… a full ‘bakers dozen’ of Revolutionary Cells / Rote Zora material … histories , communiques, interviews … could have easily added on a dozen more pieces, but, for now, will leave it at this … the majority of this material was translated by Arm The Spirit with some of it making it into the pages of Arm The Spirit, some of it making it onto the ATS List Serve …
- The Revolutionary Cells (translated from the books Art As Resistance, chapter 5, Armed Struggle)
- Interview With Former RZ Member Enno Schwall
- A Herstory Of The Revolutionary Cells And Rote Zora – Armed Resistance In West Germany
- Short Introduction To The History Of The Revolutionary Cells (RZ) And
- Rote Zora: Every Heart A Timebomb
- “Resistance Is Possible”: Interview With Two Members Of Rote Zora
- Revolutionary Cells Communique, 1991
- Revolutionary Cells Communique Concerning The Attack On The A+B Office For Roma And Sinti In Cologne, 1989
- 22 Years Is Not Enough – Revolutionary Cells In The Post-Fordist Era, Revolutionary Cells, 1989
- The End Of Our Politics – Armed Resistance in the 90’s, Revolutionary Cells, 1992
- Interview With A Revolutionary Cell, 1993
- Rote Zora Communique, 1994
- Rote Zora Communique, 1995
THE REVOLUTIONARY CELLS (RZ)
… translated from the book “Art As Resistance” (Chapter 5, “Armed Struggle”).
In 1973, the Revolutionary Cells (RZ) became the third group in West Germany to take up the armed struggle. Although the RZ followed a different concept than the Second of June Movement and the RAF, all three shared the same roots. The Vietnam War was a major impulse which led to the formation of the RZ. They, too, wanted to develop a guerrilla, and just like the RAF, they had close ties to the Palestinian resistance. Just how closely tied the RAF and the RZ were to the Palestinians was shown by the first actions which gained the RZ international recognition. Under the leadership of one of the world’s most wanted “top terrorists”, Ilich Ramirez-Sanchez, otherwise known as “Carlos”, a German-Palestinian commando stormed into the OPEC Summit in Vienna in December 1975 and took 11 top government ministers hostage. When the commando stormed the building, three members of the security forces were killed, and RZ member Hans-Joachim Klein was seriously wounded. In addition to Klein, RAF member Gabriele Krocher-Tiedemann took part in the action as well. The kidnapping action was designed to put pressure on Arab states to take a firmer stand against Israel. The ministers were all released in North Africa, and the commando disappeared. At the end of June 1976, a commando comprised of two Palestinians and RZ members Brigitte Kuhlmann and Wilfried Bose hijacked an Air France passenger jet with 257 people on board. This action was designed to win the freedom of political prisoners in German and Israeli prisons.
The airplane had taken off from Tel Aviv and a large number of the passengers were Israelis. The action was designed to put pressure on the government in Jerusalem. After forcing the plane to land in Entebbe, Uganda, all non-Jewish hostages were released. On July 4, 1976, a unit of Israeli special forces stormed the plane and freed the hostages. All the commando members were killed.
Within the context of the RZ, an autonomous women’s organization called ‘Rote Zora’ developed. Although the Rote Zora followed the same fundamental concepts as the RZ, the group was also a radical feminist expression of the women’s movement. But the group did not solely focus on women’s issues, and the Rote Zora did carry out actions as part of RZ campaigns, for example against the NATO summit in 1982.
One of Rote Zora’s most famous and successful actions came in 1987: While South Korean women workers were on strike against the textile corporation Adler, which was boosting its production due to cheap labor prices in Korea, Rote Zora supported the efforts of the striking women. On one night in June 1987, there was a series of coordinated firebombings directed against Adler chain stores. The corporation soon gave in to the demands of the striking Korean women.
Repression Against The RZ In Germany
A movie called “Operation Entebbe” was made about the Entebbe hostage drama and the actions of the Israeli army. The RZ tried to halt showings of the film by means of firebomb attacks. After one such action in January 1977, Enno Schwalm and Gerhard Albartus were arrested. Police found weapons, ammunition, fake IDs, and plans for future actions. Both men were convicted of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “attempted arson” and sentenced to a few years in prison.
Following the Rote Zora’s wave of attacks against Adler, a series of house raids against 33 people were conducted all across Germany in December 1987. Ingrid Strobl and Ulla Penselin were arrested and sentenced to prison in June 1989 for supporting Rote Zora. These were the only two occasions when individuals were convicted of membership in or support for the RZ.
The RZ underwent a change of structure at the end of the 1970s. Following the Entebbe action, which was claimed by the “International Section” of the RZ, one part of the RZ movement broke off its contacts with the Palestinian resistance. There were internal conflicts, which were discussed in the paper “Gerd Albartus Is Dead”, published in December 1991: “He shared the criticisms of other comrades, with whom we had fierce discussions, to the point of a split, because of our decision to break off international contacts. He felt the reduction to our own structures was a weakness, that discussing political differences represented a split. … For the deceptive advantage, he said, of a ‘clean slate’, we had brought the RZ down to the level of leftist small group militancy and abandoned all claims of guerrilla struggle.”
A small number of RZ activists remained true to their original approach. Contacts with the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), a small Palestinian resistance group, were kept up. But the RZ in Germany made a clear break with this tradition. There was no connection between the two whatsoever, neither in concept nor in logistics. In 1982, several Germans were arrested in Rome and Paris transporting explosives and weapons for the Palestinian resistance. Gerd Albartus returned to Lebanon in December 1987 and, for reasons which are still unknown, was put on a tribunal by his own group and executed.
The Popularity Of The RZ
The popularity of the RZ among the militant left was partly due to their variety of forms of actions, with everything from forging train tickets to bombings. Another important factor was that the strategy of the RZ in the 1980s was not to kill people. When the Economics Minister for the state of Hesse, a man named Karry, died during an RZ attack protesting the construction of the Startbahn West airport runway, the group suffered a lot of criticism. There were no other deaths from RZ attacks after that.
Concept Or Organization?
The RZ were more of a concept rather than an organization. The slogan “Create Many Revolutionary Cells!” was a call to everyone to carry out RZ actions. The political orientation was towards contemporary movements, and discussions were encouraged by means of communiques and other texts. This was different from the original conception of the RZ. Initially, the RZ wanted to be an organized core, linked to movements with the aim of radicalizing them and eventually forming a guerrilla. Without ever fully abandoning this original aim, the old views were transformed. There was also unequal development within the RZ. There were some RZ, often called the Traditional RZ, which adapted the old model, then there were people who simply made use of the RZ name to carry out actions – in other words, it’s almost as if there were both organized and unorganized RZs.
The RZ Concept In The 1980s
The RZ rejected the vanguardist politics of groups like the RAF. The following is a citation from “8 Years RZ – Two Steps Forward In The Struggle For The Minds Of People, And Our Own”, an RZ text published in 1981: “…We don’t think it’s possible to carry out attacks against central state institutions: We can’t pose the question of power! We aren’t waging a war! Rather, we are at the beginning of a long and difficult struggle to win the hearts and minds of people – not the first steps toward a military victory.” The RZ propagated armed struggle from legality. That led state investigators to call them “weekend terrorists”, but the RZ approach proved successful. Anonymous RZ members could follow the effects of their actions directly and convey them to the movement. Because RZ members were unknown, but also not living underground, they were more protected from repression. That’s not the case for RAF members, for whom spending their entire lives in illegality is a precondition.
The End Of The RZ
The RZ concept can only function in correspondence with a broad movement. Without such movements, the RZ are reduced to an armed form of action, isolated and near its end. That’s exactly what happened in the mid 1980s with the decline of the autonomist movement.
In 1986, the RZ began a militant campaign against deportation police and authorities with the slogan, “For Free Floods! Fight For The Right To Stay For Refugees And Immigrants!” This was a break from the new concept of the RZ. There was no broad movement in support of refugees and immigrants for the RZ to work out of, nor a broad movement within the radical left with such a focus. The RZ were trying to start such a movement themselves. In a text entitled “The End Of Our Politics” issued in January 1992, the RZ stated: “We saw possibilities in our connection to social themes and the refugee campaign for creating a new sphere of action for international solidarity in the metropoles and opening it ourselves.”
In January 1991, the RZ ended the campaign, and a year later a statement announcing the dissolution of the RZ movement was released. Although some attacks were still carried out in the name of the RZ, that doesn’t escape the fact that the RZ concept hit a dead end in the conditions of the 1990s.
INTERVIEW WITH FORMER RZ MEMBER ENNO SCHWAL / 1982
[In late 1973, following the military putsch in Chile, two bombs exploded outside the corporate offices of ITT in the German cities of Berlin and Nuremburg. Both attacks were claimed by a group using the name “Revolutionary Cells” (RZ) for the first time. Enno Schwalm was a former RZ member, arrested in 1977 and sentenced to 6 years in prison. This interview with him was conducted following his release from prison in 1982.]
Question: When was the organization RZ founded, and what were the reasons for its formation?
Enno: In 1972, there was a sort of break situation, during which a massive wave of arrests took place. A whole series of people from the Red Army Fraction (RAF) were behind bars, and some of us were pulled in as well. But nothing was decided yet at that point. But fundamentally there was the necessity to contemplate how to get out of this situation of stagnation. On the other hand, it was a time when we could look back on the time up to that point and see what lessons needed to be learned.
Question: What was the basis for the original concept of the RZ?
Enno: There were different considerations, all of which went into the original concept. One of these was internationalism, which the RAF had given us an historical example of. The historical legacy of the RAF, so to speak, was putting internationalism onto the agenda. But then there was also the consideration of the contemporary social reality here in Germany. Thirdly, there was a strong motivation to form an independent organization in the tradition of the RAF, but separate from it. Then there was the fact that many people were in prison and we needed to do something to free those prisoners. They were needed on the outside. We couldn’t allow the state to decide this conflict for itself and allow the state to just pick people out and imprison them.
Question: What were the differences between the RZ and the RAF?
Enno: The aim of the RZ concept was different from that of the RAF, in that we sought to carry out actions which could be copied by others, which could be adopted by the masses. What made the RZ a group in itself was to be something that others could do themselves as well. We didn’t seek a patent on armed struggle, rather a range of forms of action and intervention. The aim was a mass guerrilla which could expand itself. We wanted liberated areas, uncontrollable zones, state-free areas, places where people could look further and make better preparations. That was the core of our strategy, and a significant difference between the RZ and the RAF. Also, in the RZ, from the beginning, there was an attempt to include a feminist aspect. Not as an additional political arena, but as a fundamental component, at first within the RZ internally, and later under the name “Rote Zora” when women got together and sought to develop a guerrilla concept from a feminist perspective. Within the women’s factions, there were always those who said they did not want to work within a mixed political group, rather they wanted to develop their politics independently from a women’s perspective and insisted on autonomy from the beginning.
Question: What events led to a redirection away from the original RZ concept, and what led to group to take on the campaign around the question of refugees?
Enno: The German Autumn of 1977, the RAF’s action against Schleyer, and the events in Mogadishu raised fundamental questions about the aim of liberating the prisoners. In some ways, this was a defeatist strategy from the beginning. The historical question of prisons is always connected to guerrilla politics. During the mid to the late 1970s, a defensive politics was being practiced which deviated already from the original concept. Refugees are an expression of a global movement. Refugees are different from the migrant workers from southern Europe in the 1960s. They have come here for different reasons. They are just the tip of the iceberg of those people who have been uprooted from the Three Continents. They have been torn from their lives by wars and resettlement campaigns and thrust into refugee camps. When a group does actions around a political issue which has a social subject, you can’t just focus on the asylum-seekers themselves, rather you have to approach the international situation which lies behind them. The communiques from the RZ during the refugee campaign not only took on the issue of international migration, which is illustrated in the form of refugees, the RZ also took on other important issues, such as unemployment here, job insecurity, and the troubles faced by pensioners, senior citizens, and disabled persons. The sector of what has been called “mass poverty” is very important in daily life and political discussion. The actions of the RZ were directed at both of these sectors. A sort of social explosiveness can be created by merging these two sectors, and that is the task of a revolutionary organization. But such a campaign can only have an effect if it is embedded in a broad social movement which takes up the question of refugees. So legal groups can help create state-free areas for refugees. Such spaces allow the refugees to develop themselves and exist as themselves. Such questions are essential if the RZ campaign is to have any political significance.
(Translated by Arm The Spirit)
A HERSTORY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY CELLS AND ROTE ZORA – ARMED RESISTANCE IN WEST GERMANY / 1988
(Editorial Note: The following article was written by a (West) German comrade in 1988 and consequently is somewhat dated. Since that time Rote Zora has been inactive and the structures of the Revolutionary Cells have undergone numerous changes with the older RZ cells deciding to end their activities (RZ Communique: “The End Of Our Politics: Armed Resistance In The 90’s). The Revolutionary Cells are still active but the cells using that name are part of a newer structure that has developed in recent years (RZ Interview in Radikal #147). Another important event for the RZ’s was the death of former RZ-member Gerd Albartus (RZ Communique: “Bad News On A Piece Of Paper”). Other documents by the RZ’s since the writing of this article that are worth looking at are: “200 Years Is Not Enough: Revolutionary Cells In The Post-Fordist Era”, “This Is Not A Love Song”, statement from RZ cell “Tendency For The International Social Revolution”, RZ statement concerning the attack in Boblingen, and assorted action communiques.
Many of the other groups mentioned in this article, such as the Fighting Units, Anti-Racist Cells, etc., are no longer active.
The oldest and best known group, the Red Army Fraction (RAF), has also undergone many changes and at this writing (December 1993) is experiencing a “split” between a number of the prisoners and the clandestine guerrillas (along with those prisoners who support the guerrillas). In short, a small group of prisoners, with the support of the guerrillas, has been negotiating with the German state for an end to the armed struggle and a release of the prisoners. The majority of the RAF prisoners have rejected this and announced their break with the RAF (See: Letter from RAF prisoner Brigitte Monhaupt and RAF Communique 93.11.2). This follows in line with the RAF announcement of a cease-fire in April 1992.
Other notable events concerning the RAF since this article have included the assassinations of Deutsche Bank president Alfred Herrhausen in 1989, Detlev Rohwedder (government official in charge of privatization of former East German companies) in 1991, the attempted assassination of Hans Neusel (state secretary of the Department of the Interior and a counter-insurgency expert) in 1990, the bombing (and destruction) in 1993 of a newly constructed prison at Weiterstadt, the capture of RAF guerrilla Birgit Hogefeld and death of RAF guerrilla Wolfgang Grams at Bad Kleinen in 1993. Notable RAF documents include communiques for the above-mentioned actions, the cease-fire declaration in April 1992, their message to anti-G7 congress in Munich in July 1993 and their long self- criticism and analysis in August 1993 entitled “We Must Search For Something New”.)
The Revolutionary Cells (RZ) first appeared on November 16, 1973 with an attack against ITT in West Berlin to point out the participation of this multinational corporation in Pinochet’s military putsch in Chile. In 1975, the first high-explosive attack was undertaken by the wimmin of the RZ against the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court) in Karlsruhe, the day after it supported the abortion law, Par. 218; a paragraph against free choice on abortion, allowing abortion only in certain cases. The wimmin naturally demanded the total right for every womyn to have an abortion, as a right to self-determination over their own bodies. In the first issue of Revolutionarer Zorn (Revolutionary Rage) the RZ subdivided their actions into three main categories: 1) anti-imperialist actions, 2) actions against the branches, establishments, and accomplices of Zionism in the FRG, and 3) actions supporting the struggles of workers, wimmin and youth, and attacking and punishing their enemies. This thematic spectrum was used in the following years.
One Revolutionary Cell became several Revolutionary Cells. Later on, in the late 70’s, the militant actions by the RZ became also a part of the anti-nuclear movement (at that time people marched in thousands against nuclear power and reprocessing plants in Kalkar, Wyhl, Gorleban, and Brokdorf) and the Anti-Runway 18 West Movement (Anti-Startbahn 18 West-Bewegung) in the Rhein-Main area.
In this context, only one attack with deadly consequence was carried out: the Minister of Economy and Transportation, Herbert Karry, was assassinated on May 11, 1981 by an RZ.
From 1977 onwards, the militant feminist anti-patriarchal wimmin’s urban guerilla group Rote Zora (Red Zora) acted autonomously and independently, though some wimmin still participated in the Revolutionary Cells.”Wimmin were always a part of the armed groups. Their portion was mostly held back. But the times are changing… subversive wimmin’s groups like Red Zora do exist, indeed still too few, but even that will be changing.” – Red Zora
Red Zora attacks predominantly patriarchal institutes, companies, and persons representing and building up a male sexist society, which is oppressing and exploiting wimmin worldwide. They are conducting campaigns against porntraders, sex shops, international traders of wimmin (those who profit from importing Asian wimmin as “brides” for West German men), doctors who are carrying out forced sterilizations, the Doctor’s Guild (“We see the Federal Doctor’s Guild as exponents of rape in white trench coats”), drug companies (notably Schering who produced the birth defect causing drug Duogynon), as well as computer companies such as Nixdorf and the multinational Siemens. Very popular as well was the illegal reprinting of bus and streetcar fares. In individual cases, Red Zora and the Revolutionary Cells have worked together such as in the writing of a critique of the peace movement in 1984. In this paper they criticized the peace movement as a bourgeois movement with an apocalyptic vision. The RZ and Red Zora said that the major mistake of the peace movement was to concentrate their political goal only on the preservation of peace in the metropoles instead of discussing the imperialist context between armament and crisis; Third World misery and social cutbacks; sexism and racism.
In the last three years the RZ have concentrated their actions on the issue of West German foreigner and refugee policies. “We want to contribute to the recovery of a concrete anti-imperialism in the FRG… Anti-imperialism doesn’t mean only attacks on the military industrial complex and it is more than just solidarity with liberation movements worldwide.” (Quote from Revolutionary Rage, October 1986).
Attacks such as the one on the Center for the Central Register of Foreigners in Cologne on the one hand, or the kneecapping of Hollenburg (Chief of Immigration Police in West Berlin) show the wide field of these militant politics. While those who are attacked are responsible for the racist refugee policies in the FRG and West Berlin, the intention of the attacks on institutions, whose documents, files, and data are being destroyed, is to procure a space which isn’t controlled or regulated by the state. “But our actions will fizzle out ineffectually, if they don’t contribute to a development of a new beginning of anti-imperialism within the radical left” (Quote by the RZ).
Since the early 70’s, the RZ and Red Zora have launched over 200 attacks. Red Zora’s most comprehensive and successful attack campaign so far has been the deposit of incendiary bombs in ten branches of the Adler Corporation, one of West Germany’s largest clothing manufacturers selling discount clothing in the FRG, produced by low paid wimmin in South Korean and Sri Lankan factories. “The wimmin at Adler in South Korea struggle against the exploitation of their capacity for work and are putting up a fight against the daily sexism. They call for support from the FRG for their struggle. As a result, the shitty living and working conditions of wimmin in the vacuous production centers of the three continents and especially those of Adler in South Korea and Sri Lanka are becoming more widely known here through leaflets, events, and actions in front of Adler’s retail centers. In these actions, anti-imperialism can be practical.” (Quote from Red Zora, in their Adler statement.)
In a later released statement from Red Zora, the consideration was again concretized that the attacks were the correct strategy: “Consciousness had already been raised through the leaflet actions organized by human rights groups (Terre des Femmes) and independent church groups. So preparatory work had been done. The wimmin in South Korea have taken control of and defended their own situation.” They went on strike to protest low minimum wages, lay offs, deplorable work conditions, and rampant sexism from West German foremen. “So it was possible that the struggle there (by the wimmin in South Korea) and the struggle here (by Red Zora) are compatible. We aren’t fighting for the wimmin in the Third World,” they said, “we’re fighting alongside them.” This defines Red Zora’s struggle against imperialism.
In 1987, when Red Zora and their sister group in West Berlin, the Amazonen, fire bombed ten Adler outlets throughout West Germany, they caused millions of dollars in damages. Because of this, Adler was forced to meet the demands of the textile workers. Red Zora and the Amazonen clearly proved that militant resistance can be very effective.
Both the Revolutionary Cells and Red Zora have anti-authoritarian structures and a decentralized decision-making process for choosing targets. As well, they point out that militant direct actions are just one part of the revolutionary movement. Although they participate in extensive and far-reaching legal work campaigns and social movements through their militant actions, these actions aren’t of any more importance to handing out flyers or leaflets, going to demonstrations, having sit-ins, publishing newspapers, educating people, squatting houses, or organizing strikes at work. “We don’t have a hierarchical system for choosing actions. Thinking in hierarchical divisions puts actions in a perspective of priveledge and is prone to a patriarchal way of thinking.” (Quote by members of the RZ in an interview that appeared in Autonomie, 1980.)
Besides the RZ and Red Zora, there exists several other militant autonomous groups who are all integral components of the revolutionary movement in West Germany and West Berlin. Most of these groups originate from the mass social movements of the 80’s. They all work independently of each other and issue political statements of their actions, much like the RZ and Red Zora, but unlike them, many of these groups haven’t been around very long. In 1986, at the peak of resistance against the nuclear power plant in Brokdorf and the nuclear reprocessing plant in Wackersdorf, thousands of people participated in demonstrations as a part of the anti-nuclear movement. During this time, several hundred attacks were made by militant autonomous cells against certain companies and corporations to protest their involvement in the nuclear industry. The most popular activity at this time was sawing down electric power lines that were directly connected to the nuclear power plants. Around 2-300 attacks were made. Some of the militant autonomous groups from this period have survived into the present. Others have disbanded and have gone on to influence and form other groups. Following is a list of a few of these groups. It would be impossible to name all of them.
– Revolutionare Handwerker: involved in direct actions against nuclear plants by sawing down electric power lines. No longer active.
– Amazonen: Sister group of Red Zora, but independent of them. Two people are currently in jail for being members of the Amazonen. – Zornige Viren: on January 2, 1989, attacked the Gen-Institut (Gene Institute) at the University of Darmstadt causing DM2,000,000 in damages.
– Autonome Zellen Alois Sonnenleitner (AS): autonomous anti-nuclear cell. Destroyed excavators, trucks, and building site of Hofmeister AG (an NPP company) by setting fire to them. Alois Sonnenleitner was an elderly man who was killed in Wackersdorf by the cops in 1986. Still active.
– Revolutionare Viren: fighting gene technology, human genetics, and biotechnology. – Anti-rassistische Zellen: carrying out actions against Shell.
– Kampfende Einheiten: “Fighting Units”.Anti-imperialist cells attacking military industrial complexes. One cell, Kampfende Einheit Crespo Cepa Galende, named itself after an ETA (Basque guerilla organization) fighter who was killed by the Spanish authorities. Made an attack on a border police security building.
The militant direct action groups in West Germany and West Berlin have received widespread support from the larger movements there, including from some of the more liberal organizations. This is partially because the underground cells are dependent on the larger movements and, as well, are active in them. Their actions address issues that many people are already educated on and sympathetic to. For example, Red Zora has gained wide popular support because their actions appeal to the massive feminist movement already existing in West Germany, where the leftist and radical media has been doing much work for some time now to educate the public on issues involving sexism, wimmin’s oppression and exploitation, and wimmin’s rights to the control of their own bodies. While the RZ doesn’t claim as much support as Red Zora, in 1987, supporters of the Revolutionary Cells published the book Der Weg zum Erfolg (The Way to Success), explaining their strategies, politics, and actions. Less than a week after the book hit the shelves of radical bookstores, the entire printing (around 3000) was sold out.
The high degree of effectiveness of many RZ and Red Zora actions wouldn’t be possible without popular support. By themselves, their actions would only serve to alienate them from the struggle. Moreover, with the support of the mass movements, members of the RZ and Red Zora are able to work among the numbers of people active in the struggle without exposing their underground identities. In their herstory, only one womyn has been arrested for membership in Red Zora, but due to lack of evidence against her, the charges were dropped. The RZ, however, has had a few convictions over the past 16 years. Ingrid Strobl, most recently was sentenced to five years in prison on the 9th of June 1989 for being a member of the RZ. Her sentence is the longest issued to any of the convicted RZ members. While prisoner support is an important task that consumes a great amount of time, most of the work is done by the larger movement, and the RZ and Red Zora can continue organizing actions against oppressive, imperialist companies and corporations.
Other revolutionaries sentenced to prison:
– Erik Prauss and Andrea Sievering: accused of membership in the “terrorist” organisation, Red Army Faction (RAF), and a bombing of Dornier, a war corporation, which caused 1.3 million DM in damages. Each was sentenced to 9 years in prison on January 18, 1989.
– Norbert Hofmeier, Barbara Perau, Thomas Thoene, and Thomas Richter: accused of membership in the RAF and a bombing. Sentenced all together to 32 years on January 20, 1989. Sentencing judge (Arend) also sentenced Ingrid Strobl. Hofmeier – 10 years, Perau – 9, Thoene – 9, Richter – 4.
In both of the trials involving the mentioned people, the BAW (Federal State Prosecutors) and the judges were alleging that the accused people were members of the RAF, but this was the false claim of the court to get these people stiffer sentences. Both attacks (the one at Dornier, and the other at the border police security building) were claimed by the Kampfende Einheiten. This group works independently from the RAF. But since the RAF is defined as a “terrorist” organization by the state, conviction as a member can carry a longer sentence. Kampfende Einheiten isn’t defined as such and would not be subjected to as heavy a sentence. So the BAW and the judges set up the construct of the Whole-RAF (Gesamt-RAF) and claimed that Kampfende Einheiten is a part of the RAF.
At the trial of Erik and Andrea, Eva-Haule Frimpong, an imprisoned member of the RAF, stated on the witness stand that “in 4 years, no one but myself has been caught from the RAF. The twelve comrades of the resistance who were supposedly arrested since then (the six from Kiefernstrasse nor the people from Stuttgart) were not organized in the RAF.” (Quote by Eva on November 29, 1989).
– Fritz Storim: sentenced to one year in prison. A teacher, accused of supporting the RAF. Supposedly a member of the autonomous news journal SABOT.
A SHORT INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY CELLS (RZ) AND ROTA ZORA / 2000
“What we want is to organize counter-power in small, organized cells, which work, struggle, intervene, and defend autonomously in various social areas, and which are part of the mass political work. Once we have enough cells, then we will have created the impetus for the urban guerrilla as a mass perspective.”
This idea of armed struggle was formulated by the ‘Revolutionre Zellen’, or Revolutionary Cells (RZ), in 1975 in the first issue of their magazine ‘Revolutionrer Zorn’ (“Revolutionary Rage”). This concept saw armed struggle as part of a social-revolutionary movement, struggling together with “legal” actions like squatting, revolutionary factory work, teach-ins, and so on, against state repression. By means of clandestinely operating, autonomous, and decentralized organized groups, it would be possible to strengthen mass initiatives and take a first step towards the long-term assault on power. An integral part of the discussions at that time was the so-called militant variations of thought by building a model of a functioning social-revolutionary counter-society which could undermine capitalist society in the long-term and eventually overcome it by means of attacks and a massive decay of loyalty to the system.
“Create and multiply the fighting collectives as the core cells of a new society!” was one of the slogans of the RZ in 1978. This concept was also conceived as a practical critique of and alternative to the continuing attacks by the Red Army Fraction (RAF) on “the heart of the state” which were also taking place at that time.
According to Germany’s intelligence agency, the Revolutionary Cells and Rote Zora were responsible for 186 mostly unsolved attacks from 1973 to 1995 on government offices, corporations, and military installations, as well as a few kneecappings of officials responsible for repressive asylum policies. The first armed action attributed to the
Revolutionary Cells took place in November 1973, an attack on the America corporation ITT in protest of the military coup in Chile. Two years later the name “Revolutionary Cells” went into common use. The first issue of the magazine ‘Revolutionrer Zorn’ classified three types of RZ actions: anti-imperialist actions, like actions against the American corporation ITT of the Chilean consulate; anti-Zionist actions, like the attack on the officers of the Israeli airline El-Al or on corporations that import Israeli fruit; and actions in solidarity with the struggles of workers, youths, and women, like attacks on cars belonging to real estate speculators or individuals responsible for tearing down youth centers, printing counterfeit public transport passes and food vouchers for the homeless and distributing them in “proletarian neighbourhoods”.
The RZ were always aware of the fact that the general population in Germany were not engaged in solidarity with international struggles: “But there is a part of our politics which, in so far as we have progressed the discussions, does not interest many comrades, and which many of them cannot understand or accept, and which the people certainly won’t be interested in at the time being. But we still think it is correct. This part of our struggle is internationalism, meaning solidarity with comrades in foreign guerrilla movements and solidarity with the struggling peoples of other countries.” (from an interview with an RZ, May 1975) But, following two spectacular actions which RZ members
participated in, and which unleashed heavy debates and discussions, the organization split internally into an internationalist faction and a domestic faction. This break, a virtual split in the organization, did not become clearly known until about 15 years later.
One of these two spectacular actions was the attack by a joint Palestinian, Latin American, and German commando on the OPEC Conference in Vienna in December 1975. Eleven Arabian oil ministers were held hostage to demand material and ideological support for the Palestinian liberation movement. Three security guards were killed during the action. It remains unclear to this day just how big a role the Syrian government and the Libyan government of Khadaffi played in this action, thus blurring the distinction between “mercenary work” and “an action of international solidarity”. RZ member Hans-Joachim Klein participated in this action. He later became a witness for the state, and the arrests of Rudolf S., in the fall of 1999, and Sonja S., who was arrested in France in January 2000, were based on his statements to police that they also provided logistical support. Klein quit the RZ in 1977 remained in hiding for over 20 years, due to the support given to him by Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Klein was arrested in France in 1998 and soon became a turncoat, pointing the finger at others.
The second controversial action was the June 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris. The plane was ordered to fly to Entebbe, Uganda, where the guerrillas demanded freedom for 53 political prisoners, including 40 Palestinians in Israeli custody and 6 political prisoners in Germany. Two RZ members, Wilfried Boese and Brigitte
Kuhlmann, were killed when Israeli special forces stormed the plane. It became known afterwards that passengers were separated into groups according to their passports during the hijacking. All Israelis were forced to remain on the place while most of the other passengers of other nationalities were released. It is unclear whether the passengers were also divided into “Jewish” and “non-Jewish” groups, as the authors of the RZ critique “Gerd Albartus Is Dead” have alleged. But the moral dilemmas of this action remain nonetheless.
The internationalist faction of the RZ eventually developed into what the mass media have called the “Carlos Group”, and this group no longer used the name Revolutionary Cells (RZ), instead calling themselves “Group of International Revolutionaries”. The domestic RZ faction, however, made a radical break with its international contacts and sought to develop its future internationalist and anti-imperialist actions solely from the conditions existing within West Germany. But it seems some individual members did maintain some indirect links to the “Carlos Group”. One person in particular was Gerd Albartus, and this cost him his life in 1987. According to statements from turncoat Magdalena Kopp (‘Focus’ magazine, April 2000) he was accused of “treason” by members of the internationalist faction during a visit to Lebanon and was immediately executed by Carlos. It is not known what the accusations were based on. The authors of the paper “Gerd Albartus Is Dead” have no doubts about Gerd’s integrity, however. According to the book “Carlos’ Accomplice Weinreich”, published in 1995, his naive associations with the intelligence agency in East Berlin (the Stasi) caused a point of conflict between him and the rest of the internationalist faction. Transcripts of wiretaps from the Hungarian secret police, found among Stasi files, are said to show this, according to the book’s authors.
The problems surrounding the “Carlos Group” can’t simply be dismissed as being due to the conditions at that time. In ‘Radikal’ #104 (May 1982), a long article discussed the attacks by the “Carlos Group” and their relationship to the Syrian intelligence agency. This text stated: “The notion of ‘terrorism’ – by the state or others – is incomprehensible to the majority of the population due to its invisibility and elements of confusion. In this way, it only heightens the feeling of powerless people have in their daily lives in capitalist society, their powerless in the face of economic crisis and the fact that they are just pawns in the secret games of international politics and state repression.”
As for the domestic faction of the RZ, they made themselves heard from by means of several attacks in the following years. In particular, they were able to keep the possibility of armed struggle open during the so-called “German Autumn” of 1977. In the summer of 1978, a bomb undergoing a final test exploded in the lap of Hermann Feiling outside the general consulate of the military regime in Argentina in the city of Heidelberg. Hermann lost both of his eyes and had both of his legs amputated as a result of this accident. Although he was under the influence of heavy painkilling drugs and was in no condition to speak, German state and federal police interrogated him extensively and took some 1000 pages of transcripts. Based mostly on police fantasies, seven more arrests warrants were eventually issued. Five of these accused people were able to disappear before police could nab them: Rudolf Raabe, Rudolf S. and Sabine E. (who resurfaced in 1999 as part of the Berlin Trial), and Sonja S. and Christian G. (who were arrested in France in January 200).
The “Women of the Revolutionary Cells” first appeared with a bomb attack on a federal court building in Karlsruhe in 1975. Their attack was part of the struggle against the abortion law Paragraph 218. Starting in 1977, the “Rote Zora” appeared as a independently operating feminist group closely oriented to the RZ. Some fundamental discussion papers were later signed jointly by the RZ and Rote Zora.
In January 1981, issue #6 of ‘Revolutionaerer Zorn’ was published, at just the right time according to many activists in the squatters’ movement, during the high point of the youth revolts of 1980/81. In Berlin and many other cities at that time, there were countless numbers of squatted buildings. The main part of the magazine was a text, written in a radical self-critical tone, concerning the past eight years of experiences with armed struggle. The concept and the problems of the RZ were correctly and sharply criticized by the members themselves. The level of self-reflection and admissions of problems and contradictions was unprecedented among armed fighting groups at that time. The text went on to say: “Attacks on central state institutions are politically impossible at the present time: We cannot pose the question of power! We are not waging a war! Rather, we are at the beginning of a long and difficult struggle to win the hearts and minds of the people – we are not at the first stage of a military victory! We characterize our strategy as a defensive one – but at the same time, our struggle can be offensive as well.” The positions of individuals who had left the group were explained and counter-posed with the authors’ own reasons for deciding to continue the struggle.
The concept of the Revolutionary Cells, clandestine actions on a massive scale, became a reality during the revolts of 1980/81 (“You have the power, but the night belongs to us!”), albeit not in the one-to-one relationship envisioned by the RZ. The RZ often critiqued the lack of an organizational continuity to the movement. There was always a degree of cultural and emotional difference, or deference. This lay in the fact that the RZ had its roots in the years after 1968. They often formulated ideas associated with the “Frankfurt school” (Marcuse), marked by pedagogical thinking and a conduct based on knowing what is right for people. Punk, on the other hand, had more in common with the philosophy of “educated existentialism” (Sartre). In the text “The End Of Our Politics”, one RZ wrote: “The concept “Create many Revolutionary Cells!” was only achieved in so far as there was some parallelism in the methods of struggle. We were not able to get a foothold in the various movements, or to win over militants from their associations to a revolutionary perspective and form of organization.”
In addition to the squatters’ movement and the anti-nuclear movement, the struggle against the Startbahn-West airport expansion in Frankfurt was a central point around which resistance was organized. Like never before, some groups of RZs were able – despite all the problems outlined above – to become an integral part of this movement. And this,
despite the fact that their participation in the anti-Startbahn movement was marked from the beginning by a major failure: In May 1981, during the attempted kneecapping of the Hessian state’s Economics Minister Heinz-Herbert Karry, the man responsible for the planned expansion of Startbahn-West, the shooting ended up killing Karry, who bled to death. In the months that followed, the RZ called for attacks on firms connected to the construction of the runway as the best strategy to follow, and they backed up this call with actions of their own. After the anti-Startbahn movement faded, the RZ released an extensive text which unleashed a wave of criticism from the autonomist movement. After most social movements had run their course after 1980/81, many activists began asking the question, “How do we go on from here?” How can continuity be maintained without simply waiting for the next movement to arise?
The autonomist movement was always consciously diffuse on the militant terrain, in contrast to the attempts at hegemony by the RZ, during both the squatter struggles in Berlin and the anti-Startbahn actions in the Frankfurt region. An autonomist text published in ‘Radikal’ #114 (March 1983) stated: “In their relations to the mass movement, the RZ always claim to want to link up with the mass movement, and that by means of their actions there would be an advance of militancy and offensive, thus firebombs and explosives become the tools of pedagogy. We cannot accept such an education-minded relationship.” The authors were clear about their critical solidarity with the RZ. They were particularly irritated by the fact that the RZs themselves had not stuck to the criteria they themselves spelled out in ‘Zorn’ #6. The article ended with the controversial call: “Cells – join the movement!” What they meant was that militant continuity and experience are gained as people in real movements, not as an organization. “Actions are only spices in the soup, not the soup itself.” This debate was continued in ‘Radikal’ #121 (October 1983): “Insofar as an organized militant group has decided to wage continuous resistance, that also changes their strategy; movements, on the other hand, have their own dynamic and are uncontrollable.” […]
One RZ responded to such criticisms in ‘Radikal’ #123 (December 1983): “Militancy and actions are seen as good, so long as they don’t come from political associations or illustrate any continuity. ‘Go out, fuck shit up, and get away’ seems to be the autonomist motto. Anything beyond that is dismissed as potential cadre formation and the seeds of a new state. Politics is dirty business, they say, so we’ll never do politics. All that matters is new subjectivity. How can I get the best feeling? An expression of this is the search for new niches (new culture), waiting around for the next movement to start without even analyzing the movement that just finished.”
In the early 1980s in West Germany, another important social issue was the question of nuclear arms. The opposition was split into the peace movement, on the one hand, and the autonomist movement with its anti-militarist outlook on the other. Then there was the anti-imperialist movement, which was oriented solely against the USA and NATO. During official visits by representatives of the American government to West Germany, there were always massive, often militant, demonstrations. The visit by Ronald Reagan to West Berlin on November 6, 1982 was accompanied by RZ attacks on U.S. military installations. The RZ also always tried to make the point that the arms race was not an evil coming just from the outside, and to thereby also open up the German arms industry to attack. The most significant attack in line with this policy was the bomb attack on the computer corporation MAN that caused more than 20 million DM in damage. The RZ also made two intellectual interventions in this issue. On the one hand was the text “Peace, War, And Crisis”, then there was the communique “Beethoven And MacDonald’s”, in which they drew a clear distinction between neo-nazi attacks on the homes of American servicemen and anti-imperialist and anti-American attacks aimed against the politics of the U.S. government.
In the years 1979, 1980, and 1982, a group called ‘RZ in the IG Metall’ [German metal industry’s trade union] claimed responsibility for several actions, for example an attack on a federal labour court in the city of Kassel. In March 1984, the RZ released a text related to the public discussion around the 35-hour workweek called “A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing: The 35-Hour Work Week, The Social Partnership, The Left, And Class Antagonism”. This text accurately predicted the development of a fully flexible working class. It also examined how “autonomists could develop social-revolutionary positions”. The RZ also acted in solidarity with the coal miners’ strike in Britain by means of attacks in 1985.
During these years, the RZ and the Rote Zora also discussed new forms of control technology. For example, the social aspects of gene technology and reproduction technology. Their general rejection of computer technology as a new means of social domination and control may seem Luddite to people today, but even at that time it was not without some controversy. In a September 1985 communique from an attack on two software companies, the RZ stated: “The logic of the computer is the logic of capitalism: it serves exploitation and oppression, splintering and selection, registration and repression. The useless debates about alternative uses for computers represents powerlessness, not fantasy, in the face of this monstrous technological violence.” But we shouldn’t forget that in those days a computer cost 50,000 DM, and home computers for private use didn’t really become a reality before 1990.
Just how widely the RZ concept was being taken up was illustrated in the months following the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in April 1986. Nightly attacks on electricity pylons all across Germany toppled more than 150 utility towers. But that doesn’t mean that everyone agreed with all of the content of the RZ’s positions. What was for some a political strategy was for others simply a subjective form of action.
In the mid 1980s, another field of political conflict crystallized in West Germany, namely the issue of immigration. Although German history has always been marked by immigration, the ruling powers and a large segment of the population don’t wish to accept that fact. Instead they choose to differentiate themselves from “the strangers” and an “ethnicization of social conflicts” results. In the years after World War II, 12 million German-speaking refugees (still about 20% of the population) from lost eastern territories were integrated without major ideological problems. When this influx subsided, Germany began to experience a lack of labour resources in the 1950s. Then began the immigration of mainly young, male workers, first from Italy, Portugal, and Spain, and later in the 1960s from Yugoslavia and Turkey. The end of the Fordist economic boom in 1973 resulted in an stop to labour importation, and guest workers were told to return to their home countries. But they didn’t. Instead, they began to have their families join them in Germany, and in a few years they achieved the same level of employment as the Germans. By the end of the 1970s, West German society began to realize that there were now some 4 million so-called “foreigners” who were living in the country and who wanted to stay in the country until their retirement.
Since the early 1980s, more and more people from the Three Continents were able to make their way into West Germany, especially via the one-way open border between East and West Berlin. They didn’t come to German primarily to earn money, rather they were fleeing from civil wars and economic misery. Most of these people came from the Near East, Turkey, and Sri Lanka/Ceylon. This development led to domestic political conflicts stirred up by the CDU [Christian Democratic Party]. The court ‘Berliner Verwaltungsgericht’ ruled that “torture is not a grounds for asylum”, and the numbers of accepted asylum-seekers began to decrease. On the other hand, 1985 also saw the failed first attempt to introduce food coupons for asylum-seekers, due to widespread resistance from civil society. Refugees faced with deportation were supported by actions like ‘Fluchtburg’, initiated by the AL [later the Green Party] in West Berlin. In 1983, the Turkish asylum-seeker Cemal Altun jumped to his death from the fourth floor of a federal courthouse in Berlin to avoid deportation. That evening, more than 10,000 took part in a spontaneous protest demonstration. Also in those years, the social aspect of people from other countries changed from exploitable “workers” to the more ethnic concept of members of a “different culture”.
That explains the background to the refugee campaign by the RZ. The publication of ‘Zorn-Extra’, issue #9 of the RZ’s magazine, in October 1986 represented the opening of the RZ’s refugee campaign. This was against the background of increasing numbers of people coming into the metropoles from the poorer regions of the world and the rigorous measures being taken by the ruling powers to stop this development. The RZ stated: “We want to contribute to the winning back of a concrete form of anti-imperialism in West Germany – this is our orientation to the refugee question.” By coming to the metropoles, the people from the Three Continents are justly demanding a right to life and compensation. The RZ called for open borders and free cities for refugees, but this could only be achieved if “we create an open space for refugees which cannot be controlled or regimented by the state”. The RZ’s proposal was directed at the autonomist and social-revolutionary left, “to make the refugee question the touchstone for political praxis at various levels”. Various RZ actions made up this campaign, including the kneecappings of Hollenberg, the head of the Foreigner Division in the West Berlin police, and Korbmacher, a federal judge responsible for rulings restricting asylum claims, and the attack on the ‘Zentrale Sozialhilfestelle fur Asylbewerber’ administrative officers.
Later, this campaign was sharply criticized within the ranks of the RZ. In contrast to the point put forward by the RZ in issue #6 of ‘Revolutionrer Zorn’, namely that movements cannot be brought into existence by means of armed actions, this is exactly what the RZ were trying to do with their campaign. Others criticized the use of refugees as “the revolutionary subject” in the metropoles as “false”. In the text “The End Of Our Politics”, one RZ group wrote of the refugee campaign: “We fantasized about the will of the refugees, about them seeking their slice of the wealth and a secure existence in the metropoles as being a direct anti-imperialist struggle linked to their experiences of resistance in the Three Continents, and thereby using this as a possible terrain for our own politics. When the struggles we hope to identify with failed to materialize (we also overlooked many of the “reformist” demands of the asylum-seekers), we compensated with an analysis of the state’s refugee policies and attacked its responsible agents. We acted in the name of the refugees without considering their subjectivity or their expectations, indeed without even knowing them.”
The autonomist scene was dismayed when the RZ dropped the campaign in the early 1990s, just at a time when, according to the autonomist scene, such a campaign was needed more than ever before since hundreds of thousands of people were coming into the metropoles from east via the temporarily open borders. Then the situation escalated even more in 1991: in the summer, there were massive pogroms by citizens in the East German city of Hoyerswerda directed against former contract workers from Angola and Mozambique. That year also saw a massive pogrom in Rostock-Lichtenhagen, fueled by the propaganda campaigns of the CDU, against Roma and Sinti peoples and contract workers from Vietnam. The aim of the CDU was to strike the individual right to asylum enshrined in the German Constitution, which they were eventually able to do by means of the so-called “asylum compromise”. Autonomist resistance could only prevent a worst of all possible scenarios, for their position “Open Borders For All!” was certainly a minority opinion in Germany at that time. The autonomists were in the de facto position of fighting to protect the Constitution and the civil rights of refugees. From above, the individual rights of refugees were being restricted, in particular the ban on working, residence restrictions, and the housing of increasing numbers of asylum-seekers in hostels instead of private homes. At the same time, border police on the eastern borders with Poland and Czechoslovakia were increasingly and massively armed.
These policies by the government drastically reduced the numbers of refugees who were able to make it into Germany to file asylum claims. The RZ’s refugee campaign was five years ahead of its time, and it correctly predicted that the ruling powers would attempt to mutate rising social conflicts into an ethnic conflict against refugees. But not even the RZ were able to spell out how the struggle of refugees could be linked to the struggles of the German underclasses. The RZ admitted this themselves in an action communique in 1989: “We never had the illusion that proletarian youths, women, the unemployed, or other sectors of the society would quickly develop common interests with refugees and immigrants, because racism and sexism are too strongly ingrained in the society. But that it exactly why anti-imperialism must intervene to break through these knots.”
During these years, the Rote Zora continued to make their own politics and did not want to be seen as just a feminist wing of the RZ. The Rote Zora wrote: “We do not any ‘leftist’ division of labor: women work on women’s issues, and men deal with the general political themes.” Rote Zora attacks were often directed against women traders and sex shops. But they also attacked the corporation Siemens Electronics, the computer firm Nixdorf, and a data center as a form of resistance against arms production, state surveillance measures, and economic restructuring. After 1985, they took up the resistance of women against gene and reproduction technology and concentrated most of their attacks on these areas. Most, but not all, since their action that gained the most public attention was their series of attacks on the clothing chain ‘Adler’ in solidarity with a strike by female textile workers in South Korea. After the store’s management ignored one arson attack, nine Adler stores went up in flames simultaneously on the night of August 15, 1987. Shortly after another arson action by Amazons in Berlin, the company gave in to the demands of the Korean strikers. Seldom had an armed action in Germany had such a concrete, positive effect. It was because of this success that Germany’s federal police and intelligence agencies launched a nationwide series of raids on December 18, 1987, attempting to arrest 33 people and charging them with membership in the RZ/Rote Zora. Many people were able to elude police capture during the raids. Some of these people are still living underground today. Among those arrested, however, was Ingrid Strobl, who police said purchased the alarm clock which was used as a timer in one of the attacks. She spent two and a half years in prison.
In 1990/91, the RZ began to stumble over various theoretical points, and the group de facto dissolved itself over the next few years. The last militant action claimed under the name “Revolutionary Cells (RZ) was an attack on a border police electricity substation in Frankfurt/Oder near the border with Poland. The last action claimed by the Rote Zora was a 1995 attack on a wharf in Bremen that was producing warships for Turkey. The external conditions which contributed to the demise of the RZ included the reunification of Germany and the overwhelming collapse of the left following the Cold War. This new situation made attacks seem like mere actionism in a vacuum. One “traditional” RZ group released a communique in 1991 entitled “This Is Not A Love Song” which summarized the situation as follows: “The attack on the nowadays completely politically irrelevant memorial to militarism, the ‘Siegessaeule’ in Berlin, has made it clear that the Revolutionary Cells are acting entirely out of time and place. (…) Apart from the fact that
the action took place at an irrelevant time, the comrades have revealed that they have no answers for the objective questions which they themselves raised, namely the relationship between nationalism, racism, and sexism, and their own political praxis. The communique that accompanied the action lacked any political orientation. The comrades see clarity where none exists. (…) Militant actions should aim to sharpen social contradictions, to advance social struggles, and to secure or expand free spaces which have been struggled for and won. Militant actions should expose the violence of the ruling system, identify injustice, sabotage the projects of the ruling class, and destroy the system of social and repressive control. Militant actions should act to reverse the increasing feeling of powerlessness among the resistance, to show that resistance is possible, and to destroy the mythos of the ruling powers. Militant actions should hit the ruling powers politically, make them feel insecure, and expose them to ridicule.”
Internally, the murder of Gerd Albartus in Lebanon by his former comrades seems to have started a dynamic of alienation and resignation with the RZ. The text “Gerd Albartus Is Dead”, which appeared in December 1991, make this discussion an open debate for the first time. In January 1992, an RZ group from North Rhein-Westphalia announced the end of its activities in a text entitled “The End Of Our Politics”. At the time, this text was heavily, and justly, criticized. But since ten years have passed, it seems that many points formulated in that paper, although often unclear and off the mark, seem, in fact, “correct” now. In particular, they raised the question of whether attacks where the proper response to the ever-changing conditions. “The form and the means of armed struggle, as we
ourselves know very well, can too easily become an ends in and of itself, a substitute for political strategies.”
The Revolutionary Cells, in several of their communiques, utilized citations from Brecht from his tales of the fictional Mr K. “‘What are you working for?’ Mr K. was asked. Mr K. answered, ‘I am making a great effort, I am preparing for my next mistake.'” As was said before, no one criticized the RZ more harshly than the RZs themselves. The biggest problem seems to have been the drastic shift in the global coordinates in 1990, when the ruling powers completely realigned themselves. Even the CDU has been overtaken by these events. Representative of this is the fact that Joschka Fischer, who used to hurl stones at police together with RZ members in the early 1970s, became Germany’s Foreign Minister and Deputy Chancellor in 1999.
Another problem was the contradiction between the RZ’s desired political organization and their simultaneous existence as a “military” organization. In “The End Of Our Politics”, one RZ group wrote: “Our fixation on methods of struggle meant we neglected a
theoretical political development, something which would have added more content to our individual contributions to various conflicts. Our social-revolutionary theoretical understanding was basically just a mosaic of the sum of our various commentaries and analyses, lumped together from various fields of struggles, and a tighter unification of these was not possible. (…) The dialectic of armed resistance and mass struggle remained purely external. Our own, subjective decision for an all-encompassing political conduct, for armed attacks, and the approval of the left for our attacks we attributed – falsely – to a revolutionary force which could take on the system, the first steps of a revolutionary process. Did we really believe that such a reductive program could actually have an influence on the complexity of social changes in all their political, cultural, social, and organizational extents? Of course we did!”
One of the main motives for the founding of the RZ was to make militant and armed actions in a country like Germany conceivable as a form of action. Looking back today, they were able to achieve this. But that doesn’t solve the question of what forms of action are more useful and justified in actual situations these days.
This text was written in September 2000 by:
c/o Buchladen Schwarze Risse
(Source: “Interim” #499; Translated by Arm The Spirit)
EVERY HEART A TIMEBOMB
Rota Zora, January 1981
Throughout time, women have struggled in armed groups, but for the most part the reality of the contribution has been suppressed. But the times are now different. The contribution of women in the guerrilla has become so large that this mechanism no longer functions. The division of labour has also been undermined: women assume the responsibility for the infrastructure, men do the actions. Subversive women’s groups like Rote Zora are still few, but things are changing! We do not want only to carry out some actions, but also to describe the apparent reality of the ossified relationships we are forced to live with – even if we don’t find this easy.
We want, above all, to provide clarity on two points.
First, how the mechanism of imperialist oppression of women here and in the countries of the 3rd World functions. Regarding this question, we must recognize that the analyses of imperialism for the most part restrict their investigation to the political, economic, and military power structure of imperialism, neglecting to analyze the strategy as regards women here and in the 3rd World.
For us, it is not sufficient to say: on the basis of the analysis of imperialism, it is clear that NATO is the target for attacks and in as far as women attack NATO, the women’s struggle gains its pointed revolutionary direction. The liberation struggle remains, in this way, only an attack against the central power structures, leaving aside the daily contents of violence, through which destruction, oppression, and exploitation are experienced.
For us, it is also part of liberation, a sense of life and power, if we set a small fire under the ass of a piggish landlord or his handyman, of the Atomic mafia, etc. The problem we have with this is that we want to do more than we can in practice do, at this time.
However, that will also change!! As well, the actions against the daily violence are already understandable, not only for the majority, but for all those who have not allowed their brains to be ripped off. In this way, attacks against the central/State power structure have greater difficulty. They must be planned and thought through so that the political line is clear. Basically, we think that there are no “targets for attack” that can “overthrow” the State. The chance for a revolutionary movement lies much more in attacks against the unified, State organized living conditions. The attacks against the central/State institutions is only a part of this. It is also illusionary – better dogma, with all the revolutionary slogans in an action – to seize upon a single target of attack. The organization of continuity in an armed group is more clearly the way to open a perspective of hope and victory.
Another point which we have reflected on is the women’s movement. We want to find out more clearly why the women’s movement has lost its revolutionary explosiveness and taken the path of the “new inwardness”.
“The one and only women’s movement doesn’t exist. There are many forms of women’s struggle, and in each individual one there are even more elements in motion, apart from the gender question, the class position, nationality, and the concrete situation”.
As well, if it has been lost in oblivion today, the view of U.S. racism helped the women to identify their oppression as sexism. Stokely Carmichael (1) once spoke about the meaning of the definition. He cited “Alice in Wonderland” in this regard. In this book there is a discussion between Humpty Dumpty and Alice about definitions. “When I use the word”, said Humpty Dumpty, from quite far above, “Then it has exactly the definition that I give it. No more and no less”. “The question is”, said Alice, “whether words can give definitions to so many different things”, “The question is”, said Humpty Dumpty, “who the man is. That is all”.
This is actually the decisive question, who the man is. That it already appears impossible to say “who the woman is”, indicates that it is the white men who define humans and things. It is as such that the history of Europe and America. They have defined what the coloured people and women of this world are. The definition that they gave women, as well as coloured people, was “uneducated and primitive”. In this way the rule of white men was legitimized. Women and coloured people must be “civilized”, which means nothing other than the destruction of all forms of independent consciousness expressed, for example, in individual histories and in culture, if they defend themselves, they will be mercilessly slaughtered. Thus, in Europe, the women during the witch-hunt and, today, the Indians in South America.
Understanding sexism and racism as integral components of the patriarchal ruling system often remains in the stage of “pious lip service”. So, in the popular analyses of imperialism, sexism as a means for dividing and ruling is barely mentioned. If we now write about sexism and gender specific division of labour, it is not so as to also say a word about us women, but on the basis of the knowledge that without concrete investigation about sexism, the condition in the 3rd world and in the metropoles, as well as in the Women’s Movement, cannot be understood. The oppression of women is older than capitalism, that isn’t “new”. One of the roots of this lies in the fact that the capacity of women to have children was and is seen as a function of her physiology, of her nature. To have or not to have children isn’t understood as a conscious act – as an interaction with nature – but as nature itself. Only the activities of the head and the hands was seen as an interaction with nature – and, as such, as work. This was not so for the activities of the breast and uterus of a woman. Marxist theory did not abolish this perspective about work. Accordingly, this perspective treats the so-called biological nature of women as a natural resource. They are, thus, exploited according to varied economic needs. In the 3rd World women are forcibly sterilized, in the metropole they are made material promises to encourage them to have children. Abortion is described as mass murder. The economic element of the exploitation of women’s capacity to give birth is expanded through racism. The whining and crying in the media about the sinking birth rate and the danger of the dying out of the “German people” indicates clearly what it’s about. Only German women should bear children. Women from Turkey, Spain, Greece, etc., should be forbidden from bearing children and sterilization should be recommended or even decreed.
Even the ruling class still haven’t achieved it, the research in the area of test-tube babies and gene manipulation signals the attempt to snatch from women their sole disposal over the capacity to bear children. The exploitative, non-reciprocal relationship with nature, according to which first women, and later other classes and peoples, were made part of nature is characteristic of all male styles of production – in particular capitalism. This exploitative relationship to nature has brought us today to the edge of ecological catastrophe. On this basis, they developed the sexist and racist division of labour in which they consolidated production conditions in which cultivating sugar cane and rice isn’t work for whites, housework isn’t work for men, and if women and children are hit, that isn’t violence. This division of labour is no superstructural phenomenon. It is not based on false ideas and false thinking the wo/man must only recognize, so as to change it, that it is the economic basis of the extreme exploitation under capitalism. In all serious analyses of imperialism, we’ve read that in the 3rd World backwards, pre-capitalist methods of production exist side by side with intense monopolization. On the one hand it is discovered that the concrete development, with growing capitalist development doesn’t cause these “backwards” methods of production to disappear. In reality, the opposite occurs, they are and will be constantly reproduced. For us, it is conspicuous that the problem of heterogeneity of methods of production are almost only examined in the 3rd world. In the metropoles, on the other hand, homogeneous methods of production are accepted.
“Those who see it from the other side wonder why the question of heterogeneity for the First World is not dealt with. Here, homogeneous methods of production ostensibly rule. This assertion is not only euro-centric and glorifying of capitalism (…) it is also sexist, because it covers up, in fact completely denies, that also at home labour power is extremely exploited, as such engaged at less that its reproduction cost, in fact half of all work hours – housework – is, in general, unpaid”. (C. Von Weilhoff).
Here, who the non-capitalist producers are is discussed:
– they are the housewives of the entire world;
– the subsistence farmers of the 3rd world;
– male and female marginals, particularly in the 3rd World.
It’s they who produce surplus value, as Rosa Luxemburg (2) wrote: “It is clear that surplus value is neither produced by workers nor by capitalists, but by social stratum who engage in non-capitalist production”.
For us the following facts are clear, sexism and racism are not something of the mind, not a case of false consciousness, that clarification and good will will change. It is economic conditions, which produce sexism and racism ever anew. They are, above all, necessary so that imperialism can function. That they, on the other hand, are also political instruments that divide the oppressed doesn’t speak against this. Imperialism is the stage of capitalism in which “the rationality” of capitalist methods of production – using people so as to exploit their labour power – has validity for very many people in the 3rd World. The majority are squeezed dry, without any perspective for health or an acceptable lifespan. And if there are too many people, the strategy is annihilation. Barbarism (3) is no vision of the future, we already find ourselves in it.
In the metropoles the conditions of violence are veiled. The economic violent force of capitalism has already established itself as acceptable violence in the heads of the people. The direct physical violent force, through the State with its organs of repression wins, but, as such, makes the significance of social conflict apparent. It is clearly established that the extension of capitalism in the metropoles has not led to the replacement of direct forms of violence by something else, but has led directly to increased violence.
Women have been exposed to every level of violence, the indirect, structured forms of violence of this social system, that ossify all possibilities of life, and the brutal, direct, personal violent conditions at the hands of men. In the last year, a rise in crimes of violence against women was discovered in the provinces where a formal social and legal equality was represented.
Open use of violence of men against women have become clear in their proportions in the last year as a result of the work of women’s shelters and emergency call lines. Women experience violence daily in different forms and qualities. They are embarrassed, humiliated, attacked, and raped. In the FRG (4), a women is raped every 15 minutes! 50% of women are raped by men they know. Every year 4 million women in the FRG are abused by their husbands. The decisive factor of the structure of violence is the abuse of women in the family, rape, threats of rape, and asthetisization of violence against women in the media, advertising, and the cultural industry.
Violence against women, not as the exception, but understood as a universal ruling principal, has led to the knowledge that the struggle against the personal experience of sexist violence cannot be separated from the struggle against every form of violence of the system. The increase in physical violence is a general social reality, along with the increasing senselessness of life and the anonymity of relationships, and women find themselves in the role of the social sacrifice. The covering up of this violence by the police and the justice system clarifies the embedding of the violent relationships between a man and his wife through marriage and the family in protecting this system is indicated by the increase of open violence. The contradiction between the claim of the full equality of women and the necessity of their clear oppression for the security of the ruling class is for this system an irreconcilable contradiction.
Women live in “exile”, because the socially organized institutions, like government, the economy, education, culture, the media, the church, the police, and the military are shaped and ruled by men. They are characterized by the principle of hierarchy, power, and power struggles. Therefore, men are also affected by power, violence, and oppression. They must subordinate themselves to these principles if the predominance of “male rule” is to be preserved. Our oppression is based on this. Women will always and above all be oppressed and confronted with violence either open or veiled, in a patriarchal society.
Women must bow to this to avoid an open confrontation with power and violence, as long as this system exists – remaining in exile as a survival technique – but also remaining in a sacrificial posture. This sacrificial posture leads to an evasion of the responsibility for social conditions, therefore making them partially to blame. The fact that women experience violence is no excuse for passing on the violence to their children.
The internalization of this by women, as the most effective form of securing power, occurs through subtle forms of preventing the development of self-consciousness through education, morals, and love, to enforce the established norms and to enforce conformity. Power will certainly exert not open forms, so that, without the use of open violence, women will take on and tolerate their social functions and will identify with them. As such, the situation of women leads more quickly to the surrendering of one’s identity, to self-destruction as the struggle against their oppression.
The women’s movement made the personal oppressive situation of women into the starting point of their political practice. The division between private and political was abolished. The personal was political and the political was made personal. Explosive revolutionary force lay in the consciousness of the direct connection between the abolition of personal suffering and the necessity of a social transformation. The idea of radical social change – much more revolutionary in the change of the consciousness of people than all previous revolutions – producing a deep power among women. New forms and contents led to the separation from the general left movement, to the organizational autonomy of the women’s movement. Autonomy introduced important processes, calling into question the value structures of male society, not looking far any perspective within the social power structure, not wanting to participate in influencing power, not defining women’s liberation through male roles. This led them to construct liberated space to escape patriarchal structures. That was and is important, because no movement has as much to struggle for a separate identity from the oppressor as the women’s movement!
In the attacks against all oppressive structures lies the hope of not being integratable, and the hope of producing and developing the core of revolutionary subversion. On the basis of the overemphasis of subjective experience, which was the consequences of the taboos in the left groups, and the difficulty of converting the knowledge of personal oppression into direct acts of resistance, an “internalization” came out of the politics of subjectivity: personal change without social change.
The route into the new “internalization” was favoured by the class position of many of the women in the women’s movement. For women with “good” vocational training, there were and are real possibilities of finding a niche in this society and of seeking a little subjective “happiness”. The powerlessness with respect to social relationships wasn’t raised. This approach proved to be a dead-end. The yearning for happiness was pursued without ever being achieved.
After the campaign against Paragraph 218 (5), the resistance of the women’s movement developed almost exclusively to the point of confrontation with the individual man. Women set up self-defense groups, rape crisis lines, and, above all, women’s shelters. State repression was thoroughly analyzed and described, however their behaviour was hardly political. Both the women’s congresses in 1978, “Women and Repression” in Frankfurt and “Violence Against Women” in Cologne, showed clearly the dilemma of the women’s movement. The coinciding of two experiences, violence as a daily attack and violence as a specifically directed oppression by the State, were not connected to each other. Abdicating the necessity of establishing the connection between capitalism and social oppression, abdication of the necessity of establishing who the man is, led, as a result, to the development of a tendency in the “self-help projects” (women’s shelters, crisis groups, women’s centres) to only soothing women in crisis. At the point, when women limit themselves to remedying the distress of women, without taking up and attacking the social causes, when they let opposition to the State drop, there is no guarantee against corruption, the radicalism with regards to the male gender of the police forces is at an end. Negotiations with the cops and the justice apparatus to help a woman who has been attacked, to imprison the rapist can’t replace the strength which is lacking and degenerates into complicity with the State. And clearly, at this point the massive State attempt at integration exhibits its effectiveness. The goal of this attempt at integration was and is to destroy the explosive revolutionary force of the women’s movement, to turn women into badly paid administrators of misery.
A similar contradiction exists in the area of women’s lesbian culture. The radicalism with which many lesbian women have broken with the male gender which expressed itself equally in a blossoming creativity in the areas of theatre, music, literature, and painting, which precipitated a new beginning for women’s culture, did not prevent it from becoming part of a State-tolerated subculture. Lesbian dreams are very radical dreams, but here in the metropole, they find a place. A privileged minority, who had the will to engage in social bargaining, with the hope of thus setting all women free, transformed the autonomous women’s project into an illusion of the achievement of personal happiness.
The autonomy of the women’s movement today, organizationally and as regards content, is to be determined, and its social external boundary is to be established. There is no causal connection between autonomy and the external boundary. The autonomy of the movement can and must be developed, without reducing women’s politics to woman-specific problems. For self-help projects, provocation, and not the avoidance of confrontation must be the goal, to break the social rules and not to be turned to a little functioning cog.
In the recent past, more and more women are expressing their unease about the political exile of the women’s/lesbian movement, more and more women are breaking through the ‘clones’ covering the women’s islands and are seeking to develop a feminist position and a practice regarding the questions of ecological destruction, for example, nuclear power, chemistry, etc., against militarization, and regarding the problem of internationalism/the 3rd World.
For us, it is clear that the women’s project can’t do without the organization of subversiveness and counter-violence. The women’s movement has already written enough analyses about how women are educated to endure violence, but to not protect themselves. Women are trained to accept the powerlessness and psychological destruction, which this system uses her emotionality to bring about. The sympathy of women for the oppressed is strongly developed, but the hate for the oppressor, the enemy, is not developed. Hate has something to do with destruction and destruction scares women. To stop at describing these conditions, means nothing other then to accept the condition of powerlessness, to accept the role this society offers women. The myth of “peace-loving” women is the legitimation for remaining in the condition of sacrifice.
“Powerlessness Is The Magician’s Hat Of Cowardice”
But every woman who has ever thrown a stone, who didn’t retreat after being struck by a man, but attacked back, can comprehend the feeling of freedom we had when we destroyed sex shops or set off a bomb on the occasion of the Federal Supreme Court decision regarding Paragraph 218. In our society, freedom has something to do with destruction; destruction of the structures that want to chain us to women’s roles. And these structures can only be destroyed if we attack the conditions that attempt to destroy us. Attacking in the most diverse forms, but always in connection with our unreconcilable hate for the society. The armed form of attacks is, for us, an unavoidable part of women’s struggle. This position, as we have outlined is barely developed in the women’s movement. Therefore, we have organized together with men in the guerrilla. But here the contradiction between the struggle against sexism and class struggle can’t be resolved either. Our status as an autonomous women’s group in the RZ (6) is determined on the basis of the current political situation of women, which is characterized by a weakness of the women’s movement as regards contents and the fact that the militant organization of women is only at its beginning. We are not a supplementary front of struggle, with which organizations can decorate themselves. We are not the solution to fundamental problems, only one way. Our feminist way bases itself on the perspectives of the women’s movement and the international revolutionary struggles, and not only on our perspective.
(Source: “Revolutionaren Zorn” (7) #9, January 1981)
1. Stokely Carmicheal – leading figure in the Pan-Africanist tendency of the Black Power Movement in the USA in the 60’s.
2. Rosa Luxemburg – leading figure in the Spartacists, the far left, non-Leninist tendency which broke with the West German Social Democratic Party in the 1st World War period. Murdered along with Karl Liebknecht, following her arrest during a workers uprising in 1918, in which the Spartacists played a key role.
3. Refers to a quote from Leon Trotsky claiming the future held two options, Socialism or Barbarism.
4. FRG – Federal Republic of Germany, West Germany
5. Paragraph 218 – Legal Paragraph governing abortion in West Germany.
6. RZ – Revolutionary Cells, the sexually mixed autonomist guerrilla group from which Rote Zora split, but with whom they continue to cooperate.
7. Revolutionaren Zorn (Revolutionary Rage) is the illegal newspaper of the Revolutionary Cells and Rote Zora. It comes out roughly once a year.
“RESISTANCE IS POSSIBLE”
Interview With Two Members Of Rote Zora, 1984
Let’s start with who you are.
Zora 1: If this is a personal question then we are women between the ages of 20 and 51. Some of us sell our labour, some of us take what we need, and others are “parasites” on the welfare state. Some have children, some don’t. Some women are lesbians, others love
men. We buy in disgusting supermarkets, we live in ugly houses, we like going for walks or to the cinema, the theatre or the disco. We have parties and we cultivate idleness. And of course we live with the contradictions that many things we want to do can’t be done spontaneously.
But after successful actions we have great fun.
What does your name mean?
Zora 2: “The Red Zora and her Gang” (a children’s book) – that is the wild street kid who steals from the rich to give to the poor. Until today it seems to be a male privilege to build gangs or to act outside the law. Yet particularly because girls and women are strangled by thousands of personal and political chains this should make us masses of “bandits” fighting for our freedom, our dignity and our humanity. Law and order are fundamentally against us, even if we have hardly achieved any rights and have to fight for them daily. Radical women’s struggles and loyalty to the law – there is no way they go together!
Yet it is no coincidence that your name has the same first letters as the Revolutionary Cells (RZ).
Zora 1: No, of course not. Rote Zora expresses the fact that we have the same principles as the RZ’s, the same concept of building illegal structures and a network which is not controlled by the state apparatus. This is so we can carry out our subversive direct actions – in connection with the open legal structures of various movements. “We strike back” – this slogan of the women of May 1968 is no longer as controversial today regarding individual violence against women. But it is still very controversial, and most of the time taboo as an answer to the power conditions that steadily produce this violence.
What actions have you carried out and what was the background?
Zora 2: The women of RZ started in 1974 with the bombing of the Supreme Court in Karlsruhe because we all wanted the total abolishment of paragraph 218 (the abortion law). In the Walpurgis Night (last day of April, “Women Take Back The Night”) 1977 we
bombed the Federal Doctor’s Guild because they undermined even this reduced abortion reform. Then the bombing against Schering during its Duogynon trial, and constant attacks against sex-shops. Actually one of these porno stores should burn or be devastated
every day! Therefore we think it absolutely necessary to tear the oppression of women as sexual objects and producers of children out of the “private domain” and to show our anger and hate with fire and flames.
Zora 1: We don’t limit ourselves of direct or obvious women’s oppression. As women we are also concerned about social power conditions, whether it be urban or environmental destruction, or capitalist ways of production; the same conditions men are confronted with. We don’t like the left “division of labour” under the motto: the women for the women’s question, the men for the general political themes. Nobody can take away from us the responsibility for changing our everyday life. Therefore, for example, we have set fire to the fancy cars of the lawyers of “slumlord” Klaussen, who were responsible for a series of brutal evictions. Together with the RZ’s we printed pirate public transportation tickets and distributed them in the Rulo area to introduce a little bit of zero-tariff.
Zora 2: Our latest bombings were directed against Siemens and the computer company Nixdorf. They promote the development of new domination technology for more sophisticated possibilities of war production and counter-revolution. They also have the function of remodeling labour, especially on the backs of women world-wide. Women here will be exploited with the technology of these companies by working isolated from each other in part-time jobs, without social security. The women of the so-called Third World will be worn out by producing these technologies. At the age of 25 they are totally ruined.
How important is the connection to the Third World, the exploitation of women there, for you?
Zora 1: In all of our attacks we’ve declared this context, also when we attacked the women traders and the Philippine Embassy last year. We don’t struggle for women in the Third World – we instead struggle with them – for example against the exploitation of women as a commodity. This modern slave trade has its equivalent in the conjugal possession conditions here. The forms of oppression are different but they all have the same roots. Nobody can play cards with us any longer. The separation between men and women has its equivalent internationally between people of the First and Third World. We ourselves profit from the international division of labour. We want to break with our involvement with this system and understand our common interests with women from other countries.
You explained how you understand your practice, but you didn’t explain why you organize yourself in the context of the RZ’s.
Zora 2: First of all the main reason is that these politics were developed by the RZ’s and we still think they are correct. During our development we determined our own content – therefore we organized autonomously as women – but we fall back on the experiences of the RZ’s. We also think that the cooperation of radical groups can strengthen the militant resistance. There were productive forms of cooperation such as the actions against the Reagan visit or the discussion paper about the peace movement. But there are also stressful discussions. Sometimes men who otherwise transform their radical breaking with this system into a consequent practice are alarmingly far away from realizing what anti-sexist struggle means and what meaning it has for social-revolutionary perspective. Between us women it is also controversial where the limits are, when a cooperation strengthens or paralyzes our women’s struggle. But we think our feminist identity unites us with some women of the RZ’s.
Does that mean that you define yourself as feminists?
Zora 1: Yes, of course, we think the personal is political. Therefore we believe that all things social, economic and political which structure and reinforce the so-called personal are an invitation for struggle, especially for us women. These are the chains we want to tear apart. But it is incomplete to make the oppression of women here in West Germany the only turning of politics and not to see other oppressive conditions such as class oppression, racism, or the annihilation of whole peoples through imperialism. This attitude never understands the base of misery: that the oppression of women and sexual division of labour are presuppositions which are fundamental for oppression of any kind – against other races, minorities, the old and the sick, and especially against those who revolt.
Zora 2: For us difficulties start when feminist demands are used to demand “equal rights” and recognition in this society. We don’t want women in men’s positions and reject women who make their career inside the patriarchal structure under the guise of women’s
struggles. Such careers remain an individual act from which only some privileged women can profit. Women are only allowed to design and manage power in this society if they advocate the interests of men.
The women’s movement was quite strong in the 70’s. It achieved some things in a legal way. For example: the struggle against the abortion law, publicity about violence against women in the family, and rape as an act of power and violence, the building of
autonomous counter structures.
Why do you then maintain the necessity of armed struggle?
Zora 1: Of course, the women’s movement achieved a lot and for me the most important is the development of a broad consciousness about women’s oppression in this society. Also women no longer experience their oppression as an individual case or think they themselves are responsible for it, instead women come together and experience their strength. The things that were organized by the women’s movement like women’s bookstores, women’s centres, women’s newspapers, and meetings and congresses – all this has been part of the political reality for some time and is a strong part of the
development of the struggle.
Zora 2: Some successes were rather an expression of the situation in a society which can allow women some leeway. Of course when they wanted women in the factories and offices they created more places in kindergartens, but this didn’t lead to a basic change in the lifestyle of a woman. It requires a continuous movement whose aims cannot be integrated, whose uncompromising section cannot be forced into legal forms, whose anger and dedication to non-parliamentary struggles and anti-institutional forms is expressed without limit.
Zora 1: The legal route is not sufficient because the usual repression and structures of violence are legal. It is legal if husbands beat and rape their wives. It is legal if women traders buy our Third World sisters and sell them to German men. It is legal when women ruin their health and do the monotonous work for subsistence wages. These are all violent conditions which we are no longer willing to accept and tolerate and which can’t be changed solely by criticism. It was an important step to create a public consciousness about violence against women, but it didn’t lead to its prevention. It is a phenomenon that the screaming unfairness which women suffer is met with an incredible proportion of ignorance. It is a tolerance which exposes male parasitism. This “typical situation” is connected to the fact that there is not much resistance. Oppression is only recognized through resistance. Therefore we sabotage, boycott, damage, and take revenge for experienced violence and humiliation by attacking those who are responsible.
What do you think about the contemporary women’s movement?
Zora 2: We think it’s wrong to talk about the women’s movement. On the one hand the women’s movement is understood as a result of long existing structures, of projects, encounter centres, and of mysticism. There are many currents which do not reinforce each
other very fruitfully, but instead partly exclude or fight each other. On the other hand new political impulses start from different contexts where women are becoming aware of their oppression and are radically questioning patriarchal structures and developing politics in the interests of women – for example women in Latin American solidarity groups, in anti-imperialist groups, in the squatter movement. Therefore the saying “The women’s movement is dead, long live the women’s movement” is accurate. The women’s movement is not one issue like the anti-nuke or squatter movements, which will not survive if no more nuclear plants are built, or no more property is available for speculation. The women’s movement relates to the totality of patriarchal structures, their technology, their organization of labour, their relationship to nature, and it is therefore a phenomenon which won’t disappear with the removal of some cancerous growths, but instead in the long process of social revolution.
Zora 1: The women’s movement has never really analyzed its defeat around the abortion law and around the state financing of projects like shelters for battered women. It lacks a rejection of state politics. Also, it anticipated the turning point in family politics through the wave of the new motherhood in the women’s movement. Also, the class question never existed; social differences were denied by the universalization of sexist oppression. This makes it difficult to find an answer to the worsening of labour conditions, increasing oppression, and reactionary family politics in the present crisis. The lack of a perspective for action in order to react appropriately to the attack leads to the dilemma of either going offensively against reactionary politics or solely preserving the unfolding of leeway for women. We can’t solve this problem in theory, but we don’t think the building of women’s committees (in the Green Party) is an appropriate solution. The experience is that women do not come to power by ways which exist directly to exclude women and to stabilize and conserve patriarchal domination. Therefore, we consider women’s committees which want to organize greater influence in parties and institutions the wrong way.
Zora 2: But in the meantime other important discussions and analyzes by women which consider the future development of society have begun to develop. The increasing oppression, with the help of new technologies, is investigated from the point of view of the lowest echelons of our society, new wages and work structures for women are analyzed, the indirect structures of women are understood. Many women understand and reject the everyday war against women – the wave of hardcore porn and propaganda contemptuous of women – and the call of the society for increased motherhood and more femininity. They also understand that the setbacks in women’s and family politics are presuppositions for the crisis and the new strategies of capital. The policy of population
control, for example the change of the abortion law, is the attempt to have a qualitative influence on the development of the population. Among other things its aim is to multiply the “healthy” German middle-class together with state sponsored genetic technology, which is a development we have to prevent. Today we need more urgently than ever before, a radical women’s movement which has the power to prevent and break open the social and political encirclement, not only of women, but also of foreigners and minorities; a women’s liberation movement which does not reduce the hope for revolution to a nice dream.
Do you understand yourself as being part of the women’s movement, or of the guerrilla movement, or both and how do you see the context?
Zora 1: We are part of the women’s movement. We struggle for women’s liberation. Beside theoretical commonalities there also exists another unity between our practice and the legal women’s movement, that is the personal radicalization which can encourage other women to resist and take themselves and the struggle seriously. It is the feeling of strength if you see that you can do things which before you were afraid of, and if you see that it brings about something. We would like to share this experience. We don’t think it has to happen in the forms we choose. For example, take the women who disrupted a peep show by drawing women’s symbols and dropping stink bombs – these actions encourage us, strengthen us, and we hope women feel the same way about our actions. Our dream is that everywhere small bands of women will exist, that in every city, a rapist, a women trader, a battering husband, a misogynist publisher, a porn trader, a pig gynaecologist should have to feel that a band of women will find them to attack them and make them look foolish in public. For example, that it will be written on his house who he is and what he did, on his car, at his job – women’s power everywhere!
How can you take responsibility for possibility endangering the lives of innocent people with your actions?
Zora 2: Why is it that people always assume that those who deal with explosives don’t care about what is self-evident for yourselves, for the women’s movement or the left. It’s the opposite! Because of the possibility of endangering life we are forced to be especially responsible. You know as well as we do that we could give up if you were right with your question. It would be a paradox to struggle against a system for which life is only worthwhile as long as it is utilizable and at the same to become as cynical and brutal as that system. There were many actions we rejected because we couldn’t eliminate the danger to innocent people. Some firms know this full well which is why they prefer to move into residential buildings. They speculate with our morals if they move into residential dwellings to protect their property.
What do you say against the argument: armed actions harm the movement. They are part of the reason for increasing surveillance of the women’s movement to denounce it as terrorist, that it’s split and isolated from the majority of women in the women’s
Zora 1: To harm the movement – you talk about the installation of repression. The actions don’t harm the movement! It’s the opposite, they should and can support the movement directly. Our attack on the women traders, for example, helped to expose their businesses to public light, to threaten them, and they now know they have to anticipate the resistance of women if they go on with their business. These “gentlemen” know they have to anticipate resistance. We call this a strengthening of our movement.
Zora 2: For a long time the strategy of counter-revolution has begun to split the radical wing from the rest of the movement by any means and isolate them to weaken the whole movement. In the 70’s we had the experience of what it means when sectors of the left adopt the propaganda of the state, when they start to present those who struggle uncompromisingly as responsible for state persecution, destruction, and repression. They not only confuse cause with effect, but also justify implicit state terror. Therefore, they weaken their own position. They narrow the frame of their protest and their resistance.
Zora 1: Our experience: to stay uncontrolled and to protect ourselves against state attacks a strong unity is necessary. We can no longer afford to have every group repeat the same mistakes. There must be structures in which we share knowledge and experiences which are useful for the movement.
How can non-autonomous, non-radical women understand what you want? Armed actions do have a “scare away” effect.
Zora 2: Why doesn’t it have a “scare away” effect if a guy sells women, but it does if his car burns? Behind it is the fact that traditional social violence is accepted whereas similar reprisals “scare away”. Maybe it is scary if everyday reality is questioned. Women who get it pounded into their heads from the time they are little girls that they are victims get insecure if they confronted with the fact that women are neither victims nor peaceful. This is a provocation. Those women who experience their powerlessness with rage can identify with our actions. As every act of violence against one women creates an atmosphere of threat against all women – our actions contribute, even if they aim only against the individual responsible – to the development of an atmosphere of “Resistance is possible!”
REVOLUTIONARY CELLS COMMUNIQUE / 1991
ENOUGH OF THE BROWN-SHIRTS!
Everyone has heard of the burning refugee-hostels and the deaths, but far too little are doing something about this. Munich is on its way to becoming the capital of the German neo-Nazi movement. Enough of this! We will attack the fascists!
Two centers of the Munich fascist movement got bombed early this morning. The first, the AVO-office of Ewald Althans, the most important propaganda center of the Munich neo-Nazi scene. The second, the “Munich Anzeiger”, which is responsible for spreading fascist and anti-semitic hatred.
E.Althans has been a leading figure in the Munich neo-Nazi scene for years. In 1990, he organized a march to commemorate Hitler’s birthday. In March 1991, he organized the Leucter Congress, where he and other prominent neo-Nazis publicly declared that the murder of millions of jews during the holocaust was a lie. In May 1991, he organized a meeting in the Eden Wolf hotel to honor Rudolf Hess. He has arranged transportation across Germany for Munich neo-Nazis. There has hardly been a far-right event Munich which he has not helped to organize. On May 1/92, he organized a meeting in his new brown house under the motto: “Unity Brings Strength!” About 300 neo-Nazis, including the most significant cadres from Bayern, attended.
Althans also has strong international ties. He has money and behind-the-scenes contacts. And from his office at Herzog-Heinrich Street 30, he can spread his brown propaganda unhindered.
The “Munich Anzeiger” is a free advertisement bulletin which gets distributed to mailboxes and which can be found in most supermarkets. It comes out in 8 neighborhood editions all throughout Munich. It’s published by Alfred Detscher, Jadgstreet 28. In the paper, Nazis distribute their fascist and racist propaganda unhindered. Like in issue 49/91, when the “Munich Anzeiger” ran a full-page article entitled “We want the truth and our rights”, which called the holocaust a lie and demanded that “the flood of illegitimate refugees be stopped”. The piece was written by the old Nazi Otto Ernst Renner. NPD and Republikaner Partei [two neo-Nazi political parties -ed.] members also use this paper. In the letters section, writings full of hatred for foreginers are regularly printed. The letters are full of terms like “parasites” “lawless gangs” “fake-refugees” and “asylum- cheaters”. In a fascist youth bulletin distributed this spring by AVO, E.Althans was highly acclaimed. Another connection, thus. PS: We’d like to quickly respond to a few groups in this statement: we don’t agree with people who think that fire and flames are no longer appropriate methods for revolutionary politics. Furthermore, we don’t want to close out this stage of history and be stuck with rusted structures and means of struggle, rather we want to be a political subject which is able to intervene in contemporary social processes.
(from Interim #200)
Revolutionary Cells Communique Concerning The Attack On The A+B Office For Roma And Sinti In Cologne, 1989
Unlimited Residency Rights For Roma And Sinti!
In April 1919, when armed workers from the councilist republic in Munich stormed the police headquarters, not only were files on political prisoners tossed out the windows, but also personal files being kept on so-called “gypsies”. Afterwards, everything was set on fire. The revolutionary workers destroyed the files which were kept in the so-called “gypsy center” established in 1889 in Bayern, a place which used the most modern police techniques of that time period, in cooperation with state agencies throughout the whole country, to attempt to achieve its goal of drawing up a complete and centralized listing of all Roma and Sinti living in Germany.
This episode says something about the same tradition which is being carried out some 70 years later by social and judicial institutions in Cologne, which have set up a “gypsy data-base” for all Roma peoples, who have no country, living in Cologne. Since 1986, with the help of this so-called “Cologne model”, a large amount of data has been collected regarding all the places where Roma peoples live in the areas surrounding Cologne. Through this cooperation between judicial and social institutions and the police, this material is not only used to carry out a small, day by day war of controls, discrimination, and terror, so as to make survival for the Roma as difficult as it can possibly be. But today, it is also used to provide a foundation for the social institutions to threaten Roma families with expulsion. The scandal, in our eyes, is not simply in the violations of privacy, but rather much more in the normality and continuity of the racist registration processes and the special handling which the Roma are still subjected to. Anyone who examines the history of Germany’s persecution of the Roma and Sinti would be surprised at the unbroken continuity of how the persecuting institutions have continually repackaged their social war against “gypsies”, for example through forced assimilation, criminalization, expulsion, and finally outright destruction during the period of national-socialism, all in an effort to ruin their means of existence and their way of life. But all of that was carried out with the same methods and the same intentions, and even with the same personnel.
The instruments of total information collection, observation, and social control were always the basis and precondition for all subsequent regulatory measures which were developed for a torment which reached its climax in the genocide of more than half a million Roma and Sinti. The files of the “gypsy center” in Munich, which fell into the hands of revolutionary workers, were quickly recollected after the defeat of the councilist republic. The activities of this “center” continued until the time of national-socialism, when they were handed over by Himmler to the “State Center for the Eradication of the Gypsy Plague”, which was a part of the Center for State Research and the Headquarters for State Security. This modernised and restructured “state center” carried out the exact same tasks. The changes brought by national-socialism were a wave of institutional repression which culminated in a wave of destruction, one which landed the Roma and Sinti in the gas chambers and in the sights of the gun barrels of the mobile commandoes which stormed through the occupied territories.
At the same time, national-socialism developed the nationalization of its race theory, and race research provided a “scientific” basis for racist persecution.
The “Research Institute for Race Hygiene and Hereditary Biology” of Dr. Ritter, which carried out and sped up “race research” on selected Roma and Sinti on behalf of the Headquarters for State Security starting in 1937, grew to be one of the most important instruments for the persecution of “gypsies” under national-socialism.
The results of this research and recommendations from the “Institute for Race Hygiene” determined, to a large degree, all administrative regulations for the marginalization, forced housing, deportations, impoverishment, forced sterilizations, and, finally, the genocide against the Roma and Sinti.
The eventual result of the “scientific” registration and race research, and the recommendations thereupon, were the circumstances which laid the foundations for Himmler’s “Auschwitz decree”, which gave the go-ahead signal for the systematic deportation of German and European Sinti and Roma to the death-camps. The instruments and personnel of the “gypsy persecution” survived the period of national-socialism virtually unscathed. The push towards annihilation also dictated policy regarding the Roma and Sinti in Germany even after 1945. Already in 1953, the “Center for Vagrants” was established in Bayer as part of the LKA [criminal justice department – trans.] and was headed by Joseph Eichberger, who had been in charge of the deportation of “gypsies” at the Headquarters for State Security. This agency functioned on the legal basis of “regulating vagrants”, which allowed special treatment and registration procedures to be applied to Roma and Sinti once again. The allies put an end to this regulation between 1945 and 1953. But some of the “gypsy files” which outlined the plans and execution of genocide against the Roma and Sinti came into the hands of the recently-establish “Center for Vagrants”. These were used for the reorganization of the system of control based on the results of the Nazis “gypsy research”.
At the same time, the LKA in Munich allowed national-socialist race research files to be used in schools for “scientific” dissertations on the “gypsy problem”. From these people, the ministries of internal affairs and health recruited their “advisors” for gypsy questions in the 1970s. Officially, the “Center for Vagrants” in Bayer was closed down in 1970. But the political observation and persecution of Roma and Sinti of the present day still make use of the material and methods of the “gypsy specialists” of that time. Their knowledge will be of even more use to the ruling powers when, as a result of the social and political changes in Europe, the presence of Roma and Sinti in Germany becomes a heated contemporary issue.
Over the past few years, they have mostly migrated from southeastern Europe, fleeing from poverty, persecution, discrimination, and expulsion, which were either caused, or at least tolerated, by the state. For the next few years, social and population planners expect an increasing number of “gypsies” to migrate from the southern regions of the European Community as one result of European unification. These so-called planners believe that in the “gypsies” they have discovered the one European population group that will most increase its numbers here, due to its high degree of mobility. Fleeing from poverty and unemployment, they will be the first to penetrate the wealthy regions of the North. That’s why the policies for deporting southeastern European Roma and Sinti are so clear, based on the fear of the arrival of thousands of others, who would come if residency permits were granted to those already living here. And no matter how racist the treatment of Roma and Sinti was in the countries of real-existing socialism, also here in the so-called “free West”, there is no end in sight to the vicious circle of poverty and flight. Very few of these people have actually been able to obtain a legal residency permit. For the overwhelming majority, the reality is as follows:
A life in camps guarded by police, or camping in a parking lot beside the road, miserable living conditions, continual harassment from authorities and the population, and continual uncertainty about the future.
Away from the gaze of public opinion, the state agencies that deal with foreigners have been trying for years now to get rid of the Roma and Sinti that have made it here. The deportations, for example those in Hamburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, have only ever been delayed for short periods of time, thanks to the pressure and resistance applied by supporters, whereas the deportations would otherwise have gone through as normal.
Caught between a rock and hard place, having to choose between forced assimilation or deportation, the state enacts special regulations to deal with Roma and Sinti, based on a social-pedagogical foundation, where the treatment usually consists of police assistance in carrying out deportation orders. It’s already assumed from the beginning that only a few will be granted residency permits. The granting of a residency permit is based on certain preconditions which hardly anyone can satisfy and which are determined by the state agencies themselves and whose criteria are based on forced assimilation and integration. In other words, those in charge have control over an instrument of selection and a indifferent system of control which decides who will get a residency permit and who will not. In the knowledge that files collected long ago can remain kept for long periods of time (for example, NS-files were still being utilized in the 1980s), we decided to take up the matter of the existence of files at the “Ethnic Minorities Drop-In and Advice Center” in Cologne. At the same time, we took up the demand of the Roma and their supporters, that the “Cologne model” project be closed down, by burning the offices and all of the files contained therein.
The “A+B Office”, which is a subdivision of the Cologne police department, and which is responsible for deciding whether or not to grant residency permits, is one of the two projects where research into the Roma was organized. Approximately 80 files here contain social data concerning living addresses, persons, and family structures of Roma peoples living around Cologne. Police and the foreigner administration divisions have used this material and the information contained within it to carry out their small-scale war against the Roma. Since the beginning of August, a real threat of deportation by the foreigner administration has existed in Cologne; motivated and legitimized by the knowledge of the “A+B Office”.
It is actually superfluous to point out that the right to asylum functions as a part of the arsenal of instruments used to marginalize and exclude the Sinti and Roma: without concern for the effects and ignorant of the real reasons and causes which forced them to flee from their countries of origin, the Sinti and Roma are denied the status of being politically persecuted peoples. Their right to stay here is entirely in the hands of the administrative agencies concerned. If the deportations of Sinti and Roma resume in the coming weeks, then an eerie scenario will become reality: the “trains of freedom”, which landed citizens of the DDR in West Germany, will cross over the borders of Eastern Europe, carrying the deported Sinti and Roma to the poorest regions of Europe.
The restrictive right to asylum and the ethnically legitimized criteria for residency permits based on citizenship seem once again to be a selection instrument in the hands of the ruling powers for the control of immigrants, an instrument which divides refugees along racist and nationalist lines, and which decides who will be granted the blessings of “freedom and democracy” and who will not. What does freedom of residency mean to migrants from non-EEC countries, for the Kurds fleeing from poison gas, or for those fighting for mere survival in lands ravaged by starvation and civil war?
The exclusionary policies drafted for refugees fleeing from misery, compared to the increasingly looser restrictions for citizens coming from the DDR, are just one contradiction: Both masses are mere objects to be moved around by the state and capital in order to protect the wealth of the imperialist metropoles from the aspirations of the poor, while at the same time producing this wealth by placing these people in the hierarchical order of exploitation.
According to the social- and population-policy calculations of the ruling powers, the well-trained workers from the DDR, whom capitalists have been advertising for in the Bild-Zeitung [a right-wing daily newspaper – trans.] for years now, are better suited for the rehabilitation of the social welfare system and pensions than the poor people from the suffering regions of the world, who are accused of merely seeking to profit from Germany’s generous welfare system. The fact that refugees from the Third World, who, despite all the difficulties, manage to make it here, are exposed to the pressures of having to find work on the black market and to the state’s newest plans to utilize those people at the very lowest level of the hierarchy of exploitation, does not stand in contradiction to this.
In a situation of nationalist jubilation and drunkenness, in which the dreams of Great German – that means, imperialist – solutions are once again taken seriously, it is necessary to reconstruct the social resistance. A resistance against the restructuring measures by which social planners seek to make global class contradictions invisible. The goal of this restructuring is to turn Europe into a fortress to ward off economic refugees, as is also the case with the racist hierarchy and selection of refugees and migrants, for example through the rationing of housing, jobs, and social services. It will become necessary to counter-balance the racist and nationalist mobilization by the state and right-radical populists around the themes of refugees and foreigners by means of actions which speak to those people whose existence and survival, both here and in the Third World, are in doubt. Borders don’t divide countries, but rather they separate the upper class from the lower class!
November 12, 1989
200 YEARS IS NOT ENOUGH – REVOLUTIONARY CELLS IN THE POST-FORDIST ERA, REVOLUTIONARY CELLS / NOVEMBER 1989
For about two years now, since the demise of the anti- nuclear/anti-Wackersdorf movement and the May 1st actions in Kreuzberg (during which there were heavy riots), we have been pressed, like other groups, with the question of what terms and developments are of leftist politics in West Germany and in West Berlin, and what our share is therein.
In response to the question of the causes of the present lack of any new perspectives, we have become a bit hesitant. When we compare the present discussions to those of the past 10-15 years, there is little difference to be seen. We are of the presumption that symptoms are often perceived as causes, whereby the issue of the incorporation of the Left into political-economic relationships disappears under the table, and thus leftist politics remain compulsively without engagement.
In any case, we see ourselves as presently confronted with a task whose dimensions spiralled above our heads. In the attempt, not only to develop a militant (cell) perspective, but to also explore uncultivated fields of theory, we were filled with such un- natural perspectives that we failed miserably. The same circumstances which dictate the crisis on the Left are also affecting those seeking a way out of the crisis. Also of importance is the break in any continuity to our discussion and the lack of any available structures wherein such a discussion can take place. Recently, the number of existing radical publications has declined, and so has the number of publications which are willing, and able, to print discussions of dubious legality given article 129a. The repression over the last few years against leftist publications seems to be taking its toll, and that is not due to individual editors, but rather is due to the fact that, with a few minor exceptions, there is no collective responsibility for the dissemination of radical publications.
The criminalization of militant ideas seems to have ceased being a concern to leftist minds; at the same time, the actual publication of militant writings has sharply declined. As a concrete example: handbooks for practical forms of resistance. In this area the situation has been particularly poor over the last few years. The fetishizing in and the equally dangerous uncarefulness of many handbooks (for example, on how to saw down power-lines) has resulted in much political and personal damage. Nevertheless, the need remains for a discussion of better methods of resistance, because practical resistance must not remain a myth or a secret science.
The campaign around the trial of Ingrid Strobl, for example, has, to a large extent, brought the notions of gene-technology, sex-tourism, and refugee politics to the fore. As far as all this is concerned, the forces of repression were dealt a blow in her case. But they achieved their end nonetheless: practical resistance has been at a virtual standstill since the house-searches of December 18, ’87.
But how could things be otherwise? If a group were ever to seize the initiative to once more leave behind a bomb in the offices of Lufthansa, then they must rely on handbook instructions which are already years old, if they manage to get their hands on such a handbook in the first place. In such handbooks, RZ recommends that we use industrial or military explosives. But who of us has available contacts with weapon-dealers, and who of us is able to break into military depots? There’s always the old herbicide chemicals for use as explosives, perhaps? Well, we don’t know whether anyone has noticed, but that stuff is hardly available anymore; at best, one can get it in some remote village, where people haven’t yet been alerted to the fact that folks can make bombs out of the stuff, and where the shopkeeper won’t look deep into your eyes and say, “Now, don’t do anything stupid with this, okay?”.
Except for Radikal, whose levels of distribution leave much to be desired, we can’t think of any publication which can print such action tips and instructions without sowing the seeds of its own demise. And all of this apart from the question of whether there are even any groups left who are busy developing new techniques and technologies.
And now we have reached the second big problem, why do we see ourselves placed in the position of developing an illegal, militant resistance? It is no longer immediately obvious that such actions as a whole are recognized as something very relevant to oneself, and as something for which leftist politics as a whole will claim responsibility. Groups remain stuck in a given theme and work for a half a year on theory, only then to conclude that there are no practical possibilities for translating this into mass-militancy. They disband themselves, find each other once again in new or old groups, and then allow a new theme to fail because of the same old mistakes.
We have as an ideal notion that a movement, via a collective decision-making process, could decide when and where the militant actions of small groups are useful and also provide the necessary structures to carry out such actions. This was still possible during the anti-nuclear movement in 1986. At a given moment, a common political ground could be found after clandestine actions were taken, even when no structures existed which could express this fact to the outside world, and when carrying out such actions, people relied upon the existence of capable support groups (would the BUKO, a coalition of action groups in Neurenberg, rally in support?).
It is, of course, the question, whether a similar clandestine process, which is currently necessary, is now possible given the State’s repression. It is worth trying, in any case. Back in 1986, the communiques of responsible groups often lacked any mention of if and how various actions were to be carried out. Only when the actions were great successes (Adler) or horrible failures (Kuebel, an action during which faeces were thrown into an expensive establishment) were the actions discussed, acclaimed, or criticized afterwards. But if the decision, to recognize militant actions as necessary and how to carry them out, is resigned to a purely individual one, then the conditions for developing massive resistance by various, small groups are not good. And what’s more: when individualization is in question, the commitment to resistance becomes an individual’s own question, one which can only be answered ‘yes’ to by those people who can look back upon past experiences, discussions, and relations, and those people must then be able to bear the consequences of their actions by themselves.
In any case, in the last few years there have, at least, appeared some books and articles to which we could orient ourselves and work with, and these saved us lots of time and solved lots of formulation problems better than we could have done ourselves. Included in this group of publications: “The New History of Capitalism” by Joachim Hirsch and Rolan Roth, which should be found in every living-room; the “Ganz von Unten” contribution of Karl- Heinz Roth in Konkret 6/89 in relation to the Kuebel-discussion; the “From Riot to Revolution” piece (May 1, ’89 document); the Freiburger piece “Out of Isolation, Into the Neighbourhoods?!” in the latest Unzertrennlich; and finally a number of old RZ-texts, especially “In a Time of Danger and High Emergency, the Middle- Ground Brings Death”.
Much of what we include here is not new. What’s new is the connection, wherein we, coming from many different angles, offer various hypotheses, and the conclusions we draw from these. On the other hand, for example, we think in contrast to Radikale Linke, that it’s not sufficient to work on theories of capitalist modernization for the time being. But on the other hand, in contrast to the autonomes, we think that the present structures of basically open forms of militant resistance are not strong enough to offer any decisive form of resistance to the process of restructuring. We also don’t believe that the attempt to build up better structures from inside will lead to anything more than turning about in circles and wasting away. One cannot improve on structures which can’t be developed further.
We don’t figure in with the traditional side of RZ. If we make clear in this article the possibilities for illegal resistance, we won’t be merely clothing our old, worn-out approaches with new arguments. Just as with other forms of resistance, so it is too with illegal and armed forms of struggle, namely that situations change and that once-adopted decisions cannot be binding for all times.
As far as this is concerned, this piece is also meant to add to the discussion around the Radikale Linke, and even if we can’t be present in person at the meetings and congresses, we hope nonetheless that our ideas will be present in people’s minds.
The project Radikale Linke is, as we know, not the result of our own strengths, but rather the result that the failure of the united leftist offensives in the past years. In any case it can’t claim to offer any mass-perspective. That also applies to the RZ and the autonomes, even though the autonomes falsely claim that they are the only ones who can still successfully mobilize and that they also offer a political perspective. But even a project born out of a situation of weakness is a step in the right direction, because usually in times of crisis the Left has been characterized by its sectarian squabbling and the struggle of everyone against each other.
(Therefore, the name Radikale Linke is necessarily arbitrary. You could first ask yourself, how a group, whose initial planning meetings were secret and elitist, can claim to speak for a unified, radical left. And secondly, the term ‘radical left’ seems to imply that there exists a leftist tendency which does not aim at the roots of social ills. In a time of confusion of terms, it is difficult, but necessary, to retain a sense of certainty. Along with that, however, we mustn’t let the countless Greens and SPD-ers on the subjective left fail to be made to realize that they are anything other than mere liberals.)
Still, we have our doubts whether anything practical will come of this project. Of course it is important, after years of unbroken discussion related solely to practical actions, to once again concern ourselves with various theoretical positions. But still there’s that fear that the project will sell-out the question of practical militancy, leaving it only to those who can and want to leave it to other segments of the Left.
Rainer Trompert and Thomas Ebermann write in their “Design for Certain Political Fundamentals in Radikale Linke”: “We would like to insert into daily politics a number of common views, and also mobilize around relevant events, because we realize that theoretical ideas without interventionist practice remain void.” In short, the theoretical discussion is not to be used to develop its own praxis, but rather the theoretical positions are to be fitted to an existing praxis. It is to feared, however, that this will mean an intervention into other groups and movements. We propose that with such a project such as Radikale Linke, that the involved groups reach as much of a position of consensus as possible, so that in moments of crisis, such as when shots were fired on Startbahn West, groups can remain politically united, instead of some groups having to remove themselves. The article in Arbeiterkampf from last October shows a different tendency however, namely that the project will become a game for those who love to argue ad nauseam about theory to the point of losing any practical relevance.
It is now important, not only to discuss the political advances of the past few years, but also personal contributions to the resistance. The already existing schism between theoreticians and people of the deed, and the hierarchical tendencies associated with such a schism, has become worsened over the last few years. Opposed to one another stands theoretical radicalism without any militant praxis, and militant praxis seemingly devoid of theory. “It seems to be the case that the critique of weapons and the critiquing weapons themselves exclude one another, at least if you look at the actors/actresses involved” (Ingrid Strobl). The unaccounted-for militancy in Kreuzberg on May 1, and the nice eloquence without any political influence of the eco-socialists and the fundis in the Greens, seems to indicate that the schism is wider than ever. The explanation of this is not to be found in a quest for influence versus a militancy-fetish, even if both are met with frequently. Differences in socialization and variously developed fears lead to different positions, even on the Left: “Talking, explaining, and lecturing are clever things which the members of the ‘new middle-class’ have, in general, learned. At the same time, however, they are things which are necessary when working in political groups. Another acquired trait is that of ‘restraining one’s temper’. That means developing thought- and behaviour-patterns which orientate the personal contributions, not towards the short-term, but rather towards the long-term goals.” (RZ-Aug. ’83). This is, in fact, not so much concerned with individual responsibility: “The contradictory situations which men and women face when struggling against the established order are numerous indeed. As for reconciling the pen and sword, they can only expect this of themselves.” (Ingrid Strobl). This does not mean getting Thomas Ebermann in a ski-mask, or getting the autonomes into library reading rooms. Rather, this is about making both sides of this existing schism aware of the schism’s existence, even if it can’t yet be reconciled, and to thereby recognize the limits of their respective endeavours, whether they be theoretical or practical.
(Perhaps we’ve been grumbling too much, since the Left is always more self-critical and because we often leave ‘positive thinking’ to the esoterics. Nevertheless, the project Radikale Linke is one of the most important initiatives of the moment, too important, in fact, for the Left to ignore it.)
This matter is of concern to us. We must eliminate this ‘division of labour’ schism as much as possible and to give it practical form, and to bring all of this line with our opinions and experiences. Post-Fordism In this next section, we shall discuss the political-economic developments of the last few years. We’ll confine ourselves to a short summary; we couldn’t say any it better than Hirsch/Roth. Whether we are even dealing with “post-Fordism” (Hirsch/Roth) or rather with an “intensified Fordism” (Karl Heinz Roth) is something we’ll leave to the part-time economists. Above all, we are concerned with the question; what effect will these changing political and economic relationships have on leftist politics?
According to Hirsch and Roth, the crisis which caused a decline in capitalist profits at the end of the 70’s had two causes. On the one side, the ‘Taylorist labour process’ reached its productive limits, and its inflexible and out-dated technological components made a swift conversion impossible. Other attempts to restore profits through rationalization, such as massive lay-offs, failed. And on the other side, the production-line created a new type of worker, who, through individual forms of resistance, fought against monotony and alienation. Calling in sick, effecting sabotage, acting nonchalant, and possessing a generally low morale all damaged the production process, which is ‘supposed’ to run smoothly. The fought-for system of social welfare meant that wages were relatively high and could not be suddenly reduced given existing contract agreements. In this way, Fordism ran itself into the ground.
One important stabilizing characteristic of Fordism, namely the intertwining of the state and its industries, seemed, at the time, to be inflexible. At the same time, the increasing inter- connectedness of the world economy limited the effectiveness of national initiatives to halt the crisis. What the world economy even further destabilized was and is the competition between industrialized nations, as markets became flooded with products (from chips to ships) from the quickly industrialized nations, and along with this is the much discussed debt-crisis.
Even the ideological problems surrounding mass-consumption were intensified. The automobile, the gem of Fordism, the symbol of mass well-being, suddenly became the cause of congested streets, millions of accident victims, and perishing forests. A new environmental-consciousness and the potent movement which grew out of this commanded the state to recognize these problems (ie, the scaling-back of the nuclear-energy program, the failure of Kalkar). No longer was consumption gratuitous; consumer organizations began distributing information on almost all available products, on everything from washing detergents to hazardous materials in food.
On different fronts, however, there were ways to head off the crisis: Technological: Micro-electronics and bio- and gene-technology are not only part of the expanding sector of post-Fordism, but they also offer possibilities for social control and labour regulation. (We needn’t say any more about this, as there whole books full of such information; we recommend people read Thomas Muntzer’s “Revolutionary Virus” in Radikal, 135). In this category one could also name eco-technology. The Increasing Flexibility in the Labour Market and the High Unemployment Among Women: The struggle of the 60’s and 70’s was more difficult to suppress than is now the case. A high level of unemployment is, thus, not only the result of computerization, but also a conscious goal.
But present labour-relations are being turned upside down wherever possible through promises and deals, and the labour process is being made more flexible. Whereas temporary-labour forces, during Fordism, were an expression of a refusal to be tied to a fixed career, under post-Fordism they are seen as an ideal: no social security, unqualified workers (lower wages, therefore), and flexible but nonetheless dependent, workers.
At the same time, the social welfare system in West Germany has been dismantled more fully in comparison with other nations: reductions in unemployment benefits and child-care, lower student grants, and a reorganization of the health system have been but a few consequences. It is no longer possible to refuse all forms of work and still be able to exist on unemployment benefits. That means a partially voluntary, unintegrated sector of the population is being forced into wage-labour and thus into the system.
Even the role of unions has changed: under Fordism they were still seen as social partners (which didn’t mean that individual employers necessarily liked them), whereas now their power is being severely limited. At the moment when the unions, through their years of loyal cooperation with the state, nonetheless see through the attacks being directed against them, and recognize at the same time how little in struggle with the state they really are, because they have willingly tamed themselves all along, then their future role becomes, from the outside, fundamentally different. The external forms have remained unchanged (for example, the right to strike), but their practical opportunities are now severely limited. And supposing the unions, under pressure from the restructuring, were ever to radicalize society, then they would find the repression measures already in place. The political radicalization of the DKB is hardly to be expected, even more unlikely would be their advocating the use of illegal action- methods. And ordinary financial questions (such as compensating for pay during a lock-out) make this situation even more dire.
The longed-for stratified society, one in which individual roles and positions are clearly spelled out, won’t be static. Rather, it will be a society in which everyone can, at any moment, be thrust either up or down the social ladder, creating an all- pervasive sense of angst. Ideological: “In opposition to the mass of poorly paid, flexible, and uncertain labourers stand a small number of privileged employees and self-sufficient people. In contrast to years past, the number of ‘typical’ workers with steady jobs and steady incomes is declining. Along with this has come two separate consumption- patterns.” (Freiburger paper in Unzertrennlich, 11/12)
Discount-stores and warehouses on the one hand, boutiques and luxury department stores for the yuppies on the other. But this means more than just a collection of expensive stores and cafe’s. A specific yuppie-culture has come into being, a culture which possesses a definite hegemony and one which performs a leading role in society. The discovery of the yuppie-word zeitgeist actually means that their culture is the zeitgeist and has, since 1968, taken over the dominant cultural avant-garde from the Left. It is important, however, to distinguish between the various instance of yuppie-culture and its actual social content. The problem isn’t so much that this culture has taken over from both the traditional German ‘flower-curtain culture’ as well as from the counter- culture. Even less of a problem is the development of a culinary culture apart from wiener schnitzels and spaghetti and tomato sauce. The problem is, that this culture of the few is based on the exploitation of others and the disturbing of social structures, and that its psychological success lies in its sublimation of personal and political defeats through conscious competition. This illustrates how fatal it is to confuse the struggle for culture (both in terms of art and manner of living) with the struggle for survival. Their immanent problems (collectives, relationships) have not been solved or collectively examined, and no new cultural forms have arisen in their place. This also explains why leftist politics has lost its appeal. The trend (nay, compulsion) towards leftist uniformity stands in contrast to the individual adoption of yuppie- style and at the same time its ideology.
Yuppie-ideology means the same-old false-gods of money, career, and power dressed in new wrappings. The old version (the cold, boring bureaucrat, married with children, inflexible and conservative) is no longer adequate to attract post-Fordist kids into the ruling class. Creativity, seeming autonomy, eloquent criticism, and the take-over of cultural freedom since ’68 has made it possible for yuppie-ideology to deeply force its way into leftist circles.
At the same time, these abilities are necessary to be able to function under post-Fordism. It is just this ability to make eloquent criticisms which has made it possible for profit-making concerns to have forced themselves into the environmental debate, and it is necessary, both internally and externally, to be able to correct mistakes made in the competitive market. Creativity helps one to discover new markets and to develop new technologies. Autonomy is the expression of individualization and competition; cultural freedoms compensate for the oppression of the workplace. These leftist characteristics have remained, namely critique, autonomy, and creativity. What has vanished, however, is solidarity, clarity, and attack. One can only guess what will result from this. The attempt to compensate for past societal failures through the search for individual happiness is at best ambiguous. At the same time, we are losing the very instruments needed to clear up uncertainties – and then, of course, esoteric concerns make their appearance.
When examining this alongside leftist tradition, one can see the results. While the members of the ‘old’ ruling class have retreated to their suburban villas, the members of the ‘new’ ruling class are heading for neighbourhoods such as Kreuzberg and Schoeneberg, neighbourhoods which they are transforming into live- work-recreation-consumption areas. How this all looks is well known. Houses become more expensive, expensive shops and cafe’s appear, redeveloping occurs to bring in newer, more expensive houses, and all of this results in the removal of the original shops and residents. Poverty is needed as a picturesque facade (‘dining in the Bronx of Hamburg’) to make one’s own advances visible and to make it possible to flirt with living in ‘dangerous neighbourhoods’. Eventually this becomes tiresome, and the push for redevelopment and gentrification increases. Out of these motley areas a city neighbourhood is soon constructed, a neighbourhood wherein the poor can’t possibly exist and wherein all the structures of resistance have been removed.
In this way, cities are restructured and stratified. In West Germany this has taken place along a north-south line, with the high-tech centers in Baden-Wuertenberg and around Munich, the banking center Frankfurt, and finally smaller centers, including the heavily subsidized West Berlin. Along with these are the traditional well-off area (Hamburg, Bremen, Kiel, with their ship industries) and the west (the Ruhrgebeid, with its steel and coal industries). But even within these cities the polarization is being intensified between the inner-city, the renovated neighbourhoods and the suburbs, and the newly-constructed apartment complexes and the old neighbourhood, in the latter at least some structural appreciation is possible, just as in all old neighbourhoods.
Yuppification is, therefore, not merely a material problem for the Left, but also an ideological one. Precisely because the boundaries are fluid, autonomes find themselves using computers, citizens initiatives become dubious, often unknowingly, because of their calls for restraint, and people in the Alternative List, with their ‘realist’ politics, redraw the boundaries between the die- hard yuppies on the one hand, and they, the leftists on the other. As a fourth point we would like to mention the return of the socialist countries into the capitalist market: At the moment, this is a dynamic process, full of surprises. For that reason, we won’t offer any definite prognosis. Anything is possible. Alongside the re-capitalization of Poland and Hungary and maybe even be East Germany, the Soviet Union, and perhaps also Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, and, finally, Romania, and then the secession of the Soviet Republics.
West Germany itself, either reunited with the East or with East Germany as its colony will be in a position to spread its political and economic hegemony throughout large sections of south- central and eastern Europe, aided, no doubt, by the process of European unity. Eastern Europe is, of course, an area ripe for investors who are seeking relief from flooded markets in the cities and the failed development schemes in the Third World. And since the opening of the borders, West Berlin is in danger of no longer be able to be a haven for victims of Germany’s social system. The sub-culture here, like nowhere else, could quickly be destroyed by increased investments and the restructuring into an economic metropolis. All combined, this could be a process with dire consequences for the Left in West Germany, replacing what once was a system of long-enduring change with cataclysmic dynamism.
Even if the existing socialist states of the past few years has ceased being focal points for Western leftist movements, they were, nonetheless, the supporters of liberation movements in the Third World, and, merely through their existence, they also dampened the belief in the omnipotence of capitalism. In a phase of a lack of political perspective and of reformist illusions, the sell-out of the socialist states has heightened the crisis on the Left. Worse still than the economic encroachment of capitalism into what was once socialist territory is that these encroachments have carried with them a very definite political ideology. Together with the dashed hopes of the liberation movements of the Third World (failed military insurrections in El Salvador and Chile; regression into dictatorship, Stalinism, and genocide in Cambodia, Iran, and China; the politically failed revolution in Portugal) has come a general loss of hope of finding a utopia on the Left, meaning a return of politics to mere day-to-day concerns. This is a situation in which our position is definitely that of a minority, and this can’t be covered over either with the projected hopes of the proletarian masses or with the peace/environmentalist movement’s idea that “we number in the millions and are growing stronger every day” or with the projected hope of foreign liberation struggles. This means realizing that we are a minority, a minority that is itself affected by society’s structures, and a liberation struggle must be waged both within this system, and from without.
Where political expectations seem unfounded, and when we realize how little we have actually, as yet, achieved, while at the same time the economic situation worsens and the compulsion to labour is intensified, then the function of the Left given Germany’s reality seem outdated. Indeed, they force the Left into a situation of sectarian squabble. It’s no wonder then that former leftists, given these realizations, have accepted posts of leadership.
A new political and economic elite is formed, and these will always be a thorn in the side of the Left. The confrontation with them, therefore, must become one of the primary focuses of leftist politics in the coming years. This should allow us to clear things up, though we must, at the same time, not force ourselves into isolation (Kreuzberg, May 1), but rather use our energies against the common enemy. Apocalypse – No Longer? Why was the Left so taken aback by the political processes in the socialist states? The taken-for-granted Stalinism in the East Bloc, and the disappearing of that system there as an eye-opening perspective for changes here, could offer some explanation. Even the best of prophets could not have predicted the coming into being of such a political dynamic, which arose out of relationships which were barely able to even withstand the existing repression.
Another possible explanation lies in the ‘perspectives’ of the Left in the 80’s. “The expected battlefield is the Middle East, but it could just as easily be West Germany or Eastern Europe, seeing how long a war has already been contemplated against the Soviet Union; after the Pershings and the cruise missiles, after numerous internal regulations have been put into place, etc., the plan- making still goes on here.” (communique after an attack on the Green Beret training ground in Bad Toelz, May ’86, Radikal 132/1). Everyone in the peace movement, from the civilians right up to the autonomes and the RAF, expected the same thing: the big war, the Apocalypse. And there was much evidence to support this fear: the stockpile of arms, the verbal militarism of certainly the USA government, the military interventions in Grenada, Lebanon, Iran, Libya, and also the Iran-Iraq war. Today, only three and a half years after the above cited communique, and only 6 years after the stationing of missiles, everything seems totally different: just about all conflicts are escalated by the superpowers themselves (Afghanistan, Angola, Nicaragua), liberation organizations are entering into negotiations or are being stalled (El Salvador, South Africa), the Iran-Iraq war is over, and the Pershings and the cruise missiles are being dismantled. The ‘hawks’ are signing accords. The Left is standing, gaping in amazement, and tiresomely repeating its claims of ’83, although leftists themselves no longer believe these fears.
Even the Left has interpreted this detente as an independent goal, the action of a single war-loving machine or its rulers, and not as a means toward some other goal. (That which is not being struggled against is the fact that this system, dependent on oppression and exploitation, is one which operates on the basis of irrationality and even provokes wars which do more harm than good objectively). Included among the very few articles which explain the arms race of the 80’s as arising from the dynamic of crisis and war is the article “In a Time of Danger and Crisis, the Middle-Road Brings Death”, published by the Revolutionary Cells in ’83 (No, it wasn’t us): “The much bemoaned escalation of the East-West conflict has been incorrectly analyzed as a break from and counter-point to the preceding period of detente; but if we look closer, we can see its actual consequences and means. The goal of the established imperialist powers is, in the first place, the shameless penetration into the East Bloc for the purpose of paying for the costs of restructuring here at home, not, as is commonly supposed, the military destruction of the East.”
This politic has largely achieved its goals at present: the capitalist penetration into and the ideological demise of the East Bloc are well under way. It is possible to explain the present period of detente as one which will last as long as the East Bloc and the Third World allow themselves to be submissive and/or the capitalist growth continues.
The Left, which has been preoccupied with opposing the arms race, weapons systems, and military operations, rather than the capitalist system itself which is responsible for war, is now left without an answer to or explanation for these ‘peaceful’ developments.
And the flip-side of the arms race, namely the economic effects of overcoming an economic crisis, is hardly considered. “The position of arms manufacturers within industrialized societies (such as West Germany) will only become more strengthened and legitimized by the decrease in international tensions, which were the results of an economic crisis. The U.S. is playing a great role in this: the so-called ‘right-wing-Keynesian’ concept of a gigantic enlargement of the national debt through enormous amounts of defense spending was a cornerstone of Reagan’s economic policy. At the cost of a high national debt, along with a rising dollar and a drastic trade imbalance, this policy stabilized the American economy at the beginning of the 80’s, while at the same time the world economy became destabilized. But the American defense industry has recently set its eyes upon a new goal, namely large subsidies for high-tech industries, which would strengthen American competitiveness in this market and regain advantages lost to other producers. But a high price must be paid for this type of industrial-politics. For a potential spin-off from the weapons industry, much larger financial means must be employed than for comparable developments in the civilian-technological industries. And the total economic side-effects are drastic indeed… “When seen in its totality, the question remains whether the intensification of the defense industry and of weapons production in general – even given capitalist relations – are the best means of stimulating advances in technology. The technological progress in Japan, in light of the dramatic declines in the U.S., seems to indicate the answer is negative.” (Hirsch/Roth)
In any case, the weapons industry is a significant economic factor, one which will, despite an intense process of disarmament, remain at a very high level, even when cuts in defense spending become imminent (ie. cuts in the SDI budget to help relieve the debt). And on the other side, pressure from the peace and anti-war movements, coupled with a decline in fears about military conflicts, will lead to pressures for reducing military research. Thus this must be another cause for the anti-modernizing Left.
Even within the environmental and anti-nuclear movements, this Apocalypse-fear was prevalent (when we look upon the anti-nuclear movement, we see an extraordinary phenomenon, namely that the radical segments of the movement defined themselves for a long time with this apocalyptic fear in mind). While the citizen-oriented side of the movement concentrated on dangers of radioactivity, the radical wings felt that the possibility of constructing atomic weapons which could threaten the East was reason enough to oppose atomic energy. And up to this day, people within the radical movements are surprised by the fact that their arguments were largely accepted by the citizens’-groups. This realization caused these groups to abandon the feeling that ‘we are all victims’, but it did not force them to construct an analysis of the established system. They could, just like the citizens’-groups, explain the building of atomic weapons as simply the continuing plan of cold- war enemies, and not the result of an economic crisis.
The present lack on the Left of attaching any significance to ecological questions can probably be explained due to the fact that the feared prediction of a deforested, radioactively-poisoned, cement-filled world had not come true (at least, not yet), and that catastrophes have become a part of every-day life. Consequences of this in the field of health care are readily becoming apparent, slowly and in an individualized fashion, namely in the rise of incidences of cancer and allergies and other sicknesses. What’s more, the environment is a cause which new, green-groups would like to reduce to mere a ecological problem, a problem which could be dealt with their ecological-capitalism, though needing the support of a radical wing. It will indeed be interesting to see if the forward-looking capitalism of someone like Joscka Fischer (of the Green-Alternative List) can survive given the short-term demands of industry. Presumably, this will only succeed if the Fischer-types can ‘present’ some form of alternatives to the unavoidable deline in certain industrial tasks.
The Left, however, must not concede that simply because capitalism gave rise to the environmental movement, that it must simply remain a typical theme for the middle-class. That’s why, considering this is far from an exhausted issue, whether or not eco-capitalism can survive, and considering the developments in West Berlin seem to indicate that it can, the Left can’t write this matter off altogether. Especially here in West Berlin, in the last few months ther have been several issues which should allow us to question the red-green city government, namely the question of the electricity network, the Schering affair (in connection with gene- technology and Third World groups), the border crossing at Schikauweg, a car-free inner-city, etc.
The fixation on the Apocalypse has prevented the Left from taking seriously the economic developments of the last few years; the Left kept its outlook firmly focused on the end of the world, or at least focused on the military aspects of the established system, while, in the meantime, the reality of people’s normal, daily lives has been totally rearranged. This fatal error, namely failing to develop one’s politics from out of the perspective of daily life, but rather as a reaction to the military posture of the enemy, which normally results in a subjective view of the enemy, is still being committed.
With the exception of the Hafenstrasse and the May 1st celebrations in Kreuzberg, the party-conferences and manifestations of the neo-nazi’s have become the primary rallying-points for militant opposition. However, whenever anti-fascist groups long for an anti-capitalist resistance against the housing crisis, rent, or two-tiered social systems, these desires remain as words and are not translated into actions. When fascist groups are only opposed militaristically, instead of exposing the bare reality of their politics, then it is very easy for those groups to present themselves as the ‘victims’. Nazi’s and their potential sympathizers are, after all, human, and thus they must be dealt with in a different manner than a nuclear power plant. If militant anti-fascism only is militant IN APPEARANCE only, then the citizen complaint of the anti-fascist movement proves true, namely that militant resistance only plays into the hands of the right-wing.
To give another example: here in Berlin, we still have not developed an effective structure to resist evictions at the hands of the red-green city council, even though many folks are already anxiously awaiting Bush’s visit (or next year’s May 1st). Here the point is also relevant, namely holding on to symbols which no longer speak to reality, because Bush is the head of an American State preoccupied, not with military, but rather with economic expansion. The question again: why this belief in an Apocalypse on the Left, why are we always making out the enemy to be more invulnerable than it really is? This is worthy of an independent investigation, since we can’t offer any sufficient answer.
We maintain that militant politics all-too-often wields a citizen’s conception of resistance, albeit concealed in an anti- capitalist veneer. Usually only those matters are attacked wherein the state holds its own, self-defined ethical norms of freedom and humanity in contempt; daily, structural violence is not sufficient legitimation for militant resistance. What’s more, we get the feeling that the commonly-expressed angst of the Apocalypse is, actually, a secret-longing for its arrival. When power structures have become so firmly entrenched, then the individual sufferings need to be explained as collective experiences. The Left As An (Ex-) Categorical Imperative When we look past the facade of the ever-recurring slogans of leftist pamphlets and demonstrations, then we must conclude that rarely have we had such troubled times internally as at present. The individualization of not only the decision of whether or not to enter into resistance but also of simply daily affairs has decreased dramatically. Our longing for happiness is privatized, and resistance is merely a means of securing the material advantages which can guarantee this. This helps us to explain why so many groups come and go. This reason is that the expectations and needs in these groups are at odds with past experience. Many of these groups are in danger of simply becoming liberators of the desires of others. If they can’t do this, then they are curtly abandoned in favour of trying to realize a collective gratification of one’s own expectations given the established social conditions. Remaining within the leftist scene really comes out of the realization that remaining gives more satisfaction. The Left as a categorical imperative? Of course, we could naturally, from this contention, exclusively rely on our own experiences, but even this is a sign of regression. The notion that ‘everyone is the maker of her/his own happiness’ has even been accepted within leftist circles; except for the most important exception, namely that patriarchal structures and behaviour patterns must be openly discussed with an eye to changing them, individual conflicts are no longer placed in a wider context.
Also on this topic a longer discussion paper needs to be written. We ourselves have always had difficulties with this, namely to express in words this great emptiness of broken collectivity. At the same time, the question of the situation within leftist groups (individual and political) is of vital importance in the search for a militant, illegal perspective, during a time when things are going badly on the Left. To put this another way: is our initiative not just an altered version of exactly the same militant subjectivism which we earlier criticized in the autonome-groups? The eternal revolt of here-and-now instead of being persuaded by an analysis of the objective power- structures?
Firstly, this is certain: “only in struggle does the moment of unanimity exist” (see “Kamalatta”). (The reverse of this, namely that unanimity is necessarily the result of struggle, has been proven false on many occasions). What this means is that it is bullshit to try and work out all internal difficulties and problems before entering into the struggle.
Secondly, the relationship between theory and praxis is not a linear one, but a dialectical one. That means: resistance comes into being, not when the entire leftist movement arrives at a common strategy which then only needs to be carried out in practice, nor when a unique, historical opportunity is provided, out of which resistance springs up automatically. We can’t sit around and wait for the moment that the entire leftist movement comes together and begins working on an anti-modernist political agenda. For one thing, we lack the necessary structures that would allow such a discussion process to take place in the first place. What we can do is to stimulate discussion through actions. Now we arrive at the question whether actions are productive or counter- productive. For example, the Kuebel-action: this action could never have been the initiative of the autonome scene alone (the consensus was never large enough, nor was the level of militancy high enough, to force the ‘Maxwell’ to close), but because of the fact that the place had to be closed down, the action unleashed a great deal of discussion.
Thirdly, the militant-left, which actually brings about no militant praxis, is not militant. Militant action has always derived its legitimacy, not only from the fact that the state and capital won’t disband of their own accord, nor will they be persuaded with nice words, but rather militancy is also needed in the form of self-liberation, as a breakthrough into internalized power-structures. “One who breaks no laws is broken by the laws.” That’s why it’s important that we develop a politics that makes use of relevant militant actions even in times of political calm. If we don’t do this, then this need – which is a common need on the Left – either will be gratified by politically counter-productive points or will aggressively seek an outlet within leftist circles themselves.
Our fourth point is that whenever the analysis is correct, such as the fact that post-Fordism is expanding the process of individualization, it will become even more difficult to form a mass-militant movement.
In the production sector, the classical model of the factory is either disappearing altogether or being redefined by the housewife, rationalization, increased control possibilities, and the continual replacement of personnel. Logistical advantages (including space) for organizing resistance, such as in the factory battles in Italy or France and during the few wild-cat strikes here in Germany, are disappearing. What’s more, everyone is becoming increasingly dependent on their jobs, and the consequences for speaking out, such as risking one’s place in the labour market, are becoming more severe. Even in the reproductive sector it’s becoming harder to organize resistance. The re-organizing of neighbourhoods is destroying space-structures outright. What’s more, freedom in the reproductive sphere, which sometimes is the only way of getting resistance started, is being reduced by the coercion to labour.
Whenever the organizational conditions of organizing resistance become changed, it’s not possible to stick with old concepts. If flexibilized workers have a way of life which already makes resistance impossible, then they are obviously in no position themselves to counter-act this plan.
When the social re-organization is complete, it won’t be possible to motivate yuppies around neighbourhood issues and thus the resistance capability of that entire neighbourhood is zero. The hot-beds of resistance, those few places where leftist politics is still seen as a power-factor, are, not surprisingly, those neighbourhoods where this process of re-organization is in full swing, neighbourhoods which the powers-that-be see as the inheritors of a political legacy from past movements, such as places which attempted to stop this social re-organization, like Berlin (Kreuzberg) and Hamburg for example. Even places like the Rhein-Main district (Frankfurt), which were once centres of the movement, are now dormant. And we won’t even mention the high-tech metropoles in southern Germany. The article from Unzertrennlich gives a perfect analysis of this evolutionary process which transformed a small, revolutionary city into a centre of high-tech industry. But on the question of organizing resistance, they miss something: “The point which we can seize and use for organizing resistance is the uncertainty and sense of crisis which accompanies the present restructuring process.” Firstly, what they call “crisis”, namely cutting off parts of the social network, is not actually a crisis, but rather an integral part of the post-Fordist system. Secondly, it is wrong to count on a crisis to spawn a resistance, and finally the question of communism/anarchism is again reduced to the question of how to drag yourself out of economic misery. “Even in Freiburg, the situation will lead to breakdowns, contradictions, and resistance against contemporary politics.” (Can the lowest of the social strata be kept quiet with a process of repression and an argument for resignation, for being content with what you already have?) “Therefore, we hereby separate ourselves from the idea of a revolution surfacing out of a united Left and instead act upon our notorious expectations of an autonomous, fighting movement, spawned from its own social necessity alongside of which the Left can and must find its place.”
This brings up the question of whether this destroys any ‘hope’ we might have. In other words, how can a mass-movement against post-Fordism come into being when the individual people, who are part of the mass, have become so individualized, and when knowledge of the history of the Left, of the possibilities and chances for resistance, is destroyed, and when State repression is able to completely squash any few remnants of resistance?
The Left, therefore, cannot operate on the premise that such politics of resistance will find itself in relevant surroundings. Contemporary, uncoordinated squatting actions in West Berlin and in other German cities are going blindly in that direction, and a simultaneous process of economic as well as political marginalization is taking place. (Or are we again finding ourselves in the midst of a banal generation gap, wherein the experience and knowledge of one generation is not adequately passed on to the next?)
Our fifth point is that post-Fordism is still in its social- consolidation phase, in other words, the ideological, economic, and repressive measures of today are creating much heavier disturbances than the accustomed minor disturbances of years past (there’s little point in speculating about the past, but it’s still intriguing to wonder how Fordism would have progressed had a massive resistance been in place when the first Ford production line came into being).
Obviously, post-Fordism cannot act as a permanent solution for the ills of capitalism. To name but a few examples: because the East Bloc will be made economically dependant, imperialism will necessarily reach its limits; the expanding sectors of high-tech and gene-technology will become saturated; the contradictions of falling wages and welfare benefits and the need for a rise in purchasing power will only be temporarily resolved.
But a stabilized form of post-Fordism will, either through freezes or through an institutionalized ability to create conflicts, be in a position to sort out these contradictions. That’s why the Left can’t afford to place all its hope in a resistance coming into being in the long-term and why it can’t afford to sit around and wait until its theoretical cadre, who will have already fallen years behind reality, are in a position to fully interpret the whole process.
An Approaching Fascism And A Post-Fordist Contradiction?
One contradiction which stands in the way of a calm, social- democratic approach to halting post-Fordism is the present resurgence of fascism. Within but a single year, the Republikaner have become a potent political party in West Germany; talk about re-unification is finally being taken seriously; and the recent scenes around the Berlin Wall made one think of the past, because the people who were tearing down the wall didn’t think of themselves as members of any party, but solely as Germans.
The question of whether fascism is in contradiction with capitalist development is a favoured one on the Left. We believe that the present developments in capital are objectively necessary, even if these developments partially harm capital itself. “The capitalist system of the ‘free West’ hasn’t had to justify its production for the last 40 years. But now it needs a justification, and precisely because there isn’t one, it has to channel all of its ideological and social-organizational energies to contain future conflicts, revolts, destructions, and battles. The only radical fighting-ideology which is suited for imperialism is that of fascism, sexism, racism, and nationalism” (RZ). Thus, the present resurgence of fascism is necessary, because the lowest of the three social strata won’t stay calm enough to solve things in a social- democratic or orange-green fashion. Despite this, the rise in fascism could be seen as an economic timebomb. It could be more expensive to wholly engulf East Germany, considering the subsidy monies which would be required, than if East Germany were merely retained as a colony; and even channelled conflicts are better than no conflicts, and, above all, they give the chance to build up a reformed leftist power.
It’s difficult to assess what level of struggle against fascists and fascism can be waged without questioning the capitalist system itself. This lack of questioning will result, however, if the struggle is exclusively waged against those fascist groups which are already marginalized from society. At the moment, the struggle against fascist, sexist, racist, and nationalist ideology is of a greater importance, precisely because these ideas are in danger of becoming intertwined with the general notion of the common-good. That is why this struggle must be waged by putting the slogan “behind fascism lies capitalism” into practice.
RZ: Still Dispelling Myths!!
At the end of this article, a German name is attached. Even if this name is not protected by law, it is still the mark of a leftist organization to which certain expectations are connected. We have carefully chosen this name: it stands for a politics which relates its militant, illegal actions to the state of the movement in general without being affected by the ups and downs of the movement, a politics which combines theory and action and which develops a continuity. Even though we were clear from the start that we did not count ourselves among the guerrilla diffusa of autonome action groups, it took some time, nonetheless, before we decided upon this name.
That’s not only because of the increased risk of legal investigation, but also because of all the myths surrounding “RZ”. This myth-formation can be explained through the tendency of leftist people not to involve themselves in a form of struggle which entails personal risks. So why the myth-forming, which naturally excludes these people themselves? People in the resistance are made out to be “ubermenschen” and their methods are considered impossible to imitate.
Other Revolutionary Cells have been busy, but it seems that the questions surrounding the notion of armed struggle itself has become more important than the dissemination of the existing communiques.
But RZ is in danger of becoming just a myth if actions are merely carried out without concern for their political content. This seems to be the case, at least, in the campaign against auslander- and refugee -politics. Apart from the physical damage inflicted upon the Berlin refugee office and the Cologne centre for the registration of foreigners, these attacks seem to have had little political effect. When one Revolutionary Cell once again made the point in a recent attack (May 9, 1989) on the court houses in Muenster and Dusseldorf that the campaign ought to be taken up by the entire autonome and social-revolutionary movement, it became sadly obvious that the movement as a whole was not going to react. And if you all maintain, “we have never fostered the illusion that segments of the proletarian youth, women, unemployed, and other groups in society would immediately find common cause with refugees and immigrants, because racism and sexism are too deeply ingrained for that. Anti-imperialism must begin by breaking through in these areas.”, then that still does not answer the question, How?, and the campaign remains ineffective.
It would definitely be worth while to look into this more deeply. But at the moment we don’t really want to write more about this, because the discussion of the attacks which took place is primarily the responsibility of those who worked on the attacks. We’re not concerned with insinuating ourselves into some nice little leftist past-time; on the one hand we have people who continually carry out militant politics just to be reproached for not concerning themselves with theory, and then we have the rest of the people who are such an apathetic lot (who get a kick out of analyzing themselves from the outside while sitting in a bar). On the contrary, our goal is to stimulate discussions within Cell, that is, leftist circles, to avoid the problem of making internal contradictions known only after a campaign has finished (for more on this, see the “Startbahn Discussion Piece”). The Cells need to shed some of their surrounding mysticism and thereby add to the process of expanding the movement by making their internal political convictions more understandable.
But still, there is something positive in the myth. The high expectations surrounding an RZ-project, at least as far as theory, practical completion, and continuity are concerned, have enabled us to express our (revolutionary) impatience in the form of actions. So we have finally reached a time externally when we are now able to address the above points. This hasn’t been the case with other projects; perhaps they just fell short. A continually open discussion could lead to both a high level of discussion as well as action, especially if other groups don’t fall apart in a phase wherein groups leave their theoretical development wholly up to themselves.
We also became stuck on two other points when we decided to become part of RZ.
The first is, we still aren’t clear as to what the exact relationship is between the various, individual Cells; in other words, how is a common politics formed? Of course, each Cell is autonomous and the name is not limited to just the ‘core-cells’. Nonetheless, the seeming division, which the Justice Department aids in making, between ‘core-cells’ and ‘resonance cells’ is not without some basis. Because it is, of course, easier for the somewhat larger cell structures to formulate theoretical proposals and to carry these out in practice, whereas the smaller cells can just follow along these given lines.
We would like to see groups from the old RZ take a critical look at their past (for example, why hasn’t the RZ-concept become more widespread?) and propose some means of democratization, at least as far is feasible given State repression.
The second point is, that we have some difficulties with some RZ actions from the past, especially with the involvement in the high-jacking to Entebbe. Of course, those days are now past, when high-jackings were an instrument of the militant Left, so we needn’t fear a repeat. Still one has to wonder why the only mention of this event in the book 200 Years RZ is a tribute to those RZ’ers who died in action. As far as we know, no RZ text exists which takes a critical look at this action.
Even in the lowest of times, deeds must take place. This is part of our conceptual plan. Again: the situation on the Left is, at present, rather poor, even on the militant wing. What we are lacking is both a mass-movement as well as militancy. Whenever a solution is sought for in a militant mass, the same vicious circle comes to light again: no actions are taken, because there isn’t a mass of people willing to act, because a lack of undertaken actions has resulted in lack of practical perspectives. Here again we see post-Fordism at work through political integration (for example, the Green-Alternative List and the restating of leftists’ demands and politics in terms acceptable to the capitalists) and through the process of individualization (increased pressure to work, micro-electronics, centralized factories, pleasant jobs).
Regaining our ability to define ourselves politically (in other words, to force other social groups to redefine themselves according to the demands of the Left) and regaining the fighting spirit which we need to carry on won’t come about either through theoretical discussions, nor with spontaneous moments of mass- militancy. Growing from out of a weak position is only possible with a mixture of provocative actions coupled with theoretical positions which expose the ideological reality of our enemy while not, at the same time, bringing us into discredit among those we hope to influence.
Here an historical example comes to mind: the climax of the ’68-movement was not so much reached as a result of the theoretical discussions which took place after Rudi Dutschke was shot. Before all of this, for example, there was the poster action, when illegal posters against the Vietnam War were spread all over West Berlin. Although such an action is really nothing special these days, at the time, it had the perfect political effect: within the SDS, a process of politicization resulted after the action, while not hindering principled agreement. The negative public opinion drew great media attention, resulting in an increase of membership in discussion groups which had previously been quite small. The same applies for the egg-attack on the America House. Our plan also goes a little ways in this direction, on another scale of course, and adapted to the some 20-year old history of militant struggle in West Berlin and Germany. That’s why we intend to inflict serious economic damage upon the ideological protagonists of post-Fordism.
We expect the following:
1. We need to break through the obvious lack of criticism of micro- electronics and yuppie-culture which has so deeply pervaded the Left; we want the Left to come to recognize its own guilty conscience.
2. Given the decentralization which has taken place in many small companies, it should be fairly easy to completely shut down certain firms. Even branches of high-tech firms are somewhat more flexible when it comes to relocation than are branches of other, more traditional industries. In the long term, we would like to add to the destabilization of the investment climate in West Berlin, where investments are currently on the rise.
3. We would like to partially reverse the trend on the Left of lacking perspective and a willingness to act.
Our own strengths in this process are, of course, limited; a cell can only realistically carry out a few actions per year. Nonetheless, we hope to have an effect. The political possibilities of illegal actions are often over-estimated by those carrying out actions and under-estimated by the opponents of action. We want to more closely examine this. Illegal actions can achieve a continuity, and thereby unleash a process which makes the enemy feel uneasy. What actions can’t do, however, is replace political dynamics and discussions within the mass-movement. And they also mustn’t lead to an independent culture. What they can do is go farther than the mass-movement and the Left as a whole can. If we are limited in Kiez, then we can go to Gruenewald; if, despite years of discussion, too few people show up at a demonstration against genetic technology, then we can always pick up the slack; if squatters can’t themselves take actions against developers because they are always under surveillance, then perhaps it is possible for us to act.
The problem remains, however, that the realization of this concept into a broad, politically effective method is still only feasible in leftist bastions such as Hamburg and Berlin, where illegal actions are not isolated events, but are rather widely discussed. The question remains whether this concept can be carried out in smaller cities, or in cities where post-Fordism is already more advanced, namely in Muenchen or Stuttgart.
But it is clear that the present state of apathy, waiting for others to seize the initiative, or the taking of mini-actions is not acceptable. Maybe this attempt offers a solution, to confront the regional process of restructuring by coming together in the open in mass-militant protest, and letting this be coupled with illegal actions. But this isn’t the place to decide that, rather, it must come out of a process of discussion. And this discussion is desperately needed.
This concept states exactly the drawback of limiting the revolution to Kiez (see the discussion piece, “From Riot to Revolution”).
It’s important to set up counter-powers in our own neighbourhoods to hinder the eventual process of social restructuring. The problem is, will each small capitalist be willing to lose his/her job, especially if no counter-structures are in place? Where can we buy/steal things, for example, if stores like Kaiser’s move out?
This point makes it clear that the development of poorer neighbourhoods is not independent of the development of richer areas. An attack on Benny in Kiez doesn’t harm the high-tech producers in Charlottenburg and Wilmarsdorf. Building a gymnasium in Kreuzberg does not affect the expensive establishments in Schoeneberg. What we see in So. 36 are the symptoms, the cause is the economic development, which is taking place primarily in city- centres. Yuppification and the increase in numbers of sports facilities are the results are the results of two different concepts: ‘revaluing’ and ‘renovation’ respectively, of which only one can continue.
As for us, for each independent action we shall write a full discussion piece, in which all of the above will be considered, bearing in mind actual developments. Above all, we are counting on reactions to this article, whereby we already are aware of the folks in the above-described weak structures, who often out of being pressed for time offer no replies, and then only react when actions force them to voice their opinion.
We were forced to be vague in the last part of this article. What comes of this shall be revealed in our praxis. We are counting on a fruitful discussion, which will bring the possibility of another way of life that much closer to us all.
REVOLUTIONARY CELLS COMMUNIQUE: THE END OF OUR POLITICS – ARMED RESISTANCE IN THE 90’S / 1992
We have given up our present form of militant resistance in our region. We took this decision after our attacks on the State chancellor’s office in Dusseldorf and the Ministry of Social Affairs in January of 1991 – actions which remained without results. Just like most of our actions, the actions in January were focused on refugee policies and, in particular, against the irregular treatment of the Roma by the provincial government in North-Rhein-Westphalia. (1)
We based our conclusions on the standpoint that the form and structure of our struggle was an expression of a specific phase in the development of the social contradictions in Germany since 1968. With the collapse of real-existing socialism, the reunification of Germany, and the “New World Order” sketched out in the second Gulf War, this phase was unmistakeably changed. With the new project of “Great Germany”, the social contradictions have by no means become less severe. The contradictions are permanently reproduced here and are exported to the fringes of Europe and to the Third World. The events of 1989-90 can be historically analyzed: the definitive leap of Germany to super-power status, the reformation of Europe (including the former East Bloc countries) under German hegemony, and the coming-into-being of the New World Order with all of its social and military-strategic consequences. The developments require an entirely new level of organization of militant and revolutionary resistance. But we can only formulate this as an empty pretence. In reality, we have been run-over by history.
The conditions for left-radical politics in Germany have changed drastically in a short period of time. The starving off of the left in general, including the autonomist scene, from which and in connection with we have always generally operated, is maybe just a by-product of this process of change. But our politics was fundamentally based on this level. We can’t go on as the representatives of a historical tendency in Germany from the 1970’s if everything has since fallen apart. Our own actions over the last few years have taken place in a vacuum and we no longer part of a broader social practice. The coordination of our politics: armed opposition – carrying over – anchoring – broadening; these no longer work. The point of reference has shifted and structures have disappeared. The struggle against the “colonization of people’s minds”, which was always our standard, needs to take place in a different manner if we are to draw conclusions from these changes. We are not prepared to carry on our politics without some form of interaction between legal and illegal forms of struggle. That would always mean: without control. Nor do we want to ascribe a legitimacy to our method which is independent of concrete historical conditions just because there’s nothing better to do than go on with the politics we have chosen. If we want to remain as political subjects, then we are forced to think of something different.
The end of our politics is connected with the existence of a new national and international context and a radicalization of imperialism, the consequences of which we cannot predict. What is certain, however, is that migration is the most important indicator of this development, one which the Western countries will be increasingly confronted with and influenced by. Whether conditions of uprisings or adaptation will result in the Western nations, this is still unclear. So is where the eventual fractures will be. The struggle in the proletarian sector, in the sub-cultures of young migrants, the struggle of the social injustices faced by women, of the victims of de-regulation in the East – at this moment, we can’t tell. We will be confronted with images in which the emancipation of a class is not to be seen. And our analytical instruments are not adequate to decipher the meaning behind the various forms of appearance. So there’s nothing left, except to discuss the historical process, or to grasp back at hierarchical-patriarchal, antiquated political models and modes of communist organization. Or to hastily craft new ideologies, which again measure the present contradictions of the completely open situation with a mono-causal world-vision. Isolation Let us, now that our attempts to bring about a revolutionary situation in Germany are behind us, look at the causes which brought about our end of involvement. Maybe a look back at the developments and turning-points in our politics can offer some clues as to how we can again play a role in social conflicts.
In the 80’s, we tried to develop a militant politics in our region, one which was always based on the principle of ‘anchoring’ and ‘broadening’. Anchoring in an active left-radical environment and, where possible, in social conflicts which reached beyond the left-radical scene. We tried, with our actions and communiques, to couple proposals which were politically oriented, rather than placing ourselves in a vanguard position ahead of the legal resistance. Initially, the proposals were the result of an anti-racist and internationalist orientation in support of the black liberation struggle in South Africa. Later came our campaign against imperialist refugee policies and the agencies responsible for such policies. At the end of our refugee campaign in December 1987, and when we resumed our actions to support the Roma peoples in 1989, we were very conscious of our isolation. The lack of anchoring in our political environment could no longer be compensated for by sporadic accompanying rituals from the scene. The action of the BKA (2) in December 1989, against structures of those like us and the Rote Zora (3) who were taking up “attack-relevant themes” (4) like gene-technology and refugee politics, showed just how far this ‘loss of contact’ had gone and just how thin our protection was. Although the state didn’t have any concrete successes as a result of this, the criminalization of ‘attack-relevant themes’ did come about. The legal left was not prepared (and we ourselves left off) to go on an offensive with the criminalized themes and to thereby protect our part of the campaign against gene-technology and refugee politics. Instead, the broad and hasty support was instead given to the victims of the repression, not our politics. This shift in orientation, from thematic work to an aspect of direct repression, was in important factor which lead to the collapse of many of the legal structures which we had directed ourselves towards. For ourselves, involvement with the events of December 1989 became a substitute for politics. This finally led to hasty internal difficulties for the Revolutionary Cells in general. To be more precise: we are now convinced that the wave of repression at that time was not what broke our politics. Rather, the BKA acted at a time when the over-load of illegal actions, especially in the area of refugee politics, had become an increasing problem.
Over the last three years, as we tried to link up thematically with the refugee campaign and to intervene in the conflicts between the officials in North-Rhein-Westphalia and the racist laws and threatened deportations of the Roma people, we weren’t so much bothered by the police as we were by frustration. The open solidarity groups either not even recognized our actions, or they refused to enter into the political conflicts with the government.
That which we always sought to avoid happened nonetheless: we were alone, with no possibilities for exchange. The motivation for armed intervention could only be subjectively maintained. This situation we regarded as the death of politics, and an opening of the door to terrorism and arbitrary actions. The weaknesses in our politics in the real of refugee policy were made clear by our inability to get other groups from our spectrum onto a common course. Our proposal in 1990 was to get all the groups in the Revolutionary Cells to begin an anti-racist and internationalist campaign. Our reason for this was the nationalist reconstruction of Germany; also the hate-campaign by the state and the mob against ‘foreigners’ and the social-technical construction of a ‘refugee’ and ‘gypsy’ problem. This proposal was not taken up. Some parts of the Revolutionary Cells structure thought that a new, anti-patriarchal orientation could get the Revolutionary Cells over its down-period, without having to have a fundamental discussion of the Revolutionary Cells in and of itself. On the contrary, our group did not want to take up the common orientation on the theme of ‘patriarchy’. The importance of this theme and the necessity of its being discussed are clear to us. But we found the state of the discussion insufficient and the theoretical gaps too large to be able to work out any possible relationship between legal and illegal struggle or to distil any sort of armed politics from it. From a historical standpoint, maybe we could have added an emancipatory element to the patriarchy discussion, if we had been able to carry out a common politics with the women of the Rote Zora, instead of trying to bring us closer through our insights and conduct. But that is another history.
In short: in the internal Revolutionary Cells discussion on patriarchy, we don’t see any manageable political starting points. Even if the ‘man as doer’ is put in the forefront and politics replaces personal views and we ‘distance ourselves from the male definition of power’, we still see this whole direction as one which is self-discouraging and de-politicizing, rather than as something which gives new input towards social-revolution. In any case, anti-patriarchal struggle won’t help us past our present pressing crisis, namely the fact that militant and armed struggle, such as we have tried to develop, has become the concern of increasingly fewer people and seems to no longer have any social basis.
We became political fossils when the left in both West and East Germany seemed unable to react to the consequences of the reunification. With this passivity, with the failure to formulate any alternatives, and the total inability propose, even theoretically, any internationalist perspective to counter the rise of nationalism, the left disappeared as a domestic political factor. Even the Revolutionary Cells were swept out of the historical process by this passivity. We couldn’t offer any clarification of the events which, as it seems, were set to shape the 90’s: German hegemony in Europe, the Gulf War, and the collapse of real-existing socialism. Even our own anti-imperialist and social-revolutionary models of clarification have failed with respect to this course of history.
We have been dragged along with the disappearance of leftist utopian ideals and the communist systems, even though our own political history placed us miles away from that which was real-existing socialism and which deservedly went bankrupt. We had always maintained that Bolshevik communism was just another a form of control. Our practice did not orient itself to the question of power, but rather to the development and broadening of social self-determination from below. Still, this bankrupt system is thrown at our feet and we can’t just act as if the perverse forms of communism which we were in power don’t concern us. It’s damn hard to argue for a theory of social liberation, much less revolution, in the European metropoles at this point in time. An abstract reference to the global victory of imperialism, hunger, and the suffering of millions of people is not enough. The Albanian refugees in Italy were just a prelude to the undermining of Fortress Europe which will affect the relationships here. At this moment, we don’t see how armed actions can solve this lack of political perspective and bring about mass revolutionary politics in Germany. The form and means of armed struggle, as we know all too well, easily becomes an end in itself, a substitute for political strategies. The Refugee Campaign We suspect that already during the refugee campaign in the 80’s, and the closer look given to the so-called ‘social question’, that our isolation reached a point of no return, although we were striving for just the opposite. We had hoped that by thematizing on the new class relationships and the social exclusion of the under-class that we had found a way to possibly approach a revolutionary subject and to anticipate its struggle. This was supposed to break through the limited orientation on single-issue movements (like squatting and the anti-nuclear movement) which we and rest of the autonomous left had concerned ourselves with since the 70’s. Our fixation on these movements brought us to a crisis, since we seemed to have had false expectations, interpreting them a microcosms of a general social upheaval.
We also tried, by formulating a ‘concrete anti-imperialism’, to break through the rusted one-dimensionality of old leftist internationalism. We saw a possibility in binding the social themes with the refugee campaign for developing a whole new arena for international solidarity in the West.
What we didn’t fully understand at that time, or what we didn’t have an answer for in any case, was the division which first became visible in this campaign of between the theme (refugees) and those who we were orienting ourselves towards (the left-radical scene). We envisioned a possible progress of the global expropriation struggle by refugees in the metropoles. Representatives of the world proletariat, against which the state had to take special measures, which also in part applied to the populations in the metropoles. Of course we didn’t think that there would quickly develop ties between the refugees and the proletarian classes who first had to overcome their racism. But we fantasized that the refugees would demand of the metropoles their share of the society’s wealth. A form of direct anti-imperialist struggle, linked with the resistance experience in the Third World, and thus also a terrain for our politics. When this struggle, in which we had wanted to take part, didn’t come about (instead were the many ‘reformist’ demands of asylum-seekers), we compensated for this with an analysis of the state’s refugee politics and attacks on its responsible agencies. We made the business of the refugees our own business, without concerning ourselves with their subjectivity or expectations, indeed without even knowing them. This ‘refugee politics without refugees’ seemed necessary. It came out of our experiences in open refugee work and was supplemented with a theoretical analysis of the state’s role in migration. But with this we lost a real opportunity to enter in on the ‘social question’. Maybe because we thought that the problems such a step would entail would be too great for an illegal group. But also because there were no exchanges at that time between the left and the refugees. In the attempt to link social themes to refugee politics, things only flowed in one direction. We abandoned the old issue-movement terrain in order to gain an all-encompassing perspective on social change. But we never questioned our own form of organization, nor the methods or goals of our own actions; and we remained oriented to the left-radial milieu.
In the meantime, the left, whatever remains of it, can no longer ignore the continual sharpening of the situation of refugee and asylum politics, attacks by the state and racists, and the threatening environment faced by refugees. It has become necessary to at least protect their right to stay in Germany. Paradoxically, this comes at a time when we have found ourselves isolated by our attempts to do just that. Myths Until now, we have limited ourselves to calling the loss of our organization and the resulting tension between our own revolutionary pretensions and real political developments the end of our politics. But there is a more fundamental problem. The question should arise: How can a formation like the Revolutionary Cells achieve its idea of anchoring and broadening with the use of certain limited forms of struggle?
The Revolutionary Cells came into being in the early 1970’s when the discussion about revolutionary violence was not a taboo and was very broad. Armed resistance – even though only actually practised by a few people – was seen by many people as legitimate, and as something which characterized the dynamics of the global class struggle. The armed groups were a part of the revolutionary spectrum according to the left. In the factory struggles in the 70’s, the squatting struggles, the youth and disenfranchised groups, and especially in the developing women’s struggle, initiatives were seen as part of social change. The experiences of the Latin American guerrilla as a necessary part of the mass movement on its way to revolution was of central importance for the struggle in Western countries for several years. The notion was transplanted here, and the “storming of the headquarters” seemed within the realm of possibility.
The massive repression of the state led to the initial process of losing solidarity. The German Autumn of 1977 (6), the anti-nuclear movement, and the orientation of the Autonomen on single-issue movements were the end of this phase. After the repression against our organization in 1977, the Revolutionary Cells linked their political fortunes with the conjectures of the issue-struggles. The Revolutionary Cells went behind these, complemented them, and saw new seeds of revolution in them. The Revolutionary Cells went beyond the limited goals of the issue-struggles, in so much as they maintained a fundamentally revolutionary orientation. In this phase, the Revolutionary Cells succeeded in stimulating a readiness for militant resistance within the single-issue movements through exemplary examples of the practical methods involved and by making armed opposition a notion which became anchored within the leftist political culture. The themes changed and were arbitrary and shifting (anti-nuclear, Startbahn West (7), the squatters’ movement, the peace movement, gene-technology, etc.), but the credo of the Revolutionary Cells remained the same: armed resistance is possible. Our anchoring, or our impression of it, was expressed in the propaganda and broadening of militant and armed methods of resistance. This anchoring seemed to mirror our acceptance within the radical-left. The more broad and militant the resistance became, the better we were able to decide upon our actions. We carried them out in a manner which allowed for no contradictions within the movement. That’s why we avoided the level of ‘power confrontations’. The slogans “Struggle for the hearts and minds of the people!” and “Create many Revolutionary Cells!” represented this broader concept.
The struggle against Startbahn West, when massive open resistance was coupled with illegal actions, was the high-point of the Revolutionary Cell operating there. It had a clear role to play in a regional struggle. It united the general acceptance of the use of violence with its interventions – for us, and example of the successful anchoring of revolutionary politics. In a much more limited fashion, this was also the case with the campaign against fare increases on public transportation in the Rhein and Ruhr areas, during which counterfeit transport tickets were distributed in various neighbourhoods. This was a small example of cheering people up with illegal, cost-saving undertakings.
The concept “Create many Revolutionary Cells!” was only achieved in so far as parallel methods of struggle arose. We weren’t able to get a stable footing in the single-issue movements nor to convince militants to leave their structures to embark on a revolutionary project and organization. The squatters’ movement is an example of this. The willingness to use militancy had grown, and the use of similar forms of struggle as our own were the expressions of a broad political culture of resistance. The broadening of our methods was visible in each annual report issued by the BKA. But still, for the autonome squatters, we remained more a ‘myth’ than a part of their struggle. We had scarcely any connections with the new generation of squatters and youths, except for an abstract for of armed support.
In our fixation upon methods of struggle, we failed to develop a theoretical political orientation with more content than mere isolated pieces of decor in various conflicts. Our social-revolutionary theory was at best a mosaic of the sum total of our communiques and analyses of actions; a group, a strong tie was not possible.
The RAF, with its analysis of imperialism and its orientation on the liberation movements of the Third World, threw out a theory which became a part of the propaganda of its supporting groups. With the ‘front concept’ (8), the RAF in 1982 sketched out a framework for the ideological expansion of its political work. We don’t want to discuss the mistakes of this concept here, because this paper isn’t about their mistakes, but rather about ours. Behind our insistence that our methods of struggles were “methods for everyone” was hidden more an actionistic rather than a political theory. Our fundamental revolutionary pretensions did not correspond with the goals of the issue-movements, and in response to the increased splintering of autonomist structures, we couldn’t formulate a unifying perspective. So our strength lay in our ‘myth’ and in the openness and easily imitated nature of our actions, and in our willingness to intervene in social conflicts which possessed a certain explosive force.
Our theoretical work was generally limited to the conflicts which we participated in. In that sense we were involved in theory formation. In the development of the refugee campaign, this theory formation went beyond the boundaries of the issue-movement. We thereby expanded the levels of confrontation. Objectively speaking, that was a first step out of the self-limitations which our method gave rise to. Actually, this campaign should have led us to re-evaluating our means and methods of struggle. But this didn’t happen. We just recycled a form of the social-revolutionary guerrilla whose continuity was formed by carrying out certain armed actions. The most important trademark was still the symbolic bombing.
The dialectic between armed resistance and mass struggle was hardly visible. Our own subjective decision at carrying our political conduct past certain boundaries, in the form of armed actions, and the approval of the left of our actions led to our seeing this – falsely – as the rise of a system-threatening revolutionary force, a first step in the revolutionary process. Did we really think that with such a reduced program that we could influence the complexity of social change with all of its political, cultural, social, and organizational facets?
Apparently so! Because over the long course of the history of the Revolutionary Cells, our manner of intervening has changed little. We have limited ourselves to sabotage actions and destruction, with its political workings in the form of statements to the media, and in the extreme, this meant that an action might as well have not even taken place if it didn’t make the headlines. Nothing could more clearly document the distances involved in the social process. No theme that we discussed, no analysis that we made opened any new perspective to us for new forms of intervention. We reduced the expected social liberation which we propagated to the deed of actions against always the same objects. As if by constantly repeating the same method we could subjectively contribute to revolution. As if that which we sought to achieve, namely being part and promoter of revolutionary forces, could be brought about by this self-limitation. Our actions remained predictable. Our tight-grip on traditional methods and objects in the refugee campaign was the nail in our coffin.
But still there was a reason for retaining to some minimal methods in the revolutionary struggle. On the one hand, we never made our methods relative, because we never used them in the context of the class struggle, but always as part of the leftist scene. But on the other hand, we never went beyond these methods, because they were perfectly in line with our anonymity and they limited the personal risks involved. This anonymity produced (luckily) no heroes. No one could be called to responsibility; it could have been anyone.
This meant people disavowing certain ideas and propaganda. They were not identifiable. Without any know members, and no prisoners to act as propagandists, the Revolutionary Cells were but an abstract idea. In this abstraction lay the strength and weakness of the Revolutionary Cells. They were strong because they were independent of its militants, the idea of armed resistance could live on, and solidarity rested not on people but on actions. But this abstraction and anonymity also limited the effects of the propaganda and decreased the political perspectives and intervention terrains. The possibilities for confrontation and attack were limited. Precisely in this logic lay the self-justification of the means, just as a campaign was limited by a lack of suitable objects. This resulted in the isolation of our politics.
Today, in a time of racist attacks on refugee camps, the use of fire and flames as a method of struggle for revolutionary politics has to be excluded. But more important in the question of why our methods are not only labelled as ‘terrorist’ by the ruling powers, and compared to the bombing of synagogues, airplanes, and department stores with hundreds dead. The belief that all that matters is who uses this method and to what degree is to oversimplify matters. We cannot practically oppose the discrediting of resistance and liberation struggles by the global spreading of a dirty campaign of ‘international terrorism’ which has been spread by secret police organizations. This has become a big problem when it comes to the use of revolutionary violence.
With this piece, we don’t want to call for an end to revolutionary politics. We also cannot speak for the entire structure of the Revolutionary Cells, of which we are but one part. But what is clear is that ever since the 70’s the lived experiences with militant resistance and armed struggle are no longer adequate for identifying the present crisis and clearly analyzing it. We want to fall silent and try to find an offensive way out. What we mean is, the myth of the Revolutionary Cells has not been victorious, but rather the time has come to close out a phase of history. Rusted structures and methods of struggle must be abandoned in order to have a chance at again becoming political subjects in the contemporary social processes. The political disbanding of the Revolutionary Cells seems to us to be a necessary step towards this.
1. Roma and Sinti are the names of people often referred to as ‘gypsies’.
2. Bundeskriminalamt; the German equivalent of the FBI.
3. Rote Zora is an autonomous women’s group within the Revolutionary Cells. They see armed actions as an inseparable part of the women’s movement. Violence against women, they say, is not the exception but rather the rule in society. The struggle against personal experiences with sexist violence, they say, cannot be separated from the struggle against all forms of violence by the system.
4. The judicial ‘creativity’ of the German state in combatting resistance has always been amazing, and the formation of the idea of ‘attack-relevant themes’ is but one example of this. It give the judicial branch an excuse to investigate all groups/individuals active around themes around which illegal actions have been carried out, even if such groups/individuals are doing perfectly legal work.
5. The ‘social question’ refers to the existence of the social under-class.
6. The so-called ‘German Autumn’ of 1977 was the height of the confrontation between the German state and armed political groups like the RAF. In fact, there was a virtual state of emergency imposed, and there were scores of detentions, house-searches, etc.
7. In Frankfurt, a new, large runway was being built, and to do this, a large forest had to be cut. A broad, mass resistance arose to resist this plan. Citizens’ initiatives, church groups, autonomist and militant groups stood side-by-side at various demonstrations which included site-occupations, demonstrations, blockades, court suits, as well as armed attacks.
8. The ‘front concept’ was propagated by the RAF as a means of aligning all European guerrilla groups and sympathizing militant groups into one front against the ruling powers as a means of giving solidarity to the liberation movements in the Third World.
INTERVIEW WITH A REVOLUTIONARY CELL / 1993
Last year, one Revolutionary Cell (RZ) released a discussion paper, in which they announced and explained the end of their politics. Since then, there has been an all-encompassing discussion of the positions of the Revolutionary Cells and their actions, one like there has never been before. We, another RZ, one that has been active around the refugee campaign, would like to make known our critiques of this and to put forward our own positions. Some comrades from Radikal have written down some questions, which we are now writing public replies to. Our interest is that these questions and answers be discussed further, because we feel that a broad discussion of the refugee campaign and of the politics of the Revolutionary Cells is very important right now. We cannot be and do not want to be separated from people and groups who are developing radical resistance, and who have put forward militant politics up until today. This discussion will have an impact on our further politics. We think that the discussions concerning the paper “Gerd Albartus is Dead” are important as well, although we do not touch on these at this time.
Read and discuss this text, do not be sparing in your critique, and write something about it. Pass it around, publish it in your media. Anyone who would like to discuss the history of the Revolutionary Cells and the Rote Zora up until today can now get a collection of all the assembled texts in the book “Fruechte des Zorns”, published by ID-Verlag.
(from the introduction in Radikal #147 – an illegal autonomist magazine in Europe.)
Radikal: You all do not belong to the traditional line of the Revolutionary Cells. How did you come to the decision to call yourselves an RZ? In order to come into a political connection with the refugee campaign of the traditional line and to make some continuity from this, you could have chosen a different name. Then you could have made it known that you are different, but still part of the refugee campaign. Why did you decide differently?
RZ: We need to explain something further regarding this. We are a group of men and women who range from the autonomist to the feminist spectrum. Even before we joined the refugee campaign as an RZ, we were involved in developing a militant resistance. On a thematic level, we had not established ourselves, but we always sought to renew an internationalist outlook. We saw our actions as part of the discussion around militant resistance. But the hoped-for discussions never came about.
We asked ourselves the following questions: How can we bring some political continuity to the highs and lows associated with movement-orientation? How is militant resistance to be envisioned and further developed as a part of this? The Revolutionary Cells were and still are one attempt at bringing continuity to the militant resistance. They never stated that militant struggle was the only main focus. Their declared wish was always to be a part of the movement, to take part in its positions and discussions, and to know its strengths and weaknesses. This self-understanding, we believe, is still relevant today.
We believe that the concept of “de-individualization” which was propagated by the Revolutionary Cells – we call it “broadening” – namely that as many groups as possible should independently organize themselves as Revolutionary Cells, is still correct. Every group should decide on its own expectations for its own militant struggle and should work on its own content in discussions. We support this, even if we have criticisms of how this concept has been taken up and changed around.
As late as the ’86 refugee campaign, it was not clear whether the principle of the Revolutionary Cells was still valid. The “de-individualization” concept was no longer propagated. For the first time, the refugee campaign was made into a major focus, without there being any movement within the radical-left behind it. This, and the fact that the refugee campaign was being carried out by a closed circle of Revolutionary Cells, raised the question in our minds of whether it was even possible to take part in the refugee campaign as an RZ. Based on various convictions, we decided that it was. For us as a mixed group, it was important that we draw on the history of both militant groupings, the Revolutionary Cells and the Rote Zora. We realize that we cannot avoid the contradiction of opposing patriarchal structures as a mixed group. Only through permanent discussions can a basis for cooperation be made in a militant group. That doesn’t mean that you must get held up on each point. Women organize themselves independently of men and mixed groups, partly from confrontation and the setting of boundaries. There were problems between the men and the women in the Revolutionary Cells, and the women drew the necessary consequences from this.
We are part of this history in the history of revolutionary struggle in Germany, because we sought this not only in our minds, but also in our hearts.
We want to orient ourselves along with other militant groups and begin a common discussion. This seemed more feasible to us within the Revolutionary Cells, because of their long history of resistance, than with other militant groups, whose continuity we could not estimate. The decision to struggle as a Revolutionary Cell was, at the same time, out contribution to the continuity and unity of the further development of a revolutionary resistance. We wanted to present our proposals and questions so as to advance the refugee campaign.
We had in mind our conviction to make known this step of our practical intervention and to begin a discussion. These attempts, for different reasons, we’re not correct for us, and we see it as a mistake that we did not seek this dialogue before our action, because our goal was also to dismantle the myth of the Revolutionary Cells. But our approach only reproduced this myth.
Radikal: What ties you all to the original concept of the Revolutionary Cells? Do you still follow the concept of “de-individualization” (“Create one, two, many…”), which the Revolutionary Cells used to propagate?
RZ: We are tied to the original concept of the Revolutionary Cells, which is still a useful concept for us for further developing a form of revolutionary politics.
The quality lies in autonomist organizing, which takes into account unsimultaneous political and structural matters, but still allows for the possibility of common organizing so as to become a political factor. Behind this concept is the view that resistance should not be limited in terms of its practical action possibilities.
This concept transports the experience that militant politics can be developed from out of day-to-day life and the legal associations. We continue to see in this concept the possibility for a broadening of the slogan “Create one, two, many…”. But not conceived of as an action-model, whose means are separated from the political content discussion. Something along these lines: action, discussion, anchoring, de-individualization. This is too linear and static. Discussion, anchoring, and further political development have to be imbedded in a process of discussion and exchange. And by political discussion, we mean more than just releasing communiques.
Radikal: Do you see yourselves as an avant-garde or as part of a movement, in which you simply have a different praxis?
RZ: The answer to this question depends on what political context you use the term “avant-garde” in.
This term has its understanding in ML-politics. For our structures, this term is useless, because we (should) have a different political understanding, from which arises a different form of organizing.
The problems and contradictions within our structures cannot be understood or solved with this notion. But this notion gets utilized nonetheless, so as to make conflicts and contradictions clear (for example, informal hierarchies, male political consciousness, vagueness, etc.). Even the choice between “avant- garde or part of a movement” does not solve these problems. When, for example, a group takes an initiative and thereby makes political pretensions, then discussion work becomes decisive. If this does not succeed or is neglected, then the initiative becomes isolated. This distance is then often explained with the notion an avant-garde. Frequently, the tension between militant and non-militant praxis becomes a problem, because a hierarchical valuing of methods gets applied.
Radikal: The traditional line has, to a certain extent, abandoned this concept (de-individualization), without offering much comment as to why. How do you envision cooperative work between the Revolutionary Cells and the so-called legal movement?
RZ: Over the last few years, there has been no cooperation with the legal movement. We think this is because the process of exchange has been abandoned, or at least not developed. This inability, to be always present in the political process as an RZ, is something we ALL face. The praxis of the Revolutionary Cells is only deemed to be marginal, and their contribution to revolutionary politics seems to be relatively modest. We don’t think that world historical changes are what have led to the weakness of the Revolutionary Cells, but rather our own neglect, mistakes, and unclarities, but also the lack of reference within the movement. We envision cooperation, but what problems and contradictions does this involve?
One problem is anchoring the politics of the Revolutionary Cells in the unsimultaneous nature of left-wing struggles, both in terms of content and methods. From this come the problems of discussion and exchange. This isn’t simply about the fact that a political orientation is not taken up, for example the one spelled out in the Muenster/Dusseldorf communique in ’89. At that time, it was increasingly clear that the left had taken up the regroupment demand of the political prisoners as its focus, and along with this was the solidarity movement for Ingrid Strobl’s trial. Thus, to simply carry on with the refugee campaign and to simply side-swipe the unsimultaneousness (“repression won’t be broken by simply protesting against repression itself, but rather by anchoring social-revolutionary politics”) was wrong and brought no results. The relationship of exchange between militant groups and the movement won’t come about automatically and is not established by simply releasing action communiques. Militant actions can’t be monolithic features on the political landscape, and their results can’t simply be left up to political dynamics.
To further develop a process of exchange, and to broaden it, we see the following things as being necessary:
– The movement must actively involve itself in the open discussion which has been started concerning the self-criticism of the Revolutionary Cells.
– The militant groups must make the public discussion of their relationship to the movement an open one.
For this, we need a common discussion forum, and Radikal, for example, has been very helpful in this.
In general, the Revolutionary Cells need more of a presence, and they need to take part in actual debates and events and to join in the discussion. The Revolutionary Cells need to think about re-activating their own communications medium (“Revolutionaerer Zorn”).
The exchange should also involve refugee and immigrant women and men, so that the discussion can also be carried out in those areas.
Radikal: Within the traditional line, there were never very many concrete proposals of how to tie their own structures into larger spaces. The authors of “The End of Our Politics” wrote: “In the fixation on our methods of struggle, we failed to develop a political orientation which contained more than background pieces on certain conflicts. Our social-revolutionary theoretical understanding was little more than a mosaic of the sum total of commentaries and analyses of various fields of resistance, thus a solid connection was not possible in this manner.” They stated that the method of struggle which they themselves propagated as a “method for everyone” was, in fact, more of an action-method than a political theory. There were times when it was massively taken up (for example, during the anti-Startbahn and anti-nuclear movements). But upon reflection, these really just seemed like small tastes of rebellion, which did not develop long-term organizing. What significance does this method have for you? Do you have an ideas of how to link your praxis to the organization debate?
RZ: It is, of course, true that the concept of the Revolutionary Cells has not yet been able to further develop itself in terms of organizing content. But a convincing concept of content on its own will certainly not guarantee this further development, thus this can be abandoned as well.
The same is true for practical matters. No developments can come from praxis alone. It’s up to the process within the movement itself to make it possible for a concept to be further developed, because this can’t be thought of or adapted in a static manner. A militant group, just like any other group, must be flexible, so that it can react to social changes or to developments within the left and be present for further action. That means that it is wrong to become fixated on one form of struggle or to have it become ritualized, because nothing is made dynamic or further developed from this.
No group or association can avoid this process. The movement’s organizational structure clearly shows its mess. No grouping can assume that another group will take up content or practical proposals, join in the discussion, or become a part of the work. This condition has to be kept in mind when doing actions, because a division of labour is a two-way responsibility, and not a discussed consequence of the movement. Every group also faces the necessity of taking all the work upon itself, which implies very high demands and which can quickly lead to too much pressure. That also means that campaigns which are initiated need to be reflected upon and discussed, if the possibility exists that nothing will develop from them.
The Revolutionary Cells also attempted to start discussions which were not sufficiently taken up and discussed (concerning the murder of Karry, knee-cappings/Korbmacher, Love Song). As for the refugee campaign, the discussions should have started much earlier. An organizational debate is also necessary and must concern content, and not primarily methods, if a broad base is to be sought.
There were phases when militant methods were taken up on a massive scale, and we think this is because, from the status of the political confrontation, more political sense was derived from the concrete experiences which pointed to such methods. The fact that no long-term organizing came out of this is, we think, due to the fact that the political movement at that time failed, in that it was not able to develop any communication of a political content or perspective. Continuing to carry out militant actions will not rescue a failed political situation.
Radikal: In the open discussions which have been carried out between different Revolutionary Cells over the past year, it has become clear that their organizing was oriented towards praxis. Without a doubt, it is necessary to link practical concerns, but there’s still the danger that things will fall apart if there is no commonly-discussed content orientation behind this structure. How do you all evaluate the contradiction between practical organizing and content agreement?
RZ: We don’t see things exactly as you do. At least as far as the refugee campaign is concerned, there had to have been a content agreement between the various groups involved. It’s very difficult for us to come up with a satisfying answer to this question. We have not taken part in these internal discussions.
But, we can come up with some general criticisms, about the “action-model”, for example. But the open discussions up until this point don’t offer much of a basis for coming up with a definitive judgement. The clarity which is needed for this is up to the groups involved to achieve. Various estimations regarding this, what happened and how, have been made partially clear in previously published papers (“The End of Our Politics”, “When the Night is Deepest…the Day is Nearest”, “We Have to be as Radical as the Reality”).
For us, it’s still unclear whether these deal with fundamental differences or belated reassessments of positions. In the mid-80s, very fundamental discussions were carried out. The differences in content led to consequences (the departure of the RZ that wrote the paper “When the Night is Deepest…”). This process was made known, in a fragmentary manner, afterwards. That makes the discussion difficult. By going it alone, the RZ that wrote “The End of Our Politics” probably gives a good illustration of the actual situation regarding the internal discussions. It’s also difficult to assess the Rote Zora and their relationship to men and to mixed groups. We think it’s important that the Rote Zora make known their opinions on this.
When looked at from the outside, the contradiction in the paper “The End of Our Politics”, for example, between having an anti-racist or an anti-patriarchal focus, does not seem irresolvable to us. Of course there’s always the presupposition that we can never get around looking for political paths where both common and split factors can be expressed in praxis.
But without considering the real conflicts which took place in the content discussions between the groups, then such statements won’t amount to much.
Radikal: You all have taken up the refugee campaign of the traditional line. To what degree did you all link yourselves to the “existing” common ground, where do you all see the cornerstones, and where are your differences?
RZ: Our positions have developed further since the time when we decided to link up with the refugee campaign. What we are saying here is an expression of our own present discussions.
The refugee campaign made it clear to us that anti-imperialist politics and solidarity can and must also relate to refugee women and men here. We share the opinion of the RZ from ’86: “What is happening at the moment is a gigantic restructuring of the world’s population, whose size greatly overshadows the migration movement of the 19th century, and whose form in the metropoles up until this time is only the tip of the iceberg.” This puts the left in a bad light, since there has been so little consciousness of how refugee and migration movements are the result of imperialist exploitation and destruction politics, and since there has been so little discussion of the situation and living conditions for refugee and immigrant women and men here.
We see a good possibility in the refugee campaign for thematizing on various lines of social contradiction, for example, to make clear patriarchal, racist, and capitalist-imperialist exploitation- and oppression-relations. There’s also the potential that the refugee campaign can revive other thematic lines and struggles, for example, against population politics and sex-tourism, labour and housing struggles and neighbourhood work, anti-fascism, and opposing European unity. Already at the time when we made our decision, the social-revolutionary content of the Revolutionary Cells’ refugee campaign was unclear and not present enough. The analysis and definition of the revolutionary subject, to which “disqualified proles, unemployed youths, and marginalized people” belonged, is gender-neutral, and yet decided upon by men. Women, if they are present at all, are left on the fringes.
Behind this hides the hope that a certain segment of the population can be designated as the revolutionary subject based upon social and economic criteria. We think this is wrong, because the riots and revolts of this so-called underclass then get analyzed and over-valued. We have given up looking for THE revolutionary subject, and we do not see it in refugee women and men.
Opting for the refugee campaign was, for us, an attempt to seek some common ground with open groups already working in this area. We think it’s important that political work is done on all levels to resist imperialist refugee policies, and that cooperative work is developed along side the refugee and immigrant women and men themselves.
A further difference lies in our experiences in solidarity work and anti-racist work. These things clearly influenced our discussions and proposals. Working together with refugee and immigrant women and men, and experiences with their own struggles, these things forced the left (which was and is active in this area) to discuss its own racist structures and to test out its notions of anti-racist work. Along with this, we also had to discuss, for the first time, the notion of racism as a fundamental pillar in the pushing through of exploitative relations and their present-day form. You can’t just wish your own racist structures away, rather this is much more straining and difficult that was originally thought.
Radikal: How do you envision a broadening of the social base through an engagement in the refugee campaign? The discussion of this theme requires a high level of consciousness, and thus seems to get stuck in limited circles and interests. Perhaps a social- revolutionary approach could better be followed in neighbourhood, squatting, or labour struggles?
RZ: Of course we hope to find a social base for our politics, one that can possibly broaden. But for us, the question remains: What content do present-day struggles contain? Men lack self-criticism of patriarchal content, and they reproduce these in their relations, just as whites generally are not willing to take on the consequences of racist oppression, which is something we also profit from. This approach requires a consciousness and a willingness to discuss your own ties to the system. But sadly, this is not the rule. But that’s why an attempt at thematizing on forms of oppression is so necessary.
Under certain circumstances, there is a bigger chance that struggles will develop and broaden from neighbourhood, squatting, and workers’ struggles, because their perspective implies a bettering of their own conditions. But such struggles are not by definition emancipatory. For example, the struggle to keep your job can be tied to racist relations and racist exclusionism. The racist consensus in the society makes it clear that we need anti-racist work to be carried out in all reaches of society.
Radikal: Except for a few analytical notions in some communiques (Lufthansa Cologne 10/86, Muenster and Dusseldorf 5/89, administrative office in Boblingen 8/91), the refugee campaign has not had a real anti-patriarchal outlook and thus has not developed any forms of practical change. And the one paper on this theme, “What is Patriarchy?”, came out of nowhere and did not mention the refugee campaign, and it did not result in any conclusions, reactions, or discussions among the Revolutionary Cells. Within the Revolutionary Cells, neither a theoretical nor a practical outlook was developed, and no attempts were made to take up this theme. The authors of the paper “The End of Our Politics” characterize their level of development on this theme as not politically viable. How do you all see this? Do you all discuss the possibilities for how men or mixed groups can make practical attempts and actions against patriarchal and sexist structures? And if not, why?
RZ: In the three communiques you mentioned, the references made to patriarchy were not very comprehensive. We think they are indicative of the level of development of the present-days groups with regard to the anti-patriarchy discussion. As far as women are concerned, they certainly are not indicative of the level of their discussions, but rather more of that of the men in the groups.
In our group, the women do not advance positions that the men themselves have not worked on. That means a permanent political contradiction for the women in the group. For the men, it means further advancing their own discussion of patriarchy, to give the group a better basis for further praxis. The women don’t feel that a better basis is just discussions of feminist theories and working with anti-patriarchal themes, but also destroying such relations in ourselves and in the group.
The reality for the men is that this advance has not really come about, but rather has hit upon conflicts and confrontations. Thus, they limit the possibilities for action and expression by the women in the group. If the women reflect upon all the contradictions and various differences in starting-points between the women and men, then there seems to be little basis to justify a mixed group. The fact that the group does exist is due to our history and the conditions which have arisen from this. The contradictions and fragility behind this decision means that our association is always in question or in crisis.
This has been the case up until today in the patriarchy discussion between men and women in the left-radical movement nation-wide, and it has set the conditions for mixed-group politics. As for the men, the discussion paper “What is Patriarchy?” is an example of this. This paper did not advance the discussion among men very much, because typically the male roles were left out. This distance was clear to us in the language, among other things. It did not seem like a group discussion.
A discussion of these problems has put us in a situation of contradiction and conflict more than once. Not only the theoretical unclarities, but especially the relations of men and women amongst themselves often revealed the gaps between an attempt and a lack of change. We need to take the necessary amount of time for this discussion. But still, this independent discussion among men needs to be visible to the women, so that the foundations for mixed-group politics can continue to exist.
To summarize everything once again: As for the possibilities for practical initiatives and actions against sexist structures, we are weighed down by all the uncertainties and reservations. On a theoretical level, we have arrived at a consensus, which was nonetheless possible despite the conflicts, but that doesn’t mean that it has always been a liberating experience for the women.
The objects, structures, and people that can be attacked from out of feminist associations cannot be proposed as targets for attack by us, a mixed group, given our present condition. As a mixed group, we think it’s right to point out the sexist structures in all attack targets, and there’s much to be done as far as this is concerned, and this could give a basis which allows for more possibilities on the perspective level.
These conflicts, which also break out between men and women in mixed left-radical groups, need to be openly discussed, in order to make possible a further development of content and praxis.
Radikal: The Revolutionary Cells’ practical targets for attacks during the refugee campaign were generally the institutions and organs responsible for state racism against refugee and immigrant women and men. The theoretical basis of the refugee campaign is more broadly envisioned. There, links are made between imperialist exploitation, the plundering of entire continents, the collapse of subsistence economies, and thereby the basis of life for millions of people, and these are seen as causes for the global tide of refugees. These links are not visible in the targets attacked. But surely there could have been some actions during the refugee campaign which also made clear the imperialist foundation of state refugee policies. For example, the Rote Zora action against the Adler corporation, whose orientation encompassed several different themes: 1) Productions by a metropolitan corporation in a nation of the Three Continents. 2) The exploitation of women’s labour. 3) Intervention in an actual labour struggle.
Have there been discussions about not doing this, seeing it as too big to handle? Were there political arguments for concentrating exclusively on objects and persons responsible for state racism?
RZ: We can only answer this question in reference to ourselves, because we did not take part in the internal discussions within the Revolutionary Cells, nor do we now. In the way in which the refugee campaign began and further developed, it seemed plausible to us to concentrate momentarily on state racism as the target for attack. It was made clear what role the ruling powers’ refugee politics plays, and how it is pushed through at the different levels, from the social bureaus to the refugee divisions to the administrative courts. Along side the structural manner of functioning, the campaign was also a discussion of those persons who are responsible, to expose the racism of the typewriter bastards. On a perspective level, we think this campaign can be expanded, because it has a theoretical basis. It offers the possibility of dealing with all exploitative relations and structures of exclusion, both in terms of their differences as well as how they function together.
Practical change can only come on the basis of a fundamental content which gets worked out (see the discussion of patriarchy in the previous question). Of course there can be attacks against women traders in the refugee campaign, people who make their money in the slave trade of refugee and immigrant women. There can also be attacks on corporations and capitalists, who make capital by employing the refugee and immigrant women and men who must sell their labour very cheap here in the metropoles. There can also be attacks on fascists and their propaganda structures, as well as attacks on the mainstream media, which carries out racist and sexist smear-campaigns against refugee and immigrant women and men. The fact that there haven’t been any such attacks as a part of the refugee campaign thus far is an illustration of the present state of the content discussion and its contradictions.
With reference to the Adler action, we have a different view. The Adler action was developed and carried out from women’s associations. Therefore, it’s not really possible to compare this action to ones carried out by mixed groups, for the reasons stated above. The fact that this action was so well received, we believe, was due to a combination of public work, an applied method, extensive damage, and the fact that the demands of the women Korean workers were fulfilled. We don’t agree that the Adler action dealt with more themes than actions within the refugee campaign.
An action from within the refugee campaign can expose capitalist, racist, and sexist exploitation interests all at the same time. Thus, policies regarding deportations and the functioning of “foreigner laws” work as a selection instruments in the capitalist evaluation of refugee and immigrant women and men. The sexist aspect of these laws is made clear by the fact that women’s independent reasons for flight are often not accepted, and this is responsible for the fact that women’s immigration is often at the level of the marriage market or forced prostitution. Moreover, thematizing on the grounds for flight exposes the roots of the corporations in the Three Continents.
Radikal: The orientation of the refugee campaign on the leading organs of state racism seems to overlook racism “in the people”. Here’s a quotation on that from “Zorn-Extra, 9th newspaper of the Revolutionary Cells, Oct. ’86”: “Anti-imperialist politics in West Germany had, until now, focused on solidarity with liberation struggles in the Third World and on fighting against the war machine here. We don’t have any illusions that common interests can be developed between refugee and immigrant women and men in West Germany and sectors of the West German underclass. Nonetheless, anti-imperialist politics need to be introduced where racist class divisions tend to break out.”
The authors of this quotation assume, throughout the whole text, that racism is an instrument of class division which is utilized by the ruling powers to divide the proletariat. Today, the proletariat and other strata have shown their own expressions of racism (like the pogroms in Hoyerswerda, Mannheim, Rostock…) and have followed their own interests (“Foreigners out!”), and this has often gone beyond the boundaries which state racism deems acceptable (the murders in Moelln).
The pogroms, the massive attacks, and the murders of refugee and immigrant women and men show quite clearly that the proletariat and other strata of German women and men have internalized forms of domination, which get expressed as hatred of anything “other” than themselves. This form of racism, unlike state racism, does not differentiate between the utility value of foreign people. This internalized mechanism of domination has not been analyzed that much in discussions of racism. For much of the left here, the white metropolitan proletariat is still seen as the hopeful bringer of revolutionary change, and its racism is made harmless by claims that they are “manipulated from above”.
The refugee campaign has primarily oriented itself towards state racism. You all assume that the struggle for the right for residency for refugee women and men will remain isolated from circumstances of the white proletariat. “We still don’t know whether anti-imperialist politics can make a link between the refugee question and lines of conflict in the guaranteed sector, but the struggle for the right for residency for refugee women and men is also correct, even if it stays mostly isolated from the white proletariat here.”
How do you all account for the development of the last three years, where racism has not only been ignored by broad sectors of the population, but that the population and certainly the proletariat have shown themselves to be deeply racist?
RZ: The faults of the refugee campaign up until now have been self-critically reflected upon in published statements: “Among other things, we see one short-coming in the fact we have only focused our struggle on state racism, on the administrative divisions dealing with foreigners, the courts, and those responsible for deportations. Only afterwards did we reflect on the racism present in broad sectors of the population.” (from “We Have to be as Radical as the Reality”). We agree with this self- criticism, although we think the focused initiatives on state racism which were made at that time were good.
In ’85/86, the politicians opened a new round of the smear- campaign against refugee women and men, in an effort to legitimize new measures of scaring off, heading off, and selecting refugees. For example, the DDR was tempted with interest-free credit, on the promise that no refugee women and men would be allowed into West-Berlin without a visa; asylum regulations were sharpened, in that the administrative courts greatly curtailed the recognition criteria for refugee women and men. The climate within the population became more heated as well, through the creation of tent cities. This resulted in attacks and violence against refugee women and men and their homes.
This dimension of racism within the population has been very overlooked, not only by the Revolutionary Cells, but also by the entire left, the Autonomen, and the feminist movement. The notion of racism was reduced (seen merely as a tool of division utilized by the ruling powers) or hardly given much content.
In the meantime, we have realized that internalized forms of racist thoughts, actions, and feelings are organizational characteristics of the structure of capitalist society, colonialist history, and Germany’s specific national-socialist past. This process of internalization is continually reproduced in people. To what degree the ruling powers are responsible depends on the person, we believe. That means that one’s own feeling of self-worth is increased by excluding or devaluing others, in order to protect one’s own privileges and material interests. In the process, people are not simply victims or products of social relations, but rather they are active subjects.
We were not able to predict the degree of the social developments of the past few years, and the accompanying outbreak of racism. One fundamental crystallization point for this development was the “Reunification”, and the accompanying outbreak of racism, anti-Semitism, and nationalism. The existence of two separate German states was always a visible sign of the defeat of national-socialism. With “Reunification”, the post-war era was declared to be over. Germany can now wear its brown shirts once again. The time of restraint and atonement is over. Germany may, and shall, feel itself to be a full nation once again. But this national feeling is not easy to recapture after 40 years of separation. The social and economic differences are too great for this. The only thing which all these people have in common, given all of these differences, is their German-ness, their so-called German identity. This solidifies their status as patriotic German citizens. It binds them to the alleged superiority of German culture, norms, and values. If these ideas seem faded in a few individuals, then there’s always the willing link-up to the ruling system of domination. The construction of a German identity requires, at the same time, the construction of less-important ethnic groups, who are marginalized and seen as strange people.
The “Reunification” broke many taboos. The people are once again proud to be German, German history is being revised, pogroms, expulsions, anti-Semitic actions, and racist murders are happening again, and these are being seen by many people as legitimate political means and they are openly applauded.
The nationalism of wide sectors of the population allows the ruling powers to, for example, deploy German military forces abroad. Thus, German imperialism can use not only its economic, but also its military power to establish and expand itself within the EC and across the globe.
The radical-left has been generally helpless in the face of these developments, because our political theory and praxis up until now has been too limited. Even militant attacks on institutions of state racism are only one part of the struggle.
That’s why it’s also necessary to build up legal structures, which not only make it possible to provide protection from racist and fascist attacks or their structures, but it also allows for the possibility to intervene in public discussions. We think it’s wrong to take a yes-or-no approach to political means when confronting the general public. We need to win people over to an anti-racist alternative, even if they don’t agree with every one of our positions.
Radikal: In addition to “the population’s racism”, we also think that the “left” is not immune to racism. Do you all agree? If so, how do you all address a self-criticism of this?
RZ: In your previous questions, you characterized the proletariat as “deeply racist”, although you then say that leftists are not free from racism either. This manner of formulation and differentiation is, to us, an expression of our own unclarities when dealing with racism.
As leftists, if we say “deeply racist”, then we mean nothing less than the fact that our thoughts, our feelings, and our relations are tainted with internalized racism. This is often only subtly expressed. In the discussion concerning white spots in anti-racist politics, the left is still at the very beginning. In the refugee campaign, this point has not been addressed at all. Charges of racism against leftists and feminists are justified. This should lead to our willingness to address the Eurocentrism of our own theoretical viewpoints.
We can’t speak of a common front between Kreuzberg, Los Angeles, and Rio. When we here in the metropoles seek to explain relations and to derive our politics, we can’t simply take relations from other societies, especially those of the Three Continents, and act like the people there. Quickly-formulated common links overlook the complexities of domination relations. This is also true when trying to work together with refugee and immigrant women and men. In the political day-to-day, and in working together with refugee and immigrant women and men, it is necessary to test your own relations for racism. Sure, we can sensitize ourselves to act on a reflex to our own racism, but as for taking on racist relations in the future, often in a subtle manner, we are not immune. We often precipitate “positive racism” by attributing characteristics to refugee and immigrant women and men that fit with our vision of them. And there’s also the danger that we leftists will learn to adapt our relations externally based on criticisms, but without bothering to undertake any fundamental discussions or change. Men have reacted in the very same way to the patriarchy discussion, without making any independent thoughts of their own. But we must do this if we hope to find a basis for working together with refugee and immigrant women and men. That means actively thematizing on our own racism.
Radikal: What is your opinion of the triple oppression discussion, particularly as it is presented in the paper “Three Into One”?
RZ: We see the triple oppression analysis in “Three Into One” as an attempt to expose the various different violence relations and their interconnections. It brings an analysis which has been developed over the past few years within the black women’s and lesbian’s movement into the mixed autonomous- and militant-left. Therefore, it is a very important text.
The fact that it has been so enthusiastically received, which does not mean that it has also been worked into people’s political understanding, particularly with men, has surprised us somewhat. Maybe it causes some relief in the hearts of many men, because it is one of the few texts in which a serious attempt is made on the part of men to discuss racism and sexism and to arrive at a differentiated position. We can’t address the content of “Three Into One” right now, because we cannot do that in such a short space, nor would we want to. To make our answer clear, we are not very far off from this paper in terms of our own analytical approach. There need to be closer discussions of this analysis, and we intend to have such discussions.
Radikal: The authors of “The End of Our Politics” linked the effectiveness of the refugee campaign to the independent resistance of refugee women and men here, and they say they were frustrated by the absence of such processes and struggles. Here’s a citation from the paper “The End of Our Politics”: “We never held the hope that close ties would be formed between refugees and the proletarian class here, ties which could bridge racist gaps. But we did fantasize about the desire of the refugees to demand their share of the wealth in the metropoles, as a direct anti-imperialist struggle, combined with experiences of resistance in the Three Continents – and this would be a possible terrain for our own politics. When struggles of this type, which we hoped to make reference to (and which caused us to overlook the “reformist” demands of asylum-seekers), were absent, we compensated with an analysis of state refugee policies and attacks on reachable agents.”
In your praxis in the refugee campaign, did you support yourselves with such expectations, and what role does it play for you all that refugee women and men don’t display the desired potential for unrest? Or that processes of cooperation between refugee women and men and the social sector and the radical-left have not amounted to much, although there have been some attempts? We don’t want to neglect the experiences of support groups, who have resisted state oppression and racist attacks alongside refugee women and men.
RZ: But even the experiences of these support groups and their work show that we have a Eurocentric outlook and that we produce positive racism.
Refugee and immigrant women and men are not generally coming from liberation struggles and positive resistance in their homelands. But they still often bring with them political experiences and they live and defend themselves here under different conditions than we do. The primary interest of most refugee women and men is not to wage an anti-imperialist struggle here (with or without us). Many refugee women and men are supporting the resistance in their countries for the first time. Often, the main interest of refugee women and men is to live safely in Europe and to protect their existence. The fact that they often, in our eyes, follow a reformist and survivalist approach, something which we are ignorant of and reject, is due to their conditions and interests. The fact that we immediately view their political work and resistance as unacceptable, or completely disregard it, is our problem. This is a white problem. We know this “frustration” from false expectations all too well, and this is reason enough on its own to discuss our own racist projections. We need to make the following differentiations:
– between individual refugee interests and reasons for flight and the fact that increased migration has become a problem for the ruling powers and the population of the metropoles, namely it has become a problem for their welfare and control; – between conditions of living and struggle of refugee women and men in the Three Continents and here. Refugee women and men can’t be seen as a homogenous group any more than the “underclass”, the “proletariat”, or women can. They come from different countries and were and are organized in different political parties, something which even makes cooperation amongst themselves difficult. The white left often overlooks and even ignores this fact. When we seek to orient ourselves to refugee and immigrant women and men, then we need to sincerely question our own proposals and expectations, because otherwise there’s the danger that we will exercise a paternalistic and contrived form of solidarity, instead of developing and supporting genuine solidarity and resistance together.
Radikal: The RZ that wrote “The End of Our Politics” stated that many anti-racist structures have fallen apart, and that their campaign had not achieved its desired resonance. We see things differently. For one thing, there are, at least in some regions, far more groups doing work on this theme than there were in ’86, when the Revolutionary Cells began their campaign. What’s more, we think that this campaign was an important reason why many Autonomen, even before the present wave of fascist pogroms, began to take up this kind of work. We ourselves were made aware of many things thanks to this campaign. Many actions which were carried out in ’90 and ’91 would not have been possible without the “preparations” which were made by the Revolutionary Cells. Do you all agree?
RZ: Since ’90/91, many people from the left-radical and feminist movement have started anti-racist initiatives or have begun discussing racism. Whether or not the refugee campaign initiated this anti-racist work is questionable. Certainly, many comrades took a positive relation to the refugee campaign, but this usually amounted to little more than expressions of satisfaction after isolated actions from the Revolutionary Cells. As to what degree the refugee campaign has influenced contemporary political work, that is difficult to estimate and is still unclear. There was never a two-way political discussion. We don’t know of any anti-racist group that openly voiced agreement with the content orientation of the refugee campaign.
We think that a far more decisive factor in the mobilization of the radical-left were the independent struggles which were waged by refugee women and men themselves. For example, the march of shame by the Roma through North-Rhein-Westphalia ’90, the church occupation by the Roma in Tuebingen ’90/91, the church occupations in Neumuenster ’91, and the Norderstedt-church and TU-university occupations in Berlin ’91/92. During all of these campaigns, the left was called upon to turn its slogan “Increase International Solidarity!” into praxis. And by supporting these campaigns, there were many experiences, but there were also questions within some groups of how a continuity of anti-racist work could be achieved. What we found particularly good and important was that many groups that did support work then reflected on their political work and discussed it. But the on-going discussion was only carried out by anti-racist groups and parts of the radical-left. The Revolutionary Cells were hardly involved in this. On the contrary, the political developments of the last few years have been ignored by the Revolutionary Cells, particularly by the group that wrote “The End of Our Politics”.
Radikal: At the present time, parts of the radical-left are involved with an anti-racist political initiative which is tied to antifa work. In response to the fascist offensive and daily attacks of foreigners and refugee women and men, a practical form of anti-fascism and anti-racism has been taken up as a broad field of intervention. Can you all, as an RZ, see yourselves as part of this movement?
RZ: Due to overlapping content, the orientation of the refugee campaign is very close to the antifa-movement. The horror of the murders and attacks on refugee and immigrant women, men, and children, homeless people, disabled persons, and leftists has had practical consequences, especially for antifa associations. For example, contacts have been made with refugee women and men, there have protection vigils and hostels, and there have been attacks on fascists and fascist structures. But the necessity for action tends to push reflections on mistakes and better strategies to the background. Racism and anti-Semitism used to generally be discussed mostly within the fascism discussion, and even was placed in the back. Even the slogan “Against racism, sexism, and fascism!” has hardly been fulfilled by mixed groups. In the struggle against racism, the theme of patriarchal violent relations often falls out of the picture. There are still no workable strategies to combat outbreaks of racism and right-wing organizing. The slogan “Attack the fascists wherever they are!”, which is often shouted at counter-demos to fascist mobilizations, can’t be used to combat racism within the general population. Other strategies need to be developed for this. Of course, this requires that the Revolutionary Cells undergo self-criticism, because attacks on institutions of state racism don’t do much to counter the racist consensus in the population.
Whether the antifa associations will develop a continuity of anti-racist work depends on the content workings and willingness for discussion of the anti-fascist and anti-racist groups. In the struggle against the ruling powers’ refugee policies and racism on the streets, there are plenty of common possibilities, and with some work, a common basis for resistance can be developed.
Radikal: Soon, the asylum-clause will become more restrictive (actually, this has already happened, when Germany changed the asylum-clause, Article 16, in its constitution on July 1, 1993 – trans.). A “deportation agreement” is being signed between Germany and Rumania concerning the Roma people. This means that fewer and fewer refugee women and men may enter Germany legally. Many more refugee women and men will have to come in and live here illegally. Will this sharpened situation affect your theory and praxis?
RZ: The new asylum policies won’t have much effect on our fundamental outlook. State policies as early as ’86 were already geared towards illegalizing refugee women and men. Certainly, the politics of separation are a means of selecting refugee women and men. A further building-block for this form of politics are the asylum laws and Article 16 of the constitution, etc. We think that the agreement with Rumania, and the resulting deportations, will make possible a cheap detention of a certain number of refugee women and men and will make a cost-efficient labour force available at all times. The agreement signed with Rumania will certainly be a model for other European nations. Those refugee women and men that simply are not wanted will have to keep on living and working in Europe illegally.
Refugee women and men, particularly illegals, are seen as good for temporary, very mobile, and extremely cheap labour, and, at the same time, they are expendable. The ruling powers in Europe have relied upon illegal labour for years. Many sectors of capital and the economy simply cannot do without it. Illegal women must often sell themselves in the sex industry (pornography, prostitution, marriage, etc.).
A further goal of racist and sexist market policies in Europe is to put the illegals under increasing pressure in their existence, that way the market value for European workers can be decreased as well. This pressure is increased by attacks on welfare, living assistance, and social programs, and by increasing rent and the cost of living at the same time. Through this comes a further redistribution of social work, to the detriment of women.
After Moelln, the ruling powers wanted people to refrain from carrying out racist violence against guest workers and immigrants, because they are needed here. But the illegals could be supplanted as a “new” object of hatred, who then can count on little support from social groups. That’s why illegal refugee women and men need to be focused on in our struggle against racism. The living conditions and structures of resistance of illegal refugee women and men in Europe will surely change, and it is against this background that our praxis of supporting their struggle will be derived and developed.
The state’s interest is to divide refugee women and men from immigrant women and men. We need to carry out common anti-racist actions against this. The clearing of a path for racist selection – even on the part of union, Green, and church circles – must be offensively and politically opposed. Attacks on state institutions that organize such selections, as well as on the representatives of capital who directly profit from the labour of illegals, are necessary.
Radikal: Street-fighting and looting, the use of molotovs, militant attacks on police, many things which were once exclusively practiced by leftists, are now being used by the right-wing in their political struggle, and thus these means have lost their clear definition. Some examples which get cited are the massive firebombings, looting, and rioting by right-wingers (with the support of the population) in Rathenow (Brandenburg) or the attacks by right-wing youths on the police-watch in Senftenberg. These means are no longer the property of the left. There exists the danger that our actions will be equated with day-to-day right-wing actions. The attack by the Revolutionary Cells on the refugee administrative division in Boblingen in August ’91 was reported by the media as an attack by right-wing extremists. The authors of “The End of Our Politics” represent the opinion that the use of fire and flames today is not appropriate.
The actions of the traditional line against Korbmacher and Hollenberg, or stealing or destroying the files in administrative offices, these are targets of actions which clearly disrupt the right-wing apparatus. These are in no way the targets of right-wing attacks. We would like to see a close and imaginative discussion of how to reach our goal. When dealing with ZAST, for example, and all of the files and computer data there, maybe it would be better to remove the files and computer disks rather than burn down the building. We think it’s necessary today to carry out actions which bring into question the “anti-racist consensus of the German people” which the state and capital falsely propagate. For us, this is more a question of clarity than of means. Or how do you all see this?
RZ: Like we said, a continuity of militant praxis is not only defined by actions. Conveying the differentiation of our content of analysis and goals is an important part of our politics, one which cannot be separated from a militant praxis. That’s why the question of means cannot be discussed in isolation. With every practical step, the need and possibility for revolutionary change here needs to be made visible, and also the experience that resistance is possible.
So we agree with you when you say that our repertoire of ideas and means could be expanded, if conditions allow. When certain actions are justified, and when the goal of revolutionary counter-power is nearer, that is a political decision which we must make. The actual social situation needs to be judged, that means realizing that fascists and right-wingers use the same methods we do. That does not mean that methods such as firebombings are wrong. The difference lies in the perception of the action, something which is dependent on different aspects: The object which is attacked should, on its own, make it clear which political wing carried out the attack. Today it’s even more important to establish a differentiation from fascist attacks. For example, we would never carry out an attack on an unoccupied tent-city, even thought we’d like to see such tent-cities abolished. The use of militant method should correspond to acceptance within the movement. With every action, it should be certain that no harm will come to uninvolved persons.
Another important factor is the present strength of the left and status of society’s impression of the anti-racist movement. Depending on strength relations, the degree to which the state and the media seek to take up and channel protest potential is either great or small. For example, the campaign by the state powers against hatred and violence is a desensitizing one, in which left-radical politics and militant praxis are denounced and isolated. We need to oppose this through political discussion and praxis (in our opinion, this was successfully done on November 8, 1992, in Berlin during Weizsaecker’s rally).
Radikal: Part of the traditional line wrote the following in “The End of Our Politics”: “Today we see the consequences of the realization that the form and structure of our struggle was the expression of a particular phase of the development of social contradictions in West Germany after 1968, something which has changed since the collapse of real-existing socialism and the resulting processes of destruction, as well as German reunification and the ‘New World Order’ which was sketched out during the Gulf War. (…) The objective analysis which has taken place historically since 1989/90 (…) demands a fundamentally different stage in the organization of militant and revolutionary resistance. But we can’t merely formulate this as a hollow attempt. In reality, we have been overrun by history.”
The authors, among other things, draw certain consequences from their militant actions. We assume that you all have not drawn the same consequences? Does that mean that you all do not share the view expressed in the above quotation, or do you all draw other conclusions?
RZ: The paper “The End of Our Politics” made us angry, and for the first time – and it did not have this effect on us alone – it made us uncertain. This, along with the paper on Gerd Albartus and the RAF paper (August ’92), was an expression of just how bad the process of exchange really was between militant and non-militant groups. We don’t want to ignore the questions and problems which were raised. We recognize the necessity of a fundamental examination, like we said before. In any case, we are not at the end of our politics.
The social contradictions and violent relations have hardly changed their “character”, rather they are the same as ever and they have not lessened. The erosion of the former so-called socialist states has a long history, one which began long before ’89. It was always visible, even if the speed of the collapse was not predicted. At least 10 years prior to this, the Revolutionary Cells and Rote Zora gave hints in this direction in their discussion papers (the paper on the peace movement, for example). And we don’t need to emphasize the fact that no proposals for a liberated society can be made with that form of socialism.
Of course, the conditions for left-radical politics have worsened since the collapse. Non-capitalist utopias are now seen as a viable alternative by fewer and fewer people here. On the contrary, many more people are now reproducing nationalist and racist ideas, and they see in these a solution to their problems. Thus, it has become more difficult for left-radical ideas to work their way into people’s consciousness, or to find any acceptance whatsoever. But despite the changed conditions, we must struggle even more against this feeling of powerlessness.
But neither Germany’s Super Power lust, nor the alignment of the East, nor the so-called New World Order is anything new. Anyone who as been overrun by this history has either been keeping their eyes closed or is using this history as an excuse to stop bothering with revolutionary politics. There’s no possible way of organizing the resistance on an entirely different – much less a “higher” – level, rather we first need a viable resistance. Anyone who as given up on working on “the exchange between legal and illegal means of struggle” and who no longer presses for this should not be surprised if no “de-individualization” takes place.
We don’t think that the crisis of the left-radical movement is the result of being overwhelmed by the collapse of the former East Bloc states. Our crisis did not begin with the “Reunification”. The sorrow and mistakes of left-radical politics – a lack of organization and unified structures – have been criticized for quite some time.
Much has already been written about all of that. Everyone has been called on to do their part to improve our conditions. But we still haven’t reached the point where militant forms of resistance are accepted from the start. Whether and how leftist politics, and its strategies and forms of struggle, will develop further will be played out in future common discussions.
(from Radikal #147)
ROTE ZORA COMMUNIQUE / JUNE 1994
Against Immigration Profiteers!
Neo-nazi marches, attacks, and murders are once again daily events here in Germany, as is the public political ritual of disgust and pity which follow. The backgrounds of events like Solingen clearly show that racist mobilizations are not merely tolerated by the state and the cops, not only are they called for and desired, but rather even their culmination – murder – is no accident: In Solingen, a neo-nazi gang of murderers was built up, activated, and shielded from persecution with the aid of a state agent. Five Turkish women and girls died as a result.
Racist mobilizations are utilized as justifications for new foreigner and immigration policies. Against the background of attacks on refugees, a mood is created which makes possible any sort of inhumane treatment of refugees.
By means of hungerstrikes, demonstrations, visits to state agencies, and refusing to accept food packets, or by throwing them out the window, women and men refugees have protested against their being shut out of the welfare system and instead supplied with food packets. [Asylum seekers used to be paid monthly cash allowances, with which they could shop and buy food for themselves, but now they are only given food packets instead of money. – trans.] While back in their home countries, their means of living were stolen from them, here they must fight against further destruction through racist special treatment. They are struggling against the new special legislation which took effect on November 1, 1993, which labelled them as people of “lower quality” and which denies them a right to a humane existence. For the first time ever in German post-war history, an entire group of people (women, children, and men refugees without German passports) have been singled-out and excluded from the so-called existence-level minimum welfare income standard.
On German soil, the refugees are placed in camps surrounded by walls, fences, and security guards, where they must lived in cramped spaces under miserable conditions. Having fled from countries in eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia, away from nationalist and racist wars and power struggles, from destruction and a lack of a future as a result of the collapse of their social structures, here they are branded as economic refugees and excess population and are regulated by special legislation. The state immigration policies in the refugees’ countries of origin are managed and designed by the wealthy metropolitan regimes and banks so as to push through their patriarchal “New World Order”. The people in the impoverished countries of this world have for years been defined as “excess population” by the ruling powers (“global population crisis”, “population explosion”, etc.).
Those people that actually succeed in making it here are confronted with the same politics and ideology.
The special legislation is designed to scare refugees out of even trying to come here and to make those that do come have as unbearable a stay as possible. Also, deportations are to be made as frictionless as possible so that they can be “carried out”. After refugees fleeing from the war in Bosnia were only allowed into Germany when private individuals were willing to finance their stay, the so-called Refugee Service Law for newly-arriving refugees set the standard for welfare assistance. This law established a humiliating system of “services” (vouchers, second-hand clothes, forced cleanings…). This absence of cash payment is especially difficult in a world where all life activities and the fulfilment of needs are coupled with money. It makes it impossible for the refugees to take care of themselves, to live in a manner they are accustomed to, to make contacts and discuss their social life with one another, and therefore it hands them over to the racist arbitrariness of bureaucrats. It prevents the exchange of experiences and advice with others, and lawyers no longer receive payment, therefore virtually abolishing any judicial outlets which the refugees may have had.
Medical care has also been drastically reduced. Only acute, life-threatening, and contagious sicknesses are treated, but not chronic illnesses or the long-term effects of malnutrition, torture, war injuries, or (sexual) violence. Who and what are to be treated is up to the arbitrary desires of the bureaucrats. A lack of cash payment is coupled with compulsory labour at 2 DM per hour, and refusal to do this work can result in the loss of the ridiculous monthly allowance payment (40 DM per child and 80 DM per adult) – and all of this is coupled with the never-ending prospect of deportation.
Anyone who manages to stay for more than three months is no longer prevented from seeking work. However, only the worst and lowest paying jobs, ones which western Europeans won’t take, are available to refugees.
Because of the hopelessness of this right to stay provided for in the new (unjust) asylum law, many more refugees, including entire families, are going into illegality. That means an even more insecure existence, hunger, and the need for housing. To be able to live here, many women have no other choice but to hand themselves over to illegal sex traders.
One success which the refugee women and men have achieved is that, for example, Cologne is now once again handing out the reduced welfare payments, and Freiburg is as well, at least to those refugees that have been in Germany for at least a year.
Some cities and towns are willing to make compromises, partly because providing other services means dealing with loads of red tape and bureaucratic organization. For this reason, Hamburg, Kassel, and many other cities refused to adopt the service proposal. Because the inhumane treatment of refugees is a matter of political interest, a new proposal has since been introduced by Birzele [interior minister of the province Baden-Wurtenburg -trans.] which would extend the service legislation principle to ALL refugees, regardless of how long they have been in Germany. This must be prevented!!!
For resourceful businesses, the delivery of food packets can mean a new market and high profits. The market value of these packets is well below what the city officials pay for them. Costs for packaging, transportation, etc. are passed on to the refugees. Therefore, the refugees actually only receive about 50% of the social welfare they are entitled to.
Profits can also be increased by sacrificing the quality of the food provided. Old and spoiled food, which can longer be sold in stores, gets put into the refugees’ packets. When the refugees refuse to eat this garbage, the good Germans call them ungrateful.
In the business of providing food products to women, children, and men refugees, the entrepreneur Herbert Weigl from Bavaria is the main profiteer who cashes in big from the state’s refugee policies: Weigl’s business in Nurnberg secured a monopoly on providing meals and accomodations for refugees in Bavaria and for refugees in many other provinces as well. In order to maximize his profits, Weigl produces cheap fruit and vegetables in the ex-DDR through a sub-corporation known as MEIGO. MEIGO (situated near Gera and in Berlin) primarily provides for refugees in Saxony, Thuringen, Brandenburg, and Berlin, but also in West German provinces as well, such as in North Rhein-Westphalia. At present, Weigl/MEIGO are earning profits from approximately 20,000 refugees, who (according to a Monitor report published in March 1994) receive compulsory services. Weigl’s meat business in Hircheid in Bavaria delivers meat that has sometimes turned green to refugees, while another sub-corporation, OGEVA in Leipzig, provides the canned foods for the food packets, and the firm CANTOP in Eisenhuttenstadt provides the metal packaging.
Food packets are humiliating and demoralizing for refugee women, children, and men. And their degrading housing conditions in hostels and camps (segregated from the rest of the population by means of fences and guards, entering and exiting controls, visits only from camp personnel…) leaves them with no other choice but to eat what they are given. Their last hope for self-care and self-responsibility is thereby destroyed.
The practice of food distribution in refugee hostels and camps is a form of compulsory service, like those here in psychiatric institutions and prisons. Alienation and targeted humiliation are designed to prevent self-responsible and self-consciousness action, to reduce social experiences to a minimum so as to break resistance and to command obedience. The German speciality of “perfect” management is forever trying to “transform” people into dependent and bureaucratically controllable masses, on whom human degradations can be easily performed. And yet refugee women and men have made things difficult for the typewriter bastards and the greedy businessmen!
Food preparation and eating take place in a social context. That which we eat, who prepares it and how they prepare it, where and how we eat it, all of these things are connected to our habits, traditions, social structures, etc., with the division of labour by gender on the one hand, and social and technological destruction, alienation, and dispossession on the other.
In most societies in the world, patriarchy ensures that women take care of the reproduction of the (men in the) family, or frequently they take care of children without a man, in other words, they do the work and are responsible for it.
The special legislation is not gender neutral. The introduction of the so-called Refugee Service Law is especially directed against refugee women.
Less-valued compulsory services consciously make caring for the family more difficult, it is a burden for the women, and it makes female reproductive work in the forced camp conditions a familiar additional labour and a depressing task for women with children.
Pre-cooked foods and food packets are also a form of cultural submission and is part of the dispossession and destruction of traditional female life and reproduction activities, and thereby also of the self-knowledge and self-consciousness of women. It prevents a form of host friendship which is usually taken for granted, and it no longer makes possible the communication and social interaction which takes place at a common meal.
The special legislation supports the maintenance and renewal of patriarchal violence relations. Because of conditions in the camps, women become even more dependent, both on their men as well as on the racist institutions (the immigration bureaucracy) and their representatives. Male aggression is directed against women who can no longer carry out their roles of being responsible for food and for the family. Housing conditions, the lack of any place of escape for women, the loss of female friendships and relationships…these make the situation for women just about unbearable.
Sexual attacks, intimidation, threats, and rapes by staff and other hostel inhabitants are part of everyday life. And problems with language and services further increase the women’s isolation; it’s not even possible to go shopping for food, thus making it difficult to invite people over or to hold a party. It’s easier for the men to find other means of earning money, because they contend that public life is their sphere and thus they can move about freely, without any responsibilities in the reproductive sphere. Only the very worst paying jobs like cleaning, prostitution, and begging are available to the women.
The resistance and struggle of women refugees is primarily concerned with the question of social reproduction, the renewal of social relationships, also among the women themselves, which get largely destroyed due to the conditions of flight and camp life, a struggle which is beyond the criteria of usefulness and sexual availability, violent beatings and subordination, a struggle for life and a humane existence.
State refugee policies, which were ushered in by the never-ending wave of pogroms against immigrants and attacks on homeless people, handicapped people, etc., are another step along the path of German post-war history into the realm of previously unknown social polarization.
It’s power is derived from racist, sexist, and social attacks, the renewed capitalist patriarchy makes the usefulness of people the standard of measurement for their right to exist and declares those people that are not useful, even those in the metropoles, to be excess population whose right to exist is then openly questioned. Then it becomes justified for these people to receive “special treatment”.
The special legislation enacted against refugees is part of a continuity of a general form of politics which singles out the elderly, handicapped people, the sick, and the poor.
For one thing, this forces adaption and subordination to sharpened conditions of exploitation: rising unemployment and poverty, thereby allowing the expansion and legalization of the so-called second labour market (rotten pay without any social security or protection from lay-offs). These conditions especially effect immigrants as well as women with German citizenship. At the same time, the illegal (“third”) labour market is expanded, which is the only realm of employment available for illegal immigrants living here (expanding prostitution and women-trading from eastern Europe, cleaning jobs and black-market commerce, etc.).
While the patriarchal structures renew themselves and secure an even better foundation, women are becoming increasingly confronted with sexual violence and exploitation. The high level of unemployment among women, particularly in the ex-DDR, forces women into harmful exploitative relations with sexual harassment in the workplace and a strong economic dependence on men. And men are increasingly becoming organized to counteract attacks against sexual violence carried out by the women/lesbian movement – for example, “abuse of abuse”, etc.
The threat to the existence (hence their status as “excess population”) of illegals, war refugees, and newly-arriving asylum seekers can be directly converted into an expansion of the second and third labour markets, which can be greatly exploited, something which the ruling powers welcome. They function as “dregs” for attacks on the wage system in general, thus allowing the ruling powers to once again stabilize the German economy’s powerful position – and many people welcome this, even so-called “multi-culturalists”!
New laws and regulations in the social sector have practically abolished the old welfare and healthcare system, thus effecting the severely ill, handicapped persons, the elderly, drug addicts, and the homeless.
If you don’t work, then you can’t eat, in other words, those that can, pay, those that can’t either shouldn’t live or they should at least die faster. Euthanasia, so-called death assistance, and eugenic measures according to criteria which attach use values to life are now no longer up for discussion, but rather they are being practiced and are in demand. – The pushing through of pre-natal controls for women with the demand that they bring healthy, productive children into the world, and so that they themselves stay “healthy”, that is, productive; – The new laws concerning forced sterilization; – The murder and neglect of elderly people and people in need of care; – The discussion around the “right to life” for newborn handicapped babies; – The establishment of so-called ethics institutes which legitimize these measures… These are all pieces in the puzzle of population politics, which sort people out according to criteria of “valuable and unvaluable life”. Once again a mode of conduct in becoming socially acceptable and made into concrete reality, the same one which lead Germany to Auschwitz.
Along with the increase in exploitation and poverty, racist, anti-Semitic, and sexist violence and exploitation are on the rise as well. In order to re-establish the patriarchal capitalist power relations, the majority of the white, non-Jewish, German population must be able to take part in social power-sharing (by securing their privileges and allowing them to carry out sexist and racist violence) – they know what they, as whites, as Germans, as men, have to protect.
Both the ruling powers as well as the rank-and-file claim that refugee women and men are the ones responsible for unemployment, the lack of housing, and welfare fraud. This serves to strengthen the right-wing nationalist climate and it secures the re-establishment and re-formation of the social consensus.
By means of a variety of actions – campaigns against internment camps, special legislation, and compulsory services, actions against deportations and deportation prisons, beginning to organize places to flee as well as church asylum, and so on – a minority of the population of this society are trying to break this sexist, racist, and anti-Semitic consensus.
Our contribution to this: On the night of June 12/13, we expressed our fiery rage against several trucks belonging to the Weigl/MEIGO corporation in Nurnberg and Meilitz/Gera.
MEIGO, Weigl, and all other profiteers:
Stop making money off the plight of refugees!!!
We support the demands of women and men refugees: “We want a humane existence!”
“The abolition of food packets and mass-servicing – full payment of all welfare benefits!”
“Cash payments, not services!”
“Against the lack of medical care – for equal medical treatment for all!”
“Against second-hand clothes – full welfare payments!”
“Against forced labour – stop forbidding us from seeking normal jobs!” “Abolish the racist Refugee Service Law!”
“Abolish all deportation prisons!”
“Against the racist deportation measures – a right to stay for all!”
For the right to exist for all marginalized people, away from patriarchal-capitalist performance and value standards!
A right to stay for all women, children, and men refugees!
June 12, 1994
Rote Zora Communique, July 1995
You Have The Power, But The Night Belongs To Us
In the night on 24.7.95, we bombed a shipyard belonging to the Lurssen corporation in Lernwerder near Bremen. This firm supplies arms to the Turkish government, which is waging a murderous war against the Kurds.
Lurssen has been giving military assistance to Turkey for years now. At the moment the are producing high-speed attack ships in Lernwerder and in the Turkish naval shipyard at Tazkisac, and the firm also exports production techniques and the necessary military know-how to all parts of the world. Germany supports the Turkish government in its war against the Kurdish population by being the number two arms supplier behind the USA. In the last 5 years alone, Germany has delivered 1.5 billion DM of military equipment (as part of a military aid accord which lasted from 1990-1995) in order to strengthen its imperialist interests in the strategically important “NATO partner country, Turkey” German arms corporations secure their profits through large-scale projects such as observation posts along the border with Syria, where the Turkish regime practices extortionary water policies, or by giving the Turkish regime a gift of 450 former East German panzers which then end up being deployed in Kurdistan. 700 German weapons firms are directly involved with production in Turkey today. In the war against the Kurds, villages have been systematically burned down for at least the last 5 years. According to the Human Rights Association (IHD), more than 1,300 Kurdish villages had been forcibly evacuated or destroyed by October 1994. In the last few months, there have been continuous raids and expulsions in addition to torture and the summary execution of villagers in the Dersim region. As early as the 1960s, many refugees fled to Germany from this region to escape systematic policies of impoverishment and destruction. Today, Kurdish cities are increasingly bombarded by fighter jets and refugees are detained in concentration camps outside the major Kurdish cities.
Despite massive protests by Kurdish immigrants and even some Members of Parliament arms sales to Turkey continue unhindered and even the European Council in Strasbourg is “reluctant to impose sanctions against Turkey” (FR, 27.6.95). Also, it has become increasingly difficult for people to flee from these policies of destruction and seek refuge in Germany and Western Europe (particularly after the adoption of the Schengen
Agreement). Interior Minister Kanther has called it a “great success” that “because of the tightened restrictions on asylum practices, fewer people have the possibility of seeking refuge from political persecution in Germany” (FR, 22.6.95). With the banning of the PKK last year, the German government launched a unique means of racist persecution and criminalization against an entire group of immigrants, the Kurds.
The Problem Of Solidarity
We see it as our task to break through the passivity of many women’s group and other leftist associations here with respect to the Kurdish resistance movement and the massive repression against Kurds seeking refuge here and those Kurds who are supporting the resistance back home. This lack of action is usually based on criticisms of the PKK. Women say they can’t identify with the PKK – nor can we – and unfortunately our solidarity is usually made dependent upon this question. We would like to discuss political solidarity which is not dependent upon support for or the denunciation of liberation movements. All too often, our identifications are based upon our own projections, and this blocks our view of the actual social confrontation in its entirety. This is not a suitable basis for solidarity. On the contrary, as soon as a different reality is seen behind the projection, the solidarity usually comes to an end. The women of Kurdistan, who for good reasons fight either within or outside of the PKK against their oppressors and for total liberation, and all oppressed and fighting people who are struggling against the Turkish regime and its German imperialist arms suppliers, deserve our support.
As people living in Germany, we must fulfill our responsibility and intervene if we don’t wish to be part of the war against the Kurds which is massively supported by Germany.
In order to examine, in its full dimension, this war against the population and against women, we must break away from the viewpoint of reducing this to a military confrontation between the Turkish state on the one side and the PKK on the other, a
view which both the mainstream media and the PKK perpetuate. For its part, the PKK doesn’t seem to place much importance on coming up with a clear formula or program for social liberation. They and their German supporters call for “national liberation” as a priority and they seek to achieve victory in an armed struggle against the Turkish military. In this struggle, the “new humanity” will be formed, with the aid of the party. Yet by only looking at this confrontation between both warring sides, the social situation there becomes hidden, particularly what confrontations the women are in and what goals they association with the liberation struggle.
The Goals Of The War
The Turkish government and its military are waging a war against the Kurdish people in order to break their resistance against oppression and their support for the guerrilla. The war against Kurdish people is designed to destroy their way of life, which is still very much connected to subsistence level social reproduction.
Farmers and shepherds are gunned down with their animals in the fields by Turkish soldiers, villages are attacked and the winter rations are destroyed. From the air, forests and pastures are deliberately bombed and set on fire. Tanks destroy entire landscapes. The Turkish government has essentially “banned” the Kurds’ means of reproduction and is enforcing this ban militarily.
In the mountain regions, shepherding has been the predominant way of life for centuries, taking the animals to higher ground in the summer and spending the winter in villages in the valleys. In many parts of the 300km long border between Turkey and Iraq, many people must make their living by smuggling and cross-border trade. But this way of life has been taken away from them through persecution. In order to eliminate all possible logistical support for the guerrillas, huge “security zones” have been established in this region and military operations have virtually depopulated the area, with all border villages reduced to rubble. Nearly all Kurdish families have children or relatives
who have been taken away by the military and tortured or killed. So it’s no surprise that nearly all families have at least one member in the guerrilla, and they are supported.
In the decades before the PKK became strong, military occupation and limited warfare in Kurdistan had the effect of forced displacement, thereby creating an internal colony ripe for exploitation. Due to the pressures of the global market and IMF and World Bank debts, the Turkish government, up to this day, has had to use war to push through its murderous demographic policies. By doing so it hopes to destroy the old networks of
solidarity which have continuously given life to the Kurdish resistance.
The war and destruction were planned a long time ago, and yet “modernization” has not halted this. In fact, change has actually brought improvements since “modern”, that is,
imperialist forms of exploitation allow for better utilization of a people deprived of their subsistence. The escalation of the war in the last few years began with the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of small farmers and their families to create export zones in the new GAP region. [The GAP, or East Anatolia Project, is a huge system of dams designed to create export-oriented agriculture such as agro-industry cash crops, the creation of cattle, leather, tobacco, and other industrial zones, tourist regions, etc.] The more than 4 million people who live in the 6 GAP provinces are generally dependent on their harvests and subsistence farming. Their small farms are being increasingly bought out by the state as part of its “land reform” and handed over to investors and large land owners in the GAP region. In our fundamental rejection of authoritarian modernization, we assume that “development zones” such as the GAP region are not being developed to fulfil the wishes of the Kurds or to improve their standard of living. [In a report published in 1994 by journalist Lissy Schmidt, who was later assassinated by Iraqi
intelligence agents, 70% of the affected population rejected the project in a survey conducted at the time construction was beginning.] Because for the majority of the poor population, this project has resulted in a loss of their land and the devaluation and destruction of their capabilities and previous means of production and survival.
The War On Women
The war is not only being waged in those areas where the guerrillas are strong, but rather it is also concentrated in places where women have a relatively strong and free position in the society: against the people in the mountains, where there is a tradition of semi-nomadic pasture agriculture, and against the people of the Yezidi and Alevi religions, who increasingly reject patriarchal and religious forms of oppression. Up to this day, the strong position and resistance of women against their exploitation by (Kurdish) land owners has been particularly significant.
After being expelled from their villages, Kurdish women were deprived of their independent fields of labor. They lost their roles of social significance and found themselves living as refugees in slums in Kurdish and Turkish cities, and increasingly in virtual concentration camps as well. Under these conditions, their traditional network of solidarity broke down and they became increasingly isolated in the society, dependent on men and threatened by male violence and “modern” forms of patriarchal (especially sexual and small family) oppression.
Worse than the women’s loss of independence and their dependence on their job-seeking husbands, the newly-created strategic hamlets and concentration camps gave rise to new forms of patriarchal violence: militarist control, hunger, disease, infant mortality, humiliation, dependence, food rations, torture, and rape. This impoverishment and insecurity is to the benefit of violent patriarchal control, and has been taken up by Islamic groups who propagate and push through the oppression of women.
The Resistance Of Women
Even after the destruction of thousands of villages, the Turkish government, to this very day, still has not been able to defeat the resistance of the Kurdish people. Although their
traditional subsistence has all but been eradicated, the power of women has not yet been wiped out. The women cling to this and further develop it in the cities. “More and more Kurdish cities are becoming powder kegs, more and more people are part of the propertyless masses whose means of subsistence has been destroyed and who don’t even have the opportunity to work as day laborers in the cities. In many places, they have even been able to mobilize the regular city inhabitants.” [Lissy Schmidt, 1992/93] It was women, recently driven out of the mountains, who were the organizers and driving force behind the ‘Serhildan’, the Kurdish Intifada, which lasted from late 1989 until March 1992. It was they who resisted against the Turkish military with stones, sticks, and pure anger. [The uprising organized by women in Sirnak in February 1991 was particularly significant. The military gunned down hundreds of miners to enforce a ban on private coal mining and distribution, after which hardly any government building escaped the angry attacks of the women (and men) who broadened their resistance into a popular uprising by the time of Newroz.] Ever since then, Newroz celebrations are
marked by massive military deployments and are “guarded” by German tanks. Cities, the new centers of resistance, are bombarded from the air, and ever more people are kidnapped by death squads, tortured, and killed. Many of the women who have been driven into the cities build new groups and structures of solidarity and resistance in human rights and prisoner support associations, neighborhood committees to oppose the death squads and publicize hungerstrikes by prisoners, and by engaging in their own hungerstrikes to oppose the torture and disappearance of relatives and friends Everywhere they develop a great power. Another part of women’s resistance is the struggle for better living conditions and human dignity.
Many young women go to the mountains and join the guerrilla, into illegality, to fight against the repression, expulsion, and war of the Turkish military and also to struggle for their own liberation from traditional patriarchal oppression.
Kurdish Women And The PKK
A significant reason for the massive participation and organization of women in the struggle of the PKK is that fact that the war directly affects them and their families and friends and is waged in their villages and cities. Even before the war, life in Kurdistan was determined by the colonialist politics, carried out in conjunction with Kurdish land owners. Increasing amounts of land, the foundation of pasture agriculture, were
taken away from village ownership and “capitalized”, the people were terrorized with racist bureaucratic and militarist repression, and they were victims of systematic social neglect. The raw materials and harvests of their agricultural labor were plundered. That’s why more and more people were forced to emigrate starting in the 1950s. In this process of so-called underdevelopment and repression, and in the growing resistance to
this, many women felt a desire for more freedom, diversity, experience, etc., and they increasingly rejected the traditional village structures which regulated and oppressed them. With the dissolution of the extended family, the focus on the power and opinions of the oldest woman – who always made the women into defenders of patriarchy – also began to decline. Among the young women, many fought against the patriarchal oppression in their family as well and thus decided to join the PKK in order to break
out of this. [“At home, my father gave the orders, and when he wasn’t there, my brother did. In the guerrilla, I can decide things for myself, perhaps even become a commander!” – a young female PKK guerrilla]
Many women associated all of their hopes for total liberation from this situation of destruction and oppression with the PKK, because the PKK’s military successes were the only proven and serious force which could resist the Turkish military and organs of repression. The main reasons for their supporting the PKK are the Turkish politics of nationalism, chauvinism, and racism. [Kurds were called “mountain Turks”, their language, history, traditions, etc. were banned, students who spoke in Kurdish were beaten by Turkish teachers, and so on.] But among the Kurds themselves, they developed a sort of pride of the oppressed, and their resistance created an identity which crossed
social divisions. Ever since the days of Ataturk, Turkish authorities have tried to wipe out everything Kurdish and make all memories of such things impossible. The experience of Kurds who saw their daily cultural self-consciousness and their history being broken felt a stronger desire for their “Kurdish identity”. In other words, they want to be and live like that which was forbidden to them, and repression could not stop them from this. In the words of one prisoner in Diyarbakir in 1983: “All the hatred for the oppressors which boiled up inside me since my early childhood has done me good. It was only after I went to prison that I learned about my country and my history, about our collective ‘guilt’, that is, being Kurdish.” Not only in Kurdistan, even here in Germany aid is given to the Turkish repressive machinery, as relatives who sometimes can only speak Kurdish are ordered to “speak Turkish!” when they visit jailed relatives German prisons.
An “identity” becomes resistance, something illegal to be pushed through. Even traditions, such as the Newroz festival, for example, are given new life as forms of resistance, but also as a form of hope of a future free society, because although the war
mobilizes lots of strength and self-consciousness (“identity”), it also prevents and destroys many things, it creates feelings of sorrow, weakness, limitations, and the struggle to survive. Official PKK propaganda equates women’s liberation with their
participation in the military wing of the national liberation struggle. In order to prevent the progressive radicalization of many young women against both old and new power relations from turning against the PKK itself and its own power structures, the party for several years now has been using lots of propaganda, pressure, and “education” with the help of the women leaders of the YJWK to reintegrate women into modernized patriarchal family norms. [The YJWK is the Union of Patriotic Women of Kurdistan, the PKK’s women’s organization. The following is a quotation from 1992 concerning the situation of immigrant Kurdish women: “Kurds as people from a strange society have
different social and political characteristics than other peoples, such as Greeks, Yugoslavians, Turks, etc.”] Their reform consists of rebuilding the family according to “national traditions” with a folklore identity, a “strong Kurdish culture”, and a means of discipline to prevent things from going too far or becoming a “Western” form of “women’s emancipation” which the party looks down upon.
Solidarity and collectivity are certainly lively aspects of women’s struggles. In many independent initiatives, acting in solidarity and cooperation with one another, women have taken on responsibilities and struggled for collective, self-determined structures, even in the mountains, even against their male comrades. This calls into question the eroded and largely scattered family and its patriarchal values, as well as the party’s power and its principles of discipline and subordination. That’s why the “collective” of the family is termed the building block of the nation state, and moralistic pressure is exerted to get the women back in line. [Here, “collective” means subordination to the desires of the patriarchal leadership in the family and the party.] According to the PKK’s party program from 1978: “Any analysis of Kurdistan which does not view the national
conflict as the main conflict is only serving the forces of colonialism and reaction.” Even today, PKK women leaders seem to have taken this view to heart. [From a PKK women’s text in Germany for March 8, 1994: “It is important that women recognize and carry out their responsibilities as bridges to education in the family in the service of the revolution.”]
Although we understand and accept the fact that many Kurdish women strive for a “Kurdish identity” as a driving force of their resistance against racist Turkish oppression, we think it’s fiction to believe that a true “Kurdish identity” can only be developed in a “liberated Kurdistan”. The party ideology exploits this need for an “identity”, in that it builds on the Turkish politics of denying and eliminating Kurdish historical consciousness and offers people fleeing from the war myths about their history instead of supporting their struggle to defend and link up to their living history – for example, the resistance to their expulsion. If the PKK – or the Turkish occupiers, for that matter – has its way, the earlier diversity of Kurdish culture and its decentralized means of production and self-reliance will disappear, because only then can they implement their proposals for modernized control. The war is a means of destroying diverse social structures and it creates the necessary polarization and forced standardization for the future power and exploitation needs of the party. All of this is buried beneath the PKK myth of an ancient history and the “creating of the Kurdish nation” and the conservation of certain Kurdish traditions. By signifying what is “Kurdish” and what isn’t, everything which contradicts the power of the party will be oppressed, even to the point of erasing people’s historical consciousness. [With the naturalization of the notion of being “Kurdish”, Kurdish people become an ethnic group and the party decides what “Kurdish” is. All undesirable conduct which “contradicts Kurdish nature, the Kurdish nation, and the Kurdish people” is opposed, even to the point of isolating and oppressing those people who choose not to be “Kurdish”.] But the history of Kurdish life and struggle is very changing and diverse, indeed this is what characterizes it. It was exactly this relatively autonomous decentralization and heterogeneity which prevented its destruction at the hands of the centralized violence of the Ottoman Empire and modern-day nation states and imperialist exploitation interests. That’s why the destruction is aimed at the people’s fundamental necessities for living.
We reject the reformulation of commonly understood living resistance to the oppression of the Kurdish people which seeks to change their Kurdishness in the resistance to repression, the exploitation of their life necessities, their language, and their culture into a national ideology and a rigid culture, because that only serves the specific aims of the party to achieve power and future exploitation in a state of its own, and this merely conceals social and anti-patriarchal contradictions and struggles.
A Critique Of Liberation Nationalism
In contrast to colonial and imperial nationalism, which creates and utilizes control, liberation nationalism gives rise to resistance by various social groups against the colonialists and the imperialists. In that sense it is identical to a resistance to all forms of oppression. It mobilizes liberation utopias in people towards a common struggle against exploitation and occupation, it creates a culture of resistance in opposition to the dominant ruling culture which robs people of their way of life, their language, their history, their experiences, etc. Nonetheless, we see in “national liberation” few possibilities for creating a society on its way to eliminating exploitation and both patriarchal as well as racist oppression. For the PKK, “national liberation” means taking power in Kurdistan and taking possession of it resources like water, oil, and minerals in order to secure its own hold on the modernized exploitation of people and resources.
The struggles of people against authoritarian modernization (for example, their resistance to forced resettlement and bans on trade and agriculture) are turned around by the PKK into “national” aims: they are to be directed against the Turkish regime, but not against “modernization”, which is destructive and which worsens the gap between the land owners and those without property. Social demands disappear behind the dominance of the national demand of an independent state. For example, the PKK didn’t support the resistance to the forced resettlement from the GAP region, and even their own early attacks against GAP engineers were simply directed against Western/Turkish exploitation plans. The farmers, and their subsistence way of life in “traditional society”, were often dismissed as feudalistic and regressive people who did not fight against large land ownership and redistribution. Appeals to tradition, it seems, are only made if they serve the aims of the nation state. Even large land owners can be “progressive” if they support the aims of creating a nation state. The focus of the struggle on national power leads to the destruction of subsistence living and
makes the future society dependent on the imperialist global market.
The guerrilla structures, which are separate from the society, are focused on military counter-power against the Turkish army and the goal of national separation makes a
guerrilla formation necessary which will fight against “foreign domination”, and consequently its armed attacks will only be directed against military and police targets of the occupying force. This prevents the formation of a guerrilla formation which can orient itself to social liberation interests and against exploitation and patriarchal and racist oppression.
Even though many women in Kurdistan view the formation of an independent women’s army within the PKK as a necessary and welcome step towards equality, that is not an organization in our opinion. This independent organization of women cannot change the
fact that the militarist formulation is separated from the social struggles and must remain a pillar supporting and renewing patriarchy. We do not wish to support the myth of the revolutionary quality of “armed struggle”. But “armed struggle”, with its militarist approach and weaponry, will not lead to liberation, only a connection to social struggles against social exploitation and oppression will.
Our solidarity mainly goes out to those women who are not willing to sacrifice themselves to national-ethnic slogans in their struggle for a liberated society without exploitation or the oppression of women.
Thoughts On Internationalism, Anti-Racism, And Feminist Solidarity
Today, the radical wing of the feminist movement in Germany is hardly visible, rather it is broken and splintered into little groups who have little effect. Many women who used to be active have turned their political needs into career responsibilities or a job and their change is only limited to their personal daily surroundings and is therefore pretty much gone. The major social breaks over the last few years have left us with little ground to stand on, so it seems easier to stay amongst ourselves and just self-critically debate the weaknesses of our past political formations. And the critiques from immigrant women and women from the Three Continents of the metropolitan white lesbian/women’s movement led to us having to make our own contradictions – our own racism, anti-Semitism, hetero-/sexism, productivism – a theme before our movement could become strong again.
The previous feminist self-understanding of the politics of the first person (as women, we are ALL, albeit it to different degrees, oppressed and “objectively” opposed to patriarchy) was called into question by our analysis of our metropolitan women’s reality, in that we aren’t just victims or subjects waging resistance, but rather that we are also responsible for and benefit from patriarchal forms of domination and exploitation. The – necessary and important! – discussion about our own differences took us off our pedestal: We are not the ones with the full picture, the ones already more “liberated” or emancipated than the women of Eastern Europe or the Three Continents. Because our “liberation” is, at the same time, a form and expression of our complicity in the oppression of our sisters.
This realization was crucial for us: We no longer speak of revolutionary demands or on behalf of ALL women, but rather just for US, and we prefer to leave out the word “revolutionary” – this needs to apply to everyone, otherwise your view of liberation is just the building up of your own privileges. But this retreat into a position where at least there were four walls which helped to determine relevance also isolated other women
We have given support, at least verbally and sometimes more deeply, to the demands of immigrant women and socially discriminated women. We have noted, respected, and struggled against the differences between us as they are represented within ourselves, that is, our own racism, anti-Semitism, productivism, hetero-/sexism. But this often just leads to merely stating these problems, as if correct speech were always a reflection of a
correct consciousness. As if there could even be a “right” or “wrong” consciousness unless women fight against this. At this point, our own increased sensibilities and
willingness for self-criticism appeared deceptive. It was simply a reflection of the insecurity which results from the process of dissolution (“deregulation”) of old metropolitan social structures and the new offensive of patriarchal power and
exploitation in which the ruling powers and those who swim with the tide seek to integrate our previous feminist demands. With our retreat back to US and our focus on sensitizing our own consciousness, we found ourselves in line with the dominant
social trend of increased individualization and the dissolution of collective social experiences. In some of our praxis as well as in our theoretical work, we saw the destruction of the social collectivity which had previously been the basis of our
We can only win back a fighting revolutionary perspective if we go beyond our own interests and find external links for our struggle to eliminate sexist violence and patriarchal domination, and if we create networks with women and their structures here who are affected by racist mistreatment and social isolation/exploitation. We must – while respecting our differences – open ourselves up to these women in a concrete way, women whose racist, sexist, legal, and social discrimination has made them subject to the worst forms of exploitation and violence, making them prime targets for authoritarian modernization, against which they resist with their counter- strategies and their fighting subjectivity. Denying rights to immigrants and criminalizing them is a strategic weapon of the ruling elite. They utilize this to reformulate their exploitation and violence in the society at large, thus hoping to restabilize their hold on power. An illegal labor force and sexual favors almost for free, regardless of what violence must be used, reduce the costs of reproduction for everyone. That means that we nearly all profit from this, thereby reducing the labor costs for all types of exploitation (including that of women and immigrants) across the board in society.
Women here must not stay put at demanding a equal right to stay for women refugees, independent of men, and then close their eyes to the exploitation of these women Supporting the struggles waged by immigrants also means resisting their second-class
status and criminalization, that means fighting to repeal the so- called “foreigner laws” (and any type of “law” which is discriminatory) with all our possibilities and with all the
weapons and forms of resistance which we have developed, because we don’t want to be a part of exclusion and exploitation. Besides, it’s fun and exciting to resist “from below” the small social circles and individualization which have been prescribed to us, and to resist the (“post-Fordist”) trend to dissolve social collectivity by forming new associations and to always break out of our contradictions and our inclusion in the power structure of this inhumane system.
By “opening up to” other women, we don’t just mean their different form of subjectivity or their different – less dependent on dominant productivism and “independent of the individual” and more in tune with social reproduction – values, activities, and struggles. But rather we should try sometimes to see things through different eyes and to learn things when we are confronted with our productivist and racist values and activities. It’s important to be aware of our differences and to respect these, but it’s just as important to break out of our increasing isolation and to develop some fighting together, to prevent old and new forms of patriarchal domination and capitalist value systems from completely taking over. Our view of women’s liberation and our view of communism here and now can only become visible and liveable if we break out of our divisions of oppression, which play women off against each other, and join forces in a network of resistance structures. [We hope this context makes it clear that we do NOT have a Marxist conception of social struggles as a “progressive development” on the way to a “classless society” in mind. We view “communism” as a critical notion of struggle for a