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What Happens to Truth

What Happens to Truth in an Age of Delusion (part 6)
The Banner of Che

August, 2013


The only path to the final defeat of imperialism and the building of socialism is revolutionary war. Revolution is the most powerful resource of the people….


Revolution is a fight by the people for power. It is a changing of power in which existing social and economic relations are turned upside down. It is a fight for who run things, in particular, for control by the people of what we communists call the means of production…. (Prairie Fire: Political Statement  of the Weather Underground, 1974. Republished in Sing a Battle Song, Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Jeff Jones, Seven Stories Press, 2006, p. 240, 241)

The Weather Underground, a secretive, radical organization that in 1969 grew out of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), was out to cause trouble especially for the police and university authorities. They were part of a massive anti-America protest movement against the Vietnam War and the systemic discrimination suffered by black Americans. They succeeded all too well, much to the consternation of their targets, which were often out-maneuvered and out-bullied by the violence and brutality of their attackers.

The WU went beyond issuing declarations filled with contempt for the American “establishment” and praise for the revolutions in Cuba, China, Vietnam and other communist countries. Their leaders wanted to bring the struggle to the streets of America by organizing riots, confrontations with the police, and bombing buildings such as the Capitol, the Pentagon, police stations and banks. After six years of spreading mayhem and fear, the organization came to a dismal ending marked by internal feuding and betrayal.

But do not think that this means the end of the ideology that fired the WU organization. Their leaders never recanted their ideas that had motivated them. On the contrary, they found a much more effective way to spread their revolutionary ideas by way of controlling the institutions they formerly attacked.

The Weather Underground: An Exercise in Degeneration

              The founding of the WU took place in 1969 at a meeting of the SDS at the Ann Arbor campus of the University of Michigan. Soon the SDS faded out of the picture, and the WU became the prime instigator of the violent attempts to overthrow the American capitalist “fascist” system. The name is taken from a Bob Dylan song: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” This became the title of the manifesto adopted by the SDS convention in Chicago in June of the same year. It contained the following statement of purpose:

“The most important task for us toward making the revolution, and the work our collectives should engage in, is the creation of a mass revolutionary movement, without which a clandestine revolutionary party will be impossible …. Rather it is akin to the Red Guard in China, based on the full participation and involvement  of masses of people in the practice  of making revolution; a movement with full  willingness to participate in the violent and illegal struggle.” (Wikipedia, Weather Underground)

Buoyed by the “successful” riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the WU planned what became known as the “Days of Rage” in Chicago scheduled for October 8-11, 1969.  The organizers predicted large crowds to respond to the call for action in the streets, but fewer than six hundred showed up on day-one. After firing up the crowd with a rousing speech, Bernardine Dohrn led the mob running towards downtown Chicago’s commercial centre, breaking windows in stores and cars and fighting with the police. 

Six people were wounded by police gunfire and dozens were hospitalized; Sixty-eight were jailed though most were quickly bailed out. The second and third day was a repeat although with even smaller numbers. Dohrn was arrested the second night, which only enhanced her status as a revolutionary leader. Seventy-five policemen had been injured. City official Richard Elrod was paralyzed from the neck down. Three hundred WU members were arrested.

The WU held a “War Council” in December 1969 to review their tactics. John Jacobs gave the concluding speech in which he condemned the pacifism of the white middle-class youth in America. He nevertheless predicted the success of a revolution that would draw the youth toward the goal of building a better, that is, a socialist world. But first the existing order must be destroyed. Jacobs explained how that was to be done:  “We’re against everything that’s good and decent in honky America ….We will burn and loot and destroy. We are the incubation of your mother’s nightmare.”  (Mark Rudd, My Life with SDS and the Weathermen Underground, 2009, p. 189)

Going Underground

The deliberations at this council resulted in the decision to go underground and to “engage in guerilla warfare against the U.S. government” without attempting to organize a mass movement. This was also the time that the leadership of the SDS was taken over by the WU resulting in the dismantling of the SDS. Mark Rudd, who had gained notoriety as the chief SDS leader of the violence and mayhem at Columbia University in 1968, summarizes this time in his book as the “most notorious” period of this organization,

more group sex, LSD acid tests, orgiastic rock music, violent street actions…. We were by now a classic cult, true believers surrounded by a hostile world that we rejected and that rejected us in return. We had a holy faith, revolution, which could not be shaken, as well as a strategy to get there. The foco theory. [Spanish term for Che Guevara’s revolutionary methods.] (Mark Rudd, p.184)

We were revolutionaries, about to move to a ‘higher level’ and begin armed struggle against the worst imperialist state in modern world history. We were the latest in a long line of revolutionaries from Mao to Fidel to Che to Ho Chi Minh, and the only white people prepared to engage in guerilla warfare in the imperial homeland. (p.185)

It was at this so-called War Council meeting where Bernadine Dohrn uttered her contemptuous description of the Charles Manson gang’s murder of the pregnant actress Sharon Tate and the LaBiancas.  “Dig it,” she said. “First they killed those pigs, then they ate dinner in the same room with them. They even shoved a fork into the victim’s stomach! Wild!.” Rudd explains that the Weathermen do not care one whit for conventional values. “There were no limits now to our politics of transgression.” (p.189)

On March 6, 1970,  members of the WU were busy building  a nail bomb Intended to be exploded at an army dance at Fort Dix. They were using a “safe house” in New York’s Greenwich Village to construct the bomb, but something went wrong and it exploded, killing   two men and one woman while two others in the house, including Kathy Boudin, escaped unharmed.

This  is  the same Kathy Boudin who was complicit in the Brink’s armored car robbery in 1981 in Nanuet, New York,  where two policemen and one guard were killed. She pleaded guilty to one count of felony murder and robbery, in exchange for one 20-years-to-life sentence. In 2003 she was granted parole. During her incarceration and subsequently she published articles in various  publications,  including  the Harvard  Educational Review, while also pursuing  her doctoral studies at the  City University of New York and Columbia University.

Earlier this year Boudin was appointed  adjunct professor at Columbia  University School of Social Work, much to the disgust of those who remember that she  was involved in a crime that took the lives of three men who simply did their jobs. To my knowledge she has not repudiated her former beliefs and actions.    

A State of War

The violent death of the bomb builders in Greenwich Village  sent a shockwave through the ranks of the WU. They were rudely confronted with the realization that what they were planning to do would inevitably lead to bloodshed. Now their own blood had been shed and they were forced to reconsider what they were doing. Consequently, they prided (if that is the right word) themselves for making sure that they destroyed only buildings and property, not human lives. Whatever such claims are worth, the reality is that the WU used plenty of words intended to incite hatred and contempt for “the enemy.” One of the resolutions at the December, 1969 War Council was “to engage in guerilla warfare against the U.S. government .”

One of the prominent leaders of the WU was Bernadine  Dohrn, who  on July 31, 1970  made this public “Declaration of a State of War” in which she made the following announcement:

·      All over the world, people fighting  Amerikan* imperialism look to Amerika’s youth  to use our strategic position  behind enemy lines  to join forces  in the destruction of the empire.

·      Che taught us that ‘revolutionaries move like fish in the sea.’ The alienation and contempt that young people have for this country has created the ocean for this revolution.

·      We fight in many ways.  Dope is one of our weapons .The laws against marijuana  mean that millions of us are outlaws long before we actually split. Guns and grass are united in the youth underground.

·      For Diana Oughton, Ted Gold and Terry Robbins [killed in the Greenwich Village explosion] and for all the revolutionaries  who are still on the move  here,  there has been no question for a long time now – we will never go back.

·      Within the next fourteen days we will attack a symbol or institution of Amerikan  injustice.

Most of the leading figures in the Weather Underground, Including  Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, spent the 1970s on the run, while their organization slowly disintegrated.  It was succeeded by a new organization called Prairie Fire – a name  derived from  Mao Zedong’s  statement that “a single spark can start a prairie fire.”

In 1974, Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Jeff Jones, and Celia Sojourn published  Prairie Fire: The Politics  of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism. The authors explain in the Introduction that they are mapping out a political ideology and strategy to create a revolution in the U.S. They write: “We need a revolutionary communist party in order to lead the struggle, give coherence and direction to the fight, seize power and build the new society.”

 What stands out in all the documents and statements of the WU is that they were inspired by the communist revolutionaries in Cuba, Nicaragua, North Vietnam and Russia, especially by the sadistic killer, Che Guevara. Several American delegations travelled to Havana to pay tribute to the Castro-led revolution. Bernadine Dohrn led one such delegation where they met with Havana officials who gave them the usual Potemkin village treatment. She  was interviewed by Cuba’s Tricontinental magazine  and met with dignitaries from the revolutionary third world.

Dohrn and  her colleagues also met with a delegation of Vietnamese headed by Huynh Va Ba, a member  of that government. He told them that they had similar experiences with organizing by recruiting among the middle class and young people prepared to fight. Then Huynh told them that the war was entering its final phase, and he urged them: “You must begin to wage armed struggle as soon as possible to become the vanguard and take leadership of the revolution.”

Dohrn assured him that they would try their best to be worthy of that honour. As if to solemnize their unity of mind, the Vietnamese gave the WU people rings forged from the metal salvaged of downed American fighter planes.(Peter Collier and David Horowitz, Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts about the Sixties, 1989,  p.83)

“Free as a Bird

In 1980 Bill Ayers and  Dohrn surrendered to the authorities and then found that all the charges against them had been dropped because of an “improper surveillance” technicality. Ayer is reported to have said: “Guilty as sin, free as a bird. America is a great country.” He then used his freedom to radicalize America from within its mainstream institutions, especially the education establishment. He earned a master’s degree in childhood education, and in 1987 he received a doctorate in Curriculum  and Instruction from Columbia’s University’s  Teachers College.

Also in 1987 Ayers  became a professor, and later distinguished  professor, of education  at the University of  Illinois, a position he held until 2010. Although he is now retired, he holds a number  of key positions in various phases of the educational system. In 2008 he was elected as V.P. of Curriculum Studies at the American Educational Research Association, a position that gives him direct influence over what is taught in American teacher-training  colleges  and its public schools.

In a speech in December 2012 at New York University Ayers advocated that the education system be used to indoctrinate young people to transform American society. He also serves on the board of In These Times, a Chicago –based socialist journal. He is a strong supporter of the Occupy Wall Street organization. His influence is international, since he was an admirer of the late Venezuelan Marxist president Hugo Chavez. Ayers is a board member of the Miranda International Center, a Venezuelan government  think tank promoting  Cuba-style education in Venezuelan schools. (www.DiscoverTheNetwork.org, Bill Ayers)

Ayers is no slouch in spreading his influence;  he is the author of at least ten books, most of them dealing with education, and one giving the story of his life, Fugitive Days; Memoirs of an Antiwar Activist, in which he attempts to put a positive spin on hating and betraying his own country.

His wife Bernardine Dohrn is no less radical in attempting to fundamentally transform America. She proved to be a fanatical leader in the fight against Amerika.  Just like her erstwhile lover, and later husband Ayers, she left her life of preaching and living the revolution after she surfaced in 1980.

No Regrets

She first worked at a Chicago law firm, and in 1991 she became an adjunct professor of law at the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago where she is also director of the Legal Clinic’s  Children and Family  Justice Center. In other words, she is still in a leadership position, but now at a position of prestige where she is able to mold the minds of generations of students.

Besides being able to influence the lives of many university students, she is also in a position to do that  through membership in various Left-wing organizations. She is a popular speaker at various events such as university graduations. Her present position enables her to spread her ideas far more effectively than she ever could. It’s a heady experience to move from being a revolutionary fugitive to becoming an honoured member of the intelligentsia.

The Ayers-Dohrn team has attempted to account for this transition and to justify their Weather Underground behaviour. Ayers’ Fugitive Days: Memoirs of an Antiwar Activist  is devoted to that purpose. The short version is in his article “Revisiting the Weather Underground.” Dohrn did the same in her “When Hope and Mystery Rhyme.” Both articles are published in Sing a Battle Song: The Revolutionary Poetry, Statements, and Communiques of the Weather Underground 1970-1974.

They admit to having  some regrets, but those are only about tactics, not substance. What these writings amount to is no renunciation of their contempt for their own country, the demonization of the “establishment,” the rejection of all traditional authority, the debauchery of language and morals, the thrashing of the institution of marriage and family, and their determination to fundamentally change America.

Their  worst insult against common sense and their own country is that they are unrepentant admirers of communism  as practised and preached by  the likes of the Castro brothers, Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, the Vietcong, Lenin, Marx and other thinkers of the radical Left. They have closed their eyes to the reality that these regimes are responsible for killing hundreds of millions and condemning untold millions more to a life time of misery and hopelessness.

It is ironic and deeply troubling that the radical critics who viciously attacked the universities are now controlling them. Their strategy to move from violence to infiltration has been brilliantly successful. But that “success” has contributed, perhaps fatally, to what Allan Bloom has called the Closing of the American Mind.  There are no winners in this story.

*the “k” is no typo, but an allusion to the KKK.