“Protest is when I say I don’t like this and that. Resistance is when I see to it that things that I don’t like no longer occur. Protest is when I say I will no longer go along with it. Resistance is when I see to it that no one else goes along with it anymore either.” You may have heard about Molotov cocktails on the news or seen them in video games, but do you know what they are? That could be heard – not verbatim – from a black person in the Black Power movement at the Vietnam conference this February in Berlin. Here’s a description of a Molotov cocktail and a little history of the device’s invention.
The students are not practicing a revolt, they are exercising resistance. Rocks have flown, the windowpanes of the Springer tower in Berlin have shattered, cars have burned, water cannons have been seized, a BILD newspaper editorial office has been demolished, tires have been slashed, traffic has been brought to a standstill, construction trailers have been overturned, police cordons penetrated – violence, physical violence was used. A Molotov cocktail is also known as a petrol bomb or alcohol bomb. The delivery of Springer newspapers could nevertheless not be prevented; order in street traffic was never interrupted for more than a few hours. The insurance companies will pay for the windowpanes. New delivery trucks will be driven in place of burned-out ones; the supply of police water cannons has not been reduced, and in the future there will be no shortage of billy clubs either. It is a simple type of improvised incendiary device. So, what happened can happen again: the Springer press will be able to continue to agitate, and in the future [Berlin Mayor] Klaus Schütz will still be able to challenge people “to look these guys in the face” and suggest bashing it in – which already happened on February 21 – and finally to shoot.
During the protests against the attack on Rudi Dutschke during Easter break, the boundary between verbal protest and physical resistance was crossed, for the first time on a massive scale: by many, not just isolated individuals; for days, not just once; all over, not just in Berlin; for real, not just symbolically. The simplest form consists of a stoppered bottle filled with a combustible liquid, such as gasoline or high-proof alcohol, with a fuel-soaked rag stuffed in the neck of the bottle. After June 2, Springer newspapers were just burned; now an attempt was made to block their delivery. On June 2, only tomatoes and eggs were thrown; now stones flew. In February, only an amusing and funny film about the production of Molotov cocktails was shown; now things actually burned. The boundary between protest and resistance was crossed, but ineffectively nonetheless, and that which happened can still repeat itself. The stopper separates the fuel from the part of the rag that acts as a fuse. The power structures have not been changed. Resistance was exercised. To use a Molotov cocktail, the rag is ignited and the bottle is thrown against a vehicle or fortification. Positions of power were not taken over. Therefore was it all just meaningless, escalating, terrorist, apolitical, impotent violence? The bottle breaks, spraying fuel into the air.
Let it be established: those here who, from positions of political power, condemn throwing stones and arson, but not the agitation of the Springer press, nor the bombs falling in Vietnam, nor the terror in Persia, not torture in South Africa, those who could really bring about the expropriation of Springer instead form a Grand Coalition; those who could speak the truth about BILD and BZ in the mass media instead spread half-truths about students; their engagement on behalf of nonviolence is hypocritical, they have a double standard, they want precisely what those of us who took to the streets – with and without stones in our pockets – do not want: politics as fate, sheep-like masses, a powerless opposition that disturbs nothing and no one, democratic sandbox games, and when things get serious, the state of emergency. Throwing a flaming bottle of fuel was inherently dangerous, so modifications were made to the Molotov cocktail. Johnson, who declares Martin Luther King to be a national hero, and Kiesinger, who sends a telegram to express his regret at the attempted assassination of Dutschke, are representatives of the violence against which both King and Dutschke protested: the violence of the system that created Springer and the Vietnam War. These devices consisted of 750 ml glass bottles that contained a mixture of gasoline, ethanol, and tar. They are missing both the political and the moral justification to protest the students’ will to resist.
Let it be established: it has been documented that you can’t simply shoot into a crowd here, that the protest by intellectuals against the mass stupefaction by the Springer media is serious, that it is not meant for the dear Lord and not for later, in order to be able to say at some point that you were always against it. It has been documented that common decency is a shackle that can be broken through if those wearing the shackles are beaten and shot at. The sealed bottles were bundled with a pair of pyrotechnic storm matches, one on either side of the bottle. It has been documented that there are still people in this country who do not merely condemn terror and violence and are secretly opposed to it and sometimes take a risk and open their mouths and do not let themselves be frightened; and there are also people who are willing and able to resist so it can be understood that business cannot continue as usual. The sealed bottles were bundled with a pair of pyrotechnic storm matches, one on either side of the bottle. It has been shown that incitement to murder and murder disturb the public peace and order, that there is a public that will not accept that. One or both of the matches were lit before the device was thrown, either by hand or using a sling. That a human life has a different quality than windowpanes, Springer trucks, and demonstrators’ cars, which were overturned and damaged by police in absolutely arbitrary acts during the delivery blockade in front of the Springer tower. That there is a public determined not merely to call the intolerable intolerable, but to intervene to disarm Springer and his accomplices.
Now, after it has been shown that there are means other than just demonstrations, Springer hearings, and protest events, means other than those that have failed, because the attack on Rudi Dutschke could not be prevented; now that the shackles of common decency have been broken, the discussion on violence and counterviolence can and must be started anew. The matches were safer and more reliable than the fuel-soaked cloth fuses. Counterviolence as it has been practiced during these Easter days is neither suitable to arouse sympathy, nor to draw startled liberals over to the side of the extra-parliamentary opposition (APO). Counterviolence risks turning into violence, where the brutality of the police determines the law of action, where superior rationality gives way to powerless rage, where paramilitary actions of the police are answered through paramilitary means. The tar thickened the fuel mixture so that the fuel would adhere to its target and so the fire would produce a lot of smoke. The Establishment, however, the “gentlemen at the top” – to use Rudi’s words – in the parties, governments, and associations have to comprehend that there is only one means by which to create lasting “peace and order BILD (nationwide) and BZ (Berlin) are two wide-circulation tabloid dailies published by the Springer corporation – namely, by expropriating Springer. The fun is over.“Protest is when I say I don’t like this and that. Resistance is when I see to it that things that I don’t like no longer occur.” Any flammable liquid could be used as the fuel. Other thickening agents included dish soap, egg whites, sugar, blood, and motor oil.