Bill Ayers lives on: Amid rising discontent in Europe, London playwright launches 'Weathermen' drama
From Berlin to London, cinema-goers have been flocking to see the dramatic account of the eponymous left-wing terrorist group, also known as the Red Army Faction (RAF), which wreaked havoc across Germany in the '70s and '80s.
As it happens, the film’s German release came just weeks before one of the last two jailed RAF militants was controversially freed from jail, as chronicled in the Monitor.
But the movie is also resonating with the young people in Europe, where an increasingly bitter recession appears to be setting the stage for a rebirth of the violent left.
Europe’s youths are again at the forefront of often turbulent protests, including unrest in Athens and the government-toppling riots in Reykjavik (to be fair, the Iceland unrest included young and old). Reports from France last month credited its intelligence services with warning of a violent new threat from a continent-wide network of militants not unlike the RAF.
This week in London, the writer of a new play based on America’s own homegrown left-wing "terror" group, The Weather Underground, said the recession was giving many in his generation pause for thought about new directions for political activism.
“The period ahead of us is going to be an interesting one,” says Charlie Shand, the 20-something playwright behind the show in Hoxton, a hub for young, alternative-minded artists.
“We are seeing more actions, students getting organized. The interesting thing about the Weathermen was that their inspiration came from the belief that peaceful protest was not achieving anything.
“The only way they decided they could affect change was by blowing things up.”
Its bloody ending echoes the events surrounding the death of three "Weathermen" in 1970 when a bomb prematurely detonated at a townhouse in Greenwich Village, NY.
While writing the play, Shand corresponded with Bill Ayers, a former "Weatherman" whose name rose briefly to national prominence during the presidential elections after Sarah Palin used his acquaintance with Barack Obama to accuse the Democrat of “palling around with a domestic terrorist.”
“The penultimate line in the play is ‘no regrets’ and what Bill continues to say is that he actually regrets not doing enough,” Shand says.
“We are in hard times now but it’s exciting because people are less alienated and are starting to wake up and criticize the system. The idea behind this production is to be slightly provocative, to start a discussion.”
Around Europe, the discussion is beginning to heat up online, where an anonymous political tract called "The Coming Insurrection" is gaining something of a cult status among radicals.
Its author is said to be one of nine people arrested in November in the small French mountain village of Tarnac, where the French government claims an anarchist terror group was plotting to launch a violent campaign aimed at overthrowing the state.
Support committees for the "Tarnac 9" have sprung up in France, the US, Britain, and elsewhere to protest the detainees' arrest.
But at a time when nostalgia for urban guerrillas is being played out on the big screen and on the stage, could it really be a case of life imitating art?