"You and I were born at this turning point in history; we are witnessing the fulfillment of prophecy. Our present generation is witnessing the end of colonialism, Europeanism, or 'white-ism'... How can Amerika atone for her crimes?... A desegregated theater or lunch counter won't solve our problems. Better jobs won't solve our problems. An integrated cup of coffee isn't sufficient pay for four hundred years of slave labor, and a better job in the white man's factory or position in his business is, at best, only a temporary solution. The only lasting or permanent solution is complete separation on some land that we can call our own."
-- Malcolm X
What shook the Empire in the 1960s was that New Afrikans - and in particular the New Afrikan proletariat - began to assert themselves as a people. This new awareness was manifested in every sphere of life. Welfare mothers asserted that they had rights, and were going to invade welfare offices until the system got off their backs. Olympic athletes used their sports to dramatize the demand for Black Power. Jazz and popular music began to express rebellion. In auto plants New Afrikan workers created revolutionary nationalist alternatives to bourgeois unionism. Emerging national consciousness moved student boycotters in high schools as well as dissenting sailors on aircraft carriers. In the New Afrikan urban rebellions of 1963-1968, millions of people, primarily proletarians, took part in mass anti-colonial outbreaks. And on March 31, 1968, a convention of five hundred nationalists in Detroit, Michigan founded the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (PG-RNA).
These political changes did not overcome neo-colonial contradictions within the oppressed nation because the petty-bourgeoisie was still in charge. While the New Afrikan proletariat, the grass-roots, had gained awareness of itself as the leading class, it had only begun developing revolutionary science. The masses could not control their own movement. Even the liberation movement remained in the class domination of a sector of the Black petty-bourgeoisie. Relations with the Euro-Amerikan Left were still characterized by false internationalism. This false internationalism, even amidst a national revolutionary advance, betrayed uncertainty not only about the means of liberation but uncertainty about the goal.
The Black radical petty-bourgeoisie was in general half-hearted about independence, and consistently tried to used alliances with the Euro-Amerikan petty-bourgeoisie to substitute for the New Afrikan proletariat. Many petty-bourgeoisie radicals and "cultural nationalists" turned to phony "Marxism-Leninism" in the early 1970s as a cover to merge themselves back into class unity with the petty-bourgeois Euro-Amerikan Left. And Euro-Amerikan radicals continued their intervention and meddling within the New Afrikan nation, although better cosmetized as "solidarity." With the Movement dominated by the Black petty-bourgeoisie, the point of unity of Black united fronts continued to be the demand for U.S. Government reforms.
So the political course of the 1960s New Afrikan liberation Movement became knotted in an apparent paradox: between the growth of anti-colonial consciousness among the masses, on the one hand, and the stalled development of the first New Afrikan guerrillas on the other hand. In 1969-1971, New Afrikan urban guerrillas took to the offensive, attacking the hated police. But despite the general mood of anti-colonialism within the Nation, the first wave of urban guerrillas soon found themselves abandoned by the movement and politically isolated.
This paradox goes to the heart of the two-line struggle, between socialism and neo-colonialism, with the Movement and indeed within the New Afrikan Nation. This two-line struggle is a form of the world-historic two-line struggle between the proletariat (and its ideology) and capitalism (and its ideology).
By 1968 the New Afrikan Nation was in the grip of a political transformation, which took the specific form of a generalized uprising against the U.S. colonial oppressor. Between 1963 and 1967-68 mass urban rebellions spread across the continent, growing in number and intensity. From the 1963 outbreaks in Birmingham, Chicago, Philadelphia, Savannah and Cambridge, Maryland to the one hundred and twenty-five rebellions that erupted after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968.
In the transformation within the New Afrikan colony in the late 1960s millions upon millions were awakened to political life and political issues. It was widely agreed that New Afrikan people were not free, and everything was intensely debated and judged on the basis of how it related to aiding liberation - history, sports, religion, criminality, philosophy, war and peace, economic systems, everything.
Masses of people rejected loyalty to the U.S. Empire. To talk revolution against the U.S. Government became common and accepted. In the wake of the 1967 rebellions, even U.S. Government interviewers found that 52.8% of Newark "rioters" told them that they opposed any support of the U.S. in foreign wars, irregardless of who the U.S. was fighting. People came to identify more with other Third World oppressed nations than with the U.S. Empire. Increasing political unrest and even outbreaks of rebellion by New Afrikan G.I.s told Washington that their own colonial military was becoming politically unreliable.
The urban rebellions marked both the popular acceptance of anti-colonial violence and the breakdown of the old colonial mechanism of control.
Imperialism had discovered that the old way no longer held. New Afrikan people were "out of control." Pigs could no longer intimidate folks. The "thin blue line" that had patrolled the ghetto had been smashed. To regain control in many areas, the U.S. Empire was forced to re-occupy the ghetto with U.S. Army and National Guard troops, with tanks and jeep-mounted heavy machine guns. Imperialist order could only be reestablished over the hostile population by outright military invasion. Just as in Saigon or the Dominican Republic.
The old system of puppet misleaders had broken down as well. Token government officials, conservative reverends and Civil Rights spokesmen had been thoroughly exposed and brushed aside. The masses had found new unity and self-respect by throwing aside Uncle Toms and by using violence against the oppressor. The old way no longer worked for imperialism.
The crisis was only put down by the Empire's emergency counter-insurgency campaign. Not only by destroying centers of revolutionary organization, but in restructuring their colony through co-opted Black Power politics, breaking up national communities on a physical level, gutting the Peoples' culture, and maneuvering the growing street force into mercenary warlordism. The last is an important indicator of irreversible change.
Imperialism would rather that its colonial subjects stay unarmed and passive. But this can no longer be. The New Afrikan Nation is armed and will never be disarmed. And, just as in old, pre-revolutionary China, the heightened imperialist social dislocation is forcing many into the streets, futureless and desperate. Rather than have New Afrikans turn to combining in revolutionary violence, the authorities have encouraged the growth of warlord gangs. These gangs spread drug pacification, disorganize the community, absorb angry and desperate youth in killing each other, and act as police informers and mercenary agents. Just as in the old China of the 1920s, New Afrika is increasingly a chaotic, armed camp of warlordism. We must see this as dialectical process. Imperialism is brutally creating the raw human material of revolution or reaction.
Back in 1964, Malcolm stood on the front lines and pointed ahead to where the struggle was going: "...A couple of weeks ago in Jacksonville, Florida, a young teen-age Negro was throwing Molotov cocktails. Well, Negroes didn't do this ten years ago. But what you should learn from this is that they are waking up. It was stones yesterday, Molotov cocktails today; it will be hand grenades tomorrow and whatever else is available the next day... There are 22 million African-Americans who are ready to fight for independence right here."(1)
The Empire has tried to cover up the political character and meaning of the New Afrikan urban rebellions by calling them "riots," and associating them with short tempers in hot summer weather. In no cases did the rebellions show random violence. The were "festivals of the oppressed." Everything of the colonial oppressor was attacked by spontaneous group action, from police cars to rip-off stores. Property of the exploiter was liberated, while property of New Afrikan households was untouched. Crowds armed with only rocks and bottles burned police cars and tried to force the occupying colonial army out of New Afrikan areas.
The political character of the confrontation was unintentionally confirmed by President Johnson's emergency National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders. Their report, for example, related how the July 1967 Newark, N.J. rebellion began with spontaneous efforts to rescue a taxi cab driver who was being tortured by the police. After people in the Hayes Housing Project witnessed the man being dragged, unable to walk, into the 4th Precinct Station, the spark was lit. Within minutes telephone calls went out to community organizations from the Projects. Cab radios spread the word to New Afrikan workers around the city. Within 30 minutes a large and angry crowd gathered across the street from the station, while a caravan of New Afrikan taxis gathered at City Hall in protest. Civil Rights "leaders" tried to pacify the crowd as police moved the wounded cab driver to a hospital. When Molotov cocktails were thrown at the station, a police charge with nightsticks dispersed the crowd for that night.
The next day anger in the community mounted as word spread. That evening a protest rally was called at the police station. Nationalist leaflets and word of mouth had brought out folks. When the city Human Rights Commission Director tried to cool things by announcing that the Mayor would appoint a committee to "study" the incident and also promote a Black policeman to Captain, booing and shouting began. To shouts of "Black Power" the Uncle Tom was driven away with rocks. The police station was attacked while burning and expropriation of settler businesses began. Thousands of people, too many to be stopped or arrested by greatly-outnumbered police, started taking the groceries, TVs, furniture, medicines and clothing that the oppressed had already paid for a million times over.
Newark was placed under martial law in the early hours, with nervous State troopers and National Guard reoccupying the New Afrikan areas. Snipers bedeviled the soldiers and police. Afterwards the Newark Police told the Presidential Commission that it had officially confirmed 79 sniping incidents, although only one settler police lieutenant and one fireman had been killed by gunfire. In response the invading forces shot up the New Afrikan areas at will. The housing projects were hose with heavy machine-gun fire. Washington, D.C. Urban League Assistant Director Horace Morris, who was about to drive away from a visit with his family, saw both his younger brother and his 73-year-old stepfather shot down, the latter fatally. Police had opened fire on folks just standing in front of their apartment building. In total twenty-one New Afrikans were killed in Newark. At night, after curfew had been imposed, National Guard jeeps would cruise around shooting out the windows of stores that had been left alone because they had "Soul Brother" signs on them. The rebellions were simple, oppressed against oppressor.
In interviews and studies of arrest records, the Commission found that those who took an active part in rebellion were typical of the community. In Detroit their interviewers found that 11% of the residents age 15 and older in rebellious neighborhoods admitted to having taken part, with another 20-25% as admitting to having been on the scene. As a whole, the Commission was forced to describe the typical "rioter" as having: "great pride in his race... He is extremely hostile to whites... He is almost equally hostile toward middle-class Negroes. He is substantially better informed about politics than Negroes who were not involved in the riots." In other words, the Government's own study was forced to portray the oppressed people who rocked the Empire as politically motivated and aware. (3)
It is revealing how the Commission contrasted them with their opposite, the Uncle Tom "counter-rioter," who the Government frankly admitted was untypical of the colonial masses in both class and feelings about the Empire:
"The typical counter-rioter, who risked injury and arrest to walk the streets urging rioters to 'cool it,' was an active supporter of existing social institutions. He was, for example, far more likely than either the rioter or the non-involved to feel that this country is worth defending in a major war. His actions and attitudes reflected his substantially greater stake in the social system; he was considerably better educated and more affluent..." (4)
The oppressed nation character of the rebellions was shown by the events around the April 1968 assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. In many ways this was a nodal point, a point where mounting quantitative changes finally result in a qualitative change in the basic nature of the thing. It was no longer a matter of policing demonstrations, of turning off fire hydrants and breaking up angry crowds in one community or another. It was a matter of using crack U.S. Army divisions, National Guard troops and all available police to regain control against a simultaneous mass rebellion that ran from coast-to-coast. King had grown and evolved with the struggle. He was attacking the U.S. war effort; the luster of his name was helping raise world opposition to the U.S. invasion of Vietnam. Even more explosive, his work threatened to link up the New Afrikan struggle with Vietnam.
The failure of Civil Rights had pushed him to reach for new plans. In Memphis, where he gathered national attention for the New Afrikan sanitation workers' strike, King gave notice that he intended to support the New Afrikan proletariat, and not just college students, in their political struggles.
In fact, he planned to unify the oppressed into one new movement - and aim it at direct confrontation with the U.S. Government. His planned Poor Peoples' Campaign was going to recruit tens of thousands of poor people - of all nationalities - and bring them to Washington, D.C. for a mass Gandhian campaign of nonviolent civil disruption. King planned to send thousands of the oppressed in human waves to surround and occupy key U.S. Government offices, including the U.S. Capitol. The masses would camp in downtown D.C. and not leave Washington until their demands were met. As we can well imagine, the Empire was not going to let that happen.
The prospect of having to either openly repress masses of militant demonstrators or let their seat of government be overrun was not an acceptable choice to the imperialists. And what if mass, anti-Government battles spilled over into the Washington ghetto, already smoking with recent rebellion? No, King had to be neutralized. The threat by Empire had been communicated in various ways.
In Memphis, King had announced that for the first time he was going to defy a Federal court order and lead a march in support of the New Afrikan workers' strike. The Memphis City Attorney said in court on April 3rd that if the march took place "someone may even harm Dr. King's life..." (5) King refused to back down, and that night gave his famous sermon foreseeing his death: "I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. So I'm happy tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man." The next afternoon, April 4, 1968, he was assassinated, as Malcolm X had been before him.
His assassination was a nodal point, brutally cutting off any remaining life in the old Movement. After Rev. King, there was no other major Civil Rights leader willing to lead the masses against the center of oppression, the U.S. Government. For that matter, the soft-nosed bullet from a Remington 30.06 rifle also blew away illusions about nonviolent integration, about "redeeming" White Amerika, about New Afrikans and settlers healing their differences and freely mingling together in a reformed amerikkka. The assassination had also underlined the fact that imperialism would not willingly tolerate anyone organizing and leading the New Afrikan Nation. No unprotected national leadership or organization that was dangerous to the Empire would be permitted to survive.
Within hours the rebellions broke out anew in some 125 cities across the Empire. Again buildings burned and police were attacked. 65,000 U.S. Army troops and National Guardsmen were needed to reinforce state and local police in containing the outbreaks. Fires burned within sight of the U.S. Capitol building; smoke hung over the city. The White House was so worried that U.S. Marine machine-gun teams were posted on the Capitol steps and select military units were placed on alert, ready to rush to Washington to defend the Empire's headquarters.
Even within these select military units the anti-colonial crisis had a political effect. The 6th Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized) at Ft. Meade, Maryland, which spent that year on-and-off alert for "riot control" intervention in Washington, was polarized along national lines. Settler officers had secret orders to watch for conspiracies among their New Afrikan troops. By the Summer hand-picked MP units patrolled the fort after 11:30 pm with orders to detain any New Afrikan G.I.s on the streets in groups of more than two. New Afrikan soldiers were discussing refusing to follow orders. On the other side, many settler officers and men were eager to go to war against the New Afrikan colony. One Lieutenant openly said: "If I can't get to 'Nam and kill some gooks then maybe I'll at least be lucky enough to get a couple coons."
At Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, New Afrikan G.I.s staged a rebellion of their own on the nights of April 10-11th, as soon as the base stood down from being on 24 hour "riot control" alert after King's death. Fighting took place with known racists all over the post, an MP jeep was destroyed, and the entire base had to be placed under curfew. (6) In Vietnam, New Afrikan G.I.s staged memorials and political meetings as the word raced around: "They killed Martin!" Again, we can see that the fundamental political contradictions between the New Afrikan oppressed nation and the U.S. Empire took on many forms, and did pervade every sphere of life.
New Afrikan high schools and even grammar schools emptied. Countless local marches and demonstrations took place. In Washington, for example, one hundred high school students led by SNCC's Black Antiwar Antidraft Union marched out to Howard University, picking up two hundred more youth on the way. There they joined 1,000 Howard students in an angry rally. The U.S. flag was torn down from the University flagpole, and the New Afrikan green, black and red flag run up in its place to cheering. (7) There were confrontations everywhere. In Oakland the police raided the Black Panther Party. After surrendering to the police young Bobby Hutton, surrounded and blind from tear-gas, was shot down in cold blood.
(As members of the Los Angeles County Fire Department work to extinguish flames in a blazing furniture store, a National Guardsman stands vigilant to protect them. Sniper fire was still prevalent along Imperial Ave. in the Watts area when this picture was taken early Saturday morning, August 14. Many firemen were shot at and injured by hurled bricks)
Those April 1968 rebellions were completely political, and could hardly be explained away as bad tempers due to hot weather. They were a united mass response of the New Afrikan grass-roots to a political assassination. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not the only or even the main political leader, but he was both a leader and a symbol to the world of the New Afrikan anti-colonial struggle. His death was taken to heart by millions. His assassination was understood as a calculated blow aimed at the entire liberation struggle. And the masses laid the primary blame not on a "lone gunman," not even on a Government conspiracy, but on the U.S. oppressor nation as a whole. "They killed Martin!" the word ran.
When the shout "Black Power" first came to white attention across that Mississippi summer of 1966, an incredulous White Amerika took it like a life-threatening blow to the body. Black Power represented to the masses an attitude of bitterness, separatism, and uncompromising militancy. It spoke the language of the masses. Black Power leaders sneered at Civil Rights integrationism. They urged New Afrikans people to arm themselves. Yet, only two years later U.S. imperialism was financing some Black Power organizing, leading petty-bourgeois Black Power figures were collaborating with the police, and President Richard Nixon had promoted himself as the big boss of a co-opted Black Power Movement.
This underlined the on-going, two-line struggle within the New Afrikan Movement, and how Black Power contained two political trends: one anti-imperialist and one pro-imperialist. The first trend, which was reflected in the mass approval for the slogan, interpreted Black Power to stand for self-determination, for militant separation from the oppressor society and its culture. The second trend denied that Black Power had anything to do with that. That second trend believed that revolution by the masses should be merely a threat, to be exploited by the colonial petty-bourgeoisie. In their class view the goal of Black Power was to finally integrate into the U.S. oppressor nation, finally getting "a piece of the action."
There were two Black Powers - one grass-roots and one petty-bourgeois, one revolutionary nationalist and one neo-colonial. It is important to remember that the second, petty bourgeois trend tried to blur the political differences, to sound as militant and nationalistic as possible. The grass-roots trend of Black Power led into the revolutionary nationalist movement. This was the political heritage carried on by Malcolm X, who had helped create Black Power with his program in the 1950s of self-pride, self-reliance, self-defense, and independence from the U.S. oppressor nation. This trend helped create the Black Panther party, the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, the League of Black Revolutionary Workers, and the Black Liberation Army. It led folks from armed self-defense to the concept of revolutionary armed struggle. The second, petty-bourgeois trend led to foundation grants, government property pimps, the dead-end of electing Black bourgeois politicians, and the liquidation of mass struggle.
The grass-roots wanted revolutionary nationalist leadership. This was proven not only by Malcolm's towering reputation, but by their positive response to organizing efforts. There has always been a revolutionary current, sometimes on the surface and sometimes hidden, within the New Afrikan Nation. Even while the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott was bringing the nonviolent Civil Rights Movement into the world's eye, the armed self-defense movement led by Robert Williams in the small town of Monroe, North Carolina, was stirring up the New Afrikan masses.
Rob Williams was discharged from the Marines in 1955, and returned to his home town of Monroe, N.C. in Union County. Within three years both he and the New Afrikan struggle in that small town would be internationally known as heralding a new season of struggle. The local Klan had threated the small Union County NAACP chapter, which was the only local civil rights group. So the petty-bourgeois NAACP leaders wanted to dissolve the chapter in order to save themselves. When Williams, a new member, objected, they voted him in as President and then they resigned. Only Dr. Albert Perry, an older physician, agreed with Williams. Together they rebuilt the chapter by going to the grass-roots, always stressing the need for armed self-defense. (8)
At first, as Williams said, "when I started talking about self-defense, I would walk through the streets and many of my Black neighbors would walk away to avoid me." With two years of patient organizing, oriented toward the proletariat instead of the "elite," they had recruited an impressive number of New Afrikan working people - domestics, day laborers, grandmothers and teen gang-bangers. To get inexpensive U.S. Army surplus rifles Williams formed a branch of the National Rifle Association. Veterans were recruited. By 1957 the Monroe self-defense guard got its baptism of fire, driving off a Klan assault on Dr. Perry's house. Day and night New Afrikans kept an eye out for settler intruders, phoning reports into a self-defense headquarters which would alert armed units into full readiness.
While the Union County NAACP fought with lawsuits and picket lines, and tried to open swimming pools, the library and other public facilities to New Afrikans, it always made the official Civil Rights movement uneasy. People recognized that the Monroe organization was politically different, the start of a more militant movement. Williams, Dr. Perry, Mae Mallory and the other Monroe activists were forced to fight for support within the Civil Rights Movement, but increasingly had to operate on their own, in advance of the times, the small Monroe Movement pursued propaganda campaigns and alliances on an international scale. Although most of the known Monroe activists had been fired from their jobs, the national Civil Rights leadership saw to it that no aid was given to the Monroe Movement. The besieged New Afrikan community there was literally going hungry. We can see the emerging two-line struggle, in which the Monroe Movement had to hold out under attacks not only from the Klan and State Police, but also from the NAACP and SCLC. Williams and his co-workers had to be their own movement - to raise funds in the North, publish their own political journal, make their own secret arrangements to truck in arms, food and medicine at night, and make their own alliances with sympathizers from other nations.
In late 1958 the Monroe Movement became world-famous, partly because of the so-called "Kissing Case." It began when a young Euro-Amerikan girl kissed a nine-year-old New Afrikan boy on the cheek as a greeting. When the girl's parents found out about it, they went to the Monroe police. The nine-year-old boy and a companion were arrested and eventually sentenced to 14 years in prison for rape. Unable at first to free the children, the Monroe Movement struggled to wake people up about the case. Newspapers in Europe and then Afrika started writing about it. Soon it became an international scandal exposing U.S. colonial injustice. Enraged crowds stoned U.S. Embassies. Finally the White House had to intervene to release the young children and end the publicity.
Williams and the Monroe Movement had to fight the "Kissing Case" without any support from the National NAACP, which was trying to isolate or silence militants any way they could. Finally, in 1959, the National NAACP announced that it had suspended Williams for six months for publicly stating that New Afrikan men in Monroe would defend women against settler attacks. This only made Williams an even greater hero to the grass-roots. During one visit to New York City, local youth gangs took over an NAACP rally in Harlem, shouting and refusing to let the Uncle Toms speak unless they first gave the microphone to Rob Williams.
The Monroe Movement had friends and supporters throughout the Nation, and overseas as well. Even though it was only one small town, the militants in Monroe lit a spark that burned more brightly than the entire Black petty-bourgeois officialdom. Their influence came not from numbers, but from the power of applying righteous ideas - of raising armed struggle as against the official doctrines of nonviolent liberalism. Williams and his family were finally forced into a long exile in 1961. At first from Cuba and then from Peking, Williams worked to educate the movement back in the U.S. Empire about revolutionary nationalism.
What is significant is how the two-line struggle emerged within the early Southern Civil Rights Movement, even in the 1950s. Turning to the New Afrikan proletariat with a correct line of armed struggle produced lessons that from a small beginning spread throughout the New Afrikan Nation. This prepared the way for the new stage of revolutionary consciousness that made up one trend within Black Power.
In exile Robert Williams was to become international Chairman of RAM, the Revolutionary Action Movement, the first of the three major New Afrikan revolutionary organizations of the 1960s. (9) Although seldom mentioned today, RAM was labeled as the most dangerous New Afrikan folks in Amerika back in the mid-1960s. Congressional investigations were held about RAM, and police denounced RAM in press conferences. Nothing, the public was told by authorities, was too murderous for RAM to attempt. RAM members were arrested for an alleged plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty. RAM members were charged in an alleged plot to correct the No. 1 and No. 2 Uncle Toms, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP and Whitney Young of the Urban League. RAM was even charged with a conspiracy to wipe out thousands of Philadelphia police and city officials, by feeding them cyanide-poisoned coffee and sandwiches from a street canteen after luring them to a staged "ghetto riot." As we know, when the imperialists put out lots of smoke there's usually some fire involved.
RAM was a serious attempt that failed to build an armed national revolutionary organization, a New Afrikan version of the Algerian FLN or the July 26th Movement of Cuba that didn't sustain itself or survive. It never was "legal"; it never was a Civil Rights organization. It was the result of the new message of Williams and Malcolm X, trying to put their insights into practice. From the start they aimed at armed socialist revolution. RAM developed into a broad network of revolutionary nationalists, a semi-public organization with clandestine cells and full-time traveling organizers. No one could have any doubts about what RAM was trying to do. As their journal, Black America, said in 1964:
"... The Revolution will 'strike by night and spare none.' Mass riots will occur in the day with the Afro Americans blocking traffic, burning buildings, etc. Thousands of Afro Americans will be in the street fighting; for they will know that this is it. The cry will be 'It's On!' This will be the Afro American's battle for human survival. Thousands of our people will get shot down, but thousands more will be there to fight on. The Black revolution will use sabotage in the cities - knocking out the electrical power first, then transportation, and guerrilla warfare in the countryside in the South. With the cities powerless, the oppressor will be helpless." (10)
RAM had its beginnings among New Afrikan college students in Ohio. The news in 1961 of Robert Williams' flight into exile had been a catalyst, bringing a small group together to discuss how a Black revolutionary movement could be built. These students already had varied political experiences between them - of student sit-ins in the South, fighting for activist student government at Black colleges, going to S.D.S. Conferences, studying with white Trotskyist groups, being in the Nation of Islam, and so on. By the Summer of 1962 those still struggling together had decided to try starting such a New Afrikan revolutionary movement in one city, Philadelphia, as a test. Don Freeman, Wanda Marshall and Max Stanford were leading activists in the student network that would become RAM.
Like Williams, the young revolutionaries began by working within the local NAACP. They soon discovered that hundreds and sometimes thousands of street youth could be attracted to militant direct action. By 1963 street demonstrations in North Philadelphia, blocking construction sties where New Afrikans. RAM had developed a definite perspective which it spread to other cities. RAM cadre worked within the existing civil rights organizations, pushing militant actions and raising the need for armed self-defense, as part of a strategy of turning the Civil Rights Movement into a Black Revolutionary Movement. The street force or lumpenproletariat were considered the main revolutionary force, with teenage men (as young as age 14 years) seen as the fighters and older working-class nationalists seen as the cadre.
RAM organizers used direct agitation, leafleting and talking with the street force in schoolyards, pool halls and street corners. Revolutionary nationalist classes were set up, teaching Afrikan history and the organization's line. The national RAM organization that eventually emerged was based on clandestine local cells, with the central leadership forming coalitions with existing Black organizations to prepare for a national liberation front.
RAM worked with and through many different mass organizations in trying to develop revolutionary consciousness. There is certainly much evidence that their work found a ready response at the grass-roots. The Afroamerican Student Associations that led the fight for New Afrikan history in the public schools of Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago, New York, and other cities, were guided by RAM. In Chicago, for example, RAM cadre, working behind-the-scenes at their 39th St UMOJA Black Student Center, coordinated the October 1968 high school strike that brought out half the city's New Afrikan high school students. There the city Afroamerican Student Association united recognized student leaders from over twenty New Afrikan high schools. RAM classes discussed guerrilla warfare and socialism with young activists. (11)
By 1966 RAM was trying to build mass New Afrikan political parties in cooperation with SNCC and other radical or nationalist groups. At that time SNCC had formed the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) in rural Alabama, as a Black Power organizing project. Using the black panther as its symbol, the organization was an all-New Afrikan electoral alternative to the regular Democratic Party, doing voter registration gun in hand and running candidates for county offices.
The concept of a militant New Afrikan political party had stirred up much interest across the country. So RAM got SNCC's permission to use the black panther symbol and start Black Panther Parties in the Northern New Afrikan ghettoes. Local Black Panther Party organizations were set up in New York, Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and other cities. RAM wanted to use these parties as New Afrikan united fronts, eventually so commanding the day-to-day politics of the community that the oppressor Democratic and Republican Parties would be forced out of the New Afrikan areas.
There were at one time three militant Black parties which used the black panther symbol, with two of them also both using the name "Black Panther Party." For in 1966 two nationalist students at Oakland, California's Merritt College - Huey Newton and Bobby Seale - had formed the para-military "Black Panther Party for Self-Defense." It is this party, with its now-famous uniform of black beret and leather jacket, that is best known today.
The three parties were not only separate organizations, but were very different. SNCC's Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) was primarily a Civil Rights electoral party, whose thrust was to elect Black officials in county government offices such as clerk and sheriff. In rural Alabama its base was primarily radicalized New Afrikan workers and students. The Oakland, California Newton-Seale Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was a public, para-military vanguard, which sought to mobilize the New Afrikan lumpen under their leadership around armed self-defense of the community. Despite the identical name, RAM's party was different in program, leadership and class composition. It was intended as a multi-class front. Different militant groups with different leaders would hopefully work together within the party. The aim was to unite the New Afrikan nation around one political voice, which would be so strong that it could dictate which Black candidates got elected to local offices. Armed activity under RAM's perspective could not be public, and would be kept separate from the public formation. In any case, RAM's ambitious party did not survive, which permitted Newton and Seale to drop the tag phrase "for Self-Defense" from their name, and become known simply as the Black Panther Party.
While RAM's Black Panther Parties did not take root in some cities, in New York the party quickly developed into real unity. Not only RAM cadre and SNCC organizers, but Amiri Baraka's Harlem Freedom School, Jesse Gray's tenants' anti-slum movement, New Afrikan socialists such as Bill Epton (famed for his role in the 1964 Harlem rebellion), and many other nationalists joined in. The N.Y. Black Panther Party as a militant united front led marches against police brutality, organized youth to help take over and fix up slum buildings, ran classes on Afrikan history and other political topics, and was forming groups within each ghetto public school. Asian-American activist Yuri Kochiyama, who was part of the Harlem Freedom School at the time, recalls:
"The Party had a broad outreach; it was still growing. At the time there was only this one, large, militant, grass-roots organization. They were trying to get Black principals in Harlem and in Bedford-Stuyvesant. There had been demonstrations at quite a few schools." (12)
But RAM organizing was smashed by U.S. counter-insurgency. On June 21, 1967, the N.Y.P.D.'s Bureau of Special Services (B.O.S.S. - the political police) arrested seventeen RAM members for an alleged conspiracy to assassinate NAACP Director Roy Wilkins and Urban League Director Whitney Young. The police claimed that their raids had found illegal weapons, plastic cans full of gasoline and 275 packets of heroin. This was the Queens 17 defense case, a forerunner of the Panther 21 case. Main FBI-N.Y.P.D. targets were Adekouya Akinwole (sn Herman Ferguson), a nationalist assistant principal of a Brooklyn public school, and Muhammad Ahmad (sn Max Stanford), the Field Chairman of RAM. Three months later, on September 27, 1967, Philadelphia police arrested more RAM cadre for another alleged conspiracy, this time to supposedly kill thousands of police and city officials with poisoned coffee and sandwiches. That was just the tip of the iceberg, as many RAM members were arrested during rebellions and in other confrontations.
The suppression of RAM became a textbook case for the FBI. RAM cadre were taken out of action that Summer. George C. Moore, head of the FBI Racial Intelligence Section, cited the RAM case in his February 29, 1968 internal memo on COINTELPRO strategy against the BPP: "The Philadelphia office (of the FBI) alerted local police who then put RAM members under close scrutiny. They were arrested on every possible charge until they could no longer make bail. As a result, RAM leaders spent most of the Summer in jail..." (13)
With many leading cadre in jail or tied up in trials, and others fugitives, with paranoia over police infiltrators mounting, RAM floundered. Like Malcolm's OAAU, like Robert Williams' Union County, N.C. NAACP chapter, RAM had not solved the task of revolutionary infra-structure, of spreading a network of organizing among masses even while the imperialist counter-insurgency was raging. Or as Atiba Shanna has put it, organizing "in the free-fire zone."
RAM was advanced in its time precisely because from the beginning it was oriented toward leading a national liberation war. It was also not fully developed since it was a pioneer, the first wave. It was a serious attempt that failed, unable to advance its practical work beyond a certain point because its basic politics had not yet developed past that point. Its Field Chairman and main theoretician, A. Muhammad Ahmad (sn Max Stanford) had written: "RAM was plagued with the problem of translating theory into practice, that is, developing a day-to-day style of work (mass line) related to the objective materialist reality in the United States. Like most Black revolutionary organizations, RAM was not able to deal successfully with protracted struggle." We recall that Malcolm, the most important strategist of the 1960s, had been assassinated in 1965. Many other OAAU (Organization of Afro-American Unity) members had been assassinated or imprisoned, and the organization itself died before it had a chance to put its planned mass programs into effect.
There can be no doubt that the first wave of New Afrikan revolutionaries in the 1960s accomplished a historic task, and started the movement in the right direction. But due to the incomplete political development of the new movement, New Afrikan revolutionaries were unable to build organizations that could withstand the political police.
So despite the hunger for revolutionary nationalist answers down in the grass-roots, among the proletariat, there was a profound leadership vacuum during the anti-colonial crisis in the New Afrikan Nation. The masses had exposed and pushed aside the traditional puppet mis-leaders - conservative reverends, token Black Government officials, etc. The nonviolent Civil Rights integrationists had been made irrelevant by the mass anti-colonial rebellions. And the new revolutionary current had been neutralized before it had developed by their own political weaknesses and the imperialist counter-insurgency which took full advantage of them.
It was only in such a leadership vacuum that the Black Power Movement could have been co-opted so easily by settler imperialism and its Black allies. As a slogan "Black Power" spread like wildfire among the masses, who wanted something more militant than Civil Rights. But its vagueness (unlike slogans such as "Free the Land") concealed within it the fact that there were two very different meanings to Black Power. To the young militants, to the angry people in the streets, Black Power meant rejecting White Amerika, seizing some kind of Black independence from the oppressor. But to the leading petty-bourgeois forces of the Black Power Movement the goal was only equality with all other U.S. citizens.
Separation from the oppressor was not seen as a step in moving toward national independence, but only as a tactical regroupment so that Blacks as a supposed "ethnic group" could bargain for their "piece of the action" just like the Irish, the Jews, the WASPs and other U.S. "ethnic groups." The Empire tries to define oppressed nations as "ethnic groups" so as to deny their existence as nations. This blurs New Afrikans, Puerto Ricans, etc. in with Italian-Amerikans, Irish-Amerikans, etc., just as earlier the oppressed were only categorized as "races" in order to hide their national status.
The stated goal of neo-colonial Black Power ideologists was actually integration with White Amerika, only repackaged in a nationalist-sounding way in order to appease the anger of the grass-roots. Thus, as an organized movement, Black Power became reactionary very quickly. As early as 1969, The Black Panther, newspaper of the Oakland-based BPP, warned about this:
"Black Power has come a long way since that night in 1966 when Stokeley Carmichael made it the battle cry of the Mississippi March Against Fear. For a time it was a slogan that struck dread into the heart of white America - an indication that the ante of the Black man's demands had been raised to a point where the whole society would have to be reoriented if they were to be met. But Black Power hardly seems a revolutionary slogan today. It has been refined and domesticated...by Richard Nixon, seemingly the most unlikely of men... The President has indicated since assuming office that he sees nothing dangerous in the upsurge of a Black militancy, provided that it seeks a traditional kind of ethnic mobility as its end, even if it wears Afro costumes and preaches a fiery race pride while it sets up businesses and replaces white capitalists as our society's most visible contact with the ghetto...
"He has made a surprising alliance with certain forces of Black militancy. This may seem audacious, even dangerous, like playing with the fires of a revolutionary Black consciousness. But it is actually a time-tested technique. The Nixon Administration's encouragement of cultural nationalism and its paternal interest in Black capitalism are little more than an updating and transposition into a domestic setting of a pattern established years before by U.S. power abroad. Although the State Department, the U.S. Information Agency, the Ford Foundation and hosts of other organizations were involved, it was primarily the Central Intelligence Agency which discovered the way to deal with militant Blackness..." (14)
It is important to see that petty-bourgeois Black Power as a philosophy and a program was a desperate effort to make integration work for the Black petty-bourgeoisie. Even some radical initiators of Black Power made that plain. In his historic September 1966 article "What We Want," Stokeley Carmichael of SNCC said that the main strategy was uniting the Black community to elect Black politicians into office. This, Carmichael claimed, would make Blacks so "equal" to whites that integration would become real:
"...Politically, Black Power means what is has always meant to SNCC: the coming-together of Black people to elect representatives and to force those representatives to speak to their needs. It does not mean merely putting Black faces in office... Integration, moreover, speaks to the problem of Blackness in a despicable way. As a goal, it has been based on complete acceptance of the face that in order to have a decent house or education, Blacks must move into a white neighborhood or send their children to a white school. This reinforces, among both Black and white, the idea that 'white' is automatically better and 'Black' is by definition inferior... Such situations will not change until Black people have power - to control their own school boards, in this case. Then Negroes become equal in a way that means something, and integration ceases to be a one-way street. Then integration doesn't mean draining skills and energies from the ghetto into white neighborhoods; then it can mean white people moving from Beverly Hills into Watts, white people joining the Lowndes County Freedom Organization. Then integration becomes relevant." (15)
Carmichael's unreal and misleading vision of "relevant" integration was not just naive. These views were put together, we must remember, a year after Malcolm X was assassinated, four years after Robert Williams was forced to flee into exile, years after the call for national liberation had been raised within the movement. While some militants who raised the slogan were trying to push the struggle forward, the neo-colonial political framework was in conflict with their own desires. The Stokeley Carmichaels and Ron Karengas and Amiri Barakas saw the U.S. oppressor nation as the only "real," legitimate nation. They didn't see New Afrikan people as an oppressed Nation, but only as an "ethnic minority" inside the U.S. oppressor nation. Ron Karenga was a former graduate student at the University of California. After the Watts Rebellion in 1964 he formed "U.S." (United Slaves), the most influential "cultural nationalist" organization of the 1960s. His protégé was Amiri Baraka (sn Leroi James), the Black poet and playwright. Baraka became the leader of the Black Power Movement in Newark, N.J. and the Congress of Afrikan Peoples (CAP). Both men made the journey to pseudo-nationalism and then back to liberal integrationism/assimilationism via the cover of phony "Marxism-Leninism." As someone remarked: "Every year they got a new philosophy, but they always got a foundation grant."
For that reason the petty-bourgeois Black Power theorists all saw peaceful integration into White Amerika as the final goal. Among the most explicit was Rev. Nathan Wright, chairman of the 1967 Newark Black Power Conference (which was the first one) and later head of the Black Studies Dept. at San Francisco State University: "Black Power in terms of self-development means we want to fish as all Americans should do together in the main stream of American life." (16)
In their 1967 book on Black Power, Carmichael and Charles V. Hamilton said that Black separatism was only a tactic to gain bargaining power for integration into Amerika: "The concept of Black Power rests on a fundamental premise: Before a group can enter the open society, it must first close ranks. By this we mean that group solidarity is necessary before a group can operate effectively from a bargaining position of strength in a pluralistic society." (17) It's revealing that SNCC's Stokely Carmichael, who at that point was a self-proclaimed "socialist" and a partisan of Third-World liberation wars, would explain the U.S. oppressor nation as "open" and "pluralistic." David Rockefeller and Richard Nixon would have agreed with that. The obvious confusion existed between roundly denouncing the U.S. as evil, imperialist, oppressor, colonialist, and so forth - and then putting out a strategy based on the assumption that this oppressor society was "open" for you. This confusion had its roots in the class role of the New Afrikan colonial petty-bourgeoisie.
Pseudo-nationalism was the sudden rage. Audiences at Black Power conferences would be treated to the full spectacle when Ron Karenga spoke. Karenga had been written up in Life and other bourgeois media as the most extreme and dangerous. The sight of the Simbas, US's para-military guards, drilling with arms for new photographers, thrilled White Amerika. Karenga would be preceded on stage by an aide and his guards, all in US "uniform" (shaved head for the leaders, mustache, shades, dashiki-like shirt of his design). His aide would order the audience to rise and chant "All Power to the Black Man" over and over. Karenga himself would then denounce integration while dropping hints about their main "weapon" for liberation - at the end of the rap he would reveal that the main "weapon" was only voting for Black candidates in elections! So while even veteran Black journalists referred to Karenga as an "extremist Black nationalist," only the outer packaging was in any way different. (18) "Cultural nationalism" was a phony nationalism that opposed the independence of the New Afrikan Nation. Instead, it argued that militant talk, different clothing and getting involved in U.S. elections would allow New Afrikans to find a satisfactory place for themselves within White Amerika.
Co-opted Black Power made possible an improved relationship between the colonial petty-bourgeoisie and their masters. This was not immediately apparent to the grass-roots. The New Afrikan families in Alabama who turned out to picket at courthouses, proudly carrying Black Power signs ("Move on over, or we'll move on over you!") were charged up by the air of defiant assertiveness and "race pride." Washington street youth attending early "Black history" courses and organizing their friends took Black Power to mean nationalist opposition to the oppressor.
But it was precisely this seemingly militant, seemingly nationalist tone of voice, that made Black Power so useful to the Empire. When Black Power leaders spoke of the vision of Black people controlling all institutions of their own communities, it seemed to give voice to the anti-colonial urban rebellions. Black Power's angry image allowed the colonial petty-bourgeoisie, temporarily shaken up and out by the growing mass consciousness, to reassert its leadership over the New Afrikan Nation. And therefore to have something to sell their colonial masters in return for a few pieces of silver. What they had to sell was their own people.
Many petty-bourgeois Black Power leaders began working with the police. In Newark, Amiri Baraka had formed the United Brothers, a united front to elect more Black politicians to city government. Their goal was to elect a Black mayor. Baraka understood bourgeois politics well enough to understand that he had to make deals with the local settlers and the police. In April 1958 the United Brothers worked with the Newark police to "cool" the rebellion which broke out after Martin Luther King's assassination. Baraka publicly disassociated himself from the rebellion. On April 12, 1968 he held a joint press conference with Newark Police Captain Charles Kinney and Anthony Imperiale, the leader of the local armed white racist organization. (19) Baraka denounced the rebellions as just confused New Afrikans being manipulated by unnamed white radicals. He also made it clear that his Newark Black Power Movement and the armed white supremacists were cooperating. Pig captain Kinney jumped in to add that New Afrikan rebellion was only a conspiracy led by white S.D.S. students. That was how the most prominent petty-bourgeois Black Power leader reacted to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Baraka's close associate Ron Karenga had his "US" organization also out on the streets with the police, using their influence to try and stop the rebellion there. Karenga had a secret planning meeting with Los Angeles Police Chief Thomas Reddin. No wonder that the Wall Street Journal praised Karenga as: "typical of many militants who talk looting and burning but actually are eager to gather influence for quiet bargaining with the predominantly white power structure." (20)
We can see how very useful that kind of co-opted Black Power was to the colonial authorities. Imperialism had quickly realized that. The C.I.A. had previously arranged for the prestigious Ford Foundation to be their main instrument for penetrating and subverting Afrikan liberation movements. There have always been both public and secret links between the C.I.A. and the Ford Foundation. Richard Bissell was a public staff member of the foundation and less publicly C.I.A. Deputy Director for Plans, for instance. Ford Foundation grants were used to fund "social science research" (i.e. intelligence operations), buy off opportunistic Afrikans, and cover up for U.S. subversion of popular movements. (21) As The Black Panther said, this operation was simply expanded in 1966 to include the domestic New Afrikan communities. This new effort was overseen by none other than Ford Foundation President McGeorge Bundy, who as former National Security Advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson had run the National Security Council and had helped plan the U.S. invasion of Vietnam. "Charity begins at home."
The Ford Foundation singled out Cleveland as their test case in pacification. In 1966 New Afrikan rebellion there shook the city. Ford Foundation President Bundy told the press in 1967 that "it was predictions of new violence in the city that led to our first staff visits in March." In May 1967 the Foundation gave Dr. Kenneth Clark, Black psychologist and former head of all Harlem poverty programs, $500,000 to rehabilitate the Civil Rights leadership. In June 1967, after chairing several secret Civil Rights leadership meetings, Dr. Clark announced that all the top leaders would cooperate in calming ghetto unrest in Cleveland. "Underlying causes of unrest," Clark said, "are found in classic form in Cleveland."
On July 14, 1967, the Ford Foundation announced that it was giving $175,000 to the Cleveland chapter of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) for organizing. This was on the surface amazing. CORE had been started in 1942 by a coalition of Euro-Amerikan radical pacifists, mostly religious, and a handful of Black followers. Of all the historic Civil Rights organizations it was most known for its dedication to pacifist civil disobedience and social integration. But by 1967 it had undergone drastic change. At the 1966 Convention CORE voted to embrace Black Power politics. Civil disobedience and settler leaders were tossed overboard. CORE's founding National Director, James Farmer, was replaced by the more militant-sounding Floyd McKissick from North Carolina. Special Ford Foundation training programs prepared new "nationalist" CORE leaders such as Roy Innis (the very first trainee). It was noteworthy when the Ford Foundation began lavishly funding a supposedly Black militant group. A Cleveland CORE leader said: "Our job as an organization is to prepare people to make a decision on revolution or not. The choice is whether to take land and resources and redistribute them."
Cleveland CORE used the money to organize and pay New Afrikan youth for a Summer voter registration drive, and for setting up a voter mobilization drive for the November 1967 city elections. Ford Foundation funds paid for Cleveland CORE to set up rallies for the Black candidate for Mayor, Carl Stokes. And in the elections, Stokes became the first New Afrikan mayor of a major U.S. city (in the 20th Century). While both rebellions and savage police repression took place in 1968, Stokes' election was the rallies for the Black candidate for Mayor, Carl Stokes. And in the elections, Stokes became the first New Afrikan mayor of a major U.S. city (in the 20th Century). While both rebellions and savage police repression took place in 1968, Stokes’ election was the beginning of a new pacification maneuver. Cleveland CORE hailed this election as a Black Power victory. A Ford Foundation representative praised the redirecting of mass energy into elections “as a flowering of what Black Power could be.”(22)
Foundation President McGeorge Bundy came out for independent Black community school boards, which was one of Stokeley Carmichael’s main Black Power demands in 1966. Co-opted Black Power had become a golden alliance between the colonial petty-bourgeoisie and the Empire’s ruling class. Just as the early, militant, direct-confrontation Southern student movement had been increasingly sidetracked into voter registration and bourgeois elections in the early ‘60s, the Northern New Afrikan rebellions were in part pacified by the same tactic put over under the nationalist-sounding cover of co-opted Black Power.
The manipulation of the Black Power Movement by the C.I.A., using many different covers, was made public policy by the Nixon Administration. All three present and past National Directors of CORE, for example, were personally brought up: James Farmer, who had always claimed to be a pacifist-socialist, became a sub-Cabinet official in the Nixon Administration; Floyd McKissick became a loud Government supporter in return for the promise of millions of dollars in Federal loans for his ambitious “Soul City” housing development; Roy Innis made CORE an organization for hire, unashamed at working for the C.I.A., the Zionists, the South Afrikan Boers and may other reactionaries willing to pay for a Black Power endorsement. President Nixon personally pushed the neo-colonialized concept of Black Power, saying in his historic national broadcast on April 25, 1968:
“For too long white America has sought to buy off the Negro—and to buy off its own sense of guilt—with ever more programs of welfare, of public housing, of payments to the poor, but not for anything except keeping out of sight... much of the Black militant talk these days is actually in terms closer to the doctrines of free enterprise than to those of the welfarist thirties—not as supplicants, but as owners, as entrepreneurs—to have... a piece of the action.
“And this is precisely what the Federal central target of the new approach ought to be. It ought to be oriented toward more Black ownership, for from this can flow the rest—Black pride, Black jobs, Black opportunity and yes, Black power...”(23)
When Republic of New Afrika—Provisional Government Co-President Imari Abubakari Obadele was finally released from Federal prison during the 1970s. As President of the PG-RNA, Imari had led the move to establish a nation-building center in Mississippi and Louisiana. This move was crushed by U.S. counter-insurgency, ending in the August 1971 FBI-COINTELPRO raids in Jackson, Mississippi. Like other P.O.W.s, Imari noted the changes that the defeats had made in the Nation’s life. Most shocking in his eyes was seeing young women with processed hair—and finding out that this was because so many boyfriends were demanding it of them. To Imari it seemed as though they were in ignorance putting symbolic slave chains back on themselves.(24) These cultural regressions are not disconnected from the pseudo-nationalist, “cultural nationalism” of co-opted Black Power, which had a tremendous effect in the late ‘60s and 1970s on the daily lives of millions.
The Black Power Movement spoke in angry, militant-sounding language amplified by the imperialist media; it absorbed the energies of many honest and self-sacrificing New Afrikans. But like every political movement that assumes capitalist social relations and capitalist economic production, its inner cultural content was not about liberation but about enslavement. To note that the Black Power Movement was explicitly anti-Communist is just one part of it. Black Power explicityly preached the inferior position of New Afrikan women to New Afrikan men, for example. On the grounds that the kind of male-chauvinist, patriarchal nuclear family advocated by Carmichael, Karenga, and other (Daniel Patrick Moynihan) was somehow authentically “African revolutionary” or “communist”--while it was actually only their slavish imitation of the European capitalist family. Carmichael swaggered around saying: “The only position for women in SNCC is prone!” Ron Karenga said: “What makes a woman appealing is femininity, but she can’t be feminine without being submissive.” “Black Power” as capitalistic “Super-Fly”. And so the popularization of so-called Black Power only helped put the mental chains of slavishness and cultural regression back on folks.
The persistent effects of the co-opted Black Power counter-insurgency strategy can be seen in the lingering belief that electing Black politicians is a step toward freedom. In particular, the election of Black mayors is seen as the same thing as New Afrikan control of their nation. Not only bourgeois politicians, but “nationalists”, militant reverends, and the settler Left regularly turn out to tell the New Afrikan Nation this lie.
There are three things we have to understand about this. The first is that Black bourgeois politicians have no power at all. Richard Hatcher of Gary, clearly the most progressive of the Black mayors, said: “There is much talk about Black control of the ghetto. What does that mean? I am mayor of a city of roughly 90,000 Black people, but we do not control the possibilities of jobs for them, of money for their schools, or state-funded social services... Will the poor in Gary’s worst slums be helped because the pawn-shop owner is Black, not white?”(25)
The second thing is to see Black Power’s vision of community control for what it is. Since there is no way, under imperialism, for New Afrikan people to communally control the established institutions that determine their lives, to speak of “Black control” without socialism and national liberation only means the promotion of Black petty-bourgeois into supposed positions of institutional authority. That is why so much activity centers around electing Black mayors, having Black police commanders, Black school officials, Black corporate managers, Black office supervisors, Black professors, and so on. In other words, co-opted Black Power involved no power at all for the New Afrikan grass-roots, but meant plenty of promotions and new opportunities for the neo-colonial petty-bourgeoisie.
And lastly, we should see that the neo-colonial city ghetto is a puppet state. Co-opted Black Power was the C.I.A.’s forerunner for the less successful South Afrikan “bantu-stans” or “tribal homelands”. As we know, the settler-colonial regime of “South Africa” has set up within it little Afrikan pseudo-states. These fraudulent, dummy tribal governments placed in barren areas are used to pretend that the settler regime respects the democratic rights of Afrikans. Each of these little tribal pseudo-states is complete with an Afrikan “President” and “Cabinet”, Afrikan officials, flag and a little police force in snappy uniform. The “tribal homeland” has no real Land, no economic base, no independent relation to the world, no practical power or real sovereignty. But it has highly-paid Afrikan officials. Mayor Kenneth Gibson would be right at home there. Newark is a “tribal homeland” or “bantu-stan”, if you understand the dialectical relationship between Black Power “democracy” and Indian reservations and “South African” apartheid.
The repression of the first wave of New Afrikan revolutionaries seemed but a momentary set-back at the time. Robert Williams and the Monroe Movement in the 1950s, RAM and Malcolm’s Organization of Afro-American Unity in the 1960s started a revolutionary movement which promised to become even stronger. The late 1960s were a tumultuous time when the whole world was on the move pushing imperialism back. In Vietnam the stakes kept getting higher, U.S. casualties kept growing, while the liberation army was kicking ass. Che had left his cabinet minister’s office in Havana and became a guerrilla again. Peoples War was starting all over Afrika. And in China the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution was rising against capitalist road bureaucracy within socialism. It was a revolutionary high-tide in the world. A heady time. Revolution here seemed to be not only likely but inevitable—and soon, too.
A second wave of New Afrikan revolutionary organizations came right on the heels of the first. These were sons and daughters of urban rebellions, part of the grass-roots trend of Black Power. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense in 1969, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers also in 1969, the Afrikan Liberation Support Committee and other new groupings quickly gained a mass following. New revolutionary organizations and bold new tactics grew side-by-side with the neo-colonial trend, challenging it for hegemony over Black Power.
The subsequent victory of the neo-colonial petty-bourgeoisie in co-opting the Black Power Movement was therefore not a simple thing. It involved certain imperialist-sponsored activities and propaganda. It also involved clearing the revolutionary alternative away with repression. Like the first wave of New Afrikan revolutionary organizations, the second wave was also unable to survive combat with the political police. The national revolutionary movement had severe internal contradictions, was incompletely developed, and was not able to seize the political leadership of the Nation away from the neo-colonial petty-bourgeoisie.
We need to apply dialectical and historical materialism to the development of the armed struggle beginning in the 1960s. Dialectics holds that all things develop through the working out of their own internal contradictions, not through conspiratorial maneuvering of outside forces. The beginning of modern New Afrikan armed struggle met defeat. No because of FBI-COINTELPRO or the Klan, but because its own confusion over class and national goals and their relationship to armed struggle left it unable to combat the political police.
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in 1966, becomes for us a window to see deep into some of these contradictions within the armed struggle. While the BPP for Self-Defense was not necessarily the largest or the most advanced of the New Afrikan revolutionary organizations exploring armed struggle, it was certainly the most public. The Party self-consciously projected itself into the public eye, and its collision course with police gunfire made its development a matter of public record.
Armed struggle, as the highest form of struggle, inescapably imposes the need for the clearest political consciousness while at the same time being the necessary condition for such advanced consciousness. The Party was form its birth in 1966 an armed formation, in which every member was committed to fight the oppressor and if need be die in combat. Many, many ‘rads did die, and still today the kamps of Babylon hold former Panthers as well as other revolutionaries of the 1960s and 1970s. Of revolutionary audacity and courage the membership of the Party lacked nothing. But this Party came together at a time when political consciousness was young, raw and undeveloped, and when necessarily petty-bourgeois/lumpen class views dominated. For that matter, the BPP explicitly based itself on the lumpenproletariat, and tried to advance using petty-bourgeois/lumpen military concepts.
The Black Panther Party’s political-military strategy had come under considerable criticism at the time from forces within the revolutionary nationalist movement, who unfavorably contrasted it to Peoples War. RAM criticized “Huey’s open display of guns, brandishing them into the police’s faces...” and the related BPP lack of underground structure or any long-term planning for mass organization. The RNA-PG said that “Black Panther pronouncements and actions CREATE pretexts for U.S. military actions, by the police...”(26) But there are no accidental strategies.
The BPP was born out of the nationalist movement on the West Coast. For some five years Huey Newton and Bobby Seale were part-time students at Oakland’s Merritt College, while increasingly taken up with political discussions, street corner nationalist rallies, activity in the New Afrikan college student organization at their school, and study of Fanon, Mao, and other political writers. For most of those years they had been members of a “cultural nationalist” organization, the Afro-American Association. Both, however, had grown disillusioned with it. Huey had gotten into a fight at a party, knifed a brother, and spent eight months in jail. Bobby had briefly related to RAM, but split under disputed circumstances. He says that he quit because RAM wasn’t into action. RAM leadership insisted that he was purged for drinking and misappropriating funds. In any case, by 1966 both Huey Newton and Bobby Seale were still part of the loose San Francisco Bay Area nationalist scene, and were looking for something new to do politically.(27)
In the Spring of 1966 Huey, Bobby, and another brother were strolling up Berkeley’s Telegraph Ave., the center of student recreation off the University of California-Berkeley campus. Telegraph Ave. was a crowded “hippy” street scene, sidewalks busy with vendors and hustlers. As they passed an outdoor cafe, Bobby impulsively decided to jump up on a chair and recite his latest poem to the white student crowd. Police showed up, Seale was dragged down, and both Newton and Seale ended up in jail for getting into a fistfight with the pigs. Huey decided that they had to form a revolutionary organization that stood up to the pigs. They named it the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense.
With the help of Huey’s brother Melvin, they drafted the Party’s ten-point program, that began with “1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black community.” and ends with “10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the Black colony in which only Black colonial projects will be allowed to participate, for the purpose of determining the will of Black people as to their national destiny.” The BPP ten-point program reflected the growing influence of revolutionary nationalism, of recognizing the distinction between the oppressor nation and the oppressed nation.
Their start is almost folklore now. Newton, a pre-law student, had carefully researched California’s legal code as it related to guns and the police. At that time the state law allowed people to carry loaded pistols, rifles and shotguns so long as they were not concealed. Newton and some others decided that this loophole in the law could be exploited. The first task was getting weapons. One day they were reading the newspaper about how the famous “little red book”, Quotations From Chairman Mao Tse-tung, had just been published in English. Huey got an idea. They went across the Bay to China Books, where the “little red book” had just gone on sale, bought a bunch, and drove back to Berkeley. Within an hour, hawking the “little red book” at the gate to the University of California campus, they sold all the books they had. With that money they drove back to China Books, bought the store’s whole stock of “little red books”, and sold them all to curious Berkeley students. They made enough money to buy two shotguns.
By that Fall of 1966 the BPP had recruited its first members, mostly from Huey’s neighborhood in Oakland, and had set up a storefront office. It says something about the popular mood that folks could be recruited to join a tiny political group whose members had to publicly face off with the police, while carrying guns. In public face-offs, Panthers refused to hand over their guns to the pigs, insisted loudly that “if you shoot at me, or if you try to take this gun, I’m going to shoot back,” and all the while lecturing the gathering New Afrikan crowd about their rights. The first time that happened, in front of the BPP’s Grove St. storefront office, a dozen men who had been watching immediately joined up.
In the next year the Party became a precense on the New Afrikan political scene. Not only was it growing rapidly but its aggressive armed stance had electrified folks. In April 1967 the BPP was asked by the family of Denzil Dowell, a 22 year-old youth who although unarmed had been shot six times in cold blood by Richmond police, to help them investigate the killing. Panthers intervfiewed witnesses and proved that the official police account was a fabrication. Guarded by twenty armed Panthers, Newton and Seale spoke to the street rally of 150 persons in the Dowell family’s Richmond neighborhood. Panthers accompanied the family and other New Afrikan residents to meet with the County Sheriff and District Attorney. Three hundred New Afrikans, some as young as twelve years old, applied to join the BPP that month in Richmond.
Another person who had joined the Party in early 1967 was Eldridge Cleaver, fresh out of Soledad Prison. Cleaver had become the New Left’s most promoted prisoner-writer, an object of settler “radical chic”. Already he was the Black staff member for the glossy New Left magazine Ramparts. Eldridge was a lumpen super-star. In February 1968 his book about himself, Soul on Ice, was published to rave reviews in the bourgeois media. Within weeks it was on the top ten best-sellers list. His entry into the Party leadership gave them a celebrity who was a brilliant propagandist. New Afrikans who had never heard of Robert Williams or Ella Collins were given Eldridge as the theoretician of Revolution.
By 1966 new Party chapters were springing up from coast to coast. In grammar schools New Afrikan children would sport black berets and play at being Panthers. There were many chapters in California: Oakland-Berkeley, San Francisco, Richmond, East Palo Alto, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento. Speaking tours by Bobby Seale and Eldridge had set up new chapters in Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and other major cities. In January 1969 the BPP was claiming 45 chapters, although some of these were just on paper. Members came from all classes: from the street force and from the children of the “Black Bourgeoisie”, from SNCC and from the U.S. Army, from factory laborers and college intellectuals. Internal FBI studies concluded that 43% of New Afrikans under the age of 21 “had great respect for the BPP”.
Many ‘rads were drawn to the Party because they were searching for advanced ideas. Bourgeois accounts of the BPP stress the drama of its gun display, while downplaying the fact that it was a political party. As a revolutionary party the BPP emerged as harsh, no-fooling-around critics of both bourgeois nationalism (“Green Power”) and the “cultural nationalism” trend. They said that people who went around in dashikis, who gave themselves Afrikan names and who sprinkled Swahili words in their vocabulary, but who refused to pick pu the gun against the oppressor, were “buffoons” and “pork chop nationalists”. The party formally pointed out that nationalism was not itself a social program, and that only socialism could liberate the oppressed. These words had weight coming from a party which was talking about land and a popular vote to decide New Afrikans’ “national destiny”.
However, these advanced-sounding words expressed but a part of the Party’s reality. The two-line struggle is an expression of fundamental contradictions. As such it is present in all spheres of life, within all political phenomena. So the two-line struggle was not just between the old Civil Rights Movement and the revolutionary nationalism of Williams and Malcolm, for instance. It was also within the Civil Rights Movement, as we saw when the militant wing of the nonviolent movement, led by SNCC, broke with the old concepts of integration and became more nationalistic. The two-line struggle continued within that as well. We saw how the move for Black Power, which was at first primarily a more grass-roots and nationalist trend, contained within it is own opposite—i.e. a disguised form of neo-colonialism.
The Oakland BPP leadership was in reality much less advanced than Malcolm and Williams. In significant ways they were less advanced than RAM. What sounded advanced was in part borrowed rhetoric. The BPP for Self-Defense was influenced by the petty-bourgeois student “counter-culture” of the San Francisco Bay Area. Just like their settler counterparts, Huey and Bobby were putting on instant political line by borrowing rhetoric from the Chinese Red Army, from Mao, from Malcolm, from RAM, and so on.
We can see what this meant in the Sacramento Action, which first launched the BPP for Self-Defense into national fame. On May 2, 1967 a delegation of Panthers arrived at the California Capitol Building, ostensibly as “lobbyists” to oppose a bill then being passed which took away the right to carry arms in public. Twenty of the male Panthers openly carried rifles, shotguns and pistols (six women and three men on parole were unarmed). Governor Ronald Reagan, who was outside on the lawn when the Panthers arrived, was hastily hustled back into his office by security guards. Seale read a statement by Huey Newton on the right of self-defense, as reporters and TV cameras surrounded the Panthers. Obviously, the “lobbying” was a media publicity action. The small delegation ended pu on the Assembly floor, with the state legislators, and were ejected by police. All were peacefully disarmed, arrested on various minor charges, and released on bail.
The action was extremely successful. There was a storm of national publicity, establishing the Oakland BPP as very militant, the “baddest” revs around. Morale shot up inside the group. One Panther said: “I felt great... I hope it won’t come to bloodshed but if it does and if I die, I’ll know I did my part. That’s a good feeling because up till now there haven’t been too many men or women that could say that.” Many folks got interested in the Party, as Huey seemed to be making his favorite slogan, “Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun”, work in practice.
The only problem was that Mao (who was the author of Huey’s favorite slogan) meant something completely different by it than the Oakland BPP did. In Sacramento the Panthers cleverly exploited a temporary loophole in the state firearms laws, which allowed them to give their legal, peaceful demonstration the threatening atmosphere of gunplay and militancy. It was successful “guerrilla theater”. But Mao was talking about being guerrillas, not just threatening to be guerrillas. He was talking about Peoples War for liberation by the masses. “The real thing”.
In raising the gun, for whatever strategy, the Oakland BPP became a lightning rod, a target and conductor of energy. Many folks felt, as that Panther said after Sacramento: “If I die, I’ll know I did my part.” There was a surge of grass-roots militancy toward and into the Party. Even if the New Afrikan liberation movement didn’t have all the right answers then, young ‘rads refused to be slowed down. They wanted to join the struggle, help push it to new heights, and the BPP was what was most ready and accessible. And they were willing to put their lives on the line. That was the revolutionary spirit that gave the Party a role much greater than its leadership. The two-line struggle helped create the BPP, and existed within the Party as a growing contradiction between those who wanted to push on to revolutionary war vs. those who wanted to return to White Amerika, only on better terms of servitude. The two-line struggle was eventually to split the BPP, in the process creating a new revolutionary advance—the Black Liberation Army.
The BPP as originally conceived lasted less than three years, collapsing under the first counter-attack from the security forces. At first the security forces had been surprised by the Panthers, and had taken the time to plant agents and informers, make plans, and put out propaganda preparing public opinion.
The Oakland leadership was neutralized. On the night of October 28, 1967 Oakland police stopped a car driven by Huey Newton. In the ensuing conflict Pig John Frey was killed and another policeman wounded four times. A badly wounded Huey Newton was arrested for murder, and later convicted on September 8, 1968. The entire program of the Party was shifted to “Free Huey!” defense work. On April 6, 1968 Eldridge Cleaver was arrested in the police raid in which ‘Lil Bobby Hutton was killed. Hutton was the first BPP treasurer, and at age 15 had been the first ‘rad recruited off the block by Huey and Bobby. Faced with the revocation of parole and return to prison, Eldridge Cleaver went into Algerian exile in November 1968. Bobby Seale himself was arrested in New Haven, Conn. On a conspiracy murder charge. At first David Hilliard, National Chief of Staff, and finally Elaine Brown ended up running the Oakland headquarters.
Everywhere the same scenario was being played out. Panthers in various cities tried to carry out “legal” Serve the People programs, such as Free Breakfast Programs for schoolchildren and Free Health Clinics, but collided with well-prepared police. Known Panther automobiles were stopped. Shootouts and frame-ups spread as the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign took effect. On January 17, 1968 Los Angeles Panthers Bunchy Carter and John Huggins were killed. On April 2, 1969 the N.Y. Panther 21 were arrested in a bombing conspiracy frameup. Three weeks later the Des Moines, Iowa BPP office was bombed. On December 4, 1969 the FBI and Chicago police assassinated Panthers Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. These were only a few incidents out of a floodtide of counterinsurgency. There were over 1,000 arrests of BPP members, raids on offices in 11 states, over 400 confrontations with the police, and over 30 Panthers shot down.
These blows completely disoriented and turned around the Black Panther Party. The original program of self-defense of the New Afrikan communities was abandoned in practice, since the BPP was unable to even defend itself. Instead of mass organizing projects and armed self-defense against the police, the BPP’s main activities degenerated into selling the newspaper on street corners, doing fund-raising with liberal Euro-Amerikans, publicizing the “Free Huey!” campaign, running in U.S. elections, and sending off money to Oakland. The BPP had, in effect, turned into a legal defense committee primarily oriented to begging for settler support. It was in this political rout that the Party split, between the so-called Oakland and East Coast factions.
To understand these problems we have to go back to the interwoven questions of the Party’s class character, its military concepts, and its fundamental relationship to the U.S. oppressor nation. The two-line struggle between socialism and neo-colonialism was always manifested in all areas of the Party’s life. We can see it not only in the political-military program, but in the Party’s false internationalism with the Euro-Amerikan Left.
Even when new things come into being they carry with them the old, and unless these old ideas and class views are consciously struggled out through study and practice the old retains its grip. This interpenetration of opposites characterized the political-military strategy of Black Revolution. Some people did new things in the old ways and other folks pursued old objectives in new ways. Adventurism and flightism marked the subjectivity characteristic of petty-bourgeois/lumpen operations.
There was a temporary unity in the Party around the strategy of public, “legal” armed organization. But this unity mixed together two different points of view. Many of the young revs involved genuinely wanted revolution, but were still so indoctrinated as to believe that they had political rights as “U.S. citizens”. These rights would protect them, they thought, during a building period while they openly prepared for revolution. That is, they still had incorrect ideas about bourgeois democracy. For example: the N.Y. Panther 21 related how, after having heard rumors that a big bust was coming down, they discussed their situation; they decided that since they were not violating the written laws they had nothing to fear from the police. When doors were pushed in and folks arrested at gunpoint, some of the Panther 21 laughed at the faked-up police charges. They soon stopped laughing.(29) This first point of view was politically uneducated, but honest.
The other point of view within the Party never really intended to make revolution. Their plan, whether conscious or unconscious, was that the mere display of guns and a willingness to individually shoot it out if vamped on, would frighten White Amerika into making concessions, reforms. These successes would then make the “Vanguard” national political figures, going in a few years from being poor college students to becoming the equivalents of Jomo Kenyatta or Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. That was the petty-bourgeois/lumpen view of Newton, Seale, Cleaver and some others. These people did have angry and nationalistic sentiments, as oppressed colonial subjects, but were not committed to national liberation.
In his lumpen theorizing about nation-building, Eldridge Cleaver expressed his admiration for “Israel” and tried to convince New Afrikans that imitating Zionist settler-colonialism was the road to liberation: “The Jews did it. It worked. Now Afro-Americans must do the same thing.” Not surprisingly, that was the same Eldridge who flipped around and ran to embrace the White Right when his personal situation got tough. The Huey who threatened individual public shootouts without involving the masses in protracted war became the person who left the struggle for private commerce. Petty-bourgeois/lumpen ideas stand in contradiction to proletarian ideas of class solidarity, class ideology and a class base for all political-military operations to free the Nation.
All this was harshly exposed in the free-fire zone, where the Party perished—its military strategy failing while the pressure of struggle forced contradictions to a decisive point. Many of the best cadre died or disappeared into prisons. The top petty-bourgeois/lumpen spokesmen—Huey, Bobby, and Eldridge—sold out in various ways. Left in an impossible military situation, a revolutionary current pushed ahead to seize the initiative back from the imperialists. Offensive operations were begun by the first “autonomous and de-centralized” units of the Black Liberation Army. The split was a split around not only armed struggle, but about the goals of picking up the gun.
The Black Panther Party was nationalist, but in fact never committed itself to a strategy for freeing the Land, to winning independence over the National Territory. The October 1968 BPP Platform and Program says under its point number then that “we want... as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the Black colony... for the purpose of determining the will of Black people as to their national destiny.” While clearly recognizing the New Afrikan Nation’s right of independence, the platform also left the door open for thinking of staying with the U.S. if settlers made concessions. To say that you are for something—such as liberation—but to have to strategy for ever getting it, can only raise questions.
The Party’s false internationalism originated in its class viewpoint. Folks had a confused view of the New Afrikan proletariat. We say “confused” because many Panthers, when they praised the lumpen as the main revolutionary class, were really talking about the most oppressed layers of the proletariat. That is clear in revolutionary statements such as Message To The Lumpen, published by the revolutionary wing of the Party in N.Y. Other elements in the Party really did hold the proletariat to contempt. The BPP’s heavy propaganda about “the People”, “Serve the People”, praising Newton as the “Supreme Servant of the People”, etc. only expressed this confusion, in which neither nation nor class was clearly dealt with.
While many individual Panthers were modest and correct in their work and in their relationship to the masses, the Oakland leadership was not. They believed that “Vanguarding the action” gave them license for limitless arrogance and contempt for all others. To mention that Bobby Seale used to have his bodyguards pull shotguns and pistols on other Movement activists, is just a small example of how the Oakland HQ related to other New Afrikans and Third-World peoples.
When the U.S. Empire vamped on the BPP and they were, despite their intentions, unable to defend themselves, the Party strategy had failed. A new strategy was adopted. The Oakland BPP leadership turned to their natural ally, the Euro-Amerikan petty-bourgeoisie. The Party leadership didn’t turn to the New Afrikan proletariat because they neither knew how to organize the Nation nor did they really trust their own people. Their neo-colonial class unity with the white petty-bourgeoisie came to the front in the crisis. This was justified as some kind of internationalism, of supposedly winning needed “allies” to the liberation movement.
The new strategy of becoming a legal, “Black and White united” defense campaign was initially centered on an electoral alliance with the Peace and Freedom Party (PFP). In this alliance the BPP used its members and supporters to get enough New Afrikan voters’ signatures to put the new PFP on the California ballot. In return, the liberal and radical settlers involved in this anti-war protest party publicly supported the BPP defense campaign, and Eldridge Cleaver himself became the PFP Presidential Candidate. The alliance was quietly worked out with PFPer Bob Avakian, a well-to-do student activist who had been with Eldridge on the Ramparts magazine staff. The Ramparts magazine clique, which included Eldridge and Bobby, was central to the BPP for awhile. Folks who had called themselves urban guerrillas, who had promised to defend the New Afrikan community with arms, were instead campaigning for U.S. President for a white protest party. It was a sad clown show.
The alliance was first justified as necessary to save Huey’s life, as though the program of the Black Panther Party was primarily to take care of its leaders. The Black Panther newspaper explained: “At the inception of the Black Power reaction, Stokeley Carmichael told white people that Blacks would be willing to work with them, on a coalition basis... When Minister of Defense Huey P. Newton got arrested, we began a frantic search for ways of building a broad base of support to set him free. We were not of a frame of mind to be playing petty games or to indulge our egos. W were down to the nitty-gritty of serious business...”
Soon Eldridge Cleaver was picturing the Party’s shift to “Black-White” election campaigns as part of a wonderful change. He told the press that the new alliance had already produced “a very noticeable and racial tension” by New Afrikans against Euro-Amerikans. Now, he said, Blacks and whites in areas of PFP organizing “find it much easier to circulate and work together.” Cleaver was desperately courting the white liberals.
It was clear that this was not a temporary expedient, but was a shift to the right after “legal” armed self-defense had failed. Revolutionary nationalism was given up. In a key political address to the founding convention of the California Peace and Freedom Party, on March 16, 1968, Cleaver stunned the audience by declaring that the “era” of Black Power was over: “So that we say that we’re at the end of an era... we see no reason for continuing this stance of isolation one from the other... Let’s get together and move in a common fashion against a common enemy.” The BPP was developing the new concept that by taking control over and leading the radicalized settler petty-bourgeoisie they would have a white counter-balance to shield themselves against state repression. In other words, that white people were once again the answer to the problems of the New Afrikan Nation.
The Oakland leadership became committed to uniting with the settler petty-bourgeoisie, if necessary (and it was) against their own National Movement and against their former comrades. We note that so long as Eldridge thought that this policy might personally promote and protect him he took a leading role in pushing it. False internationalism had been used to abandon the national struggle. Opportunism had been masked as “solidarity”.
This new line was called “The United Front Against Fascism,” imitating the 1935 campaign of the same name initiated in Europe by the Communist International. The Black Panther repeatedly printed full-page extracts of an old speech by Comintern leader Georgi Dimitrov, in which he urges Americans to create “a Workers and Farmers Party” to safeguard U.S. bourgeois democracy.(31) In July 1969 a mass radical conference was assembled in Oakland by the Party. This “National Revolutionary Conference For A United Front Against Fascism” tried to unite the Euro-Amerikan New Left under Oakland BPP leadership.
While Eldridge, Bobby and Huey were trying to build a liberal united front with the petty-bourgeois settler Left, they refused to participate in building a revolutionary united front for armed struggle within the New Afrikan Nation. False internationalism was a cover for dis-uniting the oppressed nation. Nor was there any fascism as such taking place. The thousand settler radicals at the Oakland conference were in no danger from police raids in the night. What was going on was imperialist counter-insurgency to crush the New Afrikan national revolutionary movement. And only the New Afrikan masses could deal with that.
Consciously or unconsciously, the Panther leadership had initially counted on lots of visibility, lots of media publicity, white support and white lawyers to protect them. This false internationalism left the Party burning in the “free-fire zone” with no viable political-military strategy. Their military failure directly stemmed from unclarity about what the goal was, and about what class could make revolution possible.
To sum up: in part the successful co-optation of Black Power was due to the fact that misleading elements of the period broke away from the national movement to partially base themselves in the radicalized Euro-Amerikan petty-bourgeois. As military set-backs grew, the incorrect idea was promoted that white “allies” would be the answer to the problem. In a class alliance, the settler petty-bourgeoisie reached into the anti-colonial struggle to boost up like-minded New Afrikans as a false leadership. The New Afrikan proletariat, which had been stirred up and drawn into struggle by leaders such as Robert Williams and Malcolm X, found itself politically abandoned in favor of petty-bourgeois white “allies”. And the Euro-Amerikan Left used “solidarity” and being “allies” to promote the Hueys and Eldridges, like-minded leaders to its taste, rather than recognize the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika or stand up for the Black Liberation Army.
This false internationalism was not limited to the Panthers alone. Both SNCC and the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, to name two important revolutionary organizations of the period, were hamstrung because of their inability to overcome petty-bourgeois/lumpen class leadership and its supporting alliances. When James Forman was Secretary of SNCC he appeared to have an individual alliance with the settler Communist Party USA (CPUSA). Of course, Forman had individual relations and alliances with many settler liberal and radical petty-bourgeois groupings. And the CPUSA had always related to SNCC, and had always tried to influence it as “friends”. That is, there was nothing exclusive on either side. In this particular case, we can see how such a private alliance worked to the mutual benefit of both petty-bourgeois parties, but betrayed the struggle.
CPUSA fund-raising in the North raised tens of thousands of dollars annually for SNCC, channeled through Forman. This helped Forman’s power-base within SNCC, since he was able to furnish some activists with cars, money, and other necessities. Forman, in return, publicly related to the CPUSA as “friends”. But more than that, the CPUSA privately obtained a veto-power over some SNCC activity.
The 1965 Chicano struggle against the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) was one such case.(32) In the Spring of 1965 the reactionary Congressional committee announced that it would spend the Summer “investigating Communist subversion within the Civil Rights Movement.” Public HUAC hearings as a right-wing propaganda forum, prison sentences for Movement activists who refused to testify against their ‘rads, were all anticipated. HUAC’s first stop was to be Chicago, where the FBI had prepared a tired handful of Black flippers to testify that the movement was a conspiracy run by Moscow. But the big publicity was planned to come from exposing “Communists” within Mayor Daley’s administration. The Southern cracker Congressmen running HUAC wanted big headlines for themselves, and had named Dr. Jeremiah Stamier, a Chicago Board of Health official, as a supposed long-time secret Communist. Once launched to media fanfare, the HUAC investigation would then leave Chicago to tour the South, attacking local New Afrikan activists at each stop.
James Forman had sent a call to action, asking SNCC and CORE militants in Chicago to derail this right-wing campaign before it got to the South. A campaign of disrupting the Congressional hearings with Sit-ins and mass demonstrations was planned. Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth of the Birmingham Movement spoke at a large Chicago rally to raise expected bail and defense funds, and some $3,000 was gathered. The CPUSA played a major role in these preparations. Forman himself was to arrive in time to lead the fight the day of the Sit-ins.
On that morning Forman was there, accompanied by his assistant (a Euro-Amerikan leader of the local “Friends of SNCC”). The HUAC hearings were held in the former Federal Court Building, which was right on Lake Michigan in the exclusive “Gold Coast” neighborhood. Foreman led the SNCC and CORE activists into the hearing room. Reporters, TV cameras, and lots of Chicago police, FBI and Federal marshalls crowded the lobby and sidewalk. The word was, to wait for Forman to give the signal. The morning passed. As lunch recess was announced and activists wanted to block the doors, Forman ordered that everyone leave the building with him. It would be more effective to begin the action in the afternoon, he said. But after lunch he never reappeared. His assistant told the activists that Forman had driven straight to O’Hare Airport, and was at that moment on his way to New York City! Shock and some demoralization hit folks.
Although this story wasn’t pieced together until days later, it turns out that the CPUSA had changed its mind. Possibly their national leadership had sent down new directives. The CPUSA decided that the struggle should not center around defending the Black movement, but should be changed into a liberal “civil liberties” issue focusing on Dr. Stamler, the respected public health specialist. By “whitening” the issue, particularly given the fact that Dr. Stamler was a well-known medical researcher and was not a revolutionary of any kind, the CPUSA planned to mobilize a larger involvement by white liberals. And the CPUSA privately demanded that there be no violence, no civil disobedience, no action other than a peaceful picket line. Anything more, they said, would scare off the white liberals.
We do not know if the CPUSA ordered their “ally”, Forman, to kill the SNCC action, or if under pressure he simply decided to abandon his own people. Within a few hours a protest campaign against the U.S. Government, called for by SNCC, had been ripped off by the settler Communist Party USA. While the petty-bourgeois CPUSA had “alliances” with Black petty-bourgeois opportunists, that did not mean that they had any genuine alliance at all with the New Afrikan nation or its liberation struggle. The supposed “allies” were enemies in actual fact.
The young SNCC and CORE militants decided to go ahead with the action, even though the situation was totally disorganized. After all, disrupting U.S. Congressional hearings could only be a righteous thing. Several days of chaotic arrest scenes followed, generating front-page headlines. The Sit-ins were mostly done by young high school students, both New Afrikan and Euro-Amerikan, with college New Leftists, SNCC and CORE militants, and others taking part. There was pay-back by the police and Federal marshalls, who bad been unable to prevent the disruptions from taking place. Arrested demonstrators were worked over at length in a back hallway, out of public sight, with the pigs taking special pleasure in torturing several New Afrikan sisters while cuffed brothers were forced to watch.
Full dimensions of CPUSA’s takeover did not become clear until the arrests took place. ‘Rads on the outside found out that there was no defense fund left. The CPUSA, which had been in control of the defense funds, said that they had spent the money on a large newspaper ad for a peaceful demonstration of their own. Forman’s assistant explained to the activists that since they had no followed orders (by the CPUSA, that is), the “Movement” would not help them. No bail, no lawyers, no help of any kind would be furnished.
Two footnotes: The unpleasant publicity and the “riots” so angered Mayor Daley that he uncharacteristically invited HUAC to leave Chicago and not return. And, in fact, the whole Southern HUAC tour was cancelled, rather than face the possibility of mass confrontations. Secondly, when two SNCC ‘rads got out of jail they walked over to the office of the CPUSA official who had been in charge of the defense fund, and gave him a definite reminder to not come near the liberation movement again.
We should say several things here. The first is that defense funds supposedly raised to aid SNCC and the Southern movement were in reality only used to promote settler revisionism. In other words, SNCC was raising funds to aid the settler CPUSA, not the reverse. We can start to see what kind of political confusion the Formans had folks in, and why ‘rads who didn’t even know what was happening on their doorstop could not lead a revolutionary upsurge. The CPUSA, in fact, had never given money to the New Afrikan struggle. They only invested money out of which they made a political profit. “Solidarity” meant using the Formans and Angela Davises to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, much of which the CPUSA used for itself. Causes like the United Front of Cairo, defense cases like Martin Sostre, and so on, have funded the CPUSA and other settler organizations. Often over the bitter objections of ripped-off New Afrikans and other Third-World revs.
James Forman, who was representative of a certain strata of Black petty-bourgeois radicals, went on from SNCC to new neo-colonial fiascos. After a passing alliance with the BPP during SNCC’s dying days, Forman launched the Black Economic Development Conference (BEDC) in the Spring of 1969. This was a distorted version of reparations for 400 years of colonial enslavement. The BEDC’s Black Manifesto was essentially a gigantic foundation grant request. Forman’s illusionary program was that the Euro-Amerikan churches would give him hundreds of millions of dollars in “guilt money”, which would supposedly be used to start a new “Black economy”. Forman went on to the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, and played a role there in creating a faction that insisted on merging into the settler New Left.(33)
As a whole, we can see that the petty-bourgeois settler Left and petty-bourgeois Black radicals made private alliances between themselves during the 1960s. This false internationalism helped maintain a misleadership for the revolutionary struggle, promoted unhealthy and neo-colonial attitudes, and left the young New Afrikan revolutionary movement ill-equipped to fight the co-optation of Black Power by the imperialists.
In the beginning of the revolutionary crisis, the Black Nation found itself in a period where revolution was an objective possibility, but wherein false and primitive theories on how to get liberation led to set-back after set-back. This has not only been true for all other revolutionary movements in the continental Empire, but true for many other nations as well.
Even in Vietnam, which has been among the advanced guard in World Revolution, what they call “the dark night of slavery” lasted close to seventy years. During those years the Vietnamese people heroically fought many battles, launched many uprisings, began many new revolutionary organizations. Only to be defeated time after time by the French colonial armies who had first invaded Vietnam in 1858. From 1885-1892 a series of local armed uprisings led by feudal intellectuals from the old ruling classes were defeated.
This led to a new trend, of looking abroad for new ways and in some cases for foreign help. Some Vietnamese tried to organize for bourgeois democracy on the French model, only to be repressed. Others pinned their hopes on the French Left taking over and decolonizing. Still others joined the Chinese bourgeois nationalist movement (Kuomintang) and hoped that an independent China would free their country. Still others looked to Japan, as a new Asian power thought to be sympathetic on race lines. Others looked to the U.S. for help, as a world power supposedly democratic and verbally critical of European colonialism.
In all cases, these many movements and organizations guided by unscientific theories about how to free their country met defeat year after year. It was not until Vietnamese communism began that the anti-colonial movement could work out a correct strategy. As the history of the Vietnamese Party notes: “...prior to 1920, no Vietnamese patriot had found out the light of national liberation in the dark night of slavery, neither was any patriotic, revolutionary organization capable of leading the people to victory. At this period, the Vietnamese revolution was faced with a grave crisis as regards the way to national salvation.”(34)
Even the very self-reliant Vietnamese, at a confused stage in their history, looked heavily to others as the bearers of liberation. There was also much defeatism in these earlier periods, when repeated set-backs and other inadequacies had demoralized many. In particular this was true among the privileged Vietnamese classes, who were predisposed to be awed at European colonial power since they profited so much relatively within its occupation. Many petty-bourgeois Vietnamese preached that the French were just too strong for the small and weak Vietnamese nation to fight—better to seek reforms within the colonial system.
All this has certain parallels to the political situation within the New Afrikan liberation movement. This has manifested itself even within the armed organizations. The main problem facing the New Afrikan Nation today, as all other oppressed peoples in the Empire, is the inability to find the correct path to liberation, and thus end “the dark night of slavery”.
The most prevalent backward idea in the New Afrikan Liberation Movement has been defeatism. Every national liberation movement has had to overcome this backward political position. Even in China, the largest and one of the oldest nations on earth, the Communists in the 1930s had to constantly fight defeatism among the people, among the national movement, and even among the army. Mao called this backward idea “the theory of national subjugation”. So folks constantly hear in a thousand different voices, direct and indirect, that New Afrikan people are too few, too weak, too outnumbered to be able to themselves directly fight and defeat the U.S. Empire. If New Afrikans foolishly dare to rise up then the vastly stronger White Amerika will simply commit genocide and wipe all New Afrikans out. Therefore, the theory of national subjugation goes, New Afrikan people must limit their strategies to those that win majority white approval or at least tolerance.
In the political debate in the early 1960s over first picking up the gun, Robert Williams spoke against the Black integrationists/assimiliationists directly to this crucial issue. Williams wrote in 1962 in Negroes With Guns:
“The responsible Negro leadership is pacifist in so far as its one interest is that we do not fight white racists; that we do not ‘provoke’ or enrage them. They constantly tell us that if we report to violent self-defense we will be exterminated...
“This fear of extermination is a myth which we’ve exposed in Monroe. We did this because we came to have an active understanding of the racist system, and we grasped the relationship between violence and racism. The existence of violence is at the very heart of a racist system... When people say that they are opposed to Negroes ‘resorting to violence’ what they really mean is that they are opposed to Negroes defending themselves and challenging the exclusive monopoly of violence practiced by white racists... When Afro-Americans resist and struggle for their rights they also possess and power greater than that generated by their will and hands. With the world situation as it is today, the most racist and fascist United States government conceivable could not succeed in eliminating 20,000,000 people.”(35)
It is significant that Williams’ political opponents, when pressed to explain how New Afrikans could protect themselves in a way that doesn’t antagonize White Amerika, always fell back on the old, slavish idea that New Afrikans should look to white people—either the “white proletariat” or “concerned white liberals” or even the federal government itself—as their protection. In other words, the oppressed should be dependent upon the oppressor. It is significant that those Blacks mentally enslaved by settler revisionism sounded no different from the upfront lackeys. One of the leading attackers against Williams and the armed self-defense movement was Claude Lightfoot, head of the “minority” department of the settler Communist Party USA, who also wrote in 1962:
“Another current to emerge recently is the movement around Williams, in Monroe, North Carolina. It also reflects a current born of desperation...
“But it should be pointed out that armed struggle will not lead to Negro freedom. On the contrary, it would retard the fight for freedom because it would leave the struggle up to the Negroes alone. It is this tendency of ‘I’ll walk alone’ that underlies much of the confused direction the Williams forces advocate. But who else in America is prepared to take up arms for a cause—any cause?
“The main protection for Negroes in the South is to force the Federal Government to shoulder its responsibilities, as President Eisenhower was forced to do at Little Rock. This must be the direction. In this kind of struggle, we can muster allies throughout the country...”
This kind of slavish nonsense was from someone who called himself a “communist”, but who had the kind of thinking 100% acceptable to imperialism. In general, the phony “Marxism-Leninism” practiced by petty-bourgeois careerists has always produced defeatism about New Afrikan liberation, however disguised. Robert L. Allen, for example, one of the leaders in the Black Intellectual trend of Bourgeois “Marxism”, editor of Black Scholar magazine, even went so far as to lie and falsely praise Malcolm X for his supposed defeatism. Allen, who was for years a staff member for the white Left Guardian newspaper, became a professor of Black Studies at San Jose State University. Malcolm, Allen lied, recognized that only white support could save New Afrikan people from genocide, and therefore Malcolm was actually working to prevent New Afrikan revolution from breaking out:
“As far as white workers were concerned, he had no faith at all that they could be anything but reactionary and racist. With beliefs such as these, it would be natural for Malcolm to hesitate to advocate that Blacks undertake anything more than self-defense. His major concern, wisely, was to prevent genocide, not encourage it. He knew that in a revolutionary situation only the presence of revolutionary forces outside the Black communities could prevent mass slaughter of the Black population. He saw no such forces in evidence, and therefore was forced to equivocate...”(37)
In this unbelievable, lying rap, we are told (by a professor of Black Studies, of course) that Malcolm, too, believed that New Afrikan Revolution had to wait on the back burner. And not wait for anything New Afrikans might decide, no, wait for white folks to get ready to permit New Afrikan liberation! White people are again said to be the answer to the problems of the New Afrikan Nation. Well, if Malcolm X was so allegedly bent on “equivocating” and holding back the Rev, why did the C.I.A. assassinate him?
We should start to see how important defeatism is, how it robs the liberation struggle of its independence, its hope for the masses, and its true vision of its tasks. It is not just liberalism and phony “M-Lism” that shelters defeatism. We can see this in phony “Pan-Afrikanism” as well. Pseudo-nationalists such as Stokeley Carmichael have taken ideological refuge in a version of Pan-Afrikanism. This has allowed them to sound Afrikan-centered and nationalistic while still opposing any national independence for the oppressed right here. i.e. this is militant integrationism disguised on a higher level. Quite naturally, those who believe this also promote defeatism relabeled as realism. Stokeley has been upfront in saying that revolution in the U.S. is a white thing, and New Afrikans must wait for revolution until the settler majority allows it (which would be a long wait indeed):
“...For real socialist transformation to come to America, the white working class is the crucial element... History has demonstrated to us the willingness of the Black man to work with his ally, the white working class... Although the Black worker must be the vanguard, he must push the white worker out front. The Black worker must not move unless the white worker is moving.”
Again, we see across the political spectrum, among liberals, phony “M-L’ers”, phony “Pan-Afrikanists”, pseudo-nationalists, the same underlying politics: that New Afrikans will get genocidally wiped out if they push settler Amerika too far, and that only “majority” white support can shield New Afrikan people. In other words, that white people are the answer.
We can easily expose the falsehoods in this ideological slavishness. First, “the theory of national subjugation,” that New Afrikans are too weak and outnumbered to militarily fight the colonial power. Time and again we hear this as a truism, so supposedly obvious that it needs no explanation. When we examine it, however, it blows away into dust. For example, if Amilcar Cabral had all the rebel fighters in Guinea-Bissau (which is a small nation with a population less than some major cities) frontally mass and charge the Portuguese machine guns, it might as well have been true that the liberation struggle would have been totally wiped out. If General Giap had the whole Vietnamese liberation army expose themselves and charge U.S. bases, Saigon might be occupied right now. But in fact Peoples War by the weak and small nations won, while the imperialist NATO powers lost.
But couldn’t the U.S. have used H-bombs, poison gas, and its industrial/technological power to commit total genocide and wipe out Vietnam? Abstractly, perhaps. In reality, no. As Mao pointed out in 1945, atomic weapons once demonstrated in Japan could no longer be used by U.S. imperialism against the Third World, since the people of the world would unite in horror against such dangerous barbarism. Hence, he said, their threat against China at that time was a “paper tiger”. In the same way, Peoples War correctly fought uses many strategic factors, both military and political, to frustrate and immobilize the supposedly superior might of the imperialist nations.
This does not mean, of course, that any small or oppressed nation can automatically defeat any imperialist power. The dialectical process of constant change, of coming into being and going out of being, affects nations as well as other things. There are both many great empires and many small nations that have gone out of existence, just as many new nations are coming into being this century. Once the entire Arab world, which today comprises many sovereign nation-states, was one colony of the large Turkish Ottoman Empire. Today Turkey is no empire but only a small nation, itself an oppressed neo-colony. There is no law that says that the U.S. oppressor nation will continue to be a large nation. And there is no law that guarantees that New Afrika or Hawaii or the Navaho nation or any imperialist neo-colony will be independent in the future. This is up to the struggle, and up to the desires of the masses. Some peoples agree with Ho, that “Nothing is more precious than independence,” and some peoples do not agree.
The key link to grasp here is that Vietnam proved that a weak nation can defeat a strong nation, and a small nation can defeat a large nation. This has changed the course of world history. Why, then, cannot Puerto Rico or the Philippines or New Afrika or Azania defeat the U.S. oppressor nation? This exposes the assumption at the heart of defeatism within the New Afrikan liberation movement. Folks, even some professed nationalists, are still weak and hesitant about the New Afrikan Nation. They’re uncertain that it is a separate, legitimate Nation. Too many ‘revs keep thinking, if only unconsciously, that New Afrikan people are only a “minority” within the “majority” settler U.S. oppressor nation. This “minority” thinking is strongly pushed by the oppressor, who always keeps labeling the oppressed as “minorities” together with Euro-Amerikan women. (If you listen to the oppressor, they are the “majority” even within the “minority”.) It’s easy to see how a “minority” within a nation might feel it impossible to win a war against its own “majority”. But between nations, as Vietnam and other liberation struggles have shown, political consciousness is a bigger factor in the balance of power than population size, industry, weaponry or size of armies. A larger problem might be that many Third-World revs here, while wanted to get out of their oppression, don’t entirely want to separate from the “good life” of the “Big House”.
Consequently, when the New Afrikan urban guerrillas of the B.L.A. swung into action in 1970-71, they found themselves quickly abandoned by the Black Movement. And not in any subtle way, either. New Afrikans as helpless victims and armed organization only for personal self-defense were acceptable to the Movement and its settler allies. The Black Movement refused to really support any of the urban guerrillas, either in deeds and for the most part even in words. New Afrikan guerrillas were not unaware of this, to say the least. In “Message to the Lumpen”, the young B.L.A. said:
“...when the lumpen first posed the alternative to organized revolutionary violence of the ruling class, the lumpen found itself isolated... The other classes panicked and got as far away from the lumpen as possible... Now, while the world situation permits it we must make our move for the freedom and liberation of our people, realizing that nobody and nothing can stop us. To be successful, all we need to do is become fulltime revolutionaries. We have nothing better to do. No more of their programs for us... Field niggers have dreamed of this day since the first slave revolt was drowned in blood in Babylon. It’s what haunts the dreams of every Indian alive.”(43)
Yet what they discovered in practice was that most of the “Black Liberation Movement”--whether liberal, pseudo-nationalist, Black Power, phony “M-L” or phony “Pan-Afrikanist”--didn’t want armed struggle and was convinced that liberation couldn’t succeed. The urban guerrillas found that their own Movement was neither preparing the masses nor organizing for liberation. The vital relationship between the masses and the first seeds of armed revolutionary organization (necessarily small) had been cut—from within the Movement. Defeatism was a poison within the supposedly revolutionary “BLM”.
Defeatism tugs at and undermines the liberation movement by slyly promoting the view that liberation can only come from others, in particular the old, colonialized view that white people are the answer to the problems of the New Afrikan Nation. Revolutionary nationalists explicitly put down this idea. Yet, it isn’t too hard to see it still lived on in disguised forms in the old ‘60s Movement. For example, the view was widespread that the New Afrikan revolution sohuld be completely financed by contributions from liberal and radical Euro-Amerikans. New Afrikan people, it was claimed, were “too poor” to support their own Movement. We’ve all heard and read such things, and should admit what they mean.
Examples of this are not hard to find. For instance: in 1980 the African Peoples’ Socialist Party split. The split became a public controversy, with the majority of the Central Committee members led by Ajowa Ifateyo (sn Vicki Wells) and Aziza Ayoluwa expelling APSP Chairman Omall Yeshitela (sn Joseph Waller) on charges of alleged physical abuse of women. Yeshitela and his supporters, while not commenting on the specific events, counter-charged that the Ifateyo-Ayoluwa actions were part of a lesbian-FBI-COINTELPRO repressive operation against Black people.(39) We mention these issues only in passing, as background in a split in which the allegiance of Euro-Amerikan radical “allies” was very important.
The APSP had/has a Euro-Amerikan solidarity committee attached to it which played an all-important role inside the life of the organization. What that meant can be seen by the testimony of Ajowa Ifateyo. She has said in an interview that without the approval of this solidarity committee, which supported Chairman Yeshitela and withheld money from them, the majority of the APSP Central Committee was helpless, paralyzed:
“That was a real critical move at that time. The Party was heavily dependent on that money from the solidarity committee. The whole publication of the Party newspaper, The Burning Spear, depended on it. The solidarity committee also subsidized an entire African bookstore and the entire office rent and living space (the same building) of the national office.
“When it really slapped us in the face, it was totally unbelievable. Here were these white women going to take all this money... the Party work came to a halt. There was nothing we could do. We had planned to publish a special issue of The Burning Spear to explain the whole struggle, but then we couldn’t.”(40)
It is really striking to hear a New Afrikan activist say that without Euro-Amerikan approval they were unable to even communicate with their own Nation, much less maintain an organization! False internationalism worked to produce a dependent mentality. There is no doubt that Euro-Amerikan “allies” were the central consideration for the APSP. Chairman Yeshitela was unafraid to publicly say that. He has explained that the APSP national office’s move to San Francisco as motivated by the need to find Euro-Amerikans:
“It was a struggle that was complicated by the tremendous poverty of our Party and of our people, so that often our struggle was composed equally of attempts to feed the members who constitute our Party, as well as to do the other work. Often our struggle was complicated by the most ridiculous need to pay a light bill in the office, by the most obscene need to pay the rent...
“The decision to come to San Francisco was partially influenced by these difficulties... We understood that we needed a rear base area. There are no mountains within the colonial territory to which we can escape, develop resources, repair our engines, and then return to attack our enemies. So, therefore, we had to create the mountain. From various utterances and signs of solidarity that we received from North American left forces in San Francisco, California, and from the evidence of the material resources that we could see here, we could see the... possibility for creating our mountain here. We perceived the possibility of being able to bring leading Party forces to the San Francisco area, whose primary responsibility would be to develop unity with the North American forces in this area... That’s why we are in San Francisco, to build the mountain.”(41)
White folks are said to be the Mountain. White folks are said to be the rear base area for the Black Revolution. National offices are moved several thousand miles, across the continent, in order to get closer to them. They are all-important. Once again, white people are said to be the answer to the problems of the New Afrikan Nation. And the thing is, that everyone who does that also adds that they are only carrying out Malcolm’s legacy. Is that what Malcolm did?
Intervention by Euro-Amerikans in the affairs of the New Afrikan Nation is not a trick, played by sly white people on innocent New Afrikan leaders. Intervention is not a trick, but rather a relationship, an alliance between similar class forces in oppressed and oppressor nations. Some leaders, as we can see, are not innocent at all. They look for intervention, argue and recruit for intervention, and defend their cherished intervention as “allies” and “solidarity”. Of course, when their schemes go wrong they simply blame it all on white folks. This has nothing to do with liking oppressors. After all, the drug addict may hate their addiction, but still find themselves going back to the Man for one more fix. This is not the fault of one leader or a hundred leaders as individuals. Defeatism and an attitude of dependence on other is an institutionalized condition throughout the colonial world, and can only be overcome by finally ending “the dark night of slavery” with proletarian class ideology. We remember that Stephen Biko said before his assassination:
"The Black man is subjected to two forces in this country. He is first of all oppressed by an external world through institutionalized machinery and through laws that restrict him from doing certain things, through heavy work conditions, through poor education. These are all external to him. Secondly, and this we regard as the most important, the Black man in himself has developed a certain state of alienation... Because of the ability of the white culture to solve so many problems... You tend to look at it as a superior culture to yours. You tend to despise the worker culture, and this inculcates in the Black man a sense of self-hatred...”(42)
Defeatism is colonial in that it is an oppressor nation view, an alien, imperialist view, rather than one that reflects the natural reality and interests of the oppressed nation. But it is simultaneously a class question. Defeatism represents the subjective and vacillating class nature of the neo-colonial petty-bourgeois, who are its social carriers. The neo-colonial petty-bourgeois are also drawn towards defeatism because of their own material reality as a class. They cannot overcome imperialism by themselves. They are not the revolutionary class, the element of change. In the modern age only the proletariat is the bearer of revolutionary science, of correct strategy for liberation of all the oppressed. Malcolm grasped the essence of this when he pointed out that only the grass-roots provided rebellion, change, while the petty-bourgeois Black leadership always trailed ineffectually behind them.
In January 1971 the public watched as a political split between Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver surfaced. It was announced that the Black Panther Party had split into two camps, the “Oakland faction” and the “Cleaver faction” or “East Coast faction”. Actually, the BPP was dying. Its historic tasks had been accomplished. The contradictions within it broke through the old shell, smashing it to pieces. In the process came a new season of struggle. The Black Liberation Army was born out of the ruins of the old organization.
In keeping with the BPP’s style, the split in their leadership erupted right on television. Since going into exile in 1968, Cleaver had set up an Intercommunal Section in Algiers, whose main job was diplomatic representation to socialist governments. With an ocean between them and changes coming down, rumors began to spread about political conflicts in the BPP leadership. To quiet those rumors Newton arranged to speak to Eldridge by long-distance telephone live on a San Francisco TV talk show. Huey was attempting to jam Eldridge into going along with his decisions right on television. To Newton’s chagrin, Eldridge attacked the Oakland headquarters’ recent decisions and demanded the expulsion of Chief of Staff David Hilliard.(43) Newton was left to explain it all to the TV cameras. Later that day he called Cleaver in Algiers. Huey told Eldridge that his whole “fraction” was expelled from the Party. That call, too, was tape-recorded by them and later broadcast on U.S. public radio, macho threats and all:
“EC — Hey man.
HN — Eldridge.
EC — What’s happening?
HN — Well, you dropped a bombshell this morning.
EC — Yeah.
HN — Don’t you think so?
EC — I hope so.
HN — Well, it was very embarrassing for me... Hello, you listening? The Intercommunal Section is expelled.
EC — ...Right on, if that’s what you want to do, Brother. But look here, I don’t think you should take such actions like that.
HN — And you know, I’d like a battle, Brother. We’ll battle it out.
EC — Well, then I think you’re a madman, too, Brother.
HN — OK, we’ll battle like two bulls, we’ll lock horns.
EC — We’ll see then, OK?
HN — But I think I have the guns.
EC — I got some guns too, Brother.
HN — Alright, you put yours to work and I’ll put mine to work, but I’m not a coward like you Brother... you’re a coward, you’re a punk, you understand.”(44)
The internal crisis had been precipitated by the Oakland Central Office, desperately trying to stop the Party membership from going over to armed struggle. Public expulsions became regular features of The Black Panther, together with photographs of the purged members. In December 1970 the FBI busted a clandestine BPP guerrilla cell in Dallas, Texas. Fugitive Geronimo Pratt, who had organized the cell, was arrested along with Will Stafford, “Crutch” Holiday, and George Lloyd. Pratt was the BPP Deputy Minister of Defense for Southern California. To the Party’s surprise, The Black Panther responded by announcing Geronimo’s expulsion from the Party as a supposed traitor. Geronimo had been one of the most liked and respected leaders. He had led the five-hour defense of the L.A. BPP office on December 8, 1969, against police armed with automatic weapons, helicopters and armored cars. On of the Panther 21 recalls:
“...I remember the response and reaction of the brothers and sisters, not only in the Party, but in the street when they picked up that edition of the paper that had in it the purge, the expulsion from the Party of Brother Geronimo and his branding as being a pig. This is like the straw that broke the camel’s back, and that was the spark that set off the prairie fire. It would not be tolerated any longer.
“We started getting together on the East Coast to righteously move on the situation... It started with brothers and sisters just related to the two tunes that were currently on the hit parade, ‘Who’s Gonna Take the Weight’ by Kool and the Gang and ‘Somebody’s Watching You’. Brothers and sisters made it known that way, that they were tired of this shit.”(45)
Geronimo Pratt himself insisted that he had gone underground with full knowledge of the Central Office. But Oakland had gotten unhappy with his plan to start guerrilla activity for a New Afrikan state in the South:
“As we, the Black Liberation Army, the military arm of the Black Panther Party, transcended... that level of politics and moved to the staged of armed urban confrontation (Huey, Eldridge and Bobby Hutton—Oakland, 1967 to Los Angeles, 1969 shootout on Central Avenue), I observed the dastardly (cowardly, sneaky) reactions of many so-called leaders of our organization. Right before my departure to begin my underground mission it became even more obvious. I began to outline my plans to them, especially the mention of one Dixie Region State, they were sparked with astonishment and stood agape (mouths wide open) looking foolish.”(46)
By the next month, January 1971, the N.Y. Panther 21 prisoners were publicly expelled from the Party as well. The cause was their open letter of support to the Weather Underground. In it the imprisoned ‘rads, who had been politically abandoned by Huey and the Central Office, strongly criticized certain unnamed “vanguard” parties. Everyone understood this was aimed at the Oakland leadership:
“We see how the pigs are working overtime to try and fuck things up—but we also see how much of the misdirection comes from these self proclaimed ‘vanguard’ parties themselves. How these ‘omnipotent’ parties are throwing seeds of confusion, escapism, and have lost much of their momentum by bad tactics—in fact terrible tactics, tripping out, pseudo-machoism, myrmidonism, dogmatism, regionalism, regimentation, and fear. Thus the situation out there has become a sort of the lost leading the blind.”(47)
Huey Newton had a supposed loyal supported placed close to Geronimo Pratt. This person warned Newton that Geronimo’s armed cell was planning to correct Newton himself. This alarm triggered off the purge of Geronimo and his ‘rads. But Newton’s loyal supporter, Melvin “Cotton” Smith, was really an agent of the L.A. Police Department (later surfaced to testify at Panther trials). Huey was maneuvered by the FBI into issuing orders that Geronimo be “offed”.
jubilant FBI-COINTELPRO memo sent to FBI field offices on January 28, 1971, said that Newton was going “to respond violently to any questions of his actions or policies... The present chaotic situation within the BPP must be exploited.”(48) Families of BPP members opposed to Oakland received FBI visits, with “friendly warnings” that their sons and daughters might be killed soon. On March 8, 1971, Panther Robert Webb was shot down in a Harlem ambush by seven armed men, who were thought to be Huey’s “guns”. A situation developed which was reminiscent of the assassinations that followed Malcolm’s split from the Nation of Islam. Supposed “Panthers killing Panthers” was used to discredit the rev and confuse the masses. The relationship between politics and the gun was not as folks once thought.
For awhile both factions operated publicly under the BPP name, each denying the legitimacy of the other. The Oakland-based Party was just a facade of its former self, already shrunken around anti-revolutionary politics. Huey had carried the logic of his “United Front Against Fascism” to the limits. In December 1970 the BPP had convened a so-called “Revolutionary Peoples Constitutional Convention” in Washington, D.C., where it had hoped to lead the Euro-Amerikan liberals and radicals into rewriting the U.S. Constitution! This flopped, being too silly even for the petty-bourgeoisie. On a theoretical level Newton had published his “intercommunalism” theory that the world had evolved to the point where nations no longer existed. Folks began to wonder what world Huey was in?
In New York the revolutionary wing of the party quickly moved to reorganize itself. A Bronx office became the new Central Headquarters. To replace the old Black Panther newspaper, the revolutionary wing began publishing Right On! under the editorship of Safiya Asya Bukhari (sn Bernice Jones). For two years Right On! served as a voice of the armed struggle. It was both lively and politically serious, and unlike The Black Panther, maintained a healthy dialogue. Guerrilla actions were evaluated, ‘rads on the inside helped to exchange views, news from Afrika and inside Babylon spread. Expropriations and other preparations had already begun. On May 21, 1971, a B.L.A. unit corrected N.Y.P.D. patrolmen Joseph Piagentini and Waverly Jones. That was a celebration of Malcolm’s birthday. Other attacks on police and police stations followed. As did counter-attacks from the political police. Safiya recalls:
“When the split went down in the Black Panther Party, I was left in a position of Communications and Information Officer for the East Coast Party. It wasn’t until much later that I was to find out how vulnerable that position was.
“Most of the members of the Party went underground to work with the Black Liberation Army (BLA). I was among those who elected to remain aboveground and supply necessary support. The murders of youths such as Clifford Glover, Tyrone Guyton, etc. by the police, and retaliation by the BLA with the assassination of pigs Piagentini and Jones and Rocco and Laurie, made the power that be frantic, and they pulled out all the stops in their campaign to rid the streets of rebellious slaves.”(49)
In the new political season Eldridge’s theoretical leadership was quickly revealed to be as useless as Huey’s. Cleaver had been happy to run for U.S. President for the white anti-war folks, and happy to tie up the Party doing similar nonsense, so long as it promised to promote and protect him personally. But once he fled into exile, Cleaver found it more personally advantageous to pose as the leader of a guerrilla-based national liberation movement. At least temporarily. His lumpen class orientation remained constant throughout, however.
Eldridge had been deliberately hounded into leaving the country by the FBI, which would have taken him out instead if they’d had to. In September 1968, Eldridge had been convicted of manslaughter and had his parole revoked. But the court gave him 60 days in which to report for reimprisonment. The Panther squad of the San Francisco FBI had Cleaver under constant, heavy surveillance. The Feds could have assassinated him any night. They wanted to pressure him, to herd him into reacting the way they’d wanted. Cleaver admitted:
“This reached the point where I was afraid to sleep in the same place twice. Whenever the FBI would discover one of my shelters, they would telephone and ask for me. Sometimes this would blow my mind. If I had gone through elaborate evasive tactics and made my way to what I considered to be a ‘cool pad’, then the phone suddenly rang and someone asked for me, it was unsettling, to say the least. Sometimes they would say, ‘Just checking’, or ‘Thought you could shake us, didn’t you Eldridge.’”(50)
The political police maneuvered Eldridge into running as a way of politically neutralizing him, and also of setting the BPP leadership up for the “Panthers killing Panthers” campaign. Eldridge said: “The tactic which the authorities used against me was to keep me under constant pressure... They ‘knew’ me very well. I had been State raised: I had climbed up the ladder from Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles, starting at age 12, to Folsom Prison, making all the stops in between... I had been studied, numbered, analyzed and psyched out much more than the average person in the movement.”(51)
Once in exile Eldridge’s options became very different. If he had claimed to be a reformer he would have gotten nowhere. Instead, Eldridge veered “left” and asked for hospitality as a guerrilla leader-in-exile of the New Afrikan national liberation movement. The Algerian Government responded generously. Eldridge and his section were given diplomatic passports, funds, a large house that was an official “embassy”. Overnight, Eldridge was elevated to diplomatic status. But for Huey and Bobby Seale, who were still in prison, the line of building a reform movement around their legal defense made more more individual sense. Eldridge and Huey were two sides of the same lumpen coin, despite their political differences on the surface.
The incipient split was furthered by the fact that the CIA’s HTLINGUAL program was monitoring all their communications, while the FBI was using their planted agents to promote violent disunity. Panther squad FBI Agent William Cohendet said about Cleaver’s being hounded into exile: “We just helped the split along... I’m sure they would have split anyway because of the personalities of the men, and fleeing took away all his chance of doing anything. He was yelling in the desert out there.”(52)
At first the split in the Party took the form of each wing trying to be the only legitimate BPP. The revolutionary wing presented itself as the true Party. In that situation, the Algiers section was a de facto political leadership. Not only because Eldridge was the most prominent theoretician in the old BPP, but because he, Kathleen Cleaver and Field Marshall Donald Cox were members of the old Panther Central Committee. This was a source of legitimacy and continuity for the new organization.
Within a year that relationship changed. The East Coast BPP became just a small support apparatus, as the main organization was the new Black Liberation Army units. Moved by Carlos Marighela’s scenario of the urban guerrilla “foco”, the former BPP members now had no use for “superstar” leadership that refused to join the armed struggle on the ground. The emergence of the new BLA marked the end of Eldridge’s leadership, although his theories continued as an unacknowledged influence in the revolutionary movement.
While Cleaver in exile was carefully draping himself in words like “Marxist-Leninist” and “communist”, his revolutionary theory was a logical continuation of the BPP’s original glorification of the lumpen. Just like Huey, Eldridge took his political road to the limit. In the first days of the split, Eldridge defined the political differences as over simply getting down, and said that the original line of the Party was correct: “Once upon a time the Black Panther Party had no problem on that level. When the Party was a small organization, it wasn’t a very well-known organization, it didn’t have any political prisoners around which we had to indulge in mass activity. It was just Panthers, pigs, and guns.”(53)
By the following year Eldridge’s theoretical analysis of the lumpen as the world revolutionary class had fully developed. Interestingly enough, his views were being put forward by the same Black Bourgeois “Marxists” who were playing such a neo-colonial role in the movement. An issue of Black Scholar magazine on “The Black Masses” featured two major articles justifying the lumpen theory. The first was by Eldridge, “On Lumpen Ideology”. In it he explicitly attacks Marxism and the proletariat:
“...Marxism has had disastrous effects upon the revolutionary movement. Marx, misunderstanding the basic condition of oppression, identified the proletariat, the working class, as the most revolutionary element of society... In reality, the Working Class has become as much a part of the system that has to be destroyed as the capitalists. They are the second line of resistance, after the cops. The real revolutionary element of our era is the Lumpen...”
According to Cleaver’s very lumpen consciousness, economic production was unimportant. Soon technology/automation will throw almost all of the world forever out of work, he said. Work will be unnecessary for the lumpen. The only real question was dividing up the loot: “The basic demand of the Lumpen, to be cut in on Consumption in spite of being blocked out of Production, is the ultimate revolutionary demand. What is wrong with the way that this basic Lumpen demand has been set forth in the past is that it has come out as a sort of begging, ashamed of itself... Brainwashed with the proletarian consciousness of the working class, the Lumpen has been made to feel that it does not have any rights... We look forward to the day when all work can be done by technological advances, which will be a good thing. But this doesn’t mean we should be blocked out of Consumption.”(54)
Eldridge’s crackpot theory reflected his lumpen class view, in that the social program of his struggle was “Consumption” without having to work. It was a social program that could only have come out of Babylon. By the time that article was published, Cleaver and most of the Algiers section had formally left the new BPP, ostensibly to build an international network for revolutionary news. Soon after that he was kicked out of Algeria, moved to France and became a self-professed “Social-Democrat”, and was on his greased slide into the pocket of the U.S. Right Wing.
Cleaver’s worthlessness as a political leader had larger ramifications. First, in that the ambiguity of class orientation that both he and Huey had used, lived on in both the revolutionary wing, and then in the BLA itself. The second is that his line in the split, which was the original program of the Black Panther Party was fine and only needed to be carried out, became a fundamental assumption of the new BLA fighters. In other words, both the strengths and the weaknesses of the BPP were continued into the new armed front. And thirdly, that in proving worse than useless to the armed struggle, Cleaver only reinforced the growing disillusionment among the rank and file with “theoreticians”, and with all political theory itself.
The new armed front was centered around the primary of action. Its key slogan was “Action is the Vanguard!” And the main theoretical influence was not Mao or Cabral, but the Brazilian pioneer into urban guerrilla warfare, Carlos Marighela. This narrow focus was not correct but was unavoidable in the situation. So many, many leaders and organizations had promised Revolution, spoken of Marxism-Leninism, threatened armed struggle—and then had backed down. Or sold out. Their own Party leadership had betrayed them. So the fighters put all their efforts into finally making the military breakthrough, “getting down”, overcoming individual fears and hesitations, and becoming guerrilla hunters instead of just being the hunted victims. This long-awaited breakthrough was made, even without a revolutionary party or science, but at a certain price. In their “Progress Report On Our Struggle” at the end of 1971, the armed front said:
“We learned a lot from the dissension that came to light within the Black Panther Party.
1) To guard against personalities.
The Party made Gods out of its old Central Committee... instead of stressing adherence to revolutionary principles adherence to leadership was stressed...
2) To stop theorizing and become practitioners.
...The Party got so hung up in theory that it forgot about educating through example, by practice (Action is the Vanguard).
3) To implement the primary objective of the Black Panther Party which is to ‘Establish Revolutionary Political Power for Black People’.
We had become so hung up in being the Vanguard, that we’d forgotten about the Black community.”(55)
In the 1972 message Spring Came Early This Year, the organization and politics of the guerrillas were laid out:
“Many people are asking what is the Black Liberation Army?... The various guerrilla groups are entirely autonomous and decentralized and do not have to wait on orders coming from the ‘High Command’. There are no political commissars to these guerrilla groups, nor do we have charismatic, superstar, long distance leaders dictating policies from afar... Our leadership is a collective leadership. Whether the task is ‘collecting a compulsory revolutionary tax’ from a bank, or punishing a pig by death, everyone gets down together including the ‘leader’. We relate to tactical and strategic principles and not to personalities. ‘Our only obligation is to act’.
“The BLA understands the importance of the Mass Political Movement. We are not coming from a purely military viewpoint, undermining the importance of building a strong United Front. But we must go about this in a different way. The political apparatus will have to deal with the bourgeois nationalist and the ‘tribal bureaucrats’ in the struggles to build a united front. For us, a ‘United Front is Fire Power’, is revolutionary action, and nothing else...”(56)
The BLA rejected Huey Newton’s strategy of reforming White Amerika in favor of guerrilla war—but in fact had no new strategy of their own. War is not a strategy. The small, “autonomous and decentralized” BLA units were preoccupied with tactical problems and actions; many fighters were understandably focused on developing their own personal resources, mental and physical, to become good soldiers. How would the revolutionary war be developed? How would final victory be won? There were, in reality, no answers to these questions. The fighters were a force that had no strategy, no long-range path, and was therefore living only day-to-day.
False internationalism seemed to be no problem, primarily because the settler New Left wanted nothing to do with the “adventurist” BLA. The BLA units did have some Latino, Asian and Euro-Amerikan allies and ‘rads. These were for the most part very modest relationships, built on practical assistance without any fanfare, or on common situations as fighters. But these relationships involved very few people. Attempts by BLA units to unite with the WUO, which was seen as a very important possibility, all failed. The problem of false internationalism was not resolved, but only deferred.
In those circumstances the armed struggle was viewed as only a quantitative thing, an accumulation of tactics. The liberation war was pictured as growing numbers of guerrillas from all nations doing a growing amount of destruction, mounting up and up until “AmeriKKKa” finally collapsed under the weight. I.e., the revolutionary task was just to destroy. As the BLA’s 1971 “Message to the Lumpen” said:
“...Dreaming of trips from rags to riches, the lumpen had spent some time dreaming the All American Dream of the shoeshine boy growing up to be President. Now, that they had been convicted of a felony, that dream was dead. The lumpen had to dream up new dreams... From this point on, the lumpen gives up everything, including all allegiances to the living. From now on, he makes all his deals with the dead... The Lumpen takes an oath. To kill, to destroy, in order to make the necessary room in which to build...”(57)
Armed struggle was seen only as a matter of killing and creating havoc to bring down the Enemy. Later, after liberation, would be time for building. That non-dialectical view was widespread in the 1960s, and reflected the ideological difficulties of all young revolutionary movements.
Some revisionists unfavorably contrasted the BLA of 1970-73 to the Vietnamese liberation armies that dealt such blows to U.S. imperialism, saying that the BLA in comparison wasn’t doing any real armed struggle at all. But everything must begin somewhere. Even the Vietnamese army was once only once squad of guerrillas without any training, learning how to field-strip make-shift weapons. In 1947, for example, the young Vietnamese Republic was fighting to oust the French occupation. They had already formed a recognized national government. It had been eighteen years since the founding of their communist party, and eighteen years since their modern armed struggle had been initiated by the unsuccessful Nghe Tinh Soviet of 1930-31. Did they have, therefore, a crack professional army? No, that was something they were still struggling for. Central Committee Truong Chinh pointed out to cadres at the time:
“Our troops are not as well trained as those of the enemy; that is why we must learn rapidly from the experiences gained in every battle, study the enemy’s methods, improve our own strategy and tactics... At present most of our soldiers only know how to fight bravely (our emphasis—ed.)”(58)
The difficulties of starting something new cannot be underestimated. Especially when armed struggle is the question on the agenda. The urban guerrillas of the BLA did not have a communist party, did not have a correct political-military strategy, did not yet have a clear understanding of class and nation. But against counter-insurgency raids, assassinations, betrayal by the BPP leadership and retreat by the broader movement, they advanced into the storm. There was little time for short-comings to be fixed, since within three years the small network of guerrilla units was smashed, most of the fighters dead or in prison, the community base neutralized. While not dead by any means, the armed struggle had encountered severe set-backs.
At the same time that the first, “embryonic form” of the Black Liberation Army was starting military action, the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (PG-RNA) was moving South to establish itself on the Land. It was not a coincidence that two major elements of any independence movement were being focused on then—army and provisional government.
Under the leadership of its President, Imari Obadele, the PG-RNA had made a controversial and hotly debated decision to move its center out of the Northern inner cities. The RNA President had argued that only by setting up a small but functioning government on the 5-State National Territory (Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina) would the revolutionary nationalist movement offer a real hope for the New Afrikan masses. The immediate plan was to buy farmland with New Afrikan tax monies, gradually expanding and defending the area controlled. A provisional capital would be set up, continent-wide elections held to legitimize the Provisional Government as elected representatives of the Nation, a broad program of economic co-ops, New Afrikan schools, self-defense units and other separate institutions would restructure the existing communities into a new society. The slogan was Free the Land!
On March 28, 1971, 150 New Afrikans held a “nation time” ceremony, consecrating 20 acres of newly-purchased land just west of Jackson, Mississippi. The land was designated as the future capital of the Nation, named El Malik after Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik Shabazz). Fifteen new citizens took the “nation oath”. President Imari Obadele officiated at a New Afrikan wedding ceremony. Uniformed men and women of the Black Legion, the regular military of the PG-RNA, patrolled the perimeter with rifles. Educational workshops, a meeting of the PG-RNA’s People’s Central Council, and other ceremonies filled the day. The RNA caravan of twenty cars and a bus was followed to and from the land by both Mississippi state and local police plus the FBI.(59)
The nation-building campaign was taken very seriously by the local settlers. Slave revolts have always been a part of their reality. Front-page newspaper stories in Jackson warned: “BLACK ‘NATION’ SEEKS PARLEY”. Mississippi Attorney-General A.F. Summer demanded that the U.S. Government stop the RNA; and moaned about “a new nation carved out of our state...” Arrests and police raids began to take place both in Mississippi and in New Orleans. A few days before the land consecration ceremony, ten RNA citizen-activists were arrested in Bolton, Mississippi on stolen car charges. The same night, two other RNA citizen-activists were arrested on weapons and drug charges, after a “routine” stop and search of their car. The counter-insurgency machinery was being put into gear.
On August 18, 1971 a joint force of FBI and Jackson city police, equipped not only with riot shotguns and steel helmets but with a tank, attacked two PG-RNA residences in Jackson at 6:30 A.M. At the Lewis St. residence, police shouted over a bullhorn for the “Black bastards” to come out, and only seconds later firing began on the house with tear gas grenades and firearms. But return fire ripped up the over-confident attackers. Jackson police Lieutenant William Skinner was killed, another policeman and an FBI agent wounded. At the Lynch St. residence, President Imari Obadele walked out to confront the surrounding police, and surrendered without casualties. Eleven PG-RNA citizens were arrested, ultimately to face murder charges and Federal conspiracy charges.(60)
“Nation-time” was cut down. Counter-insurgency stopped yet another New Afrikan mass organizing campaign. While the PG-RNA had tried to avoid any legal pretexts for repression, the local authorities made it clear that the lack of pretexts was merely a slight inconvenience to them. Jackson Mayor Davis said: “Every legal possibility for forcing the RNA out of Jackson had been explored, but that Wednesday was the first chance law-enforcement officers had to move in on the headquarters.” The so-called evidence against the RNA-11 defendants was so pitiful that at first the U.S. Justice Department wanted to drop the charges. But FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover insisted on prosecution. An FBI memo spoke to the political significance of the case: “If this case is not vigorously pursued and the charges are dropped, publicity in this matter will be spread to all extremist organizations throughout the U.S. by the RNA.”(61)
The nervousness of the settler authorities to slave insurrections on the National Territory was general, and not limited to the PG-RNA. This was proven by the Baton Rouge Massacre on January 10, 1972. On that day a small group of Muslims were conducting a street rally in front of the Temple Theater in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A crowd gathered and car traffic was blocked. Led by Police Chief Edwin Bauer a force of police and sheriff’s deputies attacked the New Afrikan crowd, clubbing and shooting. Some of the pigs apparently got in each other’s lines of fire, for after the smoke had cleared no arms were found on any of the arrested Muslim brothers. Two New Afrikans and two sheriff’s deputies were killed. Twelve New Afrikans were wounded. Fourteen police and deputies were wounded, as were three Euro-Amerikan TV newsmen and two Euro-Amerikan civilians. Louisiana National Guard with fixed bayonets guarded the downtown area for four days afterwards.(62)
The Southern expedition of the PG-RNA was part of an elaborate strategy for winning New Afrikan independence, worked out and tirelessly explained by Imari Obadele. Unlike most of the nationalist community, he had puzzled out a step-by-step plan for national independence. It was this that gave his leadership such momentum. Imari had spent countless hours and miles explaining his strategy to RNA groups, at conferences and in college forums, in the pages of magazines and in pamphlets like WAR IN AMERICA: The Malcolm X Doctrine. He summed it up in “The Struggle Is For The Land”:
“...The essential strategy of our struggle for land is to array enough power (as in jui-jitsu, with a concentration of karate strength at key moments) to force the greatest power, the United States, to abide by international law, to recognize and accept our claims to independence and land... Chief among these strategies is the limited objective, and essential element in preparing before this war for a peace settlement that is an African victory.”(63)
Imari’s “War In America” strategy was to catch the U.S. Empire in the jaws of a threat, pressuring the Empire with the threat of unendurable disaster. And then use diplomacy to settle for: “not fifty states, or twenty-five states, or even ten states... We are saying five states, taken together the poorest states of the nation...” Imari predicted that giving up these few states would be acceptable to “the white America... when he is forced to the point where giving up something will be a necessity.” Of course, these five Black Belt states are the historic National Territory of the New Afrikan Nation, long populated by and economically developed by New Afrikan people. As Imari pointed out:
“We have lived for over 300 years in the so-called Black Belt, we have worked and developed the land, and we have fought to stay there—against night riders and day courts, against cultural genocide and economic privation, against bad crops, and no crops. Against terror and ignorance...we have met all the criteria for land possession required of us by international practice, international law.”
This strategy visualized the new Nation initially growing within the present political system on the “u.s.a.,” carefully following the imperialist laws, buying land, gradually taking over the entire Kush (the fertile Mississippi River Delta area of Mississippi and Louisiana). And from there organizing a plebiscite to declare itself the legitimate government of the 5-state area of New Afrika. Many folks thought this plan certain suicide for its organizers. Imari himself raised the point: “But are we naive enough to believe that...this violent, racist United States...will be successful in achieving laws which effect a peaceful plebiscite and the peaceful ceding of the land to New Africa?”
Imari Obadele (sn Richard Henry) was one of the remarkable “Henry brothers.” The family, which in 1966 was named as the Urban League’s “Family of the Year”, included Dr. Walter Henry, Jr., chairperson of the Howard University Medical School; Attorney Milton Henry, former City Councilperson of Flint, Michigan and a prominent nationalist; and Rev. Lawrence Henry, a Baptist pastor in Philadelphia. Imari Obadele had worked as a journalist, and for some years was a technical writer for the U.S. Army’s tank facility near Detroit. He had become president of G.O.A.L. (Group on Advanced Leadership), a militant Civil Rights organization in Detroit which his brother Milton had helped lead. Imari became a “Malcolmite” following Malcolm’s break with the Nation of Islam.
To understand where his views came from—really, what their framework was—we have to see that Imari was not one of the young 1960s radicals. He was of an older generation, influenced by the bourgeois nationalism of so many 1950s Afrikan independence movements. Reliance on diplomacy, lobbying at the U.N., and establishing one’s legal position as the true government-to-be were considered very important. After all, even such militant independence leaders as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania had been conceded power without ever having to fire a shot. This older generation of nationalism here in the “u.s.a.” focused on building some outward forms of nationhood (elected officials, diplomatic plans, acting as statesmen, etc.). They confused the situation in Afrika with that of the settler “u.s.a.”, the heart of world imperialism. U.S. imperialism was not willing to dismember its central fortress, nor hand over nations here as a tactical concession.
The key to Imari’s strategy were the two threats which he hoped to hold over White Amerika’s head. The first was international alliances with friendly nations. Indeed, Imari believed that these alliances would be so powerful that they would immobilize the U.S. Government. First among these would be a military alliance with China. Imari predicted that “the possibility—however remote, however logistically difficult—that Chinese troops might, if asked by us, make an appearance in the battle area with us...” would force a settlement.(64) Especially since friendly Afrikan nations would at the same time be seizing U.S. property. Even more potent, he wrote, would be: “The presence of Chinese nuclear subs in the Gulf of Mexico, supporting Black people in Mississippi who have well made their case for independence and land before the United Nations...”(65)
Threat of nuclear war by China, together with the threat of invasion by their army, would give the new nation considerable military support. As Imari said: “Alliance with China is therefore of utmost importance.”(66)
Today is may sound crazy, particularly to a younger generation that did not share those fast-changing times, to think that the Chinese government would risk war to assist New Afrikans. But there really were ties of solidarity then between the New Afrikan national liberation movement and the Chinese government of Mao Zedong. The Chinese government had proudly given refuge to Robert Williams and his family, as official guests of the Peoples Republic. Williams was given every material assistance in sending his revolutionary messages back to the “u.s.a.” Moreover, Williams, who was elected as the first President of the PG-RNA, was officially recognized by the Chinese as a national liberation leader. The Mao Zedong government publicly supported New Afrikan revolutionary socialism.
And if the U.S. Government decided to attack the RNA anyway, there was still the second threat looming over them. That, according to Imari’s strategy, was the so-called Second Strike capability of massive urban destruction in the North: “...There are over 120 major cities where the brothers have used the torch... The Black man has, or can develop, the means for destroying white industrial capacity and—if need be—white Amerika in general as mercilessly as a missile attack.”(67) That threat alone, Imari believed, could “bring the United States, finally, to the Negotiating Table...”
There was a direct and inescapable link between this strategy and the successful repression of the PG-RNA. Previously we have seen how petty-bourgeois elements hostile to national liberation worked to disarm the masses through defeatism. But defeatism, like all ideas generated by the imperialist culture, is constantly around us as a part of daily life in Babylon—in schools, on television, in neo-colonial political theories, in bourgeois reform politics, and so on. Defeatism exists within the revolutionary movements as well, as an influence sometimes stronger and sometimes weaker. There is no air-tight seal around the movements that automatically keeps out imperialist infections; therefore, genuine revolutionaries as well are influenced by defeatism, sexism, individualism, and other views dominant in the oppressor society. We all have to struggle with this.
Backward and unscientific theories on how to win liberation not only lead to set-back after set-back, but they are unable to overcome neo-colonial influences. Imari’s “War in America” strategy was conceived of to fight defeatism about the New Afrikan Nation, to make folks see how real the possibility of independence was. These noble intentions gave it a certain strength of purpose. Yet, because of its unscientific character Imari’s strategy itself was defeatist, and contained disarming attitudes within it.
To begin with, Imari saw liberation coming not from New Afrikans but from others. In particular the Peoples Republic of China. If the world’s largest nation is going to put nuclear missiles and its huge army on the line for you, then you hardly need to defeat imperialism yourself. Imari is explicit on this point, that only other nations and peoples can free New Afrikans. It is well known that China has always said that no nation should look to it or anyone else to win its revolution for them; Mao always argued that each nation must practice self-reliance in revolution. In addition, it is hardly desirable to ask other nations to engage in brinkmanship with World War III and a nuclear exchange. So the scenario of liberation by Chinese nuclear benefactors was always an illusion born of desperation.
Nor is it true that a host of friendly nations could put such pressure on U.S. imperialism that it would give up the National Territory. No oppressed nation in history has had such a world chain of revolutionary alliances as Vietnam had. Those alliances were very important, but they couldn’t replace the Tet Offensive. Our Vietnamese comrades had to overcome the largest air force bombardment in history, fight elite divisions of the U.S. Army to a standstill, and then defeat a million-soldier puppet army. Imari’s “Defense of International Alliances” was an illusion. However difficult the path, liberation cannot come from others.
That strategy embodied the stage of development, the contradictions, and the two-line struggle that characterized the movement as a whole. A plan that bravely set out to defy the greatest Empire in the world, was paradoxically built around the conviction that White Amerika was militarily all-powerful. Over and over, Imari warns his people that they cannot withstand “destruction beneath certain and overwhelming Federal power.”(68) Guerrilla warfare in the Northern ghettos is, he explains, not only militarily hopeless but might touch off settler genocide that would wipe out the New Afrikan communities:
“First, thoughtful militants know that the Northern cities—where the warfare was fought for the first three years—are indefensible over the long run... The compactness of Black-occupied inner cities in the North lends these cities, once surrounded, to classic and brutal military sweeps. Indeed, with the Black man no longer an economic necessity in the United States—he is, in fact, for the white man, a decided inconvenience—the temptation to ‘solve the problem’ by wholesale slaughter in Black communities under siege may be too great for the average white leader to resist.”(69)
That is why the PG-RNA strategy in the South never actually planned to wage war against the U.S. Government. President Imari Obadele warned that the Black Nation could never win militarily: “Separation is militarily possible, ultimately, because of diplomatic considerations... Against the overwhelming power of the United States, against which no single state nor group of five states is sufficient... Indeed, these alliances may prove our only guarantees of continued existence.”(70) At most, he saw the PG-RNA military only doing a temporary holding action against U.S. attack, until these other pressures would get Washington to the bargaining table.
Therefore, the PG-RNA military arm, the Black Legion or later New Afrikan Security Force, was designed to be a public, highly visible “legal” militia. Black Legionnaires wore military fatigues and carried rifles and shotguns. Obvious sitting ducks for any U.S. repression, they were planned primarily to fight small groups of Right-Wing civilian settlers. As Imari said: “Our biggest threat comes from the white civilian armies, the Ku Klux Klan...”(71) Not from the FBI, CIA and U.S. Army.
So the “War in America” strategy was first a “legal” campaign. While President Imari believed that the U.S. Government was “overwhelming”, militarily invincible, he also believed that the supposed democratic safeguards of the U.S. Constitution and the imperialist courts would protect the infant Republic of New Afrika. This was a good example of the contradictions in the movement at the time. For these reasons the PG-RNA built, politically and militarily, in a way that was dependent on bourgeois legality. Just as the BPP did. Looking back afterwards, Imari has recalled his thinking:
“Somehow I think now, in the back of my mind there was a lingering belief that, with fearless and bright lawyers, it would be possible to use the contradictions in their law to defeat them even in their own courts... I thought that if the Mississippi Supreme Court would not do it—and it did not—certainly the U.S. Appeals Court or the U.S. Supreme Court would do it.
“In my mind, in a recess, there must have lingered the phantom of a group of dispassionate appeals judges—white United States-ers, to be sure, but nonetheless fair and distant... coolly weighing the facts and the crystal-clear law.”(72)
The ‘60s revolutionary thinking didn’t fully understand New Afrikan People’s capacity to liberate themselves. It underestimated them while being too trusting in the imperialists. So Imari’s strategy depended on liberation coming from others, while also depending on the imperialists to extend “democratic rights” to the anti-colonial Provisional Government. This is an example of how backward and unscientific revolutionary theories cannot overturn defeatism, dependency and other neo-colonial views.
From this vantage point we can see the similarity (as well as the differences) between the PG-RNA and the Black Panther Party. Both put forward a military strategy that was actually based on using threats to avoid combat. Both tried to build a “legal”, highly-visible, uniformed military. Both believed in the imperialist courts and bourgeois legal process as a vital protection for New Afrikans. Both saw their contradictions exposed in the savage process of U.S. counter-insurgency.
The comparison is valuable for another reason. Many nationalists believed that the main pitfall was relating to Euro-Amerikans. For that reason many nationalists criticized the Black Panther Party’s alliances with white radicals and liberals. Some nationalists in the ‘60s claimed that they couldn’t get subverted, because they had no relations with white people. The PG-RNA itself originally had only minimal ties with Euro-Amerikans, primarily because settlers weren’t too eager to relate to them. But instead of depending on white liberals or radicals for liberation, as the Oakland BPP did, the PG-RNA substituted a dependency on China and other Third World nations. The issue isn’t white people; it is the dependency, and other backward viewpoints on how liberation can be won. Not whether one has or hasn’t alliances. These problems in no way negated the historic contributions of the 1960s revolutionary organizations. The founding of the PG-RNA, for example, made the goal of independence from the oppressor society much clearer. It gave liberation a definite political shape, and refuted the lie that New Afrika wasn’t an oppressed nation.
False and backward theories of how to get liberation, even revolutionary ones, counterpose class vs. nation and emphasize one at the expense of the other. It has often been feared that pushing proletarian ideology would lead to disunity. Yet, despite many years of forming Black united fronts along backward lines, under petty-bourgeois political leadership, there is still much potential unit but no developed unity. Even within revolutionary nationalist ranks chaos and disunity abounds. We say that the proliferation of false and backward theories about liberation promotes disunity and divides the New Afrikan Nation. This can be proven.
Correct ideas must come from conscious struggle. In the 1960s the New Afrikan National Movement grew, progressing rapidly from Civil Rights to Black Power, nonviolence to armed self-defense, integrationism to revolutionary nationalism. In all cases powered by the irreconcilable contradictions of captive nations within the U.S. settler empire. The New Afrikan masses pushed things ahead mightily by uniting in rebellions. The rebellions were “festivals of the oppressed”, showing in practice the power of millions of New Afrikan people uniting against the oppressor. Never since has there been so much New Afrikan unity. And it came from the grass-roots of the Nation.
The masses produced actual unity, and yet the Movement has never been able to recapture that elusive power. After the urban rebellions of 1967-68 peaked, the forward progress slowed and then stagnated. Because building revolutionary organization, building national unity and Peoples War, cannot be done by mass spontaneity alone. At that point new progress waiting on conscious political development to end “the dark night of slavery”. The new stage requires revolutionary science, which is a major task and a conscious struggle against all false and primitive political theories. Not only within others, but within ourselves. Which is why Biko correctly raises the importance of “the worker culture”.
The old Movement helped usher in dramatic changes, unseen since the first Reconstruction of the 1970s. Many sacrificed in the struggle, many died or went to prison. The masses were thrown back. Yet it is also true that the colonial petty-bourgeoisie, even the radical protest leadership, has achieved significant class gains. Joseph McNeil was the leader of the first four Greensboro Woolworth sit-inners, whose arrests on Feb. 4, 1960 sparked off the whole Southern Sit-in Movement. Because of the gains of the struggle, McNeil could go on to become Major McNeil, U.S. Air Force. He could become a B-52 navigator and take part in the terror bombings of North Vietnam (before leaving for an executive career with IBM).(73) John Lewis, former Chairman of SNCC is now an aide to Washington, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, Jr. Howard Fuller (aka Owusu Sadauki), once one of the main nationalist youth leaders of the Afrikan Liberation Support Committee, is now in the Cabinet of the Governor of Wisconsin. There are enough examples to fill a book.
Even though the colonial petty-bourgeois still suffers from oppression, the U.S. ruling class has tried to slightly lift them up so that they can help keep order in the disintegrating urban “Bantu-stan”. Bobby Rush, former Minister of Defense of the Illinois BPP and the man whose weaknesses set up Fred Hampton to be guarded by a police agent, is currently a member of the Illinois State Legislature. The contradictions can be seen in an obscene way in the “COINTELPRO” case of Amiri Baraka. In June 1979 N.Y. police arrested Baraka for allegedly beating his wife outside a Greenwich Village nightspot. The Barakas said that the racist police took advantage of a nonviolent argument to vamp on Amiri Baraka. A very large national defense campaign was wages. Baraka himself wrote a long, autobiographical appeal for Euro-Amerikan support in a New York City Village Voice article titled “Confessions of an Ex-Anti-Semite”. Benefits were put on to raise funds for Baraka, who was said to be a victim of an “FBI COINTELPRO” operation.
Baraka was finally convicted in November 1979 of resisting arrest, and sentenced to 90 days on Rikers Island. This was certainly not something that would have happened to a prominent Euro-Amerikan professor and author. It was put out that Baraka was a political prisoner. His supporters said that if he had to serve his 90 day sentence he might be assassinated by the State just like George Jackson. According to the press, what moved the judge, however, was Baraka’s complaint that if he went to jail he would miss a White House reception with President Carter to which he had been invited.(74) So Baraka was first released on bail and later allowed to serve his 90 days only on the week-ends, staying home during the week.
The colonial petty-bourgeois leaders compare themselves to Malcolm and George, but have been allowed to serve in the “Big House”. Their fate is not assassination or long prison terms, but first pick of the table scraps and lighter blows. For them “things have never been better”. But this is not true for the New Afrikan Nation as a whole, and for the oppressed classes within it. False liberation programs based on neo-colonialism have widened class contradictions within the Nation, and further separated the “haves” from the “have-nots”.
This was not just external to the old Movement, but in fact internal to it. Perhaps the clearest, most significant example of how false and primitive theories divide the Nation and promote disunity is the widespread thesis that liberation is a male thing. In particular, the old Movement slavishly echoed the oppressor opinion that New Afrikan women were “too strong” and that it was the task of New Afrikan men to hold down and weaken New Afrikan women. So much of the old Movement worked with fanatical zeal to keep half the Nation effectively out of the Revolution. Many false and primitive theories were put out promoting male supremacy. It became fashionable in the media, in the Movement and on the streets for men to degrade and exploit women. Terms like “bitches” and “whores” became how many men were convinced to talk about comrades and sisters. Young men so oppressed by the richest Empire the world has over seen that they could not afford to support their children at all, were subtly told to abandon them without any second thoughts.
The attack on New Afrikan women was also directed at New Afrikan children, and at the social fabric of the Nation. New Afrikan women, after all, were supposedly too strong and needed to be pushed down. Much of the old Movement started to be corrupted by the social views of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the CIA, and Hollywood—but relabeled those views “Afrikan revolutionary”, or “communist”, or “nationalist”.
This trend was evident from the beginnings of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. New Afrikan women were systematically restricted and excluded from expressing leadership. In the old Movement, many Black leaders were convinced that even colonialism was better than recognizing the legitimate strength of New Afrikan women. This was not an unconscious attitude. Among pro-imperialist leaders the need to manipulate New Afrikan men into repressing New Afrikan women was very conscious. Andy Young was upfront in admitting that he worked at that, even saying that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was too influenced by his mother:
“We had a hard time with domineering women in SCLC, because Martin’s mother, quiet as she was, was really a strong, domineering force in the family. She was never publicly saying anything but she ran Daddy King, and she ran the church and she ran Martin, and Martin’s problem... was directly related to his need to be free of that strong matriarchal influence. This is a generality, but a system of oppression tends to strong women and weak men.”(75)
Again and again we hear it implied that the strength of New Afrikan women comes from colonialism, and somehow helps weaken New Afrikan men. Any fool can see that the slavemaster never wanted any strong New Afrikans, and that the strength of New Afrikan women had come from their drive to ensure that New Afrikan people as a whole survive into freedom. If Andy Young is right that Mrs. King had a lot to do with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s role as a leader, it’s easy to see why imperialism fears what New Afrikan women will do when they stand up. And act not through men but through themselves.
We should note that while Malcolm X had very traditional ideas about sex roles within the family and so on, he was always open about accepting the strength and co-leadership of New Afrikan women in the struggle. It was Malcolm, after all, who singled out Gloria Richardson of the Cambridge, Maryland Movement for praise as an outstanding grass-roots leader, when she was under so much sexist attack. Malcolm’s closest political advisor and his first real mentor was his sister Ella Collins. Muriel Feelings, a former OAAU member, recalls:
“Among the core of people in the OAAU, some of the most hard-working were women who had skills, good skills. He had no problems with women having ideas or asserting leadership. All he cared about was that things get done... Perhaps Malcolm’s attitude was a little bit unusual than that which typified, I really hate to say this, the nationalists, but he was a very open-minded person.”(76)
In that period perhaps only Fanny Lou Hamer and Mae Mallory were accorded recognition for their leading roles. In most cases New Afrikan women were driven out of leadership, even if the organization had to be destroyed. Gloria Richardson was isolated and harassed, even being shouted down at a rally as a “castrator” by male CORE members. Ella Baker, who held together SCLC and SNCC in the early days, said: “There would never be any role for me in a leadership capacity with SCLC. Why? First, because I’m a woman... And second... I know that my penchant for speaking honestly... would not be well tolerated.”(77) How many folks in the struggle have said that?
Even the Organization of Afro-Amerikan Unity (OAAU), Malcolm’s organization, was killed rather than accept women’s co-leadership. Sister Ella Collins tried to hold the OAAU together after Malcolm’s death, but too many men in the young organization dropped out rather than acknowledge a woman’s leadership. Men became convinced that Malcolm’s program was not that important.
That’s how beneficial it was for imperialism to use false and primitive theories to divide the Nation. What was the cost of abandoning Malcolm’s program and political momentum? As the struggle stagnated and lost its forward progress this issue became a non-issue to the old Movement. Folks talked privately about these problems, but in public everyone agreed that nothing was wrong—the king had no clothes. This became completely out of hand.
To take one example, useful because it was public. In 1977 Joseph Waller (later name: Omali Yeshitela) of the Afrikan Peoples Socialist Party was taken into court by his ex-wife for not paying any child support for his three children. He was worried about adverse public reaction, especially since settler judges and newspapers in Florida liked to smear New Afrikan activists. Omali Yesitala was a leading Civil Rights activist in Florida during the 1960s. At the start of the Black Power period he led in forming JOMO—the Junta of Militant Organizations—which was repressed out of existence. Following that he formed the APSP in his hometown of St. Petersburg. It was one of the earliest Black socialist groups. Their program has evolved, and currently features a type of “Pan-Afrikanism” that denies any separate nationhood for New Afrikans in the “u.s.a.”
So his party issues a “Special Free Edition” of their newspaper, The Burning Spear, solely devoted to Waller’s argument that his wife was an unwitting tool of “FBI COINTELPRO”.(78) He said that the whole thing might have been “taken by the state on its own initiative...” Joseph Waller said that even if he had any child support money he wouldn’t use it for his own children, or any New Afrikan children, since his publishing activities as a New Afrikan leader took priority for him. Everyone understands how if a rev is in prison, underground, temporarily tied up with a special project, etc. they may not be materially able to help his or her family. But would Malcolm X have said that supporting his children was not his responsibility especially because he was a New Afrikan leader? Would Malcolm have published a “special free issue” of a newspaper and passed out thousands of copies, all to denounce his ex-wife in public? If you decide not to support your children and your ex-wife demands financial help, do you cry for public sympathy as a victim of “FBI COINTELPRO”?
In the first place, such false and primitive views espoused by the colonial petty-bourgeoisie and lumpen do not unite the New Afrikan Nation but divide it. Communism recognized the importance of women’s liberation in really freeing the masses for revolution and nation-building. How can any of the oppressed be “too strong”? Where do such views come from? Did they come from the holds of slave ships? Did they come from the plantations where “Moses” Tubman was staging guerrilla prison-breaks? Did they come from the millions of New Afrikan children whose survival has so often depended upon the strength of New Afrikan women? Did they come from the heroic tradition of the B.L.A. where Safiya and Assata played such a role? Where can such ideas come from, if not from the oppressor, however well-disguised?
Secondly, the question has even deeper ramifications. New Afrikan women are not just roles within a household. In their work holding together families and communities they maintain a communal tradition within the long time in Babylon. To repress and politically restrict New Afrikan women is to disorganize the proletariat and its surviving independent culture. There can be no liberation without women’s liberation, no proletarian leadership without women’s co-leadership. That’s why Vietnam could survive the sea of fire and throw off the most repressive Empire in world history.
The old Movement divided the Nation in that it had no program for the proletarian masses, only a program of promotions and careerism for the colonial petty-bourgeoisie. In the exact same way it had no real social program for liberation, since without Women’s Liberation all social programs became only different versions of capitalism. That’s why some “nationalists” preach the social doctrine of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the CIA and think it “Afrikan”.
The other side of the same imperialist maneuver was to promote bourgeois feminism as the answer for New Afrikan women. The Ford Foundation, Ms. Magazine, government agencies, etc. all push this. New Afrikan men are hit with staggering joblessness as imperialism is screening them out of the workforce. On the other hand, New Afrikan women who have some education have been given jobs that a generation ago were reserved for white women—retail sales clerks, bank tellers, typists and clerks for major corporations. There are lower-level jobs, of course, although a handful of “exceptional” New Afrikan women are allowed to become professionals and supervisors. New Afrikan women are being told to think of themselves and their careers first, just as their settler “sisters” do. This bourgeois feminism seeks to assimilate New Afrikan women as individuals into the oppressor culture—how to get in the corporate “fast track” for promotion, how to wear the latest Eurostyles of “designer” clothing, etc. It tries to disunite the Nation by telling New Afrikan women to find their political future in the white women’s movement or in imitating it. This imperialist strategy only feeds on the backwardness of a liberation movement that tries to deny women’s liberation.