Außerparlamentarische Opposition: Wikis


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The Außerparlamentarische Opposition (German for Extraparliamentary Opposition, commonly known as the APO), was a political protest movement active in West Germany during the latter half of the 1960s and early 1970s, forming a central part of the German student movement. Its membership consisted mostly of young people disillusioned with the grand coalition (Große Koalition) of the SPD and the CDU. Since the Coalition controlled 95% of the Bundestag, the APO provided a more effective outlet for student dissent. Its most prominent member and unofficial spokesman was Rudi Dutschke.



As opposed to APO, there is also opposition from other parties, who, although they are represented in parliament, do not participate in the formation of the government. It is possible that small parties do not receive enough votes in an election to reenter the parliament. For example, in the past the Free Democratic Party (FDP) has often not been represented in Länderparlamente (federal state governments), but they are not classified as APO.

It is not only in states with neither a democratically elected parliament nor free independent parties that APO expresses itself through the medium of art (literature, theatre, pop music), in church or, for example, in environmental protection groups, although in these states it is often the only remaining option. In extreme cases, the only remaining option involves illegal underground work and controversy.

APO in Germany

APO in Germany call primarily for the constitutional freedom of opinion, freedom of the press and freedom of assembly to convey its demands publicly. New political currents usually begin outside the parliament and usually creep over the Länderparlamente into the German Bundestag (federal parliament) or even into the Bundesregierung Deutschlands (the German federal government). For example, the Green Party entered into a coalition with the SPD (the social democratic party in Germany) in 1998 and remained in government until 2005.

APO in the 1960s

The student movement began to gain strength and momentum in the middle of the 1960s in West Germany. The student movement is often used synonymously with APO, since it was at the time the most prominent form of extraparliamentary opposition in Germany. The student movement reached its peak in 1967 and 1968, especially in the towns with universities. The most cited form of student-led APO was headed by the SDS (the Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund - the socialist German student group).

APO developed itself through the opposition mounting against the 1966 formation of the grand coalition government, which united the CDU and the SPD under the Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger (CDU) and the proposed Notstandsgesetzgebung (emergency laws), which would maximise governmental control in case of public emergency, allowing them to restrict civil rights such as privacy and freedom of movement. With 49 seats in parliament, the FDP was the only opposing party in the parliament; the rest of the opposition was extraparliamentary. This weakened opposition in the Bundestag strengthened APO in Germany.

The APO demanded a democratisation of university politics, a motto of the student movement protesting against the oldfashioned nature of higher education institutions was „Unter den Talaren - Muff von 1000 Jahren“ - "under the university gowns, the musty smell of a thousand years", which also referred to Hitler, who had called his regime a reich for 1000 years. They criticised the social expulsion of the criminals of National Socialism through their parents' generation, who were only interested in economic recovery. Besides this, they joined worldwide protests against the Vietnam War and showed solidarity with the North Vietnamese Guerilla fighters campaigning against the actions of the USA. Among other protagonists, the movement idolised were Che Guevara, the leader of the Vietnamese Revolution and the founder of the Vietnamese Communist Party Ho Chi Minh. "Ho-Ho-Ho-Chi-Minh" was often chanted at demonstrations towards the end of the 1960s.

Soon it wasn't only political fields in which the student movement took part in discussions about society. They made widespread criticisms and demanded demanded fundamental societal changes towards a socialist revolutionary ideal. New forms of communal life were tried, as were new forms of protests and political actions. In particular, life in the Kommune I (Commune 1) was begun, spurred on by the words of Fritz Teufel, Dieter Kunzelmann and Rainer Langhans. Their political actions often led to prosecutions, which were used as a platform for further speculatory protests.

The APO also found support and theoretical guidance from intellectuals and philosophers such as Ernst Bloch, Theodor W. Adorno, Herbert Marcuse and the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre.

On the whole, the West German APO consisted of young people such as students and pupils. They could hardly gain a foothold in the workforce and in the milieu. A few analysts of the time, such as Jutta Ditfurth, spoke out against these assumptions and embraced the workforce, including them in the political movement.

In France, the case was somewhat different. There solidarity was found between the unions and the student activists, which led to a near-revolutionary situation and much disruption, street fighting and mass strikes in May 1968, culminating in a state crisis. One of the protagonists of the German and French APO, activist and later Green Party politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit was refused reentry into France on the initiative of president Charles de Gaulle. Further members of the APO were Joseph "Joschka" Fischer (German foreign minister from 1998-2005) and Matthias Beltz, who became a famous and much-loved kabarettist in the 70s and 80s.

The conflict becomes stronger

A watershed in the history of the West German APO commenced on June 2, 1967 during demonstrations against the official visit of the Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi when student Benno Ohnesorg was shot by a policeman. Ohnesorg was attending his first ever political demonstration, and his death left his pregnant girlfriend to fend for herself. The student movement radicalised itself, became more militant and focused its attention on the Springer Press, namely the Bild Zeitung (the German equivalent of the British publication "The Sun"). This publication was instilling negative opinions of the student movement in the general public. Almost a year after the death of Benno Ohnesorg, Rudi Dutschke, one of the most prominent leaders of the student movement, was severely wounded by the 3 shots fired against him by worker and avid Bild-reader Josef Bachmann. Dutschke survived the attack, but died from the effects of his injuries in 1979, which had caused him to suffer from epilepsy for the remainder of his life.

After 1969, the APO in its then-current form played no further role in West Germany, although there was further extraparliamentary opposition. New social movements in the 1970s affected political and social areas, which had already been addressed in part by the student movement. Environmental protection and nuclear power became the latest themes focused on by former APO activists.

From the end of the SDS to the founding of the Green Party (end 1960s to present day)

The SDS disbanded itself in 1968, dividing into smaller communist groups known as K-Gruppen, who remained on the political landscape but had no notable influence on West German politics.

The "Marsch durch die Institutionen" (march through the institutions) propagated by Rudi Dutschke was embarked upon, resulting in the formation of the Green Party 11 years later. The idea behind this march was that political structures could only be manipulated from within, so it made more sense for larger groups to disband and for individuals and smaller groups to work singlehandedly to change the political system of their federal republic. The Green Party was formed to organise and accommodate the anti-nuclear power groups, the peace movement activists and other new social movements in the 70s and 80s. Its founders had previously been very active in the APO. In 1983, the Green Party was elected into the Bundestag, where it stood for the concept of movement and change, so that its roots and philosophy were seen in new social movements. Within only a few years, the Greens gained much political power and prestige. In the time following the party's founding, there was a divide between the fundamentalists and the realists, which still exists today. It is the willingness of the Greens to compromise and adapt that has led to their increased political power. In particular, since they entered into a coalition government with the SPD in 1998 and supported issues targeted by the APO which were in the eyes of many underrepresented such as participation in the war in Kosovo in 1999 and the war in Afghanistan in 2002.

Radicalised Groups

A small number of APO activists such as Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, journalist Ulrike Meinhof resorted to arson in department stores and illegal underground work. They collaborated in the "Rote Armee Fraktion" (RAF) that was commonly known as the "bewaffneten Widerstand" (armed opposition). Bank robberies, kidnappings and even murders were committed against protagonists of the businesses, politics and justice by the RAF, the "Bewegung 2. Juni" (Movement of the 2nd June) and the "Revolutionären Zellen" (Revolutionary Cells) right up until the 1980s.

See also



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