The struggle against Google in Berlin

Earlier this year Google rocked up to Kreuzberg district in Berlin with plans for a swanky new Google Campus. The idea immediately sparked a great deal of local anger, and a spiky anti-gentrification campaign. In the below article, writers for Avalanche dive into the anarchist offensive against corporate spread in the German capital — and argue for fights against the tech giant to go global.

In the end of 2016 the plans of Google to open up a campus in Berlin were introduced at a press conference in Berlin. Campuses already exists in London, Warsaw, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Madrid and Tel Aviv. The Berlin campus shall provide rooms for start up companies (of course everything in Google‘s interest — but not only), offer workshops for experts and amateurs, as well as hosting a “Google Cafe.“

As location of all this shall serve the old electrical substation in Kreuzberg. Google submitted a permission for reconstruction, to start with the reconstruction measures in the old electrical substation and to be able to open the Campus in the end of 2017. Beside of the Factory in the Center of Berlin, a Start Up Campus of different companies, amongst others, also of Google, the new Google Campus would be another mainstay of the concern in Berlin. The plans of a Google Campus in Berlin are not only in the concern‘s interest, but also in the government‘s interest. It was not only, that the governing mayor of Berlin was present at the first press conference, and that he praised Google and explained what an opportunity a Google Campus in Berlin would be for the economic development of the city, but also that out of the session of the senate it could be heard that the senate is entirely supporting Google‘s plans.

The reasons for an offensive anarchist project against the plans of Google and of domination are different ones. On the one hand Kreuzberg and Neukölln (the quarter in which the old electrical substation is bordering on Kreuzberg) have for a long time been places in which an anarchist intervention is visible, for example there the anarchist library Kalabalik is in the same apartment block as the electrical substation. On the other hand Kreuzberg and parts of Neukölln are affected by a massive restructuring. Once those have been quarters where poorer people could afford to live in, but the quarter changed a lot in the last years (or decades).

These changes and the displacement is coming along with a tension, out of which there are and have been again and again attacks against the state and its responsibles.

Nevertheless “Kreuz-Kölln“ (the quarter around the border of Kreuzberg and Neukölln) has long since become a hip scene place, in which amongst others the Start Up landscape of Berlin is growing. Here we see an interest of Google moving to Kreuzberg, because Kreuzberg still has the image of an alternative quarter, beyond Berlin and Germany. Google would like to stabilise its “casual“, “alternative“ and “hip“ image as well as collect “creative“ ideas. On the other hand the reasons for a struggle against Google is the attempt to attack the seemingly invulnerable technological power.

For us, it isn‘t about Google itself, but about the domination‘s project of digitalisation and technologisation.
It is about to aim at the concrete construction project of a tech-concern, to prevent this and attack it, and as well develop a trenchant critique.

Anarchist machinations

Since the release to the public that Google is going to open up a Campus in Berlin, there have been — amongst others — anarchist machinations in the quarter against the construction plans of Google. Whereas the protest of civil initiatives and of the left is aimed above all against the gentrification in the quarter, an anarchist struggle considers itself as offensive project against Google as tech-company and against its dreams of domination.

Since the beginning of this year in the quarter and on the walls of the old electrical substation slogans against Google and domination could be read: “It‘s not possible to google freedom,“ “power off,“ “start up revolt“ …

An anarchist newspaper (called Shitstorm) was spread in an edition of 7,000 copies, that puts the prevention of the Google campus into a context of attack against broader plans of domination (for example, plans for a Smart City).

The posters, that could be read on the walls and the flyers that were spread were aimed against Google, against technology, domination, as well as against the politics that try to pacify the resistance against the Google Campus. Once a month there is an “Anti-Google Café“ taking place in the anarchist library Kalabalik.

This place serves as opportunity to exchange information, for coordination and discussion of an informal and self-organised struggle, aimed at the prevention of the Google Campus in Berlin. The anarchist proposal for an informal, self-organised offensive struggle, without appealing to politics and authority is visible in the quarter.

For the state it seems threatening insofar as for example the old electrical substation was the only building that was explicitly protected by the cops on the 2017 1st of May demonstration.

Although Google already has a renting contract and wants to open in the end of 2017, no reconstruction works — in general no construction works in the electrical substation — could be recognised until today. A month ago it was made public, that the reconstruction works of Google were refused in their first version. Until today when this text is written, it is not clear, if Google is able to move into the old electrical substation in Kreuzberg.

As it seems there are problems concerning the reconstruction plans. But these could be improved by Google and with this second application they could start with the reconstruction works. We are assuming that it is in Google‘s interest to move into the old electrical substation and to Kreuzberg, so it is just a question of time when the reconstruction works will start.

It’s the Green Party who were the first ones to oppose themselves against the first reconstruction plans of Google, moving into the old electrical substation in Kreuzberg. Within this, the politicians are living up to their role as mediators for domination by trying to blunt the resistance in the quarter to a political dialogue on the one hand and on the other hand to pacify it. Several articles appeared in the press about the resistance in the quarter against the planned Google Campus.

The different fractions, politicians as well as leftists and citizens’ initiatives are arguing with the threatening replacement and the burden on that quarter, if Google is going to move into the electrical substation. We didn’t expect it from the accomplices and mediators of domination – but nowhere could be read, that Google is not any concern like other companies and which role Google plays for the project of the restructuring of power. Nothing could be read about the visible anarchist critique of technology. Aware that the anarchist critique of technologisation of power can not be adopted by state and capital, by politics and by leftists, because they would cut into their own flesh — they have to ignore it. This shows us once again that an anarchist struggle has to resist not only against the recuperation through (radical) politics, but also has to acknowledge politics as enemy.

Rather than react — attack

For us as anarchists in the end it doesn’t matter if Google comes to Kreuzberg or to another quarter in Berlin.

For us it is not about to react to a project of domination, but rather about to attack this project and by doing this to develop an own project. The intention of Google goes along with the plans of the state concerning technologisation, for example, developing a smarter city or the plans of the government to create the conditions for a highly technological industry. This means that the infrastructure of the country and the city have to be expanded: faster internet, more w-lan access for free, more plug connectors in the public space … And all this needs in turn construction projects, as the installation of new cables. Without waiting for these obviously visible targets for attack to open up we’re trying to to attack domination today. This also means to place the ideology, that all the tech-companies have dedicated themselves to, into the focus of an offensive anarchist struggle.

We can attend ourselves to a concrete project, as an adequate method, to not only speak about an “apocalypse through technology“ and to stay seated in our armchairs, but rather to attack here and now — to throw oneself into the river, trying to stay above the water with one’s head and to focus on the enemy.

One could say that it’s too early to outline a struggle, which is not older than half a year. For sure this text was written out of a spontaneity, but nevertheless out of the deep interest to have discussions. A discussion, to rise the questions of how and if a specific struggle can be international, if there can be an international proposal, that is not moving on the terrain of symbolism and of spectacle. But also the questions concerning anarchist attacks against projects of domination, like technologisation, smartisation, digitalisation. The restructuring of power is an international project, so an anarchist struggle should not be restricted regionally, but should rather find ways to spread across areas. As already mentioned, this text is addressed to comrades in other parts of the world and tries to start communicating.

For sure other attacks, analyses and proposals could be developed, if one is not “limited“ due to the proximity to the struggle itself. This short and maybe too early outlining of the struggle in Berlin against a planned Google Campus is also the rejection to write an outline only when everything is over, but rather to do it in the chaos of the struggle itself.


This first appeared in the July Issue of Avalanche

Images of Kreuzberg by Gertrud K.von_boot and Manuel Lombardi