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The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground, by Ron Jacobs (Review)

Verso. 216 pages. $17

Reviewed by Paul Wright

The United States is unique  among modern nations in that its government has never experienced a serious revolutionary challenge. Opposition movements in the U.S. can be typified as embodying the politics of protest over the politics of seizing state power. Communist philosopher Herbert Marcuse called state tolerance of this type of opposition "repressive tolerance." By allowing "safe" dissent the state can continue its actual policies and provide "a safety valve for those who disagreed with them. This safety valve placated the opposition without challenging the power of the state."

In the late 1960's and early 1970's, the Weather Underground did challenge the power of the state by carrying out a series of protests and bombings in response to racism and imperialism by the U.S. government. Ron Jacobs' book is a brief, easy to read history of the Weather Underground. While not a "prison book" per se we are reviewing it in PLN because it puts the prisoner rights movement into a broader historic context.

After the murder of George Jackson the Weather Underground blew up the California Department of Corrections offices in San Francisco, Sacramento and San Mateo. After the Attica massacre in 1971, the Weather Underground blew up the New York Department of Correctional Services offices in Albany, NY. In communiqués issued after these prison bombings the Weather Underground denounced the racism of the American criminal justice system and the exploitation of prison slave labor. Jacobs describes the tremendous impact the Attica massacre had on American revolutionaries and activists at the time by exposing the naked brutality of the American government. An impact felt far beyond the prisoner rights movement.

"The Way the Wind Blew" is an important book on an era in American history that saw resistance, as opposed to protest, to business as usual. PLN columnist Laura Whitehorn's activism with the Weather Underground is also mentioned. To order this and other books contact: Verso, 180 Varick St. New York, NY 10014-4606. (212) 807-9680.

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