Zum Hauptinhalt springen

“It's not about the probability of victory…”

Dear friends,

you know about my fascination with Sweden, and the feeling is mutual: about two months ago, an old friend and comrade from the time I lived in Sweden (2000-2001) contacted me, to ask if I could meet him and Leonidas Aretakis, editor of Swedish leftist magazine Flamman for lunch and an interview. What I thought might be a quick “what’s up with German climate activism” turned into an at times brutal deep dive into my past politics and their many failures, into what I’ve now come to call not my climate-, but my “future-depression”, and into finding the movement again in Lützerath and beyond.

This excellent interview was published in Swedish just this past week, and I thought it might be interesting for some of you, so I translated it to put it up here (kamrater, jag hoppas att det är bra för er att jag gör det utan tillstånd).

So without much further ado, here we go:

German climate icon: the fight is lost

By Leonidas Aretakis Editor-in-Chief of Flamman.

https://www.flamman.se/tyska-klimatikonen-kampen-ar-forlorad/ (Öffnet in neuem Fenster)

Tadzio Müller founded the world's most powerful climate movement. Now he wants us to prepare for the apocalypse.

When we meet at a Vietnamese lunch spot in Neukölln, Berlin, climate activist Tadzio Müller is Germany's most hunted man.

It is 5 February and he has just recorded a viral video in front of the Reichstag in Berlin, during a demonstration against the Alternative for Germany (AfD). In it, he explains that it's important to punch right-wing extremists in the nose until they bleed: "Fascism only ends when you punch them right back in the face, no matter who comes against you."

He then posted the video on X, where hes goes by "Faggots for future". It wasn't long before his face appeared on far-right hate images and his mobile phone was filled with threats.

"I've had one of the worst weeks of my life, hell. I had barely slept when I woke up in tears on Saturday, after a fight with my husband the night before. Then I received a message from a docu film crew I was supposed to meet up with at the demonstration. I'd completely forgotten about it, I definitely wasn't wearing my game face, I was angry and tired, and now three hours of media work awaited me. Fantastic!

“Tadzio, you’re right, but you could have sounded less like a crazy junkie”

They put their argument behind them and trudged down to the Brandenburg Gate, where Tadzio's frustration was rekindled.

- The demonstration looked smaller than the one two weeks ago, and we had just talked about how people mostly sit on their arses. Fuck you, you lazy arseholes. What I didn't know was that the organisers had created more spaces to accommodate everyone.

He says the political centre doesn't see the need to "get organised", because "all ofwhole fucking society is their *mode of organisation*". He continues:

- I was emotional and unstable after a somewhat drug-fuelled week. I had talked to so many people, to middle-aged German gays and the Arab and Turkish drug dealers I kind of fetishize, people who, like me, are terrified of both Nazis and cops. For us, the return of fascism is not abstract, it means something on the streets, it's visible everywhere.

He spreads his arms over his seagrass soup.

- So I explained that there is a need for preparedness, that if you see some Nazis beating me up, you don't just go there and say "stop being evil", you have to beat their faces bloody until they're out for the count. And then you might have to kick them again and say: "Stay down, you fucking Nazi." It was not my most perfect media moment. I should have kept my mouth shut.

However, silence does not seem to be Tadzio Müller's strong suit. He talks fast, with no pauses or filters. You just have to go with the flow.

- My communist comrades had my back, but also said: "Tadzio, you are right in principle, but perhaps you could have expressed yourself a little less like a crazy junkie."

The climate veteran

Tadzio Müller is a man of many hats - including a doctorate in international relations from the University of Sussex. He talks openly about his adventures with drugs and men, but above all he is known as the co-founder of the climate group Ende Gelände.

- "I have been a climate activist for 15 years and I can say that the battle is lost. We're so fucked it's ridiculous. Five years ago, the German climate movement was the largest in the world and our public support was extremely strong. Now we have a government with a Green Party that is creating infrastructure to burn fossil fuels for the next 50 years.

His first major fight was against nuclear power. Germany has had a strong anti-nuclear movement since the 1970s, which led to the founding of the Green Party (Die Grünen) in 1980, the world's most successful purely environmental party.

After the explosion of the Fukushima nuclear power plant on 11 March 2011, protests intensified and the following day 60 000 Germans marched against the country's nuclear power. The activism paid off, and on 29 May, Angela Merkel promised to close all plants by 2022. On 15 April last year, the last three nuclear plants were finally shut down.

A victory for global climate activism, showing that a popular movement can convince even conservative governments to save the world. Or was it?

The result was the opposite. German nuclear power was replaced by fossil gas, crude oil and lignite - in (two out of) three cases with Russia as the main supplier. Of total energy consumption in 2023, 77.6 per cent was fossil fuels, compared to 19.6 per cent renewables and 0.7 per cent nuclear. This geopolitical and climate disaster was sold to the public as an 'energy turnaround' (Energiewende) with the green seal of the environmental movement.

The anti-nuclear struggle: victory or stupidity - or both?

- "Ah, here comes *that* question," says Tadzio Müller, and gets going:

- 'Firstly, the remaining nuclear power plants don't contribute much energy, secondly, nuclear power is ill-suited to an increasingly warm world, and thirdly, the problem is that if they explode, everyone dies. "If you point to small reactors, I say they take at least 15 years to build and usually cost 20 billion euros, and we've wasted 15 minutes," he says, exhaling.

I ask because the fight against nuclear power has been presented as a climate victory.

- Well, it was - a movement victory! It is the only global example of a social movement getting its way in the energy sector, which is traditionally tightly controlled by the government. Energy is needed for everything, from cooking to sending soldiers abroad. This is why there were so many ideological attacks on the anti-nuclear movement - not because the right cares about nuclear power, but because we showed the power of the people.

The conversation shifts between German, English and Swedish. Tadzio Müller learned the latter as an organiser of Globalisation from Below during the Gothenburg protests and other international summit protests. The aim was to stop the gatherings by non-violent means, so that harmful free trade agreements could not be signed. The group, like myself, was housed in the Hvitfeldtska gymnasium, which was walled in with containers, and they led a famous breakaway action that ended under police horse hooves. The events are depicted in Nils Petter Löfgren's film På Hvitfeldtska bodde vi (Öffnet in neuem Fenster).

From the summits to the pits

The Forum movement soon turned into protests against the Iraq war and eventually died out. But when Tadzio Müller had his climate awakening in 2008, he recycled the strategy, traveling with other activists to other major climate meetings to protest

- "In Copenhagen, we realised that this is bullshit," he says, referring to the UN climate summit COP15.

- "If you stop a free trade agreement, you help Indian small farmers, but if you prevent a climate agreement, fossil fuel capitalism just continues unhindered.

The protests flopped and they realised that they needed to go to the places where fossil fuels are produced instead. In Germany, that means open-cast brown coal mining, also known as lignite: the dirtiest of all the world's fossil fuels.

Thus began the anti-coal struggle. The actions became increasingly spectacular and in 2015 he co-founded Ende Gelände (Öffnet in neuem Fenster), an expression for “end of the line” that literally translates to “end of terrain”.

On 14 August that year, over a thousand people from all over Europe gathered in a large climate camp with bike parking, first aid, kitchen, camping and workshop tents to prepare for the action. They sprayed signs and dressed in white coveralls to storm the mine. The desolate environment made everything look like scenes from Dune.

Cool climate

- We created a kind FOMO (fear of missing out) among those who stayed at home: "I can't miss the next Ende Gelände action." We had an incredible momentum. At one point, a group of anarchists occupied the Hambach Forest and became the darlings of the whole Republic. We even had majority support for a more rapid coal phase-out among AfD voters.

The pressure was so great that in 2018 the German government responded by creating the Coal Commission. It did what they always do in Germany - invited all parties and created a broad compromise. According to Tadzio Müller, it was deeply inadequate.

- There is a problem when it comes to the climate. The government cannot say: "Dear West Antarctic ice sheet, if you just tone down the melting a little bit, we'll get back to you when we have created enough jobs in new industries in Saxony, so that the population doesn't tip to the right."

The smell of collapse in the morning

While cycling through Berlin, he smelled a forest fire. He began to suspect that the climate fight was lost. But as Ende Gelände began to lose momentum, Greta Thunberg emerged and inspired the world's largest climate demonstrations to date. Still, results did not materialise.

- On the same day that Fridays for Future organised the largest ever demonstration in Germany with 1.4 million people, and leadership gathered around the Brandenburg Gate, the government held a press conference 300 metres away proposing a weak climate package. "It was a kick in the face," says Tadzio Müller and continues:

- And because I love BDSM, I've learnt a lot about how power works. You may be 170cm with a small cock, but if you just put yourself in the right position, you can look like the biggest alpha dog in history. Trust me, I taught a lover of mine to do just that. You can achieve a lot with such expressions of power. And the German government are masterful dominatrixes.

Then came the pandemic and dealt the coup de grace to the movement, at the same time as it put an end to the whole 2016-2022 protest wave - a time captured in books such as Vincent Bevin's If we burn and Anton Jäger's The populist moment (in Flamman reviewed by Mathias Wåg).


Damit ich diesen Newsletter jede Woche schreiben kann, kann ich Deine finanzielle Unterstützung gebrauchen.  

___________ (Öffnet in neuem Fenster)

The death of god (Öffnet in neuem Fenster)

The movement was Ta (Öffnet in neuem Fenster)dzio Müller's god. Now it had abandoned him. All that remained was to disappear himself. (Öffnet in neuem Fenster)

- At the beginning of (Öffnet in neuem Fenster) the pandemic, I met a beautiful, dangerous young (Öffnet in neuem Fenster) man with whom I basically just did drugs and have sex for months on end. I anaesthetised myself, and I was not alone in going into depression.

He recounts a scene in a park when he was high, half-naked and ten Albanian migrant workers approached him somewhat aggressively. He shouted: "Are you homophobic pigs? You want to beat up a faggot? Come on, I'll bite your dick off!" (miraculously, they backed off)

- I had completely lost it. Now I realise that I was trying to wipe out the activist in me. Because no matter what I do, I have to fight, and I couldn't take it anymore. I'm not an activist because I love going to meetings and occupying coal pits in November. I love lying on the couch, smoking weed, or cycling in the sun on the Templehoff Belt. But I want all that to be accessible to everyone. That is why I am an activist.

Both Tadzio Müller and my traveling companion Rasmus Fleischer burst into tears. Neither for the first nor the last time. We order three more Chang beers.

Accepting grief

So Germany's top climate activist sees the battle as lost. How does he deal with his grief?

- 'It's an emotional process of accepting that we have lost several crucial battles. That the goals that communists have, that have given our lives meaning almost like the way religious people perceive the world, that structure everything we do, and our ideas of who is good and who is bad, are no longer correct.

The goal of a better world for all is no longer on the table," he says.

- We have crossed planetary boundaries, and learnt that the moral arc of the universe is short and bends towards fascism, he says, with a dark twist on Martin Luther King's idea that it is "long and bends towards justice".

The author Pankaj Mishra makes the same point in his famous text "The Holocaust after Gaza" (in Swedish in Aftonbladet, 26 March), but with reference to geopolitics. Is the world really bending in the wrong direction? But in the midst of his darkest days, Tadzio Müller went to Lützerath in western Germany, where climate activists moved into tents and tree houses in 2020 to stop the demolition of the village to make way for a coal mine. This anarchist method of struggle developed in France is known in French as zone à défendre ('defend a zone'), and on 17 January 2023, tens of thousands of activists gathered for the final battle. In one image, Greta Thunberg could be seen being carried away with a smile by a German police officer, before the village was finally levelled.

- That's when I realised that it's not about the probability of victory, although of course it's nice if there is one. It's about the relationships you build while trying to achieve that victory. It sounds trite, I know.

At the same time, he had become increasingly open about his homosexuality and HIV positivity, which he previously didn't know what to do with. During a World Social Forum march in Montreal, they accidentally bumped into the Pride march, and he began to realise the need to marry the different sides of himself.

- Of course all my colleagues were straight, and of course in the second march I saw one of the most beautiful people I've ever seen, he was God in shorts, wait, I'll get a picture..

He rummages in his bag for his phone.

- Anyway, my mate and Stefanie looked at me and said: "Go." So I ran over there and we kissed for ten minutes, talked for five, and then I asked if he suffers from internalised homophobia, and then wow - we've already gone from making out to therapy.

Soon they got into his HIV, and he started to realise the need to talk about all these things openly. Before long, he came out four times - as "bi, gay, slut and HIV positive".

- Historically, gays were often blackmailed by queer haters with pictures and videos of them doing unspeakable things, so I realised I had to post them myself. And then the answer was the opposite: that they would rather not see a tattooed man shoving crystal meth up his arse and sucking off escorts. And it felt so good to be open about who I am.

All the solutions turned out to be one and the same. He talks about research on the Holocaust, which showed that many people chose death rather than deal with something shameful.

- This is exactly what is happening during the climate crisis. People would rather burn the planet than feel like shit and act. Men are not such assholes because they have all the blood in their cocks, as the saying goes, but because they put so much energy into pushing away (verdränging) aspects of themselves. As a Swedish Protestant, you know exactly what I'm talking about.


Kategorie English

0 Kommentare

Möchtest du den ersten Kommentar schreiben?
Werde Mitglied von Friedliche Sabotage und starte die Unterhaltung.
Mitglied werden