Thursday, August 27, 2009
SDS and The Weatherman Underground by Mark Rudd
Two days before the National Action ('Days of Rage', Oct., 1969) was to begin I found myself in New York City. The next day I would use my forged half-fare youth card (I had turned twenty-two, past the cut-off age) to fly back to Chicago. That night I was to meet Gerry Long, my Weather Bureau comrade, about five years older than I and a hard-core anti-imperialist, in Greenwich Village for supper. Both of us were as nervous as soldiers waiting for the next day's battles. Gerry must have seen something in my face. He said, "yeah, I'm scared too."
True to form, Gerry and I decided to splurge on our Last Supper. I had about fifty dollars of the organization's money in my pocket, so we set off to a fancy Italian restaurant in the Village. We talked of the organization and the action coming up. Gerry was a realist, and that night he expressed his doubts. "Is this worth dying for? Is this a real battle of the revolution?" All I could give him were the truism we were locked into, so I didn't. I was in a deflated mood that night, bordering on depression. We decided to get drunk on red wine; what else can you do when there are no answers?
Gerry told me a story:
"On the trip to Cuba this summer, two of us were able to slip away with one of our Cuban guides. We were told that some comrades from the Foreign Ministry wanted to talk with us away from the rest of the group, which probably contained FBI informers. We thought they wanted to talk about the Weathermen.
"We were taken to a small, middle-class hotel in the same Havana barrio as our hotel. It turned out to be Fidel's home. We had all been dying to meet Fidel. You know, he really is big; I guess that's one reason thet call him 'El Caballo' [the horse]. He asked about the conference, and then he talked for a while about the American military in Vietnam- how they would invariably lose. It was strange. He wasn't really paying us much attention. His mind definately seemed elsewhere.
"Finally he just stopped, and we were quiet for a short time. Then he blurted out, "You know, something very troubling has just happened. A friend in the Bolivian government sent us a package; it arrived yesterday. Che's hands, his very hands, preserved. Before they destroyed his body, they chopped off his hands to prove they had him. They were definately his hands, I recognized them. I don't know what to do with them.'
"Fidel was just at the point of tears. He shook himself out of it, stood up, thanked us for coming. The interview was over."
Gerry and I were quiet for some time. Finally, after all the public heroics and underneath the glory of revolutionary war, is human, individual death. The meeting with Fidel was not at all what Gerry had anticipated.
The next day we were in Chicago.... after just an hour, the demonstration- and the carnage- was over. The result: six weathermen shot, many dozens more injured, sixty-eight arrested; twenty-six policemen were injured, though none seriously. Our people struggled back to the "Movement centers;', churches loaned to us by sympathetic clergy. They were scared and proud at the same time, and still not defeated....