Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Richard Embry

’New’ SDS Chapter Formed From Split

Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 157, Issue 13, 17 February 1970. 
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The expulsion of a small group of Worker-Student Alliance (WSA) members from an SDS meeting two weeks ago marked the surfacing at Stanford of antagonistic factions within the student radical movement.

Since that time ousted WSA members have formed a “new” SDS chapter. The last meeting of the “old” Stanford SDS was held off campus to insure that WSA members could not attend.

Internal strife within the national organization culminated at last June’s SDS National Convention, when a unified Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM) faction walked out claiming that it had expelled the Progressive Labor Party (PLP or PL) and the WSA caucus from the SDS. Further splitting occurred after the walk-out. The unified RYM faction broke down into two groups, Weatherman and RYM 11. Another group, composed largely of WSA members, established itself as the National SDS and set up headquarters in Boston.

Locally, the Stanford SDS, though officially independent of any national organization, voted this summer to exclude PL-WSA members from their ranks. At the time though there were no WSA members at Stanford.

In a letter published to the Daily earlier this month CDS members Janet Weiss, Mark Weiss, John Keilch, and Bob Hagen explained the reasoning behind the WSA expulsion.


“The reason for the expulsion is that PL-WSA is objectively counter-revolutionary. They viciously slander the Black Panther Party, call Ho Chi Minh a ’puppet’ and a ’traitor,’ and a part of ’the Hanoi-Washington-Moscow axis;’ and refuse to support North Vietnam, the NLF. ...”

“Locally, they are bad-mouthing the April Third Movement, opposing an anti-imperialist line in the anti-ROTC movement, and refusing to participate in the New Moratorium. When Stanford SDS expelled them they refused to leave the meeting and hung around for two hours trying to provoke a fight by their noisy disruption preventing any work from being done at that meeting.”

“Elitist Atmosphere”

“We felt that an elitist atmosphere had developed at SDS meetings which prevented new people from contributing,” Hagan wrote.

Concerning the SDS charge that WSA and PLP had denounced the Ho Chi Minh and Black Panther leadership, a WSA member stated “This was a distortion, but not a lie.”

The PL-WSA stand on the Panthers, Ho Chi Minh, and the National Liberation Front is based on PLP’s position that “all nationalism is reactionary.” This position was a major factor in the polarizing radical camps which resulted in the walk-out at the SDS National Convention.

A Class Outlook

Ivo Banac, a WSA member at Stanford and a candidate member of PL, explained the PL stand on nationalism. “We look on nationalism as a class outlook of the bourgeoisie. All aspects of bourgeoisie ideas are reactionary. Nationalist struggles have been turned around to serve capitalist interests. The revolutionary struggle can only be led by workers.”

PL-WSA spokesmen claim to support members of the Black Panther Party and the people of North Vietnam, but openly criticize Panther and North Vietnamese leaders.

Opposing radical groups, such as RYM II and Weatherman on the national level, and Stanford SDS and the Bay Area Revolutionary Union locally hold that nationalism can be either revolutionary or reactionary. The Panthers, for example, are “revolutionary nationalists,” whereas Ron Karenga’s US, cultural nationalists, are reactionary, they claim.

Better Disciplined

The Progressive Labor Party is a more disciplined group than most other radical factions, with admission an extremely lengthy process. Although many members are students, PL is not a campus oriented organization. Nationally, the Worker-Student Alliance Caucus is probably the largest organized student radical block. (Most radical organizations, like the Stanford SDS are not affiliated with any national group.) Opponents of PL-WSA consider WSA to be PL’s “arm on campus.” WSA members, while admitting that the two groups are closely associated, insist that PL has no direct control over WSA, though many WSA members, are either PL members or supporters.

The basic thrust of the WSA movement is the “campus worker alliance struggle.” Hogan elaborated in his article.

“A student movement has no long term chance of succeeding unless it allies itself with the working class through lasting friendships and close political ties with campus workers, because we have the opportunity *o get part time jobs (which the administration has set aside for students) and work with these people. These ties can form the basis of a struggle over specific injustices against campus workers in which workers must take the lead.”

Members of Stanford SDS argue that every job taken by a student means one less job for a worker and frequently accuse WSAers of employing “scab tactics.”

Broadening Base

Stanford SDS backs the Student-Worker Solidarity Committee, which Bruce Franklin recently termed “the only functional (radical) group at Stanford.” A vote at the SDS meeting two weeks ago extended SDS membership to the committee which consists of students and representatives of the United Stanford Employees.

According to Banac the “new” WSA-SDS chapter is open to “anyone interested in fighting imperialism and racism,” including members of RU and the Stanford SDS.

“We would most certainly like to see the two factions re-united. A number of serious issues face the Stanford student movement. We welcome people in RU and others to put forth their lines. It is very necessary to have a struggle of ideas.”

Despite WSA’s open invitation the “old” SDS apparently is not as receptive.

“This (WSA) is not a revolutionary, anti-imperialist, or even left group, and Stanford SDS utterly repudiates it,” read the SDS letter to the Daily.

The WSA group at Stanford is attempting to form a new SDS affiliated with the National SDS in Boston, an organization which Franklin and others have tagged as “a PL front.”

On the national level the two factions evolving from the unified RYM group which walked out of the SDS National Convention this summer have not been faring exceptionally well.

A Vanguard Role

Weatherman, formerly RYM I, sees the revolution as very close at hand and has placed itself in the “vanguard” role. Weatherman tactics are largely anarchistic. Charles Manson, allegedly behind the Tate case murders, is upheld by Weatherman as a hero of the people for directing attacks against the wealthy element in America.

Weatherman has lost much of the strength it showed this summer and as a national organization is almost defunct. Only fifty members attended the Weatherman National Convention in Cincinnati last December. Newsweek magazine (Feb. 16th) reports that Weatherman “plans to direct major recruitment efforts at urban high school students.”

Of the national groups opposing PL, RYM II is the largest, though still loosely organized. RYM II strategy is their “United Front Against Imperialism” which stresses tying the struggles of white workers to those of American blacks and the Vietnamese. The cause of Women’s Liberation and an end to make chauvinism has been picked up by RYM II, as it has by nearly all other radical factions.

RYM II theory is popular with the “old” Stanford SDS, but there is also a strong influence from the Revolutionary Union (formerly Peninsula Red Guards). Stanford Prof. Bruce Franklin, an RU organizer, describes RU as an alliance of “Marxist-Leninist collectives.”