The struggle of Non-Citizens
September 14, 2013
On September 3rd Non-Citizens move into the union house of Munich and declare in front of the press that their struggle is a class struggle. They decide to stay there and call upon the DGB (German Union Association) for political support of their demands: Unconditional recognition of their asylum applications, stop of all deportations, abolition of the residence restrictions and the closing of all asylum seeker camps. These are the same demands like the ones, the Non-Citizens made at their dry and unlimited hunger strike at Rindermarkt, Munich. But through the expression of class consciousness the fight of Non-Citizens gets a new political quality, which challenges revolutionaries and supporters for a clear positioning. At that point the limits of the previous movement as well as the expansion to different parts of the working class becomes apparent.
Phases of the struggle
With the current period of increased crisis and wars the number of people without residence permits in Germany is increasing despite of the restrictive legal situation. That is why the German Government uses degrading camp conditions and restriction of democratic rights as a tool of deterrence. The trigger of these protests, in which the Non-Citizens constituted themselves was the suicide of an Iranian asylum seeker in a camp in WÃ¼rzburg in January 2010 and a following hunger strike. These protests expanded with the ’Refugee Tent Action’ in the whole country. During that the protesting refugees defined their selves as excluded from the class society, who are systematic oppressed and whose political, social and economical participation in their destination country is prevented.
They also showed that they are not victims of an abstractly universal ideology of racism but that a materialistic examination of the backgrounds of this racist legislation is necessary. Ashkan Khorasani the messenger of the Non-Citizens at Rindermarkt, Munich explained this problem: ’Groups like ’Karawane’ or ’The Voice’ have never given an answer to the question what a refugee is. Thus a refugee can be a capitalist, he can own banks, the German citizenship, or he can sit in a remote refugee camp. But the characteristic for the situation of the Non-Citizens in bourgeois society is their exclusion from the production-, the distribution-, and the reproduction system and not mainly to be a victim of racism.’
On June 22nd 2013 a few Non-Citizens went after a small demonstration to the Rindermarkt, Munich on hunger strike. At least through the intensification to a dry hunger strike after three days the bourgeoisie started with defamation of the protest, in what they prominently talked about ’extortion’ or wanted to undermine its legitimacy as undemocratic. After pseudo negotiations, in which the city administration demanded the unconditional abandoning of the camp, without any concessions, the police evicted after almost six days the camp of the hunger strikers. This step, according to the city administration of Munich a ’humanitarian intervention’, was a repression of the state against the political self consciousness which the Non-Citizens expressed with their protest and which shook up the bourgeois principle according to which only the ruling class is allowed to act self conscious.
After that the Non-Citizens went in phase of making balance sheets. They decided, as a next step to expand their struggle horizontal with a mobilization of camp occupants throughout Bavaria to a march to Munich. With their unrelenting determination and their radical means the demands of the Non-Citizens had reached a big public but the fight also reached its limits. Despite the media coverage it stayed isolated in society; it did not seek the connection to the working class, to gather more sections of society and to reach a higher political level.
The possibility to change this became concrete on September 3rd: After their two week long march, on which they daily received brutal repression from the police and threats from fascists in Munich they were looking for security in the union house of Munich. But they did not stop there to take overnight accommodations, which were arranged by functionaries of the German union association, but which also would have brought them again isolation, soon return in the camps and no perspective. They decided politically for the union house and not for example for an asylum of the church and the following asked the unions the question ’if they defend the demands of the movement of Non-Citizens, part of the working class, or not.’
But this fortress which save them against police repression and can give them access to other sectors of their class firstly had to be conquered from the inside. As soon as night came and a column of special forces stood in front of the doors, the union bureaucracy of Munich negotiated with the police and increased the pressure of brutal eviction on the about sixty Non-Citizens and probably the same number of supporters: They had only allowed a stay until 10 pm and said that the union house is an office building and that it is impossible to stay overnight. The protesting did not believe the appeasements that there will be no repression, because ’every statement of human rights and democratic Germany has proved every lack of content.’ Their dedication won: At the time of this editorial are being tolerated in the union house.
In a press statement the next morning they explained in public, that, as a part of the working class, they expect political support from the unions for their demands. They call for a positioning of the unions and political parties, especially concrete political support from the DGB. ’This fight and resistance continues and an end without attaining or rights is inconceivable. Because we have nothing to lose but our chains.’ they quoted the Communist Manifesto. With that the fight not only gets an exemplary character but also shows the necessity of a revolutionary perspective to abolish the division of the working class. The activation of more sectors and the support against any kind of repression is currently the main task for revolutionaries in this struggle.
A revolutionary perspective
The huge majority of supporters of the Non-Citizens has been proceeding an autonomous strategy since the beginning of the fights, which uses the self-determination of the Non-Citizens as a pretext to not develop own perspectives and to refuse the expansion of the struggle as a class struggle. We defend the self-determination and the organization of the Non-Citizens explicitly. Generally the fighters have to decide about their fight and their methods. But doing proposals and sharing experiences is not an intervention in the self-determination of a struggle. Indeed, as a part of the supporters of the Non-Citizens, we regarded it as our political duty to show the need for a break out of isolation to make this struggle a successful one.
For this reason we established together with independent activists already during the hunger strike at Rindermarkt a tendency for a perspective (PS) within the circle of supporters, which proposed possibilities for the connection with other sectors of the working class and tried to give a revolutionary perspective. This was followed by a discussion throughout Bavaria about the legitimacy of the formation of political tendencies in supporter circles and their public statements. Still we defend the position that neither there can be an unpolitical support, because passivity is a position too, nor is the concealment of political positions desirable. Especially facing a new dynamic, which the struggle gets, declared as a class struggle and with the try to create connections to other sectors, we think that a common reflection within the supporter circle is important.
The eviction at Rindermarkt made it very soon clear that the autonomous tactic of the occupation had its limits because a more radical method than a dry hunger strike is almost inconceivable. Consequently after the mobilization throughout Bavaria the Non-Citizens changed their tactics, knowing that any further occupations immediately will be evicted by the police. But this shift in tactics are also an expression of an in-depth balance and analysis and as a result of this the self-definition as a part of the working class which parts do not fight with arbitrary tactics but seek the solidarity of their class.
Contrary in the supporter circle there was no adequate political reflection and instead about political necessities there were discussions about technical questions. Of course it is still necessary to do technical and logistical workâ€“but this will not replace the political perspective. The perspective of this fight-this shows the current leap-can not be to remain at supposedly radical without any class attitude. It is decisive to systematize the struggle outgoing from the current position to counteract the division of the working class, which is the condition of the disfranchisement of the Non-Citizens and to achieve a mass basis for further struggles.
Division of the working class
An imperialist state like Germany produces world wide labor migration, refuge and expulsion. Arash Oosthossein, Non-Citizen and participant at the hunger strike in Munich explained that ’the Non-Citizens are not the weakest part of the society. That is no weakness. The fight for rights is part of their lives because they can not act different. It is the result of the capitalist-imperialist world order that they have to flee from their countries.’ The fight of the lowest layer of the working class, as long as it should be completed, has to lead into a fight against imperialism, which this layer is not able to win alone.
The imperialistic competition squeezes economically and military wealth out of the colonies and half colonies and causes crisis in the whole periphery of the world. At the same time the accumulation of this wealth in the centers helps to consolidate the rule over the working class in the own state and with that the enforcement of mass dismissals, job insecurity and the division of the working class with a system of privileges for a few.
As a result of the imperialistic expropriation there is an increasing flow of parts of the international working class into the imperialist centers to stay safe of wars and poverty and to get jobs. Only these countries are able to offer a certain standard of living and stability because of their accumulated wealth from the colonies and half colonies. The division of asylum seekers and other migrant into justified and unjustified reasons of migration-like ’war vs. labor migration’ is not tenable. Poverty, joblessness, wars, instability, a lack of perspectives, etc. are the results of the imperialist world order for the working class, whose lowest layer is without a residence permission.
But oppression and legal exclusion do not end when the members of this layer make the way to Germany or other imperialist centers. Asylum seekers do not have any access to the job market and also migrants with residence permission often are victims of harassment, insecure jobs. The defamation of the jobless, the socially oppression of the woman, racist legislation against migrants and the total exclusion of their most deprived sector without residence permission can not be considered as isolated of each other or combated definitely. That is why the demand for full and unconditional democratic rights for all migrants in Germany is part of the struggle for the unity of the working class.
The result of the exclusion of the regular job market is that Non-Citizens are not able to organize as workers. But the union bureaucracy itself does not have any materialistic interest to support the lowest layer of the working class more than in a symbolic way. This became very clear with the strong resistance against the accepting of the Non-Citizens in the union house of Munich. In the past this also became apparent with the policy of toleration of the DGB bureaucracy against the expansion of temporal labor or concrete at the betrayal against workers at companies like Neupack or Opel Bochum.
That is why the necessary combination of struggles of different wage earning sectors also has to be a struggle of an anti bureaucratic tendency in the unions to reconquer the own organization, in contrast to the socially and economically determined class collaboration of its functionaries. So the struggle of the Non-Citizens is an important example for other sectors of the working class: The self conscious demands from them to the DGB in combination with their brave action show that it is possible, with determined action and democratic self organization, to conquer positions and to force the bureaucracy to make concessions.
To support the Non-Citizens with all efforts for the further conquering of positions, to show the dangers of bureaucracy and the possibilities of unity with fights of other sectors of the working class is important because of the two following reasons: Firstly to enforce minimal demands like the defense of the protesting against repression, especially against deportation, the improvement of their conditions and the expansion of their democratic rights. For that a broad front is necessary which fights the democratic struggle. Secondly because there is no shorter solution for this fight. As administrators of an imperialist state the German governments are dependent on the maintenance of the systems of expropriation, oppression and privileged treatment in their own state, as well as the possibilities of expropriation and oppression in the periphery. The only thing opposing the limits which are set by the bourgeois democracy is the boundlessness of the working class. Only the entrance of its broad sectors into the class struggle can bring up enough weight to offer solutions for the Non-Citizens and all exploited and oppressed of imperialism.