Leeds Anarchist Black Cross was resurrected in 2004, with the aim of supporting class-struggle anarchist prisoners, and those fighting back against the prison regime. Since then, we have hosted talks and film showings, produced pamphlets and raised funds for comrades in the UK, Spain, Catalonia, Poland, Germany and elsewhere. Demos have been organized and the campaign against Wilkinson’s use of prisoners’ slave labour has continued. We also run a small distro, selling literature, t-shirts and so on, focusing of course on prison issues. As well as that, there is practical support in the form of writing to prisoners – one of the easiest and most worthwhile ways to offer solidarity, and something anyone can do.
BREAK DOWN THE WALLS
Prison is very much on the agenda in the UK, with maximum capacity surpassed in UK jails, and the amount of people imprisoned reaching a record 80,000. Yet it clearly doesn’t work – locking people up does not stop anti-social crime, it simply degrades and dehumanizes. In addition to offering support to imprisoned comrades, the ABC challenges the very notion of prison, in both moral and practical terms. Of course, prison as a concept does not exist in isolation, and we can never eliminate prison without drastic changes to society. We do not question the notion of prison in isolation – we advocate the demise of capitalism and its replacement with a free anarchic alternative society. While that goal may not happen right now, we can all at the very least offer our support to comrades who are incarcerated for their part in the struggle.
BACK IN THE DAY…
The roots of the Anarchist Black Cross can be traced back as far as Tsarist Russia, where the Anarchist Red Cross co-ordinated aid for political prisoners. The movement, later renamed the Black Cross to avoid confusion with the International Red Cross, was active across Europe for several decades, supporting prisoners of the Bolshevik regime during and after the Russian Civil War, and the early victims of Italian fascism. The ABC finally collapsed in the thirties, under pressure of the huge demands for its services and dwindling financial support. It was later restarted in England in the sixties, initially supporting anarchists fighting back against Franco’s fascist Spain. From there, the idea has spread, and there are now ABC groups all over the world.
Leeds Anarchist Black Cross are also asking for donations of unused stamps, particularly non-UK ones. It can be difficult for prisoners to reply to letters, and in many countries, their support campaigns run on a shoe-string. A donation of unwanted stamps which can be passed on to support groups, or where prisons permit, inmates themselves can help maintain vital communications and break down the isolation of jail. If you’re on holiday, why not spend those last bits of loose change on stamps and send them to us? Stamps from Italy, Germany, Spain and Eastern Europe are especially welcome.
Please consider supporting us or getting involved. It could be you, or your sister, brother, lover, son, daughter, mother, father, or friend who needs our solidarity next. We hope not, but if that happens we’ll be here for you, and here for them.
We can receive donations as stamps, postal orders, well-disguised cash, or in cheque form (please make cheques payable to ‘The Cable Street Society’).
Leeds ABC, 145 – 149 Cardigan Road, Leeds, LS61lJ England.