Revolutionary May 1st 98: Berlin

Revolutionary Worker #960, June 7, 1998

Excerpts from a statement by the Revolutionary Communists (FRG)--sent to the RW from Germany. The translation from German was by the RW.

May First in Berlin is not your usual May First--even by Berlin standards. There was a lot more at stake than usual.

The rulers have said that oppressed people can't unite.

But on May 1, 1998 people of over 28 different nationalities, workers and students, women and men, the young and the retired--all marched together!

The rulers swore that the clubs of 5,000 cops would keep the revolutionary May First demonstration from making it to Kottbusser Gate.

But on May 1, 1998, those 5,000 clubs and several police attacks didn't stop the march.

The rulers said that their 5,000 police clubs would guarantee that East Berlin's May First demo would be quickly dispersed.

But on May 1, 1998 the deployment of 5,000 nightsticks only guaranteed that there were 10,000 rocks flying in reply.

Two Irreconcilable Camps Square Off

On May 1, 1998, the issue was nothing less than whether Berlin's 11-year tradition of Revolutionary May First would continue or not.

On one side were all those who want to fight for a world without exploitation and oppression. On the other side stood the Berlin Senate, above all Councilman Schönbohm, and 5,000-10,000 cops. Behind them stood the whole ruling class of Germany--the monopoly capitalists--who were issuing orders to sweep all troublesome elements out of Berlin, and make the city fit to serve as capitol for their Fourth Reich.

The stand of the rulers was simple in relationship to the Revolutionary May First demo of Oranienplatz and the other May Day actions planned against the dominant order: May First was to be criminalized well ahead of time, and if it proved impossible to forbid it through legislation, then it was to be ended quickly by police clubs. The plan for May First weekend was a police coup against the right to assemble: one further step in the plans for an open police state...

Times Change,
But Imperialism Doesn't

In February last year, Landowsky, a leader of the ruling CDU government party, said in a talk: "We are going to stomp out this leftist lumpen-proletariat." Using Hitlerite language, he equated immigrants and other non-Germans with "rats," "trash" and "criminal scum." Councilman Schönbohm, Berlin's Mayor Diepgen and the whole CDU leadership expressed their agreement with Landowsky's racist and fascist declaration. And every cop in Berlin got the point. These slogans served as guidelines for the Berlin Senate as it planned police attacks for the May First weekend.

Openly fascist slogans from the heights of politics and society are a distinctive feature of Germany's still-developing reunification. The rulers in Germany are working on their dream of a Fourth Reich. Internationally they are determined to back their demands for "spheres of influence" with armed force. At home, they are dismantling the post-war, social-democratic welfare state.

The old slogans like "social partnership" that they used so long to hide the truth about their imperialist and exploitative system are now considered "out." What's "in" is the greatest social polarization since World War 2. Mass unemployment, mass poverty, cuts in wages and benefits, racist press hysteria, and outright pogroms--these are now the order of the day. Schools are being closed, teachers laid off, training programs are being dismantled, and jobs are eliminated on a huge scale. Meanwhile prisons are being built and thousands of new cops are being hired. All of this is necessary to raise the profitability of German capital--since that can only be realized at the expense of the overwhelming majority of the people of Germany and throughout the world.

The international competition between imperialists of different countries requires capital to operate on the principle of "expand or die, eat or be eaten."

This ruling class fantasy of a Fourth Reich is a nightmare for the exploited and oppressed of Germany and the rest of the world. We've already been there once. It cost the lives of millions of our sisters and brothers. We don't need to go there again to know that these ruling class dreams are our deadly enemy.

The suppression of Revolutionary May First demonstrations, and other May First protests, plays an important role in the realization of the Fourth Reich. The rulers insist that there must be no room for dreams of a world without oppression, or for any fighting spirit of revolutionary unity. Whether such things are "peacefully" expressed or not.

The Right Response

...On May First, it almost seemed like a familiar sight to have hundreds of riot police stationed around the O-platz in Kreuzberg. Paddy wagons everywhere. And the cops strutting around, just messing with people. They wanted to intimidate people away from the demo. But it didn't work: that day they were intruding into enemy territory.

As 1 p.m. approached, people started gathering on O-Platz and all along Oranien Street. At first it's only two, three, four, five hundred people. Music starts over the loudspeakers. And the first speeches are heard. The main banner moves to the front. The red letters say, loud, in both German and Turkish:

People of All Countries Unite to Fight
Against Exploitation and Oppression!
No Liberation without REVOLUTION!

The march hit the street, heading for the Görlitzer Station. People came pouring in from everywhere: a thousand, then two, then three--and still more came. The street and sidewalks were packed. It was everything you could hope for: an unbelievably broad mix. Workers alongside students, unemployed next to pensioners, punks next to couples with strollers, anarchists and autonomen marching with communists. Native Berliners with immigrants and refugees. Couldn't have been more multinational: about 28 different nationalities were counted, including people from Peru, Iran, Chile, Basque country, Ireland, Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Russia, Mexico, Italy, Ghana, Nigeria, Vietnam, China, Lebanon, India, USA, England, Spain, Denmark, and lots of Germans.

There was revolutionary excitement in the air. What a sight: here in the heart of imperialist Europe, the revolution lives and with it revolutionary internationalism. It stirs the hearts of the oppressed and all those who want to end oppression. And it draws hatred from the oppressors and exploiters. Nothing that the cops did or the parrot-press wrote could rob us of this sight--because there it was! Live. As real as the sun in the sky: thousands marched down O-street, together, as part of the Revolutionary May First.

The cops attacked the demo several times in hopes of breaking it up. No way. Each time they butted up against all that revolutionary unity and determination. The closing rally was held at the Kottbusser Gate as planned.

The Revolutionary May First demonstration from Oranienplatz was a big success! Not only for all those who mobilized for it, and who participated--but also for the oppressed in general, and for the struggle against all forms of oppression in the whole world.

The organizers of the May First demonstration in East Berlin described the events as follows:

"From the beginning, the demonstration against social cuts and racism that gathered as Rosa Luxemburg Platz got hit with arbitrary attacks from the police. Only minutes into the action, the cops charged in with clubs to rip down the lead banner carrying the message of the demonstration. A 16-year-old woman was beaten to the ground by repeated police blows to her head. Several marchers had their glasses torn from their faces. And there was no visible reason for the attacks. All the earlier negotiations between the authorities and march organizers did nothing to deter the police from such aggressive acts... At the corner of Oderberg Street and Schönhauser Avenue, the cops drove a water cannon into the march without warning."

Our sisters and brothers in East Berlin were completely justified in defending themselves and fighting back against this kind of brutal police repression. This fight was an excellent May First action.

There were also other actions. The "Rats and Rubbish" held their evening on April 30, despite a massive police deployment. On May 2, there was the Ghetto Blast street festival. And on May 3 was the demo to "Short-circuit the Heart of the Beast." All these actions faced massive police attacks.

Schönbohm claimed, before May 1, that his brutal attack plans would beat all protests into the ground. Instead, he and the class he serves got a lesson in the determination and combativity of the oppressed. Now, after the fact, there is a campaign of slander against the actions and battles of May First 1998. It was just a "bunch of violence-prone nihilists," "criminals who just wanted to loot," and so on. These are lies and slanders...

The over 400 arrests and the many injuries people got from the police attack were all, in the final analysis, an attempt by the authorities to extract revenge for the political defeat they suffered on May First.

Our answer has to be to unite even more firmly, and support all those who were arrested and now face charges. And that means ALL who were busted on the May First weekend, regardless of which action they took part in. The joint statement made before May First protesting the police injunctions and the call for resistance and solidarity in the face of state repression were an important step. We should strengthen and build on such unity.

Pushing on Through

There is one more reason why Revolutionary May First 1998 has such a special importance. This year marks 150 years since Karl Marx and Frederick Engels published The Communist Manifesto and placed the struggle for a classless society on a scientific and practical footing. As part of that, they raised their world famous call, "Workers of All Countries, Unite!" It made clear that this struggle for a new society is a worldwide struggle, which recognizes no borders and can only be waged on the basis of internationalism.

Since then, this historic document has proven itself again and again in revolutionary practice. And this remains true today.

"The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win."

The struggle Marx and Engels called for is full of twists and turns. But seen from a world-historic perspective, it has, in fact, only just gotten started. The reactionary, oppressive ruling classes want people to believe that this struggle has no hope of victory and that the truths of the Communist Manifesto have proven hollow. But the whole experience of this May First weekend 1998 goes right up against their claims.

As Mao Tsetung, the great revolutionary leader in China, said: "Marxism consists of thousands of truths, but they all boil down to the one sentence: It is right to rebel."

Revolutionary Communists (FRG),
May 1998

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