communists in situ

leberwurst proletariat

Tag: refugees

Field Notes: February 2017

Editor’s Note

No one could call globalization a failure: To the succession of the hottest years ever must now be added the achievement of a distribution of wealth in which eight men (six of them Americans) own the same wealth as the 3.6 billion people who make up the poorer half of humanity.

 

Elephant Blues

Shortly before Donald Trump’s electoral victory, a bizarre alliance of sorts emerged: from one side, military and foreign policy bureaucrats, neocon hawks and politicians, mainstream liberals and their favorite press outlets (Financial Times, New York Times, the Economist, etc.); from the other, left-wing militants, anti-racist activists, social justice warriors, and other fans of democracy.

Standing with Syrians: An Open Letter to an Anti-Imperialist

Eva is a real person whom I have known since 2007, as described in this article. But in this text Eva stands for many politically engaged individuals, whether outspoken or silent supporters of the Syrian regime and its allies. I will not re-post her photo here. In a world flooded with images, it is important to maintain our ability to imagine a moment.

 

Passing Notes with Refugees

The Iranian refugees in Calais sewed their mouths shut and went on a twenty-five-day hunger strike, after authorities destroyed the tents they were living in while they waited for asylum.

From Welcome to Farewell: Germany, the refugee crisis and the global surplus proletariat

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by Felix Baum

In the summer of 2015, almost overnight, Angela Merkel transmuted in international public perception from a brutal whip of austerity policies, relentlessly squeezing already impoverished populations in the crisis-ridden South of the European Union, to the last defender of the humanist values Europe likes to take pride in. Having been regularly portrayed with a Hitler moustache in countries like Greece, she now reemerged as St. Angela, protector of the refugees. While Eastern European countries were busily erecting fences to stem the tide of unwanted intruders, and while the French state declared it sufficient to take in a mere 24,000 Syrians over the next two years, the head of the German government refused to give in to calls within her own party to limit the number of refugees, which was approaching one million (and eventually surpassed that figure by the end of the year). And just as the German hawkishness in dealing with the economic crisis of the Euro zone—seemingly irrational as it only deepened the recession—made observers resort to trivial psychology (was it maybe an exaggerated fear of inflation, deeply engraved in the German mentality, that drove those policies?), the willingness with which the German state, spurred on by its leader’s now famous We can manage!, opened its doors while almost everyone else did the exact opposite, left smart journalists wondering if Merkel’s biography (East German = victim of a Communist dictatorship = empathy for the persecuted) might provide a clue.

More critical observers, of course, suggested other readings. Some Marxists detected an “imperialist offensive” behind the German state’s seeming humanitarianism, welcoming Syrians to gain more influence on the war ravaging their home country while at the same time pushing for “a European solution” to the refugee crisis which, given Germany’s hegemony on the continent, could only turn out to be a solution in Germany’s very own best interest.1 Others focused more on the domestic situation, arguing that refugees are indeed most welcome in Germany, namely as fresh meat on the labor market at a time when many manufacturers are complaining about growing shortages of workers. In some cases, this line of interpretation feeds into a kind of left-wing nationalism that openly advocates “protecting” German workers from undue competition by foreigners. One prominent example is Sahra Wagenknecht, a high-ranking (and formerly Stalinist) politician of the parliamentary Left Party, who attacked Merkel’s policy as a “total failure of the state” and came out in favor of limiting the influx of refugees as the “population’s willingness to take them in has limits.” This earned her not only praise from the new right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD), but also a brown chocolate cake thrown in her face by leftist activists at a recent party conference.

Flashmob gegen Männergewalt, Köln 2016

Regardless of their political implications, both readings contain a grain of truth but ultimately seem questionable. It is true that the right to asylum, far from being an immaculate expression of humanism, has always just as much served as an instrument of power politics. (According to a recent study, of the 233,000 refugees the U.S. accepted between 1956 and 1968, a mere 1,000 did not come from “communist” countries, to name but one example.)2 And it is equally true that for capitalists, however much they claim that the ultimate goal of all their altruistic strivings is to provide jobs, full employment is simply a nightmare, as it strengthens workers’ bargaining position. Indeed, over the last nine months, representatives of German business have successfully pushed for lowering the barriers for asylum-seekers to enter the labor market. Still, both readings tend to underestimate to what extent politics, rather than following a consistent strategy, amounts to a hectic and highly contradictory muddling-through against the backdrop of growing global chaos. And what is more: if refugees are so beneficial for German capital and the imperial ambitions of its state, how is it that more recently the state-proclaimed “welcome culture” of summer 2015 has given way to very determined efforts to reinforce Fortress Europe?

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Political art group sets up Roman-style arena for refugees to be devoured by tigers

The Berlin-based collective Center for Political Beauty has launched a provocative stunt called “Eating Refugees.” It targets a law that prohibits refugees from flying into the EU without a visa.

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Known for its provocative actions blending theater and political activism, the collective of activists known as the Center for Political Beauty launched its latest intervention on Thursday. Called “Eating Refugees – Distress and Games” (“Flüchtlinge fressen – Not und Spiele”), it is an unusual spectacle.

Outside the Maxim Gorki theater in Berlin are four tigers in a cage. The caretaker is dressed like a Roman gladiator; his insignia refers to the European Union. In the background is a picture of Germany’s President Joachim Gauck.

A huge poster shows a little girl asking her mother: “Why don’t refugees just take a plane?” in reaction to the countless people who drown while crossing at sea or suffer trying to reach Europe on foot.

Against this setting, the group announced it was looking for refugees desperate enough to be ready to be devoured by those Libyan tigers. In a video, the activists claim that Angela Merkel and the German government, like a Roman emperor during a gladiatorial combat, have to power to stop this from happening with a simple thumbs-up gesture.

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Migration, refugees and labour

In depth analysis of EU migration and the ‘refugee crisis’ in relation to labour market restructuring and working class composition

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(translated from: wildcat no.99 – winter 2015/16)

The ‘summer of migration’ has ended. While numerous initiatives still support the ‘new citizens’, through organising day-to-day support, festivals, language courses and much more, the political class wants to invert this dynamic: they try to erect new borders, enforce deterioration of social standards and to use the refugees to politically divide the working class – as a catalyst for a very far-reaching social re-formation.

Within the political left, views on this development can be divided roughly into two sorts: some conceptualise the impressive self-organisation of refugees and the tearing down of border fences as ‘autonomy of migration’. Others see Merkel’s policies from a solely functionalist perspective: migration is beneficial for capital’s interest in cheap, qualified and motivated labour power and in additional contribution payers for the pension funds.

In reality these two aspects come together. By migrating towards the northern European centres many people try to become active subjects again. Capital wants to make use of their social energy for the restructuring of labour markets and to put pressure on local class relations. Furthermore, mass migration can have similar effects, like an economic stimulus program, by creating employment in job centres, in teaching, in construction, in the welfare and security sectors… in addition it lowers the reproduction costs of labour power (maintenance and education of a human being during the first two decades of their life costs around 200,000 Euro – Germany is a country of ‘old age’ and desperately needs young people!).

To have this impact proletarian migration must be controlled, something which those in power have increasingly been unable to do in recent years. The most recent stages of this loss of control were the escalation of the ‘refugee crisis’ in Greece in early 2015, the demolition of the border fences in Turkey in Mid-July 2015 in the aftermath of the fights over Tal Abjad in Syria and finally the trek of refugees from the main station in Budapest towards the Austrian border. In early September the arriving refugees were welcomed with applause in Vienna, Munich and other cities. Apart from the actual border-crisis, this reaction of the local population is the second aspect of the state’s loss of control and would have been unthinkable in the early 1990s. Thirdly, the ruling class has no strategy of how to ‘fight the underlying reasons for migration’. In fact, the opposite is true: the ever more brutal and destructive repression of oppositional movements in an increasing number of regions around the globe aggravates the social antagonism; crisis and wars result in the collapse of entire regions.

The about-turn of the Merkel government in summer was both an acknowledgement of this reality and an effort to re-claim control. The proclamation of a ‘culture of welcoming’ is part and parcel of this effort. Only by transforming the patient long-term work of refugee initiatives into a public event would the political class subsequently be able to invert it.

In the following we want to elaborate on the relation between the migration of refugees and labour migration into Germany within the European context. Initially, the distinction between ‘refugees’ and ‘labour migrants’ was a purely legal one: Greek workers who escaped the military junta and came to Germany in 1967 were categorised as ‘guest workers’. After the official recruitment ban of 1973, Turkish workers, who were trying to escape from the military coup in 1980, had to claim asylum. Senegalese migrants who risked their lives while crossing the Mediterranean were treated as illegal agriculture workers in Spain and as asylum seekers in Germany.

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Fire to the Houseprojects!

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Fire to the Houseprojects! A Manifesto For Berlin

“In spite of its tremendous potential, struggles in Berlin seem everywhere to get stuck in dead-ends. At the risk of provoking indignation, we seek to identify some obstacles that block the self-overcoming of the present situation, and in this way to open up a genuinely strategic and tactical discussion about how we might begin to move again.

The biggest obstacle to such a discussion is the prevalence of a moralistic approach to power and resistance. The latter is most clearly visible in the discussions we’ve encountered around the refugee struggle, but it is by no means limited to them, and seems to affect anarchists and other autonomous folks as often as it does mainstream leftists. We will therefore begin by drawing critical attention to a two-pronged gesture that we routinely encounter in Berlin: a moralization of questions of strategy, and a strategization of morality. Though perhaps well-intentioned (for whatever that’s worth), this perspective too often generates only paralysis, isolation, and self-neutralization.

The critique of this political-strategic moralism raises fundamental questions about the relation between anti-racism, privilege-politics, and capitalist crisis. Specifically, it challenges conceptions of anti-racism based either on a pure negation of an outside enemy (antifascism) or else on a self-congratulatory ‘recognition’ of our lesser-privileged neighbors motivated ultimately by white guilt. In each case, we fail to extract ourselves from a leftist ‘posturing’ that never asks the question of what it would take to increase our collective power of acting, thinking, and living.”

READ / PRINT

Hausprojeckte abfackeln! Ein Manifest Für Berlin

Trotz ihres gewaltigen Potenzials scheinen die Kämpfe in Berlin allerorts in Sackgassen fest zu sitzen. Auf das Risiko hin, Empörung hervorzurufen werden wir versuchen, einige Hindernisse zu identifizieren, die der Selbstüberwindung der gegenwärtigen Situation im Wege stehen, um so eine tatsächlich strategische und taktische Diskussion darüber zu eröffnen, wie wir wieder in Bewegung kommen können.

Das größte Hindernis einer solchen Diskussion ist die Dominanz eines moralistischen Zugangs zu Macht und Widerstand. Letzterer wird am deutlichsten in den Diskussionen sichtbar, die uns rund um den Kampf der Flüchtlinge begegneten, bleibt aber auf keinen Fall darauf beschränkt. Von daher möchten wir zu Beginn die kritische Aufmerksamkeit auf jene doppelte Geste lenken, der wir routinemäßig in Berlin begegnen: das Moralisieren von Fragen der Strategie und das Strategisieren der Moral. Wenn auch vielleicht in guter Absicht (was auch immer das bringen soll), erzeugt diese Perspektive allzu oft nur Lähmung, Isolation und Selbstneutralisierung.

Eine Kritik dieses politisch-strategischen Moralismus wirft grundlegende Fragen zum Verhältnis von Antirassismus, einer auf Privilegien fokussierenden Politik und kapitalistischer Krise auf. Genauer gesagt stellt sie antirassistische Konzepte in Frage, die entweder auf der reinen Ablehnung eines äußeren Feindes (Antifaschismus) oder der sich selbst beglückwünschenden ‚Anerkennung‘ unserer weniger privilegierten Nachbarn aufbauen, die letztlich von weißen Schuldgefühlen getrieben ist. In beiden Fällen gelingt es nicht, uns einer linken ‚Haltung‘ zu entziehen, die niemals die Frage stellt, was wir brauchen, um unsere Handlungsmacht zu vergrößern.”

READ / PRINT

The Dead are Coming

Center for Political Beauty – The German government’s worst nightmare is coming true: Over the next few days, refugees who drowned or starved to death at Europe’s external borders on their way to a new life, will be brought to Berlin. The aim is to tear down the walls surrounding Europe’s sense of compassion. Together with the victims’ relatives, we opened inhumane graves and exhumed the bodies. They are now on their way to Germany. Their relatives decided what will happen to them once they arrive.

This is where you will find out where exactly in Berlin the victims will appear. We will re-transform Europe into a continent of immigration. Please note that due to the explosive nature of the intervention, we will only announce the arrival of the bodies 6 hours in advance (especially bearing in mind the authority of the German Federal Police, Ministry of the Interior, Chancellery and Federal Border Guard).

News: nytimes / dw / thelocal