Workers Vanguard No. 1052

19 September 2014


Cops Are Enemies of Workers

(Quote of the Week)

The 1934 Trotskyist-led Minneapolis Teamsters strikes made the city a union town and laid the basis for forging the Teamsters into a powerful industrial union. To win, the truckers and their allies had to face down the cabal of business owners known as the Citizens Alliance backed by the cops, their deputies and the National Guard. In the following excerpt from his account of those struggles, Farrell Dobbs, a striking worker won to Trotskyism, generalized from that experience to explain the role of the police.

Under capitalism the main police function is to break strikes and to repress other forms of protest against the policies of the ruling class. Any civic usefulness other forms of police activity may have, like controlling traffic and summoning ambulances, is strictly incidental to the primary repressive function. Personal inclinations of individual cops do not alter this basic role of the police. All must comply with ruling-class dictates. As a result, police repression becomes one of the most naked forms through which capitalism subordinates human rights to the demands of private property. If the cops sometimes falter in their antisocial tasks, it is simply because they—like the guns they use—are subject to rust when not engaged in the deadly function for which they are primarily trained.

—Farrell Dobbs, Teamster Rebellion (1972)