… working on a RARA dossier … communiques, interview, analysis and statements from folks arrested / imprisoned for the actions of RARA … will include some material from sources like Resistance: Documents and Analysis From The Illegal Front and Frontline Info …
” …. Revolutionary Anti-Racist Action (RARA) is a clandestine group active in The Netherlands that has carried out attacks in support of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. The main targets of these attacks have been multi-national corporations that have ties to, or are integral part of, the apartheid structure. More recently they have shifted their attention to the racist refugee and immigration policies of the Dutch government (as well as the rest of Europe) by attacking state agencies that are responsible for carrying out these policies … ” (from Arm The Spirit No. 9, August/September 1991) …
… what follows is RARA’s communique around their attack on Shell in April 1989 …
Attack On Thermo Shell Centrum
April 16 / 17, 1989
Last night we made a fire attack at the ‘Thermo Shell Centrum’ in Hilversum, using two jerry cans of petrol and incendiary devices.
The radical solidarity campaign with the struggle in South Africa hasn’t come to a standstill. In Holland this campaign has been continuous and also in other Western European countries (FRG, Denmark) the number of actions is increasing.
In spite of that we can state that as far as Holland is concerned this campaign is faltering and may reach a crisis. At the moment almost all the attention of the radical movement is aimed at the Shell blockade organized by SuZA. A course of action that has its own background but is threatening to backfire.
We support the call for action against Shell in general. But we think this blockade action has drastically conformed to the social democratic politics (of the committees) and thus turned out to be a strongly defensive position.
First we want to clearly state that we are not opposed to the idea of a blockade, we also think that these actions can be spectacular. A blockade can be effective in that it is accessible for all people to take part in. Our criticism is not against this choice of action, a blockade is no better or worse than a firebomb. Setting different kinds of actions against each other is a false contradiction. What we are concerned about is the aim of building up and increasing our strength now and also in the long term.
SuZA says their aim is “to change the political climate a little bit.” In our view the struggle means more than developing a tactical concept that lasts just three days. The idea of just damaging the image of Shell is not enough to be effective. We think that everybody should know already what apartheid is. It is also known that the Dutch state has a strategic interest in maintaining the apartheid system or at most adjusting it a little bit. And that the same state creates the political and economic conditions for multinationals like Shell to be able to operate.
Shell’s collaboration with the apartheid regime has been known for a long time, so not much damage can be done to its image anymore. A large action against Shell now, should be the expression of the combined experiences of the long militant anti-apartheid struggle.
It should build on a history whereby the development of the political contents are central and the aim is to get, more and more, a better view on the perspective.
Of course the chosen object of the blockade is not without history. In the last few years Shell has been the target of many militant actions and campaigns with the aim of putting the stamp on Shell as one of the accomplices of the apartheid regime and to damage them as much as possible. Alongside these actions there have been discussions about what the resistance can mean for us and to develop more cohesion and continuity. SuZA doesn’t build on this necessary development.
An illustration of this took place during the first conference about the action when the SuZA explicitly refused to take over the demand “Free Rene”.
The discussion about this was neutralized with the remark that they also didn’t demand “Free Mandela”. Thus completely ignoring the fact that Rene had been convicted of taking part in/or organizing actions which are supported by large parts of the radical movement. He has been accused of membership in groups which have, in their publications/communiques, explicitly associated themselves as being part of that movement.
On the other hand, the SuZA itself, at the same conference, didn’t criticize the social democratic groups and organizations which also took part in the blockade.
Without any form of discussion they forced their non-violence on all other people, by threatening a possible social democratic withdrawal.
A choice for non-violence on this level, isn’t a choice which does justice to the necessity of anti-parliamentary politics on all levels.
It is served to us without discussion.
To state that a confrontation with the police should at all times be avoided, because “riots would hurt us more than they would Shell” (according to SuZA), denies the political character of the police.
The choice of Van Thijn (the Social Democratic mayor of Amsterdam) to make use of the police, if the blockade works out effectively, is not only a question of public order. It’s an attempt to force the blockade initiative within social-democratic margins, i.e., to make it ineffective. Because radical, revolutionary politics and so-called public order are incompatible.
One of the aims of SuZA is conscience raising and discussion.
A picture is given of Shell being the total enemy, the big monster.
For us it is not clear how this could lead to more consciousness.
The most important aspect for a useful discussion about the anti-apartheid struggle is missing. Neither Shell nor any other multi-national is exclusively responsible for the maintenance of apartheid and repression. Apartheid and repression still exist thanks to the support of the Western States, and even more than that:
“Apartheid isn’t some kind of civilization that differs from the Western kind, indeed it’s the rough, unpolished side of it. Apartheid isn’t a strain on Western civilization, it’s the very core of it. Apartheid is the lens through which one can see all of it, a micro cosmos, a revelation of what the Western civilization really is.” (According to Cedric Mayson, prisoner of the apartheid regime).
Thus anti-apartheid struggle should be pointed against the politics of the Dutch state.
It seems to be a conscious choice of SuZA that they do not want to involve the role of the Western European states within the substantial process of discussion. A choice to draw the line on attacking the politics of the Dutch state. The latter would mean the collapse of a broadening alliance with social democratic organizations and committees.
The expansion which the SuZA committee has been looking for doesn’t widen anti-parliamentary politics. Its a conscious move to the political right, heading towards social democracy, at the cost of the radical parts of the movement.
Both the AABN (the official anti-apartheid movement) and the SuZA, each in its own way, present the blockade as the right answer, respectively, to the people who cut the petrol hoses and/or the “arsonists”. We strongly doubt the political pertinence of this action; so many concessions without any view of what is left over in the end. The politics of coalitions of the SuZA committee has been looking for doesn’t develop itself on a basis of its own strength, but from the idea that “we need the social democrats more than they need us.” In this way expansion is rendered useless.
Within the anti-Shell campaign the blockade has too much the character of an end station. Perhaps not on purpose, but it’s the consequence of the choices that have been made. Choosing this object we consciously did not want to place ourselves outside the running campaign. But we do not want to leave it with that.
It can never be so, to call on groups: “to connect in one way or another, the blockade, as an action against racism there, with racism here.” This “indirect aim” (according to SuZA) denies the essence of anti-apartheid struggle. Anti-apartheid struggle is to act from the consciousness that the powers that maintain apartheid are the same powers that determine our reality. A reality which exists of growing contradictions: deterioration, isolation, deportations of “unwanted refugees”, sexism and racism and the actual writing off of groups of people. It’s necessary that the harshness of these contradictions be put back into the political process here, within our struggle, sometimes spectacular, but above all with a long breath, in order to build up structures which, on the basis of substantial solidarity, survive the success (or failure) of an action.
A political mobilization which puts aside, as an “indirect aim”, is a “still born.”
We are conscious of the fact that the practical development of that force will ask more and more from us in the next few years. both in building up a strong political infrastructure and organizational structure, and for instance, in the field of prison struggle. Not to be isolated, estranged from each other, but to fight for collectivity and to become more and more human within that struggle, that is what connects both inside and outside of prison walls.
And at the same time that is what the state wants to destroy at all costs.
As revolutionary politics gains strength, the state will increase repression, in keeping with the necessity of European unification and harmonization.
In the same way the operation of April 11, 1988 was a shot in the dark, with the intention to scare off and to intimidate.
There are important years ahead: either we take ourselves seriously and develop our-selves –within the complete social spectrum — to be a meaningful factor. To become a force which can, with right and reason, be called a counter-force; or we become a marginal “political phenomenon”.
We will have to formulate an answer to the advancing development of estrangement, international exploitation and repression. That answer has to be fought for step by step. Together with all whom it concerns and who want it, in discussion and practice with regards to the anti-patriarchal, anti-racist and anti-imperialist struggle. Within that process we will have to profile our own identity as a revolutionary movement. Increasing our own strength is an absolute condition for cooperation and the forming of tactical or strategic alliances, be it temporary or not.
Groups like RARA are sometimes accused of having politics without any perspective because such militant cores are thought to be inaccessible and therefore isolated. For sure the organization in illegal groups has its restrictions, and it can’t be the sole perspective, because that form of struggle alone can never become more massive. However, what it’s about is the cohesion between different fighting–groups, on all levels.
By setting limits, giving anger a voice, showing that resistance is possible.
When that is the basis, when the militant practice feeds the common discussion and the other way around, then there cannot be isolation.
Then we can come further.
We will do the utmost to achieve this.
– Support the revolution in Southern Africa, form the front in Western Europe
– Solidarity with the struggle of the hunger-strikers in West Germany
– Solidarity with all fighting prisoners
– Refugee policy is European Apartheid, stop the deportations
– Revolutionary Anti-Racist Action