Huey P. Newton

In Defense of Self Defense

The Black Panther, June 20, 1967

Written: June 20, 1967
Source: The Black Panther Vol. 1 No. 3, June 20, 1967; Pamphlet titled Essays From the Minister of Defense published by the Black Panther Party, 1968, Oakland
Transcription/Markup: 2021 by Philip Mooney
Public Domain: Marxist Internet Archive 2021. This work is completely free.

Laws and rules have always been made to serve people. Rules of society are set up by people so that they will be able to function in a harmonious way. In other words, in order to promote the general welfare of society rules and laws are established by men. Rules should serve men and not men serve rules. The man is greater than the rules or laws that he constructs. Much of the time the laws and rules which officials attempt to inflict upon poor people are non-functional in relation to the status of the poor in society.

These officials are blind to the fact that people should not respect rules that are not serving them. It is the duty of the poor to write and construct rules and laws that are in their better interest. This is one of the basic human rights of all men.

Before 1776, white people were colonized by the English. The English government had certain laws and rules that the colonized Americans viewed as not in their best interests but as a colonized people. At that time, the English government felt that the colonized Americans had no right to establish laws to promote the general welfare of the people living here in America. The colonized American felt he had no choice but to raise the gun in defense of the welfare of the colonized people. At this time he made certain laws insuring his protection from external and internal aggressions from governments and agencies. One such form of protection was the Declaration of Independence which states, “…whenever any government becomes destructive to these ends it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundations on such principles and organizing its powers in such forms as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” Now these same colonized white people, these ex-slaves, robbers and thieves, have denied the colonized black man the right to even speak of abolishing this oppressive system which the white colonized American created. They have carried their madness to the four corners of the earth, and now there is universal rebellion against their continue rule and power.

The black people in America are the only people who can free the world, loosen the yoke of colonialism and destroy the war machine. As long as the wheels of the imperialistic war machine are turning there is no country that can defeat this monster of the west. But black people can make a malfunction of this machine from within. Black people can destroy the machinery that’s enslaving the world. America cannot stand to fight every black country in the world and fight a civil war at the same time. It is militarily impossible to do both these things at once.

The slavery of blacks in this country provides the oil for the machinery of war that America uses to enslave the peoples of the world. Without this oil the machinery cannot function. We are the driving shaft; we are in such a strategic position in this machinery that, once we become dislocated, the functioning of the remainder of the machinery breaks down.

Penned up in the ghettos of America, surrounded by his factories and all the physical components of his economic system, we have been made into “the wretched of the earth,” who are relegated to the position of spectators while the white racists run their international con game on the suffering peoples. We have been brainwashed to believe that we are powerless and that there is nothing we can do for ourselves to bring about a speedy liberation for our people. We have been taught that we must please our oppressors, that we are only 10% of the population and therefore we must confine our tactics to categories calculated not to disturb the sleep of our tormentors.

The power structure inflicts pain and brutality upon the peoples then provides controlled outlets for the pain in ways least likely to upset them or interfere with the process of exploitation. The people must repudiate the channels, established as tricks and deceitful snares by the exploiter-oppressors. The people must oppose everything the oppressor supports and support everything that he opposes. If black people go about their struggle for liberation in the way that the oppressor dictates and sponsors, then we will have degenerated to the level of groveling flunkies for the oppressor himself.

When the oppressor makes a vicious attack against freedom fighters because of the way that such freedom fighters choose to go about their liberation, then we know we are moving in the direction of our liberation. The racist dog oppressors have no rights which oppressed black people are bound to respect. As long as the racist dogs pollute the earth with the evil of their actions, they do not deserve any respect at all. And the rules of their game, written in the peoples’ blood, are beneath contempt.

The oppressor must be harassed until his doom. He must have no peace by day or by night. The slaves have always outnumbered the slavemasters. The power of the oppressor rests upon the submission of the people. When Black people really unite and rise up in all their spendid millions, they will have the strength to smash injustice. We do not understand the power in our numbers. We are millions and millions of black people scattered across the continent and throughout the western hemisphere. There are more black people in America than the total population of many countries that now enjoy full membership in the U.N. They have power and their power is based primarily on the fact that they are organized and united with each other. They are recognized by the powers of the world. We with all our numbers are recognized by no one. In fact, we do not even recognize our own selves. We are unaware of the potential power latent in our numbers. In 1967, in the midst of a hostile racist nation whose hidden racism is rising to the surface at a phenomenal speed, we are still so blind to our critical fight for our very survival that we are continuing to function in petty, futile ways. Divided, confused, fighting among ourselves, we are still in the elementary stage of throwing rocks, sticks, empty wine bottles and beer cans at racist cops who lie in wait for a chance to murder unarmed black people. The racist cops have worked out a system for suppressing these spontaneous rebellions that flare up from the anger, frustration, and desperation of the masses of black people. We can no longer afford the dubious luxury of the terrible casualties wantonly inflicted upon us by the cops during spontaneous rebellions.

Black people must now move, from the grassroots through the perfumed circles of the black bourgeoisie, to seize by any means necessary a proportionate share of the power vested and collected in the structure of America. We must organize and unite to combat by long resistance the brutal force used against us daily. The power structure depends upon the use of force without retaliation. This is why they want the people unarmed: This is why they have made it a felony to teach guerrilla warfare. The racist dog oppressor fears the armed people; they fear most of all black people armed with weapons and the ideology of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. An unarmed people are slaves or are subject to slavery at any given moment. If a government is not afraid of the people it will arm the people and teach guerilla tactics as a means for the survival of the people from foreign aggression. Black people are held captive in the midst of their oppressors. There is a world of difference between 30 million unarmed, submissive black people and 30 million Black people armed with freedom and defense guns and the strategic methods of liberation.

When a mechanic wants to fix a broken down car engine he must have the necessary tools to do the job. When the people move for liberation, they must have the basic tool of liberation: the gun. Only with the power of the gun can the black masses halt the terror and brutality perpetuated against them by the armed racist power structure; and in one sense only by the power of the gun can the whole world be transformed into the earthly paradise dreamed of by the people from time immemorial. One successful practitioner of the art and science of national liberation and self defense put it this way: “We are advocates of the abolition of war, we do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun it is necessary to take up the gun.” (Brother Mao Tse-Tung)

The blood, sweat, tears and suffering of Black people are the foundations of the wealth and power of the United States of America. We were forced to build America and if forced to we will tear it down. The immediate result of this destruction will be suffering and bloodshed. But the end result will be the perpetual peace for all mankind.