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“Isn’t the Right to Work a Civil Right?”

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Lutz Brockmann is the first mayor who the union speaker can remember who managed to appear on each and every May Day rally in Verden to date. “Only you have managed that, Lutz.”

Good to know that our mayor got something done in his six first years in office.

Verden's mayor Lutz Brockmann greets the masses

Verden's mayor Lutz Brockmann greets the masses

Apart from Mr Brockmann himself who is a member of the social democrats (SPD), neither the SPD nor the “Left Party” had information booths at the rally. The (market)-liberal democrats (FDP) were obviously missing, too, and so were the conservative christian democrats (CDU). The Industrial Union of Metalworkers (IG Metall) had a booth there, and so had the Green Party.

At least one employer was there, too, but stayed on the sidelines. The union speaker didn’t invite him for a beer.

The rally was organized by the German Federation of Unions, the DGB. And it was a smart decision to let a green politician talk. Brigitte Pothmer is a member of the German federal parliament (Bundestag), and she was the one who could actually deliver something that deserves to be called a speech. She even had the nerves to tell her audience that Greece needed financial help, and that it would get financial help: “The longer it take, the more costly it will be.”

That said, just like everyone else, she kept talking about the rights of young people to be trained in the companies after finishing schools, about the right to earn good money for ones good work, the right to this, the right to that. No word about the need to do a good piece of work before getting paid, and no word about the duties to learn reading, writing, and to acquire a basic numeracy before being unleashed on innocent industrial units.

“Isn’t the right to work a civil right? Aren’t decent wages a civil right?”

Obvious answer: to prepare oneself for a good working life is a civil duty. To get the means to make it happen is a civil right. To dumb oneself down is not.

There was a lot of talk about the youngsters and their rights. Their right to oversleep wasn’t mentioned, but it was manifest yesterday morning. You saw many greyheads there on the rally, and I remember no0ne who might have been younger than thirty.

And that, even though they only started at eleven a.m., rather than at 10 a.m. as tradition would demand.

It would have been an even smaller congregation of early Christians if they hadn’t been joined by unionists from the neighbouring town of Achim, who organized a bicycle tour to Verden. Achim itself hasn’t seen a May Day rally this year.

Anyway, Mrs Pothmer made an entertaining talk. And the trade unionist, as usual, managed to produce at least one phrase which made no sense at all. Something like “more work for more money”.

Weather was nice, same as last year. It only started raining in the afternoon. And the Bratwurst was even better than last year.

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Müntefering is Here!

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VerDi choir

trade union choir

The local trade union womens’ choir beeps And Because a Human is a Human (“Und weil der Mensch ein Mensch ist”). The compère told us that the girls first came together during the “Great Strike in 2007”. I remember no sizable strike here, but who cares. The marquee is packed with happy locals from Verden. The party turns 140. The Social Democratic Party’s local branch, that is – Verden’s governing party. Some of my old and gone relatives are included on the black-and-white photos displayed here, too. But I know nobody of the people here – the oldest folks attending are those who made the 1968 revolutions. Now, they are all very sedate, and despise the Left Party. But that’s tradition, too. My old relatives, in their times, probably hated the USPD, too.

What am I doing here? Ah, yes, I’m here to take some photos of Franz Müntefering, Germany’s supreme social democrat – then, and now again.

He isn’t exactly in time, although I’m pretty sure he had arrived at Hotel Höltje long before 6 p.m. – that’s when he was supposed to deliver a speech here. The cars in front of the hotel suggested that he was staying there, anyway. But to raise expectations and make them explode according to script, you need to raise the temperature.  Mr Müntefering will be twenty minutes late.

Then he befalls. Very swiftly. Little time for photographs…

He's coming...

He's coming...

He's here

He's here

No offence meant, Mr Müntefering, and Mr Bluesbrother, but this is like if I go and visit my dear old Grandparents and take an attack dog with me for security reasons… Even the press photographer is scared!

Here, too!

Here, too!

Anyway, that was it. Münte started speaking shortly after I left. I overheard the initial applause. The otherwise dinky crowd was now randy, in accordance with the script.

How does Granny say?

“Politics is a dirty business, boy.”

Yeah, somehow.

May Day in Verden

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The Left: a rally CAN be fun!

The Left: a rally CAN be fun!

I started the washing machine, left the house and was in town at eleven. It was the great May Day rally, and we’ve written history today. Nono, just kidding.

permanent contracts?

permanent contracts?

A moderator named Teubert of the German trade union federation (DGB) made the keynote speech, very calmly and unemotional, and announced some appointments, such as a rally on May 16 in Berlin, within the framework of the European Trade Unions’ scheduled demonstrations on that same day.

The mayor (Lutz Brockmann, SPD, social democrats) spoke a greeting, and then they put a teacher (Dieter Knutz) to the microphone, of the educationalist union GEW. The only lad who could speak, actually.

It was a small rally, with maybe one hundred people attending. As it was a public venue right on the town hall square, some may also have been bystanders. Funny. Here is the biggest economic crisis in a century, and the unions don’t manage to attract a crowd. 

Meet the Crowd

Meet the Crowd

They wouldn’t have attracted me either, except for making photos and having a Bratwurst. The educationalist union’s speaker did what his union always does: telling parents how disadvantaged their kids are in our educational system, when they come from the wrong place and family background. Fine. But why should I join – or rather: re-join – a union which only worries about our customers, but not about the employees it was meant to represent?

Education unionist Knutz: for everyone and for noone

Education unionist Knutz: for everyone and for noone

Maybe that’s the main weakness of the unions. They don’t represent their members. They work like political parties. Which means that they miss the real issues. You can neither expect a fierce debate, nor enthusiastic support when you have nothing to say.

And after all these nothings have been said, Verden’s wildest DJ spins us some public favourites – ABBA: I have a Dream.

Me too.