Introduction to ABCF
The Anarchist Black Cross Federation (ABCF) began in 1995 when several unaffiliated Anarchist Black Cross groups federated for the purpose of supporting and defending Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War.
Though members of the ABCF believe in and in most cases are involved in other prison issues, our collective focus has remained PP/POW support and defense. This was for two primary reasons.
- In the spirit of highlighting our similarities as opposed to our differences, we felt that though the overall Anarchist Black Cross community should work on a variety of prison related issues, Political Prisoner and Prisoner of War support was one issue that we all agreed on.
- At the time there were several explicitly Anarchist organizations whose primary function was to develop work in the general anti-prison and prisoners rights field. There was NO Anarchist organization working to support or defend PP/POW’s.
Those groups who were and continue to be a part of the ABCF have always viewed ourselves as only a PART of the Anarchist Black Cross community, and feel that the overall ABC needs to grow and continue to do work in all areas of prisoner support. We felt the ABCF should simply be the arm of the overall ABC whose responsibility it was to support and defend PP/POW’s.
Crucial to doing this responsibly was coming to agreement on what a PP/POW is. A political prisoner or a prisoner of war is one who has participated in political and or revolutionary activity before their incarceration. And as a result of that activity, were sent to prison. The actual definitions we use are as follows:
- Political Prisoner: A person incarcerated for actions carried out in support of legitimate struggles for self determination or for opposing the illegal policies of the government and/or its political subdivisions.
- Prisoner of War: Those combatants struggling against alien domination and racist regimes captured as prisoners are to be accorded the status of prisoner of war and their treatment should be in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Conventions Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of 12, August 1949.
Because these definitions are technical rather than explicitly political, we further define those PP/POWs that we will support as “those prisoners incarcerated as a result of political beliefs or actions consciously undertaken and intended to resist exploitation and oppression, and or hasten the implementation of an egalitarian, sustainable, ethical, classless society, predicated on self determination and maximization of all people’s freedom.” [POW Bill Dunne]
Since May 1995 when the ABCF began, much has changed and still more has not. Most, if not all of the above mentioned anarchist groups whose primary function was to support and develop work in the overall prisoner struggle have collapsed. Alongside their collapse was the collapse of much work in that area.
While the ABCF has continued to grow and consolidate our efforts on behalf of PP/POWs, the need for such work far outweighs what we are providing.
Over these past 5 years, the ABCF has developed a number of programs that are examples of our PP/POW support. We will use the rest of this page as an introduction to these programs and provide readers with an outlet to become involved in this support.
In future issues of ONWARD, look to the ABCF page for news and events about Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War, the ABCF, and all of our efforts.
Other Things to Know
There are many more things to become involved in with the ABCF to support PP/POW’s. The movements they came from, and building a strong movement to support and defend them. The following are other activities of the ABCF and who to contact to find out more.
The Anarchist Subsistence Fund is similar to the Warchest except it is designed to support those PP/POWs who come from our own anarchist and antiauthoritarian community. Currently, this program is supporting one prisoner, Ojore Lutalo by way of a check and 40 stamps per month. For more information on this, contact Lancaster ABCF.
Running Down the Walls is a yearly marathon to raise funds for PP/POWs. The first annual run held in 1999 was supported and enjoyed the participation of PP/POWs and other prisoners in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. This years run is being planned now. Contact LA ABCF for more information.
The Men Against Sexism Caucus is a formation within the ABCF. Within a newsletter we discussing and presenting ideas about sexism within ourselves, our political communities and how to combat them. For more info contact Winnipeg ABCF.
The Tactical Defense Caucus is a formation within the ABCF which publicly advocates anarchists and other leftists learn to defend themselves. The TDC has produced two armed self defense videos, has plans to publish a book, and start its own newsletter. Contact Jax ABCF.
Support the Warchest Program
Having started in 1994 only slightly before the formation of the ABCF, the Warchest program has been a reliable and consistent source of material aid for Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War for 6 years.
Operating on a support base of small regular and one time donations, this program has grown into the largest of its kind. Currently sending regular checks of $60 per month to 7 Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War, and having sent assistance to more than a dozen more through the Warchest’s Emergency Fund, the warchest is in many cases the only financial support some PP/POWs receive on a regular basis.
Funds coming in to the warchest generally take on two different forms. Those supporting individuals or groups who support the Warchest by sending in donations on a regular basis, and those who send in one time donations. Funds that are sent out reflect these two different kinds of donations.
The Warchest serves two different and separate functions for PP/POWs, Regular Support and the Emergency Fund.
Regular Support is for those PP/POW’s who have little to no other financial support. The funds collected on a regular basis are disseminated on the basis of who is in the most need to our knowledge. When we receive enough additional regular funds to consistently sustain an additional outgoing check, those PP/POWs who have the least financial assistance will take priority over those with more.
An example of a PP/POW who receives regular support for the Warchest is Sekou Odinga, a BLA POW currently imprisoned in Marion, IL. Prior to and up until today, Sekou has received NO regular financial support from any one or group. Financial support he did receive was very inconsistent and unreliable. Sekou has been receiving a $60 check each and every single month since November 1994. To date he has received more than $4,000 of support from the Warchest.
The Emergency Fund consists of those one time donations and contributions received by the Warchest. The Emergency Fund is available to PP/POWs who may not need a regular check, but are in need of quick, and immediate assistance on a case by case basis.
An example of Emergency Fund support is when BLA POW Jalil Muntaqim was transferred two separate times to two different NY State prisons in the middle of winter. Each time prison employees ‘lost’ Jalil’s winter coat and gloves. The Emergency fund was able to purchase these items for him immediately.
Another example of Emergency Fund support was when United Freedom Front PP Jaan Laaman needed funds to help him continue his college classes. After another cut in spending on prisoners, grants usually available for prisoners to continue classes became unavailable and without support, Jaan would not have been able to receive his degree. Or when former FALN POW Carmen Valentin needed to purchase a radio after hers was broken. Or anarchist POW Ojore Lutalo was needed to re-subscribe to the New York Times, or when BLA POW Sekou Odinga or United Freedom Front PP Richard Williams were in need of further assistance to have their children travel great distances to visit them. The Emergency Fund was able to help in each of these and many more cases.
However the Warchest does not exist magically, and there is no ever ending bountiful money tree we have discovered. It exists on donations only. Though ABCF groups are required to support the Warchest on some level, the majority of its support is from people such as yourself. Groups like the one you may be in.
We need regular support to increase the number of prisoners supported regularly. If you are in even a small collective, consider collecting $2 or $3 a month from each of its members to support the Warchest’s ongoing efforts to provide regular financial aid to those PP/POW’s who have no other support. If you are a member of a radical bookstore or info shop, consider donating a small portion of sales (1% or 2%). If you do a distro, think about contributing a part of the proceeds from items you sell related to PP/POWs to the Warchest.
If you don’t feel you can contribute regularly, or even if you can and want to help more, organize a benefit show, raffle or fundraiser of some sort and make a one time donation to assist the Emergency Fund. Donations of $5, $50, $100 or more has made it possible for the Emergency Fund to help as many PP/POWs as it has for so long. We need to keep this going and can only do so with your help.
The Warchest has survived for 6 years on small donations between $5 and $15 a month from groups and individuals such as yourself. One time donations have ranged from under $4 to in the hundreds from bands like Winnipeg’s Propghandi and Tree from Boston. Concealed cash is best, but checks and money orders made out to NEIL BATELLI can be sent to Jacksonville ABCF. A complete financial report is prepared by Jacksonville ABCF which includes all monies received and all monies sent out. All prisoners address are printed so supporters or anyone can write them and hold us accountable to our claims. Get in touch for more…