Discussion with Y. from Young Struggle Deutschland and Migrantifa on the perspectives of migrant self-organization in Germany, mid-July 2020.
Can you tell us something about the context in which Migrantifa was created?
There is a clear, strong shift to the right in Germany. The AfD now sits in parliament in all the federal states. The AfD brought with it a new strategy for the extreme right-wing forces. It manages to include academic forces and also puts them in the foreground. With its rise the fascist discourse has normalized and connects with a fascist practice. It was crass to see how little the murder of the CDU politician Walter Lübcke was discussed, even by his own party. All there was was a minute’s silence in the Bundestag, and parts of the AfD openly refused to observe this minute’s silence. Thus, in addition to the rise of right-wing parties, we also see the “moving to the right” of bourgeois parties.
The fascist attacks are targeting migrant “safe spaces”. In this society, which has racist outlooks, racial profiling and controls everywhere, such places are enormously important for us, where we can meet in a relaxed manner. The murderer of Hanau turned exactly such a place, a shisha bar, into a bloodbath. This hits us very hard, because it is a maximum attack on the trust in these shelters. All migrants think: they could just as well have attacked me.
In the fascist networks they call for “people’s war”. They say, now you can leave the country, but then we will slaughter you. The assassin of Hanau referred to these concepts. And the extreme right-wing scene took it this way: “Look, the people’s war is already starting”. The assassin is seen as a martyr. This corresponds to the fact that after Hanau the racist arson attacks and attacks had a real boost.
The reaction was Migrantifa?
There is of course a growing anger in the anti-fascist left and among the migrant people. Hanau was a turning point. Immediately from this moment “Migrantifa.” was born. Migrantifa is based, among other things, on the experiences of “Antifa Gençlik”. This was a migrant, anti-fascist self-defense structure in the 1990s. Migrantifa is currently very popular. It attracts very many people. So far, this aspect of militant self-defense has been too little, it is strongly academic. We try to bring this practice of organized self-protection into it. As Young Struggle, we are an active part of Migrantifa wherever we have comrades. We value this very highly.
Then, of course, the George Floyd revolt also made a big splash in Germany.
Tens of thousands of people took to the streets. Police violence is now much more strongly discussed. Instead of being ashamed of having had experiences with racist police violence, people feel enormously empowered to not just swallow it, but to make it public and fight it. We try to bring the anti-capitalist moment into this movement – as we did with Fridays for Future. We say: The capitalist system structurally reproduces racism, so we have to overcome this system. There can be no antifascism that is conforming to the system.
What role has the Coronavirus played in the past months in relation to these struggles?
Of course the pandemic has also played an important role. There are simply more cops and increased controls. First of all, this affects migrant people, who had to be searched and checked constantly and everywhere. We also analyzed the Stuttgart-Riots in this context of intensified controls. The starting point was the control of a black youth. He wanted to evade control and tried to run away, but was then brutally suppressed. That triggered a spontaneous dynamic. Hundreds of youths let out their anger and took over the city for a short time; the police had to call in reinforcements from other states. The focus is on the rage and grief that broke out here. In a speech afterwards, Alice Weidel blamed Migrantifa for this. Although Migrantifa Stuttgart was not involved in the riots, it has massively increased the range and the understanding / weight of the work.
We don’t want to make fascism a German problem only. Fascism must be fought, no matter where it comes from. There is an increase of attacks by Turkish fascists in Germany – and the massive attack in Austria. In Hamburg there was an attack on our association Lüttje Lüüd and in Stuttgart even Alevi graves were attacked.
How exactly did Migrantifa come about?
The first Migrantifa group was founded in Hesse, the state where Hanau is located. Then other cities quickly followed. It did not come into being as a result of a German decision, but as a local initiative, as a spontaneous dynamic, simply because it is the right answer to the increase in right-wing violence. Migrantifa is strongest in NRW and Hesse, but the groups are very differently positioned. Everywhere, however, many people follow their calls, and the power of mobilization is very strong at the moment.
There are often migrant youths who were previously active in antifa structures and have had experiences of racism there. There are also many migrant students who were not very politically active before, but who want to talk about their experiences of racism.
There is currently a big debate: Do we want to organize ourselves separately from the German left, as a clear safe space. Or do we want to lead the fight mixed and together. Young Struggle’s position is that autonomous structures are very important and necessary, but that open and mixed structures are also needed where we fight together with Germans against racism.
Of course there are also active attempts by political parties to take over. They want to address careerism in activists and then win over model migrants for their parties in order to prevent people from going out into the streets and openly addressing attacks. Internally in Migrantifa there are in any case also very contradictory thoughts and open conflicts. But they are carried out very respectfully, because this happens in the context of so much oppression. The individual cities are also quite different in their political orientation.
Hanau represents a turning point for migrants in Germany. Anger and fear have increased once again, but they are now also finding expression in self-organization. This has not happened for years and that is very positive. We also try to bring very specific positions of women into this struggle. Migrant women are also targeted by the racists in a special way, we have to make this visible. We are therefore also trying to develop autonomous women’s structures within Migrantifa. One of the reasons why Antifa Gençlik broke apart is that a very strong macho culture has developed. This then led to a kind of gang culture and made it easier for the state to break up the structure. That is why we want to block this from the very beginning, among other things by encouraging women to organize themselves in Migrantifa.
What are the difficulties?
The difficulty of Migrantifa is certainly the width. There is the danger that we will not be able to work together on one line. The breadth of such movements is always both a potential and a danger. We also think that we do not want a split in the antifascist movement, but simply a strong migrant self-organization within it. We also see that certain dangerous structures try to take over Migrantifa: First of all the Ditib [the Muslim association under control of the AKP]. Turkish nationalists and Islamists have also tried to take Hanau. It was said “we were attacked as Turks and as Muslims”. Also in the media there was generalized talk of Turkish fatalities. That three of the victims were Kurds was thus made invisible. One of the murdered, Ferhat Ünvar, is the son of a comrade of ours from Agif. We are therefore strongly involved in the struggles for remembrance work and in the development of the foundation of the relatives, as well as their public relations work.
At the same time, it is the migrant actions and protests that are criminalized first. While in state structures such as the police or the Bundeswehr more and more armed, right-wing cells come to the public, which prepare for the planned “people’s war” and fascists go more and more openly on the streets, protest and publish murder lists, we see openly again and again that it is nevertheless migrant structures and actions such as the Hanau Memorial or BLM that experience police repression.
In general it is positive that an open approach to oppression is developing: People talk about their own experiences, which is an important starting point. We try to react to the partly existing academicism and reformism at Migrantifa with political education. We lead many discussions and want to create an anti-capitalist and militant consciousness. We also try to get workers in, because almost everywhere there are only students at Migrantifa. Therefore we want to do district work, because developments like gentrification or the coronavirus pandemic first hit migrant women in their precarious jobs.
(via Barrikade, translated into English by Anarchists Worldwide)