Monday, 5 October 2009

Timetable : A Gathering Against the Prison Society

31st Oct/1st Nov 2009 - Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton, UK

2 Days of discussions & presentations about the struggle for liberation, inside and outside of the prison walls. Organised by random anarchists and the Anarchist Black Cross.

As the economic crisis hits deeper and people get organised and angry, the state needs media diversions like the War on Terror, escalating political repression, paramilitary policing, new prisons & immigration detention centres, biometrics, surveillance, relentless imperialist incursions - All to maintain the class divisions that ensure continued economic exploitation. The UK State, leading others, is about to proceed on a major prison building project, whilst more and more our societies already resemble open prisons. It all has to go.

This is a call for debate and exchange, to reflect and agitate...

Provisional Timetable

Sat 31/Oct

9.30 Breakfast

10.30 Introduction of the event and of people.

11.20 Campaign Against Prison Slavery
Forced labour, long a feature of prisons around the globe, has many functions: as punishment, to extract reparations for the cost of imprisonment and even simply as a means of keeping prisoners physically exhausted so they are less likely to rebel. However, it is increasingly being used both as an integral component of prison control and discipline regimes and as a method of generating capital from a section of society that up till now has been held to have no intrinsic labour value.

- - --.--

Talk with the anarchist comrades from Portugal
"It doesn't seem realistic to us to talk about an anti-prison struggle in Portugal. There is an ongoing tension and struggle against this prison-society. We commit to fighting not just one repressive aspect of it. The problems are everywhere and our enemy is this whole system. With this we don't mean that we haven't targeted prisons or fought in solidarity with rebellious prisoners. It is quite clear for us that prisons are a fundamental pillar of the state's repressive system. They are a direct threat for all of us.
And so, we've had experiences of aiming our attack against the penitentiary system.. It is about these experiences and their context in a larger/global struggle that we would like to talk. We're interested in sharing the practice we had and the reflections that came from that practice so far. We want to debate the theory and the methods we choose, so that we determine the way we want this struggle to be. We're also interested in mentioning some specific cases because of their unexpected outcome- both positive and negative."

13.00 Lunch + Break

14.00 Feedback from Greece
Revolutionary solidarity in theory and in practice. An anarchist comrade from Athens speaking about the increasingly repressive aftermath of the December uprising and also about the outcome of the November 2008 prisoners hungerstrike. There will be an overview of the cases of bankrobbing anarchist prisoners Giannis Dimitrakis and Gorgos Voutsis-Vogiatzis, and details of the mass repressive measures taken against immigrants.

15.00 Presentation from anarchist comrades from Berlin, Germany
Some comrades from Berlin are going to give a brief overview about the situation there for what concerns the increasing of acts of attack against state and capital and the reaction to it by the agents of repression: one of the examples are the ongoing trials against several comrades and the widening of social control. Partly-privatization within german prisons and other developments within the prison world are going to be touched, as well as moments of resistance against it, both from the outside as on the inside.

16.00 Discussion

- - --.-- Close

20.30 Benefit Gig "All Cops Are Brothers" w/ Spanner, Crowzone & Jesus Bruiser. Donations entry.

- - --->

Sun 1/Nov

10.30 Breakfast

11.20 Open Session (...)

- - --.-- Lunch + Break

--.-- Open Session (...)

- - --.-- The Shape of Things to Come
Presentation by Tony Bunyan of, about new European security architecture, biometrics & surveillance technologies and the open prison society.

- - --.-- Combating the open prison : Closing Discussion
Our modern consumer capitalist societies are becoming increasingly like open prisons, watched and spied on, monitored and databased, the average UK citizen is in a prison of monstrous proportions. We need a social and libertarian revolution for a world where we control the direction of our own lives.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Gathering Leaflet

Downloadable pdf of a leaflet for the Gathering Against The Prison Society.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Inside the surveillance capital of Europe

Britain is full of companies involved in the worst kinds of financial activity, the population is terrorised by government-media campaigns, held captive by aggressive borders, and attacked by violent police who kill with impunity. Behind the ‘democratic’ facade is Empire, enforced by ever more complex means. Every day people are scrutinised under intense surveillance and subjected to the highest levels of consumer propaganda. The authorities are enthusiastic advocates of control technology in all of its guises and have long set the benchmarks for others across the globe. There are an estimated 4.5 million CCTV cameras installed across the country: one per 14 people. This tidal wave of CCTV certainly shows no signs of abating, if anything it is gaining momentum, Britain is on the verge of a Closed-Circuit Television transformation - Companies and researchers are pushing the latest development - Digital, or ‘Smart’ CCTV.

This will enable users of CCTV to store much more data in a more flexible format such as DVD, or on computer hard-disk. Manufacturers claim that software used with the Digital CCTV can also automatically identify street crime, such as vandalism and theft even before it is committed. It is expected to be introduced in parts of the country in the next 12 months, and is being touted as a weapon against terrorism, the usual doublespeak of the bosses. It will be used to protect finance and police the zones of capital, to pursue 'anti-social behaviour' and maintain curfew on the excluded. As anarchists we re-assert the diverse world of community; we reject the 'community' that the social architects, police, law lords and bosses talk of; it is a consumerist fantasy used to keep people obedient.

On average, each person in the UK is said to be recorded 300 times a day, as end-to-end CCTV security from the borders unfurl. Most, if not all, transport networks are covered by the viewing apparatus of the State. Every city and almost every town centre is covered by cameras operated by local authorities. They view most shops, pubs and cafes, which usually all have their own surveillance systems anyway. Most of the motorways and many roads are covered in cameras, numberplate recognition cameras were introduced in 1997, and many places have cameras which detect speed & road-tax payment automatically. CCTV is said to bring about an average 5 per cent reduction in crime, however a study in 1999 revealed that crime rose 9 per cent and the clear-up rate fell 4 per cent after cameras were installed in Glasgow.

One application of Digital CCTV is 'Intelligent Pedestrian Surveillance' (IPS) marketed by IPSOTEK. This image analysis software will alert CCTV operators when a potentially suspicious event occurs. The program was the product of 10 years of research and collaboration between 6 European countries in an EU funded project. IPS technology is connected to a sophisticated pattern recognition programme called 'Cromatica', in which CCTV cameras detect unusual activity by recognising patterns pre-programmed into the computer's memory. The software compares images from each CCTV camera in use, with pictures of the space devoid of any activity, anaylising each pixel to pick out those that differ between the two images. People’s movements are reduced to a series of pixels and compared to a pre-defined set of patterns, or 'algorithms'. Clusters of pixels which could be objects or people are tracked in real time, using computer vision techniques that record and examine patterns of behaviour. There were trials of the software in late 2004, in London's Mile End underground station and Liverpool St. station. People using these stations were not told about the project. A London Underground spokesperson who oversaw the installation at the stations said: "...this puts it on another plane. It means that you don't have to look at a screen all of the time," Indeed it seems likely this is just the beginning, Ken Moore, director of Ipsotek, said: “This technology will do for CCTV what computers did for accountancy in the Sixties and Seventies.”

IPSOTEK states that its systems are easy to intergrate with other biometric technologies (Gait recognition, Facial Geometry recognition. etc.) as well as Smart cards/RF ID. They boast that they can provide a level of surveillance far superior and more cost effective than provided by human operators alone. One of the technical minds behind the company, Sergio Velastin, of Kingston University, London, spent a decade developing the mathematical algorithms for IPS.

Some of the features of IPS are:

Detecting Intrusions - When something enters an area of view that has been pre-defined as 'off-limits', the operators are alerted to the unauthorised entry.

Evaluating Density - The software is able to monitor the amount of people, congestion, abnormal pedestrian flows (i.e people walking against the flow of crowd, unusually slow or quick pace etc.).

Abandoned Packages - The system can alert operators to any object that is not defined within its limits.

Loitering - The system can detect people who spend a long time in one camera view, even if fairly active.

‘Abnormal’ Behaviour - Graffiti, vandalism, overcrowding and other 'suspicious' behaviour.

If the technology is successful it could begin to end the weakness that has long dogged CCTV, that there are too many cameras and not enough people to keep track of them. In the U.K, with the sheer proliferation of CCTV cameras, they are becoming increasingly difficult to manage. Besides being a tedious task, watching mostly inactive CCTV monitors also demands a higher level of concentration than many people can manage. The IPS system can work with up to 1,024 cameras at once.

In a recent survey of hundreds of U.S. & U.K. security executives, intelligent surveillance / smart CCTV was one of the top items in demand, and many other companies are working on similar technologies. Ipsotek is involved in Chicago, where trials will be funded by a $5 million grant from the US Department of Homeland Security. Chicago hopes to have the new technology installed by spring 2006, along with 250 state-of-the-art cameras.

IPSOTEK stands to make a lot of money in digital policing. Unless we actively fight against this technology, and attack the companies and individuals behind it, it will only be a matter of time before we have smart CCTV on our streets, in our public places, and working environment. Anyone involved in the management, development or finance of these kinds of control technologies is a target.

Pattern recognition systems, which are vital to digital/smart CCTV, are also key to understanding biometrics analysis, which are typically, computer programs, that recognise, cross-match, classify and cluster information. Biometric technologies are automated methods of identifying individuals based on mass profiling: Fingerprinting; DNA analysis; Speech analysis; Gait recognition; Iris recognition; Facial geometry recognition. Most iris pattern recognition systems are based on software created by John Daugman of Cambridge University. An image of an iris, with all the tiny pits, ridges and strings of tissue that make it unique, is turned into a series of three-dimensional contour maps. This information is compressed into a code of 1's and 0's just 2048 digits long. This code can be stored or checked against existing records in databases or smart cards. Iris scans are faster and more accurate than any other computerised means of identifying people, such as fingerprint, face or voice recognition. Getting the public to accept the intrusion of eye scans is critical to the companies behind the technology, and the governments who want to use it. The problem is the sheer number of people to be identified, and the vast amount of IT work involved, plus the ability of the technology itself. There is an upper limit to the reliability of iris scans, there are so many environmental variables: scans can be affected by lighting conditions and body temperature, so much so that a system can fail to match two scans of the same iris taken under different conditions. Even so, according to the UK government, in their recent biometric tests for the national ID project there were no false matches in over two million tests. Not long ago similar claims were made for facial geometry recognition software, which has still to make its mark, due to the limitations of the software.

According to a Hitachi Data Systems survey, 65% of European Information Technology directors wanted iris recognition and finger-print scanning introduced into the workplace in the near future, with most of them wanting the technology implemented within the next two years. 54% of those IT directors expected staff to resist the introduction.

All governments are constantly looking at better identification systems to monitor all physical and virtual territory, they want to control and survey all migration, all phone access, all internet. Technologically controlled societies formed under the pretext of fighting terror, illegal immigration and drug-dealing.

The authorities view biometrics as crucial to track and maintain a hold on their citizens movements and activities, through immense databases of credit history, biological profile, and social security. In the UK and across the whole of Europe, State/Capital is pushing for Identity Smart Cards. Smart cards are similar to existing credit cards, except they have an inbuilt computer chip, which has the ability to store and manipulate large amounts of data. In an ID system that combines smart card and biometric technologies, a stored biometric template (Iris, DNA) is compared to the 'live' image and/or the 'enrolled' image captured when the subject was first proccessed in the system. Frequently smart cards are contactless, and can interact intelligently with readers up to 10 metres away. This kind of wireless technology, known as RF ID, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth uses short-range signals which allow electronic devices to communicate with each other.

RF ID is a technology developed by a group of electronics manufacturers that allows any sort of electronic equipment to make its own connections without wires, cables or any direct interaction with a user. RF ID devices use a technique called spread-spectrum frequency hopping to prevent interference, and by sending out very weak signals of 1 milliwatt. To compare, a mobile phone can transmit a signal of 3 watts. A RF ID device will use 79 individual, randomly chosen frequencies 1,600 times every second, meaning that a lot of devices can make use of a limited slice of the radio spectrum. This technology has the capicity to completely change our living environments. The convergence of these three types of technology - RF ID, Biometrics, Smart Cards - is like the push for the - Phone, Camera, Email device- It's all about multi-functionality, miniturisation and flexibilty - the companies behind it are envisaging totally intergrated global consumer environments, with user profiling and the whole range of social control and domestication applications.

Many RF ID gadgets are open to wireless hacking. There are software tools available and in development, that allow data to be stolen through the air from laptops, mobile phones, PDA's and even smart cards. A person can use the programs to identify nearby devices that use wireless protocol.

A virus that spreads from one cell phone to another has been created by a security group called 29.a, it transmits itself to phones that have a Bluetooth connection. Unlike most computer worms, it does not exploit a vulnerability in the operating system, it exploits the way the phone is supposed to work. Bluetooth transceivers automatically contact each other when they come into range, and the operating system is designed so that files can be exchanged over the Bluetooth connection. A combination of Bluetooth connections and increasingly sophisticated cell phone software could eventually lead to a good environment for malicious phone viruses capable of bugging calls and deleting the phonebooks, calendars and diaries stored on smart phones. Because it is possible to manipulate the networks of the covergence technologies in this way, groups and individuals will still be able to subvert the system. Using traditional techniques and sophisticated cracking/cloning measures, the black market in identities will survive.

Unless an individual has been identified by the authorities as a threat, surveillance technologies are no help. They are more devices for social control, they let a government & corporation track you and know more about you.

They will not stop the fascists or fanatics, those who blow up trains or carry out other horrific attacks against working class people, the addicts of right-wing ideologies who think human beings dispensable to the force of history. These people have more in common with our authoritarian overseers than they ever could anarchists.

We are not data for machines. Our social environment does not require the ordering, organizing, coercive force. These technologies are yet another aspect of automated capitalist repression, of the absolute negation of self-management, of self-relience, of autonomy. We are not merely the flows of finance. We refuse to be processed, or submit to the authority of the digital. We are a statistic that cannot be compiled, we reject this consumer society of inhuman values and quantified poverty. We do not want this technology extending into all areas of our societies. We can come up with viable alternatives to endless surveillance, incarcaration and inhumanity, we can stop this cycle of degradation and prison.

Clearly, that solution is to destroy this capitalist system of competition and property, straight away.

Against the Control Software - Against Biometrics & Surveillance

(from 325 #2, April 2005, anti-state/anti-prison zine)

The Power of the State


The state could not exist if our capacity to determine the conditions of our own existence as individuals in free association with each other had not been taken from us. This dispossession is the fundamental social alienation which provides the basis for all domination and exploitation. This alienation can rightly be traced to the rise of property (I say property as such and not just private property, because from very early on a great deal of property was institutional—owned by the state). Property can be defined as the exclusive claim by certain individuals and institutions over tools, spaces and materials necessary for existence, making them inaccessible to others. This claim is enforced through explicit or implicit violence. No longer free to grasp whatever is necessary for creating their lives, the dispossessed are forced to conform to conditions determined by the self-proclaimed owners of property in order to maintain their existence, which thus becomes an existence in servitude.

The state is the institutionalization of this process which transforms the alienation of the capacity of individuals to determine the conditions of their own existence into the accumulation of power into the hands of a few. It is futile and unnecessary to try to determine whether the accumulation of power or the accumulation of wealth had priority when property and the state first arose. Certainly now they are thoroughly integrated. It does seem likely that the state was the first institution to accumulate property in order to create a surplus under its control, a surplus that gave it real power over the social conditions under which its subjects had to exist.

This surplus allowed it to develop the various institutions through which it enforced its power: military institutions, religious/ideological institutions, bureaucratic institutions, police institutions and so on. Thus, the state, from its origins, can be thought of as a capitalist in its own right, with its own specific economic interests that serve precisely to maintain its power over the conditions of social existence.

Like any capitalist, the state provides a specific service at a price. Or more accurately, the state provides two integrally related services: protection of property and social peace.

It offers protection to private property through a system of laws that define and limit it and through the force of arms by which these laws are enforced. In fact, private property can only be said to truly exist when the institutions of the state are there to protect it from those who would simply take what they want —without this institutional protection, there is merely the conflict of individual interests.


As the sole protector of all property within its borders —a role maintained by the state’s monopoly on violence— it establishes concrete control over all this property (relative, of course, to its real capacity for exercising that control). Thus the cost of this protection consists not only of taxes and various forms of compulsory service, but also of conformity to roles necessary to the social apparatus that maintains the state and acceptance of, at best, a relationship of vassalage to the state, which may claim any property or enclose any common space “in the common interest” at any time. The existence of property requires the state for protection and the existence of the
state maintains property, but always ultimately as state property regardless of how “private” it supposedly is.

The implied violence of law and the explicit violence of the military and the police through which the state protects property are the same means by which it maintains social peace. The violence by which people are dispossessed of their capacity to create life on their own terms is nothing less than social war which manifests daily in the usually gradual (but sometimes as quick as a police bullet) slaughter of those who are exploited, excluded and marginalized by the social order. When people under attack begin to recognize their enemy, they frequently act to counter-attack. The state’s task of maintaining social peace is thus an act of social war on the part of the rulers against the ruled —the suppression and prevention of any such counter-attack. The violence of those who rule against those they rule is inherent in social peace. But a social peace based solely on brute force is always precarious. It is necessary for the state to implant the idea in people’s heads that they have a stake in the continued existence of the state and of the social order it maintains. This may take place as in ancient Egypt where religious propaganda maintaining the divinity of the Pharaoh justified the extortion by which he took possession of all the surplus grain making the populace absolutely dependent on his good will in times of famine. Or it may take the form of institutions for democratic participation which create a more subtle form of blackmail in which we are obliged to participate if we want to complain, but in which we are equally obliged to accept “the will of the people” if we do participate. But, behind these forms of blackmail, whether subtle or blatant, the arms, the prisons, the soldiers and the cops are always there, and this is the essence of the state and of social peace. The rest is just veneer.


The power of the state resides in its legal and institutional monopoly on violence. This gives the state a very concrete material power upon which the global economic institutions are dependent. Institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF do not only include delegates from all the major state powers in all decision-making processes; they also depend upon the military force of the most powerful states to impose their policies, the threat of physical violence that must always stand behind economic extortion if it is to function.

With the real power of violence in their hands, the great states are hardly going to function as mere servants to the global economic institutions. Rather in proper capitalist form, their relationship is one of mutual extortion accepted for the benefit of the entire ruling class.

In addition to its monopoly on violence, the state also controls many of the networks and institutions necessary to commerce and production. Highway systems, railway systems, ports, airports, satellite and fiber optic systems necessary to communications and information networks are generally state-run and always subject to state control. Scientific and technological research necessary to new developments in production is largely dependent on the facilities of state-run universities and the military.

Thus corporate power depends upon state power to maintain itself. It is not a matter of the subjugation of one sort of power to another, but the development of an integral system of power that manifests itself as the two-headed hydra of capital and the state, a system that functions as a whole to maintain domination and exploitation, the conditions imposed by the ruling class for the maintenance of our existence. Within this context, institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank are best understood as means by which the various state and corporate powers coordinate their activities in order to maintain unity of domination over the exploited classes in the midst of the competition of economic and political interests. Thus the state does not serve these institutions, but rather these institutions serve the interests of the most powerful states and capitalists

It is, thus, not possible for those of us who seek the destruction of the social order to play the nation-state against the capitalists and gain anything by it. Their greatest interest is the same, to maintain the current order of things. For our part it is necessary to attack the state and capitalism with all of our might, recognizing them as the two-headed hydra of domination and exploitation that we must destroy if we are ever to take back our capacity to create the conditions of our existence.

(from "Network of Domination" by W.Landstreicher)

Saturday, 18 July 2009


31st Oct/1st Nov 2009 - Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton, UK

2 Days of discussions & presentations about the struggle for liberation, inside and outside of the prison walls. Organised by random anarchists and the Anarchist Black Cross.


The State of Things to Come - Presentation by Tony Bunyan of StateWatch, about new european security architecture, biometrics & surveillance technologies and the open prison society.

Prison Struggle across Europe - A wave of repression and resistance as Europe hots up during the economic meltdown. Presentations on some of the different situations.

Campaign Against Prison Slavery - Fighting the corporations involved in the prison industry and making the links between attacks on workers and outsourcing labour to prisoners.

Fortress Europe - Borders are the prison walls of the nation-state. We want to destroy all immigration detention centres forever.

Combating the open prison - Our modern consumer capitalist societies are becoming increasingly like open prisons, watched and spied on, monitored and databased, the average UK citizen is in a prison of monstrous proportions. We need a social and libertarian revolution for a world where we control the direction of our own lives.

Mental Health - One out of four people can be described as 'mentally ill' from new guildlines and governmental reports, the repression of everyday life is making us sick, and the only solution is to overthrow the conditions that make us ill.

As the economic crisis hits deeper and people get organised and angry, the state needs media diversions like the War on Terror, escalating political repression, paramilitary policing, new prisons & immigration detention centres, biometrics, surveillance, relentless imperialist incursions - All to maintain the class divisions that ensure continued economic exploitation. The UK State, leading others, is about to proceed on a major prison building project, whilst more and more our societies already resemble open prisons. It all has to go.

This is a call for debate and exchange, to reflect and agitate...

More details to follow, watch this space!