Bill Ayers on his life now

Fugitive Days. Bill Ayers
Bill Ayers, former member of the Weather Underground and now a respected educator, blogs about those days, the hatred still continually directed towards him, and where he’s at now. In the recent presidential debate the moderators tried to slime Obama because he knows Ayers.

One thing most people don’t realize is that no one was injured in any of the carefully planned and executed Weather Underground bombings. (Three members did kill themselves in that townhouse in NYC when a bomb exploded accidentally.) They once broke into an FBI office and stole files showing the FBI was spying on Left groups. Most mind-boggling, the WU spirited Timothy Leary out of prison while living underground themselves. When Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn finally turned themselves in, most charges had to be dropped because of illegal tactics by the FBI.

1. Regrets. I’m often quoted saying that I have “no regrets.” This is not true. I’m sometimes asked if I regret anything I did to oppose the war in Viet Nam, and I say “no, I don’t regret anything I did to try to stop the slaughter of millions of human beings by my own government.” Sometimes I add, “I don’t think I did enough.”

2. Terrorism — according to both official U.S. policy and the U.N.—is the use or threat of random violence to intimidate, frighten, or coerce a population toward some political end. This means, of course, that terrorism is not the exclusive province of a cult, a religious sect, or a group of fanatics. It can be any of these, but it can also be—and often is—executed by governments and states. A bombing in a café in Israel is terrorism, and an Israeli assault on a neighborhood in Gaza is terrorism; the September 11 attacks were acts of terrorism, and the U.S. bombings in Viet Nam for a decade were acts of terrorism. Terrorism is never justifiable, even in a just cause—the Union fight in the 1860’s was just, for example, but Sherman’s March to the Sea was indefensible terror. I’ve never advocated terrorism, never participated in it, never defended it. The U.S. government, by contrast, does it routinely and defends the use of it in its own cause consistently.

Hmmm. The Weather Underground bombings, while carefully designed to NOT injure anyone (and no one ever was) do at least come close to terrorism as they were politically motivated and seemingly at random. However most definitions of terrorism also include the deliberate maiming and killing of non-combatants, and the Weather Underground never did that.

His point that all manner of organizations, groups, and governments routinely engage in terrorism is undeniably and sadly true.

3. Imperialism. I’m against it, and if Sean Hannity and others were honest, this is the ground they would fight me on. Capitalism played its role historically and is exhausted as a force for progress: built on exploitation, theft, conquest, war, and racism, capitalism and imperialism must be defeated and a world revolution—a revolution against war and racism and materialism, a revolution based on human solidarity and love, cooperation and the common good—must win.

Yes, capitalism does appear to have shot its wad, doesn’t it? I doubt what comes next will be socialism or some left variant of it but rather some new as yet unknown morphing of governmental systems. Our job is to insure that it is benign and serves the citizenry first and everything else second.

The problem with socialism, as I see it, is that – like it or not – The World is Flat, and will continue to be flat. Ponderous, top-down governments where everything is planned years in advance simply aren’t nimble enough, assuming they even possess the expertise, to make the rapid changes needed in the fast-moving world we of the industrialized countries live in. Neither does capitalism, although it does allow for and encourage organic growth, its inherent predatory nature and worship of the profit motive can also throttle needed change.

Fugitive Days is his memoir about the Weather Underground and their ten years living underground.


  • DJ

    Interesting. I have argued that both sides (now all three sides) in the Sri Lanka conflict are terrorists. The root of that war is not capitalism so much as failed democracy– top-heavy centralized government that failed to meet the needs of its minorities. I think the system that has “shot its wad,” as you so aptly put it, is nationalism. The era of the nation state is over. It has failed. Instead, we will see more fragmentation and transcendence as national borders become unimportant. As to capitalism, it will continue on as it always has: individuals and groups trading with each other. It cannot be stamped out, it can only be harnessed, for good or ill.

    What comes after nationalism? There are several possibilities, neo-feudalism among them. My hope is that, using spiritual political principles present in most religions, the New Order will embrace a grassroots democracy that genuinely allows groups self-determination and political representation. These principles would include, for example, the Principle of Subsidiarity espoused by the Catholic Church: decisions should be made at the lowest possible level. Radical Catholicism, Engaged Buddhism, and others are at the cutting edge of a new political consciousness. Unfortunately, few people are aware of them, suggesting that the “other guys” (those with more sinister motives) are well ahead.

  • Sad, but the world is now on a course that must be run to its inevitable conclusion, at which point all this will be merely academic. I agree, as I often have, with Dr Ayers that we didn’t do enough. We dropped the ball, my generation did… we stopped The War! Our War. Viet Nam.

    But we didn’t stop War.

    We forced Nixon to accountability. Whoopee! Nixon quit, The War is Over! Let’s finish our law degrees, cut our hair, and buy beemers and half-million dollar houses on the high desert!

    We stopped The War. Our War. Viet Nam. But we didn’t stop War. We finished our law degrees and bought overpriced McMansions, and left the machinations in place, notably Bush/Carlyle, Cheney/Haliburton and Rumsfield/etal, that led to the Authoritarian State – the Fascist State – we are about to, if not have, become.

    Far better to stock up o our post-apocalyptic supplies…

  • DJ

    Sadly I make a personal connection with Ten Bears’s comments. Our team nearly stopped the war in Sri Lanka. Nearly. We laid the groundwork for the 2001 Cease-Fire Agreement (CFA). Then we stopped. The leaders surely get it, we thought. They will do the right thing. We all went home, back to our lives here or there, and let events take their course. (I underwent two years of miserable medical treatments, so at some level I have an excuse… except there is no excuse.)

    And events did take their course. The leaders gradually returned to a war footing, and two years ago the fighting resumed. Because in the post-modern world, war increases power, and leaders of all stripes want power. In the absence of pressure from committed people, that’s what they do: they go to war. And the committed people had all gone back to their lives.

    We came so close… then we dropped the ball.

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