FROM THE WEB
Net Briefs - 04-10
GENDER & SPORTS
Bronner & IDF
Jane Anne Morris
Protesting School Cuts
Dolls & Drudges
Epic Recession III
Capitalizing on Disaster
NY For Sale
In Vitro, In Vivo!
Zaps - 04-10
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Fortunate Rebel Son
A talk with Mark Rudd
Underground: My Life with the SDS and the Weatherman is Mark Rudd's candid story of his years in Columbia University's chapter of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and, later, as a reluctant fugitive associate—though technically never a member—of the Weather Underground. (Full disclosure: I first met Mark Rudd in New Mexico two decades after his underground days ended, and I taught at the Albuquerque college where he taught. I was never a member of Weatherman [sic], also know colloquially as the Weathermen, though I did have some peripheral association with SDS in the late 1960s and early 1970s.)
Rudd grew up in a comfortable middle class family in suburban New Jersey, attended Columbia University in New York City as a promising student, and became heavily involved in anti-racist and anti-war organizing in the late 1960s' Students for a Democratic Society. A charismatic, photogenic personality, he was picked up by the media and made the visible white male star of the student New Left. The fame—and, arguably, the youthful indulgences of the time—seemed to have warped his judgment and direction, as he confesses in his book. Tragically, by conspiring to introduce proactive violence into the student movement—via the Weatherman faction which took over SDS in a 1969 putsch—Rudd helped destroy SDS and, consequently, to deflate the momentum of the anti-war U.S. student movement. Rudd expresses profound regret for this in the book. But he also offers advice.
When SDS imploded, the Weather faction deserted it, issued a bombastic declaration of war against American imperialism, and embarked on a futile, if largely symbolic, terrorist bombing campaign. Rudd, shocked and appalled by the deaths of three of his Weather comrades—when explosives they were arming for an attack on U.S. soldiers and police misfired in a Manhattan apartment—tried to quit the Weatherman, which had renamed itself the Weather Underground Organization (WUO). However, he was wanted by the Feds and forced to hide under false names from 1970 until 1977.
When Rudd surfaced and surrendered in 1977, the federal charges against him were dropped because they had been tainted by illegal government actions. Rudd eventually settled in New Mexico under his own name and made a career teaching remedial math at an Albuquerque community college.
In 2002, a documentary film, Weather Underground, devoted much of its screen time to Rudd. While the movie has been criticized as less than fully accurate, it propelled Rudd into a second bout of fame, including a contract to produce this book for a major publisher.
Underground is, in many ways, a wryly humorous recollection and, despite having been expelled from an Ivy League college, placed on federal wanted lists, and driven into outlawry, Rudd kept in touch with his doting parents, and they with him. On the eve of this spring's publication of the paperback edition of Underground, Rudd took the time to answer a few questions.
NEVINS: In your preface, you explain that there were earlier drafts of this book which you shelved. How does Underground differ from your earlier efforts?
RUDD: The book has been sitting around—in my mind and on a shelf—since about 1984, when Reagan was re-elected. The first version was a set of essays on the Vietnam War. Then I realized that my strength was in telling my story. But the draft I finished in 1989 didn't sufficiently address the problem of why I chose violence. I hadn't figured it out. Also, the 40-year-old was always beating up on the 20-year-old Mark Rudd. It took me 20 more years to gain any sort of balance and equanimity toward that kid. The published version is a hell of a lot kinder and gentler toward the kid, and also lets him tell his story, too.
What do your coming years likely hold for you?
I'm doing a lot of speaking and writing on "organizing." Last semester I taught an American Studies course at the University of New Mexico on "The Organizing Tradition in American Social Movements." I've found that young people have little awareness of the fact that movements don't happen spontaneously. My book takes up this issue, but in reverse: I go from telling a story of good organizing (Columbia) to bad organizing (the demise of SDS and Weatherman) to even worse (the Weather Underground). It's a study of what not to do.
I'm also working on various organizing projects, such as a progressive's run for Lt. Governor of New Mexico. I'd like to see the Democratic Party turned in a center-left direction. It might be possible in a small place like New Mexico.
Have you read some of the other Weather Underground memoirs by Bill Ayers, etc.?
Billy's book Fugitive Days is very moving, especially about the townhouse where he lost his girlfriend and his best friend. A lot of it is fiction, however. Also, in general, Bill gives too much credit for good intentions and doesn't take crappy results into account. Cathy Wilkerson's book, Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times As a Weatherman, is comprehensive as a history of the times. Well-researched, well thought out. I often recommend it to students of the new left. Unfortunately, she portrays herself as being much more passive than I remember her. Susan Stern's book from the mid-1970s, With the Weathermen, is always of interest.
Did the publisher or your editor suggest or insist on any significant changes?
The draft I turned in to the editor included a long section covering 1978 to 2008 in Albuquerque. He cut it out completely, saying that the story should stop in 1977 when I turned myself in. He was right. He did give me a 25-page epilogue, though, which worked out okay. I can always use the material for further writing. Also, I wanted to name the book, Grandpa Was a Terrorist, which would have put me into Costco, but my editor and my wife nixed that.
Following a political line with which you disagreed, but which prevailed in the organization, the Weather Underground tried to build an insurgent army in the United States for the purposes of opening a military front in solidarity with the Vietnamese and Black revolutionaries in America. Is that an accurate description?
Yes, it's a fairly accurate description.
This seemed then, to many of us, to have been an absurd and futile undertaking. Can you comment?
Yes, it was absurd and futile. The motives were mixed. Speaking only for myself, I wanted to be a hero like Che Guevara. I wanted to prove myself the way 20-year-old males have always proved themselves, in combat. I also wanted to be "an agent of history." We had studied Fanon, Mao, Marx, and Lenin and knew well that it was the age of decolonization, which would dismantle imperialism, the final stage of capitalism. You needed guts, like all great revolutionaries, to push history to the next stage. It was quite utopian and grandiose. In a sense, too, we saw ourselves as heirs to the great tradition of socialist revolution. Little did we know that we were the last recruits to a war that was already lost. Capitalism won that round, for better or worse. For worse, I like to think.
So if you look at it that way, one could even now get caught up in the heroism of the whole endeavor. In the long run, who's more rational, Karl Rove or Bernardine Dohrn? I'll vote for Bernardine.
There was a very ugly side to some 1960s-1970s radicalism. You recount that a Black Panther made a grossly offensive speech advocating sexual exploitation. Some Panthers came from what they described as "the lumpen proletariat," but most SDS and Weather activists came from privileged or at least middle class backgrounds. Would you care to comment on this and, more generally, on male sexist, violence-tripping attitudes then and now?
We fell for the whole black leadership line. It was our response to the earlier call for Black Power that had emerged from SNCC, an organization I still have deep respect for. I wish we had been much smarter than we were. As Marxists, we liked to reduce the world to "central contradictions." Since it was the era of decolonization, race oppression trumped sexism in the hierarchy of oppression. All of this is absolutely unintelligible now, but it made perfect sense to us at the time. Marxism is its own religion, with its own way of looking at the world.
What did you think of the two dramatic films about 20th century armed revolutionaries: Che directed by Steven Soderbergh and the German film The Baader Meinhof Complex?
I appreciated the trajectory of Soderbergh's two-part Che. The first was all heroism and victory, the second pure defeat. It's accurate. His theory was crap. The Baader Meinhof Complex was good at creating the context for why some German New Leftists might have thought that they were living in fascist times and felt the need to take up arms against it, as their parents did not. However, they degenerated into cops and robbers. Andreas Baader was portrayed as a sociopath, which he very well may have been. Why succeeding generations of kids joined them, I still don't know. Maybe there was a deep need among some Germans to transcend the Good German Nazi history.
Did you help to write the statement issued by the Weather Underground in the later 1970s in the booklet Prairie Fire: The Politics of Revolutionary Anti-Imperialism? Does that position paper hold up over the years, in your opinion?
As an indictment of U.S. history and of imperialism, Prairie Fire is still useful. As a blueprint for revolution it's absurd. Actually, though, I didn't help write it. I helped build a print shop to produce the successor to Prairie Fire, a magazine called Ossawatomie. I did help write the original Weatherman paper.
As you acknowledge in your book, there was a kill-your-parents rhetoric and attitude in some of the New Left, including the Weatherman. Yet, even in hiding, you and your parents maintained contact and they got material help to you on several occasions, though they were not radicals themselves. I found this both the most touching and, perhaps, the most disturbing aspect of your story.
The rhetoric was the politics of transgression. I don't think I ever engaged in kill-your-parents stuff myself. I was more of the off-the-pig school. I was still a good Jewish boy. I tried to be accurate about that in my book.
You have been a successful teacher for decades now. You also helped form a faculty union at your college. Do you see these professional roles as linked to your earlier organizing and revolutionary efforts?
Organizing and teaching are the same. They both involve the question of how people learn things. They both involve dialogue. They both involve long-term commitment and perspective. They both involve people in changing their lives. And the teacher/organizer is always learning.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; email@example.com; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; firstname.lastname@example.org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: email@example.com; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; email@example.com.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; email@example.com; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: email@example.com; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.