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 For a Labor Party to become a class party . . . it must be socially based in the multi-ethnic working-class

as a whole, and be cosmopolitan in its worldview.  The political objective must be state power by winning

elections to the House of Representatives.



Books by Kathleen Cleaver


Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglass  /  Wages of Whiteness / We Want Freedom / Target Zero / Black Panthers


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Revolutionary Movements of the 60s and 70s

A Response to "Black Fighting Formations .  . . " 

By Mwalimu Russel Maroon Shoats

By Lil Joe


My criticism here concerns not so much Mwalimu Russell Maroon Shoat's essay "Black Fighting Formations: Their Strengths, Weaknesses and Potentialities," (Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party, edited by Kathleen Cleaver and George Katsiaficas, 1999) or even the Black Panther Party, sometimes considered "the most significant revolutionary organization in the later 20th century." My overall view is that in the Movement of the '60s and '70s, the participant organizations had no objective of taking state power. 

This fatal flaw in the self-determined revolutionaries of the '60s and '70s   including the Black Panther Party and the Marxist groupings resulted in the defeat of the Movement, and the resultant demoralization of American Black and working class revolutionaries and rebels.

We are now regrouping, but we must not make the same mistakes.  Revolutions are not about "speaking truth to power," "reparations," campaigning and voting for "progressive Democrats" or "fighting WTO."  Progress toward revolution in America requires the formation of a working-class party.  To that end, the process requires that we subsume all relative interests into the universal struggle.  The economical emancipation of the working class is the task to which all means are subordinate.

The Continuing Need for a Class-Conscious Party

The class party in America is necessarily a labor party that is financially based in the trade unions, exclusively and socially based in the working-class as a whole, and struggling to win the battle of democracy with the goal of state power.  The ultimate goal is the expropriation of capital, and the transfer of the productive forces from private to public property.

While it is certainly true that as Lenin argued in What Is To Be Done?   "without revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement," there is epistemological context related to how revolutionary theory evolves.  Revolutionary sociopolitical theory is not developed outside society.  Actually, there is no outside.  "[M]an is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man": relations of production in society, culture, and the state. (Marx)  Revolutionary theory is developed in the praxis of the revolutionary class itself, as it struggles to change the world, and, thereby, changes itself.

In the absence of conscious, revolutionary objectives including, but not limited to, the acquisition of state power philosophers, scientists, and intellectuals from other classes defect to the revolutionary class and bring their prejudices with them.  These defectors believe themselves to be the "natural" leaders of the oppressed and uneducated laboring classes and toiling masses. 

The more backward, less confident members of the revolutionary cadres in the rising classes internalize this hogwash.  The way out of this impasse is criticism and self-criticism.  However, during the Movement of the '60s and '70s, the processes involved in criticism and self-criticism were ritualistic, and degenerated into ad hominem attacks and counter-attacks, rather than objective critiques of ideas, strategies, and tactics.  In this backdrop, the local cops, COINTELPRO, FBI agents, and agent's provocateurs promoted confusion and violence within the ranks of the revolutionary cadres.

The fatal flaw in the '60s and '70s that the revolutionary cadres lacked the objective to take state power had its basis in American anti-intellectualism and pragmatism that degenerated into activism.  This became basic rebellion, not revolution, and the confrontations with the state (for confrontations sake) resulted in burnouts, deaths, the imprisonment of many comrades, and the demoralization of others.  All of this was exacerbated by the fact that the ethnic nationalist movements (e.g., Black and Chicano) were based in shifting communities. The student-based anti-war movement was also based in constantly changing and unstable student populations.

Revolution cannot be based in a single ethnic community. It must be based in the class to which ethnic communities belong.  Revolution displaces the the representatives of the existing order, reorganizes, and structures the new order.  The overthrow of the ruling class by the oppressed classes is a conscious struggle for class power.  The polemics in the revolutionary class should be directed at the objective of developing a strategy to take state power.  

It is by this "practical-critical," "revolutionizing practice" (praxis) that revolutionary organizations are formed and revolutionary theory developed.  The objective of taking state power as part and parcel of a strategy toward economic transformation tests ideas and mediates behavior.

Without class-based revolutionary objectives formulated by the revolutionary class, there can be no revolutionary movement or revolutionary theory.

There is no such thing as a "community based" racial revolution.  The Chinese and Vietnamese wars of liberation were national in scope, but class in content.  Chinese and Vietnamese revolutionaries fought to displace "their own" bourgeois and landlord classes, and to establish the revolutionary dictatorships of the proletariat and peasantry.  The objective was to expropriate bourgeois, landlord, and imperialist properties in China and Vietnam.  Vietnamese workers and peasants did not struggle for "community control" of schools or of police, but struggled for state power by which to transfer private owned productive forces to public property.

Additionally, the Chinese and Vietnamese national liberation wars and social revolutions had the support of the Soviet Union.  It was not [just] the "spirit" of the Chinese and Vietnamese people that enabled them to  defeat militarily U.S. imperialism, but the material support of the Soviet Union.  In each case, the Chinese and Vietnamese workers and peasants came to power as Communists.  The military and political victory of the Vietnamese Tet Offensive broke the confidence of U.S. Anglo-Saxon patriots.

With the material support of the Soviet Union, the Chinese People's Liberation Army drove the Chinese nationalist bourgeoisie from mainland China to Taiwan.  The victorious Vietnamese workers and peasants came to power in the South, reuniting North and South Vietnam.  The Chinese People's Liberation Army came to power as Communists.  

Samples of Class Conscious Struggles in 1968

However, consciousness was not sufficient to overcome material limits.  The material conditions did not enable the state-monopoly capitalist economies of China or the Soviet Union to survive.  In each of these countries today, privatization is replacing nationalized industry.

The study of any revolutionary cadre formation at war with the state in the '60s and '70s (like, for example, the Black Panther Party) must be explicated in the context of world events including the predominantly peasant struggles in China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cuba, Zimbabwe, Angola, Mozambique, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the proletarian struggles in South Africa, France, Mexico, and Germany.

The year 1968 was one of great international turmoil, e.g., the May-June General Strike in France (where the troops supported the striking workers or, at least, refused to shoot them); the Vietnamese Tet Offensive; and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., with the resulting 120 U.S. cities in open, flaming rebellion.  It was a wonderful time to be alive!  As Stokely Carmichael said, revolution was "in the wind!"

Or was it?  In Vietnam, certainly.  But, winning state power was not the goal in all these cases. In 1968, the May-June General Strike in France was the most important event in the industrialized capitalist world.  It should be thoroughly studied by American workers and revolutionaries.  In Mexico City, students battled the Mexican army, which was victorious over the students.  

But when the students protested in Paris in 1968 and were beaten down by the Paris police, the Communist and Socialist French proletariat took to the streets and confronted and neutralized the police.  The police retreated.  It could also be said that the police retreated during the Black, inner-city rebellions in 1968 when 120 U.S. cities were in flames following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  

But the difference in the resulting outcomes of these two struggles differed in the behavior of the [largely working class] military when ordered by the respective governments to quell the working class rebellions in America, and the general strike in France.  When the American military replaced the local police in U.S. city streets, that military violently suppressed the rebellions.  

In France soldiers refused to move against the workers and farmers, who were 10,000,000 strong on general strike!  The French General Strike of 1968 ended by way of the Socialist and Communist Parties using their influence in the French working class to coax French workers back to work, while at the same time forcing the state to capitulate to a few bullshit political reforms.

Also in Czechoslovakia in 1968, workers led by Alexander Dubcheck were engaged in rebellions against the Stalinist bureaucracy.  Soviet tanks, however, suppressed these rebellions of the Czechoslovakian workers.

In the United States, Black, Puerto Rican, Indian, and Chicano workers, on the one hand and student and anti-war activists, on the other hand confronted the state alone, and not as part of a class.  They were isolated from racist and patriotic white workers so-called "hard hats" that supported Ronald Reagan in California.  This was the "silent majority" that twice elected and supported Nixon on the national level.  American workers also twice elected and supported Ronald Reagan at the national level in the '80s.

The experiences of the American working class in 1968 differed greatly from those of the French proletariat. In America in the '60s and '70s, there was no American Labor Party capable of educating and mobilizing American workers into a class-conscious class for itself.  As in Europe and elsewhere, the American working class must create a Labor Party that is financially and socially based in the trade unions.  In the praxis of electoral political struggles of Labor Party partisans against Democrat and Republican partisans, American worker consciousness would have fertile ground to move from racial patriotism to class conscious communism.

When he was assassinated in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. represented the hope for an American working-class conscious political movement.  The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and King were deeply involved in mobilizing a national, multi-ethnic Poor Peoples Campaign.  When he was assassinated, King was personally involved in a Sanitation Workers' strike in the Southern U.S. states.  

Additionally, the link was being made between the economic struggles of Black workers (like the sanitation workers' strike), the struggles of Black and poor workers for food, clothing and shelter, and the anti-war movement.  

Disintegration of Class Conscious Struggle

Malcolm X represented a "revolutionary" alternative to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "integrationist reformism."  However, Malcolm X was assassinated before he could lead the potentially revolutionary Black workers' movement into a class-conscious socialist direction.  Potentially revolutionary Black workers got stuck in racial politics.  The Black Panther Party succeeded in filling the void left by Malcolm X.  In the tradition of Malcolm X, Black Students Unions came on the scene on college campuses.

Ethnic minority revolutionary workers and student anti-war protestors read Mao tse-Tung and Che Guevarra as well as Malcolm X, Frantz Fanon, E. Franklin Frazier, and Nathan Hare.  However, revolutionary Black, Indian, Puerto Rican and Chicano workers and students and anti-war protestors were unable to penetrate the trade unions.  Student anti-war protests and ethnic minority workers' struggles were isolated from the American working class, and suffered violent state repression.

The leaderships and the ranks of American trade unions are anti-communist, patriotic, and tied to the Democratic Party.  Only a trades union based Labor Party engaged in an electoral struggle for power could provide the basis for change in the reactionary, racial and patriotic consciousness that has made the American working-class politically backward as compared, for instance, to the French proletariat.  American ethnic nationalists, and White anti-war activists, never thought of let alone planned for the conquest of political power by which to expropriate capital.  They never strategized a workers' state that would transfer the productive forces from capitalist to public property.

The militant faction of the American trade unions created an American Labor Party in 1996.  However much like the Black Panther Party of the '60s the American Labor Party is directed at social issues rather than at the conquest of political power.  The American working-class can become a class-conscious proletariat only by way of the struggle for class power.  The objective of that class power would be to snatch the means of production and distribution from the clutches of the bourgeoisie.

American Black Revolutionaries in the '60s and '70s were influenced by the Vietnamese and Algerian wars of independence.  However, they saw armed struggle as the common thread instead of the struggle for class power.  The Algerian liberation warriors had fighting tactics similar to Hamas in Palestine today, and to the Iraqi resistance fighters in occupied Iraq today.  American Black and White revolutionaries in the '60s and '70s picked up the gun to emulate the Battle of Algiers, but did not recognize that the isolated Algerian underground lost.  

A Possible Revolutionary Scenario

Revolutionary success today would be the conquest of state power on the road to liberating the productive forces from their capital forms, and to ending capitalist commodity production and wage-labor.  To accomplish this, the thinking of the American working-class must be radically transformed.  This is where "winning the battle of democracy" comes in: in effect, beating the bourgeoisie at its own electoral game.  For a Labor Party to become a class party exclusively and financially based in the trade unions, and accountable to those unions it must be socially based in the multi-ethnic working-class as a whole, and be cosmopolitan in its worldview.  The political objective must be state power by winning elections to the House of Representatives.

In the House of Representatives, our [working] class party would author legislation for fighting unemployment by way of reducing the hours of the working day from surplus to necessary labor time say to a 5 hour working day with continual reductions in the hours of the working day with every technological advance in labor productivity.  

Furthermore, our [working] class party could author legislation to open borders (that could potentially and immediately bring immigrant workers into the trades unions), legislate a living wage at median income (about $25 an hour), legislate universal health care (financed by the profits of capital, which profits, in the first place, are derived from the exploitation of wage-labor by capital), and legislate open enrollment of college students with resulting free college and university education and training.  

All of this legislation would be financed by the profits of capital.  The American laboring classes would begin to benefit from the wealth we create, and from increasing productivity.

When the American working class views Labor Party partisans on CSPAN fighting for working class legislation, and debating with Democrats and Republicans Labor Party membership and Congressional representatives would increase geometrically.  The growth of the Labor Party would force Democrats and Republicans out of the House of Representatives including the so-called Congressional Black Caucus and the Latino Caucus.  

In 10 years, the Labor Party could have the majority in the House of Representatives.  At that time, the class war will change qualitatively as the working-class begins to battle in the House of Representatives and on CSPN every day.  The growth of an American Labor Party, and of Labor Party partisans in the House of Representatives, would peak the interests of American workers.  

Class conscious workers would then start reading the Labor Party Press, rather than the bourgeois New York Times.  This qualitative change in class-consciousness spreading quantitatively across America will result in quantitative changes in Labor Party members in the House of Representatives.

Though the American Labor Party dominated the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Presidency, and the Judiciary would continue to represent the capitalist class. Struggles between the House and Senate will become open class war that will further educate and evolve the American working-class into a class-conscious proletariat.  The House of Representatives will derive the practical necessity to legislate the abolition of the Senate, Presidency and Judiciary, and call a new Constitutional Convention of workers, farmers, and ethnic minorities to write a New Constitution.

If in the course of this struggle the Pentagon dismisses the civilian government and they will the elected worker-legislators and trade unions would have the elected authority to call a general strike, and to call on the rank and file of the U.S. military to reject the officer core, side with the striking workers, and to support the duly passed legislation of the House of Representatives.

If this results in civil war it will be class war, and not race war.

posted 7 November 2007

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Black Fighting Formations

  Their Strengths, Weaknesses and Potentialities 

By Mwalimu Russsell Maroon Shoats 

(30 years incarcerated)  


On the positive side, membership skyrocketed!  Chapters were formed throughout the West Coast, in the Midwest, Northeast and South.  The BPP became a magnet for most of the smaller local organizations who were of a similar mind.  And with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, even more people were eager to join the BPP.  By this time no Panthers were carrying guns in public; however this did nothing to stop the onslaught.  BPP offices and homes were raided from coast to coast.  Police agents who had infiltrated the ranks were provoking deadly confrontations with the police and other Black organizations.  

BPP members were even hunting and killing each other because of the "agents provocateurs."  The Panthers were a potentially strong Black fighting formation that was forced to take to the field before they were ready.  As a result "...the field of battle (was) a land of standing corpses."  Panthers were dying in the streets, they were dying in raids, and in prison (Soledad, San Quentin, Attica...Atmore-Holeman) was "war to the knife!"

The Panthers were not the only Black fighting formation; there were other revolutionaries and "free shooters" that were just as committed, armed and involved.  For example, Fred "Ahmad" Evans and a squad of Black guerrillas trapped the Cleveland, Ohio police in a deadly ambush.  A number of officers were killed and wounded, some guerrillas were also killed or wounded and Ahmad Evans was imprisoned (where he died).  

Mark Essex (free shooter) held off an army of police officers atop a high hotel in New Orleans.  Officials had to call in a helicopter  gunship to kill him, but not before he had inflicted casualties on them.  Jonathan Jackson walked into a courtroom in San Rafael, California and pulled a submachine gun from his duffel bag.

After disarming all of the sheriffs, he gave pistols and a shotgun to James McClain, William Christmas and Ruchell "Cinque" Magee, three Black prisoner comrades of his brother, George Jackson.  They rounded up the white judge, district attorney and a number of jurors as hostages; after forcing their way past the rest of the sheriffs and police officers, their getaway van was riddled with bullets, killing Jackson, McClain and Christmas.  Ruchell "Cinque" Magee was wounded, but survived.  

Before they died they blew the judge's head off with the shotgun they had taped under his chin.  The district attorney and jurors were also shot but survived.  George Jackson was a field marshall in the BPP.  He was killed the following year in San Quentin but not before three prison guards and two "inmate snitches" were knifed to death.  It was later learned that all of those brothers were set up by an "agent provocateur" who had infiltrated their inner-circle.  The agent, Louis Tackwood, had married one of their sisters.

The revolutionary Republic of New Afrika (RNA), once headed by Robert F. Williams, gunned a number of  Detroit police down after they tried to storm a meeting their leaders were holding at a church.  A few years later they killed a sheriff after their headquarters were raided in Jackson, Mississippi.  That raid sent their entire leadership to prison.  Free shooters were killing police officers in sniper attacks in Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis and New Orleans housing projects.  

H. "Rap" Brown became a fugitive after a bomb went off outside of a court building in his comrades' car.  A year or so later he was wounded and captured after a running gun battle between his liberators (from east St. Louis) and the New York City police.  A number of liberators were also captured.  Police officers were killed while they sat in their cars, or directed traffic; this was war.  There were brothers and sisters hijacking passenger jets to Cuba and Algeria where the BPP had a branch of fugitives headed by Cleaver (he had left the country to avoid going back to prison for his participation in the shootout which left "Little" Bobby dead).

This was very sobering for BPP members.  All of the early flash and high profile began to dissipate even as the Panthers searched desperately for ways to regain the initiative and plug the security gaps.  Finally, it was decided that an autonomous strike force that could handle all armed actions was needed.  Other BPP members would continue with and expand community programs such as free breakfast, educational and sickle cell testing, clothing donations and so on.  Unfortunately, it was again too little too late.  

The seeds of mistrust had been sewn by the agents and their handlers (the police/FBI).  They were cultivated in an environment of youthful and inexperienced leadership.  This leadership demonstrated little understanding of intelligence, and counterintelligence activities, or how to combat them. More importantly they held but a fleeting grasp on "the art of war." which as a critical component of their growth and survival could not have been overemphasized.  Still they pressed on.  Orders went out to the field marshals to begin organizing separating guerrilla groups (a Black Liberation Army).

A very important opportunity was missed at this point.  The BPP had made some half-hearted attempts to recruit street gangs, however they were unsuccessful.  They overlooked the fact that street gangs were typically only responsive to programs that focus primarily on fighting.  As we've seen the old BPP wanted cadres who were political and military workers.  Almost invariably gang members responded to recruitment efforts with a, "Get back when its time to fight..."  When the time to fight did arrive, in their haste to go into the new phase, they pushed that knowledge out of their minds...Of course it would not have been easy to slow down at this point but a little foresight would have indicated the strategic benefits of doing so.

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Mwalimu Russeull Maroon Shoats, "Black Fighting Formations: Their Strengths, Weaknesses and Potentialities, an analysis taken from the book LIBERATION, IMAGINATION AND THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY edited by Kathleen Cleaver and George Katsiaficas, New Political Science (Vol 21:2) June 1999.

This book brings together a unique collection of scholars and activists whose reflections on the history of the Black Panther Party is meant to understand an organization whose mythological stature oftern obscures its political meaning.  Original research as well as fresh historical accounts combine to situate the BPP realistically, to analyze carefully its internal dynamics and to properly assess its strengths and weaknesses.  As opposed to hypercritical attacks and fawning glorifications, this anthology offers a more reasoned perspective and features previously silenced voices.

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Mwalimu Russell Maroon Shoats has been incarcerated for thirty years in Pennsylvania.  His behavior has been that of model prisoner.  Most of his time has been in solitary confinement and he has little access to the outside world.  He has also faced health challenges that have been minimally looked after by the corrections facility.  He is also housed in the same prison as Bro. Mumia Abul Jamal.  If you would like to correspond with him please write Russell Shoats, #AF-3855, 175 Progress Dr., Waynesbiurg, Pa. 15370-8090.

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Liberation, Imagination, and the Black Panther Party

A New Look at the Panthers and Their Legacy

By Kathleen Cleaver and George Katsiasficas's

If this volume of essays only offered us documentation and insight into the contributions and wide-ranging influence of the Black Panther Party, it would have immense historical significance. But Kathleen Cleaver's and George Katsiasficas's collection does much more. It creates intriguing and provocative conversations among scholars, activists, contemporary political prisoners and original members of the BPP that invite us to extricate ourselves from the numbing nostalgia that often accompanies invocations of black berets and leather jackets. It invites us to re-imagine our relationship to this past and to think critically about the meaning of liberation today.Angela Y. Davis, Professor, History of Consciousness, UC Santa Cruz

The history of the Black Panther Party is an indispensable part of the dramatic account of black struggle in this country, and this book is an important contribution to that history. The essayists have impressive credentials as either members of the Party or keen observers of its activities, and because they carry the story into the present day the book becomes especially valuable.Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States.

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Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work

By Edwidge Danticat

Create Dangerously is an eloquent and moving expression of Danticat's belief that immigrant artists are obliged to bear witness when their countries of origin are suffering from violence, oppression, poverty, and tragedy. In this deeply personal book, the celebrated Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat reflects on art and exile, examining what it means to be an immigrant artist from a country in crisis. Inspired by Albert Camus' lecture, "Create Dangerously," and combining memoir and essay, Danticat tells the stories of artists, including herself, who create despite, or because of, the horrors that drove them from their homelands and that continue to haunt them. Danticat eulogizes an aunt who guarded her family's homestead in the Haitian countryside, a cousin who died of AIDS while living in Miami as an undocumented alien, and a renowned Haitian radio journalist whose political assassination shocked the world.

Danticat writes about the Haitian novelists she first read as a girl at the Brooklyn Public Library, a woman mutilated in a machete attack who became a public witness against torture, and the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat and other artists of Haitian descent. Danticat also suggests that the aftermaths of natural disasters in Haiti and the United States reveal that the countries are not as different as many Americans might like to believe..CaribbeanLiterarySalon

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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