notes from the morning strategy discussion
Issues discussed included the legitimization of political repression
after September 11, international legal cooperation, immigration and repression
worldwide, and a theoretical analysis of social control.
Today's meeting had representatives from Droits Devant!, Sans Papiers, Indymedia,
WOMBLES, Social Centres Network, Federation Anarchiste, and NO BORDER.
- Issues discussed included the legitimization of political repression after
September 11, international legal cooperation, immigration and repression
worldwide, and a theoretical analysis of social control.
- Repression in society includes jails, surveillance, police violence, etc,
but also schools, mental hospitals, and social institutions. There is also
internal repression within the movement, but that's another debate. Political
repression includes riot police and governmental discrimination against
- Migration control at the national level is linked to the international
question of criminal (in)justice and social control: repression is the stigmatization
of certain groups, targeting them for criminalization as an example to keep
the wider society quiet and afraid. The creation of a moral system (good
vs. bad) divides populations and groups to divide populations and to pit
groups against each other. Repression is the visible manifestation of the
invisible, ubiquitous system of social control, which is reinforced by the
paranoia and internal divisions among activists who wish to remain within
the rubric of "civil society". We should stop activist self-victimization,
whereby people feel as though they are victims of persecution because they
are subversive; in truth, we are victims of persecution only because society
needs someone to persecute to reinforce social control.
- Among women, self-oppression and self-censorship happen all the time.
The feminist critique has always been that society pushes control processes
to transform people into objects. The feminist response has always been
solidarity, via associations, collectives, etc., but new "anti-association"
law enforcement such as the Madrid Declaration criminalizes people even
for signing a petition or attending a meeting.
- In Scandinavia, there is a public myth of a conflict-free society. Before
September 11, the question of sans-papiers was not part of public discourse.
Now, sans-papiers are seen as a huge social threat. In France,immigration
has been very politicized because it highlights the historic French relationship
with the French-speaking colonized world. While Francophone regions are
not important to mainstream French society, colonized populations are divided
by poverty, environmental destruction, overarmament -- divisions created
by the French to control local elites. In France, immigrants are denied
basic rights because the rights of the citizen are tied to work: people
who do not have the right to work are denied health, services, autonomy,
etc. One activist present had previously been deported back to his home
country in the company of 5 police, who treated him brutally, as if he were
a criminal. He wonders whether the violence comes from the police, the State,
or the entire power structure.
- Another activist countered that to say, "I was treated like a criminal"
begs the question of "who is a criminal"? We shouldn't argue against
unjust repression or unfair persecution, because there is no such thing
as just repression or fair persecution. All prisoners are political prisoners;
all prisoners are prisoners of war. We must have solidarity with all prisoners,
and create Direct Action Networks for resistance both within prisons and
detention centers and outside of them. It is now time, not only to defend
people in reaction to police repression, but to create an overall framework
for offensive struggle against social control.
- There is a mechanism for removing a society's sense of responsibility.
The first step is fear of the monstrous "other", whether that
be criminals, foreigners, poor people, terrorists, mentally ill people,
or any other group. The second step is that the society becomes incapable
of making rational decisions as to who fits into the category of "the
other," and so society considers itself the victim. Society then abnegates
its own responsibility for having created this "other," and hands
off its undesireables to technical institutions to be handled by the experts
(jails, mental hospitals, schools, etc.) After September 11, all of society
and the government itself considered itself the helpless victim, leaving
the responsibility for reaction to be taken by the head of the military.
Historically, the final step is the "humanization" of repression,
via prison reform, educational reform, psychiatric reform, etc. Stigmatized
people are to be "rehabilitated, for their own good." The job
of the police and the army is now done by civil democratic society's army
of social workers, priests, teachers, social agencies and institutions,
etc. Repression is total.
- The criminalization of "hooliganism" is really just a tool of
class war. One UK activist noted, "Whenever working-class people get
together in the street, police attack them. They treat us all as criminals
whether we are political or not, because they think that we are low class,
that we are scum, and that is the way they have always dealt with it throughout
history. ...We need to have more mass presence in the streets, to hold the
streets, to keep the police from taking over, not just during demos, but
all the time." We need to create free spaces both in the streets and
elsewhere by occupying buildings and creating centres.
- The idea of increased repression since September 11 is a red herring.
Police violence, repression, random raids, concentration camps... none of
this is new. The media and the state use the spectre of September 11 to
create a culture that justifies repression in the light of the threat from
the outside world.
- To combat this culture of paranoia, Indymedia UK created links with mainstream
civil liberties groups and trade unions. Now it is time to expand those
networks of solidarity, to get the mainstream groups who are in solidarity
with Indymedia to support the more marginalized groups that Indymedia also
- In France, the "Islamicist Attacks" of 1995 justified an increased
army presence in subways and public spaces. Since the last elections, police
are everywhere and are secure that they will not be criticized for violence.
The new interior minister, Sarkozy, is in favor of more jails, more prisoners,
and targeting immigrants especially, especially Blacks and Arabs
- In 1998, in France, 150 people from Mali were deported en masse. They
resisted, smashed up the airplane, and hurt their deporting officers. Since
then, there have been no more mass deportations of a single population.
It is necessary to mobilize the trade unions, churches, and elements of
mainstream society as to how the repression of migrants represses them as
well, so that they can act in solidarity against deportations.
- The WOMBLES in UK (Britain's verions of Tutte Bianche) are targeted for
extreme police surveillance and persecution, harrassment, demonization and
personal attacks in the mainstream media, and random raids of the social
centres. Everything suspected of being linked to the WOMBLES is criminalized.
- There are many organizations (www.statewatch.org, www.fipr.org.uk, www.apc.org,
www.pi.org, www.corpwatch.org, www.genoaresistence.org, Fortress Europe,
www.a-infos.ca, etc) that deal with the documentation of repression on a
daily basis. We need to establish coordination among these groups so that
they do not create unnecessary work by repeating each other's data. We also
need to establish networks of coordination among the various protest-specific
"legal teams" and among the various national support groups for
the defendants after global summits. This international antirepression collaboration
can be coordinated under the rubric of the European Association of Democratic
Jurists. We cannot organize the whole world, but we can create the resources
and support platforms to provide a context for activists can act more effectively.
Strategy debate 4: how do we react to repression? Afternoon session
These notes are only published in the phorum of the website.
Note that this is not transcription although in some places may look like
a one, all comments have been reconstructed from shorthand, and author might
have been seriously misrepresented here. All protests against this text are
most welcomed to this phorum.
There were only 5 persons in the discussion, from 4 different countries.
There were no introductions, so everyone was asked to tell about their own
interests in regards to the working group.
- Since S11, strategy of the power in regards to our movement has changed.
Before they tried to integrate us, no they want to show us as crazy maniacs.
- Our organisation works in many different fields, we work with immigrants,
we try to create some free places to the suburbs. We plan to organise a
large project in Amsterdam, weekly occupations in the streets where to tell
about about alternatives to the present system. Third field of our activity
is globalization from below. Repression is connected to all of these fields.
There exists a large gap between radical left and the society. We try to
close this this gap. All of our activity faces some repression, for example
we have anti-deportation campaign and now KLM’s security service is
monitoring us. KLM threated us with a court. We try to be a step ahead of
- Our group in Germany is involved in anti-militarist work. Now we are discussion
about the militarization of the society. EU is creating new threatening
laws against terrorism.
- In Holland, a law to remain anonymous in the appeal process was removed,
altough right to remain anonymous in the custody still remains. Still people
who try to remain anonymous are arrested for much longer times and they
face all other kinds of pressure as well. We should also focus on repression
by large corporations.
- It is frustrating that all what I do nowadays ends up to a court case.
The parallel mainstream media does here in Holland between killing of Pim
Fortuyn and throwing him with a pie is very typical, immediately after the
killing of Fortuyn pie-throwers were jailed for 3 days, without his death
it would not have ever happened.
- I have heard from Sweden, that experience of Gothenburg has strenghtened
the Swedish movement. Maybe the same happened in Italy after Genoa.
- I have recognised in Germany, that we must change the street strategies,
otherwise everyone just gets burned out. Suddendly dozens of people get
arrested for nothing, many with heavy felony charges. Radical actions work
only in very well coordinated, small and closed level. But this model of
organisation is very elitistic!
- I had a very strong experience about Strasbourg, we were completely unprepared
to and demoralised by the repression. The main topic of the camp should
have been the action against SIS, now it was in the last day when every
street action had been banned for days and sort of a failure. It should
have been in the first day.
- (In Denmark) it used to be possible to work as part of larger reformist
coalitions, they still want us but without any solidarity, giving all the
kind of strict declarations and requirements and stabbing our back in the
first occasion when something goes against their plans. Now we try to organise
on our own, actions where people may just have some fun.
- I am so tired with discussion about violence, when do these reformists
realize that sooner or later they get beated were they masked or not, and
were they breaking something or not?
- But in Russia it is already like that, in Moscow 28th of May OMON special
forces trashed 80 strong peaceful demonstration called by trotskists in
the cover of Attac, picking up 30 persons and beating them up one hour when
they were arrested. This is actually the present future of West as well,
since the action was banned they had right to do anything. In West as well
more and more actions will be banned.
- In Netherlands, police has started to check people’s documents even
when they are not yet legally forced to show them. Some completely normal,
non-leftist people have been really angered and contacted us. We should
be able to use this kind of feelings.
- I got my DNA taken in the UK. They claim that they destroyed it when I
was cleaned from charges, but who knows which kind of backups they have?
They also used some violence since I refused to give it at first.
- In Denmark, social security number was introduced some 20 years ago. This
has made life of illegal immigrants we are helping radically more difficult,
they are completely forced to work in prostitution or other such kind of
business connected to the criminal world. It is a difference with France,
there are so many immigrants that they just cannot be their eyes on them
all the time. In Denmark there is no such community of illegals, and life
is much harder.
- Maybe repression makes our movement more stronger, aware of the world
- There is a very radical development in Germany, Stoiber has promised that
army will be used against demonstrators if he wins the coming-up elections.
- I was in Yerusalem lately, and arabic areas were an example about how
long the surveillance may go. In each space like this room there were 4
or some cameras. But still the people got used, and resistance took new
- One field is completely lacking in our discussion, it is the prisoner
solidarity. For example in Germany people seem to have completely forgotten,
that there still are people for RAF actions imprisoned, people who have
been in there the last 20 years.
- I think animal rightists have organised this one the best way, they have
really well organised prisoner support network.
- I have also recognised that (in Germany) people are less and less aware
about how they should behave when arrested, they are giving testimony against
themselves and the others just to get away more faster.
- In Holland there is an old fund which pays peoples fines and gives other
legal support, it has been bit unactive lately and there are no enough donations,
but we try to activate it again.
- Activism should not be just a play. People should be aware, that there
might be some very serious consequences from it. A week-end in jail is hardly
a problem to anyone, but 8 months is. The raising repression gives more
and more challenges to the prisoner support work.
- It is clear that police will ban actions. In Strasbourg, people were so
damn afraid, it was so demoralizing that they were silenced. Huge feeling
of the weakness.
- Very good example of functioning prisoner solidarity is the Polish Anarchist
Black Cross. It is propably the most functioning part of the international
network. They even have an insurance system to insure you against any kind
of repression, both fines and lawyer costs. This insurance covers 600 persons
- In Denmark we have also a functioning support group. It has helped Danish
prisoners of international mobilization.
- In Berlin we have also such a group which has helped the German arrested.
- But the problem in this kind of organisation is that people of less-active
countries maybe do not get support. The guy who got the biggest sentence
after Prague was a Hungarian, and no-one knew him.
- In Sweden, after the difficulties of the beginning, the solidarity group
helped also the Danish and German arrested.
- Young people who have just got involved should understand importance of
the legal support work.
- In Holland, they use more and more criminal damage-charges. And refusal
to obey police order is usual as well.
- Maybe more important that not getting afraid of the depression is to be
flexible and prepared.
- Actually I think most important is to keep doing the thing we are doing.
For example in Strasbourg some people wanted to organise 24 hour picket
in front of the police station, but if I was arrested, I would have had
rather liked people to organise as good other actions as possible and not
to spend so much efforts to solidarity with arrested ones, it would have
had result of police success to disturb us.
- As a sort of conclusion, maybe I would say that we need more readiness
to examine ones strategies. We need support groups.
- And embassy actions. If there is repression in Russia, people in Berlin
should be immediately in the embassy doing something. Like in the eighties
when there were demonstrations against Reagan in Berlin, people were dancing
in the streets of Managua…
- We need to be in the streets, not just e-mail bombing… and we should
inform the large public what is going on.
- For example I have been planning to have demonstration against mobile
phone companies, with theme “if you want to monitor us, it is you
who should pay, not me!”
- Yes, one functioning small support group is definitely better than e-mail
appeal sent to ten thousand adresses. The latter seldom results any reaction.
But if we need some e-mail network, the one of North-American Anarchist
Black Cross Network has a quite well-functioning structure.
- In Holland, a large company which has movie theatres, casinos and other
such places banned me for a year from their area after a small action against
small part of their activities.
- Maybe we should make difference between civil rights and human rights
here. Sometimes I feel like civil rights are much more violated in West
although human rights are much more violated in Russia. In Finland it is
total control, if you do not pay your fines you are sure as hell imprisoned
some day. And if you have to pay compensation for damages, they for sure
will get any sum of money squeezed from your tax refunds. Civil rights violations
are not dangerous but they demoralize you, for example in Finland there
was a time when certain people got their houses searched and computers taken
every year. But in Russia this total control does not work, if they order
you to go to court for a misdemeanor but leave you to go before that you
will never be sentenced, you case won’t be in computer but in some
cardfile with billions of other cards. Instead the control in Russia is
much more irrational and hard-handed, you maybe won’t get beaten up
but you may as well get beaten up very much, and it is not so long time
when activists get last time killed by police or by private security guards.
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