On the Necessity of Armed Struggle Reflections on the RAF and the Question of Moving Forward (Ward Churchill)

The following essay, by Ward Churchill, is the introduction to the recently released The Red Army Faction, A Documentary History – Volume 2: Dancing with Imperialism, available from Kersplebedeb Leftwingbooks.net.

“Never again without a rifle.”
– Italian leftist slogan (circa 1970)

Looking back from the vantage point of more than forty years, it’s clear that those of us in the so-called developed world purporting to be serious about abolishing the prevailing order had by 1970 come to know a few things now forgotten or, perhaps more accurately, consigned to the murky depths of active denial. Among the foremost of these is that absent a global system of imperialism the grossly inequitable societies in which we find ourselves could not exist in their present form, ((For a comprehensive overview of how this came to be, see Immanuel Wallerstein’s magisterial study, The Modern World-System, 4 vols. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011; the first three volumes were originally published by Academic Press in 1974, 1980, and 1989, respectively).)) that colonialism/neocolonialism constitutes the veritable bedrock upon which imperialism is both foundationed and sustained, ((A rather vast literature has been devoted to this topic. In my estimation, Aimé Césaire’s Discourse on Colonialism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1955), Eduardo Galeano’s Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1973), and Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (Baltimore: Howard University Press, 1974) remain among the very best explications.)) and that the impact of colonialism upon the colonized is inherently genocidal. ((The equation of colonialism to genocide was first made by Jean-Paul Sartre in an essay prepared for the 1967 Russell Tribunal on U.S. war crimes in Vietnam and was originally published under the title “On Genocide” in Ramparts (February 1968), 35-42. Somewhat more accessibly, the essay was subsequently released in short book form—see Jean-Paul Sartre and Arlette El Kaim-Sartre, On Genocide and a Summary of the Evidence and Judgments of the International War Crimes Tribunal (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968)—and is included in the Tribunal’s published record; see John Duffett, ed., Against the Crime of Silence: Proceedings of the Russell International War Crimes Tribunal (New York: Clarion, 1970).))

No less clear was the understanding that there can be no valid basis for equivocation. Faced with the systemic perpetration of what has been aptly described as “the incomparable crime,” ((See Roger Manvell and Heinrich Fraenkel, The Incomparable Crime: Mass Extermination in the Twentieth Century (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1967).)) we are obliged—morally and legally, individually and collectively—to intervene through any and all available means. In this, there are no bystanders. As Karl Jaspers observed of so-called Good Germans during the nazi era, those who pretend blindness with regard to genocidal processes or, worse, seek to avoid the weight of oppositional responsibility by arguing that such processes weren’t or aren’t “really” what they were and are, may be properly viewed as accomplices to the crime itself. ((Karl Jaspers, The Question of German Guilt (New York: Capricorn Books, 1961; reprint, New York: Dial Press, 1947).))

Concrete action is plainly required. In this sense, merely “bearing witness” to genocide serves little purpose (other than allowing the witnesses to claim a feeble moral superiority over proverbial Good Germans, perhaps). ((For a standard litany of claims to the contrary, see James Dawes, That the World May Know: Bearing Witness to Atrocity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007).)) Relatedly, the notion that “speaking truth to power” about what is witnessed—as if those holding power were somehow oblivious to the effects of the manner in which they wield it—can in itself remedy the situation is at best a mythic proposition. ((A considerable measure of sheer hubris is typically embodied in the framing of this ubiquitous postulation. See, e.g., Kerry Kennedy and Eddie Adams, Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World (Brooklyn, NY: Umbrage Editions, 2000).)) And, of course, the pursuit of substantive change through electoral politics has long since revealed itself as adding up to little more than a species of alchemy or, perhaps more accurately, masturbation.

The same holds true with regard to the forms of dissent formally permitted or even approved by those in power—marches, rallies, and other state-sanctioned modes of protest—irrespective of the scale on which they might be pursued. ((Witness, as a prominent example, the failure of the October-November 1969 Moratorium demonstrations against the Vietnam War—in which it is credibly estimated that some two million people participated—even to forestall the Nixon administration’s expansion of ground combat into Cambodia a few months later. See “1969: Millions March in US Vietnam Moratorium,” BBC News: On This Day, October 15; Simon Hall, Rethinking the American Anti-War Movement (New York: Routledge, 2011), 119-136; Keith William Nolan, Into Cambodia: Spring Campaign, Summer Offensive, 1970 (San Francisco: Presidio Press, 1999).)) Indeed, the ability of advanced states to assume a posture of “repressive tolerance” ((On the concept at issue, see Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance,” in Robert Paul Wolff, Barrington Moore, Jr., and Herbert Marcuse, A Critique of Pure Tolerance (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965), 95-137.)) has largely nullified the prospect that business as usual can be significantly impaired even by mass engagement in the rituals of nonviolent civil disobedience. ((Consider, for instance, the 1971 May Day demonstrations against the war in Indochina, during which roughly twenty thousand people participated in a concerted program of deliberately disruptive—but essentially nonviolent—civil disobedience in the U.S. capital. Now mostly forgotten, May Day had no discernable effect on Nixon administration policy, even with regard to the “secret” bombing of Cambodia (which continued unabated until 1973). See Lucy G. Barber, Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Tradition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 204-213; William Shawcross, Sideshow: Nixon, Kissinger, and the Destruction of Cambodia (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979).)) It’s of course possible that the hallowed anarchosyndicalist prescription of a general strike might in some ways accomplish the desired result, as it very nearly did in France during the spring of 1968, ((On the concept of the general strike, see, e.g., Ralph Chaplin’s 1933 essay, “The General Strike,” collected in Lenny Flank, ed., The IWW: A Documentary History (Athens, GA: Red and Black, 2007), 185-212; Milorad Drachkovitch, The Revolutionary Internationals, 1864-1943 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1966), 83-100. On the strike in France, see, e.g., George Katsiaficas, The Imagination of the New Left: A Global Analysis of 1968 (Boston: South End Press, 1999), 87-116.)) but, alas, history offers no example of where it has been possible to organize such action either on an explicitly anti-imperialist basis or, more narrowly, in opposition to a particular genocide. ((The reasons for this are no doubt varied and complex. As concerns North America in particular, however, considerable light is shed on the matter by J. Sakai’s Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat (Chicago: Morningstar Press, 1989).))

This is not to say that the range of approaches mentioned are altogether devoid of value or utility. On the contrary, each has a place in a continuum of tactics and techniques required to effect the galvanization of popular consciousness and consequent political mobilization essential to transforming the status quo. Even where all elements have been present and functioning more or less in concert, however, the historical outcome has been a consistent failure to achieve the desired result. In other words, something more has been and remains necessary. In this connection, it is instructive that the only instances to date in which genocidal processes undertaken by technologically advanced states have been brought to a halt have involved significant—often massive—applications of military force.

The most conspicuous examples are undoubtedly those of Germany, Japan, and Italy, each of whose imperial ambitions and frankly exterminatory policies vis-à-vis various subject peoples were unconditionally terminated by force of arms during World War II. ((The case of Germany is very well known, but see Mark Mazower, Hitler’s Empire: How the Nazis Ruled Europe (New York: Penguin, 2008). On the genocidal comportment of imperial Japan, see, e.g., Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (New York: Basic Books, 1997). On the relatively neglected topic of Italian colonialism’s genocidal impacts in Libya and Ethiopia, see Alberto Sbacchi, Legacy of Bitterness: Ethiopia and Fascist Italy, 1935-1941 (Lawrenceville, NJ: Red Sea Press, 1997); Rory Carroll, “Italian Atrocities in World War II,” The Guardian, June 24, 2001.)) Other noteworthy instances include the Cuban guerillas’ eviction of a U.S. client regime in 1959, ((See generally, Aviva Chomsky, A History of the Cuban Revolution (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).)) Algeria’s sustained prosecution of a guerilla campaign resulting in the eviction of French colonialism in 1962, ((Although its author’s biases are obvious, the best history of the war for Algerian independence available in English is probably Alistair Horne’s The Savage War of Peace: Algeria, 1954-1962 (New York: Viking Press, 1977; rev. ed. published by the History Book Club, 2002).)) the protracted Vietnamese people’s war that defeated first the French (in 1954) and then the United States (in 1975), ((See Marilyn Blatt Young, The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990 (New York: HarperPerennial, 1991).)) the guerilla campaigns that freed Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, and Angola from Portuguese rule in 1973, ’74, and ’75, respectively, ((On Guinea-Bissau, see Gérard Chaliand, Armed Struggle in Africa: With the Guerrillas in “Portuguese” Guinea (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1969); Patrick Chabal, Amilcar Cabral: Revolutionary Leadership and People’s War (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1981). On Mozambique, see Thomas H. Henriksen, Revolution and Counterrevolution: Mozambique’s War of Independence, 1964-1974 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1983). On Angola, see John Marcum, The Angolan Revolution, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1969 and 1978, respectively).)) the elimination of another U.S. client regime by Nicaraguan guerillas in 1979, ((See, e.g., Carlos M. Vilas, The Sandinista Revolution: National Liberation and Social Transformation in Central America (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1986).)) and the success of Namibia’s war of national liberation against apartheid South Africa in 1988. ((There is a paucity of readily accessible English-language material on the Namibian liberation struggle, but see John Ya-Otto, Ole Gjerstad, and Michael Mercer, Battlefront Namibia (Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1986); Fen Osler Hampson, Nurturing Peace: Why Peace Settlements Succeed or Fail (Washington, DC: U.S. Institute for Peace, 1996), especially pages 53-64.))

While it is taken as an article of faith in many quarters that Britain’s postwar relinquishment of dominion over India—manifested with truly genocidal callousness between 1940 and 1944 ((The British knowingly induced a severe famine in Bengal and other areas of Eastern India by siphoning off the grain necessary to sustain the population, and stockpiling it in England as a hedge against postwar scarcities. An estimated three million people died as a result. See Madhusree Mukerjee, Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravishing of India during World War II (New York: Basic Books, 2011).)) —was brought about through a Gandhian program of nonviolent civil disobedience, the reality was actually quite different. ((The notion that the independence of India was achieved through Gandhian nonviolence has been aptly dismissed as a “comfortable fiction” by a number of knowledgeable analysts. See, e.g., Alex Von Tunzelmann, Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire (New York: Henry Holt, 2007), 8. For a good debunking of the mythology surrounding Gandhi’s pacifism, see Faisal Devji, The Impossible Indian: Gandhi and the Temptation of Violence (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).)) Not only was there a significant armed dimension to India’s struggle for independence, ((See Peter Ward Fay, The Forgotten Army: India’s Armed Struggle for Independence, 1942-1945 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994).)) but without the Second World War itself Gandhi’s effort would most certainly have failed. Simply put, the demands of waging total war against the earlier-mentioned tripartite alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan so exhausted British military and financial resources that the Empire simply lacked the capacity to maintain its grip on the subcontinent. ((See generally, Roy Douglas, Liquidation of Empire: The Decline of the British Empire (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002); Peter Clark, The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Birth of the Pax Americana (London: Bloomsbury Press, 2008).)) The more so, since Britain was simultaneously confronted with armed liberation struggles in others of its colonies, notably Malaya (now Malaysia), Kenya, and, a bit later, Aden (Yemen). ((The Anti-British Liberation War, as the Malayan guerillas called it, was not directly successful. Nonetheless, it tied up a considerable proportion of Britain’s military assets for a considerable period. See Anthony Short, The Communist Insurrection in Malaya, 1948-1960 (New York: Frederick Muller, 1975). On Kenya, where quelling the so-called Mau Mau Uprising demanded an even greater share of Britain’s available strength during the period, see Caroline Elkins, Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya (London: Pimlico, 2005). Despite its rather stilted prose, the best English-language source on the Yemeni war for national liberation is probably Vitaly Naumkin’s Red Wolves of Yemen: The Struggle for Independence (Cambridge, UK: Oleander Press, 2004).))

It is of course true that in no instance has national liberation yielded the results hoped for by those who sacrificed to attain it, and in even the most successful cases abatement of the genocidal effects of imperialism has been transient at best. Not the least reason for this dismal outcome is that, aside from the crushing of the tripartite powers by other industrially/technologically advanced states in 1945, the imperial order has been forcibly repealed only in the so-called Third World of colonized rather than colonizing countries. ((Again, there is a wealth of literature documenting the outcome and analyzing its causes. For a somewhat superficial but nonetheless useful summary, see Vijay Prashad, The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (New York: New Press, 2007).)) With the exceptions of Germany, Italy, and Japan—each of which was quickly reorganized, rebuilt, and restored to its “rightful” place in the international hierarchy—the imperial centers have remained largely unscathed. ((On Germany, Italy, and Western Europe more generally, see Michael J. Hogan, The Marshall Plan: America, Britain, and the Reconstruction of Western Europe, 1947-1952 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989); Nicolaus Mills, Winning the Peace: The Marshall Plan and America’s Coming of Age as a Superpower (New York: John Wiley, 2008). On Japan, see, e.g., John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York: W.W. Norton, 2000), especially pages 526-547.))

This has allowed imperialism to absorb and in many respects even welcome dismantlement of its classic system of overseas colonialism in favor of a more refined, profitable, and genocidally immiserating mode of neocolonial domination now depicted by its proponents, rather contradictorily, as being both a “global free market” and a “fully integrated global economy.” ((For the seminal work in this area, see Kwame Nkrumah, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism (New York: International, 1966). For more current assessments, see Zygmunt Bauman, Globalization: The Human Consequences (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998); Richard A. Falk, Predatory Globalization: A Critique (Oxford, UK: Polity Press, 1999); Michel Chossudovsky, The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2003); Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Picador, 2008).)) It follows that the eradication of imperialism cannot be viewed as an objective attainable solely through the success of armed struggles in the colonial hinterlands, a proposition once—and still—embraced by far too many professed anti-imperialists in the metropoles. ((Even if such a strategy was viable, the moral and ethical implications attending the beneficiary population’s displacement of the suffering entailed in such struggles onto the colonized speak for themselves. With very few exceptions, such a posture has nonetheless been perpetually evident among anti-imperialists in the United States. For a good overview, see Richard Seymour, American Insurgents: A Brief History of American Anti-Imperialism (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012).)) Rather, it must be brought about in the metropoles themselves. The only real question is how this might be accomplished.

Ideally, something akin to the British Royal and U.S. Eighth Air Forces which together bombed the Third Reich into oblivion during World War II would be available to visit the same fate upon all the imperial centers, ((See Alan J. Levine, The Strategic Bombing of Germany, 1940-1945 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 1992).)) thereby precluding reconstitution of the system in some still more virulent variation. That scenario, unfortunately—along with those of the materialization of a figurative counterpart to the Soviet Red Army that both gutted the German army and overran Berlin ((Notwithstanding triumphalist Anglo-American prattle about the decisiveness of the Normandy invasion, and so on, the truth is that the Red Army not only bore the great brunt of the fighting against German ground forces but inflicted vastly more casualties upon the Germans—roughly 80 percent of the total—than did the Western Allies; William J. Duiker, Contemporary World History (Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2009), 128. For further background, see Chris Bellamy, Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War (London: Macmillan, 2007).)) or to the People’s Army of Vietnam that fought a half-million-strong U.S. military force not merely to a standstill, but to the point of the latter’s disintegration in the field ((See Richard Boyle, Flower of the Dragon: The Breakdown of the U.S. Army in Vietnam (San Francisco: Ramparts Press, 1972); Cincinnatus (Col. Cecil B. Currey), Self-Destruction: The Disintegration and Decay of the United States Army during the Vietnam Era (New York: W.W. Norton, 1981).)) —belongs to the realm of pure fantasy.

As was understood well before 1970, however, guerilla warfare—of the sort initially practiced by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the early twentieth century and subsequently evolved specifically for urban settings—offers considerable potential. ((On the IRA campaign, see, e.g., Peter Hart, The IRA at War, 1916-1923 (London: Oxford University Press, 2003). By the late 1960s, Uruguay’s Tupamaros had emerged as a useful template for adaptation to North American and European contexts; see María Esther Gilio, The Tupamaro Guerrillas: The Structure and Strategy of the Urban Guerrilla Movement (New York: Saturday Review Press, 1973). Among the more influential tracts during the period was Brazilian practitioner Carlos Marighella’s Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla (Berkeley, CA: Long Time Comin’ Press, 1969; reprint, St. Petersburg, FL: Red and Black, 2008).)) At the very least, it serves to put teeth in the expression of anti-imperialist opposition. Crucially, in regard to those functionaries in the metropoles imbued with what Noam Chomsky had by 1968 already described as a “creeping Eichmannism,” ((Noam Chomsky, American Power and the New Mandarins (New York: Pantheon, 1968; reprint, Oakland, CA: AK Press), 277. In actuality, the term “creeping Eichmannism” predates Chomsky’s usage by nearly a decade, having first appeared in E.Z. Friedenberg’s The Vanishing Adolescent (Beacon Press, 1959). See Neil Postman, Teaching as a Subversive Activity (New York: Delacourt Press, 1970), 9.)) it removes a sense of their own immunity to consequence. In a context of armed struggle carried out “on the home front,” the little Eichmanns complicit in ongoing crimes against humanity can entertain few doubts that their actions might at any moment result in the imposition of tangible penalties, both material and, at least potentially, personal as well. ((For further development of this argument, see “The Ghosts of 9-1-1: Reflections on History, Justice, and Roosting Chickens,” in my On the Justice of Roosting Chickens: Reflections on the Consequences of U.S. Imperial Arrogance and Criminality (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2003), 5-38.))

Between 1969 and 1973, serious anti-imperialists in the metropoles therefore set about the task of implementing urban guerilla operations in locales extending from the United States to Western Europe and Japan. ((That such undertakings commenced on three continents more or less simultaneously was hardly a matter of happenstance. There was a high degree of interaction between the movements in Western Europe—especially Germany—and the United States, while SDS, and perhaps other organizations in the U.S., was in direct contact with Zengakuren, the radical student movement in Japan, during the late 1960s. See Martin Klimke, The Other Alliance: Student Protest in West Germany and the United States in the Global Sixties (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009); William R. Farrell, Blood and Rage: The Story of the Japanese Red Army (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1990), 90. )) While a welter of sometimes mutually opposing strategies were evident and the results were decidedly mixed, a number of important organizations and initiatives emerged from the effort. These may be loosely grouped into three distinct but overlapping and often interactive categories:

  • formations like the Weather Underground (WUO), the George Jackson Brigade, and the United Freedom Front (Sam Melville/Jonathan Jackson Brigade) in the U.S., ((On the WUO, see Dan Berger, Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2005); Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, and Jeff Jones, eds., Sing a Battle Song: The Revolutionary Poetry, Statements, and Communiques from the Weather Underground, 1970-1974 (New York: Seven Stories Press, 2006). On the George Jackson Brigade, see Daniel Burton-Rose, Guerrilla USA: The George Jackson Brigade and the Anticapitalist Underground of the 1970s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010); Daniel Burton-Rose, ed., Creating a Movement with Teeth: A Documentary History of the George Jackson Brigade (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2010). No comparable material is currently available on the United Freedom Front.)) Italy’s Brigate Rosse (Red Brigades), ((Although the first source is inadequate and the second reactionary, see Alessandro Silj, Never Again Without a Rifle: The Origins of Italian Terrorism (New: Katz, 1979); Robert C. Meade, Jr., The Red Brigades: The Story of Italian Terrorism (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990). From an activist perspective, see also, Chris Aronson Beck, Reggie Emiliana, Lee Morris, and Ollie Patterson, Strike One to Educate One Hundred: The Rise of the Red Brigades in Italy in the 1960’s-1970’s (Seeds Beneath the Snow, 1986), portions of which are available at http://www.urbanguerilla.org/brigaterosse/index.php.)) the Groupes d’action rĂ©volutionnaire internationale (GARI) and Action Directe in France, ((There is no English-language material available on the GARI, per se, but on its successor, see Michael Y. Darnell, Action Directe: Ultra-Left Terrorism in France, 1979-1987 (London: Frank Cass, 1995). Readers should be advised that this is a decidedly right-wing source.)) and the Rote Armee Fraktion (the Red Army Faction or RAF) in Germany, arising in a manner organic to and targeting the state/corporate apparatus of their own countries;
  • formations arising in colonies internalized by an imperial power and conducting operations within the borders of the “mother country” itself for purposes of furthering the struggle for decolonization of their respective peoples. Examples include the Basque separatist Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) in Spain ((See Robert P. Clark, Negotiating with ETA: Obstacles to Peace in the Basque Country, 1975-1988 (Reno University of Nevada Press, 1990); Paddy Woodworth, Dirty War, Clean Hands: ETA, the GAL and Spanish Democracy (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003).)) and the Front de libĂ©ration du QuĂ©bec in Canada, ((The best English-language material available on the FLQ—which isn’t saying a great deal—appears to be Louis Fournier’s F.L.Q.: The Anatomy of an Underground Movement (Toronto: NC Press, 1984).)) as well as the Black Liberation Army (BLA) and Fuerzas Armadas de LiberaciĂłn Nacional Puertorriqueña (FALN) in the U.S. ((Material on the BLA is scanty, but see Akinyele Omowale Umoja, “Repression Breeds Resistance: The Black Liberation Army and the Radical Legacy of the Black Panther Party,” and Russell Shoats, “Black Fighting Formations: Their Strengths, Weaknesses, and Potentialities,” both in Kathleen Cleaver and George Katsiaficas, eds., Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party (New York: Routledge, 2001), 3-19, 128-138. See also Dhoruba bin Wahad, Assata Shakur, and Mumia Abu Jamal, Still Black, Still Strong (Brooklyn: Semiotext(e), 1993); Jalil Muntaqim, On the Black Liberation Army (Montreal: Abraham Guillen Press/Arm the Spirit, 2002). Although the FALN engaged in “more than 120 bombings of military and government buildings, financial institutions, and corporate headquarters in Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.” between 1974 and 1983, there is a near-total absence of material about the organization available in English. See generally, Ronald Fernandez, Prisoners of Colonialism: The Struggle for Justice in Puerto Rico (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1994).)) To a significant extent, the Provisional IRA’s guerilla campaign to free Ulster (Northern Ireland) from British rule also falls into this category; ((There is a substantial literature (of wildly varying quality) on the Provos. One of the more useful overviews is provided by Richard English in his Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004). Also see Gary McGladdery, The Provisional IRA in England: The Bombing Campaign, 1973-1997 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2006).))
  • formations like the Japanese Red Army (JRA) and a section of the German Revolutionary Cells which, although arising in particular metropoles, adopted an “internationalist” stance leading to their operating largely—in the case of the JRA, all but exclusively—outside their own countries, targeting the state/corporate apparatus of imperialism on a global basis. ((The JRA should not be confused with either the short-lived Japanese Red Army Faction or its immediate successor, the United Red Army, which self-destructed in Japan in 1971; see Farrell, Blood and Rage, 1-29. On the Revolutionary Cells, per se, there is virtually nothing currently available in English.)) Often, groups of this type worked directly with and often took their lead from Third World guerilla organizations (notably the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (External Operations)). ((While the armed struggle for the liberation of Palestine has been quite complex, both militarily and politically, the PFLP?(EO) in particular adopted a strategy of working with and sponsoring non-Arab organizations for purposes of conducting operations inside the imperial centers from which the Israeli settler state drew support. For background, see generally, Yezid Sayigh, Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement, 1949-1993 (London: Oxford University Press, 2000). ))


While each of the organizations named above is deserving of in-depth study and analysis, only a scant handful have thus far received it. The matter is by no means of mere academic interest. Only through excavation of their histories in substantial detail can lessons of their much-varied experiences be extracted, their errors corrected, and a better praxis of armed struggle in the metropoles achieved.

Here, the ongoing effort of J. Smith and André Moncourt to provide a definitive archeology of the Red Army Faction is to be especially commended. This is so not only because of the exemplary quality of the work produced by Smith and Moncourt but because of the unique importance of the RAF as a signifier of the potential lodged in the populace of the mother country itself.

With material like this at our disposal, not only should it prove possible to overcome the current inertia evidenced by those claiming to oppose imperialism from within the metropoles, but maybe this time we’ll get it right.

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