Escaping Tomorrow’s Cages: Why Oppose Ontario’s Prison Expansion?

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May 102022
 

From Escaping Tomorrow’s Cages

This text is the third in a series. To start at the beginning, read the introduction. The second part, a summary of the projects, can be read here.

First, briefly, why oppose prisons in general?

We take as our starting point that the world would be better without prisons. Prisons don’t solve social problems, they exacerbate existing inequalities and play a crucial role in a violent capitalist system. The lie told about prisons is that by disappearing people who have been convicted of criminalized activities, our communities will be “safer”. In reality, breaking up communities, only to later release people with more trauma and fewer resources, does far more harm.

Unsurprisingly, those dealing with poverty, addiction, or mental health struggles are vastly over-represented prison populations. Prisons frame these struggles as individual choices instead of symptoms of a capitalist system that disposes of those viewed as having less to contribute. The legal system itself is designed so that those with less resources are far more likely to end up incarcerated. The over-representation in prison of Indigenous, Black and other people of colour – all communities dealing with higher levels of surveillance and criminalization – is also indicative of how prisons entrench existing inequalities. In Canada, a country built on stolen Indigenous land, prisons have always been institutions used to lock up those who threaten the colonial state and the capitalist system it relies on.

For these reasons, the struggle against prison is a crucial part of struggles against other forms of oppression. Prison is one of the most explicit and violent ways that the state keeps the oppressed in their place and maintains the status quo.

Responding to Ontario’s Prison Expansion Narrative

Over the years, through moments of crisis/tension, the government has responded to crises in prison management by directing resources towards expanding the prison system in Ontario. Looking at public discourse around prisons over approximately the last decade, we can see a narrative that the provincial government has built up around their current prison expansion program.

Funding for the two largest projects, the Kemptville and Thunder Bay prisons, was approved back in 2017.

Around that time, Ontario prisons had come under scrutiny for their heavy-handed use of segregation, meaning solitary confinement. In one high-profile case, Adam Capay, a man from Lac Seul First Nation, was held in segregation over 1,500 days, much of that time in a cell that was brightly lit for 24 hours a day. His case was a starting point for two significant reports: Out of Oversight, Out of Mind, a report by the Ontario Ombudsman on the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services’ handling of segregation placements, and an interim report on from Ontario’s Independent Advisor on Corrections Reform, also on the use of segregation.

In a press release, the province describes the reports as guiding the government’s “ongoing work to reform Ontario’s correctional system.”

The work included “chang[ing] segregation practices, as well as investments made to increase staff and mental health supports for those in custody.”

Crucially, the press release also announces approved funding for a 325-bed multi-purpose correctional centre to replace the existing Thunder Bay Jail and Thunder Bay Correctional Centre, and a 725-bed multi-purpose correctional centre to replace the existing Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (the details of these projects have changed since then). These investments are described as increasing capacity and reducing overcrowding.

If the link between locking less people in segregation and building new prisons feels murky, the release goes on to explain that these actions meet the goals of reducing segregation by “building a system in which appropriate alternatives to segregation are more available for vulnerable inmates, such as pregnant women and those with acute mental health issues, and ensuring that segregation is used only in rare circumstances”. If it still feels murky, perhaps it’s because surely there are easier ways to avoid locking people in segregation than building new facilities.

While it already feels clear that the government can spin any crisis in corrections into an excuse to expand the prison system, let’s look at a few other issues unfolding at the time.

In August 2017, a joint coroner’s inquest was announced to investigate at least 8 overdose deaths in the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Centre between 2012-2016. This is one particularly stark example of the overdose crisis unfolding inside Ontario prisons.

The report produced 62 recommendations, none of which were binding, but many of which provide possible justification for the expansion of prison infrastructure. For example, recommendations included introducing full-body scanners, limiting the number of prisoners to a cell, and housing new prisoners in a separate intake area.

Finally, in early 2016, the government of Ontario narrowly avoided a strike during contract negotiations with correctional officers (prison guards) and probation officers represented by Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU). Results of the negotiations included an end to a hiring freeze and the appointment of at least 25 new probation and parole officers. Understaffing and overcrowding of facilities has been a perennial talking point for the corrections unit of the union.

It is unsurprising that correctional staff complaints also throw support behind a prison expansion program. OPSEU president Warren Thomas has made multiple statements in wholehearted support of the Kemptville and Thunder Bay prison projects. In fact, he cited new prison construction as a reason corrections staff remained satisfied with OPSEU representation when complaints emerged from some union members in 2020.

All these events helped form the context for approving upwards of $500 million for prison expansion.

It is true that prisons in Ontario are horrifyingly overcrowded, poorly maintained, frequently locked down due to short staffing and lack even basic services like medical care. While prison expansion is far from the only answer to these problems, it’s unsurprising that it is the one the government reached. Any crisis in corrections will be responded to by an expansion of the system, escalated forms of control, and further categorization, separation, and isolation of prisoners.

In addition to supposedly addressing issues like overcrowding, new projects claim to include more specialized services and programming. The Northern expansion strategy is billed as being “responsive to the needs of Indigenous people and communities”, with “culturally appropriate spaces and aspects of the facilities.” The Eastern strategy includes the expansion of the St. Lawrence Valley Correction and Treatment Centre, a facility specifically for those with mental health or developmental issues.

This ignores the fact that prisons perpetuate a cycle of harm against marginalized communities, and that more “culturally sensitive” or specialized forms of incarceration will never change this. There is also no guarantee that programming or specialized use of facilities will be permanent – the only guarantee is that the state’s capacity to incarcerate people has forever expanded.

References

https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/44567/ontario-taking-action-to-reform-correctional-system

Ombudsman report: Out of Oversight, Out of Mind: https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/resources/reports-and-case-summaries/reports-on-investigations/2017/out-of-oversight,-out-of-mind

https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/45931/joint-inquest-into-the-eight-deaths-at-the-hamilton-wentworth-detention-centre

https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/01/07/bitter-fight-by-ontario-correctional-officers-to-form-own-union-fizzles.html

https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/60542/ontario-announces-successful-bidder-for-expansion-of-northern-correctional-facilities

https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/57233/ontario-investing-in-frontline-corrections-workers

Bristol, UK: Anarchist comrade Toby Shone’s SCPO was rejected by the court!

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May 102022
 

From Dark Nights

To the wild celebrations in the public gallery, the presiding judge rejected the application for anarchist comrade Toby Shone’s Serious Crime Prevention Order, declaring there were no grounds for it to be applied under the circumstances. Shouts of ‘Not one step back!’ were responded to with Toby shouting ‘The Revolution is inevitable!’

The result of the court means that comrade Toby will now be released at the latest in August of this year, without the extreme conditions of surveillance and control, that would have led to him not only being cut off from his comrades, but his family, friends and partner. It would have restricted his way of living, his ability to fuction as an anarchist, with many conditions that have been listed before, such as his use of electronic devices through to him having to declare who visits his residence. It would have lasted 5 years and could have been renewed. If it had been broken by Toby it would have led to him serving 10 years in the hellholes of the UK prison system.

The SCPO was a direct attack on Toby as an anarchist, his alternative way of living and his connections to those he is close to. It was clearly linked to the anti-terrorist cops attempting to apply repressive measures on him after the terrorist charges in his previous original trial were dropped.

The move by the anti-terrorist cops sets a new repressive environment on this prison island, that now just like in other European countries such as we have seen with the many repressive operations against comrades in Italy and Greece, that anarchists are deemed as terrorists by the state, that anyone daring to fight back against authority will be subject to such repression. Also it is clear that the British state wants to attack the connections, the affinities, the friendships, even love, of those they want to punish. This a similar vindictive tactic we have seen been used in other countries as well, such as the targetting of partners and family members of revolutionary organisation Conspiracy Cells of Fire members in Greece.

‘Operation Adream’, the repressive attack on Toby, on 325, is also an attack on the anarchist circles and alternative lifestyles as a whole. The years of imprisonment are piling up for those who dared to rebel during the Kill The Bill protest last year, that was attacked by cops and led to a riot. Those who live ‘off-grid’, from Roma/Gypsies/Irish travellers through to van or carvan or boat dwellers, along with squatters are also feeling the full force of British state’s, the Tories, Boris Johnson’s and Priti Patel’s repressive shaping of racist right wing ‘Build Back Better’ UK.

There is indeed a ‘storm coming on the horizon’ as comrade Toby mentioned, it is time for all of us who feel it to move towards it, to revolt against the destruction of our lives, our very existence.

This is only the beginning, ‘Nothing Is Over, The Conflict Continues!’

Some anarchists in solidarity with anarchist comrade Toby Shone

UK: Two statements from anarchist prisoner Toby Shone

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May 062022
 

From Anarchist Black Cross Brighton

First of May 2022

As a minimal gesture I refuse to eat from the prison servery to mark the Revolutionary 1st of May, to join in the demonstrations around the world using my body as a means of solidarity and to protest the denial of my correspondence by the security company G4S. I will not be isolated from my family, friends and comrades and I continue to define my anti-political convictions. Honour and dignity to all those who have fallen.

Remember Haymarket.

Toby Shone
G4S Parc, UK.


Statement for J11 International Day of Solidarity with Marius Mason & All Long-Term Anarchist Prisoners

We will have to go to sea and embark on a journey into the unknown. It is up to us to choose the course from the march. We are free to make mistakes.”
Gustavo Rodriguez – ‘Brief Informative Report About The Weather’.

An embrace of life, fire and complicity to all imprisoned anarchist comrades for this June 11th. I have been invited to participate by the comrades in North America, for which they have my thanks and agreement. Whilst I am not condemned to a particularly long sentence, I faced well over a decade at my trial last October in “Operation Adream” and next week I will go to trial again in Bristol on the 6th of May. This time the “anti-terrorist” prosecutors demand up to five years house arrest and special surveillance, which could see me returning to prison frequently. It also has a precedent for the rest of the anarchist space in the UK if the State is successful. International mobilisations are essential for learning about and combining our shared struggles. Opening a space for discussion and praxis enables us to escape the walls and barbed wire which divides and isolates us. I’m locked up for 23 hours a day in a solitary cell, subject to enhanced monitoring and censorship, categorised as “high risk” and placed on the “escape list”. I could not care less. I will leave this place without stepping back one millimetre.

One who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” – F. Nietzsche.

There are storms gathering on the horizon.

Toby Shone
Written on the eve of Revolutionary 1st of May, 2022.
G4S Parc, UK.

Student Organizing with Divest McGill

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Apr 292022
 

From From Embers

In this episode I chat with two members of Divest McGill, a student-led organization at McGill University in so-called Montreal. They are fighting to force McGill to divest from the fossil fuel industry and transform the university into something liberatory and accountable to the people whose lives it affects. This spring, they led a more than two-week-long open, social occupation of a university building.

All music in this episode is from the 2012 anti-folk opera “What The F*ck Am I Doing Here?” about anarchist participation in the 2012 Quebec student strike. Check it out on Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/whatthefuckamidoinghere/sets/what-the-fuck-am-i-doing-here

Learn more about Divest McGill here: https://www.divestmcgill.ca/

The Whole Orchard: Policing in Indigenous Communities

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Apr 132022
 

From the Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes

The Whole Orchard launches its third episode of the second season. This month, the podcast addresses the stakes surrounding the police in Indigenous territories, whether led by native people or settlers.

We talk about the Kanien’kéha language camp in Akwesasne and the relation of Indigenous communities with police forces with one of the founders of the camp.

Music
References

To learn more about the langugage camp: https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/longform/reclaiming-land-language

Transcription

RBC: Divest from CGL

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Apr 122022
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

Monday April 11th, 2022
Tiohtià:ke/Montreal

In the early afternoon, a small group of anarchists snuck into the RBC offices at Place Ville-Marie. Armed with flyers, stickers and spray paint cans, they left a message for the bank: DIVEST FROM CGL. Since the Fall of 2021, the Wet’suwet’en have been actively campaigning for RBC to stop funding the destruction of their land, but RBC continues to ignore them.

As long as RBC is funding pipeline projects, they will find us in their way.

– some fucking angry anarchists

Reflections On Ongoing Anticolonial Solidarity:

Imminent Threat: Coastal Gaslink (CGL) is set to drill under the Wedzin Kwa this Spring 2022. The people, land, language and culture of Wet’suwet’en as well as the animals residing on these territories are facing annihilation of their lifeways. For those who have heard the call to action, this upcoming year is crucial to the future of Wet’suwet’en self-determination and sovereignty.

Solidarity actions keep the Gidimt’en fight visible and the people on the frontlines safer from police repression and CGL harassment (https://twitter.com/Gidimten/status/1450808498833473549) Just in the past month alone, the RCMP made 54 visits to Gidimt’en Checkpoint, waking elders at all hours of the night and threatening arrest. These ongoing acts of intimidation and police repression are a part of a broader strategy by the Canadian state to use the legal and judicial systems to continue to deny Wet’suwet’en sovereignty, despite the fact that the Canadian judicial system recognized Wet’suwet’en sovereignty in the Delgamuukw v British Columbia decision.

Longterm Struggle: Commitment is a long breath that is constantly threatened by exhaustion. This struggle against CGL takes on many dimensions: decolonial, environmental, anti-capitalist and feminist. The numerous “man camps” invading the Yintah intensifies and facilitates men’s ability to kidnap, rape and murder Indigenous women, girls and two-spirited individuals (see the Final Report by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, p. 593). As long as CGL and the RCMP remain on the territory so too do the heightened levels of colonial gendered violence.

We continue to support Gidimt’en Checkpoint’s fight against Coastal GasLink and extractive companies because the struggle towards Indigenous self-determination is a long, arduous struggle. Solidarity organizing is most effective when it is consistent and strategic. Our ongoing efforts contributes to the strength and `visibility of their fight for self-determination, sovereignty, and freedom.

Imagine the strength and capacity of solidarity work if people engaging in this kind of organizing had personal and collective stakes in the game? For instance, there are many Indigenous people fighting across Turtle Island to be free from the settler state and to be free to govern themselves as they deem in accordance to their own ways. There are also many non-Indigenous people fighting to be as free as they can from the institutionalization and regulation of their bodies, relationships, and communities. These varying experiences and histories of struggle provide a basis for profound points of connection.

Imagination is an asset when it facilitates various ways to make this fight visible. Adapt the tactics and organizing strategies to your capacities and resources. Most importantly, act. It’s time.

Reflections on the Anarchist Demo at the Russian Consulate

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Apr 122022
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

On Sunday, March 27, 2022, a small but determined group of anarchists marched to the Russian consulate in Montréal, in solidarity with anarchists, anti-fascists, and anti-war movements active in the territories of Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus. We held up banners saying: “НЕТ ВОЙНЕ” (No War); “ПУТИН: ИДИ НА ХУЙ” (Go fuck yourself, Putin); “Solidarity with UKR[ainian] and RUS[sian] War Resisters”; “Fin aux Tsars! Up the Ⓐntifascist resistance partout”; and the anti-fascist flag. Despite our small numbers, we briefly took the streets, blasting a very sick playlist of mostly Ukrainian and Russian pop music and post-punk tracks. When we reached the consulate, we ziptied the “НЕТ ВОЙНЕ” and “ПУТИН: ИДИ НА ХУЙ” across the gate doors on the front of the consulate. We read the following communiqué from an action that had targeted a recruitment centre near Moscow in early March:

The other day I set fire to the military registration and enlistment office in the city of Lukhovitsy, Moscow Region, and filmed it on gopro. I painted the gate in the colors of the Ukrainian flag and wrote: “I will not go to kill my brothers!” After which I climbed over the fence, doused the facade with gasoline, broke the windows and sent Molotov cocktails into them. The goal was to destroy the archive with the personal files of conscripts, it is located in this part. This should prevent mobilization in the district. I hope that I will not see my classmates in captivity or lists of the dead. I think it needs to be expanded. Ukrainians will know that in Russia they are fighting for them, not everyone is afraid and not everyone is indifferent. Our protesters must be inspired and act more decisively. And this should further break the spirit of the Russian army and government. Let these motherfuckers know that their own people hate them and will extinguish them. The earth will soon begin to burn under their feet, hell awaits at home too.

As we left, several people egged the consulate.

The following are reflections from a few participants in the demo:

We want to make our reasons for participating in this action clear, and to explain why we think it is essential to support the anarchists, the anti-fascists, and the broad masses of people resisting the invasion in Ukraine — as well as all those in the region who are opposing the war, sabotaging the war machine, and helping refugees and people fleeing the conflict.

1. We have acted in solidarity with anarchists and anti-fascist comrades resisting the invasion, and with love in our hearts for expressions of autonomous and anti-fascist resistance against the invader.

It should go without saying, but as anarchists, we oppose hierarchical military institutions, and consider neo-Nazis like those who founded the Azov Regiment to be our enemies. We understand that the nature of territorial defense in response to an invasion makes deciding how to engage incredibly messy for people on the ground. We know that the territorial defense units (voluntary ‘civilian’ units) in Ukraine are subject to the Ukrainian state’s command structure — in theory, if not always in practice. From what we understand, anarchists and anti-fascists in Ukraine are organizing together (and with locals) within these units to carve out as much autonomy as possible for themselves and their ideas, while also surviving heavy shelling, missile strikes, and the targeted murder of civilians (among other horrors). We think that the experiences of the regular people that are currently being bombed, raped, displaced, tortured, and killed, must be at the heart of any analyses we put forward, or actions we take.

So, we declare our support for anarchists in Ukraine, both those who were there before the invasion began, and those having more recently entered the country. This does not mean that we think they are beyond critique. Rather, it means that we respect and support their decision to stay and fight, or the decisions of those who have chosen to go and fight by their sides. We think that this kind of armed self-defense is consistent with a long history of anarchist resistance to the expansion of authoritarian regimes. Present-day Ukraine differs from Rojava, Chiapas, and other ‘revolutionary’ territories; it is a deeply flawed capitalist democracy with marginal liberatory social movements. Nevertheless, it is clear that a life under Putinist Russia would be far less free. This reality is reflected in the fierce resistance to Russian advances.


Competing visions of society will no doubt emerge in the rubble of war: some liberatory, many more deeply horrifying. Regardless of how the war progresses, we think it will be essential that there are people in Ukraine who share our ethics and values. For years, anarchists in Ukraine have been actively organizing against both the Ukrainian state and the local far-right. In the months and years to come, they will be the ones best positioned to continue to fight nationalism, fascism and any manifestations of centralized power and authority. They are also the people who will best generalize anarchist ideas and actions in their own context. We want to see these people survive and flourish.

2. We act in solidarity with all those who have fled Ukraine, and we support initiatives that help people continue to flee. We are against borders, against conscription, and against any privileging of those with Ukrainian passports and/or ‘whiteness’.

There has been a marked difference in how the Canadian state and mainstream society have responded to Ukrainian refugees, as compared to refugees from Libya, Sudan, Syria or other non-European countries. We see this not only in immigration policy decisions, but also in the rhetoric of the Canadian government, which has stated that “Ukrainian immigrants have helped build this country”. This statement refers to the waves of Ukrainian immigrants who fled immiseration under the Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires, and later, under the Soviet Union. During the first immigration wave of the 1890’s, Ukrainians were ‘recruited’ to Canada as cheap, non-British, labourers, used to build rail-lines and to ‘settle’ indigenous and Métis lands in Western Canada.

The disposibility of these immigrants was made clear when, under the War Measures Act during WW1, members of these same Ukrainian communities were deemed ‘enemy aliens’, and sent to internment camps. In 1919, Ukrainian communities, tired of exploitation, participated extensively in the Winnipeg General Strike, where the North-West Mounted Police (yes, those same NWMP established to supress indigenous rebellions and enforce the reserve system) massacred some 80 striking workers. The years that followed were filled with xenophobic panics about the ‘dangerous foreigners’ fomenting labour radicalism.

Canada always has, and always will, pit dis-enfranchised people against one-another to maintain and expand its capitalist and colonialist project. It makes immigrants fleeing misery into the shock troops of colonial expansion. It embraces ‘model’ refugees in order to discredit migrants who have crossed borders for reasons that the state deems ‘illigitimate.’ However, we believe firmly that people can refuse to be tools of the state. Instead, we can be inspired by our own stories of disposession to build powerful solidarity with one another.

We have also read the stories of black, brown and Roma people trying to flee Ukraine, who have faced racism, and received less support than white refugees. In a context where racist, islamophobic, and anti-immigrant hysteria is on the rise in Europe, it is not hard to see how racism has fundamentally structured the metting out of sympathy and support afforded to different people fleeing war. It should be noted, however, that the many Ukrainian guest-workers currently living in Western Europe have rarely been received with the same compassion and enthusiasm that Western countries are now expressing towards war refugees. The degree to which Ukrainian refugees are currently being embraced as ‘fellow Europeans’ was hardly a given.

As anarchists, we do not accept an analysis whose only conclusion is resentment towards the Ukrainian refugees who have, undeniably, been treated better than non-European refugees in similar circumstances. For instance, it shouldn’t be surpising that Canada (a country founded on genocide) is once again making racist immigration policy decisions. However, these infuriating disparities should never become a justification for inaction, or a reason to withhold solidarity from people who need it. Instead, we will continue to take action and organize against borders, and to destroy the values of white supremacy that shape our world. We hope that among those who are just now becoming acquainted with the horrors of war and displacement, we will find new comrades who will join us in standing against racist borders everywhere.

Support all migrants, fuck all borders, free movement across invisible lines for everyone, always.

3. We act in solidarity with those who take action against the war and its profiteers in Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and in “the West.”

In Russia, many thousands have been arrested for protesting the war by an increasingly autocratic and repressive regime. In North America, we have seen people target the weapons contractor Raytheon. In Western Europe and Turkey, there have been actions against the mansions and property of Russian oligarchs. In Belarus, there has been a campaign of sabotage targetting the rail lines that transport Russian troops to Ukraine.

We are also inspired by the long history of anarchist anti-militarism, and sabotage of the war industry. It is important to identify how the nations we live in (and our local capitalists) profit from this war, and to target them accordingly.

4. We have acted in accordance with our principled belief that, all throughout history and all across the world, people should be supported when they defend themselves against destructive invaders.

We have noticed that mainstream Canadian media is suddenly quite excited about regular people making molotov cocktails and attacking tanks with tractors. While it’s great to see support for people defending themselves, in our own context, let’s not forget to support Indigenous land defense too. We support community autonomous action and self-defense against destructive invaders everywhere: from the Wet’suwet’en yintah in so-called “British Columbia”; to the streets of Kharkiv and Kyiv; to Rojava, Yemen, Palestine, and beyond!

5. We have acted with the knowledge that Western countries are also finding ways to profit from the war.

In Canada, we can see how sanctions against Russian energy imports and the pause on Nordstream 2 have been used to shift European fuel reliance towards Canada and the U.S. This benefits the owners of U.S. and Canadian energy companies, and further threatens Indigenous land defenders who have been fighting against fossil fuel exploitation and for sovereignty in their territories. While we think that pointing to “NATO aggression” as the root cause of the war is a deeply-flawed and myopic analysis, it is clear that Western powers have been more than happy to leverage the war towards their own ends. We have no problem extending a big Fuck You to NATO as well.

6. We will never act in solidarity with nazis.

Much of the discourse about the war that we have seen coming out of certain parts of the left has emphasized the existence of the Azov battalion, and speculations about the role of the far-right in Ukrainian society. In the past decade, Ukraine (like most every country in the world) has seen a resurgence of far-right, authoritarian, and ethno-nationalist sentiment. While this is certainly concerning (especially for Ukrainians), Ukraine is hardly unique in this regard. Nor is it unique in having found adherents of far-right ideologies involved in its military. What’s more, in recent years, it seems that Ukrainian society has fared no worse than the societies that gave rise to the likes of Trump, Éric Zemmour, or the AfD.

What has perhaps been unique in the Ukrainian context, is a war that has been ongoing for eight years. The war in Donbas not only galvanized local fascists, but has notably attracted far-right adventurists from Western countries seeking-out battlefield experience. These contemptible grifters have fought enthusiastically on both Ukrainian and Russian sides of the war, depending on the particular flavour of fascist ideology that they subscribe to. (And, for all his talk of “denazification,” Putin himself is by far the premier backer of far-right movements all over the world.)

Fascists of all stripes will tend to try to leverage war and conflict towards their own ends, and this war will be no exception. We suspect that in this context, the best antidote to armed neo-nazis intent on expanding their social base, is in fact, well-organized, armed anti-fascists. We strongly reject an analysis that frames any anarchist who has taken up arms in this situation as a nazi-collaborator. The fact that both anarchists and neo-nazis have independently taken up arms in the face of military invasion by no means implies collaboration. To be clear, we think that such hypothetical alliances would be completely unacceptable, and ones that we would refuse to ever support. However, anarchists in Ukraine have long been at the forefront of countering local nazis, and we believe that materially supporting these anarchists is one of the best ways to help them maintain an uncompromising anti-fascist position under incredibly challenging circumstances.

We really shouldn’t have to say this, but the vast majority of Ukrainian civilians currently being bombed, shelled, killed, tortured and displaced are most certainly not neo-nazis. Given that ‘denazification’ has been the crude and increasingly exterminationist rallying cry for Putin’s vicious, imperialist war, it feels especially important to be clear and intentional in how we discuss the (real, but relatively marginal) presence of neo-nazis in Ukraine.

——————————————————————————–

War is fucked, and it isn’t always clear what anarchists anywhere should be doing in this context. We inform ourselves by reading interviews with anarchists on the ground, by talking to friends and family who are more closely connected to the events, and through critical and analytical discussions within our circles. Deciding that this situation is too complex to engage with would only cede space to ideologues, who simplify and cherry-pick history and current events in order to build arguments that benefit their economic interests and political cliques.

This time we were a small group, but we hope to inspire other anarchists around us to engage with this conflict. We will continue to mobilize the rage and heartbreak we feel at both the mass graves in Mariupol and Bucha, and at the structural racism that underwrites indifference to bombings and displacements elsewhere in the world, in order to act in solidarity with all people suffering due to geo-political machinations and imperialist ambitions.

Solidarity with the inheritors of the anarchist tradition in Ukraine!

Solidarity with the anarchist and anti-fascists arrested and currently detained in Belarus, for allegedly disseminating anti-war and anti-police materials!

Solidarity with all the anti-war arsonists, hackers, and demonstrators in Russia!

Solidarity with the London Makhnovists, the yacht blockaders in Turkey, and all others taking direct action against the holdings of the Russian ruling class around the world!

Against great games and autocracy! For anarchy and self-determination!

The Montreal Sholom Schwarzbard Crew

 

Communique from Operation Solidarity, Kyiv

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Mar 272022
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

Greetings, comrades!

We are the Ukrainian anti-authoritarian volunteer network, “Operation Solidarity”.

Since the first days of escalation by Russia, we have taken part in the resistance against the invasion, as have the majority of Ukrainian anarchists and anti-authoritarian left activists because we believe that this war is imperialist and usurping.

This is not a war of “de-nazification”, as the Kremlin claims. The problems of the far-right in Ukraine exist as they do in many European countries, but their scale is highly exaggerated by Russian propaganda which exploits antifascism. Life in Ukraine is incomparably more free than it is in Russia, which has only become increasingly fascistic during the course of this escalation.

Ukraine’s Russian-speaking population does not need to be “liberated”. As of now, this war is primarily being waged in regions where Russian language prevails, where local people join the territorial defense units en masse, craft Molotov cocktails, and construct barricades to repel the so-called “liberators”.

Though we remain critical towards the actions of western countries up until now, responsibility for this war lies solely with the highest seats of power in Russia, unrelenting in their ambition to expand their sphere of influence.

The war in Ukraine is a people’s war. We cannot stand idly by!

Presently, our comrades have joined the territorial defense and have formed their units there. The primary objective of Operation Solidarity is to provide them with everything they need. Such needs include: procuring high-grade body armour, ballistic helmets, tactical medical kits, and a myriad other military equipment. As of now, obtaining such vital necessities is impossible in Ukraine.

Additionally, Operation Solidarity aids refugees, distributes precious medications, and lends ever important and tangible support to local anti-authoritarian initiatives. We collaborate with the feminist cooperative ReSew, Lviv Vegan Kitchen, as well as a courier initiative distributing medication in Kyiv.

Finally, we receive and review applications from international volunteers who have opted to join the anarchist unit of the territorial defense and help facilitate their journey to Ukraine.

At this time, we call for your solidarity. Lukewarm, indecisive stances and abstract denunciations of war in general will not help us stop the dictator. Hence, we encourage you to state your concrete position in whatever form you can– we will spread your expression of solidarity here in Ukraine. We ask you to support our volunteer organization! Our duty is to provide our comrades with everything they need, and that cannot be accomplished without your help!

Greetings from Kyiv,
Operation Solidarity
https://t.me/solidarnistinua

White Lives Matter: Neo-Nazi Initiative Has a Quebec Franchise

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Mar 212022
 

From Montréal Antifasciste

Warning: This article includes screenshots of chat room conversations and visual elements of an antisemitic and racist nature.

White Lives Matter (WLM) is a neo-Nazi initiative that over the past year has spread to a number of areas in the US and Canada, as well as to New Zealand, Australia, the Netherlands, and elsewhere in the world. The network’s first documented action was a series of decentralized demonstrations on May 8, 2021. The low turnout for these events led some observers to conclude that the undertaking had failed, but that optimistic assessment proved premature, as the network continued to grow, with an increasing number of actions over the past year.

WLM signals an attempt to reconsolidate the neo-Nazi milieu via decentralized chat rooms on the Telegram app. This approach is in part an effort to circumvent various obstacles, ranging from censorship on the major social media platforms to doxxing and other forms of resistance from the antifascist movement, as well as eventual criminal prosecution. It also parallels the international tendency amongst neo-Nazis towards clandestine, decentralized, and “leaderless” forms of activism, a trend with roots stretching back to the 1970s. Over the years, this has given rise to the “accelerationist” current and the increased prevalence of “lone wolf” mass murderers.

The WLM project also reflects substantial frustration with the marginal status of the neo-Nazi far right and a desire to move beyond the current subculture and the ideological quarrels among different tendencies and to form an activist network able to exercise genuine influence.

Although WLM is beyond any shadow of a doubt a neo-Nazi phenomenon, the American organizers’ original intent was to soften the movement’s image, which concretely translated into a superficial reticence to openly identify with the Nazi legacy or to use the swastika or other Nazi symbols in public discussions or on the stickers that the movement’s activists put up in public. Participants were also instructed (an instruction they often ignored) not to discuss the “Jewish question” or to encourage violence on public channels. Despite this, the chat rooms are completely saturated with Hitler memes, explicit references to historical Nazism, and unbridled racism of the most extreme variety—jokes about lynching Blacks, Holocaust denial videos, discussions asserting that Jews are not human and must be exterminated, etc.

The world as imagined by members of the White Lives Matter

WLM is not a formal organization; each local group has its own Telegram channel moderated by its own admin or admins. Nonetheless, it is a well-coordinated project, many of the channels having been created in 2021 by a small original group, which then sought out activists in each region to act as admins. Propaganda promotes shared methods and goals, and dates for actions and decisions regarding “messaging” appear to be centralized.

Telegram channels can be strictly unidirectional (like an email newsletter, with the content entirely determined by the admin), or they can take the form of an open chat, somewhat in the style of a public Facebook group. In many cases, the unidirectional channels include a parallel chat room – this is the basic structure of the WLM regional groups. Once these virtual spaces were established, the participants were encouraged to print WLM posters and stickers (typically, different variations on the central racist theme of the “great replacement” and the oppression of whites at the hands of other groups), to coordinate outreach and propaganda campaigns, and to take photos of their actions and post them on Telegram to encourage other people to also get involved.

Some WLM outings have received coverage in the Canadian media (e.g., posters in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario and New Battleford, Saskatchewan; in Toronto, where they have joined demonstrations against public health measures; see also the recent report on WLM activities in Montreal in Pivot), but mostly they have gone unnoticed. In some cases, local groups have met in person to coordinate more ambitious actions, e.g., banner drops in public areas.

This structure and approach is not unique to WLM; it is also shared by various other groups on the far right at the present time. Telegram provides a platform that allows individuals to get involved according to their own comfort level, and to become integrated into a community of sorts, with no need to meet or talk to anyone in person, all the while being encouraged to develop activities suited to their own capabilities.

As of this writing, many WLM channels are to all intents and purposes dormant, with less than a dozen members. Meanwhile, some groups in the US have taken their activities off the internet and into the streets in the form of banner drops, organized outings, leafletting, etc. In the areas where it is most active, WLM has been entwined with other neo-Nazi groups, such as the Folkish Resistance Movement (whose propaganda has been distributed in Saskatchewan and Alberta),[1] the Canada First group in Ontario, which received a certain amount of visibility at the so-called “Freedom Convoy” in Ottawa, and the attempt to set up a group called “Nationalist 13” (“13” symbolizing “anti-communist”) in southern Ontario.

Examining the WLM’s internal chat logs, obtained from comrades with Cornvallis Antifa, it appears that in Canada the user known as “McLeafin” was brought on board by the US organizers in April 2021. He then set up a number of channels for different provinces and proceeded to seek out recruits to act as admins.

Continue reading on the site of Montréal Antifasciste

Spring Is Coming: Take to the Streets against the War

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Mar 052022
 

From CrimethInc.

The following call to action originally appeared in Russian on avtonom.org, the platform that emerged from the Russia-wide anarchist network Autonomous Action.

Our Russian colleagues report that, under a new law introduced this week, those who are found guilty of spreading misinformation about the invasion of Ukraine can be sentenced to years in prison. This apparently includes those who simply refer to the invasion as a “war,” rather than a “special operation,” as Putin’s government has insisted on doing. In this context, demonstrators show tremendous courage taking to the streets.

The next mass day of protest is scheduled for this Sunday, March 6. We hope their efforts will be echoed by demonstrators around the world, placing pressure from all directions on the Russian government, the global capitalist class, military profiteers, and all the other forces that are abetting the invasion.

To support political prisoners in Russia, donate to the Anarchist Black Cross in Moscow here. To support anarchists in Ukraine, donate here or here. There is also a solidarity structure to support refugees fleeing from Ukraine.

The chief supporters of the prevailing order in Russia today.
Anti-war demonstrators in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Spring Is Coming: Take to the Streets against the War

The Russian army has invaded Ukraine. Putin has lost his senses and his army is bombing cities, shooting civilians, and killing children. More than one million people have fled the country in order to escape from Putin’s “liberators.”

We refuse to submit to Russian military censorship. We say openly and clearly: this is war. This is a war of conquest and the Russian army is running it. With weapons in their hands, Ukrainians are successfully defending themselves from the invaders, but we, who are inside Russia, cannot stand aside from these events. We must show each other and the world that we are against this war, that only Putin and his gang need it. To be against the war is genuine anti-fascism right now.

March 6, this coming Sunday, is the general day of anti-war actions in Russia. Take the central square of your city! One of the meeting points in Moscow is the Square of the train stations at 15:00. There are also meetings at 19:00 and other times. Decide and organize for yourselves, team up with your friends. The main thing is to get out on the streets.

The Russian authorities are panicking now. They have realized that they are losing this war. That is why they hysterically threaten anti-war protesters—with expulsion, or with dismissal, or with immediate conscription into the army, or with jail. Don’t be afraid of them. Ukrainians in their cities go out into the streets with bare hands to protest against the invaders. They are standing against solders with riffles, against tanks. How can one be afraid of the rusty machinery of the Russian police?

We demand an immediate end to the war. We demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine. This is the main condition for any further action: the aggression of the Russian Federation must stop. We must stop the slaughter of people. Yes, Putin didn’t ask us when he planned the invasion—but we didn’t stop him in time. So it is important to do it at least now.

Of course, our main goal now is to stop the war in Ukraine. But we have to fight for the future of Russia, as well. There isn’t much time left for this deranged dictator. His small victorious war didn’t go according to the plan and now his removal is only a matter of time and concrete means. But what happens next, after Putin?

The lands of the “Russian Federation” are now at a historical crossroads. The collapse of Putin’s regime may trigger the process of liberation. Sure, they won’t lead to anarchist ideals immediately—but at least Russia will no longer be at war with the rest of the world and with its own population. In this wave of changes, there will be opportunities for serious changes in the political system towards greater decentralization—for example, the complete abolition of the presidency and the transition to a parliamentary republic, which we have been talking about for a long time.

However, there’s another possibility for “what comes next” after Putin: the regime transforming into a pupal stage, into an even more authoritarian regime—the complete closure of all borders and the cessation of international contacts. Blocking half of the Internet in Russia tonight is only the first sign. There will no longer be any forces left for aggressive wars, but this will not make it easier for the inhabitants: they will find themselves in a state reminiscent of North Korea. And there is absolutely no anarchist movement in North Korea. None.

The face of the future of Russia as well as the present? It remains to be seen.

Now, in the coming days and weeks, we all have a unique window of opportunity. Putin’s authoritarian regime has made a fatal mistake and is reeling. If the psychopath in the Kremlin does not press the nuclear button, he will not live long. And now everything depends on us, the inhabitants of Russia. If we remain silent, then the agenda will quickly be hijacked by isolationists and conservatives, who are in the majority in the upper levels of power. But if we are active, we will win. A rusted leviathan needs only to be pushed and it will crumble into dust.

Take the streets on March 6. If you can’t go out on March 6, go out on other days. If you can’t go out at all, protest against the war in other ways: distribute leaflets and posters, stick up stickers, write “no war” on medical masks, hang posters from balconies. Finally, talk to people. This is now more important than studies, more important than work, more important than anything else in the world. Now the fate of not only Ukraine, but also Russia is being decided. Our future is being determined—and only we will be responsible for what it will be.

Winter is ending. Spring is coming.

Autonomous Action

A sticker reading “No War” in St. Petersburg, Russia.
A sticker reading “No War” on an urban map in St. Petersburg, Russia.
A sign affixed to a backpack via charming pins, belonging to a Russian anti-war protester.