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Claus Sterneck / Claus in Iceland
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Wolfgang Sterneck
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Wolfgang Sterneck


The dream of a society which is no longer based on the destruction of nature and man. A society in which exploitation, oppression, and the dominion of man over man is abolished.

The dream of a society in which the authoritarian and patriarchal way of thinking is overcome. A society in which decisions are made through self-determination and values like solidarity and community stand above competition and egoism.

In the last decades in the industrialized states, in the capitalistic as in the so called real-socialistic states, this dream has been held mainly by rebellious young people. In them, a flicker of the flame which has gone out in most adults is still alive.

Again and again the same process can be observed: A new generation of young people is growing up. Different mechanisms like the authoritarian education in families and schools, and manipulation of the mass media, especially TV, are intended to take from them their ability to dream. They are pushed to adapt themselves, to submit, and to conform to existing conditions. In short, to become functioning wheels in the gigantic machine.

The dream or at least the attempt to begin to make it come true, must collide with existing expectations. The young people’s reaction are rebellion and attempts to escape. Some rebel consciously, others seek refuge in drugs, alcohol, crime or the pseudo world of media.

Often the rebellions were closely connected with musical styles, such as Punk in England, HipHop in the United States or Rai in Algeria. This music was an expression of the rebellious social atmosphere. But the music industry turned its subversive character into a commercial one. As a result of this development, the main parts of the movement were integrated.

All these movements, especially the consciousness rebellions in the seventies and eighties, like the Kraaker-movement in Amsterdam, the city-Indians in Italy or the autonomous squatters in West-Berlin were concerned with developing social free areas in which a different life, an approach to the dreams of a free society, would be possible.

In some cases new forms of living together were tried out. The patriarchal structures of families, and, to some extent, the relationships of couples, were basically called into question, and criticized as the germ-cell of the bourgeois state. As opposite models, flat-sharing communities and communes developed in which people live together on an equal basis.

Moreover, sexuality played a decisive role. Existing norms were rejected and a free approach to sexuality without taboos was demanded. This also includes the rejection of repressive regulations, for instance against homosexual men and women.

A very important aspect was the emancipation of women. The suppression of women is still normal in the whole of society, that is, in the system as well as in the private area. But also rebellious movements often reflected this situation or only went a step forward to the real liberation of women.

The prospect of working a whole life long in an alienated way, about eight hours or even more every day, provoked disgust and basic doubts were cast on the sense of such a life. Most movements set imagination against this monotony of daily life.

Basic elements of the political-awareness rebellions were the radical rejection of the ruling capitalistic and imperialistic economic order and the political structure of the state, which suppresses the possibility of a self-determined life. Sometimes parts of these movements fought on a militant and armed level.

Ultimately none of these movements prevailed, some of them were repressed very brutally, while others were integrated in a subtle way. Nevertheless, traces have remained from each movement.

The freedom-movements are not only a phenomenon on the capitalistic states. They are based on a human need and they come up in every repressive system - including the repressive so called real-socialistic systems.

This year we had the non-violent protests of thousands young people at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. The protests ended in a massacre. The Chinese army killed several hundred people. The Communist Party (which is not communist at all), unmasked itself in a bloody way.

Scientists often try to explain such youth rebellions with the so-called generation gap, which means that the rebellions result from a different age, different development and experience of the generations. But the purpose of this explanation has been to divert attention from the real reasons for the conflict between a system in which the dream cannot be realized, and a system whose basic principles are opposed to this repression.

At the present time there are few perspectives for change; environmental destruction, manipulation, repression, exploitation, famine and war, are considered normal. A first step is a consequent refusal in opposition to the ruling destructive structures in the capitalistic states as in the so called real-socialistic states.

This refusal can only develop its real strength if it’s concerned with different forms of resistance, from unmasking ‘information’ to direct action. In addition, the development of countercultural free areas is an essential element. Free areas which are an expression of inner and outer change as well as a starting point of the fight for the dream.

The poet Günter Eich once wrote ”Sing the songs, they don’t expect you to sing. Be uncomfortable, be sand not oil in the engine of the world...”

It’s a long and hard way and it seems that there’s not much hope. But if it’s possible to develop the courage to change and the power to fight, then there is a chance to go a step further on the way to realize the dream.

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(Parts of a speech by Wolfgang Sterneck which was held at the 13th World Festival of Youth and Students, 1–8 July 1989 in Pyongyang, DPR Korea.)

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