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The Red Guards were an Chinese-American civil rights militant group active during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The movement drew inspiration from a variety of sources including the Boxer Rebellion, The Red Guards in China, and the Black Panthers. The I Wor Kuen were a similar group operating in New York City modeled after the Boxers, who later merged with the west coast based Red Guards. The I Wor Kuen would later form the political front for the Red Guard Party as the more militant elements went underground. The Red Guards were modeled after and closely aligned with the Black Panther movement. The Black Panther's official newspaper had this to say about the Red Guard movement:

"San Francisco’s Red Guard was patterned closely after the Black Panther Party. In 1969, the federal government wanted to shut down a Tuberculosis testing center located in San Francisco’s Chinese community. At the time, Chinatown had the highest TB rate in the country. The young Asians in the Red Guard organized the community and staged successful protest demonstrations to keep that TB testing center open. Through these protests and the programs that the Red Guard initiated, Chinatown’s citizens were enlightened and became open to more progressive politics. In 1970, members of the Red Guard were part of a delegation that was invited to join Eldridge Cleaver and they accompanied him in a visit to China, North Korea, and North Vietnam. After about two and a half years, due to political and police repression, such as office raids, arrests without warrants, false arrest, and armed stand-offs with police, the organization collapsed."

We first opened our office on Jackson Street, flying the Chinese five-starred flag and playing the "East is Red" out into the street. Political education classes were held and open to the public. In Leway's pool hall, reading the Red Book - Quotations from Chairman Mao - and showing films from San Francisco Newsreel about the struggles of Third World people around the world and in the United States. In the first sessions, the whole pool room would be filled by over 60 youth, but as the police raided the place every night, intimidating the youth, people stopped coming. The police had the absolute authority to enter the place to check ID's because Leway was a public pool hall. They would come into the place four times a night with as many as twelve officers in full riot equipment. They would force everyone up against the walls and make everyone fill out field interrogation cards. The Red Guard was unable to stop this harassment by the police, so the harassment continued keeping people away form the pool hall.


In Chinatown, the Red Guards did openly advocate patriotism to the People's Republic of China. Not only patriotism, but more importantly, the politics of Socialist China - their struggles for freedom from oppression and the importance of the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party were reintroduced into the community by a series of celebrations.

On October 1, 1970, the 21st anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, we held a celebration bringing people together who felt nationalism and patriotism to their motherland, which they kept silent for a long time. The first event was at Portsmouth Square Park to distribute free food and leaflets to announce the evening event at the Committee Theatre. As we entered the park, the Chinese Anti-Communist League was holding a memorial service "to the millions of compatriots killed by the Communists." We, being patriotic to the People's Republic of China, were a direct attack to their politics and even more when we unfurled the five starred flag. At this point a speaker on the stage representing the Anti-Communist League yelled "Kill Them," which led to a fight as police looked on. It was only after some of out food had been kicked over that the police decided to stop the fighting. We continued to serve the remainder of the food even after the fighting ended. Later that evening we held a dinner and movie showing of the "East is Red". It was a successful turnout of over 300 people from the community and other Third World people. The film was received with great enthusiasm and excitement, and after the showing many elderly Chinese people expressed their happiness in seeing a film from China and looked forward to receiving more news from 'home'.

The Red Guard engaged in various petition and other campaigns directed primarily to anti-redevelopment struggles, i.e. preventing the Chinese Playground from being torn down to build a garage; picketing when the Kwong Chow Temple was destroyed; and leafleting attempts to stop big businessmen and landlords from tearing down the International Hotel. We helped to circulate a petition to oppose the Nixon Administration from ending a tuberculosis treatment center in Chinatown. And together, with other groups, succeed in maintaining this program.

All of these issues had the potential of developing into mass struggles that would raise the consciousness of the people of Chinatown. However, we had no idea of how to organize the people -- no mass meetings were ever held and hardly any investigation was done as to how the people felt and wanted to act on these issues. In fact, most of the political work that we did was to gain favor in the community and break us out of isolation without an understanding of how to struggle for our rights.

Our two serve-the-people programs were the Breakfast for Children program and the Free Lunch program for people in the Portsmouth Square Park. We were eager to do concrete things that would raise revolutionary concepts of the necessity to struggle against the government because it was not fulfilling the rights of people to live good lives here in the United States. But because we did no investigation of the community, and did not know how these programs would fit into raising the level of consciousness of the people, they were not successful in pointing out the contradictions of capitalism to community people. Organizationally, the programs were left up to rank and file members to run without participation of the leadership. Criticisms of these programs from within the rank and file of the organization were ignored by the leadership and this served to demoralize the cadre.


Links

http://www.aamovement.net/history/red_guard/redguardparty.html http://www.aamovement.net/history/ypm3.html http://www.aamovement.net/history/gt/gt.html http://muse.jhu.edu/cgi-bin/access.cgi?uri=/journals/american_quarterly/v057/57.4maeda.html http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:_GtqX4QAjlYJ:www.bpmnews.org/2006_Nov_Dec.pdf+%22San+Francisco%E2%80%99s+Red+Guard+was+patterned+closely+after+the+Black+Panther%22&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=2&client=firefox-a http://64.233.161.104/search?q=cache:WnAqfh-jauAJ:www.itsabouttimebpp.com/Big_Man/pdf/SOLIDARITY.pdf+%22red+guard%22+%22san+francisco%22+black+panthers&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=6&client=firefox-a http://www.blackpanther.org/legacytwo.htm

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