Huey P. Newton

Functional Definition of Politics

Written: January 17, 1969
Source: The Black Panther, January 17, 1969
Transcription/Markup: 2021 by Philip Mooney
Public Domain: Marxist Internet Archive 2021. This work is completely free.

Politics is war without bloodshed. War is politics with bloodshed. Politics has its particular characteristics which differentiate it 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 was 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 arena. 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 arena: 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 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.