“In the middle of the month, we have no more money” – Workers speak out against war and inflation at employment offices in Berlin and Duisburg
Workers and the unemployed, recipients of Hartz IV social assistance and students are severely affected by soaring inflation and soaring energy and gas prices, direct consequences of the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine and economic sanctions against Russia. A number of Job Center workers spoke to WSWS reporters and opposed NATO’s proxy war on Russia, which only benefits the capitalist oligarchs.
Sara (pseudonym), who spoke to the WSWS outside an employment agency in Duisburg, is a single mother of three children. She said: “The war is bad news and the overall situation is dire. Food has become so expensive. In the middle of the month, I have no more money. Then I have to borrow money wherever I can, pay off my private debts at the beginning of the month, and then it all starts again.
Regarding the increase in electricity costs, Sara said: “Before, I paid 50 euros per month for electricity. Then I received a strong demand for additional payment from the utility company, which caused me a lot of trouble. That’s why I increased my monthly payments to 110 euros per month. I’m hoping for a refund, but I haven’t heard anything yet [from the government] on rising electricity prices. I don’t know how I’m going to pay them.
The official rate of price inflation in September was above 10%. According to comparison portal Verivox, electricity prices almost doubled at the end of September. In the populated state of North Rhine-Westphalia, they increased by an average of 74%. Gas prices exploded over the same period with an average increase of 280%.
In one example, Verivox calculates that gas costs for a single-family home with an annual consumption of 20,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) at the end of September were 5,208 euros (26.04 cents/kWh). Twelve months ago, the average cost was 1,369 euros. “This means additional costs of 3,839 euros and an increase of 280%,” explained a Verivox spokesperson.
“Everything has become more expensive, many families have problems”, declare two young people passing through Pôle Emploi: “If you shop for 100 euros today, the shopping cart is still not full. That’s enough for a week at most.
“My parents were told that their energy expenditure would go from 400 to 1,000 euros,” reports a young woman. “My mum says she doesn’t know how she’s going to pay. If you can’t heat in the winter, you freeze.
Her friend adds, referring to the war in Ukraine: “Nobody wants war and yet it is there with all its cruel consequences for those who are directly affected. But it’s not just the war in Ukraine. In Afghanistan, Somalia and other countries, wars are constantly fought by NATO, although we hear much less about them.
“Many weapons are produced by America and Germany, which are earning huge sums of money from this war,” noted a worker from Moldova who spoke to WSWS reporters outside a Job Center. in Berlin. “It’s not much of a help when people have to sit in their flats, unemployed for years.” He adds: “Now the war is here, we are told that Corona is gone and just looks like the flu. How is it possible ? »
“War is very bad,” said Tayyaba, who lives with her husband and two children. “Energy prices are rising, but not our salaries. We always talk about this problem at home. My husband is a software developer. We also do not know if the rents will increase further, we are very worried about it. So far the kids haven’t had Corona, but that’s another issue for both of them.
Moses, who is from Romania and works part-time as a construction worker in Berlin, said: “We live in difficult times. It’s hard to get a good education or find a job. I’m Jewish and I don’t work on Saturdays, but the Pôle Emploi doesn’t take this into account. My German is not very good and that also makes it difficult.
“The Job Center and the authorities don’t care about people,” continues Moses. “The institutions all work with each other and just get rid of the human rights issue. It’s bad, it only makes it harder for people to live together.
About the war, Moïse said: “The war is to blame for the rise in prices. And the culprit of the war in Ukraine is America. For 30 years, they have been at war with each other. Quite smart and educated people work there every day. They want to make money out of it. The fact that the German government is sending weapons to Ukraine “only makes things worse.”
“They are going to plunge the peoples of Europe into a huge crisis,” he continued. “In 2008, there was a crisis and no jobs in all of Europe. But now it will get worse. For normal workers it will be even worse, including those who are still doing quite well now. They have less and less money and their work is not properly remunerated either. Food will become even more expensive. In southern Germany, a liter of gasoline already costs three euros.
“The innocent must pay for the faults of politicians. Democracy must be different. We need normal democracy, not capitalist democracy. People should be respected and better paid, regardless of their status. In Romania today, there is no secure future either.
Life was better before the reintroduction of capitalism in Romania in 1990, he says. “Today, it’s like in the jungle: only those who have an income can live and do what is necessary for the little ones. This is true not only for people, but also for entire countries. Where will this lead? There will be a great crisis.
Severin is a student and lives in Duisburg with two classmates in a shared apartment. He also told the WSWS that he had been hit hard by the war and the huge price increases: “The gas prices are worse because now we also have a new apartment and we don’t know if the heating is good. We already pay a big markdown, which is really difficult to manage as a student. Then there are food prices, which are a big part of our costs. We really feel the inflation. Severin has a part-time job and also relies on his parents for financial support.
“One of us no longer studies and works,” continues Séverin. “We two still at the university do not receive Bafög [financial support for poorer students]. I work in retail in a large chain. Instead of the old minimum wage, I now get 12 euros an hour, but that doesn’t change much, I just don’t work enough hours. With all the private spending, “I really have to cut back now,” says Séverin: “I’m worried about the future.
Although the “everyday horror stories” are devastating, Severin follows the war in Ukraine closely. Between NATO and Russia, he says, “there will probably still be major conflicts.” Ukrainian President Zelensky had recently called on the NATO powers to destroy Russia’s nuclear capabilities through preemptive strikes. Above all, the Western side must “make concessions” and “negotiate” to end the war, Severin said.
Séverin describes the prospect of an imminent nuclear war as a “huge catastrophe. A nuclear weapon does not respect national borders. Its use would devastate entire swathes of land and trigger huge movements of refugees. Add to that the refugees from Ukraine and now from Russia who do not want to go to war. A nuclear strike against Russia would lead “not only to the contamination of Germany but of all our neighboring countries. Nuclear weapons shouldn’t really exist.
In conclusion, Severin said: “Overcoming the capitalist system is the only thing that can still save us from all these disasters, be it imperialism, war or climate change. The only thing that can help is to move to a socialist and communist state, at least to an alternative society. Unfortunately, you can’t expect anything more from the established parties.