[Spanish prisons] Short interview by Contra Info with anarchist prisoner Claudio Lavazza

Contra Info interview with Claudio Lavazza, a compa who has been imprisoned in the cells of the Spanish State since 1996; the interview was presented in the event in solidarity with long-term anarchist prisoners that took place on January 11, 2014, at La Gatonera, a squatted social centre in Madrid.

In your quest for total freedom, you opted to attack the world of Power with all means available to you. What were the primary motives that pushed you to follow this path of armed rebellion?

The motives that led me to undertake a path of rebellion were a collection of circumstances beginning with the attempted coup d’état in Italy; the strategy of tension (terrorist attacks with explosives in public spaces) that was employed by the extreme right with the assistance of the secret services; attacks on the part of political parties of the Constitutional arch, and predominantly the Christian Democracy party, who were particularly active in pointing to the revolutionary left and the anarchists as being responsible for the grave attacks. Finally, I was pushed by the injustices and maltreatment of the working class by the authorities — the same ones who applauded the fascist government of Benito Mussolini and Italy’s entry into the second world war on the side of the German Nazis.

In your book “Autobiography of an Implacable” (original title: “Autobiografía de un irreductible”; Italian title: “Pestifera la mia vita”), you tell of how in 1981 you participated in the assault on the Frosinone prison (in Italy’s Lazio region), with the goal of freeing a compa who was imprisoned there. Today, more than thirty years afterwards, de facto solidarity with prisoners of the social war rarely reaches this point. How can the prospect of immediate liberation of our brothers and sisters be put on the table again?

Starting to think about the immediate liberation of our imprisoned brothers and sisters is just as much a fundamental objective in today’s social war as it was in the past… But here, while the system has made progress in infrastructure and means of repression, we have stayed in prehistory, without advancing our military and technological preparation to confront the imposing super-prisons. These constructions, far away from towns and cities, are nearly impossible to attack in the way that we did in 1981 in Italy, when we eventually freed two prisoners. When we speak of attacks on the system, although we don’t fancy terms like military and technological preparation, it’s evident that we are talking about war and confrontation. To succeed, it’s necessary to be up to speed with the technological advances imposed by the system of repression. I don’t mean that it’s impossible to attack structures like the super-prisons, but as we are today, it’s an unrealizable dream to free the men and women prisoners within them.

In your long trajectory of polymorphous struggle, we assume that you were involved in various types of organization that waged counterattacks against the establishment. What experiences did you take with you in terms of real self-organization in combat, without leaders or followers?

My experiences with self-organization in combat, without leaders or followers, matured little by little during 16 years underground. No one is born a master, and we all have to learn from others — from those who are more prepared and experienced. Among anarchists, we have a few simple principles that allow us to advance rapidly with self-organization in combat: Once the group is formed, everyone has tasks which everyone must respect. For example, if I’m an expert in attack tactics, the others will have to listen to me, but without seeing me as a leader and without feeling like they are being directed. Obviously everyone has things to say about the situation, but if those words are the fruit of a lack of capacity or experience, they will have to listen to me in order for us to pull off the mission. Just the same, I have to listen to the experts in any other task, if they show that they are more able than I am. This is to say, I will be a teacher according to the circumstances of a given moment, and a student when someone more prepared than myself takes responsibility for the group. This, in my experience, is the way to create self-organization.

Is anarchy illegalist per se? If it is, how can insurrectionary individualities converge in rivers to drown the laws and norms that keep us tied to misery?

Anarchy is illegalist by its very nature, because it exists in the margins of legalities imposed by the system. We the anarchists have our laws and ways of being, which are always condemned by state laws and ways of being. The simple fact of rejecting the rules imposed by wage labor, looking for a way to live by robbing the rich, is considered illegal by the system, but for us it is just and necessary, and thus legal from our point of view. In the same way, any attitude that does not participate in the maintenance of capitalist power may be considered part of this river of rebellion you refer to, which will one day extinguish the laws and norms that keep us tied to misery.

If the date for the revolution is every day, it becomes necessary to take direct action toward the destruction of all that oppresses us, just as much as acting for the creation of a new world. How can these two subversive tasks be married without falling into dry and alienating militancy or defeatist reformism?

The creation of a new world, and the necessity of everyday revolutionary work by carrying out subversive tasks, cannot fall into dry, alienating militarization or into defeatist reformism. We must be careful with this in order to avoid running the risk of burnout, which causes comrades to abandon the cause. This is where our creativity is manifested in the new stimuli and ideas. The revolution and our path toward it must not fall to alienation… we have to give space to breathe, to avoid falling into a routine. The timing and standards of our actions belong to us, and neither Power nor the sad social state are more important than our needs as free persons.

In 1996, you fell prisoner in Siete Puertas, after failing to flee after expropriating from the central office of Banco Santander in Córdoba. What were the reactions of anarchist circles (with and without quotes) at the time, in the Spanish State as well as elsewhere?

The town where I fell prisoner is called Bujalance. Sietepuertas is the name of the cafe where the civil guards caught me. That cafe doesn’t exist anymore; a bank branch took its place. Within anarchist circles in Spain, there were some harsh critiques, as well as others in favor of the expropriation from Santander bank in Córdoba (one of the richest banks in the city). From outside of the Spanish State, we received moving solidarity and support from Italy. I remember that when I was in solitary in the Córdoba prison, beaten and wounded, a telegram from my country of origin arrived that made me cry from the warmth and comradeship it brought. Later, with time, letters and postcards arrived, from Spain and other countries in the European and international community, many of which brought with them the same intensity and care.

You went on the offensive beyond state borders, slipping by the authorities of several countries for years. How do you view the anti-patriotic and internationalist struggle of anarchists around the world in this present moment?

The anti-patriotic and internationalist struggles of anarchists around the world are present and constant, resulting in harsh responses from the police and courts, which have a terrible fear of them. You all outside will have more information that testify to the intensity of these struggles. What I would like to see, before I disappear, is some other triumph. For me as well as you all, this would be the most beautiful present we could receive… Let’s hope it comes soon.

Finding yourself in the dungeons of the Spanish democracy, you have carried out difficult struggles to end solitary confinement and abolish the special FIES regime (an internal segregation regime within Spanish prisons). How would you evaluate those moments today?

Being held in the dungeons of the Spanish democracy, I have fought hard for the abolition of the FIES regime and solitary confinement, as well as the abolition of long sentences and hidden life sentences. Now I’m fighting for the abolition of torture and ill-treatment in prisons, a struggle which started in October 2011 with common actions and symbolic hunger strikes on the first day of each month, thus resulting in a support network of lawyers in solidarity, who assist legally the comrades in struggle that face retaliation by the prison system. I do not evaluate these moments of struggle as a past… but as something present, perhaps with less intensity and participation of the prisoners’ community than before. For me, being imprisoned means to be in a constant struggle. Being a prisoner is to be in struggle; prison is not a place where one can relax and forget about the reality that surrounds them.

Your case is one among anarchists convicted to long sentences worldwide. After so many years in prison, have there been changes in the environment of prison society and its population?

Many changes have taken place within prison society and its population since I entered for the first time, in 1980. The population has changed with the entrance of legal drugs administered daily by the administration, such as methadone and psychotropics. They have succeeded in isolating a good part of the imprisoned population, turning them into individualists. There is no longer that combative solidarity that used to exist, when if they touched one of us we would all rise up. Nowadays, and since many years ago, there exists a control over prisoners that is not just physical, but mental, which prevents one from finding a path adapted to their own personality. The drugs taken every day take the best out of you, leaving you with nothing but concern to keep taking them… the rest is secondary, and of lesser importance… this is their miserable struggle, and to try to convince them otherwise is a waste of time and energy in most cases. The ones who drug themselves are twice slaves to the system, once as a prisoner, and once as an addict. Luckily, in the prisons there is also a part — a small part — of the imprisoned population that is not part of this group, and it is with them that we can struggle to obtain changes here inside.

Following up on the theme of long sentences, how has your long stay in captivity influenced solidarity expressed toward you, as well as your friendships and personal relationships?

Solidarity expressed towards me has always made me proud, especially now that my autobiography has been published.

What is the current state of the legal proceedings against you, and what are your perspectives on the future, both near and further off?

Currently, my legal situation is still complicated. I have been imprisoned for 17 years, and my sentence in Spain is for 25 years. Once I finish it, I await a sentence in Italy of 27 years and 6 months, and another in France for 30 years (with one judgement still not complete, and that with a bit of luck could stop at 15 years). My goal is to rework the pending sentences into a total of 30 years, but it will be very hard to make a court recognize that. There is currently no article of penal legislation that says that after 30 uninterrupted years in prison they will have to let me go. I’ll have to fight it out all the way to the Human Rights Court for them to admit a limitation, or chains will be permanent for me.

What message would you like to send to those who struggle day and night, inside and outside of prison walls?

To those who struggle day and night, inside and outside of prison walls, I send this message… Stay strong and free, because the best way to struggle against the system and the prisons is to never go inside.

A big hug for everyone.

To write to the comrade:
Claudio Lavazza
C.P. Teixeiro (módulo 11)
Carretera Paradela s/n
15310 Teixeiro-Curtis (A Coruña)