Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Rosa Vega

Battling for unity at National Chicano Student Conference: Cultural nationalists disrupt conference

First Published: Unity, Vol. 9, No. 5, March 21, 1986.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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BERKELEY, CALIF. – On March 15, shortly after the National Chicano Student Conference (NCSC) began, 40-50 cultural nationalists charged the stage on the pretext of supporting Texas’ right to free speech.

Texas was criticizing the conference organizers for scheduling the structure workshop alongside the education workshops. The disrupters (affiliated with Union del Barrio of San Diego) seized the microphone, forcing the conference organizers to move the assembly to another facility.

The action outraged the majority of the over 800 Chicano/Latino students, who came from throughout the country with the hopes of establishing a national Chicano/Latino student organization.

Panel discussion

Returning to the main assembly, conference organizers invited the disrupters to air their views, provided that they end their “takeover.” In the panel presentation that followed, these narrow nationalists argued that the conference should be a national MEChA Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan) conference, not an NCSC, since in their view, MEChA is only for Chicanos who believe in their narrow brand of “nationalism.” They argued that no one who call themselves Marxists, “hispanics,” “Latinos” or “internationalists” should be allowed in MEChA. They passed out a long attack on the League of Revolutionary Struggle (LRS), which they alleged “controlled” the NCSC and which, as a multinational organization, should at be allowed to participate in MEChA or the NCSC because it “violates our self-determination.”

The cultural nationalists were shocked by the response. Campus after campus spoke out against their narrow views of the NCSC and MEChA, and against their disruptive tactics. Invited to address the assembly, one MEChista who is a member of the League explained, “I’m a communist, I’m an internationalist, but I have always been and will die a Chicano.” The general assembly rose to their feet in a standing ovation and broke into a powerful Chicano hand clap when he stated, “The Chicano student movement includes all Chicano/Latino students who genuinely desire to struggle for their gente (people) no matter what they call themselves.”

NCSC guidelines adopted

The disrupters had hoped to rally the assembly to adopt their restrictive constitution and preamble. Instead, the conference overwhelmingly approved (by a vote of 54 to 12) a proposal from the Colorado delegation, which states, “Any Chicano/Latino student who wants to work for the betterment of La Raza can be a Mechista. Chicano/Latino students can be Catholic, Protestant, Nationalist, Communist, Democrat, Republican, etc.”

Realizing their defeat, the narrow nationalists began to walk in out, charging, “You’re destroying our movement!” A voice rang out, “Who gave you the movement?” – capped by thunderous applause.

But, when several Chicanas from San Diego told the conference participants that these disrupters did not represent all of San Diego, these narrow nationalists rushed towards the stage again. They were stopped as over 40 women and some men spontaneously rushed onto the stage to protect the women from attack.

Where to now?

The cultural nationalists have shown by their actions that they have no respect for the democratic procedures of the NCSC. Together with their allies in the Black Liberation Movement, the African Peoples Socialist Party (APSP), Union del Barrio is bent on the “purification” of their respective national movements through physical disruption and intimidation. They view those who worked for Jesse Jackson or who participate in the political system or who work in organizations which have other nationalities in them as vendidos (sellouts) to the “colonial power structure.”

These narrow nationalists exposed their true desires to dictate to the Chicano student movement. The disrupters proclaimed that the next MEChA California statewide conference will be at the University of California Los Angeles – in clear violation of the democratic decision by the last California statewide conference, which named California State University at Bakersfield as the site for the next statewide. Later, they announced it would be a “national MEChA” conference, bypassing the democratic decision-making process of the NCSC general assembly, which voted that Colorado will host next year’s NCSC. Althoughthe NCSC suffered a setback, workshops were held on the second day, adopting several important resolutions, including the formation of a Chicana Caucus of the NCSC. The NCSC resolved to send out draft bylaws and structure proposals developed by various delegations for adoption at next year’s NCSC.

In the face of Reagan’s attacks on the very right of Chicano students to an education, the movement of Chicano students for equality, justice and self-determination is bound to grow stronger and overcome every obstacle. The struggle for a united Chicano student movement cannot be stopped.