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Drugs, gangs, and autonomous/anti-state projects

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R Totale's picture
R Totale
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May 21 2020 11:40
Drugs, gangs, and autonomous/anti-state projects

So, I recently stumbled on a spectacularly odd piece of social media drama involving various people working themselves up into a froth about how Class War in the 80s were pro-cop, anti-rioter, got all their opinions from government propaganda, etc. Obviously, the whole kerfuffle itself is incredibly stupid, but it did make me think about the subject of autonomous/anti-state/non-police responses to drugs, gangs, and related issues. Below are a few examples, I'd welcome more either information about these, or other situations I'm not aware of. I'm also open to more theoretical stuff about what "drug policy" would be like in a communist society.
Anyway, historical instances I'm aware of, some of these are obviously more or less libertarian than others:

- the IWCA in Blackbird Leys. This one's relatively well-documented and easy to read up on in English.

- conflicts between anarchists and dealers/mafia in Exarchia. Possibly the most contemporary, also relatively well-documented.

- Christiana. Really don't know much about this beyond the basics, from what I understand there was a communal decision to allow weed-selling but ban hard drugs, can't remember exactly where I encountered it but I get the impression some people have also been critical of the effects that the weed market has had on the area over time with the anti-capitalist ethos being replaced with one of "alternative retail".

- for what it's worth, there's at least one text, maybe more, where the Wise brothers talk about coming into conflict with a crack gang in London in the 2000s, although as you might expect from them it's sort of buried in the middle of a very long text dealing with a whole host of other issues.

- Mexico. Really not an expert on this and the pros and cons of it, but I know there's some areas where "community police forces" have been formed independently of the state. Also there's Chiapas and all that, as I say I'm not an expert but I get the impression the Zapatistas and the cartels probably don't get on too well?

- the Panthers, George Jackson and subsequent "lumpen"/politicised gang formations in the US. I can't really think of one specific text I'd recommend on this, but I get the impression that the Panthers and those that came after them managed to avoid either moralistic condemnations of "lumpens"/petty criminals on one hand, or just saying "ripping off your own community is totally fine and you should carry on doing it" on the other. Obviously the heyday of the Panthers was prior to the crack epidemic, I'm sure there must have been responses to that as well but all I can think of off the top of my head are hiphop songs.

- probably not a model most of us would want to endorse, but I suppose it's worth mentioning the 'ra as well.

Does anyone have any other suggestions, or more in-depth analysis of any of the situations mentioned above?

comradeEmma's picture
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May 21 2020 20:06
Quote:
- Christiana. Really don't know much about this beyond the basics, from what I understand there was a communal decision to allow weed-selling but ban hard drugs, can't remember exactly where I encountered it but I get the impression some people have also been critical of the effects that the weed market has had on the area over time with the anti-capitalist ethos being replaced with one of "alternative retail".

It is still the largest market for the biker gangs when it comes to the weed market, though they have been thrown out a couple of times due to brining in violence between each other. The last time was after a shoot out inside Christiania. There is really no way to get around the fact that if you open up a drug market then the gangs will come, and with gangs competing on a market comes violence.

It is also worth noting that there is, to my understanding, a bit of a rift in the Danish/Swedish "autonomist" movement between those who take a more "liberal" stance on drugs in occupations and those who don't. One holds what I would describe as a revolutionary perspective, and one that is stuck in some form of life-styleism

Quote:
- Mexico. Really not an expert on this and the pros and cons of it, but I know there's some areas where "community police forces" have been formed independently of the state. Also there's Chiapas and all that, as I say I'm not an expert but I get the impression the Zapatistas and the cartels probably don't get on too well?

From my understanding Zapatistas have forbidden drugs within its community but it also to avoid state repression, it is not too uncommon for socialist guerrilla groups to be accused of drug trades in the Americas(even if it might be true in some other cases).

R Totale's picture
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May 21 2020 20:58
comradeEmma wrote:
It is still the largest market for the biker gangs when it comes to the weed market, though they have been thrown out a couple of times due to brining in violence between each other. The last time was after a shoot out inside Christiania. There is really no way to get around the fact that if you open up a drug market then the gangs will come, and with gangs competing on a market comes violence.

It is also worth noting that there is, to my understanding, a bit of a rift in the Danish/Swedish "autonomist" movement between those who take a more "liberal" stance on drugs in occupations and those who don't. One holds what I would describe as a revolutionary perspective, and one that is stuck in some form of life-styleism.

Cheers for that, I suppose it's probably very unlikely that there's going to be any English-language writing on the subject?

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May 21 2020 21:08

I think it is hard to find things from an anarchist or communist perspective because it isn't really part of the movement. There are some news articles about the last skirmish.

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May 22 2020 11:06

Ah yeah, I can see how even if it's not part of the movement as such, it might still be a subject of interest for communists or anarchists to write about, even if just on a basic level of "here is why you can't have free spaces within capitalism" and so on, but at the same time I can understand why Danish writers writing about local subjects might not do so in English in the first instance. Sure I've read something that at least touches on the topic, but completely can't remember where now.

Also, thinking about it, I suppose Italian autonomia is another area where some of these issues might have come up - from my vague understanding, I sort of think of "heroin, exile or prison" as three of the forms that the movement's disintegration took, but I don't know much about the way people reacted to the heroin epidemic on an organised/political level. Although I can find a few mentions, for instance here and here.

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May 23 2020 12:47

Great idea for a thread, I'm interested in hearing the other responses.

On the ra thing, the Derry Anarchists (was/is part of the WSM - not sure what the go is atm) have some interesting stuff up:

http://www.wsm.ie/c/derry-war-drugs-anarchist
http://www.wsm.ie/c/punishment-attacks-derry
http://www.wsm.ie/c/community-action-against-vigilante-group-derry

I would also recommend the documentary 'A Mother Takes Her Son to Be Shot' if you can find a copy.

When I was working in Derry my impression was that people related to the anti-drugs vigilantes as a police force, taking advantage of the de-facto vacuum that existed in some areas due to the unwillingness of the residents to engage with the PSNI, and the unwillingness of the PSNI to give much of a shit over anything smaller than a bomb threat.

Any violent authority, whether cops or vigilantes, has a need to craft itself a narrative, to provide itself with legitimacy. The ra's narrative was like a funhouse mirror version of the same narrative the cops have -- someone selling pregablin to your daughter? We can sort em out. Joy riders driving you insane? We'll deal with it. And so on. Except instead of prison sentences and fines or whatever it was kneecappings. There was even a bizarre negotiating that went on between community workers and the vigilantes, that kind of resembles a court process -- the community workers function like lawyers and work out "plea deals" where if the offender admits regret they'll reduce his punishment to a simple forced exile instead of a kneecapping, or a kneecapping instead of a death sentence, and so on.

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May 23 2020 18:08

Thanks for that! Again, I feel like I should stress that I'm not at all an expert on NI, but do you think there's any difference between how the provos operated as a paramilitary group with relatively widespread support, vs the post-good friday dissidents being more marginalised, or was it more or less the same? Also, to fully show my workings as best as I can: I've provided some links for what I've been able to find in Italy above, a few sources for the other situations are:
IWCA: https://rdln.wordpress.com/2011/09/08/standing-up-for-ourselves-a-brief-...
Exarchia: https://crimethinc.com/2019/08/29/the-new-war-on-immigrants-and-anarchis... for a general overview, https://en.squat.net/2016/07/14/athens-responsibility-claim-for-the-exec... for one particularly intense incident (and a fair amount of background)
The Wise Brothers vs crackheads thing: as I mention, it's a very long text mostly concerned with other stuff, but the section entitled "The thwarting of street revolt? Fuckhead capitalisation and what this generally - though confusedly - may still imply" in here: http://www.revoltagainstplenty.com/index.php/archive-local/118-dumbvirat...
Mexico: https://www.france24.com/en/20180413-mexico-community-police-fight-carte... https://itsgoingdown.org/press-release-regarding-repression-crac-pc/

I suppose out of the various examples I can think of, the IWCA Blackbird Leys one is the one that feels most relevant to the UK/England today (seeing as it happened here and all), and also one of the less vigilante-ish, but at the same time, it was kind of framed as "getting the police to act", which obviously isn't ideal from an anarcho perspective. But also, I don't really have any perfect solution to offer in terms of a response that's not based on either vigilante violence or the threat of state violence.

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May 24 2020 08:34
Quote:
Thanks for that! Again, I feel like I should stress that I'm not at all an expert on NI, but do you think there's any difference between how the provos operated as a paramilitary group with relatively widespread support, vs the post-good friday dissidents being more marginalised, or was it more or less the same?

I don't know the situation well enough to comment, sorry.

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May 24 2020 17:25

Oh, and also on the IWCA example, there's an article from Black Flag here: http://libcom.org/library/fighting-home-turf-community-politics-iwca
Followed by a reply in the next issue, but that one doesn't really say much about the specific issues: http://libcom.org/library/anarchism-community-politics