On Monday evening, just before leaving Europe to return to NYC, I stopped by Occupy Berlin one last time to see what had been going on in the week while I was in Poland. When I arrived with a pair of journalist/political scientist friends in tow, we had to look for a while to find the Asamblea in the dark – the lawn in front of the Reichstag is virtually unlit – but were tipped off by a bicycle adorned with a sign reading “The next spring is sure to come.” When we joined the group, I was surprised to hear that the Asamblea was being conducted in French, via a skillful simultaneous interpreter. It soon became clear that the crowd of 35 or so that had gathered for the Assembly included a contingent of young North Africans who were visiting Berlin as guests of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. These visitors, from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria, were telling stories of the revolutions closer to home (some of them were key players in their countries’ protest movements) and offering suggestions to the Berlin occupiers.
Meanwhile, the Occupy movement does appear to be encroaching on the German mainstream. Newspaper coverage is steadily increasing. I even found an article on politics and the economy in the Nov. 8 Berliner Zeitung that ended with its author, Harald Jähner, tipping his hat to the protesters: “The Occupy movement has so far managed to steer clear of the traditional thought patterns of the old Left and is fighting to save capitalism from capital. This would be doing our democracy quite a service indeed.”
From what I can see, the main order of business in Berlin these days is figuring out what the movement wants to be and what it will stand for. It’s clear that economic inequalities will be a central issue, as they are in the U.S.