Anti-Strauss demonstrators clash with W. German police in Hamburg

Violence at Hamburg's anti-Franz Josef Strauss demonstration the night of Aug. 25, again makes a campaign issue of young Socialist-radical links, and of political support for West Germany's police (and Army).

According to the Hamburg police, 102 policemen and four demonstrators were injured when 3,000 to 4,000 militants stoned a police cordon and burned some cars and fire engines. The police responded with tear gas. Twelve demonstrators were arrested on suspicion of inflicting severe injuries on others.

One 16-year-old demonstrator, who fell from a mobbed train platform in front of a train, is reported in critical condition. Demonstrators charge that police were on the platform and the stairs leading to the platform at the time. But a police spokesman says there were no policemen present at either place.

With six weeks left before the West German general election, Christian Democratic Union (CDU) General-Secretary Heiner Geissler has called the Hamburg violence "the latest example of the 'people's front' alliance between Communists and left extremist parts of the SPD [Social Democratic Party] and FDP [Free Democratic Party] that threatens to become a standard feature of this campaign." He accused Social Democratic Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and ex- Chancellor Willy Brandt of responsibility for the "terror," saying they cannot control their own party's youth wings.

The CDU and the Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) whose head, Franz Josef Strauss, is the conservative candidate for chancellor in the Oct. 5 election, leveled the same charge at the Social Democrats after violent demonstrations against an Army recruit swearing-in ceremony in Bremen last May. That incident left more than 250 policemen injured. Both the Bremen and Hamburg governments are Social Democratic, and the federal West German government is a coalition of senior Social Democrats and junior Free Democrats.

The SPD has forbade its youth wing, the Young Socialists or "Jusos" from making common cause with the Communist Party and more extremist groups in anti-Strauss demonstrations. The party fears that this is the one issue that could turn voters toward Strauss in an election that according to polls would otherwise give Chancellor Schmidt a decisive victory.

The Jusos -- who pride themselves on being to the left of their parent party -- have rejected the ban, however, and coordinated the Hamburg demonstration not only with the Young Democrats and the Paper and Printing Trade Union, but with the German Communist Party and its youth wing. Strauss is anathema to the Jusos , as to leftists and even to many moderates in north Germany, because of his southern conservatism on both detente and law-and-order/civil rights issues. The Jusos argue that to forego anti-Strauss leadership would mean forfeiting a major campaign issue to more extremist groups.

The Juso leadership in Hamburg made efforts to keep the Hamburg demonstration peaceful, and most of the estimated 15,000 marchers (a number more than double the 6,000 that gathered inside the Ernst-Merck hall to hear Strauss open his Hamburg campaign) were peaceful. The leadership was unable to prevent the breakaway violence of the 3,000 to 4,000, however. A Juso spokesman in Hamburg blamed the violence on "irresponsible provocateurs."

Following the Bremen and Hamburg violence the conservatives have also accused the Social Demoncrats of withholding political support from the police and Army. A number of Social Democratic policemen in Bremen who felt that they were hamstruing in dealing with militants in fact resigned from the party following the Bremen violence.

In response, the Social Democrats -- who started postwar politics as a pacifist party and often seem rather embarrassed by their eventual acceptance of the necessity of defense -- have tried to display more affection for the Army.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.