Path to Paradise Blocked

This is a very rough-and-ready translation we’ve carried out of German journalist Peter Nowak‘s commentary on our Turbulence 5 article, ‘Life in Limbo?‘ It was originally published on March 17, 2010, in Neues Deutschland under the title ‘Weg ins Paradies versperrt’.

By Peter Nowak

A collective of globalisation critics* appeal for a turn away from radical refusal

In Catholic theology, limbo is the location in which souls, whose carriers were too good for hell but are nevertheless not allowed into paradise, are supposed to find place. Until now, only church experts have considered how the souls can leave this uncomfortable condition. But since several critics of globalisation from the Turbulence collective, well versed in the Bible, see the whole world as stuck in limbo, the location could also become of interest for the left.

In their latest contribution to debate, which carries the title ‘Life in Limbo?’ and was published in German by the monthly newspaper analyse und kritik (ak), pessimistic tones are struck. Although neoliberal dogmas have collapsed through the economic crisis, and many people protested about different situations, a change in existing circumstances are not in sight. The authors see one reason for this in the disappearance of the ideological middle ground, which is now to be occupied by the critics of globalisation.

A Break with Earlier Anti-Institutional Politics

This statement is a break with a politics with which Turbulence had identified until now. The eight-person collective includes activists from Great Britain, Spain and Germany. In recent years, it has irregularly piped up with theoretical articles. Turbulence stands in the tradition of the ‘movement of movements’ which – inspired by the Zapatista uprising in Southern Mexico and massive summit protests between 1999 and 2001 – saw a new protest cycle on the horizon. Back then, the activists emphasised their distance from parties and state apparatuses. In the new document, Turbulence appeal for a revision of these anti-institutional politics. They point to the development of a new constitution that involved social movements in Ecuador and Bolivia. These developments could be “an outpost for a potential future” in other countries too, the authors argue, without getting any more concrete.

The discussion of the text has been limited in Germany, the ak editor Jan Ole Arps confirmed to ND. There have not yet been any responses, nor was the text collectively discussed by the editors. In the text, Arps sees “old, well known questions about the relationship of the left to state institutions, which today have to be answered anew.” As an example, he cites the controversial participation of the long-standing activist Thomas Seibert in the leftwing think tank, Solidarische Moderne.

The low resonance is mostly due to the globalisation critical movement’s ever new building of itself ahead of concrete events. The last big mobilisation was to the climate summit in Copenhagen in December 2009. Tadzio Mueller, who belongs to the Turbulence collective, was involved with one of the organisations on the leftwing of the climate movement. Beforehand, it had been discussed whether the demand for concrete steps towards saving the climate was compatible with a politics of delegitimising the Summit. In this sense, the recent text can be understood as a discussion document for the process of transformation from the globalisation critical movement to a climate critical movement.

Peter Nowak has also published a further commentary on ‘Life in Limbo?’ in the monthly German newspaper, analyse & kritik (no.548). A copy of the article can be found here.

* ‘Globalisierungskritischen Bewegung’ [direct translation, ‘globalisation critical movement’] is the term most widely used in Germany to refer to the counter-globalisation movement.

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