by Gustavo Rodriguez
Direct solidarity with imprisoned anarchists
–Gabriel Pombo Da Silva; Dinos Giagtzoglou, Alfredo Cospito; Anna Beniamino, Nicola Gai; Marco Bisesti, Christos Rodopoulos, Lisa Dorfer, Michael Kimble, Eric King, Monica Caballero, Francisco Solar and, all the anarchist comrades in prison around the world.
“For me, I chose the struggle […] I faced society with its same weapons, without bowing my head…”
Severino Di Giovanni
“The burning of atheists, the reprobation of homosexuals or incestuous people, the segregation of “madmen” and the imprisonment of outlaws are just different ways of integrating and repressing anyone who goes beyond the limits established by the norm […].
Prisons, nursing homes, democratic therapies and orthopedic treatments are just different ways of applying the same faith in a model.”
Canenero, number 3, November 11, 1994
The international week of solidarity with imprisoned anarchists is the fruit of the efforts of several groups of the Anarchist Black Cross/Cruz Negra Anarquista (ABC/CNA) who were determined to set a date of solidarity in the calendar for our comrades who have been kidnapped by the State. From the summer of 2013, this laudable initiative offers us the opportunity to reaffirm our unconditional support and to send a strong message to the enemy, confirming that our brothers and sisters are not alone. This year, moreover, we will be able to dedicate this effort to comrade Stuart Christie, who has just left us.
A tireless disseminator of the anarchic struggle and architect of the resurrection of the ABC/CNA in the 1960s, Stuart promoted solidarity with our prisoners in that adverse scenario that made them invisible through the hegemonic imposition of the Marxist vulgate [trans. Latin version of the ‘Holy Bible’], condemning their struggles from a very powerful machinery of amplification ad infinitum -with headquarters in Moscow and branches in Havana- that only recognized their strategic allies as “political prisoners “1 or “prisoners of war”2 and condemned to ostracism any other action that was not located in the logic of the “Cold War” and the operations financed from the counter-intelligence offices of the so-called “really existing socialism”.
For this reason, I welcome the fact that on this day of solidarity, our limited resources are being directed to specifically anarchist prisoners, “shaving” the list of authoritarians, nationalists, misogynous, homophobes, spies and fundamentalist religious leaders, which often includes some charitable and liberal Christians on steroids crouched in our stores. On this occasion, we do list anarchist comrades – or anti-authoritarian people close to the proposals of anarchist struggle – locked up in the dungeons of domination. Hence the importance of this new week of solidarity ninety-three years after the legal assassination of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, comrades who were irreducible to the last consequences.
The first three decades of the 20th century were difficult years for anarchic action, beset by the advance of totalitarian forces and the relentless hunt for their agents. In the incipient Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), red fascism was imposed by blood and fire with Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) at its head; in the Italian boot, fascism dominated since 1922, with Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini as Duce of the Italian Social Republic; in the Iberian Peninsula, Spanish style fascism was consolidated after the coup d’état of Catalonia’s captain general, Miguel Primo de Rivera, in 1923; In Germany, the German National Socialist Workers’ Party (NSDAP) was created, immediately gaining support among German workers and peasants motivated by racism and patriotism; in Portugal, the military dictatorship gave way to the Estado Novo of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar; in Poland, the dictatorship of Józef Klemens was established Piłsudski and; in Austria, austrofascism with Engelbert Dollfuß; events that provided a gloomy outlook for the development of our struggles.
However, despite the unfavourable conditions, the desire to reorganise an acrimonious international co-ordination – inspired by the mythical Black International of 1881 – which would restore the insurrectionary impetus to Anarchy and encourage the spread of war against all authority, gained momentum among the informal groups and anarchic individuals of the time. Sacco and Vanzetti are just a couple of names from that persistent gang that did everything possible to make that dream come true. Disseminated throughout the world, many of these comrades managed to articulate an international coordination that made propaganda for the deed concrete again. To that end, Nicola and Bartolomeo would move to the north of Mexico in the first months of 1917, with the intention of joining the anarchic insurrectional struggle. They would soon be disappointed, identifying the Mexican “revolution” as a fratricidal struggle between rival sides for control of the state. Back in the U.S., they would join the group of Italian anarchists grouped around the newspaper Cronaca Sovversiva, where they would also actively collaborate. That particular group would make history with the expropriations and their actions of propaganda by the deed throughout the American territory.
The forceful actions of these comrades would lead them to become the most persecuted anarchic group by the federal authorities in the United States. However, the accommodation of history -and not only of “official” history but also of historiography of a libertarian nature- would silence their actions and their theoretical contributions. Legalistic anarchism” would take care of providing Sacco and Vanzetti with a false history, turning them first into “victims”, and then into “martyrs”, to end up canonizing them in the same way they had done before with the anarchists of Chicago: “The Chicago Martyrs”.
With the exception of the contributions of the historian Paul Avirich – who delved into the anarchist activity of that period – and an essay by Alfredo Bonanno, the rest of the literature published on the case insists on the “innocence” of the comrades Sacco and Vanzetti, and denies that they were involved in the expropriation of South Braintree for which they would end up being condemned to death.
The expropriations were part of the consequent action of the group in which Sacco and Vanzetti were strongly involved. At that time, there were countless expropriations. The funds collected were used to help fellow prisoners and their families, to print anarchist propaganda and to pay for attacks – so-called reprisals – against representatives of the power.
The assassination of Sacco and Vanzetti in Massachusetts would be the trigger for the anarchist action of 1927. In Havana, Montevideo and Buenos Aires, dynamite exploded in response to the crime of the State. The money from an expropriation in Paterson would be transmuted into nitroglycerine, destroying the Italian consulate in Buenos Aires; the funds from a new robbery in Los Angeles would become the raw material required for the powerful bombing of J.P. Morgan’s headquarters in the heart of Wall Street; the imprisonment and torture of comrades in any city in the world would be assured in advance of a punctual retaliation where the enemy would least expect it. International solidarity was once again a reality that went beyond words!
From August 23 to 30, we will have the opportunity once again to make visible the life stories behind the anarchic struggle and to denounce – without victimhood – the daily abuses that our comrades face. However, these seven days of anti-prison activism are only a symbolic act that tries to spread awareness about the situation of imprisoned anarchists. From the perspective of the informal and insurrectionary anarchist tendency, the 365 days of the year are of direct solidarity with those who are imprisoned for promoting the struggle against power in all corners of the planet.
That is why, when we declare that anarchic solidarity is more than words, we not only refer to our accomplices in their struggles and, to the economic and emotional support of our prisoners, but we also ratify the foundations of our struggle. Of course, there is no more appropriate support for our imprisoned comrades than to coordinate their escape or to blow up the bus that transports their jailers, but we don’t always have the means for these spectacular actions; nevertheless, there are many ways to show our support and to concretize solidarity with imagination. There are an infinite number of actions capable of obstructing the prison complex and these only require a little prior investigation in order to be carried out. Of course, any attack on the system of domination beyond the symbols will always bring them joy by evoking the smell of gunpowder and its implications.
Prison is a frequent possibility for those of us who assume ourselves to be remorseless anarchists. A latent threat at every step of the practice. However, when we have to face up to this hazardous fact, it does not mean the end of our war against domination but the beginning of a new struggle full of daily battles that, in order to fight them – and survive physically and emotionally – require the occasional assistance of our comrades on the outside. Prison is not that mythical place that humanist liberals fantasize about. There is nothing to exalt about the condition of prisoners. Its high walls are not home to fledgling insurgents or pure anti-authoritarians. Behind the barbed wire is a broken and caged mirror that reflects society as a whole. “Inside” inhabits the same fauna of careerists, authoritarians, abusers, religious, informants, moralists, corrupts and rapists, hand in hand with a proportion of voluntary servitude identical to that found day-to-day outside. It is precisely in this hostile environment, facing the state beast face to face, that one has to survive by weaving bonds of affinity, not on ideological assumptions but in consistent and refractory practice, and for this it is essential to know that we have not been abandoned and that every attack on this system of domination carries a dedication of guttural shards impregnated with sulfur and potassium nitrate. After all, all we can do is get our hands on gunpowder and show solidarity by bringing Anarchy to life.
Planet Earth, August 17, 2020
1. According to Carl Aage Norgaard, former president of the European Commission on Human Rights: “A political prisoner is a person who is imprisoned because of his political beliefs and activities”. The concept is regularly used to qualify politically transgressive behaviour that has been committed for political reasons. When these offences against the State or the Constitution have been committed without recourse to violence, a person is usually credited with being a “prisoner of conscience” as defined by Amnesty International: “A person imprisoned or otherwise physically restrained on account of his political, religious or other conscientious beliefs, as well as his ethnic origin, gender, colour, language, national or social origin, property status, birth, sexual orientation or other circumstances, provided that he has not resorted to violence or advocated its use.”
2. Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of 1949 defines a prisoner of war as “a person belonging to one of the following categories who has fallen into the hands of the enemy: 1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict and members of militias and volunteer corps forming part of those armed forces; 2. Members of other militias and volunteer corps, including those of organised resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if that territory is occupied, provided that these militias or volunteer corps, including such organised resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions: (a) they are commanded by a person who is responsible for their subordinates; (b) they have a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance; (c) they carry their weapons in sight; (d) they conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war; (3. Members of the regular armed forces who follow the instructions of a government or authority not recognized by the Detaining Power; 4. Persons who follow the armed forces without actually being an integral part of them, such as civilian members of military aircraft crews, war correspondents, suppliers, members of working units or of services responsible for the welfare of military personnel, provided that they have received authorization from the armed forces which they accompany, and that the latter are required to provide them, for that purpose, with an identity card similar to the attached model; 5. Crew members, including masters, pilots and cabin boys of the merchant navy and the crews of civil aviation of the Parties to the conflict who do not benefit from more favourable treatment under other provisions of international law; 6. The population of a non-occupied territory which, on the approach of the enemy, spontaneously takes up arms to fight the invading troops, without having had time to constitute itself into a regular armed force, if it carries arms in plain sight and respects the laws and customs of war”. Available at: https://www.icrc.org/es/doc/resources/documents/treaty/treaty-gc-3-5tdkw… (Consulted 16/8/2020). The so-called “insurgent armies” and Leninist guerrilla groups have added to the concept “those persons who have been detained for having broken the legal framework by publicly declaring war on a state, fighting for a revolutionary political structural change of the state”.