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Scotland and crime and socialism

Falling levels of violent crime in the west of Scotland has driven an 89% reduction across the country over the past decade, a study has concluded. There were 1,872 violent crimes in Glasgow in 2008-09 compared to 914 in 2017-18. The study also found that serious assaults were now far less likely to involve a weapon compared to those recorded in 2008-09. But the study showed alcohol continued to be a factor in violence, with almost two-thirds of serious assaults in 2017-18 having involved drink. 

Findings included:
  • the proportion of crimes occurring in a public or private setting has remained steady, with most (70%) taking place in public
  • while most serious assaults (80%) are still against a male victim, the total number of these cases fell 41%, while there was little change in the number of female victims
  • most male victims are seriously assaulted by an acquaintance (55%) or stranger (23%), while female victims are more likely to be assaulted by a partner, ex-partner or relative (52%)
A separate study over the same period highlighted the reduction in the proportion of younger offenders convicted of certain violent crimes, as well as the overall fall in convictions.
Marx on Crime

In Part 3 of his Economic Manuscripts of 1861-63, Marx noted just how productive the criminal is, just how many jobs his career creates:
A philosopher produces ideas, a poet poems, a clergyman sermons, a professor compendia and so on. A criminal produces crimes. If we take a closer look at the connection between this latter branch of production and society as a whole, we shall rid ourselves of many prejudices. The criminal produces not only crimes but also criminal law, and with this also the professor who gives lectures on criminal law and in addition to this the inevitable compendium in which this same professor throws his lectures onto the general market as “commodities”… 

...The criminal moreover produces the whole of the police and of criminal justice, constables, judges, hangmen, juries, etc. ; and all these different lines of business, which form just as many categories of the social division of labour, develop different capacities of the human mind, create new needs and new ways of satisfying them. Torture alone has given rise to the most ingenious mechanical inventions, and employed many honourable craftsmen in the production of its instruments…”

“…Thus he [the criminal] gives a stimulus to the productive forces. While crime takes a part of the redundant population off the labour market and thus reduces competition among the labourers — up to a certain point preventing wages from falling below the minimum — the struggle against crime absorbs another part of this population. Thus the criminal comes in as one of those natural “counterweights” which bring about a correct balance and open up a whole perspective of “useful” occupations. The effects of the criminal on the development of productive power can be shown in detail. Would locks ever have reached their present degree of excellence had there been no thieves? Would the making of bank-notes have reached its present perfection had there been no forgers? Would the microscope have found its way into the sphere of ordinary commerce (see Babbage) but for trading frauds? Does not practical chemistry owe just as much to the adulteration of commodities and the efforts to show it up as to the honest zeal for production? Crime, through its ever new methods of attack on property, constantly calls into being new methods of defence, and so is as productive as strikes for the invention of machines.”

The earliest, crudest, and least fruitful form of this rebellion was that of crime. The working-man lived in poverty and want, and saw that others were better off than he. It was not clear to his mind why he, who did more for society than the rich idler, should be the one to suffer under these conditions. Want conquered his inherited respect for the sacredness of property, and he stole.”

We can add to Marx’s list the many advances in policing and criminal detection since 1863 and which Marx could never have envisaged: forensic science, the training of police dogs, the 3 million plus security cameras in Britain today, biometric ID cards, security marking pens, burglar alarms, tasers, tagging and spy-chips.

 The list is endless. Moreover, the criminal justice system – from prison personnel and police officers to security guards and lawyers, judges and magistrates involves many times the numbers than when Marx was writing. 

2008 figures for the number of police officers and sergeants, special constables, traffic police and PCSOs is 184,119 

Add to this every person employed in the law enforcement game, all the workers in factories producing security equipment, whether it be uniforms and handcuffs for the police or security cameras and locks and keys, and all the workers employed to maintain the same and you’re looking at an enormous workforce centred on the crime industry. 

 Imagine the mountain of unemployed if, by some miracle, crime within capitalist society were to vanish overnight. Seems capitalism very much needs criminality. If anything it provides the master class with a perfect pretext to hone their surveillance techniques on the rest us and thus maintain their hegemony.

John Bisset


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