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Trotsky and Holiday Communism in Germany

It’s called “Vacation Communism”: 70,000 people gather for four days at an old Soviet air base two hours north of Berlin.

Nathaniel Flakin

July 7, 2015
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This is the FUSION. Germany’s biggest left-wing festival has taken place for the last 19 years.

The event is non-commercial, making it different from just about any other music festival in the world. There are no uniformed security guards. Drinking water is free and visitors can bring their own food. Instead of a few big headline acts, there are dozens of small stages. Not only is there no advertising – the organizers don’t even publish which bands will perform until the festival begins. But there are still some big acts, this year including Calle 13 and Ton Steine Scherben.

The demand for the 70,000 tickets is so massive that people need to sign up for a lottery seven months in advance. Countless people used to jump over the fence – but the area got so full that last year a big double fence was erected. Many visitors work as volunteers to keep things running – but there is also a professional structure in the background coordinating dozens of participating groups.

In this self-organized environment, discriminatory behavior is almost unheard of. That’s why they call this “holiday communism”. Four days of music, parties and performances, all of which reflect the “desire for a better world”. This year, for example, the festival was full of solidarity for the struggle of the Kurdish people in Rojava in Syria.

Still, this is not quite “communism”. There is an overwhelming variety of colored armbands which indicate different responsibilities and privileges. A number of people have difficult jobs like cleaning toilets – they get money in exchange for their labor power. Some artists even drive through the festival area in private double decker busses.

This is more like a feverish dream of what a free society could look like – a small “city” that exists for a few days with a certain level of centralization, but no real state. It’s a taste of “an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” In the same way that an occupied factory like Madygraf is like a dream of workers controlling the means of production.

So there’s nothing wrong with dreaming. As Lenin quotes in “What Is To Be Done?”: “The rift between dreams and reality causes no harm if only the person dreaming believes seriously in his dream, if he attentively observes life, compares his observations with his castles in the air, and if, generally speaking, he works conscientiously for the achievement of his fantasies. If there is some connection between dreams and life then all is well.” We can’t think of communism as a “utopia” which we can never reach – communism is the real movement of the working class to expropriate the bourgeoisie and abolish class society. So this “dreamy” festival is only useful if visitors take up the political struggle against the capitalists.

Members of RIO, the Revolutionary Internationalist Organization, and activists with members of other groups participated with a small delegation of “Trotskyists at the FUSION”. We used the (semi-satirical) slogan “Dictatorship of the Proletariat instead of Holiday Communism” in order to make the ideas of Leon Trotsky more popular. Because “Holiday Communism” is not enough – we need world socialist revolution.

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Nathaniel Flakin

Nathaniel is a freelance journalist and historian from Berlin. He is on the editorial board of Left Voice and our German sister site Klasse Gegen Klasse. Nathaniel, also known by the nickname Wladek, has written a biography of Martin Monath, a Trotskyist resistance fighter in France during World War II, which has appeared in German, in English, and in French, and in Spanish. He has also written an anticapitalist guide book called Revolutionary Berlin. He is on the autism spectrum.

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