Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Ed Kohn

Venceremos Stresses Action, Not Theory

Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 159, Issue 15, 22 February 1971. 
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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(Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of news analyses describing political activism – both on the Right and on the – found on the Stanford campus. Other articles will describe some of the various movements over the past five years and attempt to place in context some of the recent campus developments. Today’s article deals with one of the more influential Left groups, Venceremos.)

* * *

Those familiar, bright red Venceremos buttons – and many people wearing them – have taken on a new significance in recent weeks. To the University administration and the Trustees, they represent at least the potential for “great and irreparable injury.”

To the conservative Free Campus Movement, Venceremos represents a movement that intends to shut down the campus and its members constitute a threat to their persons.

And to many members of the Stanford community, the AK-47 emblazoned-button wearers are sections of a puzzle which is missing some pieces.

But a few pieces of information – admittedly incomplete, because like many revolutionary groups, Venceremos chooses to keep much of its modus operandi secret – about the group have surfaced.

Venceremos is a multinational, revolutionary, Marxist-Leninist organization based in Hedwood City. Its members are organized into 10-12 person “collectives,” will) collective members known as “cadre.” During some actions, some collectives apparently break down into “affinity groups” of three to five members.

Size Unclear

The exact size of the group remains unclear; there are both “open” (public) and “closed” (unpublicized) members. Individual members are not permitted to know the total membership of the group for “security reasons”; none will even hazzard a public guess. One student who studies Midpeninsula politics estimated its strength at about 400.

The collectives operate independently in conjunction with the group’s Central Committee, of which suspended Prof. H. Bruce Franklin, his wife Jane, and Aaron Manganiello are members. Venceremos follows a policy of “democratic centralism,” where, after discussion (frequently referred to as “criticism,”) all of the group’s members agree to abide by the majority decision.

Ties With Other Groups

The group maintains close – if not interlocking – ties with many organizations, including the People’s Medical Center and Venceremos College in Redwood City; the Midpeninsula Free University, the now defunct Free You, and the Palo Alto Tenants’ Union in Palo Alto; and the Partisans (formerly the Young Partisans), a revolutionary high-school organization which is active in at least three local schools and publishes Class Struggle. On campus, Venceremos is tied in with the Radical Caucus, an operationally defunct umbrella group for other radical organizations (including last year’s Off-ROTC Movement), the Workers’ Action Caucus, the Labor Action Croup, the Stanford Workers Against the War, and the Stanford Community Against War and Fascism, to name a few.

It is also closely allied with other collectives in California, Oregon, Michigan, New York, Ohio, and the South. Venceremos gained much of its current strength on the Midpeninsula when an ideological split developed within the Bay Area Revolutionary Union, a larger group centered in the East Bay.

Revolutionary Union Split

In December, following months of argument, most Midpeninsula radicals left the Revolutionary Union, charging it had downplayed the vanguard role of the Black Panther Party and had become “racist,” had adopted an “incorrect” position on the importance and timing of armed struggle, and that it had become “revisionist.”

Most of the people in the splinter faction joined Venceremos, which had already been in existence for almost a year in Redwood City, which is a predominately chicano community. Venceremos’ leadership – the Central Committee – is always composed of at least 50 percent Third World peoples, and is now, according to one member, at least 50 percent chicano.

The group’s name, Venceremos, is Spanish for “we will win.” The slogan, “Venceremos” was first popularized by Fidel Castro during the Cuban Revolution is now used by groups of American young people cutting sugar cane there. There is no organization link between Venceremos and the Venceremos Brigades.

United Front Politics

Venceremos holds practice (and action) over theory; its principle objective is to “serve the people” and “to raise their level of (political) consciousness.” Members of the organization are subject to collective discipline which, among other practices, prohibits the use of marijuana at parties. Many members take marksmanship courses and train themselves how to use pistols, rifles and shotguns, and most do their “revolutionary physical exercises” regularly.

The group operates along the principles of a “united front . .. where you consolidate the left, join forces with the middle, to isolate the right,” one member said. Venceremos believes that the present united front on campus “includes all people, all groups, which are anti-imperialist.”

Members of the group are quick to point out that not everything the group does is violent.

Panther Vanguard

“We’re not trying to organize people to go out and trash things. In fact, we say people should do what they can (to end the war); if that means not paying the tax on your telephone bill, if you want to write letters to your Congressman, peacefully picket something ... that’s OK.”

The group views the Black Panther Party as the vanguard of the American Revolution and some of its forthcoming literature will “strongly resemble” similar Panther tracts.