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(en) International meeting of European Anarchist Black Cross groups in Stuttgart, 29th-31st of July 2005

Date Sun, 06 Nov 2005 11:57:12 +0200


There is no any "official Anarchist Black Cross" organization in Europe, but
for some years various European Black Cross groups have gathered annually to
discuss common projects. Meeting in Stuttgart this year was continuation to
meetings in Gent of Belgium 2001, Dijon of France 2002, Berlin of Germany
2003 and Bialystok of Poland 2004. This year there were people from groups
of Amsterdam, Antwerp, Berlin, Bilbao, Brighton, Gent, Leeds, Moscow and RTS
(Stuttgart/Tubingen) present.
This is my subjective report of the meeting, based on minutes of the meeting
and my own notes. Others may have interpreted discussions differently, and
responsibility for all the mistakes is my only.

This was first European ABC meeting I attended, and I liked it a lot. It was
perhaps the best international anarchist event I ever attended. I think
small scale, clear focus and goals were a receipt for a success - a model
totally opposite to gathering hundreds of people to one big, chaotic
spectacle. I think European ABC meeting model is the way I will follow also
with other international anarchist projects I am and will get involved with.

It was less than 20 people all the time, and all of them aware of the issues
that were discussed, all of them involved in the discussion but nobody
dominating. None of these people I had met before offline. Time was little,
because transport of one group broke on the way to meeting, and in Sunday
people had to leave early in order to make it to court in Aachen the next
morning. Some issues were very difficult, and opinions were many, but I
think in the end common understanding and solidarity prevailed. While number
of anarchist and anti-authoritarian prisoners keeps growing, and prisoner
support is still among least popular topics of the "scene" in general, this
small meeting gave me a plenty of motivation to keep going on.

From 9 groups present, only Brighton, Gent and RTS were more than 2 years
old. Especially Aachen case has had a consolidating effect, it has brought
the issues some groups have been working with for years, such as struggle
against FIES and torture in Spanish prisons, to Central European reality in
a most concrete manner. Also debates on strategies of struggle, critics of
concepts of "crime" and "criminals", struggles against prison and prison
society, insurrection and revolution have become actual in a totally new
manner. Whereas Aachen case itself has nothing to be celebrated, and many
have denounced the arrested, the few who have decided to give solidarity are
very determined and active. These topics were known and discussed before
within anarchist circles, but there is a difference between taking
theoretical positions and defending these concretely when comrades are
attacked. If there is anything positive with the Aachen case, it is the
small resurgence of ABC activity in Europe that it has resulted.

Of course, nothing appears from nowhere, and any visible movement is usually
result of years of almost invisible work of a small number of dedicated
activists. Credit for ABC growth in Central Europe must be also given to
handful of groups who have been persistently active since second half of the
nineties, and to networking process they launched.

Reports from the groups

RTS (Stuttgart and surrounding cities)

Stammheim prison is located in Stuttgart, and traditionally groups organizes
a march to prison 18th of March. This year 40-50 people came, more than
during last couple of years. After march there was a talk with former
prisoners in the autonomous centre BAZ, also one hour radio-program in the
non-commercial radio station "Freies Radio Stuttgart" (a non-commercial
radio-station). There are no more any political prisoners in Stammheim, and
it is a high-security remand prison nowadays.

Group has been also much involved with Aachen solidarity work. There has
been various repressions in Stuttgart, for example after an anti-fascist
demonstration in September 2004 police claimed, that flyer included "a
violent call to assault other people". Police has also illegally taken DNA
samples, homes have been searched also in Göttingen. Only squat in the city
was evicted 27th of July, two days before ABC meeting.

Amsterdam

Amsterdam group was formed in September 2004. It cooperates with "Left help"
, and a recently formed organization European Organization for Rights of
Detainees, which has gained a fair amount of media attention. Amsterdam
group has also worked with Aachen case, benefit parties and info talks have
also been organized on situation in Italy. Mark Barnsley gave a speech in an
event. Pamphlets and newspapers have been published. 2nd of April there was
an action day for freedom of movement, and actions were organized against
private prison boats in Rotterdam where "illegal" immigrants are detained.
These are worst kinds of prisons without any facilities whatsoever, 4
persons are kept in one room.

There has also been repressive developments in Netherlands, "anti-terrorist"
laws were passed without much of any opposition. Among other reforms, now
police has right to intercept post of lawyers. Resistance to evictions of
squats has also resulted repression, longest sentences for such cases have
been 5 months, which is substantially more than it used to be. Judges have
also not shied away to handle these cases in an outright political manner.

Bilbao

Currently there are two ABC groups in Basque country, in Spain altogether 7.
Many groups has vanished during recent waves of repression, 2 years ago they
were 13-14. Bilbao group has been formed less than a year ago, they publish
a newspaper. They had a campaign against deaths in prison, during last 4
years there has been more than 1000 deaths in prison according to official
statistics. There are plenty of other problems as well, for example in
Vitoria prison guards force inmates to prostitution.

In March, 250 people demonstrated against a new prison in Zaragoza, which
has existed 4 years - 40 people came to demo from Basque country. Among
other activities, a pirate radio was broadcasted to prisoners.

Bilbao anarchists organize a demonstration to a prison every month, usually
these gather 20-30 people. This is not so many, if you compare with support
demonstrations for Basque nationalist prisoners, which may gather up to 10
000 people. Basque nationalists support only their own prisoners, and in
general Basque country is quite hostile environment to anarchist activity
due to strong nationalism.

Court against 6 persons arrested in Barcelona was expected to begin in
September or October of 2005. It is expected that prosecutor demands up to 7
years in prison and fines up to 50 000 euros. 25th of June police of
Barcelona attacked with extreme violence a demonstration to support
anarchists arrested in Italy, although there were no any disturbances. In
time of the meeting, a Chilean girl was still in prison and expected to be
deported. 17th of July another demonstration for Italians was organized in
Barcelona.

Bilbao group is also involved in solidarity work for "Magonist" (after a
Mexican anarchist executed in USA in beginning of 1920's) peasant union
CIPO-RFM in Oaxaca region of Southern Mexico. Last year one woman was killed
there, and police shot at a demonstration. People are afraid that activists
will be killed in prison, and big sums of money are necessary (10 000 euros
for each prisoner) in order to have them released.

20th-25th of September a prisoner support week will be organized in Bilbao,
with many kinds of activities.

Berlin

Current group of Berlin has existed almost a year, previous one split up in
2003. Group was formed to support people who were arrested in April 2004
during Auto.org action days, and kept in prison for a couple of days. Group
raised funds to pay their fines. This year again a number of people got
arrested after traditional mayday festivities In Berlin, two persons (Thomas
and Christian) are in a difficult situation, Thomas because he was in prison
before, and Christian because he was arrested in 2004 as well. Dennis got a
sentence of two and half years for events of 2004, he is not political.
Berlin group corresponds with and visits these three prisoners. Group also
relaunched paper "Entfesselt", and has organized information events for
example about the Aachen case, which 30 people visited - that is a good
number for an info evening in Berlin. Group plans to publish a brochure on
the Italian situation.

There has been some repressions in Berlin as well, for example after
eviction of the famous Yorck59 house. City administration has also gone
apeshit with graffitists, hunting them with helicopters. an "anti-graffiti"
conference was organized in Berlin as well.

Brighton

Brighton couple has quite a stable existence, although new people do not
come around too often. Website has 2000-3000 hits a month, so it is a
project worth of continuation. Group does pickets outside prisons and
contacts visitors - prison is definitely much more pleasant place to stand
than city centre, since visitors are very supportive.

In UK, police has heavily exploited injuctions, that were originally
introduced in order to protect former partners of abusive and stalking
people. Two persons landed to prison in Brighton for picketing a bit off
limits of the required area, one person was even imprisoned for filming
security guards. postering has been targeted as well.

Brighton people were involved with anti-G8 actions, 352 people got arrested
there. They are also involved in campaign against prison labor.

Antwerp

New group was founded in February of 2005, where old one had collapsed the
previous December. This far group has produced a leaflet about Italy (and
apparently worked with Aachen case as almost everybody else, although this
they did not mention).

Leeds

Group was formed in the end of 2004. They work closely together with
Campaign Against Prison Slavery, and try to involve prisoners into the
campaign. They also talk to families and friends of prisoners, and support
Mapuche Indians prisoned in Chile for standing for their land rights. There
is also a Catalan solidarity group in Leeds that does not reject anarchist
prisoners.

Moscow

Moscow group was formed two years ago, but during last year it has been in a
sort of hiatus - only regular activity has been making prisoner support
pages to Avtonom journal. Some anarchists are helping prisoners such as Olga
Nevskaya on their own. Groups focus is strictly on anarchist and
anti-authoritarian political prisoners, wider issues are on demand but way
out of reach of current resources.

There are currently more than 700 000 prisoners in Russia, but unlike many
other countries, number is decreasing. This has to do with the fact that
economic exploitation of the prisoners is not yet rentable in a wider
scale - demand of domestic market is not big enough (in general labor costs
are a neglible part of general production costs in Russia), and in
international market Chinese slave market may outbid Russian one.

Conditions in prisons are tough, even such elementary things as food and
clothing have to be financed by relatives of the prisoners.

There is often heavy resistance going on in prisons, followed by heavy
repressions - Russian equivalent of isolation units used in many countries
(Spanish FIES, American MCU's.) is called EPKT ("Single Cell-type Units").

Gent

Currently only two people are active in Gent - but group is not even looking
for loads of new activists, instead of few people prepared to a long-term
commitment. During year, group has been mostly busy with Aachen stuff, but a
convincing pile of other translations and publications was presented as
well. Gent group is also currently focusing solely on support of anarchist
prisoners.

Aachen solidarity work

Most of the groups have been heavily involved with Aachen solidarity work,
so it was important to discuss some fundamental issues in the meeting.
People who have organized solidarity events, are immediately confronted with
a question about the hostages, which for many is a reason to ignore Aachen
case altogether. Although there are no easy answers, it was proposed to make
a common resolution on the hostages, to answer these questions "once and for
all". In another hand, many people from Aachen solidarity group are not
involved in Black Cross in general, and people decided that really it is
Aachen support group, not Black Cross groups that should write such a
document. But there was a discussion, opinions were shared, and everybody
was given a chance to write down their thoughts to a common paper, which was
to serve further discussion inside the Aachen support group.

One of the points raised in the discussion was that hostages have been
victims in a double way - first in an extremely stressful situation, and
then again used as a tool of the state in order to demonize anarchists. Some
initial communications were made with hostages at some point, people
considered that communication should be restarted. A friend of hostages
wrote a letter to support group, which reflected some understanding with the
situation of the anarchists and also requested financial help, since after
events hostages have had to spend a substantial amount of money to
psychological counseling. Peoples feelings in regards to this letter
varied - some were open for such help, some considered that to seem like a
some kind of lame excuse from our side, especially in situation when there
is not even enough money for lawyers of the arrested.

It was also noted that many people in "radical" circles simply fear to face
a reality - not in a sense that taking hostages is "a necessary evil that we
just have to do", but in the sense that in practice people may end up to a
dead-end situation and be forced to make irreversible choices.

it was also discussed what has to be done until the end of the trial, and
who of us is in contact with the Aachen prisoners. People considered it
necessary to make a profound

documentation about the whole thing from the day they got arrested, both
background of the situation, solidarity work and texts of prisoners. Reports
of the trials should be compiled and shortened to a meaningful text. Much
more money is also needed for the lawyers.

In general, discussion on hostages and Aachen situation was so diverse and
profound that it is impossible to summarize all of it here. Discussion on
question of relation with media was especially heated - some wanted to
refuse contacts with mainstream media altogether. I have heard that support
group finally make a resolution hostages, but I have not yet seen it around
in internet - to me it seems that after immense stress of the trial,
supporters are temporarily taking a breath until moving further on.

Anarchist Black Cross Network of USA

Recently North American Anarchist Black Cross Network contacted a group
involved in European ABC work with a proposition of cooperation. It was bit
unclear what this would mean, number of people considered that already now
everybody interested in Europe may subscribe to open e-mail list of North
American Anarchist Black Cross Network (abc-friends@lists.mutualaid.org),
this way Europeans may know what is going on in USA and also post about
their activities to American list. Nobody in Europe has enough funds to
travel to conferences of the US Network. It was decided, that North American
ABC people will be invited to new European newswire to be set up (although I
would say it perhaps does not make much sense, because North American list
already serves purpose of informing about European developments as well).

Financing Black Cross activities

We decided to exchange fundraising ideas. Number of groups were getting more
and more frustrated with organizing benefit concerts - they are resulting
less and less money, and concert going are increasingly ignorant with the
cause. Moreover there is an ethical problem - people in prison may not be
invited to this party, where people claim to be having fun for them. There
was also a heated discussion on topic how much punk scene can be anymore
said to be at all more "conscious" than any other music scene.

Some groups have got involved with bigger, commercial festivals - although
this is already a purely capitalist interaction, it means more money.
Brighton group has been generously supported by rave scene a couple of
times. They also invested to a table football (called "kickers" in UK),
which means hundreds of euros worth of coins every time it is emptied a
couple of times a year. But this may hardly work in a continent, where table
football are traditionally free in social centers. Antwerp group has printed
t-shirts, with a shamelessly big profit margin. Some groups are also
organizing or have tables in flea markets.

Discussion on anarchist platform

People from Gent proposed forming an international platform of anarchist
prisoners, this after years of frustrating attempts to coordinate with
support groups of authoritarian political prisoners. More anarchists and
anti-authoritarians are jailed every month, but nobody else seems to be much
interested to support them except us.

Platform would be organization of prisoners themselves, this way anarchist
prisoners all around the world would come together and raise common
concerns. This would be a way to break isolation and to bring some strength.
Of course, such process should be put forward by prisoners themselves, but
ABC groups could help with networking, information exchange and moving the
idea forward.

Reactions to this idea varied - in general there was a common feeling of
frustration with the authoritarians, but some questioned if such a model of
organizing would be a way to move forward. It must be said, that a number of
anarchist prisoners have reacted very skeptically and pessimistically to
such new, ambitious ideas where all previous such projects have collapsed a
way or another. A number of anarchist prisoners are still putting their
hopes on larger coalitions. Some participators of ABC meeting considered
such "platforms" as a thing of the 70's in general, no more relevant these
days. In general, this is an ambitious proposal and discussion will
continue. It was proposed, that a special international meeting should be
organized on this project.

Italy, criminalization of anti-prison work and security inside the network

State is targeting anarchist anti-prison work everywhere. Situation in Italy
and Spain is especially severe but it may soon be the same everywhere. It
was discussed how useful is the concept of Anarchist Black Cross in general
these days, when just getting active in it may be your ticket to prison -
some proposed staying contacted in a purely personal level from further on.
Spanish Anarchist Black Cross was infiltrated, and in time of the
international meeting, all except one activist of Italian Anarchist Black
Cross were locked up. Contact with sole recently released Italian was
re-established only shortly before international meeting, so nobody could
come from there.

Some people proposed an international action day for Italian anarchists -
one possible date is 15th of December, day when Italian anarchist Giuseppe
Pinelli was thrown out from a window of a police station in 1969. Other
people considered this date is to be too late, and there were varying
feelings about international action days in general - it was commented that
we should do solidarity work for anarchist prisoners every day, not just
once a year. Different international action days take place every week these
days, and often these calls are reacted with total apathy. In other hand,
such day may motivate people without interest to long-term commitment to do
at least something.

Proposition to organize action day for Italians 15th of December was not
rejected, but it is not clear if somebody will coordinate it, also little is
heard of Italians themselves and yet it is not known what they think about
the idea.

Police had interfered mail of Italian ABC for months, including all
exchanges in European ABC mailing list. This is why some new communication
arrangements had to be made. It was also decided, that in order to increase
visibility, European Anarchist Black Cross network will set up an open
e-mail list for news only. Now, three months after the event, list is
finally set up and ready for subscription - with the following policies:

European Anarchist Black Cross News list

In meeting of informal European Anarchist Black Cross network in Stuttgart
29th-31st of July 2005, it was decided that open news list will be set up in
order to improve visibility of the ABC Network in Europe.

This is not a discussion, but a news list. Although this list is founded by
European activists, its focus is not limited to European projects -
information from all around the world is welcome. Focus of this list will be
support work for imprisoned and repressed anarchists and
anti-authoritarians. This policy is not implemented strictly though, and if
ABC activists feel necessary to post about more wide issues they are
actively involved with (such as prison abolition work), they are free to do
so. But if too much outright off-topic mail or discussion begins to appear
in the list, it will be switched to moderated mode.

It makes no sense for ABC activists so subscribe just to get information,
since they will receive information from already existing lists for
discussing and coordinating ABC activities. If you are an ABC activist,
subscribing the list makes only sense if you want to post news of your
projects to the list. But for this, it is enough to send information to list
administrators - just expect a delay of some hours or days.

Main language of the list is English, but if you have no time to translate
some information you consider very important, feel free to post with other
major languages as well. But please describe with at least few phrases
contents of your post in English.

Purpose of this list is to reach out to people who are not ABC activists
themselves, but who would like to be updated about what is going on. If not
enough people subscribe it during the year, we will make a conclusion that
such supporters prefer other media than e-mail, and list will be scrapped.

You may subscribe to list in

http://lists.riseup.net/www/info/abc-europe-news

I./Anarchist Black Cross of Moscow

Contacts of some groups which participated to meeting

ABC Amsterdam

abcamsterdam@squat.net

www.squat.net/abcamsterdam


ABC Brighton

PO Box 74, Brighton

BN1 4ZQ, UK
mail@brightonabc.org.uk

http://www.brightonabc.org.uk/

ABC Berlin

abc@tommyhaus.org


ABC Gent
(don't put ABC on envelope)
PB 40, 9000, Ghent 2, Belgium

abc_gent@yahoo.com

http://www.geocities.com/abc_gent

ABC Leeds

PO Box 54, Leeds,

LS8 4WP, UK
leedsabc@mail.com


ABC Moscow

P O. Box 13 109028, Moscow, Russia
(please do not write name of the group to envelope)
ftw@tao.ca

ABC-RTS noprison@lycos.de


Groups doing organizing or support work in Oaxaca:

Consejo Indigena Popular de Oaxaca "Ricardo Flores Magon"

Emilio Carranza No. 210.

Santa Lucía del Camino, Oaxaca,

Oax. México.C.P. 71228
tel/fax: + (951) 51-78183, 51-78190

www.nodo50.org/cipo


Alianza Magonista Zapatista

www.espora.org/amz



















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