A bosses’ crisis which attacks workers to make them pay for it, always creates a workers fightback. To head off that fightback the bosses use the popular front where workers parties and the labor bureaucracy tries to tie the hands of workers to prevent their independent mobilization. Behind the popular front the bosses organize their repressive arm of the state, like the ‘Popular’ army’ in Bolivia; the police in Greece; always backed up by the military, and of course by “private” armies, mercenaries, and paramilitaries like in Colombia etc. This repression is done in the name of the state that represents the so-called national interest in which all classes are patriotically united. This means that state repression is held to be legitimate because it is not openly acting in defence of private property. So when paramilitaries operate openly they run the risk of being seen as extra-state and do not have that legitimacy. Bosses don’t privatise the repressive forces unless they are desperate, or totally confident they will not cause a working class rebellion.
So in NZ the right wing National Party is greeting the depression and workers resistance by not only stepping up the level of state repression to criminalise youth and Maori gangs, increase prison sentences by limiting parole and flirting with the extreme-right wing ACT parties “3 strikes and your out” policy, and putting unruly youth into bootcamps, it now proposes to build new prisons under Private, Public Partnerships (PPPs) and allow the running of those prisons by private contractors.
Liberals and radicals object to privatizing the state sector because they truly believe in the need for a class-neutral state and law enforcement, and/or opposition to the profit motive or using prisoners as slave labor. They point to the US prison industry which is one of the most profitable industries.
We support these objections but not for the reasons advanced. They want to reform the capitalist state to stop the abuse of prisoners’ rights as human rights. Marxists, however, recognize that the state is the committee of the ruling class. It doesn’t really matter whether the state or private sector runs the justice system it’s the bosses’ justice in the end. As soon as workers seriously fight capitalism the justice system exposes its class rule by systematically abusing prisoners in ‘normal’ jails, Guantanamo, the camps used for migrant workers, or the secret jails kept for ‘terrorists’ .
The only way to fight the abuse of human rights is to reject the inhumanity of the whole capitalist system and replace it with a system of working class justice, run by, and for, the workers.
(see Las Heras Prisoners Freed, and Free the Kliptown Five on this blog)