From Liberación Total (September 12, 2011):
This morning, a van belonging to the multinational “construction company” PERI was torched. PERI is one of the most powerful companies in the construction industry, which is dedicated to destroying the Earth through the building of highways, power stations, etc.
We no longer recognize life, colonized as it is by science and technology. Nor can we talk about life skills, as the dead have replaced the living. In this tomb of cement and sugar, we are surrounded by millions of dead objects. The nanotechnology and biotechnology industries are the new dictatorships to be toppled. They are the new masters of the world, patenting life and imposing a form of nonlife devoid of any kind of autonomy. In the war against them, we must arm ourselves with every possible method and attack incessantly. We recognize a part of nature in ourselves, and we fight against whomever would take away and destroy that nature. There is no time to lose. Our desire and passion will put an end to everything that dominates us.
Civilization (not anarchy!!!!) is the highest expression of order. Therefore, instead of the order and control that drive us to madness, we embrace chaos, individuality, and the uniqueness of every living thing.
Whoever talks about revolution and class struggle without critiquing science and technology has a corpse in their mouth.
For Billy, Silvia, Costa, Marco, and our insurgent brothers and sisters in Chile, Greece, Mexico, etc.
And if your heart isn’t broken by the knowledge of what they are doing to the world we love, then I feel sorry for you. Maybe you’re no longer alive. But if the death of the planet we love makes you cry, then take those tears and turn them into action.
A Much-Needed Invitation to Discuss the Offensive Against the State, Capital, and All Forms of Authority
Note from TIOJ: As you can see, this piece has been in our “translation queue” for just over a year now. We finally decided to finish it because we feel it’s a worthwhile addition to the general discourse surrounding insurrectionary praxis. Some of the ideas have already been applied by various groups, while others prefigure certain events of the past year. In any case, many thanks to the comrades who wrote it, and we apologize for the delay!
Some of the tools or practices that define us as anarchists/autonomists/antiauthoritarians are direct action and sabotage, which we use in order specifically contribute to the extension of social conflict and revolt, thereby keeping our lives in our own hands.
The goal of this document is to invite all those who have taken their first steps—all the Peninsula’s and (why not?) the world’s antiauthoritarians—to open up a space for argument/discussion/reflection/(self-)critique, and to leave behind silence, anonymity, and communicating with one another solely through claims of responsibility for the actions we carry out. It’s very important to us that we don’t remain isolated in the face of the diverse reality in which we live. Therefore, we need continuous discussion, the purpose of which is to keep the necessary tools of struggle in good working order, sharpening our aim and exceeding our limits along the way. We also want to draw inspiration and encouragement from all the little jolts and gestures of solidarity, which remind us that the struggle continues and we are not alone.
A few preliminary explanations: attack as part of political praxis
The instances when we practice direct action are quite varied. Sometimes, in the case of direct, frontal attacks on the symbols of capital and the state (those responsible for Earth, animal, and human exploitation), actions have an attacking quality. Other actions are carried out in defensively in response to aggression directed against us, like social conflict, imprisonment, and death. And still others develop within the contexts and time frames of specific campaigns.
When we talk about direct action, we don’t just mean going out one night to smash, destroy, burn, etc. Our understanding of direct action is that it is valid when it is also accompanied by revolution in one’s everyday life. Additionally, we must be capable of analyzing what types of actions are most appropriate for the times and the situations we find ourselves in. Through the different communiqués that are circulating, we happily see that we are once again taking back the night. But we’re not taking back the streets during the day, which would provide us with the knowledge and opportunities we need to spread our ideas and practices.
We also understand that revolutionary practice can’t be based exclusively on direct action. Instead, direct action should be complemented by other political projects and spaces—anarchist libraries, social centers, newspapers, magazines, radio stations, street propaganda, and collectives that tackle specific problems—but only when these are disassociated from authoritarian logic and peaceful coexistence with existing power structures. It is in the sum of these practices that we find our overall contribution. Otherwise, if there is no networking, interchange, and mutual support, and if we don’t manage to understand the contribution each of us makes, our actions and initiatives will ultimately remain isolated, valueless, and insignificant, which would be a shame and a real waste of energy for everyone. It’s completely understandable that each comrade tends to focus on the type of practice that responds most closely to her concerns, and we don’t want to fall into the stale (and often poorly developed) critique of specialization, since we do think certain practices require special—if not exclusive—dedication and attention. But we want to emphasize our belief that we make a key error each time we look down on the initiatives mentioned above, whether for political or strategic reasons. Weighing the practice of propaganda against that of action, as if both weren’t intimately related and mutually reinforcing in a synergy of nearly undefinable limits (action is without a doubt the best form of propaganda, while propaganda extends, sustains, and gives content to action), is too simplistic an approach to even consider. Propaganda, at least as we understand it, is a moment of anarchist political ferment, a way of nourishing the soil from which actions and everything else sprout. We have to find the forms that enable us to strike more and strike better, and extend them to different areas of life. Sadly, for many, the principal meeting spaces for this purpose are the countless festivals that fill the weekly “antiauthoritarian” agenda.
In questioning ourselves about possible reasons for the lack of actions, the loss of the streets, or the pitiful social peace that has befallen us, we concluded that it was necessary to engage in self-critique (but always with humility). We reject arrogant attitudes, bragging (which perhaps we’ve all done at some point), and vanguardism. We’ve all felt and experienced fear, put up with some shitty situations, or simply avoided them. As human beings, we can’t deny those feelings, but we must work diligently so that they don’t paralyze us, lead us to passivity or inaction, and make us “put out the fires” in our own lives. By the same token, we have to be sincere with ourselves and experience these processes step by step, decisively but without rushing or doing a shoddy job, and always looking ahead. Just as we don’t believe in hierarchizing the tools of struggle, we also don’t feel that someone is greater or lesser because they once did some thing or another. Devaluing our experiences of attack and the emotions they trigger, along with denying our own weaknesses and feelings, not only signify self-deception, but also a lack of revolutionary honesty toward our comrades (especially the youngest ones). What’s then conveyed are fetishistic visions of violence and struggle divorced from the codes of values and humanity that characterize their practice. In addition, a door is opened to disastrous and sometimes irreparable results. By saying that, we don’t mean all actions should be governed by the same principles. The anarchist/autonomous milieu, despite its reduced size, encompasses a rich diversity of tendencies and ideological poles. But due to the serious consequences that can result from putting action into practice, we believe that an effort must emerge from each of these ways of thinking to put on the table all the truths and lies of a tool that won’t admit its mistakes.
Another immature approach to attack is the oversimplification and linearity with which actions are often evaluated. Placing them on a “hardness” scale, or to say it another way, a scale that goes from a low to a high level of spectacle, reduces analysis of the action to its most superficial aspect, failing to comprehend that it’s not only the tools used—hammers, incendiary devices, explosives, firearmsthat define an action’s character, but a complex of parameters among which one finds the tools, but not just the tools. We think an attack can be evaluated via multiple facets. An attack is coherent if it responds to the political principles that led to its planning. It has agitational value insofar as its capacity to create cracks in social schemes and composition. It is personally satisfying if it responds to the need for revolt and confrontation of the people who participate in it. It is strategic if it is directed toward achieving an objective within a predetermined plan. It is effective if it really manages to achieve that objective. And so on and so forth. By analyzing things this way, we realize that breaking a window—at a specific time of day, with a specific goal in mind, within a specific context—can often achieve what using more destructive tools can’t. And of course the opposite also applies: at other times, sitting down to analyze the situation and think about what action should be carried out, we reach the conclusion that it’s more appropriate to turn to something more than a stone or a hammer.
Affinity groups and networks
Actions can be carried out by affinity groups, but that affinity shouldn’t be based solely on compas sharing a certain practice. We understand and experience affinity as something deeper and more personal: knowing your compas well enough to reach a high state of tune and rapport. Knowing their character and the way they will react to possible unforeseen circumstances having to do with other components of the group allows the most appropriate decisions to be made at the least favorable moments, thereby avoiding arrests and other unpleasant situations. Likewise, it also seems vitally important to us that everyone should feel comfortable and secure—in short, at ease—about the action to be carried out.
Another crucial aspect, and one that often suffers from a severe deficiency, is the matter of the “networks” or infrastructure (human and material) that support a group’s activity. Organizing a network of collaborators and material elements (safe houses, tools, etc.) significantly broadens the perspectives and possibilities to which an action group can aspire.
On the other hand, the scant support and communication between groups (consolidated or emerging) should be increased and improved in order for us to contribute to our overall conception of what is possible and viable. Here an important role is also played by people from other generations with more knowledge and experience. This aids in transmission of technical knowledge and more general advice (like how to “move around” on the streets), while also preventing the repetition of errors.
Because ultimately, in the face of all the system’s repression and all the witch hunts society has organized against the “enemy within,” we need strong support and solidarity among ourselves.
From the defensive to the offensive: realizing our objectives and discourse
When we read communiqués that claim responsibility for an action, we see that most of them accompany attacks whose discourse is antirepression and antipolice. We spoke above about different actions and approaches we can direct at our enemies, but we realize that we normally allow ourselves to be carried away by the current generated by their repressive maneuvering. We believe that, apart from organizing the necessary responses, we should be taking the initiative to attack more and attack better. In other words: truly shifting to the offensive; diversifying our targets; “taking careful aim”; always trying to cause as much material damage as possible; bringing the conflict to those who are specifically responsible, focusing especially on their property (homes, cars, shopping centers); striking the actual structures of capitalist and state institutions; and letting our imaginations run wild. Remember the symbolic aspect of these actions. No action will destroy the entire mechanism of power by itself, but there should be an urgency to how we materialize the confrontation.
Communiqués must serve more of a purpose than simply communicating the action as an event. Although writing more involves a certain added risk, we still truly lack communiqués with sharper discourse and clearer political positions. This is doubtless an aspect for all of us to work on.
Keep learning, keep fighting
Even though this world takes so much away from us, it also provides us with a wide range of useful means for the development of direct action. In this sense, any tool is capable of being turned into a weapon. Common pieces of furniture we find thrown away on the city streets, as well as objects that are easy to find in any store, etc., can be tremendously destructive. It’s necessary to make the effort to learn the techniques of sabotage and to put creativity to work on what can be useful to us. Making the decision to attack a target as a group is not difficult. There are many ways and countless different methods that have already been put into practice, and there are still many more to discover, right there in our reach.
Nevertheless, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that sound preparation and well-studied methods will allow us to carry out solid, secure attacks with the highest probability of success.
We dream of a world filled with little gangs/groups/crews spread throughout the cities; a world in which bosses, the rich, judges, pigs, reporters, torturers, and exploiters can count on being ridiculed and attacked; a world in which they fear for their property and the tranquility of their filthy lives.
Like we’ve said, our words are animated by a deep desire to encourage, provoke, and discuss. We aren’t the first and we won’t be the last to write and say these things, but the flame of freedom born in our hearts drives us to say them again and put them into practice.
Because we want to keep fighting, we must keep learning. This is our small contribution to the interchange of approaches and experiences called for by collective learning. We invite those to whom these lines are addressed to reflect, share knowledge, and contribute to enriching the heritage of a struggle based on all kinds of experiences. It has been forged by all, and it belongs to all.
SOLIDARITY AND FREEDOM FOR THE OPPRESSED, PRISONERS, AND THOSE UNDERGROUND.
A WINK TO THOSE IN STRUGGLE ON THE OUTSIDE.
—Barcelona, Summer 2010
Note from TIOJ: Following on from our last post about Paco Ortíz, here is the most recent communiqué from Gilbert Ghislain, who is mentioned in Ortíz’ final letter. Twenty-seven years ago, Ghislain was sentenced in France to eighteen years in prison for several bank robberies. After seven years behind bars, he managed to escape from prison by helicopter and land on Spanish soil, where he was eventually caught and sentenced for various crimes committed while he was a fugitive. In Spain, he experienced the full-on brutality of the newly-created FIES regime. Further sentences were leveled against him before he was recently extradited back to France under an international arrest warrant issued by the French government, at which point his lawyers expected his imminent release due to the fact that the warrant actually expired on November 5, 2010. However, Ghislain remains imprisoned thanks to a petition requesting that he serve 11 years of his original 18-year sentence.
Nothing new, except for the need to complain. I also need to communicate with the outside regarding the campaign that, I hope, is going to begin this month. I have a computer and I’m making good use of it. I even had a PlayStation. They’ve invented computer games—ultraviolent adventure or strategy games—and the guys spend their time shooting at virtual people and treasure-hunting. I also play, but I burnt out my PlayStation 15 days after I got it. It keeps you busy yet it’s absurd. They didn’t have them in Spain. The examining magistrate once allowed a PlayStation into the bunker at Picassent, and the compas no longer left the activity room. They tell me it’s not much different on the outside: in order to survive the everyday, each one creates their own little world. Basically, everyone is seeking a refuge to escape reality.
When I arrived in Spain 20 years ago, I had just escaped from a French prison. In the space of a few hours I jumped from one reality to another, leaving my compas in France. In Spain I would encounter other compas and other struggles. The most combative guys had created an association, but APRE was nothing political. The compas were looking to escape and along the way fight injustice. The only possible getaway was escape. It was the answer to everything that shaped imprisonment. It wasn’t conceptual, but it obliged you to fight the arbitrary, wherever it came from. The compas had distributed a communiqué among the different prisons explaining that no prisoner could judge another prisoner. The violence back then was different. APRE condemned acts of violence toward prisoners and warned that the Administration’s imposed violence would degenerate. I agreed with all that and more, since—prioritizing escape—on two occasions I even requested that riots not take place. That was before I myself sank into prison violence. Sixteen years later, when I left the QI, everyone was either dead or totally fucked up. In the yards, other generations had arrived and everything had changed.
The Spanish state had turned toward remaking its prisons. In fact, FIES was created not so much out of a need to address the legitimate demands posed by prisoners, rebellions, and escapes, as out of a need to lock away the most troublesome prisoners. That couldn’t be done with the APRE prisoners in the yards, and paradoxically, it was they who requested that the prisons finally be democratized. Thus, the most dehumanizing bunkers had to be built—real machines for destroying any hint of opposition. The same year that FIES was created, the Spanish state invested a colossal sum of several billion euros to begin what was then called the “Prison Rehabilitation and Construction Plan.” This was in 1991. The point was to make prisons more human, or at least bring them more into line with European conceptions regarding prison policy. Sixteen years later, when I left the QI, everything looked lovely but nothing was human anymore. Existential emptiness and misery had taken root in ultramodern prisons.
I arrived in France a few months ago. After 20 years away, I again find myself in a French prison, and I don’t know what mechanisms brought about such changes. I was completely isolated, and news was taking years to reach me. But although different in form, the changes were as radical as those in Spain.
In France, they haven’t gone to the trouble of rebuilding their prisons to make them more dignified. It’s the European country ranked second-to-last when it comes to human rights, especially those of prisoners. And that includes non-EU countries like Serbia. In last place is Moldova. The laws enacted get increasingly more repressive and excluding, without actually changing anything.
The new generations have arrived here as well, and emptiness has won. The old guard got out some time ago, after an entire life imprisoned in conditions as poor as those in the country next door. Prison is like a giant leech that, instead of feeding on blood, feeds on everything a man is made of. Even time dissolves, and I’m no longer conscious of its corrosive effects. Here time is distilled into countless droplets, and each second seems to last forever, to the point that time loses its meaning. Without any signposts to mark the stages of life, the days are as long as months, and the years as long as decades. That’s also prison, and as time passes, all of us are experiencing it more and more.
From Tokata (September 1, 2011):
Note from TIOJ: Our resistance is peopled with countless heroes who fight and die in obscurity. One of the purposes of This Is Our Job is to eradicate that obscurity by bringing their stories and voices to light. One such hero is Paco Ortíz.
Born in Antequera, but cosmopolitan, thrown into the world. His trade: repo man of surplus value, bank robber feared by the Civil Guard and other zombie hordes. To stop him, they once shot 114 bullets into the vehicle he was traveling in. By sheer luck, only one of the two people inside was injured. Paco, unscathed, heard the Civil Guard pricks coming, heard them ask: “And if we finish them off?” As well as a fighter, a strategist. The two successive Puerto I rebellions were coordinated by him and another outstanding Paco (nom de guerre: B——).
With a record of 117 “miscellaneous staff” taken hostage, who years later gave him a smattering of applause: “If we’re ever held hostage again, we hope it’s by you, since you’re a gentleman.” The truth is that they wanted to cut certain guards to pieces.
During an escape from Málaga, he took down a pig who had managed to lodge a bullet in the roof. That pistolero fucked up. If a gun is pointed at you, it’s best to not act like an imbecile. Another time, during a spectacular rebellion at Ocaña, the guard posts were attacked with Molotovs. One of the guards was hogtied. A pack of pigs got caught (with many guards taken hostage). The warden had to come negotiate and they almost trapped him as well.
Constant demands, hunger strikes, self-mutilations. Hundreds of formal complaints that went nowhere. Years and years of the special FIES regime without giving up the fight.
At fascist Valladolid they tried to gas them. Someone woke up at 2:30 a.m. and there was a hellishly toxic odor in the air. Thankfully he was able to wake his comrades, who made such a racket in the prison that the vile fascists couldn’t stay hidden. “No, you see, it appears some solvent fell into a heating duct.” Such bullshit.
He escaped from Cartagena by jumping off a 12-meter-high outer wall. He had no rope, and when he landed he fractured his ankle and most of his tibia. Nevertheless, he managed to escape and recover. Pity that such a serious injury would cause him pain for many years. Absolutely more stoic than a ghost, he never complained about it. Before his death, in an attempt to escape from Valencia, he managed to stick a “missile” (a rather large shiv used for self-mutilation and making demands) into his own heart during a rebellion there.
Finally, in deed and word he fought for freedom. A great comrade, friend to his friends, and very much enemy of “the enemy.”
Ideologically, he was in the ranks of the Idea.
He paid 23 years. Tired, alone, hopeless, he wrote to us, his comrades, apologizing and saying goodbye.* Another state crime.
I’M SURE THE EARTH IS BEING GENTLER WITH YOU, FRANCISCO ORTÍZ JIMÉNEZ!!
—José María Pirla Oliván, CP Albolote, M5
*Posthumous letter from Paco Ortíz:
Badajoz; July 18, 2003
I’ll try to make this letter short, concise, and above all posthumous. As most of you know, I have paid 20 consecutive years of prison, almost 17 of which were spent in either solitary confinement or, since 1991, under the FIES 1 RE regime. After a brief six-month interval of freedom during which I got married and my wife had an abortion, which led to our separation, I have currently been a prisoner for 3 years and 13 days, blatantly under the FIES regime from day one in Málaga, Alicante, Picassent, Huelva, Jaén, and right now Badajoz.
I am an anarchist, out there and in here, because I use reason, and that’s what I have fought for on the streets as well as in prison—to leave behind a grain of sand and change whatever I can about the current state of constant violation by a most fascist and savage capitalism. Due to circumstances (23 years in exterminating dungeons), my fight has been strongest in prison (even though on the streets I also struck a number of sabotage “blows” to the enemy, which I won’t get into because of a lack of space and to protect others).
In 20 years, there hasn’t been a single year of rebellion in which I didn’t directly intervene, in all aspects: ideology, strategy, and direct action. And as is well known, we kept an entire government in check for over a decade, despite brutal repression. But what’s happening now? After three years, the only one’s left out of so many are Claudio [Lavazza], Gilbert [Ghislain], and me, and they are literally silencing us. I’ve enjoyed a few small victories over those dogs, and I, Francisco Ortíz Jiménez, directly contributed to the firing of general directors from Central Prison Administration, wardens, big-shot guards at a number of prisons, and many subordinate employees. That said, nil opportunity for action, even though where I am there is harmony among the prisoners and we hit back here and there. All in all, 99% of prisoners—and I’m talking about FIES prisoners (although the rest are more or less the same)—are generally “asleep” thanks to daily does of pills, and against that it’s not worth the daily grind of educating them one at a time to stop taking the shit that keeps them passive. Asleep! Although they walk and talk. And it’s not worth it because if “Big Brother” sees you making progress, they transfer you, and then it’s back to square one. Rationally, in an intimately personal way, and without caring about the contrary opinions of absolutely anyone else (which opinions I’m not asking for), over the past few years I have come to the decision (I actually decided a long time ago) to cease existing. I tried to kill myself several times without “success,” and each time (I am completely healthy and strong, and I look fine, with no antibodies whatsoever—a young-looking 43-year-old) I left behind letters demanding freedom for terminally ill prisoners and an end to FIES and prisoner dispersion, as well as accusing Central Prison Administration and that whole gang of swine in blue—including the examining magistrates—of inducing suicide by action or omission (the therapy for each suicide attempt is punishment).
The prison—Madrid—tried to assert, I say, that I did what I did because I wasn’t in my right mind. They required that I be examined by an outside psychologist in Huelva, and then by a psychiatrist and a psychologist—both “experts”—at the hospital in Jaén. And the results were a real disappointment to them (I’m attaching the report, literally transcribed from the original). Whatever happens, I am going to die because I have decided to do so, freely and willingly. And I will do it not by chance, but with a grand overdose of the pills they give us. I know it won’t catch on, I hope, but I would love if people reflected on it even just a little bit. And in any case, I am not dying “alone” because “I want to” (I LOVE LIFE AND I WANT TO LIVE), but because I can’t live this way any longer—like a wild animal caged in what appear to be military secret service headquarters. Where the guard dogs, under orders from their superiors, flout their own laws as decreed by the suit-and-tie vipers who govern in the name of the usual crowd. Where they don’t acknowledge any dignity other then what you assert on your own, individually. Where most of the time you have no possible “defense” other than your Luciferian voice, which they smear you with to substantiate the wild animal that you are (I’m attaching four reports, four small examples of defending your dignity alone and facing the consequences with total integrity, which integrity, courage, and loyalty I NEVER lacked). In the end, I DIE for myself, for all my comrades, for the dignity of all human beings, and for a free world of AWAKE men and women, without prisons. I love you, compas.
Defiance! Insurrection! Anarchy, freedom, and dignity!
An embrace, as huge as it is anarchist.
From Tokata (August 26, 2011):
Comrades, our friend and comrade TAMARA HERNÁNDEZ HERAS will be “judged” in mid-September by a court belonging to this “democratic Dictatorship” we’re suffering. The prosecutor’s sentencing request (16 years in prison) portends yet another new legal aberration, and aims at an exemplary punishment for our comrade.
Her only crime is BEING COHERENT in thought and action, based on her conscience. In reality, that’s what they want to punish her for: exercising solidarity with comrades who suffer imprisonment. Nothing more, nothing less. I think (?) her trial is on September 14* at Barcelona Provincial Court, and for the duration of that trial, I and other comrade prisoners will be undertaking the appropriate fast as a show of support. That’s all I can do from here on the inside. I hope that on “la rue,” YOU WILL BE LISTENING. “Absolution” for TAMARA.
From Zuera prison slaughterhouse (Solitary wing) in Zaragoza on August 15, 2011,
Juan Carlos Rico Rodríguez
*This date is correct.
Gabriel Pombo Da Silva: Introduction to the French Edition of Xosé Tarrío González’ Huye, Hombre, Huye
From Culmine (July 10, 2011):
I like to sit down in front of the typewriter just as I’m waking up, when I still don’t know who I am, where I come from, or where I’m going. My head is in the clouds, hazy and chaotic, beyond Space-Time or any Dialectic.
While I write, my sense of self (whatever that may be) gradually “returns.” I open “my” cell window, take a deep breath of the cold morning air, and feel my lungs expand. I make coffee, and its aroma relaxes me, reminding me of “another time”—my childhood—as well as my mother.
My mother woke up every day at 5 a.m. to go to work. She would put the coffeepot on the kitchen stove, and in a few minutes that familiar aroma I found so appealing was wafting through the air. When I was little, I was convinced that one of the reasons my mother was so “dark” was because of all the coffee she drank. Who knows why? Kids have crazy ideas.
On weekends, “class” wasn’t in session, so I was usually able to go to work with my mother. I enjoyed helping her.
My mother was (and is) a “cleaning worker,” and to earn a living she had to clean other people’s shops and offices. She always took pride in her work. Or perhaps it just was pride in having a job. I never knew exactly which.
My father (now dead) was a construction worker, and he built houses for other people while we lived in a rented shithole. He also took pride in his work. Or perhaps it was also just pride in having a job. Again, I didn’t know which.
Even as a child, a deep feeling of hostility was beginning to grow within me toward what we now call “wage-labor,” but what was simply called “work” back then. Somehow, my daily reality was teaching me that those who had nothing were being forced to sell their time as well as their energy to whose who had everything.
When I asked my parents why there were poor people and rich people, they told me it had always been that way since the beginning of time. My parents’ “mentality” always shocked me: beggars were beggars because they were lazy, whores where whores because they were depraved, thieves were thieves because they were evil.
You had to work, obey, be honest, and be a “good Christian,” always willing to suffer and turn the other cheek. Someday, in the “great beyond,” we would find our reward.
When I was a child, I was embarrassed to say that my mother was a “cleaning worker.” Now, I feel embarrassed for having been ashamed of my mother, for having been ashamed of being poor (I mean “proletarian,” since we never had to go begging)—as if having been born poor, in the heart of a proletarian family, was a “sin” or something you chose.
No, I couldn’t get used to that “order of things.” I didn’t want to accept such an order. I didn’t want to be a proud worker who worked for “other people” and sold his time, his strength, all his energy, and sometimes even his Soul for money. . . .
To me, prison wasn’t anything distant or mysterious. Half the people in my neighborhood had been or were currently locked up in some cell.
Very early in the morning on (prison) visiting days, I would watch mothers, sisters, and wives (why are women always the ones who unconditionally make trips to prison year after year, while it’s the “men” who disappear into thin air after no time at all?) set off with their little plastic bags full of food and clothing to wait for the bus that would drop them off near the prison.
Off those women went, with clean clothes and food that were often bought on “account” (credit), because in those days money and well-paid work were in short supply in my neighborhood. That’s exactly why so many people were in prison. It had nothing to do with being “lazy,” “depraved,” or “evil.” Not everyone wanted to join the diaspora of immigration (like my parents did) or exile, so instead of accepting the exploitation of wage-labor or the dictatorship of the post-Franco market, they decided to “steal” or “take up arms” against that entire order of things.
Those women who bought on “credit” and marched with their little plastic bags like a silent army toward prison, often depriving themselves of food so that their sons, brothers, and husbands would never have to do without their little package of food and clean clothes, were the very embodiment of love and solidarity. I felt tremendous love and respect for them.
One of those women (she was both a mother and a grandmother) was called, or rather we called her, Doña Cristina. She was a little old wrinkled lady with a kind, cheerful personality, but so tiny that the plastic bags she carried almost touched the ground, making each step she took seem like a superhuman effort. On more than one occasion I helped carry her bags to the bus stop.
Doña Cristina’s son had been in prison for 12 years. He had stolen several cars (during the Franco era) that he later sold for parts to scrap yards and repair shops in order to make some money. He was one of those (thousands of) prisoners who didn’t benefit from the “political amnesty” at the end of the 1970s. He was also one of the rebels who organized the Committee of Prisoners in Struggle (COPEL, which was already in decline by then), and no one wanted anything to do with them.
If my family was “poor,” then Doña Cristina’s family lived in the most abject destitution. The subhuman conditions in which that woman survived (together with her daughter and her children’s children, and without a “husband” or any kind of economic support) infuriated me so much that I decided to help her out. . . .
It was the summer of 1982.
Like every morning, a swarm of human beings was set in motion. They spread out in all directions like tiny worker ants—little rows and groups of men, women, and children on the way to their workplaces and schools. From their outfits and uniforms, it was easy to figure out their job, schooling, and even the “social class” they belonged to.
Few workers went to work in their own cars. Most of them used public transportation or woke up a little earlier and went on foot.
I was sitting at the wheel of a Seat 131 I’d stolen that very night from another part of the city. My friends’ faces were tense, observing every movement on the streets adjacent to the Bank—every car, every person, everything.
I watched a cleaning worker enter the Bank at this early hour: the headscarf covering her hair, the yellow rubber gloves, the little plastic bucket that probably held cleaning products and supplies. I was reminded of my mother, who was doing exactly the same thing as this woman, but in another country 2,500 kilometers away.
Toni tapped my shoulder and told me to move the car. Here, parked right in front of the Bank, we were drawing too much attention to ourselves.
Toni was known as “Lefty.” Years later he was found murdered alongside his girlfriend Margot. Both of them had been shot in the head. Word on the street was that it was the work of the Vigo police department’s Robbery Squad.
Toni was 15 years older than me, so he must have been around 30 at the time. He had just recently been released from prison and was part of a group that was responsible for supporting and disseminating the struggle of prisoners.
I always liked his demeanor. He didn’t talk too much, and when he did speak, he was usually very specific.
Moure (who committed suicide years later) was sitting next to me in the passenger’s seat. He winked at me, smiling while he cleaned the oil off the weapons he had in his lap.
Moure also belonged to the prisoner solidarity group. Like Toni, he was older than me and had been in prison.
We drove to the outskirts of the city since there usually wasn’t any police presence there. After all, the poor didn’t need to be “protected” from their misery. The money was downtown, in the Banks.
Once we were out in the sticks, we got out of the car to stretch our legs a bit. We’d spent the whole night driving around, and we were tired and needed sleep.
Toni picked up a twig. In the dirt, he began to sketch out the positions we would take up and the steps we would follow during the robbery. We also discussed the roads and routes we would use for our escape after the robbery.
During this first action, I would have to remain in the car and “cover our withdrawal” in case the pigs showed up. For the task, Moure handed me a Winchester repeating rifle that very much reminded me of the ones “cowboys” carried in Hollywood movies.
Once everything was sorted out, we got back in the car and headed for our target. Each one of us was immersed in himself. At such moments, there is nothing left to say. Everything has already been said. All that remains is total silence, complete concentration, and indescribable tension.
We arrived. When we were a few meters from the Bank, Toni told me to stop the car, but we hadn’t yet come to a full stop when I saw him leap out as if propelled from a slingshot. With a ski mask covering his face and a pistol in his left hand, he shouted: “Come on, let’s go, let’s go!”
Moure followed a few steps behind, also masked and armed with a revolver.
I saw them disappear into the Bank. Some pedestrians were dumbstruck by the whole scene. They were staring at the Bank, and then they looked in my direction.
I didn’t know exactly what I was supposed to do with these “spectators,” but to calm my nerves I decided to get out of the car and do something. I grabbed the rifle and approached them, saying something like: “Move along assholes! Get out of here before I start shooting!”
I wasn’t wearing a ski mask, and the only thing partially covering my face was a pair of sunglasses. Luckily, it wasn’t necessary to repeat my threats. The spectators left the scene. I remained outside the car, watching the Bank with my rifle pointed down the street in case the pigs showed up. My heart was beating furiously in my chest. I reached for my asthma inhaler, then remembered that I had left it at home. My hands were sweating. Each minute became an eternity. If the pigs appeared, I was prepared to shoot. That’s what we had agreed to. I told myself that next time I wasn’t going to stay in the car. It was better to be inside the Bank. Finally, I saw my friends exit the Bank and come running in the direction of the car. I jumped in, threw the rifle in the back seat, and picked them up.
In the car, all the tension and energy that had built up during the robbery was released. My friends were all smiles, and so was I. They joked about how I looked with the rifle and sunglasses. We took the prearranged route at top speed, and I left them at a spot we had chosen in advance, where they hid themselves, the weapons, and the money. I had to get rid of the car far away from our “base,” and I usually torched the cars we used.
A few days later, Doña Cristina found a bag full of 150,000 pesetas on her doorstep. Around the neighborhood, graffiti appeared in red paint: Total amnesty! All prisoners to the streets!
The neighborhood leftists talked about “political prisoners,” but people in the neighborhood didn’t understand them. After all, the “political prisoners” had already been released thanks to two partial amnesties. They talked about “solidarity,” about “freedom,” but only for prisoners from their organizations. What about the prisoners from the neighborhood?
I didn’t attend “political” meetings. I was 15 years old and didn’t understand what the people there were saying. Also, it was always the same ones who spoke. They talked like “television personalities.”
I said goodbye to my friends with an embrace. They had a meeting to go to. I was planning to rob a food warehouse in Revilla and then distribute the food throughout the neighborhood. It was an action I managed to pull off successfully.
“Call me when you’re planning another action. I’m just not interested in politics.”
Over the course of two years, we managed to successfully expropriate over 20 bank branches and a dozen gas stations, along with other actions of that type. . . .
Almost 30 years have now gone by since those events, those times, those “speeches,” yet differentiating between prisoners still seems to be “topical.”
It’s absurd to think that only prisoners with political consciousness are worthy of our “solidarity.” As if Doña Cristina’s son wasn’t also a result of the system’s contempt. As if the “lumpen” were incapable of drawing conclusions from their own experiences and circumstances. As if their lack of “education” and “culture,” of money and support, wasn’t punishing and ostracizing enough in itself.
In prison, those differences are meaningless and irrelevant, because the architecture of prison doesn’t “mix” prisoners according to their “political ideology.” It’s quite the opposite. Time, architecture, “employees,” conditions, attitudes, and individualities are all artificially constructed in such a way that the “day-to-day operations” produce relationships of power and coercion—in other words, alienation, contempt, etc.
One defense mechanism (or even better, self-defense) against these false “dichotomies” (compartmentalizations), inside as well as outside (the System is the same on both sides of the walls), is informal organization based not only on action, but on any activity in accordance with a “distribution of tasks” that pursues two simultaneous ends: “living our lives in the here and now,” but also defining more “ambitious” goals that “transcend” our own “individuality” without dehumanizing or alienating anyone in the name of some hypothetical “community” or “communism.”
What we want, or at least what I want, is the disappearance of power relations based on coercion: to live and act according to the principles of our hearts, to see “others” not as “objects” and/or “subjects” but as individuals.
Freedom doesn’t mean “alienating” ourselves. It means understanding our common “interests” and desires in pursuit of a shared liberty, and in that sense living/organizing and acting/thinking in concert without having to “sacrifice” oneself to delegation, participation, dirtying one’s hands, getting involved, accepting “responsibilities,” etc.
No single organization takes precedence over my individual liberty, and I don’t want to be part of any revolution that doesn’t let me dance.