Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Letter from S.D.S. Leadership

Originally Published: The Black Panther, July 5, 1969.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Monday, June 23, 1969

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

By now the news of the Chicago convention has probably reached most of you. This letter is to let you know that despite any news you may hear to the contrary, SDS still lives and the national office is functioning as usual. New national officers have been elected a program of mass action through the summer and fall has been planned. The national officers are: National Secretary, Mark Rudd, New York; Inter-organizational Secretary, Jeff Jones, San Francisco; Educational Secretary, Bill Ayers, Detroit. NIC members are: Mike Klonsky; Bernardine Dohrn; Bob Avakian, San Francisco; Noel Ignatin, Chicago; Howie Machtinger, Chicago; Barbara Riley, New York; Linda Evans, Detroit; Corky Benedict, Cleveland.

There is one important thing that has changed. The Progressive Labor Party faction (PLP) has been kicked out of SDS. To understand why, you must go back a few months to the National Council meetings at Ann Arbor and Austin where the transformation of SDS into a truly revolutionary youth organization took place. At these NC’s the membership began to lay out principles of struggle and unity for the first time. We made it very clear to everyone that SDS both in theory and practice has allied itself with the struggles of oppressed peoples throughout the world. On campuses throughout the country, an anti-imperialist movement has been built in support of the struggles for self-determination being carried on by the Vietnamese led by the National Liberation Front as well as the struggles of the colonially oppressed black people of America. Our program saw the need to win the masses of Americans to the anti-imperialist movement if a revolution was to be built within the mother country of America.

While SDS tried to go to the people and win support for the Vietnamese, the Black Panther Party, the movement of workers in the factories and shops throughout this country as well as the struggle of GI’s and young people around the world, PL’s practice ran completely counter to these principles. As the power structure waged a vicious attack on the Panthers, so did PL, printing lies and slander, going so far as to call the Black Panther Party “racists in reverse,” the same line that the power structure along with such labor sell-outs as Walter Reuther have.

While SDS was trying to win the masses of working people to support of the Vietnamese fight for self- determination and attempting to rebuild a militant movement against the war, PL was leading an attack on the NLF, accusing it of “selling-out” the struggle. Ho Chi Minh, the hero of the Vietnamese struggle for forty years was called “traitor” in the pages of PL magazine.

At a time when SDS was telling people of the birth of socialism in Cuba and the liberation of the Cuban people against overwhelming odds and attempting to cut through all the anti-communist lies about Cuba and other socialist countries, PL saw that the main enemy was “Cuban revisionism” and fought those struggles, viciously attacking Fidel and Che.

The question SDS was faced with at the Chicago convention was, how can you talk to people about fighting white supremacy when a part of your organization is objectively racist? How can you support the black liberation struggle when a section of your organization is objectively trying to destroy the leadership of that movement? How can you win the masses of people in this country to support the right of self-determination of oppressed nations when a part of your organization doesn’t uphold that right? As Panther Deputy Minister of Defense Bobby Rush said on the convention floor, “We will judge SDS by the company it keeps.”

In the past, SDS has upheld the principles of waging attack on white supremacy by kicking out the racist “SDS Labor Committee” for their support of the racist teachers’ strike in New York. This was not a matter of political suppression or the “right of free speech” as PL would like to make us believe. What it does mean is that SDS is upping the ante. As the risks run higher, all of us are being forced to make a choice. We cannot defeat white supremacy, anti-communism, anti-working class chauvinism or make supremacy with liberalism, allowing these tendencies to exist alongside of revolutionary struggle like a parasite on the people, draining our life blood and energy, holding back every struggle that is fought on the campuses or in the community. PL’s attacks on the people struggle for community control of the institutions in the black and brown communities for open admissions to the universities makes SDS’s previously adopted principles a lie and a farce.

By its unprincipled actions, PL has excluded itself from the struggle and has chosen to ally itself with the class which runs this country.

This split will create many problems. Anti-communists may interpret this split wrongly. We must be clear that we will never tolerate anti-communism in our movement. It will not be easy to stay on our feet. We must have support. We are asking chapters to respond in a revolutionary way. We have faith in our movement to withstand attack from the outside as well as from the inside.

Our next task is to build major actions in the fall against the War in Vietnam and in support of the black liberation struggle. We are calling for people to come to Chicago in September, at the time of the conspiracy trial of the Chicago 8 and force the power structure to bring the war home. We are going to spend the summer and fall months going to the people where they work and live and win them to this program. We welcome anyone who will join us. But we will not be turned around.


Mark Rudd, National Secretary
Jeff Jones, Inter-Organizational Secretary
Bill Ayers, Educational Secretary
Michael Klonsky, NIC member
Bernardine Dohrn, NIC member