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Date: Sat, 11 Jul 98 13:29:55 CDT
From: David Silver <dmsilver@earthlink.net>
Subject: Black Panther Party Revisited- Book Review
Article: 38828
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Message-ID: <bulk.7621.19980712121653@chumbly.math.missouri.edu>

The Black Panther Party (reconsidered)

Reviewed by Dave Silver, 12 July 1998

The Black Panther Party (reconsidered)
Edited by Charles Jones
Baltimore: Black Classic Press, 1998

In the words of the editor, "The objective of this book is to begin a process of systematic scholarly investigation of the historic role of this African American revolutionary organization." The writers-- former Panthers, scholars and activists--provide a sharp analysis in which race and gender intersect with class. The book is all the more remarkable in that as Jones points out " the contributors provoke discussion from different vantage points." This serves to enrich the volume and as Publisher and former Panther Paul Coates observes it "provides readers a unique opportunity to examine the Party from an intimate yet critical perspective..." The Black Panther Party Reconsidered (BPPR) makes use of original and secondary documented sources including books, journals, organizational records, interviews.

A rich overview in Part 1 is provided by the editor and political science scholars offering insights into the 60's civil rights movement, the Black Power slogan, the murder of Party members and the political thought of Huey Newton. "Debunking the "Panther Mythology" counteracts the ideas that the BPP was an anti-White "lumpen " and infantile Leftist organization.

I found the Chapter on "The Black Panthers and the 'Undeveloped Country' of the Left" most provocative and rewarding. Professor Singh covers issues such as the impact of colonialism and imperialism, the limits of nationalism, a critique of integration as well as a separate Black culture and polity and the centrality of institutionalized racism. He shows how the Panther legacy was molded by the Vietnam war, the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), the Cuban and Chinese Revolutions and the writings and praxis of Fanon, Guevarra, Malcolm, Robert Williams, Paul Robeson and C.L.R. James.

"Reflections From the Rank and File34; contains the moving poem Once I Was a Panther, a diary entry by Party member Steve MCutchen depicting experiences of his first year as a Party member and an interview with nine year veteran Panther from Georgia Jimmy Slater. A section called Organization deals with the relationship to White anti-imperialists, clashes with Cultural Nationalism and the movement toward Revolutionary Nationalism. In 34;Serving The People34; JoNina Abron maintains that the many survival programs of the BPP logically grew out of the concept of self determination. 34;Gender and The Party34; offers insights into the ways that the Personal is Political and particularly analyzes the negative effects of sexism and male chauvinism inside the Party. Cogent analyses are tapped from the writings of former Panthers Safiya Bukhari and Kathleen Cleaver.

In No One Ever Asks, What a Mans Place in the Revolution Is Tracye Matthews aptly sums up this question when she says The ideological development of Party members was an ongoing process, ripe with contradiction, and shaped by the material and cultural conditions of the late 1960s and 1970s. A former female member of the Partys Brooklyn section recalled that We could talk about this stuff (gender and sexism) just as we talked about capitalism and imperialism. But I dont know that we internalized it...I think what we didnt realize was that we were just as much victims of a social condition that perpetuated it and that we carried these traits with us. Women who participated in the BPP carried forward the legacy of African American women activists back to the Abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Maria Stewart. That political activism continues today as we witness Safiya Bukhari-Alstons leadership to free Mumia and all Political Prisoners and P.O.Ws and Akua Njeri work in the African Peoples Socialist Party and a leader of the National Peoples Democratic Uhuru Movement. All of these courageous and committed sisters fought equally as hard against racist and class oppression.

34;The Decline of The BPP" focuses on the main factors of the internal splits, and government repression fueled by by rampant racism and anti-communism. The Newton-Cleaver split, as well as the unwarranted attacks by Huey on the Panther 21 and in particular former political prisoners Dhoruba Bin-Wahad and Geronimo Pratt. The East coast-West coast divisions were exacerbated by the decision to run Bobby Seale for mayor of Oakland while closing chapters outside of Oakland in order to "redeploy all Panthers and their resources to Oakland to work on the campaign." This increasing authoritarianism hastened the Panthers final demise.

In a sharp and poignant essay on the Legacy of the BPP, Professor Akinyele Umoja points to the development of a more sophisticated and effective Resistance in the struggle in behalf of Political Prisoners both legal and political including the bold liberation of Assata Shakur. The growth of revolutionary groups such as the Black/New Afrikan movements and the Pan Africanist and more Internationalist oriented efforts such as that of Dhoruba's resolution at the 7th Pan African Congress in Kampala, Uganda to petition in behalf of Black Political Prisoners in the U.S. is noted. Similarly the New Afrikan People's Organization and the New York based December 12th Movement called on the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva to confirm the existence of and mistreatment of political prisoners and P.O.W.'s.in the U.S. The recently formed New Afrikan Liberation Front, a revolutionary nationalist group formed to defend political prisoners has also pressed the Congressional Black Caucus to call hearings on the F.B.I's COINTELPRO program.

In a final chapter "To Fight for the People" Political Science Prof. Charles Lusane of Howard University provides a fitting finale that might be entitled What Is To Be Done? Lusane gives us a clear class analysis that must underpin the politics and practice of future Resistance movements. "A new vision of revolution must begin with the firm belief that millions of lives are being destroyed and wasted by the current management of economic and state power. The hegemonic power of transnational corporations and their representatives in the state apparatus must be opposed with the utmost sense of urgency. One of the most important contributions of the BPP to Black politics was the Party's position that it was not just Whites who oppressed Blacks, but that the overthrow of a system of corporate and political power had to be the objective of Black resistance."

Rounding out this beautiful volume is an extensive Bibliography, Appendices of the BPP program and detailed note References at the end of chapters. The BPPR is a treasure house for understanding the Black Liberation struggles of the past and a guide for future organizing and Resistance.