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Constitutional Implications of the Campaign against Nuclear Power (November 3, 1976)

A liberal commentator reflects on the ironies of a citizens’ movement that worked against the decisions of democratically elected bodies. He criticizes the costly use of force to put down the protests, and urges politicians to take more seriously the activist segment of the population that opposed nuclear power.

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Nuclear Power Splits the Constitutional State

The term “nuclear fascism” has existed for quite a while. It has not made its way into public discussion yet because only very few people have any idea what it means. You can get a sense of its meaning from the conflict over the construction site at Brokdorf on the lower Elbe River.* The onslaught of hundreds of police with gas masks, dogs, and water cannons, the bulldozers closing up the ranks, and barbed wire entanglements being rolled out made a lasting impression on anyone who watched the special report on NDR television on Sunday evening. But most important was not the action at dawn, when – following the Bundestag election – a surprise raid outmaneuvered the citizens’ initiatives after the sudden issuance of a construction permit with instructions for the immediate execution of a project that has been disputed for years. Even more significant were the mass psychology of the accompaniment and the self-assured interplay of the power company, the state government, the security organs, and the police. They were all well-informed and could prepare themselves accordingly.

The plan of action is similar to the one used at Wyhl.** Concerned or affected citizens raise objections to the planning permission procedure: in Brokdorf there were more than 20,000. Complaints are also submitted before the court. The residents are then invited to hearings at which police presence assures the necessary mood. The organization in Brokdorf was such that, according to a member of the television film crew, the people involved in Dithmarsch*** got to speak on one day but the experts they invited testified on a different day. That made it possible to treat the former group as ignorant in nuclear matters, and the latter as uninvolved individuals from outside. In the meantime, the permit procedures by the government in Kiel took their course, strictly according to the order of the constitutional state and without the involvement of the state assembly.

That is not provided for, as the responsible social minister [Karl-Eduard] Claussen explained. Questions regarding nuclear power plants are to be treated by the executive alone, which – except for industry – has no one to contact, however, unless citizens’ initiatives are formed. But these are treated as not legitimate. They are not provided for by the constitutional state. Or to be more precise: They are not provided for by the law and order state [Gesetzes- und Verordnungsstaat]. And even if the Basic Law guarantees that all Germans have the right to assemble peacefully and unarmed, there is no government that is in any way required to attend to such assemblies.

* Northern German site (in Schleswig-Holstein) for the construction of a nuclear power plant – eds.
** Southern German site of the first anti-nuclear power protests. See previous document on the citizens’ movement there – eds.
*** The region in which Brokdorf is situated – eds.

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