A new network of Anarchist Black Cross groups, structured around anti-authoritarian principles and the original vision of prison abolition, is forming, and is seeking input from everyone.
In November, Austin ABC, Antiprison in Europe and a Houston organizing group presented “A New Draft Proposal for an Anarchist Black Cross Network.” The new proposal was inspired by Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin’s “A Draft Proposal for an Anarchist Black Cross Network,” which he wrote in 1979 to take the anarchist anti-prison struggle toward concrete solutions. The new proposal suggests a new, decentralized, consensus-based coalition of grassroots collectives inspired by the ABC movement’s original vision — a vision that sees prisons and criminalization as tools to repression of the state, that sees the support of all prisoners as important, and that sees injecting anarchist viewpoints in the mix.
Over the last 15 years, the Anarchist Black Cross movement in North America has faced a number of troubles. Throughout the 1990’s many ABC collectives disappeared, including Toronto ABC, Minneapolis ABC, Brew City (Milwaukee) ABC, Fourth World ABC, Nightcrawlers ABC and Wind Chill Factor/Chicago ABC. Along with that trend was the rise of the Anarchist Black Cross Federation, which since its inception has been the subject of controversy among many anarchists for conflicts with several anarchist prisoners; its lack of support efforts for social prisoners, earth liberation prisoners and prison organizers; and emphasis on firearms trainings (via its Tactical Defense Caucus). ABCF itself had a split in 1995 over similar issues.
The new network seems to be a departure from ABCF’s work in that its focus is geared at serving all prisoners, relating anti-prison politics back into the support work, and making a break from vanguardist mindsets of past efforts. Most notable in the proposal:
“There should be no ‘party line’ of the ABC Network. As anarchists, we believe in building a culture of resistance rather than legislating it. How you or your group conducts your effort must solely up to you, although you may want to link up to some activists and resources, work through ideas, learn together and help in others’ campaigns. But regardless, how you organize your group must still be up to your local conditions and membership.
“The ABC Network should do its work in a broad, nonsectarian manner. You should not have to be explicitly named an ABC group to join. Conformity to certain naming, uniform moral/”security” codes, focus, etc., all correctly criticized in previous work, cannot be part of a successful initiative. This is a fundamental difference between the proposed Network and previous initiatives — having the involvement, input, comments, criticisms and efforts of local organizers, prisoners and groups is a necessity and privilege for an ABC Network to take shape. It is not a necessity or privilege for a network to form and communicate with activists… loose, unannounced networks are already happening. This is merely an effort to make it stronger and unite many around the ideas we’re already struggling toward.”
One of the proposal’s organizers said they authors tried to involve a diversity of movements, acknowledging that, while there may be disagreements, the fight against incarceration was important.
“We made great efforts to reflect the good tendency of many anarchist anti-prison activists who work on a class-struggle basis, rather than a dogmatic one,” wrote Ernesto Aguilar, a co-author of the new network proposal and a onetime ABCF organizer, recently. “It is essential that we legitimize, support, foster and celebrate the many facets of resistance — from the struggles waged by the Black Liberation Army to eco-sabotage against the destroyers of the planet to civil disobedience against oppressive, sexist, racist, classist laws to women’s resistance against oppression (among the most discredited and undervalued struggle today, primarily because it isn’t regarded as “political” enough to the mainly male prison movement) to the idealistic youth facing batons and pepper spray for the first time in the name of animal liberation to the anti-colonial/independence/indigenous endeavors in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the ‘First World.’ Obviously we could get into specifics of good and bad for each of these examples — what we agree with, what we don’t, etc. — but the bottom line is that, in the endgame, we’re no different from each other in the eyes of the state, and we become targets as we pose a greater challenge to their ‘way of life’ and social control.
“Ali Khalid Abdullah put the idea of solidarity (despite differences) in a very honest way in his piece on the Chattanooga Three: ‘I would give my life to defend any comrade who is being denied justice. If I felt any other way then I am fooling all of you with my pretense of being an anarchist. Of being for complete and total revolutionary change for all people, not just for some people, or one group or segment of people. I fight injustice everywhere and anywhere I see it because if I don’t that same injustice done to someone else will eventually be done to me. This is how we should be thinking and should feel about one another in the struggle for anarchist principles. But to leave one dangling and having to beg and scrounge to find the means to fight against the evils of oppression is flat out wrong and unjustifiable.’ More clearly, and from a personal level, I may not be a vegan animal liberationist, an independista, etc., but I’ll stand up with them any day against oppression.”
Last year, ABC groups across Europe, where the prisoner support movement has remained strong, agreed at a meeting in Belgium to start to build a network on their own, and indications are that they’ll connect to the new network. The forming network has set as its initial goals the growth and support of new ABC groups, getting feedback on its network proposal and eventually sponsoring an ABC meeting in North America in 2002. The last North American ABC gathering was in 1994.
To get a free copy of “A New Draft Proposal for an Anarchist Black Cross Network,” you can go to www.anarchistblackcross.org on the Internet or send a self-addressed stamped (first-class) envelope to P.O. Box 667233, Houston, Texas 77266-7233.