After failing last year to show that its 2020 “anti-terror” raids on anarchists were justified, the state lost a second attempt last week to silence its main target, Toby Shone.
The attempted targeted crackdown by the cops, using anti-Mafia laws against someone unlucky enough to have had drugs in their home during the raids, is only the most recent attack on European anarchists, however. It’s part of a larger pattern that has emerged as the energy for moral panic over fundamentalist Islam subsides.
There is a strain of insurrectionary anarchism in Europe that has persisted for decades, and often arises especially in Italy and Greece involving direct confrontations with the state. Along with solidarity actions against sites linked to ruling class oppression like the US Embassy, groups will often respond alike to police and fascist violence.
For the most part, in the 2000s and 2010s, this activity was of a sufficiently low order, especially when stacked against the “anti-jihadist” policing political project, that anarchists were not a priority. However, this equation has constantly changed, notably via the priorities of Europol’s counter-terrorist unit.
In his 2021 Report on the situation and trends of terrorism (pdf) Europol notes that “In the EU (in 2020), 21 people died as a result of terrorist attacks and at least 54 people were injured. The deaths are the result of one right-wing terrorist attack and six jihadist terrorist attacks. Of course, the increasing number of violent racist incidents are not counted under this umbrella – if that were the case, only Germany would have seen 24,000 additional offenses listed last year. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has warned that the far right is by far the biggest threat to national security.
So the focus is on fundamentalism and the extreme right, right? Well, not according to their arrest list. From the report:
In fact, leftists and anarchists, although not responsible for any deaths, are arrested more often for terrorist offenses than the extreme right and fundamentalists. combined. So what’s going on here?
In Greece, New Democracy accelerated arrests and actions against insurgent groups such as Fire Conspiracy Cells and the anarchist enclave of Exarchyeven going as far as repeal the rules of the country’s iconic university shrine so they can reach anyone who escapes on the grounds of the Athens Polytechnic. In Germany, the last series of raids took place in Munich, rummaging through people’s belongings, stealing printouts and every electronic item they could reach, including everything from a printing press to the risograph machine. Anarchist media have not been safe either, with Linksunten Indymedia looted and shut down. Other Indymedias have been threatened for hosting texts deemed too spicy by the state.
This is, unfortunately, something we often have to live with. The state goes through phases – in the 80s it was the communists, then the jihadists, and now it is a bogeyman to scare the public into supporting its continued invasions of privacy. A lack of arrests against far-right terrorists is normal because they do not threaten the priorities of the state or capitalism. Despite all that their chinless avatars moan and can’t say on major media platforms about being “silenced”, fascists are the golden children of law enforcement, devoid of any real experience of repression. Let’s face it, a significant number of them are law enforcement.
So maybe we’re just next in line.
Britain’s mild panics
There is, for the most part, little insurgent tradition in old Blighty these days, and there hasn’t been for some time, which is one of the reasons why the legislative and policing priorities of state have been so petty and draconian. In the absence of a real organized threat, the deputies ended up criminalizing”serious trouble” and traffic jams because apparently the ruling class here is so pampered that they panic even at entirely fluffy actions taken by nonviolent protesters.
But the police have also gone out of their way to intimidate anyone who even talks about more disruptive activities. Enter Toby Shone.
In November 2020, during a raid on his home, police arrested Toby over allegations involving links to a fiery direct action website 325nostate.net (now only available as an archive, as the Dutch police stole his server). Grandiosely titled “Operation Adream,” the raid revealed nothing more dangerous than LSD, MDMA and a handful of other drugs common to commons across the country. Nevertheless, unwilling to admit an embarrassing failure, they accused Toby of being involved in terrorist activities, including financing terrorism, possessing information useful to terrorists, belonging to a terrorist group and carrying out “actions direct”.
However, when it became clear that this was going to fail miserably (and it did, he was found not guilty), they instead focused on the drugs they had found in the collective space of the house. , accusing him of possession with intent to supply. It was more successful and he was jailed for three years and nine months in October last year on a guilty plea.
This was of course not the end of the story. No police force can stand to be shown, and their “we’ll put it on something” itch has been scratched with a follow-up request for a Major Crime Prevention Order (SCPO), a blatant overreach usually aimed at the sponsors of organized crime that a judge rightly said had no merit.
Like Toby himself Remarks, the use of such invasive legislation allowing the police to try to control his use of computers, bank accounts and any other electronic device for the next five years on the basis of such a limited accusation is very clearly a work of political repression. He said bluntly that: “I am anti-capitalist and against any gang or mafia type practice. I am opposed to the use of hard narcotics and their supply.
Toby is not the boss of organized crime. He was found not guilty on the wad of dramatic terror charges the state threw at him. Not guilty of “glorifying” terrorism. Not guilty of “supporting” him. Not guilty of “funding” it. That should have been the end of the matter. But instead, frustrated cops tried to force their way in another way. A sentence of espionage, a prison without bars which would have made it impossible for him to work in militant circles. It is a victory for basic common sense, not to mention human dignity, that it was not granted by a judge.
But the request should never have been filed. This overconfidence with which the cops harass people has been guaranteed by the current crowd of paranoid politicians in Westminster, whose attitude towards dissent would be comical if it were not so malevolent. Supported by the mass media and a startling level of public indifference, this is part of a general rollback of freedoms for all those who are not, in that sense classic lineable to treat laws like spider webs.
Yet conservatives are only the darkest part of this particular light bulb, and similar efforts have hammered anarchists across Europe. As far-right ideals continue to creep into the corridors of power and the media, anarchists could face a difficult decade.