Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Bill Evers

Revolutionary Union Splits Over Differences In Ideology, Tactics

Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 158, Issue 48, 4 January 1971. 
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Lenin told his comrades to “split, split and split again.” In the course of the last month, members of the Bay Area Revolutionary Union, (RU), a communist group which has been prominent in radical activities in the Stanford area, have followed his advice. Where once there was one RU, there now are two.

The name Revolutionary Union will be retained by the group whose most prominent member is East Bay radical Bob Avakian. A new group called “Venceremos” has been formed which will include the members of the old RU from Stanford, Palo Alto, Redwood City and some from San Francisco, San Jose, and elsewhere. Both groups will be multi-national, including both whites and non-whites as members.

The differences between the two factions first manifested themselves in a significant way in a debate over the appropriate military strategy for a successful revolution in America. The Venceremos people drafted a position paper which argued that the political consciousness of workers and “Third World” people in America now is similar to that of the Russian proletariet at the time of the 1905 Revolution.

The Avakian group, with the support of the RU collectives in Richmond, Berkeley, and some of the RU membership in San Francisco, San Jose, and other parts of the country, wrote a reply stating that the position adopted by the Venceremos people that “armed struggle is an actuality now” is incorrect. The Venceremos group sees an intensifying urban guerrilla struggle ahead in America. The Avakian group sees the task ahead for it as the building of a mass base, which will create an insurrection.

Revolution When?

Along with these differences on the ripeness of the revolution in America come differing emphases on the condition of ethnic minorities in the U.S. Both groups say “The Black liberation struggle is both a national and a class question.” That is, they argue that blacks and other ethnic minorities are oppressed both as members of their race and as members of the working class. But the Venceremos people emphasize the racism aspect.

In the December 30 issue of the Free You, Janet Weiss of Venceremos maintains that “the majority of the top RU leadership in the Bay Area. . .is saying that if the struggle of Black people is not basically a class struggle, it is not ’correct,’ and that Black people must hold off until the majority of white Americans are ready to pick up the gun and fight for socialist revolution.”

The Avakian group is less enthusiastic in its support of the Black Panther Party and is reported to have questioned the efficacy of incidents like the Marin County courthouse shoot-out. A member of the Avakian group described the Venceremos people as viewing “black people as a nation almost in a state of total revolt.”

Black Nationalism

Members of Venceremos have charged that the Avakian group has been moving away from full support of the right of the black nation to self-determination. This refers to the blacks’ right of free secession to form their own independent government. One member of Venceremos maintains that a member of the Avakian group has questioned “the economic feasibility of a black nation.”

In the heat of the dispute, charges of one faction against the other emerged which were not directly related to the original question of military strategy. People in the Avakian group reminded Bruce Franklin of Venceremos of his old job with the Strategic Air Command; Venceremos people pointed out that their group had more women in positions of leadership than the Avakian group did.

Charges and counter-charges arose about the disciplining and purging of an RU collective in San Francisco and of an RU journalist in San Jose. Also, a good deal of antagonism was generated by a decision of the RU leadership (Avakian group) to make Roxanne Dunbar, a nationally prominant figure in the Women’s Liberation movement, a secret rather than an open member of the RU. She had been recruited for the RU by the Venceremos faction in Cuba and had intended to go on a recruiting drive in the South to bring collectives into the RU.

A Stanford radical who was with the Worker-Student Alliance and the Progressive Labor Party last year described the split in the RU as a left-right split with the Venceremos people on the right-wing. He considers the Avakian group to have a greater working class orientation. A member of the New Left Project commented that “anti-authoritarian theory leads one to expect that centralized parties will split. It’s now two, three, many vanguards.”