Claudio Lavazza’s contribution to the “Days of Resistance and Solidarity” held March 26-28 in Athens organized by the Assembly of Solidarity with Political Prisoners and Imprisoned and Accused Fighters. The compañero remains imprisoned in the dungeons of the Spanish state since 1996, arrested after a bank robbery which left two police dead.
Before talking about long term sentences, of the past state of European prisons, of the changes that have been made in the last few years, of the actual situation, of the experiences of struggle, of solidarity movements, of special imprisonment regimens, of anti-terrorist legislation, and objectives of the movement… I think it is best to talk of my experience of almost 20 years in prison. Unfortunately those who live outside of these walls do not have the necessary information to really understand this reality, and it is not their fault, but due to the difficulty of talking about things of such complexity and difficult analysis.
When some Swiss compañerxs asked me not long ago about “the new repressive strategies to eliminate those who choose not to bow down before Domination and the misery of the existent”, I responded by saying that those who do not want to bow down before the state are a small minority, and if I said that those affected represent only 15%, that would be a very optimistic percentage. Out of a population of 85,000 prisoners, over 85% could care less. So the repressive methods, the special regimens, and legislation are directed exclusively at those imprisoned for crimes considered ideologically “dangerous and violent” by the system and its laws. In the prisons of the Spanish state there are few who have fought and continue to fight to keep the prisoners’ values and rights elevated, and what I say is proven by the fact that during the campaign of struggle against the torture and mistreatment that began in October 2011 we were not able to get more than 60 participants, spread throughout twenty prisons in the state. In these struggles there was a curious mix of common and political prisoners of different ideologies, which was marked by the simplicity of a joint presence in struggles for the good of everyone. We could call it a connection between the struggles of prisoners who share the same repression. These participants paid and continue to pay a high price for their participation in these struggles, through prolonged isolation, disruption of their mail through a two letter per week limitation, restrictions of friends’ visits, mistreatment and frequent beatings, any kind of pamphlet or magazine about the movement was not allowed in due to “security concerns,” denial of telephone calls with support groups on the outside, the disappearance of mail coming into and going out of the prison, arbitrary transfers form one different prison center to the other with the aim of distancing friends, family, and support groups, sanctions as punishment for participation in protest initiatives like walk-outs, refusing to go into the yard, hunger strikes.
In regards to long term sentences, in Spain, with the passing of new laws you can stay in prison for 20, 25, 30, or up to 40 years, without redenciones*. Now they can use “ a revisable indefinite sentence,” and the revisable does not mean a thing if you are a rebel that does not want to participate in the repentant dynamics and social reinsertion, according to the models dictated by power. Or if the system of control and domination doesn’t like you, you can be in prison for the rest of your life. The revisable indefinite sentence is nothing more than a public campaign just in time for the next elections, we have seen that the endless sentence already exists in previous sentencing codes with the limit set at 40 years for crimes that at the beginning are said to be extremely grave (rapes, serial killing, genocides…) but they were also immediately applied to crimes related to the struggles of liberation movements and independence fighters.
As much as the new methods employed in the European community are referred to as therapies, aimed at the “reinsertion of the prisoner,” I would define them as attacks, and for a long time, of “high intensity” and as a special repression, also applied outside of special departments called FIES (Fichero de Internos de Especial Seguimiento), that so dramatically coincide with the struggles carried out in previous years. That is the changes in repression made in the last few years have been the utilization of methods of control and punishment on a larger scale, more refined and more selective, that reach prisoners in the second tier, without forgetting the FIES departments continue to function there, with their methods of harsh repression, for those that have fought and continue to fight.
Finally, in the panorama of prisons in Spain, one can talk of struggles carried out by only very few and the objectives of support in the actual circumstances are difficult to solve, given the destructive evolution employed, with repression, on one side and above all the massive implementation of psycho-pharmaceuticals and methadone, highly efficient legal drugs used to maintain control of prisoners…For some time this destructive dynamic is the cause of why there have not been mass or solidarity struggles .
But this problem is not the only fundamental cause of the lack of struggle, for there is another, of a social character, that exists outside and its reflection has repercussions here inside. A French magazine commented on “the danger of transforming anarchy in a meeting of alternative practices without offensive content against power, a reality fed by the democratic values such as diversity, tolerance, pluralism, economic integration, and alternative consumption.” In the prisons this translates to reinsertion, respect modules, conditional release, third tier, benefits that entail good behavior to obtain them and enjoy them….Obviously individual contestation and collective struggles antagonistic to these benefits are harshly punished…
Following the line of critique of the French publication that commented saying “there are some anarchist groups that in a conscious or unconscious manner separate from antagonism and permanent conflict against Power, silencing the necessity of destruction and direct attack against authority, or in the worst cases, realizing campaigns with the aim of cleaning the image of anarchism, presenting themselves as pathetic defenders of an ideology that has nothing to do with the confrontation against Power…”
I believe that this critique is the answer as to why there is little will to fight, in here as much as out there, and it would be good on behalf of everyone to include these questions in the internal debates around “what should be the objectives of a movement referring to connections between political prisoners’ struggles, solidarity movements, and the struggles of wider scale movements”
A strong embrace from prison.
*Transl. note: redenciones are part of the Spanish prison systems’ “benefits” program, comparable to a cross between parole and work release in the US. Prisoners get reduced sentences if they participate in work programs