Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Street Fighting Men


Book Cover I actually lived through and participated in the era unimaginatively referred to as the Sixties—there was war and drugs and madness and dancing in the streets, assassinations and a presidential resignation and Woodstock and Watts, the Black Panthers, the White Panthers, the Grey Panthers, and, well, you know, a lot of action. And there were some heroes and villains. Recently, a few books have been published that add some small pieces to the incomplete historical jigsaw puzzle. In 1968, Mark Rudd, author of Underground: My Life With S.D.S. and the Weathermen (William Morrow, excerpt) was a Columbia undergraduate and a member of the radical Students for a Democratic Society. Rudd soon transmogrified into a more militant radical—one who founded the S.D.S. splinter group Weather Underground, which was responsible for the post-1968 "Days of Rage" and a string of bombings.

The Baader-Meinhof gang (Red Army Faction) were '60s era radical Germans-turned-lethal terrorists who continued operating into the '70s and '80s, keeping various European intelligence agencies fully occupied. The monograph Baader-Meinhof: The Inside Story of the R.A.F. by Stefan Aust and Anthea Bell (Oxford University Press) fills in the huge blank spaces behind the newspaper accounts.

Chesa Boudin's parents were radicals who were imprisoned in the early 1980s and entrusted his upbringing to Weatherman William Ayers (you know who he is) and Bernardine Dohrn. As a response to his parents' (real and surrogate) beliefs on issues of economic and labor justice, Boudin crisscrossed Latin America. In Gringo: A Coming of Age in Latin America (Scribner, excerpt), Boudin travels through 25 countries and melds his personal hegira with perceptive observations of the ongoing ecological devastation, intermittent economic crises, and the development and struggles of various indigenous movements.

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