Friday, 10 October 2008

Bill Ayers

With the Weather Underground and in particular Bill Ayers back in the media spotlight due to his previous associations with Barack Obama, here is a look back at the late 1960s and early 1970s with a summary written by the FBI in 1976, which sought to connect the group with foreign influences:

Michael Joseph Rafferty, Jr.
Julies Michael Taylor,
Hank Anderson

BILL AYERS is a white male who was born on December 26, 1944, in Oak Park, Illinois. AYERS was one of the authors of the "Weatherman Statement" upon which the WUO was founded in 1969 and has been considered to be one of the leaders of the organization since its founding. Although AYERS was not arrested during the WUO "Days of Rage" he was one of the leaders of these riots. AYERS was also one of the more influential people attending the WUO "Flint, Michigan War Council." AYERS submerged into the underground in early 1970 and remains therein. AYERS' younger brother RICHARD JAMES AYERS, who is presently being sought by the FBI for desertion from the military service, and his former sister-in-law MELODY KAY ERMACHILD have also been active in the WUO underground.

Foreign Travel and/or Contacts

On August 15, 1969, it was learned that AYERS was scheduling himself to depart for Canada that date for the purpose of conferring with a group of thirty individuals who had been in Cuba during the recent past and who were due to arrive by boat on August 16, 1969. (It is noted that among those individuals returning to the United States via Canada at that time were such WUO functionaries as TED GOLD, BERNARDINE DOHRN, DIANA OUGHTON, DIONNE DONGHI and ELEANOR RASKIN.

On July 29, 1969, AYERS made a speech on the campus of the University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon, during which time he discussed the SDS's role in the Venceremos Brigade and promoted this trip to Cuba. During the course of this speech AYERS commented as follows in response to a question about the Brigade:

"In November and beginning January, SDS was involved in sending 150 people, both times to Cuba to cut cane, to cut sugar, as part of Cuba's program to create, to put out 50 million, or what is it 100 million, 10 million tons of sugar."

AYERS continued as follows:

"They are not being paid because they are not honkeys who need to get paid in order to do something, in order to serve the people, and what they're going to do is, there will be about 75 SDS people on each trip and about 75 people from, recruited from the Black Panther Party and Young (illegible) organizations, and other black and brown organizations that will go to Cuba, are going to live and learn about the country, by going to work to create and help the Cubans create a solid economy in the face of an economic boycott by the United States, in the face of constant threats from the United States, in fact a couple of invasions that didn't work because the Cuban people were too well armed and well educated. The Venceremos Brigade is an idea which is an attempt to show the people of the world that all Americans aren't solid in their nature of Cuba, and that all Americans aren't solid in their support of the economic boycott of Cuba, and so we are going to go and we are going to attempt to, attempt to help the Cubans in their efforts. DAVID JOHNS from the (SDS) National Office is one person who's going on that trip, other people from here who are interested should talk to BILL THOMAS from Portland afterwards because he's got, in Portland, he's got applications. It's a simple matter, if you're under 17 you need your parents' permission. Yes."

[Redacted portion]

After the WUO submerged into an underground status, BILL AYERS and NAOMI JAFFE traveled to Canada for the purpose of meeting with representatives of the Quebec Liberation Front. When the pair returned, AYERS had $2,000 in his possession that he definitely did not have when JAFFE and he went into Canada.

[From an earlier portion of the report:]

No Marxist-Leninist denies the necessity of armed struggle. The centrality of the debate on this issue among revolutionaries is primarily that of timing. Should a revolutionary situation not exist, should the masses not be sufficiently antagonized by the ruling class, the carrying out of armed violence is, within the revolutionary left, adventurism. When Weatherman engaged in sabotage and bombings in their early years they were castigated by the communist left not for having engaged in confrontations against the state but rather for engaging in such activity at a time when they had no chance of encouraging a revolutionary situation. In 1976, however, a more mature WUO makes a similar criticism against the SLA, thusly coming to grips with their own early adventuristic failures. The WUO does not reject armed struggle, however. But the WUO of 1976 recognizes that politics comes first; that violence is subsumed within a recognizable revolutionary ideology, Marxism-Leninism. Their view is summed up in the following document issued in the spring of 1976:
"Politics in Command" by CELIA SOJOURN and BILLY AYERS, Weather Underground Organization

The Necessity of Violent Revolution

There are many on the left who self-righteously condemn all violence of revolutionaries. They are keeping their own hands clean by avoiding the full consequences of revolutionary ideas. For these people, the revolution will happen only some day and hopefully be made by somebody else. But power concedes nothing without a demand. Armed struggle is an extension of political struggle, just as war is politics with bloodshed. Under certain historical conditions political struggle leads necessarily to armed conflict. When a small ruling class maintains itself in power by force and violence, when the masses of people are forced to work and live in brutalized and violent conditions, political struggle both peaceful and violent is the inevitable result.

Reactionary capitalist violence is criminal: revolutionary violence will bring about the new society. Marxism-Leninism holds that 'the fundamental question of every revolution is the question of power.' Marx considered violence as 'the midwife of all old societies about to bring forth a new one.' The capitalist system of private property is protected forcibly by a group of violent, dangerous men. The development of mass revolutionary violence is essential to smash the state of the exploiters and to wrest power from the armed defenders of imperialism.

Politics in Command

Our job is not only to carry out action -- that is comparatively simple. Our job is to succeed in making a revolution. The guerrillas, like all revolutionaries, bear the responsibility of developing full political strategy, and a mistake in military strategy can be deadly. The stakes are high, not only for the people and organizations carrying out military work, but for the course of the revolution. Ho Chi Minh said, 'a military without politics is like a tree without roots -- useless and dangerous.' That is why we use the slogan 'Politics in Command.'

Our goal is to build communist organization toward the stage where armed struggle becomes a mass phenomenon led by a Marxist-Leninist party: a revolutionary stage. Organization is the strongest resource of the people. Organization unites and builds and means that each day's efforts add up. Organization is made up of individuals but is bigger and longer lasting than any one individual. Individuals are precious but organization is decisive. Only organization allows continuity of experience and leadership, and carries the deeds of the individual fighters beyond themselves into the future....

The strategic necessity for this period is to mobilize the oppressed and exploited people against US imperialism. Militarily this is the stage of armed propaganda; the test of action is primarily the ability to win the people....

...But revolutionary violence must be specific, comprehensible to the people, and humane. The violence of the revolution must be clearly distinguished to the oppressed and exploited people from the violence of capitalist society. People do not need us to be fearful, or to create chaos. Chaos prevails. Our task is to show the way out of the madness....

...We must never hesitate to fight, but we must never build any mystification about violence. We must be a force of armed militants, not militarists....

We do not condemn violence that originates from the left, just as we do not condemn violence against the state that originates from the working class. The oppressed peoples and the working class have a right and an obligation to develop armed struggle as a means to liberation.

It is a right wing error to argue that only legal forms of struggle are legitimate. For some, no level of mass struggle will justify armed struggle; these are naive and irresponsible people, never ready to raise the question of violence or of the need to fight and ultimately win state power....

...Our revolution will need both open and clandestine movements, legal and illegal struggle, peaceful and armed struggle -- and we will need harmony and organization among all levels of the struggle toward the goal of a revolutionized and fighting people.

[Later excerpt:]

The Weatherman move toward armed struggle was distinctly part of their internationalist approach to revolution firstly, because the Vietnamese needed such support and secondly, because they felt the revolutionary consciousness of the American masses would be heightened by the impending victory of the Third World over American imperialism. The National Action called for the fall of 1969 was deemed to be the major effort which would bring to youth a revolutionary class consciousness. The opening of another front in the international revolutionary struggle under the slogan "Bring The War Home" would both serve to defeat U.S. imperialism in Vietnam and create the conditions for real revolution in the heart of the "monster."
"I think that the national action has to be seen in the context of a strategy that's going to win, that's going to help the NLF concretely, that's going to build Weatherman, and that's going to build a fighting revolutionary youth movement...

I think people should push out this slogan 'Bring The War Home.' We're not just saying bring the troops home, bring the US troops home and deploy them some place some other time, we're saying bring the war home...

I think people understand how this kind of action at this time, given the whole thing in Paris and the situation the Vietnamese are in now, can concretely aid the Vietnamese. The other thing that people have to get confident about is that we can build a revolutionary youth movement."

Bill Ayers, Educational Secretary, SDS; National Action Conference, Cleveland, Ohio, August 29-September 1, 1969
New Left Notes; September 12, 1969

Read more of the FBI report

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