Alex LoCascio alexlocascio at
Sat Feb 15 15:50:08 MST 2003

I was up at 8:00 p.m. to meet some comrades from my tiny propaganda circle at Alexanderplatz at 9:00 sharp.  In a couple of weeks we are hosting a speaker from the Iraqi Communist Party, the biggest opposition party in Iraq, and decided to get a jump on the various other small groups and campaigns in order to secure a niche at the assembly point for the demonstration, which wasn't set to start until noon.

As my partner and I minded the table, we were shocked by the number of high school students in attendance, many obviously attending their first demo, and often coming from small towns and cities in other parts of Germany.  They snapped up our newspaper, surprisingly, given how jaded the cosmopolitan Berlin lefties tend to be towards the various small group and seclet offerings, and vigorously agreed with  the idea that the Iraqi people alone had the right to determine Saddam Hussein's future, not the U.S. military or United Nations weapons inspectors.  Sharp kids.

The march itself was the second biggest I've attended in my life, after the million strong anti-war demo in Florence during the European Social Forum.  Berlin today was also about as broad as a demo could possibly be.  Everything from the above-mentioned school students, to ATTAC activists, trade unionists, Kurdish democracy activists, the DKP (German Communist Party); PDS; various Green party functionaries, government ministers, and rank and file; Jusos (Young Socialists); but also just ordinary people who wouldn't strike one as normally politically active.

Police presence was remarkably low for a Berlin demo, excepting some strategic blocking of roads leading to the American and British embassies.

Peturbed by the Pro-E.U. and quasi-nationalistic sentiment that was sometimes on display, my partner (a  native-born East German with her own take on freedom in "United Germany")  insisted that I make and carry a sign reading "American Against the War - Selbtsbestimmung für Irak".  The reception I received was quite positive, including numerous other Americans in the crowd, who dropped by to commisserate about the incredible stupidity of "our" President.  A reporter from the Berlin magazine "Zitty" (something like a cross between an alternative newsweekly and a "listings" magazine, only not free) interviewed me and took a picture of my sign.  My partner and I explained the Schröder's "Nein" has been of great benefit to the peace movement in the U.S., but that he should not be trusted by the movement in Germany, given that the U.S. still has rights to German airspace in order to wage a war.

This last point was eloquently expressed on a banner held aloft by some anarcho-types, reading "Bush Airlines, Frankfurt to Baghdad one-way, courtest of the German government."  A few other ultralefties saw fit to humiliate the various Green dignitaries present by shouting slogans about the regimes war in Yugoslavia (the first German military action since the Second World War) and continued occupation of Afghanistan.

In the face of horribly frigid weather, we decided not to follow the demo all the way to its end at the Siegessäule, and opted to grab some Indian food for an early dinner, then catch the earliest demo reports back home on Indymedia and the TV.

The size and breadth of this demo was simply exhilarating, as was knowing it was part of a global movement.  The various reports from the global media about the composition of this movement beyond the standard sects and peaceniks is rather heartening, and while I have no illusions in such a mass movement to stop a war should the Bush administration press ahead, nor faith in Schröder and Fischer, et al to maintain a consistent anti-war stance, I am glad to know that the Vietnam syndrome is indeed not dead.

With a mass movement of these dimensions emerging before war has even begun, who knows what the future promises?

pictures:  (love the Walter Benjamin reference in the caption to the first photo) (webcam shots.  First four from the East Berlin feeder march, last two from the West)

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