Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Interview with the U.S. League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L)

Chicano students – an important revolutionary force

First Published: Unity, Vol. 6, No. 6, April 8-21, 1983.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Will there be anything more than just token numbers of Chicanos in higher education in the next few years? Recruitment and retention is probably the key question facing Chicano students.

UNITY recently interviewed T., a member of the U.S. League of Revolutionary Struggle (M-L). T. is a Chicana and a leading activist in the Chicano student movement. On April 9, the California MEChAs (Chicano Student Movement ofAztlan) will hold their statewide conference at Evergreen College in San Jose. Chicano students and the MEChAs have a long history of involvement in both the Chicano Movement and the student movement as a whole.

They have been active in farm worker support, are working to oppose the Simpson-Mazzoli immigration bill, are active against U.S. intervention in El Salvador. Many will be participating in the upcoming April 12 statewide demonstrations to protest tuition increases.

In this interview, the LRS offers its views on many of the issues which affect Chicano students, and ultimately, the entire Chicano Movement.

Q: What are some of the major issues affecting Chicano students today?

A: Chicano students are being hit from all sides. Financial aid has been badly cut; tuition and fees are being increased; special admissions, EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) and Chicano Studies are all being threatened with elimination. But for us the real question is: “Will there be anything more than just token numbers of Chicanos in higher education in the next few years?” The issue of recruitment and retention is probably the key question facing the Chicano student movement today.

Q: On many campuses Chicano student enrollment seems to be declining. Why?

A: There is a decline taking place – and it’s no accident. The capitalists have never wanted Chicanos to attend college in large numbers. They only started special admissions and EOP because Chicanos and other oppressed nationalities fought to open up the colleges and universities. These programs meant that at UCLA, for example, Chicano enrollment went up from less than 30 in 1965 to almost 800 five years later.

But the capitalists have been picking away at these gains right from the beginning. The Bakke decision – and the whole racist notion that special admissions represents “reverse discrimination” against whites – paves the way for the elimination of special admissions. It also means a more blatantly racist mood on campus – like the recent incident at UC Berkeley where white fraternity students physically attacked Chicano students and the school did nothing about it.

In order to get some idea of how devastating these attacks have been, let me give just two examples. At the University of Colorado, Chicano enrollment has declined from a high of 2,000 a few years ago to just barely 400 Chicano students now – and it probably will get worse because they just closed down the EOP and summer orientation program for incoming Chicano students. Here in California, Chicanos make up less than 9% of total state college enrollment and less than 3% of the University of California system enrollment – and yet Chicanos represent about 20% of the state population.

As Chicano students, we must fight these attacks and continue the struggle to increase Chicano enrollment in the colleges. It is part of the struggle of the Chicano Nation for equality and self-determination.

Q: What is your assessment of the present state of the Chicano student movement, and what will it take to win this struggle?

A: In certain respects, the Chicano student movement is stronger than it was a few years ago. In California, there are Chicano student organizations on more than 60 college campuses. For the last few years, there have been national meetings of Chicano students from all over the Southwest. In July of this year there will be a National Student Conference in San Diego.

On the other hand, there are certain objective problems. Probably the majority of Chicano students have to work part-time just to stay in school. This makes it much harder to be active in MEChA or take part in community issues.

Another factor is the changing composition of Chicano students. The cuts in financial aid and supportive services and the stiffer entrance requirements have made it harder for working class students to attend college. We see more Chicano students from middle class backgrounds.

Stricter requirements mean more emphasis on studying to stay in school and graduate.

Despite these limitations, I feel that most Chicano students are opposed to the attacks which we are facing. The key thing is that we need to build strong Chicano student organizations. We think that these organizations must lead the fight for increased Chicano enrollment, defend Chicano Studies, and oppose tuition increases. That’s why I think that it is important that organizers in the Chicano student movement understand this new generation of Chicano students. To effectively organize them, we must understand their concerns and the factors that affect their political consciousness.

We must promote Chicano pride and identity. Our people have lived here over 450 years. Chicano Studies classes help Chicano students learn about our history and culture. The capitalists are trying to make us reject our history and ignore the fact that we are an oppressed people fighting for our right to self-determination. They are promoting the use of the term “Hispanic” instead of “Chicano” and are pushing assimilation – an option that doesn’t exist for Chicanos because of the vicious racism which our people face. For the Chicano student movement to be strong, we must actively promote our identity as Chicanos and play a role in rejecting the whole notion of Hispanismo.

Finally, I think that it is important that Chicano students build ties with students of other nationalities who are also interested in fighting against tuition increases and in protesting attacks on special admissions. We can gain much strength by joining forces with other students, while not losing sight of the fact that we do have particular concerns as Chicano students – such as Chicano enrollment – issues which can win support from other students. It is also critical that Chicano students build ties with the rest of the Chicano Movement. I think that it is important that the Chicano Movement as a whole support the struggles of Chicano students.

Q: What is the role of communists in the Chicano student movement?

A: Communists have had a long history within the Chicano Movement, including the Chicano student movement. Many of the members of the League are veterans of that struggle – having helped to build Chicano student organizations. In fact, for many of us it was our struggle within the Chicano Movement that led us to communism.

My involvement in MEChA led me to study about the history of the Chicano people and U.S. imperialism. I began to read about successful revolutions in other countries and found out that in every case communists were among the leadership of those revolutions. And so I started studying Marxism-Leninism. I met Chicano communists who were among the best organizers and hardest fighters for our people. I feel that Chicano students today should study Marxism-Leninism – just as we should study Chicano history and the history of revolutions in other countries – because I think that it will help the Chicano people win liberation.

As the League, we play an active role in helping to build the MEChAs as strong student organizations. We try to point out that the basic reason for the oppression which our people face is monopoly capitalism – a system that oppresses the entire Chicano Nation, including Chicano students.

As communists, we have a responsibility to promote unity between Chicano students and other working and oppressed people. Through our practice and our educational work we want to show that socialism is the only real alternative to the capitalist system of exploitation and oppression. We believe that Chicano students must fight for the self-determination of the Chicano Nation – which means the right of the Chicano people to decide their own political destiny, up to and including the right to political secession and self-government. But we also believe that the Chicano people will never genuinely be free as long as imperialism exists. We feel that Chicanos and other oppressed people must join together to destroy monopoly capitalism and replace it with socialism where the working class of all nationalities will be in power, and oppressed nationalities will enjoy full democracy.

We encourage Chicano students to build upon the MEChA’s tradition of internationalism, of solidarity and support for all people who are oppressed by imperialism. For example, as Chicano students we should join with other progressive people in opposing U.S. intervention in Nicaragua and El Salvador, and in supporting the struggle of the people of El Salvador for freedom from U.S. rule. It also means working together with students of other nationalities – supporting their struggles and asking them to support the struggles of Chicano students.

All in all, we are trying to help build a strong Chicano student movement – one that is well-organized, politically conscious and unified. We feel that Chicano students are an important revolutionary force and that communism offers an effective way to help build such a movement – one that can contribute its utmost to the revolution.