It is never wrong to do the right thing! - Save the Resistance! - Against a surveillance society and obsession with security
Just ordinary technologies
Welcome to a lousy future!
If we believe in yesterday's utopias of technological progress, we must be happy now.
We are happy to turn into handy consumer data on customers' and credit cards in the world of goods, because on their basis our wishes and needs can now and in the future be determined even better than we ourselves could do. We are looking forward to e-commerce, may it lead us, direct us and make us more transparent for those who are offering us our best. We love this kind of service that automatically adapts to our possibilities. This way consuming is fun and doesn't get boring.
We are glad that the atmosphere in our city centres is back to normal again. Everywhere it should be so clean. 'One world one shopping mall' means to transfer well-tried principles from shopping centres and adventure parks to the public spaces of towns and villages. City management with music and fun and laser show is not a new version of 'bread and games', but has a representational function: to create the image of the attractive location. An investment for everybody who is into this kind of events. A blessing of capitalism, that can only be kept alive if the respective impression is not destroyed by tramps, punks, disorientated and other personalities who damage the consumer mentality. The security partner is a standard, ensures pleasure without limits and makes sure things run smoothly. Everything useful is allowed, to include squares and streets into joint business projects essential.
We are glad the naive ideas of the past which didn't recognise the wicked details are outdated now. Today the future is not the solution of all the problems anymore, but crime and decline are firmly countered. Finally the state is taking its tasks more seriously again. Out of the army of unemployed, communities are providing, with the necessary pressure, recruited crews that not only clean up the traces of vandalism and pollution but also keep a sharp eye on everything that happens.
We are glad that all those efforts for a general improvement of the situation, against drug dealing, dodging the fare, dogs without leashes as well as thefts, gambling and car thefts, are supported by the police with the help of social engineering and High Technology. Wherever something can happen, the 'eye of the law' must be present. Prevention can no longer be social care or continuos life aid but has to be under police control. Technologically by means of computer data and CCTV technology, socially by comparing knowledge with social institutions and facilities that have intimate data about their clientele. No longer anyone should be able to wangle one's way through when the knowledge that is necessary to arrest this person is available somewhere.
We are glad about the disclosure not only concerning the cross-linking of institutions, but also with respect to the use of technological results for the security of everybody. Even if the application of genetical engineering is still waiting for the discovery of its possibilities, the creation of gene data bases in order to hunt criminals has already become reality. However, the bugging operation on a big scale that has been approved after a lot of to and fro, is only a symbolic step compared to what nowadays would technically be possible. The acoustic room surveillance would be just as exhaustively possible as the bugging of telephones. Not to mention the possibilities of visual surveillance.
However, the democratic nature of the developments shows itself especially in the fact that they are not only for the use of police and social institutions. The relevant techniques of surveillance have set out to conquer the field of private enterprise. It was the German railway company "Deutsche Bahn" that, by virtue of its sanctity of home, introduced 24-hour CCTV surveillance on the train stations of the republic . The purpose: more cleanliness, security and service.
The regulations of the commercial sanctity of home in the just seemingly public spaces of services and commercial enterprises has also lead to the refinement of selective intervention. When nowadays the hooligans' freedom to travel is cut down by the tightening of passport laws, this is just an exact copy of the kind of strategies that are well able to distinguish between wanted and unwanted groups of people.
Of course you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs. So we are a bit sad that those of our friends who have a very pale skin are as much confronted with continuous controls as those whose colour of skin seems to be a bit too dark for a purely German family tree. Those mentioned first are considered to be addicts, the others on the other hand - according to their respective social status - are seen as their dealers or people who are illegally in the country (often both). So the first ones should be in a junky home, the others should be arrested.
They want to beat you up! Beat them up!
In the year 2000, Leipzig wants to show the change on the occasion of the expo. With respect to the new techniques of the community's market owners and police, some of those who grew up behind the 'iron curtain' are under the impression that it is a change backwards. More problems - more police - less freedom. The new boomtown of Saxony wants to be as safe, clean and orderly as New York would be if it was in Eastern Germany.
As part of the radical left-wing movement in Germany we are surely aware of what's going on. Repression and the reduction in basic rights may scare liberal believers in democracy, whereas we have always known that the federal German shit system is well able to do this and much more. We have adjusted to these conditions, we don't talk about important stuff on the mobile phone anymore, and we are aware of the fact that our private environment may be bugged. We couldn't be impressed by those who are experts in this field and who have kept accusing us for years of ignorance and paranoia.
Along with the current tightening of police laws and the conversion of these laws into police praxis, pressure is rising noticeably, not only on people who are pursued because of racist reasons, or criminalised people, but on everything beyond general normality. The room for successful political resistance is getting smaller, the criminalisation is growing.
Legal authorities are still prosecuting militant projects of the past, be it the members of the Red Army Fraction (RAF) or the Revolutionary Cells/Rote Zora, even a decade after the suspension of armed actions, with an unquenchable thirst for revenge which aims at destroying all possible continuities of those struggles, may they be of a symbolic, technical, political or personal nature. This happens regardless of prisoners. The important thing is to reintroduce the omnipotence of the state.
The political self-organisation of migrants is fought with a similar fanaticism, especially if it contains a militant option just as in the case of the Kurdistan Workers Party PKK. The criminalisation of Kurdish people and organisations in exile makes also use of the racist possibilities that the German laws for foreigners offer.
Even if we ourselves are not exposed to the repression of the state on such a high level, we realise more and more how at present one possibility to act after the other disappears in the course of the reduction of civil basic rights. The cutting down of fundamental free spaces, for example the surveillance of public meeting points or a handling of the 'demonstration right' which, if applied, makes a caricature out of every march, gives us the impression that their actual aim is to push active groups into taking up illegal forms of resistance. But along with the way ex militants are treated, the aim of the whole procedure is rather to create a fundamental helplessness and the destruction of the radical left-wing resistance in general.
The criminalisation of antifascist groups with the help of making up stories of criminal associations prove that the repression machines, if they are successful with their strategies, will make a public enemy out of every form of resistance as long as there is any. The accompanying scare tactics do not only affect those who are making radical left-wing politics, but also everybody who is looking for a way to express his/her discontentment. It is not a coincidence that political repression is mostly aimed at young people.
On top of the repression concerning political action the development becomes problematic for women. The presence of a surveying and intervening power, which is standard setting, is influencing all people. Whatever the aims are by which they are in the public. Though this power is influencing women in a special twofold way. Firstly, the patriarchal standards of civil society return by it to an extend, which seemed in the last years possible exclusively by the means of control provided by families. In fact the look to order is mostly male. Such a male look reacts to women according to the role models and patterns found in families.
Secondly, women are used - implicitly as well as explicitly - to construct dangerous places. From robbery to sexual harassment and rape: the public is endangering the woman - personally and as associated with the white, German man. The conveyance of so called save and dangerous places is bound to the images of private and the classic understanding of public. In this way security seeking hysteria and the logic of surveillance constitute public places of fear, which are made to restrict women and to repress them towards a dependent position at the same time. And this places of fear are a substantial part of the legitimacy for private and public police interventions too. Those interventions lead to an hierarchy and standards, which are everything but no change in sexist structures (the real reasons of the endangerment of women in privacy as well as in public).
The upcoming tightening of laws, and where it has already become reality, force us to finally open our eyes and face the developments in the public sector. There is no excuse for the political mistake of not reacting with the necessary determination to the repression against migrants and the creeping privatisation of public spaces along with the expulsions necessary therefore, and permanent controls and surveillance at every corner where political resistance could possibly rise should be enough to make us wake up and take determined steps against state and private fantasies of omnipotence.
This is surely not about the survival of radical left-wing politics in the FRG, but about the question on what scale we - and with us every fundamental political opposition - will have a chance to act in a socially relevant way in the future.
Control everything and understand nothing
Is there anything else permanent CCTV surveillance of public and quasi-public spaces can remind us of than this 19th-century vision of the "panopticum" where the disciplinising instance of the prison always had the possibility to supervise every prisoner, whereas the prisoners had no chance to find out whether they were being supervised or not. The panopticum has become a symbol of disciplinary society, this form of civil society that wanted to get through the obstinate norms of the prescribed life with the help of drill and training, permanent control and hardline punishments. For the sake of the permanent exclusion of certain groups that were considered and reproduced as being out of society.
This tough regime of learning, living and working according to the model of drilling, which was getting close to completion in the field of production in the working pace of assembly lines, was taken over by new strategies in the second half of the 20th century. Now it was about less slave discipline by following fixed rules, but social integration and exploitation started to take place in a normal area without clear frames. Teamwork, dress code, social work and decentralised control of behaviour within society became the keywords the new paradigm of controlled society.
The new techniques of social control were not ineffective. We only remind you of the establishment of peace in youth centres frequented by neonazis (and their integration by so-called accepting social work), or legalisation campaigns against squats. However, at the moment there are some signs of a renaissance of disciplinary techniques and the values that go along with it, but also of problems. That doesn't mean that out of a sudden all the modernisation of the controlled society will loose its importance. Although it is easy to imagine that death penalty and corporal punishment will be brought into discussion again, but the flexibility of current production procedures will also in the future have to be and be able to renounce the disciplinary norms in some areas. However, the neo-conservatism of civil society is absolutely corresponding to neoliberal conditions. This neo-conservatism creates stability by force where it is destroyed by non-regulated economic conditions.
An important aspect that stays alive from controlled society is the decentralisation of control and sanctions. The surveillance state is a concept from the past. Although it is still a problem that has to be taken seriously, private associations are developing and applying the means for surveillance and data evaluation, that have become mass-produced goods in the course of technological progress, in a more effective way and on a much bigger scale than state institutions. Along with that goes the loss of the minimal control those institutions used to have. Surveillance society, as a by-product, makes the dreams of the surveillance state come true. For example data that the 'Deutsche Bahn' gets from the surveillance of railway stations are also used by the Federal Border Guards and social welfare offices.
But not only the interests of economic and institutionalised power meet, also in the conscience of the majority of people there is no resistance against the limitations. On the contrary, people demand more 'peace', order and security which serves as the reason for every tightening of the measures. It is true that, if it gets serious, there is more heard than said, but it is impossible to deny the tendency of a wide-spread approval of more repression.
This consent wouldn't be so unanimous if it was just about positions "put into people's heads". The reasons are rather to be found in the way the racist and capitalist society in Germany functions. That's why society and authorities turn a deaf ear to information about the real developments of crime statistics.
A considerable part of identity is nowadays created in relation to the ability and security of consume. It is not a coincidence that ideological and technical surveillance is mostly developing in the fields of consumerism and security of possessions. The distinction between the several levels of possession is decisive, on the one hand because this corresponds to the social aims of the richer parts of society which become more and more distant from poverty and want to be rewarded with a better life; on the other hand in order to suppress the conflicts arising automatically from the different abilities to consume in a consume-orientated society.
The protection of possession and the exclusiveness of shopping places result in a segregation, i.e. an excluding separation of society. Geographically, different zones develop within cities; which are controlled by the right of disposal and security services under private law. This splitting of territories, however, has the effect that not only the possessing people who are actively working on the segregation separate from the others, but also a part of the poorer population get assigned to a defined area hardly accessible for others.
This process results in the impoverishment of social communication between the separated groups. Similar to other groups that have their own place in society due to exclusion (such as drug consumers, migrants, or prisoners), other groups develop that are hard to evaluate for those on the other side of the border of society. Unlike in the 70s when this phenomenon was tried to be met with social work, now defence and exclusion are even intensified in such cases.
With the help of the excessive use of exclusion strategies, social conflicts will grow and the phenomenon of the lack of understanding of other social groups reaches a new quality. This is the perfect breeding ground for diffuse fears of crimes that can make a militarised area out of every front garden and a top-security zone out of every shopping mile.
Modern marketing as an expression of imparting identity and values in the economic system of capitalism helps keeping these conflicts alive. The permanent animation to possess, the relation between possession and social position create the idea of a general striving for private luxury within society - also beyond the law. So borders with the poorer classes of society are intensified, out of the fear to end up there oneself, and from fear of violent attacks by the excluded and their striving for something better, while the rich transfer their own way of thinking to poor people.
But the direct comparison between spending power and possession is not the only way of exclusion. It is surrounded by a number of traditional values and patterns of identity. In Germany it is part of a social position to be able to show and put through the secondary virtues of cleanliness, order and discipline. And it is part of the right-wing consensus of society to consider the nation they understand as their own to be better off and superior in a racist way.
Those excluded for racist reasons who are generally hallucinated to be a threat from the outside for German life are the first victims of this policy of segregation. The European borders to non-EU members have turned into militarily secured zones where more people lose their lifes then there used to when the "iron curtain" of the Cold War was still up. The persecution of refugees has meanwhile extended to the whole eastern part of Europe. Everywhere "smugglers" are being caught and "illegals" are being hunted. The Federal Border Guards as Germany's paramilitary federal police force, police and citizens are perfectly co-operating in this field. Citizens by denouncing or as legalised citizen's army, or beyond the legal margins as brutal execution of exclusion by the mob.
The repressive law-and-order policy of police departments has lead to their reputation to be able to react in the best way to the need of security and the wide-ranged fears of crimes. In a time where police is the most trusted institution of them all, police logic becomes the most powerful ideology. In order to be more effective, laws are more and more adapted to the needs of the repression machines. The extension of powers, especially concerning actions independent of suspicion - zero tolerance, CCTV surveillance, limitation of personal freedom for asylum seekers and hooligans, general right to control people, preventive detention etc.- are part of this development.
While independent analysis is less and less considered by the public, society is getting into a state of a continued obsession with security, as only the massive presence of repression creates a feeling of being threatened in the public opinion by those others in society. The growing attention by media and population manifests itself in populist political decisions which at the end of the day strengthen the feeling of insecurity.
So decentralisation and vagueness are the most important features in the combination of ideologies of surveillance society and surveillance state.
Is this convergence of interests a huge project of the ruling class or a political party? Are we dealing with a kind of an enforced conformity, a gleichschaltung from the "top"?
The wide consensus the tendency to the extension of security and surveillance techniques is based on, supports the theory of a gleichschaltung. Backed by public discourses that are orientated on cutting off refugees and non-European poverty, that are driven by topics like organised crimes, drug dealing and smuggling of people, and that also tend to include violence by nazis and young people into their catalogue of argumentation, a big coalition of citizens, media, political organisations and state institutions seems to be on its way to a lousy future, happily supported by the conomic elite.
But if we take a closer look, we realise that, despite many overlapping and meeting interests, the strategies and aims seem to be quite heterogeneous. Economic use, social and racist segregation, German virtues, logic of repression and simulation of political ability to act can support each other in many ways, but they don't melt to a fixed system or even a unity. That means that on the one hand you can't find the main responsible for the current development, on the other hand a change can start from different points if it wants to be successful - but also criticism has to start from various points. In order to be able to include the dimension of the whole society into their criticism, the left-wing movement has to insist even more on their radical sticking to an emancipated society free of leaders.
The effectiveness of the current security logic is based on acceptance. An acceptance that is created in different ways, due to different interests. Contradictions hidden this way make a short- and medium-term intervention possible for us. A long-term policy however can only be successful if we criticise the different strategies that are behind this development instead of falling into a constructive co-operation in these strategies. It would be the same mistake to underestimate the readiness of social-welfare recipients to denounce "people who obtain benefits by devious means" or to overrate economy's protests against a general bugging of telephones.
At the moment, the aim of resistance must be to break those social reflexes that are getting each other going. This is happening between political power and civic action groups against decline, drug dealing or migrants. This also includes the media theatre of the strong trustworthy state that we have to find in agency announcements, reality TV a la motorway police and modern police and detective films. Only this kind of resistance makes it possible to discuss also this aspect of the new power over personal data that is socially at least as relevant in a time when the market value of shops more and more depends on the mass of customers' data they have.
Our aim is to attack the conditions where, backed by the security discourse, positions can be strengthened automatically and contradictions can be covered.
Capitalism without Bourgeoisie?
Capitalist economy plays a conflicting part in the surveillance and security discourse. In the economic field, the biggest changes are happening, up to the total surveillance of the individual, be it the consumer, be it at work. An order that is based on the usability of the human being, produces the interest in the possibility to technically handle the human being. Surveillance and drill have always been part of the repertoire of capitalist production.
The reproduction of capitalism is based on stable conditions of property and strictly controlled transfer of ownership. Along with social segregation between those who possess and those who don't, protection of possession becomes an ongoing task. In the last couple of years, this protection has less and less been left to the power monopoly of the state but is rather organised privately with the help of security services and guards on private properties, but also in public spaces.
But the interest in security is not only limited to the own property. Part of the need of security in a capitalist economy is also the protection of the order in general. Social destabilisation and the danger for production and consumption that goes with it is supposed to be made impossible, at least in economic centres.
Spying on the consumers is, however, not a basic interest of the production and possession conditions. The high amount of energy that is directed to this is rather a result of the situation of competition concerning the sales on saturated markets. Who leads in information has a decisive advantage, although capitalism is also possible without perfect market analysis and customers' profiles.
Not only intimate knowledge about customers and wishes of the individual mean an advantage on the market, but also the division of consumers. Nobody should find him/herself outside of the appropriate atmosphere for consume, but the diversified consumers should not be detracted from shopping by social interactions or conflicts. Those who buy beer in cans should not detract others from purchasing the good stuff.
These important interests in all-around surveillance and the extension of repression and deterrence however are contradicting other interests. For example when it comes to the protection of immaterial values such as production techniques and data streams there is the problem of the abuse of information from surveillance. Also here an interest in the protection of private freedom exists, but this is hard to provide in the modern surveillance society. For example, safe e-commerce and the control of the internet are currently a contradiction in terms.
The interest in a limitation of state power or even political or public rights in the capitalist world exists only indirectly. Only if state institutions have an obstructive effect on economic developments, economic liberalism finds its way. Because of the "withdrawal" of politics from economy, now the interest in techniques of repression of any public unrest is dominating. To interpret this supersession of the public fear as a preventive way to fight a possible uprising would mean to be blind with respect to social conditions in Germany. It is more likely that public space is understood and treated as a resource that can be privatised. The limit of economic interest in guaranteeing public freedom is exactly where it becomes interesting for us.
... and there was also the liberal democratic fundamental order
Constitutions, human rights declarations, political liberalism - these are society's institutions which, in our opinion, should be part of a civil democracy in order to ensure civil basic rights and values (the right to freedom of opinion and the right to demonstrate, limitation of police powers, private sphere, a public that at least in theory should be accessible to everyone, and plural politics). Reality looks different. Human rights are reasons to start wars, a liberal public has been hard to find in Germany in many years, and the list of rights that used to be guaranteed by the constitutions but have been abolished, is getting longer. Asylum rights, big bugging operation, new version of federal police laws, obligation to work ...
The presentation of civil democracy as a guarantee for ongoing formally vested rights and freedoms more and more proves to be an illusion, and hardly any social forces actually seem to be willing to defend it. So the left-wing radicals in Germany have for quite a while found themselves in a situation where they have to demand the provision of democratic basic rights instead of liberal questions in order to at least maintain the basics for political intervention. Because there is no liberal camp in Germany, the impression is caused that civil basic rights were actually radical left-wing demands.
There is the danger that, in the course of tackling repression campaigns, the radical left in Germany might be thrown back to having to take care of the basics of the story. To avoid this danger it is necessary not only to criticise single symptoms but to demonstrate general opposition. Self-organisation for us doesn't have to do with the dictatorship of neighbourhood communities who are watching out to see if strangers or citizens break the rules. The public for us has nothing to do with the happiness and consumer culture of merchants' communities in city centres. Prevention for us is not repression against all those who could fall out of the given frame. Freedom for us doesn't end where power is fought.
Politics against the abolition of public freedom must no longer have the status to insist on the rules of the game of civil democracy on the occasions of concrete repression. This is about our ability to act politically. And it becomes obvious that in this society there is nothing for us if we don't fight for it. Civil basic right are a myth that is formed according to the social conditions. It can't be about asking for something, but we have to take what we need.
The conditions for that are getting worse, they will only become better if we fight for it. We have already been waiting too long for the liberal public. Our coalition partners will rather be those who are actually interested in better conditions, such as organised migrants. But those who prefer to wait until the conflicts within civil society have grown so much that they become unattractive for economy should be ready for a longish period with very limited political possibilities.
Because if the resistance can't be organised, repression and the persecution of every political and cultural opposition will soon dominate life. The world of the future will then be an image of a political and cultural wasteland.
That's why we don't want to miss the developments that for too much time have not been taken seriously enough, but we also don't want to start to believe in a magic change due to public education. We find it rather important, after many wide-spread campaigns to inform people - without success - to start to resist a surveillance society and an obsession with security. We will see if the politics of security hysteria and big-brother mentality can be attacked.
Organise resistance against the consensus of the logic of surveillance!
No tolerance for deportations, surveillance and exclusion!
Against the criminalisation of social conflicts!
Destroy the models of the daily routine of surveillance!
Put an end to racist and social exclusion!
Expropriation of privatised public spaces!
In cooperation: the Bündnis gegen Rechts Leipzig (BGR) and the Antifaschistischem Frauenblock Leipzig (AFBL). Supporting the kampagne of reclaiming puplic places.