Don’t Say “Gentrification”!

This story byJuergen Kaube has it all, at least from my perspective. Sociology (yay!), Marxist revolutionaries (feh), and bombing campaigns (feh). 

You can find it on page 33 of the paper version of today’s FAZ. (It’s online here, but only for subscribers.) I’ll summarize it for you. A sociologist (apparently a student) at the Humboldt University in Berlin has just been arrested by the police. He has been accused of "membership in a terrorist organization," which is a outlawed by Section 129a of the German Penal Code. The suspect’s identity is still being kept secret and the parties are being very cautious in what they say, so the details remain sketchy. However, the FAZ lays out the following chain of events.

First, there came the terror group militante gruppe (mg). Like many German left-wing types, the ‘militant group’ eschews capital letters. If that reminds you of the 1970s, so will most of the group’s rhetoric — mind-fogging debates about the timing of the coming revolution, the advantages of the "urban guerilla" over the "militia" model, whether imperialism can best be defeated from the city or the countryside, etc. They have conducted 21 firebomb attacks in Germany in recent years, targeting auto dealerships, military installations, supermarkets, and police facilities. None of the attacks has caused injuries, though some involved occupied buildings.

The police began to suspect the sociologist when they compared his writings to some of the group’s communiques. The sociologist had been active in left-wing causes in Berlin in the 1990s — often, groups which were trying to prevent the clearance of large sections of East Berlin to make room for yuppie residences. Apparently, he had even brought out a book containing some of his writings on the subject. According to the arrest warrant, the police claim to have recognized "similarities" in the phrases he used and the ones used in mg publications. One of them is "gentrification." The article mocks this aspect of the arrest warrant, noting that gentrification has "been used constantly by sociologists of urban life since the nineties, if not earlier."

Another suspect, who worked at a research center, is accused of having made libraries "available" to the group to permit them to do "’necessary research." Kaube smirks: "it’s usually not very hard to get access to libraries, and plenty of non-revolutionaries use them without incident."

It’s all still quite vague, thanks to laws that protect suspects’ identities and the decisions of all the participants not to comment. But it seems like a story worth following; especially for people who sometimes use the word "gentrification"…

One thought on “Don’t Say “Gentrification”!

  1. This account gives the impression that the scientist was arrested solely on the merit of having written in a similar style as the “militante gruppe.” That is not quite correct.

    First off, he is not a student. His identity is hardly a secret (and neither is that of the other scientist who is under suspicion, I will leave that as an exercise for the reader).

    Second, the background of his arrest is the arrest of 3 persons in the night between 30 and 31 July in Brandenburg an der Havel, after they had apparently attempted to set fire to several vehicles at a military site. My understanding is that these persons had already been under surveillance, which is also the reason why their attempt was thwarted; we may thus assume that they had already been suspect somehow. One of these three (a certain Florian L.) had met Dr. Andrej Holm several times (allegedly under conspiratorial circumstances). So, it’s not that a random sociologist was picked off the street because he used certain words. He came under suspicion not least because he was in contact with someone who almost certainly is an arsonist.


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