Konferenz “This Town Is Gonna Blow…” European Protest Movements and Society in the 1980s


May 6-8, 2010: Thirty years after the Bremen “Bundeswehrkrawalle” European protest movements of the 1980s will be the subject of an international academic conference

On May 6th 1980, a group of new recruits was publicly sworn in with the German Bundeswehr in the Bremen soccer stadium. As a reaction, street battles of hitherto unknown dimensions between left-wing activists and (military) police took place in the area near the stadium. Viewed in the following years as the beginning of the German autonomous movement, this inner city riot marked at the same time a European phenomenon.

A week earlier the coronation day of the Dutch Queen Beatrix had seen the squatting of several houses and the building of barricades in the city of Amsterdam; at the end of May the so-called Opernhauskrawalle shook the city of Zurich; race riots worried the British public shortly thereafter.

The Bremen Bundeswehrkrawalle seem to have been part of a newly forming protest movement which was characterized by militancy and an attitude of non-cooperation, a concern for urban spatial politics, and its interpretation as a youth phenomenon.

In the states of the Warsaw Pact important protest movements existed as well – from Polish Solidarnosc to the East German peace movement – while the political conditions differed significantly. And while Western consumer goods became the object of desire of many critics of the “actually existing socialism”, a growing “alternative” milieu in the West formulated a fundamental critique of consumption.

Thirty years after the Bremen Bundeswehrkrawalle an international academic conference will explore these new protest movements. It will explore questions of identity and consumption, of the significance of the media, transnationalism and urban space for these newly formed protest movements. It further aims to situate these movements in their overall context of beginning neoliberalism, conservative turn, and the so called “Second Cold War”.

The conference takes place at the Gästehaus der Universität Bremen, Auf dem Teerhof 58. All presentations will be held in English.

A public panel discussion on the Bundeswehrkrawalle (in German) will take place on May 7, 2010, 7:30 p.m. at the Kulturzentrum Schlachthof. It will be followed by a screening of the film “Züri brännt” (CH 1980).