The Public Interest

Germany: radicals and reformers

Renate Mayntz

Fall 1968

WEST Germany seems an unlikely place for the growth of a protest movement. There is no notably oppressive political regime; there is nothing like a Vietnam War; and there are no major socio-economic problems such as large-scale poverty, disadvantaged racial or ethnic minorities, etc. If, therefore, the protesting students define Germany as ripe for a revolution, they can only point to less tangible issues. There is, for example, the “immobilism” of the Bonn Government, especially in matters of foreign policy Anticommunism has lost its appeal, the failure to recognize the East German regime has been judged to be unrealistic, and the continuing dependence on the United States, a power which has lost its moral claim to leadership through the war in Vietnam, has been increasingly resented. The exceedingly slow progress of certain reforms—such as the revision of the penal code or educational reforms- has added to the feeling that inertia is the dominant force. When the CDU and SPD joined in the Great Coalition, the possibility of successful opposition within the existing parliamentary system seemed to be further reduced. The dice appeared to be loaded and the rules of the game favored the established authorities. From this a minority drew the radical conclusion that the whole system had to be overthrown. Among the advocates of what has come to be called the “extra-parliamentary opposition,students are numerically the strongest.

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