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12-27-2006, 08:28 PM
The Ten Point Plan
WE WANT FREEDOM. WE WANT POWER TO DETERMINE THE DESTINY OF OUR BLACK AND OPPRESSED COMMUNITIES.
We believe that Black and oppressed people will not be free until we are able to determine our destinies in our own communities ourselves, by fully controlling all the institutions which exist in our communities.
WE WANT FULL EMPLOYMENT FOR OUR PEOPLE.
We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every person employment or a guaranteed income. We believe that if the American businessmen will not give full employment, then the technology and means of production should be taken from the businessmen and placed in the community so that the people of the community can organize and employ all of its people and give a high standard of living.
WE WANT AN END TO THE ROBBERY BY THE CAPITALISTS OF OUR BLACK AND OPPRESSED COMMUNITIES.
We believe that this racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of forty acres and two mules. Forty acres and two mules were promised 100 years ago as restitution for slave labor and mass murder of Black people. We will accept the payment in currency which will be distributed to our many communities. The American racist has taken part in the slaughter of our fifty million Black people. Therefore, we feel this is a modest demand that we make.
WE WANT DECENT HOUSING, FIT FOR THE SHELTER OF HUMAN BEINGS.
We believe that if the landlords will not give decent housing to our Black and oppressed communities, then housing and the land should be made into cooperatives so that the people in our communities, with government aid, can build and make decent housing for the people.
WE WANT DECENT EDUCATION FOR OUR PEOPLE THAT EXPOSES THE TRUE NATURE OF THIS DECADENT AMERICAN SOCIETY. WE WANT EDUCATION THAT TEACHES US OUR TRUE HISTORY AND OUR ROLE IN THE PRESENT-DAY SOCIETY.
We believe in an educational system that will give to our people a knowledge of the self. If you do not have knowledge of yourself and your position in the society and in the world, then you will have little chance to know anything else.
WE WANT COMPLETELY FREE HEALTH CARE FOR All BLACK AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE.
We believe that the government must provide, free of charge, for the people, health facilities which will not only treat our illnesses, most of which have come about as a result of our oppression, but which will also develop preventive medical programs to guarantee our future survival. We believe that mass health education and research programs must be developed to give all Black and oppressed people access to advanced scientific and medical information, so we may provide our selves with proper medical attention and care.
WE WANT AN IMMEDIATE END TO POLICE BRUTALITY AND MURDER OF BLACK PEOPLE, OTHER PEOPLE OF COLOR, All OPPRESSED PEOPLE INSIDE THE UNITED STATES.
We believe that the racist and fascist government of the United States uses its domestic enforcement agencies to carry out its program of oppression against black people, other people of color and poor people inside the united States. We believe it is our right, therefore, to defend ourselves against such armed forces and that all Black and oppressed people should be armed for self defense of our homes and communities against these fascist police forces.
WE WANT AN IMMEDIATE END TO ALL WARS OF AGGRESSION.
We believe that the various conflicts which exist around the world stem directly from the aggressive desire of the United States ruling circle and government to force its domination upon the oppressed people of the world. We believe that if the United States government or its lackeys do not cease these aggressive wars it is the right of the people to defend themselves by any means necessary against their aggressors.
WE WANT FREEDOM FOR ALL BLACK AND OPPRESSED PEOPLE NOW HELD IN U. S. FEDERAL, STATE, COUNTY, CITY AND MILITARY PRISONS AND JAILS. WE WANT TRIALS BY A JURY OF PEERS FOR All PERSONS CHARGED WITH SO-CALLED CRIMES UNDER THE LAWS OF THIS COUNTRY.
We believe that the many Black and poor oppressed people now held in United States prisons and jails have not received fair and impartial trials under a racist and fascist judicial system and should be free from incarceration. We believe in the ultimate elimination of all wretched, inhuman penal institutions, because the masses of men and women imprisoned inside the United States or by the United States military are the victims of oppressive conditions which are the real cause of their imprisonment. We believe that when persons are brought to trial they must be guaranteed, by the United States, juries of their peers, attorneys of their choice and freedom from imprisonment while awaiting trial.
WE WANT LAND, BREAD, HOUSING, EDUCATION, CLOTHING, JUSTICE, PEACE AND PEOPLE'S COMMUNITY CONTROL OF MODERN TECHNOLOGY.
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and, accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are most disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But, when a long train of abuses and usurpation, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
12-27-2006, 08:31 PM
Support the Panthers!!!
Hot Sauce to support youth anti-violence programs
12-27-2006, 08:35 PM
"In OUR future thinking & practices: No racism ALLOWED! No idiotic male chauvinism nor bigoted discrimination ALLOWED! No ideological nor religious motivated terroristic stupidity ALLOWED! No xenophobic isolationism, dumb criminality, abusive exploitation or violence against women and children, nor avaricious global exploitation of humanity .........ALLOWED!
"All Power To All The People!" Righteous down home peoples power is what I advocated in the sixties, and what I say today. That is, "...toward a future world of cooperational humanism!" Beyond the myopic notions and strict doctrinaire ideologies of past "politburo" state control command economy socialism. More important let's get beyond the present extremist practices of avaricious racist corporate monopoly globalizing capitalism having evolved a system which concentrates 90% of all the political-economic power in to the hands of the one percent cooperate money-rich around this OUR earth.
Democracy? HOW ABOUT Greater constitutional "direct" democracy? i.e. greater peoples' decision making participatory Community Control democracy? This form has a greater three dimensional democratic character. A true peoples' democratic synthesis are ideas to begin to get creative with. "All power to all the people," was my BPP sixties creative protest demand."
12-27-2006, 08:36 PM
Black Panther Party at Marxists Archives
12-27-2006, 08:38 PM
BOBBY SEALE INTERVIEW CNN
Bobby Seale was the chairman and co-founder, along with Huey Newton, of the Black Panther Party, an organization formed in 1966 to guard against police brutality in black neighborhoods and provide social services. Eventually the party developed into a militant Marxist revolutionary group with thousands of members in several major cities. In 1969, Seale, as one of the "Chicago Eight," was charged with conspiracy to incite riots during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Charges against him were eventually dropped, but not before he had been bound and gagged to silence his courtroom outbursts. In 1970-71 he was tried for the torture-murder of former Panther Alex Rackley, who was suspected of being a police informant. That trial ended in a hung jury, and afterward, Seale moderated his more militant views, leaving the Panthers altogether in 1974. He was interviewed for the COLD WAR series in August 1996.
On the origins of the Black Panther Party:
We had written the 10-point program -- 10 points of what we want, 10 points of what we believe -- before we even had a name. We'd written it in the "War on Poverty" office in Oakland, California. I worked there. Most people don't know I was actually employed by the city government of Oakland, California when we actually founded the party. Huey Newton was in night law school. ...
One day I received a two- or three-page stapled piece of information from the Mississippi Lowndes County Freedom Organization, and they had a logo of a charging panther, a silhouetted kind of logo, and I asked Huey, I says, "I wonder why these guys have this black panther here." And at another point that day, Huey says, "You know, I think the nature of a panther is that if you push that black panther into a corner, he will try to go left to get out of your way. And if you keep him there, then he's going to try to go right to get out of your way. And if you keep oppressing him and pushing him into that corner, sooner or later that panther's going to come out of that corner to try to wipe out whoever's oppressing it in the corner."
I says, "Huey, that's just like us, that's just like black people." He says, "What are you saying?" "I'm saying: man, you're the one who's always running around talking about how the peaceful demonstrators' constitutional rights are being violated" -- you know, because Huey was into law, you know. ... I says, "Black people [are being] pushed in the corner, just like the panther!" ... Huey says, "Oh, I see what you mean. So if we're going to have a political party, we should call it the Black Panther Party?" I said, "Yeah, right, the Black Panther Party. We're just like the panther, pushed in the corner, trying to go left, trying to go right. But now," I said, "but now we are..." And Huey's saying, "... getting ready to come out of that corner." "Right," I says. So this is really the way we wound up naming our organization the Black Panther Party. ... Our position was: "If you don't attack us, there won't be any violence; [but] if you bring violence to us, we will defend ourselves."
On the Panthers' 10-point program:
The first point was we wanted power to determine our own destiny in our own black community. And what we had done is, we wanted to write a program that was straightforward to the people. We didn't want to give a long dissertation. "Power" was related to "black power," but we had set the word "black" aside and we wanted to get a functional definition of "power." So prior to writing this first point, Huey came up with this: "Power is the ability to define a phenomenon, then in turn make it act in a desired manner." ...
So when we wrote point No. 1, without going into that dissertation, we just said we wanted power to determine our destiny in our own black community; we didn't say we wanted "black power," we said we wanted "power" -- because we were heading in the direction of a class analysis rather than any kind of naive nationalistic analysis. This is where we were coming from.
Point No. 2, we were straightforward: we want decent housing, shelter for human beings. Point No. 3: we want full employment for our people. Point No. 4: we want decent education that teaches about our true history and our true selves. Point No. 5: at the time we wanted an end to the robbery of the black community by the white racist coppers. Point No. 6 (the first one we wrote): we wanted all black men and women to be exempt from any military service. Point No. 7, of course, was: we want an immediate end to police brutality and the murder of black people in our black community. Point No. 8 had to do with: all blacks who have already been tried by all-white juries have a right to another trial. Point No. 9 was also about the courts and fair treatment and constitutional rights in the courts. And 10 was really a summary: we said we wanted land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.
We later attached a paraphrasing of the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America at the tail end of point No. 10. And then, in another point, we added a call for a United Nations-supervised plebiscite for the determination of the will of African-American people in America.
On the Black Panthers and Marxism:
Marxism didn't even come into play with our organization until we picked up a red book one day. But the Black Panther Party had nothing to do with it; it didn't evolve out of Marxism. ... From 1962-1965, the Black Panther Party was based on a complete study and research of African and African-American people's history of struggle. That's truly what it came out of. If you notice, in our 10-point platform and program we make no Marxist statements. ...
I think we were about five months old, and one day Huey had an idea how we could raise some money. And what happens here is that Huey calls up and says, "How much money have you got?" I say, "I don't know; a hundred or so dollars." He says, "Come on over. I know how we can raise some money to pay some rent and buy some more shotguns." And so I picked him up [and he] says, "Let's go a place called the China Bookstore." When we got there, this particular bookstore sold all kinds of publications from China, Hong Kong, Red China, whatever, OK? Taiwan, whoever. And he says, "The Red Book," he says, "do you remember seeing ...?" I says, "I remember seeing something about Mao Tse-tung," I said, "I saw it two or three times, and millions of people were holding this little red book up telling the thoughts of Chairman Mao Tse-tung." He says, "I just found out we could get these things here for 25 cents." And he says, "I'm sure we could sell them at the University of California, Berkeley, for a buck." ...
So I says, "OK, [Huey]," I says, "let's get a couple of hundred books." So we got a couple of hundred books ... and went to this gate at the University of California, at Berkeley: "Get your red book, the thoughts of Chairman Mao Tse-tung! One buck!" They went like hot cakes. I'm talking about in a matter of an hour all 200 or so books were gone. We jumped in the car, ran back, got some more books, came back up, sold a couple of hundred more, ran and bought a shotgun, went and paid some phone bills, paid the rent up. And this was like, now, we had not read this book. I mean, the next thing you know, we're selling books [right and left]. ... We were busy selling the book for the dollars to get our rent, to buy more shotguns, to buy more books for the reading list for the party members that we had going.
And one day we opened it up, and says, "Hey, man, this is pretty good stuff. Chairman Mao Tse-tung says you should not steal a needle and piece of thread from the people." I says, "That's something we could teach the party members." Because we were a young organization: we weren't more than about four or five months old. And that's where we began to have what we would call a lot of study in that [Marxist] direction. We had read a little Che Guevara prior to that, but we weren't that highly influenced by [him]. ... In terms of the concept of economics at that time, what I developed best was a concept of community-controlled cooperatives in the black community, which largely I picked up from W.E.B. Dubois. So I mean, I sort of got there from W.E.B. Dubois and a few other reads. But Marxist-Leninism per se was really a latter development: not until 1968 that we really considered the Red Book required reading.
On the Black Panthers and firearms:
Prior to us patrolling the police with guns and law books and tape recorders -- we always had law books and tape recorders with us when we patrolled the police -- there was a group in Los Angeles that had attempted to observe the police a year before we did, in the fall of 1965, following the Watts riots down in Los Angeles, California. This group had law books and tape recorders, but they did not have any guns [while] observing the police because they did not want to see another Watts riot occur, [even though] what had caused the Watts riot was a vicious act of police brutality in the first place. After two or three months, they were jumped on and beat up by the police in Los Angeles, their law books taken and torn up, their tape recorders and their walkie-talkies smashed up, and dragged downtown and locked up.
Huey is in night law school when we read about this in January of 1966. Remember, the Black Panther Party didn't start till October of 1966. And Huey said that the police had violated the rights of the people; because Huey, being in night law school, was always arguing about your constitutional rights, the First Amendment, the right to peacefully assemble. ... Patrolling and observing the police, with no guns, was a peaceful assertion; but yet violence was heaped upon them. Two, we knew that if we're going to go out here, we'd better take a position like Malcolm X's saying: that self-defense is an act of intelligence. The guns are not there to just randomly kill anybody. That was not it. But the guns were there [for] a political organization who would be protesting white racism, racism and exploitation, etc. etc.; [and] once we start doing that, we're [liable] to get attacked. So we take the position of, one, defending ourselves. Two, since they'd already jumped on the L.A. group, Community Alert Patrol (CAP), a year before us, we went and did the same exact thing that the CAP organization had done a year before: law books, tape recorders, walkie-talkies, the whole bit, except we put uniforms on, black berets, black slacks, shined black shoes, nice black gloves, blue shirts, etc. We knew the law [and had our] 10-point programs. And of course, what we really wanted to do was capture the imagination of the black community, so that we could better organize them into a political electoral machine.
So the first issue we took up was the observation of the police, because that was what we had found from the community: "If you can do something about these racist police brutalizing us, it would be a good organization," the people told us. So we went out there very disciplined and very organized, to observe the cops with these loaded shotguns -- all of our guns were loaded. We'd researched every law on the guns; we knew that under California law, as long as the guns were not concealed, they were not illegal. [Also], if you were riding in a car, you could never have a live round in the chamber of a rifle or a shotgun. That same law did not apply to handguns: you could have a live round in the chamber of a handgun while riding in a car. Two, that when you get out of the car, and if you're just walking around with your gun, you cannot point a loaded weapon at a person, because under Californian law it'd constitute an assault with a deadly weapon; and that if you did point it, as Huey had researched it, it has to be in active self-defense, if somebody is ready to do you bodily harm. Now we had all these laws down with the guns.
On the one hand, the guns were there to help capture the imagination of the people. But more important, since we knew that you couldn't observe the police without guns, we took our guns with us to let the police know that we have an equalizer and we're going to "exercise," as Huey used to say, "this constitutional right to observe you, whether you like it or not." ...
In doing that, the people in the community observing us -- wow, we were like heroes, to stand there and observe the police, and the police were scared to move upon us. And then Huey had this great ability to articulate, because Huey was precise. Me, I'm more grass-rootsy in the way I express myself. But the police at one point says, "You have no right to observe me!" Huey says, "No, a California State Supreme Court ruling states that every citizen has the right to stand and observe a police officer carrying out his duty, as long as they stand a reasonable distance away. A reasonable distance in that particular ruling was constituted as eight to 10 feet. I'm standing approximately 20 feet from you, and I'll observe you whether you like it or not."
We jumped into the protest of Vietnam before the Black Panther Party ever started, before the Black Panther Party was even thought of. In fact, it was late 1965 and 1966 that the anti-Vietnam War, anti-draft to the Vietnam War protest started at University of California, Berkeley. What happened is, by 1966, us students who knew our history ... we knew that in the Civil War there was over 160-some thousand black men who fought in the Civil War with the North against the South, and 30-some thousand had died; we knew that over 350,000 black men had fought in World War I; we knew that over 850,000 black men had fought in World War II; we knew that black men were proliferating in the Korean conflict war. So now here I am coming with all this African-American history consciousness, with some kind of class analysis, but not necessarily Marxist-Leninist, and here I am looking at, in 1965 and 1966, we black students at Merritt College begin to say, "Why should we fight in the war any more? This country's government do not recognize our constitutional democratic human rights," I used to say. ...
Before the Black Panther Party was even conceived of we had an anti-war rally with a focus on the fact that 26-28 percent of the people who were dying on the front lines in Vietnam were black Americans, whose same rights were not being recognized in this country. And the whole focus was "Down with the war!" and "Black people do not serve in the military." ... So later, when we wrote the 10-point platform, [point] No. 6 says: we want all black men and women to be exempt from any military service to fight in Vietnam or whatever.
If we were supposed to be 12 percent of the population, why was 28 to 29 percent of those dying in the front lines black Americans? Why? And then our rights are not being recognized by this government? Screw you! You know. (Laughs) Down with the pig power structure!
On the FBI:
I knew they were watching us. ... They heavily focused in on us when we started to grow so rapidly. We began to grow rapidly really after Martin Luther King was killed. ... With Martin Luther King's death, by June, my party was jumping by leaps and bounds. In a matter of six months, we swelled; in 1968, from 400 members to 5,000 members and 45 chapters and branches. ... Our newspaper swells to over 100,000 circulation. By mid-1969, we [have] 250,000 circulation.
Why [did] the FBI [come] down on us? We started those working coalitions with other organizations at the beginning of 1968. Those coalitions solidified themselves. We had the Peace and Freedom Party working in coalition with the Black Panther Party; SDS: Students for a Democratic Society, all the anti-war movement people; numerous other organizations. In late 1968, we had a working coalition with the Poor People's March through Rev. Ralph Abernathy, with SCLC; we had a coalition with the Brown Berets, the Chicano organization, Cesar Chavez and others in the farm labor [movement]; AIM: American and Indian Movement; Young Puerto Rican Brothers, the Young Lords -- we coalesced with everybody, you see. Because remember, we were dealing with "all power to all the people," not just black power. ...
So, with the Breakfast for Children Program spreading across the country, getting a lot of media play, the Preventative Medical Health Care Clinics, the doctors, the medics -- I mean, this is authentic medicine, preventative medical health care clinics, the people donating their time. We got 5,000 full-time working members in the Black Panther Party, mostly college students; these were college students: I would say 60 percent of them were college students from after Martin Luther King was killed, because they were so upset and so mad that they killed Martin Luther King, they postponed their college education and said, "I'm joining the Black Panther Party." ...
This is what scared the FBI; to a point that our newspaper, beginning in 1969, we would ship 10,000 to this office, 10,000 or 5,000 to this office, through air freight, [and] when we went to the air freight place, they would soak our newspapers down. ... In the beginning of 1969, the polls came out that 90 percent of the black community supported the Black Panther Party because they understood the Breakfast Program, the Preventative Health Care Clinics, and they loved reading the Black Panther Party newspaper because it gave them another understanding of what civil and human rights was about. A couple of months after that, J. Edgar Hoover says: "The Black Panthers are the greatest threat to the internal security of America, and by the end of this year we'll be rid of the threat and this menace of the Black Panther Party."
Then a big news came about the Breakfast Program. J. Edgar Hoover jumped up and said: "The Breakfast for Children Program of the Black Panther Party is communist-inspired, and we need to get rid of it!" This was laying the foundation. Remember, the FBI, with COINTELPRO (COINTELPRO stood for Counter-Intelligence Program; that's an FBI term, not our term) ... they set it up, working with local law enforcement agencies, to attack every Black Panther Party office in the year of 1969. That was the year they attacked our offices; that was the year when most of the shootouts came. By the end of 1969, I had 29 Black Panther Party members dead. There were 14 policemen dead also in those attacks on our offices and our houses. I had 60-some-odd wounded Black Panther Party members; there were 30-some-odd policemen also wounded in those attacks on our office. Because I gave the directive straight out, before I went to jail, and after I went to jail in the late part of 1969: "We defend ourselves, because the only thing we are defending is our constitutional, democratic, civil, human right to organize our people, to educate our people, to unite our people, in opposition to the institutionalized racism in America, whether the racist pig power structure, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI don't like it or not. [Expletive] Ôem!" (Laughs) ...
They came down on us because we had a grass-roots, real people's revolution, complete with the programs, complete with the unity, complete with the working coalitions, where we crossed racial lines. That synergetic statement of "All power to all the people," "Down with the racist pig power structure" -- we were not talking about the average white person: we was talking about the corporate money rich and the racist jive politicians and the lackeys, as we used to call them, for the government who perpetuate all this exploitation and racism. That's who [we] were talking about when we said "the corporate pig power structure."
12-27-2006, 08:43 PM
CLEAVER: When these riots started all over the country in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King -- I think he got killed on the fourth of April. This shootout that we had took place on the sixth and the seventh of April. So we saw it coming while the police were acting so we decided to get down first. So we started the fight. There were 14 of us. We went down into the area of Oakland where the violence was the worst a few blocks away from where Huey Newton had killed that cop so we dealt with them when they came upon us. We were well armed, and we had a shootout that lasted an hour and a half. I will tell anybody that that was the first experience of freedom that I had. I was free for an hour and a half because during that time the repressive forces couldn't put their hand on me because we were shooting it out with them for an hour and a half. Three police officers got wounded. None of them got killed; I got wounded. Another Panther got wounded.
Bobby Hutton didn't get wounded during the shootout, but they murdered him after we were in custody. That is why I am sitting here today because the police offers to whom we surrendered -- when I came back from my exile and was going to court on those charges. I was facing charges that would give me 82 years in prison. This police officer came to court one day, and the district attorney said, "Eldridge, there is somebody that wants to meet you. Would you mind talking to him?" I said, "well, I will meet anybody, Ben. Bring them on. Who is it?" He said, "it's Lieutenant Hilliard ." I knew his name from the grand jury transcript. This was the guy that we surrendered to. He told me -- he said, "Eldridge, remember that night? Remember when you came out of the building and you looked up and there was a police officer in the window and you had a pistol in your face about three feet from your face?" I said, "I sure do remember that." He said, "you know I was already squeezing the trigger. I was going to blow your head off because three officers had gotten wounded. All that shooting had everybody on edge.
So I was pulling the trigger to blow your head off, and something told me not to do it." I said, "praise the Lord." He said, "praise the Lord." He told me, "I am no longer a police officer." He said, "I have my own private security firm now." He said, "the reason that they have not been rushing you to court is because of my testimony and the testimony of 13 other police officers who were that night who do not agree withwhat the police did in the way they killed Bobby Hutton." He said, "they murdered Bobby. They murdered my prisoner." That's what he said. Then he went on to describe -- he said, "the police have the responsibility of enforcing the law, the guardians of the law. But what they did that night was worse than what you did." He said, "if you are going to court, I am going to testify against you because what you did was wrong. But I'm also going to testify against them because what they did was worse. There is no statute of limitation on murder. What they did was first degree murder." This is w hat he said.
They just took Bobby and pushed him. They pushed him, and he only went about five feet. He was stumbling and almost falling. They shot him 12 times, man. Murdered him right there on the spot. He fell down.
GATES: What did you do?
CLEAVER: [UNINTEL]. I'm down there, they got shotguns and pistols in my face, man. I figured they going to shoot us. I could not imagine living through that. But this other cop, he started complaining about what they had just done, and that was the last of that and then they took me and put me in that van and I knew from Huey Newton's trial that all of the police calls are tape recorded automatically so whoever was talking to these cops asked them who you got, who's in there? So they were saying we don't know who he is. So I said it's Eldridge Cleaver. I wanted to get that on that tape, see, and so then they took me down a little side street. Two of them suckers got in there, they started beating me and I have no doubt that they meant to kill me, but then it came over the radio that this cop who was driving was telling "a couple officers in the back slapping this guy up" and so the squawk box told them to stop it. And so they kept on and he told them your order is to stop that, and so they wouldn't stop. And so he told them they won't stop. So that guy said something, like in some kind of code -- that was the second time I heard that code -- and whatever that code meant, boy, it froze them right in their -- they stopped right then, man, and they took me on in.
GATES: Otherwise you'd be dead?
CLEAVER: Yeah, I'd be dead.
GATES: Was the civil rights movement a success?
CLEAVER: I think it was a success it terms of the goals that it espoused. That was to break down the color barrier if public accommodations access to the institutions and things like that. But the big failure of the civil rights movement was that it did not have an economic plank because while we got access to schools and to Hot Dog Stands and all that, the burning issue right now is economic freedom and economic justice and economic democracy. The NAACP didn't touch that. They had no plan for that. When Martin Luther King was turning towards the economic arena in Nashville supporting the strike of the garbage man, he was murdered. I applaud my country for the changes that we have undertaken in these areas of civil rights. But where the big problem still remains is with the economic system. If you would call a meeting today to talk about segregation, wouldn't nobody come but Louis Farrakhan and David Dukes. But if you call a meeting to talk about the money, it would be standing room only. It wouldn't all be black because the money is funny for everybody, right. That's where the rubber hits the road; that's what we've got to deal with.
GATES: Well, is that what the Panthers were all about?
CLEAVER: We had a strong economic place in our program. We had a direct challenge- the whole exploitation of the capitalist economy in our ten points. We had a point dealing with the economy. But we were also Marxist in our orientation, which is like totally economics. Do you see what I'm saying. So we understood the relationship to our freedom and our access to our economic remuneration and not just a little job because that is whimsical. The man on top can change that any time he wants to. That's why I was always so down on being totally dependent on the welfare system because when the winds blow differently in Washington, they can cut you off. But the black democrats they thought that they were eternal. They thought that Tip O'Neil was going to be there forever to throw them crumbs. But it was obvious to me that this was a very dangerous dependency; therefore, I talked about stuff that went beyond welfare. I rejected welfare because we need to be involved not just with the federal budget but with the private sector because the federal government gets its money from the private sector so we have to be involved in owning and have an influence over the productive capacity of this country or else we are going to be perpetually dependent upon the largesse of those who rule.
GATES: That's a long way from Marxism.
CLEAVER: Yeah, because I had a chance to witness Marxism up close in action. So in my travels around the world, I saw that it wasn't working. I saw that the dictatorship of the proletarian was the last thing I wanted to have. That's when I began to see that with all of our problems in the United States, we had the best formal government in the world. We had the freest and most democratic procedure.
I'm telling you after I ran into the Egyptian police and the Algerian police and the North Korean police and the Nigerian police and Idie Amin's police in Uganda, I began to miss the Oakland police. The last time I saw them suckers, I was shooting at them; and they were shooting at me. But regardless of what our standards are in this country, we do have some laws; we do have some principles that to a certain degree restrain our police.
GATES: Eldridge, how would the world look, how would America look, if the Panthers had won?
CLEAVER: I think the only way we could have won is that the American people would have revolted against the status quo. We had the anti-war movement and the black movement coming together for a better America. Now, victory in those terms would have meant that we would have been able to have a group of people who could get control of the government and administer it. But I do not think that we had a winning scenario. We never dreamed that we would be able to overthrow the American government. We didn't see that as our task. We saw that as the task of the survivors. Our job was to tear down the status quo and leave it to other people on how to rebuild because it was not possible to seize control of the government and install our people. That's reserved for banana republics. We had no illusions on that point and so victory, in our sense, was to get the laws passed that were passed. They started passing voter rights acts and all this kind of stuff, new civil rights bill, so we saw ourselves as providing backbone that was missing from Dr. Martin Luther King's nonviolent movement and we did not think that movement would be rewarded.
It's like the NAACP. NAACP used to be considered a wild eyed radical organization until Martin Luther King came along and then they became acceptable and Martin Luther King was the devil. So when we came along Martin Luther King started looking better. To some people. Obviously not to all. Because when the killing started it was to liquidate the plan hatched here in Boston, or I should say in Massachusetts, between the Kennedy dynasty and Martin Luther King.
Their plan was for Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to work together because together they could turn out the total black vote and then with the votes that the Kennedys could deliver they would have been able to establish a dynasty that would have ruled this country into the next century. That was their plan and that is why they were liquidated. The two Kennedy brothers killed, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X killed so that plan could not come into fruition. That was the scenario, that is why they were killed we do not understand that. The only one that really broke it down was this guy Sorensen who was the Kennedy choice for the CIA, but the establishment would not allow him to take control. Maybe it was the FBI, he was supposed to become head of the FBI.
GATES: Theodore Sorensen?
CLEAVER: Yeah. He was a speech writer. And so Kennedy tried to get him appointed head of the FBI and they wouldn't do it and so they were murdered and so the powers that be murdered them and they made -- if you look at all four of those assassinations they were textbook. They were murdered and the finger was pointed at some obvious enemy in all four cases. In all four cases, baloney. They were killed by the powers that rule this country who did not want to see the political dynasty of the Kennedys take control and last into the next century. They were still paranoid from how long Roosevelt was in power. Remember they changed the laws so that he couldn't run again and he obliged them by dying and so they were very fearful that this could be repeated, and it was on the way to being repeated but they knocked them out because by now Martin Luther King would have been president. That was their scenario.
GATES: Eldridge, how is it different to be black today in 1997 than it was when you were in that basement in Oakland 30 years ago? We have the largest black middle class that we've ever had in history. 45% of all black children live at or beneath the poverty line. It's like we have the best of times and the worst of times. What's that all about?
CLEAVER: That's because our black middle class has followed an assimilationist ethic. They have become white and they've adopted all the worst features of America in terms of not caring about the other people. Like the white ruling class never cared about poor white people, let alone about black people and other minorities and these blacks who are following W.E.B. Du Bois' formula of educating that 10% who will then come back and lift up the rest of the people -- the argument that was had between W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington was over how we're going to manage this thing.
Booker T. said we've got to teach these people how to work, then they'll get jobs, then they'll be able to afford education and then they can do that. And Du Bois said no, we've got to concentrate on the intellectual development of the people and get 10% of our people educated and then they can help the other people, but if you just learn a trade and you don't know what's going on, that ain't going nowhere.
I say both of them were right. We need both of what they promised and we've got both of what they promised. But they didn't have a unifying vision and consequently we've got an enlarged black bourgeoisie but they have departed from the basis of the black bourgeoisie according to E. Franklin Frazer. This was the professional classes and that was their economic base but the progress that has taken place has given a new economic base to the black bourgeoisie, to the expanded black -- now their economic base is political as well as up front economic and they still have a professional class but it is been expanded because you have a lot of black people with a whole lot of money coming from these other pursuits.
Add to that, the million-dollar salaries to football players, basketball players and baseball players, not that they're doing anything constructive with all of that money, but they have it. But they didn't bring it back to pull the other people up and so it's like the devil take the hindmost. That is what we're dealing with so that the black bourgeoisie is as corrupt and immoral as the white bourgeoisie and that is the problem.
GATES: It sounds like you're saying we were better off in the 60s or under segregation than we are today.
CLEAVER: No, I'm not saying that. A lot of people think that we were better off because we had more integrity to our black colleges and there were a lot of black businesses and all that, but that is like a tempest in a teapot. We are better off because we have more access, we have more mobility, but we have a problem which is a political problem because when the laws were passed to open up the political arena for black people the most visible leaders and the ones who were able to get those jobs were our protest leaders so what they did, they took our protest machinery and transformed it into their personal political machinery to get them reelected which stripped the black community of any kind of organizational machinery and consequently it left us floundering and treading water in a miserable state.
That is why the number one task that we have in the black community is a coup d'état against our present leadership to strip them from that machinery that controls the community so that new ideas and new people can percolate up and then we can have a new agenda. But because of the way that it's controlled right now, the number one task of the black politician who's got these position should be to politically educate the black community but they didn't do that because they knew that if the black community was politically educated the first thing they would do would be to get rid of them.
So consequently the black community is devoid of any kind of democratic process. We're under the dictatorship of the black bourgeoisie as it has never been before. And so they have federal money now to fund their political machine and keep any new people from moving, any new ideas from moving, and they're not any more concerned with the poorer black people than the rich white politicians are concerned with poor white people.
12-27-2006, 08:45 PM
ELDRIDGE CLEAVER INTERVIEW PART 2
GATES: We were talking about black leadership. What's your take on the Million Man March and Minister Farrakhan?
CLEAVER: I think the Million Man March will go down in history as the defining episode for a generation of people and I know Minister Farrakhan personally and have known him for years. And my overall decision on Farrakhan is that the Afro-American people are not going to follow him anywhere and as General Colin Powell said in his famous commencement address at Howard University, he said that after what we've been through and after coming this far we cannot afford to take a detour through the swamps of hatred and that is the Achilles heel of Farrakhan is that the doctrine of the Nation of Islam is a racist doctrine and the Afro-American people are not racist people. We are anti-racist people.
We among all the people of the world have put up a valiant struggle against racism and for emancipation from a system based on racism and so that is the problem with Farrakhan. He needs to be born again. He needs a new vision. Somebody needs to talk to that guy. I tried to talk to him but he's too slick. He won't listen, you see.
I remember him when he first came along, when he was nothing but a pimp and a calypso singer and Malcolm X pulled him and let him sing his song which was A White Man's Heaven Is A Black Man's Hell and by singing that song at Malcolm X's rallies every week he got to hear Malcolm X's speech 1000 times so when Malcolm X was murdered, the show must go on so they were looking around for who could keep the show going. Farrakhan was there. He knew Malcolm's speech word for word, he has a good mind and a good memory and he was able to do it because he was a showman from the beginning and so he was able to step into that vacuum, but the boy's not creative and he's blind sided so consequently he was not able to shuffle off that mortal coil which he should have done.
He should have not felt obligated to carry on the doctrine according to Elijah Mohammed but he did that to stay the hands of his rivals who were willing to do that in order to get the power. So they were calling him a revisionist for a long time. That is why he had to stick to what Elijah Mohammed was teaching and for that reason we cannot follow him because we don't want to go where he's going, and where he's going is where all haters go and that's into the garbage can of history and we're not going with him.
GATES: What about Colin Powell?
CLEAVER: I think Colin Powell is a magnificent American and he is different from these other so-called leaders because he is not a protest leader. The man is an American leader, he's an all-American leader, but because he has this Afro-American ancestry he appeals to black people but he also appeals to white people and that is the way it should be because we don't need no narrow mentality person in the White House. We need a person who is an all-American and this brings me closer to my agenda. I have to apologize to Vice President Gore because he will not become president in the year 2000 --
GATES: Who will?
CLEAVER: Because he is too little too late. In the year 2000 the American people, are going to elect the first woman president of the United States of America and it's not just going to be a woman, it's going to be a mother because what is missing from our decision making process in this Old Boy network is the heart and the concerns of a mother and so I, along with a lot of other people, are going to make it happen. We don't want to specify who is our choice right now because we have to get women to raise their self esteem and to realize and understand that there are a lot of women in America who are qualified to be president of the United States of America.
You would have to look up under a whole lot of rocks in America to find a woman as unqualified as these suckers we've been sending to Washington and women need to understand that and deal with that because we cannot go into a new millennium and a new century with the Old Boy network which is racist and misogynistic. We have got to go in there with a new deal and I hope that we will have time to tick off a few points that I feel are extremely important but I want to make sure you finish your questions first on this.
GATES: You, thirty years ago, were a socialist, I think it's fair to say. Do you believe that capitalism is compatible with the absorption of a significantly larger percentage of black people into the middle class?
CLEAVER: I think it is. I think that it is possible for the capitalist system to have a program of full employment, but we have a spiritual and moral problem in America. Our problem is not economic or political, it is that we do not care about each other because we say hey look, my people, my group, we're first class and you guys, you're second class and you guys over there, you third class and you guys in the back right there, no ain't got no class. That's our attitude but our creator never wasted his or her time creating a second class person. He made us all first class and he provided this earth as our home for all of us, not for the black man, the white man, the red man, the yellow man, the brown man, but for the whole human family.
We are the ones who have created a system of scarcity. There's enough building materials in this country, enough skilled workers, that there should not be any homeless people. There should not be any hungry people. And so a man wrote a poem in Berkeley, old man, in which he had an immortal line. It was a poem on greed in which he said how much more than enough do you want? There is enough for all of us but we don't have values that include us all and the black bourgeoisie suffers from that same lack of values as the white bourgeoisie and so we need a spiritual transformation in our attitude towards each other so that we can look upon each other as a family and therefore our national economy should be based upon a family budget, not going around preaching scarcity. There's not enough money for this. There's enough money for everything if you stop spending it the way you're spending it and so we need to undertake some political reform. Number one, I told you about the toilets, but number two, we have got to require our politicians to write their own speeches and when they campaign to campaign under the penalties of perjury because we have developed a political culture of mendacity.
We all know the politicians lie, we don't expect them to tell the truth so we have a low expectation because they've been lying all down through history. We've got to raise the standard and to start with we require them to write their own speeches or let's vote for the speech writer. George Bush went in talking about let there be 1000 points of light then when he got in the White House all the lights in the country went out and we found out that a woman wrote that speech. He didn't even write the speech. So when you come before us reading your speech we want to know what you are talking about, what you are thinking about, where you are coming from, but you can't tell us that if you going to read a speech some word monger wrote for you. We got to change that, man, because we need truth in our political arena, and then we've got to restore vision because our young people are lost, they don't see a future and to restore -- yes, sir?
GATES: How do we do that in the black community? I mean we have this gangster culture.
CLEAVER: I know. We have got to do it for the country as a whole because it is no longer a situation where you can just deal with the problems of black people because we now have the same problem. We've gotten rid of the special problems. I know that there's still discrimination going on and racism in the decision and what Newt Gingrich talked about a new contract with the American people. I used to carry his book around with me and I'd jump up and down on it and kick it off the stage because why do we think that Newt Gingrich going to live up to a new contract when he hasn't lived up to the old contract? We don't need a contract. The contract that we should be going by is called the Constitution of the United States of America and all this other stuff is just a political scam.
GATES: But the Constitution doesn't say anything about economic equality.
CLEAVER: It says that we are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And those causes are elastic. If we have people who will interpret that Constitution right what do we need to be happy? We need some food, we need a house, we need some money in our pocket. We don't need to be begging, asking for spare change, we don't need to be on welfare asking for a handout from the federal government. We need money and income that we can control. We need part of the private sector. We need property and we need ownership so that we can not be just floundering this way and that way, depending on who's in Washington and which way the political winds are blowing.
That is what we've got to be emancipated from and that calls for not a communist formula and the redistribution of the wealth, we need at least 51% of the wealth in this country shifted into the hands of women. They are over 50% of the population. Now they are divorced into poverty. They work with these chumps and help them get rich then they run away with the secretary and divorce the wife into poverty. We have got to stop that. We need to shift 51% at the very least of the wealth of this country into the hands of women.
GATES: Are you optimistic about the future? I mean given the fact that we have this large black underclass and a large black middle class, it looks like we have two nations and they're both black.
CLEAVER: We have more nations than that because we have poor white people, we have poor Indians, we have poor -- we have got to eliminate the economic basis of the underclass by providing them with jobs not handouts from the federal government. That is the failure of our economic system, that you have economists who say that you've got to keep the people on the brink of starvation in order to motivate them to work and hustle around. The failure of the capitalistic economic system is that they did not provide for full employment. They were satisfied with a certain percentile and then they were willing to keep a lot of people perpetually in reserve and that was to keep wages down and all that kind of pressure.
We have got to have a policy of full employment and by restoring the frontier and the union of the western hemisphere it is a full employment program for the whole hemisphere. There's a lot of work to be done but we have to reorient ourselves from a system of scarcity and a belief system in scarcity and there is no problem that we have on our agenda that we cannot solve.
GATES: Eldridge, many people compare Huey Newton with Tupac Shakur. And some people even suggest that without a gangster culture, that is, 30 years ago, a person like Tupac would have emerged as a leader of a revolutionary group like Huey P. Newton.
CLEAVER: This is an a historical perspective because they do not understand that Tupac is a child of Huey Newton and Malcolm X. That Tupac would not have been who he was had he not been born of parents who followed Huey Newton. Afeni Shakur and Amumu Shakur were members of the Black Panther party. And it was because of that experience that they were able to raise Tupac with the mentality and the spirit that he had. So talking about going back like that, saying that Tupac would have been Huey, you cannot unring the bell.
GATES: But Tupac was a gangster, wasn't he?
CLEAVER: Huey was a gangster.
GATES: Oh, he was?
CLEAVER: I'm not-- I'm talking about a real gangster. Tupac, they were talking about gangster rap. Huey P. Newton was a gun toting gangster, but that's not all he was. I'm saying he went through that experience as a criminal, but the thing about Tupac was his spirit and his rebellion against oppression. This comes from the way that he was raised and the values that were transmitted to him.
His father died in a gun fight with the New York police department and so Afena was a very strong stalwart of the Black Panther party and Tupac was raised like that. He is what we call a panther cub. And that was what he was about.
And that is why it was such a blow, [Tupac's] liquidation, and many people think that it was the COINTELPRO that took him out because the story doesn't hold up because anybody who knows Las Vegas knows that after the Mike Tyson fight there, there is no way that anybody going to drive along upside of another car, shoot them and drive away because it's gridlocked for blocks around there, man. So that is not what happened. There is more to it than that.
GATES: Eldridge, now, thirty years later, the smoke has cleared, bodies are buried, people have moved on. Was it worth it? I mean was the Panther movement worth it? Was it a good thing?
CLEAVER: It was a good thing and like all things, there was good and bad, but nothing like what this nitwit, Horowitz, is talking about because that is not where we were coming from. And I regret the way that the Party was repressed because it left a lot of unfinished business because we had planned to make a transition to the political arena and we would have been able to transmute that violence and that legacy into legitimate and peaceful channels. As it was they chopped off the head and left the body there armed. That's why all these young bloods out there now, they've got the rhetoric but without the political direction and they've got the guns. A man told me in Berkeley, said-- 'Eldridge,the two most dangerous demographics in the Bay Area right now are young black men with guns and middle-aged white women with Volvos.'
GATES: You're crazy.
CLEAVER: They're taking out more people than anything else.
GATES: Will history judge you and your contemporaries from the '60s -- Karenga, Rap, Stokely, Angela, the whole gang, Julian Bond -- favorably, do you think?
CLEAVER: I think they will. I think they will give us Fs where we deserve them and they'll give us As where we deserve them and they're going to give Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver an A plus.
12-27-2006, 08:46 PM
So read that before you talk shit.
12-27-2006, 08:56 PM
Angela Davis Interview
Interviewer: Your mentor, Herbert Marcuse once back in '58, as I recall, said that one of the things that would happen as blacks made gains in the civil rights movement was that there would be the creation of a black bourgeoisie and that's certainly been one of the things that's happened as we look back from the vantage point of 1997. How do you see the role of the black bourgeoisie in the continuing struggle?
Davis: Actually we've had a black bourgeoisie or the makings of a black bourgeoisie for many more decades.... if we look at one of our great leaders, W.E.B. Du Bois, he was associated with a very minuscule black bourgeoisie in the 19th century so this is not something that is substantively new although the numbers of black people who now count themselves among the black bourgeoisie certainly does make an enormous difference.
In a sense the quest for the emancipation of black people in the US has always been a quest for economic liberation which means to a certain extent that the rise of black middle class would be inevitable. What I think is different today is the lack of political connection between the black middle class and the increasing numbers of black people who are more impoverished than ever before.
Interviewer: Isn't that inevitable though? Hasn't every immigrant group, as it becomes part of the American mainstream, left behind its roots in a certain way?
Davis: That's true but I think the contemporary problem that we are facing increasing numbers of black people and other people of color being thrown into a status that involves work in alternative economies and increasing numbers of people who are incarcerated. This is new. This is not the typical path toward freedom that immigrants have traditionally discovered in the US.
And I guess what I would say is that we can't think narrowly about movements for black liberation and we can't necessarily see this class division as simply a product or a certain strategy that black movements have developed for liberation. But rather we have to look at the structural changes that have also accompanied the gains of the civil rights movement. We have to look at for example the increasing globalization of capital, the whole system of transitional capitalism now which has had an impact on black populations — that has for example eradicated large numbers of jobs that black people traditionally have been able to count upon and created communities where the tax base is lost now as a result of corporations moving to the third world in order to discover cheap labor. I would suggest is that in the latter 1990s it is extremely important to look at the predicament of black people within the context of the globalization of capital.
Interviewer: One of the things that struck me as I've gone back and revisited this history —is that Martin Luther King starts this movement for economic justice just before he's assassinated. The Black Panther party is just getting off the ground here in California and in a way there seems like there was a march towards merging these issues of class and race in the late 60s that somehow got derailed.
Davis: Yes, I think it's really important to acknowledge that Dr. King, precisely at the moment of his assassination, was re-conceptualizing the civil rights movement and moving toward a sort of coalitional relationship with the trade union movement. It's I think quite significant that he was in Memphis to participate in a demonstration by sanitation workers who had gone out on strike. Now, if we look at the way in which the labor movement itself has evolved over the last couple of decades, we see increasing numbers of black people who are in the leadership of the labor movement and this is true today.
Interviewer: We also see an increasingly weaker labor movement.
Davis: Well, we see an increasingly weaker labor movement as a result of the overall assault on the labor movement and as a result of the globalization of capital. So yeah, you're absolutely right, but I'm thinking about some developments say in the 80s when the anti-apartheid movement began to claim more support and strength within the US. Black trade unionists played a really important role in developing this US anti-apartheid movement. For example, right here in the Bay Area one of the first major activist moments was the refusal on the part of the longshoremen's union to unload ships that were coming in from South Africa and the ILWU then took the leadership here in the Bay Area, particularly as a result of the black caucus within the ILWU, they took the leadership in creating an anti-apartheid movement that spread to all of the campuses, UC Berkeley, Stanford.
Interviewer: At least from my vantage point, back then it seemed we were attacking structures and institutions and after a certain point it began to feel like it wasn't possible. Our leaders were assassinated, one of the things I was reading today was — 28 Panthers were killed by the police but 300 Black Panthers were killed by other Panthers just within — internecine warfare. It just began to seem like we were in an impossible task given what we were facing. How do we reawaken that sense that one person can really make that difference again now? And kids these days are kind of going back to Tupac and Snoop Doggy Dogg as examples of people that stand for something.
Davis: It's true that it's within the realm of cultural politics that young people tend to work through political issues, which I think is good, although it's not going to solve the problems. I guess I would say first of all that we tend to go back to the 60s and we tend to see these struggles and these goals in a relatively static way. The fact is important gains were made and those gains are still visible today. For example, the number of African-American studies programs that are on college campuses today. Those institutional changes are inconceivable outside of that development within — related to the Black Panther party and other organizations. Young people began to take those struggles onto the campuses
Interviewer: The last line in the essay Skip Gates has in The Future of the Race is— "only sometimes do I feel guilty that I was one of the lucky ones. Only sometimes do I ask myself why." I wonder whether you ever feel guilty for having been one of those who have survived?
Davis: Well, I think about it. But I don't know whether I feel guilty. I think that has to do with my awareness that in a sense we all have a certain measure of responsibility to those who have made it possible for us to take advantage of the opportunities. The door is opened only so far. If some of us can squeeze through the crack of that door, then we owe it to those who have made those demands that the door be opened to use the knowledge or the skills that we acquire not only for ourselves but in the service of the community as well. This is something that I guess I decided a long time ago.
Interviewer: But still there were those who were arrested around the same time you are were still in prison? You got out — you got off in some ways because you had become such a cause celebre that there were others who didn't have.
Davis: I mean that's true but I am actually addressing your question about guilt, and I'm trying to suggest that maybe there are other ways to deal with it than with guilt. So rather than feeling guilty is what I have done is to continue the work. As soon as I got out of jail, as soon as my trial was over, first of all, during the time I was in jail, there was an organization called the National United Committee to Free Angela Davis, and I insisted that it be called National United Committee to Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners.
As soon as my trial was over, we tried to use the energy that had developed around my case to create another organization, which we called the National Alliance against Racist and Political Repression. And, what? in June it will have been 25 years since my trial was over. I'm still working for the freedom of political prisoners, Mumia Abu Jamal, the Puerto Rican political prisoners, such as Dinci Pargan, for example, Leonard Pelletier. I'm involved in the work around prison rights in general. I think the importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and to consider yourself not as a single individual who may have achieved whatever but to be a part of an ongoing historical movement. Then I don't think it's necessary to feel guilty. Because I know that I'm still doing the work that is going to help more sisters and brothers to challenge the whole criminal justice system, and I'm trying to use whatever knowledge I was able to acquire to continue to do the work in our communities that will move us forward.
Interviewer: One of the problems, as we came into the 70s is it seemed as though we were fighting institutions and structures that were so big that there just seemed to be nothing that one person could do about them... How do we recapture that sense of a kind of power of being bold enough to take on those structures again?
Davis: I don't know whether the movement crashed as a result of the overwhelming character of the institutions we set out to change. I think repression had a lot to do with the dismantling of the movement and also the winning of certain victories had something to do with the inability of the movement to take those victories as the launching point for new goals and developing new strategies.
But I do think it's extremely important to acknowledge the gains that were made by the civil rights movement, the black power movement. I don't think we do that enough.. Institutional transformations happened directly as a result of the movements that people, unnamed people, organized and gave their lives to.
Interviewer: Such as?
Davis: I'm thinking about the desegregation of the south, for example, and the fact that some black women decided to boycott the bus system and this was actually done and eventually those laws were transformed or changed.
Interviewer: The other thing that happened of course is that the struggle isn't so much taking place on college campuses any more, it's taking place in corporate board rooms or within the corporate structure and those of us who are there are both — it's a weird thing happening. On one hand we're more reticent about taking on the racist things that we see happening within that environment, but the other thing that's happening is we're becoming more Afrocentric at the same time. It's almost like, we kind of feel like if we show up wearing our kente cloth that that's it, we've done our struggle. What is that about? Where does that come from?
Davis: I think it arises out of a tendency often to conflate cultural blackness with anti-racism. I think this is another case where there are lessons to be learned during the period of the 60s when organizations like the Black Panther Party were coming into being, there were other cultural nationalist organizations such as US Organization, such as the organization that Amiri Baraka developed and of course Amiri OK, there was the black arts movement which was extremely important, but there was also Baraka's political organization in Newark that took a cultural nationalist position that assumed that if we were able to connect with the culture of our African ancestors that somehow or another these vast problems surrounding us, racism in education, in the school, racism in the economy, in health care, etc would disappear. They were very interesting conflicts and debates between groups like the Black Panther party and the cultural nationalist groups in the 60s.
Interviewer: What were those debates? What was the nature of that debate between the Black Panther and say a group like US?
Davis: The debate often focused on what young black people wanting to associate themselves with a movement for liberation should do, whether they should become active in campaigns against police violence, for example, or whether they should focus their energy on wearing African clothes and changing their name and developing rituals. One of the names members of the Black Panther Party used to call those who focused on Africa and African rituals was sort of pork chop nationalists. There were some of us who argued that yes, we need to develop a cultural consciousness of our connection with Africa particularly since racist structures had relied upon the sort of cultural genocide going back to the period of slavery so that many of us were arguing that we could affirm our connection with our African ancestors in political ways as well, following for example Dr. Du Bois' vision of pan-Africanism which was an anti-imperialist notion of pan-Africanism rather than the pan-Africanism that projected a very idealized, romantic image of Africa, a fictional notion of Africa and assumed that all we needed to do was to become African, so to speak, rather than become involved in organized anti-imperialist struggles. So I think that the debate around pan-Africanism at the beginning, in the aftermath of world war I, for example, that Dr. Du Bois participated in, took on a different character but recapitulated some of the very same kinds of concepts and issues in the 1960s.
Interviewer: So what does it say to you that here we are in 1997 and the pan-Africanist/cultural nationalist agenda is the one that the commercial side, that Wall Street has fastened onto—that side seems to have been triumphant and that the anti-imperialist movement is, not in retreat, but certainly not being heard from as much.
Davis: It doesn't surprise me that aspect of the black nationalist movement, the cultural side, has triumphed because that is the aspect of the movement that was most commodifiable and when we look at the commodification of blackness we're looking at a phenomenon that's very profitable and it's connection with the rise of a black middle class I think is very obvious. As far as the tradition of struggle and tradition of anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist struggle I think that is one that has to be fought for and recrafted continuously. It's not going to happen on its own, it's not going to be taken up by the capitalist corporations and presented as something that is both profitable and something that is pleasurable to masses of people.
Interviewer: In a way I find it interesting that Kwanzaa — you know Karenga's ideas which apparently seem to have been financed by the FBI, at least in part, are the ones that now most black folks would say they would hold to and not the ideals of the Panther Party which were about survival, at least in some part an economic survival.
Davis: To a certain extent I think both traditions have survived. The cultural nationalist tradition has been commodified and therefore it has been worked into the whole institution of capitalism in a way that the traditions of struggling against police violence have not, but those traditions are still very much alive. As a matter of fact I think that the response to the OJ Simpson trial was based on a kind of sensibility that emerged out of the many campaigns to defend black communities against police violence. It just so happened that a figure like OJ Simpson was the one who benefited from those sensibilities, but I think it's important to affirm the fact that sensibility continues to exist and a kind of desire for black movements continues to exist even, I think, among middle class black people.
This accounts, I think, for the success of the Million Man March because black people tend to think of themselves as a people in struggle. This has been our history within this country and there's a kind of nostalgia for those moments where the struggle becomes dramatic and visible and powerful, although the Million Man March wasn't such a moment, I would argue, because there were no political demands that addressed the major problems that black communities are confronting yet there were the images of struggle, there were the images of masses of people that I think affected and brought pleasure to and moved so many black people. Now perhaps we can use that. Perhaps we can rely on that as we try to build movements that will address the impoverishment of masses of black people, the prison/industrial complex. I have to maintain some hope that that's possible. But at the same time I think it is important to acknowledge the extent to which the black middle class tends to rely on a kind of imagined struggle that gets projected into commodities like kente cloth for example on the one hand and images like the Million Man March.
Interviewer: You were critical of the Million Man March before? What was the substance of your criticism?
Davis: We developed this criticism on a number of accounts. First of all, the failure to integrate gender into the vision of what the black community needed, the exclusion of women from the march itself although finally I think someone said it's OK for black women to come, they don't have to stay at home with the babies as they were urged to before. But my criticism was also based on the conservative politics of the Million Man March, the conservative politics, the tendency to rely on voluntarism, the way in which the politics of the march coexisted quite harmoniously with the politics of a Newt Gingrich, for example the focus on family values that again linked the march to some of the most conservative developments in US society today, the assault on women's reproductive rights, etc. If this march of a million black men had raised issues such as the assault on the welfare system, the assault on women's reproductive rights, if there had been a sense of how to address this vast issue of violence against women, rather than assuming that a patriarchal family structure in which black men would —
Davis: Atone but also assume their role as the patriarchs in the family, cause that's what the atonement was all about. The black men were not really being the fathers that they needed to be, not really taking on the burden of the family in the way they needed to do it. I found that extremely problematic because I think it's important for us to recognize that although historically black communities have been very progressive with respect to issues of race and with respect to struggles for racial equality, that does not necessarily translate into progressive positions on gender issues, progressive positions on issues of sexuality and in the latter 1990s we have to recognize the intersectionality, the interconnectedness of all of these institutions and attitudes.
Interviewer: Now that the Million Man March is over, do you still feel it was not a correct thing to have done?
Davis: Those of us who criticized the Million Man March — were not arguing that it shouldn't happen. We were arguing that debates around the issues taken up by the march needed to be allowed particularly within black communities. I guess what I would criticize today is the tendency to conflate that dramatic moment with a movement.
The nostalgia within black communities for this mass movement which involves vast numbers of black people coming together is something that can often lead us in unproductive directions. Because in the past the demonstrations that we think about — the 1963 march on Washington, for example, that march wasn't this moment that was organized against the backdrop of nothing else. It was a demonstrating of the organizing that had been going on for years and years and to assume that one can call a march on Washington and have that be a movement in the 1990s is I think a tremendous mistake. I would say perhaps the importance of the Million Man March was that it stimulated a great deal of discussion. Perhaps it brought to people's attention the fact that we need to begin to regenerate an approach towards grassroots organizing that will help us in the direction of a mass movement.
There was a tendency of the middle class men who I think participated in that march to passionately identify with the brother on the street without taking up the kinds of political issues that are required to move black people who are in poverty in a progressive direction.
Interviewer: Of course the brothers on the street are identifying with the gangster rappers or at least the younger brothers on the street are, which is a whole other level of symbolic identity.
Davis: And not only the brothers on the street but the middle class brothers are also identifying with the gangster rappers because of the extent to which this music circulates. It becomes possible for the — not only the young middle class men, but it becomes possible for young middle class white men and young men of other racial communities to identify with the misogyny of gangster rap.
Interviewer: Well, it's not just misogyny. Now it's kind of moved just a straight crass materialism. The latest ones are just — they just name off name brands. That's the progression of it. How have we reached a point where in 1997 that the ethic of being black means that you don't go to school to learn. That learning is equated with whiteness and that somehow that is bad?
Davis: Well, whether it's the approach that all young black kids are encouraged to take or decide to take. Because you do have this rising middle class and you do have the young brothers and sisters who are moving toward the corporate arena and who are encouraged to do this arena from the time that they are very young. I think this is one of those moments where we also have to talk about the deterioration of the institutions.
I can't really blame a lot of young sisters and brothers who believe that education has anything to offer them. Because as a matter of fact, it has nothing to offer them. Suppose they do get a high school diploma that is meaningful. What kind of job is awaiting them. The jobs that used to be available to working class people are not there as a result of the de-industrialization of this economy.
Therefore, often young black people are looking towards the alternative economies. They are looking towards the drug economy.... the economies that are going to — that apparently will produce some kind of material gain for them. You can't criticize people for wanting to have a decent life or wanting to live decently. While I think that it is true that there is a great deal to be done with respect to the ideas that circulate among young people within arenas such as hip hop. At the same time, we can't forget about the deterioration of the institutions and the structural influence on young people.
Interviewer: Bring us back to globalization of capital. How do you mobilize around an issue like globalization of capital?
Davis: Well, you mobilize around globalization of capital in local ways. Obviously there are some organizations that go out on the street and say we want an end to the capitalist system. But obviously that is not going to happen as a result of just assuming that stance. I think in black communities today we need to encourage a lot more cross racial organizing. For example, we look at the assault on immigrants. Both legal immigrants and undocumented immigrants. Where does the black community stand with respect to that issue?
I think it is important to recognize that there is a connection between the predicament of poor black people and the predicament of immigrants who come to this country in search of a better life. The de industrialization of the US. economy based on the migration of corporations into third world areas where labor is very cheap and thus more profitable for these companies creates on the one hand conditions in those countries that encourage people to emigrate to the US. in search of a better life. On the other hand, it creates conditions here that send more black people into the alternative economies, the drug economies, women into economies in sexual services, and sends them into the prison industrial complex.
So we have to figure out how to formulate issues that are going to bring those of us together who are affected in one way or another by the globalization of capital...When we consider how much a young black person wants to, or is willing to pay for a pair of Nike's, right? — and then think about the conditions under which those shoes are made in Indonesia or wherever, at the same time that young sister or brother will be treated on the labor market here as indispensible and perhaps as someone to be cast away into the prison system. So there are reasons for coming together if we can figure out some specific kinds of strategies and tactics that will allow it. I think this is the real challenge for this era, which means we have to get away from a narrow conception of blackness. We can't talk about the black community. It's no longer a homogeneous community; it was never a homogeneous community. At one point, it did make sense to talk about the black community because we were struggling against the profound impact of racism on people's lives in various ways. We still have to struggle against the impact of racism, but it doesn't happen in the same way. I think it is much more complicated today than it ever was.
Interviewer: Does the fact that black folks are now a heterogeneous community absolve us from the obligation to keep reaching back — everybody to reach back, each one — reach one?
Davis: I think we need to insist on a certain responsibility, which people have — particularly those who have made it into the ranks of the middle class because as Dr. King said many years ago in a sense they have climbed out of the masses on the shoulders of their sisters and brothers and therefore, they do have some responsibility.
But whether people would be willing to assume that responsibility or not is something that is up to them. We cannot assume that people by virtue of the fact that they are black are going to associate themselves with progressive political struggles. We need to divest ourselves the kinds of strategies that assume that black unity — black political unity is possible.
Interviewer: What's the coalition?
Davis: Political coalition. Politically based coalitions. I think we have to really focus on the issues much more than we may have in the past. I think we have to, as I said before, seek to create coalitional strategies that go beyond racial lines. We need to bring black communities, Chicano communities, Puerto Rican communities, Asian American communities together.
what are the odds that anybody is actually gonna read this?
12-28-2006, 12:43 AM
I haven't got thru all of it, but I've read up thru post 3. Very good stuff being spoken here. I like the sense of vision where society leads if we follow down this subscribed path. The people just wanna be free.
alright ill keep it up
maybe just provide a external link and a synopsis rather than posting a pile of text
12-28-2006, 02:28 AM
bloody hell! i agree with LHX for once!
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