Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Karen Davidson

Radicals Convene

Views Differ In SDS National

Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 155A, Issue 3, 1 July 1969. 
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

On Saturday morning, June 28, the membership of the Stanford chapter of Students for a Democratic Society met in Tresidder Union to assimilate the experiences brought back by those who attended the SDS national convention in Chicago earlier this month.

To provide background for the disputes which arose at the convention, Stanford SDS member Lenny Siegel offered a brief outline of the history of SDS. The organization grew out of the Norman Thomas-socialist League for Industrial Democracy. It rapidly became qualitatively different from the social democrats in its politics. The Port Huron Statement, a major critique of corporate liberalism and a defining document of the early SDS, outlines a “third camp” socialist position opposing existing capitalist and communist societies.

Following the historical briefing, a description of the major factions represented at the convention was given. Bill Klingel, an SDS member who attended the convention, identified the three main factions at the convention as the Progressive Labor Party, the Revolutionary Youth Movement, and a number of independent groupings.

The political line of the Progressive Labor Party (PL) states that all nationalism is reactionary, including that of Third World countries, and that the main contradiction in the world today concerns the struggle of the working class and the ruling class.

Following the PL ideology, the question of black liberation can be understood only in terms of class struggle. PL holds that blacks are “workers with a suntan,” and their slogan is “Black and White–unite and fight.”

PL identifies womens’ liberation in the same terms; “Women are workers with breasts” and are exploited at the work place.

The Progressive Labor party will not support any struggle which viewed in the light of their Marxist-Leninist theory does not lead directly to seizing state power.

The second major faction at the convention was the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM). This group had two components: the “weatherman” group, which won the three national offices at this convention, and the National Office collective (the former national officers).

The “weatherman” group, which took its name from Bob Dylan’s lyric: “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” places an emphasis on youth “wild in the streets”; while the national office was closer to the Marxist-Leninist doctrine of the industrial proletariat as the most important element in making the revolution.

Both components are in basic agreement, favoring a disciplined central organization, the idea of a vanguard party, total support for black and Third World liberation struggles, and a united front against imperialism.

Of the approximately twenty delegates attending the convention from Stanford, most adhere to either the New Left Independent position or the position taken by the Bay Area Revolutionary Union. Both groupings opposed PL’s “obstructionist” tactics at the convention.

The “New Leftists” concern themselves with the organization of American society whose traditional exploitation of the masses through imperialistic, profit-maximizing activity in the Third World and at home has made any and all humanistic tendencies virtually impossible.

A “power to the people” type of social organization is advocated by the New Leftists, who feel that the bureaucratic hierarchy of the existing political structure is an evil which should be replaced by allocation of power to the members of the community.

New Leftist Fred Cohen asserts: “We do not want to build an organization, but a movement. Organization must always be subordinate in importance to the Movement.”

The Revolutionary Union differs from the New Leftists in both theory and organization. The RU adheres to a Marxist-Leninist doctrine of the struggle of the workers who, according to their theory, tend to be the most revolutionary because they are the most exploited.

Although both PL and the RU maintain Marxist-Leninist ideologies and both admire Mao Tse-tung, the RU supports the black liberation struggle as a link between the anti-imperialist struggle and the class struggle.

The RU looks toward the eventual formation of a national Marxist-Leninist party, when the conditions are appropriate.

Bill Klingel pointed out at the meeting in Tresidder that thought the New Left faction was the smallest at the convention it represents the largest group in the membership of SDS.