Amid rising discontent in Europe, London playwright launches
By Ben Quinn
The shortlist for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars later this
month includes one of the hit European movies of 2009 - "The Baader
From Berlin to London, cinema-goers have been flocking to see the
dramatic account of the eponymous left-wing terrorist group, also
known as the Red Army Faction (RAF), which wreaked havoc across
Germany in the '70s and '80s.
As it happens, the film's German release came just weeks before one
of the last two jailed RAF militants was controversially freed from
jail, as chronicled in the Monitor.
But the movie is also resonating with the young people in Europe,
where an increasingly bitter recession appears to be setting the
stage for a rebirth of the violent left.
Europe's youths are again at the forefront of often turbulent
protests, including unrest in Athens and the government-toppling
riots in Reykjavik (to be fair, the Iceland unrest included young and
old). Reports from France last month credited its intelligence
services with warning of a violent new threat from a continent-wide
network of militants not unlike the RAF.
This week in London, the writer of a new play based on America's own
homegrown left-wing "terror" group, The Weather Underground, said the
recession was giving many in his generation pause for thought about
new directions for political activism.
"The period ahead of us is going to be an interesting one," says
Charlie Shand, the 20-something playwright behind the show in Hoxton,
a hub for young, alternative-minded artists.
"We are seeing more actions, students getting organized. The
interesting thing about the Weathermen was that their inspiration
came from the belief that peaceful protest was not achieving anything.
"The only way they decided they could affect change was by blowing things up."
Shand's play, "When Do We Start Fighting?" opened Thursday and aims
to capture the paranoia and turmoil that embroiled the group after it
organized Chicago's "Days of Rage" riots of 1969.
Its bloody ending echoes the events surrounding the death of three
"Weathermen" in 1970 when a bomb prematurely detonated at a townhouse
in Greenwich Village, NY.
While writing the play, Shand corresponded with Bill Ayers, a former
"Weatherman" whose name rose briefly to national prominence during
the presidential elections after Sarah Palin used his acquaintance
with Barack Obama to accuse the Democrat of "palling around with a
"The penultimate line in the play is 'no regrets' and what Bill
continues to say is that he actually regrets not doing enough," Shand says.
"We are in hard times now but it's exciting because people are less
alienated and are starting to wake up and criticize the system. The
idea behind this production is to be slightly provocative, to start a
Around Europe, the discussion is beginning to heat up online, where
an anonymous political tract called "The Coming Insurrection" is
gaining something of a cult status among radicals.
Its author is said to be one of nine people arrested in November in
the small French mountain village of Tarnac, where the French
government claims an anarchist terror group was plotting to launch a
violent campaign aimed at overthrowing the state.
Support committees for the "Tarnac 9 have sprung up in France, the
US, Britain, and elsewhere to protest the detainees' arrest.
But at a time when nostalgia for urban guerrillas is being played out
on the big screen and on the stage, could it really be a case of life