Occupy Movement Hopes for New Lease on Life


"This will be big. The issue is democracy. There are events planned around the world," says Wolf. "We need a truck." Leftist groups plan to cripple Frankfurt's banking district in mid-May, and some of the Occupy activists are assisting in the preparations.

As they sit in the cafeteria at the Frankfurt Opera, in the midst of actors waiting to appear on stage, the activists brainstorm what else they can do to make a big splash. "Maybe some sort of choreography. Can we do that?" asks Buhn.

"What's the name of that Greek dance? Greek would be good," says Wolf.

The activists feel that the Greeks are being put under too much pressure because of their government's austerity plans, and so they decide to dance the sirtaki.

Feeling of Anxiety

Buhn had never attended a demonstration before joining Occupy. But he too felt anxious as a result of the financial crisis. This is the political price for the trillions in bailout programs: Citizens like Buhn lose confidence in their government.

When an Occupy camp was founded in Frankfurt, he packed his tent and went there. He planned to stay for four days. The people he encountered at the camp talked about banks and the government's bailout policy, and they had the same feelings of anxiety as he did. There were no leaders, and there was no fixed structure. Buhn didn't have to fill out a membership application. All he had to do was stay, and he could also leave and come back. He liked this sense of openness. He didn't sleep in the camp every night, and he kept working as an electrician, but eventually he decided to take a semester off at university.

After that, he started organizing panel discussions, and in early March he invited prominent German politician Sahra Wagenknecht, a member of the German parliament and the deputy chair of the Left Party, to Frankfurt. She sat down with Buhn and two other young Occupy activists in the lobby of the opera building and discussed the crisis with them.

Wagenknecht became a political star during the financial crisis, ever since the political and economic system became a topic of discussion on talk shows. As an economist and Marxist, she has ideas, not about overthrowing the system, but about reforms. "We need a Europe-wide wealth tax, a tax on millionaires, and a stringent one at that," she said at the opera building. The Left Party wants to make the rich pay for rescuing the euro, and it also wants to nationalize banks.

The anti-capitalism of the Left Party is now disguised as propaganda for the social market economy. But it reads like a former platform of their political arch-enemy, the center-right Christian Democratic Union, which it passed immediately after the war. In their 1947 Ahlen Program, the CDU in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia called for a society whose purpose "can no longer be the capitalistic pursuit of power and profit; it must lie in the welfare of our people." (The CDU has since moved to the right in its economic policies.)

Searching for the Swarm "I am very pleased that Occupy also exists in Germany," Wagenknecht said, looking at the men as if she would like to move into the camp with them.

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