The Police v. The Police
The capitalist Press has been busy explaining to Simple Simon that the action of the police in “breaking their oath” is not only mutiny, but “a crime.” Of course, it is always a crime when the bulldog turns and rends its master’s hand, notwithstanding that that hand was doing things with a stick. But there is another side to the question.
During the long period when the workers were more somnolent than they are now, and that condition was reflected in a far more incomplete organisation and a far greater trust in and submission to their union officials, the bosses were not so much afraid of the “labour unrest” as they are to-day. Consequently they did not attach the same importance to the bobby as they do now, and they made the mistake of paying him accordingly.
The result was inevitable. Notwithstanding his oath, the policeman was forced to struggle for a betterment of his miserable condition. More even than in other trades – if that were possible – this necessarily meant organisation. A union was formed, and as the aspect of industrial affairs became darker, a police trade union, affiliated possibly with other trade unions, deriving a certain amount of its strength from those unions, was regarded as an extremely sinister thing.
The bosses got a bit nervous. They made panic concessions, and then they started to cut out the “cancer” – in other words, to smash the union.
Now it is quite clear that the men owed every jot and tittle of the improvement in their condition to the union. Their oath availed them nothing. It was only intended to bind them to vile conditions of pay and tyrannical discipline. They might have stood meekly by it till doomsday, nothing would have been done for them. Only when they seriously threatened to commit the “crime” of leaving their oath to look after itself, as butcher Asquith did his registration and other pledges, and Lloyd George did his pledge concerning sending young boys to the “front,” did the masters deign to give them some measure of alleviation.
It is quite plain, then, where the crime comes in. It is certainly not in breaking their oath, which they had been driven to do by the callous indifference of the bosses to their claims, but in their desertion of the instrument which had gained them so much. To allow that to be crushed out, and those who had undertaken the task of organising them for the struggle, to go down in the hour of victory is both a mean and cowardly crime.
Writers in this paper have previously pointed out how extremely unlikely it was that any sort of union that could be any good to the men would secure official recognition. The forecast seems to be pretty correct. Had the police, however, behaved with sufficient courage and intelligence as to force the question of recognition to a successful issue, the simple and inevitable result must have been the increased use of bayonets instead of batons in industrial disputes. The masters have more strings than one to their bow.