West German terrorists have been quiet for the past 2 1/2 years. But they are stronger now than they were in early 1977 -- the period just before the sensational 1977 murders of Chief Federal Prosecutor Siegfried Buback, banker Jurgen Ponto, and industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer.
This is the sober evaluation of the West German Verfassungsschutz (Office for the Protection of the Constitution), the nationwide investigative body that is charged with defense against politically motivated crimes.
In an interview with the Monitor, Christian Lochte, head of the Hamburg Verfassungsschutz office, analyzed the terrorists' current strength.
According to Dr. Lochte, the hard core -- those trained and ready to commit or give direct support to violent acts -- has increased in numbers since 1977 to about 200. They are able to move in and out of West Germany. They are well armed. They are well financed, with money from the more than 4 million mark ($2 .3 million) ransom from the 1977 Palmers kidnapping in Vienna.
The arrest or killing of 18 leading Red Army Faction terrorists since 1977 has not damaged the top terrorist leadership. More than 20 top urban "commandos" remain, with a collective leadership having succeeded the individual leaders of earlier years like the late Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. The shift has not meant any loss of purpose, will, or planning skill.
Dr. Lochte refused to be drawn out on what the current terrorist strength might portend for the future. He did term the present situation as "more dangerous" than the situation in early 1977, however.
Lochte also refused to comment when he was asked if the number of terrorist sympathizers hadn't dropped after the unsuccessful terrorist hijacking of a Lufthansa airliner in 1977. The number of sympathizers, he suggested, was irrelevant to the potential for terrorist violence. What matters is the hard core of terrorists that has now stabilized at about 200.
The hard core, Lochte continued, consists of three groups: the Red Army Faction (originally the Baader-Meinhof gang), the Second of June Movement, and the Revolutionary Cells.
The Second of June leadership merged into the Red Army Faction some time ago and formally announced the dissolution of the June Movement last June 2. But some of that group's West Berlin members (the so-called "internationalists") have refused to join the merger and continue to maintain a separate existence.The "internationalists" have worked especially closely with Palestinian radical such as the George Habash group.
Among the other West German terrorist groups there is some cooperation with foreign terrorists, but no longer any common action (such as the 1977 Lufthansa hijack), according to Dr. Lochte. Even IRA murders or attempts on the lives of British officers in West Germany have been purely IRA actions that West German terrorists did not participate in, Lochte says.
All three West German terrorist groups are ideologically motivated. They differ in the extent to which they try to conduct nonviolent political proselytization, however. The Red Army Faction has given up altogether on the West German "masses," whom it regards as having been corrupted by social welfare and prosperity into acceptance of capitalist society.The Red Army Faction's only object of political persuasion, therefore, in their violence in the European "metropole" of capitalism, is the third-world masses.
The Revolutionary Cells, by contrast are much more anarchist and individualist and insist that its adherents not live in the isolated underground , but maintain legal lives and contacts with ordinary citizens. The Revolutionary Cell's main target of attack is "US imperialism," with subordinate targets of "Zionism" and the "unmasking" of "repressive" West German society.
Next: Anarchist terrorism on the rise in France.