This is a call for solidarity with Ruymán Rodríguez, anarchist repressed, tortured and persecuted by the Spanish state for housing the poor. Below is a statement by GAF London as well as a translation of the one released by Federación Anarquista Gran Canaria. These two pieces were originally shared via Green Anti-Capitalist Media (here). Ruymán Rodríguez is the author of Street Anarchy, a collection of three articles which we translated and published May 2020.
The editor wishes to express our complete solidarity Ruymán and other Anarchists who are suffering at the hands a brutal and uncaring state. Solidarity is a weapon of liberation and you comrades, have mine. - P
Here is the statement by GAF London followed by the translation below.
We’ve translated an statement published by the Federación Anarquista Gran Canaria (Gran Canaria Anarquist Federation) where they detail the political persecution of their member Ruymán Rodríguez, who is facing false charges to cover up the brutal violence they inflicted upon him as part of a ploy to repress the radical housing movement in Gran Canaria. The FAGC he’s part of has been involved in a very successful social movement for housing in Gran Canaria and has helped hundreds of families left abandoned by the state. Like any other threat to its legitimacy, the state couldn’t allow this to continue unchallenged.
This happens as the protests for the political incarceration of Catalan anti-fascist rapper Pablo Hasél continue. And if fact just as it’s announced that 8 anarchists have been arrested accused without evidence of participating in the burning of a police van during these protests. This is is clearly a move against the whole of the anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement, which they seek to use as the scapegoat to try to smother the flames of revolt spreading all over the Spanish state after years of pent up rage for the many injustices the people have suffered under it.
It’s also difficult not to notice the significance of this happening only a day after we remembered the anniversary of the death of Salvador Puig, an anti-capitalist killed by the Francoist regime in what became the last death sentence in Spain to date, precipitating the end of the dictatorship soon after. As we can see, the transition to democracy made little in the way of stopping the political repression or solve any of the issues accosting the people. Rather, it has allowed for the crimes of the dictatorship to go unpunished and for all the institutions that create misery for the people, such as the guarcia civil that tortured Ruy, to continue operating unchallenged. This is the nature of democracies: a more stable and cunning form of domination.
We therefore cannot see this as anything else but as the continuation of the campaign of social warfare states wage against their people to keep them under their rule. This war is always takes place unilaterally by the state even when there’s not significant opposition to it, but it escalates as soon as its subjects attempt to fight back by abandoning the useless calls for civility and non-violence, the meaningless gestures, marches and electoral aspirations. The arrival of a the “most progressive government in the history of the democracy” in Spain has done nothing to stop this. And in fact, it has allowed it to continue more efficiently and brutal than ever by buying the support of parts of the left with electoral promises of representation.
It’s in this context that we call on all members of the international anarchist, anti-authoritarian and antifascist movement to extend their solidarity to Ruymán Rodríguez and the FAGC as well as to everyone else suffering the repression of the Spanish state. Just as they ramp up their campaign of violence, so must we increase the intensity of our fight for freedom. Messages and shows of solidarity are needed, but also actions that target the state and its institutions. No matter in what part of the world you find yourself, our enemy is the same. And any threat to one of its parts affects the whole. Let them feel the fear of those who won’t bow down to their violence.
Solidarity with Ruymán Rodríguez!
Solidarity with the victims of state violence!
Burn down the prisons, free all prisoners!
– GAF London
This is translated statement originally published by the FAGC:
We’ve been notified that on the next 24th of March our pal Ruymán Rodríguez will be taken to the court. “Casually” it’s been little more than a month since we came back to have a presence online. The prosecution asks for 1 year and 6 months of jail time (and a 770€ fine) for a baseless crime of “assault against authority”.
Let’s illuminate the background of this case. End of April 2015. Ruy is about to leave for his job (taking care of the elderly) when two guardias civiles (Spanish militarized police force in charge of civil policing) approach him in the bus stop of Guagua. Without even identifying themselves, they kidnap him and take him to the station.
There it starts the session of insults, death threats, abuse and finally slaps, beat ups and strangling…they only stop after he starts spitting blood.
Ruy refuses to make a declaration, requests the Habeas Corpus, medical assistance and that a lawyer of his choosing is informed. He also threatens them with publicly denouncing the tortures. Like he finally did. This is when the guarcias civiles start to be afraid. They haven’t arrested a helpless person incapable of reacting. This is where the accusation of assault against authority is born, to justify Ruy’s injuries.
They accuse him of kicking in the groing one of the guarcias civiles who was torturing him in the interrogation room. The accusation of assault against authority, a “crime” that happens after the arrest, is also an attempt to justify the police actions.
They justify the kidnapping due to the need of identifying Ruy because, according to them, he refused to identify himself. And why was it supposedly necessary to identify him? Because of an accusation made by a person who entered into “La Esperanza” community without permission, without giving any of the required documentation and who made an accusation against all of the “Rehousing Commission” that came to confront him. These are the requirements (in Spanish). In total 6 people were accused of “coercion”. None of them, logically, were arrested. Ruy, the only one who wasn’t present when this took place, the only one whose name the accuser must have known, is “casually” the only one arrested.
Do you think that’s where this this pantomime stops? When Ruy was arrested it had been days since the accuser, to whom we had been able to explain the rehousing protocol, HAD ALREADY WITHDRAWN ALL THE ACCUSATIONS. There was no reason to identify Ruy, or to detain him or to arrest him.
This is the truth: since 2011 the FAGC has been taking actions that the system couldn’t assimilate. Hundreds of expropriations and rehousings and hundreds of evictions stopped. We’ve helped more people to access a house than any other institution in the Canary Islands. We’ve also promoted the biggest housing socialization project of the Spanish state: 76 families, 200 people, most of them kids, living autonomously in “La Esperanza”. Currently there are 10 other communities of similar characteristics only in this island.
“La Esperanza” was a cause of distress for the Guarcia Civil in Guía. An ancient municipality with high standard of living, but little social and cultural activity. As the Community grew so did the police hostility. During the almost 24 hours the police had Ruy arrested the guarcias civiles said things to Ruy like “you are making Guía full of scum”. Also “go to Las Palmas to burn containers and leave that rehousing shit already”.
The hate for the poor by the police and the institutions and the government’s worry that an incipient anarchism got in contact, after many year of self-isolation, with destitute families, migrants and the homeless. This is the background to understand the arrest of Ruy.
They wanted to cut at its root what later would become a potent housing movement with libertarian influences that would end up crystallising in the “Sindicato de [email protected] de Gran Canaria”. They wanted to stop this: https://kolektiva.media/videos/watch/21e32246-2afa-42d9-a70a-c5d16c7cc9ba
We ask all the social collectives, independent media, etc to make theirs our demand of #RuymánLibertad (#FreeRuyman) and that they be ready to sound the alarm if the legal situation of our pal worsens. Without solidarity we are destined to be defeated.
They ask prison sentences for those who protests, fight and question. For those who, like in this case, have done nothing but help poor families to have a roof over their head. We are immersed in an escalation of repression which we’ll only be able to confront if we are united.
They want to punish Ruy because they believe that with this they’ll be able to destroy what we’ve been building for almost a decade in this island: a neighbourhood anarchism by the poor for the poor. They don’t understand what it means to face off against a social project that comes from bellow.
They are naive if they think we are going to allow them to crush us. Not even with all their gags they’ll be able to stops from continue to shout: “Bring down the walls of the prisons!” “Political or social, let all prisoners out” And of course: #RuymánLibertad (#FreeRuyman). ■
On Mayday police attacked the a demonstration of some 1000 Anarchists in Bandung with brutal severity on the pretence of stopping some spray painting. this demonstration involved children and families who were sent fleeing.The gathering broke into two sections who were then chased down, attacked, arrested (some sixty people simply being bundled into black SUV's by masked police) and beaten. Shortly after without any judicial procedure many had their heads shaved, their faces covered in spray paint and some were forced to crawl along the street in their underwear. You can see footage of the demo before the attack of Anarchists singing ‘Buruh Tani’ (‘Farm Workers’) and after the police assault to see how the cops change everything.
In total some 619 were arrested and currently 3 comrades are still trapped in the hellish Indonesian prison system.
Elsewhere in Jakarta, Anarchists took on a police blockade to allow Trade Unions comrades to get to their rally point in a beautiful act of solidarity against the state, however the local Anarcho-Syndicalist union in Jakarta is being targetted by the police.
In Malang, Makassar and Surabaya comrades have been beaten and kidnapped by the state with entire communities being terrorist by the bastards as they preform sweeps looking for Anarchists
The shaving of heads brings back vivid memories religious police units of the Aceh region - who have history of horrifically abusing transwomen - attacking punk charity gigs in 2010/11 beating people up and taking them away for “re-educated” starting with... well as police chief inspector, Iskandar Hasan said "First their hair will be cut. Then they will be tossed into a pool. That'll teach them a lesson!" … it's seems shaving heads is a national past time for the pigs in Indonesia now...
All of this has been building for decades with a vibrant culture of resistance. Please take the time to have a read of this interview Black Rose / Rosa Negra had with an Uber driver and member of Persaudaraan Pekerja Anarko Sindikalis (PPAS) last year which talks about how how Anarchist-Syndicalism has developed there and also this 2010 interview with Indonesian Anarchist from the book “Von Jakarta bis Johannesburg - Anarchismus weltweit' and finally this essay by Vadim Damier and Kirill Limanov which looks into the history of the struggle back to the two hundred years where anti-colonial forces alongside comrades in Europe and India which eventually lead to Anarchist cells forming in 1914/6 and with the ebb and flow of revolution pettering out only for the black flag to return alongside punk in the 90's.
" In the years 1993-1994, an Indonesian punk scene emerged. Gradually, part of it turned to anti-dictatorship and anti-fascist activity; they established links with social movements and with the labour movement. As the Indonesian activists themselves described, the anarchist movement arose around 1998.
In more recently memory the Anarchist scene in Indonesia has suffered major hits. The Anarchist Black Cross Indonesia (Palang Hitam) had to stop operating a couple of years back after a member pretty much stolen all the funds and donations from around the world and disappeared leaving a divided community spread across thirteen thousand islands. Disconnected from each other and from the international community Indonesian comrades have struggled on and built vibrate Anarchist movement diverse in nature and entirely composed of local autonomous groups and individuals. These are small communities both rural and urban that have been facing a massive crack down for years with the state actively monitoring organisers and disappearing people.
So right now... whats occouring?
Around the world comrades are lighting the fires and sharing their solidarity, some folk are as I type en-route to Indonesia to provide support, develop links and report from the front line as they take action with local comrades. In the UK? Take action. Show solidarity.
Whatever that means to you
You'll find the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia at 30 Great Peter St, Westminster, London SW1P 2BU
Their phone number is :- +44 20 7499 7661
The Ambassador is called Rizal Sukm
In the words of local organisers “Right now we would appreciate international solidarity in the form of actions and also financial support. We will make sure that the mistakes made by Indonesia ABC won’t be repeated. If people are able to provide financial assistance please send it to the paypal below. We will use it for legal fees and to help support our friends who are in hiding because they are being targeted by police.”
Read the call for solidarity here on Mpalothia.net
We are children of workers or laborers who work in factories, offices, warehouses, workshops, restaurants and wherever our parents bow to the employer.
We are school dropouts because we have to help our parents.
We are children who exclude ourselves from school because we refuse to continue the modern wage slavery system.
We are students who work part time, dividing our time between studying and work and are bullied on campus and in the workplace.
We are a generation that is taught how to be slaves and to be turned into ready-made products for industry.
We have to pay expensive tuition fees to be enslaved.
We are prospective workers, replacing our parents who lost their dignity, who feel inferior due to being labeled stupid, working hard under the demands of production, long work hours, low wages and high risk work environments.
We are the future. We have started a new page for a different era. An age without oppression and slavery.
We, are your children.
The Decolonial Atlas is a volunteer-run project lead by Jordan Engel which is building an ever growing collection of maps which, in some way, help us to challenge our relationships with the land, people, and state. It’s based on the premise that cartography is not as objective as we’re made to believe. The orientation of a map, its projection, the presence of political borders, which features are included or excluded, and the language used to label a map are all subject to the map-maker’s bias – whether deliberate or not.
Thank you for the time, why don't we get started with a little about how you got started with The Decolonial Atlas? What was the original impetus and why do you feel that such maps are so needed? What are the aims of the project?
Cartography is beautiful science and art form that can help us to better understand the world and our place in it. The problem is that most of the maps we use today reinforce an understanding of the world that is flawed. They do this in many ways, from the projections they use, to imposing to place names of the colonizers, to the inclusion of political borders. Borders do not really exist outside our imaginations, but they have been ingrained so deeply into our mental geographies that they seem real. A recent analysis revealed that most international borders are actually less than a century old. A world free from states becomes easier to envision when our maps don't include borders.
They say that 'history is written by the victors.' Well, maps are made by the colonizers. The Decolonial Atlas was started in response to that, to amplify indigenous geographic perspectives and challenge the monopoly that colonial maps have on our consciousness. The world has much to learn from these indigenous perspectives, but even more importantly, indigenous cartography contributes to the overall perpetuation of indigenous cultures which have for so long been suppressed. Knowledge of the land, passed down through generations, is preserved in indigenous place names. Documenting those names now is of the utmost importance, so that when the elders pass, those names are not forgotten forever.
Indigenous toponyms are important reflections of the cultures and places they represent. Compared to colonial toponyms which are often named for important settlers or are transplanted names from their homelands, indigenous names are much more deeply rooted in the local history and geography of that particular place. Documenting these names serves to support ongoing language revitalization efforts, acknowledge unextinguished indigenous land tenure, and help native and non-native people alike to better understand indigenous history, the legacy of colonization, and our relationship with the land.
You mentioned that one of the key issues with the maps in common usage is the projections themselves? Could you tell us a little more about this, why is came about and why it is we are using maps which continue to be problematic? Is there a preferred map?
The issue of projections in cartography comes down to equal representation. So many of the maps we use diminish the relative size of the Global South, while allowing for a greater level of detail in Europe and North America. The most egregious projection that we are all familiar with is the Mercator, a 450-year-old relic that famously makes Greenland appear larger than the entire continent of Africa. Obviously, because the Earth is spherical, there's no perfect way to represent it on a flat surface, but there are many great equal-area projections which are certainly preferable to the Mercator. Some of my favorites are the Eckert IV projection, and the similar Equal Earth projection, which was just invented in 2018.
What is the scale of loss of indigenous toponyms? How much have native communities lost?
The scale of loss varies from tribe to tribe. Eastern nations, which were colonized the earliest, often suffered a huge loss of their cultural heritage. Many of the names on our maps are from the precolonial era, while others are not quite as old. In some cases where the indigenous name for a place has been forgotten or suppressed, contemporary indigenous communities have endeavored to reconstruct a place name based on their cultural relationship with that location. Because indigenous cultures and languages are living and dynamic, none of these names are any less "authentic" than others. Still, I was once talking to DeLesslin George-Warren from the Catawba Indian Nation who brought up a great point when we were discussing indigenous toponymy - "The fact is that we've lost so much in terms of our language and place names. It might be more honest to recognize that loss in the map instead of giving the false notion that the place name still exists for us."
How do you feel about the argument that English toponyms can be set alongside indigenous toponyms? Such as found here in the UK where Welsh/English, Gaelic/English sit side by side, Is this enough?
It's a question for each indigenous community to answer what reconciliation means and looks like to them. Personally, I think there are so many instances in North America where the colonial place names blatantly dishonor indigenous communities, that I don't think dual-naming would suffice. The significance of place names is mostly symbolic, and too often, the names that dot this landscape are symbolic memorials to the white supremacist perpetrators of genocide and slavery. There is no equivalent for that in Great Britain.
What is the main difference between modern state borders and those of indigenous communities? Do they not present similar issues?
The Decolonial Atlas has become a platform for people to share ideas about decolonization. Someone commented recently that the concept of 'tribal territories' is widely misunderstood. Most American Indian nations did not have clearly defined borders as we think of today, and the concept of land ownership itself seemed absurd to many. I'd also direct people to a recent article which explores this topic titled Settler Anarchists Should Tread Lightly Around Indigenous Nationalism..
Is there a particular focus to your work at the moment?
Since 2014, we've been researching and consulting with indigenous elders and language keepers across North America to create a decolonized modern map of the continent. The main feature of this map are the indigenous toponyms (place names) for major landmarks such as cities, mountains, and historical sites. We've worked with more than 100 indigenous communities so far to accurately represent their languages and perspectives on the map.
How can Anarchist communities best practice respect for indigenous names? Is there not an issue of appropriation?
At the beginning many public events, it's becoming more common for there to be a territory acknowledgement, recognizing that these events are taking place on the stolen land of a particular tribe. When possible, we recommend also acknowledging the indigenous name of where the event is taking place. Place names are the intellectual and cultural property of the native people, and as such, we advise seeking permission from those communities and language keepers beforehand.
What are the long-term goals/ road map of The Decolonial Atlas?
We strive to accomplish many goals with the Atlas, including:
- Documenting indigenous knowledge of the land to ensure it's not forgotten
- Fostering a better understanding of indigenous history and the legacy of colonization
- Supporting indigenous peoples' reclamation of culture, language, and connection with the land
- Promoting indigenous pride in seeing accurate cultural representation
- Combating widespread misinformation about indigenous toponymy and
- Acknowledging unextinguished indigenous land tenure. ■
Jordan Engel, who kindly gave us this short interview is a mapmaker and researcher originally from Ga’sgöhsagöh in Onödowá’ga:’ territory. He founded the Decolonial Atlas in 2014.
Trigger warning. This review recounts abuse and violence, the book more so.
“D. Hunter is a an ageing chav, whose first 25 years depended upon the informal economy including sex work, robbing and dealing. For the last 12 years he has been an anti-capitalist motivated community organiser.”
“This book is built on the backs of those who walked alongside in the first 25 years of my life. The dead, disregarded and the disgraced. Forever in my heart, always on my arms.”
“Whatever psychological scars I carry with me today would have been far worse were my skin a different colour. I honestly believe that had I been anything other than White I’d be dead.”
This self-published autobiography is, for the most part, about the earlier life of an anarchist comrade in Nottingham who most local activists will know. Some will even know snippets of his testimony now written down for the world to see.
It’s a blunt story of survival along with generous acknowledgement of how a young working class person’s life is moulded, good (in this case to being formed into anarchist) and bad (very), by family, friends, fellow travellers and circumstance. An abusive father who rejected the state whilst horribly tormenting those closest, community defence in the midst of terrible social distress, escapism via drugs and booze and suicide - attempted and achieved. A political book given at the right time, a moment of care after prison abuse, revenge meted out at the time of abuse or years later, sex workers looking out for each other and an account of serious racism with tacit recognition of the existence of a white supremacist patriarchal capitalist system. The writer doesn’t shy away from their own role or make excuses – we read how he used white supremacy to get advantage in boxing ring using racist slurs, did better (relatively) than Black or Brown men in youth offenders institutions and prison, got stopped and searched less.
The working class solidarity in the title of this amazing book really shines through. But there is a big challenge to the anarchist movement which is framed in terms of the vast majority of us now, especially after widened educational opportunity (but also then), having so many more choices and so much more ‘cultural capital’ than in the chav world the author identifies with but has managed, in part, to leave behind. In an increasingly unequal society, with a continued viscous attack on welfare, and the total disregard of the humanity of poor and working class people of colour such as with the Grenfell fire and an increasing racialised discourse during Brexit, many more people could soon be facing reduced choices, abandoned by the state. There is also the challenge to activists to really understand the 2011 riots, and to respond properly and practically to the critique of the former Black Panthers Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin and JoNina Abron-Ervin) who visited the UK a few years later having been invited to the London Anarchist Bookfair in 2014 - whose meetings at the Sumac Centre (Nottingham’s anarchist social centre) and an afro-Caribbean community centre were hosted locally by the author and members of Nottingham AF, amongst others. Anarchists, the AF included, have yet to help make a real difference, in spite the much higher awareness of intersectional oppression.
The book is very well written and in accessible language. To find out more and get the book go to: chavsolidarity.com ■
You can read the titular essay here:- Chav Solidarity
Chav Solidarity Things by D.Hunter, Self Published, 2018.
When people say chav, they mean only one thing.
They'll have different definitions, but they'll mean the same thing.
They'll mean scum, they'll mean those not educated in the right way, they'll mean “keep away from my family”, they'll mean criminal, and they'll mean you are worthless and it's your own fucking fault. The first time I heard the word was when I was called a chavvy twat by a pig who'd arrested me for going equipped to rob. I didn't follow the press in those days so I didn't know how regularly the word was being used in the mid 90's, but eventually the idea trickled down and I understood what they meant. They meant you're not good enough, you have none of the qualities we're looking for in a human being, you're a disgrace, you're a violent thug, you're lazy and stupid.
Chav was a shorthand way of dehumanising a large group of people who responded with indifference towards those who had benefited from their dispossession. There are worse things to be called then a chav for sure. The thing about being called a chav is that it's shorthand. Before, people had a tendency just to call you violent, lazy, stupid and criminal, which, if said to you every day by teachers, social workers, pigs and other state administrators, has a far more violent effect on your psyche. Being called a chav, well that was alright, because you could reclaim it. If me and my friends were being called chavs then that shows we're together, we're a family, we have a fucking bond.
I'm 37 pushing 50 now, and it's been a long time since anyone called me a chav as a way of stripping me of my humanity. To those around me I imagine I'm more like a librarian who shops at JD, and that's fine, but I still identify with the chav name. I take it as my duty to have an eye for the latest generation of young people who are labelled in such away. It's a class thing – you get called a chav and you're being told you're not working class, you're beneath that, and you'll never escape it; you are the underclass for ever and for always. Many of the essays that I've included in this book try to highlight the humanity of the underclass/chav communities, the things that have to be done within them to survive and thrive, and how neither pity nor disgust are relevant responses to those communities' experiences. Most of all I've tried to emphasise the values of solidarity, mutual aid and self-defence that exist within those communities. I'm gonna talk about a few more examples of this just to get ya in the right frame of mind for all of this.
I spent several years in various young offenders institutes before I was 17. These were cages where I experienced incredible loneliness and desperation, where so much of my anger that had built up during my life flared up on a daily basis, and I spent my days with dozens of other boys of a similar age who felt a similar way. During one 6 month sentence in a Y.O.I. in Derbyshire, I lived alongside twenty-something other boys. I was 14 and one of the youngest and smallest of the prisoners. I walked around like a lit fuse just waiting to kick off, but knew no one. My only visitor a social worker, who came to tell me how and why I was there, and what I had to do to avoid coming back. Inside there were small groups of other boys who, based on experiences outside, towns they were from or the colour of their skin, stuck to each other like glue. The groups constantly fought amongst each other, and battled for supremacy over each other. Whilst some of us were on shorter sentences, others knew that they were only biding time before they got starred up, and were willing to take more risks in order to either establish their dominance over the other inmates or to build their reputation inside and outside of the prison. One of the oldest boys, who knew he wasn't getting out until he was at least 21, was particularly determined to achieve these two goals. He had built some credibility because of his connections on the outside and his ability to bring in supplies, including trainers, gameboys and booze, which he sold onto other inmates. In order to get these inside he or someone on the outside was paying at least one of the guards a decent amount of money. This boy was universally reviled on the quiet, to his face the other boys showed him respect and some faked fear in order to curry favour with him.
Towards the end of the summer (which had seemed particularly hot, and was always the worst season to be locked up for obvious reasons) I had begun to develop a tenser than usual relationship with one of the screws. He had demanded pleases and thank you's for unlocking my door in the morning and locking it at night, pleasantries which at best I spat out. This had gone on for a bit until I'd told him to fuck off and he'd given me a swift punch to the gut that had me doubled over and spitting blood. A day later I tripped him up near the stairwell, and he'd very nearly gone tumbling down the stairs. I'd been severely sanctioned for this, and been forced to clean the toilets with a toothbrush everyday for a week. Each day as I cleaned the toilets he would come in and piss into the bowl I was cleaning, spraying onto my hands and face. My planned retaliation meant I had to get my hands on some sharp metal, and having been banned from both the kitchen and woodwork room for various other offences, I felt that my only alternative was to ask the older boy with the connections on the outside.
Our only interactions had been the occasional game of pool, so I assumed approaching him and soliciting his help would be difficult. He would be aware that I would be unable to afford to pay for anything with money, and I was aware that even approaching him without money might lead to him and his friends kicking the shit out of me. But during lunch I saw him alone staring out the window and went over to ask him. He stared at me, laughed, and told me that I'd taken my fucking time. The next day, me, him, and three of his friends ambushed the screw, pinned him down and beat the crap out of him and whilst he screamed for help the other boys all body-checked, tripped and grappled with the other screws who tried to go to his aid. It took them about 20 minutes to restore their order, but by that point my knuckles were bloody from hitting the screw so hard, and his face was going purple. It turned out everybody had seen how the guard had been fucking with me, and some of the older boys had already talked about intervening, but the general consensus had been that I had to step up first; I had to reach out and ask for the back up I needed before anything else got done.
None of my mother's family had “jobs”, most of them worked, but it was not in their mentality to go around factories, shops and bars asking if any jobs were going, it was not in their mentality, either, to go to the job centre. My grandfather's belief was that in no circumstances would he take handouts from the country that had done so much damage to his own. I bring this up not as an indictment of those who do take state benefits, but as an indication of the man's belief system and the culture he instilled in his family. We were told to work for ourselves – no bosses, no state. We would ensure that food was on our plates and roofs were over our head in our own way. This own way included hijacking lorries along the M62, killing and stealing livestock in the large industrial farms around Lancashire and Yorkshire, organising bareknuckle boxing and dog fights, and a host of other things.
Those identified as males in the family were expected to help out, as were those who, like my dad, fucked their way into the family. As a seven year old I was shown how to be a lookout during a robbery, and not long after, my cousins taught me how to steal a car. All of the rewards for this were collectivised, except that my grandfather took as much as he wanted. Everyone else got according to their need, not their ability. One of my uncles was fiercely respected for the amount of money he brought into our family, but he lived in a one bedroom flat which was furnished with a mattress, TV and nothing else. I only have a thin recollection of the flat but I'm not convinced it had a bathroom. This was acknowledged, but never challenged, it was raised by others as an example of how we all should be. Just because you can make a lot of money doesn't mean you need a lot of money. I'm sure my uncle had enough to drink and feed himself, but in comparison to some of his siblings he lived a frugal life. The money went to uncles and aunts with children instead, so that those kids wouldn't go short. One of my grandmother's brothers was placed into what everyone called a “top special place for spastics” because his physical and mental needs were such that the family could not cope, but they would not see him suffer inside anything cheap and nasty.
There were discrepancies to all of this. My grandfather took whatever he wanted from the collective pot, and I'm sure he would say, that as the responsibility for everyone else was with him, it was only right. He was also a violent and abusive man, who let outsiders abuse and violate his family if it suited him, but the culture of collectivisation he instilled was still real to the rest of us. If one of my cousins was given something, they would share it without a second thought. Nothing was saved for later; nothing was personal property. With my mother unable to take care of me and my sisters, we were viewed as temporary orphans who slept in the master's house. My grandfather did not need to take direct responsibility for us; his culture meant that every other family member who was able took responsibility for our food, clothing and general well-being.
Living in Radford in the early 90's wasn't always the easiest. The state had been on a mission to destroy communities like ours, poverty was high and there were a lot of angry people but there were still many moments in which neighbours stood together. We found ways to make it clear that, if we were gonna be fucked with, we would not provide the lubricant. One typical incident involves a couple of friends of mine, a brother and sister who were 12 and 13 years old. They lived with their aunt and her boyfriend who had severe drug and alcohol problems (I know because a few years later I would become their dealer). Their uncle and aunt were not in a position to pay much attention to my friends, and just as I don't judge my own mother for being unable to do this, I don't judge them. So the brother and sister spent most of their days doing what they wanted, going to school if they wanted an easy hot meal, or not going to school if they wanted to nick someone's wallet and go get a Happy Meal. My life was pretty similar, but unlike myself, these two were placid and gentle. They didn't get into fights and they didn't scream at adults who looked at them funny. I doubt they ever smashed a window of a shop the day after they'd been caught stealing from it. The brother even went to church every Sunday on his own. He said it was the most peaceful place in the world. I'd see them most days, and at least once a week we'd spend large portions of the day together. They had other friends and I had other friends so we weren't inseparable or anything like that. But we lived real close, and were bonded because of that.
One day they both came running over to where I was at the corner of Bentinck and Peveril, drinking with a couple of sex workers on their lunch break and a big dude called Malcolm, who I was tight with, on and off, for several years. The brother was screaming, panic all across his face, and his sister was clutching his arm tight, telling him that they had to go back home. He explained that they'd got to the hallway outside of their flat and saw that outside their house were three men with baseball bats and crowbars. They'd bolted looking for help. Malcolm didn't think, just started running to the flats, with those on their lunch break and us three kids trailing behind him. I haven't a fucking clue what was going through my head, other than I'm gonna have a fight. We ran to the tower block, up the five flights of stares, down the hallway and into the flat which now had the door hanging off it's hinges. I was a few paces behind Malcolm and the brother, but when I got in, the uncle had blood pouring from his head and the aunt was screaming in the corner, as one man with a baseball bat pinned her to the wall. Malcolm had another man pinned to the floor and the brother appeared to be shadow boxing as another man swung his baseball bat at him. There was a lot of screaming, but not a lot of sense being made. The two sex workers ran at the man pinning the aunt to the wall, the first got hit so hard around the mouth that a tooth flew out, but the second ran her head into his chest. I followed up leaping onto his head and pummelling him to the ground, at which point we both started kicking him in the head and balls. The uncle had at this point pulled himself up off the floor and joined his nephew in going at the third man. Malcolm had apparently got bored of sitting on his man and decided to pick him up and carry him outside, not via the door but via the window. He held him over the edge and shouted out for everyone to pay attention. Everyone kinda did. Malcolm let it be known that if the men didn't leave now he would drop their friend to the ground. The men did as they were told, and Malcolm dropped their friend anyway (he landed on a balcony just one floor below).
We spent the next few hours fixing up the door, sorting out the cuts and bruises picked up during the fight and drinking a hell of a lot of whiskey. Malcolm slept over on the floor of the flat, and we told the neighbours about what had happened and that some men might be coming back. Most of them said they'd keep a look out and lend a hand if they saw anything. It was what you did – you looked after each other, even if it was from men with baseball bats. The men had been loan sharks, people trying to make some pounds by preying on the poverty that had been inflicted upon whole communities up and down the country by a government and economic system which we often felt powerless to defend ourselves from. But it was in incidents like these that I learnt that self-defence from those with more might than you is possible and that those of us who have lived close to the bottom are the most able to do it.
These moments of collective organising and resistance were carried out by people in this country who live on the margins. I have experienced hundreds of moments like them, and I can only speculate how many others have occurred across the country, just in my life time. The people involved are pathologised and demonised in mainstream culture, as broken people who need to be remade in the image of the good citizen of a capitalist society. I disagree. I think these people and the moments that they create need to be the building block upon which we make a better society. I don't know where many of the people I've talked about have ended up. I know they will have been fighting against the ongoing attacks of the transnational neo-liberal process and it's servants, and that this will have caused unbelievable damage to their hearts and minds. Because of this, many may no longer be able to think or act with the collectivised tendencies of mutual aid, self-defence and solidarity. Of course there will still be many who can, and who need more people in their corner as they seek to survive emotionally, psychologically and materially. ■
Hunter is an ageing chav, whose first 25 years depended upon the informal economy including sex work, robbing, and dealing. For the last 12 years he has been an anti-capitalist motivated community organiser and spent too much time watching football. He is currently flogging a book about himself, poverty and anarchism, whilst finishing his first crime fiction novel. He pays his bills by working as a mental health support worker. He thinks everyone should stop recycling until they've collectivised and/or redistributed all their current and future economic resources.
To the political left Hunter's people are the ignorant and the ill informed, to the victorious right they are the unwashed and discarded waste product of the labouring class. Chav Solidarity is part autobiography, part meditation on trauma, class and identity, part one finger salute into the face of respectability politics, but mostly an articulation of the contradictory heart of Chavvy shit heads across the U.K.
Chav Solidarity is a collection of essay's which pick apart the lived experiences of its author. Hunter uses his experiences as child sex worker, teenage crack addict, violent thug and community activist to examine the ways in which our classed experiences shape the ways in which we think and do our politics.
Photography © Kelly O'Brien
Look for the book at chavsolidarity.com
Contact: [email protected]