The port of Hamburg is not only the city’s landmark, but also an international transshipment point where radioactive materials, energy commodities that are harmful to the climate, deadly arms, animal “products” and many other goods are handled. Therefore, it is also a junction where global social injustice, the destruction of the environment and exploitation come together.
Let’s stop exploitation and fight for justice!
The port of Hamburg is one of the largest ports in Europe and thus one of the central transshipment points for imports from all over the world. A large part of the consumer goods used in Europe are produced in other parts of the world – often under disastrous social conditions. Workers’ rights such as regulated working hours, protection against dismissal, health insurance and adequate payment are mostly missing. News reports about accidents give us an impression of how little the safety of workers matters, e. g. the collapse of a textile factory in Bangladesh in 2013 where over 1000 people died and twice as many were injured.
The cultivation of feedstuffs (e. g. soy) for pigs, cows and “poultry” in South America, the main production area, does not just mean the destruction of entire ecosystems and the accompanying biodiversity through large-scale monocultures using massive amounts of pesticides, but also land grabbing and the displacement of many local small farmers. Not to mention the unimaginable, unbearable suffering of the millions of individual animals who are caged, exploited and murdered. Uranium mining, e. g. in Namibia and Tanzania, releases toxic and radioactive dust particles in the open pit mines and produces huge amounts of radioactive waste, causing not only the long-term radioactive contamination of the environment and water pollution but also serious illnesses in the population. The history of coal mining in Columbia, too, is marked by murder, mass displacements, human rights violations and massive environmental damage. Large numbers of people have been and still are being displaced for huge open pit coal mines and entire parts of the country are cut off from the supply of drinking water. People who are fighting back must fear being killed by paramilitaries.
Those who ultimately profit from these business dealings are rich western industrialised countries and companies. They exploit the resources and workers of mostly former colonial countries and thus intensify the manifold social and ecological crises and conflicts. Through the burning of coal and the energy-intensive production of meat they exacerbate climate change even more. Those regions that are most affected by climate change will become even more prone to its devastating impacts that can already be felt today: more periods of drought, falling ground water levels and more frequent and intense extreme weather events. These lead to existential threats such as water shortage and crop failures which often cause humanitarian disasters and force millions of people to flee their homes. Energy-intensive crop cultivation and mining as well as the transport and utilisation of these goods are clearly in conflict with the existential needs of the local population: food sovereignty, access to clean water and energy.
In addition, various subsidised products are exported out of the EU, e. g. agricultural products from the EU that are flooding the markets in many countries of the global south. Local farmers are not able to undercut the highly subsidised European products and their businesses go bankrupt. This affects especially female small farmers whose livelihoods are destroyed. Unjust and dependent gender relations are thus further aggravated. The port of Hamburg is also used to export large amounts of various types of arms that are employed to kill numerous people throughout the world. Many armed conflicts worldwide are fought with military equipment that is transported to global crisis areas from Hamburg. The arms manufacturer Blohm+Voss produces its warships right in the port of Hamburg.
The port of Hamburg, therefore, is not only one of the darkest places of Hamburg’s (colonial) history but even today a hub of our neocolonial present.
Let’s enter the port and exit capitalism!
The handling of these goods in Germany’s largest port plays a significant role in the production chains that enable large companies such as Areva/Orano (nuclear power), Vattenfall (coal) or Cargill (slaughter, agricultural production) to conduct their lucrative business. The port of Hamburg, therefore, is an important aspect of and an accomplice in these companies’ destructive activities.
In addition, the port of Hamburg is engaged in a continuous competition for growth with other international ports, which parts of the local population as well as the natural environment have already had to make way for. Surrounding villages such as Altenwerder have been destroyed for the expansion of the port and their inhabitants have been forcibly resettled. Also the river and habitat Elbe, as a transport route, has been deepened eight times so far in order to make room for even bigger and heavier container ships. Moreover, in 2018 more cruise liners will be docking in the port of Hamburg than ever before, even though they are among the worst climate-damaging means of transport that exist. Their dirty fuels poison the air in Hamburg and elsewhere.
The port is one of the landmarks of Hamburg. But in the so-called gateway to the world the problems caused by capitalism become apparent.
The port of Hamburg is not only a junction of different forms of exploitation, but also a connecting link of various social struggles. In the summer of 2018, many of these struggles will come together for the first time at the site of the port of Hamburg where various activists will unite to oppose this ongoing global injustice. Together, we want to make the downsides of the port visible to the public. Our social order is no inevitable fate. It does not have to stay the way it is.
The port does not inevitably have to handle dirty business and we do not have to live at the expense of poorer people, animals or nature!
Being part of an emancipatory grassroots movement, we are not just criticising the present economic system and its capitalist expansionism and profit orientation. Instead, we are presenting our own idea of a world that is worth taking to the streets for – an economic system and a form of society whose aim is the welfare of all living beings.
These are the reasons why we are gathering during the Harbour Games 2018 to discover the port of Hamburg as an activity area, together with you and many other people. Let us unite and explore how to get active and oppose the destructive conditions of capitalism.