On Friday and Saturday night thousands of thugs took over inner city streets across Australia and New Zealand. These hooligans harassed, locked up and arrested hundreds.
The police called it Operation Unite and claimed its aim was to curb drunken and violent behaviour in the early morning in known drinking spots.
We are, they pompously proclaimed, sending a message that such behaviour is not acceptable. By "such behaviour" the armed thugs of the state mean getting pissed.
Forget the violence smokescreen. Almost all of those arrested or otherwise dealt with over the weekend were done for drunken behaviour, not fighting.
One of society's very messages is that getting pissed, especially at Christmas functions, is acceptable. It is not only acceptable, it is almost mandated.
Image after image portrays having a glass in hand as the perfect way to relax, generally with friends. Alcohol is an integral part of Australian, and indeed of most other Western countries', culture.
In feudal times it was a way of celebrating the changing seasons on a particular day (often disguised in religious garb) and used as a release valve from the dull monotony for the peasantry of their lives.
Under capitalism alcohol became a commodity, with beer and rum, for example, mass produced for the great labouring classes.
Instead of celebrations every six or 12 months, the successful struggle for the shorter working week gave workers free time both after work and on Sundays and then weekends to escape from the alienation of capitalist society.
Alcohol and the fleeting end of work became entwined in the popular mind, and cheap rum production enabled a flowering of alcohol consumption.
Later on grew the great beer breweries who used the most modern methods of production to make cheap grog. They found a ready audience for their wares.
It was at about the same time that the ruling class began to develop a special body of men to protect their property interests and the social relations that gave rise to them. These police men (and now women) have powers of coercion not given to ordinary citizens.
To do this the state had to break down the community policing role (already under way through the process of industrialisation).
In a colonial settler state like Australia the combination of its political and economic backwardness and harshness saw alcohol at the very centre of society. For some time in the early days rum was a currency in the colony.
Although our first and only coup was named the Rum Rebellion, this was in fact a power struggle between the developing capitalist class and military and the political ruler and some of the newly freed convicts and settlers.
As capitalism became more and more established, a "lawless" working class developed too. Part of that lawlessness saw alcohol become part of the culture of the country, as well as what the ruling class perceived to be a work shy attitude.
The elite unleashed constant police drives against this rabble to force them into stable relationships and stop their licentious and drunken ways.
Operation Unite stands in that great tradition of social control, of attempting to enforce ruling class standards on young workers to conform to behaviours suitable for their ongoing exploitation as wage slaves.
When the working class establishes its own rule over society, it takes into its own hands the role of policing. Every time it does this, crime rates drop markedly.
This is both because power is now in our hands and because the community is a much better policeman than the enforcers of capital.
So too does drunkenness drop. Workers are high on their own power, and don't need to escape from their society. Empowerment replaces grog.
Until such a society exists the left must stand with the oppressed and alienated against the state's agents of violence.
This article first appeared in En Passant with John Passant.
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