Revolt Against Empire: Protest and Armed Resistance in Japan and West Germany, 1967-1972

Revolt Against Empire: Protest and Armed Resistance in Japan and West Germany, 1967-1972

Alex Finn Macartney - Postdoctoral Associate in East Asian Studies and Lecturer in History

Wednesday, October 21, 2020 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
via Zoom See map

In this talk, I discuss the development of anti-imperialist politics in Japan and West Germany in reaction to the American war in Vietnam and the move from protest to armed resistance in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In particular, I highlight the transfer of ideas and people across borders and the forces inspiring political mobilization that flowed between Japanese and West German radical groups. Images of Japanese student street fighters and theories of direct action against an “imperialist” alliance with the US helped motivate West German radicals in their own fight against the state. I will also explore how the connections between groups were not merely imagined: radicals in both states sent one another publications and attended anti-Vietnam War meetings in an effort to create a united anti-imperial front within the metropol. Though a wide range of ideologically disposed New Left groups took on this task, I will focus on the emergence of urban guerrilla movements: the Japanese Sekigun-ha and the West German Rote Armee Fraktion (both “Red Army Faction”). Radicals subscribed to a similar theory about the operation of US global imperial strategy acting in Indochina that linked protest and resistance in Tokyo and West Berlin to the jungles of Vietnam. Examining how ideas and protest tactics were traded between West German and Japanese groups in the 1960s and 1970s sheds new light on the origins of domestic political radicalism and global revolutionary violence.

Alex Finn Macartney is a historian of transnationalism, Modern Japan, and Modern Germany. His dissertation, “War in the Postwar: Japan and West Germany Protest the Vietnam War and the Global Strategy of Imperialism,” explored the radical politics of 1960s and 1970s West Germany and Japan, with a focus on the legacies of the fascist past, the transnational imagination of the 1960s, and use of political violence. While at Yale he will develop this project into a book manuscript focused on the history of networks of activists who hoped to support the Vietnamese people in their war against the United States and to bring down structures of global imperialism.  

Dr. Macartney received a B.A. in History from Lawrence University in 2010 and a Ph.D. in History from Georgetown University in 2019.


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