Why aren't soldiers called class traitors when cops are?

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seahorse
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Sep 23 2016 02:33
Why aren't soldiers called class traitors when cops are?

Cops are considered class-traitors, so why not (non-drafted) soldiers? Isn't this quite a nationalist attitude? Like, "Well as long as they only oppress people in *other* countries, they're alright with us."

Sure, soldiers are historically more likely than cops to side with the working class in a revolutionary situation. And that will probably be the case in any future revolutions. But that doesn't change what they have done, which is violently enforce the will of the state on behalf of capitalists. Sounds like class treachery to me.

It would be dumb to call them class traitor to their face if we want their help in any future revolution (and we will need it). I suspect this is as big a reason as nationalism, probably even bigger, for why we don't think of them as class-traitors.

So is this a case where a bit of self-deception is needed for the good of the cause? It makes me pretty uncomfortable but I guess that's the way it's gotta be.

wojtek
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Sep 23 2016 11:29

https://libcom.org/forums/news/so-anarchists-view-military-same-way-they...

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Noah Fence
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Sep 23 2016 11:53

Great topic. I struggle with this too. My hatred of militarism is almost as great as my hatred of cops and liberalism. Maybe I'm biased coz I took a kicking from some squaddies as a teenager but yes, they are hellbent on enforcing the will of capital and are mostly very proud of it. I guess though, that's coz of the hero worship culture that is built around them although of course once they're done with the authorities wipe their hands of them leaving many of them very vulnerable members of our society.
Maybe you're right though, they generally don't affect us directly whereas cops arrogantly exercise power over the general public and add extra vigour to exercising this power over radicals. If so its not surprising that our direct experience affects our sense of balance when calling a judgement. The main town near where I live is a garrison town and so is awash with military personnel at whom I stare aggressively as I walk by. There is almost always a Help for Heroes or similar collection display with guys approaching you for a donation, I will generally respond by saying not a fucking chance or go fuck yourself to which I've never received an abusive comeback. This is always very disappointing coz I really want to have a good old barney with these people. I know it's silly and pointless but I can't seem to help myself.

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Pennoid
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Sep 23 2016 12:44

We should think of technical reasons:

1) people regularly join the military for job training and as an alternative to college
2) these people are often ignorant, poor etc. Which isn't an excuse but an explanation (and to be fair their ignorance of the depravity of militarism is partly our fault, or ought to be viewed somewhat as such). And the poverty induces a sort of "well this will sort it all out for me and I don't really have to think about it."
3) people will leave the military for regular civilian life, which is often working class.

One could argue the case to organize in the military or the national guard; for trade union and political rights of the rank and file. Just a thought.

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Chilli Sauce
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Sep 23 2016 13:09

I think those are some good points, Penn. Also, just for me, cops are basically constantly in an actively repressive role. There are soldiers, on the other hand, who for their entire time in the military, never point a gun at another human being. Doesn't mean anyone should ever join the military or that we should stop opposing militarism, but the role of cops is an actively oppressive one day-in, day-out.

Also, Noah, just on the Help for Heroes thing. I always tell them that those veterans have effectively been injured on the job and, like anyone else injured on the job, they should be organizing with their (ex)co-worker in order to demand compensation and treatment. If they do that, I tell them I'll come out in support.

They never seem to know how to respond.

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Noah Fence
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Sep 23 2016 14:01
Quote:
Also, Noah, just on the Help for Heroes thing. I always tell them that those veterans have effectively been injured on the job and, like anyone else injured on the job, they should be organizing with their (ex)co-worker in order to demand compensation and treatment. If they do that, I tell them I'll come out in support.

They never seem to know how to respond.

Yeah, a good point. I think I'll give that a go myself.

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Sep 23 2016 15:03

To add:

Breaking the power of the bourgeoisie requires splitting the rank and file military, when called out to put down striking and rebelling workers. That requires prior organization among military rank and file as workers with extremely limited 'rights' as it were.

Now that the military is 'for hire' and not based on the draft, perhaps the strategies could be modified? Bit these seem reasonable positions to me.

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jura
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Sep 23 2016 15:21
Pennoid wrote:
To add:

Breaking the power of the bourgeoisie requires splitting the rank and file military, when called out to put down striking and rebelling workers. That requires prior organization among military rank and file as workers with extremely limited 'rights' as it were.

OK, but why shouldn't the same apply to cops? (Who are more likely to be the first to be sent to put down strikes anyway.)

fnbrilll
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Sep 23 2016 15:36

It wouldn't be moralism if it didn't have inconsistencies.

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Pennoid
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Sep 23 2016 16:09

Well, for one, for most police officers, it is a career. I think they're better compensated, and their the 'first responders' to the violations of bourgeois rights.

While communism would need first responders in the sense of health and disaster situations, cops are the first line of defense for property.

The second thing I'd say is that while it might seem like gaining 'socially control' over some municipality is a means to making the cops or whoever better, but as it were, there are always the 'troops' as a last resort; as the whole state's (society in an alienated sense) will being exerted. Rebellious municipalities or regions can be put down. Less so if the military is made up of sympathetic parties.

These are my impressions, and admittedly there could be more research on the topic. Another thought is that the cops routinely 'enforce the law' where as soldiers 'serve their country's in a less routine sense (mostly by violating international law!)

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Noah Fence
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Sep 23 2016 16:36
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Well, for one, for most police officers, it is a career. I think they're better compensated, and their the 'first responders' to the violations of bourgeois rights.

We can't judge people on their status as a class traitor based on how much they earn or how good their work conditions are and many many workers embark on a career. I just don't get your point here.
Also, troops control, attack and kill working class all the time. That's in their job description. It's just that except in extreme cases they don't do it here in the uk.
In the event of an uprising in the uk the military, unless they take our side, will be far more effective in crushing it than the police on account of their firepower and training. It seems to me cops and soldiers are equally culpable.

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Auld-bod
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Sep 23 2016 17:03

I find it hard to put a cigarette paper between the police and the army. In the UK numbers of coppers are ‘community types’, though when the chips are down officialdom calls in the heavy brigade to sort stuff out. Presently more bodies are being trained in fire arms.

In the past when there was large standing armies made up of conscripts it made more sense to strongly differentiate between cops and squaddies. Now both are made up largely of working class volunteers and though some probably start off idealistic, staying in post for several years allows their units closed culture to take hold of them. (You stand by your mates whatever.)

The UK government has paid out millions of pounds to hush up our heroes war crimes. The real heroes was the few in the army and police, who speak out against their criminal colleagues. To turn them will take the impact of a rising revolutionary tide, which will seriously impact and ultimately imperil their role as defenders of the state and all its works.

factvalue
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Sep 23 2016 17:21
Auld-bod wrote:
The real heroes was the few in the army and police, who speak out against their criminal colleagues. To turn them will take the impact of a rising revolutionary tide, which will seriously impact and ultimately imperil their role as defenders of the state and all its works.

It's great when that happens.

seahorse
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Sep 23 2016 17:29

Great discussion all around.

Pennoid wrote:
3) people will leave the military for regular civilian life, which is often working class.

So far this is the only point that I've found convincing to the other view, though I still don't find it sufficient. They go back to being regular working class, fine, so they are a class traitor no more, it's in their past. But it doesn't change that they were a class traitor during the time they served.

seahorse
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Sep 23 2016 17:35
fnbrilll wrote:
It wouldn't be moralism if it didn't have inconsistencies.

Could you explain this? You think it's moralism to label cops (or soldiers) class traitors? Do you think this is something we shouldn't bother with at all?

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Sep 23 2016 18:06

On Compensation: True, compensation is not a hard-predictor of ideology, never the less the 'class' character of a group changes, and the class demands change, as income increases. While their is not an unbridgable gulf between working home-owners and working-renters, there are already categorical differences which drive conflict; minority groups moving into your neighborhood lowers home-values, pitting home owners against other potential owners, or the tenants of newly built housing units etc.

On Culture: 'Military culture' is indeed pernicious. But we don't abandon starbucks workers or whole food workers because of the hegemony of the corporate ideology. Do you really think 100% of the military buy the propaganda all the time? U.S. vets are about twice as likely to kill themselves as the civilian population, and many get out and never return (again a phenomenon not really seen in the police afaik).

On Past and Contemporary forms of military organization: There is a lot to be studied here. Certainly the lack of conscription is a huge social gain, but yes, now that the military is simply 'for hire' it does lead to some potential asymmetry. I think of the fact that during the rise of absolutism in Europe, many monarchies relied on mercenary armies because training and arming the peasants would have been suicide for the rulers. Go figure.

I think that its easy to reduce the functions of the military and police to "They kill working class people" and then leave it at that and argue for a boycott or whatever of the organization. But there are limitations to that. Both police and military carry out several social function irreducible to 'killing and coercing' the working class. Even if its dragging civilians out of a car wreck that might catch fire or coordinating response to a natural disaster. It seems mostly like a question of tactics and strategy. And here we'd have to break down between sheriffs and police, as well as military.

Let me ask it as a question; what happens when a city and surrounding area goes on 'general strike' or tells the bosses to leave?

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Sep 23 2016 18:10

Sorry forgot one:

I think that the police are more regularly involved in 'counter-organizing' the left, especially in their cities. I guess I could be wrong, but this appears to make it more difficult to organize among the police. FWIW in the U.S. there is a difference between the police and sheriff's office (though I wouldn't advocate for organizing among either). Sheriffs are elected in most counties, and (in theory) you could elect a 'socialist sheriff' which I'm not sure what it would accomplish. If he refused to serve evictions, I suppose landlords would just sue the county/sheriff for not carrying out duties etc. I think that problem extends to the police in general.

Another point, and maybe this is sort of different, is that we'd be organizing soldiers, veterans, or reserve people (right?) and we could demand the kind of rights we'd want to see enshrined in a 'working class militia' on behalf of these rank and file soldiers.

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Noah Fence
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Sep 23 2016 18:50
Quote:
Let me ask it as a question; what happens when a city and surrounding area goes on 'general strike' or tells the bosses to leave?

Not all but a number of your points could equally be applied to cops.
With ref to this though

Quote:
Let me ask it as a question; what happens when a city and surrounding area goes on 'general strike' or tells the bosses to leave?

Well, one answer is that the military will probably scab as firefighters, security guards etc. Not that security guards deserve much consideration but army personnel will very likely take over private positions of protecting capital.

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jura
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Sep 23 2016 23:55

In my country, when hospital doctors went on strike (they handed in notices en masse, to be exact), the state sent in army doctors (it didn't work though).

ajjohnstone
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Sep 24 2016 02:25

Can we describe fellow-workers in armament and weapons factories class traitors? They are providing the arms and equipment for troops to use, after all.

I think there has been a debate on prison workers elsewhere, to add to class-traitors.
Then there are the private security employees standing at that supermarket check-out ...

It is possible to go down the road of defining fellow-workers and their loyalty to the working class dependent upon the relationship they have in supporting and offering succor to the ruling class...

Where do we stop...It is difficult to say as much as it is to actually define.

That hypothetical soldier...is he in the RM or RAMC yet wearing the same uniform...

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Sep 24 2016 08:38

‘Class traitor’ is not a term I would normally use. We all preform roles in a capitalist society, though some are willing participants and some are reluctant. It is only prudent to ask which roles are less likely to generate people willing to create a post-capitalist society. Living near a prison and several army training grounds, I’m aware of the personnel crossover of these ‘caring professions’. That said, the biggest factor in producing change will be in meeting changing events, organising and propagating the future we wish to see.

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Sep 24 2016 14:14

The role of the military is mainly to fight other armies. This may have changed slightly but still basically holds. The police is empirically and unrevocably anti working class. You rarely see the army at pickets or demonstrations.

The moralistic arguments about who is 'badder' are missing the point. Much as it's easy to miss the point that you don't have antifascism because fascists are 'badder' than liberals but because they attack meetings and indiviuals and you have to stop them as early as possible. Liberals may well be long term more dangerous. It also has some relation to discussions about class that ignore why we use the term, how it's politically and analytically helpful, and instead see it as only a matter of cataloguing people.

ajjohnstone does well to show how impossible the whole attempt at categorising workers according to how much they help capital. As we know every member of the working class is maintaining capitalism. In some ways you could argue that workers in transportation/docks are the most important supporters of capitalism right now. This line of argument is I'm sure you all understand completely wrongheaded and agains all 'our' understanding.

The military is supposed to be active at the nation state level and a tool of international politics between states. We really don't wan't to act at this levels as it goes against our politics. We hope to undermine the nation state from within something the army isn't that well equipped to prevent but the speciality of the Police.

I'm not saying armies cant be used against workers but it's not really their role.

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Sep 24 2016 14:43

Cooked #22

‘I'm not saying armies can’t be used against workers but it's not really their role.’

I largely agree with you though the army is adaptable. They were very effective in Northern Ireland, and the IRA were not a conventional army, something that Lenin recognised.

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Khawaga
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Sep 24 2016 15:06
Quote:
I'm not saying armies cant be used against workers but it's not really their role.

I'd say, to support Auld-bod, that it all depends on what part of the world we're looking at. Most of us know Europe and North America, the story is typically very different in other parts of the world. The same is the case for cops. In Egypt, for example, many cops are conscripts, just like soldiers.

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Sep 24 2016 15:56
Khawaga wrote:
Most of us know Europe and North America, the story is typically very different in other parts of the world. The same is the case for cops. In Egypt, for example, many cops are conscripts, just like soldiers.

My argument is that the main issue isn't if they are conscripts or not but what they do. So the bits of the military that acts as Police should be regarded as Police but generally there's a difference. Saying this I'm by no means pro military if anyone would get that idea!

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Sep 24 2016 19:43

Just remembered that last night on the BBC World Service there was a long discussion on the problems on India’s border with Pakistan. According to some of the contributors there were over half a million Indian troops deployed in one state, mostly against stone throwing youths. Many children are being blinded by lead pellets. There have been many sexual assaults by the army.

Edit
On pellets:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-36822567

freemind
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Sep 24 2016 19:03

I always got angry with Anarchists who never went to Belfast because they used to preach about what went on there will come here but never went to the occupied six counties.That was the State in action and a learning curve to experience especially for Anarchists.Soldiers generally are broken and more fundamentally indoctrinated than cops ie;you agree to kill for the state or be killed trying.Cops don't except in certain situations where they become paramilitary or Ireland or Chile etc That said on a human level I've met soldiers who aren't like the usual idiots and poured their hearts out about seeing their mates die and explaining how they got their scars or why they drink so much.You can't generalise and in today's world in this country lines everywhere are blurred and control of us by them is multifaceted and complicated.

Terry
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Sep 24 2016 19:07

It is not unusual to have military forces in a policing role e.g the Carbinieri, the Guardia Civil, the Gendarmerie. The Carbinieri also serve overseas and if I remember right include conscripts (the one who shot dead Carlo Giuliani was one, or so it was claimed at the time). In the early days of the Irish Free State there was a specific military organisation (the Special Infantry Corps) precisely for the purpose of breaking up strikes, land occupations etc... and soldiers have been deployed here in policing duties in subsequent decades (mostly guarding money deliveries to banks) and also as replacement labour in strikes. Not to mention the presence of the British Army on the streets of the United Kingdom consistently for the last 30 years of the C20th.

The normal duty of soldiers by and large isn't to repress popular movements, but this is also true of the police (or prison officers). In the event of intensified social conflict all persons in such occupations will have to choose what side they are on - I don't think stigmatising them before hand is particularly useful, but it is understandable. This choice is an issue for cops as well as soldiers: there have been instances in Britain in recent decades of non-local cops used in repression presumably because of a less gung-ho attitude on the part of the local ones.

potrokin
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Sep 24 2016 22:24
ajjohnstone wrote:
Can we describe fellow-workers in armament and weapons factories class traitors? They are providing the arms and equipment for troops to use, after all.

I think there has been a debate on prison workers elsewhere, to add to class-traitors.
Then there are the private security employees standing at that supermarket check-out ...

It is possible to go down the road of defining fellow-workers and their loyalty to the working class dependent upon the relationship they have in supporting and offering succor to the ruling class...

Where do we stop...It is difficult to say as much as it is to actually define.

That hypothetical soldier...is he in the RM or RAMC yet wearing the same uniform...

I think people in these roles can be said to be equally culpable. I understand that we are supposed to win such people over, or atleast try and appeal to them. Is it really worthwhile though. I have spent many years unemployed and would never have come close to thinking that it would be right to do any of these jobs, and certainly not join the Army- or the Police. I guess these people tend to be those who very much believe in capitalism, and will have to realise that the system is not really for them.

potrokin
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Sep 24 2016 22:25
potrokin wrote:
ajjohnstone wrote:
Can we describe fellow-workers in armament and weapons factories class traitors? They are providing the arms and equipment for troops to use, after all.

I think there has been a debate on prison workers elsewhere, to add to class-traitors.
Then there are the private security employees standing at that supermarket check-out ...

It is possible to go down the road of defining fellow-workers and their loyalty to the working class dependent upon the relationship they have in supporting and offering succor to the ruling class...

Where do we stop...It is difficult to say as much as it is to actually define.

That hypothetical soldier...is he in the RM or RAMC yet wearing the same uniform...

I think people in these roles can be said to be equally culpable. I understand that we are supposed to win such people over, or atleast try and appeal to them, and we can try. Is it really worthwhile though? I have spent many years unemployed and would never have come close to thinking that it would be right to do any of these jobs, and certainly not join the Army- or the Police. I guess these people tend to be those who very much believe in capitalism, and will have to realise that the system is not really for them.

seahorse
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Sep 26 2016 22:21

We should try to organize among soldiers but not among cops. This seems to be the consensus and I agree.

That said, in a period of revolution or of widespread and intense class struggle, is it a good idea to try to appeal to cops to mutiny?