Since it became known that German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) is calling for a ban on "Red Help," the association has experienced a wave of support.
Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) shows his teeth Photo: dpa
Some call it left-wing extremist and anti-constitutional, others praise it as indispensable. The association "Rote Hilfe" describes itself as a "non-partisan, cross-currents left-wing protection and solidarity organization".
Its goal is to support people of left-wing convictions who come into conflict with the state. Thus, the association writes on its website that its support is directed at all "who, as leftists, lose their jobs, are put on trial or sentenced because of their political actions, for example, because of participation in spontaneous strikes or because of resistance to police attacks."
This support is both financial, including paying the lawyers’ and court costs, and political. For example, the political background of the defendants is made public and solidarity events are organized.
So far, so good. But two aspects in particular are a thorn in the side of the critics: firstly, the conditions attached to support from the association. Support is only given to those who neither cooperate with the state nor distance themselves from the crime committed or show remorse. On the other hand, Rote Hilfe condemns measures taken by the police and the judiciary or the penal system as repression and, particularly in this view, shows "positions typical of left-wing extremism," as the Office for the Protection of the Constitution writes.
Membership numbers on the rise
In December of last year, it became known that one of these critics, Federal Minister of the Interior and top official of the constitutional protectors Horst Seehofer (CSU), no longer wants to remain a mere observer of Red Aid, but is even calling for the organization to be banned. Since then, the association has experienced a wave of support that Henning von Stoltzenberg, a member of the federal board of Red Aid, finds "overwhelming."
Since Seehofer’s statement, for example, the association’s membership has risen to a current total of 10,275 – in 2016, Rote Hilfe had only 8,000 members. Board member Henning von Stoltzenberg is particularly surprised by the diversity of the new members. They are not just people from the left-wing spectrum. Many of them told him that they weren’t really that left-wing, but that they didn’t like the actions of the state – in the form of Horst Seehofer.
The threat of a ban is taken quite seriously, Stoltzenberg said: "But we will not be deterred in our work."