The word from inside the luxurious 22 room Hearst mansion, then is that while they were shocked by the wording of Patricia's angry statement that she would be given a shot gun and would use it to defend herself from the FBI should they attack the hideout, the family, even Hearst, perhaps remembering the FBI's handling of airline highjackers with hostages, is worried about the same thing.
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The Symbionese Liberation Army takes its name from the word Symbios meaning a union between two or more dissimilar organisms that harms neither and benefits both.
The SLA has its roots in the maelstrom of the radical movement around the San Francisco Bay area, an area where the problems, the contradictions, and the naïve tendencies of American adhoc radicalism seem often over the past decade to have found their most blatant expression.
The left in this area is generally more violent, sectarian and fratricidal, and more rhetorically and overtly committed to an ideology of violent revolution. Among dominant groups of Bay Area activists, the word "progressive" seems reserved for Marxists-Leninists. And beyond that, trends get pushed to extremes, personal politics are extrapolated to the extreme and rigidified. Among radicals, everyone has guns; M-1's, M-16's, carbines; combat guns. Here the analysis that all prison inmates are "political prisoners" has long held dominance — the heritage of George Jackson, the Panthers, Attica and the political movements "inside the walls." Here the ideological claim that the Third World oppressed races will lead us all to the Revolution has been debased in organizations which systematically and mechanistically elevate blacks and chicanos into leadership, sometimes on little more than their skin color; here the Maoists rhetorical twist to Lenin's Marxism — essentially the belief that the voice of the revolutionary is the bark of a gun and that armed struggle is the only legitimate act of political selfdefinition — was ripped from its cultural moorings, out of context, and transplanted without roots in hundreds of young bourgeois ex-New Left cadres.
Largely it was rhetoric — actions were more measured — but the simplistic interpretation of the rhetoric gained currency. It was inevitable that something like the SLA would cash in on the vacuum of leadership on the Left; the disarray as each movement character–assassinated their leadership with star-trip slander; the white guilt; and the profusion of rhetoric that would seem to justify terrorism that would "lead the masses."
Revolution Now! Seize the Time! Now! Venceremos, a "Maoist" largely white group centered south of San Francisco that "implanted" itself with third world leadership, was a dominant voice in local left politics over the past couple of years until it disbanded itself in September, in crisis and despairing of its fundamental tenets. It defined the extreme until the SLA came along; the Venceremos button showed a rifle and the legend "Pick Up the Gun." Mao said the masses and only the masses can make the revolution, but with the sort of blind parochialism common to places like Boston and San Francisco — and many places where there is a consciousness of oppressed Third Worlders that leftists with a common arrogance often assume they can speak for — many leftists have toyed with the idea that they were the masses, the spearhead of the Revolution's rage.