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Berlin Anticolonial Month – Echo the voices against Germany’s imperialism

The Anticolonial Month in Berlin started with a two day Forum on the 5th and 6th of October and concludes this friday, 15th of November on the aniversary of the Berlin Kongo Conference. Berlin-based journalist and activist Eleonora Roldán Mendívil spoke with Helo Yoshioka and Mugo Muna about the Anticolonial Month, about racism, anti-racism and its connection to an internationalist class struggle.

Berlin Anticolonial Month – Echo the voices against Germany's imperialism

Pic­ture: www.redvoice.news

Helo Yosh­io­ka, 32, is a Brazil­ian migrant in Berlin and part of Quilom­bo Invi­siv­el and Revista Ama­zonas from Brazil. Mugo Muna, 29, is a Black activist and has been work­ing as a data ana­lyst for over two years in Berlin.

On Sat­ur­day Octo­ber 12 an over 3000 peo­ple strong Anti-colo­nial March took place at the heart of Berlin. You are part of the orga­niz­ers of the Anti-colo­nial Month, which the March was a part of. Tell us a bit about who is orga­niz­ing all of this and why?

Mugo Muna (MM): An orga­ni­za­tion­al group of pri­mar­i­ly migrant and dias­poric groups and activists is behind the con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion and exe­cu­tion of the Anti-colo­nial Month. In prac­tice, there was a feel­ing that cer­tain con­ver­sa­tions were not hap­pen­ing here in Berlin. So some peo­ple decid­ed that if no one will make the space for con­ver­sa­tions about the lega­cy and con­tin­u­a­tion of colo­nial­ism that we all feel and live with every­day, then we will do it our­selves. And that’s how things start­ed. With time more activists and also non-migrant groups joined with the per­spec­tive of work­ing togeth­er for orga­niz­ing this month.

On the web­site you speak of link­ing the strug­gles of (for­mal­ly) col­o­nized peo­ples in the Glob­al South with migrant and dis­poric peo­ple in the Glob­al North. What are the links of anti-colo­nial strug­gles and strug­gles against racism?

Helo Yosh­io­ka (HY): Even though racism is way old­er than cap­i­tal­ism, there’s no doubt that colo­nial­ism and cap­i­tal­ism expand­ed it and turned it into a glob­al­ized bru­tal struc­ture of exploita­tion and oppres­sion. The log­ic behind the over­crowd­ed pris­ons and state vio­lence that kills black and indige­nous peo­ple every­day in Brazil is the same behind the crim­i­nal­iza­tion of the Pales­tin­ian move­ments here and behind the refugees camp and police vio­lence against refugees all over the world. Our strug­gle must aim to destroy the dynam­ic in which only a few peo­ple are enti­tled to have a fam­i­ly, a home, food, water, edu­ca­tion and health while oth­ers are con­demned to star­va­tion, tor­ture and mur­der.

MM: With­in the Kenyan con­text, racism was inte­gral to the process of dom­i­na­tion. In order to jus­ti­fy killing and sub­ju­gat­ing all these peo­ple, the British had to have some way to say how we were less than human and deserv­ing of con­quest. And these myths about Black peo­ple con­tin­ue to this day and con­tin­ue to be used as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for unequal treat­ment whether between Kenya and oth­er pre­dom­i­nant­ly white nation states or between indi­vid­u­als and a world that thinks white­ness is a default. There is lit­er­al­ly no coun­try in the world where it is bet­ter to have dark skin than light skin. So fight­ing struc­tur­al racism is attack­ing one of the foun­da­tion­al excus­es in the bru­tal­iza­tion of oth­ers.

From Octo­ber 5th to Octo­ber 6th two days of an Anti-colo­nial Forum took place. On Octo­ber 26st you orga­nized the third Forum day. Dur­ing these three days over 400 activists attend­ed pan­els and work­shops, which were all linked to colo­nial­ism, impe­ri­al­ism and resis­tance against it today. You two were part of orga­niz­ing a pan­el on racism and anti-racism, as well as a three-hour work­shop on the same top­ic. What are the most impor­tant insights from this expe­ri­ence for you?

HY: To me, it was a pre­cious expe­ri­ence to expand my per­spec­tive on racism both glob­al­ly and through time. Racism man­i­fests itself in very dif­fer­ent ways depend­ing on the sub­ject and the space, but we can’t let the dif­fer­ences the dom­i­nant class build between us, sep­a­rate us. That was, to me, the great­est pow­er of both the pan­el and the work­shop: the fact that we were able to build a space where dif­fer­ent racial­ized peo­ple could explore this sub­ject in a very sin­cere way and also dis­cuss the role of white peo­ple both in main­tain­ing and destroy­ing this struc­ture.

MM: Ger­many is so weird for me. There are ways that I think about racism that work in the US and Kenya, but don’t seem to work here. In oth­er con­texts, I’m used to con­ver­sa­tions on racism being struc­tured around the his­tor­i­cal injus­tices and data on how those con­tin­ue to affect the lives of the for­mer­ly col­o­nized or racial­ly oppressed by laws. The lack of gov­ern­ment aggre­gat­ed data on race in Ger­many makes the con­ver­sa­tion so much more abstract here in Berlin. Because you can feel the struc­tur­al inequal­i­ty in the city, but I can’t point to any spe­cif­ic gov­ern­ment sta­tis­tics to nail it down. Also hav­ing not grown up here, it is inter­est­ing to note the his­to­ry that is taught, like the holo­caust under the Nazi regime, and the oth­ers that are ignored, like the geno­cide in Namib­ia. So for me it was just instruc­tive to get a bet­ter feel­ing for the ways that struc­tur­al racism man­i­fests in this spe­cif­ic his­tor­i­cal and geo­graph­i­cal con­text.

What is the role of class strug­gle for a move­ment fight­ing against any form of racism?

HY: These two strug­gles are tied as race is just an excuse to exploit a group of peo­ple in ben­e­fit of anoth­er one. We know, from pre­vi­ous expe­ri­ences, like in the USA and South Africa, that hav­ing Black and Brown peo­ple in pow­er is not the solu­tion to end racism because racism is com­plete­ly tied to the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem. It’s true that end­ing cap­i­tal­ism does­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly end racism, but there’s no way to end racism with­out end­ing cap­i­tal­ism. And fight­ing cap­i­tal­ism in an anti-racist way is our only option to build cross-col­or line worker’s sol­i­dar­i­ty and uni­ty.

MM: I think it is tough. I want to say that if we all real­ize that we are under the heel of boss­es then we are stronger. But one of the trou­bling aspects of being in the work­ing class and try­ing to sur­vive is see­ing how eas­i­ly we can blame our prob­lems at oth­er peo­ple just try­ing to sur­vive and not on the boss­es hold­ing us down. When some­one tells me that I look like a drug deal­er at work, it makes me less inclined to want to build and fight with that fel­low work­er. But in order to enact change we can’t do it alone. I think the class ele­ment is cru­cial because there are only so many Black data ana­lysts that I can work togeth­er with but many more full time and part time work­ers who I can relate to in terms of how dumb and how bru­tal our boss­es are. I just wish peo­ple would say less dumb, racist shit – that would be a great start.

Both of you have ties to com­mu­ni­ties in the Glob­al South and the Glob­al North. In your view, what kind of inter­na­tion­al­ism do we need today?

HY: I believe that we need to debate and expose the rela­tion­ship of exploita­tion that exists between coun­tries in order to have a real strug­gle towards a bet­ter future. I see that a lot of peo­ple here are con­cerned about the envi­ron­men­tal strug­gle, for exam­ple, but we won’t be able to find a solu­tion unless we under­stand who’s prof­it­ing from the destruc­tion of the Glob­al South. The dom­i­nant class is glob­al, there are no bound­aries to the com­pa­nies that are exploit­ing peo­ple and destroy­ing nature. The only way we can be strong enough to beat them is if we can sup­port each oth­er and nev­er lose focus on who is the ene­my – and that is glob­al cap­i­tal­ism, not white peo­ple or peo­ple in the Glob­al North.

MM: It was repeat­ed through­out the forum that cap­i­tal is orga­nized, and we also have to be just as orga­nized and delib­er­ate to dis­man­tle these struc­tures and ways of dom­i­na­tion. One of the things I loved about the forum was how atten­tive peo­ple were to lan­guage. To mak­ing sure that every­one was includ­ed in the dis­cus­sion. That uni­ty. That atten­tion to oth­er people’s needs and mak­ing space for them to be part of the dis­cus­sion and deci­sions is the type of inter­na­tion­al­ism that leads to true col­lab­o­ra­tion and uni­ty.

As migrant activists in Berlin, what do you feel is need­ed for migrant polit­i­cal sub­jects to be able to artic­u­late them­selves and organ­i­cal­ly form part of the polit­i­cal Left of this coun­try?

HY: I feel we need to have con­crete polit­i­cal pro­pos­als that can con­nect the strug­gles here and in the Glob­al South. We are in the heart of glob­al cap­i­tal­ism and I believe we should unite both migrants and non-migrants to echo the voic­es from all over the world against Germany’s impe­ri­al­ist poli­cies and the com­pa­nies here that prof­it from that. It’s not only a prob­lem for migrants and the Glob­al South, it’s everyone’s prob­lems, everyone’s future.

MM: From what I under­stood from speak­ing to Ger­mans, the Left here is heav­i­ly con­cerned with com­bat­ing fas­cism or rose as a counter to fas­cists. But my pri­ma­ry con­cern on a day to day basis is not fas­cists, but my per­ilous posi­tion as an immi­grant that needs to show how I am “con­tribut­ing to Ger­man soci­ety” or I have to leave this coun­try. My visa anx­i­ety which is con­nect­ed to my wage labor anx­i­ety can be exac­er­bat­ed by fas­cist ten­den­cies but is not depen­dent on it. I want to see more con­cern for migrant labor, whether it is from East­ern Europe, North­ern Africa or oth­er places in the Glob­al South. So see­ing a con­cern for wage labor con­di­tions that are not depen­dent on hav­ing an “Anmel­dung” [reg­is­tra­tion of apart­ment] or a Ger­man pass­port would be encour­ag­ing and let me know peo­ple want to build a class strug­gle. In the end it is only class strug­gle, which can be a sus­tain­able anti­dote to fas­cism any­way.

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