Interview with Huey P. Newton (1968)
THE MOVEMENT: The question of nationalism is a vital one in the black movement today. Some have made a distinction between cultural nationalism and revolutionary nationalism. Would you comment on the differences and give us your views?
THE MOVEMENT: The question of nationalism is a vital one in the black movement today. Some have made a distinction between cultural nationalism and revolutionary nationalism. Would you comment on the differences and give us your views?
HUEY P. NEWTON: There are two kinds of nationalism, revolutionary nationalism and reactionary nationalism. Revolutionary nationalism is first dependent upon a people’s revolution with the end goal being the people in power. Therefore to be a revolutionary nationalist you would by necessity have to be a socialist. It you are a reactionary nationalist you are not a socialist and your end goal to the oppression of the people.
Cultural nationalism, or pork chop nationalism, as I sometimes call it, is basically a problem of having the wrong political perspective. It seems to be a reaction instead of responding to political oppression. The cultural nationalists are concerned with returning to the old African culture and thereby regaining their identity and freedom. In other words, they feel that the African culture will automatically bring political freedom. Many times cultural nationalists fall into line as reactionary nationalists.
Papa Doc in Haiti is an excellent example of reactionary nationalism. He oppresses the people but he does promote the African culture. He’s against anything other than black, which on the surface seems very good, but for him it is only to mislead the people. He merely kicked out the racists and replaced them with himself as the oppressor. Many of the nationalists in this country seem to desire the same ends.
The Black Panther Party, which is a revolutionary group of black people, realizes that we have to have an identity. We have to realize our black heritage in order to give us strength to move on and progress. But as far as returning to the old African culture, it’s unnecessary and it’s not advantageous in many respects. We believe that culture itself will not liberate us. We’re going to need some stronger stuff.
A good example of revolutionary nationalism was the revolution in Algeria when Ben Bella took over. The French were kicked out but it was a people’s revolution because the people ended up power. The leaders that took over were not interested in the profit motive where they could exploit the people and keep them in a state of slavery. They nationalized the industry and plowed the would be profits into the community. That’s what socialism is all about in a nut The people’s representatives are in office strictly on the leave of the people. The wealth of the country is controlled by people and they are considered when ever modifications in the industries are made.
The Black Panther Party is a revolutionary Nationalist group and we see a major contradiction between capitalism in this country and our interests. We realize that this country became very rich upon slavery and that slavery is capitalism in the extreme. We have two evils to fight, capitalism and racism. We must destroy both racism and capitalism.
MOVEMENT: Directly related to question of nationalism is the question of unity within the black community. There has been some question about this since the Black Panther Party has run candidates against other black candidates in recent California elections. What is your position an this matter?
HUEY: Well a very peculiar thing has happened. Historically you got what Malcolm X calls the field nigger and the house nigger. The house nigger had privileges, a little more. He got the worn-out clothes of the master and he didn’t have to work as hard as the field black. He came to respect the master to such an extent until he identified with the master because he got a few of the leftovers that the field blacks did not get. And through this identity with him, he saw the slavemaster’s interest being his interest. Sometimes he would even protect the slavemaster more than the slavemaster would protect himself. Malcolm makes the point that if the master’s house happened to catch on fire the house Negro will work harder than the master to put the fire out and save the master’s house. While the field Negro, the field blacks was praying that house burned down. The house black identified with the master so much when the master would get sick the house Negro would say, Master, we’s sick!
The Black Panther Party are the field blacks, we’re hoping the master dies if he gets sick. The Black bourgeoisie seem to be acting in the role of the house Negro. They are pro-administration. They would
like a few concessions made, but as far as the overall setup, they have a little more material goods, a little more advantage, a few more privileges than the black have-nots; the lower class. And so they identify with the power structure and they see their interests as the power structure’s interest. In fact, it’s against
The Black Panther Party was forced to draw a line of demarcation. We are for all of those who are for the promotion of the interests of the black have-nots, which represents about 98% of blacks here in America. We’re not controlled by the white mother country radicals nor are we controlled by the black bourgeois. We have a mind of our own and if the black bourgeoisie cannot align itself with our complete program, then the black bourgeoisie sets itself up as or enemy. And they will be attacked and treated as such.
MOVEMENT: The Black Panther Party has had considerable contact with white radicals since its earliest days. What do you see as the role of these white radicals?
Huey: The white mother country radical is the off-spring of the children of the beast that has plundered the world exploiting all people, concentrating on the people of color. These are children of The beast that seek now to be redeemed because they realize that their former heroes who were slave masters and murderers, put forth ideas that were only facades to hide the treachery they inflicted upon the world. They are turning their backs on their fathers.
The white mother country radical, resisting the system, becomes somewhat of an abstract thing because he’s not oppressed as much as black people are. As matter of fact his oppression is somewhat abstract simply because he doesn’t have to live in a reality of oppression.
Black people in America and colored people throughout the world suffer not only from exploitation, but they suffer from racism. Black people here in America, in the black colony, are oppressed because we’re black and we’re exploited . The whites are rebels, many them from the middle class and as far as any overt oppression this is not case. So therefore I call their rejection of the system somewhat of an abstract thing. They’re looking for new heroes. They’re looking to wash away hypocrisy that their fathers have presented to the world. In doing this they see the people who are really fighting for freedom. They see the people are really standing for justice and equality and peace throughout the world. They are the people of Vietnam, the people of Latin America, the people of Asia, the people of Africa, and the black people in the black colony here in America.
This presents somewhat of a problem, in many ways to the black revolutionary, especially to the cultural nationalist. The cultural nationalist doesn’t understand the revolutionaries because he can’t see why anyone white would turn on the system So they think that maybe this is some more hypocrisy being planted by white people. I personally think that there are many young white revolutionaries who are sincere in attempting to realign themselves with mankind, and to make a reality out the high moral standards that their fathers and forefathers only expressed. In pressing for new heroes the young white revolutionaries found the heroes in the black colony at home and in the colonies throughout the world.
The young white revolutionaries raised the cry for the troops to withdraw from Vietnam, hands off Latin America, withdraw from the Dominican Republic and also to withdraw from the black community or the black colony. So you have a situation in which the young white revolutionaries attempting to identify with the oppressed people of the colonies and against the exploiter.
The problem arises then in what part they can play. How can they aid the colony? How can they aid the Black Panther Party or any other black revolutionary group? They can aid the black revolutionaries first by simply turning away from the establishment, and secondly by choosing their friends. For instance, they have a choice between whether they will be a friend of Lyndon Baines Johnson or a friend of Fidel Castro. A friend of Robert Kennedy or a friend of Ho Chi Minh. And these are direct opposites. A friend of mine or a friend of Johnsons. After they make this choice then the white revolutionaries have a duty and a responsibility to act.
The imperialistic or capitalistic system occupies areas. It occupies Vietnam now. They occupy them by sending soldiers there, by sending policeman there. The policemen or soldiers are only a gun in the establishments hand. They make the racist secure in his racism. The gun in the establishment’s hand makes the establishment secure in its exploitation. The first problem it seems is to remove the gun from the establishment’s hand. Until lately the white radical has seen no reason to come into conflict with the policemen in his own community. The reason I said until recently is because there is friction now in the mother country between the young white revolutionaries and the police. Because now the white revolutionaries are attempting to put some of their ideas into action, and there’s the rub. We say that it should be a permanent thing.
Black people are being oppressed in the colony by white policemen, by white racists. We are saying they must withdraw. We realize that it is not only the Oakland police department but rather the security forces in general. On April 6 it wasn’t just the Oakland police department who ambushed the Panthers. It was the Oakland police department, the Emeryville police department and I wouldn’t be surprised if there were others. When the white revolutionaries went down to close up the Army terminal in October 1965 it wasn’t the Oakland police by themselves who tried to stop them. It was the Oakland police, the Berkeley police, the Highway Patrol, the Sheriff’s Department and the national guard was standing by. So we see that they’re all part of one organization. They’re all a part of the security force to protect the status quo; to make sure that the institutions carry out their goals. They’re here to protect the system.
As far as I’m concerned the only reasonable conclusion would be to first realize the enemy, realize the plan, and then when something happens in the black colony-when we’ re attacked and ambushed in the black colony–then the white revolutionary students and intellectuals and all the other whites who support the colony should respond by defending us, by attacking the enemy in their community. Every time that we’re attacked in our community there should be a reaction by the white revolutionaries; they should respond by defending us, by attacking part of the security force. Part of that security force that is determined to carry out the racist ends of the American institutions.
As far as our party is concerned, the Black Panther Party is an all black party, because we feel as Malcolm X felt that there can be no black-white unity until there first is black unity. We have a problem in the black colony that is particular to the colony, but we’re willing to accept aid from the mother country as long as the mother country radicals realize that we have, as Eldridge Cleaver says in SOUL ON ICE, a mind of our own. We’ve regained our mind that was taken away from us and we will decide the political as well as the practical stand that we’ll take. We’ll make the theory and we’ll carry out the practice. It’s the duty of the white revolutionary to aid us in this.
So the role of the mother country radical and he does have a role, is to first choose his friend and his enemy and after doing this, which it seems he’s already done, then to not only articulate his desires to regain his moral standard and align himself with humanity, but also to put this into practice by attacking the protectors of the institutions.
MOVEMENT: You have spoken a lot about dealing with the protectors of the system, the armed forces. Would you like to elaborate on why you place so much emphasis on this?
HUEY: The reasons that I feel very strongly about dealing with the protectors of the system is simply because without this protection from the army, the police and the military, the institutions could not go on in their racism and exploitation. For instance, as the Vietnamese are driving the American imperialist troops out of Vietnam, It automatically stops the racist imperialist institutions of America from oppressing that particular country. The country cannot implement its racist program without the guns. And the guns are the military and the police. If the military were disarmed in Vietnam, then the Vietnamese would be victorious.
We are in the same situation here in America. Whenever we attack the system the first thing the administrators do is to send out their strongarm men. If it’s a rent strike, because of the indecent housing we have, they will send out the police to throw the furniture out the window. They don’t come themselves. They send their protectors. So to deal with the corrupt exploiter you are going to have to deal with his protector, which is the police who take orders from him. This is a must.
MOVEMENT: Would you like to be more specific on the conditions which must exist before an alliance or coalition can be formed with predominantly white groups? Would you comment specifically on your alliance with the California Peace and Freedom Party?
HUEY: We have an alliance with the Peace and Freedom Party. The Peace and Freedom Party has supported our program in full and this is the criterion for a coalition with the black revolutionary group. If they had not supported our program in full, then we would not have seen any reason to make an alliance with them, because we are the reality of the oppression. They are not. They are only oppressed in an abstract way; we are oppressed in the real way. We are the real slaves! So it’s a problem that we suffer from more than anyone else and it’s our problem of liberation. Therefore we should decide what measures and what tools and what programs to use to become liberated. Many of the young white revolutionaries realize this and I see no reason not to have a coalition with them.
MOVEMENT: Other black groups seem to feel that from past experience it is impossible for them to work with whites and impossible for them to form alliances. What do you see as the reasons for this and do you think that the history of the Black Panther Party makes this less of a problem?
SNCC and Liberals
HUEY: There was somewhat of an unhealthy relationship in the past with the white liberals supporting the black people who were trying to gain their freedom. I think that a good example of this would be the relationship that SNCC had with its white liberals. I call them white liberals because they differ strictly from the white radicals. The relationship was that the whites controlled SNCC for a very long time. From the very start of SNCC until here recently whites were the mind of SNCC, They controlled the program of SNCC with money and they controlled the ideology, or the stands SNCC would take. The blacks in SNCC were completely controlled program-wise; they couldn’t do any more than these white liberals wanted them to do, which wasn’t very much. So the white liberals were not working for self-determination for the black community. They were interested in a few concessions from the power structure. They undermined SNCC’s program.
Stokely Carmichael came along and realizing this started to follow Malcolm X’s program of Black Power. This frightened many of the white liberals who were supporting SNCC. Whites were afraid when Stokely came along with Black Power and said that black people have a mind of their own and that SNCC would be an all black organization and that SNCC would seek self-determination for the black community. The white liberals withdrew their support leaving the organization financially bankrupt. The blacks who were in the organization, Stokely and H. Rap Brown, were left very angry with the white liberals who had been aiding them under the disguise of being sincere. They weren’t sincere.
The result was that the leadership of SNCC turned away from the white liberal, which was very good. I don’t think they distinguished between the white liberal and the white revolutionary, because the white revolutionary is white also and they are very much afraid to have any contact whatsoever with white people. Even to the point of denying that the white revolutionaries could give support, by supporting the programs of SNCC in the mother country. Not by making any programs, not by being a member of the organization, but simply by resisting. Just as the Vietnamese people realize that they are supported whenever other oppressed people throughout the world resist. Because it helps divide the troops. It drains the country militarily and economically. If the mother country radicals are sincere then this will definitely add to the attack that we are making on the power structure. The Black Panther Party’s program is a program where we recognize that the revolution in the mother country will definitely aid us in our freedom and has everything to do with our struggle!
Hate the Oppressor
I think that one of SNCC’s great problems Is that they were controlled by the traditional administrator: the omnipotent administrator, the white person. He was the mind of SNCC. And so SNCC regained its mind, but I believe that It lost its political perspective. I think that this was a reaction rather than a response. The Mack Panther Party his NEVER been controlled by white people. The Black Panther Party has always been a black group. We have always had an integration of mind and body. We have never been controlled by whites and therefore we don’t fear the white mother country radicals. Our alliance Is one of organized black groups with organized white groups. As soon as the organized white groups do not do the things that would benefit us in our struggle for liberation, that will be our departure point. So we don’t suffer in the hang-up of a skin color. We don’ t hate white people; we hate the oppressor. And. If the oppressor happens to be white then we hate him. When he stops oppressing us then we no longer hate him. And right now in America you have the slave-master being a white group. We are pushing him out of office through revolution in this country. I think the responsibility of the white revolutionary will be to aid us In this. And when we are attacked by the police or by the military then It will be up to the white mother country radicals to attack the murderers and to respond as we respond, to follow our program.
MOVEMENT: You indicate that there is a psychological process that has historically existed in white- black relations in the U.S. that must change in the course of revolutionary struggle. Would you like to comment on this?
HUEY: Yes. The historical relationship between black and white here in America has been the relationship between the slave and the master; the master being the mind and the slave the body. The slave would carry out the orders that the mind demanded him to carry out. By doing this the master took the manhood from the slave because he stripped him of a mind. He stripped black people of their mind. In the process the slavemaster stripped himself of a body. As Eldridge puts it the slave master became the omnipotent administrator and the slave became the supermasculine menial. This puts the omnipotent administrator into the controlling position or the front office and the supermasculine menial into the field.
The whole relationship developed so that the omnipotent administrator and the supermasculine menial became opposites. The slave being a very strong body doing all the practical things, all of the work becomes very masculine. The omnipotent administrator in the process of removing himself from all body functions realizes later that he has emasculated himself. And this is very disturbing to him. So the slave lost his mind and the slave-master his body.
This caused the slave-master to become very envious of the slave because he pictured the slave as being more of a man, being superior sexually, because the penis is part of the body. The omnipotent administrator laid down a decree when he realized that his plan to enslave the black man had a flaw, when he discovered that he had emasculated himself. He attempted to bind the penis of the slave. He attempted to show that his penis could reach further than the supermasculine menial’s penis. He said I, the omnipotent administrator can have access to the black woman. The supermasculine menial then had a psychological attraction to the white woman (the ultra feminine freak) for the simple reason that it was forbidden fruit. The omnipotent administrator decreed that this kind of contact would be punished by death. At the same time in order to reinforce his sexual desire, to confirm, to assert his manhood, he would go into the slave quarters and have sexual relations with the black women (the self-reliant Amazon). Not to be satisfied but simply to confirm his manhood. Because if he can only have the self-reliant Amazon then he would be sure that he was a man. Because he doesn’t have a body, he doesn’t have a penis, he psychologically wants to castrate the black man. The slave was constantly seeking unity within himself: a mind and a body. He always wanted to be able decide, to gain respect from his woman. Because women want one who can control. I give this outline to fit into a framework of what is happening now. The white power structure today in America defines itself as the mind. They want to control the world. They go off and plunder the world. They are the policemen of the world exercising control especially over people of color.
Re-capture the Mind
The white man cannot gain his manhood, cannot unite with the body because the body is black. The body is symbolic of slavery and strength. It’s a biological thing as he views It, The slave is in a much better situation because his being a full man has always been viewed psychologically. And it’s always easier to make a psychological transition than a biological one. If he can only recapture his mind, recapture his balls, then he will lose all fear and will be will be free to determine his destiny. This is what is happening at this time with the rebellion of the world’s oppressed people against the controller. They are regaining their mind and they’re saying that we have mind of our own. They’re saying that we want freedom to determine the destiny of our people, thereby uniting the mind with their bodies. They are taking the mind back from the omnipotent administrator, the controller, the exploiter.
In America black people are also chanting that we have a mind of our own. We must have freedom to determine our destiny. It’s almost a spiritual thing, this unity, this harmony. This unity of the mind and of the body, this of man within himself. Certain slogans of Chairman Mao I think demonstrate this theory of uniting the mind with the body within the man. An example is his call to the intellectuals to go to the countryside. The peasants in the countryside are all bodies; they’re the workers. And he sent the intellectuals there because the dictatorship of the proletariat has no room for the omnipotent administrator; there’s no room for the exploiter. So therefore he must go to the countryside to regain his body; he must work. He is really done a favor, because the people force him to unite his mind with body by putting them both to work. At the same time the intellectual teaches the people political ideology, he educates them, thus uniting the mind and body in the peasant. Their minds bodies are united and they control their country. I think this Is a very good example of this unity and it is my idea of the perfect man.
MOVEMENT: You mentioned at another point that the guerrilla was the perfect man and this kind of formulation seem to fit in directly with the guerrilla as a political man. Would you like to comment on this?
HUEY: Yes. The guerrilla is a very unique man. This is in contrast to Marxist-Leninist orthodox theories where the party controls the military. The guerrilla is only the warrior, the military fighter; he is also the military commander as well as the political theoretician. Debray says poor the pen without the guns, poor the gun without the pen?. The pen being just an extension of the mind, a tool to write down concepts, ideas. The gun is only an extension of the body, the extension of our fanged teeth that we lost through evolution. It’s the weapon, it’s the claws that we lost, it’s the body. The guerrilla is the military commander and the political theoretician all in one.
In Bolivia Che said that he got very little help from the Communist Party there. The Communist Party wanted to be the mind, the Communist Party wanted to have fall control of the guerrilla activity. But yet weren’t taking part in the practical work of the guerrillas. The guerrilla on the other hand is not only united within himself, but he also attempts to spread this to the people by educating the villagers, giving them political perspective , pointing out things, educating them politically, and arming the people. Therefore the guerrilla is giving the peasants and workers a mind. Because they’ve already got the body you get a unity of the mind and the body. Black people here In America, who have long been the workers, have regained our minds and we now have a unity of mind and body.
MOVEMENT: Would you be willing to extend this formula in terms of white radicals; to say that one of their struggles today is to get back -their bodies.
HUEY: Yes. I thought I made that clear. The white mother country radical by becoming an activist is attempting to regain his body. By being in activist and not the traditional theoretician who outlines the plan, as the communist party has been trying to do for ever so long, the white mother country radical is regaining his body. The resistance by white radicals in Berkeley during the past three nights is a good indication that the white radicals are on the way home. They have identified their enemies. The white radicals have integrated theory with practice. They realize the American system is the real enemy but in order to attack the American system they must attack the ordinary cop. In order to attack the educational system they must attack the ordinary teacher. Just as the Vietnamese people to attack the American system must attack the ordinary soldier. The white mother country radicals now are regaining their bodies and they’re also recognizing that the black man has a mind and that he Is a man.
MOVEMENT: Would you comment on how this psychological understanding aids in the revolutionary struggle?
HUEY- You can see that in statements until recently black people who haven’t been enlightened have defined the white man by calling him the MAN. The Man is making this decision, The Man this and The Man that. The black woman found it difficult to respect the black man because he didn’t even define himself as a man! Because he didn’t have a mind, because the decision maker was outside of himself. But the vanguard group, the Black Panther Party along with all revolutionary black groups have regained our mind and our manhood. Therefore we no longer define the omnipotent administrator as the Man . . . or the authority as the MAN. Matter of fact the omnipotent administrator along with his security agents are less than a man because WE define them as pigs! I think that this is a revolutionary thing in itself. That’s political power. That’s power itself. Matter of fact what is power other than the ability to define phenomenon and then make it act in a desired manner? When black people start defining things and making it act in a desired manner, then we call this Black Power!
MOVEMENT: Would you comment further on what you mean by Black Power?
HUEY: Black Power is really people’s power. The Black Panther Program, Panther Power as we call it, will implement this people’s power. We have respect for all of humanity and we realize that the people should rule and determine their destiny. Wipe out the controller. To have Black Power doesn’t humble or subjugate anyone to slavery or oppression. Black Power is giving power to people who have not had power to determine their destiny. We advocate and we aid any people who are struggling to determine their destiny. This is regardless of color. The Vietnamese say Vietnam should be able to determine its own destiny. Power of the Vietnamese people. We also chant power of the Vietnamese people. The Latins are talking about Latin America for the Latin Americans. Cuba Si and Yanqui, Non. It’s not that they don’t want the Yankees to have any power they just don’t want them to have power over them. They can have power over themselves. We in the black colony in America want to be able to have power over our destiny and that’s black power.
MOVEMENT: A lot of white radicals are romantic about what Che said: In a revolution one wins or dies . . . For most of us it is really an abstract or theoretical question. It’s a real question for you and we’d like you to rap about how you feel about it.
Huey: Yes. The revolutionary sees no compromise. We will not compromise because the issue is so basic. If we compromise one iota, we will be selling our freedom out. We will be selling the revolution out. And we refuse to remain slaves. As Eldridge says in SOUL ON ICE a slave who dies of natural causes will not balance two dead flies on the scales of eternity. As far as we’re concerned we would rather be dead than to go on with the slavery that we’re in. Once we compromise we will be compromising not only our freedom, but also our manhood. We realize that we’re going up against a highly technical country, and we realize that they are not only paper tigers, as Mao says, but real tigers too because they have the ability to slaughter many people. But in the long run, they will prove themselves paper tigers because they’re not in, line with humanity; they are divorced from the people. We know that the enemy is very powerful and that our manhood is at stake, but we feel it necessary to be victorious In regaining ourselves, regaining our manhood. And this is the basic point. So either we will do this or we won’t have any freedom. Either we will win or we will the trying to win.
Mood of Black People
MOVEMENT: How would you characterize the mood of black people in America today? Are they disenchanted, wanting a larger slice of the pie, or alienated, not wanting to integrate into a burning house, not wanting to integrate into Babylon? What do you think it will take for them to become alienated and revolutionary?
HUEY: I was going to say disillusioned, but I don’t think we were ever under the illusion that we had freedom in this country. This society is definitely a decadent one and we realize it. Black people are realizing it more and more. We cannot gain our freedom under the present system; the system that is carrying out its plans of institutionalized racism. Your question is what will have to be done to stimulate them to revolution. I think it’s already being done. It’s a matter of time now for us to educate them to a program and show them the way to liberation. The Black Panther Party is the beacon light to show black people the way to liberation
You notice the Insurrections that have been going on throughout the country, in Watts, In Newark, in Detroit. They were all responses of the people demanding that they have freedom to determine their destiny, rejecting exploitation. Now the Black Panther Party does not think that the traditional riots, or insurrections that have taken place are the answer. it is true they have been against the Establishment, they have been against authority and oppression within their community, but they have been unorganized. However, black people learned from each of these insurrections.
They learned from Watts. I’m sure the people in Detroit were educated by what happened in Watts. Perhaps this was wrong education. It sort of missed the mark. It wasn’t quite the correct activity, but the people were educated through the activity. The people of Detroit followed the example of the people In Watts, only they added a little scrutiny to It. The people in Detroit learned that the way to put a hurt on the administration is to make Molotov cocktails and to go Into the street in mass numbers. So this was a matter of learning. The slogan went up Burn, baby, burn’. People were educated through the activity and it spread throughout the country. The people were educated on how to resist, but Perhaps incorrectly.
Educate Though Activity
What we have to do as a vanguard of the revolution is to correct this through activity. The large majority of black people are either illiterate or semiliterate. They don’t read. They need activity to follow. This is true of any colonized people. The same thing happened in Cuba where it was necessary for twelve men with a leadership of Che and Fidel to take to the hills and then attack the corrupt administration; to attack the army who were the protectors of the exploiters in Cuba. They could have leafleted the community and they could have written books, but the people would not respond. They had to act and the people could see and hear about it and therefore become educated on how to respond to oppression.
In this country black revolutionaries have to set in example. We can’t do the same things that were done in Cuba because Cuba is Cuba and the U.S. is the U.S. Cuba has many terrains to protect the guerrilla. This country is mainly urban. we have to work out new solutions to offset the power of the country’s technology and communication; its ability to communicate very rapidly by telephone and teletype and so forth.
We do have solutions to these problems and they will be put into effect. I wouldn’t want to go into the ways and means of this, but we will educate through action. We have to engage in action to make the people want to read our literature. Because they are not attracted to all the writing in this country; there’s too much writing. Many books makes one weary.
Threat from Reformers
MOVEMENT: Kennedy before his death and to a lesser extent Rockefeller and Lindsay and other establishment liberals have been talking about making reforms to give black people a greater share in the pie and thus stop any developing revolutionary movement. Would you comment on this?
HUEY. I would say this: If a Kennedy or Lindsay or anyone else can give decent housing to all of our people; if they can give full employment to our People with a high standard; if they can give full control to black people to determine the destiny of their community; if they can give fair trials in the court system by turning over the structure to the community; if they can end their exploitation of people throughout the world; if they can do all of these things they would have solved the problems. But I don’t believe that under this present system, under capitalism, that they will be able to solve these problems.
People Must Control
I don’t think black people should be fooled by their come-ons because every one who gets in office promises the same thing. They promise full employment and decent housing; the Great Society, the New Frontier, All of these names, but no real benefits. No effects are felt in the black community, and black people are tired of being deceived and duped, The people must have full control of the means of production. Small black businesses cannot compete with General Motors. That’s just out of the question. General Motors robbed us and worked us for nothing for a couple hundred years and took our money and set up factories and became fat and rich and then talks about giving us some of the crumbs. We want full control. We’re not interested in anyone promising that the private owners are going to all of a sudden become human beings and give these things to our community. It hasn’t ever happened and, based on empirical evidence, we don’t expect them to become Buddhists over night.
MOVEMENT: We raised this question not because we feel that these reforms are possible, but rather to get your ideas on what effects such attempted reforms might have on the development of a revolutionary struggle.
HUEY: I think that reforms pose no real threat. The revolution has always been in the hands of the young. The young always inherit the revolution. The young population is growing at a very rapid rate and they are very displeased with the authorities. They want control. I doubt that under the present system any kind of program can be launched that will be able to buy off all these young people. They have not been able to do it with the poverty program, the great society, etc. This country has never been able to employ all of its people simply because it’s too interested in private property and the profit motive. A bigger poverty program is just what it says it is, a program to keep people in poverty, So I don’t think that there is any real threat from the reforms.
MOVEMENT. Would you like to say something about the Panther’s organizing especially in terms of the youth?
HUEY. The Panthers represent a cross section of the black community. We have older people as well as younger people. The younger people of course are the ones who are seen on the streets. They are the activists. They are the real vanguard of change because they haven’t been indoctrinated and they haven’t submitted. They haven’t been beaten into line as some of the older people have. But many of the older people realize that we’re waging a just fight against the oppressor. They are aiding us and they are taking a part in the program.
MOVEMENT: Tell us something about your relations with the prisoners in the jail
HUEY- The black prisoners as well as many of the white prisoners identify with the program of the Panthers. Of course by the very nature of their being prisoners they can see the oppression and they’ve suffered at the hands of the Gestapo. They have reacted to it. The black prisoners have all joined the Panthers, about 95% of them. Now the jail is all Panther and the police are very worried about this. The white prisoners can identify with us because they realize that they are not in control. They realize there’s someone controlling them and the rest of the world with guns. They want some control over their lives also. The Panthers in jail have been educating them and so we are going along with the revolution inside of the jail.
MOVEMENT: What has been the effect of the demonstrations outside the jail calling for Free Huey ?
HUEY: Very positive reactions. One demonstration, I don’t remember which one, a couple of trustees, white trustees, held a cardboard sign out the laundry window reading *Free Huey. They say people saw it and responded to it. They were very enthusiastic about the demonstrators because they too suffer from being treated unfairly by the parole authorities and by the police here in the jail.
Open or Underground
MOVEMENT: The Panthers organizing efforts have been very open up until this point. Would you like to comment about the question of an underground political organization versus an open organization at this point in the struggle?
HUEY: Yeah. Some of the black nationalist groups feel that they have to be underground because they’ll be attacked. But we don’t feel that you can romanticize being underground. They say we’re romantic because we’re trying to live revolutionary lives, and we are not taking precautions. But we say that the only way we would go underground is if we’re driven underground. All real revolutionary movements are driven underground. Take the revolution in Cuba. The agitation that was going on while Fidel was in law school was very much above ground. Even his existence in the hills was, so to speak, an above the ground affair because he was letting it be known who was doing the damage and why he was doing the damage. To catch him was a different story. The only way we can educate the people is by setting an example for them. We feel that this is very necessary.
This is a pre-revolutionary period and we feel it is very necessary to educate the people while we can. So we’re very open about this education. We have been attacked and we will be attacked even more in the future but we’re not going to go underground until we get ready to go underground because we have a mind of our own. We’re not going to let anyone force us to do anything. We’re going to go underground after we educate all of the blank people and not before that time. Then it wont really be necessary for us to go underground because you can see black anywhere. We will just have the stuff to protect ourselves and the strategy to offset the great power that the strong-arm men of the establishment have and are planning to use against us.
MOVEMENT: Your comments about the white prisoners seemed encouraging. Do you see the possibility of organizing a white Panther Party in opposition to the establishment possibly among poor and working whites?
HUEY: Well as I put it before Black Power is people ‘s power and as far as organizing white people we give white people the privilege of having a mind and we want them to get a body. They can organize themselves. We can tell them what they should do, what their responsibility is if they’re going to claim to be white revolutionaries or white mother country radicals, and that is to arm themselves and support the colonies around the world in their just struggle against imperialism. But anything more than that they will have to do on their own.
Source: The Movement: August 1968
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