Blockupy Day 4: 19 May – against the politics of crisis and authoritarianism

by | 19 May 2012

22:10 CET: The centre right Zeit newspaper is less than impressed with the policing overkill:
Taking the Blockupy events’ expiration as a benchmark to assess the city’s hard line, it is difficult to understand: even with a few more permitted events, with less security zones and a march of hundreds, would the Blockupy-days have become a violent excess, activists having turned the financial district into a battleground? On Saturday there was barely any rampage.Instead: more than 20,000 demonstrators, enjoying the summer weather for four hours, waving flags, distributing piles of leaflets. A large piece of the demonstration route went along the river Main. Some of the protesters took a break with ice-cream on the meadow by the river , the supposed radicals’ demo finally seems to be a weekend stroll.Anyway many things have turned out differently than expected at these Frankfurt-Blockupy days. The residents, for example, were more annoyed by the number of large-scale police barricades and into their city, than by the political activists. Constantly they had to show ID cards, or take detours. The story made the rounds that at times only people with a Frankfurt address and a valid train ticket were allowed at the train station.

These security measures applied according to the principle that a lot helps a lot is especially so absurd, because the whole day there was no visible threat that would justify such action. So the city was for four days a huge site for mostly harmless cat-and-mouse game between police and activists. Four days in which the officers watched the protesters, warned them kettled them , dragged them away – and so in the end the initiators of this state of emergency were the only perpetrators.

Also, why does Hans Scharpf, like so many of the activists, look so happy? The lawyer is wearing a red T-shirt reading “Occupy Money”, he was one of several legal experts trying to prevent the eviction of the Frankfurt-Occupy camp a few days ago, without success.

Now he says: “It is a shame for this supposedly cosmopolitan city, the way we are treated here.” In his view, the Minister of Interior and head of the public order dept must resign, because they had “absolutely no concrete reason to restrict freedom of assembly”.

The so-called Black Bloc, perhaps sixty people were accompanied the entire three hours by at least three times as many police officers. Sometimes they moved so close to the officials that this caused minor scuffles and shoves, because they protesters simple did not want to retreat from the overbearing force of the security forces.

Further ahead, the mood was relaxed, the police rarely seen, and if so, in blue vests with the word “Communicator” printed on protective helmets. Here flags dominate the Attac anti-globalization alliance and there are colorful clothes, drummers groups and bicycles.

After three hours the entire demo-train assembled between the buildings of German Bank and European Central Bank for the closing announcement. On stage a band was playing, jumping around in front are small children. The black bloc has been placed on a lawn.

A few meters further on, in the red light district, bull-necked men are smoking in front of their shops and erotic table dance bars on the empty street. And before the central station an irritated cyclists calls to the police at one of the many barriers, “Is this now finally past, this total annoyance?”

Yes, now it’s over. What remains is the disturbing image of a city that has turned the public spaces and a large area into a high-security zone for several days . A city that, for fear of becoming paralyzed, paralyzed himself.

21:27 CET: Thunderstorm in Frankfurt. A good article here from Jerome Roos on the crackdown.
19:25 CET: Spotted as we walked back to an open metro station, near the university: in the Westend quarter, full of huge financier houses and boutique banks, a disheveled elderly man in several layers of clothes despite the weather has made his way into the overgrown garden of a bankrupt bank and is picking dandelion leaves for his supper.
18:49 CET: Frankfurter Rundschau closes its liveblog with “A victory for Blockupy!”.
18:45 CET: Hessischer Rundfunk relays unconfirmed reports that 160 cars and 40 buses and people-carriers were stopped on route to Frankfurt.
18:35 CET: Occupy will be allowed to re-occupy their camp outside the ECB tomorrow at 16:00 local.
18:31 CET: Police have told Hessischer Rundfunk that there has been one (1) arrest today and that was this morning, before the demo.
17:52 CET: we’re going to try and upload our photos shortly.
17:45 CET: L’Internationale is sung.
17:31 CET: it turns out that outgoing Frankfurt mayor Petra Roth (CDU) was so concerned about today’s Blockupation that she has gone on a junket to Peru.
17:30 CET: there is much criticism of Federal President Gauck who recently assumed that role at the instigation of Kanzlerin Merkel, after her previous choice was felled in a corruption scandal (yes, you guessed it, dodgy loans). Gauck was heralded as a East German pastor who had led the democracy movement when the wall fell. Yet this week he was completely silent. Shame on him.
17:22 CET: The Frankfurter Rundschau headline:
17:10 CET: successful demo despite the crackdown. 25,000 marchers plus the 5,000 in riot gear responsible for completely blocking Frankfurt.
17:05 CET: Berliners have been told their buses home are waiting for them on the outskirts of Frankfurt city. How’s that for hospitality
Bild des Tages? #Blockupy

16:58 CET: above, what Boris Rhein would have Frankfurters fear. Demo entirely peaceful along route, despite police attempts at provocation near Boerneplatz in Frankfurt’s more popular east end central, far from the banking district. Even as this occurred, smiling Frankfurters waved from windows, held out banners, and even threw water, sweets and biscuits into the hands of cheering demonstrators. The crude attempt by the authorities somehow to instigate a riot in this area, thus affecting ordinary people, became a confirmation of the general support for Blockupy’s cause.

16:55 CET: in Germany it seems the Greek flag has become a symbol of resistance.

12.42 CET Over the next period see updates via Twitter: @critlegthinking

12.26 CET: Solidarity speech from Tunisia while helicopters circle overhead.

11.07 CET: we are on the way …

10:10 CET: solidarity demo at German embassy in Vienna planned for 15:00 local time today.

10:05 CET: trains to Frankfurt being boarded by police and checks carried out.

09:55 CET: Seems to have been a blip. Apparently there are police checkpoints on southern roads into the city, including Mörfelderlandstr. dir. Kennedyallee, and near the main football stadium.

09:44 CET: Sun is out. Hmmm, Twitter is suddenly experiencing problems.

09:30 CET: map of the route here.

08:45 CET:

A Brief Explanation of the Politics of Crisis:

The politics of crisis speaks among other things to the inherent crisis within the capitalist process. Nonlinear studies of capitalism, for example, take a far more honest approach to their subject matter. One can read the theology that is neoclassical economics and despair that even the first steps of scientific method are ignored. The primary failure is the belief amongst neoclassical economists that exceptions to their rules prove them. On the contrary, a physicist for example would build a model of some process and run the process to see if the model was correct. If something strange happened, they would not conclude reality is wrong, rather they would integrate the singular event into their model, or completely

revise their model to fit the new picture. Neoclassical economists on the other hand see strange occurrencesasfailures of reality (humans), and stick rigidly to their models. The result: capitalist crisis is seen as a failure of humans, not of the neoliberal order, and the solutions prescribed are (i) reaffirmation of the infallibility of the model; (ii) disciplining of material humanity for having sullied the ideal form of capital; and (iii) perpetuation of the myth that crisis is unusual, rather than the norm.It would be wrong, however, to counter this by arguing that capitalism must end in crisis for to do so is simply to adopt the negative position which reaffirms the exteriority of crisis to capital. This carries with it the implicit suggestion that capitalism runs fine for seven fat years, then suddenly tips into a correction.

Surely the correct synthesis is in the conception of the process as such. Capitalism, being a process, already engages in the reflexive self-determination of the negative in its becoming. Put more simply, crisis is central to capitalism – it is in constant crisis – capitalism is the crisis.

We can see this for example already in the USD2bn lost by JP Morgan – the bank took positions, then hedged these positions and finally hedged its hedges. Hedge funds, smelling the instability of the bank’s stance, piled in and willingly took bets with JP Morgan, which duly obliged, which resulted in the massive loss. It is a nice story to see this as “risk management gone wrong”, but surely the point is that great profits were drawn, or derived, from the constitution of a massively unstable risk structure – one that was actively toppled this way and that by capitalists in order to increase the pent up “crisis” in the system.

Likewise with Greece and indeed all sovereign debtors. Last year the markets dictated massive austerity though anyone could see this was the wrong prescription for the crisis. This year, with austerity pushing countries into recession, the markets demand growth spending. The Italian government recently lost its temper when it followed the advice of the rating agencies in carrying out austerity measures, only for those same agencies to downgrade their bonds because they had carried out those same austerity measures.

When capitalism is conceived as crisis, it is evident that there is no externality to the process, or even latent floor. The governance of the market is a governance which is neither seeking absolute orthodoxy to a model, nor suffering from the discontinuity between ideology and reality. Rather, the governance of the market is actively seeking the state of crisis, for this is where maximal profit can be found.

This is why today’s protests call for an end to crisis politics – because such policies seek only the perpetuation of crisis, and consequently can only be considered as deleterious to human well-being.

08:25 CET: OccupyOregon are planning a solidarity demo at the German consulate in Portland (16:00PDT) today.

08:05 CET: I think everyone is interested to see how many people make it to the demonstration given the heavy-handed police tactics including the closure of roads, detention of people and buses and turning back of travellers. Blockupy Alliance have already revised down estimated numbers as a result.

Nevertheless, walking in Frankfurt yesterday there are patently very many people “about” who are hear for the portest but following the advice to remain in groups of three or less to avoid arrest. Speaking to people who came from France, there were (unusually) police monitors at the border counting the number of cars crossing the Rhine.

08:00 CET: naturally Critical Legal Thinking will be there, though this may restrict our ability to post on this blog. Happily there will be several people tweeting in English and other languages using the #Blockupy hashtag.

07:55 CET: the following speakers have been confirmed:

At the start:

Verdi: Bernd Riexinger
DIDF Cigdem Ronaesin
Arbi Kadri Regueb /Sidi Bouzid – Aktivist from Tunisian Revolution, member of: “Union of Graduate Unemployed”
Aktivists from ItalyBündnis R.I.S.E. UP (Rising Italy for Social Europe)
Interventionist Left Anna Dohm and Lena Wolf


Thomas from Occupy
Tine Steininger, Roman Denter – Attac
Sonia Mitralias from Greece – Debt audit campaign
Bernardino Aranda from Portugal
GEW: Jochen Nagel
Sahra Wagenknecht – Left Party (Die Linke)

Plus to summatory speeches from the Blockupy Alliance.

07:45 CET: weather report – 80% cloud cover and damp, but mild. 24?C expected as the cloud clears.

07:40 CET: Morning! A reminder of today’s march details:

At 12:00 demonstrators may assemble at Baslerplatz before the main railway station, before setting of at 13:00. They will proceed south to the river and then follow the rightbank upstream to Kurt-Schumacherstr. which is on the far side of the city centre, before proceeding to Konstablerwache which is the east end of the Zeil main shopping street.

The demonstrators will proceed northwards to just before the old city defences before swinging west along Bleichstrasse then Hochstrasse, which leads to the Old Opera square (Opernplatz), where the demonstration will terminate just in sight of the ECB.

The logic of the route is clear enough – the financial district (and ECB) will be avoided and protesters will pass through parts of the city used by ordinary Frankfurters.




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