[Marxism] Why the Red Army Faction Matters

kersplebedeb info at kersplebedeb.com
Wed Mar 4 13:20:13 MST 2009

Dear Louis,
Thanks for your response - of course, the point of the post was 
certainly not to argue that the time is now for urban guerilla warfare 
to be adopted as a strategy by the left. In fact, the point of the post 
had nothing to do with whether or not "the time is right" - rather, it 
was meant to explain why the Red Army Faction are worth learning about.

Obviously, if everybody believed it to be premature to engage in armed 
struggle (or any other tactic) as long as the masses keep their 
illusions in the system, well then the time would never be right. 
Popular consciousness is influenced by tactics and strategies we adopt, 
and our refusal to even contemplate certain forms of struggle doesn't do 
anything to move things forward; at times a strategy that the masses 
initially reject can polarize a situation to our advantage - it doesn't 
often happen that way, but it can.

In the RAF's case, against the odds, this strategy bore some fruit. Call 
in counterintuitive, or call it dialectics, but varieties of focoism 
were adopted by many groups in the seventies, and while the armed 
organizations were largely wiped out in the first world, their political 
legacy has not been completely extinguished. While i think focoism is a 
pretty bad idea, i don't think it can be dismissed without actually 
studying its effects. And a rejection of focoism does not entail a 
rejection of armed struggle per se.

Regardless of one's opinions about it, clandestine and violent actions 
are a predictable feature of any radical movement, of the left or the 
right. Within all of the most promising twentieth century movements, 
some individuals and groups did begin to complement what aboveground 
organizing was occurring with occasional clandestine and illegal acts of 
sabotage and violence. By doing so they themselves became a part of the 
equation, and at times dramatically changed the balance of forces - in 
ways at times harmful and at times beneficial to the broader movement.

Looked at in retrospect, we can see that some of what the RAF did was 
disastrous, some of it was quite helpful. But in either case i would 
argue that learning this history, and seeing how the guerillas arrived 
at the positions they did, is helpful whether we agree with them or not. 
& studying the RAF is particularly rewarding because at least during 
their first seven years they produced so many writings about what they 
were doing and why they were doing it, making

As to the RAF's grasp of Marxism, or the value of their radical ideas, 
you certainly won't be able to get a handle on these from my post. If 
you're interested you may find it useful to check out the German 
guerilla website (http://www.kersplebedeb.com), though the texts up at 
the moment are from previous translations - we're in the process of 
replacing them with the translations from the the book i recently 
co-published along with PM Press, Projectiles for the People. (Or of 
course you could pick up the book itself - 

But to dismiss the value of learning about the RAF because you dismiss 
armed struggle in the present context strikes me as silly.


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