AGAINST PRISON
A Contribution to the Struggle Against Prison and its World

Ideas for Discussion

Communiqué about a hunger strike

Information about the tactic of hunger strike and of solidarity inside and outside the prisons, as specified in a campaign to free Marco Camenisch. Written by comrade Elisa Di Bernardo, imprisoned since June 13 (2012) following operation ‘Ardire.’ Translated by Act for Freedom Now, edited by AP.

To all those who don’t stop struggling

6 months after my arrest (‘Operation Ardire’… June 13, 2012… Ordinance of the prosecution of Perugia) I announce that I am going to undertake a second round of hunger strike from December 22nd to December 29th. This is a protest for the release of our brother and comrade in the struggle Marco Camenisch. The protest is being carried out by a number of comrades taking turns (besides me and dear comrade Gabriel Pombo da Silva I still don’t know which other comrades are taking part in the protest… here I won’t dwell on organizational difficulties or on the ‘bad tricks’ of censorship).

Is this symbolic hunger strike or is it undertaken to make a claim? I no longer know, I’m no longer interested!

Any struggle is carried out to make a claim when it doesn’t stop until the target is achieved. Any struggle is symbolic when one is aware one doesn’t have the power (individual as well as collective) to subvert the ruling System or attack small clogs of the latter.

In this case I’m struggling using my imprisoned body (besides my ideas it is the only instrument I have in this iron and concrete cage) because I want Marco to live as a free man, to take him away from the clutches of the Swiss prison system, to be back with us in the mountains, stones, valleys, woods and the wild womb of nature.

I have always believed that the hunger strike is an effective method of struggle both inside and outside the prison. An act of rebellion made within these armoured walls is little effective if there is nobody outside ready to echo it and spread it according to his/her imagination and determination.

I have always believed that a hunger strike is a powerful way of making pressure, and it is even more effective if it is co-ordinated between those who take part in it and those who support it, inside and outside the prison.

Locked up without interruptions first in Italian prisons and then in the Swiss ones, Marco Camenish has always undertaken hunger strikes as a way of struggle against the prison system and he has never lost his dignity and strength as a revolutionary anarchist prisoner because of this. He has been on hunger strike against all forms of eco-devastation, be they nuclear power or the most recent ‘green sustainable energy;’ against media lies of all times that want to enslave minds and bodies to the will of ubiquitous Dominion that is getting increasingly technological and bureaucratic; against the social, political, economic and military Systems whose main goal is to isolate/annihilate, in jail, those who choose to rebel.

Marco continues to carry out hunger strikes as a form of struggle and resistance in solidarity with all those who, inside and outside the prison, are struggling with courage and determination against the prison system and its walls made of concrete, human flesh and torture; in solidarity with those who defend their land/territory/culture from the exterminating madness of multinational companies; in solidarity with those who strongly refuse and attack all forms of power (no matter if the latter is disguised as friend or as enemy) and the institutions that represent it with any means necessary; in solidarity with those who continue to be hit by repression and by more and more frequent anti-anarchist raids.

My hunger strike is in solidarity with Marco Camenisch, and I’m undertaking it with the determination and serenity of someone who wants to transmit the importance of eco-radical anarchist struggles, just as Marco has always done and continues to do with his numerous contributions.

I won’t be on hunger strike so that Marco can take advantage of so called ‘leaves’ or ‘benefits’, nor will I undertake it so that he can be ‘released on bail’.

I’m struggling for an imprisoned comrade’s unconditional freedom!

I take this opportunity to send my complicit solidarity to all those who are struggling all over the world and a warm rebel hug to those who continue to show solidarity and closeness with me.

Free Marco Camenisch! Freedom for all!

Elisa Di Bernardo
C.C Rebibbia femminile
Via Bartolo Longo 92
00156 Rome
Italy

Who are we talking to?

To whom do we direct our subversive communication, to whom do we talk about the misery of daily life, of exploitation and revolt? A contribution to sharpening our tools against the existing social order and to keeping alive a debate about the possibilities and limits of anarchist intervention. Translated from Italian anarchist publication ‘Il Machete.’

We find ourselves in a situation where a certain torpor has spread everywhere around us (except within ourselves).

If each episode which revealed the arrogance of power to the daylight was still capable of filling the streets and the squares with rage, we would not run into daily round-ups and patrols, into Big Brothers and small prisons, into construction sites for military bases and nuclear plants. But that is how it is. We need to reflect on how this came to be – the torpor, the lack of visible rage. Through reflection, we can then perhaps awaken a possible reversal of this tendency, and contribute ideas which help break through this stalemate situation.

One needs to react, without a doubt. But this awakening does not seem to be easy.

Who do we aim to be involved with when we decide to declare battle against this world? Do we address ourselves to everyone, or do we have a specific population in mind? To whom belong the ears we want to open? To whom the reactions we want to provoke? Above all, how do we think we can achieve this? Which buttons do we push?

The classical work of counter-information is over. It is clear now that the problem is no longer to ‘inform people of the facts’. The facts are known, by everyone. It is not ignorance that is preventing revolt. It is overload. People are bombarded with the facts and at the same time alienated from them by the way in which they are presented, via a relentless technological propaganda machine that turns us into passive spectators of our own misery. To counter this process is the necessary and fundamental work: with acts and also with critique.

Just as an excess of information leads paradoxically towards a situation of disinformation, an excess of indignation can lead to inactivity, to paralysis. Abuse upon abuse, injury upon injury – we are getting used to the worst. We have become accustomed to the intolerable to the point of climbing over the still-warm bodies of the slain with nonchalance. Disgusted. With everything. And those who become deaf to the order from above, can also become deaf to the critiques of those from below. The rejection of information goes hand in hand with the refusal of protest.

In order to finally open up a breach in the wall of apathy, is it enough to amplify the volume of the world’s sufferings? Apathy is a form of self-protection. It is not humanly possible to receive inside one’s own heart all the indignation for all the abuses, all the injuries, all the wrongs, suffered. This is shown clearly in the specialization into which one falls when taking the decision to give voice to the voiceless. The one who takes up the defence of the latter certainly shows a sensibility and a nobility of the mind, but they carry as well a certain spirit of the social worker.

Putting yourself at the service of others can even sometimes be a bit embarrassing, particularly when the needs of the ‘assisted’ are in opposition to the needs of the ‘assistant’. Above all, this form of intervention tends not only to limit the range of one’s own action, but creates a toxic moral superiority which only serves to alienate further (“they suffer and what are you doing about it?”). It is twisted to base your cause on the struggle of others, rather than locate the source of your own struggle. And it is also futile to begin a project of altruism, exactly at that point in society when such feelings are buried by annihilation and apathy.

Let us take as an example the struggle against the prison. At a time when the exaltation of ‘security’ has reached a vigorous peak (with increasing punishments of prisoners, the construction of new detention centres, the widespread acceptance of ‘zero tolerance’), and the preoccupation of the majority is with the depressing lightness of their own wallets, does it make any sense to try to reach people’s heads and hearts by talking about the misfortunes and misery of those who find themselves behind prison bars? To us, this would seem the best way to throw ourselves against the wall of indifference. This is why, sadly, one should not be surprised that our bulletins and initiatives gather the attention of so few. Surely it would be better to acknowledge that an anti-prison struggle which puts the interests of the prisoners at its centre, does not have much chance of generalizing itself. It necessarily remains confined to a specific population, composed of the prisoners themselves, their friends and their parents.

(Translator’s note: during the last two years, there have been some initiatives of struggle undertaken by Italian prisoners. However, the solidarity remained confined to exactly the aforementioned category of supporters).

This does not mean that one should let the question go, surely not. It simply means that we should recognize the limits of this form of struggle. It means we defend with pride one’s own comrades and those with whom we share certain interests, self-organizing to help them in the best way possible, without waiting for readiness on the outside, prepared to act alone or with a small circle of interested people. But it also means something else. It means that if we want to bring the matter of the prison to people on the outside of its walls, if we want to make our critiques heard by as many people as possible, we need to try another path. And this path is yet to be discovered, traced and opened up. If the reigning indifference is characterized by indifference towards other people, then it makes sense to stop beginning from the point of the plight of the other. If we want to talk to the ones who consider themselves to be living in freedom, outside the prison walls, then we need to talk about them, about their misfortunes, their problems, their condition. Only in this way, perhaps, is it possible to catch their attention. Only in this way, perhaps, can we show them how the distance that separates them from prison is only as thick as a wall.

The increase in legislation which criminalizes any small act that is not ‘obedient’, together with the continued and accelerated erosion of the conditions of survival, each day brings more and more people to the prison doors. Theirs, like ours, is a freedom under surveillance which can be revoked at any time, which associates them with the prisoners more than they think. Outside, as well as inside the prison walls, one is forced to pass under the always careful eye of the camera, and through the door of the metal detector.

Outside, like inside, one lives forced relationships inside spaces which are more and more restricted. In order to be killed by servants of the state, one does not need any longer to be a militant in an armed group, or a demonstrator defending themselves from police charges wearing a balaclava and carrying a fire extinguisher in their hands. It is enough to be a football fan sitting in the parking lot of a motorway cafe, to be caught with a few grams of drugs or to skip a red light on a bike.

(Translator’s note: all these are police murders which have happened in Italy in the last years. Carlo Guiliani was killed during the Genoa riots of 2001, Gabriele Sandri – a Lazio team fan – was murdered in 2007 and Aldo Bianzino was beaten to death in prison in the same year because of possession of marijuana.)

Let us, therefore, overturn our approach to the argument. Let us begin from the prison of daily life, the prison in which we are all of us locked, in order to introduce the topic of the prison itself, the prison in which only some are locked.

This shift in perspective, however, has a distasteful twist and that is, it relegates to a lower level the immediate needs of prisoners. It admits that the claims of the prisoners will not be a priority for those who, at the moment, are ‘luckier’ than them. The reality seems to be that it is the situation outside the prisons which must change before the people on the outside are in a position to prioritize that of the prisoner. And this shift in perspective has practical consequences. For the ones who do make the prisoners their point of reference in struggle, what sense does it make to carry on continuous rallies in front of the prisons?

Already the rally represents a form of struggle with inherent limitations. To make a rally means ‘to defend’. If it makes sense to rally in defence of a valley in order to impede its destruction, how does it make sense to rally in front of a prison? We are not for the defense of the prison walls!

As for the prisoners who are locked inside, it is useless to say that they are in the hands of the enemy. At best, we hope they will feel our presence and that the jailers will understand that it would be better for themselves to use a light hand, a citizenist approach of using presence to put pressure on the authorities so that they respect their own rules and our will.

“Pay attention, they are not alone, for we are here!”

Indeed, we are here…

One has also to consider how often these prisons are located on desolate moors, resulting in the rally being a date between “us” and “them”, the subversives and the pigs, where we exchange insults and bad looks far from the eye of the majority. Certainly, sometimes one manages to soothe for a few hours the painful solitude of the prisoners, and this experience satisfies the one who is determined to do something, anything (which, as we know, is always better than doing nothing) and which fails to satisfy the one who does not feel the virtue of the volunteer.

The case of the prisons still located inside the cities is different. Here, it is still possible to avoid the dead-end contraposition between us and them because it is still possible to involve others, i.e. all those who still coast the prison wall from its better side, but who tomorrow could find themselves on the other.

Taking the ongoing generalization of fear and poverty into account, it appears that it is not successful to bemoan the misfortunes of others, to those who have already closed down to the sufferings of other people. Quite the opposite, it makes more sense to try to show that in reality the suffering of those on the inside and the suffering of those on the outside are two faces of the same coin. That the misfortunes of those who live on one side of the prison walls can transform in a second into experiencing the other side, since we are all of us prisoners in the same world.

And it is in making this point that the distances can shorten, destinies become entangled. It is here that it becomes possible, perhaps, to establish communication.

You can read more articles from Machete here:
machetea.blogspot.com (Eng)    //    macheteaa.org (Italian)    //    abc-berlin.net (German)

Why do we All Live in Prison?    Prison, Law and Social Control

Analysis from anarchists in the USA about the prison-world.

There is a place in this society where one is perpetually under surveillance, where every movement is monitored and controlled, where everyone is under suspicion except the police and their bosses, where all are assumed to be criminals. I am speaking, of course, of prison…

But at an ever-quickening pace, this description is coming to fit more and more public spaces. Shopping malls and the business districts of major cities are under video surveillance. Armed guards patrol schools, libraries, hospitals and museums. One is subject to search at airports and bus stations. Police helicopters fly over cities and even forests in search of crime. The methodology of imprisonment, which is one with the methodology of the police, is gradually being imposed over the entire social landscape.

This process is being imposed through fear, and the authorities justify it to us in terms of our need for protection – from criminals, from terrorists, from drugs and violence. But who are these criminals and terrorists, who are these monsters that threaten us every moment of our fear-filled lives? A moment’s careful consideration is enough to answer this question. In the eyes of the rulers of this world, we are the criminals and terrorists, we are the monsters – at least potentially. After all, we are the ones they are policing and monitoring. We are the ones who are watched on the video cameras and searched at the bus stations. One can only wonder if it is the fact that this is so glaringly obvious that makes people blind to it.

The rule of fear is such that the social order even solicits our aid in our own policing. Parents register their toddlers’ fingerprints with police agencies connected with the FBI.  In addition there are dozens of programs that encourage snitching – a factor that is also reminiscent of prisons where the authorities seek out and reward snitches. Of course other prisoners have a rather different attitude toward these scum.

But all of this is purely descriptive, a picture of the social prison that is being built around us. A real understanding of this situation that we can use to fight against this process requires a deeper analysis. In fact, prison and policing rest on the idea that there are crimes, and this idea rests on the law. Law is portrayed as an objective reality by which the actions of the citizens of a state can be judged. Law, in fact, creates a kind of equality. Anatole France expressed this ironically by pointing out that before the law, beggars and kings alike were forbidden from stealing bread and sleeping under bridges. From this, it is clear that before the law we all become equal, simply because we all become ciphers, non-entities without individual feelings, relationships, desires and needs.

The objective of law is to regulate society. The necessity for the regulation of a society implies that it is not meeting the needs or fulfilling the desires of everyone within it. It rather exists as an imposition on a greater part of those who make it up. Of course, such a situation could only come to exist where inequality of the most significant kind exists – the inequality of access to the means for creating one’s life on one’s own terms. For those with the upper hand, this state of social inequality has the dual name of property and power. For those on the bottom, its name is poverty and subjection. Law is the lie that transforms this inequality into an equality that serves the masters of society.

In a situation in which everyone had full and equal access to all that they need to fulfill themselves and create their lives on their own terms, a wealth of individual differences would flourish. A vast array of dreams and desires would express themselves creating an apparently infinite spectrum of passions, loves and hatreds, conflicts and affinities. This equality in which neither property nor power would exist would thus express the frightening and beautiful non-hierarchical inequality of individuality.

Contrarily, where the inequality of access to the means for creating one’s life exists – i.e., where the vast majority of people have been dispossessed of their own lives – everyone becomes equal, because everyone becomes nothing. This is true even of those with property and power, because their status in society is not based on who they are, but on what they have. The property and the power (which always resides in a role and not in an individual) are all that have worth in this society. Equality before the law serves the rulers, precisely because its aim is to preserve the order in which they rule. Equality before the law disguises social inequality precisely behind that which maintains it.

But, of course, law does not maintain the social order as words. The word of the law would be meaningless without physical force behind it. And that physical force exists in the systems of enforcement and punishment: the police, judicial and prison systems. Equality before the law is, in fact, a very thin veneer for hiding the inequality of access to the conditions of existence, the means for creating our lives on our terms. Reality breaks through this veneer constantly, and its control can only be maintained by force and through fear.

From the perspective of the rulers of this world, we are, indeed, all criminals (at least potentially), all monsters threatening their tranquil sleep, because we are all potentially capable of seeing through the veil of the law and choosing to ignore it and take back the moments of our lives whenever we can on our own terms. Thus, law, itself, (and the social order of property and power which require it) makes us equal precisely by criminalizing us. It is, therefore, the logical outcome of law and the social order that produces it that imprisonment and policing would become universal, hand in hand with the development of the global supermarket.

In this light, it should be clear that there is no use in making laws more just. There is no use in seeking to monitor the police. There is no use in trying to reform this system, because every reform will inevitably play back into the system, increasing the number of laws, increasing the level of monitoring and policing, making the world even more like a prison. There is only one way to respond to this situation, if we would have our lives as our own. To attack this society in order to destroy it.

On Amnesty

An article about resistance and the ways its carried out behind bars.
Published in Insurrection Issue three, 1985

There has been reference in some anarchist papers recently to the ‘struggle for amnesty’ taking place by prisoners in Italy. Even without knowing much of what has been happening there in recent years, it doesn’t take much reflection to see there is a contradiction in terms here. A ‘struggle’ for amnesty is at best a contra-diction, in its true light it is one of the latest swindles by the repressive apparatus of the Italian State, requiring the complicity of a large part of what was once its contestant (at least in its present form) Both inside and outside the prison walls. Hence the rivers of words, theories, justifications and platitudes, amounting to no more than a fairly generalized ‘throwing in the towel’. ‘The War is over’, and the same laws that churned out life sentences and allowed for the release of vile traitors and grasses, are now sanctioning amnesty. The order is: continue the struggle with other means. The ones used till now have made too much noise. Abandon everything. Put aside the class struggle. Abandon the revolution.

First the appearance of the pentiti who abandoned the struggle on a military and political level, passing over to the side of the State and personally taking on the task of strangling all further forms of resistance, resulting in the assassination of four Red Brigades comrades in Genova in 1980 and the arrest of hundreds of com-rades since. Now the appearance of those affirming ‘desertion’. In May 1980 a collective document drawn up by the supporters of the desertion thesis, nearly all ex-Prima Linea, among whom Donat Cattin and Gai, was published by Lotta Continua. This first group of deserters was short-lived. Many of them ended up with a very fine line between themselves and the pentiti, and almost all of them ended up collaborating with the judiciary.

In September 1982, a document appeared known as that of the 51 (the number of signatories) drawing up a way of taking a distance from the struggle; dis-association, proposals for pacification, amnesty, etc. Those who signed this document, mainly from the autonomy area, maintain that combatant positions be condemned, opening the way to a dialectic with the State. Negri, Ferrari, Bravo, Vesce and others say it is necessary to criticize the past radical antagonism and immerse themselves in a dialectic relationship with the ‘healthy’ social and political forces. In this way (they maintain) the State will also find itself forced into self-criticism. New conditions of the political clash will lead not to radical dissent or total opposition, but to dialectic and increased discussion, with the aim of stimulating the State to increasingly democratize itself. In this way the area of disassociation has developed and contains various positions.

One of these positions is that of Scalzone and other refugees in France. They maintain there should be a great mobilization to impose a battle for amnesty for all political prisoners. An armistice has to be drawn up with the State, and the two sides are to bargain over the price of the movement’s defeat.

Another area born within the prisons is that of the so-called decarcerisation (release of prisoners). Its supporters refuse to subscribe to disassociation, but see the need to find other roads to social transformation, passing through pacifist and ecological struggles to a better ‘quality of life’. In their situation as prisoners they want to begin a politico-cultural struggle aimed at reducing the negative effects of segregation. This area are calling for conferences, demonstrations, concerts, exhibitions, production and cultural coops, with the aim of creating social structures that are ‘alternatives to prison’, in a perspective allowing a passage from the dreamed of political revolution to social transformation. This area is rapidly approaching that of the true disassociated and constitutes the so-called homogen-eous area. They organized a conference in Rebibbia prison in Rome last May in which 30 prisoners participated.

Many ex-militants of Prima Linea have taken a road leading to positions of disassociation. Instead of pacification they speak of reconciliation, concluding that conditions in Italy today do not consent the use of armed struggle.

The ‘continuist’ nucleus of the Red Brigades (e.g. Curcio) are enclosed in an unreal irreducibility, insisting on the need for the constitution of the Combatant Communist Party. They have highlighted the limitations and defects of armed struggle and the organizations that have practiced it over the past years. They say it is possible to use revolutionary violence but that it has not managed to unite all the expressions of the proletariat over the past years. A critique has been made of those who lived and still live the myth of the Red Brigades as monolithic armed vanguard. So the concept of the party in the third-internationalist sense has fallen, giving way to the conception of a guerrilla attacking proletarian contradictions from within. In December 1983 they began a hunger strike in the prison of Nuoro against prison conditions. They have since instored a relationship with the Catholic Church, recognizing it in the role of prisoners’ defense.

There also exists, however, a considerable number of comrades who criticize political solutions. They support the need for taking up the struggle again, both inside and outside the prisons and seeing the problem of prison within the whole perspective of liberation from the capitalist system.

“The Attack Continues” by Gabriel Pombo da Silva

This statement was released in January 2010 following the end of a collective struggle carried out in the form of hunger strike, sabotage, demonstrations and other forms of attacks. More info in the News section 2010.

Dear comrades,

Behind us we feel the strength of our gesture of insurgent love; informal and coordinated, lived and felt in as many ways as our creativity, our imagination, our desires and resources, (personal or material), have allowed and guided…

It seems to me that I am not the only one who has been moved by the interest that this hunger strike stirred up, by the demonstration of revolutionary solidarity and its results. I also don’t think I’m the only one that wants to see that all that was experienced and shared during these days remain “only” a gesture… Gestures are for remembering (monuments, comrades, situations, etc.), but IDEAS and ACTIONS are for continuing and advancing…

We have remembered our own, not with the intention of creating “sanctuaries” to mourn at every anniversary, but to keep our comrades present in our lives and actions.

Our comrades have been neither “angels” or “devils”, but conscious individuals who remind us why they fought, and continue to fight. Their death reminds us of the determination of their struggle, a determination that is still alive…

What was the “crime” of Salvador Puig Antich? And the one of Augustin Rueda Sierra? Or the one of Franco Seratini? Or the one of Giuseppe Pinelli? Or the one of Soledad and Edo? Or the one of Carlo Giuliani? Or the one of Paco Ortiz? Or the one of Xose Tarrio? Or the one of Mauricio Morales? What were the “crimes” of these comrades? Should we now be stuck on the organizational label from where their militant practice emerged (those who had one), or focus on the IDEAS they defended?

Do you know where the murderers of our comrades are? Do you know which targets they attacked? The existences they lead? What were their dreams?

I remember Flores Magon once wrote: “It is not the rebels that create problems, but the problems that create rebels”…

Of course! The worlds’ problems are not going to resolve themselves… this is our endeavor.

Personally I will not wait (to act) for the masses (the exploited, the oppressed, the ignorant) to “awaken” … I will also not wait for the “elite” to give up their privileges, for mercenaries to give up their paychecks or become “conscious” of their condition…

Some are guided by fear, others by greed or indifference, while most are buried alive by mental conformism… All of them remind me, day after day, that the solution to problems (personal or political) begins within ourselves. When I witness so called “comrades” scared to raise their voices, to speak clearly, or to take a stance in front of so much injustice, instead remaining silent…this convinces me even more that IDEAS, without will, are worthless. I hope therefore, that nobody is surprised if I continue to defend anarchists who practice direct action… all the Mauricio Morales and the Zoes…

We are not going to waste time and energy trying to convince those who have given up on direct action for a position in a union… or those who “talk shit,” but live a drab existence… They are not useful to the revolution.
From within ourselves we find the choice of being “object”, “subject” or protagonists of our own existence.

(…)

During these days of action, December 20th to January 1st, which are in memory and tribute to our fallen (or murdered) comrades, we have found many things that reaffirm our methods and confirm others: our IDEAS and desires will continue on the offensive (with unconfined expectations).

This initiative would have not been successful without all of those who participated and committed themselves to it; the comrades that took part in the hunger strike (from the inside) and those who contributed equally with their reflections; those who distributed and translated communiqués and texts, those who manifested (in hundreds of ways) and participated in solidarity demos or made murals, and those who sought the complicity of the night to place explosives and fire starters, or those brothers who grabbed their weapons and expropriated those capitalist temples of exploitation – helping the struggle and themselves meet material needs…and of course the great action in Tijuana where they kicked off the new year by machine gunning some mercenary patrols…

Yes, we are aware of everything that has happened and we’re proud of it! Thank you to everyone, comrades, for being there, for your solidarity, and for your revolutionary love…

With every action or demonstration we create bonds and feelings of complicity that make each other stronger in the current social war. Aside from this, everything that happens is being forged in our histories and in our warrior conscience…

Together we broke isolation and fake separations; we demonstrated our “operative” force, strength, anger and love, internationalism and combative commitment from a decentralized and anti-authoritarian perspective…
I am agreeing with what was written by comrades at “presos a la calle” (a big hug!) when they declared, “It is not possible to rely soley on affinity-based mobilizations, or, exclusively on those reactionary in character. There is a possible equilibrium, and it is imperative to know when to use certain specific forms of struggle. This is why we cannot write-off reactionary mobilizations (fighting for an end to raids, to isolation, to displacement etc..), but likewise, cannot dismiss those based in affinities, about which some deluded people say there is nothing concrete to be earned.”

So, even though we are often gaining nothing concrete (for example in our struggle against FIES, against raids, or against the evictions of our spaces etc.), even if we are engaged in retaliatory/vindictive struggles, we still keep going… On the other hand, struggles shouldn’t be measured in terms of value dictated by the market: either you “win” or “lose”… In fact there are “losses” that help us to grow, and “victories” that fall short (even though at first it doesn’t seem so). These struggles are not a competition, but processes that develop with the intention of changing or destroying the powers that destroy us.

Our ability to obtain the goals that we set, succeeding at what is projected or being left half-way there, depends on our own capacities and resources.

What can never be taken away from us is what we learn from these journeys (our memories and experiences) and above all no one can ever say that we didn’t try with all our means.

As hard as it is to admit this, not all the factors in these processes are in our hands, or only in the hands of the forces in power. But, we have at our disposal a huge theoretic and practical arsenal to put to the test. We will not make one method more sacred than another… some of them will be effective… it all depends on the destination that you chasing…

I take this occasion to greet those who were subject to the repression of the authorities during the demonstration in Santiago, Chile, on December 23rd: Strength to you, comrades!

I also send my greetings to comrades at Culmine and their projects: informal reflections, hunger strike not-til-death, international ties, informal insurrectional project… for those interested please check out culmine.noblogs.org. This is also a reminder that two comrades from Culmine will be sentenced on January 19th*…

Let’s be alert and ready to express our solidarity towards these comrades. All my solidarity to them and all my disgust to those who rail against the anarchist!!

This is a call out to all my internationalist brothers regarding the arrest of the Mexican comrade Socorro Molinero Armenta… does someone know the address where I can write him?

Good, then for now I’ll stop writing… we shall continue to debate the proposals arriving from Culmine and Presos a la Calle to deepen our thoughts on topics and questions brought up.

A strong anarchist and revolutionary hug to all our accomplices.

Gabriel Pombo Da Silva,

Extermination camp in Aachen, Germany

January 2010

To End with the Image of the Anti-Prison Struggle

A statement and analysis by (ex-)ABC Antwerp explaining their choice to disband as an Anarchist Black Cross organization.

It’s a well known topic. Revolutionaries have always been confronted with it and will probably always be. It’s about the tension between the analysing of the reality of the struggle and the methods of organisation and struggle that you make your own. And about the evidence that almost every method of organisation that is not based on reciprocal knowledge, affinity and informality ends with producing a caricature and stimulating certain detrimental behaviours. Even more, it is impossible to separate the question of organisation from the content of a specific project or perspective.

It’s in this much schematised order that we want to clarify some of our choices and ideas. We don’t intent to point the finger towards comrades or to deny certain dynamics’ natural development (meaning time, experiences and mistakes). On the other hand, we’re only deceiving ourselves if we wouldn’t dare to criticise certain problematic realities within what one could call, with some good will, the ‘anarchist movement’. Maybe we differ ideas with a number of comrades that struggle on the same terrain (prison in all its forms) and then it’s good that these differences find their expression. On this theme, a series of texts and critiques have circulated that inspired us in the development of our project. We hope that the different comrades, each of them in his context and with her ideas, can use these experiences and considerations to sharpen their project.

It’s not a coincidence that the social ice age we’re living at the moment, also has its consequences within the anarchist movement. Seen the lack of clear perspectives and lost force to “storm the heavens”, it’s almost logical that a part of the movement is reduced/reduces itself to a form of cheap folklore. One of the terrains where this misery flourishes abundantly is that of the struggle against prison. It seems to have become one of the chosen terrains to surround oneself with an aureole of radicalism and importance. Usually, certainly for those that aspire for a little more than easily consumable solidarity declarations, the emptiness and lack of perspective festers out quickly. It’s very easy to give the image to the inside that you’re ‘active’, because prisoners happen to have less means to grasp what is happening outside, to put it in the context and to possibly oppose it. This image suffices to gain credit of other comrades while, in reality, contact with imprisoned comrades are not maintained, real will to fight against prison is lacking (or is almost extinct after so many negative experiences and so much pose instead of real struggle), promises are made but not kept and necessary continuity is lacking (prisoners are most of the time a little longer imprisoned than for some months). While promising logos continue to flourish abundantly, some take their conclusions.

The so-called struggle against prison sometimes resembles more a sort of anti-repression activism. Information has become the only goal and the diffusers of information are the guardians of solidarity. And this information loses more and more of its meaning, because there’s made use of less and less. It’s not being discussed, nor thought about how blows against comrades could be forged to an intensification of the struggle. The only thing that seems to matter is the diffusing of the information that stands on itself and there, the logos also flourish abundantly. One repressive story follows the next, the blow against the movement is consumed as a spectacle with only spectators and the imprisoned comrades are often detached of their struggle context and ideas.

Solidarity cannot be reduced to the ’spreading of information’. We understand solidarity as a permanent attempt or tension to on the one hand continue the struggle of the imprisoned comrades and on the other hand to actively involve prisoners in discussions, in struggles outside,… To use a slogan which content has been so eroded in many ‘anti-prison milieus’: “Our solidarity is not charity”. Indeed, our solidarity is based on a shared revolt, shared ideas, shared perspectives. That’s for us the starting point and one of the only ways to fight against the isolation that the State tries to impose on certain comrades.

From this angle, the question of ‘political’ and ’social’ prisoners could be undermined. It’s not enough to proclaim that there wouldn’t be a difference. The only criterion that we want to use for our solidarity is whether we share something of revolt or ideas with certain prisoners (detained for revolutionary or survival practices). In this sense, we made the choice not to twist and turn in order to express specific solidarity with imprisoned members of authoritarian groups or famous ‘criminals’ which criticisable aspects are persistently put aside. We think that the choice to base solidarity on shared revolt offers more than other choices the possibility of putting forward in a clear way the anarchist perspective of the destruction of prison and its world. Not only towards other prisoners, but also towards oppressed and excluded in the street.

While some circles’ demagogy of ‘political prisoners’ makes us puke ever more, on the anarchist side, it sometimes seems to incline towards the contrary. Every prisoner that rebels is put on a pedestal and gets the etiquette with ’social rebel’. This is a logical consequence of the detrimental mentality of not leaving from an own, autonomous perspective, but attempting to obstinately discover ’subjects’ everywhere. We try to develop a struggle of our own, even with few, with a clear basis and practice. We no longer want to fool ourselves by putting etiquettes no matter where. Moreover, this image that is given of certain prisoners impeaches any real discussion, so any development of a shared perspective. Prisoners are made to something that is put above us and to the inside we send a complete falsified image of the outside movement’s determination and strength. In this way, we’re not only deceiving imprisoned comrades, but first of all ourselves. The result is bitterness and aversion, inside and outside.

Finally, we also think that we should do everything to avoid that the struggle against prison and solidarity with imprisoned comrades is detached from other struggles. We have to look for possibilities and occasions to insert the question of prison in other struggles and vice versa. Concretely, it has always seemed absurd to not combine the struggle against prison with for example the struggle against detention centres for illegalised people. It puts us in a dead end to, for example, only talk to prisoners about prison, we should also bring up other aspects of dominion, we should talk about everything that includes our anarchist perspective. Even though this can sometimes lead to ruptures (what we wish to do with money is for example not likely to appeal to many thieves). In this sense, we are very aware of the limits of a publication like La Cavale and we take it as a challenge to surmount those limits. On the other hand, La Cavale has always been a – moderate – instrument in our activity around the ongoing agitation in Belgian prisons, because we have never considered counter-information and analyses as an ending point but only as a first step, a start.

We want to continue in the direction that always seemed the most fertile: basing our relations on shared perspectives in relation to the struggle against prison, on real affinity, and not on an image that keeps eroding itself irrevocably. That’s why we’ve decided to stop using the logo Anarchist Black Cross. We see this not as a step backwards or a step back but as a step forward to further deepen and sharpen our project, a project that is directed towards prison and its world and that connects with the agitation in Belgian prisons and the every day struggle of imprisoned comrades.

Ex-”Anarchist Black Cross Antwerp”

Contact for further correspondence and discussion:

Boîte postale 187

Rue du progrès 80

1210 Brussels

Belgium

uitbraak@gmail.com

On revolutionary solidarity, prisoner struggle and the noise demo of Nov. 6 2009 at the foreign detention centre in Zaandam

Analysis from a participant in a noise demonstration at a prison for migrants in Holland.

olieophetvuur | 19 November, 2009 13:23

We would like to discuss two aspects of the noise demo, in order to practically and theoretically progress our anti prison struggle, from within the prison walls and from the open air prison we are all living in. The two points we want to bring up are: firstly about our views on how we see the role of solidarity within the anti prison struggle, and secondly about our expectations within our own movement in Holland, and what we consider some of its shortcomings.

There was a moment during the demo when we saw the opportunity to switch our presence from a passive show of solidarity, to a more active participation against institutional repression and authority. This was after 40 minutes of shouting back and forth slogans (FUCK THE POLICE; SOLIDARITE AVEC LES SANS PAPIERS; NO BORDERS NO NATIONS, STOP DEPORTATIONS; NO PRISONS NO BORDER, FUCK LAW AND ORDER; OUR PASSION FOR FREEDOM IS STRONGER THAN YOUR PRISONS). The prisoners that were at that moment taking air started climbing on the gates, ignoring the screws, and refused to go inside. The tension that was being created between individuals expressing their disgust towards the illegalization of people, started crossing the line of the legal predetermined way this expression should fit into. In the moment that we realized that this line was being crossed, we left. The reason for this was explained as “it is not us that are going to get punished for this (put in isolation or something), but them. By being here we are only going to encourage this”.

This brings us to the first point, about how we see the role of solidarity within an anti prison struggle. At the risk of talking about prison in a romanticized, naive way, we will never consider the decision of a prisoner to disobey orders, and for one moment reclaiming the dignity of choice and self determination these laws try to strip, as something we shouldn’t encourage or be in solidarity with. This is the moment when we saw there could have been the opportunity to take this spectator role of someone else’s “unjust” misery, into collectively and openly engaging in the struggle against this (same) system that oppresses all of our lives.

For example, there were three cops (with radios, of course) present at the time, “supervising” us. They also left an empty cop car right behind the corner, still in view of some of the prisoners. Well, everyone’s own imagination of an empty cop car can fill in what could have happened next….

In our view the (limited) cop presence, controlling that our demo was peaceful and law obeying, is just another expression of the prison society that locked up the people on the other side of the water. We were not there to fight for them, or to give pity. We were there as individuals who also hate and are repressed by the prison system’s existence whether or not we’re on the “inside” or “outside” fighting against the surveillance, isolation, control and security culture that is imposed on our lives. We are struggling against its coercion for our own freedom and dignity. This struggle includes the very important component of active solidarity manifesting in each individual’s continuation of this struggle in their own lives, by their own means.

Preventive repression has pacified people’s anger, turning it into fear and paranoia. It convinces us of being privileged, something we should preserve and protect from unpredictable changes. (Which privilege? The one of not being behind bars? Having the right colour passport?) In our opinion every missed chance to feed these tensions is another further step towards the coöperation with and submission to this prison world.

As much as we could be accused of not knowing from our own personal experience what it’s like to face serious prison time, we’re not naive enough to think that prison is not a realistic threat that applies to our life, more or less intensely, in every single moment. Its mere existence imposes limitations on everyone’s freedom. Maintaining the distance above this reality and considering it something that could only happen to others, is including yourself in the spectacle, not in the struggle.

This brings us to the next point:

Why didn’t anything on our part kick off, even given a rare moment of favourable circumstances? This time, like all others, we could go on listing hundreds of reasons to talk ourselves out of “going for it”, choosing to de-escalate because of the insecurity and uncertainty of engaging in something we cannot predict the outcome of.

We are not promoting kamikaze missions for some idealistic and unrealistic fetishism of the revolution, and do recognize that there is still an infinite amount of patient and consistent work to be done for the destruction of this prison world (that doesn’t only include militant situations). However, we are dissatisfied with the frustration and dis-empowerment that these missed opportunities leave. We were part of a situation where the people explicitly behind bars were putting their last bit of freedom on the line engaging in a rebellious act and we were unwilling and unprepared to step it up, to gamble with whatever illusion of freedom we think we have.

We have the impression that especially in Holland opportunities of escalation or of spontaneous and subversive collective action are not even taken into consideration as a realistic tactic, or as an essential part of our struggle, or as an urgent desire.

When you put yourself in a situation with strangers and/or comrades to “protest”, this should not be a moment predetermined in its format and outcome. With any spark these situations could lead to rage manifesting itself without the distinction of the “good” legal way and the “bad” illegal way. That is playing their game, by their rules.

We find that much discussion on this topic needs to take place within any movement, especially in this country. We are living in a place where the reality of arrest is actually quite common. However, we see the main attitude towards these arrests, or the reasons why people choose to put themselves in these situations, still complying to the morality of the law. Still caught between these distinctions of being innocent or guilty, taking action in a way to show how the cops are “wrong” and we are “right”, or fighting for something because it “should be legal.” Fuck that… We are against all hierarchical power and authority, controlling our and everyone else’s life. We don’t give a shit if cops are “wrong” or “right”, we simply don’t want these power structures to exist..

Therefore we see that opposing attitudes on this point are creating situations of distrust during demos etc., where people separate themselves from having to take part in a form of protest that is consciously disregarding the lines between legal and illegal. However, we are always in some way prepared and expecting for the pigs to be provoking or escalating these situations out of their own spontaneous, irrational whims, and to some extent even accepting this (does anyone remember the noise demo at the same spot 2 years ago, when all the demonstrators were mass arrested for 3 days, because the gates were open and some people decided to take the demo inside? The main attitude of this arrest was “but we didn’t do anything”, or “this is unfair”.).

We would not like to come across as pushy, arrogant thugs who want to convince others how they should act and show their solidarity, in fact we encourage most forms (appropriate for the opportunity and intention). This critique is not meant as a personal attack, but as a challenge to the predetermined invisible frame our ways of struggling are locked into.

These points of discussion are coming out as much from the observation of the movement in this country as from self reflection. We hope that the possibilities of a discussion can push our creativity and desires outside these self imposed and system-submissive boundaries.

…For our theory to be practice and our passion to be action…

Until we are all free

Destroy all prisons!

No Responses to “Ideas for Discussion”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: