We have to talk about ’77 again here, specifically about the political strategy behind the first phase of armed struggle in which the attacks occurred and how new conditions for revolutionary politics developed out of this conflict. We also have to say a few things about what happened when we took Schleyer captive and demanded the prisoners in exchange for him.
Following the arrests in ’72 and the Stockholm action, the social democratic state hoped for a realignment that would put an end to the guerilla’s complete negation of the capitalist system and the rupture it represents. The guerilla was to remain an incident involving a couple of guys, historically connected to the situation around the Vietnam War, and perhaps to a critique of the old sterile antifascism—as if it was intended to be the latest form of treason—to prevent the possibility of revolutionary struggle here from serving as a reference point. In ’76, we had arrived at the goal of deepening the guerilla project and further developing an understanding of the rupture in the metropole by resuming the struggle—setting the revolutionary process in motion and making the rupture irreversible. The goal of restructuring the guerilla in ’77 was connected to the prisoners’ struggle.
The ongoing social democracy was an external condition under which we struggled in the ’70s; against the strategy of the SPD, which had broken the back of proletarian revolution many times since 1914—which had disarmed the working class in the face of fascism—which after ’45, guided by U.S. capital, was again inserted into the class as a pillar of support for capital—which, as the modern form of imperialist rule, institutionalized all social contradictions, political struggles, and autonomous movements. It was against these political conditions that we carried out the first RAF attacks. These actions were part of a practice that destroyed the “objective unity of the bourgeoisie,” that recreated the conditions for class consciousness, and developed the strategic political-military struggle.
The other condition: after the consolidation of the October Revolution, the national class struggle failed to develop anything that correctly clarified the current conflict between the proletariat and the capitalist system or showed how to overthrow it. Capital had further internationalized itself.
And regarding the different forms of colonization of people in the south and in the metropole, different realities were shaped to separate them socially and politically. So the relationship to oppression in the metropole was stabilized for decades through the internationalization of production, and was politically sealed by social democracy and the unions limiting the labor movement to purely economic struggles. This relative stability was disrupted by the Vietnamese liberation struggle. First of all, because this successful struggle for national self-determination and social development was connected to worldwide change, it created barriers to capital. But more importantly, the Vietnamese liberation struggle changed political conditions. An aspect of this decolonization was that it simultaneously involved confronting U.S. imperialism, and for that reason this war revealed the totality and the unity of the entire imperialist system, for the first time since the consolidation of the October Revolution. That facilitated a break with the long history of revisionism here. Vietnam transformed the worldwide revolutionary process from one of separate national class struggles into an increasingly unified international class struggle, uniting the struggles on all fronts. Since then this has been the context within which all of the struggles confronting the capitalist system occur. They differ only as to the level of the concrete conditions in which and under which they are conducted.
At the beginning of ’77, the question here was whether things could continue to advance or whether they would suffer further reversals. Following the military solution to the guerilla struggle that was used against the commando in Stockholm, all those who chose not to leave were also choosing to not allow the revolutionary strategy to once again be pissed away in the states of the metropole. It was a decision to oppose the Social Democrats’ strategic intent, which was to annihilate the guerilla with depoliticization, rabble-rousing, and repressive normality, using mass control and modern fascism to their full potential. Brandt said that the counterstrategy must redevelop “society’s immune system,” something that social democracy represents more than almost anything else. As such, the most important recommendation the U.S. counterstrategy could offer the SPD was that they bury the Stammheim prisoners as deep as possible. With this goal, the state’s openly liquidationist line determined the speed and intensity with which the guerilla had to reorganize itself and develop its offensive.
The prisoners’ struggle had a political objective of its own. It arose from a contradiction which clarified both the political preconditions for the rupture as well as the depth it could achieve here. At the same time, ’77 was the point where the first phase of the guerilla struggle ended and where the political objective of this phase, the rupture in the metropole, was thereby established.
By taking Schleyer prisoner, we confronted the FRG state with its problem of legitimacy—using this bureaucrat from the Third Reich and its successor state, a state which was entirely shaped from the outside and imposed internally. The action confronted the FRG with this problem of legitimacy—the historical conditions for the overthrow of this system were ripe and its back was to the wall—because the negotiations forced it to acknowledge its adversaries. And the action confronted the federal government with the antifascism that to some degree already existed in Western Europe, and which was not just a historical factor, but was being produced anew as a reaction to the FRG’s new and pervasive claims to power. Schmidt said in parliament, “The hope that memories of Auschwitz and Oradour would begin to fade in countries outside of Germany will not be fulfilled. If a terrorist is shot by us… we will face questions that other nations don’t have to deal with.”
In fact, the old antifascism here collapsed without resistance, because it was propped up by a left that had waited thirty years for Strauß so they could scream about fascism, but have not to this very day caught on to the fact that everything that the CDU tried to do they learned from the SPD. And in Western Europe outside of Germany, it lost its strength to the degree that it oriented itself toward an impending revolution in one country and treated this as typical of Western Europe. This relationship to power consisted of the weakness of the old antifascism at a point when the new antifascism emerging from the anti-imperialist struggle was not yet adequately developed. This allowed the state to achieve its goal of waging war against the enemy within—“civilization or barbarism,” hyper-criminality—and to resolve the situation militarily, in keeping with Schmidt’s imposed dictum, at least during those weeks: society could not be permitted to debate the guerilla’s politics.
Because social democracy has its historical roots in the betrayal of the working class, they are particularly sensitive to the problem of legitimacy faced by the capitalist system. This was illustrated by the conflicts within the Crisis Management Team. The SPD wanted to handle it as a state of emergency, without actually declaring such a thing. Wehner insisted that people stop talking openly about a state crisis. The CDU/CSU was prepared to drop this line—for example, the CSU proposed allowing the prisoners to go free and then declaring a state of emergency to smash the mobilization that the situation had provoked. Or Rebmann’s idea to institute martial law and shoot the imprisoned guerillas. Schmidt relied on the effectiveness not of traditional fascism, but of the institutional variety. He too wanted to use the prisoners as hostages, but legally, with the Contact Ban law. He too wanted a military solution, but with the police waging the war, accompanied by the construction of the necessary ideological superstructure. The goal was the same. As a result, everything was focused on the prisoners, because they couldn’t get at the commando.
On September 8, 1977, the Crisis Management Team allowed Die Welt to demand that Rebmann’s plan be carried out. On September 10, the Süddeutsche Zeitung published the same thing as reflecting a discussion within the csu Land group, which wanted a prisoner shot at half-hour intervals until Schleyer was released. A day later, Frühschoppen demanded the introduction of bloody torture, noting that the guerilla groups in Latin America had been defeated in that way. The next day, Spiegel provided a platform for the csu’s Becher and Zimmermann to express their longing for the deaths of the Stammheim prisoners. On September 13, the same idea was put forward by the spd through Heinz Kühn, but in a more delicate way: “The terrorists must be made to understand that the death of Hanns Martin Schleyer will have grave consequences for the fate of the violent prisoners they are hoping to free through their disgraceful actions.” Next, there was a debate regarding the pros and cons of the death penalty, which ranged from the Catholic Church to Stern. In the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Strauß demanded a pogrom against the prisoners, because “then the police and the justice system wouldn’t have to bother with this anymore.” On October 16, throughout the media the BKA psychological warfare line was once again advanced, laying the groundwork for the operation on the seventh floor. The following day, using state security material, Spiegel claimed Andreas was the mastermind behind our action. Any journalist could easily see that this material had been manipulated. That same evening, on Panorama, Golo Mann demanded that the prisoners be treated as hostages and shot. This was all part of the Crisis Management Team’s public show, the preparatory propaganda. Rebmann served to connect this public line to the operational possibilities arising from the vacuum created by the Contact Ban.
The Federal Republic’s decision to adopt the hard line is best understood in light of the role this operation played in the global reconstruction of imperialist politics for counterrevolutionary revival. The FRG’s function was to take the lead in the reactionary restructuring of Western Europe, in order to establish a continental police state. Part of the price the Federal Republic had to pay to prevent any resurgence of revolutionary politics in Western Europe’s power center was the collapse of the old social democratic ideology and policies. All of this was connected to the question of the prisoner exchange. At the state funeral, Scheel said that if the flame wasn’t immediately snuffed out then it would spread like wildfire all around the world, and freeing the prisoners would have been its starting point. Because of this setback, over the next years we had to develop new ways to struggle alongside the prisoners.
The Federal Republic’s decision to refuse the exchange was only made possible by mobilizing every conceivable form of institutional fascism, and by the BKA’s political putsch—in short, by transforming the political situation into a military situation. Partly this was accomplished through the manipulation of parliament and the Federal Constitutional Court, partly by turning the media into official public organs, and partly by the news ban, supposedly necessary for Schleyer’s safety. Regarding this, in the September 14 video, Schleyer himself said that for his own protection he wanted contact with the public. After that, the Crisis Management Team made decisions that were contrary to his interests, they acted primarily to prevent negotiations and to prevent any public debate that could have interfered with their preferred solution. In any case, after five weeks of nonstop rabble-rousing, a public opinion poll showed that as many people supported the exchange as opposed it. But there was only one possible way to quickly resolve the crisis, given that the federal government had lost its capacity to act: the NATO solution. The Contact Ban was the means by which the Crisis Management Team gained control of the situation—as well as giving Rebmann all of the options he required. This was never meant to protect Schleyer, but rather to protect the Crisis Management Team’s plan.
With ’77, the form and the content of the FRG state became one and the same. Its political content: a post-Nazi state and an anticommunist bulwark within the NATO structure. Its form: the dictatorial heart of NATO democracy, the national security state, the state that exterminates people to protect them from themselves. Given its raw unmediated structure, right from the beginning it was obvious that in the FRG proletarian politics would require autonomous struggle, which is to say, illegally organized armed struggle. However, it was not just the old structures and forms that had been renewed, but fascism itself. The SPD had already proceeded so far with its process of institutionalization that the officially declared state of emergency had been made redundant. Just as in Stammheim in ’75, it wasn’t presented as an issue of high treason, because that charge contained too much political substance. In ’74, Brandt said, “Since the Social-Liberal Coalition has been in power, basic precautions have been taken to secure the state internally.” Beyond legalizing counterinsurgency, he was referring to the program that party partisan Herold had already envisioned in ’68: fascism in an historical era of automation and data processing, and the institutional penetration of society, so as to paralyze it—fascism that no longer requires mass mobilization or ideologically motivated fascists, but only bureaucrats and technocrats in the service of the imperialist state. In the emergency situation of ’77, its entire potential was mobilized. Behind the fictional separation of powers and parliamentary procedure lies the Maßnahmestaat, the real power structure where police and military bodies control the analysis—given their “privileged access to information” (Herold)—and in so doing shape policy.
The extraordinary part of the crisis structure—the Crisis Cabinet, etc.—was disbanded following the military solution. Yet this was no mere ad hoc repressive deployment on the part of the state in response to a particularly intense guerilla offensive. Rather, it is the unfolding of a process that Marighella already identified in the experience of the Latin American urban guerilla: when faced with resistance that calls its very existence into question, the state transforms the political situation into a military situation. That is what is happening today on an international level. Imperialism is everywhere losing its capacity to resolve problems politically, so it is militarizing its strategy. From imperialism’s point of view, for society overall, this means that state security—with its centers, its special sections, its psychological campaigns, etc.—provides significant structural support for its rule. In this way, it also modifies the state’s ideology and carries out the projects for “domestic peace” that were developed primarily by the Social Democrats, in order to go on the offensive to destroy all political expressions of social antagonism. The state acknowledges the rupture that the guerilla here originally struggled to create. At the end of ’77, Vogel bemoaned the “irreparable rupture.” This was the defeat they had suffered, which tarnished the image they had cultivated with their domestic and foreign policies, and which also brought about the degradation of their ideology, opening up possibilities for the left to act.
These changes were not the result of ’77 alone. They were the result of a process set in motion by the first RAF attacks and the prisoners’ hunger strikes, as well as in response to those who opted to continue the struggle after ’77. In this regard, the actions in the autumn of ’81 were particularly important. Following ’77 and continuing to this very day, there have been attempts to reverse the rupture. Following the neutralization of liberalism and antifascism by the events of ’77, this position is today occupied by a new left that situates itself somewhere between “the guerilla and the state” and attempts to lay its own claim on parliamentary action. However, this left is of no importance. Not only because the political-economic crisis leaves reformism with objectively even less room to maneuver than in the seventies, but also because what is required here is a left that is beyond their reach, that has been politicized to grasp the meaning of ’77, and that can find its bearings in a situation where the state targets any fundamental opposition. This resistance must be grounded in an understanding that reformism here is not limited by the economy but by politics, which must in turn be targeted by revolutionary activity.
The rupture in the metropole remains irreversible. Kissinger also speaks about this shift in relationships, which occurred in less than a decade, characterizing the SPD as still pursuing the “idea of domestic peace” in ’76, but noting that by ’84, “On both sides of the Atlantic we are threatened by domestic politics overshadowing the worldwide strategy.” That is his automatic response to the fact that imperialism, with its global project to perpetuate the capitalist system, is not only limited by the liberation struggles in the South, but is also held back by the front within.
Stammheim, December 4, 1984