Theses on the Transformation of Democracy and on the Extra-Parliamentary Opposition

"It is the duty of every democrat to fight the Emergency Laws." (March against the Notstandsgesetze in Bon, May 11, 1968.)
“It is the duty of every democ­rat to fight the Emer­gency Laws.” (March against the Not­stands­ge­setze in Bon, May 11, 1968.)

These the­ses serve as a sup­ple­ment to my book Trans­for­ma­tion of Democ­racy and a cor­rec­tion to some mis­quo­ta­tions made at the remark­able del­e­gates con­fer­ence of the SDS [Sozial­is­tis­cher Deutscher Stu­den­ten­bund, or Social­ist Ger­man Stu­dent Union]. I am gen­er­ally of the opin­ion that rather than inter­pret texts, rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies should change rela­tions [Ver­hält­nisse].

As mea­sured by the state’s actual power rela­tions and by the actual rela­tions of dom­i­na­tion in soci­ety, the famil­iar expres­sion for the mod­ern bour­geois state – “par­lia­men­tary democ­racy” – rep­re­sents a para­dox. Some time ago, William Borm asked the board of the Repub­li­can Club1 whether the club still stood on the basis of “clas­si­cal par­lia­men­tary democ­racy.” To that, the club’s board could only give a vague and uncer­tain, although polit­i­cally clever answer (“We do, of course, but the par­lia­men­tary par­ties don’t any­more”). For clas­si­cal par­lia­men­tary democ­racy has long since dis­ap­peared. It is not just the case that its social func­tion and its insti­tu­tional struc­ture cor­re­spond to a past period in his­tory. The lib­eral state was the pub­lic and legal orga­ni­za­tional form of rule in a soci­ety that indeed pro­duced in a cap­i­tal­ist way (thus some of its insti­tu­tions are extant), yet relied on the power of the steam engine. Our soci­ety, which pro­duces and will pro­duce with atomic power, has no use for such a state. More­over, the clas­si­cal par­lia­men­tary qual­ity of the ear­lier bour­geois state – the supremacy of par­lia­ment, with its polit­i­cal as well as leg­isla­tive deci­sion-mak­ing author­ity – has been over­come by con­sti­tu­tional law itself. The Basic Law [Grundge­setz]2 posits the supremacy of the exec­u­tive over the leg­isla­tive, be it in the ques­tion of pol­icy-set­ting author­ity or gov­ern­ment con­trol over par­lia­ment.

Our soci­ety, how­ever, still can do very lit­tle with the con­ven­tional forms and con­ven­tional insti­tu­tions of the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem of gov­ern­ment. In 1922 Pareto3 had advised Mus­solini, for the sake of sta­bi­liz­ing power, to let par­lia­ment con­tinue to exist in a changed form; masses that lean towards demo­c­ra­tic feel­ings can best be neu­tral­ized through an organ that gives them the illu­sion of par­tic­i­pat­ing in state power. It is not the com­plete abo­li­tion of par­lia­ment that makes the new state strong, rather the trans­fer of deci­sion-mak­ing author­i­ties from par­lia­ment to the closed inner cir­cle of “elites.”

Therein also lay, fol­low­ing Pareto, the his­tor­i­cal mean­ing and bour­geois class con­tract of the fascis­tic trans­for­ma­tion of the state.


After the defeat of fas­cism, the restora­tion of the par­lia­men­tary gov­ern­men­tal sys­tem in West Euro­pean coun­tries faced the same prob­lem that his­tor­i­cal fas­cism could not suc­cess­fully solve: how to hold the depen­dent masses – that have nonethe­less been set in motion – in a con­di­tion of depen­dence, to pre­vent their eman­ci­pa­tion that would begin as the rev­o­lu­tion of pro­duc­tion rela­tions.

The dif­fi­culty lay – and con­tin­ues to lie – in the ambiva­lent char­ac­ter par­lia­ment can assume under cer­tain cir­cum­stances. In an increas­ingly dynamic bour­geois soci­ety char­ac­ter­ized as much by the antag­o­nism of pro­duc­tion as it is by the plu­ral­ity of dis­tri­b­u­tion inter­ests, the rep­re­sen­ta­tive body can offer itself as an instru­ment that expresses antag­o­nism through the state and so ele­vates (social) class strug­gle to a polit­i­cal con­flict of rule.

Viewed this way, the par­lia­men­tary gov­ern­men­tal sys­tem can only guar­an­tee bour­geois rule and pro­tect cap­i­tal­ism so long as it suc­ceeds in push­ing back its ambiva­lence. It must func­tion as a mech­a­nism that makes antag­o­nis­tic con­flicts polit­i­cally irrel­e­vant as much as pos­si­ble, and mon­i­tors and paci­fies con­flicts of inter­est. In this, the per­spec­tive devel­oped by Friedrich Engels inverts itself; the “bour­geois repub­lic” – which accord­ing to Engels was the best form for the open, and, under cer­tain cir­cum­stances, even peace­ful unfold­ing of class strug­gle and con­flicts of rule – tries to remain bour­geois and trans­form itself into the best form for inte­grat­ing the depen­dent classes into the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem of pro­duc­tion and the bour­geois sys­tem of rule. The “peo­ple” are degraded into mere bar­gain­ing chips in the rivalry of lead­ing polit­i­cal groups. For other coun­tries under “par­lia­men­tary” gov­ern­ment, the way this trans­for­ma­tion was accom­plished in the Fed­eral Repub­lic [West Ger­many] is exem­plary.


Among the most impor­tant aspects of this attempt to sta­bi­lize and secure cap­i­tal­ism polit­i­cally include:

The dis­so­lu­tion of the class of depen­dents into a plu­ral­ist sys­tem of job cat­e­gories. Already in its fas­cist form, this proved itself suited to coun­ter­ing the objec­tive polar­iza­tion of soci­ety from the sub­jec­tive, orga­ni­za­tional, and con­scious­ness-manip­u­lat­ing side. Here, more effec­tive means are at the dis­posal of orga­nized cap­i­tal­ism than ear­lier com­pet­i­tive cap­i­tal­ism. And from the errors of fas­cist plu­ral­ism it has also finally learned to call itself demo­c­ra­tic.

With this, the repro­duc­tion of soci­ety through the state turns into the artic­u­la­tion of a plu­ral­ity of par­ties. This means that while sev­eral par­ties – although, from the point of view of the rul­ing ten­den­cies, two are best – com­pete for a share of power, indi­vid­ual par­ties come to resem­ble each other to a large extent. They forego rep­re­sent­ing con­crete groups or class-tied inter­ests, and become part of a gen­eral equi­lib­rium. They super­fi­cially roll all real groups and all ideal posi­tions into a sin­gle indis­crim­i­nate exchange rela­tion­ship – and exclude any group with rev­o­lu­tion­ary ideas or inter­ests in trans­form­ing struc­tures. Such par­ties sep­a­rate them­selves from their own social basis and become part of polit­i­cal state asso­ci­a­tions; they become offi­cials charged with uphold­ing the equi­lib­rium of the state.

The par­ties, hav­ing become part of the state, develop a novel social qual­ity that is con­nected to their own mate­rial inter­ests: they are inter­ested in main­tain­ing rela­tions that make it pos­si­ble for them to hold power as part of the state and estab­lish­ment. They thereby cou­ple them­selves – whether they are mass par­ties or not – to the inter­ests of those social groups that are like­wise com­mit­ted to con­serv­ing given struc­tures. In this respect, the old ques­tion whether the rul­ing polit­i­cal groups are stooges of the rul­ing classes or whether they rep­re­sent an inde­pen­dent social class (the polit­i­cal class) is otiose. They are them­selves a part of the polit­i­cal rul­ing class. More specif­i­cally, they are a func­tion of the state. In this way, social antag­o­nism is not reflected in the party sys­tem. All that takes place in the state rul­ing appa­ra­tus is the repro­duc­tion of one pole of soci­ety, which would oth­er­wise be called into ques­tion antag­o­nis­ti­cally. That means the sep­a­ra­tion of par­ties from the social basis does not affect all classes and groups in the same way. Only groups that would poten­tially want to trans­form rela­tions are shut out from rep­re­sen­ta­tion at the level of the state: the depen­dent masses. They have no say in fun­da­men­tal pol­icy deci­sions, even though they may fare bet­ter with one or another party in mar­ginal prob­lems of polit­i­cal prag­mat­ics.

These same par­ties, which have alien­ated the broad masses, self-iden­tify ide­o­log­i­cally as Volksparteien [people’s par­ties].4 The efforts of their own lead­er­ship lead Volksparteien to develop a novel mech­a­nism of rule, in which rei­fied and author­i­tar­ian con­cen­tra­tions of power enter into a cycle of com­pe­ti­tion with one another. Only this com­pet­i­tive rela­tion­ship is oli­garchi­cally orga­nized, and has as lit­tle to do with the polit­i­cal prin­ci­ple of free com­pe­ti­tion as the orga­nized mar­ket shar­ing of mod­ern oli­garchic cap­i­tal­ism has to do with free com­pe­ti­tion in eco­nom­ics. The open-rivalry cycle of rul­ing groups that fight against and exclude one another will be sup­planted by an assim­ila­tive cycle that ulti­mately leads to self-liq­ui­da­tion: with regard to the con­stant assim­i­la­tion of (seem­ingly) com­pet­i­tive par­ties and their mutual par­tic­i­pa­tion in state vio­lence – be it in the coop­er­a­tion of major­ity and minor­ity fac­tions and the mech­a­nism by which they swap power, or in the form of the grand coali­tion. In this way par­ties fight amongst them­selves for the power to gov­ern but nev­er­the­less form a sym­bi­otic unity, in whose sphere an abstract con­flict of lead­er­ship can be fought out. They form the plu­ral­ist ver­sion of a uni­fied party [Ein­heitspartei].5


The trans­for­ma­tion in the party sys­tem is con­nected to the struc­tural and func­tional changes that par­lia­ment itself has expe­ri­enced in recent decades. Of these changes, there is one that  should not be for­got­ten, lest one run the dan­ger of mys­ti­fy­ing parliament’s “loss of func­tion­al­ity” rel­a­tive to ear­lier forms of par­lia­men­tar­i­an­ism: as a fac­tor of social power, par­lia­ment has his­tor­i­cally always rep­re­sented for bour­geois soci­ety the fic­tion of pop­u­lar free­dom through the imple­men­ta­tion of pop­u­lar rep­re­sen­ta­tion. “Of all the speci­fic ele­ments… in the idea of free­dom and thus of democ­racy, the most impor­tant is par­lia­men­tar­i­an­ism… It would seem as if the idea of demo­c­ra­tic free­dom finds unbro­ken expres­sion in par­lia­men­tar­i­an­ism. This pur­pose serves the fic­tion of rep­re­sen­ta­tion” (Kelsen).6

As a mat­ter of fact, the prin­ci­ple of par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tion (free man­date – free from the will of vot­ers, but not from the direc­tives and orders of the party lead­er­ship – unim­peach­a­bil­ity dur­ing the leg­isla­tive period, etc.) turns out to be an effec­tive means of keep­ing the masses out of the state’s cen­ters of power and – through state and legal medi­a­tion – society’s cen­ters of deci­sion. Cer­tainly no indi­vid­ual rep­re­sen­ta­tives, pro­vided they do not belong to the inner cir­cle of lead­er­ship, accrue any power of their own from the prin­ci­ple of rep­re­sen­ta­tion. To the par­lia­men­tary fic­tion also belongs the Leib­h­holz-ian7 ide­ol­o­giza­tion that the rep­re­sen­ta­tive is the mas­ter, and not the ser­vant of the peo­ple. If, how­ever (and here Pareto is in agree­ment), partly due to the polit­i­cal monopoly of par­lia­men­tary par­ties, the pop­u­la­tion ori­ents itself on the one hand towards par­lia­men­tary pol­i­tics and coop­er­a­tion between gov­ern­ment and par­lia­ment, and on the other hand towards the con­fronta­tion between gov­ern­ment and oppo­si­tion that sees the light of day in par­lia­ment, a real ele­ment of dom­i­na­tion emerges from this fic­tion. The West Ger­man par­lia­ment [Bun­destag] is nei­ther mas­ter of the peo­ple nor a leg­is­la­tor rep­re­sent­ing the peo­ple.

Rather, par­lia­ment is active as a con­sti­tu­tion­ally indis­pens­able instru­ment for pub­li­ciz­ing deci­sions made through coop­er­a­tion between the state appa­ra­tus and social pres­sure groups [Macht­grup­pen]. It thus acts as the trans­mis­sion belt for the deci­sions of oli­garchi­cal groups. These groups (the lead­ing groups of the sphere of pro­duc­tion – oli­gop­oly – but also of the cul­tural spheres - eg. churches) find them­selves thor­oughly and con­cretely rep­re­sented in par­lia­ment, pro­vided that par­lia­ment acts and func­tions as the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of dom­i­na­tion. Only as such is par­lia­ment reward­ing and accept­able to bour­geois-cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety. When it pro­vides for the incur­sion of an eman­ci­pa­tory coun­ter­vail­ing power, that is, when the trans­for­ma­tion does not suc­ceed, the rul­ing class grasps for the more sev­ere means of its own self-rep­re­sen­ta­tion. See, for exam­ple, Greece.8


This means that the per­spec­tive of a “sys­tem-imma­nent” evo­lu­tion of par­lia­men­tar­i­an­ism fails due to its own ten­dency towards invo­lu­tion, which is sys­tem­at­i­cally deter­mined by its func­tion of dom­i­na­tion. Devel­op­ments in still-unin­te­grated soci­eties show how over the long run this ten­dency towards invo­lu­tion is more effec­tive than the poten­tial to exploit par­lia­ment for its rep­re­sen­ta­tive func­tion. The fun­da­men­tally oppo­si­tional par­ties which play the par­lia­men­tary game, rather than tak­ing part in extra-par­lia­men­tary strug­gle as the essen­tial means for con­test­ing dom­i­na­tion, are threat­ened with los­ing their eman­ci­pa­tory qual­ity and of trans­form­ing into bureau­cratic appa­ra­tuses of inte­gra­tion. In other words, the polit­i­cal as well as (why not?) the moral down­fall of social democ­racy (a his­tor­i­cal betrayal of humanity’s lib­er­a­tion) is a warn­ing sign for the social­ist and com­mu­nist par­ties in the cap­i­tal­ist coun­tries.

Each par­lia­men­tary reform that is real­ized within states ori­ented towards invo­lu­tion serves not to expand the pos­si­bil­ity for the masses to take part in deci­sion-mak­ing processes, but rather to con­tain that pos­si­bil­ity by inten­si­fy­ing parliament’s func­tion of dom­i­na­tion. Even where there exists a polit­i­cal artic­u­la­tion of a free pub­lic sphere, it can­not use par­lia­ment as a tool to imple­ment itself prac­ti­cally.

This applies not only to the antag­o­nis­tic pub­lic sphere but also at times even to the crit­i­cal pub­lic sphere. Both must seek their polit­i­cal medi­a­tion in extra- and, in the wider course of the refunc­tion­ing of par­lia­ment, anti-cap­i­tal­ist orga­ni­za­tions and orga­ni­za­tional forms. It is up for debate whether the trans­for­ma­tion of democ­racy can still be reversed. Today most groups of the extra-par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion tend towards this posi­tion.

How­ever, two things must be con­sid­ered here:

1. A detailed analy­sis of the Basic Law must first of all clar­ify whether and to what extent the de-democ­ra­ti­za­tion of the Fed­eral Repub­lic was already intended in its con­sti­tu­tion.

2. Nei­ther the will to power and cor­rupt­ibil­ity of the politi­cians nor the depoliti­ciza­tion of the masses are the causes of the trans­for­ma­tion. It is, rather, a neces­sity for a cap­i­tal­ism that seeks its own sal­va­tion by orga­niz­ing itself through means of the state. The return to the purity of the Basic Law would be a return to the ini­tial con­di­tions of the trans­for­ma­tion itself. It may be that the restora­tion or the defense of basic rights con­sti­tutes an essen­tial pre­req­ui­site for the strug­gle against dom­i­na­tion and exploita­tion. Basic rights, how­ever, do not eman­ci­pate the masses so long as we have a bour­geois soci­ety and a cap­i­tal­ist mode of pro­duc­tion whose state pre­cisely does not provide for the eman­ci­pa­tory use of these rights.

Under the con­di­tions of orga­nized cap­i­tal­ism, as paci­fied and inte­grated by the state, it is rather the polit­i­cal recov­ery of antag­o­nism – and this means the actu­al­iza­tion of the class strug­gle and the dis­in­te­gra­tion of soci­ety – that is the first step towards the real­iza­tion of democ­racy.


The polit­i­cal recov­ery of antag­o­nism is the cur­rent task of the extra-par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion. A few clar­i­fi­ca­tions are nec­es­sary here:

1. Extra-par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion is not fun­da­men­tally – in either prac­ti­cal or con­cep­tual terms – anti-par­lia­men­tary. It is rather the nor­mal form of par­tic­i­pa­tion for groups dis­sat­is­fied by the polit­i­cal life of par­lia­men­tary democ­racy, and indeed a sup­port for and an exten­sion of the pol­i­tics of oppo­si­tional par­lia­men­tary par­ties. It there­fore rep­re­sents the social power of the par­lia­men­tary fronts – inso­far as they can be said to exist, that is to say, inso­far as the par­lia­men­tary fronts, for their part, effec­tively mir­ror social fronts.

2. Because social oppo­si­tional groups and par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tion do not thor­oughly coin­cide, con­flicts can arise at any time between the extra-par­lia­men­tary and par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion (just as much, inci­den­tally, as they can between rul­ing groups and majori­ties and a given par­lia­men­tary major­ity, in prac­ti­cal terms with a given gov­ern­ment). Such a con­flict can extend across the entire par­lia­ment when it leads to con­fronta­tions between the pub­lic sphere and state organs. In such rare cases, the pub­lic sphere, as com­plete oppo­si­tion to the con­sti­tu­tional organs (to which the par­ties also belong), exerts a pres­sure that indeed can func­tion as “par­lia­men­tary coer­cion.” For exam­ple: in the Spiegel Affair it was not the Bun­destag that forced Min­is­ter Strauß to resign, but rather the mobi­lized pub­lic sphere that forced the minister’s recusal and in the end his inglo­ri­ous depar­ture. A fur­ther exam­ple of “par­lia­men­tary coer­cion” was the Tele­phone Charge Affair, when the Bild-Zeitung effec­tively recalled the Bun­destag from the par­lia­men­tary hol­i­day.

3. In the course of cer­tain polit­i­cal processes, how­ever, a tran­si­tion in the extra-par­lia­men­tary strug­gle can occur. That the oppo­si­tion, which has in this way become anti-par­lia­men­tary, gets labeled anti-demo­c­ra­tic is due partly to the unjus­ti­fied iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of democ­racy with par­lia­men­tary for­mal­ism, and partly to the method by which par­lia­men­tary par­ties name them­selves the sole foun­da­tions of the demo­c­ra­tic state. Rather, inso­far as par­lia­ments func­tion anti-demo­c­ra­t­i­cally, despite demo­c­ra­tic elec­tions, the strug­gle for democ­racy must be pushed into anti-par­lia­men­tary praxis. This may some­times be directed towards par­tial aspects of the par­lia­men­tary par­ties: a par­lia­ment must be crit­i­cized as a whole, attacked in case of pas­siv­ity, when for exam­ple its pres­i­dent lies pub­licly with­out being held account­able in par­lia­ment. Here it is evi­dent, inci­den­tally, that the tran­si­tion to an anti-par­lia­men­tary posi­tion is tightly con­nected to the fail­ure of par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion par­ties.

4. If the invo­lu­tion of the par­lia­men­tary sys­tem of gov­ern­ment towards the author­i­tar­ian form of dom­i­na­tion has already extended very far (as it has in the Fed­eral Repub­lic), so too does the extra-par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion gain a new qual­ity that results from the con­flict with the new qual­ity of par­lia­ment. This con­sists – neg­a­tively – in the lack of a con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sion for pop­u­lar rep­re­sen­ta­tion and in the lack of over­sight and a pub­lic sphere. Pos­i­tively, the new qual­ity con­sists in the trans­for­ma­tion of par­lia­ment into a rep­re­sen­ta­tional organ of dom­i­na­tion. The peo­ple, who are no longer rep­re­sented, or at the very least the groups and classes that are no longer rep­re­sented, must take mat­ters into their own hands for the sake of democ­racy. It is their right to par­tic­i­pate in polit­i­cal deci­sion-mak­ing processes. If par­lia­ment becomes an instru­ment for cur­tail­ing this right, the extra-par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion, as the bypro­duct of a par­lia­men­tarism that is still capa­ble of being demo­c­ra­tic, thus con­sti­tutes the coun­ter­weight to a par­lia­men­tarism that has become anti-demo­c­ra­tic.

5. The pos­si­bil­i­ties of polit­i­cal praxis for the extra-par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion dif­fer from soci­ety to soci­ety. Con­sider the weight and sig­nif­i­cance of the polit­i­cal clubs in France, which by now have estab­lished them­selves as rec­og­nized oppo­nents of the offi­cial organs. Or the Repub­li­can Club in West Berlin, which rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the offi­cial bod­ies (and the semi-offi­cial power of the press) some­times label as an orga­nizer of “ter­ror” and – most recently – as a cen­ter for spy­ing. In many west­ern coun­tries it has become a work­ing prin­ci­ple for the extra-par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion to pur­sue cen­tral cam­paigns rep­re­sent­ing polit­i­cal aims and ideas that either find no hear­ing in par­lia­ments, or which par­lia­ments fight against. One cen­tral cam­paign in the future may have to do with gain­ing offi­cial recog­ni­tion for the Ger­man Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic.9 

Such cen­tral cam­paigns have a weak­ness, how­ever: they prop­a­gate gen­eral ideas and can only speak to and mobi­lize gen­eral polit­i­cal inter­ests. They will thus only be suc­cess­ful and con­sti­tute a con­crete coun­ter-power against anti-demo­c­ra­tic invo­lu­tion ten­den­cies if they bind them­selves to the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the par­tic­u­lar mate­rial inter­ests of the depen­dent masses. Here too the way of ideas ini­tially goes the way of needs. Here too the Idea dis­graces itself if it shies away from alliance with mate­rial inter­ests. Those who rule seem to under­stand this rela­tion bet­ter than the “rebels” of West Berlin. While some groups of the extra-par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion still ori­ent them­selves to Marcuse’s the­ses on mar­gin­al­ized groups and have writ­ten off the work­ing class, the Fed­eral Board of Ger­man Indus­try [Bun­desvor­stand der Deutschen Indus­trie, or BDI] demands, as a con­di­tion for invest­ing, that the Sen­ate of West Berlin impede sol­i­dar­ity between work­ers and stu­dents.

6. And lastly a note on the meth­ods of the extra-par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion. If it suc­ceeds in set­ting the masses in motion and in this way par­tially and tem­porar­ily par­a­lyzes or irri­tates the state appa­ra­tus, it will be accused of want­ing to mobi­lize “the street.” It is gen­er­ally accepted that “pres­sure from the street” directed at freely elected par­lia­ments is a sev­ere offense against the con­sti­tu­tion and democ­racy. The ques­tion is sim­ply when pres­sure is per­mis­si­ble and appears accept­able. Every seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion must seek to use its own means to be heard. If the extra-par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion writes a let­ter to the mayor of West Berlin no atten­tion will be paid to it. No atten­tion is paid to stu­dents who demand par­lia­men­tary action and edu­ca­tional reforms through peti­tions. A let­ter from Mr. Fritz Berg10 or a report of the BDI, how­ever, always receives atten­tion and response. Polit­i­cally, though, the pres­sure of a BDI report (fun­da­men­tally, a “go-in” by mail) on the West Berlin Par­lia­ment is dis­pro­por­tion­ately stronger and more inci­sive than a go-in of a few dozen stu­dents and assorted “agi­ta­tors” [“Drahtziehern”]. Part of the rul­ing mechanism’s per­fidy is that it presents pres­sure from the upper class as noble rec­om­men­da­tion, and pres­sure from below as mob-like coer­cion.

“Pres­sure from the street” is the legit­i­mate means of an extra-par­lia­men­tary oppo­si­tion whose peti­tions that play by the rules of social order always end up in the waste­bas­ket of par­lia­ment and the gov­ern­ment.

– Trans­lated by Michael Shane Boyle and Daniel Spauld­ing

  1. Trans­la­tors’ note: Founded in 1967 in West Berlin by Agnoli and other fig­ures such as Hans Mag­nus Enzens­berger and William Borm, the Repub­li­can Club was a key space for dis­cus­sion and debate in the West Ger­man stu­dent move­ment and the broader extra-par­lia­men­tary Left. All fur­ther foot­notes are by the trans­la­tors. 

  2. The Grundge­setz or Basic Law is the con­sti­tu­tion of the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Ger­many that came into effect on May 23, 1949. It estab­lished West Ger­many as a sov­er­eign nation inde­pen­dent from both the Allied occu­py­ing pow­ers and the social­ist Ger­man Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic. 

  3. Vil­fredo Pareto (1848-1923), Ital­ian econ­o­mist whose the­o­ries influ­enced fas­cist poli­cies. 

  4. In Ger­many the term Volkspartei describes a type of polit­i­cal party whose mem­ber­ship tran­scends social lines such as class or reli­gion. The SPD’s trans­for­ma­tion with the 1959 Godes­borg Pro­gram from a worker’s party into a Volkspartei was still a fresh mem­ory for the West Ger­man Left when Agnoli wrote this essay. 

  5. The rul­ing party in the Ger­man Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic (East Ger­many) was known as the Sozial­is­tis­che Ein­heitspartei, or Social­ist Unity Party. It was cre­ated in the country’s Soviet-occu­pied zone in 1946 as a merger of the Social Demo­c­ra­tic Party of Ger­many (SPD) with the Ger­man Com­mu­nist Party (KPD). 

  6. This quote from Hans Kelsen is not cited in Agnoli’s orig­i­nal essay. It comes from Hans Kelsen, Vom Wesen und Wert der Demokratie (Tübin­gen: Mohr, 1929), 25; 30. The trans­la­tion from Ger­man is our own. 

  7. Agnoli is speak­ing of Ger­hard Leib­holz (1901-1982), an influ­en­tial Ger­man legal scholar and jurist who served on West Germany’s con­sti­tu­tional court from 1951 to 1971.  

  8. This refers to the Greek mil­i­tary junta that began on 21 April 1967 and which would last until 24 July 1974. 

  9. The Ger­man Demo­c­ra­tic Repub­lic had no offi­cial sta­tus in the Fed­eral Repub­lic of Ger­many at the time Agnoli was writ­ing. Nor­mal­iza­tion of rela­tions with East Ger­many would take place under the aegis of the so-called Ost­poli­tik (East­ern Pol­icy) of Chan­cel­lor Willy Brandt, in office 1969-1974. 

  10. Fritz Berg was a promi­nent Ger­man indus­tri­al­ist and the first pres­i­dent of the BDI. 

Author of the article

was a militant and theorist whose book Die Transformation der Demokratie, co-authored with Peter Brückner, played a fundamental role in the German New Left.