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 3
“Hearts and Minds”
The Antiwar Movement, Violence, and the Critical Mass

While Weatherman was attempting to fashion itself into a revolutionary vanguard by fighting in the streets and planning for sabotage, other activists were devoting their energies to the more immediate goal of ending the war in Vietnam through mass mobilization. Demonstrations in October and November of 1969 were the centerpieces of the antiwar movement's fall strategy to show that the public had turned decisively against the war. Despite the desire of the organizers for unity around the message of peace, the demonstrations served as an occasion for intense debate among protesters over the nature of the war, strategies for ending it, and the ultimate goals of antiwar activism. The demonstrations also had an important bearing on the growing impulse within the left to violence. The Weathermen and other aspiring revolutionaries shared with less radical or risk-prone activists the concrete objective of ending the war. Doubting the efficacy of peaceful protest, however, they promoted violence as a vital, even necessary, means to that end. In addition, the war elicited a groundswell of anger, particularly among the young, which radicals tried to tap and further politicize. Opposition to the war, in short, was the main impetus for New Left violence, and it was from the antiwar movement that any larger push by whites toward armed struggle was most likely to come.

Mass demonstrations were among the defining acts of the antiwar movement and 1960s protest in general. They functioned as complex signs—events that everyone could regard as significant, but whose fun-

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