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Blockupy: A mobilisation success and media propaganda

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On 18 March, at least 20,000 people took part in blockades and demonstrations to mark the ceremonial opening of the new European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt. The occasion was taken as an opportunity to take protests against austerity programmes onto the streets. The ECB, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Commission, the Troika, are tools of the strongest capitals in Europe and are trying to solve the crisis by the massive impoverishment of workers across Europe. Currently, Greece is the target of the blackmail policy, even if the Troika is now called, “the Institutions”.

The actions

The protest attracted demonstrators from Italy, Greece, Spain, England, France and other European countries. There was even a special train from Berlin which brought 1,000 from the capital and other cities en route to Frankfurt. This was a great mobilisation success, especially since the protest took place on a working day. Some had been in Frankfurt since Monday, preparing actions in advance.

In an attempt to obstruct the resistance against the inhuman policy of the Troika, the German State mobilised police forces from all over Germany; some 9,000 cops and 28 water cannon. In addition, the police had laid 100 km of barbed wire. Railways were closed, and roads were blocked, around the ECB, the traffic came to a complete standstill.

However, none of this stopped thousands from rallying at prearranged points throughout the city at sunrise on Wednesday morning. The plan was for several feeder marches, looking on a map like the fingers of a hand, to converge on the ECB from all sides and seal it off. From all sides, the people moved toward the ECB and tried to prevent access to the ECB's opening ceremony with mass blockades.

On the way to the blockade points, the feeder marches met with violent clashes with the police. Autonomes broke windows in several banks and petrol stations and set police cars on fire, several of these had been left parked in the middle of the road without proper protection and were probably deliberate provocations. Police fired tear gas at several locations to disperse the crowd.

Targeted militancy and militancy as an end in itself

In the media coverage, of course, everything was just described as a "riot" by hooligans on a scale not seen in Frankfurt for decades. The violence of the police as they encircled the demonstrators, using tear gas and water cannons was "naturally" not reported. The police present themselves as the "victims" although they had an organised and armed force of 9,000 against the demonstrators. Self-defence against attacks by the police is not "senseless violence", it is nothing more than a legitimate act of defence of democratic rights.

Given the millions who are driven into poverty by the policy of the German government, the banks and the ECB, the anger of many protesters who damage buildings or cars is, of course, entirely justified. What is a vandalised bank branch when set against thousands of destroyed businesses and closed factories?

All this, however, does not alter the fact that we have to distinguish between the forms of violence necessary to enforce and defend the blockades and violence against individual buildings and cars. This is doubtless an expression of anger, but also of powerlessness, despair and hopelessness.

The most radical events possible do not automatically offer any perspective. We are in favour of militant action certainly but for targeted and coordinated mass militancy, not the individual actions of small groups that are often tactically thoughtless and endanger other people, both through the actions themselves and by the inevitable response of the police. Smashing windows or torching police cars does not hurt the capitalists, let alone bring them down.

Such violence is all too often an end in itself but militancy should pursue specific goals, such as the defence of demonstrations and strikes or the occupation of premises and public buildings and, ultimately, the conquest of state power.

Despite everything, the feeder marches did reach their blockade points. The path towards the ECB was blocked by railings, razor wire, water cannons and hundreds of police. Getting through was not possible without proper equipment and coordinated leadership. However, for a few hours at least the blockades were maintained. By then, many had been cleared by the police. Others melted away to reform in other parts of town. However, there was no further action, apart from a failed attempt to rescue Italian comrades kettled in a side street.

In total, more than 150 were arrested in Frankfurt and we demand the release of all of them and the cessation of all legal actions against them.

Symbolic protests and transparency

Overall, there was uncertainty about the actions of the Alliance. The feeder march tactics were well coordinated and the various groups reached their goals - but what exactly was then meant to happen? Was it really possible for the crowds to block all access just by weight of numbers in front of the railings? Or was it hoped to somehow get over the barriers and closer to the new ECB? The whole idea was unclear. Especially after the abandonment of the blockades it was completely unclear whether anything further had been planned. And then there were all the meetings of delegations.

What seems at first glance to be a very democratic procedure, namely that each delegate meeting decides for itself what to do next, is, in reality, a political failure of the Alliance and, above all, the Interventionist Left. It meant that the political responsibility for deciding further action was handed over to the individual delegate meetings when it should have been taken by a central leadership that could have a fairly good overview of the situation and could coordinate the various forces.

“Allowing” each small group to decide, apparently democratically and independently, actually results in helplessness, lack of information and disorganisation and shoves the responsibility for the overall action onto the "rank and file".

In addition, actions like Blockupy can, naturally, only have a symbolic character. This is not a criticism. We do not reject a demonstration that assembles masses in protest because it is “only” a demonstration. The problem of IL and other organisers, however, is that they try to transform Blockupy by implying that it can, and could, go beyond this symbolic character.

Ultimately, these actions do not have any direct, economic pressure on the rulers. To go further, they would have to orient themselves towards actions of the organised working class like strikes and factory occupations, above all, they would have to call on the unions for workplace action and pose concrete demands which could mobilise workers across countries. In the "post-autonomous" spectrum however, this is seen as "out of date".


After the main actions, there was a trade union demonstration in the city centre. It is undoubtedly positive that the DGB unions organised a demonstration against the ECB opening, even if with plenty of vague, reformist phrases about "social Europe". Around 3000 responded to the call, of which, however, a relatively high proportion were officials and pensioners. REVOLUTION and Arbeitermacht formed a loud class-struggle block on this demo, which was otherwise very quiet. This was very well received. After that, many of the activists moved to the starting point of the final demonstration that began at 5.00 pm.

REVOLUTION and Arbeitermacht formed a determined block on the final demonstration. Almost every left group of the Federal Republic was represented, with many from around the Interventionist Left and the Left Party in particular. Because of its size, the demonstration was a bit disorganised - but that was actually evidence of the success of the mobilisation, which exceeded the expectations of many activists.

Several blocks made for a combative mood and the demo certainly made a big impact. Despite the conflicts in the morning, there were no major incidents and it reached its destination without interruption, mainly because the police stayed in the background. In particular, the scale of participation in the protest was a success for the German Left.

Media and burning police cars

Immediately after the militant clashes in the morning, the bourgeois media launched their inflammatory propaganda on the internet and television. As so often, they deliberately focussed on images of burning cars or injured police officers in order to deny the political content of the actions and demonstrations and to reduce Blockupy to a matter of burning police cars and smashed windows.

This was not just another attempt to criminalise Blockupy, as had been done in the weeks before the action but had failed to keep it small. It was also a preemptive move in advance of the G7 summit, using the pictures to stoke up fear and rejection of protest demos amongst the public. That is how they try to prevent solidarity with progressive demands and support for resistance against the ruling class among broader sections of the population.

The Left Party is also being put through the wringer because of its support for the Alliance. One reason is undoubtedly that the Coalition has not, as in many other cases, distanced itself from the “rioters” and “bad” demonstrators but has correctly blamed the ECB, the EU and the imperialist German Government for the anger and outrage that was seen in Frankfurt.

Even more hypocritical is the pretence in the bourgeois media that the militancy in Frankfurt had detracted from coverage of the “legitimate concerns” of the peaceful masses. Would they have taken Blockupy seriously and reported on its ideas if there had been no rioting? Probably not.

Besides, when fascists in Ukraine burnt whole buses and built giant burning barricades, covering the whole of Kiev in smoke, our media and politicians clapped their hands in applause and prattled on about a “democratic movement” even though it had fascist stormtroopers at its forefront.

But all this is nothing new. The media are also only companies owned by capitalists who have a direct interest in maintaining the existing conditions and use their power accordingly. Of course, anti-capitalists cannot tailor their policies according to the wishes of the press. Winning the support of wider sections of the population is a job we have to do ourselves – by setting up our own publications, making links with the unionised workers of the print and media industries and developing a class struggle perspective.

So, let us be more active at school, university, business and on the streets! For a class-struggle opposition to the EU and its institutions! For a Europe-wide mobilisation against the G7 summit in June!