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In early fall of 1975, Symbionese Liberation Army member Wendy Yoshimura wrote a letter to her former lover, Willie Brandt, who was behind bars at Soledad. She was troubled by the group dynamics of the S.L.A., including differences in philosophy that had surfaced. The letter was never sent; the FBI recovered it when they captured Wendy and Patty Hearst in mid-September in their hideout at 625 Morse, in San Francisco's Outer Mission District.

The letter reveals deep rifts that appeared among S.L.A. members as they tried to plan a revolutionary course of action.

Dearest Brother,

It is very difficult for me to begin this letter as it will be very contradictory to the letter I've written you last.

Well, I'd have to inform you that the group has literally ceased to be a group. How could this have happened so suddenly?!? You may even be thinking the letter I've written you previously was a full of bogus -- but not so. Every word I've written in the last letter, I sincerely meant it.

Ever since the group came together around those people a little over a year ago, we've had a very trying time. The security was a big factor but there was the sensationalized media play on those people affecting our heads, in effect making us unable to think clearly of them as people with strengths and weaknesses but as "the leaders" who knew everything. My experience during the summer made me realize that they (two [Bill and Emily Harris] in particular -- not P.H. [Patty Hearst]) in fact are very different from me and personally I did not much like them. In spite of it I decided to stick with it because of their fierce dedication, my knowing there were others waiting to work together, and I was under their spell.

Unfortunately the other people were also spellbound into submissiveness and there began a mass of confusion touched up with [expletive] up interpersonal dynamics between some of the people. To show you how confusing it was, it began with -- some ready to go underground (expecting it to get hot next week) to some pushing for jobs, staying cool and normal; some pushing for totally isolated communal living to some demanding normal separate living arrangements; some demanding [expletive] up interpersonal relationships to be dealt with, to some seeing it as totally unnecessary; some wanting to off pigs to some totally disagreeing. Let me tell you, I can go on forever. It was a psychodrama!

Finally, at one point, we seemed to have found a middle ground and it looked as though we were beginning to coordinate and work together. We finally were able even to do a couple of actions. This was when I wrote you the last letter. Since then it began to get obvious that the security that seemed to be existing was due to total repression, politically as well as personally, on everybody's part to maintain the group together. As you can well imagine, such calm can be maintain for only so long. It began to rattle and once it started the process was very fast. M [Mike Bortin] was put on some bogus "probation" (to which I was the only one who protested in vain). Then M [Mike] quit. After that there were series of incidents that took place which only made it very clear to particularly J [Jim Kilgore], K [Kathy Soliah], P.H. and me that wanted no part of it. We, those of us who decided to go our own way, discussed the matter and it became obvious to us what the problems were. On the surface it seems as though we all agree and believe in the same thing, but after working with them, we've come to the realization that we do in fact disagree politically very drastically. Let me give you some of the examples:

-- They've no understanding of what it really means by "third world leadership." Their blind insistence of third world leadership (Black) is clearly coming from white guilt.

-- They continually separate the political from the personal.

-- They have very shallow understanding of the Women's question. So shallow that they are like Siamese twins.

-- Their understanding of importance of international perspective is very shakey to say the least.

-- Their attitude around arm struggle is that it only is valid and anything else (aboveground, etc.) is irrelevant.

And to add to this [there] is the personal aspect of these people. They are two individuals with weak egos lacking very much in sense of themselves. They have so, so little sense of themselves that they literally have to use the old Kantian [expletive] -- "I think, therefore I am" -- to even function. They are doctrinaire Marighelaists. These people are totally unable to check out the objective situation and deal with it. They simply do not know how to take a theory and apply it to the reality that exists.

It's difficult for me to clearly analyze what exactly is the problem with these people but I think, other than their lacking in strong egos they are victimized by the guilt they feel -- guilt -- [for the] death of their comrades possibly quickened by his [expletive] at the sporting goods store (it's true -- [expletive] up) -- guilt they feel for being born white. (And are they so racist that they must put Blacks on a pedestal to even consider them worthy?)

I truly feel that what motivated them to take on an arm action is very different from what motivates me and the others. It's very different.

Unfortunately our vision was clouded for the reason I mentioned before and it took us this long to get it together. Everyone rebel one way or another at different times. I was once thrown out; so was P [Pat Jean McCarthy] and so was M. P.H. was hated by our "leader" for being so "rebellious." J at the end kept having violent verbal fights with him -- often almost becoming physical. All of this going on plus trying to survive at the same time -- Isn't it any wonder we could do no action to speak of for so [expletive] long!?!

Well, you may think the rest of us should come together and deal with them. Of course, that crossed our minds by we see it clearly that they are not dealable. If we tried we will only be doing that and nothing else! I swear!

I wish that I am able to tell you what we are up to now. All of us still want to continue with our work but we don't know exactly where and with whom. Some are definitely leaving the area, others are thinking about it and some like M and P are definitely staying here. I don't know what I am going to do, yet, but within a week or so I should come up with a decision. Either I go to Boston with a woman friend from back east or stay here and work with P, M, and possibly others. It's totally confusing at this point for me. Don't even think that we all are going in all different areas tripping off with total permission. We definitely plan to keep in contact and have the perspective of working in different areas and coordinating our actions.

I wish that I could talk to you and tell you in every detail about everything. Some day I will. I tell you this is an experience I'll never forget! It was horrendous but at the same time I've learned a hell of a lot. Now I understand more clearly my political views, and oh, the sense of myself I've gotten out of this ordeal -- I wouldn't exchange it for anything! I think most of us came out of this ahead. I hope you'll have the chance to meet P.H. She is incredible! She amazes me! I swear only the toughest could have come out of it as she did. What an ordeal she went through!! What an ordeal all of us went through!! I can write a book about it.

As for how I feel about you have not changed since the last letter -- in fact my love for you have increased since then. I have the greatest sense about you, politically as well as personally. Oh, Brother, I have the highest respect for you and feel the deepest love for you. I also have the greatest sense of myself that I know when we see each other you will feel the same about me. I'm sure of it!

I should be able to let you know soon what will happen with everyone involved.

So Much Love, Respect, and Power,
me

Reprinted in McLellan, Vin, and Paul Avery. The Voices of Guns. The Definitive and Dramatic Story of the Twenty-Two Month Story of the Symbionese Liberation Army. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1977, pp. 481-483.



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