Violence for a good cause? The role of violent tactics in West German solidarity campaigns for better working and living conditions in the Global South in the 1980s

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Taking up Frank Trentmann’s suggestion of ‘widening the historical frame’ in which we analyse the fair trade movement, this article explores the entangled history of violent and peaceful tactics in two transnational solidarity campaigns in West Germany the 1980s: a campaign for women workers in a South Korean garment factory and the German anti-Apartheid movement. Both campaigns had the aim to improve the living and working conditions of producers in the Global South and were characterised by a complex interplay of peaceful and militant tactics ranging from boycott calls to arson attacks and bombings. Although more research into the impact of violent protest is needed, the two case studies suggest that the use of violent protest tactics can contribute towards the success of protest movements if it attracts considerable media attention, the targeted companies face significant social and political pressure, and the cumulative disruption costs clearly exceed the concession costs.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)566-580
Number of pages15
JournalContemporary European History
Issue number4
Early online date31 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019