By Jason Michael

Rioting in the German city of Hamburg is being treated by the Western media as an isolated and apolitical response to popular disaffection, but this could not be further from the truth. Hamburg is symptomatic of global anger.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been thoroughly embarrassed by the wave of violent protests that have struck the G20 summit in Hamburg. It had been her intention to host the summit in the northern German port city to show the attendees that protest is both tolerated in Germany and that it is a normal part of a healthy and robust democracy. Rather than working in her favour the anti-Capitalist protests quickly became violent, with extremist anarchist groups numbering in their tens of thousands proving too much for the 20,000 strong Bereitschaftspolizei.

All of the major commercial streets in the centre of the city and arteries leading into the city have been affected, with retailers and restaurants smashed up, ransacked, and looted, and residents’ cars have been vandalised and set alight. So-called “black bloc” tactics have in recent years become a feature of anti-capitalist demonstrations globally, yet mainstream media – even in Germany now – repeatedly makes the mistake of reporting this violence as apolitical; presenting it as mere hooliganism and wanton destruction. Regardless of our opinions on these protest methods it is wrong to imagine these events are purposeless and without basis in popular political thinking.

Contrary to the majority of the coverage coming from Hamburg black bloc is not a movement or a specific group or gang. It is an anarchistic tactic that has been in development since the squatter riots of the 1970s in West Berlin, allowing protesters of various leftist politics to participate in common action against the police and the state without fear of personal identification, reprisals, arrest, and harassment. As a tactic it has proven successful in taking space quickly from the authorities and sending a message to the state and the people and institutions behind the globalised capitalist agenda. This success, together with the growing perception of a need for change, is transforming discontent into a powerful and violent movement; a revolution in all but name.

We have to question the violence. Recent protests in London are taking this more militant approach, but in Scotland we have seen very much the opposite. The difference of course is that the protest movement in Scotland is in government in Edinburgh, whereas in London that movement for change is as far alienated from government as can be imagined. Each of these protests – whether violent or non-violent – are in response to the same state and corporate violence being meted out by Westminster.  Yet Westminster is only a cog in the international machine; the same machine that has sparked these protests in Hamburg.

What is happening in Hamburg is part of a wider global protest that is happening in response to capitalism and the corporatist state. Thus it would be wrong to consider events in Hamburg as unrelated to the political tensions that are being played out all across Europe, the United Kingdom, and North America. As wealth is being transferred from the bottom to the top of the economic pyramid, only the few – in this case the G20 – are making the decisions on behalf of all of us and this is what is at the root of the gathering storm.


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