This 7th of October 2012, we celebrate the birthday of Ulrike Meinhof, the great German revolutionary, born in 1934 and murdered in 1976. As her figure is an important example of the question of formation of a revolutionary Thought in a country, let’s understand it the best we can.
1.The formation of Ulrike Meinhof in West-Germany class struggles
Initially, Ulrike Meinhof is the product of the revisionist movement of Germany in the 1950’s-1960’s. She participated as a student to the anti-war movement, became the spokeswoman of the local Anti-Atomtod-Ausschuss (‘Anti-Atomic Death Committee’).
She could met a spanish intellectual, like Manuel Sacristán, a post-leninist in the spirit of Lukacs’ revisionism, and she was deep influenced by the post-marxist school of Frankfurt (Marcuse, Adorno, Horkheimer), which tried to formulate a critical theory of culture in capitalism society.
She became a member of the forbidden Communist Party of Germany (KPD) in 1959, leaving it just it in 1964; 1968 the KPD became legal under the name of German Communist Party, under a legalist and revisionist form.
Parallel to this, class struggles in West Germany were carried by the student movement, notably against the war in Vietnam, i.e. for the success of the NLF.
As a brillant intellectual, Ulrike Meinhof became also a journalist of Konkret, the intellectual monthly review of the far left, where she wrote for 10 years.
In this review on 11 april 1968, she wrote an article which became famous. It was just after a fascist attack where Rudi Dutschke, the leader of the far left student or even the far left in West-Germany in general, was deeply wounded.
Meinhof explained: „Protest is when I say this does not please me. Resistance is when I ensure what does not please me occurs no more.“
Another time, she also hailed the burning of a department store by a group with Andreas Baader among them. She also wrote also the plot for the TV movie „Bambule“, describing a revolt of female adolescents in a school-prison.
2.Ulrike Meinhof’s role and thought
Ulrike Meinhof came from a revisionist background. Nevertheless, she manages to understand West Germany’s situation in a deep way.
First of all, she understood that Nazi traditions were still present. That’s why apathy had to be fought and revolutionary traditions upheld.
That’s why it became a tradition of the “left” bourgeois journalists to explain that the Red Army Fraction founded by Meinhof was a “resistance to catch up” the “absence” of a great scale resistance in Nazi Germany. It is a way for bourgeois journalists to negate the continuity of nazi hierarchic and ultra-brutal methods in the social forms of West Germany.
Ulrike Meinhof understood also the US imperialist plan to use West Germany, as an economic basis for its own development, but also as military basis, be it against Vietnam or, of course, against the “Eastern bloc”.
West Germany’s regime was understood as a puppet of US imperialism; it was not only the government, but the whole nature of the regime was to be understood as having a submitted nature.
Because of these two aspects, Ulrike Meinhof clearly produced a thought, a guide for revolutionary action in West Germany.
3.Ideological construction and weakness
Ulrike Meinhof, unfortunately, did not have in her possession the ideological weapons necessary to her function. She had to tinker all her thought.
She needed an ideological weapon to promote the struggle against US imperialism and to mobilize against Germany’s institutions.
Because of this, she used the elements she had. These elements were:
Guevarism, as possibility to organise a “foco” immediately;
the Tupamaros of Uruguay, as example of possibility of urban warfare;
Linpiaoism, as possibility of struggling against imperialism in any part of the world;
the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, as a call to the struggle against West Germany’s institutions;
the revisionist “left” italian tendency called “Il Manifesto”, to explain the capitalist general crisis;
the experiences of the French Gauche Prolétarienne and the US Black Panthers to justify the position of illegality.
In fact, Ulrike Meinhof was a maoist. And indeed, all the chapters of the basical document “The Urban Guerrilla Concept“ from April 1971 alterns, at the beginning of the chapters, quotations of Mao Zedong and of Il Manifesto, and finished with: “Support the Armed Struggle! Victory in the People’s War!“.
Unfortunately, Ulrike Meinhof did not understand that her thought belonged to the epoch of the Great Cultural Proletarian Revolution.
That’s why her thought was troubled by revisionist influences. For example, as West Germany was considered as submitted to US imperialism and that the defeat of US imperialism was the final step against imperialism as it was its main force, then nothing counted until this step.
There was no stages, it was all a whole long period of armed struggle necessary in West Germany, until the defeat of US imperialism. There was no consideration of the national framework of class struggles.
Another problem was that the USSR was considered as a passive hinterland for the world anti-imperialist struggle. Meinhof considered that the October Revolution opened a process and the USSR was stucked with its own problem, but that it was still a (passive) part of the historical movement.
Another problem was that this struggle, because it had no real framework, was considered as a part of a struggle at world scale; there was a need for a faction of this struggle, not a Communist Party.
4.The Red Army Faction
The Red Army Faction was therefore based on Meinhof’s construction (whereas the practical leader was Andreas Baader, who on his side was the one who theorized the necessity of armed struggle).
RAF members were trained in the West Bank and Gaza in camps of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP); in Germany the RAF made many bombs attacks, notably against the US military computer in Heidelberg which planned the bombings in Vietnam.
The RAF had a huge impact in West Germany. That’s why also the West German state put the RAF prisoners in the high security prison of Stammheim, in solitary confinement, Meinhof wrote a very famous letter about it and her struggle against it, not to become mad because of the white torture.
This process culminated finally with Ulrike Meinhof allegedly hanging herself in 1976; in fact, Meinhof was liquidated by the West German state, because what she represented. Andreas Baader committed also “suicide” in 1977.
The main erroneous consequence of this was that the Red Army Faction continued in the same anti-imperialist perspective (“The revolutionary strategy here is very simply a strategy against their strategy“ says the strategic document of 1982: “The Guerilla, the Resistance and the Anti-Imperialist Front“).
Moreover, all the radical left in West Germany -even when not on the line of the RAF – accepted the line that Germany as a national state was not the framework of the struggle. The fall of the Berlin wall killed strategically the left: the national framework was more clear then ever, and German imperialism could also more and more played solo on the international level.
It was the end of a historical period, and it shows the greatness and the limits of Ulrike Meinhof’s thought.
We must draw a clear line between ourselves and the enemy.
I hold that it is bad as far as we are concerned if a person, a political party, an army or a school is not attacked by the enemy, for in that case it would definitely mean that we have sunk to the level of the enemy. It is good if we are attacked by the enemy, since it proves that we have drawn a clear dividing line between the enemy and ourselves. It is still better if the enemy attacks us wildly and paints us as utterly black and without a single virtue; it demonstrates that we have not only drawn a clear dividing line between the enemy and ourselves but have achieved spectacular successes in our work.
Mao tse Tung
May 26, 1939
1. concrete answers to concrete questions
I still insist that without investigation there cannot possibly be any right to speak.
Some comrades have already made up their minds about us. For them, it is the “demagoguery of the bourgeois press” that links these “anarchist groups” with the socialist movement. In their incorrect and pejorative use of the term anarchism, they are no different than the Springer Press. We don’t want to engage anyone in dialogue on such a shabby basis.
Many comrades want to know what we think we’re doing. The letter to 883, in May 1970, was too vague. The tape Michele Ray had, extracts of which appeared in Spiegel, was not authentic and, in any event, was drawn from a private discussion. Ray wanted to use it as an aide-mémoire for an article she was writing. Either she tricked us or we overestimated her. If our practice was as hasty as she claims, we’d have been caught by now. Spiegel paid Ray an honorarium of $1,000.00 for the interview.
Almost everything the newspapers have written about us—and the way they write it—has clearly been a lie. Plans to kidnap Willy Brandt are meant to make us look like political idiots, and claims that we intend to kidnap children are meant to make us look like unscrupulous criminals. These lies go as far as the “authentic details” in konkret #5, which proved to be nothing more than unreliable details that had been slapped together. That we have “officers and soldiers,” that some of us are slaves of others, that comrades who have left us fear reprisals, that we broke into houses or used violence to take passports, that we exercise “group terror”—all of this is bullshit.
The people who imagine an illegal armed organization to be like the Freikorps or the Feme [The Freikorps were right-wing paramilitary groups that sprang up in the period following World War I; many were later integrated into the Nazi rise to power. The Feme was a secret medieval court which meted out the death sentence, the bodies of its victims generally being left hanging in the streets.] are people who hope for a pogrom. The psychological mechanisms that produce such projections, and their relationship to fascism, have been analyzed in Horkheimer and Adorno’s Authoritarian Personality and Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism. A compulsive revolutionary personality is a contradictio in adjecto—a contradiction in terms.
A revolutionary political practice under the present conditions—perhaps under any conditions—presumes the permanent integration of the individual’s personality and political beliefs, that is to say, political identity. Marxist criticism and self-criticism has nothing to do with “self-liberation,” but a lot to do with revolutionary discipline. It is not the members of a “left organization,” writing anonymously or using pen names, who are just interested in “making headlines,” but konkret itself, whose editor is currently promoting himself as a sort of left-wing Eduard Zimmermann [Eduard Zimmermann was tv moderator for the German equivalent of Crimewatch. This program was used in the search for raf members.] producing jack-off material for his market niche.
Many comrades spread untruths about us too. They brag that we lived with them, that they organized our trip to Jordan, that they know about our contacts, that they are doing something for us, when, in fact, they are doing nothing. Some only want to make it look like they are “in the know.” Günther Voigt [Günther Voigt was a West Berlin arms dealer. A pistol that could be linked to him was dropped during the Baader liberation. Voigt fled to Switzerland where he gave an interview that led to his arrest, claiming he was involved in the liberation of Baader.] had to pay for puffing himself up in a conversation with Dürrenmatt [a Swiss playwright and essayist.] claiming he was the one who freed Baader, which he regretted when the cops showed up. It’s not easy to clear things up with denials, even when they’re true. Some people want to use these lies to prove that we’re stupid, unreliable, careless, or crazy.
By doing so, they encourage people to oppose us. In reality, they are irrelevant to us. They are only consumers. We want nothing to do with these gossipmongers, for whom the anti-imperialist struggle is a coffee klatch. Many are those who don’t gossip, who have some understanding of resistance, who are pissed off enough to wish us luck, who support us because they know that there is no point spending life implicated in and adapted to this crap.
What happened at the Knesebekstr. 89 house (Mahler’s arrest) was not due to carelessness on our part, but to betrayal. The traitor was one of us. There is no guarantee against that for people who do what we do. There is no certainty that comrades will not break under extreme police pressure, or will hold up in the face of the terror that the system uses against us, with which it attacks us. The pigs wouldn’t have the power if they didn’t have these tools.
Our existence makes some people feel pressured to justify themselves. To avoid political discussion with us, to avoid comparing their practice to ours, they distort even the smallest details. For example, the rumor is still circulating that Baader had only three or nine or twelve months to serve, though the correct length of time is easily ascertained: three years for arson, a further six months on probation, and approximately six months for falsifying documents. Of these 48 months, Andreas Baader had served 14 in ten different Hessian prisons—nine times he was transferred because of bad behavior, for example, organizing mutinies and resistance. Reducing the remaining 34 months to three, nine or twelve is intended to reduce the moral justification for the May 14 breakout. In this way, some comrades rationalize their fear of the personal consequences of entering into a political discussion with us.
The question frequently asked, as to whether we would have proceeded with the breakout if we had known that Linke would be shot, can only be answered with a no. The question of what we would have done if… is ambiguous—pacifist, moralistic, platonic, and detached. Anyone who thinks seriously about the breakout would not pose this question, but would think it through for himself.
In asking this question, people only want to see if we are as brutal as the Springer Press claims. It’s like an interrogation in catechism class. It is an attempt to trivialize the question of revolutionary violence, by treating revolutionary violence and bourgeois violence as the same thing, which leads nowhere. In anticipating all the possible developments, there was no reason to believe that a civilian would intervene. It is suicidal to think that one can conduct a jailbreak unarmed.
On May 14, the cops fired the first shots. This was the case in Frankfurt as well, where two of us ran for it, because we are not going to just let ourselves be arrested. The cops shot to kill. Sometimes we didn’t shoot at all, and when we did, we didn’t shoot to kill. In Berlin, in Nuremburg, in Frankfurt. It can be proven, because it is true. We do not “use firearms recklessly.” The cop who finds himself in the contradiction of being a “little man” and a capitalist pawn, a low paid employee and monopoly capitalism’s agent, is not obliged to follow orders. We shoot back if someone shoots at us. The cop who lets us go, we let him go as well.
It is clear that the massive hunt for us is really directed against the entire socialist left in the Federal Republic and West Berlin. This circus cannot be justified by the small amount of money or the few cars and documents we are alleged to have stolen, or by the attempted murder they’re trying to pin on us.
The ruling class has been scared out of its skin. They thought that they had this state and all of its inhabitants, classes, and contradictions under control, right down to the last detail: the intellectuals reduced to their magazines, the left isolated in its own circles, Marxism-Leninism disarmed, and internationalism demoralized. However fragile it may pretend to be, the power structure is not so easily damaged. One should not be tricked by this hue and cry into contributing to all this noise.
We are not saying that the organization of armed resistance groups can replace the legal proletarian organizations, that isolated actions can replace the class struggle, or that armed struggle can replace political work in the factories or neighborhoods. We are arguing that armed struggle is a necessary precondition for the latter to succeed and progress, that armed struggle is “the highest form of Marxism-Leninism” (Mao), and that it can and must begin now, as without it there can be no anti-imperialist struggle in the metropole. We are not Blanquists nor are we anarchists, though we think Blanqui was a great revolutionary and the personal heroism of many anarchists is certainly above reproach.
We have not even been active for a year yet. It is too soon to draw conclusions. The extensive publicity that Genscher, Zimmermann [Chairman of the cdu/csu parliamentary faction.] and Co. have given us opens up a propaganda opportunity which we are using to share a few thoughts.
2. the metropole: the federal republic
The crisis isn’t the result of the stagnation of development, but of development itself. Since the aim is to increase profit, development encourages parasitism and waste, harming whole social sectors, multiplying needs that it cannot satisfy, and accelerating the disintegration of social life. A monstrous apparatus is necessary to control, by means of manipulation and open repression, the tensions and revolts which it itself often provokes. The crisis in American political unity caused by the student rebellion and the Black Movement, the spread of the student struggle in Europe, the vehement renewal and the growth of worker and mass struggles leading to the “May” explosion in France, the tumultuous social crisis in Italy, and the rebirth of dissatisfaction in Germany all indicate the nature of the situation.
The Necessity of Communism, extract from Thesis 33
The comrades from Il Manifesto rightly place the Federal Republic of Germany last in their analysis, vaguely describing the situation here as dissatisfaction. West Germany, which Barzel [party Chairman of the right party cdu] described six years ago as an economic giant but a political dwarf, has not lost any of its economic power since, while its external and internal political power has increased. With the formation of the Grand Coalition in 1966, the political danger posed by the coming recession was forestalled. With the Emergency Laws the instrument was created to secure unified ruling class action in the event of future crises—the unity of political reactionaries and all those who cling to legality was established.
The Social-Liberal coalition succeeded, neutralizing the “dissatisfaction” that had become evident in the student revolt and the extra-parliamentary movement. Insofar as the spd’s supporters have not broken with reformism, this section of the intelligentsia has been prevented from embracing a communist alternative; in this way reformism acts as a brake on the anticapitalist struggle. Ostpolitik is opening new markets for capitalism, while at the same time it represents the German contribution to an accommodation and alliance between U.S. imperialism and the Soviet Union, which the U.S.A. requires in order to have a free hand for its wars of aggression in the Third World.
This government seems to have managed to separate the New Left from the old antifascists, cutting off the New Left from its own history, the history of the working class movement. The dkp, which can thank the new collusion between U.S. imperialism and Soviet revisionism for its new legal status, has organized demonstrations in favor of this government’s Ostpolitik. Niemöller—a symbol of antifascism—is shilling for the spd in the upcoming election.
Using the smokescreen of “the common good,” the government has established state control and curbed the union bureaucracy with its wage guidelines and its notion of concerted action. The strikes of September 69 showed that things have been overwhelmingly skewed to the benefit of profit; and the fact that these strikes only addressed economic issues indicates how firmly the government holds the reins.
The system shows its strength in the way that the Federal Republic, with its 2 million foreign workers and unemployment approaching 10%, can make use of the looming recession to develop the terror and the disciplinary measures that unemployment implies for the proletariat, without having to deal with any political radicalization of the masses.
In exchange for development aid and military support for the U.S.A.’s wars of aggression, the Federal Republic profits from the exploitation of the Third World, without having to take responsibility for these wars, and without having to struggle against internal opposition. While it is no less aggressive than U.S. imperialism, the Federal Republic is less vulnerable.
The political options open to imperialism here have not been exhausted in either their reformist or their fascist forms, and imperialism has not exhausted its ability to either integrate or repress the contradictions that it produces.
The raf’s urban guerilla concept is not based on an optimistic evaluation of the situation in the Federal Republic and West Berlin.
3. the student revolt
The conclusion that it is impossible to separate the revolution in the “heartland” from that in “underdeveloped areas” is based on an analysis of the unique character of the capitalist ruling system. Without a revival of revolution in the West, the imperialists, with their logic of violence, will be able to develop their exit strategy through a catastrophic war, and it will be impossible to prevent the world’s superpowers from imposing crushing oppression.
Il Manifesto: from Thesis 52
To dismiss the student movement as a petit bourgeois revolt is to reduce it to the grandiose claims that accompanied it, to deny its roots in the contradiction between bourgeois society and bourgeois ideology; it means recognizing its obvious shortcomings while ignoring the theoretical level that this anticapitalist protest managed to achieve.
The pathos with which the student movement became aware of its mental immiseration in the knowledge factories was certainly exaggerated, as was the identification of this with the situation of the exploited peoples of Latin America, Africa, and Asia. The comparison between the mass circulation of Bild Zeitung here and the massive bombing of Vietnam was a grotesque oversimplification, just as it was arrogant to compare the ideological critique of the system here and the armed struggle over there. The students’ belief that they were the revolutionary subject, insofar as it was based on the appeal of Marcuse, betrayed their ignorance as to the actual nature of bourgeois society and the mode of production which it has established.
The student revolt in the Federal Republic and West Berlin—with its street fighting, its arsons, its use of counterviolence, its pathos, as well as its exaggerations and ignorance… in short, with its practice—has the merit of having reconstructed Marxism-Leninism, at least in the consciousness of the intelligentsia, as that political theory without which the political, economic, and ideological factors and their outward manifestations cannot be combined into an overall analytical perspective. Without this, internal and external relationships cannot be described.
The student movement was based on the contradiction between the theory of academic freedom and the reality of monopoly capitalism’s control of the universities. Precisely because it was based on this, and not merely on ideology, it didn’t run out of steam before it had established the relationship between the crisis in the universities and the crisis of capitalism, if only in theory. Not before it was clear to the student movement and their public that “liberty, equality, and fraternity” would not be achieved by appeals to human rights or the un Charter, that what was occurring here was what had always occurred in the colonialist and imperialist exploitation of Latin America, Africa, and Asia: discipline, subordination, and brutality for the oppressed and for those who take up their struggle by protest, those who resist and wage the anti-imperialist struggle.
In its ideological critique, the student movement viewed almost all aspects of state repression as expressions of imperialist exploitation: in the Springer campaign, in the demonstrations against American aggression in Vietnam, in the campaign against class justice, in the Bundeswehr campaign, in the campaign against the Emergency Laws, and in the high school student movement. Expropriate Springer! Smash nato! Resist Consumer Terror! Resist Education Terror! Resist Rent Terror!—these were all correct political slogans.
They aimed to expose the contradiction between new needs which could be satisfied through the development of productive forces, on the one hand, and the pressure of irrational subordination to class society, on the other. Their identity was not based on class struggle here, but rather on the knowledge that they were part of an international movement, that they were dealing with the same class enemy as the Viet Cong, the same paper tigers, the same pigs.
The second merit of the student movement was that it broke through the old left’s parochialism: the old left’s popular front strategy in the form of the Easter Marches, the German Peace Union, the Deutsche Volkszeitung, an irrational hope for a “massive landslide” in some election or another, a parliamentary fixation on Strauß here or Heinemann there, their pro- and anticommunist vacillation about the gdr, their isolation, their resignation, and their moral conflicts: ready for every sacrifice, incapable of any practice.
The socialist section of the student movement developed its consciousness, in spite of theoretical errors, from the correct recognition that “the revolutionary initiative in the West can be based on the crisis in the global balance of power, and on the development of new forces in old countries.” (Il Manifesto, Thesis 55)
They based their agitation and propaganda on what can be considered the most important aspect of German reality. They opposed the global strategy of imperialism by internationalizing national struggles, by creating a connection between the national and international aspects of the struggle, between traditional forms of struggle and international revolutionary initiatives. They managed to turn their weakness into strength, because they recognized that continuing resignation, parochialism, reformism, and popular front strategies could only lead to a dead-end for socialist politics in the post- and pre-fascist conditions existing in the Federal Republic and West Berlin.
The left knew that it was correct to link the distribution of socialist propaganda in factories with actually preventing the distribution of Bild Zeitung. It was correct to link propaganda against gis being sent to Vietnam with actual attacks on military planes targeting Vietnam, and the Bundswehr campaign with attacks on nato airports. It was correct to link the critique of class justice with the blowing up of prison walls, and the critique of the Springer Corporation with the disarming of its private security services. It was correct to set up radio stations, to demoralize the police, to have safehouses for Bundeswehr deserters, to combine agitation amongst foreign workers with the production of false documents, to prevent the production of napalm by sabotaging factories.
It was an error, however, to make their own propaganda dependent on supply and demand: to have no newspaper if the workers could not yet finance it, no car if the “movement” could not afford it, no transmitter because they had no license for it, no sabotage because capitalism wouldn’t collapse immediately as a result.
The student movement fell apart when its typically student and petit bourgeois form of organization, “antiauthoritarianism,” proved itself ill-suited to achieving its goals. Its spontaneity proved ineffective in the factories, nor could it create a functioning urban guerilla movement or a socialist mass organization. Unlike in Italy and France, the spark of the student movement here failed to ignite the prairie fire of class struggle, and it was at that point that it collapsed. It could enumerate the aims and contents of the anti-imperialist struggle, but it could not be the revolutionary subject, could not offer the necessary organizational structure.
Unlike the proletarian organizations of the New Left, the Red Army Faction doesn’t deny its roots in the history of the student movement, a movement that reshaped Marxism-Leninism into a weapon of class struggle and established the international basis for revolutionary struggle in the metropole.
4. the primacy of practice
If you want to know a certain thing or a certain class of things directly, you must personally participate in the practical struggle to change reality, to change that thing or class of things, for only thus can you come into contact with them as phenomena; only through personal participation in the practical struggle to change reality can you uncover the essence of that thing or class of things and comprehend them.
Marxism emphasizes the importance of theory precisely and only because it can guide action. If we have a correct theory but merely prate about it, pigeonhole it and do not put it into practice, then that theory, however good, is of no significance.
Mao tse Tung: On Practice
The decision of leftists and socialists, the student movement’s authority figures, to turn to the study of scientific socialism and transform the critique of political economy into a self criticism of the student movement, was at the same time a decision to retreat into the classroom. Considering their paper output, their organizational models, and their bombastic statements, one might think that these revolutionaries were leading a violent class struggle, as if 1967/68 was the 1905 of socialism in Germany. In 1903, Lenin pointed out, in What Is to Be Done, that the Russian workers needed a specific theory, and postulated, in opposition to the anarchists and the Social Revolutionaries, the necessity of class analysis, organization, and all-encompassing propaganda, because a broad-based class struggle was unfolding:
The fact is that the working masses are roused to a high pitch of excitement by the social evils in Russian life, but we are unable to gather, if one may so put it, and concentrate all these drops and streamlets of popular resentment that are brought forth to a far larger extent than we imagine by the conditions of Russian life, and that must be combined into a single gigantic torrent.
Lenin: What Is to Be Done?
Under the existing conditions in the Federal Republic and West Berlin, we doubt it will be possible to create a strategy to unify the working class or to create an organization that could simultaneously express and initiate the necessary unifying process. We doubt that the unity of the socialist intelligentsia and the proletariat can be “molded out of” the political programs or the declarations coming from the proletarian organizations. The drops and streamlets based on the horrors have long been collected by the Springer Corporation, to which they then add new horrors.
We believe that without a revolutionary initiative, without the practical revolutionary intervention of the vanguard, the socialist workers and intellectuals, and without concrete anti-imperialist struggle, there will be no unifying process. Unity can only be created through the common struggle of the conscious section of the working class and the intellectuals, one which they do not stage-manage, but which they model, or else it will not happen at all.
The paper output of these organizations shows their practice to be mainly a contest between intellectuals for the best Marx review before of an imaginary jury, which couldn’t possibly be the working class, as the language used excludes their participation. They are more embarrassed when they are caught misquoting Marx than when they are caught lying in their practice.
Talking is their practice. The page numbers in their footnotes are almost always correct, the membership numbers they give for their organizations seldom are. They fear the accusation of revolutionary impatience more than corruption by bourgeois careers. It’s more important to them to spend years pursuing a degree with Lukacs than to allow themselves to be spontaneously inspired by Blanqui. They express internationalism in the form of censorship by favoring one Palestinian guerilla organization over another.
White masters who claim to be the true guardians of Marxism, they express themselves through patronage, begging their rich friends for alms in the name of the Black Panther Party—not with a view to “victory in the people’s war,” but to soothe their consciences. That’s not a revolutionary method of intervention.
Mao, in his Analysis of the Classes in Chinese Society (1926), contrasted the revolution and the counterrevolution in this way:
Each has hoisted a huge banner: one is the red banner of revolution held aloft by the Third International as the rallying point for all the oppressed classes of the world, the other is the white banner of counterrevolution held aloft by the League of Nations as the rallying point for all the counterrevolutionaries of the world.
Mao differentiated between classes in Chinese society based on the positions they took towards the red and white banners. It wasn’t enough for him to analyze the economic situation of different classes in Chinese society. Part of his class analysis involved the relationship of different classes to the revolution.
There will be no leadership role for Marxist-Leninists in future class struggles if the vanguard doesn’t hold up the red banner of proletarian internationalism, if the vanguard can’t answer the question of how to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat, of how to develop the power of the proletariat, of how to break the power of the bourgeoisie, if it isn’t prepared to do anything to answer these questions. The class analysis we require cannot be developed without revolutionary practice or revolutionary initiative.
The “provisional revolutionary demands” put forward by the proletarian organizations throughout the country—such as the struggle against the intensification of exploitation, for a shorter work week, against the squandering of social wealth, for wage parity for men, women, and foreigners, against production quotas, etc.—are nothing but trade union economism as long as they don’t address the question of how to break the political, military, and propaganda power that always stands firmly in the way of these demands when they are put forward in mass class struggles. If these demands stay the same, one can only call them economistic shit, because they are not worth the revolutionary energy wasted in fighting for them, and they won’t lead to victory if “victory means to accept the principle that life is not the most precious thing for a revolutionary” (Debray). Trade unions intervene with demands like these—but “the trade union politics of the working class are bourgeois working class politics” (Lenin). That’s not a revolutionary method of intervention.
The proletarian organizations failed to pose the question of armed struggle as a response to the Emergency Laws, the army, the bgs, the police, or the Springer Press. This shows that the proletarian organizations differ in their opportunism from the dkp only in that they are even less rooted in the masses, even if they are more verbally radical and theoretically advanced. In practice, they function at the level of civil rights and are concerned with gaining popularity at any price. They support the lies of the bourgeoisie by supporting the idea that with this state it is still possible to correct social problems by parliamentary means. They encourage the proletariat to engage in struggles that have no chance of success, given the state’s capacity for violence and its barbaric ways. “These Marxist-Leninist factions or parties,” Debray writes of the communists in Latin America, “move within the political environment as if they were controlled by the bourgeoisie. Rather than challenging the political status quo, they reinforce it….”
These organizations don’t offer any alternatives to the thousands of apprentices and young people who, as a result of being politicized by the student movement, became determined to put an end to exploitation in their workplaces. They simply advise them to adapt to capitalist exploitation. Concerning youth crime, when it comes down to it they share the position of prison wardens. Regarding the comrades in prison, they share the point of view of the judges. And regarding the underground, they share the point of view of social workers.
Without political practice, reading Capital is nothing more than bourgeois study. Without political practice, political programs are just so much twaddle. Without political practice, proletarian internationalism is only hot air. Adopting a proletarian position in theory implies putting it into practice.
The Red Army Faction asserts the primacy of practice. Whether it is right to organize armed resistance now, depends on whether it is possible, and whether it is possible can only be determined in practice.
5. the urban guerilla
Hence, imperialism and all reactionaries, looked at in essence, from a long-term point of view, from a strategic point of view, must be seen for what they are—paper tigers. On this we should build our strategic thinking. On the other hand, they are also living tigers, iron tigers, real tigers which can devour people. On this we should build our tactical thinking.
Mao tse Tung, January 12, 1958
If it is true that American imperialism is a paper tiger, this means it can, in the final analysis, be defeated. And if the thesis of the Chinese communists is correct, then victory over American imperialism is possible, because struggles against it have erupted all over the world, and as a result imperialism’s power is divided. It is this division that renders its defeat possible. If this is true, then there is no reason to exclude or leave out any country or any region from the anti-imperialist struggle simply because the forces of revolution are especially weak, and the forces of reaction are especially strong.
If it is incorrect to demoralize the revolutionary forces by underestimating them, it’s equally incorrect to push them into confrontations that can only lead to defeat. In the conflicts between the honest comrades in the proletarian organizations—let’s leave the big talkers out of it—and the Red Army Faction, we accuse them of demoralizing the revolutionary forces, whereas they feel we are leading the revolutionary forces down a blind alley. There is an attempt to bridge this divide between the comrades in the factories and the neighborhoods and the Red Army Faction, and if we succeed in doing so, we will arrive at the truth.
Dogmatism and adventurism are typical deviations in any country during periods in which the revolutionary movement is weak. Since the anarchists have always been the strongest critics of opportunism, everyone who criticizes opportunism is called an anarchist—this is nothing more than fashionable nonsense.
The concept of the urban guerilla comes from Latin America. There, like here, it is the method of revolutionary intervention by generally weak revolutionary forces.
The urban guerilla struggle is based on an understanding that there will be no Prussian-style marching orders, which so many so-called revolutionaries are waiting for to lead the people into revolutionary struggle. It is based on the analysis that by the time the conditions are right for armed struggle, it will be too late to prepare for it. It is based on the recognition that without revolutionary initiatives in a country with as much potential for violence as the Federal Republic, there will be no revolutionary orientation when the conditions for revolutionary struggle are more favorable, as they soon will be given the political and economic developments of late capitalism.
The urban guerilla is the consequence of the long since complete negation of parliamentary democracy by the elected representatives themselves. It is the inevitable response to the Emergency Laws and the Hand Grenade Law. It is the willingness to struggle with the very means that the system appropriates for itself to neutralize its enemies. The urban guerilla is based on facing facts, not making excuses for them.
The student movement already had a partial understanding of what the urban guerilla could achieve. It can give concrete form to the agitation and propaganda work to which the left has been reduced. For instance, in the Springer campaign, in the Carbora Bassa campaign of the Heidelberg students, in the squatting movement in Frankfurt, in the context of the military aid that the Federal Republic gives the comprador regimes in Africa, and in the security measures and the in-house justice in the factories.
The urban guerilla can make verbal internationalism concrete by providing weapons and money. It can blunt the system’s weapons and the banning of communists by organizing an underground that can elude the police. The urban guerilla is a weapon of class struggle.
The urban guerilla struggle is armed struggle in a situation in which the police use their weapons recklessly and in which class justice finds Kurras not guilty and buries comrades alive. The urban guerilla struggle means not being demoralized by the violence of the system.
The urban guerilla aims to destroy certain aspects of the state structure, and to destroy the myth of state omnipotence and invulnerability.
The urban guerilla requires the organization of an illegal structure, including safehouses, weapons, cars, and documents. What one needs to know about this, Marighella describes in his Minimanual of the Urban Guerilla. What needs to be known beyond that, we are always ready to tell anyone who wants to participate in the guerilla struggle. We don’t know that much yet, but we know a little bit.
Before deciding to take up the armed struggle, it is important that one first experience the legal struggle. When one’s connection to the revolutionary left is based on just wanting to follow the latest fad, then it is better not to start anything you will not be able to get out of later on.
The Red Army Faction and the urban guerilla represent the only faction and practice which draws a clear line between ourselves and the enemy, and is therefore subject to the sharpest attack. This requires that one have a political identity, and it presumes that a learning process has already occurred.
Our original organizational concept implied a connection between the urban guerilla and the work at the base. We wanted everyone to work in the neighborhoods, the factories, and the existing socialist groups, to be influenced by the discussions taking place, to have some experience, to learn. It has become clear that that doesn’t work. The degree to which the political police can monitor these groups, their meetings, their appointments, and the contents of their discussions is already so extensive that one has to stay away if one wants to escape this surveillance.
The urban guerilla struggle requires that one be totally clear about one’s motivations, that one not be put off by the attacks from Bild Zeitung, the antisemitic-criminal-subhuman-murderer-arsonist label that they apply to revolutionaries. All that shit they spit out and are willing to say, and which still influences what many comrades think about us, must have no effect.
Naturally, the system doesn’t give any ground, and there is nothing they will not do and no slander they will not use against us.
There are no publications that have any goals that can be distinguished from those that serve the interests of capital. There is still no socialist publication that reaches beyond itself, its circle, the people handed copies, and its subscribers, and which does not exist primarily in an incidental, private, personal, bourgeois context. All forms of media are controlled by capital, through advertising sales, as a result of the ambitions of the writers, who want to write their way into the establishment, through the radio stations’ boards of directors, and through the market control of the press corporations.
The leading publications are the publications of the ruling class. They divide the market opportunities between themselves, developing ideologies for specific milieus, and what they publish serves to assure their market domination. Journalism is about one thing: sales. News is a commodity; information is a consumer product. Whatever isn’t suitable for consumption is vomited back out.
The need to retain the readership for advertisement-heavy publications, and point system ratings for television, prevent antagonistic contradictions from developing between these media and the public; no antagonism, nothing of consequence. Whoever wants a place in the market must maintain connections with these extremely powerful opinion shapers.
This means that dependence on the Springer Corporation grows in step with the Springer Corporation itself, which has also started to buy up local papers. The urban guerilla can expect nothing but bitter hostility from this public. It has to orient itself around Marxist criticism and self-criticism, and nothing else. As Mao said, “Whoever is not afraid of being drawn and quartered, can dare to pull the emperor from his horse.”
Long-term, meticulous work is crucial for the urban guerilla, insofar as we want to go beyond discussion to action. If the option of retreating to a bourgeois profession is not kept open, if the option of leaving behind the revolution for a townhouse is not maintained, if none of this is even desirable, then, with the full pathos of Blanqui’s statement, “The duty of the revolutionary is to always struggle, in spite of everything to struggle, to struggle until death.” There is no revolutionary struggle, and there has been no revolutionary struggle, in which this hasn’t shown itself to be true: Russia, China, Cuba, Algeria, Palestine, Vietnam.
Some say that the political possibilities of organization, agitation, and propaganda are far from being exhausted, and only when they have been exhausted should one consider armed struggle. We say that the political possibilities will not be fully utilized until armed struggle is recognized as the political goal, as long as the strategic conclusion that all reactionaries are paper tigers is not grasped despite the tactical conclusion that they are criminals, murderers, and exploiters.
We will not talk about “armed propaganda”: we will do it. The prison breakout didn’t take place for reasons of propaganda, but to get the guy out. The bank robberies they try to lay at our doorstep, we’d only do that to grab the money. The “spectacular successes” that Mao tells us we must have scored if “the enemy paints us as utterly black” are not our successes alone. The big clamour that has been made about us is due more to the Latin American comrades—given the clear line they have already drawn between themselves and the enemy—which has led the ruling class here, suspecting us of some bank robberies, to “energetically oppose” us, because of what we have begun to build here: the urban guerilla in the form of the Red Army Faction.
6. legality and illegality
Revolution in the West, the challenge to capitalist power in its strongholds, is the order of the day. It is of decisive importance. The current world situation offers no place and no power that is in a position to guarantee peaceful development and democratic stability. The crisis is intensifying. Parochialism or the decision to postpone the struggle would mean being sucked into the abyss of complete collapse.
Il Manifesto, extract from Thesis 55
The anarchists’ slogan, “Destroy what destroys you,” is aimed at mobilizing the base, young people in prisons and reformatories, in high schools and training centres. It reaches out to all of those in the shittiest situations. It is meant to be spontaneously understood, and is a call for direct resistance. Stokely Carmichael’s Black Power slogan, “Trust your own experience!” means just that. And the slogan is based on the insight that in capitalism there is absolutely nothing that oppresses, tortures, constrains, and burdens that does not have its origin in the capitalist mode of production, and that each oppressor, in whatever form he may appear, is a representative of the class interests of capital, which makes him the class enemy.
To this extent the anarchists’ slogan is correct, proletarian, and in line with the class struggle. It is incorrect insofar as it leads to false consciousness. One goes on the offensive simply to give them a kick in the teeth, and organization then takes second place, discipline becomes bourgeois, and class analysis superfluous. If you don’t work out the dialectic of legality and illegality in terms of organization, you will be defenseless against the heavy repression that will follow your actions, and you will be legally arrested.
The statement of some organizations, “Communists are not so stupid as to get themselves banned,” renders them a mouthpiece for class justice, that is to say, for no one. The statement is correct insofar as it means that the legal possibilities for communist agitation, propaganda, and organizing for a political and economic struggle must be fully utilized and cannot be carelessly jeopardized—but that is not what they mean. They mean that there is no way of getting around the limits that the class state and its justice system establish for the socialist project, that one must stop at these limits, that one must retreat from the state’s illegal encroachments as these encroachments are legalized—legality at any price. Illegal imprisonment, terroristic sentences, police harassment, blackmail and coercion on the part of the baw—eat shit or die—Communists are not that stupid….
This statement is opportunist. It shows a lack of solidarity. It abandons the comrades in prison. It excludes the organization and politicization in a socialist context of anyone who, as a result of their social background and situation, has no choice but to survive through crime: the underground, the subproletariat, innumerable proletarian youth, and guest workers. It facilitates the theoretical criminalization of all those who are not members of these organizations. It expresses complicity with class justice. It is stupid.
Legality is a question of power. The relationship between legality and illegality has to be determined by examining the contradiction between reformist and fascist domination, whose representatives in Bonn are, on the one hand, the Social-Liberal coalition, and on the other, Barzel and Strauß. Their media representatives are, for the former: the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Stern, the wdr [Westdeutscher Rundfunk, West German Radio] Third Program, sfb, and the Frankfurter Rundschau. And, for the latter: the Springer Corporation, the Sender Freies Berlin, the Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, and the Bayernkurier. The Munich police line here, and the Berlin model there. Here the justice of the Federal Administrative Court and there that of the Federal Supreme Court.
The reformist line attempts to avoid conflicts by using institutional options (co-management) and promises of improvements (in prison conditions, for example), by addressing obsolete sources of conflict (the Chancellor’s genuflection in Poland, for example), by avoiding provocation (the soft line of the Munich police and the Federal Administrative Court in Berlin, for example), and by airing grievances (regarding public education in Hessen and Berlin, for example). As part of this reformist line of avoiding conflict, they move a bit further inside and a bit less outside of legality. They do this to look legitimate. With the Constitution in hand, they intend to neutralize contradictions and leave left-wing criticism dead in the water and empty of content, thereby keeping the Jusos within the spd.
There is no doubt that, in the long run, the reformist line is the more effective way of stabilizing capitalist domination, but it relies on certain conditions being met. It requires economic prosperity, because the soft line of the Munich police, for example, is much more expensive than the hard line of Berlin—as the Munich police chief pointed out: “Two officers with machineguns can hold a thousand people in check. 100 officers with truncheons can control a thousand people. Without weapons of this sort, 300 or 400 police officers are necessary.” The reformist line requires a situation in which no organized anticapitalist opposition exists, as one can see by the Munich example.
Camouflaged by political reformism, the concentration of state and economic power accelerates. What Schiller has achieved with his financial policy and Strauß has pushed through with his financial reforms is an increase in exploitation through the intensification of work and heightened division of labor in the productive sector, and through long-term rationalization in the administrative sector and the service industries.
The concentration of violent power in the hands of the few can occur unopposed if it is done quietly, if unnecessary provocation, which can set a process of solidarity in motion, is avoided—that is something that was learned as a result of the student movement and the Paris May. Therefore, the Red Cells are not yet banned. Therefore the kp can exist as the dkp without the ban on the kp being lifted. Therefore there are still some liberal television programs. And, therefore, some organizations can get away with thinking that they are not as stupid as they really are.
The margin of legality that reformism affords is capital’s response to the attacks of the student movement and the apo—the reformist response is the more effective one, so long as they can manage it. To rely on this legality, to count on it, to perpetuate it metaphysically, to base statistical projections on it, to want to defend it, means repeating the errors of the Latin American self-defense zones. It means you haven’t learned anything and have provided the reactionaries with time to regroup and reorganize, creating a situation in which they won’t ban the left, they’ll smash it.
Willy Weyer [Willy Weyer (spd) was, at this time, the Minister of the Interior for North Rhine Westphalia and a key proponent of the militarization of the police force.] doesn’t play at tolerance. When the liberal press complains that his highway breathalyzers treat all drivers like potential criminals, he maneuvers and audaciously responds, “We will carry on!”—and in so doing he demonstrates the irrelevance of the liberal public. Eduard Zimmerman creates a whole nation of police agents, and the Springer Corporation has taken on the role of leading the Berlin police—Bild Zeitung columnist Reer recommends arrest warrants to the custodial judges. The mass mobilization in favor of fascism, of crackdowns, of the death penalty, and for more and better-armed police carries on unabated—the New Look of the Brandt-Heinemann-Scheel administration is a facade for Bonn’s policies.
The comrades who only deal with the question of legality and illegality superficially have obviously misunderstood the amnesty with which the student movement was to be tamed. In lifting the criminalization of hundreds of students, they sent them away with just a fright, preventing further radicalization and impressing upon them the value of the privileges that come with being a bourgeois student—that in spite of the nature of the knowledge-factory, the universities are helpful to social climbers. This deepens the class divide between students and the proletariat, between their privileged everyday life and the everyday life of those who do the shit work and who were not offered the same amnesty by the same class enemy. So once again the division between theory and practice is maintained. The equation: amnesty equals pacification.
The social democratic voter initiative involving some respected writers—not only that fuck-up, Grass [At the time a member of Gruppe 47, Günter Grass is one on the most significant German post-World War ii authors and a noted liberal.]—is an attempt at a positive, democratic mobilization, and is a form of resistance against fascism, and therefore should not be dismissed lightly. It is having some effect on the reality presented by certain publishers and some radio and television editorial departments, those that have not yet capitulated to the logic of the monopolies and have not yet been absorbed into the superstructure, with its overarching political reality. The areas of increasing repression are not those with which writers are normally concerned: prison, class justice, intensified work, work-related accidents, installment plans, schools, Bild and the Berliner Zeitung, barrack-style housing in the suburbs, and ghettos for foreigners—all of this troubles these writers aesthetically, not politically.
Legality is the ideology of parliamentarianism, of social partnership, and of a pluralistic society. Legality becomes a fetish when those who insist upon it ignore the fact that phones are legally tapped, mail is legally monitored, neighbors are legally interrogated, and informants are legally paid. The organization of political work, if it is not to be under constant observation by the political police, must be simultaneously conducted both legally and illegally.
We don’t count on terror and fascism provoking a spontaneous antifascist mobilization, nor do we think that legality is always corrupt. We understand that our work offers pretexts, just as alcohol does for Willy Weyer, just as the increase in crime does for Strauß, just as Ostpolitik does for Barzel, just as a Yugoslav running a red light does for a Frankfurt taxi driver, just as a tool in the pocket does for the murderers of car thieves in Berlin. Regarding other pretexts that result from the fact that we are communists, whether communists organize and struggle will depend on whether terror and repression produce only fear and resignation, or whether they produce resistance, class hatred, and solidarity, and whether or not everything goes smoothly for imperialism. It depends on whether communists are so stupid as to tolerate everything that is done to them, or whether they will use legality, as well as other methods, to organize illegality, instead of fetishizing one over the other.
The fate of both the Black Panther Party and Gauche Prolétarienne resulted from an incorrect understanding of the contradiction between the constitution and legal reality and the increased intensity of this contradiction when organized resistance occurs. And this incorrect understanding prevents people from seeing that the conditions of legality are changed by active resistance, and that it is therefore necessary to use legality simultaneously for political struggle and for the organization of illegality, and that it is an error to wait to be banned, as if it were a stroke of fate coming from the system, because then the banning will constitute a death blow, and the issue will be resolved.
The Red Army Faction organizes illegality as an offensive position for revolutionary intervention.
Building the urban guerilla means conducting the anti-imperialist struggle offensively. The Red Army Faction creates the connection between legal and illegal struggle, between national struggle and international struggle, between political struggle and armed struggle, and between the strategic and tactical aspects of the international communist movement. The urban guerilla means intervening in a revolutionary way here, in spite of the weakness of the revolutionary forces in the Federal Republic and West Berlin!
Cleaver said, “Either you’re part of the problem or your part of the solution. There is nothing in between. This shit has been examined and analyzed for decades and generations from every angle. My opinion is that most of what happens in this country does not need to be analyzed any further.” [Eldridge Cleaver was the Minister of Information for the Black Panther Party.]
Support the Armed Struggle!
Victory to People’s War!
Red Army Faction
RED ARMY FACTION
We are going to discuss what we have learned in recent years, and what we want to do as a result. This is strongly limited to general considerations.
We believe that it is now possible and necessary to develop a new stage in the revolutionary strategy in the metropoles.
As a preamble, we will outline some of the terrain on which this can occur. Then we will examine some of the tentative discussions and real advances that have occurred, one following the other, over the last two or three years. An idea, a conception, has been established from which we can develop. The concrete beginnings show the possibility and the primitive structure of: THE GUERRILLA AND THE RESISTANCE. A SINGLE FRONT.
This is our starting point: to bring all those from different regions who recognize this reality in the political scene, often in a diffuse fashion and with only a vague idea, to another level of struggle; that is to say, to make them effective and give them a sense of strategy. If this is not done now, all the new, productive and open developments that have sprung from this, the possibility of developments unknown until now, risk being diluted and lost.
WE DETERMINED 77 TO BE THE TRANSITION POINT BETWEEN THE FIRST STAGE OF THE GUERRILLA STRUGGLE AND THE NEXT STEP.
The struggle between the guerrilla and the State in 77 led to a reversal of the political situation here. Within the dialectic of attack and reaction the conditions of struggle have been transformed. So, in these new conditions the forms of struggle could and should change. After 77, nothing could be like it was before; not the State, not the left, not the role of West Germany in international politics, not the role of armed struggle in the international class struggle. We committed errors in 77 and the offensive was turned into our most serious setback. We will return to this later in detail.
The offensive of 77 ended the struggle we had been waging since 70 and introduced a new stage. The entire period of struggles that gave birth to the RAF and allowed it to grow was concentrated on the question of power: will its prisoners be liberated, those people who symbolize the RAF, and whom the State uses to justify its own existence? In the same way, the struggle to impose the concept of urban guerrilla warfare poses the first fundamental question of power: is it realistic to implement the politics of armed struggle in West Germany in order to open up revolutionary possibilities? That is the question at the heart of all the actions and battles, all the police searches and media campaigns that have gone on for all these years. That is why the government has pronounced us dead a hundred times.
That is why most of the left has stated loud and clear that armed struggle “has no future”. The isolation, the high security wings, the Stammheim show trial… all to mystify what was going on. And finally, there was 77.
[High Security Wings – isolation units reserved primarily for political prisoners. Stammheim Show Trial refers to the 1974 trial of the original RAF founders, Gudrun Ensslin, Ulrike Meinhof, Jan-Carl Raspe, and Andreas Baader. Holger Meins, a fifth co-defendant died on hunger strike on Nov, 9, 1974.]
Today, there is no doubt that they decided that Schleyer should die, that they decided to risk blowing up a hundred people at Mogadishu, and that they decided to liquidate the Stammheim prisoners, because they really hoped and believed that they could be finished with it once and for all, or at least for the foreseeable future.
The dialectic of development that makes everything different now shows exactly what the guerrilla movement is and what the State is, and how the struggle unfolds.
It almost worked – but the irony is that it helped us in a way, for it has created a situation where we can continue the struggle in changed, in fact better, conditions.
The extreme and unrestrained offensive in 77 hit them in the throat like no previous action; they were forced to become a strong State, to destroy all critical tendencies, to oppose society even in its most subtle manifestations, like an object that cannot be altered. This meant that in the autumn of 77 all opposition was presented with a new situation and new living conditions – both in actual reality and regarding perspectives for future struggle – that forced everyone to fundamentally redefine their relationship with power or else renounce their identity.
This qualitative leap is the personal, living moment within real people at which conditions of struggle here changed: IN FAVOR OF DEVELOPING A REVOLUTIONARY FRONT IN THE METROPOLE.
There has been an attempt over the past seven years to bring the spirit and morale, the practice and political orientation of an irreversible break, to bring about the destruction of the system, to bring it into this political desert where everything is a facade, merchandise, conditioning, lies and falsehood. The guerrilla has tried to establish links with the struggles in South-East Asia, in Africa and in Latin America, and it identifies with these struggles.
The guerrilla has tried to implant itself here and cause violent disruption – this is what Che called the stage of survival and implantation, the stage when the movement plants the concept of urban guerilla warfare, which makes headway and is taken up, even if at a given movement the existing illegal armed groups are destroyed.
At the same time, it is a concept that is imposed by force, from any point of view and in an isolated way, not only against a repressive apparatus without historical precedent, but also against the conceptions of people we would rather deal with otherwise. In this scenario of one-dimensional lifelessness, which has existed for generations, the idea of liberation has difficulty breaking through thick layers of corruption, alienation and mental and emotional deformation.
At this point, the question of whether to struggle and whether to struggle with arms in West Germany and West Europe has been resolved. It’s obvious. That does not mean that the guerrilla’s future is guaranteed; that is never the case, but the existence of a guerrilla politic now constitutes the basis from which the struggle can be developed.
IN THE INTERNATIONAL CLASS WAR, THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE AUTHENTIC REVOLUTIONARY STRATEGY IN THE IMPERIALIST CENTER IS A REALITY.
Around the world, the struggle for liberation, which is part of the guerrilla project, has become a concrete reality that everyone is discussing. It is now necessary to become totally implicated in the situation here and to proceed in an inverse movement taking resistance in the metropole to the front line of international class warfare.
It is a strategy that has its roots here in the totality of the imperialist center, in the necessity of resistance here. A STRATEGY THAT MAKES THE REVOLUTIONARY FRONT IN THE METROPOLE THE STAUNCHEST ALLY OF THE STRUGGLES IN ASIA, AFRICA AND LATIN AMERICA.
This means that from the moment one sides with the guerrilla and the liberation movements, there is a radical point of departure in the development of the anti-imperialist struggle.
This means to struggle with a strategically open conception, where each person based on the gravity of their own situation, based on their own history and subjective process, can arrive at the common goal of the destruction of the imperialist system and the revolutionary overthrow of society, and can enter into the concrete struggle in the context of guerrilla politics and become part of the revolutionary front here. This means that from the first instant their objective, like ours, is to develop the front in the metropole and to determine its direction. That is what we mean by “struggling together, one front.”
Our line of action up until 77 was different from our current line, in that prior to 77 what was important was that which built the armed struggle or prepared its path, whereas what is now important is to regroup the guerrilla movement and the militant political struggles in an integrated whole as part of a strategy of development in the metropole.
We say: even if the illegal armed organization is the core of this strategy, it will not be strong enough until armed politics, militant attacks, the struggles that result from all forms of oppression and alienation, as well as the political struggle, are all united to determine the process of carrying out a conscious attack against the weak points in the imperialist center.
For us the subjective side of the developments since the dialectic of 77 – the possibility of a front in the metropole – is essential. This is still the case. It is decisive if the struggle is to develop in the imperialist centers, which do not normally give rise to revolutionary conditions, but are destructive and rotten due to the objective conditions, the way the crisis in managed and all social developments are turned into instruments of domination.
Obviously, nobody climbs to a higher level alone. The qualitatively different situation that exists now is born of the objective development of the international class struggle and can only be understood in that context.
The long history of wars of liberation in the colonized continents was crystallized in the struggle of the Vietnamese liberation front, and their victory gave rise to a new historical stage of anti-colonial national liberation struggles of peoples subjected to imperialism.
The effects of this historic process: the new strength of the new national States on the international political terrain – the generalized economic, political and social crises of countries in the imperialist center – the rise, parallel to the liberation struggles, of the Soviet Union as a superpower equal to the USA – all of this has destabilized the global balance of power between North and South, between East and West and between the State and society in the imperialist centers, and has thus destabilized the equilibrium between imperialism and liberation.
In other words, the instability of the imperialist system produces, everywhere in the world, a situation within which imperialism, from the moment it suffers defeat at any point in the world system and loses one of its positions of strength in some domain – whether a strategic military position (Southern Africa or the Middle East) or an economic component (such as Central America of the Persian Gulf) – could slide into the final crisis of the system.
The struggle since Vietnam has become a situation of confrontation: moving to a point where due to overlapping interests or its individual importance in the global system, any sector – in the center of the liberation war, front line or otherwise, around the world – could spark a war of liberation.
The imperialist system is obliged – to put it in concrete terms – to reduce its power to a concentrated form: the State, the unified structure of the chain of States that are dependant on the USA, the reconstruction of the capacity for military, economic, and political action and of its instruments of domination. In an effort to regain control of global developments, they will attack everywhere; in the existing struggles in Asia, Africa and Latin America, in the new national States, in the opposition between East and West, in West Europe… always with the objective of using this general offensive to re-establish their hegemonic position.
For the anti-imperialist struggle this means that it is necessary, faced with the unity of imperialist reaction, to carry out parallel struggles on all fronts. For they are all different sectors of a single front and struggles that are carried out side by side. No sector – and this includes the European sector – will become a front capable of shaking imperialism except by its own strength, its own specific development and its actual conditions and specific history.
The leap in the dialectic of confrontation in 77, which led to qualitatively new subjective conditions of struggle here, and the coming together at the base of the process of contradiction within the center, is completely integrated in the necessity and the possibility of international class struggle. It has arrived just on time.
It is true that in 77 the State also acted in this context. Towards the end of the first stage of the formation of the US chain of States, our defeat permitted them to pose as a superpower, seemingly without limits, not on the level of the national State, but on the level of the global counter-revolutionary project.
As the primary European power, which, in keeping with its function within the system of States dependent on the USA, will stand as the political force within West Europe against all forms of resistance, carrying out the attack on the international level. But by doing this they have helped the guerrilla strategy to develop in two decisive ways: by the West European States developing a politically unified struggle against the guerrilla the concept of a West European guerrilla front has become a reality, and by its very depth the current situation has provoked the sharpest polarization and the most profound rejection of the State, its logic and its laws in the history of West Germany – all of which makes the revolutionary front possible.
Right now there is no point in making any detailed analysis of the internal changes here. The lifestyle of people who have been struggling for some time indicates that they have already internalized the new situation and accept it as a point of departure.
We simply note that the real opposition has broken with the system as never before. Cold, without illusions, now beyond the reach of the State, they no longer attempt to “change the system” or to build “alternative models” within the State. All of that has become completely grotesque. It is finished, completely finished – and it’s only by finishing with the system that a perspective for life is conceivable.
Imperialism doesn’t offer any positive future; there is nothing left except destruction. This is an essential part of the experience that roots militancy in all domains of life.
This reality is experienced at the economic base of life, in the arms race and the preparations for nuclear war, in the natural and social conditions of life and also on a personal level within each individual, a level at which alienation and oppression express themselves by massive deformation and the destruction of any depth of individual thought, of sensitivity, of the personality structure itself.
The majority have lost all hope. Imperialism in the urban centers has perfected and systematized its domination to the point where people no longer feel themselves able to resist. The suicide rate has skyrocketed. People lose themselves in sickness, alcohol, tranquilizers and drugs. This is the reaction to the long history of defeats, hardship and suffering and depoliticization, so that now external violence is no longer seen to be the cause of all this.
From this misery comes the existing depth of the struggle and of hatred too. It is no longer a matter of brief spontaneous explosions of rage.
This hatred has been developing for years. This is the terrain upon which the revolutionary front in the metropole now develops. So if the development of the system is seen, in the final analysis, as bordering on destruction and extermination, the resistance carries within itself – whether consciously or not – the element that means it now gives everything to have everything, and against everything, within concrete isolated struggles, struggles which the resistance surpasses.
The unity of the revolutionary struggle becomes possible and necessary.
That is, for all who want to carry out this struggle, a plan of action within which the break with the State, the revolt and the militant struggles can converge everywhere into one politic – a strategy of attack against the imperialist center. A plan of action that, by its practice, forcefully ends in this convergence.
The Anti-Imperialist Front
Over the past two years there have been a large number of tracts and actions having as their objective “a front with the RAF,” and we know the need and the desire to achieve this cuts across all politicized domains. But there is still an enormous distance between the front that could potentially exist – given this need, this desire, and the beginnings we have – and its realization in the process of development as an organization or movement.
The front will not automatically come into being by juxtaposing the struggles with this proclamation. This proclamation will weaken and the mobilization to bring it into being will fade if the concept is not taken up as a practical question, in order to determine how it can be made a reality. And not only by us.
The front will not come into being unless absolutely everybody does their own practical research into the elements and the forms of unity of the armed struggle on the illegal front and militant political struggle on the legal front. That is to say, the means, the tactics and the structure; meaning: their field of action, which is itself illegal and consciously attempts to make progress in this strategic process.
THE FRONT IS THE DEVELOPMENT OF PRACTICAL AND POLITICAL LINES IN THE ATTACK ON THE IMPERIALIST POWER – OR IT IS NOTHING.
Over the past two years, since we first conceived of the core of this new guerrilla structure, we have experimented to determine to what point this link will develop spontaneously, to what point it is strong – subjectively and objectively, materially as a possibility of attack – and to what point, on the other hand, it is difficult to start a strategic process that goes beyond isolated political initiatives and actions and the limited practical context.
It does not require morale, zeal or activity. It requires, from the point of deciding to carry out this struggle, that one begins to contemplate, in all aspects of the struggle, how to destroy the system here, and that one situates oneself in function of this.
We have gone through this experience ourselves and we will outline what we know: the decisive moment for the attack now depends on which option is taken up, and on the struggle of those who have adopted this concept or who wish to do so;, meaning those who have begun to see themselves as subjects of the anti-imperialist front, those who have started to anticipate this within themselves and for themselves and determine all political initiative and action from this perspective and towards this end, who think of everything one undertakes within this perspective of the combat front.
Since the first discussions about the unity of the anti-imperialist struggle in 79, there have always been the same obstacles within and between groups, which have prevented that which could long since have existed: an active front .
We haven’t done anything except have abstract debates about the myth of “militant action” or about “links with the masses.” All efforts to have people associate with us or, on the contrary, to gain by these discussions the slightest links with us, are superfluous. We desire no other result but that the next steps be taken.
The front signifies more than actions. The front, that is the struggles that by their common objectives will become one single battle, and which, from that point, will become practically and politically united, lives in the West European center in many forms.
Actually, the anti-imperialist front in West Germany – that is militant attacks, militant projects coordinated in a united fashion that attempt to counteract the imperialist strategy, the political initiatives that clarify the politics, that intervene in the actual resistance – must take the form of a structured, organized struggle in order to have an effect. This is the practical goal of every development and all discussions around strategy.
The front signifies more than building a legal structure around the guerrilla. We have said that there is no “legal arm of the RAF” and we do not want to have one. Sure, we have some contacts with people in all areas, and this is also part of the concrete politics of the guerrilla, but it is only by autonomous and specific development in this area and by having common objectives that the anti-imperialist resistance can become part of the anti-imperialist front, and it is only in this way that the struggle on this level can heat up politically and achieve continuity and force – and in a general way complete autonomy and accountability in each milieu of revolutionary political struggle in West Europe are essential to this.
The discussions that always remain at the same level, in which isolated points of view oppose professions of faith, the narrow spirit of isolated groups, the incapacity to take initiative… all of that disappears the moment one understands and internalizes the reality of the situation: that the anti-imperialist front is an urgent necessity, and even though it is underdeveloped, it could be strong in West Europe, creating enormous possibilities on the level of an international war of liberation.
THE SIGNIFICANT COMBAT FRONT AGAINST THE IMPERIALIST STRATEGY HAS TO BE THE NEXT IMMEDIATE GOAL.
Judging by the vast number of articles on the subject and the determination and heat of militant actions, people know a lot about imperialism and its plan – but this is useless if the two elements don’t result in a decisive link that will permit us to evolve together in this struggle.
STARTING WITH WHAT NOW EXISTS, WITH THAT WHICH EXISTS IN THE ACTUAL RESISTANCE AND THE CONDITIONS OF STRUGGLE IN THE METROPOLE, THE PRACTICAL, STRUCTURAL AND POLITICAL ELEMENTS AND THE LINES OF ATTACK AGAINST THE CORE OF IMPERIALIST POWER HERE THE WEST GERMAN STATE AND NATO, MUST BE CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD, SO AS TO CONTINUE TO DEVELOP THE OFFENSIVE AGAINST THEM.
The anti-imperialist struggle is in retreat in the face of the, certainly contradictory but unified, imperialist machine. There was no new anti-imperialist mobilization against the post-Vietnam imperialist reconstruction and the beginnings of the crisis, nor against the preparations and the beginnings of their offensive.
In this stage the resistance was paralyzed by the failure of the left following 68. In fact the anti-imperialist mobilization only formed recently, so the reactionary attacks have had a long time to develop on all levels. Their offensive is developed. The spontaneous resistance is large, but is not decisively guided by anti-imperialist politics.
In the future, anti-imperialism must be present as a significant factor and develop initiatives in the discussions about and against the imperialist projects that now determine the course of history: the American war strategy in Europe – the reactionary offensive of the home State – the reactionary strategy of the chain of States for rolling back the liberation movements and the new national States, as well as against the Socialist States.
At this point in history, the future is not guaranteed. American imperialism – in its historic crisis, where for the first time in forty years its existence is threatened – has recourse to the most extreme means, and, unless somebody prevents it, it will use them if the system slides into an uncontrollable crisis.
Given the possibility of nuclear destruction, this certainly takes on a catastrophic perspective, but those of us who are the exploited and oppressed of the entire world have no reason to fear. Because if it means the end of imperialism then it serves our needs. Faced with the possibility of nuclear destruction, our attitude is, firstly, that we do not fear it and, secondly, that we can prevent it, but only by revolutionary war.
The gravity of the situation resides less in the possibility of nuclear war than in the fact that American imperialism is engaged in a general offensive on all fronts with which it intends to restore its hegemony, something that is not possible except on a scale greater than the current breadth of its domination.
But it is possible to intervene against this offensive, and whether the attempt to do so ends in their favour or whether the outcome is a qualitative leap on the world level of the struggle for liberation (and thus against them) depends decisively on the anti-imperialist struggle in West Europe.
On a scale much larger than its domination, this means that what is at stake is the production of destruction in daily life, in the conditions of life, in manipulation and repression – the death and destruction of human subsistence for millions of people for a long time (which does not necessarily mean the big war).
For us, given our relative weakness in the face of the power that controls almost everything here, the situation is such – to a given point this is certain – and for a certain time yet – as to prevent the construction of a front that is able to threaten their power here.
To resolve the generalized crisis at the social, socio-political and politico-military level, they are forced to appropriate power in an aggressive fashion and to violate the political limits of the metropole, the “tolerable limits” – democracy, well-being, internal peace – and they can’t do this forever if they are constantly confronted with anti-imperialist struggle and constantly unmasked in open confrontation, for this will lead to a break in the fine ideological thread between the State and society.
These political limits have become historically legitimized for the imperialist centers in West Europe.
They are established pillars of the system against the workers’ movement and the wars of liberation, and they can no longer be destroyed without totally destroying society. This is where the relative weakness of the anti-imperialist struggle in the metropoles of West Europe could be transformed into a source of strength in the internal struggle.
On the level of the entire imperialist system, their global project of restructuring can only succeed if their plans within the imperialist centers unfold in a relatively easy and rapid fashion without serious resistance.
Their project could not survive the break caused by an anti-imperialist struggle here, given the international contradictions. They would have to impose solutions internally, as is the case abroad, by exercising the totality of their power, at the risk of the international class war being unified at a higher level, that is to say, at the risk of fueling the struggle to dismantle the imperialist system.
This is the starting point from which we fight. And it is only this awareness of our opportunity, of our power, of the chance that we have, especially here – and, of course, also the awareness of our responsibility – that mobilizes us to create and develop the anti-imperialist front.
THE REVOLUTION IN WEST EUROPE HAS BECOME THE CORNERSTONE OF THE WORLDWIDE CONFRONTATION.
The offensive, both within and spreading out from West Europe, based on the central State (i.e. West Germany), is essential for imperialist strategy to be able to ensure both its global domination as a functioning system and the reproduction of capital in a new cycle. In the face of this offensive, for us the development of the Front in the metropole is a vital necessity. It is necessary in order to be able to counter the present tendency of the global process of liberation to get bogged down in the opposition between East and West and to allow countries that have achieved national liberation to break with present obligations necessitated by their State development.
Amongst the centers, West Europe is the point where the East-West and North-South frontlines meet; this is both the starting point and the base for their restructuring project, specifically the division between State and society here. It is here that they must try to develop the necessary military power to put pressure on the socialist States and to counter the struggles for national liberation, it is from here they must attempt to integrate the new developing States into their system, and – as a condition for all of this – it is here that they must forcefully impose a policy of internal conformity… if not consensus, then at least a sort of internal peace. It is in this sense that they are brought back to the centers. They must use all their might to aggressively impose the global reactionary plan at all levels in the centers.
Medium-range missiles, neutron bombs, conventional weaponry, concentration and centralization of capital, rationalization, massive planned unemployment, turning humans into simple extensions of the machine, overdevelopment of the indispensable energy policy for them too because of its importance as a way of waging war on the world market, destruction of social structures according to the interests of the police and of money – exploitation in the race for the necessities of life, professional training conceived of as a factory, police, justice, prison, etc.. This is what their offensive is all about; conceived in military fashion it is the iron vice squeezing all distinct sub-sectors of urban society, which long ago made the choice for us as to whether we want the front in the urban center or not – the war has already begun. The only question today is whether there will be a revolutionary front to oppose the reactionary offensive.
The anti-imperialist front is born against this horizon in the centers. Its significance is not just measured by whether or not it is able to stop this or that imperialist project right now. That which it hopes for, which it always hopes for as a fighting section within and on behalf of the international front, is that, with the beginning of the total confrontation between imperialism and liberation, a balance of forces can be created that will make the social revolution possible here.
OUR DEFINITION OF GUERRILLA ACTION AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE ANTI- IMPERIALIST FRONT MEANS RESISTANCE AGAINST THE IMPERIALIST MACHINE, WHICH IS GETTING READY TO ATTACK HERE, ANDMEANS THE ATTACK AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE REVOLUTIONARY FRONT IN THE METROPOLE IN THE CONTEXT OF THE WORLD STRUGGLE.
The attack, which the whole situation demands, must come from here. On the world stage, the two blocs stand face to face, petrified by their potential for destruction and congealed in their weaponry. Liberation movements have become States, and those not yet States act, in their struggle to become one, virtually as if they were. International policy and international relations constitute the principle terrain for these liberation movements and new States.
This consists of the opposition between East and West (which reproduces itself in these countries), the world market in which and in opposition to which they are forced to develop themselves and the new political power of the liberated States on the world stage, which allows them some room to maneuver. It is a logical development. It is both the expression of the power attained by the struggle for national liberation and of the weakness that oblige them to continue to function in the State system which imperialism has created.
In this situation, the new States’ political orientation is faced with two contradictory tendencies. On the one hand, increasing misery, mass poverty and underdevelopment push them to adopt radical solutions. On the other hand, the inevitable nature of the struggle to obtain those resources which are almost only available from the imperialist States pushes them to come to terms with imperialism. So the new States are driven to accept increasingly contradictory obligations, with which comes the risk of catastrophic splits through civil wars, famine, hopelessness, repression and intervention. But they have not chosen these contradictions. They are above all the result of colonial history, from which imperialism still profits by exploiting the destruction it leaves behind after it is chased from the country.
The urban guerilla and the militant struggles today result from a dynamic launched by the liberation movements – and if today, after 30 years, a movement has been able to develop here thanks to their struggle, the situation there is actually and essentially a result of the weakness of the struggle here.
There can be no perspective for the destruction of the imperialist system as long as the perspective is not opened up in the centers of power, of consumption and of production. In other words, as long as the politics have not taken a material form, which, as a significant force in the international struggle, in its real movement, its goals and its continuity, shows a willingness and the prospect of be done with the system. It is only from this moment that a revolutionary leap in consciousness is conceivable.
Imperialism will not collapse by itself. Nor will it collapse by being encircled and strangled from the outside. Unless the front develops here, the world will repeat the very experience that has been fatal to the history of class struggle in Europe and, on the political level, to the opposition between East and West: trench warfare, bitter and bloody. Imperialism is militarily and politically aggressive, overdeveloped in technologies and the techniques of production and organization. Its goal is to once again be the sole world power, whether this means militarily defeating the Soviets and the socialist States, which wish to remain an equal power, or whether this means politically defeating the consciousness of the peoples of Africa, Latin America and Asia.
It will surely fail, but it is politically, militarily and economically powerful enough to block those countries that have realized their national liberation by dictating to them the conditions of their development. It may also be powerful enough to impose an arms race, and to use the world market in order to unsettle the economy of the socialist countries. In the metropole, where the State never stops trying to carry imperialist power to hegemony by exploitation, police state tactics, and crisis management, it will stamp out a decaying society.
The Struggle For Liberation
If the resistance and the revolutionary offensive constitutes a necessity due to our particular situation here, there is also, for us, and for us alone, the possibility of opening a perspective for the end of the system – a perspective, which, by destroying the growth of imperialism, exceeds its own function.
As the metropole matures, the productive social development has begun to transform itself into destruction. The revolutionary struggle here, with its goals and structured as a fighting front, allows us to see a social future beyond the historical limits of the system of existing States. In this historical stage of imperialism, derailed abroad and disintegrating at home in generalized crisis, the fact that the conditions are ripe for the destruction of the metropole also implies that the conditions are ripe for the radical struggle to reverse social conditions, in the sense of the communist goal whereby one does not imagine life as a mere step in transition, nor is the victory conceived of as taking State power, but instead as a seamless process of resistance that is a counter-force and liberatory transformation.
THE REVOLUTIONARY POLICY IS THE STRATEGY WHICH IMAGINES THE WHOLE OF THE RESISTANCE IN THE FRAMEWORK OF EVERYDAY REALITY HERE AS A PROCESS OF STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM AND AS COMPRISING A PART, A SECTION AND A FUNCTION WITHIN THE WORLD STRUGGLE, IN WHICH THE GOAL CAN ONLY BE REACHED BY COMBINED ACTION.
This policy has nothing to do with a global theory. It does not construct one of those ideological models which succeed one another and which one pretends will be realized later. It can only be a real process.
The construction of Utopia is a long-term and concrete strategy – one could say a lifestyle – within which the strategic goal of destroying imperialist power is tied to a real transformation right now. To the degree that the front has developed, this process liberates the political terrain and the individual from the State – it creates, by building a counter-force, the necessary conditions for the politico-military offensive. The production and material development of the Front includes re-establishing fully human development in the combatants’ relationships. Immediate transformation, liberated territory and revolution are fully integrated in the process of resistance – and it is only in this way that one finds the truth.
The revolutionary strategy here is very simply a strategy against their strategy.
WHOEVER ATTACKS THEIR STRATEGIC PLANS OR THEIR CONCRETE PROJECTS, WHOEVER, BY MATERIAL ATTACK, POLITICALLY BREAKS THE IMPERIALIST OFFENSIVE IN ITS INTERNAL OR EXTERNAL ORIENTATION AND WHOEVER THUS BLOCKS THEIR PLANS BEFORE THEY CAN EXECUTE THEM, WHOEVER DOES SO CREATES THE CONSCIOUSNESS THAT BECOMES THE NEW RESISTANCE AND THE PROCESS OF THE FRONT ON THE INTERNATIONAL LEVEL, WHOEVER, IN THE FORM OF A SIGNIFICANT COMBAT FRONT, CREATES BY MATERIAL FORCE A BREAK IN THE CONSENSUS IN THE IMPERIALIST CENTER, AND WHOEVER, BY PROPAGATING THIS BREAK ON THE INTERNATIONAL LEVEL, DEPRIVES THEM OF THEIR LEGITIMACY OR THEIR ATTRACTIVE QUALITIES, WHICH THEY NEED TO REPRODUCE THEIR FINANCIAL SYSTEM, THEIR SYSTEM OF MANIPULATION AND OF DESTRUCTION IN THE NEW STAGE, IN OTHER WORDS, THROUGHOUT THE ENTIRE WORLD… AND WHOEVER, AS A RESULT OF THE RADICAL DEVELOPMENTS IN THE METROPOLE, SHOWS THE POSSIBILITY OF THE END OF THE IMPERIALIST POWER AND OF ITS EXISTENCE AMONG HUMANS THEREFORE CONTRIBUTES TO BRINGING ABOUT A FREE SOCIETY.
The problem which played against us during the kidnapping of Schleyer was, as regards our concrete goal of liberating the prisoners, that we did nothing to develop a political objective during the offensive, nor did we elaborate on the apparent contradictions during the crisis. Even though the action touched a nerve for the State, we did not react, on the political level, to the challenge we were presented with.
In the summer of 77 the situation of the prisoners had reached a point where we could no longer put off an action to liberate them. The prisoners were on a thirst strike and Gudrun was dying.
Since Stockholm the question of the prisoners had become central to the guerrilla offensive.
[Stockholm : reference to the April 25, 1975 seizure of the German Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden, by the 6 member Commando Holger Meins of the RAF. They demanded the release of 26 political prisoners, including the Stammheim prisoners. A police assault on the Embassy resulted in an explosion, which killed one guerrilla, Siegfried Hausner, and one hostage.]
We knew that at this time any attack could only be made from a position of relative weakness, but we chose to attack because the war is not a given between us and them, but exists only if one materially creates it in terms of the question of power.
The prisoners constitute a central question within which two elements, beginning from the demand for their liberation, meet and crystallize: the relationship maintained between the guerrilla and their imprisoned comrades, the relationship between everyone who shares the struggle, and the importance of each to the whole – and also the power relations in general, because the guerilla materially and directly challenged State power, because the attack consciously aimed to create a political crisis in suppressing one of the pillars of their power, as with Schleyer (it is only here that the possibility exists), and thus exposed the internal structures of power by forcing them to react.
We hoped to confront the SPD with the decision of whether to exchange these two individuals who embody the global power of FRG capital in a way that few others do.
Ponto for his international financial policy (revealing how all the German banks, especially his own Dresdner Bank, work to support reactionary regimes in developing countries and also the role of FRG financial policy as a tool to control European integration) and Schleyer for the national economic policy (the big trusts, concerted action, the FRG as an international model of social peace).
They embodied the power within the State which the SPD must respect if it wishes to stay in power.
Our action was meant to expose the contradiction that lies in the tension between the strategy of American capital (which has determined the SPD’s conception of the State and all of its reactionary maneuvering in matters of internal and external policy since 1945) and the banks and trusts, or, if you prefer, national capital. Certainly national capital cannot formulate a clear policy in the face of the hegemony of the American line – at least to take “as is” the limited provincial variations of a Kohl [leader of the Christian Democratic Party] or an Albrecht, etc., or [the leader of the ultra conservative Christian Social Union] Strauss’s grand projects which he has been trying in vain to carry out for 20 years.
But the strength of this national capital, which permits it to be competitive and to spread itself vertically within the capitalist structure, naturally finds its expression in a consensus and in the national elites’ consciousness, such that [Social Democrat and Chancellor] Schmidt is obliged to make the most of the high and the low in the national and international context.
The political escalation of the action was defused mainly by the fact that Ponto was not successfully kidnapped and, as such, one of the two pillars of the tactical and political conception was lacking But our most important error was to have not completely reconsidered the action when the federal government let the first ultimatum pass, when it became obvious that they had abandoned Schleyer and were awaiting his death, which would bring them rapid consolidation.
[Schleyer’s kidnapping occurred on Sept. 5, 1977. On Oct. 20, his body was found in the trunk of a car. He was executed by the RAF in retaliation for the murders of Ensslin, Raspe, and Baader in Stammheim on Oct. 18.]
As to Schleyer, in spite of all the communications back and forth, we can only conclude that his relationships and his influence amounted to nothing in the face of the growing homogeneous imperialist strategy.
They acted according to the tactics and psychology of the BKA: avoid any official decision by the government, prolong the action by pretending to negotiate, all in order to facilitate the police’s objective, prevent any public pressure by means of an information blackout and impose, by Wishnewski’s trip to a so-called welcoming country, a “condemnation of international terrorism”, with the focus in this case on the prisoners.
All of this objectively left us the time and the opportunity to exploit this situation politically. For example, to immediately use Schleyer’s conversations in order to aggravate the contradictions which were disrupting the “unity of all democrats,” contradictions which went as far as the CSU’s attempt to rid themselves of Schmidt by proposing the release of the prisoners, to be immediately followed by the declaration a state of emergency, which would have signaled the end of any social-democratic policy, i.e., an open recognition of the State crisis, which must then be stopped at any price.
In this situation, characterized by an escalation in which our defensive attitude became obvious, Commando Martyr Halimeh  decided to intervene, as it was possible for them to do so given the pressure.
[Commando Martyr Halimeh was a Palestinian commando that hijacked a Lufthansa airliner to Mogadishu on Oct. 18, demanding the release of the imprisoned RAF guerrillas. All but one were killed when the GSG-9, a special German police unit, stormed the plane. Several hours later the “suicides” of Ensslin, Raspe, and Baader, as well as the “attempted suicide” of Irmgard Möller, were reported.]
It was the first time a commando from a liberation movement directly intervened in the confrontation here and made the metropolitan struggle their own. We have frequently spoken about the tactical conceptions and incorrect strategies regarding this action, which provided the State with the opportunity to go on the counter-offensive. We take full responsibility for these errors.
It was an error on our part not to seek the resolution in the metropole itself, but to carry the escalation into one of the new national States. In effect, because of the balance of power, such a decision could only be addressed here because it concerned prisoners who embodied the struggle here and because it was a question of the State isolating the RAF. The tactic of hijacking an airplane – tied to an action that originated in the metropole and which aimed to polarize and lead to a break between the people and the State in the metropole – could only neutralize the attack because the people in the plane found themselves in the same situation, treated as objects, as the imperialist State always and in all ways places people – and this destroyed the goal of a revolutionary action.
The incorrect conception of the action, which played against the commando, was the weapon which the government used to corner them, starting from the principle that the commando obviously attempted and continued negotiations as long as it saw any hope of freeing the prisoners in West Germany.
As for the SPD, it chose to solve matters by carrying out a massacre, as it had in Stockholm. This is because it challenges all the people’s preconceptions when American interests, the central form of domination and consolidation, are attacked. At the time Schmidt said, “It was impossible to know if it would result in an acceptable conclusion”.
The SPD opted for a military solution at a time when a guerrilla victory in West Germany – the central country for the reactionary integration of West European States – would have meant a decisive setback for the imperialist reconstruction plans.
West Germany took the lead in the reactionary counter-offensive to consolidate the mechanisms of internal security in West Europe. But with Stammheim and Mogadishu, a central element of the Social Democratic policy was unmasked – the hidden war. The imperialist State appeared brazenly and overtly reactionary; it no longer shied away from comparisons with its Fascist past, but embraced them;. the ”desert foxes” of Mogadishu as an example for German youth.
But this also exposed the weakness of the metropolitan States, with the internal fragility of this structure becoming externally clear in a fashion more obvious than ever before