Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line


A communist perspective on the Asian student movement

First Published: Unity, Vol. 5, No. 7, April 23-May 6, 1982.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Throughout the twists and turns of the Asian student movement, communists have played an important role in building organizations and networks that help students raise their demands for equality on the campuses.

For over a decade, the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L) (and one of its predecessor organizations, I Wor Kuen) has been an active force in Asian student organizing efforts. Together with hundreds of others, we have helped to build many Asian student organizations and the ECASU/New England, ECASU/Mid-Atlantic and Asian Pacific Student Union networks.

I joined the League as a student because it was consistently in the forefront of many Asian peoples’ struggles on the campuses and in the Asian communities. I joined because its revolutionary goals most coincided with what I had come to believe about the nature of U.S. society and what it has imposed on my people.

Every day in our lives, we cannot escape the oppression which permeates all aspects of our Asian American existence. White society tries to rob us of our identity and pride in ourselves as a people. It denies us our history and insults our culture. It exploits Asian workers, squelches the full blossoming and development of our communities and casts us into the most wretched existence.

It became clear to me that the ruling circles have never shown any commitment to end discrimination and inequalities which our people must endure. Fundamental change in the fabric of American capitalist society is necessary for Asians to rid our lives of oppression.

The Asian student movement is a critical component of Asian peoples’ striving for equality and political power. Our very existence in most institutions of higher learning grew out of the last ten years of demanding our right to a decent education and challenging the lower status of Asians in U.S. society.

For the League, our work in the Asian student movement focuses on several things. We strive to unite the broadest sectors possible to effectively win the rights of Asian students on campus. We want to help build organizations that serve their many needs, promote their interests and provide the basis from which Asian students can best influence their campuses. These organizations are vital in bringing Asians together, giving support in an isolating environment and encouraging the development of Asian identity.

We also support the building of networks like the ECASU/NE that can bring together Asian student organizations on a regional level. The ECASU/NE is one form which expresses the potential for unifying broad sectors of Asian students on the East Coast. It embodies the collective experiences and lessons of the Asian student movement and bolsters the organizing capacity of each individual campus group.

One of the most critical tasks of the Asian studies movement is to educate Asian students about the history, culture, language and present status of our peoples. In doing so, we fight the assimilationist trend and join our lives with the destiny of our peoples as a whole.

We also feel it is our responsibility as communists to educate Asian students about the nature of U.S. capitalist society as the source of our oppression. We must win students to a revolutionary perspective. We do this through such means as building and selling the League newspaper, UNITY, sponsoring workshops and forums on topics relevant to Asian student work and organizing discussion groups on Asian issues and study groups o Marxism.

In our day-to-day work, the League has worked with other activists over the last two years to confront many questions in the course of building the ECASU/NE.

The development of the ECASU network has not always followed a smooth and easy path, and there are many valuable lessons to be summed up in its history There have also been important issues and questions which have existed at different times in ECASU’s development which have significance to the whole Asian student movement.

An important question for ECASU/NE has been the relationship between individual student organizations or each campus and the network. During the last period, ECASU/NE has reaffirmed the important role that each Asian student organization plays in the network. As a composite of all the campus groups represented, ECASU/NE has developed as a democratically run network designed to strengthen each individual Asian student organization. Decisions on content and organization of conferences, and other activities, are made with input from all.

ECASU/NE has contributed to strengthening campus Asian groups. Network-sponsored conferences, like the recent Asian Student Unity Conference, “Rising to the Challenge,” provide a forum to discuss ways to build the clubs, strengthen Asian identity and develop plans for the upcoming year.

Another important question is that of student-community ties. In the ECASU/NE we have always promoted the importance of Asian students maintaining ties with the communities, although our primary focus is Asian students’ needs on campus. Asian College Days are organized as a means to serve the educational needs of our communities. ECASU/NE has worked in many community coalitions, such as the Friends of Visual Communications, which sponsored the New England premier of Hito Rata. ECASU/NE has also worked jointly with the Chinatown Peoples Progressive Association, based in Boston Chinatown, on activities such as tenant support work and recreational outings. These activities have served to give us a fuller awareness of our Asian American experience and deepened our understanding of the current realities Asian people must face.

Since its founding, the ECASU/NE has used its principles as a guide to its many and diverse activities. These principles state that ECASU/NE exists as a democratically run network which supports and encourages the development of campus Asian student organizations, fosters pride in ourselves as Asians, encourages us to learn our history and culture, and recognizes the commonality of our concerns with those of other Third World people. ECASU/NE, through all of our activities, participates in the movement to end discrimination and racism which plagues the lives of Asians in America.

The overwhelmingly positive response from Asian students to these activities proves the validity of these principles. The reestablishment of the ECASU/Mid-Atlantic region in 1981 along similar principles shows that these ideas, in fact, embody the fundamental aspirations of Asian students on the entire East Coast.

Every day in the ECASU/NE, we are confronted with obstacles and frustrations for which we do not have ready-made answers. The conservative climate in the U.S. will make it especially hard for progressive movements to grow. Building ECASU and the Asian student movement at a time when it is not “fashionable” to demand what is rightfully ours will require renewed determination to educate fellow Asians, to unite the Asian nationalities, immigrants and American-born, and to fight for our rights.

The Financial Aid and Admissions Task Force initiated by the ECASU/NE can be instrumental in pushing for an end to racist and discriminatory admissions policies for Asians. What minimal Asian Studies programs that exist on the East Coast must be defended and expanded. Through New England’s ’82-’83 Asian American Education campaign, we must take responsibility within our organizations to educate ourselves and others about our history, heritage and achievements.

We in the League and our supporters will continue to work with other activists in building the campus organizations, the networks in New England and the Mid-Atlantic, and unifying both into one ECASU.

Asian students are made up of many different nationalities and backgrounds – Chinese, Japanese, Korean, immigrant and American-born. Asian students also include a diversity of political perspectives. All of us must work together, emphasizing common goals, while recognizing the distinctions that make each sector and view unique.

Together we have to take the matter into our own hands and build the Asian student movement so that our vision of a society free of oppression can be realized.

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M. W. is an American-born Chinese currently studying in New England. She is a leading member of the ECASU/NE and a member of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L).