From A World to Win News Service

Revolutionary May 1st in Berlin

Revolutionary Worker #1241, May 23, 2004, posted at

We received the following from A World to Win News Service.

May 10, 2004. A World to Win News Service. May 1st 2004 was again the scene of a mass outpouring of revolutionary sentiment and militant struggle against Germany's rulers and the entire worldwide system of imperialist exploitation and oppression. As has become almost traditional, both sides of this conflict marshalled their forces for the showdown.

The day began with a demonstration of several thousand people protesting a march organized by the far-right National Party of Germany and a number of closely associated neo-Nazi organizations. The fascists had mobilized nationwide for this May 1st action and had even raised slogans against "capital" and "globalization" in a fashion reminiscent of the demagogy of the Nazis in the 1920s and '30s. The name of Hitler's party was actually the National Socialist Party of Germany. The current period of severe structural crisis and reorganization in Germany has been accompanied by the most drastic cuts in wages and social programs since WW2. This has led to widespread dissatisfaction and even some mass protest. Today's Nazis are attempting to copy their predecessors in claiming that the solution to all the problems imperialism produces lies in a "national" form of "socialism" based on the subjugation of anyone deemed "foreign" or "un- German" at home and the pre-eminence of Germany internationally.

Originally the Nazi march was planned to begin at the Ostbahnhof, less than 800 meters from the Oranienplatz in the Kreuzberg district, the starting site of the traditional revolutionary May 1st demonstration. A massive campaign aimed at mobilizing people to come out and stop the Nazi march convinced the city authorities that moving the Nazis to an area in the eastern part of Berlin, outside of the inner city, would give the Nazis more of a chance to successfully conduct their march. They also provided several thousand police backed up by water canons to facilitate this and to protect the Nazis. But the anti-fascist demonstrators marched toward the new location and fought to block the route the Nazis were planning to use. Protesters built barricades, held sit-ins, and even repeatedly resisted the massive water cannons at close range. When the baton charges of the police failed to clear the streets the Nazis gave up and turned around after just a few blocks.

At 1 o'clock people gathered at the Oranienplatz in Kreuzberg in preparation for the 17th annual revolutionary May Day demonstration. This year's main slogan was "Fight Internationally Against Exploitation and Oppression, No Liberation Without Revolution!" Between 600 and 700 people from over a dozen countries and nationalities gathered on the Oranienplatz for the rally preceding the demonstration. The main speakers included Haluk Gerger, assistant professor of international relations in Ankara, Turkey (an author; journalist, founding member of the Human Rights Organization of Turkey and member of the 7th International Emergency Committee Delegation to Peru) and representatives of the March 8th Women's Organization of Iran and Afghanistan, the Revolutionary May 1st Coalition, and the Association of Arab Anti-Fascists in Europe. In addition messages to the demonstration were read from a number of organizations, including a joint message from the supporters of the Maoist Communist Party of Turkey and northern Kurdistan, the Revolutionary Communists (FRG), and the TKP ML Maoist Party Centre. Among the leaflets distributed by the thousands was the statement by the Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement on RIM's 20th anniversary.

As the demonstration moved down the Oranienstrasse, the heart of the Kreuzberg district and of the mass rebellion in 1987 that inspired the birth of the demonstration, the sidewalks were full of people and the ranks of the demonstration swelled to over a thousand. Dominating the scene was a giant banner--some 5 meters across and 15 meters high--strung high across the street with the main slogans of the demonstration in Turkish and German. Numerous other banners opposed the occupation of Iraq, declared support for the People's War in Nepal, and denounced rape and the oppression of women as well as racist attacks and discrimination. The demonstration was characterized by its multinational composition, with many youth as well as older veterans of the struggle, middle class people and significant numbers of proletarians and a fairly wide range of political forces as well.

At 4 o'clock a second revolutionary May 1st demonstration organized by mainly anarchist forces started in downtown Berlin and marched toward Kreuzberg with the slogan, "Our Agenda is Resistance, No to Imperialist Murder and Social Terror!" and brought out more than 2,000 people. In a display of unity the organizers of this march and the Oranienplatz demonstration agreed to conclude both actions with a joint rally at the Kottbusser Tor in Kreuzberg and read a joint statement opposing imperialist war and exploitation.

One of the key elements of the "Battle of May 1st 2004" in Berlin was the city authorities' attempt to limit the militant street fighting that has become an annual feature of May Day. They tried to politically isolate the two revolutionary May Day demonstrations through a press campaign aimed at painting them as the work of "crazed radicals," as well as carrying out typical legal maneuvers to restrict the right to demonstrate and mobilizing an army of police to harass and intimidate. This year they added a new tactic, by sponsoring a street festival in Kreuzberg, the "MyFest," for the afternoon and evening with numerous stages for live music, performances, etc. Their goal was to split demonstrators off from "peaceful" people, who were supposedly opposed to any militancy and radical politics. Three stages were devoted to rap music in an effort to pull in especially the immigrant youth. Whereas last year the organizers of the MyFest coordinated planning with the revolutionary May 1st action, this year the festival was used to support legal efforts to block the demonstrations. This was a tactic of combining the carrot and the stick (actually8,000 sticks , and a few tanks). According to the mayor of Kreuzberg, a member of the Party of Democratic Socialism, this approach could succeed in putting an end to militant struggle and the "mythos" of revolutionary May 1st in Berlin.

He was wrong. Not only did several thousand people take part in the Revolutionary May 1st demonstrations, but in mid-evening over a thousand people, mainly a volatile mix of youth of different nationalities, joined an action organized on the spot at the MyFest to oppose the crude attempts at political suppression. As the police began to form up their ranks for their counter-measures, the youth took the initiative and struck first, igniting hours of militant street battles later shown on international television. In the midst of this fighting the red flag with Mao's picture was repeatedly seen defiantly waving above the heads of the battling youth, sending a message around the world.