Days of Rage – notes 2

daysofrageDays of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence
by Bryan Burrough
2015 / 608 pages
read by Ray Porter 22h 13m
rating:  7 /  20th cent US

Days of Rage –  October 1969

Wonderfully well written but sadly biased overview of the era of revolutionary action and way too many of his sources are “anonymous.”    The bias here is in the details – I didn’t really need to know quite that much about the sex life of Bernadine Dohrn nor the exact extreme quotes by some of the members of Weatherman and the Black Panthers – how about the shoplifting incidents of some?  Is this relevant?   I’m sure it will sell better with this kind of thing in it though.  lol –  I would have liked to know more about the ideology and where that came from – but I was there – I was almost committed – I know the ideology.

I’m not saying the memoirs of the participants are any more unbiased – bottom line if you’re interested you might as well read the Wiki link above because Wiki articles are required to use reliable sources or they say so.

Furthermore,  Ray Porter’s reading emphasizes the suspenseful, the dramatic – it’s what good readers do but this kind of highlights the author’s biases and makes them seem more reliable.

In Chapter 3 when the Days of Rage actually shows up,  Wiki claims 800 people showed up and a couple thousand police –   Burroughs says a couple hundred protesters and a few dozen police.  um … okay – I suppose he found those figures somewhere but much of this book feels like it’s cherry-picked info designed to dismiss the whole revolutionary struggle as a curious anomaly – “where did this come from?”  – which failed – as did Communism.  Did the readers need to know about Bernadine Dohrn’s sex life more than her politics?  I guess in Burrough’s mind yes.  Ayers’s testimony is dismissed – he’s almost called a liar.  And why pay attention anyway – Ayers was not included in the inner circle per the narrative only a few pages prior.

I was there in the very late 1960s-early 1970s – my spirit was with the early radicals,  but my flesh was weak.  I also had some reservations about the possibilities about any real success of revolution via violent tactics and their ideas violated my pacifist sensibilities,  At the same time I didn’t see where non-violence was getting anywhere in terms of stopping the war in Vietnam – the only issue which really engaged me.  I knew people in LA who were on the radical end of the leftist agenda – they’d dropped out of college and law school in order” to be ready for the revolution.”   Their hero was Che Guevara.  I was probably on some FBI list for awhile – maybe not – but I have reason to think perhaps …  (Let me make it very clear that I never did pick up a bomb or a gun – lol.)  I discovered later that the revolution is on the inside –

Oh well – that’s why I was interested to read what Burrough has to say about it all 45 years later.

And he’s saying something somewhat different although I can’t say as I disagree.  There was a lot of Black Panther and perhaps this is the way it all came about – I remember Mark Rudd,  Bernadine Dohrn,  the SDS,  etc.  But I also remember Huey Newton and Angela Davis – and then there was Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic.

I can see it though – how the radicalization of the Black movement affected the anti-war movement – how in the very early 1970s many folks in the counter-culture  became more open to using  violence as a means to a common end.

Malcolm X
Louis Farrakhan
Hughie Newton
Eldridge Cleaver
Black Liberation Army
Bobby Hutton
JoAnne Deborah Byron (Chesemard)
Donald Defreeze – (Cinque Mtume) of the SLA
Camilla Hall
Symbianese Liberation Army  (SLA)
Angela Atwood
Patty Hearst
Emily Harris
Kathleen Soliah (Olson)


Weatherman members
Weather Underground

Bernadine Dohrn
Bill Ayers

Jeff Jones
Cathy Wilkerson
Kathy Bodine
Eleanor Stein

Others –

So far through Part 1,  Chapter 2,  this is not the story that Manning Maribol told in Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention but it appears that Burrough is  examining the origins of the Black Panthers and the violence of the Black Power movement – I’m fascinated,  but not entirely buying into the whole thing.

Chapter 3 – starts in on the violent origins of the organization,  Weatherman (Weathermen),  the radical arm of the SDS.  Here I know what he’s saying a lot better – I remember reading about it (I mean what could I do? – I lived in a small town in the Southern San Joaquin Valley until 1973. – We did what we could – helped draft resistors, marched, talked to the city council, wrote letters, visited other resisters.   In San Jose I was really too busy with school and family to be involved in the movement.  I wanted to be but…

Totally neglects to mention the Chicago Democratic Convention which illustrated the rage about US involvement in Vietnam and even radicalized some folks

and virtually nothing about the May 4 (1970) Kent State shootings:

** I watched the split between the radicals (violence is necessary) and the pacifists (violence contradicts our goals).   I saw the point of the radicals but had to side with the pacifists.

Salon has an excerpt from Chapter 3

I’m just googling away,  but I’m no way going to put photos up here –

So that’s when the Weatherman group went “underground.”

Again – it’s all presented in personal terms – no theory, no political strategy, etc. just personal issues, motivations, anger, etc.

Rudd was interviewed?  Apparently so.  I doubt Ayers was – Burroughs is quite  hard on him although he left when things turned ugly.  Ayers didn’t say that the Weatherman was 100% successful in avoiding hurting people as Burroughs states – he said they were “…remarkably successful.”


The Greenwich Townhouse incident in 1970

Whether or not killing people (other than police) was advocated is probably mostly in the mind of the witness/activist.  They tended to talk big,  but some took it more seriously than others.

Chapter 5 – the Townhouse – Cathy Wilkerson – the Greenwich Village townhouse owned by Wilkerson’s father blew up because a bomb her small group was making blew up prematurely.  More of the Weatherman went underground -this time to the West Coast with Dohrn and her buddies.  Wilkerson was still giving tours a few years ago.

Burroughs reports salaciously that Kathy Boudin was naked in the street after the bombing.  Cathy Wilkerson reports she’d been in the shower.  (typical Burroughs)

See:   Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman, Cathy Wilkerson (2007)

And in California the Weathermen changed – now they looked like hippies with longer hair and beads and so on.  And things calmed down as they regrouped.  In New York they mourned the loss of their comrades – other groups in other places disappeared or tried to regroup and then disappeared.

On the West Coast with Wilkerson,  Dohrn and Jay-Jay and Ayers and Jones – Mendocino was a focus point – “We need to take our time” was the motto.  And Dohrn turned to non-personal violence – after warnings, etc.  More life affirming to gain the approval of the new campus people.  “Responsible terrorism.”

The split between the New York and  West Coast groups,  now called the Weather Underground,  is confusing.  New York had a lot of bombings – San Francisco was blowing it.

Chapter 6, 7,  8  –

Life underground – trying to get it together and make peace with the new anti-war folks, the hippies,  the more pacifist groups.   Lots of info here about small issues,  dissing Bernadine Dohrn,
(At least this site has a section on “ideology.”)


Flying Close to the Sun: My Life and Times as a Weatherman, Cathy Wilkerson (2007)

Chapter 9 –  The Black Liberation Army – 

New York and San Francisco were different,  New York had problems with the law and San Francisco took over – badly.   Eldridge Cleaver left for Algieria setting up an “international” base.

Huey Newton was chastened by his time in jail and when he confronted Cleaver the two split publicly  – with the New York Panthers going out on their own with possible warfare between the groups possible.

Chapter 10 –  “we got pretty small”   Weather Underground and FBI

The encirclement on the March ’71 and the raid on a SF apartment – a turning point.  No more big actions – smaller and less vital – paranoid,  split,  etc.

Mona Mellis (Cunninham)

and a documentary by Dohrn:

Also interesting –

Chapter 12 (?) –  Puerto Rico activists and MIRA –

Chapter 13 -15

JoAnne Deborah Byron 

PrairieFire – 

Chapter 16

Clayton Van Lydegraf

And the Weather Underground curled up and died,  fewer than a handful remained and they were relatively new.

The FBI – had been bugging and taping and breaking in all along (“black-bag jobs”)  – in both the Black Liberation and the Weatherman situations.  How could they convict?  –

Trials and more bombs by the FLAN groups.  Shenanigans by the FBI.

The United Freedom Front and  Raymond “Ray” Luc Levasseur wasn’t brought to justice until

Sara Jane Olson (Soliah) of the SLA and Weather Underground didn’t turn herself in until 1999.
But where is Ted Kazinsky?  HIs loner bombing activities, totally politically related,  were between the years 1978 and 1995, he was certainly underground but not related to the Weatherman group in any way – there is a Berkeley connection, though.


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