Robert Ogman’s short book charts an important point in the development of the radical Left in Germany, just before and after the country’s reunification. It introduces and assesses a heterogeneous anti-national social movement that at first swam against the stream of nationalist euphoria in 1990 and that in subsequent years fought against a tide of resurgent xenophobic violence.
Ogman shows how the demise of real-existing socialism that culminated in the collapse of the German Democratic Republic not only signalled the triumph of neoliberal capitalism; it also initiated a new phase of aggressive and xenophobic nationalism in the reunified Federal Republic. While the nation served elite-purposes to smooth over labour conflicts and class interests, this was also echoed as nationalism from below. The euphoria that accompanied the new nation-building process was soon followed by significant increases in xenophobic sentiments and violence, so terrifyingly captured in the pogroms of Rostock and Hoyerswerda, when neo-Nazis and locals joined forces in driving asylum seekers from their towns.
It was in this context that a distinct, and rather unique, anti-national movement began to take shape. Ogman focuses on two campaigns of the time.
The first, which at its highpoint in 1990 attracted more than 20,000 people to an anti-national demonstration in Frankfurt, was the radical Left’s response to what it perceived as the ‘annexation’ of the former GDR by the Federal Republic. Using a phrase by the popular singer Marlene Dietrich, the campaign called itself ‘Never Again Germany!’ Somewhat hopelessly, it opposed reunification outright, with many activists fearing a geopolitical and economic strengthening of Germany that could pave the way for something akin to a Fourth Reich.
The second, after reunification, arose as a coalition of anti-racist activists that joined together in the ‘Something Better than the Nation’ campaign against a seemingly national consensus of xenophobia. Here again, it wasn’t the state alone that forced a tightening of asylum laws. The campaign highlighted how wide sections of society were actively involved in at times violent attacks on refugees and migrant workers.
Both campaigns brought together activists from a variety of backgrounds, former members of the Greens, Maoist organisations, Autonome and squatters. Ogman suggests that its heterogeneity also led to the movement’s decline. Yet, many of its principles live on in today’s German Left and still inform current campaigning.
While the sections on these specific campaigns are rather short, the non-German reader might find Ogman’s contextualisation of particular interest, and indeed it describes an aspect of German history that is often conveniently forgotten. It looks at the support for xenophobia not just amongst the reconstituting far Right but also among wide sections of the German public, some of whom joined in with acts of violence.
Ogman argues that the anti-national campaigns rightly broke with more traditional left-wing attitudes towards the nation. They were questioning of notions such as ‘the people’, and instead grappled with the problem that broad sections of the population had been complicit in supporting and even enacting nationalist and racist ideology. For Ogman, this is not just a matter of history. His point is that we can find lessons for the Anglophone Left today.
Raphael Schlembach is an Associate Lecturer at The University of Central Lancashire
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
The snap general election represents a unique opportunity to defeat this terrible government. We believe that visual artists have a crucial role to play!
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill