The Grassroots Network in Germany, 1972-1985 - VI : ANTI-MILITARISM AND THE PEACE MOVEMENT. Third part and final conclusion
Article published on 25 July 2018
zuletzt geändert am 22 January 2021
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The sudden expansion of activism put great strains on the FÖGA-affiliated nonviolence training collectives. In West Berlin, for example, the number of trainers grew from an initial group of four to about 2-3 dozen in 1983. Many of the new trainers had little direct experience with nonviolent action; they were themselves new to the movement and were not in the best position to offer trainings. (61)

The ’boom" period also revealed another, perhaps deeper, problem with the nonviolence training system. As one West Berlin trainer pointed out, the system did little to help people in an ongoing way through unfamiliar processes such as group formation, setting goals, and planning actions. New activists received little guidance beyond the exhortation to “form a group"; once they left the training they were generally on their own. Those who came seeking a structure in which they could get involved often drifted away in uncertainty. (62)

Ulrich Bröckling, another trainer, wrote that as the demand for training seminars increased, the content of the seminars was reduced to narrow instruction in the techniques of forming affinity groups and conducting blockades. Discussion of nonviolent goals was almost completely neglected. Bröckling defended nonviolence trainings by pointing out that many people only found the courage to take part in civil disobedience through trainings and that these actions played a vital role in radicalizing the peace movement. But he acknowledged that opponents of nonviolence philosophy were correct in criticizing „ the weak point of trainings, which present themselves above all as exercises in preventing violence and subduing aggression, instead of connecting the trainees’ existing aggressions with rationality and from that developing a radical struggle aginst militarization" (63)

The rigid, narrow interpretation of "nonviolence" was, in fact, becoming a tool for enforcing conformity and obedience within the movement. The requirement that participants first take part in nonviolence training, for example, probably scared some people away from participating at all. The insistence on consensus was used, in cases such as Mutlangen, to enforce decisions that represented the „lowest common denominator." Thus actions were kept within cautious boundaries.

Those who maintain that nonviolence is a way of life and that whoever does not share it cannot take part in nonviolent actions; those who organize actions so as to produce ... the perfect staging of a "sitting for peace" (The motto for the Mutlangen Blockade); they should not be surprised by the call "to develop a subversive plan for dissolving these ruling structures of nonviolence from within, as the editors of Autonomy do in their position paper on the peace movement. (64)

Behind this rigidification or "ideologization" of nonviolence, Bröckling argued, lay, in part, the expectations of participants that trainings and nonviolent actions function as a kind of therapy. Participants sought to assuage their fear of political action through "total protection":

All eventualities must be chewed over in the consensus machinery, spontaneous expansions of actions are taboo, and there is tremendous concern about what to do if "violent disruptors come and want to sabotage our action." This fear of spontaneity was coupled with a search for "a sense of community," which for some participants became more important than the confrontation with militarism itself. (65)


As at Grossengstingen, these attitudes, especially the fear of militant disruptors, could be easily exploited by the police to divide and inhibit participants in nonviolent actions. Politicians in the government learned to manipulate protesters along similar lines. Thus Interior Minister Zimmermann’s Orwellian formula "nonviolence is violence!" (since it involves breaking the law) met with a purely defensive reaction from many peace activists. Grassroots Revolution commented wryly, "To take issue with the substance of Zimmermann’s concept of violence would have been more fruitful than the self-protective assertion, ’Of course we’re against violence.’ " (66)
(Zimmermann’s comment fitted in with a general effort by the Christian Democrats and the conservative press to smear the peace movement, and especially the Greens, as "violent", "antidemocratic" and „fascist". The ludicrousness of these claims was at times astonishing: e.g., the argument that since the Nazis had used picket lines in their campaign to boycott Jewish businesses, therefore picketing was a fascist tactic.) Zimmermann’s attack led to increased concern in many trainings with the danger of "disruptors“ at actions.

It was not only the state which sought to manipulate nonviolent activists. In mid 1983, leaders of the traditional wing of the movement attempted to isolate independent activists by issuing a statement against the "dangers" of civil disobedience, which warned that blockades could lead to violence. But as the wave of blockades continued to rise, many leaders of the traditional spectrum began calling for "nonviolent action" as well. To some extent, this change was sincere: organizers once unwilling to use illegal tactics now saw that blockades could be an effective way to apply political pressure and gain new support for the movement. But in large degree, the "traditional" groups sought to coopt the new tactic, and channel it for their own purposes.

Thus officials in the German Federation of Labor Unions (DGB) started advocating "nonviolence" as a political strategy, and officials of the SPD expressed conditional support for the use of symbolic blockades. Increasingly, members of the traditional wing of the movement, including the KOFAZ spectrum, accepted the new tactic and even worked together with other groups in planning blockades. But in most cases they tried to keep blockades within the bounds of formalized, symbolic action. In the fall of 1983, peace movement "leaders" such as Jo Leinen of the BBU even conducted secret negotiations with police officials to ensure that everything went "peacefully" at some of the large blockade actions planned for the Peace Action Week. When these talks became known, Grassroots activists and many others in the "independent" spectrum denounced them sharply.

Despite the mobilization of millions of people, the peace movement was not able to accomplish the central goal of its "minimal consensus": to prevent deployment of the cruise and Pershing II missiles. In November 1983, the Bundestag approved the new missiles, while outside, 5000 demonstrators "besieged" the Bundestag building in a mass blockade action met by water cannons and tear gas. The next day, the first Pershing IIs arrived at Mutlangen.

After this defeat, the movement declined sharply. The peace movement’s fixation on the cruise and Pershing and the climate of intense fear which surrounded much of the movement had engendered a now-or-never, all-or-nothing atmosphere, expressed in the slogan "five minutes before midnight." Few activists were prepared for a long-term political struggle. After November 1983, many in the movement felt confused, disillusioned, and unable to act.

In part, the fixation on blockades also contributed to the decline. In 1982-83 thousands of people discovered "nonviolent action" and latched onto it as the way to stop the new missiles. Their conception of nonviolent action was often narrow. Their commitment to it often superficial. When it "failed," many lost interest in what they conceived to be nonviolence. This reaction intensified as the legal consequences of civil disobedience slowly caught up with many activists: jail terms or stiff fines, plus an effort by the state to "criminalize" activists and bar them from work in the public sector.

The peace movement’s decline heavily affected the Grassroots network and other nonviolent action groups. GA Hannover disbanded in 1984. In the West Berlin group, which had included several affinity groups, all but three of the members dropped out, and the group had to be almost completely rebuilt in the fall of 1984. In Stuttgart the number of affinity groups declined from over forty to six or seven by April 1984, and to two or three by mid 1985. Everywhere, requests for trainings dropped off almost completely, and many training collectives disbanded. (67)

In Hannover, two former members reported, the decline after November 1983 exacerbated a problem that the group was already experiencing. Although it continued to take part in political actions, the group had lost much of its energy and enthusiasm (as well as some of its members) after the IDEE actions in 1982. The arrival of the Pershings in late 1983 turned discouragement into a sense of hopelessness. "Staying on this course [blockades] makes no sense...I can sit myself down there ... but it doesn’t really change anything." (68)

Like much of the movement, the group in Hannover focused so strongly on short-term goals (e.g., stopping the Pershings) that it did not learn to "pace itself" for long-term work. "We didn’t allow ourselves to feel fatigued.... We always had to be doing something". When they failed to attain their goals, their organizational problems became evident: the division between an active core of a few longtime members and the passive majority of relative newcomers; the preponderance of men and male styles of work; a narrow focus on political action and analysis to the exclusion of personal support and discussion (e.g., "How do we deal with our own violent tendencies?"). (69)

The decline created other problems as well. In 1984-85, the network’s central publication, Grassroots Revolution, experienced a severe financial crisis. From 1982 to 1983 circulation had risen from a stable 4500 to as many as 5400 (or 6500 for the special issue on social defense), and the magazine had hired a second full-time worker. But in 1984, as the network and the peace movement contracted, circulation fell to just below 4000.(70)

To some extent, the peace movement’s decline simply gave a momentary acceleration to the high turnover rate that Grassroots groups had long experienced. In West Berlin, for example, two former members who left the group in 1984 cited the predominance of students as a major factor in their decisions to leave. Members of the group, they claimed, tended to take a very cerebral, abstract approach to politics. This, one added, also partly reflected patriarchal culture. (71)

In Heidelberg, the creation of a "peace shop" Friedensladen) in January, 1984, helped nonviolent action groups to hold together more successfully than in most other cities. The peace shop worked to plan actions, encourage theoretical discussion through seminars and publications, help communication between existing nonviolent action groups, and do outreach to people outside of them. Unlike many of the peace shops which were being formed in other cities,, the Heidelberg shop had a "strongly non-hierarchical orientation" with active participation from the action groups themselves. "With this structure we in Heidelberg were able to keep afloat throughout 1984 with a fairly stable nonviolent action scene." By the end of 1984, twelve or thirteen of the affinity groups remained from the 22 of the previous year. Even here, however, there was little success in finding common ground among the groups either in joint actions or in shared political perspectives. (72)


Decline did not mean immediate, total collapse. Through 1984 peace movement activity continued on a sharply reduced scale from the previous year but substantially higher than it had been before 1980. Once again, the Grassroots network played an important if seldom acknowledged role.

The "independent" spectrum, including FÖGA and other Grassroots groups formed BUF (Federal Conference of Independent Peace Initiatives), in January 1984. While the Social Democrats and KOFAZ spectrum clung to the minimal consensus, and attempted to resuscitate the movement with more rallies, symbolic blockades, and a "people’s referendum" on the cruise and Pershing, BUF advocated a more radical approach. Although there were still many differences among the independents, they tended to agree that the peace movement should move toward a more comprehensive anti-militarist position and "from protest to resistance." This slogan had been raised immediately after the Bundestag defeat in November 1983 by the "Civil Disobedience" Coordinating Office, which wished to go beyond symbolic demonstrations and blockades to actions that directly impeded the State’s military preparations. (73)

The Green Party occupied an ambiguous position in this context. On the one hand, they took the lead in publicizing important new issues, such as changes in NATO strategy (see below). But on the other hand, the Party pulled back from its 1983 stance of actively participating in civil disobedience organizing. The Greens continued to support civil disobedience in principle. But many Grassroots activists doubted the Greens’ commitment to nonviolent action, commenting that the Partys main focus was on parliamentary and media work. (74)

As an alternative to the "people’s referendum" campaign, BUF developed the idea of a "refusal campaign." They encouraged resistance against militarism in German society conscription, plans for inducting women into the Bundeswehr, civil defense plans, war taxes, military education in schools, health workers, etc. Several groups participated in the campaign, including: DFG/VK, the „Civil Disobedience" Coordinating Office, FÖGA, and two Christian peace groups, Ohne Rüstung Leben and the Initiative Kirche von Unten (Church from Below). Although the refusal campaign had been endorsed by an action conference of the peace movement as a whole, most of the large traditional peace organizations virtually ignored it. Without this support the campaign made little headway and was disbanded in 1985. (75)

BUF had much more success with its campaign to increase public awareness of NATO’s new offensive war-fighting strategy. Deployment of cruise and Pershing II, many Greens and independent activists argued, must be seen not only in the context of a new "first strike" nuclear stance but also in conjunction with a modernization and realignment of conventional military forces. Recent strategic directives, such as the US military’s AirLand Battle, proposed in 1980, and NATO’s Follow on Forces Attack (FOFA), called for a new, aggressive "deep strike" approach to battlefield conflict in central Europe and elsewhere. No longer limited to containing a possible Soviet invasion, NATO forces were now instructed to "attack in the deep" in the event of war. FOFA relied on sophisticated new conventional weaponry, such as conventionally-armed cruise missiles, to carry the battlefield into Warsaw Pact territory. US directives emphasized the ’integrated battlefield: coordinated, offensive use of nuclear, chemical, and electronic weaponry. (76)

The BUF campaign against "deep strike" and AirLand Battle culminated in obstruction actions, in September, 1984, against die NATO troop maneuvers —including the Bundeswehr’s — in the Hildesheim and Fulda Gap regions near the border with Czechoslovakia and die GDR. Approximately 1,500-2,000 people, based in five peace camps, took part in nonviolent civil disobedience actions for up to two weeks to interfere with the maneuvers.

Grassroots groups, which initiated the idea for the obstruction actions, took the leading role in organizing the civil disobedience in the Fulda area. The 1984 International Nonviolent March coorganized one of the five camps, at Grebenhain. The peace movement’s national ’Coordinating Committee’ in Bonn and the local East Hesse Peace Initiative organized a larger legal demonstration (a "human net" connecting several miltary sites) on the last day of the actions. (77)

At Fulda and Hildesheim, the issue was not simply the future threat of war, but the concrete practice of war. The actions were designed to highlight the militars destruction of woods and farmlands, the numerous deaths and injuries resulting each year from the maneuvers, the climate of fear and helplessness engendercd among local residents, and the testing of the aggressive new war-fighting doctrines. (78)

The actions in the Fulda Gap and Hildesheim areas took a radically different form from the mass blockades of 1982-83. Like the Grossengstingen action, the camps were organized in affinity groups, which relied on consensus decision-making. But these actions were more decentralized, more spontaneous, and involved many different forms of civil disobedience. Activists, often working in small groups, stopped military patrols, leafletted soldiers, climbed onto tanks, spray-painted slogans on signs and vehicles, invaded military installations, and damaged army equipment. In some cases, activists were arrested; in others they disappeared before the police could arrive. Whereas in Grossengstingen-type blockades participants had submitted to arrest in an "orderly, disciplined" fashion, the approach here was very different. Two participants in an action near Grebenhain described it as follows:
The police were waiting for us [at the poison-gas depot], huddled behind the main gate. After a brief rally and renewed calls to let us into the base, we spread out along the fence. The police could not control the entire area und so, little by little, small groups used favorable opportunities to climb over the fence, at which point they were arrested. The policemen were confused, incredulous and reacted in part with tear gas and clubs. The demonstrators showed their soldarity with the arrested infiltrators by blocking police vehicles and attempting to stop the removal of prisoners with masses of people. (79)

In some confrontations with the military, activists found that the army units were prepared to drive right over them to force them to move. "In one case, a tank driver was even replaced because he refused to drive into the blockaders." Such incidents won sympathy for the blockaders among local residents. (80) But activists were also able in some cases to hold discussions with soldiers about violence, war preparations, and possibilities for refusal" (81)

In the arch-conservative Fulda region, the fact that 40-50,000 people took part in the legal "human net" demonstration pointed to widespread opposition to the military maneuvers. Participants in the obstruction actions encountered widely varied reactions from local residents. Some inhabitants were particularly upset about the maneuvers and supported the demonstrators — in some cases helping them to locate military units. Other local residents treated them with hostility; one volunteer fire company turned its high pressure hoses on them. (82)

The actions were hampered by severe organizational problems, particularly in relations with the press. Traditional peace groups offered little support with publicity or mobilization work, although they had promised to do so. Even the Greens provided little organizational help. (83) And the turnout for the actions was generally considered low — particularly when compared with the events of the previous fall.
One reason for the low number of participants was the actions’ political focus: "At Fulda, the issue was not just some Americans with some of their missiles, but rather the Bundeswehr, at long last..." (84). Many people who had protested against cruise and Pershing partly as symbols of foreign military occupation were much less willing to call the FRG’s own military apparatus directly into question.

A few weeks before the obstruction actions, several prominent „leaders" of the peace movement published a letter calling on everyone to abandon the actions. The signers included the novelist Heinrich Böll, Erhard Eppler of the SPD, and Gert Bastian of the Greens. They argued that the actions were directed "above all against the young soldiers ... most of whom perform their duty in good faith" and should not be regarded as opponents of the peace movement. They also warned that maneuver obstruction actions were unpredictable and would easily lead to violence. This letter helped to deter many moderate peace groups from taking part in the actions. (85)

This second charge closely paralleled the public warning against blockade actions which leaders of the KOFAZ and SPD-oriented groups had issued in the summer of 1983. In this instance, as then, civil disobedience organizers responded that the charge was not only irresponsible and unfounded, but that it also played into the hands of the Christian Democrats and the conservative press, who hoped to "criminalize" independent peace activists and thereby isolate them from the rest of the peace movement.

The first charge, that peace actions should not be directed "against soldiers," touched an even deeper disagreement. In a statement responding to the letter, FÖGA addressed this point in detail:
We consider it right and necessary to confront even the common soldiers with the protest against the policies of their government and superiors. The soldiers, "most of whom perform their duty in good faith," as you write, should through our actions have exactly this faith taken from them. According to our convictions there is no good faith in securing peace through military force... Claims of "good faith’ and "doing one’s duty" have an unfortunate tradition, especially in Germany. Soldiers are not simply puppets who receive orders, who fight and die wherever they are ordered to, but also human beings, who can feel and think and take responsibility for their actions....
From conversations with soldiers we know that maneuvers are a great burden for them. The lives claimed by the maneuvers every year demonstrate this in terrible fashion. Why do you twist this fact to make it seem that the soldiers are primarily endangered by our actions?

Despite such conflicts, the maneuver obstruction actions helped to dramatize the issue of NATO war-fighting strategies for substantial sections of the peace movement. A number of local peace initiatives began to address it in their educational work. Leaders of the prominent Christian peace organizations ASF and AGDF began to cite changes in NATO strategy as an important new area of political focus. Andreas Zumach of ASF commented that the Fulda Gap actions had broken through

previously existing taboos or even de-facto news blackouts in the press around the topics of war-fighting strategies,... militarization of the region and maneuvers. This applies regardless of criticisms of the particular forms of action used.(87)

To some participants, the Fulda Gap/Hildesheim actions represented a political breakthrough for the peace movement analogous to the Grossengstingen blockade. "Tanks, fences around military installations, military signs, the entire infrastructure of the military build-up is no longer taboo for parts of the peace movement", wrote one of the organizers. (88) Here, some commented, was a flexible form of nonviolent action that could be endorsed by nonviolent activists and "militant" alike and that could thus help to heal divisions within the independent spectrum of the peace movement.

But as at Grossengstingen, some participants had serious reservations about and criticisms of the maneuver obstruction actions. One Göttingen activist, for example, commented that actions such as those at Fulda and Hildesheim reflected a "military approach" to political conflict: a test of strength in which the central goal was to physically control the immediate situation. Nonviolent action, he maintaincd, should take a "psychological approach" by symbolically calling into question the moral legitimacy of the opponents’ actions. (89)

Some participants in the Fulda Gap actions commented that the attacks on military property, while intended to "raise the price" of army maneuvers, could in fact do little to physically impair the military apparatus. These actions, they claimed, were reflexive efforts to "do something" against militarization, and little thought was given to their effectiveness. Their main impact was to divert media and public attention away from the central political issues of military maneuvers and NATO strategy. In addition, decisions by many activists to avoid arrest, while understandable, meant the loss of possibilities for other confrontations with the state, such as courtroom trials which could produce useful publicity. (90)


Although they helped for a time to revive activity and discussion in the peace movement, the Fulda Gap and Hildesheim actions did not reverse the decline experienced since November 1983. In the following months Grassroots groups took part in varions actions and campaigns against winter military exercises (WINTEX), civil defense exercises (CIMEX), and the World Economic Summit in Bonn in May, 1985. But these were relatively isolated events. By the middle of 1985, activists were speaking of the peace movement as a thing of the past.

Various efforts at reorganization and reflection took place in 1984-85 in and around the Grassroots network. The creation of "peace shops" in a number of cities (such as Heidelberg) helped to provide institutional support and coordination for peace groups on a local level. Many of the peace shops leaned toward a Grassroots perspective. (91) Nonviolence training, which had dropped off sharply after 1983, was institutionalized in many towns through political education centers. Once again the emphasis in training was shifting away from preparation for specific civil disobedience actions, toward discussion of long-term strategies and visions. (92)

The magazine Grassroots Revolution was reorganized. There was a push for more active local distribution to increase circulation, and the Hamburg editorial collective tightened its finances. In mid-1985 the network added three regional editorships in West Berlin, Göttingen, and Heidelberg. This reorganization was coupled with an effort to broaden the thematic scope of the magazine. The West Berlin editorial group, for example, concentrated on Eastern Europe, while the Heidelberg group focused partly on feminist issues. (93)

Also in 1985, women from several cities began to meet to talk about feminist concerns within the Grassroots network. They were newer to the network than those who had participated in the "Women and the Military" campaign a few years before. They initiated discussions that were to lead to a position paper on feminism and nonviolence, to be presented at the next national meeting of the Grassroots network. In addition to calling attention to feminism as a theme and a theoretical perspective, they also wanted to challenge the tendency in the network to deal with political theory in highly abstract, „scientific“ terms. (94)

Meanwhile, other Grassroots activists were also working to revitalize theoretical discussions within the network. In January, 1985, Grassroots Revolution published a special issue on alternative economics titled "Working Differently: Self Management and Socialism". This included analyses of the capitalist economy and industrialism, discussions of alternative enterprises, histories of various anti-capitalist movements, and discussions of theoreticians such as Rudolf Bahro, Josef Huber, and Murray Bookchin (95). In 1984, anarchist theoreticians within the network compiled the first "Yearbook for Libertarian and Nonviolent Action, Politics and Culture," entitled "Paths of Disobedience" (Wege des Ungehorsams). The volume contained articles on "Exterminism and Revolution", war and the state, Gandhian self-management, civil disobedience, women’s syndicalism in pre-Nazi Germany, and other topics. (96)
("Exterminism" is a concept coined by the British historian E. P. Thompson to describe a social system working towards self annihilation through nuclear war and other means.)

The general mood in the Grassroots network in mid 1985 was solemn. After the sharp rise and sharp fall of the peace movement, many activists were discouraged, frustrated, and confused. But the network did not seem as though it was about to collapse: in a number of groups, people were trying to understand what had happened and learn what they could from it. As several activists noted, the political changes of recent years had brought about an identity crisis within the Grassroots network. Hajo Karbach, a longtime GA Göttingen member, summed up part of this problem:

It doesn’t mean much anymore, the conccpt [of nonviolence]. This is partly a successful result of our work, and partly a failure of our work. We have succeeded in developing a broader awareness that the ends must not be betrayed by the means. But the consequences of that, that changes cannot be achieved through reform from above or through purely moral appeals to the people in power, but must be achieved through a power from below — from the "grassroots — from people’s power, these consequences have been lost in the process. (97)

Dieter Schöffmann of the "Civil Disobedience" Coordination Office in Kassel laid primary responsibility for this problem on the network itself. "[Grassroots activists] never really wanted to let themselves get involved in politics." They had propagated the forms of action, but not what really lay behind them.
[Thus] we are now in a situation where Social Democrats and who knows what are defining what civil disobedience is they write alot about it and are coopting it. And that has very little to do with Grassroots activists.

He urged that FÖGA work to gain more political visibility and influence by developing public positions on a range of political and theoretical issues (98)

Cornelia Nath of the Heidelberg editorial group commented that there were limits to the theoretical work that the network could do. Sustained theoretical work needs a solid material base: money to pay trained people, so that they can devote enough time to the work, and resources, such as a library or a university. The Greens, she pointed out, were in a much stronger position to do theoretical work, since they were a much larger organization with access to many more resources. Nevertheless, the Grassroots network had succeeded in developing an important theory of nonviolence and had led the way in several specific areas such as social defense and radical ecology.

Nath also called for a "de-mystification" of the Grassroots network. Too often, she commented, Grassroots activists had tended to think of themselves as the basis for a mass movement. The growth of hundreds of affinity groups and "’nonviolent action" groups in 1982-83 had blurred the boundaries and fostered the illusion that the network was much bigger than it actually was. But Grassroots activism had never been a mass movement, and was not going to become one. Too many factors limited the network’s growth. "We are only a few people, who have influenced a lot." Rather than seek to bring everyone inside the network, Grassroots members should recognize that many people would choose to work elsewhere, and should find other ways to share ideas with them. (99)


In the 1970s, Grassroots groups formed a key component of small-scale radical anti-militarist activism in die FRG. Their work in this area included above all support for conscientious objectors, participation in the annual International Nonviolent March for Demilitarization, and the project on "Women and the Military". In the 1980s, with the growth of the new peace movement in the Federal Republic, the Grassroots network made anti-militarist work its central focus. Building on the groundwork they had laid through the ecology movement, Grassroots groups continued to advocate nonviolent civil disobedience as a vital form of political struggle, and their call found even broader support than it had in the campaigns around Wyhl and Gorleben. The Grossengstingen blockade in 1982, and the "blockade boom" that followed it, involved tens of thousands of people in civil disobedience actions that followed a model laid out by Grassroots activists. This pushed many new peace activists to question their old assumptions about obedience to the law and loyalty to the state, and it forced traditional peace organizations to shift their ground significantly to accomodate the sudden upsurge.

But most of the new nonviolent activists seized on the blockade simply as a ready-made technique, without developing other forms of civil disobedience, and without engaging themselves with questions of political strategy or radical social change. Thus the traditional, liberal spectrum of the peace movement was able to coopt civil disobedience into the realm of "respectable" political behavior. And participants in blockade actions were ill-prepared to continue the struggie once the effort to prevent deployment of Pershing II missiles had failed.

It may be that this was a shortcoming of Grassroots activists themselves, many of whom focused most of their energies into the short-term tasks of organizing trainings, affinity groups, and actions. But it may be that the blockade boom simply took place too rapidly, and that the few hundred, loosely-organized Grassroots members did not have the capacity to offer a comprehensive political perspective to tens of thousands because they did not have time to do the political education work this would require.

Many Grassroots activists recognized the dilemma. Much of their work after November, 1983, notably the maneuver obstruction actions in the Fulda Gap region, was an effort to infuse fresh ideas and more radical perspectives into the peace movement as whole. This brought them into closer cooperation with other leftist groups within the peace movement. In some respects the obstruction actions were also a direct reaction against the 1982-83 blockade campaigns, especially in their emphasis on direct action over symbolism, and in many participants’ avoidance of arrest. The Grassroots activists’ efforts did not reverse the movement’s decline, but they did indicate that the Grassroots network could continue to take the initiative even in times of political contraction.


1.) Many of the positions outlined below are elaborated in the FÖGA Statement of Principles an Anti-Militarist Work ("Grundsatzerklärung zur antimilitaristischen Arbeit der Graswurzelrevolution") prepared in 1982.
2.) See the two special issues of "Grassroots Revolution" on social defense: Grassroots Revolution 56 (1981); and Grassroots Revolution 98/99 (November 1985), an updated, expanded version of Grassroots Revolution 56.
3.) See Theodor Ebert, "Vom Graswurzelprojekt zum Bundesamt für Zivilen Widerstand" [From Grassroots Project to Federal Agency for Civilian Resistance]; and the reply by Franz-Josef Oberliessen, "Gegen die Verstaatlichung der Sozialen Verteidigung" [Against the "Statification" of Social Defense]. Both articles appeared in Grassroots Revolution 98/99.
4.) "Platform...," 24.
5.) Saathoff, 53. On total objection and the Grassroots network, see Widerstand gegen die Wehrpflicht, especially Dieter Schöffmann, "Von der Internationalen Kollektiven Widerstandskampagne zur Gruppe Kollektiver Gewaltfreier Widerstand gegen Militarismus," 16-23; Schöffmann, "10 Jahre Graswurzelbewegung -10 Jahre antimilitaristische Arbeit: Versuch eines Rückblicks" (A Report for the 1982 annual meeting of FÖGA), 1982; and Saathoff, 53-60.
6.) Arbeitsgruppenbericht, "Analyse und Rückblick auf die ami-Arbeit der Graswurzler bzw. der FÖGA," FÖGA Rundbrief December 20, 1982. Original text: „TV [Totalverweigerung] ist ... zur beliebten Aktionsform ohne viele politische Auseinandersetzung geworden. Das ist das Problem der KGW: Soll/will sie Betreuungsarbeit als eine Art Gewerkschaft für Totalverweigerer machen oder offensive antimilitaristische Arbeit mit gesellschaftspolitischen Anspruch?"
7.) Interviews with Cornelia Nath (Heidelberg, July 26, 1985) and with Sabine Zöller (Heidelberg, July 24, 1985); Conversation with Eva Breuer (West Berlin, June 29, 1985).
8.) "Internationales Frauentreffen von Frauen aus der gewaltfreien Bewegung," by "C.N.," Grassroots Revolution 24 (October 1976) 10-11.
9.) Saathoff, 76-77. See Grassroots Revolution 48 (1980), a special issue on "Women and the Military."
10.) Irmgard Flamm, "Frauen sind schon eingeplant!" Grassroots Revolution 48 (1980) 9-13.
11.) Bernadette Ridard, "´Frauen ins Militär: Forderung der Frauenbewegung? Antwort an EMMA," Grassroots Revolution 48 (1980) 28-31.
12.) Ridard, "Frauen zum Gewehr?"´, INFO Dienst 43 (December 1978) 25. Original text: "Warum sind KDVers als "Softies" angesehen? Was bedeutet "weiblicher Einfluss", "Identifikation mit der Mutter oder Grossmutter", wenn man von KDVern redet? ... Von der herrschenden Ideologie her heisst das, dass KDVer keine richtigen Männer sind." See also Ridard, Frauen und Militär: Keine Männersache," Grassroots Revolution 48(1980) 4-6.
13.) Ridard, "Frauen zum Gewehr?", 28-31
14.) Ulrike Adolph, "Gedanken zur Situation von Frauen in Anti-Militarismus-Gruppen," INFO Dienst 47 (May/June 1979) 50. Original text: "Wenn ich die Haltung eines Mannes als nicht konsequent kritisiere, hab ich das Gefuhl, nicht ernstgenommen zu werden, etwa so: Die hat gut reden, weil sie das nie in die Praxis umsetzen muss. Ich als Mann muss ja schliesslich die Konsequenzen tragen."
15.) Wolfgang Weber-Zucht, "Die Dreijahreskonferenz der WRI und die Situation in der BRD," Beilage zum INFO 22 (1975).
16.) Dieter Schöffmann, "10 Jahre Graswurzelbewegung — 10 Jahre antimilitaristische Arbeit: Versuch eines Rückblicks" (Paper prepared for the 1982 annual meeting of FÖGA).
17.) Saathoff, 78.
18.) Interview with Cornelia Nath.
19.) Interviews with Conny Brinckmann (Göttingen, July 16, 1985); and with Sabine Zöller..
20.) Elim Papadakis, The Green Movement in West Germany, 134-35.
21.) Interview with Hajo Karbach (Göttingen, July 15, 1985).
22.) Papadakis, The Green Movement in West Germany, 134f.
23.) See the taz interview with Egon Bahr (disarmament "expert" for the SPD), October 5, 1983; quoted in Grassroots Revolution (Dezember 1983) 11.
24.) See Mohssen Massarrat, Wider die Abschreckungslogik / Für eine Logik der Bewegung," Grassroots Revolution (December 1993)11.
25.) "Nachherbst: Fragen der Friedensbewegung...Fragen an die Friedensbewegung" [After, Autumn: Questions from the Peace Movement ... Questions for the Peace Movement], pamphlet of the Alternative Liste für Demokratie und Umweltschutz—Friedensbereich, Berlin, October 1983. Original text: „Wir haben unsere verschiedenen politischen Auffassungen oder politischen Zugehörigkeiten nicht an der Garderobe abgegeben, als wir uns in der Friedensbewegung engagierten. In diesem Sinne hat es nie ’die’ einheitliche Friedensbewegung gegeben. Der Dissenz schwächt unsere Handlungsfähigkeit nicht, sondern stärkt sie, wenn er für eine vielfältige, aber gemeinsame Praxis nutzbar gemacht wird. Wir dürfen uns nicht in den kleinsten gemeinsamen Nenner einsperren lassen, sondern müssen nach dem grössten gemeinsamen Vielfachen suchen."
26.) Interview with Regine Dietzfelbinger and Dietmar Boehm (West Berlin, July 12, 1985); Heinz Puster, "Ziele, Inhalte und Perspektiven in neuen sozialen Bewegungen - exemplarisch untersucht an Gewaltfreien Aktionsgruppen aus Heidelberg," (Thesis, University of Heidelberg, 1985) 52.
27.) John Sandford, The Sword and the Plowshare (London: END/Merlin Press, 1983) 28-34, 63-67; "Zur Friedensbewegung in der DDR", taz (Aug 7, 1984) 10; "Wir brauchen viel Geduld,die Zeit drängt" Grassroots Revolution (Jan/Feb 1984) 36-37. See also Adam Hochschild, "East Germany: Behind the lines with Europe’s most daring peace activists", Mother Jones (Sept/Oct 1982); Klaus Wolschner, "Wir sind nicht untereinander loyal: Die westliche Friedensbewegung und ’Schwerter zu Pflugscharen", Gewaltfreie Aktion [month unknown 1983.
28.) Sandford, The Sword und the Plowshare, 39-41; "Zur Friedensbewegung...“
29.) See Fritjof Capra and Charlene Spretnak, Green Politics: The Global Promise (New York: E.P. Dutton, Inc., 1984) 73.
30.) Interview with Dieter Schöffmann (Kassel, July 17, 1985).
31.) Wolschner, ’Wir sind nicht untereinander loyal," 61f.
32.) For reasons of confidentiality, I cannot name the individuals who gave me this information. See also Wolschner, "Wir sind nicht untereinander loyal,’ 59.
33.) Interviews with Regine Dietzfelbiger and Dietmar Boehm (West Berlin, July 7 and 12, 1985), and Reinhard Treu (Heidelberg, July 27, 1985); Dieter Schöffmann, ’10 Jahre Graswurzelbewegung- 10 Jahre Antimilitaristische Arbeit," 6; INFO 56 (Fall 1982) 12.
34.) Interviews with Dieter Rau; and Benjamin Pütter (West Berlin, July 9, 1985).
35.) Interview wich Bernhard Willeke and Sabine Kluth (Hannover, June 23, 1985).
36.) Schwerter zu Pflugscharen Grossengstingen: Handbuch, Sommer 1982 (Tübingen: AK Engstingen, 1982) here after referred to as Grossengstingen Handbuch.
37.) Grossengstingen Handbuch, 13.
38.) Grossengstingen Handbuch, 33.
39.) Grossengstingen Handbuch, 36.
40.) Grossengstingen Handbuch, 16.
41.) Grossengstingen Handbuch, 42. Original text: ’Der Abschaffung institutioneller Gewalt kommen wir nur näher, wenn wir uns als Betroffene jeweils selbst organisieren und unsere Belange selber in die Hand nehmen..."
42.) Sonja Rau and Ulrich Bröckling (of Freiburg), "Der Sommer der Camps," Grassroots Revolution 75 (May 1983) 15.
43.) Schwerter zu Pflugscharen Grossengstingen: Handbuch 2 Blockade-Aktion ’82 Auswertung (Tübingen: AK Engstingen, 1982) 108 - hereafter referred to as Grossengstingen Handbuch 2.
44.) Grossengstingen Handbuch 2, 15.
45.) Grossengstingen Handbuch 2, 107.
46.) Grossengstingen Handbuch 2, 103.
47.) Grossengstingen Handbuch 2, 107.
48.) Grossengstingen Handbuch 2, 104.
49.) Grossengstingen Handbuch 2, 10.
50.) Interview with Ulrich Wohland.
51.) Interviews with Rudi Hoogvliet (Stuttgart, August 22, 1985); and Dietmar Boehm.
52.) Interview with Ulrich Wohland.
53.) See Ziviler Ungehorsam, #O, which explains the formation of the office by a coalition of independent groups.
54.) "Blockiert LITEF!", Grassroots Revolution 79 (Fall 1983) 25.
55.) Donald Degen, "Tor zu—aber wie?," Grassroots Revolution 79 (1983) 23-25; Werner Rätz, "Blockade des Bundesministeriums für Wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit," Grassroots Revolution 79(1983)24.
56.) "Bremerhaven/Nordenham: Power für die Dauer" Grassroots Revolution 79 (1983)23.
57.) Wolfgang Sternstein, "Blockade im Zwölfminutentakt" (Blockade in Twelve-Minute Time), Grassroots Revolution 71 (January 1983) 56. Original text: "Eine Eskalation in Richtung auf gewaltsame Auseinandersetzungen konnte nur Dank der besonnenen Haltung der Polizei und der Bezugsgruppen verhindert werden."
58.) Tom Kionka, Norbert Scholz, "Friedenscamp und Prominentenblockade Mutlangen: Politische Spielwiese oder gewaltfreier Widerstand?" Grassroots Revolution 79 (1983) 27-28.
59.) Interview with Bernhard Willeke.
60.) "Erfahrungen und Perspektiven," Grassroots Revolution 79 (1983) 17.
61.) Interview with Jamie Walker (West Berlin, July 12, 1985).
62.) Interview with Jamie Walker.
63.) Ulrich Bröckling, "Trainingstrauma," Grassroots Revolution 79 (1983) 6. Original text: "Anderseits legen Kritiker wie Pohrt den Finger der Kritik genau auf den wunden Punkt der Trainingspraxis, die sich vor allem als Gewaltverhinderungsübung und Aggressions- dämpfung darstellt, statt die vorhandenen Aggressionen mit Rationalität zu verbinden und daraus einen radikalen Kampf gegen Militarisierung zu entfalten."
64.) Bröckling "Trainingstrauma", 6. Original text: „Wer behauptet, Gewaltfreiheit sei eine Lebenshaltung und wer die nicht teile, könne nicht an gewaltfreien Aktionen teilnehmen; wer Aktionen so organisiert, dass aus der Aufkündigung von Staatsloyalität, im Bemühen, den Militärapparat zu behindern, die perfekte Inszenierung eines Sitzens für den Frieden (so lautete das Motto für die Mutlangen-Blockade) wird, der braucht sich nicht zu wundern, wenn dazu aufgerufen wird, ein subversives Konzept zu entwickeln, dass diese verwalteten Strukturen der Gewaltlosigkeit von innen her auflöst, wie dies die Redaktion der "Autonomie" in ihrem Diskussionspapier zur Friedensbewegung ("taz" 12.7.83) tut."
65.) Bröckling, "Trainingstrauma," 7. Original text: "Alle Eventualitäten müssen in der Konsensmaschine durchgekaut werden, spontane Erweiterungen der Aktionen sind tabuisiert, und es wird zur allergrössten Sorge, was tun, wenn "gewalttätige Störer kommen und unsere Aktion sabotieren wollen.")
66.) Grassroots Revolution 79 (1983) 15f.
67.) Interviews with Bernhard Willeke and Sabine Kluth (Hannover); Regine Dietzfelbinger and Dietmar Boehm (West Berlin); Rudi Hoogvliet (Stuttgart); and Cony Brinckmann (Göttingen). 68.) Interview with Bernhard Willeke and Sabine Kluth (Hannover). Original text (Willeke): "Auf diesen Weg ist es sinnlos.... Ich kann mich davor setzen ... aber es ändert erstmal nix" 69.) Interview with Willeke and Kluth (Hannover). Original text (Willeke): "Man erlaubt sich z.B. keine Müdigkeit mehr.... Man muss immer ’was tun." 70.) "Zur (Not-) Lage der Graswurzelrevolution" [On the (Emergency) Situation facing Grassroots Revolution], FÖGA Korat Meeting Report (28 May 1984) 3.
71.) Interview with Jamie Walker; conversation with Anette Keimburg (West Berlin, 28 June 1985).
72.) Interview with Ulrich Wohland.
73.) See the leaflet "Vom Protest zum Widerstand," quoted in "Kampagne zur Verweigerung aller Kriegsdienste und Kriegsvorbereitungen," Grassroots Revolution 87 (September 1984) 10ff.
74.) Interviews with Dieter Schöffmann, Ulrich Wohland.
75.) "Kampagne zur Verweigerung aller Kriegsdienste und Kriegsvorbereitungen," Grassroots Revolution 87 (September 1984) 10ff.
76.) On the AirLand Battle and "Deep Strike" strategies, see Mary Kaldor, "A Dangerous Hoax," END Journal, March/April 1984, 14-16; taz "Sonderausgabe zur neuen US Army Kampfdoktrin" (Special Issue on the New US Army Battle Doctrine) (1984).
77.) Paul Herbstler, "Manöverbehinderungen und Menschennetz im Fulda Gap,’ Grassroots Revolution 89 (November 1984) 5-6.
78.) See "Fulda Gap: The First Battle of the Next War," by Elvira, Grassroots Revolution 83 (August 1984) 26-28.
79.) ’Wilde Hatz durch Grebenhain," by Dieter and Susanne (from Göttingen), Grassroots Revolution 89 (November, 1984) 9. Original text: "Dort erwartete uns die Polizei, die sich hinter dem Haupttor verschanzt hat. Nach einer kurzen Kundgebung und nochmaliger Aufforderung, uns ins Lager zu lassen, verteilten wir uns am Zaun entlang. Die Polizei konnte nicht das ganze Gebiet unter Kontrolle behalten und so nutzten nach und nach kleinere Gruppen günstige Augenblicke, um über den Zaun zu steigen, worauf sie festgenommen wurden. Die Polizisten waren konfus, ungläubig und reagierten teilweise mit Tränengas und Schlagstockeinsatz. Die Demonstranten zeigte ihre Solidarität mit den festgenommen Eindringlingen, indem sie Polizeifahrzeuge blockierten und den Abtransport der Gefangenen durch Menschenreihen verhindern wollten."
80.) Herbstler, "Manöverbehinderungen," 6.
81.) "Wilde Hatz" 8.
82.) "Wilde Hatz" 8-9.
83.) Interview with Dieter Schöffmann.
84.) Interview with Ulrich Wohland Original text: "Mit Fulda ging es nicht um irgendwelche Amerikaner mit irgendwelchen Raketen, sondern die Bundeswehr letzendlich..."
85.) Frankfurter Rundschau (August 11, 1984). See also "Manöverbehinderungen kritisiert" taz (August 13 1984) 24.
86.) "Erklärung der FÖGA zu den Herbstaktionen im Fulda Gap" [FÖGA declaration on the fall actions in the Fulda Gap], Grassroots Revolution 87 (September 1984) 4. Original text: "Wir halten es für richtig und notwendig, auch und gerade die einfachen Soldaten mit dem Protest gegen die Politik ihrer Regierungen und Vorgesetzten zu konfrontieren. Den Soldaten, die ’ihren Dienst zumeist in gutem Glauben leisten’ wie Ihr schreibt, soll mit unseren Aktionen genau dieser Glaube genommen werden. Nach unserer Überzeugung gibt es keinen guten Glauben an die Friedenssicherung durch Waffengewalt... Das Sichberufen auf den ’guten Glauben’ oder die ’Pflichterfüllung’ hat gerade in Deutschland eine unselige Tradition. Soldaten sind nicht nur Befehlsempfänger und Marionetten, die dort kämpfen und sterben, wo sie hinbefohlen werden, sondern auch Menschen, die fühlen und denken können und (Mit)verantwortung für ihr Handeln tragen."...
"Aus Gesprächen mit Soldaten wissen wir, dass Manöver eine grosse Belastung für sie sind. Die Todesopfer, die diese Manöver in jedem Jahr fordern, beweisen dies auf schreckliche Weise. Wie kommt Ihr dazu, diese Tatsache so zu verdrehen dass die Soldaten erst durch unsere Aktionen gefährdet erscheinen?"
87.) Interview with Andreas Zumach in "Viel neues gestalten - wenig altes verwalten!" Grassroots Revolution 89 (November 1984) 18-25.
88.) Herbstler, "Manöverbehinderungen," 5.
89.) Interview with Michael Stahl (Göttingen, July 15, 1985).
90.) Jutta Haag, Bernd Sander, Thomas Stadelmann, "Konspirative Sachbeschädigung - Perspektive einer Anti-Kriegsbewegung?" Grassroots Revolution 89 (November 1984) 10-11.
91.) Interview with Dieter Schöffmann.
92.) Interview with Cony Brinckmann.
93.) Interviews with Regine Dietzfelbinger and Dietmar Boehm; and Cornelia Nath.
94.) Interviews with Cony Brinckmann, Sabine Zöller.
95.) "Anders Arbeiten: Selbstverwaltung und Sozialismus," Grassroots Revolution 90/91 (Special Issue, Januar) 1985).
96.) Wege des Ungehorsams: Jahrbuch für libertäre & gewaltfreie Aktion, Politik & Kultur (Kassel: Weber, Zucht & Co., 1984).
97.) Interview with Hajo Karbach (Göttingen, July 15, 1985). Original text: "Es sagt nicht mehr viel aus, der Begriff. Es ist teilweise ein Erfolg unserer Arbeit, und teilweise ein Versagen unserer Arbeit. Es ist gelungen, eine breitere Bewusstsein zu entwickeln, dass man Ziele durch den Mittel nicht verraten darf. Aber die Konsequenzen daraus zu ziehen, dass Veränderungen nicht durch Reform von oben oder rein moralische Appelle an die Mächtigen zu erreichen sind, sondern durch eine Macht von unten -von den Graswurzeln -[durch eine] Volksmacht erreicht werden muss, sind verloren gegangen bei diesem Prozess."
98.) Interview with Dieter Schöffmann. Original text: "Die [Graswurzelbewegung] hat sich nicht richtig einlassen wollen auf Politik .... viele Leute [nahmen] die Begriffe [auf] .... aber nicht was eigentlich dahintersteckt. [Heute sind] wir in einer Situation..., dass Sozialdemokraten oder was weiss ich definieren, was Ziviler Ungehorsam ist— viel darüber schreiben— und das einpassen. Und das hat nur wenig zu tun mit ... Graswurzlern..." 99.) Interview with Cornelia Nath.


As we have seen, the Grassroots network became a small but influential segment first of the ecology movement, then of the peace movement. Its contributions must be weighed in the context of the limitations it faced: a narrow social base, small size, limited resources, a high turnover rate, and the difficulty of coordinating local groups. And as a proponent of radical nonviolent action, the Grassroots network was practically starting from: scratch. There were few political examples or experienced activists close at hand. Thus, many of the forms of action and organization which the network introduced —such as nonviolence training, affinity groups, and consensus process—were "imported" from other countries, particularly the United States. Thus, too, the network initially focused on international campaigns which had little direct connection to problems in the Federal Republic.

But when the Grassroots groups turned their attention closer to home —to the struggie against nuclear power— they were brought directly into coalitions with other groups. Here they began to have an important impact. In both the ecology and peace movements, Grassroots groups continuously sought to develop a wider base of understanding, support, and participation for nonviolent action. They defended nonviolence against sections of the Left which rejected its principles and also against liberal and "traditional" groups which equated nonviolence with legality or the avoidance of conflict. At the same time,
Grassroots activists sought to work together with both of these other political currents, sometimes moving closer to one, sometimes the other. Their "mediator" role was partly a political choice, partly a reflection of the network’s own internal tensions and lack of consensus an many political issues.

The Grassroots network has always included some activists with an anarchist orientation, some with a radical Christian orientation, others with a mixture of both, and many with no clear position politically. And Grassroots activists have struggled with their own differing conceptions of nonviolence and social change. They argued about voluntary suffering, about forms of political organization, about symbolism versus direct action, and about the relative weight of persuasion and pressure from below. Some attempted to make feminisrn a more central part of Grassroots politics, but they found little support. Rarely were these conflicts "resolved": they recurred as new situations arose, new members joined and older ones left the network, and new activities were initiated.

As Günter Saathoff noted in the conclusion of his 1980 dissertation on the Grassroots network, Grassroots groups’ influence in propagating nonviolent action must be viewed sceptically for two reasons. First, other factors influenced the ecology (and peace) movements to use nonviolent action. The military strength of the police and the failure of violent confrontation made some organizations (such as the Communist League, or KB) more amenable to nonviolence for purely tactical reasons. And other groups besides the Grassroots network —such as the citizen Initiative federation (the BBU), and later the Greens— began to advocate nonviolence as well. The BBU’s magazine in particular had for several years a close relationship to Grassroots perspectives. Its editors included Michael Schroeren and Manuel Walther, both nonviolent anarchists amd former editors of Grassroots Revolution. (1)

But if external forces made tactical "nonviolence" attractive by default, and larger organizations endorsed the concept of nonviolent action, it was still the Grassroots groups who set the example, who gave the concept concrete form and vitality. In campaign after campaign, action after action, it was Grassroots activists who provided the key ideas, who offered the trainings, or who did the initial organizing.

Saathoff’s second point was that Grassroots influence in larger movements was "purchased at the cost of radicalism." (2) Grassroots groups propagated their nonviolent means, but seldom their non-hierarchical ends— despite their own claim that means and ends were indissoluble. As we have seen, this dynamic persisted in the peace movement of the 1980s and contributed to the movement’s decline.

It may be, however, that Grassroots activists had to choose between limited influence and no influence at all: if they had been more forceful about their radical goals, they might have simply lost the ear of citizen initiatives and local peace groups. And while the network did not often have a strong radical presences in public, it never completely abandoned its radical orientation. The Fulda Gap actions showed that the Grassroots network would not simply be coopted but would try to learn from its mistakes and apply political pressure in different directions.

Finally, it should not be forgotten that nonviolent action often constituted a radicalizing step in itself. The blockade actions of 1982-83, for example, taught large numbers of people that they could choose to break the law for political reasons, something which most of them had never done before. Civil disobedience was often framed as a way to symbolically "withdraw one’s loyalty from the state." These were not necessarily revolutionary steps, but they served as powerful counterweights to the constriction and passivity which the government sought to impose an the population.

Recently someone asked me, "What is the most important thing we can learn from the Grassroots network?" I answered, "That a small group of people, with a clear perspective on what is possible, a commitment to what they consider important, and the patience to stick to the task, can accomplish a surprising amount. They can become a pivotal force."

The story of the Klatschmohn Group is perhaps the most vivid example. This West Berlin Grassroots group, which included about twelve members, formed to address the lack of direction that the ecology movement was experiencing in the late 1970s. They set themselves the task to develop a new concept of nonviolent political action for the movement, based on the example of the Seabrook, New Hampshire occupation of 1977. The group spent one year in preparatory work: four months in the USA learning about nonviolent activism and then another year evaluating and applying what they had learned.

The affinity group/speakers council model of organization which they brought back was first used at Gorleben in 1980, then at Brokdorf in 1981, at Grossengstingen in 1982, and in scores of other actions. Thus a concept of political organization used by tens of thousands of people can be traced to the work of this group of twelve. (3)

We need not romanticize the Grassroots network in order to appreciate its strengths. Throughout the thirteen-year period considered in this study, Grassroots activists repeatedly brought new ideas and fresh energy to important political struggles. With their commitment to nonviolent civil disobedience, to radical ecology and anti-militarism, and to grassroots democracy, they expanded the sphere of political possibility in the Federal Republic of Germany.

1.) Saathoff, pp. 272-73.
2.) Saathoff, pp. 274-75
3.) Interviews with Dieter Rau, Benjamin Pütter.


The following is a list of sources which I have referred to frequently in the text. For other works relating to specific topics, see the notes at the end of each chapter.


graswurzelrevolution, 1972-1985 (referred to here as Grassroots Revolution)
INFOrmationsdienst für gewaltfreie Organisatoren, 1973-1980 (abbr. "INFO")
die tageszeitung (abbr, "taz").


Halbach, Dieter and Panzer, Gerd, Zwischen Gorleben und Stadtleben. Berlin AHDE-Verlag GmbH, 1980
Nelkin, Dorothy and Michael Pollak, The Atom Besieged Antinuclear Movements in France und Germany. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 1982.
Saathoff, Günter, "graswurzelrevolution": Theorie und Organisation des gewaltfreien Anarchismus in der Bundesrepublik 1972-1980. Marburg: 1980.

Pamphlets and Letters

Feldzüge für ein sauberes Deutschland. Göttingen: Gewaltfreie Aktion Göttingen, 1977-
Hertle, Wolfgang, "Graswurzelrevolution in der Bundesrepublik?" Vorgänge - Zeitschrift für Gesellschaftspolitik no. 31. 1/1978
Nath, Cornelia, Letter to Günter Saathoff, March 3, 1984


The following is a list of interviews which I conducted with current and former Grassroots activists.

In Wustrow
Wolfgang Hertle, June 18, 1985.
Müwo, June 19, 1985.

In Hannover
Jürgen Rockahr, June 22, 1985.
Sabine Kluth and Bernhard Willeke, June 23, 1985.

In Lippinghausen
Erich Bachman, June 24, 1985.

In West Berlin
Eva Breuer, June 29, 1985. Jan Malkowsky, July 4 1985.
Regine Dietzfelbinger and Dietmar Boehm, July 7 and 12, 1985.
Jamie Walker, July 8 and 12, 1985.
Dorothee Schaper, July 9, 1985. Benjamin Pütter, July 9, M.
Uli Stadtmann and Olaf Schäufler, July 9, 1985.
Dieter Rau, August 15, 1985.

In Göttingen
Dieter Kannenberg, July 15, 1985.
Hajo Karbach, Wiljem Meinberg, Michael Stahl, July 15, 1985.
Cony Brinckmann, July 14 1985.
Michael Stahl, Carsten Meyer, July 16, 1985.

In Kassel
Dieter Schöffmann, July 17, 1985.
Helga and Wolfgang Weber-Zucht, July 18, 1985.

In Heidelberg
Sabine Zöller, July 24, 1985.
Andrea Drohsihn, July 25, 1985.
Chris Meyer, July 27, 1985.

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