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(en) Germany, A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ANARCHIST COLLECTIVE FROM BERLIN ABOLISHING THE BORDERS FROM BELOW

Date Tue, 02 Aug 2005 17:40:31 +0300


The Berlin-based collective "Abolishing the Borders from
Below" began its activities in autumn 2001 and was formed by
a handful of East-European migrant anarchists and political
and counter-cultural anti-authoritarians. From the very
beginning our activities were focused on both socio-political
and counter-cultural aspects, while the anarchist principles of
non-hierarchical structures and decision-making processes
were taken as the common ground for all our activities.
Resisting the rules of capitalistic, parliamentarian and other
doctrines dominating all aspects of social relations today, we
decided on promoting anarchism as the possible alternative; an
alternative to the social-systems based on competition,
segregation, obedience, exploitation and violence. However, it
has to be stressed that, as a collective, we have never decided
on one program or exact description of what form of
anarchism we are aiming for.

There are many reasons for that. Among them: the great
differences between the backgrounds we come from, from a
young anarcho-punk standpoint to that of experiences of
participation in the “Solidarnosc” movement (polish
workers movement of the 80’). From the beginning we
have been rather intuitively using this variety of diverse
experiences, standpoints and visions, for breaking the dogmas
and letting “our vision of anarchism” develope freely
and see it rather as an ongoing process than as a particular
unmistakable concept we need to reach one day. So if one
would necessarily like to place AbolishingBB (2001-2004) on
the global map of the revolutionary left one should see our
attempts as heading towards a collective that strongly supports
a variety of issues but based on anarchist values, while the
AbolishingBB version of anarchism should be seen as a
permanent process of collective praxis and theory in order to
form our own alternative and see it as a little piece of the
complexity of the alternative social relations which we call
Anarchism. That is also why we call ourselves an anarchist
collective and not an anarchist organization.

In these few years of activity, the collective has managed to
create, and continuously improve on, a regular anarchist
publication with quite a wide popularity among various
spectrums of anarchists around the whole continent (and
beyond). The publication has the same name as the collective
itself and its full name is: Abolishing the Borders from Below
– an anarchist courier from Eastern Europe. That is why
many people believe we are specifically a magazine publishing
collective. Actually there are other projects we have been
involved in over the years. We built up (namely!) and opened
our office in Berlin, which serves as a meeting space for other
anti-authoritarian leftwing groups and which also has a small
libertarian library with a focus on Eastern Europe.
AbolishingBB has also organised solidarity actions,
informative meetings, exhibitions and other political and
cultural events. From the very beginning we have cooperated
with other anarchist groups, projects and campaigns both
locally and around the world, especially in Eastern Europe.
Depending on our limited capabilities we have always tried to
give our support to various local and global struggles fighting
against all kinds of oppression, each time trying to enrich these
struggles with an anarchist perspective.

Since the very beginning, the collective has tried to confront
and consciously exercise one of the biggest issues of an
anarchist perception of social relations, which are the
mutual-relations between freedom & preferences of individual
and the concept of collectivism. During this time we have been
through and created various forms of cooperation within our
group, some were better than others. Learning from our own
mistakes and enjoying watching the progress within our praxis
seems to be two common parts of AbolishingBB reality.
Remaining faithful to our intuitive understanding of anarchism
as a process under permanent construction (which we are part
of) we have never considered this process to be finished. This
fact was of the biggest importance especially in winter
2004/2005 when the collective found itself in at a very difficult
stage…
Basically, winter 2004 was for the ABB crew a really cold
one... some of the problems that were affecting the collective
for a long time, arrived at a "breaking point"… the collective
at that moment found itself drastically reduced in numbers and
facing a kind of existential crisis. Several questions were raised
with a strong impact among the few people left in the project:
how did we get to this point, how are we going to go forward?
The people from the old collective tried to question themselves
deeply, in order to not let the project come to a certain death,
since everyone was still convinced of the importance of its
existence. Some meetings started slowly to take place again,
where participants began to reflect on the past 3 years of
activity, and also – what was felt as a really necessary thing
– to let a good and healthy self-criticism come out: the
people felt this was really necessary to continue the project.

One of the very first topics approached was definitely how to
get more people involved in the project, since a lot of people in
the last years left the collective for very different reasons; we
started to ask some people who were already collaborating, on
different levels with the collective, if they would have liked to
engage themselves on a deeper level of participation... it looked
like that this trick functioned, and the number of the
collectives members doubled itself! With new energy, we could
start to talk about ourselves...

We at first discussed how the collective found itself in this
position in order to avoid mistakes for the future and learn
from our mistakes of the past, a method which we feel as a
constitutive part of our anarchist praxis... major problems that
were faced were:

*
a drastic reduction of the collective numbers;
*
a consequent overwork and over-responsibility for the
people left, which leaded to a bad and problematic division of
the work;
*
a related power dynamic within the collective, since some
people took more responsibility for many things and it was
seen that this procedure increased consequently the level of
power between people "who do too much" and people "who do
too little", this phenomenon, involving responsibilities from
both sides, also raised the level of stress for some people;
*
the consequent, slow disappearance of some of the
anarchist values that were animating the spirit of collective;
*
...financial problems, of course...
*
the problem of male domination within the collective also
arose since at least the last year.

We felt it absolutely necessary to approach each of these
correlated themes during the meeting time, which we set up
again for every week. Discussions took place, with good
self-criticism but also with a good and positive look to the
future, approaching the different problems, in a meeting
structure where everyone was invited to express his/her own
points...

Slowly the new ideas started to come out; a new and more
effective organizational structure of the meetings themselves
was set up, and the machine started somehow to work again...
In particular, one of the things to note was the importance of
the concept of tasks sharing. In the ongoing discussion about
the next issue of the newspaper, also came a strong need for
wider task sharing, in order to avoid repeating the
above-mentioned difficulties.

What basically we felt was really necessary in our collective, is
the building, day by day, of a deep and strong sense of
solidarity and mutual support, so as to make possible the
development of our own project on these values, as well build
for the wider libertarian and anarchist community for which we
are aiming.

In the meanwhile, discussions on other related themes are
taking place: just to mention, we are slowly revitalizing our
anarchist east European oriented library, in our office in Berlin,
as well as having deep talks about our engagement as a
collective in the ongoing struggles here and around; the
participation in the anarchist Balkan book-fair in Zagreb; some
more theoretical discussions within the collective about
anarchism and other topics… also, we were able to set up,
together with other radical groups here in Berlin, a
benefit-party for ourselves and other projects, because
unfortunately the problem of finance is for us, like for almost
every other anarchist group around, always more than present!
Also in this direction, we are trying to find out, besides the
usual benefit-parties, (which anyway remain one the most
loved ways), how to get some money, for us and for projects
we would like to solidarise with, of course in ways that
conform to our anarchist principles.

Last but not least, we finally decided the date for the
publication of the next, long awaited, issue of the newspaper...
1st of June 2005.

So, it looks like the project is more than alive at the moment,
the morale is high, we try to look forward and stay strong on
our permanent and fluid process of construction, and we’d
like to say that we are totally happy that the importance of this
small project is felt, not just by us, but also by the people
around, here and in the world, who have always contributed,
now and in the past (and hopefully in the future), to the life of
it: financial support, discussions, actions, solidarity, the
spreading of mutual support and anarchist ideas, the building
of libertarian communities, each of these forms is, for us, felt
as an absolutely important contribution to our/your projects
and our/your struggles.

It’s for us absolutely necessary also to mention again, that
the existence of our courier is mostly made possible thanks to
the great job of our correspondent team from eastern Europe,
who are the people who actually do the most work concerning
the writing of reports and of personal analysis about the
ongoing struggles taking place over there. We don’t want
that people reading our courier would forget about them.

As a last point… some of you could be curious as to why we
are silent in this text about the issue of the specific situation of
ABB as the almost exclusively MIGRANT political group. The
answer is simple: while there definitely exist some objective
boundaries and "abnormalities" connected to our foreign status
and the wide variety of our origins that affect our activities, we
are actually trying to NOT ALLOW these difficulties to
handicap us and our work. It is a kind of automatic and
consequent collective-refusal of taking positions of
"Ausländern" and the role of "Migrants" in the society we
live in, which means for us no more and no less than just the
daily practice of what we have written on our banner:
ABOLISHING THE BORDERS FROM BELOW!

April 2005

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