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The Red Army Faction, A Documentary History—Volume 1: Projectiles For the People

Format: 
Paperback
Size: 
736 pages
ISBN: 
9781604860290
Year: 
2009
Price: $27.00 (CAD)
List price: $47.18 (CAD)

The first in a two-volume series, this is by far the most in-depth political history of the Red Army Faction ever made available in English.

Projectiles for the People starts its story in the days following World War II, showing how American imperialism worked hand in glove with the old pro-Nazi ruling class, shaping West Germany into an authoritarian anti-communist bulwark and launching pad for its aggression against Third World nations. The volume also recounts the opposition that emerged from intellectuals, communists, independent leftists, and then – explosively – the radical student movement and countercultural revolt of the 1960s.

It was from this revolt that the Red Army Faction emerged, an underground organization devoted to carrying out armed attacks within the Federal Republic of Germany, in the view of establishing a tradition of illegal, guerilla resistance to imperialism and state repression. Through its bombs and manifestos the RAF confronted the state with opposition at a level many activists today might find difficult to imagine.

For the first time ever in English, this volume presents all of the manifestos and communiqués issued by the RAF between 1970 and 1977, from Andreas Baader’s prison break, through the 1972 May Offensive and the 1975 hostage-taking in Stockholm, to the desperate, and tragic, events of the “German Autumn” of 1977. The RAF’s three main manifestos – The Urban Guerilla Concept, Serve the People, and Black September – are included, as are important interviews with Spiegel and le Monde Diplomatique, and a number of communiqués and court statements explaining their actions.

Providing the background information that readers will require to understand the context in which these events occurred, separate thematic sections deal with the 1976 murder of Ulrike Meinhof in prison, the 1977 Stammheim murders, the extensive use of psychological operations and false-flag attacks to discredit the guerilla, the state’s use of sensory deprivation torture and isolation wings, and the prisoners’ resistance to this, through which they inspired their own supporters and others on the left to take the plunge into revolutionary action.

Drawing on both mainstream and movement sources, this book is intended as a contribution to the comrades of today – and to the comrades of tomorrow – both as testimony to those who struggled before and as an explanation as to how they saw the world, why they made the choices they made, and the price they were made to pay for having done so. For more on this book check out the German Guerilla website.

What People Are Saying

“[Projectiles for the People] is a highly accessible rendition of a story of struggle that puts us into both the thought and the action. That placement conveys more than a sense or understanding of the RAF’s praxis. It transmits a connection in a visceral way. Not since reading Ten Days that Shook the World have I been so drawn into a political narrative. Reading like a historical thriller notwithstanding, Projectiles lets us see a rare confluence of theory and practice of which anyone who aspires to make revolution should be aware. The RAF may no longer be with us, but it has prepared the ground for and can yet aid the current movement for the most equitable social reality in which all people will have the greatest possible freedom to develop their full human potential. Nowhere else has the RAF’s life, times, and legacy been so clearly laid out.” — Bill Dunne (political prisoner since 1979)

“This book about the Red Army Faction of American-occupied Germany is one that should be read by any serious student of anti-imperialist politics. “Volume 1: Projectiles for the People” provides a history of the RAF’s development through the words of its letters and communiqués. What makes the book especially important and relevant, however, is the careful research and documentation done by its editors. Their effort makes this work far more than a collection of communiqués. From this book you will learn the mistakes of a group that was both large and strong, but which (like our own home-grown attempts in this regard) was unable to successfully communicate with the working class of a “democratic” country on a level that met their needs. While the armed struggle can be the seed of something much larger, is also another means of reaching out and communicating with the people. Students interested in this historic era would do well to study this book and to internalize both the successes and failures of one of the largest organized armed anti-imperialists organizations operating in Western Europe since World War II.” —Ed Mead, former political prisoner, George Jackson Brigade

"Starting in the Sixties, a new revolutionary strategy began to plague the capitalist metropolis—the urban guerilla. Warfare once waged by peasant armies in the countryside of a Cuba, a China, or a Guinea-Bisseau, was suddenly transfered to small cells of ex-students in the imperialist centers of Berlin, Rome and New York. No urban guerrillas became more famed or more demonized than West Germany’s Red Army Faction (RAF). We knew their signature bold actions in the headlines: from the damaging bombing of the u.s. army V Corps headquarters in Hamburg in 1972, in response to Washington’s mining of Hanoi’s harbor in an escalation of the Vietnam War, to the kidnapping and later execution of the head of the West German industrialists association, in an effort to negotiate for the release of revolutionary prisoners. But we never heard their political voices. Since the RAF’s political statements, debates and communiqués were untranslated and unavailable in English even within the left.

"Now, at last, a significant documentary history of the RAF has come into the spotlight, complete with a readable account of the postwar German New Left from which it emerged. Even better, this work was done by editors/translators who reject the obedient capitalist media’s trivializing of the RAF as “pathological” death-wishing celebrities. In their hands, the words of the RAF are revealed as serious responses to the failure of parliamentary reformism, trade-unionism and pacifism, to stop the solidification of Germany’s own form of a neofascist capitalism (lightly cosmeticized with a layer of that numbing “consumer democracy”). The young RAF fighters hoped for liberation in their dangerous experiment but were willing to accept tragic consequences, and their story is emotionally difficult to read with eyes open. Controversial as the RAF was, their systematic torture in special “anti-terrorist” facilities stirred worldwide unease and even protest. In fact, those special prisons were the eagerly studied forerunners for the u.s. empire’s own latest human rights abuses, from Guantanamo to the domestic “maxi-maxi” prisons. We all and the RAF are much closer than the capitalist public wants to believe. It is all here, in this first volume of the Red Army Faction documentary histories, and we should thank all those who worked on this book.” —J. Sakai, author of Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat

“Clear-headed and meticulously researched, this book deftly avoids many of the problems that plagued earlier attempts to tell the brief but enduring history of the RAF. It offers a remarkable wealth of source material in the form of statements and letters from the combatants, yet the authors manage to present it in a way that is both coherent and engaging. Evidence of brutal—and ultimately ineffective—attempts by the state to silence the voices of political prisoners serve as a timely and powerful reminder of the continued need for anti-imperialist prisoners as leaders in our movements today. At once informative and inspirational, this is a much-needed contribution to the analysis of armed struggle and the cycles of repression and resistance in Europe and around the world.” — Sara Falconer, Toronto Anarchist Black Cross Federation

“Armed struggle was one of the most controversial yet widespread phenomena of the worldwide revolutionary upsurge in the 1960s and 1970s—and the Red Army Faction was a centerpiece of this strategy in the imperial West. This valuable documentary history gathers RAF primary documents with an impressive set of contextual essays, providing the raw material necessary to understand the strategies and consequences of attacking from within the belly of the beast.” —Dan Berger, author of Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity

“Of all the revolutionary organizations to have been forged by the so-called sixties generation, the German Red Army Faction has been perhaps the most mythologized and maligned. Here at last is their story, told in their own words through “official” communications, comprehensively assembled and available for the first time in English translation. This is essential material for anyone wishing to know what they did, why they did it, and to draw consequent lessons from their experience.” —Ward Churchill author of On the Justice of Roosting Chickens