‘Autonomous antifa’ yesterday, ‘criticism and practice’ today

Declaration concerning the new form and content of a radical left group in [f]rankfurt (Germany)

Oh (…) who am I, really,
I am a pig on a raft,
On a raft on the tides of time,
A symbol of transience,
A point in space, a nothing in existence,
Was there ever a tide, a raft, a pig?

(Robert Gernhardt)

Things can happen quickly. Barely ten years old and now this: after more than a decade of country-wide political work as ‘autonomous antifa [f]’, we are beginning a new chapter. That means a new name and a new concept. As ‘kritik & praxis – radikale linke [f]rankfurt’ (critique & praxis – radical left [f]rankfurt), we’re going to continue trying to develop a full-blown anti-national critique of capitalism and to make this practical on local, national and international levels, yet with a clearer focus and a new working structure. The decision is the result of several months’ worth of discussions. This is the official statement on the outcome of those discussions, the causes and consequences of which we want to make transparent.

Contrary to rumours, suspicions and premature reports of success, this was and is not a case of disintegration, but a much-discussed attempt to move the group collectively towards a new identity and new aspirations. Unfortunately, it is almost inevitable that the result of such a process will not be attractive to everyone; indeed, it has been nerve-wracking for all involved. Nevertheless, we are optimistic that the outcome will be positive for all radical left and anti-fascist collaboration in Frankfurt and beyond.
First, though, we would like to take the opportunity to thank all those without whom this group could never have lasted so long. Without infoshops or independent centres, without legal aid groups or cultural initiatives, without the voluntary work undertaken by so many people, we could not have been such a persistant pain in the neck ofthis pig system. Radical left groups exist in certain conditions, which they can’t create alone. We would also like to thank all those who were part of autonome antifa [f] for a long time and who are now working elsewhere or with other groups and associations to overcome existing conditions. Thanks for nothing, as always, to the pencil pushers at the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the police and other departments. More than ten years of spying, overestimations and meticulous reports have somehow – how shall we put it? – brought us closer together. We have not become friends, and never will be, but we’d still like to take one thing off your minds: you don’t need to worry about your jobs, there’ll soon be something else to write a report on.

Looking back

In recent years we have taken part in numerous international, national and local campaigns, organised demonstrations and conferences, and produced  – and used – thousand of posters and 1,741,212 stickers. We have always tried to combine a comprehensive criticism of the state, nation and capital with social movements. We are still committed to this aspiration. Furthermore, we believe that conditions have improved for achieving this, because we now better understand our own strategy and the aims and methods of our politics.
It was the question of ‘how’ that ultimately led to a restructuring of the group; it has been even harder recently to settle questions of political priorities, working methods and strategy or to follow several different concepts simultaneously. From that point of view, the new structure of our politics is to a certain extent an exercise in catching-up. While other, bigger Antifa groups were splitting up at the beginning of the 2000s, we were only just starting out. And we were also trying to combine various perspectives: traditional autonomous politics and post-Antifa, value criticism and leftists. From the beginning, this resulted in conflict, but it worked nevertheless and was productive for quite a long time. But now, in the current political climate, it has culminated in a feeling of a general lack of direction and of disintegration.

The reasons for this are fairly straight forward. First, the political climate in Europe, with the economic crisis and alliances such as Blockupy and Beyond Europe, and the widespread calm in Germany, has led a large part of the group to think that it is necessary to focus on anti-capitalist criticism and practice whilst also improving the social impact of radical left politics. Yet this would necessitate further development of autonomous structures and politics.
Secondly, the radical left’s situation in Frankfurt has developed positively. If, at first, we were left somewhat isolated in our attempts to build a united,responsive and public-facing radical left politics, there are now an array of radical left groups in the city that are heading in similar directions to us. This has resulted in more and more projects, which, along with us assuming more and more, have stretched the capacity of the group and of individuals.
In a situation where some group members have less time for politics than before, we have had to think about what exactly we should focus on. This isn’t really new; it’s not always easy to balance political post-Antifa work with children, leisure and a precarious income.
Unfortunately, for a long while we were unable to find an adequate answer to this threefold problem. Instead, wemade the (wrong) decision to avoid the issue of setting a strategic focus by simply carrying on as we had always done.

At the same time, we probably just got on too well to take the appropriate political steps earlier. Because, let’s face it, as important theory and long position papers may be, radical left politics is often not just determined by such purely substantive reasons – and perhaps that’s a good thing. There are worse things than a belated split. And yet, at the end of last year we reached a point where we realised that things couldn’t continue as they were.
Our new policy is, from that point of view, an attempt to regain a clearer focus and to adapt to the altered situation in Frankfurt and elsewhere.

Looking ahead

In the future we want to face the challenge of contemporary capitalism by focusing more on theoretical work on issues such as social reproduction, the critique of capitalism and everyday struggles, and by putting this into the context of transnational networks. The changes in the balance of political power in Europe can’t pass unnoticed by the radica left in Germany – of this we are certain. Neither the limitations of the local structures nor the rat race of event mobilisation are sufficient. Only transnational work for an alternative to state, nation and capital can counter the fatalistic sense of a lack of change to the existing order.
Yet, in light of the crises, conflicts and movements in recent years, there can be no more talk of a seamless and uncontested neoliberal version of. A general fear of the future has replaced the belief that everything will somehow get better under the current circumstances, at least in the long-term. Whilst presenting a bad outlook for many people, the rifts appearing in the hegemonic order should be good news for the radical left.

The question, however, is whether or not it has so far managed to emerge stronger from the impending ‘Time of the Monsters’ (Slavoj Žižek), or perhaps even to take steps in the right direction within society and together with it. At the moment, this looks rather doubtful. Because we’re lacking so much: social relevance, an adequate critique of capitalism, organisational structures, etc. The romantic retreat to last century’s politics will certainly not meet today’s needs.

For us, this means doing what is often merely said: driving forward the development of an up-to-date anti-capitalist movement. Above all, this means that criticism and practice cannot be separated. Because the issue of social intervention plays a key role in practical politics. The radical left’s task is also to criticise the bourgeois democracy and the nation state in capitalism, along with the various ideological thoughts and forms of integration that they spout every day. In order to make this criticism visible, it must be made public so as to be able to develop practical approaches within the existing order that can go beyond it. With that in mind we understand our new name to also be a description of our task. Because while one could charge the ‘interventionists’ with collaboration, the recreation of the very conditions that should be abolished  and their mistaken understanding, the practice of the ‘critics of ideology ’ all too often leads to a separation of identities. Yet the kind of criticism that can provide only an abstract ideal in place of a bad reality is no better than the practice whose aims are measured only by being pragmatically ‘feasible’ within this social order. The challenge, then, is still to combine critique and praxis and to point to the concrete manifestations of emancipatory perspectives.


Of course, in practical terms, such a criticism of society has to go hand in hand with anti-fascist engagement against reactionaries, Nazis and religious extremists of all creeds. We will continue to devote our time to such efforts, whereever they are needed. Before any Nazis get the wrong impression, we can assure you that it won’t get any easier for you in Frankfurt. At the same time though, it’s also true that the revolutionary anti-fascism didn’t lose its significance because of the crisis protests or even because of the difficulties in dealing with rising right-wing populism, but because a radical criticism of the status quo must deal with the existing order (state, economy, nation, gender relations) as a whole. Revolutionary anti-fascism was an intensification of anti-fascism to embrace anti-systemic criticism. Yet anti-fascism within the bourgeois state is no better suited to this than other left-wing subdivisions, because even if fascism can be one of the political forms of bourgeois domination, it isn’t the same thing. At the same time, Antifa work must actually be done properly. The racism of the centre-ground can, and must, be criticised and fought in the context of modern-day capitalism, even without a revolutionary notion of anti-fascism. The National Socialist Underground’s example and the continuing failure of the anti-fascist left in this context has shown us how sorely this is needed. In the future, therefore, we will focus even more on criticising everyday capitalism and its state administration, in which ad-hoc anti-Nazi work and the confrontation of other reactionaries will also play a role.


In view of our practical methods, we want to try to combine our theoretical aspirations with the need to open up practical possibilities. That means seeking more collaboration with other groups and networks, because the wider presence of anti-capitalist criticism and the fragmented nature of the radical left scene in Frankfurt, ‘frees’ us in a certain sense from claiming sole representation and overall responsibility. Above all, this is an invitation to wider and more open collaboration. In concrete terms, for us this means a united anti-national organisation (in the …ums Ganze! alliance) and participation in pan-European organisations and coordination (Blockupy and Beyond Europe), and, at the same time, a focus on social struggles in the city and an opening for continuing collaboration with groups which are not part of the alliances previously connected to us and which don’t recruit from the traditional social milieu of left-wing activism.

Let’s go

The social conditions globally and the distribution of power in this country give little cause for optimism. Yet at the same time, there is no reason why things should stay the same forever. With our new start, in the future we want to make better contribution to “overthrow all those conditions in which man is an abased, enslaved, abandoned, contemptible being” (arrest warrant). We welcome all those who share our interest in this. We ar elooking forward to standing with you on top of the ruins of the ECB.
kritik&praxis – radikale Linke [f]rankfurt, July 2014