Climate strike scandal: Does “Fridays for Future” use Nazi slogans?

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Status: 10/26/2021 6:33 a.m.

Around the slogan “Who betrayed us? Social Democrats!” an argument has broken out. Critics accuse Fridays for Future of Nazi vocabulary. Is that what it is?

By Andrej Reisin,

During the “Fridays for Future” climate strike last Friday Activists used a controversial slogan both on social media and at the demonstration itself: In an Instagram story, a picture of the demonstration in front of the SPD party headquarters in Berlin asked: “Who betrayed us …?” The answer “Social Democrats!” was verbally supplemented according to media reports at the demo.

Many Social Democrats, but also politicians from other parties and numerous commentators reacted indignantly to this. The Berlin Social Democrat Robert Pietsch tweeted the picture of an NSDAP election poster that also uses the slogan in a slightly turned away form: “Who betrayed us …? The Social Democrats”. Pietsch wrote about this: “I don’t understand how enlightened progressive people keep coming up with this saying, whose historical context also includes the Nazi era and the fact that thousands of social democrats were murdered within it.”

Nazi rhetoric or a popular saying?

This interpretation, however, sparked criticism again: This is how the features editor of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (FAZ), Patrick Bahners, replied: “That is a winged word in German political language and has always been used for left-wing criticism of the SPD young people show an awareness of history, with a dash of irony. “

The CDU interior expert Christoph de Vries spoke in the “Bild” newspaper of “Nazi and communist rhetoric” which is “not under puppy protection in Germany”. Should Fridays for Future become more radical, he believes that the organization must be monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution.

Parole experienced its climax in the Weimar Republic

In fact, the slogan comes from the days of the November Revolution of 1918, from which the Weimar Republic emerged – and was initially clearly used by radical left groups against the SPD. Already in the course of the SPD’s approval of the war credits of the German Empire in World War I – the so-called “Burgfrieden” with the Emperor and the bourgeois parties – the German social democracy had split: As a result, the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany (USPD) was founded in 1917. The “betrayal” that Karl Liebknecht, among others, scourged referred to the SPD’s attitude towards the First World War.

After the murder of Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg by right-wing and anti-republic Freikorps soldiers on January 15, 1919, the slogan finally matured into a left-wing radical slogan against social democracy. According to current research, this was done at least with the approval of the SPD politician and later Reichswehr Minister Gustav Noske. He was also politically responsible for the subsequent suppression of the so-called March fighting in Berlin, in which around 1200 people were killed.

In other cities of the Reich, too, the Freikorps and Reichwehr used bloody violence against left-wing revolutionary efforts that cost thousands more lives. For the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), newly founded in 1919, it was therefore clear who had betrayed it – and from then on it propagated and posterized the slogan in large numbers.

Use by right-wing circles and the NSDAP

But the slogan was also demonstrably popular in right-wing political circles of the Weimar Republic: They also used right-wing enemies of the republic who blamed the revolution and democracy for the lost war, since the Reichwehr remained “undefeated in the field” (“stab in the back legend”) . The fact that the National Socialists also appropriated the slogan for their propaganda is undisputed – and is proven by examples.

In reality, the military defeat was inevitable and the officers in charge of the Supreme Army Command, Erich Ludendorff and Paul von Hindenburg, deliberately launched the legend of the stab in the back. The civilian signatory of the German armistice, the Center MP Matthias Erzberger, was murdered by right-wing terrorist assassins as a result of the agitation in 1921.

Under the National Socialists, members of the SPD and KPD ultimately fell victim to persecution and murder.

Revival by 68s

After the Second World War, the slogan experienced a return in the course of the student movement from 1968, which saw itself again as left-wing revolutionary and added the following rhymes to demonstrations: “Who betrayed us? Social Democrats! And who was right? Karl Liebknecht! “.

Culturally, too, the slogan has become an integral part of the extra-parliamentary left. The cabaret artist and songwriter Marc-Uwe Kling, for example, updated the slogan in 2008 in the form of a song. As early as 2003, the Bochum punk band “Die Kassierer” released a song called “The Political Song”, the only two lines of which were from “Who betrayed us? Social Democrats! Who was there? The Green Party!” The latter formula, which became widespread after the Greens’ first participation in government at federal level in 1998 – and their subsequent approval of the Bundeswehr’s mission in Kosovo – is said to have been called in Berlin on Friday, according to media reports.

So whoever uses the slogan today is mostly doing it from the far left against the SPD. In this respect, the accusation that it is a Nazi slogan is too simple and historically largely wrong. However, its use is not entirely unproblematic: Because one uses a formula that has historically at least been misused – and met with bitter rejection from many social democrats. The accusation that one way or another is a radical slogan can therefore not be completely dismissed, neither historically nor currently.

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