RZ Letter to the RAF Comrades

This letter is addressed to all raf comrades.

It is an open letter.

We are a section of the Revolutionary Cells (rz). However, many arguments from the undogmatic movement are integrated into this letter, both because we consider these arguments to be correct and because we feel ourselves to be a part of this movement.

We request that all groups and all comrades (for example, the publishing houses, undogmatic groups from various areas, newspapers, unaffiliated comrades, the 2nd of June Movement…) discuss this letter.

Truth be told, we have wanted to pose some questions to you—the comrades of the raf—for some time now. The reason is the rumor that the raf prisoners are planning a 4th hunger strike, with the demand that the Geneva Convention be applied and their status as prisoners of war be recognized.

Now, you might ask us why we feel the need to hold an “open discussion.” Comrades, the reason is that we are afraid we might receive an unreasonably hostile response from you. Something suggesting that we are at least objectively acting as cops, or that our letter is a state security initiative. However, we recognize that we must not allow the possibility of such reproaches to cause us to shrink from a discussion with you.

What is important for us now (!) is that we come to an understanding with you. In the context of this discussion, it will become clear just how far we have drifted from each other and the need we feel for you to discuss with us our perspective, our actions, our evolution, and our lives. We proceed from the belief that you must feel a similar need! Likewise, you must feel the need to more clearly enter into discussion with the broader undogmatic movement. Otherwise, you are elevating yourselves to an arbitrary vanguard position.

The 71/72raf actions were an important development for many comrades. They shook many people, including us, out of our slumber. As this resonated in different areas, a hopeful joy arose regarding the impotence of the entire state apparatus and the guerilla’s capacity to carry out actions, even in the frg. At the time, these actions drew the widespread anti-imperialist movement together, causing the further development of an idea that had been rattling around in the heads of thousands of people. We saw that what had long been thought about was in fact possible. Without the raf, there wouldn’t be an rz today, there wouldn’t be groups that understand that resistance doesn’t stop where the criminal code starts. The texts you issued clearly demonstrated the meaning of “no compromise,” “draw a clear dividing line between the enemy and yourself,” and “freedom in the face of this system requires its complete negation”; that is to say, they demonstrated that it is possible to attack this system in a fighting collective and that we must choose to struggle if we are to remain human.

However, what we now want you to tell us is whether you still stand by what the raf said in 71/72? What do you think about the Stockholm liberation action? What errors do you think you’ve made in the interim? What do you hope to achieve with your trials?—People, we’re asking you these things, because we are no longer clear about your politics. We recognize little of the raf’s original orientation.

Another important point: address the change. Better yet: rejuvenate the clearly significant impact of the information you provided, the statements you made, and the mobilization that resulted from the way you “made use of the trials.” For instance the way Brigitte Mohnhaupt clarified your structure for that rat Prinzing—using that as the key venue—so as to expose the bought-off witness Müller as a liar.[1] Why did it take Müller, Prinzing, Buback & Co. to get you to say something about your structure, while we and others have waited since 72 for precisely such information and so much more?

Comrades, we have a completely practical problem with you. We have considered you comrades for a long time now, but many people on the outside don’t feel that they are your comrades. We and others have been and will be used and subordinated to your trial strategy, for example, and for other mobilizations and campaigns as well. It is not possible to develop or discuss a common strategy with you. Obviously it is extremely difficult to do that through the prison walls. But we have the impression that that is not the only obstacle. Much more important is the fact you were much too quick to judge us. All too often you have indicated that you have no faith in our strength or that of others; in those on the outside, who also want to and must struggle, and who also hope to make decisions for themselves. They don’t, however, want to offer you the wrong kind of support, blindly praying that they meet your rigid demands. Rather, they first want to think things over for themselves. That also goes for a large part of the undogmatic movement.—Yes comrades, we appear to be nothing more to you than a tool to be discarded when it is worn out. You don’t ask why it’s worn out. You simply assume we are weak and (massively) opportunistic, that we are completely at peace in this corrupt, man-eating system. And that’s depressing. Enough of the category of comrade or pig!

And now listen carefully: it is simply complete, defeatist nonsense to claim that the entire left is on the defensive. Your disgusting fantasy about us and our strength is really a sign that you are on the defensive… How did you arrive at the decision to break off the last hunger strike, incorrectly claiming that we (the rz, the 2nd of June Movement, the undogmatic groups, and and and…) were on the defensive??? You achieved absolutely nothing with your last hunger strike, while your defense attorneys and the Committees Against Torture gave everything they had to support your demands. Professors, doctors, writers (Sartre[2]), clergy (Scharf[3]), Amnesty (Austria), many undogmatic and even dogmatic groups (kpd/ml) supported your hunger strike. The murder of Holger was immediately answered by the shooting of von Drenkmann. Many people understood clearly that torture occurred even in German prisons. Is that really nothing? Do you really see that as a sign of the entire left being on the defensive?[4]

Besides the broad-based solidarity during the hunger strike, things have developed and are developing that are far from discouraging, things that you have only partially grasped. Recent history clearly shows that the masses here have not been completely bought off. It also shows how fruitful this terrain can be: the Nordhorn-Range, the September strikes of 73, the rz attacks on itt, Wyhl, Brokdorf, women’s groups, the attack by the women of the rz against the Federal Constitutional Court due to §218, forged public transit passes,[5] increasing struggle and politicization in the prisons, foreigners’ committees and groups, Lorenz and his vacation, riots in Frankfurt against public transit fare increases, squats, etc. That is also partially the result of your practice. Comrades, do these movements simply not exist in your minds? Or do you think they are of no importance? Are they not important enough for you in the context of internationalism? Or do you consider them irrelevant because they don’t have the same political practice as the raf?

And now to the particulars: we cannot accept the complete lack of solidarity with which you treat some comrades from these movements:

For example, the Informationsdienst writer who reported on your trial. You accused him of objectively being a cop, because he didn’t quote Andreas Baader word for word. When this “objective cop” responded in a way that showed solidarity, you broke off all communication. Does that mean that you found his criticism to be accurate or that from this point onward, he is simply objectively a cop? This id writer subsequently stopped his reporting…

Also, we can’t accept some of your denunciations of individual lawyers. You certainly know what we mean! These lawyers are comrades!

How did it happen that the attorney Croissant came to be the executor of Ulrike’s “estate”? Ulrike isn’t a file. She struggled alongside you! As you know, since then Klaus Croissant has gone so far as to accuse Klaus Wagenbach[6] of working hand in hand with state security, and has used the justice system (that wants to exterminate you) to request a legal decision to have Peter Brückner’s[7] book about Ulrike Meinhof withdrawn from circulation. Via Klaus Croissant, §88a[8] will be implemented from the left. Nothing like that has ever happened before! Why don’t you just talk to Klaus Wagenbach—a comrade? How do you feel about the new §88a?

You’ve maintained complete silence about a very important article from the Red Aid/West Berlin Prisoners’ Collective (published in Info-bug #111) regarding the problems faced by pows. We think that’s bullshit.

Your silence regarding the Committees Against Torture (they primarily supported the raf prisoners) must finally end. Start with their activities up until the persecution through surveillance, raids, and Winter Trip. After that the committees dissolved themselves. Did you agree to this? Were they quickly replaced by a defense committee/support fund?

These are only some examples. What we’re trying to say to you is that in the future you can’t continue to abuse important comrades in the movement. You can’t continue to denounce them as objective cops, state security agents, or bka members. It is not only a disgrace, it is extremely dangerous! We will not allow you to continue to do this in the future. Period!

You, that is to say the raf comrades, have drawn attention to an important point. Yet again. Specifically, the problem of psychological warfare. Since you first decided to point it out, we have begun to consider the press and interviews and their function in Buback’s strategy much more seriously. So we really don’t understand why you’ve effectively left the field to this regimented media. In the near future an rz interview will address this.

We usually first learn of your statements from the Frankfurter Rundschau, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Berliner Zeitung, etc. Initially, their meaning is only clear to comrades “in the know.” The same is true with regards to the Geneva Convention. It is extremely common that we get our first information about you from random newspapers and news shows. It must be clear to you that as a result rumors and incorrect reports circulate as news about you. It is only very seldom that we get the information from you first. It usually comes too late to correct false reports. As a result many comrades can only then be mobilized for whatever campaign. Often without understanding what it is they’re doing. When you howl about that—without doing anything about it either on the outside or from within prison—how do you make yourselves look? You’re reaction is out of proportion. We cannot in any way accept your treating us or others with scorn.

Now a few basic questions:

What’s your position regarding the politics of the Revolutionary Cells and the 2nd of June Movement? For instance, the Lorenz kidnapping, forged public transit passes, the attack of the women of the rz against the Federal Constitutional Court, forged food vouchers for Berlin’s homeless…?

How do you support your lawyers, who are directly or indirectly subjected to the Berufsverbot? Who suffer constant persecution? How do you help them keep their courage up, besides railing against Buback & Co.? We’re asking, because at this point there aren’t many left lawyers remaining to defend revolutionary prisoners.

Why, at this point, do you only seek the support of prominent personalities? Is it because they’re in the forefront of the legal movement? We see this as a huge mistake.

What’s your position on a common discussion of all political prisoners and all prisoners that have been politicized in prison? We don’t mean by this that you should demand that they all be placed together in the same concentration camp, which is Buback’s idea. That’s a mistake. Rather we mean the mutual strengthening of all prisoners who struggle inside the prisons.

Don’t you think that the Stockholm action should be criticized? And certainly not only because the action failed to achieve its demands. That’s not the point. Rather, because the whole action was an unpleasant example of how a few comrades totally overshadowed your relationships and experiences. They did not mediate anything of a long-term nature. Even the demands themselves bore no relationship to the action. Two comrades paid for the action with their lives. The timeframe for fulfilling the demands was far too short.—Mistakes were made that must be completely avoided the next time. So mistakes were made. Turn every defeat into victory!…

What, for example, is your position regarding the powerful movements in Brokdorf, Wyhl etc.? And what is your overall position regarding the antinuclear movement?

We think that state security has reinforced your isolation from each other, and you have completely isolated yourselves from the broader left-wing movement. You must make contact with them again: a fish out of water will die of thirst! Even if you think you don’t need water to swim. We think that the tactics that you share with us are not primarily based on causing criminal damage. Even communiqués must be written in West German so that everybody can understand them. Your communiqués can no longer be understood by the general public. They can only be understood by insiders. So now mobilizations are the result of psychological pressure, not of objective necessity.

And now, raf comrades, we arrive at the possibility of a 4th hunger strike:

We think that there is too much ambiguity and contradiction between you and those who should and could support the hunger strike. We have attempted to identify some of these issues. So this letter should be taken as the beginning of a long discussion. Now you have to put your cards on the table. Otherwise this isn’t going to work anymore. Otherwise what you want is blind solidarity. You can no longer avoid clarifying whether we and others on the left are your comrades. Whether we’re nothing more than your instrument, now defined as the “left on the defensive.”

Will you choose the Geneva Convention, the closed concentration camp, and with that take a position against us, or will you choose equality with other prisoners, will you choose to break through your isolation, and thereby decide in favor of unity with us? Previously, you demanded the abolition of special conditions and equality with other prisoners. Now, you insist upon a piece of paper, specifically the Geneva Convention. However, pow status implies [illegible in the version provided]. With your demand you overlook the interests of other prisoners. You must be prepared to withdraw your denunciations! Do you really want to throw away your lives for a foolish demand like pow status? Is it because you think you are no longer necessary? Is it because you think you can no longer rely on the movement?

Should you decide, in spite of everything, to just blow this letter off and—as has been the case before—to greet it with silence, and should you decide, in spite of everything, to gamble with your lives for the application of the Geneva Convention, our solidarity will be more a torment than a given.

[1] On July22, 1976, Brigitte Mohnhaupt used her trial testimony to rebut claims about the raf’s allegedly hierarchical structure. Short excerpts from this statement are reprinted in this volume on pages 173 and 355-8. A less refined translation of the entire statement is available online at http://www.germanguerilla.com/red-army-faction/documents/76_0708_mohnhaupt_pohl.html.

[2] The French playwright and existentialist philosopher had visited Baader in Stammheim during the third hunger strike, decrying the isolation conditions as torture which “provokes deficits in the prisoner; it leads him to stupefaction or to death.” See “The Slow Death of Andreas Baader by Jean-Paul Sartre”

[3]Karl Scharf was at this time the Lutheran Bishop of West Berlin.

[4] This paragraph is very much directed at the arguments made in the Letter from the raf to the RAF prisoners, cf 338.

[5] The rz and Rote Zora regularly distributed forged public transit passes.

[6] Klaus Wagenbach is a prominent left-wing publisher with his roots in the apo. He read the eulogy at Ulrike Meinhof’s funeral.

[7]Peter Brückner was a left-wing psychologist loosely connected to the Frankfurt School. In 1972, he was suspended from his position at the Technical University in Hannover for allegedly lending the raf material support (most likely shelter), a charge based on Karl-Heinz Ruhland’s questionable testimony (Varon, 239-240). In 1978, he was once again suspended for taking a public stand against the repressive atmosphere the state was attempting to engender through its suppression of Buback: In Memoriam (see pages 534-35). He died in 1982 while still appealing the details of this suspension. (Braunthal, 98)

[8]§88a, which criminalized literature which “glorifies violence,” passed into law on January16, 1976.