Days of Rage: America’s Radical Underground, the FBI, and the First Age of Terror (2015) Bryan Burrough

Days of Rage: America's Radical Underground, the FBI, and the First Age of TerrorBurrough’s big book is a necessary beginning to the telling of the largely untold events of the “post-sixties” radical underground. The number of bombings, bank robberies, prison breaks, and attacks on law enforcement from 1970-1985 by this sequence of one small group after another is not added up by the author but certainly numbers in many hundreds. With the exception of some very significantly well written sections— the Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver conflict, Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army, and Raymond Luc Levasseur of New England based United Freedom Front radicals [ remember “Running on Empty” 1988 with Judd Hirsch and River Phoenix] come to mind— the book is frustrating. Many reviews have pointed to a variety of shortcomings. I can add one. Burrough argues very early in the book that the aims of his subjects— underground militants starting with Weathermen in late ‘60s— was never strictly “anti-war” but more clearly black liberation. This is a good point and obvious in many of the cases he relates— Black Liberation Army and several others. Maybe this is part of the reason his work on the Puerto Rican movements seems out of sync with the rest of the project. Nationalist militants attack on Congress in 1954, the Young Lords role in the community take over of a South Bronx hospital as People’s Detox Center, the FALN deadly bombing of a Wall Street Tavern in 1975 are all treated but not very well. Oddly, these events are well known and have been treated by academics, propagandists, memoirists, and uniquely, by successful federal prosecutions leading to long prison sentences. In fact the only American citizens ever convicted for sedition are Puerto Rican Americans. This book has gained a great deal of attention and is the product of long hard diligent research. No doubt this will prompt follow up work in the sources he has put into view. Writers who will endeavor to theorize a bit more in a comparative frame the actors and their motivations within this 15 year period will report some more nuanced conclusions. Extension of the frame beyond these United States to Europe and Latin America, at least, should also be expected.

 

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