Mark Rudd's new memoir: Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weatherman

Locus Focus
program date: 
Tue, 04/21/2009


Host Barbara Bernstein interviews Sixties activist Mark Rudd about his new memoir: "Underground: My Life with SDS and the Weatherman." 


41 years ago this week students at Columbia University began an occupation of their campus that shut down the university and resonated around the world. Last year many of these activists gathered at Columbia to remember and reassess this life-changing event. Among them was Mark Rudd, who was one of the leaders of the strike and later went on to help found the ultra-left Weatherman faction of SDS. After spending 7 years underground, he emerged in 1976 and began to reconstruct his life based upon non-violent principles. His memoir UNDERGROUND: MY LIFE WITH SDS AND THE WEATHERMEN has just been published. Mark will be speaking and signing books at Looking Glass Books on SE 13th in Sellwood on April 26 at 4 PM.


Full Disclosure: Locus Focus host Barbara Bernstein was one of the student strikers at Columbia in 1968 and was arrested in the president's office on April 30, 1968. That summer she lived downstairs from Mark in an apartment on West 110th Street.




Incredibly Interesting and Relevant

Barbara, thank you for another great installment of the legacy of Columbia.. there is everything in this interview - some interesting parts include the modern day version intergenerational politics, and the discussion of music as a unifier and how we've been marketed into little niches is incredibly interesting - it's almost like a tower of babel story - even Simon Bolivar realized the organizing potential of Spanish linguistic domination of central and south america - and was able to unify great swaths of people because of a common language. this seems to me to be very fresh and incredibly important.

We have few common reference points. so we cannot speak to each other, and how can we build the mass movements that mark is talking about? the obama case, as you point out, is special.

one other angle that is rarely talked about as a substitute for guerilla vs mass movements: building new institutions. Though we do this, we could take advantage of our fragmented ideologies, strengths and skills, to rebuild hospitals, schools, grocery stores, business, churches, families in the same way that individual identity has been remade. and we'll need common reference points for that. and it can be our neighborhoods and communities. i think we're on our way.

wow, thank you!


building a movement on the legacy of the 60s

I think there are a number of positive models we can look back to from the 60s for building unifying institutions that both serve the community and promote a progressive vision of change. Portland in the 1970s was an interlocking network of alternative schools, food co-ops, bookstores, underground newspapers, bike shops, free clinics, worker-owned auto repair shops, a women-run credit union, childcare centers, restaurants, community centers and on and on. And of course KBOO. Now most of these organizations and institutions have vanished, with the exception of KBOO, People's Food Store, Food Front, Outside In, the Russell Street Dental Clinic (and perhaps a handful I am forgetting). But the memory of what it was like to work, shop and play totally within a counter-cultural non-capitalist world still beats strongly. Unfortunately our culture then was limited to a handful of people who all spoke the same lingo. People are much more aware and skilled now at reaching out across racial/ethnic/class/cultural lines and finding commonality and purpose around which to connect to each other and organize. There is probably a stronger "counter-cultural" infrastructure in Portland today than there was 35 years ago and much of it is reflected within city and county agencies and other mainstream entities. I'm not sure it's such a bad thing that we don't all listen to the same music anymore. I know for myself that I listen to a much wider range of music than I did 40 or 30 years ago, and I hope that is reflected in my relating with more comfort to a much wider range of folks.

When Hippies Roamed the Earth

Tthe sixties was really the 'seventies for me (I graduated BU in 1971) in terms of the rainbow of liberation from black and antiwar to women's to gay and lesbian to age, and onward to our many lettered acronyms today. I left academia and my life took a social justice turn.

Class consciousness and coalition politics was and is key to any worthwhile New Word; and 3) "Hippies" to me connotes more tha druggy funnily dressed people, see my website for "When Hippies Roamed the Earth" in Cambridge, MA.

As the above reply comrade writes, the ideas are still here, in less fringed form.

I believe all veterans of these movement should make clear statements about their ethics then and now. Some of us have stayed the same, others have changed, but to ignore questions about means and ends, fighting "bourgeoise sentimentality" and/or directing all our rage at our parents toward our enemies as "Other" is to be lazy.
Oppression and exploitation should still raise righteous anger, but political, not personal, anger.


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