The International Anarchist Defence Fund turns one year old this month so to celebrate, the IADF shares some thoughts on anarchist solidarity work and the issues that influenced the collective’s creation.
Our collective solidarity structure provides support to anarchists and anarchist sympathisers around the world who are persecuted or find themselves in a difficult life situation because of their political ideas or activities. Everyone in the collective – probably just like everyone else who is reading this article – has been either involved in existing solidarity groups or faced repression themselves. Therefore, when we were thinking about creating the Fund, we masterminded it as something that would be solving a bunch of problems related to solidarity in our ranks.
First of all, we should say that the Fund is not a competitor of existing solidarity and antirepression structures, but rather a complementary option. The A-Fund doesn’t claim to be a group that offers long-term support or legal advice, educates activists against interactions with the police, etc. as many ABC groups do. We only provide one-time financial help and some informational support.
Why do we think it’s important?
Here comes the first issue with solidarity, and it is an unequal distribution of resources. The contexts we are born into, and our backgrounds influence the amount of potential financial support we can give and receive. It’s not only about your family or professional privilege, but also the solidarity tradition in the movement, availability of activist infrastructure or just activists around, the ways the state uses to suppress people in your region, connections of your movement with international groups, etc. The mixture of these factors results in having people who enjoy extensive support and collect money on their fundraisers in no time, while we never hear about cases in regions that are not so good in international languages and Facebook promotions. The A-Fund is established to shatter the status quo and provide easier access to international money globally. This is one of the reasons we are trying to be accessible in terms of language – our website features seven languages at the moment with more coming.
Together with regional inequality, there is a tendency for more ‘popular’ prisoners (or persecuted) to receive the most support. People who get the most vouchers in the movement, who have or had a lot of social connections on the outside, who have been known to do this and that will be likely to overweight the activists who are new, not so vocal about what they are doing, or not social enough. Sometimes you are the only activist in your town – who will form a solidarity group for you? We believe access to the Fund’s money can shift this tendency.
Another difference of the Fund from regular solidarity structures is an opportunity of direct involvement of the donors to the distribution of the money they donate. Anyone who donates 20 or more euros annually, joins the decision-making crew that considers all requests received by the Fund. This, in our opinion, makes the Fund less alienating than giving money anonymously at some event and relying on some other people to make decisions about where the money goes.
Most of the present-day crowdfunding for solidarity can be characterised as ‘charitable’ when people are buying a cocktail or a concert pass and forget about it. Benefit events are a significant and indispensable contribution to the solidarity funds (including ours), but it also created the situation when we are using crowds of comrades to harvest money thru consumerism or entertainment while they could have given the money to solidarity without buying another t-shirt or drink. There is no solution to this problem for the moment, but we offer something more than that. Direct participation and control over where the money goes might create a feeling of involvement in personal cases of repression and even in further solidarity work.
Participation is not mandatory though, anyone is free to unsubscribe from the list any time. Relevant here is also the fact that the collective behind the A-Fund doesn’t control the money, so there can’t be the situation when someone doesn’t get support just because someone from the collective doesn’t like the person. For sure, this individual can discuss this with the rest of the decision-making crew, but it will be just one voice among many.
We tend to forget that repression reaches further than directly targeted people that end up in jail. Often times, we disregard those who get ‘simple fines’, get away from the police, but end up battered, those who are families of directly repressed, who have health or mental issues after ‘interactions’ with the state repression, saying nothing of people on the run who have to leave underground for years or the whole life. The latter cannot just write publicly about it asking others to send them money to where they are hiding, and neither do the comrades who would like to help but don’t want to demonstrate that they know the whereabouts of the wanted comrade.
The A-Fund is there for anarchists and anarchist sympathisers who have all kind of problems connected to repression. Unlike most solidarity groups, we are totally transparent in our expenses – on our site, you will find accounts on all our transactions. At the same time, the information about the current amount of the Fund is available to decision-making crew for security reasons. Also, upon request from the applicant, we can keep the transaction to them secret or anonymous.
One last thing to say is the misuse of solidarity. Unfortunately, in the age of technical globalisation, everyone can put up a page, write some nice words about the non-existent anarchist collective and ask for money. The last outstanding case was the activity of someone named Tobi from Indonesia, who got obsessed with crowdfunding and used a lot of money collected for local groups and persecuted activists for personal things. ABC Indonesia has publicly condemned these actions in a statement. With this in mind, we understand that a new structure like ours can cause suspicion, especially if the collective is anonymous like ours. We try to fight it with the reports on every case we support and providing a list of vouchers from the anarchist community who endorse us on our site.
The biggest dilemma we had this first year of operation was the debate about symbolic and fundamental support. Because we are only giving 10% of the current sum in the Fund to any approved request, and the total quantity depends on the number of donations we receive, our first amounts of support were mainly symbolic. We would like the A-Fund to be a source of major help which would relieve the applicant or their solidarity group from the need to fund-raise at least for some time. With this in mind, we are trying to encourage people to join the Fund.
For the moment, we need volunteers who will help to spread the word about our project in their local communities. We want to compile a list of anarchist groups, of anarchist magazines, websites, spaces that we can address and ask for distributing our flyers, putting a banner on their site or an ad in their magazine or newspaper, etc. We are looking for people who can help us create such a database for their region or city. People and collectives are also invited to donate and join our decision-making crew, to organise benefits, install donation boxes, and so on. If you can make a presentation about the A-Fund in your town, this is awesome, too!Also, please refer people in need to apply to the A-Fund.If you have an idea of how to help spread the information about the Fund or attract donations, feel free to write us to [email protected]
Together we will win the fight.
Pic: Solidarity graphic from the recent campaign supporting Russian prisoners.