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Ravens in the Storm: A Personal History of the 1960s Anti-War Movement Hardcover – February 11, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

Enjoying the security and comfort of his middle-class lifestyle in the suburbs of Ann Arbor, Mich., where he worked for a defense contractor, Oglesby was an unlikely candidate to move to the forefront of the countercultural antiwar movement. However, several momentous events, combined with his growing sense that the Vietnamese revolution had less to do with communism and more to do with national independence, led him to quit his job and follow his principles by becoming involved full-time in the radical organization Students for a Democratic Society. Oglesby traces his and the organization's activities from its attempts to educate the public on Vietnam at teach-ins through the more violent antiwar activities of its splinter groups. His insider's view introduces readers to the personalities and ideologies of some of the major players in SDS and the antiwar movement, and he uses recently released FBI, State Department and CIA files to show the magnitude of governmental infiltration of the organization. But what makes the book most compelling is Oglesby's in-depth knowledge of this tumultuous era and his astute observations about the influence of key events of the period—such as the murders of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy as well as military operations like the Tet offensive—on SDS and its evolving political ideology.
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From The New Yorker

Writing this memoir, Oglesby was able to draw on more than four thousand pages of government intelligence about himself, gathered in the nineteen-sixties during his time as the president of the protest group Students for a Democratic Society. A former defense-industry employee with a high-security clearance, Oglesby became a prominent antiwar figure—he served on an international war-crimes tribunal with Jean-Paul Sartre and was asked to be the Vice-Presidential running mate of the Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver—but he always saw himself as a voice for moderation. This centrist perspective alienated S.D.S.’s militants, including a future leader of the Weathermen, who warned him, "We are not frustrated liberals, Carl. We are enemies of the state." In the end, Oglesby recounts, he was forced out of S.D.S. on charges of rejecting Marxism-Leninism and possibly being a federal agent. His book is a mournful tribute to the spirit of an age gone awry.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; 1 edition (February 11, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416547363
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416547365
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #477,203 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Paul Tognetti TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
What a long strange trip it was for Carl Oglesby! In 1965 Oglesby was busy working for the defense contractor BDS. He was happily living the middle class lifestyle in suburbia with his wife Beth and their 3 children. But independent from his duties at BDS Oglesby had quietly come to the conclusion that United States involvement in Vietnam was a huge mistake. His views on the war crystallized when he was asked to put together a campaign brochure for Democratic congressional candidate Wes Vivian. Well, one thing led to another and before long Carl Oglesby would resign from BDS and renounce his comfortable lifestyle to become President of the fledgling organization known as SDS. "Ravens In The Storm: A Personal History of the 1960's Anti-War Movement" is Carl Oglesby's memoir of those turbulant days in the mid to late 1960's when it seemed that the whole world was turned upside down. This is compelling reading folks!

What is so fascinating about "Ravens In The Storm" is the fact that this book probably could not have been written without the thousands of pages of documents from the files of the FBI and CIA that Carl Oglesby was able to obtain in recent years through the Freedom of Information Act. He no longer had to rely strictly on memory to document so many of the events that he recalls in his book. Because of the fact that the SDS had been infiltrated by government agents and his home phone had been tapped by the Feds, Oglebsy now had access to actual transcripts of many key organization meetings and phone conversations from this period.
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Format: Hardcover
"Ravens in the Storm" is at once an elegiac memoir, a chronicle of the inside workings of the antiwar movement and an apologia. There is a wistfulness about it, a sense of opportunities squandered and chances missed, but also a triumphant air that Carl Oglesby and his cohorts in the Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS movement, had actually, in the final analysis, accomplished something not achieved before or since. They made a difference at a critical time in our nation's history that has eerily familiar parallels to today, as we live through another illegal, ill-advised and unwinnable war.

The similarities to the 1960s Vietnam War era and the current fiasco in Iraq are an undercurrent in "Ravens." Oglesby never mentions our current conflict, leaving it to the reader to draw the unmistakable conclusions: a nation of sleepwalkers trusting in a corrupt government, a president with an unclear mission and a blank check, and a compliant Congress that failed to fulfill its constitutional responsibility to reign in an out-of-control administration.

Oglesby's 1960s featured a government that lied to and spied on its citizens, a corrupt, profit-driven military-industrial complex; a country bent on nation-building in a faraway place of which we had and have little cultural or historical understanding, and little sympathy for the millions of lives destroyed in a horrific and pointless war. Sound familiar?

The difference is for Vietnam they had Carl Oglesby and the SDS, and the best we could manage for Iraq was Cindy Sheehan.

The book traces Oglesby's unlikely and meteoric rise from middle-class homeowner with a wife and two kids living in the suburbs working within the military-industrial complex at Bendix Corp.
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"Ravens in the Storm" is a good memoir of a lousy decade. The author, Carl Oglesby, was president of SDS for a few years in the mid-1960s. He was an unlikely candidate for the job (when he joined SDS he was married with kids and employed in the defense industry), but it gave him a ring-side seat as SDS morphed from a non-violent reform group into a "revolutionary" (sic) movement bent on overthrowing the government -- and also besieged by the FBI. Oglesby increasingly didn't fit in. He was interested in writing and music, not Marxism-Leninism, and he didn't see dialogue with business groups and liberal "bourgeois" politicians as tantamount to selling out. His relatively moderate politics led to his downfall after SDS was captured by a clique of bombmaking wannabe-Viet Cong. The tale of how SDS grew by leaps and bounds in only a few years and then squandered its political potential is poignant and sad.

Unfortunately, the book has two huge problems. First, the narrative is filled with long "reconstructed" conversations that Oglesby supposedly had with friends, relatives, bosses, and SDS insiders (especially Bernadine Dohrn) in the 1960s. These make for easy reading but couldn't possibly be accurate after the elapse of so many years. In one 1970 conversation, for instance, Oglesby and a friend reflect on Richard Nixon's election victory over George McGovern. Alas, McGovern ran for President in 1972. These literary creations have no place in a book of non-fiction.

Second, the book is riddled with bizarre factual errors. For example:

-- Eugene McCarthy was a Senator from Minnesota, not Wisconsin (as the book states).
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