[Marxism] Ethan Young on the Weathermen
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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