from Contra Info, translated by Anarchist News
Contrainfo: dialogue / interview with comrade Gustavo Rodríguez (First part).
With the urge to dialogue about Anarchy in our days, from ContraInfo (C.I.) blog, we were self-motivated to conduct an interview with comrade Gustavo Rodríguez (G.R.), motivated by the recent international call for solidarity with the anarchists who continue to fight against punitive society behind prison bars, breaking the imposed normality. Comrade Rodríguez, has made countless contributions to insurrectional and informal anarchism and to the so-called contemporary illegalism, highlighting the sharp analysis of his latest contributions to the ongoing debate on the “new normal” imposed by “Cyber Leviathan.”
C.I.: Hello Gustavo, it is a pleasure that you acceded to this exchange that allows us to dialogue at a distance. We have seen that your contributions have a huge acceptance in different latitudes, being even translated into several languages; and logically, they also provoke contrarian reactions, motivating reflection and debate within the movement. And it is precisely with that intention that we have prepared this interview, in order to provoke a fraternal exchange of opinions that serves as a bridge for the development of the anarchic struggle.
Specifically within the scope of the International Week of Solidarity with the Anarchists Prisoners (Read the appeal here) and with regard to the text that you wrote celebrating that initiative; we note in your criticism of the Anarchist Black Cross (CNA / ABC), a strong rejection of certain charitable positions manifested in some groups that provide support to prisoners who do not come from anti-authoritarian struggles. You even go so far as to affirm that there are supposed “spies” and “fundamentalist religious leaders” that inflate the lists of these groups. When you point this out, are you reporting concrete facts or, let’s say, is it a generic way to highlight the inclusion of prisoners who are not properly anti-authoritarians? Do you think it is necessary to “trim” these lists – to use your own words – and concentrate our efforts on specifically anti-authoritarian comrades? Do you think that the CNA / ABC has abandoned its founding principles and requires an internal “reconstruction” that strengthens that perspective?
G.R.: First of all, thank you for this opportunity to “dialogue” at a distance. Indeed, it is urgent to incentivize dialogue and fraternal debate in our camp in order to begin to separate the wheat from the chaff and establish a common ground (theoretical-practical), which responds to the needs of anarchic war in the 21st century. And well, having said that, I have to point out that here are three questions in one, but it seems to me that they are very well stated, since this topic has several angles that require addressing with different approaches. The “bad” thing is that these questions demand long answers and that always tends to make interviews very boring, especially when they are written.
For years I have been denouncing the way in which this historic initiative for anarchic solidarity and aid has been distorted in the hands of a gang of liberal humanists. Note, I am not generalizing, I am referring in particular to North-Amerikkka; although I know that it is not the only region that takes on these charitable practices and accepts the imposition of prisoners alien to our struggle. Obviously, this is not the case of the ABC in Spain, for example. But, going back to the specific situation in these parts; I consider that they have not only adulterated the raison d’être of the ABC, but through political alliances they have put it at the service of interests contrary to anarchy, even going so far as to place it at the service of the so-called “revolutionary” States.
I do not know if this 180 degree turn has been motivated by some type of financial subsidy or if it all comes down to the pious spirit (humanist-liberal-social-democratic-Christian) that inspires them or if it responds to Machiavellian principles; that is to say, that they are infused by the utilitarian maxim of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The truth is that this hijackiing has been going on for more than twenty years. It goes back to when the then newly created Anarchist Black Cross Federation included in its list of prisoners the five Cuban spies who were imprisoned at that time, using the same euphemisms as the Castro brothers’ government, referring to spies – who had even worked in coordination with the FBI – as “the Five Heroes.”
In this same line, there is now the case promoted by the ABC of Philadelphia, demanding solidarity with Ana Belén Montes (Click here to read), whom they present as a “prisoner of conscience”. Beyond the fact that she is not an anarchist comrade, perhaps it is opportune to remind Phili’s group that there is already a coalition with its own funds dedicated to her release click here to read); additionally, all the solidarity around her case has direct financial support from the Cuban government.
Certainly, it’s very regrettable to see that on behalf of the ABC we continue to campaign for spies instead of concentrating our scarce funds on the anarchist prisoners. Right now, here we have about five imprisoned comrades; in addition to all the imprisoned anarchists in the rest of the world. Today, we have comrades imprisoned in Belarus, in Chile, in Greece, in the Spanish State, in Italy, in Iran, in Russia, to name a few latitudes. And it is the same with the campaigns that the CNA has undertaken in solidarity with religious leaders. There is the case of Imam Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin (Hubert “Rap” Brown), who has never had the slightest proximity to anarchism. He is a former leader of the Black Panther Party (BPP) who converted to Islam, like many of the Afro-descendants in North-Amerikkkan prisons but, What the hell does the Black Panther Party and religion have to do with anarchy? Of course, we must not forget that the Iman has all the solidarity of his parishioners and has his own support fund (Click here to read
For this, I consider that it is necessary to trim those lists as I affirm in “Hands to Gunpowder!” I do not understand why divert solidarity towards people alien to the anarchic struggle and not focus on supporting our Gabriel Pombo Da Silva, Dinos Giagtzoglou, Alfredo Cospito, Lisa Dorfer, Nicola Gai, Mónica Caballero, Francisco Solar , Michael Kimble, Eric King, Anna Beniamino, Carla Tubeuf and, all the comradeswho are in prison around the planet.
After these concrete experiences, of course I consider urgent the “reconstruction” of the Anarchist Black Cross or, failing that, to encourage a new initiative of direct solidarity with specifically anarchist prisoners, retaking up the work of some local groups – I insist, not all groups have the same proto-liberal line. But, the truth is that many sections throughout North-Amerikkka have ceased to be functional for our prisoners. I don’t know if we’re still on time to “rebuild”. That is, to change the course from “inside” making a healthy demarcation to clear out these distortions. Perhaps, it is much “healthier” to give life to a new initiative with a clean slate. After all, throughout the troubled history of the Anarchist Black Cross, similar circumstances have arisen that have led to energetic ruptures and even the evolution of its name over time. Let us remember that initially that was not its name and that it was the hijacking of the Social Democrats (first) and the Bolsheviks (later) that originated the acronym that it holds today . Perhaps the time has come to start from scratch.
C.I.: Delving a little more into this same topic of the anti-prison struggle, do you think we should continue with solidarity towards prisoners in general from an abolitionist position? Do you consider that it is important to support the prisoners of the revolt even if they are not specifically anarchists?
G.R.: From the outdated “classist” perspective, the so-called social or “common” prisoners –as the system refers to them disparagingly– were conceived as “victims of capitalism” and therefore, they always counted on our support, we echoed all their complaints about the inhumane prison conditions. Right now, with the Covid-19 pandemic, we see how the prisons are executing a racist extermination that assassinates en masse Blacks, Latin Americans, indigenous people and the poor and, not only here, it is the same modus operandi all over the world, implementing a purge of excluded the Nazi way. However, these accurate denouncements cannot be confused with the rhetoric of the secular religion of liberal humanists that idealizes prisoners per se. In concrete terms, I have always found behind bars the same human animal that lives abroad, prisons being an accurate reflection of society with all its diverse animals, each one of them with virtues and defects and their own needs and ambitions. This forces us – same as in the streets – to create bonds of affinity with those who do match our wishes and share our practice.
In this sense, anarchic illegalism has always had a link with prisoners who, most of the time, did not even remotely know anarchist ideas, however, they came from a much more anti-authoritarian practice than some of those who sleep in our camp. On countless occasions when these prisoners come into contact with anarchic theory and practice they fully identify with it. Of course, I’m not generalizing. I’m talking about very specific cases; otherwise, I would be falling into the same fantasy as liberal humanists.
I believe that the charitable role must be left to the different religious denominations that daily rip each other’s heads off fighting for the filigrees of the prisons. The fight between born-again evangelicals, Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, Methodists, Scientologists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, is understandable but, I do not quite understand why there are “anarchists” who join this competition for “lost souls” aspiring to save them from purgatory. Of course, this delusion also fits with that “classist” perspective. Another equally outdated vision that emphasized the quantitative growth of the so-called “revolutionary movement” and tried to attract at all costs new “militants”, feeding the role of the “preacher” of the libertarian church in permanent dispute with the other religious sects.
It may be an obvious thing to say, but it is not excessive to reiterate that as anarchists we are for the demolition of prisons, which should not be confused with obligatory charity with all the prisoners in the world, forgetting that behind bars there are also feminicides, rapists and neo-Nazis , to say the least. And the same applies to what I said earlier about spies and religious leaders. We are not going to sympathize with the Israeli spies who may be imprisoned in Tehran despite knowing the inhumane conditions imposed by the sharia and the Council of Guardians in Iranian prisons.
Now, regarding abolitionist doctrine, I would like to make a few comments at the risk of boring you again. Recently, the discourse around the “abolition of prisons” and – in recent days – the issue of the “abolition of the police” has taken off inside our camp. In fact, there is an anarcho-Bolshevik group that calls itself the Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement (RAM). I believe that all this rhetoric must be approached from the reaffirmation of anarchic theory and practice, in order to divest ourselves of these alien conceptualizations. When we speak of “abolition”, we are referring to the annulment of laws, institutions and / or customs that are “morally unacceptable” for society. In other words, we are demanding intervention from the State. Evidently, this reformist action is completely opposite to the anarchic praxis. Reforms only help to consolidate domination. Period. I do not know when did this confusion about abolitionism suffered by some comrades became more acute – and here I include close people, such as Rodolfo Montes de Oca – nor under what circumstances was the door opened to all this reformist hogwash.
There is a brochure, which is available in English on the page //actforfree.nostatate.net , which deals with this subject in a synthetic way, titled “Prison: abolish or destroy?” . It begins with a lapidary phrase: “It has been said, without room for misunderstanding, that the people who do the most damage in this world are those who always try to do good” and that was precisely the role of abolitionists.
For two decades, abolitionists have been advocating the elimination of prisons and their replacement by a more “humane” correctional system. In fact, here in Amerikkka, since 2015, the National Bar Association has been pushing for this reform. Of course, this proposal is not new. Abolitionism has always been promoted by religious, social reformers, and moral philosophers. Let us remember that it was the abolitionists of yesteryear who originated the panopticon and the current social orthopedics, by abolishing the gallows and the dungeons. Now, the new abolitionists together with the judicial reformers, hand in hand with the 4th and 5th Industrial Revolutions, are paving the way for the “new normal” of control. This is already here. States are implementing it right now around the world, with differences in terms of their deadlines but the closing down of prison complexes and the implementation of state-of-the-art control systems are already underway. The pandemic has come in handy, exposing the “dangers of overcrowding”; of course, with a certain perversion involved. We know that it’s not much bother for domination to let thousands of excluded die in prisons before taking the final step and presenting it as a triumph of democracy through social reforms. Without a doubt, the end of prisons as we know them is near. The penitentiary institution will change its name and the maximum security facilities will be very scarce, reserved for a handful of irreducible people who will be “treated” as dangerous psychopaths in aseptic underground buildings that do not tarnish the landscape of smart cities; thanks to good abolitionist intentions. Let’s not forget that in 1865, with the Thirteenth Amendment, slavery was outlawed in the United States, but the slaveholders were the only ones who were indemnized by the government. With the abolition, slaves ceased to be “human merchandise” susceptible to being bought and sold, however, serfdom was not abolished, becoming resources that could be exploited to death. A quick glance at the history of prisons is enough to prove it, not to mention the role of slave labor in the 20th century, used on a large scale in Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, Maoist China, Pol Pot’s Democratic Kampuchea, and Castrist Cuba with its camps with forced labor for the homosexual and intellectual dissidents, under the euphemism of “Military Units in Support of Production”.
As for solidarity with the prisoners of the revolt, I consider unnecessary the direct intervention of the ABC. In general, in these specific cases, specific initiatives are encouraged, dedicated to providing care for incarcerated people. Right now it is happening with thousands of detainees during the recent revolts in repudiation of the Trump government and against police violence in different North-Amerikkkan cities. Many of the detainees are liberals on steroids, radical democrats, religious leaders, and militants of a thousand and one Leninist sects. Over the days, there has been a natural decantation that allows us to identify who are the anarchist comrades who fell into the clutches of the system during the confrontations and, immediately, the ABC should concentrate all its resources on them. The other politico-religious structures have their own machinery of solidarity and they also put them to work immediately to support their own.
C.I. Recently, a cycle of debates took place in Madrid around your text Covid 19: Anarchy in times of pandemic , held on the 7th (Ateneo Libertario de Vallekas), 21st (Local Anarchist Mutiny), August 28 (CNT-AIT ) (Click here to read), September 19th (Espacio Squat Anarquista La Amboscada) (Click here to read), and October 23rd (Ateneo libertario Carabanchel-Latina) (Click here to read) where the local and international situation of anti-anarchist repression was also updated. What did you think of this initiative?
G.R. Actually, I have to express my surprise. I was not aware of this initiative nor did I have contact with fellow organizers; which undoubtedly gives it a fascinating anarchic spirit to those days from the get-go. The truth is that it caused me great joy to verify the presence of accomplices from the other side of the Atlantic and, I am not saying this because of the possible “acceptance” that this text may have had, but because of the verification of affinities concerned with incentivizing reflection as a necessary step for the abandonment of this inertia that subsumes us. Parallel to that, I consider that this effort is made more potent when it is intertwined with the timely update of the anti-anarchist repression at the local and international level.
If there’s room to add something, it’s worth highlighting the importance that these debates take on in the neighborhoods of Vallecas, Tetuán and Carabanchel; specifically, in these days that proposals for “secession” are growing, parting from the “communizing” discourse and late-situationism, equivalent to the flight to the countryside and the construction of “happy islands” –as the comrade Cavalleri rightly points out–; instead of facing-off against domination in its lair. Anarchic war is to take place in the metropolis, especially now that smart cities are being imposed on us. The development of permanent insurrection exhorts us to “secede” but, when we speak of secession from the perspective of the informal and anarchic insurrectional tendency, we mean “cease to be”. In other words, stop being a part of…, stop working, abandon the herd, “uncouple”, get out of the camera lens, interrupt the sequence. It is about moving freely in absolute illegality in the heart of the cities. And this is only possible taking on the skill of the termites: destroying, destroying and destroying, in the total darkness of the night but, without assuming useless sacrifices for the sake of an uncertain future, but armed with pleasure in the present anarchic. That is the role of lone lobbies and affinity groups today. but armed with pleasure in the most anarchic present. That is the role of lone lobbies and affinity groups today. but armed with pleasure in the anarchic present. That is the role of lone wolves and affinity groups today.
The demolition of Monsieur Domination’s mansion will only take place by devouring its structure; until one fine day, with a simple slam of the door, the whole building comes down. Of course, they will rebuild another mansion with much more resistant characteristics and use increasingly lethal fumigation methods, but our disposition for demolition is permanent. By then there will be new jaws – refractory to fumigation – willing to continue devouring night after night, until the pillars of the new building are weakened.
C.I. In this contribution, within the framework of the “new normal” imposed by the necropolitics of hypertechnological capitalism, you invite us to “ask ourselves new questions –instead of claiming to have the answers– about the relevancy of the immutability of fire”. What is the intention of this text? Did you meet your goal?
G.R. All I’m trying is to shake things up. That is, to unsettle: to pull the comfortable rug from under our feet, inciting anarchic practice.
This text is (or at least intends to be) a reflection against the current of all that is “politically correct” around the particularities of the “neo-normality” that they impose on us – hand in hand with the 4th and 5th Industrial Revolution–, with its consequent processes of hysteresis and the consolidation of cognitive capitalism.
Lamentably -except for honorable exceptions- anarchism in our days, in addition to fragmenting into a thousand identities with the acceptance of all the hogwash that the “identitarian”prison of implies (which delimits and oppresses individuality through the scam of political correctness), has degenerated into an ominous pose. It has been transformed into an aesthetic stance, an academic specialty, and into literary production –be it fiction, philosophical, historiographic, anthropological, sociological or comics-; that is, we see many texts and very little practice. When really anarchy is thought-action: what Marxians call “praxis.” Without practice there is no anarchism, because anarchic theory is nourished precisely by practice. Of course, I refer to the concrete practice as refractory acts, not the “practice” of keyboard warriors and virtual “social war”.
I consider what’s most worrisome about all this literary exuberance that invades us is the reductionism of the underlying visions, which evaporate any attempt to reflect and, above all, the opportunities to materialize the anarchic struggle in our days. I think it is important to become aware of this, opening ourselves up to the possibility of “self-exploration” and checking to what extent –perhaps, without realizing when or how–, many of us also feed this absence of anarchic practice in our environments, replacing the attack on domination with communitarian hyperactivism and, letting ourselves be carried away by the inertia of outdated models of struggle.
Anarchism without its consequent practice is reduced to a body of value orientations condemned to ideological degeneration. That said, it is not impossible to attempt to move from that, assuming that you want to remedy this miserable underlying situation. Any attempt to incite thought-action and stop the inertia pushed onwards by the faith in archaic methodologies, must be oriented towards the concrete attack against what exists and, for this, it’s indispensable to go beyond the “war” on the Internet and, of course, the pamphleteering discourse, the attack on symbols and the outdated vision of armed-strugglism and its resulting populist power. That is the subtext of “Anarchy in a Time of Pandemic: a call to conscience / a call to action”.
Apparently, the text served its purpose, but that is my assessment. In reality, it is up to the comrades in affinity with the informal and insurrectionary tendency to express their opinions and give an answer to this question.
1. The origins of the ABC go back to Tsarist Russia. Originally created as the Political Red Cross (CRP), with the intention of distinguishing itself from the medical-humanitarian organization founded by the Genevan Henry Dunant, which had already operated in the territories of the Russian Empire since 1867 and was dedicated to helping soldiers wounded in the battles and the victims of wars – in strict adherence to international law. From its first days of life, the CRP was oriented to the aid of the anarchist and revolutionary socialist prisoners, it was soon taken over by the Social Democrats. This assault was immediately reflected in the lack of support for the anarchist prisoners, which induced the anarchists –in mid-1906– to split up and integrate the Anarchist Red Cross (ARC), redoubling their support for our fellow prisoners and exiled in Siberia. By 1907, the ARC would establish sections in London and New York, dedicated to recollecting funds for the economic aid of prisoners and their families. With the establishment of the Bolshevik dictatorship, some “anarchists”, seduced by the revolutionary verbiage of Red Fascism, renounced their principles and joined the herd, joining the hijacking of anti-authoritarian instances of struggle. The Anarchist Red Cross would not be the exception, also remaining under Red control. By then, many of its animators were already in communist prisons or had been deported to Siberia, which prompted the comrades who managed to flee into exile to reconstitute the initiative under a new name that made clear their theoretical-practical position: Anarchist Black Cross (ABC). Groups in Great Britain and the United States would also adopt the new name, remaining active in solidarity with our prisoners until the mid-1930s of the last century. It wouldn’t be until 1966 that the labor of the ABC was reanimated by the initiative of Stuart Christie in collaboration with Albert Meltzer. Stuart, who had been a guest in the dungeons of Franco’s fascism accused of “terrorism”, was a tireless promoter of the project, taking the initiative to the international level in the summer of 1968 during the days of the International Anarchist Congress in the city of Carrara. There, he would invite those present to form sections of the ABC around the world and, he would echo the situation of the anarchists imprisoned in the prisons of Spain, also revealing the repression of the Cuban anarchists under the regime of the Castro brothers and giving accusation of the execution of a comrade on the island. By 1980, there were sections of the ABC in almost the entire planet with the exception of the States under the tight control of military dictatorships.