Baader-Meinhof Complex (film about the German Red Army Faction)

…The German government’s “official submission” to the Oscars… / “official story” of this period.

On general principle, it’s probably not a good idea to go see movies generously funded by the state purporting to tell the history of anarchists. But it was a film festival…  (A friend has pointed out that since the German film industry is so small, almost all films receive some funding from the government.) But Badder-Meinhof Complex was the police name for this group, so that’s a very clear mark of who is telling the story here.

I’m trying to understand the agenda and significance of the film. The story sticks close to wikipedia, and the review in Socialist Review doesn’t dispute anything.  Impressive handling of gender (more than one female main character!) But they left out the effectiveness of such actions. Another group, the Red Zoras, helped Korean labor movements to win struggles, through militant actions in Germany. (See George Katsiaficas, The Subversion of Politics: European Autonomous Social Movements and the Decolonization of Everyday Life).

The film…

  • buttresses the constructs “domestic terrorism” and “terrorists” (people who don’t even love their own children!)…
  • Discourages radicalism (you’ll lose, suffer in jail, AND be confused)…
  • Calls self-identified Marxist-Leninists anarchists…
  • Conveniently portrays the head of German intel as an enlightened visionary who suggests terrorism is inevitable unless the state addresses the exploitation radicals are worried about and makes room for dissent. (Praise the subsequent, more liberal, state?)

I think maybe the only story the movie tells is something about the “cycle of violence”. (Which, like “humanitarian intervention” is, er, inconsistent. In fact, relatively few state violences outside of Shakespeare and particularly well-organized neighborhoods, inspire escalatory reactions from the people.) Although a lot of politics appear in the film, it doesn’t tell a story about politics, only a story about violence. Socialist Review seems pleased by the clear-eyed coverage of the state’s violence, but I think the harder task is to contextualize both radical political violence and state violence. Why do movements choose to risk their few resources in violence?  What “order” does the state protect violently?

The film ends abruptly in 1977 and doesn’t say anything at all about the evolution of the German Left (not even in cheap and time-saving CG between the last scene and the credits). Or about the RAFs disbandment after another lively 16 years. Maybe that’s because the mid-1990s aren’t history. That’s uncomfortably close to the now, to the we who we think we still are, and the they who are still in charge. The film authoritatively locks the RAF –AND the state’s violence– into a sealed historical moment.  And isolates them from the rich context of movements of which they were a part.* Now the government has much more competent police operations to gently keep those people wearing black from getting out of control and starting something like that again. The Green Scare is definitely not happening. Nor would anti-terror laws ever be applied to graffiti painters. That was THEN. Go Shopping.

*Christian Scholl made this point in discussion of my review.

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