Purge the Ranks! Clarify the Program!

Printed: June 18, 1969
First Distributed: At the 1969 SDS Convention in Chicago
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.


SDS must take sides. The main contradiction in the world is between imperialism, especially US imperialism, and the oppressed peoples. US imperialism uses college graduates from the US oppressor nation (white) as cops in its machinery for extracting super-profits from colonial peoples. The drive for super-profits is meeting increasing resistance from the oppressed peoples. This is the reason the government of US imperialism is starting to draft substantial numbers of college graduates into the armed forces.

Large numbers of students are forced into partial contradiction with the 60 billionaire families and their government. College students are members of the middle class, a class that never has and never will hold power in any nation. It vacillates between support to imperialism and support to the oppressed peoples. Some are beginning to see that hope for the world’s future lies in victory for the oppressed peoples.

To realize this hope we need an anti-imperialist movement among the people of the oppressor nation. An anti-imperialist student organization in the US must concentrate on support to the cause of oppressed peoples. In our country this means, first and foremost, support to the right of self-determination for the Black Belt Republic of New Africa.

The Afro-American people in the Black Belt area of the South constitute an oppressed nation within the borders of the US. For over 300 years they have lived in this territory developing a common language, culture and psychological makeup. Big profits in Southern agriculture and industry plus the strategic location of the Black Belt make the oppressed Afro-American nation truly the Achilles heel of US imperialism.

A serious anti-imperialist movement among the US oppressor people must strike at the Achilles heel. It must uphold the right to self-determination of the Republic of New Africa – the right to land, armed forces, and state power in the Black Belt. Support for self-determination in the Black Belt is the best backing for the just demands by Afro-American exiles in the North and West for national minority rights, which include the demands for Black studies. White support to the Black Belt Republic of New Africa will strengthen support to oppressed peoples outside US borders.

Consistent supporters of land and state power for Afro-Americans can effectively support the right of the Vietnamese people to self-determination; oppose US oil companies and Zionism and call for the destruction of their creation the “State of Israel” and support the right of Palestinian Arabs to self-determination; oppose US occupation and uphold the right of self-determination for Puerto Rico.

The development of an anti-imperialist student organization with a consistent line of support to national liberation would be a severe blow to the 60 ruling families. In the past the ruling class relied mainly on the ideology of pacifism to divert student movements from real attacks on the status quo of national oppression. Today large numbers of students recognize the bankruptcy of pacifism. To fill the gap, US imperialism has brought in its “left” servants who falsely call themselves Marxist-Leninists.

The CPUSA bases its approach to anti-imperialist struggle among the oppressor people on the “thoughts” of Khrushchev. They claim that “peaceful coexistence” is the main goal for anti-imperialist forces. This results in sacrifice of national liberation struggles to the interests of the “great powers.” Such open support to the status quo greatly limits their ability to serve imperialism within student organizations like SDS.

The “anti-revisionist” Progressive Labor Party attempts to liquidate SDS by diverting student support from national liberation struggles. PL is more dangerous than the CPUSA because its opportunism is bolstered by support from China, a formerly semi-colonial country. The Cultural Revolution denies the focal contradiction. In the name of the “proletariat” they advance the bourgeois line of Mao which denies support to national liberation struggles. Like Khrushchev’s, Mao’s thoughts have proven disastrous in Indonesia and Burma. The Cultural Revolution leaders deny the importance of Vietnam; they deny that the Black Belt is a nation.

PL forces in SDS practiced Mao’s line in the takeover of University Hall at Harvard. It was Harvard authorities vis-a-vis the Cambridge, Mass., proletariat, said PL. Despite a majority vote in SDS against such a provocative action, the PL faction went ahead to take the heat off Harvard on the national question. PL has been temporarily successful in sabotaging struggle at Harvard in support of Afro-American, Vietnamese, Arab, and Puerto Rican rights to self-determination.

The diversionary nature of PL’s action is admitted by PL member M. Y. Liberman, in an interview with the NY Times: “I’d have to say that the occupation of University Hall was a mixed bag of middle-class kicks and revolutionary motives, but it was still a big improvement on anything Harvard students have done before. And, after all, all of us have mixed motives.” (June 11, city edition, p. 32.)

Suppose Liberman and his “revolutionary motives” maintained control of University Hall to this day. It would not change the relationship of forces in this country, whereas a future struggle for a Black university campus in the South tied in with struggle for self-determination in the Black Belt would be a real blow against US imperialism.

PL’s adventurist attempts to liquidate SDS go hand in hand with its “ultra-left” sectarian effort to turn SDS into its version of a Marxist-Leninist party – i.e., a revisionist “party”. An effective anti-imperialist student organization – involving Marxist and non-Marxist forces – requires discussion to establish unity on the national question. Such discussion would expose PL’s betrayal of Marxism-Leninism, PL’s agreement with Nixon and the CPUSA in denying the existence of an Afro-American nation in the Black Belt. PL attacks unity behind the oppressed peoples thru “left” phrase-mongering and name-calling, thru such tricks as packing SDS chapters with PL members, ignoring a majority vote.

Hammer & Steel opposes the modern revisionist view which denies national liberation as the focal contradiction. H&S opposes and exposes PL’s efforts to liquidate anti-imperialist movements with its opportunist line and “left” phrases.

SDS will rise or fall depending on its stand on the key question of our time – the national question. There can be no middle ground between PL and the anti-imperialist forces. PL’s tactics in SDS are not new. Wherever it has gone – Harlan County, Harlem, or Harvard – PL has tried to liquidate the anti-imperialist forces.

H&S urges the convention to expel all PL members from SDS as provocateurs and counter-revolutionaries. The defeat of PL is necessary to the survival of SDS as an anti-imperialist organization. Defeat and expulsion of PL would be real support to the right of self-determination in the Black Belt and for all oppressed peoples. It would be a major blow against US imperialism and its servants.

Hammer & Steel