Dear brothers and sisters:
To Michalis and Christos (who exuberantly burst into “my” cell, destroying the ISOLATION I’ve lived in for over seven years), their brothers and sisters, and all the other comrades who constitute the first generation of the Fire Cells Conspiracy Revolutionary Organization/Informal Anarchist Federation.
My eyes and my heart have always been very close to you in Greece. I still remember Nikos Maziotis’ action and his attitude in front of the court. That moved and affected us very much, to the point that some of my comrades took their own action by sending a package-bomb to the Greek embassy in Madrid.
Those comrades of mine were arrested in September 2003, and the blow came at the worst possible time. Really, it couldn’t have been worse. Back then I was regularly “on leave” from prison. Regardless of all the racket regarding my judicial/prison situation, I had already “served” the maximum sentence allowed at the time: 20 YEARS. And out of those 20, 14 were in solitary confinement and FIES. I don’t have to tell you what it meant to me to have to lose so many good comrades who, tired of bearing all kinds of systematic torture for decades, decided to leave “by the back door, feet first.”
The arrest of my comrades in Barcelona left me shaken. I could have been with them! The “death” of Paco Ortiz, the coming to power of the neo-Francoist People’s Party—all these things went through my head before I decided to make a getaway.
My escape began by putting one foot in front of the other. The first thing was to get a bit of distance behind me. With that done, I crossed the Pyrenees, destination unknown.
Once abroad, I got in touch with some old comrades. I managed to buy myself perfect identification (with which I was even able to open a checking account at a bank, rent an apartment, etc.), and I took some time to think, meet new comrades, and discuss things. From that moment on I was known as Michele Cataldi, Italian citizen.
I had decided to break out one of the compas arrested in Barcelona, and for that task I needed reliable, experienced comrades.
Luck was on my side when some Iberian Peninsula compas called to tell me they were sending someone over. I thought for sure it would be an “anarchist” comrade, yet nevertheless I saw Josepi show up (he had also escaped while “on leave”), and he knew absolutely nothing about anarchy or theory. However, I was almost happier to have a “criminal” on my side than an “anarchist.” At the end of the day, the endeavor and purpose motivating me was to break a compa out of prison, and I needed someone by my side who hated the institution of prison with absolute intensity, like I did. Josepi, with his (in total) 23 years of prison behind him, was an ideal candidate. In addition (and just like me), his “trade” was robbing banks, which is of course always indispensable.
Back then, I didn’t know which (or how many, as I believed/assumed that a large portion of the Libertarian Youth had gone underground) Iberian Peninsula comrades I could count on. I’m not talking about matters regarding “solidarity funds” or “ideological debates.” Rather, I mean comrades ready to take up arms in order to expropriate funds, hijack a helicopter, break out other compas, etc.
My proposal to liberate our compa was supported by José, and later on two other anarchists joined the endeavor.
We decided that the first thing we needed was money (we already had two handguns), and to that end we robbed a bank. If I remember correctly, we expropriated 40,000 or 50,000 euros, which was useful to us at the beginning for the acquisition of cars, electronic gear, etc.
Over the course of several months (and to the extent that it was possible for me), I was able to attend a number of meetings with internationalist comrades. Those meetings between comrades, where positions and approaches were clarified through critique and analysis, deserve all my respect, yet they left me feeling very uneasy.
Perhaps I had poorly “digested” the analyses of the “Italian insurrectionaries.” Perhaps I hadn’t stopped to think about the importance of knowing just how many comrades were truly for revolutionary anarchy. And perhaps our “adventure” of freedom and “glory” was doomed to “failure” from the start.
At that time, some communiqués from the newly-formed Informal Anarchist Federation fell into my hands. For someone like me, who came out of the Anarchist Black Cross (and was therefore already federalist and anarchist), the notion of “informal groups” opened up a world of possibility. In Northern Europe, insurrectionary ideas were practically unknown.
On June 28, 2004, three anarchists and my sister (who is apolitical) were traveling to Germany in a BMW. At noon, upon entering the city of Aachen, a Federal Border Guard (BGS) patrol car pulled up in front of us and signaled for us to follow it.
We followed the patrol car (my sister was driving) to a gas station.
At the gas station, one of the border police officers approached and asked us for our passports. José had a forged Spanish passport (a very good one) and was called Alfonso Domínguez Pombo. He could have been my sister’s cousin. Then Bart handed over his Belgian passport, as he and my sister were “clean.”
Obviously, José and I were armed and ready to save our skins at any cost. We knew what was waiting for us.
The border police officer went off with all our passports and didn’t come back for 10 or 20 minutes, after which time both officers approached, passports in hand, while another BGS car suddenly appeared and parked directly behind us, sandwiching us between the two patrol cars.
The police officers “suggested,” in a “friendly” way, that we get out of our car. Our papers were fine, but now they also wanted to search the car, since a car with so many foreigners in it is viewed as “suspicious” in Germany.
We got out of the car and the police officers immediately began searching it. José and I both had our weapons on us. His was in a small backpack and mine was in one of those fanny packs that tourists often carry.
After more than a half-hour of searching, an officer approached José and asked him to put his backpack in the trunk of one of the patrol cars. Since José didn’t understand what he was saying, the officer asked me.
There were no longer any more “conversational alternatives.” The time had come for me to simply tell José: “You grab this one and I’ll go for the other one.”
Despite all the tension, it was definitely a relief to finally put an end to that comedy. Gun in hand, taking the initiative, I really believed we would succeed. José’s police officer took off when José pointed his Ravachol-era revolver at him, and that image of José running after a German border police officer, telling him to “surrender” and put his “hands up,” is something that makes me crack up even today.
Unfortunately, José “misinterpreted” what I said. When I told him to “grab” the police officer, I meant exactly that: to grab hold of him. But in any case, “my” police officer and the other ones ran from me as well, so I was unable to grab them. And what worried me most during the whole situation was my sister.
How was I going to tell my mother about all this? My sister remained very still throughout, and if she had wanted to (to save her own skin), she could have told the police my name and blamed me for everything. The police unfortunately had us surrounded, and the only thing that occurred to us at the time was to “kidnap” two “citizens” in order to shield ourselves. You already know the rest. . . .
My sister (despite what’s been said) refused to “collaborate” or give a statement. She was even mistreated at the police station because of her refusal to let them take her fingerprints or her photograph. Her prints, as well as her DNA and her photo, were taken by force. I was very proud of my sister and the rest of my comrades.
I waited (in vain) for our Iberian Peninsula comrades to “avenge” us, as well as for them to defend direct action as a revolutionary methodology.
By one of life’s coincidences, a brief analysis by my old comrades appeared in issue 2 of Inferno magazine, more than seven years after our arrest here. But did that article explain why José and I were left alone, “abandoned” by the Iberian movement? I don’t want to “argue” or “settle scores.” I just want to write about our experiences in order to record and expand our rebellious, subversive memory.
What you have achieved is part of what I and others dreamed of. More than dreamed of, actually. You’ve dared to defy political resignation. As my comrades aptly wrote in their text, we were the “pioneers of Iberian insurrectionism.” It doesn’t make sense to ask (yet nevertheless that’s what has constantly been done since our arrest) if Iberian insurrectionism would have come about back then had some of us met and had other little things been encouraged.
But it is interesting to ask—since part of our past is becoming known bit by bit, and since our dream of an Informal Anarchist Federation/International Revolutionary Front is gradually spreading—if our Iberian Peninsula counterparts will now remain mired in the anonymous multitudes or instead join the revolutionary effort.
Just like you, I have always believed that rebellion is a permanent process that doesn’t stop for courts or jailers. The certainty of our convictions and our love of freedom embolden us. We may be “naive” for believing ourselves capable of taking our “destiny” into our own hands, but that will always be preferable to joining the chorus of naysayers and complainers.
The courts have been and are sites of power where anarchists don’t “defend” ourselves with judicial arguments, but instead base our “defense” on the ideas and values that have led us to the defendant’s dock.
Prisons are the ideal settings in which to spread anarchist ideas and values. They are the universities where we get degrees in all the arts and trades of illegality.
Comrade prisoners, fugitives, etc.: the spread of our ideas, memories, and histories is the compass that guides our footsteps.
I don’t know if this writing is in keeping with what you expect from contributions for your second trial. Perhaps I should have touched a bit more on theoretical aspects (about which we still have much to discuss), but I’m convinced that we will have opportunities to talk/write more about that and many other things.
What’s important is that we seek a direct relationship between us, the prisoners (in that sense, I’m having serious problems with correspondence), and that we find more like-minded people among us with whom to exchange ideas, information, etc.
We won’t be in prison for our entire lives. And as you correctly say in some of your writings: “the power of the jailers ends outside the walls.”
As far as José and I are concerned, we are awaiting our deportation to the Spanish state. There (in Spain), according to their laws, we should be released shortly.
For me, Germany is a chapter in my life that is best forgotten. Never in my life have I seen prisoners more disgraceful, more disposed to snitch and kiss ass, than those I have had the displeasure to meet here. I haven’t lacked desire or idealism. What I’ve lacked is contact with people who have a minimum of dignity—oppositional, rebellious people. That fact has isolated me more (and of course hurt me more) than the institution itself.
In seven years in this country, I haven’t managed (and/or wanted) to create any kind of regular link or communication with people from the “radical left.” I haven’t wanted to “tone down” my discourse in order to be “accepted” by the “radical community.”
Quite often, while reading the “leftist” (including anarchist) newsletters, fanzines, and magazines that “report” on us (the “Aachen four”), I get the impression that my only “merit” as an “anarchist” is my past of “prison struggle,” which ignores (consciously or unconsciously) the intensive revolutionary work and effort I’ve undertaken while “free.” Likewise, my political writings and texts have been met with either censorship or disinterest.
But I’m now writing about all that in my new book, which is taking much more work than I previously thought, especially the political section.
Before beginning to write about my/our recent past as well as its consequences (for each one of us), it was essential to me that my comrades be free to send me “signals.” Perhaps communication will be reopened by those “signals.” And perhaps all of us will then have the opportunity to write a new chapter in the history of Iberian anarchism—one more stream flowing into the wide-open anarchic sea, now that the ground is fertile and the world is falling to pieces.
We did what we could, and we will keep doing what we can. Let’s hope that each new generation of the Fire Cells Conspiracy/Iberian Anarchist Federation is infinitely better, more dynamic, and more effective than we have been. Regardless of my total of over 27 years imprisoned in the Spanish and German states, as well as my being uncertain of the day of my release, I am absolutely positive that I have nothing to apologize for. I only regret not being wiser and more adept at the moment of my intersection with the course of history.
With these words that break my isolation, cross borders, and arrive in the hearts of all our people in Greece and throughout the world, I embrace our brothers and sisters in the Fire Cells Conspiracy/Informal Anarchist Federation.
Long live the Informal Anarchist Federation/International Revolutionary Front!
Long liver the Fire Cells Conspiracy Revolutionary Organization/Informal Anarchist Federation!
Long live anarchy!
—Gabriel, Aachen, early October 2011
Gabriel Pombo da Silva
c/o JVA Aachen