Holger Heide, Professor Emeritus of the University of Bremen
Last weekend the left-leaning daily "die tageszeitung," or taz, in
Germany celebrated its 30th founding day. This anniversary was
intensely observed by the mass media.
It was what was later labeled as the "movement of '68" in several
countries of Western Europe, the attempt to bring an end to the
authoritarian period of World War II, though belatedly and not until
the next generation. The direct reason for it in Germany was the
first post-war economic crisis and the response of the first "grand
coalition" government of the two big parties SPD and CDU, 1966-69.
The parliament, with only a small opposition party having not even 10
percent of the seats in the Bundestag, seemed to be useless as a
place for expressing any fundamental opposition. The protest,
therefore, became what was called "extra-parliamentary opposition."
During the 1970s, a broad ecological movement and a new radical left
developed together with the growing anti-nuclear movement. They tried
to realize a practical critique of the economy, and at the same time,
the moral crisis that signalized the end of the short bloom of the
Fordist era. The movement intended to leave behind the narrowness of
the existing society and the spirit of its work places to organize,
in contrast, their own work places in a new spirit of cooperation, in
ecologically maintainable forms, and in self-organized "alternative"
projects. Many thousands of young people conquered their needed for
living space by squatting.
The movement grew partly due to the violent struggles for the defense
of squats, and particularly as hundreds of thousands of activists
gathered against the development of nuclear power plants. In this
way, a manifold living social movement developed out of a process of
learning. The peak of the mass movement was perhaps the "battle of
Brokdorf" which took place at the end of 1976, when almost 100 000
participants attempted to conquer the construction site of a nuclear
power plant. In spite of a well-organized movement that included a
mobile radio station, the battle ended in a defeat by the superiority
of a quasi-militarily equipped riot police. In the eyes of many
observers, the movement without formalized structures had come to its limits.
In answer to the seeming uselessness of unarmed mass struggle, there
had developed an organized terrorist "Red Army Faction" that
culminated in the autumn of 1977 in a hi-jacking incident, the murder
of the president of the West German employers' federation, and the
collective suicide of the three leading terrorists in a maximum
security prison. The West German state, governed by the already
mentioned grand coalition had been tough, not only in their massive
deployment of special forces but also by in the tightening of laws,
constraining the freedom of the press and other basic rights.
How does a living movement communicate? How do they get their
information from "outside," and how is information distributed within
the movement? In this period of time, when cell phones or a generally
accessible internet did not exist, print media played the main roll.
Among the alternative print media during the 1970s there was the
outstanding weekly Information Service for News (ID), which appeared
1973-81. In the spirit of "autonomia" they refused any form of
journalism, even a "left-wing" one and said, "Let the persons
directly concerned and the activists themselves have their say, not
the ruling clique and their henchmen."
When activists in 1978 organized the "tunix-Convention" in
West-Berlin with about 15 thousand participants to discuss future
structures of the social movements, there were discussions about the
project of developing a Green Party, and of a new alternative daily
newspaper. There was a considerable opposition against suffocating
structures, with more expressing concerns about party development
than the newspaper.
The newspaper called "die tageszeitung" (literally "the daily news")
was finally launched in the spring of 1979. In the beginning the
notion of "counter public" played a similar roll as it had in the
ID-project mentioned above. Supporting groups in numerous cities who
delivered information on ongoing activities, scandals, etc., were
founded who, on the other hand, also formulated claims concerning the
content published. In the long run the taz was not much of a
competitor against the established daily press. It acted more as a
complementary platform, publishing to a lesser extent "the latest
news." It reported on the background and discussed in further detail
the topics of main interest for the public including: ecology,
gender-questions, the North-South-conflict, and alternative life and work.
In the beginning, work in the production-cycle of the paper was
organized according to a radical egalitarian principle that all
participants earned the same small amount! This has since changed.
Indeed, clear hierarchies are now dominating, but we see the
principle of self-exploitation has remained and paid are considerably
below normal levels. If not, the taz would not have otherwise been
able to survive economically.
Financing of the start-up phase had been guaranteed by organizing an
"Association of friends of the taz," 7 thousand subscriptions, to
build up the seed money and thus being independent on foreign
"capital." The paper was able to survive several severe financial
crises over the years, which they wrangled among other things by
appealing to the consciousness and sense of responsibility in their
interested readership. This indeed was possible only due to the still
remaining spirit of the early days. As of 1992, the taz has been
owned by a cooperative of about 8 thousand members, who have raised a
capital of 8 million euros.
In striving for higher professionalism and efficiency, the taz has
step by step cut the umbilical cord with the movement, thus
reflecting the problem of resistance and assimilation for structures
and maturing emancipatory movements.