Abstract Radicalism & Art
The radicalism of the RAF and radicalism in art, what do they have to do with one other? I do believe that it was through something like “abstract radicalism” that a number of artists toward the end of the 70s connected with the fate of the RAF, a special form of “partisanship” to be found, among others, in films like Germany in Autumn.2 Let me start off by citing an interview with Gerhard Richter that was reprinted in the “20 Years After Mogadishu” issue of taz journal. Richter’s famous series of paintings – executed in oil on canvas and based on photographs – dedicated to the day of the deaths at Stammheim on 18th October 1977 is from 1988, that is from eleven years after the event. The photographs from the Stammheim complex had been with Richter for years, until several of them imposed themselves as material for paintings. This interview was conducted by Jan Thorn Prikker for Parkett, the art journal from Zürich.
Jan Thorn Prikker (JTP): Were you confident from the very start that the terrorism theme was paintable?
Gerhard Richter (GR): The wish was there that it might be – had to be – paintable. But there have been some themes that weren’t. In my mid-twenties I saw some concentration camp photographs that disturbed me very much. In my mid-thirties I collected and took photographs and tried to paint them. I had to give up.
What was so “unpaintable” in those concentration camp photographs that after all turned out to be paintable in the RAF-pictures? A decision he described as having been “unconscious.”
GR: To start with, I wanted to paint the whole business, the world as it was then, the living reality – I was thinking in terms of something big and comprehensive. But then it all evolved quite differently, in the direction of death. And that’s really not all that unpaintable. Far from it, in fact. Death and suffering have always been an artistic theme. Basically, it is the theme. We’ve eventually managed to wean ourselves away from it, with our nice, tidy lifestyle.
He wants to distance himself from “always paintable death.” His intention: “to show death in all seriousness,” something radical, something exceptional…
JTP: What was exceptional about it?
GR: Firstly, these peoples’ claim to a public: exactly not the private, but the overriding, ideological motivation. And then the tremendous strength, the terrifying power of an idea that goes as far as death. This is, to me, the most impressive and inexplicable thing; that we produce ideas, which most of the time are not only utterly wrong or nonsensical, but above all dangerous. Religious wars and what have you: it’s fundamentally all about nothing, about pure blather – and we take it extremely seriously, fanatically, even unto death. I’m not talking about the facts here. The crimes of Vietnam have to be taken extremely seriously, but that’s a different matter.
JTP: Is it the tragedy of these people that they tried to be enforcers? That they refused to reconcile themselves to their own impotence – isn’t that their hidden, positive core?
GR: Yes, that is exactly the other side, which I – of course – see, despite my skepticism. That would make for the element of hope that the pictures were meant to contain.
JTP: Significantly, “the avant-garde” is a political as well as an artistic term. Is there a relation between art and the revolutionary impulse? What causes an established, bourgeois artist like yourself to be interested in the RAF? Surely not their actions.
GR: Yes, their actions. Because someone is trying, with absolute radicalism, to change something; not only can one very clearly understand this, but also see it as the other side of the coin: art is indeed sometimes described as radical, but it never actually is – only artificially, very differently.
JTP: Is painting an attack on reality, an attempt at creating something entirely new?
GR: It’s all sorts of things – an alternative world, a plan or model for something different, a report – because, even when it only repeats or recalls something (wiederholt), it can still create meaning.
JTP: Recalling (Wieder-holung) – that is in essence the concept that underlies these pictures. What are the beneficial things that can be remembered about the RAF?
GR: It can give us new insights. And it can also be an attempt at consolation – that is, at giving meaning. It’s also that we can’t simply forget a story like that, as if it were waste, but we must try to find a different way of dealing with it – appropriately.
JTP: Are these pictures something new in your work? You have never before chosen source images with such a social charge, but always neutral ones.
GR: That’s right, I have always shied away from political themes, from the spectacular.
JTP: But your whole series lives off the spectacularity of the events concerned.
GR: And it is really the most natural thing in the world, to pick up on exceptional events. It would be absurd to have a taboo against the very things that concern us the most. Then we’d be left producing nothing but trivialities.3
In this interview I found the prototypical formulation – now for the realm of art – of what I called abstract radicalism. The painter, fearing to lapse into triviality with his own production, takes a complex like “the RAF” as his topic, not on account of an accordance with their aims or ideas, but because of an abstract identification with their exceptional situation: their radical isolation, their persecution as it unfolds toward the end of the 1970s. And therein the tenor: “the avant-garde artist also strives for change with utmost radicalism; structurally, this makes him a persecuted person” – here lies the point of contact between Richter the photographer/painter and the RAF, whom he never had anything to do with, neither practically nor ideologically.
JTP: Has the ideology of the RAF never interested you?
GR: No. I have always rejected it as an ideology, as Marxism or the like. What interests me is something different, as I’ve just tried to say: the why and wherefore of an ideology that has such an effect on people; why we have ideologies at all; is this our inevitable, necessary quality or a superflous, cumbersome, even life-threatening one, a delusion…
JTP: So you consider the RAFdead as victims of their own ideology?
GR: Yes, certainly. But not the victims of any specific ideology of the left or of the right, but of the ideological posture as such. This has to do with an everlasting human dilemma, in general: to make a revolution and to fail…
Something about “general failure” seems paintable. But to depict something the RAF would “stand for,” that isn’t something Richter can do, because of this dilemma. What he is left with are the pictures of the dead themselves. Ultimately, they are paintable in virtue of the absence of a content that could be compared to that of the concentration camp photographs. What is paintable is the radical gesture in a void, the radical air they leave behind and emanate, the bodies of the dead themselves, writing machine, record player, the cells, because there is nothing else that the RAF would have left behind in terms of concretization, of concrete politics, except for murder and the abstractly exceptional. They are ghostly pictures, even more so than Richter’s respective remarks would suggest.
His very much vacillating commentary repeats the gesture of the politically radical as an abstract gesture in art: sticking to the grand themes; fear of the production of trivialities. Ultimately it is only this point that connects to the radical claims of the dead of Stammheim: not to be caught up in the trivial…
Where does this fear come from? It can only derive from the artist’s wish that his own production dwell in the realm of the consequential, a realm akin, comparable or even analogous to the consequentiality of politics. His fear of missing the consequential arises from the recognition of the actual immensity of his separation from the “political process,” both of that very moment and of other historical junctures; again, comparable to the distance separating the RAF from “real politics.” However, by taking up the RAF as a subject one has, as it were, “the times” on one’s palette, and with that, contact with the syndrome that I will only outline here through recourse to a cue, “the claim to leadership of art:” to be on the track of the real, in the heat of the battle, and pointing out the way among the clouds of dust. (Otherwise: trivialities…)
As I have already shown with the examples of radicals like Benn or Hamsun or Céline or Pound in the 30s and 40s, their alliance with the political, in their case with Nazi leaders, did not derive primarily from their Fascist or Nazi “ideology,” but from their claims to leadership in matters of art. It is this very claim that those radicals – exposed, in the face of the real, to the agony of their “meaninglessness” and projected into emptiness – confused with positions of leadership within politics: they established contact with these ruling elites – from equal to equal, so they thought, from genius to leader (Führer).
Yet what Richter formulates in the interview is much more cautious – he also has contact with a leader, but not in that sense – and that is the difference: the “contact” is being established not with “the power” but with the dead caused by a specific state power; but Richter’s connection with “the politics” of those dead is no stronger than, let’s say, Benn’s with the actual politics of Hitler in 1934. Both bond, abstractly, with a ghost.
Similar things can be said about the German Autumn film by Kluge, Schlöndorff, Reitz and others. They all haven’t got anything to do with the RAF specifically, but definitely something with the claim to getting hold of “the reality of the moment;” to not let the “grand theme” slip away without having kissed the hem of its gown: Bismarck, Kohl, Kluge, they all meet on this level; but the artist projects himself into this convergence through nothing other than the abstract claim to leadership or exposition. In the Autumn-film this takes on the absurd form of “analogizing” Gudrun Ensslin’s sister, the dead of Stammheim, and the mayor of Stuttgart, Rommel, with Antigone, her dead brother Polyneices, and the king of Thebes, Creon – only because a number of Stuttgart’s average citizens came forward with the idea, in and outside of newspapers, of denying the dead of Stammheim burial. Faßbinder’s contribution to this film seems quite different, but let me return to this later.
What seems crucial for this strange crafting of analogies, is that these artists acted in a similar political vacuum as that which the RAF most radically maneuvered themselves into and with which all other political groups of the 70s also struggled – except for parts of the women’s movement,4 the ecologists, and the opponents of nuclear energy, who tried to defend themselves, “over their head, with concrete political action” against the impending vacuum. This at least seemed to be a testament to their “fulfilledness,” something the film directors, professors, or art makers with a claim to radicalism were unable to produce, as we hear it resounding in Richter’s complaint that art is not radical, but precisely “artificial.”
Similar examples of abstract solidarity with the radicalism-complex of the RAF, out of the angry need not to be a party to state persecution and the prevailing small-mindedness, can be found in Claus Peymann’s anti-distancing note on the bulletin board of the canteen at the Staatstheater in Stuttgart (that disturbed the order of Baden-Württemberg), Vlado Kristl’s painting, The Arrest of Ulrike Meinhof, which shook up the 1976 exhibition of the German Association of Artists (Deutscher Künstlerbund) in Mannheim, or Jean Marie Straub’s und Danielle Huillet’s filmic homage to Holger Meins. The state or one of its half-organs played its part every time, confiscating, threatening with dismissal or public-legal refusal to broadcast, treating the abstract (and utterly helpless) radicalism of absolute non-terrorists as if they really were part of the RAF; something that oddly appealed to the artists – “finally proper attention.” (“Indication of reality.”) Less honored, but still somehow acknowledged, were a number of owners of certain telephone numbers who got around to having the apartment search they so well deserved.
All this fit quite well into the newfound hard-liner profile of the weakened political bunch in Bonn; they made the best out of it.
However, being a politically sentient person, one just can’t evade the severity of the social moment itself: it was the moment of the downfall of an (abstract) revolutionary claim in the political vacuum of the German Republic, and the moment of a (not at all abstract) state persecution that struck and then celebrated its victory as a new sort of state oath (Bundesschwur) to the “Second Bonn Republic.” Even today the players of Bonn celebrate their party-division-transcending embraces, with news of the successful freeing of the Landshut in Mogadishu still resounding in their ears: Wischniewski in the arms of Zimmermann of the CDU, Schmidt and Strauß as co-handlers of the crisis committee, trans-party tears over the rescue of the Republic. The decline of the Opposition on the level of high politics, the introduction of Kohl, all this happened at that very moment. Schmidt (together with Maihofer of the FDP) is the one to carry it through, but then Genscher changes camps, the SPD follows and transforms itself in all essential points into the CDU (all the two-thirds majorities concerning the “reuinification” have emphasized this). It has stayed this way until now; it is “the great coalition of Mogadishu” that rules the country (and now part of the green party wants join in). This, too, seems ghostly.
But that which, under the name of “German Autumn,” evolved in Germany into a particularly helpless, almost Rilke-esquely melancholic group fantasy, was also an international phenomenon: take for example Joe Strummer, lead vocalist of The Clash, who in the late 70s dragged himself onstage clad in a T-shirt with the RAF-emblem (Rude Boy), or the Times Square Show in New York: “artists banding together as pseudo-terrorists and identifying with the denizens of this chosen locale,”5 yet the necessary degree of abstraction lay in the fact that it was people “fresh from the art academy and without access to the established channels and institutions.”6 In Germany, where after 1990 the abstractly radical keeps swinging between right and left, it is the band Die Goldenen Zitronen with their song 6 gegen 60 Milionen and the record Das bißchen Totschlag (That Bit of Manslaughter), who reactivated the myth of the RAF: 6 against 60 million, this had been the formulation of Heinrich Böll, whose Katharina Blum nonetheless put him among the ranks of those expressing abstract solidarity; “politically” he was much too controlled for such a step. (Unlike Schlöndorff.)
The principle is roughly as follows: in each case the “radicalism” of the artists amalgamates with the sharpest form (apparent or real) of political radicalism into the social group fantasy of the “angry outcast.” The artist disposes of old psychic burdens by taking on the position of a leper and – in coalition with the politically mutinous – by cursing the “central power.” Apart from the artwork that is also (or might be) produced, what is being carried out is an act of poison disposal7 and guilt absolving, resulting from a deeply felt inability of socially relevant action; or, if not the inability of such action, then exclusion from it. The fact that the respective artists yearn to figure as the “keenest individualists” is no contradiction at all; there exist no such “contradictions” in the system of group fantasies (as there is no negation in the unconscious). Such fantasies function exclusively owing to the number of those who share them at any given moment; this is their only (and sufficient) indication of reality.
“The machine pistol as weapon” won’t do as such indication for any of those artists. Virtually no-one who felt part of this RAF (Radikale Abstraktions-Fraktion, or Radically Abstract Faction) in the 70s endorsed the actual murders committed by the RAF, their gunning down of high-ranking employees of institutions, except in their attitude. But these attitudes were expressed by no means as secretly (heimlich) as the word of the year 1977 – “clandestinely” (klammheimlich) – might suggest. The lack of sympathy for Schleyer was mercilessly open: in the system of abstract identifications, the non-belonging is coolly split off. Nobody would shed a tear for Schleyer, the “main representative of German capital.” Incidentally this also counts for those in power, whose crisis committee staked everything on victory, excluding the co-loser of the moment, Schleyer, from sympathy, as much as it did the detained at Stammheim – (the wound from then that wouldn’t heal shows Hans Martin Schleyer’s widow in television in 1997).8
Such disposal-feelings do not, however, replace: politics. The dead bodies that soon were to weigh down on everybody, leaden and heavy – until today we weren’t able to do away with them, hence their haunting us during anniversaries.
In the film about the German Autumn the dead bodies are already fully developed into veritable ghosts. Kluge, as he likes to, digs in German history with a big spade, adds a clod of Sophocles to Rosa Luxemburg, and throws in a handful of state funeral and burial documentary, with an endlessly fiddled Germany-song in between, and in addition to that we have Mayor Rommel as anti-Creon – while watching it again now, there is the clear impression: this is downright crazy. There is no Creon, there is no Ensslin/Antigone, one has nothing to do with the other. We see helpless people turning a thing in their hands that neither is nor ever was theirs, bucking about in the space of a neglected history, producing far-fetched associations, from the Greeks to Mogadishu, with Biermann as leftist state-pastor in Stuttgart poised in between, only because – and that is why Biermann is right in this respect – one “owes it” to oneself as radical, serious artist: not in view of the last Judgment but in the judgment of time. And then, at the end, Joan Baez with Nicola and Bart, completely daft; yet the flag of the most acute abstract radicalism is flying high.
Faßbinder’s appearance, his reaction to the news of the death of the detained at Stammheim, is different. Faßbinder answers with pure bodiliness. I have tried to demonstrate that a specifically German body-system – in prison reduced to its familiar skeleton – made itself known in the Terrorists. In the two decades before the RAF this body-system struck me in all German realities and also in German movies; I found the movies unbearable because of the realisation: there are no bodies in them, there are no bodies walking about in German movies, only ghosts; nobody can walk, nobody can move, speak, or even glance so that it looked like cinema.9
I have learnt to see it as the embodied expression of the concealment of Nazi history by the generation of our parents; the bodies of the coming generations then carry such a thing, visible, as inhibition, as non-existence. We, as a generation, have been lied to by our parents to an extent hardly comparable to any generation before, that is to say we also haven’t been taken seriously. This successfully orgiastic-criminal generation of parents that spent every day (after the war) singing the song of spotless purity, that demanded that one shall be hard-working and punctual, one shall not lie & rake the walk on Saturdays, then life would turn out alright, this is how they worked through the murder of the Jews: eventually it had to dawn on us that we were supposed to grow up as brainless idiots who won’t notice a thing. Something of that is stuck in our bodies, in our reactionary, clumsy dealings, even up to this very day.
Faßbinder, who is naked when the news of the deaths reaches him, refuses to cover his affected body with clothes, the running camera keeps his undressed body in the frame, he runs about with the telephone, calling up friends, describing his horror, gets into a fight with his lover who says: “they should be hanged, in fact” – because he talks like the people on the streets also argue. Faßbinder shows himself throw up, he shows himself howling, throws an unplanned guest out of the apartment, the camera registers him arguing with his mother over what “democracy” means for her and the Germans.
This was exactly not abstract radicalism. Faßbinder lets us see what could also be seen in the example of the Stammheim inmates, in a more dreadful way; namely a certain tearing apart of his body. Toward the end of his film piece he breaks down: he thus doesn’t make a story about the inmates, but shows himself as acting subject in a real relationship to the dead; not a claimed political relationship, but a bodily analogy: everybody who carried their own bodies through history in the proximity of the body of the RAF, was in a situation of “being torn apart,” through the history that has again become a German one. Naturally was “Plötzensee,” however “inappropriately,” present in the images of those dead.10
Moments of a non-abstract radicalism could also be found in the novel Kontrolliert by Rainald Goetz; there the tearing apart stems from the fact that for every claim for the RAF, he also argues the opposite. I am Raspe, I am not Raspe, I am more radical than Raspe, and I am his enemy. The argumentations of the RAF are also mine but I repudiate them in their entirety; opposites to the extreme: of course, the killing was inevitable and the armed fight had to commence, but on the other hand: this nonsense of killing, what is that supposed to mean? I am as simple-minded as the one on whom I want to declare war; anyhow I have no idea how this works. And what comes out of all this is something entirely different from the deadly linearity of the RAF, or the confused loyalty of abstract sympathies with the party line.
Line, unity. Unity equals death. The moment one homogenizes people, human beings, they die. There is nothing to homogenize, but rather, differences to be discovered and developed, both on an individual level and on that of a multitude of social alignments and groups. When, during the debate, somebody from the audience threw in: “let’s finally make some politics” (meaning: hit them hard instead of just talking) – I do not think this should be called politics; it is rather an acceptance of dispersing the people on whose support one supposedly counts. But it also creates myths on the sacrificial level, where one can still dispose of guilt and incite diffuse aggressions.
Let me enumerate a few further names that are absent from the discussion of 1977, names out of which mister Breoler wouldn’t have been (or: won’t be) able to concoct any TV shows: Hans-Jürgen Krahl, Bernward Vesper, Rolf-Dieter Brinkmann, three radicals who have not taken part in this production of violence in a vacuum, but who tried to intertwine what was happening with their own artistic or philosophic claims and recognitions. Something that proved too difficult; in any case it drove them to despair: in Bernward Vesper’s Die Reise it isthe vanishing line of drugs, away from the father and his Nazi-manhood, inseperable from the recognition that being a human in 1960s Germany should still primarily be classified as a form of life in the category of vegetables. Perhaps it is precisely because he was involved with Ensslin that he hardly ever reappears today. R.D. Brinkmann: the attempt at keeping “America” present and re-enliven it for individual German perceptual apparatuses – the post-war left comes from America, not from the assimilation of Communist lines, that was secondary, tertiary. It was American art, poems, songs, images and sounds that gave birth to us, nobody else did. Krahl: to keep the sparks of philosophical thought glowing in the most primitive slogan, not to cease to adore/adorn “the beautiful” …always a grain schnapps in his hand, “ultradeep”… in all the “eulogies” for ‘68 & and the ghost of the RAF I couldn’t find any mention of Vesper or Brinkmann, and Krahl hardly ever came up. Neither did Goetz, as one further example of those who contained that mixture that tears apart and that was then mowed down into the hole of 1977/78. The publishing public doesn’t want an image of history, they want the perpetuation of the sacrificial altar.
Also, over the last few years in Germany, where the journalistic and the artistic met in the framework of the political, a considerable amount of ghostly stuff was produced: Castorff’s call for a “steel storm” (Stahlgewitter) as the strangest of thunders, the ram’s blows of Botho Strauß as the most blockheaded, and the Nuremberg-Laws-fight of Biermann/Hrdlicka as the most (im)proper one (with H. M. Broder, specialist on ghost tribunals, as the referee); also the great Reich-Ranicki showdown somehow belongs here (of the most impeccable abstract radicalism in the Danzig-Warsaw fratricidal war over the true Fonty). During the Gulf War it was the “bellicist” fight. Poison always flowed in abundance, the containers were stabbed so hard that it came out in big spurts – radical operations that lack any actual politics, or rather suffer from (involuntary) separation from it. The underlying fact (that is so difficult to bear): the artist being too far away from the sites of their performance. Even the authors of leading articles in the daily press get there only rarely. So what will have to do are ghost-blows against the private parts of imaginary bodies of power – the fate of abdicating social violence.
Peter Handke – who knows all this, and who has tried to do something different with his articles about Serbia, that is to provide a travel-image of the country in a language that, in the realm of “the political,” refused to become journalistic, a language built on perceptions – was (naturally) beaten up by the wholesale realist of total correctness: because he refused to convert and become an abstractly radical politician, but tried to remain a poetic writer; one who did not pretend to have the things he wrote about “in his pocket,” nor show everybody else the way.
The Quiet of History
From reading Franz Jung’s Der Weg nach unten and Georg K. Glaser’s Geheimnis und Gewalt one can infer that there are two incisive recognitions that the abstract radicals refuse to acknowledge; they have to do with hearing and seeing: they are the recognition of the quiet of history in some historical moments and the hallucinatory recognition of having no place in the scheme of „creation.” Franz Jung had such realizations in Berlin around 1933, when it became clear that the Nazis were crawling to power and that they were going to stay there for a while. The ground for his own history, the history of the worker’s movement, suddenly fell from beneath his feet. Many struggled on, incited the most senseless actions (and self-sacrifices), where he who had listened already knew perfectly well: it is over; time has made a cut and resounds in one’s ear as stupendous quiet.
Franz Jung looks after a friend’s child in this last year before he leaves the country. He describes how he let the boy crawl about in Grunewald, as if „suspended from time,” and one doesn’t feel like laughing when he recounts meeting brownies at that very moment. Jung is pretty much a „hard-bitten fellow” in 1933; he has lived through quite a lot, including practical experience in the Soviet Union during the time of „construction” after the revolution. He hears this quiet and sees the brownies crawl about in Grunewald; and he dares to communicate this to us, as a record of the sound of this moment in history.
Glaser hears the quiet on a French field, alone with a fellow combatant between French meadows in high Summer, having just got off a train that ended right there; the train that brought the last of those fleeing the Saarland to France before Hitler brought “the Saar” back home to the Reich in 1934. Glaser was part of the Communist underground, of a commando that assassinated Nazi-functionaries; needless to say, the Communist party was banned then; an RAF-man of sorts at that time. Glaser had already known for a long time that their main work hardly hurt the enemy any more, but resulted in the sacrifice of his own men. Their underground group had a mole hidden somewhere. Everything was being betrayed, the police were always already there… he just about escapes, leaves westwards with the last of the fleeing; gets off the train in France, in the middle of nowhere, and hears: the overwhelming roar of a quiet that translates into the sentence: “The unknown quiet refused the sound of our very steps. There was no place for us.” – there was no place for them because of history, in history. This life was – not only personally, but historically – over. Glaser leaves the great Communist club,11 he becomes a craftsman, but later he writes again.12
Of no further importance, those two lunatics with the funny ears, one might say, and naturally it was said and would have continued to be said – if not for the fact that it was exactly them who wrote the texts that were the most precise record of what exactly happened inside the German worker’s movement and its parties in the 1920s and 30s: Der Weg nach unten and Geheimnis und Gewalt, fundamental texts for people who choose not to face the history of Communism only to repress and/or whitewash it; records that were, or became, possible out of such moments of perceiving the quiet of time, and involved attempts at approaching the real while rejecting frantic self-deceit. The recognition of one’s own position within the historical performs the function of erasure: it erases the noise of the ideologies that prevent seeing and hearing. Thus in Jung and Glaser we are dealing not so much with renegade texts, with new or anti-ideologies, no, they are accounts of an understanding of processes, recording the recognition that certain kinds of being on the left did not work with “history,” and why it was so.13
Why they didn’t work at all under the conditions of a Stalinist International is described by a third book, Jan Valtin’s Tagebuch der Hölle. Valtin’s book gives one the tortuous impression that the situation that the plot of Brecht’s Maßnahme is founded upon – the execution, by the party itself, of a comrade who acted “high-handedly” and without its blessing – was nothing but a permanent state of affairs within the Communist parties of the 1930s, be it in the harbor of Rotterdam or on the streets of San Francisco. Not only in Moscow, but all over the world, purges were brought to pass. In case of doubt, the compulsory chain to the body of the Party is enforced by murder. The suspicion that the objective of the leadership of the Parties was not to have one member amongst their ranks who either hasn’t killed another comrade or wasn’t involved in his death through denunciation, condenses into something close to certainty. The actual act of punishing the so-called deviationists eventually appears as the foundation of the Party’s inner organisation: those who are dismissed by the apparatus face a death sentence for having claimed their right to a life of their own.
The RAF, in their compulsive inner structure of expelling all deviation from the organisation’s collective body (an absolutely fictional entity), repeated this Stalinist structure of 1930s and 1940s International Communism; something a figure like Brecht never ceased to excuse or expurgate as a necessity in the war against Facism. This structure is blithering idiocy: not one among the abstract keepers of the party line and the constant liquidators – be they of weapon or pen – has ever defeated Fascism this way, but rather, with the machineries of their concentrated economies, Russian, English or American soldiers; they have defeated people who do not care about abstract lines, and who in the most cases didn’t get any benefit out of it. (Unlike the economies –)
Research sponsored in the framework of the program of the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, „Narodowy Program Rozwoju Humanistyki”, in 2012-2014; project entitled The Wolrd as an Archive. Critical Modes of Historicity.”
1This translation is a selected fragment from: Klaus Theweleit, “Bemerkungen zum RAF-Gespenst,” in Ghosts. Drei leicht inkorrekte Vorträge (Frankfurt am Main – Basel: Stroemfeld/Roter Stern, 1998), 13-99. I would like to extend my gratitude to the author for his generosity in giving us permission to translate his essay (K.P.).
2Germany in Autumn, directed by Alf Brustellin, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Alexander Kluge, Maximiliane Mainka, Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus, Peter Schubert, Bernhard Sinkel, Hans Peter Cloos, Edgar Reitz, Katja Rupé and Volker Schlöndorff (1978, Filmverlag der Autoren et. al. / Concorde Film), 35 mm.
3Interview with Jan Thorn Prikker from Parkett 19 (1989), reprinted in: taz journal: die RAF, der Staat und die Linke. 20 Jahre Deutscher Herbst. Analysen Recherchen Interviews Debatten Dokumente von 1977 bis 1997 (Berlin: taz Verlags- und Vertriebs GmbH, 1997), 19. English translation: Conversation with Jan Thorn-Prikker concerning the 18 October 1977 cycle, 1989, in Gerhard Richter, Writings 1961–2007, ed. by Dietmar Elger and Hans-Ulrich Obrist (New York: D.A.P., 2009), 226–240 (translation changed).
4– that, as potential political competition, was always consciously devalued by Baader, as when he demonstratively (hyper-radically), because of their “political misdemeanors,” bestowed the epithet “cunt” upon the detained women.
5Lucy Lippard, “Sex and death and shock and schlock; a long review of the Times Square Show,” Art Forum (1980), Autumn, 52-3.
6Sylvère Lotringer, Foreign Agent/Kunst in den Zeiten der Theorie (Berlin: Merve-Verlag, 1995), 45.
7Theweleit is referring to the theories of the American psychohistorian, Lloyd de Mause, a recurrent motive in this essay. Cf. Lloyd de Mause, “’Heads and Tails.‘Money As a Poison Center,” The Journal of Psychohistory 16:1 (1988), Summer, http://www.psychohistory.com/htm/money.html, and “The History of Child Abuse,” The Journal of Psychohistory 25:3 (1998), Winter, http://www.psychohistory.com/htm/05_history.html, both accessed 25.05.2013 (K.P.).
8If I were the responsible editor, I would have cut out – for its mean obscenity – H. Breloer’s “realistic” staging of the shot in the back of Schleyer’s head in his grand German Autumn TV show.
9It is precisely Kluge’s films that were among the few exceptions.
10– at first I myself also thought that it was murder, that in the wake of the history of German incarcerations in the 20th century it couldn’t have been anything but murder. It took some time until this was solved. That the inmates had the weapons that were prerequisite to the suicides at their disposal is by now unequivocal. Not to speak of their furious drive “towards death.”
11– after some unpleasant experiences in Paris with Egon Erwin Kisch, known as the „breakneck reporter,” who was also a break-neck Stalinist, and led and surveilled Communist literary life within the Paris emigrant community.
12The respective spots in Jung and Glaser and some others, among them the perversion of the principle of „quiet” in Goebbels, are discussed in detail in K. T., Buch der Könige (Frankfurt am Main: Stroemfeld, 1994), Vol. 2x, Orpheus am Machtpol, 774-789, and Vol. 2y, Recording Angel’s Mysteries, 588-592.
13Others proceeded differently, by struggling on to be precise – Brecht at first, then Bredel etc. They threw themselves into the whirl of the Paris Writer’s Congress of 1934 that was to expel the silent Robert Musil on the grounds that his anti-Fascism was not Communist-party-like enough, or rather not party-like at all. – To differentiate the writer’s attitudes: try to find, tentatively, one single apt sentence about the history of Communism and the worker’s movement in Brecht, or Kisch or Feuchtwanger.