There is definitely a connection between the “not with me” of the 1950s and the huge crowds in Bonn. Between the two lies the “no” of the nuclear scientists’ manifesto of 1956, as well as the entire anti-nuclear movement: Whereas in France the word “nuclear” has a predominantly positive connotation, above all because of the sacrosanct notion of national independence, in Germany the peaceful use of nuclear power was poisoned by the totally negative symbolic impact of nuclear weapons.
But how did it reach the scale of the Bonn demonstration and the support it met with? Because people are more likely to demonstrate in Germany than in France? Certainly. And that applies to all kinds of demonstrations. With or without violence. With the affirmation of aggressive marginal groups by youths, or, as in Frankfurt, with a multi-generational demonstration aimed at peacefully preventing the construction of a new airport runway that would harm the environment.
There is a contrast to note here. Sometimes, a demonstration signifies the rejection of the political system; at other times, it is an expression of the democratic spirit, because the democratic will should not be asserted only on election days. At the march in Bonn, both aspects were united – reason enough not to place too much importance on the vigorous efforts of the small Communist party and its few small satellite parties to infiltrate the demonstration.
When both currents are able to flow together, it is not just because of the aims of the demonstration, but because institutions have not functioned properly. In the institution of parliament, the large majority party offers little reason for hope and hardly any incentive for participation.
Justice, as an institution, rules too often on the side of authorities who treat people as deviants and enemies when they are simply critical thinkers or young people guided by exacting ethics.
Thus, a court recently decided in favor of the Bavarian government when it did not want to accept a young woman into state service as a teacher. This woman insisted on swearing to uphold the constitution only on the condition that this loyalty did not lead to a conflict with the principles of her Christian faith.
This case is characteristic for two reasons. First, because of the totally new scope of women’s activism, but especially because of the religious component of the German “not with us” movement. This was already noticeable in the spring at the church conference in Hamburg, and it will become even more obvious, because the Sermon on the Mount is constantly being cited in justification of the “peace lovers” as opposed to the belligerent missile-deployers.
Here, too, the situation can be explained through a comparison with France: If German churches, especially the Catholic Church, had not become so dissociated from matters of justice, if, for example, on the evening before the Bundestag elections they had spoken of unemployment – as, for example, the French bishops did – instead of divorce, and about the Third World instead of public finances, then the schism with the demanding grass roots might not have given that very grass roots occasion to refer to the Holy Scripture without regard for the political consequences.