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Expropriation is not negotiable

As a housing activist and member of the Berlin Senate, here’s why I think LINKE members should vote NO to the new coalition agreement


Recommendations for posts in the next Berlin government are in. Urban development goes to the SPD 😨. What about Die LINKE?

Let me put it this way. It is very difficult to gain a direct mandate [majority of votes in a constituency]. It is even harder to defend this at new elections.

Put another way: to win one of the most powerful government departments in 2016 was a great victory.

To lose it in 2021 is a major defeat!

As a politician for my party Die LINKE, I cannot just speak about urban development – my main area of concern. I also want to comment more generally on today’s agreement between the SPD, Greens and LINKE. I will comment with facts and in political terms.

As one of the negotiators, I could still defend my positions, even though some of our leading figures described them as being “too extreme”. Unfortunately, I could not then bring them into the negotiation group, because other people in the group would have / could have / should have to negotiate.

Nonetheless, it is also important to me to report that many of my individual demands have been more or less firmly established, that I was able to introduce some projects close to my heart, and that these projects have actually survived.

But this is an insufficient evaluation of the whole picture and does not answer the question as to whether the coalition agreement has been written in left-wing handwriting. This is why I am attempting a full analysis of the current situation and asking some important questions.

  • What will become of the highly publicized “rent election” #Mietenwahl 2021.
  • What will happen now to Deutsche Wohnen & Co Enteignen #dwenteignen ?!
  • What will happen to rent control of city-owned housing companies and affordable new building by communal housing associations?
  • What will happen to the maxim: no further privatisation of state-owned properties?

Hard facts: All decisions for social, ecological and cooperative urban development policy now lie outside our potential party political influence. The senate administration for finance will go to the Greens, who will be responsible for real estate and access to state-owned housing companies!

The senate administration for urban development and housing will go to the SPD, and with Frau Giffey as mayor of Berlin, the senate office’s connection between the Rotes Rathaus (Berlin city hall) and the urban development authorities will be firmly under the control of the SPD and – tadaaa – be opened up to rounds of investors.

Frau Giffey says: “Berlin must be an international competitive city”.

Hold my beer! I think the 1990s have just called… ☎️

Even more importantly: who has taken the SPD seriously here?!

True, the settlements in the coalition agreement in the area of urban development and housing are written in very clear handwriting (this could also be seen in the consultation paper with 1. building new houses, 2. housing alliances, 3. DWE)

The final agreed distribution of department cements this.

Building communal housing and regulating rents is no longer at the heart of the politics of providing accommodation. This is now based on construction a la “build, build, build” #bauenbauenbauen. And this will be realised above all by private companies, who will be allowed maximum legroom.

The SPD has prevailed, and wants to once more pursue their ideological programme of gentrification and eviction of poor people – class struggle from above in favour of a “new middle class” – just as they did in the 1990s and early 2000s.

We must remember: gentrification as a political battle cry has a real basis with the “Planwerk Innenstadt” [a 1999 masterplan to rebuild Berlin aimed at winning the support of private investors] and restructuring politics. In this period, this battle cry #gentrification became known through the rental battles in Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, and with them we saw the emergence of a new Generation Rent Protest in Berlin. (To some, this may sound “exaggerated and somehow extreme”, but unfortunately it is historically documented and common knowledge, at least within the movement for fair rents!)

I ask again: who wants to hear this and has seriously entered into dialogue based on this knowledge, instead of dismissing it as grumbling and Gennburgish defeatism?

But isn’t the distribution of departments just one thing, and hasn’t the coalition agreement been negotiated so laboriously as a basis for working together ???!

Here I would like, as best I can, to offer my wealth of experience of the previous five years as the speaker for urban development and as part of the government coalition R2G [red-red-green or SPD-LINKE-Green].

I have not shied away from any conflict (abolish the marketing of the capital city, legalise squatting, open the Spreepark, abolish the agreements with Nestlé, SIGNA / Airbnb / Siemensstadt … and many more). I have from time to time argued with my own senator, and have never found common ground with her successor (which was no glorious story, but an open secret and an honest reflection of our political and professional differences!) [In August 2020, after Katrin Lompscher (die LINKE) was obliged to stand down as Berlin Senator for city development and housing, she was replaced by Sebastian Scheel (also die LINKE)]

Nevertheless, we always fought together against the blockade of the SPD, whether around the rent cap #mietendeckel or against development plans for #checkpointcharlie or rent control and cooperation agreements with the housing companies, or with #SIGNA or the tower block model.

In short: for five years, without controlling the department, the SPD has consistently stonewalled and arranged that we could NOT carry out decisions in the previous coalition agreement.

And, do I need to tell you? They will carry on doing the same, and this time they will also be in charge.

The housing mafia in construction above and below ground will celebrate!

My prognosis: this Giffey-gentrifies-all-of-Berlin-SPD will completely ignore all detailed decisions in the coalition agreement and will fill all decisive posts with leading ideologues of the Berlin real-estate-SPD.

We have lost politically (and if you know me, I never say that!)

I am actively campaigning during the members’ vote in our party for a NO! to the coalition agreement.


In the last few years, die LINKE in government could have decided much more uncompromisingly to rule rebelliously. Unfortunately. this train has left the station. with the appointment of the successor to [Andrej] Holm [advisor to housing senator Katrin Lompscher] and Katrin Lompscher [who was also forced out of office].

The new parliamentary leadership in die LINKE fraction in Berlin has followed this course of sucking up and not supporting any resistance from the fraction.

We can see the proof of this in the last confrontation about the amendment of the law to prohibit misappropriation [this law, in effect since May 2014, limits the misuse of empty houses by turning them into commercial space or holiday homes]. As a politician working in this area, I had to vote against the proposal of die LINKE senator. This was because the fraction leadership preferred to follow the legal opinion of the social democratic lawyers in the urban development department over the position which I developed with left-wing lawyers and tenants’ representatives for a truly hard ban on misappropriation. Our proposal would have been one of the most important laws to protect housing space at the state level. (You can read my statement on this here).

You can find many more examples which show that for a long time, die LINKE has not resolutely fought for a rebellious participation in government in this powerful department. My opposition to this policy has not been noticeably acknowledged – neither in the Senate, nor in the fraction!

Clearly we are not yet ready for a LINKE participation in government which includes the challenging contradictions which could orientate our own party towards the future.

This must change. Otherwise, we will be swept away at the next election.

We need a renewal within the party and a radical democratisation of the Berlin party if we are to realise the honest desire for a common politics.

“By the way, politics is what happens when everyone wants to be right”. 😉

Yes, sure” 🤓

I can only report my assessment of the bad situation, and in all clarity state why the rent election #mietenwahl has been buried and why “we give you the city back” #wirgebeneuchdiestadtzurück is now over. At the same time and very urgently I can say that our party Die LINKE now needs a socialist and anti-capitalist update.

The rebellion on the streets will not decrease and the world is out of joint. Compared to this audits and playing according to bogus rules is not an option for LINKE politics.

We urgently need a LINKE voice which can be heard, and we won’t have this if we are part of a social democratic and bourgeois government project where the left-wing potential for protest is curbed by power politics or – much worse – the movement is much more remote from us as LINKE, and – as already announced, will resolutely stand against us at the next elections.

I have repeatedly presented my compass for the assessment of the issue of urban development, housing and how we live, repeating this in my recent speech in parliament.

We have at least three referenda to defend, and if “build, build build” #bauenbauenbauen is the current strategy, then this is not our project.

At least the BZ was kind enough to put the agreement that must now be voted on online, so that we can all read it 😉

See also this report on rbb.

This text first appeared in German on Katalin Gennburg’s facebook page. Translation: Phil Butland. Reproduced with permission

Lift the Blockade of Cuba

Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden have fought an economic war against Cuba. This must stop.


The economic blockade imposed on Cuba by the U.S. will soon have been in place for 60 years, and has intensified during the pandemic under the Trump and Biden administrations. In order to explain the present and to understand the blockade, we need to discuss Cuba’s historical and material conditions. 

Historically exploited and subjected to the brutal violence of Spanish colonization as well as by American imperialism, Cuba was built as a dependent economy, producing raw materials and mainly exporting sugar. To give a picture of the social circumstances, half of its children did not go to school in 1958.

Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America (1973) provides a clear historical background on Cuba before the revolution: “Cuban sugar became the master key for U.S. domination, at the price of monoculture and the relentless impoverishment of the soil” (p60).

Cuba bought not only automobiles, machinery, chemical products, paper, and clothing, but also rice and beans, garlic and onions, fats, meat, and cotton, all from the United States. Ice cream came from Miami, bread from Atlanta, and even luxury suppers from Paris. The country of sugar imported nearly half the fruit and vegetables it consumed, although only a third of its population had regular jobs and half of the sugar estate lands were idle acres where nothing was produced.

Thirteen U.S. sugar producers owned more than 47 percent of the total area planted to cane and garnered some $180 million from each harvest. The subsoil wealth–nickel, iron, copper, manganese, chrome, tungsten–formed part of the United States’ strategic reserves and were exploited in accordance with the varying priorities of U.S. defense and industry. In 1958 Cuba had more registered prostitutes than mine workers and a million and a half Cubans were wholly or partly unemployed (Galeano, p72). This voracious exploitation led to horrible conditions in Cuba and completely deprived the Cuban people of sovereignty.

In 1960, one year after the Cuban revolution had succeeded and liberated the Cuban people, a memorandum by U.S. diplomat Lester Mallory was released advising the enforcement of new economic sanctions. These sanctions would go much further than the weapon and ammunition restrictions already in place since 1958, with Fulgencio Batista. This document clearly stated the essence of American foreign policy in Latin America and on the periphery of capitalism as per se, arguing that the sanctions policy should be one that:

makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.” 

Following the memorandum policy, the U.S. announced a drastic reduction in sugar importation from Cuba. These measures strongly hit the island economy, considering that Cuba relied on a sugar monoculture which was responsible for about 70% of the GDP.

At this point, the alignment with the Soviet Union was developing in multiple aspects and the USSR took charge of the importation previously undertaken by the U.S., trading oil with sugar under extraordinary conditions to support the Cuban economy. As a retaliation to the new American restrictions, Fidel Castro announced the expropriation and nationalization of all American companies in Cuba.

With the escalation of tensions, and concerned with potential diplomatic damages that could be caused by a direct military intervention, in 1961 the U.S. backed a group of counter-revolutionaries on the operation of the “Bay of Pigs Invasion”. The U.S. not only providing financial and logistical support, but also preparing the forces with CIA training. The operation was a fiasco and the troops suffered a humiliating defeat by the Cuban armed forces. 

In the following year, Kennedy enacted harder sanctions that could affect any nation establishing commercial relations with Cuba, prohibiting raw materials importation, medicines, artifacts and financial operations.  Considering the worldwide economic power of the U.S, the effect of this measure was determinant in establishing how Cuba would be able to trade with other nations in international commerce. 

The risk for other nations of trading with Cuba and being subjected to economic retaliations by the biggest economic power is a fact. This brings other countries to a position of avoidance towards Cuba. Being a small economy with around 7.5 million inhabitants at the time, means that engaging in economic relations with Cuba, isn’t worth the risk. This act marginalized the Cuban economic position and clearly showed that the embargo was detrimental to Cuba’s commerce with any other country in the world; not only with the USA.

During the 1970s and early 80s, Cuba was benefiting from the Soviet Union’s bilateral relations. This enabled the country to progress towards a social welfare state and bring significant improvements to people’s lives, stepping forward in multiple state initiatives.

The island economy was still heavily dependent on sugar exportation to the USSR. With the fall of the Soviet Union and consequently the dissolution of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (COMECON), Cuban exportation had dropped by approximately 80%, importation by more than 50% and the GDP by 35%.

Facing enormous difficulties with keeping industry and agriculture running, mainly because of a lack of fuel and energy, Cuba opened up the economy for tourism. The 1998 election victory of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela brought a new key commercial partner, especially for oil exportation to Cuba.

The systematic policy to suffocate Cuba reached a new level with the Torricelli and Helms-Burton laws (1992,1996). This allowed any company establishing commerce or financial operations with Cuba to be sued in an American court (OFAC).

That means if a company has branches in the US or financial operations in dollars; or any connection with the American financial system it can be prosecuted by an American Court for commercially engaging with Cuba.

The laws also strangled naval logistical operations by stating that a ship which has docked at a Cuban port is temporarily forbidden to dock in the US, enormously increasing the logistics costs for Cuba.

The imperialist machine is still at full speed in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. President Trump imposed more than 240 sanctions during the global health crisis, including classifying Cuba as a sponsor of terrorism. President Biden has kept the previous sanctions and increased them, saying that the sanctions on Cuba are just the beginning. These measures brought severe complications for Cuba in acquiring medical equipment, medicine, syringes for vaccinations and artificial respirators. Despite the blockade, Cuba was the first Latin American country to develop its vaccine (Soberana 2).

By comparing some U.S. rates with Cuba we can observe a higher literacy rate than the U.S., lower unemployment, a lower infant mortality and seven times less CO2 emissions per capita. In the last UN general assembly, 184 nations voted for ending the embargo on Cuba. Only the U.S. and Israel voted to keep it. 

The blockade is an oppressive and systematic crime, denying Cuba the right of self-determination and economic stability. Imperialism in its late stage operates through unbalanced trades, instrumentalized by a global economic monopoly and political interventions, intensifying exploitation and surplus value. The shape has been transformed but it still preserves the body and the content of domination and violence. 

U.S imperialism knows no borders and we must call for the end of the blockade.


News from Berlin and Germany, 26th November 2021

Weekly news roundup from Berlin and Germany



Homeless people set on fire in Kreuzberg.

A man who allegedly tried to set homeless people on fire has been kept in custody. He is suspected of having committed the crime on 26 September on Skalitzer Straße. There, a Molotov cocktail was hurled at a tent. At first, nothing was known about his motive. Two people were sleeping in the tent at the time – a 47-year-old man and a 27-year-old woman. The man woke up due to the impact, so both came out unharmed. According to figures from the Berlin police, homeless people in the capital are increasingly becoming victims of crime. Source: morgenpost

Works council election at delivery service Gorillas can go ahead

The works council election at the delivery service Gorillas, which has already begun, can continue. The LAG Berlin-Brandenburg ruled the preconditions for a judicial termination of the election were not met. The firm has already tried to stop the works council election at the labour court last week, citing formal deficiencies in the preparation. For example, the election committee had not been properly constituted. However, the labour court rejected the application. Workers at the delivery service can still vote on the committee until Saturday. The workers criticise, among other things, fixed-term contracts, low pay and inadequate equipment. Source: lto

Housing initiatives want the coalition to listen to them

Time is running out for the red-green-red coalition. On the agenda there are topics of urban development, education, finance, among others. The remaining disagreements must be settled in a final round of talks. The agreement must be in place by Friday evening so that the Left Party can start its membership poll and Franziska Giffey can be elected as Governing Mayor in December. Social housing must also be reorganised, Martin Parlow (AK Wohnungsnot) said. The initiative demands that an already drafted socialisation law should be brought to the House of Representatives. Other initiatives such as “bbk” identifies “important cross-sectoral needs.” Source: taz



Case against paramedic dropped after attack on refugee

The scene caused nationwide outrage: a video from a refugee accommodation in Kassel indicates a paramedic hitting a man fixed on a stretcher on the face with his fist. The victim, a 33-year-old refugee, is said to have suffered a fractured cheekbone. The paramedic was dismissed without notice. The opposition demanded a complete investigation, and the Hessian Refugee Council criticised the police’s actions: two police officers stood by and did not intervene. Investigations now show a different picture. The public prosecutor’s office in Kassel has closed the case against the paramedic. The suspicion that the accused deliberately hit the alleged victim was not substantiated. Source: hessenschau

Merkel consults with coalition on Corona crisis

Because of the rapidly rising corona numbers, there is a crisis meeting in the Chancellor’s Office: Angela Merkel and the leaders of the traffic light parties are discussing further measures in the fight against the pandemic. The background to the meeting is that the debate on universal compulsory vaccination is gaining momentum. Merkel and numerous other top politicians have ruled it out in the past. Some, such as Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) or Baden-Württemberg’s head of government Winfried Kretschmann (Greens), have since changed their minds. Hesse’s Prime Minister Volker Bouffier (CDU) also spoke out in favour. Source: spiegel

Qweer Winter Market 2021

Queers coming together for an Arts and Crafts market


On 27th and 28th November, the Qweer Winter Market will be taking place in Alte Münze.

NOTE: because of construction, the main entrance of Alte Münze is closed. Please use the side entrance.

We are bringing the Arts and Craft + hard working LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs to all exhibit their goodies to you. Buy presents for the ones your care about (friends, family, chosen family and yourself).

It has been especially hard for them, so support them all by coming over (with your mask) and seeing what they have all been working on.

Small companies, designers, artists, e-companies and shops will exhibit their products and services to you. From Fashion items, Arts & Crafts to kinky Sex Toys, you won’t have a reason to leave empty handed, encouraging local commerce and queer businesses.

A social endeavour to celebrate love and compassion, and at the same time providing fundamental resources for a better living.

The Market is indoors in case of rain. The room has brand new ventilation system fitted in for this event. We will have over 60 stands, mostly supervised by the entrepreneurs or artists themselves.

Our first goal as project aim is to create awareness around our community, empower the local businesses and highlight amazing artists who are a great example of dedication and perseverance, united to create a better world.

Friends and allies, come to this fun market and support the community!
Event organised by Qweer Market (Queer Xmas Market), Lusty Ice and supported by the Naughty Xmas Market. We have the support of Alte Münze for the venue itself.

Opening times:
Saturday 27.11.21 from 12:00 till 20:00
Sunday 28.11.21 from 12:00 till 20:00
Alte Münze will have a door entrance fee of 5 euro (this includes our Market and their winter entertainment)

We will be part of Alte Munze’s Winter munze. The Event will also be broadcasted live on facebook.


Teachers and educators in Berlin go on strike for better pay

Appreciation for essential workers must be reflected in adequate pay and good working conditions


Since the 8th of October, several unions have been negotiating with the bargaining association of German states (Tarifgemeinschaft deutscher Länder (TdL)), demanding salary increases for around 845,000 public sector employees across Germany. This includes teachers without civil servant status, early years educators, research staff at universities, social workers, healthcare workers and local government employees.

What are the demands?

The GEW (Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft, Education and Science Workers‘ Union) is demanding a pay rise of 5% for public sector employees, with a minimum increase of at least 150EUR a month, as well as an increase of 100EUR for trainees and interns. As the GEW points out, this just about covers the current rate of inflation and is an extremely moderate demand. The TdL have so far rejected these demands as ‘unrealistic’ given the impact of the pandemic on public finances. Ver.di (Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft, United Services Trade Union) is also demanding a 300EUR monthly increase for healthcare workers and the reinstitution of previous guaranteed employment contracts for trainees.

As Anne Albers, head of the division of wage policy at the Berlin GEW, puts it:

Appreciation for the important work of educators, teachers and social workers is also reflected in pay.”

What happens now?

The final round of negotiations will take place between the 27th and 29th of November in Potsdam. The Berlin GEW has called for a third warning strike on Wednesday, the 24rd of November. This follows warning strikes on the 11th of November and the 17th of November, which were attended by 6000 and 8000 union members respectively. Warning strikes will also take place in a number of other cities across Germany.  Ver.di  has also called for another warning strike on the 25.11, following a warning strike on 16.11.

In a message to parents, who are especially hard hit by the strike, the GEW said:

“We are aware that daycare and school closures are an enormous burden for families. Unfortunately, the uncompromising attitude of the finance ministers so far makes our warning strikes necessary. We are fighting for good working and income conditions and consequently also better educational conditions. We ask for your understanding and support.”

Educators are undervalued, facilities are understaffed

My daughter started KiTa (childcare facility) in August this year. Having a child has made me understand how incredibly exhausting the work of childcare is, and therefore appreciate the educators that look after my daughter. Recent closures due to corona outbreaks and strikes have made me realise the importance of having childcare. In Berlin, all children are entitled to at least seven hours of free childcare a day from the age of one. This is a huge deal.

Free childcare allows both parents, and especially women to go back to work without worrying if they can afford to do so.

In London, for example, families spend around 1000 GBP a month on childcare, and the high cost of childcare is pushing many families, and especially women, into poverty. In Berlin around 45% of children under three are in childcare facilities. KiTas in Berlin are, however, chronically understaffed and undervalued. A recent study found that there is only one educator for every five children under three. The poor working conditions and societal recognition of this profession has meant that there will be an estimated shortage of 230,000 qualified educators nationwide by 2030.

Teachers, educators, healthcare and social workers and others deemed ‘essential’ during lockdown should not be made to pay for the economic cost of the pandemic.

As we have seen time and time again in the last two years, their work is vital and they deserve better wages and working conditions, not just applause!

The GEW warning strike will meet on the 24.11 at 10 am on Friedrichstraße between S-Bahnhof Friedrichstraße and Weidendammer Brücke, ending with a rally at Invalidenpark at 11 am.

Ver.di’s warning strike will meet on the 25.11 on Straße des 17. Juni between S-Bahnhof Tiergarten and Charlottenburger Tor at 8.45 and marching to Brandenburger Tor.