Listen to the Episode — 93 min



Alanis: The Ex-Worker;

Clara: An audio strike against a monotone world;

Alanis: A twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action;

Clara: For everyone who dreams of a life off the clock…

Alanis: Welcome back to the 30th episode of the Ex-worker. Today we’re going to continue with our exploration of the anarchist movement in Chile. We’ll hear two interviews from Chilean anarchists Victor Montoya, and Tortuga, which will contextualize some of the ways in which anarchist struggles have manifested in Chile in the last few years, and how the state has responded.

Clara: If you’re unfamiliar with some of the recent history of Chile– the dictatorship, the role the indigenous Mapuche play in the terrain of struggle, and the combatant youth culture– you may want to listen to our last episode, 29, which goes into some of this context. That being said, the interviews are also very good on their own.

Alanis: We’ll also hear some listener feedback about democracy, and, as always, fiery news of revolt, upcoming events and prisoner birthdays. I’m Alanis…

Clara: …and I’m Clara, and we’ll be your hosts. For more information about things we’ll discuss today, the show’s transcript, and links to all our past episodes, go to

Alanis: And if you have any questions, comments or concerns, you can get in touch with us by emailing podcast [at]

Clara: Let’s get started.


Alanis: We’ll start out with the hotwire, our look at resistance and revolt happening around the globe. It has been an insane month. Where should we start, Clara?

Clara: Weeks of on again off again riots and protests in Ferguson, Missouri, a northern suburb of St. Louis, have continued in response to the murder of 18-year-old Mike Brown by officer Darren Wilson. However, more clashes have broken out in the city proper, this time in response to the murder of 18 year-old Vonderitt Myers, known to his friends as “Drew,” by an off duty cop working as a private security guard in an upscale neighborhood on the city’s south side.

For two nights, fluctuating groups of several hundred enraged people took the streets in south city, blocking intersections and highway on-ramps, taunting and harassing disempowered cops, and making a ruckus in the upscale area which hired the security guard, including stealing American Flags off of porches and burning them. At one point cops swarmed and teargassed the demo and started grabbing people, but everyone was snatched back safely into the crowd. At least two cop cars and one shop window were damaged by flying bricks.

Alanis: One reportback from the marches concludes optimistically: “It seems like St. Louis is on its way to establishing a tradition of retaliation for police murders. Most people have a cop in their head, restraining them. Now St. Louis police have a rioter in their head, making them think twice before pulling that trigger.”

Clara: Incredibly heartening.

Alanis: Solidarity demonstrations with Ferguson rioters took place in Atlanta, Georgia as well as Vancouver, British Columbia, where both the U.S. and Mexican consulates were targeted and temporarily shut down.

Clara: A group of students and activists occupied a police station in Beavercreek, Ohio, to demand that Beavercreek officer Sean Williams be charged in the murder of John Crawford III. A grand jury failed to indict Williams for the shooting on September 24, and the students, who have been organizing around Crawford’s death since August, held a statewide convergence on October 18th.

Alanis: Weeks of protests took place in Mexico in response to the 43 students who were disappeared in Guerrero in early October. On October 8, tens of thousands of protesters marched in solidarity actions in 80 cities across Mexico and the rest of Latin America, Europe and North America. On October 15, tens of thousands more people took to the streets, and the majority of public and private universities in Mexico City went on strike. Normalista students also held a protest in front of the government palace in Guerrero which ended in the students entering the building and burning it down. Their only demand was that the missing students be returned alive.

Alanis: On October second, four anarchist comrades began a hunger strike in Mexico prisons. Mario González, Carlos López, Fernando Barcenas and Abraham Cortes, imprisoned at different facilities, have decided to act in coordination and solidarity with one another and without demands or requests on their jailers. They concluded their hunger strike on October 17th with promises of more information forthcoming.

Clara: In southern Quebec, a railroad telecom was burned and three residential development panels vandalized in response to an eviction of Native resisters in Gatineau and in solidarity with the 5E3, three anarchist comrades who have been detained since January with charges of property destruction in Mexico, one of whom, Carlos López, is one of the afforementioned hunger strikers.

Alanis: And, in Mexico city, an explosive expression of solidarity was undertaken at a Nissan dealership in solidarity with the hunger striking comrades, as well as the 5E3.

Clara: Greek anarchist Antonis Stamboulos undertook a hunger and thirst strike demanding his transfer to the Kordiallos prison, which is close to Athens and where many anarchist prisoners are incarcerated, rather than a remote facility. Stamboulos, who was arrested October first and is accused of terrorism and of being the leader of the Revolutionary Struggle urban guerilla group, undertook hunger and thirst strike for five days before deciding that his abstention from water and food had become life-threatening, and that he would like to quote “wait for those moments when the conditions will allow a stronger and more effective coordination between those inside and outside the prison walls.” He remains in pre-trial incarceration in Larissa prison.

Since his arrest, comrades in Greece have undertaken gestures of solidarity with Antonis; banners have been hung and leaflets distributed in a number of neighborhoods of Athens, as well as in the cities of Thessaloniki, Patras, Kavala, Veria, and Arta. Demonstrations took place at the Larissa prison, as well as at the Kordiallos prison. Diplomatic vehicles were set ablaze in Nea Filadelfia and Halandri, suburbs of Athens. Anarchists also symbolically occupied the headquarters of the Journalists’ Union of Athens.

Alanis: Queer anarchist prisoner Michael Kimble is requesting support after being thrown in segregation for a physical altercation with another prisoner. He’s requesting radical zines and literature and says: “The thing about segregation is that it’s designed to cause pain and hurt, but it can also be turned into a school and place to build resistance. Everyone wants something to read to occupy the mind and not be bored, so it’s a great opportunity to pass literature around knowing it’s going to be read. In general population, prisoners are caught up in their own thing, whether it’s sports, drugs, gangbanging, TV, etc. and have little or no time or inclination to read anything that challenges the norm.” You can find more information about Michael, his writings, and how to support him at

Clara: And, anti-imperialist militant prisoner Tom Manning is up for parole in November, and is requesting letters of recommendation from supporters. Tom was a member of the United Freedom Front, which, between 1975 and 1984, carried out at least 20 bombings and nine bank robberies in the northeastern United States, targeting corporate buildings, courthouses, and military facilities. Tom was sentenced to 58 years in prison for the murder of a New Jersey police officer in 1981, to which he plead self-defense. For more information on how to write the parole board on his behalf, follow the link on our website.

Alanis: Sundiata Acoli, a black militant also imprisoned for the death of a different New Jersey Police officer, has been approved by the parole board, but as far as we know has not been released yet.

Clara: Alanis, I love hearing about people getting out of prison.

Alanis: Me too. However, the struggles of prisoners don’t end after they’re released; re-adjusting to the outside world is a huge deal, and can be full of obstacles. A new zine, entitled “After Prison,” contains writings and stories from four earth and animal liberation prisoners who have come out the other side. It’s available at

Clara: And speaking of getting out of prison… ANOTHER breakout has occurred at the Woodland Hills youth detention center in Tennessee!

13 teenagers made a beeline for freedom after two of them attacked a guard and stole his radio. Unfortunately, all the escapees were recaptured within days. This is the third time this month that juveniles at Woodland Hills were able to break out of their dorms late at night: on Sept. 1, 32 teens kicked through dorm walls and crawled under a weak spot in the perimeter fence. Late on Sept. 3, teens broke out of their dorms again, spurring hours of rioting in an outdoor courtyard that stretched into the next morning. Two escapees from the first breakout are still at large.

Alanis: Fly free, little birdies!

Alanis: In Swizerland, a car of the German Federal Police was set ablaze at a train station, in solidarity with struggling refugees in Berlin as well as in response to the Mos Maiorum, an EU-wide sweep for illegal immigrants that took place in October.

Clara: Also in Swizerland, a random act of black paint was taken against the police in Geneva, covering the facade of a municipality police station with a crap-ton of the good stuff. There’s a sweet picture of it on our website; you should definitely check it out.

Alanis: Animal Liberation activists took care of a butcher shop in Costa Rica, a car at an animal testing lab in Germany which is experimenting on Beagles, and some vehicles of a National Parks and Wildlife Services in Australia.

Clara: Three anarchists have been arrested in Chile on suspicion of conducting two bombings at Subway stations in Santiago in July and early September. The bombings, which were claimed by a wing of the Conspiracy Cells of Fire, were reported to the police who did nothing to clear the areas before detonation occurred.

The Escuela Militar station bombing was the latest in a string of at least 29 bombings attributed this year to what authorities call a trend of “anarcho-terrorism,” and have prompted the use of the anti-terrorist law, a dictatorship-era law which is mostly applied to Mapuche political prisoners and which allows the use of anonymous witnesses by the state.

The last time the Chilean government sought prosecutions in high-profile bombing incidents — a drawn-out legal battle known as the “Caso Bombas,” the case largely fell apart, embarrassing officials. “Caso Bombas” began in 2009 and concluded in late 2013, resulting in just one definitive conviction despite more than 20 arrests.

Clara: The evening of Saturday the 26th of October, a protester named Remi was killed in clashes that broke out after re-occupation of the ZAD du Testet, a land occupation against the construction of a dam along the Sivens forest and the Testet wetlands in southern France. Remi, who was 21 years old, perished after being hit with a stun grenade launched by police, who were also launching teargas and rubber bullets against the several thousand demonstrators present. Attacks, small-scale riots, and demonstrations have spread to dozens of other cities in France.

Alanis: And, to conlude this rather long and rather heavy edition of the Hotwire, we regret to inform you that Loukanikos, Greek Riot Dog, has passed away. Loukanikos, whose name translates directly as “sausage,” was arguably the most prominent single participant in Athens’ frequent anti-austerity riots between 2010 and 2012, and was featured as runner-up to Time magazine’s animal of the year in 2011. Loukanikos died this week of a heart attack following health troubles that some people believe stemmed from his repeated exposure to tear gas.

Clara: Wait, is that for real?

Alanis: Yes, there have actually been a few stray dogs which were participants in Athens’ frequent street battles in the last couple years, including Loukanikos, and before him Kanelos. But, riot dog is also a mythology, a spirit if you will, that lives on inside each one of us.


Clara: Well, let’s see if we’ve got any listener feedback. Alanis, what’s in the mailbox?

Alanis: Aha! We’ve got a very thoughtful question from listener Josh about democracy and anarchism that came up in response to our second episode on anarcha-feminism.

Clara: Ooh, goody.

Alanis: Here’s what Josh had to say:

“Howdy Ex-Workers! I think y’all had a bit of a confusing treatment of the term ‘democracy’ at the end of your book review of Free Women of Spain in episode #28. The author, Martha Ackelsberg, is critiqued for framing the history of Mujeres Libres as having potential to inform ‘participatory democratic politics’, which Clara then contrasts with the more desirable contexts of women’s emancipation, empowerment, and social revolution. But are these actually different frameworks at all? There are a number of contemporary anarchists who claim that democracy and anarchy are consistent with one another, even synonymous at times, if we get rid of simplified narratives that see ‘democracy’ as equivalent to ‘electoral politics’ or ‘majority rule’. David Graeber explains how consensus process and spokes-council meetings act as an anarchist form of participatory democracy, and Cindy Milstein’s essay ‘Democracy is Direct’ contrasts democratic forms of decision making with representative systems claiming ‘Direct democracy… is completely at odds with both the state and capitalism.’ The idea is that any truly democratic system - that is to say, a system which ensures that everyone can truly participate in decision making and have their input valued and incorporated - would not result in massive disparities of economic and political power. Assuming we’re going to have some decisions to be made and commitments to make to one another after the rev, we’re going to have to find a way of doing this that employs ‘consistency of means and ends’, an important component of anarchist theory, as you mention earlier in the same book review. For some anarchists, the methods we experiment with to achieve this consistency fit under the term ‘democracy’.”

Josh goes on to point out that the words “anarchism” and “feminism” have also been subject to mainstream efforts to dilute, confuse, or discredit them, pointing out that “any language used to describe theories of total freedom will have its meaning distorted because it poses a threat to the existing power structure.” While terms like freedom and democracy have certainly been used to describe things we oppose, if we shy away from using those terms, “could the same underlying logic be used to claim that we should abandon the words ‘anarchism’ and ‘feminism’ as well? I don’t particularly want to describe myself as a ‘libertarian socialist’ in order to avoid the potentially off-putting associations of the ‘a-word’.”

Clara: Circle-A-men to that.

Alanis: "Regardless of the way we might answer these questions about language, I think the criticism of the book and ‘American radicals’ falls flat. The ‘misguided democratic lens’ that y’all critique probably has very little to do with the sort of ‘democracy’ that Ackelsberg, or American radicals like Milstein and Graeber, are interested in. I don’t doubt that most anarchists who utilize the word democracy would find Democracia Real YA!’s actions in the plaza occupations just as disappointing and off-base as y’all do. To conflate these two visions of democracy is kind of like opposing anarchist social movements by claiming that they seek ‘chaos and disorder’… probably an all too familiar conversation for most anarchists.

“A closing thought: As we know, ‘anarchy’ translates literally to ‘without rulers’. ‘Democracy’, in contrast, can be translated more or less as ‘rule by the people’ or ‘power of the people’. Are these complimentary or contradictory? It might be a matter of interpretation.”

Clara: Whew! First off, thanks, Josh, for such a thoughtful and nuanced response. There’s a lot in here, and we’re not going to be able to treat the issues you’ve raised in the depth they deserve right now. In fact, we plan to do a full episode in the near future addressing these questions around the relationship between democracy and anarchy. But we wanted to go ahead and offer some reflections on your question now - first, so that people still remember the episode you’re referring to, and second, because these questions are relevant to discussions of anarchism in Chile. So here we go.

Alanis: Where do we start?

Clara: OK. First off, in response to your specific critique about our review of Free Women of Spain. We contrasted “women’s emancipation, empowerment, and social revolution” against democracy not because those goals are “more desirable” per se, but because those were the goals of Mujeres Libres as they stated them. It’s just not historically accurate to read them as fighting for a different form of democracy, if that’s not how they understood their project. And while contemporary historians or activists can draw on their legacy to inform whatever project they want, it seemed like an elision to slide from their stated goals into using the language of “participatory democracy” - which, regardless of how one answers all the important questions you brought up, was at minimum NOT the language Mujeres Libres used to describe their own politics in 1930s Spain, so far as I could tell from reading the book. And furthermore, automatically assuming that democracy (participatory, direct, etcetera) is synonymous with the goals of any social anarchist project seems to us like a trend worth naming and at least discussing critically. More on that later.

That said, to your broader questions about the language of democracy. Thinking through all the things it brought up, I think we can parse out three groups of questions: about politics, about language, and about strategy. First, is democracy actually the same thing as anarchism? Is direct or participatory democracy another term for what we’re fighting for? Second, is the language of “democracy” useful and relevant, or is it too corrupted by its vagueness and associations with the state? And third, is it most strategic, in terms of finding allies and articulating our desires in ways others can understand, to attempt to define our project in terms of “real” or “direct” or some other variant of democracy, given its near universal appeal as a discourse?

Alanis: Ok, That’s a lot.

Clara: Yep. I’ll give a thumbnail sketch of what I think, but we’ll try to really go into some depth in a future episode. It should be clear even just from the question that there is considerable disagreement among anarchists on these questions, so bear in mind that these are our perspectives, but by no means the final anarchist answer on democracy.

Alanis: OK, so first, about politics. What’s the problem with direct democracy? Certainly horizontal decision-making is an anarchist practice and goal.

Clara: Sure, you can frame it that way. But I’d frame it like this: dispersing power and spreading horizontal relations is one among many anarchist goals. The question is, do structures like general assemblies at occupations and in neighborhoods disperse power and spread horizontal relations? At best, it’s an open question.

Alanis: How so?

Clara: The problem with a directly democratic assembly isn’t that not everyone gets a vote. It’s that power and decision-making authority are concentrated in a single process and institution. Struggles to disperse power should free up the space for us to act autonomously on our own and in our own self-organized groupings, not just give us an invitation to a new institution that keeps legitimacy to itself. Unless your vision of global anarchy is a 7 billion person consensus meeting without which we have no authority to act on our own, presumably you also believe that autonomy, informal decision-making, and the initiative of individuals and affinity groups have important roles to play in how we can live without the state.

Alanis: Sure, but my understanding of an anarchist conception of democracy is that we’d make decisions horizontally on many different levels of society; in workplaces and industries, in neighborhoods, etcetera. So it’s not like 7 billion of us have to agree in order to do anything; that’s ridiculous. Instead, we just get together with the people with whom we share some interest or project in common, and organize ourselves to manage our projects and lives.

Clara: True, but when our focus is on the institutions themselves - the worker’s councils, general assemblies in occupations or neighborhood, and so forth - we can lose sight of that organic process of determining our interests and exercising our power together. Some anarchists maintain that this messy, organic process is the crux of anarchism, not just dreaming up or installing an anarchist system which would, in some mystical future (or “after the rev,” as Josh says) replace all the other imperfect systems.

Anyways, what connects all notions of democracy – from parliaments of politicians to Graeber-style spokes-councils – is that decision-making power is concentrated in a specific format, one bottleneck that all of us have to go through to access our power. One anarchist critique of this would be that when legitimacy is centralized in a particular process or body, however participatory, this always leads to a concentration of power. In contrast, anarchists seek to disperse power horizontally beyond any centralized points of legitimacy. The point is that we should challenge any institutions that concentrate power and legitimacy outside of ourselves… including directly democratic ones.

Alanis: So does that mean that anarchists are AGAINST general assemblies and consensus process and such? Didn’t anarchists popularize some of these kinds of “directly democratic” decision-making?

Clara: The point isn’t to criticize this or that specific decision-making process. We should use whatever formats work towards our goals and should discard those formats when they cease to achieve those goals. For example, in some settings, consensus allows us to notice and challenge group power dynamics while getting things done; definitely it should be a tool in the toolbox. But in other settings - most notably in the recent US, in many Occupy assemblies - consensus served to limit the possibilities of what groups could do together, caged in by a consensus reality that restricted action to the what fit into the broadest vision acceptable to all participants. So one of the weirdest ironies of the Occupy movement is that while some anarchists became quite prominent in the public eye at first for sharing our toolbox of consensus skills for assemblies, the very same skills ended up being used to limit the possibilities of how we could participate, and in some cases to directly exclude us.

Likewise, the assemblies or plenums that arose during revolts in places like Bosnia or Slovenia began as important spaces for rebels to find each other. But when the struggles moved off of the streets and into the assemblies, and maintaining the decision-making bodies became an end itself rather than a means to furthering those struggles, the upheavals that had birthed them died down. Seeing the important thing about these movements in terms of the formal institutions that emerged from them, rather than the broad sense of mobilization and autonomy to act that made them possible, misreads their actual radical potential… and, based on evidence, fails to push them towards more radical outcomes.

Alanis: OK, so what about language? Is it just squabbling over semantics to insist that we’re not into democracy as anarchists?

Clara: Well, by now it should be clear that there are very real political differences underneath the language. But even beyond that, there are serious problems with relying on democratic discourse. Josh points out, quite fairly, that in our review we conflated very different kinds of phenomena under the label “democracy” - and that’s exactly why it’s so dangerous to use that discourse. “Democracy” is the label claimed by everything from neoliberal nationalists with fascist elements (as in the Ukrainian government) to monarchist military coups (as in Thailand’s “People’s Democratic Reform Committee”) to Democracia Real Ya! in Spain to Occupy Wall Street. Obviously these are all dramatically different. The point of criticizing “democracy” as a framework that supposedly entails all of these is not to erase the differences between them, but to recognize that if we want to avoid having our visions of liberation appropriated by and subsumed within these others, we need more precise language to express our goals - not merely claiming that we’re fighting for the same thing as Obama, Bush, AND Ralph Nader, except for REAL!

Alanis: But what about Josh’s point that any words we use in our struggles for liberation are vulnerable to co-optation? If we ditch ‘democracy’, by that same logic, should we also ditch ‘anarchism’ or ‘feminism’?

Clara: It’s true that plenty of words that entail complex, potentially liberating webs of ideas are vilified and misinterpreted, or else claimed by those with dramatically clashing values to our own. (Our episode on anarcho-capitalism is plenty of evidence of that!) We can either stake a claim to the words that matter to us and fight to define them as we’d like, or we can abandon them and either coin new ones or eschew “ism”s altogether; there are both advantages and pitfalls to all these approaches. That’s a decision each of us has to make, on individual and collective levels. Personally, I won’t use the term democracy because there is not a formulation of it that makes sense to me with my anarchist values and lived experiences. I will use anarchism because I know how to articulate it in a way that expresses my most thorough affinities and deepest desires. All of us who are involved in this podcast have different relationships to the word anarchism, and there are things we disagree on. But we come together in believing that the word anarchism can be a meaningful lightning rod for the kinds of passion and resistance that give our lives meaning. Democracy, on the other hand, has served as a lightning rod to coalesce a lot of forces that seek to dominate others under the guise of self-government.

Alanis: So then as to the third point about strategy, it seems like the very appeal of the word is exactly what’s so risky about relying on it. If we march behind the banner of democracy, we find ourselves alongside, presumably, nearly all Americans across the political spectrum, not to mention moderate and reactionary elements in nearly all of these social upheavals across the globe.

Clara: Exactly! And that goes for direct democracy and its institutions, too. The fascist Golden Dawn party has helped form right-wing neighborhood assemblies in Athens, Greece, which have been instrumental in anti-anarchist and anti-immigrant initiatives on local levels. Some Occupy assemblies in the US tried to force all participants to sign a pledge of nonviolence, i.e., nonresistance to police violence… and we can see where that got us. Are we ready to call these sorts of efforts synonymous with anarchism? Direct and participatory democracy are tools that can be deployed towards repressive ends; they are not synonymous with anarchism or freedom. The key is in what we think are the important questions to ask. Advocates of democracy ask, “How was the decision made? Was it democratic? In which institutions should we concentrate legitimacy?” Anarchists ask, “Did the decision work? Did it provide for our needs? Did it leave us more powerful? Did it disperse power and legitimacy rather than concentrating it?” That’s a very different method for evaluating our decisions. And the lessons we’ve learned in Occupy and from many global revolts indicate that this is a more valuable direction for our struggles.

Alanis: All right, Clara, I think I’m starting to pick up what you’re puttin’ down. But why did you want to have this discussion in our episode about Chile in particular?

Clara: Ah, good question! See, it makes sense that some of the strongest anarchist critiques of democracy have emerged from places such as Spain or Greece or Chile, where brutal dictatorships have been replaced by neoliberal capitalist democracy within people’s lifetimes, allowing folks to see the continuities between these systems. When the brutally repressive neoliberal reality of today’s Chile is known as “the democratic era,” it’s no wonder that radicals aren’t trying to re-appropriate that language to describe their own visions.

On the other hand, in the US, anti-authoritarian currents have often identified themselves as embodying the true spirit of democracy. That’s why we pointed out the “American tendency” to fetishize the language of democracy, which occurs across the political spectrum from the Tea Party to some anarchists, and contrasted it to the Spanish case. It may be the case that some anarchists in the US or elsewhere who understand themselves as fighting for participatory democracy may actually have affinity with anarchists in Chile or Spain or elsewhere who reject that discourse. But regardless of how we feel personally about it, if we want to really understand these anarchist struggles on their own terms, we need to be able to put that language aside and understand how our different contexts shape our relationships to the concept of democracy. Capitalism is a global phenomenon, and we too are part of a global struggle against it.

Alanis: OK! Thanks again, Josh, for sparking this conversation; we’ll definitely continue it in future episodes. Next time we’ll have more listener reflections on video games, technology, and civilization, but for now we want to get back into our coverage of Chilean anarchism. Remember to send any thoughts or feedback to podcast at crimethinc dot com - we’d love to hear from you!


Alanis: Our summer months of June, July, and August are the winter months in Chile, and anarchists regard this time of year as a kind of hibernation period. The fall closes out with a lot of activity: day of the youth combatant on March 29, the Anarchist Bookfair in mid April, May Day, and protests against the president’s state of the union address in Valparaiso in late May.

The school year ends in June and folks sit tight through the winter until things heat up again in September: September 11 is the anniversary of the military coup, but September is also the month of “Fiestas Patrias,” days of patriotic celebration that anarchists use as times for protest and attack.

Clara: This year, two bombings were carried out on subway cars and stations in Santiago, one in July and one in September. Both were claimed by an international informal anarchist grouping called the Conspiracy Cells of Fire, and, as we mentioned in the hotwire, three anarchists have been arrested in connection to the bombings. These attacks, and the ensuing repression and media flurry, are bringing the state’s ongoing anarchist witch-hunt into the open, and bringing already-important questions around prisons and prisoners to the forefront. To illustrate the importance of political prisoners to the anarchist movement in Chile, as well as the implications of these types of attacks, we’re going to share one interview with someone framed up in a montaje case, and another with an admitted bomb carrier.

First, we’ll speak with Victor Montoya, an anti-authoritarian from Santiago who was arrested in February 2013 and accused on the flimsiest of evidence of planting a bomb next to a police barracks. In June of this year he was acquitted on all charges and released after sixteen months in prison. Shortly afterward, an Ex-Worker caught up with him and recorded some of his reflections on his case, the function of “montaje” cases and the discourse of “terrorism” to the Chilean state, mainstream media, social and political prisoners, and Mapuche resistance. Let’s hear what he has to say.

Victor Montoya: My name is Victor Montoya, and for 16 months I was deprived of freedom, in preventative custody as it’s called by the Chilean state. Originally I was accused of manufacturing, transporting, and placing an explosive device. In a second case, months later, while I was still locked up for the first accusations, I was accused of just transporting the device and being part of an illicit terrorist organization which had placed the device. Then, a third time, I was accused of simply transporting the device, and they presented two supposed co-conspirators with whom I supposedly had carried out this direct action, as you might call it. The explosive device was placed in a police station in the “Vizcachas” area, near “La Florida,” a neighborhood in the metropolitan region of Santiago, Chile.

So these 16 months of preventative prison were based, more than anything, on a kind of prejudice and suspicion created by the prosecution, or by the public ministry that dedicates itself to hunting down anyone who could become supposed terrorists or supposed enemies of the state.

In fact,whatever evidence or proof they had against me is totally stupid, because it looks just like what happened previously with “Caso Bombas”—the Bombs Case—a few years ago in Chile. These were kids who lived in a squat and were also accused of placing an explosive device—very similar to my case—and in their case, the only pieces of “evidence” or “proof” were basically posters of Axl Rose. In my case it wasn’t that different but there was something kind of opposite; for instance, they found a scarf that said “vegan straightedge”, some black winter hats, and in regards to informational material, I had some documentaries, like one about the ETA, the Basque political organization in Spain, and they also found a manual of the Animal Liberation Front where they talk a little but about direct action and animal liberation.

Basically, this was what they had as evidence against me. And they tried to use the fact that I never denied being by the street where the explosion happened, as proof against me, and that the brand of a car near the explosion was the same as my dad’s car that I was driving; this was supposedly seen as something strange. And all of this was sufficient evidence for them to lock me up for 16 months, while they brought in experts in gunpowder and DNA to analyze all the details. One expert examined the car that I was in. They carried out two searches throughout my house and didn’t find any gunpowder, they didn’t find any DNA that matched what they collected from the place of the bombing, and these two people I supposedly worked with were never identified.

So this gives you a little understanding of how in Chile in particular the state bases its accusations on prejudice and wants to profile a person in a certain way. For example, the fact that I wear black clothing, that I am vegan and straightedge, and that I have class consciousness, or social conscience, and that I sometimes participate in activities or marches, or that I had friends who share similar ideas. This was already enough for them to say that “the shoe fit” with what happened because I was found to be in the same place; this was their proof.

Independent of what the discourse had been, I never declared myself either innocent or guilty, or a victim, because these terms are more than anything terms used by the political class, or the bourgeois class, and I don’t believe they are labels that you can associate with the reality of the rest of us. So basically this is what happened that got me locked up for 16 months.

The Ex-Worker: Victor went on to discuss the support he received from different groups inside and outside of Chile.

Victor Montoya: In my particular case, support from my family was super important because everything that was known about me, in the social networks, and everyone else who was watching my case, was above all thanks to what my family did, or certain close friends. The economic aspect was important too, since it was essential to hire expert witnesses or lawyer’s costs, things of this nature.

With respect to the punk or hardcore community here in Santiago, they were also great because, economically speaking, a big part of my legal costs were covered by money raised at benefit shows that friends put on, that friends’ bands played at. For example, En Mi Defensa, Asemblea Internacional Del Fuego, amongst other bands, set themselves to organize shows and everything else that helped support the cause. There were also other friends who were tattoo artists who would organize benefit tattoo events, stuff like that.

On the other hand, I received a lot of support from outside of Chile, from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, from certain affinity groups, vegan folks, or straightedge folks that found it unjust that someone was in prison without evidence, independent of what there was. So they would send me their greetings, or letters or books or other things like this—specifically in Germany and Spain there are two… I don’t recall their names, two Puerto Ricans, and one lives in Germany and the other in Spain. And the one in Spain, for example, would always ask questions, constantly, speaking with my mom to find out how I was, if I needed anything, etcetera. On the other hand, the kid in Germany organized two shows there in Berlin, which also drew the participation of the animal rights and anarchist scenes, but he just did it because I’m vegan and straightedge and for him this was enough to get involved and help me, and he sent over some money that was raised.

The Ex-Worker: When you were found not guilty, I saw the interview that you did with CNN, and for me it was really interesting and strange because in the United States, this would never happen. The mainstream media would never be interested in interviewing a political prisoner, or an anarchist or animal rights prisoner. Is this something common here? Did you have to decide whether you wanted to do it or not?

Victor Montoya: I actually did not want to do an interview on TV or in the mainstream press. Why? Because when I was first arrested the TV channels had already said a lot about my case without any proof or anything. Like National Television, Channel 13, which is really Catholic, very right wing and fascist so to speak, said lots of things that were never based in reality; they just said them. They’re the media, and the people see it and believe it. The same happened with the daily newspapers like El Mercurio and La Tercera, and Channel 11, which is ChileVision. What happened with all of this when I got back to my house the day I was released from prison, I was hurrying home and when I finally got there I was asked, “Hey, how about an interview with CNN? ”Hey, would you like to do an interview with ChileVision?" And no, I didn’t want to do it, because I don’t trust the press, I don’t believe in the mainstream media, at least the ones that aren’t independent. So what happened with this is I was asked to just speak in support of Defensoria Popular, which is an NGO that watched my case. They’re not part of the government, they just help political prisoners like myself and others that have gone through this, and others that will go through this. So I agreed I would just speak along these lines, and since I was acquitted I would have the last word, so to speak.

The Ex-Worker: And do you have any words of advice for the next prisoners that have the opportunity to speak to a major news outlet like CNN?

Victor Montoya: In terms of some kind of personal recommendation, I don’t think you should even speak to them. I gave the interview simply as a way to support the organization that defended me and in the end helped achieve getting me out of prison. So I just did it as a way to return the favor—because personally, I don’t trust the media, and I don’t believe anyone should do this voluntarily. I believe I’m the only non-Mapuche political prisoner that has spoken with the media, and the rest who have are Mapuche. Sure, for them I think it might be more useful since society forms its ideas based on what the television has shown them, what somebody actually says doesn’t make much of a difference. Like my dad said, you could talk and explain something, but if talking and explaining solved anything then they would cut our tongues out. So my advice would be, don’t do it; don’t speak to the media.

The Ex-Worker: I noticed in what you were saying an erasure of the difference between political prisoners and, umm…

Victor Montoya: “Common” prisoners.

The Ex-Worker: Or “social prisoners”; yeah, something like that. Is that a position you came to from spending time in prison? Do you think this is an important position for the political prisoner support movements?

Victor Montoya: Many of the political prisoners with cases like mine always end up in the high security prison, a facility in the middle of Santiago. If I’m not mistaken I am the only political prisoner that was in the prison at “Puente Alto,” which is a very common prison here for people who get called “flaite” (“ghetto”). Where—shit, man, there are all types—thieves, drug traffickers, rapists, murderers, guys who hit their girlfriends, there’s even people who wreck their car drunk and get imprisoned for that; there are all kinds. It’s a very common prison, and I didn’t end up moving to the high security prison or some other facility for political prisoners because I didn’t want to. I arrived at Puente Alto and after two weeks I was received very well by the prisoners because of the cause I carried.

So I was well received, and I realized lots of things. I mean, it’s not like it wasn’t prison—you obviously see some ugly things on the inside—but you also see things that say a lot about people. For example, I got to know some really beautiful people in prison, people that were truly good people. I mean, I don’t think somebody who goes out and robs in order to feed their kid is a bad person; it might be looked down upon socially, or ethically depending on your morality. But for me, this is a person that probably saw in crime a way to feed their family. Therefore, I believe that the political prisoners and the common prisoners, if there’s a trait they share, it’s that they’re both imprisoned by the state.

For me, it doesn’t matter whether it’s an arbitrary person telling me what to do or if it’s the state. The conditions that they have you in are similar, so beyond being inhumane, the prisons are… how do I say it? I don’t believe that anyone has the right to lock up another, that this is something really reactionary, really inhumane. I never felt like a political prisoner or some kind of important prisoner or anything in that style that lots of people have tried to label me as or treated me, saying things like, “You’re not just some common criminal, you should be with other prisoners of your kind,” and all that.

In my case, out in broader society, I believe I was seen as just another prisoner—just the shit of society that all prisoners are. Any old lady on the street who recognized me from the news about my case isn’t going to think I’m innocent; she’s going to think I’m some bastard who was imprisoned because I must have done something, and that the courts aren’t working well enough and that’s why I’m free. And I don’t see it that way. I believe that there are prisoners because someone is making money by imprisoning them.

The Ex-Worker: Great! Thank you very much, Victor, and good luck with everything in the future.

Victor Montoya: Thanks a lot for the interview. Greetings to all your listeners and, shit man, more than anything a big greeting to all the political prisoners, above all the Mapuche prisoners because they are the least paid attention to in this country. And greetings to everyone in the social struggle.

Clara: Repression against anarchists in Chile doesn’t just take the form of frame-ups, as in Victor’s case. There are countless militants taking direct action against the state and capitalism. In recent years, dozens, if not hundreds, of small-scale bombings, incendiary attacks, and sabotages, have taken place, most commonly against banks and police stations or barracks. Many are undertaken by individuals or small affinity groups.

The vast majority get away after a successful action, but sometimes, something goes wrong. One example is the case of Luciano Pitronello, better known as Tortuga, a young anarchist who entered our consciousness in June 2011, when he was severely injured in an attempted attack on a Santander bank in Santiago. The explosion resulted in Tortuga losing one hand and suffering serious damage to his other hand as well as his eyes, skin, and lungs. Despite these debilitating injuries, and facing the possibility of decades in prison, he remained unapologetic and committed to revolutionary struggle. Dozens of solidarity actions dedicated to him took place around the world. In 2012, he was acquitted of terrorism charges and sentenced to six years probation. He lives in Santiago and remains active in social struggles.

Back in Episode 5, we reviewed Towards the Indomitable Hearts: The Collected Prison Letters of Luciano “Tortuga” Pitronello on the Chopping Block. His writings struck us as some of the most moving and inspiring testimonies to emerge from militant social struggles in recent years. A few months ago, the Ex-Worker tracked down Tortuga in Santiago and spent an afternoon with him, eating vegan sandwiches and chatting about “la idea” - the idea, as anarchist politics are known. We found out, to our astonishment and embarrassment, that he had no idea that a collection of his writings had been translated into English and published as a book in the US. Here, Tortuga discusses his experiences and the context in which he wrote his prison letters, what solidarity means to him, what stories of resistance inspired him to keep struggling, the state of prisoner support efforts in Chile, and his advice to militants considering how to take action.

Tortuga is a comrade we nearly lost, who fought on to survive against incredible odds and whose words are deeply moving and wise beyond his years. Please listen.

The Ex-Worker: Who are we speaking with today, and where are we?

Tortuga: With Luciano Pitronello, el Tortuga, and we’re in the self-managed social center and autonomous library Sante Geronimo Caserio.

The Ex-Worker: And how long has the space been around? Is it new?

Tortuga: Yes, it’s new. it’s been 3 or 4 months since we got here and started setting things up, and it’s been just a month and a half that we’ve been able to open the doors to the public.

The Ex-Worker: Have you heard that there’s a book of your prison letters translated into English in the United States?

Tortuga: Yeah, I mean… I heard because you told me like a second ago, but it’s still a surprise.

The Ex-Worker: For those who haven’t read the book, can you give us a brief summary of your case, and if you have an idea of what the book covers, what’s in the book and in your letters?

Tortuga: Well, I transported a low-power bomb by hand to a branch of the Santander Bank in the early morning of June 1st, 2011, around 2:30 in the morning, more or less. Due to the premature detonation of the device, I was injured in my hands, my eyes, and my skin, because a certain percent ended up burnt. Afterward I spent about three months in a hospital, and then two more months in intensive care, but at that point I was no longer imprisoned, I had been moved to my mother’s house. From there I was charged under the anti-terrorist law and I ended up imprisoned in the hospital ward of Concesionada Prison, Santiago 1, because of the multiple injuries my body had sustained.

From this regimen, which was a pretty difficult place to be since it wasn’t designed for somebody to be there permanently, but rather was a ward designed to receive prisoners or new arrestees as a kind of clinic, like for after somebody gets into a fight with another prisoner or after getting beat by the guards, after getting stabbed, or for people with illnesses that are easily treatable… so living there was pretty, well, it wasn’t very normal. So it was there that I had to get used to the idea of living in that situation.

The first few months of my incarceration passed, and after the visit of a loving comrade I got ready to write my first letter, and at the root of this was that my friend advised me that the silence surrounding my situation was not a good sign for the rest of our comrades. Basically from there I wrote the first letter, about 7 months after the failed attack, which is entitled “Letter to the Indomitable Hearts,” which was published the 5th of January, 2012 if I recall correctly.

After this would come a second letter, which would be a gesture of support and solidarity with Freddy Fuentevilla, Marcelo Villarroel, and Juan Aliste Vega, who at that time were in the middle of an international week of agitation and support for their case. And we should remember that just recently these three were convicted in the Caso Security (security case) and the death of the police corporal Luis Moyano and the injuries of another police officer. But before then they spent many many years in prison, and ever since I came to realize that prison is a kind of passage for any combatant or comrade who takes “the idea” seriously, they’ve been in my everyday thoughts.

So the way that I made myself present in trying to express solidarity with them, through the impossibility of being locked up in prison, and above all in the hospital ward, especially in the condition I was in, I told myself I would do something to show solidarity, which basically consisted of refusing to eat for 20 hours a day and consuming two small meals. One of my letters resulted from this time, which I suppose is in the book… but in reality I haven’t seen the book so I don’t know if all the letters actually do appear, but I hope they do!

Well, this was the February of 2012. Afterward there was a week of agitation in solidarity with me, which started on the 20th of March, which I believe is the day that my trial began, or the preparations for trial—I don’t quite remember anymore. What I do remember is that the day I entered the prison was the 22nd of November, of 2011.

So the months went by, and I wrote a third letter, a third communiqué, which as I understand it is the most valuable in terms of wanting to pass on a little of the experience of being in prison, that in reality wasn’t much time, and might not be the experience that all comrades have in prison. So in this third effort I wrote a communiqué at one year on from the failed bombing that affected me, which is entitled “The abyss does not stop us.”

In there I basically offer three reflections. The first is about prison. The second is about what it means morally, socially, even emotionally, to be charged as a terrorist, or as an enemy of the state, which is what happened to me. And the third is more specifically about my case, and deals with the subject of mutilation, to have one’s body reduced physically; this is the theme. I try to cover each of these three themes from two perspectives: the first being a general manner, how to understand the problem in general terms, and the second being from my own subjectivity, how I see things, how I felt in certain moments… how I confronted things, basically.

In this third letter I also responded to the proposal from the comrades in Greece of the International Revolutionary Front and the Informal Anarchist Federation. I conclude that at the root of my survival was the solidarity that the comrades showed me. Because in every one of these three processes—being locked up in prison, being charged as a terrorist or enemy of the state, and becoming disabled—in every one of these processes I was gripped by this weapon that we have as anarchists, which is solidarity.

The Ex-Worker: Were there any other prisoners who inspired you to carry on during your time in prison, either through their words or writings or deeds?

Tortuga: Yes, definitely. When I was locked up I discovered the story of Marcela Rodriguez, who was a militant for the MAPU Lautaro, who received the impact of a bullet on her spine during one of the Lautaro’s operations. On the 14th of November, 1990 they were trying to rescue a political prisoner, Marco Ariel Antonioletti, from a hospital. In this operation the Lautaro killed 4 prison guards by a small bomb, and a cop went down too. The cop wasn’t really in the plans, let’s say, and it was he who fired the shot that left our compañera paraplegic. After she received the impact of the bullet, the group rescued Antonioletti and carried the two of them off to a truck. Just a few minutes later, the radio announces that there was a woman with Marcela’s features involved in the escape, but with the damage to her spine they had to take her back to the very same hospital they had rescued Antonioletti from. She went to prison, of course, after being operated on and put in a wheelchair, and continued fighting.

Her story is really comforting because she spent 12 years in the San Miguel Prison, in the hospital section. When I found out this story, which I found out through a book called REBELLION, SUBVERSION, AND POLITICAL IMPRISONMENT, written by Pedro Rosas, who also ended up prisoner in the High Security Prison (CAS) for MIR guerrilla activity. And it’s a heavy story, because for political prisoners in Chile to be able to achieve privileges like leaving the prison for certain amounts of time, visiting other parts of the prison, and other benefits, they have to undergo a lot of mobilization: hunger strikes, rebellions… Here in Chile between 2000 and 2004 there was strong agitation by and for political prisoners. So Marcela Rodriguez, who was like the symbol of what nobody in society should ever be like—because she was a woman, an armed woman who robbed banks, who would carry a machine gun where she went—that’s what they called her actually, the “Machine Gun Woman”—she was photographed in MAPU Lautaro operations—basically they wanted her head, they wanted her as a trophy. So the pressure on the government to allow this terrorist to leave prison, to be on the street, put them in an uncomfortable position. Eventually, what they offer her is extradition. Now, what is extradition? Basically, it’s forced exile. Marcela Rodriguez is free in any part of the world except Chile. The powerful part of the story is Marcela ends up accepting asylum (which isn’t truly asylum) in Italy, with her wheelchair and all. A woman who can’t even move around just by herself winds up being more dangerous than all these other folks. It’s crazy, this story!

And when she leaves prison the reporters go crazy because she was always this press magnet. They try to record her in the airport, and the last image of her in Chile is of Marcela in her wheelchair, crossing the border basically/immigration guards to board the plane, raising her fist and shouting “La Lucha Continua – the struggle continues.”

When I found out this story, I said “I can’t give up, man. If she could do it like that, I can’t give up here." That’s also how the story of Savvas Xiros is, from the 17th of November organization in Greece. In 2002, he was injured by a failed bomb and ended up in circumstances similar to my own. But lamentably, he is going to spend many years in prison, because he is part of a terrorist organization… well in reality it’s not terrorist but revolutionary, and they’ve been operating for 29 years. So the luck that Savvas Xiros had, the luck of Marcela Rodriguez is truly cruel because at the heart of it they both have disability and prison as their destiny, yet even with this heavy baggage they are capable of continuing to struggle.

So I look at myself and I see that I can still go on, and so I can’t give up, man! So for me, these compañeros are a compass, they’re my north; they’ve shown the way because they’ve raised the bar to where I have to meet it. It might be a strange way to look at it, but that’s really how I see it. Like that.

The Ex-Worker: Tortuga went on to describe a prisoner support project that he’s involved in, and his perspectives of the significance of prisoners and solidarity among anarchists and antagonists in Chile.

Tortuga: Projects of support for comrades in prison, there’s the project I was telling you about—the solidarity raffle, which is organized by a group of folks and what we do is give away prizes in the form of a raffle in order to collect some funds, even though it may not be a ton, for our comrades in prison. This is an event that happens every month. Every month we look for an event where we can hold the raffle, and we assemble a schedule of events on our webpage, can I give it to you?

The Ex-Worker: Yes, please!

Tortuga: It’s Basically the idea is generate a steady stream of funds which, like I said, isn’t a ton but it’s at least a small effort to show our comrades that they’re not alone. I’ve also seen on the internet some communiqués from an anti-prison collective “Vuelo de Justicia” (“Flight of Justice”, named after an incredible prison break in 1996, look it up!) And as I understand it, although I don’t know a ton, this collective has been pretty active looking after lots of the comrades in prison. There’s also a website for a periodical that also gets printed, which is called “PUBLICACION REFRACTARIO” (Antagonistic Publication). It’s well known, and also has a pretty internationalist character; it’s very good. They’re always publishing updates about the comrades in prison, developments in their case, legal work that the comrades have to face, and material for supporting a comrade if they should get imprisoned.

The Ex-Worker: In the anarchist movement, here in Chile and more broadly, what role does prisoner support play?

Tortuga: According to my way of thinking about this topic, here in Chile there is no movement. There are basically individuals that struggle, each in their own rhythm and pulse, in their own particular and unique ways, but there isn’t a… I don’t know how to say it… there isn’t a movement, so to speak. There’s convergence, gathering points, but beyond this… it’s difficult to say. Because unfortunately, and I don’t like to say it, there’s a lot of people just here for fashion. They’re around because politics is a means to other things: to find friends, to find romantic partners, to feel a sense of belonging, to feel like you’re part of something. So sometimes you can find comrades who are super excited, very involved, but at the end of the day it only lasts for a year, a year and a half. Repression comes down and they run. I believe that to call something a movement it has to be something that moves you; it’s something that can maintain itself against repression, and when there’s not repression, onward!

So I don’t believe there is a movement here. What no one can deny is that there are communities in struggle, which is different to me. This social center for me is a community of struggle. The Sacco and Vanzetti library is, for me, a community of struggle. For me, the squat “Isla Tortuga” is a community of struggle. Regardless of the forms of how each community or group involves themselves—their form, their rhythm, their pulse—we have different ways of going about things, but you can’t deny that these people, these spaces are fighting back. This is something you can’t lie about.

Coming back to your question—support for prisoners, the way I see it, has deteriorated. It has deteriorated because the anarchists here in chile, or the anti authoritarians, the nihilists, the revolutionaries, however you want to call them, are encountering prison as something pretty new in our lives. In general the anarchist quote “movement” in Chile is very new. I mean, CASO BOMBAS demonstrated this. When police raided a few squats, everybody ran for cover, everyone hid their face. This shows you how unstable the movement was, evidenced by how unprepared we were to live through prison, and even less prepared to confront it. Through this you can see that in a lot of cases that you might say “good, they’re getting support” or “they’re getting attention” but obviously something is missing. Something is missing like… Why are we appealing to show that cases were frame ups? Why do our comrades stay silent? Or like, why don’t we ever stand up to the judges? And I include myself, I criticize the way I’ve gone about things too. Why do we appeal to innocence? Why do we accept the way we’re treated?

There’s a ton of things that we might not always capable of confronting. So for example I see, well I don’t want to idealize anything, but I think it’s worth understanding that Greece is a little more advanced, at least in terms of history, and in Greece it’s a different conversation. The comrades there confront these issues in a different manner. So if you’re over there and looking at the situation here… well here, if in Greece they’re walking upright, we’re crawling on all fours. Of course throughout the world there are other places where there aren’t even comrades, where there isn’t anything going on. But it’s important to keep in mind how recent all of this is here, to understand how much further we have to go. But I’m not satisfied with crawling, I want to gallop, I want to run, I want to fly. And for this, you have to work.

The Ex-Worker: Three questions in one: after your time in prison how has your orientation to anarchist strategy changed? And I don’t mean which acts or tactics are more important, but I’m speaking about the anarchist project in general. How has your orientation changed and what tasks do you think are most important? Ok, that’s one; secondly, what would you say to someone considering risking their freedom to do something, like taking direct action? And what would you say to someone who would never consider that, who just want to live a life of safety and comfort, but who are still anarchists?

Tortuga: Well, this reply may disappoint you a little, but my outlook hasn’t actually drastically changed. I still hold the same beliefs that I did on the first of June in 2011, you know? For me, there isn’t some big difference between a comrade who carries a bomb in their backpack or one who carries a book. For me, both tools, when aimed directly at the bowels of power, can achieve the same task. It’s all the same for me if a comrade carries a submachine gun or carries a microphone. To me what is central is where the attack is directed towards. The tool you utilize is a question of comfort and familiarity, it’s a question of whether you feel satisfied with what you’re doing: to feel pleasure basically, to feel good and that what you’re doing is the right thing. If you feel like the thing to do is publish a newspaper—great! Then I’m happy for you. If what you think is needed nowadays is to attack capital in some direct manner—all right then, do it! But for me, what upsets me is knowing that something needs to be done and not doing it. In there I see a contradiction in my way of understanding the struggle.

So my way of responding to your question wouldn’t be to say that we’ll have a better revolution by having more of one thing, or that one thing is better than another… I don’t know, the library, doing workshops, direct attacks, expropriations: to me these all have the same worth, there isn’t one that’s more valuable than another. If you can defend what you’re doing with enough passion, then it’s alright with me.

And what would I say to the comrades who want to carry out direct action, or who are carrying out direct action? Well… I know that if somebody is listening to this they’re just listening, they can’t make a case out of my words alone, but whatever. I would say to be careful, take care. For me its like they say, you’ve got to face reality, but you’ve got to take care. You have to give yourself time to plan well.

For the anarchists, or the nihilists or the revolutionaries, what we have plenty of is heart. But war isn’t won with heart alone. We need to use a little more prudence—so the action won’t be today, it will be tomorrow but it will also be better. It will be better planned, more focused on the safety of those involved, and other small details that I don’t know if I can pass on here. But like I’ve written, one mistake, one small neglect can change everything. And we are far too valuable to be needlessly putting ourselves at risk. I think my most focused advice today would be, more than anything, that this comrade value herself, that she not feel like her life is just a material contribution to the struggle. I would tell this comrade to value herself a little more, that she give herself time and room to breathe. That’s all, that the struggle is for your whole life, it won’t change by waiting one more night.

To the comrades who would never think of focusing their struggle on direct action, I would respond with basically the first points I made about fighting in an illegal manner—because I’m using the vocabulary of power, which is a contradiction, but, well, what can we do? Life is a contradiction itself! Well, OK, it doesn’t matter if somebody doesn’t want to confront power with a gun or a bomb. Getting involved in a newspaper or something, that’s fine, but I think the important thing to understand is that prison, death, clandestinity, having to go to battle are things that don’t only face the comrades who pick up a weapon. In the dictatorship here, unfortunately it was a struggle of fire and blood. To have had a newspaper, a printing press, just copying a flyer would mean torture, possibly even death. So in this sense, if you’re not going to use a gun, that’s fine by me. What’s most important to me is that you can defend your project and your idea.

The Ex-Worker: Anything more for our listeners, the gringos of the north, or the rest of the English-speaking world?

Tortuga: Keep it up, Seattle May Day!!!

Alanis: While we were producing this episode, Victor Montoya was unfortunately re-arrested and is now facing the same charges he was acquitted for in 2013. It seems that, because of the subway bombings, the Chilean state and media are attempting to re-stimulate public fear of so-called “anarcho-terrorism,” and once again lay siege on the radical communities in Santiago and beyond.

The state claims they have definitive “scientific proof” that the 3 anarchists who they’ve taken into custody are the ones responsible for the bombings. This is the same attitude of certainty with which they first justified their capture of Victor Montoya, as well as those caught up in the Bombs Case. While nearly everyone who faced charges in these cases was eventually acquitted for lack of evidence, the repressive measures were punishment in and of themselves.

Chile’s history of militant struggle, and the ever-present shadow of the dictatorship may have something to do with the trend of bombings in Chile – by the authority’s count, 29 so far this year, though not all of them have been definitively linked to anarchists. In our last episode, we covered some of the reasons why popular, indigenous and anarchist movements in Chile today are so particularly militant – a lot of it has to do with various splits and betrayals that took place during the transition from dictatorship to democracy. But aspects of the insurrectionary anarchist struggle taking place in Chile appear to be part of a very contemporary, very global trend.

Clara: The Subway bombings were claimed by a group known as the Conspiracy Cells of Fire, or CCF, an informally organized international constellation of armed anarchist groups which began in Greece in 2008. Similar in structure to the Earth and Animal Liberation Fronts, other cells using the moniker CCF have carried out destructive attacks in countries all over Europe, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

Certain types of claimed destructive actions – including bombings and arsons – haven’t made up a very large slice of the pie that is anarchist activity in the United States. One reason might be the heavy repression of eco-anarchists and animal rights activists in the early 2000’s who were connected with destructive actions. Dubbed the “Green Scare,” this repression essentially wiped out Earth Liberation Front activity in the United States, as well as seriously stunting the Animal Liberation Front.

Alanis: Although we might add that 2013 was an excellent comeback year for animal-related sabotage, liberations, and action in the States.

Clara: True, true! Anyways, anarchists in the United States might not be carrying out bombings or more spectacular destructive acts with as much frequency as some anarchists in other countries, we still think it’s important to think and talk about these types of actions, the implications they carry, and how we express ourselves and communicate to each other, those who might sympathize with our aims, and those who seek to squash our projects of liberation. Like we said in our listener feedback: these conversations are global and we want to be a part of them. We brought up some preliminary questions around this two episodes ago, in our discussion about solidarity actions. And we’ll continue to keep talking about it in upcoming episodes.


And finally, on the Chopping Block for this episode, we’ll review an incredible film that documents the histories and struggles we’ve discussed over these two episodes on anarchism in Chile.

The Chicago Conspiracy was released in 2010 by Subversive Action Films, a radical media collaboration between Chilean and American anarchists. The film’s title refers to the so-called “Chicago Boys,” a group of neoliberal economists trained under Milton Friedman at the Univeristy of Chicago. (Refer to Episode 18 about anarcho-capitalism and libertarianism for a sense of the ideology they promoted.) When General Augusto Pinochet’s coup displaced the socialist-leaning Allende government in 1973, the dictator imported these young Americans to refashion Chile’s economy. The vast disparities of wealth in today’s Chile originated in the machinations of these Chicago Boys, who worked with Pinochet to set up an economic regime so favorable to wealthy Chileans and American companies that only the muscle of a military dictatorship could have enforced it on the rest of the population. We see evidence of these ongoing dynamics today in the film’s footage of American corporate logos smeared all over the landscape of urban Santiago alongside the deforested hills and polluted rivers of Mapuche lands exploited for the profit of overseas investors.

Friedman himself appears on the screen at moments, pontificating with twisted logic about the importance of the free market. When his self-satisfied grin cuts to scenes of police attacking high school students who attempted to resist the privatization of the school system, the juxtaposition hammers home the essential link between neoliberal capitalism and state repression. Likewise, after an agonizing scene in which the parents of the Vergara brothers detail the painful death their sons suffered at the hands of the dictator’s police, the following images of rebellious youth lighting barricades and Molotovs in the street leave no doubt about the direct lineage of struggle against the state and capital in Chile from dictatorship through democracy. This use of strikingly juxtaposed images to illustrate political linkages forms one of the core aesthetic strategies of the film, and it’s profoundly effective.

The film paints a strong critique of the mass media’s role in pacifying and discrediting social movements. Using this style of juxtaposition, clips from corporate news stations weave in and out of images and explanations that expose their lies and mystifications. That’s not to say that The Chicago Conspiracy is “the real story of Chile” - as the filmmakers directly state on screen, “objectivity is impossible.” Rather, the film is a partisan account of anti-capitalist and anti-state rebellions from the perspective of those in revolt. The filmmakers are participants in the social struggles they document, and as such, they have access to an inside perspective on resistance to capitalism and the state today. The parents of murdered militants describes the deaths of their children at the hands of the state. A former MAPU-Lautaro guerrilla describes his life of struggle and details how the democratic government along with the Communist party conspired to demobilize militant resistance that wouldn’t accept the new order of repressive capitalist democracy. Residents of the poblacion La Victoria explain the history of the neighborhood’s residents self-organizing to provide for their basic needs and defending their occupied land against the police. Radical hip hop groups perform while small children dance in T-shirts emblazoned with the faces of the Vergara brothers. Underground Mapuche militants explain the urgency of indigenous struggles, while students take you behind the barricades on a tour of their occupied university. This is revolutionary struggle as narrated by the protagonists. The almost unthinkable tragedies of the state’s war on the people of Chile over the last decades are transformed before our eyes into music, dance, art, storytelling, organizing, and of course conflict in the streets.

Although it portrays anarchists and reflects an underlying anarchist perspective, the film does not focus on an exposition of anarchist ideas, relying instead on the portraits of various struggles to show rather than tell. Still, the sympathies of the filmmakers are no secret; during a clash at a university, one camera shot lingers on a banner reading, “Revolt is reproducible and contagious… multiply attacks against the state and capital,” an abridged mission statement for insurrectionary anarchism. The broader left in Chile scarcely merits mention, except for its role as a pacifying force that sold out radical factions of the struggle against the dictatorship with the advent of democracy. And amidst the many interviews and lively footage of marches and performances, the film maintains a persistent visual focus on the clash between the people and the police.

Of course, the film doesn’t cover every dimension of anarchist resistance and social struggle in Chile. Notably absent are the squatted social centers, which play a pivotal role especially in Santiago’s culture of resistance. The police raids that closed down nearly all of them during the “Bombs Case” of 2010 marked a pivotal moment in the recent history of Chilean anarchism. But The Chicago Conspiracy covers an astonishing range of territory for a 90 minute film, leaving the viewer with a broadly informed perspective on the recent history of social antagonism in Chile, portrayed in a cleverly edited, high-impact visual style.

Although the footage that makes up much of the Chicago Conspiracy was mostly filmed between 2006 and 2009, its themes remain crucially relevant to social struggles today in Chile. Luisa Toledo, who sits at her dining room table softly speaking of her murdered sons in the film, gave a speech urging militants to continue the struggle on the Day of the Youth Combatant once again this year. The student movement of 2006–7 so vividly documented in the film proved a watershed movement for social struggles in Chile, with an entire generation of anarchists emerging from it; another wave of student rebellions erupted in 2011, and today new generations of militant youth turn to this film to learn about the resistance of students before them. Most radical distros in Santiago offer pirated copies of The Chicago Conspiracy at universities, counter-cultural street fairs, and beyond. The fact that the film circulates widely among radicals in Chile to this day testifies to its continued relevance.

To get the most out of watching, we’d recommend reading the article in Rolling Thunder #8 (or listening to Episode 29 of this podcast, which draws on it). That will give you some important historical context to enrich the first-person perspectives and striking visuals of the film. But either way, don’t miss this unique opportunity for a first-hand look into a society in revolt and how anarchists and other rebels in Chile remember the past in order to continue the struggle today.

You can stream the film online via; we’ve got the link posted on our website. You can read more about the film and filmmakers at


Alanis: And now it’s time for Next Week’s News. What’s coming up, Clara?

Clara: It’s bookfair season! Never been to an anarchist bookfair? They’re great opportunities to hear speakers and panels about anarchist ideas and current struggles, attend workshops and skillshares, meet other radical folks in your area and peruse the wares of various publishing projects. As we’re producing this episode, the first annual Tallinn Anarchist Bookfair is taking place in Estonia, and the New Orleans Bookfair is happening in Louisiana.
Coming up, The 5th annual Carrboro Anarchist bookfair will take place on Saturday, November 22nd in North Carolina, and the same weekend, the Boston Anarchist Bookfair will take place at the University of Boston in Massachusetts.
On the non-bookfair end of things, a march against Capitalism will take place in Seattle, Portland, Denver and other cities on November 11th. Find a link to the… uh, Facebook page, on our website.

And we’re pleased to announce that the crowdfunding campaign for CrimethInc’s new introductory publication “To Change Everything” exceeded its $15,000 goal in a mere four and a half days. This means not only have we met our printing goals for the American English version, but also several stretch goals, which will subsidizing sending the publication into prisons, as well as facilitating its translation and printing in 14 other languages. The hard copy should hit the streets in the coming months, but you can check out for more details in the meantime.
And, a huge thanks to everyone who supported the project financially. We literally couldn’t have done it without you.

And we’ve had a couple of prisoner birthdays that we didn’t mention last episode, and a few more in the upcoming weeks: on October 18th, both Antonio Guerrero, a member of the Cuban 5, and Jalil Muntaqim, a former black panther serving time for a shootout with cops in San Francisco as well as the death of two New York police officers.

October 31st, Edward Goodman Africa, one of the MOVE 9.

And on November 1st, Ed Poindexter, a black organizer from Omaha Nebraska who has been in since 1970, accused of killing a cop.

Take a few minutes out of your day to send a note or birthday card; we’ve got their addresses on our website in the notes for today’s show, along with the transcript and all of our past episodes. That address again is

Clara: And that’s it for this episode of the Ex-Worker. Thanks to Tortuga and Victor Montoya for speaking with us, to Josh for the excellent feedback, and to Underground Reverie for the music.

Until Next Time…

Online resources

Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker: