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

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A “Hot Autumn” Threatens

With respect to the party groups in the Bundestag, there is a clear-cut difference between opposition and government coalition, and in the government parties in turn a distinction is made between grassroots and leadership. CDU/CSU members are more likely to be found in “well-behaved” organizations, but their participation in citizens’ initiatives is generally very low.

The coalition parties are a different story. Here there are far more nuclear energy opponents than in the CDU, and the participation of SPD and FDP members in the environmental movement is correspondingly greater. Especially the parties’ youth organizations seem to have discovered, albeit late, the subject of nuclear power. Many young environmentalists, however, are totally dissatisfied with the parties. As in the late 1960s, a large segment of the younger generation seeks its political refuge outside the established organization of political parties. This time they are motivated by their opposition to nuclear power and a civilization of growth, and inspired by radically democratic ideas. And it is by no means certain that the parties can again succeed in doing what was still possible under [Willy] Brandt and [Walter] Scheel: to channel the major part of the movement back to the parties. The SPD presently registers the greatest loss.

[ . . . ]

Environmentalists have long ago stopped being a single-purpose organization. Their opposition to nuclear energy is their emotional benchmark, but their political considerations extend far into other areas, especially energy, growth, and economic policies. They are not yet a party, and the vast majority does not want to become one, but they are definitely a strong political force. They are hard to control, a combination of extra-parliamentary student opposition and antinuclear movement, of radical democratic anger and skepticism toward civilization, of civic virtues and anti-party attitudes, unfathomable for career politicians, hard to maneuver – a potential for immense, even violent, change.

[ . . . ]

Source: Rolf Zundel, “Anschlag auf die Parteien oder Ventil der Verdrossenheit?” [“An Attack on the Parties or a Vent for Dissatisfaction?”], Die Zeit, August 5, 1977.

Translation: Allison Brown

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