VII. Military Madness

Military Madness

There is undoubtedly much evidence of a tendency toward glorification of death and violence by terrorists and guerrillas. Jebril, one of the leaders of the Palestinian rejection front, sends his troops into Israel with orders not to return (that is, to die) and was quoted as saying "We like death as much as life and no force on Earth can prevent us from restoring Palestine ..." putting himself in the same category as the Spanish Falangists (Fascists) who shouted "long live Death!" It must be admitted that this trend of love of death has been prominent amongst various terrorists. WUO leader Dohrn made a public and positively gloating rave of support for the murders of the element here of the "counter-cultural fascism" which saw the US divided between "pig amerika vs woodstock nation". A section of the counter culture made a cult of Manson.

Baumann mentions that, at the time, they did not think Manson was "so bad". In fact, they thought him "quite funny".

What should be avoided, however, is a tendency to explain terrorism by the alleged insanity of the actors, because the acts arise in specific situations of oppression and provocation - the obvious example being nationalities suffering embittering oppression.

In West Germany there were specific incidents such as exceptionally brutal police behaviour, leading to the death of a demonstrator, the attempted assassination of a student leader, the venality of the major Springer press (many times worse than Packer or Murdoch), the social democrat Brandt's introduction of berufsverbot in 1972 (an employment ban against all leftists, reformists etc. who are "not loyal to the constitution" which was eventually applied in some states to social democrats themselves), the general attempt to smash all extra-parliamentary or non-union movements of which the ban is only the best known part. All of these things provided the background for political violence.

The whole Nazi experience was constantly enlivened by the fact that ex-Nazis, war criminals and Nazis who were still active in right Politics all held positions in the judiciary, bureaucracy, business etc. (an expedient policy of the allies who wanted reliable law and order people in the political vacuum of the post-war world). Since this was also the case in Italy it may be no accident that these two countries are the most prominent areas for terrorism in Europe.

All this is not an excuse for terrorism, but such considerations are part of an overall explanation. Concentrating on the supposed insanity of the guerrillas or terrorists is an attempt to provide a justification for murderousness towards them and for the introduction of general repression.

Many of these people become involved in terrorism merely by circumstances and associations, as Baumann's book shows. They get mixed up in an environment of self-glorification and isolation from the world. Even their relationships with supporters are one-sided rather than broadening. This unreal situation produces features of madness such that an escalating series of acts is seen as justified and rational. But any attempt by the media, police and politicians to create a caricature of demonic blood-thirsty monsters will be for the purpose of excusing their own barbarity and corruption. (See the film or read the book by Heinrich Boll "The Lost Honour of Katerina Blum".)

Erich Fromm has written

"We can witness (the) phenomenon among the sons and daughters of the well-to-do in the United States and Germany, who see their life in their affluent home environment as boring and meaningless. But more than that, they find the world's callousness toward the poor and the drift toward nuclear war for the sake of individual egotism unbearable. Thus, they move away from their home environment, looking for a new lifestyle - and remain unsatisfied because no constructive effort seems to have a chance. Many among them were originally the most idealistic and sensitive of the young generation; but at this point, lacking in tradition, maturity, experience, and political wisdom they become desperate, narcissistically overestimate their own capacities and possibilities, and try to achieve the impossible by the use of force. They form so-called revolutionary groups and expect to save the world by acts of terror and destruction, not seeing that they are only contributing to the general tendency to violence and inhumanity. They have lost their capacity to love and have replaced it with the wish to sacrifice their lives. (Self-sacrifice is frequently the solution for individuals who ardently desire to love, but who have lost the capacity to love and see in the sacrifice of their own lives an experience of love in the highest degree.) But these self- sacrificing young people are very different from the loving martyrs, who want to live because they love life and who accept death only when they are forced to die in order not to betray themselves. Our present-day self-sacrificing young people are the accused, but they are also the accusers, in demonstrating that in our social system some of the very best young people be- come so isolated and hopeless that nothing but destruction and fanaticism are left as a way out of their despair."

Baumann shows that he has learned this lesson through harsh experience (though he still misses that there is a tradition of human values which has survived even "the machine" and that this tradition is asserted, for example, in many episodes of mass revolutionary activity such as the Spanish revolution in 1936, the Hungarian revolution (1956) and the French revolution in 1968).

"Making a decision for terrorism is something already psychologically programmed. Today, I can see that - for myself - it was only the fear of love, from which one flees into absolute violence. If I had checked out the dimension of love for myself beforehand, I wouldn't have done it ...

Until now, it has been assumed that there is no simultaneity of revolutionary praxis and love. I don't see that, even today I don't. Otherwise, I might have continued. But I saw it like this.. you make your decision, and you stop and throw away your gun and say: Okay - the end.

For me, the whole time it was a question of creating human values which did not exist in capitalism, in all of Europe, in all of Western culture - they'd been cleared away by the machine. That's what it's about: to discover them anew, to unfold them anew, and to create them anew. In that way, too, you carry the torch again, you become the bearer of a new society - if it is possible. And you'll be better doing that than bombing it in, creating the same rigid figures of hatred at the end. Stalin was actually a type like us: he made it, one of the few who made it. But then it got heavy. [Baumann is referring to the fact that Stalin was a bank robber etc., for the Bolsheviks before the revolution].

You can see how bad it was in Schmuecker's case - they shot him down (Ulrich Schmuecker was a former member of the June 2nd Movement who was assassinated in 1974 after informing on the group). He was just a small, harmless student. They forced him into one of these situations, not asking themselves if he was far enough along to handle it. He couldn't have talked that much anyway, and they did him in. That's real destruction; you just can't see it any other way. The murder of Schmuecker reminds one strongly of Charles Manson. It really is murder, you have to see that." (p. 105, 106)