From Autonomen to Zeitgeist
So you know Germany is full of old fascists getting drunk at football games, and that the Chancellor's name is Kohl, and that he is the large fat guy whose favourite dish is sow's stomach. But maybe you aren't privileged with any insights into the radical ecology movement in the land of the huge Black Forest, the hilly countryside along the Rhine river and of the "progressing" industry.
"Gorleben" (in early March 1997) was a huge thing that you may have seen on TV - 10,000 anti-nuclear protestors up against 30,000 riot police. If you take these 10,000 protestors and deduct about 9,500, you're left with a handful of energetic activists that are involved with radical ecology.
We, two German vistors to Britain, will try to sum up aspects of doings and activist life in Germany from our perspective which means, due to the disappointing lack of effective networking in our as yet small movement, that we only have faint ideas of what's happening in other parts of the country/in some local groups we've possibly never heard of. This is just a personal account of our experiences.
The idea of radical ecology is not unknown - hey, and there's already been a green and black flag shown on TV (well, once).
The movement has just started to become an independent one, only in the process of developing a distinctive profile. It is sort of emerging from other movements concerning partial oppressions/single issues (animal rights, anti-nuclear, anti-fascist, environmental), initiated by activists who wished to combine their revolutionary/anarchist perspective with radical ecology/green anarchism/earth liberation ideas.
Some - mainly young activists - went on to form Earth First! groups, most of them in 1994, in many cases inspired by EF! in Britain (so you can be proud of that!). There were many attempts to build up a network and get their explanation of who they are, why they are active and from which "philosophical" background together. The latter was very well thought out, but unfortunately failed to appeal to a wider audience, due to individuals in EF! who put others off with arrogant and cliquey/exclusive airs and EF!-connections with Frontline (the german "revised" adaption of USA Hardline [dodgy, right-leaning punky vegans]), EF! did not appeal to many activists with radical environmental ideas. These problems led to the break-up of the EF! network at the end of 1996/beginning of 1997. But its (very good) main publication, "Die Eule" ("The Owl") still exists and promises to keep on spreading radical ecological thoughts.
Action continues nevertheless, there is just no "national coordination" in most cases. Local groups tackle local issues with direct action - for example with blockades of streets, sit-ins on fields where genetically manipulated vegetables are tested (or attacks on them), attacks on diggers, construction sites, companies etc., bicycle demonstrations and the like. Protest camps on the other hand attract more activists from around the country: there are for example "hut villages" against motorway construction - one camp against the A33 in Dissen that had existed for five years has recently been evicted again and has moved on to a new site. You may have read in the last Do or Die of the "Anatopia" village (which existed for 4 years up to its eviction in 1995) against a planned Mercedes test track right through the moor. This test track is now being built in a different part of Germany. Also, the first tree protest camps in Thueringen and Freiburg have emerged (see other articles!).
To mention the situation we have with cops: camps are not flocked with security guards as in Britain but are observed and evicted by the police. Actions and demonstrations are disrupted by special units - either the "Bundesgrenzschutz" (police with military training) or the anti-terror squads ("SEK") who are dressed up as robocops. They are usually so thoroughly protected (even their ankles are out of reach) and armed as well, which means battles with them are more or less distance fights because otherwise people would feel too powerless. As to repression and state spying, we're not sure how they really are reacting, as you cannot tell exactly as the movement does not have very much experience.
Radical ecology already has made its way into "left circles" but not quite as the activists would have wished it to. Many have somehow got the impression it has something to do with fascism. This critique has come from the kneejerk undifferentiating left who often follow the equation: if fascists have had anything to do with it, it cannot be a left-wing issue. Narrow-minded leftists squirm when they hear of biocentric apporaches or of real concern with nature, as they fear what they think is an inevitable degradation of humans/social issues as a result. An ex-Green Party member, Jutta Dittfurth, who is now involved with a left-wing environmental group, has evolved into an expert in slagging off alleged ecofascist doings. In her new book "Entspannt in die Barbarei" ("Relaxed into barbarism") she speaks of fascist biocentrism, fanatic vegans and the construed connections of radical ecologists to fascists.
In Gorleben, when she came to congratulate four activists who had stopped the Castor by climbing up trees and put up a walkway over the road, the reaction of the crowd was to ironically yell: "Hey, somebody get those ecofascists out of the trees!" Poor Jutta was received with boos and hisses and she lost her composure and stuck her middle finger up to everyone. Geniune support of the ideas and actions usually comes more from the anarchist "Autonomen" scene.
Well, there isn't that much more we could tell you about (except maybe that 1997 has seen the first edition of a new green anarchist calender), but we hope there soon will be.
If you are planning to visit Germany, you may want to get in touch with some activists there or have a look at "Die Eule", so here is one address we can offer: "Naturfreundejugend", c/o Infoladen, Brunnenstrasse 41, 42105 Wuppertal.