Reflexions sur le role de l'Etat et de la Police Series: On Vous a a l'Oeil

Groupe d'Etude Sur le controle social, Ecole de Criminologie, Universite de Montreal, Le
Year Published:  1978
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX822

This study argues (from a Marxist perspective) that the State, law, police and penal system are neither above class interest nor merely the creations of the ruling class to serve their interests. The State does provide some positive benefits (e.g. social security) as a result of popular struggles. In this respect the state is the principal focus for the class struggle.
A danger in a public attitude which views the State as subject to law is that law and justice can become identified. Since the State in fact creates law it is a short step to a Police State where violent excursions outside the law are justified in the name of "reasons of State" or "national security". The only limit placed on the absolute power of the State is, not law, but popular struggles and movements. And the struggle has only begun when a law is passed for its application must then be assured.
After reviewing the role of the State and of Law, the authors examine the role of the police within this context. They point out that the police simply execute the laws passed by the State. Since the execution of the law is by its nature repressive, police have a repressive role in society. But they are not the source of that repression; this function drives rather from law. Police are able to justify direct political intervention (such as a raid on a party headquarters) under the pretext of maintaining order in society ( an obvious social need). Similarly the bureaucracy inherent in the whole system of government departments and police forces helps separate, in the public mind, the operation of the police from that of the State. We can condemn the police for their illegal activities but miss the point that they are simply executing the overriding interests of the State.

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