Archiv für Sozialgeschichte
Band XLIII/ 2003 - Summaries

Axel Schildt,

"The Powers Opposed to Reform have lined up along a wide Front" On the Tendenzwende in the 1970s

If the 1970s can be characterised, as usually happens in the first attempts at interpretation, as a decade of liberalisation and a strong Social Democracy, as a "red decade" even, the question emerges, where exactly the roots of the 1982/83 change in power can be found, which was characterised at the time, somewhat excessively, as a political-moral turning point. This essay takes a different perspective and asks for the stages in the reconstruction of conservatism, analysing the efforts to establish the hegemony of conservative thought in West-German society since the early 1970s. At first, the Bund Freiheit der Wissenschaft as a defensive coalition movement against the spirit of 1968 is looked at in more detail, as is their struggle against the Neue Ostpolitik (the new policy of détente towards Eastern Europe). This struggle was an understandable but strategic mistake - an understandable mistake, because the political left in Western Germany and the world-revolutionary hegemonic interests of the Soviet Union were perceived as one singular menace; a strategic mistake, because the majority of the population was increasingly opposed to the Bund's struggle. The definite Tendenzwende (Political Change towards Conservatism), supported by numerous new magazines and other media, is assumed to have occurred in the years 1973/74, which marked the end of the economic boom of the post-war years and of a political culture of optimism. Now, in a mood of perpetual crisis and of general depression, conservative thought was rehabilitated, accompanied by the conversion of several formerly liberal intellectuals and by the renaissance of the Union parties (CDU/CSU), which, in the 1970s, were able to catch up with the Social Democrats in terms of membership organisation, and which began to enjoy tremendous electoral successes, while simultaneously having to overcome considerable strategic and tactical difficulties. With the discourse on "internal security" and in the context of the discussion on basic values, which was conducted from the middle of the decade, conservative thought could find increasing public resonance, which makes the aforementioned characterisations of the 1970's appear rather inadequate.


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