[sixties-l] Re: 'Fugitive Days' [Ethan Young] (fwd)

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Date: Wed Feb 13 2002 - 02:15:19 EST

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    ---------- Forwarded message ----------
    Date: Tue, 12 Feb 2002 17:26:54 -0800
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Re: 'Fugitive Days' [Ethan Young]

        Date: Mon, 11 Feb 2002 11:07:57 -0500
        From: portsideMod@netscape.net
    Subject: Re: 'Fugitive Days'

    Re: 'Fugitive Days'

    Poster John Crawford takes issue with my introduction
    to Cathy Wilkerson's review of 'Fugitive Days' by Bill
    Ayers. He implies that I imposed my own views on
    Wilkerson's because my remarks reflect some bitterness
    about the Weather fiasco. He calls it 'moral
    condemnation' and asks for 'a true history of the
    period, an examination of actions and mistakes.' He
    goes on to charge that I 'mechanically [draw] a line
    between violence and non-violence.'

    My views are my own - that's why I signed them and
    separated them from Wilkerson's. Crawford jumps to
    conclusions again, by assuming that because I question
    the use of violence as practiced by Ayers and the
    bunch, I must be a pacifist. I'm not, but I hope I'll
    always be sane enough to listen to principled pacifists
    before I give credence to anyone who would encourage
    teenagers to fight armed cops. Or who call beating up
    high school teachers and planting bombs 'exemplary' and
    call organizing 'wimpy,' as the Weatherpeople did. I
    wasn't so sane in 1969.

    Fresh out of high school in Chicago, I fully identified
    with the multiracial movement forming around local
    SDSers and the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther
    Party, led by the young, charismatic, and daring Fred
    Hampton. From their first appearance in June of that
    year, I was attracted to the Weatherman faction, first
    of all, because they seemed to have no designs on other
    movement groups - unlike Progressive Labor, who raided
    and split SDS, or Young Socialist Alliance, who had
    taken over the Student Mobilization Committee. The
    Weather folks did not seek to dictate to the Vietnamese
    or the Panthers in the Calvinist style of more orthodox
    groups. Their stand was full support for actually
    existing struggles - they cited Che, Mao and Lin Piao
    to argue that these were all battlefronts in one anti-
    imperialist struggle. And they displayed a sense of
    humor, unlike their former co-factionalists in SDS, the
    proto-Maoist RYM-2.

    The Weathermen were on fire. For them, there wasn't
    time for party-building or organizing - the revolution
    was already here, and it was another kind of party.
    (They called it a 'wargasm.') I found the idea of
    street fighting much more appealing than trying to
    persuade working people inclined toward cultural
    conservatism to overthrow U.S. imperialism.

    Soon enough, the Weatherpeople began disparaging all
    other whites in the movement, in a crude caricature of
    the expulsion of whites from SNCC a few years earlier.
    Promoting 'confrontation politics,' they acted out a
    campus fantasy of juvenile delinquency in order to
    build a 'youth army' to 'aid' the third world
    liberation struggles. They held little putsch-like
    rallies at high schools and fronted off like gangsters
    against cops, teachers, and anyone who wanted to argue
    with them. If this practice makes sense to you in 2002
    I may not be able to communicate why Weather was not
    just a 'section of the movement' but a direct, and
    effective, threat to it.

    I can't express how embarrassing it is to admit that
    this actually happened, no exaggeration, and I bought
    into it as a 'weather-symp.'

    Before the end of summer of 1969, the Weatherpeople and
    the Panthers were at loggerheads. Fred Hampton publicly
    backed up RYM-2's charge that Weather was
    'adventurist.' It seems the BPP didn't actually go
    around looking for fights with cops - they were too
    busy trying to feed children and care for the sick.
    Alluding to an early target of Lenin's polemical fire,
    Hampton called the Weathermen 'anarchistic,
    Custeristic, narodnik muddleheads.' Ayers responded in
    a much-quoted speech called 'A Strategy to Win.' To
    paraphrase, he said that as long the U.S. is killing
    blacks and Vietnamese, 'nothing we do could be
    adventurist.' In other words, if our actions are
    militant and violent, they're justified and therefore
    appropriate. Conversely, nonmilitant action objectively
    condones, and therefore abets, war and repression.
    Besides being suicidal, this sophomoric posturing
    undermined the work of real movement activists:
    respectfully and patiently organizing the majority of
    working people to oppose the war and racism and to
    stand up for themselves as human beings. Even worse, it
    gave public credibility to the state's main
    justification for its anti-movement bloodshed: that
    revolutionaries were violent criminals.

    That summer the Weatherpeople agitated in major cities
    for a violent national action in Chicago in October,
    aka the 'days of rage.' They predicted hundreds of
    thousands would come. A few hundred showed up,
    including me. There were some minor dust-ups with the
    cops. The only direct results were hysterical
    headlines, jail for some, and a disabling injury to a
    political underling of Mayor Daley, who later parlayed
    his sacrifice to become sheriff of Cook County.

    Two months later state's attorney's police murdered
    Fred Hampton. Of course, the Weatherpeople can't be
    held responsible for this tragedy. But they helped set
    the stage by provoking the cops and by backing up the
    false assertion that law and order was collapsing.

    While attacking all other whites as racist, Weatherman,
    the Weather Underground, and their political offspring
    always claimed to be following third world leadership.
    But when the Panthers denounced them, they just ignored
    it and waited for another black group to emerge that
    better fit their idea of a 'vanguard.' That is, more
    nationalistic and more concerned with 'armed struggle'
    over organizing. This pattern was repeated time and
    again, as they avoided dealing with criticism from 'of-
    color' leftists in the name of 'following their

    Weather twisted out of all historical context the
    concepts of 'armed struggle,' 'people's war,' and
    'right to revolution,' in order to lend unearned
    importance to their grandstanding. Read the various
    defenses of the Black Bloc and you will find the same
    mangling of history and revolutionary politics.

    The problem is not whether violence should be discussed
    as a matter of strategy or tactics. It's in the nature
    of politics that the question comes around, whether in
    a boardroom or a strike meeting. But when it is
    discussed, the first concern for left activists must
    always be WHO WILL BE PUT AT RISK. The second concern
    is WHO WILL ULTIMATELY BE SERVED. When I'm in a meeting
    I look for the ones who understand this, especially if
    they have yet to face real violence for the first time
    in their lives.

    Ethan Young

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