I’ve been having some trouble explaining this, which always means I don’t understand it well enough.
History tells us these institutions are not at all the same, particularly when entering a revolutionary period. The army will inevitably be shaken by whatever social crises have precipitated the revolutionary upsurge. In the worst case, only the most courageous soldiers will break away to join the masses. In other cases, whole units will set down their rifles and “come over.” Sometimes they will “come over” with weapons in hand, in formation, banners flying, bands playing, led by their own officers (usually at gunpoint). The success or failure of an insurrection is determined above all by to what degree it is supported by the army (which, of course, is determined by a number of factors that are beyond the scope of my question).
So far as I can tell, there has never been a case of a cop doing anything except either throwing support to the ruling class, or, at best, running and hiding. Certainly history has never shown us units doing so. By the time society has entered into a revolutionary crisis, the police are hated, loathed, despised by the masses. Every time. And they return these feelings with interest.
And yet, if we ignore social and historical context and simply line up factors in a purely formal way, they’re so similar: Both drawn largely from the toiling classes, both used as instruments of repression by the state, both turned against their own people as soon as there are signs of social unrest.
So, comrades (I’m looking at you, Don Barry) , what are the social and historical factors that make them so different? We know they are different; we’ve both read about it and many of us have had personal experience of the difference; it’s easy to talk to soldiers, we have nothing to say to cops. Why?