Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Bill Evers and Ed Kohn

Venceremos Leadership Denounces ’Racist Sissies’

First Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 159A, Issue 8, 16 July 1971.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The six brown members of the Venceremos Central Committee Wednesday night denounced persons leaving the revolutionary organization as “racist sissies” and “oppressors” and charged that the Daily had overestimated the number of persons leaving the organization in a story Tuesday.

Two of the three white members of the committee, including Associate Professor of English H. Bruce Franklin, were not present at the special meeting called to explain its position to the Daily, which Tuesday detailed the intraorganizational split.

Members of the Central Committee made two major points in their presentation: first, that any white radical who is not in the multi-national – and Third World controlled – democratic-centralist organization in his geographical area is objectively a racist; and second, that those who have left the organization are “sissies” for their unwillingness to press forward on grave and risky matters now.

“Fifteen, a maximum of 20 people, have left the organization,” said Aaron Manganiello, Chairman of the Central Committee. “All of those people are white, all of those people come from Stanford (and) nowhere else in the organization.”

Palo Alto, Too

The individuals whom Manganiello terms “sissies” began leaving Venceremos last weekend over the question of whether to endorse the Oakland or the New York-Algiers faction of the Black Panther Party. A number of cadre from Palo Alto who are neither present nor past Stanford students are also leaving, the Daily has learned.

Individuals from Stanford who have left Venceremos include Miriam Cherry, who has extremely close ties with the Oakland Panther organization; John Kaman, a graduate student in English; and John Keilch, a library worker who was suspended from his job for 45 days for his alleged participation in the Henry Cabot Lodge disruption in early January. The people who have left Venceremos have not met together as a group.

Venceremos, a multi-national, Marxist-Leninist organization based in Redwood City, has cadre in cities ranging from San Francisco to San Jose. Its leadership is predominantly brown, and Third World members of the Central Committee have total veto power over white members.

Earlier estimates of the organization’s size ranged between 400 and 1000. Since Tuesday, the Daily has received feedback indicating that these figures are inflated. The exact membership of the group is a closely-guarded secret.

Panther Split

Much of the Central Committee members’ discussion with the Daily revolved around their position on the Black Panther Party split. Manganiello announced that Venceremos and the Black Liberation Front, another revolutionary group based in Redwood City and East Palo Alto, have written the Oakland Panthers and requested a meeting. However, they have received no response so far setting a date for such a meeting.

Manganiello said that the Daily’s statement that the Venceremos Central Committee had recently determined the Oakland Black Panther Party’s position to be unconscionable is “an out and out lie.”

“Internally in the organization, we’re constantly studying the documents put out by Los Siete, the Chicano Revolutionary’ Party (and) the Young Lords on the Panthers and also studying the Panther position.” Manganiello said, since the shift from “revolutionary internationalism” to “revolutionary intercommunalism” in the fall of 1970. “There is a tremendous amount of discussion going on inside our organization.”

In the course of the conversation, it came out that only two of the brown members of the Central Committee have read Right On!, the New York faction’s newspaper and that Cleaver’s position papers have not circulated within the organization.

“We don’t have a policy, a line, an idea, an inclination at this time. If we did, it would be made public . . . What I’m saying here is not that we disagree or have taken a line on the Black Panther Party. What we’re saying is that we’ve taken no line on the Panther question.”

Newton’s Revisionists

However, the Daily heard from other sources that the Central Committee had in fact reached a decision in the Panther dispute last week. They apparently came to the conclusion that the Oakland (Huey Newton-David Hilliard) faction is “revisionist.” Reportedly, it was a scheduled, but not published, statement to this effect in this week’s Pamoja Venceremos, the group’s newspaper, that touched off the actual split.

In Tuesday’s Daily, Cherry had cited the importance of the “survival” programs and welfare rights advocacy of the Oakland Panthers.

On this point, Manganiello said: “Venceremos, second only to the Panthers, has the largest amount of serve-the-people programs anywhere in the country: three food co-ops, two day-care centers, a college, two ’people’s garages.’ ”

“We learned that from the Black Panther Party. It was the Panther Party that taught the nation how to build serve-the-people projects.”

Service or Struggle

Some Central Committee members, however, have reportedly termed such community service activity “counterrevolutionary,” and Venceremos members working at the People’s Medical Center in Redwood City have been called “revisionists.”

Several persons who recently left Venceremos and others involved in its projects have charged that voluntary welfare programs are not deemed valuable by the Venceremos leadership unless they are moving the beneficiaries quickly toward “militant struggle.”

Because the East Palo Alto food co-op was not doing this, according to these sources, Venceremos withdrew its support, and the co-op collapsed.

Another point of controversy was the Daily’s charge that Franklin had criticized Venceremos’ organizing on bread and butter issues around the fired Tresidder and Medical Center employees.

Masses at Hospital

Commenting on the April 8-9 Medical Center sit-in, which ended in a near-riot when policemen charged into a barricaded corridor, Assistant Professor of German John (Juan) Flores said “Bruce (Franklin) was one of the people who was most instrumental in the level of militancy that did exist .. . He was one of the people who was providing leadership in that whole struggle.”

“We moved the masses of workers at Stanford to a much higher level of political action by that action (the sit-in),” said Mangeniello. “We certainly had a mass struggle. There were more non-cadre involved in that than there were Venceremos cadre. The list of defendants will prove that.”

Daily reporters noticed however at the time Franklin was a principal figure in the organizing or decision-making process at the Medical Center sit-in, which involved no more than 100 persons at any one time. Franklin was only an observer during the final hours before the police broke up the sit-in.

Missing Leaders?

Brown members of the Venceremos Central Committee disagreed also with the report in the Daily that three members of the organization’s old Central Committee had left Venceremos.

Guerro Rodriquez said, “There has never been one CC (Central Committee) member that has quit the organization: the old CC, the in-between CC and the CC now.”

Manganiello said that he was put back on the Central Committee “within the last month” and that “It wasn’t that I replaced anybody; I just came back on the Central Committee.”

After discussing this matter with Stanford radicals, some of whom provided information for Tuesday’s story, the Daily learned that it had misunderstood its original source. Three members, total, from three central committees (which governed the organization at different times) have left the organization.

One was a steel worker; one disappeared and turned up later in Los Angeles, and a third left because her husband disapproved of the organization.

In addition, the Daily has learned that persons who were in the top leadership of the Revolutionary Union, but left the RU for Venceremos in December, have since left Venceremos. And when Manganiello was put back on the Central Committee, he was replacing someone.

Theory & Practice

Persons who recently have left Venceremos charged in Tuesday’s Daily that the group is anti-theory and anti-intellectual.

In response, Manganiello said angrily: “There is one statement in here (the Daily article) which is the most clearly racist statement in the entire thing: ’She (Cherry) 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’ . . . There have been no white people recruited into this organization for the last three months. She’s talking about people of color.”

“These people themselves (proletarians, lumpenproletarians, and Third World people) constitute the greatest political and theoretical orientation .. . That’s where political and theoretical orientation comes from in this organization–right out of these people,” Manganiello said.

Responding to a question, Flores denied that Lenin’s statement that “without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement” meant that theory was primary over practice. Although the group irregularly publishes a newspaper, Pamoja Venceremos, it has published no theoretical works like the RU’s Red Papers,/em>.

At the end of the meeting, the Central Committee members were asked if they had a statement on the Nelson house bombing Monday night. Katarina Davis Delvalle answered that “We say ’right on’ to the bombing” and then repeated Franklin’s oft-stated formula that a revolutionary neither confirms nor denies responsibility for an act of which he approves.