Minutes from Hermsdorf meeting, 28 August 2016

Attendance

17 people were there from (at least) the following countries: Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Israel, Spain (Basque Country, Catalonia and Castilla 🙂 ), Turkey/Kurdistan, UK,  USA

A few others, who couldn’t join because of family commitments, joined us on the Saturday.

 

  1. Looking back at the past

The presentation about the history of our group is now online here.

This was followed by a short introduction to our connections with die LINKE, the European Left Party and other international organisations.

 

  1. Looking at the present

Two separate discussions, which have been separated for readability.

 

What is happening in our home countries

CANADA Quebec has an active trade union movement, a left-wing party Quebec Solidaire and a large level of student protests. The recent World Social Forum (slogan “Another World is Possible”) was in Canada, where Judith was part of the EL delegation (although participation of parties was difficult). This was the first WSF in the Northern Hemisphere and many activists had problems attending because of visa difficulties. 3,500 attended (fewer than expected) and Africa and Asia were practically not represented, and social movements were not there in force. There were many workshops on Palestine (including Israel Boycott), with other main topics the environment and indigenous rights. During the WSF there was a Pride demonstration attended by the prime minister. Very little sign of political activity on the streets (eg there are very few posters) but Canada does have a Black Lives Matter group.

GERMANY There will be elections in Berlin in September with the threat of the right-wing AfD having electoral successes

SPAIN The situation has changed in the last 5 years, since the 15M movement was formed. There has been a very long electoral period – there have been new elections twice already and a third election is possible in December. There is a crisis of bipartidism and problems of governance with the parties finding it difficult to build a government. The new party Ciudadanos and (old conservatives) Popular Party are negotiating the election of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, but they can’t do this without the support of deputies from other parties.

BASQUE COUNTRY Arnaldo Otegi is being prevented from standing in the next elections. DIE LINKE has sent an open letter to Angela Merkel calling on her to stat that if Otegi is not allowed to candidate, the elections won’t be open and fair.

UK People are moving electorally towards the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn was elected with a huge majority, but 90% of his MPs oppose him and are making a leadership challenge, attacking their own party. One possibility is that the Labour Party will split. Under Corbyn, the Labour Party is supporting movements and strikes and Corbyn is standing firm, with thousands of people attending his meetings. In the vote for the Labour leadership, the Trade Unions and party membership (who each have a third of the vote) are firmly behind Corbyn which means he should easily win. There was an increase of racism following Brexit but at the same time the Conservatives and UKIP are both having problems and have lost their leaders. This represents a wider conflict inside the British ruling class. The British left was deeply split during the Brexit campaign, but the Corbyn campaign has largely brought people together again. There may well be another referendum of Scottish independence. On present feelings, this would leave in Scotland leaving the UK but much of British politics is currently very fluid, so it’s hard to say for definite.

USA The Sanders movement involved a lot of young people in a movement which talked about socialism, breaking an old taboo in the US. After Sanders lost the nomination, the left has been split on the issue of whether they should support Clinton. Trump is dangerous in terms of domestic policy – he has led a racist campaign against Black people and Mexicans. On international policy, Clinton is possibly worse. Trump has called for working with Putin, rights for Palestine, and not expanding NATO while Clinton is for NATO, war, and Netanyahu. The Clinton foundation has been implicated in the sale of weapons to Saudia Arabia and others. There is a debate about whether the left can win the Democrat Party, and this debate has terribly split the movements. After the election there is a desperate need for the movements against war, for women’s rights, and for black and Mexican rights to get back together. In addition to the Democrats and Republicans the (right wing) Libertarian Party and the (radical left) Greens are standing at the election. The Greens have traditionally got 1% of the vote. If they manage to win over some Sanders supporters they may get 5% this time.

Israel/Palestine The Israeli government has no more shame. The Israeli ruling class largely consists of extreme right European Jews, and could be compared to the AfD. However they are feeling threatened by Jews coming from Arabic countries and are beginning to think that democracy in Israel is no longer an option. In reality, Israeli democracy was ever only real for Jews descended from white Europeans.

France The Front de Gauche results at recent elections was a disaster, and the French Communist Party may have to bear some responsibility. The Communists and Melenchon’s Partei de Gauche made an agreement for the elections but the agreement didn’t hold, and in some cases there were two different left lists. It doesn’t look like the Front de Gauche will survive as an alliance. Melechon is now campaigning on anthropological change. The Labour law has been passed by the government without being voted in parliament. It comes in next year, and there is big opposition among trade unions. Nuit debout (formed against the changes to the Labour law) is still active and having meetings, but it’s not as big as it used to be. There has been a large amount of police violence on demonstrations, with one demonstrator dying from asphyxiation. Some local governments have banned Moslem women from wearing the Burkhini for “public security reasons”. The constitutional court declared the prohibition unconstitutional, and it’s not clear what happens now.

Egypt Since the military coup in 2014, human rights have been continually been violated, especially for prisoners. There are 45,000 political prisoners, 700 people have “disappeared” and moral laws are attacking women and LBTGI people. The army is expanding and now controls over 40% of the economy. The coup was supported by the Gulf States after negotiations with the IMF which provided a $12 Billion loan. The first elected parliament was a puppet parliament nominated by the state security. There is inflation and an austerity programme, France and Germany are exporting weapons. Refugees are living in terrible conditions and the border to Gaza has been closed. The government is trying to sell islands to Saudi Arabia which is unpopular and unconstitutional. A few months ago, there was an important strike by journalists.

Turkey After the failed coup, Erdogan can do whatever he wants, and Turkey is heading towards a dictatorship. The EU and Germany want Erdogan as a partner so are not saying anything. Erdogan is one of those most responsible for the refugee crisis, as by sending troops into Syria he is producing refugees.

 

What campaigns are we currently involved in? (list incomplete as we ran out of time)

  • Lager mobilisation group, working with refugees to fight for better living conditions for refugees and against mass accommodation
  • Blockupy a blockade of the labour ministry is planned for 2 September
  • Bündnis für sexuelles Selbstbestimmung fighting for a woman’s right to choose. Demo against the “Lebensschützer” planned for 17 September
  • Kaempfer und Freunde der Spanischen Republic Planning events in October around the 80th anniversary of the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War
  • Aufstehen gegen Rassismus organising against the AfD. Demo planned for 3 September
  • Turkish/German movement against the refugee deal Demo planned for 2 September
  • Alliance against TTIP Demo planned for 17 September
  • German Anti-War movement Demo planned for 8 October

 

  1. Looking into the future

How do we improve our work? At present our decisions are too top-down. We want to set up small project groups for different areas in which we are active.

How can we improve our meetings? Always start with introduction (plus what’s happening in our countries) followed by 15 minutes on a topical subject in German politics. Main discussion starts at 7.30 (finish at 9pm)

Can we learn from the Front de Gauche? Before meetings they enter suggestions for the content of the meeting in an online pad, which means that the meetings can be prepared online.

Who does what during the meetings? (moderator, taking minutes). How do we rotate these jobs more? How do we involve more women? How do we prepare in advance so that these jobs are easier? (eg each month a different group of people is responsible for preparing the meeting). We could decide at each meeting who is responsible for organising the next one (including moderation and taking minutes)

Positive discrimination in meetings Women speakers should be brought forward. (Some) men should learn to say less.

Better connection with Die LINKE (how do we hear more?) Judith will forward the minutes from executive meetings to the mailing list (and Website, facebook etc).

Better connection with Die LINKE (how do we say more?) How can we contribute more to Die LINKE Berlin and national newsletters? Can we write position papers for discussion in the party?

Becoming more multi-lingual How far can we add non-English pages to the Website? (this is largely a question of our resources) Can we offer to translate existing texts / let the party know better than we are available for such jobs?

Better coordination at demos As an umbrella group, we can contact other non-German left groups and offer to organise blocks at demonstrations.

More follow-up Don’t just send mails telling people what meetings or demos are coming up. Also send reports afterwards about what was discussed at the meeting or what the effect of the demo was. The first step here would be to send out regular minutes from our own meetings.

Outreach work Get a better overview of who we already work with (who is/are the contact person(s)?) and which groups exist with which we need better connections

 

Working groups

We will set up the following project groups immediately (others are possible if someone wants to set it up):

  • Outreach (connection with other groups and communities in Berlin) (contact person Judith)
  • Social media (contact person phil)
  • Culture (contact person Ana B)
  • Mobilization (including coordinating demo blocks) (contact person Julia)
  • Publicity (writing leaflets – most urgently the one about our group) (contact person Judith)
  • Temporary group for what we do around the US elections (contact person Tyler)

 

Coming Meetings

Some suggestions for possible subjects for future meetings (maybe monthly meetings, maybe cultural events, maybe one-off public meetings):

  • Ferguson (documentary: “do not resist”)
  • Snowden (film coming out. We have contact with someone who works for him in Berlin)
  • Something around OXIGen conference “game over” (8. October)
  • Armenia (video conference?)
  • Antisemitism and antizionism (Gal)
  • Brazil (Wellington)
  • French elections (Selim Nadi, in Berlin January and February)
  • Latin America
  • Skype conference with Jill Stein (organised by the US election project group)
  • Columbia
  • Party as an instrument to change society?)
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