Anti-G8 march turns violent
German police have arrested 128 people after a violent demonstration by anti-G8 protestors in the Germany city Rostock, which left hundreds of people injured.
The organisers of the protest in northern Germany, which came four days before the start of the G8 summit in nearby Heiligendamm, claimed at least 165 people were arrested.
Prosecutors in Rostock said they would bring charges of assault and disturbing the peace against 10 of those who were detained when protestors hurling Molotov cocktails, stones and bottles clashed with police.
The demonstrators also overturned and set fire to several cars.
The organisers said 20 protestors had been seriously hurt, while another 500 suffered light injuries. The number of injured protestors was not officially confirmed.
“Some of them were arrested in such a brutal manner that they had to be hospitalised,” said Wilke Studzinsky, a lawyer representing the arrested marchers.
The police said 433 officers were injured in the clashes, 30 of them seriously — which it defined as having fractures or worse injuries.
“We are lucky that there were no police killed,” said Konrad Freiburg, the chairman of Germany’s police union.
He told Monday’s edition of Bild newspaper that “troublemakers, mainly ones coming from Italy and Greece, became astonishingly violent.”
The violence on Saturday involved only a small percentage of the 20,000 people that took part in the march, according to police figures. Organisers of the march — a collection of anti-globalisation and anti-poverty groups – claimed 80,000 people had taken part.
Protest organisers on Sunday condemned the violence and pledged to do what they could to prevent it from continuing as the summit gets underway.
“We want to do everything so that all goes well now and no one throws fuel on the fire,” said Karsten Smid, a spokesman for protest organisers. “We want to convince with arguments, not with rocks.”
The violent protesters ranged from communists to anarchists.
“They are activists known for clashing violently with neo-Nazis, and who also often look for confrontations with the authorities,” said Jessica Wessel from the police unit charged with G8 security.
Tim Laumeyer, spokesman for a group of leftist protesters, called the violence “unjustifiable,” but also criticised police for what he said was a heavy-handed response. Water canons and tear gas were used on protesters.
The Rostock march was the biggest event of a week of demonstrations ahead of the meeting of the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States which begins on Wednesday.
More protests are planned in the coming days, with militants threatening to block roads around Rostock airport from Wednesday to prevent the leaders and their delegations from reaching the summit venue.
The road blocks must be “so much better prepared” to avoid further incidents, said organiser Mani Stenner.
“The idea is to sit on the road and wait for police to come and move you,” he said. “But the protesters themselves have to remain calm to avoid another escalation of violence.”
German authorities have mounted an extensive security operation for the summit, with up to 16,000 police on duty.
Whatever an invitation to “welcome protests” by a German chancellor means, whatever the political aims of the protesters are, the paranoid seclusion of its participants and the violence of those excluded are both but mirroring the decaying social peace within the process of globalisation. To forward its freedom globalisation sets capital free from any responsibility within the traditional frame of the national state. As Marx explains in Capital Vol I:
This primitive accumulation plays in Political Economy about the same part as original sin in theology. Adam bit the apple, and thereupon sin fell on the human race. Its origin is supposed to be explained when it is told as an anecdote of the past. In times long gone-by there were two sorts of people; one, the diligent, intelligent, and, above all, frugal elite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living. The legend of theological original sin tells us certainly how man came to be condemned to eat his bread in the sweat of his brow; but the history of economic original sin reveals to us that there are people to whom this is by no means essential. Never mind! Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority that, despite all its labour, has up to now nothing to sell but itself, and the wealth of the few that increases constantly although they have long ceased to work. Such insipid childishness is every day preached to us in the defence of property. M. Thiers, e.g., had the assurance to repeat it with all the solemnity of a statesman to the French people, once so spirituel. But as soon as the question of property crops up, it becomes a sacred duty to proclaim the intellectual food of the infant as the one thing fit for all ages and for all stages of development. In actual history it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, briefly force, play the great part. In the tender annals of Political Economy, the idyllic reigns from time immemorial. Right and “labour” were from all time the sole means of enrichment, the present year of course always excepted. As a matter of fact, the methods of primitive accumulation are anything but idyllic.
In themselves money and commodities are no more capital than are the means of production and of subsistence. They want transforming into capital. But this transformation itself can only take place under certain circumstances that centre in this, viz., that two very different kinds of commodity-possessors must come face to face and into contact; on the one hand, the owners of money, means of production, means of subsistence, who are eager to increase the sum of values they possess, by buying other people’s labour-power; on the other hand, free labourers, the sellers of their own labour-power, and therefore the sellers of labour. Free labourers, in the double sense that neither they themselves form part and parcel of the means of production, as in the case of slaves, bondsmen, &c., nor do the means of production belong to them, as in the case of peasant-proprietors; they are, therefore, free from, unencumbered by, any means of production of their own. With this polarization of the market for commodities, the fundamental conditions of capitalist production are given. The capitalist system pre-supposes the complete separation of the labourers from all property in the means by which they can realize their labour. As soon as capitalist production is once on its own legs, it not only maintains this separation, but reproduces it on a continually extending scale. The process, therefore, that clears the way for the capitalist system, can be none other than the process which takes away from the labourer the possession of his means of production; a process that transforms, on the one hand, the social means of subsistence and of production into capital, on the other, the immediate producers into wage-labourers. The so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. It appears as primitive, because it forms the pre-historic stage of capital and of the mode of production corresponding with it.
In a way the process of globalisation by stripping the freedom of capital of the traditional bounds to social themes as healthcare, overall social welfare or others the like, capitalism returns at the zenith of its productivity to its own primitive roots. Its utmost freedom needs under ideal conditions an army of always available slaves, as Huxley in his “The Brave New World” did foretell. The protests against this process are partly born out of the survival instinct of those who are supposed to be turned into slaves after decades of a prospering welfare state model. The chosen topics of the protests are all aiming in that very same direction. (As such they are quasi-absent in this form in Latin America or Asia, where labour force is recruited out of an army of slaves within traditional agrarian forms production.)
At the advent of this G8 summit the Government is transforming Germany, a republic — given its constitution, into something that looks pretty much like what Foucault described in Discipline and Punish (1975). Building on the archaeology of the asylum he examined how the institution of the prison based on control of the mind had replaced torture of the body as punishment using an 18th century execution and Bentham’s panopticon prison as contrasts. In the panopticon prison the all-seeing warder would sit in darkness observing the inmates without their knowing. Eventually, the degree of control would be such that the watchtower would need no occupant as the inmates would behave as if under constant surveillance and discipline themselves. For Foucault, this mind control reflected the idea that knowledge is power and can be used to dehumanise the individual. The torture and physical punishment of the past may have been brutal, but was also brief, infrequent, and preferable.
The prison, in Foucaults vision, represented the modern way of control through regulation, be it the panopticon, religion, society itself, or Freud’s idea of the all-knowing super-ego. Knowledge becomes a means of regulation and control seen in all institutions of incarceration, be they asylums, prisons, hospitals, barracks or schools. Modern society was where surveillance (an aggressive observation) was commonplace, exercised by police, psychiatrists, teachers, doctors, social workers and so on. Foucault saw this categorisation of the individual as dangerous and to be resisted.
And resistance is what is happening in Rostock. Its violence is just a reaction of the hard-handedness of the government’s paranoid attitude towards what basically is nothing but a democratic process: citizens disagreeing with the course of politics. And it is just the beginning of a crushing social peace dealt for an ever increasing polarisation of wealth.
Every society has the crimes it does deserve or “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind…” [Hosea 8:6- ]