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Leftist Terrorist Motivation

NCJ Number
S A Kalinowski
Date Published
110 pages
This study drew on existing documentation of leftist terrorists' ideological leanings and their motivations as perceived by analysts of this phenomenon. The study was limited to eight major leftist terrorist groups which operated between 1960-78.
The groups were Tupamaros, Irish Republican Army, Palestine Liberation Organization, Baader-Meinhof, Japanese Red Army, Weathermen, Black Panthers, and Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). The study found that the basic ideological influence in the eight groups studied was Communist; that once leftist terror became an operating method for individuals or groups, it seemed to become addictive; and that the young adults who became leftist terrorists were generally bright, enthusiastic, altruistic, and trusting. The motivation factors of aggression and violence were exhibited by all eight groups, although when survival was involved (as in the IRA and Palestinian groups), the influence was more intense. The sociological theory that most leftist groups were educated and from middle and upper-class backgrounds was seen to be true for group leaders but to a lesser extent in the cases of the IRA and SLA. No single motivational factor could be identified as the only influence for leftist terrorist behavior. The study recommends that Americans should learn about terrorism through materials prepared by criminal justice officials and social scientists and through public debates, special emphasis should be placed on terrorists' motivations. A bibliography of 76 citations is appended. (Author abstract modified)