Tag Archives: black panthers

Bay Area Class Struggle History: Panthers at Peralta Colleges

The roots of the Black Panther Party (BPP) lie within student struggle for fully-funded public education reflecting Black history, culture, and struggle. The founders of the party, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, met at Merritt College in Oakland and began to struggle for education together with other black students. But unlike liberal forces in the movement, Newton and Seale saw the necessity to connect their struggle as black students to structural oppression in working-class black communities. Police murder and beatings combined with a deadly lack of jobs, healthcare, food and affordable housing; the BPP saw that the struggle for control over our schools must be connected to the revolutionary struggle for control over our communities. Looking to the present not a whole lot has changed in Oakland: the BART police murder of Oscar Grant and the numerous murders committed by OPD before and after him demonstrate that state-sponsored racism and violence continues to oppress and kill us; East Oakland has some of the highest rates of foreclosures in the state creating more and more homeless families; health clinics and other vital social services continue to get cut back or completely eliminated; free after-school youth programs and daycare centers continue to close down placing more burdens on working-class mothers, who struggle to find ways to make sure their children are cared for when they attend work and/or school. A central difference between then and now is the lack of an organization like the BPP striving to connect these issues and build community control. There is however a growing student movement, which is trying to fight the budget cuts and demand affordable quality education. There are also BPP sun, flag, fistindividuals and organizations who, like Bobby and Huey, are trying to connect the student struggle to broader issues affecting the working-class as a whole. One of these is the militant student organization Student Unity & Power (SUP), which exists at San Francisco State University, City College of San Francisco, and Laney College. The Laney College branch has put forth a very important analysis demonstrating their radical perspective while drawing from the rich local history of one of the most inspiring and influential revolutionary organizations of all time, The Black Panther Party. This analysis will be useful as we move forward in our struggles for freedom, peep game!


Panthers at Peralta

by Laney College Student Unity & Power

SUP draws inspiration from the birth of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in October 1966 when Huey Newton and Bobby Seale met as students on 57th and Grove St. (now Martin Luther King Jr. Way) at Merritt College. Unliketoday’s view of Peralta as a job training hub, the Panthers saw the campus as “not a typical institution for so-called higher learning. Grove Street College is what is called a community college: a place where, for a variety of reasons, people who don’t have an opportunity to attend larger colleges and universities go to seek knowledge and hope for a better life.” The Grove Street campus also represented a base for organizing the neighborhood and a place to demand self-determination for Black and all oppressed people via community control of the curriculum, operations and facilities of the College. While engaged in militant resistance to the District, rank-and-file Panther women built counter-institutions to reproduce their culture of struggle.

This piece is an effort to remember the lessons of their struggle. Continue reading

A New Generation Engages with Angela Davis

This is a review of Angela Davis’ Autobiography, written by a friend of AS who does not consider herself a communist or a revolutionary but is learning about both as she organizes against budget cuts at a Bay Area community college. We are posting it because we like its raw feel and honest approach to issues that Angela Davis confronts throughout her life. These issues are political and personal, two dimensions to human existence that AS does not see as being separate.  We do not necessarily agree with all the conclusions our friend reaches in this, her first publicly posted writing. Nonetheless, we support the open-minded bAngela Davis Autobiographyut critical engagement with primary source materials that is crucial to the development of creative, scientific, non-dogmatic revolutionaries. We are excited to present her views to the blogosphere so that she may learn from the diverse perspectives that visit our blog, and so that you all might learn from a fresh new voice.

Angela Davis spent the majority of her childhood in Birmingham, Alabama. In the beginning of her autobiography she speaks of the intense racial tension between whites and blacks, the inferiority of her black elementary school in comparison to the whites, and the self hatred within the black community that she experienced growing up in the south. This part of the book was one of the most memorable parts for me. The bombing of houses with black families by racist white people was such a sad, traumatic experience for Davis but, even more sad, was her growing desensitization to the bombings. They happened so regularly that she grew to accept them as just another part of being black in the racist south. I felt so sick and angry reading this part of the book. I can’t imagine how this black community must have felt and I would think that many of them would have wanted to retaliate by bombing the houses that whites resided in.

Continue reading

Fred Hampton: Marxist or Nationalist?


revolutionary proletarian internationalist

revolutionary proletarian internationalist

Big L


How can racial oppression and white supremacy be defeated?  Is it through a nationalist struggle against a colonial enemy?  Are these paradigms of struggle accurate and strategic enough in 2009?  As far back as 1969 Fred Hampton saw the struggle against racism as being rooted within the struggle against capitalism:

“We got to face some facts. That the masses are poor, that the masses belong to what you call the lower class, and when I talk about the masses, I’m talking about the white masses, I’m talking about the black masses, and the brown masses, and the yellow masses, too. We’ve got to face the fact that some people say you fight fire best with fire, but we say you put fire out best with water. We say you do’nt fight racism with racism. We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We say you don’t fight capitalism with no black capitalism; you fight capitalism with socialism.”

Usually the Black Panther Party is described as a “Revolutionary Nationalist” organization, but militants like Fred Hampton demonstrate clearly that some of the most important Panthers had more of a multiracial marxist consciousness. 

Fred Hampton summed his politics up clearly:

“We ain’t gonna fight no reactionary pigs who run up and down the street being reactionary; we’re gonna organize and dedicate ourselves to revolutionary political power and teach ourselves the specific needs of resisting the power structure, arm ourselves, and we’re gonna fight reactionary pigs with INTERNATIONAL PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION. That’s what it has to be. The people have to have the power: it belongs to the people.

We have to understand very clearly that there’s a man in our community called a capitalist. Sometimes he’s black and sometimes he’s white. But that man has to be driven out of our community, because anybody who comes into the community to make profit off the people by exploiting them can be defined as a capitalist. And we don’t care how many programs they have, how long a dashiki they have. Because political power does not flow from the sleeve of a dashiki; political power flows from the barrel of a gun. It flows from the barrel of a gun!

These politics represent a movement beyond simply  nationalism into a complicated, race-conscious proletarian internationalism.  Hampton’s words inspired militancy and advanced struggles in 1969, and are still refreshing today. 

An important task of marxists today is making a fresh analysis of racial/national oppression which avoids mechanically applying Lenin’s “Self-Determination” theses, while also avoiding simplistic and equally mechanical “class is more important than race” logic. 

For an important contribution towards this analysis, refer to the work of Adolph Reed Jr. found here on the A/S blog

Read Fred Hampton’s speech “Power Anywhere Where There’s People” in full: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/fhamptonspeech.html

San Francisco 8

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL — Hank Jones and Ray Boudreaux spoke before the Pasadena ACLU May 12 to tell the story of the “San Francisco 8,” former members and/or associates of the Black Panther Party who have been charged with the 1970 killing of a San Francisco police officer. The case against the men, initially dismissed in 1975 because confessions from some of them had been based on torture, was reopened in 2007.

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL — Hank Jones and Ray Boudreaux spoke before the Pasadena ACLU May 12 to tell the story of the “San Francisco 8,” former members and/or associates of the Black Panther Party who have been charged with the 1970 killing of a San Francisco police officer. The case against the men, initially dismissed in 1975 because confessions from some of them had been based on torture, was reopened in 2007.

At first glance, the SF8 are just another case of police abuse and the corrupt criminal (in)justice system. Our sympathies are with them, as they are with Mumia and Leonard Peltier and hundreds of other political prisoners, but no lasting movement has developed with the kind of strength to affect the outcome of the trial and end their persecution. The community knows the cops are a daily obstacle and are even dangerous, but the community has not seemed ready to get behind a campaign to end it.

There seem to be three models of resistance to police. The first model, which members of the SF8 ascribed to was the Black Panther model. It involved outflanking the police by building community support and conducting armed patrols of neighborhoods to monitor police.

The second model is the “police accountability” model that has been adopted by the Coalition Against Police Executions (CAPE), a coalition of Oakland non-profit organizations. This aims at reforming the police but essentially leaving them as they are, with some minor changes such as sensitivity training an extra layer of bureacracy in the form of citizen review boards.

The third model is the spontaneous eruption of anger and desperations by those members of the community that deal most directly with the police. Young black and brown men and boys from the hood that are unemployed and involved in informal markets often through gangs have shown what their response to police abuse is: riots and “cop killing.” While these responses are barely worth considering as “models” they are inform the analysis, especially considering that they are the most hotly sought after constituency for both reform organizations such as the non-profit sector (see Ella Baker Center’s “Silence the Violence Campaign”) AND militant community organizers (like the Panthers).
Instead of repeating the same sob story about police “terrorism,” and boring folks with legal details from the case, can we pose this question to working class black and brown communities: out of these three  strategies – militant direct action community organizing, liberal compromising non-profit coalitions, random acts of violence – which approach is the most effective? When they answer that the militant direct action community organizing (panther) model is best, can we pose a follow-up question: who’s going to build such an organization to do that work?

Instead of imploring people to act in sympathy for these innocent old men, we should present them with the opportunity to act on their own behalf in these old men’s righteous example.

San Francisco 8 Members Blame Murder Charges on Police Corruption