Dear friends all over the world, I don’t know how the G20 in Hamburg was reported in your countries, and I would love to get some insight from you about that. If the commentary resembled anything like ours here, you will likely have heard a lopsided portrayal of the events that took place in Hamburg these past days, with a majority of voices magnifying the actions of violent idiots, and neglecting to analyze police violence, unlawful police strategies, and bad political planning.
Therefore, I would like to share with you my perspective on the matter, as a resident of Hamburg, who lives two blocks away from the Schulterblatt in the Sternschanze, where most of the destruction took place.
What happened in Hamburg last weekend is a result of a few hundred political and apolitical aggressors being met with ineffective and insufficient police resources and made possible by poor or unethical political judgement. It is also the result of partly unlawful police strategies meeting peaceful protests with repressive and violent force.
Some escalations were allowed to flourish and destruct, and then used to justify excessive force on demonstrators as a whole. Some escalations were met with insufficient oversight and effectiveness and the denizens of Hamburg were left unprotected, when they should have been safe.
Hosting the G20 in the second biggest city in Germany, in the heart of a left-wing neighborhood in one of the leading European cities for autonomous, left-wing activism was a vain mistake – or exactly what some people wanted, in order to find public support and legitimization for the repression of left-wing activism.
I have vanilla-lefty friends in my timeline who are now happily screaming for more police control and limits to personal freedoms, and that the “radical left” is just as bad as the extremist right. Who are now forbidding their friends and media to critically analyze the political decisions and the police strategy and execution surrounding the G20, because any criticism of the police and any nuanced understanding of left-wing protest, for them, is a legitimization of violence.
This is very similar to the aftermath of 9/11, when for a few years nobody was allowed to question political, military or police action if it was part of the ‘war on terror’, or to any other matter of mass hysteria, where democrats turn into authoritarians, and happily let go of their appreciation of freedom, democratic demonstrations, and a system of checks and balances. Counteracting those voices, now romanticizing and glorifying the police forces & demonizing the left, I’d like to say:
Extrem left is, in its morality, not equal to extrem right. The latter is, per definition, always worse than the former. Here are two reasons why:
1. Some on the extreme left were willing to burn cars, break shop windows, and destruct material things, as a method of drawing attention to their discontent with an unequally distributed, hypermaterialist, repressive political system. These people are wrong, not necessarily in their political assessment, but in how they chose to express it. In contrast, right-wing extremists defame and attack people of color, immigrants, Muslims and Jews, burn down refugee camps and Turkish immigrants’ apartment buildings, attack or kill brown and black people and those who defend them, and stab politicians to death who stand up for left-wing ideals. They don’t harm material property, they harm people. If you don’t see a moral difference in that, you are part of what left-wing ideology is criticizing.
2. The ideology behind left-wing extremism is, as many nuances as there are in it, geared against unjustly distributed opportunities and other resources, against exploitation of the working people, and in support of a system in which domination of some over many is dampened or eliminated. The ideology of right-wing extremists is, as many variations of it there may be, always based on the belief that some people are superior to others based on race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion, and that our political systems should reflect and promote such supremacy. No matter how the variations in both camps look and no matter whether their supporters use violence or not: the ideology of right-wing extremism is per definition undemocratic, illiberal, scientifically wrong and ethically disgusting, while the ideology behind left-wing extremism is none of these things. You can – and should – still disagree with extreme left-wing arguments and actions, for some of them are wrong. But if you feel or think that both ideologies are equally wrong or undemocratic, you, again, are part of the problem.
I am proudly and unapologetically left-wing. I am a pacifist. I don’t believe that we can fix violence with violence. I am a feminist. I don’t want people to be suppressed, exploited, raped and assaulted, humiliated or otherwise kept powerless because they are women.
I stand in loud and firm solidarity with Black Lives Matter, and every single democratic organization out there battling the exploitation and systematic repression and violation of people because of their skin color, race, ethnicity or religious affiliation.
I am for protecting and supporting those who were born into a less fortunate family, state, or continent, and who migrate to other places in order to find a better life, more freedom, safety, and happiness.
I am willing to give up some of my own privileges if it helps to create a more equal world. I am in support of inclusive immigrants’ rights and against authoritarian, exclusive immigration policies, citizenship regimes, and criminal justice systems that oppress entire groups of people and unduly restrict individual freedoms for the sake of perceived national protection.
I am a child of this planet earth and I am for creating policies that incentivize organizations and people to protect our planet and join the fight against global warming.
Lastly: I believe democracy has its weaknesses and we need to improve it, but so far it has proven to be the best form of political collective-decision making and mode of governing we have to our disposal in order to dampen illegitimate domination and promote self-government.
Protests are a beautiful part of this democratic process of self-government, as they are a way of expressing discontent, solidarity, and collective political intent. Protests are a shining, colorful example for the engagement of people in their polities, they promote democracy, and they affect public opinion in important matters. When people demand repressive political and police actions to dampen willingness and capacities for protests and demonstrations at events like G20, they actively demand to dampen their own self-government at the core of our democracy.
Some so-called left leaning centrists are joining in with the right in condemning the left and announcing that left-wing extremism is as bad as right-wing extremism, because either they are infantile in their argumentation (no, not everything in extreme is equally bad if you are capable of any complex reasoning), or because they want to appear unbiased (no, condemning the left does not prove how enlightened you are). In either case: you are wrong and you are contributing to a strengthening of undemocratic and authoritarian forces in our society: for democracy dies with the voices who defend it, and left-wing democratic activism has been and continues to be one of the loudest voices in the struggle for emancipation for all.
I will continue to protest and demonstrate and I hope all of my friends will, too. I will continue to be unapologetically left-wing, and I hope more of you will join me. Finally, I will continue to raise my voice against authoritarianism and right-wing ideology, for they are some of the gravest threats to democratic self-government and equality – even if a lot of people have been trying to convince us otherwise these days.
Lastly, I will continue to love this city and this neighborhood for its spirit of political activism and solidarity, for whatever we want to achieve to make our world better, we can only achieve it when we speak up, get together, and push for change.