Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Rick Cumings

Reply to ’Daily’ article: Clarify Venceremos’ Position

First Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 161, Issue 9, 10 February 1972.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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(The following is an article in response to the two articles by Gary Atkins on the Intercommunal Survival Committee to Combat Fascism and their relation to Venceremos in the Daily of February 2 and 3.)

* * *

Although I’m not a member of Venceremos, I feel it necessary to reply to some of the accusations and innuendos about Venceremos made by Miriam Cherry and Sharon Winslow of the Intercommunal Survival Committee to Combat Fascism in the Daily articles on ISCCF by Gary Atkins.

I’ve been studying the theory and practice and talking with members of both organizations for quite a while now and have come to realize that the main contradiction between the two is that ISCCF and the Black Panther Party are revisionist, whereas Venceremos is revolutionary.

Miriam Cherry claims, in the first article, that “We saw one-sided thinking in Venceremos, a one-sided view that revolution is based just on picking up the gun–or talking about picking up the gun.” Venceremos made many mistakes last year, such as failure to work within a united front and abandoning the student movement, but they have never seen revolution or serving the people only in terms of “picking up the gun.”

I myself work at the Sojourner Truth child care center in Palo Alto, which is run by a united front of Venceremos members and other community people who find a need to serve poor and working people. Venceremos runs and serves in other child care centers and food co-ops in the Bay Area, particularly in the People’s Medical Center in East Redwood City.

Venceremos is constantly trying to create new programs to serve the people. It is ISCCF that is one-sided because it only sees one side of the dialectic, serve the people; Venceremos sees the dialectic as double sided: serve the people, stop the pig.

Opponents To Child Care

In talking about the opponents of their child care program, Cherry states they are “people who sit off to the side and criticize, who try in various ways to say that these programs are wrong without investigating for themselves or being themselves involved. And we get it from both sides, both reactionaries and so-called revolutionaries who call you ’racist sissy’ as you walk by.”

First of all, Venceremos doesn’t criticize the survival programs per se. What they criticize is the fact that those programs are more and more being co-opted into and by the establishment, i.e. by capitalism. As for the ’racist sissy’ part, Venceremos labeled the (white) members who split with that term because they blindly followed the leadership of Huey P. Newton without seeing the practice that came out of his leadership, and because they would accept no criticism and refused to struggle over the issue to find unity.

The cause of the split was not just “a matter of tactics.” The split occurred because those members mentioned above who split refused to recognize the fact that the Black Panther Party was becoming totally revisionist, that it had given up the idea of even thinking about tactics for a revolution.

The transformation to revisionism is easily traceable in Huey P. Newton’s speeches: of May 29, 1971, “What we are interested in is for it (the system) to correct itself as much as it can do and after that if it doesn’t do everything that the people think is necessary then we’ll think about reorganizing things. November 29, 1971, “We don’t have to go through a socialist phase.” January 29, 1972, “We’re going to put down our guns and work within the system.”

Direct Contradiction

This tactic is in direct contradiction to “the idea, according to the Panthers ... to bring people to a “revolutionary consciousness” by serving them and having them participate in community programs.”

An organization cannot “work within the system” or “put down its guns” and still be revolutionary or build revolutionary consciousness. As Mao Tse-tung points out, “a revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another,” and to overthrow any oppressive government takes guns. History shows that no ruling class has ever given up its power peacefully. To “put down our guns” means that the Panther and ISCCF programs are open to attack by the police, who remain convinced that the Panthers are out to destroy them.

To “work within the system” with firm belief that real change is possible by that route, is to admit that revolution in the U.S. is impossible because, as Felix Greene, who has studied American political socio-economic systems for years, puts it, “. . .the fake democracy of capitalism can never by its very nature bring about the fundamental changes that are needed now, for what is called democracy is merely the way in which greed and exploitation have been institutionalized; it is, in other words, designed precisely to prevent fundamental change.” (The Enemy, p. 311)

Within The System

The above should not be taken to mean that Venceremos is totally against working within the system. I have witnessed Venceremos work with city councils, student referendums, the ASSU Senate, and as teachers at Stanford and elsewhere.

Venceremos sees working within the system as part of an overall strategy to effect political change, whereas ISCCF believes in only working within the system. Venceremos understands that fundamental change will only come when the capitalist ruling class is no longer in power.

If a revolutionary organization does not stick to its Marxist-Leninist ideology, it will be co-opted by capitalism, as the Communist Party in the U.S. has been and the Black Panther Party and ISCCF are being. If the members of an organization don’t “sit back and read . . . Marx and Lenin” (Sharon Winslow) at least daily, they will fall to revisionist tactics of “working within the system” and “put(ting) down our guns.” Just as practice determines theory, does theory determine practice.

So it should be clear that the principal antagonism between Venceremos and ISCCF and the Black Panther Party is not over a question of survival programs. Both organizations have those. It is rather a question of the tactic of the latter organization of working only within the system for minor reforms, and Venceremos’ tactic of fundamental change, “complete satisfaction” (in the words of the late Panther Fred Hampton)–by any means necessary.

(Rick Cumings is a Freshman)