What is the Anarchist Black Cross?
Since its inception at the beginning of the 20th century in Czarist Russia, the mission of the Anarchist Black Cross has been to contribute to the defense of mass movements working for liberation from state and capitalist domination. Historically, the ABC has organized support and defense of political prisoners and prisoners of war, maintained physical solidarity against police during factory and school occupations, organized self-defense and armed defense of social movements and fulfilled a broad range of roles within mass movement defense.
For more information, check out this history of the ABC, compiled by members of the ABCF.
The current situation
There are currently more than 75 political prisoners and prisoners of war (PP/POWs) in the U.S. Many of them were active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 70s – from the Black Panther Party, American Indian Movement, Chicano and Puerto Rican liberation movements, anti-imperialist and other struggles that are the roots of our social justice movements today. Many of them were targeted by the FBI’s illegal counterintelligence program, or COINTELPRO, which attacked activist groups through harassment, infiltration, framing and even assassination. Some of these activists have already spent more than 30 years in prison. We’re seeing similar arrests now, as the FBI again uses “war on terror” rhetoric to target environmental activists.
What is the Toronto ABC?
We are a collective of prisoner solidarity activists who focus on political prisoner support. We have been working in solidarity with political prisoners for almost ten years, first with Montreal ABCF and now Toronto ABC, collaborating on various projects and initiatives.
Involving prisoners in our work
Political prisoners continue to be effective organizers, despite their imprisonment. The idea for our major project, 4strugglemag, took root in 2002, when political prisoner Jaan Laaman expressed a desire to develop a publication that gave voice to political prisoners – where they could share their insights, not just about “prison issues,” but about current world issues, struggles and events. As they continue their activism and advocacy for social justice, prisoners need outside help facilitating their work. There are many challenges we can help overcome, from the covering expense of printing and mailing materials to battling censorship, which is especially rampant in “special housing” or “control units” – the current euphemism for solitary confinement.
Prisons, using physical segregation and censorship, work to silence these vital voices. We must, as anarchists and activists, renew our commitment to raising prisoners’ voices in our work – and not just in “prison-centric” publications and events. every anarchist publication should regularly include in-depth prisoner commentary, and every anarchist event should feature statements from prisoners. These efforts should extend beyond tokenistic inclusion to actually involving prisoners in planning and decision-making processes. In concrete terms, this will require initiative and creativity from individuals and groups to find workable solutions.
- Can you integrate prisoner members in your collective?
- Can you begin regular communication with prisoner support organizations?
- Can you collaborate on long-term projects with prisoners?