Protest as a business field

Those who today take up topics that are effective for the public and can be connected to the bourgeoisie or carry out actions, may rub their eyes in surprise when support requests come from different sides and often without being asked. There are consultations or help with Demos with banners, signs and flags offered, neatly programmed internet platform pages for a Petition or Signature Collection provided and much more.

Have the formerly competing NGOs and associations learned and moved on a new course of cooperation and helpfulness? Unfortunately, no. It’s just the modern form of takeover – assimilation instead of switching off. This has a Tradition, albeit with evolving methods. So let’s take a look at the history of the commercialization of political movements …

The goal of maximizing money revenue only began to shape the actions of political organizations late on. Until the 1980s, the large associations mainly tried to increase their political influence and revenue through high membership numbers. Until then, only a few full-time employees in poorly equipped offices opposed the large number of grassroots groups and purely volunteer activists.

Leaders usually did not have a Job with the movements they dominated, but acted on a voluntary basis or as paid forces of parties or other players in the background. In addition, grassroots initiatives usually operated under their own name and joined the nationwide organizations as a group, but paid attention to independence. An attempt to conduct from above would have resulted in the departure of the group rather than submission.

This changed with the strong upswing of environmental and peace issues, but also other issues in the 1970s and even more in the 1980s. This was used by associations and institutions, which are more streamlined compared to the networks and more modern in terms of internal management and PR strategies. This sometimes only happened locally when world shops or full-time guidance centres replaced the previous internationalist or feminist groups. In the environmental debate that dominated at the time, large players such as the Greens and the federal government with nationwide uniform labels, professional press work and a prioritization of the association’s benefits over political impact supplanted the networks and swallowed one group after another.

The previously formative Civic Initiative scene was largely integrated into the new formats and thus disappeared as a colorful, independent scene. The success of the Greens and the BUND was based on the promise to gain power through Integration into the large organization, in addition to the superior self-presentation. When this became more and more apparent and the base groups became weaker and weaker in favor of the central apparatuses, which were now rapidly expanding, it was too late. The internal opposition, for example in the form of the youth environmental movement around 1990, was able to set its own accents for a few more years, but could no longer prevail against the environmental associations in the RESP., after their expulsion from the NGOs.

The next modernization step towards political groups was carried out by a targeted strategy of many associations to push back internal co-determination and at the same time to increase the flow of funds to the headquarters. Prior to this change, members were mostly accepted by local groups, who also received a significant share of the membership fees paid. Democratic participation took place via delegate systems, i.e. the respective local groups were able to influence the district and state level and control the Central Board members. In the 90s, many associations therefore relied on supporting members who became members directly in the Federal Association. These had no voting rights in addition, the entire membership fee or a higher share remained with the central structures.

As a result, revenue increased significantly, which made further professionalization and growing equipment possible, which in turn made the increased revenue necessary in the long term. When environmental protection slowly disappeared from the public debate in the same period, new sources of money were needed. These consisted of growing subsidies from the state and increased cooperation with companies.

Both had their pitfalls. The state funds were distributed through various funding programs. In order to be able to maintain them, the association had to take action on these topics, i.e. develop activities intended by the state. This happened on a large scale – for financial reasons the associations oriented themselves more and more to the wishes of the state, unquestionably a form of corruption. Among other things, government subsidies pushed still existing, economically critical attitudes and anchored the business-friendly sustainability myth in the content positions of many environmental groups. The neoliberal fight paper “Agenda 21” has been declared the guiding principle of environmental protection work.

Cooperations with companies have also increased considerably in this period. In the 1980s, the environmental associations were still very cautious because they led to their good reputation. However, even then they were talking with their tongues split. While they declared that they would not accept money from dirty companies, they founded an organization with Deutsche Umwelthilfe, which from the beginning accepted money from corporations such as Daimler and Lufthansa in order to pass it on to the environmental associations. It was thus a kind of donation washing system. The funds should flow, but the environmental associations nevertheless seem credible and at a distance from large-scale industry.

This, however, is a thing of the past. Today, the German environmental aid must keep the apparatus, which has since risen to well over 100 full-time employees, afloat with other sources of money, as a donation washing system it is no longer in demand. The corrupt environmental associations have long been accepting money directly and openly from car, aviation and other large corporations. In the state and especially federal headquarters, the numbers of paid officials are always reaching new records. They all depend on donations, government grants and industrial funds for their jobs. They behave accordingly-after all, the bank balance of the association and your own financial protection are very directly related. As a result, not only the association is increasingly oriented towards popular topics and positions, but also the individual persons in their respective areas. All this is poison for high-level content, clear political demands and courage for spectacular actions. “A campaign only succeeds if we scare people,” says Gerald Neubauer, a Campaigner at Campact, years later. This is close to the methods of the AfD, a rejection of emancipatory positions and the clear slogan that every means is right for collecting donations.

Speaking of Campact, they are the most successful Player in today’s dominant, even more commercialized form of political organization. The old NGOs had" only " gone more and more on the hunt for donations, subsidies and company cooperations, had neglected their base and built huge apparatuses. In doing so, they also subjected their political demands to PR strategies up to targeted Fakenews, when, for example, they continued to stir up fear and stimulate donations after the end of Agrogen technology in the field, which was enforced primarily through direct actions (field exemptions and occupations), with invented approval procedures. With Campact and others, actors appeared in the noughties who left the old structures completely behind. They only consist of full-time employees, operate from office towers or the Home Office and develop their topics and activities according to PR and business management aspects. To this end, they conduct market research and are guided by the expected highest profit rates through campaigns that successfully acquire donations. This has fatal consequences. The most obvious is that they rush into topics that have already reached the general public. In this way, they are eliminated as actors who initiate new topics.

This is currently most likely to be achieved by independent small groups with spectacular actions. Seven field occupations and several field exemptions made 2008 the culmination of the bitter struggle for Agrogen technology. In 2012, she was defeated in Germany. Rebellious citizens unleashed in the fall of 2010, unfortunately a little late, a powerful resistance to the concrete project of Stuttgart 21. The occupation of the hambach forest achieved nationwide headlines and strengthened the climate justice movement. Action black drivers and a much discussed Fake in Gießen made zero fare a widely discussed topic. When determined people occupied the Dannenröder forest in autumn 2019, the debates about highway construction and the citizens ' initiatives that have been active locally for forty years received the impetus needed to turn the criticism in the background into a formative voice in the Vogelsbergkreis.

And Campact? Came in all these cases, which successfully set topics, docked to harvest the ordered field donation-wise. In Stuttgart, they collected support signatures for a completely unnecessary Mail to the Federal Chancellor – but they presented this as a decisive step. Many will have thought: how silly ,but it can not hurt… and signed. In the end, Campact, probably as the only Player, had a fairly complete collection of email addresses from the well-off anti-S21 bourgeoisie. In 2015, Campact then created an alliance for the “end of terrain” campaign – and excluded the occupiers of the Hambach forest, without whom the topic would never have become so big, from participating. The fact that in the end, of all campact-critical creative activists saved the success of the action with a spectacular motorway closure and that Campact subsequently lost control of the process in the power struggle with leftist authoritarian organizations, should be noted in passing, but does not change the basic working method of Campact.

Everything there is subjected to business valuation. The main goal is not the effect in society, but on the account. This does not exclude that sometimes a meaningful action runs. In autumn 2018, when the entire Republic stared into the Hambach forest and at the three-week eviction, Campact ordered an office container and quickly created a full-time position to participate in the cake of attention. In the meantime, Campact claims on its own website to have saved the “Hambi” with the Demo on October 6, 2018 – so not the climate camps and actions of many years before or the occupation of the forest, no: Campact was it. The fact that the Demo was even after the judicial grubbing-up, so had no effect at all except headlines in the media, is completely concealed. Thus, Campact bends reality in order to adorn itself again and again with strange feathers.

By the way, other political actors also acted similarly – Campact is not the only fundraiser, only currently the most modern and successful. Particularly striking is the approach to the occupation of the then röder forest was. It was filled on the last day of September 2019-immediately with huge headlines. The cast was well prepared. The following day, a traffic turnaround Initiative was founded in nearby Alsfeld, the local citizens ' initiatives were inaugurated and immediately started an intensive, accompanying public relations work. Press was on site and everything planned by the assembly. This was not surprising, as the activists from Gießen and around the project workshop, experienced in action and practised in subversive legal practice, were also behind the occupation – in other words, exactly those who brought down the ban on demonstrations in Corona times by Constitutional Court decision in April 2020 with a well-planned political action.

Nevertheless, Campact did the usual thing: after the Protest against the A49 became an important public issue, the apparatus interfered. A full-time official offered the citizens ' initiatives advice – absurdly also on the subject of the right of Assembly, although in the environment of the occupiers there was a know-how that is far superior to that of Campact. But the offer drew, as well as that of a Petition on the Campact platform WeAct, the programmatically inferior OpenPetition and opposite the ePetition of the Bundestag is without formal effect. But with the apparent friendliness Campact got the email addresses again – a clever strategy, economically speaking.

Citizens ' initiatives can only be accused of a certain naivety. But who comes up with the idea that an association like Campact, when it offers help, actually only collects addresses and wants to collect a successful topic for itself? Campact, on the other hand, was all clear – also that the A49 resistance actually had much more know-how than Campact itself. Because the person who advised there used to be active in the project workshop himself and knew until the latest time exactly what knowledge was available there. However, the entry into the A49 resistance could not come as a surprise. After all, Campact is a corporation that ticks just as corporations tick: everything is subjected to Profit – it is tricked, deceived, lied. Topics, projects, actions and actors are interesting if and as long as they can bring in profits. Knowing the way of thinking of the activists helps in taking over their actions. At its core, Campact consists of environmental activists who used to be avowed anarchists – some of them open to militant forms of action. They moved together to Verden in the early 1990s in order to infiltrate this city anarchistically. The result is … Campact. Capitalism in Protest. Bitter.