#Blockupy Frankfurt 2013: Analysis and evaluation from Finns

Tervehdys/hey/hola/ciao/hallo/ kaikille/all/todxs/tutt*/alle,

the handful of Finns who were in Frankfurt got home safely. We have spent the last week editing videos and writing reports of the days, as well as sharing our feelings, thoughts and ideas on what took place and what we thought should be reconsidered. Hopefully this message reaches you all well, and connects with other evaluations presented, such as the ones done by some of the Italians. (http://milanoinmovimento.com/primo-piano/valutazioni-sulle-mobilitazioni-no-bce-di-francoforte) By a quick, googletranslated reading, it seems to have common crossing points with our evaluation, even if the point of views expressed differ.

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Thank you Kelly and Corinna for gathering the thoughts from the coalition and for presenting many important points to follow up; especially the request to write down minutes on the happenings and the planning of a virtual transnational meeting to compensate for the one that didn’t take place on Saturday. We have gathered to collect the memories of our group and will present them alongside with some critiques in this letter. Hopefully something can be born out of the critique we see necessary to write down. After the action, on Sunday, we also filmed an one-hour-long interview or dialogue between one of the Finnish and Kelly from iL, which includes thoughts on many of the concerns expressed in the this letter.

This is the interview “Blockupy Frankfurt 2013: A Conversation After the Days of Action”:

Blockupy has left us with mixed feelings. It is good to know that you are working on making the best out of the events of Saturday through media work, and are standing up for the right to gather, protest and organize, a right that has been trampled upon through the history. We consider, in any case, that it is not enough in itself: the practices of common struggles in Blockupy should be thought over, if we want to ensure that a truly inclusive low-threshold participation in protests is possible and also that the situation of Saturday will not happen over and over again.

Certain issues concerning the common practices (common both in the sense of “commonly agreed on” and “seeking commonality”) need to be addressed: how to deal with the question of language and translation? Why did the ‘transnational’ part of the official programme largely get cancelled at the last moment or turned into German-speaking one? Does the organizing of the marches into such tight blocs exclude less organized people from processes of decision-making in situations arising during protest? And do they offer an easy way for the police to cut the procession into detached parts to kettle, just like happened on Saturday? What is most important in tense situations like the one of der Kessel: standing up brave against the police or inventing ways to concentrate on the people who are present, taking care of everyone and starting inclusive forms of protest even within the people trapped inside of that vulgar display of police oppression? How can we learn from the new methods of protest that flourish in crisis-ridden South? How can we make struggles to travel and connect? Why is media activism or autonomous media so often frowned upon, even though it offers  a way of transmitting struggles as well as producing safety within the protest? In brief: how to create new practices of resistance that are active instead of reactive, inclusive instead of exclusive, common instead of identitary?

From the arrival in the Anticapitalist camp and the first assemblies we thought the organizational structure to be relatively closed and the main objective of the action-centred assemblies was the passing on of information that was already planned somewhere else. The international assemblies never took place or were merged into the German-speaking ones. The loss of the moment of having simultaneous assemblies after the demo both in English and in German and a larger general assembly back in the camp weighs this loss further. Opening assembly as space of collective evaluation and space for European-wide discussion on political alternatives is important for Blockupy to be a process in which the participating collectives can change together, find common points of struggle and constitute alternatives to capitalist regime and the undemocratic governance of the states and supraestatal power structures. Best way to broaden and deepen the methodology of direct democracy is by trial and error – experimenting together, critizicing, trying again better, evaluating, making a re-run. We consider that assemblies and the practices of direct democracy they entail could well be the one most important issue that should be thought over in the methodological sense when the thinking and organizing of the next Blockupy takes places.

The two people from our group, working on transmitting news and reporting to Finland, encountered a doubtful atmosphere due to bringing work equipment to the camp but refusing to stay in the media section of the camp. During actions on Friday and Saturday the media group was repeteadly asked to stop filming (in general, not when filming individuals). We have gathered that this way of transmitting struggles has not been accepted in Germany to such a wide extent as it is present in for example Spain: we would like to argue for opening up space for this form of struggle, because we have endless evidence on how media work is the best way to expand, connect, and share struggles both within the local areas as well as transnationally. In many cases this is the only way to do it, since precarity, exploitation and lack of resources effectively impedes the participation of most people in meetings such as Blockupy. In some areas, also in Finland from where we came to Blockupy, the event and the repression were reported in the mainstream media only by citing the police bulletins. And we all know the accuracy of them, don’t we?

Media work also has a crucial importance in creating a safe space for anyone inside a kettle or otherwise repressed. Each camera creates safety for people joining in protest. In Spain the footage from protests has already worked as a legal proof, enabling the withdrawal of severe false accusations and thus protecting people from arbitrary legal actions. This is why we want to say “if I can’t film, it’s not my revolution”, and that goes for streaming as well.

There were many wonderfully beatiful moments of collective successes and breakthroughs in trying out new methods of protest. We remember with particular joy the totally incredible action of Friday in the shopping street of Zeil, going in to the stores of huge clothing chains such as Zara and others in the framework of bringing to the fore the global exploitation chains running for example from Bangladesh to Frankfurt. This form of protest was truly capable of bringing in participants outside of the already organized groups and making an open participation structure possible: it was a beautiful sight to see young people, possibly without previous political background, joyfully taking into the dead spaces of consumption and making them their own – and in moments of tension taking an interest on other people’s condition in a common agency of protest. The drum group played a huge role in making this possible. For either instinctively or by careful planification their methods offered a possibility for participation for anyone who was walking on that street during that time.

At all times during both Friday and Saturday there was a strong support from the local people. During the 9?10 hour long kettle the workers of the Opera passed down water and food in big buckets, and threw us toilet paper for the improvised toilet. It was an invaluable help.

The feeling inside of the kettle was blocked to a halt. We know that by saying this we are presenting a view opposite to for example that expressed by Kelly in the above-linked interview. So we try our best to formulate this well: it is possible and even probable that the demonstrators inside of the anticapitalist bloc proper (inside of banners and props) could keep up their mood, feel that they were together and didn’t need to be afraid. The structural problem of methods of resistance comes into play due to the fact that not all people who were kettled were part of this bloc, or participated in the preceding organizing of it, or were involved in any possible consensus reached within it on the forms of action. The people outside the bloc but inside the kettle were left outside.

There were various intents to affect the atmosphere by proposing open assemblies, to lessen the decisionist feeling of a blocked situation where the possible outcomes were either a violent charge or mass detentions (since police taking the decision to back off seemed unlikely, and even more so with the pressure of blocked negotiations rising the tension). We think an assembly would have been a way to create an inclusive space where the tension could be relieved and everyone could share what was on their mind – both regarding the repression that had locked us to the place, as well as in relation to the political issues that had brought us to take the streets together. These proposals were, however, dismissed.

Our analysis, then, follows these lines: the decisions made in the kettle by the anticapitalist bloc were too concentrated on taking confrontational stance and being brave in waiting for the inevitable (mass arrest / violence) on a moment which called out for concentrating in taking care of everyone inside the kettle and creating our own moment and initiatives despite the repression. It is important, both for the well-being of the people incarcerated from the rest of the demonstrators and for the integrity of the movement, to try to recuperate these kind of situations by taking active stance, not just reactive defence, in directing the attention on what constructive actions can be taken in hours of stalemate both in and outside the police blockades. The violent actions taken by the authorities in Saturday were nothing but one concrete manifestation of general political oppression cast over Europe at the present. Taking a firm stand against it, especially when we are literally being beaten to the ground, is of course necessary, but focusing on it merely by way of direct confrontation is only to submit to their logic, rules, and control. The conflict was, after all, initiated specifically by the police. If we can’t find ways to retake our active stance in these kind of situations, we are deprived of our initiative, autonomy, and political freedoms. In that case the moments of unnecessary confrontations we are forced upon reduce not to acts of resistance but that of submission to the physically, psychologically and politically violent methods of the state and the capital power.

We would also like to put in question the organizing of the march into tight blocs, and asking other people to join in between the organized rows. It produces a symbolic and concrete separation of ‘activists’ and ‘other people’, and it also greatly contributes to the police strategy of cutting off of the ‘more radical’ parts of the demonstration, since many people without experience in street tactics are not familiar with practices like holding hands and using props to keep them together. In this we see it important to speak up for “less” organization than “more”, this meaning inventing ways to protest which don’t necessarily need tight grouping or previous steps of organization. This speaks for thinking less on beforehand-consentuated strategies and thinking more on creating common methodologies, that can be practiced by anyone and that can connect people in a more spontaneous way, or are more contagious in moments of protest. We strive here to provide some arguments that indicate that the point of departure of being in the streets together should be that of the everyday life of the exploited, the precarious, the subaltern, the excluded, the people ? instead of the professional activists, the ones “who know”, “who are brave”, “who can stand repression” etc. The question stands: are we working towards finding ways of being able to stand better under oppression, or towards finding ways to not having to stand it at all?

Even if it is not the main issue we have chosen to address, the police repression was obviously brutal and marked a turning point from last years policial strategy. No more was it the buroucratic ‘fuck you’ of making people sit in kettles and wait for a slow processing through an improvised and lawless machine of identification, confiscation and detention: this year it was straightforward physical violence. Due to this we want to send our most grateful greetings to the groups of demonstration medics who attended to the almost 300 injured. Without them the toll of the day would have been much more high. We will also conserve in our mind the images of expanded resistance, the local people washing the eyes of the pepper spreyed and the worry and rage in the eyes of the passers-by absorbed into the gathering outside the kettle.

The repression being horrendous as it was, we propose to reflect on that partially the blame is on us until, and unless, we choose to collectively open up the theme of methodology of struggles and make ourselves conscious about what could be done to turn the situations of blocked dynamics around, thus eviting violence. This is crucial for enabling a generalized social protest that could affect the power structure of capital and articulate new forms of social organization, different from the dying state that offers it’s last breaths to warm the ones who already have enough resources to distribute to all.

We propose thinking further on and learning more from the Spanish asambleas and other methods of direct democracy. We propose forgetting blocs and instead discussing together on open and inclusive methodology. We propose starting to imagine together other possible positive outcomes for the coming situations of repression. We propose always opting to include anyone who wants to take part, and creating a structure of struggle that makes this possible.

There is one last critique to be made, one that addresses an incident we consider an outraging blow to the practice of direct democracy through overruling a possibility of a collective decision. This took place in the last hours of Saturday, when the kettle was dissolved and the police lines opened . The head of the demonstration joined the remaining people from the other side in a mood of happy reunification: people immediately regrouped and started chanting “die Mauer muss weg” to the police. We said that the route is ours and we will march to ECB. At this moment die Linke’s representative group started cooperating with the police, shepherding the people around and away from the first rows. There was an announcement from the remaining car (the power of soundsystem controlled by die Linke, and possibly Attac and Verdi, of which we are not sure) that the demonstration will march back to Hauptbahnhof via Baseler Platz. Many people, us included, got angered by it, and one German comrade went to the car with what we consider a just demand, that the decision should be collective and not theirs to take. They gave 0 interest. Since half of the people wanted to return and half wanted to march to ECB, assembly was proposed to discuss this and other matters. Again, 0 interest, and so the individuals controlling the car negated a collective solution. The demonstration was intercepted, the people being already too tired to resist after 12 hours of intense conflict and quite likely unwilling to inflict internal turmoil within the demonstration.

We want to transmit our angry greetings to the individuals who took these decisions, which were totally contrary to any idea of direct democracy, which Blockupy claims to practice as a form of organizing itself. We hope the coalition doesn’t let this pass on without making it an issue. Even if the die Linke representatives inside the kettle had some role in impeding full charge against the kettled people, we still have a more vivid image of the “Election tour 2013”-car of die Linke driving through the Anticapitalist camp each day…

So we consider the motto or action consensus of this years Blockupy, “from demonstrating to civil disobedience” as both a success and a failure. On one hand we have the experiences of Zeil and other forms of low-treshold disobedient protest forms. On the other hand we have strongly criticized the desobedient bravery that manifested on Saturday as one of creating exclusion and being incapable of turning the dynamics to our advantage. We do, of course acknowledge that the decisions of not doing assembly, for instance, is not ill intended – we are merely opening this question on methodology as a general question on structures & practices of working together. We also acknowledge that the concrete acts of repression we all witnessed effectively reveal the structural oppression of the capital to many people who still might have doubts about it – but the protest can’t stop there. That revelation should be a beginning, not the end. If the methods we currently use are not in themselves enough to stop the political, economic, and violent repression and exploitation, and if they are insufficient in creating and maintaining ways of life that can escape the state and capital oppression, we must engage into a process of collective thinking of new, better methodologies strong and contagious enough to maintain uncompromised inclusivity and effective constitutive action.

Capitalism is not going to be stopped in exclusive protests and democracy will not be reborn through them. We need to constitute instead of solely blocking. We call out for methodologies of struggle that can overcome decisionism and move on to a open forms of organization, in this way destroying the division between “an activist” and of “anyone”.

With much love,

Renne Pesonen
Lasse Poser
Antti Ronkainen
Lotta Tenhunen

3 Responses to “#Blockupy Frankfurt 2013: Analysis and evaluation from Finns”

  1. I agree with your main criticisms. Openness and real transnationalism, horizontal amd participatory structures need to be improved in blockupy. But it was the police repression that took away the horizonal assemblies in front of the ecb planned at the end of the march. I agree with the finish comrades that the demonstration could have taken a more active position using assemblies and common action. blockupy is an open and participatoriy movement structure but at the same time a coalition of in some cases rather traditional initiatives and organizations. This is sometimes a big advantage necesary to make a strong voice against the troika hearable in germany, it also made posible the construction of a broad consensus on the right to active civil disobedience. The combination of horizontal organization, disobedient action and coalition builiding seems to me a difficult but unavoidable challenge for the future, not only for blockupy. And participatory methodolgies are certainly crucial in achieving this task. I believe the analysis provided by our finish friends can be useful in the effort to create more participatory structures in the construction of the blockupy actions 2014 against the inauguration of the new ecb buidling in francfort.
    martin (fels berlin)

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