For an effective cultural strike of Germany’s cultural institutions

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As writers, academics, musicians and club workers, we have recently called for a boycott of Germany’s cultural institutions. We join the worldwide call for a ceasefire, and an end to the 75+ year occupation, displacement and genocide inflicted on Palestinian people by the settler apartheid state.

German military export approvals to the settler apartheid state have increased nearly tenfold this year compared to last year, with Germany prioritizing permit requests since October 2023. As of November 2nd 2023, the German government has approved the export of nearly 303 million euros' worth of defense equipment to the settler apartheid state.

In recent months, we have witnessed a series of coordinated political and media attacks on events led by Palestinian and racialized people. These events include fundraisers, gigs, and banner painting workshops that are open to a diverse range of people, many of them personally impacted by the relentless violence of the settler apartheid state.

Venues and individuals hosting these events have been targeted with state repression. This repression has received the support in the form of biased and sensationalist reporting in German news media, which have published stories premised on fabricated claims about these events and their purpose.

For this reason, we felt that it was important for us to replace the on-going boycott of Germany’s cultural institutions in its context, and reiterate our support for what we see as an efficient strike.

Scabbing in the dance music industry

On November 15th 2023, we called for a boycott of Germany’s cultural institutions, publicizing the invitations that we had so far rejected from such institutions. We felt that it was a necessary step towards effective change to clarify our position publicly rather than keeping it behind closed doors. On January 8th 2024, a new call for international cultural works to boycott German cultural institutions came from a new group, called Strike Germany.

This call has received criticism from several DJs who have misconstrued the purpose of the campaign in order to support the establishment, for example criticizing the absence of strike funds during the first days of the action (thus betraying their lack of experience with organizing). A few weeks later, Strike Germany succeeded in securing a strike fund, even in an industry remarkable for its total lack of unions, or any organizational structure that fights for better labor conditions.

In defense of the organizations impacted by the strike, Strike Germany’s critics hid behind the claim that these organizations provide them a “safe space”. The “safe space” fostered by the institutions they side with has been proven time and time again to be a sham. Our answer to those people is simple: crossing the picket line makes you an active participant in this genocide.

Striking is an essential action when it comes to raising the cost of Germany’s support for apartheid and genocide. Let us not forget that it is not a moral case which defeated the apartheid regime in South Africa: boycotts and international sanctions made the apartheid regime unsustainable financially, leading to a change of course in US policy. It is with this historical context that we need to tackle the current situation.

We are appalled by the inability of the cultural sector, and in particular the dance music industry, to grasp with its complicity in a genocide, while ignoring the modern-day McCarthyism that the German state is engaged in. The overall lack of concern for the industry’s participation in imperialism is a testament of its existence as a bastion of a bourgeois elite which benefit from genocide and colonial extraction.

Living at the epicenter of a colonial empire can only be sustainable through cognitive dissonance. The educational system and mainstream culture have been shaped to shield the masses from the very literature that could liberate them. This leads to a cultural landscape in which cultural workers and artists fawn over bland and fleeting concepts such as “glitch-feminism”, instead of integrating the works of committed writers such as Angela Davis, Françoise Vergès, Frantz Fanon, Elsa Dorlin and Edward Saïd, to name a few.

Germany has an antisemitism problem

Germany’s investment in Zionism is not only reflected in the cultural hegemony of club culture and in academia, but also is expressed foundationally at the level of governance. Back in 2019, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) had already called for a boycott of three German venues: Conne Island in Leipzig, Golden Pudel in Hamburg, and ://about blank in Berlin for their support of the state of Israel and their settler apartheid regime, going as far as sharing recruitment call from the “IOF”.[1]

It is a win-win situation for the German government: it gets to support a puppet state that works for its interests in the Middle-East; and it also helps its ethno-nationalist fantasy of a white Christian Germany where Jewish people exist only as an abstract concept. This situation is best explained by the following statistics: while Jewish people represent only 1% of the German population, close to 30% of the people deplatformed by state-funded German institutions for alleged anti-semitism are Jewish people.[2]

Israel uses settlements as a way to bind voters: settlements offer subsidized, cheap housing and economic advantages (higher wages compared to Palestinians, because their labor has been subsidized since the pre-state era by Zionist organizations), boosting support for "Greater Israel" and distracting from economic woes resulting from the chronic stagnation of the Israeli economy since the late 1970s. This shifts the blame: settler "extremism" can be used to excuse reluctance towards Palestinian concessions, making the government appear moderate.[3]

We are now in a situation in which we witness genocide, while the German state prevents us from opposing it. We are asked to pretend that the casualty ratio from the Palestinian resistance and the most technologically advanced army in the world are anything alike. We are asked to talk about a “ceasefire,” as if Palestine went through nationhood, as if it was an armed conflict between two regular armies.

Pinkwashing Israel

Pinkwashing is a public relations strategy used by the Israeli state to portray itself as a progressive and tolerant society, particularly in regard to queer rights. This strategy is often used to distract from the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the human rights abuses that Palestinians face.

In Germany, pinkwashing has been used by the Israeli state and its supporters to portray Israel as a safe and welcoming place for queer people. This is in spite of the fact that Israel has a long history of discrimination against queer people. For example, in 2014, the Israeli government passed a law that banned same-sex couples from adopting children.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement of queer people in Germany who are speaking out against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. These activists have faced oppression from the Israeli state and its supporters, as well as from some members of the German queer community.

Cultural boycotts work

In December 2023, the Berlin Senate introduced a clause in cultural funding applications that required applicants to renounce antisemitism according to the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition. The IHRA definition equates criticism of the state of Israel with antisemitism. After the organization of a wide group of artists, the clause was dropped. This is, however, a temporary victory, because the IHRA definition remains a federal guideline and because similar clauses are being drafted across Germany.[4]

A study in 2018,[5] reported that Berlin's nightlife was generating 1.48 billion euros, in a city without much industry. The nightlife and cultural sector is a significant source of income for the city (if not the main one), which explains the Senator for culture and social cohesion caving under the critics. Other German cities might be more ''resilient" to artist critiques and strikes. It is essential to maintain the pressure on Germany’s cultural institutions. It is on this materialist basis that we see the necessity for the on-going cultural boycott to apply to Germany.

The strike is effective. It is raising the costs for the German state’s support of genocide as well as sending a message to other allies of the settler apartheid state. Take the example of the Berlin cultural scene: artists are canceling their performance in the German capital, lowering the numbers of attendees, which, for example, lower the number of indirect tax (or direct tax like the room tax) coming from tourism.

It is particularly easy to observe this effect during the Berlinale film festival, happening in the German capital. After all, movie industry people, directors and guests need to be accommodated for this event. Cancellations in a city which lacks other industries than tourism and entertainment is very impactful. Three filmmakers responded to the call for a boycott of the 2024 edition of the festival by withdrawing their films from the selection (this movement gained momentum surrounding the invitation extended to AfD members to the festival's opening ceremony). Speeches during the award ceremony addressed the ongoing apartheid and genocide. The recognition of "No Other Land" by an Israeli-Palestinian film collective with the Audience Panorama Award was met with condemnation from German authorities, particularly the Berlin mayor, who labeled the remarks made during the acceptance speech as "antisemitic."

In the case of the South African apartheid, many observers argued that multinational banks inflicted the greatest damage among other factors.[6] In 1984, South African protests alarmed global banks, leading to a decline in foreign investment in 1985. The heightened risk factor contributed to a debt panic within the international financial community. As a result, reduced lending and investment placed immense pressure on South Africa's economy. This economic pressure was pivotal in ending the apartheid regime.[7]

Call to action

Despite the state repression artists and musicians are bravely speaking out

against the settler apartheid state ongoing atrocities in Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank. They challenge the injustices of occupation, Western support for the ethno-apartheid state, checkpoint violence, and the 16-year-long blockade of Gaza. Non-Palestinian artists risk repercussions for their solidarity, while Palestinian artists have long faced suppression, making their activism a necessity.[8]

Technomaterialism has committed to adhere to the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), part of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). The PACBI is a principled boycott that does not target individuals or identity, but the material support from Israel that normalizes the genocidal regime of occupation, settler-colonialism, and apartheid. If you are experiencing repression for your stance on Palestine we invite you to get in contact with the solidarity project Writers Against the War on Gaza and to organize with other artists. Atomization and the lack of archives are playing into the hands of reactionary forces.

We call for everyone who refuses to passively witness another instance of active collaboration with far-right-leaning ideologies to join our cultural boycott of German cultural institutions.

  6. Originally, apartheid's labor system fueled South Africa's growth, exploiting mines and excluding skilled labor from non-white workers. Post-World War II, the manufacturing sector faced shortages and increased costs due to racial disparities, exhausting previous solutions. Attempts to address skilled labor shortages included training unskilled whites and encouraging immigration, but the Soweto uprising and military requirements hindered growth ,the Anglo-American Corporation of South Africa (AACSA) even maintained a recruitment office for engineers in England. European migrants accounted for 25-40% of annual increases in higher and middle-level human resources until the mid 1980s. By 1986, South Africa experienced its largest net migration loss since World War II, impacting the economy references SCHWARTZMAN, KATHLEEN C., and KRISTIE A. TAYLOR. “WHAT CAUSED THE COLLAPSE OF APARTHEID?” Journal of Political & Military Sociology 27, no. 1 (1999): 109–39.
  7. In the 1980s, global anti-apartheid efforts gained momentum, leading to divestment actions. By 1986, more than twenty state governments and institutional investors had been convinced to withdraw pension fund investments from South African companies (Rodman, 1994:325). These sanctions not only impacted the overall investment levels but also altered the nature of investments. In 1970, direct investment accounted for 68% of total foreign investment, but by 1984, it had declined to 39%. (SCHWARTZMAN, KATHLEEN C., and KRISTIE A. TAYLOR. “WHAT CAUSED THE COLLAPSE OF APARTHEID?” Journal of Political & Military Sociology 27, no. 1 (1999): 109–39.