From Student Riots to Feminist Firebombs: Debates about “Counterviolence” in the West German Student Movement and Women’s Movement
Drawing on theories of political violence and postcolonial feminist thought, this article analyzes discussions about violent resistance in strands of the student movement and women’s movement in the Federal Republic of Germany. In the late 1960s, Rudi Dutschke and other leading thinkers in the anti-authoritarian wing of the student movement argued that counter-violence in the form of symbolic attacks against property was a legitimate response to state repression and violence. In the 1970s, the militant feminist group “Red Zora” adopted and adapted this notion of counter-violence to fight for the cause of women. The article shows that discussions about counter-violence have developed and changed as a result of debates within the two movements, and in response to broader social and political developments. Although both concepts of counter-violence have reflected and reinforced existing patterns of discrimination and marginalization, they sparked critical debates about the scope and limits of political protest.