On a screening of Thomas Heise’s “Stau”, Trump, Eribon, and a Nazi demo

Facebook and Real Life curated an interesting week for me, this past week. Kind of sad week, but maybe that is also the fault of the grey and the cold that sits unrelenting on this city and does not lift. So I have been working on a rewrite of the first chapter of my thesis/upcoming book, and it starts with a kind of quick run through of the rise and failure of the revolution of 89 and then an even more cursory run through of the rise and failure of state socialism in the SU and the GDR and a tentative connecting up of the two.

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And then Tuesday was the screening of Heise’s Stau at HAU, as part of the Heiner Müller programme there (http://www.hebbel-am-ufer.de/programm/spielplan/zeitschleifen-filmabend-mit-thomas-heise/2312/). Watching “Stau” is always a strange experience for me (and I have watched it many times), the tenderness Heise feels and makes one feel for his subjects is something so heavy, so thorny, and so precarious, and I wish I shared Heise’s confidence in standing by it, publicly. Luckily (maybe), it is something that dissipates in Heise’s later films about the same protagonists, and as they settle into more solidly ideologically fortified versions of themselves our sympathy dwindles to nothing and things return to how they should rightfully be and feel. Heise screens “The Battle of Algiers” after, and then tries to figure out what that juxtaposition might mean with a panel including himself, Boris Buden and post-colonial curator Marie-Hélène Gutberlet, who in the process communicate nothing, except for a continuing failure of the two experiences of being leftwing (East, West, with Yugoslavia stuck somewhere in between) to communicate – seemingly mutually undisturbed by each other (except in confrontations, such as the one performed, for the one hundredth time, during this panel at the HAU) in 26 years.

Later this week, a German friend posts (thanks Christiane K.) a Guardian article that rereads Trump’s popularity as not so much an expression of irrational xenophobia, but as a rational (?) working-class response to the precarisation of the american blue collar worker through trade policies supported by republican and democrat elites alike (http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/mar/07/donald-trump-why-americans-support) and on a similar note: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/mar/13/bernie-sanders-supporters-consider-donald-trump-no-hillary-clinton, and if we agree, I wonder if we would extend such a generous interpretation to the Pegida supporters in Saxony (a survey I saw somewhere a while ago seemed to suggest that motivations here are far reaching, too, and economic fears often as frequent as or more frequent than xenophobic ones).

Today then photos of a neo-fascist march (http://m.welt.de/politik/deutschland/article153229244/3000-Rechte-marschieren-durchs-Regierungsviertel.html) that passed practically unhindered through the center for Berlin, and apart from the German and Reichskriegs-flags there are the Flags of East German cities (Halle) and provinces (Saxony, Brandenburg), and I am disturbed further by one banner that reads “Wir lassen und nicht BRD-igen”. This appears like a direct quote from the demonstrations of 1989/90, only turned on its head. In the winter of 1990 this slogan was used by the anti-nationalist left, that is, the parts of the groupings that first took to the streets for a reformed GDR, in the early demonstrations, when the “We are the people” that was devoid – by which I mean, utterly devoid – of nationalist connotations, staked a radical claim to political sovereignty by the people-as-demos as a non-identitarian and all inclusive collectivity (Ranciere later used this historical example to illustrate his definition of the political as disruption vs the policing of settled identities).

I wonder, with some discomfort, if what I see in those pictures from yesterday, and what we see in those pictures from Clausnitz and Bautzen etc. is really the failure of the revolution of 1989 finally catching up with the rest of us (or should I say, them?), 26 years after it failed for those of us who carried (from the moment we carried) the “Wir lassen uns nicht BRDigen” banners against and increasingly at the margins of a growing mass of (yes, generally more working class) protesters, who no longer felt represented by the citizens movements and their agenda of a renewed socialist state and, accordingly, pinned their hopes on the nationalist pro-reunification path.

Then there was this article, that someone posted today, (https://krautreporter.de/1376–warum-ich-aus-sachsen-weggezogen-bin) and it is sobering, too, and hints in a maybe similar direction in the last paragraphs, but there are no answers here, and neither do I feel that any will be forthcoming any time soon.

(originally posted on facebook, 12.03.2016)

Announcing DiEM

Facebook Post after witnessing the event DiEM 25 – Announcing the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, 12.02.2016:

by a wonderous turn of events (that surprised no one more than myself) i ended up attending the inaugural event of varoufakis’ new pan-european coalition diem25 at volksbühne last night.

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i expected to find varoufakis at least charming, but he did not endear himself by starting off the evening by screening an agitprop/ motivational video featuring ominous brussel technocrats vs. blooming daffodils and a soundtrack by brian eno (who will have to be mentioned again later) …

varoufakis set the tone for the evening by spouting a set of banalities that was then echoed and repeated by a (long) procession of speakers, starting with katja kipping who (bless her soul) exuded exactly zero charisma, followed by various MEPs who suffered from much the same problem.

a video address by ada colau provided a temporary moment of relief followed/ continued by her deputy and the mayor of a Coruña, two sweet looking men, who spoke, briefly, and with the enthusiasm and humility of people who have actually in some small/not so small, and significant way made a difference to (and with) a number of real and struggling people, and who i very much hope will join forces with others like themselves and carry their fight from the streets to the centres of power.

the dramaturgy of the evening seemed to rest on the simple trick that the overall number and names of the speakers was not revealed until introductions were made of each subsequent speaker by varoufakis himself, who kept suspension high by not revealing the next person’s names until the end of each short presentation.

a woman in front of me who was wearing headphones for the translation at one point started proclaiming excitedly half way through one such introduction (much louder that she realised on account of the headphones): jetzt kommt der sisek, jetzt kommt der sisek. alas he did not. for another 5 or 6 speakers.

when zizek finally did appear (again via prerecorded video message) he added little more than his usual rant at those leftist romantics who apparently do nothing but dream of revolution all day, and endorsement of a realpolitik that seemed to be the discouraging bottom line of the evening’s generally underwhelming overall message – but at least he said nothing nearly as offensive as some of the things he has had to say about various subjects (syriza’s detractors, islamic/ist refugees) over the past at least and especially six or so months. but in a way of course it never matters what zizek says as long as he looks suitably mad and dishevelled and touches his nose a lot or tugs at his hair or his shirt. some of the most known and outspoken purveyors of all conceivable forms of political correctness of this city (i am not mentioning names here) were literally doubled over in their chairs with hysterical laughter, and had me wondering when it became acceptable to make such unabashed fun of someone’s nervous tics/ bordering on medically relevant condition. srećko horvat was luckily given less of a platform then he has been in some printed and live forums recently and used his speaking time mostly to remind himself and an entirely uninterested audience of how great it was that he was once again on stage with not one, not two, but three alpha celebrity lefties whose ranks he clearly aspires to join in the near future (on the merit of achievements known to himself alone).

i had to leave around 23.30 when the promised Q & A had still not started, but varoufakis invited gesine schwan in what i felt was a nice move, to speak and explain her support for as well as criticism of the movement – in what was probably the most factually substantiated (regarding the workings of the EU bureaucratic and political structures) and interesting contribution.

ah, yes, and brian eno spoke before that (after an equally incongruous skype-in from julian assange from london) and compared diem25 charmingly to the way david bowie, and disturbingly, also the way U2, went against the machinery that had made them successful, but was now curtailing and making impossible all they initially cared and stood for. the U2 reference notwithstanding it was one of the more lucid and insightful contributions of the evening.