G8: Summary of Evaluations


After the G8, a whole lot of debriefs and reflective summaries were published by the protesters. There were differences in opinions depending on the groups’ characters, nationalities, examining questions, time of debrief, questions in focus and tactical preferences.
Most questions examined were the effects of the protests, the question of militancy in protests and violence and consequences for the future.

During the weekend June 30st and July 1st, activists in Netherlands met in Amsterdam to discuss the G8 activities. The tone of their feedback is light-hearted and humorous, starting off with the statements:_
“It is difficult to make deals with clowns” says a represent of the Dutch Clown Army with a serious face. Around him people nod their heads in understanding.
_ About the effect of the protests, the report of the feedback session claims:_
“The roads around the Kempinski Hotel were all effectively blocked and the three self organised camps (with up to 7000 people in each) around Heiligendamm were certainly a logistical tour-de-force, but everybody who had to be in the hotel seems to have been flown in with helicopters or shipped in by boat…”._ But otherwise the reflection does not point out anything significantly new or unexpected.

The London debrief meeting notes show a strong similarity to the Dutch ones in that it took place immediately after the protests and focused solely on practicalities. Similarly, it also tried to abstain from making any criticisms towards specific groups policies and practices. But it also revealed the split in protest locations into the civil disobedience, sit-down tactics of the “Block G8” and some of the more militant anti-capitalists. In regards of the internationality of the protests, the subjective feeling was that there were about “70% German, 30% internationals there”. The main conclusion of the feedback session seems to be the same as in the Dutch session: trying to improve the flaws of this year’s protests for the next.

The Japanese reflection “Howling Coalition: the Anti-globalization Movement Sprouts Freedom and Diversity” by Shiro Yabu and translated by Yuzo Sakuramoto was relayed via the email list at the start of August. As the next G8 meeting will take place in Japan in 2008, for many anti-globalisation activists it is important to know the effects of the Western European protests on Asian citizens. To start of his introduction, Shiro Yabu is focusing on the international contingent and the tactical diversity of the anti-G8 protests:
“To oppose this, many social movements and activists from many places in Europe, Africa, the U.S., and Asia mobilized and developed a huge demonstration.”
In his reflection, he criticises ATTAC and shows particular attraction to and curiosity into the behaviour of the Black Block, which he enthusiastically tries to explain to the Japanese protest movement:_
“The Black Block has been the focus of attention as being a group that is both troublesome and awe-inspiring at the same time. They were always viewed as outsiders, but at the same time they were trusted by many activists because they were the original group who opposed the tyranny of the IMF/World Bank, and stood up against the injustice of the Davos Conference (World Economic Forum) and developed the international protest movement against the neo-liberal globalization. Their achievement is significant in the history of activism.”_
His reflection is immersed with accounts of his personal experiences during the days of protests, and then he finally summarises up the effect of the protest: “We were not able to stop the G8 Summit, but our coalition besieged it.”
He then continues to formalise his wishes for the future:
“The anti-globalization movement has not yet ended. Actually it has just begun. The venue for the next G8 Summit is Japan. Militants from all over the world including Asian countries will mobilize in Lake Toya, Hokkaido. We must accommodate them and make efforts so that they will be able to fight as fully as possible. […] We call for the coalition of movements.”

An autonomous Canadian group was also impressed by the Black Block as they write in their essay “A. Anti. Anti-Capitalista!”: “ Burning cars and fighting the cops in Canada? […] The national mythology of Canadians being moral, kind, and above all peaceful people leaves very little room to articulate rage and anger.”
The writers go then on to glorify the more militant tactic of rioting, albeit in a funny version:
“Similar to love, a riot can sometimes take us by surprise, when we think we are not prepared, but that if one has an open disposition towards love, like riots, it will allow one to seize the opportunities, and the situations.”
They then go on to talk about the failure of Plan B(erlin); for the Black Block to withdraw from the G8 summit location to riot in the capital. “Arguably it would have been a suicide mission to try to start the riot as we were practically on a 1:1 ratio of black blockers to cops. And they do have the guns.”
In the end, they finish with the hope for a new era of a Black Block in Canada, especially to oppose the G8 in Canada in 2010 and the Olympics in British Colombia.

However, the Northamerican Emeritus Professor Jean Grossholtz focused in her analysis “Once Again Into The Fray?” more on the comparison of the “Myth of Seattle” to the G8 protests in Heiligendamm, something completely irrelevant to most of the European activists.
Her experiences about the G8 protests are totally different from the above:
“The G8 opposition was committed to confrontation and to non-violent civil disobedience.”
She also drops in more educational, theoretical background on why to resist the G8 than the previously examined activists’ reflections. “Delegitimizing the G8” was described to be the main goal of the protests by her, but she does not make a comment about if this aim was achieved. She also points out the counter-summit and priorities the church links: “One stream of the march emerged from an ecumenical celebration in a church organized by Jubilee South, the group working to cancel the debts of countries of the global south.” Amazingly, she sees the increasing police repression as a success of the anti-globalisation protests; she also merges her personal experiences to support her analysis and she points out perceived misrepresentations in the mainstream media. Mainly she elaborates on the theoretical subjects of the protests with a specific US focus; such as the US government’s failures in policies such as healthcare, free trade’s devastating effect on the poor, Guantanamo Bay and the War in Iraq.

Tadzio Mueller and Kriss Sol examine the effects and state of the protest movement in their academic article:** “A tale of two victories? Or, why winning becomes precarious in times of absent antagonisms”.** They research in depth if the protests influenced the public perception of the G8 – culminating in this rather abstract sentence:
“Since the Cologne summit in 1999, and very much in tandem with the emergence of ‘our’ movements, the primary role of the G8 has changed: from adjudicator of competing interests to imperial institution negotiating the difficulties of emerging forms of global authority.”
They also pretty much summarise the main feeling of a victory of the protest movement AND the G8, but are not able to give a satisfactory explanation for it.
“So we take the affect seriously and agree: we won, somehow. But we have to be realistic and admit that ‘they’ did too. So both sides won – which raises the question: how is that possible?”

Rather amusing is also this article: m&m (masses & militancy): – a contribution to the discussion on demonstrations and mass militancy”. “If we obey to all bullshit, they will ever think of new things“, they write. Somehow, their article is a wish list for how to change future demonstrations rather than an evaluation of the last one. Here some of the best quotes:
“The endless side-banners-only-1-meter-50-anymore-discussion should finally come to an end. And this end can´t be that we tear apart all our beautiful banners with all the important things written on them!”
“And bottles and stones thrown from the 10th or 15th row only hurt our own people! Just move a bit further to the front and try to realistically see what you can do. “

In “one swallow doesn´t make a summer” a Berlin activist describes the collapse of the autonomous movement during the G8 protests. The anonymous “one of us” writes on 17th of june 2007:“The black block simply seemed to no longer exist. In the TV-show of Sabine Christiansen speculation was made as to whether it had been in the forests the whole time…as amusing as it is to read expertise articles about ‘what makes the hooded man tick?’ in the yellow press, in the end we were [..] not visible […] .”
As a reason, the author gives the reason of narrow-mindedly sticking to previously developed plans without taking recent circumstances into account: “ In nearly all working groups a strong tunnel-view with a tendency to autism developed.”

For the Antifaschist Left Berlin their article: “Five fingers are a fist” is a possibility to make excuses about their spokesperson who disassociated their group from the protesters clashing with the police at the main demonstration on Saturday. The actions of this spokesperson contributed to a major split in the movement, which the group is keen to mend. So they solely blame the mainstream media, and also in turn declared the blockades, which they helped to organise, a full victory.
“The media published every lie propaganda had to offer, the last word in all news-reports was given to the spokesperson of the police. […] But even from the spokesperson of the IL, who is a member of our group, there were dissociating statements given in more than one interview. We were overpowered at that time by the effective power of the discourse of violence, we couldn´t cope with the onslaught of the media an the force of the smear campaign, and in some of our statements we fell into the jargon of media and police. ”

The evaluation of the Interventionist Left makes the interesting point that the anti-G8 protest has been the biggest mobilisation of the radical left in Germany for the last years. They also point out that the “demonstration on the 2nd of June took place on the 40th anniversary of Benno Ohnesorg being shot by police- a symbolic date for the start of the progressive and emancipatory Left.” In their essay they also distance themselves from any disassociative statements made by their spokesperson about the protesters involved in the confrontation with the police during the Rostock demonstration.

Disappointingly, the Radical Left Nuernberg actually doesn’t really examine the G8 protests in their end-of-June essay: “1 : 0 for the movement – get the spirit of Rostock”, but starts off a tirade against their local newspaper, Nuernberger Nachrichten (NN).
“The numerous blockades against [Neo-] Nazis and war, demonstrations against social robbery and the meeting of the [German] Ministers of the Interiors here in Nürnberg were experienced by most people in a completely different way than the allegedly “independent” NN reported. Put together with a picture from Berlin, they turned a camp fire into a burning barricade. Quite often then those distortions of facts were in turn used by the police to restrict basic freedoms – like the ban on the local anti-G8-demo to protest in front of the chemical company Novartis.”

With the contradiction of the disappointing local politics battles also Gregor Samsa von NoLager Bremen. He summarises therefore in the latest edition of the newspaper “AK- Analyse und Kritik” the lack of the G8 protests to actually in general influence the new wave of neoliberal policies, even if just in Germany. He also convincingly points out frequent examples during the G8 protest, that in addition every time collective, group and individual wishes of the protesters collided, the personal or group preferences were carried out without concern on the influence on the majority of the protesters.

Johannes Lauterbach’s and Carol Bergin’s summary of experiences was published in “Rundbrief Sozialimpulse”. Their very educational article includes a whole lot of background and historical information, but also focuses on criticising the mainstream media:
“ Around 2000 participants from 40 different countries took part in a 2 day Alternative Summit with 130 Workshops tackling burning questions of the day including global justice, environment, climate change and sustainable energy, the so called “European partnership agreements” (EPAS), education, war + militarisation, migration and racism, labour, social and gender issues. A coalition of 39 different organisations who initiated the summit, spanned the global grassroots movement Via Campesina, Focus on the Global South, Attac Germany, Medico International, through to the more traditional NGO´s such as Greenpeace and Misereor, and thus offered a wide spectrum of speakers and expertise on all these topics. Nonetheless the mainstream media, continuing to speak of an amorphous mass of non-articulate, anti-everything protesters, managed to avoid giving any report on the summit, its concerns, arguments, or suggestions.”
As a further proof, that the media would be out to discriminate against the protesters, they give the most prominent example of the mainstream media misreporting: “The mass media´s hunger to denounce the more radical parts of the protesters as violent became obvious, when a reporter of the dpa (German Press Agency) misquoted one of the speakers [famous intellectual Walden Bello] during the opening rally, reporting he had called to “carry the war into the demonstration, because with peaceful means we achieve nothing”. In reality – confirmed through documented on video-footage, which was available online the same evening – he had spoken about the war in Irak and Afghanistan asking to “to bring the [theme of] war into the meeting, because without peace there can be no justice”.

To draw conclusions, most of the evaluations did not achieve their aims to influence the future of the movement significantly. The majority of the reflections from the autonomous groups call for more militancy, the liberal wing blames the lack of mass support on the mainstream media, groups and individuals involved in the organisation of protests declared these to be a success, and the intellectuals and academics suggest global links of the protest’s significance to everything and everywhere, therefore declaring it a defeat against changing the neoliberal agenda.

If there is something new, refreshing and surprising, it is the musings of foreign individual activists being dropped in this weird German protest situation; often with severe language problems, who try to make sense of the events in their reporting.
As for example Boris Kagarlitsky reports in the “The Blockade of Heiligendamm” for the Transnational Institute:
“Somewhere in the region of the eastern gates a group of Young Communists from the Siberian city of Barnaul got lost. Not knowing German, and with little understanding of what was going on, the group mounted something like their own guerrilla war. Their main achievement they considered to have been the destroying of a fence, topped with barbed wire, which they considered to be the first line of police fortifications. Next day the evening news showed an elderly farmer asking, with various bitter curses, ‘what idiots smashed the fence around my orchard?’ The farmer’s wife blamed the police for everything. Whatever the case, the victims intended to extract compensation for the damage from the federal authorities.”

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