Germany: Berlin Paper Prints Photos Of Extreme Right Leaders

Johannes Schneider Johannes.Schneider at
Fri Aug 25 04:49:44 PDT 2000

Michael Pugliese wrote:

> The Horst Mahler mentioned below, is quite an interesting character.
> the Red Army Faction to the NPD. Socialist Review in the late 70's (when
> journal was still Socialist Revolution) once published an interview with
> him. Here are two Horst Mahler websites.
> And from the man himself.

Here is more from the FAZ on what happened to German 68ers, Horst Mahler is mentioned as well.

The Facts of Life By Mark Siemons

BERLIN. We've been seeing a highly symbolic switch of roles as the parliamentary inquiry into the slush-fund scandal of the Christian Democratic Union's party finances unfolded over the past weeks. An untiring rebel who, only five years ago, was dragged off by security men, while the then chancellor called after him mockingly, "You've got to be the last column of the world revolution!" is now questioning, in the name of the people, the top representative of a system he had fought all his life.

The questioner is Hans-Christian Ströbele, notorious product of the 1968 student revolt, today a member of the Bundestag for Alliance90/The Greens. The person he is questioning is former chancellor Helmut Kohl, whose long hold on party leadership and political power spawned the term the "Kohl system." The records of the inquiry sessions show that both men are aware that apart from the historic dimension of their renewed encounter, there is also an existential one. "You're notorious for that, and your whole life shows it," snaps an angry Kohl, calling panel member Ströbele's insinuations "devious" and "defamatory." Ströbele, playing cool, "Don't get nervous!" Kohl, persistent, "And because I know you ... ." "Because you know me?" Ströbele interrupts. "Yes," rejoins Kohl, "and it's no great feat knowing you!"

Is that really so? Does Ströbele's vita really tell all one needs to know about him? The data the Christian Democratic opposition politicians never tire of repeating are quite familiar to the watchers of the spectacle. In the 1970s, Ströbele was defense counsel for the radical leftist terrorists of the Red Army Faction, whom he called "comrades" in court and for whom he smuggled trial documents -- which got him a 10-month suspended jail sentence in 1982.

Since a plainclothes policeman shot dead Benno Ohnesorg, a student taking part in demonstrations against the visit of the Shah of Persia in 1967, Ströbele has opposed the system. Together with Horst Mahler, Ströbele in 1969 founded the "Socialist Attorneys Collective." He was also a co-founder of the taz, a leftwing alternative daily, and later joined The Greens. But there he soon became conspicuous because he never renounced his earlier views. For him, history did not contradict his convictions, but rather confirmed them. He says about the slush-fund inquiry that it taught him "that capitalism works with a banality I could not have imagined up to now."

Such continuity is rare. Ströbele even has a "system" of his own for fighting the dominant one -- an office stuffed with files, secured by four keys and three digital codes. The fact that he is now officially empowered to take the stage against Kohl, his favorite opponent of old, might be construed as a classic case of prejudice. Ströbele said he was intrigued now that he can take action against Kohl, using the means of a state ruled by law.

The fact that members of the generation of the 1968 student revolt moved into the highest public offices after the 1998 change of government almost went unnoticed, and it raised few eyebrows among those who did notice. Kohl's remarks and Ströbele's barely hidden triumphalism now recall the heroic side of this cultural and political contest, which leads us to the question whether Germany's institutions have indeed changed after all, now that erstwhile opponents of the system are in control. Could there be a collective "I" hidden behind the outwardly many shapes of those who used to be this state's fundamental opponents, but now have leading functions?

Since last year, a man has been working in the planning division of the Foreign Ministry whose view of the world appears to be totally different from Ströbele's. The starting point of Hans-Gerhart Schmierer's vita was nevertheless similar. In 1968, he was an official of the Socialist German Students Association in Heidelberg and worked for the Rote Fahne student newspaper. In the 1970s, he became the most prominent member of the Communist Federation of West Germany (KBW). But Schmierer changed radically since the 1980s. Since then, he has called for all "extremist egg shells" to be discarded and has dismissed it as absurd to keep raising the "right system" issue. He had tried to save the "continuity of asking that question" by concerning himself with "alternate ways of life," but in the '90s his interest shifted to foreign policy, and here especially to Europe's and Germany's duty to take part in military interventions.

Last year, the positions taken by Schmierer and Ströbele respectively on the Kosovo war clearly showed the two extremes into which the '68 camp had split. And yet there remains a trait common to both. You detect it if you listen to the tone. The thread that runs through Schmierer's utterances is the rejection of all forms of "wordy resignation" and "moralizing greenhouse atmosphere." If there is anything he would avoid, whatever the historical changes might be, it is the coming to an arrangement with the political mechanisms, the muddling through compulsions here and opportunities there that he considers typical of party politicians. In other words, he is firm in his belief that it is possible to take action that can change history. After the death of Mao Zedong, Schmierer told a 1976 rally of the KBW, "We communists are revolutionary optimists. We can turn mourning into strength. That is because we are dialectic materialists and seek the truth in facts." If you replace the word "communists" with the new category that is valid today, that self-description is still applicable.

So where do we see, in Schmierer, the successful conversion of mourning into strength? It is in the constant good mood that one also notices about Ströbele. He is said to drink neither alcohol nor coffee because he doesn't want to "fog up" his brain. He said once that "optimism can generate such power that things that couldn't actually work out, do work after all." This recalls the "psychism" the American social psychologist Jay R. Lifton identified as the central characteristic of the Chinese Cultural Revolution -- a certain independence of one's own world of thoughts and drives of the external reality, which in the end ought to bring about the control over the external world. Here we find the belief that the consciousness has an impact on reality, that reality can be shaped and that it will yield to ever new ideas and concepts.

This perspective can be applied in much the same way to oneself as to institutions -- such as Europe, for instance. "Identity" is a myth. All structures are open to reinvention, as we see it happen in the way business consultants comb through the economy -- and even some of those were Maoists once. Thus Schmierer is praising the European Union for the very aspects that others criticize it for: its bureaucracy and the lack of a utopian idea. Precisely this vacuum, he argues, opens up the space in which everything can be made new. "The European Union is going to provide little utopian nourishment, but it could set the framework for readdressing with considerable results and in a new situation the old European battle between necessity and freedom, between sameness and movement, between individuality and solidarity, only this time more peacefully."

Schmierer gave the book in which he expresses these thoughts the title Mein Name sei Europa, which might be translated as "Call Me Europe." He repeatedly assures that historical analysis has to precede any new definitions, but the title seems to suggest that names are free.

Jul. 18

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