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Political Activists Are Scary

March 30, 2008

Friday Mar. 21 the Romanian border police at Calafat denied entry to the country to six German citizens because they were carrying posters, manifestos, t-shirts and badges with “anti-NATO” and “anti-globalization” messages.

While the activists and human rights organizations argued that the action represented a breech of basic freedoms of movement and expression, Romanian authorities retorted that the materials they had found in the Germans’ cars were sufficient proof these were planning violent actions that would threaten public order and national safety.  

The six were coming to Romania for the NATO summit scheduled to take place Apr. 2-4 in Bucharest 

The action of the Romanian border police is not unprecedented. In 2002, more than two hundred activists were prevented from entering The Czech Republic, the country hosting a NATO summit that year. However, the expulsion of the activists was a premiere for Romania, sparkling the interest of media channels, non-governmental organizations, and bloggers.  

Just a few months before, in January, the media had gone through a similar frenzy at the discovery of a website planning a week of anti-NATO events during the Bucharest summit. On their site (www.contra-doxa.com), the activists announced that they would organize screenings of documentaries critical of militarism and debates about NATO. They invited the support of activists from abroad and gave advice about how to stay away from the police.  

On both occasions, the media invariably referred to the activists as “anarchists”, with tones ranging from irony to condemnation.  The treatment of this subject by the mass media matches the larger views Romanian society holds about grassroots activists. They are considered to be foolish youngsters looking for attention. Few believe the activists might really have something to say.  

Romanian activists complain that, no matter what cause they are supporting, they are usually meshed under one of two categories, “violent anarchist” or “communist” (or the two categories at once), both used to cancel the legitimacy of their message.  

Two decades since the end of communism, people still do not feel comfortable to use the public space. Just like before 1989, they feel politics is something that does not belong to them. Furthermore, young people are more interested in pursuing the opportunities for personal success opened in front of them, rather than think about global issues. 

Like in most Eastern European countries, grassroots political activism is low in Romania. Events such as actions of ecologists, gay pride parades or social forums are rare and usually attended only by hundreds of people.  

Those who do participate in such actions are often dismissed as “caviar communists”. Popularized in Romania by a 2007 open debate between 26-year-old journalist Dragos Bucuresti, a self-declared “leftist youth”, and 60-year-old well-respected philosopher Andrei Plesu, the syntagm –originating in the France of the 60s – implies that the young activists who oppose liberal economic policies only do so because they have not lived through the hardships of communism.  

“Anti-NATO is an attitude that should be able to be expressed freely in Romania. It cannot be used as an argument to limit basic human rights and freedoms,” declared Mircea Toma, from the Press Monitoring Agency, immediately after the six German citizens were denied access to Romania 

Strong negative public attitudes towards the activists can have the same effect as closed borders. If we want to live in a democracy, we must go beyong labelling groups and engage in real dialogue. 

But as they were heading back to Germany on a bus, two of the six German activists faced yet another such “labelling”. The Serbian border police denied them access to that country. The two said that, although the materials they carried contained anti-fascist messages, “back in Sofia, our friends explained to us that the paper the border police gave to us writes that the actual reason we were not allowed in Serbia was that we carried neo-Nazi materials.”  

The other four activists tried to enter Romania again, without any posters or badges, through another crossing point, at Giurgiu. However, the border police had already created a record for them, and they were denied access again.  

The German activists described the events and posted photos from the border at www.contra-doxa.com   

And a rare article in Romanian press that doesn’t demonize activists:

http://www.cotidianul.ro/protestatarii_la_adresa_nato_nu_vor_eticheta_de_anarhisti-41726.html

 Anrchists without inverted commas, sent this message, explaining what their attitude towards the NATO summit is (again, from www.contra-doxa.com):

The open letter to common people of Romania by some Berlin anarchists“Here in Berlin we have heard last days that for some reasons some clever people sitting at the power position in Romania are trying to antagonise the common Romanian people and the anarchists by spreading rumours about an arrival of the “bus with Berlin anarchists” to Bucharest for the anti-NATO protests. If this is a fact, we, anarchists from Berlin, would like to confirm the information about the arrival from our side, but what is much more important, is to explain our motivations behind visiting Bucharest at the beginning of April to the people in Romania. At first we have to admit that we are very glad that the Romanian authorities and corporate media recognised anarchists as serious opponents of the war-makers from NATO. Yes, we, as anarchists, as people opposing any sort of power over the people, opposing any authoritarian social relations, opposing any sort of exploitation and compulsion, we are consequently opposing the institutions of army, we oppose the weapon industry, and generally, the militarization of the world. Thus because one of the central principles of anarchist social philosophy is COOPERATION and MUTUAL AID between the people. Militarism stays for something completely opposite to it. As well, we are not so naive to believe that any militaristic structure and infrastructure have anything to do with creating the peace on this planet. Quite an opposite: we know what power and economical interests are hidden behind never ending militarization of the world; we know that producing weapons is a great business, and that this needs the wars to happen from time to time so that this business can continue. Finally, NATO is one of the central institutions to keep this madness going on. That is why anarchists will always oppose and actively confront the NATO-War-Makers.

At the same time we want to deny the information that hundreds of anarchists from Berlin are coming to Bucharest. We strongly believe that there are enough people in Romania who are of the same opinion as we, even if they not necessary share the whole anarchist perspective on social problems. We strongly believe that enough of you will decide to oppose the NATO-summit on the streets of your capital city. One of principles of anarchist social philosophy is that people need to solve their problems by themselves by TAKING THINGS IN their OWN HANDS, and not anybody else can do it for them. So it would be against our own ideas if too many anarchists from around the Europe would come to Bucharest. SELF-INITIATIVE and creativity of local people have to be a motor of the resistance in Bucharest on April 2-4. So it is logical that only some anarchist groups from other countries will visit Romania. As well, most of anarchists are people from the lower class (unemployed, less paid employees, students, non commercial artists…) so many of us are even not able to pay the travel costs. At the same time we don’t want that common Romanian people feel themselves left alone in their resistance. That is why some of us decided to join the anti-militaristic resistance in Romania by making ourselves on the way to Bucharest. If we will come there by bus, or maybe by plane, or maybe by ship to the Constance – this we can not say for sure right now, because one of another characteristic of the anarchists philosophy is SPONTANITY. But we will not disappoint you: we will stay with all brave Romanian people hand in hand on the streets of Bucharest united against the NATO and police-state which will as usually stay on the side of the war-makers. However, you might be very disappointed if you believe the lies of Romanian politicians, journalists and police officers which are talking about anarchists as a bunch of criminals and hooligans. Well, we are very consequent people, and in fact, we are not afraid of any terror of the state. But if you want to see the true criminals you will be disappointed watching for anarchists because the true criminals are people responsible for the continuation of the ongoing wars, responsible for wasting social resources by using them for building militaristic infrastructure and weapons instead of for important social issues. These true criminals will celebrate their summit in the very centre of Bucharest, enjoying their time in the Bucharest most exclusive hotels, being served by bad paid Romanian working people. So if you want to search for the criminals, join us: we will look for them too! The only true line of confrontation we can see is the one between international political and economical pro-militaristic elites and the oppressed, abused and exploited working people which will never get anything good out of the militarization.

 So don’t believe when clever politicians and arrogant policemen tell you that you have to be aware of anarchists, from Berlin or anywhere else. They are trying to create artificial line of confrontation between the anarchists and common people of Romania. But the true is opposite: we are on the same side of the barricade as we are all workers, students, unemployed, artists … and this is them which are on the other side! They are simply afraid that anarchist philosophy of negation of any authority, negation of capitalistic model of economy, as well as negation of state interference in social relation, can spread on the territory of Romania. And they have the reasons to think so. In more and more regions of Europe, and the world, people start to recognise anarchist vision of society as a possible option. And this makes them so fucking scare! So, what we wanted to say in this simple letter, is, that you don’t need to be afraid of the anarchists. Anarchists are always on the side of the exploited, cheated and oppressed people. Be rather aware of the war-makers which your government invited to Bucharest for the money they stolen from you in the form of taxes. And be aware of your local politicians, and their servants: police forces and corrupted journalists! The first will be always there to keep us down with the use of the violence, the second – with the use of the media manipulation. And especially we want to offer our condolence to the relatives and friends of Tatiana Duplei, who was killed by a NATO-convoi on the 28th of march. For us, she is one of many victims of the NATO war machinery. Greetings from the anarchists from Berlin, We will see you on the streets of Bucharest: Promised is promised!” (March 30, 2008)

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