florian schneider on Wed, 18 Jul 2001 02:46:07 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> immaterial sabotage and news from the deportation.class

[here is the late and rough translation of a report i wrote 
about the lufthansa stockholder meeting and the on- and offline
protests including a virtual sit-in. meanwhile the rumanian
airline TAROM, which was carrying out mass deportations 
every tuesday from duesseldorf, has stopped that practise.
the TAROM representatives reacted on a serie of occupations
of their offices by "Deportation.Class" activists in the 
beginning of june. a TAROM spokesperson said, that they see 
the image of the company seriously endangered. and some days
ago Lufthansa lawyers lost a law-suit they started against a 
berlin based research institute, which they wanted to make 
responsible for the content of the deportationclass website. 
so long /fls]

Protests against deportations at the occasion of the Lufthansa
stockholder meeting 

By Florian Schneider

Wednesday, June 20th 2001. At about 10:15 a.m., Klaus Schlede, the
spokesman of the board of directors, opens this year's general meeting
of Lufthansa in the 'Köln Arena' speaking in as penetrating a pitch of
voice as usual, in front of a few thousand shareholders. He wants to
appear superior, but he knows what the leader of the meeting will have
to face: the protest of opponents of deportation, of critical
shareholders, of activists of  the "noone is illegal" network and the
"Deportation.Class" campaign, who will lodge their ceterum censeo
whenever appropriate, as they have done now at every meeting for the
last few years: no deportation on lufthansa scheduled flights.

In front of the hall "stewards and stewardessses against deportation"
are providing the shareholders with investment information. Next to them
the procedure of deportations is staged by performance groups, in
particular how they can be stopped by passengers and the crew even in
the last moments. Also in the hall, the unavoidable is happening: the
speech of CEO Jürgen Weber is interrupted again and again by heckling
and transparents in front of the speaker's desk. Members of the security
service, who are obviously becoming increasingly nervous, have to drag
activists out of the spotlight five times while the cameramen of various
TV stations are filming everything. 

These are not very nice scenes, which are mentioned again and again in
the debate about the financial report, just as the security-checks,
which this year seem to aim at preventing critical information from
being brought into the hall and at confiscating the Deportation.Class
plastic bags, which were previously given to the shareholders. The bags
are then thrown into dust bins, which were put at the ready beforehand..
Until the early afternoon, when the vote could finally be taken on the
crediting of the board of directors, Critical shareholders, human rights
activists, lawyers and more and more totally normal shareholders
approach the microphone and criticize the board for maintaining
deportation on lufthansa scheduled flights. In the end everything is as
usual: the exhausted board makes a fool of itself by trying to evade in
a helpless and incompetent way the convincing arguments of its critics.

So far, so good. Even the hardened positions of the board of directors
allows for the assumption that these rituals will probably overshadow
next year's general meeting as well. There was, however, another action
taking place. Not in, or in front of  the hall but in the virtual world.
Already weeks before the general meeting of share holders, news in the
media about the lufthansa general meeting were full of reports about an
online demonstration, which those responsible had already officially
registered with the municipal authorities and the police. At exactly ten
o'clock the virtual protest was opened in front of the "Köln-arena" by a
symbolic mouse-click. The webserver of lufthansa was planned to be
disturbed so massively that by 12 a.m., it would not work any more or
that the answering times of the server were so long that an obvious
effect was noticeable, while the protests were going on in the hall

The demonstration was a kind of premiere, although it was not for the
first time that the expression "online demo" was employed for an
electronic gathering. It was a mass protest, supported by software, in
which people from all over the world could take part with the click of a
mouse. It was a sort of Denial-of-service-attack, only that the aims,
motives and date of the attack were openly announced and that the action
was restricted in time and space. It certainly did not aim to cause as
much damage as possible, but rather to be a symbolic act of compressing:
the long awaited and desired for synchronization of online and offline .
The action had aimed to dramatise the just wish, which could never have
been so widely spread and mediated by traditional means; to test a form
of action which is both highly debatable and highly promising, which
both virtualises and globalises resistance; a hybrid of immaterial
sabotage and digital demonstration.

The outcome of such an enterprise has to turn out as unconventional as
its claim or vice versa: what is there that has to be estimated or
validated? From a technical point of view, the effect can be interpreted
more or less as you like. As usual, both sides speak of the successful
outcome of their tactics. The organisers of the on-line demonstration
stress that the Lufthansa homepage was not reachable for the planned two
hours and they can even prove that with pretty diagrams. Those
responsible for Lufthansa concede that there were bottlenecks, but they
too say that their strategies against the protestors succeeded because
they managed to provide for additional capacities. At the same time
requests from networks, where the critical data enquiries were suspected
to have been, seem to have been denied completely. The logical
consequence was that those who did protest from there had of course
succeeded. Even if this success was in the worst case scenario only
noticed by themselves. 

Also, on a symbolic level there were two winners: the on-line
demonstration which had aimed at establishing publicity that was as
great as possible for their own cause, and which could attract enormous
and even international attention to their protest against Lufthansa
"Deportation.class", which could not have been obtained using
traditional methods. Articles even in the Washington Post, which rapidly
spread the news across the globe, great debates in on-line forums which
were constructed by television and print media. Almost every report in
magazines, the daily press in internet newspapers and local newspapers
reported on the Lufthansa meeting with the catchy opening:

But also, the Lufthansa network technicians can proudly say that they at
least succeeded in limiting the attack, which was, from their point of
view, aggressive. The web server didn't crash, against the expectation
of many virtual demonstrators, but stayed more or less intact, even
though it was partly unreachable and the online booking system was out
of order for quite long time. Even the immense costs which the Lufthansa
network technicians had to cover, were probably worth it: the
corporation could demonstrate more or less involuntarily a certain
competence in dealing with new challenges.

The good thing about the virtual is that both sides can not only be
right, but can even both talk of success, and that a final balancing ,
which goes further, .is of no importance. A situation like that used to
be called a typical win-win situation until lately and was an absolute
must in the business plan of every start up. The concepts of the New
Actonomy, however, are about more than the mere promising of
extraordinarily good business results, which tend to reveal themselves
as mere pious wishes. It is also not about translating political
metaphor as easily understandable and consequently as possible from the
off-line reality into the online reality, in order to be able to yield
the propagandistic added value as one of the first. The real challenge
of the virtual forms of resistance exists in an utterly pragmatic
dimension: the materiality of the virtual resistance results in an
interactivity, a communication between activists who are connected to
each other, who not only take part but also organise at the same time.

So what's new about a virtual action like the online demonstration? It
might be not the fact that now people demonstrate infront of the screen
and not on the streets anymore, nevertheless that plot had pretty much
news value for the mainstream media. This effect will wear out and will
not be of great importance the next time already. A new definition of
sabotage might turn out to prove to be much more interesting instead:
sabotage redefined as social practice, not in the traditional,
destructive meaning of the word, but as a constructive, innovative and
creative practice. Such a constructive approach results in a movement
without organs or organisation. In a variety of perspectives -
self-determined cybernetic thinking, that spurs on different approaches
and connections; that refers to a social antagonism refers to the level
of production; and that is constituting a collective process of
appropriation of knowledge and power.

The pathological features of a traditional, protestant understanding of
militancy consists of a certain portion of auto-destructivity: pricking
the others' conscience, burning down one's neighbourhood, being really
radical for once, without having to think or having to communicate one's
ideas, all that is the result of a smug attitude towards the fetish of
repression. Sabotage as its very pragmatic counterpart and as a means of
direct action aims directly at the pickpocket of the corporation in
order to achieve the realization of certain conditions. 

Sabotage is a direct application of the idea that property has no rights
that its creators are bound to respect. That way sabotage can be seen as
a sort of anticipated reverse engineering of the open source idea.
Sabotage is radically antagonistic to the representative discourse, i.e.
in the institutionalized contexts of the working class or social
movements. Those representative forms have always referred to a nation
state while spontaneous, un- or better organized forms of resistance
have expressed a global class consciousness. What is nowadays called
direct action re-presents sabotage.

Immaterial sabotage aims at the image of a corporation. Unlike boycott
campaigns, which were oftenly started by the social and environmental
movements in the 80ies and 90ies and which hold the activists captive in
their status as pure consumers voting with their purse, imaterial
sabotage encourages explicitely the creativity and productivity, the
colloectivity and collaboration of roaming, unseizable, but
inzterconnected activists. The overall goal is not, to convince and
organize as many fellows as possible, but to make a precise difference
and to change the situation immediately. Therefore it seems to be
lucrative, with the different tactics and methods to bring leverage to
bear on the weakest meber of the chain: the image of the enemy, the
corporate identity.

Particularly when workers are robbed of their right to strike, sabotage
was appropriate although an illegal means of struggle within the
factories. An interesting link in a situation, when it is already
forseeable, that this, what the masters of the world understand as
globalization, won't be stopped by some riots infront of congress
centers. The struggles have to communicate and reach out at the level of
production, no matter where they take place and no matter, if they're
called old or new.

The number of people taking part in this redefinition and recapitulation
is as irrelevant as it was during the strike of the New York waiters at
the end of the 19th century. Merely by speaking indirectly, but freely
about the working conditions the guests became so disgusted that the
industry very quickly had to give in to the demands of the very badly
organized workers. What became known as "open mouth campaign" in the
history of the workers' movement probably laid the foundation stone of
net activism one hundred years later, now called "McLibel" campaign: In
the mid 1990s one of the most frequently visited web sites of the then
still young internet was a page where McDonalds critics had collected
information, worldwide, exonerating  two distributors of fliers, who had
been accused of defamation and who the concern tried to intimidate by
long legal proceedings. 

The members of the deportation.class campaign have certainly devoted
themselves to a difficult task. Denial of service, after all, is at
least a double entendre if understood literally: the campaign wants the
Lufthansa corporation to refuse the transport of forced passengers.
Online activism will not stand still with simple demonstrations. 


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