Climate of distrust (daily newspaper Junge Welt)

GEW demonstration against teacher unemployment in Essen (May 12, 1976)

In 2017, the Hamburg regional association of the education and science union held an event on professional bans with historian Alexandra Jaeger, who wrote her dissertation on this topic. The idea arose to have the related issue of incompatibility decisions (UVB) examined using the example of the GEW Hamburg. The research contract went to Jaeger, who is now presenting its results in book form.

The deputy chairman of the GEW Hamburg, Fredrik Dehnerdt, reminds in his foreword that the federal GEW apologized for the introduction and implementation of the UVB in 2012 and then summarizes the results of the study with approval: The UVB went back “to a mixture of generational upheavals, political conflicts and anti-communist hysteria”. The GEW Hamburg played a pioneering role as a regional association and applied a procedure that it had rightly criticized with regard to the professional bans: Instead of taking the question of possible union-damaging behavior of those concerned as a guideline, it was about membership in parties. The “principle of trade union solidarity” had been violated.

According to Jaeger, the GEW Hamburg had the reputation of “a conservative teachers’ association” in the 1960s. This changed on various levels around 1968. Erich Frister, who was still on the left at the time, was elected as GEW federal chairman this year. The Young Teachers and Educators Committee (AjLE) became a collecting pool for the left in the Hamburg GEW. At the same time, the state of Hamburg tightened its pace towards leftists in civil service. In November 1971, the teacher Heike Gohl was dismissed as a »DKP and SDAJ sympathizer« for political reasons – even before the »radical decree« of 1972.

At the DGB level – initially based on IG Metall – the UVB’s policy began in April 1973 with left-wing trade unionists who invoked the tradition of communist RGO policy in the late phase of the Weimar Republic. On October 1st, 1973 the DGB issued an UVB against various Maoist groups. The GEW Hamburg took over the UVB of the DGB without necessity. The chairman Dieter Wunder, who had been striving for integration up to that point, now spoke of “left-fascist forces” that must be countered. One reason for this: In the Hamburg GEW a conservative group (“The Alternative”) gained popularity, which should be kept in line. The GEW-Bund wrote the UVB in its statutes in 1974. Frister asked the regional associations to name the people to be excluded.

Now the new top of the GEW Hamburg under the chairman Dietrich Lemke, who was elected with a left majority, was in a tight spot: It was supposed to execute guidelines that it did not support. The »solution«: the »5-member commission«, which discussed questions of exclusion and admission of members in advance. In the years that followed, the practice in Hamburg “liberalized” itself and the move away from the UVB also began in the Federal GEW. However, this process also reflected the decline of the radical left in the Federal Republic since the late 1970s; the problem of exclusions from the GEW became less explosive. At the same time, politicians such as the then First Mayor Hans-Ulrich Klose (SPD) distanced themselves from the radical decision.

The section in Jaeger’s book is particularly worth reading in which she evaluates four interviews under the heading “The Logics of Incompatibility: Procedures and Persons Affected”. This is not just about exclusion, but also about non-acceptance or denial of legal protection. On the one hand, patterns for radicalization (in terms of the UVB) can be identified. In addition, it becomes clear that – keyword: violations of “the principle of trade union solidarity” – the denial of legal protection meant a sharp intervention in the life planning of those affected: It became materially impossible for them to sue against non-employment in the public service. In this respect, it was window dressing when the GEW argued that exclusions did not lead to professional bans. Like the professional bans, the UVB created “a climate of mistrust and denunciation”.

Jaeger’s work combines thorough source study with the ability to analyze. It is certainly an advantage that the author belongs to a younger generation and does not first have to ignore her own experiences in order to arrive at a balanced judgment. The fact that this in turn does not lead to a “pseudo-objectivity” towards the events is due to their ability to empathize with the living conditions of an older generation.


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