No G20, no UK – Scotland goes to Hamburg

by Connor Beaton

The Scottish Socialist Party is proudly supporting and participating in the massive mobilisation against the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany this weekend.

Thousands of people from outwith Germany – a handful of SSP members among them – have responded to the call of Hamburg-based organisers for a bold, broad and borderless display of resistance to the latest international demagogues convention.

Summit of repression

When the likes of May, Trump, Putin and Erdoğan meet in Hamburg, they will be a stone’s throw from the city’s traditionally autonomist and progressive Sternschanze and St Pauli districts, where locals view the imposition of the summit as provocative, undemocratic and violent.

SSP MSPs demanding the right to protest outside Gleneagles!

In an unprecedented measure, police have declared a 38km² security zone – covering most of the inner city – in which demonstrations will be banned while the summit takes place, creating a huge “democracy-free zone” which comparatively dwarfs the anti-democratic measures memorably protested by SSP MSPs in 2005 when the G8 Summit came to Gleneagles.

An activist defends freedom of assembly and use of public space –
“Sleeping, eating and washing are human rights”

Similarly to Scotland, the right to freedom of assembly is under threat. Ambitious plans to build protest camps to provide shelter to visitors from abroad have been disrupted by heavy-handed police incursions – even where the camps have been sanctioned by the German courts, sparking #YesWeCamp demos in Hamburg and in other cities. Street paper Hinz&Kunzt, Hamburg’s equivalent to the Big Issue, reports fears that rough sleepers will be evicted from the heart of the city for “security reasons”.

Meanwhile, police are struggling to reassure locals about their increased presence. A well-orchestrated propaganda campaign against supposed left-wing extremists coming to Hamburg to cause havoc was undermined when 250 riot cops from Berlin had to be sent home in disgrace, humiliated after drunken revelling in a barracks close to Hamburg that ended with public urination and outdoor sex.

People versus profit

The small group of politicians meeting in Hamburg only pretend to have solutions for the problems faced by the majority. The hypocrites will talk about austerity, then enjoy a lavish banquet in Hamburg’s new €800 million concert hall. They will prattle about climate change while overseeing the extraction and burning of coal; compassion to refugees while building more fences; security while ramping up endless bombing.

[x_pullquote type=”right”]The G20 is an institution that only serves the interests of privilege and profit, not people and planet.[/x_pullquote]Our problem is not with the individual leaders of these 19 countries and the figureheads of the EU, but the economic and political status quo they represent – one that delivers lifetimes of misery, unemployment and precarious, low-paid work to hundreds of thousands of people in Europe alone.

The G20 is an institution that only serves the interests of privilege and profit, not people and planet. It has only the authority to speak for bankers, bosses, oil barons and the war industry.

Festival of resistance

Against this background stands the vibrant and diverse range of actions organised across the city in opposition to the G20 Summit. There have been mass community meetings, political discussions, socials, and spectacular, imaginative protests and solidarity actions.

Allegedly, you can get one of these in the the George Orwell in Dundee. Sláinte!

Activists have taken part in banner drops, water fights, raves, occupations. Over 40 bars in Hamburg alone have rebranded St Pauli’s traditional Mexikaner shot as a new means of giving two fingers to Trump, while raising cash for the anti-G20 mobilisation in the process.

Providing an intellectual backbone to the actions is the alternative Summit for Global Solidarity, which will welcome academics, activists and politicians on Wednesday and Thursday to a forum where radical and anti-capitalist ideas are the order of the day.

However, the biggest actions are at the end of the week, beginning with the ambitious blockade of the G20 conference centre on Friday. The “#BlockG20 – Colour the Red Zone” call to action proclaims: “We will lock them in place – because their borders take freedom of movement from millions of people, and their police fences from a whole city.”

The next day, up to 100,000 people will join a mass demonstration backed by over 130 organisations – trade union youths, parties and NGOs – in defiance of the protest ban.

Rejecting the right

In a pamphlet (PDF) published ahead of the G8 in Gleneagles, the SSP’s Alan McCombes wrote: “Demonstrations and protests on the streets won’t stop the mass mugging of the poor by the rich. But they do serve a powerful purpose. They shatter the façade of consensus in favour of free market capitalism. They show there is dissent over what kind of world we want to live in. They help change the way people think.”

That was 2005. In the wake of the financial crisis and the polarised political upheaval of just the last few years, the demonstrations in Hamburg are even more important. They serve to illustrate there exists a powerful alternative both to neoliberal capitalism and to the right-wing populist nationalism that drapes itself in anti-establishment rhetoric – and steals the language of the left.

The international growth of the nationalist right – from UKIP in Britain to the Front National in France, the Trumps in the US, and Alternative für Deutschland in Germany – demands a cross-border response from the internationalist left.

For locals, the assertion of raw power by Hamburg’s social movements is important. They need to show that the rebellious spirit which led, in the late 1980s, to the squatting of the Rote Flora autonomous centre, and the building of barricades to successfully defend the occupied flats on the Hafenstraße, is as strong as ever – and this also deserves solidarity from abroad.

Linking Scotland and Europe

The Scottish Socialist Party stands for the socialist transformation of society. We seek an independent socialist Scotland – a modern, democratic republic, part of a socialist Europe in which our continent’s great wealth is owned by all of us and managed in our common interest.

We offer solidarity across borders because we understand the problems of working class people in Scotland – austerity, climate change, racism – are common across Europe. We understand that a meaningful internationalism is about more than taking the “right” position on Brexit.

Our participation in the anti-G20 movement is about offering support and practical solidarity to those in Europe who broadly share our fundamental values, and we welcome all the solidarity that is offered in return.

  • Follow #NoG20Scot on Twitter for updates from Scottish participants in the anti-G20 mobilisation.

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