“Steve Phillips is currently one of the most powerful Democratic Party operatives in the country and is a highly influential progressive strategist. His political roots are Marxist-Leninist and he has never wavered in his commitment to a socialist America.” – Trevor Loudon
A maelstrom engulfed the tiny backwater of Stanford University student politics on May 23, 1990. After months of investigation, The Stanford Daily Senior Staff Writer Michael Friedly was ready to blow the lid off Stanford’s most insidious political cult, the League of Revolutionary Struggle (LRS).
The ripples off this expose are still being felt today.
Over the past three months, The Daily has interviewed dozens of students who have some familiarity with the League. These interviews were part of an investigation of the League which included more than 100 interviews with students, administration officials and nationwide experts. Many students interviewed by The Daily asked not to be identified because they said they are afraid of harassment by League members.
The bombshell article went on to detail the League’s history of highly secretive political manipulation of certain student groups and its wider influence on student politics.
A secretive nationwide organization called the League of Revolutionary Struggle (Marxist-Leninist) has been a little-known factor in student politics at Stanford for several years, a Daily investigation has found:
Through the selective recruitment of Stanford students into its organization, the League has been able to influence aspects of progressive politics on campus by trying to place its members in leadership positions within the ASSU (Association of Students at Stanford University, the student government) , the communities of color and in staff positions. The total number of Stanford students and staff members who are League members is apparently fewer than 30, but these individuals are in positions that allow them to shape student government policies, according to a number of sources who said they have either been recruited by the League or have worked with League members in the ASSU or student of color organizations.
The presence of the League has been in part responsible for dramatic effects at Stanford, ranging from divisions within the communities of color to the pressured resignation of an administrator to parts of the planning of last spring’s takeover of University President Donald Kennedy’s office.
Friedly exposed the cultish secrecy and hunger for power of the Pro-China, Maoist LRS.
The League, based in the Bay Area but with membership across the country, has been able to recruit Stanford students into its organization in a manner secret enough so that students are not initially told they are being recruited by the League, according to several Stanford students who said they were recruited but did not join the League. Recruitment of individuals by the League is generally conducted over a long period of time, several years in some cases, according to students who were recruited. Students who are successfully recruited by the League are then able to further the League’s goals by running for student offices and helping to determine policies in the ASSU.
In typical Maoist fashion, the LRS focussed heavily on racial politics and agitation. These politics should feel very familiar to any Obama-era survivor.
According to League theory, the United States is composed of various “oppressed nations,” such as the Afro-American nation in the South, the Chicano nation in the Southwest and the Asian American nation. The overall goal of the League has been the liberation of these nationalities under a socialist state, according to a League publication called “Peace, Justice, Equality and Socialism” that explains its goals.
Until it can gain enough support to stage a revolution, the League attempts to “organize, agitate and educate the masses” by working with more mainstream groups, according to the publication. By making mass organizations more radical, the League can gain enough support for its “protracted revolution” in the United States, the publication states. Unlike the Communist Party USA, which is a predominantly white organization, the League focuses on mass organizations dealing with people of color for its support within student and labor movements.
At Stanford, the League has tried to work toward its goals with varying degrees of success in MEChA, a Chicano/Latino student group; AASA; the Black Student Union and the ASSU through the People’s Platform.
Friedly went on to name the names of several League activists, including two staffers of his own newspaper. Friedly quoted student activist Richard Suh, who was heavily recruited by the League, but eventually balked at full membership.
Former Asian American Student Association chair Richard Suh said he was heavily recruited by Elsa Tsutaoka the office manager of the Asian American Activities Center. According to Suh, when Tsutaoka asked him to apply for membership in the League, Suh asked her which Stanford students were members of the League. “You shouldn’t ask that question,” was the reply, he said.
When questioned by the Daily, Tsutaoka “denied having any knowledge of the League or that she had ever recruited for the League“. Added Friedly “because the recruitment process is secretive and individuals refuse to acknowledge that they are members of the League, it is difficult to prove whether anyone is a League member.”
Council of Presidents member David Brown and former COP member Stacey Leyton are both believed to be members of the League, according to a number of sources. Brown refused to comment. Leyton denied that she was a member or that she had any knowledge of the League’s membership at Stanford.
Although there is no indication that she joined the League, COP member Ingrid Nava, who was recently re-elected to a second term, was heavily recruited by the League beginning at the end of last summer, according to a number of students. Nava refused to return numerous phone calls. At the end of last summer, Nava lived briefly at a house on Bryant Street in Palo Alto known sarcastically by some progressive students as the “Revolutionary Hotel,” where recruitment for the League has occurred, according to sources who say they have been recruited.
Tsutaoka and Steven Phillips, a former BSU chair and current Daily multicultural editor who has allegedly recruited for the League, currently live in the house. Phillips recruited Nava beginning in September, according to a student who was also recruited by the League. Phillips said he had no knowledge of the League’s involvement at Stanford and has not recruited for the organization.
Such evasions were standard League practice. The flat-out denials were almost certainly lies.
Elsa Tsutaoka contributed to Unity, May 4, 1987, the newspaper of the League of Revolutionary Struggle. She was also listed as a contributor in 1988 and was a close collaborator with Phillips.
In May 1985, the League of Revolutionary Struggle newspaper Unity published a supplement on the university South African divestment movement.
The article profiled the activities of several Stanford Out of South Africa activists including Steve Phillips – Black Student Union chair, Stanford Out of South Africa (SOSA) liaison committee with the Administration and Stacey Leyton – Students Against Reaganism.
In the interview, Steve Phillips proudly stated that “some of the people who have played roles in organizing SOSA have been folks who’ve worked with UNITY and take a Marxist-Leninist perspective…It’s really exciting to see the principles of Marxism-Leninism being successful and making a difference.”
Steve Phillips and David Brown were principal organizers of the April 1987 March on Sacramento that drew 8,000 people to Sacramento to support “expanded educational opportunities for students of color“. The March was a League operation.
In 1990, Steven C. Phillips, 1984 – 1986 chair of Stanford University’s Black Student Union and co-chair of the California Black/African Student Statewide Alliance 1987 – 1990, contributed an article on Nelson Mandela to the July 9, 1990 issue of the LRS’s Unity and another article “keeping hope alive in 1990” in the November 26 issue.
After the LRS dissolved in late 1990, Unity January 28, 1991, issued a statement: “A call to build an organization for the 1990s and beyond.” It listed more than a 100 activists working to build a new group from the ashes of the LRS – the Unity Organizing Committee. The League wasn’t dying. It was reincarnating.
Among those committed to building the new organization were:
- David Brown, former student body co-president Stanford University
- Stacey Leyton, West Coast organizer United States Students Association
- Ingrid Nava, student body co-president Stanford University
- Steven C. Phillips. writer, education activist San Francisco
Today, Elsa Tsutaoka is a medical doctor in San Francisco.
David Brown went on to work in education and is today Chief of Staff at the Office of Democratic Party leader and Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan – herself a former League of Revolutionary Struggle leader.
Ingrid Nava is a labor lawyer, Associate General Counsel at SEIU Local 32BJ, New York.
Stacey Leyton went on to serve as an Appellate Representative to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference from 2010 until 2013 and currently serves as a Lawyer Representative to the Northern District of California.
Steve Phillips is a self-described “national political leader, civil rights lawyer, and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress… Phillips has appeared on multiple national radio and television networks including NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and TV One. He is a columnist for The Nation and a regular opinion contributor to The New York Times.
In 2014, he was named one of “America’s Top 50 Influencers” by Campaigns and Elections magazine.
As I will show in following posts, Steve Phillips is currently one of the most powerful Democratic Party operatives in the country and is a highly influential progressive strategist. His political roots are Marxist-Leninist and he has never wavered in his commitment to a socialist America.
More than that, he has the power and influence to change this country in ways that will terrify you.
Look for Part 3 coming soon: “Unity Organizing Committee, Seeds Of A Socialist America”
A book entitled “The Rainbow Conspiracy” will be released in October 2018.