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Interview from Contraste in June 2017 – Journal for Organizing Autonomously

Politically Motivated on Tour in the Elbsandsteingebirge

Contraste editor Johannes Dietrich has been living in the Sächsische Schweiz since 2015. He is quite astonished about the high number of autonomous, self-organized structures in the region. Most recently he encountered the “Black and Red Climbers” (dt. Schwarz-Rote Bergsteiger_innen) and interviewed some of their members about their actions.

Dietrich: Hello Wolf, Daniel and Marina, you are the Schwarz-Rote Bergsteiger_innen (SRB) and you are a sub-group of the FAU (Freie Arbeiter_innen Union – a syndicalist union). What ideas attracted you to anarcho-syndicalism and the FAU?

Wolf: Well, anarcho-syndicalist unions function very differently than the big unions in Germany. For one, we reject the idea to divide the world into a separate economic and a political sphere, as we reject the idea of parliamentarism. Political endeavours should be tackled on a very basic, democratic level, even consensual if possible, and direct actions, strikes or the empowerment of all forms of self-organization are the means that we employ. This does not only include work as such, as it is treated by the bigger unions, but also includes the time that we need to relax and the time to educate oneself. With the help of the SRB we chose to create a group that organizes this part of relaxation and free-time activity for ourselves and, thus, make it accessible for precarious persons as well. At the same time, we address economic inequality, sexism and challenges within employment.

Hence, with our educational mandate we debate with people how to overcome these conditions within society.

Marina: Most of us come from villages and regions which are barely visited by leftist groups. This is why we work with leaflets, discussions, anarchist analyses and alternative models to start making alternative concepts and ideas popular in the region of the Sächsische Schweiz. By now we are also trying to connect other leftist people in the region and to support them politically, socially and culturally.

Wolf: The theories and approaches that unify us are these of anarcho-syndicalism. The FAU as a structure is supporting us with some funding, comrades who are interested in our work and help with applications. We offer rooms and seminars to other FAU-members specifically.

Dietrich: What are your actions as a group?

Daniel: We offer places to stay for comrades in the region of the Elbsandsteingebirge, which can be used for seminars or for vacation by other leftist groups. At the moment we work hard to extend the number of beds that we can offer. On a content-related level, we are dealing with nazi-structures in the Sächsische Schweiz, preservation of natural ressources and the political history of the area, specifically during the period of the NS. We guide tours regarding these very topics and which we offer to the people who are interested. We also plan and organize commemorational events.

Marina: Parallel to these activities, we coordinate the participation of events and demonstrations of FAU-events in the region and mobilize against NPD and AFD around here. We want to support independent structures of the FAU in the region and we are trying to establish a (anarcho-) libertarian center.

Daniel: And of course we go climbing and hiking just for pleasure, too.

Dietrich: You mentioned the campaign for libertarian and autonomous spaces in the countryside. What do you want to achieve with this strategy and what is its concrete realization?

Wolf: We would like to have an property which serves all kind of different purposes and to satisfy all the different needs that we have. We want to continue to host guests and friends and especially to be able to accomodate larger groups of people. On the other hand, this venue should serve as a meeting place for discussions and cultural events, which aim for the local people. Attached to it, we would like to have a self-organized housing project. Right now, we are constantly looking for donations and new members (groups and individual persons) who want to contribute and slowly develop and realize our vision of the place. The most likely outcome is that we will buy the place with the help of the Mietshäusersyndikat at some point. But right now we go in small steps, with a property for which we pay rent and with the edgy implication that we cannot advertise publicly.

Marina: We also deal with this situation on a theoretical level and are open to get in an exchange with other groups and individuals, and we do presentations and talks, too.

Dietrich: Who are you aiming for with our educational offers and commemorational events? What are your plans for 2017?

Daniel: This year we already had an action to commemorate the victims of fascism. Therefore, we climbed a peak which served as a watchtower for an external camp of a KZ in Porschdorf, to inform about this camp and to commemorate its victims. On May 8 we want to climb the Friedensturm (Peace tower), a rock which was climbed for the first time on the very day of the defeat if Nazi-Germany. The guys who climbed it first in 1945 were hiding in caves the for the last weeks of war to avoid being drafted by the Wehrmacht. We also want to have a big hiking-seminar in summer again, for which we go on a hike for a week and visit places of nazi crimes and places of resistance and inform about them.

Marina: In principle, we are are trying to address groups of 8 or more people who are older than 14 years. The things we offer cover the whole spectrum of our activities: nature and preservation in the Elbsandsteingebirge, anti-fascism, research about the resistance during the NS-era, former concentration camps in the region, debates about the Weimar Republic, the ethics of climbing, the political history of mountain sports in the region, as well as workshops and seminars regarding workplace organization and work for the union. These days we are working on a catalogue of all our educational offers. People can contact us directly and, if time and ressources allow for it, we can work on some things together. We are always trying to take into account the needs and wishes of the groups that we work with and adjust to their preferences.

Dietrich: If readers are now sparked by your activities, how can they get in touch with you?