Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Maison Norman Bethune: A New Maoist Bookstore in Montreal

The following announcement from the Revolutionary Communist Party (the on based in Quebec, not to be confused with the Avakian-led group in the united states!), regarding the opening of their new bookstore in Montreal. The original French is available in pdf here.

The Opening of the Maison Normal Bethune

The Political Information Bureau is anno the opening of the Maison Norman Bethune - unique in Canada, aiming to be both an information center and an organizing space to support the struggle for socialism and world revolution.

This project is especially important in the current situation, where capitalism is going through one of its worst crises and where more and more people are expressing renewed interest in struggling for a system based on the interests of the majority and workers' power.

Located in the heart of Montreal's Centre-Sud neighbourhood, the Maison Norman Bethune will make a variety of documents available to those interested: the classic works of Marx, Lenin and Mao, works on revolutionary history, publications from contemporary revolutionary organizations such as the Parti Communiste Revolutionnaire, books and texts about current events and socialism, and in all languages... In short, the Maison Norman Bethune aims to distribute all that can serve the revolution.

The Maison Norman Bethune also intends to be a space open to workers and revolutionary and anticapitalist militants who hunger for knowledge and wish to organize themselves to not simply stir up new hope for communism and revolution, but a concrete and immediate project to make them a reality. It is also the place to contact the Political Information Bureau and to learn about the positions and activities of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

For the moment, the Maison Norman Bethune is open Wednesday to Saturday (see below). Over the coming weeks, the team which runs it will work to expand and improve the collection of books and publications available. Regular activities (speakers, video nights, etc.) will also be organized, and a schedule will soon be announced.

The opening of the Maison Norman Bethune itself represents an important victory in the struggle against the propaganda of the bourgeoisie and the unitary vision that its acolytes have been trying to brainwash us with for so long now. It is up to us and us alone, workers and militants who wish to bring forward the liberatory voice of communism and to develop revolutionary action which will put an end to the capitalist system whose time is up, to make this a lively space and a tool in the service of the struggle of the proletariat and the oppressed masses in this country.

The Political Information Bureau calls on all revolutionary, progressive, and anti-imperialist militants to support the Maison Normal Bethune. You have books to give us? You know someone, a militant or former militant, who still has some "hidden treasures"? You want to contribute financially to this project or to offer a bit of time to help out? Let us know, and a militant from the Political Information Bureau will contact you right away to follow up on your proposal.

And most importantly, come and drop by the Maison Norman Bethune, and spread the word!

The Political Information Bureau

Bookstore - Political Information Bureau
1918, rue Frontenac
Montréal (Qc) H2K 2Z1
(across the street from Frontenac metro)
514 563-1487

Opening Hours:
Wednesday: 12:30 - 6pm
Thursday: 12:30 9pm
Friday: 12:30 - 9pm
Saturday: 10:00am - 5pm

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Aryan Guard Hides Behind Calgary Cops

Comrades in Calgary seem to be getting mixed results against the Aryan Guard vermin in their town.

The Aryan Guard is a neo-nazi outfit based in Calgary - for a good quick overview on the group, i'd recommend checking out this pdf from One People's Project. The AG's recent activities include raiding Siksika First Nation territory to smash up buildings with baseball bats, infiltrating demonstrations against the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, promoting racist music CDs to local young people, and of course their annual "white pride" march held on March 21st to mark the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination.

The annual Aryan Guard propaganda event this year attracted 40-50 nazis, with the ARA counterdemo bringing out 400-500 people, many of them apparently passersby who joined in when they realized what was going on. A large police presence kept the nazis protected, though it seems some people did manage to connect. (See youtube video above.)

What is disappointing is that it seems people are unable or unsure of their ability to do what it takes to enforce a "no platform for fascists" line in Calgary.

For instance, at the Palestinian solidarity demonstration on January 10th it seems the nazis were only forced to leave near the end of the demo, despite people having been aware of who they were and what they were about from the beginning. It would seem that while ARA was clear about wanting them out, there was not a strong enough understanding amongst other demonstrators to make this initially practical, and demo organizers obviously failed in their responsibility to provide leadership on this question. Truly disgusting, considering the high profile the Aryan Guard has had in the area, and the fact that it has been repeatedly linked to racist violence and neo-nazi ideology.

But even more worrisome, because it's a sign of weakness in what should be a pole of strength, since last weekend's demonstration there have been news reports quoting ARA spokespeople condemning those who physically attacked the nazis last week. If these quotes are not media fabrications, then it's a sad day indeed.

While it may not always strategically correct to violently attack the fascist scum, or may not always be tactically feasible, the fact of the matter is that it normally is the best the course of action. To question the validity of such attacks is to implicitly adopt the same kind of logic that had the police out defending the fascists, it is to fall back on the "we'll only fight in self-defense" line that acts as a cover the kind of liberal politics that end up wanting to protect fascists' "freedom of speech".

Regardless of what organizers may have wished happened, the fact that some people who joined the demo did attack the nazis is a sure sign that the time is right for that kind of action - it is occurring spontaneously, organically - in that situation whether they planned for it or not, the only appropriate response from organizers is to defend and explain such a militant response. To do otherwise is to cut yourself off from the most advanced sections of the struggle in order to pander to middle class elements with their disingenuous complaints about violent antifascists being "as bad as" the nazis.

The folks from Calgary ARA should be congratulated for calling for a response to the Aryan Guard, but at the same time i would urge them to speak out in support of the militant antifascists who understood the need and validity of going on the offensive.

It's just basic political common sense.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Basque Nationalists Under Attack

The Spanish State is cracking down on the Basque nationalist left. From Reuters on March 23:

MADRID (Reuters) - A Spanish judge Monday charged 44 Basque nationalists with membership of the militant separatist movement ETA, which the Spanish government calls a terrorist organisation.

All were members of three banned separatist parties -- the Communist Party of the Basque Country (PCTV), Basque Nationalist Action (ANV) and Batasuna, ETA's political wing.

"Through these (parties) they have tried to regenerate the fabric of terrorism on all fronts in order to continue criminal action towards their final aim," a court writ said.

Among those charged are the mayoress of the northern town of Mondragon, Maria Inocencia Galparsoro, as well as Pernando Barrena and Joseba Permach, leading figures on the radical left.

The charges are a new blow to separatists, who want an independent Basque state carved out of northern Spain and south west France.

Spain's Supreme Court banned two further nationalist parties from regional elections earlier this month because of their connections to ETA, meaning that for the first democratic elections since the death of dictator Francisco Franco the radical left had no candidates.

Without the support of radical left-wing parties, the ruling Basque Nationalist Party is expected to lose power in the Basque Country to a Socialist-led coalition -- ending an unbroken run of Basque nationalist governments going back to 1980.

(Reporting by Teresa Larraz; translating by Ben Harding)

Friday, March 20, 2009

[Montreal] Artists Against Apartheid

This Sunday:

Artists Against Apartheid VI
an evening featuring hip-hop, jazz and experimental music within the growing cultural movement in opposition to Israeli apartheid

20h00 $5-10
La Sala Rossa
4848 St. Laurent
Montreal, Quebec

A ground breaking cultural event celebrating artist/activist Freda Guttman's 75th birthday within the ongoing Artists Against Apartheid concert series...

performances from:

* Antoine Bustros piano, keyboard, with by Benoît Piché on trumpet and Greg Smith on sampler, accompanied by projected excerpts from 'Territories' a documentary film by Mary-Ellen Davis information at:

* Meryem Saci and Nantali Indongo the two women MCs from the celebrated Montreal hip-hop group Nomadic Massive information at:

* Karen Young, celebrated musician and vocalist joined by Éric Auclair, a duo performance entitled Electro Beatniks information at:

* Banana & the Flying Colors, music from the edges of Montreal's experimental music scene, involving piano and keyboards, highlighted by live projections

* Freda Guttman, artist and activist will present a slide-show on Canada Park, a Canadian funded colonial park project administered by the Jewish National Fund, constructed over the destroyed Palestinian villages Imwas, Beit Nuba and Yalo, demolished by Israel after the 1967 which commenced Israel's ongoing occupation of the Palestinian West Bank.

An event occurring within the ongoing campaigns pushed forward by Tadamon! Montreal, a collective working to build solidarity between movements for social and economic justice from Montreal to the Middle East. Tadamon!'s ongoing political campaigns operating in Canada, including the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli apartheid.


Tadamon! Montreal:
Internet :
Tél. : 514 664 1036
Courriel : info[at]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Under Obama Blackwater Still Works for u.s. in Iraq

above: Aftermath of Nisoor Square massacre, September 16, 2007,
where Blackwater mercenaries opened fire on civilians and Iraqi police,
killing seventeen people

From UPI:

Blackwater still works for U.S. in Iraq

Last update: 5:48 p.m. EDT March 17, 2009
WASHINGTON, Mar 17, 2009 (UPI via COMTEX) -- The U.S. State Department re-signed the security firm formerly known as Blackwater despite Iraq saying it didn't want the company there, records show.
The State Department said $22.2 million deal signed with Blackwater, since renamed Xe, in February was a contract modification concerning aviation work, The Washington Times first reported. The contract expires in September, months after its contract for work in Baghdad was to have run out.
One observer said the deal raises questions about why the United States would want to pay a contractor for work in Iraq if the government won't approve its operating license.
"Why would you continue to use Blackwater when the Iraqi government has banned the highly controversial company and there are other choices?" asked Melanie Sloan, executive director of the non-partisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
The private security firm has been heavily criticized, particularly for a 2007 incident that left 14 Iraqi civilians dead and six former guards facing manslaughter charges.
Xe spokeswoman Anne Tyrell declined to comment to the Times on the company's work in Iraq or the contract modification. She said the company was aware that the State Department indicated it didn't plan to renew its contracts in Iraq but that Xe officials hadn't received specific information about leaving the country.
The Iraqi Embassy in Washington didn't comment on the contract, the Times said.

Is Capitalism Finished?

From the left communist magazine Revolutionary Perspectives, put out by the Communist Workers Organization (the u.k.'s branch of the IBRP): Is Capitalism Finished?

Behind The Blue Wall: Police Officer Involved Domestic Violence

Just passing on this reference for the blog Behind The Blue Wall, devoted to calling attention to the horrendously high number of women who are beaten by their police officer husbands and boyfriends.

The war has a home front.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thoughts on March 15th

Every lost battle is a principle of weakness and disorganization; and the first and immediate desideratum is to concentrate, and in concentration to recover order, courage, and confidence.
- Carl von Clausewitz, On War

By the time the day was over, over two hundred people had been arrested at yesterday's 13th Annual Demonstration Against Police Brutality. Most of those busted were picked up an a "mass arrest" near the end - as always, a good portion of those were just passersby caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As previously mentioned on this blog, the demo was preceded by a media scare campaign preparing public opinion for mass arrests. Despite this - and despite the fact that the orange line (on which Mont Royal metro is found) was closed - meaning people had a lot of difficulty getting there - over 1,000 people showed up to express their anger at the ongoing social and racial profiling that is the bread and butter of police work. (Police and media lies about just a few hundred people showing up could easily be contradicted by anyone who was there - even just look at the fact that 200 were arrested, most of these hours after the main demo had been broken up by riot cop charges.)

No point giving a play-by-play of the demo - indeed, i couldn't, because i got separated from it when the riot police charged at Sherbrooke corner University, and only found it over an hour later when it was already encircled at Beaudry and St-Catherine. Instead, a few observations...

A lot has been made in the media about how protesters were violent towards not only police, but we also apparently broke windows of restaurants and even of cars parked on the street.

But this media brouhaha shouldn't make us forget that most people who showed up didn't want to fight, of those that were willing to defend themselves a majority were only willing to fight the cops when actually attacked, only a tiny minority out of these might have been willing to go proactive... and then there is an equally tiny minority who were happy to use the occasion to fuck anything up if they thought they could get away with it - i.e. throwing garbage around, breaking the windows of cars parked on the street, etc.

While some of the people vandalizing at random were likely cops planted in the crowd (as we saw at Montebello in 2007), it is true that there are are also some people on our side who engage in this. It should also be mentioned that some of the "random vandalism" is not necessarily a bad idea - pulling dumpsters into the street shows a desire to slow the advancing police lines (the way it was done was ineffective, but at least it shows the desire is there!). Breaking the window of a yuppy restaurant may have political meaning (though this is not necessarily the best day to do it!) - i mean i had to wonder why the Four Points Hotel we passed, where workers have been on strike for months, was left untouched.

& you know, graffiti-ing as we go is certainly a good way to spread the message!

But aggression against passersby, throwing garbage around just to make a mess, smashing the windows of cars (and not fancy cars) parked on the street - this strikes me as less smart. When one thinks of the people who are victimized by this kind of behaviour - sometimes just regular folks - the whole thing strikes me as deplorable. And it must be said - sometimes when this went on other demonstrators intervened - just as some folks seemed to think tipping garbage cans over was a good idea (it takes more than that to make a barricade, comrade!) others stopped to pick up the garbage.

But that kind of silliness was ephemeral to the demo, a really minor factor, despite the media's exaggerations. Over a thousand people showed up and one or two (literally) cars got damaged - it's not the main story!

More importantly to me is what the demo shows about the state of the radical left.

You see, the police had been announcing they wanted a fight for some time now - ever since the talk of the anti-mask bylaw back in January, when the annual demo was pointed to as a place the cops would want to use such a bylaw. And more recently they've been almost guaranteeing a riot in the newspapers every day.

Yet if anybody showed up with a plan as to how to defend themselves or the demo, i didn't see them. i don't think this is the demo organizers' job - COBP obviously takes enough heat as it is just for organizing the annual march, even though they appeal to people to not act violently.

Organizing defense is not their job, but it is ours.

There were hundreds of anarchists and communists out yesterday, hundreds more who would have supported us, the police had announced beforehand that there would be arrests, but there seemed to be no coordinated plan on how to respond. No "red fists", no "black blocks", no plan to act in a way that would change the balance of power, or the inevitable outcome. And yet what a propaganda coup it will be, better than the smartest slogans or niftiest newspaper, when some group actually manages to show it can
successfully defend itself and others in such a situation!

The Prussian military theoretician Carl von Clausewitz noted that in war there can exist a state of equilibrium or a state of tension. The former exists when both sides maintain themselves, but neither tries to actually do anything the other is not prepared to accept. All sides stand their ground, posturing, but prepared for tomorrow to be much as today and yesterday.

A state of tension, on the other hand, exists when one side tries to do something that will challenge the status quo, something that they know the other side will oppose - because of this plans must be made more seriously, and thought out all the way to the end. The deal becomes for real. As we can read in On War, compiled by Clausewitz's widow Marie von Brühl after his death:
If a state of tension exists, the effects of the decision are always greater partly because a greater force of will and a greater pressure of circumstances manifest themselves therein; partly because everything has been prepared and arranged for a great movement. The decision in such cases resembles the effect of a mine well closed and tamped, whilst an event in itself perhaps just as great, in a state of rest, is more or less like a mass of powder puffed away in the open air.
As he explained:
Most bygone Wars, as we have already said, consisted, so far as regards the greater part of the time, in this state of equilibrium, or at least in such short tensions with long intervals between them, and weak in their effects, that the events to which they gave rise were seldom great successes, often they were theatrical exhibitions, got up in honour of a royal birthday, often a mere satisfying of the honour of the arms, or the personal vanity of the commander.

What we have on the radical left is precisely this kind of state of equilibrium, punctuated by rare states of tension. Not surprisingly, it is in the states of tension that we actually win things, which is not to say that the states of equilibrium may not play their part in maintaining a certain kind of stance or collective identity. But faced with the world as it is, where time is a factor against us, it must be said the the state of equilibrium does more than simply reflect our lack of seriousness, it chokes us.

For instance, by way of example as to where it might have made a difference had a few dozen people taken it upon themselves to have a proactive plan: as we walked down St-Denis five undercovers in the crowd revealed themselves to bust a guy. They had to drag him struggling out of the march, and one whole block away to where two police cars and some other cops were waiting.

No effort was made to unarrest the guy, although the undercovers were vastly outnumbered. (btw the same undercovers were spotted later milling around demo - they obviously didn't feel very worried about their cover being blown!)

Similarly, near the beginning of the march, one person was arrested by five cops. The cops and their victim were surrounded by dozens of people for several minutes before they took him around the corner to where their reinforcements were waiting. During this time they were pelted with... empty soda cans!

Then during the few minutes that the cops were gone with their victim, their cars were sitting there unguarded, surrounded by the demonstrators. Apart from a little bit of white paint, nothing was done to them.

This is not a criticism of any individual or group, especially not the demo organizers themselves, but it shows that the level of combativeness of the demonstrators was at a frustrating level. Rowdy, but not organized. Individuals may have come prepared on an individual level, but there seemed a real lack of any collective organization for self-defense. A broad state of equilibrium.

Of course, i don't want to sound grumpy. The annual demonstration is what it is, and measured in a certain way the efforts of the past thirteen years have been successful: it is now a Montreal tradition, it allows for a coming together of the radical left alongside people who regularly do get aggressed by police, and allows for the possibility of further solidarity. As a cultural phenomenon, it is a success.

It could be more, but perhaps it shouldn't be. i don't know. But if it is not, if the radical left does not use it as an opportunity to learn and do better, one fears that we will surrender the initiative to the state to do so.

To end with a final quote from Clausewitz:
Woe to the cabinet which, with a shily-shally policy, and a routine-ridden military system, meets with an adversary who, like the rude element, knows no other law than that of his intrinsic force. Every deficiency in energy and exertion is then a weight in the scales in favour of the enemy; it is not so easy then to change from the fencing posture into that of an athlete, and a slight blow is often sufficient to knock down the whole.
We will see.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Cops Look Back at Montebello

A year-and-a-half after the fact, new details have come to light about the cops' activities at the 2007 Montebello protests against George Bush.

As you may recall, police infiltrators at the demo were identified by members of the Black Block, who isolated them with the help of other demonstrators. The faux-protesters had to break through their own police lines and pretend to get arrested (see photo above), all in an attempt to save face while getting away from the demonstrators who had I.D.'ed them. After days of denials, eventually the SQ had to come clean that the people in question, who were spotted wielding rocks, were in fact their own cops.

Now, thanks to research by Francis Dupuis-Déri, police documents have come to light about their operations during the protests, an operation which they dubbed "Flagrant Delit" (trans "Caught In the Act").

Apart from the names of the cops involved, and documents confirming what we all know now, that at least three of them were designated "provocateurs", there are also lessons learned by the cops: apparently, they realize that their disguises weren't great (one of them was wearing a t-shirt defending a right-wing talk radio station), and they looked and smelled like cops. The documents explain that

Minutes from a meeting suggest "modifying the profile of those selected [to infiltrate] so that they can function more efficiently." Mention is made of the "size" of the officers and the absence of women in the infiltration squads. "Improved training and intelligence about the demonstrators' subculture would be appropriate. It is more difficult to melt into a crown if you don't know these things."

So friends, remember this is for real, and they can learn.

Remember too: so can we.


a video of the outing, containment and expulsion of the undercovers has been posted to youtube, you can view it here:

Scare-Mongering Continues 1 Day Before Demo

One day before Montreal's annual demonstration against police brutality, the cops and media are pulling out all the stops to scare people away from tomorrow's protest, while at the same time conditioning public opinion and local journalists, prepping them to blame the protesters if the police do clamp down.

Newspaper articles today describe police going door-to-door along Mont Royal, the increasingly-gentrified street down the middle of the trendy Plateau Mont Royal where the march is set to begin, warning business-owners of the possibility of a riot, and scaring them with advice about removing objects from outside their stores that could be set on fire, used as weapons, or to thrown to break windows.

At the same time, Police Brotherhood boss Yves Francoeur was quoted saying that "These demonstrators don't need to be provoked; they're going to break everything, and one way or another there will be arrests; it happens every year."

COBP - the Colective Opposed to Police Brutality - has been a target of the police, and most specifically the Brotherhood, for years now. Its demonstrations are routinely surrounded with this kind of media hype, and it is true that more than once police swept in, engaging in mass arrests on March 15th - though this has not been the case for some years now. Indeed, while organizers refuse to police or "marshal" those who come to the annual protest, they ask protesters to not engage in violence, all the while acknowledging that their anger is justified.

As one COBP spokesperson said at a press conference yesterday, "There are people who come to this demonstration in order to express their anger, because they are given no other place to voice their complaints if they have been victimized by police violence."

This year, however, police seem to be priming for a fight, and preparing the media terrain so that it looks like its the protesters fault if they get attacked by the riot squad tomorrow. This is part of a general combatitiveness that the Brotherhood has shown over the past years, certainly in no way lessened by its ongoing contract dispute with the city. The Brotherhood has spoken up for the cops who killed Fredy Villanueva last summer, went to court to prevent a coroner's inquests into the deaths (at the cops' hands) of Mohamed Anas Bennis and Michel Berniquez, threatened local webmasters who have posted essays documenting police abuse, and much, much more.

In this context it is all the more important that people come out to tomorow's demonstration, to stand in solidarity with victims of police violence, and also with the activists of COBP who the cops and media are trying to intimidate.

Tomorrow, Sunday March 15th, at 2pm at metro Mont Royal: be there!

Friday, March 13, 2009

This March 15th in Montreal: Join the Demo Against Police Brutality

This Sunday is the 13th annual demonstration against police brutality in Montreal, within the framework of the International Day Against Police Brutality.

The demonstration is called for Sunday, March 15th at 2pm, at metro Mont Royal.

As always, there is a fear of police violence, or mass arrests, at the March 15th demo.

Over the past year the police have repeatedly singled out COBP in the media, for instance prior to demonstrations around the Villanueva murder last summer, when newspapers pointed to COBP's involvement in the campaign as an indication that demonstrations might evolve into riots. More recently, during the debates around the anti-mask bylaw the Police Brotherhood is trying to get passed in Montreal, COBP was once again singled out, as the Brotherhood argued that masked protesters at the March 15th demos routinely engage in violence.

& now, during the week leading up to this year's demo, the police and media have been putting the fear campaign into gear. Police spokespeople made a show of taking the Brotherhood to court this week, trying to get an injunction obliging the cops to wear regular pig uniforms at the demo this Sunday (the porcine union has been having the cops dress in battle fatigues as pressure tactics in its negotiations with the city). But the pseudo-court case was really just an opportunity to explain that this demo was liable to be "more violent than ever" due to anger over the Villanueva killing.

In the face of this scare mongering, it is more important than ever to stand with COBP, and to attend this weekend's demonstration. See you there.

What follows is COBP's callout for the demo:

“As police officers, repression is our job. We don’t need a community relations officer for a director, we need a general. Let’s keep in mind that the police force is, after all, a paramilitary body.”
Yves Francoeur, President of the Montreal Police Brotherhood

Metro Mont-Royal
Organised by the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP)
Rest of the text:


“As police officers, repression is our job. We don’t need a community relations officer for a director, we need a general. Let’s keep in mind that the police force is, after all, a paramilitary body.”
Yves Francoeur, President of the Montreal Police Brotherhood

Metro Mont-Royal
Organised by the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP)

The Montreal police (SPVM) is in an uproar. With the current cases against them looking as loaded as their guns, these guardians of the civil tranquility have a bad case of frayed nerves. Their bargaining tactics as they negotiate the renewal of their collective labor agreement have allowed us a glimpse of their true nature: they now parade around town in military apparel, sending a very clear message to the people of Montreal. The police are keeping a finger on the trigger, and are willing to fight for their right to keep it there.
And how could we forget the events of August 9th, 2008. Early in the evening, while playing dice at a park with his brother and some friends, 18 year old Fredy Villanueva was shot dead at point-blank range by Constable Jean-Loup Lapointe, as his accomplice, Stéphanie Pilotte, looked on. Not satisfied with having shot and killed one young man, Lapointe went on to wound two of the other youth present, shooting one of them in the back. It must be made perfectly clear that this was a murder and that Constable Lapointe should be considered a murderer and must absolutely face criminal charges.

There have been many attempts to portray this as an isolated case, a rare fatality that does not put into question the integrity of the police. Cops, however, never act alone. It is the entirety of the police force and the policing institution itself which is to blame in these cases: Fredy Villanueva is the 43rd person killed by the SPVM since 1987. Not a single police officer has been found guilty of voluntary or involuntary manslaughter. Every single police officer involved in these cases resumed regular duties, which explains why one can still cross paths with a cop like Dominic Chartier. Constable Dominic Chartier killed Yvon Lafrance in 1989, was involved in Martin Suazo’s death in 1995, and has had six complaints filed against him with the police ethics committee. But these facts alone are not enough to warrant a dismissal from his position as weapons instructor for the SPVM.

The Montreal Police Brotherhood (FPPM), with their incomparably bizarre Yves Francoeur reigning supreme in the role of godfather, exists mainly to cover up the wrongdoings of its members, operating much like a crime family. It systematically attempts to sabotage the holding of public inquiries and has interfered with the crown prosecutors’ work on numerous occasions. Meanwhile, with the SPVM recently proposing a ban on protestors wearing masks at demonstrations, we may well ask why the SPVM do not do some unveiling of their own. If the cops are so afraid of public inquiries, it’s because they have something to hide. Thanks to the FPPM, the details of the 2005 police shooting of Mohamed Anas Bennis have still not been made public, and as they have time and again interfered in the holding of any kind of public investigation, this case remains unresolved.

The Brotherhood, along with the vast majority of police, has lately been more radical in its stances, most notably in its president’s own words as he declared that Officer Lapointe “…did his job well”. The police try to set an example in this time of social unrest. They try to play their repression off as being necessary for keeping things in their rightful place. To succeed in their mission, someone will eventually have to pay the price. The political powers that dictate the police’s actions know who to blame when it comes to protecting their own: “visible minorities” who are members of “street gangs” who live in a dangerous and “troubled” ghetto. This kind of racial and social profiling is a day to day reality in Montreal’s working class neighbourhoods. In St-Michel, and Montreal-North to name a few, if it’s not the color of your skin that brands you a criminal, it’s the clothes you wear. As of last year even the highly respected Quebec Human Rights Commission had declared the SPVM guilty of “discriminatory practices and profiling”. The youth of these neighbourhoods are being judged by incompetent hacks and yet it is they who are treated as such. There is also the discrimination experienced by the homeless, who are apparently guilty of not being able to keep a roof over their heads. Montreal police (who seem to not have much rattling around in their heads) seem to find it perfectly reasonable to burden homeless with tickets they cannot pay, thus criminalizing their misfortune.

The people pay the price for “Justice” when its armed goons go on the attack. Besides their possession of firearms and other tools of repression such as the baton and pepper spray, we are now introduced to a new weapon: the electroshock gun Taser. Responsible for the deaths of over 300 individuals in North-America alone, this weapon was most notable employed by the SPVM in the killing of Quilem Registre in 2007, and remains in use despite Minister of Public Security Jacques Dupuis having ordered an assessment of the weapon. Some of the Tasers in use emit a charge up to 50% higher than expected.

So who protects us from the police? Besides facing the possibility of death or imprisonment, we must also behave and learn to keep quiet to appease these hired guns. No name-calling, as the SPVM is pressuring the city to make it a crime to insult a police officer. One wrong word could soon cost you one more fine. It’s easy for anyone to grasp the fact that the new municipal regulations – anti-mask and anti-insult – suggested by the SPVM clearly target, as stated by their spokesperson Paul Chablo, two protests in particular: the International Workers Day protest on May 1st and the March 15th International Day Against Police Brutality. Besides being illogical and subject to interpretation, the two proposed regulations prove that there is a real danger of political profiling. We just have to look at the case of Benjamin Nottaway, Algonquin chief from Lac Barrière, imprisoned since last November for participating in a peaceful protest denouncing the government’s neo-colonial policies.

The only way to resolve these problems is to face their true causes. The poverty engendered by government reflects the wealth of the calmer, less populated rich neighbourhoods, where some even employ their own private security. Economic and social instability has consequences that are becoming clearer and clearer. Here and around the world, it is the same reasoning that keeps the system in place, and just as our police kill, so it is in every place where they take on the role of oppressors. Two recent events caught our attention; there was the murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Greece, and that of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California, both at the hands of the forces of order. In both cases, just as we saw in Montreal-North, people took to the streets in revolt, at one point almost culminating in an insurrection in Greece. In the latter case, the two killer cops had criminal charges brought against them. This just goes to show that it is important to act in the face of injustice, that only a strong public outcry can really change things. The International Day Against Police Brutality is the perfect opportunity to show that we refuse to stand for police impunity and to show our opposition to the system that legitimizes their actions. It’s the fist step towards changing a world that has no future ahead of it if we allow passivity to rule.

Justice to all the victims of police brutality and impunity!

No justice, no peace!

-- Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COBP)

Wednesday in Montreal: P4W: Prison for Women Film Screening w/ Ann Hansen

QPIRG-Concordia's Subversive Cinema Series
next feature film: P4W: Prison for Women
National Film Board (NFB) Classic Film

Followed by a special lecture by ANN HANSEN,
author of "Direct Action: Memoirs of an Urban Guerilla".

1455 de Maisonneuve West, H-110
(metro Guy-Concordia)
Welcome to all. FREE. Wheelchair accessible.

P4W: Prison for Women is an NFB classic film that takes shattering look at love and isolation in the most desperate of places. The film centres on five women inmates - their stores, their relationships and their lives - inside Canada's only Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario. The complex fabric of this invisible community is revealed through the use of interviews, monologues and powerful verité sequences. (Canada, 1980, 90 minutes)

The film is followed by a special lecture by ANN HANSEN. Ann is a former inmate at Kingston’s Prison for Women; and author of “Direct Action: Memoirs of an Urban Guerrilla.” Ann was part of the underground anti-war guerilla movement of the 1980s in Canada.

Info: 514-848-7585 -

Tomorrow: Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair #14

i ain't gonna be there, but this weekend it's the world-famous Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, destination extraordinaire for anarchist believers, disgruntled progressives, angry kids and dissident intellectuals of the black-and-red variety. Or something like that.

The fun and games are all happening at the San Francisco County Fair Building - dozens of speakers, an art show, panel discussions and over sixty vendors representing the full gamut of North American anarchist opinion today.

While i will be unable to attend - according to mapquest, it's about 5,000 kilometers drive - i'm happy to say that many of the books and pamphlets i have been involved in publishing these past months will be there -
Specifically, i'd really suggest you all drop by and see my good friends at PM Press and AK Press.

PM Press is a new radical publishing house, and they're the folks i was fortunate enough to be able to co-publish my recent book on the Red Army Faction, Projectiles for the People, with. They will be there with copies of this book, so it's an excellent opportunity for those of you attending to pick one up.

At the same time, AK Press, a veritable institution of the North American anarchist movement, will also be tabling. They will have copies of two recent Kersplebedeb pamphlets - We Were So Terribly Consistent and Dr Marie Equi - Queen of the Bolsheviks (see sidebar). Again, this is an excellent opportunity for you all to check out these and other titles, and i f you're so inclined, pick one up, and save on that nasty postage.

14th Annual Bay Area
Anarchist Bookfair
March 14th and 15th
SF County Fair Building
Ninth Avenue and Lincoln Way
Golden Gate Park

Monday, March 09, 2009

Let's Help Political Prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz Get Proper Healthcare!

The following arrived in my mailbox - worth following up on - please forward, and also take a moment and make a phone call for this still-imprisoned veteran of the liberation struggle:

Long time New Afrikan Freedom Fighter and Political Prisoner, Russell Maroon Shoatz has glaucoma and cataracts in both eye and needs surgery to correct the cataracts. Dr Jin (who is the doctor at SCI-Greene) said he would submit the paper work for the surgery, but hasn't.

Maroon's daughter, Theresa Shoatz, called SCI Greene and spoke to Dan Davis, who said said he was emailing Dr. Jin as they spoke, to speed up the paper work for Maroon's surgery. Dr. Jin responded to the email by sending Maroon back to the eye doctor who diagnosed the cataracts. Once again the eye doctor told Maroon, you don't need to see me you need to see the surgeon. The eye doctor told Maroon he would tell Dr. Jin to once again submit the paperwork for the surgery.

Maroon is also in need of a typewriter, due to the side effects of taking Cipro for more than a year. Maroon began taking Cipro in 2005 for his prostate infection. The FDA has warned the public about the terrible side effects of Cipro, which often causes damage to a person's tendons. Maroon is experiencing terrible pain in the chest, arm, and hands. The tendons surrounding the muscle in those areas are inflamed. Maroon said the pain is constant and describes the pain similar to a broken bone. There is swelling and no ice is available. Maroon complained that writing is difficult, therefore we asked the warden for a typewriter. Theresa spoke to the warden, who told her to just order it, as long as Maroon has enough money in his account, which he does. The warden called Theresa back later and told her that's it's unfair to the other prisoners on Administrative Custody (AC)status if Maroon is able to purchase a typewriter since AC status prisoners are not allowed to own typewriters. Maroon is housed in the capital area (death row). Death row prisoners are allowed typewriters.

We are asking people to call the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Medical Chief of Staff, Dr. Schraff and request that Russell Shoats AF-3855, confined at SCI-Greene:

1. receive the eye surgery immediately to correct the cataracts and also receive the proper treatment for glaucoma. allowed to purchase a typewriter in light of his on going medical condition which makes writing painful, the result of the side effects from taking Cipro.

Call or fax Dr. Schraff
phone 717-214-8449
fax 717-731-7000

people wishing to send letters to Dr. Schraff should send their letters to the following address:

Philadelphia ABCF
P.O Box 42129
Philadelphia, Pa 19101

We will collect all letters sent in and mail them in bulk to Dr. Schraff and also send copies to Maroon.

We also encourage people to write to Maroon:

Russell Shoats
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, Pa 15370

Thank you for your support!

J. Sakai: Notes Toward an Understanding of Capitalist Crisis & Theory

J. Sakai has contributed a text looking at Marx's thought in light of the current economic crisis, asking some tentative questions of what it all might mean in terms of strategy, and things to come.

You can check it out on the Kersplebedeb site: Notes Toward an Understanding of Capitalist Crisis & Theory.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Why the Red Army Faction Matters

Projectiles for the PeopleThe Red Army Faction, A Documentary History - Volume 1: Projectiles For the People by André Moncourt and J. Smith, with forewords by Bill Dunne and Russell "Maroon" Shoats
  • $34.95 from left-wing books dot net
  • Paperback book
  • 736 pages
  • Published by Kersplebedeb and PM Press in 2009
  • ISBN 9781604860290

It is of immense importance that the soldier, high or low, whatever rank he has, should not have to encounter in War those things which, when seen for the first time, set him in astonishment and perplexity; if he has only met with them one single time before, even by that he is half acquainted with them. This relates even to bodily fatigues. They should be practiced less to accustom the body to them than the mind. In War the young soldier is very apt to regard unusual fatigues as the consequence of faults, mistakes, and embarrassment in the conduct of the whole, and to become distressed and despondent as a consequence. This would not happen if he had been prepared for this beforehand by exercises in peace.
- Carl von Clausewitz, On War

A couple of years ago i visited San Francisco to table at the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair, which was a somewhat disappointing experience - however, the bonus of any such trip is the chance to meet with comrades and colleagues who you otherwise only know via email.

So it was in this way that after the bookfair i found myself out with some folks from AK Press drinking beer. Talk turned to work and future publishing plans, and on the walk back to the subway someone asked me why today's radicals would be interested in reading about the Red Army Faction - West Germany's iconic Cold War urban guerillas, and the subjects of a book i had vague plans to publish.

I remember being at somewhat of a loss. In fact, if memory serves, i think i admitted to not knowing why anyone would want to learn about the RAF, or why they should. Not the best pitch, i admit, but at the time the whole "book about the RAF" thing was something i felt ambivalent about - not only did the project seem daunting and the group's writings somewhat unintelligible, but i didn't really like what i thought i knew about them in the first place, the impression i had being of an authoritarian bunch of Germans with pretensions of historical grandeur. Not like we haven't seen enough of that before...

It's now a couple of years later, and I have just received twenty odd cases of Projectiles for the People, the first of what will be a multi-volume series about the RAF. If, in 2007, i had doubts about how this project could be either interesting or relevant, today i am firmly convinced of its importance. Indeed, my own opinion of the RAF was at first challenged and then completely overturned by authors Moncourt and Smith's work, which not only places the guerillas in their proper historical context, but also provides a crash course on postwar Germany and its New Left from a radical anticapitalist perspective.

So what happened? Well, first off - surprise, surprise - it turns out a lot of what i "knew" about the guerillas was just wrong. While the state and media lie about all revolutionaries, they seem to have really gone into overdrive about the Red Army Faction, to the point that it soon stopped being shocking and became funny, and has now stopped being funny and has simply become expected. One only has to look at the blather that's been written about the group over the past year, and it becomes clear that some journalists are still willing and able to just make it up when in need of new material.

This is the legacy of the state's psychological warfare campaign against the RAF, a campaign very similar to the FBI's COINTELPRO. The West German experience involved many "false flag actions" - threatened or actual attacks, generally against civilians, blamed on the guerilla but most likely carried out by the far right or government secret services. It also involved a constant stream of media stories personalizing the guerilla's politics, making it all a matter of unbalanced individuals with crazy ideas and unhealthy interpersonal dynamics. This psychological campaign reached its crescendo around the deaths of RAF members in prison, which the state insisted were suicides, even though compelling evidence existed to suggest that they were in fact murdered.

Even a liberal author like Jeremy Varon, whose book Bringing the War Home attempts to explain where the RAF was coming from, ends up presenting a misleading story marred by his own liberal bias, which requires him to dismiss much of the group's politics without properly grappling with them on their own terms. This shouldn't be surprising, given that when Varon wrote his book hardly any of the RAF's own documents were available to English readers.

What's even more problematic, as Moncourt and Smith explain, is that for years the English translations of RAF documents that were available were of a very uneven quality, and some were downright atrocious. From their "Translators' Note":

In no few cases, segments of the original text were found to be missing from the available translations. It was also not uncommon to encounter what might best be called transliteration—the translator “adjusted” concepts to suit the milieu for which he or she was translating the document. The end result of this latter phenomenon was often, however unintentional, the ideological distortion of the original document—usually only slight in nature, but occasionally egregious. Perhaps the oddest thing we encountered on more than a few occasions was the existence of accretions in the translated documents we referred to; usually only a phrase or a sentence or two, but occasionally entire paragraphs.
Given this status quo ante, the publication of all of the RAF's communiqués and theoretical documents (up until 1977) in Projectiles for the People is of value simply because it corrects and completes the historical record. Countering some of the bias in extant accounts, Moncourt and Smith also devote significant space to examining the deaths of RAF prisoners, showing that despite claims to the contrary there is no reasonable basis for insisting that these were suicides and not executions.

But for radicals, i would argue, the value of Projectiles for the People goes far beyond this. It's worth quickly looking at some of this story's themes, to tease out some political threads, in order to explain why.

In two introductory chapters Moncourt and Smith take us through the quarter century after the Second World War, showing how a political alliance between U.S. imperialism and the German middle and upper classes guaranteed the continuity of key elements of the Nazi state. Moncourt and Smith quote William D. Graf to the effect that:
Almost all the representatives of big business labeled as war criminals by the American Kilgore Commission in 1945 were back in their former positions by 1948; and of roughly 53,000 civil servants dismissed on account of their Nazi pasts in 1945, only about 1,000 remained permanently excluded, while the judiciary was almost 100% restored as early as 1946.
Little surprise that before the New Left revolt of the 60s/70s, West Germany was an intensely conservative society, one where parents were still criminally liable if they allowed their children to spend the night together before the age of 21, where students could be expelled from university for interrupting a lecture, and where corporal punishment was routinely resorted to throughout the school system. Radical opposition faced constant repression, the Communist Party of Germany being banned in 1956 and its leadership imprisoned, while throughout the fifties and early sixties, over ten thousand cases of "treason" were brought before the courts.

This was the world that most future RAF guerillas grew up in, the world they were revolting against. When the so-called "Auschwitz trials" in the early sixties shone light on what had actually happened during the Holocaust - a subject that had been taboo, effectively hushed up in polite German society before then - this combined with revulsion at imperialism's ongoing crimes in the Third World to instill the New Left with a real sense of urgency and determination. Just as Jim Crow discredited America even in the eyes of many of its white children, the older German generation’s participation in genocide discredited them in the eyes of many German youth.

Moncourt and Smith document this evolution in terms of the wider West German left and the other radical tendencies that also opted for armed politics. Groups like the anarchist 2nd of June Movement and the autonomist Revolutionary Cells weave themselves in and out of the narrative, showing how the movement could field different organizations with their own tactics and strategies, all within an overarching worldview that took the need for revolution as a given.

So far so good, but you may still be wondering what's so special? After all, within white North America there were also several armed groups, ranging from the Weather Underground to the George Jackson Brigade and the United Freedom Front, and including smaller ad hoc outfits which proved themselves willing to engage in armed struggle. A very widely quoted figure from Scanlan's magazine in 1970 reported hundreds of acts of sabotage and violence in the united states as part of the campaign against the Vietnam War. This figure does not refer to those armed actions that took place in the context of the national liberation struggles which rocked North America at the time, anticolonial insurgencies of Black, Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Indigenous peoples that constituted the main revolutionary fronts on this continent. In Canada, it is worth remembering that an armed organization fighting for an independent and socialist Quebec - the FLQ - was stamped out not only by social democracy and its own contradictions, but also by the imposition of martial law, tanks in the streets, and predawn raids in October 1970, which saw hundreds of Quebec nationalists and progressives incarcerated as political prisoners.

So why is the RAF worth learning about, why are these voices from so far away worth listening to?

First off, it is certainly also worth learning about what happened here, and much work remains to be done documenting these North American movements. This is all the more pressing, as many remain in prison after all these decades for the part they played in the liberation struggles of the day. For instance, even after almost forty years behind bars comrades like Jalil Muntaqim and Herman Bell are not only consistently denied parole, but are now being dragged through the courts to face new charges dating back to the early seventies. Showing how the system’s thirst for blood can never be quenched, only appeased or resisted.

But it is important to recognize that this is not a case of either/or, and that the RAF was not completely separate from what was happening here. Certainly there were major differences - political, historical, cultural - between the situation in West Germany and that in North America, but all these people saw themselves as part of a global struggle against a worldwide capitalist system led by U.S. imperialism. For all these groups, Vietnam was a reference point, and for all these groups, an awareness of each others activities and goals served as inspiration.

Secondly, the RAF differs from most North American armed organizations in the number of documents it produced, not only analyzing imperialism and capitalism and the historical circumstances the organization found itself in, but also examining its own struggle, the specifics of its actions and the broader meaning of these actions in the lives of its members, and for the left. In these documents, the guerillas laid out ideas and strategies regarding not only Germany and Vietnam, but also alienation, subjectivity, and the hard choices revolutionaries must face. These contributions retain their relevance today.

What emerges from the RAF's documents - all translated here for the first time - is a subtle, nuanced, and realistic strategy that embraced the complexity of the German situation, the tragedy of being revolutionaries in a society in which revolution was not likely, at least in the short term. As they put it in their founding manifesto, "The RAF’s urban guerilla concept is not based on an optimistic evaluation of the situation in the Federal Republic and West Berlin."

The guerilla did not envision "victory" in the sense of seizing power or precipitating revolution all by themselves, but rather saw its actions as a requirement of the broader revolutionary struggle. Indeed, the impression one gets is that the RAF’s goal - at least initially - was to complement the aboveground left, to support it and be supported by it in turn. This view is repeated time and again in early statements:
If the red army is not simultaneously built, then all conflict, all the political work carried out in the factories and in Wedding and in the Märkisch neighborhood and at Plötze [women's prison] and in the courtrooms is reduced to reformism; which is to say, you end up with improved discipline, improved intimidation, and improved exploitation. That destroys the people, rather than destroying what destroys the people!
(Build the Red Army!, 1970)

Some say that the political possibilities of organization, agitation, and propaganda are far from being exhausted, and only when they have been exhausted should one consider armed struggle. We say that the political possibilities will not be fully utilized until armed struggle is recognized as the political goal, as long as the strategic conclusion that all reactionaries are paper tigers is not grasped despite the tactical conclusion that they are criminals, murderers, and exploiters.
(The Urban Guerilla Concept, 1971)

When we build the revolutionary guerilla, we are creating an instrument that is beyond the reach of the system’s repression, that does not depend on the system’s tolerance for its capacity to act, that does not have its room to maneuver determined by the Verfassungsshutz [secret police].
(Statement to the Red Aid Teach-In, 1972)

For the first few years that it existed, the RAF's main priority seems to have been avoiding arrest, surviving underground, and developing their capacity to act. Apart from bank robberies, the group's only "actions" during this period were deadly firefights with police, who had adopted a "shoot first and ask questions later" attitude. (Indeed, unarmed innocent bystanders were killed by police in these years precisely because the cops would sometimes shoot on the mere suspicion that they had spotted members of the guerilla.)

In 1972, the group moved to a new level. At the May Day demonstrations that year, supporters handed out copies of the RAF's second major theoretical manifesto, Serve the People: the Urban Guerilla and Class Struggle, a document that attempted to grapple with the realities of class in West Germany and how this related to the anti-imperialist revolutions in the Third World. Again, the armed struggle was posed as central to the work that must be done:
We’re not saying it will be easy to build the guerilla, or that the masses are just waiting for the opportunity to join the guerilla. However, we do, above all, believe that the situation will not change by itself [...] We believe that the guerilla will develop, will gain a foothold, that the development of the class struggle will itself establish the idea of armed struggle only if there is already an organization in existence conducting guerilla warfare, an organization that is not easily demoralized, that does not simply lie down and give up.
(Serve the People: the Urban Guerilla and Class Struggle, 1972)
Shortly after releasing this document, the group went into action. On May 11, a RAF commando bombed the U.S. Army V Corps headquarters and the site of the National Security Agency in Frankfurt - three blasts went off, killing a Lieutenant Colonel and injuring thirteen others. The next day two police buildings were bombed in the cities of Munich and Augsburg, as payback for the deaths of guerillas at the hands of the Bavarian police. Bombs would continue to go off throughout the month, targeting a right-wing newspaper chain, a judge who presided over RAF trials, and another U.S. military base, this time killing three soldiers.

One of the chief merits of Moncourt and Smith's treatment of these bombings is that they place them within the context of the ongoing imperialist massacre in Vietnam, and the debates occurring within the West German New Left at the time. This was clearly what was important to the RAF itself, as shown by a tape recorded statement Ulrike Meinhof sent to a teach-in organized by the political prisoner support group Red Aid, at the end of May.

Dialogue with the left remained a priority for the guerilla. While this conversation may not have always been polite, the relationship between the RAF and other revolutionaries is one of the most interesting themes in Projectiles, one which belies the claim by many authors that the guerilla was uninterested in reaching out to others. Indeed, this is a story punctuated by demonstrations, protests, one-off bombings and riots, all carried out by others in support of the RAF, or at least against the repression the guerilla faced.

For most of those involved, the 1972 "May Offensive," as it came to be known, proved to be both the first and last series of attacks of its kind. Thousands of cops were mobilized and, on the first day of June, several leading members of the RAF - Andreas Baader, Holger Meins, Jan-Carl Raspe - were cornered and apprehended in Munich. As the police pressed on with their hunt, more and more guerillas were captured, and plans for future actions had to be called off, as the organization found itself almost entirely wiped out.

If this were the end of the story, i would still say it was worth checking out. This "first generation" of the Red Army Faction included many seasoned activists who had spent years organizing legally in the student movement, the antiwar movement, and various anarchist, socialist, and communist organizations. Ulrike Meinhof was a leading intellectual of her day, as well as having formerly been a secret member of the banned Communist Party. Andreas Baader and Gudrun Ensslin were well known members of the West Berlin scene, and enjoyed the status of folk heroes for having firebombed two department stores to protest the Vietnam War. In the 1960s, Horst Mahler had been the most high-profile political lawyer in West Berlin. (He would later be kicked out of the RAF, and finally decades later would reinvent himself as a neo-nazi and Holocaust denier.)

With this solid basis in the movement, the early RAF's texts resonate with debates that have not been resolved to this day. While predictably concerned with armed struggle, they also grapple with questions of political agency, of how to relate to Third World movements, and of what kind of organization is best suited to revolution in the First World. They are well-written, articulate explanations of how the guerillas saw their struggle, and if few readers will agree with them completely, i am sure many could benefit from their study.

But this is not the only reason this story is of interest.

Unlike most armed movements in North America, the RAF managed to survive the arrests of all its key members following the May Offensive.

As Moncourt and Smith reveal, the West German state pioneered various forms of "clean torture" in an effort to break the captured guerillas and force them to recant. The goal here was to use the prisoners against the revolutionary movement, by pushing them to publicly admit they were wrong, or else by messing them up so badly that they appeared insane.

This ongoing campaign against the guerillas took the form of isolation imprisonment. Prisoners were separated from the general population, allowed limited or no visits, and had their mail routinely intercepted. In many cases, entire prison wings were emptied so there was no possibility of even calling out to others through the bars.

In some cases this isolation was taken even further, amounting to sensory deprivation. RAF members Astrid Proll and Ulrike Meinhof were both subjected to this then-experimental form of torture in Cologne prison. As Moncourt and Smith tell us:
The cell was lit twenty-four hours a day with a single bald neon light. It was forbidden for the prisoner to hang photographs, posters, or anything else on the walls. All other cells in the wing were kept vacant, and when other prisoners were moved through the prison—for instance, to the exercise yard—they were obliged to take a circuitous route so that even their voices could not be heard. The only minimal contact with another human being was when food was delivered; other than that, the prisoner spent twenty-four hours a day in a world with no variation.
Some of you who were active at the time may recall similar conditions at the united states' hideous Lexington Control Unit, where female political prisoners were held in the mid-eighties. Lexington was closed down after a campaign showed how this kind of sensory deprivation, coupled with 24-hour-a-day surveillance, was intended as a form of psychological torture. In fact, these techniques had been pioneered in Germany in its attempt to smash the RAF.

The women endured these conditions for months on end. As Astrid Proll would later recall:
During the 2½ years of remand I was 4½ months completely isolated in the Dead Wing of Cologne-Ossendorf. Not even today, six years later, have I completely recovered from that. I can’t stand rooms which are painted white because they remind me of my cell. Silence in a wood can terrify me, it reminds me of the silence in the isolated cell. Darkness makes me so depressive as if my life were taken away. Solitude causes me as much fear as crowds. Even today I have the feeling occasionally as if I can’t move.
It is difficult to say what would have happened if the authorities had adopted a less vicious attitude towards the captured guerillas, but as it is his persecution forced them to react.

In a series of hunger strikes throughout the 1970s the RAF prisoners not only brought attention to their plight, they essentially opened up a new front in their war against the West German state. These hunger strikes, in 1972, 1973, and 1974-5, and then in 1977, became the key organizing tool for the captured combatants. As the prisoners explained in their statement announcing their third such strike:
In isolation, the hunger strike is our only possible form of collective resistance to imperialism’s counterstrategy. Revolutionary prisoners and prisoners who have begun to organize themselves to fight are to be psychologically and physically, that is to say politically, destroyed. Disarmed, imprisoned, isolated, this is our only option for asserting our psychological and spiritual strength, our identity as people, so that the stones the ruling class has thrown at us may land on their own feet.
Not only did these hunger strikes force the radical left to take the RAF into account, they also served to inspire a new generation of radicals to take up the gun and renew the organization. Against all odds, from inside the prisons, the RAF would, time and time again, successfully draw in new recruits through the use of hunger strikes and the campaign against "isolation-extermination."

The story of how the RAF, a revolutionary guerilla organization originally oriented around the realities of 70s New Left, survived wave upon wave of arrests by renewing and reorienting itself in response to the plight of the prisoners, is an undercurrent running through Projectiles for the People. While they are gentle in their judgments, Moncourt and Smith clearly view this as an error, one that led to isolation from much of the left and several serious miscalculations.

This focus on the prisoners finally reached its logical conclusion in 1977, when a number of former legal supporters went underground and joined with the RAF to try to force the state to alleviate isolation conditions, and ultimately to release the prisoners.

This campaign started with the assassination of the Attorney General during the RAF's fourth hunger strike. While this initially seemed to work to push the state to make concessions, the hard line was soon reasserted, and a new plan had to be put in motion. An attempt was made to kidnap a leading banker - it failed, and he was killed. Next, Germany's leading industrialist was successfully kidnapped and held for weeks as the guerillas attempted to negotiate with the prisoners' release. The country was plunged into de facto martial law, and matters were further complicated when a Palestinian commando skyjacked a plane in support of the RAF's demands. After several days, the Palestinian commando was wiped out in a lightning attack by Germany's special forces, and that same night several leading RAF prisoners were found "suicided" in their cells. For the guerilla, failure could not have been more complete. (For more details on the 1977 events, see the series of articles from the Sketchy Thoughts blog in 2007, reposted on the German Guerilla website.)

As Moncourt and Smith argue in their conclusion:
it is striking how much the RAF’s legacy and credibility were damaged by 1977; it took years to recover, even while most of the guerillas remained uncaptured. Most popular and even scholarly works about the group act as if it disbanded afterwards, while in fact it remained active until the 1990s.

Compare this to 1972, when practically the entire guerilla had been wiped out by arrests, and yet the actions of the May Offensive inspired renewed resistance throughout the spectrum of the revolutionary left.

One part of the equation was the distance that had grown between the RAF and the rest of the left, both as a result of its own paradoxes and of the vicious state repression and psychological operations. The other factor, in its own way an expression of the first, was the level of confrontation in which the 1977 commandos had chosen to engage, well beyond the capacity of any other segment of the left to imitate or even support.
Despite these observations, in retrospect it is difficult to know what else could have been done. The "error" of focusing on the prisoners to the exclusion of other contradictions may have been unavoidable, one which the organization had to go through in order to get past it. And as the 1980s would show, the RAF would in fact manage to get past it - though that is a story that will not be told until the next volume in this series.

Projectiles for the People will likely be of interest to researchers and academics of various persuasions, in part because this is the first time most of the RAF's documents have ever been translated into English.

But for radicals, for those of us who are anticapitalist and anti-imperialist in 2009, looking back at the strategies and thoughts of past revolutionaries is particularly rewarding. While it would be foolish to set out to compile a "list of lessons" from such and intense story, learning about the RAF may help prepare us for the struggles that lie in our own future.

Urban guerilla warfare will likely never be waged again in exactly the same way it was in the 1970s, but it is equally unlikely to ever be completely removed from the menu. By theorizing about what they were doing while they were doing it, the RAF combatants have left us a rich legacy from which to draw not only inspiration, but also knowledge and understanding of the dynamics and pitfalls associated with armed clandestine movements.

As noted by Carl von Clausewitz in the quote that introduces this text, it is indeed of immense importance that the soldier, high or low, should not have to encounter those things which, when seen for the first time, can appear daunting and perplexing.

For that reason, i think Projectiles for the People is a book worth reading.


The Red Army Faction, A Documentary History - Volume 1: Projectiles For the People
by André Moncourt and J. Smith, with forewords by Bill Dunne and Russell "Maroon" Shoats
Paperback 736 pages
Published by Kersplebedeb and PM Press in 2009
ISBN 9781604860290

available from left wing books dot net (Kersplebedeb) and PM Press.

for more information on the Red Army Faction, check out the German Guerilla website:

Sect of Revolutionaries Communique from Greece

Left as a comment on the fascinating Social War in Greece blog, here is a translation of the communiqué from the Sect of Revolutionaries, the group which carried out an attack on police in Athens last month:

‘Those who remained unarmed die. The ones who don’t die are buried alive in the prisons, in the reform schools, in the cement coffins of the new housing projects, in the suffocating schools, in the newly decorated kitchens and bedrooms, so prettily decorated on credit’ (RAF)

Following the recent visits of the deputy minister of public order Marcoyianaki and the president of Pasok George Papandreou to various police stations for the purpose of raising the morale of the cops, we decided for the same reason on early Tuesday morning to surprise visit a not at all random police station, the one just 500 metres from the prison hell of Korydallos, and attack some random cops. Our goal was to execute them. We knew that around the corner of the police station were situated a special guard and often two or three of his colleagues. For this attack we used a sub-machine gun type scorpion 7.65 mm, a 9 mm gun and a defence grenade which didn’t go off when we threw it at them. Lucky them, unlucky us, next time luck will not be on their side. Our bullets clarify things. ‘Organised urban guerrilla offensive is the only road revolutionary forces can take in order to overthrow the state’ It’s a clear act that doesn’t need much explaining.

Did you really think that we would be talking about struggle without at the same time taking up arms and being ready to give everything to the struggle? Perhaps the fucking pigs in the police who kill with impunity thought that we would allow them to slaughter us like sheep?

In our first act as REVOLUTIONARY SECT we targeted the police. Now it is our militant forces against the mercenary army of the regime. From now on every cop’s life is worth the same as a bullet, their bodies a perfect target for shooting practice. No tears for the parading coffins to come. Cops have no name, no age; they just have a rank and their number. And so like the doughnuts they scoff down, they’re no good without a whole in the middle.

To those who ask why we chose some random cops and not some high ranking officer, a big-shot journalist, a state executive or even a capitalist, we reply…their turn will come. Moreover through our act we begin a long term plan utilising the tactic of permanent threat. The bullets against random cops deliver an ultimatum to cops of all ranks. Now every faceless cop should know they may be the next target of the REVOLUTIONARY SECT. Perhaps right this minute as he is reading these lines the barrel of a gun may be pointed at him. These are the ‘benefits’ of his job. ‘When you carry a gun you have to accept the risk. However cops want to receive their paycheque without paying the consequences.’ Start giving in your notice or start counting the graves.

Perhaps some are shocked by our cynicism and they talk of a ‘lack of political and ideological foundation’. However we do not feel the need to justify or even explain our action. We are not in politics, we are in armed struggle. In all these decades political parties, judicial and executive powers have exposed the interests of the status quo they work for. The time for analysing is over…

We are already aware of the fact that a few dozens fighters, men and women are preparing to come to the frontline of armed resistance.

We welcome them

P.s. We are in accord with the fighters of the revolutionary struggle in their choice to target the police.

We disagree however in their choice of the battlefield between them and the pigs. A basic principle of urban guerrilla warfare is that we do not attack from the grounds where the diverse forms of resistance develop, thereby transforming them into vulnerable zones of repression. On the contrary we attack the enemy’s impassable ground. In this way we gather our strength and avoid a situation of a police occupation. The second round of the armed struggle has begun…

A hundred flours blossomed…a hundred revolutionary groups.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Prison Round Trip by Klaus Viehmann

Prison Round TripPrison Round Trip
  • $2.95 from left-wing books dot net (normally $4.95)
  • Saddle-stitched pamphlet
  • 31 pages
  • Published by PM Press and Kersplebedeb in 2009
  • ISBN ISBN 978-1-60486-082-5

“Prison Round Trip” was first published in German in 2003 as “Einmal Knast und zurück.” The essay’s author, Klaus Viehmann, had been released from prison ten years earlier, after completing a 15-year sentence for his involvement in urban guerilla activities in Germany in the 1970s. The essay was subsequently reprinted in various forums. It is a reflection on prison life and on how to keep one’s sanity and political integrity within the hostile and oppressive prison environment; “survival strategies” are its central theme.

“Einmal Knast und zurück” soon found an audience extending beyond Germany’s borders. Thanks to translations by comrades and radical distribution networks, it has since been eagerly discussed amongst political prisoners from Spain to Greece. Now, thanks to the efforts of Gabriel Kuhn, it is finally available to a wider English-speaking audience.

Now i have to say, i like most of the texts i publish. Makes sense, right? But then there are texts one really likes, what i think of as "goosebump reading", because they really are that good.

That's how i feel about "Prison Round Trip". This is a highly accessible text about surviving prison, not in terms of simple physical survival, but in terms of one's psyche and political identity. As Klaus explains:

In prison, the necessity of survival strategies is immediate; without them you are at the mercy of the enemy. Prison is a hostile environment, and it has been designed as such by people who see you as their foe. Have no illusions about that. In regular prisons—especially old-fashioned ones—conditions are often atrocious and sometimes violent, but there are at least social structures. In isolation or maximum security units, social relations are controlled, regulated, abolished. Isolation means the absence of social life and the presence of yourself. You have nothing but yourself, and you have to find ways to deal with it. This is possible, but it is not possible to know beforehand who will get through prison okay and who won’t. For someone with little life experience, limited political self-motivation and uncertain (possibly egotistical) future plans, it will be difficult. A colorful biography in which prison does not mark the first rough period, optimism even in the face of a dire situation and the ability not to take yourself too seriously all help.

Nor is this a text only directed at those who imagine that they may one day be locked up. Again, as Klaus explains:

What is the point of talking about survival strategies today—years later? Is it worth trying to organize and sum up your experiences? It is, at any rate, difficult to bring them into words and sentences. Yet, for those who will spend time behind bars in the future, they might be useful. Besides, since the experiences of (political) prisoners are neither extra-societal nor a-historical, their survival strategies might also help those comrades who experience their everyday life as little more than a somewhat coordinated form of “getting by.” To focus on what’s essential, to plan your everyday life consciously, to use your energies in meaningful ways—these are all qualities that are useful.

Klaus Viehmann was a member of the anarchist 2nd of June Movement in the 1970s. While he was in prison the 2JM announced that it was merging with the Red Army Faction, and Viehmann was one of a number of 2JM prisoners who publicly criticized this decision.

Prison Round Trip includes a beautiful preface by Bill Dunne, who has himself been a political prisoner, held by the u.s. government for over thirty years.

A "must read."

We Were So Terribly Consistent... an interview with Stefan Wisniewski about the history of the RAF

We Were So Terribly Consistent...We Were So Terribly Consistent... an interview with Stefan Wisniewski about the history of the RAF

On May 11, 1978, Stefan Wisniewski—one of the most wanted “terrorists” in the world at the time—was arrested at Paris-Orly airport, as he disembarked off a flight from “communist” Yugoslavia.

Twenty-five years old at the time, Wisniewski was a member of a West German urban guerilla group, the Red Army Faction. Specifically, he was alleged to have participated in a number of the RAF’s actions in 1977, actions which had brought West Germany to the brink, traumatizing all sections of society as the guerillas engaged in a daring—and ultimately unsuccessful—campaign, culminating in what is now known as the “German Autumn.”

In this candid interview, conducted in 1997, Wisniewski looks back on his own life, and on his generation's revolt, including the lessons of the RAF, while honestly grappling with the errors committed during its history of armed struggle against imperialism.

While some of the discussion here may not make a lot of sense if you didn't know anything about the RAF before hand, for those of us who are trying to grapple with the meaning of the RAF and the West German guerilla experience, this is an important text. It has not been available in English previously, but is now available both as a pamphlet and on the German Guerilla website.

Stefan Wisniewski was captured in 1978 and spent twenty-one years in West German prisons for his participation in the RAF's struggle against western imperialism. This interview was conducted by Petra Groll and Juergen Gottschlich of taz newspaper in 1997, and appears here for the first time in english, translated by André Moncourt and J. Smith.

Montreal Neo-Nazi Gets Two Years for Armed Assault

Last Wednesday in Montreal an eighteen year old neo-nazi was sentenced to two years prison for stabbing two Arabs in downtown Montreal and assaulting a taxi driver.

The scumbucket, whose name we are not given because he was under 18 at the time, was one of a gang of neo-nazis who were out and about last August 24th. They came across a group of seven young Arabs and began insulting them - then our scumbucket pulled out a knife and stabbed one of them so badly that he required fifty stitches and numerous blood transfusions as a result.

According to La Presse, the neo-nazi proceeded to stab a second victim and then he and his friends fled by taxi. Only thing is, the taxi driver being an immigrant they began to attack him too, smashing his windshield as they left the cab.

Now i just heard of this for the first time a couple of days ago, and from googling around i see apart from an article in La Presse it hasn't been mentioned in the papers. WTF?

Note to those who are interested: a second neo-nazi arrested in this case, Julien-Alexandre Leclerc (20 years old), is scheduled to appear in court on March 25th.