Spaßguerilla – literally fun guerrilla – is a particular creative concept that emerged within the 1960s German student protest movement. Agitating for social change, a more libertarian, less authoritarian and less materialistic society, Spaßguerilla was all about using tactics characterised by disrespectful humour and provocative actions; happening, “pudding attacks” civil disobedience and diverse other attempts to mock the routines of ordinary politics in a rigid and conservative West Germany. The translation in English of “Blödoje in Fünf Thesen für die Spaßguerilla” (The moderately unreasonable plea for the five theses on Fun Guerrilla), a document printed in 1984 and republished in 2001 by the German publisher Unrast Verlag, is introduced by a brief memo to the radical and anti-authoritarian protest in 1960s Germany and its legacies.
Germany might be seen by many Britons as the world’s least funny country. It might even been a fairly widespread belief across Europe. Yet it was in post-World War II Germany that the creative concept of Spaßguerilla – literally fun guerrilla – emerged. Can we have fun while protesting? For a number of German students involved in the 1960s protest movement, the answer was “yes, we must” (AG Spass muß sein!). Happening, “pudding attacks” civil disobedience and diverse other attempts to mock the routines of ordinary politics appeared alongside the creation of the Kommune (K1) in 1967 within the extra parliamentary opposition (APO) of the German student movement.
Creative and radical Protest in 1960 Germany
Kommune I was a very short two years-long experience of politically motivated commune in Germany aimed at challenging the essentials of bourgeois life: wage work and family. Between 1967 and 1969, the so-called K1 was literally a cocktail of French and Scandinavian Situationism, Dutch Provo, American tactics of direct action and civil disobedience, with a hint of revised Eastern Bloc Marxism and Central European traditions of psychoanalysis, a drop of revolutionary theory and Third World international solidarity mixed with pop culture. As Timothy Scott highlights it well,
The activists of the so-called Kommune I attempted to live theory, incorporating Situationism’s concern with daily life with its emphasis on shattering the complacent assumptions of capitalist normality. In doing so, they upset the apple cart of sober theoretical student politics, dragging the chief West German student movement kicking and screaming into a new realm of play, pranks, and provocations”
While Rudi Dutschke, the most prominent spokesperson of the German student movement was talking of 2Stadtguerilla” (urban guerrilla) in order to create a radical political change, Fritz Teufel, one of the creators of the Kommune 1, coined the concept of “Spaßguerilla” (fun guerrilla).
Humour became more than a protest tactic: it was a strategic resource to question and delegitimize the given social order”
For its users, fun guerrilla was more than just a carnival spirit. It was a form of radical clowning, a way of revealing the codes of a conservative society and subverting them, disrupting the quiescent mundanity of politics and enhancing everyone’s self-awareness of the necessity to change the society radically. One could say that Spaßguerilla was an anarcho-spiritualistic form of social criticism moved forward by highly creative and crazy forms of impertinence.
Fun guerrilla from the German backwoods to Global movement
That particular anti-authoritarian satire and hedonist credo of the Kommune was a continual source of irritation for many across not only the German bourgeois society but also among the student movement itself. For many German leftist at the time, Spaßguerilla epitomized the worse lack of concern for the real political matters and its followers of K1 were very often viewed as self-indulgent hippies more interested by Jimi Hendrix rather than by social emancipation and the critique of modern capitalism.
The carnivalesque aspect of Spaßguerilla did not disappeared with the end of the Kommune in 1969. The forms of provocative and disruptive protest invented by the Spaßguerilla were later adopted by the peace movement of the 1980s and as a key tactic for the global anti-capitalist mass actions during the 1990s. The originally London-based Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army (CIRCA) might the latest version with its “militia of authentic fools and its battalions of true buffoons” combining the “ancient art of clowning with tactics of non-violent direct action”.
Introduction to the translation
As one could expect, the original German text republished in 2001 by the Munster-based politicised publisher Unrast Verlag [https://www.unrast-verlag.de/] is not only highly theoretical but also full of amusing but complicated formulations, starting with the title itself: Blödoje in Fünf Thesen für die Spaßguerilla. The word Blödoje is a very ingenious pun. It is a derogative version of “Plädoyer” (from the French word “plaidoyer”, a plea in English) that builds on both “blöd” (literally stupid or funny) and the interjection “oje”, an expression of dismay or concern (such as oh dear!). The moderately unreasonable plea preserves somewhat the witty original German formulation or invention. Spaßguerilla is also a delicate word to translate. Spaß means “fun” in German and as such it would be appropriate to translate Spaßguerilla by “fun guerrilla”. However, I would suggest here that the word “distraction” would be more suitable. “Distraction” understood in the double meaning of “divertissement” in French; to make fun (entertainment) and to turn away or to divert from. Two other notions used in the original text deserve some explanations: Die identitätsdiffusion and verfremdungen (see thesis 4). Die identitätsdiffusion is a concept used by the psychologist Erik H. Erikson. It is very often translated by identity formation, personality or identity development. Verfremdungen could be translated as alienation but alienation in the sense of the German playwright Bertolt Brecht’s theory of Verfremdungseffekt, also known as V-effekt, alienation effect, distantiation or distancing effect. I used “distancing” and translated Kritishe verfremdungen by “skilful self-critique”.
Finally, any translation requires also some understanding of the cultural background. While it would be beyond the scope of that blog entrance to offer any comprehensive view about the intellectual and political context of such a text, it might be worth to say at least a word on the final fifth thesis. “Germany must die, so that we may live”. This is a sentence that could be easily misinterpreted as a straightforward call to arms if not properly contextualised. Actually, it is a reverse sequence of the exclamation one can find at the end of a famous German poem, a “Soldier’s farewell” (Soldatenlied), written by the poet Heinrich Lersch who became an enthusiastic supporter of the National Socialist ideology: “Germany must live, even if we have to die” (Deutschland muß leben, auch wenn wir sterben müssen). By making the famous German poet a subject of ridicule, one can say that this fifth thesis is a clear anti-establishment provocation perfectly in line with the spirit of the activists of Kommune I: to provoke and to deride the petriﬁed German political mentality.
Original text in German: BLÖDOJE IN 5 THESEN FÜR DIE SPASSGUERILLA.
The moderately unreasonable plea for the five theses on Fun Guerrilla
Theses 1: We are living in a world divided in two systems where the operating mechanism of the first is producing the basic outline of the second
“Operating mechanism” means: the rule by which each system is organising its survival is purely economic. The expression “the system is organising” does not mean that some “organisers” as persons can be hold responsible for. All the rules of the system are implemented by through “material constraints” that the managers of the domination can call upon and do so. The expression “purely economic” means that all the social sub-systems, even the non-economic ones, shall be organised within the appropriate system in a way that they cannot put in danger, at least seriously, its economic survival. The core operating system is, in the first place, an operating system of the consciousness of all the individuals that are living under that system. The rules through which each system is organising its survival – and mainly its economic aspect – are based on that fundamental basis. There are always those who live under the system, those men whose operation guarantees the existence of the system. The “modification of the consciousness” is rooted in the day-to-day experience and its deep-seated habits on which domination stabilised itself. The “destruction of the operating system” is therefore a change in the day-to-day life.
Theses 2: The two types of system in our world is Capitalism and Statism
Capitalism produces its survival by opening its market to the competition of private and anonymous investments. In capitalism, politics and daily life are dominated by economics. The shapes of capitalism crisis, which are products of its operating system, manifest themselves economically as overproduction crisis. Capitalism legitimises itself by treating the people living under its regime as formally equal and free owners of merchandises. “Formally equal” means equal rights before the law. That particular scheme is confirmed by a part of the daily experiences one can do under capitalism. Countless other representations of men themselves and of society are based on that legitimation scheme. They all derived from the behavioural model of rational choice of the owner of merchandises in and around the market. They are also confirmed by a part of the daily experiences. The personality model that is based on the internalization of the capitalism legitimization scheme is the autonomous personality. The other part of the daily experiences under capitalism – material inequality of those who depend on a salary and of all those who are fatally reliant on buyers (anonymous and potential) of their manpower; the experience of a failure of a behaviour built on the model of market’s rational behaviour – contradict the capital legitimation scheme. Because of those everyday contradictory experiences, the autonomous personality founds itself in a growing crisis since the legitimacy of capitalist domination schemes are both confirmed and questioned by the daily schizoid. The form of capitalist crisis expresses itself as socio-psychological identity confusion. Capitalism sets up bureaucratic forms of organisation in economics and politics which remains subject to its operating mechanism however, as long as they do not fundamentally question it. Statism ensures its survival through planning an anonymous bureaucracy with political elite. In Statism, politics dominates economics and everyday life. The shapes of Statism crisis, which are products of its operating system, manifest themselves economically as shortage crisis. Statism legitimises itself by treating the people living under its regime as physically free and equal producers to whom a collective task is entrusted. “Physically equal” means equal rights before the law and optimal collective participation to social wealth. Countless other representations of men themselves and of society are based on that legitimation scheme. They all derived from the behavioural model of rational choice of the producer in and around a bureaucratic hierarchy. State legitimation patterns are confirmed by some of the everyday experiences on can do under Statism, and contradicted by another part of the same everyday experiences. The personality model that is based on the internalization of the Statism legitimization scheme is the heteronomous personality. The form of Statism crisis expresses itself as socio-psychological identity confusion. Statism sets up the foundations for a market-oriented trade in politics and in economics, which remains subject to its operating mechanism however, as long as they do not fundamentally question it.
Theses 3: The outline of the mutual interfusion of the systems’ operating mechanisms is, socio-psychologically speaking, a mutual interfusion of autonomous and heteronomous personalities – understood subjectively as an attack against “THE” system – which creates the traditional politics
The traditional politics behaviour is not only adopted by certain opponents to the system but also – and always – by its administrators and defenders. The system’s administrators and defenders have to be sure of them and make sure that the orders they are giving are followed and that the decisions that they are taking are made. Traditional politics implies explicitly or implicitly a representation of the society where at the top of which a couple of instigators – or a group of instigators – drive the society at the expense (or in favour) of the physical or psychological aspects of their subjects. That representation of society is – for it is a real illusion within both systems – erroneous because domination builds and reinforces itself on the embodiment of the legitimation schemes. It is only because these legitimation schemes exist – and as long as they will exist – that orders are legitimized by so-called “material constraints”. “Material constraints” in capitalism are the result of the permanent imperfection of information on the market. “Material constraints” in Statism are the result of the collective work in the “resolution” of a task where the way the “resolution” of the task is achieved is its own obstacle (example: “socialism edification” with an internal tendency towards hierarchy, or the “management of the ecological crisis” with an internal tendency to its permanent reproduction). A traditional politics who wants to attack the system, for which it has an erroneous representation, implies that first of all it is about “stashing away the society’s top instigators”. “To stash away” could mean either to kill (armed struggle) or to vote against (parliamentary struggle). Both struggle methods have in common – and that is much more important than the difference in the choice of means to be used – to represent politics as a “war” between clear recognisable fronts. A war that they want to carry on with arguments or weapons. “Politics as warfare” plays with the human psyche as it is without changing it. “When the war will be over”, even the traditional politics imagine – for as much as they want to fight against the system – a change in everyday life. That change will be like a spring out of nothing. Because the properties the traditional political actor need – whether they are parliamentary or military – will be useless by all means. From the point of view of the opposition to the system, the traditional politics behaviour does not see how much it opposes itself heavily to this everyday change that it subjectively pretends to desire. If traditional politics could sometimes and somewhere leads to the destruction of systems it would not happen thank to it but thankless to it. It would be because fun guerrilla would have managed to emerge within traditional politics behaviour and finally managed to impose itself.
Theses 4: Fun guerrilla starts with everyday resistance and disables the systems’ operating mechanism. It does not only target traditional politics – that at its best leaves the systems filling themselves profoundly – but against every division that makes Men psychologically receptive to domination
Everyday resistance means the following: every spontaneous and assenting distancing effect towards which men fly away in order to escape from the identity formation. The identity formation is as much diverse as of the two systems in which it happens: in capitalism, it is the lack of vision, of opinions and of contradictory feelings that threaten to annihilate the autonomous personality. In Statism, it is the standardisation of visions, opinions and feelings top-down imposed that threaten to annihilate the heteronomous personality. As much as different the identity formations appear to be on first sight, in both cases it is the same (Western) rationalism at stake which wants to represent and conceive the world as a product of its thought and where thought is using segregation in order to produce definitions and where thought aims to unicity. From this thought emerges an action that divides the World and humankind in things and groups, and where these divisions are penetrating Men’s psyche and destroying them. It is only that in Capitalism this hierarchic rationalism establishes its border to the market and, in Statism to planning. It is not about disbanding rationalism into irrationalism. It is about stashing away the division between rational and irrational. Distancing can be turned against the system if it plays analogy against indisputability and as such is destroying unicity and marking the border with rationalism. In that case, these are skilful self-critique. Skilful self-critique nullifies rules precisely because it follows them. It is exactly what fun guerrilla is doing: to put down every bureaucratic organisation – by means of exemplary strikes or by other means of passive resistance, or by imitating a bureaucracy who is giving orders that are not what one is expecting from. Fun guerrilla develops a powerful arsenal in order to paralyse every bureaucracy like it happens spontaneously in Statism (and which makes up its crisis form). This arsenal is also adaptable to every areas of Capitalism which are bureaucratised: firms and State administration. But obstruction in parliament, arguing against the grain on television – and all other discussions leading up to the performance of alienating acts in everyday situations – destroy the rationality on which the system is built. Wherever domination of rationality is, Fun Guerrilla can intervene. Fun Guerrilla does not only prevent the path from a system to another but also allows Men to fight back every single forms of segregation. Fun Guerrilla will be possible as long as these segregations would exist: towards Anarchy. Fun Guerrilla is bucking the domination of rational and not rational in itself. Even in anarchy we will have to discuss, plan and exchange but in a non-bureaucratic way. There is always a danger of relapse into traditional politics. Wherever such relapses happen, Fun Guerrilla can intervene. When anarchy rules – when every form of segregation would be destroyed –, then Fun guerrilla will be no more. Fun Guerrilla is different from traditional politics views because it is concern with the identity formation, taking it in charge systematically and destroying the Systems’ operating mechanisms for it implies and exerts, here and there, a playful behaviour that overcome the division between rational and irrational. Traditional politics is, on the reverse, stuck in the deadlock of rationalism. It is also why it is constantly overtaken by the irrational. Fun Guerrilla has no programme except that everyone must become a clown. … “Must become” – because this is the only chance that one day Anarchy will rule.
Theses No.5: Germany must die, so that we may live
. Davis, B., Mausbach, W., Klimke, M., & MacDougall, C. (Eds.). (2013).Changing the world, changing oneself: political protest and collective identities in West Germany and the US in the 1960s and 1970s (Vol. 3). Berghahn Books.
. Teune, S. (2007). Humour as a Guerrilla Tactic: The West German Student Movement’s Mockery of the Establishment. International Review of Social History, 52(S15), p.121
. Brown, Timothy Scott. West Germany and the Global Sixties: The Anti-Authoritarian Revolt, 1962–1978. Cambridge University Press, 2013, p.11
. Fritz Teufel, Robert Jarowoy: Märchen aus der Spaßgerilja. Libertäre Assoziation, Hamburg / Verlag Roter Funke, Bremen 1980
. Teune, S. (2007). Humour as a Guerrilla Tactic: The West German Student Movement’s Mockery of the Establishment. International Review of Social History, 52(S15), p.131
 . Bogad, Larry M. “Carnivals against capital: radical clowning and the global justice movement.” Social Identities 16.4 (2010): 537-557
 AG Spass Muss Sein (Ed.). (2001). Spassguerrilla ,Unrast Verlag
. His book Identity and the Life Cycle, has been first published in 1959 in New York before being translated in German in 1966 (Identität und Lebenszyklus)
. Thomson, Peter, and Glendyr Sacks, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Brecht. Cambridge University Press, 2006