The very fabric of society

Actually, the lack of fabric may matter in the upcoming German elections:

There can’t be many countries where a major political party’s leader would campaign on a nude beach. But German politician Gregor Gysi, leader of Die Linke, the anti-capitalist party that is the third biggest in the current parliament, has done so this week to bemoan the declining popularity of naturism in his country. In doing so, he’s tapped into a lingering east-west culture divide, and maybe a few extra votes.

Gysi’s political career started in East Germany where he was something of a dissident within the ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED). In the 1980s, when Gysi was pushing for reform, the “free body culture,” or FKK as it is known in Germany, was widespread in Communist East Germany, a politically repressed people’s way of telling the world that they actually enjoyed freedom of a sort. In 1982, there were 40 official nude beaches in the Communist nation and lots of others that weren’t mentioned in the state-published guidebook.

This wasn’t, of course, due to any particular penchant for nudity among the Communists:

FKK became popular in Weimar Germany, where it was linked to both nationalism and to social-democratic pacifism. The Nazis banned naturism in 1933 but relaxed the rules soon afterwards under pressure from influential party members and SS officers who argued there was nothing wrong with the natural beauty of the German body. The Communists banned it again in the 1950s: They hated both the old social-democratic and Nazi associations, and they followed the prudish Soviet line on anything even remotely sex-related.” The ‘nudist unions’ were a by-product of the disintegration of imperialism in the area of body culture and sports,” the state sports organization declared in 1951. “As an expression of imperialist decadence, ‘nudist unions’ cannot be tolerated.” By 1954, nude bathing was largely banned from Baltic beaches even if it didn’t involve membership in any group.

The ban lasted two years before being lifted, mostly because nobody had bothered to follow it:

[I]n 1956, nude beaches were officially allowed, and though ad-hoc attempts to clear them out persisted for some years, it was clear that the naked people had won. FKK became an acceptable form of expressing individual freedom. By the time it collapsed, the East German regime had co-opted it. Official propaganda even pushed the nudist norm to the outside world as evidence of the country’s progressiveness.

Still, nudism is in decline all over the reunited Germany:

The drop in FKK’s popularity is probably due more to a growing Muslim population and the proliferation of high-resolution mobile phone cameras than to capitalist prudery and lasciviousness. In a changing world, it has been reduced to a niche that will never be as large as it was in a largely closed, homogeneous Communist country.

And probably never as small as it is in the US.


  1. Holly H »

    15 August 2017 · 9:21 am

    1. It certainly should be allowed, everywhere.

    2. I have no interest in joining the nudist party, due to all the practical problems. I actually DO want a barrier between my privates and all the dirt and bugs and germs out there.

    3. OK and also I don’t like giving strangers TMI. A little prudish I guess.

  2. CGHill »

    15 August 2017 · 5:31 pm

    Towels. Always towels. (Or something bigger if you plan to get horizontal.)

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