24.7.15

Towing the Party Line: Zug Der Liebe, Saturday July 25th

"Peace, joy and pancakes!" 
 
... was the deliriously random tagline for the Berlin Love Parade, back when it started in 1989.  The Love Parade was founded in 1989 to celebrate DJ Dr. Motte's birthday.  It was originally billed as a protest and had an ambitiously broad range of demands: global disarmament, unity through music and an end to food poverty.  The solution offered to all these problems was simple enough: bring people together to dance, hug and share. Tomorrow, the Zug der Liebe demo & street party will be doing something a bit similar, but it has made some necessary updates to the template that its predecessors created. 

At the time when the first Love Parade happened, its organizers had a glaring example of division, corruption and repression sitting right on the doorstep in the form of the German Democratic Republic, lurking darkly behind its Wall.  After people started streaming through that wall that had been controlled by the state in pretty much every way for most of their lives, they wanted to party.  Well, who could blame them?


In her book 'Stasiland' Australian journalist Anna Funder describes the way that even the act of dancing was considered a quasi-terrorist act in the GDR.  Officials even went so far as inventing a state-sanctioned dance of their own called the 'Lipsi', to ensure that those gyrating hips wouldn't breach any of the regime's strict moral, political boundaries:

"The Lipsi step was the East's answer to Elvis and decadent foreign rock n' roll.  it was a dance invented by a committe, a bizarre hipless camel of a thing. In not one of this panoply of gestures do the dancers' hips move."

(But hey - at least they didn't go as far as the New York police, and make laughing too loudly illegal).

The repression of the Cold War era was so crass that the Love Parade's organizers didn't need to go very far out of their way to transgress: all they needed to do was do parade through the streets with some great tunes and invite the whole city to jump in, in a frenzy of wiggling hips.  It was an obvious solution to an obvious problem.  All that they needed to demolish the physical scars of repression & usher in the future, were a set of speakers, some decks, a truck, and perhaps a few exotic substances to feed those newly re-awakened neurons.  Simplicity was the beauty of the street party formula, as was the fact that it could be expanded to accommodate millions of people. And eventually, that's exactly how big the Love Parade became.

But, by the end of the 1990s, raving in the streets had almost become a state-sanctioned exercise in unquestioning deference to yet another leader: the superstar DJ.  The memories of Cold War had also faded by then, and the Love Parade didn't seem to be fighting against anything anymore... but it wasn't fighting for anything, either. What it had was already freely available everywhere in the West: the right to indulge in whatever senseless abandon you wanted, as long as you were happy to pay to play.
 
Criticisms abounded as the Love Parade slid deeper into the illusory whirl of materialism, with brand name sponsorship deals and major drinks manufacturers setting up stands.  Dodgy blokes materialized from all four corners of the world in the expectation of seeing free porn, rather than experiencing free love. (At least, that was what it was like when I went).  The Love Parade had become a demonstration in favour of self-delusion... that key ingredient in the capitalist New World.  A place where you became another person for a day, and Berlin became another city.  But only for a day.  In 2010 the Love Parade did a party in Duisburg which ended in a human stampede, several tragic deaths and dozens of injuries, and that was the end of that.

Except it wasn't...

Zug der Liebe 2016 - photo by Jens Schwan

Luckily for us, the Zug der Liebe organizers aren't planning to carry on exactly where the  Love Parade left off.  The organizers are undoubtedly inspired by the Love Parade's earlier, better years, but their emphasis seems to be firmly on finding practical avenues that the people of Berlin can dance down toward unity.  

"We want to make a statement as a political demonstration for community, love and empathy," said organizer Jens Schwan in an interview with Berliner Morgenpost.  He also seems to be the author of several long, impassioned ideological texts that defend Zug der Liebe's aims on its webpage.  On their Facecrack page, the event's followers debate and chime in with similar texts with shameless abandon.  They may be a bit older than the usual Berlin club kids and they may like to party a wee bit harder than you granny, but these people are a very long way from being burned out. The spark's still there.  They've invited several activist groups to help them out as well, just to fan the flames of permanence in the Berlin scene. 

It seems like an acknowledgement of the fact that Berlin is facing far more multifaceted barriers today than it did in 1989.  Instead of an overtly watchful regime and a highly visible Wall, Berlin now struggles against psychological and social barriers that are shifting, intangible... racists who assume that all refugees are lazy, locals who assume all foreigners are idiots, men who bully women, homophobes who insist queers are demanding 'special treatment' etc.

These assumptions all seem to stem from the same source: the encroachment of free market capitalism.

Perhaps one extreme has led to another: the stifling socialist regime has done a 180 degree turn and become a stiflingly individualistic one.  Berlin urgently needs to find its middle ground if it is going to hang onto the unique social and cultural advances it's made, both before and after the fall of the Wall.  And in part, those advances were enabled by idealistic, free party people who did things like the Love Parade... and now, the Zug der Liebe (which means The Love Train, in case you were wondering).

Zug der Liebe represents a growing and well-informed Berlin scene of people who believe that they should work together for changes that help the city, as opposed to making a flashy, superficial spectacle that resembles change, but lasts for just a day.

"We have no sponsorship, no merchandising," said Jens in his interview.  The organizers want to show that their generation is more than a "hedonistic, apolitical and consumption-horny party crowd."

I wish I could provide you with more direct quotes from the organizers, but I missed their press conference due to a flat tire (!@£$??).  But the above translations will give you the general idea: they're cool, and you should really get down there tomorrow and support 'em!

Zug der Liebe is on Saturday July 25th. Starts 2 p.m. at Frankfurter Tor.


Some of the networks that'll be at the parade include:

*C3S (An anti-GEMA copyright agency).  

*Friends of Mauerpark eV, who is dedicated to saving Prenzlauer Berg's famous flea market, green space and the site of Bearpit karaoke.

*Berlin FM- Berlin's only community-funded radio station, and purveyor of cheap fun events for all scenes and ages (they do a pretty wicked late night mix for party people too)

*Schwuz, the oldest gay club in the city, which also hosts some of the freshest, biggest (and still affordable) parties for those in the know, at its sprawling Neukolln base. 

*GleisBeet eV, an urban gardening project

*Tiergarten Tafel eV a pet food charity, supporting homeless pets

*Gangway eV Streetwork Berlin which assists homeless people with outreach in Berlin.

...and of course, assorted openair and community-minded party crews.  For more info about the music, a listing of the 'train' wagons can be found here. 

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Berlin, Germany
...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, activism, social media rights. Other publications that I have written for: OpenDemocracy, Urban Challenger, Siegesaeule, Alternative Berlin and Sensanostra.