William Boykin
United States
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For BJ.....
So, I'm sitting in my coffee shop after watching a double feature of two fascinating movies, one of which was "The Baader-Meinhof Komplex"


(The other film was "It Might Get Loud", but its more of a 'Chit Chat' topic...!)


The B-M Komplex is a movie of the 'True History' of the Red Army Faction- a series of interconnect terrorist groups that grew out of the student protest movements in W. Germany in the late 1960's. Starting with small actions (arson, bank robbery, some bombings), as the early leadership was imprisoned, second and third generation 'commandos' proceeded to escalate their violence in their war against the 'enemies of the people'.

Lots of interesting things to think about in this film, but what I kept coming back to was how context- what you show, what you don't show- DEEPLY matters in a film of this sort.

While the movie does, at times, showcase some of the FDR government's debates over how to handle the Red Army Faction, most of the film is from the perspective of the RAF itself. And it doesn't pull any punches- these people were brutal, and became increasingly fanatic in thier attempts to tear down what they saw as 'the system'.

"To throw one stone is a crime. To throw a hundred stones is political action."
-Ulrike Meinhof

But, in focusing upon the RAF, it runs the risk of 'glamorizing' them. More importantly, to me, it divorces the RAF and what angered them from the greater culture and debates going in W. Germany at the time.

The late 1960's and early 70's were a time of great generational strife in Germany- the RAF members from the 'Baby Boomer' generation were determined to 'never again' succumb to the evils of their parents generation, the idealism of wanting to take a stand against what they saw as American 'Imperialism' and 'Capitalism' ate away at what gave their lives meaning...family, community. In the 'struggle', they became worse than anything they blamed the W. German government of being.

W. Germany then, and to a certain extent today, is still deeply torn over the legacy and memory of WWII. The desire to do 'better', to 'never again' be like the evils of the past, can lead to a dark path of 'us' vs. 'them'- with only a form of 'total resistance' being the way to 'liberation'.

The film is interesting in that it does show how for many members of the B-M Group, this sense of 'self-actualization' in the struggle against what they saw as a very real 'Fourth Reich" was like an addiction- they needed to continue fighting, finding new ways to resist, even as what they are fighting for moved into the haze of Marxist Leninist theory. In the film, the Minister of the Interior, when asked why new RAF factions continue to come out to do more acts of bombing and assasination, asked what it is they fight for, he replies- "A myth".

Not just the myth of W. German 'tyranny' (when, in fact, the B-M members were treated with veritable 'kid gloves' in these days of Gitmo and Abu Gharib), but the myth that ONLY resolute, direct 'action' can radicalize the masses. When one member of the B-M group dares to ask how bank robberies will achieve a dramatic change in the culture, she's shut down- "That is just a bourgeoisie mentality! We just ACT- and it will occur, or we will die."

That wonderful myth- the myth of resolute, easy, manichean 'struggle' as being superior to the 'corrupt' and 'dirty' system of compromise moderate politics- that myth is what the members of the RAF fought and died for. And in not especially contrasting the RAF's continuing radicalization into the deepest hearts of darkness, and not demonstrating how W. Germany WAS able to be, by small little steps, BETTER, this film runs the risk of glamorizing this myth.

Because, more and more, across the West, I see more and more people increasingly disgusted with 'politics'. Different battles, different symbols, but the same frustrations with the 'system' continue in our modern age- and the same dangers exist that a group will re-take up the mantle of the RAF in the name of tearing down a system with blood for the sake of a radical 'cultural change'.

Fascinating movie- but read up on your history of W. Germany afterwards. Or, if you want an easier read, pick up John Le Carre's book "Absolute Friends", about a friendship born in that turbulent time that continues through to our own modern era....


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