Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Kevin Smith

Venceremos Stresses ’Centralism’ 

Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 160, Issue 33, 10 November 1971. 
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Venceremos was formed in the summer of 1970 as a Marxist-Leninist revolutionary group. Before that, most of the Venceremos membership had been in the Brown Berets, a militant Chicano organization, fairly inactive now, which operated somewhat along the lines of the Black Panthers.

Aaron Manganiello, now Chairman of the Venceremos Central Committee, was one of the founders of the Brown Berets. Manganiello explained the split by saying, “We began taking a more Marxist, multi-nationalist position. The Brown Berets were becoming anti-Marxist and anti-Third World. They threw us out.”

Almost all of the Northern California Brown Beret membership joined Manganiello in the split. Manganiello said that the Brown Berets were not “Third World” because “they said they didn’t want anything to do with ’niggers’ or even Latins, only with Mexican-born Americans.”

Third World

The term “Third World” began chiefly in the writings of Franz Fanon, a black author, who used the term for the underdeveloped countries of the world—those in Asia, Africa, and America—in a book about Third World revolution entitled The Wretched of the Earth. Manganiello said that “Third World” as applied inside the United States means “people of color.” Manganiello said that he could not give the size of Venceremos’ membership for “security reasons,” but did say that Venceremos has grown to one and one-half times its original size. As of now, Venceremos is a Bay Area organization with branches from San Francisco to San Jose.

A segment of Venceremos used to be a part of a national organization called the Revolutionary Union (RU). This faction thought that the RU was becoming “racist” and “revisionist.” According to senior Don Lee, “They didn’t want to struggle. They weren’t willing to fight for what they believed in.” There was a split with the RU last Christmas. At that time, Venceremos was an all-Chicano organization centered in the Redwood City area which asked the former RU members to join.

Local Section

Bruce Franklin, was one of the founders of the RU when, in the fall of 1967, Franklin, his wife Jane, and a few others saw the need for a Communist revolutionary organization. Franklin said, “Our idea was to start a local group which would be a local section of what a party would be if there were a party.”

They encountered people from the Richmond area who had similar ideas. The RU started in California and became national in 1970 “when a lot of internal contradictions became much more extreme,” according to Franklin.

“The split occurred because,” said Franklin, “there was a contradiction on the question of Third World leadership. All had the original agreement that the national liberation struggle would unfold into a proletarian revolution. We felt that they were lowering the importance of nationalism and directing themselves toward white workers.

Principal Contradiction

“Third World people are principal members of the main contradiction. We don’t believe that the principal contradiction is between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat under the capitalist system. We believe that the contradiction is between imperialism and the oppressed peoples and nations. The white working class is not in the same position ... there’s no real pressure on the white working class to go above the economic relationship.”

The people of Franklin’s viewpoint became more and more upset that the emphasis within the RU was being placed on white working class leadership rather than Third World leadership. The split came because “it was more and more like two organizations pasted together,” said Franklin.

The nationalizing of the organization hastened the split. According to Franklin, “Decisions affecting a small number of people began affecting the whole revolutionary movement.”

The RU had been working with Venceremos people for a long time. The RU faction favoring Third World leadership felt that their connection with RU was inhibiting relations with Venceremos. “There were a lot of tensions,” Franklin said.

Thus the group that split off from the Revolutionary Union joined Venceremos less than a month after the split.

Venceremos Splits

There was also a split within the Stanford branch of Venceremos last summer. According to an article in the Daily of September 27, “About half of the Stanford campus contingent. . . left the organization this summer and re-emerged as an ’intercommunal’ subgroup of the Oakland Black Panther Party.” This group is known as the Intercommunal Survival Committee (ISC) of the Black Panther Party.

The split was between those people (the ISC) who wanted to concentrate on community service projects along the lines of Huey Newton’s Black Panthers and those members who felt that the resistance or military aspects of the “fight against, imperialism” were primary.

One of the manifestations of this split was that ISC members did not spend time working on behalf of Bruce Franklin during the suspended professor’s hearing. They felt that there were more important things to be done, such as fighting to free people on death row.

Central Committee

Two-thirds of the Venceremos Central Committee is Chicano. Venceremos is a Democratic Centralist organization, which means that the members must follow the instructions of the Central Committee, which in turn must be responsive to the people who elect it. The most important function of the Central Committee is solving problems, the solutions of which lie in correct applications of Marxist, Leninist, and Maoist thought.

The Central Committee’s second task is generating the “correct” political position. At a later time, Manganiello feels this will take primary importance. Manganiello explained that he feels Democratic Centralism is a better system than the most frequently used alternatives: complete dictatorship or complete democracy.

Mao, in an essay entitled “On Correcting Mistaken Ideas in the Party,” explains the concept of a Central Committee further: “(1) The individual is subordinate to the organization; (2) the minority is subordinate to the majority; (3) the lower level is subordinate to the higher level; (4) the entire membership is subordinate to the Central Committee.”

The Committee’s followers implement its decision immediately and mandatorily. The people have a form of redress in that they can question and criticize a directive, but it still must be carried out unless the Central Committee decides that the criticisms are valid.

Manganiello felt, however, that one of the Black Panthers’ faults is that one or two people from above tell everybody what “the line” is.

Unity Principles

There has been some Central Committee turnover. Six to eight people have come and gone from the Committee.

Manganiello explained that the Central Committee is not necessarily comprised of the best leaders. It might be more important to have the best leaders in one’s own geographic area on the Committee. Each area is represented by at least one member. All of the Committee members are known (open), but there are unknown (closed) members in the organization.

Venceremos has five principles of unity: (1) The dictatorship of the proletariat; (2) Democratic Centralism; (3) Liberation of women; (4) The need for an armed struggle; (5) National liberation and the right of self-determination.

The Venceremos philosophy is perhaps best summed up in the phrase “Power to the People.” Members believe that revolution is vital in this country because, in Lee’s words,

“In this country, there is a ruling class who hold power over not only the people of this country, but also over the people of the world. Russia is also an imperialist country. The People’s Republic of China is in fact a People’s Republic. We believe that Mao has done a lot to inform the peoples of the world a great deal about conducting a revolution.

“Venceremos and the whole revolutionary movement are growing incredibly rapidly. People are getting more and more tired of the shit they have to put up with every day. The people are realizing that the channels of change held out to them by the ruling class in this country are a joke, a hoax, a fraud. They’re saying that it’s gonna take a revolution to straighten things out.”