Martin Kettle writing in today’s Guardian makes some interesting observations on the parallels between contemporary Islamist terrorism and an earlier incarnation of the same impulse:
Over the past week it has been claimed with increasing regularity that recourse to terror tactics without explicit or coherent political aims is something new in western society. Western nations are unprepared, it is claimed, to cope with destructive terrorism as opposed to the supposedly focused tactical purpose of, say, IRA bombings. But this is simply not true. Though much about Islamist terror is new and particular, much is historically familiar. Islamists are not the first radicals to have been in love with violence.
Kettle’s fellow Guardian columnist Dilpazier Aslam wrote recently that:
“The establishment of Khilafah is our only solution, to fight fire with fire, the state of Israel versus the Khilafah State”
That same phrase reappears in a description of the genesis of the Baader-Meinhof gang which emerged out of the student protests in 1960’s Germany. The gang ultimately went on a politically inspired but ultimately counterproductive killing spree:
Some protesters drew the lesson that they must fight fire with fire. “We must arm ourselves,” the soon-to-be terrorist Gudrun Ensslin announced after police had killed a demonstrator in riots against the Shah of Iran in West Berlin in 1967.
The Baader-Meinhof group, of which Ensslin became a key member, laid internal siege to West German life for nearly a decade. Led by a professor’s son and a pastor’s daughter, they and their imitators killed 28 people, wounded 93, took 162 people hostage and robbed 35 banks of an estimated 5.4m marks.
Then as now, class is an issue:
Two of the most striking aspects of the group were the educated, middle-class, and in some cases extremely wealthy, background of many of its activists and the indulgent attitude of so many young West Germans to its activities. “There is no capitalist who does not have a terrorist in his own intimate circle of friends and relations,” reflected the interior minister when one of his friends had been murdered after allowing his god-daughter’s sister into the house.
As in 1970s Germany, most working-class people are impatient both with the violence and the disaffection.
Plus ca change. Read the whole thing.