“The Baader Meinhof Complex” and the Real Red Army Faction

We previously wrote a review on the movies Machete and The Baader-Meinhof Complex, both movies dealing with revolutionary violence, here.  A reader, J., wrote back in response, dealing with the part of the review on the Baider-Meinhof Complex film, a fictionalized account of the Red Army Faction in then-West Germany:

Although I know you were dealing with “Der Baader Meinhof Komplex” as a cultural artifact (good review by the way), I found the film just as much of an offensive treatment of the actual RAF as “Carlos” was an offensive treatment of anti-imperialist politics (not that I think Carlos was even on the same level as the members of the RAF when it came to political consciousness). It made the cadres of the RAF look over the top and, in many ways, suppressed larger dimensions of their anti-imperialism. The very fact that it depicted Gudrun Ensslin as some second tier leader/theorist is utterly problematic: she founded the RAF with Baader and others – Meinhof came in later. Not to mention the whole suicide thing in Stammheim: amongst the German left, the notion that the members of the original RAF killed themselves is considered a right-wing position – the left holds that they were executed in prison.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that the movie is based on a book of the same name by former (and I emphasize former) leftwing journalist Stefan Aust who has promoted the whole RAF-suicide garbage and over the years has become more and more rightwing.

If anyone’s interested, the folks at PM Press have an edited volume of the RAF’s writing.
http://www.pmpress.org/content/article.php?story=RAFBookLegion

We appreciate the information the reader gives about the Red Army Faction.  The review was intentionally made as a cultural criticism and not an analysis of the RAF in its actual history precisely because that history is a contested narrative.  One should never rely on one piece of media, much less a fictionalized movie, to get an accurate story on anything in history.  Also the corporate entertainment industry has no interest in portraying revolutionaries in a positive light.  The RAF is not beyond criticism but we can say that a movie on them from an anti-imperialist perspective would be much different than the Baader Meinhof Complex.  Since most people’s exposure to revolutionary ideas will come from media like films it is helpful to continue to review these cultural products.

As RAIM encourages intellectual understanding of topics of theory, history, and culture, we encourage study of the actual history of the RAF for those who are interested.  Especially as they were an armed group inside a First World country, although they had a flawed strategy, many insights can be gained by looking at them.  Along with the book the reader suggested, there is a wide variety of literature out now on the RAF from many different perspectives.  As of now, the writing groups of RAIM have a lot on their plates already, so we encourage anyone who has read any of these books or done their own research on this and other topics to do these reviews and write these papers.  Submit any papers to raim-d@hush.com or in these comments sections.