Listen to the Episode — 124 min
Alanis: The Ex-Worker;
Clara: An audio strike against a monotone world;
Alanis: A twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action;
Clara: For everyone who dreams of a life off the clock.
Alanis: Hey everyone! Welcome back to the Ex-Worker. In this episode, we’ll be taking on one of the major social and political crises in the news over the past year. The Syrian civil war and other political and economic conflicts around the world have precipitated a significant flow of migrants and refugees from Asia and Africa into Europe. Correspondingly, the European countries where they’re passing through and arriving to have experienced significant social and political conflicts around how to respond. The Islamic State terror attacks in France have raised the stakes, as rumors circulate about the potential that one or more of the attackers may have entered France as a refugee, and right wing nationalists across Europe use the event to mobilize against migrants and anti-fascists.
Clara: In this episode, we’ll take a look at Europe’s so-called refugee crisis from an anarchist perspective. To do that, we’ll first pan back to look at what anarchists have to say about borders and migration, before focusing in on patterns of global migration today. Since there are a pretty wide range of perspectives and issues to cover, we’re going to approach this episode kind of like a mix tape, pasting together bits from a variety of different interviews and even past episodes, to offer an impressionistic look at how and why people move across the world, and the barriers thrown up by states to impede and control them.
Alanis: We’ll also share an update on anti-anarchist repression in Spain, a report-back from the Rebel! Rebuild! Rewild! action camp, and an announcement for a new prisoner publication, as well as plenty of news, upcoming events, and more. My name is Alanis…
Clara: And I’m Clara, and we’ll be your hosts. As per usual, you can find a full transcript of this episode along with plenty of links and references to learn more at crimethinc.com/podcast. And we’re always eager to hear from you! Drop us a line by email to podcast at crimethinc dot com to share your thoughts about this episode.
Alanis: Let’s get moving!
THE HOT WIRE
Clara: Let’s kick things off with the Hot Wire, our look at resistance and revolt happening around the globe. Alanis?
Alanis: The El Paso 54, a group of asylum seekers from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan currently detained in Texas, staged a week-long hunger strike in protest against their detention, which inspired a group of fourteen Indian and Bangladeshi detainees in Jena, Louisiana to also go on strike.
Clara: Multiple other prisoners in the U.S. have undertaken hunger strike campaigns lately. Keith LaMar, an inmate on Ohio’s death row for his participation in the infamous 1993 Lucasville uprising, successfully struck to be able to keep his collection of books and CDs during his last few months on Earth. Amazon, a transgender prisoner in California and member of the Gender Anarky collective, [has been on hunger strike since October 7th demanding a transfer to a women’s facility. More information about how to show solidarity with these and other prisoners is in the notes for today’s show.
Alanis: A group of normalistas - radical students from the same school attended by the 43 young people kidnapped by Mexican police last year - were violently attacked by state and federal police. Police shot tear gas and broke the windows of the buses the students and teachers were riding in and beat them as they fled, arresting at least 13 and injuring at least 8, while also brutalizing journalists who attempted to film the attack. The cops claimed they attacked because the students had stolen fuel from a truck full of gasoline. One of the students said that cops were just trying to intimidate them before a big march scheduled for later that week.
Clara: In Montreal, indigenous militants and their supporters protested and blockaded the Mercier Bridge in an attempt to stop the dumping of billions of liters of raw sewage into the St. Lawrence River. Blocking the bridge is an especially poignant gesture, given that it is the same bridge that was occupied by Mohawks for two days during the Oka Crisis in 1990, another important milestone in indigenous resistance in so-called Canada.
Alanis: Members of a far-right militia in Greece planted an explosive device outside the Epavli Kouvelou squat in a northern suburb of Athens, Greece. The explosion caused heavy damage to some nearby houses and shops, and minor damage to the main entrance of the squat itself. The squat has previously been targeted by right-wing attackers, including the Golden Dawn in 2014, in response to interventions undertaken by residents of the squat including solidarity initiatives with migrants, resistance to the government, and antifascist activities. 300 or so comrades participated in a demonstration in support of the squat.
Clara: More bad news from Greece… 27 people have been officially indicted in relation to an attempted prison break by members of Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, an anarcho-individualist group which has undertaken dozens of fiery attacks against capitalist targets since 2008. Among the indicted are the mother of two of the imprisoned, as well as Evi Statiri, whose hunger strike to secure her release from prison we reported on in our last episode.
Alanis: Arsonists burned the office and vehicles of a corporation in charge of a hydroelectric dam on indigenous Pehuenche territory in Chile, leaving only an anti-capitalist communique behind.
Clara: In the small Balkan nation of Montenegro, thousands of protestors demanding the resignation of the prime minister clashed outside the parliament building with riot police, who attacked with tear gas and managed to disperse the encampment of protestors that has occupied the area for weeks.
Alanis: Migrants rioted at a detention camp for asylum seekers on an island off the coast of Australia, after the death of an Iranian Kurdish refugee who had recently escaped. The Department of Immigration issued a statement claiming that the “operation to regain control of the centre and ensure the welfare of those not participating in criminal damage activities was achieved largely through negotiation and cooperation with detainees,” though they admitted, “Some force was used with a core group of detainees who had built barricades and actively resisted attempts to secure compounds, including threatened use of weapons.”
Clara: This is just the latest incident in a truly horrifying situation for migrants attempting to enter Australia; the week before, according to Al-Jazeera, “human teeth were found in a meal served to an asylum seeker in the Manus Island detention centre, just a few days after almost 100 asylum seekers reportedly suffered food poisoning.” While in this episode we’ll focus on the situation of migrants entering Europe in particular, it’s important to remember that these patterns of displacement and migration, and the misery caused by the system of national borders, stretches across the globe.
Alanis: In Minneapolis, police shot and killed Jamar Clark, an unarmed black man, and have refused to release video footage of the murder. Rounds of increasingly angry protests have taken place, including a highway shutdown resulting in fifty arrests and an around-the-clock Black Lives Matter encampment outside the nearest police station. As we go into production, the number of people killed by police in the US in 2015 has reached at least 1066 and continues to rise every day.
Clara: In other US repression news, a Freedom of Information Act request by Vice News revealed the existence of a secret agreement between the FBI and the Washington, DC Metro Police Department regarding the use of the Stingray, a small mobile device that law enforcement agencies can use to intercept cell phone calls and text messages. According to a non-disclosure agreement stipulated by the Florida-based company that manufactures the Stingray, local police departments can conceal evidence gathered using the device from lawyers and judges to preserve secrecy about how the device is used. According the the agreement, revealing information about how Stingrays are used, even when required by law, could render them “essentially useless” as a law enforcement tool.
Alanis: Hmm… Wikileaks, wanna lend us a hand here?
Clara: There’s a mind-bending article explaining it on Vice News, which we’ve posted a link to on our website.
Alanis: Major anti-government demonstrations have been taking place in Seoul, South Korea in recent weeks. We received this account from a South Korean anarchist about the recent events:
Clara: On November 14th, around 100,000 people took to the streets of Seoul. This event has been called a general or people’s demonstration, as the issues raised are multiple and express a rejection of the current government. To name a few: the labor market reforms, the dire situation of farmers and unemployed youth, poverty, the government’s ineffective and deceptive response to a major ferry accident and their self-serving re-writing of history by directly imposing a new history textbook in public schools.
This demonstration was the largest in 7 years, when the streets of central Seoul in front of the royal and presidential palaces were occupied for several days in a new form of decentralized and festive street action. Since then, the government has redesigned part of the area and blocked it off during demonstrations. On the other hand, it seems that crowds at demonstration have constantly been trying to regain that territory, with ensuing clashes on the police lines. The last years have seen an escalation and out-witting game on this precise front: the police line is now a row of hundreds of reinforced buses parked head-to-tail in three layers. People have developed a way to pull out the buses using ropes and the sheer strength of numbers. Lately, police have responded by fastening the buses together, using long poles to cut the people’s rope, pouring oil on the buses to render them slippery, etc. From behind the buses, the police rely mostly on the use of powerful cannons using a mixture of water and irritants, and have nearly killed someone and injured several with it.
As this repression itself has become a target of indignation, and the preparedness of some demonstrators to confront it becomes apparent, tensions are on the rise as a following demonstration has been called for December 5th.
Alanis: We’ll keep you posted on developments in Korea in future episodes. For some historical background and political context for the demonstrations, check out our coverage back in Episode 41.
REBEL! REBUILD! REWILD! 2015 REPORTBACK
Clara: Earlier this summer in our Next Week’s News section, we announced an anarchist and anti-colonial action camp taking place in eastern Canada, called Rebel! Rebuild! Rewild! Some organizers from the gathering have sent us a reportback about what happened, which we’re excited to share with all of you. We hope it’s informative, and can also serve as an inspiration for folks outside of major urban centers looking to connect both to the land where they live and to other radicals in struggle. Here’s what they had to say:
Alanis: Rebel! Rebuild! Rewild! 2015 Reportback
It’s with enthusiasm that I can report back from the second ever annual action camp Rebel! Rebuild! Rewild!, held this past July on Algonquin territory North of Ottawa. There is definite momentum within the eco-anarchist milieu of so-called Eastern Canada, and as our project enters its third year, our ambition and capacity continue to grow.
First, some context. The original name for R!R!R! was Resist! Revolt! Rewild!, a play on the slogan Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. We toned it down because we’re not there yet. If revolt is a fire, we’re gathering kindling. The rebuild in Rebel! Rebuild! Rewild! refers to the need in our bioregion to rebuild activist networks, because for those of us who come from Ottawa, it feels like we are starting from scratch. The aftermath of the G20 repression resulted in an overall depression of anarchist activity in so-called Ontario, and the movement is still on the mend. Also, action camps are not at all common practice here. We organized R!R!R! in the spirit of popularizing this tactic, and since R!R!R! began there have been two other action camps within our movement. This is a good start - we believe in the strength of informal, affinity-based organizing, and to create such groups, people have to know each other.
Last year’s R!R!R! was three days long, this year’s was a full week, though many people came only for the weekend portion of it. It was intimate at first, some 20 people on Monday, swelling to 70-some on the weekend, with folks coming and going. Workshops were held on direct action, womyn’s self-defence, combat, decolonization, anti-oppression, radical parenting, permaculture, and more. The weather was beautiful, and there was a lot of swimming, hiking, and socializing.
One of the areas which was highly praised was the Community Care team - headed up by feminist womyn determined to create a safe space for all participants. The Community Care team was R!R!R!’s best-organized committee, and deserve a lot of credit for their role in tending to the social harmony of the camp.
One highlight was the decolonization workshop, held around a fire. In it, a traditional Cree woman spoke passionately and at length about the trauma of colonization, extraction, residential schools, sexual violence, healing, the importance of women’s wisdom, and so much more, traveling through a crescendo of pain to arrive at a transcendent message of love and a vision of another way of living, expressed most beautifully by the Cree concept of the “circle way of being”, in which all are equal and all have a say.
For whatever reason, Rebel! Rebuild! Rewild! has been embraced more by francophone radical communities than anglophone ones. Eco-anarchism is definitely on the rise in so-called Quebec. Many folks who’ve been active in anti-austerity struggles are now turning towards land-based resistance. Drawing from a lineage of rebellion spanning decades, with the infrastructure, networks, and culture built up over that time, the Quebecois eco-anarchist movement is well-positioned to grow, solidify, and become mighty.
Although there is much to celebrate about the momentum generated by R!R!R!, no significant campaign of direct action is yet attributable to this camp. On the other hand, one truly inspiring land project is, and a second will begin in the Spring. Who can say what will grow from the seeds that we have planted? Next year comrades of ours will hold the first anarchist action camp ever in so-called New Brunswick, so we are pleased to report that our ideas are indeed finding fertile soil.
For those of you who live in the hinterlands of rebellion, where revolution seems like a pale and skeletal fantasy, given life only by the unwillingness of your spirit to cede the terrain of your imagination to the enemies of life, we most humbly implore you not to give up. It is within your ability to bring moments of beauty into being, and to do so is worthwhile, even if the horizon obscures the shore you long to reach.
Where hearts beat, there is hope. When people gather together in the spirit of anarchy, to find more authentic ways of relating to one another and the natural world, good will come of it, and from thence new avenues of possibility will arise. It is the task of the revolutionary to render the impossible possible, and living somewhere not blessed with a thriving counterculture is no excuse not to organize. Be patient, be steadfast, and may the force be with you.
For the wild, R!R!R!
UPDATES ON ANTI-ANARCHIST REPRESSION IN SPAIN
Alanis: Repression against anarchists by the Spanish state has continued to escalate in recent weeks. Another recent round of arrests in Madrid under the auspices of Operation Pandora in late October and early November have brought the total number of anarchists arrested on terrorism charges over the last year up to 68. Our friends over at the excellent anarchist radio show The Final Straw got in touch with an anarchist in Spain for an update about what’s going on there. Here’s an excerpt:
Spanish Anarchist: On December 16th of last year, about a dozen anarchists, mostly in Barcelona but also a couple of other small cities in Catalonia, as well as one person in Madrid, were arrested under the anti-terrorism law. So they were basically using the anti-terrorism apparatus that they developed for use primarily against the Basque independence movement, and now bringing that to bear against the anarchists. Basically, in the last years, the last of the Basque armed organizations have been disarmed and dismantled, and so the Spanish state on the one hand has a big need to continue using this apparatus to invent a new internal enemy, and on the other hand the last years have seen a rise in various social conflicts, general strikes, protests, riots, resistance to evictions, both evictions of houses and evictions of social centers. And while anarchists are by no means a major force in the Spanish state on the cusp of revolution, they have played an influential role in many of these struggles. So for a lot of reasons it made sense for the Spanish state to start using anti-terrorism laws against the anarchists, even though there haven’t been people killed or injured by anarchists. What’s being prosecuted in Operation Pandora specifically are sabotage actions - primarily smashing or burning banks and things of that nature - and, more broadly, anarchist organization and anarchist coordination. There was an anarchist group, the GAC (Grupos Anarquistas Coordinados), that was a publicly announced group, a space for coordination; they put out a book criticizing democracy. And the police in Spain, both the Catalan police and also in other operations the Policia National, and a high court based in Madrid, have basically completely arbitrarily linked the GAC to the FAI/FRI, the Informal Anarchist Federation (IRF), which is the only anarchist formation on any kind of international scale that the the European Union has declared to be a terrorist organization. There is no link whatsoever between the GAC and the FAI/FRI, they’re completely different concepts, even. The GAC was a publicly announced space of coordination for anarchists; the FAI/FRI is more similar to the ELF, in that it’s a label that anarchists who choose to put out communiques for illegal actions. Yeah, there’s absolutely no link. But the Spanish police, aided by the media, manufactured this figure of the “GAC/FAI/FRI,” and manufactured this label of anarchist terrorism, which is a complete absurdity. So that started actually before December 2014; there were some arrests prior to that. But that was really the first case in which it was revealed that they are systematically trying to manufacture the appearance of an terrorist anarchist organization.
Operation Pinata happened a few months after the first phase of Operation Pandora, and in terms of the judicial body it’s the same high court in Madrid, but the police conducting that investigation were the Policia National. And most of those arrests were centered in Madrid, whereas Operation Pandora arrests were centered primarily in Barcelona. But the Pinata operation also involved arrests and various raids in Valencia, Barcelona, Grenada, so it’s more extensive across the Spanish state. The accusations were essentially the same; in fact, one person was arrested in both of those operations. In fact, to date over the past two years - less than three years - there have been 68 anarchists arrested under the anti-terrorism law. So it’s more than just these two operations.
On October 28th of this year, there was the second phase of Operation Pandora in Barcelona and Manresa, which is a small city about an hour away from Barcelona. Another 9 people were arrested also more houses raided, more social centers raided. After three days being locked up and being brought before the judge, eight of those nine were released pending trial. Most of them had to pay large bails, and they have to sign in at the court every two weeks. One person from the second phase of Operation Pandora is currently locked up awaiting trial, and the same person actually had the trial in January, and is also accused of some damages in the general strike of March 2012, so they decided to give him preventative detention pending trial. And in that case it’s also clearly a vindictive measure, because he’s actually the lawyer of some of the people from the first phase of Operation Pandora. And that’s the common pattern that we’ve seen, is that if you ever act in solidarity or write letters to, or visit in prison, any people arrested in one wave of repression, then you’ve very likely to be included in the second wave of repression. So they’re trying to exhaust and isolate any form of support.
And that brings me to the other two people who are currently in prison awaiting trial: that’s Monica and Francisco. They have been in prison for more than two years. Theirs was one of the very first cases of the anti-terror law being used against anarchists. They were arrested in November of 2013. And actually, the day of the Pandora II arrests, the court in Madrid decided that Monica and Francisco could be held another two years pending trial, because according to Spanish law two years is the maximum that someone can be held in prison pending trial, and only in the most extreme of circumstances, but the anti-terrorism law allows the courts to extend that for another two years. So it’s definitely no coincidence that the second phase of Operation Pandora was launched on the very day that Monica and Francisco were decreed another two years of preventative prison. That was also the day when protests were planned in the event that the courts came down with that decision, and that’s what happened. So it served to warn off people who want to organize solidarity but also to distract from that case and ensure that Monica and Francisco were more isolated. And in addition to that, just a few days after the second phase of Operation Pandora, there were another five arrests in Madrid, another five anarchists accused of some of the same actions that some people have some of the other people have already been arrested for and accused of. And of those five, two were decreed preventative detention and so are currently locked up. So that’s currently five anarchists who are locked up awaiting trial, and dozens and dozens more who are awaiting trial.
Clara: To hear the complete interview, which goes into much more detail about the cases, the context, and their political significance, stay tuned to The Final Straw at thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org.
AN ANARCHIST PERSPECTIVE ON BORDERS AND MIGRATION
Alanis: So in this episode, we’re gonna be talking about… Clara: Borders and migration.
Alanis: Whew. To be honest, Clara, I feel a little daunted. This is such a huge topic! I mean, where do we even get started?
Clara: Well, this is a CrimethInc. podcast, so I guess we could just look it up in the Contradictionary.
Alanis: Sure! That’s a good a place to start as any. Let’s see… Well, I don’t see anything on migration. But here’s one for “Border”.
Clara: Didn’t we actually read that back in Episode 12?
Alanis: Yeah, we did! Here’s an excerpt from that:
Contradictionary: Border: To create a community where people share no real connection or common interest, establish a boundary and accuse outsiders of violating it. This accusation implies that before the violation, the rightfully included lived together in purity, tranquility, and belonging. There was no such thing as America before immigrants, for example, but you’d never know it listening to racists and nationalists. It is common sense that boundaries create transgressors—but one might as easily say that the invention of transgressors creates boundaries, which would be unthinkable without them.
Alanis: And then let’s add a section from To Change Everything, the anarchist appeal that CrimethInc. released in many different languages and formats earlier this year. Back in Episode 35, we produced an audio zine version of it; here’s an excerpt from it that takes on the problem of borders.
To Change Everything: If a foreign army invaded this land, cut down the trees, poisoned the rivers, and forced children to grow up pledging allegiance to them, who wouldn’t take up arms against them? But when the local government does the same, patriots readily render their obedience, tax dollars, and children.
Borders don’t protect us, they divide us—creating needless friction with the excluded while obscuring real differences among the included. Even the most democratic government is founded upon this division between participants and outsiders, legitimate and illegitimate. In ancient Athens, the famed birthplace of democracy, only a fraction of the men were included in the political process; the Founding Fathers of modern-day democracy owned slaves. Citizenship still imposes a barrier between included and excluded inside the US, stripping millions of undocumented residents of leverage over their lives.
The liberal ideal is to expand the lines of inclusion until all the world is integrated into one vast democratic project. But inequality is coded into the structure itself. At every level of this society, a thousand tiny borders divide us into powerful and powerless: security checkpoints, credit ratings, database passwords, price brackets. We need forms of belonging that are not predicated on exclusion, that do not centralize power and legitimacy, that do not quarantine empathy to gated communities.
Alanis: Hmm. So what do these definitions tell us?
Clara: Well, they highlight that the purpose of borders is to artificially or superficially unite people inside them by dividing them from people outside of them. So in the case of nations, they emphasize how all “Americans” - or Hungarians or Egyptians or Brazilians or whoever - supposedly share something in common that transcends our divisions along lines of class or race or various other lines of difference.
Alanis: And that that shared national interest is supposed to trump all other interests, to be the number one thing that’s more important than any other…
Clara: …which is a very convenient idea for the rulers of these nations, to ensure obedience and to keep people resigned to their exploitation. I think that’s what it’s talking about when it mentions creating needless friction with the excluded while obscuring real differences among the included.
Alanis: And that’s why from the very beginning anarchism has been an internationalist struggle - seeing that our interests as free human beings transcend national borders.
Clara: But these definitions aren’t just talking about national borders - they seem to be talking about a lot of artificial distinctions that divide people from each other.
Alanis: Right. So partly that has do with social categories like divisions along lines of gender and sexuality, concepts of race, notions of ability, and a variety of other types of norms and social borders that we use to police each other.
Clara: Yeah, I think that’s a key word - the notion of policing is built into the very idea of borders. Borders are a mechanism of authoritarian control, and they require police to administer them - whether formal deputized and armed police like the border patrol, or the informal kind of policing we do every day to keep each other in line… or that we do to ourselves, like that cop in our heads who tells us to obey, to submit, to keep in line, to not rock the boat or transgress against social norms. If border is the noun, then to police is the verb.
Alanis: And in the case of a lot of these little mini-borders built into our daily lives - tax brackets and credit ratings, grades and SAT scores, etcetera - the very structures that make up everyday life make that policing automatic and almost invisible. They’re so woven into the fabric of our social and economic existence that we see them as natural.
Clara: Well, particularly if we’re on the right side of them.
Alanis: Right. I guess I mean more that we internalize the notion that they exist and should exist; so that if we’re on the right side of them, it’s because we deserve it, whereas if we’re on the wrong side, we just need to work harder. Whereas an anarchist understanding of borders starts from the assumption that they are not “natural” or inevitable, but created by people and our social institutions…
Clara: And also that they are created for a reason, specifically to preserve power relations along specific lines. So if we want to change everything, if we want to live in a different world, one of our first steps is to identify that borders that are dividing us, and to figure out whose interests they serve - and if not our own, then work out how to get together and dismantle them.
Alanis: OK, so that’s a decent start. But we’re still nowhere near understanding an anarchist perspective on national borders and human migration.
Clara: Right. Well, we started off talking from the broadest possible level about borders as a concept. Let’s see if we can hone in on national borders and see where that take us.
Alanis: OK! Well, to talk about national borders, we need to talk about nations and nationalism. To get started on that, let’s share another clip from a past episode, this time from Episode 11 on fascism and anti-fascism. We were trying to understand what fascism is, and in this section we spoke about why nationalism is a crucial part of fascism, and why that brings fascists inevitably into conflict with anarchists:
Episode 11: Another core principle is nationalism: the mass politics of fascism rest on shared myths of racial or historical identity. Politics based on these identities operate through scapegoating, attributing social problems not to structural oppression or the actions of states but to the characteristics of people within social groups defined as outside the imagined community of the nation. The particular form of bigotry may vary, depending on what kinds of oppressive myths a particular nationalism dictates. Often times this hatred of the outsider forms the only basis of an increasingly flimsy sense of nationhood. The Coming Insurrection illustrates this in their discussion of the role of xenophobia in propping up French identity in an increasingly atomized society:
“We have arrived at a point of privation where the only way to feel French is to curse the immigrants and those who are more visibly foreign. In this country, the immigrants assume a curious position of sovereignty: if they weren’t here, the French might stop existing.”
This turns on its head the typical fascist claim that immigrants threaten the racial existence of a nation, such as the frenzied fears of US racists about demographic shifts that may result in a white minority. In fact, without blacks to blame for crime, Mexicans to blame for job losses, Jews to blame for the banking crisis, gays to blame for undermining the traditional family, and so on and so on… we would actually have to look at capitalism, oppression, and state power to figure out why we have the problems we have today.
And that’s why another consistent feature of fascism is virulent opposition to communists, anarchists, and most other radicals. Many of the violent attacks by European fascists we mentioned earlier targeted political radicals. Fascist punk bands continue the Cold War with Rock Against Communism, linking opposition to radical politics with anti-Semitism and racism. Why such a focus on fighting radicals and leftists? Well, in large part because they’ve been the most prominent militant anti-fascists since the beginning. And allying with powerful conservative forces against radicals can bring leverage and legitimacy to the extreme right wing. But fundamentally the reason for this opposition is because radicals also mobilize around discontent in society, but rather than offering false racist explanations and oppressive solutions, look at the root causes and promote solidarity among all people towards a freer world. And this puts us in direct competition with fascists, who rely on duping people into channeling their legitimate rage into hatred for oppressed groups and support for hierarchical power.
Alanis: So what does this tell us about borders and migration?
Clara: Well, it emphasizes the extent to which borders function as a tool to induce a false unity that comes at the expense of scapegoated groups, and a diversion from the root causes of misery and exploitation. That quote from The Coming Insurrection really fleshes out the point made in the Contradictionary definition about the role of outsiders and transgressors in propping up… well, not only that, but even creating the sense of connection among those included within a border.
Alanis: Which in turn brings home the point made in the To Change Everything excerpt about need[ing] forms of belonging that are not predicated on exclusion. If we’re going to imagine a world beyond nations and borders, we need to radically reimagine what it means to belong, to feel part of something. Feeling positively about our culture and language, feeling loyal to our family or friends or crew, feeling deeply rooted in our landbase and ecosystem - these are all positive things that get appropriated and poisoned by nationalism into a sense that our sense of belonging only gains coherence through the exclusion of others. Because these roots and connections are at the heart of some of our most powerful feelings, it’s not hard to see why nationalism is such a powerful and dangerous force. The challenge for anarchists is to affirm what we can about these powerful connections to one another while exploding the mythology that attempts to capture them in these national myths and state structures that centralize power and legitimacy, at the expense of our fullest freedom and humanity, not to mention the lives of those excluded by borders.
Clara: There’s certainly a lot more to say about nationalism, particularly when we get into thorny questions of so-called national liberation struggles. But for now, we’ll save that for other episodes and stay focused on how nations and borders are deployed to preserve hierarchical power in the world today.
Alanis: So let’s talk about migrants… or should we say immigrants? Refugees? Asylum seekers? In any case, people who are crossing national borders for one reasons or another. It’s tricky to figure out what language to use to describe the situation today, let alone imagine a liberated world outside of this mess of borders and nations. To get some clarity about all of this, we’re going to share an excerpt from an interview conducted a couple of years ago with Harsha Walia, an activist with the Canada-based organization No One Is Illegal. It first appeared on Black Mask, an anarchist radio show based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Harsha is the author of Undoing Border Imperialism, a book we’ll be examining on more depth in an upcoming episode, as well as a talk that has circulated in zine form called “10 Points on the Black Bloc.” In this excerpt, she concisely and powerfully explains the logic behind using the term migrant, the root causes of migration, ways to engage with migrant justice struggles, and a vision for a world of free movement that also takes into account histories of settler colonialism.
HARSHA WALIA ON BORDERS AND MIGRATION
Black Mask: In the book and throughout your work and throughout No One Is Illegal’s work, you talk about migrants and migrant justice, whereas the mainstream media and political establishment talks about immigrants. So I’m wondering if you could talk about why that distinction is made.
Harsha Walia: Yeah, I mean I think there are several reasons that myself and others make that distinction I mean first is that immigrant in the Canadian context is a very defined legal term, so there are legal categories ascribed to people who are non-Canadian: there’s the legal category of refugee or asylum seeker; the category of non-status/undocumented, or what’s in the popular discourse called illegal; temporary migrant workers is another one, and immigrant is another one. And these are very defined legal categories with strict parameters about who qualifies within these categories or not. So again, these are very state-prescribed categories and also very limiting.
Conversely, migrant is a much more inclusive term, because it includes all the varying kinds of people who migrate for a variety reasons. it doesn’t differentiate, for example, between people who flee gender-based violence versus those in political exile. And it also takes on far more, I would argue, of a global perspective of migration. So “immigration” tends to be a domesticated issue; we think of we think of Canadian immigration policy and how the state responds to immigration. But migration is really a global phenomenon. We can’t look at it just in terms of how many people are being accepted by Canada, but we have to look at the global framework of why people are being displaced, why people are migrating what is causing these mass migrations. Currently in the world there are more people migrating than ever before; and this is both across state borders but also within state borders .If you look at the phenomenon of people being forced off their land from rural areas to urban centers, these are also forms of migration that are deeply connected to systems of colonialism, capitalism and oppression. And so migration, I think, is a much better term when we’re talking about justice, because it encapsulates a much more systemic analysis of what causes displacement, what forces migration, and under which conditions migrants are forced to live under once they enter into Western states in particular. So that’s why migrant justice is a much more popular frame for grassroots groups, as opposed to immigration, which is a much more mainstream media and state-based discourse.
Black Mask: So before we get to migrant issues in particular here in Canada, I’m wonder if you could expand on the idea that you touched on then about the root causes of migration that you discuss in the book.
Harsha Walia: Yeah, there’s several folds or several kinds of root causes, but in the book, one of the things I articulate - and you know this is not just me, obviously but people’s lived experiences, as well as the work of many movements - but it’s the idea that the root causes of migration are deeply connected to systemic issues, so particularly the role of racialized empire, the fact that colonialism is a primary driving force of people being forced off their land, displaced, dispossessed and then forced to migrate. That of course happens within Turtle Island, when we look at the legacy of colonialism and dispossession off land, and the forced removal of indigenous people off their lands into reserves and/or urban areas. It also of course happens globally, when we look at the legacy of colonialism and the so-called post-colonial period continues, when we look at, for example, the occupation of Afghanistan and Palestine. Afghanistan and Palestine currently have the world’s largest displaced population.
Capitalism is another driver of migration; we can look at for example free trade agreements in Latin America, NATFA is a very salient example, the North American Free Trade Agreement. When we hear about immigration “debates”, if you will, in the United States, and this idea of the number of “illegals” or undocumented people or border crossers - this is directly linked to people and particularly Mexicans being displaced off their land as a result of the North American Free trade Agreement. And it’s no coincidence that the year that NAFTA was implemented was also the year where the US/Mexico border started to get fortified intensely fortified because there was such a rush of people displaced off their land, millions of Mexicans displaced off their land. And again of course this isn’t just in Mexico or Latin America, it’s everywhere that neoliberalism and structural adjustment, and forced neoliberalism has been imposed, particularly on third world economies. A current issue is of course the ecological crisis and climate change; we are increasingly aware of the ways in which low-lying island countries, particularly in the global south - who are the least responsible for climate change - are the ones who are going to be most impacted by climate change. These are human made, man-made disasters that are forcing people in the millions again off their land. so these are all underlying reasons for displacement, and which again is why we can’t look at immigration in a vacuum; we have to look at migration in the context of global issues of capitalism, colonialism and empire.
Black Mask: So I’m wondering if you could describe for our listeners a useful way for settlers, and especially white settlers, to engage with the migrant justice struggle.
Harsha Walia: I think it really does depend on context and what local struggles are happening that people can support. I think one of the really general things people can do is expand these conversations around migrant justice. Because particularly in times of austerity like the one we’re living under right now immigrants really do become the primary scapegoats. And we see this in these myths about immigrants stealing jobs, immigrants stealing resources, and so we have to be really mindful of these impacts in our communities, really have conversations with people when we hear anti-immigrant bashing or scapegoating. And then secondary to that is find out what local struggles are. Immigrants are really at the intersection of a lot of different struggles. SO it’s not just immigrant struggles for status vis-a-vis the state, but a lot of labor struggles, for example, are deeply connected to immigrant rights struggles, because most low wage jobs in Canada are filled by people of color and immigrants, whether it’s temporary migrant workers or recent immigrants in general who fill the pool of low income work in most urban and rural centers in Canada. And to really look at issues of gender violence, which are also intersecting with issues of migration. So there’s really a lot that people can do, and it’s more about having a lens and a focus and an understanding of how migration is a global phenomenon with a lot of implications in our lives and in our communities. And if we look around, who’s pumping our gas? Who’s cleaning the buildings that we work in? Who’s growing our food? These are all migrants, and these are all issues of migrant justice.
Black Mask: I’m wondering if we could cap the conversation about migrant rights and migrant justice with what your vision of [what] a just migrant policy or just relationship with migrants would look like.
Harsha Walia: Well, I think it’s actually quite simple (in some ways, but is quite holistic and deeper and systemic in other ways), which is that people really need to have the right to stay, and the freedom to move, and the right to return. You know, basically that people shouldn’t be dispossessed off their land, that people who are dispossessed or displaced off their land have the right to move freely, and that people have the right to return to their land. And that I think really encompasses both the human and individual and collective face of self-determination in our world today, which is at its core that people have the right to live a life of dignity and safety and autonomy. But also to live responsibly, so that folks that are migrating are also entering into a political context, for example, within Turtle island, of settler colonialism. And so what does it mean to flee colonialism while also enter into a situation of colonialism, and to also understand understand how to do that responsibly in the spirit of decolonization on Turtle Island - so to build those global understandings that are locally rooted.
Alanis: I know, right?
Clara: That really clearly laid out some of the important things to consider about borders and migration. So when we think about this so-called European refugee crisis, we can keep in mind some of the root causes and approach it with more of a bird’s-eye view to the global context of migration and displacement.
Alanis: One thing that struck me about what Harsha said was her noting climate change as a new and escalating root cause of global migration. It’s worth fleshing this point out a little more, since it ties together borders and migration with a lot of the themes we’ve explored on this podcast. It’s so obvious as to be almost silly to point this out, yet national politicians often ignore it; whatever borders governments try to erect, we live on an interdependent planet where our choices impact all other ecosystems. And patterns of global climate change illustrate the brutality of our hierarchical social systems as starkly as anything. The immense amount of pollution driven by industries whose profits pour into the global North are a prime driver of climate change, whose catastrophic effects are disproportionately impacting nations whose populations are largely excluded from these profits. Yet as rising sea levels, severe storms, dislocations in agriculture, and other consequences displace increasing numbers of people, the same politicians whose decisions allow that pollution to continue unabated are increasing repression, surveillance, and fortification around their national borders to manage or exclude migrants. Borders are another tool in the maintenance of a global system of inequality that sends capital and pollution flowing across the world while restricting the flow of human beings.
Clara: We found an interesting piece that explores these themes further in a zine titled “Why climate change is not an environmental issue.” It was collaboratively written by climate change activists from across Europe and was released in 2009 in anticipation of the COP15 protests, which were a major grassroots mobilization in Copenhagen, Denmark outside the United Nations Climate Change Summit. In a section titled “Migration, borders and climate change: a ‘no borders’ perspective,” the authors discuss the deadly effects of climate change-fueled displacement, green capitalism, and repressive state power on the lives of migrants across the world. As we turn our attention to recent waves of migration into the European Union, this excerpt provides a useful backdrop for the logic and infrastructure of border policing in Europe, as well as an environmentally informed anarchist critique of borders.
MIGRATION, BORDERS AND CLIMATE CHANGE: A NO BORDERS PERSPECTIVE
Alanis: Every year we are seeing thousands of people fleeing their countries of origin in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia, hoping for a better life. Whilst the majority will move to nearby countries, a few will attempt the long and dangerous journey to Europe. It is impossible to determine exactly how many people are forced to migrate directly by climate change. However, what is clear is that the position of wealth and privilege in the global north is, to a large extent, the result of the exploitation of land, people and resources of two-thirds of the world, the very same processes that have driven industrial capitalism and caused climate change.
The world’s poor did not cause climate change, but they are more vulnerable to its effects because of both where and how they live. Whether it’s in agricultural areas or city slums in the global south, they have fewer options available to them for adapting when things go wrong. Africa and Southeast Asia, for example, are some of the most geographically vulnerable places on the planet in terms of droughts, rising sea levels and extreme weather events like hurricanes and floods. But this is not exclusive to the global south: when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans poor, black neighborhoods were hit hardest, and many of their former residents have been excluded from where they used to live ever since.
Political systems are already responding to the potential impact of climate change with repressive and exclusionary policies. With the “war on terror,” security politics and nationalism flourished globally; climate change is being used to give further legitimacy to the concepts of “national preservation” and “homeland security.” So the Indian state is currently building a perimeter fence around its entire border with Bangladesh, a country more at risk than almost any other from the devastating consequences of rising sea levels. The fence has been explicitly talked about as a barrier to migration. If sea levels rise and Bangladeshi people are driven from their homes, they will now find themselves trapped inside this ring.
The extreme-right British National Party in the UK gives very serious attention to questions of environmental damage, peak oil, famine and food supply. For fascists like them, climate change provides the perfect opportunity to try and argue their view of the world that humanity consists of races and nations in constant conflict and competition. What these people might advocate in the face of the effects of climate change is horrifying to imagine.
In April 2009, the NATO war alliance celebrated their 60th anniversary with a summit to discuss NATO’s new strategic direction. A strategy paper published in 2007 stressed the need for a more “proactive approach,” in which the pre-emption and prevention of threats are central. To the NATO strategists an array of threats exist in today’s uncertain world, from terrorism and transnational crime to unrest following food crises, extensive migration to the countries of the NATO alliance and social conflicts as a result of climate change. The paper maintains that proper “defense” requires the concept of “homeland security”, which entails a “comprehensive approach” of the military, police, politicians, researchers, academics and civil society and the continued blurring of internal and external security to build up a “global security architecture.” We can already speak of a global market boom in databases, biometric readers, data mining programs and other new technologies of control, with multinational corporations poised to make huge profits.
In Autumn 2009, interior ministers of EU countries met in Stockholm to decide the next five year framework on internal security in the EU. “The Stockholm Program” will foster more surveillance of the internet, common access to European police databases and more cross-border police collaboration to fight “illegal migration”. It will force countries outside the EU to take back their citizens who enter the EU without a visa and it will push the use of biometrics and radio-frequency identification (RfiD) and enlargement of the police agency Europol and the EU border watchdog Frontex.
Our common right to freedom of movement is contested by these developments. Understood as a form of grassroots globalization, migration is increasingly contained, managed and restricted by a top-down process of transnationalization. And with an increase in mobility and migration, irregular migration is being perceived as a threat to the world-order and to the integrity of the nation state. “Project Nation State” is challenged by an unregulated globalism. Borders are an attempt to limit and privatize freedom of movement as a common right. Wherever physical migration occurs, new borders are erected where one is “processed,” “profiled,” “sorted,” “filtered,” “contained,” or “rejected”. The border is a site of unequal power relations where a selection is made between the useful and the unwanted in relation to market demands. The border is a site of conflict that is costing yearly the lives of many who try are trying to cross borders in spite of - or because of - the latest technological advances in security, surveillance and control. Migrants are suffocating in containers, drowning in rivers and seas, exploding on mine fields, or being shot by border guards.
‘No Borders’ is a clear anti-authoritarian position that fights for the freedom of movement for all and the abolition of borders, while recognizing the massive injustice which exploits people and resources around the world for the benefit of few. The immigration system of Fortress Europe is designed to preserve this division. And while the EU is working towards One Europe, “Project Nation State” continues far outside the EU borders. New borders are created and existing borders are transformed to also exclude from Europe the growing group of climate refugees.
A crucial part of the No Border fight is supporting and building a radical climate change movement which challenges the idea of using threats of climate chaos as an excuse for even more draconian migration controls. The radical climate action movement critiques responses to climate chaos offered by governments and corporations, such as carbon rationing that would de facto lead us blindfolded into a police state, agro-fuels that would take land and food from the global South to feed cars and airplanes in the North, and carbon trading, which applies market logic to problems generated by the consequences of the market itself. The No Borders struggle has at its core this resistance to intrusion on our liberties and sees that these government systems of control, which are often tested on migrants, will affect us all. Those who have promoted and profited from our carbon dioxide-intensive lifestyles are not only responsible for the current concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but are also the ones who are aiming to maintain their positions of wealth and privilege by getting ahead in the new eco-technologies and green capitalism, while always fortifying the walls around them.
Clara: So today in 2015, migrants attempting to enter Europe are facing the consequences of the Stockholm Program and the NATO-driven militarization of borders and migration processes described six years ago in that last excerpt. Yet when we take into account not just the logic of militarized homeland security but also the economic dictates of the global capitalist economy in an age of austerity and precarity, we get a different picture. So as we shift our discussion towards the flows of people across the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe over the last year, we want to start off with a piece that places the European response to increasing waves of migrants in an economic context. This next piece first appeared in Mask Magazine, which according to their website is an online style and living magazine for antagonist youth based in Brooklyn, NY.
Alanis: What exactly does that mean?
Clara: I’m not entirely sure, but I do know that they’re awesome at tricking hipsters into reading solid radical analysis that they probably wouldn’t otherwise.
Alanis: Sounds good to me.
Clara: In any case, this piece written by Mask managing editor Hanna Hurr comes from their October 2015 “Asylum Issue.” This excerpt offers a personal perspective on how radical politics clash with bureaucracies around migration today and throughout history, and puts the European response to refugees in the context of global precarity. It’s titled “Hopelessness in a Lovely Place.”
“HOPELESSNESS IN A LOVELY PLACE”, FROM MASK MAGAZINE
Alanis: When I filed my application for Adjustment of Status last year, I had to check a series of boxes asserting that I’m not a member of an insurgent organization and I’m not a member of a Communist Party. Everyone has to. As a legal permanent resident, I’m a permanent resident for as long as I’m legal. Meaning, I’m a permanent resident only so long – or as much – as I’m not an anarchist or communist or possess drugs or sell sex or participate in non-permitted demonstrations.
These check boxes have a strange history. You could say Emma Goldman is in part responsible for their appearance on immigration documents. But the story goes that they are a result of the murder of President William McKinley by Polish anarchist Leon F. Czolgosz on September 6, 1901. Shortly thereafter, US Congress enacted the Anarchist Exclusion Act (later expanded in the Immigration Act of 1918), prohibiting anarchists and other political extremists from entering the country. Note that this happened during a surge of migration into the US as millions of jobless Europeans came looking for better opportunities, while the US itself was plagued by poverty, exploitative and low-paying jobs, and union busting. Many of the anarchist ideas that had inspired Czolgosz emerged in this climate of economic turmoil, political instability, and repression of dissent. Over the next several decades, hundreds of suspected anarchists and radicals were arrested and deported, a process which reached its peak during the first Red Scare in 1919–20.
Today, these “exclusions” appear to belong to a bygone era – the kind of arbitrary precedent bureaucracies are made of. But the history of the US is filled with similar cases; examples where exploitable surplus populations revolted, allowing the government to expand its power by passing new laws and setting up institutions that have survived to this day. If you consider all the legislation that was passed to subjugate exploitable surplus populations – freed slaves and black people, European economic migrants, South American laborers, and so on – it’s obvious that these legal statutes are very much still in effect, dormant in our obedience within society, if not explicitly in courtrooms and detention centers around the country.
In short: History shows that the effects of crisis-motivated migration often permits power to become even more repressive, even more exploitative.
The question is, is this still true today? What kind of laws will be passed and institutions created to exploit the refugees entering Europe right now in new ways as society shifts and readjusts?
At the end of last year, the number of people displaced from their homes reached 59 million, most of whom are fleeing civil wars in Afghanistan, Syria, and Somalia. Altogether, these people would make up the 24th largest nation in the world. Traditionally, the United Nations and the Red Cross have been the primary institutions facilitating asylum around the world. But U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres told Time Magazine that “humanitarian organizations are no longer able to clean up the mess.” Even by the most official accounts, the world is at war and in constant chaos. It’s estimated that 80 percent of the world’s refugees flee to developing countries. It wasn’t until two boats sank in the Mediterranean last April that the crisis became a European concern (the so-called “European migrant crisis”) and that the Western world started discussing political solutions to the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. When an image of the dead body of a small Syrian child washed up on the shore of the Turkish resort of Bodrum went viral this September, the discourse shifted once again. More people began referring to the crisis as one made up of refugees and not “just” economic migrants. (According to international standards, fleeing poverty is not a good enough reason to leave your country, while fleeing war, dictatorship, and religious extremism is, which is why the term “refugee” carries more political weight.)
Since the Syrian civil war started in 2011, over 4 million people have left their homes there behind. Most have fled to across the border to Turkey, and as refugee camps swell over capacity, people are moving east and north looking for asylum in Europe. In reaction, European countries are closing down their border crossings and pushing back refugees with batons, water cannons, and rubber bullets.
Ironically, Europe is perhaps more welcoming of migrants and refugees now than it ever has been. Because Europe is in desperate need of exploitable surplus populations. The violence at the border is just a first step in producing that workforce.
Clara: Damn. That really brings home some of the points Harsha was making about the way that global capitalism and its drive to conflict and war both necessitates and produces these severe dislocations of entire populations.
VIJAY PRASHAD ON THE GLOBAL CONTEXT OF THE EUROPEAN “REFUGEE CRISIS”
Alanis: We’ll take a closer look at how that plays out in North America in a future episode. But for now, to get closer to an understanding of how the so-called refugee crisis in Europe is developing, let’s briefly pan back to a more global scale for some context. In this short excerpt, we’ll hear from Vijay Prashad, an Marxist author and history professor originally from India, who places this recent flow of refugees from Syria into Europe into the context of worldwide patterns of displacement and migration.
Vijay Prashad: I think it’s important to indicate that this is a refugee crisis that has finally hit European shores. And when it strikes Europe these kind of statements are made, that it’s the largest refugee crisis since World War II. If you look at the refugee crisis in the heart of Africa, in the Great Lakes region around the Congo, we’ve had several million people dead over the course of the past 20 years. Enormous refugees produced by war and economic collapse. If you look at Burma recently, the Rohingyas, the percentage of the Rohingyas that got on boats.
So in other words what I just want to make clear is that there has been a global refugee crisis caused by war and economic policy. It just so happens that this refugee crisis has not reached the shore of Europe directly, and therefore you haven’t had European officials be so horrified. Even the Syrian war’s refugee problem has been running since 2011. Of the 9–10 million Syrians that have been displaced from their homes, about 5–6 million of them are internally displaced inside war-ravaged Syria. About 3 to almost 4 million Syrians are living in Jordan, in Lebanon, in Turkey, somewhere in Egypt. And these countries have witnessed a catastrophic refugee crisis.
So it’s really almost always astounding to have European officials get suddenly upset about a refugee crisis when the refugees start coming on European shores. Prior to that they seem to have quite a cavalier attitude towards the suffering of people who are refugees of war and economic policy.
A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO THE 2015 EUROPEAN “REFUGEE CRISIS”
Clara: As Vijay emphasizes, it’s important to keep in mind that the flow of people from Syria into Europe is merely one particular locus of global displacement and migration. Bearing that in mind, let’s take a look at what’s going on in Europe and see if we can trace the trajectory of how things have developed over the last year. Here’s a brief summary cobbled together from news reports and accounts from comrades in different countries:
Alanis: The flow of migrants displaced by war and economic crisis from Syria and other countries into Europe has been increasing for years, but 2015 has seen an unprecedented explosion. Following on the heels of 2014, when over 600,000 people filed applications for asylum in the European Union, this year Germany alone expects to receive a million applications for asylum seekers this year, and untold hundreds of thousands more people are arriving by land and by sea. By far the largest number of asylum seekers are coming from Syria, fleeing the brutal civil war that has stretched now for years. But large numbers of migrants have also arrived from Afghanistan, Kosovo, Eritrea, and other conflict-torn nations. The European Union officially decided to resettle 160,000 of these refugees “in principle” - whatever that means - but haven’t agreed on which countries will take in what numbers.
Clara: The destabilization caused by the civil war in Libya has created conditions for a massive flow of migrants through that country from all over Africa out into the Mediterranean Sea, bound for Europe. Last fall, Italy shut down its search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean aimed at rescuing migrants from Libya at risk of drowning. As a result, migrant deaths in the Mediterranean increased 18-fold in the first four months of 2015 compared to the same months in 2014. The most horrifying incident took place in April, when over 800 migrants died after a crowded boat departing from Libya towards Europe capsized. At least 3,460 migrants have died in the Mediterranean so far in 2015. Still, thousands continued to brave the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea crossings from North Africa or Turkey; in the month of July alone, 50,000 migrants arrived in Greece by sea.
Alanis: When the European Union started to militarize the Mediterranean sea in an effort to stem the flow of migrants into Italy, more and more people began attempting to enter Europe through the Balkans. The Greek-Macedonian border became one of the first battlefields, when Macedonia set up barb wire fences, stationed soldiers at the border and prevented thousands of people from continuing their way up north. In August, migrants fought against the police and broke down the fence; several hundred managed to cross before tear gas, police batons and concussion grenades prevented others from joining them.
Clara: At the end of August, officials in Austria made the horrifying discovery of an abandoned refrigerator truck filled with the corpses of over 70 dead migrants. Certainly many unscrupulous profiteers are exploiting the desperation of migrants for profit, often with deadly consequences; however, the discourses of “smuggling” and “human trafficking” are increasingly used to criminalize migration and legitimize more extensive policing and state control.
Alanis: Clashes broke out in early September in Hungary, when police directed trains carrying migrants not to Austria, as promised, but to a refugee camp. When offered water by the police they refused, threatening to go on hunger strike unless granted passage. Those trapped in the camp broke down the fence and escaped through the fields to the highway where they started to march towards the border. When Hungary closed down its borders, the flow of migrants turned to Slovenia. Accompanied by local radical organizers, migrants made several attempts to break through Slovenian-Croatian border, clashing with police on several occasions, and burning down the tents in the refugee camp as a sign of protest. On the Austrian border, migrants broke through the police cordon several times, with several thousand people managing to cross.
Germany, Austria, Slovakia, and the Netherlands have reintroduced border controls, suspending the Schengen system that previously allowed freer travel between EU nations. This follows German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to suspend the policy known as the Dublin Agreement that dictates that asylum seekers must apply for asylum in the EU country they first enter. The Croatia/Serbia border was also shut down, escalating tensions to one of the highest points since the bloody wars of the 1990s. Hungary has erected a razor-wire fence along its border with Serbia, and Slovenia is also erecting a fence to keep migrants from crossing from Croatia.
Clara: The situation is chaotic and rapidly changing, as efforts to stop or redirect the flow of people result in new hot spots and points of conflict. The traditional humanitarian organizations like the UNHCR and the Red Cross have been utterly unable to keep up with the task of supporting these hundreds of thousands of people, and only self-organized solidarity efforts have managed to stave off total disaster in many areas.
Alanis: So how are anarchists responding to the flow of migrants and the social crises unfolding in response? Over the past years, a wide range of anti-authoritarian projects have emerged to contest the militarization of Fortress Europe and support migrants. Since 1999, the No Border Network has connected radicals struggling against borders from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea, and since 2002 organizing yearly No Border Camps that have taken place France, Italy, Germany, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the UK. Groups in the network and sympathetic accomplices have undertaken all sorts of actions, including direct support to migrants, demonstrations against fascists and border profiteers, blockades of immigration agencies to prevent deportation raids, pie-ing anti-immigrant government officials, sabotage of construction sites for future detention centers, and lots more. These gatherings and actions have linked migrant solidarity with struggles against prisons, capitalism, state repression, racism, and other oppressive systems, going far beyond a discourse of “immigrant rights” into a multi-faceted attack against the role borders play in upholding oppression and social control.
One of the prominent migrant solidarity projects in which anarchists are taking part in Europe is Calais Migrant Solidarity, a permanent encampment in the French city on the English Channel from which many migrants attempt to depart for the UK. It’s been the site of considerable conflict between refugees and supporters, police and security services, and right-wing anti-immigrant forces in recent years. This statement, released in August by the Calais Migrant Solidarity group, offers a concise and powerful articulation of an anarchist approach to migrant solidarity. It’s titled:
STATEMENT FROM CALAIS MIGRANT SOLIDARITY
In the last few weeks, thousands more people are waking up to the misery caused by the borders. Let’s take this energy and grow it into a movement of solidarity and rebellion against the border system. Let’s tear down the walls.
We believe in solidarity not charity. Charity is an unequal relationship. One person is the active giver, the other is a passive beneficiary. Charity in Calais keeps alive the division between powerful, active, mainly white Europeans with passports, and powerless, passive, African and Asian victims without papers. However well intentioned, it helps cement the deep inequalities of this world of states, borders, colonialism and capitalist exploitation.
Solidarity strives to be an equal relationship. We fight alongside each other. As the famous quote says, because “your liberation is bound up with mine”. The borders certainly hit some people much harder than others. But they are an affront to all of us, and one part of a sick system that attacks us all. The problems in Calais will not be covered by a million blankets. The violence and misery here are a direct result of the border. As long as the French and British states keep on using razorwire fences, cops, batons, tear gas, media hatred, and other weapons to try and stop people crossing, there will be suffering. The only way to address this problem is to rise up against the border.
Action against the border can take many forms. Every person who crosses undermines the border. Every hole in the fences undermines the border. Defending each other against police violence helps undermine the border. Sharing information and ideas helps undermine the border. Challenging racist media propaganda, and spreading our own visions of solidarity and rebellion, help undermine the border.
The border is not just here in Calais. The borders run across Europe, and not just at the crossing points but wherever there are immigration raids, street stops, detention centres, reporting centres, workplace or landlord ID checks, racist attacks, etc. Many people are asking us: what can we do? Our answer is: fight the border wherever you are. Find out where are the border controls and flashpoints near you. Take action. Help create a culture of solidarity, a world where borders are unacceptable. A world where no one is attacked or blocked because of the colour of their skin, the country they happen to have been born in, or what bits of paper they have in their pocket.
Alanis: In October 2015, migrants in Calais staged one of their most substantial rebellions yet, as over 100 managed to run through a third of the Channel tunnel between France and the UK before police attacked them. They engaged in fierce fight, and it took authorities hours before they could reopen the tunnel for traffic. The president of a police union claimed the action had been organized by “extreme left elements here to manipulate the migrants in the name of their ideal of imposing a country without borders or police.”
INTERVIEW WITH ALEXANDRA
Alanis: We wanted to hear from some radicals and anarchists directly involved in migrant solidarity struggles at the moment in Europe, so we put out some feelers. Many of the people we contacted were so busy with support work on the ground that we couldn’t set up interviews. But we did manage to catch up with a few folks who shared some valuable perspectives on what’s been going on with migrants in Europe and how anarchists have been responding.
We’ll now share a longer interview with Alexandra, an anarchist from Switzerland, who discusses her experience doing direct migrant solidarity work in Hungary and elsewhere, and her reflections on how her experiences on the ground confronted and sometimes conflicted with her anarchist visions.
The Ex-Worker: Alexandra, thanks for talking with us!
Alexandra: I’m happy to talk to you.
The Ex-Worker: You’ve spent some time in Röszke, Hungary, which is one of the “hot spots” around conflict and solidarity with migrants in Europe recently. Can you talk a little bit about what you experienced there, why in particular these places have become so significant recently, and what kind of solidarity efforts are happening there?
Alexandra: I’ve been with a group of people in Röszke, in the middle of September - this is at the border between Serbia and Hungary - and at the point when I was there there was still an open space in the border where people could go through and on the way to Western Europe, over Hungary. And what’s I think important for context is that the situation is extremely volatile and chaotic at the moment in the Balkans, so the place where I’ve been, Röszke, doesn’t exist like it is anymore, because the border there is closed now, but other places, which are very similar but are just on a different spot on the map have opened now. So just in case people would want to go and support the migrants, this places is basically not a hotspot anymore, but was one when I was there.
So at the moment in Europe we’re having one the biggest refugee crises, and people migrating, since really a long time. So just to get an idea of the number of people we’re talking about: at the moment, in this year, about 600,000 people have come over the sea, trying to get into Europe, and most of them have been coming over the first part of the year, over Italy or Spain, and then during summer the route has changed into the Balkans in this year about 400,000 people went through Greece and then trying to get over the Balkans, which is mostly over Serbia, Croatia, and Hungary, trying to get to Western Europe. So we are really talking about masses and masses of people. And most of those people [come] from somewhere in the Arab region, from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, but also people more from African lower region - just so you get an impression of what’s going on.
I’ve been to Röszke, which is on the Serbian-Hungarian border it’s a really, really tiny town, which is about 15 km from the 3rd biggest city in Hungary, so it’s basically people were going through a hole in the border because Hungary is building a big fence around the whole country, and there were railroad tracks so people could still pass the border there relatively easily and were trying to get into Hungary to go further to western Europe. And when I was there - I was there for one and a half weeks - per night between 2,000 and 9,000 people came every night over the border. And when they were walking over the border, what those migrants would see is a camp with lots of tents and police and buses. And so this was one of the biggest worries of the people crossing the border because they have no idea what will happen to them. One of the first interactions with them was always the question “will they fingerprint us?” because many of the migrants are really afraid to have their fingerprints taken - which has to do with the Dublin treaty, which we might talk about later - and once they’re been registered they can be sent back to the first entry country in Europe. In the camp where I’ve been, the Hungarian state did not fingerprint people, but was trying to convince them to go onto buses because they wanted to bring them to registration centers. But people were not forced to go on the buses, so they theoretically had a choice to also go along the way by their own. This is very much theoretical because most of those people have been fleeing for weeks; they were very tired, they were ill, they had very little energy left, so it was really, really hard for them, I often had the impression, to first get information, but also take decisions about where they want to go and what was the best thing to do.
This is, I think, one of the places where we stepped in, with our group of the work we’ve been doing, because we decided to supply electricity and internet to the migrants and also a place for tea and coffee for people to just be there, relax for a moment, have a warm drink, and to just feel human for a moment again, and also have some social interactions. I think at first, this idea of providing electricity and internet might sound a bit odd, like many people have reacted also when I first told them that they found it a bit strange, but this was actually a really important thing to do, because those people who are trying to cross the border going mostly to western Europe, have very, very little information, and all the information they normally get en route is by personal encounter with people they meet. So it’s really hard to judge what is true or not. So getting them electricity to charge their mobiles and giving them access to internet gives them the possibility to have more decision power about their lives, to get information from different places; but it also gives them a possibility to be in contact with each other. And also, very often, many of those people have a chance to talk to maybe their relatives or family in their country of origin, or to other people who are fleeing, who they have lost and have no contact for a long time. So it is also that human interaction, which I think those are things which are also very empowering for people. So this was the main thing I’ve been doing when I was there.
We were also trying to give them other information than the information that was provided by the big NGOs, like UNHCR, or the Red Cross, and the Police, which was a hard thing to do, because very often it was really clear that they were also not sure that they could trust us, which I could understand really well, because you really don’t know who you have in front of you, and what’s the basis of the information they’re giving them.
The Ex-Worker: Switzerland is obviously in a different situation in respect to refugees, since it is not an EU member state and has a distinct history of autonomy, even isolation. How is the Swiss government responding to the refugee crisis, and what are some of the popular sentiments in Swiss society about refugees and migrants?
Alexandra: Being in Röszke, I also talked with migrants directly about Switzerland, my country where I was born, and I found it rather interesting that most people that I talked to (and obviously it hasn’t been that many) have never heard of Switzerland. Because I very often ask “Where do you want to go? What’s your wish of country to go?” And I ask, “What about Switzerland, my home country?” So most of the people I talked to have no idea where this tiny country even was on the map of Europe. And also I think Switzerland you were saying that Switzerland is in a bit of a special situation, because we are not part of the EU, but in the context of refugees, it doesn’t really make a difference because Switzerland is part of the Dublin treaty and is part of the Shengen area, which is like the outside border of the EU, so there aren’t really many special regulations for Switzerland, so in that sense Switzerland is just like any of the other European country. But what is very true is that Switzerland has a very restrictive asylum system, so it’s really, really hard in Switzerland to seek a permanent resident, or even get a Swiss passport. And, also as in many other European countries, we have a government which is partially very right or far right parties, and also in our country I see a lot of, a big movement with many people who are talking lots more about racist or also fascist ideas. But I think the biggest issue is that Switzerland is one of the countries that doesn’t have an outside border, and we are one of those countries, when refugees are coming to Switzerland, we are sending them back to Italy, or also to Hungary, or those countries which do have outside borders with the E.U., so we are definitely a big deal in the whole situation of this Dublin treaty.
The Ex-Worker: For some background for our listeners about European policies around refugees and asylum seekers, can you explain a bit about the Shengen system and the Dublin Agreement?
Alexandra: Basically, the Shengen area is an area which is defined in Europe where they are outside the borders and also controls, and on the inside, the countries don’t really do border controls between each other, so basically when you are traveling between Austria and Germany, up to now there has been no border control, or no real border anymore; but the border would be further outside, like at the moment, between Slovenia and Croatia, or between Hungary and Croatia. So this is kind of important, for the context of when refugees are trying to get into Europe, once they pass this Shengen area, they are actually inside of Europe. And then they can apply for asylum, but they have to apply for asylum in their first country of entry, so this is normally one of the outside borders countries, like Slovenia or Hungary at the moment, but this was also mean when, for example, they come by airplane, or by ship, this could be France, or Spain, or also Switzerland, but this is really unlikely because we are in the middle and it’s really hard for this to be your first country of entry.
Now, this might sound like a rather reasonable idea, but the problem – well, it’s not really reasonable at all (besides the point that borders are not reasonable) – is that when you are made registration in your first country that you entered in Europe or the Shengen area, once you will go to another country - for example, you entered in Hungary, you got registered, but then you decided to go to Germany and you want to apply for asylum there, Germany will send you back to Hungary, because they say, “Oh no, we won’t take you because your first point of entry was Hungary.” So what’s actually happening in Europe is that there’s lots of pressure on the outside Shengen area countries to have lots of asylum seekers, and very often those are also countries which are economically not so well off, for example like Spain and Italy and Slovenia, and Hungary, so it’s also protection system from the richer European countries.
But one thing, which I’ve also seen in Switzerland, in the last couple weeks is, due to this media attention, there are also lots of people who are trying to get involved in the refugee situation, and who are touched by the people who are now fleeing over the Balkan route. There are a lot of children who are fleeing which also for me has been a really heartbreaking thing, to have babies in your arms that you are not sure if they would survive because they [were] so cold. So people have been reacting to that, and there have been lots of solidarity, in the sense of mutual aid, like people self-organizing big convoys going themselves to the Balkans and trying to support those people. So there’s also been a positive thing which is going on, that’s just very little people. It’s really clear that the states and the big NGOs are failing, so there’ve also been lots of people who have decided, with the idea of mutual aid, that they would do something and they would like to support the refugees, so there are both sides.
The Ex-Worker: What are some examples of anarchist or radical solidarity projects that cross borders, connecting migrants and activists in different European countries? Are there examples of solidarity efforts connecting people in the countries from which many migrants are leaving to the countries to which they are arriving?
Alexandra: There are some projects that are trying to work on that; like in Geneva, there is a movement at the moment which is called “Stop Bunkers,” which has been created by migrants who were seeking asylum and were living in underground bunkers, and they didn’t want to live in them anymore, and they started to protest, and also started to do political work on it. And have been supported by local radical and anarchist groups, more in the sense of logistic and legal aid, but they were really leading the struggle, and it was really clear that it was them leading the struggle. But I don’t really know that many of examples that are like that. And also very often the experience is that it’s really hard to do, as well, hard in different senses; like, trying not to instrumentalize migrants for your own political ideas is a big issue. Or also how do you deal with, for example, when migrants decided to make a liasons or connections with organizations like parties, which you yourself would never do. How do you react to that, how much do you tell them what to do or not to do?
But at the same time, I think that there are lots of projects that have come up which don’t have such close connections with migrants themselves, which are still related to their struggle, like for example “Watch the Med,” which is a group or an organization which has started a year ago something which is called an alarm phone. So they’re doing a hotline for boat people in distress, and they’re also trying to help the people when they call that are in the sea, maybe something is wrong with their dingy or their boat they’re trying to help them to make sure that the coast guards really come to rescue them because it’s a big issue that very often the coast guards don’t react quick enough, and many people die a totally unnecessarily death because the reaction wasn’t quick enough, so trying to put some of the pressure they have as western Europeans to support the refugees in that sense.
And obviously in the whole Balkan area, there are lots of no border groups, there’ve been countless kitchens cooking food for migrants on their way to Europe. So lots of support has been going on, but unfortunately not much support which [has] a really close connection to migrants. But I think this is something that will be worked on when those people now are arriving in Europe, because the people who are at the moment doing their journey and fleeing their country of origin are not I think mostly in a state to have any energy or priority to political fights.
The Ex-Worker: What are some of the largest obstacles you face in your struggles to show solidarity with migrants? What advice would you offer to non-migrants who want to act in solidarity with migrants, in Europe or even here in the USA or Canada?
Alexandra: I think one of the largest obstacles in my mind, or something I’ve put a lot of thought into before I went to the Balkans - I felt I had a lot of clear, anarchist political ideas in my head about how things should be, and what is right, and how I want it and how I see the situation. But I think everything changes really radically when you have a dying baby in your arms. And you’re thinking, or I’ve been thinking really much about the situation of just helping people, and not thinking that much about political things in that moment. And sometimes it was also haunting me, because difficult situations are when you are at the camp like that; you get a bit like a part of machinery also, of the asylum system, because it was really clear that most people who were there wanted to get the people on the bus to the registration place. Nobody asked the migrant what they want or what their decision is. It’s really clear that the border is there and you’re supporting the border in a way, in that people are being sent to the next border where they’re taking over. You’re standing in front of the border; you’re not destroying it, you’re no deconstructing it, you’re just helping people that they have enough food or water and get medical care. So lots of thinking about this differentiation between your ideas and the reality, which also I think led to really fruitful discussion in general.
And then also positive things: this impression or idea that thousands of people are doing support to migrants that are not linked to any government or any NGO, but just doing self-organized work and helping people flee over the border. And this has been done also in a very direct way, like people just taking a car and driving people to or over the border; just making sure that the gap existed that people could go through, or what is the best way to reach their goal. So for me those are also very strong actions, and sometimes also very direct actions; and a lot of people have been doing things like that that would not normally classify themselves in an anarchist or radical way. And I totally would, with what they have done. So I think this is a chance for people to experience how self-organization can work and does work.
The Ex-Worker: Can you describe an anarchist or radical strategy for how we might respond to the border/migration crisis, and a vision of a free world beyond the system of national borders?
Alexandra: This I think is the hardest question; and no, I don’t know the strategy for how we might respond and react to this crisis. I think for me one of the main things has been about doing something and supporting which I felt was actually supporting, but still giving people as much possibility to make their own decision, or also help them make their own decision, and helping them have a possibility to do what they think is right for them. And yes, I think I have a really clear vision, like you already said, of a world beyond the system of national borders. But how to get there, I have absolutely no idea. Maybe that sounds a bit frustrating. But I hope on the way of doing active things, and really just trying out things, we will find a way.
THE PARIS ATTACKS AND THE BORDER CRISIS
Alanis: As we finished work on this episode, the Islamic State struck in a coordinated attack in Paris that left at least 129 people dead and hundreds more wounded. In Europe, rumors that one of the attackers entered France as a refugee or had a Syrian passport fueled the escalated anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic sentiment, giving politicians the impetus for further tightening of border controls. Here in the US, more than a dozen states across the country halted plans to accept Syrian refugees, mosques received death threats, and politicians stepped up anti-immigrant rhetoric. The Democratic mayor of Roanoke, Virginia actually compared the situation with ISIS in Syria to World War II and cited, seemingly approvingly, the US government’s internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps as a justification for suspending all efforts to offer support to Syrian refugees.
Clara: Of course, all of this plays directly into the hands of the Islamic State, who aim to increase the polarization between Arab and Islamic people and folks in the West with whom they might otherwise find common cause against militarism, patriarchy and exploitation. In this moment of increasing polarization between different oppressive authoritarian power blocs, it’s more important than ever that anarchists articulate visions for worlds beyond the binary of fundamentalist terrorism or the neoliberal security state. In response to the attacks in Paris, our only hope is to establish common cause across the boundaries of citizenship and religion before the whole world is carved up on the butcher’s block of war. In that spirit, we’ll conclude this episode’s exploration of borders and migration today with a piece that recently appeared on the CrimethInc. blog, titled “The borders won’t protect you—but they might get you killed.”
THE BORDERS WON’T PROTECT YOU - BUT THEY MIGHT GET YOU KILLED
Alanis: In Paris, on November 13th, 129 people were killed in coordinated bombings and shootings for which the Islamic State claimed responsibility. Although this is only the latest in a series of such attacks, it has drawn a different sort of attention than the massacres in Suruç and Ankara that together killed at least 135 people. The lives of young activists who support the Kurdish struggle against ISIS—so far the only on-the-ground effort that has blocked the expansion of the Islamic State—are weighed differently than the lives of Western Europeans.
The same goes for the lives of millions who have been killed or forced to flee their homes in Syria. European nationalists lost no time seeking to tie the attacks in Paris to the so-called migrant crisis. British headlines proclaimed, “Jihadis sneaked into Europe as fake Syrian refugees,” alleging that a passport found with one of the assailants belonged to a refugee who passed through Greece. These opportunists hope to use the blood still wet on the streets to anoint their project of locking down Fortress Europe.
Ironically, many of the people attempting to enter Europe from the Middle East are fleeing similar attacks orchestrated by ISIS. This is why they have been willing to risk death, crossing border after border to reach an unwelcoming Europe. Cutting off their escape route would trap them in territory controlled by ISIS, arguably increasing the resources of the Islamic State and indisputably exacerbating the frustrations that drive people to cast their lot with Islamic fundamentalism.
Surely this was clear to the people who planned the attacks. It may even have been among their objectives.
Clara: There is a chilling symmetry between the agendas of the nationalists of Europe and the fundamentalists of the Islamic State. The nationalists wish to see the world divided into gated communities in which citizenship serves as a sort of caste system; European history shows that in a world thus divided, the ultimate solution to every problem is war. The fundamentalists, for their part, hope to assert Islamic identity as the basis of a global jihad.
In this regard, the only real difference between ISIS and the European nationalists is over whether the criteria for inclusion in the new world order should be citizenship or religion. Both ISIS and the nationalists want to see the conflicts of the 21st century play out between clearly defined peoples governed by rival powers, not between the rulers and the ruled as a whole. Both want to force the refugees to take a side in the war between Western governments and the Islamic State rather than participating in the sort of grassroots social change once promised by the Arab Spring.
Of course, the tightening of Fortress Europe and the next wave of airstrikes will be promoted as a way to keep Europeans safe from foreign barbarians, not a means of escalating global conflict. But can borders protect against attacks like the ones in Paris? Has the War on Terror made the world a safer place?
Alanis: Let’s go back to September 11, 2001, when al-Qaeda carried out attacks in Manhattan and Washington, DC. In response, then-President George W. Bush committed the United States to military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq intended to “make the world safe for democracy,” rhetoric taken from another President who sought to justify a war to end all wars while demonizing immigrants. One of Bush’s justifications was that by occupying these rogue states, the US military could disable the staging areas from which acts of terrorism were coordinated. The Bush administration was proposing to protect US citizens by means of the same indiscriminate violence that had produced so much resentment against them in the first place.
Clara: Anarchists didn’t buy it. In response to the September 11 attacks and the military operations that followed, we blanketed walls across the United States with posters proclaiming Your leaders can’t protect you, but they can get you killed.
As we predicted, the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan only destabilized the Middle East, fostering new generations of embittered Islamic fighters. Just as Al-Qaeda was originally funded and trained by the CIA, today ISIS is armed with the very military equipment sent to Iraq to impose US control of the region. As we wrote in 2006 in Rolling Thunder #3, the Bush administration could hardly have been more effective at generating Islamic resistance if that had been its explicit goal:
Alanis: “Mere world domination is no use to a repressive regime. As soon as there are no barbarians at the gates to point to as the greater of two evils, the subjects start getting restless—witness the decade following the fall of the Berlin Wall, when internal resistance grew and grew in the vacuum left by the Communist menace. War-without-end may make people restless, too, but it also keeps them busy reacting to it, if not dying in it, instead of cutting to the root of the matter.
Militant Islam, once a backyard startup company, is finally a global threat, poised to replace the Communist Bloc. Western-style capitalism has extended its influence and control so far that external opposition must now come from previously peripheral corners of the world, such as Afghanistan; a few fanatics from that periphery were enough to inaugurate the new era of Terror-vs.-Democracy back in 2001, but it will take a lot more fanatics to maintain it, and the current US foreign policy will produce them.”
Clara: Intensifying security and border controls will only exacerbate the tensions that propel people into the ranks of ISIS from France and Britain as well as in Iraq and Syria. Clamping down the borders around Europe means clamping down on every aspect of life inside them. Special forces have been deployed to back British police; the New York City police commissioner hopes to increase surveillance of communications devices; former French President Sarkozy wants to force everyone suspected of radicalism to wear an electronic tag. This is not just a question of how refugees are treated, but of what life will be like for all of us in an era of ever-increasing state control.
Alanis: The attacks in Paris are convenient for those who have been struggling to subdue social unrest. When Hillary Clinton says “We are not at war with Islam, we are at war with violent extremism,” the implication is that everyone who stands up for himself against the clampdown will be treated as a violent extremist. In the United States, the National Guard have been deployed three times over the last two years to suppress protests against police murders—it’s not just ISIS killing people. In Europe, where there have been such powerful protests against austerity, 68 anarchists have been arrested on terrorism charges over the past three years—in retaliation for social movement activity, not attacks on civilians.
From Washington, DC and Paris to Raqqa and Mosul, those who hold power have no real solutions for the economic, ecological, and social crises of our time; they are more focused on suppressing the social movements that threaten them. But wherever such movements are crushed, discontent will be channeled into organizations like ISIS that seek to solve their problems through sectarian war rather than collective revolutionary change.
Clara: So the clampdown can only make things worse. Tighter border controls won’t protect us from attacks like the one in Paris, though they will go on causing migrant deaths. Airstrikes won’t stop suicide bombers, but they will produce new generations that nurse a grudge against the West. Government surveillance won’t catch every bomb plot, but it will target the social movements that offer an alternative to nationalism and war.
If the proponents of Fortress Europe succeed in suppressing and segregating us, we will surely end up fighting each other: divide and rule. Our only hope is to establish common cause against our rulers, building bridges across the boundaries of citizenship and religion before the whole world is carved up on the butcher’s block of war.
Alanis: In this context, we can draw inspiration from everyone who has defied the borders over the past few months, demonstrating that these artificial divisions can be overcome. In August, hundreds of people broke across the border from Greece into Macedonia. In September, when trains supposedly bearing migrants through Hungary to the Austrian border arrived instead at an internment camp surrounded by fences and riot police, the migrants locked themselves inside the train, refused food and water, and ultimately broke through the fence, escaping across the fields to the highway. In October, over a hundred people stormed the Eurotunnel between France and the UK. Just a few weeks ago, thousands of people repeatedly broke through the police cordon separating Slovenia and Austria. In each of these cases, we see people working together to find the vulnerabilities in the walls that partition up humanity. If it weren’t for their efforts, we can be sure that European governments would have done even less to support refugees.
By breaking open the borders and supporting others who break through them, we can show those fleeing Syria—and Mexico, and all the other warzones of the world—that they have comrades on the other side of the fences. This is our best hope to discourage them from giving up on the possibility of joint solidarity and joining groups like ISIS. Likewise, the more we disrupt the security apparatus and the war machine, the less ISIS will be able to appeal to potential converts by pointing to the harm Western governments are inflicting on Muslims around the world. Every time we do this, we seize the initiative to define the essential struggle of our age: not Terrorists vs. Governments, not Islam vs. the West, but all humanity against the structures and ideologies that pit us against each other.
NEXT WEEK’S NEWS
Clara: All right! Let’s wrap things up with Next Week’s News. Alanis, what’s coming up?
Alanis: Well, we reported in our last episode about the upcoming COP 21 protests in Paris, a massive mobilization against the corporate and government-based climate change lobbies that are looking to the climate crisis an an opportunity to reap profits and advance policing, surveillance and militarization. But now that the Islamic State attacks have given the French state the impetus to do whatever it wants under the guise of security, police have informed protest organizers that the November 29th Climate March is cancelled, as well as the December 12th mobilizations against the COP 21 gathering.
Clara: Oh, shit. So that’s the era we live in now? Legal protest is cancelled?
Alanis: The organizers tried to put a defiant spin on it, but stopped short of calling for people to protest anyway, regardless of what the government says. What’s actually going to happen? We are extremely curious to see - this could provide a test case for how far states can go in using the unlimited securitization supposedly justified by the threat of terrorism to clamp down on all forms of resistance. If you’re planning to be at the COP 21 protests, we’d love to hear a reportback about how things go and what resistance looks like in the face of such an intense climate of fear and repression.
Clara: Next, we have an announcement to share about about a new prison-focused publication called Unstoppable. Here’s what the folks involved had to say about it:
Alanis: “Unstoppable is specifically by and for incarcerated folks who identify as women, gender variant, and/or trans. This anti-authoritarian publication seeks to blend radical political analyses with personal experiences and observations. We want to elevate the voices on the inside that are often excluded from political dialogues,while also asking people on the outside to convey their social and political realities to people on the inside. Unstoppable aims to build bridges across prison walls and beyond them by facilitating dialogue and engagement between those who are incarcerated and those who are not.
Unstoppable is asking for contributions in the form of artwork, poetry, writings,social commentaries, field notes from the prison yard or the streets, critical views of power structures and more. Unstoppable is particularly interested in focusing on gendered issues and systems of social control in the U.S. context, but we invite a wide array of topics. Such topics might include: organizing against police terror; personal triumphs in overcoming past or ongoing trauma; community-based responses to gendered violence and abuse; self-care in high stress environments; the consequences of deprivation in the U.S. prison system; environmental liberation; forms of resistance in women’s prisons; do-it-yourself ethics; et cetera!
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to be involved with this project in any way or if you have a contribution to share."
Clara: The inaugural issue should be released in the next month. Stay posted to unstoppable.noblogs.org to read it when it arrives.
Alanis: In other news, there’s a punk and anarchist film festival taking place in Sao Paulo, Brazil on December 5th and 6th. Also, the East Bay Anarchist Book and Conversation Event takes place in Oakland, California on December 5th.
Clara: We reported last episode on the upcoming sentencing hearing for animal liberation activist Tyler Lang; his hearing has been rescheduled for December 18th. So if you’re in the Chicago area and can make it to the hearing, please come out and show your support. You can get details and updates at supportkevinandtyler.com.
Alanis: Imprisoned anarchists from the informal organization “Conspiracy of Cells of Fire” have recently broadcast a callout for a “Black December” – an amplification of coordinated, global, anarchist action – in solidarity with comrades who have died and those who are being held behind bars or living in clandestinity. The call reads: “From counter-information activities, to actions of propaganda by the deed, let’s make the most of this month and encounter each other, conspire, and synchronize our strengths in an informal, international and insurrectionary manner against the world of Power. Let’s seize the chance to highlight the points we have in common, but also our different perspectives, in a spirit of comradeship and mutual respect.” We’ve got the link to the full call on our website.
Clara: Ah, now here’s a weird one. Our old pals at Adbusters Magazine, who can’t seem to figure out if they’re anarchists or liberals or activists or art critics or what, have come up with another zany scheme. Remember when they called for Occupy Wall Street under the idea that everyone would come together and come up with one big demand?
Alanis: Yeah - and in fact that was impossible, but that impossibility led to Occupy actually spreading and becoming something vital for a second.
Clara: Exactly. Well, they seem to have failed to absorb that lesson, and so now they’re calling for something called the Billion People March on December 19th, in which they will try to revive the idea that the way to fix everything is to start with a single demand, but this time rather than all this pesky business of consensus and direct democracy and assemblies, they’ve helpfully come up with the single demand for us.
Alanis: Ooh, goody.
Clara: And it is… wait for it…
Clara: It’s a 1% tax on all stock market transactions and currency trades… to be paid to the United Nations, I think; it’s not entirely clear.
Alanis: Huh. That’s the one demand that’s supposed to catalyze a billion people around the world to all do something on the same day?
Clara: Uh, yeah…
Alanis: Well, considering that Adbusters once again pulled a piece of CrimethInc. writing out of context and pasted it into their latest issue, in which they advance this latest brilliant morsel of strategic thinking, I kinda wish they had read the “Why We Don’t Make Demands” feature from this spring. That might give them some context for why this admittedly ambitious undertaking is in fact not going to result in an end to climate change, corporate capitalism, existential alienation, or any of the other conditions of postmodern life that Adbusters so evocatively critiques.
Clara: Well, that said, we’ll wrap things up with prisoner birthdays. On December 12th, Zolo Azania, a Black Panther convicted of a 1981 bank robbery that left a Gary, Indiana police officer dead;
Alanis: On the 15th, Fred “Muhammad” Burton, one of the Philly Five, framed for the murder of a cop in 1970;
Clara: And two folks on the 17th: Chelsea Manning, US soldier and Wikileaks heroine who exposed shady military doings in Iraq, and Connor Stevens from the Cleveland Four, a young anarchist entrapped in an FBI-generated bomb plot.
Alanis: And that’s it for this episode of the Ex-Worker. Many, many thanks to Harsha, Vijay, Alexandra, and everyone else whose voices, words and ideas appeared in this episode. As always, you can find plenty of links with more info at our website, crimethinc.com/podcast.
Clara: And we’re eager to hear what you thought about this episode and your ideas for the future, by email to podcast at crimethinc dot com.
Alanis: We’ve got lots of exciting stuff coming up in future episodes, including more discussions of borders and migration, and our 2015 year in review, so stay tuned!
Clara: So until next time - say it with me here, folks:
Toronto G20 protestors chanting: NO FENCES, NO BORDERS, FUCK LAW AND ORDER!!
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
For our discussion of borders and migration, we pulled together excerpts from a wide variety of sources, including: the Contradictionary entry for “Border”, originally read in Episode 12; a section from Episode 35, our audio zine version of To Change Everything titled “The Problem is: Borders”; a selection from Episode 11’s discussion of fascism and nationalism; an interview with Harsha Walia from the Winnipeg-based anarchist radio show Black Mask; the section “Migration, borders and climate change: a ‘no borders’ perspective” from the zine “Climate change is not an environmental issue”; an editorial by Mask Magazine managing editor Hanna Hurr called “Hopelessness in a Lovely Place”; an interview with Vijay Prashad titled “Mediterranean Refugee Crisis Escalating” from the Real News Network; a statement from Calais Migrant Solidarity titled “Solidarity means fighting the border”; and a new CrimethInc. blog feature titled “The borders won’t protect you—but they might get you killed”.
Some other interesting anti-border resources include the 2012 Transborder Map visually depicting a wide range of anti-border resistance projects in Europe; the No Border Network’s “Crossing Borders” transnational newsletter, with eleven issues published between 2006 and 2013; and the websites from European No Border Camps, including Brussells in 2010, Cologne in 2012, and Rotterdam in 2013.
For more info on Operation Pandora and other anti-anarchist repression efforts by the Spanish state, see this basic update in English, this statement from the arrestees, and The Final Straw Radio show, which is posting a show featuring the full interview with a Spanish anarchist from which we shared a short edited segment.
Check out this article about a secret agreement between the FBI and the Washington, DC Metro Police Department regarding the use of the Stingray, a small mobile device that law enforcement agencies can use to intercept cell phone calls and text messages. According the the agreement, revealing information about how Stingrays are used, even when required by law, could render them, quote, “essentially useless” as a law enforcement tool. (hey Wikileaks, are you listening here?)
There’s a new prison-themed publication called “Unstoppable” forthcoming; check it out!
We shared a reportback from the Rebel! Rebuild! Rewild! eco-anarchist action camp in eastern Canada.
We reported last episode on the upcoming sentencing hearing for animal liberation activist Tyler Lang; his hearing has been rescheduled for December 18th. So if you’re in the Chicago area and can make it to the hearing, please come out and show your support. You can get details and updates at supportkevinandtyler.com.
Imprisoned anarchists from the informal organization “Conspiracy of Cells of Fire” have recently broadcast a callout for a “Black December” – an amplification of coordinated, global, anarchist action – in solidarity with comrades who have died and those who are being held behind bars or living in clandestinity. The call reads: “From counter-information activities, to actions of propaganda by the deed, let’s make the most of this month and encounter each other, conspire, and synchronize our strengths in an informal, international and insurrectionary manner against the world of Power. Let’s seize the chance to highlight the points we have in common, but also our different perspectives, in a spirit of comradeship and mutual respect.”
Upcoming prisoner birthdays:
Zolo Azania #4969
State Prison Minimum Unit
1 Park Row
Michigan City, Indiana 46360
Fred “Muhammad” Burton AF 3896
1590 Walters Mill Road
Somerset, Pennsylvania 15510–0001
Note: please address envelope to Fred, card/letter to Muhammad
Chelsea E Manning 89289
1300 North Warehouse Road
Ft Leavenworth, Kansas 66027–2304
Connor Stevens #57978–060
Post Office Box 8000
Bradford, Pennsylvania 16701