Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

SDS Expels PL

Originally Published: New Left Notes, Vol. 4, No. 29, August 29, 1969
Reprinted:The Radical Education Project, n.d. [1969]
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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New Left Notes Introduction: This is the text of the PL pamphlet that the National Office has produced.

SDS is an organization of revolutionary youth. We are building a fighting force in the heart of the US empire to struggle against the oppression and exploitation of the people of the world.

The Progressive Labor Party (PL) and the Worker Student Alliance Caucus (WSA) that PL built inside of SDS are counter-revolutionaries who oppose the struggles of the world’s people against US imperialism.

As could be expected, SDS expelled PL and WSA from its ranks. It was as simple as that.


Over the past year we in SDS have come to understand that there is a world war going on – a war of the poor and working people of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the black and brown communities within the United States against the exploitation, oppression, and misery of US imperialism. A war that the Vietnamese people are winning, that black and brown people within the US and people all over the world are beginning to wage and beginning to win.

We have also come to understand, as white people who live in the heartland of imperialism, that, although exploited by capitalism, we receive minor privileges in the form of crumbs off the imperialist table. If we are ever to achieve our own liberation, it must come from fighting on the side of the people of the world against the imperialist monster – fighting on the side of the Vietnamese, blacks, and browns, supporting their struggles and actively participating in the international war.

PL, on the other hand, has been trying to get young people in this country to oppose the struggles of the leaders of the Vietnamese people, the National Liberation Front, and to oppose the struggles of organizations within the black liberation struggle – the Black Panther Party, SNCC, and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers.

PL has been trying to get young people to believe some anti-communist bullshit that the NLF and Ho Chi Minh are selling out the people of Vietnam in the Paris negotiations. All the world sees that Vietnam is winning its war against US aggression, and that the Paris negotiations will eventually ratify the victory. But PL tries to undercut support for the Vietnamese by arguing that the negotiations are a sell-out. By destroying support for the Vietnamese struggle in this country, PL is actually helping US imperialism, even though they claim to be “super-revolutionaries”.

The Vietnamese are fighting the most militant struggle in the world today, and thousands are dying for their country. At the same time, PLers in this country say (as PLP Vice-Chairman Bill Epton said): “We struggle, struggle, struggle, and they (the Vietnamese) always sell us out.”

PL’s phony revolutionary talk about the black revolutionary struggle in this country is similar. They argue that since blacks are exploited as workers, they should unite with white workers to better their position (presumably under PL’s leadership). They denounce black revolutionary organizations such as the Black Panther Party, the Detroit-based League of Revolutionary Black Workers, and SNCC by accusing them of “racism in reverse”. The rulers of this country want young people to hate blacks and to distrust them. They fear that if young people supported separate black organizations and fought against oppression in this country, a real revolution would come. By attacking real black revolutionaries in this country, PL is holding back that revolution.

In the schools, PL’s phony revolutionary talk has been that only demands of black workers are legitimate. Demands to help the entire black community, such as demands for black community control of local schools, are called “reactionary”. PL is afraid that access to higher education will make black students more “bourgeois”. PL says that community control of the schools would be used only to help “bourgeois” blacks.

Instead, PL argues, students should fight to get more blacks hired as cooks, maids, janitors, and in other non-academic employment at schools. In addition to being blatantly racist in channeling blacks into menial jobs, this is another example of how PL’s “super-revolutionary” talk only leads to holding back real struggle to help black people.

All over the country in the past year, black students have fought militant struggles for black community control. About the time that a hundred or so black students with rifles were holding a building at Cornell University, some comfortable PLer was writing: “The basic character of the black student movement is reactionary.”


Aside from phony revolutionary talk, PL and WSA people have worked to sabotage ongoing struggles this year. Usually, they have just been pushed aside and forgotten, but sometimes they manage to cause real harm.

–While black students were waging a militant struggle around admissions and self-determination at City College in New York, Third World members of PLP infiltrated the occupied South Campus to organize against the demands.
–While black students were demanding more control of the SEEK program at Queens College, PLP denounced the demands. The SDS office was attacked by black students as a result of PLP’s actions. A month later blacks were chased off the campus by white racists, and only a few white persons fought with the blacks.
–While black students at Columbia University were struggling around black control of black admissions, PLP refused to support the demands, and acted on university expansion, claiming it was the only way to fight racism.
–in Chicago on election day, PLP put out a leaflet denouncing the election day strike leaders as “adventurist”.
–At a Black Panther rally on the Circle Campus of the University of Illinois in Chicago, a PLP member read a program he had already agreed with the Panthers not to read, and was physically ejected from the podium.
–At San Francisco State, after supporting the demands and the struggle led by BSU/TWLF, PLP changed its line in the last weeks of the strike, saving that special admission of black and brown students and the newly won Black Studies Department was “bourgeois” and co-optive, and denounced the leadership of the struggle as “nationalist”. The next rally called by PLP was boycotted by all black and brown students and all community organizations.
–And, while SDS as a whole has been trying to organize an internationalist, anti-imperialist working class youth movement, PL has labeled Ho Chi Minh a “traitor”, has accused the NLF of “making deals” with the imperialists, has denounced Cuba as “revisionist”, and has called the Black Panther Party ”racist in reverse”.


A lot of people came to the June 1969 annual SDS Convention in Chicago determined to throw PL out. On the convention floor, PL people hooted, booed, and generally made it impossible to debate. When a Black Panther representative spoke to the convention and criticized PL, PL tried to boo him down. It became clear finally to everyone that PL had to go.

The various representatives from SDS chapters around the country drew up the following two principles and expelled PL and all others who could not accept them:

1. We support the struggles of the black and Latin colonies within the US for national liberation, and we recognize those nations’ rights to self-determination (including the right to political secession if they desire it.)
2. We support the struggle for national liberation of the people of South Vietnam, led by the National Liberation Front and the South Vietnamese Provisional Revolutionary Government. We also support the Democratic Republic of Vietnam led by President Ho Chi Minh, as well as the People’s Republic of China, the People’s Republics of Korea and Albania, and the Republic of Cuba, all waging fierce struggles against US imperialism. We support the right of all people to pick up the gun to free themselves from the brutal rule of US imperialism.

PL and WSA, meeting separately, whined that the whole thing was not constitutional, decided to pretend that they were really SDS, and elected their own set of national officers. They set up another so-called national office, and even put out a couple of scab issues of what they call New Left Notes. The whole thing will probably fall apart in a few weeks. Revolutionary youth throughout the country recognize SDS and the expulsion of PL.


PL has been important in SDS only in Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area – with a few people in Chicago and New York. Also PL has central positions in the chapters at the elite, privileged universities like Harvard, Columbia, and the University of California at Berkeley. For most of the organization the expulsion of PL has had little effect – in the other geographical areas and in non-elite schools, community colleges, high schools, and in the streets, where our membership is increasingly centered.

Two things are important to understand about the expulsion of the Progressive Labor Party and the Worker Student Alliance:

First is that SDS’s differences with PL were not differences “within the movement” or “within SDS”. They are principled differences on what the movement is about, where and what the international struggle is about, and who the sides of it are. Since the PLP opposes revolutionary nationalism on the part of the colonized peoples; opposes the self-determination of black people within the United States; opposes the National Liberation Front and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam and calls Ho Chi Minh a “traitor”, then they are in no sense a part of the people’s movement, but in fact serve the enemy of the people.

And second, what became clear during our last convention is that we cannot demand of people outside SDS what we are unwilling to enforce within it. The decision of the June, 1969 convention to exclude PLP and WSA was the resolution of that contradiction, and makes explicit the principles upon which SDS must be built.