Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Terror laws hit German left

The past few months have seen a wave of repression unleashed in Germany. Houses, offices, social centres and bookshops have been raided by police and several people accused of 'membership of a terrorist organisation' - sometimes for as little as having written academic texts about 'gentrification'. Frank Meyer reports from Hamburg

September 24, 2007
7 min read

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.

Police raids

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.

Further arrests

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.

Media frenzy

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.

‘German Autumn’

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

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.
Share this article  
  share on facebook     share on twitter  

Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making

Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show

The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services

With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas

Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world

A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle

Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune

Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali

To stop the BBC interviewing climate deniers, we need to make climate change less boring
To stop cranks like Lord Lawson getting airtime, we need to provoke more interesting debates around climate change than whether it's real or not, writes Leo Barasi

Tory Glastonbury? Money can’t buy you cultural relevance
Adam Peggs on why the left has more fun

Essay: After neoliberalism, what next?
There are economically-viable, socially-desirable alternatives to the failed neoliberal economic model, writes Jayati Ghosh

With the new nuclear ban treaty, it’s time to scrap Trident – and spend the money on our NHS
As a doctor, I want to see money spent on healthcare not warfare, writes David McCoy - Britain should join the growing international movement for disarmament

Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India
Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India, by Shashi Tharoor, reviewed by Ian Sinclair

A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour
A Death Retold in Truth and Rumour: Kenya, Britain and the Julie Ward Murder, by Grace A Musila, reviewed by Allen Oarbrook

‘We remembered that convictions can inspire and motivate people’: interview with Lisa Nandy MP
The general election changed the rules, but there are still tricky issues for Labour to face, Lisa Nandy tells Ashish Ghadiali

Everything you know about Ebola is wrong
Vicky Crowcroft reviews Ebola: How a People’s Science Helped End an Epidemic, by Paul Richards

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for an online editor
Closing date for applications: 1 September.

Theresa May’s new porn law is ridiculous – but dangerous
The law is almost impossible to enforce, argues Lily Sheehan, but it could still set a bad precedent

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee


1