Rostock Overview

Jun 07, 2007

Things have started dying down in Rostock, although it appears the blockades are still going strong (almost 24 hours after they started). Maybe it’s a bit premature but before the whole week goes down in the history books, a quick look at the overall events of the week and the meaning for the movement might be in order.

As we went to Rostock, the media were (once more) eagerly writing the obituaries of the anti-capitalist movement. Constantly the questions were ‘why aren’t there as many people going to Rostock as went to Genoa in 2001?’ and ‘Where has the radicalism gone?’ I think Rostock has provided a powerful answer to these questions: It’s still as strong as ever.
On Saturday, we were on the back foot. The violent scenes photographed (and in some papers in Germany, digitally enhanced) splttered the Black Bloc and their tactics over the pages of the newspapers and it seemed Rostock would be remembersed for what was in effect, a smallish riot. No shops smashed, grossly over estimated numbers of police injuries and very few arrests given the circumstances. “Handbags on the waterfront” said one protester. But the mud was being slung and it had started to stick.
The police antagonism continued throughout Saturday night and Sunday. The media coverage was set to give the police a green light to attack any protester at will and with impunity.
Things started to turn on Monday where (you can read the other reports on this site) the police tactics were to attempt to provoke a riot. they failed and questions started to be asked. Media showed that the residents of Ropstock were entirely hostile to the protesters. Our own experience showed this to be a complete lie.
Tuesday was a frustrating day. The organisers of the week had not thought through the dynamics for those people without a specific responsibility or event to concentrate on and most of us ended up kicking about town and the campsites. When word came through about Bush’s arrival at Rostock Laage airport, many tried their best to get down there to greet him anti-capitalista style. there was no stand by logistical support for such a mobilisation and those who did make it to the airport spent hours getting there and hours getting back having missed the monkey boy’s touchdown entirely. This didn’t fill people with confidence about the next day. The evening spokescouncil meeting went some way to redress these worries. Well organised, no great long discussion about how the meeting would run, and to the point meant that many waverers decided that they would attend the mass non-violent blockades.
When Wednesday came, the vast majority of protesters poured out of town and the campsites to various meeting points for the mass blockades. At Addmanshagen, the designated spot for the Rostock camp we saw the crowd swell to around 6000, and when we moved off even more joined us making a huge army was walking through the fields, again another report on this site can give you far more detail.
The blockades were an unmitigated success. Seemingly against the odds, all targeted roads were closed and the police found themselves a laughing stock. Residents were filling up water bottles for the blockaders and showing solidarity against the wishes of the cops and totally debunking media assertions that protesters and residents were at loggerheads. anti-capitalism had been embraced by villagers outside of Heiligendamm, all attempts to discredit the movement had failed.
But there was a sour note on Wednesday. The counter conference, a necessary and welcome event had been entirely mis-timed. Back in November last year, many people invcluiding the two representatives of GR had argued tooth and nail to get the alternative summit to run on Sunday and Monday. Partly to give people soemthing meaningfull to fill their time in Rostock, but primarily to stop there being any chance of a division of “good” people at the conference and “bad” people at the blockades. The result was half empty meetings. John Holloway was speaking at 9am, and (I’ve heard) had to cancel the meeting through lack of interest. Of course the poeple most likely to attend his meeting were marching through the crops to block the G8, what were the organisers thinking?
GR has always argued for a healthy mix of theory and practice. The organisers of the counter conference, especially Peter Wahl of Germany Attac presented the choice of Theory OR Practice. It showed when Nicola Bullard from Focus on the Global South opened here talk at 5pm with the words “I wish I wasn’t here, I wish I was blockading” so many people in the room shared her frustration. It showed in the evening where the meeting featuring talks from Susan George, John Holloway and Alex Callinicos was a case of standing room only, with many people showing signs of having blockaded (sunburn, bits of various crops stuck on their clothes and huge smiles on their faces). There seems to be some backward view that people in our movement are either thinkers or do-ers, we have to go the extra mile to refute that.
So we hope that the movement will take confidence from Rostock, a great success. the lesson has to be learned that we have to regard the wishes of those attending and give people the option to discuss and act. A decent package of events however long the timetable has to come before the egos and wishes of the few.

Viva Anti-Capitalista!

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