Interview/Mexico: Between an institutional crisis and self-management efforts

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Lorcon

We publish the interview of our two colleagues from the Mexican Anarchist Federation, done on August 2016, covering the volatile situation of the country. Evidently, this interview isn’t a thorough report of the complex situation of Mexico, but the main points of these last years are confronted and tackled through an anarchist perspective: structural reforms (particularly in education), the issue of land distribution, drug trade, the indigenous community and gender violence.

R1: Mexico is currently on the verge of a social war due to a rapacious and wild form of capitalism that has corrupted the lives of everybody and all social sectors: in the workplace, education and even in rural areas through the confiscation of land from the farmers, now backed by the law. Similarly, the drug trade controls both the neighbourhoods and the State as a whole, hence why we refer to Mexico as a “Narco-State”. From 2006 until nowadays this system has provoked the death of more than 130.000 people: 130.000 assassinated by hit men, known as “sicarios”. There are now more than 25.000 missing people due to the current state of Mexico: if a drug trafficker wants economic manpower in this country they usually invade a village with a jeep, full of hired assassins, and kidnap people to make them work for them as slaves and if anyone resists they are murdered and buried in a ditch. When the 43 students disappeared from the Rural School of Ayotzinapa we all expressed our solidarity with the families of the missing students, but the real number of missing people wasn’t 43: in total, it was between 25.000 and 30.000.

D: How are you organizing yourselves as an anarchist movement in Mexico? What is the situation in the country?

mess2R2: This system also provokes the systematic assassination of women, directly tied into sex trafficking. This is entirely caused by impunity because nowadays it isn’t legally possible to report a violent friend, father or brother, so lots of women are killed by their own relatives. All of this happens within a context in which the social decomposition of the Mexican state is increasingly creating the destruction of social relationships and collectivism.

R1: Just to give you an idea on what my colleague is saying, this year (from January until April) in a locality of Mexico almost 12.000 women were killed purely due to their gender. These homicides are a sex-based hate crime known now as Femicide.

R2: In such a context, as anarchists we are directly impacting this trend through several methods. For instance, we are working with indigenous communities and certain social sectors not only to associate ourselves with their struggle, but to also position ourselves through our anarchist ideas in the discussion, organization and resistance of certain sectors of the country.

R1: We look for ways to help the indigenous community in their fight against the confiscation and expropriation of land. We have also been involved in meetings organized by indigenous members in defence of the earth and against mining extraction and drug trade. With all these means of communication and meetings we produce counter-information, publish our own newspaper and with the students we discuss problem surrounding the drug trade, dealing with these fundamental questions: who gets richer from this business and which are the sectors in society that suffer the most negative consequences from the drug trade? We also examine the social cynicism and despair generated by the working conditions and we contribute to these fights. In Mexico we call this process “generating tension and exposing the contradictions”. We create political tension, discuss problems with the workers and participate in very specific actions: on the 1st of December 2012 there was an unprecedented clash in the history of Mexico between many protesters and security forces.

In that moment we launched the fighting strategy of the Revolutionary Anarchist Alliance, formed by students, our Federation and anarchist sympathizers. We managed to gather 1000-2000 anarchists for marches against the systematic repression conducted by our government. The police invaded some of the strikers inside their own homes, so they had to end leaving their houses.

R2: A media witch-hunt masterminded through the big means of communication emerged against anarchists: TV, radio and widely diffused national newspapers. This hostility was aimed against anybody opposed to the political parties of the country. Anarchists and people from the non-institutional opposition were persecuted through raids in their houses and received constant death threats if they continued protesting.

R1: We call this media and police violence.

D: Another question: how have you intervened in the teacher’s protests of these past months?

R1: We have just created an “autonomous group of teachers”. With the new education reform a new law devoted to the evaluation of the teaching staff has been introduced. This evaluative law is an idea, a mandate from the organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international organization of entrepreneurs that demands that the government must evaluate its own teachers in order to certify the professional quality. What the government refers to as “quality education” to us means privatization: one the one hand you fire one and a half million teachers, permanently taking away all their rights, and on the other hand you replace them as temporary workers. With the new educational law the intervention from external and economic figures has been planned: it is a reform that steers towards privatization. The educational reform belongs to something known as “structural reforms”. The current government, guided by Enrique Peneñeto, has started organizing and promoting structural reforms that were mandates, dictated by international financial organisms like the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Mexican government started this with the “Pact for Mexico”, a pact between the political and economic class. The economic class can count on the support of Parliament members from left, centre and right-wing groups to ensure that there will be no opposition so that they can quickly pass all the structural reforms. They also passed a new work-related law in which the worker is stripped of all his guarantees and rights achieved through the Mexican revolution. There will be a healthcare reform after this educational one, there have already been financial reforms and an energy reform that has led to the privatization of all the energy industry. Particularly, on the educational reforms we have identified crucial problems: All educational workers, teachers and academics will stop being permanent workers and become workers with temporary contracts through “academic certifications” or “educative quality”. The government promised that there would be a wage increase for teachers, which was another lie.

R2: The educational law represents a severe restriction of worker’s rights disguised as a reform of the education sector, so that public opinion or people that don’t belong to this particular sector endorse it and discredit all the current teacher mobilizations. It is a pejorative reform of work conditions because workers at schools will have to lose all their rights from this supposed evaluation that will certify the quality of teachers. It supposedly defends the children’s rights towards education and providing a quality education, without ever defining this quality education.

Therefore, “Quality” is a word used to translate through capitalistic-industrial terms the educational matter and such evaluations are completely anti-pedagogical: 12 hours where you have to answer to questions on a series of laws, which you need to memorize to obtain a good assessment, instead of actual pedagogical topics used in the classes. Furthermore, this evaluation is unfair because, by standardizing the exam, it doesn’t take into account the enormous differences between rural and indigenous schools and so-called “superior schools” coursed by the rich. Another extremely negative aspect of the “educational reform” is that through it the state removes the financing of education by transforming schools into private institutions, thus forcing families to fully pay for everything. In the education system of Mexico only 1% of the internal product was invested, now not even that, and many people are unaware of this. We have informed workers and families about this particular factor and contributed, through whatever means possible, to create a movement that nowadays seeks to oppose this reform: in different places, states and cities of the republic, families are occupying schools with teachers and many representatives of the local community.

R1: Let’s say that the first factor is work. The Mexican government has sent their spokespersons to reassure teachers, telling them that they would only be evaluated to guarantee the quality of education. However, 80% of the teachers realized that this law reduces education into another commodity and deprives workers of their rights and autonomy.

D.: What is the relationship between the anarchist movement in Mexico and indigenous movements?

R1: We could say that this relationship is limited, in the sense that only some organizations are working with the indigenous communities. From 15 years the Anarchist Federation of Mexico and the Autonomous Collective have been carrying out work with indigenous communities and villages, especially in the area of Oaxaca. How do we do this? We have organized this through different ways, taking part in workshops with young people, women and farmers. In these workshops we all learn from each other respectively. It is like a self-sufficient training collective; everything is learnt, especially regarding agricultural matters. These indigenous communities then bring all the information that they have learnt into their own communities and share it.

For instance, in Oaxaca, which is a big region with 500 indigenous villages, it is very difficult to move an entire community to the city to attend a meeting. Hence, delegations come to the city meetings we arrange and then coordinate workshops in each of their communities. The second thing we do is express our solidarity and support with their demands for respect of their traditions and participate in their fights for the implementation of an organizational indigenous autonomy. For instance, in the coast, where they enslaved for many years the indigenous communities of the region, our comrades through the Zapatista Alliance have taken the land from the German owners and have collectivized it (70.000 hectares). Some tourist businesses were interested in acquiring it because we are referring to an area that is an hour and a half away from Puerto Escondido, a popular tourist destination. However our comrades refused because these are hectares that belong to indigenous communities. There are already indigenous groups that are working autonomously in the agro-alimentary sector: agricultural production and poultry companies where workers are organizing theirselves autonomously and the earned money is equally distributed between them. We are contributing in whatever ways possible to these events and we are constantly learning.

D.: Are there any self-organized groups against drug cartels, even if they aren’t strictly anarchist?

R1: At this moment we have Mexican people affected by an economic and political system, purposefully imposed by the ruling class, which has inflicted tears and blood through a government of death. However this suffering and pain is now transforming into anger. Mexico is angry, thus all forms of self-organizational fights have spread, directed towards those at the “top”. Many people are mad not only because of all the liberticidal reforms that have taken place in the country, but also because ever since 2006 there have been 130.000 homicides connected to drug cartels and we have almost 30.000 missing people. Some groups formed by our comrades, workers and indigenous members in the area of Guerrero have responded to these massacres by creating a community police: armed groups opposed to drug trafficking cartels, trying to guarantee the security in villages.

R2: Yes, in some regions people organize theirselves that way because the military and police are strictly connected to the drug trafficking cartel.

R1: In Mexico it is well-known that the Narco-State rules the country.
To give you a specific example of this, the 43 “missing” students of the rural school of Ayotzinapa, discussed everywhere in the media, were arrested by tmess4he police and killed later on by hit men of a cartel group, known as “Los Rojos”. The same state of the government has links with the drug trade: the government of the city of Veracruz has notorious connections with the cartel members of the group Los Zetas. Indeed, drug trafficking groups are ruling Mexico and many people know that even the military are deeply involved with cartels. In fact, as a way to not invest training their own members, the cartels prefer recruiting labourers directly from military schools in order to have members that know how to handle weapons and expand their turnover.

In particular, there have been two indigenous villages that were the first to arm and organize theirselves to fight against the government and the cartels, military, police and armed groups connected to the drug trafficking trade. Our comrades were there and resisted. It was a process of self-defence that has claimed many lives but continues, it resists. This trend has spread across many self-defence groups and many people nowadays begin to understand that it is important to oppose with weapons a criminal government comprised by drug traffickers and their accomplices.

Many villages have started arming theirselves, activating many strong movements of self-defence against cartels in the country. There is a self-defence coordination and this has started spreading across many villages, on the internet you can even find many videos. When the police and other institutional representatives of the drug trade arrive into a town where there is a clear disagreement between the community and the municipal president, the self-defence forces must confront the hit-men that are waiting for them, a confrontation is unavoidable. Wherever they manage to regain control, these groups of self-defence promote a new self-government system in which the local population are encouraged to organize theirselves in order to guarantee the safety of the villages from the violence and oppression of the cartels. When this happens the Mexican government sends in their military to fight against these self-defence groups instead of targeting actual drug traffickers.

D.: From what you have said, it is evident to see that in Mexico the government is the drug trafficking trade. This dismantles the whole argument of characters like Saviano that, in Italy, with the book “Zero Zero Zero”, have spread the idea that the drug trade is fought with more state-intervention, with more government action. This is also an idea diffused in the Anglo-Saxon world.

R2: The extension of the self-defence movement has started to resemble some of the revolution processes that the country had previously known with events like Morelos’ campaign (Mexican war of independence) or the advance of the Zapatistas during the era of the revolution: arm, arrive in a village, take a village, arm the population, teach it self-defence methods and then go into another village and repeat the same process.

What the Mexican government does is kill and attempt to split and divide the movement into two: this is what happens to some of the self-defence groups that are offered military support from the government, entrusting it legally to the defence of some of these villages, like in Michoacan. Meanwhile, those that continue fighting suffer attacks or are imprisoned in high security prisons, like in the case of dott. Mireles, one of the promoters of this disseminated campaign of defence. Firstly, they tried to kill him in an assassination attempt and then they imprisoned him in a high security prison.

As anarchists we participate as much as we can in this resistance movement that, not having a specific political ideology, possesses many libertarian features and fights with courage against the political, economic and military system that dominates and oppresses Mexico.

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“Get out Aguirre, Murderer”

Translated by Pietro Casati (pietrokuyath@gmail.com) for Theory Without Borders (https://theorywithoutborders.wordpress.com/)

Taken from newspaper Umanità Nova, year 96, number 28: http://www.umanitanova.org/2016/09/23/tra-crisi-istituzionale-e-spinte-autogestionarie/

Interview with the DAF (Revolutionary Anarchist Action)

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Libertarian perspectives for the Middle East

The interview that we share here was produced during August 2016, just two weeks after the coup attempt of the 16th of July. This also happened a month before the beginning of the big Turkish manoeuvre on the orographic right side of the Euphrates in the Syrian territory to counteract the presence of the SDF militia that had taken that region from ISIS, strategical for the supply lines of the Caliphate.

The following interview is the product of a meeting of several hours with a spokesperson of the Turko-Kurdish anarchist organization DAF (Revolutionary Anarchist Action) and it isn’t summarized. The precise interview has been added with fragments from the rest of the meeting.

It is a very urgent piece on our current events, hence why we also recommend reading the article translated by Meydan, the newspaper of the DAF, published on 26 edition year 96 of Umanità Nova (Fight for power, Fight against power). We consider the following interview a necessity to understand the Turko-Kurdish situation and the actions of our comrades in those areas.

D: How has the situation developed in Turkey during these last weeks? Is Erdogan’s power stronger after the coup attempt? How was the meeting between the AKP and Hizmet?

R: As you know, the organization of Gülen and Hizmet was active before the start of the governments of the AKP. When the AKP became a government group they formed a coalition, as Gülen’s movement was very noticeable from within the state apparatuses, police, military and legal courts. Hizmet has several schools, controls part of the education system, universities, the schools for preparation of university entrance tests, high schools, along with the media and healthcare. They all hold immense power. The AKP and Gülen have made a coalition and cooperated, especially in the justice system, thanks to the presence of Gülen’s members among all of the judges and lawyers.  They have proceeded with the arrests and impeachment of many members of the armed forces, members of Kemalist groups and senior officers and top advisers of the general staff.

After this they replaced the arrested members with their own men and have further strengthened themselves, both the AKP and Hizmet, not only in the ranks of the military but also in all the other state apparatuses that were purged, like the police, intelligence services and bureaucracy.

However, during this time disagreements started emerging from these two groups and Erdogan launched a campaign aimed towards expelling Hizmet from the state. However the Gülenists intervened: their members in the justice system started investigating members of the AKP and carried out trials against many government ministers, their families and even towards Erdogan’s own son, accusing him of corruption and embezzlement of public funds.

This has been a critical step, followed by popular protests that have marked a difficult period for the AKP. However Erdogan’s party managed to impose legislative changes that eventually reshaped the laws on corruption, rendering all of the Gülenists efforts through the justice system in vain.

Obviously, after this Erdogan proceeded to attack the Gülenists. He consequently closed all schools dedicated to the preparation of university entrance tests controlled by Gülenists. Eventually a real war situation between these power groups started developing, with both of them targeting each other through different methods.

These legal changes from Erdogan were aimed towards protecting the bureaucracy of the AKP and purging Gülenist groups from the state. This was a huge operation towards the Gülenists, who soon suffered the consequences. For a period they remained passive, however at a certain moment they understood that thanks to their presence in the state they still had at their disposal plenty of useful information, including the government’s plans for completely suppressing them from the scene. Consequently, they began planning the coup.  

Additionally, during the end of September 2016, an alternation was expected in regards to high ranking members of the armed forces and the Gülenists predicted that they would have been expelled from positions related to the military apparatus, so the time to quickly take action was critical. A corroborated hypothesis is that the coup failed due to an information leak that forced the leaders of the coup to rush the start of the operation, acting without their full force or because the factions of the armed forces that had sided with them withdrew their support and warned the government. The failed coup d’état provided the AKP with the perfect opportunity for attacking the Gülenists and proceed with an extreme purge against them. Having worked together for years and both being deeply rooted in state structures, it seems like they all had information on each other’s corresponding moves.

Around ten thousand people linked to Hizmet have been fired from the public service sector. A state of emergency was declared and the government was able to operate without having to answer to parliament.

At the moment they are only targeting Gülens group, however now they have declared that they want to punish all organizations referred to as terrorist, like the anarchist revolutionary forces, along with socialists and Kurdish forces.  

D: What consequences will the failed coup have on the Kurdish situation?

In Bakur [Turkish Kurdistan, ndt.] there have been severe confrontations during these last months between the government and guerrilla forces, even if these decreased during the period preceding the coup. However, the government has declared that it will continue to destroy Kurdish cities and villages. The reasons for this manner of action are complex: the strategy of destruction planned by urban spaces is bent on rebuilding a largely controllable space with longer roads that are more accessible for armoured vehicles, but there are also economic reasons: the goal is creating a war economy and favour the processes of land grabbing. After the devastation of the Kurdish villages and cities these will have to be rebuilt. The players that are buying the land are public figures, public building companies, along with private ones: builders linked to the AKP. In fact the main sectors that support the government party are those involved in building constructions, as there are many builders connected to this party. This is one of the main reasons for the destruction of the Kurdish cities and villages. It isn’t very clear what will happen exactly, but we speculate that they will resume arresting Kurdish politicians, journalists, lawyers and activists. The HPD has expressed their opposition to both the attempted coup and the state of emergency. For now the repressive entities are dealing with Gülen, but the next step will probably be to attack the Kurdish political organization.

D: What is the situation of the left-wing Kurds and what is the influence of Marxist-Leninist parties that dominated social movements during the previous decades?

Before the coup of 1980 there was a powerful Marxist-Leninist movement and there were intense struggles in the workplace. After the coup for years no one could do anything, there was a very intense repression. During the 90’s the parties reorganized theirselves, but many of their members had already been arrested or forced into exile, so they had to restructure theirselves again from the very beginning. However, obviously the situation had completely changed from the 70’s when the extreme-left were hegemonic.

For the entirety of the 90’s the same unions opposed any sort of change and weren’t very active. After 2000 we can see how they came back to change certain factors in the workplace. Workers began organizing theirselves again, like in the years preceding the coup of 1980 and mobilizations resumed. However, evidently in Turkey things change very quickly, from year to year. For instance, during the 90’s and 2000 on one year it was possible to strike and protest, whilst on the following year the laws would have changed and repression started to increase again and after that it died down, all of this happening very quickly. And now the m-l (Marxist-Leninist) parties have certain influence but have diminished compared to the past, they are active especially in the Alevi areas [heterodox trend of Shia Islam, ndt]. Some groups are radicalized in universities, however there aren’t any large organizations. The important issue in Turkey is that there is an ongoing war: the war between the state and the Kurdish people, both in Turkey and Syria, with Turkish interventions. Hence, m-l parties had to take action and deploy their forces. Most of them support the HDP (People’s Democratic Party) and Kurdish movements and lots of m-l groups have been fully involved through solidarity actions with the Kurdish people.

D: How is the anarchist movement in Turkey and Kurdistan?

In Turkey the anarchist ideology was only disseminated during the end of the 90’s. There were small groups that published magazines, distributed translations from foreign publications. There weren’t any organizations, just small uncoordinated groups. In the DAF we started organizing ourselves in 2007, with the goal of creating anarchist activities and traditions for the areas of Turkey, Kurdistan and generally across the Middle East. The idea was to set an example and an anarchist tradition. At the moment we are organized especially in Istanbul and Amed, but we are also active in villages and smaller cities. We are well-known politically and respected, even among m-l groups. For nine years we have been able to create a history of anarchist struggles.

Our role in the solidarity with the Kurdish struggle has been very important for us because in a country where there is a war you must, whether you like it or not, take a stance on this issue. As anarchists, we have been involved during the revolution of Rojava and the attacks of the Turkish state in Bakur.

We believe that our involvement with these Kurdish political groups is important because it allows a reinforcement of libertarian practices among the members of these organizations that before weren’t strictly libertarian.

D.: What will the consequences of the failed coup be on the anarchist movement and, generally, on social movements?

Clearly the failed coup and the state of emergency are a huge threat for the anarchist movement. The state can perform repressive operations against any social opposition, it can arrest activists more easily. Already in the last months there has been a lot repression, especially towards Kurdish groups, but in the future there will be ulterior repressive actions targeting everybody and all political opposition movements, facilitated by the state of emergency.

D.: How is the current state repression affecting the anarchist movement as a whole? Are there any anarchist prisoners? Is it possible to contact them? Has the situation changed after the attempted coup?

Currently there are anarchist prisoners but, generally speaking, they are not in prison for their anarchist militancy, aside from anarchist conscientious objectors. Most of them became anarchists when they were already incarcerated and many have previous political experience through socialist or Kurdish groups. They started contacting us, so we began publishing articles from these prisoners and they organize theirselves. There are also vegan or vegetarian anarchist prisoners that have carried out specific fights to obtain food suitable for their diets and have also started hunger strikes to get food from the outside.

Usually political prisoners are under a lot of strong pressure in prisons but at the same time they are also well organized. Both left-wing revolutionary and Kurdish prisoners are very organized, they manage to have meetings, self-education and sport sessions. Evidently, this has been obtained thanks to the big struggles during the last years. When a new political prisoner arrives in the prison these inmates manage to have him placed in a nearby cell to stay in touch and not leave him alone.

After the failed coup things are beginning to change. It is harder for political prisoners to meet their family and lawyers. Additionally, prisons have been overcrowded, thus entailing further problems. Therefore, there are issues but the organization of political prisoners is strong and I think that they will be able to overcome these problems if there is enough support from outside the prisons.

D.: What is the situation of right-wing groups like Lupi Grigi and other religious groups? Are there any links between these groups and the current government?

Nationalistic parties, like the MHP, are in the government. The MHP is the fourth strongest party, after the AKP, CHP [Kemalist party, ndt.] and HDP. In fact, they have 40 parliament members. However they are not as active as they were during the 70’s and 80’s when they conducted paramilitary actions in the streets. They have also changed their attitudes in regards to the past but they share many of the AKP’s traits, especially against revolutionary organizations and Kurdish groups. They even maintain that the positions of the AKP states aren’t nationalistic enough, yet they still support them.

After the failed coup both the MHP and CHP have furthered their relationship with the AKP. Erdogan and the AKP have explicitly invited them to help the government fight against Gülen. Furthermore, these parties have proved themselves to be very radical through their support of the Turkish government against Hizmet.

On the Kurdish issue the MHP demands even stronger attacks towards Kurdish groups. However, they are satisfied by the AKP’s actions against them.

They clearly state that the government is adopting their ideas on the Kurdish issue: attack the population, massacre them and destroy the city.

D.: In the last years we have seen mobilizations in the mining and industry sectors. From Italy we have been able to see the fights in the FIAT factories of Turkey, but we know that there have been more widespread struggles. What is the general situation in these fights? How have you been involved in these workplace struggles?

Most workers are organized through the main unions. One of the most important ones is the DSK, but it isn’t a radical union. The main struggles in the workplace during this latest period have been in the productive sectors. These have the worst working conditions and there is a high rate of work-related deaths, like in the mining, textile (especially in jean factories) and construction sectors. Therefore the fights are aimed towards directly saving lives rather than achieving the usual rights.

In the last year we have been active in the Construction Workers Union, a new union that isn’t federated to other unions like DISK. It is an independent union, like the DAF and we are very involved and active in this organization. This union is working towards conveying worker’s opinions. For being such a newly-formed union it has become well-known very quick because it adopts campaigns of direct action: closing down construction sites and also manifesting around construction companies. This strategy has often been successful: victory is achieved within a few days, on some occasions even after a couple of hours because it directly stops production and the economic damage it causes to the owners is immediate. On the whole, in Turkey there are worker organizations that are spreading the fight to obtain better economic conditions. We find it reaffirming to see this new style of industrial action emerging, which is much more radical than those of bigger unions like DISK.  Many small unions are embracing more radical and direct styles of fighting. I think that in the next years there will be good opportunities for anarcho-syndicalism and anarchist intervention amongst workers.

D.: First you mentioned that one of the main foundations of the AKP is the construction sector. Therefore, we imagine that the fights of the new unions through direct action campaigns in this sector directly damage the government? At the moment have there been any repressive processes towards these unions?

In the attempts of Ankara we lost 5 comrades who were very active through trade unions, but other than that there haven’t been any particular repressive attacks so far.

The system of fighting by blocking construction sites and protesting in front of building offices has one clear advantage: other than damaging the owner’s economic interests it also immediately ruins the public image and reputation of these companies, which is very important in our society. Furthermore, as there are many ongoing construction projects even a single day of fighting by striking loses their precious time and the bosses prefer making concessions to the workers rather than asking for police intervention, which could risk extending the strikes and losing money for the building company.

However, evidently in some cases the police have heavily intervened against workers. But at the moment we can’t say that there has been a particularly strong and special pressure from the government towards trade unions that organize direct action campaigns.

D.: Antimilitarism is an important point for the anarchist movement. How have you approached this argument and what activities do you carry out in this area?

In Turkey there is obligatory military service and this is one of the main issues that antimilitary organizations are fighting against. There is a strong movement of conscious objectors, we are among the most active groups in this area and we can say that all anarchists are objectors and we are conducting a fight against mandatory military service. Due to this anti-militarist perspective we are constantly accused by the public opinion of instigating hatred, mutiny and desertion. Many of us have been arrested for not showing up to the military service. We have a group, the Association for Conscience Objection, founded in Istanbul but active in all the country that gives legal assistance to those that don’t want to go to the army or those in the army that want to get out. A common action for the objectors is publicly stating their own opposition to the military service and militarism through press releases or declarations done in public spaces. Usually the objectors are arrested but we start providing support and legal assistance, along with organizing solidarity campaigns. We are part of War Resistance International and the European Bureau for Conscious Objection. We publish reports of our activities and of those associations with which we have international contacts, as every year we try to achieve the widest amount of diffusion possible.

D.: In the last years of the AKP government we have been able to see how oppression has increased against women. How does the anarchist movement deal with this topic? Are there an anarcho-feminist movements?

In Turkey there is a feminist movement and there are anarchist women. We have a very serious issue with the murder rate of women, so there are campaigns dealing with this issue. Obviously the AKP government, like many other governments, attacks women. The AKP wants women to stay home, be mothers and educate their sons to become soldiers. There are explicit declarations from the government encouraging this attitude. There are government campaigns against abortion, which at the moment has been banned beyond the tenth week, so many women are fighting for this liberty.

Anarchist women are part of the general movement of female struggles and they are trying to create their own organizations in order to take independent actions related back to anarchism.

Text taken from Umanita Novà: http://www.umanitanova.org/2016/09/14/prospettive-libertarie-per-il-medio-oriente/

Translated by Pietro Casati (pietrokuyath@gmail.com)

“There is a lot of optimism and hope that things will change”

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Conversations with Daniel Troconis from Maracaibo  

Black Chronicles are a series of interviews conducted to different anarchists currently living in Venezuela, narrating all the struggles that they face living in one of the few socialist regimes of the 21st century. These interviews deal with the everyday lives of men and women and highlight the precarious situations to which they have been subjected.

In this edition we interview Daniel Troconis, a libertarian colleague from Maracaibp, collaborator with El Libertario and also a musician in the bands Doña Maldad and Mar de Rabia. He will be discussing topics like being a father and an antiauthoritarian in the current state of Venezuela

  • Let’s start with a common topic amongst all Venezuelans…Have you ever been robbed? Are you part of the crime statistics?

First of all hello everybody, thank you Rodolfo for conducting this interview and I congratulate your initiative of alternative journalistic documentation…Uff of course, I have been robbed since they stole my watch when I was 13 years old; I never used that watch again and lately they have stolen things from my home. Therefore, I would imagine that I do belong to the crime statistics.

  • How is the whole health situation in Zulia? Are the CDI health centres working?

Well we are going through a very hard time, almost pandemic…What can I tell you? My father died in a village from a heart attack, they moved him to 2 CDI’s that were closed at the time. When we arrived to the hospital of the Villa del Rosario (a village near Zulia) it was already too late. Not long ago my son suffered an asthma crisis and they gave him breathing therapies, however the utter state of precariousness is undeniable.

  • Is it difficult to combine activism with being a father?

Well I think it depends on the occasion. My son is 8 years old and I bring him to all the manifestations against the Arco Minero and against the exploitation of coal in the mountains of Perijá. I think that if we are both involved, we are together. I’d say that the task of being a parent in this country has become another form of activism.

  • How can we educate and strive for liberation?

We live in constant reflection, especially with the whole dismantling of the culture imposed on us for so many years. In Venezuela the last decade has become even stronger through media manipulation towards cultural hegemony, similar to the one during Chavismo. Therefore, we have fought to dismantle capitalism, along with the lies and official narrative. The education that we provide our children must be truly libertarian and transformed to break away from religious fanaticism and politics, and directed towards equal and collective societies.

  • Not many people remember this but you were always a campaigner against extractivism since the era of CRAMA (Radical Collective Blue Morfo) during 2004. How do you see the evolution of the anti-extractivist struggle? Are the same oppressors still responsible?

Thanks for acknowledging and remembering our previous initiatives that mark today’s struggle. Many colleagues still meet up and from the very beginning we never forgot El Libertario’s motto (No Revolution is financed by Multinationals). It is just like one of the songs from our band Doña Maldad: “The battle is not to grow, there is no future with their guides and the basis is rejected. From above it isn’t possible and downwards it is simply impossible…the same oppressors of always”

  • How is the issue of wind energy going in la Guajira? Are you aware of the Military District number 1 and the militarization of that region?

In regards to the wind park energy, according to what I have heard in the meetings of the Ecologist Front, corruption stole the money destined for this project, and in la Guajira some of the parts of the wind towers are already rusting. I am not aware of the Military District number 1, but I imagine that Francisco Arias Cárdenas and his “Milicombo”, as they are referred to in Zulia. We must reject all shitty, absurd, parasitical and abnormal military.

  • How do you see the alternative music scene in Zulia?

Nowadays the bands that are still active in the music scene keep performing a lot believing in the necessity of creating an active scene. Recently bands are making an effort to compose, rehearse, record, edit and distribute their music and organize their own concerts. Now more than ever the ethics of “Do it yourself” have become a necessity. DIY has been the evolution of the Punk, Metal Grind and Trash Crust scenes in Zulia. You are all invited to having a good time in our events prepared with lots of care and passion.

  • Do you buy regulated food or go to other markets and sources? How is the issue of scarcity?

I don’t queue a lot because I simply can’t. I have to work and when I get the chance to buy something regulated I take advantage of it. Indeed, we are all condemned to working and being paid with money that has no worth to buy highly valued products for the private food chains and a government responsible for all of this shit.

  • Have your water and electricity been rationed? With this unbearable heat in Zulia has the rock tradition of wearing only black clothing ended?

Yes, my water and electricity are rationed…There is no climate that will ever defeat rock traditions: we will always wear black!

  • Speaking of wearing black: How was the bike camp in the river Socuy? How is the cyclist movement in Maracaibo?

It was a great initiative of the collective Ciclovías Maracaibo. It organized walks and routes that  coexist with the people of the river Socuy by doing some activities like cine forums that deal with the importance of water and explain why we oppose extractivist politics, like the exploitation of natural energy resources…The  cyclist movement in Maracaibo is now also leaving the city to search for new paths, always manifesting the importance of the use of bicycles as a lifestyle, as an alternative towards the culture of clean energies and the best option to turn off the car and use a bicycle.

  • After performing with Doña Maldad across South-America and Euope…Why go back to your homeland?

One always comes back after going out experimenting…Maracaibo for Doña Maldad is like a reunion, whilst Jorge lives in Bogotá, from Maracaibo Hornocity we compose new songs for the band. The essence of the band is created from the same place, here we live within our inspirations and in the streets side by side. In any moment we will go out and perform again.

  • How is the mood in Zulia? Where are we heading towards?

There is a lot of optimism and hope that things will change, but also ignorance and a lot of indifference and apathy. I hate a world full of apathy, a dead and stupid society that obeys its master, god and fears, what the means of communication impose…Direct to the catastrophe! Like The Varukers said: “no masters, no slaves”

  • Now more than ever do believe that it is beneficial to evaluate anarchist ideas in Venezuela?

It is favourable and accurate. I have realized that the youth always have had that necessity of investigating their own conducts, and anarchism is the biggest expression of order, as order doesn’t exist, so all young people search and identify with a rebellious libertarian idea. This learning environment will be everlasting, but we must destroy all of these egocentric cultures based on sexism and absurd power of valuing the individual through his bank account and other goods. After destroying the patriarchal system, false family, religion, tradition, States, governments and military, we can start to shape a new horizontal collective based on mutual support and self-sufficiency, health and anarchy!

  • To end, what do you recommend to young people?

To believe in theirselves and hold on tightly to positive thoughts, attitudes that generate social changes. After chaos there will be a reawakening!

 

Written by Rodolfo Montes de Oca (rodolfomontesdeocar@gmail.com), Cronicas Negras

Translated by Pietro Kuyath (pietrokuyath@gmail.com)

On the attempted coup in Turkey

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Istanbul Yenikapi Rally that was realized last Sunday is an important example showing the extent of political mobilization in Turkey, happening in the last month. The rally, which was joined by five million people and the leaders of opposition parties (except HDP), showing “unity of the protectors of democracy”, actually had multiple messages targeting both domestic and foreign politics. During the coup process, which can be described as the clashing of power groups inside the state, it looks like president Erdogan and AKP Government managed to talk different political groups into their “politics for coup process”.

What Happened?

The existence of state on the lands we live on, is directly related to the existence of the army, especially considering its relation during the founding process. Coup is a term that has an important place in the political life of the Turkish Republic. One can see how the coup, as an inevitable political reality of the existence of state in these lands, affects the current state policies considering the latest coup that occurred, the 1980 Coup. What happened on July 15, has a character that continues this political reality. The army who wanted to intervene the political power tried to take control of strategically important state buildings; many bureaucrats in strategically important positions were taken hostage, the parliament and intelligence buildings were bombed, bridges and airports were blocked by soldiers, clashes occurred between soldiers and the police. The five hour coup attempt was terminated with different and rapid maneuvers of the current government and especially of president Erdogan. Among these maneuvers, notable factors are control of the media, control of the civil and mass mobilization through the media and the control of law enforcement under Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Mobilization

Current political power was able to maintain a massive mobility since July 15 under the name “democracy watch” especially targeting the street and military areas. To create the civil mobilization that stopped the tanks marching towards the bridges blocked by soldiers on the night before July 16, AKP have been using all facilities of state. Since July 15, while this mobilization is identified with sacred values of the state, and the ones who lost their lives in this mobilization are declared “martyrs” with stories of heroism, a state of continuous vigilance is tried to be created by steadily pumping hate and revenge. The big rally mentioned above is en extension of this state of vigilance. We see that part of the mobilization on the street is also targeting various sections (Kurdish, Alevi, Opposition) that stand against the state in different areas. AKP and Erdogan, which hold the current political power, have become a platform for Islamist-nationalist formations. This is shown clearly by the symbols created by the process.

Cover Of Democracy

Each coup is a process by which the state oppression shows itself in a physical and violent form. It is nothing but putting pressure on the oppressed using force and violence to take over the political power. As revolutionaries who experienced the period when military coup of 1980 directly murdered, tortured and repressed the revolutionaries and the oppressed, and the period following it, we know too well what coups really are.

We also know what is being tried under the name of allegedly anti-coup “democracy struggle” since July 15. The state of being “elected power” which is raised as an argument against the sections that plotted the coup, plays an important part in legitimizing current position of AKP and Erdogan. All political discourse they raised since July 15 is in fact related to this cover of democracy.

We have emphasized before that AKP and Erdogan have made explicit their characteristic of being a platform for Islamist-nationalist sections. Especially considering the struggle of these sections against pro-coup, laicistic, radical Kemalist power groups inside the state since the founding of the state, it can be seen that there is an existential contradiction between this platform and the army and republican bureaucrats. As much as this contradiction seems like pro-democracy, it is really far away from it. To see the distance, it is suffice to look at the “demands” in the street. Death penalty, presidency with extra authorities, and many other demands based on the same Islamist and nationalistic values are hidden under the cover of democracy.

While democracy is sanctified by the current political power, demands of the 51% who voted for this political power in the latest elections are described as the will of the people. The reality is even farther away from this. Current political power is trying to sell its plans and strategies as the people’s demands. Since this platform is against all “political values of the West”, its play of pro-democracy is not realistic.

It must be noted, on the other hand, that we should not fall into the same trap that some socialist organizations fell into while doing the analysis. Our criticism above does not mean that we embrace the democratic values of the system. In fact, it is the same democratic system that makes possible “the majority oppress the minority” under the play of pro-democracy. Inside this democratic system, when radical Islamist take power, they are the pro-democratic; and when the nationalists or liberals take power, they are. This is the exact message that AKP and Erdogan want to give to the West; “we are democratic”.

Who Plotted The Coup?

In our assessments from the start, we indicated that the current process is a result of the power groups inside the state fighting for power. It’s known that since the first elections that AKP started to hold the state power, AKP has relationships with the Gulen Community which was gaining popularity especially in the international media. Even Erdogan himself declared in a recent rally, that he had relations with the Gulen Community and that he was deceived and apologized from the people.

Fethullah Gulen, who is a religious authority and community leader have had an increasing influence on Turkish politics in the last thirty years. This increasing influence reached political power with AKP and opened the door for organizing significant positions inside significant state agencies. Current AKP power also benefited from this positional convenience. Conservative identity of the party allowed this. Fethullah Gulen was seen as an important spiritual leader until last four years by party members and Erdogan himself. The peak of this fight for power in the last four years due to various political and economic reckoning is this coup attempt. Considering the depth of their relations and the relations of coup plotters with Gulen Community, the process defines something very different from classical contradiction between Kemalists and conservatives. This is a clash of interests. Gulen and his community which are accused of treason by the political power, are just one side of a broken partnership.

Scenarios

Since the question is the political power of the state, it’s obvious that political clash of power groups inside the state has a place in international schemes. Since the day of coup attempt, in a process where all TV channels, newspapers, radios, except the revolutionary ones became a part of the mass media various scenarios were continuously broadcast and are still being broadcast. Most of the scenarios state that the coup is made by the US with the hand of Gulen Community, due to the fact that Gulen resides in US. The scenarios often talk about the coup attempt is being designed by CIA due to anti-West international politics of the Turkish state.

Other scenarios talk about the coup attempt being designed and operated by AKP and Erdogan himself. These other scenarios emphasize that Erdogan who would reinforce its power as a result of this process would eliminate all opposition in this position. Of course the oppression politics against the Kurds plays an important role in creating this context of no opposition. AKP, CHP, MHP which acted as “unity of democracy” since the beginning of the process followed a policy that explicitly left HDP out, creating an allegedly “coalition of democracy” accusing HDP and the Kurdish movement to be a part of the plot and thus disabling HDP.

Another scenario as part of the same process of disabling is the war scenario. In this scenario, following the violent operations it made in a period of one year especially in North Kurdistan, its emphasized that the state getting ready for massacres at even larger scales. Within a conjuncture where the line between civil war and foreign war disappeared in the last ten years, one cannot but think that one end of the war will be directed to Rojava and Syria. Considering Syria and the mobilization in Middle east geography alone, it’s possible that the coup process is part of other international schemes.

State Of Emergency For Who?

It’s important for us revolutionary anarchists to analyze well all scenarios above as possibilities with respect to our near and distant perspectives. We need revolutionary strategies made with these perspectives. However, apart from all these scenarios, we as revolutionaries feel the practical repercussions of the State Of Emergency process since July 20.

The state is in a process of reconstruction since July 20. Operations in the army, police, judiciary, economic centers, ministries, municipalities, etc are still going on. The state which is a mechanism of oppression and violence, becomes more oppressive and more violent with this delegated legislation, and apart from the sections related to Gulen Community, increase the attacks on revolutionaries, taking advantage of the process.

Populist opposition engaged with the power, big media pool which became the voice of political power, law enforcement directly reporting Erdogan, fascist mass ready to mobilize with Islamist-nationalist values, army ready to attack near geographies within international conjuncture… Possible dangers awaiting the oppressed and the revolutionaries in this geography.

The fight of power groups claiming political power over a device rising above economic and political injustice; is nothing but the hegemony of the oppressors over the oppressed gaining permanency in order to destroy the freedom of the oppressed. Neither the apparent or implied dictatorship, nor military or civil formation, nor coups or elections of the political powers that are enemies of the people have any relations to peoples will. We, who believe that life of freedom cannot be created by coup nor by elections, know the existence of state as a coup to freedom and our revolt will last until it creates a free world. What we all need is, not getting hopes up from the fight between the powers, but to know that hope is revolution for freedom.

Huseyin Civan (DAF member)

Article taken from http://www.umanitanova.org/2016/08/29/sul-tentato-golpe-in-turchia/

Translated article sent by Lorenzo Coniglione from Umanità Nova

 

MIKALAI DZIADOK: UNTOUCHABLES IN THE PRISON HIERARCHY

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The topic of prison caste system is often raised in the media in recent times, it is often discussed in connection with the political prisoners. However, almost all who write on the subject, know about it at best from the stories of former inmates or use common social stereotypes. As a result, there are often a lot of blunders and false representation.

The aim of this article is to illuminate some aspects of this complex and multifaceted phenomenon the informal hierarchy in Belarus prisons.

Mikalai Dziadok27 years old, an activist of the anarchist movement. He was born in the town of Bragin, Gomel region. He graduated from the Belarusian State University College of Law, worked as a judicial custodian in the court of Tsentralny district of Minsk and legal adviser in a private company. In 2009 he entered the European Humanities University (Vilnius) specializing in Political Science and European Studies. On September 201, he was detained in Minsk on suspicion of the attack on the embassy of Russia. He was convicted of participation in a protest actions near the General Staff, the House of Trade Unions and the casino “Shangri-La” in the “case of anarchists“, he received 4.5 years prison sentence. Three months before his release he was sentenced to another year of imprisonment under Art. 411 of the Criminal Code (willful disobedience to prison administration). Released on August 22, 2015 by presidential decree “On presidential pardon” (he did not write a petition for clemency, although it was repeatedly offered). Now he is a first year student at the European Humanities University, specializing in world politics and economics. 

There are scientific works on this subject. And, of course, I do not aspire to consider the phenomenon in all its diversity in one article. The question will be mainly about one prison caste, the existence of which characterizes the system as a whole, and the knowledge of which is critically important for any falling prisoner in Belarus, especially for a political prisoner. The so-called “petukhi” (“roosters”) ( also “downcast”, “bugger”, “cockscomb”, etc.).

So, from this text, you will learn:

– How did the “downcast” appear in prison;

– How do people become one;

– What are conditions of these people in jail and prison;

– What functions are performed by these people in prison;

– Why is the existence of this caste vital for the administration of penitentiary facilities.

 

Part 1. Blatnoy, muzhik, kozel and petukhi
How did the cast of “petukhi” appear»

Let’s start with a historical background. Caste of so called “Petukhi” is traditionally associated with homosexuality. And if you approach from this point of view, everything is simple: homosexuality in prisons has always existed, also in tsarist prisons and gulags. Due to the extremely macho and homophobic nature of prison code (“ponyatiya“) and subculture, it becomes clear why a gay person in prison is automatically relegated to “downcasts”. Machismo is characterized by contempt for all women, levelling of women to subhuman creatures that do not have the right to their own will. This attitude transfers to homosexuals.

But the “downcast” only consist of homosexuals to a smaller degree. For the most part it consists of people who have committed offenses against informal prison law – “ponyatiya“. And it’s worth to remark that “petukhi” as a cast with strict rules for entry and exit from it (or rather, the impossibility of exit) appeared not such long time ago. It was not for example inherent to tsarist prisons and the Gulag, according to those sources with which I am familiar. Emergence of a caste of prison untouchables (which includes also homosexuals) relates to the late Soviet period

Some researchers believe that the emergence of a caste of prisoners whom you may not touch with hands, is a reaction of the thieves’ world to”Bitch wars“, who wanted to save themself. Thieves had to invent an alternative to murder for punishment of the guilty.

Others write that this was a reaction to the overcrowding of detention centers: in a situation of overcrowding and presence in view of other inmates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week the most effective and hard form of punishment would be all-out contempt and ostracism, an extreme form of ignoring.

About “masti” (castes) – a rundown 
Historically, there are only three “masti” (castes or lifestyles) in the criminal world: a thief “vor“, peasant “muzhik“,rooster “petukh“. In this hierarchy you can descend from the highest (vor) to the lowest (petukh). You can’t work your way up the caste ladder. In modern criminal subculture in Belarus the prisoners are divided into somewhat different castes, namely: criminal “blatnoy“, peasant “muzhik“, jackass “kozel“, rooster “petukh“.

Blatnoy is a professional criminal who lives by conducting a criminal business when outside of prison. His mission is to promote the “thieves idea”, wherever he is, to establish “backdoor ” (conduct corruption of correctional administrators), transfer the life of the prisoners from the line of official rules and concepts into the law of thieves (“ponyatiya“), etc.

According to the “ponyatiya” only they have the right to classify a prisoner as downcast. However, due to the fact that not all Belarusian colonies have thieves (“thieves’ movement” of Belarus in general is in a state of decay), this rule is not always upheld, that’s why downcast classification is done by anyone: operating officer, “kozel” or sometimes aimply by a “muzhik’s” after a collective decision.

Muzhiks is the main group in a prison. “Muzhik” is not nosy, he works, not interested in anything, except for how to leave on parole. Не is in a situation of “Cross-command” of several forces: thieves (if any), kozel’s and prison administration staff.

Kozel (activist) is a prisoner openly collaborating with the administration. It is a convict usually with long term of imprisonment. Administration gives him duties and some power over other inmates. How big this power is depends on the degree of corrections officers’ laziness. I know some cases where “kozels” drew up a violation act on the other prisoners and administration officials only signed it.

Often “kozel” is allowed to beat other prisoners to maintain subordination. And, of course, quite officially “kozel’s” duty is to inform on other prisoners. The IK-17 (Shklov) (IK – penal colony), for example, one “kozel” put it baldly: “Trash-cops told me to keep an eye on you”. At least two more didn’t come out, but performed their “work” very actively.

In my own disciplinary case that led me being sent to internal lock-up (“krytaya” — closed) the decision was made on the basis of a written testimony composed by my roommate, which detailed how I was brought into the barrack, how I behaved, with whom I communicated, with whom I argued, what topics I discussed etc.

There is a nuance

In discussing the “petukh” caste it must-be noted that in addition to it there is another related “caste” – so-called “separated before clarification“, those who are “na kruzhke” (on the mug) .

The point is as follows: for example, there is a suspicion that someone had homosexual contacts on the outside, but there is no sufficient proof of this suspicion, there is only a rumor. In this case, until confirmation or refutation of this accusation will appear, the person is “na kruzhke“: he eats apart from the rest and usse only his dishes (thence the origin of the term – “separate on mug“).

A person can be for years in this status, until “blatnoy” (“kozel” or operating officer — depending on the prison situation) confirms the accusation, i.e. transfer him completely into the caste of “petukh’s” or refuses it, i.e. transfers him officially to “muzhik’s” caste.

The position of a person “na kruzhke” is very close to the position of a “petukh“, but not equal to him. He can not drink tea with other inmates and has no right to vote, but no one can call him “petukh“.

This is the only case when it is possible to transfer from a lower caste in the highest. A prisoner “na kruzhke“” is in a kind of quarantine – in order to avoid physical contact with other convicts, because others don’t want to initiate contact with buggered (“zashkvar“). Everyone, who, for example, drink tea with a “separated” person, automatically gets the same status.

In other cases, “separated” or people “na kruzhke” are equal in the position to the “petukhs“, and it’s quite easy to fall into this status.

How to become a “petukh

Here is an exhaustive list of cases in which the person is transferred into the downcast (“in fag zone”, “in harem”):

Passive homosexual contacts. Реrson s who admit to experience of homosexual contact, forever received the label of “petukh“, “fag“, etc. Active homosexuality is however considered normal and is not considered as homosexuality, it’s normal behavior. Although it is noteworthy that in the last ten years this concept has been changed. Those who have sex with “petukhs” are considered as suspicious.

I myself have repeatedly heard the view, something like — “There is no difference who f*ck whom — both are fags”. But, of course, a person who was active in homosexual intercourse can’t be called “petukh“.

Any non-traditional sexual relations with a woman. If the prisoner admits to performing cunnilingus or if she was doing him a blowjob and then he kissed her, or eating / drinking out from the same dish — he is a “petukh“.

Naturally, is almost impossible to learn about this against the will of the person. So in most cases, people fall into the “fag zone” after their own revelation. You have to understand that no one has the right by threats or trickery to inquire about your sexual life. About it, by the way, in the 1990s there was a special message “progon” (“Malyava” (kite) containing innovation in rules) from the thieves, who tried to decrease an oversize amount of “petukh’s” in prisons.

In some ways prison staff was trying to deal with this problem. For example, in Zhodino jail before a person was sent into a cell, the operating officer would instruct him: “Remember, you never sucked a dick or licked a pussy!”

This also includes communication with homosexuals at liberty. If someone suddenly mentioned that his friend is a gay, then that person immediate is counted as a “petukh“.

Any contacts with excrements / urine and content of dumpster. Man splashed with urine or one, who popped his hands in the toilet, automatically becomes a “petukh“. For this reason, for example, plumbers are considered as “separated” in the majority of prisons.

There is a well-known story from IK-5 (Ivatsevichi), that could be a good example. In one of the section was «zavhoz» (main “kozel” in section — person who controls conditions in section and is a right hand man of administration – TN), who for a long time severely bullied one guy, abusing him verbally in every way shafted. In revenge that guy soaked the «zavhoz» with a jar of urine directly during the morning check in front of the line of inmates. Of course the guy was beaten and put in a punishment cell (solitary). In theory, the fate of «zavhoz» was foregone, but prison staff intervened in the situation. Probably «zavhoz» was a «valuable asset» for administration. They announced to convicts that «zavhoz» was splashed with … green tea. And those, who would call him a “petukh“, would be beaten. Anyway almost no one spoke with «zavhoz» after it. And the guy was sent to another prison.

I also personally knew a “petukh“, who fell into this caste, because his head struck against the toilet bowl during a fight in a youth colony.

As for dumpster contact, people can fall into downcast, when they overmuch want to smoke and search for cigarette butts in a dumpster.

This also should include such cases as unintentional touching of someone’s genitals, for example, when slipping in a shower room.

To be honest it should be said that for people with health problems an exception sometimes is made (depending on the adequacy of decisionmakers). For example, if a man has urinary incontinence, he will not be transfered into the “petukh” caste.

Performance of any “petukh’s” work. Strictly “petukh’s” types of work are: cleaning of toilets (this applies to the penal colony; in pretrial custody / ward treatment any prisoner can clean the toilet in his cell), in some jails — cleaning of wash basins, as well as taking out the garbage. Doing these actions automatically relegates the person to “petukh” caste.

Here’s an example that happen in IK-15 (Mogilev), when i was there. A man was standing at check line. Suddenly he really wanted to use the toilet. He ran, as fast as he could, but did not reach it — he took a shit before reaching the toilet. Being perhaps a shy and conscientious person, he decided to clean after himself. He took a broom, rag … This was seen by some of the prisoners who called «zavhoz» as witness, who verified transfer to downcast.

Informal rules prohibiting the cleaning of toilets is very convenient for the prison staff when they need to put any prisoner in punishment cell (solitary).

Every section has an official schedule of cleaning, than not taking into account, of course, the caste system. At the same time everybody knows that only “petukh’s” clean the toilet. Political prisoner Igor Olinevich was many times put in the punishment cell for refusing to clean toilets. For sure, any prisoner in his right mind would agree to serve any amount of days in a tiny cold room without personal belongings than to become a “petukh“. Prison staff know this fully well and gladly use such a convenient tool for pressure on undesirable.

A similar incident happened to me in IK-9 (Gorki). Soon after I stayed once again in a punishment cell, I was approached by the chief of section. He said that today I am on schedule to clean a washbasin and take out the garbage. I made inquiries beforehand and found out that in this prison only “petukhs” can clean the washbasin. Probably, the chief of section thought that I did not know and would go to clean the washbasin. So, ceremoniously, he gathered half of the prison administration and local “kozel’s” as a witnesses, he pointed out a broom and a rag offering to perform the “scheduled dut“.

Without any doubt, I refused, and then he said in a grave tone, that“there will be a document drawn up about your refusal to perform the duty“, and soon I again went to warm a bench in my very own punishment cell.

Pedophiles almost always fall in the “harem”. People say that in prison rapists are always raped, but they’re not. With some rapists some prisoners can refuse to drink tea, but nothing more. As for pedophiles, they have a more unenviable fate.

Until very recently, they were forced to transfer to “petukh” caste from the moment of entering the detention center, without even waiting for the verdict. However, the spirit of the times and the trend of “everything under the law” take their toll. I myself have seen at least two pedophiles who were not “separated” and lived almost same as others. Of course, they were as quiet as lambs and not every convict allowed them to sit on his bunk or even to speak to them. But there is a tendency, especially in first-time convict prisons.

The “harem” receives everyone who spent some time in a cell with “petukh’s“. An exact period of time varies. Sometimes this is an an hour, sometimes it is a day. According to the concepts, if someone enters into such a cell, it needs to be done so that the “petukh’s” themselves would try to leave the cell and the man stayed. But it is clear that physically it’s almost impossible.

Any man, who had a physical (except sexual) contact with a “petukh” or used his personal belongings, are transfered in downcast. In practice, it looks like this: mistakenly picking up “petukh’s” dishes or eating from them, using “petukh’s” personal hygiene articles, hugging or shaking hands, putting on his clothes (intentionally or unintentionally) and having a drink tea with “petukh” automatically qualifies you for in this caste.

Giving something to “petukh” is possible. Taking something from him leads to becoming a “petukh“.

However, these rules have some easings, especially in high-security prisons. For example, “petukh’s” can wash clothes of “muzhik“, “petukh” is allowed to sit on the “muzhik’s” bunk and so on.

Often people write or say that convicts can be transfered to downcast for any misdeeds against prisoner’s etiquette. Previously it happened, but not now. At least, I haven’t seen any such case.

The one who steals from other prisoners, can be called “rat” and snubbed, the one who turned state’s evidence at the court, may be called “suka” (bitch) behind his back, and so on, but the transfer into downcast due to such violation is a relic of the days when thieves’ code were still strong in Belarus prisons.

Thus, the concept of “contacted” (“zashkvar“) is something akin to ritual blot of the Jews, Muslims and Parsis. Their characteristic features of custom are irrationality and superstitious fear of the “impure”. But if, according to the Torah, a person who touches for instance carrion, will be “unclean until the evening”, according to the prison code the man, splashed with urine, will be “petukh” the rest of his life, even if he will be released and will go back to prison after 30 years.

Part 2: Thieves code ( “ponyatiya”) in support of the state
Conditions of “petukh’s” in prisons

What is the life of “petukh” in prison? In a nutshell, it is an absolute sheer hell.

According to “ponyatiya”, “petukh” has no rights. He has no right to argue, to retort, to defend his dignity, because it is considered that he has no dignity. Others can beat, humiliate and mockhim.

When an ordinary prisoner and a “petukh” walk over the barracks hall, the latter is obliged to lean against the wall, in order to avoid touching the other prisoner, otherwise he may be beaten.

Petukhs” do all the dirty work: washing the toilets (as you can imagine, that is 8-10 toilet seats in a section of a hundred people), taking out the trash and that sort of thing. Some of the “petukhs” provide sexual services to other convicts in exchange for tea and cigarettes (although I must say that in prisons where I was, prison staff fight against this, and if they find “petukh” and his client, having sex, both will be placed in solitary).

Petukhs” get female names, prisoners refer to them with “she” or “baby”. Frankly speaking, its pretty savage and sickening to watch how young guffawing prisoners call, for example, a 60-year-old toothless grandpa “Alenka” or “Marina” (female names – TN).

Petukhs” are never allowed for a moment to forget who they are. They enter the dining room after everyone, they are the last to wash in the shower room. In club or lazyroom (the room for watching TV) they have a separate bench in the most uncomfortable place. Phrase “Get the fuck outta here!” in their address is something quite familiar and common. One convict persistently argued with me that “Petukhs are not people“.

However, prison staff have even worse attitude to “petukhs” than inmates. Inspectors and often officers at every possible way disparage, publicly abuse, threaten and also can beat them.

Being powerless people with broken will they even less than ordinary prisoners fight for their rights. As a result – more than half of suicides that have happened during my presence in prisons and jails, were committed by “petukhs“, despite the fact that this cast is not more than 3-5% of the prison’s population.

Tellingly, the situation in pre-trial detention centers is not better, where “petukh’s” stay in special cells. At “Volodarka” (pre-trial detention center in Minsk – TN) the “petukhs’” cell is number 70. I heard from people, who have long lived in the neighborhood of this cell, that its inhabitants opened their veins almost daily.

What do they do?

Life “at the the bottom of the heap”, constant hatred and humiliation from almost anyone hardly can yield a highly moral creature. According to my personal observations, most of “petukhs” are people totally unprincipled, low-down, ready to do anything for their own benefit. Although, of course, this characters is not rare among prisoners in general, among “petukhs” this is probably much more common.

The vast majority of “petukhs” are working for administration: snitching, performing “operative tasks”, provoking, etc. The need to somehow survive in the over-aggressive and hostile prison air pushes them to an alliance with the strongest party – prison staff. Therefore, most of the functions that “petukhs“perform anyway are imposed on them by operating officer.

The official duties of “petukhs” includes cleaning toilets (no one except them will do this) and taking out the trash. Many of them earn their living by cleaning the rooms. “Petukhs” are divided into “working” and “non-working”. The first — those, who for a fee (tea, cigarettes, sweets), provide sexual services to other inmates. Second – those who don’t, and this means they can not be forced.

Many believe that a person becomes “petukh” through rape in prison or in jail. 15-20 years ago it was so. But today it practically does not occur in Belarus prisons. At least, I do not know of any such case, and none of those, who was inside with me, told me anything of this nature. Also there was no cases of rape of “petukhs” during my prison time.

Today’s prison is much more under the control of the administration than before, and raped “petukh” can write a statement against the rapist and his custodial penalty will be then increased.

What is the benefit for the administration?

Surely you have a question: why the state, and, in particular, prison administration allows savage medieval caste system with its untouchable, vassals and prostitutes to exist in prisons? Indeed it’s inhumane, cruel and, finally, illegal, indeed according to the penitentiary internal rules of conduct, all prisoners should toe the same line and any caste division is out of the question.

Can prison staff stop it and recover may be strict and tough, but anyway discipline?

The answer is simple: they don’t need it.

For quite a long time, spent in penal institutions, I was in many places and saw a lot of people. I was in four closed and in three medium-security prisons, talked with simple “muzhiks“, and “thieves”, bandits, drug addicts, “traders” and “polozhenec’s” (underboss), swindlers and murderers, “kozels” and even “petukhs” and, of course,had quite a lot communicated with prison staff.

Reflecting a lot on construction of Belarus penal system, I came to a firm conclusion that thieves and police system of prison management are two pillars that support each other.

The informal system of “ponyatiya” invented by thieves, and official internal rules of conduct today are more likely mutually integrated, rather than in a state of war and conflict.

Yes, indeed, prison officials forcibly cleaned up the practice of“ponyatiya” from those rules that prevents controllability and inconvenience them. The rest of the world of professional criminals and the MVD world (Ministry of Internal Affairs) get on well with each other. They get from each other what they need: prison staff – peace in facility, no incidents and control (why should they have to control hundreds of prisoners, if it is possible to control one“blatnoy” / “kozel”, who keeps at bay the others?). Thieves /“kozels” receive privileges and power. Everybody is happy. Except, of course, “muzhiks” who, as usual, is a patsy in the middle, and is, de facto, in the situation of double subordination.

Many of the prisoners who have served time for more than ten years, and saw how all Belarusian prisons went from “black” (under prisoner control) to “red” (under administration) between about 2005 to 2010, told me openly: “Now it’s same as before. Only instead of the thieves – “kozels”. Earlier vodka and mobile phones were under “blatnoys”, but now under activists. If earlier for screwups “muzhik” was beaten by thieves, now by “kozels”“.

Tellingly, even faces of such informal leaders are often the same. During the active “breaking” of prison and it’s reshaping, where do you think, operating officers took loyal and dedicated activists –“zavhozs” and room orderlies, ready to fulfill any order? They were recruited from yesterday’s thieves, who quickly betrayed their criminal idea, because they were threatened with, for example, being sent to “covered” prison or loss of privileges, or just a few times were put in the punishment cell.

As a result, today Belarusian prisons are run by administration together with prisoners who “firmly mended their ways”, but every inch of whose body is covered by criminal tattoos and whose fists are pumped with Vaseline.

Despite the formal contradiction in functions, confluence of the criminal world and correctional staff is noticeable, not only institutionally, but also on the linguistic level.

The officers use prison slang not less actively than convicts. As I wrote, the same “petukhs” are snubbed and humiliated by prison staff worse than by criminals. They even have their own “separated” among prison workers, who are outcasts in a circle of colleagues.

When I was in IK-15, there worked a “separated” inspector. Colleagues didn’t drink tea with him, he was the only one who could frisk “petukhs“. And such cases are not unique: in IK-14 (Novosady), from stories of my cellmate, there was even a separated officer, about whom colleagues have found out that he has “wrong” sex with his wife. As a result they stopped to drink tea with him, and began to defiantly despise him, moreover, even prisoners snubbed this officer with impunity. And there are a lot of such examples.

Interestingly, many of the prisoners (on the wave of toughening of regime toughening and relative improvement of “petukh’s” conditions (about 20 years ago they were beaten more often, and could also be raped) have expressed to me the opinion that soon ”petukhs will not exist, because everyone will be forced to the clean toilets“. They often added, that authorities need to “look decent in front of Europe” (yes, there were also this kind of political analysts). However, it seems to me, that this will not happen in the near future. The reason is the same, the existence of “petukh’s” caste significantly facilitates prison controllability.

Without any doubt, the administration of Belarusian prisons could force all prisoners to clean toilets and take food at tables regardless of caste.

There will be no riots or rebellions against it. This innovation will be fraught maximum with consequences like a few tens of diehard supporters of “ponyatiya”, who will be send to “covered” prison. Most prisoners in Belarus form such a downtrodden and speechless mass, that they could be easily forced to anything. And if they are offered prospects of a parole for cleaning toilets, they’ll race each other to cleaning.

However, as we have seen, the administration isn’t in a hurry to do so.

Another important point: the existence of this caste gives prison staff an invaluable assistance in pressing on prisoners who refuse to obey.

In every jail and prison are always individuals who refuse to play by the rules established by police. Either these are antisocial persons that “gazuyut” (i.e. try to live strictly according to the thieves law), or prisoners who try to defend their rights, for example, complaining to various authorities, or those who only due to their status will be persecuted in prison, such as political prisoners.

So, many people from these categories are no longer intimidated by loss of parcels and visits, punishment cells or cell-type regime, or “covered” prison or the 411 th article of the Criminal Code (Deliberate disobedience to the lawful demands of the administration of correction facility – TN). Question: what do you do with them? And here comes the last argument – “petukhs” caste. And then even those who are not afraid of the isolation ward, or batons, of course, will think hard. this is because a life in this caste is the worst thing that can happen to a prisoner. A man with dignity can’t stay in a group with this status, it becomes almost impossible. And there is no way out from this caste.

I conversed with a former prisoner of IK-2 (Bobruisk), who got a response from the head of the prison to his demand to comply with the law and noninfringement of his rights: “Have you forgotten where the harem is?“. And this is not a singular example.

It’s needless to say about the use of this tool against political prisoners. I myself know about at least three cases in which political prisoners were transfered into the “petukhs’” caste simply for the fact that they are political prisoners

In all three cases, combination was very similar. After arrival of political prisoner in prison with an authoritative convict (“blatnoy” or“kozel”), he raises against the political prisoner an accusation of a “screwup”: that he sat previously in the same cell with a “downcast”, or drank from the “petukh’s” mug, or he dealt with a “petukh” outside. Naturally, this accusation has nothing to do with reality. But, with a wave of a wand, one or more witnesses appear and confirm: “yes, he drank, I saw myself” or “yes, he dealt with a fagot on the outside, I saw it myself!“, although the “accused” don’t know these people. And now the decision can be made, everything according “ponyatiya”!

The result: the political prisoner is transferred into the “petukh’s” caste, the actor (“blatnoy” or “kozel”) gets a sop like a visit or a parcel, and the cunning operating officer, who developed the whole plan, receives administrative carrot from higher-ups.

I, fortunately, avoided this fate, although attempts, as I wrote above, were made. However, obviously, administration had no specific ambition to transfer me into the “harem”, otherwise they would certainly have done so.

Such unanimity of informal prison elites and administration against political prisoners, allow me once again to say that the hierarchical punitive system always operates in unity, when they want to suppress and push out strange elements – potential rebels able to stand up for their rights.

And, of course, we can compare with the analogy of 1930-1940 years, when criminals have taken an active part in the elimination of “Trotskyists”, “betrayers of the nation” and other “58th” (an article “On counterrevolutionary activity” of USSR Criminal Code – TN) (see. V. Shalamov “Zhulnecheskaya krov”, E. Eppbaum “Gulag”, Solzhenitsyn “The Gulag Archipelago”, book 3).

Yes, these two heads of punitive hydra can sometimes squabble among themselves, but, nevertheless, they need each other, and at a time when they will need to destroy people such us – they will certainly be together.

Is there a way out?

Here, I think it would be appropriate to give some advice for what to do, if you’re in prison and you see, that an attempt is being made to transfer you to the “petukh” caste for disobedience or for “political” status (which is more often) .

First and foremost, you should change your attitude to what is happening. All of us, men, have been taught that “faggot” is insulting and disgusting, that it’s a shame to be so. And now a group of adult and kind of sane men tells you that you are one. You need at first understand that your current situation has no shame and should not blame yourself. You are not a pedophile, not a rapist or even gay. It’s just that feral caste norms, prevailing in prison are being used against you , in order to break your will and lower your status in the eyes of others.

What to do?

If the process has not yet entered irreversible stage, for example, you are thrown into a “petukh” cell or convicts publicly provoke you by asking tricky questions, it makes sense to fight to the last – fight, commit acts of self-harm, provoke any conflicts, but to get out of this situation, to show your unstoppable determination.

If the moment is gone, and you are in this caste, then you have to request the administration of your legitimate right to personal safety(Article 11 of the Criminal Executive Code of Belarus) – transfer to a safe place (usually in solitary confinement). According to this article, “in case of threats to personal safety of the convicted person, he is entitled to apply for personal security ensuring to any official body of institution which carries out criminal sentences. In this case official body shall immediately take personal security measures of the convicted person“.

I don’t know a single case, when a convict’s claim was denied. However, everything is possible, and it may happen that for stronger effect the person, who was declared “separated” and demanded to be removed from common barracks, is intentionally left there. For a night, for example, that he has experienced all the beauties of “petukh’s” life. In this case, you need to be ready for humiliation, and to fight, and to do anything. Again, this is the situation, when you should use extreme measures in the form of self-harm or self-protection at every possible way.

It is worth to remember that the more problems you create for the administration, the faster they will provide you with security, because prison administration does not have a goal of physical destruction of political prisoners, it is only about to break them down mentally. They don’t need an excess corpse or disabled person in prison.

Of course, it should be understood, that a request to the administration to put you in solitary is a “screwup” in terms of“ponyatiya”. Such people are called “charged in“, “covered“, etc. According to the same “ponyatiya”, if you think that you were “separated” “on outrage” (ie unfair), you should find a superior in the criminal hierarchy (“enforcer” or thief under the code) and ask him for appeal, and don’t ask administration to put you in a safe place.

You decide yourself what to do. However, my opinion is: an appeal to “ponyatiya” that is itself a tool of dissenters breaking, is at least short-sighted. And operating officers will always find an approach, the easy way or the hard way, to any criminal decision maker. And between saving your destiny or his own well-being, he unequivocally will choose the latter.

The very first thing to do in such cases is to make public what happened with you, inform the lawyer and relatives, so that the information gets into the media. They are still a kind of a shield for political prisoners from outright tyranny, so it is necessary to speak frankly and openly about everything that happened to you; talk without shame about castes and “ponyatiya” and provocations of prison staff. Indeed administration will put pressure on prisoners in this way, just playing on their male feelings and sense of shame for the fact that “now I’m like a faggot“.

Thereby the vast majority of similar stories, that take place not only with political prisoners, never come out. People are simply ashamed to talk about them, by that reproducing the vicious circle of silence and allowing prison staff to continue using informal prison rules for pressure on undesirables.

We can stop it, only if we will start to talk about the problem out loud, conquering this absolutely unreasonable shame and fear.

As I said, I wasn’t in such a situation, but I considered all the time the likelihood that I will be put in “harem” due to KGB orders. And by long reflection, observation and analysis of experiences of others I came to the conclusion that in that case, I will behave exactly as described above.

To sum up, I would like to conclude this text with something optimistic and life-affirming. But reality dictates a slightly different tone. The number of people entering the prison for their beliefs is gradually increasing and with it grows the pressure in prison. Important part of this pressure is precisely the caste system and informal hierarchy, which I described above.

It is not an individual, but the mass system of “practicing” on special categories of prisoners being tested on drug-addicted convicts. An innovation was introduced in prisons was: the preventive registering of”extremists” – they are forced to wear a yellow label. It is logical to assume, that in the light of the radical deterioration of the socio-economic situation in the country, next after drug-addicts will be “political”, for whom separate prisons will be created.

All in all, I think that all of us, those, who stand today for changes and deposition of the dictator, should cast off illusions and realize that it would not be better and will only be harder. Of course, the prison administration will continue to use pressure against political prisoners by a thieves’ “ponyatiya”. This tool is easy to use and has repeatedly proved its effectiveness.

Only demolition of archaic caste system can change the situation for the better and as a first step we should start with demolition of silence and taboo on discussion of the topic in society.

Mikalai Dziadok

Taken from: http://abc-belarus.org/?p=6891&lang=en

Translated by avtonom.org

Charity, the perfect alibi for the expulsion machine

The wars and shitty conditions inflicted by capital and the state drive thousands of people towards exile. Many of them flee religious and state persecution towards European countries, in hopes of being granted asylum or refugee status. For the authorities, the main issue is to get them on file (notably via a genetic database put in place by the EURODAC regulations, which form part of the Dublin II law), to keep them under control, to park them until they can be sent back. Those with degrees can “win” the right to stay, since they are directly exploitable by the economy. But hell awaits the the vast majority of those who manage to set foot alive on the national territory – in other words a “life” of permanent anxiety and fear of being arrested by the police, of ending up locked in CRAs (French detention centres) only to be expelled back to their country of origin (or to the first European country they arrived in, according to the Dublin III rules).

To file, sort, detain and expel undocumented migrants, the state relies on many charities, who in exchange are generously showered with subsidies. The most notorious are: the Red Cross which currently shoulders the police at the border between Menton and Ventimiglia in order to send migrants who seek to enter France back to the CIEs (Italian detention centres), which it runs ; Emmaüs, abbot Pierre’s association, which sorts undocumented migrants in Paris so as to facilitate the police’s job, and runs reception centres ; the Order of Maltaand France Terre d’Asile (“France Land of Asylum”), which run practically all of the detention centres in France ; the CIMADE, which supposedly intervenes in the CRA to guarantee refugees’ rights but in fact seeks to make their interment “more humane”, in other words more acceptable. They play the ideal role needed by the state: that of social pacification. But the large charities (the most well-known ones) which manage the lions’ share of the market of misery are far from the only ones to intervene. We already recalled (in the 6th issue of the paper) the role of La Vie Active (“Active Life”) in Calais, where the organisation was granted management of the high-security mega-detention camp.

In Besançon as in many other towns of France, a new method of policing undocumented migrants has been experimented with by the state during the summer of 2016, in the framework of the new reform of the CESEDA (Code of entry and of stay of foreigners and of the right to asylum) which was voted on March 7th: house arrests, which are presented as an alternative to detention. To extend internment beyond the confines of prisons is part and parcel of the current logic of the powers that be. Be it for the prisoners (under the authority of the Ministry of Justice) or for the migrants (under the Ministry of the Interior), the state is attempting to unclog prisons and detention centres by issuing alternative sentences, such as electronic bracelets, judicial reviews and various obligations to regularly appear before the police or judges, etc…

In the capital of the Doubs, the organisation which runs the “reception centre for refugees” (night-time accommodation) of the St-Jacques hospital is ADDSEA (Departmental Association for the Safeguarding of Children and Adults of Doubs), located at 23, rue des Granges. Its staff, particularly its mediators, in true policing form, exert ever-increasing control over the life of migrants, such as by imposing a curfew (9 PM). If the migrants don’t return to the accommodation on time, they are barred from all social services (meals, supplies, pocket money, etc) and have no other choice than to “fend for themselves”. They are made to pay for the slightest help they receive, such as access to a less hostile, gloomy and miserable environment to sleep in than the “reception centres”. Furthermore, the migrants have to go to the police station every day to signal their presence. If there is the slightest departure from the centre’s regulations, the association expels them and sends the police after them to catch and expel them. This policing, which definitely doesn’t save migrants from the risk of expulsion, forces them to accept being controlled in order to receive the bare minimum needed to survive. It is to the police’s advantage since they know where to find the migrants when the order to expel them comes. Thus, some undocumented migrants decide to put an end to this loathsome blackmail by deserting the state and town services, at the risk of being caught, locked up in the CRAs, and forcibly expelled.

Considerable means of expressing mutual aid and solidarity towards undocumented migrants do exist (such as opening squats or collecting food, clothing…). However, a large number of revolutionaries and folks who stand in solidarity tend to forget that practical solidarity can be carried out by sabotaging the innumerable cogs in the expulsion machine, which are to be found everywhere: the banks who report undocumented migrants to the police (such as La Poste, BNP Paribas, LCL), the airline companies who charter the expulsion flights (such as Air France), cleaning companies who maintain the CRAs (such as Derichebourg), or the infamous charities which collaborate with the state’s migration policies.