Filed under: Analysis, Anarchist Movement, Canada, Incarceration
An anarchist analysis and discussion on building an anti-prison strategy in so-called Canada and beyond.
Citizenship can only exist and be valued if there is also a category of others, those without status. For this distinction to exist, it must be enforced by the state, which has a number of tools to do so.
Deportation is one such tool. Deportation is a violent process in which the state removes all agency from an individual in order to exclude them from the territory over which it asserts its authority. To accomplish this task, the state uses different tactics, one of which is detention centers or migrant prisons. Migrant prisons are used as holding centers prior to deportation. People without status can be arrested and imprisoned while they wait to be flown out of the country, sometimes to far-away lands that they have no relationship to.
The state has been deporting more people in recent years and is currently expanding its capacity to do so. Hiring more Canadian Border Service Agency (CBSA) personnel, finding various ways to monitor undocumented folks, and building new detention centers are ways the state is increasing its ability to effectively deport people. In Laval, a city on Montreal’s north shore, the government wants to build a so-called “more humane” detention center next to a detention center that already exists. However, we all know that a golden cage is still a cage. This is a provocation, a confrontational act, an attack on undocumented folks, on our communities, on all of us. The current migrant crisis will only intensify, considering climate change, war, and widespread conflict in many countries. Migrants risk brutal rejection from the western world, which scrambles to reinforce its borders against the others, the barbarian enemy invasion. The media has recently said that the federal government wants to increase the number of annual deportations by 30%. A project of domination like the migrant prison brings the state of Canada closer to achieving its colonial mission of controlling every aspect of people’s lives and the land it is situated on. By reinforcing its own legitimacy and the category of others, the fascistic ideal of “purity” seems ever more possible.
It’s important to note that the authors of this text are white and were born in Canada. That being said, we are not threatened by deportation, or being locked up in the migrant prison. We still choose to struggle against the construction of this new prison in solidarity with those who risk their lives looking for a better life elsewhere. Not only are we against the policing of non-status people and detention centers, but our objective is also to destroy domination in all its forms, including states and borders. Even though we have the privilege of having citizenship, we are not proud Canadians. We have no feelings of belonging to the national identity. The struggle we want to build doesn’t hope to be recognized by the state or get its approval. Instead of asking the government to stop deportations, we choose to subvert our privilege. We have the ability to opt into struggle and throw a wrench into the gears of the deportation machine. Those responsible for detention should sleep with one eye open.
We want to try to coordinate our energy in an informal and decentralized way to focus on stopping the construction of the migrant prison. If we focus on this specific struggle, it’s in order to obtain effective results. This prison is one of many tools in the state’s arsenal, an important aspect in the preservation of Canada and its borders. That being said, we are opposed to all prisons, all forms of detention, though this time we choose to focus on this particular element. We hope that others will contribute in multiplying offensive endeavors that cause tension to rise. That being said, we refuse to wait for mass participation to act. The time is now.
What can it look like to fight the state and its projects? There is no single answer to this question and no magic formula for success. However, there are certain principles that can help us make coherent choices and can prevent eventual recuperation by politicians and the Left. For us, these principles are applicable to all of our struggles. Some of them, such as the golden no snitching rule, are more obvious. But let’s dig a little deeper.
First, we refuse to make demands to the state. Making demands is often a reflex for people who struggle against specific projects. Demands put forward a narrative in which only those who exert power over others – those in positions of authority-can create change. This reflex is a negation of our own agency and our capacity to act in the world by delegating our power to politicians and bosses. We want to move away from this method of organizing and towards a struggle that can subvert power dynamics and create change without waiting for permission. We want to destroy the state, not reinforce its legitimacy.
Negotiation can also be tempting when we don’t think we have the power to create change. Liberals would want us to believe that we always have to make concessions, to give in a little. However, in a situation like this one, no alternative is acceptable. No nicer prisons, no friendlier CBSA agents, and no alternative monitoring or policing of undocumented communities should be tolerated.
An alternative to demands and negotiation is direct confrontation. We think that attacks are an integral part of preventing the construction of this migrant prison. Attacking those who want to build the prison, those who are drawing up the plans, those who are pouring the cement, those who are intending to lock people up. Forms of attacks can vary according to people’s abilities, trust, etc.
Direct confrontation does not require centralization or hierarchy. In fact, we think that it is necessary to organize in a decentralized and informal way. This means no formal identity, no membership, no orders. People should organize themselves with individuals they share affinity with, meaning ideas, practice, and trust.
Using these methods, we see a way to better adapt to contexts and the relationships between those who struggle. Informal organizing prioritizes the content rather than container. Not waiting for a party, committee, or group’s approval allows our interventions to be more effective. For trust to be established among those who struggle, a certain level of engagement is necessary. There is a difference between personal engagement and formal organizing in terms of accountability. In the first, one is accountable to their ideas, in the second, they are accountable to a formality that is bigger than them in which the organization becomes more important than relationships and individual analysis. To meet periodically in larger numbers to share information and perspectives without making centralized decisions is desirable to us. We recognize the tendency that people have to engage in a variety of struggles, without continuity, with actions that remain symbolic insofar as they have minimal impact on their targets. This kind of involvement tends to prevent expansive conflictuality. The importance of identifying and targeting those responsible (and their collaborators) for domination and detention, and to share analysis regarding medium to long term perspectives is clear. However, all of these energies must remain in motion and should not be trapped in formal organizations under the pretext of maintaining better continuity.
To create a larger context for struggle, several individuals, identifying as anarchists, revolutionaries, or other “autonomous forces”, have a tendency to fall in the trap of the masses and public opinion by organizing alongside the Left and by communicating with mass media. But at what price? It is already obvious that all reforms, as socializing as they may be, contribute to strengthening the chains that bind us to the state. We want to use our own means (zines, independent media, posters, graffiti, infrastructure that supports undocumented people) and build the basis for our struggles according to our anarchist principles that are in rupture with institutions. To subvert social dynamics and destroy domination, we refuse to follow leftist movements and organizing.
Realistically, the only way that we can stop Canada’s deportations and new prisons, its exploitation, domination, and support for the worst kinds of atrocities, its propagation of authoritarian, racist, and colonial endeavors, is to destroy the colonial project altogether. The state needs to be confronted with insurrection, the sabotage of its structures, and permanent revolt. Cracks are everywhere – let’s find them.