Here is 1500 people getting into a power plant in Germany last weekend and almost temporarily shutting it down.*
Back in the days, people tended to storm the parliaments, the winter palaces and so on. For sure those buildings still keep some of their aura: They still attract the odd demonstration every now and then, the talk is still that this is where power is at. But really, what these buildings and the people in them primarily tend to do, that is, their political function, is to channel our resentment and feelings of powerlessness. And thus, they succeed in keeping us distracted.
This being said, the focus of the strongest movements in our part of the world today have really shifted a lot. So it seems like there is a trend the last years which basically means: instead of storming the governmental buildings, storm the railways, the checkpoints, the borders and now the power plants. It has been said recently that power is in the infrastructure. It does seem like this is where Ende Gelände gets a lot of its strength from … it’s hitting the proper targets.
It’s been a long time since I felt the kind of collective power and joy I did this weekend.
One extraordinary thing about this movement is that this is the second time in a row that it is winning basically all of the tactical struggles. Last year it entered the mine and kept it shut down for 24 hours. This year it was double up. In many ways, this is the primary task of zombie capitalism: to not let movements win any immediate goals like these. Government can live with huge economic losses, ineffective production, empty labor and destruction of wealth, as long as no alternatives to the system begin to feel reasonable and achievable. Direct action movements that believe and affirm other worlds than the world of money and control are obviously a threat in this respect. They organize to immediately realize the things they believe in. Thus the police is there to never let these movements win the short-term tactical fights. It just makes you feel too strong, too hopeful… Which is exactly what I felt this weekend. Just think of how extremely rare it is for a movement to set a goal like “Hey, let’s publicly announce to storm a coal mine or a power plant and shut it down for 50 hours” and then get away with it. That it is so rare is obvious, even when you are in the middle of it. It probably took me a whole hour after we had seized the rail tracks and conveyor belts from the mine before I actually believed this was our final target. “There must be something wrong, how did we get here with so little effort? Did someone make a mistake? Have we been fooled and will be ambushed any minute?”. It just seemed unbelievable. The day after at Europe’s 10th largest point source CO2 emitter, the nearby lignite coal power plant Schwarze Pumpe (which the rail tracks were not supplying coal to anymore), people must have had a similar experience: No one on the blockade had hoped to reach this far. When people where suddenly behind fences inside the power plant area, then inside the administration buildings, and then (for the really adventurous) the coal reserve chambers, surely the thought must have come over most people’s minds: Which plug does one pull to make this thing stop? No one knew. For sure, this last weekend raises the bar for what is possible to achieve at mass actions, and next time someone might have done the research. It would take some effort to source the knowledge and discretely spread it inside the movement, but it would be worth it.
So in 2015 around 1500 people took part in the mass action to enter the coal mine. In 2016 around 3500 blockaded several points of the infrastructure, seized the machinery in the mine for two days and stormed the power plant. Let’s begin to imagine what we can achieve when we most probably double our amounts and get 7 or 8000 people together to do direct action against the fossil economy next time.
For your information, Ende Gelände is having a camp in August to strategize the next step. If one wants to take part, it should be possible to find out how. Otherwise, we’ll see you in spring 2017.
* Oh, if the video seemed really intense, this is only because it was that peak moment in some days of action where most of the time most people where just lying on straw, making conversations and eating snacks. Everyone at every level of confrontation should be able to take part in this. As for the impact, we still need precise data from the three days of action in Lusatia, but the best I have gathered is: During the second day (after 24 hours of blocking the supply lines going into the power plant), the first block stopped running and the power plant shifted down 2/3 of it’s potential on the second block to be able to keep a low fire running for as long as possible. (It is very expensive to let the fire die out and start the plant up again from nothing). All in all most of the supply lines to the plant were blocked for 48 hours and even after folks left the blockades, the power plant could not run at full power since, according to a Vattenfall spokesperson, they had to do repairs after the masses of people coming in to plant.