Gratuitous May Day Preview

Anti-capitalist graffiti. Berlin, 2013.

Since the end of the Cold War, anti-capitalism has increasingly come to the fore as an antidote to the ills of social democracy. Given the predilection of mainstream socialist parties to give in to the logic of neoliberalism, it makes sense. François Hollande’s presidency is a great example.

Winning over half the seats in Parliament, Hollande was elected in 2012 on a platform that promised to tackle mass unemployment and dispense with EU-mandated austerity policies. The following year, pollsters called him the “most unpopular president in recent French history,” with approval ratings of 26%. By 2016, a TNS survey found 90% of French voters disapproved of the Socialist’s presidency.

For a head of state elected on a leftwing platform, Hollande clearly hadn’t kept his promises. To wit,  neoliberal labor reforms, and law and order politics, not unlike those of his predecessor, have been the order of his day. Though there are more details to complete this picture, such failings tend to epitomise the policymaking of centre-left governments in the European Union today.

Unsurprisingly, they also confirm the fact that that the social democrats have little to contribute to social crises in the post-Cold War era, consistently encouraging populist and neo-fascist parties to fill the vacuum. Hence, the revival of more extreme leftwing politics in recent years, such as orthodox Marxism, and, most significantly, anarchism.

If social democracy is nothing more than capitalism wrapped in a red flag, radicalization becomes an option. This isn’t new. Anarchism, for example, has often exercised a positive influence on the left, ideologically and organizationally. It also has had its reactionary moments, not unlike the communism it often competes with.

The following flyer, photographed in Berlin, is a classic example. Read between the lines of the transcription, and you’ll encounter a little bit of everything. And then some.

Anarchist flyer. Berlin, March 2017.

Revolutionary solidarity is our weapon!

“How does the saying go? The way of revolution leads through a royal chest; or: through the capitalists’ pockets.

Jules Bonnot went for the latter option. He and his friends organized thefts and robberies and produced counterfeit money. What for? First and foremost, to make a living and secondly, to buy printing machines, typesettings and paper. Revolutionary propaganda and direct action.”

This is the introduction of a comic book about the Bonnot Gang, a group of anarchist who robbed banks in France more than 100 years ago. For about 150 years, some anarchists have pondered the necessity of expropriation, to take back what is taken from the exploited day by day – not to enrich themselves, but to support those with no money: prisoners or their families, workers in a strike. Some used it for propaganda but for most of them is was merely a question of survival. So they all had similar motivations. The way they took the money however varied. We are no judges to condemn their deeds. Instead, we condemn capitalism, which humiliates people and drives them into misery.

Again, three anarchists were prosecuted for alleged bank robbery in Aachen between 2012 and 2014. It doesn’t matter whether they actually did it or not. They are our friends and partners, which is why we stand behind them. They fight for a world in which people don’t exploit others, where no one is oppressed and where everyone has the same opportunities to live the lives they want – according to their needs and possibilities. A life determined neither by the state nor by companies, governments, currencies and products.

What we know is that banks destroy countless of lives. People lose their homes because they are unable to pay their rent or loans, ending up on the streets. Banks use other peoples’ savings to speculate and squander. But this money, the result of hard work and painful saving, is actually supposed to be a backup for harsh times. Everyone knows what happens next. The hard-earned savings are gone and people are pushed to the edge of existence. Banks benefit from their misery and problems.

If repression is hitting hard, it’s because these kinds of actions cannot be assimilated. They shouldn’t be legal. They don’t abide by the rules of capitalism or democracy because protest is only permitted if it recognizes the ruling order and helps shape it. The state prefers to invest millions of euros into the radical left than watching one person or group robbing a single bank to support others. A state-controlled revolt or revolution cannot exist. Revolts and revolutions can only be what they are, if they arise along the prescribed way of democracy. It is easy to be a rebel as long as the state permits it and doesn’t attack directly.

There is no way to improve capitalism because the human being is merely supposed to generate profits. But there is no way to improve the state either because it administrates the everyday exploitation of all people. No negotiations with the hangmen of history!





Translated from the German by JZE. Photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit.