By Gabriel Kuhn
July 24, 2023
Yesterday, on July 23, one of the biggest anarchist gatherings of the 21st century ended in St. Imier, Switzerland. It was held (with a one-year delay due to Covid) at the 150th anniversary of Mikhail Bakunin and comrades founding a “Black International” there after they had been expelled from the First International.
The 2023 St. Imier gathering was an impressive meeting with anarchists from all over the world. Well, all over the world? Global injustice is reflected in anarchist gatherings as well. They usually happen in the Global North, and the economic hurdles for the participation of comrades from the Global South remain high. At least they can be rectified to a certain degree by concerted fundraising efforts (of which there should be many more!), but the boundaries of red tape are very hard to tear down, as long as the state and its armed minions have the upper hand.
Despite having been invited to an artist residency program by French comrades, Cris, a long-time organizer in Manila, Philippines, was denied a visa to visit Europe. Effectively, this meant that he couldn’t attend the gathering in St. Imier either, where he had planned to do presentations about the situation in the Philippines and connect with anarchist friends and activists.
In a welcome gesture of support, the organizers of the gathering allotted a slot for film screenings from the actions that Cris is involved in in the Philippines. One of them documents a Food Not Bombs event directed at the “War against Drugs” that made former Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte world-famous for all the wrong reasons. Cris has been involved in many such actions over the years.
Cris also runs the Etniko Bandido infoshop in the city of Pasig, a part of Metropolitan Manila. The infoshop has a Patreon page with more information and options to directly support the activities of our Philippine comrades. With regard to St. Imier, our friends from the Black Mosquito distro in Germany stepped up, producing solidarity shirts that were sold at a couple of places at the gathering, including the PM Press stall – which also sold out of the book Pangayaw and Decolonzing Resistance: Anarchism in the Philippines, authored by Bas Umali, a close collaborator of Cris’s for many years.
Support on an individual level is great, but, in the long run, the “worldwide anarchist community” needs to tackle the issue of how global injustice is reflected in its own ranks collectively, and bring more justice to its own events. It’s not an easy thing to do, as there are many obstacles, but we have to start with serious discussion, otherwise the margins for improvement remain very limited. The global border regimes are tightening rather than opening.
Cris himself has put it very modestly in personal correspondence: “I’m hoping that the international anarchist community will see that for non-European people, especially from the Global South, it will always be hard to participate in international gatherings. They will continue to experience rejection entering Europe. I hope that someday we can make a counter-measure on how to address these kinds of difficulties.” Word.
If you’ve read this and have a minute, reach out to Cris at etnikobandido[at]riseup.net. That’s how the discussion starts.