We are anarchists committed to anticolonial and anti-extractivist struggles across Turtle Island. We have followed the fight of Wet’suwet’en land defenders against the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline and the subsequent repression of the RCMP on their territory. We want to let the contractors and benefactors of this project know that we hold them complicit in the colonizing violence of this pipeline project. They are not safe from us on or off the territory.
Sometime in this past month, we visited the Bothar company storage yard in Calgary. After some research, we found out Bothar is the company contracted to execute the microtunnelling process (AKA drilling) under the Wedzin Kwa, the last of nine major river crossings to be completed in the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
Based on our recon, we knew this company possessed in their Calgary yard at least 3 bore cutterheads, 2 slurry mixers (for the bentonite process), 2 sets of pipe thrusters, and 2 control stations to direct the bore during microtunnelling.
With a bit of practice, and some safe internet research, we easily learned how to use a portable oxy-acetalene torch. We broke into the lot where their equipment is stored. Even with increased police patrols and a busy neighbouring lot, we were able to sabotage various pieces of equipment, including the pipe-thrusters used to place piping under river beds. The entire operation took less than an hour, and we left some major damage in our wake. Now they know we can reach them anywhere, at any time.
A large proportion of Bothar’s key equipment is supplied by the German companies Herrenkencht + Bauer. If you are located in Germany, feel free to pay them a visit. They are complicit in violating Indigenous sovereignty and destroying the hereditary territories of the Wet’suwet’en peoples.
The tactic used here is one of many being leveled against CGL. We chose to target Bothar directly for several reasons. Foremost, because attacking the equipment of the companies involved in these projects inhibits their ability to conduct work.
Furthermore, attacking companies away from the drill site spreads out the financial and defensive costs. The cost of damaged equipment and resulting delays creates a financial disincentive to participate in the CGL project, which is already massively over budget. Equipment loss and delays may help tip the scales in our favor. If all they are defending are their investments on a single drill pad, they can lean hard on the swarms of pigs and security goons currently bearing down on the Wet’suwet’en Yintah. But defending their investments across all of Turtle Island? Best of luck to them.
Finally, striking companies at their home base demonstrates that this fight isn’t localized to Wet’suwet’en territory. The more companies targeted, the clearer our message is. The Wet’suwet’en have called for actions of solidarity and this is a reponse.
Let this be a warning to any company which seeks to cause further harm to the planet in order to profit, and to all who would violate indigenous soverignty to further capitalist interests. No matter how much surveillance, security, and police patrols they try to protect themselves with, we will always find cracks in their systems. We can reach them. We will enter their yards, we will destroy their equipment, we can use their “advances” against them. If you and your comrades feel inspired to target the industrial players on this fucked-up imperialist game board, now is the time to get out there.
— some anarchists
P.S. Want to get started but not sure how? Check out these guides for ideas
Comments Off on 5th Annual Halifax Anarchist Bookfair
Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info
September 3rd (Sept 4th rain date) 10am-6pm Location TBA
We are at a breaking point. Thread by thread our global economic system is unraveling before our eyes as we dance on the precipice of all the converging and cascading crises of these turbulent times. From pandemic to war, inflation to crumbling supply chains, ecological breakdown to housing scarcity: we are feeling the crushing weight of capitalism more than ever.
The roots of these crises lie within the construct of authority itself. Anarchism helps us to understand the roots of these systems of power, to widen the cracks in their foundation, articulate our desires for self-determination, and dream of a world where all are free.
The Halifax Anarchist Bookfair exists to create space where strangers and friends can gather from all walks of life to discuss, question, and learn how we can fulfill the needs of our communities without coercion. To gather is to remind ourselves that we are capable of joy even in struggle, that our strength and bravery in the face of state violence are worthy of celebration.
The bookfair will feature publishers, book distributors, vendors, artists, and facilitators from across Turtle Island, including workshops, discussions, stories, parties, and kids’ activities. Join us as we share our love, grief, and rage, and build toward the liberation of all people. All anarchists, book lovers, and curious souls are welcome!
Please get in touch with your workshop proposals, table requests and inquiries, accessibility needs, collaboration ideas and wildest dreams. Please get in your requests by July 20th.
Comments Off on Vancouver: Attorney General’s Windows Smashed after Approving Charges for Land Defenders
Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info
Last Wednesday, David Eby, the Attorney General of BC, fucked up by approving criminal prosecution of contempt charges against Wet’suwet’en land defenders and their supporters. We helped him re-decorate his office in recognition of his poor choices.
Early Tuesday morning, we smashed the glass of his fancy Kitsilano office. We left behind messages demanding that the charges be dropped. Eby and his prosecutors have no jurisdiction in Wet’suwet’en territory. Eby and all “canadian” politicians should understand they are watched and their racist decisions will always have consquences.
Our main goal in writing this text and drawing attention to the issue of prison expansion in Ontario is to stop the projects, so in this final section we would like to offer some ideas about how that could happen. This is just our contribution to what we hope will be a larger conversation, and we certainly aren’t trying to say there is only one way of struggling against prison. That said, we hope that you will resonate with our ideas and feel inspired to push in similar directions.
First though, who is this “we”? We are a group of friends who live in Southern Ontario and who have, separately and together, been doing prisoner solidarity organizing of different kinds for many years. We are anarchists, and although our focus has often been prison, we bring to it a broader critique of power and hierarchy that influences how we choose to organize. Some of us have done time, but all of us know what it’s like to be separated from people we care about by prison walls, and this feeling is a big part of why we don’t want to see the system expand.
In this section, we are speaking to two overlapping groups of people: those who do prisoner support and solidarity, and those who share our politics as anti-capitalists and anti-authoritarians. For those who share our broad politics, we want to encourage you to care about the details of prison expansion in Ontario and put energy into stopping it. For those who already do work around prison, we want to make the case for a certain way of thinking about how and why to oppose prison expansion.
We will talk first about the opportunities we see in building a campaign against prison expansion, and then present some ideas for how to go about it.
Although each individual construction project is local, the overall process of prison expansion is regional and provincial in scale. The prison system affects all of us, no matter where live, and although there are specific reasons why people in and around Thunder Bay or Kemptville might want to oppose the projects in their communities, every single person in (or near) Ontario has a reason to oppose both the expansion overall and each individual project.
The financial and political interests around the expansion projects certainly aren’t limited to the communities where the prisons are located. Framing the issue as provincial in scale creates opportunities to network more widely and also to take the struggle to the doorstep of every construction company, OPSEU office, politician, or architecture firm that is driving prison expansion forward.
Set our own time frames, prepare for the future
Often, our organizing is reactive and urgent, meaning we are responding to things happening around us as quickly as we can. This is definitely not just true of organizing around prison. In this case though, the expansion project will be happening over at least the next three years. There will be moments where things are urgent, but generally speaking, a campaign against prison expansion could set its own time frame and have control over the pace of struggle.
Working on longer time frames also makes it easier to look beyond the projects currently on the table and prepare for what will come after. The Eastern and Northern Strategies are not the first waves of prison expansion and won’t be the last (see our case study about the Toronto South Detention Centre). Stopping the current projects is not our only goal. How we organize in the present creates the conditions we will fight in next time around.
Deeper Analysis of Prison in Ontario
Anyone who organizes around prison knows that one of the biggest hurdles is how little visibility the issue of prison has. Canadian society as a whole just kinda chooses not to pay any attention. In politicized spaces, although many groups have some general desire for prison abolition, they often don’t know much more than the average person about how prison in Canada actually works.
Ontario’s prison system certainly has similarities to prison systems elsewhere, but it is also specific to this region. One of the best ways to learn about the prison system is to support prisoner organizing, since the tiny routine details of how the system works are the terrain on which that struggle occurs.
Understanding how prison works in our context can help us understand how power functions more generally and help give teeth to an abolitionist politic, since when we struggle against prison, we struggle against state violence at its most bare.
A campaign against expansion is also an opportunity for folks who already do prisoner solidarity work, and here’s the main reason why:
Struggle against recuperation
As we explained in a previous section, recuperation is when the state tries to involve its critics in a process of transforming the institutions they criticize. The best way for the state to undermine prison organizing is to take up a version of our demands and use it to justify expansion and reform.
One of the strengths of the current prisoner solidarity movement in Ontario is also a vulnerability: focusing on our local prisons and amplifying the demands prisoners make about their conditions inside. This is a key part of why this organizing has been so effective in recent years, but it also makes it harder for us to react when the prison system responds to our demands by “improving” itself in a way that goes beyond any individual prison.
We have done a great job rallying people around demands that come from inside prison about conditions there. However, on the inside, a conflict over triple bunking or early lockup can easily escalate to become a fundamental challenge to the prison’s authority. Prisoners in struggle change the balance of power inside. On the outside though, the same demands that are so powerful inside are actually just mild policy disagreements. Therefore, amplifying prisoner demands may not be a sufficient basis for an abolitionist politic on the outside.
A specific campaign against Ontario prison expansion can happen in parallel with support for inside organizing. It can help to broaden the issue and give us space to argue against the existence of prisons, and it also allows us to push back against the prison system’s attempts at undermining prison struggle through recuperation.
We want to propose a two-pronged strategy for stopping this wave of prison expansion: direct action targeting the construction process, and undercutting its social and political support.
Obviously we aren’t inventing anything here. These dual approaches are commonly used in other campaigns. For instance, in campaigns against pipelines in Ontario, people occupied construction sites and also undermined pro-pipeline advocacy in order to deprive the project of support. Around encampment defense, people helped to physically prevent evictions while also targeting politicians and lobby groups who supported evictions.
Although these two approaches are distinct, it is important to think of them as part of a single strategy. Different crews may do different kinds of work, but we should emphasize the way those kinds of work complement each other. We will look at each approach separately, but first we want to propose a general principle:
Decentralization means encouraging organizing within many different, autonomous groups, whether ones that already exist or ones formed for this purpose. Decentralization is an alternative to centralization, which would look like trying to funnel everyone who wants to oppose prison expansion into one big organization.
Decentralization allows for a wider diversity of approaches and messaging, making the campaign more creative and wide-reaching, and it makes it easier to scale up across different regions. It definitely comes with challenges, like for instance, coordinating between different groups can take more work and it can be harder to build momentum in some cases. But for us, the advantages outweigh the inconveniences.
We aren’t going to be trying to get anyone to join anything — rather, we will be encouraging folks to self-organize within as many different groups as possible. Coordination is still important, so we encourage you to send content about the expansion to (name of website) and action reports to North Shore Counter-Info, which is a secure, autonomous media platform.
OK, on to the two approaches:
Undercutting Support for Expansion
Right now, there is a whole network of support for prison expansion. This often looks like support for prison reform, notably around mental health, addiction services, and programming for Indigenous prisoners. Many of the groups and individuals doing this are not our enemies, but they are participating in the province’s recuperation strategy, and not all the groups support it to the same degree.
Undercutting support for the expansion looks like like:
Dramatize the issue of expansion. Push the conflict into the open – break social peace and make it clear that there are sides in this struggle;
Giving the less supportive groups the chance to step away from the project and withdraw their support;
Isolating the most hardened groups that are unlikely to step away and reveal them as enemies. The activities of these hardened groups can then be targeted for disruption.
Below is an incomplete list of some groups that currently support this project. They are approximately listed in order of how supportive they are of the prison system, from less supportive to more. Those at the top can be asked (or pressured) to drop their support in order to isolate those at the bottom.
Various mental health organizations (Schizophrenia Society of Ontario, CMHA)
The Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler: “These are much-needed improvements and we acknowledge the Solicitor General’s commitment to improving living conditions and providing more culturally relevant and inclusive supports for inmates,”
The John Howard and Elizabeth Fry societies
Colleges that offer training for prison guards Mohawk and Niagara Colleges, for example
Construction companies and closed-shop construction unions who will be hired by the big companies that win the contracts It is good to pressure companies before contracts are awarded, since there are often costly penalties for withdrawing.
Architects, environmental assessment firms, consulting companies, lawyers and other professionals who will be hired by the companies that win the contracts It can be hard to figure out exactly who is involved in this work, but it seems like Ernst & Young LLP has been involved in consulting around the Thunder Bay Correctional Complex, presumably hired by Bird Construction. It is much easier to access this information if you are a member of a construction association or a trade union.
The Council of Ontario Construction Associations (COCA) and other construction lobby groups
Construction companies who are submitting proposals during the RFQ stage
The Ontario Liberal and NDP parties
Construction companies that are awarded contracts Ellis Don Bird Construction
The Ontario Public Sector Employees Union (OPSEU) Warren Thomas: “This announcement puts yet more resources in the corrections system. I’m particularly happy to see the new infrastructure improvements. But the proof is in the pudding, and I’ll be even happier when I see shovels in the ground. These projects can’t be completed soon enough.”
The Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Premier Doug Ford: “By making these important investments in Eastern Ontario, we will upgrade our corrections infrastructure, better protect our correctional officers, and contribute to our economic recovery through these new construction projects.”
OPSEU’s Corrections Division
The Ministry of the Solicitor General
Direct Action Targeting the Construction Process
The Northern and Eastern prison expansion strategies involve work on five sites spread across a large area over many years. Each of these projects will go through phases of planning, consultation, environmental assessment, and bidding before construction actually begins. The construction of each site will involve many different contractors and trades working together.
Most of these steps have to happen in a particular order, meaning a delay to one has a knock on effect, delaying all the others. A construction permit won’t be issued until the environmental assessment is done, and foundations will have to be poured before modular units can be brought in. As well, many of the same companies will be involved in each project, meaning a delay to one is likely to create a delay to others.
Rather than trying to stop the project with one big push, we suggest creating many delays throughout the process. In particular, look for steps in the process that are chokepoints, such as mandatory site visits or concrete pours, where any disruption will be much more effective. These delays will stack on each other, drive up the cost of the project, and push it across multiple provincial governments.
Direct action means different things to different people, but we feel like it is worth using “direct action” in its more specific sense here. That means taking actions that directly stop the thing you don’t want to happen from happening, as opposed to actions designed to get someone else to do it. Here are some examples:
Suppose there is a public consultation meeting about a proposed prison’s request for a permit. The permitting process can’t move ahead if that meeting doesn’t happen, so rather than trying to get the committee to deny the permit, direct action means disrupting the meeting. This could look like filibustering the meeting so that it goes over time and has to be rescheduled, and it could also mean blocking the doors.
Direct action is certainly not the only way of creating delays, and we don’t expect everyone who cares about stopping prison expansion to want to use direct action tactics. But direct action does not need to be very escalated or risky to be effective, so thinking about how to make your organizing more direct is still worthwhile. Taking actions that directly disrupt the construction process is the surest way of creating delays, and publicizing them also gives more opportunities to dramatize the issue, forcing groups to pick sides.
Understanding the campaign against prison expansion as having a crucial direct action component is important, since the supporters of the expansion will try to do to us the same thing we try to do to them: they will attempt to separate the more radical people using the more disruptive tactics from those they consider reasonable. They will try to recuperate — they will invite the reasonable ones in for a seat at the table and use the police to target those who won’t compromise.
Direct action and solidarity go together. Let’s try to build a campaign that is diverse in its approach and decentralized in its structure, one that is resistant to being disrupted by repression and is capable of taking actions that slow these projects down.
Comments Off on Solidarity with Giannis Mihailidis, on hunger strike since the 23rd of May!
Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info
On Monday the 23rd of May the anarchist Giannis Mihailidis, held at the Malandrinos prison in Greece, started a hunger strike to obtain his conditional release. In a letter he wrote announcing the hunger strike, he emphasizes – among other aspects – that this battle for his freedom is also an attempt to participate in the larger struggle against State and capital from which his long imprisonment has cut him off. In order to support this initiative out on the streets, many different types of actions are being organized across the Greek territory. To do everything possible to keep this umpteenth episode of struggle of our comrade from being caged in silence, we call for international solidarity. Although we thoroughly believe the best solidarity will always be to continue and deepen our fights, we think it is valuable to look at Giannis’ history of struggle, the hostility with which he looks at the existent, and the ideas of freedom he always carried inside of him on both sides of the prison walls – to recognize ourselves in the reflections of his turbulent journey of revolt. This is an opportunity to accompany our comrade in a fragment of his fight in a more outspoken way, using the means each of us sees fit.
Below you will find a short summary of Giannis’ long history with the authorities and a link to his initial letter announcing his hunger strike translated in English, German, Italian, French, and Spanish. We strongly encourage the further spreading of this call for solidarity among other comrades and spaces.
In February 2011, Giannis Mihailidis is arrested at a big demonstration in Athens and is charged with attempted murder for attacking the riot cops with bow and arrow, after which he is released on conditions. One month later, after the arrest of 5 members of CCF in a house in Volos, a warrant is issued for Giannis’ arrest for membership in CCF, based on finding his fingerprints in the house in question. He decides to go on the run.
In April 2011, in a shootout between Theofilos Mavropoulos and cops in the Pevki area in Athens, Giannis is suspected of being present and fleeing the scene by stealing the cop car. He is charged for attempted murder for injuring a cop that tried to stop him while fleeing, and condemned many years later when he’s again in prison.
A little less that two years later, in February 2013 in the town of Veria, he is arrested along with three other anarchists and sent to prison, shortly after a double robbery of a bank and post office in Velventos, northern Greece.
In June 2019, after six years in prison, he escapes from the rural prison of Tyrintha in the Peloponnese region. Seven months later he is arrested again in an Athens suburb, armed and in a stolen car, along with two other comrades. He is charged with a bank robbery that happened in August 2019 in Erymanthia, and is sent again to prison.
On December 29th 2021, he reached three fifths of his total merged sentence, and is allowed to apply for his conditional release. On May 23rd, after a first negative answer and the prosecutor’s request for a negative answer on his second application, he decides to start a hunger strike aiming at his release.
Remember our imprisoned comrades. Remember our own histories of revolt. Remember the flame – sometimes flickering, sometimes blazing – of anarchism.
WE ARE ALL POTENTIAL PRISONERS
With June 11th, we desire to deepen a critique of prison that challenges the distinction between prisoner and supporter. For us, these differences are conditional: we, as anarchists, see ourselves as potential prisoners. Some of us have been, some of us will be. This is the basis of our solidarity – a recognition of ourselves in the plight of those in prison.
The continuum of prisoner and supporter can only be seen as tenuous if one looks to the examples of imprisoned and formerly-imprisoned comrades: Marius Mason’s activity with the Anarchist Black Cross, Bill Dunne’s liberation of an anarchist prisoner, Pola Roupa’s attempted helicopter rescue of anarchist prisoners, Claudio Lavazza‘s actions to liberate prisoners. The connections deepen when one considers that numerous anarchist prisoners are locked up for attacks on prison, judicial, and police institutions; and that others connect us to prisoner uprisings from California and Alabama to Greece and Italy.
We have always said that “solidarity means attack,” but we must recognize that slogans do not offer us a way forward in our struggles. If “attack” becomes confined to a restrictive set of activities, we cut ourselves off from a more expansive vision of anarchist struggle. If we move beyond mere repetition of fetishized actions, what possibilities open up to us? Solidarity means attack, yes, but what else does it mean?
In this vein, we’d like to offer our suggestion: instead of doing what you always do for June 11th, try something new. If your focus is usually on offering material aid to prisoners, take up action against some tentacle of the prison system in your town. If you’re usually out in the night attacking, try doing something to directly support an anarchist prisoner. The point is not to further entrench the false dichotomy between direct action and care work, but to challenge our ossified roles. By trying new things, we may come to recognize that the walls that separate the dedicated supporter and the dedicated saboteur were always illusory, that our imaginations are more expansive than we thought, and that we individually and collectively are capable of more than we give ourselves credit for.
Central to our vision of solidarity is maintaining the lines that connect us to our companions behind bars. We should keep alive the projects, fights, and movements to which they’ve sacrificed so much of themselves. Our connections with anarchist prisoners start from a point of commonality – that we share a desire to directly transform the world in a liberatory and egalitarian direction. Thus, our solidarity should root itself in bringing prisoners into our projects and investing ourselves in theirs. We want released anarchists to come out into a world of vibrant debate, collaboration, and action; and we want to foster that as much as possible behind prison walls as well. This can be as simple as sending news of local struggles to a prisoner or printing prisoner statements to share at events. As with any aspect of solidarity, we are limited only by our imagination and commitment.
While we should support prison struggles when they happen, we should be careful not to put the burden of struggling against the prison system on prisoners alone. Those in prison – being in conditions of extreme control, surveillance, and restriction – are in many ways the least able to actively fight winnable battles against prison institutions. Those of us living in relative freedom have opportunities to think strategically about what actions and sites of struggle would have the most positive impact on the lives of people in prison and do the most work to dismantle the prison system. As prison is inexorably connected to numerous corporate and state institutions, enemies are everywhere: where can we win?
Supporting prisoners is also a way for different struggles to converge, as the last several decades have taught us. From the Black Liberation Army to the Earth Liberation Front to Grand Jury Resistors to anti-police uprising defendants to land and water protectors, all struggles for liberation will necessarily lead to state repression and imprisonment. By building up support infrastructure and culture, by making prison a less complete isolation and removal, we strengthen every aspect of challenging this society. We also find each other, learn from each other, enrich each other.
Italian prison administrators began censoring Alfredo Cospito’s correspondences in October. Authorities charged him with incitement to commit crimes, citing his writings in the anarchist newspaper Vetriolo. This repression is part of Operation Sibilla, where Italian police have raided numerous anarchist spaces and shut down websites surrounding Vetriolo to prevent the publication and spread of its subversive ideas.
Claudio Lavazza received a hit of five years to his twenty-five-year sentence. His legal support is trying to secure an earlier parole date.
Eric King went to federal court on charges related to a situation in which he was attacked and tortured by prison staff in 2018. The jury found him not guilty and his legal team is now filing a suit against the prison administration. As of this writing, Eric is the process of being transferred and the continued target of a vindictive prison system.
Michael Kimble was assaulted by a corrections officer in June and then sent to solitary confinement before transferred. He has again been denied parole, the stated reasons being disciplinary citations for refusing to work and an altercation with a corrections officer.
Sean Swain was also denied parole, which he argues is retaliation by prison staff for comments he made and civil suits he has filed against them. He has since been transferred from Virginia back to OSP Youngstown in Ohio. His supporters suspect he will soon be transferred again.
More and more defendants from the uprising of 2020 are getting sentenced, some have been released and other going on to serve their terms. Some are still pretrial and facing lengthy sentences. The effects of this repression will still be felt for many years. May the quality of our support for these defendants make us stronger than we were before.
In Chile, anarchist Joaquín García was transferred along with several subversive prisoners to the Rancagua maximum security prison last June. In October, he along with 20 other prisoners were attacked by about 50 guards, after which he was put in solitary confinement for 24 hours. This followed their declaration of solidarity with Pablo “Oso” Bahamondes Ortiz, who was facing weapons and explosive charges, and was subsequently sentenced to 15 years. Francisco Solar, another anarchist locked up at Rancagua, was hospitalized last autumn due to the advancement of undiagnosed diabetes. He and Mónica Cabellero were accused of multiple bombings, after his DNA was surreptitiously taken during a graffiti arrest, and have been in preventative detention since July 2020. In December of 2021 he accepted responsibility for bombing police structures, in solidarity with the revolts beginning in 2019 and those harmed and murdered by the police because, “no one and nothing is forgotten.” Days later, Mónica was in a fight with another prisoner that her family called a provocation set up by the prison. At the time of this writing, information is not yet available on the sentencing or a release date for these two anarchists.
Siarhei Ramanau, Ihar Alinevich, Dzmitry Rezanovich, and Dzmitry Dubousky were sentenced early this year to 18-20 years each for direct actions against Belarusian government targets after preliminary incarceration since 2019. After sentencing it was revealed that they were tortured by guards, resulting in a confession. As anarchism has become criminalized under the ongoing dictatorship, at least two other groups are facing several years each for their dissent.
Russian authorities have sentenced teenage anarchist Nikita Uvarov to five years for a conspiracy to blow up the Federal Security Service in Minecraft (yes, the video game) and constructing small fireworks. Two of his peers received probational sentences for their alleged crimes at the age of 14. Moscow ABC has reported that repression has increased (though there are no new proceedings against anarchists and antifascists there) and they have begun reorienting resources toward humanitarian efforts as Russia continues its murderous invasion of Ukraine.
The Anarchist Black Cross of Dresden, too, has reoriented itself toward providing support to those fighting in and fleeing from Ukraine. This reimagining of their support means helping finance solidarity forces like “The Black Headquarter” that have assembled volunteers to oppose the Russian forces and also attempt to carve out autonomous space in opposition to the Ukrainian state itself. Under the banner of the black flag, Balkan anarchists and anti-authoritarians are uniting against nation-states’ concepts of war and peace. It’s worth noting that chapters of the Anarchist Black Cross were established in Ukraine in 1918 as an adjunct to the Black Army that was fighting both the Soviet and Czarist forces invading from Russia.
In England, Toby Shone was sentenced to almost four years on drug charges related to psychedelics in his possession (during coordinated raids of collective anarchist homes) after terror charges failed to stick, related to the alleged operation of counter-info site 325. Despite the government’s failure to attribute membership to the the 325 collective, the Informal Anarchist Federation/International Revolutionary Front, the Earth and Animal Liberation Front, and involvement in related arsons and writings, he still must fight a Serious Organised Crime Prevention Order that would subject him to a heavily monitored five-year house arrest, expressing the evolution of incarceration by an increasingly digitized state apparatus.
The expansion of home detention and monitoring is not new, but still growing, as the prison society further invades the everyday through technological advances. Warfare too, grows increasingly digital from drone strikes to hacking, while government-sanctioned murder continues in all its finality. We may lack details regarding anarchists struck down or imprisoned in their pursuit of freedom in ongoing struggles in Sudan, Afghanistan, and Syria – still they also move our thoughts and actions. As the state persists in all its punitive perdition, killing and imprisoning, and we find common ground with those who fight in an effort to grow our power and destabilize those that seek to control us – carrying the fallen and imprisoned with us in our relationships with them and through a persistent conflict with the existent.
For ideas on potential activities, check out our blog for years of archived reportbacks. Those looking for materials to print and share can find them at the Resources page. And, most importantly: a list of anarchist prisoners to write to.
We eagerly await the events, actions, statements, and other contributions to this year’s June 11th.
The treatment of the topics recently dominating the news should be causing the bullshit detectors of those of us who haven’t turned ours off to be vibrating to the breaking point. If we just take as an example one factor, the shift from the end of the crisis that never ends that we call the pandemic to the newly announced geopolitical crisis in Europe, we will see the speed at which the focus of public attention can be can be redirected without it being clear who is making the decisions or why. From all COVID all the time, we’ve made the leap to Putin and only Putin faster than a speeding bullet, and the threat to world stability is suddenly refocused from COVID variants to the imperial interests of a billionaire autocrat, who only recently was described as an indispensable trade partner, even if he was a little cringeworthy, given the overall degree of his murderous proclivities.
At the same time, the intersection of the two crises served to expose to the stark light of day a number of the profound hypocrisies that the hegemonic neoliberal system can normally conceal using a variety of contrivances and a certain amount of window dressing. We intend to address certain more or less flagrant double standards that have dominated official discourse and the current approach to pressing issues in recent months.
In a context in which the bourgeois centre hopes to reconstruct the neoliberal colonial order—and is experimenting with new authoritarian ways of doing so—while the far right is increasingly presenting itself as a valid “anti-system” alternative, we encourage those who see themselves as progressive to recognize liberal hypocrisy, to refuse to play along, and to join the anti-fascist and anti-capitalist social movements that simultaneously struggle against neoliberal hegemony and the fascist option.
We are not the first to comment on how timid—not to say sympathetic—the policing of the anti–health measures brouhaha in Ottawa, in February 2022, was compared to the normal robust reaction used to repress civil disobedience actions on the part of social movements at the other end of the political spectrum. Rarely have we seen so many police officers taking selfies with and giving the thumbs up to people participating in a mass civil disobedience action—one that was only a stone’s throw from Parliament! And, of course, there were the hugs, the energetic high fives, and the touching expressions of goodwill. Nor have we ever seen such well-documented participation of past and current members of the Canadian military, including military intelligence and the special forces, and of the police in the organization of a siege[i]. One would be hard-pressed to find evidence of a parallel sympathy among law enforcement for ecological, anti-capitalist, or anti-racist movements or for Indigenous resistance demanding respect for the integrity of ancestral territories in the face of the ruthless assault of the fossil fuels industry.
Let’s recall that only a few weeks before the pandemic began, in the winter of 2020, the RCMP was called upon to intervene and dislodge at gunpoint the land and water defenders who had raised barricades to block the Coastal GasLink pipeline on the ancestral territory of the Wet’suwet’en nation, in British Columbia. The solidarity actions organized across Canada were likewise repressed. No later than September 2021, a few months before the anti–health care measures circus in Ottawa, the same RCMP used a chainsaw to demolish a cabin built by militants on the projected route of a pipeline underneath the Morice River, to brutally dislodge the occupants, two freelance journalists. We doubt the police took the time to gently brush the snow off of their clothes before arresting them, as they did with the anti-maskers in Ottawa.
Two weeks later, after residents of the neighbourhood under siege—and not the public authorities—obtained an injunction to stop the excessive noise, after a resident—and not the public authorities—filed a civil complaint against the organizers of the siege and the occupation, and after the community—and not the public authorities—began to physically prevent the convoy from refueling, the former drama professor and fan of face-painting who plays the role of the prime minister announced that he was enacting the “Emergencies Act.” The same government that had shown itself to be incapable of preventing what had been announced and could easily be anticipated several weeks before it happened chose to make use of an exceptional measure never previously enacted, without in any way proving the necessity to do so, and with the shameful support and allegiance of the social democrats who hold the balance of power.
Some progressive observers who had been fulminating about the conspiracy theory movement for months joined the standing ovation when, following a lengthy grace period, the occupation was faced with a mild form of repression. More than a few of them also welcomed the application of the Emergencies Act to suppress a few hundred frustrated cranks[ii]. That sort of enthusiasm for repression betrays a poor understanding of the relationship between the bourgeois state and social movements. The primary utility of the measure for the government, beyond the immediate powers conferred to cripple this expression of anti-vaxx organizing, is creating a precedent for suppressing future manifestations of popular dissent and disobedience, whether they be progressive or reactionary. This precedent should give pause to anyone who sympathizes with movements for social and economic justice, decolonization, or environmentalism, which might, at some future point, feel the need to engage in civil disobedience. It’s not terribly difficult, for example, to imagine what the reaction of the state will be when an Indigenous community next decides to adopt extralegal means to defend its territory or when a new generation inevitably decides to take direct action to demand radical social and governmental transformation to address the pressing climate crisis we are facing. While this exceptional legislative measure was used on this occasion against a group with reactionary impulses that we find repugnant, there is nothing to guarantee that it won’t be invoked in the future to squash demands that we feel a strong commitment to. History teaches us that repression is almost always much more energetically and forcefully used against progressive movements than it is against reactionary movements.
The Kev-Kév-Kev caravan came to its end, just as everything does, and following a long series of dubious decisions, a show of force as spectacular as it was unnecessary, and a doubtful volte-face, public authorities told us that it was no longer necessary to freak out about the virus, finally decreeing that the time had come to “live with COVID” (i.e., broadly speaking, to stop giving a shit). At this writing, however, as a sixth wave of infections begins, this paradigm shift has yet to translate into the end of Québec’s extraordinary state of emergency rationalized by the health crisis.
It was only a few days before cute infographics of soldiers replaced the colourful charts detailing the number of new COVID cases on the daily news. In the weeks leading up to the invasion, while people were zoning out and watching toboggan and figure skating competitions, the media and the commentators began to slowly beat the drum and to dust off the ageless smoke machines to once again pump out the “fog of war.” Who was good and who was bad was established, and the geostrategic stakes were rapidly delineated—obviously, with particular care taken to massively simplify the whole affair and entirely obscure Western responsibility. The scene was set, and when, on the day after the Olympics ended, Putin finally set his plan in motion, we suddenly found ourselves faced with the first war on European soil since the end of the war in the former Yugoslavia, in the early 2000s.
And the liberal bourgeois system got thoroughly tangled up in its doubles standards.
With the choir singing an arrangement from a well-known score, the politicians, the media, and the established experts preformed classic numbers from the jingoist repertoire. We can forgive younger people unfamiliar with the tune: the refrain focuses heavily on the absolute depravity of the evil one, accompanied by a succession of couplets, sometimes doleful, sometimes laudatory, chronicling the horrors of war, the desperation of the citizenry, and the almost superhuman courage of the politicians and soldiers chosen for the role of heroic figures of the resistance.
Let us be perfectly clear: the Russian invasion of Ukraine is a horrifying imperialist adventure, violating both international law and basic human values. While NATO, the United States, and the European Union bear a good deal of responsibility for the chronic instability in Ukraine over the past twenty years, and in spite of the enormous complexity of the issues at play in the contested provinces, Vladimir Putin and the oligarchs surrounding him are solely responsible for invasion and the war they have launched against their neighbour, an unquestionably sovereign nation, given the lack of evidence to the contrary. The situation is, in fact, so complex that beyond this basic certainty, we must have the humility to firmly resist the temptation to “Westsplain” things. Our main concern here is to expose the double standard at play.
Let’s start with the evil one himself. Vladimir Putin is unquestionably a complete piece of shit. But this billionaire autocrat, whom we demonize, has for quite some time been a key ally of the international capitalist order. Let’s not forget that Russia was part of the G8 during the recent golden age of globalization, from 1997 until the annexation of Crimea, in 2014. The Russian capitalist aristocracy, those we call “the oligarchs,” profited in profound ways from the integration of “their” economy into the international market, and for their part the Western powers generally closed their eyes to the Russian strongman’s anti-democratic, and often fascist, inclinations, which reflect a comfortable marriage of mafia and KGB methods. Let’s just say that until very recently the West treated Vladimir Putin more like an embarrassing cousin who liked to torture small animals in the shed than like the crazy and bloodthirsty tyrant they now tell us he is[iii].
These much-maligned oligarchs, whatever we say, are not fundamentally different from the major Western capitalist “families.” They constitute the dominant class around Vladimir Putin and preside over the destiny of the nation with no regard for democratic processes. There are some people who are inclined to say that our billionaires are less evil precisely because they accommodate these processes, to which we respond that one must be fairly naïve to believe that the large bourgeoisie do not exercise a determinant influence on the politics of our countries, just as is the case elsewhere. Some actors, such as the Koch family, in the United States, do so more or less openly, while others proceed with greater discretion. And what can we say about the democratic values of that bastion of kindness governing Saudi Arabia, a stalwart ally of both Canada and the United States? While we don’t adhere to the hypothesis that the Russian billionaires are fundamentally different from other billionaires, we can all nonetheless doubtless agree that billionaires form an international class that shares a common interest in exercising a controlling influence over the world’s governments and does not, in general, give a shit about the common good[iv].
Whatever actual percentage of the Ukrainian army is made up of neo-Nazis, the manufacturing of consent in this case is, in the final analysis, based on the “unprecedented” courage of the civilian population in the face of a catastrophe. Obviously, the Ukrainian population has exhibited extraordinary courage, but, given the hyperbole at play here, are we to consider other examples of resistance, to whit, that of the Palestinian people against the occupation and Israeli apartheid for the last seventy years, to take an obvious example, less courageous or of a lower quality? A viral meme from the early days of the invasion placed a Ukrainian Molotov cocktail and a Palestinian Molotov cocktail side by side, the first labelled “Heros” and the second “Terrorists.” It would be hard to better summarize the double standard of Western commentators as to the relative legitimacy of different national resistance movements. And there are others that they never mention at all (in Syria, in Yemen, and in Kashmir, for example), or when they do deign to mention them, they hastily dispense with them as “civil wars” or “terrorist insurrections.” A key difference is that often these conflicts can be attributed to the questionable actions of Western powers and their allies and partners in the geopolitical configuration of the hour. And that isn’t to even mention the numerous invasions and regime changes, proxy wars, and “special military operations” conducted by the United States since World War II, with the complicity of our governments, that in no way fall short of the Russian intervention in Ukraine. It is not, however, necessary to go so far afield to expose this double standard: here in so-called Canada the media has never called upon the lexicon of bravery when describing Indigenous land and water protectors. They are more than happy to fall back upon rhetoric about criminality and delinquency. Security experts called upon to comment when Indigenous communities and their allies interfere with industrial activity on Indigenous territory give full-throated expression to calls for the means necessary to dislodge them rather than remarking on the immense courage it takes for Indigenous people to mobilize to fight the state and its police forces, large industry, and public opinion that opposes them. In this regard, one need only think of Gilles Proulx. One of the most strident anti-Indigenous voices in Canada, Proulx, who openly called upon the white population to use violence against the Kahnawake community, in 1990, remains until this day one of the talking heads regularly promoted by the Québecor machine.
We could carry on page after page describing the overabundance of hypocrisies small and large in recent news reports. There is no shortage of examples.
Some people catch a whiff of conspiracy theory thinking in this sort of exposé of the subtle procedures used to encourage adhesion to the dominant narrative and discourage any real reflection on certain contradictory and embarrassing aspects. That, however, is based on the sort of “evidence” that some so-called experts on “radicalization” use to underpin their “horseshoe” theory, making the questionable assertion that there an alignment of sorts between the “two extremes.”
We are not, in fact, talking about a plot conceived behind closed doors by soap opera–style pedo-Satanists or the famed “globalists” of myth and legend. We are also not talking about directives of a mysterious origin whispered into Adrienne Aresenault’s headset. Cultural hegemony and the reality of a widespread intangible pressure that operates simultaneously on multiple levels to affirm and consolidate the dominant discourse becomes, at the end of the day, all the proof necessary. There are numerous techniques of persuasion, and it is obvious that the despotic means used by Vladimir Putin (repression of political opposition, criminalization of dissent, monopolization of the message, restriction of freedom of the press, etc.), which are coercive, differ from the gentler methods used here and elsewhere in the West, which are based most notably on repetition and consistency, pressure to conform, and an a priori reliance on the rarified knowledge of experts. Should we not recognize these processes, which, although less crude, are still not terribly subtle?
Our intention is not to minimise Putin’s crimes or to displace all of the blame onto Western imperialism, which is the disgraceful position of left-wing camp known as “tankies.” Nor are we arguing that there is a widespread international conspiracy, and that we should hunt for the names and addresses of the putative conspirators. We are simply acknowledging the intangible pressure of the hegemony that conditions our consent. Our point is that the consent being manufactured does not, for example, favour a radical anti-war sentiment among the population but, rather, focuses on demonizing an enemy and ingraining antagonism. Beyond that, there is certainly no attempt being made to clarify the role of the West in creating the ever-increasing instability in Ukraine over the last twenty years. There is also no talk about what underlies the diplomatic setbacks, end even less about the radical proposals that just might bring an end to Russian aggression, the dissolution of NATO being an obvious example. At the same time as we are being presented with the very real horrors of war, we meet an enemy that is given form by a barrage of detail down to the most insignificant minutiae, establishing which camp we belong to and to whom we owe our allegiance. We are being groomed to accept the harsh reality of a new cold war, with all that implies, most obviously, militarization and skyrocketing military budgets. The next round could, of course, involve China, were the latter to invade Taiwan. With no obvious light at the end of the tunnel, it’s going to take more than rainbows for us to chill out.
As we have already said elsewhere, the growth of conspiracy theories seen in recent years is the result of the convergence of a number of factors, of which three key ingredients are: 1) political opportunity—an ideologically motivated and militant populist far right is more than happy to feed the conspiracy theory frenzy, which creates a fertile terrain for them to exploit; 2) a plethora of unregulated information—the erosion of critical thought, the multiplication of social media platforms whose very structure favours the creation of filtered bubbles/echo chambers and the influence of toxic and nefarious actors who crank out disinformation; and, most importantly, 3) widespread popular resentment that translates into a popular decline in confidence in the centers of power, i.e., politicians, the intellectual class, and traditional media.
A recent study on “confidence in the institutions” showed that Canadians and Quebeckers increasingly distrust the government, corporations, and the media. Shocked as always, the key interested parties and their analysists catastrophize when relaying these statistics, without delving in the slightest into what might underlie this lack of confidence or making even a minor attempt to determine if these very institutions might not themselves bear a certain responsibility for this outcome. It would seem obvious that this distrust is the result of the fact that the neoliberal system as a whole is clearly crumbling and is no longer able to paper over the ever-widening cracks opened up by the cascading crises. Nonetheless, the system’s advocates endlessly multiply the powerful means at their disposal to convince us that capitalism is the best system possible, and that everything will work out, and as long as we listen to them, we will carry on following them down the road to disaster. It shouldn’t come as a shock that under these circumstances those who suffer the daily consequences of this system are gradually losing confidence in the overlords and their accomplices.
Denial is not generally a sound foundation upon which to build a political project. We believe that the progressive camp is condemned to remain entangled in the status quo, if not even worse, if it persists in ignoring the reasons for the current impasse and for this “loss of confidence in the institutions.” Although the liberal choir sings in every key that capitalism is the only viable model, it is, in fact, the capitalist system as a whole that generates these crises and is leading humanity to ruin.
As anti-fascists and anti-capitalists, we believe it is necessary to think these issues through and develop a resistance not only against the far right and the fascist threat but also against the bourgeois state and the related institutions of power that reinforce neoliberal hegemony and the colonial order. The bourgeois state is not interested in our well-being, and the interests of different social classes are irreconcilable today, just as they always have been. It is certainly the case, in any event, that while wars are declared by the rich and by nationalists, it remains the case that it is generally the poor who die at the front.
Faced with the far right and the fascist threat, on the one hand, and neoliberal hegemony, on the other, our greatest hope is to see the forces devoted to freedom rally around a project that is simultaneously anti-racist and anti-fascist, feminist, anti-capitalist, and anti-colonial.
The Québec government has already signalled its intention to reform the health care system in a way that favours “a more far-reaching reliance on the private sector.” In other words, pandemic or not, hot or cold war, the CAQ remains a right-wing conservative party whose main concern is the defense of an unequal and unjust social order. When François Legault waxes poetic about his “achievements,” it is only to piss yet again on the common good. The working class and the progressive social movements must unquestionably form a common front in the coming years to block all of the efforts to forcibly dismantle the social safety net. We must demand, to the contrary, the massive investment in health care, education, and social services that will be required to meet the major challenges we can anticipate. At the federal level, the government undoubtedly intends to redouble its efforts to develop the fossil fuels sector to partially make up for the loss of Russian production on the international market. Social movements have an obligation to act in solidarity with the communities that will be sacrificed to the interests of fossil fuel development and must be ready to engage in an intense struggle to defend the territories and the sovereignty of the First Nations. On the international level, it seems inevitable that before long we will need to (re)build a massive anti-war movement to, among other things, resist intense internal pressure to (re)militarize national economies and play a role in escalating conflicts.
Finally, as always, we encourage our supporters to renew their anti-fascist practice, i.e., community self-defence, without ever losing sight of the revolutionary horizon, because we will never gain our freedom with petitions. In this difficult time, never forget the old libertarian communist slogan:
No war between nations! No peace between classes!
[i] That’s all a bit messy, one must admit. By the way, has there been an official survey of vaccination rates among police forces in Canada?
[ii] Notably, the main promoters of the convoy have been accused of “counseling” various mischief, while coordinating very publicly for several weeks, in contrast to the conspiracy charges brought against a group of anti-capitalist activists held responsible for the ruckus at the G20 summit in Toronto in 2010.
[iii] We have noted over the course of a number of years strong links between the Russian state and certain North American and European far-right currents. Although many politicians and “experts” close to power have exaggerated this influence (blaming Russia for the election of Donald Trump, for the anti-vaxx movement, for the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa, etc.), it is not a complete invention. We don’t know if this connection reflects an ideological engagement with the far right on the part of the Russian state or if it is simply a practical way of stirring up shit on the political terrain of rival powers (it is also worth considering the influence of Aleksandr Dugin in Russia). Whatever the actual motives, this influence is certainly among the reasons that the majority of far-right pundits in North America support Putin in this war, while a minority denounce both parties and consider the conflict to be a “fratricidal war” between two majority-white Christian nations.
[iv] Beyond direct political influence, a sociopath like Jeffrey Bezos, to name but one, seems far more concerned with his future go-kart track on Mars than with the survival of the 99% of humanity.
[v] Let’s not forget that three years before the March on Rome and his installation as prime minister of Italy, Mussolini only won 1.5 percent of the vote in Milan in the 1919 general election. Also, the NSDAP only won 2.8 percent of the popular vote in Germany in 1928. Electoral results are a poor indicator of which way the wind is blowing during periods of crisis.
This article is the fourth in a series about prison expansion in Ontario that starts here.
Although we have many reasons to be against prisons and against this prison expansion project in particular, our motivations are profoundly anti-capitalist, since prison is an important part of how capitalism functions. However, we understand that not everyone will share this motivation, even if we have a shared goal of keeping this prison expansion project from happening. Therefore, while our primary goal is abolition, our secondary goal is to stop these prisons from being built, so we will need to find and reinforce common ground with others. Perhaps the best foundation from which to work is to identify the state, in the form of the provincial government, as a common adversary in this fight.
The state will try to undermine any anti-expansion organizing taking place, and the best way for it to do that is to take up a version of our demands and use them to justify expansion and reform; in a word, recuperation.
Recuperation is when the state (or another powerful body) tries to involve its critics in a process of transforming the institutions they criticize. For this expansion project specifically, we see the prison system taking up arguments used against it (like overcrowding and the absence of programs) and inviting its critics to support them in changing certain details of the system, obviously stopping short of changing anything that would challenge their power. It gives us, the critics, an air of control, like we were able to facilitate change. When in reality, nothing about the system is changed. The state is still locking people in cages, they just happen to be cages with different empty promises attached.
The following are a couple examples of recuperative actions taken by the Province of Ontario in response to critiques of the Ontario prison system in recent years. The point we want to make with them is that the prison system managed to use a narrow concession to stop specific campaigns targeting conditions inside.
There was an inspiring and successful struggle that emerged from inside prisons around Bell’s collect call system. The prison system eventually decided to react, but it ignored the more general critiques about the effects of cutting prisoners off from their supports and focused on the narrow demand of being able to place direct calls to cell phones. They did this by awarding the phone contract to Telmate, a Texas-based prison contracting company. Prisoners can now make direct calls to cell phones, but issues of surveillance, number blocking, and unequal access remain, and the system also pivoted towards video visits and scanning mail, creating new obstacles to comunication.
Similarly, in the mid-2010s there was a mass movement among prisoners to get access to better meals (centered around accessing the kosher diet). This involved coordinated action by hundreds of prisoners and eventually a successful legal challenge. It led to significant reform to the menus in provincial prisons and also to how decisions around special diets are made. Many, many more prisoners have access to special diets now and there are fewer completely inedible meals, but the experience of incarceration has not become any healthier.
Please don’t hear this as an argument against trying to help prisoners win specific demands or that the campaigns around food and phones were not important and successful. Supporting inside struggle is a big part of what we do too.
At this moment the provincial government is using some key demands from the past decade of struggle to justify building new prisons, and we think an analysis of recuperation can help us stop them.
The state will play on concerns about the brutal treatment of prisoners with mental health issues to justify building new prisons by calling them treatment centres. They will use cultural programming and healing lodges to justify building new prisons that will be disproportionately filled with Indigenous people. They will claim to be addressing overcrowding while making room to lock more people in cages.
The above examples involve small pieces of overall systemic brutality of the prison industrial complex. Prisoners are some of the most forgotten people in our society. Prison exists to erase certain humans, and it does its job well. Although forcing small concessions, like direct calls to cell phones, can feel good and make people’s time easier, we all know that is not a challenge to the prison system. It is simply slightly less torture, and to respond to the current wave of recuperation and prison expansion, we need to confront that reality. If our goal is abolition, we need to not get lost in the state’s language of reform and start aiming bigger.