Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Jim Wascher

Former Venceremos Leaders Deny Charges Of SLA Ties

First Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 165, Issue 11, 15 February 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Former Venceremos members have heatedly denied that their recently disbanded group has any ties with the Symbionese Liberation (SLA) as was alleged in a three-part story distributed by the Copley News Service and printed by the Palo Alto Times this week.

The SLA has claimed responsibility for the assassination last fall of Oakland School Superintendent Marcus Foster and for the kidnaping of newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst.

According to the Copley News Service stories, “state and federal investigators believe they [the SLA] are an offshoot of a Maoist guerilla organization named Venceremos.” Fired Stanford Assoc. English Prof. H. Bruce Franklin, a former member of Venceremos’ central committee, called the allegation “preposterous” and “the wildest kind of fantasy.”

Franklin said the Copley stories were “playing into the hands of the police,” adding that the attempts to tie the SLA to Venceremos could “set the stage for an attack, not only on the left, but on the black community as well.”

Investigation Results

According to the first part of the series, which appeared in Monday’s Palo Alto Times, “An intensive investigation has led state and federal investigators to the conclusion that the majority of the revolutionary groups now doing business in the United States are joining together – many of them under the protective wing of Venceremos.”

The story which appeared Tuesday said “Venceremos is suspected” of hiding one of the people allegedly connected with Foster’s assassination and of hiding attorney Stephen Bingham, who allegedly smuggled the pistol into San Quentin Prison that led to the slaying of three guards and the killing of George Jackson.

The article also said that “a confidential report” indicates that Venceremos was involved in the Aug. 7, 1970 shoot-out at Marin County courthouse that left Superior Court Judge Harold Haley, Jonathan Jackson and two others dead.

Single Source

Most of the information in the Copley News Service story appears to have come from San Quentin investigating sergeant William Hankins, who said that Venceremos’ claim that it disbanded in September, 1973 is “bull.” Hankins is the only law enforcement official quoted or referred to by name in any of the three parts of the series.

It was Hankins who said that “the Symbionese Liberation Army is probably one of” the small terrorist groups formed out of Venceremos “to continue their acts of terrorism.”

But John T. Kelly, assistant special agent in charge of the FBl’s San Francisco office, said, “We’re still trying to determine who the leadership and the membership [of the SLA) is. Until we know for sure, the information won’t be disseminated.”

Statements published by Venceremos as long ago as 1971, as well as more recent public protests from former members of the group, seem to indicate that the ideologies of the SLA and Venceremos are incompatible. One long-time observer of local radical activity said “it is not conceivable that anyone holding the Venceremos ideology would be involved” in SLA-type activities.

Black Panthers Criticized

An article published in the Sept. 1, 1971 issue of Pamoja Venceremos, the organization’s official newspaper, criticized a faction of the Black Panther Party which then wanted to devote all of its energies to so-called “military” activities, while ignoring efforts at raising the political consciousness of the masses.

The Venceremos paper said this course of action would make it “impossible for the illegal party to use the existing mass organizations, thus cutting off its life blood.” The SLA is an entirely underground organization which relies solely upon military activities, and is therefore considered “counter-revolutionary” by former Venceremos members.

Former Venceremos member Tomas Pillsbury, now running for San Mateo County Sheriff, said at a San Francisco press conference Wednesday that the SLA is “anti-working class, anti-revolutionary and anti-communist.” He also said, “If the SLA did not exist, the police would have to invent them.”

Pillsbury insisted that Venceremos had indeed broken up and that it was not an umbrella organization for other revolutionary groups.

The Copley story identified Joseph M. Remiro, who is in custody for the Foster assassination, as a member of both the SLA and Venceremos. But Franklin said “I had never heard of him before his name appeared in the papers. And the same thing is true for the other people involved.”