Archive | May, 2014

Screw you, Senat! (And good for you, PARTEI!)

26 May


A typical Sunday evening at Tempelhofer Feld. The sun is setting over the gardens. The guy from the Parkaufsicht comes by to tell us the park will be closing in 30 minutes. We’re still considering whether we’re going to make a scene and demand the park remain open at night (as we usually do), or just pack our stuff and leave peacefully.

Right at 9pm, all across the field people start cheering. Soon, fireworks are screaming into the sky and hundreds of people gather on the runway for an improvised rave.

We won: 738,124 Berliners voted to save the Tempelhofer Feld – well above the 25 percent quorum of eligible voters necessary for the referendum to pass into law. And not only people living near the park voted in favor: Even in far-away Spandau or Marzahn there were two JAs for every NEIN.

This is a massive defeat for the Senat and the corporate media supporting them. Above all, it’s a defeat for the city’s Baumafia (construction mafia) who stood to make billions with luxury condos and office buildings at the old airport. The government spent months spreading lies, claiming they were planning to build social housing on the field.

Berliners might be desperate for cheap housing – but they weren’t ready to believe a government that privatized 200,000 social apartments in the last decade. Why would they now want to build public housing on the most exclusive real estate in the city? As the community activists from Kottbusser Tor said: “Of course we want new housing. But we’re not stupid.”

Around 460,000 Berliners were excluded from the election because they don’t have German citizenship – 160,000 of them live in districts adjoining the park: Tempelhof, Kreuzberg and Neukölln. So the campaign “Wahlrecht für alle!” invited them to a symbolic election on Saturday – 1000 non-Germans came to the Tempelhofer Feld to cast their votes for the European parliament and the referendum. (The results will be published on the internet this week.) Sebastian Mehling from the campaign said the goal was to create “residency-based election rights”, rather than passport-based, so anyone living in the city can participate in democracy.

On Sunday, I went to the local polling station to make my voice heard as well. “I know this isn’t your decision, but I want to file a complaint that I and hundreds of thousands of other Berliners aren’t allowed to vote, even though we live here and pay taxes.” The women working there were very nice but told me they couldn’t help. “Talk to your member of parliament,” they said. “But that’s the problem, I don’t have a member of parliament!”

The European elections, in contrast, were not nearly as exciting. There were some big surprises in other parts of Europe – with an extreme right party winning in France, while a radical left party was in first place in Greece – but Germany only experienced a tremor: Die PARTEI won 0.6 percent of the votes, just enough for one seat in Strasbourg.

Martin Sonneborn, leader of the satirical party, had held a speech in the Olympiastadium which he had copied from Hitler, only replacing “Germany” with “Europe”: “Europe stands before us, Europe is marching in us, and something or other is following behind.” Die PARTEI saved money by covering up other parties’ materials. On CDU posters, the PARTEI wrote: “Merkel is dumb.” While the Pirates said: “Borders are so 1980s”, the PARTEI countered: “Pirates are so 2011.” And Sonneborn was the only party leader to be seen on the street with a bucket of paste hanging up posters himself.

Now Sonneborn will go to Strasbourg, but he plans to resign after just one month. His replacement will quit after one month too. In this way, in the next five years 60 different PARTEI MPs will pass through that one seat. Each one will get €33,000 for their one month of work, plus six months of “transitional pay”. My local PARTEI representative told me he will be up in just over three years. And as Sonneborn said: “We’re not the craziest ones in the European Parliament.”


Photo: John Riceburg


The eight stupidest election posters

23 May

by John Riceburg and Konrad Werner

Two more days until the European elections. Let’s be honest, though: no one really cares about the results. But another, more exciting contest has already been decided: the stupidest election posters! The parties put their least competent politicians on the European lists – and they also seem to use the slogans that got rejected for more important elections. John Riceburg and Konrad Werner survey the worst of the worst in our slideshow above.


SPD: Wohnraum statt Stillstand (Housing instead of stagnation)

Let’s do a little thought experiment here. I’m going to give you three terms and you tell me what pops into your head: airport, stagnation, SPD. What did you think of? Inevitably the BER airport – which according to latest projections should open in 2123 just in time for the Starship Enterprise to land there. But no, the SPD isn’t referring to the one empty hole of an airport they’ve given us. They want to turn another airport – which is currently Berlin’s favourite park – into a construction site for luxury apartments. We’ve written about the lies being spread by the Senat regarding Tempelhof, but this poster seems almost honest by comparison. They’ve made claims about “affordable housing”, but that means 18 percent rather expensive housing and 82 percent extremely expensive housing. Now, they’re talking about just “housing” – and they do actually intend to build 5000 apartments, even though you and your friends would never be able to afford them.


Pirates: Zwischen Mut und Angst liegt nur ein Herzschlag (There’s only a heartbeat between courage and fear!)

Man, I was just about to set up my Agency for Vapid Election Slogans. The idea was simple: a party gives me €50,000 or so, and I’ll provide them with a string of those meaningless buzzwords that German voters seem to love. I’ll even throw in a stock photo of a guy in a suit with a friendly but determined look. The trick is to cram everything into one slogan. For example: “It takes courage to be close to people and display leadership in order to strengthen democracy!” (That’s copyrighted, by the way!) But now the Pirates, Germany’s own online activist party, seem to have cornered the Vapid Election Slogan market. A European Union flag in a heart shape? Courage? Fear? Less than three years ago, the Pirates came up with the legendary poster: “Why am I even hanging here? You won’t vote anyway.” If any more proof was needed that they had run out of steam, this is it.


AfD: Die Schweiz ist für Volksentscheide. Wir auch! (Switzerland is for referendums. We are too!)

How often do they have to tell us? The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is not a racist, extreme right party! AfD leader Bernd “I’m not a Nazi” Lücke assures us his party is just conservative and “Euro-skeptisch”. This poster tells us they are for referendums. Would that be a reference to the recent referendum in Switzerland in favor of deporting “criminal foreigners”? Who knows? But the Nazi party NPD has a similar poster lauding “The example of Switzerland: Stop mass immigration! Referendum now!” That’s not the only coincidence: An AfD poster says: “We aren’t the world’s unemployment office!” The NPD, in contrast, says: “We aren’t the unemployment office of the world!” Totally different! See if you can spot the differences between these AfD and NPD posters. Or try this quiz.


Greens: I have a dream. I’m a refugee. I’m Europe.

We’ve reported how the Greens in Kreuzberg sent the police to evict the refugee protest camp – again and again. But for people who don’t follow the news, the Greens are presenting themselves as a pro-refugee party. As part of a series of English-language posters, this young woman presents herself as a “refugee” – a refugee with tussled hair, perfect makeup and stylish piercings. Now I think I understand the problem: The refugees at O-Platz who the Greens had violently evicted were mostly men from Africa. But the Greens totally support refugees if they are young, white models. Come to think of it, we might even convince the CDU and the AfD to support the right to asylum if we just make sure the refugees are gorgeous enough. We asked the Greens several times if the woman on the poster is, in fact, a refugee. We’re still waiting for a response.


DKP: Hände weg von der Ukraine! (“Hands off the Ukraine!”)

It’s the Great Game all over again: all the major powers are currently intervening in the Ukraine in their own interest. The most annoying part is that everyone, from Obama to Putin to Steinmeier, claims to be acting in the interest of democracy, human rights and the constitution. So it’s nice the German Communist Party has a simple slogan: “Hands off the Ukraine!” But wait. Why are there only US and EU hands? Doesn’t Russia have any “hand” in the conflict? Now the DKP is a fairly old party, but surely the comrades have noticed that the Soviet Union dissolved a while ago, right? Or do they still think Comrade General Secretary Putin is fighting for peace and democracy like back in the good old days? And why have the Eastern provinces of the Ukraine already been cut off the map, apparently reabsorbed into Soviet Russia? Even weirder: Why is the Crimean Peninsula still part of the Ukraine?


(The three by Konrad Werner are available at the Exberliner website.)

Fotos: John Riceburg

Everyone is lying about Tempelhofer Feld

12 May


On May 25, Berliners can vote on whether the Tempelhofer Feld should be turned into a sand-box for realty speculators or maintained as an eccentric park. As with any political debate with billions of euros in profits at stake, the air is thick with misrepresentations. So, what are the biggest lies? Who’s doing the lying? And how should you vote if you want the field to stay the way it is?

1. The ballot paper is lying to you.

Say you want to save Tempelhofer Feld. Then you check “Ja” for the “Gesetz zum Erhalt des Tempelhofer Feldes” (law to conserve the field) on the ballot. That’s easy.

But there’s a second question right below: Do you support the “Gesetz zum Erhalt der Freifläche des Tempelhofer Feldes” (law to conserve the open area of the field)?

Sounds good too, right? But this other law from the Senat would allow for a “Randentwicklung” – that literally means a “development of the fringe”, but actually means that over 100 hectares will be turned over to realty speculators to build luxury condos, expensive shops and other buildings for the city’s extremely wealthy. The law’s misleading name doesn’t mean they have something to hide, right?

2. The Senat is lying to you.

The PR company advocating construction, Tempelhof Projekt GmbH and owned by the city, says they are planning to build “affordable housing”. But look at the numbers: They want to build 4700 apartments. There is an agreement – legally non-binding – between the city and realty companies that 850 apartments should have rents between €6-8 per square metre.

Obviously, €8 per square meter is not affordable. If a person living in such an apartment loses their job and has to go on Hartz IV, the Jobcenter will force them to move out. I asked if that was affordable at PR company’s information pavilion. “Well, the apartments won’t be for unemployed people,” I was informed.

So 850 apartments will be expensive but somehow “affordable”. By definition, that leaves 3850 apartments – a full 82 percent – that will be “unaffordable”. It’s true that the plans aren’t finalized yet. We could be optimistic and hope the rest will be cheap. But this government hasn’t built a single social apartment for 10 years – are they going to start right when park-side real estate opens up?

3. Seymour Gris is lying to you.

Now Seymour Gris is an optimistic guy. But he can’t really be naive enough to think that building “will have a positive effect on rental prices,” as he wrote back in January on this site. The luxury condos will be sold to Russian oligarchs and Qatari sheiks who need a place to park some capital. Maybe they’ll even drop by once a year for a crazy party. But that won’t free up any Berlin apartments.

In fact it will raise the rent index in neighbouring districts, thus allowing rent increases for old apartments too. If Seymour is so excited about throwing money at Berlin’s construction mafia, why doesn’t he just put some cash in an envelope and stuff it in their mailbox?

And before anything could be built on the field, the taxpayer will have to shell out at least €180 million to build streets and sewers, according to a secret internal report.

4. This whole referendum idea is lying to you

The information pavilion refers to Bürgerbeteiligung (“citizens’ participation”). Its windows were smashed on April 12. Angry Berliners spray-painted: “This is our form of citizens’ participation!” Because the government has held some public discussion forums, but always carefully stage-managed to prevent citizens from saying anything.

Last year we asked people at the field to sign a petition in favor of construction. We collected exactly 0 signatures. Now satirical activists have called for filling the Weißensee and building apartments there – the idea is equally popular.

This might be more democracy than usual, but expats still can’t vote. Even EU citizens who will be voting in the European elections on May 25 won’t be allowed to vote on the park.

Don’t put up with everyone lying to you. Vote “JA” on the ThF-Gesetz and “NEIN” to the senate’s proposal. And if you can’t vote, then convince someone who can.