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The Red Panthers: 'the Young People of E. Germany Are Watching Us

The Red Panthers: 'the Young People of E. Germany Are Watching Us image The Red Panthers: 'the Young People of E. Germany Are Watching Us image
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From a letter from my brother in East Germany (German Democratic Republic);

"I'm sure you can imagine how mad I was when I got the letter from Customs. They returned all the records just because one of the records is illegal in the GDR. On the form it States: "Importation of this record is not permitted." So only one record was not allowed. I assume that they meant 'Sympathy for the Devil' by the Rolling Stones. (Ed. Note; The other records sent were KARMA by Pharoah Sanders, and records by Bob Dylan and Creedence Clearwater.) It was also a mistake to send Abbie Hoffman's Woodstock Nation together with the Red book. Mao's Red Book is illegal here and the other one would probably have gone through without any hassle. We'll wait and see."

I had left home in 1958, when I was 18. The Berlin Wall hadn't been built yet and it was easy to get out. All you had to do was go to East Berlin, take the subway to West Berlin and turn yourself in to the refugee camp.

I spent about three months in their lousy camp, being interrogated the whole time by French, British and American officials who were trying to get me to go back to East Germany to become a spy: That was routine; they did it with everybody who escaped.

But I hadn't left because I was anti-communist. I knew, either intuitively or from reading the right books when I was a kid, what REAL communism was supposed to feel like. And it wasn't happening there.

So I just split; I wanted to come to America, to see the Mississippi the prairies, maybe some real Indians. Besides, Amerika was where Louis Armstrong and Paul Robeson were from. I had to get there and I did, in 1959.

In February of this year, I received a telegram informing me that my mother had died. I got a plane ticket to East Germany so I could attend my mother's funeral, and, I took little four-week-old Celia Sanchez Mao and went back home.

In 1970, the only difference between East Germany and Marquette Prison is that my brother can have Woodstock Nation (but not the Red Book) and John can have the Red Book (but not Woodstock Nation). My brother can 't have the Rolling Stones and John can't have the MC5 record. I'm permitted to go and visit John every two or three weeks, as often as we can afford to make that 500 mile trip up to Marquette but I can only go see my brother, sisters and parents when someone in the immediate family has died. Think about that.

When I left home, my youngest sister, Uta, was only four years old. My brother, Erhard, was eight. And, though I had been back for a short visit once, in 1963, it was 1970 now and the whole scene had changed.

There was Uta, sixteen, taller than me, complete with bell-bottom Levi's, long blond hair, hating school, listening to rock'n roll.

Erhard is 19 now. In 1967-68 he was West Germany's "only freek." But his shoulder length hair had been cut off when he was drafted into the army. (Sound familar?) He was now on leave from the army, because of our mother's death.

The army was just like jail to him. He'd already been arrested twice; the first time they caught him listening to BBC on the radio, which is illegal for everybody not just soldiers. The second time, they raided his locker and found letters from me and some of his pen pals from Birmingham or Royal Oak, Michigan. To correspond with people from western countries is highly illegal, and he spent a week in the stockade for that. The letters were turned over to the Secret Service, who had to translate them. When they found that we were all against the war in Vietnam and got arrested all the time, etc. they were apparently satisfied that it wasn't some kind of capitalist plot and let him go.

Erhard's no real oddity, though. ALL the common soldiers hate the army. They all buy measuring tapes and carry them around in their pockets. The tapes are 150 centimeters long, so when they have only 150 days left in the army, they cut one off for each day and paste the number on a champagne bottle, which is opened on the day they get out. The practice is so widespread that the common greeting among soldiers is to unobtrusively pull out the tape and flash it to the brother.

The whole practice is super- illegal, just like listening to western radio is, but everybody does it and does his best not to get caught. (Same as our soldiers smoke dope and listen to THEIR jams.) These people have even less allegiance to their officers and government than Amerikan soldiers have to theirs. The slogan to be advanced should be; "Soldiers of all countries, Unite and kick your respective government's ass!" Right on!

Same as here, the army knows the soldiers don 't dig being there and they do their best to keep the real information away from the people. For instance, there is a radio station, located in East Germany, but close to the western border, which broadcasts towards West Germany, addressing itself to soldiers in the West German Army (Sort of the opposite of Radio Free Europe, you dig?) The announcers always say; "We're broadcasting from a clandestine location in West Germany..." and go on to read letters, supposedly written by West German soldiers, running down how fucked the army is and urging them to desert.

This is the only East German radio station with ANY decent music; it's like an FM underground station here. They lift all the hits from the west, and play them on the soldier station, because they know that all the kids in East Germany are listening to it. Everybody, that is, except the soldiers. They don't even let THEM listen to that, 'cause that might get them thinking about their OWN army. There really isn't any difference, in the end, when you're a private first class or something like that, you're oppressed, by some authoritarian fools with guns.

East German TV for example, is even worse than its radio. The country is almost split down the middle between the people who can receive WG TV and those on the other side of the mountains that can't get it. Those people further to the east are DEPRIVED. They just ain't got no culture. They don't see no ads for Coca- Cola and VW (which doesn't matter, really, since they couldn't get 'em anyway) but neither do they get to see the Jefferson Airplane or Jimi Hendrix when they 're on the toob. They don't know how to dress, how to grow their hair long or how to dance. What East Germany needs, finally is a righteous cultural revolution. And it's starting to happen.

"...Yesterday I went and listened to the band I told you about. Two guys from Uta's class are in it. They are really pretty hip . They play almost underground beat. They've only been together for about six months and can only practice once a week, but they're pretty good. They still need a lot of equipment, like amplifiers and microphones. We'll see, maybe I'll manage them. They don't have a name yet. I want to name them the Panthers. Foreign names are not allowed for bands and Panthers would be just right . ' (Ed. Note; Panther in German is also Panther.)

Beat groups, European for rock 'n' roll bands, are very popular in East Germany. They know most of them from listening to Radio Luxembourg, BBC or a pirate station in the North Sea. Some kids get records, though it's illegal to send them from West Germany. It was o.k. to send.them from a foreign country, like the U. S., until recently. Now they seem to be threatened by the music on these records (and they 're right) as much as by newspapers or books from the west. Some freaks in England are planning a pirate TV station that will broadcast from airplanes circling over neutral waters over the North Sea. I guess they'll have to call it "overground" TV. They already had some trial runs and the reception is perfect for almost all of Europe.

So the dudes in East Germany are pretty hip and getting further out all the time just like back in the U.S.A. The state has hired bands from West Germany for dances. You see these long- haired musicians on the stage, kickin' out the jams, but no guys with hair below their ears are allowed in the ballroom. The bands are required to take five minute breaks between each tune, so that the audience will calm down and not get too frantic and out-of-hand. There was a rumor, last summer, that the Rolling Stones were going to play a free concert near the wall in Berlin and thousands of young people traveled to Berlin under the ruse of attending the socialist youth congress there but actually in the hope of catching a few Stones riffs floating across the international air, over the wall, if the wind was right. Long live Rock and Roll!

But rock and roll repression exists there, too, same as here. My brother told me of a band, the Electrons, who were really getting far out in their music. But they were outlawed by the government. When they got the word that they couldn't play anymore, they just loaded all their instruments and equipment into handcarts and marched down the middle of the street in silent protest, gathering a couple hundred young people behind them. The police didn't know how to react to that. They had to wait for orders from the Central Committee of the party before they could figure out what to do. And the next day 200 agents of the secret police were sent to the city, to prevent anymore demonstrations.

To really explain what's going down in East Germany, I have to give a little historical background of that country. East Germany, with a population of about 17 million, was occupied by the Russians after Germany lost the war. There was never a successful revolution by the Germans, but under Russian occupation, a land reform took place, industry, or what was left of it after the war was over, was nationalized and the whole social system was transformed and adapted to the one in the USSR. The old German socialist party and the communist party merged and formed the Socialist Unity Party, which founded the German Demokratik Republic in 1949. The leaders were all people who had fled Germany during Hitler's regime. Walter Ulbricht (Party Chairman), for instance, had fought against the German Army during the Battle of Stalingrad on the side of the Red Army. Now Stalin set him up as the Minister President of the GDR.

The main task was to industrialize East Germany, which had been predominantly agricultural before the war "and to industrialize it as quickly as possible. This happened at the expense of producing needed consumer goods and through strict discipline and what we now call Stalinist methods.

It was too much for the people to put up with. On June 17, 1953, there was a spontaneous uprising with workers in all the big cities walking off their jobs and going into the streets.

It didn't take long, of course, before the first Russian tanks began rolling towards Magdeburg and Berlin (just like Detroit in 1967 or Watts in 1966 or the other black and youth uprisings in Amerika). I was 13 when this happened and remember it very clearly. We arrived at school that morning and all the kids took off their blue Young Pioneer neckties and put them in their pockets. We were told to go home, not to talk to anybody and to STAY home until further notice. Martial law was declared and it was illegal for more than 3 people to talk to each other on the streets. We went to work in the fields in the afternoons and from there we could see endless columns of Russian army trucks and tanks advancing towards Berlin on the Autobahn.

Of course, Law and Order was restored quickly, in the same oppressive manner it would be in the United States; lots of people thrown in the slam, troops in the streets and shortly thereafter, everything went back to normal. And essentially, that's what happened in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Before 1968, I had been able to communicate with my brother fairly freely and with a certain regularity. I would send underground papers, posters, etc. to a friend in Prague, who in turn would send the stuff to my brother in East Germany and it would always get there. Under Dubcek, censorship was abolished. Students in Prague turned into hippies and turned on and listened to rock and roll and generally got out of hand.

Too out of hand for Moscow. Troops were sent in and old Stalinist law 'n' order was restored. Dubcek was given a job as ambassador to Turkey, where he could do no more harm. One Prague student, Jan Palach, burned himself in protest of the Soviet occupation of his country and became a hero, not just in Czechoslavakia, but also in East Germany. Some students in Berlin printed up some leaflets that said "Viva Dubcek", and six of them were caught and sent to jail for 2 to 4 years. ONE OF THE STUDENTS WAS THE DAUGHTER OF THE MINISTER OF CULTURE! Right on!

One dude in a neighboring village printed up his own flyers and rode his motorcycle through a bunch of villages, throwing these flyers out wherever he saw groups of young people standing around. Someone finally squealed on him and he was sent to the slam for four years.

No, the real revolution in East Germany has yet to take place. There has been no attempt made yet to "build the NEW MAN (and woman) and the NEW ORDER". The quality of life isn't much different than in West Germany and the difference gets smaller every day. Soon they'll be able to tear the wall down, without running the risk of large numbers of people fleeing the country. People generally leave only to seek a higher standard of living. When the living standard is as high as it is in the west, there won 't be any need to leave. "Is there or is there not a great business conspiracy called the United States & Russia?" (Charles Olson.) East Germany has a higher Standard of living than any other "satellite" country, including the USSR. More TVs per capita than even in the United States. Is that any achievement, when what you see on TV is the same old western honky Death Culture than you see in Detroit? Or anywhere else in Amerika, for that matter.

But the young people in East Germany are watching us. They know all about the Black Panther Party, they know all about the Conspiracy trial, they know about Timothy Leary. And they know that Rock 'n' Roll is not a decadent western art form, as their government tries to tell them. They're living in the middle of the same old honky death culture, themselves, that we live with, only it's a couple of thousand miles away and they speak a different language. But really, those are the only differences.

Just as they are for us, rock 'n' roll and long hair are symbols for them. In fact, just like here, they ARE freedom. What is needed then is a truly international youth party, or Youth International Party, in East and West Germany, Czechoslovakia, Amerika, Canada, Japan or any other western, highly industrialized mother countries. My brother wants to start a chapter in East Germany and call them the Red Panthers.

The funeral was a drag. An insult to human dignity, to say the least. My mother was the strongest woman I ever knew. Worked for the collective ever since it was formed back in 1951, without ever taking a vacation or hardly ever taking a day off. She was manager of the chicken farm which is a full-time, seven-day-a-week job. At 62 she was still working hard, getting up every morning at 4:30, washing heavy milk cans and preparing communal meals for the people working in the fields. Always, the collective came first, then her family and last herself. Right up to the day she went to the hospital.

And here was the family, and all the members of the collective, sitting in the freezing chapel in the cemetery and this preacher starts talking about how her illness was god's punishment: how she always let her work be more important than the worship of God, and how her sudden death should be a warning to the living, and the rest of his jive bullshit. The whole Christian-guilt trip.

I looked around and studied the faces of the people. Did they feel as insulted as I did by the theologian up there, spouting counter-revolutionary bullshit? No reaction. I felt like getting up and setting the record straight- "She was no 'sinner', she was a revolutionary; we should give honor where honor is due. If everybody lived like she did, we might get it together yet." Out of respect for my grieving old father, I kept my mouth shut.

Why is it illegal to read the Red Book in East Germany but not in Amerika? Kids growing up in East Germany are trained from Kindergarten to think dialectically. It's almost unconscious. We can't think differently because that's the only way we were taught to think. To give people the Red Book to read would be even more dangerous than it is here, because they would immediately understand it, and discover that they 're being cheated out of half the revolution.

Revolution means change; there was a change in East Germany, but it was only a 90 degree change, not the 180 degree change where the last is the first and the first is the last. They'd discover, if they read the Red Book, that what Mao is talking about is a complete changeover in values. (The same things we discover, only it'd be easier for them, for they've always thought in the terms it relates to.)

Get rid of western dualistic thinking completely. It's not enough to turn the means of production over to the people. It's not enough to form agricultural collectives. There is a difference between collectives and communes. There are no communes in East Germany. A collective is people working together, and going home to their individual places after work. You only have communism when you get rid of the distinction between collective and private. Work is fun and fun is work. Art is politics and politics is art. Everything is everything.

"If you want knowledge you must take part in the practice of changing reality. If you want to know the taste of a pear, you must change the pear by eating it yourself. If you want to know the structure and properties of the atom, you must make physical and chemical experiments to change the state of the atom. If you want to know the theory and methods of revolution, you must take part in revolution."

- Mao tse-Tung, "Mao on Practice", Volume I, Collected Works, p. 300.

This is it! The people in East Germany have taken part in the revolution for a long time. But only part of it. The cultural revolution is the other half, which has yet to take place. Equipped with the thought of Mao, there would be no holding it back. But ideologically, East Germany is part of the west. So is the USSR. Culturally, they are much closer to Western Europe America than to China. So, "No Red Books Allowed."

Why are they allowed here? I think it's because people in Amerika are trained to be idealists and not dialectical materialists. To change the mode of thinking of a whole people will take years and years. Acid might help speed up the process for us, because it breaks down resistance to new ideas. But it will still be a long time, even after the revolution is won, before ALL people can learn to think in terms of dialectical materialism.

So the government doesn't outlaw the Red Book, because it doesn't understand it. To study revolution, and to truly understand it, is already to take part in it. Dialectical materialism is the science of revolution. Just like physics or thru the study of science you discover natural laws. One of the laws of dialectical materialism is that, at the point of its highest contradiction, a thing will turn into its opposite- capitalism into communism. That's a natural law, independent of man 's will.


-Magdalene Sinclair

Minister of Propaganda

White Panther Party


The death-culture is universal, "East" and "West". Here, a street scene of East Germany.

Photo by Magdalene Sinclair


Gerhart Arndy, brother of Magdalene Sinclair, and private in the East German Army.

Photo by Magdalene Sinclair