By Ernesto Aguilar
July 29, 2010
Though it has been out a few months, I find myself regularly going back to a fantastic book I want to recommend to students of progressive/radical history, and to those who might have seen the Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated Baader-Meinhof Complex earlier this year and wanted to know more about the story behind it.
When old friend Ramsey Kanaan forwarded me a copy of one of his recent projects from his new publishing outfit, PM Press, I was intrigued. Kanaan is known to virtually everyone in the publishing world as the guy who founded AK Press and was its heart and soul for many years. When he left to start PM, with a broader vision but the same irascibile approach, a daring publisher was born. PM’s collection on the Red Army Faction is one example of such.
The book is entitled The Red Army Faction, A Documentary History, Volume 1: Projectiles For The People and it tells the story of the entangled German left and far left that gave rise to the Red Army Faction, an ultraleft guerrilla formation mostly associated with Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. Ron Jacobs, author of The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground, did a thorough review of this collection from the RAF’s heyday during which it committed sensational bombings aimed at challenging U.S. imperialism. But no review adequately can convey how important this book is to the progressive/radical history canon. Within English-language publishing, there are few works about the RAF, which alone makes this one the best book available.
Those who remember AK Press’ foray into RAF mythology, Tom Vague’s 1994 book, Televisionaries: The Red Army Faction Story, will be thrilled to find less storytelling and more history. The new PM Press collection, in fact, presents virtually almost every RAF communique and theoretical pamphlet from 1970 to 1977, its first period (the RAF would later be led by many others as leaders were killed or imprisoned). Over the course of 700 pages, readers get a sense of how intensely the RAF believed the left had sold out and hos Germany was again wedded to fascism. Its bombings, kidnappings, killings and street battles with police were conducted in this context. A second volume, expected to pick up from here until the RAF’s mysterious dissolution in 1998, is forthcoming from PM Press, though no date is set for its release.
However, this collection is truly a wonder and is well worth picking up.
By the way, Upping the Anti has a good review of the book in its latest issue. You can still land a free copy of the last two Upping the Anti issues.