The Way The Wind Blew

A review of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground (Verso), by Ron Jacobs.

Ralph Seliger

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Although a skimpy history of youthful radicalism from the late 60s through the early 80s, this book captures the ferocity of those times: the Days of Rage” in Chicago in October 1969, the National Mobilization to End the War the following month, the May 1970 killings of student demonstrators at Kent State and Jackson State universities, police shoot-outs with the Black Panthers, prison breaks, massive demonstrations, bomb attacks and political manifestos. The author’s complete identification with the ideological premises of his subjects itself illustrates the tenor of those years. It does not, however, allow for a well-conceived analysis.

In the hyper-militant environment of the New Left at that time — brought about by the seemingly endless war in Indochina and other Nixon-era outrages — the worst adaptations of revolutionary” or Marxist theory and practice gained widespread appeal. Concerns about non-democratic manifestations of the left were easily dismissed as liberal,” social democratic” or revisionist” by the radicals. The author documents but neither notes nor laments that the New Left, which had emerged in the early 60s as a fresh direction inspired by the Civil Rights movement, buried itself in Old Left sectarianism.

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in the Bookshelf” section of the magazine’s March 22, 1998 issue.
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Ralph Seliger specializes in writing about Israel and Jewish cultural and political issues. He was the final editor of Israel Horizons, the recently expired quarterly publication of Meretz USA, now known as Partners for Progressive Israel, for which he is blog co-administrator, and also blogs for Tikkun Daily.
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