FROM OUR BERLIN CORRESPONDENT It took a certain amount of physical strength – in minus 7 degrees at 11 a.m. – to get the tractors under the Brandenburg Gate. But something else was needed, not a falling thermometer, to divert the anger and protest of the German farmers. Who, as promised, parked 566 agricultural vehicles between the Victory Column and the capital gate, in the middle of Germany, two hundred meters from Olaf Scholz's office. The evening before, the largest “protest”, at least the largest that the country has experienced in the post-war period, was predicted.
And in fact, tractors and harvesters have blocked hundreds of entrances to highways (completely legal, according to the courts), created queues dozens of kilometers long at the borders, and set up pickets and improvised stages in the centers of Munich, Bremen, Hamburg. But at the end of the day – apart from a few closed factories, two hundred supermarkets in Berlin that were not delivered, a day off for schools in Lower Saxony – there was a collective sigh of relief: because the protest was over, all in all peaceful.
It certainly doesn't end here. The farmers don't want to demobilize until April and promise marches. They object to the reduction in diesel subsidies for their tractors (eventually revoked by Scholz) and the reduction in taxes on the purchase of agricultural vehicles (which are retained for the time being): measures that the government had to take quickly to comply with the one rejected by the Constitutional Court budget to correct and prune.
But first of all, the farmers – ideologically, out of conviction and deep resentment – do not deny so much the agricultural policy, which is aimed at a green transition, towards agriculture without fossil fuels and less “subsidized” by the state, but simply their existence. The “traffic light “ from the Scholz government. For this reason, it was almost a relief to see that the protest was democratic in the classic sense. Despite 25,000 tractors in use in Baden-Württemberg and 19,000 in Bavaria.
First, last week a small group of farmers intimidated Economics Minister Robert Habeck and prevented him from getting off the ferry near his home after a vacation. The radical “farmers” have been traveling with forks hanging from their tractors for some time, and hanging dolls are scattered across the countryside, their faces painted with the colors of the traffic lights. It is now certain that the tractor movement has a radical wing on the far right. The great German fear is that forces hostile to the system and the state could arise from these ranks – perhaps along the lines of the yellow vests. But yesterday the “radicals” were kept under control across the country.
In any case, this is no small challenge for the Scholz government. This week it will also have to contend with protests from truck drivers poised to invade city centers and a three-day train drivers' strike that has effectively halted German trains. Merkel's era of social peace and very long appeasement, of settling all tensions in some form through agreement and mitigation, seen from the Brandenburg Gate, really seems to be just a memory.