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A Radical Rethinks Terrorist Violence after the Murder of Federal Prosecutor Siegfried Buback (April 25, 1977)

Chief federal prosecutor Siegfried Buback was murdered by the Red Army Faction [Rote Armee Fraktion or RAF] on April 7, 1977. This act, part of the mounting violence of the RAF’s “Offensive 77,” prompted an anonymous author (who signed his name “a mescalero from Göttingen”) to rethink the moral legitimacy and practical utility of using force to affect political change. The “obituary” first appeared in a student newspaper at the University of Göttingen and was subsequently reprinted in numerous daily newspapers. These papers, however, only republished certain parts of the article and thereby misrepresented its message. For example, passages referring to the “clandestine joy” over Buback’s murder were reprinted but not those that criticized the violence. In 2001, Klaus Hülbrock, a lecturer in German, told the taz (a left-of-center Berlin daily newspaper) that he was the author of the article. He also apologized to the son of the murdered prosecutor for his statements at the time.

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Buback – An Obituary

This is not necessarily supposed to be an assessment or an annotated trashing from my desk, performed with a papal air and characterized as “loyal criticism.” Balance, rigorous argumentation, dialectic, and contradiction – I couldn’t care less about all of that. This Buback story* has left a bad taste in my mouth and these burps should get put down on paper. Maybe they will contribute a bit to a public controversy.

My immediate reaction, my “dismay” after Buback was shot down, can be described quickly. I could not and did not want to (and still don’t) deny having felt clandestine joy. I often heard this guy agitating; I know that he played an important role in pursuing, criminalizing, and torturing leftists. Whoever saw his face even once in the last few days can recognize the characteristics of the rule of law in this state, which he embodied so outstandingly. And they also know a few features of the faces of the upright democrats who are now crying out, as if with one voice, in outrage and sadness. Honestly, I do regret a little that we can no longer add this face to the little red-and-black criminal album that we’ll publish after the revolution in order to get hold of the most sought after and hated representatives of the old world and present them before a public hearing. Alas, not him – a child lost, enfant perdu.

But this is not all that has been haunting my mind and those of many others since this thing happened. A feeling of genuine joy, like when Carrero Blanco left this world,** just didn’t happen for me. Not that I let the really well-staged “public outrage and hysteria” get to me. This spectacle seems to work better each time, and none of us believes anymore that even a single “critical” voice would be raised somewhere in the concert of these political eunuchs, who live (and live well) by creating “public opinion.”

But I’m not so totally indifferent to this seemingly hermetic block of conformist media spurting official announcements and commentaries that I don’t have to worry about it at all during various actions anymore. The bugging scandal has shown that this chorus of the upright has put lice into their hides, which are now irritating them and cannot be erased through opinions and commentaries. So at least tears and cracks have appeared in this apparently firm façade of legitimation; we can and have to take advantage of them, even with respect to Stammheim.*** There a public murmur developed, a public uneasiness about the nonchalance with which the Bubacks, Maihofers, Schiess, and Benda commit the grossest infringements of the law, and we missed the chance to use it offensively for our cause and for the prisoners. This chance is lost for the moment. Now, after the assassination, not only is any means allowed to smash the “terrorist mob,” but the means being used are even too minor.

* Buback was the federal prosecutor in charge of suppressing the RAF – ed.
** Referring to the 1973 assassination of the Spanish collaborator of Franco by Basque nationalists – ed.
*** The name of the federal prison in which the elite of the RAF was locked up – ed.

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