Organisation for the Construction of the Communist Party of Germany

“Stuttgart 21” – A school of struggle

The “Stuttgart 21” project is an enormous real estate project. They want to close down the current central railroad station, where trains do not pass through but enter and exit in the same direction (a terminal station); it is a landmarked building. The two side wings have already been torn down. Instead, they want to build a subterranean station. (Who are they? The leaders of consortia of banks and companies and their agents and stooges in the political sphere and in so-called mass communication media further described below.)

Their cost estimates are increasing and increasing – though the project is not yet under construction. Large parts of the recreation park in the center of the city were ravaged. The new station will be less efficient than the old one was. The project, however, is useful for the banks giving credits, for the construction companies and for the real estate sharks. That because large areas in the city center will become vacant by closing down the old station and it will then be possible to erect office buildings, expensive luxury flats and jet-set shopping centers there – which are also profitable for banks and construction companies.

The mass protests against “Stuttgart 21” have been going on for about three years. We have often written (in our magazine Arbeit und Zukunft and in many flyers) about the numerous arguments against this project costing billions of euros and the fact that it serves nobody but the interests of construction companies, real estate sharks and banks. Meanwhile, big newspapers and magazines such as Der Stern, Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung report widely on the numerous cases of swindling. All the arguments from the past opposed to this fraudulent project have become more and more confirmed.

The project is hanging in the balance – above all, because of the massive protest actions. Without this pressure it would have gone along in the same manner as the big Berlin airport project: it would have built and built and it was finally realized that nothing functions, billions of euros would have been used for building and billions more would have been forked out so that perhaps something would function somehow, at some time or other.

For more than three years, several thousand people have demonstrated every Monday against this big project. Sometimes there were more than a hundred thousand people and, even after three years, ten thousand and more people come to the big demonstrations. That is huge. In Germany, it has been a long time since such a movement persists constantly in such numbers over several years, coping with defeats, stirring up the population of a whole city and spreading all over Germany by its persistence and heart.

How did this come about?

It is not difficult to make a list of the arguments against this big project:

They want to destroy the well functioning, landmarked Stuttgart central station and replace it by a subterranean station. They gave the project the pleasant name “Stuttgart 21” (Stuttgart of the 21st century). It had been planned to put the Stuttgart terminal station on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites. For instance, there was a steel structure similar to the Eiffel Tower in Paris under the former south wing, known as “the Eiffel Tower in a lying position”. Engineers, architects and other interested people from all the world had come to

Stuttgart and admired that technical monument since the beginning of the 20th century. The Deutsche Bahn AG (German Railroads, Inc.) and the Municipality of Stuttgart rejected putting the station on the UNESCO list as they want to destroy the station.

They have already totally destroyed the south wing with its “lying Eiffel Tower” as well as the north wing of the central station. When building the “Stuttgart 21” subterranean station, large lucrative areas in the middle of the city center would become vacant so that a shopping center, some office buildings and luxury flats can be built there. Construction companies, banks eager for giving credits, and real estate sharks are very pleased about the opportunity for such a billion euro business.

At the same time, they plan to reduce the number of tracks from the current 16 to 8. The propagandists of this speculation project call that an “improvement” and an “increase in capacity”. Calculations made by specialists, however, show that the quantity and quality of train connections will be reduced, especially those of local public transport, which are very important for the working people.

Initially the planners and propagandists said that the “Stuttgart 21” project would cost 2.5 billion euros (2,500,000,000 €), but the figures had intentionally been lowered. Even the Federal Audit Office (responsible for examining the government’s income and expenditure) estimated the cost at about 5 billion euros.

The Deutsche Bahn and the governmental institutions supporting the billion euro businesses denied that. But gradually they had to admit that the costs would become higher. Now, the Deutsche Bahn acknowledges that the costs will be about 6.8 billion euros. And that at a moment when they have not yet started construction, but they have destroyed considerable parts of the old station to push their project through violently against a majority of the residents of Stuttgart, thus make any turning back more difficult.

At present, serious specialists estimate the cost at 10 billion euros or more! By recalculating the project, it came out that the responsible planners had already known for a long time that the cost calculations they showed the public were wrong. The figures had been lowered in order to push through the project as being “favorably priced”.

Due to the constantly growing costs, the financing of the project is no longer ensured and thus the project is no longer profitable for the Deutsche Bahn under capitalist business management calculations.

The Stuttgart subsoil is not very stable, so there are many risks. For instance, the Deutsche Bahn wanted to pump 6.8 billion liters (about 1.8 US gallons) of ground water out – more than twice the amount initially estimated – in the course of the construction period, in order to build an underground concrete trough. When they do this, there will be considerable risks for other buildings in the city center (cracks due to sinking, cracks of other types, collapses) as well as for the environment. The mineral water will be exposed to risks. Already, the Deutsche Bahn is very extensively destroying large areas of the park and felling age-old trees. By doing so, a large part of the park in the city center, which serves for recreation of the residents and for clean air that has been polluted by the massive road traffic, was largely destroyed.

The planning done by the Deutsche Bahn is chaotic. Up to now, they have no building permits for important parts of the project. Up to now, they have not been able to present permits for the ground water management they have been planning for several years. In spite of planning for more than ten years, the Deutsche Bahn still has no concept that could be approved by the fire brigades and the fire protection authority. Up to now the plans for fire protection are so catastrophic that, in the case of a serious fire in the subterranean station or in one of the tunnels, hundreds of people could be burned to death or suffocate. The list of deficiencies and counterarguments could be continued for several pages. The Deutsche Bahn is neither impressed by such factual arguments, nor by the lack of money, nor by the years-long resistance of the Stuttgart population – undoubtedly, they will continue destroying the Stuttgart center.

The resistance and the maneuvers of the rulers

It is amazing and instructive how the resistance against this project developed in Stuttgart. In a period when people are forced onto the defensive against the attacks by capital in many places, a broad front of struggle has come into being, with representatives from all strata of the population – workers, employees, intellectuals, artists, trades people and small business people are represented in it.

The fact that such a front could be created is probably a result of the initial underestimation of the explosive energy of this question by the rulers. They thought that there was only a little group of ecology nuts whom they could easily get rid of by sidelining them. Also many people who are taking part in this struggle may initially not have grasped the importance of their struggle. Many people thought that it would be enough to argue reasonably and then the promoters of the project would finally accept the correct arguments.

In this way, an initially small movement grew through many phases into a mass movement. All phases had a common feature – they were connected with big disappointments and led to the destruction of existing illusions.

The illusions in the ability of the ruling class to understand that their project was wrong were very quickly destroyed. As it was a profitable project for capital, all reasonable arguments were simply swept away. Less expensive and better alternatives, such as the redevelopment of the existing terminal station, which could result in a performance increase, were ignored and thrown out.

Specialists such as the retired stationmaster of the Stuttgart central station, renowned architects, geologists, hydrologists and engineers who developed well-founded counterproposals and pointed out the enormous risks were made fools of. All their plans, concerns and warnings were thrown into the wastepaper basket.

That resulted in a change in the participants’ consciousness. They were losing hope in the common sense of the rulers.

The SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) especially made the argument that such a giant project would create many jobs, but within the trade unions, where the SPD has much influence, a struggle broke out over their attitude. Progressive members of the trade unions pointed out that the alternative proposals would create many more and more permanent jobs, while the billion euros project would only create low-wage jobs, and such jobs would not be permanent. The resistance of the members was stirred up against the wasting of billions of euros of the national wealth on such big projects, while the budgets for schools, kindergartens, hospitals, etc. are being cut back. Initially, the leaders of the DGB (Federation of German Trade Unions) and IG Metall (industrial trade union of the steel and metal workers) made massive propaganda for the speculation project, but they were forced to stop because of the struggle of the rank-and-file. The majority of delegate meetings decided that the trade unions would officially speak out against this project. Since then, the trade unionists have been an important and active part of the movement.

With the increasing spread of the movement the ruling class had to recognize that it was no longer enough to wipe everything aside and ignore it. Propaganda for the project was made with a lot of money and expenditure. They did not shrink from making use of any lie or defamation. A movement in favor of the project, led and financed by reactionary politicians, industrialists etc., was set on its feet. All of Stuttgart was plastered with posters cheering on the project. The media showed pretty models, made propaganda for the project and made the arguments of the resistance movement look small.

But these tactics also destroyed illusions and helped raise consciousness. Many people recognized how the rulers manipulate public opinion with their media. They saw through the lies and the smear campaign. This mobilized more people against the project.

Within a very short time, twice as many signatures were collected as were necessary for a referendum. Although the mayor at that time, Mr. Schuster, had promised such a referendum when he was elected, he rejected it now with a lot of hair-splitting.

Once more, hopes and illusions were destroyed. The people learnt a lot about this system and its alleged democracy. They realized that the power is not in their hands but in the hands of others. And it became more and more evident who the others were: the capitalists who as leaders of the banks, construction companies and real estate speculators have everything in their hands.

Up to that time, thousands of people had demonstrated each week; now the number grew to ten thousand and more.

In the face of that, the ruling class went over to using open violence. They began by destroying the north wing of the station in a brutal and ruthless manner. Within one or two hours, several thousand people came together in the late evening and the night and angrily protested. For several days, the Stuttgart city center was blocked in the evenings as thousands of people sat down in the streets. In order to break the growing resistance, the politicians dependent on capital took precautionary measures to remove people from the large central city park, the Schlossgarten (Castle Garden). There the resistance movement had erected a camp with many tents and occupied the park. That was a symbol of resistance. Thousands of police were brought into action.

On September 30, 2011, the action began. When a demonstration of students against the cutbacks in the field of education and against “Stuttgart 21” marched through the streets and in the direction of the Schlossgarten, a massive police presence began to aggressively attack the students as well as the camp inhabitants. Spontaneously, several thousand more people came together to block the advancing police. The police pushed people back using water cannons and rubber truncheons. Several hundred people were injured; two of them lost their eyesight through the massive use of water cannons.

Instead of breaking the resistance, the result was that people again learned what power means in this country. Their wrath and their determination to resist grew firmer. Spontaneously, on the following evening, almost a hundred thousand people came together to protest against this violent measure.

The ruling class had hoped to break the resistance by using brutal violence but their plans were not working out. Some people called this police action a real-life political lesson about the real power relations in our country. Now, the banks, the construction companies and the real estate sharks and their servile politicians were on the defensive.

Accordingly, they now organized a mediation with the aid of the Buendnis 90 / Die Gruenen (German Green Party), where the promoters and opponents of the project sat around the table. The result was that the arbitrator, Heiner Geissler, a member of the CDU (Christian Democratic Union) recommended building the project with some rather small amendments.

Again, their hopes were dashed. This time, however, it resulted in a weakening of the resistance movement, as many people lost hope.

Then came the elections to the parliament of the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg (of which Stuttgart is the capital) resulting in a fiasco for the CDU government and an electoral victory for the Green Party, which was now able to form a new government together with the SPD. During the election campaign and for a short time afterwards, the illusions about the parliamentary system had grown. As the Green Party presented themselves as opponents of “Stuttgart 21”, much hope was placed on them. But already in the coalition contract with the SPD, they declared that they would respect the valid contracts (made under the CDU government), so they would continue with the project. In addition, they carried out a state-wide referendum on the question of whether the state government should try to withdraw from the current financing agreements. They knew that these agreements did not contain any clause of cancellation. They invested millions of euros in a propaganda campaign. The people were told that withdrawal from the agreements would be tremendously expensive. People were promised that “Stuttgart 21” was the best-planned project and that the costs would in no way exceed 4.5 billion euros. With a pack of lies, a majority voted against withdrawing from the financing agreements.

That maneuver also resulted in a weakening of the resistance movement.

But then, everything happened in rapid succession. The Deutsche Bahn declared that they would not fulfill many of the obligations agreed to, since these were not binding by law.

The reaction was that the resistance movement grew.

In Stuttgart, the chief of police was replaced by an officer who before then had been an instructor of police forces in Afghanistan. This Afghanistan war-maker changed the police tactics. Instead of aggressive and confrontational behavior, the police were lenient towards big actions with many people. Otherwise, they employed tactics of wearing people down. Often they let people demonstrate for several hours, but then struck hard when the demonstration ended, people drifted away and only a few people were present. Hundreds of people were dragged into court and sentenced to harsh punishments for resistance against public servants or for civil disorder.

These tactics led to outrage and again to an increase in the resistance movement on a fairly long-term basis. Many people gave up hope in the Green Party and now relied on their own strength.

The Deutsche Bahn had to admit that they had no permit plans for ground water management. An expert’s report that had been kept secret became well-known, stating that the protection against fire was catastrophic. An internal paper of the Deutsche Bahn about numerous deficiencies and risks was published in newspapers. Meanwhile, it was clear that the Deutsche Bahn and many politicians have long known that the supposed upper limit of the cost of 4.5 billion euros was incorrect. Calculations which brought that fact into evidence had been kept secret. At present, the Deutsche Bahn starts off from 6.7 billion euros. Serious specialists, however, have already for a long time calculated on 10 billion euros and more.

With each of these revelations, the resistance movement increased again. The project is hanging in the balance. Federal Chancellor Merkel, however, wants to push the project through, whatever the cost and no matter what people think. At an event in Berlin by the Confederation of the German Industrialists in 2010, she gave away the reason why. If she gave in to the massive protests of the population here, “tomorrow my Greek colleague will come and say, since there are so many protests in our country, I can no longer meet the stability commitments.”

So, she also wants to push through her aggressive cutback policy in all fields against the German people, with the aid of violence, to direct the money to the rich and to present that also as an example for her aggressive dominance in all of Europe. Therefore, a current slogan among the demonstrators is: “Merkel get out!”

A living resistance

The creative potential of the people in resistance is enormous. The Deutsche Bahn had just presented a new expert’s report when specialists disproved it within a very short time. The movement consists of many small groups who work in the districts of the city, but also of groups of specialists such as engineers, jurists and psychologists. Also, there are groups like “Trade Unionists against Stuttgart 21”. So, the resistance is spread throughout the population. On a short-term basis, defeats have resulted in a weakening of the movement, but at the same time, the learning process made the people firmer. Their consciousness developed. People do not only think about the Deutsche Bahn project but also about the situation in the whole country. They discuss the numerous cutbacks in funds for education, hospitals, medical care, pensions etc., and make connections.

In the beginning, when we communists said that capital rules, we were ridiculed by most people. Now we are vehemently applauded when we say that we live under a dictatorship of capital. From the beginning, we have been active in this movement. To the best of our abilities, we took part in all actions in order to make use of our experience in the struggle and so contribute to advancing the movement. It was important that we did not stay outside, but furthered the process from within.

During the Monday demonstration on February 25, 2013, the well-known progressive theater director Volker Loesch said: “We have no money and we have no political networks but in spite of that we are powerful, as we are very many people. Our power is the power of the street, the power of the many – the power of the masses. For three years, we have demonstrated powerfully, and in the end our massive protest will let us be victorious. Let us show them – and let us become stronger. As many as we are, they will in no way get past us. We will settle the question of power in our favor, and that in the streets. We will stay on top!”

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