by Sven Giegold (Attac Germany), november 2007
A coalition of unions, NGOs, Attac, public transport experts, led by
Attac Germany, has halted the project to privatise the German railway.
It is the first major civil society victory against neoliberal projects of the governing big coalition.
After G8 Attac Germany has concentrated its forces on the campaign
against the privatisation. While the national campaign was run by a
large coalition including the services union ver.di, Friends of the
Earth and many others, the grassroots activity was mainly carried by
Attac’s local groups. The office of the campaign is situated in Attac
Germany’s office in Frankfurt.
Under the pressure of several national days of action, coordinated
pressure on members of parliament (in particular of the governing
social-democrats and conservatives), the internal contradictions in
the big coalition became so important, that the project is now in a
political deadlock. It is not assured, that the privatisation is
really stopped, but it seems likely.
The success was possible through a combination of several tools on a
massive scale over a longer period of time, including:
ten-thousands of protest e-mails to members of parliament
"flash mob" creative actions in 80 stations
lobbying of key parliamentarians
actions in and in front of the social-democrats’ (SPD) party
three petition campaigns against the privatisation for members of
the social-democratic party, unionists as well as ordinary citizens
massive leafleting in trains and to commuters (400.000)
several spectacular banner-hanging actions at stations, including a
huge banner at Berlin main station
production and distribution of a film against the privatisation
popular campaign website: www.deinebahn.de ("your railway")
enlarging the campaign coalition to more and more organisations
permanent media work co-ordinated by a campaign secretariat
As the big coalition has a comfortable two-third majority in both
chambers of the German parliament, the victory was only possible
a) convincing several unions as well as local and regional chapters of
the SPD to join the campaign. The politically corrupt union of German
railway workers came under pressure by an internal opposition group as
well as the competing union ver.di which joined the campaign. Just
before the party conference of the SPD in October the social-demoratic
youth organisation, Jusos, and Germany’s largest union "IGmetall"
joined the anti-privatisation campaign. The social-democrats, under
pressure of the new left party, want to renew their image as a force
for social justice. Therefore, they are and were the weak point in the
neoliberal coalition. The SPD delegates voted for conditions for the
privatisation which are unacceptable for the conservatives. This led
to a political deadlock for the privatisation.
b) splits in the coalition how to privatise the railways. These
tensions existed already before our progressive campaign started. They
have helped the campaign to succeed as the big coalition never acted
in strong unity.
Attac Germany’s general assembly this weekend has decided to sustain
the campaign for the case that the privatisation will see a "rebirth".
The victory has created a general good mood in our network which
proved capable of running effective campaigns putting all forces of
the organisation as well as network building capacities together.