Slobodian, Quinn. Foreign Front: Third World Politics in Sixties West Germany. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012. xii + 304 pp. Paper, $24.95.
Among the most important recent studies of West Germany's 1968 movements have been those, like works by historians Martin Klimke and Ingrid Gilcher-Holtey, which place the tumultuous events of that period in transnational context. Yet while such studies deftly demonstrate the connections between the West German student movement and its counterparts in other Western states, they typically privilege the relationship between the Federal Republic and the United States, arguing that West Germans took the American student movement as its primary inspiration. However, as historian Quinn Slobodian notes in his impressive Foreign Front, such a view ignores the impact of the Third World on West German students years before the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in America.
In foregrounding the importance of Third World students, Slobodian calls attention to a neglected but crucial chapter of West Germany's New Left's evolution. Blending intellectual, cultural, and social history, he draws on a broad range of sources to investigate this topic, including government documents, periodicals, pamphlets, flyers, films, photographs, books, and other archival materials. The book proceeds roughly chronologically through several key developments in the relationship between West Germany's New Left and the Third World in the 1960s.
Slobodian begins with the striking fact that in the early 1960s there were ten times as many students at West German universities from Asia, Africa, and Latin America as from the United States. In contrast to scholars who construe the Third World's impact on West German student as a mere "projection screen" (p. 10), Slobodian asserts that personal collaboration with foreign students played a crucial role in politicizing West Germans and teaching them new forms of political action. To this end, foreign students in the early 1960s utilized liberal idioms of human rights and thereby successfully mobilized thousands of West German students in protests against the murder of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba, South African apartheid, and the closing of Tehran University. In this way, the Federal Republic became a "foreign front" in the fight for political freedom in their homelands.
Expanding on these personal connections, Slobodian traces the crucial impact Latin American students had on Rudi Dutschke...