A friend of mine is flying into Berlin tomorrow, on the first of May. Great timing. Coming from Australia, a country where political radicalism means wearing red underpants, the depth of political feeling here – and the domestic disruption and violence which is expected tomorrow – is an intriguing curiosity.
Less so for the locals. For Berliners, the planned Neo-Nazi rally and its corresponding ANTIFA (radical anti-fascist) counter demonstration mean a day of nerves, burning cars, and closed supermarkets. Prenzlauerberg will be the site of this particular flashpoint, although pockets of violence are expected throughout the city.
Berlin is the flagbearer for left-wing activism in Germany. Although the initial assassination attempt against Rudi Dutschke took place in 1968, creating a martyr for a generation of activists, it was 1987 when the current tradition of rioting really took hold, after police tear-gassed a street party. There have been large-scale demonstrations ever since.
But how political is it really? Among many Berlin residents (and no doubt the genuinely committed small band of activists) there is disgruntlement over how the event has become an excuse for your average fun-loving punter to pick up a rock and hurl it at the police, or torch a car. Let’s face it, there are so few instances of this kind of socially accepted transgressive behaviour, small wonder that everybody wants to ride the rollercoaster.
One of the biggest issues is not the locals but the Riot Tourists. A quick google search will bring you the latest and greatest in locations, handy hints and tips, and of course a Best-Of Guide. Want to know where your best local riots are? Where you can find iron bars, members of the opposite political persuasion, and filthy capitalist establishments? Thanks to the information age, it’s all at your fingertips.
So what will I be doing tomorrow? Well, you wouldn’t catch me dead out on the streets by myself. No, I think I’ll take the ‘Revolutionary Berlin Anti Capitalist Tour‘. At five euros, it’s a steal that any self-respecting anti-capitalist shouldn’t miss.