The Red Army Faction’s “revolution-under-the-skin: Fitting the worldwide struggle into a West German prison cell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In late 1974, Ron Augustin, a Dutch member of the Red Army Faction (RAF), wrote of the recent prison death of Holger Meins and the expulsion of inmate Manfred Grashof from the group as expanding the “das terrain der revolution-unter-der-haut” (Augustin info from 17.11.(74)) a little. For Augustin, this terrain was being won in a lonely Hanover prison cell years after a spate of arrests had seemingly brought the RAF revolutionary struggle to an abrupt end. The capture of the leadership group and the majority of the first generation of the RAF in mid 1972 heralded a sudden abandonment of revolutionary methods of intervention and the once vaunted urban guerrilla concept. With its leaders in prison, the strategic focus of both those on the inside and those remaining in the underground turned from spearheading the revolution to a string of escape plans. Moreover, the group’s rhetoric abandoned trade unions and the working class as progressive elements, leaving the coming revolution with neither a strategy nor a subject. Such charges that the group isolated the vanguard and discarded the worldwide struggle in favour of their own liberation may be easily reconciled with the self-interest of the RAF leadership, but they ignore the private revolution being lived in prison cells like Augustin’s across the Federal Republic. This paper examines how, instead of being abandoned, the RAF’s revolution was brought “inside” and reformed to fit within the prison system. It reveals the discourse of revolution embedded in the hunger strikes, prison ideas of colonialism, the fear of poisoning and psychological warfare, and the ritual of self-criticism. This narrative was unique to the prison experience and it allowed the revolutionary frontline to retreat from the streets of West German metropoles to the bodies and heads of rank-and-file RAF prisoners.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLIMBUS
Subtitle of host publicationTerror und Form / Terror and Form
EditorsFranz-Josef Deiters Deiters
Number of pages27
ISBN (Print)9783793096672
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'The Red Army Faction’s “revolution-under-the-skin: Fitting the worldwide struggle into a West German prison cell'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this