Operation Piñata: We Are the Enemy! – Revista Argelaga

Revista Argelaga examines the broader implications of the recent (March 2015) witch-hunt against anarchists in Spain known as “Operation Piñata” through the lens of the “Criminal Law of the Enemy” (Günther Jakobs), observing that the draconian measures implemented to deal with the domestic “enemy”—the excluded and dissenters, now stigmatized as “terrorists”—are plunging us into a “Kafkaesque universe” ruled by “the logic of fear”, and that we face the threat of the emergence of an inauspicious “totalitarian surveillance and control hysteria among the masses of the citizenry” terrified by the economic crisis and the “Jihadist aberration”.

Operation Piñata: We Are the Enemy! – Revista Argelaga

In 1985, the conservative jurist Günther Jakobs told everyone how pleased he was with the rise and development of a restrictive body of laws that clearly contradicts the traditional corpus of Criminal Law, a new legal system within which he posited a strange domain that he called the Criminal Law of the Enemy.1 Laws framed according to this new legal concept outlaw behavior to which the “responsible authority” attributes the role of the commission of criminal acts even if these acts have not actually been committed. The alleged perpetrator suffers punishment not for actions he actually performed, but for actions he might possibly have performed. The law no longer contemplates the citizen of the State as a person endowed with full civil rights, but as a threat, an enemy of the State with truncated rights, or even better, with no rights at all. However, due to the instability of certain political systems in which the progress of social injustice reveals their historical bankruptcy, legislation against the “enemy” is no longer the exception but rather the rule, shattering the logical relation between offense and penalty, or between crime and punishment. In our current legal system, arrests and arbitrary searches without due cause, gratuitous violence on the part of the agents of order, the non-observance of legally guaranteed rights of due process, and disproportionate punishments for imaginary crimes, are now beginning to take place on a regular basis. We have seen these factors in play recently, for example, in the trials of the piqueteros, the verdict against the 4F, Operation Pandora, and the Supreme Court’s overruling of the National Court’s failure to sentence those who blocked access to the Catalonian Parliament to harsh prison terms, all of which testify to a situation that no longer corresponds to a system based on rights, but to a state of siege, that is, a condition without rights. Politicians, police, judges, prosecutors and high court appointees happily contribute to consolidating this state of affairs.

The concept of the “enemy” constitutes the basis of a condition of Abolished Rights, that is, a Democracy of Unfreedom (of Dictatorship). The enemy in this conception is not the corrupt official, the perjurer, or the common criminal, but the adversary of the prevailing legal and political order, who fights against the latter, whether with ideas or with deeds. The enemy is the public enemy, the enemy of the political system, who does not accept its legitimacy and considers its existence as the guarantee of endless inequality and oppression. And the system, to protect itself, isolates its enemy, outlaws him and transforms him into a criminal, since dissent is a crime, indeed, it is the worst crime of all. The system considers that it is at war with this “enemy” and therefore it applies the laws of war. When the Police Chief of Valencia, Antonio Moreno, appointed by Rubalcaba, at a Press Conference held on February 20, 2012, justified the extreme force used in the police attacks against the demonstrations protesting budget cuts in education and referred to the students as “the enemy”, he expressed out loud, and with the simplicity of a thug, a State secret. This official was promoted two years later. There are still people who get all worked up about features “typical of Francoism”, when they are in fact typical of the democracy of parliamentary castes. No, the Criminal Law of the Enemy is not a legacy of Franco’s dictatorship; it is an invention of the two-party democratic system.

An authoritarian system, whether or not it calls itself democratic, defines itself with reference to its enemy, that evil and wretched being who seeks to abolish it; at the present time, the label of “terrorist” is the perfect description of this enemy. To define every enemy as a terrorist, however, requires a great deal of conceptual flexibility. Thus, in the extremely variegated field of terrorism everything has a place, from the burning of garbage bins and throwing emergency flares to actions of armed struggle properly speaking; from the dissemination of ideas and squatting to suicide bombings. Anyone who disagrees with the state form as the ideal form of an organized free society, and anyone who expresses doubts about capitalist economic development as the very essence of democracy, falls within this category; in the language of order such dissent would be equivalent to the “subversion of the constitutional order, or the abolition, or the serious destabilization of the functioning of the political institutions”. Opinion crime, that is, having an opinion that is opposed to the dominant view, seems to cover a wide range of phenomena. The same goes for the crimes of usurpation and resistance to the forces of public order, that is, the establishment of social centers in abandoned buildings and protests against police brutality. The imaginary plots of “anarchist terrorism” uncovered by the police and tried in court by the judges constitute clear evidence of this trend.

The purpose of Operation Piñata, which was implemented in March of 2015 as the second stage of Operation Pandora, was to arrest people who were accused of belonging to a “criminal organization with terrorist aims”. Note in particular this mention of “aims”, for there is no proof at all that those who were arrested were organized for the purpose of carrying out, much less that they could be held responsible for actually carrying out, actions that, even using the broadest criteria, could be defined as terrorist. The organization in question, with which many of those arrested had no connections at all, the Coordinated Anarchist Groups, was never anything more than a forum for contacts among individuals with shared ideological tendencies for the purpose of an entirely public and open propaganda, with its web page and its email address. In the Criminal Law of the Enemy, however, the organization of opposition is criminal by its very nature and therefore criminal and terrorist per se; a “point of encounter for violent groups” planning to commit implausible acts of “sabotage and random bomb attacks” for the purpose of “sowing terror among the populace”. Here, a judgment is made solely on the basis of an intention, which is itself taken for granted. The enemy has no right to the private enjoyment of social intercourse, nor does he have any right to freedom of expression or assembly, which is why both the use of the server “Riseup”, as well as the publication of a book and coordinated actions, are considered to be sufficient evidence of potential crimes and even of other crimes, already committed by unknown persons, such as the fireworks detonated at ATM machines or the dud explosives of Almudena and Pilar, which would serve to qualify the victims of the operation for inclusion under the rubric of “terrorists”.

The Director General of the National Police, Ignacio Cusidó, has no qualms about publicly stating that “anarchist terrorism has set down roots in Spain”, and that is why the fight against it is “a priority for the police”. If the facts belie these absurdities, so much the worse for the facts. The agents of order will plant the evidence and the judges will not allow testimony exculpating the defendants. The Criminal Law of the Enemy plunges us into a Kafkaesque universe which actually has its own particular logic and this logic is the logic of fear. The Jihadist aberration and the prolonged crisis threaten to awaken a totalitarian surveillance and control hysteria among the masses of the citizenry which augurs no good. Bad times for freedom, a value whose price on the stock exchange is in free fall, and good times for the gung-ho advocates of political solutions. Fear is the blackmail of Power, and one sector of Power is in favor of a thorough application of this strategy. Riots and protests in the streets have on numerous occasions cast ridicule on the efficacy of the forces of order, whose members are psychologically bound to their repressive function, but incapable of neutralizing a clamorous urban struggle that does not even have very numerous participants. This ridicule is sometimes much more subversive than extremist propaganda or stone-throwing, and even if it is not the most forceful act of sabotage against the system, it is the one that most effectively deprives it of its legitimacy. Thus, Operation Piñata has not been unleashed against an intangible anarchist terrorism, but is instead part of a strategy of a war that is directed against the social milieu of those people who have been excluded from the system, and against the rank and file of social dissidence and street-based unrest. Against the cultural centers [ateneos], occupied social centers [centros okupas], neighborhood assemblies, autonomous workers collectives, anti-prison groups, groups formed for the defense of territory…. It is a cleansing operation that seeks to prevent the formation of a handful of tiny footholds, in the midst of economic and political crisis, from becoming the springboard for the emergence of a social crisis that might spiral out of control. As Cusidó said, it is a “preventive action”, two words that should be interpreted in the military sense, because this servant of the State is aware of the fact that he is at war with a radical enemy fighting for social justice, equality and freedom.

Down with the State! Release the prisoners!

Revista Argelaga, April 1, 2015.

Translated in April 2015 from the Spanish text available online at: https://argelaga.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/operacion-pinata-todos-somos-el-enemigo/

  • 1. The principal features of the “Criminal Law of the Enemy” have been enumerated as follows: “Tends to punish prospectively in a bid to prevent future harms; Secondly, it imposes disproportionate sanctions in the name of security; And thirdly, it departs from conventional procedural protections.” Crucial historical examples are the US “RICO”—Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act—legislation (1970) and the “USA Patriot Act” (2003) (Héctor Zayas Gutiérrez, “The Expansion of the Criminal Law of the Enemy in the US Legal System”, January 2010, from The Selected Works of Héctor Zayas Gutiérrez, obtained in April 2015 online at: http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1001&context=hector_zayas). [Translator’s note]