The Swabian outsider quickly fell into the center of the left-liberal scene on the river Main. SDS leader Hans-Jürgen Krahl was mentor to the butcher’s son; revolutionary perspective was acquired from comrades like De Gaulle challenger Daniel Cohn-Bendit, sex researcher Reimut Reiche, SDS ringleaders Frank and K.D. Wolff, Matthias Beltz (today “Vorläufiges Frankfurter Fronttheater”) and the banker’s son Tom Koenigs, a Frankfurt city councilor and Fischer’s soon-to-be budget expert in the Ministry of the Environment.
Together with other activists, the Spontis founded a militant group, the “Revolutionäre Kampf” (Revolutionary Struggle or RK). Fischer, whose rhetorical talent had impressed the university-educated group members, was asked to become one of their spokesmen. “Joschka,” as the former SDS leader and RK-fighter Frank Wolff recalls, “was best at striking the right tone,” plus he “had a certain proletarian aura.”
The Swabian rebel got involved in everything in the “terrible time of open revolts,” from 1968 to 1975, always on the front line. “It went through all the different stages right up to heavy rioting,” and Joschka was “the warrior chief” of the Frankfurt street battles, quick with his tongue and fast on his feet.
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Very early on, Fischer identified the murderous terror of the Baader-Meinhof Group as the “wrong track” (Koenigs). Achieving social change through bombing was not his thing. The street-fighter’s opinion of Red Army Faction (RAF) leader Andreas Baader: “He made me want to puke.”
In the Frankfurt Römerberg* in June 1976, Fisher made his first major speech after the death of Ulrike Meinhof. He called for a “break with the armed struggle” – shortly afterwards two RAF bombs went off in Frankfurt’s U.S. [military] headquarters. Fischer at that time: “We cannot follow the urban guerillas. RAF actions mean giving up life, fighting till the death, and therefore self-destruction.”
The call by the head Sponti (“Comrades, throw away the bombs and take up stones again”) marked roughly the beginning of the end of the RAF terror. Koenigs said that “Joschka separated the alternative political scene from the RAF.”
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One of the toughest street-fighters, of all people, was also one of the first to join the newly forming, gentle Green movement. It was “a shock for many.” Fischer suddenly saw “options in real politics,” and the “Sponti and Marxist who believed in progress” became a Green.
Fischer broke with the Spontis (“they were finished”). After the success of the Greens in the 1981 local election in Hesse, when fundamentalist [Fundi], oppositional Greens held sway in the Römer**, Fischer quickly started running things for the group of realist [Realo] politicians in the Green district chapter. “We can’t just go on preaching in the parliament that it’s five minutes to midnight and refuse to take on responsibility.”
The Fundis, who reviled him as the “top macho,” goaded his sense of ambition. Joschka fought his way to third place on the state list of candidates before the 1983 Bundestag election and on the morning after the election, he said, “I woke up as a member of the Bundestag.” Fischer: “My new foray into reality.”
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* Frankfurt’s city hall square – trans.
** Frankfurt’s city hall – trans.