We want Vacation Communism without apartheid

The Fusion Festival opens on Wednesday. After criticism, the organizers of this left-wing party have had to speak out against genocide

Site of the Fusion Festival 2019
Site of the Fusion Festival 2019

When the Fusion Festival starts next Wednesday, 70.000 people will gather at a former Soviet air force base two hours north of Berlin. I haven't been for a few years (because, y'know), but I still love the place. Tickets are far cheaper than commercial festivals, but everyone had to participate in a lottery six months ago, as demand is so high for »vacation communism«.

Since 1997, the abandoned hangers have hosted music, dancing, and art – and since this is the Left, there has been no end of criticism. Too white, too hetero, and cultural appropriation. As »nd« reported last year, there was even a strike by festival workers. Some call the gathering in Lärz an apolitical, drug-fueled »Soliparty« for the subcultural Left. Fusion does try to be a political space, with lefty workshops, international guests, and even a stage known as Arab Underground.

Red Flag

Red Flag is a column on Berlin politics by Nathaniel Flakin. It appeared in Exberliner magazine from 2020 to 2023 and found a new home at the Berlin newspaper nd – as their first content in English. If you like a regular dose of very local communist content, please share. Nathaniel is also the author of the anticapitalist guide book Revolutionary Berlin.

Diesen Text auf Deutsch lesen.

In February, the organizers – known as Kulturkosmos or just the Central Committee – put out a newsletter dedicated entirely to the war in Gaza. They defined two »red lines« for anyone who wanted to party with them: There would be no »glorification of Hamas« and »we expect, with all solidarity for the Palestinian cause, Israel's right to exist to be indisputable.« This is in line with the pro-Israel positions held by virtually all German institutions.

As international artists and intellectuals have been uninvited from events, Germany's cultural scene is becoming increasingly isolated – was Fusion also getting sucked into this German bubble? Pro-Palestinian groups called for boycotts – and surprisingly, these were effective. Lots of Fusionistas come from abroad, after all.

In May, Kulturkosmos published a »follow up« to their previous statement, trying to free themselves »from our German perspective«: »Many missed a third red line, which names the war in Gaza as ›genocide‹ and the Israeli occupation policy as ›apartheid‹ with a clear demarcation against all those who support, negate or trivialise this. Here we have indeed demarcated one-sided.«

Fusion says it aims to create a »space in which Jews, Muslims, Palestinians and Israelis can feel as safe and welcome as possible.« This highlights the main contradiction of the German Zeitgeist: While politicians claim that their aim is »protecting Jews«, they have actually launched a totally unprecedented wave of censorship and repression against Jewish academics, artists, and activists, who are vastly overrepresented in the pro-Palestine movement.

The »taz«, a formerly left-wing newspaper, fears the Fusion Festival will be damaged by the »authoritarian tendencies of a new generation«. Indeed, as we've watched history's first live-streamed genocide on social media, anti-imperialist sentiment has spread among the world's youth, especially in the Anglophone countries. It's not just young people, though: Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, have all determined that Israel is practicing apartheid. The German state, with its history of multiple genocides, claims to know better than many others in the world – and a section of the German Left is aligning with their government.

This »taz« author wonders: »Can any other state's right to exist be debated, except for the Jewish one?« Well. Leftists generally question the right of every capitalist state to exist. In the past, the »taz« itself has written in support of the armed struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa or the dictatorship in El Salvador and questioned the »right to exist« of these states. They supported anti-colonial movements such as the ANC, which has always been pro-Palestinian, and collected over four million German marks in their »Arms for El Salvador« fundraising campaign.

Many older German former leftists are baffled by young people defending the same positions they held in their youth. »The propagandists in Moscow and Beijing, who have long been creating chaos with disinformation about the Gaza war, are patting themselves on the back«, writes the »taz« author. With this conspiratorial and nationalistic thinking he sounds like an AfD politician, griping about those crazy kids with their postcolonial studies and their TikTok.

German »Solidarity with Israel« is often just a liberal veneer for very traditional racism. Fusion looked like it was sliding in this direction – and with the help of some international comrades, pulled back from this German consensus. Good. If I didn't have a small child, and I had a ticket, I would be there with my keffiyeh.

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