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(en) Germany, Rostock, More on the International Left Mobilise Against 2007 G8 Summit

Date Wed, 22 Nov 2006 12:58:34 +0200

Over the weekend of 10 - 12 November, three to four hundred activists converged
on Rostock on Germany’s Baltic coast to plan protest against and resistance to
the next G8 Summit, to be held in nearby Heiligendamm, 6 - 8 June next year.
1. Friday Night: Opening Plenary
The first session was a plenary in which we heard around thirty
speeches concerning hopes and fears for the mobilisation. Immediately
the diversity of the gathering became apparent: from the NGOs and
ATTAC – groups which would describe themselves as part of the ‘global
justice movement’ rather than anticapitalist – to socialist parties
of both revolutionary and reformist hue, to the
anarchists/horizontals/autonomists. International speakers included
those from Denmark, Greece, France, Scotland (Donny Nicholls from SSP
Youth), England (Guy Taylor from the SWP), and a Polish anti-war
activist. In connection with this last mentioned speaker, it’s worth
noting that Poland (a) is very close to Heiligendamm, and (b) has a
significant commitment to Iraq, and (c) by the time of the summit in
June, the situation there is likely to be even more disastrous, with
the occupiers quite possible involved in a chaotic pull-out. (Swedes
and Slovakians were also at the opening plenary, though I did not
hear them speak.)

A speaker from Russia (which has just hosted the G8) was not the only
person to warn that the police had had years now to hone their
tactics against mass blockades, and that blockades spread around the
country were needed. When I had the chance to speak, I gave an
opposing view, based on the experience of Scotland in 2005. Specific
tactics, I suggested, would have an influence on the outcome, but
what would be more decisive would be the material forces involved. In
Scotland, the only nearby cities had a combined population of less
than a million, whereas within 120 miles of Heiligendamm were
Hamburg, Berlin and Copenhagen, cities with over six million
inhabitants; not much further away was Poznan, with nearly a million.
In Scotland, the blockades had managed badly to disrupt the first day
of the G8, and were ended not mainly by police action, but by the
blockaders failure to prepare the logistics for a long stay on the
road network. Because we had half expected not to beat the police
cordons during the night of 5/6 July 2005, we did not have water,
stoves, food, or materials for improvising shelter. This speech got
approval from some quarters; it seems that a lot of people in Germany
are taking the idea of a blockade very seriously – see s.5 below.

Other specific campaigns which were represented by speakers included:
the campaign against the ‘Bombodrom’ bombing range which the German
government is proposing in Mecklenburg Vorpommern (the state in which
Rostock and Heiligendamm are); the campaign of Togolese refugees, of
whom there are several thousand in the former East Germany;
X-tausendmal Quer (against transport of nuclear waste across
Germany); Gerechtigkeit Jetzt (Justice Now); People’s Global Action;
and the Interventionist Left.
No particular wing of the movement(s) seemed predominant, although
the organisers seemed mainly drawn from the more conservative wing,
i.e. the NGOs/ATTAC. What was really encouraging to see, for an
‘Englander’ like myself, was the willingness of these various strands
to work constructively together against the G8, whilst not abandoning
a respectful criticism of each others’ politics: a refreshing change
from the separatism we have experienced in Britain around such big
mobilizations as the London ESF (2004) and the Gleneagles G8 (2005).

2. Programme of Events

Also laid out on Friday night was the programme of events developed so far:

A campsite (location TBC) will run from Fri 1 – Sat 8 June.

The main demo against the G8 will be held in Rostock on Sat 2 June.

The day of action for migrants and refugees will be on Mon 4 June.

The anti-militarism day of action (including a blockade of Rostock
military airbase) will be on Tue 5 June.

The mass blockade of the summit will run from Wed 6 – Fri 8 June.

At the Friday night plenary the proposed dates for one of the main
events, the counter-summit, were given as Wednesday to Friday, i.e.
parallel to the G8 summit, and the mass blockades; however this
turned out to be controversial and may change (see s.4 below).

3. Saturday: working groups

On Saturday, various working groups had a chance to introduce
themselves to a plenary session. They then took place in two sessions:

Session 1:

* Police
* Neo-nazis – political and practical consequences [the far right
present themselves as ‘anti-globalization’ – JT]
* European marches to Heiligendamm
* Media activists
* Trade unions
* G8 and global agriculture
* Christian groups
* Sexism/sexual violence
* Solidarity Economics
* Bicycle caravans to Heiligendamm
* International Outreach
* War & Peace

Session 2:

* Demonstration
* Mass Blockades (Block G8)
* Anti-militarism
* Counter-summit

4. Counter-summit working group

About forty people attended this working group. From the start there
was a strong difference concerning the proposed dates, which would
mean the counter-summit running exactly concurrently with the G8 and
the mass blockades (Wednesday 6 – Friday 8). The NGOs/ATTAC/the
Interventionist Left (so-called!) did not mind the clash; the German
militant left and the internationals were very concerned, arguing to
move the counter-summit to start on Sunday 3.

Peter Wahl (ATTAC) played down the clash – after all, he said, what
difference would a thousand people absent from the blockades make? (A
dishonest argument, since Peter Wahl has surely been on a few
blockades and picket lines in his time, and knows what difference!)

Several internationals (e.g. from Greece, Sweden, and from the
British SWP) warned that it would be near impossible to mobilise
people to travel merely for an international demo on Saturday 2 June:
there needed to be something on the Sunday, and that was the role of
the counter-summit. A different point, put forward by (amongst
others) Revolution Germany and myself, was that the clash forced
people to choose whether they were people who took practical action,
or people who thought and discussed, whereas what our movement needed
was people who took action informed by thought and discussion.
Furthermore, whilst it might be desirable to hold the counter-summit
concurrently with the actual summit, for the blockades it was not a
question of desirability, but absolute necessity, and so the onus was
on the summit to move.

In the face of these compelling arguments – and their being put
forward by a clear majority of the meeting – Peter Wahl said that
since a number of important participants (by whom we might understand
IG Metall who are providing funding) were not present this could not
be a decision-making meeting! Rather, he said, it was intended to be
‘consensus-building’ – an obvious impossibility, we have to answer,
if he and his allies arrive unprepared for compromise. The
internationals asked where and when the decision-making meeting would
be, so that we could attend that: we got no answer, as expected.

If the counter-summit organisers did not treat the conference as
having democratic rights, they do at least seem to have used it as
market research: the compromise presented to the final plenary shows
they seem to have heeded some of the internationals warnings, at
least. The situation was left as follows (but be prepared for a
possible U-turn!): Sunday 3 June, counter-summit all day; Monday 4 –
Tuesday 5, counter-summit in evening only; Wednesday 6,
counter-summit all day; Thursday 7, counter-summit in morning only.

We were told that the counter-summit is to be organised around four
themes (with the theme of Gender running throughout):

* Poverty
* Environment
* International system and its transformation
* Democracy

There will be an opportunity for groups to put on sessions, but the
details of how this is to be done have not been published yet (we
await the minutes of the working group).

5. Sunday: Mass Blockades working group

On Sunday there were further working groups. I attended the
continuation of the mass blockades group (it had started on
Saturday). The campaign has an English call-out here, and is notable
for the range of groups who have involved themselves. The campaign
leaflet currently gives these as:

X-tausendmal quer - - against transport of nuclear waste in Germany;
IG Metall Jugend Dessau - - Trade union youth (Dessau);
IG Metall Jugend Halle - - Trade union youth from (Halle);
IG Metall Jugend Berlin - - Trade union youth from (Berlin);
AVANTI - - who describe themselves as an ‘undogmatic left project’;
BUKO - - Federal coordination for internationalism;
Antifastisches Linke Berlin - - Anti-fascist Left of Berlin;
BASTA! - - Left youth from Lübeck;
BUNDjugend - - Youth section of BUND, an environmental group similar
to Greenpeace;
AKU Wiesbaden - - 'Working Group for the Environment' from Wiesbaden;
Redaktion Fantômas - - Left magazine;
Antifa-KOK Düsseldorf und Umland - - Anti-fascists of Düsseldorf and
surrounding area;
Institut für Theologie und Politik Münster - - Institute for Theology
and Politics (Münster);
Grüne Jugend Bundesvorstand - - Green Youth Federal (i.e. national) Executive
Radikale Linke Nürnberg - - Radical Left of Nuremberg
Interventionistische Linke - - Interventionist Left
[‘solid] - - Socialist youth organisation;
Antifaschistische Linke International Göttingen - - International
Anti-fascist Left (Göttingen);
Werkstatt für Gewaltfreie Aktion Baden - - Workshop for Non-Violent
Action (Baden);
Junge Linke.PDS Sachsen - - PDS Youth (Saxony).

So far there have been many discussions of tactical differences –
unsurprising given the range of groups – but also a willingness to be
united against the G8. The differences included debates about what
constitutes ‘non-violence’, however one thing is sure, if the
blockades do look like affecting the summit, they will certainly face
the violence of the German police.

Having taken part in the Gleneagles blockades in 2005, I was able to
contribute some reflections that might help the blockaders to be
effective in 2007. There were three main points:

1. It is not possible to make a plan for the blockade until the last
minute; we need to know the strength and location of the summit
routes and defences, and we also will not know the size of our own
forces until they turn up. But it is possible to plan to make a plan!
More explicitly: we need to secure a venue for a mass meeting, and
infrastructure like large screens for showing maps, diagrams, etc.,
as well as communication equipment including photocopiers.
2. As in Britain, in Germany, people are used to working in small
groups of, say 10 – 20. These can be coordinated in action using
delegated spokespeople. However, if the blockades have thousands of
participants, there will be a need to group the 10s and 20s into
further groups of around 100, and these in turn need to delegate
spokespeople. This bears a certain similarity to military
organisation, but it needs to be done in a bottom-up way.
3. Whilst the manoeuvres of the blockaders cannot begin to be
sketched until the eve of the blockade, some preparations can be
made, because some requirements are unchanging. Block G8 plans to
close down the summit for three days. The implication of this is that
they need to take to the fields for 72 hours. Certainly if blockaders
plan to return to camp for every meal the police are going to find
them very predictable! The weather in Mecklenburg Vorpommern in June
is very warm, but thought still needs to be given to food, water, and
electrical power (not to mention the maintenance of collective
organisation!) under bivouacking conditions.

The Block G8 campaign has decided to have a further meeting on
February 11 2007, location in Germany TBC.
Copied from infoshop.org
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