[Marxism] Ethan Young on the Weathermen

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Feb 16 07:57:08 MST 2017

Posted originally on FB.

February 14 at 10:00pm
I have been acting the dick lately, it seems. Most of my friends are my 
age, ie really old, but some of the younger ones are quite pissed at my 
stressing about the re-emergence of romanticization of violence among 

Permit me to tell my story. I was 17 in 1969, and after a few years 
helping family and friends in civil rights and peace work, I was 'ready 
for the revolution.' It was not really ready for me, because I was a 
white, middle class, dreamy nerd. (Yes, even then. And it was a stigma, 
too, even then.) But what neither I nor the revolution understood at the 
time was that the revolution wasn't ready, period. It took a few years 
for that to sink in.

I fell in love with the Weathermen (as they still called themselves in 
those early days of the women's movement). I went to the national action 
that October, a/k/a 'the 'days of rage.' It was the silliest, most 
embarrassing event of the late 60s, ex-students running from cops, 
busting windows, with visions of the Vietnamese liberation army in our 
heads. But I accepted their logic that it would inspire a youth revolt, 
plus I thought it might give me sex appeal.

The months leading up to that doofus donnybrook were actually pretty 
bloody for black activists, especially the Panthers. It was a year after 
the national explosions that followed the hit on Dr King. Cointelpro was 
in full swing. The biggest radical group, SDS, had been decimated by a 
split. In Chicago, the Panther Party branch chairman Fred Hampton was 
looking for support, but the movement seemed to be coming apart at the 

When the Weather ran around proclaiming that they would start their 
contribution to the revo with street action, Hampton firmly told them to 
shut up. The heat was on, don't make it worse. You don't know what 
violence means, you're just guessing. Organize poor working class people 
and show respect, you 'anarchistic, Custeristic, Narodnik muddleheads.' 
(He had opinions about anarchism, and he knew his US history and his 
Lenin.) The young suicide commandos ignored him (so did I).

Older leftys, survivors of Joe McCarthy and J. Edgar Hoover, told me 
flat out that the Weathermen were nuts, and destructive to the movement, 
but I thought, these oldtimers are living in the past and look how 
urgent things are, we need action.

By December, Fred was another Cointelpro statistic and the Weather 
decided to double down, and 'went underground' (translation: ran and 
hid) to sneak bombs into offices 'symbolic of imperialism.'

It took a few rude awakenings to come to my current view. The ones who 
rejected Weather and committed themselves to organizing for years and 
years were the smart ones, the serious ones, the brave ones. They 
rebuilt what the tiny handful of Custerists tried to tear down. They 
understood that bragging about beating and killing people - even deadly 
enemies - is destructive to building a real, effective political 
movement. That it's catnip for cops. That done online, it's so 
thoroughly crazy only a demagogue, a provocateur, or a complete sucker 
would do it.

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