Listen to the Episode — 83 min
Alanis: The Ex-Worker;
Clara: An audio strike against a monotone world;
Alanis: A twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action;
Clara: For everyone who dreams of a life off the clock.
Alanis: Welcome back to the Ex-Worker! This time we’ll begin a two episode series exploring anarchism in Chile. We’ll start with an extended discussion of the historical context of dictatorship, neoliberal democracy, and resistance in Chile, as well as several interviews with Chilean anarchists about their book fair in Santiago, the role of radical neighborhoods in contemporary struggles, the state of political imprisonment, and lots more.
Clara: We’ve also got a report-back with several interviews from the Climate Convergence in New York City, listener feedback on history, pronunciation, and mind-controlled drones, lots of news, events, prisoner birthdays, and more. I’m Clara…
Alanis: And I’m Alanis, and we’ll be your hosts. You can learn more about all the things we mention on the show from the links and transcript on our website, crimethinc.com/podcast.
Clara: And you can send us any feedback or suggestions by email to podcast at crimethinc dot com.
THE HOT WIRE
Clara: Let’s kick things off with the Hot Wire, our look at repression and resistance across the world. What’s in the news, Alanis?
Alanis: Kansas City anarchist Eric King was arrested on charges of attempting to firebomb a politician’s office on September 11th. Police allegedly found a letter claiming responsibility for the attack on behalf of the KC Fight Back Insurrectionist Collective, “in solidarity with Ferguson, Missouri” and to “memorialize those who died in Chile under the reign of a US-backed dictator and lives lost in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.”
Clara: Police also reported that “posts that King made on his Facebook page were also reviewed and said to incriminate him.” We must unfortunately repeat our call for all of you to please please PLEASE delete your Facebook accounts immediately, especially if you are or might ever be involved in militant action. Remember that not only you, but anyone you befriend or post a photo of or link to, is put at risk when you maintain Facebook and other public social media accounts.
Alanis: We have Eric’s current prison address posted on our website if you want to write to him.
Clara: Speaking of prison mailing addresses, Luke O’Donovan has been transferred to a permanent facility, where he’ll spend the remainder of his two year sentence for defending himself from a homophobic attack. You can find that address on our website as well, or on his support page with other updates - letlukego.wordpress.com.
Alanis: The state’s murderous war on young black men continues unrelentingly despite the “national conversation” on race and police violence emerging from the Ferguson riots. 22 year old Darrien Hunt was murdered by police in Saratoga Springs, Utah, shot six times in the back while running away. His mother said bluntly, “They killed my son because he’s black.”
Clara: A sheriff’s deputy in Louisiana murdered a 14 year old black boy, shooting him four or five times in the back while unarmed.
Alanis: And an Ohio grand jury declined to indict the police who murdered 22 year old John Crawford in a Beaver Creek Walmart, showing yet again how easily cops can get away with murder against young black men.
Clara: In Columbia, South Carolina, a white cop pulled over an unarmed black man for a seat belt violation and then shot him when he attempted to follow the cop’s instructions to get out his license. He’s the 35th person to be shot by police this year in South Carolina alone; 16 have died.
Alanis: Three people were arrested for participating in a brutal gay bashing in Philadelphia; one of the accused attackers is the daughter of a nearby town’s chief of police.
Clara: In some good news - finally - Joel Bitar was paroled and released from prison in Canada back to the United States! He had been extradited by the US to Canada to serve time for “criminal mischief” stemming from action during the G20 protests in Toronto in 2010. Congratulations, Joel, and welcome home!
Alanis: Incidentally, Joel mentions explicitly in a statement on his blog that the parole board received over 30 letters in support of him, and that every one made a concrete difference in him gaining his freedom earlier than expected. So thanks to everyone who wrote in to support him, and to the Guelph Anarchist Black Cross for their solidarity work.
Clara: In other news - youth in revolt! Over 100 students at Bingham High School in South Jordan, Utah walked out of school in protest against a repressive dress code enforced at a school dance, while over a thousand high school students in Jefferson County, Colorado walked out of classes to protest their conservative school board’s efforts to revise the US history curriculum to eliminate any mention of civil disobedience.
Alanis: And two weeks of protests have raged at Jadavpur University in Calcutta, India against the sexual assault of a female student. University officials called in riot police, who injured dozens of students, and now the demonstrations have spilled out beyond the campus, with up to 25,000 taking part in the largest marches.
Clara: A private security firm in Northern California, staffed by armed paramilitaries in uniform, has begun raiding pot farms and performing citizen’s arrests.
Alanis: The Japanese government announced plans to restart nuclear energy production, despite massive public opposition after the Fukushima disaster, whose contaminated water supplies continue to flow into the ocean and whose cleanup will not be completed for an estimated forty years. Some 16,000 protestors marched in Tokyo against nuclear power.
Clara: 500 farmers in southeast China stormed and smashed up a shipyard factory they blamed for increased pollution that has devastated the local shellfish harvest.
Alanis: Police stepped up repression against the Hambacher Forest occupation in conjunction with the opening of a new highway intended to facilitate the open cast brown coal mine being dug out from beneath a forest in western Germany.
Clara: Anarchists in Helsinki, Finland blockaded scab buses in support of a public service workers strike against privatization and wage cuts.
Alanis: Feisty demonstrations in memory of Pavlos Fyssas, or Killah P, the Greek anti-fascist rapper whose death we discussed in Episode 11, took to the streets in Athens, Greece, Cyprus, and elsewhere.
Clara: In the UK, a brand new multi-million dollar laboratory built for pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline in Nottingham has been completely destroyed by fire, while detainees rioted in the Morton Hall Immigration Removal Center near Lincoln after the death of a Bengali man.
Alanis: Last month, the Animal Liberation Front freed mink from a fur farm in Italy; the liberators dedicated the action to anarchist prisoners Gianluca Iacovacci and Adriano Antonacci, who were sentenced this summer to six and three and a half years in prison respectively on charges of “associations whose purposes include terrorism and the subversion of the democratic order,” among others. The pair were accused of involvement in over a dozen actions in recent years against capitalism, animal exploitation, and environmental destruction.
Clara: Meanwhile, Polish activists rescued over 80 foxes from a fur farm, and German ALFers publicly exposed a hidden beagle vivisection lab and vandalized a car outside of it.
Alanis: In southeastern France, weeks of conflict have raged as hundreds of occupiers have resisted police and military efforts to evict the ZAD du Testet, one of the numerous “zones to be defended” inspired by the anti-airport struggle in Notre Dame des Landres. The ZAD du Testet aims to prevent the construction of a dam and destruction of a wooded wetland area. This is the third wave of evictions; resistance has intensified as cops and soldiers have escalated their brutality, along with gangs of suspected fascists and local farmers who stand to profit from the destruction. Local authorities have declared martial law, while occupiers have used civil disobedience tactics as well as blockades, barricades and Molotovs to fight off the eviction. Check our website for a link to the occupation’s blog and a short film in French about the ZAD du Testet. Also, check out the latest episode of The Final Straw, which features an interview with folks from the occupation.
Clara: The Electronic Frontier Foundation has released a newly updated Cell Phone Guide for US Protestors. It gives extremely useful suggestions about pre-protest preparations, encryption, court cases and legal precedents, what to do if arrested, and so forth. WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU TAKE A FEW MINUTES AND READ THROUGH THIS GUIDE! The link is posted on our website.
PEOPLE’S CLIMATE MARCH
Alanis: And we’ve got one more major happening to report. From the 19th through the 22nd of September, thousands of folks converged on New York City to join into massive protests against the climate crisis. We’ve got a few short interviews to share with folks who were there, discussing what brought them to the protests, what happened, and how anarchists relate to the broad movements against global warming and environmental destruction.
Clara: On Sunday, September 21st, the Ex-Worker showed up to the anti-capitalist contingent of the People’s Climate March and chatted with a few anarchists about why they were there, what they hoped to achieve, and what role there could be for anarchists in that setting. First, we talked with P, a member of Black Rose/Rosa Negra, an anarchist organization that called for the anti-capitalist bloc in the march.
P: I’m P, I’m from New York City. Right now we’re at 90th street and Central Park West, at the back of the “People’s Climate March,” so-called. While I think it’s important to acknowledge that climate change is perhaps the most pressing singular issue facing human society today—not just human society, but the earth and the entire natural world—and I think it is important that people acknowledge and participate in the large events like this that represent the totality of the left, I think it’s also important to recognize that many of the solutions being pushed forward by the main brunt of the march, that is, green capitalism, things like—you know, we got Ben and Jerry’s marching up here—the idea that we can somehow vote, legislate, and buy our way out of the climate crisis… The people marching here just think that’s ridiculous. So while we do want to support this mass action that’s happening, that’s bringing awareness to the biggest singular issue again that the world has to face today, it’s also important to say that their solutions aren’t going to work. The only solution, as far as we’re concerned, is system change. And unless you’re ready to really start to grapple with that, it’s not going to work; it’s going to be band-aids, it’s going to be half-measures.
I think it’s important to recognize the mass movement, and I think it’s important to recognize where anarchism is in North America right now. We don’t have the capacity to organize a separate contingent or a separate action or a separate movement of the size we’re dealing with here. We don’t have that capacity. What we can hope to do is become part of the mass movement and push it in a more anti-authoritarian, anti-state, and anti-capitalist direction. And part of that is unabashedly calling ourselves anarchists and unabashedly interacting with these movements. I mean, many of the people who are part of the planning, part of the mobilization, agree with many of our more radical lines. They see it as the only way to get this kind of turnout is to dilute your politics. We present a different perspective. If we’re not ready to really start to interact with the mass movements and unabashedly push our politics, push an anti-authoritarian, anti-state, and anti-capitalist line… That’s the best way for us to be effective, relevant, and make progress today, in my opinion.
Now, Black Rose/Rosa Negra is a national federation; there are locals in over twenty cities. It’s a group with basically that thought in mind: we need to start organizing and building institutions that can wield collective power, wield it democratically, and wield it towards anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian ends.
Caroline: So this is the “People’s” Climate March… implying it’s organized by people, but really it’s organized by the largest “green” nonprofits (“green” kind of in air quotes here). [There’s] a lot of capitalist investment in these green nonprofits. I see their role mostly as co-opting student activism into things like divestment and the Real Food Challenge, and basically more liberal organizing that is focused on shifting narratives about climate change, which I’m not really interested in any more, because the crisis is already happening globally, and without capitalism falling nothing systemically is going to change. In all honesty, I think that the large nonprofits that are running this are ultimately going to be successful. I don’t have this weird hope that the anarchist contingent is going to radicalize more people or really change the paradigm of the current environmental movement. But I do think it’s important that this anarchist contingent is here to break the facade that these huge NGOs and the liberal environmental movement has control over the direction that the environmental movement could go. Because really I think that so much more effort needs to be put into actually supporting direct action tactics of indigenous communities, supporting resisting large infrastructure projects. These nonprofits have learned at this point how to tokenize indigenous people and put them in the front of the march and shit, but they’re really more into large demonstrations and photo ops than they are into supporting breaking the law to support these people, because that’s just a little bit out of their comfort zone. But I don’t know, I just think it’s important to identify capitalism as the problem, and if we’re just gonna be disenchanted and say, fuck the march entirely, our presence won’t even be felt.
Clara: We asked another anarchist in the anti-capitalist contingent of the march why he wanted to participate, despite the fact that it had been organized by these big green nonprofits that don’t have a critique of capitalism.
A:The real simple and dumb answer is I think that a diversity of tactics towards whatever given end is really important. While all of the things like the way you framed that is true, as far as I’m concerned, I also think that doesn’t limit or delimit the potential of this many people. I don’t think that casting however many tens or hundreds of thousands of people under this umbrella of, well, if you’re participating in this thing organized by capitalists, that’s the beginning and the end of what you can achieve. So I think, first, it’s important for us to be here engaging with it for our presence, to iterate this in our own way. But also I think events like this open up lots of spaces and they are not predetermined. There’s a lot of energy, there’s a lot of momentum that can be used, and I think some of the ways that people are looking at doing that is through different actions that are associated with, or peripheral to, the main march. So there was some action on the Rockaways around a pipeline… There is a natural gas pipeline that is a part of fracking infrastructure that people are trying to stop and occupy that area. That was broken up by the police Friday night. But I know some people have been organizing and considering another action down at the Battery, hopefully tonight; again, trying to leverage some of the momentum, trying to see if people want to come down here and play off the energy and the care that people have for a lot of the different things that they’re here for. So there’s that, there’s the Flood Wall Street, this would be part of the Flood Everywhere… So I think you can see when people are getting together, this kind of thing is going on, there’s a lot of energy that people are trying to leverage into new kinds of actions or different kinds of tactics. And I have no problem with that. I think that proscribing things on some kind of ideologically pure grounds is usually silly and not effective and not exciting.
Alanis: On Monday the 22nd, the day after the People’s Climate March, folks converged in Manhattan for an action called Flood Wall Street, attempting to shut down the financial district. We spoke to the Belgian Witch and Fiscal Cliff, two anarchists who attended both Sunday’s march and Monday’s action, and heard their perspectives on the contrast between the two and their significance for anarchists and the climate movement.
Belgian Witch: I am the Belgian Witch…
Fiscal Cliff: Hello, Fiscal Cliff here.
Belgian Witch: The first thing that comes to mind is just how different the two days were. My mom actually came to the People’s Climate March; she’s an old-school activist, she’s in her 70s, kind of excited to be up in the anarchist bloc with me. Definitely the environment was very controlled, even with 300,000 people. She kept calling it “the parade,” and then correcting herself, but it felt like a pretty good description to me.
Fiscal Cliff: The next day I went to Flood Wall Street, and it was mostly a stand-off. At one point later in the day there was a push to get through the barricades and police stopped it. People got maced, a couple of people got assaulted by police.
Belgian Witch: One of my favorite things about that action was people removing barriers and moving them; and then the police would put them back and the barriers got moved again and some space opened up. And the difference between that and having a very regimented march that had a route.
Fiscal Cliff: I guess looking back on the situation, comparing it to the day before… People resisted, and I think it was important that as anarchists we were there to support people resisting. There’s a chain of progression here; so you’re looking at the climate march, and then the next day I’m looking at Flood Wall Street, and that resulted eventually in 100 people getting arrested in a sit-in. So my question becomes, will those arrests actually matter in the eyes of the “authorities?” Will they care? And then when I compare Flood Wall Street to the campaign that’s going on in Utah to actually shut down the first tar sands mine in the so-called United States; last week five people were arrested trying to actually shut down this tar sands mine. I just hope that there will be more of an analysis of effectiveness and what the actual fall-out will be. And honestly, we don’t fully know the actual fall-out from Flood Wall Street at this point or what that action will have led to.
Belgian Witch: The perspective that anarchists keep bringing that we don’t have to sacrifice politics in order to get numbers… I just feel like there’s that constant pushing, that constant edge, that following the rules and trying to work within the system will not work, it has not worked.
Alanis: One listener who was arrested at the Flood Wall Street action wrote in with a horrifying story being tackled by police and seriously injured, denied medical attention, denied a phone call to a lawyer or family, forced to do a retinal scan, kept overnight in the frigid cells of the Tombs, and coerced into a plea agreement for disorderly conduct. Ugh! Many thanks and shout-outs to the folks who did jail support outside, providing crucial resources to arrestees and connecting our friend with legal support.
If you’ve got more stories to share or want to weigh in on the relationship between anarchists and social movements against climate change, email us at podcast at crimethinc dot com.
Clara: And now it’s time for listener feedback! What’s in the mailbox today, Alanis?
Alanis: Well, last time we asked y’all to keep us on our toes by pointing out any mistakes we make in our research for these episodes…
Clara: …and y’all have certainly continued to do that. For example, one listener pointed out that in our discussion of sexist ideas among early anarchists, we cited a book by Proudhon titled “Pornocracy”; we reported it was written in 1875. In fact, as we were reminded, Proudhon died in 1865, a decade earlier. Whoops.
Alanis: We looked it up; here’s the story. Back in 1858, a satire of Proudhon was published by one Juliette Lambert, later Juliette Adam, titled “Anti-Proudhonian Ideas on Love, Women, and Marriage.” The author, Mrs. Adam, went on to become a noted novelist and social commentator, hosting a popular salon and editing a literary revue; unsurprisingly, she wasn’t impressed with Proudhon’s self-righteously patriarchal perspectives. Proudhon got so mad at this intelligent young woman who had the nerve to criticize him that he wrote an entire book refuting her and all those uppity modern women and their supporters. As far as we know, “Pornocracy” never appeared in print during his lifetime, but it was published posthumously, along with “The Principle of Art” and other miscellaneous writings, in 1875. In it, he advocates for eugenics, defends men’s violence against women, condemns sodomy and effeminate men, and generally makes an ass of himself. Some classic quotes include: “A woman can no longer produce a child when her mind, her imagination and her heart are preoccupied with matters of politics, society, and literature.”
Clara: Apparently he didn’t have too solid of a grasp on how reproduction works…
Alanis: And then there’s this one: “The day when the legislator grants women the right to vote will be the day of my divorce."
Clara: That sounds like one hell of an incentive for his wife to join the suffragettes!
Alanis: On our website, we’ve posted a link to an article written by the French queer anarchist writer Daniel Guerin assessing Proudhon’s perspectives on sexuality and gender, if you can stomach it.
Clara: In any case, thanks to the listener who caught that. It was enough of a feat for Proudhon to achieve such depths of incoherent misogyny - it would have been even more astounding for him to have written that after ten years in the grave.
Alanis: I know! It must have been zombie Proudhon, shambling around in search of juicy feminist brains to eat!
Clara: Uh, Alanis…
Alanis: NOM NOM NOM BRAINS
Clara: Also, it turns out we made a pronunciation error in describing anti-fracking resistance taking place in Canada. The First Nation spelled E-L-S-I-P-O-G-T-O-G is in fact pronounced like this: ehl-sih-puk-tuk.
Alanis: One listener tells us that this literally translates from Mi’kmaq to English as ‘‘river of fire’’, and that elders from the community explain that this refers to the glow of camp fires along the shore casting their light onto the waters of the Richibucto river which runs along Elsipogtog. We sincerely apologize for the error, and we send the Elsipogtog fighters our love and solidarity with their ongoing struggle against fracking.
Clara: And also, listener M. from Beijing writes in with some chilling confirmation of one of the news items we reported on last time.
Alanis: Hi, CrimethInc. While I am a Marxist and not an anarchist. I am a fan both of people like Goldman and Stirner as well as your show. I’ve downloaded every episode.
Clara: Well dang, thanks! We’re flattered.
Alanis: I just wanted to confirm the bit of news you spoke about in Episode 28 regarding mind-controlled drones. This technology has actually existed for over two decades. While I was in University circa 1994, I took a “modern technology” class which was taught by a civilian contractor to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Not only did we have an in-class demonstration of this “mind reading” technology—there were diodes placed on my forehead and I moved a little electronic mouse around an onscreen maze—but we were also allowed a special on-base trip to view a sort of IMAX fighter pilot training room. I’m relating this to you because I know how often news and info can be doubted as well as how often members of the “beyond left” community can be prone to paranoia. So this is just a little heads up for you folks. Yes, this exists. No, this is not new. Yes. The killing potential of the military will greatly increase because the new soldiers who have spent their childhoods playing military video games—no, it’s not a coincidence—will feel distanced from their target… that is, real human beings.
Clara: Wow. Thanks, M., for sharing your experience - that is fucking terrifying.
Alanis: There’s a glimmer of hope knowing that at least somewhere there has been an anarchist sympathizer hidden among the military contractors. But these technologies are definitely developed by and for our enemies, and if they don’t come for us today, they certainly will tomorrow.
Clara: I wonder what the listener who wrote in defense of nerd culture and video games thinks about this.
Alanis: Do you think the problem here is the content of the games that are advanced on the market, first person shooters that simulate what it’s actually like for military functionaries who kill people with drones from cubicles in Maryland? Or is it something in the medium itself, the sensory detachment and dehumanization of life mediated through screens?
Clara: I’m not actually sure. Theoretically some of these technologies can be used to meet human needs—like we reported last time, with the researcher claiming these mind controlled drones could help folks in wheelchairs. But the dictates of the state and market make it clear that the profit comes from military applications, so unless we have a profound revolutionary break with capitalism and government, we’re infinitely more likely to see these technologies used to intensify state violence, surveillance and control.
Alanis: I just read a news article saying that a think tank has hired the creator of the military video game “Call of Duty” to advise the Pentagon about the future of warfare. There’s already a pretty seamless fabric between the virtualization of killing for “fun” and for actual global domination.
Clara: Let’s not get confused, though, like those pundits who blame “violent video games” for school shootings and things like that. The appeal of military-style video games, the virtualization of death, the expansion of drone warfare, and all of these factors are interrelated and reinforce each other. It’s not a chicken and egg thing.
Alanis: So what do we do?
Clara: Other than: organize horizontally and use direct action to undermine the war economy, disrupt surveillance and electronic control, seize our lives back from the market and the electronic simulacra, and establish decentralized small-scale communities based on mutual aid and symbiotic relationships with the landbase and other species around us?
Alanis: Yeah, other than that.
Clara: Well, that would at least be a place to start.
ANARCHIST STRUGGLES IN CHILE: HISTORY AND CONTEXT
Clara: On September 11th, 2014, patriotic Americans were putting up flags and listening to somber speeches urging us to “never forget.” On the same day, a few thousand miles south, Chileans were urging each other to remember a very different event etched on the collective consciousness. Masked protestors built barricades on the streets of Santiago, torching vehicles and tossing Molotov cocktails at riot police, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets; ten people were arrested and six police injured. Every year on this date, thousands flock to the streets across the country to remember and mourn the open wound of military dictatorship and commemorate the resistance that continues to this day.
What happened 41 years ago that left such an indelible print on the people of Chile? How is historical memory deployed by radicals - not as a force to cement nationalism or justify wars, but as an inspiration for revolutionary visions and a catalyst to ongoing struggles? How are anarchists in Chile today grappling with the legacies of repression through dictatorship and democracy?
In this episode, we turn our vision southwards to learn more about the Chilean anarchist movement, its roots in the years of dictatorship, the strategies used against it by the state, its emphasis on militant individual and small group actions and support for political prisoners, and how it remembers in order to keep fighting.
Clara: Chile is the longest country in the world. It stretches from the dusty northern deserts near the Peruvian border to the chilly windswept lakes of the far south, all the way down to Antarctica. In between, nearly 18 million people comprise a country hailed by some as one of South America’s success stories, one of its most prosperous and “economically free” nations… or so the statisticians and pundits tell us. The streets tell us a different story: of a country still aching from a 17 year military dictatorship, whose leader may have been deposed, but whose institutions live on in nearly every facet of Chilean society. A neoliberal nightmare of intense inequalities enforced by violent, militarized police and widespread surveillance. Which story you tell or believe depends on where you’re positioned in relation to Chile’s so-called “economic miracle.”
The hills and valleys of south-central Chile are home to the indigenous Mapuche—a people who were never conquered by the Spanish, whose lands were never ceded in a treaty. Their ongoing resistance to colonialism remains one of the most active strains of rebellion in Chile today.
Santiago, the country’s capital and largest city, contains one of the highest concentrations of radicals and hosts many of the largest demonstrations and actions. Much of our story will take place there, though anarchist resistance appears in Valparaiso, Concepcion, and other urban and rural areas, too. In this and the next episode, we’ll share a number of interviews with Chilean anarchists about the context for their struggles against the state and capitalism.
Because Chilean anarchist movements hold such a strong sense of history and memory, we’ll begin with a look back in time to provide some context for resistance today. To set the stage, we draw on a 2009 article that appeared in Rolling Thunder #8, titled “Chile: From Popular Power to Social War,” and connect the historical background to contemporary developments. On the Ex-Worker, we’ve often reported news from Chile - repression cases, social unrest, bombings and militant actions, and so forth. We hope that these episodes will offer context to understand them, and insight into one of the most distinctive and militant anarchist movements in the world today.
Alanis: Political discourse in Chile—from politicians and capitalist media to revolutionary circles—is largely dominated by the legacy of the military dictatorship. For seventeen years, Chileans lived under the rule of General Augusto Pinochet. The coup d’état that brought him to power was backed by the US government. Upon seizing power, the military murdered thousands, tortured tens of thousands, and forced hundreds of thousands more into political exile. This continued until the dictatorship was slowly phased out between 1988 and 1990. The role of the US in establishing military rule in Chile is part of a larger program of supporting anti-communist dictatorships throughout Latin America, including Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Bolivia.
To understand the military coup and its aftermath, we have to begin by looking at Cold War politics in Latin America. Through the first half of the twentieth century, the United States government repeatedly deployed troops to secure corporate investments and depose potentially disobedient regimes, as in Panama, Nicaragua, and Cuba. In the 1930s, under the so-called “Good Neighbor Policy,” the US declared it would no longer undertake military interventions in the region. But as the Cold War set in after 1945, US anxiety to maintain its dominance over its southern neighbors relative to the Soviet Union led to increased use of diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions, and covert intervention, as exerted during regime changes in Guatemala, Ecuador, and El Salvador. While official rhetoric praised democracy and free elections, the US feared that Marxist electoral victories would destabilize their political and economic control of Latin America. In response, the US crafted a program called the Alliance for Progress to empower centrist parties across Latin America. Chile was a key target of this new program.
Through the mid-twentieth century, the democratic system in Chile was divided into three key blocs: the electoral left, the center, and the right. The center bloc was critical in deciding ruling coalitions and the presidency. To gain the presidency, a candidate had to work with a wide range of smaller parties and convince the congress to approve him in the absence of a clear majority. On the left, the most determined coalition builder was Salvador Allende; although influenced by anarchism during his youth, he co-founded the Socialist Party in 1933, and ran unsuccessfully for president many times. In 1958 election, Allende tried again, narrowly losing out to the right wing National Party’s candidate; he failed again in 1964, losing this time to the centrist Christian Democrat candidate—whose party had received $4 million in covert financing from the US government. This funding would increase even higher in the next election.
In 1970, Allende ran for the presidency on the ticket of a new coalition of left parties, the Popular Unity. He was once again in tight competition with the right-wing candidate, with the US government was following the contest closely. This time, Allende gained a narrow plurality with 36.6% of the vote. A secret 1970 CIA document discussing a plan to prevent Allende from successfully assuming power stated:
The CIA: President Nixon… decided that an Allende regime in Chile was not acceptable to the United States. The president asked the Agency to prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him. The president authorized ten million dollars for this purpose, if needed. Further, the Agency is to carry out this mission without coordination from the Departments of State or Defense.
Alanis: The US government developed two plans to prevent Allende from assuming the presidency. The first was to leverage fears of a totalitarian communist state to dissuade the Chilean congress from accepting Allende’s victory; this failed when the congress approved Allende in a last-minute decision after he signed a document affirming his support for the Chilean constitution.
The second CIA plan aimed to create the conditions for direct military intervention. Allende’s victory heralded a period of increased social tensions. The new government undertook a series of reforms and nationalized the vast copper mines in the northern part of the country. Meanwhile, segments of the Chilean bourgeoisie began a campaign to undermine the Popular Unity coalition; for example, shop owners falsely claimed food shortages to spread fear of economic collapse and hyperinflation. The Chilean right also employed more direct approaches; a right wing organization called Patria y Libertad formed to combat revolutionaries during street demonstrations.
Although the new president was a constitutionalist and reformist, more militant groups used this moment to mobilize their forces. One key group, the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR), was an armed organization formed in 1965 by radical students with revolutionary tendencies, including some anarchists; the MIR later declared itself Marxist-Leninist, in 1967. While the statist Allendista movement promoted the idea of the vía pacifica, the peaceful way, revolutionary elements pushed direct conflict with the bourgeoisie. The MIR rejected the theory of the “peaceful way,” "because it politically disarms the proletariat… because the bourgeoisie will choose totalitarian dictatorship and civil war before peacefully giving up power.” Their words would prove prophetic.
In this polarizing atmosphere, with revolutionary endeavors and right-wing conspiracies grappling for influence, a faction of the military undertook a failed coup on June 29, 1973, raising tensions in Santiago even higher. General Augusto Pinochet, head of the Chilean army, though opposed to this initial attempt, helped lead the successful coup d’état on September 11. While the CIA directly supported the coup, there was domestic support for it among the Chilean bourgeoisie, political right, and centrist parties. Members of the centrist electoral bloc believed that the military would take power only temporarily before returning it to the political structures from before Popular Unity rule.
In Allende’s final radio address, he requested that leftists, students, and workers not raise an armed resistance to the military. Nonetheless, the MIR and other militant groups assisted in the armed defense of the poblaciones, the poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of Santiago that were raided by the military during the coup d’état.
The military regime did not immediately hand power over to the center and right wing electoral blocs; in fact, they would hold it for seventeen bloody years.
The armed forces quickly organized a ruling junta including all branches of the military and the police, with Pinochet as the head. The military government justified the coup as a preemptive measure against Plan Z, an alleged Popular Unity coalition plot for armed communist revolution (which has never been substantiated). The new regime created a list of suspected communists and subversives in the country. Many of these were detained and executed or tortured. Some went underground to combat the new regime; others went into exile. After the repression of the early 1970s, many Chileans were afraid to participate in illegal street demonstrations. The 1980s, however, brought a resurgence of political activity against the military regime. The MIR reemerged as a political force, and two other armed organizations formed in the 1980s: the FPMR, a wing of the Community Party, and a militant faction of the MAPU from the Popular Unity era, called MAPU-Lautaro. All three organizations engaged in armed actions during the dictatorship.
This period saw a new phase of open conflict, and also produced emblematic stories of repression. On March 29, 1985, two young brothers, Rafael and Eduardo Vergara Toledo, both militants of the MIR, were gunned down by police as they walked through the población Villa Francia, a neighborhood known to be a center of resistance to the dictatorship. The anniversary of the murder of the Vergara brothers was marked for years to come, both privately and publicly, and the date eventually became known as Día del Joven Combatiente, the Day of the Youth Combatant, an occasion known across Chile and now around the world as a result of the political militancy and dedication of the victims’ surviving relatives. Their parents, Luisa Toledo and Manuel Vergara, continue to give passionate speeches in support of revolutionary movements, including anarchist efforts. Their granddaughter, Tamara “Sol” Vergara, has been in prison since the beginning of 2014, accused of shooting at a bank security guard in a solidarity action.
The 1980s witnessed a division among the opponents of the military regime. Many reformist groups proposed an unarmed transition to bourgeois democracy, while more revolutionary elements proposed an armed insurrection against the capitalist state. An assassination attempt against Pinochet by the FPMR in 1986 forced this debate to the foreground. The constitution of 1980—approved in a rigged plebiscite—required the dictatorship to hold a referendum on the regime in 1988. The reformist opposition seized this opportunity to wage a successful campaign for the no vote against the ruling dictatorship. The ruling classes in Chile embraced the return to a democratic state rather than face the possibility of an insurrection.
The transition to democracy took place between 1988 and 1990; under the new system, the Socialist Party and other political parties began open negotiations with members of the former dictatorship. The Communist Party was written out of the process, but supported it anyway, hoping to gain more access to the political system further down the road. In one attempt to pursue this objective, they called for the FPMR to disarm; some factions of the organization turned in their guns, while others did not.
Alanis: With the reintroduction of democracy to Chile, the bourgeoisie found a new solution to the challenge of having three traditional electoral blocs. La Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia, originally formed as a coalition of centrist and center-left parties for the no vote, became the new dominant regime; it continues to rule to this day. The political right formed a coalition called Alianza por Chile, which includes numerous figures from the former military dictatorship. This created a system that no longer involved a split between three electoral blocs, thus preventing electoral left parties from gaining power via the political system.
The Socialist Party of the deceased Allende embraced the neoliberal policies introduced by the Pinochet dictatorship. The Concertación, including the Socialist Party and the Christian Democrat Party, began an international campaign to change Chile’s image from a military dictatorship to a successful neoliberal democracy.
Sociologists report that today, Chileans are most indifferent of all people in the Americas about democracy versus dictatorship as forms of government. We might interpret this as a recognition on the part of many Chileans that democracy was not fundamentally an interruption of or replacement for dictatorship, but a continuation of its logic by other means. There are profound continuities between capitalist dictatorship under Pinochet and capitalist democracy under the Concertacion, pursuing many of the same neoliberal policies and defended by the same repressive police forces.
In the 1990s, the state shifted from criminalizing revolutionaries as communists to defaming them as terrorists, framing the new democracy as a stable alternative to insurrection or war. During this period, newspapers were filled with articles about armed actions and suspected terrorist activity, and the Concertación took on the role of the former dictatorship in condemning these groups. Cells of the FPMR, the MIR, and MAPU-Lautaro continued armed activity against the new democratic regime, which responded with the same tactics the dictatorship had utilized, killing, torturing, and murdering militants. MAPU-Lautaro in particular suffered much infiltration and repression in the early 1990s. With a significant part of the organization locked, they focused much of its energy organizing inside prison, including a youth faction that formed a collective of prisoners called Kamina Libre. In the late 1990s, groups of young anarchists outside of prison began doing support work for political prisoners, including Kamina Libre. Consequently, many ex-militants from the group went on to leave prison influenced by libertarian ideas and critical of authoritarian politics, a pivotal development in the Chilean anarchist movement.
While anarchists have been present throughout the history of political struggle in Chile, Marxist and reformist organizations dominated during the dictatorship and into the early 1990s. At the end of the 1990s, the Congreso de Unificación Anarco-Comunista (CUAC) formed, and over the course of the early 2000s other organizations such as the Organización Comunista Libertaria (OCL) emerged from the platformist tradition. Since then, the development of anarchist practice in Chile has included both platformist and insurrectionary perspectives. Many anarchists in Chile look positively upon Latin American insurrectionary figures such as the Argentine Severino Di Giovanni, active during the 1920s. Underground communiqués written after recent bombings and attacks in Santiago are often signed by affinity groups that use the names of these individuals. Anti-authoritarian ideas gained prominence in the revolutionary movements in Chile as the anti-globalization movement gained influence, reaching a height during the APEC conference in late 2004.
The legacy of the MIR, MAPU-Lautaro, and other armed groups has left Chile with a context for militant action unique in Latin America. Most armed revolutionary groups from the second half of the 20th century in the region followed the foco strategy, inspired by Che Guevara, in which a vanguard of small armed cadres was expected to provide a focal point for popular discontent and catalyze a general insurrection. This proved the dominant model for insurgent groups in Bolivia, Columbia, Guatemala, and numerous other countries. In Chile, by contrast, on the eve of the dictatorship, although armed cadres were present, the strongest revolutionary tendency was what was known as popular power: self organization through factory takeovers, land occupations, and such. When underground armed guerrilla groups intensified their activity towards the end of the dictatorship, they escalated the decline of the dictatorship, but provided the reformist opposition with an opportunity to pose the transition to democracy as a stable alternative to insurrection and civil war.
The militant groups who refused to disarm found themselves abandoned by the Communists and other left parties and repressed by the security forces of the democratic government; this, along with the evolution of imprisoned militants in libertarian directions and the legacy of popular power, has contributed to a distinctive brand of militancy in Chile. Contemporary militant struggle has a decentralized and libertarian character, strongly influenced by insurrectionary anarchist ideas. Beyond the frequent street clashes between police and encapuchados, or masked ones, small affinity groups and individuals have undertaken dozens, if not hundreds, of small bombings and attacks against state and capitalist targets, most commonly banks and police stations or barracks. Communiques often dedicate actions to imprisoned anarchists in Chile and across the world.
Chilean anarchists devote considerable energy to supporting or remembering militants who have faced repression or died in the course of armed struggles. One high profile example from recent years is the Banco Security case; after an armed robbery and shootout in 2007 in which a police officer was killed, five militants formerly of the MAPU-Lautaro were targeted by the state. Marcelo Villarroel, a former member of Kamina Libre and longtime political prisoner, along with Freddy Fuentevilla and Juan Aliste, were arrested and detained without trial for several years before finally being sentenced this summer to long prison terms. Also widely remembered is Mauricio Morales, or “Punky Maury,” a young anarchist student who died in a bomb explosion in 2009. Anarchist Sebastian Oversluij Seguel was killed by a bank security guard in December 2013 during an attempted bank expropriation. These and other imprisoned or dead anarchists are commemorated regularly at rallies and cited in communiques for actions.
Since the time of Pinochet, people have engaged in protests and riots on various anniversaries. September 11, the date of the 1973 military coup, continues to be one of these days of combat. In a tradition originating from the era of the dictatorship, thousands march every year from downtown Santiago to the General Cemetery, where there is a memorial for the victims of the military regime. Police still use military machinery to repress protestors the same way they did before the transition to democracy. The Fuerzas Especiales of the Carabineros, which are basically highly-equipped riot police, can be seen downtown on a daily basis. They generally keep a distance from protestors, instead relying on their armored vehicles to direct the crowd. Police on foot will only approach crowds in large teams; individual police are at risk of being attacked by protestors.
Anarchists regularly protest and clash with police in downtown Santiago. In some years, the September 11 protest involves intense riots in which militants attack banks and businesses with Molotov cocktails. In 2006, a masked protestor threw a Molotov cocktail at la Moneda, the presidential palace. Although it didn’t cause any structural damage, it resulted in a wave of sensationalist reports in the capitalist press and raids against a squatted social center and a politically active university. The youth faction of the Communist Party also spoke out against the attack on la Moneda, and claimed that they would forcibly prevent anarchists from disrupting future marches. However, the protests have continued every September 11 since, and the Communist Youth haven’t succeeded in playing the role of protest police in Chile.
In Santiago, some of the public universities have a strong tradition of protest culture extending back to before the Popular Unity period. The massive traditional universities were broken up by the dictatorship into smaller schools in an attempt to maintain control over the rebellious student population. The dictatorship regularly attacked students at the universities from outside the gates; the democratic state continues to do this today. Students regularly meet in spokescouncils to plan strikes and occupations of their departments, and sometimes occupy entire universities. Under the democratic regime, the protests have focused on reformist demands regarding the educational system, but some elements use these protests as opportunities for agitation; over recent years, anarchists have become increasingly influential in student protests. Currently, groups from various anarchist traditions participate; there are formal organizations, such as the Libertarian Student Front, as well as insurrectionary anarchists who reject formal organization.
In response to student protests, Carabineros indiscriminately fire tear gas onto the campus and charge the school gates with armored vehicles. Riot police also regularly fire gas canisters at the bodies of demonstrators, a tactic that took the life of the young anarchist Daniel Menco at a university demonstration in northern Chile in 1999. Despite this, the schools remain territories of rebellion. Confrontational protests occur on politicized campuses year round, but more regularly on traditional dates of protest such as September 11 and the Day of the Youth Combatant. Administrators often close the campuses down on these dates, and revolutionary students now protest throughout the month. September 11 is giving way to black September.
The universities are not the only part of the school system to engage in militant protest. The escolares, high-school-aged students who study at liceos, have a long history of protest extending back past dictatorship, and continue to be a powerful social force; in 2006, they initiated one of the most significant waves of protest since the transition to democracy. Over 700,000 students went on strike against the Organic Law on Teaching, which further privatized the education system. It was the last law Pinochet put into place before handing power over to the democracy in 1990. The massive protests against the law were the culmination of many years of organizing marches, strikes, and school occupations; in 2006, this exploded into the streets, with resurgences over the following years.
A crucial dimension of resistance to the Chilean state today is the struggle of the Mapuche, a group of indigenous peoples who successfully resisted Spanish occupation during the colonization of South America. Early maps of Chile show Wallmapu as an autonomous territory. Wallmapu remained relatively independent until the army engaged in a campaign called the “pacification” in the late nineteenth century. This military intervention resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Mapuche people, and large tracts of land were handed over to people of European decent.
The contemporary conflict in Wallmapu is not a re-emergence of indigenous resistance, but a continuation of a war that never ended. Today, Mapuche communities clash with national and multinational corporations that claim to hold land that is traditionally part of Wallmapu. Some communities have successfully regained large amounts of land after decades of struggle.
The conflict focuses on forestry and farming plantations, mines, and dams. In numerous cases, forestry plantations have been set on fire by encapuchados. In response, the democratic government began utilizing a dictatorship-era anti-terrorism law to target Mapuche communities and organizations. The law allows the use of unidentified witnesses who can have their voices scrambled and their faces obscured while testifying. As a result of this campaign of government repression, there are numerous Mapuche political prisoners. Anarchists continually engage in solidarity actions concerning the conflict, including regular marches and attacks dedicated to Mapuche political prisoners.
Since the time of Pinochet’s rule, residents of the poblaciones have engaged in armed defense of their neighborhoods against the military and police. The poblaciones were originally land occupations; they have now been officially incorporated into the city after decades of struggle. The occupations were a highly politicized process, as can be seen in the culture of these spaces. In one dramatic example, the streets of the población la Victoria are named after revolutionary figures and moments in history, including the date of the land occupation, the Haymarket martyrs, and May Day. The poblaciones were the site of the most intense urban conflicts during the dictatorship, and all three armed organizations were highly active in the more political neighborhoods. In some of the poblaciones, the armed groups occasionally maintained territorial control. When democratic rule returned, the ungovernable neighborhoods presented a threat to the new system.
Clashes still occur in some of the more politicized poblaciones. On September 11, combative poblaciones go into revolt across Santiago and the entrances are secured with burning barricades. The police are generally afraid to enter the hearts of these neighborhoods, but they will engage in conflict on the outskirts. These actions bring together revolutionaries, including anarchists, with disenfranchised youth who are not otherwise politically active. Sometimes demonstrators cause power outages in order to gain the advantage over police, who are less familiar with the terrain and hesitant to navigate it in the dark. These tactics originated during protests against the Pinochet regime. Police utilize more violent tactics in the poblaciones than they do against protests downtown or outside the universities, even firing live ammunition. In some neighborhoods, demonstrators respond with guns, as well.
Confrontations in poblaciones are not limited to September 11; they occur during most periods of protest, including the Day of the Youth Combatant. Although these protests started in the Villa Francia where the Vergara brothers were killed, they now occur throughout the poblaciones, and in recent years, these protests have spread to other Chilean cities.
To understand the significance of Villa Francia and the resistance of the poblaciones in Chile, an Ex-Worker caught up with Fabian, who explains more about the history of the neighborhood and the role it plays for antagonists to the state and capitalism in Santiago.
ANARCHISM AND VILLA FRANCIA: INTERVIEW WITH FABIAN
Ex-Worker: We’re here at the third anarchist book fair in Santiago, Chile, and today we’re speaking with…
Ex-Worker: and where are we right now, Fabian?
Fabian: Right now we’re in El Lingue, a cultural center located in the neighborhood of Villa Francia, on the east side of Santiago, Chile.
Ex-Worker: And what is the importance of Villa Francia to the anarchist movement here in Santiago and in the rest of Chile?
Fabian: Well, I believe that the importance of the Villa is as a center of struggle in certain historical periods, and how it was created by workers, by poor people as a land occupation who then established a neighborhood. And all of this has to do with armed groups, revolutionary groups: the Manuel Rodriguez Patriotic Front (FPMR), the Revolutionary Left Movement (MIR)… and these activities, if not some of the first revolutionary advances, are still very influential on what we think of today as “revolutionary struggle,” the armed struggle in confronting power. Through all the years, despite all of the attempts of power to destroy the revolutionary struggle, to shut down any conflicts with power, the Villa still maintains a revolutionary instinct, always.
On every one of the important dates, or during other times where struggle is necessary, there is revolt and a notion to expand the revolt. So in this sense, the Villa has an important connection with the anarchists in regards to the fact that many anarchists have family in Villa Francia, or many that come here from other poblaciones to attend the activities that occur here: Day of the Youth Combatant, the anniversary of the 1973 coup, and other commemorative dates; or events regarding political prisoners or people murdered by police in the poblacion. So this place has served as a focal point from which to expand the armed struggle, the revolutionary struggle to fight the cops, against the state, against power.
This tradition has served the anarchist movement, especially anarchist groups who have absorbed this history, who know the reality of the Villa, who come to participate, and this has generated a sense of permanent, untiring struggle, a violent struggle against power. But besides street conflict, the struggle is maintained by other means: informative activities, counter-information, solidarity events and benefits for political prisoners… For example here in El Lingue, there are constantly different kinds of forums, shows, theater, benefit lunches and dinners to raise funds for political prisoners, anarchist political prisoners, Marxist political prisoners.
So in this sense, I believe that the Villa Francia served as one of the more combative areas during the dictatorship and one of the most targeted areas afterward. This has made it a site for generating struggle, and has influenced the rest of the poblaciones in regards to resistance. Lots of people travel here for the 29th of March, Day of the Youth Combatant—Mapuche folks come, people from the north come—and all of this means you can see there is something alive here that’s not just the lies you see in the press. For example, that these are groups of unloved, uncared-for children—lumpen, as they disparagingly call them—but rather there is a cause here that includes young people, yes, but adults too, who have a cause: to wage war on power, the state. And I believe this is the importance of the Villa, to maintain this focal point of [social] war.
Alanis: This importance is communicated visually through the extensive graffiti and murals that cover the entire neighborhood. Fabian explains:
Fabian: What happens here is that, well, before, in the 80s, on the end of every tenement block there were magnificent murals alluding to people who came from the Villa or important figures from more leftist groups. But there has always been an effort to include on every block, because the villa is made up of various tenement buildings, graffiti and murals that remember: Mapuche people, political prisoners, the Vergara brothers… There’s a really huge piece that evokes Sol Vergara, who came from Villa Francia and is the cousin of the Vergara brothers, whose murder is commemorated on the Day of the Youth Combatant. So she is included in this mural to make it clear that she is still in prison and that she has support here in Villa Francia.
And there are also homages to other political prisoners, the prisoners from the “Banco Security” case are in a bunch of murals, to make it clear to anyone who passes by here that they are not forgotten, that we keep on resisting and that this is a site of solidarity, and that the Villa continues to battle on behalf of political prisoners. This is basically what the graffiti and murals seek out to accomplish: to keep the streets alive.
Clara: In this atmosphere of resistance, anarchists undertake a wide variety of organizing, both militant and aboveground. For example, the Anarchist Book and Propaganda Fair takes place in Villa Francia each year. Next, we’ll hear from Kiwi and Nico about the history of the book fair and how it fits into the broader anarchist struggle in Chile.
THE ANARCHIST BOOK AND PROPAGANDA FAIR IN SANTIAGO: INTERVIEW WITH KIWI AND NICO
Ex-Worker: Here we are at the 3rd anarchist book fair in Santiago, Chile. And we’re speaking with two of the organizers of the book fair. Who are we speaking with?
Kiwi: …and Kiwi.
Ex-Worker: And why did you decide to hold an anarchist book fair? What is its origin, what year did it start, and what are some of the original goals you had for the book fair?
Kiwi: Well, the book fair began in 2012, so this year, 2014, is our third. Here in Chile, since 2003 or 2004, there was what you might call a resurgence in anarchist ideas and practices, and since then anarchism has been more visible. Something that was beginning to happen back then, although it actually helped in a way, was the press started to demonize anarchists all over the place, so anarchism itself became a more public thing.
This started to generate a counter response, and every time you had a little more initiative of this type. At first there wasn’t that much of a specifically anarchist tendency. Well, there were few people, but lots of activity: work in the poblaciones, squatted spaces, prisoner support, etcetera…
Around 2007, 2008, we started to have a bigger anarchist event, which was called Anarchist March [like the month]. Anarchist March was, well, obviously it was held in March, and it was a series of workshops, forums, and skillshares, stuff like design, anarchist history, introductions to anarchism, free schooling, a ton of stuff like that. It started in the March of 2007, and went on for a few years, like 4 if I’m not mistaken. Everyone liked this event because the first time that it happened it was thought that maybe 50 people would should up to the first few events, but in the first week over 300 people attended, so everyone was pleasantly surprised.
Afterwards, Anarchist March changed forms, changed people, but kept going until its end four years later. But before it ended a few of us who had known each other for years, who had a lot of confidence in each other, got together and said, “Why don’t we have an anarchist book fair?” Why an anarchist book fair? Because in this time, there was a proliferation of anarchist texts and publishers, and there was a surge in the quantity and visibility of anarchist texts. Not that they were super available, but, say, before 2005, it was very difficult to find an anarchist book, except for the library. But in the last few years, there are more publishers and more anarchist materials publicly available. So, after Anarchist March died, a few of us comrades started to talk and we said, “Let’s have an anarchist book fair! It can be an activity that everybody gets because of its tradition all over the world. It will help raise the visibility of the propaganda that is being made, and it can be a way that people less familiar with anarchism, who see anarchists as a ‘strange breed,’ can become informed.” And we also saw it as an opportunity to have a little bit of debate or discussion between different anarchist tendencies, and to have this discussion not just occur internally, but also oriented towards those outside the movement. Obviously this generated some debate amongst anarchists and anti-authoritarians, but originally the idea of the book fair was a public, big event, and to try to get out of the anarchist ghetto that exists to a certain degree.
The first year, 2012, went great. There were a lot more people that we had expected. The space has always been in the same spot because… Well, there just aren’t that many spaces that will host us. Lots of publishers and people prepared new materials specifically for the book fair. And it achieved being an activity that wasn’t just the same as always, that raised interest. And I believe that as the first book fair was in 2012, and in 2011 there was a context of a raised level of struggle because of the student movement, the book fair really succeeded because of this, because more people started to engage in and align themselves with horizontal practices of organizing. It wasn’t massive, but it started nonetheless.
So there was a noticeably greater interest on the part of students in anarchism, high school students just as much as university students—and therefore a greater interest in general, like in the poblaciones. And 2012 continued to introduce new things: barricades and other things that had been lost in 2011 were once again being used as practices of struggle, so I think 2012 was such a success because there was a climate that lent itself to greater interest in anarchism, because of the social context.
Nico: Yeah in fact, in 2012 there were a lot of students in attendance.
Kiwi: In 2013, the fair was even better organized, was very big again, was it even bigger than the first one?
Nico: I don’t remember. But there were more people than this year. And in the second bookfair 2013 one of the things we did differently was how we thought about the children there, like in regards to the importance of thinking how their needs might be different. Of course lots of time was given to discussing workshops about prisoners and other issues, but the organizing collective also kept in mind that kids are always present and are a part of our lives as well. So for the bookfair in 2013, a childcare space was created, which received lots of praise from people who liked it, but a lot of criticism too from people who called it “a small jail for children.” In fact, one of the kids in the childcare space this year said they were there because their parents wanted them to calm down. So this year we ran things a little differently, to make sure it wasn’t like a little jail. Rather, the idea was to have workshops for kids, to make sure we didn’t replicate last year, to have it be a little different.
POLITICAL IMPRISONMENT IN CHILE: INTERVIEW WITH FELIPE
Clara: At the book and propaganda fair, the Ex-Worker also spoke with Felipe, a member of a radical media project called Social Communication Productions. Felipe explained the importance of political imprisonment in Chile and prisoner support within the anarchist movements.
Ex-Worker: OK, we’re here at the anarchist book fair in Santiago, Chile, and who are we speaking with?
Felipe: My name is Felipe.
Ex-Worker: And what kind of project are you participating with at the book fair this weekend?
Felipe: I am a part of Social Communication Productions, and our group is mostly known through our video journal project SINAPSIS, which we have been producing since 2007. In the two previous book fairs, and now in the third, we try to put together a brief video showing what the anarchist book fair consists of.
Ex-Worker: Something that I’ve noticed is how the book fair incorporates the presence of political prisoners and those who have died in struggle, for example, in attempted bank robberies or at the hands of the police and such. There are some large, impressive posters and a banner with prisoner profiles at the entrance of the space. For our listeners, can you explain a little bit about political repression in Chile, some of the most important cases for anarchists, and how their presence is incorporated into events like this? Felipe: Political imprisonment in Chile has a principal role in the activity of more radical social movements. Naturally, the state is repressive. In Chile we live in a democratic dictatorship, practically speaking, which is to say that the constitution from the dictatorship is the same as we have today, so we live under the same laws that were established with the bloody dictatorship that started in 1973. At the root of this high level of repression, we have a penalty index that is maybe one of the highest in the world; for instance, the penalty against property destruction is very high. And the prison system in Chile is very strong. Although now the system is changing; currently we are starting to have more privately run prisons, which we know is a system very well established in the United States, and by the logic of this whole system, by living under a police state, a repressive state, there are many comrades that, for various reasons, find themselves in prison. Fortunately, they have a lot… well, not a lot, but plenty of support to help de-invisibilize their situation.
The reasons for which people are in prison are diverse, and the ideologies that political prisoners have acted from are quite different, and because they are so different there are various kinds of groups that support political prisoners. There are Mapuche political prisoners, there are prisoners from the Allende-ist tendency, there are anarchist political prisoners, and there are plenty of other kinds of political prisoners. It’s necessary to put work into the question of political imprisonment and incorporate our prisoners into our social initiatives [like the book fair] as an ongoing problem. ’ Currently, there are the prisoners from “Caso Security,” the Security Bank Case, who have been accused of participating in a bank robbery a few years ago. This is a famous case because it was one of the trials where the preventative detainment lasted the longest before being found guilty, and beforehand a few of them were at large for years abroad in Argentina. Then there’s the case of Victor Montoya, who is awaiting trial. He is been accused of placing an explosive device [at a police barracks].
One of the most talked about cases, that really changed everything, is “Caso Bombas,” the Bombs Case from 2010. Right now, the only people from this case that are in prison (although for different reasons) are Francisco Solar and Monica Caballero, who are imprisoned in Spain. And they also speak about the cooperation between the governments of Spain and Chile, furthering their repressive logic, trying to find guilty parties where there are none. “Caso Bombas” was a very well known case in Chile, because the 14 people accused and politically imprisoned for almost a year were all absolved. So this demonstrated that here in Chile that first, yes, there is political repression; secondly, that the justifications for persecuting these supposed criminals are obviously absurd; and third, that this society itself, and the task of protecting society through these institutional channels, has shown the absurdity of the persecution in Chile against people of the anti-authoritarian tendency.
Clara: In our next episode, we’ll pick up on this theme of political repression and prisoner support as we continue our exploration of anarchism in Chile. We’ll share two exciting interviews with recent anarchist political prisoners and discuss a documentary on Chilean anarchist struggles, along with current news updates from the streets of Santiago and plenty more.
NEXT WEEK’S NEWS
Alanis: And now we’re ready for next week’s news. Clara, what’s coming up on the calendar?
Alanis: Beginning now and lasting through October 6th, folks at the Hambacher Forest occupation in western Germany are hosting a second skillsharing camp to kick off the “No Tree is Falling” campaign of actions against the destruction of the forest. We’ll be focusing a longer feature on the Hambacher Forest occupation in an upcoming episode, so stay tuned for that.
Clara: If you’re looking for more anarchist media projects to check out, there’s a new episode of our favorite video podcast, “It’s the End of the World as We Know It and I Feel Fine” by the Stimulator. This one is titled “Ferguson: Chronicle of an Insurrection”, featuring an in-depth look at the anti-police riots in Missouri we covered in Episode 27, as well as an interview with anarchist Black Panther Ashanti Alston and lots more.
Alanis: The latest episodes of The Final Straw include an interview with Indiana anarchists supporting rebellious prisoners in the Pendleton Correctional Institution and a discussion of the ZAD du Testet in France. Free Radical Radio also has a new episode out with discussion of the Climate March in NYC and an interview about the website ultra-com.org.We’ve got links to all of these posted on our website.
Clara: And finally, we have quite a few prisoner birthdays coming up. On the 3rd of October, Justin Solondz, an Earth Liberation Front prisoner targeted in Operation Backfire for an arson at the University of Washington;
Alanis:Also on the 3rd, Skelly, or Joshua Stafford, of the Cleveland Four, framed in a fake FBI bomb plot in 2012;
Clara: On October 4th, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly H. Rap Brown, civil rights activist and former Black Panther;
Alanis: On October 6th, David Gilbert, lifelong revolutionary from SDS, the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army;
Clara: And also Michael Davis Africa of the MOVE 9, a member of the Philadelphia-based black eco-revolutionary group, framed for the murder of a cop in 1979;
Alanis: On October 7th, Eric McDavid, green scare defendant entrapped into an imaginary plot by an FBI informant;
Clara: And on the 8th, Malik Smith of the Virgin Islands Five, framed for murder for his participation in the anti-colonial independence movement in the Virgin Islands.
Alanis: Please take a moment to write these folks a card or a letter; it really does make a difference in their lives. All of the mailing addresses, plus links to info on their cases, can be found on our website.
Clara: And that is it for this episode of the Ex-Worker! Many, many thanks to Fabian, Kiwi, Nico, and Felipe from Chile for taking the time to speak with us, as well as everyone who reported back from the climate convergence in New York City. We’ll be back next time with the second part of our exploration of anarchism in Chile, including two exciting interviews with recent political prisoners and plenty more.
Alanis: Until then, hit us up with any feedback to podcast at crimethinc dot com. And thanks for listening!
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
The Hot Wire [1:35]
People’s Climate March [9:49]
Listener Feedback [22:16]
Anarchist Struggles in Chile: History and Context [29:45]
Anarchism in Villa Francia: Interview with Felipe [1:00:16]
The Anarchist Book and Propaganda Fair in Santiago: Interview with Kiwi and Nico [1:05:38]
Political Imprisonment in Chile: Interview with Felipe [1:13:31]
Next Week’s News [1:19:27]
Our discussion of the history and background context of anarchism in Chile draws heavily on the 2009 article “Chile: From Popular Power to Social War,” which appeared in Rolling Thunder #8, along with contemporary updates.
One of the best sources about the history and contemporary reality of anarchist struggle in Chile can be found in the documentary The Chicago Conspiracy by our friends at Subversive Action Films. Tune in next episode for a full review of the film on the Chopping Block.
For contemporary reports on anarchism in Chile, see HommoDolars (counter-information in Spanish); you can find translations of many communiques and reports on actions via the blogs War on Society, Contra Info, and 325. Felipe, who we interviewed, is part of Social Communication Productions.
We mentioned a whole lot of historical references, political repression cases, and other odds and ends about which you might want to learn more. Here are a few of them:
Anarchists and militants who died in the course of struggle: the Vergara Brothers and the Day of the Youth Combatant, Mauricio Morales, and Sebastian Oversluij Seguel.
Other historical references: Popular Power in Allende-era Chile before the military coup; 1920s Argentine insurrectionist Severino di Giovanni; the foco theory of guerrilla warfare; if there are others we mentioned about which you want sources to learn more, just drop us a line!
For more on Chile’s economy: the article “Anatomy of an Economic Miracle” from Black Flag Magazine in 1999 critiques Chile’s neoliberal experiment that was so admired by free market pundits. Naomi Klein expands on these themes in her 2007 bestseller The Shock Doctrine, which is well worth a read. An Al-Jazeera feature from last year titled “The Other Side of Chile’s ‘Economic Miracle’” grounds these critiques in contemporary realities.
To learn more about the resistance to environmental destruction at the ZAD du Testet in southeastern France, check out the occupation’s blog, this short film in French, and the latest episode of The Final Straw, which features an interview with folks from the occupation. For news about the original Zone a Defendre (ZAD) anti-airport occupation in Notre-Dame-des-Landres, stay posted to zad.nadir.org.
PLEASE TAKE A MINUTE TO READ this newly updated Cell Phone Guide for US Protestors from the Electronic Frontier Foundation. It gives extremely useful suggestions about pre-protest preparations, encryption, court cases and legal precedents, what to do if arrested, and so forth. The more you know, the less they know!
Looking for more anarchist media projects to watch or listen to? Check out the new episode of “It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine” by the Stimulator, titled “Ferguson: Chronicle of an Insurrection”, featuring an in-depth look at the anti-police riots in Missouri we covered in Episode 27, as well as an interview with anarchist Black Panther Ashanti Alston and lots more. The latest episodes of The Final Straw include an interview with Indiana anarchists supporting rebellious prisoners in the Pendleton Correctional Institution, former political prisoner Jerry Koch speaking on Luke O’Donovan’s case, and a discussion of the ZAD du Testet in France. Free Radical Radio also has a new episode out with discussion of the Climate March in NYC and an interview about the website ultra-com.org.
Kansas City anarchist Eric King has been arrested for an alleged attack with Molotov cocktails on a politician’s office. You can write to Eric at this address:
Eric King #27090045
100 Highway Terrace
Leavenworth, KS 66048
Luke O’Donovan was recently transferred to the Georgia prison where he will serve the rest of his two year sentence for defending himself during a homophobic attack. Here is his mailing address:
Luke Patrick O’Donovan
Washington State Prison
P.O. Box 206
Davisboro, GA 31018
This news broke too late to make it into this episode, but our fellow CrimethInc. Ex-Workers are finishing up a hugely ambitious new multimedia outreach project, To Change Everything, intended to introduce anarchist ideas to a broad audience. The centerpiece of the project is a 48-page pamphlet, of which our fellow Ex-Workers plan to print 100,000 copies to distribute for free. They are currently raising the funds for this via a Kickstarter campaign; learn more here, and help out if you can!
News from the Hot Wire included: a Kansas City anarchist arrested on charges of attempting to firebomb a politician’s office; more racist police shootings in Utah, Louisiana, and South Carolina, plus cops acquitted for a previous murder in Ohio; police chief’s daughter arrested for her role in a brutal gay bashing; G20 defendant Joel Bitar paroled and released from prison in Canada; youth in revolt in Utah and Colorado; protests against sexual violence in Calcutta, India; paramilitary raids by private security on California pot farms; Tokyo anti-nuclear protests; revolt by Chinese shellfish farmers; repression at the Hambacher Forest occupation; anarchist support for striking public workers in Helsinki, Finland; demos in memory of Greek anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, or Killah P, in Athens, Greece, Cyprus, and elsewhere; pharmaceutical lab destroyed by fire and immigration removal center riot in the UK; and an Animal Liberation Front raid on Italian fur farm.
Upcoming prisoner birthdays:
Justin Solondz #98291–011
Post Office Box 1000
Loretto, Pennsylvania 15940
Joshua Stafford #57976–060
P.O. BOX 24550
Tucson, AZ 85734
Address card/letter to Skelly, envelope to Joshua Stafford
Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin #99974–555
P.O. Box 1600
Butner, NC 27509
David Gilbert #83-A–6158
Auburn Correctional Facility
Post Office Box 618
Auburn, New York 13021
Michael Davis Africa #AM–4973
Post Office Box 244
Graterford, Pennsylvania 19426–0244
Eric McDavid #16209–097
FCI Terminal Island
Post Office Box 3007
San Pedro, California 90731
Golden Grove Prison
RR 1 Box 9955
Kingshill, St Croix
Virgin Islands 00850
Address card/letter to Malik, envelope to Meral Smith