Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

National Convention Launches RSB

First Published: Fight Back!, Volume 2, Number 1, September 15 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Enthusiasm, important political struggle, and militant unity marked the first national convention of the Brigade. Held last June 15th through 17th, the convention marked the consolidation and launching of the Revolutionary Student Brigade as a national student organization. The convention was originally planned last January by the Attica Brigade (our former name) at a mass meeting of the Brigade membership in Kent State, Ohio. At that time, the Brigade was mainly rooted in the East Coast and the Midwest. Three days of floor discussions, workshops, and speeches were a culmination of months of buildup and preparation, which saw members of the Brigade travel through the South and out to the West Coast, talking to different student groups and individuals about the student movement, the convention, and the Brigade.

The convention was attended by about 450 students from 80 different colleges and universities in nearly 30 states. Throughout the convention, both in the workshops and in the floor discussions, people drew from their experiences in speaking to recent developments of struggle, the present situation on the campuses, and the potential for building a powerful student movement.

The Convention body also heard speeches from representatives of organizations involved in the revolutionary struggle: the Revolutionary Union, Vietnam Veterans Against the War/Winter Soldier Organization, Zimbabwe African National Union, and Attica defendant Herbert X Blyden. Solidarity statements of support were given by Federacion Universitaria Socialista Puertoriquena, Mouvement Revolutionnaire des Etudiants du Quebec, and the Iranian Students Association. Also attending and participating were Harambe, a Black anti-imperialist group from New Jersey, Wei Mein She, an Asian-American anti-imperialist group from the Bay Area, Los Tres, a Chicano group from Southern California, and MECHA, a Chicano group from Seattle.

The Convention also politically endorsed support for two upcoming rallies: the July 4th demonstration in Washington as called by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War/Winter Soldier Organization, and the October 27th Rally in Madison Square Garden calling for complete independence to the colony of Puerto Rico. Great spirit and enthusiasm was added to the convention by numerous cultural performances – notably Prairie Fire, a revolutionary singing group from the Bay Area, and Hammer and Steel, a revolutionary workers rock group, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Numerous Brigade chapters also made different cultural presentations, both singing and political theater.

The discussions on the floor of the Convention also brought out some important political struggles–and lessons. The main issues of struggle unfolded around the question of building multi-national unity, the new national campaign, and the changing of our name to the Revolutionary Student Brigade.

Building Multi-national Unity

The struggle around how the Brigade should be built as a multi-national organization first broke out around the functioning of a Third World caucus. The caucus had been proposed by some Third World students who felt that it was important that Third World students from across the country meet separately to discuss the fight against discrimination and national oppression and to speak to the question of developing the Brigade into a stronger multinational organization. The Revolutionary Union, a national communist organization, stated that while not opposing Third World caucuses in principle, it did not feel that it was necessary to have one at this Convention. The R.U. noted that principled unity among all the nationalities must be built to defeat monopoly capitalism and can only be forged if all the people in the Brigade take up the fight against national oppression– not just the Third World students. The Brigade, the R.U. felt, had laid the basis for all people at the Convention to discuss the question of fighting national oppression in a principled way because of its consistent fight against national oppression and its consistent stand on the need for a multi-national student organization. The caucus, they claimed, leaves the struggle against national oppression to Third World students only– and isolates them from broader political questions, leaving them to the white students. The caucus itself struggled over these positions, and while there was no consolidated unity in the Brigade whether there was a need for the caucus, the issue provided important political struggle and everyone did come to agreement that the struggle against national oppression must be taken up by the entire Brigade.

The last day of the Convention saw struggle unfold around what issue to recommend to the Brigade’s steering committee for a possible Fall national campaign. National campaigns are waged by the Brigade when it sees a key issue to nationally develop struggle and mobilize people in order to further weaken and expose the monopoly capitalist system. The Spring of 73’s national campaign was to throw Nixon out under the slogan “Throw the Bum Out–Organize to Fight”. As Nixon has just recently been banished to the surf of San Clemente, the Brigade has not yet developed a new national campaign.

At the convention there were some who proposed that if Nixon was still in office in the Fall the Brigade should continue to develop the campaign around the slogan “Throw the Bum Out–Organize to Fight”. They argued that if Nixon was still President, the whole struggle around him would be coming to the fore in the Fall with the impeachment process. And that the ruling class would be trying to cover up its growing weaknesses and corrupt state by trying to make Nixon the scapegoat of the country’s problems and trying to “put over” that there is justice and democracy here in the land of the dollar. This was opposed by those who stated that fighting repression was the key issue to develop work around nationally. Giving examples of the murdered B1ack youth Tyrone Guyton, the racist Zebra manhunts, and the six Chicano activists murdered in Denver, they spoke of the need to unite the people against these growing attacks from the ruling class.

But the struggle around the campaign was more than simply “Bum” vs. “Repression”, for the whole question of building multi-national unity quickly unfolded around the campaign issue and became the key area of debate.

For many of those who struggled for the “Fight Repression” campaign said that Third World students would only be drawn into the fight against imperialism through issues dealing directly with national oppression. That the “Throw the Bum Out” campaign was a white issue and the Brigade would become a white organization if it took the “Bum” up as a national campaign. This position launched a long and heated struggle, as it was opposed by those who stated that this essentially drew a wall between the Third World people fighting national oppression and the overall movement against the entire imperialist system. They stated that it was not a separate fight of Third World people against national oppression and white people against the-whole imperialist system, and while it was important to build the struggle against national oppression among Third World and white students, Third World people would also certainly join the fight against imperialism around issues other than national oppression. They were confident that students of all nationalities were capable of seeing that national oppression stemmed from the rotten imperialist system run by one ruling class, and all students could be united in struggle around a campaign that would attack that ruling class.

After long and intense struggle, there was near full unity–as marked by the near unanimous vote–that the crucial issue to recommend as a national campaign was “Throw the Bum Out-Organize to Fight”. This was an issue that we could and must unite people of all nationalities around. At the same time the Brigade agreed that we must systematically take up the fight against repression and national oppression as a key part of the struggle against imperialism, whether this be around Tyrone Guyton, Ruchell Magee, or fighting against Shockley or ethnic studies cutbacks.

The New Name

The other major struggle centered around the question of the name. While many had been proud to bear the name of the courageous Attica rebellion, we all agreed the name “Attica Brigade” was too vague and often misleading for a national student organization consciously fighting the rule of monopoly capital. The name “Revolutionary Student Brigade” was proposed and two days of heated struggle developed. Some stated that “revolutionary” marked a higher level of unity for the Brigade than the past “anti-imperialist level”. That this would isolate us from many students who would be turned off by the word “revolutionary”. Others countered by stating that this was a false and dangerous division between the political unity of anti-imperialism and revolutionary; that the essence of the Brigade is that we promote and build revolutionary struggles, rely on the people, weaken and expose the system, and teach the people how to fight it. They went on to say that, as anti-imperialists and revolutionaries, we must show the people in the course of struggle, that until this imperialist system is crushed, there will continue to be crises, attacks, and battles with the ruling class; that if we did not fight around issues in this way we would be spreading illusions about the system and disarming the people from the future attacks of the lying thieves who run this country. After two days of struggle the Brigade came to near full unity around the second position and had a 95% “pro” vote for changing the name to Revolutionary Student Brigade,

The first National Convention of the RSB also saw the Brigade expand into new areas as numerous active political groups and individuals, in the South and in the West, linked up to help form the RSB. And the struggles that occurred at the convention have also sparked good political discussions and struggles in the various Brigade chapters. It is the task of the RSB to take those lessons learned from the Convention out to the students and help promote and build revolutionary struggles, and thus helping to make significant contributions to building a powerful student movement that will be able to play an important part in the overall offensive and struggle against the robbing rulers who run this country.