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Civic Movements between Peaceful Protest and Outbreaks of Violence (August 5, 1977)

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When Does Resistance become a Duty?

Also similar to the student movement, exceptional rights are grounded on the basis of an unusually higher moral aim. Then, a free society served as the justification to go beyond limits; now it is the protection of life, the first and most significant basic right, which justifies almost any means. When policies are guilty of not upholding this basic right, they must be fought – and this is a conviction that marks not only the loud, violent radicality of the K-Groups, but also the silent fanaticism that has grown out of the efforts of righteousness. And anyway, the motto for the draft of the BBU action catalog is: “When justice becomes unjust, then resistance becomes a duty.”

Widespread in the initiatives is the certainty that they represent the most important instrument of grassroots democracy, that the people have a voice through them. It does not matter that at the moment this is a minority (depending on the survey, between 20% und 40% of the population is opposed to nuclear energy). When the scales finally fall from people’s eyes, when they see through the stupefying propaganda, then the movement will grow to be a majority in this country. This is the argumentation used, and once again a similarity with the student movement shines through.

The most important distinguishing characteristic within the environmentalist movement is the attitude toward violence. The former head of the BBU who recently resigned, [Hans-Helmut] Wüstenhagen (he was criticized from the right because he was close to communist circles thirty years ago; and from the left for using federal funds for a research project at the Institute for Environmental Sciences), was primarily attacked because of his (relatively) nonviolent politics. There was hardly a large event organized by environmentalists in which K-Group representatives did not charge Wüstenhagen (and thus the entire BBU leadership) with a lack of solidarity. Recently in Frankfurt, for example, a young communist stood up as Saint Joan of the nuclear power plants and accused Wüstenhagen of distinguishing between those for and those against the use of violence. “Who is the divider here?” she asked with piercing logic. “We do not use the issue of violence to be divisive.”

As earlier with the APO, a distinction was also made here between “violence against property” and “violence against persons.” Violence against persons, which was sought or tolerated by some K-Groups in Brokdorf and Grohnde, is rejected by the vast majority of citizens’ initiatives. Illegal actions, on the other hand, civil disobedience that does not rule out violence against property, are included in the recently approved draft of the BBU action catalog.

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