The Socialist 19 November 2008
‘We’re not taking these job cuts’
First ever all-Germany school students' strike
Participation greater than expected
One hundred thousand school students went on strike on Wednesday 12 November. This was the first ever national school students' strike in Germany. The largest was in Braunschweig (Brunswick) with 10,500 on the streets and thousands poured out onto the streets in many other cities and towns.
David Redelberger (Kassel) and Angelika Teweleit (Berlin), SAV (CWI, Germany)
In May and June the increasingly angry mood among school students was obvious - 40,000 went onto the streets against the poor conditions in the schools. The idea to call for a national strike and a national conference in September was then born. SAV (CWI Germany) members played a vital role in publicising this and helped to organise both the conference and the strike.
Crucial to this national mobilisation were demands around which the movement could unite. Firstly, there was opposition to the so-called 'reform' of the Abitur, the school leaving and university entrance exam, which would put enormous pressure on school students and teachers.
Secondly, the demand was raised for smaller classes. At the moment, there are often more than 30 school students in one class. The demand is for classes of 20 maximum, which means around 100,000 more teachers are needed.
Thirdly, there is the demand for free education for all and an end to 'social exclusion'. This was a very important demand and ensured that strike mobilisation was strongest in schools with a high working class composition.
A lot of younger school students took part in this strike compared to previous actions. It is clear to young people that something is going fundamentally wrong when bankrupt banks get a rescue package worth €500 billion, but the sick education system is suffering from huge deficits. Many activists raised wider political issues during the school movement, and welcomed discussions about socialist ideas. Karl Marx is back on the bookshelves!
The authorities tried to stop the school strikes, sending letters to parents and school students warning that participation in the strike will be punished. In many schools the date of the strike suddenly became a date for exams. The day before the strike, some newspapers claimed left radicals were trying to influence young people and 'use them' for their own ends. None of this succeeded in holding back the numbers of students taking action - participation was even greater than expected - which meant widespread national and local media coverage.
The huge success of the strike was due to the self-organisation of the school students. In many schools, action committees were set up weeks before and they ensured that everyone at the school knew about the strike date, the demands and why it is important to strike, even if there are threats of repression.
Discussions about how to proceed will take place over the next few weeks. An important issue will be to combine the protests with workers' struggles and to get university students involved. One thing is clear: the national school students' strike has set a new tradition which many others will follow. Even if it takes a few months, the authorities will be aware that this was only the beginning. Young people are getting ready to fight back!
>>View video of David Redelberger's speech to Socialism 2008 (9:52 mins)
In this issue
No Job Cuts
Post office closures
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis