Socialist Patients' Collective

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Socialist Patients' Collective
Dates of operation 1968 – June 1971, (1973–)
Motives 'Liberation from Iatrocapitalism'
Active region(s) Heidelberg University, West Germany
Ideology 'Pro-illness'. Illness vs. Capitalism.
Status Self-dissolved in 1971. Continued as Patientenfront from 1973, currently SPK/PF(H)

The Socialist Patients' Collective (in German: Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv, and known as the SPK) was a patients' collective founded in Heidelberg, Germany, in February 1970, by Wolfgang Huber. The kernel of the SPK's ideological program is summated in the slogan, "Turn illness into a weapon", which is representative of an ethos that is continually and actively practiced under the new title, Patients' Front/Socialist Patients' Collective, PF/SPK(H). The original group, SPK, declared its self-dissolution in July 1971 as a strategic withdrawal.[1]

The SPK assumes that illness exists as an undeniable fact and believe that it is caused by the capitalist system. The SPK promotes illness as the protest against capitalism and considers illness as the foundation on which to create the human species.[2][3] The SPK is opposed to doctors, considering them to be the ruling class of capitalism and responsible for poisoning the human species. The most widely recognized text of the PF/SPK(H) is the communique, SPK – Turn illness into a weapon, which has prefaces by both the founder of the SPK, Wolfgang Huber, and Jean-Paul Sartre.[1][2][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

History[edit]

The group was founded by Wolfgang Huber and became publicly known in 1970 at the Psychiatric Hospital of the University of Heidelberg.

The SPK established a "free space" for political therapy", re-framing illness as a contradiction created by capitalism which could be embraced to bring an end to the system which gave it life. They believed that the sick formed a revolutionary class of dispossessed people who could be radicalized to struggle against oppression. Organizing by sickness instead of socio-economic class allowed middle-class student leftists to articulate their own feelings of psychic and political oppression and to struggle against the status quo in their own right in solidarity with other oppressed groups. Additionally, according to the SPK sickness had the advantage of being familiar to everyone, hence everyone was a potential revolutionary so long as they disavowed the medical establishment. Like other anti-psychiatry experiments, such as Kingsley Hall and Villa 21, SPK questioned the patient/doctor paradigm and ultimately called for an overthrow of the "doctor's class".[4]

The SPK collective produced information leaflets, held teach-ins and Heidelberg University studied to recognize SPK as a part of the University.[11] SPK conducted "agitations", called "single" (individual actions) and "group agitations" (collective actions), working from 9 am to 10 pm or later.

However, the SPK experiment was criticized by many within Heidelberg's university and psychiatric clinic and the SPK's funding, salaries and meeting space were threatened. Despite opposition to the SPK, in the autumn of 1970 the university convened an advisory panel of 3 experts who recommended that the SPK should be institutionalized in Heidelberg university. To counter this suggestion, Heidelberg university's faculty of medicine supported the establishment of a counter-panel consisting of 3 critics of the SPK who were mandated to campaign against the group. The Minister overseeing both panels ultimately sided with the 3 SPK critics and decided against implementing any of the recommendations from the pro-SPK panel. SPK's funding was subsequently cut and the group was evicted from the university campus.[11]

The decision provoked a confrontation between the SPK and the university, which led to a sit-in and attracted the attention of a wider audience, including the police, in a climate of hypervigilance brought about by radical left-wing extrajudicial actions. Ultimately, the collective moved out of the university and into the homes of its members. On 24 June 1971, a mysterious shooting at Heidelberg police station was attributed to the Baader-Meinhof group, and based on that unrelated pretext, the police began conducting raids on SPK members' houses.[10] Three hundred fifty officers were charged with finding the shooter. At its peak, the SPK counted about 500 members; of these, 7 were arrested in the raids, including Huber on 21 July 1971. Firstly SPK was falsely linked to the Baader-Meinhof group[7] but none of the SPK patients arrested was ever condemned due any relation with the Baader-Meinhof group.[6] and neither was ever proved any relation within SPK and RAF.[12] Accounts notice the brutality,[13] legal irregularities and other sort of abuses which surrounded the case,[10] and they also notice this was part of a disinformation campaign against SPK due their revolutionary positions,[9][13] and thus SPK was criminalized as part of a political persecution.[12]

The rhetoric denouncing the SPK as engaged in terrorist activity and a precursor to the RAF re-emerged after the arrest of Kristina Berster, who crossed the US border illegally seeking asylum from West German counterterrorism operations. Berster was acquitted of all conspiracy charges, and the disinformation campaign was exposed by Greg Guma.[14]

A West German embassy spokesman stated, "By all accounts the SPC was fairly harmless."[15] Kristina Berster explained that "the purpose of the Socialist Patients Collective was to find out the reasons why people feel lonely, isolated and depressed and the circumstances which caused these problems."[14]

Dissolution and the IZRU[edit]

Even before Huber was arrested in June 1971, the SPK dissolved. The IZRU or Information Zentrum Rote Volks-Universität (in English; Information Center of the Red People's University) was founded by former SPK members; however, the IZRU was neither the official or unofficial SPK. It organized international congresses, founded a newspaper: RVU (or Rote Volksuniversität, Red People's University), supported prisoners and reprinted some SPK literature.

The SPK today[edit]

Since 1973, the SPK has continued as Patients' Front/Socialist Patients' Collective, or PF/SPK(H). The refounding of the collective as Patient's Front was announced by Huber whilst he was in solitary confinement in Stammheim Prison, later called PF/SPK(H). As the founder of the SPK and PF/SPK(H), Huber entrusted all juridical matters concerning the groups to Ingeborg Muhler, an active member of the SPK since 1970, who is an attorney and holds a MA in Computer Science.

See also[edit]

  • SPK, an Australian industrial music group named after the collective.

Sources and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b "SPK/PF(H), Sozialistisches Patientenkollektiv (SPK), Patientenfront (PF), List of Dates". SPK/PF(H). Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "PF/SPK(H), Text for entries on the SPK in the Encyclopedias of Brockhaus, Duden, etc". SPK/PF(H). Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  3. ^ "The secret of illness is human species. How to apply the concept of illness". SPK/PF(H). Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Proposal for a text for international use concerning SPK. Overview". SPK/PF(H). Retrieved 2 December 2011. 
  5. ^ SPK; Huber, Wolfgang (1993). SPK Turn illness into a Weapon. KRRIM - PF-Verlag fur Krankheit. p. 240. ISBN 3-926491-17-5. 
  6. ^ a b Blake, Trevor (1995). SPK – Krankheit Im Recht. KRRIM - PF - Verlag für Krankheit. p. 159. ISBN 3-926491-26-4. 
  7. ^ a b Parker, Ian. Deconstructing Psychopathology. Sage Publications Ltd. p. 120. ISBN 978-0-8039-7481-4. 
  8. ^ Spandler, Helen (1992). "To Make an army out of Illness: a history of the Socialist Patients Collective Heidelberg 1970/72". Asylum 6 (4): 3–16. 
  9. ^ a b Guattari, Felix (1984). Molecular revolution: psychiatry and politics. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Penguin. pp. 67–68. ISBN 0-14-055160-3. 
  10. ^ a b c Genosko, Gary (2001). "Introduction". Deleuze and Guattari: critical assessments of leading philosophers 2. London: Routledge. pp. 480–481, 798 of 1503. ISBN 0-415-18678-1. 
  11. ^ a b English Google translation: "Turn Illness into a Weapon,". Original German text: "Aus der Krankheit eine Waffe machen!," Ruprecht (Heidelberger Studierenzeitung), Number 35 (16 May 1995).
  12. ^ a b Boehlich, Walter (January 1972). "Wildwuchs, nicht länger geduldet. Walter Boehlich über: Dokumentation zum Sozialistischen Patientenkollektiv" [Proliferation, no longer tolerated. Walter Boehlich on: documentation on Socialist Patients' Collective]. Der Spiegel (in German) (Germany: Spiegel Verlag) 6: 122–124. 
  13. ^ a b Kotowicz, Zbigniew (1997). R.D. Laing and the Paths of Anti-Psychiatry. Routledge. pp. 80–81. ISBN 0-415-11610-4. 
  14. ^ a b Guma, Greg (2005). Taylor, Philip M., ed. "Anything but the Truth: The Art of Managing Perceptions". Propaganda And The Global War On Terrorism (GWOT) (The Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds) 4. 
  15. ^ Connie Paige "Vermont Town in Uproar over Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Who Wasn’t," The Boston Phoenix (30 Sep 1978).

Further reading[edit]