This month the Rabobank HQ in Utrecht was attacked by arsonists for the third time since June 2010. The group claiming responsibility seem to be connected to the Greek anarcho-leftists Conspiracy Cells of Fire, the suggestion being that there is an active ’Dutch Wing’ of the organisation. The fire earlier this week certainly picked up a lot of Dutch media attention, for the important reason that it coincided with hacker attacks on Rabobank websites. In the current climate of concern about so-called cyber-war and cyber-espionage (two very different things), with the Dutch government just recently submitting its own plan for cyber-strategy, this arson-and-cybervandalism combination has definitely caught the eye (thanks to ‘linkerd’ of the Indymedia NL discussion thread for this list):
The Netherlands has been here before – specifically, with the RaRas, otherwise known as the Revolutionaire Anti-Racistische Actie group which came out of the radical squatter scene and from 1984-1993 targeted first businesses (Shell, Makro) involved in apartheid South Africa, and later those involved in determining Dutch immigration and asylum laws. The Dutch security service considered the RaRas to be a form of ‘violent political activism’ and not a terrorist group (bombs were placed that targeted individual politicians but these were never convincingly linked to the ’official’ RaRa group). According to a documentary on the group sent out on Dutch tv’s Andere Tijden last November, they did manage to amass damage of around 150 million Guilders.
The connection between the anti-Rabobank arson attack of the so-called Cells and the RaRas seems once again to be the activities of Dutch business abroad. From the Eerlijke Bankwijzer site – an initiative of Oxfam Novib, Amnesty, the trade union FNV, and Friends of the Earth – it is suggested that Rabobank is connected (via its subsidiary Robeco) with financing arms deals with among others Libya. The ongoing violence against the Libyan people by the Gaddafi regime to maintain its control of the country has put this detail in stark perspective, although obviously the syndicate behind the EB site do not defend the attacks.
The difference between the Cells and the RaRas, however, is of course the cyber-element. Arson is still a prime anarchist tool, but the world has moved on since the 1980s, and possibilities for causing damage have expanded. While the squatter movement in the Netherlands is now politically moribund, the possibilities for underground political activism around online direct action has opened up new dimensions. There is much sceptical opinion about whether the Cells actually herald a new RaRa-style period of politically-motivated attacks, but the combination of old-style and new-style direct action is maybe something to watch.