Sketches of the last few years anti-militarist praxis in Germany

This article has been written for the Italian anarchist monthly “Invece” (“Instead of”) in April 2011, aiming to offer a view about some episodes – despite the vast nature of the theme – which happened during the last years which have contributed to the revival of the debate concerning the funeral march of the German military machine and not only. Episodes which are linked together through a red (and black) thread: that show that today like yesterday it remains possible to be sand in the cogs of militarism.

On how a repressive coup can be transformed into counter-attack…

In July 2007 three comrades have been arrested. Oliver, Axel and Florian are brutally stopped by police special forces units in Brandenburg/Havel, near Berlin, just after they left some incendiary devices under some trucks which belonged to the German army. Since a long time there had been an investigation mounting against them – and four other comrades, from which one is going to get arrested on the same day – conducted by the federal criminal police (BKA) : all of them have been accused of membership within the “Militant Group” (MG), a clandestine formation which had been active since 2001 mostly in Berlin and which has carried out a couple of dozen incendiary attacks against symbols of repression (courts and police) and capitalist exploitation (different kind of enterprises).


Comrades organised immediately some activities in solidarity with the arrested ones – ranging from the rally in front of the prison to direct actions – but many found themselves within the classic dilemma of how to express solidarity towards some comrades who have been accused of membership of a group in which one does not identify with, but rather one feels an abyssal distance : indeed the MG has always distinguished itself by its clear communist/anti-imperialist character. In order to face such a situation, some people had the idea to relaunch the theme of revolutionary solidarity and by making ours the action for which the comrades had been arrested for, rather then their alleged participation within this group. Therefore during the months to come the solidarity will be expressed by continually declaring a clear refusal of militarism in all its forms but above all accentuating it in a practical way.

That has been a feeling which had been already expressed through some speeches read during the first rally at the judiciary prison of Moabit (Berlin). A few days later a poster will appear underlining how “There are too many army vehicles – Freedom for Oliver, Florian and Axel – Towards the abolition of the anti-terror law”. The poster offers a collage of different images of army vehicles of which some carry the writing “sabotaged” – a result of direct actions undertaken in Germany during the last few years.
In fact, as the poster reminds us, even in dark times of war and the extension of its logic into all the spheres of our lives, sabotage remains a music which never stops playing.

Just a few of its most cheering notes – February 2002, an army vehicle is burned in Glinde, in the province of Hamburg; February 2003, some army jeeps are torched by the MG close to Berlin; March 2004, at Bad Oldesloe, province of Hamburg, the offices of the company Hako go up in flames – this company participates in the production of the army vehicles called “Mungo” (employed in Afghanistan) – while at the same time several army vehicles meet the same destiny in Berlin; January 2007, the private cars of two managers of the company Thyssen-Krupp Marine System are given to the flames by “Revolutionary anti-militarist activists” in Hamburg. And so on…

…and the reflourishing of an antimilitarist praxis.

The imprisonment of the comrades gives then a new life blood to a struggle which keeps on going since years and takes place on all levels, not leaving behind any possibility of expression. By the way, the “official” birth of the German autonomous movement (under such a wide definition one regroups without distinction, libertarian, anarchist, autonomous, non-dogmatic communist comrades and so on) takes place in May 1980 in Bremen where heavy riots accompanied the ceremony for the army cadets vote. A day of action against militarism was called during the protests against the G8 in Germany in 2007, witnessing a rally of several thousands against an army factory of the company EADS which then became a demonstration through the streets of Warnemünde, close to Rostock. Another demo which took place in Rostock (G8 2007) against Caterpillar, a well-known company for supplying vehicles for the destruction of the Palestinian people. Caterpillar also received some attacks with Molotov cocktails during those days. The so-called “Bombodrom” – a project which should have taken place in the north of the Brandenburg region, 80km away from Berlin, exactly where the former Soviet Union had tested its bombs for forty years and now the Germany army tries to get the same permits since 1992 – will become the target of a specific campaign within the anti-militarist struggle : during the G8 it will be symbolically occupied by several hundred people, an air-control tower will be painted entirely in pink paint, different demos and anti-miliarist camps will be organised. This is a struggle which is going on since more than 15 years and which will contribute finally to the cancellation of the “Bombodrom” project itself. It would be a mistake to “reduce” the antimilitarist struggle only to direct actions of sabotage. The latter are undertaken within a wider context where different initiatives of public character put in discussion the role of the army and of the growing military/ civil cooperation – and at the same time claim the necessity of direct action to stop the war-machine.

One of those is the enduring disturbance wherever the army tries to recruit new forces in public buildings. There where the army tries to make propaganda for its logic of death, there will always be people ready to protest and spread refusal. The bold army officials are going every month into dole offices in order to spur the unemployed to sign in, so there will be some comrades who will organise some moments of protest and counter-information.

A concrete example: from Berlin to Cologne passing through Hannover and Frankfurt, dozens of anti-militarists disturb regularly the vile presence of such military figures with their noisy presence, the banners, the chants, the leaflets, the paintbombs, the theatrical performances, the fire alarms which go off inside the buildings hosting the events and so on. Like in Wuppertal, where a high ranking military official won’t be able to speak since he will get a cake in his face. Or in Brühl, where the dole office will be attacked with paint, its windows smashed and the graffiti “army out!” will clarify the reasons of the nocturnal visit.

Small and bigger stories which interweave with each other and underline the vast choices and possible paths which are given to us daily for what concerns a lived antimilitarism – as also for all the other fields of our daily way of action.

If in September 2007, 8000 people will demonstrate in Berlin under the motto “German army out of Afghanistan”, in the fall of the same year Moritz, an anarchist comrade, will be imprisoned in the cells of the army barracks of Strausberg, near Berlin, because he is a total objector : like him, other comrades will choose the same path within the years to come.

Moritz will pay his choice with three weeks of military prison, weeks which will see some rallies in front of the barracks and initiatives of counter-information in solidarity. Meanwhile, one should not forget about the practice of “recolouring” the different memorial monuments dedicated to “heroes” and military fallen ones : during the last years dozens of actions occur where anonymous teams will give a colourful gift to such symbols of death, sometimes even decapitating the statues. In November 2010, a specific campaign was launched by the local autonomous groups in the Ruhr region – where a commemoration of the soldiers fallen during the two world wars takes place during that month – a dozen of war memorials will be “recoloured” within a night in different cities of the region. As we were saying before, the important aspect which denotes the different protests is the clear and uncompromising revindication of any initiative which carries the aim of being sand within the cogs of the war machine – leaving behind the superfluous concept of legality.

An initiative which took place in February 2008 in Berlin, as an act of solidarity towards the accused MG comrades (who at that point had been freed on bail) had as a motto “The war machines interest us in a burning way”, based on the untranslatable game of words where the German words “brennend” means “on fire” and also “burning way”.

Different persons active within the last years in actions of anti-militarist sabotage will be invited to speak (pacifist militants and also anonymous saboteurs, the latter in the form of a pre-recorded audio intervention), a themed publication will accompany the event (attended by several hundred people) offering food for the mind. In order to publicize the event some posters will appear on the streets of the German capital carrying the illustration of a burning army jeep and two different slogans – one under the tile “Why?”, the other “Why not?”, without any other text.

This was a successfully received poster because of its disarming simplicity, it clarifies to the unknown reader the obviousness of taking a stand. In May 2008 a publication will be born under the name “Panzerknackerin” (“the tank breaker”) which aims to be an agile newsletter reporting about actions against the war machine which took place on German soil but not only. Giving a look into “Panzerknackerin” the brochure states the need to attack militarism on different fronts, not leaving aside arms producers, such as the company Northop Grumman and Marine Logistics attacked in Hamburg and Kiel, or dole offices and other ‘public’ spaces which offer space to the propaganda of the army and private arms companies.

One such private arms company, SAP (an enterprise which supplies military software) will see its windows demolished several times during the last few years, and also there was the case of 23 travel buses in Berlin which were smashed (and fire extinguishers emptied inside them), which were the property of a company which makes business transporting the army cadets to their swear vote (against which a protest takes place). Surely also politicians get their bill at the counter, above all to mention, three of the ones targetted are members of the National Defence Commission, their offices being attacked with stones and paint in Kiel and Hamburg in the past August. However, it remains unbeaten until now the arson of 42 army vehicles in Dresden in Easter 2009, an action on which a special commission investigates – until now without any results – and which another poster will claim in a striking way under the slogan “Dresden. Do it again”, gently offering us the images of so much arsonist revelry which has seen dozens of army vehicles sacrificed to the flames during the last few years). Faithful to the slogan which accompanies the different initiatives of the movement – “What gets sabotaged here can’t cause damages neither in Afghanistan nor anywhere else”.

The campaign against the mail company DHL turns into an important step in order to not let pass unobserved the growing cooperation between the civil and military institutions – this company is a sisterenterprise of the German post, responsible for logistic cooperation with the German army in order to transport its vehicles and priority documents since the year 2003. This campaign, born in the fall of 2008 will bring this German company to its knees, forcing it in the following year to choose to refuse to prolong the contract, as one was able to read in different newspapers. The campaign, called “Comprehensive Resistance”, baptised the DHL as “Deutsche Heeres Logistik” (“Logistic of the German army”) and, being like always oriented on all levels, will produce several detourned posters, leaflets, public initiatives, it will publish some journals and give birth to dozens of sabotages of different kinds : going from an imprecise number of arsoned DHL vehicles (sometimes up to 12 at once in flames), to DHL offices attacked with stones and paint, postboxes painted in army green.
One of the most interesting aspects of this campaign will be its resonance : originally born as a contribution to the mobilisation against the NATO summit in Strasbourg 2009 (which will see a large participation of German comrades in the significant riots), it will produce actions all over the German territory.

The solidity and clearness of the targets will allow this campaign to survive the ending of the NATO summit, offering again some points of reflection on how it is possible to go beyond the event (an idea already put in praxis before the G8 2007 which has been accompanied by a large “campaign of direct action on any level” during the course of the three years preceding the summit).

Within the last months, some posters and postcards – prepared by the campaign “break the lines of the army”, for the anniversary of the Hindukusch massacre, where 142 Afghani civilians met their death at the hand of the German army – , are published with three different motives, renewing the invitation to attack, reminding us how “Germany is at war” and therefore “blockades save human lives”, “sabotage saves human lives”, and “deserting saves human lives”.

And I am going to stop here before it gets too long. Even though one can’t really leave out the recent attempt of endangering the record of Dresden’s Easter in this vast sketch : in February of this year, unknown hands set fire to a barracks of the Germany army in the city of Oldenburg, where the food supplies for the German soldiers stationed in Afghanistan were stored. 2000 tons of food destined for the mouths of killers went up in flames, provoking a damage of over a million and half euros.

What to say indeed? Perhaps that the capacity of integrating different methods, of not remaining confined within the ‘movement’ ghetto, of putting oneself at play, being able to face up to old challenges and launching some new ones, means learning again to become creative but above all avoiding to make threats without carrying them out, regarding the necessity of a direct attack towards everything we despise.

These might be some of the points that, once again, might make a small reflection on how it is never too late for taking away some of that rust which gathered on some of our daggers – which once upon a time have been perhaps slightly sharper than nowadays but there is still time for going back to the old splendors…

A grain of sand

directactionde.ucrony.net (English and German)
dhl.blogsport.de (DHL campaign website, German).
www.bundeswehr-wegtreten.org (Site of the campaign “Break the lines of the military”, German)