Listen to the Episode — 53 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 to episode four of the Ex-Worker. Today we’ll be discussing prisons and why we hate them. We’ll also hear a review of “Between Predicates, War: Theses on Contemporary Struggle,” an interview with someone involved in [edit in the an interview with someone involved in the Indiana Prisoner Zine Distro, and much more]. My name is Alanis…
Clara: …and my name is Clara, and we’ll be your hosts.
Alanis: We want to know what you think. Direct all criticisms, black faxes, questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can prank call us at 202–59-NOWRK – that’s 202–596–6975.
Clara: Bombs away!
THE HOT WIRE
Alanis: Before we get to it, let’s hear some news and updates from struggles around the world. Clara?
Clara: Riots have raged across Turkey for over a week, after an occupation in Istanbul’s Gezi Park was brutally broken up by police. The protesters, who were trying to prevent the construction of a shopping mall on top of some of the last remaining green space in the city, fought back with force. Clashes have spread to over 36 cities in Turkey and are no longer only focusing on the destruction of the park but also government corruption, media silence around the protests, and president Erdogan’s bid for a renewed religious fundamentalism in Turkey. 1
Alanis: A comrade holding it down at Gezi Park sent us his account. He writes from behind the rumble:
The first barricade seems impenetrable. Hundreds of bricks piled high, torn fences, and flipped over cars mix into a single […] shield of corrugated steel with long metal spikes sticking out front, as if ready to defend against any horse charge. But then you walk another 10 meters and see the next one, twice as big, more bricks, more fences, graffiti all over it. […] Not only the main street but all the side streets, and every surrounding street is blocked. All the sidewalks are sand, having their bricks taken out and put to new uses. Constant streams of people are hanging around each barricade, posing for photos; there [are] vendors selling spray paint, gas masks and goggles in between each barricade. Iphones, ipads, and all i-devices are capturing the moments of joy and pride for [everyone]. All ages join in jumping on the destroyed cars, playing inside the smashed out tractors, buses [and] media vans. The Ataturk cultural center, a five-story building on one side of Taksim square, is draped with massive banners saying “Don’t Obey”, “Tayyip Resign”, and huge flags of Ataturk, mixed with anarchist graffiti and football signs… The whole thing seems medieval, with helmets, javelin poles, and a view of the Bosphorus, Hagia Sophia, and Blue Mosque in the horizon.
The majority of violence, it seems, has moved to the other 60+ cities in Turkey where demonstrations arose, especially in Ankara. The local demands of the Gezi Park demonstration no longer have any relevance for the majority of people taking part in this mass uprising, but everyone is still somehow unified by their opposition to the police and enraged at the overreaction of the government . What binds the hundreds of thousands of people in Taksim square together can’t be explained by any political ideology or secular or religious divide or green movement. Rather, it seems that the sheer joy of taking over the center of the city has kept the movement alive, liberating it from both police control and the market-imperative of growth… .
Please visit www.flickr.com/photos/weltgeist/ for a growing photo archive of Gezi Park. Weltgeist is spelled W-E-L-T-G-E-I-S-T.
Meanwhile, solidarity demonstrations have spread all over the world, including marches and actions reported in dozens of cities, and even a solidarity re-occupation of an urban farm in San Francisco, renamed Gezi Gardens. 2
Alanis: On June 3rd, the Supreme Court ruled that Police making warrantless arrests are allowed to collect DNA swabs– a practice already standard in half of all states. The DNA collection, which consists of a swab that takes cells from inside an arrestee’s cheek, will likely become part of the standard booking procedure, along with standard identification techniques such as fingerprinting and photographing. 3
Clara: The G8 in London doesn’t officially start until the 17th, but protesters have already had a few run-ins with the police in the lead-up week of action. Pigs raided the counter-G8 convergence center early on June 11th, arresting people while utilizing tazers, teargas and brute force. Despite the raid, and London somehow being more-policed than usual, a huge Carnival Against Capitalism took place later in the afternoon, including a street party in Picadilly Circus.
Alanis: June 11th was also the international day of solidarity with Marie Mason and Eric McDavid, and longterm anarchist prisoners. Informational events and actions took place in dozens of cities across the U.S. And around the world. For a full rundown, you can visit june11.org.
Clara: Bombs away
Clara: Contradictory Terms
Alanis: For more explorations of the war in every word, visit crimethinc.com/contradictionary.
MAIN FEATURE: PRISON
“One day of prison. Two days of prison. Three days of prison. A month of prison. The door closes and opens, then closes and opens again. Three months of prison. A year of prison. I need to know if others are thinking about me as much as I’m thinking about them. The days can’t go by fast enough now. Four hundred-eighty-two days of prison. Four-hundred-eighty-three days of prison. Four-hundred-eighty … I’ve lost count. Fuck. It’s better that way. Counting is no good in prison. The arithmetic makes no sense whatsoever.” fn. This text is quoted in Autonomia: Post-Political Politics, a collection of writings partially by people locked up in Italian jails, published by MIT Press about the Autonomist Movement active from 1976 to 1978. music fade in
The State of the US Prison System
Alanis: Ask a warden how many people are imprisoned in his facility and without a doubt he’ll tell you the maximum capacity number.
Bulging under the tension of incarcerating 1.6 million adults in state and federal prisons around the country, many prisons in the US have had to create makeshift living quarters for detainees. Inmates sleep in public spaces like gymnasiums and cafeterias, and cells which were designed to house only one person now house three. 1 2 Marie Mason once lived in a gymnasium-sized control unit that housed up to 20 female prisoners, but recently, this space has been cut in half with a new wall. For years the United States has incarcerated far more people than any other country, today imprisoning some 716 people out of every 100,000. Over the past 30 years, the federal prison population in the US has jumped from 25,000 to 219,000 inmates, which is an increase of nearly 790 percent. As a result of harsh sentencing, the average age of prisoners is changing as well. Last year, some 95,000 juveniles under 18 years of age were put in prison, and that doesn’t count those in juvenile facilities. “And between 2007 and 2011, the population of those over sixty-four grew by 94 times the rate of the regular [prison] population.”3 In 2011 the Supreme Court labeled CA’s overcrowded conditions in its jails ‘unconstitutional’ and ordered the state to release 30,000 prisoners by the middle of 2012. 4 In response, California slowed down the admission rate, and had 15,000 fewer prisoners by the end of the year. The total state prison population dropped by about 70 percent due to California alone. 5 Though the US prison population is shrinking slightly because of California, 6 the number of inmates in federal lockup is increasing. Some prison reformists argue that the most important element in explaining the hefty incarceration numbers are “mandatory minimum” sentencing requirements at both the state and federal levels, which automatically requires certain prison sentences for certain crimes. Prison reformists argue that changing these policies can reduce prison populations, by reducing in lengthy prison terms that contribute to overcrowding. Bending under their own weight, in 2011 seven states weakened or repealed certain mandatory minimum regulations. 7. That’s kinda surprising actually since, these prison labor makes up a huge part of the American workforce.
Under the guise of “vocational training,” inmates are often paid pennies or minimum wage—minus fines and victim compensation— to package Starbucks coffee, Nintendo Game Boys, and process more than 680,000 pounds of beef, 400,000 pounds of chicken products, 450,000 gallons of milk, 280,000 loaves of bread, and 2.9 million eggs (from 160,000 inmate-raised hens). The seemlessness of capital and state structures reaches an apex, when Texas prisoners slave over I mean, produce the cops’ duty belts, gun containers, handcuff cases, human-silhouette targets and prison-cell accessories that cage them. 8 Of course, in the ever-expanding age of capital, it’s also not surprising that many of today’s lock-ups are not operated by the government, but by for-profit companies. And thus! Some people are making lots and lots of money off the booming business of keeping people in cages. But who are these people? 9 Well, The Correction Corporation of America, which is the largest prison operator, imprisons 80,000 inmates in 60 prisons. GEO Group is the second-largest private prison operator in the country. And, Vanguard Group and Fidelity Investments, America’s top two 401(k) providers, together own about 20 percent of both CCA and GEO. Let’s not forget the people who make meager amounts of money off this centuries old custom of keeping human beings in cages:
Wardens, cooks, prison medical staff, county sheriffs, probation officers, parol board members, clergymen, state patrol and prison guards, court personnel, bailiffs, cops, and prison truck drivers. This people are also known as our neighbors, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings, strangers, acquaintances, or people you see on the bus or at the library. They are not friends; they are the state.
Child: Mom, where do prisons come from?
Computer: The state. 10
Clara: Ya know, prisons are like micro-states. Louis Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.
Alanis: How can you say that? Like a state is like a thing. No one even knows what a state is. Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended
Clara: I don’t think that’s true.
Alanis: Now that i think about it, the state might not even exist.
Clara: It obviously exists. We struggle against it. How could we struggle so much against something that doesn’t exist?
Alanis: At least, No one agrees then what it is.
Clara: That’s fair.
Clara: There are lots of theories about what’s a state. When we look at how those theories have changed over time, we can see the State has become a system that works around us and through us, and possibly by understanding our footing we can start to map out resistance.
So imagine back in the day when peeps were trying to figure out how to overthrow the Russian Tsar.
The communists envisioned society as warring classes and the state was the exterior force that held these warring classes together, settling disputes from above. Lenin quoting Engels, The State and Revolution.
Like a parent settling a disagreement between two kids, the state gets to decide what kind of physical force is legit and what kind was not, and that meant in that interest of holding everyone together, the state gets to decide who lives and who dies. That’s the law.
Okay, so imagine the two classes in conflict, just two big blobs bumping up against one another, now draw a big circle around them. That circle represents the decision making process of the state. Everyone within the circle is subject to the state’s decisions. Everything outside the circle is outside of that law.
Any sort of criminal justice system exists within the circle. So although tensions between the class may run high from time to time and one side may get a little out of control, within the circle there’s a pre-conceived way of dealing with the situation. If there’s a law broken, there’s a punishment; if there’s a fight, there’s a resolution.
Alanis: Then what could exist outside of the circle?
Clara: Well, sometimes states bend the rules. For example states issue emergency decrees, come under martial law, abandon constitutional civil liberties for protection of homeland security, and extend military authority to the civilian sphere. When instituted, these laws don’t draw a new circle, but instead imagine a big hand picking apart bits of each blob and putting them outside of the circle. In this no-man’s land coined the state of exception, State power is completely without restraint …
Alanis: … And armed with every resource that the blob-os within the circle has provided it. Grrrrrreat.
Clara: Now that we have a basic diagram of the state let’s look closer at how it functions.
Alanis: By diagram, do you mean the blobs and their circle?
Clara: Yep! now we’re gonna look inside the circle with the understanding that there’s a big hand hovering over the blobs at all times ready to pluck bits of them away.
In the next phase of our state theory, Louis Althusser suggests that the state works in collusion the ruling class. Let’s say one blob is bigger than the other. It’s rich, it’s popular, it’s clearly in control, it’s attractive and basically everyone thinks the big blob is really great. That’s the ruling class.
So, it seems as though there’s a grand system setup to favor the interests of the Big Blob. This grand system is known as repression, which includes all state action from the most brutal physical force, to open and tacit censorship.
How does the smaller blob not just totally freak out though under all this pressure? With the whole circle thing and now this grand repressive system thing? Althusser suggested that there are actually two state structures that work together to do what the state has always done: hold the warring classes together. So there’s this repressive system that contains the government, administration, the army, the police, the courts, and prisons, but then there are ideological institutions that make everyone feel like they know what’s going on and kinda create this social lube, whereby the state keeps order and the big blob stays on top. [hahahaha]
So imagine this state as an electric chair: the repressive system is like the chair and the straps, and the ideological institutions are like the sedative that you take before.
Alanis: Wait, so, what’s the electricity?
Clara: Oh, yeah, that’s the state power coursing through you and the chair. Zap sounds
Clara: Speaking of executions, do you wanna talk about Foucault?
In the middle of the 20th century Foucault’s thoughts on this topic marked a divergence from preceding theories about the state and sovereignty. Foucault was more interested in how this whole state thing keeps happening, particularly in the wake of World War II. In different ways, both Althusser and Foucault looked at how the state has evolved from an institution that maintains order between the blobs by like taxation and handing out death penalties. And, Foucault arrives at something much more amorphorous and spiritually penetrating; He kinda argues that the state doesn’t even exist anymore. Instead, we live in societies of control.
For Foucault the classical notion of the sovereign power has receded and discipline advanced. In Discipline and Punish, we witness punishment as spectacle disappear. Now, the certainty of punishment, and not its horror, deters a person from committing a crime. Instead of a cleaved hand, conviction marks the prisoner.
Culpability exists in the motives, passions and instincts of the criminal. The supervision and direction of a individual’s mind became the crux of punishment. When the penalty addresses the soul, rehabilitation is possible.
And, the power to punish becomes fragmented and shared among different points in society; everyone can have a hand in judging a criminal. Punishment grows into a complex social function predicated by a common body of Knowledge.
The force of the state doesn’t come from physical weapons or material conditions of any kind, instead, power relations operate and exist through people. Power is not a property but a strategy visible in the relations between people. He would encourage thinking of the body politic as a series of routes and weapons by which power operates. And, this history of power dynamics has shaped genealogy of the soul. Now, “the soul is the prison of the body.” (Discipline and Punish, p. 30)
From here the situationists, a surrealist group of autonomous Marxists, scrawled on the wall of the Sorbonne during riots of May 68, “How can you think freely in the shadow of a church?” in response, an anonymous comrade later wrote, "This impeccable question has wider implications. Anything that has been designed for economic or religious purposes cannot fail to impose anything but economic or religious desires. A desecrated church continues to be the house of God. Commodities continue their chatter in an abandoned shopping centre.
The parade ground of a disused barracks still contains the marching of the soldiers. That is what he who said that the destruction of the Bastille was an act of applied social psychology meant. The Bastille could never have been managed as anything other than a prison, because its walls would have continued to tell the tale of incarcerated bodies and desires."
Radical Response to the Prison System:
Prison Reform, Prison Abolition and Anarchist Black Cross
Child: Mom, how do we destroy prisons?
Clara: The contemporary prison abolition movement has deep roots in the abolitionist movement of the 1800s. Today there are more black people under correctional control, in prison or jail, or on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850– a decade before the Civil War began. Academic and prison abolitionist Angela Davis:
“And we’ve come to think about the prison-industrial complex as linked very much to slavery, as revealing the sediments and the vestiges of slavery, as providing evidence that the slavery we may have thought was abolished with the Thirteenth Amendment is still very much with us. It haunts us, especially in the form of this vast prison-industrial complex, a prison system within the US that holds something like 2.5 million people, more people in prison than anywhere else in the world, more people per capita, as well. The rate of incarceration, one in 100 adults in the US is behind bars. And that’s really only because of the disproportionate number of black people and people of color whose lives have been claimed by the prison system.”
Clara: While in reality fewer than 1 in 100 Americans are in jail, among the population of young black men the ratio is closer to 1 in 4. Today, a young black man is more likely to be imprisoned than to get married or go to college. The abolitionist movement continues today and calls for the end of the prison industrial complex, though many activists focus their energies on specific reforms such as eliminating the death penalty— for example, Mumia Abu-Jamal, a black nationalist who spent 30 years on death row, is an important figure in the abolitionist movement. Abolitionists also call for the shifting of resources away from punishment and toward education, housing, and social services that build up communities instead of tearing them down. These arguments are similar to those Frederick Douglass or W.E.B. DuBois might have made with respect to the abolition of slavery. Many prison abolitionists advocate replacing the contemporary prison system with other governmental structures, or even just reducing the role of prisons in society. But some organizations, such as the Anarchist Black Cross or ABC, seek the total eradication of prisons, with no intention of replacing them with other state-controlled systems, instead proposing a variety of community and individual processes. The first Anarchist Black Cross emerged out of the Tsarist government’s repression of Anarchists in 1906. Once released, former prisoners provided clothing to anarchists exiled to Siberia under the banner Anarchist Red Cross. During the Russian Civil War, the ARC’s name changed to Anarchist Black Cross to avoid confusion with the International Red Cross. The organization coordinated self-defense units against political raids by the Cossack and Red armies. Today, a number of autonomous groups scattered throughout the world operate under the ABC name, providing material and political support for a wide variety of prisoners.
Child: Mom, how do we destroy prison society?
Clara: Can I make an understatement?
Clara: One key obstacle to destroying prisons is that it’s not just the walls and barbed wire.
Alanis: It’s not even just the guards and wardens.
Clara: We are all enclosed, surveilled and aware of all of this. “Imagine a city where you would be able to leave your apartment, your street, your neighborhood, thanks to your individual electronic card that raises a given barrier; but the card could just as easily be reject on a given day or during certain hours; what counts is not the card or the barrier, but the computer that tracks each person’s position—whether legal or illegal—and effects a universal modulation.” If you’re a prisoner, this is pretty easy to imagine.
Alanis: hell, if you’re an office worker or a postal employee!
Clara: In 1989, the French government launched a reorganization of the French penitentiary system, called the “Program of the 13,000” in an effort to create this imaginary city. The declared aim was to create 13,000 new “spaces” for prisoners in order to alleviate overcrowding. It was a modern prison system promising security through new technologies capable of constantly controlling the prisoner in each of his movements in a discreet and aseptic way. Os Cangaceiros took up this challenge launched by the French government and, starting in April 1989, began a long campaign of sabotage at the construction sites, as well as managing to steal the new building blueprints. This group of antagonistic workers had emerged from May 68 already a collection of petty criminals, social outlaws and the willing accomplices of prisoners. The term cangaceiro was a pejorative used to refer to bands of poor peasants who inhabited the northeastern deserts of Brazil, wearing leather clothing and hats and armed with revolvers, shotguns and long narrow knives. As reflected by their title, Os Canagacieros lived simple lives and used simple tools. They wrote, “We don’t just talk about violence; it is our element, our everyday fate…the conditions we are forced to live in… Our tools of action are those that any proletarian uses: sabotage and vandalism. We don’t do symbolic actions; we create disorder, as workers in struggle commonly know how to do when they blockade roads and railroads, sabotage materials, television transmitters, etc…" The simplicity made struggle easy to reproduce, and within weeks similar eruptions had spread throughout France. After more than a year of sabotage, Os Cangaceiros obtained 10,000 addresses of residents in the vicinity of future prisons to whom they sent extracts of a voluminous dossier containing dates and information about the institutions of punishment that were being built. And in November 1990, they published the complete dossier entitled Thirteen Thousand Escapes. The dossier contained accurate technical documentation about the many prisons under construction or in the process of being restructured, with general outlines; information about materials used; fixtures; controls of access, doors and locks; electric and hydraulic systems; sanitation; roofing; and external installations. And, above all, there are detailed little maps of every building and its particulars.
Alanis: So, as anarchists we see how civilization continues its mad path toward the enslavement, commodification and eventual destruction of all life on earth, and the state remains persistent in its repression of those who choose to act upon their desire to put an end to it. They know that every arrest, every jail term, every snitch in the world cannot stifle each of our irrepressible passions, for the informality of our resistance is strength, and they can never take away our solidarity of frustration and awakened hearts. They cannot preclude our desire for insurrection if we remain dedicated to supporting, through both aid and continued action, those in our communities who fall victim to the state’s repression.
Clara: When some insurrectionary anarchists choose to couple their material support of prisoners with a personal hatred of prison society, this hatred has historically manifest in the form of fire and well-coordinated attacks on state facilities, and if everything goes according to plan, the timing of the assail will also publicize a corollary prison riot. But as Os Cangaceiros demonstrated, there are lots of actions that both enable prisoners to live subversively and reject the spectacle of the state.
Clara: We asked a supermax lockup prisoner who has been rebelling against the state prison system for over twenty years for his opinion on the role of insurgency inside and outside. I apologize for audio, but whatev open prison rebellion won’t be polished either. This audio crawled through a few dozen feet of concrete and bulletproof glass to get here.
Imprisoned Comrade: Everybody got a little. You got inside you got outside, you got light hits you got hard hits. Um, the obj should be to not only to expose the state for what it does but also to disrupt the contradictions… they just drug us … and lynch us. Without there being repercussions without there being exposure.
Clara: It’s not all about us on the outside- amongst even the tightest government techniques, revolt lives.
Alanis: For example, in the early 1990s, Indiana state penitentiaries erupted in rebellion. Prisoners engaged in hunger strikes and took correctional facility staff members hostage. Though Indiana prisons have a long history of rebellion, during these years, the acts of individual prisoners began to link up.
Clara: This was their uprising- and it was spreading. Our comrade reads a passage of his own writing, describing solidarity between prisoners during this time. This excerpt comes from the book Down: Reflections on Indiana Prisoner Resistance. The DOC referenced herein stands for Department of Corrections, and MCC stands for Maximum Control Center.
Imprisoned Comrade: And something that people don’t talk about much, is that one of the principle reasons the DOC gave in, caved in on MCC was that the destabilization and protests there was starting to have noticeable effects in other prisons in the state. You had lots of acts of solidarity that were unfolding in other prisons that were in support of what we were doing. And some of us had actually sent calls to guys in other prisons saying “hey we need some support down here, we need some help down here.” And so the DOC realized they were getting ready to have a state wide crisis on their hands. There was a non-violent actions at Pendleton, a non-violent march at Pendleton, and as a response they locked them down for 9 months. So it was catching, it was like a prairie fire.
Clara: To download a pdf of Down, or would like read more insights from our comrades inside of Indiana prison, please visit http://prisonresistanceindiana.wordpress.com/.
Clara: In a closed society designed to annihilate subversion, rebellion behind prison walls is often met with escalated repression beyond the prison system’s customary inhumanity. John Bowden is a prolific writer and a prisoner at the fore of prison struggle in the UK. He was originally sentenced with a 25 year recommendation life sentence for the killing of a man during a drunken party. In a public letter in 2007, John described his process of radicalization and the escalation in repression that follows from political action. “For more than two decades in prison I have pursued and fought for the cause of prisoners’ rights and tried with every means at my disposal to highlight and expose the frequent and often horrendous abuses of power that I had witnessed and experienced. As a consequence, my name had become synonymous in the minds of prison officials with sedition and defiance, and the spectre of something that has always frightened, enraged and driven them to use every method and means to eradicate and destroy it: prisoner power.”
Clara: Links to the writings of John and other prison rebels can be found at crimethinc.com/podcast/4.
“Prison has its own smell. A smell that gets all over you and follows you around. I’ll never manage to get it off me. Yesterday marked two calendars in prison. Two fucking years. I don’t get any sleep. I’ve forgotten how to smile and now I can’t dream. “Clink clink” in the night. They wake me up for a search. Maybe they’ll find the shanks? Seven hundred-fifty-one days of prison. Are you satisfied, my dear judges? Pigs. Seven-hundred-fifty-two days of prison, pigs. Seven-hundred-fifty-three pigs. Coming and going and off I go. Coming and going and off I go. My cell is three meters by three meters. From the second floor window I see 20% of the sky over the top of the fucking prison wall. I walk through the yard like an automaton. I walk kilometers in a yard measuring just a few meters. Boredom and boredom again. Today I vomited up my very soul. I vomited bars, walls, solitary confinements, years of prison, judicial sentences. I vomited three years of prison. I don’t want to count anymore. I completely close my eyes and think. I think about my comrades, whom they’re keeping far away from me in other prisons. I think about fires on the prison roofs. I think about everything prison has tried to make me forget. I think about a smile, a caress, a journey that doesn’t end over there where the wall ends, a glance that isn’t trapped behind the fucking prison bars. I stop thinking. I open my hand. I look at the metal file I have. Now I know. I know exactly what I have to do. Let’s go then, once again. This time with feeling. Until the end. Long live Anarchy.” An altered excerpt from the text signed by J. and V.
Alanis: Now it’s time for the Mugshot, our profile of a contemporary anarchist project. Today we’re speaking with Jessie Smyth, an anarchist from the midwestern US who has been doing prisoner solidarity in various forms for the last six years. Primarily holding it Down in Indiana, last year jessie started the midwest pages to prisoners zine distro. Today he sat down with the Ex-Worker to tell us all about it, and the nature of contemporary prison struggle. Midwest pages to prisoners is a books to prisoners program that has served 16 states around the country for over a decade.
THE CHOPPING BLOCK
Alanis: And now it’s time for the Chopping Block, where in each episode we review a classic or contemporary anarchist text and let you know what we think. Today we’re looking at a recent publication entitled Between Predicates, War: Theses on Contemporary Struggle from a rowdy assemblage of uncontrollables known as the Institute for Experimental Freedom.
Between Predicates, War comes at a time when many Anarchists of the World are reeling from Occupy, the Arab Spring, London, Greece 2008, perhaps a soon to be Turkey, hashtags, austerity and more forms of hefty repression than we can throw a brick at. We struggled against governing forces and the rumble of our lives puts a metaphorical spin on the isolating question of where do we go from here. Even the language at our disposal feels compromising. Where to? What is “governing”? What is struggle? What is this we? Between Predicates, War sets out that a series of questions that percolate in the wake of a manifest potential of widespread international contemporary struggle—proving the limits of language—because there’s a feeling there telling us that, there is a situation unfold-ing and a Party therein.
The book feels like strong deviation from other insurrectionary anarchism material; it’s a pensive evaluation of the situation that we’ve got going on here. There’s an insurrection a foot—maybe—but how? And how could we be Party to it? IEF posits the end of the State as a solid institution that one could hypothetically bludgeon with a big-stick-small-flag. In the age of technology, governance has become a composition of interconnecting techniques poised to extract power from the governed. Totally immersed we move forward. A crisis erupts, and herein we cull out autonomy and find “a need for something else.” IEF writes, “Autonomy, even in something as banal as an occupation protesting wealth disparity, carries with it a radically different human life. [however] How can we stop being creatures of government? If the popular assemblies and occupations are put to work for a mythic alternative—the development of self-managing communities to do the work of government, the exclusion of antagonisms in search of a pure peaceful politics—then these forms will end up strengthening the anthropology of Man as a passive being, removed from nature, with a penchant for safety.”
Between Predicates, War insists that present struggles are departures from a Social Movement, and not just because they burn everything to the ground and incoherently lash out in the street, but rather because the struggles of today have many characteristics—like “random violence, growing and fermenting food, collecting crap, stealing from work, knitting, making messenger bags, music and parties”—all of which surpass the expectations of governance. All of these and other gestures draw into question how the current world functions, and at the same time articulates another world. The book puts a lot of faith in gestures. But when a key question is how do we parkour our way out of this whole government business, a gesture starts to look like an answer.
Without giving too much of this 104-page exposition, things that resonated with me were that crime reveals the need for friendship, modern revolution is very sad and lonely, and communize everything because we need access to everything that makes us want to keep living and keep fighting IRL. In sum, this book’s a pretty fresh, relevant, and well-organized look at what we’re doing, what we’ve done, and how we could possibly move forward. It takes a lot of the proposals of insurrectionary anarchism and translates them to a language peeps can understand.
The questions raised therein capture the situation at hand. So, I encourage you to push through any jargon, orient yourself in the milieu: when decisions have to be made and questions posed, the most important of which is “what does it mean to live a life?” pp. 31 & 74.
NEXT WEEK’S NEWS
Clara: And now it’s time for next week’s news. Here are some events coming up in the next few weeks:
Alanis: Finnish activists are holding an anti-mining action camp near Karelia, Finland, beginning June 18th. The purpose of the camp is to protest an upsurge in Mining in the nordic countries, which have destroyed many natural features in the East of Finland and made the water of several lakes undrinkable. Clara: Chilean comrades have called the 20th through the 25th as days of action for the arrestees of the so-called security case. Fredy, Marcelo and Juan have each been in pre-trial detention for 3 years and 8 months, still awaiting a verdict for charges stemming from several bank robberies and the murder of a cop.
Alanis: And on July 1st through 7th, Croatan (Crow-a-tan) Earth First! Will host the Summer Round River Rendezvous near Boone, North Carolina. The gathering will feature workshops, skill-shares and lots of rowdy fun.
Clara: Prisoners in Pelican Bay have threatened to resume their hunger strike and work stoppage on July 8th if their demands are not met. Solidarity with all those who are fighting on the inside. We hear you! Alanis: And we’ve got a few prisoner birthdays coming up. On the 21st, Delbert Orr Africa, one of the MOVE 9. On the 25th Abdul Majid, a black nationalist accused of killing a cop, and on June 28th Thomas Manning, imprisoned for armed antiracist and anti-imperialist actions. All of their addresses and information about how to write to them is available on our website. So drop ’em a line.
Alanis: That’s it for this episode of the Ex-Worker. I’m Alanis…
Clara: and I’m Clara, and we’ll be back on July 7th we’re gonna talk mad shit on the police.
Alanis: This has been a production of the Crimethinc Ex-Workers collective. Thanks to the Indiana Prisoner Zine Distro for coming on the show…
Clara: … and thanks to Underground Reverie for the terrific music you’ve heard on the show.
Alanis: Don’t forget to check us out at crimethinc.com/podcast if you want a transcript of today’s show or more information about anything you’ve heard. And if you’ve got any feedback or ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com, or you can leave us a voicemail at 202–59-NOWRK – that is, 202–596–6975. Also, if you downloaded this podcast through iTunes, leave us a rating and let us know what you think.
Clara: Till next time: don’t get caught!
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
Much thanks for Fire to the Prisons, an uncompromising 11-issue, now deceased magazine written by and for the discontented about the ALF/ELF prisoner support, prison struggle and the nexus of the forces of capital and government constricting role in our lives; Os Cangaceiros a seemingly ethereal, yet tremendously encouraging group of anarchists who fought development of the French prison system tooth and nail; and Locked Up, which stirs the necessary of the destruction of all prisons and was written by Alfredo M. Bonanno while in prison. All of the above either inspired or provided material that we adapted for the theme segment.
John Bowden wrote in his 2009 article Solidarity Without Prejudice, “There are frontlines of class struggle throughout the whole of society, violent interfaces where the poor and their oppressors confront each other, and prison represents one of the most overt and undisguised frontlines of class struggle that exists.” For more writing of John Bowden quoted in the podcast, please visit bristolabc.wordpress.com
Gabriel Pombo Da Silva is an anarchist who has been writing and causing trouble as a fugitive or prisoner for more than thirty years, the following are some of his writings: Huye, Hombre, Huye in Spanish and excerpts in English; and other writings.
More information about and the writing of international anarchist prisoners
In our conversation with Jessie Symth about the Midwest Pages to Prisoners (Indiana specific) Zine Distro, he discusses the pitfalls and success of books-to-prisoners and prisoner correspondence projects. For information about prisoner literacy and correspondence projects here in North America: Queer Prisoner Correspondence Project, Chapel Hill Prison Books Collective, DC Books to Prisoners, and Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners.
Addresses for political prisoners with upcoming birthdays:
Delbert Orr Africa (June 21)
1000 Follies Road
Dallas, PA 18612
Abdul Majid (June 25)
Elmira Correctional Facility
PO Box 500, 1879 Davis St
Elmira, NY 14902–0500
Thomas Manning (June 28)
Federal Medical Center
PO Box 1600
Butner, NC 27509
Music for the Ex-Worker provided by Underground Reverie.