How can we escape from 'terrorism'? The disappearance of the political violence in France and West Germany in 1970-1990
Title: How can we escape from 'terrorism'? The disappearance of the political violence in France and West Germany in 1970-1990
Citation: European review of history, 2007, 14, 3, 423-445
Research on political violence and terrorism is usually focused on the origins and the dynamics of violence. This article attempts to overcome the neglect of ways of leaving terrorism. One important hypothesis of this article is that terrorism should be understood as a strategy of communication. How did states and societies face the `communicative challenge' posed by terrorism? This question will be applied to the cases of left-wing terrorism in 1970s and 1980s West Germany and France. In the 1970s, in West Germany, a political dialogue with the left-wing group RAF (Rote Armee Fraktion) seemed to be impossible, whereas in France violent groups engaged with the wider public through public communication. By this way an escalation of violence could be avoided, but in the 1980s French terrorist groups such as Action Directe modelled themselves on the West German RAF: as a consequence, any communication with the state or society was interrupted. At the same time, in West Germany, the question of whether a dialogue with the RAF should be started was at the core of public discussion. Some stated that it would be the only possibility to make them give up, while others rejected any idea of communicating with terrorists. The West German and French cases show us that the communicational situation, especially the degree of integration of the concerned left-wing groups in public discourse, had an important impact on the outcome of violence.
Subject: Terrorism; Comparative analysis; Political violence; Discourse; France; Germany (West)
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