NON SERVIAM – I WILL NOT SERVE YOU
“Worse than enslavement is getting used to it…”
Life in the modern civilized world comprises false representations, false patterns, and false formalities. Formalities that determine our upbringing within a family, our education, our professional career, our relationships, our emotions, our smiles or tears. Patterns that castrate the scope of our perception so that our thoughts are directed onto a moving walkway going only one direction. Representations that disguise the system’s functions and pathogenies so that we see life unfold only on stage, and never wonder what’s hidden backstage. So, the thousands of suicides of desperate debtors is just another statistic among the unpleasant consequences of the economic crisis, the impoverishment of the so-called third world is just an unfortunate fact, and its wounds will heal by charity organizations, the countless dead of modern crusades, the unfortunate victims of the absurdity of war, and the convict slaves in American prisons are simply antisocial elements that provide social services to Democracy.
Prison itself is exile from life; a non-place and non-time behind the screen of a decent society, to make the ugliness that bothers the eyes of reputable citizens unseeable. Prisons are a proof of the perverse intelligence of authoritarian minds. They’re built onto walls echoing the screaming and weeping of thousands of people who’ve learned to sleep with anguish and despair. Prison is the country of captivity, the country where one learns to kneel before the “Forbidden”, a landfill for the disposal of human waste, an industrial dump where the social machine’s hazardous waste ends up. For most people, however, for all those who never learned to doubt, to question, to look beyond the obvious, prison is a security wall necessary to protect their peaceful and quiet life.
It’s certainly hypocritical on the part of a society to display the supremacy of its democratic civilization, its humanitarian values and social sensitivities so vulgarly, when those deemed unfit to exist within the same society are piled up in souls’ warehouses. But it’s infinitely more hypocritical, and infuriating at the same time, to turn these imprisoned existences, these living dead, into a marketable value through a modern and sophisticated slave trade.
Yet this is the reality for nearly 2.5 million inmates in US prisons, whom the modern Empire has turned into slaves. These prisoners-slaves are the lowest caste of social margins. They don’t only experience the cruelty of captivity, but are condemned to lose their human beingness altogether; to become slaves in the modern galleys of American hellholes to the financial benefit of privatized prisons and multinationals that, using part of this dirty money, support election campaigns of various politicians who promise order and security to their voters. In turn, the voters—predefined coefficients in a rigged equation—fulfill their role, and the solution is always obedience. That’s exactly why the happiest slaves are the greatest enemies of freedom.
But there are other slaves who aren’t so happy. They are the “fallen angels” in a society whose authoritarian perversion treats humans as cogs. But these human cogs are slowly turning against this very society. Throughout the US and the prisons in that territory, an increasingly growing whisper starts to spread. On September 9th, this whisper is transformed into an angry cry of freedom, screaming in the face of the almighty corrections system the ancient cry of rebellion: “Non serviam – I will not serve.”
September 9th is a landmark day for inmates in American prisons because 45 years ago, on September 9th 1971, the fire of Attica prison was lit. Nearly 1,500 prisoners rioted, took jailers hostage, and put forward a series of radical demands. Power replied with zero tolerance: four days later, on September 13th 1971, New York state troops stormed and retook the prison. The crackdown took a heavy toll, killing almost 40 (about 30 inmates and 10 hostages) and wounding 89 others. Because of this exact symbolic character, September 9th is a landmark day for the new coordinated prisoner mobilization, too.
Struggles as this one, despite their intermediary nature, are qualitatively upgraded—compared, for example, to strictly personal claims or unionist demands. Because this particular struggle concerns the total abolition of an institution that’s a pillar of repression and economy, social control and the security doctrine policy. Moreover, prisoners are waging a struggle under extreme and multifaceted oppression, so even calling it an intermediate struggle is something that may not eventually apply to the situation. Because forced labor in prisons is an institution that serves the system in many parallel ways. This is precisely the institution that defines a gray-zone status of millions of slaves for a limited or lifetime tenure. The fact that these are humans designated criminals one way or another, legitimizes this gray zone in the eyes of the rest of society, that don’t care to express some moral or values-related objection and, worse still, benefit from its existence. A struggle for the abolition and the denial of such an institution, a fight which also includes a form of sabotage against the interests served by this very institution, is nothing but a barricade of the most basic dignity against the cruelest face of Power. Certainly, this struggle alone will not determine the entirety of the repression policies that domination may adopt. Regardless of its outcome though, this struggle can be a civil disobedience beacon against the system, and the fact that this beacon will owe its strength to all the damned, the outcast, the socially disinherited—who nowadays receive “revolutionary” anathemas on some occasions—has its own special meaning.
Of course, we don’t seek to make any idealization or embellishment of the entirety of prisoners. Being exiled in the country of captivity for several years already, we’ve seen the composition of a prison population up close, and we don’t harbor any illusion whatsoever that they’re deterministically some kind of revolutionary subjects. In most cases, in fact, an abyss of values separates us from other inmates because of their choices or contradictions over the course of their lives. However, being captives ourselves, we cannot but feel the agony of all those prisoners in the US.
Beyond all this, it’s also a lucid political composure that allows us to put aside any differences we feel we may have with the subject of detainees, as these differences are not enough to make us stand indifferent and unmoved in front of the size, the moral implications, the stakes, the historical and political legacy of such a struggle. In other words, our solidarity reflexes haven’t been activated by emotional and experiential criteria only, but also originate in a political consistency. For all these reasons, we feel the need to express our support to the concerted campaign that began inside the US prisons from September 9th onwards, during which prisoners deny the role of the slave imposed upon them by the democratic society, and factually demonstrate defiance and disobedience. And, as has been said: “Disobedience is the true foundation of liberty.”
The internationalization of this struggle through callouts of prisoners themselves, who ask support from every solidarity initiative, enhances the dynamics of international solidarity in total, making it, even coincidentally, another piece in the mosaic of international solidarity calls such as June 11th or the International Solidarity Week every August. But, for us, it’s not about limiting solidarity to dates marked on the calendar; instead, it’s about highlighting the beauty and authenticity of an informal anarchist coordination. That’s why we’ve endorsed the proposal of ABC Anarchist Solidarity Cell, to coordinate solidarity gestures on an International Solidarity Day (October 1st), as we believe their callout contributes to this direction.
Finally, we want to send our warm greetings to all anarchists and all politicized prisoners willing to be part of this struggle, regardless of their reasons for doing so.
PS: Words are sometimes not enough to capture all the intensity of one’s emotions in certain circumstances. The truth is we were struck at the news that the filth of the Italian counterterrorism unit (DIGOS) launched yet another anti-anarchist attack against comrades in Italy, under the imaginative name “Scripta Manent” (written words remain). Raids, house searches, persecutions, suspect lists, arrests, pretrial detentions…
Once again the target of repression is the Informal Anarchist Federation (FAI), but now they remembered to dig up cases concerning the placement of explosive devices back in 2006 and 2007. Anna Beniamino, Marco Bisesti, Emiliano Danilo Cremonese, Valentina Speziale and Alessandro Mercogliano passed the prison threshold, while a new detention order was issued against our incarcerated brothers Alfredo Cospito and Nicola Gai, members of FAI’s Olga Cell (that claimed responsibility for the shooting of Roberto Adinolfi, the chief executive of Ansaldo Nucleare). In a separate investigation, during a house search where police found an electrician’s manual and some batteries, another comrade, Daniele Cortelli, who’s active in Croce Nera Anarchica (Italian Anarchist Black Cross), was charged with possessing materials for potential manufacture of explosive devices, and then sent to custody, too. We may be familiar with the notion of captivity, but we will never be able to accept the bad news of comrades’ arrest, no matter how far they are, without feeling tightness in our heart. Our thoughts are with them and everyone else who’ve abruptly entered into a new chapter in their life—the prison chapter.
Finally, we send our warmest salute to our brother Alfredo Cospito. On August 30th 2016, with complete disregard for any consequences, he smashed the glass partition window of the visitations room in the security wing of Ferrara prison in solidarity with the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire in Greece, after the 115-year prison sentence that was recently imposed on all of its imprisoned members.
Comrade, your act brightened our hearts and filled us with emotion. Such fraternal gestures prove the real beauty of authentic anarchist solidarity. We wish you strength to go through whatever might come next.
The Conspiracy of Cells of Fire members:
September 12th 2016
Koridallos prison (Athens, Greece)