During the 1970’s and 1980’s, the capitalist establishment of West-Germany was attacked by young revolutionaries, who called themselves the Red Army Faction – RAF. This terrorist group was born out the 1968 wave of resistance to western imperialism in both Vietnam and the world. Young Germans also rejected the deep conservative government of Konrad Adenauer and how West-Germany turned a blind-eye to the Nazi war crimes. The RAF was build on the wrong believes that you could fight imperialism, by urban guerrilla. Instead of class struggle, the RAF embraced individual terrorism. They attacked capitalist bankers and even carried out an aircraft hijacking!
The Federal Republic of Germany was born in May 1949. Its creation was the work of the western allied forces. Joseph Stalin wanted a neutral democratic Germany and he proposed this idea to his former friends. But the western allies rejected the Stalin note, as they wanted a West-Germany that stood on anticommunist ideals. Konrad Adenauer was elected to become the first chancellor and his Christian Democratic Union won the first elections!
Stalinist East Germany became the German Democratic Republic. Led by Walter Ulbricht, the East German state always believed that reunification was possible. Only after 1959 did they gave up this idea and the 1968 Constitution of the GDR, made it very clear that East Germany was a ”socialist” nation led by the Socialist Unity Party of Germany. West-Germany remained a conservative anticommunist nation. Former nazi’s who worked under Adolf Hitler, found new work with Konrad Adenauer. His CDU took on many former NSDAP members!
In 1956, the anticommunist government banned the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). The KPD by then was a weak party, no danger to the ruling class of West-Germany. But Adenauer believed the stalinists were dangerous and banned the party because it rejected the ”free democratic order” of Germany. Here lies the seeds for the RAF of the future, because many leftists born after 1945, viewed West-Germany as undemocratic and dictatorial!
The RAF youth also had its origin in the student movement of the 1960’s. Many German students rebelled against conservative leaders and their police enforcers. Their main aims were:
1: Changing society for more democracy.
2: Dealing with Germany’s and their parents’ Nazi past.
3: Reforming the curriculum.
4: Stopping the war in Vietnam and improving the conditions in the Third World.
5: Reducing the influence of the right-wing press on the masses and its abuse of the freedom of press.
6: Stopping the planned German emergency legislation from being passed.
Most media outlets in Germany back then were controlled by conservatives, who were deeply anticommunist and reactionary. Students demanded openness about the Nazi era, since the Adenauer government did nothing to confront the German people about their crimes. By 1968, the Second World War and the Nazi’s seemed to be long gone, neither the media nor the government wanted to talk about it!
Because the social democrats of the SPD supported the government, there was no opposition to the conservatives in parliament. By 1959, the SPD had renounced Marxist socialism and embraced the mixed market concept of Ludwig Erhard, a conservative minister. Many leftist students viewed the betrayal of the SPD as dangerous, as it left parliament with no critical voices. Since 1949, the liberals worked with the conservatives in government. Later they would join up with the social democrats in the 1970’s!
In response to the growing student demonstrations in 1968, the SPD/CDU government enabled the German Emergency Acts. These would give the German government the right to limit free speech in emergencies. Many students feared that a right-wing government would use police brutality against demonstrations. This was not uncommon, because many former nazi’s were tolerated and not openly rejected. For example, chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger was a member of the National-Socialist German Workers Party from 1933-1945. After the war he joined the conservative party and was welcomed by Adenauer!
Rudi Dutschke became the spokesperson for the whole student movement. The attempt on his life on 11 April 1968, led to massive protests and riots. Josef Bachmann was the man who wanted to kill the ”dirty communist” as he called Dutschke. He fired three bullets at him, but they failed to kill the student leader. Bachmann was captured and send to prison were he committed suicide in 1970. Rudi Dutschke lived for another 11 years, but his injuries slowly killed him. He died in 1979 at the age of only 39. Many capitalist media outlets were very negative about Dutschke in the 60’s. In a famous interview for television, the interviewer did not even hide his anti-leftist bias!
Because many newspapers and television outlets were reporting so negative about the students and the left in general, many leftists radicalized. They were influenced by Gue Guevara and Mao Zedong, who’s popular peasant rebellion led to the collapse of capitalist rule in Cuba and China. Maoism became a popular revolutionary ideology among students in the 1970’s. Now the SPD/CDU government became very paranoid and by 1972, they carried out the ”radicale degree”. This meant that the government was free to fire anybody who did not shared the ”free democratic” believes of the ruling political parties. 3,5 million Germans were investigated, but only 10.000 lost their public jobs!
The Revolutionary Cells were the first German urban guerrilla movement. Their terrorist attacks against the capitalist establishment shocked West-Germany. Founded in 1973, the cells most famous action was the hijacking of an Air France flight in cooperation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – External Operations and diverting it to Entebbe Airport in Uganda in 1976. During Operation Entebbe, Israeli commando’s were able to free the Jewish passengers and kills the terrorists. Since Uganda was helping the hijackers, the Israeli’s killed 47 Uganda soldiers while freeing the passengers!
In West-Germany, the first generation of RAF terrorists came together under Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Horst Mahler, and Ulrike Meinhof. Their goal was to fight German capitalism by robbing banks, killing high profiel members of the capitalist establishment and to spread the socialist revolution by force. Revolutionary socialists rejected their individual terrorism, as it only strengthen state repression against leftists in general. Still at least 1/3 of all young Germans born after 1945, could feel sympathy for the ideals of the Red Army Faction. Angered by their conservative parents and society, they felt that the RAF was fighting a ”righteous battle” against the ruling class!
East Germany’s Ministry of State Security (Stasi) knew all about the RAF. They stood in contact with the group and because both shared the same believes (at least this is what the RAF members believed) they shared information. Although the Red Army Faction became the most famous West-Germany leftist terrorist force, it carried out less attacks then the Revolutionary Cells, who are responsible for at least 300 car bombings. The cells however never got the public attention the RAF got!
Andreas Baader was first captured in 1970 by the police. Ulrike Meinhof and Irene Goergens and Ingrid Schubert carried out a succesvol brake-out, after they were able to make a false “book deal” in which Meinhof would interview Baader at a public library outside the prison. The two woman smuggled guns and were able to overcome the guards. The RAF members then fled the library and West-Germany. They lived in Jordan before Baader returned with his group to start robbing German banks, in the name of anti-imperialism!
The West-German government started an effective manhunt for Baader and his terrorists. In the capitalist media they were called the Baader-Meinhof Gang. Although they saw themselves are revolutionary socialists, Andreas Baader behaved like a common thief. He was obsessed with driving vehicles, especially sport cars. While on the run, Baader stole many of them from dealers. In June 1972, the game was over for Andreas Baader. He and two comrades were spotted by the police. A firefight started after which the police captured the injured Andreas Baader. Gudrun Ensslin and Ulrike Meinhof were arrested two weeks later!
After four years of hearings in different trials, the captured RAF members were found guilty. But before Ulrike Meinhof could be send to life in prison, she was found death on 9 May 1976. The official version is that she killed herself, while the supporters of the RAF claim that she was murdered by the deeply anti-leftist prison guards. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestina tried to get Andreas Baader freed by hijacking Lufthansa Flight 181. However, German commando’s were abel to liberate the aircraft and kill all three hijackers. After hearing the news that Flight 181 was freed, Andreas Baader and Jan-Carl Raspe were found dead in their cells. Baader’s girlfriend; Gudrun Ensslin was found hanged in her cell. Irmgard Möller was wounded in her suicide attempt, but survived!
The second generation of RAF members were active in the mid 1970’s to early 1980’s. Members included Brigitte Mohnhaupt, Christian Klar and Susanne Albrecht. They would draw attention with the violent kidnapping and murder of Hanns Martin Schleyer. This former SS soldier and NSDAP member, made a good carrière in post war Germany. Like most former nazi’s, he supported the ruling class. Hanns Schleyer was simultaneously president of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations and the Federation of German Industries!
Nobody seemed to care that he was a member of the criminal SS. The RAF believed otherwise and they kidnapped Schleyer on 5 September 1977. After 43 days it became clear that the government would not give in. Also the failed hijacking of Flight 181 and the death of the first generation RAF members in jail, led to the murder of Hanns Schleyer. Today he is honored in Germany as a victim of ”communist” terrorism. The fact that he was a Nazi supporter and joined the SS in 1933, are forgotten by the German public!
In the late 1970’s, the SPD ruled with the liberals of the FDP. The Christian Democratic Union was forced into the opposition and they abused the terror of the RAF for antisocialist propaganda. They claimed that the SPD/FDP government was ideologically close to the RAF. They always claimed that the moderate social democrats were in fact ”pro-communist” something we still see today among far-right conservatives in the USA. The reality is that the social democrats and liberals desperately tried to improve security, to show the conservative CDU that they could protect the nation. The conservatives never ceased their anti-leftist propaganda until the SPD would finally abandon socialism altogether!
Brigitte Mohnhaupt was captured in 1982 and sentenced to life in prison. Christian Klar was also captured the same year and like Mohnhaupt sentenced to life in prison. Susanne Albrecht was able to flee to the German Democratic Republic. The Stasi gave her a new name and identity. She worked as an English translator under the name Ingrid Jäger. Four years later, West-German television was able to identify her in the GDR. The Stasi then moved her to East Berlin. After the collapse of the Stalinist government, she could no longer hide. On 9 June 1990, in one of its last acts the People’s Police arrested Susanne Albrecht, in the front of her East Berlin appartement!
Because she was a member of the RAF, Albrecht was sentenced to 12 years in prison. But after serving six years, she was paroled in 1996. Today she lives as a German language teacher to immigrant children in a Bremen primary school under an assumed name. Brigitte Mohnhaupt and Christian Klar stayed in prison until 2007/2008. Many conservatives were deeply angered when they were paroled. However since these people never criticize the fact that their Christian Democratic Union took in SS and NSDAP criminals, they have no right to complain!
The last generation of RAF members was active until 1998. But by now most Germans had turned against them. Even the radical students of the 1970’s were now supportive of capitalism and renounced the socialist revolution as a ”youth sin”. The collapse of ”real socialism” as many RAF members believed exists, also fueled their downfall. With the final collapse of the Soviet-Union on 25 December 1991, the RAF was deeply demoralized!
Birgit Hogefeld and Wolfgang Grams were the last members captured by the German police in 1993. Hogefeld was sentenced to life in prison, three years after her capture. She was not paroled until 2011. Wolfgang Grams was wounded in the firefight with the police, the official story is that he shot himself in the head. Others claim that he was executed by a police officers after he was wounded. Grams died in the hospital!
Founding father of the RAF; Horst Mahler was arrested and jailed for 14 years. In jail he first became a supporter of Mao Zedong, but then moved towards neo-nazism. Mahler became a member of the far-right; National Democratic Party of Germany in 2000. He stayed with the NDP only three years and left in 2003. Since then Horst Mahler is active in the Holocaust denial which is forbidden by German law. He was arrested multiple times and finally got a harsh punishment of 12 years in prison win-out parole for hate speech, Holocaust denial and spreading far-right propaganda!
There were many reasons why these young people decided to take up arms against the German government and society. Although revolutionary socialists can understand their frustration and anger, urban guerrilla only led to their capture and death. You don’t defeat the capitalist system by violent terrorist acts against bankers and right-wing people. They will only use the state as shield to protect their interests. The Red Army Faction failed, because it lacked Marxist thinking. It was influenced by the same people who would also fail. China abandoned maoism and Cuba is on its way to embrace the market again. In the end the RAF gave the capitalist media a powerful weapon against the revolutionary left!