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Baader-Meinhof

by DoDo Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 09:21:17 AM EST

This could be a thread where we could generally discuss the European experience with, and European attitude towards terrorism, inspired by what Lupin wrote here:

In Europe, I think people have just gotten used to bombs etc. what with the IRA, GIA, Red Brigades, Baader-M., and they treat it the way they should: as a crime.

However, first I wonder if anyone can clear up this mystery to me: why is the German far-left terrorist group RAF (Rote Armee Fraktion = Red Army Fraction) called the "Baader-Meinhof gang" in the Anglophone world?


This is rather strange to me.

Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof were members of RAF's "first generation" - but most and the worst RAF attacks (including those against NATO generals and other non-German targets) were committed by the second and third generations, at a time the first generation (active: 1970-72) was in prison or already dead (they committed collective suicide in1977, after the failure of the Second Generation to press them free with abductions and hijackings).

Worse, Meinhof wasn't the co-leader of the first generation - that was Baader's girlfriend Gudrun Ensslin -, she was just the speaker for the group (being an ex-journalist).

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Well, I would guess that the UK media of the time didn't want to use "RAF" because the initial conflict with some other organisation that they mention now and then. As for why pick on Baader and Meinhof, somehow they must have been the most "media-genic" of the first wave. Don't know why tho...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 09:50:50 AM EST
I would guess that the UK media of the time didn't want to use "RAF" because the initial conflict with some other organisation that they mention now and then.

As Homer Simpson would say: d'oh! That's cleared, then. Thanks :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 09:57:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
According to wikipedia they were initially referred to (it's implied by the press) in Germany as the Baader-Meinhof-Bande, and they themselves renamed their group the Red Army Faction.  

Musings on life in Romania and beyond
by adhoc on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 09:55:50 AM EST
BTW, there was the theory - even made into a TV movie which as a rare exception I watched - that the Third Generation never existed, but was an elaborate secret service operation. I remember the strange photo-sensor-triggered bombing of Alfred Herrhausen was central to this.

On the other hand, the only significant terror attack in Hungary, the car-bombing of a minibus filled with Jewish-Russian emigrants to Israel on the airport road before Christmas 1991 (fortunately triggered early - only six wounded), was linked to two RAF members shot resp. arrested in Austria in 1999, by DNA evidence in 2001.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 10:18:13 AM EST
I remember being in traffic jams, caused by terrorist searches on the motorway. I don't know how old I was, must have been six or seven.

No big fuzz from my parents, not even for the fact that Gudrun Ensslin, was the daughter of a church minister... .

It was considered scarier to travel into the GDR, which we did on one or two occasions every year. That was scary.

But terrorism. I can remember the posters in the Train station.

One thing that has always fascinated me, and I read something from Juan Cole that reconfirmed that.
All the German Terrorists were highly educated people. Andreas Baader was a Studienstift Deutsches Volk. Which means he was suggested by a teacher for his outstanding success at school and subsequently passed all sort of tests, before getting a stipend for University. Jan-Carl Raspe was a Sociologist, Ulrike Meinhof a well publicized writer. I think what I am saying here is, their idealism was fueled by their intellectualism: There was a sense of wanting to better the world by getting rid of its evil influences that connects these people. The outrages attempt at achieving this aim, was fueld by superiority assumptions of understaning the masses, and knowing better was good for all.

They also were utterly fanatical, but children of their time. Their fight has proven to be utterly worthless. There aims might still be relevant, but their methods have turned out to be utterly counter productive to achieve the aim. Killing individuals does not change the system.

Which in a tragic parallelism opens up the question, where would have a successful assassination left Germany in 1944?

Coming back to Juan Cole, he made a comment once that one reason, why there had been no successful large scale attack on American soil since the eleventh of September 2001, was because AQ, lacks the intellectuals and their manpower. He pointed out, that all attackers that flew the planes where University educated people.

For the sake of not wanting to sound to condescending, but you need educated people, not just shepherd, to build bombs, and plan and execute an attack on that scale.

Having said that, and while thinking about the Oklahoma bombing, two question formed.

Firstly: What is the difference between right wing and left wing terrorism.

Secondly: Is the statement true, that errorists are intellectual idealist per se, or does that just help? Subquestion, where the other european terrorists (excluding ETA, IRA, as they are somewhat different), but I seem to recall Belgian and French terrorist cells, were they equally educated?

by PeWi on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 11:58:38 AM EST
It was considered scarier to travel into the GDR, which we did on one or two occasions every year. That was scary.

This reminds me of the two visits my family made to East Germany when we lived in West Germany (it was in the last two years before the fall of the wall). What was quite apparent was that East Germany is the only place in the world where West Germans respected speed limits, what respected, drove 10 km/h under! Including the ridiculous 30-km/h-speed-reductions on highways created just to catch anyone who breaks the rules.

Of course, coming from  another communist dictature, we didn't feel scared - yet, we noticed that this is a stricter dictature in many minute ways, not just due to the hyper-strict border controls. For example, when beside the Wartburg above Eisenach, we ate at a restaurant at midday, the waiter looked at us with  hostility, murmured something about a stolen midday break (in a restaurant!), then served a steak like a shoe tread...

Which in a tragic parallelism opens up the question, where would have a successful assassination left Germany in 1944?

Great point.

Juan Cole... pointed out... AQ, lacks the intellectuals and their manpower.

I think I'll disagree with Cole on this. Both the London bombers and terrorists in Iraq show that unlike the Afghanistan War generation, the new breed contains quite some educated people. From which I draw the conclusion that a new attack within the USA is only a question of time.

What is the difference between right wing and left wing terrorism.

I think the focus on targets in positions with authority by left-wing terrorism and the focus on targets from members of a community (ethnic/religious/etc.) by the right-wing version. Of course, both do the other thing too, as left-wing plane hijackers and right-wing union leader, civil rights movement leader assassins prove.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 12:48:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I wrote: East Germany is the only place in the world where West Germans respected speed limits, what respected, drove 10 km/h under! Including the ridiculous 30-km/h-speed-reductions on highways created just to catch anyone who breaks the rules.

What I forgot to add that this was so memorable because this was the only instance our model Wartburg crap car overtook Mercedes after BMW after Audi after Mercedes after etc. on a highway... because we didn't drove 10 km/h below speed limit.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 12:51:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You see, they would not stop you, even if you speeded, because of your numberplate.

But the rumour was such, that they would stop your times on the motorway. if you drove under a certain time from Marienborn to Berlin, then you must have sped underway, FINE and more hard currency for them. They didn;t always use radar...

by PeWi on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 01:55:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Huh!...

Yeah, they were pretty much focusing on West Germans. I guess if a CIA agent tavelled in with a Dutch pass, he would have had no trouble...

(On the other hand, it wasn't the number plate - I called my mother, she said we had to have a West German number plate after six months, and these visits were later on. Probably the car type and our passes made my parents feel less worried.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 02:10:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I could tell you stories...

But, the truly scary thing is, that they were justified. My parents always told us to be as quite as possible around the border, especially not singing the very popular (in our household), Dubschek, Dubschek, Dubschek, MaoTseTung, King-Kong, MaoTseTung, King-Kong, Idi Amin, Honecker, Honecker, raus, <sound of a smacked close door, or a muffled gun shot> -- then start all over again.

I read a book a couple of months back by an Australian Journalist, who interviewed Ex-Stasi officers. One of their favourite jobs was to pretend to be a West German wanting to travel into East Germany, wait in line with them and listen into their conversations in the other cars with directional microphones.

My father was strip searched once, because he still had a 10pfenning east stamp in his wallet. They drove him off to the police station for his attempt to devalue the GDR and his blindingly obvious endeavour of smuggling valuta.

I am SO glad, that the GDR is no more.

by PeWi on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 01:48:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Re Juan Cole, there are of course two caveats: He said this around the time of the Bali-bombing and he explicitely referred to the US. His point probably being as well, don't bomb the shepherds in Afghanistan, your problem will be homegrown next time.
by PeWi on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 01:59:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing that has always fascinated me, and I read something from Juan Cole that reconfirmed that. - All the German Terrorists were highly educated people. Andreas Baader was a Studienstift Deutsches Volk. Which means he was suggested by a teacher for his outstanding success at school and subsequently passed all sort of tests, before getting a stipend for University. Jan-Carl Raspe was a Sociologist, Ulrike Meinhof a well publicized writer. I think what I am saying here is, their idealism was fueled by their intellectualism: There was a sense of wanting to better the world by getting rid of its evil influences that connects these people. The outrages attempt at achieving this aim, was fueld by superiority assumptions of understaning the masses, and knowing better was good for all.

not having researched this to refresh my memories even for a minute, I just add my 0.02 cents about what I remember about this time.

I think that the so-called first generation of the RAF was not only fueled by intellectualism and idealism, but by a moral convictions of a special kind. They not only thought to have a superior feeling of understanding the masses, but also the ethical and moral standards of the general population. And that's were they were completely off and "out of whack".

They argued as if hey had superior morals and ethical reasons and were so convinced of their righteousness that they could afford to drop all common sense humanity, civil rights considerations and basic respect for the rule of law.

In their mind it became morally necessary and the right thing to do to kill some target personalities they considered representatives of the evil-doing capitalists. They were that convinced (and so intellectually arrogant) about their own, even christian-based justifications, (I think a couple came out of middle-class families with fathers being lutheran pastors) and morality that they lost completely any feeling for right and wrong. They were so hard-wired in their thinking that they "forgot" the simple thing, namely that 'they shall not kill' has a meaning -  for "ideologists of their superior kind" as well.  

Oh well, typical German sort of terrorists they were indeed.

I wished you had link to the comment by Juan Cole, but considering this thought:

... why there had been no successful large scale attack on American soil since the eleventh of September 2001, was because AQ, lacks the intellectuals and their manpower. He pointed out, that all attackers that flew the planes where University educated people.

I almost think it's not only the fact that they were simply University educated people, but some (like Atta) were convinced to act out of moral principle and ethical superiority.
If you say:
 
For the sake of not wanting to sound to condescending, but you need educated people, not just shepherd, to build bombs, and plan and execute an attack on that scale.

I would answer that to execute an attack on that scale, you not only need to be educated, but disciplined and hundred percent convinced that from a moral view-point you are doing the right thing. I bet you Atta was thinking he is doing a heroic, ethically good deed and is saving the world from evil. Tragically and sadly, many become active terrorists out of moral convictions.
by mimi on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 02:03:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At the 25-year anniversary of the 'German Autumn', there was a docu-drama of the events, and after that an even more interesting documentary. This included an interview with one of the former Second Generation terrorists, who took part in the abduction of Schleyer. S/he (I confuse which interviewed person was it...) told about how they had political debates with Schleyer during the captivity, and how silly he feels they were with hindsight, spouting dogma with full conviction towards a man who was in truth something of a progressive.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 02:20:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
around 1970. Although I was in the peace movement , I felt things were getting too far with molotov cocktails, guns, explosives and hijackings. That was not my cup of tea. I gradually threw away historicism dogma, accepted economic analysis, balance of power, use of force in limited circumstances, etc.... I thought I grew up and the world became a little better. Socialism? Who cares. I cheered the fall of the Berlin wall. I applauded Ron Reagan for the end of the cold war. I thought I was on the right side of things. Humans are making steady, reasonable progress. We would not make mistakes of the past generation, I thought.

...until we had George Bush. Now I am no longer sure I (we) graduated from anything.

I will become a patissier, God willing.

by tuasfait on Sat Sep 24th, 2005 at 08:35:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Secondly: Is the statement true, that errorists are intellectual idealist per se, or does that just help? Subquestion, where the other european terrorists (excluding ETA, IRA, as they are somewhat different), but I seem to recall Belgian and French terrorist cells, were they equally educated?

Core IRA terrorists tended to pretty well educated as well: probably one of the reasons for the relative ineffectiveness of loyalist terrorists was the lack of an intellectual core. The loyalists could riot, they could shoot people, but they could never put together a proper terrorist campaign that I remember.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 12:14:17 PM EST
is that after Franco died 30 years ago Spain has not deployed troops in the Basque country. The Ulster was effectively under military occupation.

You could argue that the Guardia Civil is military, but it is under the Ministry of the Interior, not Defence.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 23rd, 2005 at 12:42:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Had a long day (part of it at the anti-Bush, anti-war demo in San Francisco today, it was bloody hot in the City).  So I can't comment very intelligently right now, but am reading Schell's The Unconquerable World which -- though frustrating at times -- offers some interesting thoughts on the relationship between force and politics in war, the divergence (from Clausewitz on) of the high-tech "imperialists' war" and the low-tech "people's war," and the role of ideology or politics in each.  I am not quite halfway through the book yet so am not sure where Schell is going -- a synopsis of the life of Gandhi was the last section I read.

At any rate the RAF or B-M-gang I guess represents the Maoist train of thought, that violence must be wholly subordinate to the political agenda, and a highly developed political agenda is something more easily claimed by the college educated... I feel instinctively that there is some salient different between e.g. a lynch mob and the targeted outrages of the RAF and similar terrorist cells, but both share a fundamental notion of warfare:  that brute force and terror are the final arbiters of victory (I am stealing this outright from Schell).  And it appears that both (and the massive set-piece military deployments in which the US and USSR specialised and the US still does, which share this same belief) are futile.  The RAF killed some people and did some damage, but the elite or ruling class is still in power.  What did they achieve?  Can they really be said to have accomplished anything more than the Yanks did in Viet Nam working on the same theory (brute force and terror applied in sufficient quantity leads to victory)?

Unfortunately for Schell's argument, many of Gandhi's achievements were also ultimately rendered futile... I'm waiting to see how he deals with the apparently equal futility of nonviolent means of social change.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 01:28:53 AM EST


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