For decades, MIM has been defending the legacy of Huey Newton's Black Panther Party for Self Defense (BPP) of the late 1960s as the furthest advancement of revolutionary struggle within u.$. borders. As time passes, more and more youth are looking back at that legacy and asking, "What was it all about?" and "How do we learn from it?" At the time of the Party's existence, the bourgeois media tried to depict the BPP as a militant group of gun-wielding, white-hating, young Black males. Today, we are more likely to hear about Free Breakfast for School Children-- the tale of a friendlier, charity-oriented organization. These lies come from the inability of white amerika to overstand revolutionary nationalism as well as a concerted effort to stamp it out.
Today, we also have people claiming the legacy of the BPP who are helping to perpetrate both of these watered-down misinterpretations of the Party. At the same time, we have an off-shoot of the Nation of Islam (NOI) calling itself the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) that is successfully eliciting cries about 'violent Black racists' without upholding the revolutionary politics of the Panthers.
The common fiber between these trends is a petty bourgeois, pro-capitalist strategy for the upliftment of Black people. One tends to cuddle up with white amerika and the other likes to call for its demise, but do not be fooled, both amount to a strategy of seeking a special deal with the u.$. imperialists. The NBPP goes as far as demanding reparations from Africa, indicating where its class alliances lie.
The dead-end politics of these trends are exposed in our interview with a student of David Hilliard and our review of the New Black Panther Party literature.
The New Black Panthers:
15 May 2005
Looking at their membership, the "New Black Panthers" do appear to be Black, but the other two parts of this Party's name are misleading. What the "New Black Panther Party" (NBBP) has to offer is nothing new, but rather a non-denominational (at least originally) version of the Nation of Islam (NOI) from whence it came, with a more militant posture. And they sure aren't Panthers as we will spell out in this article.
But before we jump into our criticism of the NBPP we should point out that as a revolutionary Party led by proletarian ideology, MIM does recognize the need for alliances across many classes, particularly among the oppressed nations. Therefore we view the petty bourgeoisie and bourgeois nationalists within the Black nation or any other oppressed nation as potential allies. But these classes themselves cannot liberate Black people from national oppression and imperialism. [[email protected] interjects: In fact, MIM Thought has pointed to the role for the national bourgeoisie, not because of any semi-feudal remnants in the Black nation, but because of the role of super-exploitation and super-profits in national formation today. The Black bourgeoisie has found itself historically iced out of business in Africa through the mass deportation for slavery and it has found itself looking on as the white bourgeoisie gets a disproportionate share of the loot.]
At best, the NBPP can integrate Black people into the oppressor nation, and this is only possible for a small sector of the world's exploited people who are necessary to maintain capitalist profits. It is only under the leadership of the proletarian forces that the national bourgeoisie can serve the interests of the oppressed and the overall national struggle will achieve self-determination-- a goal groups like the NBPP support.
It is the duty of the proletariat and the vanguard Party to point out the short comings of our potential allies when they threaten to lead the masses down the wrong path. It is in this spirit that we sharply criticize those falsely claiming the banner of our proletarian vanguard of the 1960s. To be clear about the NBPP's claims, this is what national chairpersyn of the NBPP Malik Zulu Shabazz said when asked by an interviewer with the Final Call newspaper (Nation of Islam), "Do you claim to represent the legacy of the Black Panther Party of the 60s?"
"Yes. You must remember that I just inherited this leadership of Dr. Khallid and there were others who've had this organization since 1989. It is true, we are the Black Panther Party resurrected, but we are dedicated to scientifically correcting and eliminating the mistakes that the Panthers made in the past and accentuating that which is needed in the present. They didn't believe, necessarily, in a Divine Theology. The New Black Panther Party believes in a Black Liberation Theology. The New Black Panther Party believes in the Theology of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad." (2)
His very answer contradicts himself. He answers "yes," but goes on to say that the foundation of the NBPP worldview is completely different from the original BPP's dialectical materialism. He even throws in the word "scientifically" for good measure before dropping the bomb that the NBPP is guided by theology. It is metaphysics in the place of science that leads to many of the backwards ideas of the petty bourgeoisie that we will describe below.
It is also worth noting Shabazz's recognition of Elijah Muhammad, founder of the NOI. In the NBPP's "9 Local Objectives" they recognize the importance of divine guidance in point 1, but claim to be open to all religious interpretations as long as they are from a Black liberation perspective. (1) The leaders of the NBPP for most of its existence have been defectors of the Nation of Islam. This is clear in their ideology, which only takes the NOI beliefs to an extreme that apparently made Minister Louis Farrakhan (head of the NOI) uncomfortable. Today, these two factions are working hand in hand, most recently to convene the tenth anniversary of the Million Man MarchTM (that's a registered trademark according to the NOI). Shabazz says, "As [Farrakhan] told me, it is because, in the 1960s, the Black Panther Party rejected the offer of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad of an umbrella from the Nation of Islam to be placed over the Black Panthers. For us to now beat history and reverse that, and for the New Black Panther Party to work under the call of Minister Louis Farrakhan for a Million Man MarchTM, is significant and historic."
Malcolm X originally broke with the NOI, marking a serious advancement in his own revolutionary theory and the future of Black nationalism. After his death, the BPP took up that call and advanced on the legacy that Malcolm left behind. Now the NOI is trying to reclaim and co-opt that revolutionary nationalism by claiming the Panther image under its own leadership. In Shabazz's words, "Whatever happened between Brother Khallid Abdul Muhammad and his teacher has resulted now in the Nation of Islam giving a rebirth to Black nationalism; and giving members of the Crips, Bloods, El Rukhns, Vice Lords, men out of prison, college students, young people, Nationalists, and others who would never join the Nation a home in the New Black Panther Party. And now, Minister Farrakhan, in his graciousness, has brought us all back together again." The very existence of the NBPP has served to bring lumpen youth and other skeptics into the fold of the NOI.
In their day, the Black Panthers themselves ripped apart the NOI's religious and pro-capitalist version of Black nationalism. While building on the legacy of one-time NOI spokespersyn Malcolm X, the Panthers let contemporary NOI members have it in debates over what it meant to serve the interests of Black people in amerika. The Panthers criticized the NOI's cultural nationalism, while internationalism guided the BPP's revolutionary practice.
The NBPP's lack of internationalism and scientific analysis shows through in point 3 of their 10 point program where they demand reparations for slavery from, among others, Africa. If anything, Blacks within u.$. borders owe reparations to Africa for the elevated wages and other material benefits available to many through imperialist exploitation of the Third World. The u.$. Census Bureau estimated that the average Black household income in 2002 was about $29,000, compared with $42,000 for the whole country. (3) Meanwhile, 21 out of the 23 lowest income countries, where the average income was under $300 per year, were located in Africa. (4) At the same time, such countries are paying on average of about $5 for health care per persyn for every $14 they give to the likes of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. (5) Interest payments on imperialist capital export is just one way that wealth is transferred from the Third World to imperialist countries, which the Black nation has increasingly seen the benefits of. In contrast to the NBPP's line on reparations, the BPP actively called for reparations to the Vietnamese, putting the most extreme victims of u$ imperialism of the time at the forefront. (6)
Mysticism has also been behind a long tradition of male-supremacy and homophobia among the Black petty bourgeoisie. The NOI continues to promote the ideas that a good womyn is to serve her man when he comes home from a long day of work. In addition, the NBPP promotes the ridiculous assertion that homosexuality is a white man's disease. Homophobia, traditionally based in mystical ideologies, actually dates back to medieval European Christianity and is claimed to have originated even earlier among Jewish nationalists. Without trying to explain the complete origins of homophobia, let us say that the earliest examples come from Europe and the Middle East, where it was justified by religion but motivated by politics. (7) We do not believe that both gay/lesbian orientation and homophobia are white men's diseases.
The fact that homophobia traces back millennia to Jewish politics might be of particular interest to leaders of the NBPP who speak of the Jews as their primary enemy. What's worse --the supposed white man's disease of homosexuality or the Jewish disease of homophobia--we could ask the NOI. Again they are missing the big picture and lacking in scientific analysis. Like many bourgeois nationalist trends trying to tap into the masses, they take on the righteous cause against zionism and imperialism but then cop out and explain it by saying that Jews control the world. There is a devious vision behind those who will isolate one small portion of the oppressor nation and claim they are fighting imperialism and oppression. Today's Jewish population of European decent are part of the white oppressor nation just as the Christians, Catholics and atheists. The small puppet state of Isitreal does not and could not control the biggest imperialist power in history.
The NBPP continuously misses the real enemy. They campaign against Asian and Middle Eastern owned stores in the Black community. They talk about the "Jews" controlling amerika. In effect they end up ignoring real white power and imperialism to attack a small segment of white amerika or white power's middlemen. Clearly their agenda is something other than national liberation and serving the people, the calls of the Maoist BPP.
Metaphysics also leads the Nation of Islam to pacifism as MIM has exposed in the past. (8) While the NBPP puts on a tougher facade, their politics will lead them down the same road. They are much softer on the pigs then the BPP ever where in point 5 of their "9 Local Objectives," "We respect the Police in our community who show proper respect for our community. We respect those in authority as long [sic] they respect us. God alone is our master." Here they miss the role of the state in a class society. As Shabazz says, "We believe in our God, first. We don't believe necessarily that power comes out of the barrel of a gun. That power comes from the Lord of the Worlds, Almighty God, Allah." (2) Here he rejects all Maoists from the Panthers to the Chinese, by upholding that God and not revolution will lead Black people to freedom.
Of course, who needs revolution when you're only struggling for a piece of the capitalist action? Just as the NOI, the NBPP unabashedly promotes Black capitalism, independent from the amerikan economy, as a solution. That independence however, comes after a period of reparations and support from the imperialists "until we can do for ourselves." (1) Sounds like someone's looking for a deal. There is no acknowledgement by the NBPP of the exploitative relations under capitalism that will only be replicated by the new bourgeois masters under their plan for an independent Black economy. Or more likely the imperialists will still pull the strings and make most of the profits while the Black masters keep the people in line as is the case throughout most of Africa.
When asked what the perfect world would be, or what they are struggling for Shabazz said an independent Black Nation, with its own territory and Farrakhan as president. MIM supports the call for an independent Black Nation with its own territory, as we support the right to self-determination of all nations. But we also recognize the necessity to overthrow capitalism for freedom and an end to exploitation to ever come to fruition. The original Black Panther Party saw the solution to Black oppression in revolutionary communism, and nothing has happened to change that reality today.
(2) One-on-One: An Interview with Malik Zulu Shabazz. FinalCall.com News,
10 March 2005. http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/printer_1858.shtml
(3) Washington Times.
(6) The Black Panther. 4 January 1967, p. 7.
(7) Norton, Rictor. A History of Homophobia.
(8) NATION OF ISLAM PUSHES METAPHYSICS, CRYPTO-PACIFISM. MIM Notes 124, 15
October 1996. http://www.prisoncensorship.info/archive/etext/mn/mn.php?issue=124