Reflexions on the mobilization of the radical left

[zeck 139]
Reflexions on the mobilization of the radical left against the G8 in Heiligendamm
Die rosa roten Panterchen

"In danger and real trouble stearing a middle course is death"

This was the motto of a longer text the Revolutionären Zellen wrote about the peace movement in Germany and the worldwide economical and political changes understood as globalization today. Concerning the strategy of the radical left they said amongst other things, that "we have to get out of the fatal dependency on the peace alliance, we need to open up our own fronts. The following and orientation on topics and proceedings of the protest against deployment means a political and practical narrowing, that could lead to the reversal of the aims declared... As long as there is no radical mass movement in sight, which in their resistance to imperialist strategies of annihilation pose the question of power as well, we don´t have any alternative: Our policy has to carry on aiming at strengthening the Left, at radicalizing them and widening their militancy... The transformation of the "civil democracies", that is resulting from the politico-economic changes, will further restrict the legal room for manoeuvre of the Left, especially by the time the conditions themselves will demand a radicalization of resistance. The peace movement sufficiently proved that the new social movements are not a protective shield under which militancy can be organized. A radical left that has the self-concept of making possible resistance time and time again has to create its own structures of subversion an illegality, to stay incalculable, incognizable, unconquerable."

24 years later this analysis seems near and far at once. On the one hand the changes in global power relations had created completely new starting conditions for emancipatory and radical left politics in the FRG as well. On the other hand the course of protests against the G8 had shown that the radical and militant left is more than ever on the defensive. And one would only have to substitute "peace alliance" and "deployment" for "anti-globalization-alliance" and "G8" to render the analysis up-to-date.

In the beginning of the year diverse radical left groups took the ASEM summit (assembly of the ministers of exterior from Europe and Asia) that was going to take place in Hamburg immediately before the G8 as an occasion to organize a supra-regional demonstration, that was as well meant to be the upbeat of protests against the G8. Unlike the mass demonstration in Rostock the goal was a radical left mobilization, open to participation to others but not to form a broad alliance at the prize of abandoning content. The mobilization for this demo was successful only to some extent. Namely there has been a relatively large radical left block, that was bigger than those on other demos in the lasts years but smaller than the one on the last huge radical left demo 1995 in Hamburg against the proceeding against the Radikal [underground journal]. All in all the left radical block largely remained amongst itself, it didn´t really work to mobilize beyond the scene. While the political spectrum up to the Left party could be found in the second half of the demo, this part stayed way behind their capacities in broadness and numbers. The Interventionist Left had already refused to participate in the demo-alliance and rather backed the cooperation with Attac, other reformists and NGOs in Heiligendamm.

While the strength of the first half of the demo had the result that the cops didn´t launch bigger attacks until its dissolution, their Wanderkessel [moving encirclement] proved successful in so far as we did not take the offensive as well. But the demo was not strong enough to reach the political aim to "attack" the meeting in the Hamburg city hall. Hence it was the right decision to dissolve the demo at Rödingsmarkt, the point most closely to city hall. By this we kept a moment of incalculability. But then we did not manage, neither directly nor later on, to get into the inner city. Instead we shifted confrontation - as many times in recent years - to the Schanzenviertel and in front of the Flora [neighborhood of the political scene & autonomous center]. So a real questioning or disturbance of the summit was not possible. The usual small riots in front of the Flora didn´t only show that we are not able to carry the confrontation to the place of events. They showed as well that there are no successful concepts for a scenario of dissolution, and that there are no sustainable structures who could take matters in their hands and realize the political aims of the demo, despite its dissolution.
Besides its function as a (radical left) starter of the G8 the ASEM-demo additionally got the character of an anti-repression demo by the police raids of the 9th of may, directed against the "militant campaign" and targeting many places in the north of Germany. While there had been disputes in the anti-G8-alliances in springtime about declarations of Attac for example, who then dissociated themselves from several arson attacks in connection with the mobilization to Heiligendamm, the razzias and 129a-proceedings were now unanimously disapproved as criminalization and intimidation of the resistance critical of globalization.

However, after the demo of the 2nd of June in Rostock the dispute reached a new dimension, when spokesmen of Attac compared militants to Nazis and championed for the exclusion of militants, and to hand them over to the cops. While the Interventionist Left did not dissociate themselves from militant actions in their declarations, they did not leave the alliance of Attac and other reactionary forces. After the demo of Rostock the actions in front of the fence that surrounded Heiligendamm were characterized by political self-disarming. Militants were often hindered or even excluded. For the majority of opponents of globalization it is appropriate to encounter evicting police standing or sitting there with hands up high. This spectrum mainly consists of a young student middle class milieu, which like the peace movement 25 years ago has no idea of the boundaries of formal democracy, system enmity, or the repressive assertion of capitalist interests. In the struggle against the Castor transports to the Wendland the fragile comprehension of next-to-one-another in the alliance was still prevailing, which means that the militant left contributes in her own way to the struggle against Castor, while the more civic groups practice strategies of civil disobedience without offensively dissociating from the militants. Even if the spectrum critical of globalization is not identical with the anti-nukes, for the first time in years an ideological and practical cooperation of the majority of a protest movement with the cops against militant attempts became apparent here. Those groups of the radical left counting on the concept of broad alliances did not counter that. The militant Left after the demo in Rostock didn´t manage to reveal to the wider Left their terms of system enmity against a murderous world regime and the means they accordingly chose. Thereby it is completely irrelevant whether the clashes were also, or even predominantly sustained by agents provocateurs fulfilling orders of the cops. There was nearly no immediacy of contents from our side, why system enmity will not accept dictated limitations of the choice of means, that what we talk about is power relations in conflicts, the building of countervailing power and our aim of social liberation. As well it didn´t work out to explain the action out of itself. As the demo was organized by a very heterogeneous alliance and was further on characterized by a mostly de-escalative concept of the cops until the demo reached its final destination, the question arises whether is was politically clever to attack a van of the cops standing all by itself at the roadside. There is quiet a lot of rage piled up if you on demos walk for years in Wanderkessel encirclements of the cops. But this would have had to be transported in an offensive way politically afterwards. Instead the political field of demo organization and post processing was left to the spectrum reaching from Attac to the Interventionist Left.
In contrast the relaying of contents worked relatively well after the Anti-G8 Grazia's as well as before and after the ASEM demo. Besides spontaneous demos and militant solidarity actions there were press declarations, Interviews and press conferences and parts of our contents were to be found in the corporate media. In TV and newspapers the juridical basis and also the tactical reasonability of the repressive measures were questioned, as it was feared to heat up things. After the ASEM-demo the social democratic, green and conservative parties argued about the legitimacy of demo-Wanderkessel, even if they did so in a weird way. Taking place immiediately after the police raids, the relatively big demo in Hamburg also showed the potential of radical left mobilization. It has not been evanescent, but also not very strong.

Comparing the demo situations in Hamburg and Rostock, due to the masses of people it has been objectively possible in Rostock to offensively act against the cops, which was not the case on the ASEM-demo in Hamburg. In Hamburg we could not create these prerequisites. The few activists and groups concentrated their capacities and power on realizing a more or less organized demo and action week against the ASEM and the G8 in Hamburg. Following the political aim it would have made sense - as it would have been communicable - to go to the inner city of Hamburg and to stage militant actions at the fence in Heiligendamm, respectively to materially disturb the summit in other ways. Both could hardly be realized. Against the backdrop of these experiences we should realistically evaluate our forces. They are strong enough for symbolic militant propaganda, currently we do not seem to be able to do more.
A partly comparable political isolation can be seen in recent years in example of the "militant campaign". The Hamburg secret service Verfassungsschutz (VS) under its head Lochte and now his successor Uhrlau always were a bit ahead of the other organs of repression. But after the arson attack on the car of the boss of the Bild-newspaper Diekmann the present head of VS Vahldieck asked the militants to consider whether their strategy is politically sustainable.
One thing that can be read out of this statement is that the organs of repression do not have many ideas of how to clarify the assaults committed or how to prevent further attacks. Although they started their apparatus on a big scale: Within the framework of 129a proceedings, which usually involves large scale observations of those suspicious and their personal environment, phone tapping and house searches, also special methods of cross-referencing dragnet investigations [Rasterfahndung] got known: In several districts of Hamburg the whole physical mail coming in was surveilled to find out where letters claiming responsibility were coming from, to then observe the respective letter boxes. Likewise the Hamburg branches of a pharmacy chain store were monitored, which could have provided materials for the arson attacs. The same time the security agents of companies thought relevant for possible assaults were commissioned to enhance their own person and object protection. The cops themselves tried to improve their concept of cordon searches after assaults took place. So the security apparatus booted up quiet some of the methods available since the tracing of RZ and RAF (and this is "only" because of arson attacs...), but seemingly they are in the dark with their proceedings, as there apparently are no results that would justify a warrant against any one of the suspects.

On the other hand the Hamburg VS discovered a grain of truth. Within the radical left the assaults against the state secretary of finances Thomas Mirow from Hamburg, the boss of the newspaper Bild and the head of an advertising agency of the campaign "We are Germany" [Wir sind Deutschland] content wise speak for themselves. But politically they mainly have the character of punishment- and propaganda-actions: Following the Motto, that this and that person is responsible for this and that rascality. Like our current demos the actions remain symbolic, they express contradictions, but are unable to contribute to a shift in direction of society or to build up spaces of social countervailing power. As the radical left and also the social grassroots movements are as weak as they are, there are not even starting points for common campaigns emerging, that could create or execute material pressure. Outside the militant left the political relevance of the attacks neither lies in their explanatory statements nor in a certain quantity, but mainly in that they could not yet be clarified or hindered by the investigating agencies. Insofar the attacks bear some politically randomness. In contrast the expropriatory actions of the "Superheroes" and "Superfluous" [more information…] at least initiated some social fantasies. Their public actions of appropriation and distribution in delicatessen shops and luxury restaurants in themselves are as well nothing but symbolic, but the same time they relate their critique to a general conscience of growing inequality and pauperisation processes. In the beginning of the 90s the RZ dissolved because they saw no possibilities anymore to militantly intervene into social (mass)struggles, respectively to support them. Meanwhile we reached a point where we do not even succeed to use street militancy to politically intervene and communicate politics critical of the system. The RZ were right in 1983 saying that "as long as the mass movements do not pose the question of power, our policy has to aim at strengthening the Left, at radicalizing them and widening their militancy." So from our point of view there are following questions to be asked for the clarification of content and for the practice of the radical left:

  • How can we strengthen the practical cooperation of the remaining rests of the radical left?
  • How can it be possible to agree on certain forms of action or fields of content, to make it possible that we reach a critical mass, resp. that we can build a political counterweight?
  • How can we better communicate our contents and approaches to the left and the broader public independent of our actions in a continuous way?
  • How can we make sure that our militant actions starting from mass situations (from demos, at fences or railroad tracks) get as much consent as possible, or at least acceptance before, during and after the actions?
  • How can we avoid that after militant actions like the demo in Rostock (which could not be planned, but were not surprising either) nearly no political statements came from our side?

It is important for us to get a discussion going about these points within the radical and militant left. As militancy we consider forms of action that elude themselves from the regnant frame of action, and concerning content, how they contribute to come closer to a society free of rule and coercion.

The debates of the "militant group" about their militant platform did not really help in that. There abstract lectures about historical deductions of forms of politics and resistance were given without pointing out in a concrete way, how militant and radical politics could contribute today to a strengthening of contradictions towards a breakage of the system. At the same time we assume that the militant and radical left has to continuously consider these questions. This doesn´t have to always happen in public. Possibly it could make more sense to discuss during the preparation of actions and campaigns properly in small circles, how contents and forms of action could contribute to strengthen social contradictions, resp. the radical left. It won´t help just to keep it up. This would be the deadly middle course for the radical left today.

Die rosa roten Panterchen