From Protest to Resistance
“Protest is when I say I don’t like this and that. Resistance is when I see to it that things that I don’t like no longer occur. Protest is when I say I will no longer go along with it. Resistance is when I see to it that no one else goes along with it anymore either.” That could be heard – not verbatim – from a black person in the Black Power movement at the Vietnam conference this February in Berlin.*
The students are not practicing a revolt, they are exercising resistance. Rocks have flown, the windowpanes of the Springer tower in Berlin have shattered, cars have burned, water cannons have been seized, a BILD newspaper editorial office has been demolished, tires have been slashed, traffic has been brought to a standstill, construction trailers have been overturned, police cordons penetrated – violence, physical violence was used. The delivery of Springer newspapers could nevertheless not be prevented; order in street traffic was never interrupted for more than a few hours. The insurance companies will pay for the windowpanes. New delivery trucks will be driven in place of burned-out ones; the supply of police water cannons has not been reduced, and in the future there will be no shortage of billy clubs either. So, what happened can happen again: the Springer press will be able to continue to agitate, and in the future [Berlin Mayor] Klaus Schütz will still be able to challenge people “to look these guys in the face” and suggest bashing it in – which already happened on February 21 – and finally to shoot.
During the protests against the attack on Rudi Dutschke during Easter break, the boundary between verbal protest and physical resistance was crossed, for the first time on a massive scale: by many, not just isolated individuals; for days, not just once; all over, not just in Berlin; for real, not just symbolically. After June 2, , Springer newspapers were just burned; now an attempt was made to block their delivery. On June 2, only tomatoes and eggs were thrown; now stones flew. In February, only an amusing and funny film about the production of Molotov cocktails was shown; now things actually burned. The boundary between protest and resistance was crossed, but ineffectively nonetheless, and that which happened can still repeat itself. The power structures have not been changed. Resistance was exercised. Positions of power were not taken over. Therefore was it all just meaningless, escalating, terrorist, apolitical, impotent violence?
Let it be established: those here who, from positions of political power, condemn throwing stones and arson, but not the agitation of the Springer press, nor the bombs falling in Vietnam, nor the terror in Persia, not torture in South Africa, those who could really bring about the expropriation of Springer instead form a Grand Coalition; those who could speak the truth about BILD and BZ** in the mass media instead spread half-truths about students; their engagement on behalf of nonviolence is hypocritical, they have a double standard, they want precisely what those of us who took to the streets – with and without stones in our pockets – do not want: politics as fate, sheep-like masses, a powerless opposition that disturbs nothing and no one, democratic sandbox games, and when things get serious, the [the proclamation of a] state of emergency. [U.S. President Lyndon B.] Johnson, who declares Martin Luther King to be a national hero, and [Chancellor Kurt Georg] Kiesinger, who sends a telegram to express his regret at the attempted assassination of Dutschke, are representatives of the violence against which both King and Dutschke protested: the violence of the system that created Springer and the Vietnam War. They are missing both the political and the moral justification to protest the students’ will to resist.
* Loosely quoted from Fred Hampton, a Black Panther leader – trans.
** BILD (nationwide) and BZ (Berlin) are two wide-circulation tabloid dailies published by the Springer corporation – trans.