SDS at Chicago

Chicago was the perfect place to try out a real revolution, a city with 12,000 policemen and 903 murders a year. And Chicago was having a typical week early this fall: on Saturday, October 4, the police raided the Black Panther headquarters on West Madison Street. The office was ransacked, one policeman was shot, and six Panthers were beaten and arrested. On Monday and Wednesday, 208 students were arrested after racial gang fights at Tilden High School in Mayor Richard Daley’s neighborhood. Tilden is an integrated school in a white area. And on Friday, a black soldier on leave for the funeral of his brother, who had been shot dead by police the week before, was himself shot dead by police. A gun battle began between the police and the residents of the housing project where the soldier lived. In the end, nine police and a twelve-year-old black girl were wounded. At approximately that moment Chicago’s police superintendent, James Conlisk, was testifying in the Senate about the sale of police department guns to an Army general. And the trial of eight radicals of various persuasions —a sample as well balanced as a presidential commission—for conspiracy in the 1968 Democratic Convention riots was going into its third week.

The radicals who came to Chicago for the four “Days of Rage,” October 8 to 11, are members of the faction that control the national office of Students for a Democratic Society. They call themselves “Weatherman” after a line from Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” The idea is that you don’t need any complex Marxist analysis to tell where the revolution in America is coming from—the blacks.

Even though Weatherman held the Chicago SDS office on Madison Street, with its printing equipment and its lists of contributors, the group was the smallest of the three factions that emerged from the bitter infighting at the June SDS convention, also held in Chicago. The “Days of Rage” were staged mainly in an attempt for Weatherman to gain more power nationally, and to steal members and headlines from the other two factions.

The three SDS factions are more regional power blocs, like the two national parties, than separate ideological entities. Weatherman’s strength is in the Midwest, with scattered cadres in Colorado, Washington State, Boston, and New York.

The Revolutionary Youth Movement II (Weatherman was originally “RYM I”) is centered in California, and the Worker-Student Alliance in Boston. As a result of the convention, the three groups are being led by strong chairmen for the first time; SDS at one time liked to consider itself “leaderless.”Mark Rudd, who headed the Columbia revolt in 1968, is National Secretary of Weatherman. Mike Klonsky, a strong-looking blond from California, leads RYM II, and John Pennington, a clean-cut former Harvard student, is National Secretary of WSA.

RYM II—the largest of the three factions but the least organized—is the group that the public associates most with SDS. Its people have long hair; they support Cuba and the NLF, and they see students as an important revolutionary force. Their ideology, however, is flabby. It is that famous mixture of Marcuse and the Beatles.

WSA is a broadly based subsidiary of the Progressive Labor Party—a tightly knit, Leninist party with a national membership of only three or four hundred. WSA people wear tan work boots and have short hair. Nearly all of them work in factories over the summer and after they graduate from college. They do not take drugs, do not like rock, and they rarely laugh. They are strict believers in Marxist class analysis and are convinced that America can only have a revolution when the white workers become militantly class-conscious. Their job as white revolutionaries, then, is to organize white workers—first around issues like rent control and higher wages.

At Harvard, where they had their greatest triumph, WSA members managed to get their policies passed at SI)S meetings simply by outwaiting the less organized opposition.

They would filibuster for four or five hours while the less committed walked out. The night before SDS occupied University Hall at Harvard last April, the “regulars,” who preferred to postpone the sit-in, outvoted WSA. But the next morning the WSA people walked into the building anyway, and the “regulars” had to follow.

Members of the third faction, Weatherman, surmised that the demonstrations in Chicago would prove everything—whether they could maintain control in SDS (control they had seized at the convention through some brilliant political maneuvers) and whether their whole ideology and strategy worked in practice. That ideology w-as first presented as six pages of fine type in the [utie 18 issue of the SDS national organ, New Left Notes, during the convention. It was mainly the work of Rudd; John Jacobs, another former Columbia leader and Rudd’s political mentor; and Bernardine Dohrn, the twenty-six-year-old Yale Law School graduate who held the number two SDS position before the three factions split.

Weatherman argued in the paper that the Communist revolution in America cannot wait. There is no time, the paper said, to attract and organize white adult workers on such issues as rent control and wage increases, as WSA tries to do. In a sense white workers are beyond all hope. They actually benefit from the present economic system through “white skin privilege” (WSA especially objects to this analysis as thoroughly anti-Marxist) . They are racist through and through and beyond all hope.

Meanwhile, says Weatherman, the revolution is coming to America whether white radicals are ready for it or not. America will be weakened by “many Victnams,” they say, and as the Third World throws off its yoke, the blacks will revolt in America and seize control. “If necessary,” says the paper, “black people could win self-determination, abolishing the whole imperialist system and seizing state power to do it, without the white movement, although the cost among whites and blacks both would be high.”

With the revolution imminent, white radicals must get to work: first, because the blacks can “do it alone” anyway and it is important for whites to get on the right side quickly, and second, because it is racist not to support the blacks in their struggle. In Chicago, however, the Illinois Black Panther Party opposed Weatherman. They thought the group would end up bringing on fierce police repression that would hurt the Panthers.

The Weathermen believe they can help most by building a revolutionary army made up of lower-class, high-school-age whites. College students are too middle-class-oriented, and energies spent on organizing them would be wasted, the Weathermen say (although most of them are college students or have been) .


Weatherman stresses organizing young people, which it sees as clearly the way the wind blows, for four reasons, (1) All of them are “workers,” by which they mean in part that none owns any of the means of production. (2) They have grown up in a generation that has seen active revolt in the black ghettos at home, in Vietnam, in Cuba, and in Africa. (3) American imperialism hurts them more than anyone else—through the draft, high youth unemployment rates, and a rotten school system, which the Weathermen call “jail.” (4) They are less tightly tied to existing institutions, such as job seniority, family, and mortgages. They are in a position to take drastic action more easily.

The first step in the Weatherman plan is very simple: shut down the high schools, because they keep kids “in jail,” preventing them from taking revolutionary action at the time in their lives when they are ripe for it. To reach high school kids, says Weatherman, you have to talk to them on their own level. “We have to show them,” said one, “that we are tough. We have to make them see that we are not like the hippie faggots they identify with SDS. We show them that we can fight, and then they want to know what we are fighting for.”

The Weathermen have perhaps derived this image from watching too many Sal Mineo movies. They try to provoke fights with the high school kids, and by showing they can fight back, they impress the kids and enlist them into what they call “The New Red Army.” Last September, twenty-six Weathermen were arrested after a fistfight with kids at Pittsburgh’s South Hills High School. In Boston a similar fight broke out at English High School. That time the Weathermen got away. On September 25, the Boston Weathermen raided Harvard’s Center for International Affairs, beating three employees and smashing windows. The idea of the raid, explained a Weatherman, was to impress high school kids. “They eat it up when they learn that we are clobbering Harvard professors. They hate Harvard. They ask us why we did it, and soon we are explaining the whole movement to them.”

The Weathermen practice karate daily, often in the open in city parks. They live in collectives, where polygamy is the rule. Most of them have dropped out of college. In the Boston collective, the present leader, son of a prep school teacher, is Mark Dyen, who was an officer in the Harvard Hillel Society as a freshman and a co-chairman of SDS last year. He is now on leave of absence from Harvard. Dyen was considered a moderate at Harvard; he was opposed to the occupation of University Hall. After four months in a Weatherman collective, he is very tough, speaks little, and is wholly committed to what he is doing.

Dyen said in an interview before Chicago: “We’ve come to the point where it’s necessary to weed out those who really don’t want a revolution.”

But the Chicago action, the first stage of the great white revolution, started off very badly. On Tuesday, October 7, Eric Mann, a Boston Weatherman leader, was arrested in Berlin, Vermont, wearing six pairs of thermal underwear. He was charged with petty larceny, accused of stealing the underwear from W.

T. Grant’s and a pair of boots from Harry’s Discount Store across the street. Mann had been wanted by Cambridge police for two weeks on seven charges, three of them assault and battery, in the Harvard raid.

On Wednesday afternoon, the first “Day of Rage,” Illinois Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton denounced the Weathermen, the most pro-black of the three SDS factions, as “opportunistic, anarchistic, and Custeristic.” He said that his group would support nonviolent counter-demonstrations by his friends in RYM II. The trouble was beginning.

“Who will survive?*”

On Wednesday night, just as the radio was saying that Senator McGovern would speak on Moratorium Day, 100 Weathermen with white motorcycle helmets and long clubs crossed into Lincoln Park, the scene of some of the bloodiest battles during the 1968 Democratic Convention. The south end of Lincoln Park was nearly surrounded by police. And the 10,000 Weathermen that were supposed to be there turned out to be 400. They held a rally for three hours around a bonfire made with park benches. The speeches were dull, but the chants were shouted with the enthusiasm of high school football cheers:

“Hey, piggy wiggy,
You gotta go now
Oink, Oink,
Bang, bang,
Off the pig [kill the cop].” and:
“Who will survive in America?
Very few people and no pigs.
What about the Rockefellers,
David Rockefeller, Nelson Rockefeller,
The Mellons and the Gettys and
The Duuuuuu—pouts?
Ain’t got a chance.”
and the usual:
“Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh
NLF is gonna win.”
And then a song:
“We love our uncle Ho Chi Minh,
Deep down in our hearts.
Said, deep, deep.
Said, down, down.

Said deep down in our hearts.” (Other verses follow in which the Weathermen express their love for Chairman Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers, Chairman Mao Tse-tung, and Che Guevara.)

The chanting and singing end. The revolution is about to begin. Someone identifies himself as Marion Delgado (a fictitious five-yearold revolutionary leader who is featured on the cover of the Weatherman version of New Left Notes shooting poison darts and placing concrete blocks on railroad tracks) and tells the crowd to go to the Drake Hotel and get “Pig Hoffman,” Judge Julius J. Hoffman, who is trying the conspiracy “eight.” (It later turns out that Hoffman does not live at the Drake Hotel, but the Weathermen never get there anyway.) With a wild yell, they charge out of tHe park south toward the Loop. A rock smashes the window of the North Federal Savings Bank on Clark Street, and a dozen more follow. The Weathermen charge up Clark, four NLF flags in the lead, breaking every car and store window they can see.

The police, who thought the Weathermen would move west into Old Town and the black and Puerto Rican areas, where the radicals have allies, are caught off guard. By the time they draw up skirmish lines on Division Street, the Weathermen have turned east toward the luxury residential neighborhood of the Near North Side, a land of plush new high-rise towers of glass and steel and sturdy brownstone town houses.

The police move east from Division and Clack, another detachment comes west from Lake Shore Drive, and the Weathermen are trapped. They turn down side streets, and the police open fire with smoke bombs (far milder than tear gas) and with at least six shotgun volleys.

On Astor Street, in an open garage behind an apartment house, Marshall Berzon of New Haven and Elizabeth Gardner of Seattle are lying among the parked cars bleeding from shotgun wounds. It is incredible to see. It looks so much like the real thing—a real revolution, with real blood and real violence and a gust of exhilaration. Later, John Van Veenendaal of Seattle is shot through the neck by another cop. All of them recover.

Two blocks north, the cops surround a group of twenty Weathermen outside a building whose candy-striped awning has “One East Schiller” written on it in fancy script. A cop is frustrated because he cannot club a girl over the head since she is wearing a white motorcycle helmet. She turns around; he grabs her; he cracks his club across her face. When she turns around, the lower half of her face, her Army fatigue jacket, and her hands are covered with blood. She seems to be choking on it, and she holds her hands in front of her shaking them, like someone who has just had a sticky pie thrown all over her nice clean dress. The policeman leads her to a patrol car. Richard Elrod, an assistant corporation counsel for the city who will later be paralyzed from the neck down after a fight with a Weatherman on Saturday, tells the cop to take her to Henrotin Hospital. “She fell against an automobile,” he says, writing down this fact along with the girl’s name, Marcia Steinberg of Chicago, on a small pad. In front of the candy-striped awning, the police have ordered five Weathermen to lie down, and they are alternately sitting on them and kicking them.

Three hours later, at 2 A.M., Marcia Steinberg, with ten stitches above her lip, is picked up by two reporters who happened to be at the hospital. She tells them that she wants to start fighting again so she can kill some pigs. She says that she dropped out of law school two months before graduation to become a professional street fighter. On Saturday, she is arrested in an early morning police raid on an Evanston church where 100 Weathermen are staying. She is charged with aggravated assault in connection with the beating of a cop on September 24 Bail is set at $76,000.

Long, long time

Marcia Steinberg is a typical Weatherman in her fanaticism. But most Weathermen are younger, dropouts of small Midwestern colleges. They seem very small, pastyfaced, and pimply. They look almost immature next to WSA members. They seem to love their leather. Those who can afford it wear leather jackets and leather gloves. Some of the police riot clubs they carry still have price tags on them. Before Chicago, Rudd was going around t he country saying that people were going to die in the action. They knew that they would be going to jail for a long, long time.

A Weatherman leader in a telephone interview calls the adventure Wednesday “a huge success, an unqualified success.” But everyone knows that it is not. Thursday, the women’s liberation group attempts a march “to destroy the Army induction center.” Again the scene is familiar, the corner of Grant Park opposite the Conrad Hilton on Balbo Avenue. The police surround the seventy girls and stop this march before it begins. Twelve are arrested, including Bernardine Dohrn, who identified herself earlier as another Marion Delgado. Governor Richard B. Ogilvie calls out 2633 National Guardsmen.

Friday, it rains, and the revolution is postponed. Early the next morning, the Evanston church is raided after the Weathermen beat Toby Burton, a police undercover agent they discover. By now, 150 have been arrested. Still, there seem to be enough troops to pull off the final action, a march from Elaymarket Scjuare to the Loop.

Mark Rudd makes his first public appearance (he showed up at secret planning sessions on Thursday) . He is wearing a heavy coat and a false beard, but Ins disguise is not very good. Ten plainclothesmen sneak through the crowd, club Rudd and four others with blackjacks, and pull them out before anyone realizes what has happened. But the rally goes on. John Jacobs, wearing a red football helmet with “THORNS" written on it, hints that the action which had been planned for the square will take place along the particle route, lined with about 500 police. The group, 200 strong, marches down Randolph Street, turns on LaSalle Street, then suddenly breaks through police lines and heads clown Madison Street into the heart of the Loop shopping district. Rocks fly again, and the kids go after any cop they can find. One cop is hit by a pipe; another tumbles backwards into a store window.

Richard Elrod is lying on the side of the street on his back, his head a bloated lump. “I can’t move anything,” he says. Brian D. Flanagan, twenty-two, a Columbia student from Southampton, New York, is arrested and charged with attempted murder. His mother later tells the Chicago Tribune that Brian “got in with the wrong group of kids at Columbia.” She says that when she heard he was in SDS, she “begged him to see a psychiatrist.” Brian’s sister bails him out with $10,000 in cash.

The revolution is over. More than 290 kids had been arrested, including all the Weatherman leaders. About half of them were injured. Fifty policemen, at least two bystanders, and three city officials were injured as well.

Meanwhile, on the North Side, RYM II has drawn a crowd of 3000 to march peacefully from “People’s Park” to Humboldt Park through black and Puerto Rican neighborhoods.

If the Chicago action meant the end of Weatherman, it was clearly a historic occasion. It was the first time in the antiwar movement that a group had committed planned acts of violence in the open. Destruction itself did not mean anything to the Weathermen. They certainly could have caused more trouble with sabotage. As John Jacobs said at Haymarket Square, “We don’t have to win here . . . just the fact that we are willing to fight the police is a political victory.” The struggle, then, was simply a show for the media, to prove that white people could fight the cops.

In their literature, the Weathermen said that they were embarrassed In the licking they took at the 1968 Democratic Convention. But it is wrong to think they were trying to re-stage that battle this October. Instead. they were trying to start the fights. “We have to go on the offensive—not just fight back,” says a wall poster.

What is left in SDS is WSA, the faction that wants to coalesce with the white working class, and believes that Cuba, Russia, and North Vietnam are revisionists and that black liberation groups (like the Panthers) and the NET are nationalist and counter-revolutionary.

RYM II also survives, despite Rudd’s efforts to “purge” it over the summer. With Weatherman in jail and not many high school recruits rising to take arms in the New Red Army, it seems that the revolution will have to wait a while.