Political violence in the U.S.

I recently finished a book where I found eerie parallels to the current left-wing violence in America (Days of Rage):

Probably the most time in the book was spent on the Weather Underground (also known as Weathermen). But there was also the Black Panthers, the Black Liberation Army, the Symbionese Liberation Army, and others. The author interviewed many of the leaders and participants of these violent “revolutionaries” in the writing of the book which was published in 2015. They set off thousands of bombs, robbed dozens of banks and armored cars, broke people out of prisons, and engaged in murder and kidnapping.

What I found most interesting was the white middle class students who formed the Weather Underground, for the most part, had never held jobs, and were incompetent at many basic tasks such as organizational structure, simple electrical wiring, and fixing cars. This held true when they started building bombs and blew up the house they were living in. The home was owned by the parents, away on vacation for a few weeks, of one of the members. They did know how to riot and have orgies, so, they weren’t total incompetents.

Their political philosophy and manifestos were non-sensical to most of America. In several cases people came together because they all “knew” a violent revolution was necessary because the the oppressive U.S. government had to be overthrown. They then sat around trying to figure out what cause they were taking up to rebel about. Most of the groups which where primarily white decided they were rebelling because of racism. They would have participated in the revolution because of the Vietnam war but when the U.S. pulled out they needed to find another cause. The Weather Underground political philosophy ultimate morphed a Marxist/Leninist view of utopia.

The primarily black groups thought unfair police treatment of blacks was a good cause but didn’t want much, if anything, to do with the white groups unless they had black leaders. They did allow a few white women into their groups which were useful. The women could go places and do things (for example, place bombs inside buildings) which would have drawn attention if a black had tried to do the same thing.

As is the case now, these young, naïve, idealists were financed by wealthy individuals who were sympathetic to their cause. The Weather Underground got most of their money from radical left-wing lawyers.

Also interesting was that the leaders of the Weather Underground, such as Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, lived in nice homes and ate well while “underground” but their followers lived lives of crushing poverty. One guy, at a meeting at Ayers home, opened the refrigerator and saw butter. He became enraged. He couldn’t afford biscuits to put butter on and this guy had butter. Ahh… yes. Under communism some animals are always more equal than others.

Interviewed decades after their revolutionary days they marveled at how naïve they had been. With hindsight they could see it was folly that they believed their revolution could succeed. But at the time, they just believed it.

I think there are lessons for many people of many political persuasions in this book. Political revolution requires a change in the culture of the society. If you can change the culture you don’t need the violence component. If you can’t change the culture the violence has a high chance of failure. The political left learned this in the 60s and 70s and it is long past time for others to learn this lesson too.

8 thoughts on “Political violence in the U.S.

  1. All the groups self destructed fairly quickly with the exception of the Puerto Rican Nationalist. I would have loved to had a six pack of beer and watch the shenanigans at the Weather Underground / SDS national meetings. Pure comedy gold if the book is correct.

  2. It’s pretty amusing that “weather underground” has become the name for a company that produces weather information on the web. They even advertise on this blog.

  3. I knew some of the sympathizers of the ’cause’. One problem was that the ’cause’ was based on hatred of the Vietnam war and the administration mostly because of the draft. They had no common vision other than their hate. It is true that some thought they were radical leftist (SDS), but most participants just focused on their hate. When Nixon abandoned the draft, the ’cause’ quickly died and the radical leftist philosophy faded with other desires (getting a job, starting a family, …).

    Still, it was a scary time. Just seeing 10,000 angry students on the library quad along with the results of rioting in the following week was sobering. They took over parts of the campus and shut the city down including occupying the major overpass in and out of the city. However, it was a ‘non-violent’ riot handled by the county sheriff. I do not remember any reports of shots being fired and the firebombs that were used were largely ineffective. I do remember the sounds of helicopters with searchlights flying low for days.

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