[Ppnews] David Gibert's Love and Struggle - new book is out

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Jan 2 13:41:42 EST 2012

January 02, 2012

David Gibert's Love and Struggle

A Brother With A Furious Mind


In 1981, a group of revolutionaries robbed a 
Brink’s armored truck near Nyack, NY.  In the 
ensuing confusion and attempt to flee, three 
people died from gunfire.  A couple days later, 
one of the revolutionaries was killed by law 
enforcement.  The robbery itself was planned and 
carried out by members of the Black Liberation 
Army: a group of former Black Panthers who had 
chosen armed struggle, and the May 19 Communist 
organization, which was founded by white 
revolutionaries also dedicated to armed 
struggle.  One of those members was former 
Weather Underground member David 
Gilbert.  Gilbert is currently serving a sentence 
of 75 years to life in the New York State prison 
system.  Other May 19th members arrested in 
relation to the robbery have been paroled or pardoned.

This month PM Press, the Oakland, CA. publisher 
founded by AK Press founder Ramsey Kanaan and 
others, is publishing Gilbert’s memoirs.  The 
book, titled Love and Struggle: My Life in SDS, 
the Weather Underground, and Beyond, is certain 
to be included in the top tier of books having to 
do with the period of US history known as the 
Sixties.  There is no self-pity within these 
pages , but lots of self-reflection.  In what can 
only be considered a refreshing approach, Gilbert 
takes full responsibility for the path he has 
chosen and explains that path in an intelligently 
political manner and with a decidedly leftist 
understanding.  Love and Struggle combines 
objective history, personal memory, and a 
critical perspective into a narrative that is at 
once an adventuresome tale and a political guide through the past fifty years.

Gilbert begins his story by describing his youth 
and his developing awareness that the United 
States was not what he had been led to believe it 
was.  An Eagle Scout who believed the myths 
inherent in American exceptionalism, he was 
unprepared for the cognitive dissonance he 
underwent while watching the attacks by law 
enforcement on civil rights marchers in the US 
South.  That sense of conflict deepened when he 
headed off to Columbia University.  By 1965, 
angered by the US war on the Vietnamese and armed 
with a well-researched understanding of why the 
US was really involved there, Gilbert was 
organizing Columbia students to join antiwar 
protests.  Like many of his contemporaries, by 
1968 he was an anti-imperialist and working 
full-time against the war in Vietnam and racism 
in the United States.  By 1969, he was one of the 
original members of Weatherman and by April 1970 he was underground.

Gilbert tells his story with a hard-learned 
humility.  Occasionally interjecting his personal 
life–his loves and failures, his relationship 
with his family–with his political journey, it is 
the politics which are foremost in this 
memoir.  A true revolutionary, every other aspect 
of Gilbert’s life is subsumed to the 
revolution.  This kind of life is not an easy 
one.  Indeed, it arguably makes the life of an 
ascetic monk look easy by comparison.  After all, 
the monk is only trying to change himself, while 
the committed revolutionary wants to change the 
world into one where justice prevails; a world 
that by its very structure resists such change.

Love and Struggle carefully examines the history 
of the periods Gilbert has lived in.  From the 
early days of the antiwar movement and the 
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) to the 
public street-fighting arrogance of early 
Weatherman; from Weatherman’s transition to the 
Weather Underground Organization (WUO) and its 
growing isolation from the New Left it was a part 
of; and from the post-Vietnam war US left to the 
Brink robbery and its aftermath, Gilbert keeps 
the politics front and center in his text.  In 
his discussion of the period between Weather’s 
publication of its essential work Prairie Fire 
and its immediate aftermath, Gilbert provides an 
insight into the debates  inside WUO and among 
its supporters in the years after the peace 
treaty was signed with northern Vietnam. His 
portrayal of the differences around theory being 
debated in the WUO serve as a broader description 
of the debates raging throughout the new left as 
the US intervention in Vietnam’s anti-colonial 
struggle neared its end. For those of us who were 
politically involved at the time, the debates 
ring with familiarity: national liberation over 
class; the interaction between race and class in 
the US; the oppression of women and white male 
privilege. In a testimony to his writing 
abilities, Gilbert’s discussion of the issues 
makes them as alive in this book as those 
arguments actually were in the mid- 1970s. His 
keen political sense reveals the interplay 
between different political perspectives, 
understandings of history, and the always present 
contests of ego.  The political arguments 
outlined by Gilbert (especially when describing 
the battle inside WUO) are still relevant today. 
Their echoes are present in the General 
Assemblies of the Occupy Wall Street movement and 
in forums more specific and less specific across 
the nation. Gilbert’s presentation of the 
essential WUO arguments that challenges the 
overriding role of class in the nature of 
oppression is not only reasoned and impassioned, 
it is worth studying and makes points useful to 
the future of anti-imperialist struggle in the 
United States   Furthermore, the book includes an 
ongoing and excellent discussion of the nature of 
white supremacy and white skin privilege.  For 
anyone who has spent time involved in the Occupy 
movement the past few months, the relevance of 
this latter discussion is all too familiar.

For those looking for a sensationalist account of 
life as a revolutionary or a confession, they 
should look elsewhere.  David Gilbert’s memoir is 
a political account of a political life.  Every 
action undertaken, every decision made is 
examined via the eye of a leftist 
revolutionary.  This does not mean there are no 
page-turning moments in the book, 
however.  Indeed, the sections describing 
Weather’s move underground and Gilbert’s daily 
life off the grid are interesting and revealing, 
as are those describing the attempts by WUO 
members to evade capture.  The descriptions of 
Gilbert’s clandestine life and his subsequent 
moving back aboveground and then back under are also riveting.

Underlying the entire narrative is a current of 
what is best described as self-criticism; of 
Weather, the New Left, armed struggle and, 
ultimately, of Gilbert himself. As anyone who has 
experienced something akin to a self-criticism 
session can attest, such sessions can be 
emotionally wrenching episodes of retribution and 
petty anger. They can also be tremendously useful 
when conducted humanely. Gilbert’s written 
attempts at this exercise in Love and Struggle 
lean toward the latter expression while also 
providing interesting and useful considerations 
to the aforementioned issues (along with issues 
related to those criticisms). Gilbert’s 
realization that his ego occasionally caused him 
to make decisions that weren't based on 
politically sound rationales is something any 
radical leader should take into account.  In 
fact, Gilbert’s continuing struggle with his ego 
and it’s place in the decisions he made while 
free reminded me of a maxim relayed to me a 
couple times in my life; once by an organizer for 
the Revolutionary Union in Maryland and once by a 
friend from the Hog Farm commune. That maxim is 
simply: if you start believing that the 
revolution can’t exist without you, then it’s 
time to leave center stage and go back to doing 
grunt work where nobody knows (or cares) who you 
are. In other words, you are not the revolution so take your ego out of it

In the well-considered catalog of books dealing 
honestly with the period of history known as the 
Sixties in the United States, Love and Struggle 
is an important addition.  Borrowing his 
technique from memoir, confession, and objective 
history-telling, David Gilbert has provided the 
reader of history with the tale of a person and a 
time.  Simultaneously, he has given the reader 
inclined to political activism a useful, 
interesting, and well-told example of one human’s 
revolutionary commitment to social change no matter what the cost.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind 
Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and 
Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill 
Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection 
on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. 
His collection of essays and other musings titled 
Tripping Through the American Night is now 
available and his new novel is The 
Co-Conspirator’s Tale.  He is a contributor to 
Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of 
Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.  He can be 
reached at: <mailto:ronj1955 at gmail.com>ronj1955 at gmail.com.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://freedomarchives.org/pipermail/ppnews_freedomarchives.org/attachments/20120102/2d715f43/attachment.html>

More information about the PPnews mailing list