Obama’s recent visit to Europe was marked by a mediatic hype nearly depicting him as a peace dove. Actually there are indeed widespread hopes in a change of US foreign policy towards less aggression and war drive which render people reluctant to take to the streets. Nevertheless, the very fact that some 30.000 marched (or tried to marched given the de facto ban) in Strasbourg against the NATO summit, falsifies the claim of the press that Europe would hail Obama. The massive anti-NATO mobilisation is a reminder that the imperialist role of the US und NATO did not change.
This is most striking and obvious with regard to Afghanistan where Obama intends to strengthen the occupation and to further increase Europe’s involvement. Also in the Middle East few will change. The new Israeli government will continue its slow genocide against the Palestinian people with full US backing. While the tone against Iran was significantly softened, the stakes remain the same: the Persian nuclear programme which would decisively enhance Iran’s regional power. Last but not least: NATO’s extension to the East has been somewhat stalled by Russian military action in Georgia but the aggressive drive eastward continues unabatedly.
Back to the mobilisations against the NATO summit: The unprecedented obstacles set by the authorities must be read as a strong warning signal. The democratic right to stage mass demonstration is being significantly curbed step by step. Not only that the access to the sites was systematically blocked in a perimeter of dozens of kilometres violating the freedom of movement. The entire city of Strasbourg was virtually transformed in a no go zone and no route for the march was granted to the demonstration. Only some streets in a nearly unpopulated industrial zone close to the Rhine harbour was left to the demonstrators to roam trying to evade hundreds if not thousands of rounds of tear gas grenades.
The German police was even more extreme. They simply blocked the Rhine bridge which left about 10.000 protesters idle on the other side of the border. The day before in Baden-Baden they screened the protesters in a way that did not even allow painted faces. So only some hundreds could make it to the site showing to the public a domesticated opposition.
The tactics of the police to encircle the protests in a far off area keeping them at distance by tear gas transformed into an invitation to destroy and set ablaze surrounding premises. It started with surveillance cameras and the idle custom’s house at the border to later extend to a nearby hotel and pharmacy.
While political elements of the rioters tried to direct the destruction towards symbolic assets linked to imperialist capitalism like McDonald’s adds it got out of hand with hundreds if not thousands of France’s excluded youth who thus found a way to express their hate against the system. While we do not support indiscriminate destruction and setting ablaze public facilities especially in an area nearly exclusively populated by poor people and migrants, we are defending the rioters as part of the multi-fold opposition against NATO. Given the violence and destruction exerted by NATO across the globe the riots were nothing more than legitimate though asymmetric self-defence.
An observation at the fringes: The traditional moderate leadership of the left which provided the frame of the demonstration could control and direct virtually nothing. They were nearly absent. This is a further sign of the re-composition of the opposition against the capitalist elites in favour of forces like the newly found French “New Anti-capitalist Party” (NPA) or also the phenomenon of the suburban protests.
As Anti-imperialist Camp we will carry on the campaign against NATO knowing that the deepening economic crisis will increase the imperialist war drive – regardless of Obama’s promises. His plans are actually to reunify the West behind the US inside NATO which should be enhanced to be used as a more collective pre-emptive tool against the global opposition.