Panthers & Radicals
Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Panthers & Radicals

First Published: Berkeley Barb, January 19-26, 1968.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Black Panther leader Bobby Seale last week was seated on the steering committee of the Alameda County branch of the Peace and Freedom Party. A Thursday night meeting approved Seale for the post by a nearly unanimous vote.

Does this mean that the Panthers are softening and becoming cozy with guilt-ridden white liberals?

The Panthers’ Minister of Information this week came to the BARB offices and, along with Bob Avakian of the PFP radical caucus in Berkeley, explained the present relationship of the two groups.

The Peace & Freedom-Panther alliance is tentative: that was clear from the beginning. Panthers, including Bobby Seale, do not consider themselves “members” of the PFP. Rather, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense is a “fraternal party” to PFP.

“If certain things develop,” the Minister said, “any alliance with the Peace and Freedom Party will become impossible. We want them to take a forthright position on the issues.

“But the liberals and people on vacation from the Democratic Party will try to water down these positions. If they do water them down, we will have to say ’a plague on both your houses!’”

Avakian said: “Many people are coming in to water it down. I might as well say it; the Communist Party is going to do it. They’re going to try to give the Peace and Freedom party what they’ll call ’a broad appeal,’ and try to show that support for Senator (Eugene) McCarthy is consistent with Peace and Freedom goals.

“The radical caucus is going to fight that.”

The radical caucus and the Panthers agree that the most crucial issue which will show the complexion of the new party is the case of Huey P. Newton, the Panthers’ Minister of Defense, accused of killing an Oakland cop.

The first PFP-Panther alliance formed when the Bay Area PFP agreed to actively support a fair trial for Huey Newton. That policy was within the last ten days been toughened to a more radical position: Free Huey Newton.

It’s easy to hear the cries of, “You mean, just set him free? without a trial? But that would make a mockery of the courts!”

That sharply illuminates the point made by Panthers and white radicals. Their argument is two pronged. First, the bald fact is that a black person cannot find justice in American courts. Second, American courts do not have authority over black people.

“There’s a large difference between authority and power,” the Information Minister explained. “What the government has is power over black people, based on force and violence, not authority. They do not have jurisdiction to try Huey Newton.”

Why not? BARB asked. The Panther’s answer revealed the heart of their political position: “We’re saying that black people in America are not citizens. And not second-class citizens. Not citizens at all.”

Black people in America, he said, are colonial subjects, in a position similar to the Algerians when they were under French rule. To the Black Panthers, white radicals in the Peace and Freedom party are analogous to pro-Algerian-independence radicals in France.

Avakian accepted that analogy, adding, “In Algeria there was a movement able to mobilize people around the issue of independence. That’s what the radical caucus wants the Peace and Freedom Party to become a movement.

“We want to make it clear the support for ’Black Liberation’ is not simply new phrasing for the civil rights rhetoric. Black liberation means a struggle for self-determination for black people.”

Head Panther Bobby Seale is on the PFP steering committee in the East Bay because “in the next few months the structure of the Peace and Freedom Party will be determined, and the steering committee is in a position to help decide on the structure,” the Information Minister said.

He expressed no interest in a 50% black-controlled vote in PFP decision making, which the Black Caucus brought about at the Chicago convention of the National Conference for New Politics.

“We feel that all black people in America should belong to the Black Panther Party for Self Defense,” the Panther Minister said. “But tactically we can tolerate black people in the Peace and Freedom Party, because that can help defeat the Democratic Party.

“If the Peace and Freedom Party did not exist, then we wouldn’t have any other place to go.”

Avakian indicated that the radical caucus would try to make the PFP, as an official political party in the white “mother country,” an active force supporting the goals of the Panthers of the black “colony” in America.

To help bring this about, the radicals in PFP are working to involve the party in such actions as the Free Huey Newton demonstrations at the Alameda County Courthouse and the Dean Rusk reception smashed by SF cops last Thursday.

The Panthers are planning to give a position paper at the Peace and Freedom Party convention, stating which matters they consider are negotiable, and which are not.

One anticipated Black Panther proposal is a plebiscite under United Nations supervision in the black colony in America, for the first time in history asking the black people on this continent whether they want to become independent from the white mother country.

“Until the will of the black people is known,” the Minister of Information said, “the land question should be held in abeyance.”