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(en) Cuban anarchism: the history of a movement by Frank Fernandez - Chapter 5 : Exile and Shadows (1962-2001) I. (1/2)

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>(http://www.illegalvoices.org/apoc/books/cuban/front.html)
Date Mon, 23 Feb 2004 09:17:30 +0100 (CET)


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Even though some anarchists - whether or not involved in the
violent opposition - had gone into exile as early as mid 1960, it
wasn’t until the summer of 1961 that a collective exodus began
to the U.S. This wasn’t the first time that Cuba’s anarchists
had found refuge in that country. Since the late 19th century, Key
West, Tampa, and New York had been the places chosen by
persecuted Cuban libertarians, because they offered the best
opportunities of earning a living, and because the Florida cities were
near enough to Cuba to continue the political struggle. During the
Machado and Batista dictatorships, exiled anarchists had gone to
these cities; and the Cuban anarchists had contacts with anarchist
groups in other U.S. cities.

The U.S. immigration laws had stiffened against anarchists in the
1920s, and these laws were still in force in the early 1960s - as
many would-be political refugees unjustly denied entrance will
remember. But the Immigration and Naturalization Service made an
exception for the Cuban anarchists fleeing the Castro dictatorship,
evidently believing that “the enemy of my enemy is my
friend,” and that the Cuban anarchists were therefore potential
allies. What is certain is that the U.S. authorities asked almost all of
the new refugees about their political affiliations, that the Cuban
libertarians were truthful about the matter, and that they were
permitted entrance to and residency in the United States. It’s
also true that, as in other times, it was unusual to encounter a
Cuban exile who thought of remaining in the U.S. for very long. All
of the recently arrived, including the libertarians, were convinced
that the return to Cuba was near and they planned their anti-Castro
strategy accordingly.

In the summer of 1961, the Movimiento Libertario Cubano en el
Exilio (MCLE)* was formally constituted in New York by the not
very numerous exiles in that city. At the same time, another
libertarian group was organizing itself in Miami; this group included
Claudio Martínez, Abelardo Iglesias, and Rolando Piñera, and
was known as the Delegación General (of the MLCE). The New
York section (of the MLCE) was composed almost entirely of
members of the Sindicato Gastronómico, including Juan R.
Álvarez, Floreal and Omar Diéguez, Bartolo García,
Fernando Gómez, Manuel Rodríguez, and Juan Fidalgo. Fidalgo
established, through Gómez, the first contacts with the exiled
Spanish anarchists of the Club Aurora in Boston. At the time,
another group of Spanish libertarian exiles in New York existed,
centering around the long-running anarchist magazine, Cultura
Proletaria; the Cubans also established good relations with this
group.

But without doubt, the primary source of solidarity and cooperation
for the newly arrived Cubans was the New York-based anarchist
Libertarian League, led by Sam Dolgoff and Russell Blackwell.
Blackwell had been a combatant in the Spanish Civil War and held
notable responsibility in the American anarchist movement despite,
or perhaps because of, his Trotskyist past. Sam Dolgoff in those
years was one of the most respected figures in North American
anarchism, and after a long revolutionary career also had
considerable influence in the American left. Always at his
side - and at times in front - was his compañera, Esther
Dolgoff, who had also been involved in class-based anarchist
politics since her youth. Another notable member of this group was
Abe Bluestein, who also maintained close relations with the
Cubans. In 1954, this group had founded the Libertarian League,
which had as its organ the newsletter titled Views & Comments.
(Dick Ellington, mentioned in the footnote below, was a member of
the group that produced this newsletter.) Without the collaboration
of the members of the Libertarian League, the task of the Cuban
anarchist exiles would have been much harder.

Already in this period collections were being taken among
anarchists in the U.S., Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and almost all of
Europe for the purpose of helping endangered Cuban anarchists
and/or their families obtain visas and passage out of the country.
The conditions of life in these years for the enemies of the regime
were indescribable; they were suffering in the worst political prisons
ever known in Cuba. They had to adapt themselves to inhuman
conditions and suffered torment on a daily basis at the hands of
their jailers - Cubans like themselves, who were engaging in
cruelty in the name of “socialism.” The desire to escape
from this great dungeon that Cuba had become was an obsession
for almost all Cubans.

The donations in August 1961 totaled $2088 (equivalent to about
$11,600 today), and provoked the Gaona explosion (the DDG
[Documento de Gaona], which denounced the exiled anarchists) in
November. These funds, according to the bookkeeping records of
Claudio Martínez, treasurer of the MLCE, came from many
different places. For example, the comrades at Freie Arbeiter
Stimme, the Yiddish anarchist paper in New York, contributed
$425. Six hundred one dollars came from the SIA in Argentina. And
many individuals also contributed, including Agustín Souchy and
one Dutch anarchist, who stated that his donation was made for
humanitarian reasons and that his sympathies remained with the
Cuban Revolution. (This was typical of European anarchist
confusion in regard to the Cuban anarchists and the Castro
government.)

This collection brought more than 66 compañeros and family
members to the U.S. at the same time as the Cuban anarchists in
exile began a campaign to unmask the marxist-leninist regime
afflicting Cuba. But to the astonishment of the Cuban anarchists,
after initial success the financial appeal, which should have been
further supported by those familiar with the Cuban problem,
encountered difficulties. There were two principle reasons for the
diminishing contributions: 1) the unexpected damage that the DDG
document was doing in countries such as México, Venezuela,
and Argentina; and 2) not all of the recently arrived Cubans in the
U.S. responded to the appeals. In the face of this, by mid 1962 the
MLCE had established a system of dues of $2 per month per
member, which covered the most pressing costs, among them aid
to recently arrived comrades and the campaign for Cuban political
prisoners. And there were a number of these.

Cuba’s anarchists suffered the same punishment as other
Cubans accused of “counter-revolutionary” crimes. The
abuse, maltreatment, and even torture of Cuba’s political
prisoners over the last four decades is well documented by Amnesty
International and other human rights groups. In quality, this abuse
was worse than that meted out to political prisoners in most other
countries, as is indicated by the testimony of Marcelo Salinas
(imprisoned in 1917-1918 in the U.S., Spain, and Cuba),
Abelardo Iglesias (imprisoned in France in 1939), and Casto
Moscú (imprisoned in Cuba in 1933). In such cases, if the accused
accepted his sentence without too much protest and didn’t
make trouble in prison, the authorities generally freed the prisoner
in the end, without abusing him too much physically.

But that wasn’t the case in Castro’s Cuba. One major
difference between the Castro regime and its predecessors was the
sheer number of political prisoners. The Cuban writer Juan Clark
notes: “According to a number of estimates, the highest
number of political prisoners was 60,000 during the 1960s.
Amnesty International estimates that by the mid 1970s the total
number released was approximately 20,000.” Of course, at the
beginning of the Castro regime, there weren’t enough prisons
to house these huge numbers of political prisoners, so Castro
embarked on a prison-construction campaign.

Curiously, according to political prisoners freed in the decade
1970-1980, the population of political prisoners in the
“socialist” Cuban gulags came overwhelmingly from
working class and campesino backgrounds. There should be no
dispute about this, given the mass of evidence: the Castro regime
persecuted its proletarian and campesino enemies far more
vigorously than its capitalist enemies. Many anarchists suffered
greatly under this policy.

The testimony of the anarchist former political prisoners Luis
Linsuaín (originally condemned to death for attempting to
assassinate Raúl Castro), Placido Méndez, and Isidro Moscú,
all of whom served between 15 and 20 years imprisonment, outlines
the abuses suffered by Castro’s political foes. In the first years
after the revolution, when the number of political prisoners far
outstripped available prison space, prisoners lived in very cramped
conditions. The treatment in Castro’s prisons was (and
apparently still is) brutal. Those slow to respond to orders were
impelled to do so by being beaten with clubs or jabbed with
bayonets. Prisoners were also forced to work in quarries or sugar
cane fields, or to do other hard physical labor. The authorities also
instituted a system imported from the USSR, under which prisoners
who studied and attended classes on marxism-leninism received
better treatment than those who resisted this carrot-and-stick
system.

Those who refused to participate in this were labeled as dangerous
“intransigents” by the authorities. These prisoners were so
harassed that many resorted to hunger strikes and ended up in
prison hospitals. Many of these, as well as other political
prisoners - basically anyone accused of “antisocial
conduct” ended up buried in what in the U.S. would be
called “the hole”: extremely small cells, little bigger than a
coffin, in which prisoners were held for days or even weeks.

On an individual note, we should mention the cases of Suria
Linsuaín (sister of Luis, mentioned above) and Carmelina
Casanova. The first of these was condemned for
“counterrevolutionary” crimes to 30 years in the Guanajay
and América Libre prisons. She completed five years
imprisonment between 1964 and 1969, and was released from the
prison hospital only when she was on the brink of death. Carmelina
Casanova was also sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. Her crime
was hiding anti-Castro militants. She completed eight years of her
sentence before being released, and then fled to Miami, her health
broken. She died shortly after her arrival. These are but two
examples; at the minimum, hundreds of other anarchists suffered
political imprisonment and mistreatment.

While aiding other libertarian political prisoners, the MLCE agitated
to mobilize international anarchist opinion in order to save the life of
Luis Linsuaín. But, almost unbelievably, certain sectors of
international anarchism refused to accept that the “Cuban
Revolution” (that is, the Cuban government) had become a
totalitarian system that persecuted, imprisoned, and shot their
Cuban comrades. The Cuban libertarians restated the anarchist
ethical reasons for opposing the regime that persecuted them, and
also supplied proof of the persecution.

But Gaona’s disinformation “Clarification” document
had begun to circulate in almost all of the anarchist milieus to
which its authors had access, and was also being touted by agencies
at the service of international marxism from Moscow to Sydney. In
reply, in 1962 members of the MLCE initiated a propaganda
campaign with the publication of the Boletín de Información
Libertaria (BIL), receiving support from Views & Comments in
New York and the Federación Libertaria Argentina’s organ,
Acción Libertaria. The Argentine anarchists, like those in the U.S.,
responded from the first to the calls of the Cuban anarchists, and
never deserted them in the difficult years to come.

The confusion in the anarchist camp regarding the Cuban situation
was fomented by the Castro government’s propaganda
apparatus, which had enormous resources, talent, imagination, and
great political ability. It replied to the exiled anarchists’ attacks
precisely in that ideological territory which marxism had
manipulated so successfully during the Spanish Civil War. The
international left consisted of a number of political, social, and even
religious groups that constantly attacked capitalism, militarism, the
ruling class, and organized religion. The entrance of the
“socialist” Castro regime into this political war zone was a
very effective tactic in maintaining international sympathy for the
regime and for keeping it in power. This was an especially powerful
tactic in combination with the Castro regime’s extremely
sophisticated methods of repression; and these two factors are the
principal reasons for that regime’s durability.

In this propaganda war, the Castro regime of course used
Gaona’s “Clarification” document to the fullest, even in
the remotest parts of the planet, to “prove” that the
anarchists’ charges - which they deceitfully labeled
“anti-Cuban,” deliberately confusing the country with the
political system - were in fact the product of ex-anarchists in the
pay of the worst capitalist elements. They called the Cuban
anarchists “CIA agents, go-betweens, drug traffickers, Batista
supporters,” and many other epithets common to marxist
propaganda. But above all they circulated the DDG in all of the
libertarian milieus to which they had access, in this manner creating
confusion first and doubt later in regard to the MLCE.

Of course, one would have expected this maneuver. What really
surprised the Cuban anarchists was the reaction to it in the
anarchist world. From the beginning the Cubans had believed in the
justness of their cause. After supplying proof of their persecution in
Cuba and receiving the solidarity of the American and Argentinian
anarchists, they assumed - erroneously as it turned out - that,
given the justness of their charges against Castroism, the rest of the
world’s anarchists would naturally and spontaneously rally to
their aid, as they had to the Spanish anarchist victims of Franco.
But this didn’t happen. Doubts were raised in anarchist groups
in Mexico, Venezuela, Uruguay, France, and Italy. Initially, these
doubts were comprehensible in relation to the revolutionary process
that was coming to a head in Cuba - especially so given that the
same Cuban anarchists who were now in exile and attacking Castro
had initially supported the revolutionary system.

At this time, in the mid and late 1960s, there’s no doubt that
the DDG was doing its damage. The MLCE knew of it, but did little
to combat it, assuming that no one would pay attention to such
calumnies and fallacies. The MLCE strategy was to attack
Castroism as the only political enemy. In hindsight, this was an
error in judgment. In these years, there was a convergence in the
charges made by the MLCE against Castroism and the charges
made by the U.S. State Department against it. This was taken
advantage of by the Castroites who charged that the Cuban
libertarians were “following the imperialist political line.”

No one has ever denied the coincidence of the charges made; this
was, and to a point still is, a fact. But anyone familiar with the
history of anarchism and its partisans will recognize that at different
times and places anarchists have made charges against
governments similar to those made by the capitalist class, the
Communist Party, and even the Vatican. When there’s a
common enemy, one makes common cause with others, no matter
how little one’s ideas coincide with theirs. But it’s one
thing to make charges similar to those of non-anarchist forces and
entirely another to place oneself under their command. In the
Cuban case, the Cuban anarchists always maintained their
independence. As well, one should ask who opposed Castro first?
It’s undeniable that the Cuban anarchists opposed Castro
before the U.S. government did.

While the Cuban regime’s calumnies proliferated, confusion
spread and the polemic escalated. Agustín Souchy’s
Testimonios sobre la Revolución Cubana and the anti-Castro
Manifiesto de los Anarquistas de Chile circulated slowly in Latin
America, and there were some defenders of the Cuban libertarian
cause, including Edgar Rodrigues in Brazil and Ricardo Mestre in
Mexico. Still, the Boletin de Información Libertaria (BIL)
expressed surprise at the small amount of solidarity expressed by
some anarchist sectors, and attributed it to “lack of true and
exact information” about the Cuban situation. Already by 1962
the BIL reported a certain “declared hostility” in some
anarchist media and an “incomprehension” in others.

At this time, the polemic concerning the Cuban Revolution
intensified alarmingly. Writing about this useless rhetorical dispute
20 years later, Alfredo Gómez quotes Jacobo Prince (who wrote
the introduction to Souchy’s Testimonios pamphlet):
“Jacobo Prince . . . in a letter of December 5, 1961 emphasized
that ‘the fact that the most violent attacks against the Castro
regime come from reactionary sectors augments the confusion and
makes necessary considerable civil courage to attack the myth of
this revolution.’” It’s understandable that the anarchist
media suspected the enemies of Castroism, among whom one
found the Cuban compañeros, but it’s difficult to understand
why they doubted the word of their exiled Cuban comrades, given
that there was no evidence against them save the DDG, which
should have been obvious to anyone reading it as a lying, malignant
piece of disinformation.

The care with which anarchists had to treat the Cuban matter was
well demonstrated in Venezuela and Mexico. According to Alfredo
Gómez, the Grupo Malatesta in Venezuela “in the course of a
campaign for the liberation of L.M. Linsuaín [condemned to death
for his attempt on Raúl Castro] . . . had to be very careful to
‘clarify’ and to explain exactly what the anarchists wanted .
. . and to demonstrate that they weren’t reactionaries.”
Later, in regard to Tierra y Libertad, the anarchist organ in Mexico,
Gòmez relates that this publication “had to explain that its
criticism of the Castro regime did not imply the acceptance of the
pre-revolutionary structures.” In both these cases, we can see
that doubts and confusion prevailed in both Caracas and Mexico
City. But in the end the campaign to save Linsuaín’s life was
successful, though he was still sentenced to 30 years imprisonment.

In Havana, in late 1961, Castro declared that he had been “a
marxist-leninist [his] entire life.” And other compañeros who
had escaped the emerging tyranny began to arrive in Miami.
Santiago Cobo César, who had occupied positions of
responsibility in the Secretaría de la Federación Nacional de
Transporte, one of the largest and most important unions on the
island, arrived in Miami via Venezuela, where he had been given
political asylum. Once in Miami, he plunged into working with the
MLCE with the energy that had characterized him since his youth.

Another exile, Manuel Ferro, already of retirement age,
recommenced his libertarian activism which had begun in the
1920s. Ferro was a lucid anarchist writer who had numerous
international contacts, and he didn’t delay in undertaking the
long task, as difficult as it was fruitful, of attempting to shed some
light within the shadows of incomprehension that were engulfing
the libertarian world at this time in regard to Cuba.

In the company of his old Italian friend Enrico Arrigoni, and urged
on by him, Ferro commenced “to write several articles about the
Cuban reality” which, with the help of Arrigoni’s
translations, were published in the anarchist press of France, Italy,
Mexico, and Argentina. According to Ferro, “In the majority of
our milieus [these articles] were received with displeasure,”
owing to the “enthusiasm” with which the Cuban
Revolution had been received in them. But in other cases anarchists
rallied to the Cuban libertarian cause. Reconstruir (“To
Reconstruct”) in Buenos Aires, whose publishing house,
Colectivo, fully identified with the Cuban anarchists, published all
of Ferro’s works.

In regard to Europe, Ferro (who signed his articles “Justo
Muriel”), regularly sent his pieces to the exiled Spanish
anarchist leadership, which at this time resided in Toulouse,
France. His friend Federica Montseny only published three. She
explained, with the cynical sincerity born of long political
experience, “It’s not popular to attack Castro in
Europe.” In reply, Ferro noted that “Neither is it popular to
attack Franco in Miami.”

The intellectual activity of Ferro and of Abelardo Iglesias, among
other Cuban anarchists, was unceasing in the early and mid 1960s.
For example, in 30 short dictums, such as the following, published
in Acción Libertaria in Buenos Aires as “Revolución y
Contrarevolución,” Iglesias clarified the abysmal differences
between the marxist and anarchist conceptions of revolution :

To expropriate capitalist enterprises, handing them over to the
workers and technicians, THIS IS REVOLUTION. But to convert
them into state monopolies in which the only right of the producer
is to obey, THIS IS COUNTERREVOLUTION.

Also in these years the exiled Cubans made their first contacts with
the long-established Italian-American anarchists, almost all of
whom were already retired in Tampa and Miami. These elderly
militants sustained a publication in New York called L’Adunata
dei Refrattari (“The Reunion of the Refractory”) which in
these years dedicated itself to defending Castroism or the Cuban
Revolution, since to its editors, the same as to the government in
Havana, the two were identical. This confusion persisted, and a
debate ensued not only with the MLCE but also with the Libertarian
League.

Ferro and Arrigoni began a campaign in Italy itself, with the idea of
taking the bull by the horns. They turned to the most important
Italian anarchist periodical, Umanita Nova (“New
Humanity”), the official publication of the Federazione
Anarchica Italiana, with the idea of counterbalancing the
undeniable influence of L’Adunata in the Italian-American
anarchist community, and more especially of responding to a series
of pro-Cuban Revolution articles published in that weekly by
Armando Borghi. Umanita Nova refused to publish Ferro’s
articles (translated by Arrigoni), saying that they didn’t want to
create a polemic. At that point Arrigoni accused them of being in
the pay of the Communists, and they eventually published
Ferro’s responses to Borghi. A few months later,
Borghi - ignoring the points raised by Ferro - published a new
defense of Castroism in L’Adunata, but Umanita Nova refused
to publish Ferro’s response to it.

In Cuba at this time there were still a few anarchists suffering in
silence the despotism of the Castro regime. Guerra, Sierra, and
Salinas, who were all elderly veterans of the struggles of the 1920s
and 1930s, were abandoned to their fate despite the efforts of their
compañeros in exile to aid them in obtaining the necessities of
life. The first two of these had signed Gaona’s
“Clarification” document against their will, as they admitted
in private. Salinas, who had refused to be an accomplice to this
crime, was forced by the government to go into a type of internal
exile in Santiago de las Vegas, from which place he would later go
into actual exile in Miami. Another veteran anarchist, Modesto
Barbeito, would die shortly, a victim of frustration and ill health.

During these years there were many anarchists imprisoned for
“counterrevolutionary activities,” such as Antonio Dagas, a
Spaniard who belonged to the CNT delegation in Cuba, who was
imprisoned in the sinister La Cabaña prison in Havana. Alberto
García, the Secretary of the Federación de Trabajadores
Médicos, was condemned to 30 years imprisonment. Sandalio
Torres, accused of “conspiracy against the powers of the
state,” was sentenced to 10 years in prison for refusing to make
false conspiracy charges against other anarchists.

Another member of the CNT delegation among the anarchists in
Cuba was Salvador García, who eventually obtained asylum in
Mexico. Upon his arrival, he made contact with other exiled
Spaniards, such as Ricardo Mestre, Fidel Miró, Domingo Rojas,
Ismael Viadu, and Marcos Alcón, all of whom sympathized with
the MLCE. After his arrival, Tierra y Libertad published the
testimony of García, which not only affirmed that persecution of
libertarians was taking place in Cuba, but also endorsed the
opinions of the MLCE. Later, in 1962, the always-supportive
Reconstruir would publish García’s account in Argentina.

At about the same time, the Comité Pro-Libertarios Presos
(Committee for Libertarian Prisoners) was created in Miami to
collect funds to help alleviate the hardships of the compañeros
suffering in Castro’s prisons.

In the middle of 1963, Abelardo Iglesias finished writing a booklet
of nearly 100 pages titled Revolución y dictadura en Cuba
(“Revolution and Dictatorship in Cuba”), which with a
prologue by Jacobo Prince was published in Buenos Aires in
October. Iglesias, as Prince noted, had written with characteristic
sincerity a document “with the authority of exemplary militance
over a period of 30 years, and which sees [the Cuban] people
subjected to a new dictatorship.” Revolución y dictadura, a
calm denunciation of Castro, offered a description of Cuban society
beneath the “revolutionary” regime. It ended with some
conclusions about the subordination of Cuban foreign policy to the
Kremlin, and about what the author considered “the correct
tactic” against the new dictatorship: “revolutionary
war.”

Meanwhile in New York in 1964, the Libertarian League under Sam
Dolgoff’s leadership was continuing its propaganda campaign
against the Castro government, and also organizing public
demonstrations against it. At this time, a controversy arose between
Dolgoff and Dave Dellinger, the pacifist writer, upon Dellinger’s
return from Cuba after the May Day celebrations in Havana (the trip
being paid for by the Castro regime) - with, of course, the
obligatory military parades, Soviet slogans, and The International as
background music.
================================================================
* Acronyms

AIT Asociación Internacional de los Trabajadores
ALC Asociación Libertaria de Cuba
ARS Alianza Revolucionaria Socialista
BIL Boletín de Información Libertaria
CDR Comités en Defensa de la Revolución
CGT Confederación General de Trabajadores
CNOC Confederación Nacional Obrera de Cuba
CNT Confederación Nacional del Trabajo
CO Comisiones Obreras
CONI Comité Obrero Nacional Independiente
CTC Confederación de Trabajadores de Cuba
CTCR Confederación de Trabajadores de Cuba Revolucionaria
DDG Documento de Gaona
FAI Federación Anarquista Ibérica
FAIT Federazione Anarchica Italiana
FAL Fundación Anselmo Lorenzo
FGAC Federación de Grupos Anarquistas de Cuba
FJLC Federación de Juventudes Libertarias de Cuba
FOH Federación Obrera de La Habana
FRE Federación Regional Española
FTC Federación de Trabajadores de Cuba
ISHSS International Society for Historical and Social Studies
IWA International Workingmen’s Association
IWW Industrial Workers of the World
MAS Movimiento de Acción Sindical
MLCE Movimiento Libertario Cubano en el Exilio
M26J Movimiento 26 de Julio
PCC Partido Comunista Cubano
PLA Partido Liberal Autonomista
PRC Partido Revolucionario Cubano
PRCA Partido Revolucionario Cubano Auténtico
PSP Partido Socialista Popular
SGT Sociedad General de Trabajadores
SIA Solidaridad Internacional Antifascista

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