In times of crisis economic restructuring and political readjustment via austerity has an important relationship to both the content and form of policing and security mechanisms:
"Amidst the storm of the economic crisis, the state subsidies for the survival of the surplus workforce disappear and the result is the proliferation of informal labour and poverty. Proletarians have no other option but to work (mostly informally) in order to survive and at the same time, as a result of the crisis, they find it impossible to find a job or have an income that would cover the cost of the reproduction of their labor power. Proletarians demand their survival, so they demand the lowering of food prices, wage increases and jobs. Their demands desperately request from capitalists to save capitalism itself. When demanding stable employment and “decent” wages, proletarians in fact say to capitalists: “you need us, without us there is no extraction of surplus value, there is no capital”. Capital on the other hand responds that it cannot afford the survival of the proletariat, and makes it clear that a (significant) part of the latter is useless (in terms of value) and, most important, that the desired recovery does not include any re-integration of this over-abundant part of the proletariat; it follows that these proletarians structurally form a surplus population. Historically, then, the wage demand is produced as both necessary and (structurally, not cyclically) a dead-end. The uprising of this surplus, and thus without future, proletariat is confronted with the clearest, the most cruel form of capitalist domination, the police. It is precisely the fact that the exit from the crisis, from the capitalist point of view, does not include this surplus proletarian population which makes the police the general form of current capitalism" -Blaumachen, "The era of riots has started..."
As the contradictions of capitalism continue to develop more and more of the population becomes excluded. This exclusion comes primarily in the form of unemployment and mass worker subsumption into precarious labor. For capitalism as an economic system to reproduce it's own relations in times of crisis it must restructure its self politically and economically. Considering capitalist social relations are predicated upon the inequality of the wage relation, property and class domination the structural consequences of crises are inherently acts of class war. These acts of war are attacks by capital upon marginalized and excluded populations, the employed and unemployed alike. The political and economic form of these crisis induced restructurings are privatization and austerity.
In California the newly revised budget is imbued with elaborate austerity measures including cuts to services provided for the most marginalized and excluded populations: the elderly, ill, children, undocumented, unemployed, working poor, precarious workers, people of color and women. Education at all levels has also endured irreversable damage. What were once nominally public institutions, the University of California and California State University are now on their way towards even higher tuition and total privatization making them virtually unattendable and producing debt-ridden graduates with no hope of finding employment. California is now, due to a wider crisis of capitalism, engulfed in the tragic reality of austerity with the marginalized and excluded bearing the worst elements of a crisis they themselves did not create. This phenomenon is nothing new but an inherent component in the history of capitalist social relations.
Capitalism regularly endures crises due to structural contradictions. These cannot be ameliorated within capitalist social relations themselves. Attempts at alleviation do nothing more than exacerbate the impending severity of the crisis its self:
"Serious crises (such as the one we are experiencing since 2008) break out in situations where the capitalist class fails to guarantee sufficiently high surplus value production under bearable conditions for the producers of this surplus value (that which in bourgeois jargon is called combining growth with social considerations). The most abstract definition of a crisis for the capitalist mode of production is that its reproduction is being threatened, that is to say the continued reproduction of the antagonist classes. It is on the concrete level, however, that we can see the crisis develop before our eyes: banks and companies that are threatened with bankruptcy and workers that are losing their jobs, are evicted from their homes or that are subjected to wage cuts, reduced pensions, poorer health care and so on. When single capitals or groups of proletarians get into straits, the State can intervene in order to ward off an emergency, by bailing out companies or handing out a little extra money to the municipalities and thereby maintaining a certain level of service. But there are never any miracle cures. In such instances, the State indebts itself, and sooner or later the budget has to be balanced, which means that in the end it is the proletariat which has to pay for it. The only mercy that the capitalist class can offer the proletarians of a country in crisis is some form of installment plan (a mortgage on future exploitation), or that they let the proletarians of another country pay a part of the bill" - Peter Åström, "Crisis and Communisation"
Capital and the state apparatus necessitate policing and security mechanisms to enforce and reproduce their own social relations at all times. With the onslaught of crisis and austerity these mechanisms take on both new content and form. Even though policing is publicly funded, it has a special and reciprocal relationship to capital accumulation and surplus extraction. Austerity and crisis increase policing operations against excluded and subversive populations while simultaneously privatizing many functions of policing its self.
Here in Santa Cruz these transformations are quite apparent. While public services such as transportation are facing large cuts in both service hours and worker wages, the Santa Cruz Police Department's situation is nowhere near as drastic. One of the reasons for this is the ability for the function of policing to be privatized. The SCPD recently released an IPhone application that allows for civilians to immediately document and inform the Police of criminal activity, thereby the user acts as an unwaged privatized auxiliary to the Police. Diffusion and privatization of policing mechanisms during times of crisis and austerity allows for mild disinvestment in Police departments while simultaneously strengthening and proliferating policing activity.
In Santa Cruz undocumented people receive the worst end of police restructuring . In the "Secure Communities" program local policing of the excluded and marginalized undocumented population is subsidized with state aid in the form of strategic policing alliances between SCPD, ICE and the FBI. This alliance is better able to arrest, imprison and deport people seen as "surplus" in the eyes of capital. While Santa Cruz was once, if only by name, a "sanctuary city" that is also now a thing of the past. Those excluded by capital are imprisoned by capital: As these populations of the excluded grow and austerity measures increase brute forms of policing develop to ensure smooth extraction of surplus value, uninhibited capital accumulation and the constant reproduction of capitalist social relations.
In times of crisis police not only change form and content but also through increasingly brutal repression of both surplus populations and struggles illuminate their basic and timeless function as soldiers enlisted to defend capitalist social relations and the state apparatus. As the contradictions unravel and crisis deepens it becomes more and more difficult for capital to easily enforce austerity and prevent the imminent social explosion of excluded populations.
What then does all of this mean?
It is important to remember that along with the readjustment and diffusion of policing, crisis also produces other newly constituted political forces. There is now an emergent and organized reactionary populist neo-fascism in both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary forms. These forces must be resisted. As history has taught us capitalism and fascism go hand in hand, and there is no reason why the crisis cannot lead to new forms of fascism gaining power and popularity.
Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles people are relentlessly struggling against the onslaught of crisis and austerity. In The Middle East, Spain, Greece, England, Italy and across the world people continue to collectively confront austerity. These confrontations have forced the police to physically defend restructuring in the streets with the barrel of a gun. Resistance has put pressure on capital but unfortunately to actually undo the realities of austerity and crisis would take something more.
The end of austerity will come with the end of capital. This will necessitate a total social confrontation coupled with the complete undoing of capitalist relations. The antagonisms, confrontations and alliances to make this possible exist everywhere. Their coalescence will be insurrection generalized.
"There is great disorder under heaven, the conditions are excellent"