It’s been absolutely ages since I posted on here and so, to prove that I ain’t died, here’s another look into some of the weirdness of the German left. First though I would like to point out that there are completely non-weird sections of the German left and that, from what I can tell Rote Hilfe is generally in the non-weird camp. Just look at stuff that groups like the FAU are up to, especially their support of migrant labour earlier this summer, and you’ll see that they aren’t all bonkers. Not by any means.
However! Not at all bonkers stuff is less fun to write about. So here are a couple of letters from the latest issue of the Rote Hilfe Zeitung. The Rote Hilfe is an organisation something akin to the Anarchist Black Cross in the UK. An organisation that exists to support people facing repression and imprisonment at the hands of the state. Especially people arrested for political activities. Good stuff. 🙂
However there is a really weird debate ongoing about whether to support people who have been lifted over the term “ACAB”. I think it dates back to around 2012 where some people were criticising the phrase and coming up with all manner of twisty ways to criticise its use. (I actually just think that someone’s dad was a pig and they were looking for a philosophical excuse not to think he was a bastard.) Back in 2012 there was a motion to stop the RH from supporting people arrested for calling pigs bastards. It was rejected, because clearly the people involved in RH aren’t all loony tunes, and things moved on. Recently however someone had been arrested for something to do with the slogan ACAB. (It’s crazy that you can be arrested for hurting a pig’s feelings here. Seriously, dudes, get another job if you can’t handle people throwing words at you!) This person was then only offered limited support because of the use of “ACAB”. Which has led to an ongoing debate in the pages of the Zeitung.
My flatmate thought it would be funny to show me the two letters below and to giggle as I struggled my way to end of each sentence (Hey!German is fucking hard!) only to explode with a WTF??? before moving on to the next. I decided to write a quick response to the two letters which I’ve posted below along with an abortion of an attempt by Google to translate them.
Oh, and before you start. A couple of things. First, if your German is better than mine (not hard!) and I’ve clearly misunderstood something, let me know. Ta. Secondly, if you’re reading this as a po-faced lefty and are getting upset that I’m not writing this like some kind of essay for a magazine that’s read by about 3 people chill.the.fuck.out. It’s a blog. 🙂
Now, press play and read on.
Peter aus Köln (seit 1974 in der RHD / Rote Hilfe e.V.)
I consider ACAB to be appropriate and understandable out of spontaneous anger or in reports that express this anger, as a slogan, as an expression of a political strategy, I would like to counter it.
As a political slogan, I reject it for the following reasons:
1. The designation of people as bastards doesn’t match mine Understanding ethics in a movement, which, in resistance to capitalist barbarism, aims at a more humane society. Also “class traitors”, in which different Meaning they also always defined and treated and treated are not bastards.
Ich halte ACAB aus spontaner Wut oder in Berichten, die diese Wut zum Ausdruck bringen für angemessen und nachvollziehbar, als Parole, als Ausdruck einer politischen Strategie, möchte ich ihr entgegentreten.Als politische Parole lehne ich sie aus folgenden Gründen ab:
1. Die Bezeichnung von Menschen als Bastards entspricht nicht meinem Verständnis von Ethik in einer Bewegung, die im Widerstand gegen die kapitalistische Barbarei eine menschlichere Gesellschaft zum Ziel hat. Auch „Klassenverräter“, in welcher unterschiedlichen Bedeutung sie auch immer definiert und behandelt werden und wurden, sind keine Bastards.
I’m glad to see that Peter here is happy to call cops class traitors however I’m at a loss as to why calling a traitor a bastard goes against the ethics of a movement against the barbarism of capital? Those who we call bastards, in this context, are those working to support and maintain the barbarity of capital. Police, even more so than soldiers or fascists, are the front line bootboys of capitalism. They, like fascists, are traitors to their class and are, therefore, bastards.
However it seems that Peter is simply against calling people nasty names. Which is a bit weird to be honest and a little prim and proper. When someone is your enemy, or acts in defence of your enemy, it is perfectly ok to call them a nasty name. It’s a human response and everyone understan… AH! I see the issue. It’s a normal human response to an issue. Something the left isn’t very good at a lot of the time.
2. Cops – it’s over, as far as I know 140,000 in Germany – are in nothing the same, except in their employment relationship and the related Task. Already like them to that Job came as they did the duties define for yourself how to behave, what opinions they represent, are they, so i guess as different as in every other company with 140,000 Employees, divided into hundreds of branches. To something uniform homogenize, whether bastards or Nazis (“Whoever protects Nazis is one”) does not do justice to this.
2. Cops – es sind, soviel ich weiß, über 140.000 in Deutschland – sind in nichts gleich, außer in ihrem Beschäftigungsverhältnis und der damit verbundenen Aufgabenstellung. Schon wie sie zu dem Job gekommen sind, wie sie die Aufgaben für sich definieren, wie sie sich verhalten, welche Meinungen sie vertreten, sind sie, so vermute ich, so unterschiedlich, wie in jedem anderen Betrieb mit 140.000 Beschäftigten, aufgeteilt in hunderte Filialen. Sie zu etwas Einheitlichem zu homogenisieren, gleich ob Bastards oder Nazis („Wer Nazis schützt ist selber einer“) wird dem nicht gerecht.
I agree with Peter here that the phrase „Wer Nazis schützt ist selber einer“ (“Whoever protects a Nazi is one”) is utter nonsense. I mean, you can’t ascribe a political ideology like that. However, „Wer Nazis schützt ist ein Bastard“. Because, if you’re protecting Nazis you are a bastard and there’s no real way around that. I mean, of all people Germans should be aware that the excuse “I was just doing my job/following orders” is no defence. Being a bastard isn’t a political ideology, it’s an assessment of character based upon ones words and deeds. By joining the police force and putting on that uniform, carrying that badge, a person is making a statement and carrying out an activity (policing the working class) and we judge their character thusly. They are bastards.
Peter is also correct that in a company of 140,000 people there will be many differing opinions. However; if one were to seek employment, and go through rigorous training to achieve this employment, at a company called “We Really Really Really Like to Fuck Kids inc.” that was explicitly in the business of fucking children it would be safe to assume that the person working for said company was indeed a kiddy fucker.
The mistake that Peter is making here is one of false equivalence. The police, regardless of how many of them there are, are not a corporation or a normal employer. The act of policing is an inherently political act. When a worker takes a job in an Amazon warehouse they are in no way identifying with the overall aim of their employer –to produce capital for its shareholders– rather they are selling their labour in order to survive. Their labour of packing boxes and shipping them to people like me who are too lazy to go to the city centre is only political in the most abstract sense. Policing however is political in that it is the concrete expression of the physical will of the ruling class. The police patrol our neighbourhoods, they attack strikes and demonstrations, they murder people, all with the invested authority of the ruling class. It is not a normal job and cops aren’t just workers. They are bastards because of their job.
3. Not in theory, but not in practice either: after my first beating in 1972 in Munich (ok, sorry, that’s how old I am) after numerous arguments in Cologne, I have cops I got to know who I had the impression of having fun with the left-wing demonstrators Kick your mouth (just like you would with countless videos of clashes in France this impression of French cops). I have In those 50 years, however, also met other cops – both “On site” as well as in rather harmless ones Situations.
3. Theoretisch nicht, aber auch praktisch nicht: nach meiner ersten bezogenen Prügel 1972 in München (ok, sorry, so alt bin ich) über zahlreiche Auseinandersetzungen in Köln, habe ich Cops kennengelernt, von denen ich den Eindruck hatte, es macht ihnen Spaß linken Demonstrant*innen voll eins auf die Fresse zu hauen (genau wie man bei zahllosen Videos von Auseinandersetzungen in Frankreich diesen Eindruck von französischen Cops bekommt). Ich habe in diesen 50 Jahren allerdings auch andere Cops kennengelernt – und zwar sowohl „vor Ort“ als auch in eher harmlosen Situationen.
I’m afraid that I don’t understand this point in German or English. Sorry. Isn’t he just saying here that cops are bastards?
4. Those who were and are closer to our views in disputes than those of their clients, who their job from a democratic Make basic understanding or simply only that they haven’t lost their sense of justice, I don’t want to abuse them, but rather see them on our side. I can’t say how many there are are, but know that they exist, hope that there will be more police officers seen as migrants knows that they usually swim against the current and know that it’s pretty difficult with the police.
4. Die, die in Auseinandersetzungen unseren Ansichten näher standen und stehen, als denen ihrer Auftraggeber, die ihren Job aus einem demokratischen Grundverständnis machen oder einfach nur ihr Gerechtigkeitsgefühl nicht verloren haben, möchte ich nicht beschimpfen, sondern eher auf unserer Seite sehen. Ich kann nicht sagen, wie viele das sind, weiß aber, dass es sie gibt, hoffe, dass es mit den als migrantisch gesehenen Polizisten mehr werden, weiß, dass sie meist gegen den Strom schwimmen und weiß, dass das bei der Polizei ziemlich schwierig ist.
If a person who is a cop, oooooh look at me being all pc, has problems with the world and the barbarism of capital then they should… stop being a cop. They can stop being a bastard then and become a proper Gutemensch. Until then they are on the wrong side and are traitors to their class. They are bastards. Would Peter oppose calling fascists bastards? Many/most fascists come from our class. They are our neighbours, workmates, and so on. Doesn’t stop them being bastards though. As a fully signed up and card carrying member of the working class I reserve the right to abuse those of my class who are fucking us over. Be they cops, fascists, heroin dealers, or sales people who call me up when I’m eating my dinner and trying to watch TV.
5. Petty bourgeois illusion? Out of my rudimentary understanding of history of the labor movement I came to the conclusion that no revolution victorious who fails to decompose the armed forces of the enemy and partly to be included in our own ranks – and that applies to me today not less, rather more.
5. Kleinbürgerliche Illusion? Aus meinem rudimentären Verständnis der Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung bin ich zu dem Ergebnis gekommen, dass keine Revolution siegt, die es nicht schafft, die bewaffneten Kräfte des Gegners zu zersetzen und teilweise in die eigenen Reihen aufzunehmen – und das gilt für mich heute nicht weniger, eher mehr.
It’s true that successful revolutions tend to have the army on side. The police aren’t the army though. There has also never been a revolution fought, successful or not, where the forces of the police were not set against the rest of the class. Those who decided to stand alongside their class and fight for freedom stopped being cops when they did so and therefore stopped being bastards. It is important that they understand this every day. That whilst they work against the interests of the class and in the interests of the enemies of the class then they are bastards. Luckily for them it’s pretty easy to stop being a bastard. They just have to quit.
I support the decision of Federal Executive, the support for the persecuted due to the use of the ACAB slogan. In my opinion this should only be one This is an intermediate step towards the complete discontinuation of support in Case of persecution because this is the watchword false, misleading and misguided.
Ich unterstütze den Beschluss des Bundesvorstands, die Unterstützung für Verfolgte aufgrund der Verwen-dung der ACAB-Parole zu kürzen. Meines Erachtens sollte dies nur ein Zwischenschritt sein zur vollständi-gen Einstellung der Unterstützung im Verfolgungsfall, denn diese Parole ist falsch, irreführend und fehlgeleitet.
Oooooooh Willi, Willi, Willi.
1. Statements of the type “All (…) are (…)” are fundamentally false or tautological when there is such a totality refers to people as they are capable of individual deviations. All Are Syrians Muslims? No! That is a Prejudice. ACAB is a prejudice.
1. Aussagen vom Typ „Alle (…) sind (…)“ sind grundsätzlich falsch oder tautologisch, wenn sich eine solche Gesamtheit auf Menschen bezieht, da diese zu individuellen Abweichungen fähig sind. Alle Syrer sind Muslime? Nein! Das ist ein Vorurteil. ACAB ist ein Vorurteil.
First. We’re talking about the phrase “ACAB” and you’re discussing tautology. I get the feeling Willi doesn’t meet many normal people.
You are correct in that ACAB is a prejudice. But what’s the problem with that? Not all prejudice is bad. I’m rather prejudiced against rich people. I fucking hate them. I’m extremely prejudiced against fascists. I fucking hate them. I’m extremely prejudiced against cops. They’re bastards. It’s ok to be prejudiced against these people. It’s good to be prejudiced against these people. They’re our enemies and they are destroying us, our communities, and the planet that we fucking live on. Fuck them.
2. The statement “ACAB” is completely apolitical, as it is what in the case of police Repression happens to be human Misconduct declared all institutional and political factors but obscured.
2. Die Aussage „ACAB“ ist völlig unpolitisch, da sie das, was im Falle polizeilicher Repression geschieht, zu menschlichem Fehlverhalten erklärt, alle institutionellen und politischen Faktoren aber verdunkelt.
How is “ACAB” completely apolitical? Policing is a political act. Being policed is political. It doesn’t matter if a pig is knocking you on the head because you’re protesting against something or other or whether they’re searching you on the street because they don’t like the look of you. It’s always political because police are the embodiment of the power of the state and the ruling class.
Now I know absolutely nothing about Willi aside from what I’ve read in this letter but it comes across as the weird attitude you get in certain sections of the left, especially amongst those who would self define as “activists”, where an action is only political if it is carried out with an explicitly ideological goal. So an angry worker smashing the window of a store and redistributing a 72 inch plasma tv to themselves during a riot is not a political act but smashing a window at Starbucks for ‘political’ reasons is a valid action.
It reminds me of, back in the late 90s/early 00s, people complaining that young people in, shock horror clutch pearls, football shirts were coming to May Day demonstrations just to fight the police and smash the shit out of central London. As though these working class people’s anger and frustration with the system didn’t count because it wasn’t informed by some diatribe in whichever supposedly radical rag was in vogue at the time.
Politics is fucking everywhere including pointing out the bastardry of the pigs.
3. There is accordingly a misleading implicit requirement that results from it. It is probably a better one Police personnel policy like that Filter out “bastards” in the hiring process and everything will be fine. Of course it wouldn’t, because that we are these police have and no other has political and institutional reasons.
3. Dementsprechend irreführend ist die implizite Forderung, die daraus resultiert. Sie lautet doch wohl, eine bessere Personalpolitik der Polizei möge doch die „Bastarde“ im Einstellungsverfahren herausfiltern und alles ist gut. Wäre es natürlich nicht, denn dass wir diese Polizei haben und keine andere, hat politische und institutionelle Gründe.
OK, maybe this is me having something of a head start because English is my mother tongue. BUT, there is nothing implicit in “ACAB” that implies we just need to get rid of the bad cops and then everything will be ok. Quite the opposite. The word ALL means every single cop. Jeden, ganze, alle. If all the cops are bastards and we get rid of the bad ones then we will have gotten rid of all the cops and there won’t be any left. Simples.
It’s a pithy little slogan that works well on a t-shirt, a sticker, or –as in my case– tattoos on the knuckles (gotten in prison cos I’m so fucking working claaaaaarse!). It isn’t a political diatribe or a position paper. It’s a simple slogan that we can all agree with and we don’t need a degree in fucking sociology or critical fucking theory to understand.
4. ACAB is expression of and reinforced a completely misguided fixation of great Parts of the left on the police. In spite of the police are subject to all opposing tendencies such as infiltration from the right, radicalization within the troops but at the time of political control of Forces that this is not so easy can be taken out of hand. What we do with the police experience is politically wanted, no police rampage.
4. ACAB ist Ausdruck von und verstärkt eine völlig fehlgeleitete Fixierung großer Teile der Linken auf die Polizei. Trotz aller gegenläufigen Tendenzen wie Infiltration von rechts, Radikalisierung innerhalb der Truppe, unterliegt die Polizei aber zur Zeit der politischen Kontrolle von Kräften, die sich diese nicht so einfach aus der Hand nehmen lassen. Was wir mit der Polizei erleben ist politisch gewollt, kein Amoklauf von Polizisten.
Whilst I do agree that much of the left are fixated on the police and would be better off doing stuff to make a world where the police don’t exist. Y’know, organising the working class to organise itself and remake the world. That sort of thing. I don’t however think that it is a completely misguided fixation. Perhaps there’s a little too much concentration on the way police treat protestors and people who openly declare themselves of the left. Rather than on the repressive nature of policing on our communities and how that affects normal ‘apolitical’ people. That would probably be more constructive tbh. Most people are going to be less concerned with a pig lamping someone in a black hoody than they are with seeing the pigs beat some kids down the street for talking back to them. Just sayin. Priorities.
Still, when people get arrested for pointing out to the police that they are bastards then they deserve the support of the left if they ask. Solidarity bruv.
What follows in the letter is a response to another letter a few issues earlier from an ‘OG’ in Berlin. This is mostly about the internal workings of Rote Hilfe and so I can’t be arsed to comment on it. I’m not in the group so…
Willi does however have a closing thought. I imagine him like Kilroy, turning to face the camera at the end of the show.
Closing word: Anyone who thinks they know exactly where to find the ignorance that repeatedly leads people into the open knife with the use of ACAB should not hold back with this knowledge of domination and explain to the appropriate circles that ACAB is logically and politically wrong (see above), uses connotations of racial hierarchy and class hierarchy and one only uses this language at the price of brutalization.
Schlusswort: Wer so genau zu wissen glaubt, wo die Ignoranz zu finden ist, die immer wieder Menschen mit der Verwendung von ACAB ins offene Messer laufen läßt, der sollte mit diesem Herrschaftswissen nicht hinter dem Berg halten und in den entsprechenden Kreisen darüber aufklären, dass ACAB logisch und politisch falsch ist (s.o.), sich Konnotationen rassischer Hierarchie und Klassenhierarchie bedient und man sich dieser Sprache nur um den Preis eigener Verrohung bedient.
See, this is a really fucking weird argument. That to call someone a bastard is racist and classist*. Let me, as an native… well, I’m Welsh, a mostly native English speaker assure you my dear and delicate Deutschelinke that no; Bastard is neither racist nor classist. It must be 100 years ago the last time people were using the term to mean ‘born out of wedlock’ in any seriousness. And being a bastard wasn’t a class thing. Members of the ruling class are quite capable of siring bastards. Just ask Boris Johnson. How you get to it being racist I just don’t know, but it isn’t. Just throwing in “That’s racist” in no way supports your argument dude.
Also, the phrase “All Cops Are Bastards” does not mean that those saying it are pointing out that police officers are not their father’s legitimate heirs. Words change their meaning over time and culture. They’re finicky like that.
So, there we go. Another wee journey into the weirdness of the German left. I should also point out that it isn’t just the German left. The left in the UK has plenty of bat-shit crazy stuff going on but I’m not there so it’s up to the other Island Monkey’s to point that stuff out. 😉
*Fucking hate this word. The first time I actually heard someone say it with their actual mouth was to have a go at me for calling someone a middle class cunt. Y’know I half expect to be called sexist for that (but I was in Scotland and, context eh?) but fucking “classist”???