Saturday saw the biggest anti-war demonstration in Germany for decades. Five hundred thousand from all over the country took to the streets of Berlin and paralysed the historical area from Alexanderplatz in the East of the city via the Brandenburg Gate to the Siegessäule (a monument which was built to commemorate Prussia’s victory over France in 1871) in the West. Six hundred buses came to Berlin -150 from Hamburg alone. Another 50,000 demonstrated in the southern German city of Stuttgart.
15 February. No to war in Iraq. cwi reports from around the world. Germany.
500,000 protest in Berlin
So many people assembled at 12pm at Alexanderplatz that some of the coaches did not reach the starting point of the demonstration and drove directly to the finishing rally. In a dynamic of its own the demonstrators started to march without waiting for the opening rally to end.
Thousands of home-made placards and banners showed the broad variety of the people present. There were many radical slogans against imperialist war, against the war for oil. Many others demanded all German troops to be sent home from Kuwait and other parts of the world. Others reminded demonstrators of the involvement of the German government in the wars against Serbia and Afghanistan. TV actors from the popular series "Lindenstrasse" marched in the demonstration with placards saying "Lindenstrasse against a war of aggression in Iraq". A big Kurdish contingent demanded "Peace for Kurdistan" and "Freedom for Öcalan". Many trade unionists were present carrying the different flags of their unions.
Government parties mobilised as well in an attempt to exploit the mass anti war mood in the country and especially the Green Party tried to dominate the scene with thousands of green balloons and stickers being handed out to the demonstrators saying "old Europe". Some government ministers and the president of the Bundestag (German parliament) Wolfgang Thierse also joined the demonstration. Hypocritically the Social Democrats distributed stickers saying "Courage for peace".
As CWI online has explained in yesterday’s report from Germany, the Schröder government speaks against the war out of its own interests while it is practically supporting the US Army in its war preparations. The majority of speakers at the official rally were uncritical of the government as for example the Verdi-chair (public sector trade union) Bsirkse. They did not however represent the views of the majority of participants. While many were not clear about the role of the government, the big majority would support demands like the withdrawal of German troops from Kuwait, the closing down of German air space for US Army jets etc. But platform speakers commented on the participation of the government parties in the protest. Rolf Becker, TV actor and trade unionist, in his speech to the demonstration openly criticised the policy of the government and of the trade union leadership in supporting the war against Afghanistan. When he pointed out the connections between the war and the economic and social crisis facing the mass of the working class by finishing his speech with the words "Let’s fight for jobs, against social cuts and against the war!" he received huge applause.
February 15 was a day of "peoples power" all over the world. It gave an impression of the might of the people. Just imagine the working class taking strike action and taking to the streets in its millions. Everybody who saw the huge demonstration on Saturday could feel that no power on earth could stop a united and organised mass movement of the working class. To build such a movement is the task of socialists in the anti war movement.
Socialist Alternative (SAV – German section of the CWI) was very active in the demonstration. We called on the trade unions to organise strike action against the war. SAV members were instrumental in the launch of "Youth against war" (YAW) as a national youth campaign prior to the demonstration in Berlin. YAW is calling for a day of protest on February 25 and youth strikes on Day X (the day the war starts).
YAW called on young people to join a youth contingent on the demonstration. Overwhelmed by the huge numbers at the beginning of the demonstration, the initial stages of the march was somewhat chaotic. Most of the different political groups failed to bring together their contingents as the area was so packed that people could not find the contingents they were looking for. YAW buses from Kassel never made it to the opening rally while the Hamburg YAW contingent could not reach the general YAW contingent and had to form its own. Finally more than 500 young people formed the main YAW contingent and 150 formed a smaller YAW contingent with youth from Hamburg and Rostock. Both were colourful and loud, shouting slogans without end. Others could not get to the two contingents and had to hold up their banners in smaller groups. YAW organised "die-ins" with their contingents – getting all the young people to lie down on the ice-cold pavement symbolizing the likely death of the Iraqi people in case of war. The Hamburg/Rostock YAW contingent organised such a "die-in" as they were marching through the Brandenburg gate.
20,000 YAW leaflets were distributed calling on young people to get organised and to participate in the 25 February day of action.
SAV members put up several information stalls and sold more than 500 specially produced pamphlets against the war called "No war for oil profits". Our main banner on the demo said "Internationally against war and capitalism – demonstrate, blockade, strike!" 5,000 leaflets were handed out advertising the annual "Socialism Days" – a Marxist conference organised by SAV for the fourth time this year over the Easter holiday. At the time of writing the results of the SAV intervention are not fully known but the Berlin and Rostock branches alone raised €3,300 in donations and from political material which was sold.
At the Stuttgart demonstration SAV members sold around 80 pamphlets against the war, 70 SAV newspapers and raised €500 Euro from donations and by selling badges and political material. One of the speakers of the rally was SAV member Tinette Schnatterer, who spoke as a representative of YAW and the Verdi students’ organisation.
For more reports and photos in German then go to the Sozialistische Alternative (SAV) website: