Much as it was with the fighting KPD and SA brown-shirts in the collapsing days of the Weimar Republic, violence is thought to be in the cards for Berlin. The only difference between these leftists and Liebknecht or Hitler’s leftist thugs is that they really don’t have anything to really fight over.
The headlines are there almost every morning: BMW burnt, VW set alight, a Mercedes torched. Almost nightly, somewhere in Berlin, a vehicle is set on fire in what police say are political statements by an increasingly militant left-wing. Around 170 cars have gone up in flames this year; and earlier this month, police vehicles became the latest targets. The really funny part of all of this is that it isn’t happening to nearly the same degree in the former east Berlin, but rather in the traditional land of the fantasy-radicals and “mall punks”. The other funny thing is that the Berlin Brigade booked out of Tempelhof more than a decade ago, leaving its’ heritage to the Prussians who paraded there, and the Nazis building Lufthansa’s rep there.
Additionally, during May Day celebrations this year the traditional scuffle between left-wing protestors and police became unusually violent. Leftists also recently staged a demonstration at Berlin's defunct downtown Tempelhof airport.
The Army as the left would have it. Oohrah!
Is Wowereit Fanning the Flames?
"The capital's mayor is stirring things up against the police and then using (them) his employees as cannon fodder during large protests," Wendt told SPIEGEL ONLINE, referring to this year's May Day demonstrations in Berlin when more than double the number of police were injured than the previous year and local police chiefs were blamed for not being more forceful. Not only that, Wendt said, but parts of Wowereit's administration -- the governing coalition pairs the center-left Social Democrats with the far-left Left Party -- were openly sympathetic to the left-wing extremists. "That's not really a shot in the arm for my colleagues. A lot of Berlin police have had enough," Wendt said. But there really isn’t anything new about this. Berlin has always enjoyed it’s educational head-wounds as much as it’s enjoyed being unenthusiastic about the perversions and misperceptions that were most easily at hand.
Writer Christopher Isherwood saw in 1932 what is largely still true about anything that seems “big” or “dangerous” there.
"Wasn't Berlin's famous `decadence' largely a commercial `line' which the Berliners had instinctively developed in their competition with Paris? Paris had long since cornered the straight-girl market, so what was left for Berlin to offer its visitors but a masquerade of perversions?"A masquerade, not unlike the prospect of Kabuki protests and Kabuki violence, when they then couldn’t tell where the risk of social destruction was until too late because of the ideological filter that they were seeing everything through. It was all repetition. Standard fare. Just like Berliner “youts” going at it today, in 1980, 1970, or in the 1930’s.
Christopher Isherwood, gamely hanging on in the city, lost touch with most of his gay friends. The more prudent ones, he guessed, were lying low, while a few "silly ones fluttered around town exclaiming how sexy the Storm Troopers looked in their uniforms." One pair of homosexual lovers, believing that "Germany was entering an era of military man-love,"I mean, like, what a legacy. Too bad nothing has changed. The ritual bred boredom and silliness then, and it went on until it was too late. Now, the ritual breeds boredom to the extent that whatever it is that these black-shirts, ignorant of the ideology that claim to anyway, are fighting over nothing – or nothing more than a symbolic point of disagreement with civilization.
The problem comes in when the meaning is gone, the marches are nothing more than a day in the fresh air, and the minds are numb. It doesn’t take much for a new Fascism of the moral framework to step right in.
"Let's hope 1929 brings us plenty of struggle, friction, and sparks," wrote the left-wing playwright Friedrich Wolf in late 1928. Wolf got his wish: 1929, of course, was the year of the great stock crash on Wall Street, which had devastating consequences for Germany and Berlin. But 1929 had generated plenty of "sparks" in Berlin even before the October financial fire in New York leaped across the Atlantic to do its damage in Europe. Looking back, we can see that it was the beginning of the end for Weimar democracy.
- David Clay Large, “Berlin”
And it was all, in reality, over nothing. Any intelligent observer could tell you that the Communists and the Nazis would be handing that genuinely exhausted and exploited population the exact same thing.
If only the clown army that will be wrecking the city this fall could be broad enough to realize that.