In a city council meeting that took place on November 22, 2000, the government of Portland, Oregon approved the establishment of an “anti-terrorism" task force comprised of agents from the FBI and the Portland Police Bureau. This task force is being set up to investigate the activities of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). Most likely the investigation will be extended to anarchist as well, though they were not specifically mentioned in the report I read.
For several years now people have been taking direct action against the destruction of the earth and the exploitation of animals using the acronyms ELF and ALF to claim these actions. But the ELF and the ALF do not exist as formal organizations with membership. Rather anyone who takes such action and wishes to claim it in these names can do so by anonymously sending a communiqu?to the ELF or ALF press office. One may raise questions about the wisdom of those who take such actions using the same acronyms and, thus, making it easier for the authorities to paint an image of a “terrorist?organization, but those in power will always find ways to demonize who rebel—especially with a consciously revolutionary intent.
What is, in fact, of great significance in this is the use of the word “terrorism?to describe direct action. Direct action is action taken by an individual or self-organized group in order to directly and autonomously bring about a desired end—that is, to bring it about oneself rather than appealing to an authority to act in one’s place. Terrorism, on the other hand, is the attempt to induce fear in people in order to compel them to act or refrain from acting in accordance with the terrorist’s will. From this it should be clear that direct action is the most consistent method for anarchists and other revolutionaries who favor autonomy and self-determination to use in pursuing their projects and aims, whereas terrorism, in the true sense of the term, is the method of power, the method for imposing domination and exploitation, for frightening people not only into accepting their submission to their present miserable condition, but into imposing and enforcing it themselves.
The ELF actions described in various issues of Willful Disobedience have been direct action. Their intent has been to cause enough economic damage to a particular development to stop it or at least significantly slow its progress. The liberation of animals from exploitative institutions and the destruction of genetically engineered crops are also direct, autonomous actions, not acts of terrorism.
Anarchists have said over and over again that the state and capital are the real terrorists. And who could say otherwise after examining how they enforce their will? A uniformed, armed force patrols the streets of every city imposing the will of the ruling class. Nuclear, biological and chemical weapons send their messages of the need to comply with the demands of those who control them and whisper in the back of even the most rebellious minds of the need for “social peace”—this peace which always rests on terror. The threat of poverty—homelessness, material want, even starvation—sits in the recesses of the worker’s mind keeping her compliant. The examples are endless since this terror, used by those who rule us for the explicit purpose of keeping us in line, is in fact the atmosphere of our daily existence.
The irony of the establishment of this anti-terrorist? task force in Portland is that, upon careful examination, it also exposes who the real terrorists are. The actions of the ELF and the ALF (specifically targeted by this task force), those that have attacked genetically engineered crops, the actions of anarchists in solidarity with FIES hunger strikers and other prisoners, against militarism, against a multitude of state and capitalist projects are potentially the very opposite of terrorism. Instead of frightening people into submission, such actions have the potential of exposing the vulnerability of the institutions and projects of the rulers of this society, the ease with which they can be attacked and damaged. Thus, they can encourage people to take action themselves, to rise up in revolt against that which impoverishes their existence. The state needs to act quickly and fiercely against this possibility, and one of its most important strategies is to demonize those who act autonomously, thus inducing fear of this sort of action. The state does this by labeling autonomous rebels as “terrorists?and direct action as “terrorism." These blinding labels make it difficult for people to see through to the actual actions in order to come to their own understanding. In this way, the rulers terrorize those they rule not only into refraining from rebellion themselves, but into fearing and hating the rebel as well. But it is not the rebel who has induced this terror, but the state through its insidious machinations. Thus, in this "anti-terrorist" task force, the terrorism of the state is exposed again.
From the moment they came into existence, the state, capital and the entire network of institutions through which they maintain control have been warring against life, against wildness, against individual freedom and against self-determined relationships. Those who have dared to stand up against this have always been demonized, called lunatics, criminals, terrorists. But, in fact, we have been fighting against an existence so rationalized that very few can reason for themselves any more, so controlled that there are none left who are innocent before the law, and so permeated by the terror of power that fear itself has simply become part of the ennui, the bland horror, that passes for life today. Against the terrorism of power, we will not give up our fight.
The actions taken by various comrades in Latina, Italy on December 2 (see above) are part of an ongoing struggle against prisons, and particularly against the FIES in Spain, by anarchists both in outside of prison. While the struggle has expressed immediate demands (the end of the FIES regime in Spain; release of prisoners who are ill; the end of all practices which separate “troublesome” prisoners from friends, comrades and family; the end of torture and beatings; etc.), it contains the awareness of the necessity to destroy all prisons and the society that produces them. This awareness manifests in the methods of struggle the comrades choose to use, in their refusal to petition, negotiate or compromise. On the inside, this means ongoing strikes of various types and the destruction of prison property. On the outside, direct action and attacks against the institutions that create and maintain prisons, and on a broader level all institutions of power, the existence of which make this whole world a prison.
The conscious ness of the struggle is very clear: “We are in solidarity with all women and men who fight against their imprisonment, certainly not with those who just want to ameliorate the misery. But what is meant by being in solidarity? Simply, feeling that one shares in the will to smash all bars and constraints. In a world in which men and women are locked in prison and which itself comes to resemble an immense prison more and more each day, we will never be free. There are no solutions within this society: as long as money exists, there will never be enough for everyone; as long as property exists, there will be theft; as long as authority exists, its outlaws will arise. So it is not just a question of criticizing the prison tools (physical removal, seclusion, deprivation, etc.), but also its aims (to terrorize the poor, punish rebels, defend the privileges of the state and the ruling class)…”
This solidarity is also quite practical as the ongoing concerted efforts in this struggle by prisoners in Spain and Italy in conjunction with comrades on the outside clearly indicates. It is particularly significant that the actions of those on the outside are not charitable acts of social work, but direct attacks against the institutions that create prisons. “We don’t want to be generous with criminals like so many good ladies of charity, but rather to commit the greatest of crimes: to subvert the existent—this prison that contains all others—in order to create on its ruins the possibility of free agreements and free resolution of conflicts. In this perspective, the only possible reform of prisons is to raze them to the ground so as never to build them any more.” Here is the difference between prison support (however necessary it may be) and revolutionary solidarity.
But practical revolutionary solidarity in the struggle against prison requires ongoing communication between those inside and those outside about their struggles. This is no easy matter. Letters are inspected and censored, visits are monitored, phone calls are tapped. Within the American prison system, the authorities have promoted racial division quite successfully, making unified action against the prison regime extremely difficult. But revolutionaries and anarchists need to recognize that in our struggle some of us will find ourselves inside, possibly for long periods of time. And as the rulers seek to increase control, the outside will increasingly come to resemble a prison. So we are facing an important challenge: to find ways to develop an ongoing struggle against the social order that incorporates the specific struggle against prison in a practical way and that integrates the struggle inside with that outside in a revolutionary and anarchist manner—that is as a struggle to destroy all that stands in the way of our freedom to create our lives and relations as we desire.
(from Terra Selvaggia, July, 2000)
“It is a question of normal service operations.”—Donato Capece, cop unionist, on the beatings in the prison at Sassari.
Prison is applied science, where little or nothing happens by accident or through an oversight. For example, controlling and blocking mail and conversations at pleasure; transferring prisoners unexpectedly; maniacally searching them, their cells, their visitors; changing their approved status from one day to the next; the thousands of forms to compile for everything; the despotism of the last word of the guard—well—this is a precise, studied method aimed at breaking down the strength of individuals, at the continuous and scientific humiliation of their dignity.
In every prison in the world, none excluded, prisoners are isolated, tortured, moved to suicide, allowed to die and directly murdered by their jailers.
And this is not an oversight or an excess at all; this is a method.
Of course, there are prisons that “are worse” and prisons that “are not so bad”. But this narrow range of shading from black to dark gray is only further extortion, an ability to threaten prisoners with the worst, so that they become their own controllers.
Prison is a science; claiming to be able to “reform” it, to eliminate “the abuse” and the violence, to make it more livable is science fiction.
To put it more clearly, this claim is a lie.
And it is a lie for at least two reasons.
The first is that prison is naked and rationalized violence, and it is state violence. The second reason is that this existence cannot do without the constant threat of imprisonment.
Furthermore, those responsible for the existence of prisons are certainly not the ones locked up inside them; those responsible are the same people to whom we are indebted for oppression, exploitation, imposed extortion outside of prison as well, and they are the only ones to benefit from it. Now, after the beating of prisoners by guards at Sassari, an old script has been put back on stage and magistrates, journalists, members of parliament, priests with or without cassocks, all scoundrels pledged to the daily maintenance of the existent and therefore of prison, are anxious to support the unsupportable, that is to say, that the deeds at Sassari were an excess—perhaps a little questionable—but understandable, all things considered.
Meanwhile, toward the end of May, a man and a woman, imprisoned respectively at Regina Coeli and Ragusa, died in jail.
At this time, after a normal massacre, the jailers, the day laborers of oppression, arrogantly sought praise, approbation, a raise in pay and obtained the promise of thousands of new cops, accomplices for more efficient “service operations”. What’s more, they were put forward as the real victims of prison.
But no confusion whatever is possible between those who lock up and those who are locked up, just as on the outside it is not possible to confuse those who oppress with those who are oppressed.
And then, let’s say it, the vast majority of those who are inside were, were “free” exploited outside: the law and prison, like exploitation, are arms of class domination and this world is, in fact, one gigantic prison.
It is with the rebellion of every single prisoner, here and everywhere, the struggles of prisoners […throughout Italy and Spain,…throughout the world…] for the closure of the special modules of extermination, that we unite ourselves in order to put an end to the prisons, in order to put an end to the present existence.