Zurich, Switzerland : Two letters from the anarchist comrade imprisoned since January 29
March 17, 2019by actforfreedom
1st March 2019, Zurich prison
Dear comrades, dear friends
It has been a month since I was forced to stop by an unmarked car on my way to work on the 29th of January, just as I was cycling from Langstrasse to Josefstrasse, and was ambushed from behind by two other plainclothes police on bicycles. There was a woman among them whom I remember had followed me to my house not long ago. Then, along with about 15 other uninvited guests we left for one last visit to my flat, my car and the anarchist library where, among other things, electronic data equipment and documents were seized.
Now I have landed in this other dimension consisting of narrow rooms, block furniture, long corridors, bars, again and still more bars and steel doors, whose opening and shutting dictate the rhythm of daily life. Only a few hundred metres away from familiar places and people, separated by the violence of a whole society that prefers a regime of walls and laws to the reign of freedom and conscience.
Outside, we may dream, experiment, rebel from injured dignity in the face of the disgracefulness on which this world is based. Gradually our experiences and insights interweave into an overall view and we face the conditions of domination in thought and in action in order to free ourselves, constantly rejecting the catalogue of pre-established models, including anarchist ones. That’s how, as a matter of course, a revolutionary project unfolds within us in which theory and action constantly challenge and intermingle, we feel ourselves grow and think we can almost take on the world, and yet bang !, in an instant everything can be reduced to a few square metres. Every anarchist knows this and always has it more or less present somewhere in the back of their mind.
The existence of this possibility, most meaningful for the essential core of the present social order, is precisely a reason not to make our life outside already a prison: conventions and prejudices, progressive compromises and fleeting satisfactions which allow us to get to the next day, leading to constraint and fear that seeks to diminish us in our own eyes. This revolutionary project that each anarchist develops in themself also continues to develop when one is in prison. Contributing to it and not sacrificing our initiative to the dictates of repression is a revolutionary, not merely anti-repressive and of course human, solidarity that I also feel for anyone who stews in the dungeons of the State. We can sometimes find ourselves paying too much attention to the cop’s truncheon and jail. But basically, repression is also the spreading of rituals and symbolic contents that close us up in a cultural ghetto distracting us from the reality of the social struggle – the offer of participatory solutions in exchange for small concessions, the harassment on all sides by stimuli and information ever more devoid of real significance, language that is emptying itself of meaning whereas it is what allows us to make our ideas understandable to ourselves and to others. Perhaps all this is contributing far more to repressing any revolt against existing relations. I think these problems should at least be considered in this context.
Regarding my personal situation, I’m doing as well as possible under the circumstances. I’m sad to see myself so suddenly snatched from people I love and dreams I have cherished. But I manage quite well, if not outside, to find the way within me. I use my time to read and write, to learn and study. There are some people here I can talk to. I look forward to getting news and analyses of what is happening in the world, anarchist publications (to be sent in envelopes), also of course letters from comrades and friends.
I understand German, French, Italian. English and a little Spanish and Turkish.
I wish you courage and strength out there, where it is needed still more than here inside. At least more can come of it. Health is within you! as has already been said. I embrace you with all my heart!
Belated contribution for the event “What do anarchists want » of 09.02.2019
On the occasion of the discussion around the question “What do anarchists want?” I also want to sit down and put on paper some thoughts that will certainly come to you with some delay, since here everything has to go through censorship.
Not be in prison. That’s the first thing that comes into my mind in a way. But, just like the armoured doors in front of me, it also shows clearly that simply wanting something is not enough. Without the conditions that make it possible to grasp the object of the will in reality and overcome it through action, it remains the mere expression of a desire like that of those who believe in Santa Claus or who, having grown older, believe in an objective force that influences the world and will one day free us. Call it God, Reason, Dialectic or Progress. None of all that.
For anarchists, these abstract principles are all part of the same deception. And maybe we’ve thought too little about how for the ancient Greeks, archê meant the first principle, at the basis of everything, before it became the synonym of domination. It is from this original religious element that the justification of authority and ultimately the State monster developed.
So, in the absence of Weltgeist [spirit / soul of the world], as Hegel called it, or dialectical materialism in the direct variant of Marx, we must free ourselves. And for that, you obviously have to want it. But the will can also become a prison for us. For example, at times outside the ignominies that surround us made me feel more a prisoner than here, inside. Right here, the will is necessarily forced to reduce its perimetre. But outside, it also comes up against less clear, and for this reason even more treacherous, walls. It is these that we must first identify and demolish stone by stone, so that the concrete walls of prisons may fall one day.
That’s why I don’t want to talk about the beauty of anarchy, of the purity of anarchist principles here. These are noble things, concerning which we have an entire century of anarchist propaganda to refer to. I want to focus my attention less on the problem of “What” than on that of “Want”.
We can only want that which we understand one way or another so can represent ourselves, even if it is the strangest of all utopias. It means that our wanting is absolutely not as free as what has for a long time been the basis of a voluntarist tradition of many anarchists. It depends on our imagination, on our culture in the broad sense of the word. The latter do not only include the literary tradition and general culture, but also what we eat and how, how we dress, relate, communicate, what we cherish, in short, all the aspects of daily life. In a society that is about to bring all these aspects into a closed circle administered by technology, power is giving itself the capacity to separate culture from reality more and more. This does not only concern the majority of the excluded, administered passively, but the very ones who are in administrative positions. In this sense it can be said that technology is gradually annexing the State, the old political and economic structures of domination.
Some have used the concept of derealization in a still uncertain attempt to understand this evolution encompassing everything, which requires all our efforts. We should not see technology as simply all its devices but above all as a veil of forms and contents without substance that always covers reality, aiming to replace it as a reference. Once this circle is hermetically sealed, the cultural contents, our imaginary, will no longer open up our will to any outlet for liberating action as that at least requires a contact with the real substance of power in all its magnitude and exploitation. So the will to free oneself is transformed into simple ersatz symbolic actions, locked in their own cultural universe of separate thought frames. Loaded slogans and symbols, gossip and rituals rage. Needless to point out that anarchists are also influenced by this evolution. And that has perhaps to do with the fact that we are too convinced that we have the truth or the rosary of principles without having to work to go into problems, which ultimately pose a constant deterrent to acting in reality.
Anarchists have an idea of freedom that cannot be divided into gradations or sectors, or be enclosed in words. As they want neither a simple adaptation of existing domination nor the advent of a new domination in other forms they must start from a global vision. Our thought is forced to grasp the world in separate concepts and situations to help guide comprehension. However, the world as a whole, as well as the idea of freedom, is unique and indivisible and finds room only in our heart. Otherwise, Bakunin’s claim according to which we cannot really be free so long as one human being in the world is in chains would not be comprehensible. Today more than ever I think we have to learn to care not just about words, which are often misleading, but more about the heart, to what resonates between the words. If only words communicate, the search for affinity ends up remaining in vain. Someone once said that who has the head of a donkey might suddenly discover they have the heart of a Lion.
It seems to me that the only way out for rebellion today is to aim directly at the circle mentioned above. And for that we also need to take possession of the cultural means that power is seeking to deprive us of on all levels. One element is certainly knowledge of the object of the will, which could nevertheless also be become an obstacle and lose touch with reality when it has an exclusive claim. Other elements, even more important, are certain qualities, which may not seem very modern but which are the basis for overcoming the will to action: in the first place courage, determination, but also, and absolutely not in opposition, love in its universal foundation, openness to others, sensitivity, creativity.
The book, which until now seemed to be at the centre of cultural evolution, has undoubtedly gone out of fashion, and with good reason, in its claim to put the world inside a cover. We can of course want to send it to the devil. However, it’s an almost inexhaustible treasure of stimulations that have become rare nowadays and that could escape us, an opportunity for temporary reflection to deepen and root the elements I mentioned.
To conclude, I think anarchists want the revolutionary transformation of the State order based on violence and wars, exploitation and mass misery throughout its history so as to provide privileges to a dominant group. A transformation in the sense of an association without a State, decentralized, self-organized, of individuals, groups, communities, etc. Not all, but most people are of the opinion that the current technological conditions of production are incompatible with the perspective of autonomy in freedom. Anarchists specifically want to organize themselves in a revolutionary minority to fight in first person, as well as encourage self-organization in the struggles. Indeed, only the latter can be the basis of a revolutionary transformation that does not lead to a new group with political power. Not all, but most think that such transformation cannot be the result of one great day or simple educationist work, but that it can only be accomplished by a long and sometimes painful series of intermediate struggles and insurgent attempts of the oppressed. That’s why they want to understand the evolutions of social realities and conflicts, in their global meaning, enough to get involved, not as an outside element, but making proposals and taking initiatives where they see potential development in this direction.
Of course, I might be wrong, but that’s what I think I can take from the experience of the anarchist movement, and also what I think personally. I also think that global changes to power are in progress, which could mean losing ourselves without our noticing it, if we do not open ourselves up to a renewal. And the new always comes through action.
I hope this evening has given rise to a lively discussion in which no one hesitates to contradict and confront, not due to a desire to be right but with the will to understand better in order to act better. Finally, let’s always bear in mind, it is nothing less than our life that is at stake.
“One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star. ”
F. Nietzsche, “Thus Spake Zarathustra”