PNE, Vancouver. Internment Camp 1941


A State of Emergency is no longer what it once was; War Measures Act, Emergency Planning Order, Anti-Terror Law- Now under the occupation of Disappearance the sovereigns declarations melt into the on-going State of Exception. The end result of the police/military operations remain the same: the direct neutralisation of a population. The more vulgar forms of repression disappear into the regime of surveillance and control; the capture of the Toronto 900 tactically serves the same strategy as all other political round ups including the Ukrainian and Japanese ‘enemy aliens’, the anti-fascist ‘enemies of the state’, those in ‘a position to advocate violence’ in 1970’s Quebec, several other mass-internments have served the states counter-insurrection throughout dominion. The apparatus of Capture is how the State responds  in times of crisis. As we become the more ungovernable we must in turn be willing to defend ourselves and others.

Below are fragments cut from a larger text that was presented and discussed with a multimedia presentation on weds july 14th at 12th & Clark, more info at – the full text is out in a zine.

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Here at the edge of the old empire, in the continuum of the new; since and still a site of capture and war ; a genocidal process of territorialisation. The creation of colonial space condemned newly formed colonial subjects. Forms-of-life created in reservations. The first manifestation of Camp. And then the consequence of the settler colonies- the penal colonies  tracing the perimeters of the confined space of the reservations, and establishing the fortressed margins of civilization. These new Camps situated themselves in the strained space between the two . Unemployed Ukrainian proletarians captured 15 miles within the municipal holdings were interned in the camps of WWI. Followed by the ‘in-between war,’ the state sent the unemployed  to labour in slave camps. WWII-Japanese-Canadians robbed of everything and interned in the pits of Hastings Park (now the PNE) before being shipped in cattle cars to the ghost towns of failed settlements. Conscientious objectors required to work for the war machine in camps stained by decades of slavery; interned anti-fascists forced to survive outnumbered, alongside captured German Nazis; Indigenous schoolchildren tortured and raped in a system of educational barbarity; men and women forced to undergo  sadistic treatment within the institutions of medical control; apprehended childhoods stolen in orphanages; and then there is the ever expanding industry of correction facilities. Thus creating not just the gulag archipelago of Western Canada, but also the ethical tissue from which the pursuits of Empire finds it’s rational.

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The theoretical perimeter of Camp which we seek to breach is laid out by Giorgio Agarmben when he states that ‘the camp is the space that opens up when the State of Exception starts to become the rule .’ The State of Exception that, as Walter Benjamin knew, is the norm for oppressed people, situates itself, with its sovereignty and institutions, upon the mass of poor folk. A bizarre power rules here, there is no reference of legislation or law. These institutions are constructed, their surveillances hardwired, looming down upon us before we realize that they been built . The power that erects these great fortresses is beyond the imagination of civil libertarians. It is the sovereign power that accelerates control over our lives. It is the voice that declares a state of emergency; the invisible ink used to sign the declarations of war. These States of Exception fall fast upon one another: before the Olympics, it was 9/11, before then, the militarization of the millennium. Escalating between  a series of police and immigration actions, each declaring themselves as a temporary State of Exception.  The State of Exception is not just the norm for opposed folks, but has become the political norm in which power operates.

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Here we begin to see the sinister advance of biopower. The complex system of controls and apparatuses that articulate the efficacy of power by creating subjects of the population. This subjugation is inscribed within the very body by an assemblage of mechanisms, very much like Kafka’s harrow machine. Biopower can be personally understood by one’s relationship with the apparatuses positioned over them. Biopower functions not in the techniques of control, so much as the management of the body and the body’s relationships to power . Biopower, as a science of oppression, finds its rational by emphasizing the protection of life over death through the direct regulation of the human body. Unable to ban the citizen or imprison them behind bars, the state disseminates its control in systems of preservations and sells the spectacle of salvation to any who cares to look. In this context, the police’s enthusiastic support of harm reduction seems less a contradiction and more a strategy.

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Now we have the State of Exception under the new title of ‘extreme weather alert’ (another ill-conceived grassroots campaign that relinquished its positivity to the expansion of dominion) and the new designation of Camp as ‘emergency shelter.’ These emergency shelters have been designated into the confines of Community Care Facilities. They have been zoned within those flea-bag-hotels turned state of the art-institutions, as they are compatible to the ‘emergency support’ that diagnoses a building as a care facility. The ‘extreme alert’ is the order without localization- the State of Exception during which the law has been suspended. This corresponds now to a localization without order—that is the Camp as permanent State of Exception. The political system no longer orders forms-of-life and judicial norms in a determinative space; rather, it contains within itself a dislocating localization that exceeds it and in which can capture the necessary forms-of-life.

Of course within these facilities, Camp rules in totality. No law exists but the sovereign’s will as implemented in the State of Exception. The hotels that until their re-territorializing fell under the regulations of the Residential Tenancy Act, are now legislatively reconfigured under the Partners in Action Protocol. Now that the tenants are no longer residents, but bare-life interned, the protocols are implemented at the whims of control. From a cesspool of candidates, the most obedient NGO’s are chosen to carry out the administrative orders of Camp. Each NGO serving a variation of ruling ideology are able to valorize those beliefs into the regulations of the internees. Where once in the hotels a guest fee was the obligation for company, now the tenant sits alone surrounded only by other patients and their supervisors, flanked by social servants, nurses and police. The hotel lobby, once a meeting spot, is now an Open Control Post. The hotel beside it is the same , and the one beside it, and all throughout the ghetto.

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By heralding an emergency, the sovereign power has created a new form-of-life for the unemployed/homeless/addict/patient: that of bare life. A life stripped down to its bare relationship to control. Here, the existence of bare-life is captured in the State of Exception and the Camp becomes flesh. Life is no longer the campaign of subjectification but has become totally territorialized by the biopolitical assemblages of Empire.

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It is the systems of control that have been perfected in this capture. Like the trumpeted successes in totalizing police and military apparatuses into the configurations know as Vancouver Integrated Security Unit (VISU) and the Integrated National Security Enforcement Teams (INSERT), as well as the international integration of Canadian Armed Forces into Empire’s full spectrum of domination; it is the complete integration of regulatory institutions at a ‘community level’—that functions as a counter-insurgency/counter-escape paradigm. The implementation of Camps must be seen on a planetary scale. Vast holding centers, prison camps, quarantines. So much of humanity is rounded up in these Camps and the slums that surround them. And of course, a new imperial guard has been created to police these Camps.

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‘The unlimited escalation of control is a hopeless response to the predictable breakdowns of the system’ (The Call, Invisible Committee). That the Spectacle is succumbing to its own overextension is evident, that the biosphere is crashing down on biopower is equally apparent. From this totalitarianism that Empire promises security, we must exodus. It is in seeking the moments of insurrection within the Camps, that history will assist us. The massacred and those who found their freedom return to us and they are avenged. Walter Benjamin who noted the State of Exception being the rule for oppressed people went on to say that it is our task against fascism to bring about the real State of Exception.

The ruptures in Camp, the flights from capture, slave revolts, war parties, maroon communities, warrior blockades, the ghost town communes of the Japanese Canadians, the liberated barracks of the communist POWs, ghetto uprisings, work slowdowns of interned consciences objectors, squats, hunger strikes, relief workers union organizing in slave camps, bombing campaigns of the Sons of Freedom, prison riots, escape inmates, hostage takings and all matters of sabotage; all these from within. None to reform the cages, but absolute abolition, total freedom, each following the others flight.

These victories and failures assure us that the apparatuses of capture can be combated and subverted as well into systems of de-subjectivisation, creating new subjectivities. Singularities of deterritorialisation, decolonization. It is possible to become whatever-singularities and become ungovernable. Confrontation with these assemblages of apparatuses strikes at the networks of power in the heart of the metropolis, till Empire shipwrecks itself upon their ruins.

‘Under New Managment’ Prison Strike, BC Pen 1985


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