The 13th of June will not only see European elections but also council elections in some parts of Germany. Socialist Alternative (SAV, German affiliate to the CWI) is standing in Stuttgart and in the East German city of Rostock.
cwi election campaigns 2004. Germany.
Rostock council meeting stormed in protest against politicians’ privileges
In Rostock, the small branch of 14 SAV members has organised a marvellous campaign over the last few weeks. Based on succesful camapaigns against social cuts SAV stands as an "open list" under the name "Socialist Alternative/List against social cuts". This includes some activists from the action committee against social cuts who are not SAV members but support the party.
Activists see the SAV as a real alternative for the elections. Without being asked, an unemployed activist from the action committee handed out leaflets in the job centre. Another activist, a pensioner discussed the SAV programme with half the neighbourhood at the local market and urged people to vote for us. This action committee was set up last year to organise against the attacks by the national and local government. In February it organised a succesful local demonstration of 2,000 which also was supported by some of the trade unions. This laid the basis for the election campaign which has allowed the local SAV branch to sink deeper roots within the working class and get the ideas of socialism known amongst broader layers.
As Torsten Sting, SAV spokesperson in Rostock, said the party never "went deeper" in a campaign. Despite the limited financial resources, 700 posters were put up across the city and 27,000 leaflets were distributed. 900 copies of the election manifesto were sold which far exceeds expectations. On daily street activities and handing out leaflets outside workplaces, SAV members got overwhelmingly positive responses. Many workers and unemployed agreed that all the established parties have their own agenda and conduct a policy against the interest of the mass of the population. There is special anger towards the PDS – the Party of Democratic Socialism (former stalinist ruling party in the GDR) – which is widely seen as a party which has betrayed working class people as it is part of the local and regional government participating in cuts and privatisations. The PDS will most certainly pay a heavy price for that on polling day with many losses.
Most importantly the SAV branch was able to use the election campaign to develop links with trade union activists. For the first time our candidates were invited to speak at three meetings of the metal workers’ union IG Metall.
In the election campaign the SAV stressed that the fight for council seats must not be a substitute for the real resistance by workers and young people in the streets and the workplaces. Therefore SAV organised a protest against the Rostock council on June 9th. The councillors had increased their salaries by 30 percent in an act of unprecedented arrogance towards the real needs of the population. By this action they proved that they first and foremost use their council positions to gain privileges. The principled position of the SAV candidates not to accept any privileges from positions on the local council and remain on a workers’ wage gets a lot of support amongst the population. Under the slogan "Stop the rip-off", SAV mobilised 60 people to protest at the council meeting. They stormed the meeting making the mayor leave the council chamber in panic. A PDS councillor looked terribly shocked about this confrontation with "the people" and fearfully said, referring to the elections to the council: "And they want to get in here!"
However, whether SAV will win it’s first council seat on June 13th remains open. Many people will not vote at all as they are frustrated by the whole establishment. Many do not see a real chance of SAV getting a seat. There are even workers who helped out in SAV’s election campaign by distributing leaflets who said that they are not sure whether they will go to vote on Sunday or not! We will need more than 3,000 votes (as every voter has three votes this could mean at least 1,000 voters giving us all their three votes) – which is possible but not at all certain.
But as Christine Lehnert, top candidate for SAV, said: "Whether we will win the seat or not will not stop us from coming back to the next council meeting. But next time not with 60 but much more protesters against the rip-off of the population by the established policians, the planned privatisation of a public hospital and the social cuts by the council."