The Police State

by MC5 & MC11

The United States ranks number one in the world in highest per
capita imprisonment, according to the Bureau of Justice
Statistics of the U.S. government.

A private research organization called the Sentencing Project
reported in January that the United States imprisons a higher
proportion of its population than does any other country.
Using statistics provided by the U.S. Department of Justice
(DOJ), the organization reported that more than one million
people are currently incarcerated in the United States. That
means 426 incarcerations per 100,000 residents as of June 30,
1989. South Africa ranked second with 333 and the Soviet Union
came in third with 268. In Europe the figures range from 35 to
120 per 100,000. Asian countries range from 21 to 140. For
Black males the figure is 3,109 per 100,000 in the United
States and 729 per 100,000 for South Africa.(1)

But throwing so many people behind bars hasn't done much to
stop crime. Since 1980 the United States has doubled its
prison population, and overall crime only fell 3.5 percent,
according to the DOJ. The nation's murder rate is seven times
higher than most European countries. Over the last decade, six
times as many robberies and three times as many rapes were
committed in the United States as there were in what used to
be West Germany, the Sentencing Project report said.(1)

Following the release of these statistics, the mainstream
press and a few Democrats vomited up a spate of liberal
editorials and columns, railing against the burden on the law-
abiding tax-payers (about $16 billion a year, according to the
DOJ) that such massive repression creates, and the need to
find a different solution.

"We've got to stop jailing and start rehabilitating," Rep.
John Conyers (D-Michigan) declared.(1)

Prisons don't work
Confronted with such glaring statistics, some liberals come to
the correct conclusion: putting people in prison does not
deter anyone from committing crimes. The problem with the
liberal response is that it fails to recognize both crime and
the criminal justice system as political problems. Amerika's
ruling class defines "crime" as anything that may threaten its
hold on power. Anyone attempting to rectify the vast income
inequalities inherent in the capitalist system (through means
not sanctioned by the bourgeoisie) is locked up. Anyone not
respecting the god-given "right" to private property is locked
up. And certainly, anyone attempting to undermine the very
foundations of the capitalist state is thrown behind bars as
soon as that person becomes a serious threat.

MIM is not attempting to analyze all of the roots of crime in
Amerika in this article. But the fundamental root is that
under capitalism some classes of people cannot meet their
basic needs by abiding by the laws of the system. Reforming
the prison system and turning to more "humane" forms of
"rehabilitation" will not stop crime in Amerika. Only a
revolution will.

Police don't work either
Those who realize that prisons do not deter crime often argue
that instead of more prisons, Amerika should have more police.
But the number of police that a city hires does not affect the
crime rate. If a city hires more police than its neighboring
city, it is just as likely to have a high crime rate as its

Studies comparing different cities, as well as studies of one
city with different size police forces, both demonstrate that
over time, hiring police is not a solution to crime.

As one might suspect, if there were no police or if everyone
were a police officer it would make a difference. But outside
of these extremes it does not matter how many police there
are. In the real world of the wide range of U.S. cities, it
does not matter to the crime rate how many police officers
there are.(2)

Amerikans have a very hard time thinking rationally about
crime. Unlike other countries without rugged individualist
frontier pasts and settlers on their own pieces of land, the
Amerikan people have a strong belief in people making it on
their own.

Despite the reality that Euro-Amerikans committed genocide
against Native-Americans to obtain their farmland in the
United States, the myth arose of the rugged frontierperson
"making it" through hard work. That mythology carries forward
in another way today in the United States: the United States
has the largest middle class in the world. This class of
people makes the United States even more individual-minded
than other capitalist countries in the world.

Crime is a political problem. It cannot be solved by the
current political system because politicians have to say and
do what is popular with the middle class and upper class. They
are the firm believers in blaming individuals for their lack
of determination to work hard, uphold good morals, and so on.
These middle and upper class people believe they have achieved
their good position through their individual merits. Hence,
criminals must be people without these merits and should be
locked up.

As the prison population soared over the last decade, the
proportion of citizens who said they believed criminals were
not punished harshly enough increased from more than 70% of
the population to more than 80%.(3) Putting people in prison
makes many middle-class people feel good. But capitalist
attempts to justify their criminal justice system don't solve
the problem.

Some Trotskyist groups uphold the dogma that the working
classes in the imperialist countries like the United States
are most advanced because they live in the most technically
advanced societies. Yet it is the pervasive individualism of
the U.S. working class that made it possible for George Bush
to win his election merely by referring to a Black rapist in
his political advertisements. Far from being advanced, the
Amerikan working class falls prey to fascist anti-crime
politics far more readily than most other working classes with
the possible exception of the South African white working

In other societies the problem is not so bad, especially in
societies without a middle-class of white workers who benefit
from the plunder of the Third World. For more on this subject
read J. Sakai's Settlers: The Mythology of the White
Proletariat and H.W. Edwards's Labor Aristocracy: Mass Base
for Social Democracy. These books explain why white workers as
a group enjoy a different relationship to the means of
production than other working classes. It is the absence of a
white proletariat that partly explains the attitudes of the
U.S. public toward crime.

People who want to go on tolerating murder, rape, teenage
suicide, wife-beating, drug-dealing, alcoholism and property
crimes of the criminally deprived should go on blabbering
about more cops, prisons and death penalties. People who
really want to "get tough" on crime should get tough with
their analysis first. They should join MIM to work against the
causes of crime and all other oppression.

1. New York Times 1/7/91, p. A14.
2. John E. Conklin, Criminology, 3rd ed., (New York: MacMillan
Publishing Company, 1989), p. 438.
3. Washington Post National Weekly Edition 3/4/91, p.29.