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The Ostensible End of the Protest Movement (March 15, 1975)

In the following article, political scientist Bernd Guggenberger analyzes the protest movement of the previous years. He explores its motivations and strategies, as well as the reasons behind its apparent loss of momentum in the mid-1970s. On the basis of this analysis, Guggenberger predicts a “new Biedermeier era,” referring to a period in the early nineteenth century when people – at least publicly – made a turn away from politics and towards private life.

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The Return to Reality

Where is the protest movement going? A definite answer to this question is impossible, if for no other reason than our temporal and spatial proximity to this phenomenon. The discernible approaches, motivations, and directions are too diverse and ambiguous: the development also proceeded too breathlessly; the passage of time left so many things outdated, things that the culturally-critical social sciences had already deemed all but “certain knowledge.”

One only has to remember the theory of the “end of ideologies,” which was proclaimed with missionary zeal until well into the 1960s. What remained of it when one took stock of things at the end of that decade? Not only did a new right-wing party establish itself here in the Federal Republic in the mid-1960s in the wake of the economic recession; a “New Left” also emerged, and as a worldwide movement at that. Its criticisms were ignited precisely by the anti-ideology stance of industrial society, the complacency of the older generation, the sobriety and everyday pragmatism of the politicians, and the general quest for affluence [Wohlstandsorientierung] that was prevailing everywhere.

What remains when we look back at the “doctrines” of the early 1970s today? And when we think of slick formulas such as re-ideologization, polarization, anarchy, and class struggle?

Today, in 1975, is the ideological permeation of broad areas of social life, indoctrination and political polarization, class struggle and anarchy still the central issue in schools and universities?

What is immediately obvious to everyone is that, outside the walls of our universities, and in large part even within them, things have gotten noticeably quieter. Gone is the pure excitement, the hectic revolutionizing, the outpouring of emotions. Gone, too, is the lightness, the optimism, the brilliant carefreeness that was thoroughly characteristic of this collective escape from the despised world of the fathers. Initially, the spokespeople of the “New Left” included many more artists and poets than politicians and functionaries of organizations. This has changed fundamentally. No longer does the talented loner, the critical, well-read, original, sharp-tongued, articulate individualist dominate the scene, but rather the – often meticulously tidy – wooden, but well-prepared, narrow-minded dogmatist of an SED-friendly “Marxism-Leninism.”

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