Repression in Germany: Editor of Venezuelan Book Incarcerated for Terrorism
by Wolfram Metzger
The Venezuelan opposition is once again crying about the "terrible repression" the poor rich suffer from the "Chavez regime." Strikingly, they never compare their situation to the pre-Bolivarian period, nor other Latin American countries, nor to the United States, nor to Europe. It's clear why: such a comparison would come out negatively for the opposition. The following is small example of the repression, which has occurred in Germany, a country often serving as "model" of modern bourgeois ideology.
In July 2007, the sociologist Andrej Holm was detained for terrorism against the state of Germany. Holm is, amongst others, the editor of a book about the revolutionary process in Venezuela (see below). On the same day, three activists were also arrested who supposedly attempted to set ablaze a group of trucks in a military barracks in Brandenburg in protest against the war in Afghanistan. At the same time, police brutally raided the apartments of three journalists - amongst them also co-authors of the above-mentioned book. Holm and the other three were arrested and immediately flown via helicopter from Berlin to the High Court in Karlsruhe in Southern Germany.
Andrej Holm was held under suspicion for using words and phrases, which were also found in texts of the "Militante Gruppe" (MG, Militant Group). In recent years this group has confessed to various arson attacks against state facilities and large companies. According to the indictment, Holm had met one of the above-mentioned arrested persons some months prior in a "conspiratory manner." Conspiratory, in this case, refers to the fact that Mr. Holm had forgotten his mobile phone at home. Considering that he was under permanent surveillance by the secret service, which included eavesdropping of phone calls, this must have raised some suspicions.
Holm was arrested for the suspicion that he has "helped the MG," because the "frequency of the similarity (between his texts and the texts of the MG) is evident and cannot be explained by thematic coincidence." "As a scientist who is politically active," continues the indictment, "he is intellectually capable of writing the texts of the MG, which are technically difficult." Moreover, "he has free access to libraries he can use in order to carry out the investigations which are necessary for the MG." One of the incriminating words is, "gentrification." The use of this term is nothing of a surprise as Holm is a sociologist who specializes in "gentrification," or in other words, the change of the structure of the population in a city or region caused by neoliberal urban development politics. Other words on the list were: "political practice," "draconian," "Marxist-Leninist," and "reproduction."
Anna Peters (name changed) was still sleeping that morning, when someone fiercely knocked on the door. Her friend, one of the above-mentioned journalists, had already left for work. She approached the door, thinking that perhaps there was water damage in the house and firemen had come to fix it. She never got to the door- it flew open, struck her head and buried her on the floor. With a battering ram, masked, and arms at gunpoint, a Special Forces police unit assaulted the apartment.
All told, seven people are being accused for terrorism under paragraph 129a of the German penal code, which prohibits the "foundation, membership or support of a terrorist organization." In reaction to the detentions, a campaign has begun for the defense of the accused, including a self-accusation of professors and students who declared "we are all 129a, we are all terrorists," arguing convincingly that: they also have the intellectual capacity and material at their disposal to be accused (i.e. they also have free access to libraries to carry out investigations and also have published texts using phrases and words the MG has used). For lack of evidence, Holm was released from prison on the 22nd of August, after three weeks in an isolated cell. The accusations, however, have been maintained.
Total surveillance was also maintained. Each step of Holm, his partner, friends, and their children are being followed: Cameras in front of the house, around-the-clock observation of e-mail and telephone communication. Laughing at the situation, his girlfriend tells the anecdotes produced by this absurd situation in a blog. For example, the one of the "black bag": When Holm was released from prison, he had two folders with official court documents about his own case. His mother gave him a black plastic bag to carry them. Some days later, she phoned him and mentioned the "black bag," and that it should be checked what is in there. The skilled reader will presume what happened: A few moments later, agents having eavesdropped on the phone calls, knocked on the door asking for the suspicious black bag.
An activist from Berlin says: "They invent things, like the one from the terrorist group with the intellectual brains and the infantry. In recent years they produced several accusations, raids and detentions without proof, which all referred to paragraph 129a. In fact, this paragraph is used to persecute political opinion not criminal acts. And in the first place, even if these guys really wanted to burn military vehicles parked on the lot, they didn't hurt anyone. What's the big deal about a car fire in comparison to the lethal attacks on the Afghan population, which these cars are part of."
In August 2007, the book "Revolution as a Process, Self-Organization and Participation in Venezuela" was published by the group MovimentoR with Andrej Holm as the editor. One of the co-authors says: "We are all activists in different parts of the social movements. Andrej, for example, is a known political activist who has participated in many local and international events such as, for instance, the organization of the recent Media Centre against the G8 Summit in Rostock. His bill of indictment says that he was involved in the "participation of the left protests against the G8 summit." This is all part of a strategy to intimidate leftist activists and their activities. The book we have published about the revolutionary process in Venezuela is part of our activities."
The introduction of the book reads: "There is no other country on the subcontinent which is discussed as much as Venezuela and is as controversial as Venezuela. Also within the left, opinions about the Bolivarian process diverge widely. Especially in Germany, skepticism dominates the left. Middle-class media dominates the news coverage with its images of Populism and dictatorship, and everyone pretends to know everything about Socialism. Information is dominated by the focus on the person of Chavez: 'Chavez is closing TV-stations,' 'Chavez visits the axis of the evil,' it seems as if everything came from Chavez. In this way they create a personalized debate, which ignores the essential protagonists, and which ignores the social changes in the country. In order to write the chapters of this book we have looked for the activists of this process."
Later the text continues: "... the apparent paradox between the power of the state and the self-organization of the people is a central issue in the search for revolutionary strategies. The utopia of many occidental leftists has been well formulated by the philosopher John Holloway in his book: Change the World without Taking Power. Behind this lies the fear of the instrumental use of power and the desire of changes, which do no harm to anybody. The Bolivarian Process in Venezuela has shown that there are no changes without posing the question of power."
In an interview, one of the co-authors ponders about the actual repression in Venezuela: "The Venezuelan opposition lives very comfortable. They should be happy to live in a country which is on the way to Socialism. In Germany, similar actions would not be possible. A TV-station calling for a coup - regardless if successful or not - would be closed right away. The church in Germany could not protect persons who were involved in armed aggressions, and a person who pours gasoline in a police car, when policemen are still inside, as has been seen in a recent student demonstration in Caracas, would disappear in prison immediately. Surely, actions as those of the opposition in Venezuela would gain a lot more repression in Germany."
The case of Holm corresponds to the current political dynamics developing in present-day Germany. The interior minister, Wolfgang Schaueble, is a great fan of total control. He puts all and everything under suspicion in order to fight global terrorism. He demands legal permission to spy via internet in personal computers of the whole German population. He has gone so far as to ask for legal permission to shoot down airplanes when they are hijacked, regardless of the lives of the innocent passengers inside.
Nevertheless, Germany's national politics are not changed by single lunatics, but by the interests of its political class. For a long time Germany has been preparing to reappear as new force in the world of imperialism, where a few powerful claim free access to markets and natural resources of the planet. Since the fall of the Soviet Union as an opposing social model, the competition between these imperialist states has sharpened rigorously and, in the case of Germany, the new external militarization has also brought militarization home. Here, the politics of "preventive security" boosts the dismantling of basic civil liberties.
The investigations in the case of Andrej Holm were carried out by the Police Office of the German States. This agency is about to receive new authorization under a proposed law reform in the fight against terrorism. The draft of the "Law for the Defense of the Dangers of International Terrorism" (2006) infringes massively in the so-called "Mandate of Separation" which was introduced into German law after the Third Reich. This mandate stipulates a strict separation of preventive activities of the secret service and executive police activities. It was seen as a lesson from German fascism, in order to avoid ever again that people are persecuted or held prisoner with only vague suspicion without proof (unless in a state of emergency). It seems that exactly this happened to Andrej Holm, not under a fascist regime, but under pure representative, bourgeois democracy.
That is where the Venezuelan opposition comes in. As the Venezuelan opposition now cries fowl play, it should remember that it is living under a government, which has respected its rights more fervently than Germany would.
Wolfram Metzger is a physician with specialization in infectious diseases and vaccinology. He collaborated as co-author of a technical report from the Panamerican Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) about Barrio Adentro (http://www.ops-oms.org.ve/) and contributed the chapter about the Venezuelan health system to the book "Revolution as a process, Self-Organization and Participation in Venezuela", Edition VSA, 2007.
(1) Open letter to the High Court (in English):
(2) Blogspot of Andrejs girlfriend (in German): http://annalist.noblogs.org/
(3) Website of the group MovimentoR (in German):
License: Published under a Creative Commons license (by-nc-nd). See
creativecommons.org for more information.