On the history of Direct Action/Gone Digital: Access to Information on the Anarchist Movement

Video with Allan Antliff and Ann Hansen by B-Channel News


Originally published at B-Channel News

The online archive was launched on September 7 and was established out of collaboration between Dr. Allan Antliff, Canada Research Chair in Modern Art, and the University of Victoria, MacPherson Library Special Collections and Archives. The inaugural event featured guest speaker Ann Hansen, a freelance writer from Ontario who wrote about her experiences with the Squamish Five in a book titled: Direct Action: Memoirs of an Urban Guerrilla.

“A really successful movements is going to be one where you have a really strong, vibrant alternative value system, alternative culture and where we are coming at the corporations and the state from all kinds of angles, legal actions, little legal actions and if necessary the bigger ones too,” said Hansen during her talk at the inauguration.

The online Anarchist collection contains political posters, letters and papers, journals, art work and video and audio recordings. These resources can be viewed in-person at the archives section of the Library and now online.

“While it may seem ironic for a university to manage an anarchist archive, the University of Victoria Libraries has catalogued, safely stored and preserved materials related to the anarchist movement for several years. Now anarchists, and anyone else interested in the social movement, can access this collection with its focus on Canada,”said the press release issued by Allan Antliff and Susan Henderson (MacPherson Library).

Materials span from the 20th-century to the present and encompasses information and activity across Canada. Issues covered include; indigenous struggles, protest against international trade organizations, feminism, racism, alternative economics and environmental activism. It includes collections such as; Food Not Bombs, David Babarash’s Collection and Jim Campbell’s Collection.

Like with many social movements and ideologies, there is no simple definition of what “Anarchism” is or a consensus on what it means to each Anarchist. George Woodcock, a Canadian Author whose writings will be included in the digital archive, wrote about Anarchism, saying “I shall treat anarchism, despite its many variations: as a system of social thought, aiming at fundamental changes in the structure of society and particularly — for this is the common element uniting all its forms — at the replacement of the authoritarian state by some form of non-governmental cooperation between free individuals.”Allan Antliff has been working with and sharing information with other Anarchist archives, collectors and educational institutions around the world. Other institutions, which he has been working with, that have Anarchist archives include; Leeds University, Queens and the University of Michigan.

The archives received support from MacPherson Library, which has dedicated space to house the collections. Funding for this project was received from the Canadian Fund for Infrastructure, the University of Victoria and the BC Knowledge Development Fund.

The launch of the digital archive took place at UVic and welcomed guest speaker Ann Hansen. Hansen has donated her own collections of material to the archive and spoke about her personal experiences as an Anarchist and her work with Direct Action.

“Militant actions don’t necessarily alienate the public, even in terms of smaller ones; in fact they can contribute to more public awareness around events. Like even going back to Seattle in 1999, most people didn’t know what the World Trade Organization was or the IMF. All those demonstrations against the G7 and the G20, that’s what brought the public’s awareness to those large anti-democratic organizations,” said Hansen during her talk at UVic.

Hansen was tried in connection to the Cheekye-Dunsmuir bombing, Litton Industries bombing and fire bombings at a Red Hot Video location. Hansen was part of a group called Direct Action, but also referred to in the media as the Squamish Five or Vancouver Five.

According to BC Court of Appeal documents, Hansen was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery, three counts of automobile theft, three counts of possession of stolen property over $200, two counts of activating an explosive substance, possession of explosives with intent to cause damage, possession of weapons for dangerous purpose, and arson. The conspiracy to commit robbery itself held a sentencing of life in prison, while the other charges totalled 33 years in prison. Hansen was released from prison after serving eight years. In 2002 Hansen published a book about her experiences called Direct Action: Memoirs of an Urban Guerrilla.

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