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What’s happening in Berlin on May 1, 2020?

Map: Authorised demonstrations on May 1st, 2020. If you want to join a demonstration, contact the organiser first to ensure that particpant numbers are not exceeded. We make no guarantee as to the accuracy of this information. May 1st — International Workers’ Day — is usually a major event in Berlin, with countless protests across […]


Map: Authorised demonstrations on May 1st, 2020. If you want to join a demonstration, contact the organiser first to ensure that particpant numbers are not exceeded. We make no guarantee as to the accuracy of this information.

May 1st — International Workers’ Day — is usually a major event in Berlin, with countless protests across the city and a big demonstration by the DGB trade union federation. This year, things will be different.

The DGB has cancelled its protest for the first time since it was founded in 1949. “This year, solidarity means keeping your distance,” said Reiner Hoffmann, the organisation’s chairman. Instead, the umbrella group, which includes most trade unions in Germany, is planning an online broadcast of online speeches, discussions and artistic performances under the motto “You can’t do solidarity alone” (#SolidarischNichtAlleine). It will take place from 11am to 2pm.

Other protests are planned, however, to go ahead — with suitable health and safety measures including a minimum distance of 2 metres from person to person and a maximum of 20 participants per demonstration.

“We’re taking to the streets not because we think that protective measures aren’t right or because we deny the danger of the virus,” says René Arnsburg of the Network for Fighting Trade Unions (Vernetzung für kämpferische Gewerkschaften). But, he told Neues Deutschland, when fundamental achievements of the labour movement such as the eight-hour day are being chipped away, it cannot be expected that there will be no resistance. Accompanied by other trade unionists, Arnsburg has registered a rally for 11 am near the world clock on Alexanderplatz.

That is one of dozens of demonstrations planned across Germany despite the Coronavirus situation. The initiative “All Out for May 1st 2020” (“Heraus zum ersten Mai 2020”) has been calling on people to register small demonstrations of up to 20 people, which can stay within the law, along the traditional May Day locations and routes.

At 1pm a rally near the Vivantes hospital at Urbanhafen, Kreuzberg. Organised by Berlin Action Against Employer Injustice (Berliner Aktion Gegen Arbeitgeberunrecht), the event will take place under the slogan “We won’t pay for your crisis”. The call-out asks why the ruling class speak of solidarity and acting together, while the working conditions of hospital employees are attacked.

Also registered in Berlin are five rallies of 20 people each in Neukölln organised by Die Linke for 2pm. Those who want to take part are asked to register with info@die-linke-neukö

Meanwhile, the traditional “revolutionary May 1st” demonstration has also taken on a new form. Organisers have called for a decentralised protest across Kreuzberg from 6pm in order to reduce the risk of infection and remain resistant to state repression.

“Whether alone with a placard, together with friends and comrades, in small groups, with a bike or on foot, or also from rooftoops and balconies: you decide yourselves, what your actions will look like,” organisers said in a statement.

Berlin’s social-democratic interior minister Andreas Geisel has promised to clamp down heavily on the unauthorised protest. “The police will have to intervene early,” he was quoted by the public broadcaster RBB as saying. He reportedly said there would be 5,000 police officers deployed to the city’s streets.

Guernica – a painting of our time

On the 83rd anniversary of the bombing of Guernica, we republish this article from our old Website, originally written for the 80th anniversary.


80 years ago Pablo Picasso painted one of his most famous works in response to the destruction of the Basque city of Guernica. Phil Butland explains why it is one of the most impressive anti-war paintings, and how it was part of a new way of understanding and creating art.

At about 4:30 pm on April 26, 1937, the first German bomb fell on the Basque town of Guernica. It was a Monday, and many inhabitants of the neighbouring villages were visiting the market. Many of the town’s menfolk were already fighting in the Spanish Civil War, so most of the people affected by the bombing were women, children, and the 3,000 war refugees who were already living there.

After a first round of bombing, the Wehrmacht pilots waited until people left their bunkers to look after the wounded. As they scrambled out of their shelters, a second, and longer, wave of bombing began. It was accompanied by low-flying fighter planes, which strafed the streets with machine-gun fire.

Eye-witness Juan Guezureya described what he saw:

“They kept just going back and forth, sometimes in a long line, sometimes in close formation. It was as if they were practising new moves. They must have fired thousands of bullets.”

The bombing and shooting spree by German aircraft under the command of Wolfram von Richthofen lasted over three hours. One hundred thousand pounds of highly explosive and incendiary bombs were deployed. Three quarters of all buildings in the town were completely destroyed. In the Times, the British war correspondent George Steer reported

“Throughout the night houses were falling until the streets became long heaps of red impenetrable debris”.

The power of Picasso’s Guernica

Anyone looking at Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ without any prior knowledge will learn little about the historical events which took place in the Basque town. Picasso’s biographer, the recently deceased John Berger described the picture as follows:

“There is no town, no aeroplanes, no explosion, no reference to the time of day, the year, the century or the part of Spain where it happened. There are no enemies to accuse. There is no heroism.”

Yet we immediately recognize pain and misery, suffering and death. Like virtually no other work of art – a possible exception is Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ – ‘Guernica’ contains no historical facts, preferring to show the pure emotions felt by the victims of a massacre. A woman looks above, crying helplessly, as her dead baby lies still in her arms. A horse screams with fear. The ground is strewed with mutilated body parts.

Berger explains the effect of the picture: “we are made to feel their pain with our eyes”. And all that we can see is monochrome angst. Picasso deliberately used no colour, as he believed that this would distract from the horror. ‘Guernica’ works so well as a piece of art because it speaks to emotions which cannot be put into words. It articulates the horrific by simply showing us horror.

Some critics have made a great deal of effort trying to determine the precise meaning of different parts of the work: what does this bull or that horse stand for? Why is this woman crying? This approach is legitimate, but in my opinion it missed the core of ‘Guernica’s’ magnificence.

Picasso himself explained his choice of imagery as follows:

“this bull is a bull and this horse is a horse… If you give a meaning to certain things in my paintings it may be very true, but it is not my idea to give this meaning. What ideas and conclusions you have got I obtained too, but instinctively, unconsciously. I make the painting for the painting. I paint the objects for what they are””

No accidental attack

In the aftermath of the air attack, apologists for Franco and his German supporters argued that the town had a military significance. The evidence is, however, very flimsy. It is true that there were two armaments factories on the edge of the town, but neither was damaged by the bombing spree.

It is much more likely that Guernica was deliberately targeted to prevent Basque participation in the Spanish Civil War. During the war, the Basque parties were reluctant to clearly take sides.

In October 1936, an autonomous Basque government was formed with the Christian Democrat José Antonio Aguirre as president and the participation of left parties. This government formally supported the Spanish Republic but was also willing to make compromises with Franco. For example, after the fall of Bilbao, it negotiated the Santoña Agreement (also known as the Santoña Treason) independently of the republican forces.

In 1935, German general Erich Ludendorff published the pamphlet ‘Der Totale Krieg’ (The Total War) in which he argued that in war, no one is innocent; everyone is a combatant and everyone a target, soldier and civilian alike. In the same period, Emilio Mola, the Spanish general responsible for the campaign in the North said

“It is necessary to spread terror. We must create the impression of mastery, eliminating without scruples or hesitation all those who do not think as we do”.

Hitler cited Guernica as a template for the bombing of Warsaw in 1939, and Goering spoke of Guernica as a “testing ground”. It is hard to believe, then, that the attack on Guernica was anything other than an attempt to deepen the division between the Basques in the North and the Republicans in the South.

With the aerial bombardment, General Franco showed that he was prepared to kill Basque civilians if their government were to even consider supporting the Spanish Republic.

Picasso responds – to different reactions

Picasso had been living in exile in France since 1901. Some art historians have suggested that he was not political during this time, although his circle of friends always contained a number of leftist activists. In 1938, his good friend Andre Breton wrote the Manifesto for an Independent Revolutionary Art together with Leon Trotsky and Diego Rivera. Picasso’s partner Dora Maar, whose work was essential to the creation of ‘Guernica’, was a member of the French Communist Party (PCF), which Picasso eventually joined in 1944.

In 1937 he produced his first explicitly political work: ‘The Dream and Lie of Franco”. 18 (originally 14) etchings depicted Franco in ridiculous poses. Initially, the etchings were meant to be sold as postcards from the Spanish Pavilion in the 1937 World Exposition in Paris, in order to raise money for the Spanish Republic. After the bombing of Guernica, Picasso decided to make a new picture.

The reactions to his new painting were not universally positive. It was to be expected that Emanuel Paul Frank, art historian from Nazi Germany would write “It is a confusion of incomprehensible symbols and human body parts which looks like it has been drawn by a four-year-old child”.

Yet many left-wing critics were also clearly unimpressed. In ‘L’Humanité’ the newspaper of the PCF, the poet Louis Aragon reported on the Exposition without mentioning Picasso’s painting at all. Some left-wing Spanish officials at the Exposition tried to replace Picasso’s picture with Horacio Ferrer de Morgados’s kitschy ‘Madrid 1937 (Black Aeroplanes)’.

Despite such half-hearted backing, ‘Guernica’ continued to play a practical role in supporting the Republican forces, and was sent on a tour of Scandinavia, England and the USA. The entrance fee was usually the cost of a pair of used boots for a Republican soldier. These boots were sent directly to the Republican army.

Picasso and the Communists – a tense relationship

Why did Picasso’s critics in and around the Communist Party react to ‘Guernica’ with such revulsion? Morgados’s painting was preferable to many communists because the raised fists and red scarves made it easier to understand who the heroes in the picture were supposed to be.

Such blinkered Philistinism was in full accord with the orthodoxy of Socialist Realism which was influential amongst the Left in the 1930s (and still perseveres in some circles).  It suffices here to say that Picasso’s experimentation with form was not fully appreciated by some leftist critics.

At the same time, precisely because he had not yet joined the PCF, Picasso was probably allowed more room to manoeuvre than was expected of artists who were party members. As a “Fellow Traveller”, the communists lauded his political engagement and claimed him as one of theirs while seeing much of his art as irresponsibly decadent.

Ironically, John Molyneux is almost certainly correct when he says “I can think of no Socialist Realist painting on any subject whatsoever that has had anything approaching the impact of Guernica.”

None of this is to say that triumphant realist art was incapable of responding to the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. 1937 also saw the making of ‘Aidez L’Espagne’, a superlative painting by the Catalan artist Joan Miro, better known for his more abstract paintings. It shows a Catalan peasant with a defiant clenched fist.

The Spanish Republican government made a stamp using this image which was used to finance their fight against the fascists around Franco. And yet even Miro’s superb painting fails to engage us in the same way that ‘Guernica’ does.

The legacy of Picasso’s ‘Guernica’

It is often said that the destruction of Guernica was the first bombing of a civilian population. This is not, strictly speaking, correct. In 1914, German Zeppelins bombed Antwerp, killing 10 civilians. In the 1920s, Winston Churchill and Arthur “Bomber” Harris developed the strategy of “Aerial Policing”, which involved the deadly bombing of the Arab population in Iraq.

Even during the Spanish Civil War, the German and Spanish Air Forces had bombed population centres in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia before the first bomb fell on Guernica. Later, other cities would be destroyed – Coventry, Dresden, Hiroshima, and more recently Gaza and Aleppo. Guernica was neither the first nor the deadliest instance of a bomb attack on civilians, but thanks to Picasso it has become a representative of all such war crimes.

During the Iraq war, a tapestry reproduction of ‘Guernica’ was hung in the UN building (let’s pause to think here which other radical work of art has hung in the UN building and the Museum of Modern Art in the US as well as the Prado and Reina Sofia museums in Madrid). Before the visit of US Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy John Negroponte, a blue curtain was hung in front of the tapestry so as not to embarrass the warmongerers.

Above all, ‘Guernica’ stands in judgement over the indiscriminate mass killing of civilians. The bombing of Guernica happened 80 years ago, but the massacres continue. After the destruction of Aleppo, Portuguese cartoonist Vasco Gargalo reimagined the picture, saying “The suffering of the Syrian people is not any different”.

Art after Auschwitz

Theodor Adorno said “to write a poem after Auschwitz is barbaric ”. He meant, firstly, that poetry – and art in general – could not prevent either Auschwitz or Guernica – but also that it is impossible for art to directly reproduce unimaginable horror.

In a similar vein, the architect Peter Eisenman has said of his ‘Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe’ in Berlin: “it is a little too aesthetic. It looks a little too good. Not that I wanted something ugly, but I didn’t want something that looks like Design. I wanted the ordinary, the banal.”

Some of the excesses of late capitalism – the Holocaust in particular, but also Hiroshima and the bombing of Guernica – are almost literally impossible to comprehend. For many artists, it is insufficient to merely depict this horror – they need a more personal relationship.

This realisation helped produce the artistic movement of Modernism. From Brecht’s plays and James Joyce’s novels to Picasso’s art, this was an attempt to develop an art form for an age in which the reproduction of beautiful landscapes was no longer sufficient.

Modernism did not, of course spring from nowhere. Particularly Picasso’s depictions of the horrors of war have their antecedents in Francisco Goya’s series of pictures ‘The Disasters of War’, made in response to the Napoleonic Wars. The curators of Madrid’s Reina Sofia Museum (where ‘Guernica’ currently hangs) acknowledge this when they say “The grotesque vision that Goya brought to his political critique was not lost on artists as a powerful tool for crafting their own views of the present.”

Nevertheless, the development of Modernism in the uncertain period between the wars marks a qualitative shift and ‘Guernica’ is one of the best and most convincing Modernist works. It is exactly the absence of historical fact and of heroes that allows us to see every war in the picture, and to develop a generalized criticism of the capitalist system.

When Picasso painted ‘Guernica’, he said

“my whole life as an artist has been nothing more than a continuous struggle against reaction and the death of art. In the picture I am painting — which I shall call Guernica — I am expressing my horror of the military caste which is now plundering Spain into an ocean of misery and death.”

Picasso felt this revulsion against the depravity of the caste throughout his life, and this revulsion has inspired his successors in the new Spanish Left, not least in their struggle against forgetting the Civil War and against any new Guernicas.

Suggested reading: John Berger, The Success and Failure of Picasso

Solidarity from Brandenburg farmers in times of corona

Why this article? I decided to write this article in an attempt to bring a voice of encouragement and cohesion, as well as a voice from the farming community, to the table, given the fear and confusion now being experienced by so many. There is a simple explanation why I am writing as a farmer: […]


Why this article?

I decided to write this article in an attempt to bring a voice of encouragement and cohesion, as well as a voice from the farming community, to the table, given the fear and confusion now being experienced by so many.

There is a simple explanation why I am writing as a farmer: when we as a society come under such enormous pressure that it raises existential questions, like the spread of the COVID-19 pathogen is doing, we have to reflect on what we really need in such a crisis.

We must think about how we can act in solidarity and for everyone’s benefit, even in difficult times. The most essential things to my mind are above all medical care and the supply of healthy and sufficiently abundant food, as well as a transparent flow of information that is comprehensible for everyone.

I will deal among other things, with possible reasons for the outbreak of epidemics such as corona, initially raising structural questions and then offering practical considerations. In this context, I will deal with how we can help each other and what is important from the point of view of regional agriculture, the main task of which is to contribute to the food supply.

It is about the questions I think we need to be addressing. It is infuriating when powerful people in politics, business and government use the crisis to advance their personal political agendas.

At the same time, it comes as no surprise. Economic aid is swiftly promised to large corporations, while at the same time the burden of lost work is borne by workers. It could be a political agenda directed against the population – even after corona – to prop up a system that does not provide universal health coverage, as in the USA, for example.

That, coupled perhaps with a lack of labor-law protections, means that many people do not dare to get themselves tested, or they continue to work despite being sick. Repressive regimes and some neoliberal western governments have often denied the onset or downplayed the danger of the coronavirus outbreak in their countries, thereby helping to spread it on a much larger scale without taking any action.

To disclose my political agenda up front: even though I personally am an organic farmer, this article is explicitly not about promoting the kind of organic farming I support, but rather about all of us in regional agriculture.

A crisis like the one with which we are now confronted shows us incredibly clearly that much of what we have taken for granted can quickly falter. It is high time that systemic relationships are questioned. Anyone who has not yet understood this may be able to see clear evidence of it right now during the current crisis. If they can’t understand this, they are beyond help.

Farmers have been drawing attention to their precarious economic situation for years. The loss of several thousand mostly medium-sized family farms in Germany every year for decades and the trend towards increasingly concentrated agricultural units, as well as towards the upstream and downstream sectors, are developments that we as a profession have so far been facing largely on our own and for which we receive little social attention.

The “grow or perish” principle affects our industry on a large scale and has long been a bitter reality. For many of us, this means loss and poverty – and countless personal fates of farmers. In France, an average of one farmer a day commits suicide.

We know that our markets are incredibly dependent on a flow of goods that must constantly grow. The free-market economy creates an intensification of agriculture to which farmers fall victim – and nature, the environment and biodiversity right along with them.

As our regional agriculture in Europe, Germany and Brandenburg has increasingly lost the character of small-scale farming, we farmers have consequently lost our existence. This means that we have been forced into a situation in which many of my colleagues can only survive if they switch to this type of production and go along with the trend towards intensification. Agriculture in our region is increasingly geared towards farmers producing for the world market instead of for regional supply, with all the disadvantages that this entails.

Buyer prices are now so bad that even farms with a few hundred dairy cows can no longer be maintained. Land cultivation in Brandenburg hardly yields any profit; a lack of processing structures in the region means that there is no purchaser for many products, or that a few retail customers can simply set the lowest prices thanks to their market power.

Wherever this kind of market concentration happens, farms automatically take a hit – as does biodiversity. There can be no broad and diverse crop rotation in the fields of Brandenburg unless there is also an equally broad and diverse purchasing structure.

Instead of strengthening our regional agriculture, we have relied on imports. Much of what could be cultivated here is imported more cheaply from elsewhere. Much of what we take for granted in stores is brought to us every day in containers by sea, road, rail and even by air.

In other words, we import the fruits of others’ exploited labor every day while at the same time sacrificing our own operating structures. To name just two examples familiar to most non-farmers: instead of growing enough legumes at home, we import three million hectares of soya for livestock farming each year from Latin America alone. Instead of relying on domestic oleaginous fruits, there are hardly any products that do not contain palm oil.

Regarding COVID-19, there is a heated debate whether it was pangolins or bats that brought us the virus. But simply looking for the original host that transmitted the virus to us falls far short of the mark. The questions are: why are these types of infectious diseases becoming more common, and why are they able to spread so rapidly across the globe?

The mode of transmission is already well known and probably requires no detailed explanation here. We know that our planet is circumnavigated millions of times each day by travelers and goods.

It is precisely here that the links with infectious diseases, such as those that are increasingly emerging, cannot be denied.

Some types of disease are transmitted by animals in agricultural production: these include not only avian and swine flu, but also MERS-CoV and other coronaviruses that have existed in the past. I mention both because it is important to me to argue objectively without making sweeping statements.

MERS-CoV was originally transmitted to humans from dromedary camels and was not the result of intensive animal husbandry. However, this also meant that this dangerous and fatal disease did not spread very rapidly and that the number of cases remained relatively low.

Avian and swine flu are far more dangerous in terms of disease propagation, because they are spread by animal species that are intensively farmed and bred, in conditions that hardly guarantee the genetic resistance or health of the animals. Intensive livestock production poses a great danger, not to mention the moral implications.

Recently, it has also become increasingly common for dangerous infectious viral diseases to be transmitted to humans from wild animals. But here too, the way we farm globally and the way we treat land and natural habitats play a central role.

One example of such an infectious disease is the Nipah virus, which caused a dangerous epidemic in Malaysia that killed 70% of those it infected. It could only be contained with drastic measures: culling more than a million pigs, over half of the Malaysian pig population.

Like many other pathogens, the origin of the Nipah virus can be traced: in this case, to bats. However, the actual habitat of these bats was the primary forests of Indonesia. After Indonesia cleared three-quarters of its forests for palm-oil production, the bats that lost their habitat moved to the fruit-tree plantations of neighboring Malaysia.

Here, pigs were infected and, primarily via workers in slaughterhouses, other people were infected as well. By endangering the vulnerable balance of ecosystems, humans also alter the transmission chains of viruses.

As evolutionary biologist Rob Wallace [1] explains well, the outbreak of COVID-19 is not an isolated incident. The sudden increase and spread of this type of virus is closely linked to the way we organize our global food production, which in turn is linked to the profitability of multinational corporations.

An elementary component of their functioning is the rapid flow of goods and people around the globe. As Wallace goes on to describe, it no longer takes a long time to go from bats in the hinterlands of one continent “to killing Miami sunbathers.”

Infections transmitted by wild animals often only come to humans from pathogens that were previously hidden deep in natural habitats, because humans penetrate them. Genetic diversity is increasingly limited due to industrial agriculture’s intensification of genetic monocultures of specific species and breeds, as well as the destruction of naturally biodiverse habitats, with the result that there is a dwindling restraining effect to slow the spread of these kinds of viruses.

Professor Rodolphe Gozlan [2], head of research at the IRD (Institute of Research for Development) in Marseilles, has noted: “Biodiversity is not something that humans can look at from the outside. Man is part of this diversity, whether he likes it or not. We scientists are aware of one thing: the protection of the environment or of biodiversity is not some romantic ideology; there is a very concrete link with the fight against infectious diseases.”

In short: global environmental protection is also global health protection.

In my view, the only answer to this can be real solidarity. The origin of the disease, the speed with which it can spread across the globe, as well as our means of countering its spread, can only be tackled together. It cannot be in our interest to look at and study individual outbreaks and regions only reactively and in a sensationalistic way.

For me as a farmer in the region, the facts that we produce too little for the region locally, that many well-trained specialists in our profession often only earn between EUR 1100-1300 net a month for a fulltime job in agriculture, and that farms are financially crippled even despite this self-exploitation, all go together.

For me, any discussion of solidarity must also include the fact that poorly paid cleaning staff working for a Charité Berlin subcontractor had to stop their strike because their work is so incredibly important – especially during the corona epidemic. Their strike was stopped for security reasons.

Nowhere in the discussion about corona and its consequences do I hear anyone advocating for all of these people, who are there every day to care for us, to immediately receive much higher salaries in recognition and, in the case of this outbreak, possibly even hazard pay.

The neoliberal restructuring of our health system on the basis of flat-rate payments per case, which has led to a situation in which a country as prosperous as Germany may not now have sufficient surplus capacity, is no different than what we see in agriculture and in many other working environments.

Whether it is overworked, tired, poorly paid caregivers who are accused of being unfriendly because they barely have the strength to respond to the many people they must care for, or farmers who across the board are accused of poor treatment of animals or nature – in essence, it’s the same problem.

In reality, the sick and the elderly are often treated unkindly, and it is also true that animals, soil and nature are often treated negligently. All of this happens within labor and marketing contexts that feature invoicing down to the euro/cent. The people who work in this sector are of course also affected. There is therefore no getting away from asking questions about the bigger connections and, as we do so, we should start from a basis of solidarity.

Our anger is not directed at workers, but at who sell us ever-increasingly intensive production as the only alternative, who make us dependent on large corporations. They and their demands are the ones responsible for making us all – whether in the global North or the global South – struggle for a world market that clearly brings us nothing but suffering and misery at both regional and global levels.

The agricultural industry is so blindly profit-oriented that even the “collateral damage” of short-sighted decisions inevitably made under the sole criterion of profit maximization can be as devastating as we are currently experiencing: a virus has emerged – and not by chance – a pandemic that could cost an incalculable number of people their lives.

COVID-19 is already having economic consequences that are raising comprehensive questions about these profits and – much more importantly! – everything that affects our lives. As long as “the shop” ran undisturbed by the virus, the externalized costs were borne virtually uncomplainingly and unnoticed by the animals, the environment, the agricultural workers, the consumers, the state, the healthcare system, and many more.

They have never been included in agricultural operating costs, and those responsible have never had to pay for them. Had that happened, this form of agricultural industry would not exist at all. Even now, with the immense costs caused by the coronavirus outbreak, that will not be the case. In the end, we will have to shoulder those costs.

This is all the more reason for us to see the current crisis at least as an opportunity to challenge these injustices once and for all and to look for ways to bring about profound change – together.

Racist exclusions cannot have any room in this discussion. Those who would allow them have not understood anything structurally, let alone the fact that they condone the violence racism represents. Healthy living conditions, good food and medical care are a universal right. In addition, the virus does not know these boundaries.

Anyone who would discriminate against and exclude others has therefore not understood that the risk of falling ill increases exponentially the worse these “others” are provided for in our global society. When it comes to diseases and epidemics, marginalized people have always been and are being stigmatized, victimized and – in the systemically unavoidable, barbaric competition for increasingly scarce resources – presented as a threat.

To put this briefly into context in relation to some of the infectious diseases of recent history: anti-Chinese racism related to the coronavirus epidemic is as wrongheaded as it is right to recall that the various avian and swine flu epidemics originated in Europe and the US, and that here, too, the governments covered for the agribusiness that was responsible. Regionally widespread diseases such as Ebola in West Africa and Zika in Brazil were greatly exacerbated by post-colonialist poverty and dependence on multinational exploiters.

Our own government resists with all its might a supply chain law that would make exploitation by German companies abroad a criminal offense. Conversely, this means that products produced under such conditions will continue to dominate our market, and that domestic producers will have to compete against these cheap prices while at the same time being economically ruined by them.

This is one prime example of how more unites us than divides us, across all borders of the globe and all differences in living and working conditions. The countries and people of the global North have long been the winners of these exploitative conditions, but the plight of the farmers and the people who are increasingly forced to slave away in precarious working conditions here as well shows that this injustice is also growing rapidly in the global North. Playing off marginalization against marginalization is a blatant ploy to divide us. We will not allow this to happen.

It is the same governments that, with the help of the employers’ organizations, have for years prevented the supply chain law and pushed for free trade agreements like Mercosur, who now, as part of the planned agricultural package, want to immediately enforce regulatory measures against farmers without giving them sufficient time or creating a framework to enable them to make the changes they need to make.

Protection against over-fertilization and a high use of chemical pesticides is essential for future-oriented agriculture. That is beyond question. However, it is cynical when politicians do not call into question the system that they have installed over decades in the interests of the agricultural industry, and expect farmers to be able to fix it on their own.

To take a regional example and put it in the context of the coronavirus crisis:

How do we intend to deal with a situation in which certain products are now becoming scarce, but we as a society know that short-term protection against the spread of the coronavirus is best achieved if people and products are not constantly moving from region to region?

In our region, a whole range of products have not been grown for a long time because there is a lack of processing capacity: fruit, vegetables, root crops like potatoes. We import the majority. Germany grows only 27% of its own vegetable requirements, because growing vegetables requires manual labor, often in combination with intensive use of pesticides, and all this can be done much more cheaply and with far fewer restrictions abroad.

We have created a system in which everything is simply imported if it increases short-term profits. These exploitative structures already impact the marginalized workers who toil in southern Spain for a large part of European vegetable production, including for German supermarket shelves. Due to the coronavirus crisis, the pressure on them to work is increasing immeasurably, with 15-hour-plus workdays being reported.

Labor struggles by the trade unions were interrupted there precisely because of the coronavirus, as were those at the striking Charité hospital in Berlin. Protective measures at work in terms of proper distancing or masks do not exist, even for workers in the packing halls. If they fall ill, the solidarity we have lacked for years could affect us in the form of a stagnating flow of goods or increasing numbers of infections. If the people who are in contact with the products we need to live are sick, our risk of getting sick increases.

Our region will also be severely affected by the losses that will occur in our special domestic crops due to unavailable (cheap) seasonal workers from abroad. The federal government has recently adopted an agricultural package that acknowledges the relevance of this workforce while at the same time further relaxing worker protection.

It is now permitted to employ seasonal workers for up to five months without making social security contributions. What is needed is a package that would financially support companies in employing people properly.

When will there be a change in thinking so that working people finally receive recognition and solidarity? How are we, as regional farmers, now supposed to quickly create structures to ensure our region is supplied? And yet that is our task, which we want to and shall fulfill with pride and passion.

We must try to ensure that, even in a crisis situation, all members of the population have access not only to durable dry goods but also to fresh produce rich in vitamins. Above all, fruit and vegetables provide vital immune power, which means that we need them more than ever.

If imports fail, these products will become scarce, and this will hit the poorer segments of the population first and foremost, who will lose access to them. We need to discuss how we can ensure that we do not just decide who gets what based on a profit motive, but that we create structures that are also based on solidarity.

Surely the COVID-19 pandemic has made clear by now how important regional agriculture is. The crisis must be used as an opportunity to ensure that farms are provided with all necessary means to continue to exist and operate in the short term. This must be implemented in part through guaranteed purchase prices and the creation of processing and distribution stations.

Transport drivers and sales staff involved in distribution must be properly remunerated. They are among those who – like those working in cleaning, emergency services, medical care and many other areas – are ensuring that we all get through these difficult times.

In the long term, it must become clear that it is regional added value that protects us all. It must be understood that the basis of our food supply, the agricultural land, belongs in the hands of regional farmers and not in the hands of investors and supra-regional or non-agricultural companies. This must apply to our region as well as to all other regions of the globe (or: all other regions worldwide). Agricultural land must not be an object of speculation, neither here nor in the global South.

We need an agrarian structure model and resulting consequences, which will lead to the emergence of a large number of young, sustainable and medium-sized farms in our region. We need targeted support for vocational training in the food-processing industry, coupled with the creation of a large number of companies in this downstream sector.

It is unacceptable that a lack of entire product categories in processing should mean that they are scarcely to be found in the region’s fields. Nor can it be the case that the market power of a few dairies or slaughterhouses leads to a situation where, in case of doubt, the supply of the population is not guaranteed, or where farmers are operating on the fringes of existence due to the price pressure arising from concentration.

Just as we must act locally and think globally, we must now, against the backdrop of this threatening disease outbreak, manage to act in solidarity in the short term and in the long term.

In the long term, the structural question must be asked and tackled in concrete terms. Otherwise, this outbreak of COVID-19 will continue to be treated and seen as an isolated event. We will endure the pain of loss and grief; we will at best take good care of each other, and afterwards politics and the media will return to the unspectacular everyday life of injustice – until the next catastrophe.

In the short term, we have to see to how we can now act as a community. Local initiatives for mutual support are already emerging in cities and smaller communities. Childcare, shopping, rides and much more are being offered in solidarity.

We as farmers in the region will do everything we can to fulfill our role for everyone during this time. In order to meet our responsibility, we will certainly also need some support here and there.

We need to realize that any further rapid spread of the virus, should it affect us and make us sick, can also lead to job losses in our sector. That in turn would put a strain on regional supply. So in no way is this commentary about us demanding greater protection than anyone else, or being in any way more vulnerable. It is, however, about considering when in doubt how we can minimize as far as possible the risk of infection across entire the value chain: from production on our farms, through processing, to the distribution of food.

It is also a matter of considering how we can keep our businesses afloat when the economy around us is falling apart. All of us in the region have already come under massive pressure as a result of the past several years of drought, not least because of decades of failed agricultural policy.

In Germany, thousands of farms are lost every year. The last few months have been marked by the justified protests of thousands of farmers. We, like the cleaning staff of Charité, will stop our protests so that we can ensure the food supply as we all face this difficult situation.

Many of us who farm have been working in this sector for a long time with a great deal of idealism and self-exploitation. Our work is taken for granted yet in reality this has not been the case for a long time. If food shortages occur due to a lack of imports, we will do everything we can to continue to produce good food for the people in our region.

I hope I speak on behalf of my entire profession when I say that we will not allow ourselves to be provoked by a situation of scarcity in to making our products available only to people with the requisite financial means. We will ensure that food is available to all people equally, regardless of financial resources, origin, education, language or culture. Our work will be driven by solidarity, not by profit.

We will have to consider even more urgently than we are already doing how to address the social issues surrounding food prices and accessibility, but we will need the support of the broader society to do it (with or without the coronavirus).

Greetings of solidarity to all of you:

to those working in the medical sector, including and explicitly also to cleaning staff and those doing vital work in similar areas; to those working in public transport and in transportation; to those in the skilled trades; to food vendors and pharmacists; to people in the education sector who are making sure that education continues to be available online; to people in childcare; to undocumented workers; to poor people; to lonely people; to immunocompromised people; to people with preexisting conditions and elderly people; to people who are trapped in contexts where social distancing for their own protection is not possible, such as in overcrowded refugee camps or in prisons; to children who cannot meet their friends and may not get out to play for a long time – and to their parents; to homeless people; to people in nursing homes, hospitals and hospices who are now without visitors; to people who get sick from the coronavirus and who lose people they love during this time; to people who are plunged into financial ruin by this situation; to people who are mentally ill or have difficulty dealing with the fear that such a situation engenders; to the workers who are unionized and those who are not and, of course, very warmly to all of my professional colleagues in agriculture.

Julia Bar-Tal is a farmer in the Märkisch-Oderland district of Brandenburg and a member of the nonprofit Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft e.V. (AbL: Working Group for Rural Agriculture). This article first appeared in German on the AbL Website. Translation by Julie Niederhauser. Republished with the author’s permission.





Exit Strategy of the German Federal Government

Hot Air and Wrong Priorities


By Marx21 editorial office


The German government has decided to gradually end the partial »lockdown«. However, it is setting the wrong priorities with its exit strategy and risks a renewed increase in infections. From the marx21 editorial office

The federal and state governments on Wednesday decided on a series of steps easing corona-related restrictions in Germany. The government claims that the health of the population is the highest priority. But the medical and social measures in the text of the resolution do not do justice to the seriousness of the situation.

Germany lacks the most basic materials to provide essential health protection for the population and especially for risk groups, such as health workers. There is a lack of billions of FFP masks and protective clothing, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of disinfectant, millions of test kits and reagents to enable mass COVID-19 testing, respiratory equipment and adequate staffing and funding for the health system.

The government’s social measures are also insufficient. They help corporations more than employees. Unlimited loans are being made available to corporations and social security contributions are being waived. But there is no real social rescue package for the people. Millions of people cannot live on short-time work benefits. These must be increased immediately to at least 90 per cent.

There is also a lack of a danger bonus and more staff in systemically important professions. And as long as schools and daycare centres are closed, parents who look after their children need a wage guarantee.

Too early to exit

While these giant construction zones are not being tackled at all, or completely inadequately, by the German government, the epidemiological situation in Germany remains highly dangerous. Although the exponential growth of the virus seems to have stopped for the time being, the number of cases continues to rise. It is not yet possible to speak of a containment of the coronavirus.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) also still classifies the risk to the health of the population in Germany as high, and very high for risk groups. Scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) also believe that »it is too early to relax restrictions«. They write: »Here, the stricter the measures, the faster the target value will be reached«. With its »exit strategy«, the federal government is risking the emergence of a second wave of infection and thus thousands of deaths again.

The imbalance begins with the setting of priorities: It is wrong to introduce an exit strategy now, because the medical and social prerequisites for it are lacking. The fact that the federal government is now planning to resume school operations of all things is just as counter-productive as allowing business operations in the retail sector.

According to preliminary figures from the Federal Statistical Office, school closures due to the corona pandemic affect about 8.3 million pupils at general education schools and 2.4 million pupils at vocational schools. In a recent study, the RKI found that the closure of schools and shops has been an effective measure against the further spread of the virus. Now these measures are to be eased.

The German Education Union (GEW) warns against premature school opening

But the schools are currently not at all prepared to operate under corona conditions. Nurseries, primary and special schools cannot be operated while maintaining distance from the children.

The GEW therefore demands that schools should only be opened if minimum health standards are guaranteed. These include: liquid soap, warm water, disposable towels and disinfectants, as well as protective clothing such as high-quality face masks, advice and precautions for employees, as well as regular basic cleaning and the renovation of toilets. As emphasised by GEW chairwoman Marlis Tepe:

»If these standards cannot be guaranteed, the schools must not be opened,«

At the same time, it is true that many families, especially those with low household incomes, suffer from the closure of schools and daycare centres. They must not be left alone with the double burden of work and childcare. Emergency care, social services, advice centres and state support must be expanded quickly, taking into account infection prevention. Possible losses of income must be compensated for by state guarantees of remuneration.

Economic interests vs. health protection

The population must be protected from the social distortions caused by the »lockdown«. Social interests and health protection must not be played off against each other. But the federal government obviously has other priorities. Recently, parts of the economy had exerted massive pressure to end the partial »lockdown«. Contrary to the warnings of the HZI, the federal government has now given in to the pressure.

This sentence by Angela Merkel at the press conference was significant: »We did not stop economic activity, only where there was public traffic«. This is exactly the line the government is continuing to take. The text of the resolution says: »Even in the pandemic, we want to make safe work possible as comprehensively as possible in industry and small and medium-sized businesses«.

The federal government is acting in a highly contradictory manner because it somehow wants to reconcile the interests of industry and the health protection of the population. However, this does not work, as the resolutions reveal. The successful fight against a pandemic is robbed of its effectiveness if it follows the logic of capital.

Important measures now, and before the »lockdown« is gradually ended, would be to massively increase testing capacity, to equip health authorities with considerably more staff and to really minimise the chains of infection in workplaces. This is the only way to get the pandemic under control, because: a) people infected with COVID-19 can be detected in the first place, b) contacts can be traced and medical care provided and c) no new sources of infection arise.

While at the press conference these measures played almost no role, the detailed text of the resolution gives more details. However, these do not cast a good light on the federal government’s crisis strategy.

Far too little test capacity

Keyword test capacities: The government claims that laboratories in Germany can perform about 650,000 COVID-19 tests per week. Apart from the fact that the reports of the RKI have so far only stated test capacities of 390,000 per week at peak times, the figure of 650,000 is still far too low.

The Association of Towns and Municipalities has demanded that tests be increased from the current 60,000 to 500,000 per day by the end of May. That would mean 3.5 million tests in one week: an increase of 438 per cent. But even this number is still far too low for mass testing.

Epidemiologist Tim Colbourn of the UCL Institute for Global Health in Great Britain comes up with quite different figures in his calculation of necessary test capacities. He calls for »laboratory capacity and the reagents necessary to perform 10 million PCR tests per day (one per week for 68 million Britons)«. For Germany, the number of necessary capacities for mass testing would therefore be about 12 million per day.

In the text of the federal government’s resolution there is basically only hot air. There is neither a concrete target nor a date by when the test capacities should be increased by how many samples. At present, test capacities are not even close to sufficient to test even risk groups on an ongoing basis, for example employees in the healthcare system.

In 2018, there were about 5.68 million employees working in the German healthcare system. If the German government were to have these people tested for COVID-19 on a regular basis, it would be able to test exactly seven per cent of employees every week with available capacities.

An epidemiological impasse

Already, only people who show symptoms are being tested. All others are being rejected. In addition, it is not certain how testing capacity will develop. The laboratories lack material: This starts with the test kits (swab tubes and swabs) and ends with the so-called reagents needed for the tests. Andreas Bobrowski, Chairman of the Professional Association of German Laboratory Doctors (BDL), concludes (31.03.2020): »The desirable area-wide testing is currently illusory«.

The federal government is aware of the problem, but obviously does not want to make a big deal about it. The resolution states without obligation: »The federal government secures additional testing capacities for Germany by purchasing test equipment and – as far as possible in the current world market situation – by securing individual kits, reagents and consumables through tripartite contracts with the participation of the federal government as a guarantor of acceptance«.

This is more than meagre. The federal government is apparently unwilling to do everything necessary to be able to carry out mass tests for COVID-19. This is an epidemiological dead end and a public health scandal.

Broken health departments

Keyword health authorities: The health authorities responsible for infection control have been cut to the bone in recent decades. Since 1995, the number of doctors in the health offices has fallen by 33 per cent. Warnings from employees that the authority can no longer guarantee protection against infection due to a lack of staff have been ignored.

The federal government now promises to create considerable additional personnel capacities in the local public health services. The text of the resolution talks about at least one team of five persons per 20,000 inhabitants. This would mean 20,000 additional jobs for the whole of Germany.

But even that is far too little. Epidemiologist Tim Colbourn reckons with one responsible person per 1,000 inhabitants. In terms of the whole of Germany, that would be 80,000 additional jobs.

He writes:

These people may be laymen who are unemployed, including those who have been laid off due to the lockdown, such as in the travel, entertainment or sports industries. No prior public health experience or skills beyond a minimum level of education and knowledge of the local environment are required, provided they have been resident in the area for at least one year.

The federal government now intends to use the Bundeswehr for this purpose. This deployment of the Bundeswehr in the interior is to be rejected. The military budget has been growing disproportionately for a decade – by more than ten billion euros in the last five years. This money is lacking elsewhere, for example in healthcare or disaster control.

While the Bundeswehr is specifically named, the resolution also lacks a concrete agreement on when and how many people are to be employed by the health authorities. This is irresponsible and negligent.

Health protection for employees

Keyword: chains of infection in workplaces: The »lockdown« initiated by the federal government was from the beginning anti-social and coloured by the needs of the capitalists. Therefore, chains of infection are not all interrupted, especially in the factories.

This leads to grotesque situations: It is forbidden to meet with acquaintances, even with masks and hygienic distance. However, if your boss decides that you should continue to work in the factory or office, it is allowed to use public transport and to work without a mask and hygienic distance. After producing the added value for the capitalist, »social distance« is the order of the day again.

The federal government remains committed to this capitalist line. The resolution hardly mentions any concrete points on the question of health protection for employees. Appeals remain: »Employers have a special responsibility for their employees to protect them from infections. Chains of infection that arise in the company can be quickly identified. For this reason, every company in Germany must implement a hygiene concept based on an adapted risk assessment and company pandemic planning«.

Horror at the absence of profit

How are chains of infection that arise during operation to be quickly identified when test capacities are so low? This is sheer nonsense! While there is a catalogue of fines for violations of the ban on contact in private life, entrepreneurs are not obliged to actually implement health protection.

With the planned opening of shops and the maintenance of production even in non-systemically relevant economic sectors, the employers‘ associations have prevailed. The most important demand of the car industry was: »Car dealerships open again soon!« A quotation from the man with the long beard fits this demand of the car industry:

»Capital eschews no profit, or very small profit, just as Nature was formerly said to abhor a vacuum. (…) and there is not a crime at which it will scruple, nor a risk it will not run, even to the chance of its owner being hanged«.

A worker would have to work 157 years to earn the average annual income of a DAX chairman. In this country, the richest 40 people have the same wealth as the poorer half of the population. The 1% risk our health for their profits. They find their advocates in the media, scientific institutions and of course in the federal government. Welcome to the neoliberal pandemic fight!

This article first appeared in German on the marx21 Website. Reproduced with permission.

Schulpflicht in Times of Corona is Racist – and Murderous

Even when there isn’t a deadly virus roaming the streets and the U-Bahn, the German school system is still racist af


So, the thing is, it’s not like the schools I went to were particularly brilliant or anything (no offence, Miss Burt!). They were bog-standard, run of the mill state schools. My junior school had outside toilets and loo roll that was so cheap and hard, it could’ve been used as tracing paper. My senior school had more temporary classrooms than ones in buildings (nice drama studio though, huh, Miss, and one famous pupil – Lady Mary from Downton Abbey!).

And you know, it’s not like we never had ANY racist, sexist or classist teachers ever – not gonna name names, here, we had a few, if I’m honest….but they were in the minority, and about to retire. Every single racist teacher I had retired the next year. I never met a German PoC who could say the same thing.

But here’s the big thing, the biggest thing, the most important thing: our teachers LIKED us. They liked us, they were interested in what we thought. They wanted to know our opinions. They argued with us till they were blue in the face about was Shakespeare really funny and entertaining („He’s actually really funny and entertaining, if he was writing nowadays, he’d write comedies, or maybe for Eastenders!“) or was the Merchant of Venice an antisemitic play or not („It’s a play ABOUT antisemitism!“) They liked us, not all of us, and not all of them, and certainly not all of the time – but most of the teachers who taught in my schools liked me, liked most oft he pupils, and were interested in what we had to say.

Maybe they were racist. My infants and junior schools were both, I’d say, 90% non-white, I think my seniors was more like 50% non-white. Maybe our teachers were secret racists. But they managed to hide it enough at work to make us think they liked us.

I’ve always suspected that German teachers hate their students. I was twenty when I came here, back in the year 2000, and I was horrified at what I saw on my internship as part of an exchange programme. I was working as a language assistant at a primary school in Wilmersdorf, and it just seemed to me like these German teachers, who were officially so anti-racist, so anti-nazi, didn’t respect their students of colour WHATSOEVER.

I’ll never forget one time, in the staff room, when a teacher told another teacher that a child of Arabic origin was meant to go to Gymnasium. They both laughed. The teacher explained the joke to me: The parents think they are German! But they’re actually Arabs!

Now I might be wrong, I might be wrong, I might be completely wrong: but I don’t think our teachers laughed at us in that way in the staff room. In fact, I think they wanted the best for us. I was clever, they wanted me to go to uni, some of them even nagged me to go to Cambridge – but even the naughtiest boys in the school, even them: I do not believe our teachers laughed at them maliciously for daring to think they belonged to the country they were born in. Even the naughtiest, naughtiest boys, the really naughty ones: I think our teachers hoped they wouldn’t end up in prison.

I have been in Germany for twenty years and nothing has happened to make me think German teachers like their pupils or want to teach them. All they EVER do is complain about them on talk shows or write books about them, maybe they would have more time for marking papers if they took some time out of their busy slagging off their students for not being exact replicas of them schedule.

And there is no affection there, when they complain, no affection, no humour, no delight. Just absolute horror that some pupils don’t do their homework (dur) or spell das „dass“. (I think I might have got that the wrong way round.) The spoddy, unbearably unoriginal and uninspiring books they write! Those books grassing their students up, especially the so-called Migrationshintergrundler, for not being quite as absolutely unimaginative and uninteresting as they are.

Like for fuck’s sake, GET OUT OF TEACHING IF YOU HATE IT SO MUCH. I am being harsh. I think most German teachers would be really good at teaching, really – if there weren’t any students involved.

I feel like my schools, which were far from perfect, underfunded, overstretched – my primary school was considered the worst in the borough because so many of the pupils didn’t speak English at home – were, for all their problems, despite all my problems, ultimately more good than they were bad.

I had to conform, I had to fit in – we even had to wear uniform and yet the curriculum was, on some level, designed just for me, designed to find out who I was, to teach the person I was in the classroom. The teachers probably found us kids frustrating at times – I grew up in Essex, the white kids celebrated their ignorance, their dumbness, like it was an achievement, and all of us, we swaggered with confidence and generally rebelled.

I remember walking into Science once and smiling at our Science teacher, an Indian woman „Hello Miss!“ She took one look at me and handed me the card for the withdrawal room. The funny thing is, I think now, she was probably in the right. But all of them, they tried to make lessons exciting and fun, tried to meet us where we were, as wanky as that sounds, and make us actually learn.

I remember our History teacher telling us which parts of the History book she thought were made up propaganda, I remember our English teachers trying to convince us to rewrite Shakespeare as a soap opera, I remember people TRYING. I remember our German teacher and a music teacher crying because we were dicks to them (sorry). And I remember the teachers fighting amongst each other – I remember the Geography teacher coming up to me in the corridor and telling me he had fought for me to be made prefect.

I once told a German friend a story about how awful it was, growing up in Essex, the home of ignorance, how we had started reading our set text, Wuthering Heights, I‘d finished it in the holidays, and after two lessons our teacher realized it was going to be too hard, the rest of the class wasn’t going to finish the book, and we changed to Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit. My friend stared at me in silence for a few seconds and then he said: „The teacher changed the book, because she thought it was too hard for you? To a text that she thought the class would be more likely to read?“  „Yeah,“ I said, shrugging with disappointment. „Such a typical Essex thing, race to the bottom.“

„No, that’s amazing,“ he said. „That’s so amazing. She thought it was too hard, and students wouldn’t get anything from it, so she changed the set text to a book from the 20th Century?“


„That’s just amazing, no German teacher would ever do that. I don’t think they’d be allowed to, but even if they were, they wouldn’t want to.“

German schools are so inflexible. The whole point of them is not to actually teach anything, but just to fill the students with the necessary information to pass tests. In a way, Schulpflicht is racist really. You take these inferior people from inferior cultures and you squash enough information into them to make them kinda German. It’s about taking people’s personalities and squashing them into little German shapes.

It’s interesting when you talk to Americans and British people about Schulpflicht. They see Schulpflicht as a kind of negative thing, you know? You can’t really translate the word Schulpflicht – compulsory school attendance? When you speak English, it’s better to say: home educating your kids is banned in Germany.

I’m going to be honest: I have always thought the German education system was racist. Therefore, it stands to reason that not being allowed to opt out of this racist system must be racist too. Not being able to educate your kids at home, yourself, with your own ideas, with their own ideas. But I never cared until kids would die for it.

Until corona, I always believed the propaganda that the benefits of Schulpflicht – school as a great equalizer,for example – outweighed the bad. But this insistence that kids attend school even when it might kill them has opened my eyes. It’s not about making kids equal. It’s about making them conform.

It has been decided, by white people with power, that Schulpflicht is worth dying for – or at the very least worth killing your grandparents and Krebskranke in the U-Bahn for. Or, to be more exact: EXAMS are worth dying – and killing for.

The fact that Abitur kids in Berlin were sent back to schools before Maskenpflicht (compulsory mask wearing) was introduced is a disgrace. The fact that MSA kids were told they would have to go back before they knew that a Maskenpflicht would be introduced is a disgrace! And the fact that kids are going back at all is, to be frank, a fucking disgrace – but the worst thing of all is that they have to go back, because Schulpflicht hasn’t been abolished.

What can these ever learn at school – what lessons about enzymes or caterpillars or Kant or algebra – will ever be worth the lesson which Germany is teaching these kids now. That not all human life is sacred, and that people with medical conditions are second-class citizens. That people who live in the same household (often migrants) are less than human. That pieces of paper with numbers on them are worth more than people’s lives. What lessons are we teaching them, and how do you sleep at night, you cunts, who are enabling this. Not just enabling – enforcing this.

I have total solidarity with the school strikers in Nordreinwestpfalen, and nothing contempt for the people who have put them in this position. Yeah, I realize that it would probably not be doable to keep them off school for 18 months – although it should absolutely be an option and home education should be legalized, just for the duration of this pandemic.

But sending them back NOW? With just DAYS to prepare the classrooms, the class sizes, the lessons? Before they’ve got used to wearing masks in public? Putting them through exams in the midst of a deadly pandemic? Just a matter of mere days after they were told not to go meet their family for Easter to SAVE LIVES? You are scum if you think this is a good idea, and to be frank, murderous scum at that.

Look, I know forced home-schooling is driving parents, especially mums, insane. You might think because I am against Schulpflicht I am in favour of home education but actually I just think it should be an option for parents who want to do it! To be honest, I don’t think ANYONE should be forced into home-schooling against their will.

Because, this, I think is the most important thing: Germany could have – and should have – put German children’s emotional health above their academic achievements. Home-schooling should have been optional, and the absolute dickheads, emotionally dead cunts running this country, should have admitted to themselves, to parents, and to the teachers that there would be consequences to this pandemic.

THERE WOULD BE CONSEQUENCES TO THE ECONOMY AND THERE WOULD BE CONSEQUENCES TO EDUCATION. You can’t fight off this deadly virus in your spare time – there are only 24 hours in a day. What childishness, what vindictiveness, what pathetic spite, to pretend that Germany would suffer no consequences! So childish, so silly.

Of course there will be consequences: and the German teachers and education ministers should have told the kids and parents of this country that all that matters now is the kids health – mental and physical. But they weren’t emotionally adult enough to do that.

And now we have burnt out parents, burnt out, traumatized kids – and those kids are about to travel on public transport to sit exams. It is so pathetic I cannot fathom how anyone can be stupid and evil enough to think this is in anyway an acceptable idea. Shame on you, Germany.

The people who made the decision to reopen schools – the Leopoldina schools, the education ministers, all of them – they all know that the kids who live together with their grannies and grandads in one household will be the Migrationshintergrundler they so despise for spelling dass with one S.

Guess what, Germany. You despise them for not spelling dass properly? You don’t think being bad at spelling is slightly less despicable than sacrificing our children for no reason whatsoever? For promising us one minute us you will be capable of protecting our kids from corona – and then the next that online classes are so difficult to organize that you’re not even going to try.

Like all decent human beings, I am absolutely disgusted at this decision and the complacency about the literal destruction it will cause. I really really fucking hope Schulpflicht gets abolished in time for the next deadly pandemic.

Because although you don’t actually learn nothing in school, we have all been learning some important lessons recently: we know now how much Germany hates their schoolchildren. We know how much Germans hate their children, collectively, and yes, individually. We know kids often survive (although the kids who have died in Britain and the States have been, I want to add, non-white).

We don’t know yet, we cannot know yet, what quality of life those kids will have afterwards. We could have given them a month off school and found out. But Germany hates children, and would rather stomach the idea of orphaned children with permanent lung damage than a teenager having a lie-in on a Tuesday. Shame on you.

The German school system is designed to produce robots, memorizing meaningless information and repeating it at the correct moment in fucking time. It’s not designed to produce human beings who actually think human life is sacred, that non-white people are human too, or that laziness is less of a vice than murder.

And it obviously hasn’t, or the outcry over this horrific decision would be louder – and the solidarity with the students whose lives and health have been endangered far, far greater. Shame on you. Shame on you all.

This article first appeared on Jacinta Nandi’s taz blog. Reproduced with permission.