taken from Swing No. 147, autonomous Rhein-Main-Info
Talking in our small circle of Swing-Editors it quickly turned out that we come to different and conflicting assessments about the clashes of the 2nd of June and the blockades of Block G8. As our assessments refer to the different positions we hold on questions of using and communicating militancy, we thought it useful to formulate them in full contradiction, to bring them to a head in parts or leave it as it was said. We hope that you feel provoced accordingly, to write something about it yourself. And maybe something like a regional debate about militancy will develop...?
To make clear positions and contradictions, here comes a facilitated interview with two fictional Swing-editors
Swing: Both of you have been in Rostock at the 2nd of June. How did you experience the big demo and the two blocks of the radical left in particular?
Knut: Both demos were a wonderful sight. Some tenthousand People in different blocks of various focusses. Among them, on the route coming from the main station, the two Black Blocks of the Interventionist Left and, close to the end, the one of the "...for the whole of it" alliance. Some thousand people in each one of it, masked and linking arms in rows, expressed an unusual strength. These are pictures and experiences that we are not used to anymore and most of those marching experienced it for the first time. It is this power that we take home with us.
Conny: Obviously the cops as well are not used to deal with it, and despite all pessimist expectations they didn´t crash into the demo. Abrahmowski (cop in chrage of all the G8 protests) told in a press conference later on, that they decided not to do it, because they were afraid that an attack on the demo would create a situation, in which bigger, uncontrollable parts of the demo would get into the inner city of Rostock.
Knut: I believe, that this estimation was completelly right. In case of an attack, while the demo was still on route, there would have been a real clash. It would have lead to a much more sweeping riot than the one later an at the harbour. Because then the whole of the blocks as well as all the people carrying their masks still in their pockets at that time would have participated in the riot.
Conny: However, the Black Blocks themselves couldn´t cope with this sitiuation as well. The attacks on Sparkasse and Discounter from the IL-Block happened relatively late. At the most exciting point of the route, the hotel in which parts of the US-american delegation were hosted, there were no attacks though. Although at this place the target could have been clearly communicated. I wonder whether the IL-Block really stuck to the consensus that no attacks should be started from the demo? I don´t know. I tend to believe that this was because people didn´t believe in the situation and their own strength. And this is something that I actually think is stupid; because if there is a chance for thousands to gather and march masked in a Black Block, than they also have to attack cartain targets. Everything else is posing.
Swing: To me the clashes at the harbour came quite surprisingly. How do you value the actions of the militants there?
Knut: Regardless whether the police wanted to provoke the militants by parking the six-pack close to the route: The car was attacked by us. So the booster of the riot came from a conscious decision of the militants within the demo. So this has been a conscious breaching of the consensus of the organizers of the demo, that there should not be any attacks from the demo. The reactions of the cops, which restrained themselves up to this point, was consciously taken into accound. This has to be seen as a political mistake.
Conny: I have a different opinion on that. The breaching of the consensus was consistent. Arrangements that aim at restricting the forms of action of the radical left have to be broken. And it was completelly clear that such a "consensus" will be broken. On a summit demonstration there has to be riots. This is what makes the protests of the opposition against globalization attractive and well known. Those who expected or wanted it otherwise is at best politically naive.
Knut: To me it seems naive to search confrontation already at Saturday, at the very beginning of the actiondays. We expected the police to get a lot of support and gain strength and that this would restrict our room to maneouver for our own actiondays and actually the blockades. The first part is what really happened, but not the second. Some of the actiondays were heavily pestered. However, the preventive checks and roadblocks on the blockades were done by bored or extremely polite cops. Insofar we believe that by the riots the cops regained some of the power to define forms of legitimate resistance they had almost lost following the measures taken before the beginning of the summit. And which the put on risk again as their numerous lies and agants provocateurs got public. That´s why we came to see the 2nd of June: We were lucky to get away with just a black eye.
Conny: In the run-up to the summit i wouldn´t have thought this assessment to be wrong either. But then it was more the problem that the demo had been terminated to march on the Saturday before the summit starts. It was kind of clear, that there will be thousands of people arriving to take part in the big demonstration, and that they will search a confrontation there. During all the other days, also during the days of blockade, we were going to be much more marginalized again. While the potetial of some thousand militants on a big demo should not be wasted.
Swing: The termination of the big demo was disputed. But for a certain part of the preparation alliance another logic was more important than the arrival of the militants, which was the reformist influence of the demo on the G8 itself. The follwing Saturday the summit would have been over already, and it had to be a Saturday. But if you forget about the demo for a Moment and talk about the clashes: Knut, you could say: We got away with a black eye - so let´s forget it. In which points do you still see the need to discuss.
Knut: I´m angry about the irresponsibility that parts of the militants displayed in their actions on several levels. First of all politically: Because by these actions the whole action alliance was questioned for all summit days. It was a kick in the arse of all the comrades of dissent and the IL, who worked face-to-face with all the other spectres of then preparation for years. They had all the trouble after all, only because some people could not stand off attacking two patrol police. For us something like that is disproportionate and irresponsible.
Conny: At this point certainly two questions arise: What is the actual value of an alliance that cannot take especially the debate on violence. And secondly, whether the comrades mentioned really had a right to represent the autonomous opponents of the summit. The so-called "consensus" negotiated for the demo is obviously something unwanted by parts of the autonomous.
Knut: If it is true what you said about the right to represent, i wonder why there was not more of a discussion about it before? For me this lack of discussion in the run-up in combination with the acting on the demo strengthens me in my conviction that some people just take the easy way. They don´t take any responsibility, neither towards a political process nor in the actual situation of conflict. Because additionally it has to be mentioned that the militants were irresponsible in other respets as well. There was definetelly not the possibility to only partizipate in the clashes if you wanted to. The cops repeatedly rushed into the gathering, hunting down people. And for this there is no help in the excuse that one is not responsible for what the police is doing. This reaction of the police was to be ecpected! And if the oh so inconsistent peaceniks wouldn´t have marched on the police with hands up high again and again, it wouldn´t have been possible in the meantime to push the cops out of the gathering at all. At any rate the militants wasn´t able to do that.
Conny: The riots should have been stopped at the point that the police was increasing pressure. As the demos were still in the state of arriving, waves of clashes occured again and again. Sometimes the police attacked parts of the demo, which had to defend themselves then, or others, like the "...for the whole of it" block felt that they missed out on something. And that some act irresponsible in a riot is nothing new. This is true on one hand for those infamously throwing from the last rows, who hit those in front on the back of their heads. This happened a lot. And for sure the partizipation of non-leftists. I don´t remember how many soccer-hooligans i saw in the clashes in Rostock. But is was many.
Knut: I think it was simply irresponsible to start the confrontation at this place at this pint in time. To my mind the people demonstrating have the right to listen to the concert, to partizipate in the closing event of the demo, or in the refugee block of the other demonstration without being drawn into the riots. The gathering place emptied rapidly. And not only because people had to leave to catch their busses. A lot of people were just afrais and didn´t want to be drawn into the clashes. I hold this to be legitimate. A lot of the militants don´t care about that, it´s more important to them to follow their indivdual urge for riots. To me this is more about Hooliganism, about individualized phantasies of violence, than about political militancy. The agreement of the action alliance - no different forms of action at the same place and time - has to be a benchmark especially for the militants. If militants don´t stick to this agreement, they can´t demand intergration from other spectres and will be isolated in the long run.
Conny: Alliance back and forth. In any case the riots strengthened the movement internally. Thousands experienced that it is possible to attack and chase away the heavily armed german police. That even the cocaine-headed Berlin Splatter-Cops have fear in their eyes when they encounter a massive hail of stones and the situation remains incalculable for them. The cops take us more serious again after the 2nd of June and we do that as well. Its also these experiences that we take with us to the smaller local struggles.
Swing: So maybe that´s enough about the 2nd of June. What do you think about the days of blockade Wednesday to Friday? We heard of assessments reaching from "the greatest victory of the globalisation movement since Seattle" up to "Hippieshit".
Knut: As I have been very critical towards the militants up to now, I first of all have to tell you, that for me Wednesday and Thursday were the days of confrontation. In the tradition of the former summits the opening days of the summit are the ones where the determined and commited symbols have to be transported. Accordingly my group prepared itself for the Paula-Concept. The fact that things turned out differently, has to do with the unexpected success of the Block G8 actions. We had moved with Block G8 more for reasons of curiosity and then had to take the decision whether to push through our material blockades or to jump on the train of the dissolving Block G8 structure to keep the sitting blockade on the road. So we decided that the changed situation turned unnecessary our initially planned form of action, and that it would be better to support the Block G8 blockade.
Conny: Too bad. We went with Block G8 as well, but as the time for came we returned and did our affinity group blockades with tyres and tree trunks. For us it wasn´t under consideration to stay with the block G8 blockade. We liked that it was done and our relation to it is one of solidarity. But it is important to us that our own radical forms of action get visible with their more decided and irreconcilable symbolism. I was listening to the radio on Thursday morning and i really enjoyed reports of that kind of militant blockades of other groups. To me these forms of action have their own independent meaning and symbolism that is not annulled by the kind of utility criteria, that Knut is thinking of.
Swing: Which kind of symbolism had been transported by the Block G8 blockades?
Knut: For me it was the very successful attempt to abolish the classical split between "peaceful" and "militant" in a certain form of action. For me this was a militant blockade, whereas I use the term militancy in a sense beyond autonomous throwing of stones. Militant not because of the fact that important parts of the Block G8 structure on Wednesday consisted of persons that were marching in the Black Block of the IL on Saturday. But because thousands of people raised their multiple voices to say No to the G8 policies of global exploitation. They could not be stopped by the police and didn´t aim at reformistically appeal to those in power. These are the meanings of militancy to me, of resoluteness. I was very surprised in a positive sense, that this was possible in Germany together with so many people - and I bet that if it can be possible, it will be possible in the future as well.
Conny: I was annoyed by the "peaceful action consensus" charged with emotions, as it is common in a lot of sitting blockades and was unfortunatelly adopted at Block G8 as well. We were roundly offended by comrades as we tried to push down a small fence, as this would violate the action consensus. I don´t understand what would have been the problem if people were trying to create a bit more chaos at some dinstance to the Block G8 blockade and to keep the cops moving. That´s why for me Block G8 was already clouded by that godawful peacenik symbolism, that as a political actor relies on the victim symbolism of We-will-not-use-violence, and that does not question the police as legitemately violent authority also on a practical level. So much the better, that despite the restrictive action consensus people managed to attack a russian delegation and smash some of the windows of the limousine. More of that!
So far this is our interview. At some points it is too much polarizing and some nuances are missing. For example there are no purely rational and responsible model militants that could be contrasted with riot hools - because contradictions most of the time run within the persons themselves as well. Also the momentum taking effect at massive clashes like those of the 2nd of June should not be underestimated - this issue was only shortly touched in the interview.
Nevertheless we think that organized militants are confronted with the task to lead a discussion about criteria of a responsible practice of militant means. A discussion that will not reach each and everyone at the edge of the scene, and that will not find an end in impeccable, faultless riots. But a discussion that could start a process in direction of more commited and conscious actions, that couls bring more safety for the activists themselves - and that could not at least enhance the trust of other protesters in the Black Block, and after the demo of the 2nd of June this seems to be urgently needed.
The G8 week with its abundance of actions and the camps made possible a lot of social and political experiences for many participants, which can rarely be made in everyday life with all its division of labour. It´s not very often that so many people come together across all boundries of spectres and topics, rarely can they argue about things they experienced together. There is enough material for these discussions.