The following analysis of the Red Army Faction was written by an ultra-red-diaper baby: the daughter of the communist terrorist Ulrika Meinhof, who was the “Meinhof” of the notorious Baader-Meinhof Gang.
Rembrandt Clancy has provided an introduction to the translated essay, and also an appendix containing additional translated material.
Ideologies have a powerful tendency to develop a momentum of their own and to bring forth ever new motivational drive creators who feel pressure to go one step further. Ideologies have a tendency to expand and take over more and more spheres of politics and society. All spheres of policy today are in this sense determined by ’68: be it education policy, family and gender policy; be it European policy, energy and economic policy, through to the non-existent immigration policy. The culture and subculture as well as the NGOs have been ticking until today in ’68er time. Also, the schizophrenic policy towards radical left-wing violence, be it the G20 summit in Hamburg in July of 2017 or the violent excesses against the ECB in Frankfurt in March of 2015, have to be seen in the context of the ’68er-spin. […] What must be recognised and eliminated is the worldwide “fatwa” of the genocidal mass murderer Mao Zedong against the West, against everything that is Western: against Western culture, against what Western morality is, what Western achievement is; the “fatwa” that in the sixties put so many privileged Western children on the march to blindly hate their West, to furiously destroy and attack it; precisely this “fatwa”, which for fifty years has been taking on a life of its own, raging like a lindworm throughout society and strangling the Western freedom of the individual.*
— Bettina Röhl “Die RAF hat euch Lieb” (2018)
Bettina Röhl: Daughter of the Red Army Faction (RAF)
by Rembrandt Clancy
The author of the present essay was born in 1962 and is one of the twin daughters of Ulrika Meinhof (1934-1976), who still lives on under her maiden name in that other designation for the RAF, the Baader-Meinhof Gruppe (Baader-Meinhof Gang). Ulrika’s husband, Klaus Rainer Röhl, whom she divorced in 1968, was the publisher of konkret, which was the preeminent magazine animating the Extra-Parliamentary Opposition (APO) in the Bundesrepublik from the 1960s until it was shut down in 1973. Ulrike was the magazine’s one-time chief editor. She exercised considerable intellectual and propaganda influence on the radical student movement of her time, including her feminist family concept, where the personal becomes political, an axiom in her essay which also explains why women threw tomatoes at the Shah of Iran in 1967 (cf. Die Frauen im SDS oder In Eigener Sache, “The Women in the SDS or Action On Their Own Behalf”; 1968). In May of 1976 Ulrika Meinhof was found hanged in her prison cell with a makeshift device amid circumstances which, for some, remain unclarified.
Bettina Röhl studied history and is a publicist. She has written two books treating critically of the radical ’68er student movement which threatened to destabilise the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland — BRD). Her first book So macht Kommunismus Spaß! (Making Communism Fun! — 2006) deals with the history of the Left in Germany from 1949 to 1968.
In her second book, Die RAF hat euch lieb (The RAF Loves You — 2018), Bettina Röhl recounts her experiences as a child in the first-generation RAF, whose most prominent names include Horst Mahler, Gudrun Esslin and Andreas Baader. The author conveys the movement’s quasi-religious, “Marxist-Leninist-Maoist” fervour among privileged students, who, mostly children of the National Socialist generation, were capable of arson, bank robberies, bombings, kidnapping, killing and a prison break.
In the light of an essay which treats of the ever-expanding reach of ideology, the meaning of the book’s title is worth a brief remark. “The RAF Loves You” is an impersonal greeting Ulrika Meinhof wrote to her 11-year old twin daughters from Cologne-Ossendorf prison in October of 1972. With this title and the chapter dedicated to it in the book, Bettina Röhl captures the abandonment of the children, as if the mother, who addressed the twins as “comrade mice” [Genossinnen Mäuse!] had confused or fused the intimate sphere with a collective persona.
“Whether you know it or not, whether like it or not, the RAF loves you. I probably know best.” (op. cit., Kindle vers. 1.28.0. München: Random House, Chapter: Die RAF hat euch lieb, para. 12):
The intoxicating crowd-events and the brutal highlights of the early RAF years in the Bundesrepublik still live with a special atmospheric colour in the German consciousness. Now after only two months of violent assaults of the Maoist cultural revolutionary type on Western culture, the English-speaking world read Bettina Röhl’s essay on the RAF years with almost the same vivid sense of immediacy as the Germans.
Only the type of collectivist identity has changed after five decades: “The Red Army Faction is Dead”, but “Long live Antifa”. It is as if the author writes of a time-spanning protean spirit of collectivism which preternaturally modifies its external expression to adapt to the changed external political and social circumstances of each generation. Hence Röhl speaks of a spirit of the times, a “revolutionary Zeitgeist”; a “revolution-phantasm” and a “diffuse prototype” of the revolution found in specific dictatorships.
The names of the street gangs change as do those of the identity groups; at one time it is social class, at another it is a particular race, at another a coalition of races, ethnic groups and sexual identities. Röhl’s intuition suggests the presence of a latent, transgenerational collectivist “Geist” which can only be inferred from the surface events she describes.
However, Antifa itself does have a history, or at least its name has a lineage. Its history as paramilitary strategy can be traced to the official founding of Die Antifaschistische Aktion of the Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (KPD) on 10 July 1932 (Bernd Langer. 80 Jahre Antifaschistische Aktion, 2012, p. 3).
|*||Die RAF hat euch lieb Kindle vers. 1.28.0, München: Random House, Chapter: Schusswort — Conclusion; para 3, 2018)
The Red Army Faction is Dead — Long Live Antifa
Source: Neue Zürcher Zeitung
02 June 2020
The freeing of Andreas Baader from prison fifty years ago was the beginning of the Red Army Faction (RAF). What began with revolutionary romanticism terrorised the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (BRD) for more than three decades. Radical Left-wing terror still exists today.
by Bettina Röhl
[original German language article places an image with the RAF logo here]
Who was in a fever in the seventies? Was it the RAF? Was it the German Federal authorities and politicians? Were the media overheated? Was it the society, the establishment, that chased after the terrorists? Or was it the students who were awakened by the events surrounding 1968 — that army of student disciples in the 1970s, who in the publishing sphere time and again rolled out the red carpet for the RAF?
In the Bundesrepublik [Federal Republic] of the time, the large silent majority did not side with the ’68er-movement, much less did they side with the RAF, a movement of armed struggle in West Germany. The overwhelming majority of citizens (above all the working population) felt little attraction to terror, violence, urban guerrillas and revolution; and they looked on with vexation, somewhat paralysed at the fashionable phenomenon of “terrorism”: “being high, being free and a bit of terror must be thrown in”. The silent majority were the ones to be combatted, the “bourgeois”. That is how the young pop-Communist enthusiasts saw it; those who gravitated to Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh and more particularly to Mao Zedong as the ‘one who fundamentally transformed society’ [Umwälzer].
Especially the so-called left-wing intellectuals became, at best, semi-critical propagators of the 1968 RAF ideology; they were the subcultural and established artists, from the writer Hans Magnus Enzensberger to solicitor and singer Franz Josef Degenhardt; from theatre director Claus Peymann to Nobel Prize winner for literature Heinrich Böll. They were ubiquitous at the time with their opinions, especially in the boom-media with their circulation in the millions, such as Der Spiegel, Stern and the “Die Zeit”; but also, they were everywhere in the powerful public sector television broadcasters of the time. Also, many journalists were completely lacking in detachment and became avid reporters for the RAF. At the same time, reportage on the RAF functioned almost like a true-crime serial, presenting the public with crimes, perpetrators and the deaths almost in real time.
The revolutionary phantasma
The RAF sympathisers claimed for their heroes a motivational drive generating function — shaking the people out of their apathy. It was from these figures that the impetus for the impending revolution against capitalism and the exploitation of the Third World was supposed to come. There hung in the air a revolutionary Zeitgeist; there was a revolution-phantasm chased after by entire social classes worldwide.
The diffuse prototype resided in the communist dictatorships of China, North Korea, North Vietnam and Cuba, which the New Left idealised as better countries on the right path to the best Communism. One need only think of Luise Rinser’s hymn to North Korea or recall the celebratory books of many writers; for instance, those of Alberto Moravia, who visited China in the early seventies. They rhapsodised about the millions of youths, the Red Guards, who, all clad in identical blue tunics, would wave Mao’s Little Red Book back and forth.
Less and less did these revolutionaries favour the Soviet Union, which was seen as bureaucratic and “revisionist”. That did not mean the RAF and many other West German leftists did not readily draw upon the German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the East Bloc as logistical suppliers of relief; not to mention the army of Stasi agents in West Germany, as well as the fact that, from the very beginning, the RAF members could always use the GDR as a hinterland, including the East Berlin airport.
The RAF’s principle of personalisation
Since the founding of the RAF, which is essentially attributable to Horst Mahler — my conjecture is that in this connection he may have been acting at the behest of the GDR — they had been betting on a principle formulated by the experienced journalist Ulrike Meinhof: a terrorist is a face, a person and an acting individual who in video, audio and in writing immediately gains admission to the press with his biography and the crimes he commits; hence a kind of official terrorism with claim to responsibility.
By becoming a personal factor in the public’s living rooms and news rooms, the Baader-Meinhof combo was therefore oriented in a structural way toward the very end result which other terrorist groups avoided. And that was true in the beginning with their first action, when on 14 May 1970 the Baader-Meinhof brigade, girding themselves for terror, organised the jail break of Andreas Baader, who was serving a prison sentence for arson on a department store. It came to a shootout in which a pistolero hired by the group shot and seriously wounded a staff member, and two policemen were also injured. Nearly all the key players were present at this attack, notoriously called the “Baader Liberation”; almost all the members of RAF, then in the process of forming, were armed.
The first wanted poster following this action was displayed throughout Berlin on the advertising pillars and showed the likeness of “Ulrika Meinhof, Röhl by previous marriage” and the words “Attempted Murder 10,000 Marks Reward”. Meinhof fired no shots at all during the event, but she was the most prominent person in the group.
The media coup
[… she persuaded the French activist Michèle Ray to come to Berlin to one of the prepared conspirative apartments and handed her a tape recording of an explanation of the Baader-action spoken by Meinhof herself (see Appendix).]
Thus, Baader’s prison break had been a success. Nevertheless, there still lacked that revolutionary moment, a “rational” explanation. And then Ulrike Meinhof pulled off the coup, the media breakthrough: she persuaded the French activist Michèle Ray to come to Berlin to one of the prepared conspirative apartments and handed her a tape recording of an explanation of the Baader-action spoken by Meinhof herself. Ray personally handed the document over to Rudolf Augstein, and the ‘Spiegel’-editor was mad enough to print this cryptic product from the “underground” word for word in a print run by the millions — almost as if Meinhof and the RAF had issued a kind of government declaration.
Under the title “Of Course There Can Be Shooting”, Ulrike Meinhof declared the Baader-action a revolutionary feat and called upon the left-wing “intellectuals” and other “comrades” to join the revolution that had now begun.
With this media breakthrough, a mingy Baader-action had in point of fact become a revolutionary act, which was carried by means of Der Spiegel into the mainstream of society. From then on, the Baader-Meinhof-Ensslin-Mahler troop’s publicity increased exponentially until into the 2010s when it became calmer among the RAF.
A kind of bureaucratised RAF?
From its very beginnings, the RAF has provided five decades of thematic material for thousands of articles, books, documentary and feature films, dissertations, novels and plays. Today, nothing seems so moribund as the RAF. In reality, the flourishing left-wing radicalism in the West — which strikes brutally during the opening of the European Central Bank headquarters in Frankfurt, at every G-20 summit and otherwise yearly on the 1st of May in Berlin — has brought it to a very high level of entrenchment in the state through journalists and the relevant experts, not least owing to the support of more than a few representatives of some political parties.
The militant Antifa lack only the prominent faces compared with the RAF. They maintain out of cowardice the practice of masking their faces and keeping their names secret. What often calls itself Antifa threatens continuously with violence and assaults; for instance, against politicians or policemen; and it stands for senseless property damage on a vast scale. Nonetheless, the former Federal Minister, Renate Künast (Greens), complained recently in the Bundestag that over the last decades the state has not sufficiently financed Antifa. She said she was weary of fighting for decades so “that NGO and Antifa groups who are committing themselves do not always have to struggle for their money and can only finalise employment contracts for terms of a year at a time”. For that, the Greens, the Left Party and the members of the Social Democratic party (SPD) applauded. One might pose the question as to whether the Antifa is something like a bureaucratised RAF, a terrorist group with funding from the State under the cloak of the “fight against the Right”.
In her essay, “The Red Army Faction is Dead — Long Live Antifa”, Bettina Röhl suggests that a tape-recorded press release Ulrika Meinhof sent to Der SPIEGEL in June of 1970 was the quasi-official beginning of the RAF. It is a revolutionary manifesto in miniature, under the title of its most inflammatory phrase: “Of Course There Can Be Shooting”. The translation appears below, but first a brief, general background with the help of words from Bettina Röhl’s latest book, “Die RAF hat euch Lieb” (The RAF Loves You).
In Bettina Röhl’s, estimation, it was the lawyer for the Extra-Parliamentary Opposition, Horst Mahler, who was the real founder of the RAF. He had been pursuing
the formation of an urban guerrilla group since the beginning of 1970 and in the process tried to bring together those people who he thought he could win over to a body of urban guerrillas. Horst Mahler conceived the RAF strategically, as it were. (Die RAF hat euch Lieb. Chapter: Die Entstehung der RAF — “The origin of the RAF”, par. 1 ff)
Mahler had recruited a number of individuals for the guerrilla project, among whom were Gudrun Ensslin and her boyfriend, Andreas Baader, both of whom had been convicted of arson in connection with the Frankfurt department store fire bombings on 2 April 1968. Mahler even attempted, without success, to recruit the charismatic Rudi Dutschke (ibid.), even though he had been shot in the head and permanently disabled by one of those motivation-obscure assassins on Maundy Thursday, 11 April 1968. (Dutschke is famed for his persistent advocacy of the “the long march through the institutions”.)
On 14 May 1970, with the benefit of Horst Mahler’s recruiting efforts, Gudrun Ensslin, Ulrika Meinhof and six accomplices sprang Andreas Baader from a library just outside his prison in Stuttgart. One employee was seriously injured in the shooting. Here is a how Bettina Röhl understood the significance of the event on its own merits:
If a revolution requires a charismatic figure who stands before the masses and inspires them, then Baader was the opposite. He was an almost stammering, mumbling bungler. And even Rudi Dutschke, the only one from the movement who had the requisite qualities, would not have been the man to orchestrate a concrete seizure of power in a concrete state. Given the personnel Horst Mahler had organised to get on with the revolution, the revolution was fighting a losing battle. So much for the revolution, which does not mean that the later RAF, namely, the so-called first generation, did not have an essential share in strengthening the effect of the 1968 ideologies. (Ibid., Chapter: Gute Nacht, Revolution! — “Good Night, Revolution!”; final paragraph)
But publicity is greater than the whole of its content, which is why a “mingy Baader-action … in point of fact became a revolutionary act” (Bettina Röhl). According to Röhl, the revolutionary effect came with Ulrika Meinhof’s public explanation of the prison break which she released through an intermediary to Der Spiegel on 15 June 1970 under the title “Of Course There Can Be Shooting”:
So that the effect of the Baader action did not implode, a reason and explanation now had to be found quickly, and propaganda had to take it one step further. That was the founding of the… Red Army Faction, RAF. The text “Of course there can be shooting” can be assessed as the first “press release” of the RAF. The style of this statement is one hundred percent Meinhof…. With the abstract sentence “Of course there can be shooting”, which Meinhof shouts here at the public in the name of the “Red Army”, she turns the screw of sham legitimation one twist further and inspires and solidifies a sustained social consensus of catastrophic dimensions that continues to this day.
(Ibid., Chapter: Natürlich kann geschossen werden. “Of course there can be shooting”; para, 10-11. Emphasis added)
In the above passage, Röhl describes the sentence “Of course there can be shooting” [Natürlich kann geschossen werden] as “abstract”. In specific terms, she means that Ulrika Meinhof depersonalises the grim reality of her meaning with use of the passive voice. That is why we do not render it in English as “Of course you can shoot”. This distancing effect is characteristic of the manifesto’s style generally, with its surfeit of passive sentences and impersonal pronouns, not to mention that the ‘transcendent’ ideological objectives are self-enforcing by becoming their own depersonalised moral code.
(op. cit. Chapter: Natürlich kann geschossen werden. “Of course there can be shooting”; para, 10-11. Emphasis added)
“OF COURSE THERE CAN BE SHOOTING”
The left-wing extremist group around Ulrike Meinhof who participated in the freeing of Baader want to build a “Red Army”. The journalist, who is sought on “wanted” posters, has expressed her thinking on tape. Der SPIEGEL publishes in what follows unredacted extracts which begin with the answer to the question as to why Baader had been freed.
Original German Language Source: Der SPIEGEL
15 June 1970
One can say for three reasons: first of all, of course, because Andreas Baader is a cadre; and because we cannot assume, that among those who have now understood what has to be done and what is right, that there are individuals who are, in some kind of extravagant way, dispensable in the process.
The second reason we made the freeing of prisoners our first action is that we believe that those whose consciousness we wish to raise about what is politically at stake today are the very ones who, with respect to the freeing of prisoners, have no problem at all identifying with the question — inasmuch as those proletarian families, or that portion of the proletariat whom we believe to be potentially revolutionary, have no difficulty at all identifying with a freeing of prisoners…
The third reason is that, by beginning with a liberation of prisoners, we also want to make it absolutely clear that we take it seriously. That means, that those who have now begun to work and those who wish to undertake such actions, are naturally people who on no account will allow each other to get wiped out; for them, it is clearly not a game, and it is a moment when solidarity must be clear from the outset, for the conditions under which these confrontations alone can be carried out are of course very difficult …
The intellectual Left has by and large opposed the action. We start from the premise that the intellectuals are of course completely indispensable as initiators of confrontations. But it is certainly also a fact that it was the intellectuals, as much in Germany as in Berlin, who have brought the political confrontations to the point where we are now. However, we can also see, that while these same intellectuals have come so far with their theoretical concepts as to understand that arms are necessary and that the revolution will not be achieved unless the revolutionaries take up arms, we nevertheless recognise that these are at the same time people who will not take this next step which must be taken now; namely, to also do what they speak of doing.
This is because all evidence points to the fact that while the intellectuals are indeed capable of recognising the situation, they are incapable of taking the next step because of their own class position. It is on the grounds of their class background that they continue to have very much to lose, indeed very much to lose from life. Evidence also speaks to the fact that each and every one of them, from within his middle-class existence, naturally has prospects in life, so that for them, there is no objective reason to take the step — except that they have the knowledge that the step must be taken.
With that, it must be made explicit that there are of course individuals who do take the step, for our own heritage is truly also the heritage of middle-class intellectuals. Given the situation, however, we believe it is now appropriate to divorce ourselves from the authority of left-wing intellectuals, to no longer allow ourselves to be determined by them, but to henceforth direct our political work genuinely towards those proletarian groups, or to aim at organising those sectors of the proletariat, who are not only capable of recognizing the political necessities, but are also capable of drawing the requisite conclusions from their class situation and then taking action accordingly.
Their main reproach — and it is certainly not by chance that it comes as much from the left-wing intellectuals as from the middle class newspapers — is the claim we are anarchists, by which it is intended to align us with those intellectuals who have tried in the past to provoke particular confrontations without having emerged from of their isolation. Whenever they call us anarchists, it is because they are trying to isolate the action, to isolate this form of political confrontation…
We therefore believe we can ignore the intellectual Left’s criticism of the action, since we are addressing completely different groups. We believe one must come around to a political collaboration, both in organising and in regard to actions with that part of the proletariat which finds no gratification in allowing itself to be exploited in this society.
These are also the child-rich families; these are the women who have a household and children and at the same time must work in the factories. These are the proletarian youth who have no prospects, but also do not yet have a family, to which circumstance they are forced adapt their lives. These are the people living in the newly constructed areas of the major cities…
Our starting point, and indeed the point which the Left, the intellectual Left, have understood, is this: that the revolution will not be brought about by them, but by the proletariat; that one therefore must go into the factories and into the neighbourhoods of the city, where organisation has to be undertaken.
It is simply that we are of the view that organisation of the proletariat becomes a bugbear only if one fails to simultaneously begin doing what we are doing now — which is to build the Red Army — and only if one fails to simultaneously prepare for and simultaneously create the conditions for being able to withstand such confrontations; in other words, every political labour will remain utterly without prospect and will not be able to go beyond a few reforms; hence, precisely what cannot be achieved is what is necessary to achieve, unless the objective is to change only the form of exploitation and the form of oppression.
We are of the view that one cannot attain to revolution at all unless one pursues the taking up of arms simultaneously with the organisation of the proletariat, together with work in the factories and in the city neighbourhoods; hence, create the possibilities of weathering confrontations: the confrontations will come at the moment when a corporation simply no longer has the ability to break a strike in its own way, by a lockout; when of course the authority of the state will mobilise and when of course the cops will arrive.
And we are of the view from the start, that it is revisionist and pure reformism to believe one can organise the proletariat first and only later should one take up arms…
There is a problem on our part, whereby people are actually amazed again and again whenever they are confronted with it. It is very well known, that whenever the Black Panthers are reported on, that the police are called “pigs” and that one adopts the English word “pigs” and one finds it appropriate. Whereas the problem continually arises, that whenever one has to deal with the cops in this country, it is argued that by virtue of their function they are naturally brutal, that by virtue of their function they have to cudgel and shoot, and by virtue of their function they must oppress; but after all, it is only the uniform, and it is only the function; and the man who wears it is perhaps quite an agreeable contemporary when he is at home.
But then there are the confrontations: whenever it comes down to confrontation with the cops, the people are forever insecure; and whereas, in line with the Panthers, they have no difficulty at all adopting their word for cops, namely, the word “pigs”, they do not use it against the police whom they themselves encounter on the street, by whom they are threatened with trouble, by whom they are imprisoned, by whom they are beaten up with clubs and by whom in Berlin they have already been shot.*
That is a problem, and of course we say the cops are pigs; we say the character in the uniform is a pig, that he is not a human being, and it is in this way that we have to confront him. This means that we do not have to talk to him, and it is wrong to talk with these people at all; and of course, there can be shooting [natürlich kann geschossen werden].
For we do not have the problem that these are human beings, inasmuch as it is their function, or rather their work to protect the crimes of the system, to defend and represent the criminality of the system. And whenever we have anything to do with them, then they are just criminals, then they are just pigs, and that is a very clear position. Those who say it is not the cops who are to blame, that the cops are also somehow human beings, that they have only this sh***y function; those who say “we want to abolish capitalism and struggle against imperialism, but we make a distinction between the system we are fighting and the cops who fight us”, these are of course the ones who never get to the point of fighting the system where the system fights us. That means precisely this: they are unable to come to the point of turning their theory into practice, their theory which is right. But the practice must of course rest on the underlying assumption that the police are to be fought as representatives of the system, and that they are of course to be fought ruthlessly, and of course unscrupulously and without hesitation.
What we wish to do and at the same time demonstrate is this: that armed confrontations are feasible, that it is possible to take action whereby we triumph and not whereby the other side triumphs, and whereby it is of course important that they do not catch us; that belongs, as it were, to the success of the affair.
|*||This is likely a reference to the fatal shooting of the student Benno Ohnesorg on 2 June 1967 by a plain-clothes policeman, Karl-Heinz Kurras, who was later found to have been a Stasi collaborator. The occasion was a demonstration against the visit of the Shah of Iran to West Berlin. The shooting is often understood to have been the trigger for the subsequent violent protests of the German student movement. (cf. Irish Times).