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The Way The Wind Blew
A History Of The Weather Underground
Author: Ron Jacobs
Table of Contents
1. 1968: SDS Turns Left 3
2. Weather Dawns: The Break and the Statement 13
3. Into the Streets: Days of Rage 21
4. Down the Tunnel: Going Underground 35
5. Women, The Counterculture, And The Weather People 45
6. Changing Weather 61
7. A Second Wind? The Prairie Fire Statement 75
8. The End of the Tunnel: Weather and Its Successors 83
A Weather Chronology v
The Cast xiii
List of Acronyms xvii
I first became aware of Weatherman in the fall of 1970, after opening a copy of Quicksilver
Times and reading about the group's assistance in Timothy Leary's escape from a prison in
California. Although I personally preferred the antics of that other psychedelic prankster Ken
Kesey, the fact that a political organization had aided the unreservedly apolitical Leary to
escape fascinated me.
Then, at high school on a US military base in West Germany, where I was involved in
organizing against the Vietnam war, I began reading as much as I could about Weatherman
and its history. I found its politics difficult to understand but always admired its style and its
ability to hit targets which in my view deserved to be hit. When I returned to the US after
high school I floated in and out of organizations on the Left, where the presence of Weather
was always felt, as an example both of commitment and of the necessity to organize deep
popular support. My own political path has led me to shun military actions in favor of mass-
based organizing, but I believe Weather's insistence on an anti-racist and anti-imperialist
(and, belatedly, anti-sexist) analysis was fundamental to my political development.
The New Left was constantly changing, reacting to events in the world and in the movement
itself. Many of today's critics view the Students for a Democratic Society of late 1968 and
early 1969 (and afterwards) in relation to its original intentions as expressed in the Port
Huron Statement. When they write about its history after the June 1969 convention, they
often do so in terms of a betrayal of the ideals of the organization before it split. It is my
contention that what happened at that convention and afterwards was not so much the end
of the New Left as yet another sharp turn in the history of the Left itself. Another tendency
in many writers is to relate this part of its history with an emphasis on the personalities
involved and not the politics. While they are arguably intertwined, it is my hope that this
text is primarily a political history of Weatherman, and not merely an account of
Every attempt has been made to ensure that all citations are complete. However, given the
nature of the North American underground press, it has not always been possible to provide
complete information, especially in the case of specific page numbers. Also, in the early
chapters of the text, I refer to the New Left as such. However, as the lines between the New
Left and Old Left become blurred, I use the more general term, the Left.
1. 1968: SDS Turns Left
I send you, my friends, my best wishes for the New Year 1968.
As you all know, no Vietnamese has ever come to make trouble in the United
States. Yet, half a million troops have been sent to South Vietnam who,
together with over 700,000 puppet and satellite troops, are daily massacring
Vietnamese people and burning and demolishing Vietnamese towns and
In North Vietnam, thousands of US planes have dropped over 800,000
pounds of bombs, destroying schools, churches, hospitals, dikes and densely
The US government has caused hundreds of thousands of US youths to die or
be wounded in vain on Vietnam battlefields.
Each year, the US government spends tens of billions of dollars, the fruit of
American people's sweat and toils, to wage war on Vietnam.
In a word, the US aggressors have not only committed crimes against
Vietnam, they have also wasted US lives and riches, and stained the honor of
the United States.
Friends, in struggling hard to make the US government stop its aggression in
Vietnam, you are defending justice and, at the same time, you are giving us
To ensure our Fatherland's independence, freedom, and unity, with the desire
to live in peace and friendship with all people the world over, including the
American people, the entire Vietnamese people, united and of one mind, are
determined to fight against the US imperialist aggressors. We enjoy the
support of brothers and friends in the five continents. We shall win and so will
Thank you for your support for the Vietnamese people.
Ho Chi Minh 1
The story of the Weather organization begins in 1968. From the Tet offensive of the national
liberation forces in Vietnam to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., to the uprisings
in France and at Columbia University, to the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the Chicago
Democratic convention -the events of that year created the political space for the
emergence of this New Left organization— one arguably without precedent in United States
Within the United States the anti-racist and anti-war movements constituting the New Left,
which had been growing in leaps and bounds since the late 1950s, took on thousands of
new members in 1968, and began to develop a more radical approach in their analysis and
activities. These approaches were partly reactions to the intensification of the war in
Vietnam and a belief that a new "fascism" was on the rise in the United States. This fascism
was manifested politically in a new concern over law and order and experienced socially in
the increasing use of brutal police methods during protests and insurrections. For example,
during the black rebellion following King's murder, Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago ordered
the police to "shoot to kill" any looters.
The response of the New Left was to develop a more coherent stance toward the liberal-
conservative establishment. No longer were particular racist policies or murderous acts
protested; instead the New Left sought to acknowledge the totality of social and political
injustice in the US, a system that it came to label as imperialist.
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)— the national organization which, partly by design
and partly by default, carried the mantle for the New Left in the United States— was at the
forefront of this new perspective. The organization's paper, New Left Notes, became the
forum for a discussion of how to combat US imperialism, in theory and practice— a
discussion that sometimes became acrimonious and divisive. Within SDS itself an older,
sectarian Marxist-Leninist group -then called the Progressive Labor Party but soon to
shorten its name to Progressive Labor (PL)— formed its own power base 2 . Anti-nationalist
and anti-Soviet, PL recruited mostly among students from the elite universities on the west
and east coasts. It received its broadest support in 1965-7, when it formed the May 2nd
Movement (M2M) against US involvement in Vietnam— the only national organization of its
kind at the time. Its members' ability to manipulate discussion and votes at SDS national
conventions and locally, and their knowledge of Left rhetoric and theory, enabled them to
hold more power than their numbers warranted. Although a marginal faction at the
beginning of 1968, by year's end PL had, if nothing else, created a division within SDS so
deep that the rift between those who supported PL and those who didn't was irreparable.
In the January 15, 1968 issue of New Left Notes an article appeared entitled "Resistance
and Repression." The article was an attempt to move SDS and its actions beyond "the point
[where] it became necessary to define and confront the institutions of American aggression
in Vietnam — [to] the point when it became necessary to start building a movement which
could take over those institutions. Earlier demonstrations had "enabled [the movement] to
show our strength, but did not give us forms to use that strength." 3 The events of 1968 and
beyond were to change this, as SDS began to see itself as a revolutionary movement. No
longer would the New Left merely react to America's exploitative and racist system, but,
instead, it would provide an alternative vision.
On the evening of January 11, 1968, outside the Fairmount Hotel on San Francisco's Nob
Hill, a picket line of hundreds marched on the sidewalk shouting slogans and bearing signs
stating their opposition to US aggression in Vietnam. Inside the hotel Secretary of State
Dean Rusk, one of the war's principal architects and apologists, addressed members of San
Francisco's political and economic elite. As the crowd of picketers grew in size and volume,
police in full riot gear amassed at one end of the block. Then, suddenly, the police were on
top, around and among the demonstrators. With clubs flailing, the officers grabbed and beat
protestors, before throwing them in the back of waiting paddy wagons. The initial responses
of the demonstrators "were shock, amazement, fear, and then, anger." According to Karen
Wald, a reporter for New Left Notes, "the fear was too great for any attempt to rescue ...
anyone who was grabbed." The following day, Wald realized, like many of her fellow
activists, that this was repression at its most raw. The days were "long gone when you had
to be seeking arrest ... in order to be busted." No longer, she wrote, would the state allow
forms of protest it did not agree with. No longer would the state treat those whom it
considered dangerous as anything less than dangerous. 4
Those who shared this opinion concluded that the only effective protest action was one not
permitted by those in power. In this context, any state-sanctioned demonstration was
automatically suspect. Herbert Marcuse, a controversial Marxist philosopher and professor
at San Jose State University in California, termed such state tolerance of opposition
"repressive tolerance." By this he meant that by allowing certain non-confrontational forms
of dissent, the state could continue its policies while providing a safety valve for those who
disagreed with them. This safety valve placated the opposition without challenging the
power of the state.
The Rusk demonstration was not the first instance of police violence against protestors— the
Oakland Stop the Draft Week protests and the demonstrations at the Pentagon in October
1967 are two other examples. The Stop the Draft protests were attempts to block access to
the Oakland induction center, at first by using such tactics as demonstrators linking arms
across streets leading to the center, and then, after police viciously attacked them, by
blocking the streets with their bodies, junked cars, trash cans, and whatever else might be
handy. Once police moved into an area to clear it, protestors left that particular part of the
street and repeated their tactics in another spot. The massive anti-war demonstration at the
Pentagon was also put down violently, and the brutal tactics of the police on that occasion
seemed to mark the intensification of a strategy which demanded that the state attack any
demonstrations it did not approve of, no matter what their style or size.
The Fairmount police attack intensified the struggle over tactics within the movement. In its
discussions and newspapers, SDS began to distinguish between moral reactions and political
reactions. Although a reaction stemming from moral outrage might be militant, its symbolic
nature meant that it was not seen as something that could change the reality of war or
racism. Instead, such actions merely petitioned the perpetrators of those crimes to repent
and remedy their ways. The morally outraged demonstrator acted from the belief that the
moral Tightness of his/her position would be recognized and would ultimately convince the
target of the protest to change for the better.
This moral approach was contrasted to a political one, that is, a strategy which sought to
impart a revolutionary consciousness to the activist. Such a consciousness-building effort
"demanded that [the anti-war and anti-racist movements] transcend the difficult but
inevitable boundary between symbolic and effective action." 5 In other words, one shouldn't
just petition the system to change itself in response to moral rebukes, but should build an
alternative by actively fighting the system.
The attempts by the SDS to dichotomize between morally motivated and politically
motivated actions seems, in retrospect, diversionary. The history of social movements
shows that, no matter what the designs of the individuals involved, such groups develop
organically and usually adopt a synthesis of the two approaches.
Another facet of the larger debate taking place within SDS concerned the merits of
educating to organize versus acting to organize. Differences over this question deepened
the split in the movement. Proponents of educational organizing— primarily members of
Progressive Labor— insisted that an educational approach strengthened anti-imperialist
forces and, without such a base, militant actions could isolate and eventually weaken the
movement. Proponents of action, on the other hand, argued that militancy and the police
response to it played a key role in organizing efforts because they revealed the repressive
nature of the state and its agencies. In the violent culture of the United States, the
argument went, only violence made any impact. For newly politicized white American youth,
this was a revelation.
Members of Ann Arbor SDS (calling themselves the Jesse James Gang)— notably Bill Ayers,
Jim Mellen, and Terry Robbins— argued that militant tactics also "provide [d] activity based
on an elan and a community which show[ed] young people that we can make a difference,
we can hope to change the system, and also that life within the radical movement can be
liberated, fulfilling, and meaningful." 6 Echoing the policy of the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee (SNCC), these three insisted that there was no dichotomy between
confrontation and organizing, a position also favored by the Black Panther Party. The
experiences of activists during the Columbia University strike in late spring would further
validate this perspective within SDS.
Then there's the sort of feeling among some of us that the revolutionary
classes, the Vietnamese, the black people, the oppressed, are the ones who
are going to make history. We're not going to stand on the side of the
oppressors. We're going to align ourselves with the oppressed. That's why the
Vietcong flags were there in the buildings.
Mark Rudd 7
If there was any event in 1968 in the United States which demonstrated to SDS not only the
legitimacy of the action theory, but also the developing internationalist consciousness of the
American New Left, it was the student uprising at Columbia University. The issues involved
were directly related to US domestic and foreign policies. Columbia's decision to continue
with its ill-advised plan to build a gymnasium in Morningside Park in the black Harlem
neighborhood near to the university infuriated community leaders, the student body, and
local residents who had requested through official means and street rallies that Columbia
cancel its plans. The university's response was to provide a rear door to the gym allowing
restricted access to neighborhood residents. Not only did this smack of Jim Crow, but it
illustrated quite graphically the university's perception of itself as the dominant force in the
community, free to do whatever it wished; a perfect metaphor for the United States' view of
its role in the world.
The other issue which provoked the uprising concerned the university's involvement with
the Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA). The Institute was funded by the federal
government which used the facilities of twelve private universities for weapons research and
counter-insurgency and riot-control studies. In the fall of 1967, a letter written by the 100-
member Columbia chapter of SDS and signed by hundreds of students asked the
university's president Grayson Kirk to end the school's participation in the IDA program. The
petition was ignored. When questioned about his failure to respond, Kirk replied that the
letter did not carry a return address.
Columbia's refusal to acknowledge its complicity in the twin evils of US society— racism and
imperialism— and to reconsider its position forced radicals into fighting back with a one-two
combination of their own. On April 23, 1968, they marched to Low Library, which housed
the university administrative offices, and demanded that charges be dropped against
students placed on disciplinary probation because of an earlier protest against IDA. Three of
the students on probation were Mark Rudd, a member of SDS since 1966; John Jacobs
(known as JJ), a former PL member who had single-handedly led a sit-in against CIA
recruiting at Columbia the previous school year; and Ted Gold, a junior at Columbia who
had been arrested earlier in the year at a demonstration in New York against Secretary of
State Dean Rusk, a week after Rusk spoke in San Francisco.
When the students found their way blocked by right-wing counter-demonstrators, some
protestors left the area and marched to the gym construction site where a struggle with
police ensued. Part of the fence surrounding the site was torn down in the melee, and one
student was arrested. After this incident, students and supporters marched back to campus
and took over first one, and then eventually four, buildings. As the occupation/liberation
continued, almost everyone on campus and, for that matter, in the country, came to know
what was going on and why. A week after the first building, Hamilton Hall, was taken over,
the police attacked, vindicating "the strikers, [by] proving that the administration was more
willing to have students arrested and beat-up and to disrupt the university than to stop its
policies of exploitation, racism, and support for imperialism." 8 A strike ensued, effectively
shutting down the university for the rest of the semester. Two more violent mass arrests
occurred: one on May 17 in an apartment building owned by Columbia, which was in the
process of evicting tenants to make way for higher-income housing, and the other on May
21, at Hamilton Hall, after those whom the media labeled as leaders of the rebellion were
suspended and 120 people attempted to "liberate" the building in support of those students
and their demands. A total of 712 students and others were arrested during the course of
the strike. Members of the New York chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild immediately set
to work on the court cases. Among these lawyers and paralegals was Bernardine Dohrn,
who was to be National Secretary of SDS in 1968-9 and a central figure within Weather.
Photo 1 Mark Rudd tries to force his way into the gym at Columbia University, 1968. Rudd, having
spent seven years in hiding, finally surrendered to the authorities in September 1977 to answer
charges relating to his leadership of Weather Underground and his earlier actions at Columbia.
Within the "liberated" buildings themselves, the students and their allies adopted a new way
of life that, in a sense, embodied the revolution they had talked about for so long. Hours
were spent in discussion of tactics, politics, and logistics. In addition, for most of the
participants this was the first time in their lives that they had had power, to use or abuse.
For most such a realization was a liberating experience and an expression of the sense of
elan and community which Ayers, Mellen, and Robbins of Ann Arbor SDS had written of.
Primary among the theoretical questions begging resolution in SDS policy was the role of
racism in US society and how best to combat it. As the organization struggled to develop a
potentially revolutionary ideology, the race issue came to be as important as opposition to
the Vietnam war. However, it was infinitely more divisive. At stake was the question of how
best to organize black people in the United States: as super-exploited members of the
working class (PL's position) or as an internal colony within the United States. One's position
on this question depended largely on one's opinion of the Black Panther Party, at the time
the most revolutionary group within the black struggle. Those who opposed PL politically did
so primarily because they believed, like the Panthers, that blacks in the United States
constituted a colony and, as such, had a right to national self-determination.
The argument revealed fundamental differences of opinion over the role of nationalism in
the liberation of a people. To PL and its supporters, all nationalism was seen as diversionary
and subject to manipulation by the bourgeoisie of the colony. For most of the other
members of SDS, though, there was a vital difference between nationalism and national
liberation and, for the black community in the United States, the Panthers represented a
revolutionary road to national liberation. Bernardine Dohrn emphasized the Panther stance
on this issue in an article entitled "White Mother Country Radicals," in New Left Notes.
Dohrn wrote that " [the Panthers] have been open and aggressive opponents of black
capitalism ... and firm supporters of the line that anti-capitalism is fundamental to black
liberation." Further on in the article, Dohrn elaborated on an earlier SDS statement, made
after the shootings by police of black students attempting to desegregate a bowling alley in
Orangeburg, South Carolina: "The best thing that we can be doing for ourselves, as well as
for the Panthers and the revolutionary black liberation struggle is to build a fucking white
revolutionary movement." 9 This would become one of Weatherman's first goals.
The question of nationalism was also involved in the matter of Vietnam. Did one support the
National Liberation Front in its revolutionary struggle for self-determination (the anti-PL
position), or only because it was being attacked by the United States (the PL position)? As
the year rolled on, and into 1969, the questions of nationalism, differences in class analysis,
and perceptions of youth culture would determine the fate of SDS and create the opening
from which Weatherman would emerge.
Photo 2 Bill Ayers addresses a rally at Ann Arbor, Michigan, in November 1968. Ayers, one of the
leaders of the Jesse James Gang (a faction of SDS) at the University of Michigan and at one time
Diana Oughton's boyfriend, was protesting the alleged mistreatment of a university student.
Photo 3 In November 1968, the University of Michigan chapter of SDS paraded through downtown
Ann Arbor and past the university campus, calling for a student strike in protest of the Vietnam
war. Pictured just to the right of the car are (left to right) Diana Oughton, Bill Ayers and Milton
As for youth culture, SDS was focusing most of its energies on those youth who were
working on the presidential campaign of Senator Eugene McCarthy of Wisconsin. His anti-
war stance and appeal to college students made the campaign the natural place for SDS to
organize, given their predominantly student membership. Although SDS had little faith in
electoral politics, they worked with other organizations planning mass demonstrations at the
upcoming Democratic Party convention in Chicago. The best known of these groups was the
Youth International Party, or Yippies, founded by radicals Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Anita
Hoffman, Nancy Kurshan, and Paul Krassner. Their behavior during convention week -
including public insults of Mayor Daley, the nomination of a pig for president, the verbal and
physical assault of police officers— and the reaction they provoked from Chicago police
would change SDS politics.
SDS's experiences that week not only caused them to shift their organizational emphasis
from the McCarthy youth to those already in the streets, they also provided many in the
organization with a glimpse of the revolutionary potential of the counter-culture. This, in
turn, brought about a synthesis between the developing class analysis in the SDS and the
burgeoning youth culture. Early attempts at producing such a synthesis began with the
observation that a class is defined by its relationship to the means of production and, as the
young do not control any of those means, they should identify themselves with the
oppressed, not out of guilt but out of self-interest. Even the interests of privileged students
(who constituted most of SDS at the time) lay more with anti-capitalist forces, not because
they needed to work, but because of monopoly capitalism's alienating expectations and
The first attempt at this synthesis can be found in a statement submitted by Mike Klonsky, a
former national president of SDS, respected for his knowledge of Marxist-Leninist theory
and reasoned arguments against PL. The statement, adopted at the December 1968
national convention in Ann Arbor, was entitled "Towards a Revolutionary Youth Movement."
It was an attempt not so much to present youth (specifically students) as working-class, but
more to "build a link through working-class youth to the working class to bring the dynamic
of the student movement to the workers." 10 Klonsky emphasized that it was necessary for
SDS to expand beyond its student base into the working class. Such an effort would be
facilitated by the cross-class nature of the youth culture of the 1960s and its denial of what
it saw as alienating effects of American life.
Although youth itself was not intrinsically revolutionary, Klonsky believed that "by
developing roots within the class struggle, [it could be] insured that the movement would
not be reactionary." 11 Youth, the argument went, would add militancy to the struggle once it
merged with the working class. The younger members of that class would be the focus of
the organizing effort, not because they were more oppressed, but because they felt that
oppression, in the form of the military draft, low-wage jobs, and schooling that seemed
irrelevant to their experience, differently from their elders. In addition, the youth culture, in
its opposition to the system, had already laid a base for such an effort.
What this expansion of the organization would necessarily mean was an end to privileges
associated with being students (draft deferments); an intensified struggle against racism
within the movement and the youth culture; and a redirection of organizing efforts toward
technical schools, community colleges, and high schools and away from the colleges of
privilege in which the movement had been born.
"Towards a Revolutionary Youth Movement" is evidence of the substantive changes which
occurred in SDS in 1968, and within six months it had split the organization. It would also
be a major impetus to the formation of Weatherman.
Debate over both the nationalism and the youth culture questions continued into the next
year. A PL racism proposal passed at the December 1968 convention which labeled all types
of nationalism reactionary was overturned at a National Council meeting in March 1969 in
favor of a resolution by the anti-PL forces in support of the Black Panther Party. In another
victory for the anti-PL forces, a PL-sponsored resolution condemning the use of marijuana
and psychedelics, and, by inference, youth culture, was also defeated.
A proposal by Bill Ayers and Jim Mellen presented at the March 1969 National Council,
entitled "Hot Town, Summer in the City," was subsequently adopted in place of the PL
statement on drugs. For the most part the proposal was a refinement of Klonsky's "Towards
a Revolutionary Youth Movement," but there were a few substantive changes. Among these
were the observations that the repression of youth culture seemed to have an inversely
proportionate effect to its growth, and that there were no class boundaries to its repression,
although working-class youth, especially those of color, suffered most. This recognition
enhanced the view that although all workers were oppressed, youth endured a different kind
of oppression. The statement went on to list some of the special forms this oppression took:
the draft, mandatory and irrelevant schooling, and lack of job opportunities and meaningful
employment. This proposal, like Klonsky's, was part of a growing strategy by SDS to shift
its recruiting focus away from college students and toward youth in general, including high-
school and community-college students, youth in the army or who were otherwise
employed, and those young people who had "dropped out" of society. The proposal
searched for ways to involve less privileged youth than those found in most universities in
the movement against war and racism.
Another area of concern for Ayers and Mellen was the black liberation movement. Once
again, the vanguard role of the Black Panther Party was emphasized, as was the continued
rise in police surveillance and repression of the Panthers' activities. Their proposal
condemned the "absence of substantial support— power— by the white movement" for
facilitating this repression and urged the "white movement to be a conscious, organized,
mobilized fighting force capable of giving real support to the black liberation struggle." 12 To
create such a consciousness, it was necessary for SDS to organize youth according to the
Revolutionary Youth Movement's analysis, that is, not as a cultural phenomenon but as
members of the working class who had experienced "proletarianization" in schools and the
army. 13 In these institutions, the young found themselves in the same boat as the
oppressed black community, slaves to the lords of war and industry.
In the late 1960s, SDS could not ignore the evidence of the feminist movement that was
gaining momentum in US society. Within SDS itself, the more revolutionary the members
became, the more the women activists became conscious of their limited role in the
organization. Susan Stern, an SDS member then working and living in Seattle, remarked
that "SDS was operating at half of its potential" because of its failure to give women
leadership positions. 14 The growing awareness that women in the movement "do office work
and even run offices, but are discouraged from articulating political positions or taking
organizational leadership" caused many women to rethink their participation in the
movement and question its integrity. 15 Some women claimed men were to blame for their
oppression. Others saw the system of power as the culprit: pitting gender against gender to
keep people divided. Some voiced the possibility of considering women as a separate class,
while others, citing the example of the revolutionary Vietnamese women, quoted NFL
theorists: "The struggle of women for freedom and equality could not but identify itself with
the common struggle for national liberation" 16 — or, simply, the common struggle.
Some women eventually left SDS for other organizations, many of them separatist in
nature. Most, however, hoped, as Naomi Jaffe, a New Left Notes staffer in New York, and
Bernardine Dohrn did, that a new strategy could be developed. This strategy for liberation
did "not demand equal jobs, but meaningful creative activity for all; not a larger share of
the power, but the abolition of commodity tyranny; not equally reified sexual roles but an
end to sexual objectification and exploitation; not equal aggressive leadership in the
movement, but the initiation of a new style of non-dominating leadership." 17 If nothing else,
SDS and the New Left movement would, it was hoped, redefine the nature of a white-male-
1 Ho Chi Minh, "New Year, 1968", The Sixties Papers, ed. Judith Clavier Albert and Stewart
Albert, Praeger, New York, 1984.
2 The Progressive Labor Party (PI.) formed as the result of a split in the Communist
Party-USA (CPUSA) after Krushchev's renunciation of Stalin and the subsequent division
between the Chinese and Soviet parties. Although never very large, PL exacted an influence
way beyond its numbers in the New Left.
3 New Left Note, January 15, 1968.
4 Karen Wald, "Dan Rusk at the Fairmount: A View from One Corner," New Left Notes,
January 22, 1968, p. 30. Seven organizers of the Stop the Draft Week protests were
indicted for a variety of charges connected with the Oakland demonstrations. They became
popularly known as the Oakland Seven. Hundreds were arrested and beaten at the
Pentagon demonstration during attempts by police and federal marshals to clear the
5 Richard Fried, Jerome Hoffman and James Tarlau (Princeton SDS), "Potentials and
Limitations of the Student Movement: 1967-1968," New Left Notes, February 5, 1968.
6 B. Avers, J. Mellen, and T. Robbins, "Ann Arbor SDS Splits," New Left Notes, October 7,
1968, p. 4.
7 Quoted in Joanne Grant, Confrontation on Campus: The Columbia Pattern for the New
Protest, New American Library, New York, 1969.
8 Ibid., p. 243.
9 Bernardine Dohrn, "White Mother Country Radicals," New Left Notes, July 29, 1968.
10 Mike Klonsky and others, "Towards a Revolutionary Youth Movement," New Left Notes,
December 31, 1968.
12 Students for a Democratic Society, "The Black Panther Party: Towards the Liberation of a
Colony," New Left Notes, April 4, 1969.
13 Jim Mellen, "More on Youth Movement," New Left Notes, May 13, 1969.
14 Ibid., p. 42.
15 M. Welb, "Women, We Have a Common Enemy," Washington Free Press, Summer 1968.
16 B. Dohrn, "Liberation of Vietnamese Women," New Left Notes, October 25, 1968.
17 B. Dohrn and Naomi Jaffe, 'You Got the Look," New Left Notes, March 18, 1968.
2. Weather Dawns: The Break and the Statement
If white people are going to claim to be white revolutionaries or white mother
country radicals, [they] should arm themselves and support the colonies
around the world in their just struggle against imperialism.
Huey Newton 1
The 1969 SDS National Convention began on June 18. By evening, over 2,000 members had
passed through the security and underground-media cordon to take their places in the
Chicago Coliseum. Discussion among many of the non-PL members centered on the
statement which had appeared in that day's issue of New Left Notes, entitled "You Don't
Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows ..." The piece, which was written
primarily by members of the Columbia chapter of SDS, borrowed its title from the Bob Dylan
song, "Subterranean Homesick Blues." It was the founding statement of the Weatherman
The Weatherman statement had been discussed and argued about in SDS national and
regional offices since the late spring. Its primary drafters included SDS members whose
names would become synonymous with Weather: Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, Bernardine Dohrn,
Jim Mellen, Terry Robbins, John Jacobs, and Jeff Jones. The other authors were Karin
Ashley, Howie Machtinger, Gerry Long, and Steve Tappis. Ashley and Tappis would cease to
be Weather members before the end of the year.
As delegates argued over the contents of the Weatherman statement, and PL members
figured out a strategy for maintaining some degree of power in the organization, a group of
Black Panthers entered the hall. One of them launched into a tirade against PL, calling the
group "counterrevolutionary traitors." At first those who were listening applauded or booed
the speaker depending on their political views, but when the speech slipped into a rant
against the growing feminist movement, the noise died down. Then another Panther began
to chant "Pussy power. Pussy power!" and asserted that the only position for a woman in
the revolution was a prone one. These statements provoked a very loud reaction from
virtually everyone on the floor, and the Panthers eventually left the podium, having lost any
voice for the time being.
The next day began much the same as the first, with discussions and workshops continuing
throughout the meeting space. Toward evening, while members argued over a number of
resolutions on racism, a group of Panthers once again entered the hall and took the stage.
They read a statement repeating much of the previous night's comments about PL and told
SDS that they would be judged by their actions— in effect calling for SDS to expel PL from
its ranks. A number of PL members then grabbed the microphone and attacked the Panther
position on black nationalism, while otherwise praising them. In addition, they accused the
SDS leadership of opportunism in bringing the Panthers to the convention. Next, Bernardine
Dohrn took the stage and asked those in the hall if it was still possible to work in the same
organization as PL. Mark Rudd then called for an adjournment, but before debate could
begin on the motion, Dohrn led about half the delegates to the adjacent annex where the
discussion continued through the night.
Meanwhile, those who remained in the main hall also continued to talk and, some eighteen
hours later, issued a resolution calling for unity. Finally, by midnight on the 21st, debate
ended and the delegates who had left with Dohrn the previous night filed back into the main
hall and listened to Bernardine read PL out of SDS. PL members tried unsuccessfully to
shout her down with cries of "Shame" and "Smash racism!" Once the reading of the
expulsion resolution was over, the new SDS, without PL, marched out of the hall with their
fists in the air.
When the convention ended next day not only was PL no longer officially recognized, but,
despite the existence of a third force at the convention, which came to be known as RYM
(Revolutionary Youth Movement) II, the national office now comprised Weatherman
members Bill Ayers, Jeff Jones, and Mark Rudd. The newly formed coalition between RYM II
and Weatherman, based mostly on their opposition to PL, was tenuous, to say the least.
The only resolution to pass through this fractious convention besides the ouster of PL was a
call for a week of protests in Chicago in the fall. The composition of the organizing
committee for these protests also reflected Weatherman's new power: Kathy Boudin,
Bernardine Dohrn, Terry Robbins, the three national officers, and Mike Klonsky of RYM II.
With the publication of 'You Don't Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind
Blows," Bernardine Dohrn's call a year earlier for a white fighting force to support the black
liberation movement began its transition from words into reality. If the statement did little
else, it placed the struggle of black people in the United States at the forefront of the fight
against US imperialism.
The statement identified the black struggle as part of the "worldwide fight against US
imperialism," and argued that the black community's role in that struggle was of primary
importance. If the black community (or colony, as Weather preferred to call it) was
successful in its fight for liberation, the United States would not survive because of the
essential role played by the citizens of the black colony in the formation and perpetuation of
the US system. Slavery was fundamental to the development of capitalist society in the
British colonies and in the first several decades of the United States: not only did the slave
trade create profits which could be invested elsewhere, it also enabled slaveowners to
acquire wealth rapidly. When slavery was no longer essential to the continued accumulation
of wealth, the ex-slaves and their descendants were relegated to a no less essential but
often harsher economic slavery which existed to this day. 2
By defining the black community as a colony "existing in the country as a whole" instead of
solely as a black-belt nation in the southern United States (an analysis advanced by Robert
Williams and the Movement for a Republic of New Afrika) , 3 the statement perceived the
"common historical experience of importation and slavery and caste oppression" as the
basis for national identity. That identity, as the "Black Proletarian Colony," made it essential
for the colony to organize as revolutionary socialists. Attempts to organize black people in
other ways denied the struggle's communist roots. Although it differed from that of many
black nationalist groups, Weatherman's analysis was virtually identical to that of the
Panthers, especially in terms of its insistence on black Americans' history of economic
"You Don't Need a Weatherman" went on to argue that it was "necessary for black people to
organize separately and determine their actions separately" from their white counterparts. 4
To do otherwise denied the struggle's particular investment in the defeat of US imperialism
and negated its revolutionary nature, a sentiment that echoed previous struggles within the
black liberation movement, especially those surrounding the ouster of whites from SNCC in
1965. As Stokely Carmichael wrote in his book, Black Power, "black people must run their
own organizations because only black people can convey the revolutionary idea— and it is a
revolutionary idea— that black people are able to do things themselves." 5 The authors of
"You Don't Need a Weatherman" concluded the section on the black liberation movement by
stating that although the black movement did not need white revolutionary allies to win, it
would be racist to contend: "1) that blacks shouldn't go ahead making the revolution or 2)
that they should go ahead alone with making it." Instead, the statement argued that a third
path, supporting the black struggle, should be taken.
While few in the revolutionary New Left disputed the central role of the black liberation
struggle in the fight against US imperialism, many critics of Weatherman warned against
creating an organization which would act primarily in support of the black struggle. Paul
Glusman, in an article in the New Left journal Ramparts, offered the opinion that, "SDS, all
of it ... left out any mention of white youth as a revolutionary force for themselves ... One
would think the Panthers would prefer allies who are in it for themselves and not guilt-
ridden successors to the civil-rights liberals who left when things got hot." 6 David Hilliard of
the Panthers expanded this criticism in a statement made after the Panther-sponsored
United Front Against Fascism conference in Oakland, California in June 1969. 7 This
statement was a response to a Weatherman offer to help participants at the conference
distribute a petition calling for community control of the police in communities of color but
not in white communities. Such an offer assumed that white communities would not
liberalize their police forces while communities of color would. Besides expressing a lack of
faith in white people, young and old, the Weatherman offer seemed to imply that the third-
world community was not able to do the work itself.
After its discussion of the role of the black anti-imperialist struggle in the overthrow of the
US system, "You Don't Need a Weatherman" addressed the question of united-front politics.
That is, whether it was desirable first to create a broad democratic coalition to throw out
imperialism and then, after that task was completed, to install socialism. It was the opinion
of Weatherman that this two-step process was usually applied to semi-feudal societies and
was unnecessary in the United States which was in the most advanced stage of capitalism:
imperialism. When imperialism was defeated in the United States, Weather argued, it would
be replaced with socialism, and nothing else. While many on the revolutionary New Left
agreed with this analysis, they did not agree with Weatherman's interpretation that working
with reform movements in a united front, no matter what the cause, was counter-
revolutionary. It was here that Weatherman disagreed with most of the rest of the
revolutionary left, RYM II included. Weatherman's insistence on revolutionary purity -or, as
"You Don't Need a Weatherman" put it, "someone not for revolution is not actually for
defeating imperialism either"— created a situation which, in the long run, made it virtually
impossible to organize anyone but the already converted.
In the international fight against US imperialism Weatherman supported all struggles for
self-determination in the colonies. They reasoned that the cost to the imperialists increased
proportionately with the support given to those struggles which, in turn, would lead to
cutbacks in social-services spending and job creation at home. These cutbacks would force
welfare recipients, and the working class in general, to struggle even harder to maintain a
minimal standard of living. This, theoretically, would create a revolutionary situation which,
if properly organized, would lead to the defeat of the ruling elites.
To realize such a vision, however, required the organization of the working class into a
revolutionary force. In order to accomplish this, the working class had to be made aware
that its interests lay with the anti-imperialist forces of the world -not a simple task in 1960s
America. Although a few unions supported the more liberal demands of the anti-war
movement (negotiations, for example, and an end to the bombing), most did not. Of those
that did, very few of their members considered themselves revolutionaries. Consequently,
SDS, and especially Weatherman, perceived white workers in the United States as only too
happy to support the country's interventionist and racist program. Weatherman believed the
white working class to be racist, pro-war, incapable of recognizing its own oppression, and
the enemy of the anti-imperialist cause.
There was hope, however, for youth. Because of their current oppression especially in the
form of the military draft, Weatherman decided it was possible to build a revolutionary
youth movement, an idea that had originally been proposed in December 1968 in the
statement "Towards a Revolutionary Youth Movement." Youth met the criterion that any
person who had nothing but his or her own labor to sell was a member of the working class.
Because they generally held a smaller stake than their elders in the existing society and had
grown up "experiencing the crises of imperialism"-Vietnam, Cuba, black liberation— young
people were more open to new ideas, especially the idea that the system could be
overthrown. After all, thousands of young men were monthly being coerced into fighting for
that system and had good reason to be rid of it.
The system, under threat, resorted more and more to force and an accompanying
authoritarian ideology which— the statement continued— met with resistance. First from the
black people of the United States and eventually from Chicano, Puerto Rican, and white
youth as well. Some resisted through political struggle, many others— no matter what their
class origin— by rejecting mainstream society and joining the counter-culture, which by now
had developed a fighting edge due to its repression by the police. Calling themselves
"freaks" and "yippies," counter-culture adherents were beaten up by the police for their
anti-social behavior just as politicos were at demonstrations. When the two elements of
youthful resistance joined together in a common fight, as in the ill-fated attempt by
students, radicals, and counter-cultural street people to build People's Park in Berkeley in
May 1969, an armed attack by police resulted, with the death in that instance of one
protestor and the maiming of many others.
The developing youth movement transcended class. However, since the oppression of youth
hit working-class youth hardest, it was necessary, as stated earlier in "Towards a
Revolutionary Youth Movement," to move "from a predominantly student elite base to more
oppressed [less privileged] youth" in order to expand the existing revolutionary force. To do
this, the Weatherman statement emphasized the necessity of linking people's everyday
crises to revolutionary consciousness. Weatherman gave as examples of a multi-issue
approach the Columbia occupation of 1968, when the expansion into the black community
surrounding Columbia was linked to the university's involvement in Defense Department
counter-insurgency programs, and the battle over People's Park in Berkeley in 1969, where
the question of private property came together with the issue of free speech and the
concerns of the anti-war movement. Weatherman also urged students not to fight for
reforms in the schools, but to close them down until the time came when schools could
serve the people and not the corporate class.
Toward the end of the statement, Weatherman addressed the role of the police. In a section
entitled "RYM and the Pigs," the police were defined not as representatives of the state, but
literal embodiments of it. Given their ever-increasing aggression against radical groups (e.g.
the raids on both the SDS and the Panther offices in Chicago and the shootings at People's
Park in Berkeley in the spring of 1969), Weather believed that a revolutionary movement
had to overcome the police or risk becoming "irrelevant, revisionist, or dead."
Of course, whether the primary aim was to fight the police or to attack the system which
employed them, the state's repression of its opponents was bound to increase. As a result,
it was necessary to oppose repression, which would "require the invincible strength of the
mass base at a high level of active participation." In other words, "the most important task
for [SDS] toward making the revolution ... is the creation of a mass revolutionary
movement, without which a clandestine revolutionary party would be impossible." It is
unfortunate that Weatherman failed to adhere to its own advice and, like the Panthers,
develop allies outside the revolutionary movement.
Most of 'You Don't Need a Weatherman" is a more complex development of positions
proposed in "Towards a Revolutionary Youth Movement." One topic remained unexamined in
both: the role of women and of feminism in the revolutionary youth movement. Although
two women were among its drafters, "You Don't Need a Weatherman" merely stated that
the group had "a very limited understanding of the tie-up between imperialism and the
women question." While acknowledging the continually expanding wage differential in the
workplace based on gender and the gradual disintegration of the nuclear family under
monopoly capitalism, the Weatherman leadership collectively stated that it "had no answer,
but recognize [d] the real reactionary danger of women's groups that are not self-
consciously revolutionary and anti-imperialist." They then proposed developing different
forms of organization and leadership which would enable women to take on new,
Although few Weatherman members prided themselves on their reading of political theory,
seemingly preferring to draw their theory from praxis (Rudd is even quoted in Kirkpatrick
Sale's account of SDS  as bragging that he hadn't read a book in a year), one book
which was widely read in the collectives was Regis Debray's handbook of guerrilla warfare in
Latin America, Revolution in the Revolution? The importance to Weatherman of Debray's
book is impossible to overstate. In addition to underground newspapers and other Left
periodicals, well-thumbed copies of Revolution in the Revolution? were to be found in every
Weather collective's house.
Nominally a handbook for the revolutionaries in South America, Revolution in the
Revolution? was adopted by the future members of Weatherman in the interim between the
Columbia strike and the June 1969 SDS convention probably because of its discussion of
recent events in the Americas, and its mention of, and the author's familiarity with, the
heroes of the New Left: Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Although supposedly a guide to
revolution, Debray seems to invalidate his purpose in the book in the first fifteen or so
pages by stating that the Cuban revolution could not be repeated in Latin America or
anywhere else. This was so, said Debray, because no revolution can copy another, but can
only utilize the objective conditions within the particular country— conditions which, are
"neither natural or obvious ... [but] require years of sacrifice to discover." 8
Patience was the strategy that Debray emphasized above all others. Quoting from the work
of Simon Bolivar, he writes that the most valuable lesson for revolutionaries is tenacity. It is
tenacity, after all, which provides the revolutionary with the foresight to see beyond the
various failures and victories (s)he will encounter, as Debray learnt from his own
experiences and his knowledge of the history of Cuban struggle against Batista. Failure,
according to Debray, provides experience and knowledge far more than victory does.
Whether or not Weatherman accepted this concept in practice is questionable. It did,
however, believe itself to have a clear answer to the ultimate question for a revolutionary
organization: "How to overthrow the capitalist state?" 9 Its answer was to obey Debray's
instructions in accordance with its self-perception. In contrast to the Panthers, Weatherman
did not consider itself a self-defense force. Instead, it preferred the idea of forming the core
of a future revolutionary army which, according to Debray, needed to exist as an organic
unit separate from the regular population. In order to attain its goal, then, the revolutionary
guerrilla army needed to be clandestine and, to show its viability, willing to take the
initiative by attacking the enemy.
To maintain the necessary secrecy, Debray suggested operating in small autonomous
groups or focos. These focos would develop their own strategy of attack to achieve an
objective set out by a centralized leadership. Such a structure enabled each foco to carry
out its part of the mission; however, if any member or members were captured, their
knowledge of the entire operation would be limited to the movements of their particular
foco. This structure also provided the organization itself with greater internal security as an
infiltrator's knowledge would be severely limited.
While the focos carried out their work, continued Debray, the masses must be educated
politically. Armed struggle alone would leave the revolutionary forces isolated. On the other
hand, political struggle without armed action was equally undesirable, as a political
organization risked becoming an end in itself, perhaps even becoming involved in the
electoral process of the state. The moment, historically speaking, when political, military,
and other considerations were ripe must be seized. How one determines such a moment
came not from the understanding of a particular theory or terrain, but from "a combination
of political and social circumstances" which, when recognized, could be acted upon.
All of which is not to say there should be no action before that historical moment. Indeed,
wrote Debray, the revolution is a constantly changing reality. The occasional well-planned
attack can convert more people to the idea of revolution than months of speeches and
writings— a view borne out, for example, by the actions at Columbia, which radicalized many
more people than previous rallies and speeches had done, thus substantially propelling the
In order to facilitate the organization of the people, the revolutionary group must be
strengthened and develop a truly mass line. If the group develops the correct line, the
people will recognize it as the vanguard party. Should the party be composed of members
of the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie, like Weatherman, and the masses accept their
leadership, the members must "commit suicide as a class" in order to be reborn as
As long as no armed struggle exists, according to Debray, there can be no vanguard.
Instead, what usually occurs in such a vacuum is the growth of a plethora of groups who
call themselves Marxist-Leninist and revolutionary. Thus, in the late 1960s and early 1970s
there were constant battles in the US between various sectarian groups over issues and
tactics in a struggle, with each claiming to be more revolutionary than the others. Mass
organizations such as the Seattle Liberation Front, November Action Coalition (Boston-
Cambridge), the Mayday Tribe (Washington, D.C.), and the People's Coalition for Peace and
Justice attempted to lead the movement but, due largely to the lack of a long-term program
and law enforcement harassment, fell by the wayside. In the interim, revolutionary
organizations with a potential for longevity disintegrated into sectarian squabbles over
marginal political issues.
Weatherman recognized the danger of sectarianism because of its ongoing battle with the
Progressive Labor faction in SDS. But although the organization wished to transcend such
divisions by acting on Debray's advice and "pass(ing) over to the attack," its puerile focus
on revolutionary purity undermined its aims and contributed to its failure to organize large
numbers of people. 11
1 "Huey Newton Speaks on White Organizers," in The Black Panthers Speak, ed. Philip S.
Foner, Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1970.
2 K. Ashley, B. Ayers, B. Dohrn, J. Jacobs, J. Jones, G. Long, H. Machtinger, J. Mellen, T.
Robbins, M. Rudd, S. Tappis, "You Don't Need a Weatherman," New Left Notes, June 18,
1969. These and any quotes not otherwise noted are from this statement.
3 The idea of a separate black nation forming in the southern United States continues to be
part of the program of some Left and nationalist groups today.
4 The idea of blacks working separately was first expressed within the New Left by Stokely
Carmichael and others in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). SDS
was merely reaffirming this position in regard to their new revolutionary road.
5 S. Carmichael and C. Hamilton, Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America, Vintage,
New York, 1967, p. 42.
6 Paul Glusman, "More Mao Than Thou," Ramparts, Noah's Ark, Berkeley, September 1969.
7 David Hilliard, "Lumpen Proletarianism and Bourgeois Reactionarism," The Black Panther,
August 9, 1969.
8 Regis Debray, Revolution in the Revolution?, Grove Press, New York, 1967, p. 20.
9 Ibid., p. 24.
10 Amilcar Cabral, quoted ibid., p. 112.
11 Ibid., p. 55.
3. Into the Streets: Days of Rage
It has been almost a year since the Democratic Convention, when thousands
of young people came together in Chicago and tore up pig city for five days.
The action was a response to the crisis this system is facing as a result of the
war, the demand by black people for liberation, and the ever-growing reality
that this system just can't make it. This fall, people are coming back to
Chicago: more powerful, better organized, and more together than we were
last August. SDS is calling for a National Action in Chicago October 8-11. We
are coming back to Chicago, and we are going to bring those we left behind
SDS leaflet, summer 1969
After the convention in June 1969, Weatherman and RYM II controlled the new SDS,
although they probably represented no more than 4,000 members of an organization whose
membership in late 1968 had peaked at about 100,000. Their task was clear— to organize
thousands of youths to come to Chicago and demonstrate "against the war in Vietnam, in
support of the Black Panther Party, and in solidarity with all political prisoners, including
Black Panther Huey P. Newton, and the eight under attack for last summer's righteous
demonstrations" during the Democratic Party convention. 1 But with the National Organizing
Committee for the fall protests composed of members of both Weatherman and RYM II, the
stage was set for yet another split, even if no one thought so at the time.
Weatherman and RYM II were unified in their opposition to PL, mostly because of its attacks
on the Black Panther Party, and black nationalism in general, and its criticism of the NLF
and North Vietnam's willingness to negotiate an end to the war. But any lasting unity
between the two was unlikely because they disagreed on almost everything else, especially
strategy. Both believed that armed revolution was necessary in the United States, but the
timing of that revolution and the role of white workers in it were a source of much discord.
By late August, Mike Klonsky, nominal leader of RYM II, quit the National Organizing
Committee, primarily because of his opposition to Weatherman's dismissal of the white
working class as hopelessly reactionary. This left both the National Organizing Committee
and the National Office completely in the hands of Weather. Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, and Jeff
Jones headed up the National Office, while the committee organizing the fall protests
comprised Bernardine Dohrn, Terry Robbins, Kathy Boudin, and the three national officers.
RYM II regarded the call for massive demonstrations in the fall as a call for a "united front
against imperialism" which would, by linking workers' struggles with the war in Vietnam and
the black colonies, convince "the masses of working people" to take a stand against
imperialism. 2 Given Weatherman's belief that united-front politics were not necessary in the
United States because of its late stage of capitalist development, this issue was another
point of dispute.
Also, according to Weatherman, any efforts to reform the system— the schools, workplace,
army, etc.— were merely attempts to gain more privileges for the already privileged white
population. As Mark Rudd and Terry Robbins put it in their reply to Klonsky's public letter of
resignation: "Here [in the United States] the just struggles of the people do not necessarily
raise consciousness or build a revolutionary movement. Much to the contrary, they often
obscure the differences between the colony and the mother country, obscure white skin
privilege, obscure internationalism." 3 Klonsky's view was that the working class must be
won over by addressing their issues "with patience, not arrogance," and he and the rest of
RYM II began organizing their own fall protests in Chicago. 4
According to Weather chronicler Harold Jacobs (1970), Weatherman had not given up hope
of realizing white America's revolutionary potential, but the general perception in the New
Left in 1969 was that it had. Consequently, its isolation from the movement had begun.
If there is a conspiracy to end the war, if there is a conspiracy to end racism,
if there is a conspiracy to end the harassment of the cultural revolution, then,
we too, must join the conspiracy.
Ad in The Seed to defend the conspiracy
The so-called conspiracy referred to the indictment of eight men— the Chicago 8— under new
federal conspiracy statutes for, among other charges, "crossing state lines with the intent to
riot" during demonstrations in Chicago at the time of the Democratic Party convention in
August 1968. By including counter-cultural revolutionaries Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin in
the conspiracy indictment, the state demonstrated its perception of the counter-culture as
insurrectionary. It is possible that by indicting the two yippies the Justice Department hoped
to intimidate young people into forsaking revolutionary politics and life styles. Instead, the
opposite happened. Chicago 8 defendant Tom Hayden capsulized the sentiment of a
substantial number of the nation's youth with the statement, "Our identity is on trial." 5 The
Chicago Conspiracy became a cause celebre and as a result thousands of youth adopted
revolutionary politics. Weatherman, hoping to gain recruits from this phenomenon, shifted
toward support of counter-cultural struggles such as that in Berkeley over People's Park.
In Seattle, after police attacked a free rock concert at a local beach on August 10, a youth
uprising lasting two nights took place in the university district, with massive looting and
attacks against small businesses like record and clothing stores ("hip" capitalists) as well as
buildings housing branches of national corporations. The local Weather collective
encouraged attacks on banks, military recruiters, and other obvious targets connected to
the war in Vietnam, as collectives would do in other cities where youth fought the police.
As the uprising in Seattle spread and black and Latino youths joined in, racist remarks were
heard from some of the rioting white youth, to the distress of Weather members.
Considering the centrality of racism to Weather's analysis and its oft-repeated insistence on
the necessity to combat racism wherever it was found, its involvement with youth,
especially white working-class youth spouting anti-black sentiments, increasingly led some
members to further question the usefulness of organizing whites. Others in the New Left
faced similar dilemmas regarding racism in the counter-culture but were willing to work and
struggle with the racist attitudes they encountered, while Weather simply labeled as "pigs"
all those it regarded as less politically advanced.
The counter-cultural watershed of the summer of 1969 was the Woodstock festival in
August. Despite the input of some radical activists in the planning of the event, the
weekend concert was primarily set up by the large record companies (notably Warner
Brothers) to expand their markets, but the eventual breakdown of festival security created a
liberating situation. A reporter for the Chicago underground paper The Seed wrote about it
thus: "Woodstock was ... a massive pilgrimage to an electrified holy land where high energy
communism replaced capitalism ... because the immediate negative forces of the outside
world, cops, rules, and prices had been removed or destroyed." 6 The news that half a
million young people had created their own society, no matter how temporary, convinced
millions who didn't attend that a great counter-cultural community existed beyond whatever
locality they happened to live in.
Before the festival the number of young people who embraced some aspect of the counter-
culture—even if that meant merely buying records— was appreciated mainly by the
entertainment industry. The sheer impact of the Woodstock festival on US society forced
those in other segments of the American power structure to pay attention to youth as well.
The New Left too took note. New Left Notes commented that the same record companies
that "sell liberating music are big-time defense contractors," and argued that America's
youth should liberate its culture. In the same manner that Weather linked so-called "hip"
capitalists with corporate ones, the article informed readers that capitalists, not performers,
made most of the money from music (soon after, of course, things changed, with
entertainers often making more money than many small corporations). This was a
commonly held analysis among counter-cultural radicals but would not be enough to
convince the youth of America to join Weather in Chicago in the fall. 7
Weatherman took the offensive once the members of the various collectives had returned to
their cities of operation after the national convention. They believed that the best way to
show their willingness to fight a revolution was to do just that, a view deriving not only from
the Weather interpretation of the foco strategy, but also from its romanticized perception of
US working-class youth. Cathy Wilkerson, a founder member, recalled that Weather "was
trying to reach white youth on the basis of their most reactionary macho instinct,
intellectuals playing at working-class toughs." 8 Indeed, Mark Rudd and Terry Robbins stated
that Weather needed to be "a movement that fights, not just talks about fighting. The
aggressiveness, seriousness, and toughness ... will attract vast numbers of working-class
youth." 9 With this class-based vision of an army, Weatherman and its approximately 350
members took its call for a revolution in Chicago to the youth of the nation.
In a highly publicized organizational effort one Saturday in July, Detroit Weatherman (or
Motor City Weatherman, as the members referred to it) went to Metro Beach, located in a
working-class suburb and at the time a favorite hangout for the youth of the area.
Weatherman arrived in the early afternoon, carrying a red flag and distributing leaflets
calling on youth to go to Chicago in October to fight the police. Within minutes of the
group's arrival, a crowd of approximately two hundred had formed. They began arguing with
the Weather cadre about communism, the Viet Cong, and racism in the United States. A
short time later, after being informed that lifeguards had called the local sheriffs, Motor City
Weatherman moved away to regroup and decide what to do next. The crowd had other
ideas. Fists began to fly, and after a fierce fight, Weather left. It is doubtful that any of
those on the beach that day ever went to Chicago, but one biker involved in the brawl later
told a member of the Motor City collective that while he enjoyed the fight that afternoon, he
"would enjoy fighting the pigs in Chicago more." 10
Another action by Motor City Weatherman took place at a junior college, in an "all white
working class community" according to New Left Notes. Weather's rationale for this target
was that the students at the college were being trained for low-level managerial jobs that
would directly oppress black people. A group of nine women "entered the classroom
chanting, and barricaded the door with the teacher's desk. Various members of the cadre
spoke to the students, who had been taking a final exam, about the Chicago action,
imperialism, racism, and the oppression of women." After listening for a few minutes and
growing increasingly angry because their exam was being interrupted, some male students
pushed the Weather women out of the way in an attempt to leave. A fight ensued. The
women failed to escape before the police arrived, and nine were arrested and charged with
disorderly conduct. 11
During this period local collectives functioned autonomously with regards to fundraising and
actions around local issues. The national leadership (or Weatherbureau, as it came to be
called) directed the individual collectives in terms of political positions and organization for
the national action. Collectives maintained themselves financially by various means. Some
members still received checks from their trust funds or relatives. Others worked regular
jobs, sold drugs, or received public assistance, and some of those who were still in college
obtained some kind of financial aid. All of these monies were placed in a common fund in
each collective from which expenses were paid. The Weatherbureau supplemented its own
collective income with whatever membership payments and contributions it received as the
nominal leadership of SDS, which by this time was not much. In fact, several pleas for
money were sent out in the fall of 1969 because of SDS's severe shortage of cash.
In tandem with external organizing actions the collectives also attempted to crush any
vestiges of bourgeois ideology among members. To facilitate this, the national leaders, who
were based in Chicago, traveled to Weather collectives around the country. Once there, the
individual from the national leadership, say Rudd or JJ (John Jacobs), began a series of
maneuvers designed to identify those local members perceived to be the most willing to
cooperate with the leadership and place them in positions of power. This might involve
marathon criticism sessions in which all those present, sometimes having ingested LSD,
challenged the commitment of the person being critiqued. The procedure might include
sexual activity designed to destroy monogamous relationships, whether equal partnerships
or not, though some members agreed that their relationships needed to be redefined, and
separated willingly, or the forced coupling of people who might or might not wish to sleep
together. One purpose behind these procedures was to create a tightly run, autonomous,
and ego-less foco of street fighters. Another, less obvious purpose was to decrease the
power of locally strong individuals who might interfere with the overall plans of the national
leadership. Weather's opposition to monogamy was based on the belief that it prevented
members from taking risks and that the desire to protect the relationship would cause a
failure of will. Doing away with traditional forms of monogamy was not necessarily a bad
idea and formed part of a strategy to end male supremacist attitudes in the organization,
but the authoritarian manner in which it was undertaken caused much useless dissension
and emotional stress.
If the national leadership had paid closer attention to its less political counterparts in the
counter-culture, perhaps it would have learned that new forms of relating to another -
sexually and otherwise— are much easier to adopt if introduced with sensitivity and love.
Instead, during this period the national leadership, using recruits eager to curry favor,
destroyed strong monogamous associations by separating couples and ridiculing their
relationships. The justification for these activities was the African revolutionary Amilcar
Cabral's dictum of the necessity to "commit suicide as a class" in order to truly lead the
Photo 4 Weatherman graffiti in New York City. Clearly visible are the Weatherman logo and an
iconic Vietcong fighter on a tomb-shaped piece of stone and, underneath, the text "MAKE PIGS
Weather organized around the line that anyone "who played pig" was the enemy. 12 What
Weather meant by the phrase was explained by Rudd in New Left Notes. His argument went
like this: in order to maintain control, the ruling elites in the US utilized both "the priest and
the hangman;" and, if the non-violent persuasion of the priest did not work, then the
hangman's skills were employed to maintain order. To allow the teacher or the serviceman
or woman off the hook just because they might be well-intentioned victims of circumstance
was to allow the bourgeoisie to go unchallenged, and, in Weather's view, this was not much
different from letting President Nixon off the hook for the continuing war in Vietnam. 13
Accordingly, a group of Boston Weather people invaded a meeting in the early fall of 1969
at Boston University, which was called to organize anti-war actions coinciding with the
October 15 Moratorium to End the War and the November 15 Mobilization to End the War.
After barricading the doors, various members of the collective spoke for a few minutes and
then attacked those present, calling them counter-revolutionaries and pigs because they
differed with Weatherman's program and did not support its national action planned for
Chicago. 14 Another action of the Boston Weather collective that fall was a raid on the Center
for International Affairs at Harvard University. This government-funded institute, directed by
a man named Benjamin Brown, was involved in war-related research. The Weather people
"broke into the building, hung the Viet Cong flag from the window," attacked Mr. Brown and
some of his colleagues, and then left. Three Weather men— Eric Mann, Henry Olson and Phil
Nies— were charged for the attack. 15
Its line on "playing pig," especially in relation to the blossoming GI movement for civil rights
in the military and against the war, was more self-defeating for Weather than any of its
other theoretical mutations. In every revolution victory has depended on large numbers of
common soldiers. In its haste to make revolution, and without regard to the economic or
social pressures on those in the military or facing the draft, Weatherman issued an
ultimatum to the American soldiers. "Turn your gun around," it said, "or you are the
enemy." 16 In essence, GIs were "pigs" until they proved otherwise. Ironically, as Carl
Davidson of RYM II, pointed out, Weather's heroes, the National Liberation Front of
Vietnam, who had "every reason to express a burning hatred of GIs never refer [red] to
them with anything approximating the term 'pig.'" 17
The approach of other Left groups shows how removed Weatherman's perspective was from
that of the rest of the movement. About this time, The Black Panther, the party paper,
printed weekly articles on the radical GI movement and addressed open letters to GIs
calling for their support. Other anti-imperialist organizations printed special leaflets to give
to GIs at demonstrations, especially when the demonstrations were held at military bases.
These leaflets were sympathetic in tone and usually provided phone numbers and addresses
of groups and individuals who might be of assistance to soldiers wishing to desert.
Recruiting for Weather at this time mostly involved getting young people interested in the
actions planned for October in Chicago. Weather usually drew attention to itself by
provoking some kind of reaction to its presence. Afterwards, those who expressed an
interest in what Weatherman was or what they hoped to do, were invited either to the next
planned action or to a meeting with members of the local collective at a neutral place— a
coffee shop or restaurant, for example. Larry Grathwohl, an informer, was recruited into
Weather in this way. After a couple of conversations in the streets of Cincinnati, about the
war and the need for revolution in the US, with members of the local Weather collective, he
accompanied the group to some demonstrations. They then invited him on a late-night
graffiti-writing excursion and, finally, to the house the collective shared. After that visit, he
was then asked to live in a house whose occupants functioned as a support group for the
primary collective. His housemates in that house were allies of Weather but were not
considered to be completely committed to the organization. Later he moved into the main
Cincinnati collective's house, when the move was approved by visiting members of the
Organizing for the Chicago demonstrations continued for the rest of the summer and fall. On
September 4, in Pittsburgh, a group of eighty or so women from Weatherman collectives
around the country ran through a high school shouting "jailbreak" and urged students to
decide whether they were for the black and Vietnamese revolutions or against them. When
the police appeared, the women fought viciously and broke away, only for twenty-six of
them to be arrested down the road a few minutes later. According to the women's post-
action summary, the demonstration proved that a "fighting force of women" existed, and,
by existing, challenged male supremacy. 19
Meanwhile, some members of Weather— including Bernardine Dohrn, Ted Gold of Columbia,
Dianne Donghi of Cincinnati, Diana Oughton of Ann Arbor, and Eleanor Raskin of New York-
traveled to Cuba to meet with representatives of the Cuban and North Vietnamese
governments and the NLF of Vietnam. The trip lasted five weeks and involved tours of the
Cuban countryside, long discussions, and even some work in the Cuban sugar fields.
Although the FBI and its conservative supporters in the US Congress were convinced the
trip was for "guerrilla training," little evidence other than hearsay exists to support this
belief. However, Weatherman was told to raise the level of confrontation in the US in order
to help the NLF and North Vietnamese win in Vietnam. Some of the travelers received rings
made from the wreckage of B-52 bombers shot down over Vietnam. Nothing concrete came
of the meetings but the inspiration they provided intensified the group's commitment to the
struggle of the Vietnamese people and to a revolution in the United States.
As October 8 edged closer, Weatherman increased its efforts in cities throughout America,
claiming that tens of thousands of youths would converge on Chicago "to tear the
motherfucker apart." 20 The local collectives worked to obtain commitments from non-
Weather radicals who had expressed previous interest in the upcoming actions, as the
Weatherbureau stepped up its pressure on the local collectives to produce numbers.
Collectives were located in New York, Boston, Seattle, the San Francisco Bay area, and a
dozen or so cities and college towns in the Midwest— Cincinnati, Cleveland, Ann Arbor,
Chicago, and Detroit were some of the larger contingents. Preparing for the worst, the city
of Chicago cancelled all police leave and enforced overtime. National Guard troops were also
placed on alert, in case they were needed by Illinois state officials. 21 In Seattle, cars
belonging to members of the Weatherman collective were shot up by plain-clothes police in
an attempt to intimidate the owners. Also in Seattle, the women of the Weather collective
trashed a university building which housed the campus Reserve Officers Training Corps
Figure 1 A leaflet advertising the SDS-organized Days of Rage, October 11, 1969.
Many groups in the movement advised supporters to stay away from Chicago and criticized
the upcoming Weatherman action as adventurist and self-destructive. Fred Hampton of the
Chicago Panthers observed, "The Weathermen should have spent their time organizing the
white working and lumpen class instead of prematurely engaging in combat with trigger-
happy pigs." 22 The Seed provided its readers with a preview of both the Weatherman and
the RYM II actions (set to occur during the same week). The latter were coordinated with
those of the Chicago Panthers and the local chapter of the revolutionary Latino organization,
the Young Lords. The article included The Seed's skeptical observation that although
Weatherman was counting on thousands of youths to show up, its plans had failed to excite
even the Chicago counterculture and New Left communities. 23
Other underground papers also reported on preparations in the various local Weather
collectives. Members were taught self-defense and street-fighting techniques to calm their
fears. Sympathetic doctors and first-aid workers helped with medical preparations, and
those planning to attend the week of actions were advised to dress appropriately with
protective gear like football helmets and padding.
Along with self-defense practice came an increasing display of bravado. In a speech to
fellow Weather members at the Midwest National Action conference in Cleveland that
August, Bill Ayers answered charges of adventurism from the Panthers and others by
claiming that "if it is a worldwide struggle ... then it is the case that nothing we could do in
the mother country could be adventurist ... because there is a war going on already." Ayers
insisted that Weatherman was intent on opening another front in the worldwide revolution,
and placed all those who disagreed with its ideas in the camp of "right-wingers [who] ... are
not our base, they never were, and they never could be." In response to RYM II's organizing
slogan, "Serve the People," Ayers said that Weather would "fight the people" if to do so
would further the international revolution. 24 A writer for the Boston underground paper Old
Mole-wrote at the time that "Weatherman [was] probably correct in denying that there will
be a purely internal [domestic] revolution," but its actions did not "serve the needs of
oppressed peoples— American or Vietnamese— but of frustrated people in the movement." 25
Two days before Weatherman's October 8 debut a dynamite explosion
destroyed a 10- foot statue of a policeman in Haymarket square where the
"mass march" was to begin later in the week. The statue commemorated
policemen who died during the 1886 Haymarket riot. 26
Weatherman and its followers began to arrive in Chicago on October 6, two days before the
actions were scheduled to begin. The churches and seminary buildings that were to serve as
"movement centers" did not open until the following day, and the Weatherbureau had to
find beds for supporters elsewhere that night. On the Wednesday evening, the 8th,
members of the new revolutionary army attended an opening rally in Lincoln Park.
Estimates of numbers ranged from 100 to 800. The crowd included hardened activists with
years of movement experience, working- and lower-class youth from the Chicago area, and
fresh-faced high-school kids from different parts of the country, as well as a sprinkling of
counter-cultural street people and undercover cops from a variety of law-enforcement
agencies. The crowd was prepared for confrontation. Most wore heavy steel-toed boots for
kicking and were armed with clubs or short pieces of a type of steel bar used to reinforce
poured concrete. Virtually all carried motorcycle or football helmets for protection, and wore
gloves and clothing (primarily black) which covered as much of their skin as possible to
protect them from mace or other chemical agents that the police might use.
Foremost in Weather members' minds was the question of numbers. As the zero hour
approached, it became evident that there would not be tens of thousands of fighting youths
in the streets that night. Still, there was hope that more than a few hundred would show up.
And as these few hundred stood around a bonfire in the park waiting for the leadership
collective to appear, they could not help but notice the large numbers of battle-ready police
in the streets surrounding the park.
At last the leadership appeared, in camouflage fatigues, and the speechmaking began.
Acknowledging that fewer than a thousand people had turned up at the rally, the speakers
appealed to those present as the only non-racist whites in America and the only true
revolutionaries willing to put their lives on the line to fight the Chicago police. In fact, only
two weeks earlier, a few thousand activists had fought the police in the same park after a
demonstration against the Chicago 8 trial. Three of the Chicago 8 defendants— Yippie Abbie
Hoffman, anti-war activist John Froines, and former SDS leader Tom Hayden— were in the
crowd that night. Hayden was the only one to speak, telling the crowd, "We are glad to see
people back in Lincoln Park. We are glad to see the level of militancy increased." 27 Hoffman
and Froines declined to address the crowd, and all three left after Hayden's short talk.
Despite the disappointing turn-out, the crowd responded to the speakers' appeal to their
commitment to the Weather approach to revolution, so that, after an hour or two, "the odds
didn't matter to most." 28 By the time the code word Marion Delgado was uttered, those
present were ready to attack. (Delgado was a 5-year-old Chicano boy who had derailed a
train in Alameda County, California by placing a slab of concrete on the rail, and his name
had been chosen because of his half-mythic/half-joke status in Weatherman.)
Weather ran down the streets of Chicago toward the city's rich section, the Gold Coast,
screaming and chanting, and catching the police off guard. "Windows were smashed ... ,"
remembered Shin'ya Ono. "Small groups often, fifteen pigs on the way were taken by
surprise and were totally powerless against the surging battalion. Some pigs were
overpowered and vamped on severely. Within a few minutes all of us lost whatever fear and
doubts we had before ... Each one of us felt the soldier in us." 29
After twenty minutes or so, and eight blocks away from the starting point of the rampage,
the cops recovered and began their counter-attack, fighting viciously with both men and
women, and using clubs, mace, tear gas, and guns. While some of the Weather people's
violence was directed at obvious and not so obvious perpetrators of violence against the
peoples of the world (banks and corporate offices), much of it was totally random and
pointless. For example, windows of cars and apartments were smashed and, in one reported
instance, a man trying to protect his Volkswagen was beaten severely, although he escaped
without being hospitalized. After two protestors attacked a policeman and beat him
unconscious, another officer shot one of them in the neck.
By 11.30 P.M., the street fighting had ended, with Weather in disarray. The rest of the night
was spent attempting to get back to the various movement centers without being arrested,
while the police reinforced their patrols. A resident of Chicago described the scene: "You
couldn't walk anywhere without seeing cops. They were on every street corner in groups of
two or three, sometimes with dogs. When you got off a bus, you could feel their eyes
watching you all the way down the block 'til the next group of cops started watching you.
They were in control." 30 The casualties for the night were 75 arrests and 21 officers and an
unknown number of Weather people and bystanders injured, including at least three
Weather people with police-inflicted gunshot wounds.
The following morning Weather nursed its wounds and reviewed the night's action. Many
people from the West Coast collectives at first complained that they had been misled about
the expected number of attendants. After several rounds of discussion, however, most of
them accepted that the low numbers were as much their responsibility as anyone else's and
the matter was dropped.
The national leaders realized that the other collectives were unwilling to criticize them (out
of fear or fatigue) and took it upon themselves to open up their own self-criticism session.
Analyzing the possible reasons for the small turnout, they came to some of the same
conclusions that the rest of the New Left had arrived at weeks earlier. According to the
Weatherbureau the primary reasons for the low turnout at the Days of Rage action were
Weatherman's "sectarianism, humorless franticness, their blind obedience to leadership,"
and a misconception concerning the nature of adventurism. 31
Photo 5 Police confront SDS demonstrators at La Salle and Madison, in Chicago's Loop, during one
of several violent clashes in October 1969.
Another topic brought up in the leadership's self-criticism session concerned the
effectiveness of a strategy of fighting with the police in the streets. According to Jeff Jones:
"There was a position to the right of me which was, 'It was a failure. We shouldn't have
done it.' And there was a position to the left of me, which was, 'It was a failure. We have to
escalate.'" 32 It was suggested that confrontations with the police were bound to fail and
should perhaps be replaced with some other tactic. The Tupamaro solution, named for the
urban guerrillas then operating in Uruguay, was suggested. In practice, what this meant for
Weather was to go underground and pick up the gun. After a long discussion, the Tupamaro
solution was rejected for the time being, and instead, Weather again resolved to build "a
strong presence on a national level, so as to compel every white youth to deal with the
existence of a revolutionary white fighting force." 33 The arguments over tactics show that
the radical New Left took itself, and the possibility of revolution in the US, very seriously at
this point. As later developments would show, the arguments and ideas discussed by
Weather in October 1969 would soon be the topic of many a leftist conversation throughout
On Thursday afternoon, the 10th, the 2,500 National Guardsmen who had been on standby
alert moved into the city. As a result, and because of the dwindling numbers of Weather
people in the city, a major action planned for Friday was called off. It was to have been a
"jailbreak" at local high schools. This tactic involved Weather members appearing en masse
at a high school, distributing leaflets, chanting antiwar and revolutionary slogans, and
urging the students to leave their classes. The Weather women, however, had proceeded
with their plan to attack a draft board on Thursday morning. About seventy female activists
gathered in Grant Park, where Bernardine Dohrn told them that "a few buckshot wounds, a
few pellets, mean we're doing the right thing here." Their fear, continued Dohrn, "has to be
put up against the hunger, fear, death, and suffering of black, brown, and yellow people in
this country and all over the world." 34 After Dohrn's pep talk, the women began marching
toward the draft board a few blocks away. They were stopped by a police blockade and
ordered to let go of their weapons, which included pieces of lead pipe and brick. Instead,
the leaders of the march, including Dohrn, charged the police lines and were immediately
attacked. After about twenty minutes of fighting between Weather and approximately 300
officers, the bruised and bloodied women were overwhelmed and placed in paddy wagons.
None ever reached the draft board.
That afternoon, RYM II held a rally outside the courthouse where the Chicago 8 trial was
taking place. The Chicago Panthers, the local chapter of the Young Lords, and some
Weather members were also in attendance. The crowd numbered around 2,500, not
including more than 800 police officers. Because of the police presence and a threat from
the sponsors of the rally, the Weather people in attendance did nothing, although their
original plan was to invade the courthouse and disrupt the trial.
Before the final action on the Saturday, Weatherman was thrown out of the McCormick
Seminary, one of the buildings it had been allowed to use as a movement center, after
badly beating up an undercover policeman. A priest had walked in on the proceedings and,
horrified at what he saw, gave Weather thirty minutes to leave. Not wishing to provoke the
priest into calling the police, it complied. According to a Liberation News Service report the
following week, police then raided another movement center and arrested forty protestors
on a variety of felony charges, including attempted murder. 35
The final action on Saturday began at noon on Haymarket square, where Weather had
destroyed the commemorative police statue. Although only 20 or 30 people were present at
the start, eventually close to 300 showed up. While demonstrators waited for the action to
begin, plainclothes Chicago police officers arrested Mark Rudd, Jeff Jones, and two others on
charges of assault, mob action, and resisting arrest, beating them badly in the process.
The march finally began around 1:30, an hour and a half later than scheduled. After short
speeches by Weatherbureau members JJ and Dohrn, who argued that the Weather actions
of the week would inspire activists even if they failed militarily, the marchers set off,
proceeding in an orderly fashion for several blocks before rushing police lines. The fiercest
fighting of the week took place over the next 30 or 40 minutes, before the police
overpowered the Weather cadres. The number of casualties was great, considering the
relatively small number of demonstrators. There were 110 arrests and many badly injured
on both sides, including Richard Elrod, a Chicago corporate attorney who was originally
thought to have been hit with a lead pipe on his spinal cord while he was pounding a
demonstrator with his fists. Elrod was hospitalized with a broken neck, and a Weather
man— Brian Flanagan -was charged with attempted murder. But, testimony at Flanagan's
trial showed that Elrod had in fact accidentally hit his head against a wall while beating a
protestor, and Flanagan was acquitted of the charge. 36 In contrast, the Saturday RYM II
march and demonstration at a Caterpillar factory where workers were on strike attracted
over 3,000 supporters and was welcomed by the residents of the inner-city neighborhood
where it was held.
Photo 6 Bernardine Dohrn and Brian Flanagan talk to supporters before entering the Criminal
Courts building in Chicago on October 24, 1969. Hearings and trials were held that day for those
arrested during the Chicago Loop riots of early October; Flanagan was accused of assailing chief
city prosecutor Richard Elrod, Dohrn of being an SDS organizer.
Most of the Weather people arrested were bailed out within a week by their families or
friends. According to law-enforcement records, there were a total of 284 arrests, 40 of them
on felony charges, and several serious injuries; bail charges exceeded $1.5 million. Of those
arrested, 104 were college students, mostly from the Midwest and New York. Another 20
were high-school students, and the rest were either part-time or full-time activists. Fifty-
seven police were hospitalized and over one million dollars of damage was caused to
property in the city of Chicago. 37
1 SDS National Council, "Bring the War Home," New Left Notes, July 23, 1969.
2 Mike Klonsky, "Why I Quit," New Left Notes, August 29, 1969.
3 Terry Robbins and Mark Rudd, "Goodbye Mike," New Left Notes, August 29, 1969.
4 Klonsky, "Why I Quit."
5 Tom Hayden, The Trial, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1970, p. 29.
6 Armando, "Electric Mud," Chicago Seed, 4:5, (August 1969).
7 Mark Kramer, "Rock Imperialists," New Left Notes, August 8, 1969.
Cathy Wilkerson, quoted in Ronald Fraser, 1968: A Student Generation in Revolt,
Pantheon, New York, 1988, p. 312.
9 "Bring the War Home," New Left Notes, July 23, 1969.
12 The Fire Next Time (New Left Notes), September 20, 1969.
13 New Left Notes, August 1, 1969.
14 From conversation with George Katsiaficas, December 1989.
15 SDS, "Weatherman vs. The Pigs," leaflet, Students for a Democratic Society Papers,
1958-70, Microfilming Corporation of America, Glen Rock, NJ., 1958, 1970, Reel 41.
16 FIRE!, September 20, 1969.
18 Larry Grathwohl, Bringing Down America: An FBI Informer with the Weathermen,
Arlington House, New Rochelle, N.Y, 1976.
19 "Towards a Women's Militia," New Left Notes, September 12, 1969.
20 Weatherman leaflet, Fall 1969.
21 Much of the information for this chapter was drawn from the Weatherman paper FIRE!;
an article by the Weather man Shin'ya Ono which appeared in the December 1969
Leviathan (San Francisco, 1969); an article by Andrew Kopkind in the magazine Hard Times
(New Weekly Project, Washington, D.C., October 20, 1969); Tom Thomas's The Second
Battle of Chicago: Chicago, 1969, SDS, Grinnell, Iowa, 1969; and conversations with three
people who participated in the Days of Rage, all of whom wish to remain anonymous. I have
not noted all my sources within the text, only the actual quotes from these readings.
22 Quoted in Black Panther, October 18, 1969.
23 Editors, Chicago Seed, 4: 7 (October 1969).
24 Bill Ayers, "A Strategy to Win," New Left Notes, September 12, 1969.
25 Staff, "Don't Mourn, Organize," Old Mole, September 14, 1969.
26 Carl Davidson and Randy Furst "Weatherman Goes It Alone in Kick-Ass Brawl," Guardian,
October 18, 1969.
27 Liberation News Service (LNS), Dock of the Bay, San Francisco, November 1969, p.l.
28 Susan Stern, With the Weatherman, Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y, 1975, p. 134.
29 Shin'ya Ono, from Leviathan, p. 256.
30 From conversation with Steve, December 1989.
31 Shin'ya Ono, from Leviathan, p. 260.
32 Jeff Jones quoted in Joan Morrison and Robert K. Morrison, From Camelot to Kent State:
The Sixties Experience in the Words of Those Who Lived It, Times Books, New York, 1987,
33 Ibid., p. 261.
LNS, Dock of the Bay, p. 11.
Kirkpatrick, Sale, SDS, Vintage, New York, p. 611.
Subcommittee to Investigate the Administration of the Internal Security Act, Committee
on the Judiciary, US Congress Extent of Subversion in the New Left, March 1970,
Government Printing Office, Washington D.C., 1970, pp. 443-8.
4. Down the Tunnel: Going Underground
Within days of the final action in Chicago on Saturday, October 11 the Weatherbureau was
claiming a victory. According to Shin'ya Ono, Weather regarded the week of actions as
successful for three reasons. 1 First, the willingness of Weather people to lay their lives on
the line would push other white radicals to make a similar commitment. This view was
based naively on the belief that the media coverage of the Days of Rage had created an
image of strength for the watching world, much like the Tet offensive of the National
Liberation Front in 1968. Bernardine Dohrn later remarked, "We were determined to carry
out an action that would reveal how passionately we felt and that we were on the other
The development of cadre which occurred in Chicago was another element of Weather's
perceived victory. Prior to the Days of Rage, it had developed a fairly tight and mobile force
which was honed by the experiences gained in Chicago. While not without its individual
differences, the group impressed the rest of the New Left with its ability to act in a
The third aspect of Weather's assessment concerned material damage. Its stated aims had
included the destruction of property and fighting the police, criteria that the four days in
Chicago certainly met. But despite these claims to victory Weatherman believed that the
increased repression that was sure to follow, as well as the injuries sustained by the street
fighters, suggested that mass street actions, while necessary, were a losing tactic.
Favorable commentary on the Days of Rage came from non-Weatherman sources as well.
Andrew Kopkind, who co-edited the New Left weekly Hard Times and took part in the
Chicago action, echoed Weatherman's assessment of its commitment when he stated that it
"challenges the validity of the intellectual left, which functions as a comfortable culture of
opposition; instead, it asks that radicals become revolutionaries, completely collectivize
their lives, and struggle to the death." Later in the same article Kopkind addressed
Weather's mistakes. He attributed these to a "simple-mindedness about the varieties of
political experience in America" and to a fascination with violence. Kopkind, who had shared
a jail cell with Weather men arrested in the Saturday march, ended his article with the
observation that in modern America "simply not to fear fighting is a kind of winning." 3
Dissenting from the mainstream Panther line, Eldridge Cleaver wrote a letter to blacks from
exile in Algeria in support of Weather, asking, "Did we ever pay attention to white radicals
when they told us to keep our shoot-outs clean and middle-class orderly?" He also
supported Weather's call for the overthrow of the United States through violent revolution:
"In times of revolution ... I love the angels of destruction as opposed to the devils ... of law
and order." 4 The rest of the Panthers, who were based in Oakland, California, under Huey
Newton's leadership, criticized Cleaver's and Weatherman's approach to revolution in the
United States. These Panthers held the opinion that "black revolutionaries had to set an
example," not by either adopting electoral politics or immediately picking up the gun and
going underground, but by doing whatever it took to maintain a revolutionary profile and to
educate as many people as they could before the state "drove them underground." 5 It
wasn't that Newton and his followers objected to armed struggle, but their opinion of the
situation in the US in autumn 1969 held that until large numbers of people supported the
revolution, the repression which followed any army confrontation could only isolate the
revolutionary forces and destroy the hope of revolution. The Panther forces represented by
Cleaver, on the other hand, like Weatherman, believed they already had enough support
and that the time had come for revolution.
Not all the commentary on the Days of Rage was favorable, of course. Much white radical
activity did now become more confrontational, in part because of the example of the Days
of Rage, but just as much in reaction to the repressive measures against the movement by
the state. The leap toward revolution that many white New Leftists took in late 1969 was
similar to their leap into massive resistance in 1968, and was attributable to no particular
group or party, but stemmed from a general sense that the stakes needed to be raised if
the war in Vietnam and against the black people in America was to be stopped. Weatherman
did not now attract a rush of recruits.
The prevalent definition of revolution within the movement in 1969 was the espousal of the
destruction of the imperialist system in the United States and its replacement by some form
of socialism. The word "revolution" was often used to describe tactics which went beyond
defensive action and took an offensive line in the form of street fighting or bombings. For
Weatherman, revolution meant to fight in support of wars of national liberation in the third
world and to eventually install a socialist government in the US in support of third-world
revolutions. Most other groups defined revolution somewhat differently: the Panthers
desired self-determination for America's black population, for example, and the Yippies
wanted an America characterized by the culture of youth rebellion.
For all those in the New Left who saw revolution as the solution, the question of violence
was the foremost issue. Given the pacifist past of many groups and individuals, it was not
easy for them to rationalize violence as a strategy and consequently most opted for it only
in response to attack. Weather, on the other hand, had fewer qualms and was convinced
that planned offensive actions were necessary because what was at stake was no longer
proving that it was on the right side, but seizing military power. The state would only be
overcome when it no longer had a monopoly on such power. This thinking was basic to
Weather's strategy in Chicago and would remain so, with differences developing only in
Those radicals who differed from Weather in its definition of revolution criticized both its
theory and its tactics. According to Tom Hayden, among others, Weather's ideological
stance prevented its members from being "guerrillas swimming like fish among the people"
and, instead, made them "more like commandos, fifth columnists, operating behind enemy
lines" in support of third-world revolutionaries. Hayden insisted that the American revolution
needed to be more than a movement in support of others because, "as misfits of dying
capitalism," youth and other disempowered whites also had to revolt in order to preserve
their way of life. 6 Stew Albert, a longtime activist and Yippie, concurred, remarking that
although the youth movement needed to wholeheartedly support the national liberation
struggles of the world he, for one, "wasn't organizing a movement around suffering— of
Vietnamese, blacks, or anyone, but presumably one to end suffering." 7
From the Yippies' vantage point, the idea of setting a date for a battle with the state was
ridiculous: it provided the police with a greater capacity to counter-attack, and it also took
away the element of surprise, the activists' only advantage. In addition, the Yippies argued,
given the movement's anti-hierarchical nature, its non-structure, and the resultant
fluctuations in commitment and strength, planned attacks were inappropriate.
Pointing out the differences between the planned, offensive violence of Weatherman and
Yippie's spontaneous, defensive version, Abbie Hoffman termed Weatherman's
confrontations "Gandhian violence for the element of purging guilt through moral witness." 8
Ironically, it was the complaint of many of the founders of Weatherman that actions
stemming from moral witness were not enough in the current conjuncture.
The harshest criticism of Weatherman in the revolutionary New Left came from the
Guardian collective. In their report on the Days of Rage, Carl Davidson and Randy Furst
called the action a "fiasco" controlled by the police with "brutal precision." 9 The Guardians
politics were closer then to RYM II, and the remainder of the issue detailed its actions that
same week, praising its attempts to link up with workers ready to strike at an International
Harvester plant (provoking a walkout) and with lower-paid workers at a Chicago hospital.
The Guardian lamented the relatively small numbers drawn by both RYM II and
Weatherman, and even though commentary was more favorable to the former, the articles
about the Weatherman action at least treated the organization seriously— something
Weather did not reciprocate when speaking publicly about RYM II.
The Guardian criticized Weatherman for its distrust of American workers and for placing
them in the same camp as the military and the rest of the ruling class. Like others had
before, the Guardian reminded Weather that nothing was as important as revolutionary
work among the people, especially youth. Davidson and Furst also argued that the
Weatherman-organized "surrealist contretemps" of the Days of Rage gave the moderate
New Left and its liberal sympathizers a perfect reason not to adopt and promote
revolutionary politics. 10 It was Furst and Davidson's contention that people risked
participation in actions like those staged by Weatherman in Chicago only when they
perceived a threat to their self-interest, as did the Vietnamese or the American blacks. By
not seriously recognizing the oppression of other US workers, youth, and women, and
organizing them around their specific oppressions, Weatherman, it was argued, insured its
Much of RYM II's criticism of Weatherman centered on their different perceptions of the role
of the youth movement. Yippies and many other leftist groups had begun to organize youth
solely on the basis of their oppression as youth. Weatherman also believed that, because of
the war and the draft, and the burgeoning counter-culture, youth was either a class unto
itself or "an embryonic part of a larger movement that reflected] the transformation of the
nineteenth century working class into a new working class." 11 Yippies and others organized
primarily around this age-specific oppression, while Weatherman attempted to direct youth's
anger into fighting for the revolutions of the third world, and RYM II and other Marxist-
Leninist and Maoist-leaning groups saw youth mostly as a way to reach US workers. All
these organizations hoped to transform the rebellious nature of the counter-culture into an
anti-imperialist revolutionary movement, but RYM II hoped to ignite the older workers with
the spark of youth, while the Yippies and Weather preferred to forgo the support of older
workers and fight the revolution without them.
Figure 2 Cover of Class War comix, fall 1969. A FIRE! publication.
To anyone who wasn't there, it is difficult to comprehend the extent of the fear and
suspicion in the New Left and counterculture during the late 1960s to mid-1970s. Most of it
was well founded. Black, Native American, and Chicano activists were gunned down, white
activists were railroaded on questionable or fabricated charges, ordinary young people and
students were beaten and arrested merely for protesting or because of their appearance.
After the Days of Rage action Weather was the subject of at least two federal investigations.
According to Larry Grathwohl, who worked underground in Weather from early fall in 1969
until the summer of 1970, the FBI opened a file on the group in late October 1969. At
around the same time the Senate Committee of Internal Security opened an investigation as
well. Both investigations were driven by the belief that Weatherman constituted a major
threat to the internal security of the United States and that it was controlled at least
partially by foreign governments. These investigations were part of a counter-intelligence
operation against the whole of the New Left known as the Counter Intelligence Program
(COINTELPRO). Frank Donner, author of several books on the US government's attacks on
dissent, described this operation as "an undisguised assault by the self-appointed defenders
of the American way of life." 12
As far as Weather was concerned, the primary objective of police agencies was to stop its
activities and arrest its members. Before the group went underground, this objective was
achieved by police spies and informants at meetings and demonstrations and by perpetual
harassment and arrests on contrived charges. Michael P. Wood, a Weather friend, wrote an
article for Win magazine detailing his experiences in one week of hanging out at a Boston
Weather collective in November 1969. He tells how police followed members on their daily
rounds and of his own arrest on a fictitious (or John Doe) warrant at a picket line outside a
courthouse. Some Weather members were on trial for an earlier action at Harvard
University's Center for International Affairs, when the director of the Center was attacked
and his office vandalized. The trial ended in heavy fines for four people and three one-year
sentences for Eric Mann— sentences much greater than those given to others arrested on
the same charges in a non-political context. After a weekend away from Boston, Wood
returned to stand trial. The action at Harvard for which he was arrested occurred while he
was working on Long Island, but despite this fact and undisputed alibis presented by his
lawyers, Wood was convicted. As he wrote, "I was convicted and am now out on appeal. For
what— associating with Weatherman or looking like them? Imagine what the Panthers are up
A nationwide General Electric strike in November provided many white radicals with an
opportunity to express their solidarity with workers. Most leftists saw the strike as a chance
to create new alliances and expand the movement beyond its student base. Weatherman,
however, showed up at picket lines and demonstrations called to support the strike with
signs and literature labeling the General Electric workers as pigs. A participant in the strike
in the Boston area told of a Weather sign stating something along the lines of "Ho Ho Chi
Minh, the NLF are gonna kill GE workers." 14
Preferring to organize youth, when they did any organizing at all, Weatherman distributed
its newspaper FIRE! on college and high-school campuses, and at other places where young
people gathered, such as rock concerts. The paper was full of rhetoric and graphics
reflecting the organization's decision to "fight in a public way, not a covert way." In an
attack on mainstream anti-war organizations (the National Mobilization to End the War in
Vietnam, or Mobe, and the Moratorium Committee) mobilizing for the November 15
Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam, Weatherman labeled legal demonstrations as
pointless in the United States because it was fundamentally anti-democratic. FIRE! blamed
the leadership of the anti-war movement for its failure to grow politically and tactically— a
criticism which overlooked the SDS's earlier failure to organize a national anti-war
FIRE! did, however, praise the upswing in attacks on the state— "200 ROTC buildings
trashed, hundreds of walkouts and fires at high schools, and many street actions"— and
called on anti-war demonstrators to increase material attacks on the state's power.
Referring specifically to the upcoming demonstration in Washington, D.C., on November 15,
Weatherman urged its members to raise the level of confrontation: "It is neither numbers
nor loud voices alone that will bring imperialism down, but real material attacks on the
Photo 7 Diana Oughton (right, in beret) arrives at an SDS convention at Flint, Michigan, on
December 27, 1969. The photograph, one of the last ever of Oughton, was taken by Flint police
who watched the meeting closely.
Boston Weather members took this to heart when they shot out some windows at the
Cambridge police station on November 8, according to the questionable testimony of a 16-
year-old boy who was living at the Weather collective's house at the time and had allegedly
been beaten by the police after his arrest on charges stemming from an argument with a
store owner. Some twenty-three Weather members were arrested and charged with
conspiracy to commit murder and promote anarchy. 17
Three days before the November 15 Mobilization to End the War a series of bombs exploded
in the offices of Chase Manhattan, Standard Oil, and General Motors in New York. The
bombings were not Weatherman actions, but they were applauded by the organization as
further evidence of the growing militancy of the New Left, and, by some individuals, as a
welcome contrast to the increasing legitimacy of the mainstream anti-war movement. In
addition, the formation of hundreds of local anti-war and anti-imperialist committees and
coalitions separate from the national organizations was taken as further proof by Weather of
the growth in revolutionary consciousness in the United States. A rally at the South
Vietnamese embassy in Washington, D.C. on November 14, called by an alliance of anti-
imperialist organizations, further enhanced this perception; over 10,000 demonstrators
fought pitched battles with the police for several hours. 18
Although much of the corporate media and many liberal politicians did their best to portray
the November 15 Mobilization to End the War as just another exercise in free speech, the
growing numbers of anti-imperialist activists were determined to push the action beyond
those limits. The conspiracy trial of the Chicago 8 provided them with a perfect foil. On the
afternoon of November 15, Yippies, Weather members, and thousands of others left the
main rally on the Capitol mall and chanting "Stop the Trial" marched on the Justice
Department building. Augmenting the chant with "Free Bobby Seale, Free Kim Agnew" (in
reference to Black Panther and the Vice-President's 14-year-old daughter who, it was
rumored, had been forbidden to wear a black armband in solidarity with the demonstrators),
more than 20,000 demonstrators surrounded the building. A game of push and shove with
the law went on for about twenty minutes until a Yippie activist replaced the US flag on the
flagpole in front of the building with an NLF banner. "The pigs understood the insult,"
reported the Quicksilver Times, "and were up for the challenge. A skirmish and brief tug of
war ensued with the different flags alternately being raised and lowered." 19 Eventually the
police attacked, throwing tear gas and assaulting the crowd. The fighting continued until
The size and militancy of the crowds at both the Justice Department demonstration and the
night before at the South Vietnamese embassy stirred hopes in the New Left of building a
broad-based nationwide revolutionary youth movement. Weatherman too was excited and
began to organize for its next conference, billed as a war council, where such a movement
would be forged.
On December 4, Chicago police raided the apartment of Black Panthers Mark dark and Fred
Hampton and killed them in cold blood. These murders chilled the entire revolutionary
movement. A cry for revenge went up throughout the New Left, especially from
Weatherman. In the streets, however, action was limited to a few rallies, some fire
bombings, and leafletting. Weather people did nothing other than join a couple of marches
and firebomb some police cars; their relative inactivity reflected the organization's internal
doubts about the efficacy of street actions and, at the same time, its inability then to carry
out armed attacks. Later they were to see their inertia at this time as defeatist.
In white Amerika, we too understand that we can regain our lives only
through struggle ... The meeting will be a gathering of the tribes— a war
council. Only with each other can we figure out how to build the kind of
organization that can lead us toward victory— toward the smashing of U. S.
imperialism ... We have to learn from one another ... We are going to learn to
work and struggle with each other in order to change ourselves and each
other into revolutionaries ... It's going to be different ... It's going to be out of
Letter to white radicals from Weatherman, December 1969 20
One of the first things those who attended the war council noticed as they entered the run-
down ballroom in Flint, Michigan on December 2, 1969 was the freshly dried blood in the
corner. The result of a knife fight between locals at a dance the night before the council
convened, the blood symbolized the bloodlust at the council that many of those present
would speak of later.
If the blood didn't catch the eye, then perhaps the giant cardboard machine gun suspended
from the ceiling did. The gun was of course symbolic of the direction Weather planned to
take, although almost everyone else in attendance— some White Panthers, Yippies,
independent activists, and members of the underground media— questioned the practicality
of such a move. The Weatherbureau was convinced, and the council was intended to
persuade the rest.
After an opening speech by Mark Rudd in which he compared himself to Captain Ahab in
Moby Dick— "I'm monomaniacal like Captain Ahab. He was possessed by one thought:
destroying the great white whale. We should be like Captain Ahab and possess one
thought— destruction of the mother country"— the days were marked by earnest discussions
around various points raised by the Weather line. 21 Some discussions concerned the
necessity for immediate armed violence, others the targets of that violence. Perhaps to
prove the sincerity of their "commitment to" total revolution, some Weather members
discussed the political correctness of the murder of white babies. Another discussion dealing
only with theory was limited to women. Organized by committed Weather women ever more
intent on establishing their identity within the organization, the conversation centered on
male-chauvinist perceptions of women among both genders, and how those perceptions
held back all Weather people from making revolution.
Weather had invited young counter-cultural radicals to come to Flint and rebuild "SDS as a
forum for the ideological struggle." With respect to the fleeting victories of the past, the
leadership suggested that their temporary nature came "from a fundamental
misunderstanding of power." The Weatherbureau's solution was to target sites of power and
to attack them as if fighting "part of the international war." 22 If that wasn't possible, then
chaos in the streets was seen as the next best option. In the words of one leaflet, "The
future of our struggle is the future of crime in the streets." 23 Although Weatherman's stated
intention preceding the council was to build a broad-based anti-imperialist revolutionary
movement, its politics and its unwillingness to fit them to the larger concerns of counter-
cultural youth made such a goal unobtainable. For those not in Weather, disagreeing with
what the Weatherbureau said proved virtually impossible, despite the implications of the
open invitation promising a revolutionary and counter-cultural "gathering of the tribes." If a
dissenter wasn't shouted down, his/her argument would be lost in a flood of "rhetoric that
never addressed itself to the point." According to another observer: "It wasn't a gathering of
tribes, they [Weather] just talked to each other." 24
Despite all its stated pre-council intentions to continue its confrontational street-fighting
tactics, no matter what the cost, by the end of the council, the Weatherbureau had opted to
go underground. It was not an easily made decision for most, and it would intensify the
process of isolation Weatherman had begun in June.
Weather's decision to move underground and engage in armed struggle was propelled by its
understanding of repression in the United States in 1969. Linda Evans stated in an interview
from prison in 1991 that she decided to go underground and "participate in armed struggle
because of the rage [she] felt after the FBI/police raids on Black Panther Party offices and
homes all over the US and particularly the murder of Fred Hampton and Mark dark by
Chicago police." 25 It was this rage, coupled with frustration at failing to draw large numbers
to Chicago, that was a driving force in the Weatherbureau's decision. The Chicago failure
also led Weather to conclude, at least for the moment, that because white radicals were
unwilling to follow its program a race war was inevitable. For its part, Weatherman wanted
to be on the side of the blacks.
Weatherman had given up on white people and saw the organization's role solely as one of
causing chaos in support of the blacks and other national liberation movements, in the style
of the abolitionist John Brown. Although some members, among them Jim Mellen , still
believed it was possible to organize American working-class youth into a revolutionary
movement and disagreed with the decision to go underground, their dissension fell on deaf
ears. It was apparent to most attendants that the decision had been made before the
council began, even though the stated aim of the meeting was to rebuild SDS. According to
Susan Stern, members were told of the decision only after a closed-door meeting of the
leadership. The announcement was followed by a speech from Dohrn extolling the Tate-
LaBianca murders in Los Angeles the previous August— murders Charles Manson and his
followers were eventually convicted of. "Manson," said Dohrn, "killed those pigs, then they
ate dinner in the same room with them, then they shoved a fork into a victim's stomach!"
She continued, "Parents are now gonna' tell their kids to stay away from home vacation —
they're afraid they'll get offed in their sleep." The speech was later criticized by most
listeners, including Dohrn, but not much was said at the time. 26 Susan Stern called Dohrn's
commendation of the Manson family's actions "the last putrid drop of American poison" in
Weatherman and believed that they represented the despair felt by the New Left's most
dedicated adherents. 27
After the days of discussion members spent the nights partying. They danced and sang, and
there was a good deal of free-for-all sexual activity as well. As far as drug-taking went,
though, both Weather and non-Weather sources agreed that it was to be discreet and
minimal so that police could not use it as a pretext for breaking up the meeting. The
celebration seemed contrived to many observers, as did Weather members' donning of
beads and sandals. It took more than beads, rock-and-roll, and drugs to be part of the
counter-cultural revolution. Weatherman's objectification of youth led them to objectify its
culture too. Tibor Kalman of the Rat commented: "Weatherman attempted] to suck off the
youth culture in a way that's not qualitatively different from the Bill Grahams and the
Woodstock moneyfuckers." 28
All in all, despite the preceding rhetoric, the war council achieved only a consolidation of the
Weatherman hierarchy and analysis, and a decision to go underground— the logical
conclusion of the organization's distrust of its own potential base of support. In the months
to come, America would become more aware of Weather than ever before because of its
armed propaganda, but its failure to hook up with other white revolutionary groups at the
council was unfortunate. When Weather went underground, "some of the best minds in the
movement" went too. 29
1 In Leviathan, December 1969.
2 Underground, directed by Emile DeAntonio, with Mary Wexler and members of Weather
Underground Organization, First Run Features, New York, 1976.
3 Hard Times, October 20, 1969.
4 Eldridge Cleaver, "On the Weatherman," Berkeley Tribe, November 13, 1969.
5 Huey Newton, from "Huey Newton Talks to the Movement about the Black Panther Party,
Cultural Nationalism, SNCC, Liberals and White Revolutionaries," in The Black Panthers
Speak, ed. Philip S. Foner, J. A. Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1970, pp. 63-6.
6 Hayden, The Trial, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1970, p. 94.
7 Stew Albert et al., "Radical RapUp," Berkeley Tribe, October 31, 1969.
9 Carl Davidson and Randy Furst, "Hurricane or Hot Air," Guardian, October 18, 1969.
11 From the introduction to H. Gintis, "The New Working Class and Revolutionary Youth,"
Socialist Revolution, May-June 1970, Agenda Publishing, San Francisco. The article
discusses the role of student rebellions in advance capitalist societies. Gintis's basic thesis
is: since the role of education is to train students to perform tasks demanded by the new
capitalist technology, disruption of the educational process strikes a blow against the
established order and furthers the development of working-class consciousness.
12 Frank Donner, The Age of Surveillance, Alfred Knopf, New York, 1980, p. 232.
13 Michael P. Wood, "Weather Report: A Dove in the Kitchen," Win, New York, February 1,
1970, p. 7.
14 From conversation with Pete Bohmer, fall 1989.
15 FIRE!, November 7, 1969.
17 Staff, "Repression Hits Weatherman", Old Mole, Boston, December 4, 1969.
18 "Injustice Dept. March," Quicksilver Times, November 1969.
20 Liberation News Service, Washington, D.C., December 1969.
21 Ken Kelley and David Schanoes, "Moby Dick," Ann Arbor Argus, December 31, 1970.
22 FIRE!, December 6, 1969.
23 From a packet distributed at the war council in Flint, Michigan, December 1969.
24 Terry Brecker, Quicksilver Times, January 9, 1970.
25 "Interview with Linda Evans, Laura Whitehorn, and Susan Rosenberg," in Queers United
in Support of Political Prisoners, "Arm the Spirit," 1991: http.//burn. ucsd.edu/~ats.
26 "Moby Dick," Ann Arbor Argus, December 31, 1970.
27 Susan Stern, With the Weatherman, Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y., 1975, p. 205.
28 Tibor Kalman, "Homemade Weather Guide," Rat, New York, January 1970.
29 Quicksilver Times, January 9, 1970.
5. Women, The Counterculture, And The Weather People
Women are something else. This time, we 're going to kick out all the jams,
and the boys will just have to hustle to keep up, or else drop out and openly
join the power structure of which they are already the illegitimate sons. Any
man who claims he is serious about wanting to divest himself of cock
privileges should trip on this: all male leadership out of the Left is the only
way; and it's going to happen, whether through men stepping down or
through women seizing the helm. It's up to the "brothers "—after all, sexism
is their concern, not ours; we're too busy getting ourselves together to deal
with their bigotry.
Robin Morgan 1
In the February 6, 1970, all-women's issue of Rat, a New York based underground paper,
former SDS member Robin Morgan exposed the "liberal co-optative masks on the face of
sexist hate and fear" and demanded that both women and men in the movement rethink
their position on the role of women in history and in the present. She insisted that men
were the enemy of women and accused New Left organizations of not being truly
revolutionary because of their refusal to seriously address this question. According to
Morgan, women were the real Left because of their experience of gender oppression which,
along with racism, predated capitalism. The Left functioned "as a microcosm of the capitalist
economy, with men competing for power and status at the top, and women doing all the
work at the bottom." The women's collective at Rat warned men throughout the Left from
the Mobe to the Panthers, to RYM II, to counter-culture radicals, and to Weatherman, that
women were "rising with a fury older and potentially greater than any force in history, and
this time we will be free or no one will survive." 2
In Morgan's letter, Weather women were equated with the "Manson slaves," and the
"Stanley Kowalski image and ... practice of sex on demand for males" in Weatherman was
sharply criticized. Furthermore, the Weather women's adoption of the group's macho style
was not revolutionary or liberating, but merely a "last desperate grab at male approval."
Robin Morgan was not alone in her criticism of Weatherman's male chauvinism. Bread and
Roses, a women's collective from the Boston area, expressed their anger over the group's
male bias: "The machismo and militarism characterizing Weatherman actions do not merely
reflect tactical errors or improper application of theory. Indeed, their male chauvinism
stems from a basic misunderstanding of the nature of women's oppression." Like other
groups on the revolutionary New Left, Bread and Roses challenged the Weather idea that
struggles for equal rights in the context of imperialism were a racist tactic and argued that
the issues of women's rights, youth culture, and workers' oppression could beget
revolutionary struggles if analyzed in a revolutionary framework.
Furthermore, with regard to Weatherman's internal dialectic, Bread and Roses claimed that
its desire to destroy monogamy was based on an objectification of women and relationships,
as well as an oversimplified analysis of the role of monogamy in women's lives under
monopoly capitalism. According to the feminist collective, monogamous relationships and,
consequently, the nuclear family were necessities for most women given the limited
economic and social structures available to them in US society. Until true economic equality
existed for all women, regardless of class or color, the security, however precarious,
afforded by monogamy would insure its continued practicality and popularity. Bread and
Roses did not defend the proliferation of exclusive couplings, but tried to explain their
Finally, Bread and Roses stated that Weatherman's methods in its campaign to smash
monogamy might "produce effectiveness and homogeneity and loyalty— but it doesn't
produce freedom." In addition, it only truly freed men from responsibility and, consequently,
replicated the structures already in existence. 3
In the same issue of Rat, an article by a Weather woman accused women's separatist
organizations of falling short in their theory by mistakenly blaming men for gender
oppression rather than US imperialism. "Women," wrote the Weather woman, "needed to
learn how to build this new society where people don't destroy one another but build each
other." She admitted that it was sometimes hard to work with men but "there was no other
way to make the revolution." As if in answer to Morgan's comparison of Weather women
with Manson's sex slaves, the writer described the Weather campaign against monogamy
and the resultant sexual experimentation as "creating new standards for men and women to
relate to" according to which making revolution became the common denominator. 4
The struggles in the New Left over the women question were instructive to Weather in the
long run. The organization, which had always been extremely intolerant of oppressive
attitudes, now found its male members attacked for sexism. The arguments which occurred
could have torn Weather apart but, instead, created a dynamic which provided lessons for
all of its organizational work. The men's realization that they, too, were capable of counter-
revolutionary thought and action allowed them to see that most prejudices resulted from
ignorance. This realization paved the way for a new approach to inter-organizational
relationships. By trying to work out their own shortcomings while maintaining a
revolutionary perspective, they were forced to acknowledge that individuals were capable of
change, whatever their previous prejudices.
The move underground continued at a rapid pace. Individuals wrestled with the implications
of the move and decided whether they were willing to sever all ties with their families and
friends. Weatherbureau members met with local collectives and, after serious criticism
sessions, issued directives about who would stay and who would be asked to leave. Those
who weren't willing to leave when asked to were unceremoniously kicked out. The
techniques during the criticism sessions were similar to those used in the summer and fall,
only now virtually all of them involved the use of LSD. This was considered an ideal way to
ferret out any police agents since it would be difficult for anyone, especially an informer, to
maintain his/her cover while under the influence of LSD. It was not foolproof, however, as
the informer Larry Grathwohl related in his book. He was able to fake swallowing a tablet of
LSD and ended up being asked to join an elite group of Weather which was sent to Detroit.
By February 1970, all of those who remained in Weatherman had gone underground.
Members spent time in city halls searching for the false identifications they would need to
apply for public assistance or social-security numbers. Many of those who had access to
trust funds or bank accounts liquidated them and pooled the money with that of the other
underground cells. Any property of value, like televisions or stereos, was sold, and that
money too was pooled. The national offices let their utility bills go unpaid, and on February
9, 1970 the last open SDS office in Chicago was quietly vacated. A call had been made on
the 8th to Vicky Grabiner, a sympathetic employee of the State Historical Society of
Wisconsin— where a large collection of Left documents are stored— inquiring if they were
interested in the SDS archive. Grabiner obtained $300 and bought the contents of the
office. While she was loading the documents into her van in the early morning of February
9, a police car left its surveillance post nearby and officers tried unsuccessfully to seize the
Some Weather people participated in nationwide The Day After (TDA) protests against the
convictions of the Chicago defendants (now numbering 7 rather than 8, as Bobby Seale had
been removed from the docket) in February, but most of the better-known members chose
to remain hidden, applauding the youth insurrections from their underground vantage point.
Local collectives in specific towns and cities no longer existed. Instead, members organized
themselves into cells of 3, 4 or 5 people and spread out across the country, with most of the
cells located on the coasts. Of the several hundred members who had participated in the
Days of Rage, only a couple of hundred remained. Communication between the cells was
dependent on sympathetic aboveground supporters (some of whom were Weather members
who did not wish to go underground). Meetings were arranged secretly with the use of code
words and names, and mailboxes registered under false names. Each cell was committed to
armed action and was instructed by the Weatherbureau to come up with a list of potential
targets. The list was relayed verbally to the Weatherbureau which would discuss the merits
and disadvantages of each target. Little was committed to paper since anything written
down was potentially incriminating evidence should the police discover the location of a
Weather house. Due to the decentralized structure of the organization, it was rare for one
cell to know of another's plans.
It was for precisely this reason that Weather members around the nation were shocked
when they heard news on March 7 of an explosion in New York City which had killed at least
one of their comrades. Diana Oughton, Kathy Boudin, Cathy Wilkerson, Ted Gold, and Terry
Robbins had been living and building bombs in Wilkerson's parents' Greenwich Village
townhouse on West 11th Street. The bombs they were making, composed of nails wrapped
around an explosive center that would spray shrapnel when exploded, were designed to kill.
Two weeks prior to the accidental explosion at the townhouse, this Weather cell had
firebombed the home of Justice Murtagh, the judge presiding over the trial of Panther 21,
Black Panthers from the New York branch who had been indicted by a grand jury on charges
of conspiring to bomb police stations, Macy's, the Bronx Botanical Gardens, and government
buildings around the city. Despite the amount of media attention generated by the
firebombing, some members of the cell felt it had not been, a success because it had failed
to cause sufficient material damage. These members, purported to be Terry Robbins and
Ted Gold, had devised a campaign which Bernardine Dohrn would later describe as a "large-
scale, almost random bombing offensive," including an attack on a dance for military
officers. 6 Although discussions were continuing within the cell over the merits of the plan—
with some members still unsure— a wiring mistake made during the bomb-building on the
morning of March 6 killed three Weather members and destroyed Wilkerson's parents'
Photo 8 The bombed-out town-house in Greenwich Village's West 11th Street in which Diana
Oughton, Ted Gold, and Terry Robbins died.
The two survivors— Cathy Wilkerson and Kathy Boudin -half-naked and dazed from the
explosion, fled the building. Ann Hoffman, wife of actor Dustin Hoffman, who lived next
door, took the two women into her house and helped them clean up. Another neighbor gave
them some clothes to wear. By the time fire and police units arrived on the scene, Boudin
and Wilkerson were gone, and before police detectives figured out that the explosion was
caused by a bomb and not escaping gas, as was first believed, the entire Weather
organization had gone underground.
Once the fire was out, police and arson investigators began searching through the debris for
victims. The first body they found was that of Ted Gold. He had been crushed by a beam
moments after the explosion. The bodies of the other victims were virtually destroyed. It
wasn't until police found part of his thumb several weeks later (and after Weather
commemorated his death in a communique) that they were able to positively identify Terry
Robbins. The third victim, Diana Oughton, was not identified for ten days. Police did find
other evidence, however: four cartons of explosives containing 57 sticks of dynamite, 30
blasting caps, and some clocks in the process of being converted into timing devices.
The deaths of the three Weather people, all founder members of the organization, created
its first martyrs and brought the newly underground organization abruptly into public view.
Oughton, the daughter of a wealthy Illinois businessman, had worked in government
poverty programs during her college years and then run a community school for poor
children with her lover, Bill Ayers. The continuing war in Vietnam had forced both Oughton
and Ayers to look for more radical solutions to fundamental social problems. The two joined
SDS in early 1968 and were instrumental in building one of the organization's most
influential chapters at Ann Arbor, a group that was essential to the founding of
Ted Gold joined Columbia SDS in 1967 out of his frustration with the growing US
involvement in Vietnam and the worsening living conditions of the residents of Harlem. He
was a key organizer of a fall 1967 protest in New York against Dean Rusk. Gold's increasing
frustration with the inability of the movement to effect change convinced him of the need
for ever more violent actions.
Terry Robbins was from Ohio and had been a prime mover in the SDS chapter at Kent State
University. One of the most radical in Ohio, the chapter staged militant protests in this
conservative town. Robbins had held national office in the SDS, but his frustration with the
ever worsening political situation led him to join Weatherman. A fan of Bob Dylan's music, it
was Gold who had suggested the name Weatherman for the organization.
After the townhouse explosion, the FBI broke down the doors of many of those who had
been in Weather in its early days. A group of agents in New York, known as Squad 47,
broke into the houses of relatives and friends of Weather members in search of information
about the fugitives. Multiple warrants were issued for interstate flight and possession of
explosives and by year's end six Weather people were on the FBI's Ten-Most-Wanted list,
which the Justice Department then increased to sixteen to accommodate the new breed of
Indictments came down on March 17, 1970, charging twelve Weather people with actions
related to the Days of Rage. The most serious of these charges was conspiracy to cross
state lines with the intent to incite a riot— the same charge that was made against the
Chicago 8. Furthermore, the same federal judge -Julius Hoffman -was chosen to preside
over the trial. The twelve indicted included most of Weather's leaders: Bernardine Dohrn,
Mark Rudd, Jeff Jones, Mark Spiegel, Linda Evans, Judy dark, Kathy Boudin, Bill Ayers, John
Jacobs, Howie Machtinger, Lawrence Weiss, and Terry Robbins. Weather had no intention of
appearing on the charges. 7
In early April, after Larry Grathwohl tipped off the FBI, Dianne Donghi and Linda Evans were
arrested for attempting to forge checks using their false identifications. Both women were
released later that day, but their brush with the law convinced other Weather people
involved in similar activities to obtain money (like selling drugs) to stop.
The movement in support of the New Haven Panther defendants— Bobby Seale and Ericka
Huggins— was one of the more important battles of 1970. It was the first truly popular effort
in the United States since the campaign to free Black Panther leader Huey Newton, which
had linked the repression of the black liberation movement and the rise of fascism in
America with the worldwide anti-imperialist struggle. Weatherman had long ago insisted on
their inseparability and now, because of the egregiousness of the state's actions, thousands
took up the struggle. A week of actions was planned at Yale University in New Haven,
leading up to May Day. The mainstream media sensationalized the trial and the plans of
protest organizers, as groups all along the East Coast worked together to bring about a
large, militant action in solidarity with the defendants, the Panthers, and political prisoners
in general. The state put thousands of troops on alert and assembled hundreds of police
from all available agencies. The administration at Yale, meanwhile, worked frantically to
head off any violence, with the president of the university, Kingman Brewster, even going
so far as to uncharacteristically question the possibility of any Panther getting a fair trial in
the United States.
To Weather, there was no doubt about the impossibility of a fair trial. Yet the group
remained publicly silent until three weeks after the Yale demonstrations. When Weather
finally spoke, its statement expressed solidarity with "Eldridge, H. Rap Brown, and all black
revolutionaries who first inspired us by their fight." 8 Interestingly, yet not surprising, was
the mention of Cleaver and Brown, but not the Oakland-based Panthers. It seems fair to say
that this was not only because of Cleaver's support of Weatherman after the Days of Rage,
but also the result of Weather's decision not to organize in the streets, but to cause chaos
from underground. Both Cleaver and Brown (who was not a Panther) favored such an
approach, believing, like Weather, that the time was right for armed revolution and,
moreover, that arms were the revolution.
Photo 9 The New York Panther 21 support rally, spring 1970. Photograph from the Roz Payne
Archives, reproduced courtesy of Roz Payne.
The night of April 30th is Walpurgis Night. For practitioners of the Black Arts
this is the unholiest night of the year— the best night to cast spells and
conjure demonic powers.
On the night of April 30, 1970 President Nixon announced that American and
South Vietnamese forces were advancing into Cambodia. Their purpose was
to locate and destroy the headquarters of N. Vietnamese and NLF forces
alleged to be hidden in Eastern Cambodia. This move, despite the
administration's denials, is clearly an interference into the civil war raging
between the Lon Nol government and its enemies. As in Vietnam, the United
States has sent its troops into a civil war in order to shore up the crumbling
position of a puppet regime.
Walt Crowley 9
Within hours of the announcement of the US invasion of Cambodia, streets and campuses
across the US and in several European cities were filled with demonstrators. Thousands
protested— holding rallies, trashing ROTC buildings, recruiting offices, and stores, closing
down streets, and fighting with police. At Yale, the ad hoc steering committee of the Free
Bobby and Ericka actions (the Panthers Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins) held an
emergency meeting and approved a call for a nationwide student strike. At the University of
Maryland, the ROTC building was burned to the ground. At the University of Washington,
demonstrations of a few hundred quickly developed into a takeover by thousands of people
of the interstate highway near the campus, and, at Kent State in Ohio, after three days of
rallies and insurrection (including the destruction of the ROTC building), national-guard
troops opened fire on protestors, killing four. Those deaths caused the movement against
the invasion to expand exponentially. Eventually, close to half of the colleges in the United
States and many high-school campuses closed. In the military, GIs and dependents
throughout the world expressed their solidarity with the protestors by refusing to fight and
wearing black armbands. 10 Within the next two weeks police forces killed six blacks in
Augusta, Georgia during civil-rights disturbances there, and, on May 14, they killed two
black youths— a student and a delivery boy who was watching the protests— at Jackson
State College in Mississippi during antiwar actions there. The state of crisis in the country
was such that Nixon curtailed his war plans and, under heavy pressure from his more
pragmatic advisors and anti-war liberals in the Congress, promised to withdraw US troops
from Cambodia within sixty days.
The mainstream anti-war movement responded by calling for a massive demonstration in
Washington, D.C. On May 9 a few hundred thousand protestors showed up at the Capitol for
a rally. The rally's sponsors discouraged militance because they hoped that a peaceful
demonstration would convince middle America and the Congress that it was time to end the
war. The most militant action of the day was the takeover of the Peace Corps offices.
According to one participant, although there were "10,000 people ready to occupy
government buildings that day," no similar actions occurred. 11
Weather was impressed by the general militance and anti-imperialist nature of most of the
spring actions and, in a communique distributed on May 21, it expressed solidarity with the
dead in Kent, Jackson, and Augusta and applauded the actions of white youth at the TDA
demonstrations in February and during the nationwide response to the invasion of
Cambodia. The letter, which was signed "Weatherman Underground," began: "Hello. This is
Bernardine Dohrn, I'm going to read a declaration of a state of war." For the first time
Weather embraced the revolutionary elements of the counterculture: "Freaks are
revolutionaries," it wrote, "and revolutionaries are freaks." Because of the growing
"alienation and contempt that young people [had] for this country", it finally believed such a
step was possible. Asserting that the widespread use of illegal drugs made thousands of
youth outlaws, the communique called on those youth to join the struggle. Dohrn wrote that
there were hundreds of Weather people underground and in the names of Diana Oughton,
Ted Gold, and Terry Robbins she promised that Weather would "never go back." 12
The idea of the youth culture as an outlaw culture was romantic and alluring, but made for
difficulties, as the state, perceiving the revolutionary aims of the counter-culture, was
determined to silence it. With Vice-President Agnew as its mouthpiece, the Nixon
administration attacked rock music, while the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue
Service pressured Columbia Records and RCA to stop advertising in the underground press,
which had the effect of putting many papers out of business. FBI memos stated that
"Columbia Records' financial assistance ... appears to be giving active aid and comfort to
enemies of the United States." 13 The FBI and other law-enforcement agencies raided
underground press offices around the country, destroying their equipment and confiscating
their subscription lists. In addition, government harassment of counter-culture personalities
intensified; for example, John Lennon's increasing outspokenness on political issues was
met with deportation proceedings and John Sinclair, of the counter-cultural revolutionary
group, the White Panthers, was sentenced to ten years in jail for giving two marijuana
cigarettes as a gift to an undercover narcotics agent.
The seriousness with which the government took the youthful New Left, especially Weather,
was apparent in the arrest on April 15 of the Weather woman Linda Evans on a Days of
Rage indictment. Larry Grathwohl, who arranged the bust, described the intense pressure
he was under from FBI headquarters to obtain an arrest, so intense, in fact, that the agency
blew Grathwohl's cover in order to do so. 14
Grathwohl had been under suspicion in Weatherman for weeks due to a couple of poorly
explained absences. In addition, his questions about details of the cell's future plans were
making his companions increasingly nervous. The bust came on the morning of April 15,
when Grathwohl met Linda Evans at a diner in New York City. After she finished her
breakfast,' they left the diner and were immediately approached by an FBI agent who put
them both under arrest. The two ran down the block but were quickly tackled and
handcuffed by at least a dozen other agents who had been waiting in various parked
vehicles. They were then placed in two different cars and taken to the FBI offices in
Manhattan. After a short time there, during which Dianne Donghi was arrested by two other
agents at the hotel room where she had spent the night before with Grathwohl, he and
Evans were taken to the Federal Building in downtown Manhattan, once again riding in
different cars. They were immediately arraigned, Grathwohl using his false identity of
Thomas Neiman. Then they were brought to the holding cells in the building's basement.
Donghi was already there and Evans was placed in the same cell with her. Grathwohl,
handcuffed, remained standing outside the cells in full view of the two women. A marshal,
unaware of Grathwohl's status as an informer, searched him again and found a dogtag
Grathwohl had taped to the inside of his shoe after the townhouse explosion to insure that
he would be properly identified if he was killed. The marshal read the dogtag and
immediately accused Grathwohl of lying about his real name. The other marshal present, a
supervisor, who knew that Grathwohl was working for the FBI, quickly grabbed the dogtag
from his subordinate and insisted that Grathwohl's name really was Neiman. The fact that
the supervisor did not question the discrepancy between Grathwohl's dogtag and the name
he gave the judge was enough to confirm Evans's and Donghi's suspicions— Grathwohl was
working for the FBI. Evans and Donghi were later released.
In its May 21 declaration of war, Weather promised to attack "a symbol of Amerikan
injustice" 15 within fourteen days. When the time came and went with no attack, some in the
New Left were disappointed. After all, explained a letter addressed to Weatherman in the
Berkeley Tribe, "Raising people's hopes that high isn't a good way to build trust in the
underground." 16 However, at 7.00 P.M. on June 9, a series of explosions ripped through the
second floor of the New York City police headquarters. According to police reports, the blast
had the force of 10-15 sticks of dynamite and may have been caused by TNT. Seven people
were injured and damage was estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The police
had to move some of their men and operations elsewhere. The brief statement sent to the
press expressed solidarity with radical youth of all backgrounds and challenged the
authorities: "The pigs try to look invulnerable, but we keep finding their weaknesses ... They
look for us— we get to them first." 17 A little over a month later, on July 26, to commemorate
the anniversary of the Cuban revolution, Weatherman set off a small bomb at a military-
police guard post at the Presidio Army base in San Francisco. This attack was coordinated
with smaller actions around the country which were most likely conducted by a combination
of Weather members and their allies in the revolutionary movement. One of these actions,
which was announced in advance by a person claiming to be a Weather member, was a
small explosion at a Bank of America branch in Manhattan. In both the San Francisco and
New York bombings, damage was slight and involved nothing more than some shattered
windows. In its July 26 communique sent from Detroit, Weather wrote: "Today we attack
with riots, rocks and bombs the greatest killer-pig known to man— Amerikan imperialism." 18
More federal indictments were handed down on July 23, charging thirteen Weather
members with "conspiracy to bomb police stations and government buildings across the
US." Dianne Donghi, Linda Evans, and Russell Neufeld -three of the persons named in the
indictments— were arrested soon after. Donghi was arrested at the poverty center she
worked at in New York and Neufeld was picked up at a hospital where he worked in Chicago.
All three had been with Grathwohl during his stay in Detroit shortly after the war council in
December 1969. In an attempt to legitimize Grathwohl in Weather's eyes, he was also
named in these indictments. The remaining nine indictees were Mark Rudd, Bernardine
Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Kathy Boudin, Cathy Wilkerson, Jane Spiegelman, Naomi Jaffe, Ronald
Fliegelman, and Robert (Bo) Burlingham. All but Jaffe, Spiegelman, and Burlingham were
already wanted for charges on the March 1970 indictments. Evans and Donghi opted to
work for Weather aboveground after their court appearances. Several years later the
indictments were discarded because of the illegality of FBI and police procedures.
Communique N°. 2
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Figure 3 A communique from Weatherman claiming responsibility for the bombing of the New York
City Police headquarters in June 1970.
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Figure 4 A 1970 FBI "WANTED" poster showing many of the famous Weatherman activists.
Under the direction of the Internal Security Division of the Justice Department, local police
continued their campaign of harassment and illegal procedures. Beginning in the spring of
1970, lawyer Mark Lefcourt— who was working on several cases involving former Weather
members— had his office broken into several times and his home twice by police acting
illegally. Another example of illegal police activity is the case of Robert Swartout, named as
a coconspirator in the Days of Rage but not indicted. Early in 1970 he was kidnapped by
Chicago police, beaten and tortured, and then sent on a plane to Virginia. When Swartout
disembarked, he expected to be arrested, but nothing ever happened. The testimony the
police had extracted from him under torture, however, was presented as evidence in the
indictments against Weather members issued in July. 19
Photo 10 Dianne Marie Donghi (right) and Jane Spiegelman at the New York Federal Court, July
28, 1970. Both were charged with conspiring to commit bombings.
Around this time, the White House and the Justice Department tried to combine various
agencies— the FBI, the CIA, the Internal Revenue Service, the National Security Agency, the
Defense Intelligence Agency, and Military Intelligence— with state and local red (political
surveillance) squads in a program named after its designer John Huston to crush domestic
opposition to US policies. Because of differences of opinion within the domestic
police/intelligence apparatus, however, especially from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who
feared a loss of power, the plan was suspended, although many of its elements were put
into practice in a newly formed unit directed by White House counsel John Dean— the
Intelligence Evaluation Committee. 20 In fact, the failure of the Huston plan:
had little effect upon the intelligence services: the CIA mail-opening went on;
NSA selection of international communications expanded; the FBI opened
thousands of new cases on domestic dissenters and intensified its campus
surveillance ...; the intelligence agencies formed a permanent intelligence
committee ...; and the intelligence directors continued to seek the full
implementation of certain Huston plan provisions. 21
By the summer of 1970 more than two thousand federal agents were involved in the
campaign to destroy the New Left, the Panthers, the American Indian Movement, and other
Paradoxically, while Weather's aboveground supporters were subject to continual
harassment and threats, the fugitives themselves moved about with minimal interference
from the law. As they related in a letter in The Last Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog,
"we do move around freely." 22 Even if there was a brush with police, because of a traffic
stop, say, their false identifications were effective enough, so that no suspicions were
aroused. Ayers later remarked, however, that every day he woke up thinking: "I wonder
how many times I'll be nervous today." 23
On February 19, 1970, Timothy Leary, the Harvard psychologist turned high priest of the
counter-culture, had been convicted in California for possession of two marijuana cigarette
butts. This followed another conviction for possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana
in Texas. In California, he was denied appeal and sentenced to ten years in prison. After
further attempts by his lawyers to gain an appeal, he eventually ended up at the California
Men's Colony at San Luis Obispo. Almost immediately, he began plotting an escape, and
Weatherman, through the persuasive efforts of one of its LSD suppliers (who knew Leary),
decided to help him. The dealer was part of a mythic and shadowy organization of hashish
and LSD smugglers, manufacturers, and dealers from California and Nepal known in the
counter-culture as the Brotherhood of Eternal Love. The plan to help Leary would not only
test Weather's underground network, it also proved the sincerity of its expressed desire to
link up with the counter-culture.
On September 13, 1970, under cover of darkness, Leary moved hand over hand along a
cable suspended over the fence round the prison until he reached a pole on the other side
and slid down to freedom. He made his way to the highway and waited in a roadside ditch
until a car stopped at a prearranged spot on the shoulder and a girl with long dark hair
jumped out. Leary jumped in and the girl followed. He was on his way to freedom, thanks to
the Weather people. As the car drove north, his fellow passengers helped him change
clothes and dye his hair. He was also given a set of false identification papers. The clothes
were left at a rest stop where another car picked them up and then left them at another rest
stop about 100 miles south of San Luis Obispo. This was done to persuade the police that
Leary had headed for Mexico instead of the north. Leary switched vehicles once more that
night before arriving at a safe house in North Oakland. 24
Later that morning, as he rode north from Oakland, a car full of long-haired young people
passed, honking and waving. Leary was naturally nervous at being recognized, but relaxed
when he was told it was Mark Rudd and some friends in the other car. 25 Leary's destination
was a camp on some Native American land in the northern Californian mountains. After
arriving at a campsite near the native-owned land, Dohrn and two Weather men talked with
representatives of the Native American nation about letting Leary spend the night there.
Leary waited with two Weather women smoking marijuana and listening to a recording of
the Grateful Dead. He was allowed to remain on the land for the night and part of the
following day. He then rode with another Weather member, identified only as Frank, to a
motel. Finally, almost four days after his escape, he was moved to a ranch house
somewhere in northern California where he and his wife Rosemary were temporarily
reunited. Less than three days later, after receiving another set of false papers to replace
the first, he was in Algeria. His wife met him again soon afterwards, having taken a different
Weatherman, in a perfectly executed plan, had freed Timothy Leary from prison. Its ability
to get Leary out of the country and into the Panther compound in Algeria was proof of its
effective underground network. Although it is unclear exactly how many Weather members
there were (estimates ranged from 100 to Dohrn's claim of several hundred), its network
included many New Left and counter-culture radicals, both from other organizations and
unaffiliated individuals. Although some support groups, such as the Mad Dogs from New
York, were relatively organized, most supporters were individuals who approved of some
aspect of Weather's program and helped in what ever way they could, whether that meant
carrying a banner expressing solidarity with Weather at a demonstration, publishing a
Weather statement in a newspaper, or providing temporary refuge for a Weather figure.
For example, activists Stew and Judith (Gumbo) Albert of Berkeley were instrumental in
arranging Leary's stay in the Panther compound in Algeria. The distribution of Weather's
next communique, like the one written to celebrate the Cuban revolution on July 26, was
facilitated with help from the White Panthers, and Yippies. As Leary wrote in his description
of the escape: "They [Weather] are not in hiding, but are invisible." Weather was "in every
tribe, commune, dormitory, farmhouse, barracks and townhouse where kids are making
love, smoking dope, preparing for the future." 26
The beginnings of an alliance of "Leary's upper middle class white following ... with the
militant whites, the blacks, and the Hispanic lower and middle class" was in the offing. Both
Weatherman and the Cleaver wing of the Panthers had been working hard to effect just
such a coalition, especially after the two organizations realized they shared similar analyses
of the revolutionary situation in the United States. 27
The Leary escape marked the beginning of a new strategy for Weather. The deaths in the
March 6 townhouse explosion forever "destroyed their belief that armed struggle is the only
real revolutionary struggle." 28 In its place was a new strategy which, as Dohrn told Leary
before he left for Algeria, did not exclude armed struggle but accepted its use only "when it
was forced upon us." 29 Leary, meanwhile, released a public letter in which he called on the
counter-culture to resist and, using the horrors inflicted by the Nazis as an example, urged
its adherents not to allow themselves to be led "peacefully to the slaughter like those at
Auschwitz." He supported Weather's declaration of war and warned, "Do not be deceived. It
is a classic stratagem of genocide to camouflage their [the government's] wars as law and
order police actions." 30
On August 7, 1970, Jonathan Jackson, the 17-year-old brother of prison revolutionary
George Jackson, entered the Marin County courthouse armed with a submachine gun. He
hoped to force the release of the Soledad Brothers— George Jackson, Fleeta Drumgo, and
John Clutchette, who were charged with the murder of two guards at Soledad Prison after
guards had killed another prisoner. Jonathan gave guns to three prisoners who were present
in court— Ruchell Magee, a jailhouse lawyer who was testifying at the trial of fellow prisoner
James McClain, and William Christmas. The three then took the judge, the prosecutor, and
three jurors hostage. They left the courthouse and placed the hostages in a county van.
Before the armed men and their hostages left the courthouse, the Marin County sheriff had
ordered his men not to shoot, but the van was hit by a hail of gunfire from San Quentin
prison guards and other law-enforcement personnel immediately after it left the building's
garage. Jackson, Judge Haley, McClain, and Christmas were all killed. Several weeks later,
at approximately 1:30 in the morning on October 8, Weather exploded a bomb at the
courthouse building in anger over the "murders." The explosion wrecked one of the
courtrooms in the building and an adjacent bathroom.
In a rare display of humor, on October 5, Weather blew up the police statue in Haymarket
Square for the second time. The accompanying communique— released on October 10 -
called for a fall offensive of youth resistance to "blast away the myth of superiority of the
man." 31 On October 9, at approximately 1:30 in the morning. Weather exploded a bomb at
the Long Island court building in solidarity with a prison uprising in New York City jails which
had just ended in a violent put-down. The prisoners, including some of the New York
Panther 21, had taken control of the jails for up to five days. They also held thirty-two
hostages, who were released unharmed after New York mayor John Lindsay promised no
reprisals. Weather's bomb attack was preceded in this instance by a phone call, and the
bomb itself was placed in a phone booth near the building, which was damaged so
extensively that it was put out of action. According to the police the bomb was comparable
to that at the police headquarters building in June that year. Weather's communique on
October 9 expressed solidarity with the growing revolutionary movements in the prisons
and, at the same time, advised America's youth not to fall for the lies put out by the
system. It emphasized the need to build the youth culture into a culture of insurgency that
would resist the genocide of the Vietnamese and of America's blacks.
In another action related to the fall offensive, on October 14, the Proud Eagle Tribe (later
renamed the Women's Brigade of Weather) exploded a bomb at the Center for International
Affairs at Harvard University. This, the first attack by an all-women's grouping in Weather,
was in reaction to, and solidarity with, the arrest of activist Angela Davis earlier in the day
on charges of interstate flight and conspiracy to commit murder. These charges, which were
related to her support of George Jackson, were based on the fact that one of the guns used
by Jackson's brother Jonathan in the abortive attempt to free the Soledad Brothers was
registered in her name. (Davis was eventually acquitted on both charges.) "The fall
offensive has begun," read the women's statement. "We all want to build a militant women's
movement that commits itself to the destruction of US imperialism." 32
This communication dated December 6, 1970, arrived special delivery in the
Liberation News Service office in New York on December 10. The two stamps
on the envelope commemorated Tom Paine and Lucy Stone. The first page of
the document has a hand-painted rainbow with a red lightning arrow. A
Vietnamese stamp is in the right hand corner. The stamp shows a Vietnamese
woman dressed in green, with a rifle over her shoulder. "New Morning,
Changing Weather" is painted in black ink above the rainbow.
The document is signed Weather Underground, and Bernardine Dohrn.
Editor's note attached to the "New Morning" communique 33
On December 10, a Weather communique entitled "New Morning, Changing Weather"
reached the LNS office in New York and was released to underground papers across the
nation. This was the first statement from the organization that did not accompany any
specific action. To verify its authenticity, Bernardine Dohrn had signed it in longhand. The
statement was a review of Weather's past errors and its hopes for the future. For the first
time. Weather publicly acknowledged its earlier opinions as alienating to those outside the
organization. It called its "tendency to consider only bombings or picking up the gun as
revolutionary, with the glorification of the heavier the better" a military error. With a new
maturity in both approach and analysis, the letter provided the rest of the revolutionary
New Left with a glimpse of the struggles in the collectives since Weatherman's conception.
Foremost among them were the questions of the youth culture's place in the revolution and
the role of women in the organization.
As in much of the New Left, Weather continued to argue over the youth culture's
revolutionary nature. Some members still insisted that the culture was merely an exercise in
bourgeois decadence, but others believed it to be the beginnings of a "young, and unformed
society (nation)." By the time "New Morning" was published, the latter argument had
become the Weather line, as evidenced by their role in the Leary escape. Furthermore, the
statement revealed Weather's growing belief in structures of leadership and organization
which emphasized the holistic nature of their lives as revolutionaries. "The revolution
involves our whole lives," the communique stated. "We are not part-time soldiers or secret
This new organizational approach precipitated a stronger role for women and, as the
October 14 action at Harvard made clear, the formation of some all-women units. Men, who
had previously held a good deal of power in the organization, now found themselves on a
more equal footing with women. As if to underline the new gender roles, the statement was
signed Weather Underground, not Weatherman or Weatherman Underground, as in the
past. In contrast to the heavy-handed tactics employed by the earlier male leadership, it
stated, the strategies developed through the women's initiatives emphasized struggle and
flexibility. Noting that people "became revolutionaries in the schools, in the army, in the
prisons, in communes, and on the streets [and] not in an underground cell," the letter
defined Weather as part of a "nation," not a separate organization. 34 Bernardine's sister,
Jennifer— who worked aboveground with allies of Weather -later made the observation that
the "New Morning" statement "demystified [Weather] a lot ... and it was the beginning of a
sense that they're really another whole arm, a whole base for our movement." 35 The result
was that Weather would no longer organize as collectives, but as "families" instead. Families
were defined as composed of people who had developed bonds beyond politics. After all,
went part of the reasoning, "it's harder [for informants] to live in a family without being
detected." 36 It was a step which had been promoted by many in Weather since 1968, when
the Ann Arbor faction of SDS spoke of a sense of community coming from revolutionary
"New Morning" acknowledged the military ineffectiveness of Weather's bombings until then
by comparing them to a bee sting, and yet it emphasized their political and social effect:
"The world knows that even the white youth of Babylon will resort to force to bring down
imperialism." 37 And indeed the state acknowledged the problems posed by Weather in its
continuing campaign to capture its members. Only one week after the release of "New
Morning," Judy dark was arrested in a New York movie theater on charges listed in the Days
of Rage indictments. Her bail was set at $75,000. She was then taken to Chicago, where
Judge Hoffman added another $150,000 to the sum.
1 Robin Morgan, "Goodbye To All That", Rat, February 6, 1970.
3 Bread and Roses Collective, quoted in H. Jacobs, ed., Weatherman, Ramparts Press,
Berkeley, Cal., 1970, p. 327.
4 "Letter from a Weathersister," Rat, February 6, 1970.
5 Kirkpatrick Sale, SDS, Vintage, New York, 1973, p. 647.
6 Weather Underground, "New Morning, Changing Weather," Weatherman communique,
December 6, 1970.
7 The indictments, which came from Detroit, were the result of undercover investigations
and just plain fabrication.
8 liberated Guardian, May 1970.
9 Walt Crowley, "On Strike," The Helix, Seattle, May 1970.
10 This is from the author's recollections of his youth spent on military bases with his father,
a soldier. From March 1970 until June 1973 he lived in Frankfurt, West Germany, and
attended high school there.
11 Quicksilver Times, May 19, 1970.
12 Liberated Guardian, May 1970. Weather furthered the concept of the political outlaw in its
"Letter to Brother Dan" (Berrigan), October 8, 1970. This letter was written as Weather
members watched Berrigan's arrest on television on charges of destruction of draft files.
13 Abe Peck, Uncovering the Sixties: The Life and Times of the Underground Press,
Pantheon, New York, 1985, p. 176.
14 Larry Grathwohl, Bringing down America: An FBI Informer with the Weathermen,
Arlington House, New Rochelle, N.Y, 1976, p. 179.
15 Liberated Chiardian, May 1970.
16 Berkeley Tribe, June 12, 1970.
17 Weatherman Underground, "Communique Number 2," June 9, 1970.
18 Weatherman "Communique Number 4."
19 Frank Donner, The Age of Surveillance, Alfred Knopf, New York, 1980, pp. 371-2.
20 The Justice Department was also involved in running this unit, which was disbanded after
the Watergate revelations began to strangle the White House counter-intelligence
21 Select Committee to Study Government Operation with Respect to Intelligence Activities,
Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans,
Book III Final Report, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1976, p.
22 Weather Underground, "From the Weather Bureau," The Last Supplement to the Whole
Earth Catalog, ed. Ken Kesey and Paul Krassner, Whole Earth Catalog, Menlo Park, Cal,
1971, p. 20.
23 Underground, directed by Emile DeAntonio, with Mary Wexler and members of Weather
Underground Organization, First Run Features, New York, 1976.
24 Timothy Leary, Confessions of a Hope Fiend, Bantam, New York, 1973, p. 124.
25 Staff, "Rap with J. Dohrn," The Seed, 1971.
26 Leary, Confessions, p. 137.
27 Leary was eventually expelled from the Panther compound in Algeria, primarily because
of his refusal to go along with Panther demands that he conduct himself in such a way as
not to attract any more law enforcement attention than the compound already received.
After his expulsion, he and his female partner at the time (an informer) traveled around the
globe and were eventually arrested by drug-enforcement agents in Afghanistan. Rumors
abounded that Leary traded information on Weather safe houses for a shorter prison term.
The rumors were never substantiated, but did diminish Leary's credibility in the
counter-culture. He ended up serving just over two years in Folsom Prison, California.
28 "New Morning, Changing Weather," Weatherman communique, December 6, 1970.
Leary, Confessions, p. 138.
Quoted from a letter from Leary in appendices in Jacobs, ed., Weatherman, p. 517.
Weather communique, October 10, 1970.
Women's Brigade statement, October 14, 1970.
Liberation News Service, December 10, 1970.
34 Weather Underground, "New Morning, Changing Weather," December 10, 1971.
Jennifer Dohrn, "A Rap With Jennifer Dohrn," Chicago Seed, April 1971.
"New Morning, Changing Weather."
6. Changing Weather
Was the "New Morning, Changing Weather" statement as dramatic a shift in Weather
philosophy as it appeared? Or was it merely the same philosophy cloaked in the rhetoric of
the counter-culture. After all. Weather had acknowledged the revolutionary potential of the
youth culture in "You Don't Need a Weatherman." But the actions and writings of late 1970
demonstrate its first genuine acceptance of the counterculture as a revolutionary entity in
and of itself. In fact, the "New Morning" statement took its title from a just released album
by Bob Dylan. Both the album and the statement shared a reflective, yet resolute mood.
In San Francisco, where the counter-culture and New Left politics first came together
publicly at the Human Be-in in January 1967, Weather's recognition of the counter-culture
brought a musical response. Two leaders of the rock band the Jefferson Airplane— Grace
Slick and Paul Kantner— joined other rock musicians on the album Sunfighter, which was
dedicated to the victims of the townhouse explosion and included a song for Diana Oughton
eulogizing "Weatherwoman Diana."
Others in the revolutionary Left, most notably some members of the New York Panther 21,
criticized the "New Morning" statement for what was perceived as a lack of militancy, and
cautioned Weather not to confuse the revolutionary and hedonistic aspects of the counter-
culture. Based on their own experience with drugs and drug-users, and specifically relating
the proportionate increase in drug availability to the decrease in revolutionary activity in the
community, these Panthers warned Weather that "grass and organic consciousness
expanding drugs [were] not weapons of the revolution." 1 Although drugs had played a role
in the development of a sense of community, wrote the Panthers, the fact that they were
made so readily available to the youth community implied their counter-revolutionary
potential. After all, it is much harder to think and organize if one is high on LSD or
marijuana. Contrasting the building of community to the fighting of a revolution, the New
York Panthers emphasized their belief that revolution was the only way to oppose the
repression of the community. To settle for less insured the culture's impotence not only in
changing the greater reality, but even in defending itself.
It was over the question of drugs and their role in developing revolutionary consciousness
that the counter-culture and the New Left most disagreed. Although marijuana and LSD
opened youth to new ways of perceiving the world, they also, so the Left argued,
exacerbated the individualistic ethic of the dominant culture within the counter-culture.
What Weather, the Yippies, and other political groups hoped to do— taking their lead from
the Panthers and Young Lords -was to develop a new ethic within the counter-culture which
would encourage drug-users and sellers to do what was best for the community: a sense of
responsibility to one's peers, if you will. Ideally what this meant was that no "death drugs"
(speed, cocaine, heroin, pep)— or, as Weather labeled them in "New Morning," the enemy's
allies— would be sold.
We have attacked the Capitol because it is, along with the White House and
the Pentagon, the worldwide symbol of the government which is now
attacking Indochina. To millions of people here and in Latin America, Africa,
and Asia, it is a monument to US domination over the planet. The invaders of
Laos will not have peace in this country.
Weather Underground, Communique 8, February 28, 1971
In the first major Weather action of 1971, a bomb was exploded in the US Capitol building
in response to the invasion and public bombing of Laos (public because, as the Pentagon
Papers show, Laos in fact had been under attack by the US military since before the
Johnson administration). The action was carried out by two teams of volunteers and is one
of the few Weather bombings ever specifically discussed by the organization in a public
After the teams were chosen by group consensus— arrived at, one assumes, in telephone
and personal conversations -they were given specific tasks: one team scouted the target
area and provided detailed information to the other team, which placed the explosives. In
fact two bombs were placed in the Capitol. The first one on February 28, was thought to
have been placed on a ledge where in reality no such ledge existed and fell several feet, so
that the explosive device did not ignite. The next evening, March 1, it was decided to risk
bringing another device into the building. So the same Weather members went back into
the Capitol building and set a smaller device on top of the previous one. This time the bomb
exploded and ignited the larger device placed earlier. Earlier telephone calls to the media
warning them about the action (hence the February 28 date on the communique) had
apparently been ignored; now, another informed the Capitol police that: 'You will get many
calls like this, but this one is real. This building will blow in 30 minutes." 2
The strident language of the accompanying communique was typical of Weather statements
of the past, but the political analysis it provided was more substantive. The choice of target
located blame for the genocide in Indochina not just in the White House and the Pentagon
but also in Congress. Dealing a slap in the face to the liberal wing of the anti-war
movement, the bombing and the statement blamed the entire system, not just Nixon and
Kissinger and the generals, for "the genocide against all Indochinese people who dare to
fight against Amerikan imperialism." Weather confronted the lie put forth by Nixon and
many Congress members that the Vietnamization of the war meant peace, and rejected the
doublespeak that called the expanding air war a phased withdrawal. Vietnamization was a
policy designed to hand over the bulk of the fighting on the ground to the South Vietnamese
military, while the United States provided logistical support and even greater air power. The
strategy was intended to decrease the number of American battle deaths and thereby end
opposition to the war.
The communique went on to warn that "as Custer learned at Little Big Horn, as the French
found out at Dien Bienphu, and as Nixon is learning in the Laotian hills west of Khe Sanh,
the arrogance of the white man can lead to his own destruction." In response to the media
myth that the anti-war movement had cooled off, the statement spoke of a new spirit in the
streets: "All over the country revolutionaries are getting ready for the spring." No longer
were those marching merely against the war; their experiences over the past few years,
especially in May 1970, had drawn them closer to an anti-imperialist position. "Nixon,"
wrote Weather, "will see what he took for acquiescence was really the calm before the
To many, Weather's position no longer seemed extreme, and the bombing was applauded
by much of the New Left which saw it as a prelude to the massive anti-imperialist direct
actions planned for the weeks of April 24-May 6. The government, too, understood the
connection and, in the weeks immediately following the Capitol attack, called members of
the Mayday Tribe, the People's Coalition for Peace and Justice, Yippies, and other anti-war
organizations before a grand jury in an attempt to criminalize the movement.
Reflecting on the state of the white anti-imperialist movement, Weather sounded hopeful in
the communique. It acknowledged the role played by youth in the revolution and
encouraged "all forms of organizing and political warfare to destroy the Amerikan war
machine." While other derivatives of the original RYM divided into smaller cells and argued
about theoretical questions not considered relevant by the majority in the anti-imperialist
movement, Weather finally became an accepted and even cherished part of it.
Weather's acceptance in the movement seems to have occurred because it no longer sought
to assume the vanguard. The Panthers, too, underwent a change around this time which
resulted in a split between the Oakland and New York branches of the party. According to
most commentators, the split occurred primarily over differences regarding armed struggle
and organizational approaches, as well as some personal conflicts. The Oakland faction
(under Huey Newton's leadership) disagreed with the New York wing (under Cleaver's
direction from Algeria) and continued to insist that armed warfare in the United States was
suicide. From Newton's perspective, to engage in armed warfare would only isolate the
party and insure its destruction by the state. The government, of course, relished the
dissension in the party, which its agents encouraged, for example with death threats against
Huey Newton purported to have been written by various New York Panthers but actually
composed by the FBI. 3
Two weeks prior to the bombing of the Capitol building, a group of anti-war youth organized
by the National Student Association met in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to facilitate the adoption of
a peace treaty formulated and signed by students and youth from the United States and
Vietnam. The treaty was similar to the one then proposed by the NLF and virtually identical
to the one eventually signed by both North Vietnam and the United States in January 1973
in Paris. Its implementation was demanded by the Mayday Tribe— one of the main
organizers of the anti-war demonstrations planned for the late spring in Washington, D.C. It
was a demand from the American and Vietnamese people to the US government to stop the
war; and the chaos planned for the D.C. streets in May was the forum for the presentation
of the treaty. The avowed purpose of the Washington Mayday demonstrations of 1971 was
to stop the government from functioning. If the government ground to a halt, went the
rationale, so would the war. With this ambitious intention in mind, the planners (among
them Rennie Davis of the Chicago 8) called on counter-cultural revolutionaries to show up in
Washington by May 1 and set up camp in West Potomac Park. Many of the participants
came early for a series of other, mostly legal, antiwar actions called by an alphabet soup of
organizations under the leadership of the New Mobe. Separate from the demonstrations
organized by the Mayday Tribe and the New Mobe were, notably, those sponsored by the
Vietnam Veterans Against the War (WAW), who arrived in D.C. in mid-April and ended their
"temporary incursion into the state of Congress" with a mass return of their war medals. 4
Mayday dawned with a crowd of more than 50,000 camped out in West Potomac Park. Since
May 1 was a Saturday, the crowd spent the day planning actions for the following week,
setting up communications— including a clandestine AM radio station— and dancing to the
never ending music provided free by a multitude of local and national rock groups. On
Sunday morning, after an all-night concert, police ordered those in the encampment to
move. Some chose to stay and, after a couple of hours had passed, the police moved in and
made the first of the week's 12,000 arrests.
By dawn on Monday, thousands of activists had begun to block streets leading to
government offices, using their bodies, trash cans, junked cars, park benches, and
whatever else they could find. The police, under direct orders from Attorney General John
Mitchell, used clubs and tear gas liberally and arrested whomever they could catch.
According to the Quicksilver Times, "Despite later public announcements in which police
denied the success of Mayday, for almost five hours police and demonstrators played 'cat
and mouse' with police often taking thirty or more minutes to arrive at and clear a newly
snarled location." This, in itself, was not, as the police claimed, business as usual. 5
Figure 5 A Mayday 1971 poster, from the cover of a spring 1971 edition of the Eugene Augur.
From the Labadie Collection, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan, reproduced
courtesy of the Library.
Although the Mayday Tribe did not style itself as a revolutionary outfit, its writings and
speeches were decidedly anti-imperialist and anti-racist. One small example can be found in
the press release which consistently urged those coming to D.C. not to inconvenience the
surrounding black community but to concentrate their efforts on disrupting the government.
In addition, the Mayday Tribe linked the ongoing trials of black revolutionaries, specifically
Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins, to the fight against imperialism, even working with groups
who were planning a rally in New Haven on May 7, 1971. (The rally was canceled, however,
due to a change in defense strategy.)
During Mayday week, Weather issued an open letter to Mrs. Bacon, mother of the non-
Weather woman Leslie Bacon charged with the Capitol bombing. It called the government's
attempt to try Leslie who, according to Weather, was not involved in the bombing "a shallow
attempt to spread fear among the thousands of free happy children in Washington angered
and committed to end this racist war," and applauded the street actions. Weather
acknowledged the differences in strategy in the movement and stated that in the differences
lay strength "when we respect and affirm each other's passionate ways of acting to end the
war," 6 a thinly disguised reference to the attack on the Capitol which placed it in the context
of the movement as a whole.
The insurgency in the prisons achieved its greatest triumphs and defeats in 1971. The
growth of the movements in support of prison activists like the Soledad Brothers and of
Angela Davis, and the dropping of all charges against Seale and Huggins in Connecticut,
served as minor triumphs in the struggle against the American state. The murder of Black
Panther and prison revolutionary George Jackson in August and the massacre at Attica State
Penitentiary three weeks later were vicious reminders of just how far the state would go to
preserve its power. The attack on the Marin County court-house by Jonathan Jackson and
others in August 1970 had brought the case of the Soledad Brothers international attention.
Knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the incarceration of George Jackson and
thousands of other black and Latino men and women in US jails leant weight to the
perception that prisons were indeed "an appendage of the state apparatus employed to
maintain exploitative and oppressive social conditions." 7 The indictments following the Marin
County courthouse rescue attempt gained more attention for the prisoners especially
because they included Angela Davis, who already had a worldwide following.
Since much of the support for the Soledad case was coordinated by the Panthers, the
organizing was done in a revolutionary context. The fact of state violence in the prisons, and
in the communities where the defendants came from, made it virtually impossible for liberal
sympathizers and their press to redefine the struggle in non-revolutionary terms, since
there was no denying the violence of the system in the daily lives of black people in the
On August 21, 1971, George Jackson was shot to death in the yard at San Quentin prison in
circumstances which remain a mystery to this day. As a tribute published by the Berkeley
Tribe stated: "We may never know exactly how he died. But we damn well know why he
died." Expressing both disbelief at the act and its inevitability, the tribute placed the blame
directly on the "criminally repressive and racist judicial system." 8
One week later, on August 28, Weather attacked three offices of the California prison
system in San Francisco, Sacramento, and San Mateo as a tribute to Jackson. The damage
topped $100,000. In San Francisco, the blast destroyed the ground-floor offices of a
psychiatric clinic for parolees and caused damage worth $50,000. The Sacramento explosion
occurred in a seventeen-floor building and caused a comparable amount of damage. The
interior of the building in San Mateo was rendered uninhabitable. Although published details
about the implementation of the attacks do not exist, the Atlanta underground paper
Georgia Straight reported that in the San Francisco bombing "someone went in after 5:00
closing and placed the bomb in an area which they had to crawl into." 9 The communique
that followed addressed the history of black people in America, tracing the legacy of
violence against them from the chains of the slave ships to the violence of the prisons,
where a disproportionate number of black men and women found themselves once again in
slavery, "paid pennies an hour to produce everything from shoes to missile parts." Weather
compared US prisons to the strategic hamlets of Vietnam and drew an analogy between the
removal of rebellious Vietnamese populations to the hamlets build under Operation Phoenix,
and the removal of "the rebels of Watt, Harlem, Detroit" to strategic hamlets called prisons
in the United States. Both relocations, it continued, were "an attempt to control colonial
The murder of George Jackson was by no means the final volley in the state's war against
the revolutionary prison movement in 1971. In the early hours of September 13, a
massacre by New York State police and other law-enforcement agencies took the lives of
thirty-nine men at Attica State Penitentiary. The outcome of a five-day drama, the assault
shocked even the most calloused revolutionaries.
The Attica Liberation Faction was formed in May 1971 in order to facilitate a more humane
existence for the inmates of the prison. By July 2, a list of twenty-eight demands had been
formulated and submitted to state officials, including Governor Nelson Rockefeller. The
demands were not intrinsically revolutionary, but addressed issues dealing with the
prisoners' daily lives. To those in control, however, any demand seemed threatening.
Nonetheless, liberals in the prison administration tried to implement what demands they
could on their own, but their attempts were rejected or ignored by the warden and guards.
Meanwhile, the prisoners continued to organize, forming study groups where the literate
prisoners taught other prisoners to read and write. These study groups also provided
opportunities for the inmates to discuss political ideas and the progress of their struggle for
rights. The warden, after realizing the groups were empowering the prisoners, halted their
The uprising began on September 9, after the beating of two prisoners the day before and
the locking up of some others. Within minutes of the initial confrontation, forty guards were
held hostage by the inmates, who also took control of a part of the prison known as D-
Block. Although the original outbreak had much in common with other prison riots— with
inmates beating guards and looting facilities— within an hour or so the uprising took on a
The leadership quickly organized some men to guard the hostages from further harm and
began listing prisoner demands. Five new demands were added to the original list the Attica
Liberation Faction had presented to the governor in July. In their foreword to the list, the
men addressed the people of America, saying, "The incident that erupted here at Attica is
not the result of the dastardly bushwacking of two prisoners September 9, 1971, but of the
unmitigated oppression wrought by the racist administrative network of the prison." 11 The
five new demands included a call for amnesty; the reconstruction of the prison by inmates;
immediate negotiation through a team chosen by the inmates and including movement
lawyers, sympathetic members of the New York assembly, and journalists, representatives
of the Panthers and Young Lords, and Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam; federal
intervention to implement the original demands; and transport for those men who wished to
resettle in a non-imperialistic country.
An outside negotiating team was organized and, over the next three and a half days,
worked with the prisoners and uncooperative state officials to ease the situation. Meanwhile,
Governor Rockefeller ordered state police to prepare for a military assault on the prison. On
September 13, after negotiations were abruptly ended and a call to surrender from the
Commissioner of Corrections office was rejected by the men in D-Yard, "a choking cloud of
CS gas fell abruptly over D-Yard ... A shot rang out from a rooftop post ... and a second ...
then a barrage ,.." 12 The toll was 39 dead: 30 inmates and 9 of the guards who had been
held hostage. Less than half an hour later the uprising was over, and guards and troopers
were forcing men to strip and lie face down on the ground while they brutally beat them.
Weather's response was quick and assured. Four days after the massacre, at a few minutes
past 7:30 P.M., an explosion ripped through the cinderblock walls of a ninth-floor bathroom
in a state-office building in Albany, N.Y. This floor housed the offices of the Commissioner of
Corrections, Russell Oswald, the man who had given the order to the troopers on the 13th.
Calls were made to the Daily News, the Times-Union of Albany, and the radio station WBAI
minutes before the explosion. The newsroom staff of the Albany paper notified police at the
building who finished clearing the premises seconds before the bomb went off.
In the accompanying statement, Weather placed the blame for the slaughter at Attica
directly on the "society run by white racists," and traced the history of racist violence since
the Second World War. It recalled the "four black girls killed by a bomb in Birmingham, the
murder of students at Orangeburg, and Jackson," the numerous black uprisings and the
murders of Malcolm X., Martin Luther King, Jr., Fred Hampton, and George Jackson, and
repeatedly insisted that racism was the "main question white people have to face." 13
On May 9, 1972, the United States sent two hundred planes over the northern half of
Vietnam to mine its harbors and bomb the countryside. A day later the Hanoi delegation to
the peace talks in Paris condemned the attack, saying the US had "taken the gravest step in
the escalation of the war to date and thrown down an insolent challenge to the Vietnamese
people." 14 Later the same day, the Senate passed a resolution against the escalation. By the
afternoon of May 10, the police and anti-war protestors were confronting one another
across the country. Streets were blocked in Chicago, College Park (Maryland), Binghamton
(New York), and New Haven, to name just a few places. A contingent of Vietnam Veterans
Against the War attempted to storm the United Nations in New York, and at the Capitol
building more than thirty demonstrators were literally thrown out of the House galley for
disrupting the proceedings.
The bombing of North Vietnam continued unabated for the next week and so did the
protests. On May 11 alone, several hundred activists were arrested in various actions
throughout the country. The National Peace Action Coalition and the People's Coalition for
Peace and Justice, two pacifist groups, called for major demonstrations in D.C. the next
weekend. In Madison, Wisconsin, a policeman was shot as he tried to arrest three protestors
during anti-imperialist actions. At the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, students
were hit with birdshot when police opened fire on a crowd protesting the war. From
Princeton, New Jersey, to Berkeley, California, and many points in between, the numbers of
enraged activists continued to grow. A theatrical protest occurred in the Atlantic Ocean near
Nixon's home in Key Biscayne, Florida: a flotilla of demonstrators dropped balloons in the
water in a symbolic protest against the mining of Vietnamese harbors. Two were arrested
when they ran through the military lines around the Nixon compound.
Like the Mayday actions of 1971, the demonstrations targeted corporations which made
money from the war, proving the continuing influence of anti-imperialist thought in the
movement. The mainstream anti-war movement, meanwhile, was in the control of left-wing
democrats who were working hard for Senator McGovern. This latest effort to legitimize the
anti-war movement also tended to further isolate its revolutionary elements, with the
McGovern campaign diverting a great deal of the energy of the Left into electoral politics,
much as the McCarthy campaign had in 1968.
Weather lent a revolutionary credence of its own to the protest when, on May 19, 1972 (Ho
Chi Minh's birthday), the group exploded a bomb in the Air Force wing of the Pentagon. The
bomb was placed in a women's restroom on the fourth floor. The blast devastated the
restroom, blowing away a 30-foot section of the wall, breaking windows, and mangling the
plumbing. The consequent flooding shut down a computer on the first floor which served as
part of a military communications network spanning the globe. In addition, a computer tape
archive containing highly classified information was severely damaged. 15 The inner sanctum
of the war machine had been attacked.
Weather's action lifted many a revolutionary heart throughout the US and the rest of the
world. In anti-war demonstrations in Frankfurt am Main, German youth cheered the action,
chanting "Fur den sieg des Vietcong, Bomben aufdas Pentagon" (For the victory of the VC,
bomb the Pentagon) as they marched through the streets toward US military installations. 16
In the United States, many anti-imperialists privately applauded as they organized against
the continued destruction of Vietnam by B-52 bombers. On the Monday following the
explosion, under the watchful eyes of military and federal police, a non-violent people's
blockade of the Pentagon was attempted. Due to poor planning by the organizers and an
extra-large contingent of federal riot police on duty in the wake of the bombing, the
blockade failed. Several hundred blockaders later attempted to maneuver through police
lines, but the day ended with only twenty-five arrests.
The communique which accompanied the bombing lauded the ongoing offensive of the
Vietnamese, stating the obvious: "the Thieu regime and the ARVN would collapse within a
matter of days without US air and naval power." 17 Quoting bits of Ho Chi Minh's poetry,
Weather provided its audience with a brief revolutionary history of Vietnam and praised the
Vietnamese people's heroism and perseverance in the face of its various colonialist enemies
over the years. Weather called the Vietnamization policy of the US government racist and
decried the strategy which turned Asian against Asian. By emphasizing the racism implicit in
US foreign policy, the communique hoped to slow the tacit acceptance of that policy in
Vietnam, especially by youth previously against the war. Unfortunately, the cynical double-
edged policy of Vietnamization and cooptation made the anti-imperialists' struggle to
maintain a revolutionary movement much more difficult. Still, the inspiration of the
Vietnamese lifted Weather's hopes in their fight against the US war.
Later in the year Weather attempted to organize another campaign supporting the NLF's
final offensive, but failed to gain the support needed to carry it through. In the wake of that
offensive, the United States carpetbombed North Vietnam throughout much of December—
the infamous Christmas bombings. Nevertheless, on January 27, 1973, US and North
Vietnamese negotiators signed a peace agreement which recognized the sovereignty, unity,
and territorial integrity of Vietnam and called for a cessation of US involvement in South
Vietnam. After pointing out the difference between a final victory in Vietnam and the victory
represented by the signing of the peace treaty. Weather hailed the accords, urging "all
opponents of the government's war policies to allow themselves to seize the time and
celebrate [the] triumph of the Vietnamese people." The short statement hailed the victory
as one shared by all enemies of US imperialism. 18
Life in the underground, while never comfortable, had by now become familiar. Finances
were still precarious, dependent on donations from sympathetic radicals and friends and on
odd jobs. Bill Ayers later said that they "lived like hippies." 19 The development of bonds
beyond politics, as discussed in "New Morning," continued in a natural way— as it would
among any group of people sharing a daily life. Jane Alpert, who was still wanted (along
with Pat Swinton) for the bombings of corporate offices in New York in November 1969, met
up with some Weather people in 1972. Her account of these meetings give a flavor of their
lives at this time. Her first encounter was with Mark Rudd who by this time was living apart
from the group as Tony Schwartz, but remained in contact with them. Their meeting was
the result of a chance encounter at a lecture they both attended in Santa Fe. After a short
conversation there, they agreed to meet again the next day. While talking in a car near a
park the following evening, a policeman approached them and asked for identification. They
gave him their false papers, and the officer apologized for bothering them and returned to
his car. Rudd told Alpert that he was living with a girlfriend from his college days who was
not underground and that he was working off the books for a local construction firm. 20
Alpert's next visit was with Bernardine Dohrn in San Francisco. After making arrangements
over the phone, the two met in Golden Gate Park. During their conversation, Dohrn
mentioned that some Weather members were working for McGovern because of his promise
to end the war immediately if elected. She also revealed that Rudd had been asked to leave
the organization for a short time at the request of some of the women. Later that day the
two met again at a local restaurant, along with Cathy Wilkerson.
The following day, Dohrn and Alpert went to Mt. Tamalpais, north of San Francisco. Dohrn
spoke about the expanding role of women in the group and mentioned that some members
were lesbian and lived with other Weather women in an all-women's collective. When the
two parted ways, Dohrn gave Alpert Kathy Boudin's address in Boston and, after Alpert
returned to the East Coast, she visited Boudin and her housemates. Although she argued
with them over feminism and the Left, Alpert was impressed by Weather's "unanimity,
preserved somehow across a continent and in spite of the difficulties of covert
communication." She further noted that, "Nothing was more important to them than staying
In the interim between the Pentagon bombing and the next major Weather action in
September 1973 Weather seems to have been occupied with searching for a way to
continue its political work among the people in a changing political situation brought about
by the apparent victory of the Vietnamese and an economic downturn resulting from Nixon's
attempt to reduce inflation and weaken labor. The absence of public actions and statements
led some police agencies to speculate that Weather had disbanded or, at the least, forsaken
One important influence on Weather's move toward a post-Vietnam reality was Clayton van
Lydegraf, a seasoned leftist in his sixties who had been expelled from both the Communist
Party and PL for his ultra-leftism. He had met some Weather people in Seattle at the
beginning of the 1970s but did not spend much time with the group until early 1973. Van
Lydegraf began working with Weather in a support role, encouraging the study of Marxist-
Leninist theory. His intent was to bring an understanding of working-class struggle to
Weather in the hope of expanding its base of support beyond an aging youth counter-
culture. This process would take several turns in the months to come as some Weather
members argued for a move into the workplace to organize and others opposed it. The
ultimate result was a change in direction for Weather, which was to be defined in their
statement. Prairie Fire: The Politics of revolutionary Anti-Imperialism (1974).
On December 2, 1972, the federal government issued new, revised versions of the 1970
Detroit indictments against members of Weather on charges of conspiracy to bomb police
departments throughout the US. The new indictments named, besides the original suspects,
four other Weather members, and dropped charges previously brought against the FBI
informer Larry Grathwohl. The new Weather indictees were John Fuerst (a Columbia SDS
member since 1966), Leonard Handelsman from Cleveland, Mark Real from Kent, and
Roberta Smith from California. Besides the conspiracy charges from the first indictments,
these new indictments also charged those named with transporting explosives across state
lines and firebombing a Cleveland policeman's home on March 2, 1970. These indictments
were later dropped on the grounds of illegality in break-ins and surveillance by FBI agents.
In the first arrest of a Weather fugitive since 1971, police charged Howie Machtinger during
the week of September 20, 1973. It is quite possible that information regarding his
whereabouts was found in papers stolen from his brother's house in New York by FBI
agents. Machtinger was one of Weather's original members and a coauthor of the founding
After several months of harassment and economic and political subversion, the September
11, 1973 coup in Chile served notice to the world that the United States, despite its failures
in Indochina, had not changed. Indeed, the coup was a model rescue of multinational profits
from a popular socialist government. With financial and propaganda assistance from ITT and
Anaconda Copper— both corporations with large holdings in Chile— the US government made
it virtually impossible for the elected Chilean government to function. By late summer 1973,
a CIA-funded trucker's strike paralyzed the country. With the middle-class staging one-day
strikes and shop closures, the socialist government found itself under siege. Its destruction
was completed on September 11, when rightist military forces attacked the centers of
government in Santiago, the capital city. Within a week, right-wing elements in the military
controlled the country; thousands of citizens were dead, including President Allende, and
thousands more imprisoned.
Although the world had been forewarned by a series of revelations about the subversion of
the Chilean Left's electoral victory by the CIA and ITT, made public during the 1972 US
presidential campaign, the US Left reacted angrily. On September 27, Weather attacked the
New York offices of the Latin American division of ITT, adding its "voice to the international
expression of outrage and anger at the involvement of ITT and the US government in the
overthrow of socialist Chile." The presence of the bomb had been called in approximately 20
minutes before it exploded by a male who identified himself as a member of the Weather
Underground and stated that the attack was in retaliation for ITT's crimes against the
Chilean people. The explosion destroyed the furniture and walls in the ninth-floor reception
area and sent five large window panels to the street below.
The communique accompanying the bombing described the process by which the socialist
government had been destroyed. After briefly defining the dependent relationship of Chile
and the United States, Weather explained the Chilean popular movement's reclamation of
the people's wealth through nationalization and land redistribution. Noting the history of
popular Left governments in Latin America, and Chile's increasingly important role in the
Latin American revolutionary process prior to the coup, Weather said it had just been a
matter of time before the United States would end the government's rule. ITT and Anaconda
were natural allies in that project. Part of their strategy involved forcing a drop in
international copper prices, something Anaconda could afford, given its worldwide
domination of the market. Chile, however, suffered from the price drop. When this was
combined with other elements of the US blockade, the United States and its right-wing allies
in Chile had only to wait until economic crisis brought about the government's fall.
Weather's statement ended hopefully, nonetheless, encouraging US leftists to acquaint
themselves with the writings of Latin American revolutionaries and poets and to challenge
ITT and other multinationals everywhere. 22
Finally, many members of the SLA are still free. They must be defended,
publicly and privately. Anyone who is in a position to help them directly
should give them encouragement, support, shelter, and love. Empty your
pockets. Struggle with them. Learn from them. We must protect our fighters.
Weather communique, May 24, 1974 23
Domestically, the arrival of the Symbionese Liberation Army and Federation (SLA) provided
Weather with the possibility of allies in the armed struggle. Except for the Black Liberation
Army (BLA), an offshoot of the New York Panthers, and the George Jackson Brigade in the
Pacific northwest, Weather had been pretty much alone in its continued insistence on the
need for armed struggle in the United States. The SLA, however, like Weather, was a
clandestine army without a political wing. Its first communique, in late August 1973, was a
declaration of war against the "Fascist capitalist class and all their agents of murder,
oppression, and exploitation." The rest of the document listed the specific goals of the
organization and detailed its structure. The most important aspects of SLA, as far as its
future went, were its multiracial composition and its top-heavy hierarchical structure. Many
on the Left would later cite that hierarchy as evidence of police involvement in the
The actions of the SLA, especially the kidnapping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst in
February 1974, provoked a paranoid reaction among the Left, already unduly suspicious
because of the fear-ridden climate prevalent at the time, itself in large part resulting from
the publication in the mainstream press of details of the state's counter-intelligence
activities against the Left. These revelations were part of the flood of disclosures regarding
government illegalities unleashed in the wake of the Watergate breakin. Even the minimal
knowledge of law-enforcement tactics learned from the press encouraged the Left in its
collective fear to visualize police agents behind every unfamiliar group and action. However,
one unlikely result of these revelations was the complete dismissal of charges against the
twelve Weather members of conspiracy in the Days of Rage indictments. On January 3,
1974, Judge Hoffman threw out the case because he believed the government's action had
no substance once the illegally obtained evidence was removed.
The Panthers conducted their own investigation of the SLA, which convinced them that
Donald DeFreeze, the SLA "commander," was indeed a police agent. 24 Whether or not the
SLA was infiltrated by police, or even created by them, Weather assumed it was not and, in
a communique dated February 20, 1974, praised the Hearst kidnapping, which "unleashed
an astounding practical unity among people's organizations." 25 These so-called "people's
organizations" were the two or three other ultra-Left organizations also involved in guerrilla
activities, primarily bombings.
The Weather statement spoke positively of the SLA's ransom demand to William Hearst— the
distribution of several million dollars worth of food to the poor of Oakland and San
Francisco— and condemned the hunger experienced by those people as a "secret form of
murder, "just another kind of violence perpetrated against third-world people in the United
States, comparing it to more obvious types such as police murders and harassment.
According to Weather, the SLA action and its accompanying demands showed Americans
that they could not ignore the violence of a system in which one man's riches kept others
Furthermore, the statement attacked the tendency of the Left to disassociate itself from so-
called extremists. Recalling earlier days, when even draft-card burning was dismissed as
extremist. Weather warned its readers not to "do the enemy's work by asserting their own
moderation and legitimacy." With a touch of irony, the statement noted that, since the
arrival of the SLA, Weather had been touted as a "moderate alternative" by the
establishment press. That characterization, according to Weather, exposed a racist bias
because the SLA was multiracial and Weather was not. The organization called on the Left
to keep in the forefront of its collective mind the primary issues of "official violence and
repression" raised by the SLA, and reminded fellow revolutionaries that Nat Turner and John
Brown were attacked as lunatics in their time. It was only in retrospect, the statement
continued, that revolution was officially revered. In short, Weather urged the revolutionary
Left to support the SLA. 26
By now, Weather's numbers were small. A committed core of perhaps fifty individuals
divided into small units moved about the country and occasionally took some kind of
political action. Judging from the location of these acts, the primary cells or "families" were
located in the San Francisco Bay Area and somewhere in the northeast. On March 7, 1974—
the day before International Women's Day and the day after the fourth anniversary of the
death of Robbins, Oughton, and Gold in the townhouse explosion— the Women's Brigade
placed a bomb in the San Francisco offices of the Department of Health, Education, and
Welfare. This was the Women's Brigade's first public action since October 1970 (when, as
the Proud Eagle Tribe, they had exploded a bomb at Harvard). The explosion was small and
caused little damage other than some charred walls and shattered windows.
The accompanying statement addressed further the issues of hunger and poverty raised by
the SLA kidnapping of Hearst. Insisting that the welfare system was a counter-insurgency
program against women, especially those of color, Weather compared being on welfare to
"having a sexist tyrant for an old man ... You give up control of your bodies and most of
your dignity as a condition of aid; he controls your money and your privacy." 27 This
analysis, however, did not lead Weather to join or endorse struggles demanding daycare
and welfare rights. Instead, the belief that any reforms merely extended the rule of the
imperialist class prevailed. By maintaining that perspective, Weather went against the trend
on the Left toward organizing around bread-and-butter issues and marginalized itself by
insisting that any reforms short of revolution "became their opposite when they remained in
the hands of the ruling class," even if those activities could be partially controlled by the
Apparent in all Weather statements after 1972 is a decrease in counter-culture rhetoric.
Implicit in this change was a tacit acknowledgement of the system's successful cooptation of
most of the counter-culture's non-political trappings. That cooptation provided the youth of
the 1970s with an apolitical culture of sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. This isn't to say that
youth no longer thought in political terms, but the absence of the draft, the fragmentation
of the anti-war movement, and the McGovern campaign of 1972, combined to convince
white youth that they were no longer politically threatened by the state as a group unless
they chose to be. With the exception of a few radical communities and newspapers, the
culture assumed a predominantly ultra-liberal content which, at best, preached cultural and
personal freedom and political cynicism.
Weather continued its intense self-criticism in an attempt to adapt to the changing US
political situation. As the victory of the Vietnamese continued to consolidate, the Left in the
United States did the opposite. The SLA, BLA, and other clandestine, militarily inclined
groups intensified their guerrilla campaigns at the same time as anti-Marxist-Leninist
elements continued their rightward move into the Democratic Party. The Panthers, Young
Lords, and other community-orientated groups (such as Rising Up Angry 29 ) stepped up their
community efforts, including running and supporting candidates in local elections. Many
other organizations, the Revolutionary Union among them, focused on the deepening
economic crisis of capitalism after the Vietnam war. These groups gave most of their efforts
to organizing white workers in the workplace around layoffs and cutbacks. Once again, the
question of racism in the United States had to be confronted. Some organizations, when
faced with racist attitudes among white workers, chose to ignore them, concentrating
instead on workplace issues which sidestepped race.
Support for workplace issues surfaced in Weather too, but because of its emphatic
insistence on destroying racism wherever it appeared, the group's support of union
struggles was limited. The statement accompanying the bombing of the Health, Education,
and Welfare building on March 7, 1974 expressed continuing concern over racism and
challenged the trend in the feminist movement to place personal liberation above the
liberation of all women. 30 The Weather statement urged feminists to see women's liberation
as a matter of survival, not just expression. Something poor women knew only too well was
that "food, decent medical care, good schools and community run daycare" were essential
to their liberation, not only from poverty, but in their struggle to achieve personal freedoms
as well. Weather accused white feminists of pursuing their own desires under the veil of
feminism and not including survival issues in their agenda.
The saga of the SLA took a televised turn for the worse in the weeks that followed the
Hearst kidnapping. For one, Patty Hearst joined the group, taking the revolutionary name of
Tania— after Che Guevara's companion. The organization left its Berkeley base and headed
south where, after robbing a bank and a sporting-goods store, it finally holed up in a house
in the Compton section of Los Angeles. Within days of their arrival in Compton, the police
located them and, on May 4, surrounded the house with over 500 agents. The officers
proceeded to attack the occupants with automatic weapons fire and gas. Six members of
the SLA died. After several hours of televised battle, the surviving members surrendered. A
Weather statement given to the press on May 24 hailed the SLA for their revolutionary
actions. It also criticized the Left's failure, once again, to perceive armed groups as allies
and to support them. It was that failure, Weather implied, which was partially responsible
for the SLA's tragic end.
1 Panther 21, "Open Letter to Weatherman," Eugene Augur, Eugene, Oregon, January,
2 Underground, directed by Emilio DeAntonio, First Run Features, New York, 1976.
3 Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Regard to Intelligence Activities,
4 From a leaflet distributed at. Vietnam Veterans Against the War encampment, April 1971.
5 Staff, "Mayday Issue," Quicksilver Times, Washington, B.C., May 14, 1971.
6 Weatherman, "Letter to Moms Everywhere," Quicksilver Times, Washington, D.C., June 2,
1971, p. 5.
7 Bettina Aptheker, "Social Functions of Prison in the United States," If They Come in the
Morning, Signet, New York, 1971, p. 57.
8 Staff, "George Jackson," Berkeley Tribe, Berkeley, Cal., August 27, 1971, p. 2.
9 Weather Underground, "Tribute to George Jackson," Georgia Straight, Atlanta, Ga., August
31, 1971, p. 2.
11 Attica Liberation Front, quoted in Tom Wicker, A Time to Die, New York Times Book Co.,
New York, 1975, p. 315.
12 Wicker, A Time to Die, p. 278.
13 Weather Underground, Communique, quoted in Vancouver Free Press, Vancouver,
September 28, 1971, p. 16.
14 Weather Underground, "Today, We Attacked the Pentagon," Liberated Guardian, New
York, June 1972.
15 Anonymous, "Eyewitness Account," Quicksilver Times, Washington, D.C., May 31, 1972.'
16 The author's recollection.
17 "Today, We Attacked the Pentagon."
18 Weather Underground, "Common Victories," quoted in a leaflet distributed at an anti-war
rally. Winter 1973.
19 Telephone conversation with Ayers, November 11, 1996.
20 Jane Alpert, Growing Up Underground, Morrow, New York, 1981, p. 322.
21 Ibid., pp. 332-3. In 1973, Alpert wrote an open "Letter to the underground" in which she
renounced her leftist past in favor of what she termed radical feminism. She had been
friends with Robin Morgan for years, and Morgan helped her write the letter. She attacked
the male members of Weather and, intentionally or not, provided leads for law-enforcement
agents still looking for Weather fugitives. In her memoir Growing Up Underground, she
recanted many other remarks in that letter.
22 Weather Underground, "Communique 14," City Star, New York, September 27, 1973.
23 Weather Underground Organization, "Weather Letter," City Star, May 24, 1974.
24 A series of articles in the Black Panther appeared over the spring and summer of 1974
detailing "leader" Donald DeFreeze's [Cinque's] dealings with various police agencies. He
was familiar to Los Angeles Panthers from the late 1960s, when he worked with Louis
Tackwood of the Los Angeles Police Department Criminal Conspiracy Section. In 1970, while
in Vacaville Prison Facility, he was also recruited by the CIA and the California Attorney
General's office. His work involved establishing a project known as UNISIGHT, designed to
attract white radicals in the prison movement and keep an eye on them. In December 1972,
DeFreeze was moved to Soledad prison where, after a couple of months, he was transferred
to a minimum-security wing of the prison reserved for trusted inmates and informers. It
was from this wing that DeFreeze walked away from the "escape-proof prison and headed
for the Bay Area.
25 Weather Underground, "A Massive Morality Play ...", February 20, 1974.
27 Women's Brigade, Weather Underground, "The Department of Health, Education, and
Welfare Is an Enemy of Women," March 1974.
29 Rising Up Angry were multiracial revolutionary youth organizations formed among
working-class youth in Southern California and Chicago by some former members of RYM II.
30 Women's Brigade, "Health, Education, and Welfare Is an Enemy of Women."
7. A Second Wind? The Prairie Fire Statement
We are a guerrilla organization. We are communist women and men,
underground in the United States for more than four years. We are deeply
affected by the historic events of our time in the struggle against U.S.
Our intention is to disrupt the empire, to incapacitate it, to put pressure on
the cracks, to make it hard to carry out its bloody functioning against the
people of the world, to join the world struggle, to attack from the inside.
Our intention is to engage the enemy, to wear away at him, to isolate him, to
expose every weakness, to pounce, to reveal his vulnerability.
Our intention is to encourage the people, to provoke leaps in confidence and
consciousness, to stir the imagination, to popularize power, to agitate, to
organize, to join in every possible way the people's day to day struggles.
Our intention is to forge an underground, a clandestine political organization
engaged in every form of struggle, protected from the eyes and weapons of
the state, a base against repression, to accumulate lessons, experience and
constant practice, a base from which to attack.
Opening statement of Prairie Fire 1
Weather staged some armed actions in 1974, including its final bombing of the year on June
13 of Gulf Oil's headquarters in Pittsburgh— an act in solidarity with the anti-colonial
struggle against Portugal in Angola which caused over $350,000 worth of damage. But the
group's major achievement of the year was not any armed action, or its statements
concerning the SLA; it was the release in midsummer of Prairie Fire: The Politics of
Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism. This 188-page work was the product of more than twelve
months of thought, discussion, writing, and rewriting. The first detailed statement of
Weather's politics since "You Don't Need a Weatherman" in June 1969, it described the
group's plans for the immediate future and, like the "New Morning" statement, included
criticism of its past. Most of the book consists of a summary of Weather history and a leftist
history of the United States.
The book was rewritten four times in the course of a year before it was collectively adopted
by the organization and published. Most of the writing was done by Bernardine Dohrn, Bill
Ayers, Jeff Jones, and Celia Sojourn (a pseudonym for several unnamed individuals). After
each draft, copies were relayed to the remaining Weather "families" for discussion and
revision. Van Lydegraf was also sent one of the later drafts for his input and it was his press
which printed the final version. The distribution was coordinated by van Lydegraf, Jennifer
Dohrn, and a number of other activists who formed the Prairie Fire Distributing Committee.
The first edition appeared in bookstores in San Francisco, Berkeley, Chicago, Madison, New
York, and elsewhere throughout the United States on July 24, 1974. Eventually over 40,000
copies were distributed.
PRAIRIE FIRE ORGANIZING COMMFTTCE
Figure 6 The "letterhead" of the New Morning statement, from the collection of Will Miller,
reproduced courtesy of Liberated Guardian (top); and the logo of the Prairie Fire Organizing
Committee, from the PFOC collection, reproduced courtesy of the staff of Breakthrough.
On the assumption that "the unique and fundamental condition of this time is the decline of
US imperialism," Weather challenged the anti-imperialist movement to continue its
revolutionary path. The group renounced its previous tendency which demanded an
immediate revolution in the United States and declared that an American revolution would
be "complicated and protracted" and involve many forms of struggle, armed and not. The
years of political work, individually and collectively, undertaken by Weather enabled its
members to place the struggle in a perspective they did not have in 1969. While
maintaining Weather's internationalist context, Prairie Fire urged patience and warned
against some "magical moment of insurrection." Reflecting a consciousness developed over
years of revolutionary work, clandestine and aboveground, Weather urged revolutionaries in
the US to organize and prepare constantly wherever they were and in whatever way
Prairie Fire represented a shift in strategy, but one which had been developing since "New
Morning, Changing Weather." While that statement had recognized the need for an
underground army not to isolate itself from the masses, it was criticized for minimalizing the
role of armed actions. Prairie Fire attempted to reconcile this apparent dichotomy by
repeatedly emphasizing the importance of mass revolutionary organizing, while describing
Weather as an underground organization. What this suggested was that Weather saw itself
as the beginnings of a revolutionary people's army aligned with the revolutionary
movement. This differed from their previous self-perception as primarily a foco organization
whose role was to commit armed actions without any concern for organizing a political
movement to support those acts. Whether or not the rest of the revolutionary movement
shared Weather's new perception of itself was questionable, primarily because most
revolutionary groups of the period were in the process of either reorganization or
disintegration. Those revolutionaries not in organizations, meanwhile, were hesitant to align
themselves with any group and often unwilling to even speak in terms of revolution, given
the paranoia and lack of direction in the movement at the time.
This widely felt disillusionment in the movement was the result of multiple factors. Foremost
among these were the counter-insurgency efforts of the state. Although the intensity of the
legal and illegal campaign against the anti-war and anti-racist movements had decreased
somewhat by 1974, the effects of COINTELPRO were still felt. Other factors which
contributed to the despair of the Left in the 1970s, in Weather's opinion, concerned
tendencies within the movement itself -including a distrust of organizations, cynicism,
racism, and sexism.
According to Prairie Fire, distrust of organizations arose from their failures, and the trend in
organizations to replicate the hierarchical structures of the dominant society. In its early
months, Weather was itself guilty of this. However, as the organization matured, the
tendency to mimic the sexist structure of, and manipulate differences prevalent in, capitalist
society eventually diminished. Distrust of movements was also evident in a turn toward
cynicism in the early 1970s. From National Lampoon's satirical portraits of the anti-war
movement to the distrustful mood expressed in rock music (for example, Lennon/Ono's
"The Dream Is Over"), the general tendency among young people during this period was to
abandon all hope. Weather sympathized with the demoralization and sense of hopelessness
felt by many activists and blamed much of the prevailing attitude on the cult of
individualism in US society. Prairie Fire encouraged understanding and urged the Left to
persist in the struggle, especially in fighting sexism and racism in society and the
movement. These struggles were critical as activists now organized more in the workplace,
where racist and sexist unions and union members were commonly found.
Turning from the Left to the world situation, Prairie Fire warned that "conditions will not
wait." The statement then proceeded to analyze two crises in the US in 1974. The first was
Watergate. Calling it a "magnificent victory of the struggles of the Sixties," Weather
recognized the troubles of the Nixon regime as a "reflection of the US empire in crisis" and a
battle for power among the ruling elites. For Weather, the actual breakin at the Watergate
Hotel was a logical extension of the Nixon program of militarization; Prairie Fire discussed
the prosecution of the case and noted that all "the Watergate investigations ... never
explored Nixon's deliberate aggression against Black, Chicano, and Puerto Rican
communities," nor the criminal actions undertaken in Indochina. Nonetheless, in Weather's
opinion the crisis was a victory for the people because it destroyed "the myth of American
freedom and democracy."
The imperial myth described by Weather was further undermined by the advent of the
energy crisis of 1973— a crisis which, according to Weather, was "the crisis of imperialism."
In an attempt to maintain their rate of profit in the face of the formation of the oil cartel
(OPEC), the energy companies, along with the government, devised a phony oil shortage,
providing them with an excuse to more than double prices and thereby maintain their
already high profits. In turn, these profits enabled corporations to buy out smaller
companies and consolidate their monopoly. Then, according to Weather, while American
drivers sat in lines to buy overpriced gasoline, the Navy consumed over one-third of the oil
used by the US.
Weather pointed out that this "crisis of imperialism" was evident in the ecological
devastation caused by the continual exploitation of the earth by big business, and in the use
of energy cost increases as reasons to refuse labor demands. It was further evident in the
high food prices brought about by increased transportation costs to agribusiness, and in the
rent increases charged by landlords to cover their costs.
Above all, Prairie Fire was a call to organize. Weather asked questions that all revolutionary
movements throughout history had faced, and sought to apply the lessons it had learned to
a program for the US revolution in the 1970s. Once again identifying US imperialism as the
enemy of the world's peoples, Weather stated that its goal was to "attack imperialism's
ability to exploit and wage war," and to eventually build a socialist society in the United
States. To begin this process, Weather reiterated its original thesis that the empire must be
at least partially destroyed. Naturally, the weakest links in the imperialist chain were the
colonies. For that reason, claimed Weather (as it always had), it was the liberation of the
third world which held the key to the eventual liberation of the mother country.
To assist in the liberation of the colonies, the Left in the United States needed organization.
Without organization, Weather insisted, there could be only limited direction or results in
political work. In a statement indicative of the political understanding gained from Weather's
experiences. Prairie Fire urged people to never "dissociate mass struggle from revolutionary
violence." To do so, claimed Weather, was to do the state's work. Just as in 1969-70,
Weather still refused to renounce revolutionary violence for "to leave people unprepared to
fight the state is to seriously mislead them about the inevitable nature of what lies ahead."
It was Weather's belief that imperialism would not "decay peacefully."
The difference in Weather's insistence on the need for revolutionary violence in 1969-70 and
in 1974 concerned the role of the mass movement. In 1969, after the failure of the Days of
Rage to involve thousands of youth in massive street fighting. Weather renounced most of
the Left and decided to operate as an isolated underground group. That decision caused the
group to lose sight of its commitment to mass struggle and made future alliances with the
mass movement difficult and tenuous. By 1974, Weather had recognized this shortcoming
and in Prairie Fire detailed a different strategy for the 1970s which demanded both mass
and clandestine organizations. The role of the clandestine organization would be to build the
"consciousness of action" and prepare the way for the development of a people's militia.
Concurrently, the role of the mass movement would include support for, and
encouragement of, armed action. Such an alliance would, according to Weather, "help
create the 'sea' for the guerrillas to swim in."
The importance of revolutionary culture expressed by Weather in "New Morning" was
addressed in various ways throughout Prairie Fire. While critical of the prevalent hedonistic
tendencies of the youth culture, Weather hailed the communities the culture had built and
urged them not to rest on their past achievements, but to continue their opposition to
imperialist war, racism, and sexism. Prairie Fire insisted that revolutionaries needed to view
the youth culture not as a thing of the past, but as a very real culture of opposition which
could become permanent.
One method proposed by Weather to make it permanent was the proletarianization of the
culture. While nominally defined as a consciousness of anti-imperialism, what Weather
actually meant by "proletarianization," was identification with the populations of those
nations victimized by imperialism and "discarding the privileges of empire." This definition,
when placed in the context of Weather's internationalist worldview, where all oppressed
people suffered at the hands of US imperialism, lent a new meaning to the concept.
The most striking differences in the analyses of 'You Don't Need a Weatherman" and Prairie
Fire lie in Weather's changing ideas regarding women and feminism. In sharp contrast to a
professed ignorance of the women question in the earlier statement, Prairie Fire provided
the reader with a clear analysis of the issue. Fundamental to its analysis was the belief that
imperialism, by definition, necessitates the subjugation of women. As mentioned before,
this change in awareness was related to the changing role of women in the organization and
to certain trends as the women's movement grew in the early 1970s. One trend emphasized
the advancement of individual women within the system; another insisted on a complete
separation from men; and another saw the enemy not as men, but as the system of
imperialism, which manipulated both sexism and racism to its own ends. It was this third
trend which was both embraced and developed by Weather, along with other anti-
imperialist groups and individuals.
This analysis implied an understanding that any improvements in the lives of women such
as daycare, birth control, or even higher wages, were merely reforms and did not
accomplish any fundamental change in women's lives or in the manner in which women
were perceived. In fact, as stated in Prairie Fire, such reforms only made women's lives
bearable and, consequently, showed both women and men that sexism would exist as long
as imperialism did. Prairie Fire, echoing the Women's Brigade communique of March 7,
1974, argued that without the power to control daycare, birth control, and other aspects of
their daily lives, women would find that any progressive reforms could and would "become
their opposite in the hands of the ruling class." For example, birth control could become
population control and daycare could be used for state indoctrination. For these reasons,
then, Weather insisted, women must support socialist revolution and the revolution must
support the women's movement.
The section on women attacked the racist tendencies within the women's movement and
pointed to how the mainstream media had manipulated a fear of rape into a fear of third-
world men. Weather challenged the complacency of much of the white feminist movement,
and called for international solidarity with the women of the world, especially those in
Vietnam, Palestine, and Puerto Rico.
To express that solidarity, and simultaneously express a "righteous anger at oppression,"
the statement encouraged women's resistance to sexism to be militant and courageous. To
be otherwise, it argued, would detract from the history of women's resistance as well as
imply acceptance of the violence of imperialism. In reply to those critics who considered
militancy a macho or male response, Weather urged women to fight for the revolution as
one lives for the revolution. In other words, with a total commitment without regard for
For the most part, Prairie Fire waif, received positively by the revolutionary Left. The despair
felt by many activists as they searched for a strategy to deal with the "Vietnamized" war in
Indochina, which was still unresolved, and with the energy crisis and the economic
recession, was lifted somewhat by the public release of the statement. At a press
conference called by aboveground supporters and friends of Weather, a variety of activists
spoke about it.
First, Jennifer Dohrn summarized the book's contents and placed the statement in the
context of the period. It was, according to Dohrn, a period of reorganization and reflection
for the American Left, and Weather's analysis could only enhance discussion about the
future. Two other women present— Laura Whitehorn, a Weather supporter, and Ro Reilly, a
Catholic anti-war activist— spoke of the statement's inclusiveness and understanding of
women's needs and oppression. Whitehorn argued that Prairie Fire was "an articulation of
true feminist politics set in the context of world forces" and urged revolutionary women to
study the document. Red Murphy, a former Attica inmate, articulated the sentiments of
those present when he said that Prairie Fires most important point was "its call for unity on
the Left." 2
In their review of Prairie Fire, the staff of Takeover in Madison, Wisconsin (by 1974, one of
the few underground newspapers still holding true to its revolutionary roots), noted that the
lack of "apocalyptic rage and rhetoric" in the book did not mean an end to Weather's
militancy. Instead, argued the Takeover staff, the document "clarified) the present thinking
of SDS's boldest heirs and spelled out the priorities of the seventies." 3
As for some of SDS's other heirs, their response was critical. Carl Davidson, still writing a
column for the Guardian and a member of the Los Angeles based Marxist-Leninist-Maoist
group, the October League, accused Weather of "repudiating the proletariat" and having a
"bankrupt line." 4 His primary criticism, however, concerned Weather's view of the role of
national liberation movements, both internationally and domestically. According to the
Leninist model, the proletariat is the main revolutionary force, and national movements
become its allies. According to Weather, however, the revolutionary national movements
were proletarian revolutions in their own right against the world imperialist class, and
provided the leadership in the worldwide anti-imperialist revolution. This view, argued
Davidson, rendered a workers' party irrelevant and made socialist revolution impossible. For
Davidson, Weather had learned nothing in its years underground except perhaps better
public-relations methods. 5
Davidson's opinions are indicative of the state of the US Left at the time. The major leftist
organizations of the late 1960s were, with the possible exception of Weather and the SWP,
virtually non-existent. They were replaced nationally, during a period of open sectarianism
and police provocation, with such organizations as the social-democratic New American
Movement, the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist October League and Revolutionary Unions, and the
increasingly isolated and reactionary Lyndon LaRouche front groups such as the Labor
Committees and National Labor Party. The total membership of all these groups was
microscopic in comparison to the movement's heyday— perhaps 3,000 at most. Other
groups, such as the SLA, the New World Liberation Front (NWLF), the BLA, and similar
clandestine organizations engaged in armed struggle, accounted for perhaps a couple of
hundred more activists. What these numbers suggest is that the signing of the Vietnam
peace accords, an increasing cynicism among youth, a growing awareness of the limitations
of a culture based on youth and leisure, and the effectiveness of the government's counter-
insurgency efforts insured that ever smaller numbers of American activists were committed
1 All quotations in this chapter, unless otherwise noted, are from Weather Underground
Organization, Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism, Communications
2 Rosenstein, "Weather Manifesto Surfaces," City Star, September 1974.
Staff, "A Single Spark Can Ignite a Prairie Fire", Takeover, September 9, 1974.
4 The October League was formed in 1973 by members of a Los Angeles Marxist-Leninist
cell and other communists. Davidson and Mike Klonsky were its best-known members. Their
all-out support of China alienated them from much of the Left, especially their support of
China's arming the Shah of Iran and other counter-revolutionary governments and
movements (UNITA in Angola , for one).
5 Carl Davidson, "Which Side Are You On?," Guardian, October 9, 1974.
8. The End of the Tunnel: Weather and Its Successors
After the release of Prairie Fire: The Politics of Evolutionary Anti-Imperialism, Weather
began actively building an above-ground support group named, appropriately, the Prairie
Fire Organizing Committee (PFOC). The First chapters were formed in San Francisco, Los
Angeles, New York, Boston, Seattle, and Chicago. In addition, a film, Underground, was
made, a newsletter, Osawatomie, published, and a meeting -the Hard Times conference-
called to gather movement activists together around the issues and hopes expressed in
Prairie Fire. Meanwhile, van Lydegraf formally joined the organization, forsaking his
aboveground support activities and going underground.
On January 23, 1975, the Agency for International Development (USAID) office in the State
Department building in Washington, D.C., and the offices of the Department of Defense in
Oakland were bombed. These attacks were coordinated between at least one East Coast and
one West Coast unit. The explosions caused over $50,000 worth of damage, and no injuries
were reported. In a statement released to the press, Weather expressed solidarity with the
Vietnamese still fighting against the Thieu regime in Vietnam and demanded an immediate
and complete withdrawal of all US forces and aid. Weather ended the communique
demanding that the US honor the peace accords signed two years earlier to the day.
On June 16, 1975, Weather bombed the Banco de Ponce office in New York's Rockefeller
Center, causing several thousand dollars worth of damage. A statement was sent to the
Associated Press, the New York Post, and NBC television detailing the role of the bank's
owners in causing the poverty that was endemic in Puerto Rico. In addition, Weather
expressed its support for the cement workers' strike then taking place against a
construction company partially owned by the bank. On October 10, 1975, it bombed the
Kennecott Corporation's headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, in solidarity with the
resistance to Chile's military government and in opposition to the Kennecott Corporation's
involvement in the coup two years earlier. The explosion was preceded by a phone call from
a Weather woman to the Salt Lake Tribune. The blast tore through a restroom in the
building and caused damage amounting to about $50,000.
The Hard Times moniker was chosen for the conference in Chicago because of the rapidly
deteriorating economic situation in the United States in the mid-1970s. Organizing for the
conference was primarily undertaken by the PFOC, the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, United
Black Workers, Youth Against War and Fascism (YAWF), and CASA— an organization of
Mexican and Chicano workers who were mostly from the southwestern United States.
Dozens of other activist groups and individuals were also involved, ranging from the Gray
Panthers to various union locals and other small leftist cells. In the alternative press, the
meeting was promoted almost invariably as an attempt to address issues affecting "working
and oppressed people in the US [who] are under assault." 1 The organizers hoped that race
and gender issues would also be addressed.
At first, the conference seemed a success, with two to four thousand people attending the
opening session on the evening of January 30, 1976. This session was set up as a people's
tribunal, and speakers representing organizations as various as the Zimbabwe African
National Union and a steel-workers' local addressed the effects of US imperialism in the
wake of the Vietnam war. Discussion of domestic issues related to the economic downturn
prevailed, but international struggles also made the agenda— especially the civil war in
Angola and the NLF victory in Vietnam the previous May.
The following day's agenda opened with a speech by Jennifer Dohrn, who enumerated the
hopes of the organizers: "First, we have the responsibility of educating each other ...
Secondly, we have to develop a program of demands for the working class as a whole in
this period to fight the depression ... Finally, we will need to develop a way to function
nationally ..." 2
Participants then broke into workshops for discussions and planning. When they regrouped
it was apparent that, although everyone was optimistic, it would be a while before Dohrn's
hopes for a national program and plan of action would be realized. The divergent agendas of
the plethora of organizations in attendance made this the only definite conclusion of the
day. If anything, the multitude of agendas reminded everyone just how difficult it would be
to forge a movement for the 1970s now that the single unifying issue of direct US military
involvement in the war in Vietnam was gone. This was especially true given the
inexperience of most participants in organizing around workplace issues. Furthermore, the
change in the American workplace from a predominantly white male environment to a
multicultural one, where women comprised nearly 50 percent of the workers, demanded a
new analysis and approach— one which would take more than a weekend to devise.
That isn't to say that nothing was accomplished. In fact, plans were set in motion for a mass
demonstration to take place in Philadelphia on July 4 of that bicentennial year. A workplace
bill of rights was also drafted, though never formalized. Other demonstrations were also
planned and expressions of solidarity drafted for various events and groups. The conference
had brought together a large, diverse group of Left activists and a very honest attempt at
dialogue and coordination was made. Most media reporting the event, from the Maoist
Guardian to the anarchist Takeover, agreed that the conference was successful at least in
In other respects, however, it failed. After several hours of workshops and discussions, the
majority of participants joined a non-white caucus in accusing the PFOC, and by default
Weather, of racism and sexism in its politics. The caucus of 250 or so delegates argued that
the PFOC's attempts to incorporate labor issues into the conference agenda caused it to
forsake important issues of race and gender by subordinating these categories to labor.
Other far Left organizations, most notably the Revolutionary Communist Party, (RCP,
formed in 1975 from the Bay Area Revolutionary Union headed by Bob Avakian), had
already gone the route the PFOC was now accused of embarking on. That decision had
caused RCP members to excuse some actions by white workers in the name of worker
solidarity (the most egregious of these acts were the racist attacks by white workers in
Boston during the controversial attempt to enforce school bussing there in the years 1974-
Unlike the RCP, however, Weather/PFOC did not equate the working class with the white
working class. In all of its statements before and after Hard Times, it emphasized the
diverse racial and cultural makeup of US workers and the specific exploitation which
occurred because of a person's race and gender. Where it differed from its past analyses
and ran into intense criticism, though, was in reneging on its support for the notion that the
black population of the United States was a separate nation in favor of an analysis which
relegated black Americans to the status of merely superexploited workers. Additionally, the
analysis put forth by the PFOC at Hard Times acknowledged women's exploitation as
members of the workforce, but not their special exploitation due solely to gender. These
analyses would eventually lead to Weather's demise.
After the Hard Times conference public statements from Weather were usually signed by the
PFOC, indicating the organizational confusion within the group in the wake of the Hard
Times meeting. The New York PFOC, also known as the Central Committee (including Ayers,
Jones, Bernardine Dohrn, Boudin, Dave Gilbert), came under attack for the supposedly
reformist politics presented at the conference. Within the year, the rift between the Central
Committee and the Bay Area Revolutionary Committee (van Lydegraf, Judith Bissell, Marc
Perry, Mike Justesen, all out of Seattle, and others) was unbroachable. The Central
Committee was also accused of "abandoning revolutionary anti-imperialism," an accusation
that hit hard in an organization which had based its philosophy on the exact concept. The
Revolutionary Committee denounced their former comrades in a document "reminiscent of
the worst rhetorical and psychological aberrations of the New Left." 3 Although many leftists
suspected that government provocateurism played a part in the split, those close to the
PFOC claimed it was the result of long-term political differences over the role of reforms in
the revolutionary struggle. The Central Committee's romanticization of workers led them
into uncritical support of bread-and-butter struggles at the expense of anti-racist, anti-
sexist, and anti-imperialist issues.
By the end of 1976, the Bay Area Revolutionary Committee had become the Weather
Underground Organization (WUO). Bill Ayers, Jeff Jones, Bernardine Dohrn, Kathy Boudin,
Dave Gilbert, and the others in the Central Committee had either been expelled or had left
of their own volition. Although the PFOC was still a support group for those who held the
Weather mantle, it began asserting a separate identity. The first issue of its political journal,
Breakthrough, was published in March 1977 and dealt exclusively with the split in the
WUO— a split which by this time had brought the demise of one faction. 4 Virtually the entire
issue was filled with the Revolutionary Committee's "Provisional Political Statement."
Besides dismissing the old leadership of Weather (the New York group) as opportunists,
much of the statement is a reassertion of the themes of Prairie Fire, with a somewhat more
refined analysis of women's oppression and male supremacy. After relating the history of
women's oppression in American history and noting its various forms as dependent on class
and race, the section on women concludes by calling male supremacy "one of the chief
competitive structures the imperialists have used to maintain divisions within the working
class." Furthermore, the Revolutionary Committee insisted, no revolution can succeed which
"does not attack one of the strongest bulwarks of imperialism— women's oppression and
male supremacy." 5
»L tnal March 1877
POLITIC At JOURNAL of PFOC
Figure 7 The front cover of the first issue of Breakthrough, March 1977. From the PFOC collection,
reproduced courtesy of the staff of Breakthrough.
A pamphlet published by the John Brown Book Club (a branch of the PFOC in Seattle)
around the same time as the first issue of Breakthrough detailed further reasons for the
split. The most telling article in this collection is the transcript of a tape-recorded message
from Bernardine Dohrn in which she apologized for the post Prairie Fire politics of Weather,
stating, "Immediately after the publication of Prairie Fire, the Central Committee went back
on the anti-imperialist line of Prairie Fire and aggressively opposed it." 6 In an analysis
reminiscent of Weather's early, Days of Rage period, Dohrn criticized the actions of the
Central Committee (and herself) and equated its support of workplace organizing with the
support of an "opportunist white supremacist analysis." 7
According to Dohrn, she and the Central Committee had followed the "classic path of white
so-called revolutionaries who sold out the revolution." 8 Such harsh self-criticism may have
seemed appropriate at the time, but with hindsight a more accurate analysis would have to
acknowledge the growing role on the Left of identity politics, which caused many leftists to
grasp at dogmatic straws in retaliation against the more liberal and right-wing elements of
identity-based movements. This in turn encouraged groups like the New York Weather cell
(who were attempting to create a class analysis which incorporated the special
circumstances created by national and gender-based oppression) to adopt a politics
demanding that the revolution wait on some of the more reactionary elements in US
society. Although actions after Prairie Fire were meant to rectify Weather's earlier contempt
of white workers, this was done at the expense of its traditional support base (New Left,
counter-culture, third world), which it alienated in exchange for minimal levels of support
among white workers, class-conscious or otherwise.
The Revolutionary Committee maintained Weather's longstanding position that organizing
around reforms was opportunist and counter-revolutionary. After the split, the organization
returned to action. On February 3, 19'77, it bombed the San Francisco Immigration and
Naturalization Service (INS) office, causing little damage, but announcing to those who still
cared that the politics of armed struggle was once again the politics of Weather. News
coverage was minimal, and for the most part overshadowed by the bombing of a car owned
by a lawyer prosecuting a man charged in connection with a bombing by the New World
Liberation Front. The Weather communique accompanying the action stated that the bomb
was set off at the INS office to protest its role in the oppression and exploitation of
The decision to resume the military option was pushed forward by van Lydegraf. It is worth
noting, however, that two undercover agents (one each from the FBI and the California
Criminal Intelligence Division) were working with the group, and it has been suggested that
they encouraged the group to choose the reactionary and high-profile California State
Senator John Briggs's office as their next target.
Months after the film Underground was released, a grand jury issued subpoenas to the
filmmakers and other Hollywood figures. No one cooperated in this belated and feeble
attempt to ferret out the remaining Weather fugitives, and law-enforcement agents turned
to other, more outlandish schemes. For example, they seriously considered kidnapping
Jennifer Dohrn's baby in an attempt to persuade her sister Bernardine to surrender. 9
Although this particular plan never came to anything, the fact that it was considered at all
illustrates the extremes the state was prepared to go to in order to crush Weather and the
spirit of resistance it symbolized. Even after the size and importance of Weather had greatly
diminished, surveillance continued, as is indicated by papers released later under the
Freedom of Information Act and by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee.
California State Senator John Briggs was the author of an initiative slated for the California
ballot which would have made it illegal for gays and lesbians to teach in public schools. The
initiative was opposed by civil libertarians, gay and lesbian rights organizations, most of the
Democratic Party, and, indeed, most Californians. According to the undercover agents who
had infiltrated Weather, the bombing of Briggs's offices was to be the first of a series of
attacks on government buildings and assassinations of public officials. However, given the
history of law-enforcement agencies in their dealings with Weather, that claim is entirely
questionable. At any rate, five members of the WUO— van Lydegraf, Mike T. Justesen, Marc
Perry, Judith Bissell, and a woman originally identified as Esther (later discovered to be
Grace Fortner)— were arrested in Houston and Los Angeles on November 20, 1977 in
connection with the plot, and all were to serve two years in California state prisons. The
arrests were a front-page story in the Los Angeles Times, which was continued on page 2
next to an article headlined, "FBI Took Credit for Black Panther Split, Files Show." The irony
of this juxtaposition of articles is only too apparent, given the similar lines along which the
Panthers and Weather split, and the fact that the offspring of both splits would soon come
A few weeks before the Briggs arrests, another Weather member made the news. Mark
Rudd, a participant in the Columbia uprising and the Days of Rage, and one of the authors
of the original Weather statement, turned himself in to the Manhattan District Attorney on
charges stemming from the Columbia action. When asked by a photographer blocking his
way as he entered the courthouse if he had anything to say, Rudd replied, "Yeh, can I
please go in?" From New York, he headed to Chicago and answered the Days of Rage
indictments. He was released on $4,000 bail. Underground since the Flint war council in
December 1969, Rudd had decided to surface. 10 On January 20, 1978, the New York Times
reported that he had pled guilty to two counts of aggravated battery and received a $2,000
fine and two years probation.
Rudd's surrender was one of several that occurred during 1977. Phoebe Hirsch, Robert
Roth, and Peter Clapp, all living in Chicago at the time, also surrendered to police that year.
The surrender of Hirsch and Roth at the Cook County Courthouse on March 25 1977, led
some government officials to speculate that all members of Weather would turn themselves
in as part of a decision to organize openly and aboveground. This speculation proved wrong.
Both Hirsch and Roth were released— she on a personal recognizance bond and he on
$1,000 bail. On September 13, each pled guilty to mob-action charges and received $1,000
fines and two years probation. Clapp surrendered on June 21 in another Chicago courtroom.
Despite the best efforts of FBI officials, none of the Weather members who surfaced that
year provided law-enforcement officials with any information on his/her life underground or
about the whereabouts of the other seventeen Weather fugitives. Two more surfaced on
March 23, 1978: John Fuerst and Roberta Smith were both released on $50,000 bonds after
turning themselves in on an indictment drawn up against them in 1971 and charging them
with transporting explosives. Fuerst eventually pled guilty to lesser charges and received a
$2,000 fine and two years probation. Charges against Smith were apparently dropped.
Like Rudd, the Weather members who turned themselves in during this period had not been
publicly active for two or three years and were taking advantage of the healing political
climate that President Jimmy Carter's partial amnesty for draft resisters seemed to herald.
The story of Weather now divides into that of the various organizations it spawned.
The Briggs plot was the last act planned by Weather as an organization. Those who had split
with the Revolutionary Committee almost a year before the arrests continued their lives
underground. Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers lived in New York, where they worked a
variety of jobs and raised their child. Jeff Jones also lived in the New York City area with
Eleanor Raskin, working as a laborer and helping to raise their child while also maintaining
contact with their friends in the underground. Kathy Boudin, Dave Gilbert, Linda Evans, and
Judy dark helped form the May 19 Communist Organization, named in honor of Malcolm X
and Ho Chi Minh, who were both born on this date.
The May 19 Communist Organization was an offshoot of the New York PFOC. Their primary
raison d'etre lay in supporting the BLA. The PFOC, meanwhile, existed primarily on the West
Coast, publishing Breakthrough and lending solidarity to third-world national liberation
struggles in Palestine, Zaire, Angola, and Puerto Rico. In order to address the upsurge in
right-wing paramilitary and political organizing, the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee
(JBAKC) was formed in 1978. Also an offshoot of the PFOC, its stated purpose was to fight
the racists in and out of uniform and to help "free the Black nation." 11 JBAKC's vocal and
militant presence at neo-fascist rallies usually overshadowed that of more traditional anti-
racist groups in the late 1970s and through the 1980s.
The East Coast based May 19 Organization, meanwhile, fought racism in its own way. Most
noteworthy was its logistical assistance in the prison escape of BLA member Assata Shakur
from the Clinton Correctional Institution for Women in New Jersey on November 2, 1979;
she had been serving time for her presence at a 1973 shootout with police which ended in
the death of an officer. 12 The May 19 Organization also joined others at various actions in
support of Puerto Rican independentistas and in opposition to international racism
(especially during the tour of the official South African rugby team).
The participation of the PFOC, the JBAKC, and the May 19 Organization in public events into
the 1990s enabled those individuals and organizations in the movement who were so
inclined to take a more militant approach than that being urged by the mainstream groups.
For example, during a protest in San Francisco on April 16, 1984, against Henry Kissinger's
speech to the Foreign Policy Association and US involvement in Central America, it was the
PFOC who encouraged demonstrators to move outside the limits agreed by police and
marshals and, by doing so, raised the question of US involvement in the region with a wider
public via the evening news. The crowd swelled to over a thousand, and the police attacked,
swinging clubs and arresting dozens. In the news reports which followed, the PFOC and the
Revolutionary Communist Party were specifically mentioned by police and media as the
groups responsible for the police reaction. At a demonstration a week or two later, when El
Salvadorean president Duarte spoke at the same hotel, the PFOC responded to the charges
leveled against it with a leaflet titled "It's Right to Resist." Despite attempts to isolate the
PFOC from the mainstream by blaming it for the police attacks, the opposite occurred. At
the Duarte demonstration, even more protestors were willing to support those who crossed
The Weather members who had not joined the May 19 Organization or stayed with the PFOC
began to appear above-ground in the early 1980s. Cathy Wilkerson was the first of the old
leadership to surface after Mark Rudd had led the way. On July 8, 1980, she read a
statement to reporters which gave her reasons for surrendering as personal, yet insisted
that neither her beliefs nor commitment to changing the social and political conditions in
America had altered. When asked where she had been living since the townhouse explosion
she refused to say. She was released on $10,000 bail for charges related to that explosion
ten years earlier and was eventually sentenced to three years in prison. 13
On December 3, 1980, Bernardine Dohrn and Bill Ayers surfaced in New York. Rumors of
the surrender had been in the New York press for several days and, when the couple at last
appeared, the media were out in force. They both gave brief statements. Dohrn refused to
recant her past, and flew to Chicago to face the remaining charges there. All charges
against Ayers had been dropped earlier, but Dohrn received three years probation and a
Dohrn and Ayers had been living as Lou Douglas and Anthony Lee on West 123rd Street in
Manhattan with their two children. This was at least their second address since moving to
New York in the 1970s. Bernardine was working as a waitress at Teacher's restaurant on
Broadway and 82nd Street, and Ayers worked at a daycare center. At the sentencing, the
judge admonished Dohrn: "We have a system for change that does not involve violence," he
said. Dohrn replied that she and the judge "had differing views on America." 14
Less than a year later, in October 1981, Jeff Jones was arrested in the Bronx while he
watched the World Series with his partner Eleanor Raskin. He had been using the name
John Maynard, and Raskin had been living as his wife Sally. Both were wanted on charges
related to a cache of explosives discovered by police in New Jersey in 1979. At the time of
the Jones/Raskin arrest police assumed there was a connection between the couple and
those arrested in the failed Brinks holdup attempt in Nyack, New York, which had occurred a
few days earlier. There was none. Jones ended up on a year's probation for charges from
1970, and Raskin's charges were dismissed.
The Brinks holdup attempt hit the news on October 20, 1981. In what was to have been an
expropriation of monies to finance the work of the BLA, Kathy Boudin, Dave Gilbert, Judy
dark, and BLA member Sam Brown were arrested while attempting to rob a Brinks armored
truck operating in suburban New York. Two policemen were killed. Two days later Mtayari
Sundiata of the BLA was also killed in a shootout with police and another BLA member was
arrested. This act marked the end of that part of the underground Left formed in the anti-
racist and anti-war struggles of the 1960s and 1970s. As far as those arrested were
concerned, they would probably spend most of the rest of their lives in prison. After a long
series of trials, during which Dohrn and Ayers took care of Boudin and Gilbert's child,
Gilbert, dark, and Boudin were found guilty of robbery and murder. Dohrn also spent seven
months in prison for refusing to talk to a grand jury about the case. Those BLA members
who were captured by police were also eventually found guilty and sentenced to long terms
In January, 1983, Linda Evans and other activists involved in the PFOC, May 19, and other
similar organizations formed the Armed Resistance Unit. The group began a series of
attacks on military and corporate targets which culminated in the bombing of the US Capitol
on November 7, 1983, after the invasion of Grenada. A couple of years later, Evans and two
other women— Marilyn J. Buck and Laura Whitehorn— were arrested in Baltimore, Maryland.
By that time several other members of the Armed Resistance Unit were already serving long
prison terms. Evans was sentenced to forty years.
After Evans's arrest, the Justice Department announced that there was only one Federal
Weather fugitive left: Silas Bissell, who had jumped bail after he and his ex-wife were
arrested for an attempted bombing of the ROTC building at the University of Washington in
1970. In 1987, Bissell was found living near Eugene, Oregon, as Terry Jackson and was
arrested, tried, and sentenced, serving two years in a Federal prison.
During the US war against Iraq in 1990-91, certain former Weather members made the
news once again, notably Bill Ayers, who helped to organize the opposition to the war in the
Chicago area, where he now teaches. The PFOC was prominent in both San Francisco and
Seattle, leading and helping to organize the more militant direct actions, including a
shutdown of the Oakland Bay Bridge.
On January 6, 1994, one of the last of those charged in the Days of Rage went to court.
Twenty-five years after the first national Weather action, Jeff Powell ended his life
underground to face riot charges. He was fined $500 and placed on probation. Nearly a
quarter-century after Weather called on the youth of America to bring the war home,
Powell, a foot soldier in the Days of Rage, finally surrendered. 15
1 S. Shelton , "Hard Times to Focus on Fight for Jobs," Worker's World, New York, January
30, 1976, p. 3.
2 Irwin Silber, "Hard Times at Chicago Meeting," Guardian, February 1, 1976. p. 1.
3 Peter Biskind, "Weather Underground Splits on Whether to Go Overground," SevenDays,
Institute for New Communications, Farmington, N.Y, February 28,1977, p. 17.
4 Breakthrough ceased publication in the early part of the 1990s. However, at the time of
writing, plans are under way to publish the journal in a different, less expensive format-
probably on the World Wide Web.
5 Revolutionary Committee, "Provisional Political Statement of the Prairie Fire Organizing
Committee," Breakthrough, 1:1, San Francisco, March 1977, p. 34.
6 John Brown Book Club, ed.. The Split of the Weather Underground, Seattle, 1977. p. 33.
8 Ibid., p. 35.
9 Biskind, "Weather Underground Splits."
10 Lee Lescaze, "Rudd Emerges from Underground and Surrenders," Washington Post,
September 15, 1977, p. A2.
11 JBAKC leaflet, anti-Klan demonstration 1978, Walnut Creek, California.
12 See Shakur's book Assatal, Lawrence Hill, Wesport, Connecticut, 1978, for a detailed
description of this episode.
13 Margot Hornblower and James L. Rowe, "Out of the Underground," Washington Port, July
9, 1980, p. Al.
14 Doug Kneeland, "Ex-Radical Leader Gets Probation and Fine in 1969 Chicago Protests,"
New York Times, January 14, 1981, p. 14.
15 Robert Davis, "Days of Rage Now More Like a Convulsion that Became a Blip in History,"
Chicago Tribune, January 8, 1994, p. 6.
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ed., The Black Panthers Speak, Lippincott, Philadelphia, 1970.
Fraser, Ronald, 1968: A Student Generation in Revolt, Pantheon, New York, 1988.
Gitlin, Todd, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, Bantam, New York, 1987.
Glick, Brian, The War at Home, South End Press, Boston, 1989.
Grant, Joanne, Confrontation on Campus: The Columbia Pattern for the New Protest, New
American Library, New York, 1969.
Grathwohl, Larry, Bringing Down America: An FBI Informer with the Weathermen, Arlington
House, New Rochelle, N.Y, 1976.
Hayden, Tom, The Trial, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1970.
Heath, Louis, ed., Off the Pigs: The History and Literature of the Black Panther Party,
Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, N.J., 1976.
Vandals in the Bomb Factory: History and Literature of SDS, Scarecrow Press,
Metuchen, N.J., 1976.
Hilliard, David, This Side of Glory, Little, Brown, Boston, 1993. Hurwitz, Ken, Marching
Nowhere, Norton, New York, 1971.
Jacobs, Harold, ed., Weatherman, Ramparts Press, Berkeley, Cal, 1970.
Jackson, George, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson, Bantam, New
Katsiaficas, George, The Imagination of the New Left: A Global Analysis of 1968, South End,
Kesey, Ken and Paul Krassner, eds., The Last Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalog,
Whole Earth Catalog, Menlo Park, Cal., 1971.
Lader, Lawrence, Power on the Left: American Radical Movements Since 1946, Norton, New
Leary, Timothy, Confessions of a Hope Fiend, Bantam, New York, 1973.
Lee, Martin and Bruce Shiain, Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD, and the Sixties Rebellion, Grove
Press, New York, 1985.
Lenin, V.I., Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder?, International Publishers, New
Lewis, Roger, Outlaws of America: The Underground Press and Its Context: Notes on a
Cultural Revolution, Penguin Books, Baltimore, 1972.
Malcolm X., By Any Means Necessary, Pathfinder Press, New York, 1970.
Marcuse, Herbert, One Dimensional Man, Beacon Press, Boston, 1964.
"Repressive Tolerance," in R. Wolff, B. Moore and H. Marcuse, A Critique of Pure
Tolerance, Beacon Press, Boston, 1965.
Melville, Samuel, Letters from Attica, William Morrow, New York, 1972.
Morrison, Joan, and Robert K Morrison, From Camelot to Kent State: The Sixties Experience
in the Words of Those Who Lived It, Times Books, New York, 1987.
Nadelson, Regina, Who Is Angela Davis? The Biography of a Revolutionary, Peter H. Wyden,
New York, 1972.
Newton, Huey, Revolutionary Suicide, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1973.
Oglesby, Carl, ed., The New Left Reader, Grove Press, New York, 1969.
Powers, Thomas, Diana: The Making of a Terrorist, Bantam, New York, 1971.
Prairie Fire Organizing Committee, The Split of the Weather Underground Organization:
Struggling against White and Male Supremacy, John Brown Book Club, Seattle, 1977.
Raskin, Jonah, Out of the Whale, Links Books, New York, 1974.
Roszak, Theodore, The Making of a Counterculture, Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y, 1975.
Sale, Kirkpatrick, SDS, Vintage, New York, 1973.
Select Committee to Study Government Operation with Respect to Intelligence Activities,
Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans,
Book III, Final Report, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1976.
Seale, Bobby, Seize the Time, Random House, New York, 1970.
Shakur, Assata, Assatal, Lawrence Hill, Westport, Conn., 1987.
Sojourn, Celia [alias], Politics in Command, John Brown Book Club, Seattle, 1975.
Spofford, Tim, Lynch Street: The May 1970 Slayings at Jackson State, Kent State University
Press, Kent, Ohio, 1988.
Stern, Susan, With the Weatherman, Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y,1975.
Stevens, Jay, Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream, Harper & Row, New York,
Taft, John, Mayday at Yale: A Case Study in Student Radicalism, Westview Press, Boulder,
Thomas, Tom, The Second Battle of Chicago: Chicago 1969, Students for a Democratic
Society, Grinnell, Iowa, 1969.
Union of Radical Political Economists, U.S. Capitalism in Crisis, Economic Education Project,
New York, 1978.
Weather Underground Organization, Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-
Imperialism, Communications Co., 1974.
Whitmer, Peter, Aquarius Revisited, Macmillan, New York, 1987.
Wicker, Tom, A Time to Die, Quadrangle/New York Times Book Co., New York, 1975.
Biskind, Peter, "Weather Underground Splits on Whether to Go Overground," Seven Days,
Institute for New Communications, Farmington, N.Y, February 28, 1977.
Breakthrough, San Francisco.
Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, "The Vietnam Antiwar Movement in Perspective," vol.
Gintis, H., "The New Working Class and Revolutionary Youth," Socialist Revolution, May-
June 1970, Agenda Publishing, San Francisco.
Glusman, Paul, "More Mao Than Thou," Ramparts, Noah's Ark, Berkeley, Cal, September
Horowitz, D., and P. Collier, "Doing It," Rolling Stone, September 30, 1982.
Kopkind, Andrew, "Going Down in Chicago," Hard Times, New Weekly Project, Washington,
D.C., October 20, 1969.
O'Brien, James, "Beyond Reminiscence: The New Left in History," Radical America, July
Ono, Shin'ya, "You Do Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows," Leviathan,
San Francisco, December 1969.
Weinstein, J., "Weatherman: A Lot of Thunder But a Short Reign," Socialist Revolution, 1:1
DeAntonio, Emile, dir., Underground, with Mary Wexler and members of Weather
Underground Organization, First Run Features, New York, 1976.
Berkeley Tribe, Berkeley Cal.
The Black Panther, Oakland, Cal.
Chicago Seed, Chicago, III.
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, III.
City Star, New York (prior to 1972, Liberated Guardian).
Dock Of the Bay, San Francisco, Cal.
Eugene Augur, Eugene, Oregon.
FIRE! (The Fire Next Time), Chicago, III.
Georgia Straight, Vancouver, B.C.
Guardian, New York.
Helix, Seattle, Washington.
Liberated Guardian, New York.
Liberation News Service, Washington, D.C.
New Left Notes, Chicago, III.
Old Mole, Boston, Mass.
Osawatomie, Seattle, Washington.
New York Times, New York.
Portland Scribe, Portland, Oregon.
Quicksilver Times, Washington, D.C.
Rat, New York.
Rising Up Angry, Chicago, III.
RYM, Southern California.
San Francisco Good Times, San Francisco, Cal.
Sedition, San Jose, Cal.
Takeover, Madison, Wis.
Workers World, New York.
A Weather Chronology
Tet offensive in Vietnam; US embassy in Saigon attacked; demonstrations against Secretary
of State Dean Rusk in New York and San Francisco; Oakland 7 indicted.
Police kill three black students and wound more than thirty others in Orangeburg, South
Carolina, during sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters.
President Lyndon B. Johnson announces he won't seek a second term.
Martin Luther King, Jr., is murdered, sparking nationwide rebellions in urban neighborhoods.
Black Panther Bobby Hutton is killed by Oakland police.
Columbia University uprising; student-worker insurrection in France.
Robert Kennedy murdered.
Soviet Union invades Czechoslovakia; Democratic Convention in Chicago; Yippie Festival of
Richard M. Nixon elected president.
"Towards a Revolutionary Youth Movement" proposal presented at SDS national convention
in Ann Arbor.
Chicago 8 indicted.
People's Park uprising in Berkeley, California.
"You Don't Need a Weatherman" published in New Left Notes.
SDS splits into Progressive Labor and anti-Progressive Labor factions; Revolutionary Youth
Movement (RYM) and Weatherman are born.
During organizing in July for October National Action, RYM and Weatherman break ranks; in
August, organizing continues for two different actions (Weatherman's will become known as
Days of Rage); RYM is now RYM II.
Black Panther Bobby Seale is arrested in Berkeley and transported to Chicago for trial.
Woodstock Festival in upstate New York. Chicago 8 trial begins.
Woodstock Festival in upstate New York.
Chicago 8 trial begins.
Weather blows up Haymarket police statue in Chicago.
Days of Rage in Chicago; RYM II actions.
Millions protest war in Vietnam during the National Moratorium Against the War.
National Mobilization to End the War— a million demonstrate in Washington D.C., over
200,000 in San Francisco; clashes with police occur in D.C. in marches on South Vietnamese
embassy and the Justice Department.
My Lai massacre made public.
Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark murdered by police in Chicago.
Weather firebombs Chicago police cars in retaliation for Hampton/Clark murders.
Flint war council; Weatherman decides to go underground.
Silas and Judith Bissell of Seattle Weather attempt to bomb the University of Washington
Reserve Officers Training Corps building; both are arrested.
All women's issue of Rat published, which includes Robin Morgan's feminist statement
"Goodbye to All That."
The Day After (TDA) protests occur across US after the convictions in the Chicago
Conspiracy Trial (Chicago 8 ).
Leary convicted on marijuana charges.
Townhouse explosion in New York City— three Weather members die, two escape; FBI
First federal indictments from Days of Rage released.
Linda Evans arrested on Days of Rage indictment.
"Free Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins" week of actions in New Haven, Connecticut.
Nixon announces invasion of Cambodia; campuses, youth ghettoes, even military bases
across the country and in Europe erupt in massive protests; nationwide student strike
Four students murdered and many others wounded by National Guard at Kent State
Some 200,000 demonstrate in Washington, D.C., against the invasion of Cambodia and
Two students murdered by police at Jackson State University, Mississippi, during an anti-
Weather bombs the National Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Weather bombs the headquarters of the New York Police Department.
New indictments issued against 13 Weather members.
Weather bombs the Presidio Army Base in San Francisco.
Jonathan Jackson and others attempt to free Soledad Brothers from the Marin County
courthouse; he and three others die in shootout with police and guards.
Army Math Research Center bombed by New Year's Gang in Madison, Wisconsin; one
graduate student dies.
Weather helps Timothy Leary escape from prison.
Angela Davis arrested on conspiracy charges related to Marin County courthouse escape
attempt; Weather detonates bombs at the Marin County courthouse; Weather sets off
bombs in three cities -Chicago, Long Island, and Cambridge.
"New Morning" communique mailed to Liberation News Service and published in
underground newspapers across the country.
Judy Clark arrested on Days of Rage indictments.
People's Peace Treaty made public.
Bomb explodes in US Capitol building in opposition to the escalating war in Laos.
Black Panthers split over politics and the necessity of armed struggle— New York chapter
aligns with Cleaver's international wing, Newton continues to lead Oakland branch.
April 24-May 6
Massive demonstrations in Washington, D.C., against the war (organizers include New
Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and the Mayday
Tribe); martial law declared in D.C., over 12,000 arrested.
All charges dropped against Ericka Huggins and Bobby Seale.
George Jackson murdered at San Quentin.
Weather bombs California prison offices in San Francisco.
Attica State Penitentiary prison uprising and massacre.
Weather bombs New York Commissioner of Corrections offices in Albany, New York.
Weather bombs the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offices of Vietnam war architect
US intensifies bombing of northern Vietnam.
US mines northern Vietnamese harbors and intensifies bombing of countryside; protests
break out worldwide; on May 19, Weather explodes bomb in Pentagon.
Angela Davis acquitted; Watergate breakin and arrests.
President Nixon renominated at the Republican Convention amidst massive demonstrations
in Miami Beach, Florida.
Richard M. Nixon elected president for a second term.
US carpet-bombs Vietnam in what becomes known as the Christmas bombings; the Justice
Department issues new indictments against Weather.
Peace treaty signed between US and North Vietnam; war continues.
American Indian Movement and allies begin defense of Wounded Knee against US Army and
CIA-ITT sponsored coup in Chile— hundreds murdered, thousands arrested.
Weather bombs ITT Latin America offices.
Some federal indictments against Weather dropped because of illegal surveillance.
Vice President Agnew resigns and is replaced by Congressman Gerald Ford.
Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) kidnaps newspaper heiress Patty Hearst.
WUO bombs San Francisco Health, Education, and Welfare offices.
Six members of SLA killed in shoot-out with police in Compton, California.
Impeachment hearings begin against President Nixon.
Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism released and distributed; film
President Nixon resigns from the presidency.
President Ford pardons Nixon.
Weather bombs government offices in Washington, D.C., and Oakland, California.
Weather bombs Banco de Ponce offices in New York City
Osawatamie begins publication.
Weather bombs Kennecott Corporation headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.
January 30-February 2
Hard Times conference in Chicago.
Weather divides into Central Committee and Revolutionary Committee over issues of race,
gender, and organizational approaches.
Jimmy Carter elected president. Late December Revolutionary Committee expels Central
Committee; Revolutionary Committee takes over WUO mantle.
WUO (RC) bombs San Francisco Immigration and Naturalization Service offices.
Prairie Fire Organizing Committee publishes first issue of journal, Breakthrough.
Mark Rudd surrenders to authorities in New York.
Five WUO members arrested for conspiracy to bomb California State Senator John Briggs's
John Brown Anti-Klan Committee formed; some former Weather members join May 19
Organization or PFOC; most remain underground.
Cathy Wilkerson surfaces in New York.
Ronald Reagan elected president.
Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn surface in New York.
Jeff Jones and Eleanor Raskin are arrested in New York; Black Liberation Army and May 19
Organization botch hold-up of Brinks armored truck; Boudin, Gilbert, and dark are among
those arrested; two police, one security guard, and one BLA member die.
The PFOC are active in movements against US war in Central America; in solidarity with
Puerto Rican independentistas; against apartheid; and continue publishing Breakthrough;
Armed Resistance Unit (ARU) formed (January).
November 7, 1983
ARU bombs US Capitol building in protest against US invasion of Grenada.
President Reagan reelected.
Linda Evans and Laura Whitehorn arrested for Capitol bombing.
Silas Bissell arrested after seventeen years underground.
George Bush elected president.
US goes to war in Persian Gulf in January; demonstrations occur worldwide. War ends in
Bill Clinton elected president.
January 6, 1994
Jeff Powell, a foot soldier in the Days of Rage, surrenders in Chicago to face riot charges
after nearly twenty-five years underground.
Bill Ayers was the son of the chairman of the utility corporation, Commonwealth Edison, of
Chicago. His first political arrest came at a sit-in at an Ann Arbor draft board in October
1965. He met Diana Oughton later that school year, and together they began working at the
Children's Community School. This alternative school for disadvantaged youngsters soon ran
into trouble because of the trustees' differences with Bill and Diana's radical politics and the
fact that they were living together outside marriage. After the school folded, the two
became very involved with Ann Arbor SDS. Ayers was a founding member of Weatherman
and prominent in the leadership until his departure in 1977. He surfaced with Bernardine
Dohrn in 1980.
Silas Bissell was an heir to the carpet-cleaner magnate's fortune. He and his then wife
Judith were indicted on charges of attempting to bomb the ROTC building at the University
of Washington in 1970. Both went underground and separated from each other. Judith
stayed with the WUO until her arrest in 1977. Silas was finally arrested after several years
underground in 1987 and served two years.
Kathy Boudin became involved in SDS through its community-organizing project ERAP.
She was one of the founding members of Weather, escaped alive from the townhouse
explosion, and stayed with the group to the end. She went underground after the explosion
and was finally arrested (as a member of the May 19 Communist Organization) after the
failed Brinks holdup attempt in Nyack, N.Y, and was sentenced to twenty years to life for
her role. Her father was the famed civil-rights lawyer Leonard Boudin. She is currently
serving time in a New York prison facility and is active in AIDS counseling and prisoner
Judy Clark joined SDS in 1965 and the New Left Notes staff shortly thereafter. She
participated in the Days of Rage and the preceding organizational actions, and was listed in
the original federal indictments. She was one of the few ever arrested on those charges
during Weather's heyday. She served seven months in prison and worked as an above-
ground ally after her release. In 1981 she was arrested for her involvement in the BLA/May
19 Organization Brinks holdup attempt. She is currently serving seventy-five years to life in
New York prisons.
Bernardine Dohrn was raised in a middle-class suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and, after
college, went to law school in Chicago. She moved to New York, finding employment as a
paralegal. She joined SDS and was national secretary in 1968-9. A founding member of
Weatherman, it was usually her signature which appeared on Weather communiques. Dohrn
was probably the best-known of all the Weather people and its primary spokesperson. She
left the organization in 1977 and surfaced in 1980.
Jennifer Dohrn, Bernardine's sister, served as aboveground support for Weather until
Bernardine left the organization. She was instrumental in the publication and distribution of
Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism.
Linda Evans joined SDS in 1967. She was one of the delegation of US anti-imperialists and
peace activists who went to Hanoi in 1969 to receive prisoners of war released by the
Vietnamese. She was charged in the first of several indictments stemming from the Days of
Rage, and spent some time in the early 1970s in prison. After the dissolution of WUO, she
worked with the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee in Texas for a few years and then moved
east where she became involved in clandestine work through the Armed Resistance Unit.
Following the Capitol bombing in November 1983, she spent several months on the lam
before she was arrested in Baltimore, Maryland, with other members of the organization.
She is currently serving forty years to life.
Dave Gilbert was one of those involved in the anti-IDA work at Columbia University
preceding the April-May 1968 rebellion. He had been involved earlier with the civil-rights
group CORE and in protests against the Navy ROTC branch at Columbia, and was almost
expelled for his acts in the latter. In mid-1968 he committed himself to political work,
joining Weatherman at its inception and moving underground after the Flint war council. He
continued underground activities as a member of Weather and the May 19 Organization
until his arrest after the Nyack Brinks holdup attempt in 1981. He is now serving seventy-
five years to life for his role in that action.
John Jacobs (known as JJ) was a former PL member well read in communist revolutionary
theory. A founding member of Weatherman and part of the original leadership, he drifted
away from the organization in the early 1970s. (He is no relation of the author.)
Naomi Jaffe worked with New York SDS. In 1968, Bernardine Dohrn and Jaffe wrote "You
Got the Look," one of the first feminist viewpoints to be published in New Left Notes. She
was a founding member of Weatherman and remained with the organization into the 1970s.
Jeff Jones, originally from California, worked for a year or two in the New York regional
office of SDS. He was a student at Antioch College, a progressive university in Yellow
Springs, Ohio, prior to moving to New York. Jeff was an early spokesperson for Weather and
a founding member. He remained with the organization throughout the 1970s and left when
the programs he, Ayers, Dohrn, and others had sponsored were discredited. He was
arrested in 1981 along with Eleanor Raskin.
Mike Klonsky joined SDS in 1966 at San Fernando State College in Southern California. He
participated in a demonstration/teach-in at a military base and was arrested. Klonsky was
one of the primary authors of the RYM statements of December 1968. He split with
SDS/Weather in August 1969 and helped organize several multiracial youth coalitions and
organizations against the war and for revolutionary change, including RYM2 and the October
Jim Mellen was already in his thirties in 1968 and had been actively involved in the May
2nd Movement (M2M)— an antiwar, anti-imperialist organization top-heavy with Progressive
Labor Party members. In addition to his participation in M2M, Mellen was secretary-
treasurer of the New York Free University in fall, 1965 and taught courses in Marx, Lenin,
Mao, and other communist revolutionaries. Upon his arrival in Ann Arbor, Mellen joined the
SDS Radical Education Project (REP). Although a founding member of Weatherman, he left
after the war council of December 1969.
Jeff Powell was a laborer in Illinois who was arrested during the Days of Rage on mob-
action charges. He went underground immediately and worked in homeless shelters and
other non-profit-making organizations. He remained underground until surrendering in
Chicago in 1994.
Eleanor Raskin was born into a leftist family and joined the civil-rights and anti-war
struggles early on. She was married to Jonah Raskin for a couple of years, but after the
Columbia uprising went her own way. She co-authored The Bust Book with Kathy Boudin in
1967. Eleanor signed on early with Weather and stayed until the organization split. She was
arrested with her partner, Jeff Jones, in October 1981.
Mark Rudd joined Columbia SDS in late autumn of 1966 after an SDS campaign against
CLA recruiting on campus. In 1967, he was arrested at a sit-in in the same cause. He grew
up in Maplewood, a New Jersey suburb where his father sold real estate and served as a
lieutenant colonel in the Army reserves. He was a founding member of Weather, but drifted
away from the organization in the early 1970s. He surfaced in 1977.
Susan Stern graduated from college as a debutante, married, and moved to Seattle with
her husband Robby. She first encountered SDS in 1967, at a New Politics convention in
Chicago. Her first political demonstration, however, was against sexism. She left Robby in
the winter of 1967-8, went to Berkeley, then to Los Angeles, where she worked for SDS. In
August 1968, she attended the Democratic Convention in Chicago. She joined Weather at its
inception and left in early 1970. She then helped form the Seattle Liberation Front, an anti-
imperialist group, and was arrested on conspiracy charges along with seven other Seattle
activists after a violent demonstration against the verdicts in the Chicago 7 trial. These eight
became known as the Seattle 8.
Clayton van Lydegraf was, by the time he met up with Weather, a man in his sixties.
Coming of age during the Russian Revolution, he worked with various Left organizations
throughout his life. In early 1960 he was expelled from the Communist Party— USA (along
with several other members) over differences arising from the Sino-Soviet split. Together
with others who had been expelled, he helped form the Maoist Progressive Labor Party.
Later in the decade he was expelled from PL. Van Lydegraf worked with Weather members
until his arrest with four other members in 1977. He died in 1992.
Cathy Wilkerson was raised a Quaker in the Midwest. Her political history began when she
attended a sit-in to desegregate a lunch counter in Cambridge, Maryland, She graduated
from Swarthmore College in 1966 and immersed herself in the anti-war movement. As a
member of SDS she traveled to Hanoi and eventually helped create Weatherman. She was
indicted for her actions during the Days of Rage and, when she went underground, forfeited
$40,000 bail. With Kathy Boudin, she survived the townhouse blast. Cathy surfaced in 1980
and served two years in prison.
List of Acronyms
BLA Black Liberation Army
CIA Central Intelligence Agency
FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation
JBAKC John Brown Anti-Klan Organizing Committee
M2M May 2nd Movement
Mobe Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam
PFOC Prairie Fire Organizing Committee
PLP/PL Progressive Labor Party/Progressive Labor
RYM Revolutionary Youth Movement, eventually split into RYM I and RYM II
SDS Students for a Democratic Society
SLA Symbionese Liberation Arm
SNCC Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
TDA The Day After
WUO Weather Underground Organization
Cartoon illustrating Weatherman's experience at the "Mobilization to end the war in
Vietnam" demonstration in Washington, DC, November 15, 1969.
"There were those who came to Washington to protest the war, in the tradition of the past ten
years of peaceful demonstrations."
«^*wy? untie af^fyt^Y
"Then there's us, the revolutionary contingent. White youth who know what has to be done.
Digging and loving every second of being part of the winning people's war going on all over the
world. The Viet Cong, Cubans and Koreans, have shown us the only way to beat pig Amerika—
violence and armed struggle."
"Friday night we rallied at DuPont Circle, for a few short speeches."
"Then we moved out on the Saigon and other pig embassies. It was a great feeling moving out.
Our people were chanting, sining and laughing with the thought of what was to come. The pace
was fast. Everybody was anxious for what was to happen."
"The pigs were in position when we got there. We started trashing the windows in the embassies
and the pigs attacked with tear gas. We moved up Massachusetts Ave. On the way burning a pig
motorcycle, trashing pig cars and a pig van."
"After a relaxing sleep, we moved on the Justice Department."
"We trashed windows, exploded red smoke and stoned [mobe?] marshal pigs. The pigs attacked
with gas. We disbersed, regrouped and launched another attack. This time along with trashing, we
lowered the Amerikan flag and raised the N.L.F. flag. The pigs attacked again with gas. We moved
out into the city trashing, barricading and setting fires as we went."
"We moved on to Connecticut Avenue, trashing pig Washington."
'Later we did all those things the pig says are bad."