Cold War Radio #108

Posted: October 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

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Who & what was the Red Army Faction?

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Today in Cold War History

1966 – 173 US aircraft bomb North Vietnam

1969 – Soyuz 8 is launched

1971: British Army engineers blew up several minor roads crossing from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland. Terrorists are using these roads to hop across the border undetected as most are just small tracks on farmland.

1972 – Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashes in the Andes mountains, near the border between Argentina and Chile. By December 23, 1972, only 16 out of 45 people lived long enough to be rescued. Plane crash survivors resort to cannibalism .
1976 – A Bolivian Boeing 707 cargo jet crashes in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, killing 100 (97, mostly children, killed on the ground).
1976 – The first electron micrograph of an Ebola viral particle is obtained by Dr. F.A. Murphy, now at U.C. Davis, who was then working at the C.D.C.
1977: Four Palestinian hijackers hijack a Lufthansa airliner demanding the release of 11 imprisoned members of Germany’s Baader-Meinhof terrorist group, also known as the Red Army Faction.

1981 – Egyptian voters elected Vice President Hosni Mubarak as the new president one week after Anwar Sadat was assassinated.

1989 – U.S. President George H.W. Bush called for an overthrow of the Panamanian ruler Manuel Antonio Noriega.
1990 – End of the Lebanese Civil War. Syrian forces launch an attack on the free areas of Lebanon removing General Michel Aoun from the presidential palace.
In Depth: Red Army Faction.
Founded in: 1970 (disbanded 1998)
Home Base: West Germany
To protest what they perceived as fascist-leaning and otherwise oppressive , middle class, bourgeois values of West Germany. This general orientation was coupled with specific protests of the Vietnam War. The group pledged allegiance to communist ideals, and opposed the capitalist status quo. The group explained its intentions in the RAF’s first communique on June 5, 1970, and in subsequent communiques in the early 1970s.
According to scholar Karen Bauer:
The group declared that … its aim was to escalate the conflict between the state and its opposition, between those who exploited the Third World and those who did not profit from Persian oil, Bolivian bananas and South African gold. … ‘Let the class struggle unfold! Let the proletariat organize! Let the armed resistance begin!'(Introduction, Everybody Talks about the Weather…We Don’t, 2008.)
Notable Attacks:
April 2, 1968: Bombs set off by Baader and three others in two Frankfurt department stores cause significant property destruction. At trial, Gudrun Ensslin, Baader’s girlfriend and a committed activist, claimed the bombs were intended to protest the Vietnam War
May 11, 1971: A bombing of US barracks killed one US officer and wounded 13 others.
May 1972: Bombing of police headquarters in Augsburg and Munich
1977: A series of killings designed to pressure the German government to release detained members of the Group take place, including: the assassination of chief public prosecutor Siegried Buback; assassination of Dresdner bank; Hans Martin Schleyer, abduction of head of the the Germany Association of Employers and former Nazi party member.
1986: Siemens executive Karl-Heinz Beckuts is killed
Leadership and Organization:
The Red Army Faction is often referred to by the names of two of its primary activists, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. Baader, born in 1943, spent his late teens and early twenties as a combination of juvenile delinquent and stylish bad boy. His first serious girlfriend gave him lessons in Marxist theory, and later provided the RAF its theoretical underpinnings. Baader was incarcerated for his role in setting fire to two department stores in 1968, briefly released in 1969 and re-imprisoned in 1970.
He met Ulrike Meinhof, a journalist, while in prison. She was to help him collaborate on a book, but went further and helped him escape in 1970. Baader and other founding members of the group were re-imprisoned in 1972, and activities were assumed by sympathizers with the group’s imprisoned founders. The group was never larger than 60 people.
The RAF after 1972:
In 1972, the group’s leaders were all arrested and sentenced to life in prison. From this point on until 1978, the actions that the group took were all aimed at gaining leverage to have the leadership released, or protesting their imprisonment. In 1976, Meinhof hung herself in prison. The In 1977, three of the original founders of the group, Baader, Ensslin and Raspe, were all found dead in prison, apparently by suicide.
In 1982, the group was reorganized on the basis of a strategy paper called, “Guerrilla, Resistance and anti-Imperialist Front.” According to Hans Josef Horchem, a former West German intelligence official, “this paper …clearly showed the RAF’s new organization. Its centre appeared at first still to be, as hitherto, the circle of RAF prisoners. Operations were to be carried out by thte ‘commandos,’ command level units.”
Backing & Affliation:
The Baader Meinhof Group maintained links with a number of organizations with similar goals in the late 1970s. These included the Palestine Liberation Organization, which trained group members to use Kalashnikov rifles, at a training camp in Germany. The RAF also had a relationship with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was housed in Lebanon. The group had no affiliation with the American black panthers, but announced their allegiance to the group.
The group’s founding moment was in a demonstration in 1967 to protest the elitism of the Iranian Shah (king), who was visiting. The diplomatic visit drew large grounds of Iranian supporters, who were living in Germany, as well as opposition. The killing by German police of a young man at the demonstration spawned the “June 2” movement, a leftist organization that pledged to respond to what it perceived as the actions of a fascist state.
More generally, the Red Army Faction grew out of specific German political circumstances and out of broad leftist tendencies in and beyond Europe in the late 1960s and 1970s. In the early 1960s, the legacy of the Third Reich, and Nazi totalitarianism, was still fresh in Germany. This legacy helped shape the revolutionary tendencies of the next generation. According to the BBC, “at the height of its popularity, around a quarter of young West Germans expressed some sympathy for the group. Many condemned their tactics, but understood their disgust with the new order, particularly one where former Nazis enjoyed prominent roles.”

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