First published at ND
Last Saturday, Christopher Street Day (CSD) drew half a million people to the Brandenburg Gate. It was the 45th CSD: Berlin’s first Pride demonstration took place in 1979 to commemorate the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in New York City.
Over 45 CSDs, a lot has changed. Once activists chanted slogans and carried banners – now floats from »Deutsche Bank« and »Daimler« blare pop music. The CSD reached a new low on Saturday when Berlin’s right-wing mayor was allowed to give a speech. Just five years ago, Kai Wegner’s CDU voted against marriage equality and members of the conservative party are verbally attacking trans people. But hey, it’s a party!
Berlin’s CSD shows that a couple of rich gay dudes are doing quite well, thank you. Just ask our former health minister Jens Spahn (CDU) – he can whip up racist moral panics and get rich off corrupt schemes just as well as any heterosexual politician can!
Many queer people, however, are still fighting for their basic rights. Refugees are faced with deportation. Trans people are denied the right to exist. Workers can’t get to the end of the month due to inflation. People around the world are resisting colonial occupations.
A few hours after CSD, a very different demonstration started that reflected all these struggles. Internationalist Queer Pride (IQP), taking place for the third time, was very much in the spirit of Stonewall. The 10.000 people at Hermannplatz in Neukölln had gender-bending outfits but also handmade signs and flags from Palestine, Western Sahara, Armenia, Latin America and Central Asia were waving.
At CSD, the cops carried rainbow flags to distract from their practice of deporting queer refugees. At IQP, in contrast, cops were in black body armor and not trying to look friendly at all. A young person with a non-binary flag was violently detained, apparently for the »crime« of pointing a middle finger at the police station at »Kotti«. Cops hate this Pride demonstration – and that’s a good thing.
IQP is one of many alternative, anticapitalist Pride demonstrations in opposition to rainbow capitalism. New York City, for example, has the Queer Liberation March. These demonstrations include solidarity with oppressed people all over the world – there is always a contingent of »Queers for Palestine.«
Berlin’s first Transgenial CSD took place 25 years ago, in 1998, as the mainstream CSD became commercialized. The problem, again and again, was that a sector of the German Left wanted to opposite capitalism while prohibiting any criticism of the capitalist state of Israel. This became harder as more Israeli and Palestinian queers moved to the city. A particularly bizarre highpoint came in 2019, when organizers of a Radical Queer March called the cops (!) to get a bloc made up of Jews and Palestinians expelled from their demonstration. Not very radical.
This is how Internationalist Queer Pride was born back in 2021, organized entirely by volunteers. It’s no coincidence that most of the speeches and materials are in English. Today there are too many non-German queer leftists in the city to submit to the neuroses of certain »deutsche Linke«. It’s also no coincidence that right-wingers accuse this demonstration, organized mostly by immigrants, of »antisemitism.« But anyone can see »Jews for BDS and BDSM« and even a few signs in Yiddish, alongside the Palestinian flags. The vibe was truly internationalist. One Jewish group described this as a modern expression of »doikayt« – the old Bundist goal of fighting for a better world wherever Jews happen to live.
In the last two years, the Berlin government has banned numerous pro-Palestinian demonstrations, including some organized by Jewish activists. As a result, IQP has become the biggest pro-Palestinian demonstration of the year. But it’s also a demonstration of sex workers, refugees, trans activists, precarious workers and communists. In short: It’s a Pride demonstration that remembers the old slogan: »None of us are free until all of us are free.« Cities all over the world have demonstrations like this – and finally, thanks to immigrants, Berlin has one too.
Die Kolumne ist auch auf Deutsch verfügbar.