The upcoming federal elections in Germany, scheduled for September 22, are unlikely to change the character of German politics regardless of the outcome. The two main parties remain committed continuing to represent the interests of German corporations over its people. Die Linke (The Left Party) provides a left parliamentary alternative, but it has not succeeded in convincing ordinary, working people that a break of the status quo is possible.
A 700-strong march wound its way through the medieval streets of Freiburg, in the south-west German state of Baden-Wurttemberg, on April 20 to protest against the imminent resumption of deportation flights from the state. The theme of the protest was “Those who want to stay should stay”. Those targeted for deportation are Roma refugees who fled Kosovo, Serbia and Macedonia during the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, and their German-born children.
All That I Am, A Novel By Anna Funder Penguin 2011 370 pp, $29.95 Germany at the end of World War I entered a political and cultural maelstrom that tested the integrity of all its participants. This factually based narrative, or “open-source novel” as author Anna Funder calls it, brings to life some of those who committed their lives to trying to bring socialism to Germany and combat Hitler.
Refugees coming to Germany right now are largely from known regions of crisis. They come from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, many African countries and the Turkish-ruled part of Kurdistan. They also include many Roma who want to escape extreme poverty and racial discrimination in Kosovo and other East European countries.
A group of 57 refugees, mainly from Africa and the Middle East, have pushed the plight of the more than 100,000 asylum seekers in Germany into the national spotlight. In September, they rejected regulations that constrain their movement and began a long march to the German capital, Berlin. They came from as far as Wuerzburg, a Bavarian town in Germany’s south. Some of them completed the 600 kilometre journey on foot over 29 days. Arriving in early October, the refugees and scores more German supporters established a tent city in the Berlin suburb of Kreuzberg.
Germany is usually presented in the mainstream media as having successfully weathered Europe’s vast economic crisis. German Chancellor Angel Merkel from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has gained enormous influence on the European political and financial scene. By contrast, in protests across Greece, Spain and other countries hit hardest by the crisis, references about Germany as the “Fourth Reich” are increasingly being voiced.
Germany's Die Linke (The Left) party elected a new leadership team at its June 2-3 congress. It came at a time of rising economic and social crisis in Europe, as well as losses for Die Linke in recent state elections. Die Linke was formed in 2007 as part of a unification of two parties, one with a base in the old eastern states (the PDS) and the other based in the western Germany (the WASG). Between 2007 and 2009, Die Linke achieved strong electoral results in federal elections and was represented in all state parliaments.
Up to 30,000 protesters from across Europe took to the streets on May 19 in the financial district of Frankfurt. The rally, which lasted for seven hours, ended outside the European Central Bank (ECB). The protest, “Blockupy Frankfurt”, was part of a three-day action, organised to oppose the European debt crisis policies of the “troika” made up of the ECB, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission. These polices include the so-called Eurozone bailout funds, which have helped push people across Europe into poverty and the dismantled democratic rights.
Voters in Germany’s largest state of 18 million people, North Rhine Westphalia, went to the polls on May 13 to reject Chancellor Angela Merkel’s politics. This came a week after the loss for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the election of Schleswig Holstein. These results mark a rejection of the hard line austerity politics pushed across Europe by the Merkel-led coalition government.
Economic collapse drives workers into hunger and destitution. Foreign powers extort huge payments, forcing the national economy toward bankruptcy. The government forces workers to pay the costs of capitalist crisis. This description of Greece in 2012 applies equally to Germany in 1921. How should a workers’ party respond? The German Communist Party (KPD) proposed a simple fiscal policy: tax those who own the country’s productive wealth.
Elections in Schleswig Holstein on May 6 delivered yet another blow to the federal coalition government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP). As well as forming government federally, the CDU and FDP were also in government in the small northern German state. The CDU lost nearly 100,000 votes, slipping 0.7 points to 30.8% — its worst result in the Schleswig Holstein since 1950.
Literature Nobel laureate and Germany's most famous living author Gunter Grass labelled Israel a threat to "already fragile world peace" in his poem “Was gesagt werden muss” (“What must be said”). The work, published by German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung on April 4, accuses "the West" of hypocrisy in relation to the arming of Israel. In publishing the poem, Grass, who regards himself as "irrevocably connected to the country of Israel” has made a big contribution to breaking a long standing German taboo about publicly criticising Israel's warmongering.
About 215,000 public service workers struck on March 27 as a warning to their employers a day before talks between the public sector union and the bosses. Two weeks earlier, 130,000 took part in the first round of strikes. The award being negotiated by the United Services Union (known as ver.di) covers more than 2 million public service workers from national to local level. Ver.di is Germany's second biggest union, with a membership of about 2.1 million people.
Elections in the German state of Saarland on March 25 have dealt a heavy blow to the federal coalition government of Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) kept its 12-year hold on power, holding steady at 35.2% of the small state’s voters. But Merkel's allies at a federal level ― the neoliberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) ― were wiped out at the state polls. The FDP’s share of the vote dropped from 9.2% in 2009 to 1.2%, well below the 5% required to enter parliament.
Ten thousand people mobilised in Dresden on February 18 to stop an annual march of European neo-Nazis. A broad coalition of political parties, church groups, trade unions and other anti-fascist groups formed a united front campaign to stop the planned neo-Nazi march through peaceful, mass blockades. Six days earlier, a group of more than 1000 neo-Nazis gathered in Dresden for a march supposedly to commemorate the innocent deaths caused by the 1945 bombing of Dresden by the Allied forces.
Germany’s domestic spy agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), has been exposed for spying on left-wing MPs. German magazine Der Spiegel said on January 23 that the BfV spied on MPs from Germany's biggest left-wing party, the socialist Die Linke ("The Left"). Der Spiegel said the intelligence agency had 27 of Die Linke's members in the Bundestag ― more than one third of its federal MPs ― and a further 11 members of state parliaments, under surveillance, costing 390,000 euros a year.