Prison Labor Camps during Spanish Revolution -- Your opinions?

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ultraviolet
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Oct 5 2011 23:36
Prison Labor Camps during Spanish Revolution -- Your opinions?

So I'm in the midst of reading an article "Is Revolution Back on the Agenda?" (http://libcom.org/history/revolution-back-agenda-mark-kosman) and I come across the following:

Quote:
Anarchists argue that they could have done better [in post-revolution USSR]. But, when anarchist activists introduced workplace self-management during the Spanish Civil War, scarcity, military pressures and workers' indiscipline pushed these activists in the same authoritarian direction as the Bolsheviks. The anarchist Justice Minister, Garcia Oliver, initiated the setting up of 'concentration camps' and even the most principled anarchists, the Friends of Durutti, advocated 'forced labour'.[12]

I checked out the endnote for these statements and it referred me to certain sections of Michael Seidman's book Workers Against Work. I read the sections he referred to (wasn't much to read). I haven't read this book but I have read a couple old libcom threads debating it. I got the impression that the author was making a big stink over nothing worth making a stink about -- that there was pressure being put on workers to work. Well, it seems obvious to me that if we need to maintain a certain level of productivity to avoid starvation during a revolutionary war, then hell yes, we should be putting pressure on people to work, damn it, as long as this pressure is democratic and doesn't violate human rights. The alternative is starvation and counter-revolution.

But I hadn't heard anything about these prison labor camps. (Maybe I didn't read the threads closely enough.) This is a whole other story. I'll quote a passage from the book, and as you see it wasn't just counter-revolutionaries who were placed in these camps.

I'm wondering what people's opinions are on these prison labor camps? Do you condone them entirely? Do you condone them being used for counter-revolutionaries but not for other criminals? Or do you oppose them entirely?

http://libcom.org/library/workers-against-work-michael-seidman-1
[from chapter 4]

Quote:
The Spanish Revolution, like the Russian, also had its labor camps (campos de trabajo), initiated at the end of 1936 by Juan Garc¡a Oliver, the CNT Minister of Justice in the central government of Largo Caballero. As we have noted, Garc¡a Oliver was a very influential fa¡sta and the most important figure in the Central Committee of Antifascist Militias, the de facto government of Catalonia in the first months of the Revolution. In no way could this promoter of Spanish labor camps be considered marginal to the Spanish Left in general and to Spanish anarchosyndicalism in particular. According to his supporters, Garc¡a Oliver had established the principle of equal justice under law that the Spanish bourgeoisie had previously ignored. The work camps were considered an integral part of the "constructive work of the Spanish Revolution," and many anarchosyndicalists took pride in the "progressive" character of the reforms by the CNT Minister of Justice. The CNT recruited guards for the "concentration camps," as they were also called, from within its own ranks. Certain militants feared that the CNT's resignation from the government after May 1937 might delay this "very important project" of labor camps.72

[...]

[...] Understandable resentment against a bourgeoisie, a clergy, and a military whom workers considered unproductive and parasitic crystallized into a demand to reform these groups through productive labor. Anarchosyndicalists endowed work with great moral value; the bourgeoisie, the military, and the clergy were immoral precisely because they did not produce. Thus penal reform meant forcing these classes to labor, to rid them of their sins through work. The Spanish Revolution was, in part, a crusade to convert, by force if necessary, both enemies and friends to the values of work and development.

The ministry of the fa¡sta was proud of its "advanced" ideas and considered its camps more progressive than those in the Soviet Union.74 Garc¡a Oliver promised humanized detention, and CNT representatives investigated complaints of gross negligence, in the L"šrida prison, for example.75 Sometimes, however, the tone of the reformers shifted:

The weeds must be torn out by their roots. There cannot be and must not be pity for the enemies of the people, but . . . their rehabilitation through work and that is precisely what the new ministerial order creating "work camps" seeks. In Spain great irrigation canals, roads, and public works must be built immediately. The trains must be electrified, and all these things should be accomplished by those who conceive of work as a derisive activity or a crime, by those who have never worked. . . . The prisons and penitentiaries will be replaced by beehives of labor, and offenders against the people will have the chance to dignify themselves with tools in hand, and they will see that a pick and a shovel will be much more valuable in the future society than the placid, parasitic life of idleness that had no other aim than to perpetuate the irritating inequality of classes.76

According to a CNT historian, "delinquents, reactionaries, subversives, and suspects were judged by popular tribunals composed of CNT militants and, if found guilty, jailed or condemned to forced labor. Fascists, soldiers who looted, drunkards, criminals, and even syndicalists who abused their power were put behind bars or in work camps where they were forced to build roads."77 Inmates of the work camps reported that they also dug trenches and built railroads. One avid franquista lamented that "duchesses, marchionesses, countesses, wives and daughters of military officers" were forced to harvest grain.78

Most who were sent to prisons and work camps were convicted on political charges-which included violating public order, possessing arms, and engaging in fascist activities.79 A much smaller number received sentences for robbery, murder, hoarding, and black marketeering. This last category increased markedly in 1938 when, for example, revenue guards arrested a mason with 2,200 pesetas or another individual carrying 179 eggs.80 The number of prisoners in Catalonia multiplied fivefold during the war. In November 1936, 535 were in Catalan jails; in November 1938 the figure was 2,601. The greatest increase was of women inmates, whose numbers jumped from 18 in November 1936 to 535 two years later. Deserters from the Republican army (more numerous than those from the Nationalist army) filled their own camps, and their numbers increased dramatically in Catalonia during 1938.81

tastybrain
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Oct 6 2011 00:39

It's funny that you post this -- I was going to raise the issue as well, but I was waiting until I had finished Workers Against Work.

From the way Siedman sets it up, (I've only read the intro and a bit of the first chapter) I thought the labor camps were mostly used to keep workers in line, in the sense that CNT militants would send workers who slacked off on the job to the labor camps. To me this is absolutely messed up and makes the CNT seem like just another set of bosses.

That's not really what the passages you quoted describe, however. From those quotes it seems like the people in the labor camp were mainly aristocrats, military people, priests, and criminals of various kinds. If this was the case, I might not be totally against it. Sure, it's not pretty and not something we want in an ideal society, but the vindictive side of me likes the idea of making aristocrats and bourgeois work a little bit...

If the CNT was putting workers in these labor camps for not working hard enough or whatever I think that's totally fucked up. By the way, Siedman talks about CNT members becoming "managers" of factories?? How did they justify that? Were they at least elected by the workers?

Yeah, I guess any big, violent revolution is going to have to put people in prison of some type...if they have to be in prison they might as well work? But I don't know how you could force people to work in a humane way..maybe some sort of incentive system?

Anyway, the CNT is not an organization we should try to replicate, necessarily. They made a lot of mistakes and did a lot of dumb/counterrevolutionary shit. It kind of bums me out actually because it seems like one of the only historical examples we have of something that approaches libertarian communism has been discredited to a huge degree given the self managed capitalism/statism of many parts of the CNT. Anyway, thanks for posting this.

Btw, how does this/other warts on the Spanish Revolution effect our use of it as a positive example of libertarian communism? For example this article, which I think is great, says

Quote:
Everything we would create would be for our benefit and so we would be more willing to work hard. A perfect example of this is during the Spanish Civil War in 1936-39 when factories in self-organised workers' territories (see picture, right)were far more efficient than the factories had been while under capitalist control.

Can we really claim that the increased efficiency of factories during the Spanish Revolution was due to workers understanding it was to their benefit if the CNT was threatening to send people to labor camps and had this whole bureaucratic element?

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Oct 6 2011 01:58

I hope someone with better history knowledge can answer this question, because I'm starting to wonder if the labor in these prison camps was forced? My doubt is due to a quote from the text I didn't include above:

Quote:
Garc¡a Oliver's reforming zeal extended to the penal code and the prison system. Torture was forbidden and replaced by work: normal labor with weekly monetary bonuses and a day off per week when the prisoner's conduct merits it. If this is not enough to motivate him, his good conduct will be measured by vouchers. Fifty-two of these vouchers will mean a year of good conduct and thus a year of liberty. These years can be added up . . . and thus a sentence of thirty years can be reduced to eight, nine, or ten years.73

So it seems perhaps the labor was optional, and the incentive to work was that for every week that they worked they earned a week reduction in their prison sentence? That actually sounds like an ok deal, as far as prison life goes.

(I'm calling it "optional" rather than "voluntary" because being in prison is involuntary, but it still wouldn't qualify as forced if you have the option to refuse to work.)

But again, I'm not clear on whether it was optional or forced... someone step in here?

tastybrain
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Oct 6 2011 02:05

Yeah I should read the relevant passages, maybe the chapter. That does seem like a pretty decent system as prison goes, and Siedman seems fairly hostile to anarchosyndicalism (comparing it as he does to development theory, etc), so I doubt he would have portrayed the CNT camps positively if he could have avoided it. On the other hand, I can't imagine a prison system where force, or at least the very credible threat of force, doesn't play a prominent role. I wonder what an aristocratic prison strike would have looked like.

It seems likely they had to use force sometimes, if not to compel labor then to prevent escape. The latter seems more legitimate to me, but I don't know. I would also wonder about the treatment of female prisoners? Some anarchists would say no prisons ever but I can't imagine a bunch of pissed off disenfranchised petty bourgeoisie and nobles couldn't have been a huge hindrance to a revolution. But imprisoning workers for not working seems really fucked up, which Siedman alleges, so I would be interested to know if that claim is substantiated at all.

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Oct 10 2011 20:54

I find it difficult to reconcile the use of labor camps/prisons for counter-revolutionaries (fascists), members of the former bourgeois and aristocratic classes, militarists, etc and everyday criminality or moral crimes ('drunkenness', today drug use). They are completely seperate categories that deserve seperate sanctions or consequences. The USSR sent moral 'criminals' (drug users, homosexuals, alcoholics), counter-revolutionaries (political prisoners, terrorists, bourgeoisie and aristocrats), criminals (thieves, black marketeers, murderers, rapists, etc) all to the labor camps, treated the same. It sounds like the Spanish revolutionaries did the same.

Shouldn't it be the policy of communists of all kinds to excise morality from the criminal code (as the RSFSR initially did in its legalization of free love, homosexuality, abortion, sex change operations, etc)? To abolish the penitentiary system and Prison Industrial Complex (interesting work is being done in the Scandinavian countries and in small pilot programs regarding rehabilitation of criminals)? To institute humane social and medical policy regarding drug and alcohol use (also researched heavily since the early 20th century and the introduction of prohibition, both pilot and widespread Harm Reduction programs, 'decriminalization' experiments etc)?

To continue tyrranical 'criminal justice' policy during and after a revolutionary period seems disingenuine. Prison labor, particularly in the US, filled the void after slavery was abolished. Wasn't it in Lucasville prison where, prior to the 1993 riot, the worker-inmates formed an IWW prison labor union to protest receiving less than the Federal minimum wage even though they were technically employees of the Federal Government (the union was broken subsequently and all revolutionary, IWW, etc literature was banned from entering the facility)?

Prison labor, labor camps, are an extreme example of capitalist exploitation. How can you oppose Leninism in one breath and in the next nod in support of some of its ugliest, cruelest incarnations?

RedHughs
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Oct 10 2011 22:23

Whatever else you might say, to talk about even a "Spanish Revolution" is inaccurate if you mean a Spanish Communist Revolution (Spanish Anarchist Revolution). There was a uprising followed by a situation of the anarchists exercising some dual power in relation to the still-surviving Republican state and then that dual power was gradually coopted and destroyed. The CNT and other anarchists certainly set-up many experiments in self-management, primarily still within a market economy (though I vaguely remember some moneyless self-management in the rural communes, which they had to abandon). The thing is there certainly wasn't a single, centralized effort to build communism (or anarchism for that matter). The Republican state was still a capitalist state and even anarchist experiments could only happen during part of the Republican period.

An actual anarcho-syndicalist revolution might have fallen into the trap of forced-labor or other traps for all we know. But the main factor to consider is that the various actions, like reforms of the prison system, were reforms of existing state happening under considerable pressure rather than acts of a new order (as contrasted to Russia, for all of its many flaws).

tastybrain
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Oct 10 2011 22:37
devoration1 wrote:
I find it difficult to reconcile the use of labor camps/prisons for counter-revolutionaries (fascists), members of the former bourgeois and aristocratic classes, militarists, etc and everyday criminality or moral crimes ('drunkenness', today drug use). They are completely seperate categories that deserve seperate sanctions or consequences. The USSR sent moral 'criminals' (drug users, homosexuals, alcoholics), counter-revolutionaries (political prisoners, terrorists, bourgeoisie and aristocrats), criminals (thieves, black marketeers, murderers, rapists, etc) all to the labor camps, treated the same. It sounds like the Spanish revolutionaries did the same.

Shouldn't it be the policy of communists of all kinds to excise morality from the criminal code (as the RSFSR initially did in its legalization of free love, homosexuality, abortion, sex change operations, etc)? To abolish the penitentiary system and Prison Industrial Complex (interesting work is being done in the Scandinavian countries and in small pilot programs regarding rehabilitation of criminals)? To institute humane social and medical policy regarding drug and alcohol use (also researched heavily since the early 20th century and the introduction of prohibition, both pilot and widespread Harm Reduction programs, 'decriminalization' experiments etc)?

To continue tyrranical 'criminal justice' policy during and after a revolutionary period seems disingenuine. Prison labor, particularly in the US, filled the void after slavery was abolished. Wasn't it in Lucasville prison where, prior to the 1993 riot, the worker-inmates formed an IWW prison labor union to protest receiving less than the Federal minimum wage even though they were technically employees of the Federal Government (the union was broken subsequently and all revolutionary, IWW, etc literature was banned from entering the facility)?

Prison labor, labor camps, are an extreme example of capitalist exploitation. How can you oppose Leninism in one breath and in the next nod in support of some of its ugliest, cruelest incarnations?

I agree that prisons and prison labor are absolutely awful and should be abolished, and I certainly agree with the separation of "moral crimes" and class/political opposition. As prison systems go the CNT camps seem to have been pretty nice but that isn't saying much, kind of like something being the least-bad genocide or something.

My question to you, Devoration1, is what, assuming a real communist/anarchist revolution is taking place, are we supposed to do with people who are actively opposing it and organizing against it? I'm not sure a revolution would survive if we refused to lock up people who are trying sabotage it using military force, which I see as inevitable (that people will oppose the revolution with military force).

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Oct 11 2011 00:13
Quote:
My question to you, Devoration1, is what, assuming a real communist/anarchist revolution is taking place, are we supposed to do with people who are actively opposing it and organizing against it? I'm not sure a revolution would survive if we refused to lock up people who are trying sabotage it using military force, which I see as inevitable (that people will oppose the revolution with military force).

I'm not particularly sure, outside of the opinions in the negative (as expressed above, i.e. what shouldn't happen). In practice, Tcheka-style organizations became highly centralized/bureaucratized, utilized to carry out personal and political vendettas, used arbitarily (a worker who went on strike in the recent past may one day be rounded up; a former anarchist delegate to a worker's council is arrested months after being removed; Russian POW's who were former residents of foreign countries summarily executed on the risk they may be spies, etc).

In the US, during significant labor battles, prominent small and large businessmen routinely hired mercenaries (Pinkerton's, Black Legion/KKK etc) for paramilitary operations, strike breaking, assassinations. I think the workers in a local area will know which bosses, police, politicians, religious figures, etc are actively organizing against the revolution by doing things like they historically have done- and it must be on this local level (i.e. local worker's committee's and council's) that 'evidence' be presented and action voted on. Though this system has also been abused (wasn't it the early RSFSR where it took 1 or 2 people to give testimony for the Tcheka to have sufficient evidence to arrest or execute?)- as has every attempt to set up 'Revolutionary Tribunals', 'Peoples Courts', etc. I don't know what the ideal answer is. But I don't think labor camps are acceptable, and especially not the drumhead courtmartial - kangaroo courts leading to arbitrary execution where an alcoholic, shoplifter, rapist and former owner of a supermarket chain will all be shot under the title "Crimes Against The Revolution" as has happened in previous insurrections, wars and revolutions involving 'representatives' of the working-class.

tastybrain
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Oct 11 2011 03:06
devoration1 wrote:
Quote:
My question to you, Devoration1, is what, assuming a real communist/anarchist revolution is taking place, are we supposed to do with people who are actively opposing it and organizing against it? I'm not sure a revolution would survive if we refused to lock up people who are trying sabotage it using military force, which I see as inevitable (that people will oppose the revolution with military force).

I'm not particularly sure, outside of the opinions in the negative (as expressed above, i.e. what shouldn't happen). In practice, Tcheka-style organizations became highly centralized/bureaucratized, utilized to carry out personal and political vendettas, used arbitarily (a worker who went on strike in the recent past may one day be rounded up; a former anarchist delegate to a worker's council is arrested months after being removed; Russian POW's who were former residents of foreign countries summarily executed on the risk they may be spies, etc).

In the US, during significant labor battles, prominent small and large businessmen routinely hired mercenaries (Pinkerton's, Black Legion/KKK etc) for paramilitary operations, strike breaking, assassinations. I think the workers in a local area will know which bosses, police, politicians, religious figures, etc are actively organizing against the revolution by doing things like they historically have done- and it must be on this local level (i.e. local worker's committee's and council's) that 'evidence' be presented and action voted on. Though this system has also been abused (wasn't it the early RSFSR where it took 1 or 2 people to give testimony for the Tcheka to have sufficient evidence to arrest or execute?)- as has every attempt to set up 'Revolutionary Tribunals', 'Peoples Courts', etc. I don't know what the ideal answer is. But I don't think labor camps are acceptable, and especially not the drumhead courtmartial - kangaroo courts leading to arbitrary execution where an alcoholic, shoplifter, rapist and former owner of a supermarket chain will all be shot under the title "Crimes Against The Revolution" as has happened in previous insurrections, wars and revolutions involving 'representatives' of the working-class.

I absolutely agree with what you've said here. I am 100% against centralized secret police-type organizations. Frankly I'm not sure how you got the idea that ultraviolet or I would support such organizations (if that is what you're saying). And I agree it must be the decisions of the workers at a local level that are in charge of repressing and defeating the counterrevolution.

However, to me there seems to be maybe 3 solutions revolutionaries could use against determined, armed counterrevolutionaries (the kind of people whom a stern talking to will not work):

We can

1) Execute them. As you said, this can be abused and can lead to atrocities.
2) Utilize some sort of surveillance. Modern technology such as tracking devices might help us make sure that the local ex-bourgeoisie are not organizing against the revolution.
3) Some form of imprisonment. The most humane way would be house arrest but I really doubt that we will have the capability to do this in the early days of a revolution, since we would have to have at least one person guarding the house at all times. So barring this (and taking into account more violent, capable counterrevolutionaries such as ex members of the intelligence services) we would need actual prisons. As disgusting as this is for anarchists to be proposing, I don't see a way around it if there is an active, armed counterrevolution (and I don't see how there wouldn't be...)

If we are going to have prisons (and I hope that won't be necessary!) we might as well have some sort of labor within them. If we are to believe the passage ultraviolet quotes in post #3 these CNT prison camps were NOT "labor camps" in the Nazi sense. It sounds like they were normal prisons where labor was an option and resulted in special privileges and an earlier release. I don't see what's inhumane about allowing counterrevolutionaries to work in order to take time off their sentences. If I was in prison I would want the option to work in order for time off of my sentences and a chance for one day out per week!

Anyway, I appreciate your contributions Devoration, but I wonder if someone with greater knowledge than me of the CNT/the events of 36-39 could answer the initial questions. Were these prisons/labor camps for "class enemies" and criminals (not that that doesn't pose any problems) or was it for workers who slacked off (which is even more problematic in my eyes)?

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Oct 12 2011 02:09

Ditto to your entire post above, comrade Tastybrain! grin Including your questions... I know there are people on libcom who must know this stuff. Stop hiding!

duskflesh
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Oct 12 2011 06:50

Oh wow......

but if we put it into context....i believe there was around 2-3 million people living under “anarchy” in Spain in the revolution/civil war.... 70 to 3000 people is actually insignificant, it sounds like a very small scale which by no means reviles a reality of the revolution, i don't think something like this actually coerced/threatened/was known by the daily activity of the people living there.....it is by no means is an equivalent of the prison system of today....just an awful small scale project that we should not repeat...

actually I have herd that in the recent revolution in Egypt, the masses spontaneously build containment camps to throw in suspected under cover cops in an attempt to persevere the revolution....

Nestor Makhno had his own more brutal/practical methods

I might also add that successful revolutions were ones that were able to suppress their political rivals.....personally I don't have a huge problem with executing/assassinating capitalists/political leaders, activity dismantling anti-anarchist groups and exiling reactionary agitators in a revolution context........well executions might isolate the masses and not be all that moral/anarchist....regardless, none-anarchists will still criticize us while having far more brutal and large scale actions planed/done to guarantee their success/they stay in power

shame on the libcom-ers that tried to justify labor camps a few posts back

akai
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Oct 12 2011 09:10

Augustin Souchy wrote the following in "With the Peasants of Aragon" (which is available in print again if anybody wants):

A FAI Concentration Camp

There is a concentration camp at Valmuel, in Alcaniz Township, Teruel Province. The country is a desert. There is not a single tree for many kilometres around. A number of buildings have been erected at the foot of a hill. Dormitories, inspection rooms, stables... Everything was built by the prisoners with the assistance of the guards. The FAI directs this camp. It is not a prison. It is not maintained like a garrison. There is no forced labour. Nothing is enclosed and there is no limitation of movement. The prisoners move about freely. Their guards share their life with them. They live the same as the prisoners. They sleep on similar cots in the primitive rooms. They address each other informally, as equals. Prisoners and guards are comrades. Neither wears a uniform. They cannot be distinguished by their external appearance.

A young man is standing in front of one of the dormitories. I question him without knowing whether he is a prisoner or a guard.

"I am a prisoner. My name is Benedicto Valles. I belonged to the Accion Popular (Popular Action, a fascist party). That is why I was arrested."

"How long have you been here?"

"Three months."

He was not working. He was not feeling well.

"Did the doctor give you permission not to work today?"

"There is no doctor. The comrade guard gave me permission not to work."

"Can you receive visitors?"

"Yes. My fiance comes to see me every Sunday."

"Can you speak to her alone?"

"Of course. Then we go for a walk together, in the fields.

"Without a guard?"

"Without a guard."

All the prisoners are permitted to receive visits from their families every Sunday. They are given passes for the camp and surrounding fields. There is no sexual torture that so many prisoners experience in other countries. This is an achievement not to be found anywhere else in the world. The anarchists of the FAI are the first to introduce this humane reform.

Why are there still concentration camps? Because the war against fascism is not yet over. The anarchists must protect themselves against the fascists.

There are chickens, pigs and rabbits in the barns. Cattle is to be seen in the fields. There is one scarcity: water. This vital liquid is not to be found in the entire area. It must be brought in by tank carts. Scarcity of water is a great problem here as in other parts of Spain. The soil must be irrigated. Prisoners and guards do this work. One hundred and eighty prisoners (180) work alongside one hundred and twenty-five workers (125) of the collective of Alcaniz to install irrigation. The work is the same for the free workers as for the prisoners. Fascists and antifascists work nine hours a day. They work for the fertility of the soil, to bring new life to the country. The canal must be finished in two years. The Municipal Council in Alcaniz has taken charge of the work. There is no support from the State or the provincial authorities. The work is being done without engineers. A young peasant who knows how to calculate what must be done to create a self flowing canal directs the work. The water must come from the Guadalope River. Some potato fields are already being irrigated.

This work was initiated by the CNT and the FAI in Alcaniz. Fascists and anti-fascists are working together for the cultivation of the Aragon desert.

There are concentration camps in the fascist countries, Italy and Germany. In the Hitler camp at Oranienberg, the spiritual German poet, Muehsam, was assassinated after being tortured and martyred for more than a year. Dozens of known political figures and people who love liberty languish in the concentration camps of national socialism. The democracies, faced with the alternative of choosing national socialism and fascism or anarchism, choose the first. They ought to visit the concentration camp in Germany, and then the FAI camp at Valmuel. There: barbarism; here: fighters for liberty.

tastybrain
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Oct 12 2011 16:06
duskflesh wrote:
shame on the libcom-ers that tried to justify labor camps a few posts back

I don't get it...you have "no problem" with simply executing people but you think prisons are inhumane? As I said before, these were not (it seems) "labor camps" in the Nazi sense; the labor was voluntary and the prisoners had incentives to do it. (Maybe this is not true but we could implement such a system if we had to, whether or not the CNT/FAI camps actually operated on the basis of voluntary labor).

Putting myself in the shoes of a fascist/counterrevolutionary, I would much rather go to a prison where I could choose to work or not work than just be shot in the head...

duskflesh
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Oct 12 2011 18:17

prisons could turn into something that is in the model of a post-revolutionary socioty, which i find to be dangerous

while acts of violence in an revolutionary context are something that is done once to ensure the success of the revolution

actually, after lookeing at akai's post....anarchist prison camps sound light years more humane than revolutionary executions or anything done in developed nations

i don't think the counsel communist(i think they guy who wrote "workers against work" is one) could think of something as human that could perserve the sucesses of a revolution

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Oct 13 2011 04:07
tastybrain wrote:
duskflesh wrote:
shame on the libcom-ers that tried to justify labor camps a few posts back

I don't get it...you have "no problem" with simply executing people but you think prisons are inhumane?

Word.

duskflesh wrote:
prisons could turn into something that is in the model of a post-revolutionary socioty, which i find to be dangerous

while acts of violence in an revolutionary context are something that is done once to ensure the success of the revolution

You've a good point that there is the possibility of the prison system continuing to exist post-revolution. But why is this any more likely than executions continuing post-revolution? I have known a couple of people (an anarchist and a Trotskyist) who think the death penalty should replace the prison system post-revolution, when it comes to violent predators. And given the popular support for the death penalty in various parts of the population, I think there's also risk of this perpetuating. So I don't see why one is safer than the other. Plus I think in a revolution it's preferable to imprison actual/suspected counterrevolutionaries rather than execute them. For one thing, in many cases we won't be sure that they're guilty of what we accuse them of. Also, I believe people can change.

To clarify, I don't support forced labor in a revolutionary prison camp, not even for counterrevolutionaries. But I do support prison camps for counterrevolutionaries, and like Tastybrain said, why not give them the option to work.

wojtek
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Oct 13 2011 02:38

I don't know whether there was forced labour of any kind, but it's a definite no no for me. Same goes for the death penalty. I presume there'd still be independent human rights observers, e.g. Amnesty International, but then there's the question of who'd provide their resources.

Quote:
tastybrain wrote in post #7:
I agree that prisons and prison labor are absolutely awful and should be abolished

I should certainly hope that prisons would still exist post-revolution!

Regarding the extract about the FAI concentration camp, who was Augustin Souchy and what was his political persuasion? I ask because it seems too good to be true imho, similar to how the Stalinists in Russia put on a wonderful show for wide-eyed, foreign journalists.

Quote:
Augustin Souchy wrote:
There is no sexual torture that so many prisoners experience in other countries.

Given that the prison held card-carrying fascists and that sexism/ homophobia was rife even among anarchists, I doubt that there weren't any instances of rape or abuse at all.

Quote:
Augustin Souchy wrote:
Prisoners and guards are comrades.

I don't think the prisoners saw it that way.

Quote:
Augustin Souchy wrote:
Neither wears a uniform.

Maybe this makes sense psychologically, but how would you know who's who during a riot?

tastybrain
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Oct 13 2011 05:29
wojtek wrote:
I don't know whether there was forced labour of any kind, but it's a definite no no for me. Same goes for the death penalty. I presume there'd still be independent human rights observers, e.g. Amnesty International, but then there's the question of who'd provide their resources.
Quote:
tastybrain wrote in post #7:
I agree that prisons and prison labor are absolutely awful and should be abolished

I should certainly hope that prisons would still exist post-revolution!

Actually, I agree with you. I take the position (against the more idealist anarchists) that there will still be prisons in an anarchist society. They will be much nicer, much more humane prisons, but they will still be prisons. But that is a different discussion. I was more saying that prisons should be abolished, if it was possible, but that crazed/anti-social individuals will still be around post-revolution and the abridgment of their freedom entailed by putting them in prison must be weighed against the freedom of the populace at large not to be murdered or raped...obviously the latter should outweigh the former. The abolition of prisons is a good ideal to be striven for, tho, despite the fact that it is not really possible for now.

I guess by saying we should "abolish" prisons I was succumbing to the same hyperbole I was criticizing others for in the Higher Education thread tongue

duskflesh
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Oct 13 2011 07:59

Well keeping prisons has quite few problems

putting aside Kropotkin's critique of prisons and the fact that many anarchists have taken an anti-prison stance(see ABC and other similar organizations) ....

who will decides who goes to prison??? comity/s???what if they end up being wrong and Innocent people go to prison??? the prison system has the same problem that the collective wage system dose in creating bureaucracy(and hierarchy...potentially recreating the state) ....it never was and is not an institution that actually protected people's rights/well being, rather a defensive mechanism of the state to protect privet property...prisons are not a corrective institution, on the contrary they create more social problems....i think it is pushing it when equating universities and prison(i took a pro-universitie position in the other thread)

all the roles of the prison system/police in actually guaranteeing safety can be replaced by community watches, an inter-community identification system of keeping track of psychopaths/troublemakers (prob using computers), metal institutions, exiling slackers/trouble makers from communities....i might also add that the I believe the alternatives I mentioned do their job far better than prisons/police

i'am sorry, I have trouble imagining things being run by free association when it is in the back of everyone's mind that they might go to prison if they mess up and the “justice committees” don't like them

I might add that killing a fascist leader and crippling an reactionary movement/organization is not creating a system that might slip it's way into a post-revolutionary society(while prisons might be)...by no means I'm promoting that during the revolution we run out with guns and shoot anyone who might be a reactionary(actually the Spanish anarchists killed a lot of fascist and priests to protect the gains of the revolution).....

spain functioned fine largly without the use of the "anarchist prisons".....i think

actually I was thinking about taking the communist critique of anarchism not being able to secure the gains of a revolution more seriously …....any thoughts of this???

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devoration1
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Oct 13 2011 14:02
Quote:
But why is this any more likely than executions continuing post-revolution? I have known a couple of people (an anarchist and a Trotskyist) who think the death penalty should replace the prison system post-revolution, when it comes to violent predators.

It is much easier to accept a status quo decision than rock the boat once a decision has been made. There will likely be lots of revolutionaries who, when faced with the question, will acquiesce during a revolutionary period (making similar arguments as those above), however there will be those, like the Trot and anarchist you speak of who want to make the death-penalty the only kind of punishment post-revolution, who are 'Prison/Punishment Hawks', who want to 'lock them up and throw away the key' or just line them up and shoot them- which is the same kind of mindset and groupthink which leads to Gulag style repression, and will, as I said earlier, likely encompass every group some clique of revolutionaries think are 'bad' during and after a revolution- alcoholics, drug users/addicts, LGBT, everyday criminals, etc.

It creates an out for the ugliest oppression humanity has to offer.

Quote:
Regarding the extract about the FAI concentration camp, who was Augustin Souchy and what was his political persuasion? I ask because it seems too good to be true imho, similar to how the Stalinists in Russia put on a wonderful show for wide-eyed, foreign journalists.

Exactly.

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EdmontonWobbly
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Oct 13 2011 14:30

As opposed to Seidman's completely neutral work that is free from political bias?

tastybrain
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Oct 13 2011 15:34

I don't really want to have the whole prison debate as people have had it out on Libcom many times before. But...

Quote:
all the roles of the prison system/police in actually guaranteeing safety can be replaced by community watches, an inter-community identification system of keeping track of psychopaths/troublemakers (prob using computers), metal institutions, exiling slackers/trouble makers from communities....i might also add that the I believe the alternatives I mentioned do their job far better than prisons/police

I still think this is totally inadequate. Hopefully the number of prisoners will decline to a tiny fraction of what it was before. We will only lock up murderers and rapists, and I think even these people can be reformed. But if somebody killed my brother or raped my friend I would not want to see them walking around the next day. An "identification system" (i assume you mean a tracking device of some kind?) will do nothing towards preventing future crimes. You can't tell simply by where someone is whether or not they are doing something awful to someone. I mean, would you really want a serial killer who has killed like 10 people and feels zero remorse about it walking around in your community? If we leave things up to direct democracy I'm sure people will not want rapists and psychopaths just walking around with ankle bracelets. That does nothing to protect innocent people. A mental institution is basically the same thing as prison, only worse because no one will listen to you or take you seriously as a rational person! How can you be for mental institutions and against prisons? Exile unfairly puts other communities at risk.

We can make prisons far more comfortable, sanitary, and safe. We can make them genuinely focused on rehabilitation. I think this is a better option than letting psychopaths run around and thereby putting innocent people at risk. Guilt and innocence should be determined by the entire community or by a rotating group. A permanent committee like the one you alluded to makes no sense.

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ultraviolet
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Oct 13 2011 16:44

I'd like to see someone address my points here:

ultraviolet wrote:
Plus I think in a revolution it's preferable to imprison actual/suspected counterrevolutionaries rather than execute them. For one thing, in many cases we won't be sure that they're guilty of what we accuse them of. Also, I believe people can change.

In a revolutionary situation things are hectic. Accusations of organizing against revolution will be flying around and we won't always be right or have time to investigate thoroughly, give a thorough trial, etc. (Same goes for those committing violent but apolitical crimes like rape.) I'm not ok with executing innocent people because we mistakenly think they're guilty. Are you? I'm also not ok with letting probably counter-revolutionaries roam free. It sucks to go to prison camp if you're innocent, but it sucks less than a firing squad.

And like I said, people can change. Even if they can't, I don't think murdering someone is a justified response. Don't get me wrong... I support violence and killing in a revolution. But I think we should only kill those who pose an immediate threat to our lives, and that takes place on a battlefield.

devoration1 wrote:
Quote:
But why is this any more likely than executions continuing post-revolution? I have known a couple of people (an anarchist and a Trotskyist) who think the death penalty should replace the prison system post-revolution, when it comes to violent predators.

It is much easier to accept a status quo decision than rock the boat once a decision has been made.

Agreed... and if we deal with counterrevolutionaries, and violent criminals, etc., by executing them during revolution, this decision becomes the status quo way of dealing with these things.

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Oct 13 2011 20:30

Ultraviolet, I shall try and give you some (admittedly inadequate) answers to your questions. All wars, even revolutionary ones, are going to be criminal to some degree. All we can do is recognise, and minimise this inevitability.

I have never been in a war though I have worked with a number of fellows who had, and over a number of years gleaned some idea of its cost. In a war, prison camps are inevitable – what else do you do if dozens or hundreds of the enemy surrender? You round them up and deposit them in a holding camp (or prison). Before this however they are interrogated and depending on the circumstances, physical pressure is exerted (in WW2 the British officer class used to leave this torture to certain reliable NCOs).

To avoid barbarous techniques it is necessary to employ the skills of trained interrogators. (Oreste Pinto’s book ‘The Spy Catcher’, I found interesting, though it’s obviously written for the layman, and is not applicable to the conditions of advancing front line troops – where you need local intelligence quickly.)

It was/is extremely dangerous to surrender in ones and twos, as no front line soldier wishes to leave their comrades, who they know and trust, to march a few prisoners back until they can find an authority upon whom they can be off loaded. This can result in soldiers being separated from their units (and re-deployed – it’s always extra-dangerous to be with strangers). I was told several times that within twenty-four hours front-line solders on escort duty returned after their charges had been shot attempting to escape. This was reported and not discussed.

In a revolutionary war to minimise these occurrences it would be important to organise for prisoner transfer and ‘accommodation’. If not…

While hostilities continue the opposition are held as POWs, though supervision could be lax, depending on the circumstances (such as enjoyed by the Italians in Scotland during WW2).

Post-revolution, I think certain people would need to be isolated for their own protection (to stop individuals from acts of retaliation) or to shield the collective from extreme anti-social individuals.

I am no expert, though perhaps these people could be studied in the hope that they would be rehabilitated, and eventually returned to society. To offer prisoners work may prove therapeutic. Unfortunately some people may be so damaged (or habituated) that they would prefer to be in a controlled, regulated environment, rather than step into a ‘free world’ which is too unfamiliar. It these cases, such as religious orders, they may effectively in-prison themselves. (Better this weirdness than risk the horror that befell the monks when Henry the eighth closed the monasteries.)

It is not that anarchists/communists would choose these solutions; it is that on occasion it may be necessary to deal with a situation which arises through force of circumstance. It must never be considered an ‘ideal’ only an interim measure.

duskflesh
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Oct 14 2011 07:53

i might add that there is a reason why past sucessful revolutions were ones that executed oppresstion, not threw them into humain prisons camps

none the less, i think this conversatin is a bit pointless....it should be up to the people who carry out the revolution to decide how to deal with these issues, not us.....

we dont have to run around killing reactionaries....removeing thier leaders and supressing thier organistions should be enough(assuming anarchism is the popular ideology)

i might add that if a revolution turns into a war, we will lose...a milita can never stand up the the military force of today's government....

when i said tracking systems...i meant haveing a data base of anti-social people so when a new person moves to a community the community members can look up this person and deceide if they will let him or her stay....this combined with exiling anti-social people and community watches can easily replace the police/prisons...we can have corrective phycological institution for unstable people, it would be up to the psychologist working there and the members of the community's willingness to take him/her back to decide if a person should leave or not....

it is largly economical/cultural desporation and "fratboy culture" that creates the envoirnment for things like rape....if the revolution is sucessful and the anachist program works, things like rape should diminish.....i might add that it should be up to the community and the victims of the action to decide the punishment of the "criminal", no one will tolerate things like rape or murder.....

i might also add that i dont think the prison model in the spanish civil war is very practical, for every 180 prisoners we will need around 120 gaurds.....not to mention all the extra rigor aulb mentioned on the post above

kropotkin gives an example of a socioty baied on community organizing haveing very littel crime, i think it was mentioned towards the end of his prisons pamphlet(or was that george woodcock talking about kropotkin)....i might add that the way the people in the communities under ezln and thier mutal respect towards the commnity comminty rules they deceided together is interesting(i'am not to sure about this thu)

radicalgraffiti
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Oct 14 2011 13:26
duskflesh wrote:
i might add that there is a reason why past sucessful revolutions were ones that executed oppresstion, not threw them into humain prisons camps

what successful revolutions?

tastybrain
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Oct 14 2011 16:44
radicalgraffiti wrote:
duskflesh wrote:
i might add that there is a reason why past sucessful revolutions were ones that executed oppresstion, not threw them into humain prisons camps

what successful revolutions?

Yeah I was gonna ask that too...

duskflesh
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Oct 14 2011 18:45

well, not sucessfull by socialist standards.......

i was thinking along the lines of khomeini and the iranian revolution....Mujahedin group(authorian religious left) was brutaly supressed and thier members were stoped from makeing speeches, many in the Tudeh party(pro-ussr communists) were executed and the party was baned, people who had different interpretation on islam's role in government were supressed, the revolutionary gaurd was created to make sure the military could not turn on them........my uncle told me how he had to leave kermanshah becasue members of the pacifist communist group he was part of were getting caught and he did not know what had happend/was going happen to them.... khomeini was able to pull of a sucessfull revlution, he came to power....

radicalgraffiti
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Oct 14 2011 18:55

i think thats called a coup

tastybrain
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Oct 14 2011 19:15
duskflesh wrote:
well, not sucessfull by socialist standards.......

i was thinking along the lines of khomeini and the iranian revolution....Mujahedin group(authorian religious left) was brutaly supressed and thier members were stoped from makeing speeches, many in the Tudeh party(pro-ussr communists) were executed and the party was baned, people who had different interpretation on islam's role in government were supressed, the revolutionary gaurd was created to make sure the military could not turn on them........my uncle told me how he had to leave kermanshah becasue members of the pacifist communist group he was part of were getting caught and he did not know what had happend/was going happen to them.... khomeini was able to pull of a sucessfull revlution, he came to power....

Beyond bearing pretty much zero relationship to an anarchist revolution (the Iranian revolution sought to capture state power and perhaps make capitalism serve the people a little bit more;an anarchist revolution would seek to destroy both capitalism and the state)...I thought the Iranian revolutionaries did put a huge number of people in prison.

duskflesh
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Oct 14 2011 22:18

no, the iranian revolutionaries were the ones who went to prison/executed(many marxist were killed).....exept for khomeini's faction.....i might add that many were executed in prisons
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1988_massacre_of_Iranian_prisoners

actually talking to some of these people, they regerted letting khomeini come to power becasue they thought the revolution would overthow him later....it obviously did not

the goals were diffrent, i just brought it up a potential examples of a revolution sucessfully overcomeing the status quo, and some of the actions one of the factions did to suceed over the others

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ultraviolet
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Nov 7 2011 23:41
Auld-bod wrote:
Ultraviolet, I shall try and give you some (admittedly inadequate) answers to your questions.

Sorry this took me so long to say, but thanks for your response! I agree that we will need to use prison camps during a revolutionary war. Hadn't considered the interrogation issue. I've heard that rapport building works best to get info from people, not fear.