- Vancouver Five / Es ist Zeit ...
- History of the Vancouver Five
ES IST ZEIT ...
Seit Jahrhunderten hat sich das europäische imperialistische
System ausgebreitet und seine Herrschaft über die ganze westliche
Welt bzw. inzwischen über den ganzen Globus ausgedehnt.
Seine wirtschaftliche Basis hat der moderne Imperialismus in multinationalen
Konzernen, deren Büros und Fabrikhallen sich in allen Teilen
der Erde befinden. Durch ihre monopolartige Stellung und den damit
verbundenen Einfluß auf die Verteilung von Arbeit und Geld
in den einzelnen Regionen haben sich auch eine großen Einfluß auf die Regierungen und die staatlichen Institutionen.
Die Auswirkungen des imperialistischen Systems beschränkt
sich nicht nur auf die Situation der Menschen im Arbeitsbereich,
es zwingt ihnen in allen Lebensaspekten Werte und Prinzipien auf.
Durch den Besitz und die Kontrolle von Produktionstätten, Verwaltungsapparaten,
Forschungszentren und den Massenmedien durchdringen diese Werte
die Gesellschaft so gründlich, daß der daraus resultierende
Lebensstil von der Bevölkerung nicht hinterfragt wird.
Die Beziehungen in der Wirtschaftswelt, die durch den erbarmungslosen
Wettbewerb und durch hierarchische Strukturen charakterisiert sind,
reflektieren unsere persönlichen Beziehungsmuster, in denen
Männer über Frauen und Kinder herrschen.
Die Vielfältigkeit und die Tiefe des menschlichen Potentials
wird durch die Regeln an den Schulen, Arbeitsplätzen und Institutionen
von Geburt an vernebelt. Die Möglichkeit zu einer vielseitigen,
innerlich starken Persönlichkeit zu werden ist unter diesen
Bedingungen kaum möglich.
In den westlichen Systemen wird der Wert des Lebens in seinem Verhältnis
zum Profit beurteilt. Der Wert und die Identität einer Person
werden über den Arbeitsplatz definiert, so daß Menschen
ohne Arbeitsplatz als Last für die Gesellschaft angesehen werden
und sich selbst als nutzlos empfinden.
Die multinationalen Konzerne sehen die Menschen der sogenannten
Dritten Welt ausschließlich als billige Arbeitskräfte.
Alle die sich der Industrialisierung und der zwangsweisen kulturellen
Integration widersetzen, stellen eine ernsthafte Gefahr für
den Imperialismus dar und werden deshalb durch Umsiedlungen, Hunger
und Terror zum Ziel heimtückischer Unterdrückungsprogramme.
Für die Menschen der westlichen Welt ist die Natur ein Rohstofflager
das dem industriellen Fortschritt dient. Alle lebenden Dinge werden
zu Objekten degradiert als wären sie Konsumwaren, die von der
göttlichen Fabrik im Himmel hergestellt werden. Robben sind
Felle, Kühe sind Fleisch, Wild ist Jagdvergnügen, Hunde
sind Haustiere und ausgestoßene Haustiere sind Versuchtiere.
Diese eindimensionale Betrachtungsweise wird seit der Geburt anerzogen.
Kaum jemand hinterfragt das Konzept des wirtschaftlichen Fortschritts
und der dahinterstehenden Auffassungen. Wir sind zu KonsumentInnen
geworden, die nicht in der Lage sind, die Erde zu respektieren und
sich selbst zu entfalten. Wir haben unsere Verbindung und unseren
Respekt vor dem Leben verloren.
Weltweit besitzt der Imperialismus zu seinem Schutz nukleare Waffen,
die schon in Friedenszeiten durch ihre Herstellung und
Erprobung Gebiete verseuchen und Leben zerstören. Unermeßliche
Summen werden ständig ausgegeben um immer zerstörerischere
Waffen zu erschaffen. Der militärisch-industrielle Komplex
ist eine ständige Bedrohung für Mensch und Natur.
Wie lange noch werden wir passive ZuschauerInnen der Vergewaltigung
der Erde sein? Wie lange werden wir die Herrschaft der Männer
tolerieren? Wie lange werden wir es erlauben, daß die Regierungen
den nuklearen Terror weiterführen? Wie lange werden wir es
zulassen, daß die Konzerne unsere Körper und Seelen ausbeuten?
Wie lange werden wir uns noch dem Glauben an den wirtschaftlichen
Es ist Zeit, daß wir unser Bewußtsein von ihren Fesseln
befreien und unsere Fähigkeit zu kämpfen entfalten. Dann
werden wir in der Lage sein, die wunderbare Aufgabe zu erfüllen,
eine starke Widerstandsbewegung aufzubauen, um die Menschen zu befreien
und die Natur zu schützen!
HISTORY OF THE VANCOUVER FIVE
Linking anarchism to deliberate acts of violence might seen very
natural to most people if they think about anarchism at all. But for most younger
anarchists, it must be difficult to imagine that in the early '80s
armed struggle in Canada not only seemed possible, but a small group coming
out of the anarchist community in Vancouver actually engaged in it.
Moreover there was small but significant support for all three actions claimed
by Direct Action and the Wimmen's Fire Brigade.
Political struggle didn't end in the early '70s with the end of
war. The anti-war, and other movements had pulled back, but miltants
gone underground to wage war against the system. Insurrection in
seemed possible as the Red Army Fraction and the Red Brigades assassinated
and kidnapped politicians and corporate executives. In the U.S,
Liberation Army, formed when Black Panthers went underground, was
until 1981. The United Freedom Front (UFF) and the Armed Resistance
Movement were active into the early '80s, bombing government buildings
protest American military involvement in Central America and attacking
corporate targets to protest their involvement in South Africa.
On the west coast, a multitude of small groups robbed banks, set
and kidnapped Patty Hearst, a wealthy heiress. Some of these were
explicitly anarchist or anti-authoritarians. Bill Dunne and Larry
for example, were anarchists who continue to be imprisoned in the
today for trying to break a friend out of jail. The George Jackson
was anti-authoritarian, pro-woman, pro-gay and lesbian and advocated
collective as opposed to party politics. Even though all of these
were eventually crushed, they did offer a political alternative
organizing demonstrations and putting out papers
The Canadian anarchist papers, Open Road in Vancouver, Bulldozer
Toronto, and Resistance, which started in Toronto and then shifted
Vancouver, covered the armed resistance in the U.S. and in Europe
subsequent repression. We published communiques explaining actions,
provided supportive coverage of trials and offered an outlet for
writings of the captured combatants and their supporters. Revolution,
least a protracted struggle, seemed quite possible. Direct Action
Wimmen's Fire Brigade were part of this wave of armed struggle in
American, part of a broader anti-NATO, anti-war machine politic.
perspective was very much internationalist even if it was understood
it meant working within one's own local and national situation.
In the spring of 1982 a bomb destroyed the nearly completed
Cheekeye-Dunsmuir Hydro substation. It's construction had been strongly
opposed by local residents on environmental grounds. It was thought
would lead to the industrialization of Vancouver island and the
construction of nuclear power plants for export sales to the U.S.
hundred pounds of dynamite stopped that plan in its tracks. There
was a lot
of local support for the action. It wasn't clear whether or not
Action, which had claimed the action, was an anarchist group, in
a sense it
didn't make any difference. The action had raised the political
Canada. But as the bombing had taken place in the wilderness, it
to ignore. The next action wouldn't be.
In the late evening of October 14, 1982, a truck exploded outside
Litton Industries plant in Rexdale, in the northwest corner of Toronto
resulting in million of dollars in damages. Seven workers were injured,
permanently. After a few days, Direct Action issued a communique
responsibility. As a political piece, the communique is as relevant
as it was in 1982, the only change being that the cold war is over.
second written statement, they took responsibility for a series
which resulted in the injuries, especially for seeing the cops and
guards as super heroes. They weren't.
To ensure that the bomb would be taken seriously, they drove the
front of a glass-enclosed security booth and parked in front of
factory. The guards didn't notice the truck even though the van
could clearly see them. Then the phoned-in warning was not understood.
at least it drew the attention of the guards to the van. Unfortunately
Direct Action was a bit too clever. They had placed a box painted
fluorescent orange outside the truck, easily visible from the security
booth. On top of the box they placed a sheet of paper with information
instructions. They expected the guards to come over to the box once
received the phone warning. To emphasize the seriousness of the
they placed a stick of unarmed dynamite on top of the box. The guards
avoided the box, given that they didn't know that the dynamite on
was unarmed. In spite of the obvious threat, they didn't start to
the plant until 20 minutes after receiving the warning. And then
went off early, probably set off by radio signals from the arriving
The bombing took place at a time when the possibility of nuclear
very real. Both sides were attempting to achieve first strike nuclear
capability through new weapons such as the Cruise and Perishing
the Trident Submarines, and the Neutron Bomb. In response, a peace
developed in Europe, North America and elsewhere. Canada's agreement
the U.S. test the Cruise over northern Alberta and the Northwest
Territories was seen as a particular affront by peace activists.
been the focus of extensive protests by peace groups since they
producing the guidance systems for the Cruise. But the protests
The initial reaction of many radicals and activists was joyful
seeing the headlines in the paper. But this changed on more sober
reflection as the implications were thought through. The bombing
just a threat to the militarized state, but to the peaceful coexistence
many activists have with the system. It is clear that even with
injuries, there was not much reaction to it by the average person.
people the bombing was only another spectacular event in a world
, it certainly was a major event for the anarchists and the pacifists.
anarchist-communist paper, Strike!, which came out of Toronto, initially
condemned the action because it would discredit the movement. It
the usual critique that such actions could not by themselves do
Direct Action never claimed that it would. To quote the communique,"(w)hile we have no illusions that direct actions, such as
this one, can by
themselves bring about the end of Canada's role as a resource based
economic and military functionary of Western Imperialism, we do
that militant direct actions can have a constructive function as
springboard to the kind of consciousness and organization that must
developed if we are to overcome the nuclear masters."
A more sophisticated critique was issued anonymously by anarchists
Kick It Over. They complained that "the bombing at Litton can
not be said
to have increased the self-activity of either the community or the
employees at the plant". Fair enough, though the same point
can be said
about putting out newspapers and most other things we do. These
didn't condemn Direct Action for being violent, rather they put
violence in the context of state violence. Though wrongly labeling
bombing as "Vanguard Terror", it was valid to say that
organizations tend to become isolated from the people" and
continued existence as becoming a goal in itself. Again this problem
unique to underground groups.
In early November, less than a month after the bombing, the Toronto
and Mail ran a major front page article linking the Litton bombing
Vancouver anarchist community. It quoted unnamed anarchists who
the similarities between the politics of Direct Action and the Vancouver
anarchist scene. In a later, more sympathetic article, other anarchists
provided some background information as to what the purpose of the
might be without explicitly claiming that it was an anarchist action.
article was condemned by many anarchists in Toronto but it did help
the ideas to a wider public.
In mid December, the offices of the main peace groups in Toronto
raided along with the homes of some of their prominent members.
in Toronto and Peterborough were picked up and harassed and threatened
the police. It has never been clear to what extent the police actually
thought that these pacifists were really suspects or whether the
simply used to disrupt their work against Litton. Some pacifists
put as much distance as possible between themselves and the bombers.
there was enough support from other pacifists to show that there
be a total split between militants, whatever their position might
be on the
use of violence. The largest demonstration ever to occur against
happened on November 11, 1982 less than a month after the bombing.
said at the time, armed actions can make other forms of protest
visible, rather than less credible.
Litton lost a major contract shortly after the bombing. As Litton
Ronald Keating put it, "(t)hey (the protesters) are an irritant,
they get a
lot of publicity, and the Americans read every damn bit of it. Pressure
from these people is making the Americans look twice. " He
sadly that, "no one else has been bombed."
In early November, in Vancouver, the Wimmen's Fire Brigade firebombed
three Red Hot Video stores. This American chain built up an inventory
video tapes pirated from hard-core porn films. According to Open
Road," (m)any of the films depicted not only explicit sex scenes,
but women being
trussed up, beaten, raped, tortured, forced to undergo enemas by
intruders and other forms of degradation." Women's groups had
for six months against Red Hot Video, but there was no response
province. Within a few weeks, scores of women's groups of all stripes
issued statements of sympathy and understanding for the action,
demonstrations had been held in a dozen centres across the province,
six porn shops had closed, moved away or withdrawn much of their
of fear they would be the next target. Within two months the first
were laid for combining explicit sex with violence.
The Wimmen's Fire Brigade action was so successful because it was
integrated into, and complimentary to the public campaign. As B.C.
Blackout, a biweekly autonomist newsletter put it, "the action
of the WFB
could only have the impact it did because of the months of spade
many groups and individuals educating themselves, doing research,
contacts, pressuring the authorities, documenting their case --
building the infrastructure for an effective, grass roots, above-board
On January 20, 1983, near Squamish, B.C. the Five were returning
Vancouver from target practice in the mountains. The police, dressed
Department of Highway workers, stopped their van and in a violent
pulled them out of the van and arrested them at gun point. They
charged with 12 to 15 counts, including Red Hot Video, Cheekeye-Dunsmuir,
conspiracy to rob a Brink's truck, as well as conspiracy to commit
bombings. Immediately after the arrests, the police had a news conference
at which displayed the extensive weaponry which they claimed had
seized from the Five. This was the beginning of what came to be
called,"Trial by Media" as the police and prosecution used the
media to try to
contaminate public opinion not only against the Five, but against
anarchist movement in general. Newspaper headlines screamed about
netting terrorists" and "national network of anarchist
cells." The police
raided 4 homes in Vancouver the morning after the first support
meeting. No arrests were made, but typewriters were seized and people
subjected to verbal abuse.
The official police story was that the break in the case came when
reporter from the Globe and Mail showed anarchist papers to the
police who, noticing the Cheekeye-Dunsmuir communique in Resistance,
the Post Office Box address to Vancouver. The cops there supposedly
box under surveillance and were eventually able to track down the
through a series of contacts. The story was convincing enough that
reporter was going to apply for the substantial reward before being
out of it by more conscious and principled friends.
What this story was a cover for was that the police were already
of the Five. They had been under police surveillance for one reason
another since well before the first action. Brent Taylor and Ann
particular were pretty notorious in Vancouver. A cop didn't have
to be too
bright to consider them as possible suspects. Activists who didn't
know them thought they probably had something to do with Direct
They were the only ones who regularly went to demonstrations all
looking much more prepared for demonstrations in Germany than in
It is quite likely that the security police had actually watched
the Red Hot Video actions. This became very relevant at the trials.
Vancouver police obtained warrants to tap their phones and bug their
in order to investigate Red Hot Video. Such warrants are only supposed
be issued as a last resort when all other means of investigation
failed. But these were issued shortly after the firebombing happened.
Moreover, they were not needed if the police already knew who had
participated in the attacks. The RCMP security service had watched
commit other crimes and had them under observation at the time of
Video. But there were no surveillance notes covering the period
actual attack. It was assumed that the wire taps were actually needed
the police to connect the Five to Litton, for which it would have
difficult for the Vancouver police to obtain a legal warrant. The
obtained through these bugs provided the bulk of the case against
which is why the first part of the eventual trial dealt with their
On June 13, 1983, the Bulldozer house in Toronto was raided by
Litton squad. The warrant, which included the charges of Sabotage
Litton, Seditious Libel, and Procuring an abortion allowed the police
specifically seize anything related to Bulldozer magazine. They
flats, letters, articles, magazines, and the mailing list. We finally
all this stuff back after a year of legal fighting.
The seditious libel charge was apparently related to a leaflet
entitled"Peace, Paranoia and Politics" which laid out the politics
Litton bombing, the peace movement and the arrests of the Five.
Libel apparently involves calling for the armed overthrow of the
last time the charge had been used was in 1950 against some trade
in Quebec. Our lawyers eagerly anticipated defending us on this
nothing ever came of it.
The Procuring an Abortion charge came about when an alleged menstrual
extraction performed by a midwife, Colleen Crosby, on a member of
Bulldozer collective, had come to the attention of the police through
taps. Crosby was picked up a week later by cops who drove her around
several hours, threatening to charge her with the procuring an abortion
charge unless she told them about any links between Bulldozer and
Litton bombing. Crosby was would have refused to cooperate anyway,
had no information to give. It took a couple of years and thousands
dollars in legal fees before the charge was eventually dropped.
Our political weakness -- referring to both the Five and their
-- became apparent during the trial and the support work we did
trial. The Five assumed that they would go down in a hail of bullets.
Instead of the relative glory of the spectacular death, they had
with the much more pedestrian reality of sitting in jail awaiting
This lack of political and personal preparation for the almost inevitable
consequences of their actions was compounded by a lack of preparation
their supporters. It is straightforward to reprint communiques from
underground comrades. But it is much more difficult to handle raids
lawyers, harassing arrests, and watch friends and comrades distance
themselves just when support and work is needed the most. One must
to handle high-stress politics for what could be a period of years,
advancing politics that may not even be supported by one's own friends
political associates, let alone the wider society. Yet competent
principled above ground support is crucial if underground actions
have any long term impact. The community in Vancouver was able to
a presence outside and inside the courtroom during the trial in
differences in strategy as to how to support them. In Toronto, we
to keep the ideas in circulation, but had little public impact.
In the initial confusion, the right to a fair trial became the
Since it seemed possible that the room bugs which provided the main
evidence might be thrown out, this strictly legal course was hard
without prior political clarity as to how trials should be conducted.
right to a fair trial must not be ignored if the battle is going
fought on the legal terrain at all. But it is the state's battleground,
their first weapon is criminalization. The Crown split the indictments
four trials, the first of which was on the least overtly political
weapons offenses and conspiracy to rob a Brink's truck. While it
obvious to those who have a certain political understanding why
need weapons and money, television pictures of a desktop full of
and reports of meticulous planning for a raid on a Brink's truck,
calculated to defuse claims that the Five were principled political
activists. The fight for a fair trial did draw support from activists,
progressive journalists and lawyers and human rights activists.
But it can
create real problems if the trial is made to appear legally "fair".
when, as happened, the Five eventually pled guilty. Some people
support work felt manipulated into supporting guilty people even
tried to be clear that there is a difference between pleading not
and being innocent.
The Trial by Media strategy fell apart when the court ruled that
tap evidence was admissible. The first trial for the weapons and
to rob the Brink's truck began in January 1984. The evidence of
the first 4
months mainly involved the surveillance prior to their arrests.
Julie Belmas and Gerry Hannah entered guilty pleas, including Red
Video, and for Julie, the Litton bombing. In April, Doug Stewart
ordered acquitted on the Brink's charge but found guilty of weapon
offenses. In June, he pled guilty to Cheekeye-Dunsmuir. The jury
and Brent guilty of all the charges from the first trial. In June,
surprise move, Ann pled guilty to Cheekeye-Dunsmuir and Litton.
Brent was brought to Toronto for a trial around Litton and eventually
guilty. Recognizing our own weakness, we told him that little could
gained politically in Toronto if the trial was to go ahead. In our
isolation it was difficult to imagine taking on what would have
to be a
major effort to present the politics behind the bombing through
mass media. Yet not doing so meant that there was never a longer-term
nor sense of direction for those who might have been willing to
forward with more active support. It was not our most glorious moment.
To sum up this section, let me quote from Ann's sentencing statement," (w)hen I was first arrested, I was intimidated and surrounded
courts and prisons. This fear provided the basis for the belief
that if I
played the legal game, I would get acquitted or less time. This
obscured my vision and fooled me into thinking that I could get
from the justice system. But this eight months in court has sharpened
perceptions and strengthened my political convictions to see that
game is marked and political prisoners are dealt a marked deck."
Doug Stewart was sentenced to 6 years, and served the maximum 4.
Hannah got ten years, but was out in 5. Julie, only 21 at the time
sentencing, got 20 years. She appealed and got five years off when
turned against Ann and Brent, effectively sabotaging their appeal.
people were really pissed at this betrayal by Julie. But Julie's
was not the reason why Ann and Brent were convicted. If Julie really
to make a deal, she could have implicated other people by lying.
Brent got 22 years, and Ann got life. The sentences, especially
Ann's were considered unduly harsh. But the state wanted to stamp
incipient guerrilla activity. The prison system, though, controls
people actually served. Ann and Brent were both out before 8 years
In comparison to what happens to American guerrillas, this was almost
Doug Stewart wrote in Open Road after their conviction that the
size of the
bombs was problematic. He suggested that medium-level attacks such
and mechanical sabotage are easier to do than bombings and large
actions virtually demand going underground. Direct Action understood
they had to break off contact with other political people; that
actions in one city, they should live in another. But this demands
emotional and personal sacrifices. It was the failure to completely
ties with friends and lovers that left a trail for the local police.
Smaller actions are technically simpler and allow, as Stewart says,
group to come together easily and quickly around a particular issue."
Medium-level activity also "has a much less intense impact
personal life. If you are not underground, you are less emotionally
isolated, and the overall stress level is very much lower. Capture
medium-level action would be much less devastating in every way.
A two or
three year sentence is no joke, but it is substantially easier to
than a ten or twenty year one."
To summarize, let me quote from an article in Prison News Service
ten years after Litton: "Overt political actions such as these bombings, propaganda
by deed, as
they are known, are not understood in a non-political society. Even
few people will understand the motivations behind the attack, the
side is that there won't necessarily be a major reaction against
It is an error to think that something like the Litton bombing will
wake-up call for people to do something about a critical situation
them. But properly explained it can make a difference to those people
are already concerned about the situation and who have become frustrated
with other methods of dealing with the issue.
"Guerrilla actions are not an end in themselves; that is,
a single act, or
even a coordinated series of actions, has little likelihood of achieving
little more than some immediate goal. Such actions are problematic
if it is
assumed that they can be substituted for above ground work. But
if they can
be situated within a broader politics, one tactic amongst many,
can give the above ground movements more room to maneuver, making
more visible and more credible. At the same time, activists are
psychological lift, a sense of victory, regardless of how fleeting,
they go about their own political work with a renewed enthusiasm...
"For most North American activists, armed struggle is reduced
to a moral
question: 'Should we, or should we not use violent means to advance
struggle?' Though this is relevant on a personal level, it only
what is really a political question. Most radicals, at this point
anyway, are not going to become involved directly in armed attacks.
resistance movements develop in North America - and they had better
are all lost - it is inevitable that armed actions will be undertaken
some. The question remains if these armed actions will be accepted
of the spectrum of necessary activity. Much will depend on whether
suffer harm or injuries. Far from being "terroristic",
the history of armed
struggle in North America shows that the guerrillas have been quite
in selecting their targets. There is a major difference between
military or corporate targets, or even assassinating police in response
their use of violence, and setting off bombs on crowded city streets.
left in North America has never used random acts of terror against
general population. To denounce any who would choose to act outside
narrowly defined limits of 'peaceful protest' in order to appear
superior, or to supposedly avoid alienating people, is to give the
the right to determine what are the allowable limits of protest."
Repression is most effective when it is able to keep the radical
being transmitted to a new generation of activists. If the ideas
passed on, then the next wave of activists develop their politics
base that has already been created. Fortunately, a relatively small,
very active milieu of young activists adopted many of the politics
Direct Action and developed them through such projects as Reality
Anarchist Black Cross and Ecomedia. Their work in the peace, punk
native support movements, helped ensure that such politics did not
the Five went to prison.
Based on a talk given for the Anarchist Lecture Series in Toronto.
Jim Campbell: firstname.lastname@example.org
From: KICK IT OVER - Number 92, Spring 2000 -