Capitalism and Media

While there is much controversy going on about The Weather Underground, it is pertinent that we note that their main goal was the same reason we have White Privilege Awareness today. To get white kids to identify with anti-racism and anti-imperialism, which in their perspective came inevitably with armed struggle. The Weather Underground ultimately failed for a multitude of reasons, some having to do with our government, as Anthony has pointed out in his article “Guerilla Militancy: A Viable Option?”. Other mistakes have to do with their own tactical mishaps (i.e. Greenwich Village Townhouse Explosion), the struggle of gaining the masses (seen in “Days of Rage”), and the struggle of organizing whites against white supremacy. For these reasons The Weather Underground serves as an influential historical perspective of grass roots activism against white supremacy.

Terrorism is a social construct (talked about in “Violence and Terrorism”) and a complicated issue at that, which we note in our “Discussion on Terrorism”. Why is The Weather Underground framed as “terrorists” and not The Boston Tea Party?–Who have along with the government done much worse. Violence and white supremacy were all issues that The Weather Underground brought up and still don’t have any answers to. Despite not having all of the answers, they believed what was worse was not acting at all. Capitalism shapes our history, just as George Oswell put it in his book Nineteen Eighty-Four, “Who controls the past, controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

With this information, discussions are encouraged to find deeper meaning to and from The Weather Underground which will add to our understanding of human connection, communication and social movements.

Guerrilla Militancy: A Viable Option?

We have seen how the Weather Underground organization has taken the role of guerrilla militants in an effort to advocate for mass scale social change. This question still remains however: Was this even a viable option for movement tactics to begin with? Throughout history, we’ve seen many militant guerrilla forces succeed over a larger government oppressor, the most contemporary of which being in Russia, China, and Cuba, However not a single one of these movements have been successful within a modern democracy. Does a modern democracy, such as the United States have a power structure and dynamic social system in which a militant revolution that is deemed radical to be useful? Or has a movement just not maintained the longevity and conviction in order to succeed in the action. This Article will be examining the idea of modern democratic militancy, and will discuss issues of this tactical option to expose it’s possible effects in promoting social change.

Disclaimer: A few controversial topics such as the hypothetical idea of national terrorism in an effort to promote positive social change will be discussed within this article. In no way, shape, or form am I advocating for guerrilla militancy, or a radical takeover of the government. Any form of subjective language that may seem to arise for or against these ideals are completely coincidental. This article is simply to pose a question and facilitate academic discussion from a non bias, objective basis.

Lets start by viewing the 3 most prominent guerrilla revolutions within the last century. The first of these 3 was the Russian revolution of 1917, in which the people of Russia coming off the decline from a turbulent World War One period overthrew the czarist regime that was the autocratic leadership of the nation for the majority of its past. In march of 1917 turbulent revolution centered around what would now be known as St. Petersburg, lead by the Soviets (or workers councils), overthrew the czarist autocracy, and instated a provisional government lead by the former imperial parliament. Soon after, in November of 1917, the Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin, combined with the lower class worker power of the Soviets, began to form militias in a mass guerrilla tactic, that would later join together to form the Red Guard, later known as the Red Army. Using this force of working class soldiers the Bolsheviks and Soviets overthrew the provisional government, and later after an upheaval of civil unrest formed the U.S.S.R or Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The Second of these 3 major (initially) guerrilla uprisings occurred during the Chinese Revolution, also known as the Chinese Civil War between 1948 and 1952. The revolution itself occurred in 1949. What once started as a communist Guerrilla revolution in China, being the Chinese Soviet Republic lead, by Mao Zedong, flourished by the time of 1948 to include much of Northern China. Against the in power Chinese Nationalist party, who also had superior numbers, weapons, and privy to excess amounts of U.S. support, the Chinese Soviet Republic, who at this point had become the Chinese Communist Party, still managed to succeed. Due to superior morale, information and the use of Guerrilla tactics. It was in October 1949 that Mao Zedong was able to proclaim China officially as The People’s Republic of China.

The final of the 3 most contemporary militant take-overs, and also the one which holds the most historically traditional ideology of the guerrilla war, was the Cuban Revolution. During the years of 1953 to 1959, Fidel Castro and later Che Guevara, led the 26 July Movement against the Batista dictatorship regime, and its foreign support, most prominent of which was a wealthy United States. Starting with small rural guerrilla tactics and slowly gaining support by the population. Until January 1st 1969 The Batista regime was removed from power and a new revolutionary government lead by Castro took control.

So what do these three guerrilla movements have in common, besides the fact that they all lead to communism. Well each one was not against a democratic government, however it is interesting to note that except for Russia, The United States supported the government in power. This is an especially odd coincidence considering the country itself was founded by what could easily be considered a guerrilla militant revolution. Also all of these still occurred over 60 years ago and technology has changed dramatically sense that point. On a different note however all three movements fought against what was considered a form of oppressive imperialism, an ideology very similar to The Weather Underground. All three of these movements also started as small militant groups banding together into a driving force against a single government, also similar to the Weather Underground. So using these 3 revolutions as a lens we could possibly answer the question, is a militant guerrilla social movement a feasible way to facilitate change within a modern democracy? Or was the Weather Underground doomed from the start?

Lets begin with the idea of a modernized government impeding the ability of a Guerrilla movement to succeed. Although modern technology has brought with it new forms of firearms, surveillance, and counter-terrorism techniques, a modern nation still doesn’t pose much of a new counter guerrilla threat than one 50 years ago. The question still remains though as to why? When it comes to a more above ground mass revolutionary tactic, such as large scale protest and rioting, the specific technology really has not changed to much in the last 50 years, at least on a mass scale, of how to quell such actions.This relating primarily to harmful and oppressive types of technology, certain other developments such as the cell phone have entered the field, however considering information is far more of a necessity to the guerrilla, if anything they have helped revolutionary movements. Although taser’s and certain sonic weapons which have not entered the general police force are now being used, the use of riot police, tear gas, and rubber bullets still to this day, make up the general counter riot armament. This means that the tactics used 50 years ago by protestors and rioters alike, both in the United states and in foreign movements, both revolutionary, can still not hold weight. There’s many examples of riots growing and over-coming police forces throughout history, so to that degree technology has not truly impeded the “above ground” or mass actions of a militant guerrilla social movement.

What about quelling the “underground” or militant armed portion of a guerrilla social movement. Surely with new technological advances in firearms and lethal weaponry, a government force could easily overpower a guerrilla uprising. While being true to a degree, this still does not pose a large damper in the success of possible guerrilla militancy. With both the Cuban and Chinese revolution the forces of the government had far better weapons and far more soldiers. A guerrilla force firstly survives through it’s tactics. By avoiding large scale decisive conflicts and surviving by using strictly offensive surprise attacks that render the enemy confused and disoriented, a guerrilla force “evens the odds”, if you will. Secondly a guerrilla force gets past this with a normally higher morale based on ideology. Within Mao’s little red book he describes how even an untrained revolutionary willing to die for a cause he believes in will far surpass a paid enforcer of government law. The book “Social aspects of Guerilla and Anti-Guerilla Warfare” By: Eliezer Ben-Rafael & Moshe Lissak, also agrees with this ideology. Although not strictly academic there’s a great example of this ideal within guerrilla warfare presented in The Godfather part: 2. In which when discussing the Cuban revolution there’s an exchange of words between Michael Corleone and a guest of Hyman Roth saying, Michael: [about the unrest in Cuba] We saw a strange thing on our way here. Some rebels were being arrested and instead of being arrested, one of them pulled the pin on a grenade he had hidden in his jacket. He took himself and the captain of the command with him. Guest: Ah, the rebels are insane! Michael: Maybe. But the soldiers are paid to fight; the rebels aren’t. Hyman Roth: What does that tell you? Michael: They can win.

Also within the aspect of modern weaponry both Che Guevara and Carlos Marighella discuss in their writings how as the enemies weapons improve so does the movements. This is due to the fact that most of the weapons a Guerrilla movement acquires will be from enemy hands, both on the battle field and in raid scenarios. Meaning that as the technology level of the government grows so does the technology of the weapons used by opposing forces. The question still remains about weapons that damage large areas such as missiles, bombs, and heavy air to ground weaponry. although true that a single use of one of these devices could entirely devastate a single guerrilla cell, the guerrilla counteracts these in two very different ways. Firstly guerrilla cell locations, besides being extremely secretive in most cases, are also constantly moving, making planning an attack difficult. This in combination with multiple cells throughout the nation, means this would not be a very fruitful counter guerrilla tactic.

Another and arguably more powerful counter to the use of these weapons is the collateral damage potential they posses. Within any government especially, a democratic one, a single death from collateral damage could be far more disastrous for the institution, advantaging the Guerrilla movement. In his writings “The Handbook of the Urban Guerrilla”, Carlos Marighella states in reference to the use of bombs, and mass destructive weapons that, “With a single innocent death, the words of the movement will spread farther, than the blast ever could.”

Now although we’ve scene how a modern society, strictly from a technology sense, creates very little resistance towards possible guerrilla activism, the ideology of a democratic society puts far more of a damper and deterrent for such types of social movements. Due to such institutionalized rights such as right to protest and freedom of speech, as well as the fact that a democratic government is ran by and for the people, the ability of a group to advocate for a particular cause in a peaceful non-violent way, is far greater than in other nations where guerrilla militancy has succeeded. Even looking at the time of The Weather Underground where a mass collective of individuals where fighting against various forms of government control, very few even tried militant activism, and where arguably far more successful. A major difference being that the most basic premise of guerrilla activism being government overthrow rather than legal or social change.

To this degree the only feasible way a guerrilla movement could succeed within a democratic society, comes down to a few major key things. Firstly the government itself has to go against the ideology of the masses, similar to what was seen with the entrance into The Vietnam War. The Government then has to continue opposing mass ideology and furthering it’s own personal goals. Individuals within the masses must then consciously see this chain of events, and gain support, through non-violent means, while at the same time protesting and raising their concerns to the government as a whole. Over the course of time the government must continue to ignore, and or completely repute these concerns, and began to respond to mass demonstration with hostility, and these actions continue frequently overtime. A large portion of the masses then has to hold true to the ideology that complete government change is the best solution and begin to gain support and react accordingly. Only if this chain events continues over time, could a militant guerrilla social movement feasibly succeed within a democratic nation.

Preface: Terrorism, US Imperialism and Corporate Media

The Weather Underground is a topic that addresses issues across time and space. While it took place in the 70s, issues such as terrorism, US imperialism and corporate media have been dealt with by many walks of life. This website was not created in order to take sides or say what’s right or wrong, instead we aim to bring light to a history, that is in many cases unheard, and deals with pertinent issues of our time. In this way we hope to aid discussions, like that of which Anthony and I have recorded on the website, that further our understanding of such complicated issues.

The website we have created consists of multiple medias including video, audio, links to journals and news articles, and a blog style format in hopes of making an intriguing and well rounded site. It is a unique site that deals with many of The Weather Underground issues talked about in multiple books including Bill Ayers’ “Fugitive Days” and Mark Rudd’s “Underground”. By looking at historical actions and how they are framed today we hope to gain a firmer understanding of the issues that were present both then and today. On top of that we would like to make it accessible to the masses, a free forum where comments and further discussion are openly welcomed.

Public opposition to the war, domestic and international terrorism, government corruption and the fact that we are calling The Weather Underground terrorists when the US has done so much worse are all issues that are commonplace then and now. In one interview by Good Morning America posted on the website Ayers notes that we need to look at the Weather Underground in the context of its time because it was when the US was in the war with Vietnam and bombing Laos. In the interview this point wasn’t taken seriously but when you look at the definition of “terrorism” and see that it’s violence and intimidation you cannot say that the US did not and does not even today fall under that category. Using the word “terrorism” implies something new since 9/11, something more than violent; Terrorism implies striking fear into the people and killing mass amounts of people and The Weather Underground does not fit under those categories… the US well, that’s another argument.

Capitol, Pentagon and State Department Bombings

On March 1, 1971 the United States Capitol is bombed. WUO called ahead stating that this was in protest of Nixon’s resent bombing of Laos. Below is ABC’s reaction to the bombing on the morning news in 1971.

There were three California bombings, two of which WUO claimed credit for on August 28, 1971. The State Department of Corrections offices in Sacramento and San Francisco were both attacked with a corresponding letter from The WU. The third blast that happened in San Mateo was under investigation and no conclusion was come to in deciding if it was related or not.

On May 19, 1972 WUO took credit for the bombing of The Pentagon, which was according to New York Times‘ article “in retaliation for the U.S. bombing raid in Hanoi.” The date was chosen for it being Ho Chi Minh’s birthday. WUO called in before hand and gave them less than an hours notice to evacuate the building.


Prairie Fire

In 1974 Weather Underground members Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, Jeff Jones, and Celia Sojourn, released a new document from the Weather Underground. This document titled Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism” took in the new age of a post Vietnam America, began to confront American imperialism from a more Marxist/Leninist approach. The name for the writing was derived from the writings of Mao Zedong, the famed Chinese communist revolutionary. In Mao’s writings, in his “Little Red Book,” he states “a single spark can set a prairie fire,” this being an analogy for revolution.  Fallowing the ideology of a Marxist/Leninist and a Mao philosophy “Prairie Fire”, called for a violent overthrow of the United States government, and the installment of a Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The Dictatorship of the Proletariat refers to the Marxist system of government in which the proletariat, or working class, holds the absolute political power. This is a sign that at this point The Weather Underground is dismissing, it’s once primary ideals of a “youth revolution”, and returning to former somewhat S.D.S ideals dealing with a labor driven movement.

Over five thousand copies of “Prairie Fire”, circulated throughout the nation and lead to the creation of multiple Prairie Fire Organizing Committees within several U.S. cities. What essentially happened here is after the failure of “Days of Rage“, to inspire thousands of youth to  bring violent revolution to the streets the Weathermen of the time decided to renounce the far “left”, and move underground. This however caused the Weather Underground to lose sight of its commitment to mass struggle. Furthermore this made any attempt of an alliance with a more left mass struggle supporter far more difficult.

In 1974 when “Prairie Fire” was written the Weather Underground had realized the shortcoming of there underground tactics in the previously stated sense. So “Prairie Fire”, called for the creation of both mass and clandestine, or underground, organizations. The clandestine organizations would be in charge of the development and early creation of a people’s militia, as well as carrying out previous underground tactics, and raising consciousness. That mass organization would support and encourage armed action to the mass of the public, in a more legitimized fashion. Under this ideology The Weather Underground could facilitate a far larger mass fallowing, while still advocating for a violent militant revolution. A quote within “Prairie Fire”, states “to leave people unprepared to fight the state is to seriously mislead them about the inevitable nature of what lies ahead.” This quote is in reference to the necessity of militant revolution a later quote states, “never disassociate mass struggle from revolutionary violence to do so was to do the states work”.

“Prairie Fire”, had an unforeseen consequence however. After its release the Weather Underground split into two separate factions. The first was the “Prairie Fire Collective”, who favored a more mass, above ground, revolutionary tactic. Due to the fact that many of the Weather members faced limited to no charges due to illegal F.B.I surveillance, many members, including Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, came out of hiding to mass the “Prairie Fire Collective”. The other faction that came into being due to the writing was the “May 19th Communist Organization”. Who remained underground, and would later be known for being responsible for the Brinks robbery.

Film Resources

De Antonio, Emile and Mary Lampson. 1976. Underground. Sphinex Productions.

Title image taken from: Green, Sam, Bill Siegel, Lili Taylor, and Pamela Z. 2003. The Weather Underground a documentary. [United States?]: Free History Project.

Declaring War: The Death of Fred Hampton

Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois sect of the Black Panther Party, was one of the most prominent leaders in the organization during the 60’s. Even for his young age, and lack of formal education Hampton was one of the most eloquent, and intelligent members of the party. Arguably he was the primary face of the party during the 60’s, his speeches being heard and interpreted, by members of the party throughout the nation, and by almost any individual involved in left social movements during the era. On the night of December 3rd 1969, Fred Hampton was drugged with a powerful barbiturate by undercover F.B.I informant William O’neal. Later that night, or actually morning at 4 a.m. the Chicago police raided Hampton’s apartment killing him, and several others in what was arguably a cold blooded unprovoked raid.

Fallowing Hampton’s death on May 21st 1970, the Weather Underground issued a declaration of war, against the United States, in outrage. Although Hampton was quite critical of the Undergrounds tactics and beliefs, this did not detour the organization to seek justice for this fellow revolutionary. Within the “Declaration of War”, presented by The Weather Underground, initially included the preparations for bombing the non-commissioned officers ball at Fort Dix New Jersey. This document is also the first time when the Weather first adopted there new title formally, The Weather Underground.

Also within this document The Weather stated that due the outrage another structure of American imperialism would be bombed, however no formal attack occurred till June  9th when the New York City police station was bombed.

The document ended with a quote by Bernadine Dohrn Stating, “We felt that the murder of Fred required us to be more grave, more serious, more determined to raise the stakes and not just be the white people who wrung their hands when black people were being murdered.”

Online Resources

Good Morning America. (2008). Youtube. “William Ayers GMA Interview About Obama”<[/youtube>. Accessed 3/11/12.

Jacobs, Harold. (1970). “Weatherman”. Ramparts Press. ISBN: 671-20725-3 <> Accessed 2/22/12.

Kincaid, Cliff. (2009). “Justice for Victims of the Weather Underground”. Accuracy in Media: for fairness, balance and accuracy in news reporting. <> Accessed 3/11/12.

SDS. “Links to resources from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and related groups and activities”. Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) Archives and Resources. Next Left Notes. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. <> accessed 3/10/12.

Orwell, George. (1948) “Nineteen Eighty Four”. ch. 3 <> accessed 3/12/12.

Print Resources

AP. “State Department Rattled by Blast,” The Daily Times-News, January 29, 1975, p. 1

Berger, Dan. (2006). “Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and Politics of Solidarity”. AK Press, 2006. Oakland, CA. Book.

Horowitz, David. (1972). “Counterculture and Revolution”. New York, NY. Random House, Inc. Book.

Jones, Thai. (2004). “A Radical Line”. New York, NY. A Division of Simon and Schuster, Inc. Book.

Lemisch, Jesse. “Weather Underground Rises from the Ashes: They’re Back!”. New Politics; 11, no. 1 (Summer, 2006): 7-13, 7p. Columbia University. accessed from Ebsco Host.

New York Times, May 19, 1972, Berger 330

Rahamani, Sina. “Anti-imperialism and its Discontents: An Interview with Mark Rudd, founding member of the Weather Underground”. Radical History Review; no. 95 (Spring, 2006): 115-27, 13 p. accessed from Ebsco Host.

Raskin, J. (2006). “Looking Backward: Personal Reflections on Language, Gesture, and Mythology in the Weather Underground”. Socialism and Democracy; 20, no. 2 (Jul, 2006): 121-35, 15 p. accessed from Ebsco Host.

Rudd, Mark. (2009). “Underground: My life with SDS and The Weathermen”. HarperCollins. New York, NY. Book.

Varon, Jeremy. (2004). “Bringing the War Home: the Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies”. Los Angeles, California. University of California Press. Book.

Eliezer Ben-Rafael. (1979) “Social Aspects of Guerrilla and Anti-Guerrilla Warfare”. Harry S. Truman Research Institute. Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Book.

Carlos Marighella. “The manual of The Urban Guerrilla. Documentary publications North Carolina.

Greenwich Village Townhouse Explosion

On March 6, 1970 a group of The Weatherman was preparing a bomb intended for a police dance in Fort Dix , New Jersey when the wiring short secreted and killed three WU members. Theodore Gold (member of Columbia University student protests), Terry Robins (leader at Kent State rebellions) and Diana Oughton (Organizer of SDS 1969 national convention) were all killed, three youths that Mark Rudd notes as “beautiful” and “intelligent”. According to Mark Rudd, the Townhouse explosion was one of the biggest regrets of the Weathermen and is a source for much of the criticism they gain today. Rudd also on many occasions notes that this was an act of “doing the FBIs work for them” better than the FBI ever could have.

There were two survivors of the explosion, Boudin and Wilkerson were ID’d but unable to be charged with dynamite when successfully escaping to The Underground and put on the FBI’s most wanted list.

This explosion marks the turning point of the Weatherman living openly to the Weather Underground and false identities. Cathy Wilkerson wrote a book “Flying from the Sun” in which an excerpt is shown here: “The Explosion”. The explosion is an in depth description of what happened when the bomb went off, and Cathy’s first steps towards going Underground which started with a subway ticket. Wilkerson went Underground for 10 years but eventually surfaced and served her sentence. She now teaches how to teach math to new teachers. Despite her apologetic tone in her book for the Weatherman actions, she does not regret her own radicalism.

Fire bombing was a common occurrence at this time and dynamite was a new experiment, an interview with Cathy Wilkerson by NPR makes clear that there were differing views among the Weather Underground that included the organizational and tactical approach. While Wilkerson is noted as being more cautious in her organizing and pointed demonstrations however “…their more hot headed colleges in SDS had shown that their more impulsive destructive actions attracted big followings, they provoked the police and, in ensuing violence, made radicals out of moderates at least for a time.” This for Wilkerson was a way in which she had abandoned her own critical thinking and somewhat blindly followed the Weather Underground and their tactical actions.

This is also a period known for another change in tactics, they issued a communiqué 9 months after the explosion called “New Morning” that I talk about in the post “Communiqués and Publications“. This tactical change effected their targets. While the explosion that backfired was meant for Fort Dix, they realized that the fine line of perhaps “terrorism” was crossed. The Weather Underground were consciously retreating from this position in hopes that their reaction would be taken positively by the public.