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Πέμπτη, 03 Μαϊος 2018 23:56

Gretchen Dutschke: "1968. What we can be proud of"

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In 1964, young American Greethen Klotz arrived in Germany through Antwerp, in order to learn the language of Kant and Ghoette. At a cafe in Stain Square in Berlin, he met a dark skin man that had some Polish books with him. He asked him whether he was from Poland and hwe answered her: "No, I just learn Polish to be able to read books from the original. My name is Rudy. Rudy Dutschke. " It was love at first site, Gretchen will later say. The rest are part of German history.

They married in 1966 and Rudy became the leader of the German student movement. The German May found him in the hospital, heavily injured with three bullets in the body and head, by a far-right worker who was inspired for his act by the murder of Martin Luther King that had happened a few days earlier. With Gretchen they lived together until 1979 when Rudy died of complications because of his wounds.

Gretchen lived next to Rudy the precursors and the aftermath of ‘68 May with the appearance of the RAF and the struggle of Germany's young people to get rid of the Nazi past of the country and to build an open, democratic society.

A few weeks ago she released her new book, a mixture of biography and an effort to explain what exactly was May of ‘68, what was left of it and what the May’s generation should be proud of. Fifty years later, Gretchen Dutschke spoke to CNN Greece about the legacy of May and today's Germany.


The introduction of the presentation of your new book entitled "1968. What we can be proud of", begins with the phrase: "What's left? "What do you think your generation can be proud of the most, and what is left from May 1968?

All of us who live in Germany can be proud of the transformation of Germany from an authoritarian, Nazi-polluted society to a lively democratic society, thanks to the “68iger”. Anti-authoritarian ideas have influenced child-rearing and education to a huge degree. No one says children should be seen but not heard anymore. The relations between men and women have become far more equal, though still not ideal. And the environment movement was also an offshoot of 1968.

You say that the 1968 story could be an inspiration for our actions today. How could this happen when the "There Is No Alternative" doctrine prevails across Europe?


The “no alternative” notion was propaganda created by US ideologues who felt after 1989 that they now could control the world completely. That has obviously been proven false, as the US descends into Trumpistic insanity. Logically then there are alternatives. We merely need to define them. I think there are suggestions: sustainable production and consumption, various means of redistribution of wealth many of which do not question the basic capitalistic structures, but some do, coops, communalism, amazingly Marx is becoming popular again. People are looking for ways to end the exploitation of people and nature by globalized capital. Critique of elites and the need to end their power can be found in many countries. Often the protests center around individual problems and lack cohesion. But that too has a tendency to develop and people will organize and view the larger picture.

 Fifty years since May 1968, do you think that people in the world today have more or less rights than they did then?

Some have more and some have less. For women I think for many the situation is better, even though macho behavior is still often acceptable everywhere.

How important was the role of May in the feminist movement and women's emancipation?

In Germany the feminist movement really became noticed and expanded in September, 1968 (not May) with the tomato attack on the SDS machos. It became the most important factor in the spread of antiauthoritarian ideas throughout the entire West German population.

 

What happened to your comrades from that period? Certainly some were integrated into the system. How do you feel about it?

“The Long March through the Institutions” only partly succeeded in changing the institutions (which is what the goal of the long march through the institutions was), some more than others and some were not changed at all. But it was an attempt that had to be tried, therefore I find those who did that were justified in doing it.

Your husband was the leading figure of the movement in Germany. How did he imagine the evolution of the movement, the Left and the Greens, in Germany and in Europe?

That changed over time. In the end he realized that if nature is destroyed then emancipation becomes impossible, therefore the first priority is to save nature which is why he decided to engage in the development of the Green Party. However, he believed that eventually, even if it took a long time, the fundamental structures of the globalized capitalist world as well as the parliamentary form of government which is essentially controlled by industry’s lobby groups would have to be changed.

 In the 60s, the so-called “real socialism” -in its every possible version- was inspirational and at the same time had a significant political influence on Western Europe. Fifty years later, the Left looks completely different.How would you describe today’s Left? Do you thing left-wing ideas keep inspiring people? Why has the Left retreated everywhere in Europe?

The influence “real socialism” had was mostly negative. However, some leftists saw it as the only alternative. When it disappeared, these Leftists were at a loss. Other Leftists had attempted to develop alternative ideas of Socialism, democratic Socialism, Socialism with a human face etc. But after the destruction of the Prague spring that idea seemed impossible. The left movement at the end of the 1980’s was left with the Women’s movement which still upheld the antiauthoritarian ideals and the green movement. Neither of them were offering an alternative economic order. In fact, alternative economic structures were never offered. Capitalism thus had free reign to gobble up the whole world and to convince people there was no alternative.

This globalized capitalism, however, although it was able to improve the situation for some people, in the end it created the growing gulf between rich and poor in the developed countries and the extreme destruction of the environment. Thus, discontent rose against governments and the blame was placed, not on capitalism and the neo-liberal order it created but on liberalism and the left. Right wing demagogues offered scape goats and people who simply didn’t know why things were not as good as promised accepted the simple demagogic answers.

However, I think there are signs that more people, especially those who were indifferent, who didn’t think you could change things anyway, are beginning to reject demagogic answers and look for alternatives that are not based on scapegoating and arousing fear and hatred, but rather for changes in social structures. Thus, in the USA polls are showing that about half of young people think socialism is good. This is certainly a drastic change from some years back.

The generation of 1968 in Germany was confronted with their country’s Nazi past and their parents’ generation, and these young people tried to make their own way.  Do you think that Germany has got over the guilt for its Nazi past today? Why did the Far Right manage to become the second most powerful party?

The question of guilt cannot be answered with yes or no. The people in Germany today had nothing to do with what the Nazis did. However, they still do have a responsibility to see that something like Nazism never takes over Germany again. If people do begin to support Nazi ideas, as PEGIDA and the AFD does, then they are guilty. The AFD was able to use the discontent of people which was caused in part by neo-liberal economic policies and offer a scapegoat (Muslims and others who are different in one way or other), which is easy for people to grasp, and those with racist tendencies immediately support such notions. When such notions are not acceptable in public discourse, racist tendencies are not encouraged and remain under the surface and without influence. The AFD is getting under 15% of the vote in Germany.

While this is way too much, I think the influence of the democratic impulse of the 1960’s is still preventing a situation as in most of the surrounding countries where the extremist right gets close to 50% or more. However, without a strong movement against racism and against neo-liberal economic structures it will likely get worse. That is why I say the youth must organize and struggle against hatred and for a society in which people and nature are not exploited for the gain of a few.

Published on CNN Greece 3-5-2018

 

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