Making Sense of Switzerland

A rebel's life. Turin, December 2012.

Switzerland isn’t synonymous with the left. Best-known for its banks, it’s more commonly equated with financial services, and the politics such an economic specialty suggests. Independent, historically, from the rest of Europe, the affluent, alpine, multilingual confederation is far more difficult to make sense of than its neighbors. Intermittently covered by foreign media (except in regards to the annual Davos conference) one has to live in the country to truly appreciate it.

That is, unless you happen to live close to the Swiss border, in a city like Turin. Best-known for its progressive politics, (particularly its autonomist, and, more recently, anarchist  scenes) Italy’s industrial capital once played host, unknowingly, to Swiss eco-terrorist Marco Camenisch. Also active in Italy, to which he escaped following a prison break in Zurich, the Swiss radical is easily compared to the Unabomber, albeit more for his ideological stature than his actual lethality.

Imprisoned first in Switzerland, then in Italy, now back  in his home country, again, Camenisch’s current sentence (for the 1981 murder of a prison guard) was up for review in December. Flyers decrying his situation were posted in a number of different parts of Turin. We’ve reproduced three of them for this article, translated from the Italian by Giulia Pace. For students of continental politics, they are of particular interest, in their documentation of the continuum that exists between Swiss and other European radicals. Switzerland isn’t so much bereft of the politics that run through the rest of Europe. As noted, it’s just not covered abroad that thoroughly.

The first translation, below, refers to the lead photo in this article. The third and final photo contains an unrelated leftwing flyer, (in addition to a pro-Camenisch one) which we have translated as well, as it provides helpful context to Italian championing of the prisoner’s cause. The threat of violence, from both the right and the left, is clear. Europe is increasingly polarized. Since these photos were taken in December 2012, Marco Camenisch received an additional eight years to his sentence.




Marco Camenisch, mountain man, anarchist, saboteur of the nuclear industry, dynamiter against what destroys the environment, escaped and arrested again, has been detained in prison for twenty years with his head held high, sympathetic and supportive in all the battles for freedom.

A prisoner in Switzerland since 2002, Marco could be released because he has already served two thirds of imprisonment term.

But the vengeance of the Swiss state is relentless against who does not bend to its will. What is blamed is not his crimes, for which he has already been convicted, but his life itself that, in the eyes of every power, cannot be redeemed.




Camenisch prison review alert. Turin, December 2012.
Camenisch prison review alert. Turin, December 2012.



Today, the 7th of December 2012, Marco “Martino” Camenisch, mountain man and antiauthoritarian, rebel from the Rhaetian Alps, antinuclear warrior, convicted by the bourgeois justice of two countries, Switzerland and Italy, will be assessed again by a Swiss committee which has to verify his “suitability for liberation” after having served two thirds of his prison term.

There is no doubt that they will choose to keep him in cage, in contempt of (their own) democratic laws that would allow him to get out of prison.

The reason for which he’s not going to get out is very simple: it’s not enough to have spent 20 years in (the) jails of two different countries. It’s not enough to have paid off (gis) “debt to society.” He must bow his head, admit he was wrong, that his ideas are crazy; he must repudiate everything. Abjuration is required, as during the Inquisition.

It is the story of an exemplary statist revenge against an exemplary rebel.

Now he should be assessed by a psychologist: the implication of such exam is that who rises up against this crazy and rotten system must be “seen in the head.”  Who is not willing to deal with or undergo the catastrophe we are living, but wants to change everything radically, can’t be sane.

His entire life speaks about a constant engagement in the struggle against the huge capitalistic machine. The more repression harassed him, the higher Marco raised the bet, with a pressing and sharp criticism to the patriarchal-military -industrial system, actively supporting all the struggles around the world which met his sensitivity.

All this, while being behind bars, in the hands of cops and judges that can do, unseen, whatever they want of his person.

Marco Camenisch has not bended, has not apologised, has not admitted.

Thus, the “normal” person is (someone) who admits, who withdraws, who distinguishes between good and bad, between legal and illegal procedures, between open rebellion for human life and for the planet or the transformation in “walking banknotes,” in frames captured by a security camera, in stuffed puppets.

Sure to choose and decide personally about our lives, when it is clear that someone is doing it for us. Someone that should know, better than we do, what is best for us.

Against all this, Marco has risen up, unmasking the democratic revenge against freedom fighters, showing it to everyone who has the courage to open his eyes and realize that the two options in the modern world are relentless struggle or unconditional surrender.

He is our brother: we want him free, immediately, as well as (his) other male and female companions in jail.



Detonator flyer, with poem. Turin, December 2012.
Detonator flyer, with poem. Turin, December 2012.


A pylon bends over itself.
In the woods a guard falls down and loses his handgun.
Streets barricaded against the police.
A handgun shoots against a manager of the atom.
An antenna tower goes up in flames.

Everyone chooses how to lighten the dark
With the impatience that distinguishes us
the best defense is a good offence

(In Red)
Dynamite the existing (order)
Freedom for Marco Camenisch


Translated from the Italian by Giulia Pace. Photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit. 

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