Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)

Lawyers meet amid sharp political struggle

First Published: The Call, Vol. 8, No. 9, March 5, 1979.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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San Francisco – Over 700 members of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) held their national convention here Feb. 14-18 amidst an atmosphere of hard work and sharp political struggle.

Convention delegates accomplished a good deal, especially in advancing the organization’s work with minority legal workers and in developing its activities around affirmative action.

The Guild convention succeeded in forming a new Affirmative Action Anti-Discrimination Committee to coordinate the NLG’s activities in this field. The new committee has as its first priority the work around opposing the Weber “reverse discrimination” case now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Another accomplishment was furthering NLG activities in support of Native American rights. Native American activists joined in discussions at the convention and helped develop the work of the Committee on Native American Struggles (CONAS) considerably. Activists Yvonne Wanrow and Vernon Bellecourt also spoke to the convention.

A highlight of the convention came when Lewis Meyers, attorney for the United League of Mississippi and a member of the Guild, addressed the delegates. Meyers eloquently pointed out the need for politically-minded lawyers to get out among the people and share their battles with them.

The stated theme of the convention – to oppose “Attacks from the Right on Gays and Women” – received relatively less attention at the Guild meeting than did international issues – chiefly around the situation in Indochina.


In a highly controversial move, the Vietnamese ambassador to the UN was given plenary time to address the convention, despite vigorous objections from many NLG members. The ambassador turned his allotted 15 minutes into a 50-minute polemic against both China and the Pol Pot government of Kampuchea.

Surprisingly, the Vietnamese speaker openly admitted that his country’s rulers had invaded Kampuchea, but claimed that this invasion was a “self-defense” action to halt Kampuchea’s ability to “aggress” against Vietnam. This admission embarrassed some of Vietnam’s most vocal supporters in the Guild, who had all along been echoing the Moscow-Hanoi claim that no Vietnamese troops were inside Kampuchea and that a domestic “uprising” had overthrown the legitimate Pol Pot government.

About 125 NLG members signed an open letter objecting to the fact that a representative from Vietnam had been given a chance to speak without the opposing point of view being presented. Later, the convention leadership permitted a 15-minute rebuttal to the Vietnamese by long-time Guild member Barry Litt. His remarks were well-received by many delegates.

The same Guild forces who tried to make the convention a platform solely for the Vietnamese to defend their aggression, promoted a speaker from Cuba the next day. This speaker also addressed a plenary meeting and continued the appeal to the membership to take a pro-Vietnamese stance.

Active among these pro-Soviet, pro-Vietnamese forces were members of the revisionist Communist Party U.S.A. Aside from all its other factional maneuverings, the CPUSA also tried to push a resolution to withdraw the NLG’s delegation to tour China, which was scheduled to leave the next week. This move was defeated, however.


During the middle of the convention, word of the Chinese counter-strike against Vietnam reached the delegates, causing a flurry of debate and discussion. While the revisionist CPUSA and some others tried to ram an anti-China position down the Guild’s throat, most members saw the necessity at least to study the question further before any position was taken.

Many debates and discussions did take place at the convention. Several hundred people attended a debate on the invasion of Kampuchea, for instance, in which AI Canfora, a student wounded in the 1970 Kent State demonstration, challenged the pro-Vietnamese views of Buck Davis.

In addition, members of the Anti-Imperialist Caucus (AIC) and others in the Guild played a positive role in organizing opposition to the maneuvers of the pro-Vietnamese, pro-Soviet forces, and also in encouraging debate and discussion among the membership.

Finally, the Guild delegates elected new national leadership at the convention. Paul Harris defeated Rob Kropp, a member of the AIC, in the voting and will be the NLG’s president for the next year and a half.