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The Initial Positives of a Biden Administration

President-elect Joe Biden did not run an inspiring campaign for those on the left, consistently opposing policies supported by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party such as Medicare-For-All and the Green New Deal. Since his election victory, it has become increasingly clear that the Biden Administration will be dominated by establishment and conservative blue […]


President-elect Joe Biden did not run an inspiring campaign for those on the left, consistently opposing policies supported by the progressive wing of the Democratic Party such as Medicare-For-All and the Green New Deal. Since his election victory, it has become increasingly clear that the Biden Administration will be dominated by establishment and conservative blue dog Democrats, leaving big name ,,progressives like Bernie Sanders in the Senate.

Much has been discussed about how a Biden Administration will not challenge the status quo, the corporate influence in Washington DC, or the power of the military industrial complex. While the negatives of the incoming president have been laid bare for all to see, it is important to analyze the clear initial positives for environmentally vulnerable and immigrant communities.

Major Executive Orders Coming on Day 1

Upon his inauguration, President-elect Joe Biden ,,reportedly plans on signing a plethora of executive orders that would see the United States rejoin the Paris Climate Accord; reinstate approximately 100 Obama-era environmental regulations repealed by President Trump; reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and repeal Trump’s travel ban targeting majority Muslim countries.

Such actions taken by the Biden Administration would materially impact the lives of many millions of people essentially overnight. The most obvious is the positive effect Biden’s executive orders will have on the almost one million DACA recipients currently living in the United States. Their status as legal residents will no longer be under threat. Repealing the Trump Travel Ban will have a similar effect for the many hundreds of thousands of Iranians, Nigerians, and other citizens of banned nations who are living in the US. They can presently not leave the country if they wish to return, while their relatives have been unable to visit since 2017.

At the same time, some of those 100 Obama-era environmental executive orders that Trump repealed could be reversed. Such as limiting coal power-plants from ,,dumping toxic wastewater into rivers and preventing oil and natural gas drilling sites from ,,burning off excess methane. Rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, while not nearly enough to combat the climate crisis, is a clear step in the right direction. Reinstating these orders will directly affect downriver communities and the air quality of residents living by such drilling sites.

Will The Initial Positives Continue?

While the Biden Administration will not challenge the status quo or do what is necessary to properly address climate change, it is clear that less people will suffer under his administration than the current one. The bar has been set extremely low by President Trump, but the first days of the Biden era will be objectively good. DACA recipients and their families will be able to take a deep sigh of relief, for now, while environmental activists can at least be happy that Biden is not an active anti-environmentalist.

The long time Democratic senator will reinstate the half-hearted environmental policies that the establishment of the Democratic Party supports. While Biden will initially be able to govern via executive order, any legislation must pass the Senate, and this is where things get interesting.

The recent general election will see Democrats maintain their majority in the House, but two Senate seats in Georgia remain unfilled. If the Democrats manage to win both – a feasible objective seeing that Biden won the southern state – the Senate will be split 50/50 with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker. If this best-case scenario for the Democratic Party happens, it could have long-last implications for not just the Republican Party, but the American left as well. Automatic voter registration and universal mail-in balloting could be passed, making it much easier to vote in the US. And if the Democratic Party unites behind it – ensuring Washington DC and Puerto Rican statehood.

This would fundamentally change an inherently undemocratic institution that favors the Republican Party, as the induction of these two states into the union would certainly result in four more Democratic Senators. Policies such as Medicare-For-All and the Green New Deal could become a political possibility. Whether President-elect Biden will be able to do more than sign a few executive orders will be decided in Georgia on January 5.

Quite a Few “Ifs” and “Maybes”

The legislative prospects of the Biden Administration hinge on a few too many “ifs” and “maybes.” “If” the Democrats win the two Georgia Senate seats, and “if” the Democratic Party unites behind Washington DC and Puerto Rican statehood, then “maybe” the Senate and American democracy will fundamentally change. The Republican Party will fight these strategies to make voting easier and increase the size of the senate to the bitter end.

,,President Trump commented in March on this issue. “They had things, levels of voting, that if you’d ever agree to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,”said the 45th president. That tells you all you need to know about what the GOP thinks of democracy.

The most likely scenario to play out is that the Republicans win one of the open Georgia Senate seats, meaning a divided government during Biden’s first two years as president. Judging by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s track record, this means that Biden will not be able to appoint a single federal or supreme court judge.

A Presidency Defined by Executive Order?

The initial positives of a Biden presidency will materialise via executive order, but with an obstructionist Senate controlled by McConnell likely, Biden’s scope of power will be severely hampered unless Georgia surprises us all. Obama’s former vice president will be able to repeal any action President Trump has taken via executive order, but unproductive governments fraught with hyper-partisan conflict, especially in times of great economic and public health crises, are incredibly unpopular. Could such unpopularity pave the way for more progressive, left wing candidates to push the Democratic Party further left, or will a red wave wash away even the slightest semblance of progress?

“Simply shitty in a different way”

Jacinta Nandi’s new collection of short stories, The Worst Housewife in the World, draws on her life as a mother of two sons, the duties and burdens of everyday life, and the demands of society – and on how all this is connected with feminism. The reader learns a great deal about Germany, which Jacinta Nandi knows so well precisely because it has always remained a little bit foreign to her. Frédéric Valin talked to her about cheese on toast, care work, and Brexit


Frédéric Valin interviews Jacinta Nandi


In The Worst Housewife in the World, you describe living with a man who considers himself to be too good for housework. He believes that it’s sufficient for him to bring money into the household. In the meantime, you have separated and are looking for an apartment. How is it going?

I’m a little surprised how difficult it is. I’m poor, but not super poor. But my earnings are always irregular, so nobody wants me! I think it’s great if I get 2000 Euros in a month; I really don’t know what I would do with 5000 Euros per month. Now I have a German alias which I use on the documents, so maybe that’ll help. But there’s something very interesting happening in the Facebook groups for single parents: a man offered a room, rent-free, 20 square meters, all you have to do is clean a little and look after the children from time to time. Offers like that are becoming more often. It’s as if people are organizing an au pair, but forever.

You have high praise for the Berlin model – it’s like the good witch who releases you from the dungeon of parental leave, you say. What is state support like now?

People always maintain that the greatest thing about Germany is that everyone here always receives help. But that isn’t true. Everyone at the government offices and counseling centers tells me, “Oh, your case is so complicated.” Can you believe that? Has there never been a case like mine – a freelancer with a low income and a husband who earns very well? The playgrounds are full of women like that – they all earn less than the man. Are they all still together? Germany is a very unfair country, but nobody talks about that. A three-room apartment currently costs 800 Euros without an accommodation entitlement certificate. How is that possible? And yet everyone here thinks it is so much fairer and better than in England. There are also things that are fairer, but not for women in partnerships. I wouldn’t have moved in with someone who has as much money as my ex if I’d have known that it would be such a prison. Now I think, whenever a woman sleeps with a man, she’s sleeping with the enemy.

How has the pandemic been for you so far?

I’ve lived in Germany for 20 years, and for 20 years my mom has said, “You’re on your own! In a foreign country!” My mom is a bit melodramatic. But since the pandemic, I know that she’s only exaggerating a little. So many friends got help from their relatives or went to their parents in the countryside. And then on Facebook I saw photos of my relatives meeting outside – that hurt me so much. My mom has MS; she’s in a risk group and to see her I would have to fly, so that won’t work. I realized that I really was alone here.

You’ve lived in Germany since 2000 and you’ve spent as much time in England as you have here. What are the differences?

Germany is less sexist, but more misogynous. There are a lot of people in Germany who think that I’m sexist because I say pussy and cunt and cock. I don’t get that. Or the erasure of racism: there’s nothing racist here, except measuring the heads of black people. And human zoos, maybe. Here, most people seem to believe that sexism doesn’t comprise oppression and that racism doesn’t exist. How often have I heard that human races don’t exist anyway, so there can be no racism? How stupid can you be?

The Germans are snobs who don’t act snobbish. Germany never talks about class or money. At the same time, everything is so standardized; you need the same hair color, the same skin color, you always have to shake your head a little when you speak and say “irgendwie” every three seconds – then you’re normal. You have to be as boring as possible here, so that in the end you’ve got no personality left. If everything’s grey – your face, your feelings, your thoughts – then you’re German.

German arrogance is different from the English brand. They think that the conditions in their country are far better than in other countries. But it’s simply shitty in a different way. Look at the NHS – everybody says that the British health system is totally screwed up. But if you don’t have money, it sucks in Germany, too. It’s perhaps even more democratic in England because it sucks for everyone.

Do you identify yourself as a woman of color?

In Germany, yes. In London, I’m nearly “white passing.” I’m a typical “mixed race” child. At the same time, it’s problematic to say that I’m a woman of color, because the racism I experience is not the same as other people do. I speak English, I’m from the UK. Ten years ago, people used to ask me if I was from Turkey and were always relieved when I answered “no.” Half-Indian half-English is a much better way to be a foreigner.

Nevertheless, I do experience racism. Everyone talks about energy and mindset and positive attitude and everything. But being a thin white woman just makes you so much more positive. You’re not constantly looked at with resentment and contempt.

What connects you with England, and what with Germany? Your father was born in India – do you have any connections there?

Sometimes I feel very British, and sometimes I feel very German. But I never feel Indian. There’s only a great sadness in my heart; something has been lost. Only the vague feeling of never belonging remains. People say I hate Germany, but I hate England, too, except for football. I especially hate this saccharine patriotism – always these landscapes, these idylls. In England, they all love cities whose names have “castle” in them.

It’s also often a question of class. There was an episode of Frauentausch – Frauentausch is, of course, misogynistic and classist and disgusting trash, but this episode is great. There was an English woman who was low-income and totally young, and she entered into a German middle-class family where everything was so perfect. And then she ate with the kids in front of the TV, chicken nuggets and stuff like that, and the husband asked her, “Why in front of the TV?” And she says, with complete confidence, “that’s why television exists.” Total culture clash. And then the German wife comes back and says, “Oh, I’ve seen now that I’ve done way too much, and that I don’t have any time for myself. I won’t be such a perfectionist anymore.” I cried, it was so beautiful.

You nearly got German citizenship before Brexit and you’ve been issued permanent residence here. It was a shock when the Brexiters won their referendum.

Yes, I’ve long underestimated how much white people hate non-white people. Racism is more important to many people than any values. And it was about racism. People constantly accuse me of hating white people, of hating men. But if I hated white people and hated men, I wouldn’t be so shocked and disappointed whenever something violent happened. I’m always disappointed by your bad behavior, so I originally thought you were better than you really are.

Is this British nationalism something new? In Germany, this wave is associated with the 2006 World Cup.

I’m totally a 90s Kid. In the 80s, I only saw Union Jacks on plastic flags stuck into sandcastles. Otherwise I never did. It was patriotism, of course, but super kitschy – nobody took it seriously. And then came Geri Halliwell with her Union Jack dress. She probably meant it to be a punk statement.

The idea of being allowed or having to be proud of one’s country came up. At the European Championship in 1996, you suddenly saw the Saint George’s Cross everywhere – it didn’t exist before. And now the English are crazy about the Union Jack and the English flag. Sometimes I think Geri Halliwell is a bit to blame for Brexit.

What about the left in England? Are there differences to the left here?

I often find the left in England so beautifully naive and hopeful. Here, you can be totally left-wing and at the same time totally racist and sexist. Being left-wing in Britain always means being a bit nice to minorities. Germany is much more cynical. That’s interesting, but it’s also depressing. I mean, the Berlin non-white cab driver who’s got a house is immediately part of some elite here, and the East German cab driver who’s got a house has been left behind. I am constantly being told that I belong to some elite, even in debates about “cancel culture.” So, yes, I know I’m very clever, but that’s not my fault. People’s imaginations are running wild at the moment in a way that has nothing to do with reality.

At the very end, you write how you finished the book: everyone was constantly ill, and the book sat on your shoulder like an ugly toad.

Now I think this book wrote itself. But I only think that because it’s finished. Luckily the memory of the pain disappears quickly. It was really easy for me. And then the pandemic came. I was almost finished and actually there were a lot of stories that I wanted to write, but there was no time left. I took a weekend and got a lot of Red Bull and wrote, and didn’t sleep. After that I was completely shattered. In the pandemic, I wrote completely different stories, and also wrote much less. The daycare centers were closed, and it was impossible to write when my child was at home.

Do you truly hate housework?

I actually enjoy housework when I have time. I just hate loading and unloading the dishwasher. I like doing the dishes. There are also a few things I don’t know how I feel about because I don’t do them – like folding clothes, for example. The problem is not the housework, the problem is that there’s no time for it. When are you supposed to do all of it?

You’ve been performed a lot at reading events. German humor is considered very unfunny, but British humor very funny.

I often find Germans very funny. The biggest difference is that an Englishman wants to be funny all the time. Charming. A German man is often ashamed if he wants to be funny. Maybe that’s why Germans like to watch Mr Bean – because he’s so uninhibited. In England, this is a kids’ show. But it’s better than Mario Barth.

When it comes to entertainment, we’re experiencing a backlash. There are more and more series that idolize the police. And there are more and more upper-class people with such saccharine portrayals. At the same time, we’re making progress. When I was fourteen, a man put his hand up my skirt and I came home and told this story and my parents were totally shocked and sad and made me a cup of tea. But it never occurred to anyone to call this a crime.

The so-called tolerance paradox is like this: the more you talk about a problem, the bigger it appears to be. But talking about it can also be part of the solution.

Yes. In England, inequality used to be much more obvious. Princess Diana, for example, that’s my mother’s generation, had no education. Back then they were supposed to do a little schooling, and then work and then marry. And Germany was much more racist when I arrived here in 2000. I was giving classes back then, and the teachers laughed when they saw my recommendations for Afghan children to attend a university track high school. “They’re Arabs,” they said. I’m sure they still talk like that today, but there are more PoCs around who know that that’s not okay. And who say so.

But sometimes I get depressed at how much resistance there is. Sometimes it seems so hopeless. I also think that it’s nonsense to always talk about bubbles in terms of social media. You used to be able to be friends with people for 20 years before you found out that they actually think black people have smaller brains than white people. You used to like someone and then suddenly think, “Is he racist? Shit, my new buddy is racist!” Now you look at his wall and you know immediately.

More and more people are coming out as discriminatory. JK Rowling, for example, makes no secret of her transphobia. Nevertheless, Harry Potter appears in your stories from time to time.

Harry Potter is my vintage. But I didn’t read those books as a teenager, I thought it was so one-dimensional and I didn’t want to read any more kids’ books – it was a bit snobbish of me. The narrative is so controlled; it’s unimaginative, really, like Enid Blyton or Agatha Christie. The characters are rather stereotypical. I mean, Harry Potter loses his temper maybe once in all of the books. Actually, he’s toxic. But then my son begged me to read it to him, and then I was totally into it. It was one of the nicest times for me as a mother when we read this together. Sometimes we set the alarm an hour earlier and read another chapter before school. At the end I always included Princess Diana, so everyone cried because she died. It fit so well. All in all, I’m really sad that JK Rowling hates transwomen so much.

I also find it interesting that more and more people are hiding behind improper speech; that is, saying racist or sexist or even unprofessional things and then pretending that it’s all just a performance, just a role.

I listened to the two minutes of Serdar Somuncu, and it was just painful. Actually, I thought that nothing could hurt anymore after even Donald Trump said, “Grab ’em by the pussy,” and got away with it. There are no more taboos. Everyone’s always talking about outrage, but I find it first and foremost just sad. We don’t talk about sadness, only about outrage. Because outrage is so easy to ignore. At the same time, there’s something liberating about outrage. If you feel outraged, then at least you do something and don’t sink into a depression.

What is something good about Germany, from the perspective of a feminist housewife?

Abendbrot (cold supper) is great. German women always say, “I’m such a great housewife,” and then they give their children bread and two slices of cheese to eat in the evening. Those lazy bitches. Cold supper is a clever German invention.

Jacinta Nandi was born in 1980 in London and has lived in Berlin since 2000. This article first appeared in German in nd. Reproduced with the authors’ permission. Translation: Emily Pollak.

Jacinta Nandi: The Worst Housewife in the World. A field Report and Manifesto. Edition Nautilus, 208 p., paperback, 16€.

The fight for reproductive rights in Poland

Interviews with Dziewuchy Berlin, Zuzanna Dziuban and Anna Krenz   Why is this topic important to you? AK: As a Polish citizen, I am concerned about the political development in my homeland. I have many friends and family (and a house) as well as work partners in Poland. Therefore I am very interested in political, […]


Interviews with Dziewuchy Berlin, Zuzanna Dziuban and Anna Krenz


Why is this topic important to you?

AK: As a Polish citizen, I am concerned about the political development in my homeland. I have many friends and family (and a house) as well as work partners in Poland. Therefore I am very interested in political, economic, health and cultural changes. In recent years the situation has become dramatic, as the PiS party has a parliamentary majority. Now nationalists walk down the streets and beat people up, as the church has become a bastion of hatred and hypocrisy. I love my homeland Poland, even though Poland does not love me. As a woman, I get really angry, when other women are being robbed of their basic human rights. As a feminist – I need to act!

Polish society has been divided – again, this time not on land as in historical times, over 200 years ago. But now the division is based on political views and runs through families and friends. This division will not disappear anytime soon. In the meantime, the government and other political (conservative / catholic) forces are destroying democracy and robbing people of freedom and basic rights. This all has gone too far at the moment.

ZD: I am an activist with ‘Ciocia Basia’, an informal, Berlin-based feminist collective, which supports people in Poland, and other countries where abortion is illegal, in gaining access to abortion in Germany. Ciocia Basia has existed for over 5 years and I have been active in the group for almost 3 years. My involvement in the group has political grounds: I believe that each and every person should have the right to decide over their own body and should have access to basic reproductive rights. Abortion is a human right.

I came from Poland and living in Germany means that, unlike in Poland, I can have access to abortion on demand up to 14 weeks – a privilege that people in Poland don’t have. I feel it is our responsibility and obligation to share this privilege with all those who don’t have it. It is a question of solidarity.

To be sure, I don’t agree with and I oppose restrictions on abortion in place in Germany, but still a 14 weeks limit is better than nothing. Access to abortion in Poland was almost entirely criminalized even before the recent decision of the constitutional tribunal. It was not illegal in only three situations: in case of rape; in case of risk to pregnant person’s life or health; and in case of severe fetal abnormalities. What this meant is that only 1% of actual abortions performed by people in Poland were carried out according to the restrictive law. All others, an estimate of around 100.000 a year, was carried out abroad, with the help of groups such as Ciocia Basia, at home with abortion pills, or in so called abortion underground. The new decision amounts to a total ban on abortion.

This does not mean that people won’t have abortions. They will. Many of them will be accommodated by abortion support groups abroad.

ZB: We want to raise awareness on the political situation in Poland through appearance in mass media, protests, actions, performances and collaboration with other feminist groups in Berlin. We also support Polish feminist organizations in their actions. Especially now, solidarity is crucial.

The Polish government has now delayed implementing a court ruling which would effectively ban abortion. How big a victory was this?

ZD: I find it very difficult to consider this a victory. It is just a postponement of a sentence aimed at waiting out, and containing the anger and resistance. Moreover, although the law has not yet been implemented, it has already had real consequences. Hospitals are canceling procedures or refusing to perform them. People who still have the right to legal abortion are looking for options abroad because a chance of finding a hospital or a doctor ready to go against the law that is not yet in power, are minimal.

To frame this as a victory means to misinterpret the reality on the ground. And it’s also politically useful for the proponents of anti-abortion laws. The ruling party already speaks about new ideas of abortion “consensus” making use of the fact that, from the point of view of the ban of abortions based on embryopathological (i.e. congenital malformations – ed) grounds, all softer options would look better. But they don’t and won’t.

Abortion activists and many people in Poland are not interested in and won’t be satisfied by any “consensus” proposed now by politicians. Abortion should be safe, legal and accessible – on demand. Whatever they offer now is simply not enough.

AK: It ain’t no victory at all!

The court ruling was not published, but that does not matter at all. Back in 2015, Prime minister Beata Szydło did not publish court ruling of the previous constitutional tribunal (not the latter fake one) – and still these rules went into power. This does not matter, that they did not publish the court sentence. [Editor’s note: you can read more about the 2015 Polish Constitutional Court crisis here]

The only kind of victory might be that PiS is now falling apart, divided into the more fanatic members who are against abortion, and want to ban it completely – and people who would rather keep the “compromise” or just keep it quiet (Kaczyński).

DB: We did not win, the war is not over. The delay does not mean that it will not be implemented at a later date. Our current government is defining its very own rules and therefore their actions are unpredictable. At the time the Constitutional Tribunal announced its decision, people who were awaiting abortion on embryopathological grounds were sent home. They are already being denied the medical help they need. And you cannot pause a pregnancy. Nobody cares about those people now.

Moreover, due to the pandemic traveling abroad is now more difficult, so many abortions will be executed underground, at home, without taking required hygiene measures. This will now increase.

It is not a victory and arguably international media reporting it as such is exactly what PiS and their allies want.

What is the scale of the protests in Poland? What forms of action are being used?

AK: Protests have been taking place since 22.10. 2020. These are large demonstrations with hundreds of thousands of people, in big and small cities, in towns and villages. This is massive. People go to the streets almost every day. There were marches, demos, blockades, bicycle rallies, car rallies. People are making a lot of protest art, they screen images onto buildings, the creativity is endless, as it usually is in Poland.

DB: Since October 22nd, people have been out in the streets. Mass protests have been taking place all over Poland in big cities and small towns alike. The biggest protest so far happened on October 30th, where about 150,000 people blocked Warsaw. We are not giving up. We have to act and we have to be smart about it.

The pandemic is accelerating once again and there are regulations that limit our ways of protesting. We are trying to come up with various forms of protests: walks, demonstrations, performances, online solidarity actions, reaching out to other feminist groups, networking with activists in Poland, etc.

ZD: The scale is massive and this is truly moving. It has already been said that this is the biggest protest movement since the 1989 transition. It cuts across all strata of Polish society, all social and age groups. And it’s not limited to major urban centers but unfolds too, in small cities and rural areas. In this sense it is really unprecedented. In most cases the protests take form of illegal mass demonstrations which take places virtually every day and sometimes gather over 100,000 people as was the case in Warsaw. But I also very much appreciate the small-scale guerrilla actions performed in the cities. These cover walls and benches with stickers informing about access to medical abortion, where to order pills and how to take them, or abortion support groups.

In December 2019, Ciocia Basia joined a pan-European initiative, ‘Abortion Without Borders’, with abortion groups in Poland, UK, and the Netherlands. Since the beginning of the protests following the announcement of the verdict of the constitutional tribunal, the number of the Polish helpline of the initiative has become the most often chanted and sprayed phone number in Poland. This is important because amidst all the anger and fear the situation has created, the demonstrators in Poland carry the message of hope and resistance. The politicians and lawmakers may ban abortion in Poland but abortion will still be possible – just call this number – and you will be offered practical support.

What people are shouting in the streets is that we are taking back our reproductive rights, regardless of the inhumane legislation. I think many learned the lesson from the protests performed earlier this year by queer activists in Poland. In face of such severe violations of civil and human right, there is no space for dialog or negotiations on somebody else’s terms. It has to be made clear that enough if enough but also that we can count on each other.

The Berliner Zeitung has called Berlin the “hotspot of the Polish resistance”. How have you managed that and what have you been doing?

AK: I disagree with the article and especially the word “hotspot”. If the author googled a bit, he’d knew that 2016 was the hotspot moment, when 2000 people came to Warschauer Brucke for the Black Protest. I think it started back then. And these 4 years make a difference. Life and the world change so rapidly that even these 4 years are a lot.

In the meantime, we protested – almost every month there was an action or demo. We did not have so many from the Polish diaspora attending – but that is how it is – the majority is interested only when really big shit happens. The energy and anger comes from Poland, like a huge wave. But it is not only the big, the loud and the angry, that makes a successful protest. It is also the daily unseen work, making connections, making the boring things.

I would rather see this moment as another step, another chapter in a rather long Polish activist history of Berlin. It started (well, even before) but in the 1980s, when local Berlin chapters of Solidarność organised demos, exhibitions and physical help for Poland. Forgetting that chapter is kind of… not maybe disrespectful but ignorant. That history and the people who were active then, and who work with us today – it is only a cool heritage, an enrichment, and respect to history of the Polish diaspora.

I am one of the organisers of the 2-week-long Bloody Weeks, and many actions before. In 2017, I organised an exhibition in the Berlin gallery Schau Fenster, showing recent protest artefacts but also photos from the 1980s, from members of Solidarity, and I was happy to include their newest protest photos too.

I agree that Berlin is a hotspot for the Polish resistance, but it did not pop up yesterday. It has been a long work and process, which the author ignores. The only thing he mentions about us, organisers, is that it was not us who painted the U-Bahn. Shallow journalism.

ZD: There are very many Polish people who are politically engaged people and living in Berlin. It is not a surprise that in a moment like this they are taking their rage and solidarity to the streets. But this political engagement has, over many years, translated into variety of initiatives, groups and projects directed at support of discriminated groups in Poland, be it LGBTQ+ communities, minorities, or those structured around reproductive rights.

Ciocia Basia has been active for years and on a daily basis, through practical activisms, fights for the right of people from countries where abortion is illegal, to access safe abortions. Even though we are very busy now, we feel that it is our obligation to speak at the demos and simply be there because access to abortion and reproductive rights are at the heart of our political activism.

DB: Our collective started in 2016, when the first Black Protests were happening. So we are not new to activist work. Each member of our collective has a unique background, some have more experience in activist work, some have more proficiency in performative art, others are politically active. We all use our best skills to reach out to people to not only show our solidarity and support, but also to give them a safe space, where they can let out their frustration and anger. We want to invite people to find a way of protesting that suits them – and the diaspora is huge in Berlin – so we have kind of taken it on us to channel people’s frustrations.

After a couple of years of our existence on the Berlin activist scene, we have collected some contacts to people working in media, politicians, social workers, experts, artists, and more. This has helped us establish a network of people that oscillate around topics that in various degrees are connected to Poland.

And although our name means ‘Gals4Gals‘, everyone is welcome to attend our actions or become a volunteer. We are open, diverse and authentic, maybe that is why we get support from the people around us.

The Polish media has also reported a fair bit on our activities, but that is because the head of the Constitutional Tribunal, Julia Przylebska, lives in Berlin – being married to the Polish Ambassador to Germany. So we have paid her a few visits to not let her escape to her comfortable existence in Dahlem after having set fire to Poland. Maybe this is part of the reason, as our activities here have also been very direct, and not just in solidarity with what is going on in Poland.

Are the protests just for choice or are they against other politics of the PiS government?

ZD: Yes, this is something that worries me a bit, the fact that the protests gradually loose focus on reproductive rights and became about the PIS and all the failed policies the government has implemented over the years. I totally understand that, as mass protests, they had to spread to accommodate multiple perspectives on abortion, and there are many incompatible positions even within the opposition. Some go to the streets to demand a return to 1993 “consensus”, some, as I do, to demand total decriminalization of abortion.

I am really happy to see that more and more people are leaning towards the second position – this is how it looks like, at least. But the decision of the constitutional tribunal has been for many just an incentive to protest the government, and some of those voices become louder than those of feminist activists, especially the voices of neoliberal and centrist male politicians. It would be lovely to have the PIS government overruled, the sooner the better, but not to end up in a situation which, from the perspective of the fight for reproductive rights, puts us back in a position from which we started: having to deal with restrictions imposed on our freedom of choice.

AK: Both and more. Abortion has always been a starting point, a spark, that flamed people’s anger and energy. It is not the first time, that people have go out onto the streets because of this. This spark – I also call it a ball, that little old men (Polish politicians) play. This spark always appears in difficult political times. Then, politicians take that ball, the society divides in to 2 groups (“teams”) and politicians can easily play against each other. It’s a shame, that it is about women’s bodies and souls. State patriarchy is so deep.

DB: Both. It is a complex issue, the frustration has been building up. The breaking point was the Polish Stonewall – a moment when LGBTQIA+ people started to fight back, protesting LGBT-free zones, which now make up half of the Polish territory, the abortion ban was the last straw. It concerns a bigger group of people. So now we are protesting not only the new regulations but we want to fight for our bodily autonomy, for the right to choose, for a judicial system that is not rigged by the ruling party, a state that is separate from the Catholic Church, the list goes on.

Sadly, there are people who do not understand the link between LGBTQIA+ right and the right to safe and legal abortion. Another thing is that some protesters are in the streets just to shout “fuck PiS”, but they do not care for the rights of people with uteruses and non-hetero-normative people. We cannot allow our message and the main cause of these protests to be lost in the chaos.

What has been the role of political parties and alliances like ‘Razem’ and ‘Lewica’?

ZD: From where I stand, I can hardly say that this is their protest and their revolution. What is unfolding in Poland is a bottom-up revolution of feminist and queers, very tired of being told how to protest and what to demand. This is not to say that some of the politicians, especially women from Razem and Lewica, haven’t been there with and for the protesters. But I think that on the level of policy and political courage there is still a lot to be done.

AK: Apart from organising demos, taking selfies, marching… not much. There were some symbolic actions in the Polsih parliament – like women MPs wearing rainbow dresses, like women MPs making loud statements… there is a new idea coming now – another bill for liberating abortion, nothing new, but the time is right. Both RAZEM and Lewica are too small to make a difference, since PiS has the majority. Therefore it is crucial that die LINKE and Razem work together, also with other opposition parties.

What Lewica failed to do is… to talk to simple people, to farmers… to workers… it is a huge group, but was completely forgotten by opposition. All of the oppositon. That is why it was so sad to see, when conservative nationalist party ‘Konfederacja’ takes these people over.

DB: This has been interesting. The parties all seem to be treading a line between supporting the movement, and with trying to score political points off it. Razem, as part of the ‘Left Coalition’ (Lewica), have been very present – the MPs have been joining in the strikes across the country from the very first day. Lewica’s women MPs did a couple of actions in parliament, one of which was a visual one where they gathered with the Women*’s Strike symbols, kind of a harking back to their Pride flag action over the summer. Just a few days ago they also co-founded the Legislative Initiative Committee alongside the Women*’s Strike organisation, FEDERA and the Women’s Rights Centre, which aims to put together legislative projects regarding the liberalisation of the abortion law (i.e. full legalisation), improving access to contraception, and sex education. It’s a coalition of several groups working on the ground, but Lewica is their parliamentary ‘liaison’ so to speak.

Some others have just been trying to score political points – such as the bafflingly popular Szymon Holownia and his ‘Polska2050 movement’, who has sort of supported the movement, while also saying he is personally against abortion…

In recent years, movements in Ireland and Latin America have successfully extended abortion rights. How much have you been inspired by these movements?

DB: As Dziewuchy Berlin we are collaborating with ‘Berlin-Ireland Pro Choice Solidarity’, who campaign against abortion bans and ‘Ni Una Menos Berlin’ – a feminist group of Latin American activists. They have fought for their rights and were successful. We learn from them and exchange our experiences with them, but also offer our support in their activities. In a way, there is a network of non-German activists based in Berlin, who fight for the rights of their people.

ZD: We have always been very inspired with the movements in Latin America. They have always been uncompromising, and I love them for it. And they thought us that solidarity around reproductive rights, very practical and unconditional solidarity, means more than the persistence antiabortion laws.

AK: I would say it was a mutual inspiration. After Black Protest and Women’s strike in Poland, similar actions took place in South America. Both South American countries and Ireland as well as Poland are countries with a large influence and presence of the catholic church. We were all inspiring each other especially with energy, slogans, methods of protests and visual aspects. There are many similarities (church as the “enemy”, similar women’s power, but also differences – local politics and structures.

What is the next step in the campaign and how can people outside Poland help?

ZD: It is, obviously, very important to make the issue public, engage in political lobbying, take the solidarity with people in Poland to the streets. But as an abortion activist I see a great need for practical activism – for groups and people helping those in Poland to gain access to procedures. Every year around 1000 people had legal abortions in Poland, mostly those based on embryopathological grounds. Now they will need to go abroad to have procedures. It is a great task for us, for abortion support groups, to be able to accommodate them. I am sure that we will meet this with the help of new volunteers getting in touch in the last weeks, and many donations, which we receive from people, both in Poland and in Germany. This is, I would argue, a very important aspect of the help that could offered by people outside of Poland – abortions cost a lot of money and only when we have enough money, we can offer support to all in need.

Another great development is the establishment of new abortion support groups in other European countries. Already in September this year, a collective Ciocia Wienia was formed in Vienna, Austria, where abortion on demand is also accessible up to 14 weeks. Some of the rules pertaining to abortion are less strict in Austria – there is, for instance, no need to undergo an obligatory consultation 3 days before the procedure. Vienna will be an easier destination for people from Southern Poland, and – if one group is overwhelmed with the amount of work – we can help each other. Another support group, Ciocia Czesia, was established in the Czech republic. This mobilization of activists living abroad or being from abroad around reproductive rights of people in Poland is very moving and empowering. We take seriously the phrase, which permeated the protests in Poland, “you will never walk alone”.

DB: The war is not over, the protests are not over, the pandemic is not over either. We are currently looking closely at the situation in Poland and keep in touch with other feminist groups. At this point the situation is quite dynamic. On top of that, a new legislative project has been presented in Sejm – a part of the Polish parliament – Stop LGBT might limit queer rights even further. 200,000 people signed the motion, the Church has shown great support for the bill. We need to keep our finger on the pulse and act accordingly.

Our collective is preparing to organize the Fourth Bloody Week – we will not stop fighting, we might adjust our actions to the current global situation, but we will not stop, we will not be silenced, we will not allow anyone to trample our rights.

AK: We are starting the fourth Bloody Week, this time less street protests, as corona is taking its toll, people are slowly loosing power on the streets.

More infos soon.

How can you help?

  • make online solidarity campaigns,
  • write about the situation in Poland in your countries, use your local media
  • support Ciocia Basia and similar organisations
  • support your local Polish activists
  • remember that shit happens in other countries too, we need a more transnational campaign.

Interview partners: Dziewuchy Berlin (DB) – Gals4Gals Berlin: Polish queer-feminist collective, Zuzanna Dziuban (ZD): activist with Ciocia Basia, Anna Krenz (AK): Polish artist, architect and activist living in Berlin.

On Wednesday, 2nd December, the LINKE Berlin Internationals are organising a public meeting: The Conspiracy Against Choice: Why abortion rights are under attack in Poland, Brazil and the USA. A limited number of places are available to see the meeting “live” in Aequa in Wedding, and the meeting will be livestreamed.

The referendum for expropriation in Berlin

The struggle for the right to vote of migrants

Last month the Berlin Senate gave its legal approval to the proposed referendum on the expropriation of more than 200,000 units in the hands of large real estate companies such as Deutsche Wohnen, Vonovia or Akelius. In the coming months, the social movement behind the referendum, called Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen (Expropriating Deutsche Wohnen & Co.), will face the collection of around 175,000 signatures to make the referendum a reality.

These 175,000 signatures are 7% of the electorate in Berlin entitled to participate in a referendum, which is about 2.50 million people. However, the population is much larger: a total of 3.77 million. The count excludes not only people who have not reached the legal age, but also all those who, living in Berlin and despite being adults, do not have German nationality. Currently, the number of immigrants without German nationality stands at 758,000 people, of which about 100,000 are underage. That is to say, there are about 650,000 citizens of Berlin who do not have the right to vote in a referendum.

A city-state

In geographical terms, Berlin is a city like Madrid or Barcelona. However, in administrative terms, Berlin is a Land (the equivalent in Spain of an autonomous region). Citizens of Berlin who do not have German nationality do not generally have the right to vote. That is either in communal elections (to the city’s districts such as Mitte, Neuköln or Steglitz-Zehlendorf), or in Land elections (Berlin, in this case), or in Bundestag elections (the German Parliament). In the case of EU citizens, they are entitled to vote in communal elections (equivalent to municipal elections in Spain) by virtue of the Union’s agreements.

The referendum for the expropriation of housing from large real estate companies is being held throughout Berlin. Therefore the electorate is similar to that of the Land elections, in which no foreign citizen can vote.

Transforming the economic into the political

This is where the question arises as to how far a democratic society can leave 650,000 adults out of the right to vote in a referendum (including elections), on such a fundamental issue as the right to a roof over one’s head. But what is more: are not migrants those who, among others, are particularly vulnerable to the depredation of the large real estate companies?

The requirement of a nationality, i.e. an official document that entitles us to such basic rights to vote, is a protective mechanism of the system itself. By denying fundamental rights precisely to the people most at risk of exclusion, who have the most difficulty in raising their voices, the system protects itself. Nationality becomes a conservative instrument of the State, a legalisation of xenophobia that gives more rights of citizenship by luck. Such as the right to vote, to a person because he or she was lucky or unfortunate enough to be born in a particular place (ius solis). Or, even worse, by right of inheritance (ius sanguinis), as if it were a monarchy.

We, the 3.77 million people who live in Berlin, live it, enjoy it and suffer it, whatever our origin. We suffer from the housing problems as migrants like the rest of the citizens. Or even more, because of the communication and administrative barriers. That is why we have to turn the struggle for the socialisation of housing into the struggle of migration for its political rights as well, so that hundreds of thousands of people can express themselves politically on equal terms, in a world where population movements are increasing.

This referendum may mean the struggle to undermine two of the fundamental pillars of the current bourgeois states: on the one hand, profit based on private property (in this case rentier); on the other, the nation as an element of discrimination between peoples.

This article first appeared in Spanish on the and Websites. Reproduced with the author’s permission