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

Conclusion

Jean-Paul Sartre described the animating spirit of the 1960s as the liberation of the sense of the possible, captured by the French students of May '68 in the slogan “L'imagination au pouvoir. ” Sartre credited the Vietnamese above all for this global emancipation of the imagination. He marveled, “Who would have thought that fourteen million peasants would be able to resist the greatest military and economic power on earth? And yet, this is what happened. ” 1

Radicals in the advanced industrial world drew inspiration from the Vietnamese in believing that revolution was possible in their own countries. To the Weatherwoman Naomi Jaffe, the Vietnamese showed that America's power “wasn't infinite—that if you organized a strong 'people's movement' … then military might wasn't the last word. ” Their resistance “was an incredible ray of hope that lit up brilliantly the sixties and seventies for many of us. ” 2 The Weathermen and the RAF participated in the idealism of the 1960s that defied conventional wisdom as to what was possible. In their minds, their leap into violence would help bring down an imperialist system whose collapse meant nothing less than the emancipation of humanity. Personal courage and an active sense of solidarity with liberation movements worldwide were to play a pivotal role in realizing this utopian vision. In an era of great dreams, theirs were among the most grandiose.

They were also destructive. Both Weatherman and the RAF converted the tantalizing sense of possibility into a dogmatic insistence on the im-

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