PSNI losing battle for hearts and minds


The PSNI’s Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie may have achieved a silver fainne in Irish language speaking (better Irish than Gerry Adams), but just one in four people in Northern Ireland would encourage a close relative to join the PSNI according to a poll conducted by Belfast Telegraph/Lucid Talk. That figure among Catholics drops to just one in ten.

The majority (65%) of the 1000 adults surveyed refused to answer the question ‘If a close relative wanted to join the PSNI, would you encourage them? When the figures are broken down 74% of men, 60% of women, 64% of Protestants and 77% of Catholics declined to give any answer at all.

These figures are in stark contrast to the propaganda blitz waged by the status-quo since the inception of the PSNI over a decade ago. Despite the cosmetic make-over and the devolution of policing and justice powers to our local administrators, the PSNI like any police force remains the armed wing of the state, its physical and oppressive means of maintaining the status quo; one of socio-economic divisions and inequalities.

On the other hand we have the state, politicians, bosses and capitalists, who thrive on vast amounts of money and power. Instances of white collar crime, fraud and embezzlement that are actually investigated and brought before the courts are rare (they make up a small percentile of overall economically motivated crime). Most crime, and thus the police response, targets individuals and communities that suffer greatly from social and economic deprivation rather than tackling the root cause of the problem.

There has also been a gradual reduction of the proportion of Catholics in the force. It fell from 30.3% in March last year to 27.3% in February of this year, according to figures published by the Community Relations Council (CRC) in its Peace Monitoring Report. Clearly the continuing ‘armed actions’ including the deliberate targeting of catholic police officers is having an effect on recruitment and surveys such as this are evidence of this fact.

However, in the long run the spectacle of ‘armed actions’ results in pervading cycle of powerlessness, strengthening sectarian division in our society rather than uprooting it. While sections of media, establishment parties and the left simply resort to labelling armed attacks as ‘futile’ and ‘counter-productive’ this does little to address  the legacy of militarism and imperialism in our society. The reality is any serious revolutionary movement must develop the capability of armed self-defence because the nature of the any state leaves us with little alternative.

  Armed actions may provide short-term soundbites against the forces of ‘normalisation’ and ‘stability’ in terms of sensationalist headlines, but in the long-term it is a strategy that delivers for the status-quo and our local political parties.  It provides a useful deflection for our local politicians who like to portray any opposition and alternative as a return to the ‘bad old days.’ All this from the same political class wedded to a neo-liberal agenda of attacking worker’s rights and benefit claimants, increasing in poverty wages, unemployment. Yet this is the terrain on the basis of class, where we can provide an alternative to the rotten tribal sectarian political discourse; which does not mean ignoring issues of state repression and sectarianism, but where we do have real collective power to transform our society.

 What will strike fear into the ruling class and build hope for the rest of us is not the spectacle of armed actions but mass action and mass mobilisation involving the working class across the sectarian divide based on collective direct action and solidarity; that will link struggles over housing, claimant rights, quality of environment to the workplace and beyond.

‘The job for revolutionaries is not to take up the gun but to engage in the long, hard work of publicising an understanding of this society. We must build a movement which links the many problems and issues people face with the need for revolutionary change, which attacks all the pseudo-solutions - both individual and social - offered within this society, which seeks to demystify those solutions offered by the authoritarian left and instead to place the total emphasis on the need for self-activity and self-organisation on the part of those people willing to take up issues. We need to present ideas about a socialism based on equality and freedom.’(1)