Bordercamp 2001 - Evaluation

Evaluation paper by the Leipzig Bordercamp Group - Part 2

19.Oct.01 - 3. Actions

By and large, we think there was a wide range of well prepared and in the end successful actions, regarding conceptual intentions as well as practical realization. Several thematical complexes were approached from different angles, as for example the topic of forced labour during WWII which was targeted by a combination of conceptual discussions (for camp participants and people from outside the camp) and a number of actions. We didn't come up to our own pretentions as far as the main topics pointed out beforehand are concerned: we didn't manage to target every single one of them in an equally intensive and effective way. While the airport-inner frontiers-deportation complex received the due attention, other topics such as "multikulti" racism, labour migration and the recent developments on EU level remained marginal. An important criterion for the evaluation of actions is their confrontational content or their offensivity. If one understands by this not only militancy but a consequent attitude which consciously stresses conceptual differences (and the different perceptions of legitimacy related to them) it can be said that most actions had an offensive character. Examples are the actions at the airport or those at the main station. The mostly deescalating attitude of the cops helped us bring across our message in the actions.

3.1 Final action

We will now separately examine the final action, on the one hand because of the special status of this action in the course of the camp, on the other hand because already on the camp several (failing) attempts were made to analyze this action. We don't agree with an all negative view which regards the action as a complete failure. To us, the demonstration was marked by a strong heterogeneity. The declared aim was to express our emphatical demand to shut down the airport detention center. The necessary offensivity was vividly papable in the "black block" and in the Pink&Silver block. The symbolic attempts to break through the police line, the attacks on video cameras from within the demonstration and the offensive arrival at the airport were positive moments. Other parts of the demonstrants showed a rather lethargic behaviour and remained on a boring standing-and-walking demo level. As a whole, we didn't make use of all of the action's potentials. The situation "in front of" the detention center and the way back could have been used in a more productive way. What, in the end, caused this demonstration to be as it eventually was? Several answers are possible to be given. One aspect certainly was the preparation. The concept of the demonstration should have been discussed in a wider frame and much earlier. The frame of a separate delegates' plenum was too conspirative and, in retrospect, maybe even contraproductive for this reason. A discussion of aims and procedures on a broader level beforehand might have resulted in a more refined action. The details of the demonstration schedule were presented too late to those camp members who were not involved in the preparation which left them facing a fait accompli (concerning the several escalation levels, the aims of the action etc.) and without the opportunity to influence the decision process. Finally some thoughts about Pink&Silver. The integration of the offensive concept into the Pink&Silver concept worked very well. The meetings the evening before the demonstration to introduce the intentions and organizational details of Pink&Silver to the block participants were helpful but of course only to those who assisted. People who had the opportunity to be in various affinity groups during the action noted a strong contortion of information on its way from the delegates' gathering to the groups, which in the end spoiled an effective offensive attitude.

3.2 Leipzig action: the fake labour exchange

Before we evaluate the action itself we want to emphasize how important and good it can be for a group to prepare an action over a longer stretch of time. It's the first time this was made in Leipzig and we have made an entirely positive experience. Such a long-term preparation provides more time for details and supports a more intensive discussion of the topic.

The original idea was to make an action targeting "Multikulti" racism, the immigration debate and compulsory obsession with work. Criticising "Multikulti" racism was especially important to us because although during the camp preparation this topic was pointed out as very important, there were rather few actions related to it. That's why we went to the Frankfurt labour exchange and there we installed the "Amt fr wirklich wichtige Arbeit" ("office for really important jobs") with four employees presenting four different job offers: smuggler of illegal immigrants, layabout, pizza baker, and bank robber. We prepared a flyer for the action criticising the immigration debate, the obsession with work inherent to our society, and "Multikulti" racism and a description for each of the four job offers, revealing our communication guerrilla action on the reverse by presenting some theses about the criminalization of those who help illegal immigrants, obsession with work, "Multikulti" racism and criticism to capitalism. Unfortunately we could do this action only in a very restricted way due to the presence of cops and the eagerness to intervene of several employees of the labour exchange.

3.3 Pink&Silver

We don't yield any aversions to "moments of U.S.American culture" (Uschi). These have been and still are preconditions for at least a slight civilization of the German society. But this is not the point of Pink&Silver. What we like with P&S is the following: A) it attracts attention and puts into uncertainty cops, the media, and the public, thus being an interesting form of communication guerrilla. This concept certainly will wear out one day but now it's new and hip and only offers advantages to us. It facilitates a creative way of dealing with traditional, inflexible demonstration rituals (shouting slogans, agitating, disguise of participants, disturbing the police in their work). B) to our minds, Pink&Silver is right the opposite of individualized macho militancy (throwing stones, into the own first lines if possible, clearing out, posing). The extensive exercises beforehand as well as the well-meditated and effective delegates' structure offer the opportunity to get involved to all those who don't feel like getting a bleeding nose just because of some brainless acts of violence. There is a collective addressing of the fears arising when faced with the cops' violence, and there is a confrontational level determined by ourselves. Of course, Pink&Silver is not a panacea guaranteeing the success of all our future demonstrations, but it surely offers a meaningful alternative to the black block and to other militant concepts (and to all the rest whose imagination never leads beyond the usual boring stop-and-go demonstrations!).

4. Organization / preparation / technics

The evaluation paper of Uschi from Berlin (camp01 mailing list, 22.08.01) talks about the camp having rather the character of a "holiday camp of the ex-GDR with an informal hierarchy" than to resemble an "emancipatory, self-organized experiment of a temporary different society". We can easily refuse the "holiday camp" accusation as most of us are experts on this from personal experience. But we don't understand what Uschi understands by the "emancipatory, self-organized experiment". If the dream is of 1.500 people having a camp for a week with less than the preparation and structure there was, our opinion is that this would rather soon turn into a nightmare. What we want to say is that everything went quite well. Those participants of the camp who were not in any way organized or had not been involved in the preparation of the camp brought in their contribution in the way they could (kitchen, camp protection, discussions, actions) - it would be illusionary to expect anything else. We think that the camp was easily to be told apart from a "festival". The few things that were organized in a "festival"-like manner (Dixi toilets etc.) worked well that way and this is OK. We don't share the impression that "consumerism" was more wide-spread on this camp than on the other ones. We think that it's completely OK if people join the camp for even just some days and take a holiday there half of the time. We think that it's even better if "strategic considerations ... are taken into account by the various action groups" and taken note of in the delegates' plenum (something that was criticised in the above-mentioned mail). We don't think the camp essentially depends on the participants whose motivations and experiences simply are too heterogeneous and whose numbers are too great, but it depends on the organized groups, the same groups who are involved in the preparation and on the camp more or less assume responsibility for the things going on. Yes, we think that also here everything worked fine although the heavy amount of work left to the Frankfurt groups was logical but could have been less. In our opinion, any criticism to "consumerist behaviour", if there is, must aim only at trying to mobilize still more groups to engage in the preparation on a continuous basis and to take over responsibilities. There is something we would like to remark concerning the delegates' plenum. The intention to have conceptual discussions there could not be realized. It was more an organizational plenum. However, we think that this years' concept (having only three general plena, leaving everything else to the delegates' plena in close communication with the plena of the several towns) is the best of all until now. The big plena are still less apt for discussion than the delegetes' plena. As a small disadvantage of the delegates' plenum we regard the fact that important points (for example the final action) were brought up for discussion too late, so the delegates didn't have the possibility to check certain issues with their towns. This should be improved next year. Plus, it's rather the task of the delegates' plenum to make political analyses of actions made or to be made but as this year there was too little room for it this had to be taken over almost entirely by the press group. We don't know the quality of other towns' plena. We are quite content with ours. Of course our daily Leipzig plenum (with the delegates resuming the info from the previous delegates' plenum) had a rather informational character and mostly dealt organizational questions. However the conceptual discussions were better and more people actively took part in them than would have done at the general plenum. Judging from our own experience, for next year's camp we can recommend to other towns to appoint a fixed hour for their daily plenum and to have a small information board for those who didn't assist.

4.1 Mobilization

We had taked over the responsibility to do the mobilization for Saxony, Sachsen-Anhalt, and Thuringia. We sent letters to all groups in the region including material for the mobilization and the offer to do informational events. The response was clearly worse than in the previous years. Only with considerable insistence we could convince the groups in a few towns to accept our informational events which, in Leipzig as well as in other towns, managed to attract a very small audience (ranging from 0 up to 20 participants and from moderate to no interest at all). This, at least in Leipzig, is partially due to the poor publicity made and the saturation with the topic after three years of bordercamps but also - and to a wider extent - to the lack of interest in antiracist issues and in topical problems concerning the "new" migration and asylum policy in Eastern Germany although the active antifascist groups addressed had said otherwise. In spite of the poor feedback to our events the participation of groups from our region in the camp was quite good: for example there were about 40 people coming to the camp from Leipzig alone. Something remains to be said about the germanwide mobilization: We couldn't possibly foresee that the agreement "everyone is going to make posters and to layout mobilization material" would result in us being almost the only ones who layouted and printed posters, T-shirts, stickers and postcards for the camp. If there had been a clear statement from other towns ("we don't feel like doing it", "we don't have the time to do it"), a) we would have bothered a little bit more with the quality of our work (we certainly don't claim that each and every one of our posters, stickers and postcards are of unparalleled beauty but well, they were just intended to serve for the region), b) we would have printed a higher number of copies right from the beginning which would have saved our nerves and several thousands of Marks, and c) we would have prepared ourselves for being the central distribution point (we didn't really like how by and by this function was silently pushed over to us and some trouble is to be put down right to this fact). However we were quite relieved to see that we are not left with all of the expenses. We enthusiastically favour the idea of calling to a contest for the next camp poster - which we will take part in, and hopefully lose.

4.2 Web journal

This year, it was miserable. Just a very small number of texts managed to make their way into the web journal even when handed in personally. The links don't function properly, although this has been criticised several times. The automatic translation destroys the pages. None of these faults has been corrected after the camp. The Anlaufstelle discussion is being operated via a GMX account. Sorry, but we don't accept any technical problems (like having no regular access to internet on the camp) as valid excuses for this. Indymedia activities pleasantly kept in the background.

4.3 Camp bulletin

We needed to assume this point in order to be able to have at least a little self-criticism. Our redaction group was chaotic and everyone gone on holiday right in the very decisive moment. This resulted in two texts not appearing in the bulletin (one about racism and surveillance, the other about the criticism to "Multikulti" racism). This is bad because exactly these texts would have precised our criticism to the Frankfurt-type jolly multikulti immigration world. On the other hand nobody noticed the absence of the texts as they were written by ourselves. The Leipzig redaction group (two redactors and two layouters) is also guilty of including the introduction text twice, in two different versions. In spite of the unintentional text cutting the bulletin could't be compressed to four pages of text and six pages are unprintable we decided to include the camp poster to reach an eight pages volume. As we didn't want to ruin the camp finances we reduced the number of copies without prior consultation of anyone but we think everybody was able to put up with this. Finally some remarks about the volume of the work, not aimed at criticising other groups but just at presenting a realistic image to the redaction group of the next camp bulletin. The official meaning of "redaction" included a) the working out of a concept of the bulletin, b) the coordination of incoming texts, and c) the layout. It did not include d) writing texts and e) organizing the print. In the end, also part of d) and e) was left to us. Five texts were written by ourselves, six by other groups. The agreement that all texts would be distributed and discussed on the mailing list was almost not put into practice, so we also had to go through the texts and cut them where necessary.

5. Next camp Where to do the next camp is a topic that started to be discussed already during the camp. Thuringia, Strasbourg, the eastern border of Bavaria, the eastern border of Poland, and Hamburg were some of the proposals. This wide range of possible places for a next camp shows that the "border" issue can be approached in a variety of ways. That's why the decision where to have the camp or camps in 2002 will be closely related to the decision which conceptual string will be targeted. In the following we present some thoughts in no particular order concerning or own judgements or priorities. * The eastern border of Germany has been targeted by a string of camps. It wouldn't offer too many new aspects and we would consider a setback returning there. * Compared to this, the eastern border of Poland could be more attractive. Camping there might strengthen local structures and intensify the exchange (about regional particularities and developments on a European level) with groups from Eastern Europe. The difficulties lie mainly in the practical problems (language, geographical distance, etc.) // na, und klar auch darin, den Konflikt mit polnischen Gruppen vom letzten Jahr gelöst zu kriegen, bevor man bei ihnen ein Camp macht. Auflerdem machen die seit zwei Jahren doch selber welche, vielleicht sollten wir uns eher da mit einklinken, um Befremden zu vermeiden. / One condition is also to finally resolve the last years' conflict with Polish groups before camping in "their" region. Besides, they have been doing border camps for two years already, so the thing perhaps should have more the character of a gentle contribution from "our" (German) side - to avoid putting off the activists there. the trans. * Choosing Thuringia would facilitate an intensive cooperation with The Voice. The central probably would be around the situation of refugees in Germany, which might mean in a certain manner to give up the original bordercamp character of the event (without this necessarily having to be considered a loss) * An international camp which would probably take place in Strasbourg would enhance political structures beyond a germanwide level. The conceptual focus would be something like EU policy concerning foreigners and refugees and EU enlargement towards the east. The size of such a camp might be a critical point, the accusations of "festival character" and consumerism would probably be brought forward more often. On the other hand it's not at all sure that the camp would be larger than the one in Frankfurt. Simply adding the numbers of participants of all camps in order to estimate the number of participants of a central camp rather seems to lack in precision. * Last but not least: Hamburg is a town that offers similar opportunities as did Frankfurt - with some restrictions. From a practical point of view it's far more difficult to attack the port than it was to attack the Frankfurt airport (it's too large, there are more containers than humans, and there is no gentle Fraport helping us to achieve our goals)