Kaepernick and the Black Panthers; by Simon Wood:

30 Sep

 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Kaepernick and the Black Panthers

“When the truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie” – Yevgeny Yevtushenko

In the 2016 preseason American football games of the San Francisco 49ers, quarterback Colin Kaepernick began to sit rather than stand for the US national anthem. In an interview, he explained his stance:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

He later chose to kneel instead of sit, explaining that this change was to express more respect for past and present US military service members.

A year on the controversy has exploded, dominating news agendas and social media feeds. There is a hashtag [#takeaknee] and numerous opinion pieces, expressing sympathy and condemnation in broad measure, have achieved broad circulation. US President Trump has joined the fray, expressing the standard view from the right that the actions of Kaepernick are disrespectful and unpatriotic. This has in turn served to trigger the ‘liberal left’ in a way that decades of inequality, police violence against black people and mass carnage abroad has never quite managed.

Indeed the coronation of Donald Trump has been a stroke of genius for the US and global ruling classes. His unparalleled boorishness and ineptitude has been the perfect distraction for a generation force-fed decades of identity politics, people who see war and class oppression as abstract concepts to be frowned on and soberly discussed while foaming at the mouth over, say, the various classifications of gender, in those moments when they are not victims of all the other distractions on offer.

The chances of any serious movement arising to topple the financial elites and their collaborators under these circumstances are zero. ‘Trump out!’ goes the slogan, with the sloganeers all too happy to see this particular puppet replaced with another Obama, the man who personally ordered numerous drone strikes in full knowledge of the fact that 90% of the victims were civilians, some toddlers and infants.

Whatever Kaepernick’s and his followers’ good intentions, they must be aware that any movement that gains popularity and has potentially revolutionary appeal will be either subverted and rendered harmless by the state apparatus, or – if or when that fails – mercilessly crushed. That second stage has not been reached here, and it will not, as all the signs are there of a major media operation to re-direct and dilute the mass of outrage away from the true target, namely class oppression and the system that enables it – capitalism. By giving support and condemnation, the media subverts the anger of the people and crafts the debate on its terms. Black versus white, the people versus Trump, freedom of speech – whatever. What it absolutely must not ever mention or encourage understanding of is the reality that this injustice stems directly from oppression by the ruling classes. Just keep the people arguing among themselves. Divide and rule.

This is a class issue, and to understand that requires class awareness, the very concept identity politics was deployed to destroy. The one single thing that petrifies the looting warmongers in control of the world’s ‘democratic’ institutions is a mass awakening of class awareness, from which follows the ability to discern between truth and fraud, fact and misdirection, reality and illusion – in other words, the only means to tackle the disease. If you listen carefully, as the right bang on and on about respecting the flag and the left argue among themselves, demanding some kind of vague ‘justice’ for the victims of police violence, on a quiet night you can hear the ruling classes laughing over champagne in their ivory towers. You may also hear the sound of Fred Hampton rolling fitfully in his grave.

Fred Hampton was the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP), and deputy chairman of the national BPP. He understood that revolutionary change was the only answer to the long, deep injustice suffered by the oppressed. In a speech at Northern Illinois University in November 1969, he expressed this in his own inimitable manner:

You know a lot of people have hang-ups with the Party because the Party talks about a class struggle. And the people that have those hang-ups are opportunists, and cowards, and individualists and everything that’s anything but revolutionary. And they use these things as an excuse to justify and to alibi and to bonify their lack of participation in the real revolutionary struggle. So they say, “Well, I can’t dig the Panther Party because the Panthers they are engrossed with dealing with oppressor country radicals, or white people, or hunkies, or what have you. They said these are some of the excuses that I use to negate really why I am not in the struggle.”

We got a lot of answers for those people. First of all, we say primarily that the priority of this struggle is class. That Marx, and Lenin, and Che Guevara end Mao Tse-Tung and anybody else that has ever said or knew or practiced anything about revolution, always said that revolution is a class struggle. It was one class–the oppressed–those other class–the oppressor. And it’s got to be a universal fact. Those that don’t admit to that are those that don’t want to get involved in a revolution, because they know that as long as they’re dealing with a race thing, they’ll never be involved in a revolution.

 

 

 

If we never negated the fact that there was racism in America, but we said that when you, the by-product, what comes off of racism, that capitalism comes first and next is racism. That when they brought slaves over here, it was to take money. So first the idea came that we want to make money, then the slaves came in order to make that money. That means that capitalism had to, through historical fact, racism had to come from capitalism. It had to be capitalism first and racism was a by-product of that.

Anybody that doesn’t admit that is showing through their non-admittance and their non-participation in the struggle that all they are, are people who fail to make a commitment; and the only thing that they have going for them is the education that they receive in these institutions—education enough to teach them some alibis and teach them that you’ve gotta be black, and you’ve gotta change you name. And that’s crazy.

 

 

And a lot of people think now that their hands are getting dirty. We call them ideological servants of United States fascism. And that’s what they are, because they serve fascism by doing nothing about it until the law goes over and then they apologize for it, they get apologetic. But we say it’s the same press that we’ll look at and believe and think is bona fide; the same press that talked us into believing that we was somebody when in fact we were nobody.

I don’t think there’s anything more important. I think that what Malcolm says is important. Now think back. Those students were laughing at Malcolm. Can you dig it? They were laughing at Malcolm. Why? Regis Debray, he says the revolutionaries are in the future. That militants and pork chops and all these people, radical students, are in the present, and that most of the rest of the people try to remain in the past. That’s why when somebody comes that’s in the future of a lot of us can’t understand him. And the same thing that you don’t understand Huey P. Newton now, you didn’t understand Malcolm when he was living. But we know that when Malcolm left, the well almost ran dry. You don’t miss the water til the well runs dry, and it almost ran dry.[Excerpts selected for relevance]

A month later, Hampton was murdered by the police on the orders of the FBI. A short examination of the circumstances leading to his death are relevant as they provide an object lesson of citizen actions the state is concerned about, as well as those that the state is not, and also the lengths to which the state will go to destroy potential threats to power.
While Hampton impressed many of the people with whom he came into contact as an effective leader and talented communicator, those very qualities marked him as a major threat in the eyes of the FBI. Hence, the bureau began keeping close tabs on his activities. Subsequent investigations have shown that FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover was determined to prevent the formation of a cohesive Black movement in the United States. Hoover saw the Panthers, Young Patriots, Young Lords, and similar radical coalitions forged by Hampton in Chicago as a frightening steppingstone toward the creation of such a revolutionary body that could, in its strength, cause a radical change in the U.S. government.

The FBI opened a file on Hampton in 1967. Hampton’s mother’s phone was tapped in February 1968, and Hampton was placed on the Bureau’s “Agitator Index” as a “key militant leader” by May. In late 1968, the Racial Matters squad of the FBI’s Chicago field office recruited an individual named William O’Neal, who had recently been arrested twice, for interstate car theft and impersonating a federal officer. In exchange for having his felony charges dropped and a monthly stipend, O’Neal apparently agreed to infiltrate the BPP as a counterintelligence operative. He joined the Party and quickly rose in the organization, becoming Director of Chapter security and Hampton’s bodyguard. In 1969, the FBI special agent in San Francisco wrote Hoover that the agent’s investigation of the BPP revealed that in his city, at least, the Panthers were primarily feeding breakfast to children. Hoover fired back a memo implying that the career prospects of the agent were directly related to his supplying evidence to support Hoover’s view that the BPP was “a violence-prone organization seeking to overthrow the Government by revolutionary means”.

By means of anonymous letters, the FBI sowed distrust and eventually instigated a split between the Panthers and the Rangers, with O’Neal himself instigating an armed clash between the two on April 2, 1969. The Panthers became effectively isolated from their power base in the ghetto, so the FBI went to work to undermine its ties with other radical organizations. O’Neal was instructed to “create a rift” between the Party and SDS, whose Chicago headquarters was only blocks from that of the Panthers. The Bureau released a batch of racist cartoons in the Panthers’ name, aimed at alienating white activists, and launched a disinformation program to forestall the realization of the Rainbow Coalition but nevertheless it was formed with an alliance of the Young Patriots and Young Lords. In repeated directives, Hoover demanded that the COINTELPRO personnel investigate the Rainbow Coalition and “destroy what the [BPP] stands for” and “eradicate its ‘serve the people’ programs”.

Documents secured by Senate investigators in the early 1970s revealed that the FBI actively encouraged violence between the Panthers and other radical groups, which provoked multiple murders in cities throughout the country. On May 26, 1969, Hampton was successfully prosecuted in a case related to a theft in 1967 of $71 worth of Good Humor Bars in Maywood. He was sentenced to two to five years but managed to obtain an appeal bond, and was released in August. On July 16, there was an armed confrontation between party members and the Chicago Police Department, which left one BPP member mortally wounded and six others arrested on serious charges. In early October, Hampton and his girlfriend, Deborah Johnson (now known as Akua Njeri), pregnant with their first child (Fred Hampton Jr.), rented a four-and-a-half room apartment on 2337 West Monroe Street to be closer to BPP headquarters. O’Neal reported to his superiors that much of the Panthers’ “provocative” stockpile of arms was being stored there and drew them a map of the layout of the apartment. In early November, Hampton traveled to California on a speaking engagement to the UCLA Law Students Association. While there, he met with the remaining BPP national hierarchy, who appointed him to the Party’s Central Committee. Shortly thereafter, he was to assume the position of Chief of Staff and major spokesman.

 

[Source – contains original sources]
 
Here we observe several tactics of division and subversion such as infiltration, sowing distrust, publication of controversial materials under false pretenses, even the instigation of violence and so on.
Once Hoover – seeing Hampton and the Black Panthers as a major threat – had ordered an intensified FBI campaign to destroy them by any means necessary, a sequence of events eventually led to a raid on the apartment where Hampton often stayed in Chicago. On the evening of December 3rd 1969, the FBI informant O’Neal slipped a sleeping agent into Hampton’s drink to ensure he would sleep through a raid planned for that night. Unable to awaken when the raid occurred, Hampton was wounded in the shoulder as he lay next to his heavily pregnant fiancee. Black Panther Harold Bell reported that he heard the following exchange:
“That’s Fred Hampton.”
“Is he dead? Bring him out.”
“He’s barely alive.”
“He’ll make it.”

Two shots were heard, later discovered to have been fired point blank into Hampton’s head. According to Johnson, one officer then said: “He’s good and dead now.”

[Source: Documentary: “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”]

Demanding social justice is a fine thing, one that raises a person above the many who have been so deeply indoctrinated that they care only for the things they are programmed to be concerned about. The propaganda apparatus is well prepared for such outrage, however, and successfully plays billions of people for fools again and again, ensuring that any and all protest organisations never attain a revolutionary aspect and actually start taking direct strategic actions against their oppressors. A concerned citizen or activist must be smart, aware of all the tricks of misdirection that are employed to ensure essential harmlessness from all possible threats. Being impervious to these methods is a necessary, key step toward freedom and progress. And therefore justice.
The Kaepernick issue is one such case. Yes, it is about social injustice and freedom of speech, but all this stems from the overriding issue – as Hampton explained so clearly – of class. Make it about that, strive to organize and/or join marches and other direct actions on as large a scale as possible to bring down the mass-murdering war apparatus of the Pentagon and the CIA and the financial networks that simultaneously fuel and profit from them. Forget the personalities (like the pathetic Trump) and focus only on the system that permits such evil and incompetence, the system that threatens all our lives.
Written by Simon Wood
 
Twitter: @simonwood11

Source: Simon Wood: Kaepernick and the Black Panthers

 

Order, Compliance, Obedience these are not Liberties – but unobstructed Civil Disobedience Is! All Oppression is connected! All Oppression is Violence!

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