Border Camp 99

Borders are there to be crossed. Their significance becomes obvious only when they are violated--and it says quite a lot about a society's political and social climate when one sees what kind of border-crossing a government tries to prevent.  Everybody knows that it is increasingly easy for money, goods, and capital to cross the borders of nation-states and territories; that the spreading of information can no longer be restricted; that social, political, or economic conflicts cannot be reduced to national affairs anymore. 

It's always been true that people can't easily be prevented from crossing borders. For some, it may be the most natural thing in the world to move, to come and go from one area to another. Others have more concrete reasons--fleeing from persecution, exploitation, and war. And there are some who simply want a change. All of these reasons, however vague, however practical, are legitimate.

But for most people today, it is more difficult than ever to cross borders. The territorial borders of some nation-states are being replaced by a new kind of border, one that is no longer just a demarcation line between prosperity and poverty. These new borders, with their new logic, are creating new conditions in which the few have the privilege of movement while the many are forced to remain; and these changing circumstances are creating and entrenching new relationships of dependence and exploitation.  

The border regime is no longer made up of traditional fortifications. Borders mark entire regions where new surveillance and monitoring technologies are tested and refined. Borders are folding and shifting: they are redefining areas and "third" or transit countries; they reach out along interregional highways and other transport link and into cities; and they set up shop in workplaces--office, factories, administrations. Entire countries are now border areas; everywhere people can be controlled, even in the absence of transgressions and infractions--face checks are becoming routine.  

In order to establish these new borders, politicians encourage and create a climate of uncertainty, mistrust, and betrayal. In this way they hope to curry favor for their population policies and their criteria for exclusion and inclusion. Today, borders no longer mean just equipping paramilitary patrols with increasingly sophisticated technology and severely punishing border offenses; it also means carrying out campaigns of denunciation and demonization, deliberately fueling feelings of resentment and suspicion without regard for specific events. "Propaganda" is too polite a word: "brainwashing" is more accurate.  

Those who help refugees, who used to be heroic figures, have been given a new image by border regimes: now they are Public Enemy No 1, exploiters, enslavers, the "coyote," the "trafficker in migrants."  

The 1999 border camp is the next effort in opposing these campaigns of denunciation and and supporting *all* people who want to or must resist this machinery. Our methods and our goals are education, pure and simple--but we'll make use of tactical experiments, cunning amusements, and well-aimed irritations. Our aim is to launch effective countermeasures that more than merely unmask the barbarity of these border regime but *stop it* whenever and wherever possible.  

The fight against borders is a fight against infra-red cameras, plastic handcuffs, and decentralized and diffuse controls along and around the borders. It's also a fight against narrow-mindedness, resentment, and racism. We know this fight isn't hopeless: too many people, the vast majority, have a fundamental interest in choosing where they--we--want to live. And no one can say what it would be like if the borders were open: where people would live and how, if they could live as they pleased, the social and political situations that would unfold.  

Hacking the borderline

In summer '98 a few hundred activists laid siege to the German-Polish border at Goerlitz for 10 days. The 48-hour rave, the spectacular opening of three new border crossings, a convoy of taxi drivers, a demonstration in Freiberg as a response to the death of seven refugees from Kosovo, a "jail quake" at the local prison, and, finally, the complete occupation of the border river Neisse with boats, swimmers, and onlookers were the highlights of the action week. On top of that there were concerts and parades with sound systems, streetball, and nightwalks, film nights, discussion events, and fun guerilla actions like the "no one is illegal" team's triumphant finishing at the second stage of the Saxony Tour for amateur cyclist.  

But the '98 camp was only the beginning. From 7-15 August 1999, the tents will be put up near Zittau at the German-Polish-Czech border. We plan, above all, for this camp to show more diversity: together with the antiracist and antifascist groups political and media activists, radio and video pirates, musicians, artists, and people from all parts of Europe are taking part in the camp's organization. Antiracist groups are calling upon people to take part in border actions at other outer borders of the Schengen countries at the same time.  

Borders are charged with layers of significance--so practical interventions in a border area are very symbolic. There is a vast range of possibilities for intervention--from "communication guerilla" actions to traditional information policies and effective disruptions. According to authoritarian propaganda, border protection is possible largely through the willingness--an officially encouraged willingness--of the population to denounce "suspicious persons." To sabotage a border regime means, above all, to disturb this willingness.  

Sabotage the border regime

The upcoming parliamentary elections in Saxony present another possibility to confront racist and belligerent parties with opposing viewpoint--a viewpoint that supports people and freedom.  

The most important principle of the camp's working structure will be mutual respect and the non-hierarchical confluence of different political activities and perspectives. We want to discuss disagreements--for example, those concerning the relationship between "old" and "new" media activities, political perspectives or analytical categories. And we want to do so in productive ways before and during the camp, to lay the basis for respect and cooperation after the camp. These differences won't be excluded or pushed aside by the program. Therefore, we plan to have actions and concerts as well as workshops and meetings for activists to discuss those political issues that escape focus in everyday life (most of us simply don't have enough time). We will discuss new focus points of anti-racist policy and plan new activities for the autumn and winter. Together with participants from Eastern Europe, we will discuss the shifting of the EU's shield to the borders of neighboring countries in the East; and we'll develop ways to approach the growing trend toward illegalizing refugees and migrants which the EU is encouraging in these areas.  

Postscriptum: Kosovo and the exploitation of refugees for the NATO war

30-07-98: The German border police (BGS) chases a minibus near Freiberg - the result is a grave accident. Seven refugees from Kosovo die, 15 others are injured, some of them severely. Some are later deported from the hospital to the Czech Republic. "BGS - man-hunters, another 7 dead, it's enough": this was the slogan of a spontaneous demonstration organized by people from the border camp which created quite a local stir. At that time, deportations to Pristina and Belgrade were the order of the day. According to the German federal government and the courts, persecutions in Kosovo were "not of a frequency relevant for granting asylum." Today, though, Milosevic's policy of expulsion--which is hardly new--is exploited as a reason for aerial war and NATO's new power strategy. The refugees' misery is hypocritically lamented while Fortress Europe closes its doors tighter, offering temporary protection to only tens of thousands--out of several hundred thousand--refugees. The president of the federal authority responsible for the refugees' asylum procedures decided to temporarily stop rulings on the matter, and many courts are postponing their decisions. Once again, the refugees are not granted residence in Germany which they would be entitled to: neither granted nor denied a permanent status, they linger in an official oblivion. There is no end to the hypocrisy.