Aktion Analyse - Research 'n Action

The following article/ interview gives a good overview of the campaign.
The original source is http://d-a-s-h.org (with lot's of thanks for the translators)

After the "revolt of the respectable"
Youth groups from Brandenburg have met to take stock of the current situation after ten years of racist violence and one year of "civil courage".

The fates of Amadeu Antonio, Nol Martin, and Omar Ben Noui have given a special ring to the names of towns such as Eberswalde, Mahlow and Guben, both in Germany and beyond. Amadeo Antonio was beaten to death in a pub in 1990; Nol Martin is now a paraplegic as a result of two teenagers having thrown a stone through the windshield of his car; Omar Ben Noui died in 1999 as a result of injuries he sustained jumping through a glass door in the attempt to escape a group of young pursuers. Eberswalde, Mahlow, Guben: hunting grounds in the German federal state of Brandenburg.

It can't be said to be unusual when a Vietnamese and Gambian man are insulted and beaten up in a pedestrian zone in broad daylight. It is however noteworthy, if not unusual, that the local press and local politicians take no notice of incidents such as these in which nobody dies. In Bernau, these incidents, which took place in the summer of 1998, are normal. It is due to their normality, and not in spite of it, that they inspired "Action Noteingang" (Emergency Entrance Campaign), a big campaign in which young people from Bernau declared their opposition to a panorama of raw violence and bourgeois normality. The atmosphere in the city was supposed to be changed, and stores, pubs and cultural institutions were to contribute to the effort with a simple statement: "We offer protection and information in case of racist or fascist attack." The fact that the stores, etc. did not display the yellow stickers with "Aktion Noteingang" of their accord, but had to be convinced, and that the work of convincing them wasn't easy, shows what the heart of the problem is: drunken skinheads are giving more violent and extreme expression to what their parents, teachers, and politicians also think is right.

The campaign expanded to over 11 communities and succeeded in starting a discussion whose message made its way from train station parking lots to Potsdam and Berlin: something has to happen in Brandenburg. After a decade in which every year hundreds of people were beaten up and some even killed and in which attacks on the concentration camp memorial, Oranienburg, were no longer counted, the time had finally come in the summer of 2000 for what was called "civil courage", i.e. the courage to stand up for one's beliefs. Although the term itself was unpolitical and not exactly fierce, it at least clearly admitted that the problem couldn't be blamed on drunken individuals living on the margins of society. Racism is at the heart of society. The federal and state government, political parties, unions, and the media created foundations and established associations, which in the beginning organized what seemed to be quite contradictory activities. A Police Task Force called MEGA was created and money was provided to promote Neonazi reintegration programs and to support antiracist organizations. Politicians called for a "revolt of the respectable", i.e. for decent citizens to show proper outrage at racist conditions in Germany society.

A little over a year later, no-one is talking about outrage or decency anymore, and the time has come to take stock. What has become of the ambitious plans to develop a "concept of action for a tolerant Brandenburg"? What has the "Aktion Zivilcourage" accomplished? And what, if you please, is the Potsdam government doing in all these committees, which are not only supposed to co-ordinate their own activities but also the struggle against the extreme Right? To recapitulate, to what extent does big politics make itself felt in small-town youth centers and refugee homes?

The same youth groups who organized "Aktion Noteingang" started up "Aktion Analyse" (Analysis Action) in September 2001 to find out the answers to exactly these questions. They have called on young people and activist groups to make independent inquiries in their communities and find out what has really changed. Their goal is an extensive documentation of racism and resistance, based on concrete, local experiences. The results will be presented "as creatively and interestingly as possible" in June 2002 in the form of a competition sponsored by the "Demokratisches Jugendforum Brandenburg e. V." (Democratic Youth Forum in Brandenburg). The youth groups can count on the support of the Berlin video group, "Umbruch", and the internet project, D-A-S-H, who were convinced by the organizers to take part in the project.

As the project will also direct its attention towards the policies of institutions, it should be quite interesting. In December 2000 "Aktion Noteingang", together with many other antiracist groups in Brandenburg and the Brandenburg Refugee Committee, caused some confusion when they announced that it was more important to "abolish racist laws" than increase the number of policemen and spend more money for the re-integration of Nazis into society. As long as the state turned refugees into "second-class human beings", said the initiative, the activists were not prepared to "give this country the appearance of 'democracy and tolerance'." Strong stuff for the state government in Potsdam, who in turn refused to fund the initiative. Instead, the commitment of "Aktion Noteingang" was honored by the "Aachener Friedenspreis". "Aktion Noteingang", in turn, donated the prize-money they received to the "Flüchtlingsinitiative Rathenow", which is committed to abolishing restrictions of movement placed on asylum seekers. An issue that is as controversial as it is current: after the attacks in the United States, the vacation permits were no longer issued -- the heart of society at work again.

With its initiative "Aktion Analyse", the "Demokratisches Jugendforum Brandenburg e.V." wants to strengthen young people's commitment to abolishing racism. Susanne Lang, a member of the Forum, accuses the government in Potsdam of creating new enemies by passing new police-laws and introducing computer searches rather than fighting the extreme Right.

What is the goal of the "Aktion Analyse"?

Susanne Lang: The summer of 2000 brought with it new discussions, new alliances, new anti-racist programs, and new laws. But has anything really changed? Three years after starting our "Aktion Noteingang" and one year after the summer of "civil courage", we want to get a new public discussion going. Of course that also means trying to convince interested teenagers to become politically active. We want to bring together and make public different options for action, and offer concrete suggestions for actively fighting racism and Neonazis.

What has happened in the towns of Brandenburg since the federal government, public institutions and private sponsors have provided funds for initiatives against the extreme Right?

SL: There's no short answer to this question and that's why we need "Aktion Analyse". What can be said about the funds in general is that initiatives are not created by money, but by committed people who see the opportunity to act. Financial support will probably help them to act more easily. As always, the problem is that a large part of the money is not accessible because the application process is too complicated and takes too much time. And aside from that, the money often is reserved for groups given the official status of charitable organizations. That automatically excludes antifascist groups as well as youth initiatives.

What is the state government in Potsdam doing against racism and fascism in Brandenburg?

SL: There's a so-called "Aktionsbündnis gegen Rechtsextremismus und Gewalt" (Active Association Against Violence and Right-Wing Extremism), which is independent of the government although the people in the Association's offices are members of government ministries. We haven't heard anything about their activities for a while, and they also haven't decided on our application for membership, which they received in July 2000. Instead, we now have a new police-law. Brandenburg is still the only state in Germany where the "Zentrale Anlaufstelle für Asylbewerber" (Central Shelter for Asylum Seekers) has no advisory office, with the result that the numbers of accepted asylum seekers are much lower than in the rest of Germany. In addition, the government hasn't made any movement on the issue of residency restrictions on refugees and living conditions in refugee homes. To be honest, I have no idea what the state government is doing against racism and fascism.

What are the demands of the "Demokratische Jugendforum"?

SL: To put it briefly, equal rights for everyone. Structural discrimination against individuals confirms and promotes racist prejudices. We're against refugees receiving vouchers instead of money; we are against isolating people and packing them into far-off "homes"; and we are against the politics of ghettoization. The "Bundesgrenzschutz" (federal border police) is hunting people on the German-Polish border, following through on the racist demand, "Ausländer raus" (out with foreigners).

The "Demokratische Jugendforum" donated the prize-money it received from the "Aachener Friedenspreis" to a refugee initiative which is acting against the so-called "Landkreis-Residenzpflicht" (residency restrictions). Why?

SL: Since the summer of 2000, a lot of people have been saying that activities against racism have to be supported. That's good, and we believe that people who are victims of racist legislation, and defend themselves against it, need and deserve our support the most.

Since the attacks in the USA, not much has been heard about the struggle against right-wing extremism. Does the new trend towards more police checks and a tighter immigration policy affect the work of antifascist and antiracist groups in Brandenburg?

SL: We'll have to wait and see, but of course there are fears of that. The 11th of September is obviously being used by officials in the Ministry of the Interior, who until then had to contend with civil rights activists, to live out fantasies of law and order. The first signs of this are the computer searches which have also been done in Brandenburg, and above all the scandalous fact that vacation vouchers haven't been handed out in many refugee homes since September 11th.

How can youth groups participate in the "Aktion Analyse"?

SL: There's nothing easier - they can take a look at our flyers and the material on the competition and then just join us! Each group can decide on their own what racism and fascism mean in their lives and what can be done against it. This should then be documented and entered into the competition.

Susanne Lang is working on the multimedia documentation of "Aktion Analyse". The "Demokratische Jugendforum e.V." is a social and political forum for young people which sunderstand itself to be a "network of self-determined youth groups for political action and critical culture in Brandenburg" and currently comprises 15 initiatives.


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