Elections in Berlin in September 2016 returned a coalition government made up of the Social Democratic Party, the socialist Left Party and the Green Party. Early this year, the city declared International Women’s Day (IWD) a public holiday.
Internationally, the call for a women’s strike on IWD has been gathering momentum. In Berlin on March 8, an alliance of feminist organisations organised a Women’s Fighting Day rally and march with the theme “celebrating, striking, keep on fighting”. About 20,000 people attended.
Sibylle Kaczorek, a member of Socialist Alliance and the Left Party who is currently living in Berlin, addressed the rally on behalf of Stand Up Against Racism (Aufstehen gegen Rassismus). Below is her speech.
I feel honoured to greet you on this International Women’s Day in the name of Stand Up Against Racism on the first public holiday of its kind in Berlin and Germany.
Stand Up Against Racism, a national alliance, was formed in the spring of 2016. The triggers were the racist attacks on asylum seekers’ accommodation, Islamophobic aggression, the widespread hate campaign against people fleeing persecution and Muslim people in general.
A lot of people realised that the [far-right] Alternative for Germany [AfD] was increasingly becoming a gathering point for xenophobic and racist people. Thus, the alliance was launched to build a dissenting voice at local, grassroots level that promotes an open and just society.
Some may remember when AfD member and self-proclaimed ex-Muslim Leyla Bilge called for a women’s march to the Chancellor’s Office in February 2018. It had to be dispersed after a few hours as a larger counter-demonstration successfully blockaded the way.
This and the other so-called women’s marches organised by the AfD and other right-wing and neo-fascist groups are aimed at reinventing themselves as “defenders” of women and women’s rights.
They do this using one line of argumentation: that is that all male refugees and asylum seekers are potentially criminals and violent. They imply that the victims are German women.
Thus, violence is turned into something defined by culture and background. Consequently, the violence of German men is rendered invisible.
This argument aims to turn German-born women and men against male refugees, asylum seekers and Muslims. Its aim is to divide people.
Feminism, however, opposes this attempt at division. We stand in solidarity with all people, regardless of their identity or background. We are against all forms of violence.
It is unacceptable for feminism to be misappropriated to limit or deny the right of asylum — a human right — or to demand deportations. Both these demands would automatically have life threatening impact on women.
The AfD’s racist misappropriation of feminism has nothing to do with women’s rights. For them, German women should have more children and should not have a right to terminate pregnancies. They only support the traditional model of family: mother, father and children. They support the reintroduction of the consideration of guilt in divorce cases. They want any kind of quotas to be abolished.
In other words, their version of feminism is one in which women do not have a say over their own bodies and life choices.
The racist misappropriation of feminism doesn’t achieve anything apart from creating fear and suspicion. This is a danger for all of us.
Globally, the global extreme right push is growing. In Europe we expect more nationalist and racist parties to campaign for the European Parliament in elections in May.
Neoliberal politics over the past few decades has intensified social inequity. This has led to a growing fear of social exclusion and a general sense of insecurity.
Racism is not an automatic response; instead, it is being used in a targeted manner to divide people. Such division makes it easy then to push austerity measures even further and to demobilise resistance.
At the same time, neoliberal attacks have deepened poverty, stirred conflict, led to climate catastrophe and wars — all circumstances that push people to leave their home countries.
Racism is used against all of us and it is our task to stand up against it, to stand in solidarity with those at the receiving end and to fight the real causes of sexism, violence and inequality.
Our feminism is anti-racist. Our feminism is internationalist.