By: Adriana Avila, Senior Reporter | Photos by MARKRUDD.COM and NYDAILYNEWS.COM
“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”
Mark Rudd, a SAGE instructor at CNM from 1980 through 2007, and many of his former colleagues adopted Bob Dylan’s famous verse from “Subterranean Homesick Blues” as an identity to spark a revolution in an attempt to stop U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Rudd’s most famous attempt at revolt was to halt
Chronicle: “Tell me about the SDS? What did it stand for?”operations at Columbia University through the largest student protest in American history. Mark Rudd sat down with the Chronicle and explained what it was like for him as a student protester and “Weatherman” in the ‘60s.
Rudd: “Students for a Democratic Society. It existed from 1962 to 1969 and it was the largest radical student organization in the United States. It had chapters, independent chapters, on about 400 college and high school campuses, including community colleges–the first community colleges. At UNM there was a considerably large chapter, very active in anti-war activities and anti-racism too.”
Chronicle: “How did The Weatherman organization form?”
Rudd: “Well, that was an aberration. It’s not something I’m proud of actually, although some people think it’s really cool but I actually think it was a mistake. We gauged a situation as being very much more revolutionary that we could change the whole system, much more of a revolution than it really was. We had moved from a position, many of us had moved from a position of being just against the war to being against the system that gave us the war. We actually destroyed SDS by becoming too militant and too far out.”
Chronicle: “How were you able to shut down protests you thought were not being run and organized correctly?”
Rudd: “That was August of 1969. It was an anti-war demonstration in Central Park in New York on Hiroshima Day on August 6. The people who had organized it had the slogan ‘End the War, No More Hiroshimas, End the War.’ Well we were so arrogant we said it wasn’t enough to just end the war, we have to end the system that gave us the war. We were very factional. We attacked people who weren’t as radical as us. Making the anti-war movement as strong as possible but we actually weakened the anti-war movement by attacking it and saying it wasn’t radical enough. I can’t communicate this enough to people how many mistakes we made in the name of radicalism.”
Chronicle: How do you feel about what is considered radical activism nowadays, like ‘Anonymous’?
Rudd: “I certainly feel that ‘Anonymous’ and WikiLeaks have played a great role in putting out all these government secrets that we need to know. Bradley Manning is a great hero. Imagine how they’re treating this guy like he’s a terrorist for getting the truth out. Think about that. They want to lock him away; they want to kill him actually. Horrible!”
Chronicle: Your most publicized feat was the protest at Columbia University. How was that?
Rudd: “I was 20 years old. It was amazing to be involved, for everybody. Columbia had a reunion, I wrote about it in the epilogue in my book and for a lot of people it was one of the most important things of their whole lives and we knew it at the time.”
Chronicle: Why did you protest that day? Was it planned or spontaneous?
Rudd: “There’s nothing spontaneous. Things don’t just happen. There was a campaign at Columbia by SDS to educate the campus about military research, aiding the war and also about the university’s expansion into Harlem, the black community. People had their minds and their beings jarred by the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. and they said ‘what can I do about racism?’ and by then it was against the war too. Some of the people say it was the reason he was murdered because on April 4, 1967.”
Chronicle: What was your part in The Weathermen?
Rudd: “I was one of the founders of the faction called The Weathermen and we were organized hierarchically. We called ourselves the Weather Bureau. It was like a central committee that ran the organization and I was a part of that. I was also in the Weather Underground in the beginning but I dropped out very quickly.”
Chronicle: What is The Weather Underground and what did they do that was different from the Weathermen?
Rudd: “Bombings, for better or worse. The Weathermen were pretty terrible. We called demonstrations to fight cops.
It started in 1970 and the idea was to build a guerilla army. I quickly saw it wasn’t going to work, by then I was already a fugitive so I actually left the organization its first year and went off on my own.”
Chronicle: Do you think people would consider someone like you to be a terrorist now? Back then you guys were revolutionaries, but now that word seems to have turned into terrorists.
Rudd: “Absolutely. Now if you just demonstrate against the war or something you’re called a terrorist.
One of the teacher’s unions, not mine, mine was the American Federation of Teachers but the other one is called the National Education Association. They started to divide the turf. One of (former President George W. ) Bush’s cabinet secretaries called the NEA a terrorist organization. They’ll call anybody a terrorist. The word used to be communist.”
Chronicle: With everything that’s happened in the past, what do you remember most about it?
Rudd: “It’s funny; my most positive memory was being involved in mass demonstrations against the war, like being one out of half a million people marching against the war. I’m proud of that and that’s probably my most vivid memory.”
Chronicle: Do you have anything else to add to this interview?
Rudd: “The need to engage in politics so we can change policy. That’s important. We can’t ignore it. We can’t walk away from it and I think in order to engage in politics it’s going to take a mass movement like a civil rights movement or a human rights movement to get people mobilized, to get people thinking and active and learning and willing to take the time. Essentially it’s building democracy, which we don’t have. Our democracy has withered, now that’s another question. Why did it wither?”