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<nettime> taking stock of rostock
Alex Foti on Sun, 8 Jul 2007 10:14:19 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> taking stock of rostock


Rostock: a new start for the European antiglobalization movement

Not since Genoa a countersummit has generated so much hope for the
renewal of the heretic left and rekindled anticapitalist energies in
Europe and beyond. Although the G8 is by now a quarrelsome club
yielding little power, split as it is between Europe and America on
the issue of climate change and diminished by the anachronistic
exclusion of China and India from the clique of economic powers,
Rostock-Heiligendamm 2007 has proved being a boost for global protest
against corporate globalization, especially in Europe, after the
relative decline in the movement's ability to mobilize in the
aftermath of  the neocon invasion of Irak and the fundamentalist and
repressive responses it has engendered everywhere. The reasons for
this are partly conjunctural, partly structural: Since 2001, Rostock
has been the first G8 summit held in continental Europe, arguably one
of the two heartlands of the global left (the other being Latin
America, of course). The summit was organized by the core country of
Euroland, Germany, whose conservative Chancellor presided both over
the G8 and the EU, in its Eastern, formerly communist half, thus for
the first time in the new setting of post-cold-war Europe, where
history has accelerated incredibly over the last two decades, unlike
in Western Europe, where gerontocratic and backward-looking tendencies
still dominate the political debate. Furthermore, since the shocking
neonazi pogroms of asylanten of 1992, Rostock had become the negative
symbol of the xenophobic and nativist winds sweeping across Europe. No
longer. The Rostock protests of June 2-4 have now turned the Hanseatic
city  into a symbol of anticapitalist resistance. Also, after years of
relative dominance by the discourses and practices of Southern
European movements (mainly Italian, Spanish, French), Rostock has
marked a shift toward Northern and Eastern European movements, more in
line with the dynamic fault-lines at the heart of current European
politics. Finally, Rostock marked a possibly irreversible schism
between the generation grown on the barricades of Prague, Gothenburg,
Genoa, Paris, Barcelona, Copenhagen, and the more respectable side of
the anti-globalization movement, like the official socialcommunist
left and NGOs such as ATTAC and Greenpeace: the spirit of Rostock is
not the spirit of Porto Alegre.

In early May all the BlockG8 convergence centers, as well as
apartments of activists in Berlin and Hamburg were raided by the
federal criminal police under the ignominious charges of "terrorist
conspiracy to overthrow the G8 summit". Behind this vulgar witch-hunt,
was the christian-democrat minister of the Interior, Wolfgang
Sch=E4uble, promptly rechristened Stasi 2.0 by activists. But the
German movement was not intimidated, and reds and greens in Parliament
protested the suspension of the Rechtstaat operated by the Merkel
government. In fact, the repressive strategy of pre-emption backfired,
as it redoubled the resolve of activists in Germany and around Europe
to make it to Rostock and Heiligendamm no matter what. In the days
immediately before the Rostock general demonstration of June 2nd,
Taz, the voice of the post-68 leftist generation, published a graph
charting the forces taking part in the gegenG8 protests, actions and
blockades. Leftist groups were classified according to two axes:
reformist/radical on one side, and verticalist/horizontalist on the
other. Well, I argue that only the radical-horizontalist combination
embodies the spirit of Rostock (indeed, the spirit of Seattle), since
those were the groups that organized the camps, resisted the police,
braved the actions, and (wo)manned the Heiligendamm blockades. In
fact, that region of the graph contained the two networks that were
the backbones of anti-G8 protest: the Interventionist Left, the
autonomist and antifascist force that drove the pink cartel "Make
Capitalism History" (g8-2007.de), and the anarchoglobalists of Dissent
(Dissentnetzwerke.de), the only =96 like it or not =96 veritable
expression of transnationalism from below that exists today within the
global movement against neoliberal globalization and neoconservative
militarism. After the rioting of June 2 at the Rostock harbor,
triggered by the incursions of the police evidently dissatisfied by
the peaceful demo that had taken place, ATTAC condemned the autonomen
(black bloc for the rest of the world) who had thrown rocks at
robocops and Pinochet-style water cannons, but the Interventionist
Left, who nevertheless had ATTAC members and people close to Die Linke
in their ranks, steadfastly refused to do so. Among the left-leaning
press, only Junge Welt did not stigmatize the actions of what Italians
call the noglobal generation. On June 3, Taz myopically titled
"Never Again Another Rostock", thereby excommunicating virtually
every demonstrator under 40. Not only the black bloc was huge that
day (more than 5,000 people of mixed gender and nationality: a Black
Sea by the Baltic) and was at the head at the demo, but most of the
demonstrators in the sandy plain next to the Move Against G8 concert
stage supported materially and morally the fierce resistance (the sky
was clouded with stones and bottles) put up by black-clad protesters,
who repeatedly forced the riot cops to retreat. When after a few
hours of rioting more than a dozen water cannons were pulled in and
we got fully encircled with only water behind our shoulders, antifa
and intervenionist leftist trucks interposed themselves between
protesters and police. There was a silent, tense standoff. Then Bob
Marley blared from the soundsystems and protesters started dancing on
armored vehicles, completely disorienting the exhausted riot cops:
after hours of chaotic clashes, the battle of Rostock was finally
over. Many boys with black hoodies, sunglasses and baseball hats then
returned to the camp with pink flowers in their hair, while most of
the girls had their hair dyed shocking pink. What I mean by this is
that violent resistance is just an element of the ecosystem of protest
unveiled at Rostock. Black resistance and pink blockades go hand in
hand, and pink clowns were defended by black anarchists when the
police roughed them up during the actions and demonstrations: pink
and black are complementary and not substitutes, like many, including
myself, were led to believe in the past few years. Furthermore, the
black sweatshirt has become a universal symbol of anticapitalistic
self-identification, even among people that would never throw
a bottle: it simply means you're on the side of Ungdomshuset,
Mehringhof, Rote Flora, K=F6pi, and other nodal European social squats
currently threatened with eviction and persecution. Urban rebellion is
spreading across many European cities because there is a widespread
feeling that the whole anarcho-punk, radical-autonomist, pink-queer
way of life could be wiped out if we don't put up major resistance
against police repression and the assorted forces of bourgeois and
clerical respectability.

Pink, Black, Pirate: an experiential chromatography

The kaleidoscope of emotions and inspirations swirling in Rostock,
in its demos, actions, camps, media and art centers, cannot be
easily described. It was a manic rush, an incredible show of radical
strength and post-national solidarity. To conclude this essay, I'd
like to touch on symbolic aspects of political iconography and
vexillology that in my opinion point to future developments in the
manifestations of social dissent by the European radicalized youth.
The major presence of antifa red&black and antimperialist red groups
notwithstanding, the most innovative expressions seen at Rostock were
pink, black, pirate. Pink was omnipresent in Rostock, in the feminist,
queer, and downright heretic (i.e. pinko) sense of the word. Make
Capitalism History had a pink star as symbol and the actions at the
Bombodrome (a military base) sported a pink&black antifa flag and pink
piramids. At the June 2 demo, the much-applauded euromayday contingent
of superheroes against precarity carrying balloon-signs and organized
by Fels (F=FCr eine linke Str=F6mung =96 "For a Leftist Current")
and Die =DCberfl=FCssigen (The Superfluous), the cross-metropolitan
activist network against welfare countereforms, carried a big pink
banner saying: "Let's make the g8 precarious, flexifight vs the new
world order!". The June 4 demo to assert the rights of migrants, stop
deportation and shut down detention centers for sans papiers waved
a pink flag with a black star and people in front carried a huge
pink banner over their heads saying "Don't have sex with a nazi".
The fantastic actions performed by the Clown Army (pink and green
camouflage, arlequin flag) and the pink samba bands (silver jolly
roger with two crossed swords over pink flag) were the most evident
expressions of this political tendency that has progressed immensely
since the pink block emerged in London and Prague around 2000 and then
spread to all culturally deviant Europe. The Queer Barrio in Reddelich
advertised by a poster with pink bunnies, and the Pink Rabbits
providing the alert system when cops showed up at the Rostock camp
were other instances of the flowering of pink in Rostock-Heiligendamm.
Pirates and piracy are immensely popular among kids and youngsters
and were another defining chromatic feature of Rostock's protests. As
the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise scores high at the box office,
Pirate Bay is bankrupting Hollywood with its free p2p filesharing
service. Pirates have traditionally been about challenging state
sovereignty (see Marcus Reddiker and Hakim Bey) in order to build
post-sovereign forms of self-government based on horizontal networking
and mulatto camaraderie: Tortuga as the first modern autonomous zone.
True to form, the Jolly Roger was waving on many tents and in all
the actions, often either black-on-pink or pink-on-black. And Sankt
Pauli soccer supporters with their black and jolly-rogered sweatshirts
descended en masse to Rostock from Hamburg to join the fray.

In Rostock, we understood that we have been left alone to build
an anticapitalist opposition in Europe, that the radicalized and
precarized twentysomethings and thirtysomethings from all the
cities of the continent, both East and West, must bear the brunt
of the securitarian Europe put in place by Merkel, Sarkozy, and EU
government and business elites. But the future is unwritten and our
black-and-pink pirate flag waves higher and higher, while the paler
and paler red and green colors of the middle-aged European left recede
into irrelevance, due their timidity and pusillanimity. The movement
managed to fight back against police intimidation and went on to block
the summit. At this stage, it seems like we are the only hope left
versus the undemocratic system of unified markets and coordinated
policing European =E9lites have in store for us:

"A, Anti, Anticapitalista:
no border no nation, stop deportation,
no nation no border, fight law and order!"

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