Authors: Bringing the War Home
Bringing the War Home
The publisher gratefully acknowledges the generous
contribution to this book provided by the General
Endowment Fund of the University of California Press
Bringing the War Home
The Weather Underground,
the Red Army Faction,
and Revolutionary Violence
in the Sixties and Seventies
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS
Lyrics to Bob Dylan songs: “Ballad of a Thin Man”; copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; copyright renewed © 1993 by Special Rider Music. “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Caroll”; copyright © 1964, 1966 by Warner Bros.
Inc.; copyright renewed © 1992 by Special Rider Music. “My Back Pages”; copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; copyright renewed © 1992 by Special Rider Music. “No Time to Think”; copyright © 1978 by Special Rider Music.
“Paths of Victory”; copyright © 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; copyright renewed © 1992 by Special Rider Music. “This Wheel’s on Fire”; copyright
© 1967, 1970 by Dwarf Music. “The Times They Are A-Changin’”; copyright
© 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; copyright renewed © 1991 by Special Rider Music. “When the Ship Comes In”; copyright © 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; copyright renewed © 1991 by Special Rider Music. “Where Are You Tonight? (Journey Through the Dark Heat)”; copyright © 1978 by Special Rider Music. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Reprinted by permission.
Lyrics to John Fogerty songs copyright Jondra Music. Used by permission.
Lyrics to Grateful Dead songs copyright Ice Nine Publishing Company.
Used by permission.
Lyrics to Phil Ochs songs used by permission of Meegan Lee Ochs.
University of California Press
Berkeley and Los Angeles, California
University of California Press, Ltd.
© 2004 by
The Regents of the University of California
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Varon, Jeremy, 1969–.
Bringing the war home : the Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and the revolutionary violence of the sixties and seventies / Jeremy Varon.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
isbn 0 –520 –23032– 9 (cloth : alk. paper).—isbn 0 –520 –24119 –3
(pbk. : alk. paper)
1. Weather Underground Organization.
2. Weatherman (Organiza-
3. Baader-Meinhof gang.
4. Radicalism—United States—
5. Radicalism—Germany (West)—History—
6. New Left—United States—History—20th century.
7. New Left—Germany (West)—History—20th century.
violence—United States—History—20th century.
9. Political violence—
Germany (West)—History—20th century.
Manufactured in the United States of America
The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of ansi/niso z39.48–1992 (r 1997) (
Permanence of Paper
To the loving memory of my mother,
Barbara Frass Varon
In Hell they say Heaven is a great lie.
List of Key Acronyms
1. “Agents of Necessity”: Weatherman, the Red Army Faction, and the Turn to Violence
2. The Importance of Being Militant: The Days of Rage
and Their Critics
3. “Hearts and Minds”: The Antiwar Movement, Violence,
and the Critical Mass
4. The Excesses and Limits of Revolutionary Violence
5. Deadly Abstraction: The Red Army Faction and the Politics of Murder
6. “Democratic Intolerance”: The Red Army Faction and
the West German State
Plates follow p. 195
The “spirit of the sixties” has always seemed to me to involve at its core individuals with shared passions working together in pursuit of common goals. Scholarly work, while not entailing quite that kind of cooperation, is far from an isolating endeavor. Indeed, my project has been shaped by many scholars, friends, and others, through whom the rewards of cooperation and something of the spirit of the era I have tried so hard to understand has brightly shone.
Professor Dominick LaCapra of Cornell University played the central role in the conception and execution of this book. He has set a standard for intellectual intensity and professionalism I shall always take as my guide. At Cornell, he headed a team of professors who coached and challenged me: David Bathrick, Laurence Moore, and Michael Steinberg. My friends and colleagues in graduate school are owed equal thanks: Ajay Agrawal, Paul Apostilidas, Michael Doyle, Jeannie Moorefield, Libbie Rifkin, Douglas Usher, and Greg Wawro. Juliet Williams’s intellect and character deeply inform all aspects of the project.
Outside of Cornell, numerous scholars have enriched my work: Omer Bartov, Frank Beiss, Bella Brodzki, Michael Burleigh, Belinda Davis, Gary Darden, Ron Grele, Jeffrey Herf, Dagmar Herzog, Matt Matsuda, Elizabeth Pfeiffer, and Michael Schmidtke. Several institutions also provided invaluable support. I am grateful for that offered by the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, by the German Historical Institute, and by the staffs at the Columbia Oral History Research Office, the Freie Univer-xi
sität in Berlin, the Hoover Institution, and the research libraries at Cornell University, Stanford University, and the University of California at Berkeley. My colleagues at Drew University have made the transition into professional life a happy one, while supporting me in completing this project.
Monica McCormick of the University of California Press has been an ideal editor, grasping right away the “essence” of my project and guid-ing it to completion with unwavering care. Her staff at the press has been impeccable. Peter Dreyer is owed special thanks for his stellar job in refining the text. Sam Green, a filmmaker working on similar themes, provided assistance and encouragement; it was always a comfort to match impressions and to see our projects as complementing each other. I extend thanks also to Lynne Okin, Alan Trist, and Meegan Lee Ochs for granting me permission to quote the song lyrics of Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, and Phil Ochs, respectively. The music of the 1960s was woven into the events of the era—even when it did not provide direct political and social commentary—and served as a constant companion as I studied, thought, and wrote.
This project, by its nature, has drawn me far beyond academia into the worlds of political activism, both past and present. I am immensely grateful to the women and men formerly of the Weather Underground who spoke to me with great honesty and insight about their experiences.
I hope to have honored the trust they placed in me by dealing responsibly and fairly with their histories.
Contemporary activists—Brooke, David, Stuart, Tyler in New York, all those in the Philly house, and my dear friends Jordan Ash and Jonathan Rosen—have reminded me that “making history,” or simply “making a difference,” as the sixties generation did, is the far greater challenge than studying the past. Habib Gharib has uniquely embodied for me the ideal of the scholar-activist, demonstrating that good acts start with sound thinking.
I have the privilege of counting as colleagues, friends, companions, and family people of great caring and intellect, who shared generously their ideas, advice, and editorial talents. John McMillian, inspired by the same intellectual callings, has my enduring loyalty and respect. Knowing Anne Kornhauser has been a recent blessing, for the text and in my life. My sister Elizabeth Varon and her husband William Hitchcock, both history professors, blazed the trail I now walk. Barbara and Ben Varon, my parents, provided more than familial love, engaging the substance of the project and the intellectual and political dramas it spawned.
Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands
Deutsche Demokratische Republik (“East Germany”)
June 2 Movement (2. Juni Bewegung)
Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands
Liberation News Service
National Liberation Front (Vietnam)
New York Times
Prairie Fire Organizing Committees
Progressive Labor [Party]
Palestine Liberation Organization
Rote Armee Fraktion [Red Army Faction]
Revolutionary Youth Movement
Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund
Students for a Democratic Society
Symbionese Liberation Army
Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschland
University of California at Berkeley
Weather Underground Organization
All over the world during the 1960s, movements led by the young radically challenged existing forms of political and cultural authority. With great optimism and energy, they attacked governments, militaries, institutions, ideologies, and common ways of thinking, feeling, and acting.
The year 1968—that potent symbol of the 1960s as a whole— can be evoked by reciting the places where left-wing rebellion erupted with special force and drama: Paris, Prague, New York, Tokyo, Berlin, Saigon, Mexico City.1
New Leftists were not only implicitly united across national boundaries by their shared opposition to oppression, their commitment to democratic participation, and their use of militant direct action as a means of protest; they were also
internationalist. In what amounted to a global crusade, students and youths throughout the world protested the Vietnam War. They assimilated dimensions of Black Power and Third World revolutionary ideologies, in which they saw near-universal appeal and relevance. They created an international protest culture organized around master texts, chiefly those of Karl Marx, Mao Tse-tung, and Herbert Marcuse, and “revolutionary” icons like Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh. And, in instances, they responded directly to the triumphs and failures experienced by their foreign New Left comrades. In their wildest dreams, they saw themselves waging a revolution that would overthrow both the U.S.-led imperialism of the West and the ossified, bureaucratic communism of the East.
Despite the global nature of 1960s rebellion, little has been done to probe the New Left’s internationalism—the common aspirations of radicals in different settings and the synchronic quality of New Left activism generally. Instead, each country touched by New Left protest has produced a literature on the meaning and legacy of its “own” 1960s. As a result, neither scholarship nor popular commentary on the 1960s has helped us much to move beyond the imprecise sense that New Leftists forged an international zeitgeist of radical rebellion, or the simple observation that in a number of countries, similar things seemed to have happened at roughly the same time.2