Volume + Number 11

By Lazarus Jones Debt in North America is all- Pervasive. A recent Canadian study found that even the working poor,

with incomes as low as $3,000 per year, commonly had debts in excess

of $12,000 or more than four times their annual income. This study also found that these debts were, by and large, not incurred in chasing after consumer goods but were most often the result of borrowing to cover the costs of basic necessities like food and rent.

As the economic pinch tightens this debt burden becomes more and more intolerable as the staggering rise in personal bankruptcies shows. The debt system exacts a deadly toll of broken homes, shattered per-

But, the tide of evictions, mortgage foreclosures, re-possessions and the garnisheeing of wages continues to

iced With this economic squeeze it is a continuing source of wonder that i 85% of all deb- tors repay their loans under the terms of the original agreement. Of the remaining number almost 10% respond to very low level harassment such as the first letter from a collection agency. The remaining 5% however, and especially the hard-core 2% of deb- tors who are commonly written off

|On The Inside

Brenda Free!

A massive international pro-

test has secured Brenda Earl Christie’s release from a West | German prison. In two articles we look at the case and its back- ground. Page 3. Prison Challenge A former anti-prison activist] challenges the movement to re- examine its basic principles. Page 4. | Anarchist Women We review a new book on the] early anarchist-feminist} movement and find some oldi problems. Page 8.

In Struggle! j

Dissected l

In part two of On Class andi Culture B. Newbold examined | the Leninist organization In} Struggle! as a specific example of a general form of organiza tion—the political party. Pagel 10.

| Rock Around | | The Block i | p Will Romania succumb to theif | Polish “infection?” - Brianii

Amesly examines the potentiali | for revolution in Romania. Pagel h13. A

as bad debts, wage a silent and isolated battle against,fhe demands of capital.

The “official view” of these hard-core ‘‘deadbeats’’ asserts that there is a very low level of resistance among debtors. They are charac- terized as being apathetic and “morally defeated’ seeking to adapt rather than to resist. Oc- casionally they may refuse to pay or fight back to break. the tension before slipping back into apathy. Obviously it is in the interests of creditors and collection agencies to promulgate and maintain these

stereotypes but how close are they”

to the truth?

Happily, as a presentation to the recent Blue Collar Conference in Hamilton showed, these stereotypes bear little resemblance to reality. The report revealed that active resistance is much more pronoun- ced than. ~ This, active resistance is divided into three basic ‘although intermingled types: 1) Refusal to pay; 2) Striking back; and 3) Confrontation. Debtors hab- itually attempted to make life more bearable by evasion and resistance to collection agencies attempts to Stereotype them as lazy, feckless and useless. The responses varied from detached amusement to bitter denial.

Sce Debt Pg. 16


Workers’. Autonomy For Social Revolution

We Can't Pay!

Is The Party Over?

By Brian Amesly

The upcoming congress of the Polish United Workers Party (PUWP) is going to mark a critical turning in the course of events in Poland. The gathering can be expected to heighten the danger of a Soviet invasion no matter what its ‘outcome proves to be,

The reason for this is to be seen in

«the emergence of a powerful reform

movement at the base of the party. If-the objectives of this new force are achieved the pro-Soviet char- acter of the PUWP will be brought toa decisive end. This can be clearly seen by the types of demands its ac- tivists are putting forward.

These include the complete rem- oval of all the staunchly pro-Soviet members of the party leadership. The demands further point towards a radical democratization of the PUWP making it a more “‘egali- tarian’’ body. For instance demands have been raised to put ordinary workers in top leadership Positions and to make all high party officials (shades of the ‘‘Cultural Revolution”) spend part of each year working as manual labourers or ordinary office employees.

Thorough internal democracy would erode “‘democratic central- ism’ as the concentration of power in the hands of the central leader- ship would be severely weaken

Indeed, consciously or not, the reform activists are in confrontation with norms which have been central tenets of the Bolshevik concept of the party ever since its~initial formulation in Lenin’s What Is To Be Done? Precedents Exist Significantly, the direction undertaken by the movement is hardly a new one. It echoes the efforts to reform the Czech Communist Party during the Prague Spring. More importantly still it bears a striking resemblance

to the Workers’ Opposition current `

which clashed with the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union back in 1921. The Workers’ Opposition led by Alexandra Kollontai similarly fought for extensive democratiz~ ation of the Soviet Party, the Practice of more egalitarian norms, trade union autonomy and against the growing bureaucracy in the one party state. For confronting ‘the leadership over these questions it came under bitter attack from Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev and other powerful Boisheviks. In the end the Workers’ Opposition was effec- tively silenced by Lenin’s resolution “On Party Unity” ending its right to exist in the party. Whether the activists in the movement to reform the Polish

party are fully aware of these aspects historically defining their struggle is an open question. Irre- gardless, there can be no doubt as to just how dangerous they are in the eyes of the old men atop the

, Soviet Communist Party hierarchy.

The danger posed to the Soviet system is so acute because it exists within the larger context of the general situation in Poland. This is so because should the reform move- ment achieve any major degree of success the party will become an institution over which the USSR will have little or no control. The last line of defense for controlling things will have evaporated leaving the armies of the Warsaw Pact as the only option left.

But if the present leadership manages to defeat the reform movement this will increase the tension in Poland by further alienating the general population from the regime. The potential for more strike waves and other forms of protest will sharply rise. -

A compromise solution satisfying both the leadership of the PUWP. and the reform movement is hard to conceive. Even if one results it will be no guarantee of stability. The growing dissatisfaction on the part of Poland’s “friends? at Kania’s failure to restore order makes this clear. The USSR would rather

invade than accept a solution satis- factory to the reform movement.

Soviet Dilemma

For the Soviets the situation Presents an almost hopeless dilemma. The best solution for them would be to have their staunchest allies in the PUWP wrest control of the leadership then proceed with naked repression against the wave of ‘‘counter- revolution”. This is not possible without Warsaw Pact tanks.

Ominiously, there have been indications that the Politbureau of the Soviet Communist Party barely decided against an invasion in an internal vote last December. In the time since then it is hard to believe that the patience of the Soviet lead- ership has not worn very thin. More distressing still is the fact that the 1968 invasion of Czeckoslovakia occurred on the eve of a Czech par- ty congress where communism “‘with a human face” was about to be institutionalized.

Faced with this growing threat of Soviet intervention Poland’s militant workers will have to show no signs of their being on the defen- sive. Their willingness to fight their oppressors has been and will con- tinue to be the.key to new victories and the strongest deterent to the Soviet threat.


Shortly before we went to press with NAA10 we received word that the Libertarian Workers Group had disaffiliated from the ACF (For details see Pg. 12). We were saddened but not surprised by this development and the day-

` to-day tasks of getting the paper

teady for distribution tended to push it into the background. Very shortly afterwards, however, we learned that Other Vices and the Syndicalist Alliance had withdrawn their applications for affiliation and shortly after that Bread and Roses decided to disaffiliate.

The disaffiliated groups had been among the most active and

consistent e of the 4

hewspaper and they had

been groups which had shared our general opinion of what was wrong with the ACF as a revo- lutionary organization. Given the fact that several other affiliates had only been passive members of the Federation for quite some

time the departure of the disaffil- `

iating groups represented a fundamental ideological shift within the ACF.

This ideological shift forced us to re-consider our own affiliation with ACF a question that was further complicated by the fact that we were the co-production groups for the NAA. We decided that political considerations must come first and the question of whether or not we, as auto- nomous groups, were still suf- ficient political agreement with the remaining ACF groups to continue our membership had to be dealt with before we discussed the fate of the newspaper. The

discussions which followed made it clear that no-one in either group was in favour of remaining within the ACF and both groups decided to disaffiliate.

The question then arose what happens to the NAA? We decided that we had three options:. 1) Cease publication immediately; 2) Offer the paper to one of the remaining ACF groups; or 3) Continue to publish as an independent Anarchist newspaper.

The option of immediately

ceasing publication was seriously ee y After almost two years of producing the NAA we were ready to see the responsibil- ity for producing it move on to

another group. The only ACF group which had made a firm offer to take over production of the newspaper was Bread and Roses, With their disaffiliation they informed us that they could only assume this task if it was understood that there would be a considerable delay between their acceptence of this task and their ability to perform it. We thought that such a delay could well prove terminal and as we think that the in itself, regardless of what becomes of the ACF, we decided that we would be willing to produce the paper as an independent Anarchist newspaper for at least another

year at which time our committ-

ment to the project would be re- assessed. We also decided to change the name of the paper from the North American Anar- chist to STRIKE!

The option of offering the Paper to one of the remaining ACF groups was also considered but rejected. As noted above only

and we felt it t highly uniely that any of the remaining groups would be willing or able to con- tinue ahaa NAA in its present format. As well the disaf-

filliated groups had provided the major sources of copy and

August/September 1981

finances making the NAA’s viability as an ACF newspaper highly suspect.

We have been informed that

the remaining ACF groups plan _

to continue as a Midwest feder- ation of Anarchist groups and they intend to issue their own publication in the near future. To assist them in this project we have provided them with copies

` of the NAA’s subscription and

bulk mailing lists.

The groups which disaffiliated from the ACF do not plan to launch any new organizational initiative in the immediate future. We feel a different strategy for workers’ revolution is needed

sitncnlt aiaa

than that put forward by either _ -

the ACF or SRAF before it. We” had begun to articulate this Strategy within the ACF ‘in_ recent months and we will Pace to develop and promote this strategy in the pages of STRIKE! We remain committed toan active, effective and unified Anarchist revolutionary organi- zation in North America but, the decline of the ACF, and the specific manner in which it declined, have given us pause. We feel the lessons of the SRAF/ ACF experience must be fully ; absorbed and evaluated before a new organization can be built‘on Solid foundations. We intend to explore these issues in upcoming issues of STRIKE! In the meantime we invite your comments and criticisms.


P.O. Box 2, Station O, aang

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M4A 2M8

DE 4


Dog’s Dinner


I always thought that one of the more principled aspects of anarchist thought was the idea to respect other people’s right to make up their own minds and to make their own decisions about doing things. But this does not seem to be part of the outlook of Lazarus Jones, as ‘expressed in his article concerning El Salvador in your March/April issue.

Jones denounces the guerrillas as ‘a dog’s dinner of Marxist-Leninist factions”, and says that there is lit- tle for ‘‘anarchists to cheer about.”

First of all, the Salvadorean ı people are experiencing some of the the worst oppression in the world. And while that does not mean that they are automatically virtuous, I think that they have the right to choose whatever. means they want to topple the fascist military regime. If they happen to follow a path which is not inherently what we would like, it is arrogant for relatively priveliged anarchists to go on a sectarian rampage. After all, the revolutionary movement in El Salvador has the genuine support of the majority of people there, which is more than we anarchists can claim,

Secondly, the Salvadorean struggle is an anti-imperialist one, and as such is of benefit to the world as a whole. National self- determination may not be the only social goal, but is a valuable and necessary one.

If one accepts Jones’ contention that a people’s victory will only result in a government ‘‘equally vicious" as the current junta and their rich backers, then it follows

that one shouldn’t support the revolution. This is no doubt just what Reagan and his lackeys want to happen.

The point is that Jones has of- fered no proof that his fears about the post-Duarte regime are valid. If the result would be a Bolshevik-type. regime, that would be another mat- ter. Not all ‘‘revolutions”’ deserve support. But if the change in Nicaragua after the overthrow of Somoza is any guide, and I think it is, then the Salvadoreans deserve ‘our support.

It is their revolution, they are fighting a bloody fascist regime supported by the American im- perialists, and their goals, even if they do not go far enough, are without a doubt more humane and progressive than found in most societies.

That’s a lot to cheer about, Lazarus.

In solidarity, George Peterson

Mousie Dung


In The Tragedy in El Salvador, (May-June) “Diego” ostracized the Salvadorean Left and leftism in general on the premise that Left movements inevitably sell out to either U.S. or Soviet imperialism. He furnished examples of blun- dered left-wing national liberation movements that transferred coun- tries from one imperialist bloc to the other: Cuba (**from the U.S to the Russian bloc”, Vietnam (‘U.S to Russia’), and Vietnam (“RUSSIA TO U.S.’’) among

- others.

His theory is misconstrued, however, because his analysis of the

__ What Jar jad Ls BETWEEN the time China broke

with Sdviet bossism and the time it entered the U.S. war bloc?

During 16 years of genuine national independence, the “proletarian leadership in the Chinese communist party eliminated Starvation, hunger and even food rationing, led the masses in struggle against state-capitalists and elitists inside the party (the Cultural Revolution) and transformed China’s economy from dependence on foreign capital to self- sufficiency.

It was that self-sufficiency that allowed China to defy both U:S. and Soviet imperialism for as many years as it did.

The real national liberation and improved standard of living won by the Chinese people put the lie to Diego’s assertions that ‘‘...the Left cannot give anything to the working class except more work, more belt- tightening, more discipline, more militarism” and “These countries never acheived any ‘independence’ or ‘socialism.’ ’”

The ruination of China's revolution was not predestined. It resulted from a military coup by rightist elements inside the Party who usurped the revolution, set themselves up as a bureaucratic bourgeoisie and surrendered the

* country to imperialism.

Mao tse-tung did not fail!

In struggle, Don McAninch

Nit Picking? Dear STRIKE!

Just now got Number 9 and read El Salvador: What About Revolution? Did read before I got Number9 the criticisms of it in

Number 10. Yes, you made a few

errors in your article, but you did correctly and very clearly point out the game in El Salvador so fuck all your little faults. And what about critics? Nit picking bullshit (even your reply if I believe my memory)!!! Fuck Marx and

assholes of El Sal about everything else (even in your article), but what to do about it? People are dieing and you argue about who it is worse to be killed by and stupidity about Marx and

Bakunin (who in the final analysis `

were both brilliant geniuses). Man, brother, PLEASE give me a break OK? Yes in El Salvador we have a problem whatever it calls itself, but we also got to have a solution for it or a defense against it. Until a

major capitalist power collapses (must and can only be Amerikkka Obviously) the people cannot win in South Amerika. My suggestion as a solution is that we give all the sup- port we can to the ‘‘revolutionary”” forces in El Salvador while we criticize the shit out of them. In the process we help the people of El Salvador and all of the oppresed people in the world by raising the consciousness and level of struggle in the Western World still free pf “Marxists’’ and “‘Socialists.” Your way only plays in their hands and is suicidal for all the people world- wide, which includes us Anzrchists. The ‘‘Marxists’’ and “‘Socialists’” are educating the people in El Salvador as they have’ since Lenin usurped power intentionally or otherwise. We must be ready when the Social Revolution jumps off to help the people remain victorious. We must as quickly as possible bring Amerikkka down and assume the role Russia would have played had the people won. No support to any government ever, but support to the most progressive faction in the struggle for power. In this struggle the “Marxist” are the most progressive faction. The people aren’t stupid. They see or will see, especially after the “‘Marxists’’ are done with them, what’s what and whose who, but if they get no sup- port that’s better. It is or will be hopeless to do more than accept what is until better times. While we still can we ‘must educate and agitate as peacefully, as non-

violently as possible. The game my

anise our bullshit and come together. We must not scream “OVERTHROW” etc. We must speak of dismantlement. The people in North America especially’ will understand and support it Love and Rage

Carl Harp.

San Quentin, California.

Cult Or Movement? ) Dear Friends;

A couple weeks ago I got my first two copies of NAA in the mail, I always breathe a sigh of relief when I get an anarchist paper: ‘‘Whew— still alive.” Appropriate that one of them was No. 9, with Frank Steven’s North American Anar- chism: Cult or Movement? Over the last year of trying like hell to get in touch with other anarchists (after deciding I was one myself), I’ve of- ten asked the same question. It’s time for professed anarchists to ad- dress it honestly, without bullshitt- ing themselves and each other,

It looks to me like Stevens is op- timistic wheñi he gives the choice as “‘movement or cult’’. It seems that anarchism is at best a scattered in- tellectual tendency, and at worst it doesn’t even rate as a cult. It’s a self-indulgent game for retired poli- tico-hippies who get off on seeing their ames in print. Like wow, man, it’s groovy to the max to call Surselves anarchists and carry black flags at demonstrations (I do it myself). It’s oh-so-inspiring to iden- tify ourselves with the Great Tradi- tion of Bakunin and Goldman and Durrutti. And it’s really cute to write ‘Theses_on Groucho Marx- ism” and put down the only social- ist movement that’s ‘gotten . any- where in the last hundred and fifty years, even if it hasn’t come through on its promises.

What the fuck are we doing be- sides talking? What use is all the

See More Letters Pg. 14




August/September 1981

West German Authorities Capitulate:

Massive protest frees Brenda

This was Brenda’s first visit to Germany. When this was pointed out to the authorities they curtly remarked: ‘‘If you can prove that, you can go free. Now how is it possible to prove that one was not in a country over 11 years ago?

oe By Henry Pezet

British Anarchist Brenda Earl

Christie was saved from an up to

nine month term in a West German prison, awaiting trial on a fictitious charge, by a truly heartening inter- national display of solidarity. The massive protests and demon-

strations on Brenda's behalf caused ©

the prosecutor in charge of her case to remark: “Tve never knownsa_ case where there have been so mai Protests in so short a time,"

Brenda had been visiting relatives in the British forces stationed in Germany and was arrested when she attempted to board a flight home with her child. She was arrested on an 11 year old warrant! The charge was that she had-pur- chased a ticket in Frankfurt for a Passenger (that never was) who placed an explosive device on an Iberia’ jetliner. This was at a time when the First of May Group waged a series of attacks on Spanish in- terests as a protest against Franco’s execution of political opponents of his regime. The main point was that this was Brenda’s first visit to Ger=~ many. When this was pointed out to the authorities they curtly IP you ean prove that,

you can go free.” Now how is it Possible to prove that one was not ina country over 11 years ago?

Brenda (the companion of Scot- tish Anarchist Stuart Christie) was brought to a West German prison near Frankfurt while her baby was taken to an institution. It is safe to assume that the child was innocent seeing as how the warrant was issued over eight years before she was born. Fortunately friends were soon able to take the child home. Brenda was imprisoned for nine days, but the protests rolled in at such an unbelievable pace that the embarassed German authorities soon declared that she had been


Among the many protests that rolled in was a letter to the German ambassador in Madrid from the Catalan CNT: ‘Thousands of

Spanish trade unionists and their families, including all our older

could be arrested on gr-

members, ~ounds like this if travelling in ‘ex’

fascist countries,” it said. “We were all automatically accused by Franco of similar charges. If the charges can go back 11 years, they "can go back forty years when we were taking illegal.action against German Fascism.”

p that arises is why was Brenda charged at this time? There was no reason whatsoever to wait ali this time if the warrant had really existed. During the Angry Brigade trial, this matter (the bom- bing), was raised in regards to Stuart but was quickly disposed of. Brenda was not accused at that time. Having waited for over a decade how could the prosecutor expect to produce conclusive iden- tification now?

There are two possible reasons. The Christie File, Stuarts auto- biography, has recently been published and the British police were furious at some of the allegations and revelations made concerning their activities. In fact a

“meeting of those police officers in- “volved was held at Scotland Yard fo discuss what, it anything, could be done about the book. They were also looking like complete idiots over their failure to prosecute Stuart for the booklet Towards A Citizen’s militia after Tory MP’s and on Labour MP had called for it to be banned and Cienfuegos Press closed down. Could all of this have been the result of spite and maliciousness on their part?

There is another possibility. Recently the West German State has been under criticism for allowing a proliferation of fascist- type terrorist groups’ to operate freely throughout the country. Perhaps they wished to show that they were vigilantly stopping terrorism but didn’t want to take action against the fascists. History seems to always want to come full circle.


= A


Brenda Christie Earl and ber daughter Branwen

Brenda’s arrest in


historical perspective

THE INCIDENT On 19 May this year Brenda Earl, a 30 year old lib- ertarian publisher based in Orkney,. and her two year old daughter Branwen Christie were detained at Hanover Airport as they were boarding a Gatwick bound flight following a three week holiday in Germany where they had been staying with Brenda’s sister-in-law. Both mother and daughter were held by the Federal Border Police when the Central Police Computer in Wiesbaden indicated that Bren- da was wanted on a warrent issued against her // years previously in Frankfurt, This was the first indi- cation anyone had that such a warrant existed. It came as an even greater shock as this was the first time Brenda had visited Germany. The Federal Police took great de- light in tormenting Brenda while she was being detained at the air- port with the threat that she would have to spend many many years in a German prison and that her daughter would be grown up by the time she was released. Even if the charge was eventually thrown out of court she would still have to spend up to nine months before the case. was tried.

THE CHARGE That on 28 April, 1970, someone using the name Earl bought a ticket in Cologne for an Iberia Airways flight from Frank- furt to Barcelona. This ticket, in the name of a Spaniard called San- tos, was used to check-in a piece of luggage on an Iberia Airways flight on May 10, 12 days later. This piece of luggage contained an in- cendiary device. Shortly after the luggage was checked-in a warning telephone call was made to the air- port authorities, the bag was iden- tified and removed to a remote sec- tion of the airport. Similar events occurred at approximately the

same time at other major Euro- pean airports, including Geneva, Brussels and Heathrow. Donald Lidstone, a senior member of the Home Office Explosives Depart- ment at Woolwich Arsenal described the devices as follows: “after giving off an intensely hot flame for a second and a half, it then gave off a large amount of black. smoke’. None of the devices

» thin

were on the planes when they went off, as all services had been noti- fied before departure time. The

¿responsibility for the attacks Were

claimed by the Iberian Federation of Libertarian Youth (FIJL) as part of an international campaign against Spanish tourism and the execution and torture of Spanish anti-fascists, This organisation had been carrying out anti-Francoist activities outside of Spain since the end of World War II and none of these propagandist activities in- volved injury or loss of life to anyone.

THE EVIDENCE The use of the name Earl and a counter clerk who allegedly claims to be able to re- cognize the ticket buyer—after 11 years.

THE BACKGROUND Brenda Earl was thoroughly investigated by Scotland Yard Special Branch and the Airport Police at Heath- row (X Division) for alleged in- volvement in this same series of in- cidents within a few days of the event occurring—11 years ago! Shortly after the incident occurred at Heathrow (and elsewhere) the home of Brenda Earl and her hus- band, Stuart Chrisite, was raided at- 6:00 am, a few minutes after Stuart Christie had left for work. Having waited until Stuart had gone, they gained entrance to the flat by sending a woman to ring the front door bell. Brenda, who was still in bed at the time, went-to the window and looked out to see who it was. “Please, Brenda, let me in...it’s urgent...I’m in terrible trouble. I want to see. Stuart.” Brenda put on her dressing gown and rushed downstairs to open the door. As she did she was pushed aside by a dozen male detectives who had been hiding round the corner. They dragged Brenda up- Stairs and ran straight into the flat, ransacking all the belongings, smashing open locked doors as well as the electricity meter. When Brenda protested she was told by -one policeman not to worry “You are not going to see these fucking or at least twenty years.’

They did not allow her to get- dressed in private but stood watch- ing while she did so—the woman

detective having disappeared at this

juncture. They even stood at the

open door when she went to the toilet. After a great deal of vio- lence both verbal. and physical (which was later the subject of a police inquiry—which came to nothing, as was to be expected), Brenda was taken off to West Drayton police station where they kept her in solitary confinement without access to any legal advisers for the-rest of the day, trying to pressure her into making a con- fession implicating both herself

and Stuart in the incidents. She was put on an identify parade which turned out to be negative and as there was nothing anywhere to link either Stuart or herself with any of the incidents she was re- leased. Scotland Yard claimed that Brenda had been the person who bought the ticket used in the Heathrow incident at a London travel agency on 24 April (4 days before the Cologne ticket was pur- chased) and that she was directly involved in checking-in the luggage with the incendiary device at Heathrow on May 10th. Fortunate- ly, both Brenda and Stuart were having lunch with friends on May 10 when the news broke and-a- neighbour, a police Inspector, had been chatting to them earlier that same morning. Also, because of the constant surveillance on Stuart Christie, Brenda and their flat (they were considered prime sus- pects because of their well-known and documented anti-fascist and


anti-Francoist activities) and the:

extremely long hours Stuart was working on the Gas Conversion ` contract at the time (14/16 hours a day), friends who worked with Stuart and who were constant visi- tors to the flat during this period— none of them politically involved in any way, simply workmates— have quite a vivid memory of the. period and to the best of their re- collections of Brenda being abroad nor did she ever mention visiting Germany. The first time Brenda visited Germany was on 28 April 1981. Later, in 1970, both Stuart and Brenda were both questioned on many occasions by Special’

See Brenda Pg. 12


The following article was submitted to us anonymously under the title, Revolution In The Prisons? A Challenge To Anarchists And The Prison Movement, and while we are not in full agreement with the sentiments and opinions expressed we feel it deserves a wider audience. Prisons and penal servitude are the products of capitalist social relationships and our opposi- tion to prisons is based upon this fact. This opposition is not dependent on

the presence or lack of “revolutionary consciousness”

prisoners but

solely on the fact that prisons represent the capitalist response’ to over- whelmingly capitalist produced-produced problems. Our opposition to prisons as a “cure” for anti-social behaviour is therefore and integral part of our generalized opposition to capitalism. As such we cannot endorse the author’s call to abandon anti-prison work. We invite comments and crite- cisms of this article from anyone interested or active in anti-prison work.

The history of the revolutionary struggle since the Industrial Revo- lution has always included active opposition to the steady develop-

-5 ment of modern: penal institutions, ~ ~ and for very good reason: ‘The: =

Prisons of the nineteenth and twen- tieth century have unquestionably

been instruments of class coercion '

and terror, wielded selectively

against the poor, the uneducated,

the minorities, the people, in shor

those most systematically vic- ~“timized already by the structure

and operation of cconomic and 5 social institutions.

In recent years, it has become '

àxiomatic among socialists, anar- chists and communists alike, that prisoners represent the ‘‘most op- pressed”, a- potential vanguard group of “‘natural rebels” against class society. The entire spectrum of the left, even those who in theory reject the concepts of van- guards and hierarchies of op- Pression, have in practice devoted a disproportionately large amount of time, energy and resources to the prison movement, often to the exclusion of issues which more immediately affect their own lives. The ideological underpinnings, or perhaps more correctly the rhe- torical ones, for this devotion to prisoners can be located in the slogans of early twentieth century radicals. Nor are slogans such.as Eugene Debs’ ‘“‘as long as there is a soul in prison I’m_not free’, or the

Wobblies’ ‘‘we’re in here for you, and you’re out there for us” by their nature untrue.

However, in that era, when huge numbers of poor people who

actively “engaged in the social” py, pice

struggle relating to-their own op- Pression were incarcerated, the relation between inside and outside and the obligations owed by the movement to prisoners were

quite unambiguous. The same can~

be said of prisoners in Franco’s Spain, -for example, or of any number of people imprisoned in the U.S. for objecting to the war in Vietnam, . E

This article is” beitig written, however, because both social con- djtions and the nature of prison support work have changed in recent years. To put it bluntly, we are writing this because we can no longer silently accept the uncritical idolatry, the slavish devotion, the emotional and physical rape, the insane violence, manipulation and brutality which have come to char- acterize the prison movement in North America over the past decade.

We are tired of being threatened and denounced as ‘‘counter-revo- lutionary”” when we refuse to drop everything to wait on “political prisoners” whose political practice goes no deeper than writing endless reams of empty rhetoric in their daily missives to the outside.

The entire spectrum of the left, _even those who in theory reject the concepts of vanguards and hier- archies of oppression, have in prac- ‘tice devoted a disproportionately large amount of time, energy and resources to the prison movement, _ often to the exclusion of issues which more immediately affect their

own lives. >

To be a “political prisoner” requires more than a glib pen and an easy familiarity with the jargon of a particular political tendency. The kind of support people in for political “crimes” deserve may be quite different from the support given to other prisoners, If we are honest with ourselves we must ad- mit that there is a difference bet- ween an Alexander Berkman and some perennial stick-up man who gets’ caught robbing a gas station and then ‘converts’ to anarchism or. some other political tendency while in prison.

Make no mistake. We are abso- lutely committed to the abolition of ail prisons, to the creation of a

function. “But in such a society, when crimes are committed against one’s fellows, they will be dealt with, pethaps not too dissimilarly from the way they were dealt with. in primitive societies, in a direct and unmediated way, considered too ‘radical’ in bourgeois society.

We do support aid to prisoners whose crimes were politically motivated in a clear-cut way (not including shooting into crowds on the freeway or bombing supermar- kets full of people trying to get groceries for dinner). We also recognize the possibility that even the worst individual might come to a real political awakening in prison, although this would surely include an. understanding of his own crimes and not simply excuses for them framed in political terms. And we think that a// prisoners from shoplifters to murderers must be treated in the most humane way we can force the state to treat them in its institutions now,

But it is also time realize that prisoners whose crimes have vic- tims rather than being ‘natural rebels’, are the types of in- dividuals who in a classless, prison- less society would be exiled at the very least, and more likely put out _ of their misery by the victims or. survivors of their brutality. Nor is this entirely untrue for the perpe- trators of ‘victimless’ or ‘revolu- tionary’ crimes. Far too often, for example, ‘expropriation’ of goods has meant also endangering the lives and security of others considered ‘‘comardes”, without even informing them that they might be at risk.

Putting aside all the liberal romanticism about prisoners as simple victims of class injustice, we must cope with the fact that most prisoners are inside for acts which they did in fact commit. Without for a moment recognizing the legi- timacy of the state and its legal


One of the romantic illusions of ` the movement is that prisons are the ‘breeding grounds for revolutionaries.’ The prisoner,