This article was originally published in German in the Trotskyist League of Germany (TLD) newspaper, Spartakist, in September 1988. The Spartacist Tendency, of which the TLD is the German section, is a fairly bizarre cult. Enjoy this orgy of inter-sectarian warfare, fascism paranoia and disdainful quotation marks…
From „Deutschland über alles“ to „Oi! Oi!” – Fascism is not a “matter of taste”
WEST BERLIN, 20 August 1988 – A street protest against a conference of the former SS officer Franz Schönhuber’s fascist Republican party. A block of eight or nine guys turns up, their heads shaved. They carry a banner that reads, “Skinheads against the fascist enemies of the working class” – but they wear the garb of racist skinhead terrorists: black leather boots, rolled-up jeans and green bomber jackets. Some of them distribute a Maoist pamphlet agitating against the “superpowers” USA and Soviet Union – a pure expression of German nationalism. Who are these dubious elements?
The demonstration, largely attended by young anti-fascist students, is polarised over the skinhead presence. A skin wants to convince outraged anti-fascists that “Oi! Oi!” is something “left-wing” rather than the battle cry of racists. But since 1969, fascist skinheads in London’s East End have been shouting “Oi! Oi!” every time they launched one of their murderous attacks, kicking the heads of Pakistani immigrants with their boots. Same as with the attacks on Turkish immigrants in West Berlin and West Germany. And in May, an “Oi! Oi!” skinhead “concert” in France served as the rallying point for an orgy of racist terror.
The British skinheads are an expression of lumpenproletarian rage. The phenomenon has been spreading among the lumpenproletarian and petty-bourgeois youth of West Germany. Without any relationship to the production process or to the organisations and objectives of the workers’ movement, such elements are roaming in the no-man’s land of the “no-future” generation, vacillating between “left” nationalism, nihilism and punk fascism. To view this as a “cultural” phenomenon, as “just a matter of taste”, is to remain blind to the lessons of German history. 1933-45 remains a massive “blind spot” for the post-war generations, not to mention those born before 1945 who suffer from opportunistic amnesia.
In Weimar Germany, the “German youth movement” had to grapple with the question of how to shape the future of the country in the context of defeat in the imperialist war and profound social crisis. A few were recruited to the Communist Party; most ended up in the fascist camp, seeking to restore “national greatness”. Hybrid forms emerged, such as “National Bolshevism”, which the Communist Party of Germany pandered to from time to time.
Today, in the absence of mass mobilisations of workers/immigrants against the fascists, some want to welcome these skinheads as “allies” in the anti-fascist struggle. But one senses a hint of fear underneath their “welcome message”. This petty-bourgeois/lumpenproletarian milieu on the German left is a vehicle for the most reactionary social values, and it is there that fascist elements can evolve into recruits for “direct action”, i.e. terror.
By tolerating “redskins” and their ilk in its periphery, the German Communist Party/Socialist Unity Party of the West is playing with fire. To do so is to open the door to the rottenest expressions of resurgent German nationalism and racism; and it is no surprise that you can find members of the Socialist German Workers Youth [SDAJ, a youth league closely linked to the German Communist Party – Translator] sporting the flag of the slaveholders of the US South!
The Trotskyist League of Germany (TLD) had to learn the hard way that the “new German nationalism” is a conveyor belt to punk fascism. A certain Ulrich Sandhaus was expelled from our organisation in 1982 after he developed an enthusiasm for “Oi! Oi!” music and put a swastika on display in his flat.
Sandhaus found eager supporters for his cause in the “Fourth International Group” [GIVI, a competing Trotskyist organisation that had split from the TLD – Translator]. The members of GIVI had left the International Spartacist Tendency [the ‘international’ to which the Trotskyist League of Germany belongs – Translator] as outspoken apologists for German nationalism. So it came as no surprise that they took Sandhaus under their wing, claiming that his fascist affectations were a “matter of taste”. In 1984, Sandhaus translated these “affectations” into direct action by heading a violent attack against our supporter Gisela Borowski, to whom he had previously sent postcards containing threats of “Oi! Oi!“ (see “A Nazi Punk in Action”, Spartakist no. 51, October 1984). He had acquired the classic brownshirt profile. If you like Uli, you’ll love Schlageter.
Of course, Sandhaus has the back of the so-called redskins in addition to the support he receives from GIVI. One of these redskins declared at the 20 August demonstration, “Uli is my friend”. But Sandhaus is no ordinary skin. Nowadays he offers his services as a professional anti-Spartacist. The Sandhaus affair shows bluntly why there can be no reconciliation with such sinister elements; it is clear that the task of purging the workers’ movement of such filth is an indispensable part of the struggle to mobilise the working class, with its strong immigrant element, to sweep away the fascist scum.