Chance of a Lifetime is a multimedia oral history project that captures the personal stories of members of the League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist) (LRS). The organization existed from 1978 until 1990 and had roots in predecessor organizations such as I Wor Kuen, the August 29th Movement, the Congress of Afrikan Peoples, East Wind Collective, and more. At its height, the LRS had several thousand cadre across the nation comprising all races and ethnicities. It included immigrants, students, parents, and grandparents. A unique feature of the LRS among movement groups was the prominence of women in leadership roles.
The purpose of this oral history project is to present our stories, the human face of the LRS. Many of our cadre had been long-time activists in our communities, schools, and workplaces before joining the organization. Common to all of us was a realization, through concrete work and experience, that if the movement was to progress, it would need a more comprehensive, scientific understanding of conditions than our individual issues could provide. Joining the LRS represented a step toward a more systematic activism that used Marxist theory within a party-building organization. Among the narrators featured here, many considered our work in the League “the chance of a lifetime.”
This project is primary-source documentation of how a diverse group of people came together to fight for dignity and justice for working-class people. It documents the growth of our political awareness, why we joined a socialist organization, the formation of the LRS, our mass work, life as a cadre, and the dissolution of the organization. It looks at lessons learned, victories won, mistakes made — and the joys of comradeship.
This is an ongoing project, and new interviews will be added periodically.
¡Siempre en la lucha!
Carmelita Lonjina Gutierrez was a 20-year-old Chicana student at Evergreen College in San Jose, California, when she joined the LRS. Raised by a single mother who taught her to see the inequality in society, Carmelita grew up in San Jose, Calif. She became a respected MEChista leader at San Jose State University and was the Latino student representative in the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign. She was also active in the 1988-1989 Statewide Educational Rights campaign in California.
Fay Wong was born in Guangzhou, China in 1949. She emigrated to the U.S. in 1952 and settled in Oakland, California. She became politically conscious at U.C. Berkeley, participating in anti-war activities, the Third World Strike and attending the first Ethnic Studies classes taught at U.C. In 1973, Fay joined I Wor Kuen, which merged with other groups to form the League of Revolutionary Struggle. She was an Executive Director at the Chinese Progressive Association and served as the editor of the Chinese edition of Unity Newspaper.