français / english
kein mensch ist illegal
Personne n'est illégal
kein mensch ist illegal
noone is illegal

Networking and Socializing

Presentation of the campaign for the
Art of campaigning show
at next five minutes conference in amsterdam

« SOCIAL DEATH » is how researchers characterize the specific system of exclusion, which differentiates racist opression from other types of opression such as class rule or sexism. Nowadays the illegal alien is the surely the figure, which represents the highest grade of social death in the public discourse. Every one knows, if he or she knows nothing else, that illegal aliens are rejected from any official social network and even excluded from the right to have rights at all.

The campaign "no one is illegal" was started as a counter network, to support people without papers. On one hand the campaign was quite successfull in setting up an – in the best sense of the word -- offline network, a network of castles in order to offer, what the society denies: juridical advice, medical help, flats, border crossings and a lot of other kinds of support.

On the other hand, surviving in illegality and if it is only for one day, requires a network, which is usually based on the urban community of relatives, comrades or compatriots. Of course, such community work has to be done in clandestinity. The campaigns aim is neither to remain in charity or compassion nor to substitute any kind of self-organisation, but to work as an interface to different forms of the dissolving public space. So we consider ourselves not as spokesmen, speaking or representanting somebody else, but we try to link and connect: a local refugee council and internet service providers, medicins and illegalized migrants, pop bands and antifascist groups, media activists and professional artists, parts of the radical left and church sanctuary movement, and last not least: migrants and refugees from different countries of origin, people with and without papers.

For a common struggle a kick of some provocation seems to be necesssary: For instance "no one is illegal" calls publically for a range of infrictions, which are these days associated only with so called "organised crime". In juridical terms it is called "assistance for illegal entry" and "illegal stay" and such assistance is nowadays even harder punished than the illegal entry itself. In opposite to the law we approve it as providing free access for all and for us this is a matter of course and it is a matter of concern for all.

The migration issue is actually under the fire of the wildest re-interpretations, shifting significances and tactical manoeuvres. Globalisation and the contradictions of late capitalism, the end of the bi-polar world order and the slow death of nation-state, the crisis of labour and the greed for over-exploitation aren't theoretical questions, but become more than concrete. Cross the border and you will see, that everything else becomes a question of tactics.

Since the change of german constitution in 1993 antiracist politics have become a permanent urgent action and the political impact was more and more reduced on the scandalizing individual cases. At the very beginning the "no one is illegal" campaign was an act of liberation and re-occupation of political territory with practical and ethical, but also some esthetical and theoretical consequences.

In opposite to the traditional NGO’s working on the migration topic the campaign has no desire to set up any apparatus or official structure. There is no single programmatic phrase, besides the appeal "no one is illegal", we published on our first conference at Hybrid Workspace in june 97. Meanwhile it is just the slogan, that has become so well known, that it speaks for itself, or better: the people, who speak for themselves.

  • Primacy of Practice
  • All groups, which sympathisize with that attitude can use the fictive identity (FI) of the campaign. This means that any representative effort or classic public relations strategy is quite obsolete and dissapears in the background. It is replaced by the glamour of discrete and direct actions, the charme of unexspected collaborations and yet unfullfilled dreams.

    One example is the history of the logo of the campaign, which suddenly appeared, as a spin-off from working on the first websites. But there is no original, just hundreds of versions made by different text editors or dtp-programs, font faces, font colors and sizes. Or the first video, we made in Hybrid Workspace at documentaX: while everybody exspected a serious documentation about the complicated subject, by random we collected tv-pictures, copied and pasted sequences from tapes, the people brought to us, added some self-made video-material, sampled and looped all that in a quite fast rhythm – breaked only by the slogans "cross the border" and "no one is illegal".

    Till today we published three newspapers with more than hundred thousand copies, we set up two mailing lists and hundreds of websites, printed t-shirts, thousands of stickers and leaflets, produced hours of radio-program and about a dozen of video-tapes. In 1999 three books related to the campaigns’ topics will be published, and in the end of this year the german-french tv-station arte will broadcast a theme-evening called "no one is illegal/des papiers pour tous", which is completely produced by media-activists from of the campaigns context – in collaboration with sans papiers activists.

    Looking back, we can say: The „no one is illegal" campaign rests at least on three pillars
    - Grassroot credibility by dozens of local networks in every bigger city in Germany
    - Militant traditions from the seventies and eighties social movements
    - Open minded attitude and the ability to interact with and in between the fields of media and arts, popculturally correct and/or politically high-coded milieus

  • How the campaign went camping
  • One of the first ideas, we already had at Hybrid Workspace, was to organise an event directly on the borderline. The camp in summer 98 on the german-polish borderline marks an important step forward, in the sense, that the border regime itself became the target and the symbolic power of the border was attacked by a ten-days long serie of as symbolic as souvereign actions by some hundreds of people.

    One of the initial considerations during the preparations were the following: if the border doesn't work because of the barbed wire and fences, but rather because of the local population's acceptance of the border (also known as readiness to denuncounce), which has been elaborately built up, then the border can only be undermined by denouncing the readiness to denounce. Simultaneously the local groups from eastern Germany, which joined the campaign for the first time, demanded early a thorough exchange of information and a complete mediation of the campaign, the projects and their backgrounds towards the local population. That was very essential for them because it is them who have to bear the consequences of all actions. That debate ended with the unanimous decision of all participants on a so called "double strategy" of provocation and tactical education, whose core was the camp-newspaper with a circulation of 30,000 copies. Of course we also made some experiences with new media, such as a small pirate radio station or websites, but we’re afraid our main audience was the hundred of policemen hanging around in the area.

    Nevertheless the extent to which the old and worn out notion of "symbolic policy" was used in new ways is astonishing: exemplary events such as the opening of new border crossings - an act which is normally persecuted and punished, but had the effect that we won the desired contest of strength with the executive forces in Goerlitz - were a great success. Similarly successful events were e.g. the triumphant finish of the "noone is illegal"-team during the second stage of the professional cyclists’ tour through Saxony. Monumental events like the 50 hours long rave revealed an extent of openness for developments in the youth culture, that is not yet very common in political circles and certainly had an impact. Also the great final regatta on the river Neisse was a surprise for everybody. Especially for the police forces, which were prepared for an operation in Goerlitz and had arrived hastily with helicopters, but couldn't prevent the occupation of the border river by people swimming, by people in boats and with banners and by curious onlookers.

    We are confident that those promising beginnings can be elaborated the next year and in a new environment, especially if more people and groups will get familiar with the local environments and situation already before the start of the next camp and arrive with own ideas and the equipment necessary for these ideas. Nevertheless, the border remains an imaginary place, which we can and must analyse and criticise, occupy and attack and a place that reveals its brutality only in incidents like that in Freiberg on early Thursday morning, when a van with 27 passengers, all refugees from the Kosovo, was chased by the federal border patrol and crashed into a wall. Seven passengers died, many were seriously injured. That is the shocking, but the normal reality along the border. The camp decided immediately to demonstrate in Freiberg, which is 80 km away from Goerlitz; delegates contacted those who had survived to try to clear up the accident's course of events. This support was succesful, the deportation of most of the survivers was prevented.

    The camp99 will take place at the border between the Czech Republic and Saxony. That location was chosen because of the ever more critical situation there. Simultaneously with the camp 99 a twin camp is planned to take place at the US-Mexican border in California. It will be organised by Mexican groups and the solidarity networks in the US. There might be even more camps in Austria and Belgium and actions on the coast of Mediterranean sea. We hope that this international expansion is going to evoke a wider mobilisation within the bounds of the campaign "noone is illegal" and among other related circle and groups.

    The 99 camps slogan is "Hacking the borderline" and it will be made true by an unpredictable mix of the interventions by media task forces and real-life-militants. We invite all mobile radio- and camcorder-activists, tactical webmasters, communication guerilleros, cultural terrorists, soundsystems, dj's, musicians and artists to the camp and call for contributions from now on.

    On sunday we offer a workshop called <border=0> at De Balie. The aim of this workshop is to meet with those who are interested in partcipation, in any activity or action at the 99 camps, with those who would like to organise their own camp or already worked out ideas. Our proposual is a worldwide action weekend or week against borders in next august and it would be great, if this conference might have been the initial or base camp.

    -------------cross the border--
    --ueber die grenze ------------
    --phone: ++49/89/172/8910825---
    -----mar 12-14 n5m3 amsterdam--
    -mar 26-28 conference munich---
    ---aug 7-15 camp borderline----