Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panthers

The Black Panthers

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Counter Attack. New Haven: New Haven Panther Defense Committee, May 1970.

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Source: Counter Attack. New Haven: New Haven Panther Defense Committee, May 1970.


"We live today in a system that is in the last stages of the protracted process of breaking up on a worldwide basis. The rulers of this system have their hands full. Injustice is being challenged at every turn and on every level. The ruler perceive the greatest threat to be the national liberation movements around the world, particularly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In order for them to wage wars of suppression against these national liberation movements abroad, they must have peace and stability and unanimity of purpose at home. But at home there is a Trojan Horse, a Black Trojan Horse that has become aware of itself and is now struggling to get on its feet. It, too, demands liberation."

Eldridge Cleaver
Minister of Information
Black Panther Party

Source: Counter Attack. New Haven: New Haven Panther Defense Committee, May 1970.


Recent events in Cambodia, New Haven and finally now at Kent State University should come as no surprise to anyone the least bit familiar with the policies, internal and external, of the United States government. What the revolutionary movement in America has been talking about is the fact that the people have no control over the government and that the government which exists in the form of Nixons and Mitchells and Rockefellers does not serve the people but rather is designed to perpetuate the monetary interests of these privileged few. The invasion of Vietnam by U.S. imperialism was simply the broadening of the colonial domain, and for the most part we related to U.S. aggression as an abstraction since we couldn't see it. The intensification of the Black Liberation struggle here in AmeriKKKa began to bring the reality of U.S. aggression home, but this too was an abstraction because AmeriKKKa is also racist and the domestic colony is real only to its inhabitants.

But over the past few years the anti-war movement has been transformed into an anti-imperialist movement. A movement founded on moralistic protest has evolved into a revolutionary body of brothers and sisters bound together in their determination to defeat U.S. imperialism and follow the example of their Black comrades. A movement has been forged where people are willing to die in order to transform a system of exploitation and oppression, predicated on a morality relevant to a select few, into a revolutionary society capable of implementing the ideas and beliefs of the new man and the new woman. And we've found that with all The Man's bullshit, with all his fascist tactics and his midnight gestapo raids, our movement has grown; that the revolutionary spirit of the people has spread through all parts of the country and we've linked hands with our brothers and sisters in Cuba and Vietnam, in Japan and Europe, wherever capitalism continues to exploit and oppress people.

The gathering of revolutionaries in New Haven and the recent murders in Ohio have ripped away the final mask from the face of the capitalist state. By the fall we can expect the total occupation of university campuses throughout the United States by National Guard or Army or the like. The broadening of the war in Asia is the broadening of the war at home. The resistance of the Vietnamese people and by the Black Panther Party against U.S. imperialism abroad and fascism at home, is now IN ACTUALITY our struggle also. We didn't see Watts or Detroit or Newark, but we have all lived Berkeley, New Haven, Santa Barbara, Orangeburg, and now Kent.

The time for theorizing is over because the concepts we need to move on have all been laid out. At this point the question is not whether to move or not, but rather how to move best. We must develop the strategies which will allow us to destroy an economic and cultural system objectively definable as racist, imperialist and fascist and we must develop the strategies and tactics which will allow us to survive and build for the revolutionary future...


New Haven Panther Defense Committee


Over the past three weeks we have seen imperialist aggression and fascist repression clearly defined as the foreign and domestic policies of the United States. What was once defined as the issues of protest things like the Vietnamese War or civil rights, can now be seen as part and parcel of an international system of exploitation and oppression whose sole design both abroad and at home is to manipulate the mind and to debase the body for the purposes of capitalist plunder. We have seen how the struggle for National Liberation; and, what was originally a struggle for Black ‘civil rights' became defined as a struggle for National Liberation and self-determination for all colonized people in America. As the events and situations at home and abroad have intensified our understanding, our ability to comprehend and act upon the institutions which guide and define the nature of imperialism and fascism has also increased. In fact the protest movement which was typified by organizations such as SDS can now be seen in real terms as a mass-based revolutionary movement. This is not the wishful thinking of movement organizers but rather the everyday reality of North American Youth who have been dispossessed of all rights as human beings. The movement which was seen in terms of organizational identities can now be seen in terms of the revolutionary consciousness of the people. This is by no means accidental, but is a direct result of the heightening of the contradictions here at home. So finally the movement which in our heads is revolutionary must also be revolutionary in our bodies and the struggle which was waged through analysis and issue clarification must now be waged in terms of guerilla tactics and the spirit of the people. The system which we define as our enemy has shown itself to be consistently unreceptive to our pleadings and totally unresponsive to our needs as human beings. Peaceful protest has been met with shots in the back; massive protest has been met with increased brutality and murders. In fact this system has shown itself to be so lacking of any sense of morality whatsoever, that after all we have done, after so many people have held back their rage, after so many of our brothers and sisters have been murdered and jailed, the AmeriKKKan government has increased its racist genocidal policies against Black people and against the Vietnamese and all Yellow People. The Yellow is not just China but all of Asia; and is the Brown peril of Cuba and Puerto Rico and all of Latin America, and is the Black peril of Africa and the mid-East and the ghettoes of Babylon, which as we all know now is the righteous revolutionary spirit of all people everywhere Black, Brown, Red, Yellow and White. Revolutionary thought and revolutionary action is the peril, is the plague of the ruling class, of the privileged few; it is the death blow to all that oppress and exploit us, and now it is a wave of energy that can never be stopped.


Politics is war without bloodshed. War is politics with bloodshed. Politics has its particular characteristics which differentiate if from war. When the peaceful means of politics are exhausted and the people do not get what they want, politics are continued. Usually it ends up in physical conflict which is called war, which is also political.

Because we lack political power, Black people are not free. Black reconstruction failed because Black people did not have political and military power. The masses of Black people at the time were very clear on the definition of political power. It is evident in the songs of Black people at that time. In the songs it was stated that on the Day of Jubilee we'd have forty acres and two mules. This was promised Black people by the Freedman's Bureau. This was freedom as far as the Black masses were concerned.

The Talented Tenth at the time viewed freedom as operative in the political arena. Black people did operate in the political arena during reconstruction. They were more educated than most of the whites in the south. They had been educated in France, Canada, and England, and were very qualified to serve in the political area. But yet, Black Reconstruction failed.

When one operates in the political arena, it is assumed that he has power or represents power; he is symbolic of a powerful force. There are approximately three areas of power in the political area: economic power, land power (feudal power) and military power. If Black people at the time had received 40 acres and 2 mules, we would have developed a powerful force. Then we would have chosen a representative to represent us in this political arena. Because Black people did not receive the 40 acres and 2 mules, it was absurd to have a representative in the political arena.

When White people send a representative into the political arena, they have a power force or power base that they represent. When White people, through their representatives, do not get what they want, there is always a political consequence. This is evident in the fact that when the farmers are not given an adequate price for their crops the economy will receive a political consequence. They will let their crops rot in the field; they will not cooperate with other sectors of the economy. To be political, you must have a political consequence when you do not receive your desires - otherwise you are non-political.

When Black people send a representative, he is somewhat absurd because he represents no political power. He does not represent land power because we do not own any land. He does not represent economic or industrial power because Black people do not own the means of production. The only way he can become political is to represent what is commonly called a military power - which the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense calls Self-Defense Power. Black people can develop Self-Defense Power by arming themselves from house to house, block to block, community to community, throughout the nation. Then we will choose a political representative and he will state to the power structure the desires of the black masses. If the desires are not met, the power structure will receive a political consequence. We will make it economically non-profitable for the power structure to go on with its oppressive ways. We will then negotiate as equals. There will be a balance between the people who are economically powerful and the people who are potentially economically destructive.

The White racist oppresses Black people not only for racist reasons but because it is also economically profitable to do so. Black people must develop a power that will make it non-profitable for racists to go on oppressing us. If the White racist imperialists in America continue to wage war against all people of color throughout the world and also wage a civil war against the Blacks here in America, it will be economically impossible for him to survive. We must develop a strategy that will make his war campaigns non-profitable. This racist United States operates with the motive of profit. He lifts the gun and escalates the war for profit reasons. We will make him lower the guns because they will no longer serve his profit motive.

Every man is born, therefore he has a right to live, a right to share in the wealth. If he is denied the right to work then he is denied the right to live. If he can't work, he deserves a high standard of living, regardless of his education or skill. It should be up to the administrators of the economic system to design a program for providing work or livelihood for his people. To deny a man this is to deny him life. The controllers of the economic system are obligated to furnish each man with a livelihood. If they cannot do this or if they will not do this, they do not deserve the position of administrators. The means of production should be taken away from them and placed in the people's hands, so that the people can organize them in such a way as to provide themselves with a livelihood. The people will choose capable administrators motivated by their sincere interest in the people's welfare and not the interest of private property. The people will choose managers to control the means of production and the land that is rightfully theirs. Until the people control the land and the means of production, there will be no peace. Black people must control the destiny of their community.

Because Black people desire to determine their own destiny, they are constantly inflicted with brutality from the occupying army, embodied in the police department. There is a great similarity between the occupying army in Southeast Asia and the occupation of our communities by the racist police. The armies are there not to protect the people of South Vietnam, but to brutalize and oppress them for the interests of the selfish imperial power.

The police should be the people of the community in uniform. There should be no division or conflict of interest between the people and the police. Once there is a division then the police become the enemy of the people. The police should serve the interest of the people, and be one and the same. When this principle breaks down, then the police become an occupying army. When historically one race has oppressed another and policemen are recruited from the oppressor race to patrol the communities of the oppressed people, an intolerable contradiction exists.

The racist dog policemen must withdraw immediately from our communities, cease their wanton murder and brutality and torture of Black people, or face the wrath of the armed people.

Huey P. Newton
Minister of Defense
Black Panther Party

Source: Counter Attack. New Haven: New Haven Panther Defense Committee, May 1970.

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