The Left Party has come out against Saturday’s police eviction of demonstrators occupying the Reichstag lawn. The Reichstag is the historic building from which the German parliament operates.
It was the building the Nazis set on fire so they could heap blame on the German communists. When Berlin was divided between East and West, the Reichstag sat on the western side, but right on the border, near the Brandenburg Gate, overlooking the central section of the part of Berlin that served as capital of the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany. Although West Berlin was not legally a part of the Federal Republic of (West) Germany, the West Germans provocatively flew their flag atop the Reichstag building so it could be viewed daily by the people on the eastern side of the wall.
Over 5,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Berlin on Oct. 15, the global day of action in support of the worldwide Occupy Wall Street movement.
Around 11 p.m. local time, police used pepper spray to evict around 300 demonstrators who had set up tents on the lawn in front of the historic Reichstag building.
Katja Kipping, leader of the Left Party’s 76-member Bundestag caucus, explains, “I can’t understand the eviction. The protest for more democracy belongs in front of the Bundestag.” She called the Occupy Berlin movement “a logical consequence” of the “continuous practice of the vast majority of Bundestag representatives to make laws against the interests of the vast majority of the people.”
The Left has been struggling to push a national minimum income through the Bundestag as well as a 5 percent annual surtax on wealth over $1 million. Germany remains one of the few European nations with no national minimum wage.
Master contracts covered over 90 percent of the German workforce in the early 1990s, but over a third of the nation’s workers are now left uncovered by the historic labor law. According to the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the percentage of low-income earners (defined as those working at an hourly wage less than two thirds the national median hourly wage) has risen by over 70 percent over the past decade. The weakening of trade unions and the government’s reluctance to institute wage protections has led to an increased poverty rate, which threatens the sustainability of Germany’s social welfare system.
Germany was one of the first countries in Europe to respond positively to the demand by workers that there be a decent social welfare system. Significant gains were made in that direction under Otto von Bismarck, 130 years ago.
According to economists Gerhard Bosch and Claudia Weinkopf at the University of Duisberg, real income for the lowest quarter of earners has sunk by 14 percent over the past decade while the highest quarter has seen an increase in actual income.
According to the economists’ 2009 study, the wealth disparity in Germany is moving in the direction of that in the United States – a situation necessitating swift government action – including the institution of a national minimum wage.
Demonstrators carrying hand-made signs stating, “We are the 99%,” “Abolish Capitalism” and “Every three seconds a human being starves – because of your greed,” vowed to keep up demonstrations in solidarity with the distressed working class worldwide.
“When the people come out in these temperatures to demonstrate peacefully for their rights, then it is the responsibility of their politicians to bring them hot drinks and seek to understand their concerns, not to evict them.” Kipping vowed that her party will bring the demonstrators’ rights directly to the Bundestag floor.
Photo: Bernard George // CC 2.0