The 1960s and 70s were decades of sweeping social change. Amidst the counterculture revolution of that era, many radical socio-political groups emerged often with conflicting ideologies about a utopian society and how to achieve it.
One such counterculture group was the Weather Underground (WUO), an American radical left-wing organisation. WUO was originally formed in 1969 as a section of the Student’s for a Democratic Society (SDS).
What was fundamentally a violent offshoot of 1960s radicalism, the Weather Underground’s aim was to “create a clandestine revolutionary party for the violent overthrow of the US government.” (1)
In the mid 1970s, the radical group initiated a series of bombings, targeted primarily at government buildings and banks. But what was possibly WUO’s most famous and “successful” achievement was assisting in the jailbreak of Timothy Leary.
Leary was an author, psychologist and “revolutionary avatar of the mind”, who, as Top Secret Writers reported previously, was most infamous for his Psychological Research in to the effects of LSD and repeated drug use. (2)
The Weathermen Rhetoric
In a report in the New York Times about the ‘quieter’ lives of 1960’s militants, the revolutionary stances and action taken by radical left-wing groups such as the Weathermen were characterised by Black liberation rhetoric. (3)
Similarities with the Weathermen and other radical left-wing counterculture groups of the 60s and 70s could be made to today’s anarchists, with one notable difference – violent political extremism has swapped from the left to the right.
Analogous to the Weather Underground’s goals to violently overthrow the U.S. government, is the murder trial of the military anarchists who were recently caught trying to overthrow the government and assassinate President Obama.
According to a report in the Business Insider, four soldiers in Georgia, who had formed an anarchist militia within the U.S. military, a radical right-wing organisation FEAR – Forever Enduring Always Ready – bought more than $87,000 worth of guns and components to make bombs and had planned to bomb targets in Savannah and Washington, take over Fort Stewart and assassinate Barack Obama. (4)
Modern-Day Violent Extremists
The four US Army soldiers and members of F.E.A.R are facing murder charges for the murder of another US soldier, Michael Roark and his 17-yaer-old girlfriend, Tiffany York.
The military extremists have been accused of shooting the couple in the woods last December, in order to keep their plans to overthrow the government and assassinate President Obama secret. (5)
Similar to the Weathermen’s efforts, while F.E.A.R’s efforts were dangerous and extreme, they were essentially failures.
Business Insider noted that while F.E.A.R had grand ambitions to assassinate the president and overthrow the U.S government, it turned out to be “nothing more than a group of well-funded, murderous crazies with high aspirations – in other words, doomed to failure.” (4)
While F.E.A.R’s plans to overthrow the U.S. government failed, the same cannot be said about the Norwegian right-wing extremist, Anders Behring Breivik.
In July 2011 Norway experienced its deadliest attack since the Second World War and one of the most shocking cases of radical right-wing anarchy the world has witnessed when Breivik made two chronological ‘lone wolf terrorist’ attacks against the Norwegian government, claiming a total of 77 lives.
As author Michael Minkenberg, of New York University wrote in a paper titled, ‘The Radical Right in Europe’:
“European challenges call for European responses. The spread of extremism and xenophobic attitudes and the proliferation of right-wing political movements are challenges confronting all of Europe.” (6)
Minkenberg’s sentiment however, can be applied to a global scale. In the U.S. his views were evidenced with images of the four anarchist militia being led away in handcuffs after murdering two people in order to keep their plans to overthrow the federal government a secret.
Whereas there was intense social upheaval and unrest in the 60s and 70s that led to radical social change and extreme counterculture groups emerging, contemporary society is comparatively disparaging of national governments.
With the Arab Spring, the English Riots and the Occupy Protests, this social discontent was manifestly revealed in 2011.
While the violent attacks the Weather Underground and other radical far-left activists of the 60s and 70s aimed at overthrowing governments can be likened to the far-right anarchists of today with similar aims, there is perhaps a notable difference.
In 2008, several 1960s radicals predicted a rebirth of social activism in the New York Times. These former radicals included Tom Hayden, co-founder of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the so-called ‘driving force’ behind the movement against the Vietnam War, and Bernardine Dohrn, former leader of SDS, which later helped to form the Weather Underground.
Both Hayden and Dohrn are now lecturers and writers. I cannot possibly see the right-wing anarchists of today forming in similar meeting in 40 years time, which the New York Times described as being “nothing more non-nonconformist than a nearly two-hour panel discussion.” (7)
In this sense, the right-wing anarchists of today are perhaps not like the modern-day version of the Weather Underground. Although their ultimate goals for social-political change is paralleled, their ideologies are quite different.