Germany: Kassel protest against social cuts

1,500 school students and apprentices take part in a city wide youth strike in Kassel, Hessen, to demonstrate against social cuts.

It was for the first time that school students and apprentices in Kassel took part in a joint day of protest that included stoppages in workplaces during working hours. The strike was called under the motto “Fight for a decent future! Education and work for all!”

The “Youth Action Committee against Social Cuts” (JGS), which was initiated by the cwi’s sister organisation in Germany, Socialist Alternative (SAV) and the DGB (German Trade union federation) Youth, called this youth strike to protest against the lack of apprenticeships and youth unemployment as well as to protest against a so-called school reform which could lead to the closure of 24 local schools in Kassel.

The JGS in Kassel had already established a tradition of protests in Kassel and subsequently has been crucial in mobilising school students for the strike. In the run up to the strike we established a number of school based committees to prepare for the strike on the ground.

On Day X, the day of the start of the 2003 war against Iraq, we mobilised 10,000 school students onto the streets and in October last year, JGS also called a youth strike which for the first time was attended by apprentices from technical schools.

After a starting rally, the demo marched to the regional employers’ association, where we organised a symbolic redistribution of wealth. We had bags which symbolised millionaires’ reserves of money and poured the money into pots for education and social expenditure.

The demo also stopped at the local SPD headquarters. Against a chorus of chants “Who has betrayed us? Social Democrats! Who also took part? The Greens!” we left a huge cheese, symbolising the German saying “Your cheese stinks!” which means “Your policy sucks!”

One of the speakers said: “The SPD is not the lesser evil but a bunch of robbers”

We then moved on to the CDU’s (Christian Democratic Union), the party which rules the regional state of Hessen. Again, we protested against their anti-social cuts policy.

The whole demo was very lively and was later joined by 700 apprentices from the local Volkswagen plant. They walked out and came down in 250 cars to join the demonstration. This was a great success. Because the strike took place during working hours, it also meant a financial loss for the bosses. This increased the political and economical weight of the strike. The bosses are more likely to listen if their profits are affected.

In different chants and slogans, we emphasized the necessity of workers joining the protests and taking up strike actions themselves. Two JGS speakers stressed the need for a 24 hour general strike of all workers as a next step in the struggle against the demolition of the welfare state and against the attempts to increase the working week.

One speaker made the point that while the bosses’ profits are secure, nothing is secure for us any more.

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July 2004