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Newsletter (in English)


A nationwide mobilization of school and university students

After the last major school students’ strike in Germany in November 2008, there were large demonstrations across the country on June 17 in the framework of a week-long “education strike”. The participants nationwide numbered around 250,000: for example, in Berlin alone there were about 27,000 people on the streets, in Hamburg 13,000, in Kiel 3,000 (one week earlier), in Flensburg 2,500… Dresden 3,500 and Bremen 3,000. In over 80 cities people were out on the streets to express their discontent.


School and university students, teachers, childcare workers, lecturers, etc. mobilized for the strike. All over the country, local alliances and strike committees worked on the preparations for months; also trade unions (the teachers’ union GEW and the public sector union ver.di) supported the strike.
School students, university students, and to a limited extent workers within the education system united to protest the German education system.

Leaving a countless number of people disadvantaged and inept, the education system requires reform, but – supposedly – there is no money available. At the same time there are billions available for banks that have been shaken by the crisis. Thousands convened to express their anger with slogan such as, “money for education instead of banks!” and “For the banks, they do everything they can, but for education, they do nothing!”

But even without the banks being propped up by the state, there’s plenty to criticize about the German education system. Most demands require money: for more teachers (and thus fewer cancelled classes), smaller seminars and classes, better equipment, free books, etc. But there was also criticism of the large and growing pressure to perform in schools and universities, the structuring of the education system according the interests of corporations, and the selection and segregation in education through the three-tiered school system, with access to higher education only for a privileged layer. There is no one single law that the strike sought to bring down – rather, there are countless problems that have to be fought with diverse demands and actions.


The ruling class slandered the protests– the conservative education minister Schavan described the protests as “something of yesterday” – but this didn’t scare off school and university students, who used more radical methods to build up pressure and draw attention to the situation in child-care centers, universities and schools. Demonstrators in Mainz briefly occupied the provincial parliament, in Minden they blocked a branch of the Deutsche Bank and at many universities buildings were also occupied. For example, on the morning of June 17, large parts of the Technical University of Berlin were occupied and blockaded, at the Humboldt University in Berlin the fourth floor of a seminar building was occupied until the end of the week, and at the Free University of Berlin the seminar center was transformed into a “strike headquarters”, the political science institute was occupied and on Tuesday after a students’ assembly (with over 1,000 participants) the office of the university president was stormed and briefly occupied.


Although the education strike was undoubtedly a huge success, we cannot lose sight of its weaknesses. Even though it was positive that many workers expressed their solidarity by participating in the protests, the students remained isolated. The trade union bureaucracies failed to mobilize their constituencies, leaving individual members to organize themselves. This, however, came as no surprise. A joint mass movement of young people and trade unions could rapidly escape the control of the bureaucratic union leadership and thus threaten the privileges they receive from the system. This shows once more that it is necessary to build base structures and not rely on the union bosses.

Even though the miserable condition of the educational is only a part of a series of attacks from the ruling classes that affect all oppressed people – whether they are workers, school or university students – again and again there were voices from students that explicitly rejected solidarity with the workers movement. (“This has nothing to do with them, this is only about education!”). This kind attitude merely reflects the elite social composition of German universities (just 13% of students come from working class families!), but it weakens the movement for better education because school and university students alone cannot apply sufficient social pressure.


The education strike this year can only be a starting point for further protests. In the context of the crisis of capitalism, many more protests will take place that will bring students and workers together. 250,000 people fought on June 17 for better education. But that is not enough to win the urgently needed improvements in the education system or to prevent the costs of the crisis from being forced onto the shoulders of the working class.

Only a few groups, including the independent youth organization REVOLUTION, fought for a joint strike of all the oppressed in this society. We demand a general strike. “From the education strike to the general strike!” was our main slogan. We attempted to bring the movement for a better education out of its isolated position by connecting it with the struggle for the rights of all oppressed peoples. Likewise, we demanded that control over the universities, schools and factories be placed in the hands of the people who learn, teach and work there. Bureaucratic and capitalistic control of such branches of society has to end, and workers, school and university students have to take control in order to democratically govern their own lives.

It is important to present a perspective for overcoming the system – which must be more than just radical phrases. Only the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism by the working class, through a democratically planned economy, through socialism, can really solve the problems of the education system.

Education in this society means education, which serves the interests of capitalists. As long as they are the ruling class, they will impose their interests in the education sector and in the entire society. Only the workers, who in contrast to students are able to paralyze the economy, can overcome the rule of capital. Therefore, it is necessary to organize in order to join education protests with workers’ protests. Only together can we fight for our demands and interests. “In the schools, in the factories – fight together, win together!”

Johannes, Revo and RSO Berlin

2 Responses to “Germany: A quarter of a million people at the “education strike””

  1. Jalava Says:

    Well, did the ruling class really slandered the protest? I’m not sure about that. Minister Schavan may did, but most of the bourgeois media echoed generally positive.
    The ARD (German state-owned TV) news “Tagesthemen” countered Schavans statement with a positive attitude.

  2. Johannes Says:

    well, of course not all parts of the ruling class did. but it were the ruling class who criticized the protests. the german teachers association (“Deutscher Lehrer Verband) said about the protests: “extreme ideologically one sided and and constitutionally most questionable”. and this from an organization who’s interest should be the same as ours!
    the german newspaper “Der Spiegel” tried with great effort to divide the protesters in the “evil radicals” and “normal citizens” (well, that’s typical) AND to divide between the “good students” and the “evil chaotic pupils”. i shurely could go on.
    but the point is: a part of the ruling class said the content of the protest was good and they tried to channel the demands into voting for them, BUT: they didn’t like the protests. they criticized the occupation of university buildings and banks, the few tries of more radical action, and so on. they liked the well-behaved social democrat leadership of the students, but anything more was totally out of question.
    parts of the ruling class tried to get the protests under their control (and i think most of the time without success), and any sign of getting out of control was widely defamed. and the other parts of our beloved rulers even disagreed with the content of the demands. but only a few would go this far. most of them made concessions by agreeing in words. “parliament pleas are good – strikes are bad!” you could put it.

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