the weather is chilling and empty the streets of this city-bedroom on the outskirts of Berlin. This is the north of Marzahn, an area stigmatized and the electoral district in which the ultra-right German triumphs as in no other point of the capital. Here, little more than half an hour from Berlin by public transport, one out of every four voters choose the ballot of the Alternative for Germany (AfD). And here, in this sea of prefabricated blocks of the former east Germany (GDR), thins the thesis that the support of the ultra-right comes from the countryside and it becomes apparent that the disaffection peripheral is also urban and, above all, mental.
The north of Marzahn arose in the eighties, when police officers, teachers and military well bonded with the socialist regime, among others were included in the so-called Plattenbauten prefabricated. Here lived and are still living vietnamese workers, grounded in GDR times, added to which are Russian citizens after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Throughout the district, is home to about 240,000 people, and here in the northern area, some 23,000 buildings-puzzles, constructed with the plates assembled, which gives an aspect of hive well-ordered to the great mass of cement.
“do you See this? Everything is broken, nothing has changed from the GDR”, complains Gunnar Lindemann, member of parliament for AfD for Marzahn in the regional Parliament of Berlin with a marked speech antinmigración. “This” is a cement slab cracked that form the sidewalk. Lindemann justifies the vote in protest of his party for the state of the neighborhood, but what is certain is that the discourse doomsday of Lindemann does not fit with the reality of a district landscape by the that every ten minutes you pass a light rail or a streetcar that connects with the centre of Berlin, in which many homes have been rehabilitated.
But it is equally true that, despite the improvements, the streets of Marzahn exude hopelessness. Seen in the tired faces of the neighbors that are coming and going on the tram with the monkey work, in the elderly with a walker and the plastic bag hanging on the side, or on the young fattened to do errands with no hurry and in tracksuit mid-morning.
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In the north of Marzahn, the AfD won 30.6% in the regional three years ago, ahead of Die Linke, the left party-communist, who won 25.5%. Throughout the district, AfD managed to the second position, also in general and in the european last year. In the general of 2017, the ultra-right won 12.6% of the votes in the country; more concentrated in the east. Here, as in the rest of the country, AfD fishing mostly in the fishing grounds of the abstainers. Of people who are suspicious of politicians, and who has decided to give an opportunity to those who promise to do something different. The strategy is also the same as in other areas. When the cold weather subsides, Lindemann, travels with a mobile office the neighborhood two times a week. The people are about and share their problems; they feel listened to.
With a speech antinmigración in an area with few newcomers from abroad, and almost without conflict, the AfD took the lead in this area of the district of voters to Die Linke. Together, they make up over 50% of the support election. Bjoern Tielebein, head of the parliamentary group of Die Linke in Marzahn-Hellersdorf to blame in large part of the success of the ultra-right to what he considers the abandonment of the traditional parties in areas such as this, you are lost. “They are places abandoned by the traditional parties. Die Linke and the AfD are the only ones that we came out here to the street. The social democrats and the conservatives are in the bourgeois area because this is too complicated, and people feel abandoned”.
Speaking Tielebein of the social problems of the area, but concedes that there are other places in Germany needs more acute and yet do not vote to AfD. “But one thing is the material condition of the sites on the outside and another that you feel the people inside,” warns the representative of Die Linke.
Steffen Mau, professor of Macrosociología of the Humboldt University of Berlin and former neighbor of a periphery similar in Rostock, offers an explanation that is also very enlightening. Note that unlike in the west of the country, these areas enjoyed a certain prestige at the time of the GDR. While the centers of the cities were deteriorating, these were neighborhoods with gardens inhabited by officials and other privileged people. But with the fall of the berlin wall and the German reunification in the early nineties, was imposed on the perception and the discourse of the west of which the peripheries are for those who can't afford to live in the center and these places ceased to be considered attractive. The prestige and feeling of privilege were transformed into resentment. Author Lütten Klein: The life in the society of the transformation in east Germany, Mau says,“who could, emigrated, and were those who did not have a better site to go”. The frustration was growing to the beat of a stigma that never ceased to grow.
The problem here is not the unemployment –around 6% - it is rather the working poverty of those who rise each morning to go to the pit and at the end of the month receive the minimum wage. The 11% of the district earn less than 900 euros per month, according to official figures. This northern area is the epicenter of the subsistence. “Only in this street, the half reciben's social welfare. It is not that you do not have work, is that they do not earn what is necessary,” says Lindemann, neighbor. A rental of a floor of 70 square metres may be around 650 euros, a price much more low than that pays in other areas of Berlin. “They want to put it here in the periphery, everything that you do not want in the center.”
The low purchasing power is also noted in the rate of consumption of the neighborhood. The shopping center has an air very exfoliated. On the second floor the premises are empty and at the bottom, there are few supermarkets, low-cost, a travel agency with signs in cyrillic, a study of Polish eastern, a living room with slots and little more. At the entrance a young vietnamese selling tobacco illegal.
The demographic evolution of Marzahn is a textbook case. With the fall of the berlin wall and the collapse of the socialist system, many people lost their jobs and migrated to other parts of the country, in search of a better future. In the mid-nineties, about 50% of the apartments in this area of Marzahn were empty. The situation was so extreme that the authorities chose to cut many blocks, which previously had eleven floors and today they have four. You had to live in the empty houses and started to get people out of flood, people who could not afford to live in another place. They also brought thousands of Russian citizens after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that in the AfD and have found a party that advocates pushing for the end of sanctions and that promotes a close relationship with Russia. Lindemann, controversial by a recent trip to Donetsk, is a clear exponent of this alliance.
With the passing of the years, rents in Berlin have gone up and the people with lowest incomes was he settled in Marzahn. Now here is built now new housing to accommodate those who no longer have a place in the center of the capital. Three cranes red in full activity now give faith to the demographic change in the making.
The refugees as an excuse
A turning point of politics in Germany and also in Marzahn was the so-called refugee crisis of 2015, when they entered the country more than a million asylum-seekers. Here were very few, only a few hundred, that still and he settled in a refugee center built in the neighborhood. His presence has been key in the rise of the AfD, which has been able to turn into a problem in the eyes of many voters, something that in Marzahn is not. “They are not criminals, but in summer, when it's warm sit outside and eat, drink and speak high. Are noisy and the neighbors complain. They don't work, but the people in the houses around themselves and want to sleep,” says Lindemann, next to the refugee centre grey, with a courtyard, which today is empty. “Here there are almost no foreigners [a total of 11%, one of the lowest figures of the capital], but we don't want to end up like other areas of Berlin. People are afraid, women are afraid of them to attack you in the street.”
The arrival of refugees has been exploited, as is usual, by way of the torts of comparison, among a population historically homogeneous. “People are angry, because they were told that there was no money to fix the heating of the school, but to build a refugee centre,” says the politician from AfD. Isn't it their work to explain to citizens that the money is coming from different parties and you don't have to see a spending with the other? “Yes, but in the end it is all taxpayer money”, castling Lindemann, who says that “the refugee is the greatest motivator of our voters.”Updated Date: 13 January 2020, 07:00