High-Tech Repression And "Left Extremist Database" In Europe
From Civic Critic
A process of ongoing high-level cooperation between European governments following the G20 in Hamburg this time last year has led to the creation of a "black bloc task force," as well as what appears to be a Europe-wide digital database of so-called "left wing extremists" based on a dubious and toxic ideological framework, according to a series of articles, activist commentary, and government documents.
Over the past few months, a huge number of activists from Switzerland, Denmark, Greece, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Belgium, Austria, France and Germany have been arrested by police in conjunction with the G20 protests. The raids in Italy, Spain, France and Switzerland were conducted by a "black bloc task force," according to DW.
The black bloc task force, DW says, has been "combing through terabytes of police footage, CCTV recordings, and private videos with the help of facial recognition software and geolocation data." It has been disclosed also that police infiltrated many of the G20 protest groups with informants. Meanwhile, police in France (the CRS) have discussed experimentation with "chemical, invisible, and remote markers" of "antifas or other black blocks known for their violence."
The task force is part of an investigative commission in Germany and is supported by police from multiple countries, as well as Eurojust, a European-wide agency.
While the recent arrests have garnered the attention of many on the European left, the creation of a database of "extreme left" individuals and data was in fact proposed directly after the summit, as well as well beforehand.
In 2001, just a month before the Genoa G8, member states agreed to pursue "violent troublemakers," and collect data on those "notoriously known to the police," while in 2007, Wolfgang Shauble demanded the pursuit of "Euro Anarchists." Ministries of police told their officers to act "internationally and conspiratorially" in tracking and infiltrating "Euro-Anarchists" and "left extremists," while claiming that the "anarcho-scene" was highly internationalised, with cooperation with leftists from the United Kingdom to Greece. Ahead of the G20, it was announced that robots would be installed to crawl through the sewers, without explanation of their function.
While these prior declarations could be seen by some as flashes in the pan (although the British spycops experience sheds doubt on this), calls made after the G20 last year appear to have developed into action at a frightening speed.
On the final day of the protests, then-minister for justice Heiko Maas expressed in BILD, an extreme-right Atlanticist tabloid, the need for "a European-wide database of left-wing extremists" to stop them from crossing the borders. Since that date, BILD itself has seemingly played an important role in this process, asking readers to identify and reveal protestors, and releasing their photos to the police. In addition, at least two G20 activists have been included in the SIS II Schengen blocking system.
In a Wall Street Journal article written a few days following the summit, it was disclosed that Mass had written a letter to fellow justice ministers, saying, among other things, that "many photos and video recordings are currently getting assessed to identify the perpetrators....we must stop this brutal riot tourism in Europe."
In the following election that fall, the manifesto of the CDU/CSU included calls for "the storage and recovery of [internet] traffic data," and wanted sympathy for "associations" to become a criminal offence. Under the new Bavarian police law, German states will receive "intelligent" video technology and facial recognition services.
In the German prisons, ecologist activists have been threatened with physical violence by security forces and demands that they reveal which European capitals they have been to and who, including anarchists, they knew in each of them.
It appears that the database was given a trial run in Hungary during the election period, where authorities set up a CCTV system preloaded with biometric data for wanted anarchists.
Aside from the obvious reason that constitutional rights are a dead letter in all "western democracies," it is worth considering the state's official rationale for imposing such drastic repression on what amount to political ideologies (anarchism, communism, etc).
The Federal Republic of Germany, has, since reunification, adopted "extremism theory" as what amounts to an official ideology, to the point where the "protection of the constitution" requires annual reports on parties, organisations, social movements, media, and ideas of the "extremes."
The cornerstone of this theory is a belief (put more accurately, an assumption held with the intensity of faith) that there is a democratic, liberal centre, and that anything outside of this is extreme, unconstitutional, and criminal. Crucially, and most ominously, it is held that communism and anarchism - essentially, any fundamental critiques of capitalism - are placed on the same level of historical and ideological condemnation as Nazism and other forms of fascism. An Indymedia post summed it up by saying that "extremism theory is designed to isolate left-wing people and groups so they can no longer influence society." This means the confiscation of Indymedia servers and the closing down of left-wing squats like the Rote Flora, called for in the CDU/CSU electoral platform.
Making an equivalence between elements of the far left and Nazism is a perspective with unsavoury historical roots. For starters, it has long been held by apologists for the Third Reich, which have in recent years been given increasing power in German and Western universities, that Nazism was an "equal and opposite" desperate reaction to Bolshevik-style socialism, and that the two ideologies are "totalitarian twins." This view, thrown into prominence initially by discredited historian Ernst Nolte, has since been picked up by historians such as Anne Applebaum and Timothy Snyder, after being polished to look half-respectable by François Furet and Bernard Henri-Levy, both writers who have served as intellectual inspirations for Emmanuel Macron.
Similar arguments conflating and equivalating far-right and far-left in the name of "liberal democracy" were also put forward in the 1950s by Cold War Liberals often funded by the CIA's Congress for Cultural Freedom. These figures, vehement opponents of communism but also anarchism and "left radicalism," later went on to form the intellectual basis of neoconservatism.
All of this is weaponised to justify a situation where the far-right Alternative For Germany, unlike left-wing websites and groups like Linksunten Indymedia and the KPD, is allowed to operate and influence the SPD and CSU into implementing blatantly sinister detention camps for the processing of refugees. Combined with the "left extremist database," this effectively means that Germany's state-defined "extremism" theory has been adopted by all European states de facto.
Meanwhile, surveillance and tracking of protestors and activists is set to intensify. Poland will target the personal data of all environmental advocates, even NGOs via a new law implemented for the COP24 summit. Corporations are developing smart walls to detect movement and spray-paint, as well as furthering the rollout of software designed to detect, track and report "troublemakers." At a certain point, one may begin to wonder whether they live in democratic Europe, authoritarian China, or Suzanne Collin's Panem.