Politische Öffentlichkeitsarbeit von Protestgruppen / Neuen Sozialen Bewegungen (German Edition)
In , about 23, people participated in the final Easter March rally. By , more than , in the whole of Germany took part. The Campaign against Atomic Death, which had been organised by the SPD and the trade unions, had mobilised more than , people across West Germany. Both the British and the West German movement started in the mids as protests against nuclear weapons tests and the radiation emanating from them. In Britain, a group of left-wing intellectuals founded the CND in early to bring together previous movements and to campaign for a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament.
In autumn , a more radical group around the philosopher Bertrand Russell and his assistant Ralph Schoenman left CND and founded the Committee of In West Germany, public awareness of the dangers of nuclear weapons began at around the same time as in Britain, although organisations were formed much later. As in Britain, the West German movement had its roots in concerns about the dangers of nuclear-weapons tests.
A new movement emerged after the SPD had abandoned the Campaign in the wake of their programmatic reforms at Bad Godesberg. From , there were marches all over the country. Yet these newly-founded organisations remained by and large inefficient and under-financed bodies. By and large, the transnational community of protesters was a product of the simultaneous self- representation of the movements in the media: it was communication more than anything else which made the movements appear to be a transnational political force. The British and West German activists constantly discussed forms of protest.
The spectrum of protests ranged from petitions and collection of signatures, open letters and press conferences to protest marches, vigils and the more controversial sit-downs. In the period under examination both societies saw a widening of the repertoires of collective action. They began to include forms of protest in which the action itself, reported in the media, conveyed the message. The shift in protest repertoires was more pronounced in the Federal Republic, however. During the second phase of the West German campaign, annual Easter Marches, imported from Britain, also became the main form of protest in the Federal Republic.
Due to the essentially reflexive character of these debates, discussions about forms of protest need to be explored on two levels: the level of the movements themselves and the ways in which the movements communicated with their environment. Initially, both movements presented themselves as educators of the public. While the founders had intended CND to be a traditional single-issue pressure group along the lines of previous British voluntary associations, others had sought a more active political stance.
Although the reality of the Marches did not mirror the strict rules put forward by the organisers, CND maintained its original pressure-group focus as greater numbers of young New Left supporters joined its ranks. Its protests continued to be directed against those in power in Westminster and in Whitehall, the MPs and the British government. The public sphere created in assemblies therefore remained comparatively more important than in West Germany. Those who disagreed with this pressure-group focus tended to leave for the Committee of The Committee found media-oriented protests at missile bases a much more congenial way of campaigning.
Rather than campaigning for specific political aims, their goal was to expose the power structures within the British state: the militarisation of British politics and the violence of the British military-industrial complex. They consciously sought to provoke police brutality in order to get it reported in the national media. But it sought to influence politics more directly than its British counterpart. Apart from protest marches and vigils, the Campaign against Atomic Death supported plebiscites in spring and early summer in order to overrule the pro-nuclear decisions of the Christian Democratic majority in the German parliament.
After the Federal Constitutional Court had ruled these plebiscites unconstitutional, 32 the Campaign lost much of its focus and was now very much dependent on smaller-scale activities on the local level. Its final action was a petition campaign in favour of a Red Cross Convention on nuclear weapons. Postcards were distributed among the population, which was asked to forward them to the Government. In West Germany, the emphasis on public education receded with the adoption of the Easter Marches after the British example.
Rather than protesting at the heart of political decision-making, the West German protesters chose a method which highlighted their commitment to the cause: they sought to represent themselves as the other and better Germany. Marching through rainy and cold weather over Easter instead of going for a leisurely walk with their families served as a symbol for this commitment Fig. From onwards, there were marches all over Germany, in the north, in the west, in the south west and in the south east. While they now usually ended in larger cities, such as Hamburg, Munich, or Dortmund, their decentralised character continued.
This not only had to do with the federal character of the West German polity, but it also reflected the fact that there was, in the late s and early s, still no accepted central place of protest in West Germany, such as Westminster, Whitehall and Hyde Park in London, or the Mall in Washington D. Conditions in Berlin were not conducive to protests either: due to fears of communist subversion, rules were particularly strict there.
The West German protesters depended much more than their British counterparts on the media to portray them as one coherent movement: only if the media reported the marches through abandoned rural areas could protesters hope to alert the population at large to their cause. The West German Easter March organisers, albeit at least partly influenced by certain traditions of non-violent civil disobedience, did not opt for a radically new approach of campaigning. There were plans to found a West German equivalent to the British Committee of in order to give a material ex-pression to written and spoken demands, but they came to no avail.
Instead of going for the traditional Easter walk with their families, the protesters went on the march, thus redefining the Christian message of Easter in explicitly political terms. They went beyond the consensus about democracy which had been established after the Second World War. Some people wanted to reconsider the length of the marches: they claimed that four days were too demanding and discouraged potential participants.
Others did not regard the marches as manifestations of sombre mourning. Instead, by overcoming the silence and introducing music on the marches, they wanted to establish the marches as signs of life. By communicating about these unfamiliar forms of protests, the press and the participants turned them into the key characteristics of the whole s.
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It is important to bear in mind, however, that the majority of protests continued to be local: the national press hardly noticed many petitions, small vigils and traditional protest marches which took place on the local level. Even after these novel ways of protesting had taken hold, more traditional vigils persisted in other kinds of protests. Since , Hiroshima Day 6 August and Anti-War Day 1 September, commemorating the outbreak of the Second World War were arenas of protests where silent vigils, often with torches, continued to dominate the scene cf.
They were intended to counterbalance other national days of memory, such as Armistice Day in Britain, or the commemorations of 17 June in the Federal Republic.
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Especially the West German movement was unable to transcend the remembrance of the war from a perspective of victimhood. Personal links also played an important role. The observation of movements in other countries fulfilled two functions for the West German activists: it reassured them of their own goals; and it prompted them to engage more closely with their own protest traditions.
These traditions had, initially, little to do with the Marxism of the Frankfurt School, but rather with the writings of the Indian Mahatma Gandhi and the American writer Henry Thoreau. Radical German pacifists had discussed their ideas of non-violent civil disobedience since the s.
In the s, the transnational social space around the WRI secured an audience for these ideas, which now reached beyond strictly pacifist circles. When the West German student protesters in the late s resorted to campaigns of non-violent civil disobedience, to sit-downs and occupations of buildings, this was not so much due to a simple diffusion of ideas from the United States to West Germany. It was rather because the protesters in the early s had managed to broaden the appeal of radical pacifism. In Britain, these radical pacifist groups only played a marginal role within the movement.
Media and symbolic politics. The ways in which protest movements appeared in public and how we perceive them today are themselves products of the communications between the protest movements and the public.
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In order to grasp the symbolics of protest fully, we need to examine the communication between protest movements and their environment as well. This use of the media was not novel. What was new was that the protest movements were no longer content with a public sphere that only comprised participant observers. To an unprecedented degree, they came to rely on the media to allow mutual observation and thus to generate a public sphere. Generally speaking, the West German Easter March movement sought media attention much more consciously than CND, which remained within the framework of a more traditional single-issue pressure group.
The British movement already possessed its own media, while the West German movement still needed to establish them. Apart from some regional newspapers, many of which leaned towards a Communist outlook, there were virtually no reports on the Easter Marches in the German national press. Ironically, some press reports stated dryly that there was nothing to report. Instead, it had to resort to producing a monthly ten-page newsletter to supplement its pamphlets and flyers, which contained more factual information and much less essayistic material than the British counterpart.
In the early s, television was still not important enough in either country to merit specific strategies. Marches also evoked the evils of mass society: both the press and the police still assessed protests in terms of the discourse of the masses in the s. There now emerged a very peculiar mixture of enlightening information and more spectacular forms of action, such as political cabaret or specific gags.
It also highlights a different assessment of the audience: the campaigners thought that these new means of campaigning would allow them to reach their audience best. The British campaign displayed a similar emphasis on rationality. Of central importance for this communication was the emphasis on moral actions and acts of conscience.
The movements claimed that, in contrast to politicians, they paid attention to long-term questions of moral conduct in international affairs - the protests were rendered as the expression of truly human interests on a global scale. Specific Protestant traditions played a prominent role here. Niesyto explored what we can learn from Wikipedia critique. What is the relationship between science, infrasctructure and Wikipedia? This means governance policies are already built in into Wikipedia, its policies are full of signifiers.