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Germany

New Members Flock to Join Anti-Globalization Group in Germany

With the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany just round the corner, Attac is booming like never before. But the trend is unlikely to continue on this scale once the meeting is over.

Anti-G8 protesters

"No-Democracy Zone Heiligendamm, Constitution Disbanded" read the signs

Since the beginning of the year, the group has received around 100 new membership applications a month.

In May, this even leapt to 500 -- thanks, in part, to the police raids against G8 opponents in Germany, the restrictions on demonstrations and other controversial measures that have hit the headlines.

Attac has just under 18,000 members in Germany and approximately 90,000 worldwide.

Influx of members

Attac members at meeting in 2002

Attac has grown fast in response to the G8 summit

This wave of recruitment is clearly a result of the mobilization of the group ahead of next week's summit. Since last autumn, the network has organized more than 1,000 discussion meetings in Germany with the aim of mobilizing protesters.

Attac has also organized events designed to give demonstrators practical training for the major rally, which took place on Saturday in Rostock.

In so-called handicraft workshops, members were making banners and dummies. In action sessions, they've been practising peaceful sit-down blockades.

G8 boost

Cardboard cut-outs of the G8 delegates behind the security fence at Heiligendamm

In Attac workshops people can learn to make cardboard cut-outs like these ones


"Since the start of the year we've been almost exclusively concentrating on the G8," said the Attac spokeswoman Frauke Distelrath.

This growth spurt follows a period of crisis. The German magazine Stern reported last year that more and more people were leaving the organization.

But even in 2006, the lowest point for the organization since it was set up in 2000, there was a net gain of 10 members a month. This is a situation that most political parties, unions and churches can only dream of.

Political scientist Claus Leggewie and author of the book "Die Globalisierung und ihre Gegner" (Globalization and its Critics) described Attac's experience as a "normal growth crisis." He said the network was experiencing a very strong influx of members that would inevitably die back.

Growth will slow

Former CDU general secretary Heiner Geissler

Attac includes conservatives like Heiner Geissler as well as left-wingers


"Social movements cannot afford to be in a state of perpetual mobilization," Leggewie said. "It will be left to a few activists to ensure stability and continuity."

But he said the anti-globalization movement had been spared any real downturn because of the regular summit meetings that they can mobilize against.

"Criticism of globalization is a cross-party theme that affects almost all areas of politics -- so the movement should also last longer than movements devoted to single causes that run out of steam at some point," said Ansgar Klein, the editor of the research journal "Neue Soziale Bewegungen" (New Social Movements).

He thinks it is very unlikely that the demands of the globalization critics will be fulfilled in the near future. But the movement has made its mark on the G8 agenda with themes such as climate change and Africa.

Very recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who currently holds the six-month rotating presidency, said the summit was about "giving a human face to globalization". She also expressly welcomed the planned actions and protests.

Mainstream response

German chancellor delivering government declaration about the upcoming G8 summit

Angela Merkel spoke about giving a human aspect to globalization in the lead-up to the summit


"If globalization critique has also been taken up by the German chancellor then we will have to watch how these avowals are turned into practice," said Peter Wahl, a member of Attac's co-ordination council. He said that it would be important in the future to focus on concrete conceptual work.

That could be more difficult than organizing isolated campaigns or mobilizing protest against a summit.

Some 120 -- very diverse -- organizations belong to the network. The spectrum spans church groups, environmental groups and unions. Attac counts both the former CDU general secretary Heiner Geissler and Oskar Lafontaine, of the Left Party, among its members.

When the summit is over, the members will have more time to devote to working on their political program -- another big project such as opposition to the G8 summit is not presently in sight.

The boom, currently being experienced by the organization, is likely to come to an end then, too. Activists like Peter Wahl are taking this in their stride.

"That's just the normal rise and fall of the political cycle," he said.

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