Rocking Against the Right: Political Activism and Popular Music in West Germany, 1979–1980

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The article examines radical cultural politics by focusing on the West German initiative of Rock gegen Rechts (‘Rock Against the Right’). This campaign involved concerts, publications and demonstrations, most notably the staging of two large-scale festivals in Frankfurt/Main in 1979 and 1980. Rock Against Racism – launched in Britain in 1976 – served as a model for the activists. Yet Rock gegen Rechts differed from its British counterpart in significant ways, both in terms of the political and musical currents that sustained the campaign and with regard to the object of protest.

Through the prism of Rock gegen Rechts, the article shows how campaigners debated the nature of ‘the right’ – an important subject in a country whose fascist past figured prominently in public debate. The campaign occurred at a critical juncture of the German left, as the latter underwent seemingly contradictory processes of fragmentation and coalition-building during the late 1970s. The article explores a left-wing milieu that was associated with music and alternative lifestyles, but also with a nascent green movement. Moreover, the example of Rock gegen Rechts sheds fresh light on the interaction between music and politics on the one side, and between music, commerce and consumption on the other.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-183
JournalHistory Workshop Journal
Early online date5 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


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