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NICARAGUA GUATEMALA

Dill]
I:ID ·]0tJ

Green
Editors: Margaret Cerullo, John Demeter, Marla Erlien, Phyllis Ewen, Elizabeth Francis, Ann
Holder, Donna Penn, Ken Schlosser, Deb Whippen, and Ann Withorn. Interns: Ben Alexander and
Melanie Shear.

Staff: John Demeter.

Associate Editors: Peter Biskind, Carl Boggs, Frank Brodhead, Paul Buhle, Jorge C. Corralejo,
Margery Davies, Ellen DuBois, Barbara Ehrenreich, John Ehrenreich, Dan Georgakas, Martin
Glaberman, Jeff Goldthorpe, Linda Gordon, Jim Green, Mike Hirsch, Allen Hunter, Joe Interrante,
Mike Kazin, Ken Lawrence, Staughton Lynd, Betty Mandel, Mark Naison, Jim O'Brien, Brian
Peterson, Sheila Rowbotham, James Stark, Gail Sullivan, Annmarie Troger, Martha Vicinus, Stan
Weir, David Widgery, and Renner Wunderlich.

Cover: Design by Nick Thorkelson

Vol. 19, No.5 Sept.-Oct. 1985 (on newsstands Feb. 1986)

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AMERICA
VOL. 19, .No. 5 1985

INTRODUCTION 2
PREFACE: GERMANY, ANTI-SEMITISM, AND THE LEFT 5
BITBURG: 10
May 5, 1985 and after
A Letter to the West German Left
Moishe Postone

RAINER WERNER FASSBINDER'S 19


"TRASH, THE CITY, AND DEATH":
When Allegory Becomes Metaphor
Seyla Benhabib
THESES ON FASSBINDER, ANTI-SEMITISM, 24
AND GERMANY:
A Frankfurt Autumn, 1985
Moishe Postone

THE CRISIS OF THE GREENS: 35


"Fundis, " "Realos, " and the Future
Phil Hill
LIFE AND WORK AT EL CRUCERO: 45
Interviews with Nicaraguan Coffee
Workers
Introduction by Chuck Kleinhans and Julia
Lesage

GUATEMALA: 60
The Trouble With Elections
Clark Taylor
GOOD READING 68
Deb Whippen
INTRODUCTION

In our last issue, Cynthia Enloe reminded us in "Bananas, Bases, and Patriarchy:
Some Feminist Questions about the Militarization of Central America," of how important it
is to ask "where are the women" when examining the role of US imperialism in that area. In
this issue we present interviews with Nicaraguan coffee workers that continue to suggest the
question's usefulness for understanding the promise and limits of revolutionary change.
The interviews, conducted and transcribed by Chuck Kleinhans and Julia Lesage, are
with the local male organizer of a Sandinista coffee workers' union and two women coffee
workers. Both the organizer of the "Official" union-over 80 percent of workers are organ­
ized, the majority of these in Sandinista unions-and the workers give us important glimpses
into the daily life of agricultural workers in Nicaragua and an understanding of how much
people value improvements in increased power over their lives and their work. The inter­
views also show us the ways in which women were especially oppressed during the Somoza
regime-unequal wages, child labor, poor housing, no attention to general health needs or
the specific needs of pregnant women. In short, these personal histories demonstrate that
revolution can make a difference in social relations and give poor people, especially women,
new hope.
=

2
At the same time, we still see women solely special preface on "Germany, Anti-Semitism,
responsible for their children with little male and the Left" introduces the articles by Moishe
or collective help. Women remain more worried Postone and Seyla Benhabib, we will comment
and less optimistic about the health, housing, only on Phil Hill's "Greens in Crisis: Realos,
and transportation problems which placed Fundis, and the Future," which continues our
them and their families in jeopardy. And we exploration of the West German Greens and the
still find women being asked to pay the potential of merging alternative politics,
price-with extra labor-for military activity. protest, and electoral work into a significant
Of course, Reyna, one of the women inter­ challenge to the ruling parties. While events,
viewed, is not bitter about these burdens, and internal to the Green's own debates and
she continues to trust that the Sandinistas and externally, with the ebbing of their social move­
the union will improve things, but her questions ment "leg," certainly are less hopeful than our
still seem deeper and more profound than those previous articles reported, the Greens remain a
of the cheerful, if self-critical, male organizer. continued force in German political life. As the
So, we will keep asking, "Where are the US Left continues to grapple with the problems
women" and assume that the answers will help of electoral work, albeit without a social move­
us understand political change more fully. ment-based "alternative" party, the experi­
Also in this issue, Clark Taylor's account ences of the Greens suggest both pitfalls and
of the Guatemalan election shows the way elec­ promise in such strategy. Future issues of Radi­
tions can be manipulated by the military and cal America will contain responses to this ar­
puppet "civilian" governments, and as a scape­ ticle and further exploration of the West
goat for military failures. German political scene.
As we go to press, most of the interna­
tional media attention has been directed at
another recent "demonstration" election-the
Philippines presidential contest in which Ferdi­
nand Marcos' experienced vote-counters have CORRECTION
him defeating his liberal opponent Corazon In RADICAL AMERICA, Vol. 19, No. 4,
Aquino. As with Guatemala, the 1984 election there were two mistakes in the use of illustra­
in EI Salvador, and the 1967 election in South tions for the article by Marie Kennedy and
Vietnam, among others, these efforts seek to Chris Tilly, "AT ARMS LENGTH: Feminism
demonstrate that a critical US ally in the Third and Socialism in Europe, 1890-1920." The cap­
World has "normalized" its political processes, tions for the pictures on p.36 and p. 40 were in­
US-style, and cleared the way for further eco­ advertently mixed during layout. The photo on
nomic and military support. The other signifi­ p. 36 is that of Maria Deraisnes while
cant characteristics of these contests, is that Madeleine Pelletier is pictured on p. 40. In add­
they take place in a nation where an active left ition, we failed to credit the source of a number
opposition, either within or outside the existing of the photos used to illustrate that article,
system, is "threatening" the continued influ­ Martha Vicinus "INDEPENDENT WOMEN:
ence of the US over that country. As with Work and Community for Single Women,
Guatemala, official US observers oversee the 1850-1920," Univ. of Chicago Press.
election, allegedly to give an official stamp of
approval. Taylor's report is helpful in counter­ Also, in Jeff Ferrell and Kevin Ryan's
ing that effort. Finally, we cannot help but see "THE BROTHERHOOD OF TIMBER
the stark contrast between life in Guatemala WORKERS A N D T H E SOUTHERN
under a US dominated "democracy" and life in LUMBER TRUST: Legal Repression and
revolutionary Nicaragua, despite all the pres­ Worker Response," there was a typographical
sures it is currently experiencing as a poor na­ error on p. 66, in the right hand column. The
tion under siege. sentence should read, "The Grabow 'riot' of
Finally, we have a special section on cur­ July 7, 1912, was, according to lumbermen
rent events and debates in West Germany. As a "

3
PREFACE:

GERMANY, ANTI-SEMITISM, AND THE LEFT

Ronald Reagan's visit last Spring to the Bitburg Cemetery where SS and other Nazi
soldiers were buried, came as a shock to many of us who had been following the political
polarization within German society-a conservative government confronted by a broad­
based peace movement, the growth of the Green Party, and the breadth of alternative poli­
tics. The existence of 'alternative' politics meant that the question of how Germany viewed
its past was always a contested issue. Their challenge was to create an alternative Germany,
one that had confronted the meaning of the past and uprooted the legacy of fascism and
anti-Semitism.l Yet as the project of Reagan and Kohl became clear-public reconciliation
with the German past-the "Alternatives" did not mobilize.
The failure of resistance to the visit seemed inexplicable to us. It was left to the interna­
tional Jewish community, spearheaded by American and Israeli Jews, to protest. The pro­
tests failed to draw active support from the "Alternatives," otherwise no strangers to mass
mobilization. Moreover, reports followed that polls indicated upwards of 70 percent of the
West German population favored the Bitburg ceremony.
The letter we are re-printing below, "Bitburg, May 5, 1985," addressed to the West
German Left, sharpens the issues raised by the failure of the Left around Bitburg. It was

Entrance to the Jewish quarter, Cracow, 1938, Image Before My Eyes


5
written by Moishe Postone, who lived in Frank­ ture, t.v. documentaries such as "Holocaust,"
furt from 1972 to 1982 and was published in films like "Shoah," the implication is almost
Pflasterstrand,l a biweekly journal which is the invariably that Zionism answers Jewish history.
most important and widely-read publication of The Left helps create this vacuum by its reluc­
the left "scene" in Frankfurt and which has be­ tance to view anti-Semitism as a phenomenon
come identified increasingly with the "Realo" needing explanation. When the Left does consi­
wing of the Green Party. (The best known der anti-Semitism, its response is often to ra­
editor of Pflasterstrand is Dany Cohn-Bendit). tionalize it as an expression of class resentment
In a brief postscript, the author reports on the or anti-capitalism. Yet such a reduction by­
reaction and response to his''Open Letter. " passes the identification of Jews with commun­
We are publishing this document, and sub­ ism, as well as with capitalism.6 As Radical
sequent material on the controversy over the America has argued before, the lack of a
performance of an allegedly anti-Semitic play language let alone a politics to address anti­
("Trash, the City and Death ') written by the
' Semitism strengthens Zionism as the political
late ,filmmaker, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 3 expression of worldwide Jewry. The failure to
both out of our specific interest in German poli­ elaborate a Left understanding of anti-Semi­
tics, but also in an effort to underline the tism continues to haunt discussions of the
importance of developing a left critique of anti­ Middle East. It is striking, as Postone points
Semitism. When the Jewish community of out, that Frankfurt's Jews have been forced to
Frankfurt took to the stage on opening night to move beyond Zionism to counter the current
prevent the production of a play which they anti-Semitism.
found intolerable, the questions of anti-Semi­
tism, "normalization," memory and forgive­ Anti-Semitism and Popular Culture
ness, implicitly raised by Bitburg, both became
more complex and were openly confronted. It was through a New York Times article
The response by many on the Left to the Jewish (reprinted on the following page) that we first
community's protest, that the issue at stake was learned of the Frankfurt Jewish community's
censorship, is neither unfamiliar nor adequate. protest which halted production of the Fass­
It is telling that the socialist newspaper, In binder play on opening night and succeeded in
These Times, headlined their story on the Fass­ preventing subsequent performances. Two fea­
binder affair, "Should Trash Be Censored?" tures of the protest were particularly compell­
Placing the report in a special section on ing. First, it provoked a controversy in which
"Censoring the Arts," they implicitly equated both sides (those against and those in favor of
the protest with the Right's assault on rock the play's performance) protested under the
music and Catholic efforts to halt production banner "Beware of the Beginning." The Jewish
of an irreverent play by an ex-Catholic (Sister community claimed the play (one of its main
Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You) which characters is identified simply as the "Rich
the Catholic Church views as "anti-Catholic Jew") legitimated, re-"normalized" traditional
,,
propaganda. 4 The equation of anti-Semitism anti-Semitic stereotypes. Moreover, they ar­
with an attack on Catholic schooling is striking­ gued, the staging of the play in a publically sup­
ly devoid of historical and political meaning. ported theater represented "state-subsidized
The civil liberties/censorship position, as anti-Semitism." Those in favor of the play's
Moishe Postone points out, implicitly accepts production, including many Greens, evoked
the judgment that the play is anti-Semitic and, images of Nazi bookburnings, and countered
significantly, bypasses a discussion of what that artistic censorship marked the beginnings
anti-Semitism is. 5 of repressive and dangerous thought control. If
anti-Semitism exists in daily life, and this
Zionism and anti-Semitism neither side disputed, then, it was argued, to
deny its expression is to create a false sense of
When mass culture recalls Nazi extermina­ security, and block the chance to confront it. 7
tion policy, via the proliferating survivor litera- Yet, there is sometimes a fine line between

6
exposing anti-Semitism and ratifying it. Seyla vitality." There he confronted Ignatz Bubis, a
Benhabib suggests that the play fails as both art leader of the Frankfurt Jewish community and
and politics for it lacks "a moment of redemp­ organizer of the protest. Bubis, a real estate
tion," of transcendence. The blatant anti­ speculator, is rumored to be the model for the
Semitism in the play is left untransformed. character "Rich Jew." Cohn-Bendit said how
A second feature of the controversy that pleased he was that the Jewish community was
captured our interest was the public role played beginning to use "our forms of action, occu­
by Dany Cohn-Bendit, who many of us remem­ pation and trespassing," and in a subsequent
bered as "Dany the Red," anarchist leader of dialogue in the German news weekly Der
the student movement in France in May, 1968. Spiegel, 9 reproached the new activist Bubis for
Later, identified by the French state as a not wondering about the protestors' motives in
"German Jew," he was deported to Germany. 1974. (Bubis in 1974 had called the police to
He subsequently took up residence in Frank­ evict squatters trying to stop demolition of a
furt, where his famly had in fact been promi­ house he owned, provoking some of the most
nent in the prewar Jewish community, and violent struggles of the housing movement in
became active in the Frankfurt alternative Frankfurt.) "People wanted those big houses in
scene, becoming involved in the Haeuser­ order to make communes in them, to carry on a
kampfe (housing struggles) of the 1970s. Pres­ certain life style. Those old houses gave Frank­
ent in the theater on opening night, he took to furt its character, and made it possible to live
the stage, arguing that the play should go on, together in a way that is not possible in these
but so should the protest.8 He claimed the play new buildings. Today the West End is such that
was not anti-Semitic. "The Jewish community no one below a certain socio-economic level can
is making a mistake, but you have to admire its live there."

Bubis and Daniel Cohn-Bendit debate, Der Spiegel

7
Which brings us to the play itself. Written 6.Cf.Postone, "Anti-Semitism and National Social­
in 1975 or 76, it was conceptualized in the midst ism," New German Critique, No. 19 (Winter, 1980),
who argues further that such Left arguments support
of the intense housing struggles of the seventies,
a false class consciousness.
which as Cohn-Bendit indicates, were struggles 7.This seems to be Diana Johnstone's defense of the
over a way of life, and the future of the city, as play. Yet her lack of sympathy for the Jewish com­
well as affordable shelter. In "R.W. Fassbin­ munity's protest, her implication that the Frankfurt
der's "Trash, The City and Death; When Jews are being used to front for a conservative cul­
tural clean-up, seems to allow little room for a public
Allegory Becomes Metaphor," Seyla Benhabib
confrontation with anti-Semitism.
discusses the play itself, and raises some of the 8. The following discussion of Cohn-Bendit's inter­
key interpretive questions it provokes. Her vention is drawn from Johnstone, In These Times,
summary and discussion suggest that a gay op. cit., p.11.
reading of the play would be pivotal. Postone 9.Der Spiegel, No. 46.

argues in the second piece, "Theses on Fass­ The editors would like to thank Andy Markowitz
binder, Anti-Semitism and Germany: A Frank­ for his assistance in assembling the materials
furt Autumn 1985," that the context of the on West Germany in this issue.
play's performance in post-Bitburg Germany
raises issues that go well beyond the question of
whether the play is anti-Semitic, whether it
should or shouldn't have been performed.
Rather, both Postone and Benhabib insist, the
Fassbinder controversy has become a window
onto the relationship of contemporary Ger­
many to its history.

FOOTNOTES

1. Cf.Radical America, Vol. 17, No. 1 (1983) for an


interpretation of the significance of Green politics
which emphasizes this theme.
2. Pf/asterstrand literally means the cobblestone
beach which refers to the slogan, "The beach is be­
neath the cobblestones." Metaphorically the beach is
the utopian moment which is revealed in the battle
between the "alternatives" and the police, the state.
(The cobblestones from the street are used to fend
off the police.)
3. R.W. Fassbinder is best known in the US for his
films: "Fox and his Friends," "Maria Braun," "Lily
Marleen," "Querelle," etc. He is also the author of
about 30 plays. "Trash, the, City and Death" was
published in the collection, "Fassbinder's Plays,"
edited by Dennis Calandra, New York: Performing
Arts Journal, 1985.
4.In These Times, November 27-December 10, 1985,
pp.11-14.
5. Postone's point can be generalized. For example,
the argument used to defeat the Mackinnon/Dwor­
kin anti-pornography referendum was that it repre­
sented censorship. As a result, the issues at stake,
female sexuality and violence against women, were
not central to the opposition's discussion. Thus
Larry Flynt, publisher of Penthouse, and the Femi­
nist Anti-Censorship Task Force appeared to have
identical positions.

8
NEW YORK TIMES FRIDA Y, NOVEMBER 1, 1985
---------- -----.- lodge the Jewish protesters.. OUtsIde danaered.
By JAMES M. MARKHAM the theater, several hundrt!l'd other lOrwill not b8 ."11 tc) _lain to my
------- ---- -----------.----- protesters, Jews and non-Jews , students tomorrow why this has hap­
5P"<i�1 to The N.,.. Ynrk Tim"" demonstrated peacefully against the pened," said Brigitte Hofmeister.
scheduled premiere. Zey, a high school history teacher. " I
FRA.�KFURT, Oct. 31 - Thirty
Among the 30 Jews on thesta,ewu have always told them that art was
members 01 Frankfurt ' s Jewish com.
ml lllity W'llked onto the sta�e of thl" Ignatz Bubis, a builder and promt­ one thing that could never be touched
nent Jew. In· the course of the or prevented."
Kam m f'r"pi el theater tonip,ht and
pTf>ventl"l the premiere of a pl ay by evening'S heated exchanges, Mr. Mr. Cohn-Bendlt at one point ad·
Raine r Werner Fasshinder tha t thpy Cohn-Bendit and other speakers in dressed the protesters onstage: "You
denounc ed as anti.SemHic. the audience asserted that Mr� Bubis are afraid that Germany is going
rile Jewish prote<;ters who showed
was Mr. Fassblnder's prototype for a back to normality. You are upset that
up "It thp scheduled premie re tonight character In the play called the Rich Kohl is going to Bltburg. But Fass.
took over the stage as the c u rt a in Jew. binder is not in favor of normality."
went up and a group of actre'lses Mr. Bubis, who survived the war In Another Performance Planned
plflying p rostitut es trad taken their Poland, was asked at one point If he
As the protesters made It clear that
did not fear that the ,anti-Fassbinder
plan's, hut had not yet spoken. The 30 they would not leave the stage, Mr.
protest would deepen antI-Semitism
JeV¢s held up cloth banners that read Cohn-Bend it half·Joklngly suggested
"Suhsidized Anti.Semitism" _ an al.
In West Germany rather than check
that the play take place behind them
it. "My parents left. Gennany in
lu�i l )n to Fran kfu rt ' s municipally "Mr. Hoffmann - that would be reai
supported 200.seat Kammerspiel, or
19�," said Mr. Bubls, his hands firm
th,eaterl" said the man who was once
on a length of the protest banner. "If
lift l!' theater. known as Danny the Red when he led
what you say came to pass 1 might
The pl ay, titled "Garbage, the City the student revolt In Paris. "It's OK .
have to emigrate too."
01 Death," was written by Mr. Fass. That would be FraDkrurt 1985 r "
The Jews were challenged to ex­
binder. who is best known as a film di. Mr. Cohn-Bendlt's suggestion' was
plain how they couid be certain that a
ret-tor, in 1975. It was never per- heartily applauded by the audience,
play was anti-Semitit when it had
formed before thE' author's d ea t h in but after repeated consultations Mr
never been performed. Mr. RUhle in­
1911'l. Four previou s attempts to stage
th� work were blocked by city all. slsted that his dramatization of the
Hoffmann annOWlced that the pla y
could not go on "because our Jewish
I Fassblnder text had tak$) care to
thorities. citizens have said they would not
avoid an anti-Semitic slant. He said
Prot('stE'rs and Audlenc(' Debate allow it." Mr. RUhle said, however,
the character called The Rich Jew In
that a performance scheduled for
l,nstead of performing the pla y, the tbe original text was given a' netne,
Monday would take place .
protesters and audience spent t he .. A," In his version.
Mr. Fassblnder wrote the play at
next three hours in an extraordinarv Death Camp SUl"VIvor the time of a series of protests over
emotional di scussion over anli-Semi:
Another of the protesters, Josef the high-rise development of Frank.
tiSJ;1l and freedom of expression in
postwar West Germany. Choupack, said: "I was in Bergen­ � 's West End r�idential district.
Bei!len, and I remember when Goeb­ He was very angry with this city ..
.. We have occupied the st age to pro­
bels said that it was he who decided Mr. Hoffmann recalled. ''-And In this
tes� against the in�ult to the Jewish
who was a Jew. And 1 say that we de­ anger he wrote down this play in a
citi7.ens of this citv." announced one
cide what is anti-Semitic." few nights."
of t.he protest.ers. ;'We will not allow
From the first row, Christian Several prominent individuals In
this pnK!uction to take place and we
Raabe, a Frankfurt lawyer, rose and Frankfurt'S 5.000-member Jewish
wm not leave the s tage. "
said that he was half-Jewish on his community were among those who
The df'mollstrators - a mixture of
mo,>t Iy young but some older mem­ mother's side. "I have read this play developed the West End district.
bers of Frankfurt'S 5.000·memb€r twice, and carefully, 1 think," he Before his death at the age of 36,
Jpwish community - w('re immedi· said. "And I have come to the conclu­ Mr. Fassbinder contested accusa­
at('ly engaged by Da niel Cohn-Bendit, sion that The Rich Jew Is the only tions that "Garbage" was anti·Se­
·
the red h ai rf'd onetime left-wing stu· human figure In the play. 1 believe it
is not correct for one group of the
�itic and maintained that the in..
dmt leader, who led the 1968 stlldent volvement of Jews In real estate
u p ris ing in Paris an(! who is hi ms('l f population to say that only their opin­ development In the West End was a
Jpwish_ ion Is COfTect." classic example of their being ex.
... [ do not feel myself to be insulted As protesters and members of the plolted to do the "dirty work" of non­
audience took the floor In a free-form Jews.
by Ihi� play." Mr. Cohn·Renoit said
(rom his fifth·row s ea t . "But I wei· debate, President Reagan's visit to He wrote In a letter to the editors of
the Bitburg cemetery with Chancel­ the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeltung
corn(' your prot�sts. You are in the
trndil ion (If J9f"Ii!. This wi ll be the firs t lor Helmut Kohl last May became an in 1976: "Naturally there are anti·
Issue. Mr. Reagan was criticized for Semites In this play just as there are
demonst.ration in the historv of
Fr"nkfurt t h a t will not be brokf.n up
visiting the cemetery because some anti-Semites not just in th is play but
by til(' ptlli n' . " of the graves were of Waffen SS sol­ In Frankfurt. But It is exactly by the
Mr. Cnhn·B�f1dlt·s predictio n was
diers. hysterical tones with which this play
cOlrect. The decision by GUnter "Here we want to start," said is discussed that I am st ren gt he ned In
Riihlp to put on "Garbage" had al­ Michel Friedman, a 29-year-old my fear of 'a new ahti..Sem l tism ,' out
rt'ady \Inl.�ashffi protests from West Christian Democratic member of the of which I have written this play."
Gel'many's 30.000..mp.mher Jewish Frankfurt legislature. "We also Before his death, Mr. Fassbinder
cnlllmunlty, from Fr"nkfl.lrt's m ayo r demonstrated at Bltburg, but we expressed the wish that "Garbage"
al1l1 m uch of the city's political estan­ were not enough. We are only 30,000 have its premiere in either Frank·
lisiomenL Jews In the count � 'land we cannot do furt, New York or Paris before being
what 60 million Germans should do." shown elseWhere. Members of West
Ap(X'sl to Leave the StaRe The audience, which Included Germany's Jewish community ex­
\,.'hil" nppealing to th e Jews to many journalists, actors and theater pres�ed concern that the premiere 01
It'llve the SUlgf' and "let t.he actors do critics, voiced understandirJ& for the the play would enable blatantly anti­
thpir work," hoth Mr. RUhle and Hil· Jews' fears that the play might revive Semitic renderings to be put on
mar Hoffmann, the c i ty ' s din>ctor of anti-Semitism in West Germany, but around the world.
(1IItllr,,1 affnirs, made it plain fhal for the most part Insisted that tree­
th .. " did not intf'nd to forcibly dis- dom ()f expression was also being en-
BITBURG :
May 5, 1985 and after

MOISHE POSTONE

A LETTER TO THE WEST GERMAN LEFT

Dear People:

I am writing to you because of the shameful Republic has become a power, and stands at a
events of the day. My knowledge of and con­ cultural and political crossroads. Because the
tempt for the policies and ideologies of Reagan, Germans failed to rise up against the Third
Kohl, and their respective governments did not Reich, even when it was collapsing, because
buffer me from the horror, rage, and deep they themselves did not institute a new post­
sense of insult that I felt as a result of their fascist order, a system of psychic repression
obscene attempt to rehabilitate the common and denial was constituted, upon which both
Nazi. The main reason Lam writing, however, the FDR and DDR have been built. The events
is because I am very saddened by and disap­ of the past weeks have shown that, at least in
pointed in the West German Left. West Germany, that system has begun to
decompose. What had always been the only
The historic significance of May 5, 1985 was, underlying two choices have now clearly emerg­
unfortunately, also constituted by the apparent ed: an identity either based upon an open,
lack of full awareness of its significance on the ongoing confrontation with and rejection of the
part of large segments of the West German Nazi past, or one based on an ultimate recon­
Left. ciliation with that past (purged of some of the
At issue was the question of the relation of more unsavory leaders at the top, perhaps, and
Germany today to Nazi Germany. This ques­ the one or two "excesses" for which they alone
tion, of course, is not new. But it has now purportedly were responsible and about which
emerged openly and occupied the attention of 99.9 percent of the German population
much of the world at a time when the Federal presumably knew nothing).

10
Kohl's insistence that Reagan visit a military Bitburg also made manifest what Atlanticism
cemetery containing the graves of SS men was, has meant for many conservatives. Being
of course, an attempt to obtain official embedded in NATO, being the most faithful al­
American legitimation for the latter choice, for ly of the United States is considered sufficient
a reconciliation with Germany's past. On the to constitute West Germany as a full-fledged
one hand, it expressed openly the widespread democracy. It allows the FRG to consider itself
sentiment in Germany that, perhaps with a few a democracy without having to deal fully with
marginal exceptions, World War II was like any the Nazi past. Complete democratization of
other war, that the Wehrmacht and the Waffen Germany, however, would require a still more
SS were like any other military bodies - an in­ fundamental change in popular political con­
credibly dishonest, self-deceiving sentiment, sciousness, one which could occur only on the
ultimately rooted in the stubborn psychic basis of a confrontation with that past. The
repression constitutive of postwar Germany. military alliance, however, allows for a dual
On the other hand, Kohl's insistence should level of postwar German reality: democratic in­
also be seen within the context of a general of­ stitutions plus a reconcilation with the past.
fensive movement by elements of the Right to Perhaps this is an important dimension of the
revive various aspects of pre-1945 "Deutsch­ reason that recent German governments have
tum" (e.g., those intellectuals trying to over­ favored - or at least supported - American
come the "cosmopolitan influence" of the arms policies which seem to be very much
Frankfurt School), to regain hegemony in the against the interests of the FRG. Perhaps we
sphere of public discourse by projecting onto it, have to recognize the existence of another kind
and making respectable, all of those yearnings of "interest." In the absence of a fundamental
which so many Germans, never inwardly con­ internal democratization, the Western alliance
vinced of the evil of Nazism, had held onto becomes the external guarantor of democracy
privately. for many liberals and Social Democrats, and

German soldiers en route to Poland, 1939, slogan reads, " We're going to Poland to-beat up the Jews. " Image Before My
Eyes

11
Life Magazine

the condition that allows the FRG to be con­ tion should be that between Germany and its
sidered "new" without having to fully break victims as the necessary condition for the recon­
with the past, for many conservatives . ciliation of Germany with humanity (a recon­
In Bitburg, Kohl and Reagan were to ciliation most Germans admittedly are not even
publically sanction this conservative vision of a aware is necessary). Germany was to reconsti­
respectable reconciliation with the Nazi past. tute its identity by openly confronting its terri­
The recognition by the major Western power ble past, accepting responsibility for it, and re­
that Germany could, once again, be Germany, jecting it.
was intended to finally end the postwar period. These two historical gestures , and the
All attempts to constitute a different basis for conceptions of German identity they express,
German identity on the basis of a thoroughgo­ are mutually exclusive. For that reason, many
ing rejection of Nazism and those aspects of outside of West Germany not only hoped, but
"Deutschtum" of which it was the ultimate, truly expected, that the Kohl-Reagan spectacle
criminal expression, were to be relegated to that would elicit very strong protests in Germany
postwar period. The end of that period was to from liberals, social democrats, the Left, and
be marked by the recovery by Germany of its others. After all, it had become clear that, not
older self. only was the Bitburg "act of reconciliation" an
In that sense, the Kohl-Reagan visit to Bit­ obscene and brutal act of violence against the
burg should be seen as the attempt to negate victims of Nazism, but that what also was at
historically that vision of German identity ex­ stake was the social definition of German iden­
pressed by Willy Brandt when he kneeled tity. Yet the reactions of those segments of Ger­
before the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto. man society that consider themselves as
Brandt signalled that the question of reconcilia- representing an other, progressive Germany,

12
were completely inadequate. And I, like many blindness that itself confirms the extent to
others , am not only fundamentally disap­ which the fundamental repression at the heart
pointed and bitter, but also emotionally of postwar German social consciousness has
shaken. permeated the present and been transmitted to
The behavior of the SPD was simply and a new generation.
unequivocally shameful. I must admit that, in I have heard that, in Frankfurt, some argued
spite of all my criticisms of that party, I had that there should be large demonstrations in
still assumed that it would draw the line in such Bergen-Belsen and Bitburg, to indicate solidari­
a case. I was shocked when I read that the SPD ty with the Jews and Sinti. Although doubtless­
had also voted against the very good, honest, ly highminded, that suggestion reveals a lack of
and fully adequate motion that the Greens in­ awareness, an unwillingness to see, that, for
troduced in the Bundestag regarding Bitburg. Germans, the history of the Nazis is their prob­
The motion that the SPD introduced was weak, lem, and not just the problem of the victims of
opportunistic, and inadequate. I was disgusted. Nazism.
The SPD has traditionally been burdened with The issue for the postwar generation is not
historical tasks that, in other countries, have one of guilt. It is, rather, that there can be no
not been the responsibility of social democrats "normalcy" in Germany that is constituted on
alone. Yet this does not sufficiently explain why the basis of an avoidance or denial of the past .
it so frequently has proven itself inadequate to This is just as true of bourgeois culture as it is
the requirements of a historic moment, as it did of any sort of oppositional or emancipatory
once again regarding Bitburg. Perhaps the So­ movement. Many on the Left have not fully
cial Democrats act in such a cowardly manner faced up to that past, except in a very abstract
because they believe the overwhelming majority and rarified way (e.g. by reifying bureaucracy,
of the German population are crypto-fascists . capital, male fantasies, etc.), and as if it had oc­
If so, the SPD, through its cowardice and curred centuries ago. But it happened forty
blindness, has contributed to the perpetration years ago, and was constituted and supported
of that political culture. by most of your relatives. Perhaps for that
Although I was shocked by the behavior of reason so many of you have chosen to learn so
the SPD, I was pleased and comforted by the little about what the Nazis and their supporters
strength of the Green's Bundestag motion. But, really wrought in the world, except in very
precisely because of the motion, I fully ex­ general terms.
pected there would be massive demonstrations, I think there have been real, distorting effects
that people would protest the rehabilitation of on the Left of this avoidance of the Nazi past.
the Nazi past and, in so doing would contest the An example is the lack of identity and, hence,
field of identity with those who seek to legiti­ continuity in Left politics for the past fifteen
mate continuity with the past. I feel bereft that years . Positions, directions, analyses, percep­
that did not occur. tions , have been tried on and then discarded .
Why were there no large demonstrations? Very little has been retained. There seems to be
The inadequate reaction of those who have no identical center. Instead it seems as if,
claimed to represent an "other" Germany has underneath the surface, the majority of those
revealed the extent to which the attempt to who consider themselves to be opposed to the
create that other Germany by openly and existing order, replicate that order in one sense
critically confronting the Nazi past has not suf­ by being incapable of dealing with the past. I
ficiently taken root. It is not even clear that am referring to the extent to which protests
there would have been protests at all in West against imperialism, oppression, and injustice,
Germany had Reagan's plans not elicited such have unknowingly been instrumentalized as a
massive criticism in the United States and means of avoiding confrontation with the past
elsewhere. That so many on the Left apparently of the previous German generation or, worse,
regarded the whole affair as a secondary as an implicit argument that, after all, the Nazis
disturbance, a piece of show business with no were not the only ones. I am not suggesting, of
political significance, expresses a degree of course, that the German Left should only worry

13
about the German past. I am suggesting though the basis of a denial of the past, or an attempt
that, if hundreds of thousands are prepared to to escape it, or to ignore it. There are indeed ac­
demonstrate against American imperialism in tually only two choices, an ultimate reconcilia­
Central America, and only hundreds against tion with that past, or a constant break with
the rehabilitation of the Nazi past, then the that past.
former cause has been instrumentalized. On Perhaps this sounds unfair - that those who
this level, (and not on the level of the justice of have no guilt, must be those who take on the
the cause itself) the Left replicates that per­ responsibility for that Nazi past. But there is no
vasive habit of mind in Germany that always other way, in my opinion. There is no such
seeks to excuse Nazism by relativizing it (usual­ thing as Schlussstrich. * This has nothing to do
ly with reference to the USSR). That habit of with collective guilt. Rather, the Germans will
mind recently found its adequate expression in never be able to free themselves, unless that
the recent law equating the Holocaust with the other Germany defines itself constantly as
expulsion of the Germans from the East at the other. And that cannot be done by pointing to
end of World War II. Too often the Left has 1832 or 1848, or to the workers' movement.
reproduced, on one level, the pattern of domi­ "Other, " since 1933, can only mean other than
nant German sentiments that it has sought to Nazi Germany and those elements that gave rise
reject. to it. This is true no matter how people wish to
The point is not that only the Germans have define themselves - as Germans in some
committed gigantic crimes. The point is that emphatic sense, or as Europeans, that is, as cos­
you are German and that if you do not take mopolitans. In both cases, that self definition is
upon yourselves the responsibility of facing up one directed against the past. In the latter case,
to the Nazi past, you too share complicity in the that is obvious. But it also holds true in the
transmission and reproduction of the system of former case. One can't simply be a "German"
lies and collective psychic repression that has and pretend not to know that, as opposed to the
characterized Germany since 1945 - that is, situation in many other countries, modern Ger­
since the failure of Germans to liberate man nationalism was always reactionary.
themselves. There can be no other Germany on If, for whatever reason, it is important for

*"drawing a line to mark an end. "


14
people to be able to think of themselves as Ger­ being, would only be a newer, more streamlined
man, and not hang their heads, then they version of the imperial Germany, or Europe, of
should realize that that necessarily entails the past.
creating something different . And that dif­
ference cannot be created by seeking to be or do
something new, when that new is not defined POSTSCRIPT
constantly and consciously in opposition to the
determinate old of the German past. That may The manner in which the letter was published
be a burden, but no other possibility exists, in revealed some fundamental ambiguities. The
my opinion, that there can ever be an "other" editorial staff of Pflasterstrand translated the
Germany. letter very quickly and featured it prominently,
The Left itself has helped raise this issue in yet they added a brief introduction expressing
the recent past. Because it has been a strong surprise at the "harshness" of my critique and
force for greater independence of West Ger­ indicating that they did not share my evaluation
many from the United States, for greater Ger­ of the situation . The editors were, in turn,
man sovereignty, the Left now bears a par­ criticized by several readers who maintained
ticular historical responsibility. The question that their introduction was an example itself of
immediately raised is that of the sort of Ger­ what my letter had criticized. The reactions
many that would be sovereign. However justi­ from Frankfurt that I received to my letter sub­
fied the critique of NATO and American arms sequent to its publication were positive, but
policies may be, at the root of Germany's prob­ most were from friends and acquaintances .
lem is Germany, not the United States . The In September 1985 I was in Frankfurt and
movement against NATO can only be progres­ was able to discuss the Left's failure to respond
sive if, at the same time, it is coupled with an at­ adequately to the Bitburg visit with a broader
tempt to constitute a new, other Germany. If range of people. Many of my friends and closer
this does not occur, the historic role of the Left acquaintances shared the feelings I had express­
at this juncture will have been a disastrous one. ed in my letter and either had gone to Bergen­
The result will be the worst of all possible Bellsen to demonstrate or had argued in public
worlds: a rejection of NATO, not because of its meetings that mass demonstrations should be
militarism, but as part of a traditional German organized. Their arguments were never re­
rejection of the West, coupled with a return to jected-they simply were not responded to
those Teutonic virtues which have in the past, positively, for reasons which remain obscure.
made Germany the scourge of the earth. Others with whom I spoke, and who generally
In the years I have lived in Frankfurt, I felt a can be characterized as people who identify
close tie not only to my personal friends, but, themselves with the non-dogmatic Left in
for biographical and political reasons, to those Frankfurt and who have chosen not to enter the
groupings of people whose self definition in­ Greens, told me, self-critically, that they had not
cluded the attempt to help constitute an other realized the full import of the Reagan-Kohl visit
Germany. to Bitburg until it actually happened, that is,
Today I feel shaken. I am no longer sure until it was too late.
that, above and beyond individual Germans The staff members of Pflasterstrand, on the
who are other, there is indeed such an other other hand, still maintained that I had exag­
Germany. I feel I have lost a place. I hope I am gerated the significance of the event, that it was
wrong . actually a burlesque that ended as a debacle for
I can only hope that Bitburg will retroactively Reagan and Kohl, and that it should not have
awaken enough people from their dogmatic been rendered more serious than it was by
slumber of being "normal" oppositionists or demonstrations. Yet, at the same time, they
Leftists so that they can begin to form the core also presented a very different kind of argu­
of what, in fact, would be an other Germany. ment : they maintained that the political atmo­
Without that core the sovereign Europe, or sphere in West Germany had changed , that
Germany, so many would like to see come into people were no longer willing to turn out for

15
mass demonstrations, that the failure of the discussion with the editors of Pflasterstrand, an
massive anti-missile demonstrations to hinder anti-fascist demonstration took place in
deployment of the Cruise and Pershing II Frankfurt, in the course of which the police
missiles was still felt very keenly. brutally killed a demonstrator, Guenther Sare.
I was not in Frankfurt long enough to get a This triggered a series of demonstrations in
deeper and more complete impression of why Frankfurt and in other cities which lasted for
the Left did not demonstrate in Bitburg. I do two weeks and were the most violent
know that this question was discussed during demonstrations of the decade in the Federal
the late spring and early summer in non­ Republic of Germany. At first glance, the very
dogmatic Left circles in Frankfurt that partially existence of these demonstrations contradicts
overlap with the "Realo" faction of the the diagnosis of the current political situation in
Greens. While I disagree strongly with the West Germany made by the staff of
Pflasterstrand people regarding the significance Pflasterstrand. Public discussion revealed,
of the Bitburg visit, I do think that, in addition however, that, rather than being expressions of
to what I wrote in my letter, the inability of the a Left:n the process of reinvigorating itself, the
peace movement to prevent implementation of d e m o n s t r a t i o n s w e r e expressions of
the NATO "double-track" decision has indeed hopelessness, of a lack of perspectives, and of a
had negative consequences for the West Ger­ great deal of disaffection on the part of many
man Left, and had generated feelings of disillu­ younger people with the Greens as having "sold
sionment, cynicism and disorientation. out." This feeling has most likely been rein­
Two foci of activity and discussion domi­ forced by the SPD-Green coalition in the pro­
nated the Frankfurt "scene" this autumn, sub­ vince of Hessen and the appointment of
sequent to my departure. Three hours after my Joschka Fischer, a "Realo" Green from Frank-

Protests against Reagan's visit to Bonn, May 1985

16
furt, as provincial minister of ecology. (He is
REFUGEE AWARENESS
the first Green minister in the FRG.)
The second focus of activity and discussion Drawings by the Children oj E/ Salvador is an exhibit
and an appeal to promote awareness of the plight of
was, of course, the attempt to stage
refugees. These pictures, drawn between October
Fassbinder's play. In fairness to Pflasterstrand, 1983 and January 1984 by Salvadoran children ages 6
I should note that it generally adopted a very to 12 tell a tale of unrelenting horrors in the war
differentiated position in this controversy. I wage d against the civilian population of their coun­
have had the impression that, regardless of try. The children fled the war and are now living just
across the border in refugee camps at San Antonio
what various staff members may have said to
and Colomonacagua in Honduras.
me in September, their position with regard to In January 1984 the collection of children's draw­
the play and the controversy surrounding it in­ ings was given to a small group of North Americans
dicates that they had indeed reflected retrospec­ traveling through Honduras. At some risk to
tively upon the significance and ramifications themsevles from Honduran army searches, they pro­
mised to carry the collection out of that country.
of the Kohl-Reagan visit to Bitburg, and upon
The collection is available for use as an exhibit to
the issue of anti-Semitism in West Germany to­ promote refugee awareness. For further information,
day. or if you would like to set up an exhibit and presenta­
tion of these materials, write Ken Lawrence, Box
3568, Jackson MS 39207; phone: (601) 969-2269.

Moishe Postone, who presently lives and works


• •• • • • • •••••• ••••• • •• • • • • • • • ••••

in Chicago, lived in Frankfurt, West Germany
from 1972 to 1982. While in Frankfurt he was

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300 North Zeeb Road. Box 91 Ann Arbor. M1 48106

17
RA IN ER W ERN ER
FASSBIN D ER ' S "TRAS H ,
T H E C I TY, AN D D E AT H " :
W h en Al l egory Bec o m es Metap h or

SEYLA BENHABIB

Trash, the City and Death is a short play, barely 50 pages. The stage directions tell us that
it takes place on the "moon because it is just as uninhabitable as the earth." 1 Written in
1 976, the play was originally inspired by the Haeuserkaempfe (housing struggles) in
Frankfurt during the 1 970s.
In the late 1 960s the city of Frankfurt, under SPD (Social Democratic Party) leadership,
together with a business consortium consisting mainly of the large banks, developed a plan
to transform Westend, a section of the city. The confrontation between the real estate
speculators and city authorities on the one hand, and the squatters' movement, dominated
by the ' 'Spontis" of the Frankfurt New Left on the other, can be viewed as " the first battle
between the Old and New Left,"2 an opposition which has dominated German politics in the
1 980s. The clash between the SPD, oriented toward technical development and "moderniza­
tion," and the Green movement, critical of the effects of technical and economic growth on
the quality of life, was foreshadowed in the battles over the fate of Westend.
The play itself has become a text in search of a performance, and its career is proving as
unfortunate and stormy as that of its author. In March 1 976, for the first time in its history,
the publisher Suhrkamp Verlag withdrew a text from circulation after it had been printed.

Opposite: "Quershnitt" ("Cross section''), George Grosz, Berlin, 1923.


19
This action was preceded by two highly critical on the opening night indicates that something
reviews of the play, one which accused more is at stake in the performance of this play
Fassbinder 's play of left-fascism and left anti­ than frustrated artistic rights of expression or
Semitism. Confronted with these charges, it was opportunistic desires to be the first to succeed
no longer possible for Fassbinder, who ap­ in a controversial undertaking. For the first
parently also met with resistance from his own time, the real issues behind this controversy are
theater group, to stage the play. He then ter­ becoming clear and part of a broader public
minated his contract as director of the discussion .
Frankfurter Theater am Turm and left the city. Written as an allegorical play about the
The recent controversy over renewed at­ metropolis which "eats its children, "
Trash,
tempts to perform the play in the Frankfurter the City and Death has today become a
Kammerspiele is thus by no means the first; bet­ metaphor for a different set of concerns : how,
ween 1976 and 1985 seven such attempts were 40 years after the Second World War, Germans
made in Frankfurt. Yet the public discussion and Jews understand the meaning of their past,
which began with the occupation of the stage how to remember what im-

CONSTANT, concentratiekamp, 1957


ages of self and other they are willing and ready another, but do not interact; they speak, but
to live with. there is no communication. The crucial scene
For the majority of Germans, the Reagan­ between Rosa B. and the rich Jew is left ambi­
Kohl ceremony at Bitburg answered these ques­ guous: after the brutalization of Franz, Rosa,
tions in short phrases like "forty years after, " who no longer wants to live, asks the rich Jew
"normalization, " "the willingness to forgive, " to do her the favor of killing her. He complies,
and in Chancellor Helmut Kohl 's words, "the strangling her with his tie. The Little Prince,
wish of the grandchildren and the children to who works for the rich Jew, happens upon the
free themselves from the burden of the past, " scene and says "He killed her . . . it is clear, he
and to emerge into the European community of loved her. He who loves gambles away his
nations without the burden of the past. rights . " In the last scene, the President of the
Fassbinder did not live to experience Bitburg. Police dispenses with the testimony of the Little
I personally doubt that he would have been sur­ Prince who hopes to get the rich Jew's money,
prised. As the iconoclast and outcast of Ger­ upon his imprisonment. Instead, he is thrown
man postwar respectability, in these recent out the window of the building, while the
events he might have seen a confirmation of his brutalized body of Franz B. is dragged into the
suspicions about what lay beneath the veneer of scene as the murderer of Rosa B .
reconstruction and respectability in postwar I s Fassbinder's point then that the rich Jew as
German society. In the present context, how­ well is the victim of the system that dehuman­
ever, Fassbinder 's play is not seen as shedding izes all? Did he really kill Rosa B. out of love?
this veneer, as destroying the myth of normal­ Did he have to kill the minute he loved? Or is
ity, but as returning the logic of normalization the rich Jew the one who gets away with
to its beginnings : interpreting anti-Semitism as murder, who has a kind of immunity and a
anti-capitalism, and legitimizing anti-Jewish certain kind of power precisely because he has
resentment. How is this reading of the play been a victim, in this system that makes victims
possible? Or why does Fassbinder 's play lend of everybody involved? There is no answer to
itself to such misreading? these questions in Fassbinder's piece, just as
The play is about the ' 'metropolis" and those there is no moment of transcendence, of recon­
who inhabit its pits: prostitutes, pimps, homo­ ciliation which surrounds the lives of those in
sexuals, transvestites, and the rich Jew who is a the pits of the city.
customer of the prostitute Rosa B. The father The play has been interpreted by the over­
of Rosa B., Herr Mueller, an old Nazi, is whelming maj ority of those engaged in the con­
believed by the rich Jew to be responsible for troversy as being either about a rich Jew or
the death of his parents . Herr Mueller is himself about real-estate speculation. The housing bat­
a transvestite, who for his nightlife, takes the tles provide the immediate backdrop for the
clothes off his wheelchair-ridden wife . Rosa portrait of the "rich Jew, " widely believed to
B . 's Yugoslav pimp, Franz B., comes out in the be modelled after the person of Ignatz Bubis, a
course of the play, and is brutalized by various real estate speculator and developer in the
characters for his homosexuality, among them Westend, who led the Jewish community's
the President of the Police, named Mueller I I . protest at the opening of the play. Those who
l t i s hard t o miss the admittedly rather heavy­ view Fassbinder's piece as a sociological tract
handed symbolism of the "transvestite Nazi, " on real-estate speculation naively neglect the
who becomes something at night that he is not transformative and symbolic function of art as
during the day, an allegory for the way in which well as bypassing the most important question :
many have changed color and sides in the who indeed are the Jews in postwar Germany;
postwar period in Germany. Nor can one miss are they what Fassbinder thinks they are?
the political implications of the fact that the old Furthermore, is it true, as Guenther Ruehle, the
Nazi and the President of the Police, Mueller head of the Frankfurt Kammerspiele, has
II, have the same name. Fassbinder's message is claimed, that "the time of penance is past, "
that his is a society full of crypto-Nazis. and that now one can speak about the Jews
,
This confusing array of characters meet one " normally. '

21
Fassbinder attempted to write "a symphony
of the big city" by letting those most
demeaned, down-trodden, and desperate of its
I II creatures have a voice. As one of the prosti­
tutes, Miss Violet, expresses it, "The city
becomes bigger day by day; the humans in it
become smaller and smaller . " Many members
of the Jewish community and other opponents
of the play object, however, that it is precisely a
basic motif of all modern anti-Semitism to por­
I
tray the Jew, especially the rich Jew, as part of
that dehumanizing and abstract power of
modern society which destroys, alienates, and
uproots a national community. Is not the Jew
it is argued, believed to be the destroyer o f
Gemeinschajt (community), the representative
of the cosmopolitan, uprooted, lifeless
principle of money and of capital? Fassbinder
is clearly conscious of this motif of modern
anti-Semitism, and has several of his characters
speak it out. 3 We have to ask however where
the playwright himself stands who lets his
characters utter such words . In other words, the
mere fact that such things are said in a play is
Anti-Semitic German propaganda film, from Movies of
no proof of its anti-Semitic character. the Forties
I Unfortunately it is precisely at this point that

I
binder has thrown them is abhorrent: once
Fassbinder fails, and the play provides the map
before they saw themselves as the "other " and
for its own misreading. For these statements of
this otherness which they have not defin d nor �
I
anti-Semitic prejudice are not interpreted; they
chosen is threatening. What Fassbinder can
are placed in no context; the play portrays pre­
love precisely because of its otherness, Ignatz

II I
j udice without dealing with its historical roots
Bubis hates and is threatened by:"my religion,"
or bringing it to a redemptive resolution.
he says in a Der Spiegel interview,' 'would forbid
For the Jewish community currently living in
me from ever killing somebody even for mercy;
West Germany, the performance of

II
I don't know any Jews like the rich Jew. "Cohn­
Fassbinder 's play not only symbolically repre­
Bendit, in an imaginary dialogue with Fass­

\1
sents the end of the " Auschwitz bonus ' " but at
binder, tries to explain it to the deceased play­

'I I
some level raises disquieting questions about
wright . "From the standpoint of their Havah
their collective identity as well. A main reason
Nagila culture, " he writes, " your love for their
why the play is so offensive to many members
'otherness ' is as unintelligible as it is hateful. " 5
Ii of the West German Jewish community is that
?
C hn-Bendit is painfully disrespectful here,
Fassbinder 's picture of the Jews as outsiders, as
1' 1 but It becomes clear in the discussion between
I outcasts, who, along with prostitutes, pimps,
and tranvestites, represent the "other" of
him and Bubis that the question is not only one
of anti-Semitism but one of Jewish identity as
bourgeois-Christian society, is one with which
well. In the aftermath of the Holocaust there is
they cannot identify. Daniel Cohn-Bendit
no glory in the kind of "otherness " that Fass­
immediately can recognize himself in, and ex­
binder attributes to the Jews. His ruthless cri­
press solidarity with, the "outsider, " the
tique of the normality into which they have
"other, " in whom he sees a moment of re­
fallen, and within which they live in post-war
demption, the presence of oppressed values out
Germany is unsettling but not morally compel­
of which a new society can emerge. For the pro­
ling .
testors, however, the company into which Fass-

22
Fassbinder 's play then has become a play has become the occasion for this discus­
metaphor for German identity after "forty sion between Germans and Jews which had
years , " as expressed in the desire of large been missed until now.
numbers of the West German population to be
able to speak not only about themselves but FOOTNOTES
also about the others, the Jews, without feeling
1 . This is a reference to a 1973 novel by a left-wing writer,
the censure of guilt and the past suffocating
Gerhard Zwerenz, The Earth Is As Uninhabitable As The
them . It has also become the occasion for the
Moon (Die Erde is so unbewohnbar wie der Mond), from
Jews in West Germany to exercise their right to which the play was adapted.
determine for once how one will speak and 2. This is Andrei Markowitz' formulation.
write about them, how they view themselves, as 3. Cf. Hans von Gluck's monologue, R.W. Fassbinder, Der
Muell, die Stadt, und der Tad, Verlag der Autoren,
opposed to how they are viewed through the
Frankfurt, 198 1 , p. 35.
projecting lens of the dominant population. 4. Jews who survived the Holocaust received reparations
For this reason, their decision to occupy the and special considerations from the West German govern­
stage on October 3 1 , 1 985 symbolizes a trans­ ment after World War II.
formation of their status as objects in the 5 . Pflasterstrand, No. 223 , November 29, 1985.

monologue of another into subjects of a


conversation, acting for and on behalf of them­
selves, for the only way to confront the defini­
tion of oneself as "the other" is to begin self­ Seyla Benhabib teaches philosophy at Boston
definition and self-articulation. Fassbinder's University and has lived in West Germany.

Subsidized Anti-Semitism, Der Spiegel

23
T H E S E S ON FASSBINDE R,
ANT I-S E M ITISM ,
AND G E RMANY :
A Frankfu rt A u tu m n, 1985

MOISHE POSTONE

1. I am going to outline some aspects of the background to, and context of, the "Fassbinder
affair" in Frankfurt this Fall. The issue, as far as I am concerned, is not one of whether
or not Fassbinder's play is anti-Semitic, or what the limits to artistic free speech should
be . Rather, what is important is the way in which the controversy surrounding
Fassbinder's play indicates the manner in which anti-Semitism and the relationship of
Germany to its past have been dealt with.

2. In order to be able to approach that question I briefly shall give some background infor­
mation about the nature of the Jewish community in Frankfurt, the Left "scene" or
"subculture" in that city, the so-called "housing struggle" in Frankfurt in the early
1 970s, as well as the character of the movement towards "normalization" in the 1 980s in
the Federal Republic of Germany.

3. Of course, everything I shall describe is very much suffused by the historical background
of National Socialism, World War II, and the Holocaust, and expresses and is expressive
of the complex dialectic of normality and non-normality that has characterized German
history since 1945 - that is, since the Third Reich was brought to an end by the Allies -
rather than by the Germans, the majority of whom neither affirmatively greeted nor

24
resisted the Allied victory and occupation. 5. Why did they stay - or in some cases,
What has come to a head in Germany in the return? (Some first went to Israel after 1 948
Fall of 1 985 has been the intrinsic tension and returned in the 1 950s . ) One can point to
between these two poles of the dialectic of the fact that being, more or less, under the
postwar German history. wing of the American military occupation
forces, they not only felt relatively secure,
but were the recipients of benefits and
4. The "abnormal" character of normality in favors from American Jewish organizations
postwar Germany is very evident in the
and the American occupying authorities in
nature of its Jewish communities. There are
the period immediately following 1 945,
about 30,000 Jews in the Federal Republic
benefits which later, in the form of repara­
today. The two largest communities are in
tion payments, were received from the West
Frankfurt*and Berlin, each of which has
German government.
about 5 ,000 members .
The overwhelming majority of these Jews
are not originally from Germany. That is, 6. Of course, factors on this level hardly con­
they are not people who for personal or stitute a fully adequate explanation. What
political or cultural reasons returned to did, or does, it mean psychologically and
their homes after 1 945 . Rather most of emotionally for Jews, most of whom were
them are originally from Poland and decid­ concentration camp survivors, to choose to
ed to stay in Germany after 1 945 , after the stay in Germany after 1 945 , when only a
Displaced Persons camps were dissolved. tiny minority of them had had any direct

*The population of Frankfurt is about 650,000.


25
cultural or political relationship to Ger­ would mean, and what its implications
many or Germans prior to 1 939? Whatever would be for the Jews.
the explanations, it is clear that these people
remained caught in the grips of their ex­
perience of the Holocaust and of having
survived it.

7. In fact, in terms of their self understanding,


these Jews never chose to live in Germany.
They always considered living there to be
temporary, a temporary sojourn that has
now lasted forty years.
This duality of living in Germany and not
living there marked the form of their lives .
They felt non-identical, defensive, and
perhaps even guilty living in Germany.
They had business contacts with Germans,
but no social contact. They sought to avoid
the public, political sphere and were very
strongly oriented towards Israel.
The burning synagogue on Boernestrasse, Kristallnact,
November 9-10, 1938, Frankfurt Chronicle
8. By the same token, these Jews were looked
11. I now would like to describe briefly the
down upon by Jews outside of Germany.
character and history of the Left in
The form of their lives made them par­
Frankfurt in the late 1960s and 1 970s as well
ticularly vulnerable to pressures, both from
as the social struggle in the early 1 970s
other Jews and from non-Jews.
focused on the issues of housing and real
estate speculation known in Frankfurt as
9. In terms of their occupations, most are the Haeuserkampf. That struggle con­
engaged in small scale businesses, par­ stituted the immediate background for
ticularly in the garment industry. Others set Fassbinder's play which he wrote shortly
up businesses which originally catered to afterwards , having just come to Frankfurt
the needs of American soldiers (bars, etc.). as director of one of its theaters .
Finally, one group became very involved in
real estate at a time of structural transfor­
12. In Germany in the 1970s, and especially in
mation in Frankfurt - a theme to which I
Frankfurt, the New Left did not disappear,
will return.
as in France and the United States, for ex­
ample, but remained significant as a social
10. It is really only in the past five or ten years and cultural force, although it was in a con­
that the realization has slowly dawned on stant process of change and transforma­
most of these people that their stay in Ger­ tion.
many no longer is temporary; that they live
there. This, of course, has immediately 13. What characterized the New Left in
raised the question of how such a "normal" Frankfurt, was that neither orthodox Com­
life is possible. In other words, the question munism nor Maoism ever gained a signifi­
of "normalization" which has affected cant foothold. The "hegemonic tendency"
most segments of West German society has in Frankfurt was referred to as "Sponti " -
become a double issue for the Jews: On the for "spontaneous Left . " Its history can be
one hand, what normalization for them traced as a series of loosely organized strug­
could mean; on the other hand, what a pro­ gles and campaigns beginning with organiz­
cess of normalization for the Germans ing attempts in the factories and among

26
foreign workers in the early 1 970s, the for­
mation of various solidarity committees,
through the anti-nuclear power plant move­
ment of the late 1 970s, the peace movement
of the 1980s, and the rise of the Green party.
An important turning point was the politi­
cal debate, conducted between 1974 and
1977, concerning the tactics and political
world view of the Red Army Faction
(RAF), which was coupled with an increas­
ing emphasis , influenced by feminism, on
what was frequently referred to as the ' 'sub­
jective dimension. " The core of the so­
called "realist" faction of the Greens, that
faction which successfully argued for an
SPD-Green coalition in the province of
Hesse, comes out of the old Frankfurt
" Sponti" movement.

14. C e n t r al to our concern is the


Haeuserkampf:
In the late 1 960s, the city of Frankfurt,
together with a business consortium
(basically the large banks) developed a plan
to transform Westend - a neighborhood
that once had been bourgeois and even
patrician, and which was then the home of
Squatters house in Frankfurt, Haus Eppsteiner Strasse 47
many students, foreign workers, and
Westend, Frankfurt Chronicle
members of the German lower-middle class
tie together work place issues with those of
- from a residential to a commercial
working class neighborhoods (or, in the
neighborhood.
language of the times, to tie together the
15. Real estate speculators were strongly en­ spheres of production and reproduction).
couraged to participate in this process of There had been many left wing "factory
transformation. groups" in the Frankfurt area. Now, a
Many residential buildings were bought highly politicized squatters ' movement
and then, if the tenants could not be began to occupy and renovate buildings
evicted, were allowed to decay until they which were empty. After several years, and
were uninhabitable - at which point a pitched battles with the police, most of the
demolition permit would be obtained - in occupied houses were cleared and torn
the hope of then building a new high rise. down. The land, in most cases, was to re­
There was a disproportionately high main unused for years . The whole ex­
number of Jews among the real estate perience left a very strong residue of anger
speculators. And they were perceived as and bitterness.
such by the population. In Frankfurt, moreover, that form of
struggle took on a very different
16. This development converged with the fact significance than it had in Italy. No real tie
that, at the time, the Left in Frankfurt was was created between workplace issues and
strongly influenced by the attempts of Lotta issues of housing. Instead the latter
Continua and other leftwing groups in Italy superseded the former, with negative conse­
to develop forms of agitation which would quences that were not clearly understood.

27
17. I would like now to introduce the issue of 19. With regard to the conservatives , there has
normalization by touching upon that of been a tendency to reduce National
anti -Semitism. Socialism to anti-Semitism - whereby the
Central to the self-definition of the Left latter also has been interpreted simply in
in Germany - whether Old or New _. is terms of prejudice and persecution. The
that it is anti-fascist. This was particularly tendency has been to speak of Nazi domina­
strong among the members of the first tion as if it were something imposed on the
generation of the New Left whose revolt German people; the statements against Nazi
was also against what they considered to be anti-Semitism on public occasions have
the great degree of continuity between the served as a very convenient way to distance
institutions and values of National Socialist oneself from the Nazi past without looking
Germany and those of the Federal Repub­ too closely at that past or at that past in the
lic. Many of that generation who had, earlier present.
in the 1960s, been members of the German­
Israeli study groups, had been strongly af­
fected by Rolf Hochhuth 's plays, by Anne
Frank's diary, by the Eichmann trial and
then the Auschwitz trials which were held in
Frankfurt in 1964.
I cannot now go into all the shifts in at­
titude towards Israel within the New Left.
I would like to note, that, in spite of the
background I have just mentioned, I do not
think that many, even on the Left, really
understood the sort of anti-Semitism the
Nazis embodied, and the ways in which the
Holocaust was different than the other
murderous actions of the Nazis.
Instead, anti-Semitism became treated
simply as a form of prejudice and the
Holocaust as an extreme example of racial
and political persecution.
Not having been dealt with, anti­
Semitism and its dangers could not really be
recognized .

18. [I should add that this began to change in the Forties


the late 1 970s and early 1980s - in part as a 20. The issue of anti-Semitism is, in Germany,
reaction to the showing of the Holocaust inseparable from that of " normalcy. "
film· on German television and subsequent What has become increasingly strong in the
discussions surrounding that historical past few years has been a desire, expresed in
media event, in part as a reaction to the different ways across the poltical spectrum,
constitution in Frankfurt of a more or less for a return to " normalcy. " This desire is in
formalized group of leftwing Jews who part an expression of the changed constella­
began to address these issues more strongly tion of power in the world.
and publically; and in part due to other, For the Social Democrats , for example, it
more general changes in the political at­ has expressed itself in the increasing desire
mosphere. These changes have not , that West Germany act politically and
however, been universal - also not among economically in a fully sovereign manner
the Left - as one can see in Frankfurt vis-a-vis Eastern Europe and the Soviet
now . ] Union.

28
Under the Kohl government* , the desire Juenger*. Finally, and most seriously, was
that the postwar period finally be ended, is of course, Kohl's equation of the First and
expressed in a different manner, as a desire Second World Wars expressed in his in­
for reconciliation with the German past. An sistence that Reagan should hold his hand
example of this change is the new law in a gesture of reconciliation at Bitburg,
passed by the Bundestag, making it a just as Mitterand had done at Verdun. The
criminal offense to deny or speak lightly of equation of the two was meant to imply, of
the Holocaust and of the expulsion of Ger­ course, that, with marginal exceptions (Le . ,
mans from the East in 1 944-45 , a law, in the Holocaust), the Second World War as
other words , that equates the suffering of fought by Nazi Germany was a war like any
the Germans with that of the Jews and other. It implied that Germans had neither
thereby seeks to wipe the historical ledger to confront and overcome their past - nor
clean. Another example is the awarding by that they had to continue hiding it. It meant
the Christian Democratic Mayor of the City that, within limits, they now could affirm
of Frankfurt's Goethe prize to Ernst their own past.

Mitterrand and Kohl at Verdun, Der Spiegel

*Helmut Kohl heads the conservative Christian *Ernst Juenger represents the radical right .
Democratic government which came to power
in the last election.
29
21 . Reagan's visit to Bitburg, then, was intend­ damage their chances of victory in the pro­
ed by the Kohl government to mark sym­ vincial elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen,
bolically the end of the post-war era. In inter­ which were held the following week.
preting that end in terms of a reconciliation Why were there so few protests on the
with the German past, the government in­ part of the Left? I am not certain. Basically
dicated an attitude towards the past however, I think that many are eager to be
diametrically opposed to that expressed by free of the ballast of the past. In that sense,
Willy Brandt as he knelt before the they are also expressing a desire for a return
memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto fifteen to normalcy, if not in the same form as the
years ago, an attitude that sought recon­ conservatives. I believe that other factors as
ciliation with the opponents and victims of well played a role, such as the refusal to
the Nazi past, on the basis of its repudia­ understand that such a spectacle could have
tion. The visit to Bitburg also sought im­ deep political signficance. Instead of pro­
plicitly to relegate Brandt's gesture to the testing directly against Bitburg, for exam­
postwar era (Le . , a non-normal era). ple, the executive committee of the Greens
sought to mark the 40th anniversary of the
end of the war in Europe by travelling to
22. It is clear that this form of normalization
Auschwitz - a gesture that, of course, went
has been more than difficult for the Jewish
unnoticed by the media.
community - which was beginning to try
to normalize its own position in Germany.
24. When Fassbinder's play became an issue in
Frankfurt this fall, the positions seem to
23. It is illuminating to compare the reactions
have changed. The conservatives, and in
to Bitburg with those to the staging of
particular the Frankfurter Allgemeine,
Fassbinder's play. I shall, of necessity, have
argued that the play is anti-Semitic and that
to simplify.
the feelings of the Jews should be taken into
Kohl's form of reconciliation with the
account; the SPD, as far as I know, as well
past was strongly supported by conser­
as many on the Left, particularly grouped
vatives, weakly opposed by the Social
around the "Fundamentalist" faction of
Democrats, and strongly opposed in Parlia­
the Greens, have argued that the issue is one
ment by the Greens, although neither they,
of censorship. Many, additionally, have
nor anyone else on the Left sought to
argued that the play is essentially about real
organize large scale protests against the Bit­
estate speculation and the destruction of the
burg visit.
city. The "Realist" faction of the Greens
What explains these various reactions? I
has been much less certain and has been
don't believe the conservative position re­
more receptive to the arguments of the
quires explanation. I wish simply to note
Jewish community, whose members, as you
that, as the protests in the United States and
presumably all know, occupied the stage to
Israel grew louder and more insistent, a
prevent the premiere from taking place -
"glossy" right wing magazine, Quick,
an act marking the first time, to the best of
published an article on the power of the
my knowledge, that the Jewish community
Jews in the United States, and the
has entered the political arena in such a
Frankfurter A llgemeine Zeitung *, in a
direct and public fashion.
barely disguised threat, wrote that the Jews
should be careful not to overstrain rela­
tions, that the consequences could only be 25. I saw a filmed version of Fassbinder's play,
negative for the Jews and for Israel. " Der Muell, die Stadt, der Tod" (" Gar­
The Social Democrats took a lukewarm bage, the City, and Death ") in Frankfurt in
position, having ascertained through opin­ September 1 984, and participated in a
ion polls, that the Reagan-Kohl visit to Bit­ public discussion of the film that followed
burg was fairly popular, and not wanting to its screening.

* Frankfurt Daily News.


30
The play, as far as I am concerned, is a
play about a destroyed society and about
anti-Semitism. Anyone who is familiar with
Fassbinder's works knows the extent to
which he, probably more than any other
postwar German artist, wrestled with the
problems of Germany's immediate past and
the interrelation of past and present, nor­
mality and abnormality, in German society
and in himself. In writing this play,
Fassbinder took a novel by Gerhard
Zwerenz "Die Erde ist unbewohnbar wie
der Mond , " ("The Earth Is As Unin­
habitable As the Moon") which dealt with
the destruction of Westend and which, (and
this is inference on my part), was at the very
least problematic as regards anti-Semitism,
and sought to transform this historical and
literary material into a play about anti­
Semitism. With its expressionist crudeness,
the play was to be a mirror within which
Frankfurt recognized itself. It reflected the
anti-Semitism that was strong among parts
of the population in Frankfurt at the time
of the Haeuserkampf.
Kohl at Bergen-Belsen, Der Spiegel

26. Instead of serving as a mirror, however, the purported anti-Semitism. You will recall
play has been regarded by most as a window that this was the same paper that more or
- and it is this that I consider to be the real less warned the Jewish community against
problem. It has been regarded by the over­ undertaking too much against the Bitburg
whelming majority of those engaged in this visit.
controversy, (with some significant excep­ I believe that the difference in the attitude
tions), as being either a play about a rich of the Frankfurter Allgemeine to Bitburg
Jew and a couple of other unsavory char­ and to Fassbinder indicates the way in
acters, or as a play about real estate which the issue of anti-Semitism has been
speculation. instrumentalized by conservatives.
The positions taken in this controversy
have been very revealing . 28. I have mentioned that the conservative no­
tion of normalization includes a reconcilia­
27. It is very unclear why the decision to stage tion with the past. Of course, that past can­
the play was made last year by Ulrich not be fully and wholly embraced. One
Schwab, who had just become the general solution to this problem has been to isolate
manager of the Alte Oper, or this year by anti-Semitism (understood simply as anti­
Guenther Ruehle, the director of the Kam­ Jewish prejudice), as the unacceptable ele­
merspiel, who had been culture editor for ment of National Socialism. The periodic
the Frankfurter Allgemeine. What I do find critique of anti-Semitism (which, after all
interesting is that, once the Jewish com­ is, in the abstract, hardly politically prob­
munity began objecting to staging the play, lematic), allows for the continued nor­
the Frankfurter Allgemeine put itself at the malization of Germany. Indeed, it is one of
forefront of the battle against Fassbinder's its conditions.

31
When. however, Jewish concern extends
beyond what it is accorded as its carefully
circumscribed bounds, when it extends into
areas of political significance, as was the
case regarding Bitburg, then the Jews are
quickly reminded of their place.
Whatever one may think of Fassbinder's
piece, it in no way represents a reconcilia­
tion with the past as the Bitburg visit sought
to do. Indeed, Fassbinder is a perfect target
for the Frankfurter Allgemeine, being
"vulgar, " homosexual, and calling into
question the moral foundations of the
Republic. To accuse him of anti-Semitism
allows the conservatives to emphasize their
distance from the National Socialist past in a
manner that costs nothing, thereby killing
two birds with one stone.

29. On the other hand, those on the Left who


claim that the issue is only one of censor­
ship (thereby implicitly agreeing with the
judgment that the play is anti-Semitic), or
who claim that it is about real estate
speculation and maintain that it should be
possible to criticize Jews as well, indicate
that they have not at all recognized
themselves in the mirror Fassbinder held
up. If Fassbinder's play, as I have claimed,
is not anti-Semitic, most of the reactions to
the play most certainly have been, in one
form or another.
For those on the Left to see the play as
one about anti-Semitism, rather than about
real estate speculation, would necessitate
reflecting the blindness on the part of many
of them in the early 1 970s as to the degree to
which their battle found popular support as
a populist struggle, a form of struggle
which frequently tended to be anti-Semitic.
Instead, an abstractly universalistic at­
titude is frequently used to veil the issue of
anti-Semitism . One frequently hears people represented among the real estate specula­
say they are against speculation, and they tors in Frankfurt in the late 1 960s and early
don't care about the identity of the 1 970s, the only speculators commonly
speculator. Such an attitude, of course, suf­ known by name were the Jews (with the ex­

II
fers from an abstractness that is non­ ception of one Iranian).
historical and non-social. It avoids raising What would have been required would
the question of why it was that, even though have been reflection, not only about the ex­
I I
! Jews were indeed disproportionately tent to which anti-Semitism is alive in Ger-

32
many, but, more fundamentally, what anti­
Semitism is. Such a discussion would have
raised some questions about the tricky
nature of a social struggle in Germany
fought on the terrain of - if you will par­
don my terminology -the sphere of cir cula­
tion, and therefore, necessarily populist. *
This, in turn, would have required "The most important anthology . . .
reanalyzing the form and content of various seen in a long time."-Choice
social struggles, and would have required a ''The first edition of what prom­
working out of those aspects of National ises to be an important annual
Socialism not grasped by an orthodox series . ."-LibraryJournal
.

Marxist analysis of its relation to capital.

30. Actually, such discussions have been taking


The Alternative
place in smaller circles for the past five
years or so. In general, I find that there is
Press Annu al
greater openness to discussing anti-Semi­ edited by Patricia J. Case with the
tism than, say, ten years ago. The attempt­ assistance of librarians, scholars, and
ed staging of the Fassbinder play both has alternative press people
shown how problematic the issue still is and Reprinting some of the best and most
has elicited a great deal of very necessary provocative news, reviews, and com­
public discussion on the matter . mentaries that appear in alternative
press newspapers and magazines, this
annual series will make an important
31. One last point - members of the Jewish addition to almost any collection.
community in Frankfurt tried, for the first Researchers will find a selection of
time, to act as political subjects , not ob­ quality articles "missed" by main­
jects. I am sure that this will be followed by stream publications on war and peace,
a retreat away from the public sphere, but it health, employment and unemploy­
could be indicative of a change. The success ment, the government and the people,
of such a change will, of course, depend on thewomens movement, and much more.
whether sufficient numbers of Germans will
". . . Significant not only because they
be able to deal with the issue of anti­
provide different perspectives from the
Semitism when it is posed by Jews acting as
traditional media, but also because they
political subjects.
report different news. "-Booklist
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*For an elaboration of this discussion see my Also available:


article, "Anti-Semitism and National Social­ Alternative Papers
ism , " in New German Critique, #19, Winter Selections from the Alternative Press,
1 980. In that article I argue that modern anti­ 1979-1980 edited by Elliott Shore,
semitism is linked to a certain mode of protest Patricia J. Case and Laura Daly
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specific misapprehension of the nature of ISBN 0-87722-244-4 paper $24.95
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This article was delivered as a speech at a


Boston area consortium on events in West
Germany in 1 986. TEMPLE
UNIVERSITY PRESS
BROAD AND OXFORD STREETS
PHIlADELPHIA, PA 19122
C RI SI S O F T H E G RE E N S:
" Fu nd i s , " " Rea l o s , " and t h e F u t u re

PHIL HILL

Fall, 1985. The missiles that "had" to be stopped have been in West Germany for two
years; at home and abroad, the press and the politicians are satisfied that the anti-nuke
upheaval-directed first at power plants, then at missiles-that shook the country for close
to a decade has sputtered out, and Germany is its dependable self once again. No one is in
the streets any more, and signs point to the coming of age of an "Atari" generation.
Suddenly, it explodes again. A neo-Nazi rally in a Frankfurt neighborhood so heavily popu­
lated by immigrants it is called "Cameroon" (after the former German colony), draws a
large counter-demo of foreign working class youth and "the scene" -the large, radical
counter-culture. Gunter San!, a demonstrator, is trapped alone on the street by two police
water cannons. One cannon knocks him down, the other runs over him. For a week, there is
rioting from one end of Germany to the other, climaxing in a huge anti-nuke rally in
Munich. The police launch a brutal, unprovoked attack on the "black block," the radical,
punk youth who are the militant cutting edge of demonstrations. Again there is a battle,
more injuries, more arrests.
Where, in all this, are the Greens, West Germany's radical alternative party? For at
least six months, they have been in a paralyzed state following disastrous electoral defeats

35
last spring in two state elections. In Munich, the The growth, in recent years, of the latter
day after the big bust, a hundred punks , just group is turning the "party of the movement"
released. from jail, crowd into a bar to cheer a towards what one radical from Bremen calls a
press conference by the Green Party's National "party of the middle class and the teachers . "
Executive Committee (BuVo)-a show of The perks and expense accounts that go with
mutual support that both sides needed badly. parliamentary membership have been a double­
But the BuVo is dominated by the Greens' radi­ edged sword, as well. As one member com­
cal faction, the "Fundis" (fundamental opposi­ plained, " No one does anything any more
tionists); in Frankfurt, where the pragmatist unless they're going to get paid for it. " And
faction, the "Realos, " run the show, things are being the party of the movement has the ironic
different . There, the Greens have been negoti­ disadvantage that the most active part of the
ating to put "Realo " (realpolitikers) leader
Joschka Fischer into the Hesse state cabinet
base of support is often too busy working on
specific extra-parliamentary issues to become
1
where he would sit with Horst Winterstein, the active in the party. In fact, if all parliamentary .1
Interior Minister whose cops were responsible members, alternates , and staffers , and officials
for killing Gunter Sare. In Frankfurt's streets, are added together, a total of 20 percent of the
punks chant slogans against Fischer, Bendit, membership is engaged in bureaucratic en­
and Winterstein. Bendit is Dany Cohn-Bendit, deavors; in fact, they may constitute an effec­
one-time leader of the 1 968 Paris uprising, then tive majority. ·
militant squatter in Frankfurt, finally a Green
activist. Party o f the Movement
The Realos think that sharing a little of the
power that the Social Democratic Party (SPD) This development has seriously eroded
holds in Hesse may be the only way forward for principles dear to the party's founders in the
the movement, after two decades in the "left long-ago days ( 1 979-1 980) when the morally­
ghetto. " Some of their Fundi rivals still see the outraged voice of Petra Kelly still spoke for the
Great Divide as running between the budding idealistic young party. The new party was to be
radical-alternative opposition to capitalist rooted in the "movements, " parliament was to
society on one hand and the ruling conserva­ be secondary. Representatives and party offi­
tive/liberal political parties on the other-not cials were to "rotate" -resign for "alter­
between that "bourgeois block" and an SPD­ nates . " The Greens wanted to move beyond the
Green "left opposition. " Only on a low level, conventional capitalist view of democracy and
and for tactical advantage, will they support give the " Basis"-the rank-and-file-a hand
SPD rule. The party has now been polarizing on the level of power between elections. Mem­
over the issue for almost two years, with the bers were not to see themselves as even the most
fight touching all major issues. It confronts ideal bourgeois parliamentarian, but rather,
West Germany's large left/alternative/ecolo­ subject to an "imperative mandate" from the
gist community with the eternal question of rank-and-file of the party. And beginning in
how you build the beginnings of an undigestible 1 982, gender parity in electoral nominations
alternative to established society, while still has made slow but sure gains . Today, many of
functioning effectively within it.
Support for the Fundis comes from mili­ ·With party membership inching towards
tant activists, radical feminists, the "black 45 ,000 , the Greens have the highest ratio of
block, " who support the party most effectively members to voters- l : 85-of any party in the
when they burst onto the national scene as they country. The small liberal Free Democrats, who
did at the end of last year. The Realos' support draw about the same vote, have almost double
comes from a base of 1 968 radicals who are the membership. The result is an acute labor
now interested in the concrete gains-parks, shortage, with a disproportionate effort direct­
cultural opportunities, solutions to transporta­ ed to electoral or parliamentary work. After an
tion problems, etc. ,-that a few Greens in a city election, the situation often worsens, as the
council can maneuver the SPD into providing. most active members are then in parliament.

Ii
36
Hessian Realos

It was in the state of Hesse where the


Realo faction first emerged to challenge Fundi
dominance of the party. In 1982, after a mas­
sive popular upheaval against extension of the
Frankfurt airport (Startbahn West), the
Hessian SPD found itself short of a state legis­
lative majority needed to govern their tradition­
al stronghold. Neither Fundis nor SPD leaders
were in those days willing to cooperate with
each other, so new elections were held. The
Greens lost votes the second time around, but
there remained no SPD majority. At a Green
state party congress in October 1 983, a group of
Demonstrations against Startbahn West, construction of an former squatters and street-fighters from
airport runway for military purposes, which also involved the
destruction of rural land. Frankfurt led by Joschka Fischer and Dany
Cohn-Bendit emerged as the clearly dominant
force and began to push for a " Red-Green"
these measures are under attack as idealistic coalition government in Hesse. After two more
and inefficient along with the often-chaotic years of maneuvering, increased faction-fight­
county and state membership meetings and the ing, on-again-off-again deals between the two
issue-oriented "working groups. " Most impor­ parties, and a final delay due to the Gunter San�
tantly, the principle that Green policy is incident, a coalition was finally worked out last
determined by the party structure, not within November. In December Joschka Fischer
the parliamentary caucuses, is being chal­ became the Hessian Minister of the Environ­
lenged . All these are sacred to the Fundis . ment.
Realos, meanwhile, are in the forefront of In the meantime, however, the factional
efforts to foster small-scale economic alterna­ dispute spread nationwide. At first, the Fundis
tives. Many Fundis come out of the socialist seemed to have the upper hand. The most
left, and are active, especially on the north important faction, the Hamburg-based "Group
coast, in imaginative alternative production Z , " pushed socialist elements strongly and suc­
initiatives run by rank and file union opposi­ ceeded in getting one of its trade union organ­
tion. Feminists from both camps have, after izers, Rainer Trampert, elected to the BuVo in
years of struggle, forced their agenda on a party 1 982, succeeding Petra Kelly. Also elected to
that has often responded unenthusiastically. the BuVo at that time was the long-standing
And there is little or no disagreement within the Green philosophical guru, former East German
Greens on a wide variety of issues: no nukes, no dissident Rudi Bahro . Initially, Trampert's
missiles, solidarity with the Third World based hard-headed socialist radicalism seemed the
on ecological principles, and the absolute prior­ antithesis to Bahro's romanticism, but by 1 984
ity of health and life over "jobs" and the two represented the important wings of the
"growth. " Fundi tendency, as it began to face off with the
Both factions represent important ele­ Realos. And 1 984 was the Greens heyday, a
ments of "alternative" reality. Neither can do year when all elections yielded smashing vic­
without the other. Nonetheless, it is the non­ tories, and no act of radicalism-from the elec­
compromising half-the Fundis-that makes a tion of an all-women leadership of the Bunde­
party like the Greens different in a capitalist stag caucus to the nomination of European
society. A party of Realos would not-for parliament candidates linked by the press with
long-be any different from the SPD's more the urban guerrilla movement-seemed to
enlightened wing. So the question remains : damage their public image. The Greens appear­
Where do they go from here? ed as a party dominated by Fundi radicalism.

37
West German Green caucus enjoys a light moment in the Bundestag.

After Victory, Defeat a long-planned debate on banning animal


experimentation, was reduced to an after­
After electoral setbacks last spring, how­ thought. This had the unfortunate effect of
ever, the Fundis were suddenly vulnerable. In sparking the resignation from the party of Rudi
the Saarland, the defeat was widely blamed on Bahro and his lover Christine SchrOter, a leader
a state executive committee decision not to of the animal rights movement . Bahro had been
form a coalition with the SPD . Numerous increasingly disillusioned with the party for
Green voters therefore voted for the attractive some months, as the Realos gained influence.
Social-Democratic candidate, hoping to help
him defeat the conservative incumbent, which
he did. In North Rhine-Westphalia, a demor­
alized and faction-ridden state party was
suddenly struck by the press distortions of a
resolution by the Green gay working group call­
ing for decriminalization of consensual sexual
activity. No one was able to clear up the reports
before it was too late, and the election failed to
give the Greens the 5 percent minimum needed
for representation. Where, many members
asked the Fundis, was this verbal radicalism
getting the party? The voters wanted a radical
alternative that could get things done.
When the shaken party representatives
gathered in Hagen, Westphalia, for a national
congress in June, solidarity seemed to have re­
placed acrimony at least sufficiently to begin
the climb back up. The single-minded concen­
tration on the crisis meant that one of the main
Fundi theoretician Rudi Bahro
reasons for calling the extraordinary congress,

38
Six feminists, largely Fundi-leaning, and battle will henceforth be over what "costs" of
including Bundestag caucus speakers Christa cooperation are ' 'unacceptable. "
Nickels and Antje Vollmer agreed with Realo
criticisms of ineffectiveness sufficiently to call Coalitions and Principles
for "professionalization as soon as possible. "
The main motion passed. Introduced b y three But even if all formal barriers on how to
members from Berlin, it reflected the sentiment cooperate with the SPD are down, there are dif­
of the membership that animosity should, ferent views on why to do so. On one side is the
above all, be overcome. view, largely associated with the Fundis, that
The result of all this was that the question cooperation would be a tactical step, designed
of whether to cooperate with the SPD was no to win immediate gains, but not to compromise
longer on the agenda. Any form of parliamen­ Green principles. Implicit in the views of many
tary contact with the SPD is now approved; the Realo leaders , however, is a strategic view of

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39
cooperation reminiscent of ail Italian-style vance of the numerical control process as a
"historic compromise. " That this division can­ given; his strategy is mass working-class action
not be covered up is evident from the fact that, to reject such advances in order to maintain
despite the good will of Hagen, the divide con­ existing environments and save jobs. What,
tinues. Ludger Volmer, a Westphalian Member however, of workers who don't do anything as
of the Bundestag (MdB) and a socialist-Fundi, challenging or as interesting as operating a lathe
tried to rally a "centralist" faction of non-dog­ -those, for instance, who operate a word-pro­
matic Realos and Fundis. A paper he circulated cessor (or who operate a numerically-controlled
contained well-thought-out principles for con­ lathetoday)? Preventionism gets them nowhere
tinuation of common Green work: as they need anewly-formulated type of work
environment incorporating or transcending the
The alternative that we have to posit aims at technological processes causing the alienation
more than just the articulation of what is feas­
they are fighting.
ible here and now. It means a demonstration
of what would be possible if a sufficiently
broad political will supported it. The possibility Critique of Fundamentalism
which we counterpose to reality is not the small
reform. We need organized, comprehensive, The central point of Volmer' s critique of
substantial counter-conceptualization. Here
the Fundis is that they-including both Bahro
and now, we posit a concept for alternative
contexts against the contexts of thought and and Ebermann-stick to negation of existing
action of traditional society which we criticize.1 reality, rather than proposing positive alterna­
tive structures. The critique is laid out in greater
The importance of efforts like Ludger Vol­ detail, in regard to Trampert and Ebermann, by
mer' s is not whether they succeed in papering Willfried Maier, in his review of
Zukunft der
over an irreconcilable divide, but that they may Granen. 4 Such negation is incompatible with
spark a reformulation of what it means to any real cooperation with the system-i. e . , the
be fundamentally opposed to existing society, SPD-since that would imply acceptance of a
yet committed to working within its structures. certain quantum of the system's misdeeds.
The irony is that the Fundis had already Maier elaborates :
evolved, by the time the crisis hit, far beyond
the simplistic crypto-Ghandiism of Petra Kelly. "How do you solve the dilemma of: demands
In fact, just four months before the fateful for more public regulation (L e., of industry,

II Saarland elections, Trampert and fellow Ham­


burg "eco-socialist" Thomas Ebermann, had
etc.) on the one hand, and rejection of state
action on the other? The remark that it is
merely a matter of providing the mass move­
published a book2 which represented the best ments with room to develop' does not do the
political formulation the Fundis had to offer. trick. . . . The necessity to regulate a society
As a result, it has become a major focus of dis­ which produces according to a division of
cussion as the crisis-spawned debate continues. labor, is networked internationally and is
largely stripped of naturally-developed social
Not that the eco-socialists are without a
structures cannot be fulfilled by movements
strategy. They have always, for instance, held a and their spontaneous fluctuations alone. Par­
synthesis of ecologist and working class poli­ ticularly the movements have to find political
tics, rooted in their own personal experience in forms in which they can develop and formulate
the New.'"
heavy industry in Hamburg. Trampert worked
at Texaco for 20 years, much of that time as a
radical dissident leader and elected plant-coun­ Beyond "more"
cil * representative. Ebermann uses the example
of the lathe-operator which now is a thing of It has been one of the major contributions
the past, since lathes are numerically con­ that the eco-socialists-and others in the
trolled. The worker, therefore, has been robbed Greens (including Bahro)-to challenge the old
of creativity; the perception, so far, is similar to standard trade-union demand of "more. " It is
that given in this country by Braverman. 3 Eber­ time, Trampert and Ebermann have said, to
mann does not accept the technological ad- make clear that some products should not be

* Betriebsrat, the elected employees' council


mandated by law at West German factories.
40
"Each for himself and filth for us all, " Buntes aus dem Untergrund

available because their production is too pollu­ necessarily more utopian. In fact, they are more
tion intensive; others will have to be less avail­ concrete, since the movement could create
able because their acquisition involves plunder living examples of Hfe-style alternatives-in use
from the Third World. of food or transportation, for instance-which
The unions' largely unsuccessful fight for a might not concretely effect the global situation,
35-hour week was fully supported by the but which nonetheless might win the respect
Greens (and not, it should be noted, by the and attention of the public at large, while gain­
SPD), on the grounds that with enough grow­ ing concrete knowledge for the movement.
ing productivity, production should be used to Moreover, they would strengthen the
increase leisure time. Trampert and Ebermann social base of the movement by expanding and
do not even stop here-they see the concept of deepening the social context within which acti­
"leisure" as an expression of exploitation. vists live. The strength of the movement in
They want all human life to be structured West Germany in the past 10 years compared to
meaningfully. But certainly, workers' demands this country is in large part due to the viability
for less (work, even if not less pay) are a small of a socially-based alternative structure. To a
step ahead. The spreading outrage over the large degree, that structure has not broken sig­
death of the German forest due to acid rain also nificantly with the more destructive features of
provides an opportunity for such a movement. the system, and it could benefit from a start at
So far, it has been limited to demands for cata­ doing so . The radical forces in the Greens cor­
lytic converters, opposition to sulphur-oxide rectly see this stratum as the party's social base
and nitrous-oxide emiting factories. Others today; they have a responsibility, during the
have called for an anti-car campaign, whose current period of redefinition of their politics,
members would voluntarily renounce autos, to do so within the context of that stratum.
and fight for a car-less society. Otherwise, as the party matures, it will do so
The goals of these movements might be within the established political structure, rather
more immediately realizable than those of the than as an opposition force.
peace or anti-nuke movements; nor are they

41
Since tbe Hagen Conference Among the other major national efforts by
the party last fall were an internationalism con­
In the 8 months since Hagen, those ference, a conference on peace movement work
Realos-and there are some-who hoped the on the local level, a parliamentary hearing on
crisis would allow them to impose their imprim­ Namibia, and a conference on women. The lat­
atur on the party completely have been dis­ ter two were smashing successes; all four were
appointed. The reform commissions set up in more of less dominated by Fundi-leaning
Hagen came up with compromise formulations: people. The growing importance of feminism,
the structure commission, viewed originally as a which was indicated strongly by the conference,
chanc� to root out idealistic experiments of the is intrinsically subversive of the politics-as­
past, instead became a vehicle for an "affirma­ usual tendency of the Realos, even if many
tive-action" push by feminists. The Wackers­ prominent and dedicated feminists, like former
dorf nuclear reprocessing plant, which sparked caucus co-speaker Waltraud Schoppe , are
the large Munich demonstration in the fall, Realos. The I I -member BuVo and the Bunde­
promises to be the Green issue of the late I980s. stag Caucus Speaker 's Council (a 6-person
Last December's national party congress in group comprising 3 "co-speakers " and 3
Offenburg was cut short so the delegates could whips) remain Fundi-led.
travel to a demo in Wackersdorf, and some
were arrested there.

Joschka Fischer, Green minister from Hesse, Der Spiegel


42

- - -
"
Party of Ecology, Minister of Environment This article is excerpted and updated from a
longer version which appeared in Socialist
The Realos have, however, scored major Politics, Number 4 (Fall/Winter 1985). SP can
points in the media: Joscbka Fischer is the first be contacted at 2020 W. State St. , Suite 168,
Green minister; his friend Hubert Kleinert leads Milwaukee WI 53233.
the battle for Green participation in the watch­
FOOTNOTES
dog committee of the secret services; and MdB
Otto Schily has just caused charges of perjury to 1. Volmer, "Gegen Realo, gegen Fundamentalo, fur eine
be brought against Chancellor Helmut Kohl for starke Zentralo Fraction," manuscript: since published in
his role in a bribery scandal. These forays into Kommune, June, '85.
the stratosphere of statesmanship are the 2. Ebermann and Trampert, Zukunjt der Grunen: Ein
realistisches Konzept jur eine radikale Partei (Future of the
Realos' natural hunting grounds, just as
Greens: A Realistic Concept for a Radical Party), Konkret­
" movement politics" are for the Fundis , and a Verlag, Hamburg, 1984.
plum is awaiting them this June: the state of 3 . Braverman , "Labor and Monopoly Capital . "
Lower Saxony holds elections in which another Monthly Review Press, New York, 1 974.

"red-green majority" is likely; already Wal­ 4. Maier, " Radikale Kritik macht noch keine radikale
traud Schoppe is a speculative Lower Saxon Politik, " Kommune, v. 3 , #3, March, 1985, p. 5 1 .
Minister for Women' s Affairs (the Greens 5 . Here, Maier refers to a passage i n Tramper! and
failed to force the Hessian government to set up Ebermann, op . cit . , p. 270.
6. Maier, op . cit. , p. 52.
a similar department).
But the difficulties in combining the two
Green factions was evident again early this year
when the Hessian government-the SPD-Green
Hessian government-issued a report that
whitewashed the role of the police in the killing
of Gunther Sare. Immediately, the Greens pro­
tested, and there were rumors that the new
coalition might collapse.
Still, an electoral success is needed to
psychologically counteract last spring's fiascos
-within the party and among its potential sup­
porters at large. If good showings can also be
had in Bavaria (where the Wackersdorf repro­
cessing plant will be an issue) and Hamburg
(probably the Greens' strongest state) later in
the year, reelection to the Bundestag next
January-possibly with enough seats to block a
majority-is a good possibility. The survival
that development will ensure will be a pre­
requisite for working out of practical answers
to the questions the Greens have raised for Featuring BANANAS , BASES AND
themselves and for radicals in all industrialized : PATRIARCHY: Some Feminist Questions
countries. About the Militarization of Central America by
Cynthia Enloe; AT ARM ' S LENGTH:
Feminism and Socialism in Europe by Marie
Phil Hill is a freelance journalist whose articles
Kennedy and Chris Tilly; THE
have appeared in the Guardian and other publi­
BROTHERHOOD OF TIMBER WORKERS
cations. He has closely followed the Greens and
AND THE SOUTHERN LUMBER TRUST:
developments in Germany in the past few years.
Legal Repression and Worker Response by Jeff
Ferrell and Kevin Ryan .

43
March oj the Workers, photo by Tina Modotti

44
L I F E AND WO R K AT
E L C RU C E RO :
I nte rvi ews with N icarag u a n Coffee Wo rke rs
E DITE D BY CHUCK KLE INHANS AND J U LIA LESAGE

(The following interviews with Nicaraguan coffee workers resulted from a project under­
taken by women video makers from the Sandinista industrial labor union (CST) and salaried
farmworkers' union (ATC). In consultation with women sociologists in the Agrarian
Reform Ministry who were studying women's roles in agricultural production, they traveled
to the EI Crucero coffee growing area (about an hour's drive from Managua) to film farm
women . Accompanying the crews were Julia Lesage and Chuck Kleinhans, V.S. video ac­
tivists who were working with the ATC and CST's People's Video Workshop in Managua in
Sept. of 1984. Roberto Alvarez, of the People's Video Workshop contributed a subsequent
interview based on his experience as a farmworker and union organizer in the region.)
The interviews are important because they demonstrate what a trade union means in
revolutionary Nicaragua and show what a difference the small changes (in terms of standard
of living) have made in workers' lives and how often the labor struggles mean more to people
in rural areas than issues about the national government. Alvarez is an organic intellectual,
in the Gramscian sense, and has developed a genuinely materialist analysis of the relation
between work and social life as a result of his participation in the trade union movement.
Furthermore, he is not squeamish about discussing problems usually dealt with only by
feminists in the V.S . , ego incest . Both Alvarez and the farm women, Reyna Flores and Elena
Reyes, have a down-to-earth, unsentimental , and unmoralistic view of farm life and farm
labor from which they draw a sophisticated, hopeful, and sometimes skeptical projection of
the scope of farmworkers' conditions in Nicaragua. The women tell a story that gives a very
different texture to our understanding of Nicaragua than we hear from either government
officials on solidarity tours, or V.S. solidarity group reports. For example, Reyna discusses
her own learning disability in both personal and social terms, and both Reyna and Elena
have skeptically confronted Daniel Ortega about the polluted water they have to drink . .
Together, the interviews reminded me of the texture of Ousmane Sembene's God's Bits of
Wood, in which the poor have the best political understanding and the least corrupt con­
sciousness. The power of the FSLN is that it understands this and sees that it has to win the
hearts and minds of these sectors of the population by paying attention to their needs. At its
best, the government "delivers" to the poorest because it really understands what the
popular slogan, from Sandino, means : "Only the workers and peasants will go on till the
end. " Julia Lesage and Chuck Kleinhans

45
FARMWORK: AN ORGANIZER'S Workers also gain from the use of chemicals .
ANALYSIS T o clear a mountainside, w e often use flame
throwers to clear a hill instead of machetes .
Roberto Alvarez worked as a fulltime Although men traditionally did the heavy work
organizer with the Nicaraguan Association of with machetes, now both men and women
Salaried Farm Laborers (ATC) after the 1979 operate the flame throwers. Usually women put
revolution, and now is a videomaker with the down fertilizer on the cleared hill. Later, men
People's Video Workshop of the ATC and the prune the coffee trees , although some women
CST (the Central Sandinista de Trabajadores are starting to do that as well. Grass and weeds
- the Sandinista Industrial Workers Union). that grow up on the mountain are also
Alvarez speaks about the living and work con­ eliminated chemically.
ditions in El Crucero, where he had worked as During the harvest, men, women, children
an organizer and where he and his family still and old people participate . Harvesting coffee
live. El Crucero is a hilly area about 30 miles does not require difficult or specialized labor.
!
from Managua, the principal crop of which is Actually, coffee doesn't mature all at once, but
coffee. Farmworkers' life in Nicaragua has a in three different stages. In El Crucero some of
I
I social pattern that varies according to crop - it matures in November, some in December,
coffe, corn, tobacco, or cotton . (For example, and some in January. To get a higher quality
coffee workers eat in a central dining hall, or coffee crop , we only pick the ripe beans each
they can withdraw a food ration to share with time we harvest. That way we get a much better
their children.) Alvarez' description of farm­ price on the international market. In January
workers' life in El Crucero would apply to that there's not much coffee left to pick. In a few in­
of salaried farmworkers in coffee-growing stances , the workers harvest all the grains at
areas of Nicaragua in general. once but with a marked loss in quality since

Work Process

We -do coffee planting much more scien­


tifically now. First we start plants in boxes ,
then move seedlings to a smaller area of cultiva­
tion, and from there to the fields . We're replac­
ing the old plants, which have a life of about 50
years, but the new ones will not bear fruit until
nine years from now. Historically, planting,
transplanting, and then getting the seedlings
out to the fields was the work of women and
children, but now women do it since we do not
have children working as much in the fields
anymore. We've made a major technical ad­
vance - now we plant each seedling in a plastic
bag. That makes the women's work a lot easier
and prevents the seedlings from breaking as
they are transplanted. It means we can
transport the plants to the fields safer and
easier - and with great savings. The coffee
seedling is planted on the shady side of the hill.
Each plant has to be taken care of - hoed
around and watered - and this is traditionally
men's work. [ Trans. note: Agricultural ad­
visors are helping the workers cultivate the bot­
tom land as well for cash crops like potatoes ,
which come in four times a year. ] Steve Cagan, from a photographic portrait of the city of
Esteli, Nicaragua.

46
Pablo Mayorga, La Palmera

there are many green beans. We need coffee as hated that person. Now we just have a work
a high quality export crop to help balance our director who guides those not really familiar
import/export ration. with the work. The kinds of tasks he supervises
are washing, drying and loading the beans, car­
The Farmworkers' Union rying sacks, transplanting, etc. Most impor­
tant, all the farm union representatives in the
The whole union movement has grown up country got together to name the jobs that com­
since the revolution. Before that some urban prise the labor for a day's wage , now 42 cor­
workers understood their link to agricultural dovas.
workers and tried to form farmworker When I was a union organizer in EI Crucero,
unions, but that whole movement was wiped our biggest struggle was to improve the quality
out. After the revolution, wage differences ac­ of food in the communal dining hall, especially
cording to sex were abolished by law, and that to guarantee a nutritionally balanced diet. His­
immediately had a great effect here because torically, farmworkers have always eaten just
women always were a large part of the rice and beans . Since the triumph we have not
workforce but earned significantly less than been able to improve that diet much. Workers
men in this area. However, after the revolution, now do not get as upset about salary as about
at first only men participated in the farm­ food and living conditions. However, farm­
workers' union, with women beginning to join workers do have much better living conditions.
in 1981 or 1982. Our first demands were around You may not see that improvement on the sur­
salary, the second to establish standardized face, but in particular the government is setting
work norms. up much more efficient channels of food distri­
In the old days an overseer pushed the bution, for which the union will supervise the
fieldworkers to increase production. Everyone mechanisms. The other serious complaints

47

-- • --------------------------------�
---------
I
workers had were about sanitation and work branches are fighting to extend that right by
conditions. For example when people get up at contract to women who work seasonally, since
5 a.m. and start washing the coffee beans in big this is not written into law. During the harvest
tanks, the water may be absolutely freezing . when most people work, the only things that
They want better conditions to do that . They part time workers have covered are work-related
are demanding clean water to drink, too, and injuries such as falling or cutting themselves
exterminators to keep insects out of the living while actually working in the fields. Then the
quarters. employer must cover medical costs.
As far as food goes, the basic provisions will
be sold at low subsidized prices right at the Social Relations
major farm centers . [ Trans. note: These basics
are rice, beans, corn, millet, cooking oil, toilet Social relations in rural areas have changed
paper, and soap .] Furthermore, in the dining drastically as a result of the revolution . I think
hall where the workers get three meals a day, people have a larger number of friends now,
they now get protein such as meat, eggs, or and the friendships have grown out of people's
cheese for the main meal at least every other trying to accomplish certain social tasks
day and often every day. together. In particular, men have learned to
Our union is also fighting for part time, form healthier mutual relationships-no longer
seasonal workers' pregnancy benefits. When primarily related to going to bars or prostitutes
women farmworkers are pregnant, they do together. Men mostly used to get together as
keep on working. Fulltime women farmworkers drinking buddies and the bars were centers for
have the same rights as urban industrial vice. Men and women make friends now where
workers, with six weeks leave before and six they work, and when four or five workers from
weeks after they give birth. Many local union different workplaces get together, it's to discuss

I
A TC union members at a local meeting on their farm. El Crucero, Nicaragua, September 1984. Photo: Chuck Kleinhans.

t
5

48
some kind of problem. At that point they gain a
new social understanding of the problems
which other people have, and they also learn a
new form of social interchange. "We had this
kind of problem over here, and this is what we
did about it, " they say. Not only do they learn
about different solutions to various problems
from each other, but for men , this kind of
interaction has completely changed their mind­
set about fraternal relations and friendship.
Women have traditionally built up this kind
of relationship during the harvest alongside
other women. Women who come from neigh­
boring farms look forward to meeting each
other at harvest time. Sometimes they will form
a work group to go off and harvest together in a
different area. We've used this informal social
formation to improve the harvest by having
different groups compete against each other.
In terms of love relations, farm courtships do
not last as long as in the city, where people
might court a year or two. You might hear a
fellow serenading his lady in the middle of the
night, but it's not like Romeo and Juliet. In the
city, people in their 20s often have not had
children yet, but here adolescents of 1 5 or 1 6
Carrying coffee seedlings to the fields for transplanting is
usually do. Frequently the couple live o n the
traditionally a woman 's job. Photo: Chuck Kleinhans.
same farm. Probably the girl 's or boy's mother
will set aside a room in her house for them to woman, a woman knows she's really got to
live together. The extended family unit then work for her kids. At harvest time, you'll see
functions as a unified economic unit , and all many children out cutting coffee because the
usually work together in the same work group whole family has to earn as much as they can
during harvest. If, however, the couple did not then so they can survive for the rest of the year.
have good relations with their parents, they When a woman runs a household, aside from
would probably both go to work on another harvest time, only she and not the children will
farm. be able to find work. When there are a bunch of
Rural courtship relations are very elegant but children, the adolescents go out to work as
brief. And usually the pair will stick together adults and give money to the family; a child
over a very long period of time, although a man that's usually about 1 0 years old will be left to
often has children by several women. It is rare take care of the younger ones.
that people get married by a judge or a priest.
Lovers get together because they love each Economically, the family's income could be
other but are not tied together formally even supplemented by raising animals for food­
though most of the people are Catholic. Nica­ now it's usually a hog and some chickens. I
ragua has many single mothers. think that the rural workers have not organized
In economic terms, when a man and a this aspect of their life very well and have to be
woman are together, they both help support the faulted here for a lack of planning and in­
children. On the other hand, a single mother itiative. As coffee production has become more
gets very little support and she has to work to sophisticated technologically, people say they
feed her children by herself. Since a woman's don't have the time to raise animals collective­
husband might have children by another ly. If they did, the animals would be in pens or
. -

49

----�. ., -.------
cages and not just wandering around. As we get one and a half high, would be stacked in tiers
increased coffee production, we are cultivating three or four high.
more small plots which the workers move from A father, mother and children slept in one
area to area to tend. Often people raise one hog box, so you would get five or six people sleep­
close to their house and keep it tied up by its ing in such a tiny space. This lent itself to a
hind leg and feed it off table scraps. But terrible degree of promiscuity and child sexual
other times hogs are left out on their own to abuse. And veneral and infectious diseases
roam and get in the small, newly planted plots spread fast . If a woman had a daughter by a
and root up the seedlings . man other than the one she was currently living
with, then that daughter would be subject to in­
cestuous relations . Even though we have not
been able to improve the living conditions com­
pletely, we have enlarged the "boxes" and
guaranteed each family two boxes-so that the
adult couple sleeps in one place and the children
in another . This has cut down on promiscuity.
Farmworkers really attacked these living
conditions at the beginning of the revolution. It
is clear that economic resources will not let us
build individual houses for everyone, even
though in a few areas we have been able to give
building materials to families who collectively
build their own houses under the supervision of
a person who knows something about construc­
tion. A big union demand early on was to get
landlords to fumigate the sleeping quarters
regularly, and the farmworkers will often get
together collectively on Sundays to do this. Fur­
thermore, we clearly need other social services
related to family life, especially day care
centers . There's a huge demand for these, but
each day care center costs around two million
cordovas a year to run and we cannot respond
to that demand .
In terms of sharing housework, machismo
really reveals itself here. Even in the union,
Gloria Guevara, Christ, 1982, from Cornpaiieras, Betty
where the organizers fought in the revolution,
La Duke
the organizers may understand what it means to
have women participate in the revolution and
The sleeping quarters provided for farm­ allow their wives to work in the unions, but
workers represent a longstanding problem those men will not help much with household
which we've only partially been able to solve. tasks. No way. This behavior is obvious, and it
They've been remodeled somewhat but are cer­ certainly won't disappear soon. We see women
tainly not what we'd like. Still, they are not as organized as workers, but sexism is so deeply
terrible as before the revolution. Greedy land­ rooted that we still haven't moved beyond it
owners originally built them so as to cram as yet.
many people as possible into the smallest
amount of space. Imagine an area of 450 square Health, Education, and Transportation
meters-30 meters by 15 meters . 400 people
would sleep there. Sleeping boxes which are one The area of El Crucero has about 30,000 peo­
and a half meters wide, two meters long, and ple. Before the revolution, neither adults nor

50
children had any health care. Several mission­ anyth ing about health care to give vaccinations
ary nuns performed social services in the area and work at preventive medicine. Now in EI
and had a little money from their order to give Crucero we have a health clinic that serves
out some medication, but they did not have about 6,000 people; all the mothers come to this
medical training. We had neither a laboratory center to have their children taken care of. A
nor a health care center for training people. union demand which we achieved here was that
Those who needed medical treatment had to go if a mother has a sick child, she will not lose a
to Managua, an hour's drive away. Few ever day's pay to take her child to the hospital. We
did . In the barracks where the people lived on also have a center in EI Crucero that attends to
the farms, thousands of cockroaches , lice, and pregnant women and healthy mothers and
ticks lived, and flies swarmed on garbage lying babies, as well as another center for treating in­
around. We had a high infant mortality rate, fantile diarrhea.
mostly from diarrhea. And during the harvest, One persistent problem in this area is getting
communicable diseases like polio spread rapid­ pure water. EI Crucero is high up and hilly. The
ly. water table lies about 600 meters below the sur­
After the revolution the government in­ face, so it's hardly economical to drill a well.
augurated a massive health care program both The farms have big central tanks where water
through health workers and through the flows in from an open patio or some other open
unions. We cleaned up the environment , and area where they dry the coffee. People also col­
then we had days set aside for innoculating the lect the water that falls off their roofs every
whole population . Everybody worked at winter in big barrels , but they also have to haul
that-all the people, the entire medical profes­ water from the main house . All this water or­
sion, and health care specialists from abroad dinarily contains a huge number of spiders and
who could teach people who didn't know mosquitos . In the past, it was never

Elba Jimenez, La Cocina de Mi Casa

-------
-
,
Regional officers of the salaries Farm workers Union meet with the El Crucero coffee workers on the Callao State Farm to
discuss food distribution. Photo: Chuck Kleinhans.
chlorinated, not even with little chlorine pills . It's not like in the north where when the rains
Obviously the people will get sick from such water. come, you cannot get through because of the
They still have to drink from the same sources , mud. In EI Crucero, all during the year the
but the water is at least chlorinated now. workers can walk back into the hills where the
Education comes from state-run schools. We crops are. But they can get regular transporta­
don't have any Catholic schools in the area. In tion to and from town only during harvest time,
fact, there are not many school houses-two when migrant workers come in to work in the
big schools in the whole zone and maybe four fields. Otherwise, the farmworkers have to pay
little school houses in some suburban areas . for transportation and can get bus service only
What we do have are Cuban school teachers on the weekends . On the weekdays, people
running schools in the big house that is at the
II either have to hitchhike or walk to town, and
center of many farms. These big buildings are the distances are really long.
used for a medical dispensary tended by a There used to be a lot of mules around to get
health care worker, a union meeting hall, a the coffee crops out to the main highways . Now
school, and a recreation area if there is a televi­ that trucks go in, we've had less development of
sion set. In the El Crucero region, in about 12 mules . In fact, any discussion of distance and
hacienda houses on big farms, Cuban teachers transportation is deceptive. For instance, many
I
I live and teach three shifts a day. The little kids coffee processing machines have broken down
come to school in the morning, the big kids in and we have not been able to get spare parts, so
II the afternoon, and there's adult education in we often have to transport a crop to another ha­
I
the evening. cienda for processing. That's a lot to transport.
Transportation poses a big problem-both Clearly, we couldn't do that if we were still
on a personal level and on a work level. In fact, dependent on mules . Mostly we use mules to go
the roads stay clear both winter and summer . into those areas that a truck cannot enter .

52
region has not been as important militarily as
National Defense
economically. Ordinarily the people doing
vigilance have sticks and machetes but not
In terms of defense, El Crucero did not see a
rifles. It is a pretty large area. The counter­
lot of fighting in the insurrection. There was
revolutionaries may want to burn the crops
more consciousness around fighting for
here. In fact, some infiltrators actually burned
workers' rights than about national defense.
down a work center. Some things are especially
Even now only about 20 per cent of the men
possible during harvest time when many
have signed up for the reserves. What we have
strangers come in to pick coffee.
seen is a big response to internal sabotage in the
When the war against the contras became
production units . Things like throwing stones
more acute in the North, our men were called
into the coffee processing machines first occur­
up, and for many that was their first experience
red in 1 982 or 1 983 when two or three machines
bearing arms. When they went to the moun­
were broken that way. The workers do intense
tains to fight, something really interesting hap­
revolutionary vigilance at the workplace. They
pened in El Crucero . The farmworkers back
consider these their machines and take great
home initiated the move to fill in and do the
pride in watching over them. Furthermore,
soldiers ' work. It was a community response.
workers guarding the production machines are
Now El Crucero has had a lot of martyrs-men
issued rifles . Combatting sabotage has caused
who have fallen in combat. Two months ago
an important psychological change, too. This
five fellows from here were all killed in an am­
bush up in North Zelaya. Furthermore, the
soldiers who've returned to El Crucero, which
has always lived in peace, have brought a new
way of thinking and a new kind of consciousness
about defense. The returning combatants are
organizing defense here and providing more
awareness of military principles.
The major defense issue the workers want
settled here is to be issued rifles. We've taken it
up as a union demand. Some rifles have been
issued, but not massively. Official military
analysis considers first those areas of the coun­
try which face direct danger from roving bands
of contras . And paymasters or industrial
centers are also protected with rifles . But farm­
workers who live in areas where rifles have not
been issued often do not want to get involved in
the militias for that reason. They may have only
an old shotgun . In some of those areas, militia
enrollment may be as low as 15 per cent.
What is most outstanding about these farm­
workers is their strong class consciousness.
Often on a national holiday, the workers on a
farm will propose to work that day and give the
money to the community. Sometimes they
spend the day cleaning up around all the build­
ings. Sometimes they will do extra work in their
daily farm labor, such as weeding around

,
another hundred trees. They may give this
Farni/y standmg
" m potato field,
money to the defense fund or to a social welfare
newly cultivated as a food
and cash
crop, Photo: Chuck Kleinhans,
fund .
-

53
building. They eat the meal I left for them and
FARM LIFE: A FARMWORKER'S
then go out to look for firewood. Really, that's
PERSPECTIVE
just an excuse to wander around, because they
Reyna Flores
usually take over three hours to do it.
The children do some housework-wash
dishes or sweep-but you can't count on them.
When I get home I check to see what house­
Reyna Flores lives in a small community of
work has been done, because I know children
houses constructed by farmworkers at the state
don't have the same ability for that as adults.
farm in El Calao in the district of El Crucero.
Her living quarters are about a mile and a half
up the road from the main house at the El
Calao farm. The farm itself lies about five miles
from the highway and about eight miles from
the nearest big town, El Crucero. Amina Luna
and Miriam Carrero are video makers with the
People's Video Workshop of the ATC and CST
and conducted the interview.

Home Life

Life here is hard. I 've worked as a farm


laborer ever since age 22, when my mother died
and I had to go out on my own to support my
child. Before that, I worked with my mother as
a laundress and we used to go down to the river
every day to wash from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Now I'm a little better off because my man
and I work together and share resources . If I
just sat around at home depending on a man's
I. salary, I could never make it. We'd have

II
enough to buy food but nothing else. Now,
Reyna Flores. Photo: Chuck Kleinhans.
what he makes buys food, and what I make
buys the children clothes . We do not have And I don't have a girl to help me out with this.
i riches and cannot keep the children well dress­ My girl is only 5 and not yet ready to be
ed, but at least they don't run around naked.
I recruited into household service. My hus­
We do as well as we can for them with God's band-that's him over there-helps with a few
[I
help. chores like fixing and serving food for the
Every day is the same. I get up around 1 or 2 children. He also goes out looking for extra
a.m. and go to bed around 7 or 8 p.m. In the food like wild bananas . They're scarce around
early morning I fix food to leave for the here, so sometimes when he cannot find
children, get their clothes ready and leave bananas, he goes out and buys bread. Or if he
everything for them to go to school. I have six can get some corn, then I 'll get up early and
boys and a baby girl. The boys have to be on make tortillas to leave for the family. My oldest
their own from the time they get up until I get boy who works is gone from 6 in the morning
back. My oldest is 1 5 and works loading and till 6 in the evening, and he gives me money to
unloading seedlings from trucks. The next help me out. When he gets in at 1 or 2 in the
oldest boy is 1 1 and takes care of the other afternoon, he'll get some firewood or haul
children . He dresses them all and takes them to water. He usually helps out a lot. But recently
school. They get out from school at noon and he hasn't been getting home until 8 p.m. and
then come home, often carrying up a few small can't be asked to help around the house. We go
cans of water from the well at the hacienda to bed at 7 or 8 p.m. The hardest thing I have to
(

54
do is haul buckets of water on my head a mile
and a half from the hacienda well to here.

Farm Work

Before the revolution men didn't earn very


much, maybe 8 cordovas a day, and women
even less . Now men and women earn the same .
People also used to suffer abuse at work. The
hacienda owner would assign someone to, let's
say, machete work. And then out in the fields a
puntero or point-keeping overseer would keep
track of how much that worker produced. The
punteros were like hangmen. Workers who
didn't meet a quota wouldn 't earn anything at
all that day. The puntero was just an ordinary
person who maybe earned a cordova a day
more than the others. But for that extra peso
he'd kill himself and everyone else too. He'd
menace us with a whip and force us to work
hours overtime. And he always received his
eight pesos for the day, but not those working
in the fields who fell behind; they lost a whole
day's salary. All that's changed. We have
neither men nor women as punteros. No one
does that j ob . We're all equals at work. We all
earn the same. That's the major change the
revolution has brought. Now we feel very calm
and at ease while working. We don't have Elena Reyes. Photo: Chuck Kleinhans.
somebody running behind us saying, "If you
don't work harder, you won't earn anything at I always had to work just as hard when I was
all . " Before, the whole work structure was bad. pregnant. Before, you didn 't get any special
Both men and women had to work much consideration when you were pregnant . Now
harder. We even had women punteros who one of the women here is working while preg­
forced the women to work. nant, and we try to let her work where the ter­
Now if someone is very good at machete rain is not so rugged so that she won't fall or
work and another one is not, the less skilled hurt the baby. Before, the overseers had no
worker who falls behind is not penalized. If concern at all for issues like that.
we're out doing machete work and some people Sometimes I carry 800 seedlings a day from
can't go as fast, we all still earn the same. It's the trucks out to the hillsides to be planted.
the same with hauling bags of seedlings. We do That's when the field is near. But yesterday we
have someone keeping track of how many trips couldn't do as much because we had to carry
back and forth each person makes . One worker the seedlings a long way in, so most women car­
might make 25 trips, another 3 5 , or another 30; ried 200 or 300 seedlings; I carried 460. After
and another person might even make 50 trips that, we came here to take care of the potato
back and forth. But we're not going to accuse field right down below us, and that was a long
one of doing more and another of doing less . hike from the field where we'd been working.
We all feel fraternal towards each other here. I When the fields are close, we can get a lot more
wouldn't say, "She didn't work as much as me, work done in a day. That's why we haven't
and she's still earning what I do. " But that's been doing a lot of volunteer work for defense
the way it used to be. lately-which means that the group would
-

55

- -- - -. -- --�,-------"""-""",---"",,,-
.
� � , �---.-,-
Steve Cagan, from a photographic portrait of the city of Esteli, Nicaragua.

work over its quota to fill in for the men who health worker fights hard to get enough medi­
have gone off to fight on the frontier. In fact, cine for us. She's concerned about our health,
we ordinarily go way beyond the group norm of and she really worries about our children. If a
600 seedlings per woman per day. We're really child here gets sick at night, she'll go out and
exceeding the quota, and that's our voluntary try to find a way to get that child to the health
labor . I feel satisfied with this kind of work center in town or to a hospital. I myself was
system . It allows us to work for a living, raise sick last week, delirious with a wound, and
production, and help those who are defending she'd go with me or anyone to wherever we had
us . to go to get help .
And we never face hunger like the soldiers In the health center in town there's a well
do . We at least get three meals a day. Some­ children's program. The staff gives out food to
times they get food and sometimes they don't undernourished children and does the same for
get food. And they're the lookouts taking care pregnant women . Women get six months of ex­
of us. Well, we 're trying to look out for them tra food after their baby is born. You take your
by increasing the amount of work we're doing . children there to be weighed every month. We
It's like we'll do their work while they're not don't pay anything at all for this service. So my
here. I'm glad we can do something for those little boy is getting vitamins right now but
who are fighting, because some of them never doesn't need any extra food because he's a little
come back. The other day we had a funeral for overweight. Undernourished children get
three combatants from this farm. Only two rations of cooking oil, milk, flour, canned
others have returned safe from military service. chicken and sausage. We used to have so many
We don't know what will happen to the rest. undernourished children, but not now . You can
That's why we're pushing ourselves at work; really see the difference.
we're doing it freely for them.
Transportation, Food, Housing
Health Care
We have no decent means of transportation.
We have a medical dispensary here. Our A privately owned truck goes to town on Satur-
5 -
I.
56
day and Sunday, but the truck's owner says he give my kids more to eat.
wouldn't get enough business on workdays to At first I lived in the workers' sleeping quar­
pay for gas . So if a mother has a sick child like I ters, but I didn't want to live there because men
did the other day, we have to carry our baby in­ were always carousing and it was hard for a
to town on our back. If it's a bigger child that woman alone. I was especially concerned to
needs to get to the hospital, we have to go and find a better place for my child. I was lucky
beg the farm to loan us some kind of transpor­ because some buildings had been knocked
tation. During the week the trucks here carry down in a construction project, and there was
workers to and from the fields, so there's no some wood left. So behind there near the water
guarantee that a truck or car would be around. reservoir, I could set up a little house for
The union said the farm would buy two myself, away from other people. Now I live in
microbuses, but we've never seen them . We my own house up here. This area was all over­
keep on raising this issue in union meetings . grown, and we came out as a group to clear it
Sometimes we have to shop in EI Crucero in the off with machetes . We cleared off the land and
afternoon. It's 16 miles there and back . It's put up these houses with volunteer labor. We
hard to leave in the afternoon after work, go carried the bricks and building blocks and the
that far away, and then come back with a heavy cement to put the blocks together. At the time
bag of groceries. Going we could walk to the we were filled with joy and dreams because we
highway and get a bus to town. But then we'd knew we would be having our own houses . We
have to wait by the highway in order to help me
carry things back down the road home.
Soon food will be distributed right here.
ROASTED BEANS
They'll bring up all the provisions for us to buy
here in a farmworkers' store that will sell rice,
beans, cooking oil, and many other things like
malt drink. Since I have eight in my family,
<NICARAGUAN
we'll get 16 liters of rice and sugar, 4 liters of
oil, and 12 bars of soap every two weeks . Each
COFFEE
week we've seen shortages . Sometimes you
couldn't get sugar . But there don't seem to be
JUOlll1tOill g,lOWll to gou,lmet QuoOity
so many shortages right now.
We'll see how well the store works here.
We're supposed to have groceries here every
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. If the
food doesn't come in this week, a group of us
women are supposed to go to the farmworkers'
union , where we'll get vouchers to buy food in
NET. WT. 20 OZ .
the supermarket in EI Crucero. I and my boy
who's working get fed in the workers ' cafeteria.
But what are my other five children going to
eat? What if I have to go to Managua? I might even built a park here with swings and teeter­
not even find white rice. And I can only afford totters, but storms destroyed that. We don't
just a quart of rice there. That wouldn't last our pay one cent for living here, and we can live in
children for two weeks. these houses free as long as we work here . This
The farm is trying to grow more varied crops was a project of the Agrarian Reform and the
for food. We have some potatoes growing Social Welfare Ministries. We've been living
down there now. Right next to my house we here about two years and are happy except for
raise a little corn and beans for ourselves, the fact that we don't have water or electricity
maybe a half an acre of corn. My beans didn't up here. We hope we'll get that if God doesn 't
make it this year, but other people are success­ leave our union and our government's promises
ful with beans , so I 'll try to plant a few more to up in the air .

57

------. .
Reyna's Education had to stay home with. When I went to school
then, everything was like a fog to me. I got up
When I went to school I could never learn to my courage and said, "I will learn something,
read. It was a bad system, and my mother even if it's just a little bit . " I was deceiving my­
didn't help me. I became mentally twisted and self. My brain just wouldn't help. Everything
couldn't learn, even though I wanted to. I en­ seemed blurry. I couldn't even see the black­
vied my brothers and sisters with their papers board . Well, my oldest boy started to read in
which they would read and write when they sat the literacy campaign. So if I can't do it, my
down to study. The school expelled me. Even children will learn for me.
though I couldn't learn, I 'd take my notebook Reyna and Her Neighbor Talk About Water
and keep going. My mother told me that the
teacher would say, "What are you doing here, Reyna: The water we have to drink is just
child?" I'd say, "I want to learn, teacher. " filthy. You see frogs and toads floating around
When she wrote a little sample of writing on the in the tank. It's that tank up there by the ha­
board for me to copy, I 'd faint. I felt twisted in­ cienda which we use for our cooking, washing,
side. and drinking water. If you go up there and look
Now if I can 't learn, I have a real joy in see­ inside it, you'd be astonished at how filthy it is.
ing my children in a school where they can What we do is strain the water, and if we have
learn. I 've talked to doctors about this. They time we boil it for the small children. But since
say it would be a real struggle for me, but that I we come from work so exhausted, we usually
could learn to read, too. However, the struggle just give it to them strained. That water is pure
might disturb my mind and drive me crazy. animal ! I set a barrel out to collect rain water.
During the literacy campaign I went to school That's the only way I can get drinking water,
for three weeks , but I really couldn't learn any­ and I keep it in a covered pot in the house.
thing . The only thing I could do was make blot­ The water tanks are stopped up now. If they
ches in a notebook. Also I had a sick girl that I weren't, we could clean them out and have

Steve Cagan

j, Q $; ut i
water flow through them. But right now the we're going to get electricity and water. " He
rain water that streams across the hacienda assured us that yes, he would do it. We hope his
patio just pours everything into the tank. Peo­ words will indeed come true.
ple, dogs and animals all walk across that flat Elena: We know the union really wants to
area, and the rainwater sweeps everything from help us. They don't want to lie to us. They want
the patio into the tank. This is the water we to know our problems so they can fight for the
drink It's so dirty, it's a miracle that we're not solution.
sick.
Elena: It's really hard to haul all that water
up here, because we live about a mile and a half
from the main house. I get up at 5 a.m. and
don't get out of work until 5 p.m. That's what's
wrong. You know, Reyna's a single mother and
often has other tasks at work like getting out
more seedlings to be taken up into the fields . So
what time will she get home to haul water? In
my house mostly my little sister hauls water,
and she even brings up enough for me to bathe
with. But when I get home from work, I'm so
tired that I usually leave it in the bucket so that
I can bathe in the morning.
Also, because the pump went out, we have a
water shortage and risk losing all the seedlings
Tina Modotti, Meeting of the Hands-Off Nicaragua
we planted, and you know coffee trees mature
committee, Mexico, 1926
only every nine years. We dug up the fields and
burned them clear to plant new seedlings, and if Chuck Kleinhans and Julia Lesage are co­
those are lost we lose our whole livelihood. If editors of JUMP CUT, a review of contempor­
we don't have this way to keep on working, ary media. They have travelled to Nicaragua to
we'll never be able to take care of our children. shoot videos and have recently completed two
Two pumps in a row burned out, and the works: "Las Nicas, " on Nicaraguan women,
union's going to try to put in another. Mean­ and "Homelife, " on Nicaraguan families.
while, everyone from the union got together
and brought in water by truck so that we could
water the coffee plants with a hose.
Reyna: There was this fellow who came to
visit yesterday. What was his name?
Elena: Daniel Ortega.
GUIDE TO
FILMS ON
Reyna: Yes, Daniel Ortega. He briefly visited
several of the farms around here to listen to
people's problems. We told him we didn't have
electricity or water; that we have to go down
there to bathe and wash clothes and that we
can't even iron up here. He said he'd get two
small trucks to haul water and that he'd get the
Describes 40 of the best films on
pump fixed. And next year, if the country in­ EI Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras

creased its coffee production and had a greater and Nicaragua, with a special section
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import-export ratio, then we'd get electricity. 208 W. 13 St., New York, NY 1001 1 .
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where we're living as well as have it at the ha­


cienda. He promised us this. We said, "Watch
011t, don't leave us with just an illusion that
..

59
G U AT E MA LA :
T h e Tro u b l e W i th E l ecti ons

CLARK TAYLOR

On Sunday, December 8, I arrived with two companions at 7:30 a.m. in one of the
strategic hamlets (called "development poles") in northern Quiche province, Guatemala.
The run-off elections between the two finalists for president of the country had been under­
way for about a half hour. My colleagues were Beatriz Manz, anthropologist and
Guatemalan scholar, and Steve VanEvera, editor of a journal on international security at
Harvard. Beatriz has been to Guatemala many times and knows it well, as a researcher, but
also as an advocate for the interests of the Indians who make up a majority of the popula­
tion. This was Steve's and my first trip.
We approached the village through an army base which straddled both sides of a road
next to the Chixoy River. As I drove over the bridge, an escort soldier sat next to me with the
barrel of his Galil automatic rifle touching my hand. Close at hand we could see marching
drills and a soccer game with some of the 2,000 soldiers stationed there. We saw, as well,
men building what by now is an eight-foot wall that completely screens the base from a
visitor's view. We later learned that the wall was being built by men from surrounding
villages who were required to work for the army without pay.
At the first voting table we visited, a line of 1 50 or so men waited in an ordered way to

60
vote. On reaching the front of the line, those
who were able signed their names in the
registration book. The rest-the majority at the
tables I observed-had their thumbprints inked
in the book. Each one had to present a
passbook which was checked against the
registration book and stamped. Only then was a
ballot given, on which appeared the pictures of
the presidential and vice-presidential candidates
of the two contesting parties . After placing an
X on the pictures of his choice, the little finger
was dipped in ink to indicate that one had
voted. The ballot fell through a table slot into a
transparent plastic bag.
Women could vote only if they could
demonstrate literacy. In an area where the
literacy rate is low and voting not required of
women, few came, and those who did went
directly to the front of the line. I saw only two
or three women voting the whole time we
observed.

Each of the five tables in that town had a


long line of voters waiting patiently for turns to
cast a ballot. Many had travelled the whole day
before and would be on the road-typically
jammed standing up in the bed of pickup trucks
-the rest of election day, having slept in the
open air. Many had, in addition, long walks at
the home end of their journey to reach and
return from the pickup points . All of this for
the privilege of voting. Such sacrifice to exer­
cise their democratic right of suffrage !
That, at least, might be the conclusion of a
foreign reporter eager to write about the
restoration of democracy to Guatemala. (The
term "restoration" has actual reference to the
Jacobo Arbenz regime, a democratically-elect­
ed government which was overthrown by the
CIA in 1 954-a fact seldom noted in the news.)
In fact, we learned tHat we were the first foreign
reporters ever to come to that place, so the
press corps would not likely know about the
tWO-day j ourney citizens in the countryside
made to vote.
The day before, as we drove over an in­
credibly rough road, we had passed truckload
after truckload of men, several hundred people George Black, NACLA: Report on the Americas, 1985.
,.in all, on their way to the polling places . At rest
I, i$tops we asked them why they would vote . Each
,;
,d)ne said, " Because we have to . " Further ques-
;"� ,

"'r.
:f;", .

. �_\ ..________________________________________________________
61___
tioning revealed that each one had to pay his rights viOlations and war crimes, as Argentina
own way, to the drivers of the privately-owned has done, there would be some hope . Such is
trucks (elections are very profitable to truck not the case in Guatemala. The elections,
owners). Depending on the distance, the trip rather, were a facade, a cover for the continu­
could cost two days' wages-in addition to the ing domination of the army and the oligarchy
lost days of work and time with families . Just a and , as such, trouble .
month before, they had gone through the same The reality is that there is a continuing struc­
exercise for the preliminary elections. Asked ture of oppression that leaves the army in con­
why he had to vote twice in such a short time, trol . It consists of a legacy of terror, strategic
one man said he had no idea. hamlets , required civilian patrols and a system
The stamp is the thing-that indication in the of "inter-institutional coordinating commit­
passbook indicating cooperation with the army tees, " reporting directly to the army, which
in the elections. Passbooks must be presented controls all the money and services that flow
regularly at all army checkpoints along the from the national government through the
road. All men are ordered off buses and trucks regions to the municipalities and villages.
to have their ID's checked. Lack of a voting By its own count the army reports that 440
stamp is not in itself likely to mean trouble, but villages have been destroyed in the counterin­
the lack of it can mean big trouble for the per­ surgency. It tries to float die myth that the
I
II son who comes under suspicion for some other guerrillas did it, but Guatemalans know the de­
reason. Evidence of voting can become a life or struction was the direct work of the army itself.
death matter . We met people, in fact, who began by saying
The election, in short, rather than an expres­ that the "g's" (guerrillas) were responsible for
sion of participation in democracy, is another a given atrocity, but then, as trust developed,
aspect of humiliation in a kept population. An made clear they knew the army was the perpe­
election is trouble in that it takes away survival trator. People are afraid, and with good
income and amounts to an attack on personal reason. Estimates vary, but conservative figures
dignity. indicate that 75 ,000 civilians have been
The election is likewise trouble for the murdered by the security forces in counter­
Guatemalan people in its message to the rest of insurgency campaigns in recent years, and
the world. Dutiful foreign reporters, ignoring another 35 ,000 have "disappeared" without a
the continuing structure of oppression, send trace. Many of the latter must, of course, be
home the word from Guatemala City that the presumed dead. Torture is a regular feature of
nation has left the ranks of military dictator­ intelligence gathering, and mutilation of bodies
ships and j oined the company of democracies . is common . A few days before we travelled near
The New York Times glowed with the news on a village in central Quiche province, 332 people
January 19: "President Cerezo 's inauguration were kidnapped and another 18 murdered in
was another step in the march that Latin that one village. Two days after the election,
America has been taking toward democracy while we were still in an outlying village, a
during the last six years, as one military regime woman in Guatemala City was pulled out of a
after another has yielded to civilian elected taxi and murdered. Her mutilated body was
government. " That's the script for the Reagan later found with the hands cut off and words
administration to send millions of dollars in written on her chest, "more to come. " The
military/economic aid to the killing machine reality of fear came personally close to us when
called the Guatemalan army. a man, who volunteered to be our guide on a
At the heart of the matter is the extent to trail to a jungle village, told us that he had been
which the military regime has actually yielded denounced to the army by the head of his
control to the civilian government now headed village for spending time with strangers. This
by Vinicio Cerezo . If the elections represented same man told us that just a month before we
such a shift that the new president could dis­ were there soldiers had come to his village and
mantle the army's top command structure and told everyone they would return the next day to
bring the generals to trial for gross human kill him. That didn't happen, but he told us
..

62
George Black, NACLA: Report on the Americas, 1985.

how his knees shook in the presence of that reduced to partial earthen brick walls amidst
threat. One day we visited a mass grave in a high weeds) there is the model village of "New
village where the army had, in fact, surrounded Chacaj "-a verbal symbol of grisly change in
the area and killed every resident in one after­ the area. Areas in which model villages are
noon. located are called "development poles, " which
We received a chilling lesson in the contain a range of one to many model villages.
philosophy of the army when we stood in the The word "development" signals the army's
square of Sacapulos, a town in central Quiche. intent to win the loyalty of the people by
There, in bold letters on an army base next to combining development with security in its
the church we saw these words, "Only those program. The overwhelming priority, however,
who struggle have the right to win, and only is security, and development is its servant. The
those who win have the right to live. " On development concept includes the provision of
another wall of the same base we read, "If we roads, electricity and health services . Roads, at
are called to the mountains, we will not fear least in some of the villages are wide, but very
death. Our souls will live because our cause is few people own vehicles-so it isn't hard to
just. " This base was not far from the town imagine who the roads are for . Electricity is a
where the 332 people had recently been ab­ novelty for many of the people, but again, few
ducted and 18 murdered. own any appliances to plug in, so the intended
On the site of many destroyed villages the purpose of the light from single bulbs near
army has established "model villages "-a many of the houses is clearly security. Health
Guatemalan euphemism for strategic hamlets. services could stem from another kind of
In several places the name of the village is objective, but alas, the reality serves mainly to
retained, but with the word "new" in front. frustrate. We talked to a health worker who
Thus, near where Chacaj once existed (now explained that he received so little in the way of
'lIP

63

.-11
--------------
their house and repay a loan assigned for their
initial purchase of seed and fertilizer . In one
village we visited each family was also alloted a
portion of the cost of a new irrigation system
which was not yet functional for lack of a
pump. Since they are not paid for "community
work"-forced labor to build houses and com­
munity buildings-the only money they earn is
from the sale of corn grown on small plots with
no other tools than a hoe and a machete. The
dilemma is in how much of that corn to sell to
pay the debt, when all of it and more is needed
to feed the family. This is simply a new form of
the company store: the full debt will not be
called in as long as the family follows the
rules . . .
All rural men aged 18-50 are required to serve
in civilian patrols, another form of control. The
propaganda line is that men volunteer for this
patriotic duty to protect their villages from the
guerrillas . In reality, the patrols are part of the
counterinsurgency apparatus for which the
main purpose is intelligence gathering. As for
Solola Market Day, from Compafieras, Betty La Duke the voluntary aspect, one woman told us that if
supplies and medicines that they were quickly her husband refused one of his duties, he would
exhausted near the beginning of the month. He spend the next fifteen days in solitary confine­
finds himself in the ludicrous position of ment in the local jail. Men are assigned duty as
writing prescriptions for people, for which they often as once a week for 24-hour shifts, which
have no money and nowhere to go with them consist in walking the perimeter of the village,
even if they had money. " Development, " thus, manning road checkpoints and, most particul­
is a code term for control and degradation. arly, reporting all "suspicious" activities to the
Model villages have been populated by some army. Patrols, consisting of six to eight men,
who were landless laborers and others who fled carry M- l rifles (a gift from Israel), which they
as their villages were about to be destroyed. The are required to surrender at the end of a shift.
latter either gave up out of desperation from Failure to report unusual activity can mean
the hardships of surviving in the j ungle or were trouble for the men involved and their villages.
rounded up in sweeps-and were automatically A system of " Inter-Institutional Coor­
defined as subversives for resisting, i .e . , fleeing dinating Committees " represent the army's
for their lives . They are forced to endure re­ definition of security to include every aspect of
education camps where they are the victims of life in rural Guatemala . Heads of committees at
psychological warfare, the object of which is to the local, municipal (a municipality consists of
convince them that the army is their friend and a number of villages), regional and national
defender . Language groups are purposely levels report through a chain of command
mixed in many of the villages so that those who directly to the army. Civilians head the commit­
don't speak Spanish, most of them women, are tees only at the village level. Every aspect of the
not able to communicate across the lines of economic, political and legal system of the
their differing Indian language s . In this way countryside is managed through these commit­
language serves as another control barrier. tees. Security, thus, is a totalitarian concept in
Once settled into their one-room house in a Guatemala . (For more detailed information on
model village, a family is immediately in debt this system of control, see George Black 's ex-
beyond their ability to pay. They must pay for cellent article in the November-December issu e

64
of NACLA's Report on the Americas: "The whereabouts of their loved ones. His well
Power of the Guatemalan Army. ' ') publicized initial moves have been in the area of
Let there be no mistake: the army's power is foreign policy, where he has followed the line
institutionalized through a recently passed con­ of his army predecessors in resisting U . S . pres­
stitution that anticipated the electoral transition sure to join the effort to oust the Sandinistas in
to a civilian government in the technical sense. Nicaragua. Cerezo is currently facing increas­
This constitution gives permanent status to the ing pressure from the Mutual Support Group
development poles, civilian patrols and coordi­ and the unions to deliver on the hopes he raised
nating committees. Seeds of social change, in his campaign. The dramatic challenge of his
short of revolutionary overthrow, will fall on administration, thus, will be to create enough
barren ground. change to satisfy the pent-up rage and expecta­
President Cerezo, thus, has precious little tions of the progressives without provoking the
room to maneuver. To be elected he had to pro­ army to a coup.
mise the army there would be no trials of of­ Still, the generals cannot be eager to move
ficers for human rights crimes, and to promise back to formal power. The economy is in a
the oligarchs there would be no land reform. shambles and they know they made a mess of it.
(My guess is that we have heard the last of his One can imagine that they were pleased to see a
campaign promises to tax currently fallow candidate with a progressive image win the
land.) And he has told the Mutual Support presidency. Such an image is likely to result in a
Group, an 800 member group of relatives of the flood of economic and military aid from
disappeared , he would not investigate the Washington, where the Reagan administration

by a Guatemalan refugee child, signed Francisco, 1983, from Compafteras, Betty La Duke

65
can't wait to pressure a new ally into joining its to put up with a j arring long ride, who missed
Central American policies. two days with their fields and families, and who
It comes down to this: the army's totalitarian had to pay from their survival funds for trans­
control of Guatemala has been papered over portation to the polls. They meant trouble for
with an election facade. The media story is that the population, as well, in the message they car­
democracy has returned to this beleaguered Cen­ ried to the world that Guatemala is a demo­
tral American neighbor, and that deception cracy now and deserves the aid that, in reality,
means trouble for the masses of poor people in will sustain a cruel, oppressive system. Mean­
the countryside. In a short while the news­ while, the killings continue.
papers and television cameras will go off to the
more dynamically compelling stories of fighting
in Nicaragua and EI Salvador. Stable Guate­ Clark Taylor teaches at the College of Com­
mala, under the j ackboot of the military, will munity and Public Service, UMasslBoston. He
disappear from public attention. The economy has travelled and studied in Nicaragua and
will settle down with U . S . economic aid while other areas of Central America and is active in
military aid oils the killing machine. the Central America solidarity movement.
Is there any hope? To the extent, perhaps,
that the three guerrilla armies now active in
Guatemala continue to survive and gain
strength. A recent Boston Globe article argues
that at least one of the guerrilla groups, ORPA
(Organization of People Under Arms), is thriv­
ing with peasant support. That may be true, but
the evidence is limited. A hopeful moment for
us came on a trip over a wretched jungle road.
We stopped to take pictures in an area cleared
of trees and brush in a counterinsurgency plan
to avoid ambushes of army vehicles. As we left
we spotted a young man sitting on a log some
distance up the hill who waived enthusiastic­
ally. Since there were no houses in the area, we
speculated that he was probably a scout for the
I
guerrillas.

I
Most of the people we met were exceedingly
cautious in what they would say at first. When
asked who they thought would win the election,
they professed not to know-not knowing who
v V V V
we were nor why we asked. After some time,
Equal involvement of lesbian
however, a few developed enough trust to say and gay men
what they thought about their lives and the con­ Aeflec1s the diversity of our
trol of the army. They are a politically aware commun�ies across the
country
people, dominated and humiliated for now.
Connects US with other
One person said, as he climbed back into the progressive social

pickup we were riding together: "We'll put up movements

Provides I IOrum 10< cuttural


with this humiliation for now when faced with expression
guns and uniforms , but when they get out of Active. open and accessible
the army they are just like us . " One can im­ 10 issues $1 4.50

agine a different ending to that sentence in an OutSIde Canada US $16.50


Rites: Box 65. Station F.
unspoken thought. Toronto. Ont, M4Y 214

The elections, then, were trouble. They


meant personal trouble for the people who had
, ...-
-

66
ANTIPODE
RECENT IS SUE S
VOLUME 1 6, NUMBER 3 (1 984)
WOMEN AND THE ENVIRONMENT

VOLUME 17, NUMBER 1 ( 1 985)


THE GEOGRAPHICAL IDEAS OF
KARL WITTFOGEL

VOLUME 1 7,
NUMBERS 2 AND 3 (1 985) Oco+dl , N iCd"0'3lld
Dea� Americdns,
PAPERS ON DEVELOPMENT OF MV r"\ame IS Ddniel Dere"t. . I om q yea�S old and I help
RADICAL GEOGRAPHY, "''' faml l " with our for,",",.
When I WdS '+ we didn·t hdVe any lC1nd to grow food.
THEORY OF SPACE, There was no school 01" doc+ors eIther. That's why m'f
THEORY OF NATURE, farn'' '" fou ght agdi"S+ the dictator SomoZd.
Bu+ now your go"el'nment is +ryirg 1t> destroy d I \ we are
ANARCHISM, b... ildin� , e."erYOl"le Sdys t"hc. American people are goocl , lh�y
THE THIRD WORLD, SA't if 'I ou knew whoi �s I-)Qppenir)q YOu would stop +he \'lid\':
Please s+op 11-I', s Weir and gi� me. and my c.Oul\try
GEOGRAPHY OF WOMEN,
URBAN I SSUE S,
d choru:e +0 grow,
b. f '
ur
o",el
rle" d,

THEORY OF THE STATE


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67
see many disturbing truths. The space in
Telecea's life for intimacy is taken up by the
voices and visions she lives with.
It is curious that Loewenstein selected Telecea
for the name of this character, since "tele" in
ancient Greek means " operating at a distance,
or far away , " and in Old English translates "to
speak evil of. " (Also, a teleceptor is a nerve
which is sensitive to stimuli originating at a
distance .) Telecea is the only character who
speaks in the first person, and is extremely reac­
tive to the present.
The next character we meet is Ruth Foster, a
white, middle class therapist at Redburn. Ruth
is portrayed as an emotionally repressed
THIS PLACE, Andrea Freud Loewenstein. woman struggling with her sexual identity. She
Pandora Press/RKP, Boston. 1985, Paper, lives with her longterm lover Victor, from
$6.95. whom she has emotionally separated, while re­
This Place, Andrea Freud Loewenstein's first maining obsessed by attachments to the women
novel, is an exciting political and feminist work in her life. Ruth cares about the women she
of fiction. Through skillful use of her counsels at Redburn, and advocates for them
characters, Loewenstein creatively focuses upon with the prison administration. Yet, her insight
and questions the issues of women's sexuality, into her clients does not extend to herself.
feminist therapy as a tool for change, race and Telecea's struggle in This Place is to destroy the
racism, and the difficulties of building com­ evil surrounding her while further resisting
munity within an imprisoned setting. physical imprisonment. Ruth's is to confront
The novel takes place at Redburn Prison, a the emotional repression which confines her life
"correctional facility" for women. The plot is even in physical freedom.
told through the voices of four women: two in­ The third character is Candy Peters, a white,
mates and two prison employees. Loewenstein working-class inmate with a long history of
beautifully weaves the experiences and histories drug abuse, prostitution, and deprivation. She
of these women into a web of struggling female is the most emotionally responsive of the four
community; splattered with visions of hope as women, and is deeply involved in a lesbian rela­
well as oppression. tionship with another inmate, a black woman
This Place is written in a collective named Billy, whom she met on the "inside . " In
framework, with each of the four characters' fact, Candy sees her relationship with Billy as
voices evenly represented throughout the work. the only "real" part of her life in prison. Aided
Loewenstein draws the individual personalities by therapy with Ruth, we watch her, through­
of each character as tenuous threads building out the novel, as she battles the many losses of
relationships that both enable the women to her life with a hard realism . Candy knows her
survive, and keep them entrapped in the pat­ feelings are real, but does not know what place
terns they fight to escape. The energy of This they have in the outside world. Like many
Place is in relationships: of the characters to women, Candy seems much more skilled at lov­
themselves and to each other. ing another than at loving herself.
The first voice we read is that of Telecea, a Sonya Lehrman is the last character in­
black inmate portrayed as "crazy , " whose troduced to us in This Place. In some ways her
strongest relationship is to a morally righteous entry into Redburn as an art therapist provides
and persecuting God. Telecea is barraged con­ the framework for this novel, as the stories
stantly by the voices of this God, of the Devil, begin with her first day on the job and end
and of a force she calls the "Venger, " and yet when she leaves the prison, roughly three months
through the echoes of this chorus she is able to later. Sonya imagines her chosen role as an
-

68

--------,.�- - - .
employee at Redburn as an intense drama in that she can control what is real for her and
which she is the principal player. She sees what isn't. They believe they can take shelter in
herself on stage, obsessed with her image as the their private, inner worlds while merely going
artist who brings enlightenment to those in the through the appropriate motions in the outer
shadows. Her large body is a disappointment to world in order to survive.
her, and we see her flight from physical reality Sonya, on the other hand, has the notion that
as she plans for a thinness which never hap­ art therapy will make the women inmates
pens . Despite the fact that the other characters stronger by exercising their creative abilities
see Sonya as physically lush, with skills as an and energies in a public, shared space . Yet,
art teacher that are effective and healing, her Sonya who attempts to treat life only as a fluid,
work as beautiful and creative, Sonya is so self­ creative experience, is not able to negotiate
absorbed that she is not able to share what she herself between reality and unreality . The
has, or to break through her own self­ women at Redburn see that the physical reality
centeredness. of their imprisonment, of their lives as poor
Loewenstein weaves these characters in and and working-class, black and white women,
out of each others' lives, negotiating relation­ touch upon Sonya only as an aesthetic
ships which are critical for their own day-to-day inspiration for her art . Sonya seems to want to
coping and personal transformations . Candy offer these women the choice for flight where
and Ruth bear a striking resemblance, and yet they know flight is not possible; or, as in
this mirroring proves elusive in their relation­ Telecea's case, is only possible in craziness.
ship. Both women struggle with letting go of Loewenstein also explores the issue of
their binding self control and are able to see this women's sexuality vis-a-vis her characters .
fight in each other, but not in themselves . The Ruth and Telecea maintain their separateness,
clinical distance Ruth maintains with her clients their boundaries as women, by not being sexual
extends to all other relationships, even herself. at all, by reacting to sexuality as threatening, as
Candy 's close involvement with Billy enables an attack against their self-containment .
.both women to better cope with daily life in Telecea views sex completely in phallocentric
prison, but does not allow room for the in­ terms; her response to sexual energy from other
dividual resilience they will need when released women is to envision them growing a penis . She
from the prison and each other. is terrorized by a distorted sense of self as a
Telecea and Sonya are both caught up in heterosexual woman. As for Ruth, she is
j".� their own internal fantasy worlds, and intert­ deadened by her unchallenged heterosexual
wine with each other by means of art. Telecea identity, and it is not until she redefines her
sees Sonya as a mesenger from her "Venger" experience of sensuality in lesbian terms that we
who is teaching her to become more powerful see her as sexual at all. Candy feels best about
through sculpture and painting. Sonya is her lesbian sexuality when she is giving, when
haunted by Telecea's face and eyes and spends she feels she is making Billy, her lover, happy
'
nights creating wire sculptures in an attempt to and safe. And finally Sonya reduces her
capture what she sees. sensuality/sexuality to a personal need, to an
This Place is clearly feminist in that it reflects experience purely of the physical, and thus
a deep emphasis on emotions and relationships. remains intimately isolated and lonel y .
Yet the question remains, what role do feelings Loewenstein seems t o b e exploring what shape
have in an oppressed world as a vehicle, or tool, sexuality will have for women once removed
toward social change? Can therapeutic from a phallocentric experienc e . What
experiences create choices where none are potential is there for liberation and positive
. perceived, or bring women together by resistance in our sexual relations? The author
. .breaking through boundaries? Despite her successfully creates sexual relationships as
desire to be the inmates' advocate, Ruth arenas reflecting women 's powerfulness and
,.is on the prison payroll and to some extent must powerlessness in life, posing the experience of
,rp",r"' .",nt the institution 's interests . When she intimacy as an important setting for
not, she is fired . Like Candy, Ruth feels personal/political change .

69
White lesbian novelists have traditionally not superb . Her structuring of time in the novel .as
convincingly taken up race and racism in their day after day, with each character speaking for
works, if at all. Prior to the late 1 960s and early short periods throughout, gave me the feeling
70s, it was a rare lesbian novel that had any of what time might be like for women in prison,
black or Third World women as characters. In who count each day as one more step toward
later years these novelists sometimes included freedom. The feminist issues raised in This
people of color as characters in their books, but Place are timely, thought provoking, and
placed them on the "outside" of society-such meaningful. It is a book of women's voices and
as the black gay male characters "Billy" in experiences that we all have a stake in and can
Berrigan by gingerlox, or "Calvin" in gain much from listening to.
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown. (And yet
frequently if we, the readers, were not told
Deb Whippen
narratively that these characters were black or
Third World, it would be difficult to tell from
(The author would like to thank Ann Holder
the prose.) White lesbian novelists later
for her helpful suggestions and editing .)
presented black women characters as "acting
out" or "out of control, " such as "Judy" in
Benefits by Zoe Fairbairns, or "Andy" in To
The Cleveland Station by Carol Anne Douglas.
While certain of these novelists in the 1 980s ,
such as Maureen Brady in her novel Folly, did
take up the racism of their white main
characters , but the black women characters still
I
I remain marginalized .

II Loewenstein, in This Place, has broken with


this past tradition with mixed success. Part of
that is in no small way due to her own
experience teaching in a women's prison. She
has challenged the notion that white women can
only write convincingly about white characters .
She has not taken the adage "write from HAS YOUR SUB EXPIRED?
personal experience" to mean writing from a I f you have received a renewal notice recently,
"white" experience. As a white reader, I felt please don ' t hesitate and send it in with your
that Loewenstein's portrayal of the black payment right away. You won 't miss an issue of
characters in This Place was well done; her RADICAL AMERICA and we'll get some
creation of black dialects sounded real and financial resuscitation ! Here's what your mail­
I
persuasive. Yet it is true that much of this ing label looks like : __
tJ o . 4
� IO
VO I.. . I q
,.I 1'
I I
dialect and characterization belongs to the
, background of the prison. Of the four main
10/31/85 00000oo
\
characters, the one Black woman, Telecea, is lHLLIAM MARTIN
again a crazy black woman, one who provides 1 6 1 s t ST . & RIVER AVE .
insights by her "otherness" to reality. Thus BRONX NY 104 5 1
while Loewenstein has certainly given us a well
The circled number i s the last date of your cur­
crafted measure of success for the challenge of
rent subscription. We have kept longtime
taking up race as a white writer, I feel it reflects
subscribers on beyond the end of their subs. So,
what more needs to be done in the fictional
when you renew, please include enough pay­
work of white women writers.
ment to cover the issues you have been receivin g
Loewenstein's control of her craft as a writer
since your last payment . If you have any ques­
1 is outstanding. Her ability to.·create these four
tions, call or write the office .
I women's voices as distinct and unique is

I
,

70
I S TH E R E LI FE A FTER R EAGAN ?

A SPEC IAL ISSUE EXPLORI N G COALITION POLITICS


AN D THE BLACK ELECTORAL M OVEM ENT . . .
SPECIAL SECTION on the Mel King Mayoral campaign in Boston
• Political changes in Boston, 1963-1983

• Views from within the Rainbow by representatives of Boston's

feminist, black, gay and lesbian, Asian and Hispanic communities .


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The Rainbow Coalftion was first used to describe the movement that formed around the mayoral candidacy of
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worst racial strife. How did Mel King amass the largest vote total among white voters for a first-time black
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FOR THE US AND EUROPE by Eqbal
WITH "LESBIANS AND GAY$ SUPPORT
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THE MINERS" by Larry Goldsmith ; plus
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