A hunger strike will take place in the German prisons from the 1st until the 8th of August. The organisation Iv.I., 'Representation of the interests of the prisoners', is mobilizing for this hunger strike.
About 470 prisoners would be participating in this protest. The demands cover a wide spectre, but in particular they deal with the isolation and detention circumstances of Nadine Tribian. Apart from this, the Iv.I. demands the abolition of prison costs, obligatory work, lifelong prison sentence and isolation.
Although there are several reasons why we are glad about this initiative (as we are every time when the prison routine and the reinforced concrete of the penitentiary order starts to crack), we have some real thoughts about the announcement and the organisation. To start: the Iv.I. openly presents itself as the legal and institutional representatives of the prisoners. It rests on the principal of 'delegation' with representatives and we don't know how far it is hierarchically structured. Outsides of the walls as well as inside of them, 'trade union' and 'representation' don't equal self organisation and do even less stand for 'self organisation of the struggle'. History as well as experience already showed us a long time ago that those who choose to speak with the state -and even more when the state asks them to- turn out to be negotiators and pacificators. It is this role which permits them to exist as a structure. It goes without saying that this kind of organisations a priori dissociate themselves from organisational forms and methods of struggle over which they could loose the control and which don't settle for the dictates of the state. This is exactly what has been done by one of the representatives of the Iv.I., Peter Scherzl, when he considered it appropriate to puts in his public announcement of the protest: "The Iv.I. does explicitly not call for 'mutiny' etcetera, but for a completely legal resistance within the boundaries of the juridical possibilities. Only in this way we can assure that they will not accuse us of being the inventors, rather than the accusers of abuses, because they want to cover them up and make them to last."
Off course we don't expect from any organisation to call for riots: riots are not being called upon, they simply take place and participation in them depend upon everyone. We by the way very well understand the reasons why the Iv.I. quiets down in this area and doesn't want to invite prisoners to revolt. But we do think that they cross the line by explicitly denouncing certain methods of action and even judging them as illegitimate on beforehand, methods of action which certain prisoners could by the fact use and which could be developed during the course of the struggle. At this point, the matter of complementarities and especially compatibilities of choices and methods is touched concretely. We can only encourage the prisoners, members of the Iv.I. or not, to abandon any notion of 'chief' and to develop autonomous initiatives in which they will be no longer obliged to restrict their ideas and desires to the area "inside (of) the juridical possibilities".
As it is impossible to struggle against the oppression by using organisational forms which are nothing but copies of the institutions, it also doesn't make sense at all to take up and adjust yourself to the categories created by the state for her advantages. We know that the state plays with the notion of legality and uses it in whatever way it suits her. We know as well that the notion of 'right' is a completely relative one. The sate sometimes grants rights to certain people, sometimes she gives rights to others in order to strengthen her grip or to rationalize the management of oppression and exploitation.
To end we know as well that there is always a big stick connected to a reward. When certain prisoners gain some "advantages", others will be continuously tortured. The humiliations, abuses, harassments may differ from context to context and according to the present needs, but they are not a deviation of the system. They are an entire part of it, at least in the form of Damocles' sword which hangs above the head of the most rebellious. When norms about what is 'acceptable' are being set, this allows the generalization of 'exceptions' (as is the case for isolation, which is being spread to all detention regimes). The so called 'humanisation' of the prisons (which aims at the social acceptation -for prisoners as well- of imprisonment and even at the participation of prisoners in the smooth working and in the management of the prison) aims at hiding the continuously spreading logic of detention. The investment in 'rehabilitation' into the capitalist system serves to strengthen the system which by the facts pushes people into the illegality (even if only for reasons of survival) and sends them to prison.
Keeping these conclusions in mind, we don't want to renounce any partial improvement of the circumstances of detention, neither of any from of partial struggle for specific demands. But it is crucial to connect them to a broader analyse. In this case we have to question the role and the social function of the prison needed by this system, not only as a need which serves to facilitate the exploitation of the poor and the elimination of the most 'dangerous', but as well as a permanent threat against all who could damage it. From this point of view it is all about confirming that the deprivation of freedom itself is torture and will only disappear when the detention itself will disappear. The prisons will not collapse until the world which nurtures them will.
This perspective allows us to develop a broader power balance, which is not at all incompatible with the obtainment of reforms -on the contrary-, but which doesn't constitute the core of it. According to us, the perspectives are situated in the forms the struggle takes and the means that are used for it. Self organisation and the refusal of all negotiation, the development of an autonomous dynamic, the positioning of its own criteria in function of the context and the proper goals, (excluded from the categories put up by the state) the putting into practice of direct action and solidarity: no doubt this is a base to question authority. It's not about claiming that everyone who participates in a mutiny fights for the destruction of all prisons and authority. Next to the attacks on the system and the difficulties the system has with them (in particular to recuperate and integrate them), these experiences of revolt offer real options of rupture. At times when the struggle is being purposefully cut down by the preconceived frames of the co-managers of the state (and which on beforehand cancels all possible potential of it) these experiences open up non-existent areas of struggle.
The mobilisation in the German prisons can be an opportunity next to so many others to put forward our own perspectives of the struggle to destroy prison and its world. We want to show our solidarity with the prisoners in struggle on the basis of our refusal of any form of negotiating about dissatisfaction and revolt, and not with their more or less official and institutional representative organs. Thereby, we also want to say that the hunger strike is not an unconquerable form of protest in prison and that there exist other possibilities for resistance and struggle. Concerning this matter, we also want to say that revolt, inside as well as outside, doesn't only express itself in a collective way and during 'big' occasions. It feeds itself with every refusal to collaborate (1), with every gesture against domination, with the development of a combative and rebellious attitude. This is why the struggle inside the prison can't be limit itself to moment, although these moments will of course embrace the necessary solidarity when there is a movement or when there is fire. If we want to inspire and support with our anger those behind the walls who rebel on a daily basis, we also have to put forward the unavoidable question of detention and permanent agitation on other areas of struggle, and this to enable us to properly attack prison at a theoretical as well as a practical level. This situation of conflict, inside as well as outside, might succeed in opening up areas of struggle and develop dynamics which will not go along with the miserable promises nor with the whiplashes of the state.
Some anarchists in solidarity
(1) As for example our comrade Jose Delgado (Rheinbach) who refuses (as well as Gabriel Pombo da Silva in Aachen) to work in prison because he continues to resist against the conditions which he considers humiliating (prison clothes, visits behind glass,...). If we recognize ourselves in these kind of refusals, it's up to us to act upon them and to actively support our comrades in their resistance.
PS: Marco Camenisch announced that he will join the hungerstrike from 1 till 8 August, for the same reasons as Gabriel explained in his letter "About forced work and other Rights"
(Translated from La Cavale, correspondance of the struggle against prisons, number 13, July 2008, Belgium)