PGA Strategy

 Strategy: Welfare/Control States (long version)

author: PGA Discussion Groups & Workshops - 03.09.2002 22:47

A summary from all the strategy discussions that took place during the PGA European Conference, using the theme of 'the transition from the welfare state to states of control' to encompass all the subjects. (Longer than previous version)

Conclusions from the Strategical Debate

Looking at the transition from the Welfare State to a Controlled State:

Political activists in europe and world wide, independent from actual actions, have been victims of different forms of repression. It sometimes seems that a strategic balance is lacking in our reactions to this repression, although all actions are important. For example, a lot of resources – time and effort – can get spent on demonstrating following an activist being arrested; although this is equally as important as solidarity with detained refugees or other actions. We sometimes need to think about how to balance the energies.

What is repression?

Repression is an integral part of the apparatus of social control which can touch everyone, not just political activists. The process of repressing aims at creating division within society in order to distract from tensions between the powers-that-be and people created by systems of exploitation and domination. There is a process of stigmatisation, marginalisation and criminalisation of particular individuals and groups
(encompassing political activism, gender, race, nationality and many other issues). This is used to justify repression and social mechanisms of control to the wider society; there are many examples within society of issues that have been used in this way:

Once these mechanisms of control are established, they can then be used against others in other situations.

Repression itself can take place at two levels: the first by having institutions which manage 'the problem' – be it prisons or (mental health) hospitals or social security and benefit systems, depending upon what 'the problem' is; the second level is that by removing the power from the people to deal with problems there is a need for further repressive measures to be taken for new problems. Furthermore, these mechanisms are presented as an integral part of a 'welfare state,' by representing repressive institutions and processes with a human face, that help, correct and educate. In parallel, increasing resources from the 'welfare state' are invested in repression (jails, police, security) and the other mechanisms of the state are slowly integrated into the strategy of control (benefits becoming conditional, education).

Within a more general context of privatisation, institutions of repression are also being privatised. They are then used not just for social control but also to extract profit. This helps create other incentives for maintaining and reinforcing the system of control.

Practical examples of European activism and the reaction to repression:

Political activists fighting repression in different countries have created legal support groups working within the activist community and also in the wider communities – for example, Legal & Defence Monitoring Group in the UK, (il)-legal team at the Strasbourg No Border camp, the Laeken legal team in 2001.

Prison solidarity – within and outside prisons – and prisoner support. For example, actions in solidarity with arrested activists following demonstrations, the provision of books and letter-writing campaigns.

Free-zones: the provision of autonomous spaces in a temporary or permanent capacity – these have included street parties, social centres, art exhibitions, discussion and anti-oppression groups, and newsletters providing information. All of these help to create a space which is free(er) from repression than is otherwise possible within the current state.

Proposals for future work:

All forms of repression should be opposed as they represent a system of control and we reject entirely the idea that some forms of repression in some circumstances are justified.

Some of these projects have already commenced, others are new ideas from the conference.

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