The new terrorism: domestic, economic, environmentalist?

burnt-out carVia Chairman Bruce comes news from Berlin, a city whose rapid rate of change and gentrification is escalating tensions between the far right and radical left… and those of no political affiliation at all. The last six months have seen a wave of car-burning:

During the past six months, more than 170 cars have been destroyed by fire in Berlin and police confirm conservatively that 93 were politically motivated attacks.

A mysterious, single page website, (Burning Cars of Berlin), shows the number of cars set alight and where the crimes occurred, revealing clusters in ‘‘richer’’ areas, or in suburbs where gentrification and redevelopment are changing the demographic of local neighbourhoods.

Mysterious indeed. Is the site run by the car-burners themselves? Their supporters? Their ideological opponents? Berlin being a traditionally bohemian city, it may just be someone’s idea of an art installation.

According to a spokeswoman for the Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz (the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution), there has been a measurable increase in left-wing extremist action, including the targeting of police and the property of businesses perceived to be involved in military or ‘‘imperialist’’ activities.

DHL, a company involved in logistics for the German armed forces, has been a recent target.

‘‘It is not just anti-militarism we are seeing … it is anti-imperialism, a catalogue of anti-things … anti-fascism, anti-gentrification. The people we are seeing are the so-called ‘autonoma’, people operating in groups without hierarchy, who are not well organised and so classical anarchy is in the background of their thinking,’’ she says.


Police cars, too, are being targeted. The favoured method is to use the slow-burn barbecue fire starters, which take time to smoulder and provide plenty of get-away time for the perpetrators.

That could have come straight out of any near-future urban dystopia or cyberpunk novel you care to name; as traditional party-based politics drifts further and further from being able to represent the fragmented ideologies of populations, angry people will find their voice whatever way they can.

And as economic pressures deepen over time, we’ll probably see similar events cropping up in other crowded and under-funded cities across the Western world… so if you’re not already following John Robb’s Global Guerrillas blog, now may be the time to start. [image by Jacob Davies]

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