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The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground Ron Jacobs Verso Books illustrated edition edition

31st August 2012 History Books 18 Comments

The Weather Underground was a small band of no more than a few hundred radicals, yet the fringe group was widely feared and revered as notorious bombers and violent revolutionaries. In The Way the Wind Blew Ron Jacobs presents a history of the group, from its origins on college campuses to the surrender of its last fugitive members in the 1980s. Along the way they set off bombs (…) and issued communiqués that were largely irrelevant if not incomprehensible to the American public. The dispassionate tone of this book allows for a credible narrative history of the group and its most prominent members, but many questions about the group’s motivations remain unanswered. –This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Jacobs (librarian, Univ. of Vermont-Burlington), a writer for the alternative monthly Works in Progress, presents a political history of the American New Left group Weatherman, a.k.a. Weather Underground Organization or Weather. Jacobs focuses on Weatherman’s policy statements, e.g., Prairie Fire (1973), and its politics of revolutionary youth, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism, and anti-racism. He traces Weatherman from its origins in Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1969, through its activist years from late 1969 to mid-1970s (e.g., the October 1969 Days of Rage in Chicago, street protests, and bombings of the U.S. Capitol and other targets), to its demise in the 1980s as its members either were arrested, surrendered, or left the organization. Despite the lack of historical and contextual explanations and a critical evaluation of WUO’s actions, Jacob’s engaging and sympathetic political narration is recommended for academic and larger public libraries.?Charles L. Lumpkins, Bloomsburg Univ. Lib., Pa.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Silas Bissell, former heir to the rug-cleaning fortune who was discovered living near Eugene, Oregon, in 1987, drew a line under one of the most spectacular and bizarre episodes in the history of the American New Left, for it marked the official end of the Weatherman. The product of splits within the anti-war movement during the late 1960s, the Weatherman Underground would become synonymous with violent, clandestine resistance to the racism and imperialism in the United States and, for some, a symptom of how the movement went wrong. This comprehensive history of the Weatherman covers the origins, development and ultimate demise of the organization: its emergence from the Students for a Democratic Society; its leadership role in the famous Days of Rage in Chicago during October 1969; its decision to go underground; the various actions it staged – and in some cases bungled – during the 1970s; its role as goad to other left organizations to sustain the struggle against racism and imperiliasm; and, finally, its disintegration, as various members were either captured or surrendered. Drawing on an array of documents, interviews with participants, and a knowledge of the history of the New Left, Jacobs gives an objective assessment of US 1960s radicalism.

The Weather Underground was a small band of no more than a few hundred radicals, yet the fringe group was widely feared and revered as notorious bombers and violent revolutionaries. In The Way the Wind Blew Ron Jacobs presents a history of the group, from its origins on college campuses to the surrender of its last fugitive members in the 1980s. Along the way they set off bombs and issued communiqués that were largely irrelevant if not incomprehensible to the American public. The dispassionate tone of this book allows for a credible narrative history of the group and its most prominent members, but many questions about the group’s motivations remain unanswered. –This text refers to the Paperback edition.

The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground (Haymarket)

Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen

With the war in Iraq provoking memories of Vietnam, Rudd gave up a 25-year silence on his role in the radical student movement of the 1960s when he lead the Weathermen. The group grew out of the Student for Democratic Society behind massive anti-war and social-justice protests at Columbia University. Rudd recalls his personal journey from idealistic freshman to student radical and the escalating violence that led to the riot during the 1969 Democratic party convention in Chicago and the bombing of a townhouse in Greenwich Village. Rudd spent seven years, from 1970 until 1977, living underground as a federal fugitive before turning himself in. Rudd writes from the perspective of a middle-aged teacher living in New Mexico, still concerned about social justice and heartened by the new administration and growing involvement of young people in politics and civic engagement. He admits shame and guilt about some of the excesses and violence of the radical 1960s, but maintains an enduring pride in the passion and idealism of the time. An engrossing look back at a turbulent time by an iconic figure. –Vanessa Bush

The leader of the student uprising of 1968 and founding member of the notorious Weather Underground tells his storyfor the first time

In 1968, Mark Rudd led the legendary occupation of five buildings at Columbia University, a dramatic act of protest against the university’s support for the Vietnam War and its institutional racism. Rudd was the charismatic chairman of the Columbia chapter of SDS, Students for a Democratic Society, the largest radical student organization in the United States. After a violent police bust, the Columbia occupation turned into a student strike that closed down the entire campus, turning Rudd into a national symbol of student revolt. Rudd went on to become the cofounder of the Weatherman faction of SDS, which took control of the student organization and helped organize the notorious Days of Rage in Chicago in 1969.

But Mark Rudd wanted revolution.

Rudd and his friends sought to end war, racism, and injusticeby any means necessary, even violence. After a tragic turn that led to the death of three people, who were killed when the bombs they were making in a Greenwich Village town house exploded, they transformed themselves into the Weather Underground Organization. By the end of 1970, after a string of nonlethal bombings by the organization, Rudd, now one of the FBI’s Most Wanted, went into hiding for more than seven years before turning himself in to great media fanfare.

In this gripping narrative, Rudd speaks out about this tumultuous period, the role he played in its crucial events, and its aftermath, revealing the drama and tension, as well as the navet of young activists, fighting in the name of peace and social justice, who believed that their actions mattered.

“I’ve spoken and answered questions at scores of colleges, high schools, community centers, and theaters about why my friends and I opted for violent revolution, and how I’ve changed my thinking and how I haven’t, and most of all, about the parallels between then and now,” Rudd writes. Powerful and shocking, Underground sheds new light on this controversial time, which still haunts the nation.

Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weathermen

  • 18 responses to "The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground Ron Jacobs Verso Books illustrated edition edition"

  • Alex Garcia
    8:49 on August 31st, 2012
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    As one who was on the fringes of Weather, I was impressed with the level of detail here. As a member of SDS in 1970, I always admired Weather but never had the guts for the full commitment. The internal squabbles between the various factions which led to the eventual disbanding of the whole movement are spelled out rather graphically. While one can never be too sure of all the details, (after all, it WAS a clandestine group!), some things did seem to be more fleshed out. My involvment was tied to the New Haven trial of Bobby Seale and Erika Huggins, where I got my first real taste of tear gas…trust me, you wouldn’t like it! I would recommend this book on a number of levels, it is a very “readable” book and clears up a lot of questions even I had. Like the old saying goes, if you remember the ’60′s you weren’t really there!

  • egkneckodhe
    14:15 on August 31st, 2012
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    This is a very worthwhile read to reflect on the anti-war movement in the 60s and the absurdity of youth. I am about 5 years younger than Mark and remember the period well as the youth movement without a question had significant involvement in stopping the war.

    But this is also a very disturbing book concerning the decision making of young individuals. Mark is a student at Columbia and becomes involved in the anti-war movement as well as concerns with racism and is a leader in the takeover of the campus. Through this Mark becomes addicted to the attention as the figurehead while he also admits his fear and timidity as they become involved in violence, once just rolling over in an arrest where they previously had forecast large fighting and confrontation. It certainly appears the power and adulation went to his head and he freely admits this.

    Probably the most concerning to me is his complete belief in his communist manifesto and lack of compromise with anything American, at least until he wants to rejoin the above ground culture. He still seems to believe that his involvement and movement had a positive impact. But how do you ignore the dead and MURDERED people!

    I strongly recommend this book for you to form an opinion. Just don’t be surprised what your opinion may be.

  • RobertKCole
    15:09 on August 31st, 2012
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    This book is MUCH more than just a history about American radicals determined to change the world & the violence in Vietnam & corruption in the US government! This book is a profound self-reflection by the author who catalyzed the radical movement known as the Weathermen that erupted in the late 60′s & into the 70′s. This book is important historically to truly get under the skin of those “fighting for peace” in an era of immense violence outside our borders and within.

    Mark Rudd brings us intimately into his own thinking as he gracefully and diligently dissects his own psyche, motives from as many directions as he can in order to bring a greater understanding of what motivated this movement and all that it unleashed.

    Read this book with a tender awe of someone with deep regrets and the self-awareness to share what the human mind and heart is capable of doing and what enables one to make decisions of the radicle kind & so much more!! Sanctuary The Sacred Pyramid Voices of Eternity

  • kimberly
    16:31 on August 31st, 2012
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    This is the best insider Weatherman book I’ve read so far. I’ve read most of them as they came out, mainly to try to get some insight into what the heck happened. I was on the edge of this movement and essentially turned my back on anything political as it got more violent, feeling everyone involved was tainted. This is the first one that spoke to that taint. Mark Rudd’s voice has a ring of truth and, unlike some of the authors, presents a hopeful future and does not come across as self serving.

  • Delisa Roever
    19:08 on August 31st, 2012
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    Just like reading about J. Edgar Hoover and the horrific abuses of the FBI. This is the other side of the picture. What was it that was said at the time? Oh yeah. “You don’t need a rectal thermometer to know who the a******s are.” Rich kids acting out.

  • Nobilis Reed
    21:03 on August 31st, 2012
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    Hoping for over 30 years that this guy would come clean and let us in on the thoughts and motivations behind his radical actions at Columbia U., with SDS and then weathermen-weather underground. This was the FBI’s most wanted poster boy of the 1970′s. Going to mail a letter from 1970 to 1977 meant passing by the fugitive board and this sullen, angry, frowning mug could always be counted on to stare back at me. After reading the book -thank you so much for writig this Mark – my conclusion is that this person would never be happy, is not happy now and will never be happy in the future. A career malcontent. Feel so badly for his dear parents. They had to put up with infant for way too many years. Columbia U. did the right thing by expelling this ingrate. He joined SDS and the media used him to sell newspapers and magazines -you were lucky to be photogenic, Mark – you were the outraged rebel personified. You and the other protesters did nothing to stop the Vietnam War -you should be thanking Danny Ellsberg for being a true Patriot with his exposure of the Pentagon Papers in the early ’70,s. The doings of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations -the lies and deceit – made Congress vote no to any more War funding. The violence and chaos of the war protesters actually helped elect Nixon twice as the Law and Order candidate. How ironic. Mark Rudd is a self-admitted Marxist and doesn’t much care for the American Government. Mark, we are the liberators of millions of oppressed people around the globe over the past 100 years. Please get beyond this imperialism nonsense you keep writing about. There have been and still are real enemies out there. We, the USA, are the good guys. Please read about the real Che G -Castro – Mao – these men were thugs, murderers and cowards. So one afternoon at a restaurant, midway through a meal, a waiter approaches a table with Bill Ayers, his wife Bernadine and Mark Rudd. The waiter then asks, “Is ANYTHING alright?” What a bunch of lifetime sourpusses! I HIGHLY recommend this book because comrade Rudd shows the reader his true socialistic self.

  • Nanette Geiger
    0:17 on September 1st, 2012
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    This book is much more than a true-life adventure story for anyone who has ever wondered what it might be like to risk everything for one’s ideals and face the consequences, from someone the F.B.I. and associated police powers of the infamous Cointelpro could not catch. It is a must read for any American seriously seeking to understand where we are now, how we got here and what we might have to do to get the donkey out of the ditch.
    Mark Rudd’s personal recollections and brilliant analysis are informed by a deep sense of personal responsibility and an abiding faith in his fellow citizens to aspire to do the right thing. There is no way to avoid mentioning here that those who disdain the lessons of the past are those most likely to fail the challenges of the present. Rudd’s voice is one we ignore at our peril.
    Note to Amazon: You should be featuring this one prominently.

  • Estela Zagami
    0:41 on September 1st, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Probably with the best of intentions, a young intellectual and self-admitted hedonist got caught up in a web of Marxism. Maoism, and revolutionary rhetoric–all of which caused many bad things to happen. The writing is snappy and self-revelatory with some candid insights along the way. I don’t have a particulary strong interest in the high drama and historic flavor of the period, but if you do, you will most likely appreciate this work.

  • Numbers Guy
    2:32 on September 1st, 2012
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    This is a very honest effort by the leader of the 1968 Anti-War/Civil Rights Protests at Columbia Universty in NYC. Until reading this book I did not realize that Mark heped found “The Weaterman”. The writings read as very true and honest. This is no apologia. Mark admits that mistakes were made. But a leftist of course could never admit that the Government was ever right. To call Desert Storm a war of imperialist aggression is incredibly naive. But overall this is a very interesting read of a very turbulent period in America’s fairly recent past.

  • Rich Miles
    6:50 on September 1st, 2012
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    Reading Mark Rudd’s autobiography I was struck by how fast his movement moved from peaceful demonstrations and participatory democracy to a clique that stole votes at a convention to maintain control of Students for a Democratic Society, a clique that would soon expel dissidents, ostracize critics (including Rudd and his wife), and a clique that would plan bombings and plant bombs, rob banks, and kill. SDS, which had originated in the tiny socialist left in the early 1960s, swelled within the decade to become an organization capable of mobilizing tens of thousands of students outside the South. Then under the leadership of Rudd and his colleagues, SDS imploded with a struggle between fanatical Maoists and Rudd’s equally fanatical crew. After the convention, the masses evaporated and Rudd’s faction, a tiny residue, sank to become the Weather underground.

    How did the largest student activist organization in American history expand so quickly and ever more quickly crumble into a tiny fragment, an underground cult of terrorists? Rudd himself was the icon of the mass Columbia U. protests in the spring of 1968, but by the fall of 1969 “we were now a classic cult, true believers surrounded by a hostile world that we rejected and that rejected us in return.”(p. 184) I suggest that some of the seeds of its destruction were evident during the early days of Rudd’s leadership of Columbia University’s SDS. He writes that in February 1968 the organization became involved with Harlem activists who opposed Columbia’s plans for construction of an 11-story gymnasium in Morningside Heights Park, which separated the university from Harlem. “The building would have a separate entrance at the bottom for black Harlem residents, who had 15 percent of the space in the facility allocated to them. Under the slogan ‘Gym Crow Must Go’ opponents” had demonstrated against construction, and some had been arrested.(p. 50) The issue was deemed so important to SDS that during the major demonstrations at Columbia that spring the very first demand was that “construction of the gymnasium be stopped.”( p. 66) But, what happened at that first, large SDS demonstration at Columbia?

    Pondering Rudd’s account of the large protests that made him a star – those large SDS protests of spring 1968 at Columbia – one can see how undemocratic even that “halcyon” protest was. When SDS led the students to seize the university’s Hamilton Hall, the occupation steering committee called for support from other organizations and the community. Soon Blacks took over the third floor, while the SDS leaders conferred on the seventh. The whites discussed what should be done for hours into the night. When the SDS faction finally decided upon a plan of action, it came to naught because the Student Afro-American Society had decided something else – that the whites would have to leave the very building that they had originally occupied! Upon hearing of the decision by the Blacks, Rudd was “stunned and speechless.”(p. 68). “A few [SDSers] tried to argue with me [about obeying the evacuation demand], but I pointed out that the discussion was over, the split was a fiat accompli.”(p. 69) The whites obeyed the Black’s eviction notice and retreated from the building.

    And so a protest over construction of a gym that would racially segregate evolved into occupation of a university building that becomes racially segregated by floors, culminating in the expulsion of whites by Blacks! What is SDS’s vaunted “participatory democracy” that privileges a minority to veto and even expel the majority? SDS types like Rudd bemoan “white skin privilege,” but in truth, it was the Blacks who were privileged. Rudd’s book reminds us that even in these Columbia above-ground protests, an assistant dean was held captive, a professor’s notes for a book were burnt, and a policeman was permanently injured when a protester jumped on his back from above. Moreover, Rudd believed that the Blacks at Hamilton Hall had weapons.

    Rudd invokes the spirit of the civil rights movement as an inspiration for his action. However, the CRM was steeped in non-violence. The Congress of Racial Equality had been founded by pacifists. SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, proclaimed its philosophy in its title. (SNCC – pronounced “snick,” hearkened back to the Southern Negro Youth Congress, an earlier civil rights, popular-front organization of the 1940s that had been destroyed by Democrat President Harry Truman and his Department of Justice). Many of the successful civil rights protests of the early 1960s had been non-violent and integrated.

    However, there were those who opposed the civil rights movement, who opposed non-violence, and who opposed integration. The leading spokesman of this view among Blacks was Malcolm X, who had a wide influence. If one looks at Mohammad Speaks, the newspaper of the Nation of Islam in the early 1960s, one can see a photo of Malcolm addressing students at Howard University, and one student so enthralled he jumps for joy. I think that student was Stokely Carmichael. The point is that soon the civil rights organization changed, for those upholding non-violence, integration, and the notion of equality, were replaced by those promoting Black Nationalism, violence, and preferences. As early as 1963 whites were expelled from the CORE chapter in New Orleans, and this was followed by expulsions in Detroit, Brooklyn, and elsewhere. In 1966 Carmichael, on a civil rights march in Mississippi, raised the cry of “Black Power,” and the ideals of the old civil rights movement faded away. Soon national CORE and national SNCC became Black organizations. Indeed, SNCC dropped the non-violence from its title, becoming the Student National Coordinating Committee. By then the “civil rights” organizations had ceased to believe in civil rights. Though they spoke of “equality,” it was clear they wanted preferences and privileges, quotas and control; and they would use posturing, bullying, threats of violence, and more to achieve those ends.

    Rudd and his cohorts were so infected with white guilt, that they caved whenever Blacks demanded it. Yielding to bullying Blacks, Rudd’s SDS then sought to bully other whites into yielding to them. To achieve this, Rudd exhorted violence. And the logic of his exhortations led to underground terrorist cells which resulted in at least 24 bombing and several people killed – not to mention unknown numbers of failed attempts, like one in which Rudd himself participated.

    There is certainly a tragic side to Rudd’s life. He showed courage on many occasions. He showed initiative in persevering under difficult circumstances. He showed many positive human qualities. But there is major flaw – he is infected with racism – anti-white racism. He mentions Cleaver’s Soul on Ice, a book that practically encourages Black men to rape white women. Rudd, like the others in SDS, so feared being labeled (anti-Black) “racists,” that they allowed lunatics in the Weather underground to stifle all criticism inside the cult by alleging that their opponents were “racists.” But the history of the US since 1960 in some ways has been similar to Rudd’s early SDS, evacuation of Hamilton Hall, evacuation of neighborhoods, of cities, whole areas, to placate the demands, the bullying, the violence, the rioting of those who are legally privileged today in America. Affirmative action is simply institutionalized racism, and the victims are white men. But Rudd sees whites as the problem and complains that Oregon as too “white bread.” Now, Rudd who became a teacher, recognizes that his tactics of terrorism with the underground, were wrong. But sadly, the ideals that led him to accept a tyrannical cult as guide and god, those ideals he has retained. Those ideals belittle American and Western civilization under the rubric “imperialism,” his ideals reject equal opportunity and demand privileges for pet groups under the Orwellian terms “equal opportunity and affirmative action,” in short his ideals are the hate-whitey, hate-America, hate civilization, view so popular in the 1960s. One can only shudder when in the conclusion of his book he speaks of his involvement revising the curriculum.

    Rudd understands that the terrorist tactics he followed in 1969 failed. Interestingly, some of his cohorts in the Weather underground were Bill Ayers and Jeff Jones, and Rudd refers to them throughout his book, which unfortunately lacks an index. Ayers and Jones – one was, at the very least, an associate of President Obama; the other an appointed official in the Obama Administration. They appear to have abandoned terroristic tactics, but have they abandoned the rigid, tyrannical thinking they accepted and fomented in the Weather underground?

    One can learn from Rudd’s autobiography, even if he seems not to have done so.
    ——–Hugh Murray——– 5 October 2009

  • Jetta Heuer
    19:33 on September 1st, 2012
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    I found it hard to put the book down. It is fast paced, intensely personal, funny, and a little depressing. The author doesn’t try to romanticize his life as a fugitive. He does give an honest account of his story; the story of the 1968 Columbia strike, the disintegration of Students for a Democratic Society, and the Weather Underground. If you have an interest in what happened to the Vietnam anti-war movement and the radicalization of the 60s, then I would give this a high recommendation. The book is well-written and doesn’t dwell in a maze of acronyms of the political movements of the 60s. It ends on a positive note with the 40th reunion of the Columbia strike where the issues of the Black students at Columbia came out to a public setting for the first time.

  • Herblore
    1:08 on September 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I would very strongly suggest reading Horowitz and Collier’s “Destructive Generation” PRIOR to reading THIS book. If, afterwards, you still have an interest in Weather Underground then this is the next logical reading.

    Horowitz and Collier provide background color to this authors detail of the movement. There are still some missing links (ie. the damage and reaction to the bombings of the US Capitol) that neither book includes.

    Although I believe that the author is objective about the specific subject of the book, (Weather Underground), he allows his anti-war background to prejudice other areas of discussion. For example, if all you knew about those days was what is presented in the book, you would never think that even a single police officer had been killed by a leftist radical in the entire two decades of the 1960s and 70s.

    However the author does state, very confidently, that George Jackson (a Black Panther facing trial for killing a prison guard) was “murdered”. In fact George Jackson was running out of a prison blockhouse with a pistol in his hand firing wildly at guards that he knew were in place to put down the insurrection (Jackson had just slit the throats of 2 guards and 3 other inmates after forcing them into a cell at gunpoint).

    Also, according to the author, the NLF (Viet Cong) were fighting for Vietnam’s “self-determination”, which is a curious way of referring to a political minority’s effort to overthrow democracy.

    Omitting contrary facts and providing deceptive descriptions of other events in the 60′s and 70′s wins this author no credibility contest (almost the rule, it seems, with radical self-critique), but as I stated, I do feel that he has sought to be objective on the subject of Weather Underground. For those interested in the group’s activities, this is a must read. The author deserves solid credit for documenting a side to the Left that many of his peers would rather pretend didn’t exist.

  • Angry User
    7:11 on September 2nd, 2012
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    Eloquent, thoughtful, honest, and unflinching. What might have been either a polemic or apologia is instead a thoroughly engaging narrative about an unforgettable moment in American history. Mark Rudd is authentic and self-effacing. What might have been a heavy lift in less capable hands is an exciting and thought-provoking tale of ideology and courage, naivete and grandiosity, hubris and humility, patriotism and crime. Above all it is a poignant story of what America was and what it became.

  • Bob Johnson
    10:18 on September 2nd, 2012
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    ‘The Weather Underground’ included Rudd both as a contemporary talking head and in archival footage as a twenty year old revolutionary. Although not on cable ‘at any given moment,’ it was nominated for an Academy Award and broadcast nationally on PBS some years ago, and is a useful counterpoint to this book, since it in part inspired Rudd to write this book.

    I have mixed feelings about Weatherman and Rudd, who was a leader of SDS and the Weathemen. He really comes across as a kind of typical self-indulgent baby boomer–for being a ‘revolutionary’, the times made the man, rather than the other way around. Views of this documentary seem very different than his memoir.

    Points of difference with Rudd’s memoir:

    1. ‘Gender equality’ in the Weathermen, and the Left at the time was not straightforward. For example “The sole female member of the Strike Coordinating Committee during the occupation (of Colombia by SDS), Rusti Eisenberg….told “as a woman…I was an unwelcome presence in the SCC. At the time I was hurt and stunned by the machismo and disrespect of the young men in that group.” In November 1974 Weatherman Jane Alpert turned herself into the FBI. The year before, she had published a long two-part essay in Ms. magazine, hugely influential as the leading feminist publication of the time. In the first part, “To the Sisters in the Weather Underground”, she described the “male-dominated Left”, including the Weatherman, and attempted to persuade the Weatherwomen to abandon the Left and switch over to feminism, as if the two were totally incompatible.

    As a side note, for awhile, the Weatherman ‘abolished monogamy’ and everybody had sexual access to everybody else on an ‘equal’ basis in the group, to further ‘group solidarity.’ I suppose that’s sort of ‘gender equality’ but I’m not sure many feminists would think of that as ‘ideal.’

    2. Rudd takes a very different view of ‘rigorous decisionmaking’. “The closing images of the movie show me as a befuddled, gray-haired, overweight, middle-aged guy observing that thirty years later I still don’t know what to do with my knowledge of who we are in the world…” Rudd also claims in his book that a) much of what the Weathermen did had the opposite effect of what was intended b) we disorganized SDS while we claimed to make it stronger c) we isolated ourselves from friends and allies as we helped split the larger antiwar movement around the issue of violence d) we played into the hands of the FBI e) three friends died in an accidental explosion (as part of a not well thought out bomb building process).

    Rudd would also describe the turgid and endless and meaningless philosophical debates among the members about small points of doctrine. ‘Rigorous’ I suppose–but not in a good way!

    3. There have been some expressions of regret. In the documentary, Rudd says he didn’t want to talk about his past because of his “guilt and shame.” Maybe that doesn’t count as an ‘expression of regret’ although it does to me. Kathy Boudin ‘has expressed her regret for the deaths of the three Brink’s victims and her apologies to their families.’ David Gilbert has lately ‘been publicly expressing his personal regret for the loss of lives.’ (from the memoir, not the documentary)

    4. Some Weathermen were caught by the police. The Weathermen caught by the police in the bank heist (Brink’s truck job) you mention were David Gilbert, Judy Clark, and Kathy Boudin. not many, granted.

    The use of violence was highly contested at some points. One founding member, JJ, was expelled from the group at one point for his views on ‘direct action.’

    Rudd, along with others over the years, have turned themselves in and generally, like Rudd, received probation on a few offenses.

    I gather that there are ecological and animal rights groups, like Earth First, which engage in ‘direct action’, e.g. by ‘liberating’ animals from experimental facilities or burning down condo developments in order to preserve natural areas. As long as people don’t get hurt or seriously inconvenienced their actions don’t rise to the level of a ‘national problem’–just fodder for conservative talk show hosts to fulminate about.

    These are conservative times, although, thankfully, not as suffocatingly conservative as they were before the ’60s. There are key factors different now for igniting movements of social change, some of which I agree with Rudd about. First, no draft, so war only affects a tiny portion of the population. Second, the greater seductions of entertainment and consumer culture drains away alot of energy. Third, the cost of higher education, and the competition to get a well paying job, is an effective shackle.

    How to motivate the ‘persuadable middle’ on any given policy seems critical these days. For vegetarianism, for example, it seems the best that can be done is small incremental change through social policy–e.g. taxing, or at least subsidizing meat less. Maybe re-approach vegetarianism through that simple strategy: “food equality” so it isn’t (apparently) about promoting vegetarianism as it is about promoting ‘equality.’

    On the whole I’m glad to hear his story. We need more voices from this era, to paraphrase Studs Terkel, The Bad War, when America lost its innocence (again).

  • Joe Wall St
    11:00 on September 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    The young activists of the Weather Underground were inspired by the National Liberation Front in Vietnam and the Black Panthers at home. And more than anything else they were fueled by a righteous rage against imperialist, racist `Amerika’. When the dust settled on 20th century history they wanted to be counted on the side of the revolution, not with the oppressors.

    The book begins at the end of the 60s with the protests at Columbia University and Weatherman’s emergence from the splintering New Left group, Students for a Democratic Society. It follows the group’s progress from public protest and pitched battles with police, to its decision to wage war on Amerika as an underground revolutionary movement. Jacobs covers the landmark events in the group’s history: the jail break of counter-culture guru Timothy Leary, the bombings of the Pentagon and the Capitol and the eventual death, apprehension and surrender of many of Weather’s key members.

    It’s a sad and disturbing story. It is hard to credit Weather with any lasting positive achievements. They unleased mayhem and destruction in the name of justice but retired from the struggle defeated. One of most harrowing episodes in the book is the Greewich Village townhouse explosion. The result of an accident, it killed three of Weather’s members (Diana Oughton, Ted Gold and Terry Robins). The group were building bombs out of dynamite and nails when one exploded, destroying the building and sending the two survivors, Cathy Wilkerson and Kathy Boudin, running half naked into the street. The book’s photographs are a reminder of how young the three activists must have been at the time they died.

    Jacobs states his sympathies up front. He writes that he “admired [Weather's] style and its ability to hit targets which in my view deserved to be hit.” But even as an inspired observer he admits that even he doesn’t understand the group’s politics. Jacobs is objective enough to cover some of the less flattering moments in Weather’s history. For example, although she’s depicted like movie star on the front cover, between the pages Weather spokeswoman Bernadine Dohrn is caught gloating over the Manson murders in a 1969 speech.

    The major shortcoming of the book is a lack of fresh first-hand material. Jacobs’ sources seem to have been mostly archival. I finshed the book wanting to know what Weather’s survivors thought now about the riots, the bombings and their years underground. I wanted a glimpse inside their heads, to understand a little of what they thought they were going to achieve.

    If you want to know what the Weather Underground was, what it did, and what happened to its members, this book gives a history from begining to end. No other book does that. But if you want to know what it all means, you’re going to have to figure that out for yourself.

  • mrirauhs
    12:20 on September 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Jacobs, certainly with a leftist perspective, attempts to explain the motives of the Weather Underground. Classify them as terrorists or glorify them as heroes, but either way, they made an undisputable mark on history if one is willing to take the time to write reviews characterizing them as both. The fact is that in 200 pages, one can not clearly express what the Weather Organization did, why, and when those actions occured and why that timing was deemed necessary. In spite of that, Jacobs gives a great framework, regardless of your perspectives on the movement, for a cursory survey. In that context, this is perhaps the best book on the movement. If you are seriously researching the movement, this is great background, but in 200 pages, you’ll never get the whole story.

  • jppeterson
    14:14 on September 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Sadly, Mr. Lippman is correct in many of his observations, primarily that this book seems to be just a collection of news articles, Weatherman/SDS literature and other documents relating to the Weatherman.

    Don’t get me wrong. Information in itself is not a bad thing. If you know nothing about the Weatherman, this book is a good introduction on what events actually happened. But in terms of motivation and historical base, this book shows very little.

    It’s absolutely facsinating that these white middle to upper-middle class young people were driven to such extream measures. What made them move in this direction and what ultimately made them give up their commitments is not touched on.

    I read this book shortly after I read “The Voices of Guns” by Vin McLellan and Paul Avery which was about the Symbionese Liberation Army. That book, which included a wealth of detail of the era, locations, personal histories and motivations, strangely gave me more insight to the Weatherman than this book did.

  • Up the Ante
    18:54 on September 2nd, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Mark Rudd’s UNDERGROUND is very a very well-written, incisive, self-critical autobiography. It presents a searing
    history of the Columbia Univerisity rebellion of 1968, as well as a convincing analysis of the ultra-leftism of
    the Weathermen/WUO, with considerable self-criticism. Yet the book is optomistic and hopeful, written with the
    conviction that to organize and struggle against US imperial foriegn policy was then, and remains now, critically important and just.

    The book begs a comparison with Bill Ayer’s FUGITIVE DAYS, by another Weatherman leader. Rudd’s book wins hands down
    as the far more honest journal. Where Ayer’s makes only vague statements about the ultra-left errors of his politics and
    their very negative impact on the Vietnam anti-war movement in the United States, Rudd wields a far sharper blade, recognizing
    and apologizing for his ultra-leftism, while conceding not an inch on the basic righteousness of anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-racist political work.

    This reader waits with anticipation for a follow-up book about Rudd’s activism after the 1970′s.

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