The mobilisation around the 2007 G8 summit in Heiligendamm, on Germany’s Baltic coast, marked a highpoint for the left and radical-left in Germany. Some have described the event as the return of the counter-globalisation movement as a social force in Europe.
The protests around the 2005 G8 summit at Gleneagles in Scotland saw the institution develop an almost unprecedented level of legitimacy in the world’s eyes. By asking it to ‘make poverty history’, an unlikely coalition of pop stars, politicians and parts of global civil society managed to obscure the fact that the G8 – and the system for which it stands – are in fact the root cause of poverty, not its eliminators.
This year’s summit was different. On 2 June, over 80,000 people demonstrated in Rostock against the G8, rejecting its claims to democratic and political legitimacy. A few days later, 15,000 people succeeded in blockading all the roads to the conference centre, cutting the G8 off from its vital infrastructure of translators, service providers, diplomatic advisors and journalists.
Delegitimation of protest
Despite Chancellor Merkel’s attempt to cast the summit (and herself in particular) as an effort to get serious on the issue of climate change, there was a relative failure to produce the kind of legitimacy that the Gleneagles summit had enjoyed. And this is where the other side of the same coin came into play: the delegitimation of the protests against the summit. Stories were fed to the press about Rebel Clowns using water pistols to spray the police with acid. Stones were reported as being thrown where nothing of the kind had taken place. References to the potential ‘return of left-wing terrorism’ were constant.
These efforts at delegitimation were not isolated events, taking place in a state of exception around the world leaders’ meeting. Over the past few months, there has been a steady attempt to intimidate and criminalise parts of the left and radical-left in Germany. The primary means by which this has been being done is through the construction of a ‘terror’ discourse. The notion of terror has – discursively, if not (yet!) legally – now been expanded so far as to even include the daubing of buildings with paint! Fear has constantly been stoked by a series of high profile and sensationalised raids and arrests.
On 9 May, more than 40 properties, including social centres, offices, bookshops and private homes in Berlin, Hamburg and elsewhere were raided by police. This was part of an investigation into the ‘forming of a terrorist association to disrupt the G8 summit’ and, under paragraph 129a of Germany’s anti-terrorist law, the supposed ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’, namely the ‘militante gruppe’ (Militant Group or mg) said to have carried out a number of acts since 2001.
The raids backfired and had the perhaps surprising effect of galvanising the mobilisation against the summit. The same evening, more than 10,000 demonstrated against the wave of repression in different cities across Germany, and over the coming weeks many accused the federal prosecutors of having scored an own goal – consolidating rather than dividing the left.
On 13 and 19 June, shortly after the summit, however, another series of raids took place. Again they were justified as part of an investigation into the ‘formation of a terrorist organisation’ – this time said to have committed arson attacks in the German cities of Glinde, Bad Oldesloe and Berlin against military vehicles and a company said to be involved with the arms industry.
A further wave of arrests took place on 31 July and 1 August. During the night, three people, Axel, Florian and Oliver, were arrested for supposedly attempting to set fire to four German military vehicles on land owned by the company MAN in Brandenburg, near Berlin. They too were accused of membership of the mg.
Shortly after their arrests, the private flats and in some cases the places of work of a further four people were searched. One of those whose homes were raided, Andrej Holm, a sociologist based at Berlin’s Humboldt University, was also arrested under paragraph 129a. The reason given for the four’s suspected involvement with the mg was that during their time as students, or while working on their PhDs, they had developed the ‘intellectual capabilities’ to be able to write the group’s ‘relatively demanding’ texts. Free access to libraries was supposed to have allowed them to carry out the necessary research, and the use of phrases such as ‘gentrification’, ‘inequality’ and ‘precarity’ were said to have appeared in both the mg’s texts as well as the academic work of at least some of those accused.
The only material connection between Axel, Florian and Oliver and the other four were two allegedly ‘conspiratorial’ meetings between Florian and Andrej. The fact that Andrej is said not to have taken his mobile phone with him to the meetings is cited as indicating its suspicious nature.
Upon arrest, Axel, Florian and Oliver were flown by helicopter, amidst a media frenzy, to the supreme court in Karlsruhe before being remanded in custody at Moabit prison, Berlin, where they currently remain awaiting trial. The police have since been accused of using excessive force while placing the three under arrest. Andrej Holm was also initially remanded in custody.
The prisoners have been held in solitary confinement in cells of six to eight square metres in size. At least one of them has had extremely restricted access to showers, on the basis that his isolation can not be guaranteed in the washroom. The accused have only been able to communicate with their lawyers through glass partitions. Severe restrictions have been placed on the number and frequency of visitors that they are allowed to receive.
Having received worldwide support from both social movements as well as hundreds of critical social scientists who have demanded his release, Andrej Holm was eventually freed from prison on 22 August. He continues to face serious restrictions on his movement and the prosecution is appealing against his release. The appeal will most likely be heard in October.
This year sees the 30th anniversary of the so-called ‘German Autumn’, the climax of the cycle of violence and counter-violence between the German state and the leftwing urban guerrilla group, the Red Army Faction (RAF). It makes the climate rife for instilling a fear of the ‘resurgence of terror’ – with a widely expanded definition.
Fortunately, the collective memory of the left and liberal-left from this period is (mostly) strong enough to keep in mind the means by which the terror discourse can serve a ‘divide and rule’ function – encouraging splits between the movement’s ‘moderate’ and ‘extreme’ ends. The result of such splits, of course, always lead to a redefinition of what constitutes ‘legitimate’ dissent and what does not. More and more forms of resistance to the status quo begin falling within the single term: ‘terror’.
The broad and growing movement against the wave of repression has three principal demands: freedom for the three remaining prisoners, solidarity with all of those facing charges and the abolition of paragraph 129a.
For more information, in both German and English, see http://einstellung.so36.net
Charlie Clarke and Heather Mendick discuss how to work through the tensions within Momentum
As man-made global warming gets closer to the tipping point, Andrew Simms finds reasons to be positive about averting catastrophic climate change
In this extract from his new book The Candidate, Alex Nunns tells the inside story of how Jeremy Corbyn scraped onto the Labour leadership ballot in 2015
Graham Jones proposes a framework for a diverse movement to flourish
Musician Eliane Correa reflects on the fading revolution
Trump's victory is another sign of the failure of the centre-left's narrative on climate change. A new message is needed, and new politicians to deliver it, writes Alex Randall
Siobhán McGuirk says the question we are too afraid to ask is simple - what kind of society leads to Donald Trump as President?
The battle lines are clear. Democracy is in peril and the left must take itself seriously electorally and politically. Ruth Potts speaks to Gary Younge, who was based in Muncie, Indiana, for the US election, about the implications of Donald Trump’s victory
We need a society built on openness, community and equality to truly defeat everything that trump stands for, writes Nick Dearden.
Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving
Utopia: Industrial Workers Taking the Wheel
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry – and its lessons for today
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions
Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release
Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette
The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU
Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release
University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.
Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.
Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History
Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.
A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas
Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'
The Fashion Revolution: Turn to the left
Bryony Moore profiles Stitched Up, a non-profit group reimagining the future of fashion
The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.
Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.
Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism
What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry