While these protests are supported by DIE LINKE (the Left Party), Attac, different left groups and social movements unfortunately most of the trade unions are not doing so.
Since the “great recession” of 2009 there has been a certain economic recovery in Germany which enabled the ruling class to postpone sharper austerity measures. As a consequence there have been few anti-cuts protests, although now there are growing demands by workers to get a share of the profits made in this recovery. However there is also a growing awareness amongst a layer of workers and young people that the German government and capitalists are carrying a large part of the responsibility for the draconic austerity measures in Greece and other European countries which create catastrophic social conditions. The idea behind the protests in May is to send a signal of solidarity from the “belly of the beast” to the workers in Greece, Spain and other countries and to show that there is also resistance in the strongest imperialist country of Europe against the anti-worker and anti-poor policies. Frankfurt as the residence of the big banks and the ECB is the ideal place for this.
The May protest were called by an action conference beginning of the year bringing together nearly 400 activists from different groups mainly representing the far left, anti-globalisation and occupy groups, some left-wing trade unionists and DIE LINKE. A national demonstration with European wide participation has been called for May 19. In the run up to this, camps at the inner city squares are planned starting from May 17, which is a national holiday, as well as a blockade of the Bank quarter of Frankfurt on Friday the 18th.
Trade unions missing
It is not clear what the turnout to the days of action will be – the organizers expect something between 10,000 and 40,000 people. Most groups of the radical left are mobilizing to Frankfurt. DIE LINKE nationally supports the days of action, organizes coaches and calls for participation, but it is not clear what dynamic will develop for the protest. This is partially because the trade union leaderships refuse to support the days of action. Only the smaller teachers’ trade union (GEW) is calling nationally for the protest in Frankfurt. The leadership of the trade union federation DGB uses plans for protests in autumn as a way to divert attention from the May days of action.
However it must be said that there is a certain element of ‘substitutionism’ in the way the protests are prepared. Although there have been sizable participation in the wage round “warning strikes” held this year in the public sector, Deutsche Telekom and the engineering industry there is not yet a big mood for protest against the banks. There is a danger that the more confrontational form of blockades might just appeal to the existing radical left and could even cut across the potential support amongst broader layers. It is also a danger that, without an appeal being made to them, ordinary bank workers will not understand why they are stopped from reaching their workplaces.
Clear programme needed
This problem gets reinforced by the refusal of the action-conference in February to put forward clear demands for the days of action. SAV members, together with other left-wing and trade union activists, proposed that the call for the demonstration should include concrete demands taking up the needs of German workers, unemployed and youth (like a minimum wage, shorter working week without loss of pay etc.) and also supporting explicitly demands like non-payment of the debt and nationalisation of the banks. As this was rejected the call for the demo is quite vague. SAV members now propose resolutions which put forward such demands and a call for a socialist Europe in opposition to the bosses’ capitalist Europe in the Left Party. Already the Left Party organisations in the cities of Rostock, Kassel, Göttingen and the regional conference in Bremen agreed to these resolutions.
SAV is mobilizing all around the country for the days of action. We produced a poster, leaflets for local events and the local branches make weekly street stalls to mobilize for the demonstration. On the May Day trade union demonstrations we will together with others mobilise for the protest. Members of the Austrian CWI section will send a delegation to the protest.
Further information on www.blockupy-frankfurt.org/