ALB - Evaluation of the G8 protests
Antifascist Left Berlin, June 2007
The protests against the g8 summit lie behind us. They have been a step forwards for the extraparliamentary movement in the FRG: Because it has been more that a week of spectacular protests at the Baltic Sea. We mobilized and organized, we arranged alliances and intervened in practice. Now is the time to look back, to analyze, to summarize. To explore next steps, a yet unfinished debate is needed. So here is the first output from that debate within the Antifascist Left Berlin:
Five fingers are a fist
Hundereds of thousands of critics of globalisation went on the streets, since the "Battle of Seattle", when the WTO-ministers´ conference had to be opened up in front of empty chairs in 1999, while the barricades were burning in the streets. They were militants, blockaders and participants of such big events as the social forum.
They are part of the movement that evolved in the late 90s where acticists fight for social emancipation and against global Neoliberalism. It is the aim of anti-summit activities of the radical left to disturb the symbolic representation of global governance. Connected to actiondays and alliance demonstrations pictures of riots in the inner cities of Gothenburg, Geneva and Genova carried a message that could not be mistaken: We do not lead a dialogue with a system that is the enemy of the people.
The protests against the G8 summit 2007 wrote a chapter in the history of resistance as well. In Heiligendamm we managed to really disturb the theatrelike production of a g8 meeting. More than 10.000 people delayed the arrival of the summit delegates on Wednesday, the 6th of June 2007. All access roads were blocked, opponents of the summit entered the banned security zone around the conference venue. Translators and staff couldn´t reach Heiligendamm for hours - there were only air and sea routes remaining, until rubber boats appeared in view of the conference hotel too.
The success of the blockades is the success of the grassroots of the movement, who followed their idea with determination and confidence. The concept consisted of all activists that prepared the blockades for months. This experience realized an advancement in the summit protests we had so far, and strengthens the Left internationally. It shows that we are still there, that one could count on us in the future.
We participated in the preparation and realization of the protest within the federal network Interventionist Left. Actionwise we focussed on the big demonstration of the 2nd of June 2007 and the campaign Block G8. Because of this, we will in the following talk only about these actions and not about the whole abundance of other anti-g8-activities, like the actiondays against global agriculture, flight and migration, against militarization, war and torture, the blockade at Laage airport, the counter summit and Move against G8. It has been our aim to build big alliances of opponents of the summit and to strengthen anti-capitalist positions within these alliances.
Around 80.000 people participated in the big demonstration in Rostock. For us this result of mobilization is a big success. For it was reached without larger partizipation of the apparatus of unions or left parties - in contrast to former mobilizations of the movement against globalization. The demonstration, as all other actions and structures needed for the protests were organized from below, meaning by the extraparliamentary, not institutionalized, international movement.
Rostock was a police fortress at the 2nd of June. Helicopters circled above the city, the population was afraid to go out on the streets - month of agitation of police and media against "violent summit protesters" had its effects. Most shops and pubs followed the advice of the police and remained closed. Armoured police units, boarded up windows and heavy machinery, clear-up tanks and water-cannons of all sorts dominated the picture. The prophecy of violence fullfilled itself long before the first stone was thrown.
"make capitalism history"
The "make capitalism history" block of the Interventionist Left with its 8000 participants was the biggest block of the demonstration. The militant clashes with the police at the end were a moment that can not be pocketet for a message of dialoque. They were the undisputable refusal of the idea of a movement appealing to the G8. This was visible to anybody, and that´s why it was the more necessary for the media and the political enemy to reduce the block to the metaphors "black" and "violent" in the discourse of violence that followed. Considering the whole law-and-order state scenario and the attacks of several hundreds of police on our block, is was a right and an important decision to collectivelly counter and for a while fight back these attacks.
On the other hand the clashes delivered the pictures that the designers of the enorm security measures they prepared for months wanted to get. While the real damage done and the number of police officers injured came in no way close to what mass media wanted to make believe after the "Battle of Rostock", the debate about violence was intensively pushed. The media published every lie propaganda had to offer, the last word in all news-reports was given to the spokesperson of the police. With the alliance and state authorities in front of them, some organizers of the protests didn´t manage to stay on a clear course. Commentaries on conflicts at the side of the demonstration piled up, that could be understood as general dissociations from militancy and militant activists, some of them were meant like this. This is nothing that one has to wonder about if it comes from spokespersons of Attac - as this correponds to the policy of their squad of functionaires.
But even from the spokesperson of the IL, who is a member of our group, there were dissociating statements given in more than one interview. We were overpowered at that time by the effective power of the discourse of violence, we couldn´t cope with the onslaught of the media an the force of the smear campaign, and in some of our statements we fell into the jargon of media and police. This is neither the real position of our group nor the one of our spokespersons, and in the future we will speak for the idea that neither groups nor organizations should be constantly represented by single persons in public without permanent feedback of the collective.
At the beginning of the summit on Wednesday we jumped over the ban on demonstrations around the restricted area of Heiligendamm together with tenthousand people. Collectively we resisted teargas and water cannons, lead the police up the garden path and thereby practically questioned the state monopoly on violence another time.
That´s why we regard the blockades organized within the frame of the Block G8 alliance as being just as militant as the demonstration had been some days before. Thousands of people got organized for the blockades, they were determined and knew what they wanted to do. The form of the blockades was put together from different traditions of action. In the process of preparing them all participants of the alliance moved towards each other. Informing about this open concept, that offered various possibities to participate, worked quite well before the action and built the basis to make it work in practice.
Independent of the colour of their pullovers, the division between the "Black Block" of Saturday and the peaceful blockaders of the following week did not exist in reality. The blockaders actively took action against banned zones, water cannons and police cordons. They come from the same spectrum as the participants of the big demonstration. They are the same radical opponents of the summit, the same antifas, antiracists, peace and other activists from all left movements in Europe.
Many blockaders coming from more moderate structures ignored smear campaigns, attempts to intimidate them, and the decisions and recommendations of their functionaires, which moved to the right under the pressure to dissotiate and adviced their basis not to participate in the blockades. This is what we call emancipatory politics in the best sense. The activists realized that it was not the militants but the media and the spokespersons of some organisations that wanted to functionalize them.
The police wasn´t interested in brutal pictures of officers on this day. But the picture of feigned deescalation must not make us forget that also in the days of blockade the right to demonstrate was massively put out of order, for example through the ban of the planned starmarch. The police searched and found situations where it seemed legitimate for them to interfere, there were lots of brutal interventions, arrests and quite a few seriously wounded. That the blockades turned into such a big success despite of all this, is owed to the thousands of participants who managed to successfully put into action the five-finger-system they had practiced for months.
Again and again we stressed in our mobilization that the summit is the symbolic production of governance, aiming to legitmize the global relations of domination. So we have to measure success and failure on whether we managed to bring into dispute this function the G8 has towards society. Did we manage to delegitimize this summit and the global power relations represented by it on a symbolical level?
Our answer is yes. The big demonstration as well as the mass blockades created images that through their irreconcilability and not-appealing character towards the G8 lead to delegitimize the summit. Together we managed to make visible the resistance against a world order, that operates to secure the functioning of the capitalist world market.
The character of the movement critical of globalization distinctly changed 2007 in Germany, as the apparatus of the unions and the left parties were obviously not interested. One the one hand compared to other big summit mobilizations fewer people were reached. On the other hand those people reached by the extraparliamentary movemets were markedly more activist and also more radical in their political expression than on comparable summits. This experience will influence future forms of organizing. A lot of young people partizipated in the protests, the collective experiences of resistance they gathered here politizes and radicalizes a new generation of protest.
It belongs to an evaluation to consider police and state measures, which already started with changing the police law of Mecklenburg Vorpommern. More than 17.000 police officers were sent in. Under the working title "official support" the german army Bundeswehr was put into action on the home front. While the deployment of Tornados to scout the airspace was critizised by parts of the population afterwards, there is surprisingly little critique on the deployment of the army there in general. During the days of protest more than 1000 arbitrary arrests occured. The right to demonstrate was massively limited by banning dozens of manifestations and demonstrations. Paragraph 129a experiences a rennaissance these days. Weeks before the summit the accusation of forming a terrorist assiciation was used as an opportunity for a wave of police raids all over the country, since then the intervals of the police searching houses of allegedly militant opponents of the summit shortened to some days. The solidary that went across the spectres in Heiligendamm will have the opportunity to prove itself in the practice of antirepression work the next months.
Finally there seems to be something like an anti-capitalist consensus within the movement that reaches far beyond explitly radical-left circles. Moreover it can be confidently said that the majority of the movement refused to be splitted, despite media smear campaigns and pressure of repression from the state, despite all the difficulties arising from the difference of political concepts. This experience made across the spectres laid the basis of our common success during the protests against the G8. This has also been an important moment for many of the international participants, of which we know, that they will discuss whether these suggestions are in some way transferable to their conditions. And for us as well this paper is only the beginning of the evaluation of joint work. We will put our heads together and continue thinking about forms of action and organizing. The movement critical of globalization that so many already presumed to be dead is back and it manifests its resistance more radical than before.
We came to stay!
Antifascist Left Berlin, June 2007