The Last of the S.D.S: Flint War Council

Following the events of ,”Days of Rage”, S.D.S facilitated another national conference in Flint Michigan on December 26th 1969, until December 31st. This meeting was dubbed the “Flint War Council”, based on the emphasis the meeting had on John Jacobs call for violent revolution and direct action social movement organization. This event called for the necessity of armed struggle and guerrilla warfare being a necessity in order to combat American imperialism. During this time violence justification seminars where conducted, as well as group discussion on ideology and goals. Rudimentary military training was conducted and copies of Carlos Marighella’s “Manueal of The Urban Guerilla” were circulated.

The first major change produced by the “War Council” was the dissolution of S.D.S. In order to distance the group from the non-violent protest history of their past, as well as the focus on labor rights. Its was officially decided that the S.D.S would be taken over by the Weatherman. This radical change however, caused a major backlash, soon after this meeting many local chapters of S.D.S disbanded and later the national headquarters was closed down. This limited the Weather Underground’s ability to communicate with the mainstream culture.

The Second and more prominent decision of the “War Council” was the Weathermen’s decision to take up arms, go underground, and begin the militant guerrilla war against American imperialism. In an effort to promote direct action. Fallowing the writing of Carlos Marighella, and creating a formation based on Che Guevera’s revolutionary “Foco”, method The Weather Underground organized the creation of hidden cells throughout the nation (See Guerrilla Militancy: A Viable Option?). Each would be under it’s own command and would conduct their own attacks. They would also all be in communication with each-other through the unofficial primary cell in New York City. They then decided that the first planned attack of the Underground would be in New York against Judge John Murtagh, who at the time was overseeing the trial of “Panther 21”.

The “War Council”, ended with John Jacobs speaking against the complacency of mainstream America, and the pacifism seen in you prto-tests to this day. He then continued to speak about how the youth of today, where the high energy members of tomorrows world, and through armed struggle and conflict, would create a new world driven by sex and drugs, that they where against all things considered good and decent by the American mainstream. He finalizes by saying “We will burn and loot and destroy. We are the incubation of your mother’s nightmare.” The Weather Underground was then born.


The war in Vietnam and the civil rights movement motivated many Americans, black and white, to get involved in protests, riots, and in overthrowing the government. The Weather Underground was composed of predominately white middle class students who felt that not acting was in itself violence. By taking the sides of the Vietnamese, blacks, and the oppressed, they felt they were leaving the side of the oppressor (which they were born into). Peaceful means were being exhausted, just as John F. Kennedy said “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

The WUO formed out of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) which splintered around the same time. While trying to get SDS to join the militant cause, the Society fell from it’s grips and may be one reason why the WUO went underground, unable to motivate the masses in riots and rallies. The “Days of Rage” in Chicago were the true turning point for WUO to go underground though, when only a few hundred showed up to what they expected to be a huge rally to destroy the corporate downtown and give America a little taste of the war that was happening in Vietnam.

After going underground they successfully bombed the pentagon, state department and capital building along with others. This change in tactics made each attack deliberate and meaningful; when George Jackson was killed by prison guards, the WUO bombed the Department of Corrections in San Francisco and the Office of California Prisons in Sacramento; the Kent State shootings lead the WUO to bomb the National Guard Association building in DC; when the US bombed Laos, the WUO bombed the US Capitol building; when the US raided Hanoi, the WUO attacked the pentagon.

While they used bombs as a counter to US imperialism, they went to great extents trying not to harm any person in the making. After their unsuccessful attempt at bombing an “officer’s dance” at Fort Dix, New Jersey which would have killed many police officers and their families, and instead killing three of their own in the what was to become known as The Greenwich Townhouse Explosion when the bomb went off unsuccessfully, the WUO’s tactics again changed. Now they were issuing warnings about the bombs in order to prevent injuries.

[image courtesy of SDS website] By this time the WUO were on the FBI’s most wanted list, with a full-scale manhunt for them issued in 1973, it was eventually halted because CIA admitted to illegally obtaining evidence, many charges, including those from the Days of Rage were therefore dropped. Today, three of the WUO are college professors, one is in jail, three are dead, all living their lives, but why are they called “terrorists”? What does the conservative media aim to do by framing them as such? Is it possible for a violent social movement to successfully overthrow US government and imperialism today (inciting national revolution and evading the FBI)?

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.