First Published: Progressive Labor Vol. 7, No. 1, May 1969
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The “Third World” student movement is in the control of right-wing, anticommunist (i.e., antirevolutionary) anti-working-class forces. The situation at San Francisco State seemed to be the pattern at colleges throughout the country. At San Francisco State the Black Student Union and to a slightly lesser extent the Third World Liberation Front of which it is a part, is controlled by a small (about 15) group of petty-bourgeois nationalists. These leadership cliques, usually drawing at least one salary from the school administration, Carnegie, or both, have no perspective of building a movement, period – let alone a revolutionary pro-working class student movement. They are “Black Power” type reformists whose ideology is nationalism (all-class unity, class collaboration, etc.) although they spout “Marxism” and “Leninist” organizational forms.
They usually put forward mainly bourgeois demands (more Government money, Black administrators, etc.). One of their key demands is a Black studies department, to be controlled by the BSU. This demand is national in form and ruling class in content. The other impetus for the leadership cliques making this demand is that they see a chance to get themselves some well-paying jobs as Black faculty.
We cannot build a movement that threatens ruling-class power if we are financed by ruling-class grants. The only kind it will allow to be built with its money is one which serves its class interest (a petty-bourgeois reformist movement). And even then, if this petty-bourgeois movement gets too militant and begins to wage sharp struggles on the campus, the money will be taken away until things cool off. (At SF State, in a desperation move last week, Carnegie postponed indefinitely its grant to the TWLF, all AS funds were frozen, and all EOP student teachers who have been arrested were fired. This happened because the nationalist ideas among the rank and file began to weaken a little and class ideas came forward.) The lesson is clear, from SF State to Vietnam: We can’t take their “aid” and fight them at the same time.
At SF a weakness has been a preoccupation with this or that “militant” on the Central Committee. Particularly during a sharp and protracted mass struggle it is easy to become caught up in giving tactical advice to these fakers and developing illusions that this one is better than that one. This is a fatal mistake. Our strategy must be to build a rank-and-file caucus around worker-student alliance politics. If the estimate is that someone connected with the leadership can be won, then we should struggle with him–but this must be political (as opposed to tactical) struggle in which we win him away from the leadership and to the caucus. And the main emphasis has to be on the rank and file.
The caucus should try to involve people in parts of a worker-student alliance program. This would include high school organizing, a summer work-in, support of minority workers’ struggles, leafletting factories, etc.–or launching a fight to get Urban Studies (“urban removal”) classes stopped (such as the one taught by construction millionaire Eichler at SF State).
(1) Class Analysis and Class Outlook: This would include a general understanding of the class nature of U.S. (capitalist) society and the class basis of racism, that minority people are the most oppressed section of the working class. Also, it should include a basic understanding of the class nature of the state and oppose bourgeois demands (Black administrators, etc.), which are not in the interest of the Black working class. Understand why there can’t be a Black studies department which is autonomous from ruling-class content. A working-class outlook also includes opposing male chauvinism and struggling against it.
(2) Worker-Student Alliance: The caucus will fight for a worker-student alliance strategy and outlook for the movement, the need for minority students to ally with minority working people–the only way to win immediate reform struggles and ultimately revolution. Either minority students will ally with minority workers or with the ruling class (administration, Ford, ECC, etc.) The caucus should include in its program support of minority workers’ struggles (rank and file as opposed to fake leaders).
(3) Alliance with the Progressive (Pro-Working Class) Forces in the White Student Movement: One of the barriers to unity is nationalism. We must win people to the need for unity on a class basis. We must point to the fact that all over the country, under the leadership of worker-student alliance forces in SDS, thousands of white students have been organized to fight alongside minority students against racism. This unity is necessary to win and is a positive development that we must support and fight for when possible. Also point out that (at San Francisco State in particular) the supposedly anti-white leadership is quick to ally with reactionary white forces (YSA, Marcuseites, Programs) against worker-student alliance forces in both the white and minority students movement.
(4) Oppose Redbaiting: As the worker-student caucuses gain strength in the movement, the main ideological weapon the ruling class and the rightist forces will use against us is anticommunism. When attacked, the Right will try to submerge political differences, in fact stop any internal political struggle (“We have to stick together as brothers, etc.”) and instead redbait the PL’ers in the caucus. They’ll rant and rave about “external cadre,” “manipulation,” “bringing outside politics into our organization,” “foreign ideology,” “dogmatic Marxists,” etc. Many of the more sophisticated hold up the Red Book while they redbait. “Wave the red flag to oppose the red flag.” This anticommunism must be met head on by the worker-student caucus. Caucus members should point out how they’re redbaiting in order to avoid discussing openly their politics, that they’re trying to scare people away from working-class politics. Anticommunism, if successful, will destroy an organization as an effective fighter against the ruling class. It is an attempt to isolate the people from communist ideas–which are needed to win.
PL’ers should also put forward a clear independent position that we are revolutionary communists and talk about what that means and why the rightist forces fear it (revolution, Dictatorship of the Proletariat, etc.) PL’ers should point out how nationalism and anticommunism are inseparable. Communism, the internationalist ideology, is the opposite of nationalism.
(5) Oppose Taking Money, or “Aid” From the Administration, Ford, Carnegie, etc.: One of the main tactics of the ruling class to turn the minority student movement into a liberal, reformist (i.e., reactionary) force against minority workers is to buy off the leadership. Over $20 million has been poured into minority student organizations across the country. This takes two main forms: foundation grants and money from the administration doled out through the Associated Students. This money serves only one purpose: to stop the development of a revolutionary movement which allies itself with minority workers. The grants are given out in consultation with the CIA. The money came from the exploitation of minority workers and will go into the pockets of the petty-bourgeois “leaders.”
Most of the rightists in the movement have a vested class interest (through the money they get now and the jobs they’ll get later) in maintaining their power. Just like any other group of capitalists, when these petty-bourgeois nationalist feel their interests are threatened, they will begin to use violence and the threat of violence against those who challenge their leadership. At SF State we have been threatened a lot, and there has been one fistfight. At UCLA the fighting reached a much more serious level. Two Black students were killed by the reactionary forces in Los Angeles.
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Hari Dillon and Bridges Randle are San Francisco State PLP-Third World Liberation Front and Black Student Union members respectively.