“The most evil and dangerous woman in Germany”, a/k/a Brigitte Mohnhaupt, has been released from a German prison:
‘Ex-Member of Red Army Freed From Prison’
Washington Post [AP]
Sunday, March 25, 2007
BERLIN — A one-time leader [of] Germany’s Red Army Faction was released Sunday after a quarter-century in prison for her involvement in some of the radical left-wing group’s most notorious murders, a prison official said.
Brigitte Mohnhaupt, 57, was released from the Aichach prison in Bavaria, prison director Wolfgang Deuschl said. He said she was picked up by acquaintances and took personal belongings including some books, but did not give further details.
A Stuttgart court last month approved parole for Mohnhaupt, ruling that she could go free after serving the minimum 24 years. Combined with an earlier prison term, she has spent 29 years behind bars.
Her case — and that of Christian Klar, another Red Army prisoner whose bid for clemency President Horst Koehler is considering separately — have set off a debate about whether it is time to show mercy on imprisoned members of the group.
The two cases have brought back painful memories of the Red Army Faction’s heyday in the late 1970s, when the group left a trail of dead bodies in its struggle against what it considered capitalist exploitation of workers.
Mohnhaupt was arrested in 1982 and convicted of involvement in nine murders, including those of West German chief federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback, Dresdner Bank head Juergen Ponto, and Hanns-Martin Schleyer, the head of the country’s industry federation. She was given five life sentences for murder.
Mohnhaupt shot Ponto three times when he resisted a kidnapping attempt in 1977, according to her conviction.
In other cases, she was involved in planning killings and attacks — including a 1981 rocket-propelled grenade attack on the car of U.S. Gen. Frederick Kroesen, then the commander of U.S. forces in Europe. Both the general and his wife were injured.
The Stuttgart court, supported by prosecutors, last month decided Mohnhaupt no longer posed a threat.
In its decision, the Stuttgart court noted that Mohnhaupt was not willing to completely repudiate her violent past. But it added that Mohnhaupt, at a closed parole hearing, said the time for “armed struggle” was over and acknowledged inflicting suffering on the victims’ families.
Mohnhaupt had a job offer and an apartment lined up — in a place that the court did not disclose. She will be on supervised parole for five years and must report regularly to authorities.
Mohnhaupt was a top figure in what was sometimes called the Baader-Meinhof gang, after an earlier generation of leaders, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, who both killed themselves in prison.
[Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin and Jan Carl Raspe reportedly killed themselves on October 18, 1977 while being held in Stammheim Prison: Ensslin hanging herself and Baader and Raspe shooting themselves, Baader reportedly shooting himself in the back of the head! For these and many other reasons, some continue to believe that they were in fact murdered. The circumstances surrounding Meinhof’s death, on May 9, 1976, also in Stammheim, are also suspicious, and her death was followed by demonstrations throughout Europe…]
The middle-class leftists emerged from German student protests against the Vietnam War, launching a violent, 22-year campaign against what they considered U.S. imperialism and capitalist oppression of workers.
At its peak, West Germany was shaken by the Sept. 5, 1977, kidnapping of employers’ federation head Schleyer in an attempt to extort the release of Baader and others from prison.
When the government of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt did not free Baader, Arab supporters hijacked a Lufthansa jet to Mogadishu, Somalia. German commandos freed the hostages but the kidnappers killed Schleyer, whose body was found in the trunk of a car in Mulhouse, France. Baader and two other Red Army Faction members killed themselves in prison.
The organization killed 34 people and injured hundreds, some simply unlucky enough to be driving or accompanying their prominent targets. It declared itself disbanded in 1998, a decision Mohnhaupt said she agreed with.
The ‘real’ story of the RAF, of course, is a lot more complicated — and a lot more interesting — than is revealed in the above bastardised account. In April 1992, the RAF declared it had ceased attentats (political assassinations). A year later, in one of the RAF’s last major actions, the Commando Katharina Hammerschmidt blew up the Weiterstadt prison, declaring that:
…Weiterstadt prison is exemplary of how the state deals with the splintering and broadening contradictions: more and more people are faced with prison, prison, prison – and this prison was also supposed to act as a deportation prison as a part of the racist state refugee policy.
In its technological perfection of isolation and differentiation of imprisoned people, it was to be a model for the rest of Europe.
Weiterstadt, after Berlin-Ploetzenzee, was to be the second fully-conceived maximum-security prison for women, and it was being billed as “the most humane prison” in Germany. But behind this notion is hidden its scientifically further-developed concept of the isolation, differentiation, and total control of prisoners. It is the principle of reward and punishment in a high-tech form that forces prisoners to be disciplined and subordinate and which forces them, even if it means breaking them, to give their “cooperation”.
The electronic surveillance system was the most expensive and highly-developed in all of Europe, with which all aspects of the prison could be controlled and utilized for the psychological program of destroying all attempts at solidarity, friendship, and self-determined organization…
Commenting on the manner in which German society has been rattled by her release, Jeffrey Fleishman in the LA Times (March 26, 2007) opines that “Her case also has revealed that vestiges of extreme leftist politics still resonate among certain intellectuals who never realized their anarchist dreams”, which is kinda odd given that the RAF were a Marxist-Leninist organisation. Locally, similar ideological confusion is evident in Stuart Munckton’s review of Build it Now: Socialism for the Twenty-First Century (Monthly Review Press, 2006), in which he writes that:
However, [Michael A.] Lebowitz doesn’t argue that simply introducing a model involving workers’ management is enough to change society. He polemicises against the anarchist academic John Holloway, who argues against seeking to win state power to achieve change [Change the World Without Taking Power, Pluto / University of Michigan Press, 2002; also available online @ libcom]. Lebowitz points out that this argument “has been refuted in two clear ways”. First of all, looking at the experience of the Venezuelan revolution, he argues: “Can we even begin to imagine the changes that are occurring here now without the power of the state?” Lebowitz refers to Marx’s arguments on the need for workers to win state power to transform society, explaining that it needs to be a form of state power fundamentally different to the capitalist state, organised democratically as the self-government of working people.
— ‘Two, three, many Bolivarian revolutions!’, Green Left Weekly, No. 704, March 24, 2007
Blah blah blah, Lenin Lenin Lenin.
Other problem is, Screamin’ John Holloway, while he may be an academic, is not actually an anarchist. His text — despite its somewhat deceptive title — makes only a handful of dismissive references to anarchism, but is otherwise based very firmly in a (libertarian) Marxist analysis of society and political economy.
On Venezuela, see El [email protected], an anarchist periodical from Venezuela [English]; also Incendio, in particular an account of the Alternative Social Forum held in Caracas, January 23–29, 2006:
The objective of creating a week-long space fermenting dissidence against the Venezuelan government, the state-centric left, traditional political parties and Capital was achieved with success beyond expectation. The goal of spreading a multiplicity of political visions and strategies was achieved without the logistical support of the Venezuelan army and without any promotion or funding weighted with bureaucracy. The second objective, reconstructing a grassroots network of autonomous social movements, inspiring new ways of doing politics and building a transformational movement, is a project that transcends the time-span of a week. For this reason, each one of the organizations that convened at the ASF is moving forward with diverse programs at a variety of levels. The recovery of various movement agendas is critical: ecologists, students, neighborhood organizations, feminists, indigenous peoples’ movements, youth, citizens and campesinxs form an emancipatory challenge to our stagnant political system characterized by redundant electoral cycles and agendas imposed from above.
I think it would be best to call Holloway a “communist” rather than a Marxist. Also the only copy of el libertario i have seen focused a lot on Holloway
Hmmm… yes and no. I think he’s both a dirty stinkin’ commie *and* a mad Marxist. Certainly that book is based very solidly in Marxist analysis… yeah? I mean, Marx was always “screaming” for $ from Engels, after all, esp after he got his maid pregnant and had to support a bastard.
As for *El Liberario*, there’s been a lot of issues: 49 to date. But it would make sense for at least some attn to be paid to Screamin’ John’s work (for obvious reasons).
And speaking of Holloway, this article’s interesting:
John Ross, ‘The Storms of Change: Strange Fruit Down South’, *Counterpunch*, March 31/April 1, 2007:
“…Atlanta will play host to the U.S. Social Forum come June and there is a lot of jostling afoot about who gets to set the agenda. From this bend in the river, the affair looks suspiciously topdown with a national directorship and leaders of Atlanta’s social change movement (the progressive, patriarchal Black Church will play a key role) at the controls. The topdown model is how these conclaves have been conducted ever since Lula and the PT ran them from Puerto Alegre with a velvet glove and crowbars behind their backs (ask anarchist guru John Holloway about the PT goons) – similarly, Comandante Hugo called the shots in Caracas…”
Ross — like all the others — should know better than to describe Holloway as an ‘anarchist guru’ (*vomit*), but there you are. The presence of @s in social movements and organising projects certainly seems to spark a whole range of irrational reactions in the Left, that’s for sure. Then again, those who rise from the grave *do* tend to scare the living…