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international bordercamp strasbourg

Preparatory text for the 'internal security laws and social control forum'

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07.May.02 - This text aims at raising a few working stakes for this forum. The overall objective is to focus on concrete daily life expressions of social control and from there evaluating various perspectives for actions (exchanges on past experiences, projects, co-ordinating efforts...)

"security super star"

The occidental world took advantage of the occasion offered by New York kamikaze planes to intensify a global warfare against any form of social or political deviance. As the United States proclaimed that all those who wouldn't be with them would be against them, each allied state hurried to identify to their paranoia and to implement the very convenient status of 'endangered democracy'. European states accordingly intensified their policies aiming at enforcing control on territory and populations. It is important to notice the central role of the mainstream media in the legitimisation of these processes. For several decades, the intrusion of control in the very heart of social relations was made more and more efficient. The buoyant return of the 'terrorism hunt' allowed the brutal implementation of 'emergemcy' internal security laws ( very much inspired by the 'avant-garde' Criminal Justice Bill and Terrorism Act in the UK) that accelerates an on-going process to enforce control on our lives. Under our latitudes war did not happen through explosions as it was announced but rather through the declaration a permanent 'state of emergency':
- enhanced police control on public spaces together with the acceleration of a process of control on life and populations.
- Increased police prerogatives (impunity...) legalised by security laws criminalizing poverty and making more and more difficult public gatherings.
- Throughout Europe, the anti-terrorist directives extend their scope to anything reluctant to state control. The very concept of 'Terrorism' is adopting a flexible definition, not only concerning the deed but the intention up to the mere opinion. It encompasses anything that goes against the smooth working, including economical, of the state ( criminalizing spontaneous strikes and occupations...).

From territorial control to control over the populations

The historical constitution of Nation States was based upon mechanisms enforcing a control of land and territory of which the main expression has long been the border. The theory of development as it appears with industrialisation (end of nineteenth century) and its more recent applications (undeveloped countries), is cumulating two central illusions: those linked to the 'modernist' paradigm (capitalist productivity) and those linked to the idea of 'nation'(universalised model of the European Nation State). From now on we entered in a new phase of capitalism extension to which the traditional Nation State structure no longer offers sufficient support. Nowadays European institutions, like International Financial Institutions, are the first steps on the way to a supra-national management of capitalism. As for nation-states in their first phase, Europe as a political project needs support (at least passive) from a consistent part of the population. Europe's challenge for now is to finalise the constitution of a smooth space, with a unified strength and formal 'democratic' legitimacy. For Europe the enemy is thus interior and the best way to deal with it is to label any reluctance / resistance to its objectives, "acts of terrorism" ( at least potential ones). The goal is not to eradicate the categories identified this way (migrants, 'fare-dodgers', young deviants, anti-capitalist activists) but to delegitimise them, force them into silence (prison, detention...) and finally get them back to work (prosecutions turning into work of public interest, 'professional integration' conditioning welfare, work in prisons...).

After the proposition of a European riot unit to optimise the capacity of repression even beyond what it was in counter-summits so far (Prague, Göteborg or Genoa...), we're now facing the European arrest mandate, the extension of the Schengen Information System (SIS) and anti-terrorist legal dispositions (see the agenda of Sevilla European summit). Inside the European Union, the traditional border system has evolved and multiplied. We end up with micro-borders embodied in every form of daily control (transport fares, shop lifting control, ID checking, multiple data base recordings) in which new information technologies have a central function. The SIS located in Strasbourg was created as a central and unified watch-recording data base to enhance control all over Schengen territory. This was the unavoidable condition for the pseudo 'freedom of circulation' inside EU.

From social control to self-control...

Laws on states' internal security are not so much the tool of an essentially repressive power structure but rather a kind of filter, a sorting process separating the 'bad ones' from the 'good ones'(if ever there can still be 'good ones').
The state of emergency does not only concern those rebelling against this brave new world: it is now the current management mode of its regular inhabitants, the main tool to maintain a permanent pressure over the least disciplined/adapted of them.
In daily life these control strategies are embodied in the generalisation of security-watch systems, video-cameras (CCTV), district police, mediators... The ultimate accomplishment of this vision of society is the integration by the cultural majority of the 'necessity' to deal with social deviance on a disciplinary mode and to make it part of each citizen's duty (calls to denunciation, cross data-basis, collaboration with police services).

A few elements we'd like to work on to start with:

• To work on the existing and reinforced links between urbanism, architecture, and social control ( public transports, new prisons, social housings, anti-riot university sites...)

• To raise attention on the multiplication of 'police' forms ( traditional police services, private security guards, social services, health services, patents on life...)

• To highlight the central place of mainstream media in the legitimisation process of these mechanisms and in the diffusion of a very helpful 'feeling of insecurity'.

• This forum should also be the occasion to give a new impulse to the anti-psychiatric working field in so far as it raises important critical stakes concerning mechanisms of control over the individual (medicalisation of social deviance, relation between knowledge and power, confusion between illness and madness, processes of victimisation and repression).

• To exchange experiences, and analysis of these mechanisms in various European countries or other regions. On which points is the unification at work and how can we organise resistance?

• To experiment ways to inform people and actions to highlight the mechanisms of social control, either here or at the European level (visual or theatrical actions, reach out to people in their working, living spaces...).

• More generally the people taking part so far would like to get out of reactive tactics in the face of social control and to develop an approach that could be transversal to all social backgrounds and categories of population.

• making visible that opposing control is possible...

• reclaim our lives...