Anarchist Black Cross Federation of Los Angeles
We, as Anarchists, feel the greatest crime against humanity is the imprisonment of those who fight for justice and freedom for all people. We view government, whose very design is to control and limit freedoms, as the entity responsible for these great crimes. Governments, and the agencies acting on their behalf, actively engage in conduct designed to “disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize” liberation movements. These men and women who have been imprisoned due to their involvement in liberation struggles are, from our perspective, freedom fighters; It is the goal of this organization, the Los Angeles Anarchist Black Cross Federation, to support our fallen brothers and sisters and to ensure they receive unfaltering and undying support from the communities from which they came.
Our organization’s goal is to provide support to these imprisoned comrades with the same dedication and honor as those who have come before us under the banner of the Anarchist Black Cross. We hope to continue the fine traditions of impartiality and justice to all those who need our help and we will continue to pass along the message of solidarity, commitment, and the hope for the Anarchist ideal. We must continue with this tradition and hope that others will join us in support of all Anarchist Political Prisoners, for this is the truest act of mutual aid and one that we cannot fail to show full commitment toward.
We recognize the history of the Anarchist Black Cross and it is because of this that we support all Class War Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War. The LA-ABC refuses to take part in the sectarian squabbles that plague our communities. We refuse to make the mistakes that others have made by gauging our support according to political factions. Any person(s) or group(s) that struggle against capitalism and strives for freedom, justice, and humanity; we eagerly support. Anarchism knows no dogma and we will not be bogged down by those who attempt to limit the ideas and work we put forth or attempt to discredit work that is done under the banner of solidarity and mutual aid.
The mission of the organization is clear. Our work must be consistent with the struggle for justice, freedom, and humanism. Our actions must be done with the greatest acts of solidarity and mutual aid. Our goal must be to break the chains that bind our comrades into slavery and give them the greatest gift of all, freedom. For freedom is what we, as Anarchists, desire and struggle to obtain.
“The work was not done for the glory, but because we believe in Mutual Aid.” – Boris Yelensky
“Now that our generation is passing away, and the struggle for Freedom, Humanism, and Justice still lies ahead, I hope that those who take over the work will continue the fine traditions of impartiality and of justice to all those who need help.” – Boris Yelensky
These words by Boris Yelensky represent to us the best example of the visions and spirit of the early Anarchist Red Cross. We feel it is imperative to bring this spirit back to the liberation communities, especially within the ABCF.
Anarchism overall has lost the deep commitment to mutual aid, humanism and justice that it once possessed. Although the desire for freedom is strong within the movement, without the desire for the other three principals the traditional concepts of anarchism are lost. Our goal is to bring back the basic traditional values of anarchism in hopes of recreating a sense of community and a commitment to that community. We want to begin this process at the most simplistic level (i.e., personal and collective level.) In order to accomplish this goal, we need to make the necessary changes in our own lives and in our community.
First, sincere solidarity and mutual aid should always guide our actions and intentions to all human beings. We should be guided by our dedication, faith and love for all humanity. Our actions must challenge oppression that is caused by authoritarian behaviors in all manifestations.
Second, we believe that anarchism is the highest form of ethics and needs to be treated as such. Anarchism is not an excuse to act unethically or do whatever one wills for one’s personal gain or benefit. Such behavior is common within the traditions of individualism. We, as anarchist, are collectivists and view such behaviors as a contradiction to our goals. We must strive for what is best for humanity and what is just for all. We must struggle against the exploitation or manipulation of humanity for ones gains. We believe that with freedom come responsibility and an anarchist cannot separate these two. An attempt to do so will force others to take on the responsibility of such freedoms and that can and does lead to exploitation. With such a high standard of ethics, we must realize that our actions and ideas will be scrutinized. We must take on the responsibility of our ideas and act accordingly.
Third, we must be guided by logic and search for a better understanding of ourselves as humans through principled analysis rather than through reactionary and sloganeering politics. We must create new ideas when the old ideas no longer apply. We must address behaviors or ideas that are illogical, reactionary or that are inconsistent with anarchism.
Fourth, we must have a clear understanding of what we mean by the term anarchism. The following definition came from the Congress of American Anarchists held in Pittsburgh in 1883. We feel that this can be best used for starters:
(1) To establish justice, that is, equality and reciprocity, in all human relations by the complete elimination of the state, or by the greatest possible minimization of its activities and its replacement by an entirely free and spontaneous cooperation between individuals, groups, regions and nations. (2) Our unbearable social and moral evils cannot be cured, or even alleviated by the state, which is necessarily an instrument of domination and exploitation. (3) All reforms from above are worthless and can only augment our present misfortune. Only the principal of federalism, beginning with the humblest of human relations and ascending to the highest international cooperation can establish a new society. (4) This new society can only be a result of a revolutionary action in the soul or on the sociopolitical life, which will destroy the state… and all coercive systems whatsoever.”
These ideas mentioned above do not change the structure or policy of the LA-ABCF directly, but aims at addressing more the spirit of the organization. We feel these ideas are consistent with the mission and tactical unity of the ABCF and allow us to grow in our overall mission of the collective, larger federation, and libertarian/liberation movements.
Up until now the organization was a collective of anarchists doing mutual aid work for political prisoners. We propose that we can longer continue to only address issues relating to political prisoners and must expand beyond those issues. We must begin to seriously address issues relating to the prison industrial complex. We must struggle against the constant assault against people of color and various youth cultures. We must address the increased police and military build up and the erosion of liberties and freedoms, especially after 9-11. We must seriously examine gender and race politics beyond mere tokenism and discover how to provide the necessary tools to help people understand and deal with such behaviors as racism and sexism.
It must be understood that we are not suggesting moving away from political prisoner aid work; this must remain our focal point as an organization. But the conditions that surround us have forced us to move beyond this work. It has also forced us to understand all that these issues are interconnected and one cannot be separated from the others. Even though our task is specialized, we can longer continue to remain fixed in one area. We must begin to move beyond just that.
IV. DECISION MAKING PROCESS
These by-laws are necessary to make the meetings as productive as possible. They are designed to empower individuals and to encourage the greatest amount of participation within the group. They are designed to help us come to decisions in the most egalitarian, democratic, and non-hierarchical manner possible.
1. Positions in meetings. These positions are to ensure a smoother running meeting and are, by no means, positions of power. Each individual holding a position has no more rights or powers to dictate decisions than do other individuals in the meeting.
A) Facilitation. A facilitator is chosen before every meeting by the general body. If an objection is made in regards to the facilitator chosen, an attempt will be made to find a facilitator who is acceptable to everyone. The responsibilities of the facilitator include but are not limited to: calling on people to speak, ensuring that these procedural by-laws are followed, keeping the meeting flowing, keeping the meeting on track, merging discussions, bringing discussion to a decision either by consensus or vote. A member of LA-ABCF can challenge any procedural ruling by the facilitator. In which case, it is put to an immediate vote. This is to ensure a checks-and-balances system in order to maintain egalitarianism within the group.
B) Note taker. Every meeting should have a note taker to keep a record of all decisions and discussions for future reference. At meetings, it is the responsibility of the note taker to provide the notes of the previous meeting to those who request them. It is the job of the note taker to create the agenda for the following meeting. He or she will collect all proposals for the meeting, add them to the agenda, and distribute the agenda well in advance of the meeting.
2. Making Proposals. When a person or persons desire the organization to make a decision on a certain proposal, a motion must be made for a vote. The proposal must be clearly defined and discussed before the decision is made. It is suggested that all proposals be sent to the note taker to be placed on the agenda for the next meeting. The proposal must be written out clearly, explaining the key points of the proposal itself. This is to ensure time is not wasted in meetings on explaining the proposal. Everyone should have the agenda before meetings and have a clear idea of the proposal and other issues relating to it.
3. Consensus. LA-ABCF uses the method of consensus.
A) There is a commitment to sincerely seek consensus, but when consensus is impractical or impossible to achieve, the group will vote on the proposal. If there is a strong objection toward the proposal by one or more members of the group, and conflicts with the statements and by-laws of the group, a member or members may block the proposal. It is the duty of the facilitator to then open the floor for discussion until a consensus or vote is made.
B) Voting. If a decision cannot be made by consensus, it is to be voted on after sufficient discussion. For a proposal to pass, it must be passed by a 2/3 majority of all present members.
C) All by-laws may be amended by a 3/4 majority of all active members of LA-ABCF. All members must be notified by LA-ABCF before meeting to amend by-laws.
D) Members absent at decision-making meetings waive all rights and decision making power in regards to proposals made or amended at the meeting. All members should be informed in advance of decision-making meetings.
E) If for some reason, an individual is not informed of a meeting or vote on a proposal or amendment, another vote will take place in regards to the proposal or by-law.
LA-ABCF is a membership organization. Although non-members may participate in meetings, only members of LA-ABCF may vote on proposals. This is to ensure that all decision making is made by those committed to the goals of LA-ABCF and the Federation. All non-member participants are not included in this section and are not obligated to commit to any by-laws or amendments in this section.
1. Members are defined by the following criteria:
A) General understanding and agreement with the goals and constitutions of the Anarchist Black Cross Federation and local chapter. Members should be given a packet of information prior to joining the organization, which will include at least the constitution of the ABCF and of the local chapter. Additional information should be provided to allow the person in question to become familiar with political prisoner aid work and those PP/POW’s which the LA-ABCF and the Federation supports.
B) Self-definition as a member.
C) Must participate in LA-ABCF for more than 3-4 consecutive meetings.
D) Commitment to building an anti-authoritarian revolutionary movement locally and internationally, and use LA-ABCF and the Federation as a tool to this end.
E) Each member will select at least one PP/POW to correspond with, and will maintain correspondence with their chosen prisoner and/or the Federation at least once a month.
F) Membership must first be acknowledged and approved by the collective before member status is given.
G) Members have a responsibility to inform the collective if they are not going to attend one or more meetings. This is to ensure group participation and accountability.
VI. NON-MEMBER PARTICIPANTS
This section is for nonmember participants. This by no means intends to exclude any individual from taking part in any LA-ABCF activities, but to ensure that all participants are aware of their rights and responsibilities. This category also allows people to be involved in the organization as supporters without taking on membership status:
1. Non-members are defined by the following criteria:
A) Non-members participants are not responsible for any duties or financial responsibilities given to LA-ABCF members.
B) Involvement in the organization is decided solely by the individual and has no commitment to anything beyond what they freely choose to commit to.
C) Non-members have no decision making power directly but ideas or opinions are welcomed and will be considered in LA-ABCF decisions.
VII. DELEGATE ELECTION AND RESPONSIBILITY
LA-ABC is a Branch Group of the Anarchist Black Cross Federation. As part of the Federation, we have the ability to elect two delegates to the Federation Council (FC) to represent the desires and concerns of the local organization. These delegates must take on the responsibilities listed within the ABCF Constitution and any additional responsibilities created by the local chapter. This section explains the principles and the voting process of electing delegates within the local branch of the organization:
1. Delegates are chosen by the collective. They are only elected to the position by consensus. Every member must give approval before such position is granted.
2. Delegates serve 12-month terms, at the end of which a new delegate shall replace them on the FC. Terms end at different times in order to provide incoming delegates with an experienced person to assist them. New delegates will be elected at the end of July and December of each year.
3. Delegates can be pulled by the collective at any time and replaced by a new delegate. Such a decision must be made by a consensus vote. Reasons for such actions must include one of the following reasons:
A) Deliberate attempts to undermine the decisions of the collective.
B) Disagreement with local or Federation Constitution.
C) Violation of local or collective by-laws.
D) Inability to maintain expectations of Delegate positions.
The committees of the LA-ABCF are designed to help better organize the work done by the organization. Members choose the committees they are interested in working with. Committees report to the larger collective every meeting regarding updates of its work. The larger collective is involved in shaping the direction of the committees with the assistance of representatives of the various committees:
1. Film and Production Committee (FPC)- This committee is design to focus on the production of films, fliers, pamphlets and other miscellaneous items produced by the LA-ABCF.
2. Archival and Research Committee (ARC)- Various people in the local group are working to rediscover the history of the ABC and the larger anarchist movement. An archive has been designed to collect data specifically related the ABC. This group works in conjunction with the Film and Production Committee to republish pamphlets previously published by ABC chapters in the past.
3. Update Committee (UC)- The LA-ABCF-BG publishes the Update of the Anarchist Black Cross Federation. This committee focuses on the design/layout, production, and mailing of the Update.
4. Table Committee (TC)- The Table Committee focuses on the distribution of material relating to PP/POW’s and anarchism. The Committee tables at concerts, video showing, and other events.
5. Correspondence Committee (CC)- Correspondence Committee replies to letters, phone calls, and emails addressed to the organization. In addition, it collects the names of prisoners that members of the LA-ABC correspond with to ensure the organization consistently writes to as many prisoners they can.
6. Prisoner Art Project Committee (PAP)- The PAP Committee works on the creation and maintenance of the PAP project. It also replies to replies to letters, phone calls, and emails addressed to the PAP.
7. Events Committee (EC)- The Events Committee organizes events such as shows, workshops, and film nights to raise awareness and funds for political prisoners/prisoners of war and projects of the LA-ABC. Its tasks also include collecting contact information for future events.
8. Brushfire Committee (BC)- The Brushfire Committee was designed to work as a liaison between our collective and different groups/communities. Its task is to collect information regarding recent cases of arrests and/or of new political prisoners and report to the collective on how best to provide support if possible.
The LA-ABCF has several on going programs it works on. Listed below are programs created by the local ABC chapter, not including programs of the larger ABCF. For information regarding those programs please refer back to the ABCF Constitution.
1. Westside Defense Fund (WSDF)- This is our newest project initiated by the LA-ABCF. For the last few years there has been an increase of political repression against the anarchist community predominantly on the west coast. As the only ABCF chapter present on this side of the continent we feel that we must work twice as hard to represent this organization. It is with this in mind that we have created a fund to assist those Political Prisoners arrested and/or imprisoned in this region. These funds will be used to assist people with bail, attorney fees, and any of the basic necessities needed while in or out of prison.
2. Prisoner Art Project (PAP)- We have created a fund to assist PP/POW’s and politicized prisoners with monetary support for art and craft supplies. The aim of this program is to educate the public about Political Prisoners and overall prison conditions through the use of art directly from the prisoners, while at the same time raising funds for the Warchest and the prisoners.
3. Running Down the Walls (RDTW)- The LA-ABCF-BG has organized an annual run known as “Running Down the Walls”, which has raised over well over $ 2,000 for the Warchest and other projects initiated by LA-ABCF. In the first several years, runs have taken place in prisons and other cities in solidarity with the run organized in Los Angeles. This has also been an excellent tool for organizing and expanding our organization’s membership and reputation within the LA area. Prisoners such as Bill Dunne and Jaan Laaman have played an active role in helping us with these runs, as well as, individuals like Sara Jane Olson, prior to her sentencing, have participated in these runs in support of PP/POW’s.
4. Anarchist Birthday Brigade (ABB)- In small gestures, it is designed to let those comrades imprisoned know that they are still in our minds and in our hearts during certain seasons or holidays. Through the project we send holiday/birthday gifts and cards.
5. Men Against Sexism Caucus (C-MAS)- Men within the local collective, in conjunction with other men in the larger Federation, have formed a caucus within the ABCF to discuss and analyze the effects and conditions of sexism within the organization, movement, and larger society.
6. Women’s Caucus (WC)- Women in the local chapter and the larger ABCF organization have formed a Women’s Caucus to address and analyze the conditions that effect women within the organization, movement, and larger society.
Appendix A- Meeting Structure of the LA-ABCF
There should be three parts to every Meeting: Working, Operational/organizational, and Training.
a. The working aspect of LA-ABCF Meetings will be the first and (usually) most urgent objective of a meeting.
b. What this means is that all members present at the meeting will briefly discuss what letter need to be sent out, then send them out.
1. Emails, Copies, Purchasing, and phone calls may also apply.
II. Operational / Organizational:
a. The Operational / Organizational aspect of the meetings will be discussion about the group and the short term (weekly) and long term (yearly) goals.
b. The Agenda from the previous week shall be observed and used as a checklist or reminder for the group.
c. Any issues of prisoners or updates on relevant topics will also be discussed at said designated time.
d. Of course any other topics of the day including: Crit/Self crit, strengths/weaknesses, duties clearly defined, current personnel needs, Money issues, brainstorming, proposals, and votes.
a. Training takes place at the end of every meeting (short, prompt meetings exempt) to help the growth of each member.
b. Training may consist of: P.E. (political Education) classes, Videos. Debate, Quizzes, and/or Practice speeches.
c. Training will be a tool in which everyone will gain knowledge on prisoners and prison issues, and sharpen speaking skills and debate skills as well as knowledge of ABCF and our acute bylaws and functionary code.