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UNDERGROUND by Mark Rudd

UNDERGROUND

My Life with SDS and the Weathermen

By Mark Rudd

Pub Date: April 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-147275-6
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Provocative memoir by the antiwar activist best known for his role in the Columbia University occupation of 1968.

Rudd was a nice boy from New Jersey when he came to Columbia, but the war in Vietnam was raging and racial tensions were wound extremely tight. His trajectory was quick: He became an activist in and then leader of Students for a Democratic Society, whose sit-in strike and occupation of several university buildings were front-page news around the world—and proved to be ineluctably divisive. “Things were happening so fast by that point that I only dimly understood we had passed the point of no return,” Rudd writes of the occupation. That describes subsequent events too, including the increasing radicalization of SDS and its splintering to form, among other groups, the Weather Underground, committed to violent revolution. Once in, the Weathermen found, it was hard to get out; Rudd was reminded that “anyone who pulled out of the action would have to be ‘offed’ for the sake of security.” Around the time that a few unlucky Weathermen blew up themselves and a Greenwich Village townhouse while making bombs, Rudd went underground, fleeing various criminal charges, living as close to an anonymous life as possible, working factory and construction jobs, trying to keep a low profile and always fearing that he would be discovered. The author, who finally surrendered to authorities only to find most of the charges against him had gone cold or were dismissed by illegal government actions, made a life as a math teacher far from New York. Wistfully regretful about excesses and missteps, Rudd nonetheless insists, “I might have been wrong about a lot of things, but I’d been right in opposing the war and about the antiwar movement, which had played an important role in ending it.”

If you thought the right wing was in a lather over Bill Ayres, wait until its talking heads get hold of this unapologetic book, which deserves to be read and discussed.