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Friday, July 31, 2009

A teachable moment

In 1966, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense was founded in Oakland, California.

Huey Newton and Bobby Seale were joined by Elbert “Big Man” Howard, Sherman Forte and Little Bobby Hutton, in the stated defense of minority communities against the U.S. Government. From Maoism, they worked to develop a united front and used the theory of dialectical materialism to further their ends. Dialectical materialism is basically the theoretical foundation of Marxism – Communism is the actual practice of being Marxist.

The name Huey Newton may be familiar because he was accused of being a cop-killer. “Free Huey” became a repeated battle cry – matched with “Black Power,” a term pushed by Stokely Carmichael who once said, “If we are to proceed toward true liberation, we must cut ourselves off from white people..... (or) we will find ourselves entwined in the tentacles of the white power complex that controls this country."

The Panthers became directly involved in gun-running in 1968, using the sale of Mao’s Red Book to fund the purchase of shotguns. Mao’s book is a treatise on reorganizing society. Page 304 of the book has an excerpt, which oddly resonates with some of the activities surrounding our current U.S. administration’s activities:

“Marxist philosophy holds that the most important problem does not lie in understanding the laws of the objective world and thus being able to explain it, but in applying the knowledge of these laws actively to change the world.” – Mao.

And perhaps even more frightening:

“It is man's social being that determines his thinking. Once the correct ideas characteristic of the advanced class are grasped by the masses, these ideas turn into a material force, which changes society and changes the world.” – Mao.

So what does this have to do with you, here in the current day?

Consider that sometimes it is the small things, which are really the most illuminating. It’s like being in a dark room with an elephant. You can hear it and smell it, but you can only feel small sections of it at one time. It’s not possible to get a full picture of the whole creature unless you focus on the right part.

The story of two Black Panther Party for Self Defense members, National Chairman Milik Zulu Shabazz and party member Jerry Jackson who both faced charges for violating the Voting Rights Act, broke on the national news media almost immediately. But the reports of their alleged coercion, threats and intimidation of voters November 4, 2008 at a Philadelphia polling station was largely given a surface treatment by most of the media.

The original charges against these individuals were filed when President George Bush was in office. Those charges, however, were dropped by the current administration’s Justice Department. Attorney General Eric Holder has, according to Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) allegedly ignored at least three letters sent over the past month by Republicans requesting details.

In fact, the only charge allowed to stand, is that against Shabazz, who was charged with brandishing a “deadly weapon.”

Perhaps that should have been the end of it, but Wolf is pressing Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) to hold a hearing, investigating the matter. An interesting side note to this is that Wolf has said that one of the Black Panther members was carrying a local Democratic committee card.

An affidavit filed by a veteran voting rights activist adds a soundtrack to the memorable video of the two Panthers, standing about 15 feet from voting booths in military attire while Shabazz tapped and pointed his nightstick at passing people. The rights activist’s affidavit alledges the two men directed a few comments toward poll workers, such as, “you are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker.”

Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) defended the two men, saying the charges are “bull.”

But there’s something more to be gleaned from all this.

The current 10-point platform of the Black Panther Party has within its’ tenets, the following:

• We believe that this wicked racist government has robbed us and now we are demanding the overdue debt of reparations.
• We will accept payment in fertile and mine rally rich land, precious metals, industry, commerce and currency.
•People’s tribunals must be set up to prosecute and execute.
• We want decent housing, fit for human beings, free health care (preventative and maintenance).
• We want educaton for our people that exposes the true nature of this devilish and decadent American society.
• We want all black men and black women to be exempt from military service.
• We want freedom for all black men and black women held in international, military, federal, state county, city jails and prisons.
• History has proven that the white man is absolutely disagreeable to get along with in peace. No one has been able to get along with the white man. We believe that his very nature will not allow for true sharing, fairness, equity and justice.

Does racism exist? Unfortunately, yes. Is it fueled by some of the best, unintentionally? Probably. Is it fueled by some of the worst, intentionally? Well, you can look at the above selections from the Panthers’ 10-point platform and judge for yourself.

But, when you’re in the dark room with a big creature, trying to determine its’ nature, it might be useful to start at ground level. What is the base for the thing and how far does it extend? What are the capabilities, the dangers?

Look at the incident itself – only two guys standing around, acting tough. But when you look at where they come from – what they believe, and what the history of their organization is, you might come to a different conclusion.

As the recent Panther incident is at least, potentially, just a small part of something much larger, standing in that dark room with us, let’s look again at Mao Tse Tung, who wrote the Panther’s foundation document. Ask yourself if any of the following seems like the direction the U.S. government is going, and then ask yourself - why?:

The people's state protects the people. Only when the people have such a state can they educate and remold themselves by democratic methods on a country-wide scale, with everyone taking part, and shake off the influence of domestic and foreign reactionaries (which is still very strong, will survive for a long time and cannot be quickly destroyed), rid themselves of the bad habits and ideas acquired in the old society, not allow themselves to be led astray by the reactionaries, and continue to advance - to advance towards a socialist and communist society.
- "On the People's Democratic Dictatorship" (June 30, 1949). Selected Works, Vol. IV, p. 418.*

Is any of this a teachable moment?

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