Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Bill Evers

America’s Maoists: The RU And Venceremos

First Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 161A, Issue 4, 30 June 1972.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The House Committee on Internal Security (formerly the House Committee on Un-American Activities) has issued during the last week what it considers to be an expose of two Marxist-Leninist groups which have been very influential in the Midpeninsula.

The first effect of the report, entitled America’s Maoists: The Revolutionary Union, The Venceremos Organization, may be to catapult the two groups into national prominence, as past statements by this congressional committee and by the late J. Edgar Hoover have served to alert the mass media and America’s poorly informed radical community to the militancy of the old Black Panthers and to the growth of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party.

Secondly, the issuance of the report may severely increase petty police surveillance of members of these groups and their associates. One result of this would be less political liberty at Stanford. a major center of Venceremos activity in the past.

Thirdly, the report may serve as a weapon in the corridors of power in Washington. The committee may cite it in efforts to expand its budget and influence. The report may be brought up in the present struggle among political decision-makers between the sophisticated ones who wish to use bilateral trade agreements and political co-operation to move China’s policies in the direction of corporate liberal America and the more parochial elements who will focus on the RU and Venceremous as actual or potential espionage agents for the Chinese government. The latter view of the two groups is expressed in the “Analysis and Conclusions” of the committee’s report.

Finally, the report contains information of interest and value to those who have observed or participated in the radical movement in the Bay area in the last several years.


It should be emphasized at this point that some of the report is inaccurate or distorted. For example, probably one of the most frequently cited portions of the report will be its police-dossier profiles of over one hundred members of the RU, Venceremos, and the Intercommunal Survival Committee of the Black Panther Party. Yet, this section is in some cases wrong and outdated. Its lack of fullness, furthermore, on Stanford area and East Bay membership of these Marxist-Leninist groups reflects the report’s limited sources – basically, the Stanford DailyPamoja Venceremos, several RU newspapers, and the testimony of a husband-and-wife team (Lawrence and Betty Sue Goff) of fundamentalist Protestants who infiltrated the San Jose area RU for the FBI.

The most enlightening material in the report pertains to the split in the RU in late 1970 which produced Venceremos in its present form.

At the time of the breakup, one of the positions taken by the Venceremos group was that the RU was too heavily politically influenced by old members of the Communist Party, USA. The material in the House Committee report does seem to substantiate both the claim of significant personal influence being exercised by middle-aged veteran communists and the claim that the present-day RU political stance resembles a position taken during certain past periods by the American Communist Party.

The split in the RU had its origins in a position paper (called Position Paper A) written by Bruce Franklin and others, and outlining a strategy for armed insurrection in America. The response by those who disagreed (like Barry Greenberg and Bob Avakian) was referred to as Position Paper B.

Protracted Guerrilla War

Position Paper A, which enunciated the view of those RU members who later joined Venceremos, predicted that increasingly intensified urban guerrilla warfare on a protracted basis would be the process of successful revolution in America and said that this process was going on now. The Venceremos group saw the key to social change in America as the situation of racial groups like the blacks and Mexican-Americans and not the condition of white industrial workers.

Position Paper A was written, in the view of its supporters, on the basis of the “principle of protracted war: the accumulation of small acts, engaged in by more and more people, constitutes strategic action.” This viewpoint was expanded upon as follows:

“A strategic application of protracted war recognizes that only through armed struggle can the masses liberate themselves, but at the same time sees this armed struggle not in terms of glorious campaigns and actions but as the sum total of a war of attrition conducted by the masses against the ruling class. . . .

“The struggle will be characterized mainly by small unit operations on a constant and expanding basis, punctuated by mass uprisings. Since the revolutionary forces will be operating ’integrated with the enemy,’ it will be difficult, except in the final phase of the struggle, for relatively large military formations to come together. On a day-to-day basis the fight will be characterized by ambushes, acts of sabotage, and interdiction of supply and communication facilities, and executions by small units using their ability to quickly concentrate and disperse to harass and create havoc among the enemy.

“But since the revolutionary struggle is a war of the masses, and given the deterioration of the entire system, periodically the essentially guerrilla character will take on insurrectionary form, with strikes, mass demonstrations, rioting, and even mass armed uprisings. As the situation becomes more desperate for the ruling class and contradictions become more acute, the spacing between such uprisings will probably be shortened, and their development become more generalized so as to erupt in many areas simultaneously. . . The present-day Revolutionary Union stance is that the role of a communist is “to build the mass movement, integrating revolutionary violence as a secondary aspect,” and looking toward “the eventual mass onslaught, the insurrection, and civil war.” In addition, this group decided to concentrate its work in the industrial working class because the situation in the United States, a major power with world-wide hegemony, is such that only during a depression or political crisis would conditions be ripe for revolution. Those supporting Position Paper B further saw the American situation as fundamentally different from the objective situation in a colonized country where conditions were always ripe, given proper leadership and understanding, for a mass-based revolution against the colonizers. In Position Paper B, those who stayed with the RU said:

“Our real task is to build the mass movement, especially in the working class and to contribute through this mass movement to the further development of the contradictions of U.S. imperialism. The main part of this work will be open political work, not illegal military work. [The term “military” here refers to armed revolution, not to the U.S. government’s armed forces.] Armed struggle, in this period, will unfold as a secondary aspect of political work; its main value will be political – helping to mobilize the masses for political struggle, most of which will not involve armed struggle. .. .

“In a colonial or semi-colonial country, the masses are always in a revolutionary situation; in an imperialist country, the masses, the majority, are in a revolutionary situation only during a period of extreme economic and political crisis. . . .

“Our organization must develop as a Marxist-Leninist cadre formation, not convert itself into a guerrilla force, or an embryo of some future People’s Army or try to be both at the same time. A separate apparatus must be developed, outside the main cadre formation, to carry on military work.”

Ultimately, the two groups severed relations. Venceremos saw the RU as “revisionist” because Venceremos perceived the RU leadership as unwilling to put any theory of armed struggle into practice. The RU saw the Venceremos leadership as “adventurist,” incapable of the long-term work of mass-base building and preparation for an eventual armed insurrection followed by civil war.