Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Bill Evers and Ed Kohn

Panther Split Precipitates Division In Venceremos

Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 159A, Issue 7, 13 July 1971. 
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Venceremos, perhaps the largest revolutionary organization on the Peninsula, is in the process of splitting into two smaller groups, the Daily has learned. The split will apparently have a direct effect 011 the group’s organization and activities on the Stanford campus.

The split apparently revolves around the leadership and policies of two popular campus figures, suspended Associate Professor of English H. Bruce Franklin, and Miriam Cherry, who works on campus in association with the Roman Catholic Newman Center in Palo Alto.

Cherry has close ties with the Oakland (Huey Newton-David Milliard) Black Panther organization. According to sources close to Venceremos, Cherry has held a “leadership position” on campus recently, and has become increasingly important since Franklin’s suspension in February.

Franklin, on the other hand, apparently leans toward the New York-Algiers (Eldridge Cleaver) faction of the Panthers, and, according to reliable reports, has criticized Venceremos’ organizing on bread and butter issues around the fired Tresidder and Hospital Center workers. He apparently would have preferred to organize around the broader issues of the Indochina War and the “united front against fascism and imperialism.”

John Kaman, a graduate student in English who has just quit Venceremos and shares many of Cherry’s criticisms, also believes the organizing of campus employees was too much on bread and butter issues rather than on political issues. Apparently the dispute in this sphere of activity between the Venceremos leadership and those who are leaving is over whether the concentration on economicissues was the fault of those who were in charge locally (and are now leaving Venceremos) or the fault of too strict guidelines imposed from the outside by the Venceremos leadership.

Split Predictable

The split, which some observers have been predicting since the Panther split emerged some months ago, came to a head late last week. While it is not known how many “cadre” Venceremos has on campus, it appears that between one-third and one-half of the on-campus group will leave the present Venceremos organization.

[Venceremos, which has headquarters in Redwood City, is active from San Francisco to San Jose. Its overall membership, including “open” (public) and “closed” (non-public) members, is variously estimated between 400 and 1000.]

[Most of the Stanford-based members of the group joined in December when they split from another organization, the Revolutionary Union (RU), centered in the East Bay.]

At one point, the in-fighting became so intense within Venceremos that veiled threats of physical violence were made.

No Comment

The present Venceremos leadership has repeatedly declined to discuss the split with the Daily on the grounds that the situation is still in flux.

However, the Daily was able to talk with a number of people who have worked with Venceremos this year, including many of those who now are leaving.

During a discussion with Cherry, she accused the present Venceremos leadership, including Franklin, of “left opportunism,” of distorting the “united front against imperialism,” and of worshipping “cult” heroes such as Cleaver. She said that the prevalence of these tendencies in the organization has led to an emphasis on the importance of recruiting street-fighters rather than people with a greater political and theoretical orientation.

Lumpen Leanings

The present organization, she said, is inclined overmuch towards a constituency of “lumpen” and “street gangs.”

She said that the present Venceremos leadership tends toward a “cult” worship of certain progressive leaders (like Cleaver) who have reached a “higher” level of political understanding than most other people. Because of this, she said, there is a tendency to lose sight of the fact that the majority of the people–and not just their leaders–will make the revolution.

Another person who has left Venceremos for analogous reasons commented: “If people’s practice were as advanced as the Venceremos leadership thinks it is, a lot more pig stations would be being attacked in Redwood City.” Cherry and others strongly support the Oakland Black Panther Party, whose position the Venceremos Central Committee recently found to be unconscionable. The “survival” programs and welfare rights advocacy of the Oakland Panthers, according to Cherry, are designed to unite black people and thus enable them to throw off institutional oppression. In sharp contrast with the present Venceremos position, she felt that there is no reason to brandish guns prematurely.

Cadre Depart

She pointed out that the Oakland Panthers, while continuing to relate to a black community which understands questions of guns and self-defense, have come to recognize how an exaggerated gun motif and armed confrontation have the effect of bringing more police into black areas.

Cherry also noted that the organization at Stanford has been “depressed” because of the departure of some of the most highly-valued cadre.

Another person noted the departure of three members of Venceremos’ old Central Committee. Some observers have pointed out that, although the exact lines and size of the split are not yet apparent, the Franklin group may have trouble working with the Stanford Black Students’ Union leadership, since The Real News recently came out with a strong statement in support of the Oakland Panthers in its July 8 issue.