Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM)

Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM)


* Now-defunct San Francisco Bay-Area Marxist-Maoist collective
* Had close ties to the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade and the Revolutionary Communist Party
* Advocated social “change on a revolutionary scale”
* Was commited to revolutionary Marxist politics
* Blamed American foreign policy for the 9/11 attacks

Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM) was a San Francisco Bay-Area Marxist-Maoist collective whose origins dated back to Roots Against War (RAW), “a group of young people of color who came together to fight against the Gulf War in the early 1990s.” Several of RAW’s leaders were veterans of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, the youth wing of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Filling its ranks mostly with nonwhites, RAW engaged in “confrontational” and “militant” forms of “direct action” that often saw its members “defying police commands” or “plunging through police lines and barricades.”

When RAW dissolved in the spring of 1992, several of its members collaborated with other local activists (some of whom were from the Bay Area Coalition For Our Reproductive Rights) intent on establishing a new group “to preserve and carry forward RAW’s radical militant energy into a more systematic organizational form.” These efforts ultimately led to the creation of STORM by 8 co-founders in the fall of 1994. Their first public act took place on November 2 of that year, when they protested against Proposition 187, a ballot initiative (which California voters had approved the previous day) designed to deny social-welfare benefits to illegal immigrants in the state. STORM characterized Prop 187 as a “racist, anti-immigrant” measure.

STORM described the period immediately preceding its founding as “a moment of deep crisis for the international Left and growing momentum for sections of the imperialist class.” This was because “the Soviet Union had fallen in 1989,” “China was turning towards capitalism,” and “the fall of the world’s first and most powerful socialist nation undermined the material strength and public legitimacy of the Left around the world.” As a result, said STORM, “The global ruling class began to build towards a neo-liberal ‘New World Order’ in which the United States would become the world’s one and only super-power and in which corporations would plunder the resources and people of the world without limit.”

Meanwhile STORM complained that “the Right,” which was in “firm control of the U.S. government,” was “on a vicious offensive … successfully rolling back the gains from the civil rights movement and other freedom movements of the 1960s and 1970s…. [It] slashed funding for social programs like education and welfare – securing profits for corporations and helping pay for U.S. imperial aggression. It curtailed the civil liberties of people of color and poor people throughout the United States.”

Membership in STORM was by special invitation only; invitees were carefully selected with an eye toward meeting strict demographic quotas: each new “class” consisted of at least 75 percent “people of color” and 60 percent women.

Advocating “change on a revolutionary scale,” STORM sought to broaden its influence by calling for “solidarity among all oppressed people – working class people, people of color, women, queer people – in the fight for ‘total’ liberation from all systems of oppression – centrally including capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia and able-ism.” The group’s early activities were based in “low-income communities of color.”

In 1996 STORM held a demonstration in Oakland to protest President Bill Clinton’s “decision to gut welfare.” At issue was the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which was successful in moving large numbers of people off the welfare rolls and into jobs.

As of 1997 STORM was still a small organization, consisting of only nine members. In an effort to increase its numbers and expand its influence, this core group studied the organizing models of Saul Alinsky, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and Marxism-Leninism. Convinced that “revolutionary Marxist politics would be central to the development of a successful liberation movement in this country,” all of STORM’s members “developed a basic understanding of and commitment to revolutionary Marxist politics – with a particular emphasis on the historical experiences of Third World communist movements.”

In 1998 STORM created a Political Education Committee called “411” which schooled new and established members in “Marxist ‘basics,’ … philosophy, wage exploitation, capitalism, imperialism and globalization, Lenin’s theories of the state, revolution and the party,… the political ideas of Mao Tse-tung and Antonio Gramsci … Marxist feminism, transgender liberation, and the Palestinian liberation struggle.”

STORM also promoted the concept of “Urban Marxism,” the belief that “the urban space was now the central site of revolutionary struggle, just as the factory and the point of production were in the days of Karl Marx.”

STORM avidly “upheld the Marxist critique of capitalist exploitation”; “agreed with Lenin’s analysis of the state and the party”; and “found inspiration and guidance in the insurgent revolutionary strategies developed by Third World revolutionaries like Mao Tse-tung and Amilcar Cabral.” Cabral was a late Marxist revolutionary leader (of Guinea-Bissau and the Cape Verde Islands) who lauded Lenin as “the greatest champion of the national liberation of the peoples.”

In July 1998, three of STORM’s core members went to South Africa to attend the Congress of the South African Communist Party, where they observed first-hand “how powerful Marxism has been and can be for liberation movements made up of and led by people of color.”

From late 1998 through 1999, STORM’s influence in the Bay Area grew dramatically. One of its defining endeavors was a crusade to win the freedom of convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal, whom it described as a “political prisoner” whose case was inextricably linked to “police brutality,” and who represented “an important voice of resistance and truth for communities of color.”

STORM established a “Revolutionary Youth Movement” Work Group “to support the development of a revolutionary internationalist trend of youth organizations in the Bay.” This quickly developed into STORM’s largest Work Group, accounting for more than half of all the organization’s members.

In 1999 STORM formed a Culture & Propaganda Work Group (CPWG) “to nurture new revolutionary art and artists”; “produce street-level agitation and propaganda”; “bring cultural workers into political action”; and “build networks among revolutionary cultural workers.” In the summer of 1999, CPWG members participated in a “Venceremos Brigade” that traveled to Fidel Castro’s Cuba “to see and support one of the world’s few surviving socialist states.” Those members “came back with a heightened understanding of both socialism and capitalism and a stronger commitment to red politics.”[1]

Emphasizing the central role it wanted women to play in its revolutionary “struggles against capitalism, colonialism and women’s oppression,” STORM coined the slogan “Sisters at the Center.” “A truly liberatory revolutionary feminism,” said STORM, “must be based not only on an analysis of women’s oppression, but also on deep analyses of white supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, heterosexism and transgender oppression.”

STORM also strove “to overcome the individualistic and destructive tendencies that we are taught in this [American] society.”

In late 1999, STORM members took part in the violent anti-World Trade Organization protests and riots in Seattle, Washington.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, STORM, knowing “that the fall of the World Trade Center [which had just occurred] would mark a dramatic shift in international and domestic politics,” convened in Oakland for an emergency meeting to plan a vigil they would hold that night in the city’s Snow Park. According to a 2004 document published by former members of STORM, the 9/11 event was attended by hundreds of people including several STORM members who “articulated a strong anti-imperialist line” that expressed anger at “the U.S. government, whose worldwide aggression had engendered such hate across the globe that working class people were not safe at home.” The vigil also “honored those who had lost their lives in the attack – and those who would surely lose their lives in subsequent U.S. attacks overseas.”

Two days later, STORM issued a statement warning “against a government crackdown on civil liberties”; asserting that “the violence and injustice of U.S. imperialism” had “put the entire world in danger”; expressing opposition to “racist, anti-Arab bigotry” in the form of “stereotypes and scapegoating” by “the media and government”; and calling for “solidarity and compassion” directed toward all victims of American injustice around the globe.

In the early 2000s, STORM was active in the anti-Iraq War demonstrations organized by International ANSWER.

In December 2002, STORM dissolved due to internal tensions and rivalries. In 2004, a number of STORM’s former members collaborated to publish a booklet titled Reclaiming Revolution, wherein they recapped their own organizational history – in hopes that their reflections and observations would help “move the Left forward.”

STORM’s most notable leader was Van Jones, a revolutionary communist who would go on to become President Barack Obama‘s “Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation” in 2009.


[1] The Venceremos Brigades covertly transported hundreds of young Americans to Cuba to help harvest sugar cane and interact with Havana’s communist revolutionary leadership. The Brigades were organized by Fidel Castro‘s Cuban intelligence agency, which trained “brigadistas” in guerrilla warfare techniques, including the use of arms and explosives.

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