Book excerpt: The Chicago 7 and a "Conspiracy to Riot"

Lee Weiner, one of the defendants in the Chicago 7 trial, writes of his activism, cynicism, and lifetime commitment to fighting for a better world in "Conspiracy to Riot: The Life and Times of One of the Chicago 7" (Belt Publishing).

Read an excerpt below, and don't miss Tracy Smith's report on the story of the Chicago 7, including an interview with Weiner, on "CBS Sunday Morning" October 4.

Belt Publishing

The most important lesson from [the sixties and] our trial that continues to resonate now is that people can and must resist illegitimate state power and they must help sustain a renewed political struggle for social and economic justice. It is part of how anyone becomes their best self, a responsible citizen and patriot. That was true for me. It is true for anyone

And while a political life isn't easy, and while frustration, anger, disappointments, fear and confusion are sometimes parts of it, I believe there is no more self-respecting, fulfilling life to try to lead. The joys and victories may not come as often as anyone might hope, but when those victories arrive … they are transcendent moments … shared with the closest of friends.

To move progressive politics forward, different kinds of reasonably achievable activities need to be identified and promoted that will initially engage people and then sustain them in what will be a long political struggle. These actions should offer satisfactory ways to express righteous anger. And they should actually accomplish things that can at least occasionally be counted as a victory…

It's important to note that I'm mostly talking about activities and acts that are useful. I'm not talking about ideas … or the development and dissemination of alternative political visions … I'm not in the visionary business. I still hold on to some sort of Marxist-informed critique about the world, and so I have notions about what life and relationships might be like if there wasn't all the unnecessary suffering and pain from the wounds caused by unrestrained private and corporate wealth and tyrannical state power that is beholden to wealth. But I have to let someone else offer a framework of … values that people might use to critique the everyday world and point them to the kinds of necessary changes that make sense. I am a little too cynical, a little too damaged to be able to dream sweet dreams with any regularity and then sing those dreams to others.

From "Conspiracy to Riot: The Life and Times of One of the Chicago 7" by Lee Weiner. Copyright © 2020 by Lee Weiner. Reprinted by permission of Belt Publishing. All Rights Reserved.

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