To end with the image of the anti-prison struggle

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



This entry was posted on Friday, June 19th, 2009 at 3:53 pm and is filed under Prison Struggle.