The West Berlin anti-authoritarians around Rudi Dutschke employed a notion of subaltern nationalism inspired by independence struggles in the global South and particularly by post 1959 Cuba to legitimate their loosely understood plans to recreate West Berlin as a revolutionary island. Responding to Che Guevara's call for many Vietnams, they imagined this Northern metropolis as a Focus spreading socialism of the third way throughout Europe, a conception that united their local and global aims. In focusing on their interpretation of societal changes and structures in Cuba, the anti-authoritarians deemphasized these plans' potential for violence. As a study of West German leftists in transnational context, this article suggests the limitations of confining analyses of their projects within national or Northern paradigms. As a study of the influence of the global South on the North in a non-(post)colonial situation, it suggests that such influence is greater than has heretofore been understood.
Keywords: transnationalism; postcolonialism; Cuba; Berlin; German national identity; solidarity; fascism; new Left
Left-leaning activism of the 1960s has sometimes been understood as part of a global network, especially when governments took such activity seriously. (1) Of late, more 1960s scholarship is going transnational--researchers are attending both to international relations and to cultural and interpersonal connections across national borders. (2) Such new scholarship can better account for the complexity of this phenomenon than that which considers events solely within national frameworks. Moreover, it can make sense of apparently inscrutable notions of activists in the global North. This perspective is long overdue as a way of understanding certain West German groups, such as the self-defined anti-authoritarians organized around the West Berlin-based student leader Rudi Dutschke.
By global North and South, I mean financially and geopolitically more advantaged contrasted with financially and geopolitically less advantaged nations and areas. (3) The terms are linked to hemispheric geography, their borders delineated by the so-called Brandt Line drawn in the 1980s by then Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), Willy Brandt. (4) This terminology, however, also maps its own geography, as some increasingly impoverished northern regions have little in common with their geographic neighbors and are more accurately categorized as part of the South. The terms "Third World" and "First World" and "underdeveloped" and "overdeveloped" were used by both the anti-authoritarians and activists of the South, including Cuba, to describe the unequal distribution of wealth and power within a global context of "peaceful co-existence." I employ them descriptively in this article as a local category.
For the purposes of this article, the term anti-authoritarians refers to those close to Dutschke who were involved in the radical activist group Subversiver Aktion (Subversive Action) and/or the meeting in Pichelsdorf, as well as those who self-identified and worked closely with these groups, but whose names have not made their way into historiography. As is characteristic of grassroots organizations, participation shifted. Subversiver Aktion, which later formed the basis of the Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund (SDS), was founded by Dieter Kunzelmann, Christof Baldeney, Rudolphe Gasche, and Frank Bockelmann. Both Dutschke and Bernd Rabehl were members. (5) Authoritative sources diverge somewhat on the attendees at the Pichelsdorf meeting, a gathering upon which I expand below. Gretchen Dutschke lists: Rudi Dutschke, Wolfgang Lefevre, Urs Muller-Plantenberg, Rabehl, Peter Schneider, Christian Semler, Rolf Stanzik, and Peter Wellert. (6) Siegward Lonnendonker lists: Rudi Dutschke, Peter Gang, Lefevre, Lothar Pinkall, Muller-Plantenberg, Rabehl, Semler, Stanzick, and Walter Weller. (7) It is probable that those involved with Dutschke in the production of the essay collection The Long March: Paths of Revolution in Latin America (Der Lange Marsch: Wege der Revolution in Lateinamerika) (8)--T. Kasemann, R. Scholler, Gisela Mandel, and K.S. Karol--also shared the positions that I discuss here.
Most analyses consider Dutschke and these anti-authoritarians within a German or a German-U.S. framework. (9) Their agendas and activism are interpreted as catalysts that matured into reformist change within the Federal Republic, notably the new social movements and the Green Party. (10) This is only part of the narrative. My article contributes to a reassessment of the 1960s beyond the nation-state by articulating an example of a different part of the story: the significance of Southern theories and practices for Northern thinkers and activists. It focuses on perhaps the most well-known student leader in the FRG, about whom German stories are generally told. Even in this case, little scholarship treats links across the South-North axis, a situation that suggests a general dearth of knowledge about such relationships. I make three related arguments: Dutschke and the anti-authoritarians had significant interest in the global South, especially revolutionary Cuba; their vague plan for revolutionizing West Berlin relied on this Southern example; their interest and agenda were based in the adoption of particular Southern understandings of nationalism that opposed what for Dutschke were tainted Northern models.
Following World War II, the definition and function of FRG nationalism was in dispute. The concept of the Zero Hour (Stunde Null) functioned as a tabula rasa for the Federal Republic, and the new nation was to be thoroughly bound into Western alliances to assure that it would remain within its postwar borders. (11) FRG national identity was to be based on economic strength and parliamentary, constitutional, socio-governmental structures, not emotive, racialized mythologies that had contributed to the success of Nazi Germany. Many on the Left in the FRG rejected even this Enlightenment-style "constitutional patriotism" and focused on articulating forms of postnational or supranational identification. (12)
These vexed relationships among left-leaning Germans and nationalism may contribute to the relative silence surrounding Dutschke's interest in nationalism. Ulrich Chaussy's well-respected biography, for example, downplays it. (13) Wolfgang Kraushaar has attempted such a project, (14) but, interestingly, his more recent work tends to assess the student leader within a German framework. (15) I assert that in this and related cases, scholars misrecognize the meaning of nationalism. Consider Nick Thomas's note in relation to the group around Dutschke: "It is necessary to acknowledge the Left's contradictory opposition to nationalism while supporting a war of national liberation [Vietnam]." (16) While it may lie beyond the scope of Thomas's worthwhile project to engage this seeming paradox, these positions are not contradictory. What is required in order to make sense of the situation is to interrogate the meaning of nationalism in this context. Analysis of Dutschke's work yields a particular conception of nationalism that suggests a basis for rethinking the anti-authoritarian agenda. Similar reassessment may be useful in order to better understand other left-leaning thinkers and activists as well.
The anti-authoritarians sought to define an identity for themselves based on notions of nationalism professed by Third-World liberation movements in the global South. By nationalism here, I mean both a shared sentiment of caring about an imagined community and the desire to act in the cause of this community. Yet, an important distinction must be made here. These Germans rejected what Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri have recently called "bourgeois" nationalism associated with the global North in favor of "subaltern" nationalism associated with the global South. According to Hardt and Negri, the bourgeois nationalism that developed in the Europe of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is imagined and represented as homogeneous and is enabled by the subjugation and elision of the racialized other. This oppression occurs not only outside, but also inside national borders. In such cases: "the construction of national identity guarantees a continually reinforced legitimation, and the right and power of a sacrosanct and irrepressible unity." (17) In contrast, for Negri and Hardt subaltern nationalism is formed defensively against unwelcome dominant forces and is based in communities that exist in the imagination rather than as actual polities. For these theorists, subaltern nationalism is double-edged, for in as far as it succeeds, it risks becoming oppressive itself. Nevertheless, the distinction between bourgeois and subaltern nationalism is significant: "whereas the concept of nation promotes stasis and restoration in the hands of the dominant, it is a weapon for change and revolution in the hands of the subordinated." (18)
The anti-authoritarians legitimated their radical project by identifying it with the subaltern nationalisms of emerging Southern polities and against bourgeois Northern nationalisms. Moreover, by relatively uncritically embracing such emerging nationalisms, they were able to reclaim a positive notion of German national identity in a manner that, for them, opposed the homogeneous, oppressive nationalism of Nazi Germany and of the established FRG and German Democratic Republic (GDR) states. These anti-authoritarians' conception of what can best be understood as subaltern nationalism that was fomented in the highly charged and politically contested …