The Urban Guerilla Concept

“Legality is about Power.”

Red Army Faction: The Urban Guerilla Concept is not an A-Z of the Red Army Faction, and the reader is best served approaching this pamphlet with some prior reading on the subject. Divided into three sections, the pamphlet contains: historical background, an introduction, and The Urban Guerilla Concept–the RAF’s first “ideological text” (apart from a short letter shortly after Andreas Baader was sprung from jail). Anthony Murphy writes both the historical background and the introduction. The document, The Urban Guerilla Concept–while ostensibly the collective product of the RAF was most likely written by former journalist Ulrike Meinhof. It’s the most famous document ever produced by the RAF, and so for anyone interested in the RAF–the “most influential and longest surviving” guerilla group that sprung from the German Student movement of the 1960s, then this pamphlet is invaluable. If however, you’re new to the Red Army Faction, then I recommend Stefan Aust’s book Das Baader-Meinhof Komplex (if you can find a copy in English), Televisionaries by Tom Vague (flawed, but still interesting.) or the marvelous memoir How It All Began: The Personal Account of a West German Terrorist by Bommi Baumann.

The pamphlet’s historical background is extremely valuable in its explanation of how the West German government perceived the Red Army Faction (the RAF never referred to themselves as the Baader-Meinhof Gang). The West German government had shown a tendency to “resort to authoritarian methods to solve political problems, particularly political dissent from the Left.” Identified as the “biggest threat to democracy” the members of the Red Army faction were classified as “enemies of the state.” Under West Germany’s Basic Law, they effectively “lost their rights”, and the “protection of the state” became an overpowering priority. This explains why the West German government responded so quickly to the RAF with such extreme, overwhelming violence (the police were issued with machine guns and grenades in June 1970).

The document The Urban Guerilla Concept basically lays out the RAF’s ideological argument for the armed struggle against the state. The document rife with Marxist-Leninist-Maoist rhetoric references the Springer press, the Vietnam War and the destruction of the Black Panthers. Now, years after the official demise of the RAF in 1998, this document shows the RAF’s determination and oddly enough there’s a thread of naivete that runs throughout the text that predicts its inevitable destruction. Yet, at the same time, some of the document is strangely prophetic–more than 3 decades later:
“No publications escape the control of vested financial interest-through advertising;…and through the concentration of media ownership. In the public domain a powerful elite has the dominant role….The media’s message in a nutshell is…Sell….News and information become commodities for consumption.”


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