Before the Weather, Students For a Democratic Society

S.D.S or Students for A Democratic Society was created the Summer of 1960, and held its first meeting that same year at the University of Michigan Anne Arbor. Formed out of the organization, The Student League for Industrial Democracy, S.D.S, originally started as a labor based organization, associated with proper worker treatment, and labor unity. This However changed dramatically when a document called the Port Huron Statement, written by Tom Hayden, was adopted as S.D.S’s political manifesto.  With this new ideology in place the S.D.S expanded to critiquing other major issues, including the arms race, racial discrimination, the war in Vietnam, and economic inequality. During this time S.D.S lead many political rallies, teach-ins, and sit-ins in order to raise public awareness, and to further their goals. They also banded in many instances with other social movement organizations of the time including the Progressive Labor Party, and S.N.C.C.

This continued until 1969, when the S.D.S, split with the Progressive Labor Party, this was due to an ever increasing rift between, S.D.S’s original labor emphasis of the past, and the new civil rights and anti-war sentiments that began to dominate the organization. During this turbulent time S.D.S Mike Klonsky published a pamphlet titled “Towards a Revolutionary Youth Movement” or the RYM.  The RYM instilled the philosophy that young workers possessed the potential to be a revolutionary force to overthrow capitalism, and was quickly used as the official S.D.S doctrine. However, this new philosophy caused a new rift to emerge within the S.D.S

At the S.D.S convention of June 1969, two major documents circulated throughout the crowd, in order to convince membership to not be taken over by progressive labor. The first document was a revised edition of Klonsky’s RYM, which stuck behind original ideals of non-violent actions in order to raise awareness, uphold young worker ideals. The second document was titled “You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows“. Adapted from Bob Dylan lyrics in his song Subterranean Homesick Blues, this piece of literature, described that the use of non-violent resistance had done little to nothing to stop the Vietnam war, and secondly called for the creation of a clandestine revolutionary party. Signed by major S.D.S member Karen Ashley, Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, John Jacobs, Jeff Jones, Gerry Long, Howie Machtinger, Jim Mellen, Terry Robbins, Mark Rudd, and Steve Tappis.

This document and these leaders during the convention would facilitate the Weatherman faction, the predecessor to the Weather Underground. With the creation of this faction John Jacobs presented the slogan “bring the war home”, as well as a resolution he had created at a convention the previous year titled “The Elections Don’t Mean Shit—Vote Where the Power Is—Our Power Is In The Street, which further emphasized the need for direct action. Finally planning took place for the creation of  a later event, “Days of Rage”.

Soon After the convention in July of 1969 30 members of the newly former Weathermen chapter of S.D.S, traveled to Cuba in order to meet revolutionary leaders. This was in order to discuss tactics, ideology, and American imperialism. It is also speculated that it was during this time the Weather Underground gained knowledge in homemade explosives, which they use quite frequently later on.