Intercommunalism (1974)

On Sep­tem­ber 5, 1970, Huey P. New­ton, co-founder of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty (BPP), intro­duced his the­o­ry of inter­com­mu­nal­ism at the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary People’s Con­sti­tu­tion­al Con­ven­tion in Philadel­phia.1 He lat­er expand­ed on this the­o­ry before an audi­ence at Boston Col­lege in Novem­ber of that year, and then again In Feb­ru­ary 1971 dur­ing a joint talk he gave with psy­chol­o­gist Erik Erik­son across sev­er­al days at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty and lat­er in Oak­land.2 Newton’s open­ing remarks at Yale last­ed over an hour but were reduced to about ten pages in the sub­se­quent­ly pub­lished In Search of Com­mon Ground.3 As a philo­soph­i­cal foun­da­tion for his remarks on inter­com­mu­nal­ism, that intro­duc­to­ry speech includ­ed an engage­ment with the work of Hegel, Marx, Freud, Jung, Kant, Pierce, and James, among oth­ers.4 Por­tions of the mate­r­i­al of this main speech, the sub­se­quent Q&A, and oth­er writ­ings of Newton’s were lat­er com­bined, recom­posed, and expand­ed upon under the title of “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” in 1974, the same year that he com­plet­ed his bachelor’s degree and fled tem­porar­i­ly to Cuba. This text had until now been avail­able only through access to the Dr. Huey P. New­ton Foun­da­tion Inc. Col­lec­tion (1968-1994), held in archive in Stan­ford University’s Spe­cial Col­lec­tions.5 It is now repro­duced here, avail­able to the pub­lic at large for the first time, accom­pa­nied by this intro­duc­tion.

– Delio Vásquez

***


The log­ic of the the­sis of inter­com­mu­nal­ism is: impe­ri­al­ism leads to “reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism” to “rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­com­mu­nal­ism” to pure com­mu­nism and anar­chy. Each of the con­cepts is in need of def­i­n­i­tion and rede­f­i­n­i­tion.

“The impe­ri­al­ist war is ush­er­ing in the era of social rev­o­lu­tion,” said Lenin in 1915. The schol­ar David Horowitz, finds, as we do, impe­ri­al­ism and rev­o­lu­tion to be func­tions of each oth­er:

[Editor’s Note: In the orig­i­nal text, New­ton here fea­tures a 16-page quo­ta­tion from David Horowitz’s Empire and Rev­o­lu­tion (1969/1970), pp. 29-45.  We have left out this por­tion of the text for copy­right rea­sons.]

Fol­low­ing World War II and the expo­nen­tial tech­no­log­i­cal increase in weapons sys­tems and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, the con­cept of “one world” and the “Glob­al Vil­lage” began to be offered as bour­geois metaphors to com­plete with the social­ist image of “The New Man” and inter­na­tion­al pro­le­tar­i­an­ism. The tech­no­log­i­cal net­work ema­nat­ing from Amer­i­ca was the spine of the “Free World” image that was to roll back social­ism.

Who makes U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy? The ques­tion is by no means aca­d­e­m­ic, for the his­tor­i­cal record shows that over the last fifty years and more, U.S. pol­i­cy has con­sis­tent­ly run in chan­nels which are antag­o­nis­tic to the most pub­li­cized ideals of the Amer­i­can Repub­lic, issu­ing final­ly in the con­flicts which we asso­ciate with the Cold War. Those ideals—enshrined in the Dec­la­ra­tion of Independence—recognize the right of nations to self-deter­mi­na­tion, and of any oppressed peo­ple to over­throw by force the insti­tu­tions of their oppres­sors in order to secure for them­selves the rights to “life, lib­er­ty, and the pur­suit of hap­pi­ness.”

Yet the record shows that as the Unit­ed States has assumed the role of a great and then dom­i­nant world pow­er, it has more and more con­sis­tent­ly opposed the major social rev­o­lu­tions of our time, and in vio­la­tion of the prin­ci­ple of self-deter­mi­na­tion, it has inter­vened mil­i­tar­i­ly, diplo­mat­i­cal­ly, and eco­nom­i­cal­ly to crush or to cause grave set­backs to these rev­o­lu­tions, whether in Rus­sia, Mex­i­co, Chi­na, Cuba, Greece, or Viet­nam.

Nowhere has this pat­tern of pol­i­cy been more evi­dent, cer­tain­ly, than with the Amer­i­can inter­ven­tion in Viet­nam. In 1945, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Repub­lic of Viet­nam was pro­claimed in a doc­u­ment mod­eled on the Amer­i­can Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence and at first rec­og­nized by the for­mer colo­nial pow­er, France. Yet when that pow­er sought to reassert con­trol of its for­mer colo­nial ter­ri­to­ry, estab­lish­ing a pup­pet regime in Saigon for this pur­pose, it found sup­port in U.S. pol­i­cy. Not only did Wash­ing­ton back France’s ille­git­i­mate war of con­quest with eco­nom­ic and mil­i­tary aid, but when the French failed, Wash­ing­ton itself took over the strug­gle to defeat the Viet­namese Repub­lic through the quis­ling gov­ern­ment in Saigon. Indeed, more than twen­ty years after the procla­ma­tion of Vietnam’s Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence, the Viet­namese peas­ants are still being assault­ed by the U.S. armed forces in what will undoubt­ed­ly become the most ruth­less and destruc­tive inter­ven­tion on his­tor­i­cal record.

Nor is this coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion­ary expe­di­tion excep­tion­al as U.S. Cold War pol­i­cy, despite the unprece­dent­ed feroc­i­ty and unpar­al­leled sav­agery of this exe­cu­tion. As already not­ed, it forms rather a con­sis­tent pat­tern with oth­er U.S. inter­ven­tions in San­to Domin­go, Cuba, Guatemala, the Con­go, the Mid­dle East, Chi­na, Greece, and else­where dur­ing the Cold War years, and in Rus­sia, Mex­i­co, Cuba, Chi­na, and oth­er coun­tries ear­li­er in the cen­tu­ry. Indeed, coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­ven­tion, which is at the heart of the Cold War and its con­flicts, has been a char­ac­ter­is­tic of U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy ever since the Unit­ed States embarked on a course of over­seas eco­nom­ic expan­sion fol­low­ing the clos­ing of the geo­graph­i­cal fron­tier more than sev­en­ty years ago.

How is this coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion­ary pol­i­cy, which runs direct­ly counter to the high ideals of the Amer­i­can repub­lic, to be explained? How is it to be explained that the largest “defense” pro­gram of any nation in his­to­ry (and of the Unit­ed States in par­tic­u­lar, which, pri­or to the post­war decades, nev­er main­tained a peace­time con­scrip­tion army) is orga­nized around the unprece­dent­ed con­cept of coun­terin­sur­gency?

These para­dox­es can only be answered if it can be shown that there is a group wield­ing pre­dom­i­nant pow­er in the Amer­i­can poli­ty whose inter­ests run counter to America’s high ideals and which can impose its own inter­pre­ta­tion of the Amer­i­can tra­di­tion onto the frame­work of pol­i­cy-mak­ing in the state. If it can be shown that there is a class among the plu­ral­i­ty of com­pet­ing inter­est groups which enjoys a pre­dom­i­nance of pow­er and can estab­lish its own out­look as a pre­vail­ing ide­ol­o­gy and if it can be shown that these inter­ests are expan­sion­ist, anti-rev­o­lu­tion­ary, and tend­ing to be mil­i­tarist by nature, then an expla­na­tion of the para­dox­i­cal char­ac­ter of Amer­i­can pol­i­cy will have been found and, beyond that, the sources of the Cold War con­flicts and their per­ma­nence.

Such a “rul­ing class” can, in fact, be read­i­ly shown to exist. Its locus of pow­er and inter­est is in the giant cor­po­ra­tions and finan­cial insti­tu­tions which dom­i­nate the Amer­i­can econ­o­my, and more­over, the econ­o­my of the entire West­ern world. “In terms of pow­er,” writes one author­i­ty on the cor­po­ra­tions (him­self a cor­po­rate exec­u­tive and for­mer U.S. pol­i­cy-mak­er) “with­out regard to asset posi­tions, not only do five hun­dred cor­po­ra­tions con­trol, not only do five hun­dred cor­po­ra­tions con­trol two-thirds of the non-farm econ­o­my, but with­in each of that five hun­dred a still small­er group has the ulti­mate deci­sion-mak­ing pow­er. This is, I think, the high­est con­cen­tra­tion of eco­nom­ic pow­er in record­ed his­to­ry.”6 More­over, “since the Unit­ed States car­ries on not quite half of the man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­duc­tion of the entire world today, these five hun­dred groupings—each with its own lit­tle dom­i­nat­ing pyra­mid with­in it—represent a con­cen­tra­tion of pow­er over economies which makes the medieval feu­dal sys­tem look like a Sun­day school par­ty.”

As this observ­er points out, many of these cor­po­ra­tions have bud­gets, and some of them have pay­rolls which, with their cus­tomers, affect a greater num­ber of peo­ple than most of the hun­dred-odd sov­er­eign coun­tries of the world. Indeed, the fifty largest cor­po­ra­tions employ almost three times as many peo­ple as the five largest U.S. states, while their com­bined sales are over five times greater than the tax­es the states col­lect.

In the last analy­sis, it is the depen­dence of men indi­vid­u­al­ly and col­lec­tive­ly on the cor­po­rate­ly orga­nized and con­trolled econ­o­my that pro­vides the basis for the cor­po­rate dom­i­na­tion of U.S. pol­i­cy, espe­cial­ly U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy. The basic ful­crum of this cor­po­rate pow­er is the invest­ment deci­sion, which is effec­tive­ly made by a small group of men rel­a­tive to the econ­o­my as a whole. This deci­sion includes how much the cor­po­ra­tions spend, what they pro­duce, where the prod­ucts are to be man­u­fac­tured, and who is to par­tic­i­pate in the process of pro­duc­tion.

But this is not the whole extent of the pow­er of the cor­po­rate invest­ment deci­sion. In the nation­al econ­o­my, the small oli­garchy of cor­po­rate and finan­cial rulers, who are respon­si­ble to no one, deter­mine through their invest­ment out­lays the lev­el of out­put and employ­ment for the econ­o­my as a whole. As Keynes observed, the nation­al pros­per­i­ty is exces­sive­ly depen­dent on the con­fi­dence of the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty. This con­fi­dence can be irrepara­bly injured by a gov­ern­ment which pur­sues a course of pol­i­cy inim­i­cal to busi­ness inter­ests. In oth­er words, basic to the polit­i­cal suc­cess at the polls for any gov­ern­ment, as to the suc­cess of its spe­cif­ic pro­grams, will be the way the government’s poli­cies affect the sys­tem of incen­tives on which the econ­o­my runs—a sys­tem of incen­tives that is also the basis of the priv­i­leges of the social upper class­es.

This does not mean, of course, that the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty as such must pre­fer a par­tic­u­lar can­di­date or par­ty for that can­di­date or par­ty to be vic­to­ri­ous. It means, much more fun­da­men­tal­ly, that short of com­mit­ting polit­i­cal sui­cide, no par­ty or gov­ern­ment can step out­side the frame­work of the cor­po­rate sys­tem and its pol­i­tics, and embark on a course which con­sis­tent­ly threat­ens the pow­er and priv­i­leges of the giant cor­po­ra­tions. Either a gov­ern­ment must seize the com­mand­ing heights of the econ­o­my at once, i.e., ini­ti­ate a course of social rev­o­lu­tion, or run things more or less in the nor­mal way, that is, accord­ing to the pri­or­i­ties and chan­nels deter­mined by the sys­tem of incen­tive pay­ments to the cor­po­rate con­trollers of the means of pro­duc­tion. This is an unspo­ken but well under­stood fact con­di­tion­ing pol­i­tics in cap­i­tal­ist coun­tries, which explains why the pat­tern of resource allocation—the pri­or­i­ty of guns over but­ter, of high­way con­struc­tion over schools and hospitals—is so sim­i­lar in all of them. It also explains why, despite the con­gres­sion­al and par­lia­men­tary enact­ment of pro­gres­sive tax laws in all these coun­tries, the spir­it of the law has been thwart­ed, and nowhere has the sig­nif­i­cant redis­tri­b­u­tion of income promised by these demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly rat­i­fied statutes tak­en place.

The sheer eco­nom­ic pres­sure that the cor­po­ra­tions can exert over the poli­cies of demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed gov­ern­ments is lucid­ly man­i­fest in the expe­ri­ence of the Wil­son Labour gov­ern­ment in Eng­land. For while owing its office to labor votes and labor mon­ey, this gov­ern­ment was forced by “the eco­nom­ic sit­u­a­tion,” i.e., by domes­tic and inter­na­tion­al cap­i­tal, to pur­sue pre­cise­ly the poli­cies that it had con­demned as anti-labor while in oppo­si­tion.

Of course, under nor­mal con­di­tions, and par­tic­u­lar­ly in the Unit­ed States, where no labor par­ty exists, the cor­po­ra­tions have less sub­tle means at their dis­pos­al for ensur­ing poli­cies con­ducive to their con­tin­ued vig­or and growth.

The means by which the upper class­es main­tain their priv­i­leged posi­tion and vest­ed inter­ests in coun­tries where uni­ver­sal suf­frage pre­vails vary with the dif­fer­ing tra­di­tions, social insti­tu­tions, and class struc­tures of the coun­tries involved. They vary also with their his­tor­i­cal roles. Thus, in the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, as the Unit­ed States has replaced Britain as the guardian pow­er and police­man of the inter­na­tion­al sys­tem of prop­er­ty and priv­i­lege, the cor­po­rate rul­ing class, with its equal­ly expand­ing over­seas inter­ests, has less and less been able to entrust pol­i­cy to indi­rect­ly con­trolled rep­re­sen­ta­tives and has more and more had to enter direct­ly the seats of gov­ern­ment itself.

In the post­war peri­od, the strate­gic agen­cies of for­eign policy—the State Depart­ment, the CIA, the Pen­ta­gon, and the Trea­sury, as well as the key ambas­sado­r­i­al posts—have all been dom­i­nat­ed by rep­re­sen­ta­tives and rulers of America’s prin­ci­pal cor­po­rate finan­cial empires. In addi­tion, all the spe­cial com­mit­tees and task forces on for­eign pol­i­cy guide­lines have been presided over by the men of this busi­ness elite, so that on all impor­tant lev­els of for­eign pol­i­cy­mak­ing, “busi­ness serves as the fount of crit­i­cal assump­tions or goals and strate­gi­cal­ly placed per­son­nel.”

While the cor­po­rate-based upper class in gen­er­al occu­pies a prodi­gious num­ber of posi­tions in the high­est reach­es of the “demo­c­ra­t­ic” state, it need not strive to occu­py all the top places to impose its own inter­pre­ta­tion of the nation­al inter­est on Amer­i­can pol­i­cy. Pre­cise­ly because the pre­vail­ing ide­ol­o­gy of U.S. pol­i­tics in gen­er­al, and of the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment in par­tic­u­lar, is cor­po­rate ide­ol­o­gy, reflect­ing the cor­po­rate out­look and inter­ests, and because, there­fore, the frame­work of artic­u­lat­ed pol­i­cy choic­es lies well with­in the hori­zon of this out­look, polit­i­cal out­siders may be tol­er­at­ed and even high­ly effec­tive in serv­ing the cor­po­rate sys­tem and its pro­grams.

There are two prin­ci­pal ways (in addi­tion to those already dis­cussed) by which cor­po­rate ide­ol­o­gy comes to pre­vail in the larg­er polit­i­cal realm. In the first place, it does so through the cor­po­rate (and upper-class) con­trol of the means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the means of pro­duc­tion of ideas and ide­ol­o­gy (the mass media, the foun­da­tions, uni­ver­si­ties, etc.). How­ev­er, even this con­trol, which is vast but not ubiq­ui­tous in ensur­ing the gen­er­al pre­dom­i­nance of the ideas of the dom­i­nant class, is not left to work at ran­dom. Thus, in Pro­fes­sor Domhoff’s inves­ti­ga­tion of the Amer­i­can rul­ing class, he found that “in most instances” non-upper-class polit­i­cal lead­ers “were select­ed trained and employed in [spe­cial] insti­tu­tions which func­tion to the ben­e­fit of mem­bers of the upper class.” Such lead­ers, Pro­fes­sor Domhoff con­clud­ed, “are select­ed for advance­ment in terms of the inter­est of the mem­bers of the upper class.”

The sec­ond basic way in which cor­po­rate ide­ol­o­gy comes to pre­vail, par­tic­u­lar­ly at the for­eign pol­i­cy lev­el, is by the very fact that the dom­i­nant real­i­ty of soci­ety is cor­po­rate, and there­fore polit­i­cal “real­ism” dic­tates for any states­man or politi­cian that he work with­in its frame­work and accept its assump­tions. If the hori­zon of polit­i­cal choice is lim­it­ed to an area in which the cor­po­rate inter­ests is not direct­ly chal­lenged, because it would be both impru­dent and imprac­ti­cal (utopi­an) to do so, if the frame­work of pri­vate prop­er­ty in the means of pro­duc­tion is accept­ed as not real­is­ti­cal­ly sub­ject to change, then the “nation­al” inter­est, which is the con­cept under which politi­cians and states­men tend to oper­ate (par­tic­u­lar­ly in for­eign pol­i­cy), nec­es­sar­i­ly coin­cides with the inter­ests of the cor­po­ra­tions, the repos­i­to­ries of the nation’s wealth, the orga­niz­ers of its pro­duc­tive pow­er, and hence the guardians of the mate­r­i­al basis of its strength. In a class-divid­ed soci­ety under nor­mal (i.e., non-rev­o­lu­tion­ary) con­di­tions, the nation­al inter­est vis-à-vis exter­nal inter­ests inevitably is inter­pret­ed as the inter­est of the dom­i­nant or rul­ing class. Thus, in a cor­po­rate cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety, the cor­po­rate out­look as a mat­ter of course becomes the dom­i­nant out­look of the state in for­eign affairs.

This is not to say that there is nev­er a con­flict over for­eign pol­i­cy that express­es a con­flict between cor­po­ra­tions and the state. Just as there are dif­fer­ences among the cor­po­rate inter­ests them­selves, with­in a gen­er­al frame­work of inter­ests, so there are dif­fer­ences between the cor­po­rate com­mu­ni­ty out­side the state and the cor­po­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tives and their agents in the state, result­ing from the dif­fer­ence in van­tage and the wider and nar­row­er inter­ests that each group must take into account. But here, too, the hori­zon of choice, the frame­work of deci­sive inter­ests, is defined by the neces­si­ty of pre­serv­ing and strength­en­ing the sta­tus quo order of cor­po­rate cap­i­tal­ism and con­se­quent­ly the inter­ests of the social class­es most ben­e­fit­ed by it.

 What, then, is the nature of cor­po­rate ide­ol­o­gy as it dom­i­nates U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy and what is its role in the devel­op­ment of the Cold War? As a result of the pio­neer­ing work of Pro­fes­sor William Apple­man Williams and his stu­dents, these ques­tions can be answered pre­cise­ly and suc­cinct­ly. The chief func­tion of cor­po­rate ide­ol­o­gy is, of course, to make an explic­it iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the nation­al tra­di­tion and interest—the Amer­i­can Way of Life—with its own par­tic­u­lar inter­est. This iden­ti­fi­ca­tion is accom­plished by means of an eco­nom­ic deter­min­ism, which takes as its car­di­nal prin­ci­ple the propo­si­tion that polit­i­cal free­dom is insep­a­ra­bly bound up with cor­po­rate prop­er­ty: that a “free enter­prise” econ­o­my is the indis­pens­able foun­da­tion of a free poli­ty (where free enter­prise is defined to coin­cide with the sta­tus quo order of cor­po­rate cap­i­tal­ism, not with an out­dat­ed sys­tem of inde­pen­dent farm­ers and traders).

Start­ing from this root premise, the ide­ol­o­gy, as artic­u­lat­ed by Amer­i­can pol­i­cy­mak­ers since the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, main­tains that an expand­ing fron­tier of ever new and acces­si­ble mar­kets is absolute­ly essen­tial for cap­i­tal­ist America’s domes­tic pros­per­i­ty and hence, that the exten­sion of the Amer­i­can sys­tem and its insti­tu­tions abroad is a neces­si­ty for the preser­va­tion of the Amer­i­can, demo­c­ra­t­ic, free-enter­prise order at home. Orig­i­nal­ly for­mu­lat­ed as an “Open Door” pol­i­cy, to pre­vent the clos­ing of the exter­nal fron­tier by Euro­pean colo­nial­ism, and to ensure Amer­i­can access to, and even­tu­al dom­i­na­tion of, glob­al mar­kets, this pol­i­cy has become in the post­war peri­od a pol­i­cy of pre­serv­ing and extend­ing Amer­i­can hege­mo­ny and the free enter­prise sys­tem through­out the exter­nal fron­tier, or, as it is now called, the “free world.” From Woodrow Wilson’s First World War cry that the world must be made safe for democ­ra­cy, it was but a log­i­cal his­tor­i­cal step to Sec­re­tary of State Byrnes’s remark at the close of the Sec­ond World War that the world must be made safe for the Unit­ed States. This is the core of America’s mes­sian­ic cru­sade: that the world must be made over in the Amer­i­can image (read: sub­ject­ed to the Amer­i­can cor­po­rate sys­tem) if the Amer­i­can Way of Life (read: the cor­po­rate econ­o­my) is to sur­vive at home.

If expan­sion (and mil­i­tarism) had held the key not only to Amer­i­can pros­per­i­ty, but to Amer­i­can secu­ri­ty as well, the post­war peri­od would undoubt­ed­ly have real­ized Sec­re­tary of State Byrnes’ ambi­tious goal. In the last stages of the war and the first of the peace, the Unit­ed States suc­cess­ful­ly pen­e­trat­ed the old Euro­pean empires (main­ly those of France, Great Britain, and the Nether­lands), assumed con­trol of Japan and its for­mer depen­den­cies, and extend­ed its own pow­er glob­al­ly to an unprece­dent­ed degree. By 1949, the Unit­ed States had liens on some four hun­dred mil­i­tary bases, while the expan­sion of direct over­seas invest­ments was tak­ing place at a phe­nom­e­nal rate. Thus, while between between 1929 and 1946 U.S. for­eign invest­ments had actu­al­ly declined from $7.9 to $7.2 bil­lion, between 1946 and 1967 they increased an incred­i­ble eight­fold to more than $60 bil­lion. It is this glob­al stake in the wealth and resources of the exter­nal fron­tier that forms the basis of the U.S. com­mit­ment to the world­wide sta­tus quo (though it may not always pro­vide the whole expla­na­tion for par­tic­u­lar com­mit­ments or engage­ments). It is this com­mit­ment to the inter­nal sta­tus quo in oth­er coun­tries (the State Depart­ment actu­al­ly runs a course for for­eign ser­vice offi­cers and ambas­sadors called “Over­seas Inter­nal Defense”) that ren­ders Washington’s expan­sion­ist pro­gram not the key to secu­ri­ty but the very source of Cold War con­flict, with its per­ma­nent men­ace to mankind’s sur­vival.

For the expan­sion of cor­po­rate over­seas invest­ment has to an over­whelm­ing degree not pro­duced ben­e­fi­cial results on the whole, and the sta­tus, of which the cor­po­ra­tions inevitably con­sti­tute a dom­i­nat­ing part, is almost every­where a sta­tus quo of human mis­ery and suf­fer­ing:

No one acquaint­ed with the behav­ior of west­ern cor­po­ra­tions on their pil­grim­ages for prof­it dur­ing the last fifty years can real­ly be sur­prised that the … explo­sions now tak­ing place (in the under­de­vel­oped world) are doing so in an anti-Amer­i­can, anti-cap­i­tal­ist, anti-west­ern con­text. For many years these con­ti­nents have been hap­py hunt­ing grounds for cor­po­rate adven­tur­ers, who have tak­en out great resources and great prof­its and left behind great pover­ty, great expec­ta­tions and great resent­ments. Gun­nar Myrdal points out that cap­i­tal­ist inter­ven­tion in under­de­vel­oped coun­tries thus far has almost uni­form­ly had the result of mak­ing the rich rich­er and the poor poor­er….7

This has indeed been the unde­ni­able his­tor­i­cal con­se­quence of cap­i­tal­ist cor­po­rate expan­sion, although this is not what one is led to believe by the ortho­dox the­o­rists and aca­d­e­m­ic mod­el builders who func­tion so fre­quent­ly as the sophis­ti­cat­ed apol­o­gists of the Amer­i­can Empire and the pol­i­cy of coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­ven­tion nec­es­sary to main­tain it.

In the writ­ings of such the­o­rists, the expan­sion of America’s monop­o­lis­tic giants and their con­trol of the mar­kets and resources of the pover­ty-strick­en regions is pre­sent­ed as entail­ing the net export of cap­i­tal to these cap­i­tal-starved areas, the trans­fer of indus­tri­al tech­nolo­gies and skills, and the flow of wealth gen­er­al­ly from the rich world to the poor. From this point of view, rev­o­lu­tions which chal­lenge the pres­ence and dom­i­na­tion of for­eign cor­po­ra­tions and their states are either mis­guid­ed or sin­is­ter in intent, and con­trary to the real needs and inter­ests of the coun­tries involved. Indeed, for those who main­tain this view, rev­o­lu­tions are regard­ed as alien-inspired efforts aimed at sub­vert­ing and seiz­ing con­trol of the coun­tries in ques­tion dur­ing peri­ods of great dif­fi­cul­ty and insta­bil­i­ty pri­or to the so-called take­off into self-sus­tain­ing growth. This is the argu­ment advanced by W. W. Ros­tow, for­mer direc­tor of the State Department’s Pol­i­cy Plan­ning Staff and the chief ratio­nal­iz­er of America’s expan­sion­ist coun­ter­rev­o­lu­tion­ary cru­sade.

In fact, this view rests nei­ther on his­tor­i­cal expe­ri­ence, which shows the pres­ence of for­eign cap­i­tal and pow­er to have had a pro­found­ly adverse effect on the devel­op­ment poten­tial of the pen­e­trat­ed regions, nor on a sound empir­i­cal basis. Far from result­ing in a trans­fer of wealth from rich­er to poor­er regions, the pen­e­tra­tion of the under­de­vel­oped world by the impe­ri­al­ist and neo-impe­ri­al­ist sys­tems of the devel­oped states has had the oppo­site effect. As a result of direct U.S. over­seas invest­ments between 1950 and 1965, for exam­ple, there was a net cap­i­tal flow of $16 bil­lion to the Unit­ed States, and this was just a part of the neg­a­tive trans­fer. Sim­i­lar­ly, when looked at in their polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic set­tings, the much-her­ald­ed ben­e­fits of the advanced tech­nolo­gies trans­plant­ed into these areas, but under the con­trol of inter­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tions, also tend to be cir­cum­scribed and even adverse in their effects. Indeed, regard­ed in terms of its impact on total soci­eties rather than on par­tic­u­lar eco­nom­ic sec­tors, the oper­a­tion of open­ing the back­ward and weak areas to the com­pet­i­tive pen­e­tra­tion of the advanced and pow­er­ful cap­i­tal­ist states has been noth­ing short of a cat­a­stro­phe. For as Paul Baran showed in his pio­neer­ing work The Polit­i­cal Econ­o­my of Growth, it is pre­cise­ly the pen­e­tra­tion of the under­de­vel­oped world by advanced cap­i­tal­ism that has in the past obstruct­ed its devel­op­ment and con­tin­ues in the present to pre­vent it. Con­verse­ly, it has been pri­mar­i­ly their abil­i­ty to escape from the net of for­eign invest­ment and dom­i­na­tion that has made a cho­sen few among these coun­tries, like Japan, excep­tions to the rule. Pro­fes­sor Gun­der Frank and oth­ers have con­tin­ued the work that Baran ini­ti­at­ed, show­ing how for­eign cap­i­tal­ist invest­ment pro­duces the pat­tern of under­de­vel­op­ment (or “growth with­out devel­op­ment,’ as it is some­times called) that is the per­ma­nent night­mare of these regions.

The cri­sis of reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism has now, inevitably, giv­en rise to the con­cept of “rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­com­mu­nal­ism.”

We believe that every­thing is in a con­stant state of change, so we employ a frame­work of think­ing that can put us in touch with the process of change. That is, we believe that the con­clu­sions at which we arrive will always change, but the fun­da­men­tals of the method by which we arrive at our con­clu­sions will remain con­stant. Our ide­ol­o­gy, there­fore, is the most impor­tant part of our think­ing.

There are many dif­fer­ent ide­olo­gies or schools of thought, and all of them start with an a pri­ori set of assump­tions. This is because mankind is still lim­it­ed in its knowl­edge and finds it hard, at this his­tor­i­cal stage, to talk about the very begin­ning of things and the very end of things with­out start­ing from premis­es that can­not yet be proved.

This is true of both gen­er­al schools of thought—the ide­al­is­tic and the mate­ri­al­ist. The ide­al­ists base their think­ing on cer­tain pre­sump­tions about things of which they have very lit­tle knowl­edge; the mate­ri­al­ists like to believe that they are very much in con­tact with real­i­ty, or the real mate­r­i­al world, dis­re­gard­ing the fact that they only assume there is a mate­r­i­al world.

The Black Pan­ther Par­ty has cho­sen mate­ri­al­ist assump­tions on which to ground its ide­ol­o­gy. This is a pure­ly arbi­trary choice. Ide­al­ism might be the real hap­pen­ing; we might not be here at all. We don’t real­ly know whether we are in Con­necti­cut or in San Fran­cis­co, whether we are dream­ing and in a dream state, or whether we are awake and in a dream state. Per­haps we are just some­where in a void; we sim­ply can’t be sure. But because the mem­bers of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty are mate­ri­al­ists, we believe that some day sci­en­tists will be able to deliv­er the infor­ma­tion that will give us not only the evi­dence but the proof that there is a mate­r­i­al world and that its gen­e­sis was material—motion and matter—not spir­i­tu­al.

Until that time, how­ev­er, and for the pur­pos­es of dis­cus­sion, I mere­ly ask that we agree on the stip­u­la­tion that a mate­r­i­al world exists and devel­ops exter­nal­ly and inde­pen­dent­ly of us all. With this stip­u­la­tion, we have the foun­da­tion for an intel­li­gent dia­logue. We assume that there is a mate­r­i­al world and that it exists and devel­ops inde­pen­dent­ly of us; and we assume that the human organ­ism, through its sen­so­ry sys­tem, has the abil­i­ty to observe and ana­lyze that mate­r­i­al world.

Now the dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ist believes that every­thing in exis­tence has fun­da­men­tal inter­nal con­tra­dic­tions. For exam­ple, the African gods south of the Sahara always had at least two heads, one for evil and one for good. Now peo­ple cre­ate God in their own image, what they think He—for God is always a “He” in patri­ar­chal societies—what He is like or should be. So the African said, in effect: I am both good and evil; good and evil are the two parts of the thing that is me. This is an exam­ple of an inter­nal con­tra­dic­tion.

West­ern Soci­eties, though, split up good and evil, plac­ing God up in heav­en and the Dev­il down in hell. Good and evil fight for con­trol over peo­ple in West­ern reli­gions, but they are two entire­ly dif­fer­ent enti­ties. This is an exam­ple of an exter­nal con­tra­dic­tion.

This strug­gle of mutu­al­ly exclu­sive oppos­ing ten­den­cies with­in every­thing that exists explains the observ­able fact that all things have motion and are in a con­stant state of trans­for­ma­tion. Things trans­form them­selves because while one ten­den­cy or force is more dom­i­nat­ing than anoth­er, change is nonethe­less a con­stant, and at some point the bal­ance will alter and there will be a new qual­i­ta­tive devel­op­ment. New prop­er­ties will come into exis­tence, qual­i­ties that did not alto­geth­er exist before. Such qual­i­ties can­not be ana­lyzed with­out under­stand­ing the forces strug­gling with­in the object in the first place, yet the lim­i­ta­tions and deter­mi­na­tions of these new qual­i­ties are not defined by the forces that cre­at­ed them.

Class con­flict devel­ops by the same prin­ci­ples that gov­ern all oth­er phe­nom­e­na in the mate­r­i­al world. In con­tem­po­rary soci­ety, a class that owns prop­er­ty dom­i­nates a class that does not own prop­er­ty. There is a class of work­ers and class of own­ers, and because there exists a basic con­tra­dic­tion in the inter­ests of these two class­es, they are con­stant­ly strug­gling with one anoth­er. Now, because things do not stay the same we can be sure of one thing: the own­er will not stay the own­er, and the peo­ple who are dom­i­nat­ed will not stay dom­i­nat­ed. We don’t know exact­ly how this will hap­pen, but after we ana­lyze all the oth­er ele­ments of the sit­u­a­tion, we can make a few pre­dic­tions. We can be sure that if we increase the inten­si­ty of the strug­gle, we will reach a point where the equi­lib­ri­um of forces will change and there will be a qual­i­ta­tive leap into a new sit­u­a­tion with a new social equi­lib­ri­um.  I say “leap” because we know from our expe­ri­ence of the phys­i­cal world than when trans­for­ma­tions of this kind occur they do so with great force.

These prin­ci­ples of dialec­ti­cal devel­op­ment do not rep­re­sent an iron law that can be applied mechan­i­cal­ly to the social process. There are excep­tions to those laws of devel­op­ment and trans­for­ma­tion, which is why, as dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ists, we empha­size that we must ana­lyze each set of con­di­tions sep­a­rate­ly and make con­crete con­di­tions in each instance. One can­not always pre­dict the out­come, but one can for the most part gain enough insight to man­age the process.

The dialec­ti­cal method is essen­tial­ly an ide­ol­o­gy, yet we believe that it is supe­ri­or to oth­er ide­olo­gies because it puts us more in con­tact with what we believe to be the real world; it increas­es our abil­i­ty to deal with that world and shape its devel­op­ment and change.

You could eas­i­ly say, “This method may be suc­cess­ful­ly applied in one par­tic­u­lar instance, but how do you know that it is an infal­li­ble guide in all cas­es?” The answer is that we don’t know. We don’t say “all cas­es” or “infal­li­ble guide” because we try not to speak in such absolute and inclu­sive terms. We only say that we have to ana­lyze each instance, that we have found this method the best avail­able in the course of our analy­ses, and that we think the method will con­tin­ue to prove itself in the future.

We some­times have a prob­lem because peo­ple do not under­stand the ide­ol­o­gy that Marx and Engels began to devel­op. Peo­ple say, “You claim to be Marx­ists, but did you know that Marx was a racist?” We say, “He prob­a­bly was a racist: he made a state­ment once about the mar­riage of a white woman and a black man, and he called the black man a goril­la or some­thing like that.” The Marx­ists claim he was only kid­ding and that the state­ment shows Marx’s close­ness to the man, but of course that is non­sense. So it does seem that Marx was a racist.

Now if you are a Marx­ist, then Marx’s racism affects your own judg­ment because a Marx­ist is some­one who wor­ships Marx and the thought of Marx. Remem­ber, though, that Marx him­self said, “I am not a Marx­ist.” Such Marx­ists cher­ish the con­clu­sions which Marx arrived at through his method, but they throw away the method itself—leaving them­selves in a total­ly sta­t­ic pos­ture. That is why most Marx­ists real­ly are his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­al­ists: they look to the past to get answers for the future, and that does not work.

If you are a dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ist, how­ev­er, Marx’s racism does not mat­ter. You do not believe in the con­clu­sions of one per­son but in the valid­i­ty of a mode of thought; and we in the Par­ty, as dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ists, rec­og­nize Karl Marx as one of the great con­trib­u­tors to that mode of thought. Whether or not Marx was a racist is irrel­e­vant and imma­te­r­i­al to whether or not the sys­tem of think­ing he helped to devel­op deliv­ers truths about process­es in the mate­r­i­al world. And this is true in all dis­ci­plines. In every dis­ci­pline you find peo­ple who have dis­tort­ed visions and are at a low state of con­scious­ness who nonethe­less have flash­es of insight and pro­duce ideas worth con­sid­er­ing. For instance, John B. Wat­son once stat­ed that his favorite pas­time was hunt­ing and hang­ing nig­gers, yet he made great for­ward strides in the analy­sis and inves­ti­ga­tions of con­di­tioned respons­es.

Now that I have said a word about the ide­ol­o­gy of the Par­ty, I am going to describe the his­to­ry of the Par­ty and how we have changed our under­stand­ing of the world.

When we start­ed in Octo­ber 1966, we were what one would call black nation­al­ists. We real­ized the con­tra­dic­tions in soci­ety, the pres­sure on black peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar, and we saw that most peo­ple in the past had solved some of their prob­lems by form­ing into nations. We there­fore argued that it was ratio­nal and log­i­cal for us to believe that our suf­fer­ings as a peo­ple would end when we estab­lished a nation of our own, com­posed of our own peo­ple.

But after a while we saw that some­thing was wrong with this res­o­lu­tion of the prob­lem. In the past, nation­hood was a fair­ly easy thing to accom­plish. If we look around now, though, we see that the world—the land space, the liv­able parts as we know them—is pret­ty well set­tled. So we real­ized that to cre­ate a new nation we would have to become a dom­i­nant fac­tion in this one, and yet the fact that we did not have pow­er was the con­tra­dic­tion that drove us to seek nation­hood in the first place. It is an end­less cir­cle, you see: to achieve nation­hood, we need­ed to become a dom­i­nant force; but to become a dom­i­nant force, we need­ed to be a nation.

So we made a fur­ther analy­sis and found that in order for us to be a dom­i­nant force we would at least have to be great in num­ber. We devel­oped from just plain nation­al­ists or sep­a­ratist nation­al­ists into rev­o­lu­tion­ary nation­al­ists. We said that we joined with all the oth­er peo­ple in the world strug­gling for decol­o­niza­tion and nation­hood, and called our­selves a “dis­persed colony” because we did not have the geo­graph­i­cal con­cen­tra­tion that oth­er so-called colonies had. But we did have black com­mu­ni­ties through­out the country—San Fran­cis­co, Los Ange­les, New Haven—and there are many sim­i­lar­i­ties between these com­mu­ni­ties and the tra­di­tion­al kind of colony. We also thought that if we allied with those oth­er colonies we would have a great num­ber, a greater chance, a greater force; and that is what we need­ed of course, because only force kept us a col­o­nized peo­ple.

We saw that it was not only ben­e­fi­cial for us to be rev­o­lu­tion­ary nation­al­ists but to express our sol­i­dar­i­ty with those friends who suf­fered many of the same kind of pres­sures we suf­fered. There­fore we changed our self-def­i­n­i­tions. We said that we are not only rev­o­lu­tion­ary nationalists—that is, nation­al­ists who want rev­o­lu­tion­ary changes in every­thing, includ­ing the eco­nom­ic sys­tem the oppres­sor inflicts upon us—but we are also indi­vid­u­als deeply con­cerned with the oth­er peo­ple of the world and their desires for rev­o­lu­tion. In order to show this sol­i­dar­i­ty, we decid­ed to call our­selves inter­na­tion­al­ists.

Orig­i­nal­ly, as I said, we assumed that peo­ple could solve a num­ber of their prob­lems by becom­ing nations, but this con­clu­sion showed our lack of under­stand­ing of the world’s dialec­ti­cal devel­op­ment. Our mis­take was to assume that the con­di­tions under which peo­ple had become nations in the past still exist­ed. To be a nation, one must sat­is­fy cer­tain essen­tial con­di­tions, and if these things did not exist or can­not be cre­at­ed, then it is not pos­si­ble to be a nation.

In the past, nation-states were usu­al­ly inhab­it­ed by peo­ple of a cer­tain eth­nic and reli­gious back­ground. They were divid­ed from oth­er peo­ple either by a par­ti­tion of water or a great unoc­cu­pied land space. This nat­ur­al par­ti­tion gave the nation’s dom­i­nant class, and the peo­ple gen­er­al­ly, a cer­tain amount of con­trol over the kinds of polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic, and social insti­tu­tions they estab­lished. It gave them a cer­tain amount of con­trol over their des­tiny and their ter­ri­to­ry. They were secure at least to the extent that they would not be attacked or vio­lat­ed by anoth­er nation ten thou­sand miles away, sim­ply because the means to trans­port troops that far did not exist. This sit­u­a­tion, how­ev­er, could not last. Tech­nol­o­gy devel­oped until there was a def­i­nite qual­i­ta­tive trans­for­ma­tion in the rela­tion­ships with­in and between nations.

We know that you can­not change a part of the whole with­out chang­ing the whole, and vice ver­sa. As tech­nol­o­gy devel­oped and there was an increase in mil­i­tary capa­bil­i­ties and means of trav­el and com­mu­ni­ca­tion, nations began to con­trol oth­er ter­ri­to­ries, dis­tant from their own. Usu­al­ly they con­trolled these oth­er lands by send­ing admin­is­tra­tors and set­tlers, who would extract labor from the peo­ple or resources from the earth—or both. This is the phe­nom­e­non we know as colo­nial­ism.

The set­tlers’ con­trol over the seized land and peo­ple grew to such an extent that it wasn’t even nec­es­sary for the set­tler to be present to main­tain the sys­tem. He went back home. The peo­ple were so inte­grat­ed with the aggres­sor that their land didn’t look like a colony any longer. But because their land didn’t look like a free state either, some the­o­rists start­ed to call these lands “neo­colonies.” Argu­ments about the pre­cise def­i­n­i­tion of these enti­ties devel­oped. Are they colonies or not? If they aren’t, what are they? The the­o­rists knew that some­thing had hap­pened, but they did not know what it was.

Using the dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ist method, we in the Black Pan­ther Par­ty saw that the Unit­ed States was no longer a nation. It was some­thing else; it was more than a nation. It had not only expand­ed its ter­ri­to­r­i­al bound­aries, but it had expand­ed all of its con­trols as well. We called it an empire. Now at one time the world had an empire in which the con­di­tions of rule were different—the Roman Empire. The dif­fer­ence between the Roman and the Amer­i­can empires is that oth­er nations were able to exist exter­nal to and inde­pen­dent of the Roman Empire because their means of explo­rations, con­quest, and con­trol were all rel­a­tive­ly lim­it­ed.

But when we say “empire” today, we mean pre­cise­ly what we say. An empire is a nation-state that has trans­formed itself into a pow­er con­trol­ling all of the world’s lands and peo­ple.

We believe that there are no more colonies or neo­colonies. If a peo­ple is col­o­nized, it must be pos­si­ble for them to decol­o­nize and become what they for­mer­ly were. But what hap­pens when the raw mate­ri­als are extract­ed and labor is exploit­ed with­in a ter­ri­to­ry dis­persed over the entire globe? When the rich­es of the whole earth are deplet­ed and used to feed a gigan­tic indus­tri­al machine in the imperialist’s home? Then the peo­ple and the econ­o­my are so inte­grat­ed into the impe­ri­al­ist empire that it is impos­si­ble to “decol­o­nize,” to return to the for­mer con­di­tions of exis­tence.

If colonies can­not “decol­o­nize” and return to their orig­i­nal exis­tence as nations, then nations no longer exist. And since there must be nations for rev­o­lu­tion­ary nation­al­ism or inter­na­tion­al­ism to make sense, we decid­ed that we would have to call our­selves some­thing new.

We say that the world today is a dis­persed col­lec­tion of com­mu­ni­ties. A com­mu­ni­ty is dif­fer­ent from a nation. A com­mu­ni­ty is a small unit with a com­pre­hen­sive col­lec­tion of insti­tu­tions that serve to exist a small group of peo­ple. And we say fur­ther that the strug­gle in the world today is between the small cir­cle that admin­is­ters and prof­its from the empire of the Unit­ed States, and the peo­ples of the world who want to deter­mine their own des­tinies.

We call this sit­u­a­tion inter­com­mu­nal­ism. We are now in the age of reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism, in which a rul­ing cir­cle, a small group of peo­ple, con­trol all oth­er peo­ple by using their tech­nol­o­gy.

At the same time, we say that this tech­nol­o­gy can solve most of the mate­r­i­al con­tra­dic­tions peo­ple face, that the mate­r­i­al con­di­tions exist that would allow the peo­ple of the world to devel­op a cul­ture that is essen­tial­ly human and would nur­ture those things that would allow peo­ple to resolve con­tra­dic­tions in a way that would not cause the mutu­al slaugh­ter of all of us. The devel­op­ment of such a cul­ture would be rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­com­mu­nal­ism.

Some com­mu­ni­ties have begun doing this. They have lib­er­at­ed their ter­ri­to­ries and have estab­lished pro­vi­sion­al gov­ern­ments. We rec­og­nize them, and say that these gov­ern­ments rep­re­sent the peo­ple of Chi­na, North Korea, and the peo­ple in the lib­er­at­ed zones of South Viet­nam, and the peo­ple of North Viet­nam.

We believe their exam­ples should be fol­lowed so that the order of the day would not be reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism (empire) but rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­com­mu­nal­ism. The peo­ple of the world, that is, must seize pow­er from the small rul­ing cir­cle and expro­pri­ate the expro­pri­a­tors, pull them down from their pin­na­cle and make them equals, and dis­trib­ute the fruits of our labor that have been denied us in some equi­table way. We know that the machin­ery to accom­plish these tasks exists and we want access to it.

Impe­ri­al­ism has laid the foun­da­tion for world com­mu­nism, and impe­ri­al­ism itself has grown to the point of reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism because the world is now inte­grat­ed into one com­mu­ni­ty. The com­mu­ni­ca­tions rev­o­lu­tion, com­bined with the expan­sive dom­i­na­tion of the Amer­i­can empire, has cre­at­ed the “glob­al vil­lage.” The peo­ples of all cul­tures are under siege by the same forces and they all have access to the same tech­nolo­gies.

There are only dif­fer­ences in degree between what is hap­pen­ing to the blacks here and what is hap­pen­ing to all of the peo­ple in the world, includ­ing Africans. Their needs are the same and their ener­gy is the same. And the con­tra­dic­tions they suf­fer will only be resolved when the peo­ple estab­lish a rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­com­mu­nal­ism where they share all the wealth that they pro­duce and live in one world.

The stage of his­to­ry is set for such a trans­for­ma­tion: the tech­no­log­i­cal and admin­is­tra­tive base of social­ism exists. When the peo­ple seize the means of pro­duc­tion and all social insti­tu­tions, then there will be a qual­i­ta­tive leap and change in the orga­ni­za­tion of soci­ety. It will take time to resolve the con­tra­dic­tions of racism and all kinds of chau­vin­ism; but because the peo­ple will con­trol their own social insti­tu­tions, they will be free to re-cre­ate them­selves and to estab­lish com­mu­nism, a stage of human devel­op­ment in which human val­ues will shape the struc­ture of soci­ety. At this time, the world will be ready for a still high­er lev­el, of which we can now know noth­ing.

We can be sure that there will be con­tra­dic­tions after rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­com­mu­nal­ism is the order of the day, and we can even be sure that there will be con­tra­dic­tions after com­mu­nism, which is an even high­er stage than rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­com­mu­nal­ism. There will always be con­tra­dic­tions or else every­thing would stop. It is not a ques­tion of “when the rev­o­lu­tion comes”: the rev­o­lu­tion is always going on. It is not a ques­tion of “when the rev­o­lu­tion is going to be”: the rev­o­lu­tion is going on every day, every minute, because the new is always strug­gling against the old for dom­i­nance.

We also say that every deter­mi­na­tion is a lim­i­ta­tion, and every lim­i­ta­tion is a deter­mi­na­tion. This is the strug­gle of the old and new again, where a thing seems to negate itself. For instance, impe­ri­al­ism negates itself after lay­ing the foun­da­tion for com­mu­nism, and com­mu­nism will even­tu­al­ly negate itself because of its inter­nal con­tra­dic­tions, and then we will move to an even high­er state.

So of course there will be con­tra­dic­tions in the future. But some con­tra­dic­tions are antag­o­nis­tic and some con­tra­dic­tions are not antag­o­nis­tic. Usu­al­ly when we speak of antag­o­nis­tic con­tra­dic­tions, we are talk­ing about con­tra­dic­tions that devel­op from con­flicts of eco­nom­ic inter­est, and we assume that in the future, when the peo­ple have pow­er, these antag­o­nis­tic con­tra­dic­tions will occur less and less.

The expro­pri­a­tors will be expro­pri­at­ed. All things car­ry a neg­a­tive sign as well as a pos­i­tive sign. That is why we say every deter­mi­na­tion has a lim­i­ta­tion and every lim­i­ta­tion has a deter­mi­na­tion. For exam­ple, one’s organ­ism car­ries inter­nal con­tra­dic­tions from the moment of birth and the begin­ning of dete­ri­o­ra­tion. First you are an infant, then a small child, then an ado­les­cent, and so on until you are old. We keep devel­op­ing and burn­ing our­selves out at the same time; we are negat­ing our­selves. And this is just how impe­ri­al­ism is negat­ing itself now. It has moved into a phrase we call reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism and has thus laid the foun­da­tion for rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­com­mu­nal­ism, because as the ene­my dis­pers­es its troops and con­trols more and more space, it becomes weak­er and weak­er, the peo­ple become stronger and stronger.

The pri­ma­ry con­cern of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty is to lift the lev­el of con­scious­ness of the peo­ple through the­o­ry and prac­tice to the point where they will see exact­ly what is con­trol­ling them and what is oppress­ing them, and there­fore see exact­ly what has to be done—or at least what the first step is. One of the great­est con­tri­bu­tions of Freud was to make peo­ple aware that they are con­trolled much of their lives by their uncon­scious. He attempt­ed to strip away the veil from the uncon­scious and make it con­scious: that is the first step in feel­ing free, the first step in exert­ing con­trol. It seems to be nat­ur­al for peo­ple not to like being con­trolled. Marx made a sim­i­lar con­tri­bu­tion to human free­dom, only he point­ed out the exter­nal things that con­trol peo­ple. In order for peo­ple to lib­er­ate them­selves from exter­nal con­trols, they have to know about these con­trols. Con­scious­ness of the expro­pri­a­tor is nec­es­sary for expro­pri­at­ing the expro­pri­a­tor, for throw­ing off exter­nal con­trols.

Dialec­tics would make it nec­es­sary to have a uni­ver­sal iden­ti­ty. If we do not have uni­ver­sal iden­ti­ty, then we will have cul­tur­al, racial, and reli­gious chau­vin­ism, the kind of eth­no­cen­trism we have now. Even if in the future there will be some small dif­fer­ences in behav­ior pat­terns, dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ments would all be a sec­ondary thing. And we strug­gle for a future in which we will real­ize that we are all Homo sapi­ens and have more in com­mon than not. We will be clos­er togeth­er than we are now.

The mass media have, in a sense, psy­chol­o­gized many of the peo­ple in our coun­try, so that they come to desire the con­trols that are imposed upon them by the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem, so that they are psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly, at least, part of the rul­ing class. We have to under­stand that every­thing has a mate­r­i­al basis, and that our per­son­al­i­ties would not exist, what oth­ers call our spir­it or our mind would not exist, if we were not mate­r­i­al organ­isms. So to under­stand why some of the vic­tims of the rul­ing class might iden­ti­fy with the rul­ing cir­cle, we must look at their mate­r­i­al lives; and if we do, we will real­ize that the same peo­ple who iden­ti­fy with the rul­ing cir­cle are also very unhap­py. Their feel­ings can be com­pared to those of a child: a child desires to mature so that he can con­trol him­self, but he believes he needs the pro­tec­tion of his father to do so. He has con­flict­ing dri­ves. Psy­chol­o­gists would call this con­flict neu­rot­ic if the child were unable to resolve it. First, peo­ple have to be con­scious of the ways they are con­trolled, then we have to under­stand the sci­en­tif­ic laws involved, and once that is accom­plished, we can begin to do what we want—to manip­u­late phe­nom­e­na.

The rev­o­lu­tion­ary thrust will come from the grow­ing num­ber of what we call “unem­ploy­ables” in this soci­ety. We call blacks and third world peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar, and poor peo­ple in gen­er­al, “unem­ploy­ables” because they do not have the skills need­ed to work in a high­ly devel­oped tech­no­log­i­cal soci­ety. As every soci­ety, like every age, con­tains its oppo­site: feu­dal­ism pro­duced cap­i­tal­ism, which wiped out feu­dal­ism, and cap­i­tal­ism pro­duced social­ism, which will wipe out cap­i­tal­ism; the same is true of reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism. Tech­no­log­i­cal devel­op­ment cre­ates a large mid­dle class, and the num­ber of work­ers increas­es also. The work­ers are paid a good deal and get many com­forts. But the rul­ing class is still only inter­est­ed in itself. They might make cer­tain com­pro­mis­es and give a little—as a mat­ter of fact, the rul­ing cir­cle has even devel­oped some­thing of a social struc­ture or wel­fare state to keep the oppo­si­tion down—but as tech­nol­o­gy devel­ops, the need for work­ers decreas­es. It has been esti­mat­ed that ten years from now only a small per­cent­age of the present work­force will be nec­es­sary to run the indus­tries. Then what will hap­pen to your work­er who is now mak­ing four dol­lars an hour? The work­ing class will be nar­rowed down, the class of unem­ploy­ables will grow because it will take more and more skills to oper­ate those machines and few­er peo­ple. And as these peo­ple become unem­ploy­ables, they will become more and more alien­at­ed; even social­ist com­pro­mis­es will not be enough. You will then find an inte­gra­tion between the black unem­ploy­able and the white racist hard hat who is not reg­u­lar­ly employed and mad at the blacks who he thinks threat­en his job. We hope that he will join forces with those peo­ple who are already unem­ploy­able, but whether he does or not, his mate­r­i­al exis­tence will have changed. The pro­le­tar­i­an will become the lumpen pro­le­tar­i­an. It is this future change—the increase of the lumpen pro­le­tari­at and the decrease of the proletariat—which makes us say that the lumpen pro­le­tari­at is the major­i­ty and car­ries the rev­o­lu­tion­ary ban­ner.

We say that black peo­ple are the van­guard of the rev­o­lu­tion in this coun­try, and, since no one will be free until the peo­ple of Amer­i­ca are free, that black peo­ple are the van­guard of world rev­o­lu­tion. We inher­it this lega­cy pri­mar­i­ly because we are the last, and as the say­ing goes, “The last will be the first.” We believe that black Amer­i­cans are the first real inter­na­tion­al­ists; not just the Black Pan­ther Par­ty, but black peo­ple who live in Amer­i­ca. We are inter­na­tion­al­ists because we have been inter­na­tion­al­ly dis­persed by slav­ery, and we can eas­i­ly iden­ti­fy with oth­er peo­ple in oth­er cul­tures. Because of slav­ery, we nev­er real­ly felt attached to the nation in the same way that the peas­ant was attached to the soil in Rus­sia. We are always a long way from home.

And, final­ly, the his­tor­i­cal con­di­tion of black Amer­i­cans has led us to be pro­gres­sive. We have always talked equal­i­ty, you see, instead of believ­ing that oth­er peo­ple must equal us. What we want is not dom­i­nance, but for the yoke to be released. We want to live with oth­er peo­ple, we don’t want to say that we are bet­ter: in fact, if we suf­fer a fault, it is that we tend to feel we are worse than oth­er peo­ple because we have been brain­washed to think that way. So these sub­jec­tive fac­tors, based on the mate­r­i­al exis­tence of black peo­ple in Amer­i­ca, con­tribute to our van­guard posi­tion.

As far as the Par­ty is con­cerned, it has been exclu­sive­ly black so far. We are think­ing about how to deal with the racist sit­u­a­tion in Amer­i­ca and the reac­tion black peo­ple in Amer­i­ca have to racism. We have to get to the black peo­ple first because they were car­ry­ing the ban­ner first, and we try to do every­thing pos­si­ble to get them to relate to us.

Our big bur­den is try­ing to sim­pli­fy our ide­ol­o­gy for the mass­es. So far I haven’t been able to do it well enough to keep from being booed off the stage, but we are learn­ing. I think one way to show how dialec­tics works is to use prac­ti­cal exam­ple after prac­ti­cal exam­ple but I am some­times afraid to do that because peo­ple will take each exam­ple and think, “If this is true in one case, then it must be true in all oth­er cas­es.” If they do that, then they become his­tor­i­cal mate­ri­al­ists like most Marx­ist schol­ars and most Marx­ist par­ties. These schol­ars and par­ties don’t real­ly deal in dialec­tics at all, or else they would know that at this time the rev­o­lu­tion­ary ban­ner will not be car­ried by the pro­le­tar­i­an class but by the lumpen pro­le­tari­at.

The con­cept of the black bour­geoisie is some­thing of an illu­sion. It is a fan­ta­sy bour­geoisie, and this is true of most of the white bour­geoisie as well. There are very few con­trollers even in the white mid­dle class. They can bare­ly keep their heads above water, they are pay­ing all the bills, liv­ing hand-to-mouth, and they have the extra expense of refus­ing to live like black peo­ple. So they are not real­ly con­trol­ling any­thing; they are con­trolled. In the same way, I do not rec­og­nize the black bour­geoisie as dif­fer­ent from any oth­er exploit­ed peo­ple. They are liv­ing in a fan­ta­sy world, and the main thing is to instill con­scious­ness, to point out their real inter­ests, their objec­tive and true inter­ests, just as our white pro­gres­sive and rad­i­cal friends have to do in the white com­mu­ni­ty.

We saw a need to for­mal­ize edu­ca­tion in the black com­mu­ni­ty because we did not believe that a hap­haz­ard kind of learn­ing would nec­es­sar­i­ly bring about the best results. We also saw that the so-called halls of learn­ing did noth­ing but mise­d­u­cate us; they either drove us out or kicked us out. What we are try­ing to do is struc­ture an edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tion of our own.

Our first attempt along these lines is that we call our Ide­o­log­i­cal Insti­tute. So far we have about one hun­dred stu­dents and these hun­dred stu­dents are very unique stu­dents, because all of them are broth­ers and sis­ters off the block. What I mean is that they are lumpen pro­le­tar­i­ans. Most of them are kick­outs and dropouts; most of them left school in the eighth, ninth or tenth grade and those few who stayed all the way did not learn how to read or write, just as I did not learn until I was about six­teen. They are now deal­ing with dialec­tics and they are deal­ing with science—they study physics and math­e­mat­ics so that they can under­stand the universe—and they are learn­ing because they think it is rel­e­vant to them now. They will relate this learn­ing back to the com­mu­ni­ty and the com­mu­ni­ty will in turn see the need for our pro­gram. It is very prac­ti­cal and relates to the needs of the peo­ple in a way that makes them recep­tive to our teach­ing and helps open their eyes to the fact that the peo­ple are the real pow­er. They are the ones who will bring about change, not us alone. A van­guard is like the head of a spear, the thing that goes first. But what real­ly hurts is the butt of the spear, because even though the head makes the nec­es­sary entrance, the back part is what pen­e­trates. With­out the butt, a spear is noth­ing but a tooth­pick. We, the Black Pan­ther Par­ty con­trol our Ide­o­log­i­cal Insti­tute. If the people—the oppressed people—do not con­trol their schools, with­out reser­va­tion, and with­out hav­ing to answer for what is done there or who speaks there, then it is not a pro­gres­sive insti­tu­tion.

The qual­i­ta­tive leap from reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism to rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­com­mu­nal­ism will not be the mil­len­ni­um. It will not imme­di­ate­ly bring into being either a uni­ver­sal iden­ti­ty or a cul­ture that is essen­tial­ly human. It will only pro­vide the mate­r­i­al base for the devel­op­ment of those ten­den­cies.

When the peo­ple seize the means of pro­duc­tion, when they seize the mass media and so forth, you will still have racism, you will still have eth­no­cen­trism, you will still have con­tra­dic­tions. But the fact that the peo­ple will be in con­trol of all the pro­duc­tive and insti­tu­tion­al units of society—not only fac­to­ries, but the media too—will enable them to start solv­ing these con­tra­dic­tions. It will pro­duce new val­ues, new iden­ti­ties; it will mold a new and essen­tial­ly human cul­ture as the peo­ple resolve old con­flicts based on cul­tur­al and eco­nom­ic con­di­tions. At some point, there will be a qual­i­ta­tive change and the peo­ple will have trans­formed rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­com­mu­nal­ism into com­mu­nism. We call it “com­mu­nism” because at this point in his­to­ry peo­ple will not only con­trol the pro­duc­tive and insti­tu­tion­al units of soci­ety, but they will also have seized pos­ses­sion of their own sub­con­scious atti­tudes toward these things; and for the first time in his­to­ry they will have a more rather than less con­scious rela­tion­ship to the mate­r­i­al world—people, plants, books, machines, media, everything—in which they live. They will have pow­er, that is, they will con­trol the phe­nom­e­na around them and make it act in some desired man­ner, and they will know their own real desires. The first step in this process is the seizure by the peo­ple of their own com­mu­ni­ties.

I would like to see the kind of com­mu­nism I just described come into being, and I think it will come into being. But the con­cept is so far from my com­pre­hen­sion that I could not pos­si­bly name the con­tra­dic­tions that will exist, although I am sure that the dialec­tics will go on. Only the basis for the con­tra­dic­tions exists now. Many of our rela­tion­ships with oth­er groups, such as the white rad­i­cals with whom we have formed coali­tions, have been crit­i­cized by the very peo­ple we are try­ing to help. For exam­ple, our offer of troops to the Viet­namese received neg­a­tive reac­tion from the peo­ple, tru­ly oppressed peo­ple. Wel­fare recip­i­ents wrote let­ters say­ing, “I thought the Par­ty was for us; why do you want to give those dirty Viet­namese our life blood?” I would call this a con­tra­dic­tion, one we are try­ing to solve. We are try­ing to give some ther­a­py, you might say, to our com­mu­ni­ty and lift their con­scious­ness but first we have to be accept­ed. If the ther­a­pist is not accept­ed, then he can­not deliv­er the mes­sage. We try to do what­ev­er is pos­si­ble to meet the patient on the grounds that he or she can best relate to, because, after all, they are the issue. I would say that we are being prag­mat­ic in order to do the job that has to be done, and then, when that job is done, the Black Pan­ther Par­ty will no longer be the Black Pan­ther Par­ty.

In a paper of this length the bal­ance between phi­los­o­phy or ide­ol­o­gy and mate­r­i­al data is dif­fi­cult. And to look for­ward to world com­mu­nism, the with­er­ing away of the State, and, then, anar­chy can only be done by speak­ing, here, only in the most gen­er­al terms.

Ernest Man­del calls the next stage the “end of polit­i­cal econ­o­my and com­mod­i­ty pro­duc­tion.” In his book, Marx­ist Eco­nom­ic The­o­ry, Vol II, Man­del says:

“It is not only the log­ic of the new mode of pro­duc­tion that will bring about this with­er­ing away of com­mod­i­ty pro­duc­tion. Automa­tion entails the same log­i­cal neces­si­ty in the sphere of pro­duc­tion. The pro­duc­tion of an abun­dance of goods and ser­vices is in fact accom­pa­nied by the more and more rapid elim­i­na­tions of all liv­ing, direct, human labour from the pro­duc­tion process, and even from the dis­tri­b­u­tion process (auto­mat­ic pow­er sta­tions; goods train dri­ven by remote con­trol; self-ser­vice dis­tri­b­u­tion cen­ters; auto­mat­ic vend­ing machines; mech­a­nized and automised offices, etc.). But the elim­i­na­tion of liv­ing human labour from the cost of pro­duc­tion means the elim­i­na­tion of wages from the cost of pro­duc­tion! The lat­ter is increas­ing­ly reduced to the “costs” of oper­a­tions between enter­pris­es (pur­chase of raw mate­ri­als and depre­ci­a­tion of fixed plant). Once these enter­pris­es have been social­ized, this involves much less trans­fers of real mon­ey than sim­ply account­ing in mon­e­tary units.

As ser­vices will con­tin­ue non-automised for a longer peri­od than goods, mon­ey econ­o­my will retreat more and more into the spheres of exchange of ser­vices for ser­vices, pur­chase of ser­vices by con­sumers, and pur­chase of ser­vices by the pub­lic sec­tor. But in pro­por­tion as the prin­ci­pal ser­vices become automised in their turn (eg. pub­lic ser­vices, auto­mat­ic machines for pro­vid­ing drinks and stan­dard­ized arti­cles of cur­rent use, laun­dries, etc.), mon­ey econ­o­my will become restrict­ed more and more to “per­son­al ser­vices” only, the most impor­tant of which (med­i­cine and edu­ca­tion) will, how­ev­er, be the first to under­go a rad­i­cal abo­li­tion of mon­ey rela­tions for rea­sons of social pri­or­i­ty). In the end, automa­tion will leave to mon­ey econ­o­my only the periph­ery of social life: domes­tic ser­vants and valets, gam­bling, pros­ti­tu­tion, etc. But in a social­ist soci­ety which ensures a very high stan­dard of liv­ing and secu­ri­ty to all its cit­i­zens, and an all around reval­u­a­tion of “labour,” which will increas­ing­ly become intel­lec­tu­al labour, cre­ative labour, who will want to under­take such forms of work? Social­ist automa­tion thus brings com­mod­i­ty econ­o­my to the brink of absur­di­ty and will cause it to with­er away.

This with­er­ing away, begun in the sphere of dis­tri­b­u­tion, will spread grad­u­al­ly into the sphere of pro­duc­tion. Already in the era of tran­si­tion from cap­i­tal­ism to social­ism, social­iza­tion of the major means of pro­duc­tion and plan­ning imply a more and more gen­er­al sub­sti­tu­tion of mon­ey of account for fidu­cia­ry mon­ey in the cir­cu­la­tion of means of pro­duc­tion.

Only the pur­chase of labour pow­er and the pur­chase of raw mate­ri­als from the non-state sec­tor will involve the use of fidu­cia­ry mon­ey. But when the increase in the stan­dard of liv­ing is accom­pa­nied by a reduc­tion and no longer by an increase in indi­vid­ual wages, the cir­cu­la­tion funds of enter­pris­es also start to with­er away. With the ‘indus­tri­al­i­sa­tion of agri­cul­ture’, with the with­er­ing away first of pri­vate enter­prise and then of co-oper­a­tive enter­pris­es in agri­cul­ture and dis­tri­b­u­tion, this with­er­ing away spreads to rela­tions between pro­duc­ing enter­pris­es and own­ers of labour-pow­er, rela­tions between enter­pris­es and sup­pli­ers of raw mate­ri­als. The with­er­ing away of mon­ey becomes gen­er­al. Only ‘units of account’ sur­vive, so that an econ­o­my based on account­ing in terms of hours of labour may gov­ern the man­age­ment of enter­pris­es and of the econ­o­my tak­en as a whole.

Eco­nom­ic Rev­o­lu­tion and Psy­cho­log­i­cal Rev­o­lu­tion

So far we have con­sid­ered only the eco­nom­ic con­se­quences of the new mode of pro­duc­tion, the with­er­ing-away of com­mod­i­ty econ­o­my and of mon­ey to which it will lead. We must now con­sid­er the social and psy­cho­log­i­cal results, that is, the com­plete upheaval in rela­tions between men, between indi­vid­u­als and soci­ety, as these have devel­oped out of thou­sands of years of social expe­ri­ence derived from antag­o­nism between class­es of exploita­tion of man by man.

Free dis­tri­b­u­tion of bread, milk and all oth­er basic food­stuffs will bring about a psy­cho­log­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion with­out prece­dent in the his­to­ry of mankind. Every human being will hence­forth be ensured his sub­sis­tence and that of his chil­dren, mere­ly by virtue of being a mem­ber of human soci­ety. For the first time since man’s appear­ance on earth, the inse­cu­ri­ty and insta­bil­i­ty of mate­r­i­al exis­tence will van­ish, and along with it the fear and frus­tra­tion that this inse­cu­ri­ty caus­es in all indi­vid­u­als, includ­ing, indi­rect­ly, those who belong to the rul­ing class­es.

It is this uncer­tain­ty about the mor­row, this need to ‘assert one­self’ in order to ensure one’s sur­vival in a fren­zied strug­gle of all against all, that is at the basis of ego­ism and the desire for indi­vid­ual enrich­ment, ever since the begin­ning of cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety and even, to a cer­tain extent, since the devel­op­ment of com­mod­i­ty econ­o­my. All the mate­r­i­al and moral con­di­tions for the with­er­ing away of ego­ism as a dri­ving force in eco­nom­ic con­duct will have van­ished. True, indi­vid­ual own­er­ship of con­sumer goods will doubt­less expand to an unheard-of degree. But in face of the abun­dance of these goods, and the free­dom of access to them, the attach­ment of men to own­er­ship will like­wise with­er away. It is the adap­ta­tion of man to these new con­di­tions of life that will cre­ate the basis for the ‘new man’, social­ist man, for whom human sol­i­dar­i­ty and co-oper­a­tion will be as ‘nat­ur­al’ as is today the effort to suc­ceed indi­vid­u­al­ly, at the expense of oth­ers. The broth­er­hood of man will cease to be a pious hope or a hyp­o­crit­i­cal slo­gan, to become a nat­ur­al and every­day real­i­ty, upon which all social rela­tions will increas­ing­ly be based.

Will an evo­lu­tion along these lines be ‘con­trary to human nature’? This is the argu­ment invoked as a last resort against Marx­ism, against the prospect of class­less soci­ety. It is reg­u­lar­ly put for­ward by those who do not know this human nature, who base them­selves on crude prej­u­dices or sus­pi­cions in order to iden­ti­fy morals and cus­toms derived from a cer­tain socio-eco­nom­ic con­text with bio­log­i­cal or anthro­po­log­i­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics alleged to be ‘unchange­able’ in man. It is also invoked by those who endeav­or to pre­serve at all costs a con­cep­tion of man which is based on the idea of orig­i­nal sin and the impos­si­bil­i­ty of ‘redemp­tion’ on this earth.

But anthro­pol­o­gy starts from the idea that that which is dis­tinc­tive of man is pre­cise­ly his capac­i­ty for adap­tion, his capac­i­ty to cre­ate a sec­ond nature in the cul­ture which forms the only frame­work in which we can live, as Pro­fes­sor A. Gehlen puts it.

These prac­ti­cal­ly unlim­it­ed pos­si­bil­i­ties of adap­ta­tion and appren­tice­ship are the essen­tial anthro­po­log­i­cal fea­ture. Human ‘nature’ is what pre­cise­ly enables man con­tin­u­al­ly to rise above what is mere­ly bio­log­i­cal, to con­tin­u­al­ly sur­pass him­self.

The ten­den­cy to com­pe­ti­tion, to the strug­gle of all against all, to the asser­tion of the indi­vid­ual by crush­ing oth­er indi­vid­u­als, is not at all some­thing innate in man; it is itself the prod­uct of an ‘accul­tur­i­sa­tion’, of an inher­i­tance which is not bio­log­i­cal but social, the prod­uct of par­tic­u­lar social con­di­tions. Com­pe­ti­tion is a ten­den­cy which is not ‘innate’ but social­ly acquired. Sim­i­lar­ly, co-oper­a­tion and sol­i­dar­i­ty can be sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly acquired and trans­mit­ted as a social her­itage, as soon as the social milieu has been rad­i­cal­ly changed in this direc­tion.

More than that—a dis­po­si­tion to co-oper­a­tion, to sol­i­dar­i­ty, to love of one’s neigh­bor cor­re­sponds far bet­ter to spe­cif­ic bio­log­i­cal needs and basic anthro­po­log­i­cal fea­tures than a ten­den­cy to com­pe­ti­tion, con­flict or oppres­sion of oth­ers. Man is a social being not only in the socio-eco­nom­ic sense but also in the bio­log­i­cal sense. Of all the high­er mam­mals he is the one who is born in the weak­est state, least pro­tect­ed and least capa­ble of self-defence. Anthro­po-biol­o­gy regards man as an embryo pre­ma­ture­ly born, who there­by pos­sess­es a phys­i­o­log­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion mak­ing him capa­ble of a much longer peri­od of appren­tice­ship and prac­ti­cal­ly unlim­it­ed adaptability—thanks to activ­i­ty and social­iza­tion dur­ing a year of exis­tence as an extra-uter­ine embryo. Phy­loge­ny here con­firms ontoge­ny, since today it is gen­er­al­ly agreed that these very process­es of acti­va­tion (the begin­ning of delib­er­ate prax­is) and social­iza­tion are at the ori­gin of the human species.”

Marx shows that “alien­ation appears not only in the result, but also in the process of pro­duc­tion…”8 He con­trasts the type of pro­duc­tion before exten­sive divi­sion and frag­men­ta­tion of labor with mod­ern pro­duc­tion:

In handicraft…the work­man makes use of a tool; in the fac­to­ry the machine makes use of him. There the move­ments of the instru­ments of labor pro­ceed from him; here it is the move­ment of the machines that he must fol­low.9

What did Marx see in his lat­er works as pos­si­bil­i­ties for the future? He believed that a nec­es­sary pre­con­di­tion for the even­tu­al cure of alien­ation is reor­ga­ni­za­tion of soci­ety, in such a way that the means of pro­duc­tion are owned by the pub­lic at large, the prod­uct being cre­at­ed and dis­trib­uted sole­ly accord­ing to human need. In such a soci­ety, man con­scious­ly would take him­self as the sub­ject of his­to­ry. He would expe­ri­ence him­self as the source and con­trol of his pow­ers, and use them to release him­self from depen­dence upon things and exter­nal cir­cum­stances. He saw the objec­tive as the full devel­op­ment of the indi­vid­ual person’s poten­tial­i­ties, sti­fled now by the tech­niques employed to make pro­duc­tion more effi­cient.

Mod­ern indus­try… com­pels soci­ety,… to replace the detail-work­er of today, crip­pled by life­long rep­e­ti­tion of one and the same triv­ial oper­a­tion, and thus reduced to the mere frag­ment of a man, by the ful­ly devel­oped indi­vid­ual… to whom the dif­fer­ent social func­tions he per­forms are but so many modes of giv­ing free scope to his own nat­ur­al and acquired pow­ers.10

He expect­ed a flow­er­ing of free­dom in such changed con­di­tions not only for the indi­vid­ual but for the entire human com­mu­ni­ty.

In fact, the realm of free­dom does not com­mence until the point is passed where labor under the com­pul­sion of neces­si­ty and of exter­nal util­i­ty is required.11

There is an old African say­ing, “I am we.” If you met an African in ancient times and asked him who he was, he would reply, “I am we.” This is rev­o­lu­tion­ary sui­cide: I, we, all of us are the one and the mul­ti­tude.

The dif­fer­ence lies in hope and desire. By hop­ing and desir­ing, the rev­o­lu­tion­ary sui­cide choos­es life; he is, in the words of Niet­zsche, “an arrow of long­ing for anoth­er shore.” Both sui­cides despise tyran­ny, but the rev­o­lu­tion­ary is both a great despis­er and a great ador­er who longs for anoth­er shore. The reac­tionary sui­cide must learn, as his broth­er the rev­o­lu­tion­ary has learned, that the desert is not a cir­cle. It is a spi­ral. When we have passed through the desert, noth­ing will be the same.

The preach­er said that the wise man and the fool have the same end; they go to the grave as a dog. Who sends us to the grave? The unknow­able, the force that dic­tates to all class­es, all ter­ri­to­ries, all ide­olo­gies; he is death, the Big Boss. An ambi­tious man seeks to dethrone the Big Boss, to free him­self, to con­trol when and how he will go to the grave.

There is anoth­er illu­mi­nat­ing sto­ry of the wise man and the fool, found in Mao’s Lit­tle Red Book: A fool­ish old man went to North Moun­tain and began to dig; a wise old man passed by and said, “Why do you dig, fool­ish old man? Do you not know that you can­not move the moun­tain with a lit­tle shov­el?” But the fool­ish old man answered res­olute­ly, “While the moun­tain can­not get any high­er, it will get low­er with each shov­el­ful. When I pass on, my sons and his sons and his son’s sons will go on mak­ing the moun­tain low­er. Why can’t we move the moun­tain?” And the fool­ish old man kept dig­ging, and the gen­er­a­tions that fol­lowed after him, and the wise old man looked on in dis­gust. But the res­olute­ness and the spir­it of the gen­er­a­tions that fol­lowed the fool­ish old man touched God’s heart, and God sent two angels who put the moun­tain on their backs and moved the moun­tain.

This is the sto­ry Mao told. When he spoke of God he meant the six hun­dred mil­lion who had helped him to move impe­ri­al­ism and bour­geois think­ing, the two great moun­tains.

The reac­tionary sui­cide is “wise,” and the rev­o­lu­tion­ary sui­cide is a “fool,” a fool for the rev­o­lu­tion in the way that Paul meant when he spoke of being “a fool for Christ.” What fool­ish­ness can move the moun­tain of oppres­sion; it is our great leap and our com­mit­ment to the dead and the unborn.

We will touch God’s heart; we will touch the people’s heart, and togeth­er we will move the moun­tain.


  1. The strengths of this piece are in large part due to the sup­port and cri­tique of Tyson Amir, Anna Cruz, Vanes­sa Dun­stan, Kiran Gar­cha, Maya Gon­za­lez, Asad Haider, Lani Han­na, Patrick King, Zhan­dar­ka Kur­ti, Ben Mabie, and Rosa Pet­ter­son. I also extend my sin­cer­est thanks to Fred­eri­ka New­ton and the Dr. Huey P. New­ton Foun­da­tion for their sup­port. 

  2. Bese­nia Rodriguez, “Long Live Third World Uni­ty! Long Live Inter­na­tion­al­ism: Huey P. Newton’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Inter­com­mu­nal­ism,” Souls 8:3 (2006), 119-141. Huey P. New­ton, “Speech Deliv­ered at Boston Col­lege: Novem­ber 18, 1970,” To Die for the Peo­ple: The Writ­ings of Huey P. New­ton, ed. Toni Mor­ri­son (New York: Vin­tage, 1972), 20-38. Erik H. Erik­son and Huey P. New­ton, In Search of Com­mon Ground: In Search of Com­mon Ground: Con­ver­sa­tions with Erik H. Erik­son and Huey P. New­ton (New York: W. W. Nor­ton & Com­pa­ny, 1973). 

  3. Jud­son Jef­fries, “Intro­duc­tion,” Huey P. New­ton: The Rad­i­cal The­o­rist (Jack­son: Uni­ver­si­ty Press of Mis­sis­sip­pi, 2002), xxvi. 

  4. Erik­son and New­ton, In Search of Com­mon Ground, 16. 

  5. Huey P. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism”  (1974), Dr. Huey P. New­ton Foun­da­tion Inc. Col­lec­tion, Box 50, Fold­er 2-3. Col­lect­ed in this dossier.  Much of this mate­r­i­al has in fact been pri­or pub­lished else­where, though in pieces across a vari­ety of texts, includ­ing Huey P. New­ton and Erik H. Erikson’s In Search of Com­mon Ground, Newton’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide, and in “Who Makes U.S. For­eign Pol­i­cy?” (1974). 

  6. Editor’s note: This quo­ta­tion from A.A. Berle Jr.’s “Eco­nom­ic Pow­er and the Free Soci­ety: A Pre­lim­i­nary Study of the Cor­po­ra­tion,” (New York: Fund for the Repub­lic) 1957. 

  7. W.H. Fer­ry, “Irre­spon­si­bil­i­ties in Metro­cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca,” in Hack­er, The Cor­po­ra­tion Take-Over 

  8. Editor’s note: from Marx’s Eco­nom­ic and Philo­soph­ic Man­u­scripts of 1844

  9. Editor’s note: from Marx’s Cap­i­tal: A Cri­tique of Polit­i­cal Econ­o­my, Vol. 1

  10. Editor’s note: Ibid. 

  11. Editor’s note: from Marx’s Cap­i­tal: A Cri­tique of Polit­i­cal Econ­o­my, Vol. 3

Author of the article

Huey P. Newton was a militant best known for founding the Black Panther Party with Bobby Seale in 1966.