ABC: Remember We're Still Here

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What is the Anarchist Black Cross?

The origins of the Anarchist Black Cross date back prior to the Russian Revolution. An Anarchist Red Cross was formed in Tsarist Russia to organize aid for political prisoners and their families, and self- defense against political raids by the Cossack army.

During the Russian Civil War, the organization changed its name to the Black Cross in order to avoid confusion with the Red Cross who were organizing relief in the country. After the Bolsheviks seized power the Black Cross was moved to Berlin.

It continued to aid prisoners of the Bolshevik regime, as well as victims of Italian fascism and others.

Despite the increasing demand for its services, the Black Cross folded in the '40s due to a simultaneous decline in available finances.

In the late '60s the organization resurfaced in England, where it initially worked to aid prisoners of the Spanish resistance to Franco's fascist regime. In the 1980's the ABC expanded and now has groups in many different regions of the world.

Working Towards Liberation

We believe that prisons serve no function except to preserve the ruling classes. We also believe that a free society must find alternative, effective ways of dealing with anti-social crime. But a decrease in anti-social crime is only likely to happen (and therefore prison abolition can only be a realistic option) accompanied by a dramatic change in our economic, social, and political systems. These conditions lie at the root of both anti-social crime and the reasons for a prison system. Our primary goal is to make these fundamental changes. We work for a stateless, cooperative/classless society free from privilege or domination based on race or gender. But it's not enough to build the grassroots movements necessary to bring about these changes in society, we must also be able to defend them. The ABC defends those who are captured and persecuted for carrying out acts on behalf of our movements.

Support for Imprisoned Activists

The ABC aims to recognize, expose and support the struggles of prisoners in general, and of Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War in particular. The form our solidarity takes depends on each individual's situation. To some we send financial or material aid. With others we keep in contact through mail, make visits, provide political literature, and discuss strategy and tactics. We do whatever we can to prevent prisoners becoming isolated from the rest of the movement. We fundraise on behalf of prisoners or their defense committees for legal cases or other needs, and organize demonstrations or public campaigns of solidarity with prisoners we support.

We regard prisoners as an active part of our movement and seek to maintain their past and potential contributions by acting as a link back to the continuing struggle. Increased communication between activists both inside and outside prison inspires resistance on both sides of the prison walls. We hope that we can encourage other activists by providing assurance that even if you are persecuted for your activities, the movement will not abandon you: we will take care of our own. Through the ABC, we are building organizational support for resistance.

Defending Resistance

Outside of prisoner support work, the ABC is committed to the wider resistance in which many of these prisoners are engaged. We see a need to be highly organized if we are to effectively meet the organized repression of the state and avoid defeat.

When power is challenged, be it in South Africa, occupied Palestine, Chile, Ireland or Canada, it inevitably turns to violent repression and political imprisonment to maintain itself.

In 1989 we set up an "Emergency Response Network"(ERN) to respond to political raids, crackdowns, death sentences, hungerstrikes, torture or killings of members of or prisoners from groups and communities we work in solidarity with. An ERN mobilization means ABC groups and others around the world send telegrams and phone calls, organize demonstrations or other actions within 48 hours of the network being alerted. For instance, two Greek anarchist prisoners reported to be held incommunicado and subject to torture were released from solitary confinement and allowed access to lawyers after the ERN's first mobilization brought demonstrations, calls, faxes and telegrams to Greek embassies around the world. The ABC's international network plays the one trump card grassroots movements have in our deck: solidarity.

Remember: We're Still Here

We decide what prisoners to support and what work we will do on a case-by-case basis. We put priority on the cases of political/ politicized prisoners and POWs as this corresponds to our commitment to building resistance. Although imprisonment is in itself "political", Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War are being held specifically for their beliefs or actions.

Unlike Amnesty International, we don't place judgments on what are valid and invalid expressions of resistance: non-violence is not a criterion of support.

Unlike other organizations supporting political prisoners, we include those who were "politicized" by the prison experience and have since become organizers inside prison. Many "politicized" prisoners face increased harassment in return for their activism.

Getting Involved

There are many ways of getting involved in this work. You or your group can:

  • join your local ABC group
  • set up your own ABC group
  • donate labour, materials or money to the ABC
  • become active in the Emergency Response Network
  • or help as an individual by spreading information about prisoners, writing to them, making visits, sending reading materials and more
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