AntiNote: The following is the text of a speech given at a refugee-organized demonstration in Zurich on 19 March 2016, an international day of anti-racist action decrying European border and asylum policy.
Although this demonstration was a month ago, its calls are still painfully urgent: Stop Dublin deportations; No to the migration deal between the EU and Turkey; Ferries not Frontex. Still urgent, because as the march wound through a working class section of outer Zurich, a thousand miles away Frontex agents (along with countless other stripes of military and security personnel) were already suiting up to begin the implementation of the draconian EU-Turkey border pact. In the past few weeks we have seen the devastating, disturbing inhumanity of this policy, something even dominant media and normally compliant international institutions have been excoriating.
But excoriating words, as we know, don’t matter much when their addressees don’t listen or care. In fact, European ruling elites have another major catastrophe planned, a draft of which is available for the public’s reading pleasure (just as the EU-Turkey pact was, well in advance of its adoption by the EU Parliament in mid-March)—we do live in a democracy after all, ha ha. So we know this regime of control, detention, humiliation, deprivation, and organized violence against refugees—people who are fleeing precisely those things—will not only continue, but is going to escalate.
We knew that, arguably, before. Shock at the barbarity is no longer a sufficient response, if it ever was. The solidarity and aid initiatives that have grown, thankfully, out of previous shocks are also not sufficient. We have to do more than “help.” What, then, exactly? This text’s authors, who wish to remain anonymous, have a suggestion…
We came to stay, and we’re here to fight
(deutsche Originalversion ist hier einzusehen)
What is currently happening in Europe shows what the Nobel Peace Prize-winning European Union really is: a scrum of capitalist nations whose governments persecute refugees, lock them up, drive them to their deaths. It is past time to recognize the brutality of Europe’s ruling elites, and to fight back.
The reasons people are fleeing are well known; the hypocrisy of ruling authorities is too. It is clear that whoever truly wants to fight for peace has to put the pressure on arms exporters, warmongers, and deportation regimes and stop their deadly game. For too long, people have been terrorized and forced from their homes, and then regarded as bothersome in the new, unknown territories they enter—where the terrorizing continues. Arms get shipped to repressive regimes, while entire regions are enslaved by multinational corporations, but those doing the arming and the enslaving don’t want the resulting misery to show up in their own back yard.
In a truly solidary society, destitute people fleeing poverty and destruction would stand in the center. But not in the Great European Project, which fraudulently declares itself a guarantor of peace. The elites of Europe, concerned exclusively with their own well-being, are engaging in a none-too-discreet military build-up. Twenty-two EU member states are currently participating in Operation Sophia, under which 1,800 soldiers have been deployed to “combat smuggling networks.” These 1,800 are in addition to the notorious border security agency Frontex (which is supported by Switzerland both operationally and financially). What else can we call it other than a plain disgrace, when the military is deployed to protect borders instead of the people at them?
It is past time to recognize that no country—and no person—participating in Europe’s border regime has the well-being of refugees as their goal. The Greek police and military, for example, are busy driving as many refugees as possible back to Turkey. Refugees are tracked down, locked up, and sent back. This year alone more than 140,000 refugees have arrived in Greece (where the local population has also been suffering under the selfsame ruling elites). Officials from the Greek Coast Guard are requesting NATO boats for the transport of refugees back across the sea to Turkey.
The EU has similar things in mind. Turkey has, under pressure from the EU, implemented visa restrictions on countries from which people are currently fleeing, which has forced Afghans (as one example) over dangerous clandestine routes through mountains and snow. In turn, the EU is unashamedly cooperating with the fascist regime of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan—Brussels is paying Turkey six billion euros, which are ostensibly to be used to improve the living conditions of refugees there.
But the Erdoğan regime is making all-out war on the Kurds, committing one massacre after another and imprisoning and torturing thousands of people it calls “terrorists,” meanwhile materially supporting the Islamic State. This regime is the EU’s favored partner in combating refugees. Erdoğan is a despot and deserves only our rage, yet Europe’s powerful offer him their hand.
The Macedonian cops have closed the borders; we are familiar with the images out of Idomeni, where refugees, regardless of their age, are beaten and attacked with teargas, over and over. Razor-sharp NATO barbed wire is being unrolled in Slovenia now, too. Whoever wants to overcome that border now risks being cut up and caught in it. This fence was raised, under much less public controversy and consternation than previous ones elsewhere, according to the European Council’s and the European Commission’s wish, once more, to “improve security” at the Schengen area’s external borders.
Austria has imposed a cap on asylum applications. What sounds like banal bureaucracy has real consequences for real people, frequently in the form of raw violence against refugees. The mayor of Strass-Spielfeld, Reinhold Höflecher—an ÖVP member and an officer in the army—was recently asked about the police violence in Macedonia. He commented, “The Austrian military and police forces have trained in the same approaches that Macedonia is now employing. Should the western Balkan countries be unable to bring the situation under control, then we will…It would come to the same ugly scenes here, no question. But somebody has to stop these people. We cannot allow hundreds of thousands of people simply to traverse Europe uncontrolled and uncoordinated.” That, according to the rightwing populist, would not be fair to the Austrian population. At the time he said this, attacks on asylee shelters all across Europe—and especially in Germany—were on the rise, an alarming trend which continues to escalate.
We are watching it unfold: giant companies, national leaders, and racists both inside and outside parliament are joining forces, and the results are devastating. The idea of open borders is anathema to Europe’s ruling elites; inhumane detention camps seem, on the other hand, to be perfectly acceptable. Politicians in power display nothing but inhumanity. We have to step into action; we have to go all out.
We need a revolutionary outlook
War, nationalism, and fascism are interconnected. Whoever wants to address people’s reasons for flight, whoever wants a society in which humans’ well-being (and not the privileges and profits of a tiny oligarchy) stands at the center, has to go all out. Greece’s Syriza is fresh proof that the established structures will not be altered through elections. Whoever wants to change anything has to break down what breaks us down, not try to avoid revolution. Syriza is not fighting against barbarism; indeed, they are now carrying it out.
The same goes for social democracy in Switzerland, which has nestled itself comfortably into existing institutions and plays the role, at most, of a slightly more humane defender of the status quo. The Social Democratic Party’s highest representative in government, Simonetta Sommaruga, is right now working at implementing a deportation law that is a fascist’s dream come true.
Whoever is still trying to change the current justice system from within tacitly accepts its fundamental class construction. For under capitalism, people are not “equal before the law.” If you are rich, you can come to Switzerland without a care. Tycoons and business barons without Swiss citizenship are fawned over and offered low tax rates, and sit worry-free in villas with a lake view. Of proletarians without Swiss citizenship, on the other hand, a justification is demanded for their presence here—and if the one they give is deemed unacceptable, they are liable to be harassed, locked up, deported.
We are in need of a social revolution, and for that we need organized resistance from below in which anti-racism also means anti-capitalism. We don’t need any more referendums; we don’t need any more piecemeal reforms; and we certainly don’t need any more discussions about “more humane” ways of detaining and deporting people. Defenders of the status quo cannot be pleaded with and shall not be. They should be fought.
That resistance is possible here is shown by the numerous demonstrations against border closures and barbed wire, and by the “Refugees Welcome” marches where high school students take the streets without asking. And just this past Monday, the deportation of an eleven-year-old boy and his mother, both of whom were suicidal, was successfully prevented by occupations and blockades at the relevant institutions.
It is about setting international class solidarity against the aggressions and repressions of the ruling elites, and forging from it a revolutionary outlook—beyond capitalism, state, and nation!
Peace to the huts, war to the palaces!
Fire and flames to the deportation prisons!
Translated from the German by Antidote
Featured image: some of the munitions used by Macedonian police on refugees in Idomeni over the weekend (9 April 2016)