protests in Stuttgart, Germany, in October 2010 have a new quality. In
the past, the dominant parties tried to win elections "in the center of
society". Now "the center of society," sick of being manipulated, is taking
to the streets, joined by trade unionists, ecologists, the democratic left,
GREENS, and many entirely peaceful and responsible young people. As the
governing elites resort to violent repression of peaceful protests, using
excessive force even against 7-year-old kids and 70-year-old seniors in
the streets of Stuttgart, the gap between rulers and ruled widens... Calls
for citizen participation and real democracy are heard outside activist
"direct democracy" circles for the first time.
Yes, even the old New York Times
did not fail to report what is happening in the German South West these
days. Massive demonstrations occur. In France, this is no longer surprising.
What is so strangely NEW about these protests? It is perhaps that it is not the usual demonstrators who take to the street: anti-nuclear activists, peaceniks, ecologists, college students... It's ordinary citizens who are marching. And what is more, they are not sheep seduced by a populist right-winger, some Wilders or Haider or Le Pen with a Black forest dialect. Senior citizens, many well-educated, march side by side with trade unionists. VERDI flags, carried by public employees, DGB flags with the emblem of the middle-of-road GERMAN TRADE UNION FEDERATION were seen. Elegant old ladies, middle-aged pharmacists, high school kids and even very young school children were seen. What motivates them? A feeling of not being taken serious by the politicians. The kettle has been boiling for too long. Many middle-class and working class citizens reject the dealings behind closed doors, between nuclear industry and the chancellor. They feel that the promise, given by nuclear industry to shut down the oldest and least safe nuclear power plants in a few years, has been broken. And that the new government has willingly supported this. Also, an intense feeling that social justice is trampled on by government after government is widespread and it unites, emotionally, the more awake middle-class people with workers and especially the working poor, even though these well-educated middle class people are not that much affected as yet. But they show a certain measure of "solidarity" with low-income single parents and their socially deprived children who feel the pinch of extreme poverty as never before, in the last 50 years. Perhaps the billions of euros of "guarantees" and, in the last analysis, tax-payer money that were given to failing banks topped it all, when at the same time, there was all this haggling among politicians whether children on welfare should get 5 EUROS MORE PER MONTH.
The concrete issue which ignited protests in Stuttgart, is just the straw that broke the back of the camel. PEOPLE ARE FED UP SWALLOWING MORE AND MORE, THEY ARE SICK OF BEING CHEATED AGAIN AND AGAIN BY SELF-STYLED POLITICAL "ELITES" SO OBVIOUSLY IN LEAGUE WITH BIG BUSINESS, WITH THE BANKS, WITH PROPERTY SPECULATORS.
The astonishing result is that middle-class and working-class frustration has not made people blind this time. THOSE PROTESTING IN STUTTGART DO NOT LOOK FOR A STRONG "LEADER"; they don't fall prey to populists. THEY HAVE BECOME WIDE-AWAKE AND ACTIVE, CLAMOURING FOR INCREASED PARTICIPATIVE RIGHTS. This time it is the GREEN PARTY that profits. WHETHER THEY DESERVE IT, WILL BE SEEN. At least they have joined the grass roots protests and support them, side by side with the other marchers, ordinary people rising in protest, among them so many who never demonstrated before, but also ecologists, trade union people, democratic leftists and others. A LOVELY COALITION OF REASON: a movement that demands REAL DEMOCRACY!
In the context of Europe, the NEW fact that in the last big demonstration of this month, 150,000 people took to the streets in Stuttgart, shaming the government, tossing shoes against the state parliament, demanding that the CDU-FDP state government step back, is encouraging, indeed. It means that social movements in neighboring countries are not alone. More and more people, all over Europe, are demanding a different, better, saner world . More and more reject the authoritarian attitudes of ruling political "elites". More and more envision a different concept of social justice and long for a democratization of the economy and society. Perhaps the protests in Stuttgart can give us the confidence that the period of apathy and lethargy of the population is over.
- Karen Wittstock
HOW A SIT-IN BY
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