Germany: Trade unions must organise resistance to major attacks from bosses

Economics Minister Robert Habeck, described the economic situation in Germany as “dramatically bad” after the growth forecasts for the economy were reduced from 1.2 to 0.3 per cent this year – after a year of recession that saw economic output fall by 0.3 per cent.

No wonder Germany is once again being labelled the “sick man of Europe” in many international media outlets. The last time Germany had this stigma was in 2003/04 the then Social Democrat/Green coalition responded with the ‘Agenda 2010’ package, the sharpest attack on social security systems and the achievements of the labour movement in the history of the republic.

Agenda 2030?

Accordingly, not a day goes by without some capitalist representative or pro-capitalist politician announcing a great need for “reform”, whereby “reform” has long since ceased to stand for “improvement”. Specifically, the demands include cuts in corporate taxes, longer and more flexible working hours, tougher sanctions for recipients of social benefits, restrictions on the right to strike, limits on social security contributions, abolition of the option to retire at 63, a return to nuclear power and much more.

Steffen Kampeter, Managing Director of the German Employers’ Association (BDA), is calling for an “economic and socio-political turnaround”, and commentaries from SPIEGEL to Süddeutsche Zeitung are increasingly calling for an “Agenda 2030”.

In addition, there are demands for a further drastic increase in defence spending and budget cuts at all levels. There is no question: the capitalists and their political representatives are planning a class struggle offensive from above. These would follow on from the cuts that are already being implemented. Incidentally, the much-demanded reform of the ‘debt brake’ would not change this. This would be implemented in order to enable more debt in the interests of capital to finance certain investments and subsidies, but not to be able to invest in education, health and social services.


This is why Sozialistische Organisation Solidarität (German section of the Committee for a Workers’ International, CWI) is sounding the alarm and saying: trade unions and the left must react and start organising a combined fight against the looming Agenda 2030 now while also leading the necessary resistance against the cuts that are already underway! The farmers have shown how protest can be carried out loudly on the streets. If the trade unions were to mobilise their almost six million members in a similar way, the country would not only come to a standstill, but both the government and capital would quickly panic. The ‘traffic light’ government coalition is weak and riven by conflict. However, this does not mean that it cannot initiate legislation against the interests of the working class – and if not, it may be replaced by a conservative CDU-led government sooner rather than later. However, trade unions and the left must not wait and see, but must inform, organise and mobilise now! 

Action plan

We propose the following:

Information campaign in all workplaces and in the wider working class through company and trade union meetings, mass leaflets, poster campaigns

Organising local, regional and national action conferences to bring together trade union and other activists and draw up an action plan

Such an action plan could start with decentralised and workplace actions and lead via local and regional demonstrations to a large-scale nationwide demonstration in Berlin

This situation must lead to the fight for political strikes being waged in the trade unions and it must be made clear: without a change in policy, we are working towards a 24-hour general strike


Such a campaign can only be successful if it is waged for demands that are worth fighting for. These must be demands aimed at genuinely confronting capital, rather than improving profit conditions for capitalists, as DGB (German TUC) chairwoman Fahimi is doing, or calling for limited state investment, as other trade union leaders are doing. Instead, the trade unions must finally initiate a radical change of course away from the policy of social partnership. Sol proposes the following demands, among others:

  • No to any cuts and deterioration of the rights of workers
  • In favour of a massive increase in taxes on the profits and assets of banks, corporations and the super-rich
  • In favour of abolishing the debt brake
  • For billions to be invested in education, health, climate and social issues – instead of billions for the armed forces
  • Remunicipalisation and expansion of hospitals, public transport and housing associations under democratic control
  • Nationalisation of the energy sector under democratic control and management in order to stop price increases for the majority of the population and to implement an ecological energy transition in a democratically planned manner without the loss of jobs

Do not wait and see

Left-wing and militant trade unionists should not wait for the leaders of their organisations to move. In 2003, a large anti-Agenda 2010 demonstration, organised from below, with 100,000 participants triggered further mass protests and large-scale trade union mobilisations. A resistance conference organised from below could possibly have a similar effect. Sol members will be campaigning for this in the coming weeks and months in trade unions, the Left Party and social movements.

As Marxists, we are also convinced that only by replacing capitalism with a socialist democracy can the massive deterioration in the living conditions of the working class be permanently prevented.

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February 2024