Germany: Neonazi march in Dresden stopped by mass antifascist activity

On February 13 German neo-Nazis tried to exploit the commemoration of the death of 25,000 civilians in Dresden during heavy Allied carpet bombing. However, the reaction of German workers, youth, trade unionists, left activists was swift and massive. Huge numbers turned out and with skilful use of modern communication techniques thwarted the attempt of the fascists to march through the town, in spite of the clear unwillingness of the police to do anything serious to stop them.

Introduction by Hans-Gerd Öfinger

German Nazis can be stopped. This is the clear message of the events on Saturday, (February 13) in the Saxon capital of Dresden where a well coordinated national intervention by antifascist and left wing groups, the Left Party (DIE LINKE) including many MPs, trade unionists, left Social Democrats and others managed to mobilise a decisive number of activists to block the roads and prevent the Fascists from marching through the city. Given the determination and stamina of the anti-fascists and the endeavour of the state apparatus and the ruling class to avoid worldwide TV and media coverage presenting Dresden as a Nazi stronghold, the heavily armed riot police forces that were mobilised in big numbers from all over Germany refrained from using teargas and water cannons against the antifascist blockages.

Unlike in previous years, this year's mobilisation was a success for the anti-fascists and Left which was not highlighted in many bourgeois media who just hammered home that there were "left and right-wing extremists" trying to smash each other, separated only by the police. Out of sheer frustration, some 400 demoralised fascist thugs travelled to the nearby town of Pirna on the same evening, rioting in the local town centre and smashing the door and windows of the local SPD office. Fascist websites reveal that many of their activists are pretty frustrated and a debate about future tactics has started where sharp differences between "legalists" and more violent thugs have come to the surface.

After the success in Dresden, however, there is no room for complacency and sitting back, hoping that the police will always defend us. The fact that some of those fascists will now resort to blind terror against the left and some will try to utilise the capitalist crisis and play the "anti-capitalist", "socialist" card is a warning for the left and the labour movement as a whole. Especially DIE LINKE has an enormous responsibility to offer a clear internationalist alternative to capitalism and a full-fledged socialist programme.

Read the following report on the events in Dresden by Walter Held from Germany.


Dresden: Neonazi march stopped by antifascist barricades

By Walter Held

The Germans have repeated the experience of the Iranian demonstrators in exploiting fully the possibilities offered by the new media and communications channels including Twitter, Facebook, Google Maps, smart mobile phones and laptops.

It was heralded as the biggest show of neo-Nazi strength to date. On the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden by British bombers in 1945, Germany's neo-Nazi groups have tried to hijack the commemoration of the death of the 25,000 victims by staging their own extreme right-wing march through the centre of the Saxon city.

There is a fraction of the NPD in the Saxon regional parliament and the party has distinguished itself by refusing to join in official commemorations and by walking out of the building. One veteran NPD MP was even found to have a weapon in his office. But the extreme right scene is shifting to more localised grouplets of "autonomous nationalists" who wear black hooded jackets.

Part of the antifascist demonstration. Photo by realname on flickr.Part of the antifascist demonstration. Photo by realname on flickr. The organisers of the right-wing march - the Verein Junge Landsmannschaft Ostdeutschland - proclaimed that 8,000 neo-Nazis from across Europe would attend. All the other political parties and public bodies set about organising a defensive chain of democratic protestors, ringing the old city centre. In spite of a ban on counterdemonstrations marching against the Nazis, the autonomous youth groups joined a united front called "Nazifrei - Dresden stellt sich quer" (Free from Nazis - Dresden blocks their path") decided on courageous direct action. Before the trains carrying the Nazis could reach the stations, railway lines between the two main Dresden railway stations were blocked by barricades by the left. Sit-down barricades of up to 2,000 people blocked strategic roads into the city. Trade union youth from Thuringia arrived in strength. Thousands of police were mobilised and promised not to act against the left provided there was no stone-throwing, which was generally respected by the left. Police stopped and turned back out-of-town vehicles heading for the demo.

In the event, between 1500 and 4000 autonomous nationalists were able to march some distance after police broke up a left barricade on the Dammweg. Meanwhile 10,000 local citizens were able to close their defensive ring, two or three deep. Left blockades on the Hansastrasse and Albert Square held and the Nazis broke up into smaller groups, taking other routes and beating up passersby.

The organisers used Twitter to organise and reorganise counter measures, reporting on developments, sending activists to particular points to occupy and block roads. Television stations ignored the events except for short snippets showing the established politicians. Bizarrely the regional TV broadcast scenes from a carnival procession in a nearby town.

By 3pm, the Nazis appealed to the police to clear a path for their march but this was refused at first; they abandoned their initial route for an organised march owing to the determined strength of the opposition. An alternative route was allowed by the police but immediately reported via Twitter minute by minute to the activists giving the exact street names where the Nazis would pass through and appeals were sent out to block that new route with links to Google Maps showing the precise road junctions which needed to be blocked off. Participants sent video reports via their mobile phones with links back to Twitter. The antifascists eavesdropped on the Nazi-Twitter pages to learn of their plans and reactions. Rumours flew back and forth that the police had mobilised heavy anti-riot vehicles, water cannon, etc., in the Hansastrasse in the event of a direct clash of both sides. The police announced that the Nazis would be allowed to hold a short march in the 30 minutes remaining of their allotted time. The other hour and a half were taken up by avoiding barricades. The flood of Twitter tweets with updates comes in faster than you could read them. A police baton charge failed to open a human barricade for this final attempt to march. The Nazis stood in the freezing cold chanting "We want to march!" The police told them the road was not clear, “you cannot march”. A burning barricade was extinguished by water cannon. They threatened to attack a left-wing local radio station later that evening. Antifascists were warned not to walk alone in the streets. The police escorted the demoralised Nazis back to their busses so they could leave. The Nazis were trapped at the railway station. Dresdner Neustadt attacked the police with lumps of ice, bottles and fireworks. Special police commandos from Saxony arrived with baseball clubs and helmets. The Nazi demo was declared finished punctually at 5pm. A complete fiasco! The lesson: Direct action, not polite vigils stopped the Nazis in their tracks.