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Academic Freedom Dies Not With a Bang, But a Whimper

Interview with Lola from Hands of Student Rights about a new law threatening expulsions of politically active students in Berlin


30/03/2024

Hello, thanks for talking to us. Could you briefly introduce yourself?

Of course, my name is Lola, I am a medical student, and am part of the student led movement; Hands off Student Rights: campaign against political expulsion.

Why did you set up the campaign Hands Off Students Rights?

We set up this campaign because the Berlin Senate is trying to, quite hastily, reintroduce a law in the Higher Education Act, that would allow for disciplinary expulsion. We see numerous issues with the law, such as the vague phrasing, and the way it allows for universities to act as if they were a court.

What would be the effect of the new Higher Education Act?

The effects of this law are far reaching, and I think they go beyond what we can even predict. I think that is what makes it so scary – the uncertainty and limitlessness of it all. The changes would mean someone can be subjected to a system of punishment, ultimately ending in disciplinary expulsion. Which measures are used and when will be decided by a disciplinary committee, whose composition is completely up to the university.

If they were genuinely concerned for the well-being of students, they would ensure accurate and thorough formulation of the law… The way the law is framed quite seems to cover as broad of a scope as possible, allowing it to be used arbitrarily.

Not only that, but which offences are punishable is not a legal decision but will also be decided by this committee. We believe that this law will predominately work by silencing politically active students, not necessarily by expelling them straight away, but through the fear that is instilled by the threat of expulsion. Before any protest, political action or organisation, students, especially those with student visas or from marginalised groups, will have to consider this as a possible result. That is structural violence.

Who is behind Paragraph 16 and what are they trying to do with it?

The current governing parties in the Berlin Senate, the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD) are behind this paragraph. I think their goal is mainly to depoliticise universities, and to limit and thereby control the political landscape of universities in Berlin.

Why do you think the law is being changed now?

I think it is quite reasonable to deduce that the rise in Palestine solidarity at universities over the past 6 months is the largest influence for the change happening now. I think what is also very clear, is the way the senate is trying to fast-track this during the semester break. This seems strategic, perhaps to limit opposition to the change and to excuse not involving students in this process.

I also think that this is just another symptom of the shift to the right in Germany, which in Berlin so often articulates itself as xenophobic ‘law and order’ politics. This law is another card played from the same hand.

Is the law protecting students, as the Senate claims?

No, the law as proposed by the Senate will not effectively protect students.

There are several points at which this becomes clear in the proposal. Firstly, the law is being introduced under not only the guise of protecting students, but specifically for protecting students against discrimination and violence. Strangely, the only point that CANNOT lead to expulsion, is the point on discrimination.

Secondly, the law does not define ‘violence’ or what makes up an ‘offence’. If they were genuinely concerned for the well-being of students, they would ensure accurate and thorough formulation of the law, with specific criteria that constitute ‘violence’ or ‘interruption of university proceedings’. The way the law is framed quite seems to cover as broad of a scope as possible, allowing it to be used arbitrarily.

Aside from this, this kind of law is simply unsuitable for creating a safer university environment. For example, in the case of sexual assault, where the perpetrator is a student, expulsion does not prevent them from accessing campus grounds since most all campuses are easily accessible to the public. This is particularly relevant here since perpetrators of sexualised violence are only rarely convicted and given prison time. This law fails to prioritise the safety and well-being of victims.

In fact, the law could even allow for victims of abuse to potentially be expelled, if they are charged with, say, defamation, for example for accusing staff of being inappropriate or making discriminatory comments.

The current repression of Palestine solidarity has so far met little resistance from white Germans. Is this starting to change?

I think there is a lot of fear-mongering, also from the German mass media, regarding Palestine solidarity. The average German is exposed to unwavering solidarity with Israel their whole life, so this could translate into some of the reactions that we typically see. I think as the atrocities in Gaza go on, people are finding fewer and fewer ways to justify Israel’s actions. But there is still a lot of work to be done.

What level of support has the campaign received so far?

The campaign is still quite young, but we have gotten a lot of support from local and international leftist groups. Students in Vienna are mirroring our protests, and students all over Germany are standing in solidarity.

The law was originally introduced in 1968. Do you think that we are experiencing a new radicalisation of students?

I think the shift to the right will naturally lead to an increasing radicalisation of the students. Historically, so many great movements have started on campus and as this political shift progresses, I am sure that the resistance against that will continue at universities.

There was a lobby of the Berliner Senat on 26th March. What are the next steps for the campaign?

We are a grassroots movement of students and feel that the streets are the place for us to be, so we want to keep protesting and make ourselves heard. We also want to continue with international outreach, our social media campaign, and to stay in touch with those who can speak with politicians and lobby that way.

How can non-students support your campaign?

By sharing our content, giving us platforms, informing others about this proposed change, and most importantly, taking to the streets with us.

And what can students do?

We have been hearing that a lot of students aren’t even aware of these proposed changes. So, I think spreading awareness is crucial. We also encourage students to get organised and stay united. They are trying to divide us, and we need to remember that this law could affect us all, whether we are politically active or not.

Doxing is not Journalism!

Independent activists demand journalistic integrity for Palestinians in Gaza and Berlin


29/03/2024

On March 1st, 2024, the Tagesspiegel published an article titled “Die Stimme des Israelhasses: ‘Wenn Gewalt die einzige Option ist, werden wir sie anwenden’” [The voice of Israel-hatred:“if violence is the only option, we will use it”]. In response, a group of independent activists has assembled to demand integrity in the German media.

The article in question is a clear attempt to smear two Berlin-based activists and discount the broader Palestine-solidarity movement as the actions of lone agitators. It claims that two local (PoC) activists are inciting violence and quotes out of context statements about the Palestinian right to self-defense under Israeli occupation (as is enshrined in international law) as if they were direct threats.

It pits the accused activists against “moderate activists” who do not disrupt events but act with “reason and argumentation”. It reveals that one activist has been visited by law enforcement. Instead of calling out the heavy police repression of local activist groups, the article paints him as a criminal and antisemite.

The inclusion of the full names, faces, and workplaces of the activists, in combination with the claims made in the article, has clear potential to lead to harassment and even physical harm against them.

It is unacceptable that after 146 days of the ongoing destruction of Gaza, the Tagesspiegel is spending time and money on smearing and doxing local activists, rather than reporting honestly on the genocide unfolding in Gaza! On the night before the article was published, Israeli soldiers opened fire on around 1,000 starving Palestinians attempting to get food for their families, one of the deadliest incidents since October 7.

Two other things happened that day. According to the UN, the tenth child starved to death in Gaza. Joe Biden also announced the beginning of the cruel and dystopian aid drop program which has since killed 5 people due to parachute malfunctions, as reported by the BBC, CNN, and the Guardian. There are new and horrible things to report on every single day – an activist peacefully disrupting events to raise awareness of these horrors is not one of them!

On Wednesday, March 13th, the new campaign “Doxing is not Journalism” organised a protest outside the Tagesspiegel headquarters in Berlin. The protest aimed to draw a direct link between the killing of over 130 journalists in Gaza and the misdirection and concealment of the real news on the ground by the German media. It asked journalists of the Tagesspiegel: where is your solidarity with Palestinian journalists, your colleagues, who are working out of a war zone?

With every passing day, not only do conditions in Palestine become worse. It also becomes harder to report on them as the voices of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and Europe are systematically erased. Doxing is not Journalism demands honesty and integrity from our media. We deserve to see what we all know is happening and not be lied to about made-up terrorists inciting violence among us!

As a final note, we also see a worrying link from this moment to Germany’s own dark past. Newspapers in the 1930s wrongfully painted Jews in Europe and Germany as inciting violence and wishing war upon the West. Through the German media’s obsession with incorrectly labelling every critique of the Israeli government’s actions as antisemitic, it is committing the grave error of denying the ongoing genocide, diluting the meaning of antisemitism, and itself participating in inciting hatred toward an already marginalized group.

The most recent smear article was not the first incident in which Tagesspiegel painted Muslims in a similar light: previous articles have claimed that pro-Palestinian activists in Berlin were “called to violence” by Hamas, have generalized Palestinians in Gaza as “terrorists”, and have repeatedly pushed the narrative that any pro-Palestinian voices are antisemitic.

The protest called on Tagesspiegel and all German media to remember their power in shaping narrative and perception of different groups. German media in particular have a responsibility to name and expose ongoing genocides, as well as amplify rather than attack the voices of those trying to end the brutality.

The media must stop pitting “good” activists against “bad” activists, Jews against Muslims, and Germans against Palestinians. We will show Tagesspiegel that the pro-Palestinian movement in Berlin is strong, it is diverse, and it is not going anywhere!

Since the demonstration, there have been some developments. As a result, the demo organisers have made the following statement:

We are disturbed by how quickly even our small protest was condemned and shunned by the media. The German Journalists Union (dju) was quick to defend Sebastian Leber’s article in their own press release and condemn our protest as an attack on press freedom because “there is a strong public interest” in knowing who “disrupts events” and “calls for protests”. They again conflate peaceful protest with violence and radicalism. Even in the weeks which have passed since our first protest, the damage of the media representation of activists has become increasingly clear. The two activists who were named in the article (and even people with the same name but no relation to the activists themselves) have received numerous death threats. Just two days ago, their homes were raided by the state police in the middle of the night and their personal belongings were confiscated.

We continue to be disturbed by the worsening conditions for activists in this city and hope to bring international attention to the issue. As the Berlin senate debates the reintroduction of politically-motivated expulsion from university and the German media call for the banning of the upcoming “hateful” and “shameful” Palestine congress, we encourage everyone to keep spreading information through all possible channels, maintain scrutiny on the German press, and get active in their communities.

There follow extracts from some of the speeches from the March 13th demonstration. These have been shortened for reason of space. You can read the full speeches here.

Jara Nassar (artist)

What is the role of art while the world burns? It should look without prejudice. It should ask questions, foment hope, open and defend spaces for dialogue, not bury them. In German institutions, there is no more Art when it comes to Palestine and Israel. It’s there on the streets, in posters and workshops, in songs and banners, but not in museum and state theatres.

What is the role of journalism while the world burns? It should inform the public. It should point a critical finger at the powerful, the politicians and the corporations. It should challenge statements, contextualise events, and expose lies.

In the German newspapers, there is no more journalism when it comes to Palestine/Israel. Instead, there is racist agitation. A couple of examples.

Basel Adra and Yuval Abraham, the directors of the award-winning documentary No Other Land, call for an end to the occupation and an immediate stop to weapon exports to Israel. The German media fall all over themselves with accusations of antisemitism and hatred of Israel. The Tagesschau even calls the directors “perpetrators”. Germany provides Israel with a quarter of the weapons used for its war of extermination, and German “journalism” calls those who call on Germany to respect international justice “perpetrators”?

In his Oscar speech, Jonathan Glazer, the Jewish director of The Zone of Interest said: “We stand here as men who refute their Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many people, whether the victims of October the 7th in Israel, or the ongoing attack on Gaza.” Die Welt then accuses Jonathan Glazer of abusing the Holocaust and Jewish victims.

Louder than the defamation of those who stand against the war of extermination in Gaza is only the silence about the atrocities of the Israeli military and the illegal settlers.

Over 130 journalists have been killed in Gaza since 7th October. Three were killed by Israel in apparently targeted attacks in Lebanon. Over 31,000 people have been killed in the most gruesome manner. But the targeted eradication of Palestinian and Arab life is not worth a story. Instead, as much credence is given to contrived assumptions by the Israeli army and German politicians, as to independent verifiable facts.

Language has power. This language, which the newspapers use, is dangerous. With the publication of such language, the newspapers make themselves directly responsible for violence against Palestinians, and anyone who shows solidarity with them.

It is the job of the press to critically report government propaganda and not to spread hatred, defame activists and artists, and justify war crimes. Dear newspapers, please do your job.

This speech was given in German. Translation: Phil Butland


Udi Raz (Jüdische Stimme)

It is a heartbreaking reality that we meet here today, 6 months into an ongoing genocide, because German journalists once again have failed to uphold their very basic responsibility towards journalistic integrity.

We gather here today, sisters, because we know that we all deserve better journalism. Especially in times of ongoing genocide, and especially by those who gaslight us with the claim that they have learned a lesson from their own genocidal experience.

But the fact is that in Germany 2024, we are still dealing with the de-Nazification process of German journalism.

About a month ago, my Jewish sibling HP Loveshaft, and my Palestinian brother Salah Said, were subjected to a smear campaign designed and executed by Thomas Heise and Anna Sadovnikova. A smear campaign that was promoted by Der Spiegel.

The journalists claimed that HP Loveshaft and Salah Said were promoting antisemitism.

In another case, less than two weeks ago, my Muslim sister Yasemin Acar was subjected to a smear campaign designed and executed by Sebastian Leber and which was promoted by the Tagesspiegel.

Among other things, Leber denounced my sister as “Israel-hater”.

“Israel-hater”? Seriously? Is this even an insult?

If this is the case, then according to this logic, 6 months into an ongoing genocide, and with more than 130 dead journalists, German journalism emerges as nothing less but journalism for genocide-lovers.

Zionism is not Judaism.

Accordingly, to free Palestine from Zionism means also to free Judaism from Zionism.

In this sense, Free Free Palestine!


Nat Skoczylas

Since October 7, the German media has launched an aggressive, deadly war against those who seek to amplify the voices of the oppressed, of those who stand against silence, of those who dare to look the death, mass destruction, starvation, torture, rape, and other forms of genocidal violence in the face.

Five months into this war, we’re close to 140 journalists dead in Gaza since October, which is a sum higher than those killed in the Vietnam war, 63 over 20 years. During five years of the Second World War, 69 journalists were killed. You also chose to ignore that over 70% of all journalists killed around the world in 2023 were your colleagues in Gaza, in a span of less than 4 months.

Meanwhile, what is Germany doing? Germany’s sales of weapons to Israel since October 2023 have increased tenfold. And the international law says “All States must ‘ensure respect’ for international humanitarian law by parties to an armed conflict, as required by 1949 Geneva Conventions and customary international law. States must accordingly refrain from transferring any weapon or ammunition – or parts for them – if it is expected, given the facts or past patterns of behaviour, that they would be used to violate international law.”

Has this been reported by you? How loudly have you been calling against your government’s complicity and going against the law?

As Germany yet again takes vigorous and active part in a genocide of a people whose horrifying displacement and occupation is a result of the Holocaust, the press all over the country actively supports the government and fabricates narratives that completely dismiss the suffering and the violence we’ve been witnessing live for weeks on end: of people dying under the rubble, being shot as they search for food, starved to death, and tortured.

I come from a town that was 40% Jewish for centuries, until 1939. I come from a family that fought to liberate Berlin, as my grandfather walked by foot from near the Ukrainian border to the Baltic Sea. I come from the area of Poland where Eichmann planned to move the Jews in one of the fascist fantasies of expanding the lebensraum. I grew up surrounded by the ruins and trauma of what war propaganda, hatred, lies, racism, fascism, white suprematism and colonialism can do to a people – the homes that stand empty until today, the graveyards that are stripped of their stones, the human lives that continue struggling with the despair and horrors it has produced and imprinted on us.

You, journalists, have the moral obligation to speak to the truth. To protect human lives, especially those at a greater risk. And whatever keeps you from doing it – you have to fight against it. We can’t afford another lost life, another day of that war, another minute of the occupation, another lie you get paid for.

No one is free until everyone is free, amen.


HP Loveshaft

Following October 7th, I had little patience for those who conflate concern for Arab lives with antisemitism. Having grown up in the wake of 9-11, I saw firsthand my friends called “terrorist sympathizers” for speaking up about atrocities committed in their names.

Since the publication of a video titled Demonstration Gegen Juden, I have been inundated with violent threats. I have questions for Spiegel, including:

  • Why did you spend a full minute going over my instagram account and pronouns, but neglected to mention I’m Jewish? How do your queer colleagues feel about this journalistic practice?

  • When will Salah Said, Mudi, Manar Ahmad, Yasmin Acar and other activists be invited for a warm studio interview, instead of getting shouted at in the middle of a demonstration?

  • Why did you neglect to mention the Zionists you present as victims are known violent instigators? Did their chants of “may your village burn down” fail to tip you off?

Do you think your ancestors would be proud of the way you stoke the embers of simmering racism in this country, giving every reactionary xenophobe carte blanche to act on their hatred of Muslim, Arab, Black and Brown people under the guise of “defending Jews”? Seeing as you opened with painting a target on a Jewish, Hirschfeld-quoting transsexual, I imagine they must.

What will you tell your children, or their children, about what it means to be German? How will you explain to them that this country repeated its greatest shame, on a global stage, as genocide was live-streamed on every portable screen in existence? How will you give them hope to be known for anything besides an unprecedented industrialization of hatred?

For more information about Doxing is Not Journalism, please send a mail to doxingisnotjournalism@proton.me

More pictures from the demo by Fabrizio Bilello

            

Letter from the Editors, 28th March 2024

Trans Day of Visibility


27/03/2024

Tomorrow (Friday) at 4pm, there will be a mass sit-in of the Hauptbahnhof for Palestine. On the eve of the 48th Land Day, and the 176th day of the ongoing genocide, we demand Land Back for Palestine, and for all Indigenous lands. We demand a return of all stolen lands back to their rightful keepers – in Palestine, Congo, Sudan, Haiti, Western Sahara, Wallmapu, and all other places around the world where land and their resources are stolen by colonial entities. BERLIN RISE UP❗️RESISTANCE IS JUSTIFIED WHEN PEOPLE ARE OCCUPIED❗️No Peace on Stolen Land‼️

Our next Palestine Reading Group is also tomorrow night at 7pm. This week we’ll be discussing “Militarism and How Israel Exports its Occupation”. You can find the selected reading here. The Palestine Reading Group takes place every week, on either Friday or Sunday (partly depending on room availability). Check the page of Events which we’re organising for the coming dates and discussion topics. If you’d like to get more involved in the group, to suggest and vote on future topics, you can join our Telegram group and follow the channel Reading group. Meetings are in the Agit offices, Nansenstraße 2. There is a meeting for moderators (open to anyone who’s interested) half an hour before the meeting starts.

On Saturday, there are 2 demonstrations for Palestine. At 1pm, outside Kosmos (Karl Marx Allee 131A ) you can join the Palestine Block on the Ostermarsch, the yearly anti-war demo. Different organisations are calling that this year’s Ostermarsch does not just call for peace in our world, but also for solidarity with the people in Gaza and the other Palestinian territories. Then at 2pm at Gesundbrunnen, there will be a demonstration Take your hands off Palestine. Every year protests take place in Palestine and all over the world for “Land Day”, reminding us how deeply rooted Palestinians are to their land. Join us in the fight for justice and liberation.

On Saturday evening, there is a film screening of United in Anger: A History of ACT UP followed by a Q&A with Sarah Schulman and Ben Mauk. United in Anger: A History of ACT UP is an inspiring documentary about the birth and life of the aids activist movement from the perspective of the people in the trenches fighting the epidemic. Utilizing oral histories of members of ACT UP, as well as rare archival footage, the film depicts the efforts of ACT UP as it battles corporate greed, social indifference, and government neglect. Sarah Schulman is a novelist, playwright, screenwriter, nonfiction writer and AIDS historian. It all starts at oyoun at 6pm.

Sunday is Trans Day of Visibility with a number of Events. At 1pm, there will be a workshop “Touch as a Community Practice”. In this workshop we explore how touch and body contact is a source for connection and belonging in a queer community. We establish a language and sensitivity around the needs and wishes of the participants, and create a safe and playful way of getting to know each other. We invite touch to be a practice for building trust and discuss how it can be a nurturing element for the collective body. The workshop is organised by Voices4Berlin, who are our Campaign of the Week. You can sign up here. And at 2pm, there is a rally in front of the “G-Ba”, Gutenbergstraße 13. Let’s smash the cistem! Let’s go out on the streets for trans* visibility on the 31st! After our rally, you will also have the opportunity to stop by the events organized by @Voices4berlin and @facqberlin.

On Monday at 7pm, it’s the latest LINKE Berlin Internationals Orga meeting. This month, we want to spend most of the meeting brainstorming future activities. We are particularly interested in ideas for public meetings, film showings or other Events. We will also be making the first plans for our postponed Summer Camp, which will now be taking place on 21st-22nd September. If you have any suggestions, please contact us in advance at lag.internationals@die-linke-berlin.de or come to the meeting with your ideas. Everyone is invited to join the debate. The meeting will take place in Ferat Kocak’s office in Schierkerstraße 26 (between U-Bahn stations Leinstraße and Hermannstraße).

There is much more going on in Berlin this week. To find out what’s happening, go to our Events page. You can also see a shorter, but more detailed list of events in which we are directly involved in here.

If you are looking for Resources on Palestine, we have set up a page with useful links. We will be continually updating the page, so if you would like to recommend other links, please contact us on team@theleftberlin.com. You can also find all the reading from our Palestine Reading Groups here.

In News from Berlin, fight to save the Tuntenhaus, and court case against environmental activists who painted the Brandenburger Tor is suspended.

In News from Germany, activists campaign for climate money, Germany’s finance mininster proposes pension reform, AfD is most popular party among first-time voters, new German naturalisation test to include question about Germany’s special responsibility for Israel, and Die Linke campaigns for 4-day week.

Read all about it in this week’s News from Berlin and Germany.

New on theleftberlin, we interview Ukrainian pacifist artist Ilya Kharkow, Rasha Al-Jundi and Michael Jabareen’s final artistic intervention from looks at Common Ground in Berlin, Johanna Rothe writes a poem about Anti-Germans and other Germans, taz journalist Daniel Bax looks at Germany’s problematic understanding of antisemitism, Hands Off Student Rights announces a demonstration against enforced ex-matriculation (expect an interview with the demo organisers on theleftberlin next week), oyoun celebrate winning their court case against the Tagesspiegel, Cecilia and Darío from Bloque Latinoamericano Berlin examine reactions to the right-wing Milei government in Argentina, South African Jewish artist Candice Breitz looks at what got her exhibition cancelled in Saarland, and Ilya Kharkow takes a critical look at heroism.

In this week’s Podcast of the Week, Ciarán Dold from Corner Späti reads out his article which first appeared on theleftberlin on boycotting the Eurovision Song Contest.

You can follow us on the following social media:

If you would like to contribute any articles or have any questions or criticisms about our work, please contact us at team@theleftberlin.com. And please do encourage your friends to subscribe to this Newsletter.

Keep on fighting,

The Left Berlin Editorial Board

A Closer Look at Heroism

Man, sorry for telling the truth.

During my student days, I had a friend who loved the poems of Marina Tsvetaeva just as much as I did. But, as it soon became clear, we loved one thing but for different reasons. One day we met, and instead of greeting, he immediately got down to business. He said, “Imagine you come home from a long trip and there’s a coffin in your house. The policeman says this house doesn’t belong to you anymore. Did you imagine?”

Such an event is indeed present in Tsvetaeva’s biography, only she returned not from a long trip, but from emigration. Her husband and daughter were sent to prison. The son went missing. Tsvetaeva hanged herself. This is how the Soviet Union greeted her. The exact location of her grave is still not known.

This friend of mine loved to notice terrible facts from the biographies of writers, and then talk long and methodically about them at our every damn meeting. Soon he got a job in a translation agency, and we began to see each other rarely. He didn’t like working. He said that the principle of work in this company killed everything creative that goes into translation. He didn’t like his colleagues either, and the more he disliked one of them, the longer he liked to discuss that particular person.

Due to the fact that negativity was the basis of communication with this guy, it was difficult to engage with him, and yet this didn’t stop him from becoming a leader of department in the agency. By that time, he had stopped reading and practically didn’t talk either Tsvetaeva or the random coffin. When the war began, he volunteered.

Viva la muerte!

For several years in a row, I celebrated my birthday in the same way. I borrowed a projector from a friends’ gallery. I broadcast ‘Dirty Diaries’ onto a white wall – this is porn made by women for women. In it, the actors do not have perfect bodies, and it is as close to real life as possible.

In a spacious room, about 12-15 gathered. You are talking to a shy girl, and at some point, a vagina is projected onto your forehead, and your conversation partner forgets about her shyness. Yep, it has always worked.

The doors of my house were open. Well-wishers came and went, flowing in a continuous stream. We played erotic games. We shared intimate secrets, which brought us closer together. Those unwilling to share secrets had to expose their bodies. And then one artist pulled down her pants, and we all saw cellulite on her thighs. Yet she was young and not obese. The very admirer of Tsvetaeva showed extraordinary interest in her cellulite. He was polite but persistent. He examined her legs from different angles, and upon discovering a scar on her knee, he led her to the kitchen to hear the story of her meniscus removal surgery without witnesses.

That night they made love, and we all became shameless witnesses of it. That night we joked, saying, who knows, would they have made love if the artist didn’t also have a scar from appendicitis.

Viva la muerte!

Death drive. In my first novel THE INTIMATE SMELL OF THE MARINE, I described how the main character spent 7 days in a room with the corpse of his friend. And all 7 days he bathed and combed him. Of course, when I wrote this in 2019, I could not imagine that soon the entire country would call for every family to have such a corpse at home. No, this is too much.

What is more terrible: a son who died in the war, or who returned from the war crippled and penetrated into all spheres of life, bringing military principles into everyday life?

War is never progressive. War is not even stagnation. It is regression. And, as you know, there are no former military personnel. Having returned from war, a person forever carries the war within himself and acts in accordance with it.

In order to go to war as a volunteer, a person must initially be inclined to do so. Although I think this is wrong, the average person still judges others by his own abilities. Therefore, the easiest way to find out about such a predisposition is for a person to declare that there is no predisposition and everyone is equally fit for military service. This confidence arises precisely from the presence of a predisposition.

Also, it’s worth asking the question: what does this predisposition consist of? At a minimum, a person must have a sense of justice, which he wants to defend. And also, such a person’s fear of death should either be reduced or be at such a level that risking his own life does not seem to him an unacceptable act. In order for a person’s fear of death to be at this level, his love for life must be reduced, since these are interrelated concepts. Anyone for whom life is more terrible than death easily takes mortal risks, but it would be a crime if such a person pushed others to take the same mortal risks.

For example, a guy who was amazed by Tsvetaeva’s sudden coffin, who admired the cellulite and scars clearly feels a craving for death: a coffin and scars are certainly symbols of decay. Being unable to realize his potential in the profession at the desired level, his desire was too inconsistent with reality. There is no creativity. The colleagues are dumb. And therefore, the opportunity to lead them is not an honor but a mockery. This discrepancy between reality and the desired, perhaps in combination with some other aspects of life, gave rise to aggression, which was built into reality as voluntarily joining the army. I’m deliberately simplifying here to stay within the scope of a short essay.

Suppose that in war, he successfully neutralizes the enemy, for which he receives a medal. The state will give him honorary grounds to forget the reasons for his own actions, and to think that now he is a hero, idealizing himself, thereby attempting to achieve a balance between reality and desire. The state is not interested in stories about coffins or cellulite. It does not believe in words; it believes in actions.

Viva la muerte!

Our new hero had only been abroad once. He visited Rome, Italy. He ended up there by chance. Naturally, he went to see the Colosseum.

As he told me about Rome, he played in the background the music he listened to that day. He did it to help me feel everything he felt abroad. This music was classic rock hits. I love old rock, but I was suspicious as to why someone would want to listen exclusively to hits, especially ones that are 20 or 30 years old. Moreover, he had been listening to the same songs since our student days. It seems to me that the unwillingness to delve into the discographies of artists could add a touch to our hero’s portrait. We listened to popular songs over and over again, as if we were doing it by someone’s order.

The Colosseum is a monument of sadism, but we want to visit it, and having visited it, we admire the architecture. In the process, we overlook the obvious – the cruel purpose of its construction. With the same success, we could admire the guillotine. It was only today I realized that our fearless hero was not admiring just another landmark, but a monument of sadism.

Use it or lose it” is the scariest phrase I have ever heard. Not only because knowledge that we do not use is forgotten. Not only because muscles, if they are not trained regularly, begin to shrink. But also, because a person who loses interest in development does not stop developing, but is destroyed. The only thing that can be more terrible is when the country’s leaders set this destruction as an example for us.

Viva la muerte!

Marina Tsvetaeva was not the only poet who suffered in the past century in Russia. For example, Boris Pasternak was forced to decline the Nobel Prize. By the way, Tsvetaeva hanged with the rope that Pasternak kindly gave her to tie up her suitcases for the journey.

Joseph Brodsky, another Nobel laureate, was tried for parasitism and then expelled from the country.

Osip Mandelstam died in a labor camp, where he ended up on charges of counter-revolutionary activities.

Daniil Kharms died of starvation in a psychiatric clinic, simulating a mental disorder. Why? To avoid arrest during wartime on charges of spreading defeatist sentiments. The poet was attributed with these words: “If they make me shoot a machine gun from the attic during street fights with the Germans, then I will shoot not at the Germans, but at them with the same machine gun.”

Art deals with the essence of life, whereas the state offers us to fit into a certain system, which includes not only rights but also limitations. Therefore, art will always be in conflict with the state. For the same reason, it is worth not canceling Russian poets because of the indignation of modern war, but instead, searching in their biographies for potential repeats of history, knowing that they stood not on the side of a specific state, but on the side of humanity.

Today, when in wartime my life is threatened not only by the Russian army but also by Ukrainian government, I understand what prompted Daniil Kharms to say such words. It was a different kind of justice. And a desire not for death, but for life. Our admirer of Tsvetaeva doesn’t think so. And in general, he no longer likes Russian poets. The state has told him that he is a hero, and in gratitude for this he demonstrates his loyalty by overthrowing his own idols.

For more information about Ilya Kharkow, see his website. You can support his work by buying him a coffee.

Voices4Berlin

Inclusive non-violent direct action group of LGBTQIA+ individuals for queer liberation 🌈🌍

Voices4 Berlin is an inclusive, Berlin-based group of LGBTQIA+ people who use their privilege to actively promote global queer liberation through non-violent direct action. It was founded in response to the targeted, organized persecution of gay men in Chechnya, Russia. Our common goal is the global protection of queer people from persecution, discrimination and bigotry, and the recognition and enforcement of the rights and obligations that come with it.

On March 31st Voices4 Berlin is celebrating Trans* Day of Visibility at 90mil! We will have programming from 1pm onward including workshops, an open mic and a party with a line up of some of Germany’s best TIN* DJs. All programming will be donation-based and no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Follow Voices4 Berlin on Instagram @voices4berlin and Telegram for more information as well as to stay updated on future events, demos, actions, and ways to get informed and involved

For more information, you can follow Voices4Berlin on Instagram and facebook.