Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Two Roads for Chicano Movement

First Published: Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 6, No. 19, May 18-24,1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
Copyright: This work is in the Public Domain under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line as your source, include the url to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

On April 4, hundreds of Chicano students from all across the country converged on Tempe, Ariz, for annual National Chicano Student Conference. I went as a MECha representative from Los Angeles and I wanted to share with people what happened.

The conference tried to cover a lot of ground. There were workshops on everything from immigration to police brutality. The most important resolutions that were adopted concerned support for the struggle of the El Salvadoran people, and condemning the government’s role in the Atlanta killings. These resolutions were significant because they drew the link between fighting the particular oppression of Chicanos with the larger attacks coming down on everyone. The best received speaker was Kiko Martinez, a long-time Chicano activist facing trumped-up bombing charges. He tore the covers off the American judicial system in a scathing indictment of capitalist courts.

There was another side to the conference, also. But to understand it, you have to first look at what happened at last year’s conference in Albuquerque, N.M. In Albuquerque, a lot of struggle broke out over the role of one organization, the League of Revolutionary Struggle (which, years before, had literally wrecked the Chicano movement in New Mexico). The LRS, true to form tried to manipulate the New Mexico conference using every move they could think of. But people had had enough.

Jose Calderon and other Communist Workers Party supporters led the way in exposing the maneuvering and the reformist line of the LRS. Honest forces joined together and fought for a concrete plan of action which included building an anti-fascist network throughout the Southwest.

All LRS could do was try to slander and block resolutions. Finally, disgusted with their tactics, hundreds of students walked out of the conference before it ended. The conference’s steering committee even circulated a position paper nationally to condemn their treacherous role.

This was a significant and historic breakthrough that turned the tide against the opportunist LRS and began to define new directions for the Chicano movement in the 80’s. With the bitter memory of the Albuquerque conference fresh in their minds, students were vigilant this year to keep the LRS from pulling the same tricks.

At the same time, however, certain elements within the conference this year, tried to channel these students’ genuine sentiment into an anti-communist witchhunt. The main proponent of this, American Indian activist Russell Means, read a long attack on Marxism, saying, “.. .in order for us to really join forces with Marxism, we American Indians would have to commit cultural suicide and become industrialized and Europeanized... I do not believe that capitalism itself is really responsible for the situation in which American Indians have been declared a national sacrifice. No, it is the European tradition. European culture itself is responsible. Marxism is just the latest continuation of this tradition...”

This kind of backwards logic set the tone for some of the workshops, feeding the die-hard narrow nationalist forces. To give you an idea of how they were able to influence honest students, let me give you an example of what happened in one workshop I attended. In describing the situation in El Salvador, I used the term “U.S. imperialism.” Because I used that Marxist term, one person scoffed, “What does El Salvador have to do with the Chicano land question?” This is the kind of sick thinking that was whipped up by some of the reactionary nationalists.

I wholeheartedly unite with exposing the role of opportunists like LRS, but flipping into red-baiting is equally divisive. The blatant anti-communist, anti-white line of Russell Means isolates the fight of Chicano people from the larger class struggle. In doing so, they weaken the movement from within, by not utilizing allies of all nationalities in the fight against the common enemy – capitalism. Although these die-hard reactionary forces are small in number, they can gain influence in the absence of real communist leadership.

That’s why the CWP has to be out there, pushing out a real Marxist analysis of how to fight for Chicano liberation and how to beat back the stepped-up attacks on our people. Otherwise people will assume that groups like LRS are typical examples of communists. The Party has to develop positive programs of action, beat back the red-baiting and drive these reactionaries from our ranks.

The two roads are sharpening up quickly. Be bold, comrades, take the lead.

Unidos en la lucha,
A student,
Los Angeles