History of Student Movements and Their Influence on Society

Hitler, Khomeini, and Red Danny: The Dark History of Student Organizations in the World


The statement "a historical rule of thumb is that if you find yourself in any period of history opposing a student movement while siding with the elite, you are wrong" has elicited much debate since its publication. The intention of this article is to provide a range of examples that support and reject this statement.

History of Student Movements

Student movements have played a pivotal role in the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century. They stood against Hitler in Germany, fought for civil rights in the United States, and joined the resistance against the Czech Republic's Velvet Revolution in the late 1980s. However, there have also been unfortunate examples of student movements, such as the pro-Palestinian groups that stormed the Democratic National Convention headquarters, resulting in 6 police officers and 100 protesters injured.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Fighting Against Hitler

Student movements played a vital role in resisting Hitler's regime in Germany. Despite the widespread belief that students were uniformly anti-Nazi, some student organizations supported the burning of Jewish and American literature and embraced Nazi ideology. Until 1945, Nazi student organizations played a crucial role in academic surveillance and passing information to the Nazi authorities about professors and students, who were then imprisoned, tortured, or murdered.

Revolting in Cuba

Alongside Fidel Castro's rise to power in Cuba, a student organization called DR-13-M actively participated in the attack on the presidential palace. After the success of the rebellion, the Revolutionary Committee, a student organization, united with Castro's July 26 Movement to form the Union of Revolutionary Organizations government. Students played active roles in murdering, torturing, re-educating, and arresting those considered suspects by the regime.

The Cultural Revolution in China

The "Red Guards" movement, which embraced Mao's centralist communist ideology, emerged during the Cultural Revolution in China. They believed in spreading Mao's ideology, using violence against people leading China away from freedom and capitalism, and helping to imprison and murder millions. These students were eager to eliminate Mao's opponents.

The 1968 Protests in France

French leader Charles de Gaulle faced protests in 1968, which developed into a general strike and then into violent confrontations with the authorities and street fights. The protests were so widespread that about two-thirds of the French workforce was on strike, and there were even fears of a civil war breaking out. The leader of the protests was Daniel Cohen-Bendit, a German-French Jewish politician nicknamed "Danny the Red."

The Democratic Convention in Chicago

Several protest organizations, including student organizations such as Students for a Democratic Society, started protesting the Vietnam War by electing the Democratic Convention in Chicago, 1968. The protests began before the conference and deteriorated into violent confrontations, with severe violence, stone-throwing at police officers, and even live shooting. Over 500 protesters, over 100 uninvolved civilians, and 152 police officers were injured in the riots.

The Islamic Revolution in Iran

A large Iranian student movement also aided the rise to power of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979. On November 4 of that year, a group of Iranian students invaded the US embassy in Tehran and took the embassy employees hostage. The hijackers demanded that the US extradite the deposed ruler, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, to Iran to stand trial for crimes against the state.


Student movements have been instrumental in shaping society's progress, but they have also been used to oppose democratic conventions, attack the US embassy, and support authoritarian regimes. Unfortunately, the current trend on campuses is to harass and silence conservative voices, leading to concern about the direction of academic institutions.

Title: The Dark History of Student Organizations: Hitler, Khomeini, and Red Danny


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