May Day in Berlin 2012

I’ve picked up a bunch of stickers for May Day in the last few days, which is one of the reasons I chose to come to Berlin at this time of year (that plus a cheap ticket!).  On Monday, April 30, starting at 2:00 is Das Antikapitalistische Walpurgisnacht, a rally and “Reclaim Da Streets” concert in Wedding.  A march begins at 6:00.  More about the various activities and events can be found here, on the Indymedia Web site here, and SDAJ Berlin Web site here.

On May 1, Kreuzburg will hold its annual Labor Day festival with concerts on several stages, food booths, picnics, etc.  This year, 2012, marks the 25th anniversary of famous May Day riots in 1987 when unprovoked German police attacked peaceful protesters, causing looting, violence, and damage.  A new book from PM Press is coming out called Fire and Flames: A History of the German Autonomous Movement that includes a brief but useful description.  About the book, our friends at Amazon write:

  • Translated for the first time into English, the history of the German autonomous anti-capitalist movement is traced back to the 1970s in this firsthand account.  Battling police in riot gear, the early members of the autonomous movement used military tactics that included barricading and hurling Molotov cocktails in protest.  Dubbed the “Black Bloc” by the German media, those tactics were soon adopted by scores of anti-capitalist groups across the globe.  The dawn of the autonomous faction spawned a movement in which average citizens can reclaim their lives from governmental control.  Political activists and anti-capitalists will find updated historical context to the movement and the current state of the German autonomous movement in this updated chronicle.”

Yesterday, I went to Red Stuff in Kreuzberg and picked up some antifa literature, stickers, and posters.  They also had some interesting swag, including “Still Not [Loving] the Police!” canvas tote bags and ceramic mugs.  This seems to be a great example of the Situationist International concept of recuperation, wherein subversive works or ideas are co-opted and commodified by mainstream media.  I wonder what they’d have to say about that.  I really should go back and ask.

Other May Day activities include:

  • “… the ‘Overcome Capitalism!‘ trade unions march at 10:00 on Hackescher Markt, the ‘Prevent displacement – reduce rents – expropriate real estate companies!‘ demonstration at 17:00 on Mariannenplatz, and the ‘For the worldwide socialist revolution!‘ demonstration at 18:00 on Lausitzer Platz.”

May Day tourism was the topic of an article in Spiegel International in 2010 entitled Anti-Capitalist Tour Guide Offers Riot Sightseeing.  The Exberliner also offers May Day survival tips, including “Be prepared,” “Go in a group,” and “Do you need that camera?”

The Exberliner has additional background and history of May Day protests in an article called May Day for Dummies (April 9, 2010) in which the author Wladek Flakin writes about clashes in 1987 between the police and autonomists (inc. “feminists, anarchists, anti-imperialists, Stalinists, Trotskyists, and every other shade of ‘left'”), and subsequent annual protests the following years.  According to the article, “MyFest” was developed as an alternative in the early 2000s, “initiated by residents, but financed by the police,” which led to further counter strategies.  Nowadays, everyone seems to be involved in one way or another, including mass media and anyone else with direct or indirect vested interests.  Flakin describes those to join the demos to include “the usual ageing autonomists in leather jackets, Kreuzberg kids, and bored middle-class teenagers from the provinces,” as well as “workers, students, unemployed people, and youths angry about the misery of the education system [who] come together to fight for anti-capitalist change.”  I’ll be curious to see who shows up this year, though as I mentioned in a previous post, it’s not always easy to distinguish who’s who.  Everyone wears black, that’s for sure, and I’ve read to look at people’s shoes.  That’s the giveaway.