A critical history of the largest Maoist organization to emerge in the US out of the tumultuous sixties and the FBI's unrelenting campaign against it.
Based on impeccable research… Leonard and Gallagher help us to understand how the RCP's revolutionary ideology resonated with a small group of young people in post-1968 America, took inspiration from the People's Republic of China, and brought down the wrath of the FBI. ~ David Farber, The Age of Great Dreams: America in the 1960s.
• The secret FBI’s effort to pit the Revolutionary Union against its Maoist counterpart, Progressive Labor Party, in a campaign to break apart the Students for a Democratic Society and prevent a Maoist takeover of SDS.
• The FBI’s infiltration of the RU/RCP which began in April 1968, nearly a year before the group publicly surfaced; a harbinger of the intensive infiltration that would follow.
• For the first time, the story of the “Ad Hoc Committee” (AHC) — progeny of FBI Special Agent Herbert K. Stallings, who in the words of his FBI personnel report, “created from his own imagination” a fictional pro-Chinese entity within the old Communist Party USA,” with the object of disrupting that group. The AHC--whose 17,000 page file remains secret to protect “confidential law enforcement sources” and “techniques”* — would mysteriously appear at a critical moment in the RU’s history.
• Revelations of the top secret “Bergman Investigation, ” aimed at RU founding member Leibel Bergman. Supervised by “Deep Throat,” W. Mark Felt and overseen by J. Edgar Hoover, the Bergman Investigation included phone taps, planting of microphones in his home, and plans to install closed circuit television cameras to even more intensively monitor his activity, all in an attempt to unmask Bergman as a Chinese spy.
* National Archives letter to Conor Gallagher, August 4, 2014.
FROM THE BOOK
As for the Bureau, no study up to now has explored the enormity of the effort it leveled against the RU/RCP. Indeed no study outside of those of the FBI and the House Internal Security Committee—Max Elbaum’s work and a few less than mainstream publications aside— has acknowledged in any meaningful way the existence of the group at all. Here what has been in play is an operating principle in US society, one that refuses to acknowledge, not just the legitimacy of the communist ideology, but whenever possible its very existence as an organized entity within the US; failing that, such entities are cast as the most marginal (and ridiculous) expressions of fringe politics.
In order to get a truer picture, one has to go to the US secret police. In that regard the following exchange in the 1980 Felt-Miller trial, this between US attorney John Nields and the FBI’s David Ryan is highly instructive:
Q. You were in charge of the Leibel Bergman investigation?
A. Yes, Sir.
Q. And just to give the jury an idea, would you indicate, if you took the Leibel Bergman files and piled them one on top of the other, all the pieces of paper in the files, how high would it stack.
A. I have no idea. I think that you probably could tell me better.
Q. About, four, five, six feet high. Something like that.
Ryan did not answer the question, instead saying the “FBI never judges the validity of its investigation by the size of its files.” Such dissembling aside, as is clear from his testimony and the investigation done for this book, the effort was massive. Yet Bergman — one of the most significant radicals of the 60s/70s era — for all intent of purposes is absent from the history books.
There were several people at the University of California interested in forming an organization to aid victims of United States aggression [in] Vietnam. We felt that this was the least we could do in terms of making protest against what our Government was doing to the people of Vietnam and in order to show the American people and people across the world that all Americans do not, that the American people do not back this Government’s vicious, criminal war in Vietnam.—Steve Hamilton (an RU founder), testimony in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, August 1966.
A strike, when it is not a token tactical ploy in ‘labour management relations’, is in many ways like a miniature revolution. Struggle, instead of collaboration, is the order of the day. The old individualistic ways of solving, blunting, or avoiding contradictions and confrontations give way to collective ways of facing them and fighting.— Bob Avakian writing on the Standard Oil Strike in "The Movement," March 1969.
Depending on which side of the divide you were on, Stanford between 1969 and 1971 was either a place of exhilarating protest or, in the words of its former President Richard Lyman, “Pretty much a descent into hell.”
For more, see:
• The FBI and the Shattering of Students for Democratic Society
• The Bureau and the Journalist: Victor Riesel’s Secret Relationship with the FBI
• The FBI Informant File of Sheila Louise O’Connor