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Why Should Expropriation Be a Utopian Dream?

Speech at the Right2TheCity Rally, Tempelhofer Feld, 29 May 2021


It somehow feels like a utopian vision when you wish for everyone in this city to have a roof over their head. But why should it be?

So many speakers today have already talked about how housing is a fundamental human right. How migrants are disproportionately affected by rising rents and are consequently pushed out of their communities, out of their homes, out of the housing market completely. And how the capitalists use every opportunity they get to make more and more money, lining their pockets with an ever higher proportion of our wages.

We, as DIE LINKE Berlin’s international working group stand behind the demands of the Right to the City For All group, many of us are also part of it, and we support the entire DWE campaign to make this city a better place for everyone to live in.

Because how absurd is it that something that’s a necessity has been turned into a commodity? And how absurd is it that we, as a society, have not only turned being a landlord into a job but also one that’s immensely profitable?

How absurd is it that it is a daily concern for many of us that someone who owns the flat or building we live in might one day decide that they want us to leave, and once they do, we know they will do everything in their power to kick us out?

And we can only be thankful that we are not living under occupation, like those across Palestine, who are being forcibly dragged out of their homes by the police and the army, or whose homes were destroyed in the last attack on Gaza. With us this is not as direct, or obvious, or genocidal. Although it’s part of the same capitalist system that oppresses us all across the world.

I’ve experienced many frankly ridiculous situations related to the Wohnungsmarkt while living in this city. Among other things which show that you, as a newcomer, as a migrant, are always on the back foot, always having to compromise on something, accept conditions which are not ideal and never feel a sense of stability.

I’m far from being the only one, or even one that can claim to be especially marginalised. This is just reality. And what I know is that this shouldn’t be something that I am constantly thinking about — no one should. And it shouldn’t be something that pushes me to act selfishly, individualistically, against my politics, because I’m scared that otherwise I’ll end up moving from place to place again every few months. It’s exhausting.

This campaign has given me hope that we can live and be with solidarity with one another again when it comes to the housing market. I have been inspired by the cross section of people involved in collecting signatures and being actively in the many possible ways.

We, DIE LINKE Berlin’s international working group are a group active within a party for which most of us cannot vote in elections. Therefore we stand strongly behind the demand for full voting rights for all those living in this city, and many of us have been involved with the group. Because how can we expect migrant-friendly policies to be made if migrants are not allowed to have their say?

We believe that all those who live in the city should have a say in what happens in it. Should have an equal right to be here, and equal access to what the city has to offer. The fact that this isn’t the case even in a city where almost a quarter of its population doesn’t have citizenship is laughable. And this is on top of those with citizenship who get discriminated against for other reasons when it comes to housing.

So we believe in the right to the city for all, and fully stand behind the group’s demands. But first — enteignen!

Pictures from the Right2TheCity Rally, 29 May 2021 by Noemi Argerich, Phil Butland, Jaime Martinez Porro and Jorge A. Trujillo

End ‘vaccine apartheid’ – no one Is safe until everyone is safe

Keep our NHS Public supports the call for a ‘People’s Vaccine’

by Dr John Puntis from the UK ‘People’s Covid Inquiry’, on the international inequity in COVID vaccine distribution


Carried away by the ‘vaccine bounce’ (undoubtedly a major factor in their recent electoral success) the government is myopically preoccupied with focusing on the pandemic only within our borders. This means the international dimension is being neglected with potentially disastrous consequences for us all. This is not just to do with a failure to secure our borders. It is also a failure to grasp the even more pressing need to advance the rollout of vaccination on an international scale.

We are beginning to take great sighs of relief thanks to our ability to secure a significant proportion of the globally available vaccine. But in other parts of our ‘one world’, including countries that vaccines will not reach for a year or more, the virus is still raging. Uppermost in our minds just now is the developing catastrophe in India – paradoxically the largest manufacturer of vaccines in the world. As highlighted in the British Medical Journal recently: ‘India’s crisis is everyone’s crisis’.

Charitable initiatives are not enough

Worldwide over the last three months the number of coronavirus cases has been steadily rising to its highest ever level. International organisations have been set up to try and ensure vaccine gets to those most in need. But these efforts rely on the largesse of rich nations and seem doomed to failure. The Vaccine Alliance, Gavi, for example, is:

. . . bringing together public and private sectors with the shared goal of creating equal access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries .

. . . Gavi is co-leading COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. This involves coordinating the COVAX Facility, a global risk-sharing mechanism for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccine”’

The Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator was launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to facilitate the development of tests, treatments, and vaccines and to ensure their equitable distribution. Covax is supported by the WHO as well as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). Reliant on funds from charities and wealthier countries and struggling to obtain supplies, its aim is to vaccinate health workers and high risk people in all countries by the end of 2021 – about 20% of the world’s population. This is a laudable but unambitious aspiration. The failure in equity of global distribution and adequate ramping up of vaccine manufacturing capacity will only ensure this pandemic will run and run, with risks of new variants emerging and driving further waves of infection. National leaders must recognise not only their own national but also wider global responsibilities in responding to the pandemic. Their tragic failure on this international front is illustrated in the graph that shows the miniscule amount of vaccine that Covax has in fact been able to secure. (A clue: Look at the *bottom of the graph*.)

The difficulty arising from the constraints on the WHO in having to work within the limits of international consensus was captured in a ‘Hardtalk’ interview with David Nabarro in April 2020. Stephen Sackur introduced his guest with the daunting assertion:

There has never been a greater need for an internationally co-ordinated response; that is where the WHO should come in…but right now the WHO itself is at the centre of a political storm; Trump has withdrawn the [major] American funding accusing the WHO of being China-centric”.

Nabarro preceded his robust and forensic defence of the WHO’s handling of the evolving pandemic with a stark warning – that as lockdowns are released if they are not fully defended, the outbreaks will build up again – poor countries being particularly at risk:

The pandemic will be a threat to every country and every population in the world; the only way we will get on top of it and ahead of it is if every society everywhere is knowing about it and is able to interrupt transmission for themselves … the capacity to defend against it and learn how to live with the constant threat of the virus is going to be the key for the future of humanity”’.

At the recent Global Health Summit on the 21st May 2021, leaders from the G20 nations reaffirmed their support for the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. However, a year on – and as the global death toll from the virus surpasses three million – there is still a funding gap of $18.5bn (£13.1bn; €15.1bn) for the accelerator. Covax still has precious little stocks of vaccines. The policy lead for the People’s Vaccine Alliance commented:

“ . . while world leaders spoke eloquently about the ‘gross inequalities of global vaccination’ their solutions were still the same tired ones that have failed billions of people who remain unvaccinated and vulnerable to infection. Nine people are dying every minute [of covid-19] while the vaccine stores of Covax—a multilateral initiative to get vaccines to developing countries—lie empty”

also remarking that G20 leaders had:

. . once again ceded control of this pandemic to a handful of pharmaceutical corporations which have had more than a year to voluntarily share their intellectual property and know-how but have instead put profits before people at every turn.”

An end to vaccine hoarding is urgently needed

We now have a situation where only 0.3% of total vaccine doses have gone to Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs), a state of affairs some characterise as ‘vaccine apartheid’. Only 1% of the 1.3 billion vaccines injected around the world have been administered in Africa, and only enough vaccine delivered to protect 2% of the population. Meanwhile, rich nations are currently vaccinating their low risk citizens, ahead of health workers and high risk people in LMICs. Wealthy countries have even bought more vaccine supplies than they can use and are sitting on them. Canada has enough to vaccinate everyone ten times and the UK eight times over (see graph). An ending to vaccine hoarding by rich countries is urgently needed.

Those advocating a ‘people’s vaccine’ say the charitable model of Covax is wholly inadequate to meet need and that what is required is for a way LMICs can manufacturer their own vaccines. There is also the Indian paradox of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer experiencing one of the world’s worst outcomes from the pandemic. That is the tip of an alarming global iceberg. Problems of disease suppression are compounded by leaders who: are not fit to lead; who have knowingly run-down public health services over decades; who fly in the face of scientific evidence, are unwilling to learn from their mistakes; and who will do anything to hide their failures from those they are there to serve.

The People’s Vaccine Alliance – a new way forward

The People’s Vaccine Alliance is a global coalition of organisations and activists including UNAIDS, Amnesty International, Medact and Global Justice Now, leading the call for a people’s vaccine. It argues that pharmaceutical corporations must allow the covid-19 vaccines to be produced as widely as possible by sharing their knowledge, free from patents. The first requirement is for a waiver of intellectual property protections on covid-19 vaccines including on their raw materials and components. This call has now been supported by President Biden in the US, and by the Gates Foundation. The next two conditions are transfer of technical knowledge from vaccine makers in the global north to regional hubs or direct to manufacturers in the global south, together with subsidies for manufacturing in LMICs.

The UK – precariously balanced in a global pandemic

Our ‘People’s Covid Inquiry’ has highlighted together with many other voices the decades of running down of our public services including public health and the NHS. That compounded the delay in taking the pandemic seriously; delay in implementing lockdown; using the pandemic as an opportunity for cronyism; outsourcing ‘test and trace’ resulting in a hugely expensive failure; failing to protect those in society who are most vulnerable. All of these have contributed to a staggering 150,000 deaths.

We now have seen our UK overseas aid budget cut by £4bn even though the Conservative’s manifesto pledge promised it would be maintained, just at a time when aid has become even more important to help LMICs survive the pandemic. In March this year, when asked about donating vaccines to poorer countries, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden claimed the UK did not have a surplus. The Prime Minister stated lamely that:

“ . . all our international goals rest upon keeping our people safe at home

If diplomatic sensitivity effectively silences the WHO in calling out individual government’s response to the pandemic, that role must then fall to citizens, as in our People’s Covid Inquiry. ‘No one is safe until everyone is safe’ cannot be allowed to be a mere slogan.

It is a sentiment that must dictate what we do as a nation, a nation that recognises and embraces the reality that we all share one world and that nationalism plays no part in fighting a pandemic. Clearly there is much more to be done on an international scale to protect us from both the present and the next pandemic, but little sign that the current government will be the one to deliver the vision and change we urgently need.

News from Berlin and Germany: 29th May 2021

Weekly news roundup from Berlin and Germany


Compiled by Ana Ferreira



Masked refuser stabs supermarket security guard

An unknown man attacked and injured a security guard at a supermarket in Baumschulenweg on Wednesday afternoon. According to the police, the 27-year-old security guard had pointed out to the unknown man at the entrance of the supermarket in Kiefholzstraße that masks were compulsory. However, the man refused to put on a mask and insulted the security guard several times in a racist manner. The suspect then abruptly hit the 27-year-old in the face with his fist and stabbed him several times with an unknown stabbing tool. The security guard called the police and the fire brigade. Source: Berliner Zeitung


AfD names their election candidates

The AfD is entering the Bundestag election campaign with parliamentary group leader Alice Weidel and party leader Tino Chrupalla as top candidates. Weidel and Chrupalla are both considered opponents of co-party leader Jörg Meuthen, who recently tried to slightly distance the party from the far right. They also are clearly better known, have more experience and are also supported by the eastern associations. In their candidacy, Weidel and Chrupalla denied both that there were camps in the AfD and that as top candidates, they would further encourage a split within the party. Source: taz

Millions forced to take more than one job

The findings are clear: the number of employees with two or more jobs has risen by around 700,000 to about 3.5 million since 2013. And 91 per cent of the newly added multiple employees have had to take on at least one side job in addition to their main job because of tight household budgets. These are the results of a study published on Tuesday by the Cologne Institute of the German Economy (IW). The number of so-called hybrid employees, who are self-employed alongside their main source of income, has also risen by 13 per cent since 2013 to around 690,000 in 2019. Source: jW

Muslims blamed for rising antisemitism

Some high-ranking politicians claim that antisemitism was “introduced” into Germany by Muslims. CDU leader Armin Laschet spoke for instance of “immigrant antisemitism”. These politicians’ quotes were uncritically reproduced in many media. But the Shoah gives rise to the mandate to uncompromisingly fight hatred of Jews in this country. That means taking immediate action against any antisemitism, no matter who it comes from, with the full force of the law. The fact that many Jews do not feel safe in Germany today must be addressed and stopped immediately. Antisemitism, also from the Muslim side, is not tolerable. Source: nd

Could the Greens and the Left govern together?

The outcome of the Bundestag elections in autumn is quite open. However, a few things can be said. For example, it is almost impossible that the Greens will again become the smallest opposition party in the parliament in Berlin. At the moment, they are challenging the CDU/CSU. It is also unlikely they will end up in the opposition again. Therefore, the role of the smallest opposition party could fall to the Left. Unlike the Greens, who started their election campaign on a high of 8.9 per cent, the Left is in a poorer position. Would they be currently successful in an alliance? Source: faz

“I Wanted to Show the Beauty of Gaza, Not Only the Destruction.” Review – “Eyes of Gaza”

An Exhibition of Photographs by Children from Gaza Is More Relevant Than Ever Because of the Recent Bomb Attacks

The opening of the Eyes of Gaza photo exhibition on 18th May was supposed to be broadcast live from the Forum Factory in Berlin. But, in solidarity with the Palestinian general strike on the same day, the event was recorded and broadcast the following day.

Preparation of the exhibition has been beset by setbacks. It was postponed from February because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Now only a small number of socially distanced showings can be organised in Berlin, before the exhibition moves to Gütersloh, Freiburg and Brühl.

Meanwhile, photographs and film by Amjad Al Fayoumi, which were supposed to accompany the exhibition, could not be seen after his office in Gaza was bombed by Israeli planes. Fortunately, Amjad’s office was not flattened, unlike the 33 press offices which were destroyed during the 11 days of bombing, as reported by the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate.

So, what’s it all about? It’s a simple concept, really. A group of kids in Gaza, aged between 13 and 17, were asked to take photographs of themselves, their families and of their lives. The results are remarkably powerful.

It was strange attending the exhibition while bombs were raining down on Gaza, knowing that the landscapes we were looking at may no longer exist. These photos were taken in 2020, during a time of relative peace when the greatest fear was of the early days of Covid. This means that we see plenty of photos of families cooking and playing together, not sure whether they can go outside.

When we do leave people’s homes, the images that we see of Gaza stand in great contrast to the recent destruction. Here is the olive harvest, here fishermen are going out to sea, there is a crab being held above the beach. Next to the photo of the crab, there is the following quote from Jan Khaled who took the picture:

I am the only girl in the family and the eldest. My hobbies are painting, music and acting. I like music a lot. I play guitar and the qanoon. I want to be an influencer on social media; I like to be in front of the camera. The sea is the place where I like to be the most. I wanted to show the beauty of Gaza, not only the destruction. Gaza and Gazan people are beautiful in my eyes.

These quotes from the photographers help contextualise what we are seeing. Many of the pictures remind us that Gaza looks out on a sea which is both tempestuousness and quite beautiful. Samar Sharaf, who photographed fishermen and sea shells explain what this means to her.

I go to the sea almost every day. I was born in Ukraine and I lived my early years of childhood there. In Ukraine there is no sea; when I came to Gaza I fell in love with the sea. I started collecting seashells, and I decided to celebrate what I had collected over the years in professional photos. I will send this photo to my family and friends in Ukraine, so they can see the sea of Gaza.

And yet for all the beauty and apparent normality, we are occasionally reminded that Gaza is anything but a normal place to live. The kids have all grown up during the debilitating blockade. The recent Israeli bombs were also nothing new to any of them.

Baraa Faraj chose to photograph his young cousin holding a teddy bear. He explains:

When I was 9 years old, our house was destroyed during the war on Gaza in 2014. I was very sad because I lost everything, my house and my room where I had my toys and all my things. Days after the destruction, I was able to save my teddy bear from underneath the rubble, and I was so happy to find it; I keep it with me in my room until this day. My little cousin is one of the few kids who are allowed to play with it.

In a similar vein, Dania Hamad took evocative monochrome pictures of tiles saved from her father’s uncle’s house which was destroyed in the 2014 bombing. Thinking of her father’s death that year and of Mahmoud Darwish’s poem ‘Forgotten As If You Never Were’, she says “I sometimes think the world forgot about us in Gaza.”

Because of the ongoing situation in Gaza, the exhibition opening was addressed by Fidaa Zaanin, a Gazan who is currently living in Berlin. After the opening Fidaa told me how the exhibition affected her:

The past 11 days were not easy, I barely ate or slept thinking of what is going on in the Gaza Strip, documenting names, and pictures of martyrs, seeing bombs fall like rain on my beloved Gaza, and massive destruction everywhere. All the time I felt I’m physically in Berlin but mentally in Gaza, with my people, but when I visited the “Eyes of Gaza” exhibition, seeing the faces of young Gazan photographers, looking at their work, their memories, their favorite spot in the house and their hobbies and how they view life in Gaza. All the amazing pictures they took tell us a lot about their lives and dreams, but also about Gaza, I could relate to their work, the sea is also my favorite spot in Gaza, the pictures they took became very personal to me too and at that moment I felt like I’m physically in Gaza.

I also had mixed feelings, of pride and heartbreak, knowing that the places in the pictures are being bombed by Israel at the moment, those memories might have been wiped out, I prayed that all those photographers are alive and safe, and will get the chance to be in Berlin one day and organize the exhibition themselves.

It would be easy to patronise the photographers and say that they are good for their age. In truth, they are good for any age. Eyes of Gaza gives us a view of Gaza which is rarely visible to Western eyes. Chances to view it are limited. If you do get a chance, don’t waste it.

The Eyes of Gaza exhibition can be seen in the following cities:

  • Berlin from 12 June: in Ulme 35, Ulmenallee 35, 14050 Berlin
  • Gütersloh from 18 June
  • Freiburg 9-16 July: in ArtRaum Gallery, Hildastraße 17
  • Brühl (near Cologne) in September

Hopefully, more dates will be announced soon. If you would like to host the exhibition in your town, write to

Read our interview with exhibition curators Nahed Awwad and Cora Josting here.

Parkplatz Transform

Reducing the number of cars in Berlin

There are 1.2 million vehicles in Berlin – more than ever before. These cars must park somewhere. Public space in cities does not grow with the population, nor with the number of vehicles. On average, every parked car uses up 12 square metres of space.

When we formed the initiative “Parkplatz transform” (transform parking spaces), we asked “how many public parking spaces there are in Berlin?” No-one knew exactly. Where local government does not manage parking and parking remains free, the number of free spaces is unknown to local authorities. We want to raise awareness about the amount of space allocated to cars in town and plan to map the whole city. Before the pandemic, we organized outings to map the number of parking spaces in an area together. During the Corona pandemic, we have developed the prototype of an App with which parking spaces can easily be mapped individually. We are currently testing this prototype.

We want less space to be allocated to parking, and that car owners pay for their privilege of using public space. We want to develop these alternatives with people in every kiez. We already have many ideas that we want to promote. We want more gardens, streets where kids can play, public meeting places, more footpaths and bicycle lanes, and more park benches. We want to make these alternatives visible. All people who live in limited city space would benefit from having more air to breathe when there are fewer cars. Everyone stands to gain from habitable cities with congestion-free mobility.

Urban transport must change. We need more space for public transport, car sharing and commercial transport. Designated areas for disabled parking will make life easier for those who do need a car.

If you are interested in getting involved, collecting, analyzing data feel free to get in touch at