Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Michael Friedly

Nationwide organization active here, students say

First Published: The Stanford Daily, Volume 197, Issue 60, 18 May 1990.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist) is a highly secretive nationwide organization that focuses on people of color groups for its mass support, as well as student and labor movements.

League doctrine states that the United States is composed of various oppressed nations, including the black nation in the South, the Chicano nation in the Southwest and the Hawaiian nation. One of the primary goals of the League is the liberation of these “oppressed nations” under a socialist state.

The organization has been active at Stanford for several years, recruiting students into its membership, according to a number of students who say they were recruited by the League. The League has recruited students within the various student of color organizations on campus, according to sources in each community who say they have been recruited.

However, most students within these organizations have no knowledge of the League or its presence at Stanford. Even many of those in leadership positions within these groups said they had no knowledge of the League.

The recruitment of individuals for membership is highly secretive, in many cases to the point that people are not aware they are being recruited, according to a number of Stanford students who say they were recruited by the League.

Activists who fit the criterion of being “politically correct” according to League standards are invited to various “study groups” in which League members converse on subjects of socialism, labor or people of color movements and the League.

After recruits go through a series of study groups and demonstrate their commitment to the cause, they may be asked to join the League, depending in large part on their political beliefs, according to sources. Official membership in the League comes only after applicants write an essay on why they want to join the League.

The League operates under the principles of democratic centralism, which denotes a decision-making process in which decisions are made at the top of the hierarchy and relayed down, according to a student who said he was recruited.

It is democratic to the extent that individual members can pass their input up the hierarchy, but once a decision is made by the Central Committee, the top body of the League, there can be no dissent, according to the student.

The League demonstrates contempt for government law enforcement organizations such as the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the police.

It also denounces the “legal and extralegal political repression and violence” of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis, according to a 1986 book published by the League titled “Peace, Justice, Equality and Socialism.” The book, which explains the agenda of the League, is sometimes given to recruits for more information.

Although it is a nationwide organization with power in cities like New York and Boston, the League has most of its power concentrated in California, particularly at various universities. In addition to its presence at Stanford, the League has different degrees of influence at the UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC-Santa Cruz, San Jose State and San Francisco State, as well as a number of other schools.

According to a number of students who were recruited, the League exercises much influence in statewide student organizations such as Statewide MEChA, a Chicano/Latino student group; the African/Black Statewide Student Alliance, which recently held its annual meeting at Stanford; and the Asian Pacific Islander Student Union.

League members also reportedly have some influence in the California Progressive Student Alliance and the United States Student Alliance, of which the ASSU is a member. The ASSU budgeted $6,100 this year for student travel expenses to the annual United States Student Alliance Conference and other conferences.

The League is also reported to have considerable power in various labor movements, including the Watsonville cannery movement, which just completed a successful strike, and the United Farm Workers.

Membership in the League is generally secretive because of the disfavor of Marxist groups in the United States. Although certain members openly admit their connections to the League, especially those in leadership positions, most people at the lower levels do not admit membership and are forbidden from revealing others as members.

The League publishes Unity newspaper, written in both English and Spanish, which is commonly found on campus. The League also publishes a monthly magazine, the Forward Journal on Socialist Thought, which contains theoretical essays on Marxist topics.

In addition, the League puts out Black Nation magazine, which is written for an Afro-American audience, and East Wind for Asian Americans.

Leaders of the League include William Gallegos, the editor of Unity newspaper; Carl Davidson, a former leader of Students for a Democratic Society who joined the League after his Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) became defunct in 1981; and Amiri Baraka, a popular revolutionary poet who sits on the Central Committee of the League.

Baraka spoke at Stanford Law School during the Educational Rights Conference in 1986 and has spoken at least two other times on campus since the late 1960s. Baraka was involved in the original founding of the Black Student Union on campus in 1968.

Baraka is also the editor of Black Nation and an associate professor of African studies at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Baraka could not be reached for comment.

The League was founded in 1978 from the merger of two smaller Maoist groups, the August 29 Movement and I Wor Kuen. I Wor Kuen was a predominantly Asian organization that was based in New York’s Chinatown and later in San Francisco.

The League gained added momentum with the incorporation of the Revolutionary Communist League (Marxist-Leninist-Mao Zedong Thought) into its ranks in early 1980.

Many of the individual members of the League are Maoists, including Baraka, although the organization is not officially Maoist, according to Harvey Klehr, a professor of political science at Emory University and an expert on the American political Left.

“They came out of the Maoist movement originally,” Klehr said.

The League denounces both the United States and the Soviet Union, while looking to China as the best example of a socialist society. The Soviet Union, although it originally succeeded by moving the socialist revolution forward, “unfortunately degenerated into an expansionist superpower” in the 1950s, according to the 1986 book.

However, “the Chinese Revolution liberated one-fourth of humanity from imperialism and today continues to inspire revolutionary-minded people the world over,” the publication states.

Although it has generally supported the actions of the Chinese government, the League sharply criticized China for the massacre of pro-democracy students at Tiananmen Square in Bering last year, saying that “the vast majority of the students involved are patriotic and believe in socialism.”

In a special editorial bulletin in Unity last June, the League condemned the “actions of the Chinese government because it is not in the spirit of socialism, nor in the spirit of the Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party.”

Solidarity with other Marxist-Leninist organizations has been one of the League’s primary goals to combat the historical tensions between American radical groups. Despite its goal of unity with other leftist groups, the League has attacked the Communist Party USA for being “revisionist” and for having “betrayed the Afro-American people’s revolutionary struggle,” according to its 1986 book.