November 4, 2003: On the great importance of November 1st, 2003 in Berlin

"Red Flag" Interview with the Chairman of the MLPD, Stefan Engel

stefan-engel.jpgOn the 1st of November, Berlin experienced a powerful demonstration against the Schroeder/Fischer government. What importance does the MLPD attach to this event?

The demonstration in Berlin on November 1st with more than 100,000 participants was one of the biggest mass demonstrations of the past years. It was unmistakably directed against the Schroeder/Fischer government. It resolutely terminated the "truce" which the reformist union leadership and Schroeder agreed upon on 22 May. It aimed at the hostile stand the government basically takes towards the people on behalf of the monopolies with its Agenda 2010. The demand for the resignation of the Schroeder/Fischer administration was discussed in a lively way and gained a stronger nation-wide base.

November 1st was organized independently and stood its ground against all obstacles. There was not one single bourgeois-led mass organization which broadly mobilized for it - neither the unions, nor the big social institutions or the women's organizations. The manipulation of public opinion could not prevent the demonstrators from leading their struggle against the government. This is very important because it expresses an increased class self-reliance and a developing proletarian class consciousness.

The ones who set the tone of the demonstration were the industrial workers from the big industrial firms like DaimlerChrysler, Porsche, Siemens, Opel, VW, Thyssen or the RAG. Together with many courageous woman, rebellious youth, initiatives of the unemployed and pensioners, a militant demonstration of the people developed. The call "We are the people!" was filled with new life and meaning. An important impulse for an upswing of the struggle against this government will come from this November 1st.

 

In some press reports you read that the entire "anger" against the government was "vented" spontaneously in Berlin. What should we make of that?

Of course, the demonstrators were outraged about Schroeder's plundering raid against the masses. After all, his Agenda 2010 means the "greatest attack upon living and working conditions and upon rights since the end of WW II", as the official appeal for this demonstration states to the point. But the term "anger" does not do justice to the depth of the reflection of most of the participants and their political awareness. Mass discussions were taking place among the demonstrators about the background of the Agenda 2010, how the fight against the government is to be led and about the socialist perspective. This was to this degree new! With this demonstration the need for awareness and organization gained a new quality.

All of this shows that the awakening class consciousness on a broad front has now developed a certain stability and incontestability. The awareness is growing that a hard, independent struggle against the government needs to be fought if the politics of the monopolies is to be defied.

For some this overwhelming success was rather surprising. For the MLPD as well?

There has seldom been a demonstration that was made so little of when talked about in advance. Just one day before I heard the malicious commentary on morning television: "Imagine there's a demonstration and nobody goes out". The press officer from the preparation group in Berlin proclaimed publicly that no more than 10,000 to 20,000 people could be expected. Shortly before the demonstration Sommer, head of the DGB (German Trade Union Federation), had even had the audacity to refer to it as being "unpromising". So these people managed to make proper fools of themselves. They had the misconception that without an official appeal from the union leadership and without well-known speakers at the rally, mass participation in the demonstration could be not expected. Since the PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism) on the one hand mobilized for the demonstration but on the other hand neither wanted nor was able to mobilize masses effectively, there wasn't much chance of many people taking part with this logic in mind. None of them reckoned with the increased movement towards class struggle in the factories and on the union shop floor. Actually this movement proved what great prospects it has if it does not allow itself to be bullied and patronized.

None of us were surprised by the power of this demonstration. We always expected that the truce of May 22 would not hold for long. At the latest when parliament first voted on the Agenda 2010 the reticence of the workers was likely to disappear. We have in fact been witnessing a new tactical situation of an increasing struggle against government and monopolies since the end of September. In August the struggles in Germany had reached their lowest point in years with only 6830 participants. In September there were already 70,000 demonstrating and striking and in October their numbers had gone up to 150,000. The core was formed by the increasing number of struggles of workers.

The forces of the petty-bourgeois left laugh at us and think we're crazy because we evaluate the development of class consciousness positively. The events of November 1 showed who is standing with both feet on the ground.

Mobilization to the demonstration took place mainly in the factories, but also in the women's and youth movement. Only as a result of countless phone calls, enquiries, and criticism in the last days before the demonstration did several regional union committees organize buses. 30 union buses came from Stuttgart alone. Although the IG Metall office in Stuttgart did not mobilize, strong delegations came, for example from DaimlerChrysler, Porsche, Bosch, Mahle, Werner und Pfleiderer, and Eckhardt.

How did the MLPD arrive at this apt analysis of the development of class consciousness?

You can only understand the present development if you view it against the background of the far-reaching changes in the imperialist world system, namely the reorganization of international production. In our book "Twilight of the Gods - Götterdämmerung over the 'New World Order'", we came to the conclusion that it has ushered in a new historical phase of transformation from capitalism to socialism. The internationalised forces of production are pressing towards the united socialist states of the world. The effects of the law of the correspondence of the productive forces and the relations of production are unavoidable. The historical phase of transformation develops as a process of the higher development of class struggle.

The fruition of this development towards a revolutionary crisis requires, of course, a clear decision by the working class in favor of a socialist future. The masses must come to grips with the petty-bourgeois mode of thinking, which has fallen like a heavy dew on their class consciousness. The awakening class consciousness which is growing on a broad front in the countries of imperialism's core, the process of transnational revolutionary ferment in Latin America, the upswing in the liberation struggles, and an international struggle by the masses for world peace are an expression of the fact that the masses do not want to decline into capitalist barbarism.

The petty-bourgeois left, on the other hand, stares at the seeming omnipotence of finance capital and completely fails to recognise that a new upswing in the struggle for national and social liberation has already developed on an international scale.

In many reports the Berlin demonstration is being labelled as an 'Attac' demonstration. What is the real role of this organisation?

Stefan Engel: ATTAC is obviously speculating on the fact that many people are unaware of what actually happened during preparations for the demonstration. At the same time, the national leadership of ATTAC is obviously trying to play down the problems with mobilisation and recruitment which they admitted last week. The resolution on a nationwide demonstration was passed on August 16 in Frankfurt at a conference attended by 150 people from Anti-Hartz initiatives, union representatives and various organizations and parties, including the MLPD. At the conference the representatives from the national coordinating committee of ATTAC spoke out strongly against such a demonstration. They said it was "much too early", it would be better to protest in front of SPD offices in order to put pressure on the SPD. At the preparatory meeting on 14 September, Peter Wahl, a member of the national coordinating committee of ATTAC and of the management board of the NGO "World Economics, Ecology and Development" in Bonn, reiterated this emphatically. Right up until the end, ATTAC refused to support the common call for a demonstration , putting out a call of their own in which they deliberately avoided an attack on the government of Schroeder and Fischer. Over a period of several weeks, the appointed members of ATTAC in Berlin boycotted or disorganised tasks they had taken over, like keeping the bank account and updating the homepage of the preparation group. Only when it became apparent that all of this could not stop mobilisation for the demonstration, did ATTAC jump on the band wagon. On 4 October the ATTAC representative demanded that speakers on the speakers' list who were from the grass roots of real social movements should be withdrawn and that prominent people from the churches, charity groups and union leaders should be invited to speak. This is supposedly the only way in which a nationwide demonstration can produce the necessary charisma.

 

This opportunistic basic attitude ignores the decisive factor in the mobilisation: it was the patient rank and file work in the factories, unions, housing areas and schools. There was, however, little evidence of such patient rank and file work by ATTAC. And that's all I can say about the fairytale in which "ATTAC led the mobilisation on November 1st." ATTAC got full support from the PDS and the Trotskyite groups 'Linksruck' and "SAV", otherwise they wouldn't have gotten very far with their policy of protecting the government.

Does that mean that the success of the demonstration in Berlin was only possible after a hard struggle over the question of what direction it should take?

An open struggle over the direction of the extra-parliamentary movement developed and even took place within the demonstration. On the one side is the growing influence of the persistent, independent struggle against the anti-people policy of the Schroeder/Fischer administration. On the other side stood the direction of currying favor with the SPD and right-wing trade union leaders to prevent every independent movement, to curb it or get control of it again.

Stephan Kimmerle, Sascha Kimpel and Werner Halbauer from the Trotskyite miniorganizations „SAV" and „Linksruck'" acted in an especially infamous way. The same applies to individual revisionists and right-wing trade union leaders like Peter Schrott (former SEW member and DKP candidate for the Berlin elections and also vice-chairman of the trade union ver.di in Berlin) and Lothar Nätebusch (DKP candidate for the Berlin elections and chairman of the construction workers' union IG BAU in Berlin), representatives of the so-called „trade union opposition" like the district secretary of the trade union Ver.di, Bernd Riexinger from Stuttgart, and various ATTAC-leaders. High-handedly and with their petty-bourgeois claim to leadership they used every method of intrigue, anti-Communist slander, open division, unauthorized assumption of functions, sabotage of the adopted profile of the demonstration etc.

Some representatives first declared themselves as „preparation group of Berlin" having a mandate with regards to content. In reality, this group was only assigned organizational tasks for the preparation of the demonstration in Berlin according to the decisions of the national preparation conference and in accordance with the decisions of the action conference. Various attempts at blackmailing made by these „shining lights" were resolutely rejected by the national preparation group. Here the nationwide preparation meeting on October 4 in Hanover played a key role. Although especially big delegations came, for example of SAV, the meeting confirmed the previous decisions on the character, direction, organization and list of speakers after thorough discussion. A motion to reopen the debate on the list of speakers was rejected with an overwhelming majority (25:3) of the attending representatives of PDS, Anti-Hartz-Alliance, MLPD etc. At the same time, the list of speakers was extended by three additional speakers. This was the moment when the alarm rang for the Berlin circle chiefs. They usurped the control of the preparation for the demonstration and staged a so-called „emergency plenary session" on October 12 in Berlin. That meeting was consciously so organized that a majority of those attending favored their line. Acting in complete violation of their competence, they decided to accept none of the decisions of the nationwide preparation group.

The only „emergency" for this meeting was the failure of their previous attempts to change the militant direction of the demonstration against the government. The person in charge of the homepage was temporarily deprived of the password, about 5,000 posters that had already been printed were not delivered, were stuck over or destroyed and a new list of speakers was drawn up etc.

However, the result of their coup was indeed rather pitiful. They succeeded in removing the honest and militant forces from the demonstration leadership and pushing through new speakers etc. But they did not succeed in directing the demonstration on their shallow path of currying favor with the government and the forces supporting it. The opening rally was totally disorganized and the concluding rally became an embarrassing, whining and exhausting counter-program to the militant and lively demonstration. No official speaker really attacked the governmental policy; in their speeches they ignored the intentions of the masses of people who came to Berlin in order to mobilize against the Agenda 2010 and the government. The central preparation group reacted to the Berlin coup in a very prudent way and refrained from every public debate prior to the demonstration to avoid endangering the mobilization. Of course, after the demonstration everything has to be evaluated. The most important thing is to draw conclusions for future alliances.

In the preparation of the demonstration several things were neglected which gave those who split the movement unnecessary leeway. The main mistake was that no agreement was made from the start on the exact principles of cooperation. Every person attending the meetings had one vote. E.g. as many as six representatives of the Trotskyite „SAV" went to the nationwide meeting in Hanover on October 4. They „democratically" arrogated to themselves the six-fold of the votes of e.g. the MLPD and the PDS, which sent only one representative respectively. It is very important to attach the utmost importance to clear and democratic principles and rules of cooperation in future and to be much more vigilant regarding such dubious circle chiefs with their insistent claim to leadership.

On whose instructions did the persons in Berlin who split the demonstration act?

Obviously the undemocratic Berlin clique acted in direct consultation with the right-wing trade union leadership, parts of the SPD and the executive committee of the PDS. At a meeting on August 30 for preparing the demonstration, an ATTAC representative already made clear that talks had been held with the head of the trade union Ver.di, Bsirske, about the demonstration on November 1. At the „emergency plenary session" on October 12, the representative of the executive committee of the PDS at that time, Torsten Koplin, who had attached great importance to a democratic cooperation on the basis of equal rights and who actively supported the decisions of the nationwide meeting, was severely reprimanded by Elke Breitenbach, also member of the executive committee of the PDS and member of the House of Representatives of Berlin. She informed him that the executive committee of the PDS at a special meeting on October 11 had made its financial commitments conditional on the success of the undemocratic and arrogant claim to leadership. All this shows that left opportunists of all shades are, in the meantime, assuming an open liquidationist role within the militant movements as the left appendage of social democracy and right-wing trade union bureaucracy. This has undoubtedly caused damage.

At the same time, November 1 has shown that the militant mass movement will not allow itself to be held up by those forces. Basically, with the success of November 1, all of their undertakings have completely failed. Everything they tried to prevent has actually happened. They have further isolated themselves from the masses and their militant movements. This process is of greatest importance in the future, because the conscious detachment of the masses from the left and right opportunists is the indispensable basis of class independence.

Above all, they repeatedly warned against a so-called „MLPD-dominance" ...

It is certainly one of the most significant signals of November 1 that this anti-Communist smear campaign failed completely. Everybody who did not follow the opportunist line towards the government was described at least as having been a „MLPD-sympathizer" prior to the demonstration. Everybody supporting a militant line against the government was suddenly transformed into a „MLPD-supporter", and everybody who contradicted the Berlin clique became a „Stalinist". This was actually rather absurd considering the broad character of the movement.

They also rejected a large part of the democratically chosen speakers for being „MLPD-representatives". In reality the nationwide preparation group proposed no party representatives at all, only representatives of militant movements. Among others, Gerd Pfisterer and Edith Bartelmus-Scholich were put on the list of speakers on September 14. Gerd Pfisterer is a works council representative and speaker of the shop steward committee at the company Spundwand Hoesch in Dortmund. He was supposed to speak as the representative of the action alliance of Oberhausen. In this alliance, trade union members from 30 large-scale enterprises of the Ruhr district have joined forces against the Agenda 2010. The nonparty member Edith Bartelmus-Scholich was supposed to speak on behalf of the militant women's movement. She represents the Women's Political Counsel, which at its last meeting united 1700 participants and nearly 50 participating organizations from the entire range of the women's movement. They suddenly became "top-ranking officials" of the MLPD in the fanciful imagination of the splittists. The only real "crime" that both committed: They represent movements that are not kept in the leading-reigns of either the rightist trade-union leadership or the bourgeois women's organizations.

Various participants adamantly opposed this smear campaign. Just yesterday I read in the Internet an up-to-date statement of Berlin activists who are really no sympathizers of the MLPD. There it says under the title: "Some Considerations" among other things: "In the course of the development, since the decision of the action conference to organize a demonstration, it has become more and more clear that this is met with strong support in the population. This fact must have worried some people in this country very much, who at least in the past were always very concerned about the well-being of the ruling class. There are more and more statements rigorously expressing reservations about an 'MLPD-demonstration'. This is really being played up a lot, although it is clear that this had never been an MLPD-demonstration which was being prepared and that this question could of course have been settled in the preparation group." (http://www/de.indymediy.org/2003/11/64877.shtml)

Is this not a kind of indirect praise for the work of the MLPD?

The MLPD has in no way "dominated" anything. Within the unity of action it always set great store in a democratic cooperation with equal rights and practiced this itself. Its members unremittingly and unselfishly committed themselves to the task of mobilizing for November 1. Here, in the rank-and-file work, are the real trump cards of the MLPD.

The MLPD did this even after the Berlin organizers had started a massive smear campaign against our party in the Internet. For us the demonstration was more important than the unfortunate bickering with these petty-bourgeois people in Berlin. Never before at such a big demonstration was the MLPD such a natural, active part leaving its mark. Wherever it was active there were profound debates, a militant spirit, an atmosphere of determination and a real demonstration culture. Even the bourgeois mass media had to admit this indirectly. However, they painstakingly avoided mentioning the name of the MLPD. Its banner "Active Resistance against Schroeder's Agenda 2010" expressed the atmosphere on November 1 so well that it was shown as a central slogan, among others, in the daily newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau, in the online issue of the TV news Tagesschau, at N 24 Online or in the daily "Tagesspiegel", - - of course not without covering up the revealing abbreviation MLPD ...

The slanderers against the MLPD should take care not to cut off their nose to spite their face: According to their line of argumentation "being close to the MLPD" becomes a synonym for militancy, irreconcilable opposition to the government, close links with the rank and file of the movement. Incorruptible by flattering, resistant to every kind of repression from the rightist trade union leadership - and this direction has attained immense mass influence. All of them close to the MLPD? We don't mind.

You said that the demonstration can give the signal for a new upswing in the struggle against the government. What does this afford now?

It is certainly necessary to evaluate this November 1 everywhere thoroughly. On November 23, the central preparation group will meet to make its evaluation and on December 13, the second nationwide action conference will take place. We do not want to anticipate their debates and decisions. I consider the proposal to organize Monday actions against the Schroeder administration on certain agreed occasions to be a good idea. I also expect that the workers in the enterprises will follow the " example of Berlin " and that militant activities and strike actions will increase. In my view the present situation also has to be used to energetically spread the nationwide movement "The Country Needs New Politicians!" It is clear that the Christian-Democratic politicians Merkel, Merz and Stoiber are no alternative to the Social-Democratic and Green politicians Schroeder, Eichel, Clement and Fischer. Instead of relying on any bourgeois politicians, more and more people have to take matters into their own hands and so render the crisis management programs of all governments unworkable in practice.

The focus of the work of the MLPD is in the enterprises and neighborhoods in order to develop the struggle against the government and monopolies there. At the same time it will participate in local alliances, whereby the basis of such alliances has to be the common struggle against the anti-people governmental policy. Otherwise such alliances serve only to dampen the struggle and to give fresh impetus to new forms of the policy of class collaboration.

I can very well imagine that November 1 was the beginning of the end of the Schroeder/Fischer administration. But to realize this the militant opposition must gain in strength considerably.

Literature

Literaturtipp An ever increasing number of local and regional ecological catastrophes plague humanity. They are symptoms of an environmental crisis which is in the process of transforming at an accelerated pace into a global environmental catastrophe. New Publication: CATASTROPHE ALERT! What Is To Be Done Against the Willful Destruction of the Unity of Humanity and Nature?

Read More…