Riot police working overtime as unions and anarchists link arms for May Day

  • Posted on: 1 May 2009
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>From <a href="http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6207808.ece">T... UK</a>

Protesters turned traditional May Day demonstrations into a rallying call against global capitalism as unrest spread through city streets across Europe yesterday.

Politicians in Germany and France had been warning that the financial crisis was about to spark social unrest. In some towns the words became reality, even if the skirmishes and petrol bombings felt choreographed.</td><td><img title="Welcome to Reality!" src="files/pictures/2009/fireandrock.jpg"></td></tr></table><!--break-->

“We want social disturbances, upheaval, and we will do everything towards that end,” said Markus Bernhardt, a spokesman for Class Struggle Bloc, which helped to steer the riots. “The system is violent and now violence is being met by violence.”

Unions estimated that 484,000 people took part in 400 protests across Germany. Riots in Berlin began on Thursday night when cars and rubbish containers were set alight. On May Day morning 700 anarchists blocked a railway station in an attempt to sabotage a neo-Nazi march.

A force of 5,000 German police officers found it difficult to contain the rioting. Officials said 48 officers were hurt and 57 people detained. “One can only advise drivers not to park their cars on the street,” Dieter Glietsch, the head of the Berlin police, said.

In France the usually fractious trade unions agreed to hold united rallies. Police said that almost half a million protesters had taken part in marches nationwide. Although numbers were lower than expected, in Paris tens of thousands turned out to vent their anger over President Sarkozy’s handling of the recession. Police said 65,000 took part in the mainly peaceful protests, though unions claimed there were 160,000, including the leadership of the opposition Socialist party, which traditionally stays out of the union-organised May Day marches.

In Istanbul officers used teargas and water cannon to prevent protesters entering Taksim Square. Riot police mounted three charges against protesters who had joined the demonstrations staged every May Day by the organised labour movement. Police said more than 100 youths ended up in cells there and in Ankara.

There was little to separate the words of the trade unionists and the anarchic fringes, with the global recession seemingly radicalising the leaders of the unions as they attempt to exploit popular anger.

Michael Sommer, the head of the German Trade Union Federation, called for taxes on the rich and an emergency law to force the wealthy to lend a portion of their fortunes, interest free, to the State. Mr Sommer, who has warned of imminent social upheaval, told a cheering crowd of several thousand people in Berlin that “this crisis is the work of greedy men”.

In Spain, where about 40,000 people joined marches in Madrid, Málaga and Barcelona, there was a call from Ignacio Fernández Toxo, the leader of the CCOO union, to stage a general strike if the Government did not consult unions over its plans for tackling the recession. José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Prime Minister, took the precaution of joining a rally in Madrid even though the marchers were protesting against the supposedly cosy relationship between the Government and business.

Popular unrest has helped to unseat governments in places such as Iceland and Latvia, and there have been recession-driven protests in Bulgaria and Greece. Although the May Day protests did not pose an immediate threat to incumbent governments they were regarded as a warning shot.

In Germany, where the economy is predicted to shrink by 6 per cent this year, the speed with which unemployment is rising is increasing the support for the left-wing party Die Linke, which has a foot in Parliamant and a foot in the anti-capitalist movement.

“If something happens on this May Day night it won’t be our fault but that of the police,” Kirill Jermak of Die Linke, one of the organisers of the Berlin protests, said.

Yesterday drivers of luxury vehicles could be seen discreetly shifting their cars to underground parking lots.

It was a good day to take the bus.

Comments

"There was little to separate the words of the trade unionists and the anarchic fringes"

I wish.

While reading this article I remembered a thread on Salon De Ver Luisant (the rest of the thread is in the link); it was a thread discussing the (general) anarchist analysis of global capitalism and our response so for. . .

Why I Do Not Attack Banks

Mere hours after the National Socialist Movement marched through downtown Jefferson City, Missouri angry working class people trashed windows and the ATMs of the First National and UMB Banks in Columbia, some 30 miles north. Unlike the Fascists that marched, we understand who the real enemy of working class people is and always has been. The rich bankers are not of any one religious, ethnic, or racial background. Even If one were to make such a generalization, they surely would come to the conclusion that whites that proclaim themselves Christian are in the majority of those exploiting us, not Jews, blacks, or immigrants. – communiqué from Missouri, November 2008

The communiqué above agrees that the fascists are right to blame the "bankers" but wrong to call the bankers Jews. This misses the point entirely and reproduces the half-way critique of capital that only focuses on finance, with all its propensity for resentment and personification. Coupling this mystification with anti-racist slogans does not erase this propensity. Instead of merely changing the answer to the question "who controls the world?" we ought to reply by asserting that this is the wrong question.

By personifying the class enemy as the archaic image of the rich banker (or more abstractly, ‘international banking interests’), anarchists end up accepting the "anti-capitalist" thesis of National Socialism (that society is dominated by finance capital), adding only a nominal denouncement of its racist or anti-semitic conclusions.

Banks are not the "face of capitalism". On a day to day level, banks do not have the parasitic or exploitative quality of a pawn shop or check cashing business, neither of which are being attacked. My small paycheck is deposited at a bank, I can take money out of an ATM. I pay for groceries with a debit card. It doesn't make sense to me to direct my anger there anymore than some other random business. For people who make mortgage payments the bank acts as a landlord of sorts, but I can only imagine that most people out there breaking bank windows do not own homes.

So, if attacks on banks are not the expression of self-interest or personal rage, why do anarchists focus on banks?

1) The reduction of anti-capitalist critique to the circulation of money, a circulation that is viewed as the fundamental basis for the economy. Banks are the easily visible representation of this circulation, even if individual commercial bank branches are inconsequential to the financial system.

Against this fixation on circulation, I reply that the fundamental basis for the economy is the production of commodities, the extraction of surplus value, the exploitation of human labor.

2) Adding momentum to anti-bank populism that is being pushed across the political spectrum in response to the economic crisis. You can turn on a television program or radio show about the crisis and hear commentators blaming the crisis on "greedy bankers", "wall street speculators" and the like. Gruppe Krisis in Germany compared this dialogue to a modern-day "stab in the back" myth. Why would anarchists want to play into this populist message? On the one hand it just isn't true: finance is not solely responsible for the current crisis. Beyond that, this populism anarchists are giving muscle and militancy to serves interests that are at odds with any project of liberation.

3) Following the herd. For a long time, one of the main images being projected by insurrectionary anarchists was of Greek anarchists "bombing banks" (damaging ATM machines with crude explosives made from camping stoves). This militant image of the anonymous hero in a skimask clearly inspired copycat action by other up-and-coming militants, spreading their images on blogs and internet videos in a self-referential game of spectators and action figures that ironically is organized along national lines. There is a blog for every country with an insurrectionist milieu.

I oppose the shifting of energy towards clandestinity and "actions in the night"....
------------------------------

For the most part, I completely agree with the above post. Anarchists, of all stripes, seem to be descending more and more into the populism of the massive anti-bank sentiment. Where did this populism come from? Why are many anarchists, even insurrectionary anarchists, jumping on this "movement" and using it as an outlet? Is directing your subversive activities at institutions of finance capital, merely in beat with the present populism, an intelligent thing to do? Is populism something anarchists should take advantage of?

While I lack a strong analysis of Capital, I can clearly see how populist sentiment could ruin anarchists efforts. I can see a clear relationship between anarchists riding the (false) hope of Obama's presidency and election (anyone remember the "Hope Bloc"?) and riding the anti-bank populism of the present. There is something wrong with this. But I can't really seem to place my response to it in words. I can only be descriptive of, what I perceive as, a failure on the part of anarchists.

"Against this fixation on circulation, I reply that the fundamental basis for the economy is the production of commodities, the extraction of surplus value, the exploitation of human labor."

In other words, work. Perhaps it's time anarchists started focusing more on an anti-work approach with their projects, instead of just feeding off one of the most popular media messages (i.e. wallstreet did it! the bankers are evil pigs! etc etc etc).

I can see how my words may come off as me pandering to the anarchist-activist milieu, but I'm really directing these words at anarchists who consider themselves apart from and/or critical of anarchist activism. It's obvious that anarchist-activists are the source of this "riding-populism"; so, I think it would maybe be a good thing to start developing a hard critique of this. Maybe....idk. I just read this article and remembered that post, so I thought I would put it up on here.

That's totally true. It's not Jews that are the main ones exploiting us, it's the Christians... the Protestants and some Catholics, who own all the businesses, who run all the Corporations. Jews only got involved in money-lending and non-labor-intensive jobs because traditionally the Christians and Muslims banned them from all other kinds of work.

This "Jewish Banker" crap is so lame. Who cares.

That's not the point. The point is that anarchists are following the populist line by placing all the blame on "the bankers". Capital is not just financial. Anarchists should be diverting peoples attention away from the media's populist bullshit and turning it into insurgent anger that is directed at every state and capitalist institution; not just the institutions of finance capital. If the majority of anarchists continue riding this wave of militant, anti-bank populism, then what's the difference between us and the neo-nazis?

Anarchists need to inject a much more solid critique of capitalism's totality into peoples minds. I mean, if you want to intervene in peoples daily struggles, wouldn't you want to make sure that it doesn't become wrought with the spectacularized issues the media drones on about all day, every day? Anarchist subversion shouldn't be based on political issues. It should be based on the daily alienation and repression that people face because of capitalism's total presence.

I think you are right on it is pointless to attack banks and fall into the populist view; unless it is the federal reserve bank!

I have been telling people since the so-called bailout began that all it is accomplishing is the devaluing of labor (in the long run)which is what I consider to be the problem in first place because
labor has been static for nearly thirty years.

You can not base a system on expansionism while continually cutting labor or not expanding it.

This is why time is ripe and we need to know our targets (if we choose that route).

Capitalism can stimulate considerable growth because the capitalist can, and has an incentive to, reinvest profits in new technologies and capital equipment. Marx considered the capitalist class to be the most revolutionary in history, because it constantly improved the means of production. But Marx argued that capitalism was prone to periodic crises. He suggested that over time, capitalists would invest more and more in new technologies, and less and less in labor. -Wikipedia/Karl Marx

Is that what you're talking about when you say 'labor is becoming devalued'?

I don't consider it 'pointless' to attack banks. I consider it useless to use anti-bank populism as a conduit for protest-activism and insurrectionary-activism. If a bank has a direct and apparent effect on someones daily life, then yes, they should burn it to the ground. Banks are not the totality of capitalism. Capitalism expresses it's totality in the alienation and repression that people experience in their own daily existences. Protest activists are clearly using populism to fuel their redundant cycle of spectacularized 'radical change'. You can't force a riot through property destruction, never mind a revolution. I'm not saying don't smash windows. I'm saying fuck off with your anarcho-populism and protest-activism (not you specifically, obviously...). This isn't a matter of the hoi polloi vs. fat cat bankers, it's a matter of humanity vs the social order (i.e. capitalism and the state).

Exactly what I was talking about. I also have not read any Marx, so wow.
The value of labor has not risen with the costs of basic things to live.
The money for the bailout has been created out of thin air by the federal reserve bank and will have to be paid for by labor.
More money put into circulation causes inflation which basicly means average joe has to work harder cause his money is worth even less and costs to live continue to rise.

I guess I should rephrase what I originally said. Attacking banks should be a personal choice for the attacker and hopefully based on freethinking.

It sure would be nice if average joe got some numbers out of thin air added to his bank balance instead of an exploitative incorporated giant that bloated themselves to their own crisis of needing to be bailed out.

"I guess I should rephrase what I originally said. Attacking banks should be a personal choice for the attacker and hopefully based on freethinking."

There's a particular idea passed around in anti-political discourse, it's the idea of bringing social struggle down to 'human scale'. Politics is inflated and detached from the daily experiences of people. Politics is the antithesis to the personal. At least, that's my interpretation of it. Populism is when the personal struggles of people are inflated into a political context and directed against some form of elitist power. Capitalism is not run by some shadowy cabal of elitists. It's the relations that people find themselves in everyday. It's a systematized form of existence. It's the elephant in the room; except this elephant is so goddamn big that it's all people see. The efforts of anti-authoritarians need to be depoliticized and brought back down to human scale again. Anti-bank populism does not fulfill this. It's only an obstacle, in my opinion.

Obviously my comments haven't garnered much discussion. I'll leave it at that. Hopefully it will pickup later.

my understanding is that a lot of banks are being attacked because they are some of the biggest funders of shit like the wells fargo helps fund a group that runs the I.C.E prisons; or the banks that fund the next olyimpics. i haven't seen any communiques from US anarchists talking about elitest bankers.

Mere hours after the National Socialist Movement marched through downtown Jefferson City, Missouri angry working class people trashed windows and the ATMs of the First National and UMB Banks in Columbia, some 30 miles north. Unlike the Fascists that marched, we understand who the real enemy of working class people is and always has been. The rich bankers are not of any one religious, ethnic, or racial background. Even If one were to make such a generalization, they surely would come to the conclusion that whites that proclaim themselves Christian are in the majority of those exploiting us, not Jews, blacks, or immigrants. – communiqué from Missouri, November 2008

Regardless, you're still proving my point. ICE and the Olympics have nothing to do with the daily lives of most people. Constantly protesting against ICE and the Olympics isn't accomplishing much, aside from the repetition of protest spectacles.

I get what your saying and I agree.
I'm just posting my thoughts on how I see the big picture.
In my day to day life and especially at work I do things on the human scale.
All I can do is work on whats around me, and I have no desire to get into politics.

numbers, numbers...
about berlin: there were different demonstrations in berlin on the 1st may:

- the peaceful syndicat-demo with around 20.000 people
- antifascist demo against the 1st may-event of a national-party with around 3000 people
- the mayday-parade with around 5000 people, colour-eggs on the german financial ministry
- the "revolutionary" 1st my demo with around 500 people (maoists and stalinists)
- the 18 o`clock-demonstration "capitalism is crisis and war" with around 10.000-13.000 people. partly hooded (forbidden in germany), stones, firecracker, bottles and molotovs against the riot-cops. 289 people arrested, 273 cops injured.

more infos and contentual discussions (in german) on:
de.indymedia.org
http://directactionde.blogspot.com/
http://de.indymedia.org/2009/05/248971.shtml