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(en) Ireland, Workers Solidarity #82 - Thinking about Anarchism - Crime

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 27 Sep 2004 08:49:35 +0200 (CEST)

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Anarchists say the criminal justice system, the cops, courts and
prisons, are not designed to protect ordinary people but are primarily
instruments to keep the rich rich and the working class in line. That
said, most people faced with anti-social crimes like mugging,
burglary or joy riding want something done about it. And while they
might agree that crimes against property depend on a divide between
rich and poor existing in the first place they are not so convinced that
crimes like rape and murder will simply vanish 'come the revolution'.

Whatever nice theories anarchists might come up with we can be
sure that any community subjected to a murder or a rape will want
something done about it. This would include detecting who had
committed the crime, confirming that they were the guilty one and
finding ways of ensuring they would not commit another crime.
Particularly where the victim is a child, the failure to fulfill these three
needs would very quickly lead to vigilante justice.

In historical revolutions this task has been undertaken by militias but
a post-revolutionary society would obviously need some way of
fulfilling these tasks without reconstructing the current judicial
system with all its flaws. In particular, the current justice system
gives a lot of power to judges, police and prison wardens and creates
hierarchies of abuse simply due to the class nature of this society.

But what about the here and now? Poorer urban working class
communities today often find themselves caught between vicious
anti-social crime driven by poverty, lack of hope and heroin addiction
and a police force that sees its role as stopping such crime spreading
outside the boundaries of those areas. Young people are particularly
likely to be faced with the contradiction of police harassment if they
socialize outside their estates or being seen as (and often being) an
anti-social nuisance as they hang around their own street corners.

In Ireland the state does not have a monopoly on organized Violence.
Sometimes paramilitaries step in to curb anti-social behavior through
punishment beatings and exile. Yet these are forms of punishment
that would never be tolerated if carried out by the Gardai or PSNI. Are
there alternatives to this sort of vigilante approach to anti-social

One set of important experiments are the Community Restorative
Justice projects where those guilty of anti-social crimes are
confronted by their victims, made to realize the harm they are doing
and ways are found for them to make up for damage done. These
provide a useful guide on which to base an anarchist approach to
anti-social crime. Community based anti-heroin initiatives in Dublin
have also shown ways of the community dealing with drugs and drug
related crime. It is significant that the Gardai often seemed to be more
concerned with suppressing these initiatives then ending the dealing.

But dealing with anti-social crime in the here and now cannot be
reduced to a question of policing. Much anti-social crime is fuelled by
deprivation and heroin addiction. Even the Governor of Mountjoy
Prison, John Lonergan, has admitted that the inmates come
overwhelmingly from a few areas of social deprivation. Research
carried out in Mountjoy found that 75 percent of Dublin prisoners
came from six clearly identifiable areas, or - as he described them -
"pockets of disadvantage.....infested with heroin". For this reason
combating anti-social crime is very dependant on winning extra
community resources, building a sense of solidarity and eliminating
poverty. That the perpetrator may be from a deprived background is of
little comfort to those who get mugged. Yet most of us already know
that in such a situation the police are pretty useless anyway. They
seem to have little or no interest in preventing anti-social crime in
working class areas and when a victim reports a crime can take hours
to show up, if they bother at all.

There will never be a simple answer to anti-social crime because of
its nature. It is one section of the working class preying off another
section. It covers a broad span, from teenagers making too much
noise to rape and murder. We can, however, note that experiments
with alternatives to accepting the capitalist 'justice' system already
exist. Learning from these helps us build an anarchist theory of crime

by Andrew Flood

see also

* Crime, prison and punishment : An anarchist view
* Thinking about anarchism
This page is from the print version of the Irish
Anarchist paper 'Workers Solidarity'.
We also provide PDF files of all our publications
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/pdf.html for you
to print out and distribute locally
Print out the PDF file of this issue

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