June 11th is only six weeks away!
In 2010, some people who care about Eric McDavid and M. Mason met up to talk about what we could do to expand our solidarity with the two of them. As we are all long-term anarchists, most of whom have relationships with many prisoners (including non-anarchists), our discussion grew to include the general state of anarchist prisoner solidarity in the United States, and the (lack of) international solidarity shown here. At the time, we sensed a dearth of engagement with prisoner solidarity beyond the immediate: getting people out of jail is something most anarchists have experience with, but how we support prisoners over many years in forms beyond the exchange of letters must improve. We have known many prisoners who desire something more, however hard to define that something more often is. As for international matters, it is a fundamental tenet of anarchism that we do not respect national boundaries or want to feel limited by them. Our histories of colonialism, racism, language and cultural barriers are real, and it is our task to surpass them. The United States is notoriously bad at this, anarchists not less than others; we see showing real international solidarity as one of the most important projects to be taken up. As most long-term anarchist prisoners are in other countries, there can be no separation between anarchist prisoner solidarity and international solidarity.
Many people have put hard work into bettering those projects and relationships; we decided that June 11th would be our own collective try. That date had previously been a day of solidarity with Jeff Luers, a former anarchist eco-prisoner. He agreed that we should renew the tradition, and we set to work.
Strategic decisions and difficulties
We chose to name Eric and M. in specific because of our relationships with them. At a basic level, we wanted to intensively grow their material support, and to make sure their names are not forgotten. Furthermore, we want to help them stay connected to the people and projects they care about, to not allow the State to isolate them more than physically from us. Still, we believe that (with possible exceptions) all long-term anarchist prisoners deserve solidarity, and we began reaching out to other support crews and prisoners. Contra Info and various unaffiliated individuals started translating our materials into many different languages, and we heard many exciting reportbacks of actions and events in other countries, as well as around the US.
The distinction “long-term” is not an arbitrary one. Anarchists tend to be decent at supporting people in jail for short periods of time: best of all for a few days, then less well for a few months, then fairly poorly over the course of several years. By the time we hit the ten year mark, it seems possible for our friends in prison to actually be forgotten about—not by their most immediate loved ones, but by the larger milieu. We will not allow that to ever happen to Eric or M. While they are imprisoned, and afterwards as they adjust to outside life, we intend that they shall have every possible comfort and opportunity for conflict they could wish.
But our dreams are even larger than that: we intend to get them out of prison. Not directly, nothing that unrealistic: but we intend to build such a swell of solidarity and attack and contempt against prison that the State knows it must release them. For this reason of standpoint and for many more—because we know them as anarchists, because we are anarchists, because the vast majority of people showing solidarity to them are anarchists—June 11th is the day of solidarity with long-term anarchist prisoners. This is not meant to exclude; historically anarchists and fighters for the earth and animals are overlapping forces. Some insist on creating a binary between these two currents of struggle, we do not. Certainly M. and Eric are both of those things; so are many (most?) long-term anarchist prisoners; so are most people working on this project. Our antagonism includes but is larger than opposing only the despoilers of the earth: we are against all of society.
Of course, there are practical considerations that make our project difficult. For the most part, organizers of June 11th feel that we should not communicate directly with M. or Eric about the project, although some of us are able to maintain our personal relationships with them. More than anything, we don't want to endanger them, to make their lives in prison harder or more restrictive than they already are. As much as we often wish for their guidance on the project's direction, we feel forced to rely on our impressions of them rather than asking for their input. The reasons for this should be obvious. Although June 11th organizers are not responsible for the events and actions that occur on that day—both in a legal sense, and in the sense of the autonomy of action—Eric and M. are even less so. We can only hope that the letters and money they receive on that day, and whatever word of other events that reaches them, are welcome. Otherwise, our common sense guides us as best it can.
These concerns also make a certain level of opacity desirable to us personally. While we regret the lack of intimacy in our communications with some, it is important to remember that we are no one in particular. We hope that, as individuals, we are known to and respected by those we work with regularly—but as a collective, we are not special. We feel responsible for the decisions we make in framing and promoting this day... but we do not desire any of the corresponding power and recognition that often comes from working on a well-known project (nor the conspiracy charges.) It must be enough that we are anarchists, a few among the hundreds who take part in June 11th, and among the thousands who desire the destruction of the existent. We are against the kind of celebrity culture that makes the opinions of a few people more influential than our wider shared experience. (For more of this kind of perspective in a different but relevant context, see: http://en.contrainfo.espiv.net/2014/03/26/appendix-to-an-aborted-debate-...)
Similarly, we enjoy our working relationships with the support collectives for M. and Eric, as well as with the many non-affiliated individuals who throw down for them. Yet we consider our enterprise separate from theirs: organizing a day that can be freely participated in by all is far different than the constant hard work of making sure that prisoners have their needs met, of organizing benefits and trying every legal strategy that might be helpful. We should all be free to make the tactical decisions that our different strategies require without trying to force ourselves into the same molds. We appreciate how gracious and caring our interactions have been over the past few years, and seek to continue that trajectory.
Our project has succeeded in many ways. Each year, thousands of dollars are raised by June 11th events for M. and Eric, as well as for other prisoners; as far as we know, June 11th is the largest source of material support for Eric and M. Even more importantly, their names remain fresh in the minds of anarchists and fellow travelers, where it might have otherwise been erased by the action of time and our quick-passing generations. We've distributed endless amounts of propaganda, gone on a national tour, seen hundreds of events from all over the world, and heard of many brave and effective attacks. The spread of conviction and energy behind prisoner solidarity in our milieu is certainly not due only to us, but we feel proud of the contributions towards it we have been able to make. We are heartened by the international solidarity we've received, and excited to reciprocate, to be a part of the real engagement by US anarchists with the worldwide anarchist project.
Still, there's plenty of room to grow, and many directions to explore. When we first met after June 11th, 2013 to discuss possible directions for the next year, several of us felt interested in reaching out to the eco- and animal-liberation settings that are our own personal backgrounds. Eric, of course, is accused of planning an attack on a dam; M. did many actions against environmental destroyers. Both are committed vegans behind bars, no easy task. Too, these communities in struggle tend to face fierce repression, and to answer it strongly. For all those fighters, and especially the future long-term prisoners among them, we feel solidarity, and a distinct pleasure at the prospect of working together this year. Let it not be for this year alone; let our failures at reaching out to some in the past only encourage us to ever-widen our communication in the future.
June 11th is a long-term project, and there is plenty of time and opportunity for its growth. It is a day that is open to participation by many, each according to their desires and means, their tactical preferences and personal affinities. This year, and for many years to come, we hope you'll join us in fighting with our loved comrades, and in refusing the kinds of distinctions the State imposes to keep us alone.
No one should be able to walk down any street... without seeing the prisoners' names written on the walls. And the songs that are sung about them must be heard by all.