Germany

A film from the GDR

Making a — very loose — connection to Bruce Robinson’s review of theDeutschland series (Solidarity 592), and jumping back a few years, the GDR (which acquired the great UFA film studio when Germany was divided) once made some interesting films, even though much of this output now lies neglected and relatively unknown. My selection is a 1957 film, Berlin: Schoenhauser Corner, directed by Gerhard Klein. The ‘corner’ in question is a series of railway arches at Schoenhauser station on the Berlin overhead railway. Here disaffected teenagers, rebels and misfits congregate to look for some relief...

Spy stories from the fall of Stalinism

Deutschland ‘89 (currently available on All Four) is the last series in a trilogy following Martin Rauch through the 1980s. He is an East German border guard who has been coerced into becoming a spy for the HVA, the external wing of the Stasi. Each of the three series is concerned with a major crisis of the East German state: 1983 with NATO’s stationing of nuclear missiles in West Germany; 1986 with the desperate need for foreign currency that leads the GDR into supplying arms to the South African apartheid government and pimping its citizens as guinea pigs for West German Pharma companies to...

Virus: indict the Tories!

Of people who test positive for the virus and should self-isolate, only 20% or fewer are doing so fully. That’s an official estimate. No one knows what percentage of people who are identified as contacts of the infected — and may be infectious themselves, without having symptoms — are self-isolating. Most people asked to self-isolate get no or minimal isolation pay, so isolated properly is economically difficult or impossible. Of those who do self-isolate, many can do so only in overcrowded housing. However careful they are, they’re likely to infect others there. In New Zealand, the government...

New coal power in Germany

In the last days of May, 500 environmental protesters descended upon a new coal power plant, Datteln 4, in Germany. The plant opened on 30 May despite the German government’s roadmap, announced this year, to have coal phased out by 2038 at the latest. And despite the average coal power plant globally having a 46 year — not 18 year — lifespan. Electorally, Germany has one of the strongest “Green Parties” in the world. But if anything, they have contributed to coal power use in Germany today. In 2000 a SPD-Green coalition announced a plan to phase out nuclear energy, and it has happened...

Fallback pay for all

30 million workers in the USA have applied for unemployment benefit since March. 35 million workers are on government-funded furlough schemes in Europe (10 million in Germany, 11.3 million in France). 1.8 million have applied for Universal Credit in Britain, and 700,000 have got advance payments. Signals are also increasing of a new wave of job cuts as the lockdowns ease and creditors start chasing debts.

Lockdown-easing in Germany

Germany's federal states have been gradually easing their pandemic "lockdowns" since some schools were partially reopened in the second half of April. So far as can be seen, daily confirmed cases, outstanding active case numbers, and daily deaths are still falling gradually. The "lockdown" was always more liberal than in Britain. One-third of workplaces went onto "Kurzarbeit" (a scheme where the government pays wages for temporarily laid-off workers), but travel to work went down by 43% in Germany compared to around 65% in Italy, Spain, France, and the UK. German manufacturing has been running...

Germany: less "Thatcherism", fewer deaths

Despite many years of public service cuts, privatisation (including of hospitals), outsourcing, cuts to social security, and so on, Germany still hasn’t really had full-on Thatcherism. Remnants of the “German model” of so-called “social partnership” still exist. The number of hospital beds is much higher than in Britain, partly for that reason, and partly for another. The private concerns, in some cases multinational, or church organisations, that have taken over many clinics across the country are a strong lobby, and they earn well from patients and their health insurance schemes (and even...

Work or full pay!

As of 1 April, 950,000 new people had applied for Universal Credit in just two weeks. Usually new applications run at about 100,000 a week. Hundreds of thousands, or millions, of people have lost their jobs because they were on casual contracts, and because they worked for businesses which have laid them off or simply shut down. Many small employers have laid off workers, but also big ones, like universities. Many who are self-employed — really self-employed, or formally self-employed while really being wage-workers — are not able to use the government’s scheme for aid to the self-employed, or...

A patronising appeal to the poor

“Why did Labour lose so badly (in the 2019 general election)? Because there was one central issue in the election campaign: Brexit. In that context, a party that could provide only a hesitant and ambiguous answer because of its internal divisions had no chance.” “If Corbyn had been able to counterpose a resolute Left Brexit to Johnson’s plans – that is to say: using the end of the neoliberal EU treaties for the purpose of a social restructuring of British society – then a different result would have been very possible.” “There is nothing irrational about the fact that the upper middle classes...

Marxists and “left governments”

“We are not a government party; we are the party of irreconcilable opposition… Our tasks... we realise not through the medium of bourgeois governments... but exclusively through the education of the masses through agitation, through explaining to the workers what they should defend and what they should overthrow. Such a “defence” cannot give immediate miraculous results. But we do not even pretend to be miracle workers. As things stand, we are a revolutionary minority. Our work must be directed so that the workers on whom we have influence should correctly appraise events, not permit...

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