WOTTA SITTA – ITALIAN POLITICAL PRISONERS COLLECTIVE

 … giving a voice to political prisoners and prisoners of war was part of the ‘mandate’ of Arm The Spirit. ATS grew out of the ashes of the Toronto Anarchist Black Cross and the founders of Arm The Spirit had all done solidarity work around political prisoners in the U.S (Ohio 7, RCC 6, etc). When we started Arm The Spirit, we made a point of reaching out to those prisoners as well as European political prisoners. During our run, we published statements from, interviews with, and analysis by political prisoners from organizations such as Action Directe, Black Liberation Army (BLA), Cellules Communistes, Combattante (CCC), Devrimci Sol / DHKP-C,  Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional (FALN), Grupos de Resistencia Antifascista Primero de Octubre (GRAPO), Red Brigades, Red Army Faction, Red Guerilla Resistance, United Freedom Front and more …

… here’s just a bit of material from the Italian political prisoner’s collective Wotta Sitta (there is lots more!) . We corresponded with a few members of the collective and regularly sent them material about the struggles here in North America. In turn, they sent us regular updates on their ongoing trials as well as position papers / analysis / written contributions to developments within the international revolutionary movement …  

A Brief Introduction To The Communist Prisoners Collective “Wotta
Sitta”

The Collectivo Communisti Prigionieri Wotta Sitta (Wotta Sitta Imprisoned Communists Collective) consists of comrades imprisoned in various special prisons coming from the different Italian guerrilla experiences (Red Brigades, NAP – Armed Proletarian Units, Red Brigades-Guerrilla Party, COLP – Communists Organized for Proletarian Liberation, Resistance).

BRP38117-001

As prisoners (we are all in jail for about 10 years, and some of us for 15) we have a wide knowledge of struggle inside the maximum security prisons, in unity with the struggles of the social prisoners.

It is important – instead of speaking about our specific experiences – to talk about our common heritage, that is, the similar characteristics typical of the whole revolutionary movement in Western Europe at the end of the 60’s, which are the background for the birth of the guerrilla in Europe as well as in Italy.

In the early 70’s the guerrilla developed in order to re-build a revolutionary perspective – a class perspective – of the proletariat, in order to re-open a power confrontation in the heart of the imperialist system. Particularly in Italy, the guerrilla has built a fighting experience deeply rooted in the class and social structure and in the struggles of all the proletarian sectors; a fighting praxis which has developed in direct opposition and attack
against the state.

At the beginning of the 80’s everybody (therefore us as well) understood the coming into being of a change affecting the entire international reality and the rise of a new movement re-designing the revolutionary perspective. In Europe this meant the EuropeanGuerrillaPic (2)beginning of the building up of a revolutionary anti-imperialist Front, through the initiative of the RAF and AD, and BR-PCC, and involving most of the European resistance.

So during the summer of 1985, when we worked out our first collective paper as prisoners – entitled “Wotta Sitta” – that is in African “the time is right” – we started from the deep conscience that it was time to start building a wider communication process
among the revolutionary experiences and the anti-imperialist movements existing all over the world, in particular in Western Europe. It was time to really overcome the ideological attitudes towards internationalism in order to focus on the common class interests that bind together the proletarians of the world in the common struggle against the “new imperialist order”. But our objective, since the beginning, has also been to give a political answer to the counter-revolutionary strategy which gained ground after the defeats and arrests suffered by the guerrilla organizations in 1982, particularly in Italy.

The capitalist governments tried to put an end to the struggle and resistance of the revolutionary prisoners in Europe in order to transform their struggle into a weapon to point at the communist perspective and the anti-imperialist fight, and to play against the
fighting organizations.

Our intention is to confront the integrated counter-revolution with the political and fighting unity of the revolutionary prisoners inside the wider unity of the revolutionary movement. The counter-revolutionary strategy against the prisoners is a common reality YEAROFADVANCEof all the European states, therefore also the struggle of the revolutionary prisoners and the solidarity movements must move forward and develop a common and unified reality. They are not a different thing apart from the internationalist solidarity.

In this sense, the experience of struggle carried out by the imprisoned comrades of the RAF and resistance in the FRG has been very important, as well as the struggle of the imprisoned comrades of PCE(r) and GRAPO in Spain.

We would like to say also that inside the Italian prisons there are some Arab and Palestinian prisoners and in the last few years we have made many solidarity initiatives with them against their segregation.

Regarding our jail’s conditions we have to say that, together with all the other Italian political prisoners (about 150), we are spread out in different special jails: Novara, Cuneo, Marino del Tronto, Carinola, Rome-Rebibbia for men and Opera-Milano for women.

They are all maximum security prisons with control units for political prisoners, established with decree by the Italian government in 1977 in the framework of the “struggle against terrorism” for a number of prisoners reaching 800 persons in the early 80’s. Some comrades (a few in fact) as well as some Arab/Palestinian prisoners are in general population jails.

The State’s policy is based on continuous pressure through the adaptable use of segregation and dispersion, through the strict control of visits and mail directly by the intelligence forces by means of the prison department, through the investigations intoNAPGraf (2) the political debate inside prisons, the periodic criminalization campaign against the revolutionary prisoners, and the prosecutions against the solidarity movement and people supporting the prisoners and sometimes also against the relatives (with charges similar to 129a in the FRG).

In Italy every activity of the revolutionary prisoners not controlled by the state’s pacification policy is considered “a threat against state security”, because for quite a while the bourgeoisie has tried to enforce a political solution to armed struggle with the active collaboration of many ex-revolutionary people, once militants in the various fighting organizations, in order to recompose the break between the state and the class movement of the last ten years and to depoliticize the whole experience of armed struggle.

In this state counter-revolutionary strategy, the reformist and revisionist parties are very active, above all the PCI, which with its recent transformation into the PDS (Democratic Party of then Left) has fulfilled it move towards the bourgeois area which it began in the post World War Two era, and has reinforced its role as enemy of any revolutionary initiative in this country.

In conclusion the State policy on the revolutionary prisoners – in Italy as well as in any west European country – aims at redefining the contradiction represented by the BR1 (2)existence of guerrilla prisoners in view of the European process of economic- political-military integration, of which the “1992 united market” is a very significant step. We see in every European country many direct attacks against the prisoners and the attempt to use them against the guerrilla, as is now happening with the arrests of the ex-RAF militants in the DDR.

As imprisoned revolutionaries we have to confront the same counter-revolutionary strategy of imperialism in every European country and aware of being an integral part of the revolutionary process here, we see in the unity of the prisoners in western Europe a possible and necessary step in our fighting experience.

Collectivo Communisit Prigionieri Wotta Sitta

(Written in 1992.)

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INTERVIEW WITH TOM MANNING / APRIL 1991

… a radio interview with Tom Manning (member of the armed clandestine movement in the U.S.  / United Freedom Front / Ohio 7 ) conducted by a member of the Toronto Anarchist Black back in October 1991. I can’t remember the name of the radio show, but we did interview various PPs / POWs over the years on the show … this interview was then published in Arm The Spirit # 7 …

… interestingly, Tom was denied this issue of ATS as it was deemed by the New Jersey States Prison to contain “material of such a nature as to threaten the domestic tranquility, security and orderly running of this institution.”

… Tom responded to the Superintendent of the prison, in part, as follows: “The notice from you concerning the seizure of an issue/copy of Arm The Spirt arrived tonight. I’m assuming you seized it because it contains an interview of me. If that is the case, it only confirms my words in the interview about ideas, as opposed to acts, being the reason many people are kept in MCU indefinitely. And your act of seizing my words is a violation of your First Amendment and I appeal your decision.” …

Tom’s current address:

Tom Manning #10373-016
FCI Butner Medium II
Post Office Box 1500
Butner, North Carolina 27509

 

TOM MANNING

SHORT BIO

Boston born and raised in a large, Irish working class family-never enough $ – though my tommanningpicB
father worked day and night-with sleep in between- his only days off were when he was hurt or some crisis in the family-a longshoreman and a postal clerk- he worked himself to death- trying to get one end to meet the other- he never did make ends meet- that would be a cycle & capitalism is not made that way- he always got the worst end.

As kids we tried to help where we could- I shined shoes & sold newspapers in the subways and the bars, otherwise I spent my time like most kids in the neighborhood – roaming the docks and freight yards looking for anything that could be converted into cash, bartered, or used in some way. also playing stickball & raising pigeons. As I grew older, I worked as a stockboy, then construction laborer until joining the military in ’63. Cuba in ’64,  Viet Nam in ’65-66.

Back on the streets for a minute, then state prison for 5 years, armed robbery and assault & battery. Given the area where I grew up and being a ‘Nam vet, prison was par for the course. I ran into a lot of boyhood friends and veterans inside. I became somewhat politicized in prison, taking part in food and work strikes, being around people willing to teach and organize at great personal risk. I spent my last 14 months in Walpole’s 10 Block, where I first read Che, and where all the prisoners- black, brown, and white- were united out of necessity. In contrast to general population in the prison and in the city of Boston.

I completed my sentence in May of ’71-took one quick tour of the old streets, and headed for the country, the woods, and small towns of Northern New England, where I met Carol, married, and had a child, the first of three. Jeremy, Tamara, and  Jonathan. The second two came during our ten years underground. In Portland, Maine we became active in an organization  named SCAR, whose work was done by and for prisoners, ex prisoners, and their loved ones.

The work was rapidly expanding into all areas of the community, finding jobs and housing for people coming out, trying to stay out, support & welfare advocacy transportation to the prisons for visiting , childcare, organizing young people, a bail fund, a  book store.

With this work and the study it required, it became increasingly clear who got the best end, at whose expense, and what was  needed also became clear- socialism- a system where ends meet. The bosses oppose this system with a vengeance. They  attack it with their armies and police. The People must fight for their own system in all ways- one of these being armed  clandestine struggle. We have a long way to go, but we are getting there.

I was captured in 1985, sentenced to 58 years in federal prison for a series of bombings UFFElSalvadorCommunique-page-001carried out as armed propaganda against apartheid in South Africa, U.S. imperialism in Latin and Central America, including a concerted campaign against Mobil Oil and U.S. military targets in solidarity with the FALN’s campaign for the release of the five Nationalist prisoners. And against racist, genocidal capitalism here in the belly of the beast. I’m also sentenced to 80 years- (two 25 to life, plus 20 for armed robbery, plus 10 for escape) in New Jersey for the self-defense killing of a state trooper.

At present I am at the U.S penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. where I am classified as a high max prisoner restricted to a  high accountability status (orange card) that requires me to be checked in every two hours during the daytime and evening  hours. I am forced to work in the prison print shop, which has a higher security than any other job shop. And if I refuse or get  fired from this job, I ‘ll be returned to the hole. [editor:  As of August 1999, Thomas Manning has been moved to Springfield, MO for hip surgery]

This is the first prison I’ve been held in where I can walk around un-handcuffed and un-shackled. The prison authorities ,  because of my political beliefs and affiliations, have declared me a “threat to the secure and orderly running” of their prison  system. As a result, I have spent the last 12 years in continual lockdown, from the control unit in New Jersey to U.S.P. Marion  in Illinois, and ADX Super -max in Florence, Colorado.

I stand accused of being a part of the Sam Melville/Jonathan Jackson unit in the 1970’s and the United Freedom Front in the  1980’s. I am proud of the association and all that it implies…

 uffcomm6 (2)

An interview with Tom Manning
April 12th and 19th, 1991.

“YOU’VE GOT TO STRUGGLE ON ALL LEVELS, WITH WEAPONS
OR WITH LEAFLETS, AND WITH IDEAS….”

Could you trace your own development at a revolutionary – the development of your own tommanningpicA (2)political consciousness – and particularly what motivated your decision to move from above-ground community organizing and political activity to clandestine activity?

The need for revolution is obvious depending on where you’re from. If you’re sitting in a suburban house with a two car garage and a birdbath in the back, with your 25″ TV telling you that you’re OK and the world’s OK, that’s one thing.

Myself I came up from the projects. I grew up in the housing projects in the city. With the lack of things we needed in the family and in the community it was always obvious that something was wrong. But with the conditioning you get from the system, it’s hard to make an analysis at that time why you’re inside that kinds of situation. When I got out into the world, basically joining the service, just being around people from all around the country, it was almost like, at first, that I was dropped from the moon into the middle of this population that had no idea what or where I came from, or vice versa. It was because of that conditioning, of growing up in the inner-city in the projects, always basically on the edge.. it was an on-the-edge existence.

As the time passed in the service I started meeting other people from different cities, inner-city situations – New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Oakland – and I started to make the realization that there are two cultures within the one, the haves and the have-nots. That’s how we used to identify. We used to associate together along those lines in the service.

Once I got to Vietnam, being really aware of the different backgrounds in people, when I got to Vietnam the contrasts were so clear of america and what america expected, what it claimed and what was actually happening over in Vietnam. So all of that added up.

Coming back to the States after Vietnam it wasn’t long before I ended up in state prison. It’s a place where a lot of Vietnam veterans ended up at that time. That’s when I first started putting all this in some kind of perspective, and also seeing what was going on on the outside. I was in prison during the late ’60s, from ’66 on, when all the demonstrations were happening, basically around the war but there was still something of the civil rights movement going on then.

Then came 1968, with Martin Luther King being executed and the uprisings in the cities, stuff got really militant inside. We took part in a lot of work strikes and hunger strikes and things like that, and all the beatings and ship-outs and everything that goes along with that kind of stuff. That’s when I started making a decision on where I was going to

TomManningPicG (2)

… art by Tom Manning / 1990 …

be, on what side of the struggles that were going on. At the same time there were a lot of racial problems inside, white prisoners fighting against Black prisoners, etc., and basically I made some choices then, with the reading I was doing and the people that I was getting locked up with in segregation, that there was a need for revolutionaries out there and if and when I got out of the joint, that’s what I was going to do. Take it to the streets, basically.

 

After getting out in ’71 … I started looking for people to hook up with to do some kind of political work, not knowing for sure what exactly I wanted to do. I was attracted to the very militant stance of the Panthers and the things that the Weather Underground were doing. I wasn’t really clear on what the Weather Underground was about but I like that way, clandestine resistance. It took me a couple of years to find people who had the same affinity for those kinds of activities, but eventually we did hook up.

Part of the pattern of armed resistance which we’ve seen over the past 20 years, specifically by white anti-imperialists, are actions done in solidarity with or in support of anti-colonial struggles and liberation struggles in the ‘Third World’ (Latin America, Southeast Asian, etc). What is the relationship between armed resistance in North America and the TomManningPicE (2)revolutionary struggles around the world?

Let me speak just from my own experience. I started struggling from a self need, from the experiences of what I grew up in and what I knew and felt those needs were, not in solidarity with anybody else. It’s not as though I started from some kind of intellectual abstraction. I knew where I came from and I knew the people I was working with.
When I was doing above-ground work, was going down to the welfare office and jumping on the desks for families who needed heating oil to get through the winter, those kinds of things. We were doing a lot of prison support work, fighting for prisoners’ rights inside and fighting for support for the families outside. Most families outside are poor people, working and poor people. So that’s the basis of where I come from.

It’s more from an inside out kind of perspective than outside in – an in support or in sympathy kind of perspective.

It was basically a realization that my struggle and the struggles of where I’m coming from are similar to the struggles of people in places like El Salvador. They don’t want to take over the world or anything like that, they just want to improve their lot to the point where it’s livable and has some kinds of hope and some kinds of future to it. That’s all we
were fighting for in the communities. It’s just a matter of realizing that your community is the same as their community, and that makes both of these communities our community.

You and your comrades, the Ohio 7, are among the more than 200 Political Prisoners and O7SedCommPosterPrisoners of War currently held in U.S prisons. Do you feel that their is an increasing awareness of the existence of PPs/POWs in the U.S.?

There is an increasing awareness of political prisoners and why there are political prisoners, but not as much as we would like to think. We tend to  have a lot of contacts with each other, and with people who have been involved for a long time newly coming together to organize around PP/POW’s, so it gives us the feeling that we’re reaching out and we’re really getting somewhere. But then I have contact with other people around the country and they don’t even know there are political prisoners.

It amazes me when I’m in touch with someone doing political work somewhere, like down in Kentucky or somewhere. All of a sudden I find this new connection and here’s someone who’s been doing community work for fifteen years and they’ve never heard of any of the political prisoners except the ones who’ve been on “60 Minutes”. It amazes me with all the energy I see going into this political prisoner support work and awareness work, it amazes me that it hasn’t really gotten out into the community, into the wider community. You have the movement community and then you have the rest of the world, and it seems like we’re not getting out there.

During the past few years, we’ve seen increasing attempts by the U.S. government to criminalize resistance. The state has been using things like anti-racketeering  (RICO) laws, originally designed to fight organized crime, and seditious conspiracy laws to prosecute clandestine activists. We certainly saw this in the case of you and your comrades. It’s also been used extensively against Puerto Rican independentistas. What do you see at the state’s agenda in using these laws and do you think they pose a threat to above-ground organizing as well?

First of all, I think the use of RICO against the Puerto Ricans and then against us is basically an attempt to deny the fact that there are political prisoners, and ultimately that there is a need for political struggle in this country or in those areas with this country tries to dominate. The first aspect of criminalization is denying the justness of the struggle.TomManningPicF (2)

The use of RICO against us, and originally against the Puerto Rican comrades, is a test. They used it successfully against the Puerto Ricans. They got convictions. They got big time. The next step, once you’ve used it successfully against people of colour, is to see if you can use it against white people. Basically, I think that’s what their progression was.

If they can successfully use it against us, this small group of white people being the OHIO 7, the next step would be to use it against people in above-ground work. They can tailor it. All they’ve got to do is find two acts that have some kinds of aspect to them that they can classify as “criminal”. If they can find those two acts, then they can make a conspiracy out of any kind of organizing that you can imagine. Anywhere where you’re putting out a message and an agenda, if they can attach two acts together that they can justify as “criminal” they they’ve got a RICO conspiracy.

Do you think that the left as a whole in the U.S. is aware of this threat and are taking it seriously?

Not the left as a whole, but I don’t think the left as a whole in this country has ever come to any kind of consensus on anything. There are people who are taking it seriously, and TomManningPicH (2)that’s why we got as much support as we did around the trial. We didn’t get as  wide a range of support as would have liked to have had. One of the things with the OHIO 7 is that we’ve always tried to reach out and be as inclusive as possible in everything we did or said, even while we were underground, in our communiques and stuff. But the support we did get around the trial was people who understood what they were struggling against. They weren’t supporting personalities or anything like that. They understood the seriousness and the potential enormity of what was coming down there in Springfield.

It seemed like in both the OHIO 7 Seditious Conspiracy trial, and also the recent Resistance Conspiracy Case, there was, in many ways, a successful attempt by the government to isolate the clandestine activists from the above ground activists by throwing around accusations of “terrorism”, trying to intimidate people and stop them from doing support work.

I think a lot of the isolation was done while were still underground. I think they accomplished that to a good degree, between their propaganda and their terrorizing of the community. Once we had been captured – we were totally isolated when we were fUSBanner (2)irst captured – any breakthroughs we made at all were major victories. It was a constantly progressing thing, and it still is, that we are getting out of that isolation and we are reaching out. What we were about when we were active in the field and what we are still about, even though we can only work in a limited fashion now. It’s constant. Anybody who takes the time to listen to it and who takes the time to make all the connections that  we’ve always made understands where we’re coming from. If they’re not geared for that mode of operation, then at least they can support it and understand it. Armed struggle against the same enemy, no matter what your geographic or geopolitical borders are, has the same needs.

A lot of people are probably not aware of control units or what types of prisoners are held within control units. To start off, could you tell us what a control unit is, what the conditions are, and what kind of prisoners are held within them?

TomManningPicD (3)

This particular control unit, like most, is a 24-hour a day lockdown. They say 23 hours a day, but the fact is that you’re locked down 24 hours a day. When you do get to go out to the yard your movements are so controlled and it’s with so few prisoners at a time that you can’t really say it’s not locked down.

The kind of people they keep in control units are the people who they feel will have some influence on the general population. It’s mainly ideas  that they’re trying to lock up here rather than individuals. There are few people locked up here for actually acting out anything that they call a “disciplinary problem”. It’s the people who have the ideas that they’re afraid of.

During the last year or so in Trenton State Prison, we’ve seen a series of provocations by the prison administration which they’re using not only to increase the tensions within the prison, but also to serve as a justification for the expansion of the MCU (Management Control Unit, the control unit at Trenton), and to then obviously confine more people within it. Could you give us a brief history of these provocations to establish the context for what’s going on now?

You have to understand that this is part of a national move. The same shakedowns and moves and other stuff that they’re doing here are also happening at Marion right now. I hear from Ray (Levasseur) that they’re moving people every thirty days confiscating property and stuff, and that’s also what they’re doing here. They are trying to create provocations to justify their long-term goals.

Eventually they want to turn the whole of Trenton State Prison into a lockdown unit for this state, and with each move they’re doing that deeper and deeper. More blocks areTomManningPicJ (2) being turned into control unit blocks. What is left of the general population is getting cut down to basically a service corps of prisoners that serve all the other prisoners that are locked up, doing the cleaning up in the corridors and stuff like that. As a matter of fact, nobody gets to use the corridors these days except the crews that clean up, and basically that’s what you see in places like Marion where the whole prison is locked down. The only movement is those prisoners who are in trustee status out there buffing the floors and stuff, that that’s what it’s coming to here.

No programs, nothing to occupy yourself with except being locked up. Midnight moves, all night shakedown, physical frontal assaults in full combat gear every time they move you for a medical move or anything like that, they come dressed up in riot gear with their clubs. It’s a series of moves. Nothing’s coincidental. It’s all brought about to provoke and intimidate.

What do you think is the Bureau of Prison’s agenda in trying to lock down this huge number of prisoners, as you say, not only within the state of New Jersey, but increasingly around the country as a whole?

You know about the rate that they’re building new prisons. Just since George Bush has been president, the feds have built forty new prisons. To control that number of prisoners they have to have a large percentage of them locked down at all times, not just so that they can control them but also so that they can use that massive control unit as a psychological threat to control the ones who aren’t in control units. That’s what they’re doing here in New Jersey. At one time they used the control unit within Trenton to scare all the prisoners in the state, almost 30,000 now just in the state prisons, that they’re using the whole idea of Trenton State Prison as a threat over all the other prisoners in prisons around the state. They’re using it to say to the prisoners, “If you mess up here you’re going to Trenton.” To accomplish that you’ve got to make the threat of Trenton a reality and that’s what they’re doing now. This is not a fun place to be right now.

Could you tell us about the struggles that are going on right now with you and the other prisoners within the control unit at Trenton, particularly around this new cage, which the prison orwellianly terms their ‘activity module,’ where all MCU prisoners are now required to be held when allowed outside of their cells for things like medical visits and haircuts.

TomManningAMPicG (3)

… drawing, by Tom, of an activity module …

Well basically what they did is built this small tiger cage, a 14′ by 14′ tiger cage out in the middle of the floor. You have to remember that they have very few programs here. One thing that they do to threaten people is to tell them that if they don’t cooperate in the behaviour modification programs, which means basically going out and talking to a psychologist every 90 days, if you don’t do that then you’ll never get out of MCU. Getting out is very arbitrary anyway, because before they had this cage program they would tell you that if you don’t talk to them you were never getting out of MCU, but when they need an empty cell they’ll find somebody to move out so they can put someone else in here.

Because there are no other programs, they are basically using the cage as a very physical, very visual thing to demonstrate that you’re giving in to them. When you step into that cage, you take all your clothes off and step into the cage and this fat white man sits outside the cage and asks you a few questions while you stand in this cage. That’s a very visual sign to them that you’re ready to dance to whatever tune they want you to dance to. So there are very few prisoners doing it. They’re saying it’s for security and
making it look that way but all these other moves like the midnight moves and the all night shakedowns were coming anyway, they’re just using this cage as the central point for new and deeper repression here.

TomManningPicI (2)

… article about the lockdown with commentary by Tom …

 

Has there been strong solidarity among the prisoners in the MCU against the cage? I know that many of you have been refusing to leave your cells at all rather than be forced to be put into the tiger cage …

There’s probably less than 5% of the prisoners that are using those cages, and even then under very limited circumstances — guys that are told that they have to do a psychological review before they see a parole board or before they are considered for a transfer out of MCU. Like I said, there are less than 5% of prisoners doing that. There’s no other activities going on in the cage. Those guys who do break and go into the cage have to make a whole lot of justifications within themselves before they take that step. It’s a
constant everyday thing, having this thing sitting out in front of your cell looking at you. It’s a very visual thing to focus on when you’re focusing on your resistance.

As you say, prisoners in MCU come up for review every 90 days to determine whether they can be moved out of the control unit and back into the general population. Most of the prisoners in the control units across the United States are there because of their political consciousness or because of their abilities to educate or organize other prisoners TomManningPicK (2)politically. You are engaged in a lawsuit at the moment in which you are trying to expose the political nature of your confinement in MCU. Could you tell us about that?

If you look at my suit, the purpose is not so much to have me moved out of the control unit as it is to challenge the concept of the control unit itself. I don’t ask for any kind of program to be laid out for me to follow so I can get out of MCU. I challenge the whole concept of putting me in here in the first place, I don’t participate in anything here any more, the hearings are anything like that. I’m going to challenge it  in the suit or try to agitate in here to cause enough resistance to break it.

And, the times you participated in the hearings, the prison has stated implicitly that the reason you are in MCU is because of your political beliefs and affiliations …

Well, you’ve seen a copy of the suit. We’re going to use this suit as a central point in the trial that’s coming up here this winter that comes out of the uprisings here in August 1990. The suit demonstrates clearly the fact that I’m treated differently because of my politics, because I’m identified as political. That will be one of the things that I will be testifying to at the trial of those people who are being tried for the uprising. They have been put in the situation that they’re in because of their politics: singled out, pressured,
harassed. That’s what brought about that uprising. It’s the same thing that’s going on now.

Just to wrap up, given the ever-increasing state of repression in North America, what do you see as the role of clandestine revolutionary organizations in the U.S and Canada during the coming years?

acmone (2)

They’re coming to take this phone right now, so I’ll be real quick. Basically, the role of armed struggle anywhere is conditioned by time and place. At some point, in places like El Salvador, it becomes the main thrust. Right now, armed struggle in the country is basically armed propaganda, a demonstration tool. For people as a whole, armed struggle gives them another option to fight the system with.

You’ve got to struggle on all levels, with weapons or with leaflets, and with ideas …

Transcribed from a radio interview on CKLN in Toronto, October 18/91.

TomManningpicC (2)

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ACTION DIRECTE – THREE ESSAYS

Back in 2001, Arm the Spirit joined with Solidarity Publications  and Kersplebedeb (both out of Montreal) to publish some pamphlets …  Solidarity was “a project devoted to adthreemaking interesting and important writings available in the form of booklets and documents on the internet in low cost, high quality form. We are a small-scale project based in Montreal, Quebec with a commitment to revolutionary left-wing, anti-imperialist and anti-patriarchal politics and a non-exclusive focus on writings by prisoners. We are working in collaboration with the Arm The Spirit collective based in Toronto on a number of joint-publishing projects. Solidarity publications and videos are all distributed by Kersplebedeb Distribution.”

We published (or republished) material on the BLA, Direct Action / Vancouver 5, RCC6, EZLN, SDS/WUO, Indigenous resistance etc …

What follows below is “Three Essays by Action Directe Prisoners,” published originally in 2001, “explaining the history and giving some insight into the politics of this armed revolutionary organization active in France.”

Note: the collages used to illustrate the second essay, “Political Prisoners And The Questions Of Violence,” were done in prison by AD prisoner Joelle Aubron. Joelle was released from prison in 2004 and died of cancer in 2006.

 

SHORT COLLECTIVE BIOGRAPHY OF ACTION DIRECTE PRISONERS

JOELLE AUBRON / JULY 1996

 

We, members of Action Directe, have been incarcerated since February 1987. When the ADLogo1 (2)four of us were arrested it became a symbol for the government of its fight against the guerilla on this territory. It brought its propaganda and counter-revolutionary methods to bear on us, isolating us by reorganizing, for example, a section of the Fleury-Mérogis Maison d’arrêt des femmes. The first trials were meant to show off the omnipotence of bourgeois justice. Certain cases, for which other comrades had already been incarcerated for years, were at last closed in the delirium that surrounded our “participation” in this show.

On December 1st 1987 we began our first hungerstrike to be reunited together and for an end to solitary confinement. Before it ended on April 15th 1988, two of us had appeared in five trials after more than two months on strike. Ill at ease, semi-conscious, receivingjeanmarc transfusions behind the scenes, it didn’t matter, the Special Sections’ show had to go on (1).

Everyday, the powers that be deploy their forces against many hostile realities. Although there were activists from the organization or from other realities behind bars, it was our arrests, trials, and detention that the State made into the perfect expressions of its monopoly of violence, of its will to triumph and to triumph quickly at that.

A perfect example if there ever was one of this show of force was the trial of January 1989. Dealing with the “Pierre Overney” Commando’s action against Georges Besse, the final act in this drama just had to be in step with the hateful barrage of propaganda that had followed our action. Named President Director General of Renault by the social-democratic government, Besse specialized in brutal restructuring, laying off tens of thousands of workers at a time (34 000 at PUK-Péchiney, 25 000 at Renault). Despite the slander the bourgeoisie’s media lackeys and trade union collaborators, the action met with sympathy amongst the workers (2). So the trial had two objectives : to maintain the line put forward from the beginning that the attack was not a political act, and to take yet another opportunity to hammer in the wonders of neoliberalism. We were treated to the spectacle of both a minister and an ex-minister paying hommage to the perfect adFOURtechnocrat G. Besse; Edith Cresson, who had assigned Besse to Renault while Minister of Industrial Restructuring and Foreign Trade and then became Minister of European Affairs in the new socialist government in 1988, and André Giraud who was Minister of Defense in the previous right-wing government. Whatever contradiction there was in two such high-ranking political figures testifying at the trial of “four criminal fanatics” was simply buried under the violent consensus of the media and political establishment. They enthusiastically hailed our first sentence of life plus 18 years (3) as if it were their own personal victory, the crowning glory of their strategy to annihilate the revolutionary left-wing struggle.

We called off our first strike without having most of our demands met. Any slight remedy to our isolation would prove to be only temporary. Two months after this trial the four of us were once again subjected to the torture of solitary confinement. In April 1989 we again went into battle with the same demands, namely an end to solitary confinement and the reunification of political prisoners. In July 1989 our detention in solitary confinement was officially ended and we were partially reunited; we were furthermore promised that accommodations would be made so we could speak with one another (a promise that was never kept).adliberation

In fact, that Fall we found ourselves in partial solitary in a section specially built for us. The right we had won to be grouped by sex, two women and two men, was not withdrawn, and yet neither was the State’s strategy of destroying revolutionary hostility on this territory, as expressed through its actions against us.

In January 1991 we began a new battle. Once again our demands were to be reunited together and for an end to solitary confinement. At the same time we were trying to build a Resistance Front to class justice and prison. So for two years, up until April 1993, we took turns going on hungerstrike for a week at a time each.

adfaim (2)In May 1995 we received our second life sentences. Before the trial had even started it was clear that all over the world a cycle of struggle had petered out. Whatever its errors, on this territory Action Directe was without a doubt the most advanced expression of this cycle. This explains the extreme symbolization that surrounds us.

Time will judge our contribution to the proletariat’s long march towards political autonomy, the proletariat being the only class that is fundamentally revolutionary to the end. Like many others throughout history and in our own generation, we have made choices that demanded a total commitment of our lives. We have no regrets. Our individual paths are intertwined with an important era for the proletarian movement on this continent at a time of growing inter-relatedness between the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggles.

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JEAN-MARC ROUILLAN was sixteen years old in 1968. From a left-wing family, he was nevertheless not very political. He has suggested that this might be what enabled him to jeanmarc3 (2)engage in the revolt against totalitarianism with no hesitation. He was active with the CAL (Comité d’action Lycéen – Student Action Committee) in events in the neighborhoods north of Toulouse. He then joined the anarcho-communist movement, notably the Autonomous Libertarian Groups (translater’s note: Groupes Autonomes Libertaires – it is important to note that in Europe the word “libertarian” is not associated solely with anarcho-capitalism as in the United States, but also with left-wing anarchism and anti-authoritarianism). These months were a time of intense learning where direct action was a common occurrence in the many struggles within the revitalized revolutionary movement. Occupation committees in the factories, rent strikes in the cities, struggle against the police state…

Given that the city was rightly considered the capital of antifrancoist Spain, he then became involved in support work for the revolutionary struggle against Franco’s dictatorship. In 1970 he was a member of the first nucleus of the Movimente Iberico de Liberacion (MIL), the armed organization of the Barcelona (Catalunya) underground workers movement.

The MIL acquired funds for the solidarity chests and lent its political and technical support to the self-organized groups and the different fighting assemblies that were growing on the ground. It functioned as a network of anti-fascist resistance (the GACs, Groupes Autonomes de Combat – Autonomous Fighting Groups) but it also developed an anti-capitalist praxis tailored to this period: political autonomy for the working class, radical critique and anti-revisionism, against all collaboration with the “democratic” forces that only wanted to shepherd Francoism into a new authoritarian bourgeois regime. The MIL-GAC was destroyed by fierce repression. One of its members, Salvador Puig Antich, was the last political prisoner to be sentenced to death by garrotting (March 2nd 1974). Back in France, Jean-Marc worked to bring together many libertarian and autonomist groups willing to carry out international armed struggle against the dictatorship. Out of this came the GARI (Groupes d’Action Revolutionnaire jmrone (2)Internationalistes – Internationalist Revolutionary Armed Groups) which were active at this time in many European countries. Jean-Marc was arrested in 1974, but when Franco died he was amnestied and released in Spring 1977.

He then started working to bring together the post-May ‘68 autonomist movement with the new expressions of autonomous working class struggle that came out of ’68 and the battles of the late seventies, and which found most of their inspiration in the various Italian theses. He worked to set up underground groups like the Coordinations Autonomes (trans: Autonomous Coordinations) and to generalize actions and resistance. The fruit of this labor was Action Directe (trans: Action Directe), born in early 1978.

NATHALIE MENIGON was born in 1957 in a working class family. In 1975 she began working at a bank, joined the CFDT trade union after a strike. She was then kicked out of natmenthe union and joined the autonomous communist group “Camarades” (trans: Comrades). Like the Italian group Autonomia Operaia (trans: Workers Autonomy), “Camarades” called for anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist social revolt and lent its support to the Italian guerilla movement. Nathalie took part in discussions and demonstrations in the Paris autonomist scene, and at the same time contemplated the necessity of armed combat.

In 1978 she and several comrades, including Jean-Marc, founded the revolutionary communist organization Action Directe. It was about concretely fighting the system and promoting the organization of the working class and its strategy: armed struggle. Both she and Jean-Marc participated in the first action claimed by the group: the machine gunning of the French chamber of commerce on May 1st 1979.

AD launched its first campaign of armed propaganda in Fall 1979. It would last until 1980. From the very beginning AD attacked those places where the State’s most important policies were thought out, decided upon and put into practice. AD chose its targets based on those questions that it described as being decisive at this stage (restructuring of the factories and neighbourhoods; military intervention in Tunisia, Chad and Zaire). More globally, AD was throwing down the red line that it intended to defend to the end: unity of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist struggles. As an example of this unity AD also attacked those involved in the exploitation of immigrant workers, responsible for the conditions they lived in and against which they were struggling.

Nathalie and Jean-Marc were arrested in September 1980 following a firefight with the police. After the election of Mitterand (1981) and the first social democratic government, a political battle erupted in the prisons. Solidarity movements were formed calling for an amnesty of political prisoners and for an end to the special courts. The massive nathaliejeanmarcmobilisation and the contradictions among the new powers led to the release of all communist and anarchist prisoners and the abolition of State Security Court. Jean-Marc was freed in August 1981, Nathalie in September.

Action Directe took action again in November and December of that year. It participated in the occupation of sweatshops in Sentier and buildings in Barbès. Over a hundred mainly Turkish foreign families were thus rehoused. At the same time this campaign was accompanied by several actions and demonstrations against sweatshops and for housing. It was also a matter of supporting Turkish comrades who had fled to France after the US-supported coup d’état in their country in 1980. The reconstruction of underground structures continued on at the same time.

In June 1982 AD led an important mobilization against the G-7 Summit in Versailles. It was a decisive step towards the integration of the imperialist countries along the lines elaborated by the Reagan administration.nathalie

On the last day of the Summit, June 6th, Israel attacked Lebanon. One of the lines of imperialist redeployment was thus illustrated in the most concrete way possible. There followed the invasion of Lebanon by Israeli troops, with all that followed for the Lebanese and Palestinian people. This led to AD reorienting itself towards new targets, claiming responsibility for the machinegunning of the car of the Israeli embassy’s chief of security and a number of actions against Israeli companies. After a massacre-attack against a Jewish restaurant (Goldenberg) on Rosiers street in Paris, the powers that be orchestrated directed a counter-revolutionary propaganda campaign throughout the media. In an interview with the newspaper Libération, Jean-Marc defended the machinegunning of the chief of security and condemned the massacre attacks. At the same time as the Council of Ministers tried to isolate the organization’s militants by ordering the dissolution of Action Directe, a series of raids were carried out against squats and known revolutionaries. Nathalie was still recovering from a serious car accident that had taken place when she was bringing posters against the G-7 Summit back from Brussels. Nevertheless, both she and Jean-Marc went underground.

GEORGES CIPRIANI was born in a working class family in 1950. In the late sixties he worked at the Renault “artillery”, a machine-tool factory. He was working as a cipriani1revolutionary activist in the base committees at “Devil’s Island” (a part of the Renault site at Boulogne-Billancourt) when Pierre Overney, a communist activist, was assassinated by a security guard while passing out pamphlets in front of the factory (February 25th 1972). After the large mobilizations that followed this assassination, Georges left for Germany where he lived for ten years, participating in the anti-imperialist movement there. He took part in the organization’s activities between 1982 and 1987.

Today, Georges is no longer a member of the Action Directe prisoners’ collective. In the summer of 1993 , after years of total and partial solitary confinement, Georges had to be committed to the Villejuif psychiatric hospital. After our two hungerstrikes of several months each, our hungerstrikes of one-in-four weeks from ’91 to ’93 certainly must have contributed to his weakened psyche.

JOËLLE AUBRON: I was born in 1959. My family came from the traditional French joelleaubron1 (2)bourgeoisie, but lived in a working class neighbourhood in Paris. I learned quickly that social equality was just a word engraved over my public school doorways.

The other even more important factor was the renewal of the revolutionary movement that took place in the sixties. Its anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism and anti-revisionism infused the atmosphere of that period.

By the late seventies very radical levels of confrontation had already been tried out and were still taking place, the Black Panther Party in the United States, the guerilla movement in Latin America, the Palestinian struggle… Closer to home, in Italy and Germany other guerillas were hitting the system at the heart of its cities. While there were many different struggles with specific demands, they all existed within a common dynamic against the system. So I lived in squats, in working class neighbourhoods in Paris that were facing real estate development. There was the anti-nuclear demonstration in Malville in the summer of 1977, where a demonstrater was was killed by a cop’s grenade. In October, at the same time in France was getting ready to extradite the lawyer Klaus Croissant to Germany, the RAF prisoners were executed at Stammheim. I was not a member in any group, but at these times I was going to demonstrations armed with molotov cocktails and took part in minor actions (against Equator’s embassy after the bloody repression of sugar workers in Guyagil; the truck that was rigged to look like it PENTAX Imagewas booby-trapped and left in front of the Minister of Justice following the sentencing of revolutionary activists….) Revolutionary violence was integrated into the everyday praxis of activists, guerilla attacks showed us that we too would have to engage in armed struggle in our class warfare, it was a period full of discussion about the armed experiment, specifically the Italian situation.

To give a very short summary, one of the things we discussed was whether or not it was necessary to have a political-military organization. In 1980, even though the autonomist group that I was a part of participated in AD actions and lent our logistical support, its members were not members of Action Directe.

I was arrested with a comrade from AD in 1982 while leaving a place where there were arms. I did not declare myself to be a member of AD. I continued to think about things while in prison. It was a period marked by the cowardice of the French extreme left in general and the inanity of the French autonomist movement in particular. Imperialism advanced in all its splendor: the Israeli intervention in Lebanon, Thatcher in the Malvines, the French bombing of Beeka in Lebanon, Reagan’s attack on Grenada, the mining of Nicaragua’s harbours… The supposedly left-wing French government’s policies joelleaubron3revealed the social-democrats’ submission to the neoliberal line that was dominant around the world. At the same time the former revolutionary movement was going to pieces. On the one hand were those who would jump at any chance of acquiring power, on the other those whose who did nothing but recite the old formulas that left the proletariat just as defenseless against the attacks of the bourgeoisie. I now saw not only the usefulness of armed struggle, but also the necessity of the strategy of having a guerilla organization. Despite this, when I was released from prison in 1984, at first I only engaged in legal activities : support for the organization’s prisoners, book distribution, newspaper. Even though I had decided to get back with AD I did not want to go underground as soon as I got out of prison. It was almost a year later, when the repression was intensifying, that I went underground.

We identify as revolutionary communists. Between 1982 and 1987, the organization developed its actions following two related strategies, the Unity of Revolutuionaries in Western Europe and the Anti-imperialist Front.

“For us, connecting the strategy of the Anti-imperialist Front to the question of capitalist rule in Western Europe and the changes in its power relations meant establishing and actualizing the unity between revolutionary class’s struggle and internationalism, as a living politic.” (4)  This corresponded with the reinvigorated proletarian zuskamtwoInternationalism that had come out of the revolutionary wave of the sixties. It was also based on changes in the system of capital accumulation, which had accelerated since the Versaille Summit. This new take on the anticapitalist struggle was necessary as European integration became an essential terrain of struggle, as important as the local or international terrains.

The West European bloc was both a source of logictical support for the imperialist rollback and a competing pole within the imperialist triad and its adoptation of the new liberal-toyotist model of accumulation. On the other hand, the worlwide threat of war resulting from the militaristic policies of Reagan and his friends underlined the urgent need to build a proletarian front in all the parts of the movement from the guerilla to the neighbourhood groups to the factory cells, with the goals of revolutionary sabotage and construction. At the heart of these factors that carry within them the spark of communism — that movement whose praxis abolishes the existing order of things — the Front embodied the united attack on imperialism’s core policies, not just of the communist forces but of all the revolutuonary and anti-imperialist realities. In January 1985 Action Directe and the RAF issued a joint text, signed by both organizations.

The dozen actions claimed by the organization during its first offensive as a unified West ADLogo3 (2)European guerilla included attacks on NATO structures, arms factories, the nerve centers of conomic and military power, and the assassination of René Audran, the Ministry of Defense’s director of International Affairs, who was thus responsible for French arms sales abroad. In November 1986, at the end of the second offensive, the “Pierre Overney” Commando put an end to Georges Besse’s career.

Today, after ten years of imprisonment, our incarceration is not so much marked by the project of destroying us as by the wish to bury us. Several factors should be noted when analysing this strategic reorientation on the part of the State. First of all, our struggles in prison. The partial success in breaking Georges should also be taken into account along with the continuing weakness of the French revolutionary movement as well as the need to resolve the contradiction between exceptional detention and an official claim that there are no political prisoners.

One way in which the system tries to constantly maintain its legitimacy is by denying the existence of revolutionary prisoners. If things were as they should be no one would know how to resist its judicial or economic laws. “Necessary adaptation to globalization” or building a fortress Europe to protect against “the whole world’s problems”, as barbaric and unjust as they may be in the eyes of the growing number of people who are marginalized, impoverished, deported on charter flights, reduced to begging,… these laws must be respected by those very people who they exploit, oppress and alienate. Erasing the revolutionary prisoners from the picture of contradictions wracking our societies is a central element in the process of preserving this submission to Capital’s prestige.

Our arrests followed many other attacks by the forces if repression. They put an end to Action Directe’s politico-military activity. In the late eighties an undeniable historic break was made. This observation is not at all apocalyptic when understood within our continent’s revolutionary history. What is obviously much more serious are the ADCollage (2)widespread and unreasonable criticisms of the accumulated experience of twenty years of struggle, especially of the guerilla struggle. Instead of a critique of our actual errors, there is only a litany of confusion. Instead of building bridges towards new perspectives it only leads to the liquidation of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist Left in Europe.

We believe that this revolutionary experiment can only be surpassed by a new revolutionary experiment taking into account and distilling the general interests of the entire class. We know on which heritage we ourselves based our search for new pathways. Nothing we see leads us to doubt the maxim “communism or barbarism”, because never before have the “projects” of “capitalism with a human face” seemed more vain. Thus we have no reason to recant. Despite the conditions in which we find ourselves we continue our political work, discussing things with other revolutionary prisoners in writing, participating in a publication (Front), translating discussion texts or actions, especially those regarding the European revolutionary movement….

NOTES

(1) The distinct characteristics of these Special Sections come into play in two ways: a) adguerre (2)First, regardless of where the actions were committed the cases are heard by judges working in a special section of the Public Prosecuter’s department in Paris, the 14th section. b) Secondly, the Assize court jury is made up of “professional jurors”. This means that it is not a “people’s jury” but rather magistrates chosen by those in power, who are supposed to judge according to their “innermost convictions”. Set up in 1986, this special jurisdiction is meant to tie the sentences directly to the level of confrontation while simultaneously depoliticizing them as much as is possible.

(2) Discussions between workers at the factory gates, which included threats and hopes of an action against Besse, were reported in the court records. In a similar vein, there were the union delegates who threatened their bosses that they would end up like Besse, or the poster that appeared that winter with a photo of the new President Director General with a bullseye on his forehead and the words “After Besse whose turn is it?”, also handed out as a tract by the workers at Renault-Vivorde.

(3) This means we are supposed to spend eighteen years in prison. It is only after these eighteen years that our sentence will become a “normal” life sentence with the hope for a possible release. So it is that we could be released after twenty five years of prison.

(4) Trial statement – 1991.

 

 

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ANTI-RACIST ACTION – ON THE PROWL – 1993

… originally published in Arm The Spirit, No. 16, Fall 1993 … republished in Anti-Fa Forum in 1996 … … “documenting the anti-fascist struggle in Toronto a year on from 1992 when Anti-Racist Action was formed to combat a resurgence of fascist growth and activity. As timely as it was then, the document still speaks to the need for building and developing anti-fascist strategies which will adapt to changing circumstances and struggle against fascism ideologically as well as physically” … 

ARA182A (3)

On The Prowl – Notes On Anti-Racist Action And Developing Anti-Fascist Strategies In Toronto

By Lola

The growth of the far right in Toronto is not an new phenomenon. The Heritage Front is not the first Toronto-based fascist group but the most recent example of a movement which dates back to the 1930s: when the Canadian Nazi Party ran candidates in Toronto; when the Balmy Beach Club in the east end of the city was renamed the Swastika Club; when nazi thugs attacked Jewish youth at Christie Pits Park near downtown, youth who defended themselves and their community by physically trouncing the nazi mob. Even the nazis of the 1930s cannot be isolated from the history of racism in Canada – from the genocidal policies used against the First Nations to the history of violent racism directed ARA33 (3)against the African and Asian communities.

This ongoing legacy of racism provides the fertile grounds for the growth of groups like the Heritage Front and Church of the Creator today. It’s the historical context of racism which makes some white people vulnerable to these hateful organizations, and the strong links between groups in Canada, the U.S., Europe and South Africa make the white supremacist movement dangerous to us all.

It is often tempting to ignore neo-nazi organizing and violence. It is sometimes easier to see them as misfits or isolated extremists rather than face the larger problems of widespread racism, homophobia and anti-Semitism in society. But the first step
to confronting hate violence is understanding how racism and prejudice has played a crucial role in the history of Canada, and how the struggles against it – from the time of Columbus to today – must inform and shape both our anti-racist analysis and activism.

Who Are The People In Your Neighbourhood?

Many of us in Ontario see neo-nazi, Ku Klux Klan and other far right organizing as something that happens in the U.S.; or in Alberta, Saskatchewan or Quebec – yet southwestern Ontario is the most active area of organized white supremacy in Canada. The region is perhaps the organizational centre for the Canadian far-right.

The leadership of the local neo-nazi movement is very experienced, many of them having worked with Toronto racist organizations since the 1970s and 1980s. Some have travelled internationally to meet and work with their European and U.S. counterparts. Many have done prison time for “the cause”.

ARA40 (2)The main public figure in Toronto is Wolfgang Droege. Droege has been active in the Canadian far right since the 1970s when he worked in both the Toronto based Western Guard and later with the Canadian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, where he rose to become the number two man in the national organization. Droege is a friend and “racial comrade” of both David Duke, the former KKK leader turned racist politician and U.S. Presidential candidate, and Tom Metzger, leader of the violent California-based White Aryan Resistance (WAR).

The Heritage Front was founded in 1988 when Droege and other white supremacists left the racist Nationalist Party of Canada. The Front bases itself on the National Association for the Advancement of White People, the organization formed by David Duke after leaving the Klan. The NAAWP presented itself not as a white supremacist organization but as a “white separatist” group concerned with “equal rights for whites”.ARA41 (2)

“Equal rights for whites” has become a popular slogan used by the right to justify attacks on the traditional targets of white supremacy. Under this banner, groups such as the Heritage Front denounce women’s rights, non-white immigration, lesbian & gay rights, Native land rights and educational curriculum which stresses anti-racism or tells the history of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust – all of which in their minds adds up to a conspiracy to destroy the white race. Like the NAAWP, the Front hides the blatantly racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric of the past behind rants against immigration laws, crime, lesbian & gay rights, affirmative action, perceived attacks on (their) free speech, anti-racists, etc. in hopes of appealing to existing prejudices in white Canadian society.

The Heritage Front runs a telephone hateline which is used to broadcast verbal attacks ARAphone (2)against the communities which don’t fit into their world vision – communities which in represent just about all of us. It also plays an essential role in recruitment as the initial public contact point for unaffiliated racists and fascists in the region. The Heritage Front also publish a monthly magazine called Upfront which carries articles by both Front members and fascist organizations in the U.S. and Europe. It even boasts a regular column by David Duke. The Front holds several secret rallies a year often featuring prominent KKK and neo-Nazi leaders and Holocaust deniers from the U.S. and Europe. (The meetings are not advertised for fear of a massive anti-racist response, such as that organized by ARA in November 1992 which shut down a HF gathering.)

Despite their claims of merely seeking “free speech” and “open debate”, the Heritage Front has time and time again revealed its true violent nature. In June 1993, three Front members, including Droege and his henchman Pete Mitrevski, were arrested on assault and weapons charges following an attempted assault of anti-racists. (An attempt which sent several fascists to hospital.) The other Front member arrested, Chris Newhook, ha already been convicted and is now serving a 12 month sentence.  Another Front diehard, Elisse Hategan, is facing charges of distributing hate material targeting the Black community.ARA5

Droege himself has already done prison time in the U.S. for his racist activities, including three years for his part in an attempted neo-nazi armed invasion of the island of Dominica, which was intended to establish a base for the international fascist movement. One of Droege’s responsibilities after the invasion was to have been running a cocaine processing plant.

The flip side to the Heritage Front’s “soft” image is the Church of the Creator (COTC), perhaps the most violent neo-Nazi organization in North America. The COTC has chapters in the U.S., Canada, Europe and South Africa and is known for paramilitary
training and using violent attacks as part of its efforts to make the earth a “whites-only” planet.

The “church” part of the organization is based upon the teachings of the millionaire racist and one time Ontario-resident, Ben Klassen (who took the Hitler-thing full circle in August 1993 by committing suicide). Klassen wrote the “White Man’s Bible” which serves as the ideological/”spiritual” basis for COTC. It provides a “religious” excuse for their violence and hatred by teaching that white people alone are made in the image of god and that all other races (or “mud races” as they call them) are inferior.

The Toronto COTC is the organization’s main representative in Canada and among the most important chapters internationally. COTC people from the Toronto/Hamilton area have played major roles in the international leadership and the most popular COTC rock ARA42 (2)band, RaHoWa (short for Racial Holy War), is based here. RaHoWa and other COTC bands are crucial in fundraising for their violent racist activities and in recruiting young people and skinheads as storm troopers. The concerts pump up the bonehead fans with violent hatred and “sieg heils”, often resulting in assaults on the public after the shows let out. In June 1993, Heritage Front skinhead Jason Hoolans brutally assaulted a Tamil man after a RaHoWa gig, leaving the man partially paralysed.

Local COTC boss and RaHoWa “singer” George Burdi (aka Rev. Eric Hawthorne) recently helped found a Detroit-based record label called Resistance Records to make and distribute neo-Nazi recordings across North America and Europe. The label’s first release is a RaHoWa compact disc entitled “Declaration of War”.ARA55 (2)

The Toronto COTC also boasts a Security Legion (or “White Berets”), a group of skinheads who train in martial arts and weapons and provide security for many neo-nazi events in the city. Toronto media recently identified Eric Fischer, a former sergeant in the Canadian Airborne Regiment, as the leader and trainer of the Security Legion. Eric, along with his brother and fellow Security Legions member, Elkar (another Airborne veteran), were arrested during the summer of 1993 with a third COTC bonehead for kidnapping a Heritage Front member, assaulting him, and threatening to kill him by injecting him with window cleaner. Another Security Legions member, Richard Manley, was recently sentenced to nine months in prison for illegal possession of weapons and ammunition. (He’s another Airborne veteran… coincidence???)

The fact that the HF and COTC apparently use different methods does not reflect a split but an attempt to build a broad racist front attracting all manner of potential recruits, from older bigots to younger militants. Not only do Burdi and Droege associate openly, but Burdi is often a prominent figure at Heritage Front rallies, where he either speaks or performs with his band. In April 1993, Burdi appeared with Droege at an Ottawa press conference announcing the launch of the Heritage Front’s Ottawa chapter. It’s
apparent that Burdi (who was arrested for the May 1993 assault of an Ottawa anti-racist) is effectively the number two man in the HF.

The Heritage Front also acts as a front for the movement. As a public organization, unlike the secretive COTC, the Heritage Front is a contact point for newly initiated racists and fascists who can later be directed towards more violent groups.

The primary recruiting ground for both these organizations is young white people. It is from these ranks that the fascists, as they have done in Europe, hope to draw their stormtroopers.  In this effort, local high schools have become one of the major political battle grounds of the 1990s.

On The Prowl

Anti-Racist Action (ARA) formed in the Fall of 1992 to organize a street level presence to ARA20 (2)oppose the growth of the fascist movement in Toronto. The primary impetus came from young people, many of them high school students. Their main objectives were to oppose the neo-nazi presence in both the political and social arenas. The former was to take place in the high schools, where the Heritage Front were and are actively recruiting young people. The latter was to confront them in clubs, bars and other social arenas where skinheads and neo-nazi bands were beginning to build a presence and to physically attack people of colour, anti- racists and punks.

While the focus was clearly on youth organizing, ARA also set about to explore new and creative methods of organizing and to expand the boundaries of the traditional forms of protest in Toronto. The young activists saw the need to challenge what they saw as depressing, disempowering, and ultimately ineffective modes of protest which the left has fallen into. ARA aimed to move away from boring pickets in front of faceless buildings and instead build a militant street level movement to fight grassroots fascism
which would at the same time work in coalition with other groups around broader issues.

Along with the critique of the mobilization strategies of the left, ARA also incorporates an inherent challenge to traditional political dogmas. Distrust of old-style ideological restrictions led to the creation of a political perspective which, in essence, borrows from the best of many traditions. Elements from anarchism, marxism, the German Autonomen, First Nations organizing, and popular culture are synthesized within ARA to create a political perspective which speaks to the people involved and allows the group to look beyond the constraints of any one tradition to attempt to create a new way of working politically.

A central element to the overall ARA approach is the cultivation of an anti-racist/anti-fascist counterculture. This has proceeded primarily through the organizing of regular Rock Against Racism concerts and also weekend parties, as well as the creation of an ARA13ARA “style”. The group also actively circulates buttons and T-shirts [the group’s motto is “On The Prowl” and their logo is a tiger leaping on a swastika]. ARA has recognized that one of the main attractions which the nazis have for young people is the sense of both rebelliousness and community which such organizations provide. The nazis certainly recognize this dynamic, which is why they have put so much effort into developing neo-nazi bands as recruiting instruments. ARA realizes that if it is to be effective politically, it also has to be “hip”.

ARA192A

Few young people are attracted to fascist organizations on the basis of ideology alone. Most are attracted to the cultural scene first, through the music, parties, or friends and only later drawn into the movement and its ideas. Rather than ignore this reality, ARA has actively sought to promote a compelling, vibrant, and fun culture of resistance to attract young people and provide an alternative to the nazis. At the same time, the providing of an active social element to a political organization helps not only to keep activists and others interested but also provides a forum for people to build up the friendship and trust necessary for effective political work.

ARA demonstrations have been more militant and confrontational than has traditionally ARA43 (2)been the case in Toronto. The events have consistently drawn large numbers and their atmosphere of anger and a willingness to meet the fascists face-to-face have both intimidated the neo-nazis while attracting the attention of the police and the press.

For example, a large  and determined demonstration in November 1992 outside a “secret” Heritage Front meeting at the Roma Restaurant caused the police to shut the meeting down. Angry Nazis were forced to flee under police protection while at the same time trying to avoid the hail of eggs thrown at them by the demonstrators.

A January 25, 1993 demonstration called outside a Toronto courthouse was to be a ARA15 (2)pivotal moment in shaping the organization. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has been in the process of hearing a complaint brought by the Native Canadian Centre of
Toronto against the Front’s telephone hotline. An announced fascist march on the courthouse in support of the Heritage Front was met by an ARA demonstration of over 500 people who blocked the main doors to the building.

Rather than take the small contingent of nazis into the courthouse through the back door, the police instead chose to charge the anti-racists from two sides. Mounted police rode into the front line of the demonstration, trampling people and whacking them with ARA44 (2)riding crops, while officers on foot rushed into one side, kicking and punching anti-racists as they did so. The “reason” for the attack was to move the ARA demonstration to allow the nazis to walk past and into the front doors of the court. Several demonstrators required brief hospitalization.

During the media circus which followed, both Police Chief William McCormack and Metro Police Services Board chair Susan Eng admitted in the press that the reason the nazis were not taken in through one of the four alternative entrances was because Droege demanded to be taken in the main doors (which raises the question of who is actually giving the order for police to attack anti- racists?).

Inside the courtroom itself, police continued their attacks by assaulting members of the American Indian Movement who were acting as security for Native Centre ARA45 (2)representative, Rodney Bobiwash. AIM members were thrown to the floor by police and handcuffed after they intervened to protect Bobiwash from an assault by Heritage Front supporters. After the demonstration, two ARA members were arrested on their way home on bogus charges of assaulting police, one for allegedly throwing an egg the other for spitting. (The two anti-fascists, one of whom was a minor at the time of the incident, were eventually convicted of lesser charges and received probation).

The persons targeted for arrest are significant. Both were on the front line of the demonstration and played active roles in repelling the horse charge, and one was also the final public ARA speaker at the demonstration dispersal point.

Despite the police attack and the arrests, most saw the demonstration as a huge success. Not only did anti-racists outnumber the nazis by more than ten to one, but the attack clearly revealed on which side the police stood. The aftermath of the 25th also revealed on which side other anti-racist organizations fall in a crisis.

On January 27th, both the Human Rights League of B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress denounced the demonstration in the media. Karen Mock, national ARA1spokesperson for B’nai Brith, accused ARA of “jumping on a bandwagon and using this high profile anti-racist initiative to attempt to create disorder and take the law in their own hands.”

Gerda Frieberg of the CJC stated that “The Canadian Jewish Congress does not support these kind of actions.” It was clear to some that the self-serving media ploy by B’nai Brith and CJC was intended more to solidify and justify their own close working relationships with police rather than advance the anti-racist movement. Indeed, recent revelations in the U.S. of Anti-Defamation League (B’nai Brith’s U.S. counterpart) collaboration with the San Francisco Police Department in spying on progressive and leftist organizations should certainly make committed anti-racists in Toronto wary of that organization’s true political goals.

The denunciation by these organizations was also significant in that it played directly to the police and media propaganda line of separating “legitimate” anti-racist groups from “illegitimate” ones, thereby hoping to criminalize ARA and justify unprovoked police violence against the demonstration. However, much of that attempt was derailed in the community, if not in the press itself, by the fact that such “legitimate” groups as the Native Canadian Centre and the Montreal-based Canadian Centre on Racism and Prejudice (as well as representatives from the Black community, women’s movement, ARA39 (2)and labour movement) supported ARA completely and publicly denounced the police’s actions.

Although ARA continued to organize actions following the January 25th police attack, including demonstrations against local school teacher Paul Fromm, who has been active in the Toronto Far Right for the past 25 years, the next major event did not occur until June 11th.

Behind The Front

While the Heritage Front and the Church of the Creator maintain publicly that they are not violent groups but are merely interested in open debate on the issues, their behaviour to date quite the opposite. In response to community action on many levels against the HF and COTC, the nazis have slowly been waging an escalating terror campaign against anti-racists. This campaign has primarily manifested itself in patterns of harassment and intimidation, but has recently moved into violent physical attacks.

The campaign began in the fall of 1992. On the night of November 28th, nazis painted ARA52swastikas outside several prominent anti-racist targets in Toronto including the Native Canadian Centre and a socialist bookstore. Other targets hit at that same time which were not mentioned in media reports were KYTES, a community theatre an employment centre in Kensington Market which at that time was serving as ARA’s regular meeting place, as well as the home of an ARA member.

This was followed quite quickly by a campaign of harassing and later threatening phone calls to some ARA members. While several people received calls, the fascists chose to concentrate their efforts against women. This targeting of women has been their pattern since that time, an obvious reflection of their inherent misogyny. While men have received calls, the harassment for the most part has not been of the same violent intensity as that against women and has not continued past a period of two weeks.

One woman was also targeted physically for surveillance, and the nazis placed people in cars outside her home to follow her and track her movements, who she met with, etc. Another woman was the subject of a racist flyer containing attacks against the Black
community while listing her name, address, and phone number as the contact person for the fictitious white supremacist group which claimed authorship of the flyer. The intention was to give the false impression that the anti-racist activist was a nazi and thereby subject her to harassment from members of the community.

These attacks soon escalated from intimidation tactics to physical assault and arson. During the spring a campaign of terror was waged against Youthlink, two shelters for young women. Early in 1993 a Heritage Front member who was a resident of the shelter was ejected by the staff for intimidating other residents by wearing nazi paraphernalia and bringing racist materials into the shelter.ARA53

The nazis responded to this by launching a series of lesbophobic attacks against Youthlink staff on their hotline. A campaign of threatening phone calls and physical surveillance of staff ensued which eventually culminated in an arson attack against
one of the shelters in late March. A staff member was also assaulted in her home by skinheads. During that same period, a member of the Black Action Defence Committee (the main Toronto group organizing against police racism and violence) was attacked
by five nazis one evening after leaving the BADC office.

In our analysis, this slow and deliberate escalation of violence is not haphazard but calculated. The slow escalation has two identifiable goals for the movement. The first is to test the response of police. The nazis need to see how far they can push things before feeling pressure from law enforcement. Thus far, the fascists have received little or no interest from police in regards to these attacks. The Heritage Front is also testing the resolve of anti-racist forces, again to see what the response will be from the left Unfortunately, apart from a few significant solidarity links being made between anti-racist and other community organizations,the response has similarly been quiet.

The second goal for the fascists is simply practice. We know that the nazis engage in various forms of physical and paramilitary training both in the Toronto area and with contacts in the U.S. This slow escalation is allowing their stormtroopers to put their training into practice in increasingly violent scenarios. This again allows the fascists to test their own capabilities and the commitment of different individuals, while also learning and preparing for what they see as the soon to begin Racial Holy War. As the summer grew closer, the nazis began to dramatically increase the level of violence. As mentioned earlier, in April the Heritage Front announced the formation of an Ottawa chapter. The inaugural event of the Ottawa HF was to be a “Rock for Racialism” concert to be held on May 29th featuring Canadian Neo-nazi bands RaHoWa and Aryan.

Anti-racists in Ottawa quickly began to mobilize against the proposed concert, eventually forming a coalition among various groups. ARA was invited to send a delegation from ARA50 (2)Toronto, and about 50 anti-fascists made the trip by bus. Despite gathering a crowd of 600 to confront the nazis, the liberalism and collaboration with police on the part of some of the coalition organizers plagued the action from the start (the specifics of which are discussed later). This conflict between liberal and militant elements among the demonstrators eventually led to a situation where many of the people wanting to confront the Nazis and close down the concert were abandoned by the demo organizers,
resulting in violent attacks on the few local anti-racists left behind at the scene. Skinheads brutally beat several demonstrators, hospitalizing half a dozen. The hundred nazis present then marched on the Canadian Parliament building where leader Droege announced to the “seig heiling” crowd that one day these buildings would be theirs.ARA51 (2)

The Heritage Front and COTC clearly saw the events of May 29th as a victory which provided a major boost to their morale. They crowed about their victory in Ottawa over their hotline for days and there was a marked increase in violent neo-nazi attacks in Toronto, particularly directed against the Tamil community. The week following Ottawa, a Heritage Front skinhead named Jason Hoolans brutally beat a Tamil man outside a Toronto restaurant, resulting in the man’s being hospitalized and partially paralysed. Hoolans was on his way home from a RaHoWa gig in the north of the city when the attack occurred.

Shut ‘Em Down

It was in this context of increasing violence and displays of bravado by the neo-nazis that ARA’s next action took place. A demonstration was called for June 11th to march on a ARA23 (2)neo-Nazi centre of operations. The actual destination of the demo was unknown except to a few ARA organizers. The rationale for the secret destination was a tactical one – if ARA announced the exact destination, the demonstrators would most likely encounter not only a sizeable and armed contingent of skinheads but also an even more sizeable and better armed contingent of police. Rather than tangle with cops on horseback again, ARA chose a different strategy.

Organizers chose as the meeting place a community centre only four blocks south of the home of prominent nazi publisher Ernst Zundel. Zundel’s home is a well known location in the city and, as one of the main suppliers of hate material internationally, his home/office is of major significance to both fascists and anti- fascists. Because of the location of the meeting place, dozens of police gathered outside Zundel’s house (which ARA21 (2)had been covered in plastic by its owner to protect it from the expected onslaught of eggs and paint bombs.) Fifty or more skinheads were also present to “defend Zundel’s house” from anti-fascist attack – an attack which never materialized when, to the surprise and outrage of the cops and nazis, the ARA demonstration piled onto streetcars and headed east to the home of Gary Schipper – the voice of the Heritage Front hateline.

As the phalanx of 300 demonstrators marched up the residential street, ARA marshals passed out information flyers to the participants identifying the still secret site and the reasons for the action. Other ARA people went door-to-door to pass out similar flyers containing Schipper’s photo and address to the residents of the largely immigrant neighbourhood and explain to them the intentions of the demonstration.

After reaching the house, with eggs flying through the air, a dozen or more demonstrators expressed their outrage in a more direct fashion by rushing the house and smashing windows. After the direct action was over, and the speeches had been completed, the demonstration withdrew from the neighbourhood. In one instant, the
fight had been taken right to the nazis’ door in a way that had not occurred anywhere else in Canada. The implications for the fascists were clear – we knew who they were, we knew their faces, we knew where they lived and where they met, and we would not be
intimidated by their violence.

ARA25 (2)

A controlled expression of community anger had been accomplished, one which made that anger and resolve clear in a direct and militant fashion, yet one so controlled and disciplined on the part of demonstrators that no other residents’ property was damaged. No parked cars were touched, no other homes were touched, no gardens were trampled – only one building was the target, and that target was identified and dealt with. Because the Zundel bluff was so effective, no nazis were there and so few cops that the demonstrators were allowed to enter and leave the neighbourhood without incident (Except for Heritage Front leader Wolfgang Droege appearing in his car with 5 skinheads to verbally threaten demonstrators waiting to disperse afterwards. Mr. Droege received
a smashed windshield for his efforts and his small gang quickly sped away.)

Late that evening – in a poorly planned and executed attempt at retaliation – a gang of ARA24 (2)thirty skinheads armed with baseball bats converged on a popular club frequented by ARA people and other anti-racists. The location was doubly significant in that the club
itself had been a popular nazi hang-out until they were driven out by local anti-racists a few months earlier.

Despite being outnumbered three to one, the few anti-racists present defended themselves and chased the skinheads out.  Several nazis, including leader Droege, were beaten and hospitalized. Droege was later to be arrested and charged with aggravated assault on one of two anti-racists seriously injured. Also arrested that night was another Heritage Front leader named Pete Mitrevski and a skinhead named Chris Newhook. Newhook has since been convicted of assaulting police and possession of a dangerous weapon (a baseball bat with “SS” carved into it) and was sentenced to twelve months.

The response to the events of June 11th was swift from all directions. The media, as could be expected, had a field day condemning ARA as terrorists adopting the same tactics as the fascists, etc, etc. However, what separated this action from January 25th, at least in the media, was that no non-governmental anti-racist organization dared publicly denounce ARA or the June 11th action. While this did not stop various columnists from
venting their misplaced moral outrage for several weeks following the demo, it did make the criticisms ring quite hollow when even the most conservative of anti-racist groups would not join the reporters’ crusade.

ARA28 (2)

A sampling of the public comments by other anti-racists went:

“Extreme…but justified” – Dudley Laws, Black Action Defense
Committee

“The problem is…the police and the attorney general’s office have not been co-operating They have not used legislation as a means to stop the hate-mongering. Young people…understandably get very frustrated and wrongly take the law into their own hands. I really hold the people who are in the position of authority responsible at this point because they have chosen to do nothing [about hate crimes].” – Bernie Farber, Canadian Jewish Congress

“If the rallying cry for all anti-racists is “Never Again” then no one is pressing this at the moment any more than activist groups such as ARA. If Canadian governmental authority proves to be as incapable in stemming racially motivated crime and fascist political ARA25 (3)organization as the German governments of the 1930s and today, then the unthinkable resurgence of organized Naziism may be literally at our doorstep. The unfortunate excesses of the June 11th rally may be cause for some concern, but it does not begin to
compare in significance or gravity with such an eventuality.” – Roger Hollander, Metro Councillor

“It is the Heritage Front, Church of the Creator and other racist groups that have carried on a violent campaign of intimidation over the last several months – all the while proclaiming their virtue….Anti-racists are responding to a wave of violence created
by racists.  While the merits and demerits of property damage can be debated, it is far from the deadly and physical violence of the Front.” – Rodney Bobiwash, Klanbusters

It was interesting in that the most vociferous opposition and denunciation of ARA after June 11th came from more progressive sectors of the community, mainly revolving (whether admitted or not) around the question of militancy.

This kind of criticism is an unfortunate tradition of the North American left. It seems that all too many are comfortable in supporting militancy everywhere but their own backyards. This tendency was certainly obvious in the response of the left to the
development of armed organizations in the U.S. and Canada during the 1970s and 1980s. ARA17 (2)(See Ward Churchill’s essay “Pacifism as Pathology” in Issues in Radical Therapy for an excellent analysis of this phenomenon.) Indeed, it seems pathetic commentary on the Canadian left (and on the level of self-policing done by Canadian progressive movements) that a bit of egg throwing and a few broken windows are seen as acts of violence. As was said to one ARA critic by a South Asian comrade, “It’s only within the confines set by the white Canadian left that June 11th can be seen as a violent
demonstration.”

The unfortunate fact is that for most leftists in Canada, demonstrations have become social events. They are forums for people to come together, meet their friends, chat while the speeches are going on and then leave in groups for the nearest bar after (and often before) the demo has finished. ARA’s demonstrations consciously challenge this comfortable norm by being actively confrontational.

ARA recognizes that doing anti-fascist work is unlike most other political struggles in the Canadian context (outside of Native Territory) in that there is a very real element of physical retaliation – in this case by nazis. Rather than choose the easy path of staging irrelevant picket lines which present no threat to fascist organizing, ARA chooses to take the fight right to the nazis – in the schools, in nazi socializing places, at their meetings, at their homes. Because of this strategy, ARA demonstrations cannot be social event because of the need for the security.

Unlike any other organizations in the city, ARA demonstrators march in ranks with their arms linked to help strengthen the formation and ensure that there are no people left ARA34isolated and vulnerable – to police intimidation, arrest, nazi attack, or fascist surveillance. ARA also takes a defensive marshalling strategy. While most Canadian demonstrations have marshals in place to protect property from demonstrators so that their cause is not “discredited” by the actions of some “unruly elements”, ARA’s marshals are there to protect the body of the demonstration against attack – whether that comes from the nazis or police. The marshals are also there to prevent surveillance from fascists (who, as elsewhere, like to show up and videotape and photograph anti-racists).

Some critics denounced ARA for allowing such expressions of militancy to occur at all – for not holding back activists who felt the need to take more direct forms of action. In a community statement issued by ARA to respond to such critiques it was stated:

“During the demonstration, some anti-racist protestors struck back against Gary Schipper and the Heritage Front. Paint bombs and rocks were thrown at his residence and windows were broken. Although these acts of vandalism were not planned by ARA, our group allows people to express their anger against fascism and white supremacy as they see fit. We do not police anti-racists.”

In the aftermath of the demonstration, four anti-racists were arrested on charges of mischief to property and disguising with the intention of committing an indictable ARA57 (2)offense. The arrests of the four did not occur on the site of the demonstration but happened arbitrarily over the ensuing two weeks. One woman was arrested at a local radio station after representing ARA on a call-in show. Two others were picked-up while attending a subsequent anti-racist demonstration. Despite being arrested on different dates and in different parts of the city, all four were picked up by the same two undercover officers, indicating a coordinated police effort to identify and target ARA activists.

The bail conditions imposed on the four were clearly politically motivated and intended to curtail their anti-racist activism. The initial conditions (most of which have since been
changed through legal challenges) included non-association with other members of ARA; barring from attendance at ARA or other anti- racist meetings; and barring from attendance at any demonstration in the entire province of Ontario. These conditions are more restrictive than those given to Heritage Front and COTC members charged with aggravated assault, forcible confinement and weapons offenses.

The action against Schipper’s house on June 11th occurred as a direct response to an escalation of fascist violence and public organizing. As such, the action succeeded in accomplishing several goals, both through the demo itself and the resulting nazi tactical
mistake made in response – namely attempting the mass assault against ARA people later that evening. The assault attempt failed miserably on two levels: 1) the fascists were humiliated in their attempt to boost morale and look tough after being fooled by aARA59 (2)
classic “bait and switch” and 2) it resulted in the arrests of two key Front leaders. The main effects of the day’s events was to force the nazis to turn their organizing inward rather than towards expansion. Planned summer recruiting drives were put on hold due to the legal restrictions placed on some of their key activists following their arrests. Funding for a planned national summer tour by RaHoWa and the opening of a public office space was eaten up by bail costs and lawyer fees.

Despite the critiques of some about June 11th action, this single event and its aftermath was responsible for the significant decrease in fascist activity and violence during the past four months.

Policing The Crisis?

As always, the role of the police and the intervention of state agencies within a political struggle is multi-faceted and often difficult to negotiate both internally and externally in the broader movement. This is no less true in anti-fascist organizing in Toronto. An analysis of the police approach to the movements, both racist and anti-racist, is essential to begin to develop effective strategies.

ARA38 (2)While the problem of police interference in political organizing is not a new one, it must be understood that the police play a particular dynamic within the context of anti-fascist work which is quite different than in other struggles. This is because in other progressive or radical movements, the question of involving the police as a potential “ally” within the struggle is non-existent. Whether it is organizing around such issues of institutionalized racism, sexism, and homophobia or domestic and foreign policies of the Canadian government, it is clearly recognized that the police as an institution play no potential positive role in advancing the cause.

This is unfortunately not the case with anti-fascist organizing. The activities of neo-nazi groups are by definition violent, whether through actual physical attacks or by the implied threat which their presence presents to those communities which have historically been targets of fascism. Their organizing also involves illegal activities, from relatively minor incidents of vandalism to more serious acts of violence including assault, arson, paramilitary training and murder. Because of this reality, many anti-racists see the police as an option against neo-nazis.

This double vision with regards to the police is both problematic and dangerous. While most are quick to recognize police violence and direct hostility, as was demonstrated during the demonstration on January 25th (with the exception elements of the “legitimate” and conservative anti-racist movement), there remains a strong trend which looks towards legal “remedies” for white supremacy. This trend takes the form not only of desires for stronger laws against hate group activities, but in particular looking towards police for protection.

The willingness to look to police as a strategy usually falls along clear lines of race and class. Certainly those individuals and communities who have not traditionally suffered at the hands of police are more likely to view them as “protectors” rather than ARA58 (2)oppressors. Therefore it has usually been the anti-racist groups representing these privileged interests which have been urging residents to call police when they encounter racist activity in their community. One Ontario government anti-racism organization
has even gone so far as to publish a pamphlet which argues the “call police” strategy while printing on the cover a photo of ARA’s January 25th demonstration (without permission, I might add) where mounted police attacked anti-racists to protect neo-nazis.

However, one need only look at the police’s attitudes and actions to date to see quite clearly that they are much more interested in attacking and criminalizing anti-racists than they are neo-nazis. While the mounted police attack against ARA and police assault of AIM members on January 25th is the most blatant example of this, we can go further in revealing the clear pattern of police indifference to fascist attacks.

The most obvious aspect of the police approach is the clear double-standard used in investigating nazis and anti-racists. The police have demonstrated time and time again ARA58 (3)their desire to shelter Wolfgang Droege and the Heritage Front as an organization
from the supposedly “random” and “unconnected” acts of their supporters. In the two most violent incidents to date, the 1992 bombing of the Toronto Morgentaler abortion clinic and the 1993 firebombing of Youthlink, the police have allowed Droege’s denials
of HF involvement to stand at face value.

In the Morgentaller case, neo-nazi graffiti stating “Peace, Love & White Power” along with the Heritage Front’s telephone number was painted on a large wall directly across the street from the bombed clinic. The graffiti was done sometime between 1:00am and 4:00am (the approximate time of the blast) on the night of the bombing. The connection to most would seem quite clear. However, the media revealed that police investigators interviewed Droege and essentially accepted his claim that the Heritage Front was not
involved.

Over a year later, police have still not made any arrests despite admitting in the press that the perpetrators were videotaped by the clinic’s security system. Certainly the history of state and police attacks against the left reveals that a similar set of ARA61 (2)circumstances involving a right-wing or government target would have resulted in mass repression. In that case, it seems that if Droege were a leftist he would have been answering questions from a jail cell, assumed guilty until proven innocent.  In a similar manner, Droege was allowed to shrug off any involvement or responsibility for the arson attack at Youthlink. While admitting to a Toronto magazine that the Heritage Front did wage a lesbophobic campaign against the shelter on their hotline, he says that his group had no hand in nor responsibility for the attack. Again this claim to be “uninvolved” has apparently been accepted by the police, who are choosing to ignore a months long, sophisticated and coordinated campaign of harassment and surveillance of the shelter and its employees. This clearly was not the work of a “lone nut”, and the police’s apparent readiness to accept it as such is yet another demonstration of their unwillingness to go after the fascists as organizations but instead to individualize attacks which are clearly coordinated. Police have even refused to fully investigate the assaulting of a Youthlink staffer by skinheads, choosing instead to charge the woman herself for filing a false complaint!

In each case, “investigators” seem unwilling or uninterested in uncovering connections ARA64 (2)and links to the Heritage Front or other organizations, but prefer to operate on the basis that the perpetrator is acted in isolation. Yet, at the same time as they shrug off interest in the hierarchy and organizational structure of the Right, the police seem quite interested in identifying such areas in the anti-racist movement.

In fact, instead of being committed to prosecuting neo-nazis, it has been the pattern to date that the police have a much greater interest in investigating ARA. The placement (and later expulsion) of a known agent provocateur early in the organization’s life was one indication of state intentions towards the group (a provocateur who now spends his time spreading accusations of homophobia and queer-bashing against ARA in an attempt to drive wedges between the group and the lesbian and gay community, a community from which ARA has drawn some of its strongest participation and support). Subsequent events involving the actual prosecution of a high profile Heritage Front spokesperson have been even more revealing. This case has demonstrated concretely that any move by anti-racists to lay charges or make reports to police merely opens the door for police intelligence gathering on the organization and its membership.ARA63 (2)

Elisse Hategan (aka Deschner) faces trail in June 1993 on charges of inflammatory libel against a local anti-racist and distributing hate literature. She is being accused of distributing the earlier mentioned racist flyer intended to paint an anti-racist activist as a nazi. Interestingly, the police “investigation” of Hategan, as evidenced through their interviews of other anti-racists called as witnesses in the case, has consisted primarily of police attempts to obtain the names of other anti-racist activists and trace structures and chains of communication within the movement. [Editor’s Note: Hategan’s trial was moved to November 1993 and at that time it was revealed that she had left the Heritage Front and was giving information about that organization to anti-racist groups. She will also testify against HF members in some of their upcoming trials.]

The case itself provides an ideal cover for such a ruse, for it gives the police authority to subpoena anti-racists and interview them about their work while hiding such probing behind the facade of “prosecuting hate crimes”. In fact, it is the suspicion of many that the recent creation of the much publicized “Hate Crimes Unit” within the Metro Police is in itself nothing more than a cover to gather intelligence on the anti-racist movement.

ARA62 (2)Hategan has been allowed to associate with known members of the Heritage Front in direct contravention of her bail conditions. In fact, in one incident she appeared at an ARA demonstration in a car with known leaders of the Heritage Front and COTC. This situation was immediately noticed by Rodney Bobiwash of the Native Centre. Knowing that the violation should immediately result in her re-arrest and revocation of bail, he notified the officer commanding the police presence at the demonstration, who replied “I don’t care.” This incident speaks volumes to the reluctance of the police to truly prosecute neo-nazis and to the illegitimacy of the police investigation against Hategan.

The interviewing and subpoenaing of activists continues despite that fact that Hategan has apparently admitted to distributing the flyer and will presumably pursue a defence based on freedom of speech. It is also significant that by calling anti-racists as witnesses, and thereby revealing their identities to the court and to the nazis, the police are knowingly opening up these individuals for harassment. The conjecture is that such a decision is calculated to place these individuals in jeopardy so that the police can 1 gather intelligence on the fascists by using the anti-racists as “bait”, and 2) hope that individuals will turn to the police for protection, thereby creating an opportunity for
further intelligence gathering on the anti-racist movement.

These suspicions were reinforced during the pre-trial hearing in October when Hategan’s attorney cross examined of one of the anti-racist witnesses. Lawyer Harry Doan (who is defending most of the nazis facing charges in the city) spent most of his time asking questions about ARA’s organizing – the names of activists, the names of the organizers of the January 25th and June 11th demonstrations, etc. While obviously unrelated to the charges against Hategan, the Crown prosecutor did not object to this line
of questioning. The witness was unable to provide Doan with the information he wanted.

ARA65 (2)

Unfortunately, the unwillingness of some to see use of the police as being at best a tactical decision in certain situations rather than a parental-type figure to protect us from bullies is problematic and dangerous. Indeed, people who will go to the police out of trust and reformist beliefs in the system are dangerous for any radical organization which constitutes itself in opposition to that very system. These are often the people who will, perhaps unwittingly, do the job of the police by speaking openly about membership and strategies in some misguided sense that the police, while problematic on some levels, are allies against the nazis. The evidence to date shows us exactly the opposite.

When Opportunism Knocks

Because of the early successes of ARA, the organization inevitably sparked the interest of various Trotskyist and Marxist-Leninist political parties who began to flock to ARA like ARA54moths to a bright light. Unfortunately, it soon became obvious that most were involved not to work honestly against the neo-nazi presence in Toronto but instead to forward the goals of their own organizations.

As has been the experience of many groups who have tried to do political work around various issues, the presence of these party organizations soon becomes an obstacle to building the organization as a whole. The International Socialists in particular played a prominent role in opposing every demonstration (except one) that was ever undertaken by ARA against the far right, while at the same time trying to push through their own proposals which better suited the ends of their party. This behaviour was later discovered to be in keeping with their own political mandate to provide “revolutionary leadership” to organizations of “movementists”, who while presumably understanding their own issue, did not have the same vision and understanding of the party on how to defeat the state.

Eventually, after several months of attempting to work in good faith, the International Socialists were voted out of ARA by a 2/3 majority of ARA members. This had the result of causing all the other Troskyist and Marxist-Leninist parties to leave the group en masse in support of the I.S. While this on the whole was positive in that it saved ARA the similarly obstructionist and opportunist behaviour of the other groups, such as the ARA302ATrotskyist League and the Bolshevik Tendency, it also caused the loss of a few individual
comrades who had risen above their party’s dogma to do principled and solid work within ARA.

I.S. attempts to denounce ARA did not cease after their expulsion, but continue in various forms. During the Ottawa demonstration in May, it was the I.S. contingent who actively collaborated with the police against militant demonstrators. I.S. marshals tipped off the cops to an attempt by ARA and other anti-racists to rush past police lines to get closer to the building where the nazi concert was being held. This tip off resulted in many of those demonstrators on the front lines being hit with pepper spray by police.

Later the I.S. marshals purposefully split the demonstration by declaring “victory” because the cops told them that the concert was going to be shut down. This declaration over the megaphones, coupled with the herding of the participants by I.S. marshals, caused more than half of the demonstrators to leave the site. Many anti-racists refused to acknowledge that any such victory existed when the sounds of the nazi bands playing could clearly be heard even outside the building. This cowardly decision to split the demonstration (and the fact that the ARA contingent of 50 who had stayed behind at the site were forced to leave at 11:00pm to catch the bus back to Toronto) left the few dedicated Ottawa activists vulnerable to the brutal skinhead attack which followed.

Before the June 11th demonstration, the I.S. had made plans to cause a disturbance at the ARA66 (2)gathering site by demanding that ARA organizers reveal the secret destination of the demonstration (this despite the fact that all the advertising for the action made it clear that, while the demonstration would be going to a neo-Nazi centre of operations, the actual destination would not be known until the group arrived there). After the demonstration, in a move reminiscent of COINTELPRO-style tactics, the I.S. took part in drafting a letter condemning ARA for the “violence” of the June 11th action – a letter to which they signed the names of several organizations who, upon being contacted by ARA, had never heard of such a letter and who did not support the statements within it.

Unfortunately, it was not only groups within ARA who have demonstrated similar opportunist and patronizing attitudes towards the organization. While some in the broader left see the formation and effectiveness of ARA as a positive development, at the same time they dismiss the relevancy of anti-fascist work and maintain that ARA should be focusing on “more important” issues, which themselves vary depending upon the personal political priorities of the person being critical.

This attitude was also the basis for much of the internal problems with the International Socialists and others, who saw broader organizing against the police and the racist policies of the state as being the priority. It is unfortunate that in this way some of the most damaging attacks against the nascent anti-fascist movement have come not from the traditional enemies in the state and on the Right, but from the left itself – many more concerned with maintaining a level of “revolutionary chic” rather than doing the work necessary to forge grassroots political movements.ARA12

It is the position of many radicals that anti-fascist work is in itself irrelevant because of the relative lack of power and numbers which the neo-nazi movement commands in Canada at this time. These comrades see state and police racism as the arenas where opposition should be directed, and that “chasing nazis” is an exercise in irrelevancy However well intended, and correct as far as its analysis of institutionalized racism, this perspective is at its base short-sighted and self-defeating.

It is argued that without the sea of mainstream racism in which to swim, that fascists and fascist movements cannot survive. Therefore, the conclusion becomes that doing work against neo-nazis is beginning at the wrong end of the problem. Again, this is a
compelling argument in isolation, particularly because it is theoretically accurate. However, theoretical accuracy does not always lend itself to practical and effective political action. As was stated by Italian anti-fascist Errico Malatesta in early part
of the century, “The optimum is the enemy of the good” – the never- ending search for the perfect political action all too often serves as an excuse for doing nothing at all. Indeed, if the anti-racist movement in Toronto cannot strategize and mobilize effectively enough to eliminate a couple of hundred nazis, how can we realistically expect to be able to defeat racist immigration laws and police violence and other institutional monoliths?

Unfortunately, much of this criticism fails to learn from history, even recent history. As ARA2was pointed out by a Sri Lankan comrade who spent a year in Germany as a refugee in the late 1980s, the German left chose to ignore the neo-nazi movement at a moment when it was relatively small. At a time when 100,000 people would come out to a disarmament demonstration, little or no attention was being given to the “insignificant” fascist problem. Five years later, we see the terrifying results of allowing that movement to grow unopposed. Events such as Rostock, murderous and violent attacks on refugees and guest workers, and the assassination of anti-fascists are not spontaneous, but are the culmination of years of unhindered organizing. Unfortunately much of the left in Canada has chosen to ignore this lesson.

While we can take all the time we want to formulate the perfect political line and theorize the precise political moment to act, in the meantime what work has been done towards building the movements that will presumably act at that moment? Political process, political experience, and resolve to struggle come only through work, and unfortunately discussion is no substitute for action. How do we expect to inspire people after more than a decade of stunning and crushing defeats for progressive and revolutionary movements around the world?

It has to be understood that broad-based and effective political movements do not appear spontaneously, but are the result of years of struggle. This work, if it is to beARA16 (2) realistic and successful, must begin by setting upon manageable goals and taking small victories where they can be won. It is out of the crucible of small victories – which provide experience and inspiration to a movement – that larger victories are possible.

Race And Resistance

An underlying basis for much of the criticism is the fact that ARA, with notable exceptions, is comprised primarily by white, working class youth. Criticism comes from both radicals of colour, who are sceptical of white radical organizations, and from other
white radicals, who essentially believe that white people have no place initiating anti-racist work.

Both criticisms are a concern if we truly hope to forge working links against racism in society. The first criticism is certainly legitimate given the history of much of the white left in North America and Europe with replicating systems of racism and class privilege within their organizing. Indeed these problems were a significant contributor to the downfall of radical white movements in the 1960s and 1970s.

These concerns cannot be ignored, yet can be overcome through consistent and principled work, an openness to constructive criticism from people of colour, and ARA67 (2)willingness to create political alliances not based on an ill-considered integrationist approach. Ultimately this scepticism, if accepted as being legitimate and worked on in good faith, can provide the basis for a politically stronger and mutually respectful relationship, and therefore the foundations for an effective broad-based movement.

It will be the links with radicals of colour, built upon respect gained from a history of principled political work, which can prove to be the strongest and therefore most reliable in a crisis. It has been the demand of some Trotskyist/Marxist-Leninist parties involved with ARA that the organization go out and recruit people of colour to lead the organization. However, this appeal to recruitment and “building a party” is in itself both self-serving and opportunistic. The way to attract more people of colour to the organization, which is indeed a critical and significant goal, must be accomplished through principled political work and an honesty about motivation. People who come into any political organization must be there because they see opportunity, promise, and the possibilities of doing effective work in that organization.

Indeed, merely recruiting people of colour into an organization is a eurocentric, tokenistic approach which ultimately replicates systems of racism in the broader society. Recruitment not only contains an implied hierarchy but also a passivity on the part of those being recruited, which often results in the involvement of people who will be ARA68 (2)amenable to the party platform, rather than those who want to come in and challenge it for the better. It seems that the latter is always preferable if an organization in sincere about building itself politically and personally. A predominantly white anti-racist group must always willing to challenge itself on its own racism, and a recruitment based party politic is not an effective means of doing that.

The second criticism is a concern only as much as it is centred in what is essentially a guilt-based politic. For white people to simply defer to people of colour to initiate action
around issues of racism is to fundamentally deny both individual and collective historical responsibility for oppression. The effective way to take responsibility for racism is not to sit around and feel guilty and do nothing, but to work against racism
in the white community. As former Black Panther Party leader Dhoruba Bin Wahad stated in a lecture in Toronto, “Racism is not a problem Black people have. It’s a problem that white people have.”

In fact, this is why the make-up of ARA should be seen as an advantage rather than a detriment. While older white leftists may not see the relevancy of white youth, the fascists certainly do and have made the high schools a major political battle ground. The
fact that youth of all races are alienated and ignored by society is well accepted, yet until recently it was only the nazis who were capitalizing on this disenchantment to recruit ARA69 (2)among young white people. Many white radicals have chosen to ignore some of the most important lessons on the role of white people in anti-racist work as articulated by some of the most militant and articulate Black leaders, such as Assata Shakur and Angela Davis.

Such a role was articulated by Kwame Ture and Charles V. Hamilton in their book “Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America:

“One of the most disturbing things about almost all white supporters has been that they are reluctant to go into their own communities – which is where racism exists – and work to get rid of it… It is hoped that eventually there will be a coalition of poor Blacks and poor whites… creating a poor-white power block dedicated to the goals of a free, open society – not one based on racism and subordination… The main responsibility of this task falls upon whites… Poor white people are becoming more hostile – not less – toward Black people, partly because they see the nation’s attention focused on Black poverty and few, if any, people coming to them… Only whites can mobilize and organize those communities along the lines necessary and possible for effective alliances with Black
communities… If the job is to be done, there must be new forms created. Thus, the political modernization process must involve the white community as well as the Black.

The fact that intelligent, articulate and radical young people are working against the ARA70 (2)recruitment in their schools, and using the nazi presence as an opportunity to get their peers involved and politically educated around broader issues of racism and oppression should be supported rather than criticised. That fact that many bring with them a distrust and disenchantment with “traditional” forms of protest and modes of political organizing is also instructional to those willing to listen and learn. Unfortunately the distrust of Leninist party organizing, disdain for meaningless picketlines in front of faceless buildings, and desire to incorporate cultural elements of resistance into political work are challenges to the current leftist hierarchies in the city, and many choose to dismiss ARA based upon the threat which such a erspective poses to their own relative positions of authority. Far to many leftists see young people as cannon fodder, or sheep to be herded in particular directions, rather than as equal partners in political struggle who bring much needed critique, analysis and enthusiasm to the work.

In their argument against doing anti-nazi work, these critics also misunderstand some of the most basic principles of political organizing. It must be recognized that people are not effectively organized out of guilt but out of recognition of their own interest in change. Again to quote Ture and Hamilton, we must move beyond the false “assumption that political coalitions can be sustained on a moral, friendly, sentimental basis; by appeals to conscience.” Such an approach does nothing to expose and identify structures of privilege, and can all too easily lead to political dissolution. To Ture and Hamilton viable political coalitions stem from “the recognition of the parties involved of their respective self-interests…[and]…the mutual belief that each party stands to benefit in terms of that self-interest from allying with the other or others.”…

Young white people are at this time facing recruitment by Nazi groups, dealing with nazi gangs in their schools and socializing places, and seeing their friends, white and non-ARA71white, being attacked by skinheads. Therefore, anti-nazi organizing speaks directly to their experiences and political needs. Obviously, political education and activism cannot stop with concern over one’s own needs, but it has to start there. The birth of ARA provides the opportunity to involve a new generation of activists in anti-racist work and in radical political organizing. It provides the political support for white working class youth to organize themselves around issues of racism and oppression, which presents the opportunity of radicalizing a generation of activists. This is the promise of groups such as ARA, and the long term vision which many of its critics on the left are unwilling to see.

Moving The Movement

The terrain for developing action against the far right is a constantly changing one. The constraints at this point in time are wholly different than they were in the fall of 1992, and the movement must take this into account if it is to continue to grow and be successful. Actions which were possible during the initial phase of ARA activity are more difficult or impossible to organize successfully today. This is primarily the result of preparedness on the part of the fascists. We have to remember that before the Roma demo, the nazis had not experienced a street level response of any magnitude or ARA73 (2)intensity. This led them to a feeling of security in regards to their activity vis a vis general meetings. While expecting some degree of infiltration perhaps, they were not ready for a militant presence of several hundred to converge on their meeting place.

It was the very fact that they were not expecting nor prepared for such a response that in many ways made a successful demonstration possible. The Heritage Front at that time was less secure with information regarding time and place for their meetings, allowing the date and time of the meeting to be disseminated several days before the meeting and the location to be given to their members as much as twenty-four hours beforehand. This time frame allowed ARA to receive the information in enough time to distribute posters and organize demonstrations.

Subsequent to the Roma demonstration, the Heritage Front has kept meeting details secret until as little as a few hours before the meeting, then notifying their supporters via telephone. With this new security practice, the HF has significantly curtailed the ability of anti-racists to mobilize in sufficient numbers to again confront them at their meetings. This fact highlights two specific needs for ARA’s continued viability: 1) differentiation of tactics, and 2) the need for better intelligence.ARA74 (2)

ARA needs to again be creative in its approach to mobilizing against the fascists. To maintain an approach based solely around mass demonstrations is obviously destructive at a moment when the nazis, through their own security measures, have effectively shut
off much of that opportunity. One of the advantages which ARA has always had contributing to the militancy and excitement around their demonstrations is the existence of a visible and identifiable enemy. The best ARA actions to date have come when anti-racists were actually facing down nazis in the streets. However, if the fascists can effectively conceal their gatherings, then the opportunity to go face-to-face with them is gone. The element of surprise, of agency, goes from the anti-racists to the racists, who will be the ones determining when and where they will gather publicly and will therefore be expecting confrontation (as well as police protection).

If the chance of going head-to-head is diminished if not lost, then an over-emphasis on mass mobilization will force ARA back onto the path of demonstrating in front of faceless targets, exactly the thing to which the organization worked to develop alternatives. Necessity, then, demands creativity, and the need to devise strategies for both gathering better intelligence and staging effective actions using smaller numbers.

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The most important work to be done, however, lies not within the right but within the left. Unfortunately, it is the left at this moment which poses the major obstacle to the growth of an effective anti-racist movement. The institutionalization of progressive Canadian politics and the visible disdain for the work of ARA and other anti-fascist organizations needs to be addressed openly. The left has to begin to move from its current position of attempting to organize along ideological lines, and instead return
to a grassroots approach which speaks directly to people’s experiences.

We are unfortunately at a political moment when the only people doing real grassroots organizing, particularly in the white community, are the fascists. They are the ones in the trenches, in the schools and workplaces, and they are capitalizing on institutional white supremacy to organize a growing, well-funded, internationally coordinated, and violent racist movement.

While defeating the neo-nazi movement in Canada is a relatively small task in comparison to defeating institutionalized white supremacy, it is one which is crucial to address at this moment. The work of ARA in particular provides a basis from which many bigger things can emerge. The opportunity to involve young people in political organizing, particularly in a struggle which can show concrete short term gains and can and will inevitably be successful, can provide the inspiration and experience necessary to wage broader and longer term struggles.

ARA14 (2)

 

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TORONTO ANTI-RACIST ACTION / JUNE 11, 1993

ARA192A

… back in  1993, Toronto Anti-Racist Action stated, in a flyer printed up and handed out prior to the now infamous June 11 action, that:

“Fascist groups in Toronto have escalated their use of violence and intimidation tactics. ARA21 (2)They are testing how much the community will let them get away with. Now that Anti-Racist Action and other groups have proven we can shut down their meeting and far outnumber them on the streets, they have resorted to more secret organizing tactics. But we aren’t going to let them carry out and escalate their violent activities. We have to respond to their terror.

On June 11, we will take the fight to them. We will demonstrate outside a Nazi centre of operation. Their ability to carry out hate crimes from the safety of these headquarters without their neighbour’s knowledge is what gives them the nerve to further terrorize Toronto communities and spread hate literature internationally.

In order to prevent Nazi attacks on our march, we are not divulging the location in advance. This action will be self-controlled and the safety of anti-racists will be our top priority. Please join us. We have learned from history that fascism doesn’t disappear by just wishing it away. It must be confronted by an overwhelming majority of people standing up and refusing to allow it to grow.

We can prevent fascism from taking root in this country, but we must act before it is too late.”

… what follows is a bit  of the documentation /  debate around this action, which saw ARA nicely deke out the Heritage Front by taking the fight not to (as was expected by the cops and nazis) Ernst Zundel’s bunker but rather to the home of Gary “the voice of the Heritage Front”Schipper … some damage was done, some displeasure was voiced and, later, some arrests were made …

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Anti-Racist Mob Trashes Home

Toronto Star / June 12, 1993

A frenzied mob of more than 200 anti-racist demonstrators rampaged in east end Toronto last night, vandalizing the home of a well-known white supremacist as police watched

 ara29 (2)None of the screaming demonstrators was arrested after smoke bombs, rocks, paint, human excrement and even a child’s bicycle were thrown through the windows of the Bertmount Ave. home of Gary Schipper.

Schipper, who operates the Heritage Front Hotline, a white supremacist telephone information line, appeared shaken when he arrived at his rented house, south of Dundas St. E., east of Carlaw Ave., only moments after the throng left.

Demonstrators said he had been singled out because he is a “Nazi hatemonger.” The Heritage Front Hotline has been the target of complaints to the Ontario Human Rights Commission over the past several years.

“This doesn’t surprise me,” Schipper said as he grimly surveyed the smashed glass and spattered pink paint on his front porch.

“These anti-racists are terrorists. They are very violent people. I think they are people who should be feared.”

The demonstration was organized by Anti-Racist Action, and umbrella group of gays, lesbians, anarchists and the far left.

They massed in a downtown park, then hopped on to streetcars to Queen St. E. and Jones Ave. where they reassembled in another park for the three-block march to Schipper’s home.

Demonstrators handed out leaflets, accusing Schipper of promoting racism and hatred, ARA33 (2)to startled residents along the route. Many carried photos of Schipper’s face on sticks. Others stuck the photos into lawns and set them ablaze.

Horrified neighbours watched as masked youths repeatedly attacked the house, then raced back into the anonymity of the mob.

May recoiled in terror as smoke bombs and firecrackers exploded amid the chanting crowd.

“They’re acting like a bunch of 2-year-olds,” cursed Ronald Hobday, 62, who has lived on Bertmount Ave. for more than 40 years. “What a bloody charade, for crying out loud. And the police just stood there and did nothing.”

Hobday said Schipper, who moved into the quiet neighbourhood at six months ago, was a quiet person who never attracted attention to himself or his activities.

“We’ve never had a problem with the guy,” he said.

An enraged Wolfgang Droege, head of the Toronto-based white supremacist and neo-Nazi Heritage Front, stormed into the house and vowed revenge on the anti-fascist protestors.

“They’re cowards to target individuals like this,” Droege said. “From now on, if that’s how they want to play the game, that’s fine.”

One furious white supremacist held a black Anti-Racist Action banner high and lit it on fire, shouting “get the ARA.”ARA6

A police official told The Star that outnumbered officers didn’t intervene when the mob attacked Schipper’s home because they feared arrests might lead to more violence. About a dozen police were at the house.

“At least no one was hurt,” said Staff Sergeant Terry Adams.

Earler, white supremacists gathered outside the Carlton St. home of Ernst Zundel, which had been draped in plastic sheeting in anticipation of an attack that didn’t come.

Both police and Heritage Front officials said they anticipate more trouble in coming weeks.

Continue reading

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THE POLITICS OF BOMBS

.… hearing that Pacifism As Pathology: Reflections On The Role Of Armed Struggle In North America was going into its 3rd edition took me back to this piece, originally published in 1988 in Open Road … an reflection on / analysis of the role of armed struggle , particularly within the context of Canada and the actions of Direct Action / The Vancouver Five …

THE POLITICS OF BOMBS

REFLECTIONS ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF ARMED STRUGGLE IN CANADA

 The quality of the response to the article, “Julie Rats Out”, in Resistance no. 10, and the V5Fifteenrecent discussion surrounding the letter to Open Road, indicate the degree to which we, as a movement, have not addressed even the most basic issues raised by the actions of Direct Action and the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade, or the subsequent arrest and trials of the Vancouver 5.

It has been our tendancy to treat this example of armed resistance within the boundaries of the Canadian State as if it were an isolated, unprecedented, and wholly ahistorical event. After all, with the  exception of the FLQ in Quebec between ’63 and ’70, Canada has no modern experience with homegrown armed resistance – in fact, very little history of militant resistance of any stripe. It is our weakness that we fail to recognize that in this way Canada is not representative of West European societies, but is, in fact, unique. Virtually every other West European society has developed and sustained an armed movement since the early 70s. If we are to understand the Direct Action – Wimmin’s Fire Brigade – Vancouver 5 experience, if we are to critically assimilate and build upon it, we must look at it in this broader context of West European – American resistance.

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Why Armed Struggle?

If we are to look at armed struggle as a serious option within the Canadian State, we must establish what we believe to be the objective goals of armed struggle. Clearly stated armed struggle has three potential purposes in the situation in which we are currently living:

(1) armed propaganda.
(2) sabotage – causing real material damage to the State apparatus and capitalism.
(3) pose the revolutionary option; lay the base for a future popular armed resistance.

(1) Armed Propaganda

 “The coordination of urban guerilla actions, including each armed action, is the principal way of making armed propaganda. These actions, carried out with specific and determined objectives, inevitably become propaganda material for the mass communications .”
-Carlos Marighella, “Minimanual of the Urban Guerilla”

All guerilla actions are inevitably armed propaganda. The success of such actions as V5Eight (2)propaganda tools, however, depends on a variety of factors. The greater the degree to which the target of the action is associated in popular consciousness with some aspect of oppression, the greater the ease with which it can find broad-based support. If the target has been a clear focus for ongoing work on the part of the legal movement, the reason for the action will be immediately clear, at least to those comrades aware of the issue. This will be especially true if the activities of the legal movement have failed toalter the behavior of the target, despite an ongoing and consistent campaign. The timing in this case is important. Armed propaganda will be most effective if the legal movement has hit an apparent impasse.

It is equally important to the overall propaganda success of an armed action that innocent lives not be endangered. Any reticence regarding armed struggle within the movement will be reinforced by the injury or death of an innocent party, and any potential popular appeal will be completely precluded.  However , we must equally recognize that such injuries and deaths, as unfortunate as they certainly are, will always be a  possibility in the context of armed resistance, particularly as the State often has a secret interest in allowing such incidents to occur (if not creating them) to fuel its propaganda war against the guerilla. It must equally be recognized that all States, including the Canadian State, are daily engaged in genocide and violent attacks against 3rd World peoples, against other species and against the earth itself. No error on the part of the guerilla could begin to touch this daily violence, which has become acceptable as a structural part of our society to such a high degree as to go on virtually ignored, except in the most rhetorical way.

Beyond the actual action itself, the success in terms of propaganda depends, to a great degree, on the capacity of supporters in the legal movement to effectively do propaganda work , The action must become widely known and contextually understood to receive the maximum popular support. The guerilla cannot be expected to do this, and by and large will not be in a position to do this. This job is the responsibility of sympathetic people active in the legal movement.

(2) Sabotage

Every urban guerilla action directed at property is an act of sabotage. Whereas the legalV5Eleven (2) movement can raise consciousness regarding a particular issue, as long as it is public and legal, it can do little to actually disrupt the ability of the State apparatus to carry  through with its intentions. Only a flexible, clandestine, armed movement is in a position to carry out relentless attack and sabotage, albeit in a limited form. Such sabotage, while it may not ultimately stop a project, slows it down and greatly increases the cost.

(3) Pose The Revolutionary Option

“The principle (is) that revolutionary action in itself, the very act of arming oneself, preparing, equipping, and pursuing activities that violate bourgeois legality, generates revolutionary consciousness, organization, and conditions.” -a Tupamaro

“The mass armed capability which will destroy the State has its beginnings in very small armed actions, and through these guerilla actions the mass armed capability develops.” -RAF

By engaging in armed struggle, even in its formative stage, the guerrilla raises the issues of militant armed resistance to the capitalist State from a dim theoretical concept to an immediate practical possibility. In doing so the nature of left discussion is qualitatively changed. The possibility for revolutionaries to engage in effective  armed resistance is affirmed. While this preliminary armed resistance will, de facto, receive only limited support, even on the left, this limited support is the potential nucleus for the eventual armed struggle that will be necessary for revolutionary change to occur in any nation-State.

As well as indicating the possibility for militant resistance, armed activity demonstrates the possibility of pinpointing the system’s weak points and attacking offensively and effectively, even from a  perspective of relative weakness. By so doing the myth of the invincible State is deflated and new possibilities for resistance are  opened up.

“Urban guerilla warfare aims to destroy the domination of the State by striking at single weak points, and to destroy the myth of the omnipotence of the State and its invulnerability.” -RAF

When carried out in a consistent way guerrilla politics can be empowering to even the legal left. The guerilla, because of its clandestine organization, is in a position to add a concrete dimension to the propaganda and agitation of the legal left.

In short, the guerilla is the offensive position adopted by. a limited  number of comrades to give offensive character to the otherwise defensive and educational work of the left. The guerrilla is the revolutionary expression of our rage in the face of a seemingly monolithic and untouchable enemy.

Arguments Against Guerilla Politics

Almost every example of urban guerilla resistance has been subject to a litany of attacks from the “traditional” left. The most common and recurrent criticisms are that:

(1) the time is not right and, as such, armed resistance is elitist.
(2) armed resistance brings down repression on innocent (legitimate?) left organizations and individuals.

(1) Waiting for the Right Time

“If there is not a reasonably prepared group, the revolutionary conjunctures are simply wasted or not taken advantage of.” –  a Tupamaro

“It would be wrong to engage in armed struggle only when the ‘consent of the masses’ is assured, for this would actually mean to renounce the struggle altogether, as this consent can be obtained only by struggle itself. True mass armed struggle can only take place when it is understood by the masses, however, the comprehension of the need for armed struggle can only be aroused through beginning armed struggle.” -RAF

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The concept that when “the time is right” for armed struggle we will recognize it and by some amazing osmosis absorb the information and ability we need to effectively wage guerilla warfare is indeed a curious one. Clearly, if we don’t begin now to prepare for the eventual armed conflict with the State, the State will take all necessary precautions to assure their ultimate control before the point of crisis likely to motivate massive resistance in the First World actually occurs. In fact, it is clear that the modern techno- police State is fairly advanced in this area. While we carry on our low-level, largely educational, and, by and large, ineffectual political work, the State is busily developing the means of surveillance that will allow them to identify and, if necessary, monitor the movement and activity of each and every individual in this society. If we do not act now to organize an effective clandestine opposition (within the constantly narrowing field of possibility) the total surveillance State will be quietly placed in motion, perhaps curtailing once and for all the possibility of effective revolutionary upsurge.

It is not a matter of elitism, it is simply a matter of those individuals who are conscious of the need to resist the rise of the new “techno-fascism” acting now, before it is too late. If small groups do not act now, the possibility for mass organizing in the future may be closed forever.

(2) Armed Resistance Brings Down Repression

“Repression is indeed part of revolution, a natural anti-thesis, the always-to-be-expected defense-attack reflex of the beleagured, toothless tiger.” -George Jackson

The concept that armed activity brings down repression on innocent people on the left is one of the more revealing statements to come from sections of the left opposed to armed struggle.

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Such a perception presumes that somehow the. State is willing to stand by and allow left opposition to unfold unchallenged as long as it remains non-violent. Clearly, this is not the case. While non-violent, legal organizing may not illicit direct intervention from the State, the police apparatus will engage in constant intervention, infiltration, surveillance, and destabilization. Andy Moxley’s work as an infiltrator in the Peace Movement stands as witness to this.

This statement further presumes that there exists some form of valid left activity that will allow the left to play an objectively revolutionary role without threatening their security vis-a-vis the State. Such a concept reflects little more than the First World left’s desire to engage in “left” politics without threatening their comfortable middle-class lifestyles.

The unrecognized reality is that armed activity does not create repression. Repression is a structural part of the “techno-fascist” State on every level. Armed resistance simply brings ‘it out into the open “, where it can be seen and understood for what it is.

Finally, the legal left often fails to realize that the primary motivation for raids, arrests, and other repressive actions against the legal left in the wake of a guerilla attack is not to capture those who are responsible, the police know they won’t be found in legal left organizations, but to drive a wedge between the legal movement and the guerilla. The tragedy is that the legal left, by and large, falls right into the strategy, often going on to do the State’s anti-guerilla public relations work .

“If we accept revolution, we must accept all that it implies: repression, counter-terrorism, days filled with work, nervous strain, prison, funerals.” -George Jackson

Direct Action and the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade

Having established a general framework for evaluating armed struggle in First World urban environments, we’d like to turn our attention to the particulars of the Direct Action and Wimmin’s Fire Brigade experience.

(a) The Actions

(1) Cheekeye-Dunsmuir Power Substation

On May 31, 1982, Direct Action bombed the Cheekeye-Dunsmuir power substation. From both an ideological and a strategic perspective this action was armed activity of the dacheekeyehighest order.

As an act of sabotage it was very successful. The power-substation, which was just about ready to go into action, was rendered useless. Direct Action’s 4 bombs caused more than $5 million damage, necessitating the reconstruction of the substation from near scratch.

In terms of posing the revolutionary option, the action was well timed. The legal movement had spent years petitioning, letter-writing, picketing, blockading, etc. without successfully putting a halt to Hydro’s plan to develop Cheekeye-Dunsmuir regardless of environmental or human costs. Direct Action showed that when the State closes all legal channels there still remain options for people who are opposed to the policies of the State, and these options can be exercised by small committed groups with few resources.

In propaganda terms the communique was clear and concise, explaining simply why the bombing had been necessary:

“We reject the ecological destruction and the human oppression inherent in the industrial V5TwentySeven (2)societies of the corporate machine in the West and the communist machine in the East. In the last two hundred years industrial civilization has been raping and mutilating the earth and exterminating other species at an ever accelerating rate.” We say this is not right. Jobs, progress, standards of living – nothing is sufficient justification for the horrible damage being done.”

“While being in complete opposition to further ecological destruction, we also oppose the human oppression resulting from the economic and political systems throughout the world that are based on power and profit. In fact, ecological· destruction is directly related to the human oppressions of sexism, racism, hierarchy and imperialism. The desire for power, the insensitivity to the suffering of others and the need to feel superior are the sinister bonds that underlie all these human relations.”
-Direct Action, “Cheekeye Dunsmuir Communique”

If there was a weakness in propaganda terms, it didn’t lie either in the action or the accompanying communique, it is to be found in our inability as a movement to recognize the parameters of what had occurred and to widely circulate the communique and develop a discussion around it.

(2) Litton Industries Bombing

As an act of sabotage, the Direct Action bombing of Litton Industries on October 14, 1982, was a massive success, causing an estimated $7 million damage and eventually playing a LittonGraf (2)role in creating the situation whereby Litton systems of Canada was not invited to bid on the contract for the guidance device for the advanced version of the Cruise Missile. Litton President, Ronald Keating, made clear in April 84 that both public pressure and the Direct Action bombing played a role in knocking Litton out of the running. He said, “(Protesters) are an irritant, they get a lot of publicity, and the Americans read every damn bit of it. Pressure from these people is making the Americans look twice.” He added, “No one else has been bombed.” (He’s got a valid complaint, someone ought to do something about that.)

Again the communique was clear and concise as to the reasons for the attack.

“The insanity of nuclear war, and the continuing development of weapons for nuclear war stands as a horror for all to see. In the industrialized world more resources, scientists and engineers are engaged in creating the armies and weapons systems for nuclear war than any other single pursuit. Three to ·ten new bombs are added daily to the arsenals of global annihilation and over $300 billion is spent every year increasing and upgrading an overkill stockpile of more than 55,000 nuclear weapons. In the U.S., Reagan has asked for a 31 increase in the Pentagon’s $1.7 trillion five-year budget and has also announced a new $1.5 trillion arms program. Who can doubt the dictators and militarists in the Kremlin are far behind.”

“Industries in Canada that produce nuclear weapons components are fully integrated with V5Twelve (2)the nuclear policies of the U.S. through the U.S./Canada Defense Production Sharing Arrangements. These arrangements cover the production side of the NORAD agreements for a continental defense policy and set out the division of labour between Canada and the U.S. for weapons production. The federal government directly assists and subsidizes Canadian armament manufacturers through a myriad of programs designed to help the death merchants win U.S. Defense Department contracts available under the Production Sharing Arrangements. Through the Defense Industry Productivity Program, the federal government has given Litton $26.4 million to subsidize production of the Guidance system for the Cruise Missile. In addition, the government has given Litton a five year $22.5 million interest free loan for the same purpose.”

In fact, from a sabotage and propaganda perspective, It seems likely  that the action would have been a success had it not led to 7 injuries, some of them quite serious. The injuries were the result of the bomb exploding 12 minutes early (there has since been some speculation that police using radios accidentally triggered it) and of  security personnel and the police failing to grasp the seriousness of the situation and evacuate the building immediately. As it was the workers were leaving the building at the exact moment the 550 lbs bomb exploded, leaving them open to the maximum injury.

Direct Action released a communique taking responsibility for errors on their own part, as well as indicating actions on the part of Litton security personnel and the cops which contributed to the tragedy. This detailed communique said in part:

“We sincerely regret that any injuries occurred as a result of this action. We never intended any harm to come to anyone – especially to the workers at Litton – but instead, we took care in preparing what we seriously assumed were adequate precautions to insure the safety of all people in the area. Unfortunately, this did not turn out to be the case.

“We do not regret, however, our decision to attempt to sabotage the production of the Cruise Missile’ s guidance ‘brain’. We only claim in all honesty that this action was  never meant to be an act of terrorism. We were not trying to threaten or kill the workers or executives of Litton Systems. We were attempting to destroy part of an industrial facility that produces machinery for mass murder. We wanted to blow up as much of that technology of death as possible.”

The communique then went on to delineate all of the errors which led to the injuries. (It is too long to print or summarize  here, but it is well worth reading for a view as to what errors Direct Action made and the degree to which police and security incompetence V5Thirteen (2)contributed to the situation.)

As could be expected the injuries served to alienate certain sections of the left. Even in the “anarchist” community certain individuals were tripping over themselves to express disapproval. In the November 15,1982 issue of Strike! Lazarus Jones runs virtually the whole gamut in dredging up attacks on Direct Action:

“Under certain circumstances, and under certain conditions, armed struggle is valid and necessary. Unfortunately the individuals who comprise Direct Action seem to have taken no account of the necessary conditions or circumstances.”

The classic “time is not right” argument.

“Direct Action’s statement on the injuries caused by the bombing is both deluded and equivical. They claim to ‘sincerely regret that any injuries occurred as a result of the action.’ This is probably true. I would suggest that Direct Action reflect on the fact that by taking the course they seem to have chosen they must be prepared to kill and maim.”

The mad terrorist argument.

“Even if the challenge (of armed struggle) is taken up the only real result, as the European experience has shown , is an expansion of the vanguard and the reinforcement of the  basic elitism of the guerilla and his/her contempt for those who refuse the path of revolutionary suicide.”

The guerilla as futile elitism.

And Pat Murtagh, in a fanciful article about “Canadian Anarchism” written for the “Liberation Workers Bulletin, an Australian Anarcho-Syndicalist paper, says:

“A certain element (of the Vancouver Anarchist scene) veered off into mindless advocacy of anything that was violent, whether anarchist or not. This element has  born its fruit in the present activities of Direct Action.”

Armed struggle as mindless violence.

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The police moved quickly to exploit any uncertainties in the movement regarding the actions via a series of raids against legal peace groups. Raids were carried out against the Cruise Missile Conversion Project, the Alliance for Non-Violent Action, and World Emergency, as well as against prominent individuals in the peace movement. These actions, clearly intended to drive a. wedge between Direct Action and  the peace movement, were, in large part, successful, with some leading figures in the peace movement going as far as to cooperate with the police investigation and to publicly state their hope that Direct Action would be successfully  apprehended. There were, of course, also laudable examples of individuals in the peace movement who clearly expressed their solidarity with Direct Action (and later the Vancouver 5) in the face of State attacks.

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(3) Red Rot Video Firebombings

The November 22, 1982 firebombings of 3 Red Hot Video locations in  the Lower Mainland dawfbredhotof B. C. was far and away the most popular armed attack of this period. The short four paragraph communique read as follows:

“We, the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade claim responsibility for the fire-bombing of three Red Hot Video outlets in the Lower Mainland of B.C. on November 22, 1982. This action is another step towards the destruction of a business that promotes and profits from violence against wimnin and children.

Red Hot Video sells tapes that show wimmin and  children being tortured, raped and humiliated. We are not the property of men to be used and abused.

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Red Hot Video is part of a multi-billion dollar pornography industry that teaches men to equate sexuality with violence. Although these tapes violate the Criminal Code of Canada and the B.C. guidelines on pornography , all lawful attempts to shut down Red Hot Video have failed because the justice system was created, and is controlled, by rich men to protect their profits and property.

As a result we are left no viable alternative but to change the situation ourselves through illegal means. This is an act of self-defense against hate propaganda. We will continue to defend ourselves!”

This action was extremely successful, reducing 2 of the 3 Red Hot Video outlets attacked to ashes. In the 3rd case the incendiary device failed to ignite. It was also an action immediately embraced by all sections of the women’s movement as one which expressed their rage. Groups as diverse as the B.C. Federation of Women and the Montreal based Feminist Coalition Against Pornography publicly embraced it. It was soon clear that women recognized in this action the final option when faced with the total intransigence of the State.V5TwentyTwo (2)

In spite of the unfortunate injuries at Litton Industries, the Direct Action and Wimmin’s Fire Brigade campaigns of 1982 were, by and large, effective on all levels. As propaganda the actions and communiques were extremely pointed and effective, interlocking well  with large-scale public campaigns. We wish to reiterate that any  shortcomings on the propaganda level were in large part based on the lack of recognition on the part of sympathetic people active in the legal movement of the necessity of distributing the communiques and encouraging discussion around them and the strategy which they represented. It was not until the injuries at Litton that the movement began discussing Direct Action and their strategy; and those of us who wished to defend the strategy were forced into an intensely defensive position, a very poor position from which to begin such a complex discussion. Retrospectively, it was a major error to let the positive example of the Cheekeye-Dunsmuir bombing pass with so little attention given. The fact that the Litton bombing was destined to be Direct Action’s last action further complicated matters because we were still in the midst of the very complex discussion  surrounding that action and the injuries at the time of the arrests.

The Arrests

The arrest of the Vancouver 5, on January 20, 1983, was, when one looks at it retrospectively, almost inevitable. The quantity of organizing these 5 individuals had to do in virtual isolation made errors that would lead to their eventual arrest virtually certain.

Nonetheless, it appears as if the comrades made certain errors that indicate an inadequate conception of police tactics. They are errors that must be recognized, examined, and understood, so as to be avoided in the future.

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The fact that they continued to live in the Vancouver area and continued to maintain contact, even at a very low level, with some friends was a complete misjudgement of circumstances. Clearly, if and when the police pinpointed them as suspects friends and acquaintances would be put under surveillance. At that point it was only a matter of time until the police came in direct contact with one or more of the 5, after which the arrests were a virtual certainty. If one is to believe the police version of the surveillance that led to the 5 (and certain parts of the police story appear to he totally implausible – which is logical enough because they have a vested interest in making sure we  know as little as is necessary to guarantee convictions, so as to prevent us from developing effective counter-surveillance) then this is exactly what happened.

There are lessons to be drawn from that information available regarding the nature and style of the police investigation. It is clear that they are more aware of where individuals are at ideologically than we sometimes give them credit for. They were able to draw up a pool of suspects reasonably quickly, and although this pool contained many individuals who were totally uninvolved, it appears to have eventually provided the key connection that led to the 5, after which it simply became a matter of collecting the necessary information. It is clear that they are capable of sophisticated surveillance. They claim to have had as many as 8 – 10 cops surveilling a single suspect at times, and they claim to have been able to place Brent in Calgary at a certain point due to “a paper trail” which he left. It is also clear that they are willing to overlook criminal activities if they are holding out for a bigger bust. They clearly let several possible stolen vehicle arrests pass, and quite probably watched the Red Hot Video firebombings, while holding out for a more major arrest.

Some of the lessons to be drawn from this are clear. Comrades engaging in illegal activity on this scale must be prepared to go completely underground, which implies severing all contacts with their previous milieu and friends. Such contacts, while emotionally and V5Sixteen (2)psychologically significant, are suicidal from a security perspective. Police surveillance is sophisticated. If comrades involved in clandestine work are to avoid it, they must practice sophisticated counter-surveillance. Primary in this is a capacity to remove themselves from the areas where investigations are likely to start. And, of course, it is clear that any sense that the police are aware of one’s activities, particularly any direct contact with the cops, however seemingly innocuous, requires that the guerilla destroy everything that night allow the cops to trace them and disappear. All of this implies a highly developed network.

“The urban guerilla presupposes the organization of an illegal apparatus, in other words, apartments, weapons, ammunition, cars, and identification papers.” -RAF

It appears that by remaining in the Vancouver area, by maintaining contacts with friends, and by ignoring significant brushes with the law , the 5 greatly facilitated their own ultimate arrest.

The Trial

“If the military situation is difficult from the first moments, the political situation will be no less delicate; and if a single military error can wipe out the guerillas, a political error V5Twocan check their development for a long period.” -Che Guevera
While certain tactical errors may have contributed to the arrest of the 5, their ramifications for the strategy of armed resistance were minor. It was the errors committed by the arrested comrades and those of us who did defense/support work that served most to defus the importance of the contributions of Direct Action and the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade to resistance in Canada.

The approach of the 5 to the legal system and the trials was a serious political misjudgement. By first maintaining their innocence rather than defending the actions rather than defending the actions and approaching the trials as a vehicle for a discussion of their analysis, their strategy, and the role of armed struggle in a First World country they completely abdicated any control over the trials.

By hedging their bets on minimizing their sentences, the 5 put themselves in a situation where they could not actively use the trials for propaganda purposes without threatening their legal strategy. In so doing they promoted several erroneous perceptions. First of all, they de facto recognized the right of the courts, and by extension the State, to judge their actions, rather than pinpointing the role of the legal system as a pillar of class justice before which no equitable judgement can ever be suspected, and least of all in a case involving armed resistance. This error was further compounded by the fact that they ultimately placed the case in the hands of Lawyers and hung their hopes on legal challenges regarding the legitimacy of wiretaps, and similar details of legal protocol. Such a statement of faith in the legal system served only to contribute to further mystification surrounding the theoretical “neutrality” of the courts, and by extension the State.

The response of supporters was to adopt the liberal demand of the  “right to a fair trial”.V5Three The more we worked with this demand, the more we boxed ourselves in politically. If the 5 were maintaining their innocence and we were demanding “a fair trial”, then we were de facto blocked from engaging in the primary discussion regarding the actions and the role of armed struggle in Canada

If questioned regarding the actions, we were forced by our line to treat the issue of armed struggle as secondary or even inconsequential. Although the 5 did resist this, they did so in a fairly weak fashion.

“We know that if there was such a thing as fair trials & justice – we would walk free. But there is no justice & we will not receive a fair trial. Yet because it is sometimes possible to exploit the contradictions inherent in the bourgeois democratic legal process (which result from the need for lawmakers to appear fair and legitimate), we will be participating in the courtroom facade to try and minimize the legal attack against us.”
-Julie, Ann, Gerry, Doug, Brent – 13-03-83, “Free the Five Newsletter”

It was not, however, until issue no. 7 of the “Free the Five Newsletter”, issued on Nov. 16, 83, that 4 of the 5 first publicly opposed the “fair trial” strategy, which by that time had been going on for nearly 10 months.

“Much of the political work done around our case has been centered on the issues of ‘right to a fair trial’ and abuses of process by the media, police, and prosecution.”

“We would like to see the political work done on our case center around what we consider to be the real issues: environmentalism, feminism, anti-imperialism, & radical activism.” -Ann, Gerry, Doug, Brent

However, in spite of these statements the defense/support milieu failed to change gears. We continued to orient our work around State excesses and illegalities, dispensing V5Six (2)information, but refusing to engage in the central debate: What is the role of armed resistance in Canada? How can militant resistance be constructed here?
If we are to attempt to pinpoint the reasons why we failed to respond positively to the situation the arrests and trials presented us with, several weaknesses become apparent. Both the prisoners and their defense/support committees failed to see the judicial experience, both the courts and prison, as an integral part of the armed struggle. The 5 failed to take the lead in using the courtroom as a platform for propaganda and the prison as a central element in the confrontation be tween oppression and resistance. For our part we fell into the trap of believing we could somehow save our friends if we dwelled on the contradictions within the State’s legal system and downplayed the armed actions of Direct Action and the Wimmin’s  Fire Brigade. The liberal deviations that occurred in this scenario were never rectified in any important way because no shared conception of politics in general or of the trials in particular ever evolved between the 5 and their supporters. Because there was no solid political analysis of the situation coming from the prisoners and the supporters failed to evolve one, the possibility of using the trials to build support for the armed struggle was lost.

The situation further slipped from our control when the guilty pleas were filed. On March 17, 1983, Julie and Gerry pleaded, guilty. Julie pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob a Brinks armoured car, attempted arson of the Port Coquitlam Red Hot Video, car theft, possession of explosives, possession of weapons dangerous to the public peace, and bombing Litton Industries. Gerry filed the same guilty plea, less possession of explosives and the Litton bombing. On June 4, 84, Ann pleaded guilty to the Cheekeye-Dunsmuir bombing, the Litton bombing, possession of explosives, and possession of weapons. Ann had already been found guilty of conspiracy to rob a Brinks armoured car, possession of explosives, possession of weapons , possession. of stolen property, yehic1e theft, and breaking and entering. On June 8, Doug pleaded guilty to the Cheekeye Dunsmuir bombing and BrentV5Five (2) pleaded guilty to possession of weapons and possession of explosives, having already been found guilty of the same charges as Ann in the first trial (listed above).

While the desire to put an end to dead time faced in endless trials is understandable, especially given the fact that the outcome of the first trial was hardly a victory from a legal perspective, Julie having been sentenced to 20 years and Gerry to 10, after pleading guilty, and Ann and Brent having been found guilty on all charges, the guilty pleas left little to be recouped politically following the almost exclusive focus of the defense/support politics on the “right to a fair trial.” Particularly damaging politically was Gerry’s decision to accept a guilty plea on the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade action as part of a plea bargain. This was particularly disorienting as the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade had been generally recognized and accepted as an all women’s group and the action as an all women’s action. Gerry’s decision to plead guilty purely as a practicality, while understood by those supporters closer to the decision making process, was not necessarily so clear for the broader political community watching the trials, some of whom were taken aback both by the guilty pleas (we  had done such an effective job of our “right to a fair trial” campaign that some people in the political community actually believed that the 5 were persecuted innocents and in the face of the guilty pleas felt their trust had been betrayed. This is rather a large statement of how effectively we buried the key issues in our defense/support work.) and left unsure as to whether the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade had actually been a statement of women’s resistance, or simply Direct Action using another name for reasons of political efficacy. Given the V5Four (2)massive popularity of the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade, particularly in the women’s community, to introduce such unclarity was a political error.

It was not until the sentencing that the first real political statements came from the 5, and this was 1 1/2 years after the arrests and nearly 2 years after the last action. On June 5, 1984, Ann read her statement. This long, eloquent and powerful statement said, among other things:

“In the beginning, when I was first arrested, I was intimidated and surrounded by the courts and prison. This fear provided the basis for the belief that if I played the legal game, I would get acquitted or perhaps less time. This belief obscured my vision and fooled me into believing that I could get a break from the legal system. But this past eight months in court has sharpened my perceptions and strengthened my political convictions to see that the legal game is rigged and political prisoners are dealt a marked deck.”

“I would prefer to live in peace, but when I looked around me, I couldn’t find it anywhere. Everywhere I looked, the land was being destroyed, the Indians were victims of genocide, third world people were oppressed and massacred, people lived in industrial waste and women were being raped and children molested. I could never live in peace – only quiet – the kind you find in cemetaries.”

“Even though I knew that a few militant direct actions would no make the revolution or stop these projects, I believed it was necessary to begin the development of an underground resistance movement that was capable of sabotage and expropriations and could work free from police surveillance. The development of an effective resistance movement is not an overnight affair – it takes decades of evolution. It has to start somewhere in small numbers and whether or not it grows, becomes effective and successful, will depend on whether or not we make it happen.”

On June 21, 1984, Doug made a short and pointed statement, which explained the environmental perspective of Direct Action and the reason for the Cheekeye-Dunsmuir bombing. In part, he said:

“The reason that I did the that (bombed the Cheekeye-Dunsmuir power substation) is that the Cheekeye-Dunmuir project is going to inflict large-scale, severe damage on the environment of B.C., and I consider that reprehensible and intolerable.”V5Ten (2)

“The destruction of the world’s environment is a direct consequence of modern industrialism, but it also springs from certain fundamental perspectives of our culture.

Most people in our society and certainly those with the wealth and power are of the opinion that the Earth belongs to us, that it exists only for our use, and it is of value only to the extent that we value it. It’s taken for-granted that we have a natural birthright to manipulate the entire world’s ecology for our ends.

That is not how I see it. In my opinion, all life on earth has a right to be, and is of worth and importance in and of itself. The natural world is a home that we should share with the trees and the birds, and which we should treat respectfully and gently, not as something to ruthlessly lay to waste.”

Finally, on June 25, 1984, Brent was sentenced and made his sentencing statement. A brief portion follows:

“My purpose in speaking today is simply to reaffirm my commitment to the basic values and ideals which motivated me to struggle. I believe that both the ideals, and the struggle, are just and that they hold the promise of a better future. I continue to desire the creation of societies based upon feminist, humanist co-operative ecological and non-authoritarian principles.

Illegal activities were one part of my activism in the struggle against the injustices and threats to life manifest in modern industrial civilization, and the political and economic system of imperialism. The overall purpose of any illegal activity I was involved in was to further develop the struggle and thereby contribute to the possibility of a better world – one in which all people can finally live in freedom and international unity. Even if this does not come about in my lifetime, it is my hope that one day our future relatives will live in such a world.”

The sentencing statements were powerful political statements and were received as such. As good as the sentencing statements were, coming as they did, at the end of a long and intense process, they did not serve as a rallying point for a discussion. Had such statements come early in the legal process and had the defense/support committees chosen to stress the politics inherent in the actions and accompanying communiques and in the sentencing statements, rather than organizing around the demand for the “right to a fair trial”, the political potential of the trials might have been realized. As it was the political issues, quite simply, came to the fore too late.

The Appeals

As serious a political setback as the injuries at Litton and the political mismanagement of V5Seventeen (2)the trials were, the real blow to the 5 and their supporters was Julie’s decision to break with her former comrades and recant.

In an emotionally charged performance Julie used her sentence appeal to focus the bulk of the responsibility for Direct Action and Wimmin’s Fire Brigade actions on Ann and Brent, particularly Brent whom she identified variously as the leader and the planner. She
claimed to have been harassed into the group, to have been young and impressionable, a state she described as adolescent crisis, and to have been worn down and molded by constant pressure and abuse. She claims that her seeming vigour for revolutionary activity on the wiretaps and bugs was not representative of her true feelings, but part of an effort to appear tough in order to ward off the constant criticism she was a victim of. She even went as far as to suggest she would have left the group, claiming she feared to do so after  reading Marighella’s “Mini-Manual of the Urban Guerilla”, where she claimed Marighella said anyone leaving the guerilla must be liquidated.
It is important to note in passing that Marighella didn’t say this. What he, in fact, said regarding leaving the guerilla was:

“When he (a guerilla) cannot face the difficulties, or knows that he lacks the patience to wait, it is better to relinquish his role before he betrays his pledge, for he clearly lacks the basic qualities necessary to be a guerilla.”

While the purpose of Julie’s patchwork story of lies, distortion, and paranoia was clearly to save her own ass, the quality of her story, the degree to which it fits into the standard State line on guerilla politics, the degree to which  it is tailored for counter- insurgency , indicate that she must have fallen victim to fairly intense police pressure, that she had become a palm in the larger police strategy. The long sentence that Julie was given was doubtless part of a strategy to break her spirit so that she would be open to approaches from the State. Towards the end of having this excessive sentence reduced, Julie was willing  to engage in whatever grovelling was required and to portray her former comrades, particularly Ann and Brent, both of whom had sentence appeals forthcoming, as deranged and irresponsible, if not out and out remorselessly evil.

The outcome was predictable. Ann and Brent had their sentence appeals denied. Julie, for her part, received a 5 year reduction from 20 years to 15 for her propaganda role in the State’s attack on Ann and Brent in particular, and the guerilla in general.

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Prison

With the end of the appeals came the end of the Vancouver 5 as a public issue and the comrades withdrew from the public eye to serve their sentences. In Ann’s case life, in Brent’s 22 years, for Gerry 10, and Doug 6.

As was the case with the trials, the comrades have not used their prison time or the repression they face there as a springboard for a discussion of guerrilla resistance. Rather than asserting themselves as political prisoners in an ongoing way, they have assimilated themselves into the anonymity of the prison milieu. This has led to a situation where their courageous acts of resistance and their entire strategy as enunciated in the communiques and the sentencing statements have been all but forgotten by all save a few tiny, isolated pockets of supporters.

Conclusion

To sum up, the 5 and their supporters have thus far failed to play their potential role in advancing an understanding of armed struggle within the Canadian State. This lack is due to serious shortcomings in our political understanding of the elements at play. We failed to recognize and utilize the possibilities for advancing the strategy of armed struggle available in the trial process. In so doing the opportunities opened up by the actions of Direct Action and the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade were lost, being replaced by the mystifying demand of the “right to a fair trial”, a demand which could lead no-where positive and served to liquidate the key issue of armed resistance in Canada. Although the history of Direct Action and the Wimmin’ s Fire Brigade has doubtless left its mark on the Canadian left, although the concept of armed resistance has been put on the agenda in a practical way so that it will never again be the non-issue it was prior to this experience, to date we have not really overcome the pacifying effects of the political errors we have made.

It seems that both the 5 and their supporters, having suffered this defeat, have turned away from the discussion of armed struggle to focus their energy elsewhere.

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If we are to overcome the errors we have made, we must critically examine these errors, we must critically examine the events surrounding Direct Action, the Wimmin’s Fire Brigade and the Vancouver Five. As painful as it may be we must pinpoint the errors and shortcomings of both the prisoners and their supporters and deal with them honestly. We can learn by studying the national liberation struggles of Third and Fourth World peoples in the Third World, Western Europe and the USA, as well as by examining the history and current practice of the urban guerrilla movements in the USA and Western Europe. And, of course, we must face the responsibility of developing our own practice in Canada.

We have written the above not as an attack on the prisoners or their support community. We extend our love and solidarity to the imprisoned comrades who have contributed so much of themselves towards the realization of armed struggle in Canada. We also extend our love and solidarity to all who have worked to support the imprisoned comrades, and to all those who struggle for revolutionary change.

We cannot see any way to avoid certain criticisms given the current situation on the Canadian left. However, we have offered the above criticisms not as a personal attack on anyone, nor to create further divisions in the movement, but in the hope of creating a genuine discussion about the experiences of armed resistance and in the hope of pushing the struggle forward.

“It is better to err acting than to do nothing for fear of erring. Without initiative there is no guerrilla warfare.” Carlos Marighella 

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CELLULES COMMUNISTES COMBATTANTES

…  the Cellules Communistes Combattantes / Fighting Communist Cells were active in Belgium in 1984 and 1985, carrying out around 27 actions … what follows below are a few mainstream media pieces, CCC communiques and interviews …

  1. “The New Terror Network: Small Groups Of Political Renegades Are Hitting NATO Targets In Western Europe”, Newsweek, February 11 1985ccc9
  2. “Triple C”, The Never-Ending War: Terrorism in the 80s
  3. “Fighting Communist Cells: Belgian Guerrillas Target NATO,” Resistance, No. 9, 1985
  4. “On Armed Struggle,” CCC communique, April 1985
  5. “Concrete Answers To Concrete Questions,” CCC communique, April 1985
  6. “Bombing of the Bank of America in Antwerp,” CCC communique,  4 December 1985
  7. “To The Workers And Comrades In France, CCC communique, 6 December 1985
  8. “Interview With 4 Militants Of The CCC, Le Peuple, April 1987
  9. “Interview With The CCC Prisoners Collective”, Anarchist Black Cross Gent, June 1998
  10. “From The Prisoners of the CCC To The Prisoners From The PCE(r) and GRAPO…”, January 1990

The New Terror Network

Small Groups Of Political Renegades Are Hitting NATO Targets In Western Europe

Newsweek, February 11, 1985

Just before dawn one morning last week,  a young woman rang the doorbell at the  home of Ernst Zimmermann, a West  German industrialist whose firm makes  engines for NATO’s raflogoTornado jets. When Mrs. Zimmermann answered, the woman said she had a letter for her husband and  needed a signed receipt. Zimmermann came to the door. Suddenly a man with a submachine gun jumped from behind a shrub. The intruders barged into the house and tied up the couple. Then they took Zimmermann into a bedroom and pumped a bullet into his head. A few hours later an anonymous caller phoned a Munich news­paper. The caller said that Zimmermann had been killed by the left-wing Red Army Faction (RAF) – in league with a shadowy alliance called “the West European guerrilla movement.”

The West German press has given it an-other name: “The New Terrorists.” Over the past few months three groups – West Germany’s RAF, France’s Direct Action, (AD) and Belgium’s Fighting Communist Cells (CCC)-have attacked scores of: NATO and other defense-related targets across northern Europe. They appear to have formed a looseadsymbol working alliance; they , may also have links to Italian, Portuguese; Dutch and Middle Eastern terrorists, Compared with the Baader-Meinhof Gang and the Red Brigades of the. 1970s, this generation of political renegades is still small and inexperienced, But t~eit -fervent anti-militarism=-fueled by the deployment of U.S. Pershing II and cruise missiles in Europe has drawn committed recruits. And with the shooting of Zimmermann and the recent murder of a French general, they have moved their campaign from attacking defense installations to killing top officials.

In hindsight, the first sign of the new wave of terror seemed to have come last June with the theft of a cache of explosives from a quarry near Brussels. But it gathered force in the fall. In Italy several groups claimed responsibility for the bombing of an express train, bound from Naples to Milan, that killed 15 passengers and wounded more than 150. In Paris, Direct Action bombed the Atlantic Institute, a pro-NATO think tank. Later AD attacked a French Defense Ministry research center and tried to blow up the headquarters of the Western Europe­an Union. Briefly things quieted down. Then the CCC launched its own offensive. It bombed the offices of the U.S.-based Honeywell firm in Belgium, then a NATO fuel pipeline, then a U.S. military facility near Brussels. Since the beginning of December the RAF has carried out some 30 arson and bomb attacks, including an attempt on a NATO officer’s school in Oberammergau. Among other aims, the West German terrorists are supporting a hunger strike by 30 RAF prisoners who have demanded to be housed together and given POW status.

ccc9Hideaway: Signs of cooperation among the three groups have become increasingly apparent. Since the quarrey robbery, the RAF, Action Directe and the CCC are each believed to have use some of the stolen explosives in separate attacks. Before the Belgian terrorists attacked the NATO pipeline, maps of the facility were found during a raid on a West German hideaway. The CCC has dedicated one of its bombings to the RAF. And on Jan. 15, the RAF and the AD announced the formation of a “Political-Military Front in Western Europe” to attack NATO targets.

Ten days later the merger was inaugurated with the murder of Brig. Gen. Rene Audran, director of arms sales at the French Defense Ministry. At about 8 p.m. on Jan. 25 a woman with a German accent phone Audran’s house in La Celle-Saint-Cloud, a Paris suburb. Audran’s daughter, Marie-Helene, said her father would be home in an hour. When Audran backed his gray Renault 20 up to the gate at 8:50 p.m. a gunman stepped out of the shadows, opened the car door and fired eight shots from a Colt .45. The general was found sprawled across the front seat. Neighbours reported seeing three men running from the scene.

A letter to the Paris bureau of the Deutsche Presse-Agenter claimed responsibility in the name of both Direct Action and the RAF. It accused Audran of being “at the heart of the homogenization of the European states under the control of NATO.” The letter was written in both French and German, but the German was better – a clue that the RAF was in charge. French authorities were also investigating the possibility of Middle Eastern involvement. Audran oversaw French arms sales to Iraq; thus either Iran or Syria may have wanted him out of the way. France has thousands of North African guest workers, and Middle Eastern terrorists can easily slip into the country on Algerian or Moroccan passports. A Soviet connection was also a possibility, although most French officials believe that Moscow was only giving passive encouragement to the anti-NATO attacks.

With the Zimmerman killing, the terrorists confirmed the escalation of their undeclared war. Zimmerman was the head of the Moteren und Turbinen Union, West Germany’s RAFSoliBreakthrough (2)largest jet-engine manufacturer; he was also head of the West German Aerospace and Armaments Industry Association. The main suspects in his shooting were Bernhard Lotze, 27, an RAF veteran and Barbara Meyer, 28, a recent recruit. Police disclosed that Zimmerman’s name appeared on a “hit list” found during a raid on a RAF safe house in Frankfurt last year. The list named dozens of officials including Chancellor Helmut Kohl and his predecessor, Helmut Schmidt. Until last week the list was not taken terribly seriously. But now authorities fear the RAF may go after other leaders – especially if the RAF hunger strikers, now in their eighth week without food, start to die.

On paper at least, none of the three main terrorist groups looks very formidable. Direct Action is thought to have only 30 active members, and 19 of them are behind bars. Most RAF members are also in jail; West German police estimate they have fewer than 20 activists at large and perhaps 100 sympathizers prepared to hide them. Little is known about the CCC but its ranks are believed to be thin, too. The three groups have also shown signs of inexperience – especially the RAF. The bomb at the NATO school in Oberammergau didn’t go off because whoever put the 60 pounds of high explosive in the trunk of a silver Audi left the timer on “stop.”. More recently, RAF member Johannes Thimme tried to blow up a Stuttgart computer center by hiding a bomb in a baby carriage. The bomb went off – but it killed only Thimme and injured his accomplice Claudia Wannerdorfer.

German police, in fact, tend to refer to the new terrorists as “the babies.” But officials across Europe are both impressed and dismayed by the dedication and daring of the new generation. “They seem to be even more strongly indocrinated politically than the veterans, who have been underground for years,” says Heinrich Boge, director of the Federal Criminal Office in Wiesbaden. They tend to rely on a strong cell structure, and do not depend on charismatic leaders to hold their groups together.

Murky: And the new terrorists have compensated for their weaknesses with closer coordination. Contact among the RAF, AD and CCC is thought to be limited; they probably have no central command and may only communicate through individual cells. But they have clearly pooled intelligence, resources and manpower. There is also evidence of alliances – of interests at least – with other terrorist groups. Italian terrorists are often spotted in France, last year AD leader Jean-Marc Rouillan is believed to have hidden in an apartment rented by a member of Italy’s Prima Linea. Recently, the Red Brigades symbol, a five-pointed star, has shown up on CCC communiques. Two Dutch terrorist groups – Onkruit and the Red Resistance Front – have vowed “hard actions” against Western Defense targets. And in Portugal, a murky group called FP-25 has also launched it’s own campaign. Last week it fired shells at six NATO ships in Lisbon Harbour. Two days later it exploded eight bombs near a West German Air Force training ground in southern Portugal.

BR3 (2)

The wave of attacks has prompted fresh criticism that some European governments have been less than vigorous in dealing with the terrorist threat. In France, Audran’s murder stirred anger among conservatives, who recalled that in 1981 President Francois Mitterand had unconditionally pardoned the two imprisoned leaders of Action Directe – Rouillan and Nathalie Menignon. Freeing the pair, the right-wing daily Le Figaro charged, made atrocities like Audran’s assassination “predictable, even inevitable.”

Others have chided the French government for its willingness to grant sanctuary to political refugees from around the world. Although France signed the European Convention on Suppression of Terrorism in 1977, it has yet to ratify the pact formally. “The French do not feel bound to extradite terrorists,” says Prof. Paul Wilkinson, a leading expert on terrorism at Britain’s University of Aberdeen. “The country has now become the natural base area of people who have fled from justice in other countries.”

Computers: French officials argue that the country should not renounce its long – and mostly honourable – tradition of providing asylum for political refugees. But even authorities in Paris acknowledge that many of those emigres may be involved in terrorism. Part of the problem is that France is lagging behind in surveillance and crime-busting technology. In contrast to West Germany antiterrorist agents who have access to 2.5 million index cards on potential suspects that can be called up on 2,500 terminals around the country, French police have only 70,000 cards on 40 computers. Still, there are signs that the French are beginning to toughen up security. Despite harsh criticism from left-wing members of his own Socialist Party, Mitterand agreed last summer to extradite three Basques to Spain to face murder charges. And in a speech last week he vowed that “France will refuse protection, direct and indirect terrorist acts of bloodshed.”

West German authorities have taken far tougher steps to combat terrorism. The country has an elite antiterrorist unit known as the GSG-9 squad that can be quickly deployed in crisis situations. As part of an effort to keep tabs on potential troublemakers, officials have developed a network of paid informants – and a chillingly thorough system of national surveillance. Not long ago West Germans were surprised to learn that police have a television camera trained full time on the new kiosk at the main railroad station in Frankfurt. The reason: authorities theorized that the kiosk would be a natural stop for traveling terrorists. In fact there are thousands of such cameras monitoring strategic public spots all over Germany. The police are even trained to recognize better-known terrorists through flashcard drills.

Not all of West Germany’s security measures have been applauded, however. any civil CCCd (2)libertarians worry that in its zeal to crack down on terrorists, the Bonn government may limit the rights of ordinary citizens. As evidence they cite the case three years ago of a policeman who thought he had spotted Christian Klar, one of the leaders of the RAF, in a speed-trap photo. Tracking the license number on the car, police broke into the house of the suspect and arrested him. But the young man turned out to be a student who bore only a vague resemblance to Klar. The outcry over that episode has helped delay the implementation of a nationwide system of computer-readable identity cards that would enable police to make spot checks of citizens.

Officials in Washington worry that U.S. military and diplomatic personnel in Europe may become even more tempting targets for terrorists.  Curbing the threat, however, will not be easy. Robert Kupperman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University’s Center for Strategic and International studies, believes that penetrating the various terrorist organizations should be one of the top priorities for Western intelligence. Contrary to the notion that American officials should be virtually isolated in high-security fortresses, Kupperman suggests that diplomats should try to blend in more with the local population to avoid being obvious targets.

It is the cross-border nature of the threat, however, that has hit European antiterrorist forces where they are the weakest – in shared intelligence. Lack of international legal codes is one problem; conflicting extradition procedures is another. “Let’s face it,” says the University of Aberdeen’s Wilkinson. “It is difficult to get Europeans to work together on simple problems such as bread and wine, let alone on such a problem as this.”

But faced with the latest wave of violence, authorities across Europe are bound to step up antiterror measures. Already security has been strengthened at U.S. and NATO facilities in Belgium and Portugal. New rewards have been offered for RAF terrorists in West Germany. And it Italy, officials are talking about an antiterror campaign to rival the recent joint U.S-Italian efforts against the Mafia. How successful all this will be, however, remains to be seen. The thrill of violence, combined with the politics of destruction, has always held a strong attraction for many young Europeans. And if nothing else, the new terrorists have proved that terror’s deadly appeal is very much alive.

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