Censorship and Repression in the Model
By Mario Cutajar
Last September, Nappo and Kunkel, two Frankfurt actors who play
the part of clowns on a well-known TV show for West German children,
decided to go out for a snack. Since the filming session was scheduled
to continue they kept their full costumes on. They hadn't finished
their meal when 20 policemen carrying drawn machine pistols swooped
down on them. Somebody had phoned saying there were suspicious
characters lurking about. Identity papers revealed the obvious.
But the police didn't waste time on apologies. Instead they commended
the people of Frankfurt for being so suspicious.
This is what is referred to in Europe as the Model State, a description
Germany first started to enjoy in the days of Bismarck. The difference
between now and then is that today there is no embarrassing Kaiser
to poison the admiration felt by other governments for the strong
state. The descendants of the Social Democrats which Bismarck suppressed
are now in power suppressing today's Red menace, and doing a better
job of it. They no longer do things autocratically in Germany because
repression is democratically sanctioned.
The most notorious example of democratic repression is the Berufsverbot.
Passed in 1972 this law (literally a "profession ban")
is designed to exclude from the public service all those suspected
of disloyalty to the Constitution. Since then 4,000 people have
either lost their jobs or been refused employment because of it.
More important, however, is the intimidating effect these 4,000
cases have had on the rest of the civil service and on those looking
for a job. (There are almost one and a half million unemployed in
West Germany). In one case a Munich student was refused employment
as a grammar school teacher because he supported the "medium-term"
political platform of the Social Democratic Party (SPD)! According
to the student the Bavarian Ministry regarded the term "class
society" as applied to West Germany in the programme as "anti-constitutional".
Suspicions that the Berufsverbot was being used exclusively against
the left were not allayed when the Mannheim administrative court
ruled that the aims of the neo-fascist National Democratic Party
are not anti-constitutional. This is just as well since any ban
on fascists in the public service would have seriously debilitated
the civil service which, after the Second World War, absorbed the
bureaucracy of the Third Reich intact.
There are currently 15 "intelligence" services protecting
the West German constitution. What information they collect is their
own business: it could be your signature on an anti-Berufsverbbte
petition, your membership in Amnesty International or a commune
or simply the fact that you seem to read a lot of left-wing books.
German librarians recently complained that the "intelligence
services seem to be unusually preoccupied with library borrowing
lists. However, unlike our own RCMP, the German secret police don't
have to step outside the law or even to keep their disruptive operations
This is partly true in the area of radical publications. Legislation
passed two years ago (paragraphs 88a and 126) makes punishable by
a sentence of up to three years the (i) distribution, (ii) displaying
or making accessible in an way, (iii) producing, subscribing, delivering,
storing, offering, or announcing material that recommends any of
seven categories of unlawful acts. These acts range from disturbing
the peace in special cases, to murder and sabotage. This law becomes
even more draconian when coupled with paragraph 129 which threatens
the founders of "criminal organizations " with up to five
These laws had hardly been passed when the police started raiding
left-wing bookstores. Ten bookstores in five cities were raided.
The ostensible reason for the raids was that these stores supported
a criminal organization (para, 129) by selling copies of Revolutionarer
Zorn (para. 88a), a newspaper put out by the underground Revolutionary
Cells and sent anonymously to various left-bookshops. However, during
the raids the police seized not only this paper but also 30 different
titles, none of which is officially forbidden. As well all the apartments
and shops that were raided were sketched and photographed, samples
of typewriter script were made and, most ominous of all, subscription
lists, correspondence and publisher files were seized. Readers will
notice the similarity between these tactics and "our own"
Body Politic raid.
In an even more blatant case, Gerd Schnepel, the bookseller and
ex-manager of a left publishing house, was sentenced to two years
imprisonment for his part in the publication of The Struggle
Against Annihilation Imprisonment. Though a largely documentary
book on the practice of isolation, imprisonment and sensory deprivation
in West German jails, the court concluded that this book "insults"
the state and the judiciary system and "poisons" the political
atmosphere in West Germany. Following the verdict, the court explained
that "political opinion" was not the issue. Significantly,
the law here existed even before paras. 88a and 126 came into effect.
It would appear, in fact, that the USSR is far from being the only
country where you can go to jail for "anti-state" activities.
In another case the printers of a newspaper called Info-BUG
(Info Berliner Undogmatischer Gruppen) were arrested for printing
a "megaphone for terrorist organizations." Yet of the
400 articles that appeared in the period referred to by the public
prosecution, only 12 were statements from illegal groups and these
appeared in a paper that had often criticized the politics of these
organizations. Moreover, AGIT publishing-house, which prints Info-BUG,
has done jobs for groups as varied as the Postal Workers' Union
and the Protestant Church.
Nor is it just the printers and sellers of "poisonous"
material that are threatened. One truck driver was arrested for
transporting books and letters from West Berlin to West Germany.
In each case, what is important is not the actual arrest but the
self-censorship each arrest teaches other people. Because, as Rheinland-Pfaltz
prime minister Vogel put it, a terrorist sympathizer can be anyone
"who simply says 'Baaader-Meinhof Group' instead of
The extent of the censorship being sought may be glimpsed from the
actions of the police. As Pastor Ensslin found out after he stated
that his daughter's death in Stammheim prison looked more like murder
than suicide, the German State doesn't like its version of the Truth
questioned, let alone contradicted. After Ensslin made his statement
the public prosecutor in Stuttgart started prosecution on the grounds
of "defaming the state" and "injurious slander".
The Stammheim deaths highlighted two other aspects of the current
wave of repression: the cooperation of the press with the police,
and the ability of the police to obtain whatever laws they deem
necessary. When Baader, Raspe and Ensslin were found dead in their
cells the German press immediately pronounced "suicide"
as the verdict, this, despite any confirmation whatsoever of the
allegation. Later they followed with a stream of sensational and
often contradictory findings. During the Schleyer kidnapping Der
Spiegel even bragged about the co-operation of the press with
the government. "That the chancellor and his government feel
so close to their subjects is certainly thanks to the understanding
commentary on their actions by the German press." The police
for their part are quite conscious of their relations with the press.
Writing in the professional magazine Die Polizei, a high
ranking officer explained that cultivating good contacts with universities
and academies and "especially the cultivating of good connections
to the press" is part of the "field work". Other
field work: confusing demonstrators "by spreading rumours"
and "telephone calls to irritate certain groups of disturbers".
The police must also have "good contacts" with the federal
parliament. All measures resorted to are either already law or else
pass into law sometime after they are used. A good example of the
latter was the Kontaktsperregesetz (Contact Barrier) Law, making
it legal to deny a prisoner all contact with the outside world (no
newspapers, no radio, television or letters, no visitors by either
relatives or lawyers and no contact with other prisoners) when there
is danger to life or freedom from a "terrorist organization".
This law was passed in Parliament within a record three days. At
that time, it had already been in effect for a month, i.e. from
the time that Martin Schleyer was kidnapped.
These aspects of the situation in Germany were illustrated in conjunction
with each other at the massive Kalkar demonstration which took place
at the end of last September. The demonstration, described by its
organizers as a "festival with stands and games" was called
to protest the building of a fast-breeder reactor." Though
it was destined to become the largest demonstration held in Germany
since the War, this was despite the combined efforts of the press
and the police. The press, for example, predicted a bloody confrontation
a month before the demonstration. The government helped by spreading
rumours that "some groups" planned a violent confrontation,
Not surpringly therefore, "the largest possible show of police"
was to be mobilized. Four days before the demonstration, the township
director announced special restrictions which included the prohibition
of articles of camouflage (scarves and masks) and a ban on vehicles
of all kinds (including sanitary vehicles) accompanying the march.
Meanwhile, the SPD (the majority party in North Rhine Westphalia)
formally prohibited members of its youth organization from taking
part, warning that the Young Socialists could not be "so naive
as to think that they can make peaceful citizens out of political
criminals." Likewise the German union federation called on
its members not to attend.
On the day of the demonstration the police had so many road blocks
that it took 17 hours to drive 300 miles. All participants (more
than 50,000) were searched, some more than once. They were photographed
both from close up and on Videotape. Plastic raincoats, scarves,
gloves, lipsticks, screw drivers, first aid kits, note books, snacks
"you pigs don't need to eat") were some: of the things
the police confiscated as "passive weapons". Eventually;
the march started. It was over so quick that those at the head of
the march were leaving as those at the end were arriving. The press
credited the police with preventing a "bloodbath" that
had never been more than a media creation. Complaints against the
methods used by the police were silenced by turning these methods
into law. Needless to say all the pictures and information gathered
at Kalkar was fed into the police computers, of which there are
30,000. In Germany today there are at least 200 pieces of information
(from shopping habits to political tendencies) stored about every
person living there.
As the economic and ideological crisis of Western capitalism intensifies
and the "experts" put forward conflicting "solutions",
the state will increasingly fall back on purely coercive measures
to maintain social "peace". This process will depend on
the speed with which liberal ideology disintegrates. At some point,
we may have already passed it, words like "restraint' and "cooperation"
cease to perform their mystifying function. Restraint is a vile
term in a country where in the same period that wage controls were
in effect corporations were making record profits and inflation
was as uncontrollable as ever. Under such conditions "co-operation"
means leaving the door open for the burglar.
Germany's example will be followed elsewhere The technology and
the methods are eminently suited for export to other Western countries.
Canada is already involved in a massive arms deal with West Germany.
A lot of the armour being bought has little use for anything other
than the control of civilians. And as the RCMP revelations have
confirmed in recent months, the RCMP is quite adept at doing semi-legally
what the German police nowadays do legally. Moreover, within the
context in which they took place, these revelations have only strengthtened
the RCMP by making more people aware of its presence, the only reply
from the government being a proposal to legalize "dirty tricks".
The secret police are most effective when their existence is public
knowledge and their powers self-defined.
What is happening in Germany, therefore, has more immediate relevance
to us than would appear at first sight. If today our press celebrates
the efficiency of the German police in the months to come it will
have little trouble congratulating our own force. "Our cops
are tops" will then reverberate with a new and quite sinister
Published in Volume 3, Number 1 of The
Red Menace, Winter 1979.
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