Police, Prisons, and the State: Social Control over the Poor and Working Class


Hundreds marched in Pleasanton on Saturday to demand an end to Urban Shield, the largest “first responders” and police training and weapons expo in the world.

Today prisoners across the United States are striking to protest the brutality of the American incarceration system that shuffles threw millions of poor people each year and subjects them to slave labor and torture. Today also marks the 45th anniversary of the begging of the Attica Prison uprising, in which 33 prisoners were murdered by police by order of billionaire governor Nelson Rockefeller. Two weeks earlier the state successfully murdered George Jackson, who warned his captors that “The savage repression of blacks, which can be estimated by reading the obituary columns of the nation’s dailies, Fred Hampton, etc., has not failed to register on the black inmates.” 11 years later the state would succeed in convicting Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal on false charges. Last week Mumia was denied access to potentially lifesaving Hepatitis C medication, which is sold by the for-profit Gilead Sciences (another medical corporation that makes billions in profits by developing medication off government subsidies and then sells products criminal prices) for $1,000 a pill. Last year police in America killed 1,207 people. So far 808 have been killed in 2016 – a little over one every 8 hours. Many of the victims are armed, many are not; as usual people of color are killed at far higher rates per million, alongside hundreds of dead white brother and sisters; the state holds no officers responsible, and makes calls to increase police power and use of force. Tens of millions every year are brutalized by capitalism and then left to the mercy of the state to be criminalized and locked away or summarily executed. The capitalist state is not interested in helping anyone – it’s about keeping law and order so that the capitalist class can more efficiently exploit the labor of the working class. Law and order means wage slavery, imperialism, unrelenting pollution and climate change, home foreclosures and starvation, and poverty and drug addiction, all while the richest individuals in society get fat off the backs of the working class. The police only serve and protect the ruling class, and only legitimize their presence by “solving” the problems in society that capitalism creates in the first place. It’s painfully obvious but often goes unsaid: the laws in society are created to favor the capitalist class – if we are to have a revolution, the police will be right there to stand in our way.


The state and its armed forces are fundamentally unable to stop the problems – violence, drugs, theft – that plague communities devastated by layoffs and foreclosures. Only a massive redistribution of wealth can solve the economic and social inequalities of capitalism. And the police stand in the way of such a massive wealth redistribution.

To this end the ruling class is forever in favor of throwing trillions of dollars behind its armed forces while the misery of the many deepens. The armed men and women protecting the status quo – including the president and selected members of the armed forces – are given complete freedom to spy, intrude, disrupt, detain, imprison, and execute anyone, anywhere, and for whatever reason. The capitalist state operates completely independent of any democratic control precisely because it is purpose, in the hands of the capitalists, is to preserve a system that benefits the few off the immiseration of the many. (In the hands of the working class the massive power of the state would be used to redistribute wealth and radically change society).

In Pleasanton, CA, hundreds demonstrated around the Alameda County fairgrounds demanding an end to Urban Shield, the largest police weapons and training expo in the world and a perfect example of the state’s obsession (not just in the US but across the world) not with helping the needy, but with maintaining control over society. As previously noted Urban Shield is an international conference attended by a who’s who list of capitalist governments and flagrant criminals and is funded by the Department of Defense and supported by the world’s most powerful corporations, including Verizon and Google. When it comes to natural and man-made disasters the state’s first priority is always maintaining control so as to preserve the sanctity of “law and order” (see the response to Katrina, in which victims were shot first and helped later, and Haiti post-2010 earthquake in which the US army locked down the country and now relies on an occupying force of UN troops to maintain “law and order” for the puppet regimes it forces upon the Haitian people). This is why the Department of Defense pours millions into funding first responder training. Furthermore, it’s obvious that “terrorism” means one thing to the ruling class – see the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, or a march against police brutality – and another to people who are routinely shot, harassed, surveiled, bombed, and tortured by the state itself.


Police have infiltrated all aspects of social life, including schools, and yet our children are no safer from war, poverty, and climate change. In fact they are less safe.

With September 11 just around the corner, the state and its stenographer media will once again ratchet up its nationalism and warn the public of the grave threats still facing America. The police and armed forces will be praised, and vicious attacks will be leveled against all those who would dare question the legitimacy of the state and its power, for  without the state, goes the ruling class narrative, there would be disorder and chaos – there would be no “law and order.”No mention will be made of the real danger facing people in the United States: unlivable wages, decrepit infrastructure, police terror, unending war, rampant drug addiction and poverty, poisoned water, for-profit health care and housing, and impending climate disaster. All the real threats faced by the vast majority of Americans are legal and are protected by the state. Never forget that the real enemy – the greatest terrorists of them all – is our own ruling class, that seeks at all times to maximize profits and maintain social control.


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