Issue of the London-based anarchist magazine Black Flag from the 1990s. Partial contents only.
Spyros Dapergolas - Greek Anarchist On Hunger Strike
INTERNATIONAL SHORTS - Wharfies ban Indonesian ship, General Strike in South Korea
Satpal Ram - Attacked by Screws
NAFTA - Auto Restructuring and Mexico's Maquiladora Zone
News from the Kate Sharpley Library
JSA - Volunteering and Workfare
Le Drapeau Noir - International Day Against Police Brutality
Free Water - VICTORY IN SIGHT FOR ANTI WATER CHARGE CAMPAIGN
DEFEND BRIAN HIGGINS CAMPAIGN
Letter - Mike, Manchester
SPYROS DAPERGOLAS: GREEK ANARCHIST ON HUNGER STRIKE
Spyros Dapergolas was arrested in June 1995, during an unsuccessful bank robbery. He is still in prison awaiting trial, even though the maximum period for temporary imprisonment in Greece is 18 months. Spyros started a hunger strike on November 9 1996. He has already lost 20 kilos and his health is in danger.
On December 22nd, Spyros wrote from prison "I am on a hunger strike for 44 days. Only a few days before completion of 18th months in jail, a period full of "constitutional rights", laws, arguments and above all justice. And the day after these 18 months pass, I'll still be in prison and no matter how much I try, I can't laugh with my situation.
There should be no doubt of my commitment to fight till the end. I choose this way, at least to reserve my dignity, not to sit quietly accepting the brutality and the mechanisms of oppression. The authorities seem to want to push things to the edge. Perhaps they believe that I will not be able to keep on going, but bury myself in silence and isolation. I can promise them that their expectations will not materialise. Regardless of all the problems, there are those in the society, who keep the flag of freedom and solidarity high, who laugh at the face of repression. These people stand by me and these are the people that I want to have with me.
Wharfies ban Indonesian ship
Waterside workers and port employees in Darwin, Australia, placed a 24 hour ban on the Indonesian ship Fujar Kanguru on December 17th. This is part of the Aussie dockers protest action against the detention and trails of Indonesian union leaders Muchtar Pakpahan and Dita Sari now under way in Jakarta. The Maritime Union of Australia said there was "..no prospect of Mr . Pakpahan or Ms Sari receiving a fair trial."
The two union leaders face charges of subversion, which in Indonesia carry the death penalty. Their crime has been to build and lead independent unions in a country where only government-controlled unions are legal.
General Strike In South Korea
On December 29th 20,000 workers, shouting ''Down with (President) Kim Young-sam,'' marched on the ruling party headquarters as South Korea's largest ever strike entered its fourth day. The workers were allowed to march past the building. No arrests or injuries were reported.
The protesters were among 373,000 workers striking to demand the abolition of a law which threatens their job security. The 4-day-old strike has crippled hundreds of car, shipbuilding and other plants. The new law was passed in a special parliamentary session with no opposition members present.
The new law makes it easier for businesses to lay off employees en masse, something unheard of in South Korea. The government had tried to buy off workers by granting greater rights to unionise, but the new rights won't take effect for several years.
The car and shipbuilding industries were hardest hit. In addition to the leading car maker Hyundai, three other major manufacturers stood idle. South Korea is the world's sixth-largest car-maker, and gets about 30 percent of the world's shipbuilding orders.
Other key industries, such as semiconductors and electronics, as well as railroads and other utilities, have remained largely unaffected. The current strike is the nation's first organised nation-wide general strike. In the late 1980s, there was a lot of spontaneous worker and student unrest.
SAPTAL RAM: ATTACKED BY SCREWS
On 16th November 1986, Satpal Ram went for a meal at the Sky Blue Restaurant, Lozells, Birmingham. He was attacked by a group of six white people who threw plates and glasses at him, one of them stabbing him in the face with a broken glass. After being stabbed twice Satpal took out a small knife (which he used at work to open packages) and tried to warn of his attacker. His attacker went at Satpal again and bleeding and in fear of his life he stabbed him in self defence. The attacker died after refusing medical treatment.
At Satpal's trial, most of the prosecution evidence came from the group that attacked him and witness statements taken by the police from the Bengali speaking staff, were later disowned by them. Satpal's defence of self-defence was changed by his barrister at their only meeting (of forty minutes) shortly before the trial. Vital evidence from defence witnesses was not understood by the all white jury as no interpreter was provided. The judge said that he would interpret, despite the fact that he could not speak a word of Bengali!
This farce of a trial meant that Satpal was found guilty of murder, without the jury even considering if his actions were in self-defence. And at his appeal on the 24th November 1995 the judges still only looked at the evidence given by the five others who took part in the attack.
At the moment Satpal is in segregation and he is moved every 28 days to another prison. He has been attacked several times by screws, going on hunger strike, after being beaten and racially abused in Full Sutton prison. Satpal continues to campaign to prove his innocence and refuses to be silenced. Recently on Friday the 22nd November Satpal was again attacked by a screw called Hammond in Brixton prison. This attack took place after a visit from a supporter, during which the screw insulted her child and Satpal protested - he was then taken away and given a beating.
A picket of Brixton prison was immediately organised for Monday 25th, with supporters coming down from Birmingham. The picket attracted some local press and importantly made the screws aware that they can't just beat someone up in the privacy of their sadistic little prison regime without some kind of come-back. After giving out a load of leaflets highlighting Satpal's plight, the loud and vocal picket moved on to the visitors centre of the prison (at the end of visiting time so as not to disrupt other prisoners visits) where the embarrassed screws ran around in a flap, and then to the back of the prison to let the prisoners hear that something was going on.
It seems likely that the attack was timed to purposely discredit Satpal and ruin his attempts to be moved to the midlands prison HMP Gartree, where he would be closer to his family . He has been 'ghosted' in segregation from prison to prison since March following an assault on him by prison officers in Long Lartin. More recently Satpal had been moved out of segregation and taken of continuous assessment, his behaviour giving 'no cause for concern', and he was promised a move to Gartree.
But as is standard if a prisoner is assaulted they end up being disciplined and branded a trouble-maker. This is just one more incident in Satpal's ten year history of injustice and brutal victimisation at the hands of the British legal system.
The fight to free Satpal continues!
Messages of support can be sent to; Satpal Ram E94164
Though since he is often moved without warning he can be contacted via;
Birmingham Prisoner Solidarity, PO Box 3241, Saltley, Birmingham B8 3DP and
Free Satpal Campaign, c/o 101. Villa RD, Handsworth, Birmingham, B191 nh, phone-0121 507 1618.
NAFTA: AUTO RESTRUCTURING AND MEXICO'S MAQUILADORA ZONE
This article was sent to us by comrades in North America, and details how NAFTA is part of a broader agenda by global capitalism to slice up the world and make more profits. It puts telling arguments as to why workers in the north should be in solidarity with those in the south - after all, whose wages are we going to be equalised to by this "free market"?
The author is a member of the Candian Autoworkers Union, the leading private sector union in Canada with a good tradition of internationalism. As a side point, it's worth noting that the CAW has just won agreements from the US Big Three car makers not to contract out production away from core plants. An insight into the CAW can be given by the union's leader, Buzz Hargrave, saying "If you fight, you can win," and "You can't win if you don't challenge managements' rights." It's hard to imagine John Monks or Bill Morris challenging management's rights, or even fighting to win or even fighting. The deal between the union and GM was reached only after a three-week strike but deals were negotiated with Ford and Chrysler.
It's now expected that limits to a corporation's ability to outsource work will now be a key demand by other unions across the country as companies continue to shed workers.
Globalisation and the neo-liberal economic policies which go with it is the major problem facing the international workers movement today. We will continue to examine these themes in future issues of Black Flag.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trilateral treaty designed to transform the North American continent into a single economic zone. It will facilitate the realisation of global economic order that will further entrench an increasingly unhindered global, market based economic system; and further erode, if not preclude, public policy involving significant state intervention in this economic system.
The origins of NAFTA can be traced back to the Reagan /Bush "Enterprise for the Americas" initiative which envisioned the creation of a free trade zone throughout the entire western hemisphere, including the Caribbean basin, Central and South America. NAFTA constituted the next logical step towards that end following the 1988 Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The NAFTA treaty was signed on August 12 1992 and began to go into effect on January 1 1994. Superficial and largely ineffective side agreements on labour and environmental issues were also signed and implemented.
To properly understand the significance of NAFTA, it is vital to view it as a means to facilitate a sweeping multi-faceted or multi-tiered process of corporate restructuring within the context of the global capitalist economic system. This is particularly apparent with corporate restructuring in the auto industry throughout North America since the early 1990s. This restructuring has been marked by the widespread implementation of the lean or Toyota production system; the proliferation of non-union, Japanese transplants employing lean production methods; successive waves of plant closures by parts manufacturers and the US Big Three car manufacturers; and the growth of an enormous, export-oriented Mexican car and parts industry which also underwent major corporate restructuring during this period.
The two free trade agreements made changes to vehicle content rules. The 1988 FTA ended the 1965 Canada-US Auto Pact's requirement for a 60% Canadian content in vehicles (in Canada) and replaced it with a 50% North American requirement, with North American defined as US and Canada. NAFTA raised the North American content to 62.5% but redefined North American to include Mexico. These changes made it possible for corporations such as General Motors (GM) to relocate as much of their production wherever they wished in any of the three NAFTA countries without being penalised by tariffs. By giving corporations this unprecedented degree of capital mobility, NAFTA also made it increasingly possible for them to restructure their operations as they saw fit and to engage in corporate whipsawing.
Whipsawing is a practice in which corporations draw workers from different plants into defacto bidding wars by competing with each other for work. In these bidding wars those plants with local unions that accept what leading North American auto executives commonly refer to as "competitive agreements" stand the best chance of either retaining existing work or acquiring new work. These are also called Modern Operating Agreements or Living Agreements (Living agreements can be re-opened at any time with the consent of both parties). Significantly, the most competitive agreements are those with the most contract concessions and in which only the union surrenders its rights.
The car corporations' desire for "competitive agreements" highlights how the lean system of production fits into this scenario. Acceptance of the Toyota or lean system and the contract concessions that go with it are the principal criteria used to determine whether particular plants or operations will continue to operate and /or attract new work. The lean system means continuous restructuring of work processes and specific work operations in pursuit of "continuous improvement" and the corporate objective of eliminating "waste". It specifically involves restructuring focused on the shop floor and at the plant level, with the goals of maximising output with minimal manpower and "rightsizing" or downsizing the workforce (corporate speak for sacking workers).
Corporate whipsawing in the car and auto parts industries enables the car corporations to accelerate the drive to lean production as fully as possible throughout their organisations. This shows that there is a direct and complementary relationship between lean's implementation; phenomena such as the waves of plant closures throughout North America over the past 15 to 20 years(ie GM's announcement in 1991 that it would close 21 plants and eliminate 74,000 jobs) and the implementation of free trade agreements such as NAFTA consciously crafted to facilitate this restructuring of corporations to make them more competitive in the increasingly global economic system.
Understanding the relationship between these things is essential to understanding what has caused the dramatic decline of the United Autoworkers (UAW) union in the US. In 1979 UAW membership stood at about 1.5 million ; now it is only slightly more than half that number. Furthermore the UAW's pitiful decline has been a major cause of the decline of the US labour movement. Today only about 9% of private sector workers belong to a union.
Mexico Factors In
Mexico has factored into this situation principally because the implementation of NAFTA allowed car and auto parts companies to locate as much production as they want in any of the countries that signed the treaty. To consider what this has already meant in very stark terms, reflect on the following statistics:
In 1986 20,500 vehicles were exported northward from Mexico
In 1995 the US Big Three alone exported 385,000 cars and 168,000 trucks northward from Mexico, while Nissan and Volkswagen exported 225,000 northward, out of a total of 778,000 vehicles from Mexico. (38 times the 1986 level)
In 1992, the year NAFTA was signed, auto parts companies (including GM & Ford subsidiaries) exported US$6.4 billion worth of parts northward from Mexico
In 1995, the figure rose to US$9.5 billion.
In the same period, the number of auto parts plants based in Mexico rose form 192 to 210 and the number of workers employed from 156,000 to 210,000.
Approximately 450,000 Mexican workers are now employed in the car and auto parts industries, which now account for 21% of Mexico's manufacturing exports.
Consider the situation at GM's Mexican operations. In 1981 GM employed a Mexican workforce of 7,000. Today it employs about 75,000 in 54 facilities. Furthermore if GM's Mexican operations were a single corporation, it would be the 135th largest in the world. Such developments leave no doubt that GM dramatically expanded the its Mexican operations both before and after NAFTA. In the meantime GM reduced its Canadian workforce by more than one third, from about 40,000 to about 26,000.
In view of these things it is essential to consider the situation of both automotive workers in Mexico and Mexican workers in general, and to see that they face horrendous problems of their own. The principal problems faced by Mexico's workers are the low wages they are paid and the poor conditions they live in. Indeed Mexican workers' wages generally range from as little as US$4 per day to $1.25 per hour. The latter is the rate paid to workers in the US Big Three's assembly operations in Mexico. The particular problems faced by Mexican workers in the industry reveal the very same forces that have eroded the gains made by their US and Canadian counterparts since the 1930s.
An article headlined "Detroit South" in Business Week (March 16th 1992 edition) stated that, "In Detroit's view, Mexico's young workforce adapts more quickly to new industrial regimes than entrenched workers in the Rust Belt," and went on to say that this workforce is "amenable to the manufacturing revolution." Simply stated, Business Week was reporting that Detroit believed Mexican autoworkers were more adaptable to the lean system than traditional US blue collar workers. To further appreciate this, it is only necessary to draw on a brilliant article by Kevin J.Middlebrook entitled "The Politics of Industrial Restructuring: Transnational Firms Search for Flexible Production in the Mexican Automobile Industry", which appeared in Comparative Politics in April 1991. It perceptively starts from the premise that "restructuring in the auto industry is fundamentally a global process" and emphasises that the shift to the construction of export-oriented automotive manufacturing facilities in central and northern Mexico has coincided with efforts to redefine labour relations in the new plants to lower labour costs and limit union influence in the manufacturing process. Notably, auto corporations have taken advantage of the passive unions in the Mexican automotive industry, which are usually linked to the government controlled Confederation of Mexican Workers (CTM). Within the car industry, CTM unions have obstructed efforts to unify workers in different auto plants and in effect allowed the corporations to blackmail workers at older, more established plants to gain greater management flexibility.
A trend has emerged where older plants with better paid workers and more rights often saw their operations restructured or closed, while new, comparatively more lean production facilities were built that employed younger, more poorly paid workers with fewer rights and less, if any, union experience. In short, Middlebrook recognised that workers were being subjected to a phenomenon similar in nature to whipsawing and were on the receiving end of exactly the same type of corporate restructuring which autoworkers in the US and Canada have faced.
Mexican autoworkers and other Mexican labour activists are quick to acknowledge that such things have happened and they see similarities between what has been taking place in the automotive industry there and in the rest of North America.
Some of the most compelling evidence of just how harmful this restructuring has been for Mexican workers can be seen in the rapid growth of car and parts plants within and in close proximity to the Maquiladora Zone and in the conditions of life for the workers in these plants. Many believe the Maquiladora Zone shows what the future holds for the entire Mexican working class, once NAFTA has fully come into effect.
The Maquiladora Zone is located throughout the US-Mexican border region. It is only a few miles wide but it is 2,000 miles long and includes several urban centres which are immediately adjacent or in close proximity to US border cities, both large and small.
There are over 3,100 maquilas or foreign-owned industrial plants producing mainly for export in the Maquiladora Zone. These currently employ more than 670,000 workers and produced 39% of Mexico's exports in 1995.
Besides car and auto parts there are numerous textile, metal and wood products plants and a rapidly growing number of electronics plants especially in Tijuana in north-west Mexico. The transnational corporations that own most of these facilities are only required to pay taxes based on the value added to goods while they are in Mexico.
These transnational corporations profit from employment of workers who are not only paid less than workers elsewhere in Mexico, but receive few, if any, benefits. Most are under 25 and work in plants with no union whatsoever. Those who are in a union are usually represented by the government controlled CTM, whose national leadership has repeatedly agreed to and helped enforce a freeze on workers' wages that holds them far below Mexico's rate of inflation. Nonetheless, it should be pointed out that there are some dissident local unions within CTM. These unions have tried, and in some cases succeeded in functioning like legitimate workers' organisations.
Mexican Labour Law
Another problem workers in the Maquiladora Zone face is that they are kept in the dark about Mexico's progressive but poorly enforced labour laws. Indeed the maquilas have been able to operate outside of Mexico's federal labour law since the 1970s when these plants began to be built in any numbers. They were built to order according to Kathryn Kopinak of the University of Western Ontario in a recently published book about the Maquiladora Zone, "Desert Capitalism". Because the plants operate outside federal labour law, workers in the Maquiladora Zone are routinely denied the right to organise independent unions that are genuinely accountable to them and have even faced police violence when they tried.
Ciudad Juarez is a city of over a million people located next to El Paso, Texas, and has a thriving maquila industry. Few of the workers are unionised and almost all of those who are belong to a CTM union. As a direct consequence of this most strikes in Ciudad Juarez are wildcat strikes organised by temporary coalitions of workers that form around specific issues and then dissolve once each struggle is over.
In 1995 there was a series of wildcat strikes over wages in Juarez. One of these took place at a Zenith plant and another at a Ford plant. Both of these strikes were actively opposed by CTM officials representing the workers in these plants. The CTM had negotiated wage increases for the workers within the limits of the wage freeze. Yet both of these illegal strikes won wage settlements that were superior to what the CTM had negotiated.
Health and safety laws are likewise poorly enforced in the Maquiladora Zone. The situation with hazardous waste materials labelling is indicative of the reprehensible situation that prevails with respect to worker health and safety. The text of the labelling is often only in English. Containers from Canadian firms such as Custom Trim Ltd, of Waterloo, Ontario, have even been found with bilingual labels - in English and French! There is a callous disregard for the health and safety of the young women workers who make up half the workforce in the border region (i.e. unprotected exposure of women of child bearing age to soldering fumes in electronics plants, such as Zenith at Matamoros). Sexual harassment is also overt and rampant throughout the region.
Environmental laws are likewise poorly enforced throughout Mexico and toxic pollution is an extremely serious problem in the Maquiladora Zone. Domingo Gonzalez, a leading environmental activist in the border region and a prominent member of the tri-national Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras based in San Antonio, Texas perceptively described the Rio Grande which runs through the border region as a toxic time bomb created by massive poisoning of the water table.
Two incidents that occurred in the early 1990s involving severe toxic pollution dramatise the seriousness of the situation. A sampling taken by the US-based National Toxics Campaign from a ditch next to a GM Fischer Body Bumper plant in Matamoros revealed the presence of the hydrocarbon xyklene in a concentration of 2,700,000 parts per billion, (about 6,000 times the US standard).
The same hydrocarbon was found by the National Toxics Campaign at 53,000 times the US standard behind a Matamoros plant owned by the Stepan Chemical Corporation of Northfield, Illinois. Stepan is arguably the worst toxic polluter in the region, and the Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras made a video about it called "Stepan Chemical: The Poisoning of a Mexican Community".
More recently US activist organisation Public Citizen, in an extensive investigation of the environmental crisis in the border region, found that the situation has worsened since NAFTA. The findings disputed the claims of NAFTA's supporters who have consistently tried to argue that the environmental situation would improve as a result of economic development facilitated by the treaty. Most importantly, this toxic pollution is routinely located either in the midst of, or very close to, the colonias or residential districts where the maquila workers live. In some cases ditches with the stench of toxic pollution coming from them run right by workers' houses. The children of these workers play immediately around these ditches as well.
Living conditions and the lack of economic infrastructure have not been seriously addressed since NAFTA. Most workers live in homes that are little or no better than shacks, without heat, running water, acceptable toilet facilities and in some cases electricity. Almost all the roads that run by their homes are unpaved and the colonias in which they are located typically have no garbage collection. One colonia in Matamoros is built over what used to be a rubbish dump. As a result the danger of cholera outbreaks is all too real. These conditions exist in large measure because of the low wages paid to the workers, rapid and uncontrolled economic growth and the fact that the transnational corporations operating in the Maquiladora Zone typically do not pay municipal taxes.
The Peso Crisis
In addition, the immediate economic situation of the workers, many of whom migrated to northern Mexico due to the wide availability of work there, has grown considerably worse since NAFTA, despite NAFTA's supporters' claims that the treaty would produce rising incomes for Mexico's workers. The most immediate cause of this development was the sharp devaluation of the Mexican peso at the end of 1994. Because most of the goods purchased in the Maquiladora Zone are bought with US dollars the purchasing power of the pesos paid to Mexican workers there dropped by about one half. This development was especially brutal because many of these workers were witnessing a sharp drop in the real income of Mexico's workers for the second time in about a decade.
During the 1980s the wages of all Mexican workers were cut roughly in half when the government limited wage increases as part of a package of economic reforms. Those economic reforms were designed to liberalise or restructure Mexico's economy, in response to the country's debt crisis and pressure from the International Monetary Fund. The reforms were meant to make Mexico open for business. In the aftermath of the 1994 peso crisis, it became common for families in the Maquiladora Zone to need at least three wage earners to maintain a subsistence income. At the same time the sharp decline in the value of the peso also yielded a sharp drop in labour costs for employers in the border region and a sudden surge in their plants' profitability. This is in turn stimulated additional foreign investment in the Maquiladora Zone, more uncontrolled economic growth and more corporate restructuring.
In short, the corporate restructuring and greatly increased mobility of capital that were facilitated by the implementation of NAFTA have been, and continue to be, synonymous with the economic and ecological plunder of Mexico's Maquiladora Zone by transnational corporations. These very same corporations, particularly in the auto industry, are relentlessly restructuring and downsizing their operations elsewhere in Mexico, the US and Canada at the expense of workers to become lean and yield a higher rate of profit.
In conclusion, these things illustrate the kind of barbarism that is being wrought in North America by the global corporate agenda, and this barbarism will not be stopped until we understand the forces that are creating it and recognise and act on the need for workers to build a movement of resistance on a multi national basis.
Bruce Allen, Canadian Autoworkers Local 199
Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras
NEWS FROM THE KATE SHARPLEY LIBRARY
The cataloguing of the British Isles' voluminous Anarchist archive is trundling ahead, so that the collection of English language pamphlets is now on a database, and the books will be following after. Those who've been waiting for these catalogues with bated breath can get a regular update on that, and learn more about Anarchist history, in KSL (the Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library), which has resumed quarterly publication after a spell of "exciting irregularity". Issue No 6 (with the "lost Anarchists" spot, an account of Kate Sharpley, and more) is now available for 50p + SAE from:
Kate Sharpley Library
c/o BM Hurricane
Also in this issue is a list of KSL publications, and future publishing projects. We would recommend that anyone clearing out their cupboards of libertarian material should get in touch with KSL to make sure that historical gems are not lost forever. Regular readers of Black Flag should not need reminding that unless we know and control our own history it will be taken and used for their own purposes by academic mercenaries and their allies. The Kate Sharpley Library is a vital part of the fight to prevent our history (as a friend put it ) "being re-written to take account of nobodies".
JSA: VOLUNTEERING AND WORKFARE
The Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) is being introduced to provide a reserve army of cheap labour for the bosses. However, the government is obliged to ensure adequate provision of welfare, for the unemployed, aged and infirm, lives up to certain international standards. The voluntary sector's role is to meet those standards with funding from certain bodies such as the National Lottery. That wouldn't be so bad if the voluntary sector avoided being manipulated into upholding the values of the government of the day. This occurs because social and political debate is forbidden within projects and will alienate the client group. That of course is pure nonsense and would only be true if we lived under a totalitarian regime, where the state would provide all "welfare" and those considered undeserving would simply be put to death.
While we would be rightly alarmed if projects were used to recruit people to political parties, to forbid debate denies our basic civil liberties. The JSA will force the poor out of any meaningful social and political debate in this area.
The government encouraged the shift from statutory towards voluntary provision of welfare both as a cost cutting exercise and to re-establish Victorian values on the 19th century philanthropic model. Workfare programmes will be introduced along with a hierarchy of volunteers. These volunteers will be initially divided between those who have free time and want to help out and those who are coerced under the threat of benefit cuts.
At this point the true volunteers will be separated and charged with supervising the coerced volunteers, who will of course be perceived as being lazy, shifty, too critical, deviant and diseased. Those with any political outlook will be placed at the very bottom, accused of agitating and endangering the future funding of the project.
One may consider this scenario far fetched, but the processes were already in place for its introduction during the early 80s with the Youth Training Scheme(YTS). In the late 80s this was replaced by Employment Training but neither were challenged in earnest because they established the skivvy mentality. Those involved in promoting YTS and ET alleged they were perfect models but if that was the case where are they now? They were merely part of a greater plan and served only to pave the way for a passive and compliant workforce for both private employers and voluntary agencies. This can only mean a severe drop in the quality of life for many because we will no longer have organisational bodies required to both maintain and win our rights.
Therefore voluntary agencies must seriously stop to consider whose agendas they may be following. The need to seek their own agendas in favour of their specific client groups who should be defining their won needs is paramount. The jargon that alleges "needs led empowerment" should be placed deeper into reality where decision making is honestly needs led rather than being paid lip-service to. Also, we must abolish the JSA - don't adapt!
Both paid and voluntary workers should join unions (preferably anarcho-syndicalist ones) to protect their won rights and to ensure there is no abuse of the client group's rights. Unity is Strength
LE DRAPEAU NOIR: INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY
The Swiss group "Le Drapeau Noir" has initiated a world-wide "International Day Against Police Brutality" on Saturday March 15th, 1997,. They say in their call for the International Day, "We are tired of the police brutality. No more beatings! No more racism! No more "mistakes"! It's time to do something, to support those who have been hurt, to denounce those who - being protected by a badge and uniform - commit crimes, to show we won't stand it anymore.
They call for demonstrations, teach-ins, marches, throughout the world. Responses have already come from groups in France, Canada and the US.
If you have access, their web sites are:
FREE WATER: VICTORY IN SIGHT FOR ANTI WATER CHARGE CAMPAIGN
For almost 3 years, working class people in Dublin have been fighting water charges. On 13th November 1996 as activists picketed the council estimate meetings which set the following year's budgets, the councillors lost their nerve and refused to set a water charge for the following year, referring the question instead to the government. At the same time the courts rebelled and adjourned cases all over Dublin, awarding costs to the non-payers who were heard on the day and in one case expenses as well to every one of the 95 who turned up defend themselves.
Anarchists from the Workers Solidarity Movement have been involved in this campaign since its inception three years ago, including the campaign secretary and another member of the co-ordinating committee. The campaign has grown in this time to 15,000 paid up householders with 80% of households eligible to pay either behind or not having paid any of the charges. This mirrors the anti-poll tax movement of 1988-92.
The WSM has argued against Militant that it is only the power of the working- class organising itself and taking decisions by itself which puts fear into the hearts of the misleaders of the current political system. Militant have been pushing that the campaign should support candidates in elections (guess whose?) even though other individuals have been elected on non-payment platforms and then gone on to support implementation of the charges. (Sound familiar?)
The real lesson opf the campaign is that we can only change things by acting ourselves and not by passively supporting one or the other 'trustworthy' politician or political party. Capitalism will only be overturned when the working-class take things over and put an end to privilege and power. The anti - water charge campaign has taken small steps right across Dublin towards rebuilding class confidence and community solidarity. It has laid the beginnings of networks and contacts and given people the confidence to find the ability within to break the law and take on the powers that be.
Spezzano Albanese is a small town of 6000 situated in the Sila, in Calabria. The albanese community where one speaks again of the old albanais and orthodox religion.
The interview was carried out by 2 comrades of the group who went to southern Italy this summer. The remarks are from Domenico Liquore, one of the oldest actors in this experience.
Drapeau Noir: How did the Municipal Federation of the Base become constituted?
A: The FMB is the result of an intervention for the past 20 years by the local anarchist group which began to agitate at the end of 72 beginning 73. The FMB was born during 92. All the activity which we have deployed was always characterised by a particular attention given to local and territorial problems, without ever ignoring national and international issues. For example, the death of Franco, the reconstruction of the CNT in Spain, which brought about a debate at the national level in Italy, was resumed across different interventions in Spezzano. In the region of Cosance, where there are different groups, there was talk of creating a Calabrian federation. Those were the years of the strong social movements in Italy. We were at the beginning of the 70s, after the Massacre of the Piazza Fontana. Here, this was expressed in a strong student and unemployed movement. There were 2 textile factories which were threatened with closure, so there was a movement of workers of Inteca, etc. Our group quickly understood that it couldn't limit itself to an ideological intervention and it was thought that our principles must be matched with the practice of the struggle which was self experimenting in these times. The group was made up of students, unemployed, some building workers and dailies (?). The only group not represented was perhaps women. Our eternal problem while there were more and more women in the collectives coming out of these struggles. From these struggles were organised the first Committees of the Unemployed, of Workers, which formed the first mass structures which wanted a national extent/ size. In these structures there weren't only anarchists. They were completely autonomous from the specific work of the anarchist group. A dual vision of the organisation - on one side, the specific groups, on the other, the mass organisations. This work was carried out until 1977, the years in which the anarchists of this place served as a rallying point for the whole Castovillari region. The other Marxist movements, such as Lutta Continua, which were very strong in this region have completely disappeared. At a national level in those years we started to talk of the reconstruction of the USI (Unione Sindacale Italiana - AIT section). There were 2 ÒcongressesÓ, one in Rome the other in genes, from where emerged 2 tendencies. Here, we have fought much for anarcho-syndicalism because the intervention which we make brought about our feeling the need of a union structure already before the debate took place nationally. We participated in the national debate and it was reported that the Italian situation didn't correspond to our manner of reading reality. Which we brought about with the positions more in accord with our view. One saw in the national debate a mainly ideological discourse, of almost personal polemics and one perceived that the USI wasn't born from the world of work but from the wishes of certain anarchists who simply changed their name. During this time, in Spezzano, the anarcho-syndicalist discourse was building itself in the committees of struggle which engulfed a vast territory and were composed not only of anarchists, but also of comrades from extra-parliamentary groups, some from Proletarian Democracy or Marxist formations and the majority were workers, unemployed, etc. While the birth of a true mass structure was proposed, at a national level, there was little anarchist presence in the struggles which were raging in this period (hospital workers, airport workers, etc) And the USI was born inside the specific movements incapable of regrouping dissidents from the official unions. This situation brought about, at the Congress of Genes, the 2 different positions. On 1 side certain comrades wanted the renaissance of the USI, on the other were those who prioritised work within the base structures (e.g. temporary school workers). We did not see ourselves in either of these motions and on returning to Spezzano it was decided to unify all the different structures of the territory in one Union Sindacale de Zone (USZ). The USZ formed in 78, did not adhere to the CAD (Committee of Direct Action) formed in Bologna after the Genes Congress, nor to the USI constituted in the Parma Congress in 1979. With the USZ, work was done for more than 5 years on the problems of the world of work, unemployment & became interested in the theme of territorial opposition to the town hall. From this communalist and municipalist current came, in 1992, the FMB. . I would like it to be understood - the diversified mass structures, which were doing a specific job, with the USZ, found unity which translated onto larger territory. It passed from a classical syndicalist vision to a complex intervention which put together not only workplace issues but also the other realities present in the communal territory. It was begun to look at the administrative choices which were denounced in public interventions for their clientist character and blackmail, for the choices discriminatory and repressive, surely this must concern us. There were struggles over health, education & the question of fraud in the commune. This drove to create a rapport of struggle with the communal administration which tried to stop our meetings. Sympathy was growing towards us. There were 200 in the organisation of which 30 were very active
DN: Which were the left groups working in the same terrain at the same time?
A: In 76, Luta Continua disappeared. In 77, the Marxist left came back into parliamentary institutions as Proletarian Democracy. There were some M-Ls and Workers Autonomy who never had much weight with us. There werenÕt any groups organised and already in 77 our group was the only reference in the whole district.
DN: Which party controlled the Town Hall?
A: The mayor was Communist Party, but was worse than a Christian democrat. Our work consisted also to make understood that political membership didn't change things deeply. . Power corrupts. There the libertarian ideology of the USZ could be seen and it was agreed to propagate this idea, even if it meant hard struggles with the base of the PC whose leaders worked up against us. There were moments where the confrontation tended towards being physical. In 92 the magistrate charged the mayor and a group of councillors . People began to understand that everything we had been denouncing since the end of the 70s wasn't just affabulations. This made people more interested in our activities. Before 83, in full conflict with the communal admin, the mayor often defied us to denounce to the magistrate his dealings knowing this was against our logic and our praxis. In 83, some of the workers in the USZ, after a big debate at the personal level, decided to take the matter before the magistrate. A year later, following the enquiry, a split occurred in the PC. In 84, to keep his place, the mayor was obliged to buy a councillor of the MSI (fascists). In 85, during the electoral period, we realised the opportunity to create an alternative to this situation. There were strong pressures to present a list )of candidates) however over the years we developed an abstentionist practice. . The message got across at the national level but in the locality the illusion of being able to change things by elections was tenacious. And in one effect, a civic list was presented in which we refused to participate. This list, in an indirect manner, had libertarian aspirations and took back many of the methods which we had used effectively in the previous years. With time, it changed practice and objectives in defending the same interests as the previous lists. While the civic list was being constituted we recognised that a libertarian response, to explain again the reasons for our abstentionism at national and local level, a Federation Municipal of Base which wanted to be an alternative to the power of the town hall. And while the others made their electoral campaign, we set up a Committee for the FMB in an attempt to gather together everyone who saw themselves in the discourse of self - organisation and direct action in opposition to the choice of abdication of power in favour of the municipal council. . The FMB was as such an anarchist proposal and quickly heard from a large part of the population. IN the full electoral campaign, a constitutive assembly of the FMB was held. The Town Hall was made up of the civic list, socialists, CDs and the PC in opposition. The mayor was from the civic list.
DN: What were the relations between the FMB and the communal administration?
A: The FMB posed an alternative. It was set up on that basis. It has always wanted to be something other than the power of the Town Hall and that's why we defined ourselves as an alternative. Relations with the Town Hall were conflictual. In what concerned the organisation the FMB took into account all past experience and volunteered a complex structure. A mass organisation which didn't want to be only about the bread and butter issues of the workplace, unemployment and the school, but also political. It had to be the bearer of a project which makes a glance at what could be a future libertarian society, that is to say a complex organisation of the society which prefigured the libertarians. In the FMB were workplace union structures but they gathered the different social categories in the civic union.
DN: What's the civic union?
A: The workers were not only those who fought for their rights but also citizens enrolled in a common territorial theme. All the particular structures had the right to sit in the civic union. This structure organises in the district services, education and health in opposition to the choice of the administration and offer a different way of managing and deciding. When we began to talk about the FMB, we were afraid of being misunderstood by the libertarian movement, of being accused of being ÒinterclassistsÓ, of constituting the UIL Committee of Citizens (UIL is a right wing union) proposed by Benfento. (?Who he) That was what made us afraid but it was the logical follow-on from our intervention over the years. It must be stated that our conception of municipalism is different from that of Bookchin. Communalism is very varied. In Italy, there have been, historically, proposals in the communalist tradition. Berneri is one of the greatest agitators in this tradition and I believe he would have much to say to Bookchin, as he would to Malatesta, in his later years when he began to talk of gradualism. It is certain he would not have agreed with Bookchin.
DN: What does Bookchin propose?
A: He proposes that anarchists should become like the other parties, present themselves for election, to manage power in the town halls. ÒSince one is anarchist, one could give an impulse to a democracy of the base and directÓ> We believe that to enter into the electoral game is to lose to anarchism its specificity and its values. Anarchists refuse the delegation of power. They can never create a party. To accept power and to say that the others are in bad faith and that we would be better, is to act as if a party of the society, whether you like it or not, which would be obliged to force non-anarchists towards direct democracy. We have refused this logic and affirm that all organisations must come from the base.
DN: How do you define communalism?
A: It is the interest borne at the district. The commune understands about the world of work, civil life, etc. In intervening at a municipal level, we become involved in not only the world of work but also the life of the community. Every time the Spezzano council make a choice, the Civic Union of the FMB make counter proposals, which aren't presented to the Council but proposed for discussion in the country to raise the people's level of consciousness. Whether they like it or not the Town Hall is obliged to take account of these proposals. For example, it was proposed that the rates and the land use plans and its variants should be discussed in a general assembly. It is clear that the administrators have made choices which we have fought and continue to fight, but this has served to make understood that it is possible, by positioning oneself as an alternative, to make alternative proposals & manage it properly.
DN: We read in Umanita Nova that there was one assembly where 4 mayors were invited. How did you arrive at that decision and what was brought to the FMB?
A: We have made a square (?) over 4 communes because we felt that our experience should go beyond Spezzano. In effect, the FMB is already known since Spezzano is the main place in the canton and because our activity and public intervention was not only heard in the country around but by many passing through. We think that we must make a qualitative leap to promote the formation of identical structures in the neighbouring areas where there already exists sympathy for the FMB. IN areas such as Terranova, Tarsai, etc, research on services and administrative choices was done. We have been to 4 communes where they have been given provisional rates and studied them and looked at the choices involved. It must be said that in this work we have some facilities because after 20 years of existence not one commune dares refuse what we ask out of fear of public denunciation. In this study, a document was produced where we laid out the choices and put counter proposals at a departmental level. Those proposals which touched services, health, education and town planning were addressed not just to Spezzano, but also to Terranova, Tarsia and San Lorenzo. AT the end of this work we made the assembly where we invited the mayors for them to see the functioning and critiques of the assembly. The assembly was positive because it created the condition for this type of intervention to grow to the whole district. After the summer holidays, it's the type of intervention we are going to develop. Today, nationally, this type of intervention is much discussed. The fairs of self-organisation area mirror of all which in Italy turns to the question of Communalism versus municipalism or self government (the 2 terms used in Italy - municipalism a la Bookchin or communalism which we prefer)
DN: Do other experiences of this type exist in Italy? Or others who work from the same perspective?
A: When we were thinking about the Civic Union we were afraid that many comrades would misunderstand our step. This led us to little publicise the FMB. The editors of Umanita Nova we made only a report of the initiatives leading to the FMB without explaining what they truly were made up of. We immediately received a quantity of letters which asked for further explanations. In effect we got the contrary reactions which we thought we would. This got us to broadcast our step. It was discovered that other realities agitated on the municipalist problem. We made contact with a network of small entities which were co-ordinated from Bologna. From it was born a first congress. At the same time the Liga Nord were making a discussion of federalism in this manner. On one side, in Italy, there is a reactionary federalism, racist and conservative, borne by The Liga, and on the other, in opposition, libertarian federalism was revalued with its historic ideological roots. Comrades of Milan, Turin and others had the idea of a fair of self- organisation to confront all the realities which are active in the domaine of municipalism, communalism or simply self -organisation, as an alternative to the logic of domination. At Alessandria, the first fair of self- organisation happened and many different currents were present. This fair linked all ages and it became more important as much on a quantitative level as a qualitative. There were also some publications (the book of Sandro Vaccaro and mine). I would like to reaffirm that municipalism wasn't invented by Bookchin. Municipalism is part of the historic ideological patrimony of the anarchists. Bookchin has taken a type of this theme and put his things inside it, things which are not shared by all, including us. We refuse the logic which poses to the anarchists a candidature which obliges them to manage power and which could lose them their identity. This type of logic can arise from real base movements but the anarchists must have to capacity to defend an alternative project. Otherwise, they risk becoming no better than the other parties. Those comrades who follow the logic of Bookchin and present themselves for municipal elections are few and are not taken to be in the general anarchist movement.
DN: In your book, you speak about the attitudes and language that the anarchists have taken to the Marxist movement. You consider it embarrassing and negative, why?
A: I think that the anarchists, historically, have an inferiority complex towards Marxism (also in the Spanish revolution I believe many errors were due to this complex). If one takes as an example the concept of class and class struggle, we still retain the Marxist conception of the proletariat. In the anarchist movement, the class is not only the proletariat but all the exploited, dominated, those submitting to power. One goes on to speak of the exploited, of the dominated, inside of which we have the proletariat, but not only. When we begin to speak only of the proletariat, our logic is Marxist. Even our syndicalism, which is complex and not only supportive (anarcho-syndicalism ), has submitted to the same logic. The Spanish CNT has at its core a strong conception of the proletariat even though it realised communalism and self organisation. It's as if the anarchists want to use the same Marxist logic, logic in which they will be lost. If the Marxists have, as perspectives, the question of power, the anarchists must take account of all the exploited, of all the dominated and create the social structures which presage that which must be the future libertarian society. Apart from the Spanish revolution we have not succeeded in that. I think that just as the Spanish revolution must be discussed in a critical manner to separate the positive aspects and their limits.
DN: Does the FMB limit itself only to this work of counter-propositions to the Town Hall or does it seek to create alternatives on the ground?
A: We have created a co-operative, "Arcobaleno" (Rainbow) of house painters. We have also tried to organise agricultural workers and services. We want to be capable of creating self-organised work. The big merit and the goal of self- organisation is to regroup the comrades not only for political discussions on municipalism but to confront the practical experiences like the co-operatives. Beyond intervention in opposition to the institution, one wants to create alternative structures of production capable of making a glimpse of the reality of a future society.
DN: Let's be devil's advocate. Are you not afraid that your co-operative will become like the co-operatives in the north of Italy? These co-operatives, in their confrontation with the capitalist economy succeeded in achieving self exploitation, that is to say their insertion in the logic of the market which has made them lose all alternative potential.
A: The end of the co-operatives in Italy is as you say but the origin is a libertarian idea of self - organisation. They must be taken back to their origins. One could have the same fears concerning federalism: the US is federalist, Bossi (leader of the Liga Nord) is federalist, Switzerland is federalist. They have taken many of our words, such as federalism, self -organisation, etc, but should that stop us using these words? As for the co-operatives, it is sure there are some dangers especially when there isn't a strong libertarian presence. We have had many difficulties when we created the co-operative because it lacks a mentality and conception of production and working in an alternative way, in opposition to the capitalist model. Again today, there is this type of problem and contradictions. One can certainly be mistaken but if one is profoundly convinced and if the anarchist movement begins to be interested, in a practical manner, in these things and to be on the inside, there will be less of a danger of an authoritarian drift. When we are not present and only allow others the initiative, it is clear that the co-operatives shall be like Emilia and Romagna.
DN: The co-operative is an economic structure and must be accountable to the market. It is for this that I spoke to you of self-exploitation. To survive, where you create an alternative market, an alternative manner of living capable of blocking the race to consumption, which ends by denaturing it.
A: It's sure that if the co-operatives are born in an isolated manner, if they aren't inserted in a global debate which includes different realities (that is the aim of the self- organisation fair), the danger of which you speak is very real. We always have it in mind. That's why we seek to bring together all the realities, all the problems and contradictions, to seek solutions. You spoke of self- exploitation. It is certain that it is possible that in a co-operative one wins less and works more. But all that can change if there are more comrades who have input and a network of different realities. The important thing is that you do something without a boss. Decisions are taken altogether. One can make some concessions seen that which the capitalist system puts forward, because we are beginning to model an alternative society. In the anarchist movement there is a division. Certain comrades are for the supportive struggle, political, conflictual towards power. They think that the co-operatives, the self-organised groups, must be refused because they are not manageable within the capitalist system. The others think that it's necessary only to work in function to creation of co-operatives or the self-organising moments. For me, both lack something. They must be brought together, one cannot live in an antagonist manner. In a system of domination, one must be in conflict with the power and at the same time one can put forward alternative structures; these 2 attitudes are part of the same struggle against domination. On the contrary, many among us live either 100% class struggle, or a life of retirement in the fortunate isles. In both cases there is a danger of reintegration.
DN: After a long absence one is struck by the uniformity that the south has submitted to and by the push to the race of consumption. For 12 years there has existed here a quantity of different cultures and poverty could easily be distinguished from the rich. Today it seems that the social fabric might disintegrate.. People live in front of the tv where the programmes are identical to those of France. In one of the poorest regions of Italy there is an appearance of impressionable riches. One would like to know what you evaluate this process and what is your position towards these new facts.
A: The same situation can be seen which everywhere else is perhaps amplified by the fact that people identify with the tv models to have the impression that they can leave their under development. I donÕt believe that this should be something positive because this hides the contradictions that we live in. For example, in Spezzano, with time, many albanese words are replaced by Italian words. It is submitted to the tyranny of an italianising culture. The anarchists must be sensible and in this changing situation, not making it a priority of their fight but to insert it in a wider cultural reflection , to make understood that a different way of life to that proposed by consumerism and capitalism does exist. A communalist intervention could take account of this question, not to retreat but to project towards the future in a federalist discourse of respect for minority cultures. Our struggle must be global and culture forms a part of it.
DN: What do you think of Bossi's proposition of secession from Italy?
A: I can say that in the south, this type of debate doesn't exist. In Sicily, in the last regional elections, there was a tentative independentist list but it failed. There isn't a strong independentist movement here and secessionism is badly viewed. There is, on the contrary, a strong demand for administrative decentralisation. In the FMB there are also people who see federalism as a means of decentralisation. For example we are often asked why our taxes must pass through Rome, and why we can't decide ourselves on their use? Ourselves, often say that it is the community which ought to decide and not twenty people and that the logic of paying taxes to Rome which after they are returned to us in financial form. This discourse elicits much interest. If there doesn't exist an independentist sentiment, the Liga Nord is rather rejected than viewed as a project to which to adhere, it exists when even that demand to be against the state. the State with us is seen in a contradictory way. It is hated and liked at the same time, liked for the facilities it gives.
DN: What are your links today with USI?
A: We adhered to USI because we believed that , inside USI, it doesn't matter any longer what syndicate, one could have a discourse of social organisation a real project of society. Today, with the split of the USI, it was decided to stay outside. We think that it's lacking and that it will be indispensable at the moment, a great debate on anarcho-syndicalism: its ends and means. For the moment this debate does not exist. And without it we can't see what will come out of it.
What do the Nigerian Military Dictatorship and the Central Committee of the Socialist Workers Party have in common? Neither are very happy about their inability to control information on the internet. Obviously the danger posed by one of these groups of authoritarians is much more than the other, but the same thought processes are at play in both.
The SWP have a number of fraternal organisations internationally, known as International Socialists. An internet discussion list was set up, the IS List. In August 1995 the Central Committee banned SWP members from using this list. They gave three reasons, security, accountability and that the internet is a diversion from paper selling and being ignored in the high street. All of these are fair enough in themselves but one can't help but get the feeling they're simply worried that their members might be exposed to a few new ideas, particularly when they say "we therefore lack the means to make the list accountable to the organisations making up the Tendency" (emphasis added). You can access the document via http://www.tcp.co.uk/~johnboss/isg.
Meanwhile the Nigerian government of General Abacha has turned down a proposal by a private consortium to develop the country's telecommunications infrastructure to facilitate access to the internet.
The consortium had proposed a plan to help Nigeria catch up with other African countries such as Ghana, Zambia, Kenya and Uganda, where the Internet is already further developed. Businesses complain that Nigeria's business and trading relationships are likely to suffer for example where local exporters laboriously mail catalogues to foreign buyers, which take a month to get there, while their competitors, in Ghana, do the same in a matter of minutes electronically. When the consortium raised the money the government replied that the Internet could be detrimental to national security. There is a considerable amount of information documenting Nigeria's dismal human rights record online, and e-mail links would provide a fast and relatively secure means of communication with supproters abroad.
DEFEND BRIAN HIGGINS CAMPAIGN
Some of our readers will remember the feature on the Southwark 2 in BF207. The latest on the 2 building workers' cases is that Terry Mason is being backed by his union (EPIU) for an industrial tribunal. John Jones didn't get the backing of UCATT (arguably Britain's most corrupt union, and a strong contender for least effective) so he is taking his case via the local law centre.
The UCATT full timer for the area, Dominic Hehir, was quoted in the Irish Post about another IT case. Brian Higgins, secretary of the Building Worker rank and file group and of Northampton UCATT branch wrote to the Irish Post asking why he hadn't done the same for John Jones. Was his pending election anything to do with it (the successful IT case was actually won by another full time official).
Almost immediately Brian Higgins received a letter from UCATT connected solicitors Christian Fisher on behalf of Hehir. Referring to the letter, some BWG leaflets and Brian Higgins' pamphlet Rank and File or Broad Left - Democracy versus Bureaucracy (reviewed in BF208) the solicitor's letter stated "These publications have caused considerable loss and damage to our client" and went on to demand costs and damages with the threat of legal action.
This attempt to gag a principled opponent of the UCATT bureaucracy by a full time official is a disgrace and breaks all standards of behaviour within the labour movement. If Hehir disagrees with Brian Higgins he should say so within the labour movement, not in the bosses courts. there is a further question to be raised apart from Hehir's motives - where's he getting the money. Litigation is not cheap and a full time official's wages couldn't cover it, so where is the money coming from? If Hehir's action is successful it threatens our very right to criticise the bureaucrats. The timing of this attack is also suspect - the BWG were about to launch a major health and safety initiative in the industry, based on solidarity and direct action.
For more info contact the
Brian Higgins Defence Campaign,
c/o Colin Roach Centre,
56 Clarence Rd London E5 8SW
We particularly urge any of our readers in UCATT to take up this case through their union branches.
In May of '96 a photo-copied magazine by the name Rise Above was circulated in the town of Morrow and through other areas of Clayton county Georgia with an official circulation of 33. However more copies were made and passed out by others. Most of its contents were excerpts from other anarchist publications as well as quotes from anti-authoritarian activists, authors and bands.
On July 7th an explosion went off at the Centennial Olympic park in Atlanta, killing two and wounding others. A few days later, on the day Jason Moreland (the editor of Rise Above) returned from Florida, he was informed that the police would like to "talk with him about his publication." When Jason arrived at the police station he was told that there was a warrant out for his arrest and taken into custody - his mother fainted. The Clayton county police began investigating the magazine on July 8th (two months after it been released) when officer Peabody received a copy of the publication. However no arrest was made until after the explosion of the 27th with Jason being charged with advocating the overthrow of the Government of Georgia (O.C.G.A. 16-11-4), because of an obviously incorrect recipe for making moltov cocktails and a tiny graphic that depicted a person throwing a moltov at something the police felt resembled the capital building of Georgia.
During Jason's questioning the authorities asked him about his beliefs, his publication, read him a list of names (to see which he recognized), and about the bombing at the park. At this time he did not have a lawyer present. He spent a week in jail and his bond was set at $50,000 then later lowered to $25,000. He is now awaiting trial and is faced with a $20,000 fine and a possible 20 years in jail; all for recycling other people's work and expressing his fears and hopes for the world in which he lives.
The media coverage of Jason's arrest was all but unbiased as the few newspapers that covered the story turned Jason into a minor mad-man or a mixed up kid or as AM 750 put it a "fascist." Stressing that his co-workers thought he was weird as he had occasionally slept on the roof of his place of employment, handed out literature dealing with various topics (police brutality, racism, homelessness, etc...), and "didn't like authority." The press also grossly exaggerated the contents of Rise Above, claiming it was filled with expletives, anti-government rhetoric and anti-police cartoons completely skipping over such statements as "Anarchy & Peace," "love and unity is the key," "Wake Up!," and a host of others about self-empowerment and taking control over our own lives. One newspaper felt that Rise Above encouraged mindless violence, because of a reprinted flyer about direct action encouraging people to disrupt corporate america; and according to Jason another completely created a quote from his mother. All in all Jason hasn't been given a fair shake. Since his arrest, Jason has been asked to appear on a radio talk show about first amendment cases, has put together a benefit to help pay for his court costs (with more benefits to come) and is attempting to put out another issue of Rise Above or create a new 'zine altogether. However, he has been hindered in his political activities since he has basically become a marked man. Also he has also become concerned about rumors that Officer Peabody (the officer that began the Rise Above investigation) has been spreading rumors about "those punks from Rise Above." Another disturbing note is that GBI has been asking to talk to Jason about the bombing at the Centennial Park. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it is a sad truth. The state of Georgia is prepared to send Jason to jail for 20 years for a tiny graphic in his publication. And even though the Clayton county police don't believe that Jason has anything to do with the bombing at the Centennial Park, they have expressed their happiness in stopping "whatever he was up to," and in the process ignoring his right to freedom of speech. The American Civil Liberties Union has taken up his defense and is demanding that all charges against him be dropped. However that will be not be enough to sway the District Attorney, so his supporters are asking for you to write District Attorney Robert E. Keller demanding that all charges against Jason P. Moreland be dropped as he had not advocated the overthrow of the State of Georgia and these proceedings are in direct violation of Jason's constitutional rights.
Contact: DA Robert E. Keller
Clayton County District Attorney
200 Annex, Clayton County Courthouse
Jonesboro, Georgia 30236
If you would like to contact Jason write to:
Circle A Magazine c/o Ignatz
PO Box 80967
Chamblee, Ga 30366
LETTER: MIKE, MANCHESTER
Please find enclosed a cheque to renew my sub to Black Flag. I really enjoyed issue 209 especially the article on the JSA, and it's great to have the paper coming out again on a regular basis. Can you send me a standing order form and I'll see if I can come up with the necessary - I was made redundant again last month but will see what I can do! Sometimes I can hardly believe that I have been reading BF since 1973 - where did all those years go! I was very sad to hear of Albert's death. I first met him in 1973 but had not been in touch for many years. I had just finished his book and was meaning to give him a ring when I read issue 208 - it was a shock and left me feeling very sad. But then recalling Albert cheered me and I raised a large glass of Bushmills to his memory! He was a very exceptional man and a great anarchist,
Best wishes to you all
This issue originally from here: https://web.archive.org/web/20160818142058/http://flag.blackened.net/blackflag/