News from Berlin and Germany, 31st January 2024

Weekly news round-up from Berlin and Germany



Berlin and culture funding: anti-discrimination clause dropped

For some time, the Berlin cultural scene has seen bitter division over how to respond to the conflict in Israel and Gaza. A new phase started when Joe Chialo (CDU), the Berlin Senator for Culture and Social Cohesion, signed a new anti-discrimination clause, adhering to the IHRA definition of antisemitism. But now, it seems, the state has backtracked. On January 22nd it was announced that the clause would be repealed with immediate effect. Chialo commented that this decision was made in order to “take seriously the legal and critical voices that saw the clause as a restriction on artistic freedom.” Source: exberliner

Berlin’s agency warns of neo-Nazi party

The Berlin Office for the Protection of the Constitution warned against the neo-Nazi party “Der III. Weg” (“The Third Way”). It is the most active group on the spectrum of classic right-wing extremism. Members of the “National Revolutionary Youth,” the party’s youth organisation, already committed several violent attacks on political opponents, according to the police and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Around Christopher Street Day, for example, they displayed a poster near the Television Tower with the slogan “Homos = Volkstod” (“homos = death of the people”). Source: berliner zeitung

AfD benefits from secret meeting with right-wing extremists

Tens of thousands of people recently demonstrated against right-wing extremism. However, the AfD is the only party in the Berlin House of Representatives that made significant gains in membership in 2023. It also benefited from the secret meeting with right-wing extremists: since January 10th, the date of the meeting, 63 membership applications have been received. This is almost a quarter of all new AfD memberships from 2023.  Wolfgang Schroeder, from the University of Kassel, is not surprised by the fact that the AfD is growing despite the protests: “It’s a strategy of closing ranks.” Schroeder nevertheless stresses that the demonstrations were not in vain: by protesting, the centre of society has shown that right-wing extremists do not speak for the majority of the population. Source: rbb24


A rebellion of seniors

On Saturday, the new “Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance” held its first party conference in Berlin, and a whiff of GDR nostalgia was wafting through the former Kosmos cinema in the eastern part of the city. Many speakers emphasised the need for more social justice and a different foreign policy that relies more on diplomacy than on arms deliveries. Other themes such as migration and climate policy were only touched on in passing. The team consists mainly of former members of the Left Party, often from Wagenknecht’s inner circle. Oskar Lafontaine also announced he was joining his wife’s party. Source: taz

Laurie Anderson willnot take up Pina Bausch professorship

The announcement is at the top of the website of the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen: the internationally renowned artist Laurie Anderson will not take up the Pina Bausch Professorship on April 1st, as previously planned. In 2021, Anderson publicly positioned herself as a supporter of the “Letter Against Apartheid,” published by Palestinian artists. Anderson was reportedly asked in Essen about her political stance on Israel. But for her, the question is not whether her political opinions have changed. “The real question is: why is this question being asked at all?” Source: berliner zeitung

“Strike Germany:” Judith Butler signs call for a cultural boycott of Germany

Judith Butler is now one of the more than 1,000 signatories of the “Strike Germany” appeal. The appeal calls for a boycott of German cultural institutions on the grounds that Germany’s policies are too pro-Israel, that Palestinians are discriminated against in Germany and that artistic freedom is restricted. Until now, French Nobel Prize winner Annie Ernaux was considered the most prominent signatory of the boycott call. According to her German publisher Suhrkamp, however, Ernaux’s books will continue to be sold in Germany and her theatre plays will continue to be performed. Source: berliner zeitung

ver.di announces local transport warning strikes for Friday

The trade union ver.di has called for extensive warning strikes, including at the Berlin public transport company (BVG). There had previously been reports of strike plans for Berlin. It is now clear that there will be restrictions almost throughout Germany, including in Brandenburg. ver.di wants to ensure that all employees receive, among other things, 33 days’ holiday, without tiering. The union also insists on 500 euros holiday pay per year. According to the union, more than 130 municipal companies and 90,000 employees are affected. The state of Bavaria, where strikes are not yet permitted due to the current collective labour agreement, will not be affected. Source nd

East Germans feel left behind more often

According to a new study by the University of Jena, the residential environment is decisive for the development of political attitudes. A key finding of the so-called Germany Monitor is that those who see their immediate surroundings and themselves as disadvantaged are more likely to feel that politicians might not be sufficiently interested in their region. Some cliches do not hold: there is hardly any difference in how people in the East and West rate their quality of life, or between the perceptions of rural and urban residents. Nevertheless, one in five East Germans feels “left behind,” compared to only 8 per cent of West Germans. Researchers argue that this is because they live in regions there that are severely affected by emigration and an ageing population. Source: tagesschau

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