It is well-accepted that terrorism was born out of leftist ideologies. Started in 19th century Russia, communist terrorism grew with the help of the Soviet Union. Extremist groups willing to justify their crimes with socialist ideals and revolutionary goals found a benefactor in the Soviet Union, but with its fall in 1991, most groups were stripped of their socialist motivation. Many disappeared, and there are only a few remaining ones scattered throughout the world. There is still the question: is leftist terrorism still a threat to our society?
Terrorism after the failure of the global socialist program
Inevitably, the Soviet Union collapsed, and all who had picked up their weapons in the name of socialism found themselves without the motivation and justification for their crimes. While at first, many young idealists rebelled against the middle class and bourgeois values, they could no longer justify their violence and crimes.
The fight against the status quo and for the wealth distribution and the struggle for social and political equality all but evaporated. The 120 million victims of communism and the fall of the Soviet Union struck a crushing blow against socialist ideals, and it had proven that the system failed. Whether it was implementation error or other causes, the end result was too shocking to ignore.
Do present-day leftists pose any threat?
The lack of material support and motivation caused many left-wing organizations to crumble. Most people who lost their ideals found no other cause to fight for. However, some people shifted from socialist terrorist to terrorism inspired by religion.
But Islamist extremists with their conservatory views and lack of desire for reform cannot be considered as being left-wing, so the question remains: are there still left-wing extremists in the world? And if so, do they pose any threat to our present day society?
There are numerous reports by authorities in the field that communist terrorism is no longer an issue. There is no question regarding the existence of left-wing groups in the world, but they are few, weakened and scattered.
Small impotent groups cannot pose a security risk to the community, and although this does not mean we have to forget about the unnecessary loss of life caused by communist terrorism throughout history, we can find it hard to believe that groups who are far better at making claims than at fulfilling them can pose any serious risk to our present-day society.
Communist terrorism has been a deeply rooted Soviet phenomenon. Started by Lenin and his Bolsheviks, it used terror and acts of violence as a tool to spread revolutionary ideals and political philosophies.
Throughout the Cold War, the Soviet Union sponsored various left-wing groups to commit acts of crime in order to undermine political opponents and to destabilize NATO. But with the fall of the Soviet Union, many ideologies fell, and groups were left without their benefactor. So what happened to left-wing terrorism, and where did it go?
Terrorism after the fall of the Soviet Union
The Soviet Union not only provided left-wing groups with support such as networking and equipment, but it also inspired people to carry on committing crimes in the name of socialist ideas. Throughout the 60s and 70s, people would use socialist revolution to motivate and justify their actions. But with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, leftist terrorist organizations lost their benefactor and their inspiration. The fall of leftist terrorism gave way to the forming of religious terrorism started by the Iranian revolution.
Although communist terrorism grew weaker and the acts of crime decreased in frequency, many revolutionaries did not just put down their weapons and started to embrace the new capitalist ideals. Just as the rise in religiosity gave birth to religious terrorism, so did left wing terrorism found support among extremist groups.
While the fall of the Soviet Union was a severe blow to all left-wing terrorists, they did not disappear entirely. The global socialist program failed, and many were found without legitimacy or support. But left-wing terrorism did not stop entirely, so what happened to it?
Transition from leftists to Islamists
With the fall of the socialist regime, groups were found stripped of their socialist justification, so they had to find a new one. Many left-wing supporters found refuge in Islamism, or in ethno-nationalism. Violent left-wing extremists still continue to plague many areas of the world, and although the threat is not as important as it once was, it still raises the question concerning continuity. Are they still there, or are they still a threat?
Terrorism inspired by religion can be considered more oriented towards right-wing and conservationism, and they have evolved differently in the past decades. Although communist terrorism represented the beginning, there are many extremists and who are willing to justify their crimes with revolutionary ideas and political philosophies.
Started in Russia in the 19th century, communist terrorism continued to spread throughout the world, supported by the Soviet Union. Left-wing factions received logistical support, equipment and networking opportunities to spread terror and to undermine political adversaries.
Among the most notable factions in Europe was the Red Army Faction. Its members used violence, robberies and other acts of terrorism against the middle-class and perceived oppressive values, motivated by their communist ideals.
Formation and members
The group started out as a movement against the visit of the Iranian Shah in Germany. They protested against his elitism, and many Iranian supporters as well as opposition gathered in the streets. The murder of one protester by a German police officer started a movement that materialized into a leftist group with the goal of responding to the so-called fascist actions by the state.
the Red Army Faction was initially formed as the Baaden-Meinhof group, named after its founders - Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof. Andreas spent his teens and early twenties in prison, and it was there where he met Meinhof, a journalist. She would help him with escape, where they started their activities until they were imprisoned again in 1972. Although its initial founders were in prison, there were many sympathizers who would carry the acts of crime further on, with the group reaching a peak of 60 members.
On the 2nd of April, 1968, Baader, along with three other members set up bombs in a department store in Frankfurt that resulted in significant property destruction. As stated by a member, the bombings were a form of protest against the Vietnam War. On May 11, 1971, bombs set off by Baader at an US barracks wounded 13 people and killed one US officer.
Further terrorist acts continued throughout the 70s, with the most notable being the bombing of police quarters in Munich and Augsburg and the 1977 series of killings that targeted public figures and were designed to put pressure on the German government, demanding the release of several group members.
With most important members imprisoned by 1978, the group continued to commit acts of terror based on guerilla tactics. The acts of crime decreased in frequency, with several killings continuing through the 90s. However, the fall of the Soviet Union and the disbanding of the German Stasi struck a serious blow to the group. Without state-sponsorship, they would later disband in 1998, ending their reign of communist terror.
Communist terrorism has its roots in 19th century Russia. Nihilists supporting Marxism helped spread the idea of undermining opponents by means of terror. Later on, the Soviet Union started to fund terrorist groups and factions as a way to divide European powers, forever transforming terrorism and leading to what we know today.
How it all started
At the beginning of the 19th century, Lenin and his Bolsheviks started a reign of terror, with mass murders and political upheaval. Lenin himself was a supporter of terrorism used as a tool to advance revolutionary goals and to undermine opponents. In 1905, Lenin provided support to the Combat Committee of St. Petersburg to commit acts of arson, robbery and other acts to spread terror. He would later use such acts of terrorism against the Tsarist state and the ruling classes.
Terrorism and the Soviet Union
The terrorism started by Lenin continued in the Soviet Union. It provided leftist groups with weapons, intelligence and networking opportunities. This was done in order to inconvenience political adversaries and opposing powers. The support of communist terrorism by the Soviet Union continued throughout the Cold War.
In the 60s and 70s, the Soviet Union was behind the numerous waves of political violence practices by groups such as Italy’s Red Brigades and Germany’s Red Army Faction. These acts of terror were committed throughout Europe to destabilize important powers and to break up NATO. State-sponsored terrorism has its roots deep into the Soviet Union, and it has continued to evolve until the present day.
Although communist terrorism and state-sponsored terrorism are a Soviet phenomenon, they did not stop with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. States are continuing to sponsor terrorism groups, and although the notion of terrorism has not changed much, the means and ideologies behind it have evolved into something that is much harder to understand.
Although the logistical support and funding provided by the Soviet Union, there were many who would pick up the flag and continue using terror to spread revolutionary ideas and to impose their ideologies. Because every terrorist needs an ideology in order to be motivated and to justify his crimes. Besides ideologies, the enablers need supporters, or “the useful idiots” as Lenin once said.
With ideologies still there, terrorism and communist terrorism continues to plague us today, and if we are to stop it, we must expose and ridicule the ideologies and political philosophies behind them.