maintaining the deceit of freedom and equality under the law, it was necessary to create a civil force that could portray itself as neutral, as if even the state were a disinterested party in disputes between masters and labourers. Smith knew better:

“Whenever the legislature attempts to regulate the differences between masters and their workmen, its counsellors are always the masters.”

– Adam Smith: ‘An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’.

The Metropolitan police was created by the eponymous act of parliament in 1829; supposedly a politically impartial force dedicated to crime prevention, with the public’s consent (Look up ‘Peel’s Principles’, if you can be arsed). However the law has never been neutral and the Met was used as a de-facto riot squad from the start, even being dispatched to Birmingham to take on the Chartists. The new law enforcement model combined the stipendiaries’ job of protecting property and trade, not just the means of production but commodities – including the necessities of life – Fouché’s Machiavellian defence of the government, and the desire of the bosses to stop their workforce moving around or eating for free.

“The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

– Robert Peel

But what exactly did Peel mean by the public? He spoke against the people’s charter and universal suffrage, so he could only have meant male property owners. Roughly nine percent of the population of England and Wales had a say in the laws being enacted against them, and the economic policies that made crime a tool of survival for the rest. Constables were only required to be literate and of good character so most of them would not have a vote either, “the policing of prostitutes, thieves, and lamp posts” in Fouché’s contemptuous words, was best left to plebs. So the concept of ‘workers in uniform’ arose, a group alienated from the class that spawned it, allowed to give itself airs, as it acts on behalf of some distant, unknown people. With the uniform comes a baton, a foolish swagger and a fantastic sense of entitlement.

Three years later the police introduced a tactic that will be familiar to some readers:

“Yet, lingering hostility towards covert policing was manifested in the early 1830s in the overwhelmingly indignant public response to the revelation that a police agent, Sergeant William Popay, had assumed a false identity for over a year (from February 1832 to March 1833), penetrated the radical National Political Union, and pretended to be a militant member who supported violent tactics. This disclosure confirmed to the public what undercover policemen could do in the name of government.”

– Haia Shpayer-Makov: ‘The Ascent of the Detective:
Police Sleuths in Victorian and Edwardian England’

As ever Popay was dismissed as a ‘loose cannon’ and it was business as usual for the rest.

The same year The National Union of the Working Classes, disgusted by the Great Reform Act of 1832, organized a public meeting at Cold Bath Fields, Clerkenwell, to discuss plans for a National Convention. The new Home Secretary Lord Melbourne had declared the meeting illegal, a thousand people turned up anyway. Melbourne was present as were Peel’s two appointed commissioners of Police, Colonel Rowan and Mr Mayne along with three thousand policemen and two plain clothes officers from the 1st Regiment of Life Guards, in case troops were wanted. A man named Mee was elected Chairman:

“Mr Mee then also got upon the paling, and, after thanking the meeting for the honour they had conferred on him, said he was glad to see before him so many noble men. It was not the coronet or a flashing equipage that made a noble man, though in the eyes of the world they made noble; but he gave that name to those he saw around him, because they were the producing power? The real wealth of the country (Cheers.) He was thankful to the Whig Ministry, who had given an importance to the meeting which it otherwise would have wanted? (Cheers and hisses)? But the question now for them to consider was whether, as they had met under such disadvantages, they should go on – (Go on, go on)? Or whether they should adjourn till a more convenient opportunity – (No, no, go on, go on) He was but working man with a family, therefore if they were not prepared to give to his family one-tenth of their earning they should not cry: Go on”.

– Caledonian Mercury: 16th May, 1833.

Without warning the Met charged the crowd, beating men, women and children indiscriminately; three police officers were stabbed attempting to wrest a flag from a member of the public, one later died. The coroner’s jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide. George Fursey, the man charged with stabbing the other two was acquitted at the Old Bailey. The coroner’s jurors were feted as heroes by cheering crowds, treated to a boat trip on the Thames with cannon salute and a banquet, presented with medals and a silver cup:

“This cup was presented on the 20th May 1834 by the Milton Street Committee, City of London to Mr Robert French one of the seventeen jurymen who formed the memorable Calthorpe Street inquest as a perpetual memorial of their glorious verdict of “justifiable homicide” on the body of Robert Culley a policeman who was slain whilst brutally attacking the people when peaceably assembled in Calthorpe Street on the 13th May 1833.”

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 removed all provision for ‘outdoor relief’ requiring that anyone in need of food enter a workhouse in their settled parish. Paupers, the elderly and infirm were made prisoners of Class War, subject to summary punishment. Wives and husbands were separated and the children of widows apt to be sold to factory owners or shipped to the colonies as indentured labourers. The homeless would be detained for two days work in ‘casual wards’, and if they returned to the same workhouse within the month would be required to work for four days. Conditions were squalid and unhealthy, this state of affairs as described by Charles Dickens, Jack London and George Orwell, persisted well into the 20th Century. Over time the system of mutual social obligation had given way to an arbitrary justice meted out by the gentry or their hired hands; the creation of the free proletariat leading inevitably to the values of one class being imposed on another by force.

So what do you think comrades? I feel I know you well enough to presume that you would not would have read this far, if you believed such a rotten institution, ill-conceived by such unscrupulous individuals for such a malign purpose, could ever be reformed into something beneficial, and indeed it has not. Like the Ghost of Christmas Past, I have more horrors to show you. A list of police excesses in any period of history would be tedious and harrowing, and so long no one would ever read it. Instead I shall concentrate on an episode that illustrates their continuity of purpose.

The 1984-85 Miners’ Strike was the culmination of a long battle between capital and labour, during which the power of the workers had been expressed at the point of production over a commodity that was both vital to the economy and produced under the most desperate of conditions: coal. I must declare an interest, my Gran came from Pontypridd; her cousin Redvers was on his back with his pick in the Garw seam, barely 18 inches thick, when the roof came down and took part of his head away. The doctors deemed it too distressing for his kids to see him so only his dad went in. It took him 18 months to die and ten years to get any money out of the Coal Board.

Cabinet papers released after thirty years revealed that ever since the Miners threw out Ted Heath’s government in 1974, the Tory party had plotted to abolish the troublesome mining communities altogether and import its coal from overseas. It would also pave the way for a tasty bit of primitive accumulation – the privatisation of the entire energy industry.

The National Union of Mineworkers was the most powerful of the workers’ organisations, it had a fair amount of regional autonomy but had hitherto acted coherently and often in solidarity with other workers in struggle. The strategy of the state was to split the N.U.M. isolate it from the class as a whole, and reduce its membership to the minimum; this was achieved using the variable productivity of the coalfields, a programme of misinformation and false promises, starvation and naked brutality.

In 1977 right-wing Tory MP Nicholas Ridley had devised a scheme to prepare in advance for a long drawn out dispute then provoke the Union into strike action when the government was ready. The ‘Ridley plan’ involved: building up coal stocks at power stations, importing coal from non-union foreign ports, recruiting non-union lorry drivers who would be prepared to scab, installing expensive dual coal-oil firing generators and depleting union funds. Police tactics would incorporate lessons learned in the North of Ireland.

After the 1979 election thatcher’s government began by stealth to implement the plan. For the first time, Clause 6 of the 1980 Social Security Act allowed the government to withdraw benefits from strikers’ dependents in the hope of starving them back to work. A special riot squad was created, which conducted military style training exercises early in the morning at London’s docklands. The (offensive) ‘short shield’ and baton formations, whose tactics derive entirely from the Bronze Age, were first used in this dispute.

The essence of the Ridley plan was provocation, to steer the unions into fighting on an unfavourable terrain. The appointment of the notorious right-wing asset stripper Ian MacGregor whose elder brothers had scabbed in Glasgow during the General Strike, on a fabulous salary, first at British Steel then at the National Coal Board, was guaranteed to make blood boil.

“I never thought the day would come when I wished I had some of my scruffy, sometimes ill-disciplined, sometimes loud-mouthed American police by my side in this country, and some of the curious ways of the law to back them up.”

– The Times: ‘Sir Ian MacGregor; Obituary’ April 14, 1998.

The fuse was lit at Cortonwood Colliery in Yorkshire in the spring of 1984. A million pounds had been spent on improved facilities then the Colliers were assembled and promised their jobs were safe for five years. A month later MacGregor announced that Cortonwood was to be closed and six thousand miners walked out on unofficial action. The following day, 6th of March, the Coal Board decided it would break the agreement reached after the 1974 strike and close twenty collieries at a loss of twenty thousand jobs. President Arthur Scargill claimed there were seventy pits on the government’s secret closure list. The government and Coal Board denied the existence of such a list, but minutes of a cabinet meeting held in September the previous year show there were seventy-five.

“Mr MacGregor had it in mind over the three years 1983-85 that a further 75 pits would be closed: first, 64 which would reduce the workforce by some 55,000 and reduce capacity by some 20 million tonnes; then a further 11, with manpower reductions of 9,000 and capacity reduction of a further 5 million tonnes. There should be no closure list, but a pit-by-pit procedure. The manpower at the end of that time in the industry would be down to 138,000 from its current level of 202,000. […] It was agreed that no record of this meeting should be circulated.”

Item in National Archives.

The Nottinghamshire miners, who allowed the union to be divided having been told their pits were safe, the scab administrators, pit deputies, drivers, dockers, steel and power station workers whose jobs were all eventually decimated by the scale of the secretly planned closures, and the National Coal Board themselves, were all played for fools.

“Amid the cooled air of a vault at the National Archive I trace my finger across Maggie Thatcher’s handwriting, in the margin of a typewritten note marked Secret.

She’s scribbled: “13 RoRo, 1,000 tons a day, 50 lorries a day…”

… During the first few days of the strike, on 14 March 1984, ministers pressed Home Secretary Leon Brittan to get chief constables to adopt a “more vigorous interpretation of their duties”. A clampdown followed that prevented pickets reaching the working coalfields of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire in large numbers.

– Paul Mason blog: ‘Thatcher vs. the miners: official papers confirm the strikers’ worst suspicions’ Friday 03 Jan 2014.

Much has been made of the timing of the strike, as a tactical error by Scargill, and by the liberal bourgeoisie on the union’s refusal to hold a national ballot, which would have contravened the Miners’ organisational principles. “Negotiate locally, fight centrally” had been established in the Cambrian Combine Dispute of 1910-11. It was unacceptable for any worker to vote away another’s interests in pursuit of their own. This principle was upheld by vote of the National Executive in April, by which time most coalfields were out anyway. The Yorkshire Area relied on a ballot held in January 1981, with an 85.6% vote for strike action, were any pit threatened with closure on economic grounds.

“There is a prevailing view that Arthur Scargill, the NUM National President, called the strike. He did not. The strike started in Yorkshire, and he was not present at the delegate Council meeting in Barnsley. He had no means of calling a strike in Yorkshire.”

– David John Douglass: “Strike, not the end of the story”.
Published by National Coal Mining Museum for England 2005.

The police returned to their origin, being used by the thatcher regime in an unashamedly political role, their function neither to uphold neutral laws nor to protect public safety, but to hasten the end of the strike to the benefit of the capitalist class. Police were drafted in from non-mining regions, lest they balk at beating their neighbours. To the inhabitants of the coalfields, they appeared as an occupying army, and the entire community was placed under siege.

“The Metropolitan Police became infamous for their anti-Northern hostility, the abuse being directed at the miners’ Northern accents, ‘thick Geordie bastards’ or ‘ay-up ay-up ayoup’ in mock imitation of the Yorkshire greeting. At Coal House in Doncaster they poured off the buses shouting ‘we’ve come 200 miles to get you bastards, who’s first?’ Also a little touch of their own, after wrecking pickets cars at Cotgrave they left their calling card: a little sticker which read: ‘YOU HAVE JUST MET THE MET’. Burned out picket huts were found to have such stickers on their windows or nearby lamp posts. Black miners were especially singled out by the Met for the normal torrent of racial abuse, ape like gestures and monkey like cries. This open racial hostility for the first time brought the meaning of what that means home to many of the miners standing with their black mates, many of them having been guilty of similar remarks in the past albeit in a ‘friendly’ way. Seeing the class enemy display a shocking example of it led many miners to realize it really wasn’t a joke.”

– David John Douglass: NUM Branch Delegate Hatfield:
‘Come and wet this truncheon’ 1985.

It is now inarguable that ministers held chief constables personally responsible for the outcome of a dispute in which they were technically supposed to be impartial.

“Partially this is reflected in their attitude towards our whole community and those non-miners in it who supported the strike. It was also very clear in their attitude to every success we had, for example when the train drivers refused to cross our picket lines or when a lorry turned back. The drivers inevitably being abused and the picket, no matter how small, being harassed as punishment for its success.
The special treatment singled out for the people collecting for the miners their frequent arrests and confiscation of funds, even to the extent of arresting a Santa Claus in London for collecting toys for the miners’ children for Xmas.”


In 2001 Stella Rimington confirmed in her autobiography ‘Open Secret: The Autobiography of the Former Director-General of MI5’.what the miners had known all along, that their ‘phones were being tapped.

“A Yorkshire journalist was on the phone to the Yorkshire NUM when a police radio message about traffic on the roads came over the line. The NUM employee said he was going to get a tape recorder and added ‘hello copper, can you hear me?’ … the interruption stopped immediately. A Yorkshire miner has also claimed that on phoning the Barnsley strike control centre he had been connected to a police emergency service”

– The Guardian: 4th May 1984.

A man I met who had fought at Orgreave told me he heard a copper in uniform address another as “corporal”, maybe he imagined it, after all he had an alarming dent in his skull, but it was widely believed that Special Forces had been deployed in the major confrontations.

“We estimate in excess of 18,000 perhaps 19,000 police in operation against us; and since we don’t believe they breed that fast, unless the incubation period for cops is roughly similar to that of frog spawn, we have had many suspicions of military involvement. …

… The number of police uniform clad characters who were clearly under regulation height, was not only a delight for some of our pickets but also a source of amusement to many of our women folk who lost no time in ridiculing the ‘unshaved bairns’ and ‘dwarfs.”

– Douglass: (op.cit.)

Conviction for public order offences gave the coal board an excuse to sack militants, who were subsequently blacklisted. Pickets selected for arrest would be grabbed by snatch squads, sometimes indoors or miles away from the action, and severely beaten. In many cases the standard of evidence fabricated by the police was so poor that the prosecutors embarrassed themselves in court; statements were inconsistent, contradicted by police vehicle logs, or identically worded, police witnesses appeared not to have read them, but wherever credulity could stretch to it, convictions were obtained.

“Adrian Simpson, received severe head injuries and a broken jaw, was in intensive care, many thought he might die. He recovered though, minus many teeth. He emerged from the hospital to a charge of assaulting the police. For the crime of fighting to defend other miner’s jobs he is under suspension and threat of losing his own, apart from facing a lengthy jail sentence.”


By June 1984 the government feared losing the dispute and a plan was hatched to charge pickets with riot, which carried a heavy prison sentence. This required the police to show that trivial offences were part of a collective act of disorder. To this end batches of statements were dictated for officers to copy out in their handwriting.

The N.U.M. had by arrangement with the steel workers sanctioned strictly limited deliveries of coke to maintain blast furnaces, preventing damage to an allied industry for the sake of their comrades’ livelihoods. British Steel cheated on this arrangement at Orgreave coking plant, bang in the middle of the Yorkshire coalfield. They had no operational reason to do this; in fact they operated their own wharf at Flixborough power station, staffed by their own employees with a private section of railway line, they could bring in coke by the back door with impunity. Orgreave had been chosen by the government for a set-piece confrontation with their motley crew of paramilitaries.

Most of the scabbing was taking place in Nottinghamshire so police set up road blocks to turn back pickets entering from Yorkshire. Drivers who refused would be charged with obstruction; a summary offence the police can use against anyone who fails to comply with their instructions, however unreasonable, there is virtually no defence against it in the police court. On the morning of the 18th June 1984, pickets found themselves welcomed into Orgreave by the police, shown to their parking spaces then herded into a field. Their cars were later vandalised.

The spectacular falsification of evidence after police ran amok at Orgreave destroyed the prosecution case against 95 men accused of riot and unlawful assembly. The phrase: “There was however a continual barrage of missiles.” appeared in twenty-two separate statements; thirty-four statements contained the words: “Periodically there was missile throwing from the back of the pickets.” A signature turned out to be a forgery. All defendants were acquitted and seven years later South Yorkshire police paid £425,000 damages to thirty-nine former miners for assault, wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution; however no action was taken against those responsible. The brains behind this fiasco, chief constable Peter Wright, was also the author of South Yorkshire’s campaign to blame the 1989 Hillsborough disaster on the crowd, it seems that the experience of Orgreave led to a culture of impunity within the force resulting in the mass fabrication and media manipulation that has recently come to light.

Thirty years after the event the media were allowed to reveal the hidden footage and photographs of miners being beaten by police. As the conspiracy started to unravel, in November 2012 South Yorkshire police referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission with allegations of assault, perjury, perverting the course of justice and misconduct in a public office. The IPCC was already investigating the Hillsborough case for similar criminal offences.

If the Babylon were mendacious, the media coverage was pure fantasy from beginning to end. The usual suspects, the Telegraph, Mail and Express, plus Rupert Murdoch’s S*n, which was marketed as a Working Class paper, were a hundred percent behind the thatcher agenda of monetarism and de-industrialisation, not only to increase profits by reducing the ratio of constant to variable capital – remember unearned income only comes from unpaid labour – but also to dissolve the political and social cohesion of the Working Class for the long term. Miners were by turns backward-looking yokels, greedy wide-boys or communist-inspired subversives, just for espousing values of socialism, community and class solidarity; no more or less than the heart and soul of our class since the industrial revolution. The publicly funded BBC also got on the bandwagon. After one police baton charge, the cornered pickets retaliated with stones and clods of earth; BBC TV news showed the stone-throwing first followed by the police charge, years later the sheepish broadcaster claimed that the film had been transposed by accident.

“The BBC acknowledged some years ago that it made a mistake over our sequence of events at Orgreave. We accepted without question that it was serious, but emphasized that it was a mistake made in the haste of putting the news together.
…The end result was that the editor inadvertently reversed the occurrence of the actions of the police and the pickets.”

– Martin Hart, on behalf of the BBC director general, in response to a complaint by Charles Alverson of Cambridge, 3rd July 1991.

John Harris’ famous photograph showing a mounted policeman taking a baton swing at the head of fellow photographer Lesley Boulton appeared in only one of 17 national papers. Boulton made an official complaint soon afterward, and in September, Harris supplied his witness statement, revealing that the negatives of his film were stored in a London picture library, within a month they had disappeared and the DPP called off the investigation.

“There’s a T-junction there and a bus stop. I was attending to a man who was on the ground and seemed to have some chest injuries. …

… As I stood up to attract this policeman’s attention, this officer on a police horse just bore down on me.Fortunately for me there was someone standing behind me who was also with the injured miner, who just yanked me out of the way.

John Harris, who was taking the pictures, was using a motor drive and I’ve seen not just the famous photograph but the subsequent picture which shows the baton going down very close to me.

I felt it go past me. I was just missed by the skin of my teeth really.”

– Lesley Boulton to Grace Shaw: BBC interview 2009.

Now if information is a commodity, as it must be in a capitalist society, surely a free market would allow you to buy any information you want? Not a bit of it, any more than a free market can deliver you clean air and drinking water if it’s more lucrative to pollute it; the pollution taints everything so you won’t know what truth tastes like. So now I’ve rambled from law enforcement to the media, two alternative and complementary methods of control, but it’s all the same firm.

I urge the reader to study the miners’ strike, both through the oral history of the participants, while they are still around, and in its historical context, as it tells you everything you need to know about the symbiosis between the state, the bourgeoisie and the media, it also irrevocably explodes the illusion of police and judicial neutrality. All these institutions serve a tiny elite, the kind of people you are never even likely to meet, unless they chance to run you over in their Bentley. Above all it illustrates the importance of total class solidarity in the face of a concerted attack, it doesn’t even matter what the fight appears to be about; the ruling class are hardly going to let you in on their long term plans. Anyone stupid enough to think they can pursue their own interests with class war going on will earn the love of the bourgeoisie, which they will eventually demonstrate by fucking you backwards.

“In the same village (Hatfield Colliery) an 85 year old partially blind, woman was terrified. She had her back door broken down, kicked in by half a dozen riot police with shields and clubs – ransacking her home looking for pickets for a full ten minutes. They wrecked items very personal to her. When neighbours took the complaint to the local police station they were met with laughter and derision.

In the next village of Armthorpe, a similar rampage was under way. A 59 year old woman, taking too long to open the door for riot police had it kicked open, into her face, and then rammed again and again into her as she fell back against the wall.

A heroic 66 year old miner’s wife, in a wheelchair, came to her door to complain about police rampaging through her front garden. She was told, by a police man waving a truncheon at her, that she could have some too, if she wanted.

Enter the brave boys. Another woman in a wheelchair, Mrs Brenda Stout, was assaulted by two of the upholders of the Law and Order on the 27th of July at a colliery in Leigh. In order to force her from protesting she was seized round the back of the neck with both hands, while the police accomplice turned her chair round by prising his knee into her back.

At Brodsworth Colliery (August 2nd) it was the turn of a 14 year old boy to be attacked and inflicted with a broken leg.”

“Car drivers passing the scenes of such wanton destruction have stared in disbelief at police wielding axes through windshields, and pulling young men by their hair through shattered glass, out onto the bonnets of the cars, where they have been beaten senseless. The police proved they could stand the gasp of the passing motorist, secure in the knowledge that the press, radio and the TV will be holding the ruling class line and telling no tales.”

– Douglass: (op.cit.)

There’s a lot more of that, over a year’s worth. It is easy to say with hindsight that the miners ought to have taken the fight to the enemy at the beginning and swarmed into the capital whilst they still had their health and strength, commandeered vehicles, blocked the roads, and had their pitched battle with the state in Westminster rather than a field in South Yorkshire. Ah, we’ll know better next time.

One of the worst aspects of this sorry state of affairs is of course, that some of the things police do are actually important, responding to natural disasters, traffic accidents and apprehending the occasional maniac. This is their sales pitch; but for every serial killer/rapist that is brought to book, thousands of lives are blighted. Resisting the temptation to share my own experiences, suffice it to say that if I felt my personal safety depended on that shower I wouldn’t sleep at night. But if you’re being stalked, a loan shark is breaking the door down with an axe, or your ex has just run off with the kids, who else are you going to call? So given that law enforcement isn’t as advertised, what’s the alternative?

On the establishment of a free society, devoid of poverty, property, status and dominance, most of the motives for crime would be obsolete; abolishing the arbitrary prohibition of some recreational drugs would wipe out about half of it. I’m not naïve enough to suppose that racism, patriarchy, jealousy and greed would die out overnight, so we could expect some residue of anti social and abusive behaviour, but history has demonstrated that attitudes can be revolutionised in a generation, so it isn’t too tall an order.

Perhaps a return to collective responsibility is the solution; autonomous communities might elect to guarantee the conduct of their members, having agreed a code of behaviour and means of enforcement by common consent. Where conflicts arise, such as in religious communities having peculiar values, they may agree to differ and to respect one another’s ordinances in certain locations. To start with, the majority of people in an anarchist society will not be from an anarchist tradition so it’s going to throw up some interesting compromises. A federal council would set boundaries and certain minimum expectations. If a community found itself under threat from banditry or criminal gangs it could raise a militia for self-defence and equip it with any technological conveniences the members thought necessary, it could also call for assistance from other autonomous communities.

The concept of a workers’ militia is fundamentally different from a police force for the following reasons: A militia would be non hierarchical, there would be no positions of power or political influence to compete for, so nothing to be gained by acting other than in the common interest. For tactical reasons one person might well take charge of a particular operation, but their mandate would be strictly limited, and they would be instantly recallable. For this, and operational reasons they would probably need deputies and at all times they would be accountable to the entire community; their reward? Like any other task the satisfaction of a job well done and the approbation of their equals, if that isn’t enough they’re probably not the best fit.

In fact I see the role of each militian as a delegate of the community mandated to perform a specific function. Some will be more suited to the work than others and it’s possible they may get a taste for it; unlike the surgeon, architect or horticulturalist who never need to constrain anyone against their will I think this is unhealthy, so service in the militia should be part-time and limited in duration. Just as no-one can speak for the Working Class but the workers themselves, so no-one can or should attempt to defend it without sharing its needs, goals, and perils.