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Berlin Police Attack an Anti-Imperialist Feminist Demonstration on March 8

On International Women’s Day, there were numerous demonstrations in Berlin, including: a union demonstration, an anti-imperialist demonstration, and a supposedly “leftist” demonstration in solidarity with Israel. As you would expect, police only attacked one of the three.

Nathaniel Flakin

March 14, 2024
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The socialist-feminist organization Brot und Rosen (Bread and Roses) at the union demonstration (Photo: Tabea Krug / KGK)

International Women’s Day was launched by the German communist Clara Zetkin back in 1910. Since 2019, March 8 has been a public holiday in Berlin (but not in Germany). This year, Berlin saw numerous demonstrations, and a shocking amount of police violence.

Union Demonstration

The day’s first demonstration, organized by unions, drew up to 10,000 people. Germany has a gender pay gap of 17 percent, almost the highest in Europe, because feminized jobs like childcare and nursing pay very low wages. As part of the struggle for recognition for so-called “women’s work,” the demonstration was full of daycare workers (represented by the teachers’ union GEW) and nurses (with the service sector union ver.di), and also of socialist groups.

International Women’s Day was started by working-class women, and it’s still necessary for unions to take up the struggle for equality. Many male workers participated, and in the context of a shift to the right in Germany, the union leaders defended fairly progressive positions: They explicitly included trans women and sex workers in the struggle, and asked “feminists” who opposed trans liberation to leave. While they didn’t mention the genocide in Palestine, they did explicitly welcome Palestinians (while some demonstrations against the Far Right have attacked Palestinians). This is why the march was supported by numerous socialists.

This was the closest thing to an “official” demonstration, so there were also flags from government parties like the SPD and the Greens. These parties have dedicated 100 billion additional euros on the military while cutting public spending for families. They are passing laws to make it easier to deport families, while offering both military and diplomatic support to Israel’s genocidal war against Gaza — which is currently murdering 60 women every day. With unimaginable cynicism, the German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock of the Green Party, calls it “feminist foreign policy” when she sells weapons to Saudi Arabia.

As one sign commented: “Letting one million women starve is not feminist foreign policy.”

Anti-Imperialist Demonstration

In opposition to government hypocrisy, up to 10,000 people gathered on the boulevard Unter den Linden in the afternoon for a demonstration “against imperialist feminism.” The Alliance of Internationalist Feminists has been organizing feminist protests in Berlin for a decade. This year’s protest united people from all over the world, carrying Mapuche flags, signs in Farsi, Palestinian keffiyehs, and symbols of freedom struggles from all over the world, including the red umbrellas of sex workers and red flags of socialists. The Latino bloc alone had more than 1,000 people with flags from the #NiUnaMenos movement and the Marea Verde (Green Wave) for abortion rights.

A central theme at this demonstration was solidarity with the women of Gaza — including Jewish feminists protesting against a genocide being carried out in their name. The demonstration ended at the headquarters of the Axel Springer Company, a right-wing German media conglomerate (that recently took over Politico) that is notorious for racist, sexist, and queerphobic propaganda. Axel Springer himself had been a loyal Nazi, but after 1948 became an unwavering supporter of the state of Israel. Springer today has been constantly defaming the Palestine solidarity movement, including vicious attacks against critical Jews.

In front of the Springer headquarters, hordes of heavily armed cops charged into the crowd and dragged out individuals, causing numerous injuries — this is Germany’s “feminist” government at work. Caro, an activist of Klasse Gegen Klasse, the sister site of Left Voice in Germany, describes in a video how she was chased and arrested by police. This is part of the extreme repression against the Palestine solidarity movement in Germany.

The organizers of the anti-imperialist demonstration had originally called for a demonstration without cis men, but changed their position right before March 8, asking cis men to express solidarity without taking up too much space. As a result, a small “cis-male” bloc at the back offered support. This was a positive step, but the demonstration still lacked a focus on the class struggle as the means to end capitalism and every form of oppression. As Clara Zetkin said, “If the proletarian woman wants to be free, must join forces with the general socialist movement.”

Pro-Israel Demonstration

A third demonstration with 5,000 participants called itself “Feminism Unlimited.” Much of the call reads like a feminist manifesto, yet it completely “forgets” to mention the genocide in Palestine, and instead speaks out against “hatred of the Jewish state.” A brief reference to Gaza mentions an “unimaginable humanitarian catastrophe,” as if a natural disaster were taking place, and not a deliberate policy of starvation by the Zionist state.

Just like the German government, these German “feminists” support the far-right Israeli government while offering crocodile tears for almost one million Palestinian women being deliberately starved. This was what you would find in the dictionary if you looked up “imperialist feminism”: “Islamism” is presented as the enemy, whereas decades of military interventions by “feminist” imperialist powers get no mention. As if oppressed women could somehow be liberated by NATO bombs!

As was to be expected, 90 or 95 percent of people at this demonstration were white Germans, making their feminism very much “limited.” Among the organizers was Hengameh Yaghoobifarah, whose most important contribution to “leftist feminism” was an advertising campaign for the luxury department store KaDeWe, peddling a coat for €3,900, in exchange for a paycheck from the right-wing Austrian billionaire René Benko. 

Only in Germany would you find “leftist feminists” who support Israel’s right-wing government explicitly and their own imperialist government implicitly. They claim that the global feminist movement is antisemitic — as if only the grandchildren of the Nazis were capable of understanding antisemitism. Most disturbingly, by splitting off from the refugee-led demonstration and accusing it of antisemitism, they are backing the claim that refugees are “importing antisemitism” to Germany, a favorite trope of the Right and the Far Right. This right-wing “feminist” demonstration, which refused to offer any solidarity to refugee women being attacked by police violence, is nothing more than a “radical left” cover for “feminist foreign policy.”

Their central slogan was to “believe Israeli women,” yet they cannot actually name a single Israeli woman whom we are supposed to believe. There is surprisingly little evidence for the claim that Hamas militants employed systematic sexualized violence on October 7. A two-month investigation by the New York Times found zero victims, zero witnesses, and zero forensic evidence — their reporting about mass sexual violence by Hamas militants was based on inconsistent and implausible statements by Zaka religious fundamentalist organization with a long history of sexual abuse in its own ranks. Desperate for any story to back up their support of Israel’s right-wing government, these imperialist feminists are putting their faith in the same people who made up claims about having seen “40 beheaded babies” (even though no babies were beheaded on October 7). More importantly, they are ignoring the very consistent testimony of Palestinian women reporting on systematic sexualized violence in Israeli jails. Every claim of sexual violence deserves an independent international investigation.

Around the World

All over the world, feminists were on the streets showing solidarity with Palestinian women. From the beginning, International Women’s Day was based on working-class solidarity. This is very much in line with Rosa Luxemburg, who refused to feel sympathy only for her fellow Jews. She famously declared

I am just as much concerned with the poor victims on the rubber plantations of Putumayo, the black people in Africa with whose corpses the Europeans play catch… I have no special place in my heart for the [Jewish] ghetto. I feel at home in the entire world wherever there are clouds and birds and human tears.

Today, as socialists, we fight to end sexism via socialist revolution. Feminism has to be internationalist and anti-imperialist, or it is no feminism at all.

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Nathaniel Flakin

Nathaniel is a freelance journalist and historian from Berlin. He is on the editorial board of Left Voice and our German sister site Klasse Gegen Klasse. Nathaniel, also known by the nickname Wladek, has written a biography of Martin Monath, a Trotskyist resistance fighter in France during World War II, which has appeared in German, in English, and in French, and in Spanish. He has also written an anticapitalist guide book called Revolutionary Berlin. He is on the autism spectrum.


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