Report of the Anti-G8 Action Conference in Rostock
On Friday 10 this concentrated mainly on the objectives of the protests. At the morning of Saturday 11 the focus of the plenary discussion was the "choreography of protest", which means the actual course of planned events for next year’s demonstrations and counter-conference.
As it is so often the case in this "format" of discussion, there was a wide range of contributions. However, because there was no structured agenda, a political discussion was not possible. The meeting did not prepare any political debates and there was not the objective of preparing the decision making process about the strategic and tactical questions or to clear the differences. The entire discussion was organized to ensure that political and organizational decisions about the mobilization were those that already had been “choreographed” before by a small group. On Saturday morning a range of working groups met to discuss and to form networks. This resulted in as many email lists as there were groups, around 20 short reports for the plenary session on Saturday evening and a short discussion of controversial points. No doubt some of these workgroups did deliver new information and new contacts for those who took part. They certainly presented a clear picture of the state of mobilization. Where workgroups, such as the one on “war and peace", did have more radical discussions and proposed, for example, that the struggle against imperialist war and occupations should play a central role in the whole mobilization, these issues remained within the workgroups and had no influence in the plenary discussions. Even where there were calls for debate about the essential direction of the mobilization, as in the network on "international mobilization", no decisions were taken, even though many people raised this issue.
For example, representatives of the "Anti-G8 Alliance for a revolutionary perspective" and from Arbeitermacht argued that the international mobilization should clearly take positions against imperialist war and occupation, against the general offensive of capital in Europe and internationally, against racism and for solidarity with the resistance of the workers and the oppressed, and that this points should be central in the actions at the summit.
Others, such as the representative of the French LCR, took this up and stressed in addition the question of the EU Constitution and the trade unions. Even the proposal to develop an international call for a campaign around these points was simply "noted" and then lost in the general run of discussion over technical and organizational questions. There was no political debate over whether the conference as a whole, or its majority, agree with any particular orientation for the campaign, or the proposals for action! On the contrary, that was consciously prevented. The action conference was clearly not intended to come to any decisions at all but only to give its blessing to those of the "open" preparatory groups and to take away the „suggestions” from the workgroups.
Example Counter Summit
That was particularly clear in the plenary discussion on Saturday 11 on next year’s proposed "counter summit". It had already become clear in the working group that Attac and the NGOs, as well as the trade union bureaucracy, wanted the counter summit to be nothing more than an opportunity for political lobbying and were not going to shift from this approach. Therefore, Attac leader Peter Wahl insisted that the counter summit must take place on the Wednesday morning of the anti-G8 mobilization next June; precisely at the time when the main attempt to blockade the G8 summit will take place.
Moreover, he made clear that the "counter summit preparatory group" would not abide by conference decisions because "even a democratic decision by some 400 people could not override organizations such as the IG Metall (union of workers in metal and electrics) which has 2.5 million members. Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether anybody had consulted those 2.5 million members, Wahl was also clearly ignoring the decision of the first action conference that the counter summit would not take place in parallel to the actions against the G8 summit.
In the plenary discussion on this, the NGO's plans were sharply criticized and a vote on the issue was demanded. On this, Attac came forward with its "movement face", in the persons of Pedram Shahyar and Sabine Leidig, who explained that the counter summit on Wednesday "naturally" was not at all an alternative to the blockade and that participation in the summit was also a "form of action" that one should not oppose to direct action. This debate was also an example of the political role played by the "radical left" from the "Interventionist Left" (IL, an alliance of “autonomous” and antifascist groups, but also including parts of Attac) or the greater part of the "Dissent" spectrum. Although there was a long debate in the working group and in the plenary session, the presenter – a member of the anti-racist network No Lager, which take part in the preparation in Dissent and IL – decided without any discussion at all, that the question should be taken back to the working group or the compositing commission in order to "find a compromise". A comrade from the "Anti-G 8 Alliance for a revolutionary perspective" made clear what this wheeling and dealing really was: a delaying tactic. In the plenary session, a majority had applauded the speakers who proposed that the summit should not take place on the Wednesday morning or in the early afternoon but would begin on Sunday. Several speakers had proposed that it should not take place during the G8 summit at all, but before it. Instead of putting this simple proposal to a vote, the whole thing was brought to an end without any decision. The working group dominated by Attac and the NGOs, with the help of the PDS and the trade union leadership, "took note" of the proposals and then the "lobbyist caravan" drove on. The eventual compromise will see a big "opening session" on the Sunday, the counter summit will take place on the Wednesday morning but some of the prominent speakers will also attend the blockade to present their speeches. Of course a vote would not have put an end to the maneuvering by Attac and the NGOs, but it would at least have made clear the decision of a conference of 400 activists and representatives of various alliances and organizations which are mobilizing against the G8. Attac and the other NGOs would at least have had to ask themselves if they ignore such a decision. But that was not to be. By refusing to push this question to a vote and, thus, supporting the right of the majority, the "radical left" allowed itself to be walked all over by Attac, PDS and the other reformists. Unfortunately, this is by no means the exception but almost the trademark of many of the „lefts”. What underlies this is the illusion that by continually making compromises to them, the reformists and the NGOs will also be forced to make "compromises". In this respect the Rostock conference gave us an insight into the current political makeup of the anti-G8 protest.
Also in the camp working group there were important debates, which show the conflicts in the mobilization. Parts of the preparation group of the conference seriously wanted that the convention declare that “there will be no violence going out from the camp” and to make so a preventive distance from other actions of resistance and activists, which will defend themselves against violence from the state, which will probably happen massively. Fortunately this intentions failed for this moment. But it shows that organizations like the NGOs, attac, PDS, union leaders want to establish their positions in the mobilization and that they want to control the protest with their forms of actions and with their slogans. Therefore a possible division in “good” and “bad” protesters will at least be accepted by them.
The lessons of Rostock
a. The "open preparation" and coordination is anything but "open". A bloc between the political and trade union reformists (PDS, left trade union bureaucracy) the churches, the NGOs and Attac dominate it. The importance of Attac is that it can hide behind the facade of being "a movement organization", it also participates in the "IL", and it is neither a party nor a trade union and can therefore present itself as more "left", "critical" and "open" than the other reformists. As a result, Attac has the "advantage" that it can serve as a forum within which various reformists and civil groups can negotiate their different positions and come to decisions.
b. Also represented in this block is the "IL" which doesn't have any clear line of its own and doesn't present any political opposition to the leading block and is therefore allowed to "co-control" some aspects of the mobilization such as blockades and the day of action of migration. Linksruck (IST) and the ISL (Fourth International) play a similar role.
c. The Dissent network doesn't play any independent role at all. One section is in the IL and takes the same line as the rest. Others, including some individual members of IL, do want to limit the dominance of Attac and reformists but refuse to do this by forcing political decisions. Here, the "consensus principle" becomes a direct political weapon of the reformists who, together with the forces from Dissent, can block any vote, prevent any majority decisions, with the cynical excuse of being against the "undemocratic domination" of the majority. In this way they make sure that no "wrong decisions" might be taken which would stand in the way of the already well-known orientation of Attac, the PDS, and the NGOs.
d. These political mechanisms hold together a common neo-reformist ideology stretching from Attac, the NGOs and representatives of the PDS such as Katja Kipping, to groups such as "No Lager". They see the struggle for "global social rights" (a global minimum income, global freedom of movement) as the real political objective of the movement and also the only way out of the dead end of competition for investment by the trade unions. They want to use the anti-G8 campaign to create a "historic bloc" (Kipping) or a "civilising project" (Wahl) around these demands, a block which will oppose to capitalist globalization and imperialist barbarism not the struggle for liberation, resistance and socialist revolution but a new reformism and the taming of the existing forces with “global rights”.
e. The Rostock action conference gives an accurate picture of the current political landscape and the dominating political block that exists in the social movements and the social forum in Germany and, in a modified form, also internationally.
f. It is necessary for the class struggle, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and internationalist forces to oppose this block, to fight against it politically and to break its unity. This doesn’t exclude common actions with the unions and attac, etc. when it is possible to find common actions and objectives. Indeed, it is essential to demand such common mobilization against the capitalists and the governments. However it is also important to be able to mobilize independently.
g. One important and central step towards that would be to build a joint campaign for action against the G 8 summit with those forces which have formed the "anti-imperialist network" of the European Social Forum and those who, in Germany, are mobilizing in the "Anti-G 8 Alliance for a revolutionary perspective" or other anti-imperialist alliances. The aim should be to organize a common internationalist, anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist bloc on the main demonstration against the G8 summit and to organize our own space within the camp and sessions at the counter summit.