Policing Western Europe: Politics, Professionalism, and Public Order, 1850-1940

By Clive Emsley; Barbara Weinberger | Go to book overview

Forces was instructed that the assistance to be rendered should be in accordance with King's Regulations and the Manual of Military Law "except that any acts of attempted sabotage under conditions which would render railway communications ineffective should be dealt with under the same conditions as if attempted by the enemy." 147 The military occupation of Glasgow four months later in response to a strike, which was regarded as an insurrection, displayed a similar determination. 148

In 1919, as in the previous four years, the principal threat to public order came not from the demands of a revolutionary labour movement but from the unorganised elements of the population-- from foreigner-hating, flag-waving loyalists, from women, juveniles and the unskilled, from discharged and demobilised soldiers, and from anxious and unsatisfied consumers. Trade Unions, with the notable exception of the National Union of Seamen, were not active parties to the archaic forms of protest and disorder that had so often filled the streets of London and other populous centres between 1914 and 1918.

These disturbances, more a nuisance than a threat to state power, did, after all, expose the dangerous depletion of police manpower and the growing reliance upon military might for the maintenance of internal order. Until police numbers were restored, and an increased measure of central control introduced, there was no alternative in an emergency but to transform the civilian police into a paramilitary force or summon the military. The first of these options, as we have seen, was rejected out of hand by the Home Office. The second was scarcely less acceptable. With the end of the war, it was recognised that in the past ten years, the use of the military had increased, was still increasing, and ought to be diminished. The generals themselves, never happy about the use of troops for police duties, wanted out. The intensification of industrial conflict, however, precluded any such disengagement. Post-war liberal democracy relied upon fixed bayonets more than is sometimes imagined. 149


Notes
1.
Glasgow Herald, 21 September 1911.
2.
Jane Morgan, Conflict and Order: The Police and Labour Disputes in England and Wales 1900-1939 ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 40-41.
3.
On health and living standards, see: J. M. Winter, The Great War and the British People ( London: Macmillan, 1986).

-127-

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