Germany

“Klassenkampf am Montag” – class struggle on Monday – that’s how the magazine Der Spiegel described the Monday demonstrations this summer against the government’s harsh measures of social counter-reform (the Hartz IV packet), which then spread to hundreds of cities across Germany. The packet of measures is known after the name of the chairman of the government commission, Peter Hartz, who also happens to be the head of human resources of the automobile giant Volkswagen.

This summer Germany was hit by a wave of “Monday” demonstrations against the severe austerity measures of the Schröder government. This reflects the growing polarisation within German society. There are moves to the left of the SPD, while on the extreme right the NPD is picking up votes. These are the first rumblings of the class struggle that is to come.

The vote for the German SPD in the recent European elections revealed a disastrous collapse. It is the price the party pays for pushing a Blairite agenda of cuts and attacks on the welfare state. The German workers do not want this. Large numbers abstained, rather than vote for the Christian Democrats, who also lost votes. On the left, the PDS recovered from its bad showing in 1999.

The German economy is the largest in Europe. Since the recession of 2001, the German government has been claiming an economic upswing is imminent. But are these predictions realistic? Christoph Mürdter analyses the real direction of the German economy.

The traditional Easter Marches of the peace movement took place over the past week in Germany. Demonstrators met and called for the withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan, for Germany’s exit from NATO, and against the Agenda 2010. There were 12 speakers at the demonstration in Wiesbaden, one of which was Hans-Gerd Öffinger, vice regional Chairman of the trade union Ver.di, and editor of the Marxist journal Der Funke who spoke on the situation in Venezuela.

Unprecedented attacks on so-called "old fashioned" unions and "stubborn" and "hardline" union officials who allegedly are out to sabotage the "modernisation" and "flexibilisation" of the economy, have been stirred up by Germany's mass media in recent months. IG Metall, the world's biggest industrial union with a membership of 2.5 million, has been passing through a major crisis this summer.

Now that the war in Iraq is over attention in Germany is being concentrated on Schroder's 'Agenda 2010'. This is an outright attack on the rights of German workers and it is already producing its effects both in the trade unions and in the SPD. The demand for a general strike has already been raised in the movement.

Two different worlds were visible in Germany last weekend – with a huge gap separating the one from the other. In Berlin, the SPD leadership were celebrating the party’s 140th anniversary. As party leader and chancellor Gerhard Schröder defended his counter-reformist "Agenda 2010" and praised Tony Blair’s "New Labour" as a successful example of "modern" social democracy. At the same time, up and down the country, some 90,000 workers responded to a call by the Trade Union Federation, the DGB and demonstrated against Schröder’s attempt to dismantle the welfare state. In East Germany, 84% of all steel workers organised in the IG Metall voted in favour of industrial action for the 35-hour

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The shipspotters in Belgium, a local anti war campaign in the city of Antwerp launched by Vonk-supporters during the war on Iraq, had informed us that during the month of April massive loads of military equipment including heavy tanks, trucks and ammunition were going to be shipped from US Army bases in Germany to Iraq. Local anti war campaigners and supporters of Der Funke in Wiesbaden, Germany, investigated the affair.

One week after the beginning of the war on Iraq we can say without any doubt that the movement against the war in Germany in the last few weeks has by far eclipsed any other movement in the "post war period" of the last 5-6 decades. More people than ever have demonstrated, and according to opinion polls more than 80 percent of the population are opposed to the war.

On Sunday, January 12, 2003, 100,000 people came to the Berlin socialist memorial cemetery in the Eastern suburb of Friedrichsfelde to commemorate the murder of Rosa and Karl. On the day prior to the big demonstration, the German left wing daily, Junge Welt held their traditional Rosa Luxemburg conference which this time attracted well over 1100 people - considerably more than in previous years. This year, the speeches and debates centred around the question of imperialism and war. As we reported last week, one of the main speakers in the first session was Alan Woods from In Defence of Marxismwho spoke on...

Edmund Stoiber, a leading reactionary Christian Democratic leader was defeated in the German elections last Sunday, though by a narrow margin. There was a sigh of relief on the part of many SPD activists, trade unionists and youth up and down the country. The threat of a Stoiber victory mobilised the SPD and green vote, but against the background of a severe economic crisis, all sorts of conflicts will open up, and major disappointment and anger on the part of workers and youth will be on the order of the day.

Hans-Gerd Öfinger, from the editorial board of the German Marxist magazine Der Funke looks to the prospects for the upcoming elections in September. With Schröder's uninspiring Blairite policies, voter absention could well open the door to the Christian Democrats who were so sounded defeated four years ago.

In Germany, the new millenium has been ushered in by a party financing and corruption scandal which was more exciting than many thrillers and caused a political earthquake of unprecedented dimensions.

Things are changing fast in Germany. In September 1998, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) scored a big victory in the Bundestag elections, ousting the bourgeois coalition under Kohl which had held power for 16 years. The new "red-green" coalition government under chancellor Schröder was greeted with great hope by millions of workers, unemployed, old age pensioners and youth. Now the SPD as well as the Greens are stumbling from defeat to catastrophe to disaster.

A historic defeat for chancellor Kohl and a clear victory for the left are the most outstanding features of the German election on September 27. After exactly 16 years of Kohl in office, German workers and youth said: enough is enough. German is now likely to be governed by a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens. Hans Gerd Ofinger analyses the implications from Germany.