Fire and flames: A history of the German autonomist movement

German autonomen

Fire and Flames is no detached academic study, but a passionate, hands-on, and engaging account of the beginnings of one of Europe's most intriguing protest movements of the last thirty years. An introduction by George Katsiaficas, author of The Subversion of Politics and an afterword by Gabriel Kuhn, a long-time autonomous activist and author, add historical context and an update on the current state of the Autonomen.

Fire and Flames was the first comprehensive study of the German autonomous movement ever published. Released in 1990, it reached its fifth edition by 1997, with the legendary German Konkret journal concluding that "the movement had produced its own classic." The author, writing under the pseudonym of Geronimo, has been an autonomous activist since the movement burst onto the scene in 1980-81. In this book, he traces its origins in the Italian Autonomia project and the German social movements of the 1970s, before describing the battles for squats, "free spaces," and alternative forms of living that defined the first decade of the autonomous movement. Tactics of the "Autonome" were militant, including the construction of barricades or throwing molotov cocktails at the police. Because of their outfit (heavy black clothing, ski masks, helmets), the Autonome were dubbed the “Black Bloc” by the German media, and their tactics have been successfully adopted and employed at anti-capitalist protests worldwide.

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Comments

Entdinglichung
Dec 1 2012 11:17
Quote:
their tactics have been successfully adopted

?

solidariedade
Dec 1 2012 12:54

Yeah I thought the same. Plus this intro is a bit cringewhorty, but I guess totally appropriate to the subject matter. I still remember my uncle being beat up by a bunch of autonomen somewhere in the 90s. He was a lefty-liberal with a rock band. FFS hand

EDIT: I am in no way implying that the book is bad. It's actually a quite good document, I just find this intro funny.

working class s...
Dec 1 2012 14:56

The intro was from the publishers PM Press.

Black Badger
Dec 1 2012 16:02

Which, since it is a predominantly Marxist project, is continually trying to poach whatever they can from anti-authoritarians to claim as their own...

solidariedade
Dec 1 2012 22:12
working class self organisation wrote:
The intro was from the publishers PM Press.

Yes I assumed it was a publisher's blurb.

klas batalo
Dec 2 2012 04:00
Black Badger wrote:
Which, since it is a predominantly Marxist project, is continually trying to poach whatever they can from anti-authoritarians to claim as their own...

you mean PM Press?

Black Badger
Dec 2 2012 06:07

Yes

altemark
Dec 2 2012 18:32

Bigs up to Gabriel Kuhn for taking care of the translation of this book. Bought it at the sthlm anarchist bookfair, and think I learned a lot about the movement as a whole from the perspective presented in the book.

georgestapleton
Dec 3 2012 13:52
Black Badger wrote:
Yes

Err PM was started by Ramsey Kanaan, Craig O'Hara and a few others formerly of AK. Both Ramsey and Craig are, as far as these distinctions go, anarchists not Marxists. Although these distinctions are pretty useless.

But yeah odd to hear PM being called Marxist. It's about as Marxist as this site.

editted to add: The book is great, a fun read, informative and insightful. My only criticism would be (ironically given the above odd comments) that it doesn't really talk about the marxists around the autonomen that much. If there is anything good on SDS, the Marxist Group, the K-groups etc. in English I'd like to know.

ocelot
Dec 3 2012 14:20

Black Badger's world is truly upside down. The German autonomen of the 1980s would have predominantly self-indentified as Marxists (probably less than 5% would have self-identified as anarchists), with the main ideological tendency being the "Anti-Imperialist" or Anti-Imps. The main point of reference for whom, was fairly uncritical support for the RAF.

As for PM as a "Marxist" project (let alone one trying in Machiavellian or Leninist fashion to rewrite history in the case of the Autonomen), what George said. Not only are Rammo and Gabe still anarchists, they both continue to enthusiastically promote "lifestylist" cultural trends like straight-edge, hardcore punk and veganism that most of us of that generation left behind as something for "the kids", decades ago (and that would at best bemuse, at worst render apoplectic the kind of Leninoid orthodox Marxists BB seems to populate his/her imagination with). Also, Pffft...

Haven't read F&F. Be a bit disappointing if they don't really go into the socio-political basis of Anti-Imp and other specific Marxist-hybrid cultural forms that made the Autonomen alternatively inspiring, mystifying, sometimes hilarious, occasionally maddening and/or facepalm-tastic, but always unique.

Entdinglichung
Dec 3 2012 16:23

as far as I know, there aren't any good studies in English about the groups mentioned, there are some good studies in German e.g. the one by Michael Steffen on the KB or by Günther Gellrich on the GIM (both available online) but none of them have been translated

Entdinglichung
Dec 3 2012 14:44
ocelot wrote:
Black Badger's world is truly upside down. The German autonomen of the 1980s would have predominantly self-indentified as Marxists (probably less than 5% would have self-identified as anarchists), with the main ideological tendency being the "Anti-Imperialist" or Anti-Imps. The main point of reference for whom, was fairly uncritical support for the RAF.

Anti-imps and Autonome were in a way overlapping scenes but my perception (as a participant 20-25 years ago) was, that most people perceived the two scenes as something different, the "dominant marxist theoretical approach" in the Autonomen was not the moralistic and pro-RAF Anti-Imp stuff but some Operaist derived theories e.g. from the journal Autonomie - Materialien gegen die Fabrikgesellschaft and their successors from the Materialien für einen neuen Antiimperialismus ... my perception was, that there were more than 5% self-identified Anarchists in the scene ... but the majority of Autonomen probably wasn't to much into political labels, theories, etc.

Entdinglichung
Dec 3 2012 14:51
georgestapleton wrote:

editted to add: The book is great, a fun read, informative and insightful. My only criticism would be (ironically given the above odd comments) that it doesn't really talk about the marxists around the autonomen that much. If there is anything good on SDS, the Marxist Group, the K-groups etc. in English I'd like to know.

the Marxist Group was in the same way around the autonomen as e.g. Sparts, MLPD, Marxists-Reichians, etc.: pestering how shitty the Autonomen are, unless they adopt the MG's mode of speaking

georgestapleton
Dec 4 2012 12:54
Entdinglichung wrote:
georgestapleton wrote:

editted to add: The book is great, a fun read, informative and insightful. My only criticism would be (ironically given the above odd comments) that it doesn't really talk about the marxists around the autonomen that much. If there is anything good on SDS, the Marxist Group, the K-groups etc. in English I'd like to know.

the Marxist Group was in the same way around the autonomen as e.g. Sparts, MLPD, Marxists-Reichians, etc.: pestering how shitty the Autonomen are, unless they adopt the MG's mode of speaking

1. Yeah but the difference is that the MG was (at least according to Angelus) big, where as the sparts have always been tiny.

2. Marxist-Reichians? I've never come across these, but sounds amazing

georgestapleton
Dec 4 2012 13:05

Also, for what its worth this thread has made me go and buy Utopia or Auschwitz which is the only book I've found in English on the 68-on left in Germany apart from Fire and Flames, books on the Greens and books on the RAF. Thought I'd flag the book up because I haven't heard anyone mention it.

Entdinglichung
Dec 4 2012 13:32
georgestapleton wrote:

2. Marxist-Reichians? I've never come across these, but sounds amazing

a cult, mainly in Freiburg but also with branches in several other German and Austrian university cities around its guru Fritz Erik Hoevels, a former SDS activist who claims, that he is the only person who has a correct interpretation of the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Trotzki, Freud and Reich, ... moved during the mid-80ies to the far right, e.g. calling for votes for the FPÖ and the German Die Republikaner, advocating tattooing of people with HIV, in favour of rigid "population control", paranoid hatred of feminists and other "enemies of sex", support for Saddam Hussain (in 1991, one of their leaflets said that "it is more likely to watch Yetis copulating than to watch Kuwaitis at work") and Milosevic, etc. ... now mainly operating under names like Bund gegen Anpassung (Alliance against Conformity), some of its labels/fronts:

- Ahriman-Verlag, Freiburg
- Bund zur Verbreitung unerwünschter Einsichten (BzVuE)
- Initiative Neue Linke (Österreich) (INL)
- Marxistisch-Reichistische Initiative
- Arbeitskreis Antiklerikalismus
- Gruppe für Aufklärung
- Demokratie und Selbstbestimmung
- Verein zur Aids-Verhütung

their logo

Entdinglichung
Dec 4 2012 14:27
georgestapleton wrote:

1. Yeah but the difference is that the MG was (at least according to Angelus) big, where as the sparts have always been tiny.

several thousands vs. ~ 100 ... but a Spart has a 24 hours day while an MG member spends a few hours daily in pub, is studying sciences at Uni or works somewhere

georgestapleton
Dec 4 2012 15:21

That is a kickass logo. And you've just explained three times over why MG > Sparts.