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international bordercamp strasbourg

Camping with the multitude - a Strasbourg evaluation

We went to the No-Border-camp this year, we're not sure if will go there next year...

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16.Sep.02 - This text is from a larger group of people from Tuebingen. We are mainly active in anti-racist groups, and in groups, which understand themselves as part of the (anti-)globalisation-movements. Most of us have been at the Camp for the whole time , some only for a few days, and some left earlier, because they "could not stand it any longer". Migrants, who have been with us on a No-Border-camp for the first time, typically enough also left earlier ...

We have not been involved in the preparation of the Strasbourg camp and we know only partly and indirect of the discussions in the preparation process.

We think it is important that the different experiences of this camp are written down to be learned from for the future (for similar camps, but also for radical political social movements in general). That's why beneath general comments also concrete suggestions are made what, in our opinion, should be done differently in the future. It is hard to describe and write down all the impressions and experiences made and to draw accurate conclusions from it. We will try this on several topics and hope that other groups and persons also spread their experiences so that we succeed in having a detailed, continuative evaluation of the camp. [1]

With the following text, we don't want to arise the impression, that the camp has been a failure, even if we mainly describe the negative incidents, structures, missed chances,...

General result

We see it as a success, that the camp as such took place:

More than 2000 people from different countries; a large variety of political forms of expressions and theoretical approaches; many interesting meetings; important ideas for the own political work; getting to know other people and groups,...
In the ideal case from the fusion of different approaches on the Camp something new could have directly developed, but the time was probably too short. It cannot be said here and know, how the camp will take effect in the future (except the dealing with the experienced repression...).

During a meeting about information theory a woman has spoken of the fact that the Camp represents a kind of "big archive". In this sense the Camp in Strasbourg has shown in a rudimentary way, what it means when the anti-globalisation movement is called 'diffuse/heterogeneous', with all its strengths and weaknesses, risks and chances.

The negative aspects of this 'diffusity' have shown up very concretely in parts of the camp-structure, during some discussions and especially in the actions. What has appeared in detail (sexism and how it was dealt with; patriarchal attitude; racism; antisemitic resentiments;...) partly in an open or subliminal way, has urgently to be analysed, discussed and debated. The camp has made clear where in and between the groups and movements discussions have to be hold about interaction, about political contents, about tactics and strategies (still, again and again, finally !). Overall this 'diffusity' has led to a lack of concepts, growing from day to day, which became problematic. We are glad that this did not result in more severe incidents, contrary to our presumptions (for instance: real attack on the synagogue; attack of police/eviction of the camp; actions, that would have complicated the future work of the local groups; worse sexist, homophobic or racist incidents/attacks)

'Basic orientation' of the camp

If the claim and the goal of the camp would have been (more) clear before, some discussions would not have to be held, and some misunderstandings would have been avoided.
There has been a lack of an explicit concept - for some people the camp has been like a summer-university, for others it has been an action camp, for some it has been an autonomous holiday camp and for others a big social experiment.
However it has been all this and many more (it is in fact impossible to separate between all this aspects), but a better communication about this 'basic orientation' would have prevented some problems or at least the camp would have functioned more easily.
The attitudes and approaches were already very different in parts (self-organisation-hardliner; refusal to work with corporate media; Bertha-concept; dealing with sexism, racism;...), and were hardly to understand in the beginning. The results were many discussions and work (organising toilets, organising press coverage, Bertha-structure, contact point for victims of sexist, racist, homophobic,... assaults). Together with the actions and the events which were starting at the same time (and the dynamics of repression following immediately), this has forced at least us to concentrate on certain issues. That's why, in the beginning, we have built toilets and have taken part in the discussion about Bertha and internal security, so we have taken care about the infrastructure of the camp, which has cost us very much time and energy, instead of planning and making actions or participating in more of the other events. Maybe it would have been better to build up a working camp-infrastructure together first and afterwards start actions step-by-step (see more about actions below).

Organisation of the camp and infrastructure

The infrastructure was not sustainable at the beginning of the camp (this is not meant as a charge against the group who prepared the camp). Much work had to be done to get Bertha/camp-protection, toilets, (people helping at the) kitchens, information-structure (flow of information, press-group) working. Actually we have the impression, that mainly several persons and groups have taken care of those 'reproductive work', while others have prefered to start actions or take part at events immediately. Correlated to this, and also considering contentwise and strategic concerns, we have seen again that already existing affinity-groups could do tasks faster and more simply.
The location of the collective structures (radio, indymedia, info tent,...) at the entrance of the camp at a larger distance to the barrios has led, in our perception to a separation between the rest of the camp and those structures, strengthened institutionalisation, promoted an attitude of consumption and had a negative affect on the communication between all structures.


The fragmentation of the whole camp into Barrios has made sense, but the structures and ways of thinking have been too much orientated at the smaller camps in the past: altogether the camp was like a village or a small town, that works in a different way (considering communication and information flow). For such a size a better structure and a clear concept is necessary and a different approach of all participants (more self-reflection about internal dynamics,...).
The Barrio-plenary usually have been too long and strenuous, and we also have had the impression that many people did not participate in the Barrio-plenary.
Maybe the people have been deterred of the fatiguing Barrio-plenary, but obviously some people have not been interested in participating in internal structures and discussions. On the one hand we have seen a certain attitude of consumption, which could have been handled by increasing liability, on the other hand other methods of discussion could be helpful to counteract negative effects of large plenaries. [2] The outsourcing of several topics (toilets) has helped to relieve the Barrio-plenary. It was then possible to have discussions about contents instead of talking about infrastructure the whole time.

Towards the end of the camp we have had the impression that the entire structure has increasingly dissolved into more or less informal groups. Very soon, we ourselves have defined us as a bigger affinity/city-group and have sent delegates to our Barrio-plenary. This has been an enormous gain of time for us, on the other hand this has strengthened the general impression that not very many people participate in the Barrio-plenary, and the development of informal structures.

General assembly

It has been very necessary, that the general assembly was held on Thursday. For the first time it has been possible for many people to experience and express feelings and attitudes of other people in such a scope. Although this meeting has been long, it has shown the importance of this form of information interchange.
This is the reason why we consider such general assemblies as a central structure, not to make decisions, but to exchange information, to disprove rumours, to get an impression of a 'common mood', and also to overcome anonymity. For the future we suggest to schedule such general assemblies, for example like on the camp in Frankfurt: at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the camp - or at least a general assembly has to be held when it is necessary. But for this a good sound-system, facilitation and translation (translation corners) is essentially important!

Generally we think, that for camps in the future more time has to be spend building up internal structures together, until they work well, before starting with actions. This could also counteract separation into 'reproductive work' and activism. Also more liability of several people and groups, who are willing to do needed tasks (building toilets, establish contact points) is necessary.

Information flow and communication on the camp

There have been too many rumours, insufficient agreements and not enough precise information. We have made the experience that the different information boards (info-tent, action-tent, barrio-info-tents) have been rather confusing than leading to transparency, because it was often not obvious were to get which information. A single large and well organised info-board at the middle of the camp, with enough space to write down all information of meetings, events and actions, would have been better than many small info-boards.
On the other hand the question remains, whether with such size of a camp a central info-board is still sufficient, or whether other forms of distributing information are necessary. This has happened sometimes, when events have been announced on the whole camp using a sound-system. Seeing the camp as a village/small town, instead of a camp in the previous sense, other forms of distributing information should be considered, like the demonstration of the kitchens or the posters and banners against sexism and patriarchy have shown. It is also possible and it makes sense to hand out flyers on the camp (which would have also been a good possibility to enforce camp-internal discussions or to bring up topics to a wider public, considering political differences).
Like this it would have also been more transparent, who calls for an action, instead of only getting the meeting point from an info-wall, without knowing the state of the preparation or having a person/ group to contact.

Bertha/Camp-protection - contact point

The tasks of Bertha were too widespread and inadequate. We were surprised to see the discussions about 'inner security' suddenly appear in our 'scene', in the sense of mediation of internal conflicts and the observation of the conditions on the camp being tasks for Bertha besides protecting the camp from external charges.
For the future we demand a clear separation of camp-protection (day/night-watch) and a contact-point for sexist, homophobic, racist and other incidents/ assaults on the other side [3]. Everybody should feel responsible for 'adequate behaviour and tidiness' on the camp.


We think actions have started too early (see above) and a strategic overall-concept was missing. The internal communication structures have in the beginning not been ready to prepare, perform and evaluate actions well enough, and to deal with the consequences (repression) accordingly. There was no framework in which the autonomy of actions could have been transformed in a meaningful way; often the exact targets of the action have not been clear, different persons have had different goals, have tried to reach them with different means, and all this has lacked explanation to the inside and outside of the camp. Repeatedly we have had the impression of blind activism and pure identity-politics (pretended 'black bloc'). The interests and the choice of action of the local groups and of refugees/migrants have not been regarded accordingly, there has been too much 'proxy politics'. The situation of the refugees/sans-papiers has been disregarded in a very irresponsible way.
The existing potential of creative, various but also militant and confrontative forms of actions and the possibilities that could have been resulted, has been wasted. Instead of making 'nice and multicolored' actions at the end to catch the loss of positive image, manifold, creative and easy explainable and little confrontative actions should have taken place at the beginning, followed by a powerful demonstration at the end of the camp.

A well explainable point of confrontation has been missing. The SIS should have been the main target, before with other badly prepared and badly elaborated actions the scope of action would have been limited.

The demonstrations on Monday and Wednesday have been badly prepared/ prepared in a very short time, clearly defined responsibilities and arrangements about route, speeches, targets, possible actions during the demonstration have been missing. The demo on Tuesday has seemed to be prepared better.
While during the first days it has still been possible to set own priorities, after the demonstration on Wednesday it was only possible to repair the damaged image of the camp.

The demonstration on Wednesday has been the worst impact of the lack of concepts, preparation and communication: without a clear target and concept, no clear route, no explanation of contents, dominated by a larger group of spray-painting people and a small, but optically very dominant 'black bloc' without any arrangements about the concept of the demonstration... At random all buildings have been spray-painted, later windows and signs have been destroyed. Thanks to some people from the demonstration, the synagogue has not been spray-painted, but we wonder why the demonstration passed the synagogue (only residential areas afterwards).


We are glad that a group of people has taken care of media-work at the second half of the week. We think, it is politically wrong to have such a weak and dogmatic media-work as in the beginning ('we do not talk with corporate media'). Which is also irresponsible, as offensive media-work can serve as a certain kind of protection. A protection mainly for the migrants, sans-papiers and children on the camp ! Actually we see certain failures of the preparation-group in this case. In our opinion it would have been a central task not only to rely on 'our media', but also to establish contact to the 'corporate media' before the camp started.

External political effects

Regarding the media up to now, the camp has been a failure. Especially compared to the Frankfurt-camp of 2001, where it has been possible to put Frankfurt deportation airport into the German media, we have not succeeded in establishing for example the SIS as such a central topic. This has been on the one hand caused by the not existing strategy of action, but on the other hand as well by the media-work missing in the beginning. During the actions we have seen all kinds of reactions from the (Strasbourg)-people, from complete misunderstanding (demonstration on Wednesday) up to sympathy (bridge-action on Friday, samba in the city on Saturday)...

The distribution of camp-newspapers on the no-border-camps in Frankfurt and East-Germany has been a good possibility to get in contact with the population and to explain (on a small degree) our opinions and reasons for the camp. In Strasbourg such an explanation of the reasons for our presence and of our 'demands' has not been made. At the samba-action on Saturday many people have been interested in the multilingual flyers handed out there.


The connection of the globalisation-movement and the antiracist-movement has only shown productive 'results' inside the camp, but not on the outside, on a larger scale. The 'black block'-fraction of the globalisation-movement and the antiracist-movement did not come to a meaningful synthesis of their forms of political expression, which has been fatal due to the fact that many migrants with none or an insecure residential permit status have participated in the actions. 'Freedom of movement' has been adopted as a new motto by the globalisation-movement, but doesn't seem more than another new slogan. We do not see the smashing of windows at Accor as a sign for a common practice of antiracist- and globalisation-movement.

In the future at such big international action-camps, more care should be taken of the different left cultures, forms of action, states of discussion, behaviours. Internally, more has to be transfered, discussed and developed. If this will happen we see a perspective for other camps like this. If not we would prefer a more manageable camp for our next summer-holiday...

Tuebinger Zeltplatzbande at the end of August 2002


[1] See also: el desaparecido: After Strasbourg - Before Leiden; discussions on about Soviet flag, Jungle World article...; text from the no border plenum Freiburg: 'Zu den Vorfällen an der Synagoge in Strassburg am 24.7.2002'; Text from Volxtheaterkarawane regarding the incident at the synagogue; camp-evaluation from the Autonoom Centrum Amsterdam;... [back]

[2] One idea is a facilitators-training for facilitators supporting the barrio-plenaries.Another idea is experimenting with other forms of discussion-methods. On the crossover-camp in Cottbus, Germany the fishbowl-technique was used, with some delegates sitting in a circle in the middle surrounded by their reference-groups. Like this it is possible for the delegates to interact with their group at every time, but in the inner circle manageable discussions can be held. [back]

[3] Contact-point: contact-point and - persons who take care of the victims of assaults/ attacks and with their agreement make such cases public; in the case of a publicly made incident the whole camp has to deal with it. [back]