Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies

By Jeremy Varon | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
The Importance
of Being Militant

The Days of Rage and Their Critics

Until the Days of Rage, Weatherman existed primarily as an analysis, an impulse, a promise, and a threat. The group proclaimed action to be the great catalyst—the agony of the New Left and the riddle of imperialism solved. Violent confrontation in Chicago would overcome demoralization within the movement, greatly expand its base of support, and, most ambitiously, spark a second American revolution. With this exhortation to militancy, conveyed with a mix of heartfelt conviction and thuggish righteousness, Weatherman had aroused the curiosity, suspicion, and fear of the left and of those few within the mainstream conscious of its voice. The group had provided little basis, though, for judging the substance of its gospel of action.

The prediction of movement skeptics that the Weathermen would lead vulnerable youths into massacre did not come to pass; nor did the Days of Rage remotely satisfy Weatherman's hope of devastating a major American city. Only a few hundred demonstrators, nearly all of them Weathermen, came to Chicago. They used chains and pipes to destroy property and battle police. Denounced by much of the left, ignored by working-class youths, and opposed by thousands of police and soldiers, the Weathermen were routed in Chicago. Weatherman had nonetheless honored its commitment. It had acted. Yet during and after the Days of Rage, there was little understanding of what the action meant, either for Weatherman, the movement, or the nation as a whole; in their lack of

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