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"White youth must choose sides now. We must either fight on the side of the oppressed, or be on the side of the oppressors."

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(Bernadine with her FBI flyer.
Photo by Jennifer Peskin)

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Bernardine Dohrn

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Bernardine Dohrn

The sixties began in 1954 and the real news is that they’re not over yet. The twin blindspots of pre-sixties American social struggle—race and imperialism—blaze as the touchstones of the civil rights, anti-war, student, women’s, and black liberation movements, as well as all their propulsive, variegated progeny.

But without a persistent focus on white supremacy and U.S. global domination, ...(we) miss the ethical and political heart of the sixties—and any significance for the growing movements for social justice today. For, of course, it matters far beyond academic nit-picking or self-justifying squabbles. There is no room for nostalgia or sentimental reminiscences.

A truism: we lack a left “movement” today which integrates distinct, single-issue organizing into a sum greater than the parts. However, there is a contemporary array of serious left organizing—locally, nationally, and globally. Among them are resistance to the prison-industrial complex; the campus anti-sweatshop surge; disarmament and peace; exposure of racial profiling; anti-globalization; environmental justice; women’s liberation and equality; human rights; AIDs; solidarity with Chiapas; efforts for peace and justice in Colombia, Ireland, and Palestine; health care; labor; indigenous rights; school reform; lesbian and gay rights; opposition to police violence; and children’s rights.

– Bernardine Dohrn, "Sixties Lessons and Lore"

As a young lawyer, Bernardine Dohrn became one of the leaders of the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM), a radical wing of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), in the late 1960s. When SDS divided into many factions, Dohrn became a founding member of the Weather Underground.

Fueled by outrage over racism, capitalism, and the Vietnam War, the Weather Underground waged a low-lying war against the U.S. government, creating social upheaval, throughout the 1970s. They bombed targets across the country that they considered emblematic of the real violence that the U.S. was waging throughout the world.

In an interview later in life, Dohrn said she considered the group to be an "authentic, aroused opposition to the U.S. empire and to racism at home". Ultimately, the group's carefully organized network managed to successfully evade one of the largest manhunts in FBI history by living underground for over a decade.

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