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The Foundations of Pantherism

October 26, 2010
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BY SHAKA ZULU, Chairman, NABPP

Editors note: This is in part a response to the article “The Dragon and the Hydra” by political prisoner Russell Maroon Shoatz, featured in 4sm 16.

  1. “Yes, he turned and walked past the eyes of my life. And he nodded and sang without sound. And his face had the look of a man who knew strife. And a feeling familiarly came around. REFRAIN — I said, Man, where have you been for all these years. Man, where were you, when I sought you. Man, do you know me as I know you. Man, am I coming through.”
  2. “And he spoke in a voice that was centuries old. And he smiled in a way that was strange. And his lips of night spoke about our people’s plight. And a feeling familiarly came around. REFRAIN — I said, Man where have you been for all these years. Man, where were you, when I sought you. Man, do you know me as I know you. Man, am I coming through.”
  3. “And we sat and we talked about freedom and things. And he told me about what he dreamed. But, I knew of that dream long before he had spoke. And a feeling familiarly came around. REFRAIN — I said, Man, where have you been for all these years. Man, where were you, when I sought you. Man, do you know me as I know you. Man, am I coming through.” — New Afrikan Black Panther Party’s National Anthem

The first thing that you should know about the New Afrikan Black Panther Party, is that we are a vanguard Party of revolutionary nationalist and communist committed to the principle that all people have the unalienable right to determine their own destinies.

These unalienable rights we make upon U.S. imperialist are universal rights that the people want everywhere — to have land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice, peace and people’s control of modern technology. These basic rights will guarantee the people’s survival — we will not compromise the people’s will and desire on any terms.

Although our party was born in the bowels of the racist prison system — we gladly embrace the hope of the oppressed masses for freedom and socialism by steeling our minds and body’s for the protracted people’s war. As Comrade Huey once said, “Jail is an odd place to find freedom, but that was the first place” most of us found ours.

The New Afrikan Black Panther Party is an above-ground legal movement. We do not advocate or support any illegal activities. The Party organization stands for the liberation of Black people and all oppressed people everywhere.

We have been organized to serve the needs of people of the oppressed New Afrikan Nation and to imbue them with a revolutionary education that teaches them their true role in society. We do not advocate ethnic hatred or racist views and practices among the people. We fight racism with dialectical materialism, Panther Love and international proletarian solidarity.

The Black Panther Party takes class struggle as our philosophy: “There is a struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie…The oppressors, oppress the oppressed, while the oppressed need to fight back and seek a way out before they start looking for philosophy. It was only when people took this as their starting point that there was Marxism-Leninism, and that they discovered philosophy. We have all been through this.”

For us the people are the makers of history. With a correct ideological orientation we can build unity with all people who are truly sincere about making revolution based on the idea that another world is possible.

My message to all our class Brothers and Sisters all over the world suffering from intolerable poverty and super-exploitation is simple: We no longer have to live that way;  our future can truly be right and healthy if we dare to rebel against our oppressors.

The science of revolution teaches that in order to overthrow anything one must first develop a revolutionary organization comprised of people who are dedicated to revolutionary communist goals. Our Party is a stick to swing at the oppressor; a fighting force armed with social science and class struggle. We must move the people against the death machine of oppression with a stick, book and gun.

We have received dozens of letters from people asking me to fully explain the ideology of Pantherism (which is illuminated by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism) as it relates to the concrete conditions of oppression of New Afrikan people, and all oppressed people in the 21st century.

Pantherism is the revolutionary ideology of the New Afrikan Black Panther Party. Pantherism says that the primary contradiction for us is between the oppressor settler state and our neocolonized reality. We must free the New Afrikan Nation in solidarity with other nations in empireland. Pantherism stands firmly against the imperialist neocolonizers and capitalist bloodsuckers. We should unite with all progressive people who want to bring forth a socialist world.

Our ideology is a fighting ideology talking about confiscating the wealth of the super-rich exploiters, the bourgeoisie, through a revolutionary war of liberation. We must not be afraid to support all Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries everywhere — no matter who curse our class solidarity.

Pantherism teaches that communist freedom requires that the working class as a whole fight to overthrow its oppressors, the bourgeois capitalist class, and than establish a new government under the dictatorship of the proletariat. The proletarian people must step forward to take history into their own hands. Our Party must educate the people so that they will throw their weight and power behind the international campaign to smash imperialism. Pantherism also demands that we oppose both narrow (Black bourgeois) nationalism and reactionary (Amerikan) patriotism, with a Maoist world outlook and international proletarian socialism. So we say, “Revolutionary Black Power to the Black people!” and “Indian Power to the Indian People!” “Arab Power to the Arab people” and so on, but we also support the unity of all oppressed people.

The other question most frequently asked by people is why another Black Panther Party? Unlike some narrow Black nationalists who are always advocating retreatist politics into the Democratic Party of oppression, we the people know that the original Black Panther Party was a tremendous force and a political vehicle that inspired our people to reach within themselves to find the creative spirit of doing for self. The BPP should he a model to all who are concerned with social justice and peace. We believe the original Black Panther Party (1966 to 1971)* suffered an untimely demise before it could mobilize the weight of the working class Black people to advance the Black liberation struggle to victory. Thereby, it left a legacy to be picked up and carried on from one generation to the next. No other party or organization has inspired and mobilized Black people like the old BPP did. The Party’s demise was caused by internal weaknesses, egoism, and factionalism, combined with an intense campaign of government infiltration, assassination and false imprisonment called COINTELPRO, in which more than 2,000 Party members were arrested and many were killed.

The late Khalid Muhammad created the new Black Panther Party in 1990 as a split from the Nation of Islam, and we considered these to be our brothers and sisters, but we have fundamental ideological and political differences  with them. We believe in class struggle, not racial separatism. Our motivation is love for our Black people, not hate of anyone, and we believe that all oppressed people must unite against our common oppressor, the imperialist-capitalist system. Though our Party was founded in the prisons, we do not confine ourselves to them. We see the New Afrikan Black Panther Party as the embryo of a new vanguard party, following in the footsteps of the original BPP.

The Party made errors, and we intend to learn from, not repeat, them, and these are different times, which require fresh analysis and creativity. The Patriot Act and the creation of the office of Homeland Security go way beyond the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign in violating people’s rights.

We say that the original Black Panther Party was a beautiful organization! Let the reactionary Black nationalist curse us, but we must be about the business of serving the people! We stand for the absolute right of all oppressed people to determine their own political destiny, to decide how to use their own economic resources and organize their own political economy to meet the needs of their own people. Historically, Black people in America’s strongest ally have been the American Indians, the indigenous people of Turtle Island. They have stood with us for nearly five centuries in resisting colonialism, and we have lived among them as runaway slaves and fellow guerrilla fighters in many campaigns. Osceola, Seminole war chief, led Indian and Black people in military actions that repeatedly defeated the slave masters and the U.S. Army of occupation, and there are many other examples. The BPP cultivated alliances with many other revolutionary formations representing diverse ethnic groups such as the Young Lords Party/Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization and FMLN, the Brown Berets and La Raze Unida Party (Chicano), I War Khun (Chinese Americans), Aug Katipunan (Filipino Americans), the Young Patriot Party (Appalachian Whites) and the White Panther Party, the John Brown Liberation League, the SDS, Weatherman, etc. In 1970, some 10,000 to 15,000 people, representing many parties, groups, and collectives from across the U.S. and internationally, answered the BPP’s call to attend a Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Due to the already developing internal schism within the BPP, this momentous development was not followed up on. Resurrecting the Party will help to rekindle these important links.

The oppressed poor and working class people, approximately 10 million of them world-wide, are caged in prisons and jails not due to any real criminal activity on their part, but because they are poor and working class. This constitutes a reserve army of cheap labor for the political and economic capitalist system, and we are determined to reach them with the explosive doctrine of Pantherism and Panther Love.

I am one of the 10 million. So is Comrade Kevin Rashid Johnson. Most of us live in the fastest growing industry in the United States: The Prison Industrial Complex. Amerika holds 5% of the worlds population, roughly 300 million-plus people, but accounts for 25% of the world’s prisoners, 75% of whom are Black and Latino.

They call these places Department of Corrections but they should be abolished because they are anti-people and anti-human. The violence and torture, the horrible food, the isolation wings that perpetuate sensory deprivation, the Parole Boards that constantly deny us parole on the pretext that we are “likely to commit another me,” the inadequate educational facilities that teach us “what to think” rather than “how to think” constitutes the nightmarish reality of life in Amerika’s prisons and jails. These prisons and jails are really money-making machines of exploitation and brutality–nothing else.

The average Amerikan might be surprised to know that their Beloved Constitution, that document written by slave masters and property owners, that document dripping with the blood, sweat and tears of Indian and Afrikan peoples, contains a little known provision called the 13th Amendment, which states:

“Neither Slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist in the United States, or any place subjected to their jurisdiction.”

For the 75% of people of color in Amerika’s prisons, the 13th Amendment translates into modern day slavery. Everywhere we go let us proclaim to the people that the bourgeoisie cannot be serious when they start this “freedom talk” when a significant segment of its populace are still in slavery.

The communist Panther cannot be defeated or conquered with bourgeois propaganda if he and she truly understand that our scientific socialism, Pantherism philosophy and class struggle constitutes the “living soul” of the original Black Panther Party. Pantherism is teaching us to go forth to make sure the freedoms and aspirations of the peoples are met.

It is strange to repudiate Democratic Centralism (DC) as being “brutally efficient and capable of outdoing anything the bourgeois forces are capable of” in one breath, but praise and uphold V.I. Lenin in another, the protagonist of Democratic Centralism, as Comrade Russell Maroon Shoats does in “The Dragon and the Hydra.” Democratic Centralism enables us to jump over the pitfalls inherent in petty-bourgeois party formations by bringing the whole revolution into “full play.”

Democratic Centralism allows a revolutionary party the unity of will and ideological cohesiveness, knowing it will be under constant assault every step of the way. DC makes available to all its members inner-party democracy that will unleash their creative initative in the service of the New Afrikan Nation.

How else can one free a people from the grip of the greatest bandit of all recorded history? It is only with DC as our shield that we can unite an advanced detachment of revolutionary fighters, and as our spear to protect the people.
Comrade Maroon forgets to mention that those who used the DC method and seized state power did so surrounded by counter-revolutionaries working with international imperialism. This situation required a bit more centralism on the part of revolutionaries to protect the people’s hard won revolution from being overturned.

If Comrade Maroon is giving us a history lesson on what happened to revolutionary formations like the ones he belonged to for 40 years, we accept the constructive criticism, but we must rush to add that–and we are not being harsh here–some Comrades from his era are still smarting from the in-fighting and petty sectarianism that turned them against the DC and vanguard party structure. We are not concerned with people’s feelings; it is the objective conditions of oppression that dictates how we move against the vampire beast.

We are neither a religious nor cultural nationalist formation that is tolerated and even endorsed by the power structure, but a genuine revolutionary organization solely interested in freeing the people by expropriating the expropriators.

The members of the Party must toughen their “skin” and hold steadfast to our strategy of building base areas of people’s power! They must observe Party discipline, the minority must obey the majority, and the whole Party should obey the Central Committee. Whenever someone in the party has made a mistake they should not be castigated and hurled out of the party. We have a rule that states that he or she must first be given the chance to undertake criticism and self-criticism. We must take care to educate people in our ideological and political line. Our principle must still be “learning from mistakes to avoid future mistakes,” and “curing the disease to save the patient.” Dare to struggle, Dare to Win! Panther Love!

All POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

Shaka Zulu #244128
NSP P.O. Box 2300
168 Frontage Rd.
Newark, NJ
USA 07114

* I want to clarify that when we refer to the BPP existing from 1966 to 1971, we are referring to its revolutionary period. It limped along until 1980 increasingly sinking into reformism and gangster-like rhetoric and activity, before its final demise.

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