The Rally “Rise Up for Peace” was a great success. The organizers claim 50,000 participants. This is a much more realistic figure than the 13,000 the police stated. This is a notable achievement, not only given the damp cold weather, but especially given the defamation the rally was subjected to from various sources in the run-up. Minister for economic affairs Habeck warned the night before on a popular TV programme “Brennpunkt” against participating, and his warnings were repeated in newspapers, on the web and on radio. The rally is a reflection of the growing discontent in the population at large with the government course in the war in Ukraine and their fear of escalation. If we add the many other, much smaller protests, which took place all over the country, then this could be the beginning of a new anti-war movement.
The composition of the rally was, similar to the large peace demonstrations in the past, mixed. Many middle-aged people and older, but also many families, largely from the eastern parts of Germany around Berlin, but also from other parts of Germany. According to our estimates several hundred members of Die Linke (“The Left Party”) from all party groupings and shades and various parts of Germany (Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony and Hesse) participated as well as activists of the Linke-SDS and the youth organisation Linksjugend Solid in Berlin.
Several organisations of the extreme right tried to mobilize for the rally and some individuals and small groups were present, however they were not able to dominate the picture in any way. Right-wing journalist Jürgen Elsässer had in the run-up tried to turn the rally into a right-wing event. He made his appearance together with a small group of his hangers-on. Since the stewards alone were not able to stop him, other participants including members of Die Linke surrounded him with big banners saying “No peace with the AfD” and “Solidarity not racism—Refugees welcome—take in Russian deserters” and confronted him with chants “Nazis piss off”. Right up to the start of the official programme we used our megaphones to explain to the people within reach who Elsässer is and that the chant “Nazis piss off” was not aimed at them but at him. After a while he indeed left the demonstration under police protection.
The initiators of the peace rally had in advance stated that the AfD and right-wingers were not welcome. The stewards communicated this at the various points of entrance to the rally were, however, slightly overwhelmed and didn’t act in unison. Parts of the peace movement underestimate the danger posed by the extreme right, we therefore need to argue firmly and clearly that the AfD, Compact & Co. (Elsässer’s magazine) do not stand for peace, but for further armaments, militarism and war and that they need to be consistently excluded from the peace movement.
Die Linke made itself visible with a sprinkle of flags, two large banners on sticks (one against arms supplies and war, the other against the right) as well as 120 placards made by two Left boroughs on their own initiative and other leaflets produced by various borough organisations. A central leaflet such as the one produced by the borough of Wedding against war, arms supplies and the AfD would have been useful. Even more so an invitation to a Left rally 14 days later.
This rally was not a “cross front” event. Individual fascists did feel encouraged to participate and there are people within the peace movement who are open to cooperating with fascists and say so openly. So the movement is full of contradictions and this is indeed a problem. But the leadership is not a cross front, but a momentary coalition. It is therefore paramount that Die Linke take an active role, in practice and politically. Whether a peace movement is successful or degenerates into a cross front depends on who intervenes and with what arguments in order to give the movement direction.
In our eyes it was a big mistake on the part of Die Linke, based on a complete miscalculation of developments, not to intervene centrally in fighting for a left orientation to the demonstration instead of limiting themselves to comments from the side lines. We demand that the party begin a discussion on how to become an effective participant in the building of a movement against the war and what role it can play within it.
The participation of Nazis is indeed nauseating. However, if we desist from participating in protests as soon as rightist try to capture them, we open ourselves to blackmail. Participation in this rally gave us an opportunity to actively fight the right. We must not leave the peace movement up to itself, especially in view of the massive pressure we are subject to in the media. The Easter marches and the Liberation Day in May will confront us with similar challenges whether we like it or not.
The Left is needed. Many participants at the rally, who felt intimidated by the scorn poured over it by the media and the talk of how divided the party is, were relieved to see our visible presence on the day. Our participation also showed that it is possible to unite the party in action. We need to turn the party into an active anti-war party!
Christine Buchholz, member of the steering committee of the Die Linke, Ulrike Eifler, member of the national trade union council of the Die Linke and Jan Richter, member of the steering committee and of the national trade union council of Die Linke.
Translation: David Paenson.