The special features on the Weather Underground DVD include a short excerpt from a film that the Weather Underground made when they were underground and a film called "David Gilbert: A Lifetime of Struggle." Gilbert is in prison for 75 years to life for an action that took place after the Weatherman disbanded. He drove a getaway vehicle for a Black Liberation Army bank robbery in which 2 police officers and a guard were killed. Despite this, as he speaks he seems to shine with clear thinking and love. Two of the Weatherman audio communiques are included as well as a commentary by the director and a separate commentary by former Weathermen and life partners Bernadine Dohr and Billy Ayers. It is the latter commentary that I found especially valuable. I am providing a transcript of my two favorite moments from their commentary because I think the hard won wisdom about Direct Action in the second of them will be of particular interest to many of you:
1. Then and Now
In the film a youthful, righteous Bernadine Dohrn announces that "Fred Hampton was murdered by the pigs who own this city and for people to be able to enjoy Christmas time without remembering... "
And the middle aged Dohrn links the resistance to the Viet Nam war to our current struggles:
"I think about myself that winter and in some ways it feels like this winter 34 years later Where's the anti-war movement right now? We know what our country is doing and yet we go about our business everyday. ... And I think in some way the situation today, where we all know we are being lied to by our government and we know that there is a state of permament war going on all over the world and most of us know its wrong and that it doesn't make the world any safer and its really plundering the world for the profits of a few. So what are we doing?"
2. on Direct Action
The Weather Underground film shows scenes of broken glass of storefronts from the Days of Rage direct action in Chicago before they cut to former member of the Weather Underground, Naomi Jaffe who says:
"Violence can mean a lot of different things. We felt that doing nothing in a period of repressive violence is itself a form of violence."
Now the commentary:
Billy Ayers: "Still true. Doing nothing is the worst option. But that..."
Bernadine Dohrn: "But That doesn't make what we did right."
Ayers: "Absolutely right."
Dohrn: "There's no question that in this moment of the Days of Rage that we elevated tactics over content and..."
Ayers: "and over principle."
Dohrn : "so our friends were the people who were willing to fight instead of the people who were doing their best to end the war."
Ayers: "Yes and No because we always felt an affection for Dave Delinger, for example, who was a pacificist, but he was an activist, he wasn't a pacifist who sat and did nothing. he was a militant And we always felt affection for Dave, and he for us actually.
Dohrn: "Absolutely, but you know what I mean, I think it is important [to point out] that we elevated tactics in this period to some part of the theory where it doesn't belong. But the point is that taking direct action was important."
Ayers: "And being smart and realizing that when you take action you learn from it and you change from it. If there's a lesson for young activists today. It's yes you act but you don't elevate tactics. The proof of a good tactic is, did it educate? Did it educate you? Did it educate others? Did it reach out? Not did you feel good or did you posture in a certain way."