October 23, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

In the UK, we hear a lot about a strong autonomous Antifa movement in Germany. Could you give us a bit of an idea how this has come about?

Interview with German anti-fascist group TOP Berlin

The autonomous Antifa is part of the radical left movement which developed following 1968. After the protests of the early 1970s had faded, the radical left seemed to be in a dead-end. A large part of the left occupied itself with the debate over the armed struggle of the RAF and other armed groups, as well as with their conditions of imprisonment. Another part organized in orthodox communist splinter groups. Although strong in numbers, by the early 1980s both approaches had lost contact to societal discourse and struggles.

The autonomous movement reacted to that with a changed concept of politics. Change should be begun now, instead of waiting for a far-off revolution to take place. The more anarchist outlook of the ‘autonome’ led to a relocation of focus from class struggle to the sphere of reproduction. Therefore struggles for adequate housing, over local planning issues and against large projects like the construction of Frankfurt Airport and a large Mercedes testing-road in Northwest Germany became important. The struggle against organised Nazis had always played a role for the radical left. Since the foundation of the NPD in 1969 and its electoral success in the following years there had been protests against its conferences and other events. An autonomous antifascism could follow on this tradition.

Organised neo-Nazis were seen as posing a threat to the living conditions of those on the radical left, who felt that their occupied houses and autonomous youth centres were under threat. In addition, the struggle against the neo-Nazis was understood to be a revolutionary struggle as the Nazis were perceived as the storm-troopers of the pre-fascist Federal Republic. This system would make use of the Nazis to suppress social and radical left movements. In the 1980s it was possible to achieve wide mobilisation with this analysis. In the early 1990s, however, as a wave of pogrom-like riots and attacks on asylum seekers swept through the country, the radical left found that with this analysis it was not in a position to do anything against it. Racist and fascist ideas seemed to be held by a large part of the population.

Under the impression that the autonomous movement lacked the ability to intervene, many activists founded small autonomous Antifa groups. In order to combine their potentials and become capable of action of a national level, in 1992 they founded the ‘Antifaschistische Aktion-Bundesweite Organisation’ (AABO) and a little later the ‘Bundesweites Antifatreffen’ (BAT). The AABO attempted to establish a stable organisation while the BAT aimed purely at creating a network of autonomous groups. Both attempts proved successful in mobilising large numbers of people against the few Nazi marches which took place in the 1990s. Their meaning decreased significantly, however, as nationwide mobilisation against Nazi marches became problematic, due to the sheer number of marches taking place. In addition, analysis hadn’t advanced much further from the 1980s. Antifa was understood as ‘der Kampf ums Ganze’ (‘the struggle against the system as a whole’): by attacking the most reactionary parts of society a blow would be struck against the whole system. This lacking analysis was proved dramatically wrong during the time of the Red-Green coalition.

When racist attacks in Germany peaked in the 1990s the state and police became increasingly active against neo-Nazi groups. In 2000, you had the ‘Antifa-Summer’. What was that?

In 1998 the conservative government fell and was replaced by a coalition of the Social Democrats and the Green Party. This government, unlike the previous government, made the problem of neo-fascist organisation into a political issue, as well as racist and anti-Semitic attitudes in society. Following a failed bombing on a Dusseldorf Synagogue in 2000 came a wave of repression against the organised right. The most important action against the neo-Nazis was the government-initiated attempt to ban the NPD. Although this failed in the end, because too many leading NPD members turned out to be employed by the secret service, the trial led to a series of investigations, confiscations and a large sense of insecurity in the neo-fascist scene. In addition to this, the government pushed through a row of legal changes, which limited the right to demonstrate, banned certain fascist symbols and made it easier for the government to ban organisations which were opposed to the constitution. In the end the government made millions of Euros available for education against racism and anti-Semitism. On a governmental level, the democratic parties in many parts of Germany agreed not to work with representatives of the extreme right-wing parties. The conservative party also often took part in this agreement.

How was the state’s anti-fascism different from that of the Antifa movement? Why was the state suddenly interested in tackling the neo-Nazi problem?

The reasons why the state moved against fascist structures are complex. A major reason is that the government had recognised that it was damaging to the investment climate to have gangs of armed Nazis wandering the streets, or to have fairly openly national socialist parties sitting in the local government. This was especially the case as just at this time foreign investment was urgently needed in East Germany, in order to halt the total decay of the region’s economy.

But also important was that in the time of the Red-Green coalition the German self-identity had changed. While the years after the war were still marked by a denial of guilt, from the 1990s on Auschwitz and National Socialism became an integral component part of the German identity. The responsibility for National Socialism and the Shoah was not only acknowledged but also turned into something which could be utilised for the German identity. The reunited Germany, redeemed from its past misdeeds, and with ‘the experience of two dictatorships’ behind it, could enter the world as a democratic state. In this way the German attack on Yugoslavia during its civil war was justified, as the Serbians were supposedly planning a second Auschwitz for the Kosovans. On the other hand the new German democracy refers to the Eastern Bloc, the ‘second German dictatorship’, to stress the lack of alternatives to the bourgeois capitalist system. In this tense relationship between a newly formed totalitarianism theory and the striving for a good position on the world market stands the new German political outlook. To this also belongs the public memorials to the victims of National Socialism, as well as the German victims of air raids and expulsions in a ‘European history of suffering’. Also belonging to this are the interventions in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan, as likewise the German push for the strengthening of the European border regime. And, finally, also belonging to this are the decided measures against neo-Nazis, who threaten the new German self-confidence and the state’s monopoly of violence.

How did radical anti-fascists react to this? Did it strengthen or weaken the movement?

The state’s action against neo-Nazis led the antifascist movement to an identity crisis. If fascist and neo-Nazi groups had up till then been seen as the storm-troopers of the system, who were supposed to suppress social movements on the government’s behalf, now, at the latest, the radical left had to confront the fact that Antifa was not ‘der Kampf ums Ganze’. A part of the radical left denounced the state’s action as hypocritical. It was pointed out that despite the state’s measures against neo-Nazis there remained in society a right-wing consensus. This consensus was supposedly based on a continuity of the concepts of national socialism, which were still virulent in society. This would express itself in the ‘volkisch’ (blood based nati
onalism) German foreign policy, for example the early recognition of Croatia and the support for the Palestinian cause, as well as in a tendency to historical revisionism. The state’s actions against Nazis were seen as hypocritical as the social structures on which both the German national project and the Nazis were based, were left untouched.

Another part of the antifascist movement accepted that the struggle against fascists offered no revolutionary perspectives and attempted to sharpen their opposition to the system in other ways. In particular the criticism of capitalism came into the foreground. Capitalism was now analysed as a complex network of social relationships, which are structurally prone to crisis. Neo-Nazis provided a negative solution to this inherent tendency of capitalism towards crisis. This solution, however, was based on a mistaken and structurally anti-Semitic analysis of the way capitalism integrates individuals into society and therefore not only had no emancipatory potential but had the potential to create something far worse than bourgeois capitalist society. For this reason neo-Nazis had to be fought, even though this fight had no revolutionary perspectives. These should instead be sought in a confrontation with bourgeois-democratic society.

While the following heavy debates seriously reduced the ability of the radical left to mobilise for years to come, and the resultant insecurity mobbed many antifascists to retire from politics, these tremors opened up the critical examination of the left’s own positions and in the end led to a strengthened theoretical confrontation with the basics of radical left politics.

How, in your group, do you think of anti-fascism now? Did you reconceptualise it to distinguish yourselves from liberal, bourgeois anti-fascism?

TOP Berlin comes out of the tradition of autonomous Antifa groups and still has in this field its greatest potential to mobilise. Accordingly we have intervened in the antifascist movement and taken part in antifascist protests. In the process we have always tried to insist on our own critique of mainstream society. Two examples of this: On 1 May 2008 Nazis demonstrated in Hamburg for ‘Volksgemeinschaft’ (blood based national community’) and against capitalist globalisation. In meetings and texts before the protest, we tried to work out a critique of the volkisch and anti-Semitic positions of the Nazis. In addition, we took part in the direct action against the march in Hamburg. Another mobilisation was against the ‘Anti-Islamisation Congress’ organised by an extreme right-wing party in Cologne, in collaboration with other European extreme right-wing parties. We undertook a nationwide mobilisation with the nationwide communist ‘ums Ganze’ federation, in which TOP Berlin is organised. In articles and in our own congress we tried to work out what role a culturalist understanding of society plays for the German national narrative. With this we wanted to fight not only the thinly masked racism of the extreme right, but also the everyday nationalism of mainstream German society. As well, we presented a criticism of Islamism as a reactionary crisis solution. The ‘ums Ganze’ federation took part in the protests by organising a large demonstration on the eve of the congress.

These two mobilizations display well our approach. We take part in antifascist protests, but try with theoretical content to lay a basic critique and bring this into the movement.

What has that meant practically? Has the focus of your activities changed?

TOP Berlin was only formed in 2007 before the G8 summit in Heiligendamm. Therefore our group positions haven’t been affected by the Antifa Summer. But in contrast to its predecessor groups, Kritik und Praxis and Antifaschistische Aktion Berlin, we try to initiate more of our own campaigns, instead of following the fascists’ movements. In 2009 with ums Ganze we have initiated an anti-national campaign with the motto ‘Staat. Nation. Kapital Scheisse. Gegen die Herrschaft der falschen Freiheit’ (‘State. Nation. Capital. Shit. Against the dominance of the false freedom’). As part of this campaign we have published a book on the criticism of the state, organised a series of events on the critique of the nation and called for a nationwide demonstration against the celebrations of the 60th birthday of the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany. In the second half of the year ums Ganze and TOP Berlin will mainly work on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall and broaden our criticism of the nation to a criticism of real existing socialism. Besides this we will hold our second Marx Autumn School and devote ourselves to the second volume of Capital.

TOP (Theory. Organisation. Praxis) is a Berlin-based antifascist, anti-capitalist group. They are part of the “…ums Ganze!” alliance (http://umsganze.blogsport.de) which consists of more than ten groups from all over Germany. Parts of this text are based on a paper written prior to the G8 summit which can be found in English at www.top-berlin.net. To get in touch with them write to mail (at) top-berlin.net.

October 22, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

The farce is over, and although we didnt really want to believe it that which was expected happened. The three comrades have been found guilty and sentenced to jail terms of three and a half years for two comrades, and three years for the third.

Tonight at 19:00 there are demonstrations in both Hamburg (S-Bahnhof Sternschanze) and Berlin (U-Bahn Kottbusser Tor).

At this point, here is a (very rushed!) translation of todays press release from the „Einstellung“ working group/coalition (the defense campaign for the accused). You can find the german version here

„The trial of Axel, Florian, and Oliver as alleged members of the „militant group“ began over one year ago. All three of them were, together with Andrej, arrested in Summer of 2007. The investigation in Andrejs case is still continuing.

Today, Axel, Oliver, and Florian were condemned of attempted arson as members of the „militant group“ and sentenced to three and a half years (in two cases), and three years (in one case) in prison. They leave the courtroom after over 60 trial dates having refused all acts of compromise, and are now to be punished for their committed resistance against German war policies.

Since the arrests in 2007, the coalition for the „Einstellung“ (Discontinuation) of the 129a investigation has been acting as a political accompaniment to the developments related to the trial. Since the beginning of this trial, our priority has been not only to draw attention to the issues of state surveillance and persecution of political activists, but also to the issue of antimilitarism.

For this reason, we will not at this point discuss the ridiculous line of argumentation and logic used by „BAW“ and the court to justify this verdict. We will also not make reference to the harassment of those who attended the trial. Only this much: In our opinion, the defense lawyers decision to renounce making closing arguments was correct and consistent.

Despite the repressive scenario of a „special“ court, antimilitarist resistance has during this trial gained a more widespread presence. In the last years, resistance against military operations and the civil-military cooperation has increased. Protests against war have taken a clearer and more engaged character, withouth peaceful protest and militant resistance being played against one another. This has also been noticeable in the solidarity which has been expressed from very different political poles.

Despite this, during the trial it has not been possible to pose the question of legitimate resistance to military operations. Few media outlets took up the subject of „political evidence,“ or made the connection between that, and what is daily practice in this country as well as internationally. Neither the war operations of the German military, nor their presence in schools, universities, and on the streets such as in 2007 during the G8 summit in Heiligendamm have been made an issue in the media, or associated with the increasing protests against them. In other countries, such as for example Ireland, individuals have been freed after trials because of sabotage against tools of war, with the explicit argument that these acts prevented worse crimes. This is a debate which is still to be had here. Regardless, we look forward to the continuation of the antimilitaristic struggle.“

Complete background infos on the case (only in German) can be found on the website of the „Einstellung“ coalition.

October 22, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

Stefano Cucchi was arrested by the Carabinieri on 15 October. He spent the night in the police station and the following day, with a fast-track trial,

Image scaled down

While the parents are still waiting to see their son, a week ago, the family receive from the Carabinieri, the notification of the order with which the prosecuting magistrate authorises the autopsy on Stefano’s body.
And that’s how his parents and his sister get to know about Stefano’s death.
Another who died of prison.

Interviewed Ilaria and Giovanni Cucchi, who are the sister and the father of Stefano.

The arrest and the fast-track trial

llaria Cucchi: “Stefano Cucchi was a 31 year old man, a really normal 31 year old guy who on the night of 15/16 October was arrested by the Carabinieri, because he was found to be in possession of a modest amount of marijuana. We saw him leaving the house accompanied by the Carabinieri, who before that, among other things, had searched his room and having found nothing, they took him to their barracks in optimum health, with not one mark on his face and with no complaint about any type of pain. We saw him again dead on 22 October at the morgue. At the moment that we saw him again, my brother had his face completely swollen and full of marks, we couldn’t see his body.”
Blog: “Can we retrace the events of those days? The night between 15 and 16 October, he was stopped by the Carabinieri and taken to their barracks: from there, the Carabinieri brought him here to the house to check if …”

llaria Cucchi: to search his room, yes, where obviously nothing was found.”

Blog: “Basically he spent the night in the barracks and then came …”

llaria Cucchi: Exactly. The following morning, about midday there was the fast-track trial, when the judge decided that this guy had to spend the time until 13 November, the date set for the next hearing, in prison and he was put down for “Regina Coeli”.

llaria Cucchi: After that moment we didn’t see him again. I repeat: the morning of the fast-track trial my brother already had signs of swelling from being beaten. But when he left here he was in top condition.
Blog: What did the Carabinieri say to you when he came home here?

llaria Cucchi: They told us to stay calm, because for so little he would surely be back home the following day under house arrest.”
Blog: Then when they gave you the information, there was a telephone call saying ‘Stefano’s not well’?”

llaria Cucchi: “Saturday evening. The next bit of news we got on Saturday evening. Around 9pm the Carabinieri arrived to tell us that Stefano had been taken urgently to the hospital ‘Sandro Pertini’, obviously my parents went there immediately and there they were denied any type of information. When my mother naively asked to be able to see the lad and to be told what was wrong with him, she was told: “absolutely no. This is a prison. Come back on Monday in visiting hours and talk to the doctors.” My parents returned on Monday morning, at the time they had been told. They were allowed to enter and the details of their identification documents were noted and they were left to wait. After a bit of time, someone responsible came out, and told them that she couldn’t let them talk to the doctors as a certain authorisation had not arrived from the prison. “Anyway, come back, because this authorisation has to arrive and don’t worry because the lad is serene.” When my mother asked “at least tell me the reason why my son is in hospital.” ” The lad is serene.” was the response given to them.
Stefano is dead

Obviously, the following day, my parents went back, yes. It was Tuesday morning when they went back to the hospital, to the prison department o f the ‘Sandro Pertini’ and this time, they were actually not allowed to enter. At the external speaker system, they were told that they couldn’t enter, because there was no authorisation. Finally they were told that it was up to them to ask for an authorisation from ‘Piazzale Gloria’, if they want to see the lad. My father asked for this authorisation and he got it on 25 October, no – sorry, on 22 October, Thursday. On 22 October at dawn, my brother died and my father didn’t get the chance to see him. We know about my brother’s death from the Carabinieri, who came to our house about 12:30. Before that I’d just say that it seems that my brother died at dawn. They came about 12:30 to tell my mother the order with which the Public prosecutor authorised the autopsy following the death of Cucchi Stefano. This is how my mother found out about the death of her son.”

October 21, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

Letter by the imprisoned comrade P. Masouras (accused for participation in the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire.)

On Wednesday September 23 and at 8.15 as I was leaving my house in Galatsi on my way to the gym, I was arrested by 25 persons of the anti-terrorist squad.

In a matter of seconds I found myself on the sidewalk, hands cuffed behind my back, while at the same time they were informing their senior officers that “everything went well” and that they “have me”. I was taken to the 12th floor of Police Headquarters (note: anti-terrorist division). The next day I am informed that at the same time with me another two friends of mine have also been arrested.

In the meantime the show has already started. Without any sleep for 48 hours and physically exhausted, with my face to the wall and then a long questionnaire following, while at the same time some police officer goes from office to office announcing in a delirium of pleasure that what is happening is called war.

After that comes the interest for my career, the friendly chat, the bravado and the humane approach to the misguided youth that followed the wrong path in his life while they self appointed themselves to straighten me out and to make me see reason, not for them as they said but for my own good, to help myself, speaking to them about situations and persons that I know nothing about. Later I was informed from an officer that I was the stupid asshole of the 12th floor because the others as he said had “snitched on me” and “cleared themselves” and that if I didn’t speak I would go down for things other people have done, so I was yet again called upon to answer about situations unknown to me.

The guard shifts started: “good” cops with a sensitive touch and childhood traumas, as they said, that recognized injustice and wanted to help. On the other hand the “tough” commandos wearing full-face masks, “stern” appliers of the law and representatives of morality, acting in an absolute way leading to physical and mental exhaustion, as a means of revenge as they said because “I kept my mouth shut”.

That I refuse the charges against me does not mean that I would ever refuse my political “identity” and “origin”. I would never hide my dignity under the carpet of incarceration, overlooking the fact that I am a political entity which also takes its position against the values and institutions of this society by the means of critical revolutionary thought and practice. I am an anarchist and I am on the side of revolution and at the same time of myself.

The reason why at the present my two friends and I find ourselves in prison is crystal clear. Even the most naïve mind can perceive that fixed situations due to the elections play a role in the present condition, situations moving in the service of political and communication interests.

The hyperbole surrounding the situation, the armed to the teeth EKAM escorts (note: Special Forces Police) and the role of those despicable snitches the journalists in combination with the political condition of these days was enough to create a feeling of order and safety to the average Greek in face of the elections, so he can move sleepwalking in the role of the active citizen towards the voting poll in order to deposit yet again in someone else’s hands his share of responsibilities for his being. It is well known nowadays that public opinion has no opinion, so someone has to take on the role of shaping it. The tone of these days was mostly set by the lowlifes of the media and their all-devouring thirst for “maniacs in Galatsi” and “monsters in Chalandri”, for serial bombers who have ties with “renown” revolutionary organizations from which they take orders to accomplish missions. About guns and bullets found at my house until money that was suddenly a product of robberies because it was well hidden-next time I’ ll leave it outside the front door.

Society is not divided into classes but only into choices and consciousnesses. So let as learn from pain and pleasure, from blood and the street. We were born to exist as a whole in our inapprehensible uniqueness, inapprehensible because we can stand the pain, unpredictable because we were taught on the streets, ruthless because we will move against everyone, because we will learn to meticulously tie steel on our skin and paint the cement with revolutionary blood.

We execute morality as a prologue for destruction, we whisper with rage biting the words: WAR ATTACK because there is only beauty and strength, but some cowards in order to balance came up with justice.

Wherever there are barbed wires, let there be bloodied hands that rip them apart, wherever there is cement let there be cries full of rage that tears it down, wherever there are bars let there be souls like corrosives that destroy them, wherever we are buried alive let us bury with us morality.

We owe it to ourselves to bite on our shackles even if it is that we die biting. Because we are nothing more then our own choices.

For honour, dignity, revolution.



Panayiotis Masouras

Avlona Prisons


October 16, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

Anarchists Alfredo Bonanno and Christos Stratigopulos were arrested in Trikala, Greece on Thursday on suspicion of having carried out a bank robbery at a branch of the Piraeus bank.

Police claim that Christos carried out the robbery, forcing bank employees to give him 46,900 euros, which he then, allegedly handed to Alfredo who was waiting outside in a rented car. A witness apparently noted the license plate of the car and gave the cops the information. The cops stopped the car on the road to Kalambaka and claim that they found the money in it. They arrested the two anarchists.

Here is a link to a mainstream news site about it: Ehathimerini. Of course, even this brief a story has to have some distortions. Contrary to what this story says, Alfredo was not “found to be the ideological leader of an armed group” in 2003. The very opposite in fact. This was the end of the Marini trial. Because the prosecutors had failed to prove the existence of any armed group (even determined prosecutors can sometimes find it hard to prove fictions), all charges related to the armed group hypothesis were dropped, leaving only specific concrete actions like robbery. Such distortions though are to be expected of mainstream media.

October 15, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

They’re old things, from another century. Two anarchists get arrested after a bank job. The first robbed it, gun in hand. They say the second helped him, holding the money. It happened in a small Greek village, this past October 1. And so? There are things that happen. And then that is a far away country, with an incomprehensible and untranslatable language. Who do you want to be interested in it? The robber is Christos Stratigopulos, already arrested and convicted here in Italy fifteen years ago on a similar charge. The penalty served, he returned to Greece. Remembered by a few, unknown to most. But the other one arrested is Italian; it is Alfredo Bonanno. Yes, precisely him; who hasn’t heard his name? In its own small way, the news has gone quickly around the world, revived by many press agencies: “one of the major theorists of insurrectionalist anarchism”, “among the major ideologues of anarchy”, “anarchist activist and writer”, “international fugitive anarchist robber”, “theorist of revolutionary violence”, has ended up behind bars again. The promoters of antiterrorism, both Greek and Italian, have rushed in, ready to exploit the juicy occasion. The elements for concocting a fine theorem are all there: a country in which there are still fires blazing after the great insurrectionary conflagration that flared up last December, a Greek anarchist active in the movement, a foreign anarchist known for his subversive theories who travelled around the country holding meetings, a bank robbed.

Christos has taken full responsibility for the act, caused by economic problems, denying Alfredo’s involvement. But, clearly, the judge didn’t believe him. So both are still in jail. The first, because he dared to reach out a hand toward wealth rather than resign himself to dying in misery. What’s more, he is an anarchist. The second, because… because… because maybe he helped his comrade. And, for sure, he is an anarchist. And that’s enough.

They are old things, from another century. Two anarchists get arrested after a bank job. Outside, solidarity is organized. Funds start to be collected; initiatives are prepared. But that’s not all. In Athens, the two prisoners get explosive greetings from the group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, which had just disturbed the crowning of the new Greek premier. In Villejuif, France, someone renders their homage by smashing the windows of the local offices of the Socialist Party. One of the beauties of anarchy is that it doesn’t recognize borders. And in Italy? Bah, here it has been limited to communicating the news, faithfully and coldly reporting the journalists’ poisons. No comment. The drafters of daily virtual communiqués say nothing. The tenders of militant gardens fall silent. The little strategists of the new alliances hush up. The movement has now become a community, and anyone who doesn’t share its rules and language doesn’t exist. He is nameless. In the rush to follow the masses, have individuals been forgotten? Perhaps it’s better this way. Better a sincere silence, if in the face of such an act, one no longer knows what to say, than hypocritical chatter about solidarity. Let’s leave that to the Stalinist annoyances and other ruins. Or to a few third millennium fascists, who on one of their forums rendered “honor” to the two arrested anarchists.

They are old things, from another century. Two anarchists get arrested after a bank job. The first is 46-years-old, the second 72. Whether guilty or innocent, for them being anarchists doesn’t even have the excuse of being an infantile disorder of extremism. Stubborn as they are, they haven’t understood that now is the time to ride the wave of social movements, to defend who knows what in front of places of power, to act as social workers for the damned of the earth. No, they haven’t understood this. The dream that they have in their hearts is much too big to adapt itself to the tick-tock of modern times.
No pardon, no pity.
Good-bye, beautiful Lugano.

October 15, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

They’re old things, from another century. Two anarchists get arrested after a bank job. The first robbed it, gun in hand. They say the second helped him, holding the money. It happened in a small Greek village, this past October 1. And so? There are things that happen. And then that is a far away country, with an incomprehensible and untranslatable language. Who do you want to be interested in it? The robber is Christos Stratigopulos, already arrested and convicted here in Italy fifteen years ago on a similar charge. The penalty served, he returned to Greece. Remembered by a few, unknown to most. But the other one arrested is Italian; it is Alfredo Bonanno. Yes, precisely him; who hasn’t heard his name? In its own small way, the news has gone quickly around the world, revived by many press agencies: “one of the major theorists of insurrectionalist anarchism”, “among the major ideologues of anarchy”, “anarchist activist and writer”, “international fugitive anarchist robber”, “theorist of revolutionary violence”, has ended up behind bars again. The promoters of antiterrorism, both Greek and Italian, have rushed in, ready to exploit the juicy occasion. The elements for concocting a fine theorem are all there: a country in which there are still fires blazing after the great insurrectionary conflagration that flared up last December, a Greek anarchist active in the movement, a foreign anarchist known for his subversive theories who travelled around the country holding meetings, a bank robbed.

Christos has taken full responsibility for the act, caused by economic problems, denying Alfredo’s involvement. But, clearly, the judge didn’t believe him. So both are still in jail. The first, because he dared to reach out a hand toward wealth rather than resign himself to dying in misery. What’s more, he is an anarchist. The second, because… because… because maybe he helped his comrade. And, for sure, he is an anarchist. And that’s enough.

They are old things, from another century. Two anarchists get arrested after a bank job. Outside, solidarity is organized. Funds start to be collected; initiatives are prepared. But that’s not all. In Athens, the two prisoners get explosive greetings from the group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire, which had just disturbed the crowning of the new Greek premier. In Villejuif, France, someone renders their homage by smashing the windows of the local offices of the Socialist Party. One of the beauties of anarchy is that it doesn’t recognize borders. And in Italy? Bah, here it has been limited to communicating the news, faithfully and coldly reporting the journalists’ poisons. No comment. The drafters of daily virtual communiqués say nothing. The tenders of militant gardens fall silent. The little strategists of the new alliances hush up. The movement has now become a community, and anyone who doesn’t share its rules and language doesn’t exist. He is nameless. In the rush to follow the masses, have individuals been forgotten? Perhaps it’s better this way. Better a sincere silence, if in the face of such an act, one no longer knows what to say, than hypocritical chatter about solidarity. Let’s leave that to the Stalinist annoyances and other ruins. Or to a few third millennium fascists, who on one of their forums rendered “honor” to the two arrested anarchists.

They are old things, from another century. Two anarchists get arrested after a bank job. The first is 46-years-old, the second 72. Whether guilty or innocent, for them being anarchists doesn’t even have the excuse of being an infantile disorder of extremism. Stubborn as they are, they haven’t understood that now is the time to ride the wave of social movements, to defend who knows what in front of places of power, to act as social workers for the damned of the earth. No, they haven’t understood this. The dream that they have in their hearts is much too big to adapt itself to the tick-tock of modern times.
No pardon, no pity.
Good-bye, beautiful Lugano.

October 8, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

ATHENS, Greece, Oct. 28 (UPI) — Greek officials say they are offering a reward of $887,000 for information leading to the arrest of the “robbers in black.”

Michalis Chrysochoidis, the newly appointed citizens’ protection minister, told reporters Tuesday the robbers, identified as brothers Simeon and Marios Seisidis and Grigoris Tsironis, are wanted not only for a 2006 bank robbery but for possible links to anarchist groups accused of domestic terrorism, the Athens newspaper Kathimerini reported.

The reward offer comes days after Chrysochoidis called for the reopening of the investigation of the November 17 anarchist group, some of whose suspected have been serving long jail sentences since it was broken up in 2002, the newspaper said. The government says domestic terror groups in Greece are making a comeback.

Sources told Kathimerini forensic evidence has linked one of the “robbers in black” with a 2007 attack on a former judge’s private guard and to a later shooting at an Athens police station claimed by the group Revolutionary Struggle.

October 4, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

Nazis in Minneapolis!

Cly1.jpgUnbelievable, Nazis in Minneapolis! Minneapolis? The home of Teamsters local 574 and the Baldies? The National Socialist Movement, who seem to be everywhere these days, are threatening to demonstrate against an anti-racist event at a local YWCA in the city. The NSM are a straight-up Nazi outfit and increasingly active and national. Under no circumstance should they be permitted by to organize in Minneapolis or anywhere else.

Minneapolis has long been a center of anti-fascist and ant-racist organizing and there hasn’t been any open fascist presence in the city in many years. The NSM know this history better than anyone and their threat must be taken seriously. For years at anti-fascist demos Anti-Racist-Action had organized the arrival of the crew from Minneapolis doubled whatever forces were already there. Well before ARA Minneapolis was leading the way on politicizing the apolitical, street fighting crews that had come together around the influx of fascists into the scene. Nazis in Minneapolis? This is a threat to every anti-racist.

If you are in that area get out there and join this demo:

Press Release: This Saturday, October 3rd, 2009, the neo-nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) has threatened to demonstrate against an anti-racist workshop being held at the YWCA on East Lake Street in Minneapolis. The NSM has declared the anti-racist organizers “traitors” to white supremacy.

This provocation also has a wider goal: The NSM has been holding racist anti-immigrant rallies in southern Minnesota, and now they are seeking to establish a presence inside the City of Minneapolis. For years Minneapolis has been a virtual “no-go” area for organized racist activity, due to the efforts of young anti-racist organizers.

In the wake of the racist attacks in Brooklyn Park last week, the nazis’ threat cannot be ignored. They plan to bring their racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic message of division and hate right into the heart of the city. They must not go unopposed!

10:00 am Saturday

October 3rd 2009

Lake Street & 22nd Ave (outside the Midtown YWCA)

Solidarity Against Racism!

No to the Nazis!

October 3, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

10.03.2009 Retribution Against Daily Life; Bank Attacked in Chicago

…seven windows were broken at Chicago Community Bank on the near south side. One for each of those arrested, and one more for the bid.

On Tuesday night, the state arrested six individuals and charged them with felonies in connection to anti-Olympic hooliganism. This persecution is completely unacceptable.

To extend revolutionary solidarity, seven windows were broken at Chicago Community Bank on the near south side. One for each of those arrested, and one more for the bid. In the joyful wake of this criminal-becoming, three windows were done away with on an unmarked police cruiser. This was done because, well– You know.

While this was done in the dead of night this past evening, in the future there will be opportunities for more inclusive forms of violence. Hopefully this gesture resonates with others who refuse containment and the misery of capitalist hell.

– No Games Chicago Cell of Revolutionary Conspiracy

October 3, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

Thursday, March 26 2009 @ 05:41 PM CDT

Contributed by: Anonymous

Views: 320
Direct ActionDuring the night of Saturday 21, anti-authoritarians climbed on bikes and headed out to sabotage the work of exploiters. In bags they carried pieces of (previously cut) metal to put in locks and padlocks, superglue and 2 spray paint cans. A bank, fast food restaurant, butchers and communist party mural were targeted, with solidarity painted for political prisoners.

Santiago del Cile – A bomb explodes at a bank near the Hotel Marriott

source: Fondazione Roscigna, 03.10.09
via informa-azione

A bomb exploded this afternoon just before 14.00 outside the BCI bank by the Hotel Marriott, in
Kennedy Avenue in the comune of Las Condes, in Santiago del Cile.
A hotel guard was wounded and there was damage to the bank windows from the explosion.
The guard had light injuries and was taken to
Hospital del Trabajador.
A few minutes before the explosion the guard had found a suspicious briefcase in a bathroom of the Hotel Marriott and taken it outside. At that moment the bomb exploded, outside the BCI bank.
The hotel employees had managed to inform the police but the bomb disposal unit were unable to disactivate the device.
The public attorney investigating a number of explosive attacks in the area went to the scene to begin investigations.

October 2, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

“Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire” claim last night’s bomb attack; police-fabricated charges collapse

Last night (Friday October 2) at about 8.15pm, a low-intensity bomb went off only a few meters away from the podium where PM Karamanlis was delivering his last speech, signalling the end of the pre-election period (elections are on Sunday the 4th).

A lengthy communiqué published on Athens IMC claims responsibility for the attack by the group “Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire”. It was the members of this group that were allegedly arrested on September 24 (see these posts for more details of the case). The writers of today’s communiqué, however, deny the police claims, they describe the placing of yesterday’s bomb in detail and send their revolutionary greetings to Alfredo Bonnano and his 46-year old Greek comrade, Christos Stratigopoulos, both arrested and charged with a bank robbery in the northern city of Trikala on Thursday.

September 29, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

dating on the four arrests: one pre-trial detention order, so far (See this article for some background info on the case) Two out of four arrested

Two out of four arrested youths appeared yesterday (Tuesday 29/9) at the investigating judge. The 20-year old girl was released on bail; bail orders include a ban from leaving the country (she studies in London!) plus the obligation to appear at a local police station twice per month. The other person was ordered in pre-trial detention –in Greece this can last up to 18 months. The remaining two will appear at the investigating judge today.

150-200 people gathered in solidarity outside the investigating judge’s office and stayed throughout the extremely long procedure –practically all day. The story is still high on the media agenda, presented in the uttermost biased way. The four are steadily referred to as a terrorist group, although no substantial evidence has been presented justifying the prosecution of the four accused or the six for whom an arrest warrant has been issued.

Freedom to all the imprisoned…

September 24, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

Four youths arrested and charged under the anti-terrorist law in Athens; six more warrants issued; media anti-anarchist frenzy: It must be election t


On September 24, in an operation of unprecedented scale in recent years, the anti-terrorist unit of the greek police raided at least two houses in the suburbs of Athens. In total four young persons of up to 21 years old were arrested and are interrogated by the anti-terrorist unit. The police claim that some findings from house searches that followed link the arrested to the group “Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire – Nihilist Splinter” without however publishing any specific information, as is customary in such occasions. The arrested were taken to the attorney general who charged them with three felonies and four misdemeanours. The same attorney general issued an order allowing for the publication of the names and photographs of the four arrested, who deny all charges.

At the same time a witch-hunt has been declared by the majority of corporate media. The arrested has been characterized as “terrorists” by the media, while a direct implication of the anarchist movement as a whole has been communicated (eg. Mega TV) even if no specific findings have been presented justifying this implication. Once again, the anarchist movement is being targeted as a whole by media demanding the erosion of hard-won liberties, more policing and repression.

Under this climate another six arrest warrants have been issued for the same case. This means that more arrests are likely to follow. What is more, media “leaks” directly from the police headquarters are trying to suggest that the fugitives might be hiding in university grounds or anarchist squats, in an attempt to lay the ground for raids of either that could follow.

September 24, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

Friday, September 25, 2009

delta force

The thugs of the so-called “Delta Force” were unleashed into the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki a few months after December’s revolt, in face of the continuing social unrest in the streets of the two cities. Formed nearly-overnight, the new force was provided with often misaligning gear, making for quite a clownish spectacle -small motorcycles that groan under their weight of two, always escorted by a “Zeta Force” cop (older unit, they also ride motorcycles) who shouts aloud directions because they’ re not equipped with intercommunication etc-. They were also provided with full immunity, it seems: In their latest raid on the neighbourhood of Exarcheia, they beat people (one of them ending up in hospital with broken bones and a punctured lung) and tied some of their arrestees to a tree.

On Thursday, September 24 the people of Exarcheia fought back. The local self-organised park called for a demonstration against state repression and police version.

The banner above is from Athens street artist “Pete”. On the top-right corner it reads “the Deltas of your neighbourhood”, a play on words with “the Delta of your neighbourhood”, an old TV ad on the milk brand Delta. athens greece

September 16, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

11th-16th September





ived anonymously:

“In the night of 7 on 8 September John Seil and Luc Hansen of BDO Luxembourg/Anchor Sub Funding got a visit by the Animal Rights Militia. At the house of John Seil (10 op der Haangels L-5322 Contern Luxembourg) we left incendiary devices underneath the expensive car outside his house.

At the house of Luc Hansen (1 rue Curie L-3447 Dudelange Luxembourg) we spray painted the big white wall at his house with ‘Luc Hansen est un pédophile’ (Luc Hansen is a pedophile) so it was visible for the whole street. For the rest we left slogans on his house like ‘Stop with HLS or die’, ‘Drop HLS or ELSE…’. And to finish off the job we set fire to his garden with incendiary devices.

We have sent personal letters to both John and Luc with our demands that they should stop any business with HLS, stop giving loans to HLS/LSR, withdraw any future loans and leave HLS in their current debt.

In the letters we left some special notes for them why it would be wise to stop supporting HLS. For at least 3 years or more they have been able to hide their filthy business. This means they are at least responsible for the death of 210,000 animals, if not more! What they did to the animals will come back at them. We are not going to hold back, we are ready to take on the fight for all the animals that have suffered and will die in the future.

The letters contained some serious threats to some of their close relatives/colleagues, which go much further then just setting fire to a car or spraypaint. Luc Hansen and John Seil know what to do and if they don’t we will return very soon.

Animal Rights Militia”



photo: Luz Acevedo/Cuartoscuro.com

excerpt from an anonymous communique (translation):

“The Frente de Liberación Animal (FLA) claims the explosive attack against a boutique of the ‘MaxMara’ clothing/fur chain located in one of the most bourgeois areas of Mexico City. The disruption of the social order, imposed by the state through use of technology and the military, was once again imminent. The explosive rage of the abolitionists filled the street when a bomb was detonated on September 14.

With this action we make it clear that the fight against the anthropocentric system continues, since direct and frontal attacks are necessary against businesses that profit from the exploitation of animals and which destroy the earth and those who live in it.

With this sabotage we join the international week against MaxMara. The explosion that damaged the facade of the store was not a coincidence. It was not a whim or an attempt to get attention, as the sensationalist press will say; instead this is a response to the domination, objectification and commodification of millions of animals (mink, chinchilla, fox, raccoons, etc.) raised in the infernal fur farms, which are nothing more than concentration camps, where non-human animals are subjugated and forced to live a life of torture and imprisonment waiting for their murder, sick and crazed due to the denial of their wild natures.

The multinational company MaxMara believed that attacks on their shops would only happen in Europe, as has been the case, but now we have hit them. We want this store to stop selling fur, to sever completely their links to the fur industry. We want the complete abolition of the system and we will not bargain or settle for reforms, nor negotiate the freedom of animals, because there is no justice today, there is only us.”



anonymous report:

“A group of caring people trashed pens near coventry tearing down the sides, piercing pipes and snapping supports. we then moved on to a large shooting tower; lets just say when he gets to the top he will be in for a shock, lets hope their gun dosn’t discharge when they hit the floor (we would hate for them to get hurt…)”



received anonymously (translation):

“Between Friday the 4th and Sunday the 13th of September an exhibition of animals called ‘Planeta Animal’ was on display at the Palacio Peñarol [Montevideo].

All kinds of spiders, snakes, amphibians and reptiles were locked up inside this place, exhibited in glass cages as if they were mere objects (a python from Indonesia, a snake from the United States, a lizard from Africa, another python from Burma, a coral snake from Honduras, a lizard from Sudan, a tarantula from Brazil, a zebra spider from Costa Rica, an African gray spider, a Chilean spider, among others).

This ‘Animal Planet’ travels throughout the world, bringing these animals everywhere on the pretext of ‘education,’ though who knows what can be learned from the lives of animals who are not in their natural habitat. Of course, the entrance fee of 200 pesos says it all. More than an educational tour it is a tour to fill the pockets of the owners of this farce.

We were also there on Friday, during the early morning hours; with spray paint we graffitied the doors and walls of the place with slogans like ‘animals are not ours to profit from’, ‘stop the exploitation’ and ‘animal liberation,’ among others. Before we left we threw red paint on the walls, the floor and the advertising posters. So on Saturday morning all the visitors to the dubious educational tour viewed the new decor.





received anonymously:

“Whilst out walking we found a live crow held in a trap to be used to bait other birds inside the trap. with the farmer just feet away the best we could do was to release the bird, but rest assured, we will go back and destroy the trap along with any other signs of animal abuse we can find. we wont tell you where this scum bag operates as we would like to keep our visit as a suprise.”



photo: Christian Elsner/Neue Presse

On September 11, fires destroyed a truck and damaged a refrigeration unit at a meat company in Hannover. Police estimated damages at 100,000 Euros.

The fires were the latest incident in Hannover that police suspect are linked to protests against construction of an animal testing laboratory by the pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim.

According to media reports, on August 14 slingshots were used to punch holes in windows at city hall. “Purchased by Boehringer” was painted at the offices of the Social Democratic Party; slogans against the animal lab were also painted at Green Party offices and elsewhere in the city.

On August 12, 500 police officers, supported by
helicopters and water cannon trucks, mobilized to remove several dozen protestors from buildings and trees at the site where Boehringer Ingelheim is planning to build its laboratory. The site had been occupied for several weeks by protestors.

In early August, a building at the nearby veterinary university was painted, and Hannover mayor Stefan Weil’s house was attacked with paint on July 28.



reported anonymously:

“August 23
Tonight we entered the already known pheasant farm ‘Galeotta Nuova’ in Strada Uguzzolo, near Parma.
With burning hands we worked to end the job started in 2005.
2 incendiary devices with gasoline were ignited under the tractor of the farm.
Now it is up to the farmer, Gino Ceci, to decide what to do, because we will go on setting the flames of animal liberation… and those not so quick to decide may feel some heat…



anonymous report:

“August – Figino Serenza (CO) – Italy
The pheasant farm “Roncorone” has been attacked once again. This time the activists used paintbombs to hit and ruin both the house and the car of the farmer.

July 15th – Italy
One crow liberated from a kind of trap used widely around Italy.

February 2009 – Como – Italy
The houses of directors of ‘Bennet’ hypermarkets have been damaged with paintbombs as an action against the sale of fur in their 59 stores around Italy.
The company decided to go fur-free shortly after this action.”

September 13, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

3 barclays cashpoints in Brighton were superglued last night

Due to Barclays holding £7.3 billion worth of investments in the U.K arms trade 3 of their cashpoints were glued shut last night.

no peace for warmongers

September 10, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

This is a challenge The Nanny State (This challenge is now closed)

the nanny state

Don’t drink and drive. Don’t go off with strangers. Don’t play football on railway lines. The Government seems determined to make our lives less fun… but where will they stop? Show us the excesses of the Nanny State of the future.

September 9, 2009
by actforfreedomnow

The UK’s health and social services have become tools of surveillance and control, with working class women the most vulnerable to state intervention. Madame Tlank reviews the State’s policies, targets and projects and uncovers the warped logic and fragmenting effects of marketised welfare

Well Jeff, … the fact is that you have the luxury of knowing that you will never ever ever ever EVER be faced with the government bossing you around like a child, simply because you have a parasite living in your body.

– The Law Fairy, Feministing.com

By now people have forgotten what history has proven: that ‘raising’ a child is tantamount to retarding his development. The best way to raise a child is to LAY OFF.

– Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, 1970

In what follows I wish to consider the effects of recent UK health and social policies on women and their children who are labelled ‘at risk’.[1]

The ‘difficult’ (i.e. poor) parts of the population have often served as the playground for experiments in socio-biological control by the state and its affiliates. Historically, these experiments have affected women differently from men, whether because of the role ascribed to them, (e.g., their exploitation in wartime industries, or the use of rape as a strategy of warfare) or because of their physical make-up (as in the testing and developing of modern methods of contraception on women in occupied territories, in prison or on social benefits).

State intervention tends to concentrate on those women who cannot afford invisibility, i.e. those who cannot buy their way out of dependence on state administered medical and social ‘services’.[2] Women are often more visible than men to government agencies because of their physical capacity to reproduce. Professional medical involvement is required for, amongst other things, contraception, prescriptions, abortions, sterilisations, antenatal check-ups, giving birth, postnatal treatment, hysterectomies, and menopausal issues, smears and breast-cancer checks, etc. Thus most women’s physical reproductive capacity remains under medical control throughout their lives.[3]

Images: Adam Vass

In most countries with a semblance of a social-democratic welfare system, many women register with some form of state agency if they are about to have or have had children, in order to get at least some financial support in the form of child benefits. In the UK 94 percent of lone parents claim benefits; most lone parents are women.[4] Once registered with the state as a ‘claimant’ for survival purposes, many mothers are obliged to sign up for training or ‘support’ programmes (i.e. social experiments) of one kind or another, as proof of their willingness to ‘integrate’ into ‘economic activity’ and to make sure their children do likewise, miserable dependency notwithstanding. Those who refuse risk losing financial support. ‘Social integration’ services in the UK target ‘hard-to-reach’ families, requiring that those who would prefer to remain as invisible as possible be identified and made available to state and private institutions. Arm’s length private charity initiatives ‘help’ mothers back to work, while youth teams monitor their children to make sure they don’t offend, and blame the mother if the kids turn delinquent anyway.

Under recent UK policies – the new GP’s contract (2004), the Children Act (2004), Every Child Matters (2004), the gradual privatisation of the NHS and social services – frontline services have been cut while a general patient/‘client’ database is built up. The cuts, which limit the availability of services, effectively force patients to assent to the data-sharing, lest (already scarce) treatment be withheld.[5] The claimant’s claim is turned against her ever more directly, making her responsible for conditions imposed by economic factors and by the institutions themselves, which attempt to ‘cure’ the problem by ‘educating’ her to change her behaviour so she no longer fits the ‘claimant’ profile. The criteria used for such profiling are often discretionary, with ever-changing parameters used to measure each ‘case’ as if it were self-contained. Such an approach systematically refuses to acknowledge the socially structural, institutional reasons for the deterioration of lives within the non-asset owning, working and claimant class (henceforth ‘dependent class’).[6]

Mechanisms of this kind exist to varying degrees, always complicated and qualified by local factors, in most of the ‘developed’ world. As the examples already mentioned suggest, the process is at an advanced stage in the UK, where medical and social ‘services’ have undergone continuous transformation under the Labour governments since 1997. Here the rhetorical signposts along the way are ‘risk’, ‘responsibility/empowerment’ and ‘prevention’. In practice, the key elements are computerised control and data collection, along with funds poured into training the poor to ‘help themselves’. In what follows I will use a few examples from UK institutions to consider the effects of these policies on the women and children directly concerned, with particular attention given to encroachments upon the ‘unofficial’, independent and increasingly illegalised reproduction strategies of the dependent class. The result will not be an exhaustive or systematic survey, but an exposure of the perverse logic running through the cases described which seems to be taking hold ever more widely as capital attempts to transfer the cost of reproducing labour power downwards onto labourers.[7]

Women and the NHS

Let’s start by looking at some of the things that directly affect women’s control over their own bodies.

Women seeking treatment in relation to reproductive health are subject to the laws of whichever state they so happen to be in at the time. Of course the treatment they receive depends on the financial situation and organisational structure of the given health system. If a woman wants to have an abortion in the UK she discovers that, as in most ‘advanced democracies’, abortion has never been fully legalised. The 1967 abortion law granted exceptions, giving the power of decision making not to the women affected but to doctors. Two doctors’ signatures are required for an abortion on the NHS. According to a GP I spoke to, ‘there are still a lot of GPs around who think it’s not right that terminations should be available through the NHS.’[8] There are also far too few abortion facilities available, meaning that a lot of women get referred to Marie Stopes or another private provider, with the operation paid for by the NHS. The waiting time for an NHS operation is often critical and, therefore, those who are able to do so often raise money for a private operation (about £350 – £750, depending on how many weeks into the pregnancy you are). The laws governing sterilisation are shocking: if you want to be sterilised before the age of 30 your doctor has to give his consent, with the rate of refusal much higher than for abortions. The operation does not constitute a health risk, so the doctors decide according to what they think a woman should do with her body, which in many cases is simply: reproduce!

With fertility treatment on the NHS, it is ultimately also the doctor who decides. IVF is only slowly picking up state funding (although it has proved to be very lucrative for the private sector), and is currently only available on a highly restricted basis. There are long waiti
ng lists with set age limits, and the doctor’s subjective judgment decides who may not receive treatment. Usually those excluded in this way are the ‘overweight’, smokers and people who already have children living with them.

Pregnant women are severely affected by a tendency to view the mother’s and child’s health as conjoined. Although it is of course desirable for a woman to know about the relation between her body and the foetus living inside it, the problem is the way such knowledge is imposed and in whose interest. Most women trust what they learn from other women who have had kids; but in relation to a health system embodied in the authority of the (usually male) doctor, the pregnant woman can make few autonomous choices. There are various health check-ups which, though not compulsory, are ‘strongly encouraged’ (foetal scans for example, which can identify disabilities, yet are not without potential harm to the unborn child), a barrage of moralistic lifestyle prescriptions and health advice that can be confusing and contradictory, such as how much wine you may drink, which side to sleep on, which medicines to take or not to take, etc.

Meanwhile, birth services in London hospitals seem to be among the worst in Europe. Post-natal services in particular lack facilities and staff (no check-ups after having given birth, mothers sent home right away, no space for the baby to lie next to the mother, etc.). Birth is one of the most critical and dangerous moments in the mother’s life, and a check-up afterwards seems an obvious necessity. On the other hand, an increasing obsession with risk (and fear of litigation) has led to many practitioners performing caesarians as a matter of routine, just to make sure everything remains in the doctor’s control. Many women do not want a caesarian (they will be incapacitated for longer, it might present complications in the event of any subsequent births, etc.), yet unwanted caesarians are often performed.

Speaking of risk and preventive measures, hysterectomies are among the most commonly performed operations in the western world, very often without any real need for the removal of the organ, on the pretext that some future risk might be slumbering inside it.[9] As is finally coming to be recognised, many conditions that lead to the removal of the uterus can often be treated by other, less drastic means.

Such dismissal of an organ that is part of one’s body and continues to perform certain functions considered ‘useless’ once the woman can no longer reproduce goes hand in hand with the prevailing attitude towards menopausal symptoms, which could be summed up as: ‘We don’t give a shit because you can’t reproduce any more’. There is no funding plan for menopausal treatments, and the new contract for GPs, which introduced bonus pay for the ‘successful management of disease’, actively undermines any interest in dealing with such possibly lengthy and complicated cases.[10] (Meanwhile, private clinics specialising in menopausal symptoms are flourishing.)

NHS and SS

The aim is to achieve effective monitoring of under achievement by specific groups. The matter is technical, and to enable the proper monitoring and evaluation to take place such detail is necessary.

– Stephen Byers, MP[11]

Two tendencies can be seen as central to recent UK health and social services policy. One is partial privatisation on an ‘insurance’ model, in which the state sheds direct responsibility for provision of treatment it continues to pay for, causing overall spending on the NHS to increase drastically even as services atrophy. The second, closely related tendency is expansion of information-sharing across the two departments, which already overlap to a great extent.[12] Witness the current attempt to co-ordinate medical practice and ‘welfare-to-work’ contractors in the attack on Incapacity Benefit. Databases already exist within the NHS (patient registration, drug prescriptions and SUS [Secondary Uses Service – a summary of all secondary care episodes such as terminations, pregnancy and HIV tests]) as well as within the social services (through claims for Child Benefit, Income Support, Incapacity Benefit, Housing Allowance, Working Tax Credits, etc.).[13] One department can easily obtain the other’s data if a concern is expressed: for instance social services may check the health record of a truant child and a hospital can check a patient’s registration with social services (henceforth SS).

Of course perceptions of health and illness are social, they constantly change and are also subject to government targets. Green Papers, White Papers and ‘vision outlines’ alert professionals to the newest problems to be ‘solved’. Thus hyperactivity in children and stress in adults are now things to watch out for; compare this with the emphasis on lower back pain ten years ago. The latter is purely physical, whereas the former imply that the patients might be able to do something about their condition, like eat 5-a-day and think good thoughts or take anti-depressants at least. What back pain and stress have in common, of course, is their successive status as the most popular ‘excuse’ for absenteeism from work.

Women and men who drink, smoke, or are ‘too fat’ or ‘too skinny’ are currently the main target of health action plans. For pregnant women belonging to these ‘risk groups’ means facing much greater scrutiny by the health services and the social services than other women. That is, a pregnant woman’s body is placed under surveillance because behaviour that is otherwise legal and (still) seen as a ‘personal lifestyle choice’ somehow changes status when she becomes pregnant. European liberals are shocked to hear of the ‘fetal rights’ campaigns and legislation in the US, but practice here is not so far off. For instance, when the welfare of a foetus is apparently endangered by conditions in a pregnant woman which are regarded as self-inflicted, a report must be filed by health practitioners and be made available to social services. Women in this ‘risk group’ who are seeking to conceive may be refused IVF treatment. Pregnant women who come to police notice (e.g. for reasons relating to the consumption or sale of drugs, domestic violence incidents, mental health issues etc.) might end up with a police record relating to the welfare of their unborn child. The relevant system, MERLIN CTN, is operated by the Metropolitan Police and records every instance of a child ‘Coming to Notice’ (CTN). ‘Fetal rights’ ahoy![14]

The NHS and SS also work closely together on the ‘problem’ of teenage pregnancies and reducing their occurrence remains a high government priority. The discourse runs something like this: ‘A single mum on benefits forever! Scientific research shows they are more likely to be depressed! She will have no chances in later life!’, etc. If the teenage girls manage to have and keep their babies they’ll have to deal with imposed further training (in motherhood, in getting work) and SS supervision of the child(ren).[15] Such ‘support’ is officially voluntary but you’ll end up on the ‘cause for concern’ list if you don’t participate. Who would not be depressed to find that what state support really means is the social services policing and maintaining the poverty that state benefit levels force you into. And as for ‘no chances in later life’, a couple of statistical studies recently quoted in The Guardian found that the ‘chances in life’ for girls having grown up on the same estate, whether with or without kids, are the same.[16] A glowing example of political discourse on the issue:

We need to educate and instill young girls with [sic] the self esteem to resist th
e pressures which are clearly placed on them at such young ages, and equip them with the confidence to say no.[17]

Well, maybe they want to say no to the supermarket cashier job and yes to bringing up a child? Telling girls they’re not competent to raise children is of course a great way of giving them ‘self-esteem’.

Teenage mums are in fact the most embattled by current schemes. Social services get involved during pregnancy[18] and the government wants to establish strong links between (the data held by) Teenage Pregnancy Units, Children’s Centres, schools, colleges, Connexions and job centres.[19] With the help of this kind of teamwork, young mothers get checked up on from all sides and ushered back into work ASAP. This way it can be ensured that their ‘at risk’ children are brought up with as little ‘disturbing’ influence as possible.

At Risk

The only children who have the slightest chance of escaping from this supervised nightmare – but less and less so – are the children of the ghettos and the working class where the medieval conception of open community – living on the street – still lingers.

– Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex

We cannot believe that a police force is justified in sharing information without consent about a nine-month-old baby on the grounds that it might grow up to be a villain. Measures that may be justified in the face of specific and identified threats lose their justification when they become statistically-based measures against subpopulations.

– ‘Children’s Databases’ report20

Procedures of this kind are legitimised by the government’s most recent definitions of what it means to be ‘at risk’, with a new emphasis on preventing this terrible condition from spreading. The policing and containment of a large chunk of the population is what it boils down (or up?) to, with agendas such as Every Child Matters (ECM) and cross-departmental special task forces driving social inclusion home for those who remain ‘hard-to-reach’. Reading through the relevant publications, the suspicion grows that this is only the beginning of a much larger attack on the remaining elements of independence within dependent class life.[21]

‘Risk’ has proved a useful category in transferring responsibility downwards from institutions onto the individuals they deal with: if you know you’re at risk then you must do something about it, otherwise you are willfully causing trouble. This logic can be seen at work in the NHS approach to cutting the potential cost of future illness, which once again means targeting the obese, smokers, and the ‘unfit’. GPs have an obligation to hassle whoever they think falls into these categories, and to spell out to them that all they lack is ‘will-power’. (Quite whose ‘will’ is ‘empowered’ by obedience to such top-down orders is another question.)

But this approach blossoms in public propaganda on social services, whether published by the Home Office (and the Social Exclusion Taskforce as its subsidiary), the Department of Work and Pensions or the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The latter has published a list of risk factors to help councils (specifically their Teenage Pregnancy Strategic Management Groups) identify girls who are ‘at high risk of teenage pregnancy’! Among the factors listed are: early onset of sexual activity, conduct disorder, alcohol and substance misuse, being the daughter of a teenage mother, disengagement from school, ethnicity (!), etc. Any subjective intention on the part of the mother is institutionally disregarded, unless it also counts as a ‘pregnancy risk factor’. Of course, keeping an eye on all teenage girls who fit the categories and ‘preventing’ them from becoming pregnant is going to be quite a handful (of data).

Perhaps the most effective definition of ‘at risk’ from the agencies’ point of view – because it is the vaguest, and it targets ‘vulnerable’ children in a way that automatically implicates their families – is the one set out in the Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda. ECM is part of the Children Act (2004) and has the ultimate aim of collecting the data of all children in the country on a single database covering social services, education, crime and health. (Apparently ECM also aims to reduce teenage pregnancies, substance misuse, crime and anti-social behaviour. It’s not just surveillance, you know, there’s some policing in it too!). Of course, data held will also relate to the children’s families and friends:

[I]f a child caused concern by failing to make progress towards state targets, detailed information would be gathered. That would include ‘subjective’ judgment such as ‘Is the parent providing a positive role model?’ as well as sensitive information such as parents’ mental health.[22]

The justification for such crass procedures is ‘prevention’. Preventing children from being neglected and abused, preventing them from turning into criminals. Thus a child’s data will be made available cross-departmentally, with the child and his/her family being made subject to regular checks by various agencies if she/he fits the following categories:

Low income and parental unemployment, homelessness, poor parenting, poor schooling, postnatal depression among mothers [!] and low birth weight [in this way mothers are implicated immediately], substance misuse, individual characteristics such as intelligence [!!], and community factors, such as living in a disadvantaged neighbourhood.[23]

The conditions presented here as ‘causes’ for being at risk are clearly inseparable from the ongoing economic and governmental attack on the dependent class. Homelessness, poor schooling, low income and unemployment are not ‘pre-given’ conditions inherent in certain individuals, they are among the concrete achievements of ‘supply-side’ policy and financial asset-oriented accumulation over almost 30 years.[24] Basically, you ask for housing and you get nothing, but you are registered as homeless, which categorises you as ‘at risk’ and thus liable to be checked up on according to agency whim, simply because you were foolish enough to ask for something in the first place.[25]

Once any of the risk-of-risk factors listed above is ascribed to a child (on the basis of existing files on the parent/s, rather than direct observation of the kid), he/she is presumed to be in danger of ‘abuse, neglect, offending and social exclusion’.[26] (Note the failure to differentiate between things the child might undergo and acts s/he could commit. The logical promiscuity is no accident: the whole drive to hold claimants ‘responsible’ for their ‘exclusion’ from income is founded on this willful confusion of categories.) The threat of these undesirable ‘outcomes’ legitimises interference with the whole family by the cross-departmental state taskforce. Intervention is not a response to the family’s non-professional perception of its own needs: it is strictly preventative. In most cases this means action to prevent family members breaching the boundaries of legal and ‘socially acceptable’ behaviour, even as these semi-codified bounds narrow to the point that life within them becomes impossible in practice.

ECM has vastly expanded the field of targets for prevention, with the formulation of The Five Outcomes designated as necessary for all children. Failure to ‘achieve’ them means automatic ‘at risk’ status for the child and the family, and further increases the pressure on the council to intervene. The extremely vague phrasing of The Five Outcomes l
eaves ample room for discretionary interpretation – on the professional side only, of course: ‘Being healthy; Staying safe; Enjoying and achieving; Making a positive contribution; Achieving economic well-being.’ These pieties only become concrete, impossible-to-obey instructions[27] in sub-headings such as: ‘live in households free from low income’ (well it’s not like anyone’s doing anything about low income per se… must be the low-incomed’s fault then?!); ‘Parents, carers and families promote healthy choices’ (well, people have different ways of eating. If there are no bloody shops, then yes, the newsagent will be your nutrition centre – try finding any amenities ’round ungentrified areas of the East End such as Homerton or Canning Town); ‘Safe from crime and anti-social behaviour in and out of school’ (with more than 3,000 new criminal offences created under New Labour, ‘safe from crime’ is hardly an option); ‘Attend and enjoy school’ (As Shulamith Firestone put it: ‘The child is forced to go to [school]: the test is that he would never go of his own accord.’)

The way The Five Outcomes are to be achieved is, unsurprisingly, by ‘engaging’ with the children and their families, rather than actually changing any of the material causes to do with housing or schools etc.. The non-negotiable premise is that the causes of ‘non-achievement’ are located within those who insist on remaining ‘hard to reach’. The Social Exclusion Task Force (SETF, as in Sod ’Em Total Fuckwits) encourages: ‘personalisation, rights and responsibilities’, as in: ‘it is your personal problem, you have the right to identify with it and you are responsible for getting out of the at-risk group’.

As with the NHS, so with SS. In the former, illness-risk and its management are personalised, even though accounting norms for staying healthy are rigid – ‘your 5-a-day’, pedometer quotas, etc. – and conflicting ideas about who is at risk of what keep proliferating. Likewise, in social services, responsibility is devolved downward from the institution to the individual, and the point of intervention has moved as far ‘into’ the subject as possible. The ubiquitous language of ‘choice’ and ‘empowerment’ (as in ‘you can choose which hospital you want to be operated in, a super-bugged non-waiting list one or a non-super-bugged endless waiting-list one’, or, ‘you can choose between welfare-to-work options: go freelance or work on a two week contract’) is the punchline to the bad institutional joke of imposing coercive ‘solutions’ on claimants while retrospectively blaming them for the problem.

In effect, anyone who is financially dependent on the state has to pay for it by being obliged to open up their lives to scrutiny and ‘intervention’.[28] This interference is notoriously random (and increasingly so as the number of ‘services’ involved multiplies) as well as being disruptive, destructive and threatening. As some dissident social workers put it,

[W]orker-client relationships are increasingly characterised by control and supervision rather than care … Too often today social workers are doing little more than supervising the deterioration of people’s lives.[29]

Might this not be precisely the point? Because if you don’t know who’s dealing with which aspect of your life where basic elements of survival are at stake, you end up depending on an unknowable structure that encompasses you from all sides, with no way of knowing how to ‘disappear’ from its radar or at least to ditch the ‘at risk’ tag. Parameters change non-stop so you have to remain constantly alert. If you mistake them you will be held responsible.[30] If you try to evade them, welcome to overcrowded prisons, mental hospitals, foster homes and so on.

This tendency goes hand in hand with the financing and organisational structure of the social services themselves (as is increasingly the case within the NHS): many functions are outsourced to private companies (even care homes and foster homes have been sold off to private equity outfits), and what remains in state control is increasingly staffed by temporary, underpaid workers:

[O]ur work is shaped by managerialism, by the fragmentation of services, by financial restrictions and lack of resources, by increased bureaucracy and workloads, by the domination of care-management approaches with their associated performance indicators and by the increased use of the private sector.[31]

Under pressure to reach set government targets, which often lead to disjointed and conflicting procedures in relation to a ‘client’, a great deal of social workers’ time is now devoted to reporting potential risk-situations (adding to the database). Often they lack the funding to do anything else. Yet overall spending on SS management and IT has increased, even as frontline services are recklessly cut.

A GP who was worried about the well-being of two mothers in separate incidents says:

quite often in borderline situations, you can’t get social services support. There is only something like Children in Need; you get risk categorisations.[32]

And with it stigmatisation. There is no way out of the child protection register other than ceasing to be a ‘child’.[33]

What Involvement Looks Like

The mother who wants to kill her child for what she has had to sacrifice for it (a common desire) learns to love that same child only when she understands that it is as helpless, as oppressed as she is, and by the same oppressor: then her hate is directed outwards, and ‘motherlove’ is born.

– Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex

The National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services (NSF) throws women and their children into one pot for the provision of health and social services.[34] It is of course much cheaper to target kids’ health through mothers’ health, but it implies the presumption that what is beneficial to women’s health is automatically good for children’s health and vice versa. The issue of breastfeeding is a good example: many women suffer pain when breastfeeding their children but are ‘strongly encouraged to continue doing so’ by the relevant health departments. They might also simply not want to be the exclusive feeder of the baby for months on end.

The ‘Action Plan’ for the Social Exclusion Taskforce (SETF, as in, See ’Em TransFormed) had at its heart ten pilot projects engaged in testing intensive health-led parenting support given to first-time mothers from pregnancy up until the baby’s second birthday. Apparently it was a success (i.e. it hit targets, the babies’ neurones presumably grew rapidly) although no response from the targeted mothers has been made publicly available.[35] The programme clearly presupposes the ‘at risk’ mother to be nothing but a birthing and feeding machine, attached to her child as its unwaged carer and at the convenience of state observation. A GP I interviewed was less blunt but regarded this programme as useless because it kept mothers away from community services and isolated them, together with their assigned health workers, for more than two years. To prevent subsequent independent child-rearing by the ‘at-risk’ mothers, the ‘Government bid to reshape childhood’ (The Guardian headline, 8 December, 2007) ‘aims to bring children under state education control from age 2 and get parents involved through “parent support workers”.’

The drive to institutionalise the upbringing of dependent class children, coupled with control of their parents, was also evident in the test phase of the Sure Start project. The scheme was intended to he
lp women from ‘disadvantaged backgrounds’ back into work, while also supervising and training them in proper British motherhood (how to interact with babies ‘to make their brains grow’, how to talk to them and play with them, what to feed them – with breastfeeding, of course, top of the agenda).[36] Unemployed single mothers were specifically targeted. Nursery (the oddly medicalising British name for ‘kindergarten’, the oddly German-Romantic term used elsewhere in the anglophone world), health centre and job centre were to be combined under one Sure Start roof. Participation in supervised mother-child playing sessions was strongly encouraged.

Central government money for the initial phase of the project has now run out and it has been handed over to councils to manage and pay for themselves. The nurseries are now called ‘Children’s Centres’. But whether Sure Start nursery or Children’s Centre, if you want to send your child there you have to sign a paper agreeing to the involvement of social work teams if there seems to be any cause for concern about your child. Thus, in order to be able to use the service at all, one has to give one’s consent to information sharing with social services. Official guidance states that ‘data and information on the most excluded families should be collected and more emphasis be placed on outreach and home visits to support these families.’[37] No wonder, then, that (aside from their unaffordability for those not in work) the services have not been popular among the ‘hard-to-reach’ target group who have good reason to be worried about Sure Start workers watching them and their children, with a direct line to social services should anything seem ‘out of order’. Home visitors and outreach workers attempt to push their way into people’s homes without seemingly realising that keeping your door closed keeps the state out; something that is especially desirable for anyone in any way dependent on state services and aware of the level of surveillance that comes with it. (‘We will track down benefit thieves’ [formerly ‘cheats’, now upgraded] – the posters are all over town!).

Even during the Sure Start test phase,

some surmised that the registration of families by their local Sure Start was simply about gathering information, especially as no services seemed to follow […]. Participants described encounters with welfare professionals who had information about them from other agencies, for example Sure Start staff revealing information which could only have been sourced from the Social Services department or community nurses. Other participants expressed fear about confidentiality being broken and not having any power to do anything about it […]. Although none of the participants described being referred to social services by Sure Start, several Sure Start workers admitted doing so.[38]

Now that Sure Start has to get by on what little funding it receives from local authorities, management concerns (or simply trying to keep your job, a pressing issue for many of the workers in former Sure Start centres) have fully taken over.[39] With the high cost of nursery fees (around £200 per week in London), the focus on poor families has largely subsided. You can only get this fee reduced through Working Tax Credit, meaning you’d have to be in work to begin with. One probably unplanned effect of all this has been that middle-class parents who can get by on part-time work or who work from home happily take advantage of the ‘training courses in child care’, the resident psychologists and the health professionals still offered at Children’s Centres. At the same time things have changed for the worse for poor families in Sure Start areas. The perceived improvement in the standard of childcare provision has contributed to the influx of middle-class families as inner-city neighbourhoods are gentrified, making it harder for poorer families to maintain the way they organised their daily lives. Checks are made to prevent childminders working ‘illegally’, behaviour clauses are written into ‘social’ housing contracts, and ‘child protection’ activity by social services is out of all proportion to the actual number of cases ‘uncovered’. (The latter development may have something to do with the fact that councils fund the Children’s Centres according to the number of kids on the protection register.) Overall, funding has been cut for necessary services (including ‘traditional’ nurseries), while surveillance of working class behaviour outside work has constantly increased.

If ‘risk of social exclusion’ continues to be discovered everywhere in the UK, it is largely because the dependent class goes on finding ways to organise life that elude the discipline of the state and its ‘arm’s length’ agencies. These survival strategies are wide-ranging and include: babysitting without Home Office vetting, fare dodging, ‘sick note culture’, squatting, council flat sublets, tricks to thwart bailiffs and debt collectors, various kinds of ‘grey market’ trafficking, and the sharing of knowledge (or secrecy) to beat the benefits, tax and immigration systems. In response, methods of ‘intervention’ refined over years in countless Green and White Papers set ever-more intrusive ‘task forces’ on communities, families, lives and bodies, ‘helping them to be socially included’, so that both task force professionals and ‘clients’ will ‘achieve the targets’.

The very real threat of services being taken away ensures that it becomes the dependent’s personal responsibility to remain within the (ever-changing) boundary drawn by the accountancy of risk, effectively forcing her into her own continuous risk-management operation to minimise the dangers of benefits withdrawal or the confiscation of children. Find yourself labeled ‘hard-to-reach’ and a lot of agencies will start getting involved with you, seeing as they also get in trouble if they don’t. This pressure is there to make survival conditional on responding to labour, consumer and credit market needs.

What ‘Caring’ Feels Like

What we ought to be protesting, rather than that children are being exploited just like adults, is that adults can be so exploited.

– Shulamith Firestone, The Dialectic of Sex

Women now make up the largest part of the workforce worldwide. Most of this work is low-paid and insecure; traditionally women have been kept out of organised workers’ struggles and have been used as an industrial reserve army to keep wages down (just as immigrants have). This strategy still very much holds true: women are still paid less than men and, more importantly, now occupy whole industries (small part assembly factory work, cleaning, care work, etc.) because the pay is so low only women will accept it. Work that might earn them more, such as prostitution, remains illegal, meaning that prostitutes need keepers (police bribers) who get the biggest chunk of their income. In general, women often work in unstable conditions with, if any, only temporary contracts – they might get pregnant after all. Currently there are more female than male migrants worldwide, yet women’s immigration status is far more precarious. Almost everywhere in the world they are still classified as untrained dependents, that is, they are seen to be following their families. Thus, women migrants often work illegally, which means they are completely exposed and vulnerable to their employer’s whim. Also, in the UK (as elsewhere) a lot of women are employed in so-called ‘care work’, meaning health and social policy affect them both at work and at home. Under constantly changing regulatory regimes, they must frequently renew qualifications in order to work ‘legally’, conform to departmental guidelines regardless of what experience tells them, and above all (unless privately employed) ‘achieve the targets’.

Women are under scrutiny both as workers
and as (potential) mothers. ‘Parenting’ as unpaid ‘care work’ is increasingly subject to the same measures, targets and supervision devised in the professional sector. In their double-loser role (either dependent on boss and their husband, or on boss and the state, or on all of them), low-income and unemployed mothers, along with their children (whose loser status is assured by their absolute economic dependence), are uniquely exposed to the way capital shapes our lives.

Recent state moves to ensure women’s active participation in adjusting themselves and their lives to capital’s needs are no more than a pioneering experiment in what is shaping up to be a full frontal assault on the dependent class. The disjointed forms of health and social services intervention I have tried to identify seem to be regarded by policy makers as the ‘cheap route’ to one of the main aims of ‘supply-side’ social policy everywhere: maintaining and extending stratification and competition between and within classes. Thus, while neighbours are encouraged to inform on one another and families and individuals who are singled out for ‘help’ take on personal responsibility for their deteriorating circumstances, transformation of the essential, underlying conditions is experienced in contradictory ways by various class sub-groups, with some people even able to imagine that certain initiatives make them better-off.[40] Cut-throat individual labour-market competition, transfer to the market of formerly subsidised housing, asymmetrical attacks on benefits and partial or full criminalisation of previously legal activities will no doubt look like ‘opportunity’ to some of those affected, even as they dilute the income and undermine the freedom of their class in general.[41] The common interest of people vulnerable to market blackmail and state coercion is obscured by personalised state action to foster individual economic ‘competitiveness’. This inevitably diminishes the prospects of any counter-attack, not only against the material deterioration of lives, against data collection, surveillance and control, but against being turned into a pool of miserably dependent bodies, available whenever and however capital might need it.


[1] This text was mainly researched during 2007 – by now various changes may have been introduced

[2] That such services never are class-neutral is perfectly exemplified by UK legal practice regarding ‘anti-social behaviour’: among the most commonly-threatened sanctions is the loss of your council house, i.e. enforcement applies to the council-housed income bracket only.

[3] This of course was not always the case (cf. Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch, 2004). Several noteworthy attempts to reclaim control of their reproductive capacity were made by women’s groups in the US during the 1960s and ’70s. Most famously Jane (officially known as the Abortion Counseling Service of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union), which performed numerous illegal abortions between 1969-1973. The Black Panthers’ social and health care programmes also eventually included family planning, after the women in the party had overturned the prevailing anti-abortion stance. Until then, abortion was seen as the white man’s attempted genocide of the black people. The pro-life case had been argued on the grounds that African-American women were not only widely used as guinea pigs in contraceptive research, but had, throughout their history as (waged or unwaged) slaves, often been prevented from having the kids they might have wanted, either because they did not want to carry them into slavery or grinding poverty made it absolutely impossible (cf. Angela Y. Davis, Women, Race and Class, 1983). The ‘new’ Black Panther Party is now in charge of some family planning clinics.

[4] And how much harder it is if the father is the claimant! Two male single parent friends report that agencies regularly demand to know ‘where is the mother?’, and sometimes threaten to take the child away if the father really goes ahead with, say, an application to be housed.

[5] Because it is becoming increasingly difficult to get real support from health or social services, those who need it only have two options, which both lead to the same result: they can either overstate their case, which will initially lead to a risk report being filed, containing data which will be widely shared, or they’ll be made to wait for ages, then visited by a health and/or social worker, who will take their details and signature consenting to the data being shared. Otherwise no help will be offered. If it’s urgent you won’t refuse. An example on the data sharing policy of social services in the UK can be found here: http://linkme2.net/ec

[6] ‘Dependent class’ as in dependent for survival on selling labour-power to others, and/or on state-administered supplements, whether in the form of benefits or ‘services’. All those, in other words, who are not able to live off the asset price bubbles blown in the Brown/Bush ‘ownership society’.

[7] ‘Reproduction’ as used here refers to sexual reproduction, but is NOT limited to its biological component. By extension, the term also includes all the activity by which individuals and social groups attempt to maintain their physical and socially subjective existence. From the point of view of capital this is restricted to reproducing the ability, along with the need, to sell labour (regardless of whether a corresponding demand for it exists at a given moment). The cost of ‘reproduction’ in this latter sense is theoretically covered by the wage (and its various state supplements), but historically and now, perhaps more than ever, this payment falls short of the minimum necessary leaving the burden of reproduction to fall on dependent workers in general and women in particular.

[8] During my research I interviewed several professionals working in the health- and social services. Their reasons for wishing to remain anonymous are obvious. I also spoke to some women using the services but, presumably for related reasons, I was unable to speak to those women who are most exposed to institutional action. Thus a lot of my material comes from a broad sweep of officially endorsed and dissident UK-published sources.

[9] Cf. Mariarosa dalla Costa, Gynocide: Hysterectomy, Capitalist Patriarchy, and the Medical Abuse of Women, New York: Autonomedia, 2007.

[10] Thus, self-help prevails. I overheard a Jamaican woman in the launderette sharing her treatment method: ‘I just eat ice-cream and pray to Jesus.’

[11] Quoted in ‘Children’s Databases – Safety and Privacy: A Report for the Information Commissioner’, Foundation for Information Policy Research, http://www.fipr.org/childrens_databases.pdf

[12] Cf. Damian Abbott, ‘The Spine’, Mute Vol 2 #7, http://www.metamute.org/en/The-Spine

[13] The government departments comprising the social services in the UK are the Department for Work and Pensions, the Inland Revenue, the Department of Health, the Department of Home and Community, and the Department for Children, Schools and Families. It is important to note, however, that these ministerial allocations change frequently and many of the departmental responsibilities are newfangled, while the tendencies discussed are longer-term.

[14] In the US, the vilification of pregnant women presumed to be
living unhealthily has developed yet further: under a fetal protection banner, women can be tested for drugs and, if positive, prosecuted for ‘delivery of drugs to a minor’ or ‘child endangerment’, http://linkme2.net/ed

Many pro-lifers would like to see their moral indignation at pregnant women who drink or smoke turned into a statute. This of course would in effect see women being criminalised for being pregnant (seeing as, when not pregnant, they may smoke and drink with impunity). Incidentally, such additional punishment based on one’s status already exists in the UK when it comes to criminal offences committed by foreigners: nominally the same penalties apply to everyone, yet foreigners are additionally subject to deportation when they get out of prison.

[15] Current tabloid story-telling has it that children are snatched from their mothers by social services because they have to meet government targets for adoption; seeing as no-one seems to want to adopt kids who have already lived in foster care, newly born babies are a safe bet. See: Sue Reid, ‘How social services are paid bonuses to snatch babies for adoption’, The Daily Mail, 31 January 2008, http://linkme2.net/ee

[16] ‘It isn’t babies that blight young lives’, Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, 27 May, 2005, http://linkme2.net/ef

[17] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4720813.stm

[18] Thus, according to a GP I spoke to, a teenager who was trying to conceal her pregnancy from her parents was contacted by social services at home. The hospital had passed her information on, ignoring the fact that her files had ‘do not contact at home’ written all over them.

[19] Connexions is a ‘service’ targeted at 13-19 year-olds who are ‘at risk of social exclusion’, it aims to encourage participation in education, and deal with personal problems that might present ‘barriers to learning’. The model is of an information-sharing multi-agency team; Connexions introduced a ‘smart-card’ for 16-19 year olds, which was scrapped this February, because the kids were too smart to let themselves be card-traced in return for shop discounts (take-up was 3.7 percent).

[20] ‘Children’s Databases – Safety and Privacy: A Report for the Information Commissioner’, op. cit..

[21] See, for example, the research published on the Every Child Matters site, http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/publications and on the Social Exclusion Task Force site, http://linkme2.net/eg

[22] Stuart Waiton, ‘The Enemy Within’, TES, 26 September, 2003, http://linkme2.net/eh

In order to collect the relevant personal details, the government’s vision is to be able to browse through a vast array of public services data such as personal medical information (with a diagnosis of hyperactivity being considered a risk), school results, social workers’ case files and information from police and youth-justice systems. Access to the resulting database would be granted to education, early years and childcare services, Connexions, health, social care, Youth Offending Teams, police, probation, prisons, and secure training centres. Some agencies are currently actively collecting data. Connexions, for example, seeks out data from the National Pupil Database and other services to ‘identify vulnerable young people’ (their powers for requesting data extend across educational records, welfare claims, revocation of benefits and attendance at ‘Jobcentre Plus’). The Connexions Customer (!) Information System is the intended database, covering all young people over 13 in the area and their parents, siblings and friends. The assessment document used by Connexions includes information on the parenting skills of parents and on substance abuse amongst the family and friends of the child. Of course no consent is sought in relation to this information. (And, obviously, the data can’t be cross-checked by those it refers to, even for something as ‘basic’ as truth value.)

Other databases involved in the policing of young people ‘at risk of offending’ are Reducing Youth Offending Generic National Solution (RYOGENS), Asset and Onset. All three of these include information on the family and possibly also friends of each risk-subject. Very often, the family has no idea that this data exists since it has been obtained from the child, who may not even know that they have given consent to the collection of family data, or that the data is used to identify whether or not they are ‘at risk’ and to track them over time. Included in the data will be causes for concern such as ‘negative home influence on education’, ‘dangerous behaviour’, ‘social isolation’, ‘non-constructive spare time’, ‘living in high-crime area’, ‘financial and/or housing difficulties’, ‘parenting difficulties’, ‘family and/or peers involved in anti-social behaviour’, etc.

Data is also collected by local spies, so-called YIP (youth inclusion and support programmes) workers. They should ‘assume the role of an identifying agency by collating information about these young people [not yet on their databases] from local contacts, residents, tenancy associations, community groups, street wardens etc.…’ That is, they encourage residents to inform on one another and/or on one another’s children, a project already well underway with ASBOs. Information held on Child Benefit or any other social security system may be passed on to ‘any civil servant or other person’ involved with the provision of protective services. Collected data can be passed around quite freely between the different databases as long as the recipient of the data is somehow involved with child services.

[23] ‘Children’s Databases – Safety and Privacy: A Report for the Information Commissioner’, op. cit..

[24] ‘Supply-side economics is a school of macroeconomic thought that argues that economic growth can be most effectively created using incentives for people to produce (supply) goods and services, such as adjusting income tax and capital gains tax rates. This can be contrasted with Keynesian economics (or ‘demand side economics’), which argues that growth can be most effectively managed by controlling total demand for goods and services, typically by adjusting the level of government spending. Supply-side economics is often conflated with trickle-down economics, now a derogatory term given to right-leaning economists’ views. The term supply-side economics was coined by journalist Jude Wanniski in 1975, and popularised the ideas of economists Robert Mundell and Arthur Laffer.’ A neutrality-disputed gloss from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supply-side_economics

[25] It is an understatement to say that these categories hardly constitute ‘objective’ states: ‘intelligence and community factors’! ‘Poor parenting’! ‘Individual characteristics’! Here as elsewhere in social legislation, the criterion of ‘objectivity’ seems to be that real institutional intervention follows whenever a flimsy concept is invoked.

[26] My personal favourite! ‘At risk of social exclusion’ – as if definitions of this kind didn’t create the risk! In any case it is clear that the child concerned (or, more commonly, its mother) will be held responsible for being ‘hard-to-reach’.

[27] A negative thinker reading a draft of this text wondered whether the dialectic of ’68 utopian radicalism is fully played out when the state demands the impossible of the workers, rather th
an the other way around.

[28] ‘One of the illustrative examples [of a non-communicative child attending a playgroup] is particularly objectionable. It suggests that the playgroup leader should seek consent to share her concerns with health practitioners and she should indicate in any letter she wrote “that her concerns would increase if this is refused”’, ‘Children’s Databases – Safety and Privacy: A Report for the Information Commissioner’, op. cit.

[29] Chris Jones, Iain Ferguson, et al., ‘Social Work and Social Justice: A Manifesto for a New Engaged Practice’, http://www.liv.ac.uk/ssp/Social-Work-Manifesto.html

[30] This idea is confirmed by a friend who was constantly harassed by a nurse after having visited the hospital with her daughter. She had no idea how to make it stop. Another friend commented on giving birth: ‘on the one hand you’re treated like a birthing machine, on the other hand you are completely held responsible for what happens even though you can’t possibly know the parameters.’

[31] ‘Social Work and Social Justice: A Manifesto for a New Engaged Practice’, op. cit.

[32] A UK child sponsorship charity.

[33] However even this may not be enough: the ContactPoint database, containing regularly updated details of every child born in the UK, promises to converge smoothly with the national ID system, so that no-one would be cut loose from observation even on becoming a nominally independent adult.

[34] There are 21 ‘standards’ in relation to children’s and young people’s well-being, and 203 ‘key actions’ for achieving them. The multi-agency taskforce (PCTs, LEAs and ‘other partners’) responsible for implementing the management programme educates mothers as to how they have to live and how to feed and educate their children.

[35] A wild guess: they might have preferred someone to help them with the cleaning, shopping and nappy changing, rather than someone standing around giving them health advice.

[36] ‘Looks and smiles help the brain to grow. Baby looks at mother; sees dilated pupils (evidence that sympathetic nervous system aroused and happy); own nervous system is aroused – heart rate increases. Lead [sic] to a biochemical response – pleasure neuropeptides (betaendorphin and dopamine) released into brain and helps neurons grow. Negative looks trigger a different biochemical response (cortisol) stops these hormones and related growth.’ From ‘Health-led Parenting Project: Family Nurse Partnership’ – a powerpoint presentation given at primary care trusts nation wide, http://linkme2.net/ei

[37] Mark Gould, ‘Unsure Future’, The Guardian, 24 May 2006, http://linkme2.net/ej

[38] Krysia Canvin, Chris Jones, et al, ‘Can I risk using public services? Perceived consequences of seeking help and health care among households living in poverty: qualitative study’, 2007, http://linkme2.net/ek

[39] From an interview with a Children’s Centre manager: ‘If we don’t meet the figures, no-one can bail us out, we’ll be made redundant.’

[40] ‘… neighbours had referred some participants to social services, and family social workers confirmed that referrals from neighbours were quite common. Participants understood that this aspect of their social and physical location was intensifying and inescapable.’ In, ‘Can I risk using public services?’, op. cit..

[41] ‘Asymmetrical’ in the sense that single adult claimants have been significantly impoverished in real-terms in the UK since 1997, while cumulative family eligibility, if all conditions are fulfilled, has at least kept pace with inflation. Only at first glance could this seem to run contrary to the argument of the article. In fact what has happened is perfectly in keeping with the other trends described: monetary payments have been allowed to rise where accompanied by intensified observation and intervention. What is actively disincentivised is claiming anything while eluding observation and ‘support’: hence single adults, particularly long-term incapacity claimants who only have to sign on once every few months, have to be hounded out of their quasi-hard-to-reach condition.

Madame Tlank’s profile as a suspect non-breeder can be found here: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk

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