Self-portrait of the Rote Hilfe (Red Aid)

The Rote Hilfe [Red Aid] is a solidarity organisation supporting politically persecuted people of the left-wing spectrum. It concentrates on politically persecuted people in Germany, includes, however, also persecuted people from other countries according to its possibilities.

Our support is directed at all people who, as left-wingers, lose their jobs, have to face trials and are convicted due to their political activities, e.g. for being legally responsible for the contents of writings disparaging the state, for taking part in spontaneous strikes, for resisting police incursion or for supporting the demand for not separating political prisoners. We also support those who are persecuted in another state and who are denied political asylum here.

I. Political as well as material aid

  • We prepare the trial together with the accused person and especially make his political background known to the public.
  • We arrange for the financial strain to be borne together by organising solidarity events, collecting donations and granting allowances from the regular contributions. Above all, lawyer and court costs can be covered partly or completely, furthermore we also pay support for the cost of living if high fines, loss of job or imprisonment have put the person affected or his or her family into difficulties.
  • We keep up the personal contact with political prisoners and demand that detention conditions be improved and solitary confinement be abolished; we demand their release.

II. The Rote Hilfe is not a charity organisation
The support of an individual person shall also be a contribution to the strengthening of the movement. Each person taking part in the struggle shall do so knowing that they will not be alone afterwards when they are taken to court. Whereas on one hand the main purpose of state persecution of those who took to the streets together is to isolate them by picking individuals and to deter others by imposing exemplary sentences, the same way the Rote Hilfe sets the principle of solidarity against this and thus encourages one to continue the struggle.

Apart from the immediate support of affected people, the Rote Hilfe considers its task also to be the participation in the general fight against political persecution. When preparing protest marches, for example, it arranges for the participants to protect themselves and others as effectively as possible from injuries or arrests through the state authorities. It engages itself against ever stricter laws on national security, against continued destruction of the right to defence, against solitary confinement, against further restrictions on the freedom of opinion and assembly.

III. Membership and organisation of the work of the Rote Hilfe
The Rote Hilfe has only individual persons as members. There is no collective membership of groups or organisations - even though members of other organisations are often members of the Rote Hilfe as well.

The Rote Hilfe organises its work on two levels:
On one hand nationwide: The members ( at the moment about 4,500; amongst them a large proportion of 'single members', i.e. members who do not belong to any local group) elect delegates to the Federal Delegates' Assembly, which decides upon the principles and main issues of the work done by the Rote Hilfe. Their member fees create the material basis for the support.
The Federal Executive Committee is responsible for the use of the funds according to their purpose (member fees as well as collected donations on special occasions). The federal executive committee decides upon the use of the member fees, organises the collection of donations and central campaigns on special occasions and is as well responsible for the routine work.
The paper Rote Hilfe Zeitung issued quarterly by the executive committee keeps the members informed and is the main means of publicity.

On the other hand there are local Rote Hilfe groups in some cities (at the moment about 35): the current list is published on the back page of the Rote Hilfe Zeitung. In these cities the support as well as the publicity work depends as much as possible on the current local political developments and is done in co-operation with other local initiatives and organisations. The member meetings and boards of the local groups decide independently on the main issues of their work and on the use of the donations collected there.

IV. The Rote Hilfe understands itself
to be a solidarity organisation for the whole left This does not mean that it raises any claim to being the sole organisation of this kind ( on the contrary, we strive for co-operation with as many other legal assistance groups, solidarity-funds, anti-repression groups, inquiry committees etc. as possible!), but it means that it demands of itself not to exercise any exclusions.

In its statutes it lays down the following commitment: "The Rote Hilfe organises, according to its possibilities, solidarity for all those, independently of their party membership or ideology, who are persecuted in the Federal Republic of Germany due to their political activities. Political activities, that is, in the sense of,e.g., supporting the aims of the workers' movement, of the anti-fascist, anti-sexist, anti-racist, democratic or trade union struggle and the struggle against the risk of war."

We do not only want to give material but also political support, thus want to represent in public, as far as it is possible for us, issues others are persecuted for. Therefore we are looking for political discussions with those we support, and also develop our own position concerning their activities. Our support, however, does not depend on the degree to which we agree with their work.

This political openness was not always a matter of course (see the brochure: '20/70 Years Rote Hilfe' available through the Rote Hilfe literature service). The fact that it is not only fixed in the statutes but also practised every day can probably be best seen from the support payments. the cases of supported or denied applications of the respective last quarter are summarized and published in each Rote Hilfe Zeitung.

V. Does the left need a comprehensive solidarity organisation?
As a rule, people who are arrested and taken to court receive support from the political context in which the persecuted action was undertaken. Someone, eg. who was arrested for blocking a military facility can mainly rely on help from the peace movement, persecuted anti-fascists can rely on the solidarity of the antifa movement. We think that this obvious form of solidarity is the most important one and do not intend in any way to replace it. Definitely, however, we want to supplement it.

There are always people who participate in a protest march as individuals and could not expect any help from an immediate circle of supporters. Sometimes the financial burden through court costs etc or also through the requirements of publicity work is so heavy that it cannot be borne by one group alone. In many cases inquiries, preferral of charges and court trials through several stages take so long that the political context has long changed in the meantime and that there is no one left to contact for help when the judgement takes legal effect.

For these reasons, we consider a solidarity organisation necessary:

  • which permanently works independently of political ups and downs
  • which can grant reliable, if necessary long-term support payments due to regular donation funds
  • which is organised nationwide and not restricted to the big cities
  • which feels responsible for politically persecuted persons from all parts of the left movement
  • which can react to ever stricter laws and waves of court trials on a national level.

Solidarity must be organised!