Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Doug Hogan

In Search Of The ’Real S.D.S.’ Favoring A Campus Worker-Student Alliance

Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 157, Issue 6, 9 February 1970. 
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Last Wednesday night, a meeting of Stanford Students for a Democratic Society was called, because the Worker-Student Alliance Caucus and other members of SDS felt that Stanford SDS had no real direction at that point, and that it was not taking stands on issues that WSA felt could not be overlooked, such as ecology and ROTC. We also felt that an elitist atmosphere had developed at SDS meetings which prevented new people from contributing. Although we believe that new, critical opinions are extremely important for the development of the organization, these opinions were never allowed to be expressed.

A split occurred when a faction composed largely of the “Revolutionary” Union “expelled” the Worker-Student Alliance Caucus. We were “expelled” from Stanford SDS mainly for charges which Bruce Franklin of the “Revolutionary” Union (“R”U) levelled against the Progressive Labor Party (PLP). It is true that many members of WSA hold certain PLP positions, but we do not feel that agreement on these points is necessary for unity within SDS. Even if people hold different positions, we feel they should still be able to work within the framework of a mass student organization, membership of which is not determined by what organizations you support or do not support.

However, we were not even given the chance to debate these positions. Members of “R”U declared that PLP and WSA had been expelled from Stanford SDS last summer (when a large part of SDS was gone). The fact that they did not even mention this until last Wednesday reveals Franklin’s opportunism—he would not debate us on political grounds, but resorted to organizational tricks.

The split at Stanford is a reflection of the split last June at the SDS national convention in Chicago, when the “Revolutionary” Youth Movement (RYM) tried to expel the Progressive Labor Party and WSA. RYM’s attempts failed in June because the majority of SDS members felt that PLP and WSA had greatly helped SDS by consistently fighting for pro-working class politics. When their move failed, RYM walked out, representatives of “R”U and Stanford SDS included. Since that time, RYM has split into Weathermen and RYM 2, and has fallen apart nationally. The impotence of Stanford SDS this year reflects this decay.

National Not a Front

SDSers who are members of WSA feel that there is only one national organization that is continuing the work of the old SDS, and that is National SDS, with its headquarters in Boston. This organization is a non-exclusionary, anti-imperialist, anti-racist, pro-working class student movement. National SDS consists of the people who did not walk out at the convention, including members of PLP, WSA the Sparticist League, and others. It is not, as Bruce Franklin says, a front for PLP, although PLP is respected for the progressive leadership which it has given SDS.

The need for this type of national organization has been demonstrated by the events of this year. The Weathermen have become an enemy of the people. They denounce the American working class as bought off and reactionary, and say that it must be destroyed with the rest of imperialist America. The militant GE strike has clearly shown that this idea is invalid. The Weathermen’s analysis has led to such “revolutionary” actions as “jail-breaks,” in which they disrupt schools, and beat up teachers and students who do not follow their orders.

RYM 2 has fallen into the trap of “counter institutions.” They raise such issues as community control of police and student control over curriculum (basically a student power issue). The problem with these demands is that they are in reality unwinable, and they raise the illusion that people can share state power with the ruling class. It has become evident through the struggles in Vietnam, Thailand, the Dominican Republic, Watts, Berkeley, and even here at Stanford, that the rulers will not give up anything without a fight, let alone hand over control of the police force, which is essential for keeping oppressed people in line.

Proletariat Struggle

While Weathermen and RYM 2 have failed, SDS has grown stronger, and has led struggles this year at Harvard, Radcliffe, Yale, Holy Cross, Merritt College, UCLA, and others. All of these struggles have been pro-working class, taking the form of fighting for the rights of campus workers (fighting racist wage differentials and racist firings) or of supporting the GE strike.

The present Stanford chapter of SDS is loosely affiliated with RYM, and if their practice this year is any indication of their future, they will probably become even more isolated from the rest of the people, and will eventually fall apart. The Worker-Student Alliance Caucus believes that if we want to build an on-going, pro-working class student movement, we must form a Stanford chapter affiliated with National SDS, centered in Boston. Membership will be open to anyone who seriously wants to fight imperialism and racism by building ties with the working class.

Members of WSA feel that the chief strategy for SDS should be the campus worker-student alliance, but we are not opposed to other issues such as ROTC, as long as they are fought on a pro-working class basis. The strategy of the CWSA is based on the idea that a movement for any meaningful social change depends on the leadership of the workers, who produce everything in this society, who create all the wealth in this society, and who should share in the wealth they have produced.

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 based on common goals. These ties can be built best with campus workers, because we have the opportunity to get part time jobs (only jobs which the administration has set aside for students) and work with these people. These ties can form the basis of struggle over specific injustices against campus workers, in which the workers must take the lead.

These struggles have been successful at Yale (a black woman cafeteria worker was rehired after being fired for fighting back against racist supervisor), at Harvard (a racist wage differential between black and white painters was eliminated), and at Radcliffe (a wage differential between male and female cafeteria workers was eliminated), and many other colleges and universities. In the process of these struggles, student elitism and anti-working class attitudes are broken down, and workers begin to trust students. When issues such as these are won, defeatism among students and worker is destroyed.

(A meeting will be held Tuesday, February 10, to form new chapter of Stanford SDS, allied with PL-SDS, to build an anti-imperialist, anti-racist, pro-working class student movement.)

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Douglas R. Hogan is member of the Worker’s Student Alliance Caucus