Sing A Battle Song Notes

Notes on Weather Underground Reading.

From Sing a Battle Song.

“You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Know Which Way the Wind Blows”

opening quote by Lin Piao: primary contradiction of the present is the struggle between “revolutionary peoples” of the 3rd World and “the imperialists headed by the United States”

is this still the case?

Weather picks up Lin Piao’s idea and employs it as a litmus test for political action and analysis: “we determine who are our friends and who are our enemies according to whether they help US imperialism or fight to defeat it.” Again, can this principle be applied today?

A new revolutionary sugject. Rather than the industrial proletariat, a decolonizing, 3rd World proletariat– i.e., “the native”: “It is the oppressed peoples of the world who have created the wealth of this empire and it is to them that it belongs”

Relative position of US underclass/ working-class: “even the crumbs doled out to the enslaved masses within its borders provide for material existence very much above the conditions of the masses of people of the world”

“your television set, car and wardrobe already belong… to the people of the rest of the world”: You are a receiver of stolen goods.

the necessity of an internationalist framework: “any conception of ‘socialist revolution’ simply in terms of the working people of the US… is a conception of a fight for a particular privileged interest, and is a very dangerous ideology”

Goals: “the destruction of US imperialism and the achievement of a classless world: world communism”

How it will happen: “the military forces of the US overextending themselves… and being defeated piecemeal; struggle within the US will be a vital part of this process”

“A Declaration of a State of War”

the “strategic position” of “Amerika’s youth”– youth itself is a political/revolutionary subject

failed tactics and new ones: “protest and marches don’t do it. Revolutionary violence is the only way.” Note that the call here is not just for any form of violence but specifically “revolutionary violence.” Different forms of violence with different spatio-temporal dimensions: the slow violence of starvation or disease in the 3W; the trans-national violence of the market, structural adjustments, privatization, etc; state violence vs. popular violence; political violence vs. criminal violence.

3W models for revolution: Tupamaros, Che’s fish in the sea: “The alienation and contempt that young people have for this country has created the ocean for this revolution.” i.e., Youth culture, young people, will be the sea.

State violence: Cambodia, killing students in Jackson, at Kent State, etc.

“the war and racism of this society show that it is too fucked up. We will never live peaceably under this system.”

bragging rights: Weather has not been caught. They are “invisible.” Proving that direct resistance is possible and undermining the myth of the invulnerability and omnipotence of the State.

“We fight in many ways. Dope is one of our weapons.” Drugs as a component of cultural revolution, which has a political valence. “Guns and grass are united in the youth underground.”

“Freaks are revolutionaries and revolutionaries are freaks”: establishing an identification of cultural dissent and political revolt.

More braggadocio: “we are…. in every tribe, commune, dormitory, farmjouse, barracks and townhouse where kids are making love, smoking dope and loading guns:

“we will never go back”: no turning around.

Further models of revolution, this time from the US “3W”– African America as an internal colony of white supremacists US capitalism.

Communique: “Headquarters:

Avenging crimes against political dissidents: “They have murdered Fred Hampton and tortured Joan Bird.”

Note the “weapons” listed at the end of the communique: “Political power grows out of a gun [this is an approximate quote from Mao Zedong] a molotov [cocktail] a riot, a commune… and from the soul of the people.”

What IS the soul of the people?

“Honk Amerika”

as in “honky.” on the anniversary of the Cuban revolution. links to prison activism and prison-industrial complex. George Jackson, radical intellectual and prisoner, killed. H. Rap Brown gone into hiding. White Panthers under attack.

“Everywhere we see the growth of revolutionary culture and the ways which every move of the monster state tightens the noose around its own neck.”

In other words, state repression is a form of self-destruction for the state. There is a sense of inevitability here, Marxist-Hegelian in origin.

“The Bombing of the Pentagon”

Bombing on Ho Chi Minh’s birthday (died in 1968). Extensive quotes from “Uncle Ho” including poetry. Note 2nd Ho quote: Buddhist imagery of peaks, clouds, mirror, etc.

Mining of harbors of N. VN: a war crime.

A thumbnail history of US aggression in SE Asia. Quotes Ike: “‘had elections been held possibly 80% of the population would have voted for the communist Ho Chi Minh’”– in other words the issue isn’t democracy but anti-communism.  Also, the Pentagon Papers: “‘S. VN was essentially the creation of the US’”.

According to Weather 3 million already dead (in 1972). SRVN puts the official toll at 5 million. These are genocidal numbers.

Criticism of Vietnamization: lower US troop levels, increase technological means for violence– airpower, ships, etc. This is the same principle at work in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

Fundamental racism of US empire: “it is worth the cost b/c the bodies aren’t white”.

Calls for total withdrawal and VN self-determination. Again, mining of harbors. Also, “contingency plans for the use of nuclear weapons”. Nixon a war criminal. This is intended as an objective, legal statement rather than mere rhetoric. Cf. Geneva Conventions.

Become familiar with those who have been designated your enemy. “These are the people we are taught to hate…. Try to understand how they persevere.” How many of us  can name the languages spoken in Afghanistan, know much of anything at all about its history. Who even knows the difference between Sunni/Shia?

Final quote from Ho: “You are only a little milestone,/ Which stands at the edge of the highway./ To people passing by/ You point the right direction”

A kind of revolutionary humility. Also: is this the way we ought to view the figures of the past, those who formed part of a radical tradition– F. Douglass, John Brown, Thomas Paine, Emma Goldman, et al?

Prairie Fire

Note the dedication: a connection to a radical US tradition. Why these particular figures?

Opening address: “sisters and bros.”– inverting the standard male-first form, addressing readers as part of an extended family.

“A cycle is done.”– i.e., there will be many more.

Turning point: the American War in VN is over. This changes the situation dramatically. Where to go from here?

Note the language at the bottom of p. 233: indicates a shift in priorities. “dialectic,” “concrete analysis,” “strategy.”

“correct ideology”– we are all ideological. no escape from ideas, but must develop the right ones.

“seize power”– take the state (NOT anarchist)

Who is PF for? “communist-minded people, independent organizers and anti-imperialists; those who carry the traditions and lessons… those who join the in the struggles of today…. all sisters and brothers… engaged in armed struggle…. prisoners, women’s groups, collectives, study groups, workers’ organizing committees, communes, GI organizers, consciousness-raising groups, veterans, community groups and revolutionaries of all kinds; to all who will read, criticize and bring its content to life in practice.”  A broadly construed– not necessarily communist or Marxist–  Revolutionary Left.

The creation of “a way of life” in which “the only certainty will be constant change” and “the only possibilities are victory or death” [another invocation of Che].

from PF: “Arm the Spirit”

What does it mean to “arm the spirit”? An odd turn of phrase for a philosophical materialist like Fidel? Or does spirit mean volition?

First sentence: “the unique and fundamental condition of this time is the decline of US imperialism.” What are we to make of this assessment? Is it true, either then or today?

“the weapon of theory”– Tomas Gutierrez Alea, Cuban documentarian.

Intentions: “to disrupt the empire… to incapacitate it, to put pressure on teh cracks, to make it hard to carry out its bloody functioning against the people of the world, to join in the world struggle. to attack from the inside”

even further: “to encourage the people, etc.” Who are/ What is “the people”? The language of American democracy.

section: “The Banner of Che”

Not to fight is a way of uselessly attempting to avoid the inevitable which undermines “the people”. Again, a sense of inevitability.

Note the syllogisms. Like a kind of catechism: “Without mass strugle there can be no revolution. Without armed struggle there can be no victory.”

On the other hand, the specific form that struggle will take is contingent: “we are always figuring it out”

Invoking Che: “2, 3, many VNs”

And Black liberation

duties of specifically white revolutionaries.

section: “Why is Revolution Necessary”

What is a revolution? the world “turned upside down. It is a fight for who run things, etc.”

Explication of “a system”– i.e., Capitalism and a militarized State. Domination of other nations, peoples, workers, women, etc. but also how imperialism “intimately affects day-to-day behavior– thoughts, values, potential and hopes.”

“It is an illusion that imperialism will decay peacefully.” Is this true? What does history teach us about the end of Empires? Or is the fact that the US represents a capitalist empire give it its own set of necessities?

A dying imperialism is a dangerous thing. Imperialists will “pass their contradictions on to the people”– what does this mean?

In the Early Stages

“crises of the society provide the training grounds”

appeal to the strategy of urban guerrilla war (cf. Marighelli): “the cities will be a major battleground”

“carrying out armed struggle will affect the people’s consciousness of the nature of the struggle against the state”– practice provokes and informs consciousness, which changes the nature of practice.

Note the dialectical (chiasmatic) structure of the following line: “Revolutionary action generates revolutionary consciousness; growing consciousness develops revolutionary action.”

Contradictions of the present (1974):

“We live in a whirlwind; nonetheless, tmie is on the side of the guerrillas.”

“Armed actions…. must be clearly understandable to the people, identify our enemy precisely, and overcome his massive lies and propaganda”

the dangers of spectacularity, of political action and violence as a spectacle to be consumed by passive masses.

“a continuum between guerrilla and mass work”: different forms of battle. “acts of resistance… mass demonstrations… demands for control and power through seizures of institutions… clandestine propaganda… popular rebellion… outrage expressed violently and collectively”

still room for freaks. building counter-institutions, establishing “liberated zones”

The Sixties

“Denunciations of the struggles of the sixties as a failure do the enemy’s work.”


“Desanctification of the empire”– unraveling the myth of invulnerability.

“forces unleased at Little Rock and Montgomery and the triumph of the Cuban Revolution”: linking domestic civil rights and “foreign” revolutions– creating a continuity between struggles

“Material contribution to Vietnamese history”

“interruptions in the functioning of the draft”– i.e., the draft is unreliable b/c it stokes domestic unrest. Thus, today, 2009, in the 8th year of war and occupation, there is no draft. Here is a lesson the state learned quite well.

“Opposition to racism”: the 60s pushed anti-racism farther than ever. African American struggle leads the way. “Black people as a colonized and oppressed people”– i.e., the 3W in the 1W.

“Growth of insurgent cultures”– the counterculture, with echoes of the Beats: “fighting to be human beings in the midst of disgusting and crusing social forms”.

“imperialism sought to tame its youth thru tracked education, the draft, the oppression of women”– these are some examples of what Althusser would call the Ideological State Apparatus.

“profound alienation in work, school, family”: the institutions which reproduce social life in order to retain the status quo.

“The overthrowing of rotten values of male supremacy, consumerism, passivity, respectability and the rat race, was a wonderful advance.”


“Challenge to inaction. We inherited a deadening ideology of conformity and gradualism.”

Learning US history is instrumental in radicalization.

“Turning Point”

The world-historical moment of 1968: a conjuncture. Palestine, France, Vietnam, Latin America, China. Uprisings after the murder of Dr. King.

The breakthrough of understanding imperialism as a kind of etiology or grand narrative. The complicity of institutions such as universities in the MIC: “The same school which tracked students… turned out to own slums… and to develop anti-personal weapons and strategies against revolution– to be in fact a tool of the corporations and the military.”

To the point that, at present, the structure of the University– let’s say SJSU– is indistinguishable from a corporation.

SDS, Columbia Revolt, DNC in Chicago, etc.

The outcome/process of personal transformation. Carl Oglesby: “The rebel is someon who has changed.”

COINTELPRO. The State actively targets dissidents. Spying, intimidation, physical violence, assassination.

RYM as a temporary measure.

Struggle against economism w/in the Movement: “the reduction of revolution to a struggle for purely economic gains”– ex. AFL vs. IWW.

Necessity of confronting white privilege: “It is difficult to synthesize militant anti-imperialism with a mass base among oppressor-nation people because off the whole fabric of relative social/material white-skin privilege”. Acknowledging a history of white working-class selling out their non-white class allies.

“Student power” was insufficient b/c it “ignored the claims of university workers, the community, the 3W people”.

The importance of unity of struggle.

Feminism transformed the Movement.


as a revolutionary practice: “errors must first be recognized and corrected”

initial stages “impolite, rough, disruptive, disorderly” though “essential”

the sin of vanguardism: “we let go of our identification with the people– the promise, the yearnings, the defeats”

arrogance: dismissing those unwilling or unable to go underground/ pick up the gun. missed opportunity to guide and strengthen mass movements.

“uncritical support of youth culture” (cf. freaks/revolutionaries)

What We Think

“Our method is dialectical materialism.”

Appeal to 2W– a billion socialists.

VN defeat “ended the era of world hegemony for the US”. And what do we think of this statement in the present context?

Dialectics: “The imposition of foreign rule and foreign exploitation has created the conditions which gave birth to movements for national liberation– the seeds of imperialism’s destruction.”

Again, a very Hegelian understanding of history, of history as an arrow headed in a specific, even unavoidable, direction.

“As colonized nations liberate themselves, imperialism’s ability to maintain a stable economy and ideological hegemony over its own people crumbles.” Does it/ Has it?

“the overall crisis and decline of imperialism is permanent and ongoing”

“Revolution is a dialectical process of destruction and creation.” As is capitalism.

A definition of socialism on p. 266

Last paragraph: read together. Utopian. Hegelian. Humanist.