My dear only surviving son,
I went to Mount Vernon August 7th, 1971, to visit the grave site of my heart your keepers murdered in cold disregard for life. His grave was supposed to be behind your grandfather’s and grandmother’s. But I couldn’t find it. There was no marker. Just mowed grass. The story of our past. I sent the keeper a blank check for a headstone — and two extra sites— blood in my eye!!!
For their freedom to prey on the world’s people . . .
whatever the cost in blood.
In order for capitalism to continue to rule, any action that threatens the right of a few individuals to own and control public property must be prohibited and curtailed whatever the cost in resources (the international wing of the repressive institutions has spent one and one-half trillion dollars since World War II), whatever the cost in blood (My Lai, Augusta, Georgia, Kent State, the Panther trials, the frame-up of Angela Davis)! The national repressive institutions (police, National Guard, army, etc.) are no less determined. The mayors that curse the rioters and the looters (Mayor Daley of Chicago has ordered them summarily executed in the streets) ignore the fact that their bosses have looted the world!!!
I refuse to make any argument with statistics compiled by the institutions and associations that I indict. Yet it is true that even official figures prove the case against capitalism. The Federal Bureau of Investigation compiles and indexes almost all information on crime in the United States — I have the figures as it states them right here: Vital Statistics — FBI Crime Report — property crimes, 87 percent of the total in 1969, 28 percent of these crimes occurring in the ghetto. Since 1960, the number of men and women prisoners in state and federal penitentiaries has fluctuated slightly around the quarter-million mark. These statistics conceal the living reality.
This is my eleventh year of being shoveled into every major prison in the most populous state in the nation — and the largest prison system in the world. What I have seen in these eleven years is the living situation. The experience is quite different from the columns of figures neatly arranged to give the impression of well-studied, detached, scientific and calculated analysis. Hidden are the facts that, at each institution I’ve been in, 30 to sometimes 40 percent of those held are black, and every one of the many thousands I’ve encountered was from the working or lumpenproletariat class. There may be a few exceptions, but I simply have not met any of them in my eleven years. Where I am confined now in San Quentin Prison, California, awaiting trial for two alleged crimes conviction on either of which would subject my lungs to the poison-gas treatment, there are seventeen cells in what is euphemistically called “the adjustment center” but is far more accurately known as the hole. The A./C. is San Quentin’s triple maximum security, and all of these cells are filled — eleven of them with black men — every one of them without exception from the working class.
I’ve been arrested, interrogated or investigated more times than I care to count. I’ve learned ten times more about the process than the most expert single groups of inquisitors. From the first moment I’m brought into this scenario, I attempt to establish control over the exchanges that will take place between myself and my captors. Depending on the situation, one learns to feign either indignation, surprise, idiocy or fear. At times the peasant-philosopher face will work. I don’t think I am an exception at all, as most blacks learn by age fifteen how to handle the cretins who hire out as guns for the privileged. There is only one type of inquisitional situation that I personally cannot control — the sessions that begin with violence. In those cases, guile fails and blacks learn to fight multiple opponents while handcuffed, or at least learn how to protect the groin area. I simply have never managed to develop a technique against nine armed men who are fascinated with damaging my private parts!! But, I’m still learning!
“All black people, wherever they are, whatever their crimes, even crimes against other Blacks, are political prisoners because the system has dealt with them differently than with whites. Whitey gets the benefit of every law, every loophole, and the benefit of being judged by his peers — other white people. Blacks don’t get the benefit of any such jury trial by peers. Such a trial is almost a cinch to result in the conviction of a black person, and it’s a conscious political decision that blacks don’t have those benefits” (Howard Moore Jr., attorney, official “of” the court, but not “for” the court — he’s in a position to know — he’s honest, black, and dedicated enough to tell).
The purpose of the chief repressive institutions within the totalitarian capitalist state is clearly to discourage and prohibit certain activity, and the prohibitions are aimed at very distinctly defined sectors of the class- and race-sensitized society. The ultimate expression of law is not order — it’s prison. There are hundreds upon hundreds of prisons, and thousands upon thousands of laws, yet there is no social order, no social peace. Anglo-Saxon bourgeois law is tied firmly into economics. One can even pick that out of those Vital Statistics. Bourgeois law protects property relations and not social relationships. The cultural traits of capitalist society that also tend to check activity — (individualism, artificial politeness juxtaposed to an aloof rudeness, the rush to learn “how to” instead of “what is”) — are secondary really, and intended for those mild cases (and groups) that require preventive measures only. The law and everything that interlocks with it was constructed for poor, desperate people like me.
Jonathan, my younger brother, understood this point perfectly. The purport of the raid on the Marin County Courthouse was more significant by far than its calculable effects. I knew him well, since he was and still is my alter ego. He went to liberate and to educate with aggressive and free action. He knew that as he proceeded in liberating there would be more action. He wasn’t a speechmaker, and neither am I. Escape from the myth, the hoax, by moving people into action against the terror of the state — counter-terrorism — is the real significance of the August 7th affair. To Jonathan, the striking exposure was “audacity, audacity, and more audacity.” Theory and practice, strategy and tactics were based in his mind on actual confrontation within “this” particular historical development. He must have calculated that foco army activity that was hidden and nameless, operating where the objective conditions for revolution already existed and had existed for a dozen decades, would survive and grow if, at the same time, the Black Panther political apparatus continued to develop its autonomous infrastructure. Proof of his theory was built right into the action: five desperate men were offered arms as a means to freedom — three took them.
Proof of the role of law within the totalitarian- authoritarian relationship was also built into the action. In a fit of reckless, mindless gunfire, one hundred automated goons shot through the bodies of a judge, district attorney, and three female noncombatants to reestablish control over all activity. To prevent certain actions, no cost in blood is too high.
It would seem that so much free fire would be difficult to explain, but it is not. Freedoms are invariably being protected with this gunfire. Freedom must then be interpreted a thousand separate ways, but it actually comes down to freedom for a few families and their friends — freedom to prey upon the world.
Acceptance of enslavement is deeply buried in the pathogenic character types of capitalism. It is a result of the sense of dread and anxiety which is the lot of all men under capitalist rule. Compulsive behavior and disordered obsessional longings are actually made synonymous with “character” in our disordered society. But to emphasize these conditions before examining the institutions from which they spring is to confuse effect with cause and further cloud the point of attack. So far, cultural analysis has established that the psychosis is so ingrained, the institutions so centralized, that what is needed is total revolution, the armed struggle between the have-nots with their vanguard and the haves with their hirelings or macabre freaks that live through them, civil war between at least these two sections of the population is the only purgative. Total revolution must be aimed at the purposeful and absolute destruction of the state and all present institutions, the destruction carried out by the so-called psychopath, the outsider, whose only remedy is destruction of the system. This organized massive violence directed at the source of thought control is the only realistic therapy.
Analysis of the oppressed mentality and the psychopathic personality that accrue from contact with the prevarications of Amerikan culture must be carefully integrated with the analysis of the source. Simple interpretation of effects tends to calcify — it certainly promotes defeatism. “Action makes the front.” One can quietly refuse to accept the constrictions of bourgeois culture, can reject himself, hate the self and turn inward. By so doing he accomplishes a form of individual revolt, but here again we find another unconscious manifestation of the thing we hate — individualism — a now attitudinal instrumentality of bourgeois culture. We cannot escape — one simply cannot reject constrictions without rejecting and putting to death the constrictor. An armed attacker cannot be ignored. Gandhi and the gurus were all abject fools. I would certainly be dead if, when critical flash points matured, I hadn’t backed my rejection with blows. I would hate to have been a Vietnamese in My Lai without arms. I hate encounters like the one at my last court appearance on April 6, 1971, when the enemies who attacked me had all the weapons. I would hate to run into freaks who have Mike Hammer/J. Edgar Hoover complexes without being armed. My pledge is to arms, my enemies are institutions and any men with vested interests in them, even if that interest is only a wage. If revolution means civil war — I accept, and the sooner begun the sooner done.
I don’t think the enemy can be identified any more carefully than this. Further identification must be made in the process. I feel dated that my brother died with two guns -y in hand. I’m going to miss him and all the others, though death in our situation is only a release. I miss people in- tensely. I miss him intensely, but he and the others who sought freedom died at the throat of the principal repressive institution of the empire — they died making real attempts at freedom.
I paraphrase Castro on trial after Moncada: “I warn you, gentlemen, I have only begun!”
Toward the United Front
A new unitarian and progressive current has sprung up in the movement centering on political prisoners. How can this unitarian conduct be developed further in the face of determined resistance from the establishment? How can it be used to isolate reactionary elements?
Unitary conduct implies a “search” for those elements in our present situation which can become the basis for joint action. It involves a conscious reaching for the relevant, the entente, and especially, in our case, the reconcilable. Throughout the centralizing authoritarian process of Amerikan history, the ruling classes have found it necessary to discourage and punish any genuine opposition to hierarchy. But there have always been individuals and groups who rejected the ideal of two unequal societies, existing one on top of the other.
The men who placed themselves above the rest of society through guile, fortuitous outcome of circumstance and sheer brutality have developed two principal institutions to deal with any and all serious disobedience — the prison and institutionalized racism. There are more prisons of all categories in the United Stales than in all other countries of the world combined. At all times there are two-thirds of a million people or more confined to these prisons. Hundreds are destined to be legally executed, thousands more quasi-legally. Other thousands will never again have any freedom of movement barring a revolutionary change in all the institutions that combine to make up the order of things. One third of a million people may not seem like a great number compared with the total population of two hundred million. However, compared with the one million who are responsible for all the affairs of men within the extended state, it constitutes a striking contrast. What I want to explore now are a few of the subtle elements that I have observed to be standing in the path of a much needed united front (nonsectarian) to effectively reverse this legitimatized rip-off.
Prisons were not institutionalized on such a massive scale by the people. Most people realize that crime is simply the result of a grossly disproportionate distribution of wealth and privilege, a reflection of the present state of property relations. There are no wealthy men on death row, and so few in the general prison population that we can discount them altogether. Imprisonment is an aspect of class struggle from the outset. It is the creation of a closed society which attempts to isolate those individuals who disregard the structures of a hypocritical establishment as well as those who attempt to challenge it on a mass basis. Throughout its history, the United States has used its prisons to suppress any organized efforts to challenge its legitimacy — from its attempts to break up the early Working Men’s Benevolent Association to the banning of the Communist Party during what I regard as the fascist takeover of this country, to the attempts to destroy the Black Panther Party.
The hypocrisy of Amerikan fascism forces it to conceal its attack on political offenders by the legal fiction of conspiracy laws and highly sophisticated frame-ups. The masses must be taught to understand the true function of prisons. Why do they exist in such numbers? What is the real underlying economic motive of crime and the official definition of types of offenders or victims? The people must learn that when one “offends” the totalitarian state it is patently not an offense against the people of that state, but an assault upon the privilege of the privileged few.
Could anything be more ridiculous than the language of blatantly political indictments; “The People of the State … vs. Angela Davis and Ruchell Magee” or “The People of the State … vs. Bobby Seale and Ericka Huggins.” What, people? Clearly the hierarchy, the armed minority.
We must educate the people in the real causes of economic crimes. They must be made to realize that even crimes of passion are the psycho-social effects of an economic order that was decadent a hundred years ago. All crime can be traced to objective socio-economic conditions — socially productive or counterproductive activity. In all cases, it is determined by the economic system, the method of economic organization. “The People of the State . .. . vs. John Doe” is as tenuous as the clearly political frame-ups. It’s like stating “The People vs. The People.” Man against himself. Official definitions of crime are simply attempts by the establishment to suppress the forces of progress.
Prisoners must be reached and made to understand that they are victims of social injustice. This is my task working from within (while I’m here, my persuasion is that the war goes on no matter where one may find himself on bourgeois- dominated soil). The sheer numbers of the prisoner class and the terms of their existence make them a mighty reservoir of revolutionary potential. Working alone and from within a steel-enclosed society, there is very little that people like myself can do to awake the restrained potential revolutionary outside the walls. That is part of the task of the “Prison Movement.”
The “Prison Movement,” the August 7th movement and all similar efforts educate the people in the illegitimacy of establishment power and hint at the ultimate goal of revolutionary consciousness at every level of struggle. The goal is always the same; the creation of an infrastructure capable of fielding a people’s army.
Each of us should understand that revolution is aggressive. The manipulators of the system cannot or will not meet our legitimate demands. Eventually this will move us all into a violent encounter with the system. These are the terminal years of capitalism, and as we move into more and more basic challenges to its rule, history clearly forewarns us that when the prestige of power fails a violent episode precedes its transformation.
We can attempt to limit the scope and range of violence in revolution by mobilizing as many partisans as possible at every level of socio-economic life. But given the hold that the ruling class has on this country, and its history of violence, nothing could be more certain than civil disorders, perhaps even civil war. I don’t dread either. There are no good aspects of monopoly capital, so no reservations need be recognized in its destruction. Monopoly capital is the enemy. It crushes the life force of all of the people. It must be completely destroyed, as quickly as possible, utterly, totally, ruthlessly, relentlessly destroyed.
With this as a common major goal, it would seem that anti-establishment forces would find little difficulty in developing common initiatives and methods consistent with the goals of mass society. Regretfully, this has not been the case. Only the prison movement has shown any promise of cutting across the ideological, racial and cultural barricades that have blocked the natural coalition of left-wing forces at all times in the past. So this movement must be used to provide an example for the partisans engaged at other levels of struggle. The issues involved and the dialectic which flows from an understanding of the clear objective existence of overt oppression could be the springboard for our entry into the tide of increasing world-wide socialist consciousness.
In order to create a united left, whose aim is the defense of political prisoners and prisoners in general, we must renounce the idea that all participants must be of one mind, and should work at the problem from a single party line or with a single party line or with a single method. The reverse of this is actually desirable. “From all according to ability.” Each partisan, outside the vanguard elements, should work at radicalizing in the area of their natural environment, the places where they pursue their normal lives when not attending the rallies and demonstrations. The vanguard elements (organized party workers of all ideological persuasions) should go among the people concentrated at the rallying point with consciousness-raising strategy, promoting commitment and providing concrete, clearly defined activity. The vanguard elements must search out people who can and will contribute to the building of the commune, the infrastructure, with pen and clipboard in hand. For those who aren’t ready to take that step, a “packet” of pamphlets should be provided for their education.
All of this, of course, means that we are moving, and on a mass level: Not all in our separate directions — but firmly under the disciplined and principled leadership of the Vanguard Black Panther Communist Party. “One simply cannot act without a head.” Democratic centralism is the only way to deal effectively with the Amerikan ordeal. The central committee of the people’s vanguard party must make its presence felt throughout the various levels of the overall movement.
With the example of unity in the prison movement, we can begin to break the old behavioral patterns that have repeatedly allowed bourgeois capitalism, its imperialism and fascism, to triumph over the last several decades. We tap a massive potential reservoir of partisans for cadre work. We make it possible to begin to address one of the most complex psycho-social by-products that economic man with his private enterprise has manufactured — Racism.
I’ve saved this most critical barrier to our needs of unity for last. Racism is a matter of ingrained traditional attitudes conditioned through institutions. For some, it is as natural a reflex as breathing. The psycho-social effects of segregated environments compounded by bitter class repression have served in the past to render the progressive movement almost totally impotent.
The major obstacle to a united left in this country is white racism. There are three categories of white racists: the overt, self-satisfied racist who doesn’t attempt to hide his antipathy; the self-interdicting racist who harbors and nurtures racism in spite of his best efforts; and the unconscious racist, who has no awareness of his racist preconceptions.
I deny the existence of black racism outright, by flat I deny it. Too much black blood has flowed between the chasm that separates the races. It’s fundamentally unfair to expect the black man to differentiate at a glance between the various kinds of white racists. What the apologists term black racism is either a healthy defense reflex on the part of the sincere black partisan who is attempting to deal with the realistic problems of survival and elevation, or the racism of the government stooge organs.
As black partisans, we must recognize and allow for the existence of all three types of racists. We must understand their presence as an effect of the system. It is the system that must be crushed, for it continues to manufacture new and deeper contradictions of both class and race. Once it is destroyed, we may be able to address the problems of racism at an even more basic level. But we must also combat racism while we are in the process of destroying the system.
The self-interdicting racist, no matter what his acquired conviction or ideology, will seldom be able to contribute with his actions in any really concrete way. His role in revolution, barring a change of basic character, will be minimal throughout. Whether the basic character of a man can be changed at all is still a question. But … we have in the immediacy of the “Issues in Question” the perfect opportunity to test the validity of materialist philosophy again, because we don’t have to guess, we have the means of proof.
The need for unitarian conduct goes much deeper than the liberation of Angela, Bobby, Ericka, Magee, Los Siete, Tijerina, white draft-resisters, and now the indomitable and faithful James Carr. We have fundamental strategy to be proved — tested and proved. The activity surrounding the protection and liberation of people who fight for us is an important aspect of the struggle. But it is important only if it provides new initiatives that redirect and advance the revolution under new progressive methods. There must be a collective redirection of the old guard — the factory and union agitator — with the campus activist who can counter the ill-effects of fascism at its training site, and with the lumpenproletariat intellectuals who possess revolutionary scientific-socialist attitudes to deal with the masses of street people already living outside the system. They must work toward developing the unity of the pamphlet and the silenced pistol. Black, brown and white are all victims together. At the end of this massive collective struggle, we will uncover our new man, the unpredictable culmination of the revolutionary process. He will be better equipped to wage the real struggle, the permanent struggle after the revolution — the one for new relationships between men.