Anarcho-Surrealist Prison Update


A few months ago, I linked to a story about anarchists in the Spanish Civil War. According to the Guardian, the Iberian anarcho-communists tortured their prisoners by confining them in bizarre cells "inspired by ideas of geometric abstraction and surrealism." I wasn't quite sure that proper anarchists would be building prisons—it seems to contradict the philosophy, y'know—but that just made the tale more surreal.

Now some modern anarchs are crying foul. Writing in the Spring 2003 issue of Fifth Estate, a long-lived anarchist journal, Don LaCoss notes that the story's sole source—the alleged courtroom confession of the anarchist Alphonse Laurencic—isn't particularly credible. "In the Soviet example," LaCoss writes, "the accused were tortured until they 'confessed' to espionage, [to] sabotage, or to some other ridiculous crime against Stalin and the people of the U.S.S.R.; in Franco's Spain, captured anarchists, communists, and Republicans admitted before military tribunals that they had raped nuns, encouraged homosexuality, and published hardcore pornography—and, in the case of Alphonse Laurencic, psychologically tortured political prisoners with repeated screenings of Bunuel's Un Chien andalou—as part of a fictitious, sprawling, Judeo-Masonic conspiracy based in Moscow." After providing more details about Francoist repression, LaCoss concludes: "In such a nightmarish context as this, bizarre atrocity propaganda about anarchist torturers' use of 'degenerate art' is not at all surprising."

Next up: Did Food Not Bombs really torture captives with bad punk rock and vegan meals? Stay tuned!

NEXT: More Bull

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  1. Anon’s sites are interesting if not compelling. Some of the disapproving comments posted to the second one gave me a chuckle:

    “Leftist clowns
    by Bill 1:33pm Thu Apr 10 ’03

    Damn, at lest you could use Paint with *some* skill….

    It looks like something my 4 year old would come up with.

    Grow up!”

  2. geophile,

    Don’t like Jazz? You philistine! 🙂

    Well, its not your personal distaste for Jazz that is the issue, the issue is whether you would use the state to coerce others to have the same distaste. 🙂

  3. All true anarchists are Market Anarchists. The rest are just crypto-communists.

  4. All anarchists are fools. You are witnessing a brief spell of anarchy in Bagdad and it isn’t libertarian nor a market (looting, murder etc). Luckily there is a Leviathan on the ground – the military – to begin the process of law & order.

  5. The British leviathan better get their shit together then, because half the population of Basra will be dead soon otherwise.

    Thomas Friedman’s op-ed yesterday from Umm Qasar was fairly illumating. Kuwaitis toss food from moving vehicles and all.

  6. If the government imposes disorder, that’s anarchy? Thanks for explaining, Laz.

  7. JJ: It is government/state/leviathan/authority NOT imposing order that leads to anarchy. (the slashes are dedicated to you GG)

  8. Isn’t “bad punk rock” redundant?

  9. Lazarus:

    What you see in Iraq now, and in Somalia a few years back, is not “anarchy.” Anarchy is a system of order created from the bottom up, by voluntary cooperation. What is happening in the countries you speak of is the result of the sudden collapse of a centralized state, with the attendant power vacuum, after civil society and all the forms of bottom-up organization had been actively destroyed by the state. Liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order–Proudhon

  10. Kevin,

    You talk like a man who’s never had to deal with a neighborhood Home Owners’ Association.

  11. JDM:

    Ouch! But much as I hate attending meetings, I hate even worse having my life planned by the suits running the corporate state. At least in a town meeting or mutual bank, there’s a real semblance of participatory democracy, not just the spectator kind where you choose between state capitalist elites a half-inch to the left or right of center.

  12. Hmm, show trial confessions based on torture hardly seem a credible source to make such a claim without some other independent evidence. I would also suspect that Franco had a grudge against surrealists and the like because they opposed his regime (at least Picasso did), and of course there is also the famous painting “Guernica” to account for too. Though whether all of this fits into any chronological order is unknown to me.

    One other thought. Totalitarian regimes as a rule tend to condemn and ban almost all forms of “non-traditional art.” There tends to be a desire, from what I’ve seen, to glorify the art of the “folk,” which is divorced from all the decadence of Western liberal ideas, urban life, etc. This appears to explain the hatred totalitarian governments had/have for jazz. The Soviet and Nazi governments both tried to ban and eradicate jazz from their societies – they weren’t successful. 🙂 Anyway, the coerced confession’s bizarre nature maybe a result of Franco’s desire to rub out what he may have considered a decadent, and dangerous, art form.

  13. I remember that post from a while back, and in hindsight, maybe it is a bit farfetched. I still like the idea though. I want to believe.

    I can’t stand jazz, but I’m hardly a totalitarian. Must be a despot thing.

  14. But didn’t the article state that the prisons/torture cells had been found? Do these structures exist or not? When I read about them the first time I thought they sounded like cool places to visit. I want to believe, too.

  15. Nope. From the Guardian piece: “Mr Milicua’s information came from a written account of Laurencic’s trial before a Francoist military tribunal.”

    Personally, I want to believe that Alphonse Laurencic, faced with certain imprisonment or death, decided to make up the most absurd possible story he could think of, playing on all his captors’ paranoias. But apparently, no one’s even sure if this Laurencic fellow even existed.

  16. The media lies all the time. Just yesterday they faked the Saddam statue falling. Here is the proof:

  17. Kevin,

    I was thinking more about the million mini tyrants spawned by participatory democracies. I think our country is screwed more because of the rapidly declining quality of education than by any systemic flaws. Any government is only as good as the people running it.

  18. >>Liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order–Proudhon>Any government is only as good as the people running it.

  19. Compared to the US? Sure.

    Compared to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa? It’s pretty damn attractive.

  20. Perhaps, sub-Saharan Africa indeed is an even bigger shithole. It’s states are kleptocracies run by mini-Saddams. But is your point that Somalia is the anarchist ideal for all societies? Or that Somalia does not have the culture to have a strong, virtuous State to help build a liberal society, so anarchism is the best it can do? OK that is a false choice fallacy, but I hope you see what I am asking (it is Friday and my mind is overloaded -sorry).

  21. Lazarus is basically just parroting what he read out of Anthony Giddens’, “The Nation-State and Violence, Vol. I & II.”

    And, well making a hackneyed attempt to parrot Hobbes as well.

  22. Lazarus Long,

    Are you in agreement with Fukuyama then? And if so, can you flesh out why you believe his quasi-Hegelian argument is correct?

  23. Gary: That is it. I am no longer responding to your posts. This was clear cut trolling and I will no longer participate.

  24. Lazarus Long,

    You’ll have to explain how that was trolling. I made an observation. Specifically, I’ve watched you paraphrase the ideas of others, especially Giddens, and I’ve commented on that. I think you are basically being overly sensitive.

  25. Lazarus:

    My point was that Somalia is often offered as an example of the evils of anarchy, whereas in fact it’s a place where anarchy has been preferable to the available alternatives. If there’s a broader point, it might be that the state is not the only possible means to bring order to a society — and that in Africa, Somalia has found a preferable path to relative peace and economic development than that found under more centralized systems.

    Somalia certainly isn’t an ideal for all societies, and not just because it’s so culturally different and so economically backward. Utopian fiction aside, I don’t believe there is such a thing as an ideal society. That’s too static a concept for the real world.

  26. Jesse: Well perhaps it does work better than the altenatives. But I wonder how long it will last? Seems that throughout history the State is the natural outgrowth of progress. Will the collective decisions of individuals in Somalia lead to a centralized state? Wouldn’t a liberal state in Somalia (if this is culturally possible -not sure about this) lead to more freedom and propserity? Ah well, its an interesting topic. Have a good weekend.

  27. Lazarus Long,

    In other words, you are arguing the same determinist non-sense that Fukuyama has been arguing since at least 1989.

    “Seems that throughout history the State is the natural outgrowth of progress.”

    This statement assumes that there has been a linear progression from non-state societies to state societies. Can you demonstrate this? Until you do so, I don’t see how you can shift the locus of debate to whether the growth of states are part of “progress” or not.

    “Wouldn’t a liberal state in Somalia (if this is culturally possible -not sure about this) lead to more freedom and propserity?”

    Why can’t a non-state society lead to more freedom and prosperity? Is it solely because you assume that without Hobbes’ leviathan that life will be “nasty, brutish, and short?”

  28. Lazarus,

    Most of the state capitalism is not voluntary–it includes not only the structure of the corporate economy, but the whole array of state-enforced provisions like anti-competitive privilege, subsidies, etc., that maintain that structure. Other than living illegally in the shadow economy, I can’t avoid helping to underwrite the $$ given to Boeing or the R&D tax credit. And if I get caught organizing a mutual bank to issue interest-free mutual dollars against the members’ assets, the feds will jump on me with both feet. Likewise, if I disregard federal patent/copyright law, I’ll wind up with an FBI plunger handle up my ass.

  29. Somalia is actually a pretty good case for anarchy, in the sense that Kevin is using the term. The civil war there was caused partly by thoughtless outside intervention and partly by the desire of rival clans to seize the central state apparatus. To the extent that peace has returned, it has been because traditional, non-state groups have negotiated settlements and established order.

    I did a piece in Telos about this seven or eight years ago. It isn’t online, alas, but you can probably find it in your local college library.

  30. Well…it was still a good idea.

  31. Kevin,

    Sounds unpleasant.

  32. Lazarus Long,

    If the state is giving Company X a subsidy because of its political clout, but denying said subsidy to Company Y due to its lack of political clout (assuming of course that both companies are in direct competition), isn’t the resultant competitive advantage that Company X receives from this deal a threat to the economic freedom or liberty of the owners of Company Y? After all, Company Y could be run out of business simply because it lacks the requisite political contacts to protect itself. Furthermore, isn’t this threat even more paramount when these sort of government activities are perpetrated across an entire economy?

  33. Croesus:
    Such an action may be unfair, but is it really unfree? cleary freedom trumps most “state capitalist” actions….

  34. Fair warning: There is falsesness about here. That was NOT my post. Distrust the poster above. There is sickness among most libertarians. Sickness most eager toward statism and evil. My name is stolen, but not my princiapals. I warn all libtarians to be on their guard. Evil is afoot.

  35. Lazarus Long (or whoever you are),

    Yes, it is an attack on freedom, if an indirect one.

  36. Kevin: True to a degree — but really how unfree it is to be operating “illegally” as you discuss in the shadow economy. I think you exaggerate a tad. The shadow economy exists because the authorities could care less about it, for the most part.

    Now as a libertarian I agree that dismantling “state capitalism,” as you state it, is important, but its existance is hardly the overwhelming threat to freedom that you make it out to be.

  37. EMAIL:
    DATE: 02/27/2004 12:50:26
    Yes, congrats for this site, check those too

  38. EMAIL:
    DATE: 05/21/2004 03:14:29
    A little foolishness, enough to enjoy life and a little wisdom to avoid the errors, that will do

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