From the March 22nd, 2009 New York Post
March 22, 2009
by Ronald Radosh
Older New Yorkers will remember Mark Rudd as the enfant terrible of the 1968 Columbia University strike, when radical members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) occupied administration buildings and President Grayson Kirk's office. Their stated rationale: To protest the university's plans to build a new gym in Harlem, thereby expropriating land and homes belonging to poor African-Americans and to end any research connected to the war effort. But their real goal, Rudd writes, was "not just ending the war [in Vietnam] but ending the capitalist system that had caused the war."
From the start, then, Rudd defined himself as a revolutionary, a leader of the SDS "Action/Faction," that was devoted to smashing the state, to overturning the government and even to defeating liberal enemies like "peace candidates" Robert F. Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy. Columbia's then-Vice President David Truman called Rudd "a combination of a revolutionary and an adolescent having a temper tantrum." Reading Rudd's new book "Underground" it's hard to conclude otherwise.
After the Columbia strike, when seeking to up the ante, Rudd and his comrades transformed SDS into the group first known as The Weathermen, and later, as The Weather Underground. Unlike his comrade Bill Ayers, who is both unrepentant and who distorts and lies about the Weathermen's goals and activities, Rudd is reflective and truthful. He does not depict himself, as does Ayers, as someone who was part of the broad peace movement.
Back then, Rudd, Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn favored "the necessity for violence in order to end the war and also to make revolution." They were fighting "a revolutionary war from within the United States," Rudd explains. When successful, the Weathermen would then build a new revolutionary army staffed by young defectors from the US armed forces.
To achieve these ends they adopted "armed struggle," as the only way to achieve their revolutionary goals. Instead of a loose organization of campus chapters, they now built a "highly centralized, clandestine revolutionary party," modeled, Rudd admits, on the strategy and organization of the Communists. A showdown came at the June 1969 SDS national convention in Chicago. Rudd left the convention as the elected leader of the SDS, with Ayers and Dohrn in subordinate positions.
Their goal was to build "the American arm of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam." Rudd led events like the Chicago "Days of Rage," in which hard-line Weather cadre fought the police. Rudd would recruit others saying, "The pigs have to be wiped out. We're going to fight violence with violence and wipe out Chicago." The guy had lofty ambitions. They injured 26 policemen and succeeded in paralyzing one Chicago official, which they then celebrated in song.
At some level, Rudd knew that all he was doing was a terrible mistake, but, he writes, "I felt like a member of the crew on a speeding train, dimly aware of disaster ahead but unable to put on the bakes." Rudd even acknowledges he was part of a "classic cult, true believers surrounded by a hostile world that we rejected .ñ.ñ. We had a holy faith, revolution, which could not be shaken."
Their attempts at guerrilla warfare ended with the 1970 New York City town house bombing, which Rudd and Ayers and Dohrn all approved. Rudd is honest about its intent, emphasizing how the bomb they built was meant to kill hundreds of GIs and their dates at a Fort Dix dance. It was, he now knows, a "fantasy of revolutionary urban-guerrilla warfare," done on their own, without police agents provoking them. He and his associates, he ruefully reflects, killed a broad and powerful movement opposed to the Vietnam War, all in the name of a fanciful goal.
Being truthful about his own madness and the crazy path he and his comrades took, Rudd does not go along with what he calls the convenient cleansing of their history carried out by Ayers, who after the town house bomb exploded, still favored "the overall strategy of clandestine armed struggle."
Rudd went into exile, slowly became disillusioned, turned himself in and surfaced publicly in 1977. He ends the book with the 2008 SDS reunion at Columbia University. Seeing his old comrades he finds himself still a man of the Left. Even while facing up to the delusions of his revolutionary youth, he still believes the United States is evil, and that he and his comrades spent years working "to continue the idealism inherent in our rebellion." The facts he presents speak otherwise. His "idealism" led to catastrophe. He and his "comrades" ruined much of their lives, including their marriages.
Despite Rudd's failure to re-evaluate his left-wing politics, he shatters the romantic myth of the Weather Underground, exposing them as a dangerous group committed to terrorism.
Ronald Radosh is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute; Prof. Emeritus of History at the City University of New York, and the author of many books, including "The Rosenberg File;" "Divided They Fell: The Demise of the Democratic Party, 1964-1996," and most recently, "Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left."
Home | Learn About Hudson | Hudson Scholars | Find an Expert | Support Hudson | Contact Information | Site Map
Policy Centers | Research Areas | Publications & Op-Eds | Hudson Bookstore
Hudson Institute, Inc. 1015 15th Street, N.W. 6th Floor Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202.974.2400 Fax: 202.974.2410 Email the Webmaster
© Copyright 2013 Hudson Institute, Inc.