Bordercamp 2001 - Evaluation

Evaluation paper by the Leipzig Bordercamp Group - Part 1

19.Oct.01 - The following is a evaluation of Frankfurt bordercamp. Its contents are mentioned in the beginning of the text, and while it is likely to give some good impressions about the camp, although it might be at times difficult to understand certain parts, which are related to the specific situation in Germany.


1. Aims and pretentions and the external effects and perception of the camp

2. Internal effects 2.1 Cooperation with migrants 2.2 The discussion must be continued beyond the camp! 2.2.1 Immigration debate 2.3 Networking between the antiracist movement and other partial movements 2.4 "Anlaufstelle" discussion

3. Actions 3.1 Final action 3.2 Leipzig action at the labour exchange 3.3 Pink&Silver

4. Organization / preparation / technics 4.1 Mobilization 4.2 Web journal 4.3 Camp bulletin

5. Next camp

1. Aims and pretentions and the external effects and perception of the camp

Going to Frankfurt was a good decision. In spite of initial doubts, the more than 1000 participants of the camp managed to raise the attention of the media and the public, attacking sensitive points such as the airport, the main station, and the stock exchange. This year, due to our better conceptual and infrastructural preparation, it was impossible for state institutions to use our camp for their own agenda, as happened last year. At this point, the work of the press group was excellent. Second, the media hype stage-managing the anti-fascism of the civil society was not as strong as during the so-called "Antifasommer" in 2000. Besides, the metropolitan press of the Frankfurt area is much more liberal and open to our topics and to critical voices. The representation of the camp in the germanwide media was good, most of the bigger actions were featured, even citing contents. Obviously, our actions at the airport were those that raised most attention, whereby the manoeuvres of Fraport to prevent our actions only helped bring across our message (thanks!). The media coverage of the camp can be considered more positive than in the previous years especially because of the reflection of at least part of our concepts in the press. One negative aspect is, however, that reports very often reduced us to our position against deportation and Flughafenverfahren . The Genua actions and the occupation of the stock exchange to bring up the topic of indemnization to forced labourers during WWII were some of the very few events treating different issues that managed to find a (germanwide) echo in the media. The reason for this was not only the press' lack of interest but also the emphasis that was placed on this issue (deportation) by the camp, contrary to what was announced beforehand. The discussion whether to choose one single main issue or to cover a wide range of issues was never actually brought to a conclusion. So, although the importance of topics as "Multikulti" racism and the immigration debate was stressed time and again there were far too few actions targeting them. (We didn't want to become a camp covering virtually every issue. As antiracist bordercamp we chose the domination relationshi of racism. Of course, starting from there, we try to elaborate a fundamental criticism to society. Racism and its relation to other domination relationships was chosen because of tactical reasons and feasibility.) A camp's success is not only to be measured by the number of participants or of actions, or by the media echo. Equally important is whether our political demands have been fulfilled or whether we at least managed to come a bit closer to our goals. Of course we didn't achieve to shut down the airport detention centre or to do away with the Flughafenverfahren. But yes we managed at least to a certain extent to question the cosmopolitan image of the Frankfurt airport and thereby to put pressure on Fraport AG. And no, although no direct success like after the Deportation Class Campaign is to be seen, we are not completely demotivated. We know that progress can only be achieved by very, very tiny steps.

2. Internal effects

2.1 Cooperation with migrants

It should have been different but, like the previous ones, the 4th Bordercamp was a predominantly white, German camp. Compared to the other camps, participation of migrants was higher in numbers but not in percentage, and their involvement was marginal. But conceptually, refugee organizations were more present this year. The Voice put forward the issue of Residenzpflicht which was taken up in the camp. At this point one criticism is to be made to The Voice as they kept bringing up this issue even on occasions when the main stress was clearly another one.

When migrants got involved, German antiracists obviously had difficulties in dealing with them as equals, both conceptually and politically.

One the one hand this can be attributed to the linguistic problem. Once again, translation of vocal contributions was rather poor / poorly organized, which makes discussion nearly impossible. Neither there was a translation of basic texts and written contributions to discussions. This must change. Our proposal: The idea of having an extra meeting to coordinate potential translators (treating issues like color signs for the different languages, simultaneous translation of live discussions and discussion papers, etc.) should be pushed during the preparation and at the beginning of the next camps, applying the necessary extent of moral pressure so this coordination task will be solved by the actual camp participants rather than by the preparation group.

But there are other steps to be made in order to solve this problem. One example of the existing communication barreers was the Sexism/Racism debate. Here, refugees demanded a separate meeting to deal with the specific Northern American/European Sexism discussion which many of them don't know. At the final plenum, The Voice expressed their surprise at the fact that, while a discussion targeting sexism on the camp was vehemently demanded, almost no German camp participants showed up at the discussion on racism and gender prepared by The Voice. Those few of us who remained at the final plenum until the morning hours discussing sexism together with the refugees reported that some fundamental definitions of sexism and sexist behaviour which are clear to German antiracists and which are the basis of any discussion among us, are not clear at all to (most of the) refugees. To our eyes, it's a shining example of the lack of exchange of fundamental definitions and of the misunderstandings resulting from this which sabotage any further discussion. The Voice put forward the proposal to organize a discussion weekend on sexism and racism before the next camp. We must back this proposal in order to prove that we are honestly intersted in future common discussions and cooperation.

The Fl¸chtlingsinitiative Brandenburg criticised another point. They expressed sorrow that they had not been explicitly invited to the camp and involved into the preparation, so the camp could not be moved on the time schedule to another week as the one when it took place is generally difficult for them. Is this really still another example of our ignorance? We disagree. There can't be any "official" invitations to the camp preparation, but the invitation to participate in the camp preparation and in the camp itself should come through local contacts and initiatives. However, during the invitation process it is not sufficient to announce preparation only in the usual German leftist publications. We have to take into account that the refugees use other sources of information than German groups and indeed it is necessary to directly address non-German groups in order to make sure that more migrants can get involved.

2.2 The discussions must be continued beyond the camp

The purpose of the great conceptual discussions during the camp was mainly to inform, to bring across the current state of discussion, and to push certain issues or campaigns. We don't think any more detailed debates at the camp would be feasible due to the lack of time. And why should discussions that, can't be brought to any satisfactory results, when led on another (incl. germanwide) level possibly be any different just because of the frame being called bordercamp? Then, there are differences in the various individual states of information and discussion which can't be eliminated in a week's time. Plus, the higher numbers of participants strictly limit the discussions' potentials. Therefore the debates on the mailing lists, during the camp preparation, and in the workshops during the camp are very important, as well as the accompanying discussion materials like the reader for the panel discussion "Everyone is an expert". They have the role to stir up discussions beyond the camp's frame and to incite campaigns.

2.2.1 Immigration debate

The slogan "everyone is an expert" was met with quite a high amount of criticism. We, too, used this slogan on our posters. But obviously no-one noticed that we didn't refer to the "experts debate" in the way we were criticesed for. In the contrary, we wanted to point out the very cynical component of this discourse. It's not only in the present times that being an "expert" definitely helped to enter Germany but since ever an "expert" status was required to be allowed into this country. Our poster read: "One needs a very special kind of expert's knowledge to cross this finely knitted network" of inner and outer frontiers. "Many don't succeed. They die in their attempt to cross the German border, in German deportation prisons, and during deportation." OK, it's quite an oldstyle analysis, but therefore not necessarily wrong. This was the point we started from in our action at the Frankfurt labour exchange during the camp (see below), where we offered, among others, highly qualified jobs as Schlepper (smugglers of illegal immigrants). The original meaning of the slogan "everyone is an expert" is as immanent to the system as is "no-one is illegal" and that's why we dont understand the rejection by the groups of the KMII (no-one is illegal)-network. The camp was also confronted with the most recent discussions on "expert immigrants" (or: the immigration debate). Before the camp, this was pointed out as an important issue to play a relevant role during the whole camp. The highlight was planned to be the "talkshow" on Sunday evening. We share the opinion that this issue is a very important one, so we want to say a few words about it. Any hope to have a debate at the "talkshow" was thoroughly destroyed by the technical problems, the badly organized and poor translation, and the late start of the event. We had expected more of this evening, but not much more. No real discussion can seriously be expected with a topic as vast as this and such a high number of participants (on the podium as well as in the audience). The event had mainly a proclamative character. On the other hand, we think that the extra "talkshow" reader (a very good idea!), the following events targeting this topic, and the discussions before and after the camp created an excellent basis for further work on this issue. So, the event on the camp itself didn't offer any relevant results, but without the camp many groups wouldn't have bothered to discuss the issue at all. As we are still into the discussion ourselves, we can't contribute anything at the moment. Just this: We doubt that the current development is at all new. Examining German policy concerning foreigners during the last two centuries [see our paper prepared for an event in Leipzig] , we found many more surprising continuities that breaks. Of course there is a shift in the discussion at the moment, but such shifts keep occuring every now and then and they don't change anything with the basic premises of the ruling politics. And this is the reason why we don't share the current euphoria. Some want to see "a chance for the left", some talk about campaigns for legalization, some claim we were able to influence discourses, some want to bring up again the social question, some try to recognize a divergence of interests between the state and the capital which we should make use of, some see the society's racist consensus being broken and the policy of isolation making place for a controlled immigration policy. Some put down the modernized migation regime to successes of the migrants who, by their struggle or by the simple fact of their (supposedly unwanted) presence in Germany had brought about these changes (all the above are opinions voiced during the discussions on the mailing list or in the talkshow reader and shared by many groups). The current policies are not a result of weakness, but rather of the strength of the "system". To some this started to become visible when Schily presented his draft. Before, the just criticism had been common that it were the imperialist conditions which forced people to flee from their coutries of origin, for economical and ecological reasons, because of civil wars etc. But the relative poverty of "IT experts from India" or of Polish seasonal workers does not suddenly convert them into self-determined human beings whose immigration is going to completely shake up conditions here. They remain the objects of economic and state interests they have been for the last centuries. Of course there are struggles of migrants and their victories and defeats can be observed throughout history. And these struggles must be counted upon, there is nothing else left. But we don't see why new possibilities of intervention are supposed to arise just now when it rather seems that the existing ones are going to be eliminated. As this is the aim of the modernization of the migration regime: to shape migration according to the needs of the German economy and society.

2.3 Networking between the antiracist movement (Antira) and other partial movements

There are positions not reconsidered for too long, rivalries, and vanities. However: the political-strategical debate was much stronger than in previous years and new forms of collaboration were sought after.

One example: the antifascist movement (Antifa). The bordercamp has always been considering itself as an "experimentation field" for a better cooperation of Antifa and Antira. Most participants and organisers always keep in mind antifascist positions and consider them as closely interrelated with antiracist politics. Of course this year the antifascist component was not as obvious and prevalent as in the previous camps that took place in Eastern Germany where the concept of "nationally liberated areas" are a matter of fact to be dealt with and where more activists from the "classical" antifascist spectre were directly involved in the camp preparation. There were and still are different approaches and prejudices on both sides. A practical example is the greater variety in the forms of actions of antiracist groups which are more coloured, fun-oriented and inspired by communication guerrilla. Representative for the conceptual differences is the social-worker attitude in the cooperation with refugees criticised by Antifa groups and still wide-spread among antiracist circles. On the other hand, Antifa keeps being reduced to a pure anti-nazi movement by many Antira groups although Antifa actions starting from the Frankfurt camp contradict such a short-sighted interpretation as they targeted social interrelations and the center-right (rechte Mitte). This year, there was a clear interest in a discussion on cooperation and in antifascist issues. It was the first time a discussion prepared by an Antifa group (B¸ndnis gegen Rechts from Leipzig) took place on the camp which not only aimed at the propagation of classical antifascist background info but presented for discussion the BGR's analysis of the perspectives of common Antifa and Antira politics. This event was the follow-up of the Antira-Antifa discussion on the Gˆttungen congress. The intention the latter had been to promote antiracist events such as the bordercamp where examination of common points and discussion on cooperation is easier. Of course, during the discussion on the camp still a lot of misunderstandings and prejudices were to be found but the large number of participants proved the great interest in this kind of discussion. One possible starting point for a cooperation of Antira and Antifa groups might be a demonstration against the Central Foreigners' Registration Office (Ausländerzentralregister) in Cologne organized together by both movements.

The camp also discussed possible points of contact to the "anti-globalization movement". Genua was an ever-present topic. Many of the camp participants had been there, Genua was regarded as part of the international chain of camps and the imprisonment of the People's Theater Caravan made repression palpable on the camp in a very concrete way. So dealing with the topic Genua and, starting from there, with the "anti-globalization movement" was a natural thing to do. But while solidarity with the Genua prisoners was still something everyone agreed with, opinions varied notably on the rest of the issues. Many of the camp participants consider themselves part of the anti-globalization movement and saw the camp in line with the Genua protests (it's a pity that the initial demonstration in Genua by migrants' groups, although mentioned in our actions and contributions, was never a topic of deeper analysis). Other participants distanced themselves from this very heterogeneous movement because of its antisemitic connotations that can't be denied and because of its positive references to the national welfare state. This became evident during the discussion about the open letter to the anti-globalization movement at the final plenum. We think it's important to accompany this movement in a critical way, doing the necessary conceptual discussion. Whether the anti-globalization movement will survive the abandoning of the global summits and play any role next year, thus being relevant for the camps to come, remains to be seen.

2.4 The "Anlaufstelle" discussion

The possible existence of a point where women and men who face sexualized attacks on the camp can turn to ("Anlaufstelle"), was made responsible for the camp being hostile towards pleasure (Kurt und Lotte Rotholz, camp01 mailing list, 25.07.01) before it had even begun. The self-styled experts on sexism recurred to one of the oldest killer arguments of the backlash: Feminism and antisexism are hostile to pleasure and thus repressive. But wasn't it one of the first realizations of the women's movement that sexism has absolutely nothing to do with sexuality? Sexism is a violent expression of patriarchal dominance. So, antisexism and feminism are the basic requirements for a liberated sexuality (and not its opposite!) although certain forms of putting them into practice still leave something to be discussed. The Anlaufstelle was thought to be one form. We criticised some points in the first conceptual paper for what was originally called "Konfliktgremium" (Grenzcamp AG Leipzig, camp01 mailing list, 13.06.01) but we agreed with the basic ideas. We must emphasize that concepts like "Definitionsrecht" (the right of the woman to define whether she has been sexually attacked, based exclusively on her personal perception of the incident and independently from the perceptions of others) and sactions against sexists are everything but emancipatory and directly conflict with ideas of a leftist utopia. But still we don't live under the conditions of this utopia and we have to face and to deal with the ruling conditions. Nobody questions the concept of camp protection which is organized in an almost military way. The same should apply for the Anlaufstelle. In the final conception (camp01 mailing list, 16.07.01) we considered it an appropriate instrument (subject to further discussions) to - as the conception reads - "bring about a sensitization of the participants", to "grant a safe space for those confronted with sexist attacks", to "organize professional help", intervening in accordance with the delegates' plenum only in cases when "the affinity groups affected don't know how to handle the situation" or when "a person afflicted is looking for trustworthy protection". In the conception we don't find anything about a "totalitarian" regime with "the will to political repression", "police slang", or "fantasies of violence" arising from a "rightist ideology" (all quotations: Kurt und Lotte Rotholz). This mixing up of two different discussions that don't have much in common (e.g. the discussion about how to deal with sexism in practice on the one hand and a theoretical discussion about a liberated society with an emancipatory sexuality on the other) is the reason why those taking part in the discussion permanently keep missing each other's points. But to our minds, this very seldom just happens by a silly coincidence but it's the (easily revealed) attempt to quietly sneak out of the argument. No-one prevents those who keep demanding loudly to talk about "how everyone imagines a better life for themselves" every time the discussion is about sexism from doing so - which they don't, because their eagerness to debate about leftist sexuality, relationships etc. only arises from an antifeminist reflex. We think that it's a pity not to have dared to put the Anlaufstelle into practice. All future discussions about such a body will now lack a practical basis. We don't completely understand why those who had taken responsibility to organize the Anlaufstelle backed out such a short time before the camp. But we can understand if they have felt insecure, faced with the massive criticism and controversial argument beforehand and the lack of involvement of others in a constructive discussion. However, it doesn't seem very honest to us to pretend that the realization of the Anlaufstelle had remained open and could be discussed on Tuesday on the camp. In the face of this situation, at the beginning of the camp it was already clear to us that there wouldn't be any Anlaufstelle. Of course, in our opinion the discussion about it has not become superfluous. The very little participation in this discussion after the camp also seems symptomatic to us. The first contribution (08.08.01) comes up with legitimate objections against the Anlaufstelle from a solidarial perspective. It questions the qualification of those who would have run the Anlaufstelle and concludes saying: "The competence in dealing with sexist incidents ... can be achieved only through a debate like the one we are having, and not by any Anlaufstelle." But the Anlaufstelle wasn't designed to have any more effects than to spark off and prepare just these debates on the camp. Which leads us again to organizational questions and consumerism. We are still unable to have such a debate in a meaningful way off the cuff. So it's good that the ground for this debate has been prepared. [go to part 2]