In the interest of full disclosure, I have always had this strange romance for the urban guerrilla groups of the 1970’s. Rather it be the Weather Underground (The Weathermen), the SLA (Symbionese Liberation Army), The Black Liberation Army (BLA), or, in Europe, the RAF (Red Army Faction), in Germany, or the Red Brigades, in Italy, they have always appealed to me with their stories of fighting fire with fire against those in power. And having just gotten through the six-part CNN documentary, “The Radical Story of Patty Hearst” (must watch!), I thought this would be a good time to elaborate on the STL stances on violent revolution in explicit terms.
All the above groups took a violent stand against the state in order to spark a far-left revolution among the masses. The Weather Underground only committed bombings of symbolic buildings (e.g., the Pentagon), but the rest engaged in deadly bombings, shootings, assassinations, kidnappings, robberies, and prison breaks. They believed these actions would ignite “the people”, who were just kindling for them to light, and a radical leftist revolution would occur. But they were wrong.
They were in the wrong because they misjudged the stance and temperament of the average American/European. The SLA, the RAF, the BLA, etc., thought that if they just kicked things off, they would be met with great support by the people who were starving for revolution. They would conduct some deed(s) that would awaken them from the proletariat’s sense of “false consciousness” (see previous post) and begin the revolution. This resulted in these groups, barring the BLA, which was a violent splinter group of the Black Panthers, who were mostly made up of rich white college kids completely out of touch with the people. They had misjudged the mood of the population and failed in affecting the monumental, long term political change they desired
The young college kids on college campuses today need to learn this lesson before anything gets out of hand. Violence is not the answer right now. Take it from me, a college-educated piece of white trash living amongst the people today: It’s not where we’re at. And though it may feel good as an affect exercise by expressing your rage, this is not where the stand.
In short, that’s what I want you, any hotheaded radicals like myself out there, to learn from this post. Urban guerrilla tactics are not what we need right now. It would only be futile and could turn the people against our cause if we conduct our actions that way.
Che Guevara wrote that a guerrilla force must have at least 60% of the population in support of their cause to conduct a successful revolution. These 1970’s groups had only that much support among their fellow students at Berkeley.