Intercommunalism: The Late Theorizations of Huey P. Newton, ‘Chief Theoretician’ of the Black Panther Party

Black Pan­ther leader Huey New­ton holds a press con­fer­ence in San Fran­cis­co after return­ing from a meet­ing with Chi­nese Pre­mier Chou En-lai in Chi­na. New­ton is fac­ing his third tri­al on charges of killing a police offi­cer. Octo­ber 8 1971

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.

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“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.”6

The Black Pan­ther Par­ty was the last and per­haps most sig­nif­i­cant, domes­ti­cal­ly-based left rev­o­lu­tion­ary polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion to chal­lenge Amer­i­can impe­ri­al­ism. At its height, the BPP encom­passed 68 chap­ters in the Unit­ed States, it estab­lished an inter­na­tion­al branch in Alge­ria and trained with oper­a­tives in the Con­go, and it formed coali­tions with polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions in Zim­bab­we, Mozam­bique, South Africa, North and South Viet­nam, North Korea, Japan, the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na, India, Uruguay, Peru, Nicaragua, Cuba, Pales­tine, Iraq, Israel, Aus­tralia, and through­out Europe.7 Ulti­mate­ly, the Black Pan­ther Party’s influ­ence and pow­er pro­voked a fren­zied effort by the U.S. fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and local law enforce­ment to destroy its struc­ture and either assas­si­nate or immo­bi­lize its members—an effort that con­tin­ues to the present day, with dozens of for­mer Pan­thers still incar­cer­at­ed.8

Huey P. New­ton, co-founder of the BPP with Bob­by Seale, was raised in pover­ty in Oak­land and attend­ed Oak­land pub­lic schools. He lat­er described his school­ing as a humil­i­at­ing expe­ri­ence that elim­i­nat­ed any con­fi­dence he had in his own abil­i­ty to learn, leav­ing him with feel­ings of “despair and futil­i­ty.” “We not only accept­ed our­selves as infe­ri­or; we accept­ed the infe­ri­or­i­ty as inevitable and inescapable.”9 After grad­u­at­ing high school, he final­ly gained func­tion­al lit­er­a­cy at age 17 through the mem­o­riza­tion of poet­ry and by read­ing Plato’s Repub­lic sev­er­al times con­sec­u­tive­ly.10 He then threw him­self into the study of ancient, ear­ly mod­ern and mod­ern phi­los­o­phy; Enlight­en­ment Era, Marx­ist, Third World and Black Rad­i­cal polit­i­cal the­o­ry; foun­da­tion­al soci­ol­o­gy, psy­chol­o­gy, and pos­i­tivist phi­los­o­phy; and mod­ern Euro­pean, Amer­i­can, and Black lit­er­a­ture.11 Dur­ing the exis­tence of the BPP, New­ton was the party’s pri­ma­ry polit­i­cal strate­gist and tac­ti­cian, respon­si­ble for both the ear­ly armed patrols of Oak­land police which he con­duct­ed with shot­gun and law­book in hand and for the diplo­mat­ic envoy made to Pre­mier Zhou Enlai of the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na in 1971. Despite his eru­di­tion and apti­tude, New­ton rarely test­ed to an IQ much above 74—which would have clas­si­fied him as “bor­der­line men­tal­ly deficient”—neither when he was test­ed in high school or col­lege, nor when he was test­ed again in 1968 while in prison. In the lat­ter instance, he con­scious­ly refused a gen­uine engage­ment with the tests, reject­ing them on prin­ci­ple for their role in per­pet­u­at­ing struc­tur­al racism.12

New­ton devel­oped his the­o­ry of inter­com­mu­nal­ism in the fall of 1970, two months after his release from soli­tary con­fine­ment, penned in response to his deep dis­ap­point­ment with the back­lash from the Black com­mu­ni­ty fol­low­ing the BPP’s pledge to offer troops in sup­port of the Nation­al Lib­er­a­tion Front of South Viet­nam.13 Many sim­ply could not grasp what the lib­er­a­tion of Black peo­ple could pos­si­bly have to do with the Viet­namese Com­mu­nists against whom the U.S. was wag­ing war. The the­o­ry of inter­com­mu­nal­ism was Newton’s attempt to lay out a polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic account of how he under­stood the world to be struc­tured at the time—under a new type of imperialism—but it was also his attempt at form­ing a polit­i­cal strat­e­gy for how the BPP could expect to move for­ward in the decades to come as the rev­o­lu­tion advanced. Accord­ing to Newton’s own admis­sion, the the­o­ry of inter­com­mu­nal­ism nonethe­less proved per­plex­ing and dif­fi­cult for most, though it is now clear that this was more an effect of the coun­ter­in­tu­itive char­ac­ter of what he was argu­ing rather than how he argued it, as Newton’s writ­ing style reads as refresh­ing­ly clear com­pared to much oth­er left­ist writ­ing of the peri­od.14

He was able to expand on his the­o­riza­tions lat­er while com­plet­ing his PhD in the His­to­ry of Con­scious­ness at UC San­ta Cruz, an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary depart­ment for phi­los­o­phy, cul­tur­al the­o­ry, and polit­i­cal the­o­ry. Indeed, from 1972 through about 1980, New­ton worked on a wide range of the­o­ret­i­cal prob­lems, includ­ing a series of stud­ies into the glob­al “decen­tral­iza­tion of pro­duc­tion” and the fea­si­bil­i­ty of rev­o­lu­tion­ary expro­pri­a­tions in “The Tech­nol­o­gy Ques­tion” and “Tech­nol­o­gy vs. Land.” He accu­mu­lat­ed writ­ings and anno­ta­tions on anthro­pol­o­gy, evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gy, and human psy­chol­o­gy for a “Pro­posed Book on Deceit and Self Decep­tion” that nev­er came to fruition, though he would lat­er pub­lish a relat­ed arti­cle in col­lab­o­ra­tion with evo­lu­tion­ary biol­o­gist Dr. Robert Trivers for Sci­ence Digest in 1982.15 Among his most philo­soph­i­cal writ­ings are includ­ed: a meta­phys­i­cal inquiry into the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a utopi­an pol­i­tics draw­ing from dialec­tics, psy­cho­analy­sis, and inter­com­mu­nal­ism in “Utopia: Uni­ver­sal Life Ener­gy”; a sprawl­ing engage­ment with mind-body dual­ism in “The Mind is Flesh”; and a spec­u­la­tive psy­cho­an­a­lyt­ic essay on gen­dered dom­i­na­tion in “Eve, the Moth­er of all Liv­ing.”16 In the late 1970s, he also pro­duced a cri­tique of the­o­log­i­cal approach­es to his­to­ry ground­ed in a read­ing of the epic of Gil­gamesh enti­tled “The First Hero of Lit­er­a­ture,” a mate­ri­al­ist his­tori­ciza­tion of ear­ly Chris­t­ian his­to­ry pre­sum­ably for use in rela­tion to the BPP’s late ‘70s Black com­mu­ni­ty-ori­ent­ed “Son of Man” Tem­ple, and oth­er writ­ings on polit­i­cal the­ol­o­gy, as with the apt­ly titled “Pol­i­tics and Myth.”17

Regret­tably, Newton’s intel­lec­tu­al pro­duc­tiv­i­ty both dur­ing and after the height of the BPP has too often been dis­missed out of hand. Even main­stream nar­ra­tives that pur­port to cel­e­brate and legit­imize the Pan­thers simul­ta­ne­ous­ly depict New­ton as a “thug,” malign­ing through obvi­ous­ly racial­ized terms not only the Black Pan­ther Party’s “chief the­o­reti­cian” but also the Black, inner-city poor that New­ton sought to orga­nize and died try­ing to lib­er­ate.18 There have been great his­to­ri­o­graph­ic and the­o­ret­i­cal strides made in the last decade and a half to bet­ter account for the wide polit­i­cal-strate­gic range of the BPP as a social move­ment, from a renewed focus on their social pro­grams to their par­tial ori­gins in uni­ver­si­ty-based study groups.19 At the same time, how­ev­er, the appar­ent­ly increas­ing unwill­ing­ness of his­to­ri­ans and the­o­rists to hon­est­ly square the ille­gal­i­ty, vio­lence, and lumpen­pro­le­tar­i­an char­ac­ter of Pan­ther mem­bers, pol­i­tics, and strat­e­gy with the Pan­thers’ per­cep­tive intel­lec­tu­al insights has served to fur­ther divorce aca­d­e­mics and left­ists alike from real­is­tic con­cep­tions of what sig­nif­i­cant polit­i­cal con­tes­ta­tion actu­al­ly looks like and who it includes. That is, the move to “save” the his­to­ry of the Pan­thers from the sim­plis­tic demo­niza­tion to which it was almost uni­lat­er­al­ly sub­ject­ed between the 1960s and the 1990s seems to have come hand in hand with a water­ing down of their mil­i­tan­cy and a dis­missal of the poor, street-based cul­ture that pro­duced the Par­ty in the first place.20

Oth­er accounts fail to engage with the unique­ness of the polit­i­cal the­o­ry pro­duced by New­ton and the Pan­thers, often con­flat­ing the Par­ty with oth­er move­ments from the era. It is also the case that much of the polit­i­cal “left” today sim­ply refus­es to read the­o­ry pro­duced by the BPP, to say noth­ing of oth­er Black rad­i­cal thought. Still oth­ers even urge that we move on beyond the Black Pan­ther Par­ty pre­cise­ly as they are final­ly being treat­ed with nuance by schol­ars and the pub­lic alike.21 And yet, what are we to make of an orga­ni­za­tion that has long been con­sid­ered the paragon of the Black Pow­er move­ment, but was not only often at odds with the very per­son who coined the phrase “black pow­er” but active­ly devel­oped alliances with both white Hol­ly­wood celebri­ties and poor Appalachi­an migrants, with the Pales­tin­ian Lib­er­a­tion Orga­ni­za­tion and Mizrahi Israelis alike?22 More to the point, what are we to make of Newton’s own insis­tence that—when they have done the job that has to be done—“the Black Pan­ther Par­ty will no longer be the Black Pan­ther Par­ty”?23

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This essay is meant to serve as an intro­duc­tion to “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974) and as a con­tex­tu­al­iza­tion of Newton’s the­o­ry of inter­com­mu­nal­ism as a whole. Those in search of the­o­ry to inform their polit­i­cal prac­tice will find val­ue in Newton’s treat­ment of the prob­lems of race, nation­al­ism, and inter­na­tion­al­ism, his spec­u­la­tions on the future of sur­plus pop­u­la­tions and ques­tions of class com­po­si­tion, and the role of infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy in future pos­si­bil­i­ties for strug­gle. Through the rest of this essay, I (1) out­line Huey Newton’s polit­i­cal-eco­nom­ic account of glob­al empire, (2) con­tex­tu­al­ize Newton’s philo­soph­i­cal method—dialectical materialism—within his per­son­al intel­lec­tu­al his­to­ry, and (3) trace the pro­gres­sion of the Black Pan­ther Party’s “offi­cial ide­ol­o­gy” from Black Nation­al­ism to Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Inter­com­mu­nal­ism, informed by his­tor­i­cal debates with­in the Black Lib­er­a­tion move­ment. In the sec­ond half, apply­ing Newton’s the­o­ry, I (4) offer a new inter­pre­ta­tion of the BPP’s shift in strat­e­gy from “self defense” to “sur­vival pend­ing rev­o­lu­tion,” (5) give an account of the polit­i­cal import of the BPP’s Oak­land com­mune, and (6) reflect on some con­nec­tions to polit­i­cal strug­gles today.

  1. Reac­tionary Inter­com­mu­nal­ism

“We see then that the Unit­ed States con­trols oth­er coun­tries thou­sands of miles away and uses their resources to ben­e­fit the rul­ing cir­cle in Amer­i­ca. The same sit­u­a­tion holds for the many com­mu­ni­ties of the oppressed with­in the Unit­ed States. There­fore the evi­dence shows very clear­ly that the Unit­ed States is not a nation for its bound­aries are extend­ed into every ter­ri­to­ry of the world. The Unit­ed States is an empire.”

Newton’s the­o­ry of inter­com­mu­nal­ism seeks to pro­vide an expla­na­tion for the dom­i­nat­ing and ulti­mate­ly deter­min­ing polit­i­cal force of Amer­i­can cap­i­tal­ist empire on the world stage, the cor­re­spond­ing decline of the polit­i­cal influ­ence of nation-states, and the dete­ri­o­ra­tion of nation­al­ism as a poten­tial­ly lib­er­a­to­ry polit­i­cal ide­ol­o­gy. He refers to this con­di­tion and phase of cap­i­tal­ism as reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism. Accord­ing to New­ton in 1970, nation-states can no longer mean­ing­ful­ly be said to exist. Instead, glob­al cap­i­tal has, through U.S. empire in par­tic­u­lar, reduced the world to a col­lec­tion of com­mu­ni­ties that lack con­trol over their local con­di­tions of life and which can at most only become autonomous “lib­er­at­ed ter­ri­to­ries” with­in that larg­er empire. These com­mu­ni­ties can, how­ev­er, by seiz­ing the mate­r­i­al struc­tures that allow for pro­duc­tion, tech­nol­o­gy, and infor­ma­tion media, fight to build an inter­con­nect­ed and “coop­er­a­tive frame­work” among them­selves in a glob­al dynam­ic that he calls rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­com­mu­nal­ism.24 In the words of Elaine Brown, chair­woman of the BPP from 1974 to 1977, Newton’s notion of reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism is an ear­ly con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion of what is today “casu­al­ly euphem­ized by the cap­i­tal­ist class as ‘glob­al­iza­tion.’”25 The the­o­ry of inter­com­mu­nal­ism as a whole is an attempt to both describe how rev­o­lu­tion­ary change might be expect­ed to unfold going for­ward giv­en these con­di­tions of glob­al empire but also to pre­scribe how one might go about play­ing an agen­tial role in such a project. Dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism is Newton’s pre­ferred method for under­stand­ing how one might come to derive what that role is, giv­en that it is not sta­t­ic and pre-estab­lished, but must be assessed from an analy­sis of mate­r­i­al con­di­tions as they devel­op. “The con­cept of inter­com­mu­nal­ism not only accu­rate­ly describes and defines the sit­u­a­tion, it also implies our oblig­a­tion to uni­fy and share with these dis­persed com­mu­ni­ties the wealth which has been stolen from them and cen­tral­ized here in the Unit­ed States.”26 Dur­ing the par­tic­u­lar turn­ing point in the his­to­ry of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty when he devel­oped the the­o­ry, New­ton was also deeply con­cerned with how Black peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar might attain lib­er­a­tion with­out rely­ing upon a state that pur­ports to rep­re­sent them as a peo­ple or nation. Accord­ing to New­ton, any efforts by Black peo­ple to gain nation­al sov­er­eign­ty or inde­pen­dence while glob­al cap­i­tal­ism still exists could only lead to alter­nate forms of sub­ju­ga­tion under Amer­i­can empire.

The text of Newton’s “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974) begins with a long (and sur­pris­ing) excerpt from David Horowitz’s Empire and Rev­o­lu­tion: A Rad­i­cal Inter­pre­ta­tion of Con­tem­po­rary His­to­ry.27 Horowitz was a New Left Marx­ist who in the 1980s con­vert­ed to hard­line con­ser­v­a­tivism. In this excerpt from 1969, how­ev­er, he argues that as cap­i­tal­ist com­pe­ti­tion inevitably tends towards monop­oly cap­i­tal­ism and the con­sol­i­da­tion of pow­er in the hands of a few, it expands in reach from the domes­tic to the glob­al in the form of impe­ri­al­ism. New­ton is con­cerned with the­o­riz­ing a form of impe­ri­al­ism which is increas­ing­ly tied less to the inter­ests of the nation-state that deploys its mil­i­tary abroad than to the inter­ests of the busi­ness­es that ben­e­fit from that deploy­ment. As “the cen­tral­iza­tion and con­cen­tra­tion of eco­nom­ic pow­er increas­ing­ly divorce[s] legal own­er­ship from [actu­al] con­trol,” (Horowitz) an ever small­er num­ber of cap­i­tal­ist enter­pris­es make use of the mil­i­tary strength of a small set of impe­ri­al­ist nation-states to exert de fac­to eco­nom­ic, polit­i­cal, and mil­i­tary con­trol over all oth­er enter­pris­es, ter­ri­to­ries, and peo­ple.28 Cor­po­ra­tions might be said to increas­ing­ly devel­op sov­er­eign­ty through and then over nation-states. As Elaine Brown has point­ed out, in the 1970s, “numer­ous cor­po­ra­tions open­ly argued… that as they con­trolled greater wealth than most of the mem­ber states of the Unit­ed Nations, they should be seat­ed accord­ing­ly.”29  New­ton quotes Horowitz fur­ther: “cap­i­tal­ism uni­fied the nation state only to [lat­er] her­ald the tran­scen­dence of the nation-state and emer­gence of inter­na­tion­al rela­tions on a tru­ly glob­al scale.”30

John Narayan’s recent­ly pub­lished “Huey P. Newton’s Inter­com­mu­nal­ism: An Unac­knowl­edged The­o­ry of Empire” is invalu­able for its clos­er exam­i­na­tion of the eco­nom­ic aspects of Newton’s the­o­ry. Narayan does the nec­es­sary work of com­par­ing and con­trast­ing Newton’s the­o­riza­tions to sub­se­quent­ly devel­oped Marx­ist accounts of the rela­tion­ship between impe­ri­al­ism, glob­al­iza­tion, and the nation-state, par­tic­u­lar­ly those of Michael Hardt and Anto­nio Negri.31 In “The Wages of White­ness in the Absence of Wages: Racial Cap­i­tal­ism, Reac­tionary Inter­com­mu­nal­ism and the Rise of Trump­ism,” Narayan also con­vinc­ing­ly argues that New­ton was appar­ent­ly cor­rect to be con­cerned that these eco­nom­ic dynam­ics might, to the detri­ment of an ide­al class sol­i­dar­i­ty, cre­ate the con­di­tions for a strength­en­ing of xeno­pho­bia, racism, and new­er pop­ulist nation­alisms in the Unit­ed States.32 Ulti­mate­ly, Narayan con­cludes that “Newton’s nar­ra­tion of the effects of reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism on the rev­o­lu­tion­ary poten­tial of the mul­ti­tude holds more empir­i­cal valid­i­ty than the nar­ra­tion of empire offered by his suc­ces­sors.”33

In his 1974 essay “Who Makes U.S. For­eign Pol­i­cy?”, New­ton speaks at length about the ide­o­log­i­cal rela­tion­ship between U.S.-based cor­po­ra­tions and the over­seas mil­i­tary activ­i­ty of the U.S. gov­ern­ment.34 In “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974), New­ton direct­ly quotes Pres­i­dent Woodrow Wil­son, who in 1907 stat­ed: “Since trade ignores nation­al bound­aries and the man­u­fac­tur­er insists on hav­ing the world as a mar­ket, the flag of his nation must fol­low him and the doors of the nations which are closed must be bat­tered down.”35 To Newton’s point, it is hard to imag­ine that U.S.-based cor­po­ra­tions would have the pow­er that they do today, accu­mu­lat­ing prof­it in 188 of 193 coun­tries, with S&P 500 “growth” increas­ing­ly being dis­con­nect­ed from U.S. GDP “growth,” if active duty U.S. mil­i­tary were not simul­ta­ne­ous­ly deployed in 170 of those coun­tries, with about 800 mil­i­tary bases in over 70 of them, in order to pro­tect those cor­po­ra­tions’ inter­ests in the case of unrest.36 New­ton states that “we can even refer to this army as the inter­com­mu­nal police force. They con­trol com­mu­ni­ties they do not live in and have no inter­est in, and they are con­trolled by the rul­ing clique for the pur­pos­es of prof­it and per­son­al and mil­i­tary might.”37 In 1950, as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for enter­ing Korea, the Unit­ed States exec­u­tive branch under Pres­i­dent Tru­man first start­ed using the term “police action” to refer to mil­i­tary actions pur­sued with­out a for­mal and con­sti­tu­tion­al con­gres­sion­al dec­la­ra­tion of war.

But the polit­i­cal eco­nom­ic dynam­ics that define “reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism,” New­ton insists, also cre­ate the con­di­tions for rev­o­lu­tion­ary pos­si­bil­i­ty. Most specif­i­cal­ly, as more and more of the dai­ly efforts of the glob­al work­ing poor are dic­tat­ed by a small­er set of cor­po­ra­tions and states, more of the glob­al pop­u­la­tion is brought togeth­er by their shared rela­tion­ship to those work­places and the tech­nolo­gies that hold them togeth­er: “the cen­tral­iza­tion of pro­duc­tion” pro­duces the “social­iza­tion of pro­duc­tion: the devel­op­ment of an increas­ing­ly inter­de­pen­dent and coop­er­a­tive basis of social labor.”38 This inter­de­pen­dence and con­nect­ed­ness cre­ates the con­di­tions for a greater shared lived expe­ri­ence and there­fore a pos­si­bly greater lev­el of sol­i­dar­i­ty among the employed, under­em­ployed, and unem­ployed of the world. For New­ton, an aware­ness of this dynam­ic pos­si­bil­i­ty fol­lows from a con­cep­tion of real­i­ty ground­ed in the phi­los­o­phy of dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism.

  1. Dialec­ti­cal Mate­ri­al­ism

“Pow­er is the abil­i­ty to define phe­nom­e­na and make them act in a desired man­ner”39

“Young peo­ple gen­er­al­ly feel that the role of the rev­o­lu­tion­ary is to define a set of actions and a set of prin­ci­ples that are easy to iden­ti­fy and are absolute. But what I was try­ing to explain to them was the process: rev­o­lu­tion, basi­cal­ly, is a con­tra­dic­tion between the old and the new in the process of devel­op­ment. Any­thing can be rev­o­lu­tion­ary at a par­tic­u­lar point in time, but most of the stu­dents don’t under­stand that. And most oth­er peo­ple don’t under­stand it either.”40

Con­sis­tent with the ancient Greek approach accord­ing to which phi­los­o­phy is pur­sued always for a prac­ti­cal purpose—to under­stand bet­ter how to live “the good life”—for New­ton, no eth­i­cal, social, or polit­i­cal goal can be ade­quate­ly pur­sued with­out a philo­soph­i­cal exam­i­na­tion and under­stand­ing of the world in which that pur­suit might occur. For this rea­son, New­ton begins his expla­na­tion of inter­com­mu­nal­ism first by engag­ing with a series of inquiries con­cern­ing how knowl­edge of real­i­ty might be attained.41

In Newton’s 1970 pre­sen­ta­tion at Boston Col­lege, he begins this epis­te­mo­log­i­cal pur­suit first through an expla­na­tion of the struc­ture of empiri­cism, iden­ti­fy­ing its basis in sub­jec­tiv­i­ty and its resul­tant lim­its, the strengths and short­com­ings of obser­va­tion, and the sci­en­tif­ic method’s depen­dence on a pri­ori assump­tions, which are treat­ed as unex­am­ined truths.42 Draw­ing then from Kant, he argues for the advan­tages of ana­lyt­ic reasoning—conceived of as inter­nal­ly con­sis­tent and inde­pen­dent from the exter­nal world—and then asserts that a Marx­ist phi­los­o­phy of dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism attempts to draw from the strengths of both empiri­cism and ratio­nal­ism (pure rea­son) to bet­ter account for how phe­nom­e­na in the world are con­sti­tut­ed and trans­formed. “Marx, as a social sci­en­tist, crit­i­cized oth­er social sci­en­tists for attempt­ing to explain phe­nom­e­na, or one phe­nom­e­non, by tak­ing it out of its envi­ron­ment, iso­lat­ing it, putting it into a cat­e­go­ry, and not acknowl­edg­ing the fact that once it was tak­en out of its envi­ron­ment the phe­nom­e­non was trans­formed.”43 In his 1971 pre­sen­ta­tion at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty, he begins this por­tion of his talk by instead con­trast­ing ide­al­ism and mate­ri­al­ism.44 In the 1974 text that we are repro­duc­ing here, he sub­jects both ide­al­ism and mate­ri­al­ism to an approx­i­mate­ly Carte­sian-style series of skep­ti­cal doubts, and from this skep­ti­cal ground then informs us that the Black Pan­ther Par­ty has ide­o­log­i­cal­ly cho­sen to be mate­ri­al­ist, and specif­i­cal­ly has tak­en up dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism, which accounts for real­i­ty by iden­ti­fy­ing the “fun­da­men­tal inter­nal con­tra­dic­tions” in all things.45

It is not pos­si­ble here to defend this thor­ough­ly, but I believe that a clos­er trac­ing and analy­sis of Newton’s epis­te­mo­log­i­cal argu­ments across the span of his writ­ings should reveal a shift over time from a younger New­ton con­sumed with skep­ti­cism and doubt46—com­pelled often to ques­tion the nature of real­i­ty and the pur­pose of human life—to one who lat­er instead embraces affir­ma­tion­al philoso­phies that assert a pos­i­tive ontol­ogy and there­by offer clear­er polit­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties. This strate­gic shift away from skep­ti­cism and even par­tial nihilism47 is evi­dent espe­cial­ly after his release from soli­tary con­fine­ment48 and cul­mi­nates in his embrace of dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism, which would be his guid­ing phi­los­o­phy there­after.

Dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism struc­tured Newton’s con­cep­tions of what the world is and what kinds of activ­i­ty are pos­si­ble in it. For him, dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism makes clear that noth­ing is sta­t­ic, that noth­ing is iso­lat­ed, that the world is trans­formed through con­stant flux and antag­o­nisms, and that some form of knowl­edge of these turn­ing points can be acquired through a com­bi­na­tion of obser­va­tion and ratio­nal reflec­tion. Dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism also serves as a method that makes it pos­si­ble to iden­ti­fy how the key cen­ter of con­flict in any sit­u­a­tion may have shift­ed. Accord­ing­ly, the BPP as an orga­ni­za­tion was con­stant­ly adapt­ing both their strat­e­gy and their tac­tics as they expe­ri­enced strug­gle and reflect­ed on it. Their most promi­nent shift ear­ly in the Party’s his­to­ry, from black nation­al­ism to rev­o­lu­tion­ary nation­al­ism, was for­mal­ly cod­i­fied in their Ten Point Pro­gram, which changed from insist­ing on an “end to the rob­bery by the white man of our Black Com­mu­ni­ty” in 1966, to, by 1969, instead call­ing for “an end to the rob­bery by the cap­i­tal­ist of our Black and oppressed com­mu­ni­ties.”49

Fred Hamp­ton, Chair of the Illi­nois chap­ter of the BPP, explained the Party’s use of dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism through metaphor:

Did you ever see some­thing and pull it and you take it as far as you can and it almost out­stretch­es itself and it goes into some­thing else? If you take it so far that it is two things? As a mat­ter of fact, some things if you stretch it so far, it’ll be anoth­er thing. Did you ever cook some­thing so long that it turns into some­thing else? …That’s what we’re talk­ing about with pol­i­tics. That pol­i­tics ain’t noth­ing, but if you stretch it so long that it can’t go no fur­ther, then you know what you got on your hands? You got an antag­o­nis­tic con­tra­dic­tion.50

Under Newton’s dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ist con­cep­tion of the world, con­tra­dic­tions exist every­where, but only cer­tain ones are antag­o­nis­tic con­tra­dic­tions and, when pushed, these by def­i­n­i­tion will inevitably trans­form the whole dynam­ic at hand. Newton’s con­cep­tion of dialec­tics, which is observ­ably deeply Maoist, is per­haps most fleshed out in “Utopia: Uni­ver­sal Life Ener­gy.”51 Fol­low­ing from this approach, New­ton asserts that reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism has nec­es­sar­i­ly cre­at­ed the con­di­tions for its own poten­tial destruction—in the form of rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­com­mu­nal­ism.

  1. Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Inter­com­mu­nal­ism

“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.” 

New­ton used his con­cep­tion of dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism to both respond to and lead the BPP’s ide­o­log­i­cal and strate­gic turns. Accord­ing to New­ton, the Black Pan­ther Par­ty began as a black nation­al­ist orga­ni­za­tion. Hav­ing observed that “most peo­ple in the past had solved some of their prob­lems by form­ing into nations,”52 they invest­ed their efforts in pur­su­ing a pol­i­tics con­cerned with defend­ing and empow­er­ing Black peo­ple as a dis­tinct com­mu­ni­ty. That said, from the start, they also cri­tiqued cul­tur­al nation­al­ist approach­es, not­ing both their inef­fec­tive­ness for sig­nif­i­cant­ly chang­ing the lives of most Black peo­ple and their pop­u­lar­i­ty among more edu­cat­ed and afflu­ent African Amer­i­cans.53 Some Afro­cen­tric approach­es to cul­tur­al nation­al­ism in the 20th cen­tu­ry seemed at times to imply that lib­er­a­tion might come sim­ply from dress­ing dif­fer­ent­ly or chang­ing one’s name—by assert­ing a new­ly pro­duced iden­ti­ty as an indi­vid­ual or as part of a com­mu­ni­ty.54 At the same time, how­ev­er, the Pan­thers deeply val­ued polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion, aware of its pro­found psy­cho­log­i­cal impact on youth espe­cial­ly, and they made learn­ing about African and African dias­poric his­to­ry a require­ment for mem­ber­ship. Among Pan­thers on the East Coast espe­cial­ly, chang­ing one’s name was a com­mon prac­tice, drawn from a reli­gious tra­di­tion that was cen­tral to Black Islam and was epit­o­mized through the fig­ure and life of Mal­colm X, a.k.a. El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, who served as a sym­bol of rein­ven­tion and per­son­al trans­for­ma­tion for count­less rad­i­cals in the 1960s and beyond.55 How­ev­er, the BPP also always regard­ed cul­tur­al nation­al­ism as only a step­ping stone in a dialec­ti­cal process, insuf­fi­cient on its own for bring­ing about rev­o­lu­tion. They were deeply crit­i­cal of African or Black-led states that were nonethe­less author­i­tar­i­an, or cap­i­tal­ist, or with­in which Black peo­ple were still poor. To be for Black lib­er­a­tion meant then nec­es­sar­i­ly also to be against cap­i­tal­ism. New­ton recounts how he came to his posi­tion, years before the Par­ty was estab­lished:

“It was my life plus inde­pen­dent read­ing that made me a socialist—nothing else. I became con­vinced of the ben­e­fits of col­lec­tivism and a col­lec­tivist ide­ol­o­gy. I also saw the link between racism and the eco­nom­ics of cap­i­tal­ism, although, despite the link, I rec­og­nized that it was nec­es­sary to sep­a­rate the con­cepts in ana­lyz­ing the gen­er­al sit­u­a­tion. In psy­cho­log­i­cal terms, racism could con­tin­ue to exist even after the eco­nom­ic prob­lems that had cre­at­ed racism had been resolved. Nev­er con­vinced that destroy­ing cap­i­tal­ism would auto­mat­i­cal­ly destroy racism, I felt, how­ev­er, that we could not destroy racism with­out wip­ing out its eco­nom­ic foun­da­tion. It was nec­es­sary to think much more cre­ative­ly and inde­pen­dent­ly about these com­plex inter­con­nec­tions.”56

For these rea­sons, and many more, the Black Pan­ther Par­ty quick­ly shift­ed towards rev­o­lu­tion­ary nation­al­ism, ground­ed in the need to trans­form the eco­nom­ic orga­ni­za­tion of soci­ety in order to trans­form it polit­i­cal­ly.57

With­in a year of the BPP’s found­ing, how­ev­er, Par­ty lead­er­ship would come to the con­clu­sion that the Black com­mu­ni­ty in the U.S. could not, prac­ti­cal­ly speak­ing, become a nation-state—secure, with their own ter­ri­to­ry and with full con­trol over their eco­nom­ic, polit­i­cal, and cul­tur­al life—after all. “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 nation.”58 More to the point, if African Amer­i­cans were indeed ever able to estab­lish a sep­a­rate nation-state, even if it were social­ist, New­ton argued, there would be lit­tle to stop the U.S. from invad­ing and turn­ing it into a colony in the tra­di­tion­al impe­ri­al­ist fash­ion, or, more like­ly, from assert­ing eco­nom­ic con­trol over it in the con­tem­po­rary “neo-colo­nial” man­ner.59 Giv­en the immense pow­er of the Unit­ed States, the solu­tion could only be then for the BPP to ally them­selves with oth­er oppressed peo­ples, domes­ti­cal­ly and abroad.

Accord­ing to con­tem­po­rary genet­ic sci­ence, racial cat­e­gories as peo­ple pop­u­lar­ly believe in them today are demon­stra­bly invalid. How­ev­er, racial cat­e­gories are not mere fan­ta­sy either, nor can they be used as an easy means for indi­vid­ual self-expres­sion. Mod­ern racial cat­e­gories are not cho­sen but rather are imposed, their most impor­tant func­tion is to dehu­man­ize, and they are made real through process­es of polit­i­cal dom­i­na­tion and exploita­tion. Huey Newton’s thought often reflects an aware­ness of the social and polit­i­cal con­struct­ed­ness of black­ness as a cat­e­go­ry. In his words: “I knew the dif­fer­ence between white peo­ple and black peo­ple, of course, but the cue was always the way white peo­ple treat­ed us, not the col­or itself.”60 Of course, sit­u­at­ed in a his­tor­i­cal con­text, New­ton con­sid­ered the cat­e­go­ry of black­ness still a nec­es­sary one for rec­og­niz­ing cer­tain mate­r­i­al dynam­ics (eg. geno­cide, the racial­ized char­ac­ter of col­o­niza­tion, lump­eniza­tion, etc.) and also as a ground for polit­i­cal sol­i­dar­i­ty. It was a cat­e­go­ry that received extra empha­sis in the lat­er years of the Oak­land-based BPP, not as a hin­drance to inter­na­tion­al alliances but as a way to strength­en them. That said, New­ton ulti­mate­ly con­sid­ered it polit­i­cal­ly nec­es­sary to even­tu­al­ly estab­lish a “uni­ver­sal iden­ti­ty,” dis­con­nect­ed from “cul­tur­al, racial, and reli­gious chau­vin­ism.”61

Aim­ing to build alliances with oppressed peo­ple against cap­i­tal­ism wher­ev­er pos­si­ble, the Black Pan­ther Par­ty offi­cial­ly became inter­na­tion­al­ist, form­ing polit­i­cal bonds across six con­ti­nents with oth­er rev­o­lu­tion­ary orga­ni­za­tions and oppressed peo­ple. His­tor­i­cal­ly, this was unre­mark­able, as non-West­ern social­ists and com­mu­nists of all stripes had through­out the 20th cen­tu­ry worked to build alliances with each oth­er and against Euro­pean and Amer­i­can cap­i­tal­ism and impe­ri­al­ism. Indeed, in many ways inter­na­tion­al­ism was already part of the back­ground for the Black Pan­ther Par­ty, which formed in 1966, the same year that The Orga­ni­za­tion of Sol­i­dar­i­ty with the Peo­ple of Asia, Africa and Latin Amer­i­ca was found­ed in Cuba, fol­lowed soon after by the pub­li­ca­tion of the Tri­con­ti­nen­tal mag­a­zine. The lit­er­a­ture and social move­ments from which BPP mem­bers drew inspi­ra­tion were con­sis­tent­ly inter­na­tion­al­ist, from Kwame Nkrumah’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy to Car­los Marighella’s Min­i­man­u­al of the Urban Guer­ril­la. At the same time, the will­ing­ness of New­ton to recon­sid­er the Black Pan­ther Party’s rela­tion­ship to Black Amer­i­can iden­ti­ty was in many ways a con­tin­u­a­tion of a ges­ture that oth­er U.S.-based Black rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies had already made—from Mal­colm X to the League of Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Black Workers—in using the word “Black” to refer not just to peo­ple of par­tial African descent but as a rev­o­lu­tion­ary catch-all cat­e­go­ry, so that the “Black rev­o­lu­tion” could include rev­o­lu­tions in Asia and Latin Amer­i­ca, and “Black peo­ple” could include all “peo­ple of col­or who are engaged in rev­o­lu­tion­ary strug­gle in the Unit­ed States and all over the world.”62

And yet, by 1970, New­ton came to reject even inter­na­tion­al­ism as a flawed rev­o­lu­tion­ary strat­e­gy. The rea­sons for this rejec­tion are based in at least two prob­lems or “con­tra­dic­tions,” one exter­nal to the BPP and one inter­nal to it.

The first prob­lem is ground­ed in Newton’s under­stand­ing of the world under reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism and what kind of resis­tance is even pos­si­ble with­in it. As Brown has put it, “Huey con­clud­ed that the cap­i­tal­ists of the Unit­ed States had suc­ceed­ed in reduc­ing the rest of the world to a col­lec­tion of com­mu­ni­ties, no dif­fer­ent in terms of ter­ri­to­r­i­al sov­er­eign­ty or con­trol over resources than oppressed com­mu­ni­ties inside the Unit­ed States.”63 Since there were no more nations, one could not have true inter­na­tion­al­ism, much less among oppressed peo­ple. Put more strong­ly, “the peo­ple and the econ­o­my are so inte­grat­ed into the impe­ri­al­ist empire that it’s impos­si­ble to ‘decol­o­nize,’ to return to the for­mer con­di­tions of exis­tence”; and “if colonies can­not decol­o­nize and return to their orig­i­nal exis­tence as nations, then nations no longer exist. Nor, we believe, will they ever exist again.”64 Instead, for New­ton, there can only exist lib­er­at­ed ter­ri­to­ries with­in the larg­er expanse of the glob­al Amer­i­can empire. As long as that empire still exists, these lib­er­at­ed ter­ri­to­ries must con­stant­ly strug­gle to main­tain their auton­o­my from cap­i­tal­ism and impe­ri­al­ism both. Already by 1974, we see New­ton ques­tion the extent to which the Sovi­et Union and The People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na could be con­sid­ered tru­ly inde­pen­dent, com­mu­nist nation-states:

“By whom are the Chi­nese, for instance, forced? They are forced by the actions of the Unit­ed States. Instead of putting their mon­ey into the schools, the hos­pi­tals, and into insti­tu­tions in their com­mu­ni­ty, they are forced to main­tain a large mil­i­tary. So their lib­er­at­ed ter­ri­to­ry is very sim­i­lar to what hap­pened in the riots and rebel­lions in Detroit where, for about 4 or 5 days the black there held about 8 blocks and they drove the local police and the nation­al guard out and the peace was not restored… They only held their ter­ri­to­ry for 4 days, they could have had a rev­o­lu­tion­ary pro­vi­sion­al gov­ern­ment and we would have rec­og­nized it just as we rec­og­nized the People’s Repub­lic of Chi­na… We do not rec­og­nize them as a nation but as a lib­er­at­ed ter­ri­to­ry and a com­mu­ni­ty that is some­what free, but it can only main­tain its free­dom through a con­stant fight.”65

The sec­ond prob­lem New­ton encoun­tered had to do with how inter­na­tion­al­ism was received by the Black com­mu­ni­ty. Imme­di­ate­ly upon his release from prison in 1970, New­ton announced an offer of troops on behalf of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty to the Nation­al Lib­er­a­tion Front of South Viet­nam, a mate­r­i­al expres­sion of inter­na­tion­al­ist sol­i­dar­i­ty. The back­lash from Black elites66 was less of a con­cern than the back­lash that came from the mass base of the Par­ty:

“…Our offer of troops to the Viet­namese received neg­a­tive reac­tions 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. […] 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.”67

Newton’s cri­tique of inter­na­tion­al­ism was influ­enced by the need to address the ide­o­log­i­cal rela­tion­ship of the Black com­mu­ni­ty in par­tic­u­lar to Amer­i­can nation­al­ism. As Americans—even for the most mar­gin­al­ized, poor, and recent­ly immi­grat­ed among us—we are inclined to uphold the false belief in our excep­tion­al­ism and supe­ri­or­i­ty, if not at least our social dif­fer­ence. The vital­i­ty of nation­al­ism is in part main­tained by the state’s dis­pen­sa­tion of cer­tain mate­r­i­al priv­i­leges and a sym­bol­ic sta­tus unto a pop­u­la­tion based off of the mere and arbi­trary facts of their birth. The defen­sive retort that “we” must take care of “our own” serves to obscure the active role that we play in dis­con­nect­ing our­selves from the suf­fer­ing of the rest of the world, even when it is in fact deeply con­nect­ed to our own suf­fer­ing.68 I would for­ward that New­ton was able to iden­ti­fy that this reac­tionary ten­den­cy nec­es­sar­i­ly reasserts itself through the nation­al­ism that is pre­sumed with­in inter­na­tion­al­ism.

Sev­er­al the­o­rists in recent years have tack­led the mat­ter of the his­tor­i­cal­ly unique posi­tion that dias­poric African peo­ple have been forced into under modernity—arguably one of incom­men­su­rable sub­jec­tion, and even abjec­tion. For these thinkers, the forced “social death” of dias­poric Africans, as a con­tin­ued effect of slav­ery, is an indis­pens­able fea­ture of west­ern soci­ety, or per­haps of cap­i­tal­ism. In some ways, New­ton might be said to agree with the basic intu­itions behind some of these views, but, informed by his inter­com­mu­nal­ist per­spec­tive, he comes to oppo­site con­clu­sions.

For New­ton, all oppressed peo­ple with­in the bounds of Amer­i­can Empire are in some sense col­o­nized.69 Fur­ther­more, though, because “Black peo­ple” in Amer­i­ca com­pose a unique­ly col­o­nized com­mu­ni­ty, com­pa­ra­ble to col­o­nized com­mu­ni­ties in oth­er parts of the world while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly locat­ed with­in the very cen­ter of the empire, the com­mu­ni­ty is in a unique­ly priv­i­leged posi­tion to destroy that empire. Specif­i­cal­ly, New­ton con­sid­ered Black peo­ple in the U.S. to be in the ide­al posi­tion to act as the van­guard for a glob­al rev­o­lu­tion against reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism. “We believe that black Amer­i­cans are the first real inter­na­tion­al­ists; not just the Black Pan­ther Par­ty, but black peo­ple who live in Amer­i­ca… 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.”70

Accord­ing to offi­cial Black Pan­ther Par­ty ide­ol­o­gy, African dias­poric peo­ple in the Amer­i­c­as are not a minor­i­ty, but rather mem­bers of the col­o­nized major­i­ty, import­ed over cen­turies to build the foun­da­tion­al wealth and heart of the empire.71 This means that we, like oth­er oppressed groups in the U.S., “reap ben­e­fits” from the exploita­tion of the rest of the world but are also in a strate­gic posi­tion to uproot that empire at its base.72

“If we believe we are broth­er with the peo­ple of Mozam­bique, how can we help? They need arms and oth­er mate­r­i­al aid. We have no weapons to give. We have no mon­ey for mate­ri­als. Then how do we help? … They can­not fight for us. We can­not fight in their place. We can each nar­row the ter­ri­to­ry that our com­mon oppres­sor occu­pies. We can lib­er­ate our­selves, learn­ing from and teach­ing each oth­er along the way. But the strug­gle is the same; the ene­my is the same.”73

With­in a reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ist world, inter­com­mu­nal sol­i­dar­i­ty and rev­o­lu­tion­ary strug­gle is to fight local­ly for one’s own free­dom as well as the free­dom of those far away. Inter­com­mu­nal­ism is there­fore Newton’s non-sta­tist the­o­ret­i­cal frame—a frame that insists that one’s polit­i­cal vision must be able to see past the lim­its of bor­der ide­ol­o­gy.

  1. The Long Durée of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty: A New Rea­son to Exist

By 1970, the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment and many state and munic­i­pal gov­ern­ments had already esca­lat­ed the harass­ment of the BPP to the lev­el of open war, using assas­si­na­tions, mil­i­tary-style SWAT deploy­ments, under­cov­er oper­a­tives, and psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare to dis­man­tle the move­ment. How­ev­er, con­trary to typ­i­cal nar­ra­tives and con­cep­tions about the sud­den decline of the par­ty at this time, the peri­od between 1971 and approx­i­mate­ly 1982 in fact encom­pass­es the major­i­ty of the BPP’s his­to­ry, whether we take this to refer to the increas­ing­ly com­mune-like Oak­land chap­ter or to the guer­ril­la activ­i­ties of the Black Lib­er­a­tion Army and affil­i­at­ed cells based on the East Coast, in the Mid­west, in the South and else­where.74 While total mem­ber­ship dra­mat­i­cal­ly con­tract­ed, an effect of both state repres­sion and purges, var­i­ous iter­a­tions of the Black Pan­ther move­ment per­sist­ed for anoth­er decade.

For what has come to be called “the New­ton fac­tion” (or, more mis­lead­ing­ly, the “West Coast fac­tion”) there was a sharp strate­gic turn away from open­ly vio­lent polit­i­cal con­tes­ta­tion with the state and a shift instead towards the devel­op­ment of autonomous insti­tu­tions and social ser­vice programs—what has his­tor­i­cal­ly since then been described crit­i­cal­ly by many as reformism. Newton’s stance on this mat­ter is plain, though per­haps still poor­ly under­stood: “A Ten Point Pro­gram is not rev­o­lu­tion­ary in itself, nor is it reformist. It is a sur­vival pro­gram. We, the peo­ple, are threat­ened with geno­cide because racism and fas­cism are ram­pant in this coun­try and through­out the world.”75 I offer that Newton’s analy­sis of con­di­tions at the time led him and the Par­ty towards a renewed focus on social repro­duc­tion as a pri­ma­ry ter­rain of polit­i­cal strug­gle, shift­ing to a strat­e­gy ori­ent­ed towards devel­op­ing local, autonomous organs of pow­er, ide­al­ly tied to land. That is, the fact of the severe pover­ty of Black peo­ple made clear that the Par­ty had to play a more promi­nent role in sus­tain­ing the peo­ple them­selves, while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly also work­ing to estab­lish insti­tu­tions that would allow all peo­ple to even­tu­al­ly dis­con­nect from cap­i­tal­ism and con­nect instead to the Par­ty orga­ni­za­tion as their pri­ma­ry means to life.76 In con­trast to the BPP’s Free Break­fast pro­grams, which in 1969 were ini­ti­at­ed under the mot­to of “serve the peo­ple” and were designed to pro­vide resources to the black and poor, enhance recruit­ment of mem­bers, and build legit­i­ma­cy with­in the com­mu­ni­ty at large, the peri­od after the mid­dle of 1971 marked the expan­sion of a strat­e­gy that New­ton called “sur­vival pend­ing rev­o­lu­tion.”77 Before Newton’s release from prison, this shift was already par­tial­ly under­way through the grass­roots efforts of region­al chap­ters, head­ed by the ini­tia­tive of most­ly female rank-and-file mem­bers, and through the pro­gram-build­ing of David Hilliard in par­tic­u­lar. For the Black Pan­ther Par­ty, the very sur­vival of Black peo­ple was a polit­i­cal ques­tion and the very thing to strug­gle over.

Ear­ly in the BPP’s for­ma­tion, the orga­ni­za­tion was deeply influ­enced by Frantz Fanon’s argu­ment that the unem­ployed, under­em­ployed, and crim­i­nal­ized third world lumpen­pro­le­tari­at would be the group that would most like­ly bring about rev­o­lu­tion, rather than the tra­di­tion­al waged “work­ing class.”78 The Party’s con­cern with sur­vival was both inspired by their focus on this pop­u­la­tion, which through dis­pos­ses­sion, pover­ty, and crim­i­nal­iza­tion is con­tin­u­ous­ly exposed to death, but also by an analy­sis of the effects of increas­ing rates of unem­ploy­ment and under­em­ploy­ment for all peo­ple glob­al­ly, with the loss of jobs under­stood as an effect of automa­tion and the increas­ing vital­i­ty of cap­i­tal­ist empire.79 The BPP’s analy­sis of this process of lump­eniza­tion shares affini­ties and was con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous with that of James and Grace Lee Bog­gs who, in Racism and the Class Strug­gle: Fur­ther Pages from a Black Worker’s Note­book, argue that urban Black youth expe­ri­ence first and per­haps most acute­ly what is to be increas­ing­ly expe­ri­enced by more and more of the glob­al work­force in gen­er­al. In the U.S., because Black wage-work­ers have his­tor­i­cal­ly been among “the last hired and the first fired,” they have long been well-acquaint­ed with the psy­cho­log­i­cal feel­ing of aban­don­ment and the mate­r­i­al expo­sure to death that large por­tions of the 20th “white work­ing class” have only more recent­ly been forced to con­front.

Newton’s the­o­ry of inter­com­mu­nal­ism is accord­ing­ly ground­ed in the ques­tion of what is to hap­pen to a pro­le­tar­i­an “work­ing class” that is increas­ing­ly no longer use­ful to cap­i­tal­ism as work­ers and is like­ly to be even­tu­al­ly “trans­formed out of exis­tence” alto­geth­er.80 New­ton argues that these con­di­tions make it necessary—if we are to survive—to come up with a dif­fer­ent con­cep­tion of our­selves. That is, both the mate­r­i­al oppor­tu­ni­ties for waged work will dwin­dle, but also per­haps the ‘work­er iden­ti­ty’ as such may cease to exist, requir­ing a new self-con­cep­tion or form of “class” con­scious­ness to be estab­lished. No longer can the fig­ure of the class-con­scious work­er with a waged rela­tion­ship to pro­duc­tion, ide­al­ized with­in cap­i­tal­ist soci­ety as a ‘pro­duc­tive mem­ber of soci­ety,’ be assumed to be the cen­tral actor in a rev­o­lu­tion­ary nar­ra­tive, a ten­u­ous claim in the first place. How­ev­er else one might gain access to the means to con­sump­tion, with or with­out the wage, may come to be the pri­ma­ry mode of sur­vival and polit­i­cal strug­gle, New­ton and the Pan­thers thought:

“Today’s cap­i­tal­ist has devel­oped machin­ery to such a point that he can hire a group of spe­cial­ized peo­ple called tech­nocrats. In the near future he will cer­tain­ly do more of this, and the tech­no­crat will be too spe­cial­ized to be iden­ti­fied as a pro­le­tar­i­an. …In fact that group of tech­nocrats will be so vital we will have to do some­thing to explain the pres­ence of oth­er peo­ple; we will have to come up with anoth­er def­i­n­i­tion and rea­son for exist­ing.”81

To be made part of the sur­plus pop­u­la­tion under cap­i­tal­ism is to be allowed or even active­ly made to sim­ply per­ish; this process has always gone hand in hand with racial­iza­tion and dehu­man­iza­tion.82

The real­i­ty of geno­cide under cap­i­tal­ism, whether inten­tion­al or brought about by gov­ern­men­tal aban­don­ment, has been large­ly self-evi­dent to the Black rad­i­cal left for a long time, how­ev­er. In 1951, the Civ­il Rights Con­gress, an orga­ni­za­tion led by Black Com­mu­nists, sub­mit­ted a peti­tion to the Unit­ed Nations titled “We Charge Geno­cide: The Crime of Gov­ern­ment Against the Negro Peo­ple,” accus­ing the U.S. of mul­ti­ple acts of geno­cide over the pre­ced­ing cen­tu­ry and draw­ing from the U.N.’s Con­ven­tion on the Pre­ven­tion and Pun­ish­ment of the Crime of Geno­cide signed just three years pri­or. In the year before his assas­si­na­tion in 1965, Mal­colm X revived this pur­suit, seek­ing sup­port from mul­ti­ple for­eign heads of state for the prospect of bring­ing a case against the Unit­ed States for hav­ing vio­lat­ed the human rights of African Amer­i­cans.83 Mal­colm sought to shift the strug­gle from one focused on civ­il rights, appeal­ing to the state to address griev­ances, to one for human rights, appeal­ing instead to the Third World-dom­i­nat­ed Unit­ed Nations of the time and human­is­tic prin­ci­ples in gen­er­al. George Jackson’s Blood in my Eye also makes geno­cide a cen­tral theme in 1971, his con­cerns ground­ed in the then quite-com­mon fear that fas­cism was on the rise with­in the Unit­ed States. All that said, New­ton was par­tic­u­lar­ly con­cerned with the more dai­ly and nor­mal­ized instan­ti­a­tions of geno­cide; he wrote at length, for exam­ple, about Black chil­dren in the South who, mere­ly for lack of shoes, are reg­u­lar­ly exposed to par­a­sites that hin­der cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment, a prob­lem which still con­tin­ues today.84

If we con­sid­er one of Newton’s most Maoist maxims—“War is pol­i­tics with blood­shed; Pol­i­tics is war with­out bloodshed”—then we can under­stand how mat­ters of every­day health, social orga­ni­za­tion, and gov­er­nance are indeed mat­ters of life and death, and ergo polit­i­cal strug­gle. New­ton want­ed the BPP to “put up obsta­cles against anni­hi­la­tion on a local lev­el,” by con­tend­ing polit­i­cal­ly over the con­trol of resources, ter­ri­to­ry, com­mod­i­ty flows, and pop­u­lar legit­i­ma­cy.85 Cru­cial­ly then, while Newton’s analy­sis of cap­i­tal­ist impe­ri­al­ism (reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism) can be described as “non-ter­ri­to­r­i­al,” his pre­scrip­tion for how to resist it—how to bring about rev­o­lu­tion­ary intercommunalism—emphasizes the impor­tance of ter­ri­to­r­i­al con­trol, along­side eco­nom­ic and ide­o­log­i­cal pow­er.86 This analy­sis guid­ed the Black Pan­ther Par­ty Oak­land chapter’s deci­sion to attempt to trans­form itself from the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of an inter­na­tion­al move­ment to a local, self-sus­tain­ing com­mune and bul­wark against cap­i­tal­ist con­trol.87

New­ton earned his Ph.D. in His­to­ry of Con­scious­ness from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, San­ta Cruz on June 15, 1980
  1. The Oak­land Com­mune and Lib­er­at­ed Ter­ri­to­ries

In 1971, the Oak­land-based Cen­tral Com­mit­tee began forcibly clos­ing region­al BPP chap­ters and recruit­ing lead­ers from each locale to bol­ster the Oak­land-based chap­ter as it was restruc­tured. Under Newton’s increas­ing­ly sin­gu­lar and author­i­tar­i­an lead­er­ship, the Oak­land chap­ter made dra­mat­ic shifts to expand the breadth and impact of their social ser­vice-ori­ent­ed pro­grams, includ­ing devel­op­ing more med­ical clin­ics, free cloth­ing pro­grams, free food dis­tri­b­u­tions, and open­ing sev­er­al lib­er­a­tion schools.88 Less well known, the BPP also con­sol­i­dat­ed con­trol over twen­ty-one prop­er­ties most­ly in the Bay Area, devel­oped plans to oper­ate their own fac­to­ries, and even made an effort to take con­trol of the Port of Oak­land which at the time was the sec­ond largest port in the world in terms of con­tain­er ton­nage.89

They also began reen­gag­ing with insti­tu­tions they had pre­vi­ous­ly reject­ed alto­geth­er, such as Black busi­ness­es and Black church­es.90 These new strate­gies were informed by Newton’s dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ist log­ic, accord­ing to which the Par­ty ana­lyzed the con­di­tions of the time and sought to reassess who might be friend or foe by push­ing at the pop­u­la­tion in ques­tion until they were forced to choose sides though their actions. In this fash­ion, the BPP lever­aged the Black iden­ti­ty of Black busi­ness own­ers to acquire not just resources for the par­ty, but a reg­u­lar­ized trib­ute, first request­ing or insist­ing on their sup­port by appeal­ing to Black sol­i­dar­i­ty, and then orga­niz­ing boy­cotts with the com­mu­ni­ty to exert eco­nom­ic pres­sure as nec­es­sary.91 If these means failed, then the BPP chose to extort—by threats or vio­lent means—any busi­ness­es that refused to con­sent until they either gave in to BPP demands or revealed them­selves to be “ene­mies of the peo­ple.” In this instance the BPP simul­ta­ne­ous­ly under­stood and assert­ed them­selves as “the peo­ple,” but also as the van­guard act­ing on behalf of “the people’s” inter­ests.92 The BPP aimed to lever­age these rela­tion­ships with cap­i­tal­ists while nonethe­less main­tain­ing that, ulti­mate­ly “there is no sal­va­tion in cap­i­tal­ism.”93 Newton’s posi­tion was that under reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism, rel­a­tive to the dom­i­nant pow­er of elite glob­al cap­i­tal­ists, the Black bour­geoisie is in fact most­ly powerless—“a fan­ta­sy bour­geoisie, and this is true of most of the white bour­geoisie too”—and so they can be recruit­ed or made of use of accord­ing­ly.94

In March of 1972 the BPP held a three-day “Black Com­mu­ni­ty Sur­vival Con­fer­ence” to strength­en rela­tion­ships with the Nation­al Wel­fare Rights Orga­ni­za­tion, church­es, and local gangs towards the goal of cul­ti­vat­ing com­mu­ni­ty con­trol with an explic­it­ly inter­com­mu­nal­ist prax­is.95 This con­fer­ence also fea­tured both the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Shirley Chisholm, the first African-Amer­i­can major par­ty can­di­date for pres­i­dent, and, sig­nif­i­cant­ly, BPP Chair­man Bob­by Seale’s announce­ment that the BPP would begin run­ning can­di­dates for office, rang­ing from com­mu­ni­ty boards to the office of may­or.96 As far as I am able to dis­cern, the BPP’s elec­toral cam­paigns between 1972 and 1975 should per­haps indeed be best under­stood as explic­it­ly reformist, less ori­ent­ed at estab­lish­ing “dual pow­er” in the Lenin­ist sense than with mak­ing the Par­ty more polit­i­cal­ly leg­i­ble and with improv­ing con­di­tions of life for the res­i­dents of Oak­land in gen­er­al.97 These cam­paigns appear at odds with Newton’s explic­it state­ment, made as late as April 1971, that the BPP would nev­er run can­di­dates for office.98 Most res­o­nant in this dis­cus­sion how­ev­er is the fact that this peri­od in the BPP’s his­to­ry remains still woe­ful­ly under­the­o­rized by main­stream schol­ars.

By 1974, after the most promi­nent of these elec­toral cam­paigns had failed, Par­ty mem­ber­ship con­tract­ed dra­mat­i­cal­ly to about 100 mem­bers, not includ­ing stu­dents enrolled in the Lib­er­a­tion Schools, and the orga­ni­za­tion­al struc­ture had been ful­ly trans­formed. Con­cern­ing “the com­mu­nal life of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty,” New­ton stat­ed:

“The close­ness of the group and the shared sense of pur­pose trans­form us into a har­mo­nious, func­tion­ing body, work­ing for the destruc­tion of those con­di­tions that make peo­ple suf­fer. Our uni­ty has trans­formed us to the point where we have not com­pro­mised with the sys­tem; we have the close­ness and love of fam­i­ly life, the will to live in spite of cru­el con­di­tions. Con­scious­ness is the first step toward con­trol of a sit­u­a­tion. We feel free as a group; we know what trou­bles us, and we act.”99

For all its strengths, the weak­ness­es of the Oak­land chap­ter between 1974 and 1982 in many ways mir­rored the weak­ness­es typ­i­cal of oth­er 20th cen­tu­ry left­ist com­munes.100 All mem­bers were required to engage in reg­u­lar “self-crit­i­cism and re-edu­ca­tion,” to attend the BPP’s Son of Man Tem­ple, to meet work quo­tas, and the lib­er­a­tion school fea­tured manda­to­ry com­mu­nal dorm­ing for all stu­dents. Par­tic­u­lar­ly sex­ist polygamy and gen­dered vio­lence was not uncom­mon, and phys­i­cal vio­lence of all sorts was often used to cre­ate inter­nal dis­ci­pline.101 In one of Newton’s least the­o­ret­i­cal­ly dis­ci­plined but per­haps most auda­cious texts, “On the Rel­e­vance of the Church,” writ­ten near the peak of the pub­lic feud between him and Eldridge Cleaver, New­ton explains mat­ter-of-fact­ly that the sur­vival pro­grams would face min­i­mal labor costs because the Par­ty would be forc­ing its mem­bers to work for free.102 In a notably Maoist ges­ture con­sis­tent with this approach, a cov­er page from Newton’s first pub­lished col­lec­tion of writ­ings states sim­ply: “The Black Pan­ther Par­ty is an ox for the peo­ple.”103 Need­less to say, the fact of a pro­gres­sive or rev­o­lu­tion­ary orga­ni­za­tion devel­op­ing such inter­nal­ly oppres­sive dynam­ics is typ­i­cal­ly and right­ful­ly enough to pro­voke denun­ci­a­tions. Impor­tant­ly, how­ev­er, moral­is­tic crit­i­cisms typ­i­cal­ly do lit­tle to fur­ther an analy­sis of the polit­i­cal real­i­ties that pro­duce such dynam­ics. In the fol­low­ing foot­note, I offer a series of spec­u­la­tive ges­tures towards how we might begin to ana­lyze the Oak­land commune’s coer­cive dynam­ics in light of larg­er struc­tur­al con­di­tions.104

It is also the case that, despite force­ful writ­ings against sex­ism, New­ton as an indi­vid­ual spent much of his life before and towards the end of the Par­ty both pro­duced by and repro­duc­ing the dynam­ics of inner-city vio­lence and harm­ful mas­culin­ism that many men in the U.S. expe­ri­ence as a series of lim­its and require­ments for the ful­fill­ment of their gen­der.105 These dynam­ics have been con­flat­ed with the ille­gal­ist pol­i­tics of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty by detrac­tors, in part because the mod­ern con­cept of crim­i­nal­i­ty func­tions large­ly to obscure pow­er­ful forms of polit­i­cal con­tes­ta­tion and strug­gle by the poor, and in part per­haps because the mate­r­i­al con­di­tions that allow ille­gal­ist pol­i­tics of resis­tance to flour­ish today depend on some of the struc­tures that prop up oppres­sion in mod­ern soci­ety in the first place. In 1974, after alleged­ly mur­der­ing Kath­leen Smith, New­ton fled pros­e­cu­tion and sought self-exile in Cuba, remain­ing there for three years. Upon his return and acquit­tal, he then sought refuge with­in acad­e­mia, study­ing until he earned his doc­tor­ate in 1980. How­ev­er, the gov­ern­ment-fos­tered draw of nar­cotics that struck the Black com­mu­ni­ty as a whole dur­ing this time peri­od would haunt New­ton through the 1980s as well. Already in 1971, Newton’s grow­ing paranoia—intentionally con­di­tioned by the crush­ing effects of soli­tary con­fine­ment and the FBI’s fine­ly cal­i­brat­ed psy­cho­log­i­cal harassment—and his resul­tant polit­i­cal author­i­tar­i­an­ism were increas­ing­ly evi­dent and would grad­u­al­ly wors­en with time.106 Though the decline in Newton’s health would become ful­ly clear only lat­er, it is not pre­sump­tu­ous to sug­gest that Newton’s men­tal state like­ly influ­enced the BPP pol­i­cy deci­sion to purge the Par­ty and con­tract the nation­al chap­ters in 1972.for

Despite Newton’s extra­or­di­nary com­mit­ment to the­o­ret­i­cal con­sis­ten­cy, I would argue that in some ways New­ton failed to apply his own the­o­ry of inter­com­mu­nal­ism to its full log­i­cal con­clu­sion. As Black Pan­ther Par­ty mem­bers and allies nation­wide increas­ing­ly suf­fered assas­si­na­tions and mil­i­tary attacks at the hands of the state, the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee and New­ton came to the con­clu­sion that the move­ment had over-extend­ed itself and had start­ed above­ground mil­i­tary oper­a­tions “too ear­ly.”107 For this rea­son, among oth­ers, the Oak­land chap­ter put con­sid­er­able effort into con­tract­ing nation­al chap­ters, forcibly clos­ing them, reas­sign­ing lead­ers from across the coun­try to work in Oak­land, and end­ing sup­port for chap­ters that had refused to shut down. How­ev­er, it is impor­tant to under­stand that few BPP chap­ters were, strict­ly speak­ing, sim­ply off­spring of the Oak­land chap­ter. Many BPP chap­ters were autonomous­ly run with lit­tle mate­r­i­al sup­port from the Oak­land chap­ter; some had his­tor­i­cal­ly pre­ced­ed the BPP itself and had sim­ply tak­en on the Pan­ther name and sym­bols while pur­su­ing local goals; some orga­ni­za­tions shared polit­i­cal affini­ties and sold the BPP paper but did not explic­it­ly join the par­ty; and one chapter—New York City’s—had a larg­er total mem­ber­ship than even the orig­i­nal branch in Oak­land.108 If one con­ceives of these orga­ni­za­tions not as chap­ters of one nation­al orga­ni­za­tion but as dis­tinct local move­ments seek­ing to become lib­er­at­ed ter­ri­to­ries against reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism, then for the Oak­land chap­ter to insist on author­i­ty over all of these dis­parate orga­ni­za­tions would be akin to the BPP insist­ing on author­i­ty over the Nation­al Lib­er­a­tion Front of South Viet­nam with whom they had expressed sol­i­dar­i­ty in 1970. The on-the-ground con­di­tions in the Mid­west were dis­tinct from those in Oak­land, which were fur­ther dis­tinct from those in New York City, and pre­sum­ably they would have all required dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed strate­gies and tac­tics.

One might charge then that, by assert­ing author­i­ty over all “nation­al” chap­ters, New­ton was falling into the very belief in the bounds and bor­ders of the nation-state that he had fun­da­men­tal­ly crit­i­cized through his the­o­ry of inter­com­mu­nal­ism. This is not to argue that any of these local sites of con­flict would have oth­er­wise become lib­er­at­ed ter­ri­to­ries had the Oak­land chap­ter not “inter­fered.” Nor should it be assumed that any of these local orga­ni­za­tions thought of their own strug­gles in terms of inter­com­mu­nal­ism. How­ev­er, accord­ing to Newton’s the­o­ry, nei­ther did they nec­es­sar­i­ly have to. There is also the ques­tion of whether Newton’s the­o­ry would have neces­si­tat­ed a par­tic­u­lar or dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed strat­e­gy of strug­gle for those (inter-)communes that hap­pened to be locat­ed clos­est to the heart of the glob­al empire. What is clear, how­ev­er, is that the Oak­land chap­ter end­ed up in prac­tice func­tion­ing as yet anoth­er polit­i­cal body, in addi­tion to the FBI and local police, that some local chap­ters found them­selves pit­ted against.

  1. Today

“Rev­o­lu­tion­ary inter­com­mu­nal­ism and the good anar­chy that Marx spies afar off at the ‘end’ of His­to­ry are world­ly, of this world.”

While Newton’s body of thought on inter­com­mu­nal­ism is exten­sive, much of it is scat­tered across var­i­ous speech­es, inter­views, and con­tri­bu­tions to the Pan­ther news­pa­per, whose name was changed from the “Black Com­mu­ni­ty News Ser­vice” to the “Inter­com­mu­nal News Ser­vice” in Feb­ru­ary of 1971. In her under-cit­ed “Long Live Third World Uni­ty! Long Live Inter­na­tion­al­ism: Huey P. Newton’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Inter­com­mu­nal­ism,” Bese­nia Rodriguez begins the work of draw­ing from the news­pa­per, as well as from oth­er archival mate­ri­als not engaged with here. Still, what is avail­able cur­rent­ly offers much to those think­ing about con­tem­po­rary strug­gles for lib­er­a­tion. For one, Newton’s insis­tence on strate­giz­ing beyond the nation-state in a way dif­fer­ent from that of the old­er gen­er­a­tion of inter­na­tion­al­ists should res­onate for those today strug­gling with the lim­i­ta­tions and prob­lems of pur­su­ing “demo­c­ra­t­ic social­ism” with­in the bounds of the nation-state. New­ton might urge us to recon­sid­er whether orga­ni­za­tions or move­ments based in, say, San Diego, might be able to devel­op more pro­duc­tive sol­i­dar­i­ties with orga­ni­za­tions and move­ments based in Tijua­na rather with ones in New York City. While San Diego and New York City might share some polit­i­cal beliefs and per­haps also mate­r­i­al lim­i­ta­tions imposed by fed­er­al laws, oth­er dynam­ics such as eco­nom­ic flows, com­mu­ni­ty com­po­si­tion, and major lan­guage might be more sig­nif­i­cant for deter­min­ing polit­i­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties, rather than whether or not two orga­ni­za­tions exist on the same side of a legal bor­der.

Newton’s the­o­ry might also help us make more sense of the kinds of non-sta­tist and pro­to-sta­tist polit­i­cal move­ments that have arisen and some­how per­sist­ed in recent decades—such as with the Zap­atis­tas in Mex­i­co or Kur­dish Rojava—while nation­al rev­o­lu­tions have increas­ing­ly failed. A con­scious shift towards the pur­suit of a kind of pol­i­tics of auton­o­my with­in or across nation-states can be also iden­ti­fied across the polit­i­cal spec­trum, from Michoa­can and Hezbol­lah to transna­tion­al gangs and ISIS. In oth­er moments, move­ments have artic­u­lat­ed them­selves in terms of explic­it seces­sion­ism against or with­in a nation-state. In a recent piece writ­ten in its own seem­ing­ly “dialec­ti­cal” mode, Robin D. G. Kel­ley prais­es the strate­gic approach of the Mis­sis­sip­pi-based Coop­er­a­tion Jack­son, an out­growth of the Jack­son-Kush Plan, where munic­i­pal elec­tions are being used as a way to fun­nel funds towards local move­ments seek­ing to build a base of autonomous pow­er.109 Kelley’s lan­guage seems to echo some of Newton’s: “In oth­er words, con­cern with sur­vival and the cre­ation of new demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions can con­sol­i­date pow­er and move the city toward a sus­tain­able future.”110

And yet, while mate­r­i­al prac­tices or “forms of life” may indeed be the only prac­ti­cal grounds for rad­i­cal sol­i­dar­i­ty under cur­rent glob­al con­di­tions, the mat­ter of how to cul­ti­vate “class con­scious­ness” through a mass base remains a ques­tion. The ques­tion of how peo­ple might be moti­vat­ed to pur­sue rad­i­cal change and how ideas might cir­cu­late under reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism did not escape New­ton either, how­ev­er. In the fore­word for To Die for the Peo­ple, Elaine Brown explains: “Though he did not live long enough to know of the Inter­net, Huey argued that as tech­nol­o­gy was bring­ing the world ever clos­er togeth­er, the world’s peo­ple were poised to rec­og­nize their com­mon oppres­sor and unite around their com­mon oppres­sion.”111 David Kil­cullen, senior counter-insur­gency advi­sor to Gen­er­al Petraeus and Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleez­za Rice, iden­ti­fies infor­ma­tion itself as a par­tic­u­lar­ly “soft tar­get” that non-state actors can exploit in a con­tem­po­rary world where war, crime, and the pol­i­tics of resis­tance have become both blurred togeth­er and transna­tion­al.112 He notes how oth­er­wise improb­a­ble “sol­i­dar­i­ties” were devel­oped through social media in the years pre­ced­ing the Tunisian Rev­o­lu­tion between sports hooli­gans and rad­i­cal left­ist hack­ers, help­ing to estab­lish and spread forms of polit­i­cal con­scious­ness that brought mas­si­fi­ca­tion, riots, and vio­lent clash­es to the streets and inten­si­fied attacks on the state. This is also to say noth­ing of the increas­ing vibran­cy of the dig­i­tal ter­rain as a site of con­tes­ta­tion over cur­ren­cy and resources. In the 1960s, the coun­ter­in­tu­itive sol­i­dar­i­ties that the Black Pan­ther Par­ty fos­tered between Black reli­gious com­mu­ni­ties, col­lege stu­dents, Viet­nam vet­er­ans, and unem­ployed street youth and gang mem­bers irked many on the left that insist­ed on a more lim­it­ed con­cep­tion of what prop­er­ly con­sti­tutes a class. For New­ton, in accor­dance with dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism, class­es arise and dis­ap­pear in his­to­ry as an effect of mate­r­i­al con­di­tions of exploita­tion and oppres­sion, and as antag­o­nis­tic con­tra­dic­tions divide and re-divide pop­u­la­tions in new ways.


  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. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism,” 1. 

  7. Joshua Bloom and Wal­do E. Mar­tin, Jr., Black Against Empire: The His­to­ry and Pol­i­tics of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty (Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia Press, 2013), 2. Elaine Brown, “Fore­word,” To Die for the Peo­ple, xvi­ii. Bloom and Mar­tin, Black Against Empire. Robyn Spencer, Rev­o­lu­tion Has Come: Black Pow­er, Gen­der, and the Black Pan­ther Par­ty in Oak­land (Durham: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2016). Eldridge Cleaver, Tar­get Zero: A Life in Writ­ing, ed. Kath­leen Cleaver (New York: Pal­grave Macmil­lan, 2006). Rodriguez, “Long Live Third World Uni­ty! Long Live Inter­na­tion­al­ism: Huey P. Newton’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Inter­com­mu­nal­ism.” 

  8. Safiya Bukhari. “Build­ing Sup­port for Polit­i­cal Pris­on­ers of War Incar­cer­at­ed in North Amer­i­ca,” The War Before: The True Life Sto­ry of Becom­ing a Black Pan­ther, Keep­ing the Faith in Prison, & Fight­ing for Those Left Behind, ed. Lau­ra White­horn (New York: Fem­i­nist Press, 2010). 

  9. Huey P. New­ton, with J. Her­man Blake, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide (New York: Pen­guin, 1973), 17-20. 

  10. Ibid, 54. 

  11. In his auto­bi­og­ra­phy, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide, New­ton direct­ly dis­cuss­es or explic­it­ly ref­er­ences the orig­i­nal works of Aris­to­tle, Renée Descartes, David Hume, John Locke, Søren Kierkegaard, Karl Marx, Mikhail Bakunin, Fyo­dor Dos­to­evsky, Friedrich Niet­zsche, James Joyce, V. I. Lenin, Mao Zedong, Ho Chi Minh, Mar­tin Delany, Frantz Fanon, Robert Williams, and Mal­colm X; Émile Durkheim, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ivan Pavlov, John Wat­son, B.F. Skin­ner, Her­bert Hendin, Eric C. Lin­coln, A.J. Ayers, and Bertrand Rus­sell; Eccle­si­astes, William Shake­speare, Edgar Allen Poe, Vic­tor Hugo, Franz Kaf­ka, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, T.S. Eliot, Ralph Elli­son, Richard Wright, Langston Hugh­es, Claude Brown, James Bald­win, Julian Bond, and Angela Davis.  See also: Jud­son Jef­fries, Huey P. New­ton: The Rad­i­cal The­o­rist

  12. New­ton, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide, 53, 268-269. 

  13. Erik­son and New­ton, In Search of Com­mon Ground, 133. 

  14. Erik­son and New­ton, In Search of Com­mon Ground, 38-39. In response to a ques­tion from a stu­dent about the “prob­lem of sim­pli­fy­ing your ide­ol­o­gy for the mass­es,” New­ton replied, “Yes, that’s our big bur­den. 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. The rea­son I am some­times afraid to do that is that peo­ple will take each exam­ple and think, ‘Well, if this is true in one case, then it must be true in all oth­er cas­es.” 

  15. Robert L. Trivers and Huey P. New­ton, “The Crash of Flight 90: Doomed by Self-decep­tion,” Sci­ence Digest. (Nov 1982).  For more on their col­lab­o­ra­tion, see: Eri­ka Lor­raine Mil­am, “A Field Study of Con Games,” Isis 105.3 (The His­to­ry of Sci­ence Soci­ety, 2014), 96-605. 

  16. For a sub­set of these essays, see: Huey P. New­ton, The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, ed. David Hilliard and Don­ald Weise (Sev­en Sto­ries Press, 2002). 

  17. Robyn Spencer, The Rev­o­lu­tion Has Come: Black Pow­er, Gen­der, and the Black Pan­ther Par­ty in Oak­land, 118-119. An excerpt from the intro­duc­tion to “The Son of Man”: “Mytho-reli­gious and socio-polit­i­cal val­ue sys­tems are his­tor­i­cal func­tions of each oth­er. The dialec­tic of myth and pol­i­tics, in fact, is his­to­ry. […] Our argu­ment is that the mod­ern tra­di­tion of a mes­sian­ic dual­i­ty of sov­er­eign­ty and humil­i­ty is a very crude expla­na­tion for the dynam­ic of a politi­co-myth­ic dialec­tic.”  Dr. Huey P. New­ton Foun­da­tion Inc. Col­lec­tion, Box 50, Fold­er 2. 

  18. Stan­ley Nel­son, The Black Pan­thers: Van­guard of the Rev­o­lu­tion, 2015. 

  19. For more on the BPP’s uni­ver­si­ty-based ori­gins, see Don­na Jean Murch, Liv­ing for the City: Migra­tion, Edu­ca­tion, and the Rise of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia (The Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na Press, 2010). 

  20. New­ton, “Scor­ing,” Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide, 78-90. 

  21. Cedric John­son, “The Pan­thers Can’t Save Us Now,” Cat­a­lyst, 1.1 (Spring 2017). 

  22. Amy Son­nie and James Tra­cy, Hill­bil­ly Nation­al­ists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Pow­er: Com­mu­ni­ty Orga­niz­ing in Rad­i­cal Times (Melville House, 2011). Alex Lubin, “The Black Pan­thers and the PLO: The Pol­i­tics of Inter­com­mu­nal­ism,” Geo­gra­phies of Lib­er­a­tion: The Mak­ing of an Afro-Arab Polit­i­cal Imag­i­nary (North Car­oli­na Schol­ar­ship Online, 2014). 

  23. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism,” 54. Empha­sis in orig­i­nal. 

  24. Gar­rett Epps, “Huey New­ton Speaks at Boston Col­lege, Presents The­o­ry of ‘Inter­com­mu­nal­ism’,” Har­vard Crim­son, Nov 19 1970. 

  25. Brown, “Fore­word,” To Die For the Peo­ple, xxi. 

  26. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism: A High­er Lev­el of Con­scious­ness,” Dr. Huey P. New­ton Foun­da­tion Inc. Col­lec­tion, Box 48, Fold­er 4, pp. 11-12. See also, In Search of Com­mon Ground, 73. 

  27. New­ton cites pp. 29-45 from Horowitz’s 1970 text. Horowitz was a Marx­ist the­o­rist asso­ci­at­ed with the Month­ly Review school until he became repulsed by the specter of vio­lent rev­o­lu­tion, a shift pre­cip­i­tat­ed by the unre­solved mur­der of his friend Bet­ty Van Pat­ter in the mid 1970s. He there­after became an apol­o­gist for Rea­gan, an extreme con­ser­v­a­tive, and now devotes his efforts towards mount­ing attacks on Mus­lims, lib­er­als, and left­ists in edu­ca­tion and acad­e­mia. 

  28. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism,” 11-12. 

  29. Brown, “Fore­word,” To Die for the Peo­ple. For more on this his­to­ry, see Unit­ed Nations Cen­tre on Transna­tion­al Cor­po­ra­tions: Cor­po­rate Con­duct and the Pub­lic Inter­est, ed. Khalil Ham­dani and Lor­raine Ruff­ing (Rout­ledge, 2015). 

  30. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism,” 2. 

  31. John Narayan, “Huey P. Newton’s Inter­com­mu­nal­ism: An Unac­knowl­edged The­o­ry of Empire,” The­o­ry, Cul­ture & Soci­ety 0.0 (Nov 27 2017), 1-29. Note espe­cial­ly fn. 6 for Narayan’s sug­ges­tions regard­ing the rela­tion­ship between Newton’s con­cep­tions and Immanuel Wallerstein’s as artic­u­lat­ed in “The Rise and Future Demise of the World Cap­i­tal­ist Sys­tem: Con­cepts for Com­par­a­tive Analy­sis” (1974). 

  32. John Narayan, “The Wages of White­ness in the Absence of Wages: Racial Cap­i­tal­ism, Reac­tionary Inter­com­mu­nal­ism and the Rise of Trump­ism,” Third World Quar­ter­ly 38.11, Spe­cial Issue: What­ev­er Hap­pened to the Idea of Impe­ri­al­ism? ed. Narayan and Sealey-Hug­gins (Rout­ledge, Aug 2017), 2482-2500. New­ton, as quot­ed by Narayan: “Here in Amer­i­ca racism is ram­pant and we will have to do some­thing about that… increas­ing­ly our objec­tive class broth­ers act in a way, which will harm Black peo­ple, in oth­er words they are sub­jec­tive­ly our ene­my. And I would use the hard-hat as an exam­ple. The hard-hats are exploit­ed, they’re becom­ing sea­son­al­ly employed in oth­er words, they’re well on their way to becom­ing unem­ploy­ables and instead of blam­ing their mas­ter, they blame us for it.” Narayan con­tin­ues: “As the impact of reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism took effect, and the wages of white­ness  became ever absent, New­ton believed that com­mu­ni­ties in the US would often ‘feel more and more that it’s a race con­tra­dic­tion rather that a class con­tra­dic­tion’,” (2487-2488). 

  33. Narayan, 21. 

  34. This essay, pub­lished in the The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, appears to be an edit­ed excerpt from Newton’s orig­i­nal “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974). 

  35. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974), 6. 

  36. America’s For­ev­er Wars,” The New York Times, Oct 22 2017. “Num­ber of Mil­i­tary and DoD Appro­pri­at­ed Fund (APF) Civil­ian Per­son­nel Per­ma­nent­ly Assigned By Duty Loca­tion and Service/Component,” Defense Man­pow­er Data Cen­ter, Mar 31 2018.  

  37. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism: A High­er Lev­el of Con­scious­ness,” Dr. Huey P. New­ton Foun­da­tion Inc. Col­lec­tion, Box 48, Fold­er 4, p. 9. 

  38. Horowitz as quot­ed by New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974), 12. 

  39. New­ton, “Black Cap­i­tal­ism Re-Ana­lyzed I: June 5, 1971,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 227. 

  40. New­ton and Erik­son, “Dis­cus­sions with J. Her­man Blake, Erik H. Erik­son, Kai T. Erik­son, and Huey P. New­ton,” In Search of Com­mon Ground, 103. 

  41. New­ton, “Part Two,” Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide, 53-98. 

  42. New­ton, “Speech at Boston Col­lege: Novem­ber 18, 1970,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 162-164. 

  43. New­ton, “Speech at Boston Col­lege: Novem­ber 18, 1970,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 163. 

  44. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism: Feb­ru­ary 1971,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er

  45. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974), 32: “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 just whether we are awake and in a dream state. Per­haps we are just some­where in a void; we sim­ply can’t be sure.” Newton’s skep­ti­cal spec­u­la­tions bear a strong sim­i­lar­i­ty to Descartes’ three doubts in The Med­i­ta­tions: the pos­si­bil­i­ty that his own sens­es may deceive him, the pos­si­bil­i­ty that his expe­ri­ences are sim­ply part of a dream, and the pos­si­bil­i­ty that he is awake but being deceived by an exter­nal force (Descartes’ evil demon). New­ton fol­lows that by sug­gest­ing a final pos­si­bil­i­ty that resem­bles solip­sism. For more on the Pan­thers turn to dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism, see New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974), 33. 

  46. New­ton, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide, 57-58: “The reli­gious beliefs acquired in child­hood also trou­bled me. After strug­gling through some of Socrates’ works, as well as those of Aris­to­tle, Hume, and Descartes, I began to ques­tion what I had always tak­en for grant­ed. The ideas in the philo­soph­i­cal works that Melvin was study­ing spilled over into my con­fused mind… I iden­ti­fied very strong­ly with Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s Por­trait of the Artist as a Young Man because he went through a sim­i­lar expe­ri­ence. He felt great guilt when he first ques­tioned Catholi­cism, believ­ing that he would con­sumed by the fires of hell for his doubt.”  See also Chap­ters 8, 10, and 11 (“Mov­ing On,” “Learn­ing” and “The Broth­ers on the Block”) in Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide

  47. See: Jef­fries, “Newton’s View of Peo­ple and the State,” Huey P. New­ton: Rad­i­cal The­o­rist, 42-52. New­ton, “Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide: The Way of Lib­er­a­tion,” Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide, 1-6. 

  48. Robin D. G. Kel­ley and Bet­sy Esch, “Black Like Mao: Red Chi­na and Black Rev­o­lu­tion,” Afro Asia: Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Polit­i­cal and Cul­tur­al Con­nec­tions between African Amer­i­cans and Asian Amer­i­cans. ed. Fred Ho and Bill V. Mullen. (Durham: Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2008), 126: “Short­ly after his release from prison in August 1970, New­ton pro­posed the cre­ation of an ‘‘Ide­o­log­i­cal Insti­tute’’ where par­tic­i­pants actu­al­ly read and taught what he regard­ed as the ‘‘classics’’—Marx, Mao, and Lenin as well as Aris­to­tle, Pla­to, Rousseau, Kant, Kierkegaard, and Niet­zsche. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Ide­o­log­i­cal Insti­tute did not amount to much; few Par­ty mem­bers saw the use of abstract the­o­riz­ing or the rel­e­vance of some of these writ­ings to rev­o­lu­tion.” For New­ton, the inten­tion was to redis­trib­ute and decen­tral­ize the work of pro­duc­ing Par­ty the­o­ry away from him­self (New­ton, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide, 323-324). 

  49. Joshua Bloom and Wal­do E. Mar­tin, Jr., Black Against Empire, 312. 

  50. Fred Hamp­ton, “Pow­er Any­where There’s Peo­ple,” Speech Deliv­ered Olivet Church, Chica­go, 1969. 

  51. New­ton, “Utopia: Uni­ver­sal Life Ener­gy” (1974), Dr. Huey P. New­ton Foun­da­tion Inc. Col­lec­tion, Box 39, Fold­er 1. New­ton read all four vol­umes of the then avail­able Select­ed Works of Mao Tse-Tung (New­ton, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide, 70). For more on the dis­tinct­ly Maoist approach to dialec­ti­cal mate­ri­al­ism, see Mao Zedong’s “On Prac­tice,” “On Con­tra­dic­tion,” and “On the Cor­rect Han­dling of Con­tra­dic­tions Among the Peo­ple.”  

  52. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974), 37. 

  53. New­ton, “Col­lege and the Afro-Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion,” Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide, 60-66. 

  54. Huey New­ton, “To the Black Move­ment: May 15, 1968,” To Die For the Peo­ple. Huey New­ton, “To The Repub­lic of New Africa: Sep­tem­ber 13, 1969,” To Die For the Peo­ple

  55. In a man­ner sim­i­lar to how the Nation of Islam and Moor­ish Sci­ence Tem­ple had pri­or reject­ed the term “Negro” and instead took up the terms “Black” or “Afro-Amer­i­can,” many Pan­thers who joined the Black Lib­er­a­tion Army and Repub­lic of New Afri­ka chose by 1968 to iden­ti­fy them­selves as New Afrikan, des­ig­nat­ing a col­lec­tive iden­ti­ty inclu­sive of the cur­rent­ly 180 mil­lion mem­bers of the for­mer­ly enslaved African dias­po­ra in the Amer­i­c­as. 

  56. New­ton, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide, 70.  The above quote is pre­ced­ed by the fol­low­ing pas­sage: “When I pre­sent­ed my solu­tions to the prob­lems of Black peo­ple, or when I expressed my phi­los­o­phy, peo­ple said, “Well, isn’t that social­ism?” Some of them were using the social­ist label to put me down, but I fig­ured that if this was social­ism, then social­ism must be a cor­rect view. So I read more of the works of the social­ists and began to see a strong sim­i­lar­i­ty between my beliefs and theirs. My con­ver­sion was com­plete when I read the four vol­umes of Mao Tse-tung to learn more about the Chi­nese Rev­o­lu­tion.” 

  57. Huey P. New­ton, “Huey New­ton Talks to the Move­ment About the Black Pan­ther Par­ty, Cul­tur­al Nation­al­ism, SNCC, Lib­er­al sand White Rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies,” The Black Pan­thers Speak, ed. Philip S. Fon­er (Chica­go: Hay­mar­ket, 1970). New­ton, “To the Black Move­ment: May 15, 1968,” To Die for the Peo­ple. Also cen­tral to the BPP’s ear­ly Marx­ism and Mao­ism was the ide­o­log­i­cal lead­er­ship of LA-based Pan­ther Ray “Masai” Hewitt (Bloom and Mar­tin, “Inter­na­tion­al Alliance,” Black Against Empire, 311-312). 

  58. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974). 38. 

  59. New­ton, “To the Repub­lic of New Africa: Sep­tem­ber 13, 1969,” To Die For the Peo­ple. New­ton, “On Pan-African­ism or Com­mu­nism: Decem­ber 1, 1972,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 253. 

  60. New­ton, “Dis­cus­sions with J. Her­man Blake, Erik H. Erik­son, Kai T. Erik­son, and Huey P. New­ton,” In Search of Com­mon Ground, 135-136. In this dis­cus­sion, Huey New­ton nar­rates a series of exam­ples that point to con­tra­dic­tions in how black­ness and white­ness are con­struct­ed. 

  61. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974), 46. 

  62. Mal­colm X, “Mes­sage to the Grass­roots,” Nov 10 1963. “What is the dif­fer­ence between a black rev­o­lu­tion and a Negro rev­o­lu­tion? …The only rev­o­lu­tion based on lov­ing your ene­my is the Negro rev­o­lu­tion. The only rev­o­lu­tion in which the goal is a deseg­re­gat­ed lunch counter, a deseg­re­gat­ed the­ater, a deseg­re­gat­ed park, and a deseg­re­gat­ed pub­lic toi­let; you can sit down next to white folks on the toi­let. That’s no rev­o­lu­tion. Rev­o­lu­tion is based on land. Land is the basis of all inde­pen­dence. Land is the basis of free­dom, jus­tice, and equal­i­ty. The white man knows what a rev­o­lu­tion is. He knows that the black rev­o­lu­tion is world-wide in scope and in nature. The black rev­o­lu­tion is sweep­ing Asia, sweep­ing Africa, is rear­ing its head in Latin Amer­i­ca. The Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion — that’s a rev­o­lu­tion. They over­turned the sys­tem. Rev­o­lu­tion is in Asia. Rev­o­lu­tion is in Africa. And the white man is scream­ing because he sees rev­o­lu­tion in Latin Amer­i­ca. How do you think he’ll react to you when you learn what a real rev­o­lu­tion is? You don’t know what a rev­o­lu­tion is. If you did, you wouldn’t use that word.” James Bog­gs and Grace Lee Bog­gs. “The City Is the Black Man’s Land” (1966), Racism and the Class Strug­gle: Fur­ther Pages from a Black Worker’s Note­book (Month­ly Review Press, 1970). 

  63. Elaine Brown, “Fore­word,” To Die for the Peo­ple, xx. 

  64. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974), 41. 

  65. New­ton, “Utopia: Uni­ver­sal Life Ener­gy,” 8-9. New­ton con­tin­ues, like­ly draw­ing from dis­cus­sions from his vis­it to Chi­na in 1971, adding, “Because they have a world­view, they quick­ly agreed that they can only call them­selves lib­er­at­ed ter­ri­to­ry because they said the world belongs to the peo­ple and they have a uni­ver­sal iden­ti­ty with all of the oppressed peo­ple of the world.” In “The Tech­nol­o­gy Ques­tion: 1972,” he also offers a more severe cri­tique of the Sovi­et Union, which he says became a “satel­lite of the Unit­ed States” when they formed the “Unit­ed States-Sovi­et Union Trade Agree­ment of 1972” and also as a result harmed Third World resis­tance move­ments: “Russia’s first mis­take came in the form of an incor­rect analy­sis: that social­ism could co-exist peace­ful­ly with cap­i­tal­ist nations” (The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 259-265). For more of Newton’s crit­i­cisms of the Sovi­et Union, see also his cri­tique of George Padmore’s Com­mu­nism and Black Nation­al­ism in “On Pan-African­ism or Com­mu­nism: Decem­ber 1, 1971,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er

  66. New­ton, “Reply to Roy Wilkins re : Viet­nam: Sep­tem­ber 26, 1970,” To Die For the Peo­ple

  67. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974), 54. 

  68. New­ton, “The Tech­nol­o­gy Ques­tion: Decem­ber 1, 1972,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 262-264. 

  69. As John Narayan points out (fn. 5), already by 1969, in writ­ings pub­lished while he is still incar­cer­at­ed, New­ton is try­ing to rethink the rela­tion­ship between race, col­o­niza­tion, and forms of empire: “At one time I thought that only Blacks were col­o­nized. But I think we have to change our rhetoric to an extent because the whole Amer­i­can peo­ple have been col­o­nized, if you view exploita­tion as a col­o­nized effect. Sev­en­ty-six com­pa­nies have exploit­ed every­one. Amer­i­can peo­ple are a col­o­nized peo­ple even more so than the peo­ple in devel­op­ing coun­tries where the mil­i­tary oper­ates.” New­ton, “On the Peace Move­ment: August 15, 1969,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 152. This point is artic­u­lat­ed again one month lat­er in Newton’s “To the Repub­lic of New Africa: Sep­tem­ber 13, 1969” with regards to indige­nous peo­ple, but even as far back as 1967 New­ton insists on iden­ti­fy­ing the first waves of Euro­pean immi­grants, many of whom were poor, crim­i­nal­ized, and in bondage, as col­o­nized peo­ple: “Now these same col­o­nized White peo­ple, these bonds­men, pau­pers, and thieves, deny the col­o­nized Black man not only the right to abol­ish this oppres­sive sys­tem, but to even speak of abol­ish­ing it.” New­ton, “In Defense of Self Defense I: June 20, 1967,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 134-135. 

  70. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism” (1974), 49.  See also, “Unit­ing Against a Com­mon Ene­my: Octo­ber 23, 1971,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 234-236. 

  71. Eldridge Cleaver, “On the Ide­ol­o­gy of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty (Part 1)” (1969). New­ton affirms this the­sis again dur­ing his “Speech Deliv­ered at Boston Col­lege: Novem­ber 18, 1970,” To Die for the Peo­ple, 26. 

  72. New­ton, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism: A High­er Lev­el of Con­scious­ness,” Dr. Huey P. New­ton Foun­da­tion Inc. Col­lec­tion, Box 48, Fold­er 4, p. 13. New­ton, “In Defense of Self Defense I,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 135. New­ton, “The Tech­nol­o­gy Ques­tion: 1972,” 264. 

  73. New­ton, “Unit­ing Against a Com­mon Ene­my: Octo­ber 13, 1971,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 239-240. 

  74. For a start­ing point on the his­to­ry of the Black Lib­er­a­tion Army, espe­cial­ly as based on the East Coast, see Akinyele Omowale Umoja’s “Repres­sion Breeds Resis­tance: The Black Lib­er­a­tion Army and the Rad­i­cal Lega­cy of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty,” in Lib­er­a­tion, Imag­i­na­tion, and the Black Pan­ther Par­ty: A New Look at the Pan­thers and their Lega­cy, ed. Kath­leen Cleaver and George Kat­si­afi­cas (New York: Rout­ledge, 2001). For more on guer­ril­la strug­gles in the Mid­west, see Yohu­ru Williams and Jama Lazerow’s Lib­er­at­ed Ter­ri­to­ry: Untold Local Per­spec­tives on the Black Pan­ther Par­ty (Duke Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2008). I also have mate­r­i­al forth­com­ing on the Black Lib­er­a­tion Army. 

  75. New­ton, “Speech at Boston Col­lege: Novem­ber 18, 1970,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 160. 

  76. For more on the BPP’s focus on the home, the school, and the com­mune as a site of strug­gle, see: Kiran Gar­cha, “Bring­ing the Van­guard Home: Revis­it­ing the Black Pan­ther Party’s Sites of Class Strug­gle,” View­point Mag­a­zine (Oct 31 2015). 

  77. Huey New­ton, “Black Cap­i­tal­ism Re-Ana­lyzed I: June 5, 1971,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er

  78. Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth trans. Con­stance Far­ring­ton (Grove Press, 1963). 

  79. From Newton’s “Speech at Boston Col­lege: Novem­ber 18, 1970,” 166: “In this coun­try the Black Pan­ther Par­ty, tak­ing care­ful note of the dialec­ti­cal method, tak­ing care­ful note of the social trends and the ever-chang­ing nature of things, sees that while the lumpen pro­le­tar­i­ans are the minor­i­ty and the pro­le­tar­i­ans are the major­i­ty, tech­nol­o­gy is devel­op­ing at such a rapid rate that automa­tion will progress to cyber­na­tion, and cyber­na­tion prob­a­bly to tech­noc­ra­cy.” For more on the his­tor­i­cal debates con­cern­ing automa­tion and “tech­no­crat­ic soci­ety” with­in the com­mu­nist and Black left, from Alex Bog­danov to Mar­tin Luther King Jr, I high­ly rec­om­mend R.L.’s forth­com­ing “Com­mu­ni­sa­tion: Dystopi­an or Sci­en­tif­ic.” It is also impor­tant though to con­sid­er here the alter­nate argu­ment that automa­tion is less a cause of increas­ing under­em­ploy­ment than a symp­tom of the greater struc­tur­al cri­sis with­in cap­i­tal­ism and what Marx iden­ti­fied as the ten­den­cy of the rate of prof­it to fall. For more on this, see Aaron Benanav’s “Automa­tion and the Future of Work.” 

  80. New­ton, “Speech at Boston Col­lege: Novem­ber 18, 1970,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 167 

  81. Ibid, 29. 

  82. Michel Fou­cault, “Lec­ture 11”, Soci­ety Must Be Defend­ed: Lec­tures at the Col­lege de France 1975-1976, trans. Robert Hur­ley (Pic­a­dor, 1992). See also: Mbe­m­be, Achille (2003). “Necrop­ol­i­tics,” Pub­lic Cul­ture. 15.1, 11–40. 

  83. Clay­borne Car­son, Mal­colm X: The FBI File (New York: Sky­horse Pub­lish­ing, 1991). 

  84. New­ton, “On The Rel­e­vance of the Church: May 19, 1971,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 219. 

  85. New­ton, “A Func­tion­al Def­i­n­i­tion of Pol­i­tics: Jan­u­ary 11, 1969,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er. Huey P. New­ton, “A Func­tion­al Def­i­n­i­tion of Pol­i­tics: Con­clu­sion,” Dr. Huey P. New­ton Foun­da­tion Inc. Col­lec­tion, Box 50, Fold­er 2. Mao Zedong, “On Pro­tract­ed War,” in Select­ed Works of Mao Tse-Tung Vol. 2 (Bei­jing: For­eign Lan­guages Press, 1967), 153. For more on the geneal­o­gy, import, and influ­ence of Newton’s con­cep­tion of pol­i­tics, see Brady Thomas Heiner’s “Fou­cault and the Black Pan­thers,” City: Analy­sis of Urban Trends, Cul­ture, The­o­ry, Pol­i­cy, Action, 11.3 (2007). New­ton, “Utopia: Uni­ver­sal Life Ener­gy,” 10. 

  86. For more on the the debates around this mat­ter, see Sakel­laropou­los and Sotiris’ “From Ter­ri­to­r­i­al to Non­ter­ri­to­r­i­al Cap­i­tal­ist Impe­ri­al­ism: Lenin and the Pos­si­bil­i­ty of a Marx­ist The­o­ry of Impe­ri­al­ism” (in Rethink­ing Marx­ism: A Jour­nal of Eco­nom­ics, Cul­ture & Soci­ety, Jan 2017). Increas­ing­ly through the 1970s, Newton’s analy­sis of cap­i­tal­ist impe­ri­al­ism seems to echo a close read­ing of Lenin’s stance, includ­ing its many vac­il­la­tions. Dis­cussing the strug­gle to estab­lish “lib­er­at­ed ter­ri­to­ries” in Viet­nam, New­ton states: “…the Unit­ed States does not need their ter­ri­to­ry. That is not the ques­tion. The peo­ple of the oppressed ter­ri­to­ries might fight on the land ques­tion and die over the land ques­tion. But for the Unit­ed States, it is the tech­nol­o­gy ques­tion, and the con­sump­tion of the goods that the tech­nol­o­gy pro­duces!” (New­ton, “The Tech­nol­o­gy Ques­tion: 1972,” 259-260). Anoth­er point to acknowl­edge here is that, by 1974, Newton’s his heavy cita­tion of David Horowitz seems to also indi­cate a shift in posi­tion away from the view that cap­i­tal­ist impe­ri­al­ist expan­sion is caused pri­mar­i­ly by the capitalist’s need to find a con­sumer base than it is by the inher­ent ten­den­cy of cap­i­tal­ist dynam­ics towards both the elim­i­na­tion of com­peti­tors and the cre­ation of eco­nom­ic depen­dence for all social ecosys­tems that it comes into con­tact with: “The notion that excess sav­ings or a defi­cien­cy of invest­ment demand in domes­tic mar­kets (in clas­si­cal Marx­ist terms-the dif­fi­cul­ty of “real­iz­ing sur­plus val­ue”) is the mech­a­nism that dri­ves cap­i­tal­ists abroad and makes impe­ri­al­ist expan­sion indis­pens­able to cap­i­tal­ism gen­er­al­ly is one prop­er­ly asso­ci­at­ed with Rosa Lux­em­burg and the lib­er­al J.A. Hob­son, but explic­it­ly repu­di­at­ed by Lenin and oth­er Bol­she­vik the­o­rists. This is a fun­da­men­tal point, for the Hob­son­ian the­sis, as a the­o­ry of the gen­er­al phe­nom­e­non of impe­ri­al­ist expan­sion, can be fault­ed on empir­i­cal grounds and then used, as it has been, to dis­cred­it the eco­nom­ic the­o­ry of impe­ri­al­ism as such. It is not pos­si­ble to argue, of course, that the insuf­fi­cien­cy of domes­tic mar­kets and the prob­lem of dis­pos­ing of sur­plus cap­i­tal play no role or even and insignif­i­cant one in pro­duc­ing the phe­nom­e­non of impe­ri­al­ist expan­sion. Indeed, in the events of the turn of the cen­tu­ry, it is rec­og­nized even by crit­ics to have been a very impor­tant fac­tor, while its place in the ide­o­log­i­cal per­spec­tive of the impe­ri­al­ists them­selves often give it a greater weight and sig­nif­i­cance than its objec­tive real­i­ty may war­rant. But to iden­ti­fy it as the fun­da­men­tal cause of the gen­er­al expan­sion­ist dri­ve of cap­i­tal­ism is both empir­i­cal­ly unjus­ti­fied and the­o­ret­i­cal­ly wrong head­ed. …At the most basic lev­el, there­fore, impe­ri­al­ism is cap­i­tal­ism which has burst the bound­aries of the nation state even as it first over­come the seclu­sion of the vil­lage com­mu­ni­ty of the feu­dal epoch. It fol­lows from this that the two phe­nom­e­na are insep­a­ra­ble: there can be no end to impe­ri­al­ism with­out an end to cap­i­tal­ism and cap­i­tal­ist rela­tions of pro­duc­tion.” (New­ton cit­ing Horowitz, 8-10, “Inter­com­mu­nal­ism,” 1974). The extent of my engage­ment with these ques­tions is ful­ly indebt­ed to dis­cus­sions with and the guid­ance of View­point edi­tor Ben Mabie. For more, see Viewpoint’s Issue 6: Impe­ri­al­ism

  87. Narayan offers what appears to be a large­ly com­pat­i­ble inter­pre­ta­tion, argu­ing that the BPP’s “sur­vival pend­ing rev­o­lu­tion” could be described as a shift to a Gram­s­cian “war of posi­tion.” 

  88. Joy Ann Williamson, “Com­mu­ni­ty Con­trol With a Black Nation­al­ist Twist: The Black Pan­ther Party’s Edu­ca­tion­al Pro­grams,” Coun­ter­points, 237 (2005). 

  89. Spencer, The Rev­o­lu­tion Has Come, 120. Huey P. New­ton, “On The Rel­e­vance of the Church: May 19, 1971,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 229. Spencer, The Rev­o­lu­tion Has Come, 153. Robert O. Self, Amer­i­can Baby­lon Race and the Strug­gle for Post­war Oak­land (Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2005). 

  90. Huey P. New­ton, “Black Cap­i­tal­ism Re-Ana­lyzed I: June, 5, 1971,” “Black Cap­i­tal­ism Re-Ana­lyzed II (Prac­ti­cal Appli­ca­tion): August 9, 1971,” “On The Rel­e­vance of the Church: May 19, 1971,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er. Spencer, The Rev­o­lu­tion Has Come, 118. 

  91. Spencer, The Rev­o­lu­tion Has Come, 149, 123-132 

  92. Jef­fries, Huey P. New­ton: Rad­i­cal The­o­rist. 9.  See also Flo­res A. Forbes’ Will You Die with Me?: My Life and the Black Pan­ther Par­ty and David Hilliard’s This Side of Glo­ry: The Auto­bi­og­ra­phy of David Hilliard. 

  93. New­ton, “Black Cap­i­tal­ism Rean­a­lyzed I,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 232-233. “There is no sal­va­tion in cap­i­tal­ism, but through this new approach, the Black cap­i­tal­ist will con­tribute to his own nega­tion by help­ing to build a strong polit­i­cal vehi­cle which is guid­ed by rev­o­lu­tion­ary con­cepts and serves as a van­guard for the peo­ple… So we will height­en the con­tra­dic­tion between the Black com­mu­ni­ty and cor­po­rate cap­i­tal­ism, while at the same time reduc­ing the con­tra­dic­tion between the Black cap­i­tal­ist and the Black com­mu­ni­ty.” 

  94. Erik­son and New­ton, In Search of Com­mon Ground, 39. 

  95. Spencer, The Rev­o­lu­tion Has Come, 145-146. 

  96. Spencer, The Rev­o­lu­tion Has Come, 147. 

  97. Lenin, V.I. “The Dual Pow­er,” Prav­da, 28 (April 9, 1917). Lee Lock­wood, “Inter­view: Huey New­ton,” Play­boy, 20.5 (Play­boy, 1973), 75. 

  98. New­ton, “On the Defec­tion of Eldridge Cleaver from the Black Pan­ther Par­ty and the Defec­tion of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty from the Black Com­mu­ni­ty,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 205. It is also worth clar­i­fy­ing that the aims behind this cam­paign dif­fered sharply from those moti­vat­ing the 1968 Pres­i­den­tial cam­paign of Eldridge Cleaver under the People’s Free­dom Par­ty tick­et. That pri­or cam­paign was clear­ly and explic­it­ly aimed at acquir­ing pub­lic­i­ty for the Par­ty and its pro­gram on a nation­al scale rather than the actu­al acqui­si­tion of polit­i­cal office. Spencer, The Rev­o­lu­tion Has Come, 147-156. 

  99. New­ton, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide, 97-99. 

  100. In 1973, New­ton explic­it­ly says that Par­ty mem­bers “live in com­munes” (Lee Lock­wood, “Inter­view: Huey New­ton”). The most exten­sive dis­cus­sion of this his­to­ry is found in Robyn Spencer’s invalu­able “Com­mu­nal­ism and the Black Pan­ther Par­ty in Oak­land, Cal­i­for­nia,West of Eden: Com­munes and Utopia in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, ed. Iaian Boal, (Oak­land: PM Press, 2012), 92-121. As far as I am aware, Newton’s pub­lished remarks on oth­er com­munes of the 1960s are most­ly lim­it­ed to a cri­tique of short­sight­ed or ide­al­is­tic attempts to ‘dis­con­nect’ from the impacts of expand­ing tech­nol­o­gy under cap­i­tal­ism. For these brief com­ments, see 116-117 in In Search of Com­mon Ground. 

  101. Spencer, The Rev­o­lu­tion Has Come, 114-177.  See also Elaine Brown’s A Taste of Pow­er: A Black Woman’s Sto­ry (First Anchor Books: 1994). 

  102. New­ton, “On the Rel­e­vance of Church: May 19, 1971,” To Die for the Peo­ple, 66. New­ton here actu­al­ly uses the word “exploit” but puts the term in quo­ta­tion marks, denot­ing a euphemistic use. In prac­tice, how­ev­er, this is arguably exact­ly what hap­pened, as mem­bers faced labor quo­tas that only inten­si­fied as the Par­ty increas­ing­ly strug­gled finan­cial­ly in the late 1970s. See also: Spencer, The Rev­o­lu­tion Has Come, 195-201. 

  103. New­ton, To Die for the Peo­ple, 1. 

  104. Pre­scient­ly, New­ton also warned in his writ­ings of the dan­gers of “rev­o­lu­tion­ary” par­ties becom­ing dis­con­nect­ed from real­i­ty and from the peo­ple, becom­ing sub­cul­tur­al affin­i­ty groups com­posed of “peo­ple who with­draw,” a ten­den­cy that New­ton iden­ti­fied as “rev­o­lu­tion­ary cultism (New­ton, “On the Rel­e­vance of the Church: May 19, 1971,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er, 221-222). At the same time, it is nec­es­sary to con­sid­er that arguably all polit­i­cal move­ments, and per­haps all human social for­ma­tions, rely on some lev­el of control—either phys­i­cal or psychological—to main­tain the lev­el of intra­group cohe­sion need­ed to achieve col­lec­tive goals. Indeed, it seems that the less phys­i­cal­ly coer­cive a group’s inter­nal dynam­ics are, the more like­ly that par­tic­u­lar­ly powerful—even if subtle—intragroup ide­o­log­i­cal mech­a­nisms over­lap with “struc­tures of feel­ing” and inter­nal cul­tur­al homo­gene­ity to ensure sub­mis­sive behav­ior. Often, this seems to be the case despite the pres­ence of rhetoric about anti-hier­ar­chi­cal, demo­c­ra­t­ic, or col­lec­tivist deci­sion-mak­ing. Anthro­pol­o­gist Harold Barclay’s notion of “dif­fuse sanc­tions” is use­ful here for spec­u­lat­ing on the ways that decen­tral­ized forms of author­i­ty arise as a form of social con­trol with­in large­ly egal­i­tar­i­an com­mu­ni­ties (Peo­ple With­out Gov­ern­ment: An Anthro­pol­o­gy of Anar­chy, 1982). Since the 1970s, as group cohe­sion in the U.S. has appar­ent­ly become increas­ing­ly hard­er to come by (see Robert Putnam’s Bowl­ing Alone: The Col­lapse and Revival of Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ty), most of the few social-polit­i­cal for­ma­tions with any degree of auton­o­my from the state that have per­sist­ed until the present day indeed appear to be some of the most inter­nal­ly coer­cive, such as with gangs and cults. That is, I am not sure that the late BPP’s cult-like dynam­ics are best under­stood as dys­func­tion, but rather per­haps as struc­tural­ly pre­de­ter­mined by what autonomous social orga­ni­za­tion may be inclined to look like under ‘glob­al­iza­tion’ or “reac­tionary inter­com­mu­nal­ism.” This does not mean that indi­vid­u­als can­not orga­nize them­selves and suc­cess­ful­ly devel­op forms of group cohe­sion with less coer­cive dynam­ics, but rather per­haps that con­tem­po­rary mate­r­i­al con­di­tions are mak­ing groups with such prac­tices more dif­fi­cult to sus­tain with­out a high degree of inten­tion­al­i­ty going into their for­ma­tion. Cru­cial­ly, of course, the most struc­tural­ly sig­nif­i­cant polit­i­cal goals (how­ev­er it is that they are decid­ed upon) can only be attained through col­lec­tive strug­gle. 

  105. New­ton, “The Women’s Lib­er­a­tion and Gay Lib­er­a­tion Move­ments: August 15, 1970,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er.  New­ton, “Lov­ing,” Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Sui­cide, 93-98. Tra­cye Matthews, “No one ever asks what a Man’s Place in The Rev­o­lu­tion Is: Gen­der and the Pol­i­tics of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty 1966-1971,” The Black Pan­ther Par­ty Recon­sid­ered, ed. Charles E. Jones (Bal­ti­more: Black Clas­sic Press, 1998). 

  106. The severe impact of the state’s efforts to destroy New­ton psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly are pro­found­ly under­es­ti­mat­ed. For a close treat­ment of this, see: Joe Street, “The Shad­ow of the Soul Break­er: Soli­tary Con­fine­ment, Cocaine, and the Dis­in­te­gra­tion of Huey P. New­ton,” Pacif­ic His­tor­i­cal Review, 84.3 Aug 2015, 333-363. 

  107. Huey P. New­ton, “On the Defec­tion of Eldridge Cleaver from the Black Pan­ther Par­ty and the Defec­tion of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty from the Black Com­mu­ni­ty: April 17, 1971,” The Huey P. New­ton Read­er. 

  108. Bloom and Mar­tin, Black Against Empire. Yohu­ru Williams and Jama Laze­row, Lib­er­at­ed Ter­ri­to­ry: Untold Local Per­spec­tives on the Black Pan­ther Par­ty. Rus­sell Maroon Shoatz. Maroon the Implaca­ble: The Col­lect­ed Writ­ings of Rus­sell Maroon Shoatz (PM Press, 2013). 

  109. Kali Akuno and Aja­mu Nang­waya. Jack­son Ris­ing: The Strug­gle for Eco­nom­ic Democ­ra­cy and Black Self-Deter­mi­na­tion in Jack­son, Mis­sis­sip­pi (Dara­ja Press, 2017). 

  110. Robin D. G. Kel­ley, “Coates and West in Jack­son,” Boston Review, Dec 22, 2017. 

  111. Brown, “Fore­word,” xx. 

  112. David Kil­cullen, Out of the Moun­tains: The Com­ing Age of the Urban Guer­ril­la (Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2015), 180-188. 

Author of the article

is a PhD candidate in the History of Consciousness at the University of California-Santa Cruz where he studies criminality, political theory, and philosophy. He is an educator, an activist, and was born in the Bronx.