You have to say it to yourself again very clearly to really understand what happened yesterday in Berlin: A majority of 56.4 percent voted in the referendum to “expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co.”. Or to put it another way: over a million Berliners have asked the Berlin Senate to work out a law that socialises the around 240,000 apartments of large real estate groups such as Vonovia, Akelius or Deutsche Wohnen in return for compensation that is far below market value, like it Article 15 of the Basic Law provides.
It is the third act of this success story, which began with around 70,000 signatures collected for the initiation of a referendum, although 20,000 would have been enough. In retrospect, one could have foreseen even then that this referendum would be special. The daily burden of many tenants is too great: inside the city, the anger at a system that promises dividends for some, while others have to pay well over 30 percent of their income for the rent, is too great. The outstanding position that the topic of living in Berlin occupies was also shown in the second phase of collecting signatures. The campaign submitted 350,000 signatures, at least 180,000 of which were valid.
But even after this remarkable success, some probably did not believe that the referendum would actually be successful. Some may have thought that the voters would lose courage inside the ballot box, as was the case with Kevin Kühnert, for example. As the Juso chairman, he had long flirted with ideas of socialization in general, only to announce shortly before the voting date that he wanted to vote “no”. Perhaps the Berlin SPD had hoped to take the wind out of the sails of the expropriation campaign by buying almost 15,000 apartments from Vonovia and Deutsche Wohnen. Neither was the case.
Instead, there is now a result that takes the debate to a whole new level. The professionally organized campaign, with its many supporters, who were on the way to the end to advertise socialization, managed to bring a radical demand to the center of society. Because the majority in the referendum makes it finally impossible to present the plans as a left niche project that would not be supported by the majority of the people. The opposite is the case – now officially signed and sealed.
This majority is not only fed by districts such as Neukölln or Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, where “the urban milieu” is at home. I.n all districts except Steglitz-Zehlendorf and Reinickendorf haben the majority of the people voted for socialization. This is a societal project.
Now against Giffey
Now the new Senate has to act accordingly. Election winner Franziska Giffey rejects the referendum. In fact, it is not tied to it. However, that would mean consciously acting against the will of the Berliners. After all, they weren’t seduced by any empty promises. In the past few years there has been an intense dispute with various reports about the referendum, the real estate industry has not missed a chance to warn of the real existing socialism and collapsing old buildings. And yet it was enough for a majority. This is what a democratic process looks like. Refusing to do this is the exact opposite.
It will continue for the time being with the reports, the legal questions and finally, presumably, lawsuits. It will take months, maybe years. It is unlikely that Berliners will run out of breath inside. The basic need, it remains after all. Added to this, however, is a story from citizens who do not come to terms with it. This can have a signal effect. On the one hand, to other cities around the world that have similar problems. On the other hand, also for the social left in Germany. “Expropriate Deutsche Wohnen & Co.!” Has shown how closely various forms of discrimination are connected – and that the most powerful answer can be found if you team up. In the end, that approach was responsible for the only left slide we saw yesterday.