The fourth conference of the “Challenging Capitalist Modernity” series, which was scheduled to take place at the University of Hamburg on April 7-9, but was cancelled by the university administration, began instead on Thursday with opening speeches at the Wilhelmsburg Bürgerhaus (Wilhelmsburg town hall).
At the opening of the conference entitled “We Want Our World Back! – Resist, Reclaim and Rebuild”, organised by the Network for an Alternative Quest (Network AQ), Luisw Dechow, on behalf of the Hamburg University Student Union, protested against the ban by the University of Hamburg and said, “The university banned the conference at the request of German intelligence and German intelligence is a remnant of the Nazi system.”
Dechow stressed that with the ban on the Challenging Capitalist Modernity conference, freedom of thought and information has also been banned and expressed their demand for a democratic university and fundamental change. “We want the world that was taken from us,” he said.
The decision to cancel the rooms for the conference was taken by the university’s president, Prof Dr Hauke Heekeren, following pressure from the Hamburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which labelled the conference as ‘extremist’. The move has been condemned by the General Students’ Committee (AStA) of the University of Hamburg, which is organising the conference in partnership with the Network AQ.
“This action by the university management is completely inappropriate and a critical interference in the necessary exchange among us students about perspectives on how the future world can be shaped. Such interference in the free exchange of opinions is an attack on academic freedom and contradicts everything that the University of Hamburg, our university, is actually known for,” said the AStA in a statement on Monday.
The group also pledged to take legal action if necessary. A cross-status group motion will also be submitted to the Academic Senate, opposing attempts by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution to influence the content of academic conferences and events at the University of Hamburg.
The cancellation has sparked a strong reaction from academics and initiatives across the world, with over a hundred professors and academics signing a declaration supporting the conference and condemning the decision to cancel the rooms.
“People all across the world are struggling for the freedom and dignity of their communities and their territories. Given today’s urgent political, social, and ecological questions, the university should be the site where such people’s voices are heard in order for new visions to be forged,” said prominent political theorist Silvia Federici, adding, “The Hamburg University administration’s decision to not only withdraw from hosting the Challenging Capitalist Modernity conference but also doing so at the last minute is an alarming betrayal of this duty and responsibility.”
The Neues Deutschland newspaper reported that the University of Hamburg banned the conference with the headline “Science banned in Hamburg”.
The conference at the Wilhelmsburg town hall continues on Friday with planned panels and over 1,300 attendees, including internationally renowned academics, intellectuals, and activists. Before the sessions on Friday, a dance performance by a Kurdish and Irish dance group inspired by the Jin, Jîyan, Azadî women’s movement attracted a lot of attention.