GERMANY: 100,000 march against social-service cuts



Tens of thousands of employed and unemployed workers marched through downtown Berlin on November 1 to protest the German governments' plans to cut pensions, unemployment insurance payments and other social services, contained in the so-called "Agenda 2010". According to organisers, the crowd doubled in size, to more than 100,000, as it marched.

Like the general strike in Italy on October 24, this was a strong response to the attempt by European Union government's attempts to cut workers' salaries and living conditions.

Governments across the bourgeois political spectrum are carrying out these anti-worker attacks. In Italy, it's the rightist government led by Silvio Berlusconi. In Germany, it's being done by the alliance of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Green Party.

A coalition of progressive trade unions, the anti-globalisation organisation ATTAC-Germany, the Party of Democratic Socialism and sections of the peace movement called the Berlin action. Organisers expected 20,000 participants; they were surprised and excited when five times that number turned out.

Demonstrators held banners and posters, and shouted slogans, that called the government program "the greatest attack on the workers since the second world war". While union banners filled the march, rank-and-file unionists were critical of the half-hearted effort that top union leaders, who are close to the SPD leadership, put into building the event.

Werner Halbauer of ATTAC-Germany said that "the top union leadership had practically given up the fightback against cuts in social programs over the summer", but resistance has stepped up in national unions representing service workers, metal workers and teachers, as well as in some local union branches. "The mass of the demonstrators followed the local unions, coalitions and anti-globalisation groups", Halbauer said.

Workers in most of Western Europe enjoy wage and benefit packages, and social security programs, won when the capitalist West was in competition with socialist Eastern Europe.

Since the collapse of the European workers' states in 1989, the capitalist class has attacked workers' living standards year by year. Now, Europe's capitalist governments want to cut social services. Pensions are under attack throughout Europe, leading to giant strikes and protests in France, Italy, Austria, Spain and Greece — and now Germany.

[Abridged from Workers World <>.]

From Green Left Weekly, November 19, 2003.
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