May Day is celebrated in Ye Olde Merrie England™ with Morris Dancers, Maypoles, neo-druids prancing around stone circles, and lots of Real Ale or Zummerset Zoider with twigs and birds nests stirred in.
May Day elsewhere in many parts of the world is a traditional celebration of the Struggle of the Working Class to shake off the Shackles of Capitulismus Slavery, Take-over the Means of Production, and Stamp Down on the Bourgeoisee Running-dog Traitors. Or something like that.
In East Berlin, May Day was formerly a celebration of the military might of the DDR and the SED, or more correctly the might of the Soviet military machines of occupation, with Red Army parades down Karl-Marx Allee and displays of Soviet tanks, MIG aircraft, and ICBM's.
In West Berlin, and particularly in Kreuzberg, May Day has traditonally been the day for anarchists, eco-warriors, and anti-militarists to party. If there aren't a dozen or so Mercs and Beamers fire-bombed by the evening's out, then it hasn't been a success.
During the time of the partition, it should be noted, West Berlin was a magnet for anti-authoritarians; mainly because as an occupied city, its youth didn't have to do the military service mandatory elsewhere. And also because Young Upwardly Mobile Professional types weren't making a good career-move to set up business in a city that lay in the centre of a Communist dictatorship and might have its borders permanently closed off to the West at any time. Kreuzberg was the Postleitzahl of choice for dissidents because it was a poor neighbourhood next to the wall.
But before we dismiss the area as a hot-bed of work-shy layabouts, hippies, punks, and scroungers-off-the-state, you must take into account that a lot of the old architectural buildings in the area wouldn't have been preserved if said layabouts, hippies, punks etc hadn't squatted in the abandoned bombed-out shells and prevented the demolition of rows of apartment blocks which West Germany wanted to sweep away and replace with modern seventies architecture - lovely that it is. And, to continue banging on the drum, Berlin wouldn't have become the vibrant, creative, dynamic, buzzing place it is today without the undercurrent of dissidence, free-expression, and sheer bloody-mindedness of would-be painters, musicians, and performance artists living in the shadow of the wall. As so often is the case, fresh new ideas spring from the techtonic stress-points of cultures in conflict.
But enough of the polemics. Here are some photos from Kreuzberg, Berlin, am Mai 2009 (as usual on this blog, click on the photo to biggify).
Now here are your traditional red-and-black flag anarcho-socialist protestors. The banner translates from the German and Turkish as "International crusade against exploitation, oppression, and imperialistic war! No liberation without revolution!". Ah bless, sweet!
Most of the food was typical Turkish street food, but some of the vendors caught the spirit of the day. Che Guevara pretzels anyone?
Of course, there was lots of drink available to wash it all down with on this sunny, baking-hot day. I love how this stall has made the 'A' in kaltes Fassbier into an anarchy symbol. Cute! (and politically correct apparently).
And if alcohol isn't your relaxant of choice, why not kiffen at the hemp house?
Everywhere you went there was loud music, from ranting punk rock to freestyle jazz drummers:
But the main spectacle was the people watching; from the punks ...
... to the poseurs ...From The tattooed ...
... to the exhibitionist:Then there were the downright WTF weird ...
Overall it was a day for chilling out, eating, drinking, mingling, relaxing, and reclaiming the streets:
Of course the Polizei kept a strong force on hand, but they mostly left the people to do their own thing unhindred.
And yes, later on that night a bunch of 'radicals', who were more likely doing it to get their mobile phone video onto YouTube to show how well-hard and anarchistic they were, set some bins alight and maybe a car or two - pricks, like that will bring down capitalism (the Bankers seem to be doing it well enough by themselves at the moment). But which images did you see on the TV or in the papers the next day? Everyone having a fun day out in the Spring sunshine, or a bunch of twats with black face masks throwing stones at Polizei vans? (that was a rhetorical question by the way).
But most importantly of all, there were no bleeding Morris Dancers!