K. J. Pedersen
(E-mail: KJPedersenmanga@aol.com / Website: geocities.com/kjpedersenmanga)
“THE STATE DEPARTMENT has confirmed reports coming from the Sinæ Republic: There has been a terrorist attack in Vladivostok.”
My brother and I were at the kitchen counter Sunday morning for breakfast when we heard the news. The television was on, but neither of us had paid it much attention. We were grounded. Our little adventure Friday night had not set well with either of our parents. We ate cereal and toast, and we sulked over being confined to the house and ruined plans for the day. But as soon as we heard that, our attention was captured.
We looked at each other, and then, together, at the television screen. There was video feed centered upon a four-storey building which had a gaping hole in one side. It appeared to have been partially gutted by an explosion. The windows and front doors had been blown out. In the darkness, one could see the fires which burned still on the first floor. But while the facade, with its massive Corinthian columns, was damaged, it looked to be in better condition than the rest of building.
“The attack occurred less than thirty minutes ago,” the reporter continued. “A press secretary from the Sinæ Republic and Federated Asian States has reported that this attack on the Amur Provincial Courthouse was carried out by The Slavonic League, a pan-Slavist and ultra-nationalist organization.”
“If the attack just happened, how do they know this?” Johan asked me.
I shook my head. “Perhaps the League has claimed responsibility,” I offered.
“The pan-Slavists have become more pronounced in their demands that dominion over the Far East be relinquished by Shanghai and returned to Moskva in the last decade. In particular, however, The Slavonic League has been the most extreme in its demands and methods. As such, it is on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.
“Though unproven, it is widely believed the League was responsible for the January, 2071 assassination of Moisie Ilich Goldshtein, a senior representative from the Chucki Province to the Federal Diet in Shanghai. Representative Goldshtein was widely reviled by both nationalists and ultra-nationalists, and constantly denounced in their propaganda. They claim that his active role in ‘this alien government’ has ‘betrayed Rodina,’ the motherland.”
Johannes reached for the remote control and turned up the volume.
“The president of the Republic of the Rus, Consul V. K. Pskovski, has himself, and on behalf of the government, condemned the attack.
“But one high ranking officer within in the Sinitic intelligence service has strongly asserted that the Ruthenian government and pan-Slavist paramilitaries active in the provinces of the Far East do not operate separately. He claims, in fact, that the Rus have secretly trained the commanders of these paramilitary units since the late-‘60s at the National War College, Siberia, located in Irkutsk.
“The Executive Council of the Sinæ Republic and Federated Asian States has ordered a full investigation.”
* * *
News of the bombing dominated the television and radio all day long. Such intense coverage was odd because nobody had been killed. The attack had occurred at three o’clock in the morning in the Amur-Vladivostok Time Zone, and nobody except for security guards had been in the courthouse at the time of the explosion. And of the four security guards, only one had been injured (though seriously).
I talked to Shane on the phone as the sun set. He was understandably worried because he believed the Republic was on the verge of civil war, and that the attack itself had been a deliberate “prod” in that direction. That there were groups openly trying to provoke civil war was something I did not want to even consider.
“If war breaks out, Matti,” he said, “you, your brother, Wulfy, Lukas, and I — we need to get out of here. We need to get the fuck out! The five of us need to move to Iberia Nova, or somewhere else in the South. The Latin states of Terra Nova have no interest in the disputes between the Rus, Sinæ, Anglians, and Europeans.”
“Shane — ”
“Just hear me out, Mattæus,” he said. “If the AFR gets dragged into this shit, the government will start drafting again. I know they will. My father was drafted to fight in India. I will not be drafted to fight in Eurasia!”
After I hung up, my stomach was in knots. I did not want to believe what Shane thought — feared — but I had gnawing doubts. These I would not admit to myself, much less admit I had to Shane.
I sat upstairs in my room after dinner and watched one of the many political news programs on that night which mulled over the matter. Channel Seven had the three primary candidates for the Senate of the AFR from our district as guests. The interviewing host lost control at some point, and the three got into a very heated discussion about the future of the Republic, and why this election would either preserve or shatter the federation.
The Republican Union Party candidate, Werner Baughmann — the Baughmann of Baughmann Chemical and Propellants, Ltd. — was talking over the host at his opponents.
“The Republic was founded to handle international crises, to avert war, and to regulate weapons of mass destruction, particularly atomic weapons, but it has proven ineffectual,” he said. “The Anglo-Indian War is the most glaring example of its failure, and the growing crisis in Eurasia is further proof. Do you realize conflict has spread to every province in the Far East? A stronger federal government will allow the Republic to be the effective force it should be; it will allow the Republic to resolve this matter between the Rus and Sinæ. In times such as these, you must understand, it is necessary that order be our top priority in government.”
“A stronger federal government means nothing more than a strong central government,” replied Rufus Bardsleah, the National Patriots’ Party candidate. “You Republican Unionists see a chance to make a power grab, and you’re taking it.”
The Republican Union Party was a new party — very new, formed just this September — and their platform incorporated planks from both the Conservative Party’s platform and from the Liberal Party’s. It was an ardently pro-Republic party, with a firm ‘centralist’ view of government. Many Conservatives and Liberals had left their parties recently to join with the Republican Unionists, and that’s why their platform spanned the entire Conservative-Liberal nexus. Wherever the Conservatives and Liberals agreed fundamentally, there one would find the Republican Unionists.
“The federal government as it is presently constituted is sufficiently able to deal with the troubles between the Rus and Sinæ,” said Priscilla Jónsdotter, the Liberal Party’s candidate. “We do not need a stronger government at Damascus. The Republic works well as a federation. It would not work nearly as well as a unitary state.”
“The terrorist attack in Vladivostok is just further proof that this federation is crumbling, Fru Jónsdotter. But you will not see it! Many of the states are governed by scofflaws, who are little better than terrorists themselves,” Herra Baughmann said.
“Please!” Fru Jónsdotter said, and gave him a dismissive look.
Herra Baughmann ignored that, and continued, “This is ridiculous — obscene, in fact — that the politicians of certain national republics are expelling and recalling ambassadors. These ‘leaders’ act like spoiled, squabbling children. All of them. The federal government needs to take decisive action like the Liberian government took with the labor unions. The federal government needs to act! The censure of, and sanctions against, the Rus and Sinæ were strong actions. Yes, indeed! But not strong enough. The federal government needs to strictly regulate the armed forces of both states. And it needs to deal with the terrorists immediately.”
“What you propose is wholly unconstitutional,” Herra Bardsleah said.
“If you believe that, your knowledge of the constitution is sorely wanting. Quote: ‘Each constituent republic may raise, keep, and otherwise maintain its own armed forces, but the Senate may regulate state militias, standing armies, armories, and arms in the public’s interest and to maintain peace and civil order.’ Both the Sinæ and Rus have proven, by their past actions, that they cannot be trusted. Therefore, ‘to maintain peace and civil order,’ we must act from the center to assure it.”
“Look,” Fru Jónsdotter said, “we have a Republic today, but if the principle of federalism was to be undermined we might be looking at a Terran Empire in fifty years or so.”
“You’re being an alarmist,” Baughmann scoffed. “The AFR has a strong central government, regulates the state militias, has a standing army, and still operates according to the ‘principle of federalism.’ In fact, its constitution says nothing about its member states having the right to secede like the Constitution of the Terran Republic does, and has the AFR become an empire?”
“Well, no; I suppose not,” she said after a careful pause. Then she pressed on: “But there is a delicate balance that must be maintained. The Constitution not only establishes the legal authority of the Terran Republic, but upholds simultaneously the sovereignty of the national republics. This is the essence of the federalism.”
“How can there be, in truth, a hierarchy of sovereigns? Either the Terran Republic is sovereign, or the member states are. If the federal republic is sovereign, then the members of the federation enjoy only partial autonomy, not sovereignty. And, on the other hand, if the constituent republics are sovereign, then the federal government cannot act without the consent of the various state governments.”
“The Terran Republic has already fatally undermined the sovereignty of the national republics,” Herra Bardsleah said. “Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, this internationalist monstrosity needs to be abolished. And if for no other reason than to protect the rights of the national republics from power-mongers like yourself, Herra Baughmann.”
* * *
Johannes had the self-discipline I lacked. He had a well-rounded, well-developed routine. His homework was almost always started and finished after he came home from school. He seldom put it off. As a result, he had excellent grades. His athletic prowess, which came to him naturally, he improved steadily through hard work, including a thorough workout routine. So while I put everything off that I should have done either Saturday or earlier in the day, Johannes had finished, and he was ready for bed.
“Turn off the light,” he told me. “Go to bed. I’m tired.”
“I need to finish this assignment or my trig teacher will kill me,” I said.
“Get ready for bed now, or I’ll kill you and you won’t have to worry about trig ever again.”
I turned up my middle finger. “Fuck off, dog.”
The next thing I knew I was on the ground; he’d pulled chair out from under me. Then he had me pinned. I struggled to get free, but he really was a hell of a lot stronger than I was.
“Okay!” I cried. “Stop already.”
I could count on my fingers the number of quarrels and physical fights Johannes and I had been in since we were little. It was one of the few compliments our father paid us: We weren’t prone to fight. We got along well. And so while the two of us could be competitive, it never got out of hand.
Still, it seriously irked me that Johannes had such strength. I wished I could best him just once in a wrestling match. But I was a lean, slender lad, and not built like the Græco-Roman gods which surely envied Johannes, too.
“C’mon, Johan,” I said, “stop it already. That hurts. My arm, man. Stop it!”
He grinned at me. “Are you going to turn off the light and go to bed then?”
“No — ow!”
“Uh! For Guds skyldt!” He pressed harder, and I nodded fast. “Okay! Fuck it! Yes, I’m going.”
He gave me quick swat. “Good boy.”
I turned off the computer and light, stripped to my briefs, and brushed my teeth. When I’d finished, I crawled into bed. Johannes was sitting on his bed with his back against the headboard.
“Mum’s going to the trial tomorrow. Said she wants to witness firsthand the proceedings against Grundtvig,” he said. “Said she’ll take me, too.”
“Yeah, I just can’t wait for the argument Mum and Eadmund are going to get into over that tomorrow morning at the breakfast table.”
“Don’t be so sarcastic.”
“Why don’t they just file for divorce already?” I said. “Why the fuck are they dragging this out!”
Johan said after a moment, “You know, Matti ... I really wish they’d stay together.”
That made me angry. “What for?”
“Ssshh!” he hissed.
“Why would you want — ?”
“Bullshit,” I said. “It isn’t for Susanna’s sake, Johan, but for yours.”
“I love father, Matti,” he said and then was silent. He was angry, too. “Fuck. Why should I even have to explain it to you? You don’t care.”
“You’re right,” I said. “I’m past caring.”
There was a long silence, which my brother finally broke.
“Are you going to come to the trial, too?” he asked.
I nodded, but didn’t want to talk about it; I was sore, cross. “Take your own advice: Go to sleep, you ass,” I said.
A pillow flew across the room and hit me in the side.
* * *
It used to be an uncommon sight, police officers armed with assault rifles, but since the strikes had been broken, and the subsequent protests disbanded, armed security, public and private, made their presence felt. There were six or seven officers on the grounds of the North Lancascir District Courthouse that Monday morning. Four more were stationed around the security gates just inside the double glass doors of the courthouse. The two officers operating the security sensors wore sidearms, while the other two had assault rifles slung over their shoulders on straps. These weapons were military issue, I noticed.
My mother, Johannes, and I settled into line and made our way, single file, through the security monitors. We were scanned for concealed weapons. When it was my turn, I tensed, suddenly afraid again. I wanted to turn right back around and leave this fearful domain.
After I’d passed through, Johan nudged me. “Look,” he said and pointed.
A sign above read: Keep your eyes open. Be aware. This location is a potential terrorist target.
Following the strikes and protests, such signs had come up in most buildings open to the public — in banks, the post offices, the libraries, academies and universities, and malls. And since the attack in Vladivostok yesterday, no doubt, they’d multiplied exponentially.
* * *
The courtroom itself was an immaculately clean room with marble floor tiles, wood panels on the walls, and well-crafted hardwood benches, but it was an oppressive environment nevertheless. As outside, there were armed guards here, too. One stood at the doors behind us, and another, the bailiff, stood between the judge’s bench and the jury box.
There was no need to ask why security was so tight. The fear that other courthouses and government buildings might be attacked like the Amur Provincial Courthouse in the Sinæ Republic had been was real in so many people’s minds, and especially so because the media had fueled the fear with baseless speculation as to where and when it would (not might) happen again.
“Let’s sit here,” my mother said, and sat on the second row of benches from the back. She indicated I should sit beside her. Then Johan sat beside me, and very close.
Lukas, his mother, and sister sat together in the first row behind the half-wall which separated the gallery from the court proper. Lukas looked back, saw us, and waved. He smiled to let us know he recognized our presence and what it meant to him. His sister, Inga, turned around then, following her brother’s example, and waved shyly. Then they faced forward once more.
Grundtvig, dressed in a dress coat, vest and breeches (it was the first time I’d seen him so dressed), sat behind a long table, facing the judge’s bench, accompanied by a man and woman. Johan had told me Grundtvig had refused to be represented, but apparently had reconsidered this, as surely the two which accompanied him were attorneys.
The courtroom was nearly full, and we had to make room on our bench for others.
And then a minute or so later, we were ordered to rise for the judge — the Honorable Nicolas Kúhlmann — as he entered the chamber from a door situated to one side of the bench. He wore a white powdered wig and black robes. The intended effect of this, to convey the authority of his state office, though was lost, and the garb made him look terribly pale instead.
Once the session had commenced, the prosecuting attorney called Grundtvig to the stand. As soon as he had taken his seat, the prosecutor asked him, “Herra Vilhjalmarsson, is it true that you are an anarchist?”
Well, that’s right to the point, I thought, surprised by this, the very first question of the trial.
“It is,” he answered.
“Is it also true that you have conspired to overthrow the government of the Anglian Federative Republic? Is sedition not, after all, the way of the anarchist movement? Is it not true that the goal for which anarchists strive is social revolution and the destruction of the present regime?”
Grundtvig answered: “Constitutional republicanism — the ‘present regime,’ as you call it — is predicated upon the assumption of consent by the governed. I have neither acted nor conspired to overthrow the government at all; I have merely made it clear that I do not consent to being governed.”
The prosecutor then asked, “You withdraw your claim to the State’s guarantee of protection then?”
An ironic, amused expression crossed Grundtvig’s face for a moment, and he asked, “Protection, herra prosecutor? Am I here, in this courtroom, and against my will, for my own protection? Who protects me then from the State, with its monopoly on force?”
The prosecutor took a step to one side, but said nothing.
“At the hearing Friday, I asked for clarification,” Grundtvig said. “I am charged with sedition, am I not? And I am charged separately of conspiring with my fellow workers to overthrow the government. And yet, as before, these two charges have been conflated. I demand that the specifics of the charge of sedition be stated.”
“You incite members not only of the World Confederation of Libertarian Workers, but the public at large, to refuse the authority of the State. You undermine the authority of the State, and, therefore, necessarily, the government’s ability to govern,” the prosecutor said. “This is a seditious act according to any definition.”
“But I have not, at any time, incited anyone to overthrow the government,” he replied. “What harm does the State perceive in the spoken or written repudiation of its authority? Do I stand accused of speaking? For it is only by my words, and example of refusal, that I have undermined the authority of the State. Am I not free to speak? Am I not free to make plain my refusal?”
“One’s freedom to speak does not include the right to undermine the authority of the constitutional regime which guarantees that right.”
“I see then, free speech equals sedition. Well? Our rights, it would seem, are empty, hollow,” Grundtvig said. “I wonder, how is it that you and all these others who don the mantle of state power claim the authority to establish our rights or to wrest them from us? By what right do you claim this authority?” He paused. “The authority of the State does not rest upon consent; it rests upon the threat of violence, and its select application; it rests upon deference and coercion.
“Because I will not defer, you resort to coercion.”
“Have you acted, by words or by deeds, to undermine the authority of the state?” the prosecutor demanded.
“I act for myself,” Grundtvig said. “And I work with others according only to our mutual consent.”
“Answer my question, Herra Vilhjalmarsson!”
“Yes; I have. I have spoken against the state, herra prosecutor. I have spoken against its hubris; against its abuses; against its evils. I have said unequivocally that the legal principle of Imperium, upon which all state power rests, is the root, and therefore, the greatest, of all political evils. Does this answer satisfy you, herra prosecutor?”
“How do you then plead to the charge of sedition?”
“Do you mean, by this charge, only that I have refused the authority of the state, and that I have propagated the idea that such authority is an immoral usurpation of our right, as individuals, to be left unmolested by others?”
“How plead you, Herra Vilhjalmarsson?”
“I will not answer any such demand or question without qualification,” Grundtvig said.
And with that, the judge spoke up, “Shall I hold you in contempt of court, Herra Vilhjalmarsson?”
Grundtvig glared at the judge, but did not profess his contempt for the court at all, and turned once more to the prosecutor. He asked, “What does this charge of sedition entail, herra prosecutor?”
“The People of the Republic of Liberia have brought this charge — ”
“The people? It is the government, not the people, which has brought this charge against — ”
“I will not warn you again, Herra Vilhjalmarsson,” the judge said. “Speak out of line once more and I will hold you in contempt of court.”
“The charge of sedition brought against you, Herra Vilhjalmarsson,” the prosecutor said, “states that you have undermined the rightful authority of the state by word and deed.”
“Is this the precise wording which shall be recognized and used from this point forward in these proceedings?” Grundtvig said.
“Then, to this charge, I plead: Not guilty.”
* * *
After nearly two hours of testimony, examination, and cross-examination, the judge ordered a fifteen minute recess. Johannes, my mother, and I stepped outside the courtroom. It felt good to leave the confines of that room, and I went quickly to the men’s room. When I came out again, I found my mother and Lukas’s mother standing close together, talking. Inga stood close to her mother, and held fast to her hand. On the far side of the hallway, I found my brother and Lukas sitting together on a bench. Both were hunched forward with their elbows on their knees. They talked in hushed voices. I walked towards them, and as soon as I got close, they stood. Lukas put his hand on my shoulder. Then, suddenly, he hugged me and pressed his forehead to mine.
“Hey,” I said, embarrassed by the embrace, and the affection and neediness which it revealed. After a moment, I tried to back away, but Lukas would not let go.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said, and hugged him back. That was what he wanted, obviously. “I’m glad, too.”
“So your mother and father had a fight this morning over whether or not you and Johan would be coming, yeah?” he said.
“Naturally,” I said. “There wasn’t much my father could do to stop mum, you know. She was determined to come.”
Lukas nodded. “Thanks for being here.”
* * *
“Your actions as a delegate of the WCLW, in organizing and carrying out the strike, were criminal, and of a conspiratorial nature,” the prosecution said. “You and other members of the union, in your local, Niew Lifrapol Local 5, conspired to trespass the private property of your employer, to halt production, and to interfere with the decisions the rightful owners of the company had made in governing said property. There was a conspiracy, on the local level, to interfere with production. And your union, a labor confederation, conspired local by local, on an ever expanding basis, to carry out similar strikes throughout Liberia, the AFR, and across the Terran Republic. But it was not just the WCLW — you conspired with other unions as well, the Industrial Socialist Workers, the Federation of Socialist Workers, the Christian Workers’ Community, the Anglian National Congress of Labor, and among still others internationally. You, all of you, conspired to halt commerce at every level — local, regional, national, and international. You deliberately brought economic calamity upon this state, the federal union, and Republic.”
“We acted as confederates — not conspirators — at every level, to protect the value of our labor power,” was Grundtvig’s pointed reply. “We acted together, collectively, to secure our rights as working men and women; to defend our interests, individual and joint; and to preserve our birthright — Liberty.”
“You admitted in the preliminary hearing Friday that you were guilty of trespassing upon the property of the Æthelbaldson-Herewic Capital Group when the union went on strike,” the prosecution said.
“The propertyless are guilty of trespassing everywhere they go, herra prosecutor.”
“You had no legal right — ”
“That’s precisely it: We have no legal rights at all! We are, the vast majority of us, denied the franchise. We are denied representation in government. We are taxed by the State. Every purchase we make with our meager wages is taxed. It is a very regressive tax, herra prosecutor. We are taxed by government, but have no representatives in government.”
“But you have yourself, Herra Vilhjalmarsson, the franchise,” the prosecution countered.
“For one reason, and one reason only: I own, in common with my wife, our home,” Grundtvig said. “Nevertheless, my income with the Æthelbaldson-Herewic Capital Group fell well below the limit required to secure the vote for myself.
“But let me speak to the matter directly. We took not strike action to win back universal suffrage. This strike was not a political rally. We took strike action to maintain our livelihoods and the material rights upon which every other right must be established.
“We are taxed, by our employers, in the form of labor, and, once again, without representation. We are worked at whatever pace our employers desire, and under whatever conditions they deem necessary or desirable.
“We are hired and fired at will. In February, well before Æthelbaldson-Herewic was awarded the contracts to build the missile cruisers Liberia and Eagle, management laid off twenty-two hundred workers in the firm’s various properties — shipyards, warehouses, and manufacturing plants — up and down the Pacific coast. Since the contract was awarded by the government, they have hired another fifteen hundred workers, sifting through those carefully to ‘weed out’ unionists.”
“The law is plain, as you well know, Herra Vilhjalmarsson: Firms may hire and fire whomever they please at their own convenience. It is their prerogative as property owners and businessmen.”
“Businessmen? The workers of the world are every bit as much businessmen as are the owners of capital. Our labor is the very bedrock of business.”
“Labor flexibility, to hire and fire freely, is at the very heart of our economy’s success. The law was written with good reason. And, whether you like it or not, you are obligated to observe it, Herra Vilhjalmarsson.”
“Flexibility,” said Grundtvig after a moment. “Interchangeable parts revolutionized industry. It was one factor which permitted for the industrialization of Europa’s economies. Interchangeable parts allowed for flexible production. Yes, indeed, herra prosecutor. And so these fledgling industrialists found laborers too were every bit as interchangeable as cogs. What are employees effectively then? Just that, interchangeable parts. This is one of the hallmarks of capitalism: Working men and women are deemed a fungible commodity!
“Whereas any system of democratic socialism is predicated upon, first and foremost, the free association of labor — for there cannot be socialism without association — and thus the free participation of men and women, as individuals, in any given industry or service.
“We are not, and cannot be, interchangeable. Men and women and not fungible because we are unique. And our labor power most certainly is not a commodity, especially one which might be traded so cavalierly.”
“And therefore you believe it your right to break the law?” the prosecutor said.
“Do not forget these laws were passed on Capital’s behalf, and for Capital’s benefit, while Labor was excluded effectively from the legislative process, by means of a restricted franchise,” Grundtvig replied. “And you speak of right?
“When we act to secure our rights — when we act directly to secure for ourselves liberty and our livelihoods — we are attacked by the thugs of private detective and security agencies and by the armed agents of the state itself.
“You speak of the success of our economy, herra prosecutor, and I’ll respond by telling you this much: Presently, there are mining camps on the Lunar surface, and nestled amongst the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter, and fleets of armed spaceships patrol the interplanetary void, yet the poorest half of the population is unable to adequately meet their needs for food, shelter, clothing, and health care, let alone education, leisure, and any of the finer material things in life. What of the priorities of this economy, and this polity? You probe the heavens with the flying lances of militarized states while malnutrition and disease ravage the many here at home.” Grundtvig leaned forward. “The means have existed for more than a hundred years to end poverty worldwide, but this system, this horrific system of economic distribution, prevents it.
“The response of Capital to this charge is always the same: ‘Well, the market allocates wages accordingly. The services laborers provides are only worth what they are paid.’
“This really is unbelievable. Wages — the price of labor — rise and fall according to a fluctuating market, not according to the value of the labor power contributed by individual laborers. We have been enthralled, literally, by the workings of the price mechanism, and the socioeconomic privilege which it engenders, herra prosecutor.
“And so to shield ourselves not only against these chaotic fluctuations, but to negotiate the price of our labor, we unionize. We act together in solidarity to guarantee that the product of our labor is returned to us in kind, so that we might live by our labor, rather than suffer expropriation at the hands of our employers in silence.
“Just as seed grain might otherwise rot in silos unless sown, labor adds value to capital, herra prosecutor. We intend to keep a portion of that added value — that surplus value — for ourselves, and to direct another portion towards social provision as an investment for the future.
“This should not be so hard for you to understand.”
The prosecutor said, “You conspired to usurp the authority of your employers. You conspired to disrupt production, and distribution, and commerce.” He paused. “Your actions were criminal.”
“There was no conspiracy at all, criminal or otherwise. We do not meet in secret. We do not whisper in the dark. The operational methods and structure of the union are transparent and democratic,” Grundtvig said. “The State sequestered the minutes of the union’s meetings for the last year on October 13th, immediately following the strike. You have our documents on hand, herra prosecutor. Every decision that was made, you have a record of. And, more importantly, you have a record of the process by which those decisions were made. We publish our documents and make them available to the public precisely because transparency is absolutely vital to the operation of any association worthy of the name.”
“We have those documents, yes.”
“I am a delegate from Local 5. Not an official. Not a representative. I am not a labor leader. And as a delegate, I convey faithfully the intent of the local wherever I am sent, in dealings within the confederation, and in our negotiations with capital. I am bound by the charter of the WCLW, and the bylaws of Local 5, to relate precisely the decisions which were made by the members of the local.”
“I have read those sequestered minutes, Herra Vilhjalmarsson. It states that, in an open meeting, you voted — ninety-two percent of you, yourself included — to continue the strike even after the proconsul’s ultimatum. You voted further to stand together ‘in an act of fraternal solidarity’ with the FSW in this strike action,” the prosecuting attorney said. “You collectively took it upon yourselves to defy an order issued by the proconsul himself. You collectively took in upon yourselves to break the law. And not just one law, but many. I think the jury will agree with me, Herra Vilhjalmarsson, that such actions amount to criminal conspiracy.”
* * *
There was an hour recess at one that afternoon for lunch. Mum, Johan, and I walked across the street and down a block or so to a café and ordered sandwiches. It was packed wall-to-wall with men and women on their lunch hour, and it took some time before we were able to place our orders.
At first, because it was so crowded and all the tables were taken, we stood facing one wall and placed our trays on a dining shelf that came up level to about mid-stomach. The daily newspapers — The North Lancascir Sun, Corpus Christi Chronicle, and the News of the Republic — were tacked up on the wall for all to read. I scanned the pages, only half-interested in the news, while I ate. As usual, I had my favorite sandwich — honey-baked ham and Jarlsberg cheese on whole wheat bread.
The drone of voices from the televisions in the corners of the café was somewhat more difficult to ignore. News was that the price of stocks in the industrial sector were up, and particularly so with those firms which had defense contracts. The value of the Republican Standard, as currency, had fallen again relative to many of the independent bank currencies in the AFR, such as the banknotes issued by First Liberian National Bank. My father, no doubt, would be very pleased by this news, as he had converted a great deal of his savings into banknotes issued by his employer. And unemployment had leveled off at just under fifteen percent.
“Matti, a table just opened up,” Johannes told me.
Mum was seated already. We joined her, and I sat across from Johannes. He had a bowl of soup and a sandwich. I kept dipping my bread in his soup, and that pissed him off. He growled at me.
“You two!” my mother scolded. “Your table manners are god-awful.”
Johannes narrowed his eyes and called me a ‘soup-fiend.’
“Hey!” I protested with a laugh and smile. “By the way, the soup’s delicious.” Then I curled my lip at my brother in a mock snarl.
“Uh-huh.” Suddenly, Johannes’s hand darted out. “Ha! I’ve got your cookies!”
Sirens whined and I saw through the café’s front windows a couple of police cruisers and an armored personnel vehicle speed past. Johannes turned in his seat to get a good look.
“What the hell?” he asked.
“The police,” I said. “And an armored personnel vehicle. One like the state militia uses. Different markings though. Police markings.”
A number of the café’s customers were already up, standing at the windows, and looking out. Some had gone outside onto the sidewalk. Johannes and I got up, too. We stood in front of the café and looked up the street towards the courthouse. That’s where the police were headed.
Mum was beside us. “Let’s go,” she said with such urgency that we followed along immediately, our half-finished meal forgotten behind us.
The police cruisers had parked in front of the courthouse. There was a crowd, which seemed to grow despite the efforts of the police to disperse it. And, already, a news van was parked across the street. The reporter and his team were out taking video footage as close to the building as they were allowed to.
One of the security officers I recalled seeing inside the courthouse was talking to a middle-aged police officer. This individual seemed to be in charge. From the look of it, theirs was a frantic, dire discussion.
I got a closer look at the armored personnel vehicle then. It was painted black, but had the markings of the North Lancascir Police Department. Underneath the department’s emblem were the words: Urban Crisis Control Unit. (A euphemism for ‘paramilitary strike force’ if ever there was one.)
From the back of the armored personnel vehicle jumped four men in black uniforms and body armor. Then another two armored police officers emerged with a piece of equipment which looked surprisingly like an ice chest. It was so heavy though that not only did it required both men to carry it, but they looked strained by the effort.
Mum, Johannes, and I, despite our curiosity, decided to stay back, at the very periphery of the crowd, and well away from the police.
One women was screaming: “There’s a bomb! They’ve planted a bomb in the courthouse!”
“What’s this?” my mother asked another woman, who, though she looked concerned, was not by any means hysterical like the first.
“Someone called in a bomb threat,” the women replied.
One police officer tried to pacify the hysterical woman and eventually pulled her away from the crowd.
My mother persisted. “Who called in a bomb threat?”
“I don’t know,” the woman said.
“All of you need to leave,” the police officer told us.
My mother said, “There is a trial in session today that — ”
“All the trails in session today have been cancelled,” the police officer said.
“Well, yes, obviously. But when will they resume?”
The police officer said, “If you are speaking of the trial of Grundtvig Vilhjalmarsson — ”
“Yes,” Johan said straightaway.
The police officer was terse. “It has been closed to the public.” And then he insisted we leave.
* * *
On the news that night it was said no bomb had been found inside the courthouse. There was wide speculation as to who had called in the threat though. It was most frequently implied, however, that the insurrectionist Black Flag Movement was responsible. They had strong ties with the syndicalists, it was said, and particularly with those of the WCLW. These assertions were unsubstantiated, but repeated by all four major news networks operating in the Niew Lifrapol Bay area.
On Channel Two, a representative of the police department declined any comment when asked about suspects. “A thorough investigation in under way,” was all he had to say about it.
And on Channel Seven, when a representative of the court was asked why Grundtvig’s trial had been closed to the public, she replied that it, this particular trial, was a “politically sensitive matter,” one of “grave urgency,” and that Judge Kúhlmann believed it was in the public’s best interest to close the proceedings to all but the parties directly involved.
That meant to all but the prosecution, defense, various experts, and select witnesses. Even Sigrid, Grundtvig’s wife, had been informed she was not to return when the trial reconvened.
The chamber was closed.
This was all national news apparently, and on those programs which ran across the AFR, it was a hot topic. Many of these programs broadcast nationwide were really nothing more than the platforms upon which propagandists editorialized the news. Objectivity was altogether absent. But this was a tendency in televised and radio news which dated, in its present form, to the mid-1990s. And, by and large, that was well understood.
(If one desired objectivity, one had to pay for it. The best news services were by subscription only. Granted, political bias was found everywhere, in all publications and other forms of media — be their orientation Left, Right or Center — but those who were in positions of power needed accurate information from which they could work. Objectivity in the news, therefore, was ultimately indispensable, if also rare. So, too, was it that the governmental proceedings of the AFR and Terran Republic were open to the public and televised. Albeit the subscription price was rather steep, and the discourse often dull.)
The ‘yellow journalists’ of the so-called popular media had a ready explanation for the bomb threat: Terrorism. Plain and simple.
Remember the events of the 1880s and 1890s, they said, when anarchists were known for plots, insurrections, and assassinations. Recall, they insisted, the murder of Field Marshal Fredericus filius Iulii. They failed, naturally, to explain why Field Marshal Iulii had been the target of the attentat — he had murdered forty-four striking railroad workers on April 21, 1897. It was upon his order that the Italian army opened fire. Among those killed was the uncle of the young anarchist, Christophorus filius Ioanni, who, in accomplishing his vendetta, shot the marshal five times with an army-issue pistol shortly thereafter on May 1.
But that was nothing. These national journalists claimed the Black Flag Movement was engaged in a similar campaign of ‘propaganda by the deed’ right now, right this very day. They wanted their audience to recall also the history of the Black Flag Movement — the anarcho-insurrectionary movement which had sprung up from the ruins of the defeated social democracies of Europa and Terra Nova following the Great War — and the guerilla warfare which they conducted sporadically well into the mid-1970s.
That is the history of anarchism, they said. And of course, it was part of the anarchist movement’s history. The partisans, often referred to as the black (anarchist), red (socialist), and green (farm-labor) militias, had fought the occupation, bitterly. And of them, the black militias were the fiercest.
But whatever might be said about the militancy of the Black Flag Movement then, it should not be forgotten that following the Democratic Revolution of 1901, supporters of the former republican regime had engaged in acts of terrorism against the new social democracy. Piracy, conducted by these republican terrorists, on the high seas saw the loss of many ships crossing the Atlantic between Francia and Francia Nova. Several government officials had been assassinated, too. And terrorist attacks against the new worker-owned and democratically-governed industries had been carried out, killing many hundreds over a twenty-year period.
Further, the Black Flag Movement of today was not the same as the movement of the 20th Century. It was inspired by that movement, yes. But it was a new movement, with different grievances, different aims, and very different methods.
In the end, whoever it was that called in the bomb threat remained unknown, but the damage was done, and fear that an attack similar to the one that occurred in Vladivostok remained until much more grievous matters came over the public.
* * *
To be continued....