Combat police populism

The February 11 meeting of Teesside Socialist Alliance saw continued discussion about the priorities of the upcoming mayoral election campaign. Due to the high-profile standing of 'zero tolerance' populist 'Robocop' Ray Mallon in the race for mayor, it is inevitable that 'law and order' will be a central issue to this campaign. The Socialist Alliance must have its answers on the question and particularly in relation to the police - part of the 'executive enforcement wing' of the British state which can never serve the interests of the working class. The pertinence of this question, alongside the submission this week of the draft manifesto of our mayoral candidate, Geoff Fowler, led to a healthy political debate involving independent comrades as well as members of the Socialist Workers Party and CPGB, lasting almost an hour. Some comrades were opposed to calling for a working class alternative to the police, opting instead to bury any opinion they had on the matter behind less contentious platitudes: "The real crime is unemployment and poverty", or - even worse - "The police shouldn't play political games." As if they could somehow be made 'non-political'. We must challenge the liberal consensus. As one comrade emphasised, we must base any election strategy around a programme of class struggle, and as such must present a working class solution to every iniquity prevalent in bourgeois society. The upcoming case against the police following the death of a black man in custody at Teesside Crown Court gives us an another opportunity to present our own distinctive answer for the working class. SWP member Geoff Kerr-Morgan, our general election candidate for Middlesbrough, pointed out that the success of the SA campaign ought to be judged primarily not by how many voters we can coax into sticking a cross next to our name, but by how many contacts we can secure and attract to meetings and actions after the election, when the other candidates are long gone. Putting forward independent working class politics, then, is a must. Moving on to more organisational matters, the meeting discussed how to raise funds and, more importantly, the profile of our campaign. After the blatant bias thus far exemplified by the bourgeois media towards Ray Mallon, it is evident that we will have to develop our own voice to reach the disaffected. In order to persuade the police authority to accept his resignation, enabling him to contest the election, Mallon has for tactical reasons admitted to a raft of disciplinary offences in a blaze of publicity. As our monthly newsletter Teesside Worker moves into its second edition, comrades discussed how best to distribute the publication to workers in the region. We must ensure that our website is up and running, hopefully engendering a healthy swathe of publicity leading up to the election. We will need it to combat both Mallon and the Labour machine. Crucially we will need to concentrate our efforts on carefully prepared, targeted and disciplined canvassing. James Bull