Germany

Over the weekend of May 2-4 a conference was held in Berlin on the theme of "1968 - We shall win the last battle", organised by the youth and students of the German Left Party (Die Linke). There were 1600 people taking part in the conference and the Marxists of Der Funke intervened in the debates, organised a stall with literature, provided international speakers from Spain and Pakistan and one of the Der Funke supporters, and member of the national council of the youth wing of the party, made one of the concluding speeches.

Recent local elections in Germany have seen the Left Party (Die Linke) emerge as a force to the left of the SPD. At the same time we are seeing a growing level of trade union militancy. This reflects the growing malaise within German society as a layer of workers and youth look for an alternative.

Earlier this month the German railways were brought to a halt by a paralysing strike. There is a real mood of militancy among German rail workers, but at the top in the trade unions deals are going ahead that envisage the privatisation of the railway network with a generalised worsening of working conditions, lowering of safety levels and so on.

The heads of government of the G8 are meeting in Heiligendamm in Germany. But they are being heavily protected from the harsh social realities that have emerged in Germany. Thousands of protestors are also there. Significantly, there are several important strikes that have affected life in Germany. This may also explain “police tactics” that seemed designed to provoke violent conflict, rather than play it down.

In mid-June the WASG and the Linkspartei.PDS will come together and form a new left-wing party, Die Linke. Hans-Gerd-Öfinger looks at the significance of this development and the perspectives for this new political formation.

Hands off Venezuela in Germany played a decisively role in some successful public meetings with Che Guevara's daughter, Aleida Guevara, last week. 450 workers, youth and Latin American immigrants attended the Frankfurt meeting on Saturday, 25 March, and 250 were packed into the hall in Wiesbaden two days earlier.

The Grand Coalition of the SPD and Christian Democrats has now been in office for some months. Its programme is “more of the same”, further privatisations and cuts in social spending. Although this may hold for a while, beneath the surface a new mood is developing. The signs are already there in some significant strikes such as that of the Gate Gourmet workers.

By mid-November Germany will almost certainly be governed by a “Grand Coalition” involving Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. The programme of this government is a foregone conclusion, the same old recipe of privatisations and cuts. For now the bosses are happy with this, but this government is preparing the ground for a greater radicalisation on the left similar to what we saw back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

There is greater instability in Germany than ever before in post-war history. Both big parties, the Social Democrats (SPD) and Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) lost considerably. The virtual deadlock is caused by the fact that after a short and very polarised election campaign both camps failed to get anywhere near a majority of seats.

Yesterday’s German elections have produced what amounts to a hung parliament. There is a strong element of class polarisation in German society, which is reflected in these elections results. Of particular interest is the emergence of the Left Party, which did very well in the historic bastions of the PDS but also picked up a reasonable vote in what was the former “affluent” West.

Schröder has dissolved the Bundestag and has called early elections for September 18. Polls show a drastic fall in the SPD vote and the most likely outcome seems a victory of the right wing Christian Democrats. But on the left a new formation is emerging, the Left Alliance, made up of the PDS (former Communist Party of East Germany) and the WASG, a left split of disenchanted social democrats and trade unionists, and the former leader of the left of the SPD, Oskar Lafontaine, is preparing to be its main leader. The crisis of German capitalism is preparing the ground for greater instability and a polarization of German society.

The political situation in Germany is changing rapidly as one political earthquake has been followed by another over the last few days. In last Sunday’s regional elections, Chancellor Schröder’s Social Democratic Party lost its traditional stronghold in North Rhine Westphalia . The SPD saw their share of the vote fall to a level not seen since the mid-1950s.

In 1984 there was a militant mood at the May Day rallies as the print workers and engineering workers in Germany prepared for an offensive struggle to achieve a reduction of the workweek without loss of pay. On May Day 2005, 21 years later, a new round of defensive battles to defend the 35-hour week started in the German printing industry.

Germany has entered a new period of unrest and instability as the Schröder government is pursuing attack after attack - on the welfare state, the working class, the unemployed, the poor, the sick, old age pensioners. This is against the interests of the working class, the majority of the population and especially those who secured a narrow re-election of chancellor Gerhard Schröder's coalition just 14 months ago.

The wildcat strike at the Opel plant in Bochum, Germany lasted for six days. It reflected the growing militant mood of the German workers. The situation at Opel also highlights the serious difficulties German capitalism is facing. And yet suddenly after six days the workers voted to go back to work. What was behind this decision? Hans-Gerd Öfinger explains how the trade union officialdom did everything in their power to bring the strike to an end.