Reflection text for the “United We Fight” Discussion and Actions days on 30.10-01.11
We publish this text from the Interkiezionale-Bündnis as an evaluation of the international discussion & action days that took place from Friday the 30th of October to Sunday the 1st of November in Berlin. We chose to write a text for both the demo and the discussions, as we consider it important to be transparent on the thought processes, ideas and motives of the Bündnis. We believe that transparency is an inherent element of our politics, as the sharing of information breaks down unwanted hierarchies of “insiders” and “outsiders”, and gives space for discussion, (self-)critique and (self-)reflection to take place in the broader scene.
THE GOALS OF THE CALL
Intekiezionale is a coordination of threatened projects, groups and individuals in solidarity, that attempts to fight back against the eviction of our spaces. One of the main means of achieving this for us is through providing the space for the movement to experience collective moments. As we consider the stuggle of the projekts, a struggle of the whole movement in Berlin, we consider it important to organize events open for people to take part in and fight together with the projekts. This can be through mass demonstrations, in which the scene can express itself collectively in the streets before or after evictions, but also through general assemblies or info-events, which give the space for an exchange of views and sharing of experiences.
With regards to the latter we believed these days of discussion would be a welcome boost to this area, and offer the space in different settings (smaller events but also big general assemblies) for people of the scene to come together and discuss, reflect, criticize and in the end better understand the experiences we had together in the last months, after the two evictions of Syndikat and Liebig34. This would then create perspectives for the struggles to come.
The international aspect is something that would reinforce the above process, as in many places in the world, autonomous, self-organized spaces are under attack. We consider it important to bring attention to these similar fights, which include different experiences, as this could be a step forward in adapting and adopting new ideas and strategies and creating new perspectives.
The planning of the international days started already in summer, after the eviction of Syndikat, and began intensifying during September. The first major setback we faced was the announcement of the eviction of Liebig34 on the 9th of October. We decided to go forward with the international call for two main reasons. First, we considered that the eviction would expand our mobilization for the defense of Liebig34, turning the issue from a one-day event on Tag X and the few days around it, to an action month centered around the defence of our projekts. The second reason was that we believed this would put pressure on the state when they were planning an eviction at the beginning of a month, knowing that there was an internationally mobilized weekend on the same topic at the end of the same month.
On the downside, the situation of having to organize and mobilize for two events in the course of just a few weeks in October of course detracted from and drained capacities. Although people really put a lot of effort into all this organization, perhaps we underestimated the work involved in these events, or overestimated our capacities to realize them.
A second major setback was the announcement of the new anti-covid19 measures from the state, not only in german territory, but in multiple other places in the world in which we had mobilized in the previous weeks and months. This created a set of problems, beginning from finding places to host events, to mobilizing people, not only internationally but from Berlin itself, to come and take part. We still decided to make the call, although we understood that the situation would reduce the participation and the overall dynamic.
Firstly, we believe that we shouldn’t act according to the state's proposals. We consider the pandemic a real threat, and we think we should take measures against it. However, in the same way that there was not a problem with the Day X demo for the eviction of Liebig34 on the 9th of October, there should not be a problem to continue acting on this topic from the next day on, just because the state has decided that this is the point to take their measures against the pandemic. The second aspect that led to the decision, is that we see the state-measures as two-faced. On the one hand they forbid people to gather, and on the other they allow the influx of thousands of cops into Berlin in order to evict Liebig34. They deny people their leisure time and social life, but do not have any problem in continuing to force people to go to work. In the end the measures leave untouched all the issues we struggle for and against, but forbid us from actually acting upon them. The pandemic is a big threat to our lives and the lives of those around us, but the same stands for evictions, gentrification, repression and cop-violence, and we cannot step back, stand silently and observe this just because the state has told us to do so.
Looking back on the concept our attempt to circumvent possible problems from the cops under the excuse of Covid19 measures did not work. We tried to be too inventive but in the end we didn't calculate that people would be confused or even demotivated with the concept of the infopoint. A second mistake with the infopoint was that it only opened on the first day of the events, which was too late. Looking back, we should have maybe offered multiple infopoints in different neighborhoods in the days prior to the events, so people would have a broader time frame and more options around the city to get informed about the locations of the events.
Another aspect that worked against us was late and limited mobilization. As mentioned above, due to the eviction of Liebig34, a lot of the planning and particularly the mobilization for the international weekend was postponed due to lack of capacities and the focus on the eviction of one of our projekts.
The idea that the eviction of Liebig34 would be enough mobilization for the weekend was also not materialized, partly because of the limited mobilization on our side, with too few posters and texts spread around. The fact that many of our spaces are closed or operating with limited capacities due to Covid19 restrictions made the possibility to mobilize even less.
A second reason that this did not work is a kind of ritualistic mentality that widely exists in the scene which sees Day X as the peak of the struggle, with not much taking place afterwards. One of the goals of the call was to try and intervene and work against this mentality, and since this did not work, this remains an open question for the future.
Too many events/actions
Since summer, Interkiezionale and the projekts it consists of have been in a constant process of organizing bigger or smaller events against the evictions and in support of the projekts. The "Raus aus der Defensive" demo on 1.8, the Day X demo for Syndikat on 7.8, the Feminist Action week on 7-13.9 which included a demo on the 12.9, the Day X demo for Liebig34 on 9.10 and finally the "United we Fight" weekend and demo on 30.10-1.11. In between and parallel to this a dozen info-events have also taken place in different cities in Germany and abroad to mobilize, along with several general assemblies for organization and reflection in Berlin. As mentioned before, this led to the overworking of the Bündnis and the individual groups and projekts in it.
Another critical point, apart from with regard to our capacities, is that the bombardment of events might sometimes lead to a fragmentation of the general capacities of the scene, spreading participation and perhaps confusing people on the importance of each event. Big events like these are not the only way of bringing the scene closer and strengthening the struggle of the projekts, and we should also explore other ways of doing this.
Repression's role in our relationships and discussions
It could also be added that a weekend of events with discussion and collective growth/development as central to its aims inevitably comes up against problems when faced with a culture in Berlin's anti-authoritarian scene of clandestinity and anonymity. Of course we recognize and respect that there is often an extremely valid need for this, due to the nature of some groups or actions and in the face of repression, it may be a contributing factor in poorly attended info events, less discussion prior to and in reflection of events, and a general wariness of more open cooperation and collaboration. In this way we see the insidious workings of repression pushing our politics further and further to the margins of the public sphere.
It is interesting and rather ironic that on the one hand, the social makeup of VVs is always changing, hindering a development in discussion as points are often repeated by or for newcomers, while on the other, smaller discussions, at least in the case of this weekend, were always attended by the same people, again meaning that, although discussions could develop more fruitfully, points were often repeated from discussion to discussion, which may not have happened had the attendance been larger and more varied. This can lead to a hierarchical situation in VVs where we as the orga answer questions and take feedback in a top-down manner, rather than an occasion for a collective sharing of information in order to develop. It can be the case then that the ever changing public attending VVs and the like feel unable or unwilling to involve themselves further, while many of those organized already do not want or do not feel able to discuss things in more open scenarios. Repression, of course, has a central role in all of this, as not only does it put off organized people from more open discussions as mentioned above, it dissuades newcomers from becoming more invested in our struggles, and arguably creates an atmosphere in which they can not be as easily welcomed.
Despite these critiques the weekend was full of interesting discussions. From youth centres to the Ohlauer school occupation, the spectrum of topics in the events was broad, and offered much to think about regarding one of our main concerns in "connecting urban struggles". Events on the topic of autonomous zones, the registration law, self-organization in times of corona and urban struggle in the city of Paris were some of the examples. People got together and exchanged views and perspectives. Both events we held the most hope for- the FLINT VV on the first day and the open VV on the last day- had the highest participation, proving that people are interested in coming together to discuss, build together strategies, and set up goals.
Given the circumstances a lot of people from abroad came showing their solidarity. Their presence was really empowering, showing us that even during this period people choose to be active and present, fighting and resisting. Bonds were made, ideas were shared and projects were initiated which will hopefully come to fruition in the future.
The output of the weekend was the shared need of connecting our struggles more, of creating common strategies, and of realizing collective moments where all the different struggles come together and meet under a common perspective.
One central idea to the whole international weekend was the demonstration on the 31st of October. After discussion, we decided on the route, starting from Helsingforser Platz, continuing to Warschauerstr and Südkiez, and finally arriving in Nordkiez, with the peak of the demo outside the evicted Liebig34 and its dissolution there.
Deciding on this route our goal was first of all to have a powerful demonstration in one of the most gentrified areas of Berlin- Sudkiez. Having a demo marching in this area could allow us a social-address to the people hanging out at bars and restaurants there, spreading our struggle and content.
Südkiez, besides being a highly gentrified area, is one of the areas in which Padovicz possesesa large number of properties, so by choosing this area we chose to target one of the biggest real estate owners and the company which brought the eviction of L34 to court. By having this route in this district we also gave the opportunity those in solidarity coming from abroad to pass in front of some of the infra-structures of the movement and see the relationship that the house projekts have with the scene. Moving to Nordkiez, our main goal was to pass by the most recently evicted house-project, Liebig34, recognizing the importance of L34 as an active house in the neighborhood but also as an anarcha-queer-feminist collective, with the aim of giving a strong and optimistic message to the crowd: standing in front of the house, reclaiming the public space against state, capital, cops, and machos, and making clear to them, that even if they have evicted the house the fight is not over.
People's participation from the beginning was demotivating. In the starting point we were not more than 80 people. As the demo marched we managed to reach approximately 1200. While we understand the situation with the corona measures, with the ongoing attack on autonomous spaces the number of participants didn't reach our expectations or goals. Even if there was an attempt to reach and involve a broader spectrum, the results were not as positive as expected. We lacked organized people, but also bigger blocks and organised groups. Recognizing our own responsibility for this we are working on finding solutions to connect with other structures. Although we didn't find a solution on connecting the struggles, we have faced this obstacle beyond this specific demo.
The fragmentation of the topics and the mentality of political expertise on different political sections does not move the struggle forward. In addition, facing the perception that considers Day X as the peak of the struggle and immediately redirects its focus to the next Day X, we recognize that, as part of the movement, we lack true bonds and connections between the movement and the struggles. Recognizing and pointing out the known problems we should all work towards establishing deeper relationships amongst different struggles.
Starting around 19.45 the demo marched through Warschauerstr. in the direction of Südkiez. Despite the fact that people were shouting slogans, the energy was low. However as the demo was continuing, people were getting more and more active by spreading flyers and shouting slogans loudly. Passing by various house projects the atmosphere became more dynamic and the people got more confident. When the demo arrived at Frankfurter Allee there was a split for a few minutes that was quickly recovered. Arriving at Dorfplatz in view of the evicted house, people got even louder. In this moment people from the roof of Liebig34 dropped a banner and lit pyros, symbolically re-squatting the roof of L34 and proving to the state and its cops that they cannot evict a movement. At the same time a barricade was burning at Liebigstr and 2 more around Forkenbeck park. After staying for some minutes at Dorfplatz the cop's kettle became more and more unbearable. People were leaving and the cops were getting more. Beatings and arrests started to take place so the demo decided to continue until Bersarinplatz and dissolve there.
The stance of the police was clear from the beginning. An escalation from our side wouldn't be an option. The mass checks at the starting point made it obvious that the cops had a plan and were well prepared. During the demo the cops were always on both sides kettling the body of the demo. They were moving in teams of 5-6 cops -not 10 as usual- ,a form that gave them the chance to be flexible and quick. Observing every situation and always ready to brutally intervene, they made it obvious that their stance also had a political and tactical concept behind it.
A confrontational demo from our side on a day that was not close to an eviction cannot be accepted because it could create the idea that we, as a movement, are in a position to choose the means of our politics outside their plans and their agenda.
Following the demo offensively from Dorfplatz, the cops decided to escalate and attack the first and the last block. Beating up and pushing the first and the last rows, cops were trying to arrest as many people as possible. In this moment the demo was able to defend itself, avoiding arrests by jumping in to intervene, and proving that being confident in the streets does not only mean attacking the cops, but also defending the body of the demo, our comrades and our friends.
Facing our mistakes and areas lacking, we also noticed positive outcomes of the demo. Apart from the banner drop at L34, the barricades and the solidarity that people showed during arrests, we managed to show that the fight is not over. 3 weeks after the eviction of L34 people once again got together, demonstrating against the state, the capital and the city of the rich.
Our call also joined the call from Terra Incognita Squat in Thessaloniki to turn October into a month dedicated to solidarity and struggle for every occupied ground threatened by repression. We have to recognize that as in Berlin, the plans from our comrades and friends in the greek territory were confined by repression. Very few actions took place in October, and the pandemic state of emergency with a curfew since the beginning of November, made every move against the regime, and the rebuilding of our own structures, very difficult. This proves the urgent need for new approaches to escape this grip the state has, which attaches great importance to the use of public space.
Potse, Meute and Køpiplatz, are still under threat of eviction, and thus are in need of support, especially in the times of restrictions we are going through. Liebig34 has made clear that despite the eviction, the collective will keep working and fighting further. This shows how our struggle does not end or even peak with the eviction of a projekt. The projekts we are defending are more than the rooms that host them, and this is the reason we fight for them in the first place. In a city that is becoming more and more hostile to the excluded and isolated, not only through gentrification but through other restrictions against the oppressed, the struggle for self-organization and anti-authoritarian spaces is becoming more imperative. We need points of reference to meet and discuss, safe spaces away from what oppresses us and strongholds to defy and attack them.