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 4
The Excesses and Limits
of Revolutionary Violence

Following the Days of Rage and the antiwar demonstrations in Washington, notions of space—distance, height, location, and boundaries—defined the experience of the Weathermen. One Weatherman explained, “[W] e felt we had to be undaunted; if we ran into an obstruction, we had to leap over it or go around it; we could never just fall back. ” 1 The group now sought to “bring the struggle to the next level” by inflicting “material damage” on America's military-corporate apparatus. The transition from street fighting to bombing entailed more, though, than a tactical shift in an improbable war of liberation. Weatherman also intensified a politics of transgression that was not reducible to its anti-imperialist ideology or its strategic goals. Weatherman thus made its own vivid contribution to the ethos in the 1960s of “going further” that pushed political and cultural rebellion to exhilarating, disorienting, and often dangerous extremes. 2

Two events signaled the extent and perils of Weatherman's provocation. In December 1969, in Flint, Michigan, Weatherman held its last public meeting, at which the group finalized plans for going underground. The meeting, called the “War Council, ” was most conspicuous for its rhetoric. The Weathermen lauded Charles Manson and projected a scenario of virtually random violence, meant to consume the country in chaos. The “vision” of Flint, as it gloried in defiance and subversion without limits, was seemingly realized when two months later a Weatherman collective accidentally blew up a New York City townhouse while making bombs, killing three of its own members. Following the townhouse explosion, Weatherman quickly completed its descent underground. As fugitives pledged to violent insurrection, the Weathermen were now both

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