A hot summer … of revolt (Belgium)

While most people try to enjoy their holidays, the temperature inside the cells of the Belgian democracy hasn’t lowered. For two years now, prisoners have broken the routine of the incarceration machine with collective and individual revolts, occupations, escapes…The latest facts speak for themselves once more.

At the beginning of July, an uprising broke out in the closed asylum centre of Steenokkerzeel, one of the real camps from which the State deports those who are not wanted. Five recalcitrant prisoners were black-bagged by the Special Intervention Squad and sent off to other camps. In the middle of July, two prisoners climbed onto the roof of the closed asylum centre of Merksplas to protest against the circumstances inside the centre. Meanwhile two wings of the centre revolted. Two police charges crushed the revolt. The same day, a prisoner in Turnhout jail set fire to his cell which damaged the whole corridor. Five days later, two young prisoners captured a guard in Leuven prison. They demanded freedom. After they released her, they barricaded themselves in the library and lit a fire. A raid by the Special Intervention Unit restored order. Both men were transferred to Leuven’s second prison and put in isolation. On the last day of July, prisoners of the Merksplas prison refused to return to their cells. Some were armed with knives and sticks and barricaded themselves in a wing. They destroyed the prison furniture and set fire to the barricade, causing smoke damage to the whole wing. At night time, the Special Intervention Team managed to overpower them and the riot cops restored order.

Facing so much liberating violence, the State remained very quiet while they let their lackeys start another indoctrination wave. Rebellious prisoners are hostage takers, blackmailers, violent lunatics, and, why not, terrorists. Even though the weight of alienation and exploitation almost smothers our intellectual capacity, a few questions suffice to explain what it’s all about.


All the newspaper headlines screamed of the ‘hostage taking of guards’ while covering the action of the two prisoners from Leuven. But what is a prison other than a permanent hostage taking of thousands of people by the State? What are the judges other than the hostage takers receiving blood money from their masters? The demand from the biggest hostage taker, the State, towards the hostages and the rest of the population is very simple: accept your part in the system. Accept that you will always have to work to make the rich even richer, accept that misery and subjection is your faith. Accept that in life, there are winners and losers. The winners are those who, protected by laws and police, make money on our backs. The losers are we whom the system constantly tries to force to accept this world. And losers we will remain as long as we don’t stand up and fight. As every prisoner knows very well, the only way to keep your head high and remain yourself inside the grey walls of democracy is to take up confrontation with the prison authorities, with the thousand-and-one means the revolt provides us.


The rebels who climbed onto the roof of the deportation camp of Merksplas and the interned rebels who lit the prison infrastructure with the fire of freedom were portrayed as ‘lunatics’. But aren’t the ‘lunatics’ those who try to sell us a life of television and boredom? Aren’t the ‘lunatics’ those who destroy our environment with their office buildings, their High Speed Trains, their nuclear plants, their unliveable house blocks? Aren’t the ‘lunatics’ those who expose us daily to the harmful radiation of mobile phone pylons and wireless internet connections, to the poisonous emissions of their chemical factories? But their ‘insanity’ is not blind, it is rational: the thought-out and purposeful planning of the deadly project of gaining more and more profit.


The new magic word of those in power is to qualify the conflict that takes place in the different kinds of prisons and in the streets as ‘blackmail’. A conflict, in which the rebels do not restrict themselves to the democratic rules of the game that are made to maintain the existing order, is ‘blackmail’. The occupation of several cranes in Brussels to denounce the deportation machine is, according to the politicians, just ‘blackmail’. Social struggle can never be blackmail or terrorism, the blackmailers are elsewhere. It’s the banks that suck us dry with loans we need to survive. It’s the bosses who threaten us with possible dismissal if we don’t accept their tyranny. It’s the State that blackmails us with prison sentences if we don’t accomodate ourselves to its thirst for domination. The powerful of this world know very well that, when this blackmail gets rejected by those who won’t take it anymore, something is at stake for them. In such moments, we find back the strength that is hidden within ourselves; only through social struggle and revolt, the blackmails of this world lose their enchantment.


In Belgium, every year 200 people die in their workplace. Every year, dozens of prisoners die behind bars or during deportations. Every year, dozens of people get shot by the cops, like recently in the city of Charleroi. At least the third time in six months, a car thief got executed by the police with several bullets in the head. The daily violence of the State, authority and capitalism knows no boundaries. When they portray our revolt as ‘violent’, it only makes us smile. When they claim that social struggle is ‘terrorism’, we see through them, we know that they say this to present their terrorism � this system of money, prisons, police, borders, internment, misery,…- as the best of possible worlds. Far away from the illusion that things will change with voting, with begging to politicians, with formulating demands and handing over petitions, we put forward that the social struggle will only become ours when we decide for ourselves how we want to shape it. By organising outside of unions, political parties, and institutions, by choosing how we want to hit the enemy outside the categories of ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’. Opposing the violence of this system, we put forwards the revolt in all its forms. That’s why it fills us with joy when prisoners burn their cells, saw through the bars and try to escape, when they refuse to say any longer ‘Thank you boss’ to the uniform that locks their cell day after day.

We have to refuse everywhere possible the blackmails of this system and fight the terrorism based on dominance and exploitation. May there be no more revolts, not a single one, that stay isolated within the prison walls, behind the barbed wire of closed asylum centres, behind the fences of a factory on strike, within the boundaries of a rebellious neighbourhood, in the cabin of a crane!





[Pamphlet distributed in different parts of Brussels, translated from La Cavale n 14, November 2008]

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