Interview: Weather Underground co-founder Mark Rudd

Today, Rudd is unsparing in his critique of the organization he helped found. “It was juvenile, it was less than juvenile,” Rudd said. Though the Weather Underground gained rapid notoriety for its views, the group, Rudd argues, helped pave the way for the unmaking of the student left. By discarding SDS and pursuing militancy, says Rudd, the Weather Underground abandoned the basic principle of any strong political movement: a commitment to organizing. According to Rudd, this is a legacy that persists in contemporary student movements.

“People only get won over through person-to-person engagement, not through spectacle,” Rudd said. “But self-expression is not the same as organizing. The problem is very few people today know this simple truth.”


  1. Well, Americans love spectacle: Vegas, the Super Bowl, to name a few.

    Bob, have you looked at Stephen Duncombe’s book,
    “Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy”? He makes the case for a political strategy that embraces a new set of tools, since fantasy and spectacle dominate popular culture. Learning from Las Vegas, however, does not mean adopting its values. Duncombe outlines plans for an “ethical spectacle.”

    Greenpeace, Critical Mass, and CodePink come to mind as groups who have used spectacle effectively in organizing.

    Lisa in LA

  2. Will check out the book.

    I think Rudd’s point is, does spectacle convince those who aren’t already part of the cause to join? Medea with a banner in Congress or Greenpeace chasing a whaling ship or ANSWER doing a mass march – these may help build your ranks, but those folks already were on your side.

    A real mass movement needs to convince the centrists and even those formerly hostile to you.

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