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(en) Britain, Anarchist Federation Organise #66 - EMPOWERING PRISONERS THROUGH CONTACT

Date Wed, 12 Jul 2006 15:36:51 +0300

Amidst the suffering and oppression, prisons are schools and the
most important teachers of rebellion are prisoners. Most of these
'instructors' didn't get convicted as a result of direct actions against
government, nor are they there by way of astute political
consciousness. But, all prisoners are political, as incarceration is a
major component of the state. Concomitantly, many prisoners thirst
for a re-energising awareness of self and society. It's a two-way
street: we must learn from them and help teach those looking to
learn. To do this we must collaborate with revolutionary prisoners
regardless of when they acquired their insightfulness and support
them in struggles against their captors which is the common
class-enemy of us all, inside and out. Oppressed people have a
natural awareness and desire to combat their oppressors whether
they belong to a political grouping or not. Revolutions require
committed. fearless participants and prisoners fit the bill perfectly.

With burgeoning prison populations in the West (2.2 million in
America alone), there is a huge pool of potential revolutionaries to be
drawn from prisons in any country. So it's no wonder that censorship
is so heavy and political activity is dealt with so harshly by 'gulag'
authorities. It used to be illegal to educate slaves because of fears
that their enlightenment would lead to revolt. The same still holds
true today, hence the restrictions on permitted reading material in
many jails worldwide.

The relatively few imprisoned in the Western hemisphere specifically
for their political ambitions deserve respect, attention and, of course.
our support. Then again so do all the other prisoners, especially
those putting themselves in harm's way to fight the system head on,
to educate and assist their fellow prisoners whilst attempting boldly
to work with activists on the outside. To take just two renowned
examples, Malcolm X and George Jackson didn't enter the prison
gates as political incendaries; their crimes were being young, male
and black. But it is irrefutable they both became political doing their
time. It is a premise that applies universally to black and white alike.

As (hopefully!) serious anarchists focussing on prisons, it behooves
us to extend support to all prisoners, irrespective of their political
development, to work closely with the agitators in spreading the
truth far and wide, inside and out. Perhaps more important on a
personal level is to absorb these lessons ourselves and have this
heightened awareness drive our activities even harder. For the truth
is revolutionary, empowering and motivating; an invaluable lesson
for everyone that can help overcome fear in face of seemingly
overwhelming odds which is typical of the oppression experienced
by prisoner comrades each and every day of their term, long or short.

The greed and rapaciousness of capitalism is sickening; few remain
ignorant of its consequences nor of how dire the situation is, nor that
it will inevitably get worse as globalisation seduces and sedates
people by brainwashing, drug addiction and a vacuous consumerist
culture saturated largely by the omnipotent brainmelt of television
and through mass stunts such as Live8*. What better way to get the
message across to people in general by a reality-check on how
society's refusers are brought to heel and locked away and out of
sight in the hellholes which are its prisons? Who is best equipped to
articulate these truths that brothers and sisters wrung from the
ghettos, barrios, reservations and working-class neighbourhoods,
forced to deal with this constant nightmare day in, day out, who are
friendless if we don't bother to support them? As Malcolm X said
"America means prison". Well, the ideology has been exported now;
to protest or buck the system anywhere leads to invisibility - if we let

Gaining respect of the militantly conscious prisoners is not only very
important, it legitimises anarchist political engagement. But it can
only occur through dedicated, constant, consistent and reliable work.
It also has to be unqualified and authentic; comrades in prison must
have complete freedom to express themselves without political
colouring from us, solidarity being a founding principle of
anarchism. Prisoner support is solidarity in action. That doesn't
mean we can't offer our own opinions, analysis or indeed anything
else as occasion demands. People deserve to have their say without
being subject to interruption. Everyone can decide in their own
minds where they derive insight and how they want to approach
revolution. By taking this tack anarchy stands upright and strong.
Non-anarchist revolutionaries will gain respect for what anarchists
do when we reach out to them without imposing conditions or
behaving like preachers and know-it-alls.

As those who have had any length of contact with prisoners on a
regular basis know, prisoners excel in all facets of knowledge and
culture. The most powerful writers, artists, psychologists,
researchers, poets, letter-writers and so forth, all emanate with
profundity from behind bars. Hitherto hidden, undiscovered
creativity flourishes out of the depths of even the most brutal
environment. It is utterly rewarding to help a prisoner friend develop
a genuine anarchist understanding and perspective. Seeing their
gratitute and brave determination to mount a challenge to their own
deprivations, go beyond superficial divisions of race and colour,
recognise the class to which they irrevocably belong and resist the
torment of government-sanctioned punishment is inspiring stuff. It
can be among the main building blocks of 'thinking and doing'
resolve which is, of course, the very root of anarchism. Inside and
out, we are all prisoners of the state, of authority, in myriad
countless ways and, at the end of they day, if things are ever going to
change, we're all in this together. We have to deal with it. It's people
helping each other self-educate, stretching out a hand in the
direction of a comrade and vice versa. It's crucially important.

Incarceration is the black hole of society. Prisons are the
concentrated core of states everywhere. It can be presumed for the
present-day crystalline image of the dominant state on Earth -
America - that its inhuman face is Abu Ghraib**; the whole world
knows that it is far from a pretty sight. That much is visible. That
much we know. Our comrades in prisons already knew this and they
could have told us for the asking. Next week, next year, a decade
hence, it may well be us. The stakes are the same for us all.

It must not be allowed to become intimidating. Taking a lead from
our unfortunate imprisoned comrades we can stand together against
the monster devouring all in its path and in its wake. Resist! There is
a whole world of humanity and defiance buried away unseen in the
gulags of 'civilisation'. Reach out, and you will find once you start to
write to prisoners and connect with them on various levels and
deepen into a person taking serious reality-checks on what is going
on all around concealed and camouflaged, that there is a common
bond and few differences between us. The same enemy - capitalism
- confronts us all. Mutual aid, respect for one another, can win us
the world we want.

Special thanks to Anthony Rayson of Chicago ABC for a lifetime's
service to the fallen amongst us.

Contact the AF about getting involved with prisoner support or email
the 325 collective:


Check out links to prisoner support organisation through our


Organise! is free to prisoners. You can also buy a subscription to
support a prisoner and help the AF at the same time.

* so called anti-poverty concert but actually pro-G8 event in UK.

** Saddam Hussein's torturous prison, built by Britain in the 1960s,
currently in the service of Western military forces and the new Iraqi
authorities. Now set to close, but where will the prisoners end up?

[Eds note -NEW PHOTOS from Abu Ghraib:


released February 15, 2006 by Australia's Special Broadcasting
Service TV]
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