Subversive action

by Ezra Buckley on January 14, 2017

“Literature, SDS, Ostermarsch, drugs – that was all a big thing, and they were the ones who later showed themselves by their long hair. They told the people how we were to Vietnam, the drug, the university uprising. ”

Gaston Salvatore and Rudi Dutschke at the Vietnam Congress of the SDS (Socialist German Student Union) 1968 in West Berlin.

The “Subversive Action”, founded by Dieter Kunzelmann in Munich in 1962, had learned from her intellectual fathers Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse that the modern “repressive society” no longer had its power by the threat of police and justice, but by the Seduction to consumption. “In the middle of material prosperity, life does not live, people are unable to enjoy themselves, instead of real satisfaction of their dreams, desires and pleasure, people willingly let themselves be fed with substitute offerings from consumption and illusions As in the past, have only been kept open by open violence and sensible oppression. “The role of the police and the prison have taken over cinema, television, consumption and controlled leisure.” (Chaussy, 1985, p. 39). Before revolutionary political changes have a chance, people first have to learn to free their oppressed inner impulses – especially sexuality. At the center of the action and thought of the subversive action were therefore one’s own person, one’s own experience, one’s own feelings. From hippies, Yippies became a provocative part of a political movement that aimed for real changes in the majority society, but without compromising its free lifestyle with bourgeois conventions. “The transformation of circumstances was bound in a holistically understood context to the transformation of its own life.” (Lindner 1996, p. 157f.)

In practice, this meant the “revolutionization of everyday life”: the abolition of private property and life already today (municipalities instead of small families; the insistence on an “intimate life” is a bourgeois bourgeoisie, ie free sexuality / part exchange, , Exiting from the (university) performance pressure, the pleasure principle as the highest maxim of all action and above all – constant provocation as a lustful revolutionary practice. “A revolutionary who is not concerned with bothering his parents with bourgeois clothes and haircut is still largely attached to his bourgeois background.” (Cited according to Bucher / Pohl 1986, p. 28) “If the young people of today are seen in photographs, they are often very good and courageous, but their provocative effect is no longer quite understandable The majority of the youths at that time had a much stronger attraction than the theorists of the 1968. The free choice of one’s own appearance instead of clothes and habits, free school instead of authoritarian educational institutions, free sexuality instead of prudery, commune instead of family. (AaO) The connection between Flower Power and political protest, from revolution, subculture and rock music to a politico-aesthetic “rebellion of the impulses” drew youth into its spell and created a dynamic “we-feeling” in which the adult world outside Remained.

“Literature, SDS, Ostermarsch, drugs – that was all a big thing, and they counted themselves to her, later by their long hair, they meant formlessness, sensuality, openness The parents of the long-haired ones were a generation without a future, without children … It was the pop and rock music, in the personal experience, life-destiny and existential desire, the melancholy and destructive fury of the Beatles were the The songs of the second hour of the Revolt in Berkeley, Paris, Berlin and Frankfurt, the true prophets, were the “street fighting man”, “Eve of destruction” and “I can’t get no satisfaction” Of the dissent generation were the pop and rock groups. “ (Mosler 1977, pp. 96-100)

The merging of student protests and youth culture broadened the spectrum of the antiauthoritarian revolt far beyond the student-intellectual milieu. A strong antiauthoritarian music and theater scene arose, the beginnings of a left-wing apprentice movement, and the share of pupils (in grammar schools in general) who were “often and interested” with politics rose from 20 per cent in 1961 to 52 Percentage of 1968. (Bliicher 1969, p. 112)

The APO rebels became trendsetters like Techno 25 years later and attracted more and more young people. “The temptation to jump into a successful movement was almost the same as the provocative counter-identification of external attributes such as parka, long hair, etc. The proof of actual moral and political superiority to the” establishment “was superfluous as long as this disqualified itself . “ (Schülein 1977, p. 106)

The antiauthoritarian movement was now composed of a multitude of groups, milieus and interests. The least was a “revolution”, the change in society as a whole, but most of them fought for their individual freedom, for the right to their own lifestyle beyond the orderly and performance-defying mainstream. “The attack against the ruling order is not a direct challenge to the power, which, of course, is known to be unquestionable. The challenge is the obligation of this power.” (Lübbe 1975, p. 46) If the “establishment” had shown itself to be more flexible, the protests taken seriously and used as an occasion for urgently needed reforms, tolerating the rights of young people to their own lifeworlds and models, (RAF). For the political opinion leaders, the core of the APO, who were really concerned with the upheaval of “dominant conditions”, only became radicalized when they had to learn that their symbolic rule violations were not perceived by policy makers and the majority of the population as a thought – But also as “eminent threats to order, justice and decency, which had to be punished indifferently” (Lindner 1996, p. 177f.). The national community idea, which had been massively updated, especially by Ludwig Erhard (born 1897, from 1949 to 1963, Federal Minister of Economics, then until 1966 Federal Chancellor), was still very present, according to which opposites and contradictions within the population were dangerous. For the majority of Germans, democracy still meant economic prosperity, and that “those up there” had to confirm every four years that they had done a good job. “It took years for the fact that demonstrations were a legitimate form of voluntary expression in a free society.” (Fetscher 1990, p. 71)

This was particularly true of Berlin, the last “bulwark of freedom” in the midst of communist enemy lands. “Especially the old-established inhabitants regarded Berlin as the” front city “, as the foremost bastion of the free West, as a” stake in the flesh of communism. “The city was to become a sign of the West Favorable conditions of living, especially young people from West Germany were conquered. After the construction of the Wall in 1961, many inhabitants had left the city, and now a lot of large apartments were empty, which were incredibly cheap to rent. (Prinz 2003, p. 154) Even the pubs, who had mushroomed in the sixties to satisfy the students of the West German province, were cheap. The police force had already been abolished in Berlin before the Wall was built To attract tourists and residents of East Berlin to the free West. Nowhere else was the fight of the systems so inexorable and commonplace as in Berlin, nowhere else was anti-communism so much absorbed into the blood of the population as here. “It was a dark feeling that the eastern part of the population had to spoon out a soup that had been ordered by all Germans, and that this unacceptable debt complex had been struck down by blind anti-communism, and hatred and enmity against Bolshevism still justified part of Hitler’s crimes on.” (Rudolf Augstein in Der Spiegel 24/1967, p. 24) Everyone who dared to get the status quo got this almost brushless transition from “Going to the other side” to critisize. Nowhere else did even bourgeois commentators encourage a rebellion against the APO rebels as here, and nowhere else did social democrat politicians, so self-evident, defamate leftist or even liberal critics who were judged elsewhere as right-wing extremists. Berlin was in many respects a front city, and whoever came between the fronts was combated by all means.


Blücher, Viggo Graf: The Unrest of Youth and the Generational Relationship, in: Deutsche Jugend 1969, pp. 107-123. Here, according to Lindner 1996, p. 129.

Bucher, Willi / Pohl, Klaus: “Dear living as normal.”, In: Deutscher Werkbund eV (eds.) 1986, pp. 24-33.

Chaussy, Ulrich: The Three Lives of Rudi Dutschke. A biography. Frankfurt am Main 1985.

Fetscher, Iring: Utopias – illusions – hopes. A plea for a political culture in Germany. Stuttgart, 1990. Here, according to Geiling 1996, pp. 74f.

Lindner, Werner: Youth protests since the fifties. Dissent and cultural idiosyncrasy. Opladen 1996.

Lübbe, Hermann: Legitimacy Weakness and Youth Movement, in: Youth in Society. A symposium. Munich 1975, pp. 42-53.

Mosler, Peter: What we wanted, what we were. Student folks – ten years later. Reinbek 1977.

Prince, Alois: Dear furious rather than sad. The life story of Ulrike Marie Meinhof. Advertisement advertisement.

Schülein, JA: From the student revolution to the tending or retreat into the private, in: Kursbuch 48, 1977, pp. 108-124.

Mirror 24/1967

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