The elections for the student parliament at Berlin’s Free University (FU) are a subdued affair. Most of FU’s almost 40,000 students probably don’t know they’re taking place. Last year, just 1,890 of them — 4.93 percent – bothered to cast a vote.
The most active political group at FU is Waffen der Kritik (Weapons of Criticism, WdK), a Marxist student group named after a quote by Karl Marx.1“The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses.” Last year, WdK came in third of several dozen candidate lists, winning four seats in the 60-member student parliament, which put them ahead of the student wings of most German mainstream parties, including Die Linke, the SPD, and the CDU.
In recent weeks, FU has been all over the news in Germany, after WdK took the initiative in organizing a Palestine solidarity rally in front of the main building. The bourgeois press launched an unprecedented campaign of defamation and doxxing, accusing students of “antisemitism” for opposing Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza. They completely ignored the numerous Jewish students who organized the rally, falsely claiming that Jewish students at the university were being intimidated. The truth was the exact opposite: For weeks, right-wing supporters of Israel, both Jewish and non-Jewish, have threatened, insulted, stalked, and physically assaulted Palestine solidarity activists, including Jewish students.
The University’s response to Palestinian organizing on campus only serves to bolster these ill-founded claims. Dozens of police officers, fully suited in their riot-attire, broke up a peaceful sit-in on campus, detaining and arresting some of the students who participated. This show of force serves the narrative that Palestinian organizing on campus (and in general) is inherently silencing or repressive towards Jewish students on campus, and that repression through force is the only way to “offer protection.” In tandem with the bourgeois press, FU has instead intimidated any activism on campus which seeks to end the current genocide and critique the system and regimes that have lead to it.
The ongoing defamation campaign has the support of right-wing tabloids, public broadcasters, the university administration, the police, and mainstream politicians. Germany’s federal education minister tweeted that FU should expel students for supporting Palestine. This repression isn’t limited to universities — it’s in line with the German state’s attempt to suppress all expressions of solidarity (including terrible police violence at the recent demonstration commemorating Luxemburg and Liebknecht.)
A number of right-wing rallies in support of Israel were notably smaller, with a broad spectrum of prominent German politicians but very few students. While it is impossible to know for sure, it seems likely that more Jewish students at FU are demonstrating for Palestine than for Israel — though anti-Zionist Jewish voices are being silenced.
In this context, WdK is the only electoral list that is speaking out against the genocide. Recent polls show that only 25 percent of people in Germany support Israel’s military operations. The number among international students is certainly even lower. Yet in a climate of extreme censorship, this position is only expressed by Marxists.
WdK’s platform includes active support for the university’s workers, and all public sector workers, who are currently fighting for a new union contract. The Marxist students are opposing the €100 billion special fund that the German government has dedicated to building up the military, demanding that this money be used for health care and education.
FU’s student government, called the AStA, has for decades been made up of autonomist leftists who like to operate behind closed doors — this is why so few students even realize that they can elect a government. WdK is calling for an active AStA that organizes mass student assemblies and mobilizes students to all social struggles. It is also calling for an ASta which operates in a more transparent and democratic way.
All FU students — including international students without a German or EU passport — can vote until Thursday at 17:00. A vote for Waffen der Kritik – Klasse Gegen Klasse (List 8) will send a message against German imperialism at one of its most prestigious universities. The short version of their program is available in English.
|“The weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace criticism of the weapon, material force must be overthrown by material force; but theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses.”