Germany: widespread opposition to war leads to massive student mobilisation and strike action.

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. 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. The national demo in Berlin on February 15, which attracted 500,000 participants, was by far the biggest demo since the Federal republic was founded in 1949.

On Day X (the day the war started), people gathered in hundreds of cities and towns all over Germany to protest. Even in smaller rural towns hundreds, if not thousands, came out in the evening. In Leipzig, where a series of spontaneous Monday demos back in 1989 had marked the beginning of the end of the Stalinist regime in the former DDR (East Germany), the tradition of Monday demos has been revived once again, with over 50,000 demonstrating each Monday for the last few weeks. It has also to be noted that youth from immigrant families from the Middle East and the Balkans played an important role in the movement.

Tremendous energy of the school students

However, it was the school students who displayed enormous energy and dynamism and gave a lead to the rest. 50,000 school students came out in Berlin as well as in Hamburg, the two biggest cities in the country. Wherever there was no local organisation and coordination in many cases school kids did it spontaneously. It was encouraging to see that this time the younger school students, between 13 and 16 years of age, were more dynamic than the older ones and above all the university students. However, there is no national student structure capable of organising and coordinating activities.

Local school strike in Wiesbaden on 24 March. 
Banner: youth against war and capitalism.

The wave of demos and activities will continue as the war drags on and people get more and more angry. Important sectors of big business, who used to have commercial links with Baghdad in the past decades, are not in favour this war and are afraid of being pushed into a deep recession as a consequence of it. On the other hand, the leaders of the main bourgeois parties, Christian Democrats and Liberals, continue to support Bush's and Blair's war, putting forward the old pro-American bias ("We must be thankful to the USA since they have freed us from Hitler etc. etc. etc…)

The Schröder government continues to criticise the war and emphasise that they will not participate in it. The Minister of International Cooperation has stated that the reconstruction of Iraq after the war should be financed by the US and British. While many people in the country are glad about the fact that German soldiers are not actively involved in the war, the more conscious and active sectors of the working class and youth criticise the German government because it continues to assist the US war effort indirectly – by granting the British and American troops in Germany access to infrastructure and the right to fly over German territory, by keeping German soldiers in Kuwait, Afghanistan and other areas, etc. etc. One of the main demands voiced at antiwar demos is for the immediate end of any indirect support for the war from the Schröder government. This morning Schröder indicated that Germany will have to spend more money for military purposes in the future and would of course be prepared to take part in a possible UN backed military occupation of Iraq.

Big antiwar strike on March 14

The call for a work stoppage on March 14, issued by the union leadership just a few days earlier, was followed in a number of bigger factories and workplaces where hundreds of thousands downed tools for ten minutes. Yet the union leaders have not yet put forward any perspective of further industrial action. They say that the "people's will" has been clearly expressed and praised the government for opposing the war.

As many union activists have been involved in antiwar activities, the "peace-loving" Schröder government has opened up a second front – a home front. Harsh cuts in unemployment benefits and other vital sectors of the welfare state are being prepared. There is the danger that in the slipstream of the war and given the "antiwar" position of the government harsh Blairite policies of dismantling the welfare state will be rushed through parliament. It is a duty of Marxists to link the war issue to the bread and butter issues of the working class.

Intervening in the anti war movement in Germany

In Wiesbaden, one of the 16 state capitals in the country where the editorial board of "Der Funke" is based, we have played a decisive role in setting up an antiwar committee which led local demos of 2000 on "Day X" and 3000 last Saturday.

Comrades have intervened in several places, but we had our decisive intervention in the movement in Wiesbaden. Here we had set up an anti war committee back in September 2001, and have established a new tradition since then. This campaign (together with some other left activists) is oriented towards the trade unions and the youth, and has had regular weekly activities since then (organising some demos and other activities).
On Day X, 2000 people, including a lot of youth, came to the square. Speakers from different organisations, including the unions, the local SPD and the Greens addressed the rally. We were able to open and close the debate, making sure that a clear Marxist position was put on the war. This time, as opposed to past experiences, the local media surprised us by giving the event a fair coverage.
We were actually surprised and almost flooded by the huge crowd as we had not expected this high number of people. It was an enormous success (the biggest demo in town for many years).

Two days later, our Saturday demo attracted 3000 people, in spite of the short notice and no real time for a serious mobilisation. People were very interested in our German translation of the In Defence of Marxism Manifesto against the war and many copies were sold as well and other material, collected addresses and donations etc. The demo was also attended by the local MP and Minister of International Development who listened but did not ask to be put on the speakers’ list.

On Monday we were present right from the beginning when in one school the students held a rally in the schoolyard and about half of the school kids decided not to return to the classrooms but to go the city centre and demonstrate outside the town hall. We were present with our car, loudspeaker equipment, banners, leaflets etc. and helped them, giving this spontaneous movement some direction and orientation. The demo (in the end they numbered 500) went from school to school and managed to get support from students who spontaneously joined the demo. Later that morning one elementary school headmistress came along and expressed her solidarity. We also made contact with a whole new layer who are interested in getting involved in these activities.

All this shows that Germany has been infected by the same mood of rebellion that we are witnessing worldwide.