“Vanguard of the Revolution” is Liberal History, Strips and Omits Socialism from History of the Black Panther Party

[Bruce Dixon provides an important (but beginning) critique of the new Stanley Nelson film, which portrays the Panther’s iconic nature as helpful survival programs and electioneering.  The film shows the Panthers as beaten by police, but gives no lessons for contemporary self-defense or revolutionary systemic challenge.  The film in this sense plays a similar role as SELMA:  a superficial memorial.  The strengths and weaknesses of the film are being discussed and debated.  Reactionaries and white supremacists hate it, liberals love it, but revolutionary organizers today will not find it contributing much to the materials which could guide new efforts on the ground today. — Frontlines ed.]
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Stanley Nelson’s documentary on the BPP is “history” by and for lazy American liberals. He turns the BPP into a pop culture icon a T-shirt. Nelson mentions guns hundreds of times, big naturals and swagger a few dozen times but not the word “socialism” once in 2 hours. The BPP described its Breakfast For Children and Free Medical Clinics every day as “socialism” in person and in our newspaper, to each other and to the neighborhoods we served.

“Vanguard of the Revolution” is Liberal History, Strips and Omits Socialism from History of the Black Panther Party

by Black Agenda Report managing editor Bruce A.Dixon, February 17, 2016
“Stanley Nelson is what Americans call a “liberal” and that’s what Vanguard of the Revolution is…. a liberal’s take on the BPP.”
 

I used to have a Che Guevara T-shirt. It was a pretty good shirt, but it told me nothing about the man or his life’s work. It had Che’s face on it, but by itself the face is just a pop culture icon, shorthand or short-brain for everything you want to know, or everything think you already know about it. That’s what Stanley Nelson’s film, Black Panthers, Vanguard of the Revolution does to the Black Panther Party. He made the movement of my youth an icon. A T-shirt.

On the plus side, it’s a pretty good T-shirt. Vanguard of the Revolution contains some great interview footage from Erika Huggins, Elaine Brown, the freedom fighting Freeman brothers and Wayne Pharr, my old comrade Michael McCarty and several others. On the minus side, Nelson omits and obscures the domestic and global political context the BPP came out of and thrived in. According to Vanguard of the Revolution, the BPP arose out of black northern frustration after the passage of civil rights legislation. It caught on due to the irresistible appeal of its naturals, big guns, the murdermouthing rhetoric of Eldridge Cleaver, downright sexiness, and black is beautiful, all of which earned the BPP pop culture stardom. And pop culture stardom needs no further explanation. Cue the music, fists in the air, and power to the people…

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Until We Win: Black Labor and Liberation in the Disposable Era

Since the rebellion in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014, Black people throughout the United States have been grappling with a number of critical questions such as why are Black people being hunted and killed every 28 hours or more by various operatives of the law? Why don’t Black people seem to matter to this society? And what can and must we do to end these attacks and liberate ourselves? There are concrete answers to these questions. Answers that are firmly grounded in the capitalist dynamics that structure the brutal European settler-colonial project we live in and how Afrikan people have historically been positioned within it.

The Value of Black Life

There was a time in the United States Empire, when Afrikan people, aka, Black people, were deemed to be extremely valuable to the “American project”, when our lives as it is said, “mattered”. This “time” was the era of chattel slavery, when the labor provided by Afrikan people was indispensable to the settler-colonial enterprise, accounting for nearly half of the commodified value produced within its holdings and exchanged in “domestic” and international markets. Our ancestors were held and regarded as prize horses or bulls, something to be treated with a degree of “care” (i.e. enough to ensure that they were able to work and reproduce their labor, and produce value for their enslavers) because of their centrality to the processes of material production.

What mattered was Black labor power and how it could be harnessed and controlled, not Afrikan humanity. Afrikan humanity did not matter – it had to be denied in order create and sustain the social rationale and systemic dynamics that allowed for the commodification of human beings. These “dynamics” included armed militias and slave patrols, iron-clad non-exception social clauses like the “one-drop” rule, the slave codes, vagrancy laws, and a complex mix of laws and social customs all aimed at oppressing, controlling and scientifically exploiting Black life and labor to the maximum degree. This systemic need served the variants of white supremacy, colonial subjugation, and imperialism that capitalism built to govern social relations in the United States. All of the fundamental systems created to control Afrikan life and labor between the 17th and 19th centuries are still in operation today, despite a few surface moderations, and serve the same basic functions. Continue reading

Bernie Sanders’ big test: Can he learn from his Netroots Nation conflict with Black Lives Matter activists?

The 73-year-old socialist got where he is by sticking to his guns. But his righteousness stunts his political reach

Bernie Sanders’ big test: Can he learn from his Netroots Nation conflict with Black Lives Matter activists?

Desiree Griffiths demonstrates at a Miami protest, Dec. 5, 2014; Bernie Sanders (Credit: AP/Lynne Sladky/Carolyn Kaster)

Sen. Bernie Sanders is who he is: a 73-year-old socialist inured to being told he’s wrong, politically, who’s developed an ironclad hold on the conviction that he’s right. So it’s not surprising that he’s resisting learning lessons from his early campaign stumbles at winning support from African Americans and Latinos.

If you’re a Sanders fan, part of what you like about him is that he sticks to his guns. In fact, Sanders fans are a lot like him: used to being on the political margins, they’ve learned to take refuge in the knowledge of their righteousness, which eases the sting of being perpetually in the political minority.

Unfortunately, the mutually reinforcing self-righteousness of Sanders and his supporters is a liability for his promising presidential campaign. Sanders has a genuine problem with the Democratic Party’s African American and Latino base, and no amount of insisting that class supersedes race will change that. I wrote about it last month, and got a ton of pushback from Sanders backers. Then came the conflict at Netroots Nation on Saturday, where Sanders was heckled by Black Lives Matter protesters.

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FERGUSON SOLIDARITY STATEMENT FROM SOUTH AFRICA

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Ferguson Solidarity Statement From South Africa

Dear Comrades,

We are writing to you from South Africa as a collective of black students, professionals, artists, writers and activists who have been watching the protests in Ferguson and other parts of the United States.

Although we are separated from each other by vast oceans and large tracts of land, our connectedness remains a bond as inextricable as it was the day your forebears made that sad and dreadful voyage through the middle passage. That bond is less a claim of being blood relatives or that we all have roots in the motherland but that our black skin has been marked for violence and death since the beginning of slavery.

Resistance to anti-black violence has historically been crushed each time it emerged, whether on the African continent, in the US or anywhere else in the world. And yet you, knowing this full well, have refused to let the gratuitous violence and murder of black people pass as a condition that is part and parcel of being black in the world. You have chosen to fight back, to put your bodies on the firing line, and it is this courage that has inspired us to write to you.

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Ferguson: Thug Illusion in a Media Revolution

[In the US in recent years, the prominence of the repressive arm of the state has grown to a larger scope than ever before.  The occupation of Black and Brown communities, migrant communities, of increasingly and permanently vulnerable communities of occasional and unstable work, of displaced and homeless communities, youth castaways from schools and jobs, from broken families and internally abusive communities, have all suffered from repeated rounds of criminalization, police violence and mass incarceration.  Such attacks have been endorsed, promoted and justified in daily hysterical media accounts, in political and religious and cultural campaigns for ever-enlarging police forces, for overt and covert racist profiling, for militarization of police, and for multiplying the surveillance and snitch networks.  Opposition to these measures has also grown, and protest movements have also become major targets for political suppression and for beatings, arrests, and killings by cops, all reaching epidemic levels.

Not only does this repression hit at the increasingly re-proletarianized sections of the so-called “middle class” but many from the most oppressed peoples have joined the new and recurrent protest movements, at great personal risk.  Those who have histories of arrests and imprisonment and participation in many illegal and semi-legal pursuits have along with other sectors become politicized and have joined together to change the system.  In a number of cities, gang members have pointedly and significantly stood together, in de facto truces with each other, to defend their communities from attack – a pattern rarely, if ever, reported.  If anything, the twisted reports which occur in the media, are always of the horrifying and frightening “thuggishness” of protest movements.  This is a central ingredient of the media assault on all militant protest movements which now terms such protests as “terrorist.” 

The following article from revolution-news.com, describes these features as they have been seen in Ferguson, Missouri, and in the protest movements that have grown nationwide in recent months.  A largely untold story, we appreciate the courage of revolution-news in bringing it to light.  —  Frontlines ed.]

2/16/2015, Revolution News

“The revolution won’t be televised ya’ll know that.
And if it does get televised they gonna make it look as bad as possible.” – Shoota

The nationwide protests after the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson have brought much needed attention to issues of institutional racism, police brutality and the killing of unarmed black men across the US. The #BlackLivesMatter protests have also brought people together and created unity in black communities throughout the country.

Mainstream media (MSM) broadcast images from Ferguson of stores being looted and buildings up in flames. The images shown in MSM succeeded in creating a massive media spectacle. MSM combined with some elements in social media also managed to push false narratives into the public discourse regarding who exactly was in the Ferguson streets and what they were doing there. The narrative that “thugs” were causing destruction and mayhem in Ferguson was amplified in MSM in attempts to smear and discredit the #BlackLivesMatter protests. But who are these so-called “thugs” running amok in Missouri? Continue reading

When Are Violent Protests Justified?

 [The New York Times is not starting this discussion, but noting that many are raising the question of mass violence (and a challenge to the “non-violent” mantra) in the wake of repeated state violence against oppressed people and popular protests.  This is a discussion long held, but growing and intensifying, as growing numbers of revolutionary activists discard polite appeals to an oppresive system, and take more active and determined steps.     —  Frontlines ed.]
By    | opinion | New York Times

Credit: Jim Young | Reuters

Demonstrators in New York and around the country, angered by a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, have seized on Mr. Garner’s last words as a rallying chant: “I can’t breathe.”

Some observers noted a chance congruence between those words and a quotation from the influential Martinique-born philosopher of anti-colonialism Frantz Fanon: “We revolt simply because, for many reasons, we can no longer breathe.”

The demonstrations last week coincided with the New York release of “Concerning Violence,” a film by the Swedish documentarian Goran Hugo Olsson that serves as a sort of introduction to Fanon’s ideas. To Mr. Olsson, who was in New York promoting the film last week and who took the opportunity to participate in several marches, the similarity between the protesters’ chant and Fanon’s text was not a coincidence, he told Op-Talk.

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The Black Panthers Had the Right Idea

Who will Protect and Defend Black Life?
by THANDISIZWE CHIMURENGA, Counterpunch
It’s kind of fitting that police officers Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo, murderers of Mike Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, were cleared of criminal wrong-doing in the last several weeks. The eruption of protest, activism and organizing in response to the (bad) decisions of legal bodies to not hold these officers accountable for their crimes has occurred at a time of special significance for the legacy of the Black Panther Party (BPP).

October 15th saw the 48th anniversary of the birth of the BPP in Oakland, CA.  Originally named the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, the BPP had a self-defense strategy against the brutal terror of the police. The strategy unashamedly and unapologetically maintained that Black people have human rights that are to be respected, including the right of armed self-defense, and BPP members had a right to intervene with those arms if necessary when law enforcement – those touted as the ones whose job was allegedly to protect and serve – violated those rights. In Los Angeles, the month of October also saw the deaths of Ronald and Roland Freeman, brothers who were co-founders and leading members of the Southern California Chapter of the Black Panther Party.  Ronald and Roland, who were born one year apart and died one week apart, were also survivors of the Dec. 8, 1969 shootout with the Los Angeles Police Department’s SWAT team on 41st Street and Central Avenue. The pre-dawn attack, the SWAT team’s first major engagement, lasted 5 hours and saw 13 members of the BPP stand trial for attempted murder of police officers. All 13 of the Panthers would eventually be acquitted of all charges in December, 1971 due to the illegal actions of the LAPD.

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