News | The Other Alliance. Student Protest in West Germany and the United States in the Global Sixties; 2010

Michael Stauch, Duke University rezensiert für geschichte.transnational

Martin Klimke: The Other Alliance. Student Protest in West Germany and the United States in the Global Sixties (= America in the World 2). Princeton: Princeton University Press 2010. ISBN 978-0-691-13127-6; geb.; 346 S.; $ 39.50.

In 1969, at the height of the worldwide political upheavals of the 1960s, representatives from the Black Panther Party, the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican street gang politicized by the upheavals of the 1960s, and the Young Patriots, a gang of white working class youth from Appalachia, met in Chicago and agreed to form what came to be called a "rainbow" coalition. Unlike Jesse Jackson's more well-known coalition of the same name, however, this "rainbow" coalition was expressly committed to social revolution and not integrating Fortune 500 boardrooms. It was peculiar for its time in that, while maintaining the centrality of race in social struggles in the U.S., this alternative "rainbow" coalition demonstrated that class could unite, in common cause against common oppressors, people of different and seemingly antagonistic races. But like the movements of the '60s, the potential of this alliance remained just that - a potential not realized.
The alliances and movements of the 1960s more often took a different direction, and had a different character, than this "rainbow" coalition of working class blacks, Puerto Ricans, and whites that emerged in Chicago.
Klimke concludes his study by noting that these efforts at cultural diplomacy were not unilateral but negotiated and contested. Even as policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic promoted cultural and intellectual exchange, these same exchanges undermined those efforts.
Angela Davis, Joan Baez, and a host of other U.S. political and cultural figures presented an "other" America to the world, an America shot fthrough with the very problems policymakers suggested "Americanism" could solve elsewhere.
Klimke succeeds admirably in documenting the emergence and complex
transnational entanglement of this "other" alliance, using carefully crafted prose to support his exhaustive and painstaking research. But what of this still other alliance that emerged briefly in Chicago in 1969, this "rainbow coalition" from below and along class lines? Similar fleeting examples exist here and there in the archives, or the memories of the activists that forged them. But their potential remains largely untapped, waiting for answers historians of the past and movements of the future may yet provide.
Still, The Other Alliance is a bold and exciting work that will remain relevant for some time, both for the questions it answers and those it leaves unanswered.