Hamburg students march against fees
From our own correspondent. While travelling around Germany, CS member Alfred Stevens chanced upon a student demonstration with remarkably similar demands to those of the protests in Britain last year
On Wednesday 25 May around 1,500 mainly student protesters gathered outside Hamburg town hall, many clad in T-Shirts bearing the slogan ‘Studiengebühren wegtanzen’ or ‘Dancing Tuition Fees away’. They set off on the route chanting, led by a flat bed truck blaring out music and amplifying the words of speakers. Talking to some of those on the protest, it became clear that the anger was over the burden of tuition fees. Currently students at university in the federal district of Hamburg have to pay 750 euros a year for their courses- which was reduced from 1,000 euros at their introduction in 2007 after repeated protests by students. In the recent elections to the Hamburg legislature one Social Democratic Party candidate promised categorically that if elected, the SPD would abolish tuition fees in Hamburg. The party -broadly equivalent to Labour in a country governed by a rightist coalition- won a large proportion of the student vote on the back of this promise. Once in office (was für eine Überraschung!) the candidate ‘did a Clegg’, executing a swift U-turn and said the fees were staying, at least until 2013. On top of this, Hamburg University’s budget is being cut by 20 million euros.
Students were understandably angered by this recent turn of events, but apparently such protests have been occurring in Hamburg for two years, over various attacks on higher education by the Hamburg local government. Although the demonstration was part of a European week of action on education, many on the protest said that one of their chief grievances was that the fees were being raised in Hamburg but not the rest of Germany. This fails to recognize the common interest of young people whose access to education is under attack, to a greater or lesser extent, across Germany and the whole of Europe. And the crisis of capitalism which is the motivation for these attacks, is truly global in scale. I argued with the Hamburg comrades that students in Britain faced a situation almost identical to theirs, and international solidarity would be a most effective weapon. Unfortunately I had to leave the demonstration before it reached its destination, but catching a glimpse over my shoulder I could see it snaking further into town, flanked by a heavy police presence but in a carnival mood.