Terrorism takes many forms and is not easily defined. Today’s fundamentalist terrorist movement in the Middle East may have sprung from far-right ideologies, but that doesn’t mean that the far-left hasn’t spawned its fair share of terrorist movements.
Left-wing terrorism has an antithetical origin in pro-communist/Marxist, anarchist, and libertarian ideologies. Here are left-wing terrorist movements from around the world just as dangerous and deadly as their right-wing counterparts.
Action Directe was a libertarian-communist group that formed from the remains of two other groups in 1977. They remained operational until 1987 and carried out numerous assassinations of high-level targets across France before finally falling apart due to the arrest of its main actors in February 1987.
The group carried out more than 50 attacks throughout France against targets they considered to be a part of the military-industrial complex. AD members fought against the NATO alliance and what they saw as the Americanization of Europe. Like many people in such organizations, those detained claimed their actions were completely justified and considered themselves to be political prisoners with no regrets for their actions.
9Symbionese Liberation Army
The United Federated Forces of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) was an active terrorist group operating in the United States from 1973 to 1975. The group idealized itself as an inclusive organization of all left-wing movements in the US at the height of its operation. They adopted their movement from the rhetoric of Communists and the revolutionaries of South America.
Combining the ideals of feminism, anti-racism, and anti-capitalism among others, the group failed to practice what it preached and carried out numerous bank robberies and murders. The group is probably most well known for its kidnapping and subsequent brainwashing of Patty Hearst in 1974.
8Popular Forces 25 April
Between 1980 and 1987, Portugal was plagued by a terrorist organization calling themselves the Popular Forces 25 April. The group carried out numerous bombings and bank robberies during their operation and were responsible for the deaths of 18 people. In January 1985, the group stepped up its game and attacked six NATO ships, including the USS Richard E. Byrd, a guided missile destroyer.
Popular Forces 25 April takes its name from the 1974 military coup carried out on that day in Portugal, which saw the overthrow of the Portuguese government. By 1987, all members had either been captured or been granted amnesty, leading to the disbandment of the group.
7Black Liberation Army
The Civil Rights movement in the United States gained ground with leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who inspired the people to nonviolent protest, but that didn’t stop many from taking up arms as urban guerrillas in the late 1960s and 70s. The Black Liberation Army (BLA) was such a group of anti-capitalists who pushed for a socialist agenda where “Black people have total and absolute control over their own destiny as people.”
The group existed from 1970 until 1981 and carried out bombings, murders, prison breaks, and robberies. Their stated goal was to “take up arms for the liberation and self-determination of black people in the United States.”
6The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front
The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C) of Turkey formed out of a Marxist ideology in 1978 and has been linked to the killings of dozens of police officers and more than 80 civilians since its inception. The group increased its activity in the early 2000s after the United States invaded Iraq along with Turkey’s support.
They have emulated some of the tactics of Al-Qaeda and have conducted various suicide bombings and grenade attacks as recently as January 2015. The US Department of State offers a reward of $3 million for information leading to the capture of three primary leaders of the group.
5The Basque Armed Revolutionary Workers Organization
Basque Region (France & Spain)
The Basque Armed Revolutionary Workers Organization, or Iraultza, was formed in 1982 with the stated goal of establishing an independent, Marxist Basque nation and ending foreign investment in the Basque region. The group consisted of less than 20 members but committed more bombings against American business interests than any other European terrorist group in the 20th century.
Between 1982 and 1988, the group claimed responsibility for dozens of bombings in France and Spain. Their attacks primarily targeted buildings, so few people were injured or killed, but millions of dollars of damage were done against companies such as General Motors, Coca Cola, Ford, Xerox, Citibank, and a movie theater showing of the 1984 film Red Dawn on “behalf of the anti-NATO movement.”
The Communist Party of Peru, more commonly known as Shining Path, has been involved in a bloody insurgency in Peru since 1970. The group’s stated goal has been the overthrow of the bourgeois democracy of Peru and to establish a dictatorship of the proletariat hoping to achieve pure communism.
Shining Path has been in decline for several years but remains active in their guerrilla war against the government as recently as April this year when they attacked and killed eight soldiers and two civilians. Peru has estimated the number of active members down to as few as 300, but they remain an active threat and a primary drug-trafficker in the region. The conflict between the Shining Path and the Peruvian government resulted in the deaths of more than 69,000 people by 2003.
3Communist Party Of Nepal-Maoist
The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) was formed in 1995 as a radical faction claiming that the remaining communist groups in the country were renegades and revisionists due to their participation in the parliamentary process. The organization was soon recognized as a terrorist group by most nations after it began a People’s War on February 13, 1996.
Their Maoist philosophy stemmed from the idea that “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” Their actions led to a bloody civil war and the establishment of Nepal as a Republic in 2008, ending a two-year peace deal and the civil war that saw more than 13,000 deaths in the small nation.
2Japanese Red Army
The Japanese Red Army formed in 1970 as an international terrorist organization seeking to overthrow the Japanese Government and monarchy so that it might bring about a world revolution. The group was a leftist, Marxist-Leninist ideological organization with operations carried out all over the world. Their attacks involved a massacre at the Lod Airport in Israel in 1972, airline hijackings, and attempted bombings in New Jersey as well as many other places.
The JRA had close ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and established bases of operation in Manila and Singapore. Most of the group’s high-ranking members have been arrested, and the group has been inactive since 2001 though some members still remain at large
1Liberation Tigers Of Tamil Eelam
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam is was ranked by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation as “one of the most dangerous and deadly extremist outfits in the world.” The FBI further contends that the LTTE inspired other terrorist networks, including Al-Qaeda in Iraq. The LTTE is the only terrorist organization to have established its own military with an army, navy, and air force.
The LTTE was established in 1976 with the goal of creating a separate homeland for the Tamils, which they would call the Tamil Eelam in the Northern and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. Tens of thousands of people have been killed as a result of LTTEs actions over a period of several decades, and they have been reported to generate more than $200 million each year, which keeps them somewhat operational. The group was mostly defeated in 2009 by the Sri Lankan government, but several factions are still operational.
Jonathan is a graphic artist, illustrator, and tabletop game designer with a few independently-published games through his game company, TalkingBull Games. He is an Active Duty Soldier and enjoys researching and writing about history, science, theology, and many other subjects.