The Incidents Occurred in the DGB Building of September 2013 Clearly Show How the DGB Leadership Treats the Struggle of the Refugees

Leaflet No. 33, October 2013
„From the very first day, DGB tried to evict us from building“ (Statement of the „Non-Citizens“ in Munich, 8.9.2013)

The way the DBG bureaucrats treated the refugees who seeked shelter in the Munich DGB building during the first two weeks in September 2013 must not be forgotten or hushed up.

Why did the refugees seek shelter in the Munich DGB building?

In Germany refugees are treated as second-class human beings. Since spring 2012 the refugees have been fighting for their elementary rights with increasing intensity by means of protest camps in many cities. They organized protest marches to Berlin which lasted several weeks to demand

– Unconditional recognition of the right of asylum

– Stop of deportations

– Freedom to move (ablition of „Residenzpflicht“)

– Close down of all refugee camps

In June 2013 a hunger and thirst strike by about 50 refugees at the Rindermarkt in Munich was smashed by brutal police terror. However, the refugees were neither intimidated nor prevented from continuing their fight. On the August 20 they again started a two-week protest march through Bavaria. During this march the refugees were permanently attacked and harassed by police forces. Several people were arrested. On September 3 they arrived at Munich. About 1.000 antifascists, antiracists and trade-unionists welcomed the refugees with a demonstration. But it was obvious that the police was lurking for an opportunity to arrest some of the refugees afterwards.

In the face of the police repression, which did no longer tolerate any form of protest, the asylum seekers tried to get shelter in the DGB building and expected that the DGB would show solidarity and support them. The „Non- Citizens“, how they call themselves, declared:

„Now that we are in Munich, there is no physical strength left to resist; there is no not yet beaten part on our bodies to get wounded. Therefore we announce: we as the last row of this society, with believing that our struggle is a class struggle, started our strike in the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) building. Based on our common understanding of class struggle, we expect the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) to insure our security in order to continue our peaceful protest. Otherwise, out of these doors, the brutal police oppression is waiting for us.“ (Press Release of the „Non-Citizens“, 9-3- 2013)

Very soon the refugees realized: There was no „welcome“, no solidarity or any support provided by the DGB leadership and their bureaucratic followers.

The DGB leadership does not support the demands of the refugees

Instead of supporting the demands of the refugees, providing them with logistics and equipment and first of all showing solidarity with their political fight, the DGB leadership carried out nothing else than appeasement policy, what their declaration of the September 4 illustrates:

Instead of abolishing the internment camps, the DGB leadership wants to arrange them „fitter for human habitation“.

Instead of immediately abolishing of the statutory prohibition to take on a job the DGB leadership merely wants Jess strictness meaning to stick to this ban.

The „unconditional recognition of our applications for asylum“ and the demand for „stop of all deportations“ are not even mentioned by the DGB top brass.

With their second declaration, released on the 5th September, the „Non- citizens“ asked questions unmasking the DGB leadership:

„What is your real statement to inequality, injustice and inhuman treatment? What is your position towards us being at the rim of society, without any rights at the bottom of the society? What is your position to inequality between non-citizens and citizens? … We openly ask the trade union of the workers, whether it defends the demands of the movement belonging to the lowest stratum of the working class or not?

Again we ask more precisely: Do they accept the way to prevent deportations?“ (Press Release of the „Non-Citizens”, 9-5-2013 – translation)

Manoeuvres of the DGB Leadership in order to push the refugees out of the DGB building as soon as possible

The first reaction of the Bavarian DGB leadership was: The refugees have to leave the DGB building „latest at 10 p.m.“ after a press conference. Their stay in the trade union building could allegedly be „only a short-term temporary solution“, because it is „a pure office building“ and „not suitable for overnight stays“. (Press release of DGB Bavaria, 9-4-2013 – translation)

The DGB leadership not even thought of showing solidarity and carrying out a struggle together with trade union activists and antifascists, side by side with the refugees and did not support them.

In agreement with the police the chairman of DGB Bavaria Matthias Jena offered „free escort“, temporary accomodation in a hotel or camp and „the supply of busses for the retransportation“ of the refugees to their home camps. (Press release of DGB Bavaria, 9-6-2013 – translation) This would have been the deathblow for the fight of the refugees. Protection from police violence at the place of arrival was typically not guaranteed …

The refugees also disclosed the attempt of the DGB bureaucrats to lure them out of the building with an offer for speech during the „Umfairteilen“ demonstration in Munich on the September 7. Under the condition, that „we would leave the building on Friday evening”, „the DGB started with a new offer to provide us five minutes for speech on the ‘Umfairteilen’ demonstration and to organize a meeting with a politician“ (Press release of the „Non- Citizens“, 9-8-2013). The refugees rejected this disgraceful attempt of the DGB leadership to get them out of the building. Nevertheless they gave their speech during the demonstration and declared:

„The attempt to stop us from speaking is reproducing the structure which kept suppressed people silent over the whole human history.“ (ibid)

DGB Bavaria: „The refugees have to stick to the rules we drew up.“

The DGB responsibles of Munich clearly demonstrated a lesson of what trade union bureaucratism means. The refugees should have „to stick to the rules we drew up in order to ensure a fairly normal operation in the trade union building“ (Press release of the DGB, 9-10-2013 translation). The most important thing was make sure that the bureaucrats can work smoothly and maintain the German order. The refugees had to stay in the basement, usually a party room, which was separated from the office space by quickly installed iron walls. With full justification the refugees had denied all „offers“. As a kind of punishment they were locked up in the DGB building over the weekend from the 7th to the 8th of September. When they wanted to leave the building or get into it, they had to climb over the gate.

The Bavarian DGB chairman Jena called the ongoing stay of the refugees an „unlawful squatting“ and expressed his thanks to the Munich police for the „good and trust full cooperation“ (quoted in:, 9-15- 2013 – translation).

The custodions of the law from the Gewerkschaft der Polizei (GdP) [the so- called trade union of the police] assidiously offered to support the DGB and waved the bat, what is typically for German fulfilment of duty: „The behaviour of the refugees occupying the DGB building as well as their swearing at the Bavarian police“ should be considered as „illegal“. The police had „the duty to take action against them“. The GdP demanded the „immediate termination of squatting action“, if the refugees denied the offers of the DGB. (Press release of the GdP, 9-5-2013 – translation)

Hate campaign and the attempts to create divisions launched by the DGB leadership: „Political activists try to harness the asylum seekers“

Recognizing that the threat of a police operation did not succeed in intimidating the refugees the hate campaign become more aggressive.

Finally, the DGB leadership blamed the representatives of the refugees being determined „to escalate the situation rather than finding a solution“. The DGB leadership stated, that these „political activists try to harness the asylum seekers for political purposes and missuse them“. They hypocritically pretended to protect the asylum seekers from this kind of „exploitation“ (Press release of DGB Bavaria, 9-9-2013 – translation). However, this attempt to drive a wedge between the fighting refugees was bound to fail. Obviously the DGB leadership cannot imagine that people being suppressed and without rights, become politically active. The DGB leadership consider these activities as presumptuous. The „Non-Citizens“ also rejected the malicious agitation beeing only puppets on a string. To trust in their own strength – that is, what the „Non-Citizens“ actively did.

„This perception that others from outside make decisions for us and others are thinking instead of us is not just disrespectful towards our mind and our awareness, but again the euro-centristic perspective which regards us only as objects.“ (Official statement concerning the duality of Non-Citizens and Citizens, 9-12-2013)

This is exactly right. The euro-centristically and German-chauvinistically DGB bureaucrats cannot imagine that asylum seekers are able to think themselves, decide and act by themselves. The DGB leadership regards the refugees not as subjects, but only as objects, as victims, and petitioners.

They think that the refugees have to be thankful for each condescending and „gracious“ offer made by the DGB leadership.

Solidarity based on the members versus the attempts to save the image of the DGB leadership

The hostile behaviour of the Bavarian DGB leadership towards the refugees caused disapproval and protest inside and outside the DGB trade unions. The „Münchner Gewerkschaftslinke“ declared in an open letter on September 5: „The trade unions should not make themselves to stooges for the hard Bavarian asylum policy.“ In direct opposition to the appeasement policy and the hate campaign of the DGB leadership, local antirascist and antifascist groups as well as groups of trade-unionists from ver.di and the GEW, parts of the organization of young trade-unionists and of the Deutsche Journalistenunion and others carried out some actions to support the refugees and showed solidarity.

This solidarity was shown by taking part in the welcome demonstration in Munich or by fighting together against nazi groups like „Freies Netz Süd“ or „Pro Deutschland“. These nazis gathered in front of the DGB building presenting their slogan „Solidarity with the DGB – bogus asylum seekers out!“. Enraged counter demonstraters shouted them down. Solidarity was also shown by trade union members and antifascists, who had helped to push through the right for a speech at the DGB demonstration „UmFAIRteilen“ in opposition to the DGB leadership. For more than five days some antifascists and antiracists together with union members organized a series of events with topics like „20 years Hoyerswerda, Lichtenhagen“, „Refugees in Bavaria – excluded, deprived of their rights and isolated“ and „Something can be legitimate, even if it is illegal“.

The experience of the refugees during their almost two weeks stay in the DGB building demonstrates: Only by an active, courageous and persistent fight with demonstrations lasting for weeks and based on their own public relation work, the refugees succeeded in getting attention and in receiving varied solidarity from antifascists and common union members despite the concerted action of the police and the DGB leadership.

In this situation the DGB leaders could not permit themselves to have the Munich trade union building cleared by the police without suffering a loss of face. This does not mean that the DGB leadership has really changed the viewpoint. The only aim was to limit the damage.

The refugees asked the right questions. Their fight has demonstrated what is essential and who takes which position. It has demonstrated, which position is taken by the DGB leadership, by the DGB apparatus, and by the union members.

We know that the DGB leadership together with the DGB apparatus supports the German policy of war, whereas grassroot unionists do organize some protest actions. The events in Munich also demonstrated this with regard to the policy on the issue of refugees. German- chauvinistic positions of the DGB leadership and its followers defending the German „normality“, stand in opposition to forces within the basis of the union showing solidarity. To a large extent the interests of the DGB leadership proofed to be identical with the policy of suppression carried out by the state. It is important to speak out and demonstrate this consequently in order to avoid being deceived by appeasement forces and false friends.

Union members, antifascists, antiracists, refugees, „illegal“ workers from other countries, all who are affected by state-executed deportation terror, by German-chauvinistic and racist discrimination and deprivation of rights or by the every day nazi terror – it is important to fight together!


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