Let’s go to Kassel!
Camp and action days in the Hessian armament city.
From August the 29th until September the 4th
Kommuniqué No. 4: Disarming Kassel is (not) art
While the production and maintenance of tanks and weapons at Rheinmetall is in full swing, one of the world’s largest art events, held every five years, opens its doors in the same city: the documenta. How does this fit together? Hasn’t art in the history of humankind always been a way to break through given conditions, to open gaps, to gain a different view of the world, to stand up for the the radically different, i.e. the fundamental negation of the existing? Or is art, after all, just a beautiful illusion which casts relations of exploitation and oppression in a rosy light?
So we ask: What role does art play in this game?
Let’s not deceive ourselves. Art is used, abused and appropriated as part of the ideological cover of the game called capitalism. The managers of Rheinmetall also have aesthetic needs. But once again it will become visible that art resists this, and it would be unfair to the artists who come to Kassel for documenta 15 to immediately accuse them of wanting to be part of the game. On the contrary. Many of them will try to counteract it.
The thematic focal points of this year’s documenta, sustainability and cooperation, catapult us right into the middle of the confrontations. Kassel is an intersection of conflicts taking place worldwide. Right now we are experiencing the rebirth of imperialism, or rather imperialisms, and it is by no means enough to refer to the figure of Putin alone. Changing forms of imperialism are shaping geostrategic disputes, including those over the natural resources from which energy can be extracted, resources which permeate the world order in which we live. The war in Ukraine cannot be separated from the catastrophic condition of this earth called the „ecological crisis“: the destruction that capitalism needs to generate profits is openly revealed here. In and through war capital valorizes itself at the price of the destruction of human beings and nature.
We want to make this visible in Kassel this summer. And to this visibility belongs an agonizing visibility of the invisible. The ecological catastrophe, to which VW with its plant in Kassel contributes, mainly takes place elsewhere, and for Rheinmetall’s tank production, sustainability becomes the an-aesthetic of a socially-responsibile identity. „Entrepreneurial action“ – according to Rheinmetall – „has far-reaching effects. A company can only achieve lasting success if it integrates economic, ecological and social criteria into its business activities in a coordinated manner and creates surplus value for itself, its employees and society. For Rheinmetall, it is therefore self-evident to contribute to an economically stable and ecologically responsible development of society within the limits of its possibilities.“ Do these sentences, untopable in their absurdity, come from art, perhaps from a satirist, or from the marketing department of a specialist in killing?
The documenta also focuses on sustainability. But let’s give them the benenfit of the doubt: differently from Rheinmetall! The artists of ruangrupa have something quite different in mind when they place lumbung, the Indonesian term for a communally used rice barn, at the center of this year’s documenta: „lumbung as an artistic and economic model is rooted in principles such as collectivity, communal resource sharing, and equal allocation, and is embodied in all parts of the collaboration and the exhibition.“ In this way, ruangrupa puts the question of art and politics on the agenda. But if this art exhibition is opened with pleasant words of the „responsible persons“ from „politics and the economy“, then their words are to be distrusted: They are meant to deceive us about what art would have to tell us of disturbing matters. They are meant to integrate it into the social spectacle and deprive it of any potential to transcend it.
More than 50 years ago, Guy Debord and the artists of the Situationist International coined a term for the state of capitalism that is still, perhaps now more than ever, applicable: the spectacle. „The form and the content of the spectacle are identically the total justification of the conditions and the ends of the existing system.“ For this it needs art, even if not all art can be used for it. In reality, this spectacle is for Debord „the visible negation of life.“ The most visible negation of life, however, is war, regardless of whether it serves to expand or secure empires, is waged as a war against the ecological foundations of life on this planet, or the propagation of „homo economicus“ as life’s ultima ratio and privilaged model of subjectivity.
Art as aestheticization plays an important role in this. As Walter Benjamin, some years before the Situationists, well knew. More than ever, we are experiencing the determative power of medial aestheticizations, most of all in politics. This isn’t new, but the scope that this phenomenon has gained is beyond anything Benjamin could have forseen. But he understood that: „All efforts to aestheticize politics culminate in one point. That one point is war. War, and only war, makes it possible to set a goal for mass movements on the grandest scale while preserving traditional property relations. “
We are activists from the alliance „Rheinmetall Entwaffnen“ [Disarm Rheinmetall]. We believe that art knows more than is acceptable to those in power. If art had no effect, then capitalism would not have to undertake such efforts to appropriate it into the capitalist spectacle. We believe that political activism can learn from art: in terms of our capacities to perceive, in the search for means and for the forms of life and irreconcilability with the prevailing conditions of oppression, exploitation and war. In this sense we welcome all artists, as well as all visitors to this documenta, and invite them to visit us from August 30th to September 4th at the camp in Kassel and to participate in actions against the arms industry. We are looking forward to a creative, political and activist summer in Kassel. We believe that neither Rheinmetall and VW, nor the capitalist art market, nor war will have the last word. Venceremos!
Disarm Rheinmetall!, June 2022
Kommuniqué No. 2
The war of aggression of the Russian state on Ukraine is a catastrophe – for the people in Ukraine who have to flee from the fighting, even more for those who are only second-class fugitives because of skin colour and origin. It is a catastrophe for the Ukrainian men of so-called military age who are being forcibly recruited and sent to war and who resist this; for many women and children who will now be exposed to violence, forced prostitution and lawlessness; for peace activists in Russia who take to the streets against Putin’s war and are imprisoned en masse. To all of them belongs our sympathy and solidarity.
Part of the nature of catastrophe is that it brings with it drastic consequences. Two current events exemplify this: In Berlin, 500,000 people take to the streets against the war – more than at any time in almost 20 years. And at the same time, in the same place, the present government decides on the biggest rearmament project since 1945.
Everything that seemed controversial until now is now approved and financed: from drone armament to the 2% NATO rearmament target. The Bundeswehr will receive an additional 100 billion euros. A large part of this will be put into armament projects which, according to government spokespersons, now „enjoy top priority,“ which means nothing other than that these projects are no longer negotiable. Thus, just a few days after the start of the war, the arms manufacturer Rheinmetall feels invited to make a 42-billion offer to the German government for ammunition, military vehicles and helicopters. War is a profitable business.
We cannot yet estimate the true extent of the consequences. However, it seems clear to us that the change of era that Chancellor Scholz speaks of means exactly that: the logic of rearmament, deterrence and war is from now on once again at the centre of German foreign policy and will play a major role in determining it in the future.
The fatal aspect of the situation is that every further escalation step by one side legitimizes and justifies the next escalation step by the other side. This is Putin’s war. There is no doubt about that. And at the same time we know that the current situation is a product of almost 20 years of intensive struggle for spheres of influence in Eastern Europe, in which NATO’s eastward expansion is just as indispensable as Petro Poroshenko’s post-Maidan regime, which came to power with the participation of nationalists and right-wing radicals.
For us, three points are important in the current situation.
First, we stand for international solidarity between all people and for the oppressed. We are not part of this system of mutual legitimization of acts of war and armament, and we do not intend to change that in the future.
Secondly, the question of how we will relate to the peace demonstrations in the future. On the one hand, we are happy and hopeful that these mobilizations exist, and at the same time we don’t know what they will lead to. Will they become a jubilant and legitimizing mass to demand and applaud a strong NATO response and arms deliveries to Ukraine? Will they become sites of nationalism and confrontation, or will they open up the interstices without which an anti-war movement will not be able to survive in times of regression? What influence do we have on this, so that the protests clearly turn against the rearmament of Germany? In any case, our position is unambiguous: militarization is not solidarity.
And thirdly: Even though times are becoming more unpredictable, we have many questions and do not know how things will develop, we still stick to our practice: We will attack the German arms industry and its production sites. We resist against the armament of the armies and plan action days for the summer.
Disarm Rheinmetall, March 3rd, 2022
Kommuniqué No. 1: We have great plans!
In summer 2022 we will come to Kassel. The city shows itself to be a focal point of our time, which is why we dare to enter the scuffle here to end the destructive present and invent the future.
City of arts
This year, when the documenta again opens its doors from June to September to present collectively created ontemporary art, Kassel will again turn into a chaotic bustle. Almost traditionally, spaces for protest and resistance unfold. The whole world is looking at Kassel during these weeks and this will be a stage for us. But that‘s not all! Artist collectives from all over the world will also be there, and a breeze of internationalism will blow through the streets when they tell us about their struggles.
City of armament
Kassel is a site of weapon production in the center of Germany. For 100 years, death and suffering have been produced here, with which Germany has covered the world. The German armament center was therefore bombed during the Second World War, and can still be seen today in the city’s architecture. After the war, the city again became an armory.
The Leopard-2 tanks, with which the Turkish regime attacks our friends from the Kurdish freedom movement, are also produced here. To stop wars of aggression, we must attack the arms industry here.
City of climate crisis
Enormous six-lane roads, running right through the city are characteristic for Kassel. But also the Volkswagen plant in the district and the Mercedes-Benz plant in the immediate vicinity of Rheinmetall in the Nordstadt. We also focus on Germany’s largest natural gas and oil company, Wintershall Dea, headquartered in Kassel. As part of the climate justice movement, for us climate catastrophe and war are inextricably linked.
City of Nazi murders
The Nazi murders of Halit Yozgat and Walter Lübcke as well as the shooting of an anti-fascist history teacher in 2003 are not conceivable without the continuing presence of the Kassel Nazi scene, on which the Hessian constitutional protector Andreas Temme swims like a grease-eye. This is just one expression of the Hessian conditions under the black-green state government. But the organized accusation against politics and authorities also comes from Kassel. On the initiative of the Yozgat family, more than 3,000 people, mainly from migrant communities, demonstrated through the city center in May 2006. It was the largest manifestation in connection with the NSU murders.
It is in these and many other contradictions that we will find ourselves in the summer of 2022. This promises to be an exciting time that will make many things possible. Where weighty problems of the world come together is a suitable place to fight against them. We invite you to come with us to the big city in northern Hessen. Let’s open up a new perspective together, to break through the German normal state in our creative and cheeky way, to disrupt these hostile life conditions.
Disarm Rheinmetall!, February 2022
The following are texts from the year 2021. They were written on the occasion of the mobilization to Oberndorf.
The Idyll is Deceptive – Blocking the War Profiteer Heckler & Koch
When we think of the Black Forest, we think of a place of relaxation where we can get close to nature and enjoy peace and quiet. A place characterised by cuckoo clocks and peaceful village life. But the idyll is deceptive: in the midst of this Swabian-Badish paradise, Heckler & Koch and Rheinmetall in Oberndorf produce weapons that kill people all over the world. The German arms industry has long since declared war on the important slogan „Never again war, never again fascism!“. German companies are both suppliers and profiteers of global wars.
War starts here, let’s stop it here!
So, on 8th October 2021, together with many people, we will block the arms industry in Oberndorf. When we disrupt the war industry it is a sign of international solidarity. We become part of the global resistance and stand together against the oppression of an exploitative and destructive system.
History of Heckler & Koch
Heckler & Koch was founded in 1949 by Edmund Heckler, Theodor Koch and Alex Seidel. All three had been involved in the armaments industry during the Nazi era. They were jointly responsible for the use of forced labourers, many of whom died as a result of torture and the inhumane working conditions. The involvement of the founders in the crimes of the Nazi regime has not and will not be addressed by the company.
Today, Heckler & Koch weapons of war are used by a wide range of parties in conflicts all over the world. They murder in Yemen and Iraq, in Mexico, Brazil and Sudan, and in many other places. In doing so, Heckler & Koch deliberately circumvents Germany’s few and inadequate export restrictions.
Not only in wars outside Germany, but also here on the ground we see worrying trends. Despite countless scandals involving the far right, the budgets of the police and the armed forces are constantly being raised. They are equipped with weapons from Heckler & Koch, among others. The federal government has also acquired a taste for militarisation again and promotes local arms producers, while new police and assembly laws are restricting the rights of the population more and more.
Rheinmetall in Oberndorf
In addition to the Heckler & Koch plant, there is also a Rheinmetall Defence factory in Oberndorf. This site is a former factory of Mauser, the well-known manufacturer of rifles. Through its takeover Rheinmetall expanded its expertise in machine gun systems.
The company’s tanks and weapons systems are also used in conflicts all over the world. Rheinmetall does not refrain from supplying countries waging war in Yemen, Rojava or Sudan. As Germany’s largest armaments group, Rheinmetall is thus an active motor in the destructive wheels of exploitation, war and isolation. We want to highlight this deadly business and disrupt it.
Feminism and nature
The patriarchal and capitalist mentality subjugates and exploits nature and causes the wars of our time. The focus on competition and economic interests is responsible for crimes against humanity. Opposition to this mentality, challeninging the image of masculinity in the military and in society, is a manifestation of feminism. Most wars are also fought in competition for the exploitation of nature: robbing it of its treasures, destroying and poisoning it. For the liberation of society towards a peaceful world, we need international feminist self-defence and organisation on the basis of ecological and grassroots and democratic principles.
This path connects us with the indigenous rebels of the Zapatistas in Chiapas in the south of Mexico. They began to organise quietly in 1983, and in 1994 they launched an uprising against the neoliberalism, neo-colonialism, capitalism and racism of the occupiers. Since then, they have organised themselves according to their own rules, independent of the state.
This year, a delegation from the Zapatistas and the National Indigenous Congress (Congreso Nacional Indígena) is visiting Europe in order to draw attention to the history of exploitation and oppression of their homelands by European states and companies and to build global relations of solidarity, resistance and rebellion.
This is the reason for us to denounce and block one of the actors and profiteers of the regime in Mexico: Heckler & Koch. The company obtained export licences – despite the catastrophic human rights situation and the brutal police – by providing untruthful information on the target regions of the weapons, and knowingly exported to Mexican crisis regions. The Heckler & Koch machine guns are used in deadly crackdowns on civil society protests and serve to secure domination and neo-colonialism. We do not accept this in silence, but call for a joint internationalist action!
End the wars!
Let us take to the streets together to oppose the global arms race and to block the arms industry. This is just one step on a long road, but a struggle against war is always a struggle against patriarchy, against capitalism, against racism and against sexism. Let us come closer to the goal of a liberated society together.
Come to the blockade on 8th October in Oberndorf!