Revolutionary May Day in Berlin, 1997

Revolutionary Worker #909, June 1, 1997

The following is based on a correspondence received from RW readers in Berlin, Germany.

Between 3,000 and 4,000 people took to the streets of Berlin in a spirited and militant Revolutionary May 1st demonstration. They marched under the slogans:

10 years Revolutionary May 1st

Fight Internationally Against Exploitation and Oppression!

No Liberation Without REVOLUTION!

This year's march celebrated the tenth anniversary of the 1987 Kreuzberg Rebellion, when immigrant and German youth rose up in the old working class district of Kreuzberg and fought together in the streets to drive the police back. One of Germany's Maoist organizations, the Revolutionary Communists/BRD, wrote in this year's May Day leaflet: "Ten years ago, on May 1, 1987, there was an explosion of anger and revolutionary energy in Kreuzberg, which pointed the way to the future. Thousands and tens of thousands of people--from different classes and strata--joined together and transformed the rabid police attack on the peaceful street festival at Lausitzerplatz into a true festival of the oppressed. We fought back like we hadn't done in decades. We showed a revolutionary unity and decisiveness no one had thought we were capable of. And this on May 1st, the revolutionary international holiday of the world proletariat! This was the fiery birth of the Revolutionary May 1st demonstration from Oranienplatz. This is our demonstration! Since then, it has gone on every year. The rulers have done everything to defame, split, criminalize and otherwise destroy this demo. No wonder, because this demonstration is an unmistakable expression of the fact that proletarian revolution is alive right in the heart of Europe--and will one day be victorious."

Ten years ago, the ruling Christian Democratic Party warned that the 1987 rebellion showed the "extraordinary merger of different problem groups." A look at the revolutionary movement that took to Berlin's streets this year, in 1997, shows how true that was!

This action united different political groups and tendencies. There were many proletarians marching in the ranks, joined with political activists from Germany's different social movements. About half of the marchers were native-born Germans, marching together with revolutionary immigrants, including large contingents of Turkish and Kurdish people. There was a very large contingent organized by the Maoist groups in Germany who support the RIM--joined by many RIM supporters who had come to Berlin from Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, England and Holland.


For months before May 1st, the German power structure made public preparations to suppress this revolutionary march. The German authorities mobilized between 5,000 and 7,500 police from five states and the elite federal Bundesgrenzschutz riot police. One of the most powerful politicians in Berlin gave a televised speech in the city parliament calling for "stamping out the left-wing lumpenproletariat" and denouncing immigrant people as "scum" and "rats." Everyone in Germany knows these hateful phrases are lifted straight from Nazi lingo of the 1930s--such language represents an open call for fascist state violence against the Revolutionary May Day demonstration and the masses of people.

Meanwhile, the Berlin press conducted an intense anti-communist campaign to justify any actions the police might take. They accused march organizers of being a bunch of "Stalinists and dogmatists" who were "deliberately planning violence."

Berlin's Interior Minister declared that he would "stop any violence before it started" (meaning this march would be suppressed on the assumption that illegal acts might be planned.) Quite simply, the Berlin authorities were determined that May Day would no longer be celebrated in a revolutionary way and that the revolutionary Oranienplatz rally would be stopped from marching.

On May 1st, the police in riot gear, backed up by water cannon, marched into Kreuzberg like an occupying army. They set up roadblocks around the May Day rallying point in Kreuzberg's Oranienplatz, searching everyone who wanted to pass and demanding to see identification.

All the attempts by the police and media to suppress this demonstration failed. Despite thousands of police and repeated attacks by hundreds of club-swinging cops, the march happened.

Our German correspondents wrote that this was a great victory for the people and a stinging defeat for the ruling class--that so many thousands of people, of all different nationalities, showed their internationalist revolutionary fighting spirit and came out together to celebrate May Day and the 10th anniversary of the Kreuzberg rebellion.

Later, as evening fell, the police attacked a large Kreuzberg May Day street festival with clubs and teargas. People answered with militant street fighting. The Berlin police treated everyone as an enemy--they beat anyone who crossed their path. Even a prominent member of Kreuzberg's Green Party was brutally beaten at the festival--as he was talking to the mayor of Kreuzberg (who is also a Green). The cops later claimed that this man had thrown himself on the ground and beaten himself up.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, the police declared an emergency zone in Berlin's whole eastern Prezlauer Berg district. No one was allowed to enter or leave the district without proving that they lived there. A May 1st march in this district was repeatedly attacked by the police.

Altogether around 350 people were arrested in Berlin on May 1st.

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