The Forgotten Stars of 1970s Terrorism

In their never-ending quest to tweak the sensibilities of anyone dumb enough to take them too seriously, the “hipsters” at VICE profile ’70s terrorists, from the Tupamaros to the Red Brigade:

In Hollywood they’re making yet another film about Carlos The Jackal, and Bernhard Schlink’s writing books about the Baader-Meinhof gang again. From Spielberg’s Munich to Soderbergh’s Che, the last decade’s been happy to fete the terrorists who were at large in the 1970s. In contrast to the amorphous and utterly unquenchable threat currently hanging over our Western heads, everyone knew what figures like Guevara and The Black September group wanted: suitcases crammed full of cash and choppers to Cuba. They had a negotiable quality to them that’s largely missing from today’s suicide fanatics. Here are some lesser known terrorists from the 1970s that pop culture’s yet to turn into stocking-clad, cemtex-strapped, hostage-garotting rock stars.

FRONT DE LIBERATION DU QUEBEC

The FLQ’s Mario Bachand. Thin eyes.

By the 90s, the “liberation” of Francophone Quebec from overeating, culturally-destitute Anglo-Saxons was something only really discussed whimsically in newspaper comment pages. But in the 60s and early 70s, people were prepared to die for their right to not be Canadian. The FLQ intended to establish a French-speaking Marxist republic on the North American mainland by bombing shoe factories and kidnapping important political figures. Quebec deputy-governor Pierre Laporte was found strangled after a tip-off was phoned into a local radio station. British trade commissioner Richard Cross, also captive, was used as a bargaining chip when Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau responded to the FLQ’s brattishness by declaring a state of martial law and arresting 500 people. The kidnappers issued the usual demands – $500,000 in gold, helicopters to Cuba, etc – but, less usually, they won, and Trudeau’s government sent five of them off to sunny Cuba in exchange for Cross’s life.

ARE THEY COOL? No, they were French Canadian.

WOULD THEY GUT THEIR OWN GRANDMOTHER? Probably.

DID THEY BELIEVE IN ANYTHING WORTH BELIEVING IN? Yes. Putting a barrier between Francophones and everyone else…

[Read about the others at VICE]

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  • Anonymous

    I’m biting my knuckles bloody at that French Canadian comment. Just because the FLQ where a bunch of self-centered dicks, doesn’t give them a right to take a shot at our culture. This man has clearly never been to the maritime provinces and visited the Acadians, nicest bunch of people I’ve ever met. Not to say there are no dicks present in Acadian culture, but compared to Quebec and the rest of Canada, they’re incredibly nice.

  • dextronaut

    I’m biting my knuckles bloody at that French Canadian comment. Just because the FLQ where a bunch of self-centered dicks, doesn’t give them a right to take a shot at our culture. This man has clearly never been to the maritime provinces and visited the Acadians, nicest bunch of people I’ve ever met. Not to say there are no dicks present in Acadian culture, but compared to Quebec and the rest of Canada, they’re incredibly nice.

  • Cerebralcaustic

    Constant shots at American culture on Disinfo are okay.

    A single shot at Canadian culture is wrong.

    Double standard is double.

  • Cerebralcaustic

    The rise and fall of Left terrorism
    By the late 1950s and early 1960s, five crucial elements coalesced
    and turned elements of the far Left into a movement committed to
    revolutionary violence.
    * Epistemologically, the prevailing academic and intellectual
    climate was either anti-reason, ineffectual in defending reason, or
    saw reason as irrelevant to practical matters. Nietzsche, Heidegger,
    and Kuhn spoke the new language of thought. Reason is out, the
    intellectuals were teaching, and what matters above all is will,
    authentic passion, and non-rational commitment.
    * Practically, after a century of waiting for the revolution,
    impatience had peaked. Among the younger generation especially,
    there was a dominant bent toward activism and away from academic
    theorizing. Theoreticians still had an audience, but theory
    had not amounted to much—what was needed was decisive action
    now.
    * Morally, there was the extreme disappointment at the failure of
    the classical socialist ideal. The great ideal of Marxism had failed to
    materialize. The purity of Marxist theory had been subjected to
    necessary but defiling revisions. The noble experiment in the Soviet
    Union had been revealed to be a horrible fraud and a crime. As a
    response to these crushing and humiliating blows, rage at the failure
    and betrayal of a utopian dream was widespread.
    * Psychologically, in addition to the rage of disappointment
    there was the supreme insult of seeing the hated enemy flourishing.
    Capitalism was enjoying itself, prospering, and even smirking at
    socialism’s discomforts and disorientation. In the face of such
    insults, there was the desire to do nothing more than to smash the
    enemy, to see it hurt, bleeding, destroyed.
    * Politically, there was the justification of irrational violence in
    the theories of the Frankfurt School as applied by Marcuse. The righteous revolutionary knows that the masses are oppressed but
    held captive by the veil of capitalist false consciousness. The
    revolutionary knows that it will take individuals with special
    insight, special individuals immune to the corruptions of capitalism,
    special individuals able to gaze right through its veil of
    repressive tolerance, absolutely rejecting compromise and willing
    to do anything to rip away the veil and expose the seething horrors
    below.

    The rise of Left terrorism in the 1960s was one consequence.

    Chart 5.5: Left Terrorist Groups’ Founding Dates:

    Weathermen (USA) 1960
    United Red Army (Japan) 1960s
    Black Panthers (USA) 1960s
    SWAPO (South West Africa) 1960s
    ALN (Brazil) 1960s
    Tupamaros (Uruguay) 1962 (active after 1968)
    FLQ (Canada) 1963
    PLO (Middle East) 1964
    Montoneros (Argentina) 1960s
    ERP (Argentina) 1960s
    Red Brigade (Italy) 1968
    PFLP (Middle East) 1968
    DPFLP (Middle East) 1968
    Red Army Faction, or Baader-Meinhof (Germany) 1970
    Black September (Middle East) 1970
    SLA (USA) Early 1970s

    The founding dates of some of these terrorists groups are
    obscure. All however, were explicitly Marxist socialist and none
    had existed prior to 1960. Some of the groups also had strong
    nationalistic overtones. Not included in the chart, however, are
    terrorist groups that had begun earlier for primarily nationalist or
    religious reasons but in the 1960s came to incorporate Marxism into
    their theories and manifestos.
    In addition to the five factors listed above, several particular
    events served as triggers in causing the upsurge in violence.
    Among the far Left, the death of Che Guevera in 1967 and the
    failure of the 1968 student demonstrations in most Western
    nations—and especially of the student revolts in France—contributed
    to the anger and disappointment. Several of the terrorist
    manifestos published after 1968 make explicit mention of those
    events, as well as reflecting the broader themes of irrational will,
    exploitation, commodification, rage, and the need simply to do
    something. For example, Pierre Victor—then the leader of the French
    Maoists with whom Michel Foucault was associated—hearkened
    back to the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror and declared the
    following in the pages of La Cause du peuple, the Maoist newspaper:
    To overthrow the authority of the bourgeois class, the
    humiliated population has reason to institute a brief period
    of terror and to assault bodily a handful of contemptible,
    hateful individuals. It is difficult to attack the authority of
    a class without a few heads belonging to members of this
    class being paraded on the end of a stake.39
    Other terrorists cast their nets more broadly. Before her death,
    Ulrike Meinhof made very clear the broad purpose of the Red
    Army Faction she and Andreas Baader founded in Germany: ‚The
    anti-imperialist struggle, if it is to be more than mere chatter, means
    annihilation, destruction, the shattering of the imperialist power
    system—political, economic and military.‛ She also made clear the broader historical context within which she thought terrorism was
    necessary, the more specific events that had served as triggers, and
    gave an assessment of the likelihood of their success:
    Nauseated by the proliferation of the conditions they
    found in the system, the total commercialization and
    absolute mendacity in all areas of the superstructure,
    deeply disappointed by the actions of the student
    movement and the Extraparliamentary Opposition, they
    thought it essential to spread the idea of armed struggle.
    Not because they were so blind as to believe they could
    keep that initiative going until the revolution triumphed in
    Germany, not because they imagined they could not be
    shot or arrested. Not because they so misjudged the
    situation as to think the masses would simply rise at such
    a signal. It was a matter of salvaging, historically, the
    whole state of understanding attained by the movement of
    1967/1968; it was a case of not letting the struggle fall apart
    again.40
    The rise of Left terrorism in nations other than those controlled
    by explicitly Marxist governments was a striking feature of the
    1960s and early 1970s. Combined with the broader turn of the Left
    to non-rationalism, irrationalism, and physical activism, the terrorist
    movement made that era the most confrontational and bloody in
    the history of the Left socialist movements of those nations.

    Stephen Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (2004)

    http://www.stephenhicks.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/hicks-ep-full.pdf

  • Anonymous

    I never said shots at American culture was ok either. If the shot has no base argument behind it, then it’s nothing but an insult.

    I constantly point out the flaws of my fellow Canadians, but I never ridicule them with baseless assertions.

    I don’t say:

    They’re hated because they’re American.

    If I’m going to take a shot at America, I’ll give reasoning behind it.

  • Ironaddict06

    Good post.
    Here is my question to the Left terrosism. They want the shattering of the imperialist power
    system—political, economic and military. Ok so they would like to see a 1 party political system, an economy run by the gov’t, and a weak military? Has any communist or fascist gov’t ever benefited the working class? I see the problems with the people in charge, and not of the system. If the FBI did it’s job, as it did in the 1950’s and prosecute the criminals with harsh fines and jail time-like Madoff.
    Here is just a few names that come to mind: Henry Paulson, Barney Frank, Tim Geithner, and
    Bill Clinton for selling nuclear technology to China.

  • Hadrian999

    the problem is socialism and capitalism are functionally the same.
    under both systems a small group you have a small group in total control of all resources and services,
    using that control for domination of the masses, weather it’s corporate masters or the party really makes no difference in the life of those outside the elite class. the only people who really ever benefit from a government or change in government are those fairly close to the top of the food chain.

  • Andrew

    Both are okay.

  • Hadrian999

    didn’t you know, not kissing america’s ass is actually an attack on america, just like not being christian is persecution of christians

  • Anonymous

    Considering I talk to a lot of Americans, it’s usually if you’re not American, it’s an insult to America.

  • Namelesswon

    Hey how about that 1961 terrorist group “Umkhonto we Sizwe ” set up by your favourite nobel prizewinning terrorist armed response sect instigator Nelson Mandela. If it wasnt for terrorism, he wouldnt have been President and the much loved man he is today.

  • Namelesswon

    Hey how about that 1961 terrorist group “Umkhonto we Sizwe ” set up by your favourite nobel prizewinning terrorist armed response sect instigator Nelson Mandela. If it wasnt for terrorism, he wouldnt have been President and the much loved man he is today.

  • Pingback: Italian Anarchists Hark Back to Forgotten 1970s Terrorists | Disinformation()

  • dextronaut

    I never said shots at American culture was ok either. If the shot has no base argument behind it, then it’s nothing but an insult.

    I constantly point out the flaws of my fellow Canadians, but I never ridicule them with baseless assertions.

    I don’t say:

    They’re hated because they’re American.

    If I’m going to take a shot at America, I’ll give reasoning behind it.

  • Andrew

    Both are okay.

  • Ironaddict06

    Good post.
    Here is my question to the Left terrosism. They want the shattering of the imperialist power
    system—political, economic and military. Ok so they would like to see a 1 party political system, an economy run by the gov’t, and a weak military? Has any communist or fascist gov’t ever benefited the working class? I see the problems with the people in charge, and not of the system. If the FBI did it’s job, as it did in the 1950’s and prosecute the criminals with harsh fines and jail time-like Madoff.
    Here is just a few names that come to mind: Henry Paulson, Barney Frank, Tim Geithner, and
    Bill Clinton for selling nuclear technology to China.

  • Hadrian999

    the problem is socialism and capitalism are functionally the same.under both systems you have a small group in total control of all resources and services,using that control for domination of the masses, weather it’s corporate masters or the party really makes no difference in the life of those outside the elite class. the only people who really ever benefit from a government or change in government are those fairly close to the top of the food chain.

  • Hadrian999

    didn’t you know, not kissing america’s ass is actually an attack on america, just like not being christian is persecution of christians

  • dextronaut

    Considering I talk to a lot of Americans, it’s usually if you’re not American, it’s an insult to America.

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