The – understandable – hope that in German politics something would change for the better due to the 29 August demonstrations and rallies in Berlin is most likely mistaken. It rather seems like the public appearances in Berlin are just the flip side of a political coin where both sides are lacking factuality, seriousness and orientation towards the common good.
Big words were chosen in the announcements of the events planned for 29 August 2020. “Millions of Democrats expected in Berlin. On 29 August, the democracy movement is again inviting people to Berlin to fend off the most comprehensive attack on civil society in human history. The festival of love, peace, freedom and equality of all people marks the climax of the ‘Summer of Democracy’ and the beginning of a long overdue revolution,” one of the many calls said. In another, it read: “Saturday, 29 August, 2020: On this historic day, Berlin will celebrate the festival of freedom – the organisers of Querdenken 711, who have already skilfully staged the mega-demo on 1 August, are expecting several millions of participants! This will be the most important day in German history since 1945! This event may force the government to resign!”
Berlin, 29 August 2020
Here now a short overview of what really happened:
Contributions for the rally: from Hare Krishna to the Revolution
Since it had not been possible on 1 August, this time all those who should/wanted to sing or talk had their say. The contributions ranged from Hare Krishna songs to schmaltzy “love” songs and questionable children’s and parents’ performances to calls for a “revolution”. One speaker, who is also co-editor of the “alternative” popular paper Demokratischer Widerstand, was wearing a dark suit and declared that he only put on his suit for weddings or for the revolution. On that day, he said, “Long live the revolution!” His goal is a new state in Germany, the “Free Federal Republic of Germany”. There was no shortage of big words: “Love”, “Freedom”, “Peace” – just like on 1 August. The time was “ripe for a new system”. Several speakers repeatedly tried to get the participants of the rally going with loudly chanted sayings.
Most likely not worth remembering
Is it worth to remember anything that was said and sung on stage on 29 August? I don’t think so. No sentence was formulated that will go down in history. But one should think about the performance as such. One speaker said that the event in Berlin would also reach the “souls” of people. What emotions might he have had in mind? Should this post-modern potpourri of dissatisfaction, lamentations, esotericism and loud attacks be ground-breaking? Too much noise prevents thinking. There was a lot of noise around 29 August. Can this be a sensible alternative to a policy that is indeed questionable in many respects?
And what would it really take instead to prevent the chasm between those in power, a large majority of citizens who are still on the side of those in power today and a sizeable minority who cheer for events like those in Berlin, from widening even further?
Jan Gerber, head of the political research department at the Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture in Leipzig, has formulated ideas worth considering in an article entitled “The populists are prototypes of a new party system”3. Unlike many others, he did not turn the term “populism” into a political struggle term, but analysed it with interesting thoughts. Among other things, one can read: “Populism is less a political programme than a political style. Whereas the established parties argue with practical constraints, he relies on emotions and affects. Mood-dependent ad hoc decisions take the place of lengthy negotiation processes, missing programmes are replaced by improvisation”. And at the end of the text it says: “Sooner or later, however, the party landscape is likely to change along the lines of populism. [...] Perhaps the party landscape of the future will emerge from the populist organisations of the present.” Indeed, one can get the impression that we have already covered a long way along this path in our countries.
But we can also ask ourselves whether we citizens want this to happen and whether there are not better alternatives: alternatives for the common good that do not rely on emotions and affects, ad hoc decisions depending on mood and improvisation, but rather again on objectivity, seriousness, programmatic approach and lengthy negotiation processes.
“Isn’t the time far too serious to indulge in mass events like the one in Berlin? What kind of ‘community’-experience is it when there is nothing on offer apart from a lot of noise and many empty words? Who really believes that the 29 August was ‘the most important day in German history since 1945’ or the ‘beginning of a long overdue upheaval’?”
The following questions may help to stimulate further thinking:
1 On 17 June 1953 a revolt in the GDR was defeated by Soviet tanks. The Federal Republic of Germany subsequently declared 17 June a national holiday.
2 The flag with three horizontal stripes of equal with in the colours black-white-red was the flag for warships and merchant ships of the North German Confederation from 1867 to 1871, the flag of the German Reich from 1871 to 1919 and, from 1933 to 1935, also the flag of the “Third Reich” for a transitional period before the swastika flag was introduced as the sole national flag. The colour scheme was also black-white-red.
3 Neue Zürcher Zeitung of 29 August 2020, page 36
km. Through Wikipedia, the reader learns that Gene Sharp who died in 2018, was a US political scientist, founder of the Albert Einstein Institute which focused on studies on non-violent and the spread of non-violent action. His most famous book, “The Politics of Non-violent Action” (1973) delivers a negotiation-oriented way for non-violent action. Sharp classified his methods in the following subgroups: non-violent protest and persuasion, social non-cooperation, economic boycott actions, strike actions, political non-cooperation and non-violent intervention. Petra Kelly smuggled “The Politics of Non-violent Action” to the GDR and gave it to the civil rights activist, Gerd Poppe. Volume II was adopted by the Democratic Initiative in Leipzig in early 1989. Sharp tried to exert concrete influence in Myanmar, where his instructions for action for liberation movements “From Dictatorship to Democracy” were distributed in 1992, which have since been translated into over 30 languages. The 4th edition was published in 2012. Sharps theories influenced many liberation movements in Eastern Europe: Otpor in Serbia, Kmara in Georgia, Pora! in the Ukraine, KelKel in Kyrgyzstan and Subr in Belarus. His liaison in these movements was the US Colonel Robert Helvey (retd.). In addition, he was referred to by the initiators of the revolution in Egypt in 2011, which led to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. One of the Alternative Nobel Prize awards, each worth 50,000 euros, went to Sharp in 2012. The reason given was that his studies on non-violent resistance had been applied in the jungles of Burma as well as in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. He has also advised governments on how to organise non-violent resistance to a military invasion.
It must be added that in reality the „non-violent actions“ were often associated with violence.
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