Thursday, June 29, 2006
June 29, 2006
Let us get straight to the point. The world has become shamelessly accustomed to scenes of Israeli forces at will brutalizing Palestinians.
During this latest case, however, the situation has become that much more painful. The attacks are taking place at the peak of a US-Israeli imposed international starvation and strangulation campaign that not even Arab states dared to challenge. Israeli heavy artillery and high explosive missiles have been raining from US-fighter jets on bridges, power plants and water supply facilities in the Gaza Strip on a population denied even its daily bread and the most basic of medications.
To add insult to injury, as of writing this statement, 64 Palestinian governmental ministers, democratically- elected members of the legislative council (the Palestinian parliament), and mayors of various cities have been kidnapped from their homes, with various assassinations by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) promised to come, including of the Palestinian prime minister himself.
Where else is this travesty allowed to occur?
The Israeli government claims to be "searching" for one occupying soldier - what about the nearly 9,000 current Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prison camps? Under its illegal occupation, the Israeli government continues to imprison over 9,000 Palestinians, all systematically jailed, tortured or held hostage - the majority without even a farce of a trial. Since 1967 alone, over 650,000 Palestinians have been detained, amounting to 40% of the male population of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip. Who in the international community is searching for them?
The Israeli government, a nuclear power with an unmatched US-supplied arsenal, is claiming to seek "security". From whom, we ask? The population under attack is the most impoverished in the region. Nearly all were made refugees at least once as a result of their expulsion by Zionist forces from their homes in 1948, when 75% of the Palestinians were made homeless and Zionist colonists occupied 78% of Palestine. Many are refugees twice, the second time when they were dispossessed in 1967. Some are three and four times refugees, as they are made homeless by U.S.-supplied and sanctioned bulldozers time and time again, up to this very day as they continue to face the Zionist colonial occupation of their land.
The Role of Arab and International Solidarity and the US Peace Movement
The NCA affirms that without Arab depth and without an international solidarity movement that squarely realizes the significance of the Palestinian struggle and supports their movement for liberation, the victimization of the Palestinian Arab people will continue unabated.
Furthermore, the U.S. peace movement has the moral duty to take a consistent position in solidarity with the Palestinian people to prevent the wanton destruction that is currently taking place with the explicit support and reinforcement of the U.S. government. Our community should not have to argue for the inclusion of Palestine in the anti-war movement, nor should we be subjected to the disgraceful removal of Palestinian symbolism from any anti-war protest stage. To place Palestine aside to please any of the US political parties is morally corrupt and helps to produce the sort of isolation that enables such destruction in Palestine to take place.
The Arab American and the Palestinian community cannot stand silent as some of our own organizations malign the struggle of the Palestinian Arab people and systematically introduce the notions of defeat into our young. Such organizations seek an obedient position at the doorstep of the US State Department and stand outside the Arab consensus. They must not and can not speak on our behalf.
The NCA calls on our community to stand together at this difficult time. We call on all to join the planned protests in their various cities across the US and to express their views in media outlets.
NCA National Office
National Council of Arab Americans (NCA)
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
by Ron Jacobs
Ron Jacobs is an anti-imperialist activist and a writer. He is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground (Verso, 1997).
Dan Berger, Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity(San Francisco: AK Press, 2006), 450 pages, paperback, $20.00.
Despite its many detractors and small numbers, the Weather-man/Weather Underground Organization has emerged in the past ten years as a major topic in the growing history of the 1960s. Many of those who knew the group during its existence—personally or in name only—often wonder why this is so. After all, goes this train of thought, Weatherman/Weather Underground represented all that was wrong with the movement against the war in Vietnam and against racism. The group encouraged violence and represented the epitome of arrogance. What about the rest of us?
As the author of the first of a number of recent books about the Weather Underground Organization (WUO), I heard this refrain quite often during the small book tour I took after the publication of my book back in 1997. The only answer I felt necessary to provide then was that if we truly wanted to understand history, then we must examine it all. This meant that WUO was worth examining along with the New Mobe, SCLC, the Black Panthers, and all the other organizations and coalitions that were part of the historical period known in the United States as the sixties. This answer is still met with resistance by those historians and nostalgia buffs that like to pretend that groups like the Panthers and WUO were aberrations and represent the “bad sixties” as opposed to the “good sixties” of Martin Luther King Jr., the early SDS, and George McGovern. Besides the obvious superficiality of this perception, it is also antipolitical.
The most recent book related to the WUO is Dan Berger’s Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity. In his introduction, Berger, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania, political radical, and writer, makes it clear that he does not subscribe to the good sixties, bad sixties paradigm. Indeed, Berger understands quite well that “the ‘dream’ was killed, mostly by the state or by those acting in its interest....At the same time, cities across the country rose up in rebellion after rebellion. Therein lies one of the greatest fallacies of the Tale of Two Sixties: it obscures why people embraced radicalism and militancy. Without understanding the impact of state repression, radical movements don’t make sense.” This historical accuracy informs Berger’s text as he winds through the history of WUO and its successors. Furthermore, it informs his discussion of the meaning of that history for today’s anti-imperialist activists.
The facts presented here are well-documented and were derived from a multitude of primary and secondary sources, as well as from personal interviews with former members of the WUO. The interviewees represented various positions within the organization itself and lend a credible insider’s look at life in the political underground of the United States of the 1970s. In addition, the text denotes the larger debates within the movement and insists that people do make life-altering decisions based on politics—even in the United States of America.
Like any vibrant left organization, Weatherman/WUO constantly debated politics and tactics. This is reflected in their brief history. While the role of political violence (and the shape that violence should take) was fundamental to the group’s formation and existence, even more important was its relationship with the struggle for black liberation in the United States. Indeed, not only was that relationship the reason for the group’s birth, it was also the reason for the group’s death according to Berger and those former members with whom he seems to agree.
So, what was the intended relationship between Weatherman/WUO and the black revolutionary struggle in the United States? If one takes a look at their founding document “You Don’t Need a Weatherman...” one finds these words:
The only third path is to build a white movement which will support the blacks in moving as fast as they have to and are able to, and still itself keep up with that black movement enough so that white revolutionaries share the cost and the blacks don’t have to do the whole thing alone. In other words, the primary role of the white revolutionary organization was to support the black revolution for liberation. This, in turn, meant that one’s concept of black people’s position in the United States and within the U.S. working class was the basis for any type of solidarity with other revolutionaries and activists. Were they just part of the working class? Did they experience a special oppression due to their race? Were they a separate nation? Weatherman subscribed to the latter argument: that African Americans were indeed a separate nation based on their special history and the nature of their oppression.
Once this relationship was understood within Weather, everything else followed. Its use of political violence was partially intended to take some heat off of revolutionary black groups like the Black Panthers, while its struggle “against the people” in the fall of 1969 was intended to draw a line between those who were willing to fight and die for the black revolution and those who weren’t. Much like John Brown and his soldiers, Weatherman/WUO attempted to offer themselves to the struggle for black freedom in the United States.
After a Weatherman-sponsored week of protests and street fighting in Chicago in October 1969—a week that became known as the Days of Rage—Weather retreated and regrouped, ultimately deciding to wage a campaign of bombings and other armed attacks on law enforcement and the U.S. government. This meant that many members would go underground, many would leave the group, and some would operate as aboveground supporters. This entire process was accelerated when three members of the organization died in an explosion that occurred while one of the group was making bombs in the basement of a New York City townhouse on March 6, 1970. These deaths not only forced the remaining members underground, they also forced an organization-wide reevaluation of political violence, with a decision being made that the group would no longer adhere to their belief that the most violent action was necessarily the most revolutionary.
This decision was not lightly taken, and according to Berger’s research, this decision widened some differences in the group between those who supported it and those who saw it as essentially taking advantage of their class and race position to lessen their personal danger. Apparently, part of the argument of those who disagreed with the decision was that they viewed their use of violence as a measure of sincerity and commitment to the black liberation struggle.
Berger begins each chapter of Outlaws of America with a quote from former member and prisoner David Gilbert, who is serving a seventy-five-year-to-life sentence for his role in the failed 1981 Brink’s robbery outside of Nyack, New York. This expropriation was a joint effort of the Black Liberation Army and the May 19th Organization and resulted in the deaths of three police officers after the robbers were stopped during the getaway. Both of these organizations were small in numbers and committed to armed struggle. In addition, both were descended from the Black Panther Party and Weather Underground Organization, respectively. Gilbert was a Columbia University student when he joined SDS and was one of those Weather members most committed to both armed struggle and the theory that white-skinned people in the United States had no choice but to support the black revolutionary struggle as the only true revolutionary struggle.
The insistence that the oppression of black people in the United States was one of the fundamental (if not the fundamental) issues that white-skinned revolutionaries in the United States had to deal with was a position in the New Left that had to be confronted. It ultimately tore apart WUO as the organization tried to construct an approach to communist organizing that would work in the political climate after the end of the U.S. war in Vietnam. Berger’s book subscribes to the argument that Weather’s betrayal of its original pledge to build a “white revolutionary movement” to support the black revolutionary movement was the primary internal reason for the group’s demise.
As mentioned previously, this argument holds that the reaction to the March 6, 1970, deaths and subsequent attempts to organize the political element of the sixties counterculture constituted but one more example of a U.S. leftist organization turning its back on the black struggle. To this element of the group, the prime example of this betrayal was the freeing of drug guru Timothy Leary from a California prison in September 1970. Why should Weather free a drug guru and not an imprisoned black liberation fighter? This analysis considered that “betrayal” to be exacerbated by the “New Morning” communique in December of that year—a statement full of counterculture rhetoric and language extolling the youth movement and its use of marijuana and psychedelics. The communique was criticized by the New York wing of the Panthers, whose communal experience with drugs was quite different than that of white middle-class youths.
By the time 1974 and 1975 rolled around, this critique had extended to WUO’s attempts to provide a theoretical basis for its future via their publication known as Prairie Fire. This book, which is a succinct and reasonable examination of the state of the United States and the anti-imperialist movement, was seen as another betrayal of the group’s original commitment to the black revolution. The Hard Times economic conference and the documentary film Underground were also attacked for similar reasons. Of course, by this time, it was not the primarily white counterculture that was the focus of WUO’s organizing efforts. Like almost every other leftist formation in the United States by that time, their focus was shifting to the working class of the United States. Despite their analysis that acknowledged the multiracial makeup of the working class (as opposed to other groups like the Revolutionary Union that continued to view it as primarily white and male), the organization was sharply criticized as racist by an ad hoc people of color caucus at the Hard Times Conference who took aim at their aboveground allies, the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee (PFOC). For an organization that defined its very essence by its antiracism this criticism caused major cracks. Some WUO members continued to argue for a more traditional class-based organizing approach—an approach that removed much of the nation status previously ascribed to black people in the United States by WUO. The other members continued to insist on adhering to their revolutionary black nationalist–inspired analysis. Meanwhile, this ongoing debate was overshadowed by the necessity of individuals to stay together and help each other hide from law enforcement. The combination of the two phenomena led to a non-political period within the organization.
One of the advantages given Berger due to the timing of his research was the greater openness of former WUO members to talking about their experiences. Another was the greater availability of government documents detailing law enforcement operations against them and other antiwar and antiracist organizations during the 1960s and 1970s. Berger takes advantage of this and provides the reader with useful information and details about these actions. In today’s world where government spying, torture, and persecution are the stuff of daily headlines, this information makes it clear that today’s headlines are not new or aberrations. Indeed, they are business-as-usual for law enforcement, only with modern technological enhancements. Berger argues that the repression suffered by the black liberation and antiwar movements was a good part of the reason groups like WUO came into being. Not only were nonviolent and open tactics being shown to be ineffective, went the reasoning of those who went underground, they were providing the police with easy targets for arrest, harassment, and, in some cases, murder. The subsequent history of WUO and other such organizations, however, might seem to prove that their turn toward armed struggle rendered them even less effective than they were before they took that route.
Berger subtitles his book, The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity. This is what most clearly separates this text from previous books about the WUO. Berger, being of the generation of radicals that came of age in the 1990s and the early twenty-first century, obviously has a different context than those who gained political awareness in earlier times. This is important because it informs the approach he takes in the book and also because it naturally leads to differing emphases regarding the period of history from which Weather sprang.
Berger’s book is one of a very few current books that stresses the politics of racial solidarity. Although the movement against global capitalism is worldwide in scope and includes people of many nations (and consequently many skin tones), it has yet to span the racial divide in the United States in any noticeable way. The same can be said for the movement against the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—although there are considerably more U.S. people of color involved in opposing the wars than in the movement against global capitalism.
However, as Berger points out, much of the impetus for today’s struggle against U.S. imperialism and its excesses comes from “people of color, from Porto Alegre to Port-au-Prince, from Caracas to Chiapas, Durban to Detroit, Buenos Aires to Brooklyn, the West Bank to Washington.” This is in part, as the WUO and other anti-imperialist groups of the early 1970s had already pointed out, because U.S. imperialism is the number one cause of injustice in the world.
Berger writes that the WUO’s analysis of the role of prisons in capitalist society, the making of political prisoners, and the need for solidarity with prisoners remains as pertinent today as it was then. As the prison system run by the United States and its client states expands its role beyond serving as a dumping ground for those members of society no longer needed by capitalism into also serving as a holding-pen for those individuals singled out by the state as linked to potentially subversive and “terroristic” activities, the need to insist on the end of such prisons increases. Indeed, the ongoing revelations of mistreatment and murder at the various secret prisons run by the U.S. regime around the world make this insistence a matter of life and death for hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals whose primary crime is often merely being Muslim or Arab.
Outlaws of America measures the Weather Underground by its own yardstick: revolutionary solidarity with third world revolutionaries is the pathway to ending U.S. imperialism. By that definition, this means that the primary role of radicals in the United States is to support those revolutionaries, including those who comprise the black nation in the United States. Although one might disagree with this analysis and its limits, Berger argues that it was the attempt to follow through on this analysis that created the Weather Underground. Likewise, it was the attempt to follow through that caused its demise.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
The WSJ Attacks Hugo Chavez: A Threat to World Peace?
Presidents Hugo Chavez, Venezuela & Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe
Originally uploaded by panafnewswire.
Presidents Hugo Chavez, Venezuela & Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe
Originally uploaded by panafnewswire.
Monday, Jun 26, 2006
By Stephen Lendman
You won't find commentary and language any more hostile to Hugo Chavez than on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Their June 23 piece by Mary Anastasia O'Grady in the Americas column is a clear, jaw-dropping example. It's practically blood-curdling in its vitriol which calls Hugo Chavez a threat to world peace. The sad part of it is Journal readers believe this stuff and are likely to support any US government efforts to remove the "threat."
The O'Grady article is about the elections scheduled to take place in the fall for five non-permanent UN Security Council seats to be held in 2007. One of them will be for the Latin American seat now held by Argentina. The two countries vying to fill the opening are Guatemala and Venezuela, and the other countries in the region will vote on which one will get it. You won't have to think long to guess the one the US supports - its Guatemalan ally, of course. And why not. For over 50 years its succession of military and civilian governments have all followed the dictates of their dominant northern neighbor. In so doing, they all managed to achieve one of the world's worst human rights records that hasn't abated even after the 1996 Peace Accords were signed ending a brutal 36 year conflict. Although the country today is nominally a democratic republic, it continues to abuse its people according to documented reports by Amnesty International.
Amnesty is aware of sexual violence and extreme brutality against women including 665 murders in 2005 gotten from police records; 224 reported attacks on human rights activists and organizations in the same year with little or no progress made investigating them; forced evictions and destruction of homes of indigenous people in rural areas (echoes of Palestine); and no progress by the government and Constitutional Court in seeking justice for decades of genocidal crimes and crimes against humanity committed by paramilitary death squads and the Guatemalan military. The sum of these and other unending abuses led Amnesty to call Guatemala a "land of injustice."
That record of abuse hardly matters to the Bush administration nor did it bother any past ones either, since the CIA fomented a coup in 1954 ousting the country's democratically elected leader Jacobo Arbenz Guzman. That coup began a half century reign of terror against the country's indigenous Mayan majority. It was fully supported by a succession of US presidents who were quite willing to overlook it as long as Guatemalan governments maintained a policy of compliance with the US agenda. They all did, and in return received the support and blessing of the US and its corporate giants that continue to suck the life out of that oppressed country.
Guatemala fills the bill nicely for the Bush administration and would be expected to be a close ally in support of US positions that come up for votes in the UN Security Council. Venezuela, on the other hand, is a different story. Since he was first democratically elected in 1998, Hugo Chavez has done what few other leaders ever do. He's kept his promises to his people to serve their interests ahead of those of other nations, especially the US that's dominated and exploited Venezuela for decades. He's served them well, and in so doing engendered the wrath of his dominant northern neighbor that already has tried and failed three times to oust him and is now planning a fourth attempt to do it.
The idea of a Chavez-led government holding a seat on the Security Council does not go down well in Washington, and the Bush administration is leading a campaign to prevent it with aid and support of the kind of attack-dog journalism found in the Wall Street Journal. Honest observers know this newspaper of record for corporate America has a hard time dealing with facts it dislikes so it invents the ones it does to use in their place.
The June 23 editorial is a good example. It extolls the record of the Guatemalan government with its long-standing record of extreme abuse against its own people, falsely claiming it's been
"accumulating an impressive record of international cooperation on a variety of UN efforts." It claims one of its main qualifications is its "active role in international peacekeeping" and that the country is now home to a Central American regional peacekeeping school and training center. Oddly it mentions that Guatemalan peacekeepers are now serving in the Congo, Sudan, and Haiti.
What it fails to mention is that those so-called "peacekeepers," along with those from other countries serving with them, have in large part functioned as paramilitary enforcers, and in that capacity have committed gross human rights abuses against the local people rather than trying to protect them. The WSJ writer surely knows this but didn't choose to share that information with her readers. Instead she extols the country's "democratic credentials." But readers with any knowledge of recent Guatemalan history surely know that country's true record is one of extreme violence and abuse against its own people and one no one would think of as a nation representing them democratically.
The WSJ's June 23 editorial is titled "A Vote for Venezuela Is a Vote for Iran." The commentary in it is one of the paper's most extreme diatribes against the Venezuelan leader, which would seem to indicate the Bush administration and corporate America are stepping up their attack on Hugo Chavez in advance of when they plan to make their move to oust him. The Journal writer calls him a "strongman" in an "oil dictatorship," leading a government that values "tyranny and aggression," who'll use his seat and Council presidency when his nation assumes it to support "hostile states" like Iran, Cuba, Sudan, and North Korea. Observers knowledgeable about Venezuela under Chavez would have a hard time containing themselves as the true Chavez record is totally opposite the one the Journal portrays. The Journal writer, of course, knows this, but would never report it in her column. Her employer and the interests it serves wouldn't be pleased if she did.
While claiming that a Guatemala seat on the Council is a "voice for the region, not its own national interests," it says Venezuela's "rests largely on oil 'diplomacy' and the capacity to push anti-American buttons around the UN." It goes on to state "It may seem strange Venezuela has any support in the region. Over the past seven years, its meddling in its neighbors' politics 'have' (even the grammar is wrong) earned it a reputation as a bully. Mr. Chavez is persona non grata in more than a few Latin nations. Many countries are worried about Venezuela's 'big spending' to acquire fighter jets and 100,000 kalisnikovs from Russia." Readers may need to pause to catch their breath.
What the Journal writer doesn't explain is far more important than what she does - but she's doing her job as a servant of the US empire. Chavez's so-called "oil diplomacy," in fact, is based on his Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas or ALBA. It's based on the principles of complementarity (not competition), solidarity (not domination), cooperation (not exploitation) and respect for other nations' sovereignty free from the control of dominant powers like the US and its large transnational corporations. It's the mirror opposite of US-style predatory capitalism and the one-sided trade agreements it uses to exploit other countries for its own gain.
The nations participating in ALBA-style agreements are able to operate outside the usual international banking and corporate trading system in their exchange of goods and services so that each country benefits and none loses -just the opposite of the one-sided way the US operates. Because Venezuela is rich in oil, it's been able to trade that vital commodity with its neighbors who need it, even sell it to them at below-market prices, and get back in return the products and services its trading partners can supply on an equally favorable basis. It's a true "win-win" arrangement for participating countries but one that angers the US because it cuts its corporations and big banks out of the process. The Chavez plan is to help his people, not serve the interests of the corporate giants or dominant US neighbor. The WSJ calls this "meddling" and Chavez a "bully." What glorious meddling it is, in the true spirit of the country's Bolivarian Revolution, and "bully" to Hugo Chavez for doing it.
As for Chavez's so-called "big spending" for weapons that has "many countries worried," one must wonder which countries the Journal writer means. She mentions none, which she surely would have and quoted their officials if, in fact, there were any. The truth, of course, is Hugo Chavez is acting no differently than most all other countries in the region or elsewhere, has expressed no hostility toward any of them, has never invaded a neighbor or threatened to, and is a model of a peace-promoting leader who's only taking sensible steps to upgrade his small military and protect his nation against a hostile US he has every reason to believe will attack him. But you'll never find that commentary on the pages of the Wall Street Journal.
The Journal editorial ends in grand style. It demeans the poor countries of the region benefiting from below-market priced Venezuelan oil as likely supporting that country for the Latin American Council seat. It also attacks Argentina for being a "Venezuelan pawn," calling it "once a haven for Nazis" (the US was and still is), and stating "the country has been so incompetent about managing its 'resources' that it too needs charity from Mr. Chavez." Indeed, Argentina had big financial trouble at the end of the 1990s, but the Journal writer doesn't explain why. It was because the country became the "poster child" model for US-style neoliberal free market capitalism in the 1990s. It wrecked the economy causing it to collapse into bankruptcy it's still struggling to recover from.
The Journal writer also attacks Bolivia and Cuba for supporting Chavez but is particularly hostile to the Lula government in Brazil for its siding with the Venezuelan leader. She calls that support "surprising" and accused the Brazilian government of being "Bolivia's unofficial energy advisor (that) orchestrated the confiscation of Brazilian assets (in Bolivia) recently."
Bolivian president Evo Morales nationalized his nation's energy resources which Bolivian law clearly states the nation owns. He confiscated nothing, which the Journal writer surely knows but failed to tell her readers. She also mentioned a so-called "eternal Brazilian struggle to prove that it can challenge US 'hegemony' in the region (that) trumps the need to regain dignity and protect its investments abroad." Left out of the commentary is any mention that Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba and Brazil are sovereign states with the right to support whatever policies and other countries they wish without needing US approval to do it.
About the only final comment the Journal writer can make is to claim Guatemala has the "solid backing of the 'more serious democracies' in the region - such as Colombia and Mexico." It's likely what the writer means by "serious" is those countries' elections are about as free and fair as ours - meaning, they only are for the power-elites controlling them who arrange the outcomes they want.
The June 23 Wall Street Journal editorial was a typical example of what this newspaper calls journalism and editorial commentary. This writer follows it to learn what the US empire likely is up to. In the case of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, it's no doubt up to no good. The continued hostile rhetoric is clearly to signal another attempt to oust the Venezuelan leader at whatever time and by whatever means the Bush administration has in mind. Stay tuned.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at
Chronicling Rev. C. L. Franklin: A Review of "C.L. Franklin, The Black Church and the Transformation of America"
Aretha Franklin With Her Father, Rev. C. L. Franklin
Originally uploaded by panafnewswire.
The Black Church and the Transformation of America"
A Book by Professor Nick Salvatore, Little, Brown, New York,
Review Written by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor,
Pan-African News Wire
This book, which has been in the works for eight years, makes
an attempt to provide the first comprehensive historical
research study into the life of the most famous African-
American clergyman to emerge during the mid-twentieth
Reverend Clarence LaVaughn Franklin made a tremendous mark on African-American history in both the religious and secular
realms. His life, which extended from the World War I period
(born in 1915) to the post civil rights era of emergent Black
political power (he died in July of 1984). Franklin, who was
born in Sunflower County, Mississippi, was a son of
sharecroppers who worked very hard in the cotton producing
areas in the Delta. He sought from his teenage years to
transcend the legacy of slavery that had been imposed on
African people after the Civil War and continued a half-
century to a century later.
Salvatore places Franklin within the historical context that
he grew out of and eventually sought to transform. This
Cornell University professor who is originally from Brooklyn,
takes on a very difficult task. The grinding poverty of the
Jim Crow South left very little documented historical traces
and insights into individual family life. School attendance
was generally sporadic in rural communities. Even church
life did not leave much historical record for the researcher
or the casual observer. Illiteracy was very high and the
transient life of many families did not provide the social
stability needed to preserve records and artifacts that would
supply future generations with a portrait of the everyday
occurences of Afrian-Americans eking out an existence under
In the opening chapters Salvatore begins by painting a
picture of the life of C.L. Franklin and his family with
broad strokes. He discusses the conditions prevailing during
the early twentieth century in the Mississippi Delta. He
acknowledges the lack of documents that could substantiate a
chronology of events. Consequently, he relies on the oral
history derived from the personal recollections of those
living during the early years of Franklin's life and their
There are those he cites who knew C.L. Franklin personally as
well as others who had no personal connection to the subject
of the study but are utilized to provide a general idea of
what life was like at the time and how these remembered
experiences related to the life of the soon to be famous
clergyman and social activist.
These oral histories provide the mainstay of the first few
chapters of the book. Consequently the initial pages will
provide the reader with the most difficult reading due to the
high degree of speculation as it relates to issues such as
personal experiences, world outlooks and human responses to
historical events deemed important by the historian.
Problems of Methodology
Even if there were greater and more precise documentation on
the early years of C.L. Franklin, there is the problem of
interpretation of such data. This same difficulty would also
present itself as it relates to the oral interviews conducted
by the author who comes from a totally different racial and
socio-economic background from those who are the subjects of
These racial and socio-economic differences carry extreme
weight in the United States. This problem is revealed in
many of the interviews conducted by the writers during the
New Deal Federal Writer's Project studies who were hired by
the American government to record the "folk history" of
heretefore largely ignored groups. The interviews conducted
by other African-Americans working on the New Deal era
projects were carried out with greater care and clarity.
However, the problems associated with the differences in
social status between African-Americans and whites were not
merely incidental, but are fundamental. Prior to the civil
rights gains of the 1960s, African-Americans, particularly in
the South, as a survival mechanism conveyed to whites what
the dominant racial group wanted to hear as opposed to what
was actually on their minds. An act of honesty or candor
could be a matter of life or death. Therefore the issues
related to how the questions are formulated and asked
determined what type of responses the interviewee will convey
to the field researcher.
These historical realties related to racial and class
oppression in the United States can also effect the memory of
the persons being interviewed and how they choose to
recollect and express their perceptions of what happened,
particularly during the pre-civil rights era. Issues such as
geneological lineage can become highly sensitive when it is
conveyed to a purported objective observer or recorder.
Racial violence against African-Americans during the post
slavery period has spawned various responses from the vicitm
communities. Many are unwilling to discuss such issues even
if they have initimate first-hand knowledge of specific
incidents of mob violence against African-Americans.
In addition, the suppression of the collective African-
American historical memory has also become a coping
mechanism among some. There has been a tendency to
refrain from imparting negative and horrific experiences on to younger generations reasoning that such direct conveyance of
experience may cripple one's ability to function in the
modern world where racial disparties still play a significant
role in shaping the character of social relations in the
Salvatore's Interpretation of C.L. Franklin's Life
Despite the sparsity of information on Franklin's early
years, a clearer picture is painted beginning in 1929 when he
joins the St. Peter's Rock Baptist Church in Cleveland,
Mississippi. It is from this point on that the young Delta
resident began to come into his own as a personality and
It is Franklin's own recollections decades later that serve
as the basis for the historical accounts put forward by Prof.
Salvatore. In 1977 and 1978, musicologist Jeff Todd Titon
conducted a series of extensive interviews with Rev. C.L.
Franklin in Detroit. During this same period a number of his
sermons were videotaped by Titon who later published the
first book on Franklin entitled: "Give Me This Mountain: Life
History and Selected Sermons of Reverend C.L. Franklin,
Urbana, Ill, 1989. According to Salvatore, the actual
transcripts from these interviews run approximately 250
pages. A much shorter edited version of these transcripts
serve as the introduction to "Give Me This Mountain."
By 1931, Franklin reports having a dream which symbolizes
God's calling for him to preach the gospel to the world.
After sharing this experience with his mother, Mrs. Rachel
Franklin, she encourages him to pursue this revelation. He
eventually approaches his Pastor at St. Peter's Rock in
Cleveland, Mississippi and soon preaches his inaugural
sermon. Prior to this Franklin recalls his fear of speaking
before a crowd during a church program. After an
admonishment from his mother, who warned him to never stutter
or freeze-up before a church audience again, he is well on
his way to becoming an accomplished speaker.
He then goes on the church circuit preaching as a guest
minister at several churches. According to his own personal
account he eventually has four churches which he covers on a
regular basis. There, of course, is a conflict between his
step-father Henry Franklin and himself over priorities. His
step-father forces him to make a decision between the pulpit
or the plow. He chooses the pulpit and the rest is history.
By 1939 he is offered a pastor's position at a small Baptist
church in Memphis called New Salem.
Between 1939 and 1944, Rev. Franklin advances rapidly at the
church and throughout the city, where in 1942, he creates his
first radio broadcast" "Shadow of the Cross", which ran for
30 minutes once a week.
Even though the demands of poverty inherent in the
sharecropping system prevents him from completing 8th grade,
while still in Mississippi he later attends Greenfield
Industrial College. This unaccredited school emphasized a
conservative religious viewpoint focusing on a literal
interpretation of the Bible. Franklin's hunger for learning
leads him to become a varacious reader. In Memphis he
enrolls as a "special student" at LeMoyne College where took
courses in Sociology and History.
Franklin's meger of religion and the social gospel becomes
evident in Memphis when broadcasting his radio program after
1942, he creates a section of the show that highlights local,
national and world events. At some point the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
organizer Shirley Graham is a guest on "Shadow of the
Cross". Graham, who later married W.E.B. Dubois in the early
1950s, was one of the most articulate advocates of racial
justice during this period.
By 1944, C.L. Franklin is offered an opportunity to pastor
Friendship Baptist Church in Buffalo, New York. He also
creates a weekly radio broadcast and has his first contact
with African-American trade unionists. During his sermons at
Friendship Baptist that were broadcast over the radio, he
reflects on the impact of the conclusion of World War II on
race relations and social equality in the United States.
The most pivotal experience of Rev. Franklin's life and
career comes in 1945 when he is invited to deliver a major
address at the National Baptist Convention held that year at
Olympia Stadium on the west side of Detroit. His address
leaves such an impression that he is invited to takeover as
pastor at the New Bethel Baptist Church located on Hastings
Street, the major commercial and social strip in the
burgeoining African-American community after World War II.
Franklin considers the move to Detroit as a major phase in
By 1949 he sets out to re-build New Bethel Baptist Church,
which is completed with considerable struggle in 1951. The
church by this time is becoming a major force in the
religious life of "Paradise Valley", one of the residential
and business enclaves where African-Americans were confined
during this period in Detroit's history. In 1951, C.L.
Franklin initiates his weekly radio broadcast in the city.
When the program is switched to W-JLB in 1952 it becomes a
major attraction for people throughout the city.
The following year in 1953, Franklin is approached by
independent record producer and businessman Joe Von Battle
with a proposal to record his sermons, press them into vinyl
and to distribute them as widely as possible. Battle's
Hastings Street record store and studio was a major cultural
focal point in Paradise Valley. Franklin's records were
prominently advertised on the windows of Joe Von Battle's
store and studio. On a regular basis the entrepreneur places
speakers outside the store blasting Rev. Franklin's recorded
sermons to the thousands that thronged Hastings causing
traffic jams and crowds.
As a result of the Sunday night broadcasts, Franklin attracts
thousands to New Bethel Baptist Church. He later becomes a
major attraction on the touring gospel circuit that primarily
featured the top singing groups and personalities of the
period such as the Ward Singers, the Soul Stirrers, Little
Sammy Bryant and others.
In 1956, W-LAC in Nashville, a radio station that through its
powerful signal could be heard all over the southern United
States as well as other regions, began to feature weekly
sermons from New Bethel Baptist Church on Sunday evenings.
These broadcasts enhanced Franklin's popularity immensely on
a national level. He soon featured his daughter Aretha
Franklin, in a 1956 album that marked her initial entry into
the recording world. She would later sign with Columbia
Records in 1960 to sing popular music. By 1967, her contract
with Atlantic Records catapulted her into the role as
the "Queen of Soul."
Randy's Record Mart, the nightly broadcast from W-LAC in
Nashville was a treasured part of African-American cultural
life durng the 1950s and 1960s. This phenomena coupled with
the new distribution arrangements between Joe Von Battle's
record labels such as JVB records and the Chicago-based Chess
Records, made C.L. Franklin the most widely known African-
American clergyman during this period.
As the civil rights movement picked-up speed after the 1954
Brown vs. Topeka, Kansas Supreme Court decision outlawing
legalized school segregation and the brutal lynching of of
Emmit Till in Money, Mississippi in June of 1955, New Bethel
Baptist Church under Franklin began to focus more attention
on the mass struggles sweeping the South. That same year
Franklin creates the Political Action Guild which focuses on
voter registration and mutual aid to the poor. In 1963 Rev.
Franklin played a leading role along with other New Bethel
members such as James Del Rio and Benjamim J, McFall, in
organizing the first anti-racist mass demonstration in the
This demonstration was held on June 23, 1963 down Woodward
avenue. Its participation drew crowds estimated between
125,000 and 250,000. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had
relied on Franklin's leadership of the march came to Detroit
for the demonstration where at Cobo Hall he delivered an
earlier and more extended version of his famous "I Have A
Franklin had been instrumental earlier that year in providing
material support for the Birminingham campaign where hundreds
of African-Americans were arrested, brutalized and persecuted
for their public stand against legalized segregation in this
southern industrial city. The Detroit Council for Human
Rights (DCHR) was formed that year and sought to build a city-
wide coalition to advance the interest of the African-
American community in Detroit which constituted approximately
30% of the city's population.
By this time New Bethel Baptist Church had been forced to
move from its large structure on Hastings and Willis as a
result of the white-dominated city's "urban renewal project."
This move, which followed the wiping out of the Hastings
Street residential, commercial and social district created
strong resentment within the African-American community. New
Bethel was forced to close in 1961 and later had its building
razed by the city. It maintained temporary facilities on
12th Street for two years before it re-located to its present
home on Linwood and Philadelphia in March of 1963.
Aftermath of the 1963 March and the Rise of Black Detroit
Despite a split within the Detroit Council for Human Rights
in the aftermath of the June march, (a rift which marked
fundamental differences between Rev. Franklin and Rev. Albert
B. Cleage of the Central Congregational Church located
several blocks south on Linwood from New Bethel), African-
Americans began to forcefully exert their political will on
the city. By the time of the 1967 rebellion, racial tensions
had reached new and unprecedented heights. This rebellion
was the most widespread and destructive in American history.
The center of the 1967 rebellion was focused around New
Bethel Baptist Church.
Later in 1969, the so-called "New Bethel Incident", where the
one-year-old Republic of New Africa (RNA) held its national
conference, generated a political controversy that
permanently altered the social landscape of the city. In the
immediate aftermath of the RNA gathering at New Bethel, two
white rookie police officers were gunned down outside the
church. One officer died and another was seriously wounded.
In a matter of minutes dozens of police surrounded the church
and shot their way into the building wounding five people and
arresting 142 others.
After the release of all but two of the conference
participants by Recorder's Court Judge George Crockett, Jr.
later that Sunday, the police and Detroit's white power
structure attempted to isolate Crockett, Franklin and anyone
else who opposed the police actions at the church that
Despite these efforts by the white dominated city
administration, the African-American community was
galvanized and created a broad-based coalition to defeat
these attacks. All suspects in the shooting of the white
officers were eventually acquitted.
This book represents an important contribution to the
chronicling of an important figure in the rise of Black
political power in Detroit. In 1973, State Representative
Coleman A. Young was elected as the first African-American
mayor of Detroit. However, Salvatore's interpretation and
analysis of developments in Detroit after 1963 leaves much to
Although he recognizes the important contributions of Rev.
C.L. Franklin in enhancing and molding a sense of group
consciousness and fortitude in Black Detroit, the author does
not fully grasp the role of organizations such as Cleage's
Central Congregational Church, the Freedom Now Party, the
Republic of New Africa and the League of Revolutionary Black
Workers. In addition, he mistakenly labels Franklin's
approach as integrationist despite his deep roots in African-
American culture, history, religious and social life.
Salvatore documents the government harassment of Franklin
through attacks by the Internal Revenue Service in 1966-67
and the attempted frame-up on marijuana charges after
the "New Bethel incident" in 1969. However, he does not
delve into what possible role the Federal Bureau of
Investigation (FBI) may have played in these developments
during the 1960s. Also Detroit police maintained an
aggressive intelligence division that spyed on a broad array
of activists during this period. The existence of the "Red
Squad Files" became public knowledge by the late 1970s in
Future studies on the life and works of Rev. C.L. Franklin
could attempt to retrieve his FBI files and other government
documents that could shed light on the destabilization
programs which led to the assassination of Malcolm X, Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr., and many members of the Black
Panther Party as well as Chaka Fuller of the Republic of New
Africa, who was acquitted in the shooting of the white
officers outside New Bethel in 1969.
Franklin's tragic shooting in June of 1979 marked the end of
an era in the history of Detroit and the African-American
community as a whole. His legacy lives through the continued
activist posture of New Bethel Baptist Church under the
leadership of Rev. Robert Smith, Jr. who took control in 1982
during Rev. Franklin's incapacitation resulting from his
wounds suffered during a botched burglary at his home on
LaSalle Blvd. in 1979.
In July of 1984 Franklin made his transition. His funeral
was perhaps the largest in Detroit's history with an
estimated 10,000 people crowded in and around New Bethel
Professor Salvatore's book is a must read for those seeking
new avenues of exploration aimed at revealing many aspects of
the hidden history of the African-American people.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire
and has published dozens of articles in publications
throughout the United States, Canada and the world. He
covered the February 2005 visit of Professor Nick Salvatore
to Detroit where the Cornell University researcher made
presentations at the Walter P. Reuther Library at Wayne State
University and the New Bethel Baptist Church.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Abayomi Azikiwe Speaks at Forum on Political Repression, Feb. 20, 2003
Originally uploaded by panafnewswire.
Nixon/Ford Policy on region led to prolonged war and mass
By Abayomi Azikiwe,
Pan-African News Wire
Also Published in Africa Insight,
African Institute of South Africa,
A recent attempt to question Henry A. Kissinger in a court of
law in the United Kingdom flowed from alleged war crimes
committed by the former National Security Adviser and later
Secretary of State who served the Richard M. Nixon
administration and the subsequent Gerald R. Ford
administration during the years of 1969-1977. The crimes
that were cited by the plantiff stemmed from the policy
decisions made by the Nixon and Ford administrations that
affected the peoples of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
Peter Tatchell in a letter to the Guardian newspaper in
Britain on April 25, said that “I lost my bid to have the
former US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, prosecuted on
charges of war crimes in Indochina, but there is good reason
to hope that a future, better prepared attempt might
Tatchell points out in the letter that as the National
Security Advisor to President Nixon from the years of 1969-
73, and later during the second administration of Nixon,
where he served as US Secretary of State from 1973-74, and
after the resignation of Nixon in the midst of an impeachment
investigation, Kissinger continued to serve in this capacity
under Gerald R. Ford’s presidency between 1974-1977,
Kissinger personally directed military actions that would
knowingly result in the deaths of innocent civilians.
During this period Kissinger was the principal architect of
US military policy in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Tatchell writes that “according to the US Senate sub-
committee on refugees, from March 1969 to March 1972 , in
excess of three million civilians were killed, wounded or
made homeless.” Also during this period, the US launched
approximately 4.5 million tones of high explosives on
Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, which was 200% more than all of
the bombs used during the entire period of World War II.
“What the US did in Indochina involved the mass killing of
civilians and the premeditated, wholesale destruction of the
environment using chemical defoliants such as Agent Orange,”
Tatchell noted. These actions taken by a government had been
declared as war crimes under the 1957 Geneva Conventions
Act. These mass killings were carried out in part utilizing
the B-52 bomber that flew flights so high that the planes
could not be seen from the ground, which gave no warning to
civilians that their villages and towns were under attack.
These planes were highly inaccurate in their targeting of
supposed military bases of the national liberation forces
fighting the US occupation in the region. Nonetheless,
between March 1969 and May 1970, there were 3,630 American
bombing raids over the nation of Cambodia.
These facts related to Kissinger’s war crimes in Indochina
are taken from a book by author Christopher Hitchens
entitled: “The Trial of Henry Kissinger,” (2) that was
published by Verso press in London during 2001. Hitchen’s findings, that were utilized by Tactchell in his legal challenge to
Kissinger, indicate that “during the first 30 months of the
Nixon-Kissinger administration, the US counter-insurgency
‘Phoenix Program’ was responsible for the murder
or abduction of 35,708 Vietnamese civilians.”
In addition, American bombing missions in the region were
estimated to have killed 350,000 non-combatants in Laos and
approximately 600,000 in Cambodia. Other crimes during the
US war in Indochina involved the systematic use of chemical
agents aimed at destroying the peoples’ will to resist the
military occupation. Tactchell says that “Kissinger’s role
in formulating and implementing US war policy coincided with
the systematic use of chemical defoliants and pesticides,
including Agent Orange.”
He continues by pointing out that “[T]hese caused birth
defects and rendered significant areas of Vietnam, Laos and
Cambodia too toxic for people to live in or farm—creating an
environmental disaster that will continue to affect many
generations to come.”
There are of course other crimes that Kissinger must be
questioned about including the US involvement in the 1973
coup against Chilean president Salvador Allende, which
resulted in the assassination of the head of state of this
South American nation and the subsequent massacre and
imprisonment of thousands of citizens of that country. (3)
Also the Indonesian invasion and seizure of East Timor which
resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
This intervention was given the “green light” by the Ford
administration in 1975, in which Kissinger served as
Secretary of State. East Timor, a former Portuguese colony
in the Indonesian archipalago, had its independence delayed
by more than a quarter of a century because of the actions
taken by the US and its ally, the government of Indonesia,
in this region. (4)
However, what must never be forgotten is the role of Henry
Kissinger during the Nixon and Ford administrations involving
the suppression and subversion of the national liberation
struggles in Africa, principally in the sub-continent. The
crimes committed in this region have had an equal, if not
greater, impact on the continued underdevelopment and
instability in existence on the African continent than what
has transpired in other geo-political areas.
Kissinger stated in a speech during a recent trip to the UK
that: “No one can say that he served in an administration
that did not make mistakes. The decisions made in high
office are usually 51-49 decisions, so it is quite possible
that mistakes were made. The issue is whether 30 years after
the event courts are the appropriate means by which this
determination is made.” (5)
Yet if the courts are not the best place to address such
issues then what is the most appropriate venue? This
question and others must be grappled with in order to seek
solutions to the contemporary challenges facing these geo-
political regions that have largely resulted from the policy
decisions carried by previous US administrations.
The US Role in the Portuguese-African Wars During the
When Nixon first came to power in early 1969, Kissinger in
his capacity as National Security Adviser to the new
administration, immediately commissioned a study of the
current attempts aimed at national liberation in Africa.
The National Security Council Interdepartmental Group for
Africa, in which Kissinger served as Secretary, issued a
secret report on April 10, 1969 in which the contours of US
policy towards Africa would be guided over the next five
This secret report was named National Security Study
Memorandum, No. 39 (6) and it was designed to rationalize an
escalation of support for Portuguese colonial rule in Africa
as well as to fortify the political and economic positions of
the white settler-colonial regimes then operating in
Rhodesia, South-west Africa and the Republic of South
Africa. With the US was carrying out a war against the
national liberation struggles in Indochina, a similar war
being waged by nationalist forces in the Portuguese colonial
territories on the African continent would make the two
nations natural allies. In addition, Portugal was also a
member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
which was established with American dominance after the
conclusion of World War II and the beginning of the so-
called “Cold War.”
This report, which was circulated by Kissinger to the
Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and the Director of
Central Intelligence (CIA), incorrectly concluded as it
related to the national liberation movements on the continent
that: “[T]he blacks cannot gain political rights through
violence. Constructive change can come only by acquiescence
of the whites.” As a result of this line of thinking
fostered by Kissinger, the NSSM memorandum came up with five
potential policy options for the United States government to
follow in regard to its policy in southern Africa and other
According to a summary of the report by Mohamad El-Khawas
and Barry Cohen, the options can be summed up as follows:
“To improve the US standing in black Africa and
internationally on the racial issue;
To minimize the likelihood of escalation of violence in the
area and risk of US involvement;
To minimize the opportunities for the USSR and Communist
China to exploit the racial issue in the region for
propaganda advantage and to gain political influence with
black governments and liberation movements;
To encourage moderation of the current rigid racial and
colonial policies of the white regimes;
To protect economic, scientific and strategic interests and
opportunities in the region, including the orderly marketing
of South Africa’s gold production.”
These options drafted in 1969 and implemented thereafter does
not give any consideration to the national liberation
movements representing the will of the African peoples in
their struggle for self-determination and independence. Such
a set of policy options led to the escalation of financial
and military support to the Portuguese colonial regime by the
United States and NATO. The policy implications contained in
NSSM, 39 emanated from the so-called “Nixon Doctrine” which
sought to reinforce a western anti-communist alliance with
each respective ally sharing responsibility within its
sphere of influence.
Such an approach to the existence of colonialism during the
late 1960s was clearly designed to perpetuate the continuance
of imperialism in Africa. Such a policy was welcome news to
the then Prime Minister of Portugal Marcello Caetano, who
recognized the Nixon call for the assumption of regional
control by various colonial and imperialists nations as a
means to secure firm NATO support for the war in the so-
called “overseas territories.” In 1970, Caetano stated in
his book entitled: “Guidelines of Foreign Policy,”
that: “The West is a bloc, but this solidarity cannot be
limited to a few matters located on the territory of Europe….
At all times and everywhere in the world its values or vital
interests are threatened, we have the duty of defending
In line with this Nixon/Kissinger foreign policy
orientation , the use of the Azores island base for US
military activity became a focal point of discussion and
cooperation between America and Portugal. In March of 1971
Caetano seemed to be saying that the US use of the Azores
base would not continue without the drafting of a formal
agreement. If this could not be done, the Portuguese leader
proposed that the base could only be used as a outpost for
exclusively NATO operations. However, by December of 1971 an
agreement had been reached which proved to be a lucrative
deal for the Portuguese government of Caetano.
According to John Marcum’s “Portugal and Africa: The Politics
of Indifference” published in 1972, (8) the US government,
in exchange for the usage of the Azores base, had authorized the
Export-Import Bank to grant loans to Portugal for the amount
of $436 million, a sum of money that was 400% greater than
the total funds loaned to Portugal between the years of 1946
through 1971. Such an influx of capital into Portugal
enabled the colonial state to prolong the war through the
purchasing of sophisticated NATO weaponry, which was
largely used against the civilian populations in Guinea-
Bissau, Mozambique and Angola.
Nonetheless, the guerrilla movements in the Portuguese
colonies continued to escalate their struggle during the
course of the Nixon/Kissinger administration which proved
disastrous for the policy initiatives put forward in the NSSM
39 secret document. By 1974, a total of 7,674 Portuguese
soldiers had been killed in action in Africa. The expense
associated with the war was costing the Portuguese government
over 50% of its annual budget, a country which was considered
the poorest in Europe. A total estimated cost for the
colonial war against the forces of national liberation in
Guinea, Mozambique and Angola was $5 billion. (9)
Accurate figures for the casualties on the Africa side during the
Portuguese colonial war are not readily available but they
no doubt run into the tens of thousands--with the bombing of
civilian areas in all three contested colonies involving
NATO ordinances that destroyed towns and villages. Any
assessment of the war must also take into consideration the
massive dislocation of civilian population groups who fled as
refugees from the bombings by Portugal and their Rhodesian
and apartheid South African allies. These refugees settled
in neighboring countries such as Zambia, Tanzania and Guinea-
Consequently, the immediate impact of the strategic vision
emanating from NSSM 39 was an intensification and
broadening of the colonial wars in Africa as represented by
the massive casualties endured by the peoples of Angola,
Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau. A racist believe that Africans
could not successfully wage a revolutionary war against
European colonialists on the continent led to the genocidal
policy of the Portuguese regime under Caetano. However, the
immense costs in both financial and human resources in
Portugal led to the April 25, 1974 military coup which
effectively ended the war against the liberation movements in
Africa. Dissident military offers cited the hopeless efforts
by Portugal to defeat the African liberation movements as the
main incentive for the seizure of power from Caetano.
Despite these setbacks for the US government, the
administration continued to pursue a failed foreign policy
towards the African continent.
Kissinger Engineers a Civil War in Angola
In the main theaters of the guerrilla war in the former
Portuguese colonies the liberation movements had struggled
for over a decade for a unified front against the imperialist
states. These objectives were largely achieved in the
colonies of Guinea-Bissau/Cape Verde and Mozambique. In
Guinea, the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and
Cape Verde (PAIGC) was headed by Amilcar Cabral, an
agricultural engineer who made tremendous contributions to
the theoretical basis for the armed revolutionary phase of
the liberation movements on the continent. In Mozambique,
the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), became
the undisputed leader in the national movement in this
southern African nation. Samora Machel eventually took
control of FRELIMO after the assassination of Eduardo
Monlande, the first leader of the movement who was educated
in the United States.
Nonetheless, in Angola, the US and its allies, including
Portugal, attempted to create two alternatives to the Popular
Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Holden
Roberto, who headed the Front for the National Liberation of
Angola (FNLA) had close ties with the west through its bases
in Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo).
The Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) was
based in the country of Angola and even collaborated with the
colonialist during the concluding years of the war. Jonas
Savimbi, the UNITA leader who was finally killed in 2002,
became the darling of the United States government and the
apartheid regime in South Africa.
US governmental support for Holden Roberto extends back to at
least 1961, (10) according to declassified State Department
documents from the Kennedy administration. In regard to
UNITA, a series of letters between Jonas Savimbi and the
Portuguese military leadership dating as far back as 1972
were revealed in the Afrique-Asie publication of July 8,
1974. (11) In one of these letters from Savimbi to General
Luz Cunha dated September 26, 1972, he states that: “We are no
longer interested in the OAU (Organization of African Unity),
nor in Zambia, and even less in alliances with the MPLA. If
these aspects of UNITA’s policies are not yet sufficiently
clear for the authorities in Angola and Portugal, it is still
an irrefutable fact: we have actively participated in the
weakening of the MPLA in regions of the east.”
The letter continues by saying that: “We use our arms so that
one day we will force the MPLA to abandon the east.” Savimbi
then lays out a series of proposals which he thinks will
bring peace to the eastern region of Angola. His first
recommendation to the Portuguese General Luz Cunha was to
bring about the “weakening of MPLA forces within Angola to
lead to their liquidation. This task can be accomplished by
the combined efforts of the military forces and the forces of
UNITA,” Savimbi claimed in the letter.
He also makes a second suggestion involving “the liquidation
of MPLA camps in the border areas of Zambia.” He says
that “this can be more easily accomplished by UNITA because
we have no political status which would lead to censure by an
international organization. Our plans are beyond the
preliminary stage,” Savimbi stated.
The UNITA leader finally suggests that an effort take place
to “discredit the MPLA.” He continues by saying that “in this regard, we are also aiming at the OAU, at least as concerns liberation
movements. Once the MPLA is weakened or liquidated in the
east, great horizons are open to us.”
Obviously this letter implies a strategic alliance between
Savimbi, the ostensible liberation movement leader, and the
Portuguese colonial authorities designed to isolate and
liquidate the MPLA, which had been considered a threat by the
western nations, including the United States are far back as
the early 1960s. Consequently, after the overthrow of
Caetano in April of 1974, the Nixon-Kissinger administration
was keen to prevent the consolidation of power by the MPLA
inside of Angola.
This desire to prevent the MPLA from coming to power in
Angola in 1975 eventually led to commencement of the civil
war in that country which lasted all but a few years during
the course of its 27 years of independence. In 1975 the US
government had suffered a humiliating defeat in Indochina
with the consolidation of power by the national liberation
movements and the communist parties of Vietnam, Cambodia and
Laos. With the independence of Guinea-Bissau in 1974 and
Mozambique in June of 1975, the existence of FNLA and UNITA
in Angola provided an opportunity for the US to destabilize
the Angolan revolution and consequently stifle the total
liberation of southern Africa.
What served as a public relations disaster for the Nixon-
Kissinger administration was the exposure of its open
alliance with the apartheid regime in South Africa and South-
west Africa (renamed Namibia) during 1975-76 in their efforts
to prevent the consolidation of power by the MPLA in
Angola. Although links between the South African intelligence
services known then as the Bureau of State Security (BOSS)
and the American Central Intelligence Agency extends back
until at least the late 1960s, this relationship had been
kept from public view, clouded by the diplomatic position
that the US did support the concept of majority rule.
However, despite this diplomatic posture, the machinations of
the State Department, the National Security Council and the
Central Intelligence Agency were designed to frustrate and
subvert the activities of the independence movements. (12)
In regard to a book released in early 2002 entitled:
“Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington, and Africa, 1959-
1976, published Piero Gleijeses, (13) Peter Kornbluh of the
National Security Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project,
says that this historical study provides further proof of the US
collaboration with the racist apartheid regime in South
Africa to prevent an independence movement from coming to
power in Angola and subsequently engineering a civil war
which had grave implications for the social and political
stability of the country and the entire region of southern
Kornbluh, based on the release of the documents published by
Gleijeses, claims that:
-“Castro decided to send troops to Angola on November 4,
1975, in response to the South African invasion of that
country, rather than vice versa as the Ford administration
-The United States knew about South Africa’s covert invasion
plans, and collaborated militarily with its troops, contrary
to what Secretary of State Henry Kissinger testified before
Congress and wrote in his memoirs;
-Cuba made the decision to send troops without informing the
Soviet Union and deployed them, contrary to what was widely
alleged, without any Soviet assistance for the first two
According to the minutes of a National Security Council
meeting held on June 27, 1975, where Secretary of State
Kissinger, Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, Acting
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff David C. Jones and
Director of Central Intelligence William Colby discussed the
developing situation in Angola on the eve of the country’s
independence, apparent plans were made to ship arms to the
UNITA organization for an offensive to prevent the MPLA from
taking control of the country. (15)
President Ford was reported to have asked during the
meeting: “[I]s there a specific proposal from the group on
grants in the arms area? I don’t want to make a decision
now, but I didn’t see any proposals in the briefing papers.”
Kissinger responds by saying: “[T]he Forty Committee has met
twice to discuss the situation. The first meeting involved
only money, but the second included some arms package. I
recommend a working group make a more systematic study of
this option and return to you.” The next section of this
document is redacted (blackened and labeled “Top
Secret/Sensitive”). Ford opines that “[O]nce the Popular
Movement (MPLA) takes over you can write it off.” (16)
Therefore, the major foreign policy initiative was to prevent
the legitimate liberation movement organization from taking
power even at the cost of bringing about a bloody civil
war. US assistance to the anti-independence forces of UNITA, FNLA and the South African Defense Forces (SADF) not only involved
the shipment of arms but also saw the direct intervention of
CIA personnel and mercenaries from the United States and
other western nations. With the intervention of tens of
thousands of Cuban troops into Angola in 1975-76 to support
MPLA leader Agostino Neto after the direct intervention of
the South African Defense Forces and the escalation of
American arms shipments to the FNLA and UNITA, as well as the
SADF, the CIA backed forces in the country suffered
stinging defeats in the war against the MPLA. By April of
1976, the MPLA had consolidated power in key areas throughout
the country including the rich oil fields.
However, without the intervention of the United States
administration of Ford and Kissinger, the country may have
been able to resolve its internal contradictions without such
a protracted and deadly conflict which did not end in 1976.
The US Congress passed legislation during 1976 which halted
covert assistance to the anti-MPLA forces in Angola. The
continued financing of the UNITA organization covertly during
the early years of the Reagan administration until 1986, when
open funding and support resumed, led to the deaths of over
one million Angolans and the destruction of its national
development program for a period of over two-and-one-half
decades. Reagan’s policy of constructive engagement with the
apartheid regime of the 1980s, was merely an extension of the
policy orientation that was articulated by Kissinger in the
NSSM 39 Memorandum of 1969.
Kissinger’s Role in Delaying the Independence of Zimbabwe
In Rhodesia, (now known as Zimbabwe) a protracted guerrilla
struggle intensified in the aftermath of the collapse of an
attempted détente between the national liberation movements
and the European settler-regime in 1975. Plans were made by
the leadership of the Zimbabwe African National Union and the
Zimbabwe African Peoples Union to resume the war aimed at
total national liberation. This took place in the aftermath
of the consolidation of power by the MPLA regime in Angola
which resulted from the resounding military and diplomatic
defeats of the Ford/Kissinger administration in Washington
and the Vorster regime in South Africa. More significantly
from a military standpoint, the recently independent nation
of Mozambique agreed to open up two provinces for the use by
ZANU and ZAPU to utilize in their war against the Smith
Despite its policy failures and subsequent military defeats
in Indochina and Angola, Kissinger embarked upon a new
African initiative to prevent the military collapse of the
settler-colonial regime of Ian Smith in Rhodesia. As far
back as the early 1970s, Kissinger had advocated a relaxation
of economic sanctions against Rhodesia in line with the
policy orientation of the NSSM 39 secret memorandum of April
1969. In 1971, the Nixon administration endorsed the Byrd
amendment which was designed to lift the ban on the
importation of Rhodesian chrome. There was also a tremendous
tourist trade to Rhodesia by white Americans during this
period which generated $16 million annually in much needed
foreign exchange for the European settler-state. (18)
The Nixon administration’s encouragement of tourism as well
as the avoidance of key elements of the United Nations
sanctions passed against Rhodesia, provided a substantial
degree of material and political support to the Ian Smith
regime. After the resignation of Nixon in July of 1974, the
Ford administration, where Kissinger remained as Secretary of
State, paid lip service to the repeal of the Byrd amendment
but no action was ever taken on the matter. Therefore, when
Kissinger announced that he would set out on a diplomatic
mission to Africa in April of 1976 with a special emphasis on
seeking a political solution to the Zimbabwean question,
there was much skepticism on the continent in relationship to
his actual intentions. Several governments underwent intense
debate over whether the head of state should have met with
the American Secretary of State during his visit. This cool
response to Kissinger was clearly related to the US role in
Angola and the blatant defiance of the wishes of the
Organization of African Unity and the United Nations in
regard to their recognition of the MPLA government during the
period that the American government was actively coordinating
military efforts to overthrow the regime of Agostino Neto.
In a State Department confidential “Action Memorandum”
written by William E. Schaufele, Jr. to Henry Kissinger on
April 1, 1976, entitled: “Rhodesia—A Proposed Course of
Action,” Schaufele says that “[A]ny moves we make with
respect to Rhodesia must be in concert with an over-all
Southern African strategy which will consider our
relationships with the Soviet Union, Cuba, our European
allies, black African countries, China and South Africa.”
From this statement it appears that the traditional cold war
imperatives were still guiding the American involvement in
the region. The effort to protect US interests and to prevent
the influence of the socialist countries was the motivating
force behind the direction of foreign policy in the region.
Later in the memorandum, Schaufele says that: “ [H]owever, in
terms of immediacy, we should focus on Rhodesia—on what we
can do in the near future to preempt the Soviets and Cubans,
improve our position in Africa, and possibly help avert
widespread, intensified conflict in Rhodesia itself.” He
continues by declaring that “[T]he Soviet/Cuban intervention
in Angola has drastically affected the determinants of our
policies toward Rhodesia. Our essentially passive stance no
longer is the most appropriate approach. Preclusion of
further expansion of Soviet/Cuban presence and influence in
Southern Africa will require us to become more directly
involved there than we might prefer.” (21)
During Kissinger’s trip to Africa in April of 1976, he met
with several of the key players in the region including South
African Prime Minister John Vorster, Rhodesian Prime Minister
Ian Smith, Zambian President Kenneth Kuanda, Tanzanian
President Julius Nyerere and Botswana President Seretse
Khama. His tone was geared toward remaking the image of the
United States in Africa after the collapse of the American
foreign policy framework in the Portuguese colonies, with
specific reference to Angola. In a speech delivered by
Kissinger on April 27, 1976 in Lusaka, Zambia, he said that “
the United States is wholly committed to help bring about a
rapid, just and African solution to the issue of Rhodesia.”
Yet this trip did nothing to stop the aggressive military
campaign against the peoples of the Zimbabwe and the
region. This ruthless policy was best illustrated on September 5,
1976 when the Rhodesian Air Force bombed the Zimbabwean
refugee camp in Mozambique at Nyadzonia. Claiming that this
camp was a guerrilla training base, the overwhelming
consensus by the United Nations as well as the Mozambican
government was that it was indeed a camp for refugees who had
fled the war inside of Rhodesia. During this attack, over
1,000 Zimbabweans were killed and later buried in mass
graves. Most of the casualties were young children and women
who were engaged in medical, agricultural and educational
projects at the camp. (23)
American and Rhodesian intelligence agencies had long
collaborated and exchanged information in regard to their
mutual interests aimed at preventing communist influence in
the region and prolonging white minority rule. These links
were revealed during the negotiation process with Smith
during the second State Department trip to Africa when
Kissinger sold the white settler leader his plan for the
ostensible resolution of the Rhodesian question. (24) With
the close links between the American Central Intelligence Agency
and the Central Intelligence Organisation of Rhodesia, it is
not beyond reason to conclude that the Americans may very
well have had access to the Rhodesian plans aimed at bombing
the Nyadzonia camp in Mozambique. At any rate their refusal
to apply economic and political pressure on the Rhodesian
regime tacitly encouraged Smith to pursue an aggressive
military policy against the front-line African states,
particularly Mozambique during 1975-76.
Several weeks later in September, Kissinger returned to
Africa to advance a more comprehensive plan for the
transition to “majority rule” in Zimbabwe. The plan, which
was forced on Ian Smith during a meeting with Kissinger,
merely provided a means for the settlers to delay the handing
over of power to the African majority in Zimbabwe. Real
internationally supervised elections did not occur until
early 1980 after the negotiation of a settlement between the
liberation movement leaders and the British at the Lancaster
House talks during late 1979. Kissinger left office with
Gerald Ford in January of 1977, after Ford was defeated by
Jimmy Carter during the November 1976 elections. With the
presidency of Jimmy Carter a new era of American-Rhodesian
relations unfolded. (25)
Kissinger Indictment Cannot Ignore These Crimes
Kissinger role in subverting the national liberation
movements in Africa represented the continuation of a long-
held US policy of seeing the foreign policy interests of the
United States as primarily concerned with preserving and
enhancing American economic interests, i.e., through cheap
access to strategic raw materials and waterways, and the
desire to subvert the influence of socialist countries and
left-leaning political parties on the continent. These
policies led to the continuation of the Portuguese war
against the peoples of Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau and
Angola. It not only supported the Portuguese military effort through
increased financial assistance to the state, but it shared
and utilized intelligence information with the white-minority
settler regimes which contributed to the drafting of the NSSM
39 policy document laying the foundation for US relations
with Africa during the Nixon-Kissinger years.
Its role in fomenting the Angolan civil war after the
consolidation of power by the liberation organizations in
Indochina, led to the intervention of South African Defense
Forces, which prompted the intervention of Cuban
internationalist forces in support of the MPLA government of
Agostino Neto. During the course of the civil war in 1975-76
and the resumption of the war during the late 1970s
continuing through the recent cease fire agreement signed in
early 2002, it has been estimated that over a million Angolan
have died. The war has created one of the largest
concentrations of landmines in the world resulting in the
highest amputee rate of any other country. Angola, a mineral
rich country with substantial deposits of oil, diamonds and
other strategic minerals and resources, has been stifled in
its development efforts because of the many years of direct
American interference in its internal affairs resulting in
war and political destabilization.
In regard to Zimbabwe, the resolution of the land question
awaited action by President Robert Mugabe, who supported
efforts by war veterans beginning in 2000, aimed at seizing
by force, and later by law, the land confiscated from the
indigenous people during the onslaught of British colonialism
during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The actions
of Mugabe would not have been necessary if the initial plans
to subsidize land reform that was advanced by Kissinger as
early as 1976 had been honored by the United States and
If Kissinger can be indicted in connection with war crimes he
engineered in Indochina, East Timor, Bangladesh and Chile, he
most certainly can be held accountable for his role in
developing and implementing US foreign policy in Africa
during the Nixon and Ford administrations and the subsequent
impact of these policies on the peoples of Africa.
(1) Tatchell, Peter, “Why Milosevic, but not Kissinger”,
The Guardian, 25 April, 2002, London.
(2) Hitchens, Christopher, “The Trial of Henry
Kissinger”, Verso Press, London, 2001.
(5) Wilson, Jamie & Tremlett, Giles, “Kissinger admits
possible errors on Vietnam,” The Guardian, 24 April, 2002.
(6) El-Khawas, Mohamed, A. & Cohen, Barry (eds.), “The
Kissinger Study of Southern Africa (Secret NSSM 39),
Westport: Lawrence Hill, 1976.
(7) El-Khawas, Mohamed, A. & Kornegay Jr., Francis, A.
(eds.), “American-Southern African Relations: Bibliographic
Essays, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT, 1975, pp. 14-15.
(8) Marcum, John, “Portugal and Africa: The Politics of
(9) Martin, David & Johnson, Phylis, “The Struggle for
Zimbabwe: The Chimurenga War”, Monthly Review Press,
N.Y., 1981, pp. 115-116.
(10) Howland, Nina, D. & LaFantasie, Glenn, W. (eds.), “
Letter From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and
Research (Hilsman) to the President’s Special Assistant for
National Security Affairs (Bundy)”, Foreign Relations of the
United States, 1961-1963, Department of State, Washington,
D.C., 1995, p. 543.
(11) Ellen, Ray & Schaap, William & Meter, Karl Van &
Wolf. Louis (eds.), “Dirty Work 2: The CIA In Africa,” pp.
220-230, Lyle Stuart Inc. Secaucus, N.J., 1979.
(12) Ibid., chapter entitled: “The CIA and BOSS: Thick as
Thieves” by Stephen Talbot, pp. 266-275.
(13) Gleijeses, Piero, “Conflicting Missions: Havanna,
Washington, and Africa, 1959-1976, Univ. of North Carolina
(14) Kornbluh, Peter, “Press Advisory, The National
Security Archive”, 1 April, 2002, pp. 1-2, Washington, D.C.
(15) National Security Council Minutes, 27 June,
1975, “Angola” (Document obtained from Gerald Ford Library,
NSC meeting file, Box 2).
(16) Ibid., pp. 5-6.
(17) Ibid., Martin & Johnson, “ pp. 215-234.
(18) Ibid., 231-232.
(19) Ibid., 232-234.
(20) Makoena, Kenneth (ed.), “South Africa and the United
States: The Declassified History, A NSC Archive Documents
Reader”, W.W. Norton & Co., 2002. Action Memo written by
William E. Schaufele, Jr., 1 April, 1976.
(22) Ibid., Martin & Johnson, pp. 223-24.
(23) Ibid., 240-41.
(24) Ibid., p. 251.
(25) Ibid., 255-63.
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Reprinted From The Black Panther: Black Community News Service, 20 June 1970, pp. 17–18
Nearly 30 Panthers have been killed since the Party was founded; in the first year of the Nixon administration, over 400 had been arrested on various charges; Panther offices in Los Angeles, Oakland, Chicago, Des Moines and 15 other cities have been attacked by police. Nearly all members of their original Central Committee have been suppressed: killed, jailed or forced into exile. The Justice Department has a special task force on the Panthers; the FBI considers them the greatest single threat to our national security; at least two congressional committees and several grand juries are investigating them.
The Panthers are the target not of repression but of an undeclared war. Under a state of repression, the heretic at least is accorded bail, trial and appeal. In a state of war, victims are killed or rounded up without serious regard for legal "niceties". The Panthers held in jails across America today are no different from prisoners held in Santo Domingo, Saigon or any other center of the American Empire.
The escalation of war against the Panthers has created vast differences between them and their less oppressed allies. The Panthers correctly criticize whites for not moving rapidly enough to deal with the special repression inflicted on blacks. And the whites, hesitant and confused about how to react to the brual repression of Panthers, are correctly critical of the broadside nature of occasional Panther attacks on student movements, women's liberation and the cultural rebellion arising from conditions in the Mother Country.
These differences cannot be understood without a perspective on the history of black-white political relations. In 1966 black radicals, led by Stokely Carmichael, purged whites from the "integrated" civil rights movement and directed them to go into the white community. Young whites did just this, creating a rebellious consciousness inside the Mother Country. Eldridge Cleaver and the Panthers then saw the possibilities of this white radical impulse, and put forward a strategy of "liberation in the colony" coupled with "revolution in the Mother Country". The Panther argued that blacks should wage an autonomous struggle for self-determination, but added that victory would not be secured until the Mother Country was also transformed from within. They began to experiment with coalitions for specific purposes with white organizations.
Few whites realized the risks which the Panthers took in pursuing this line. It left the Party exposed to constant baiting criticism by black "cultural nationalists" groups who preferred either no contact with whites or, if necessary, contact with white foundations and corporations rather than white radicals. Among black radicals, the Panthers were raising fears of a return to old-style coalitions which black people had been submerged and their interests made secondary to the class struggle. From great numbers of blacks, including those who joined the Party, the Panthers were demanding and incredible psychological adjustment: to conduct a racial struggle without anti-white feelings. White radicals, by comparison, had very little to lose from the coalitions except prestige or money.
Since 1967 one coalition after another between the Panthers and whites has been created, achieved something useful, then been more or less dissolved due to racial or political differences. Some have been mainly educational campaigns, like the relatively successful one waged around Huey's trial. Some have been abortively electoral, like that with the Peace and Freedom Party, which collapsed before the 1968 elections. The Panthers have searched back and forth for the most effective white allies and have come up with different answers from time to time. Sometimes the answer has been the broad liberal community and the students; sometimes poor whites in Chicago and Richmond; sometimes the Yippies and street people; sometimes the peace movement; sometimes a mixture of two or more of these. Always the coalitions have been affected by the fact that the Panthers are far more revolutionary and serious than their allies; always they have been plagued by the question of whether whites should be considered essentially as "supporters" or an independent radical force moving towards a front-line alliance with the blacks.
All these problems came to a boiling point in 1969 as Nixon's policy of repression escalated. In response to severe attacks, the Panthers proposed a broad United Front which would essentially serve as a support group. The Front would raise funds, educate white people to the dangers of fascism, and help circulate a petition for "community control of the police".
The difficulty was that the liberals who would be most likely to join such a Front were having jitters about the Panthers and repression, and the younger radicals were going through birth pains of new struggles. In the white community, it was the ineffectual and opportunist Old Left groups which were most interested in the United Front. The radicals, meanwhile, were moving in at least four different directions: towards white working-class organizing, women's liberation, the cultural revolution (as asserted in the People's Park struggle), and armed struggle (as embodied by the Weathermen). Few of the younger radicals wanted to join a United Front with the Old Left or circulate petitions in the white community, and none wanted to accept Panther leadership.
Perhaps the Panthers did not understand the devastating effect this United Front would have on the young whites. Since their inception the Panther had gradually inspired significant numbers of whites to the idea of armed struggle. Few whites had become John Browns, but the Panthers heroic image was accelerating white revolutionary consciousness as no American movement had done before. Then, with little preparation, the Panthers suddenly adopted a reformist tactic which the whites had been trying to go beyond. White radicals had no objection to a United Front of middle-class liberal support for the Panthers. But they wanted the Panthers to recognize as well the need for militant liberation struggles in the Mother Country.
To the Panthers, the response of white radicals seemed self-centered and "anarchist". The embattled Panthers had difficulty understanding the priority of women's issues, for instance, or the significance of drugs and rock and roll, or why the Berkely radicals fought in the streets for 17 days when black people had already demonstrated the futility of riots, or why Weathermen wanted to pick up guns instead of petitions. They could not see the legitimacy of the struggles that whites were engaged in and began to assert that the Party should be the "vanguard" of the Mother Country as well as the Colony. The result was much hostile and futile "commandism" from the Panthers and much alienation among the whites.
Before the cleavages could be overcome, the U.S. government moved to take advantage of the situation. Noting that the United Front conference had ended in disarray and division, they concluded that the Panthers were isolated and therefore easy targets.
From the United Front conference through the trial of Bobby Seale and the Chicago 7, these gaps between the Panthers and their white allies continued. On November 15 in San Francisco David Hillard was booed by the liberal peace movement for suggesting that peace could not be achieved without a liberation struggle, and that Nixon (or anyone standing in the way of black liberation) should be killed. Seeing the black-white division, the power structure moved again, this time indicting Hillard for "threatening the President".
During the trial the gulf was both narrowed and widened. We enjoyed a political closeness with Bobby Seale, yet he remained in jail every day, while we were free. We helped create a mass consciousness among whites about the repression of the Panthers, but Bobby was the one who experienced the gagging. We asserted our unity with the Panthers, but could do nothing to prevent Bobby's sentence and the murders of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. The inadequacy was not simply our own; it existed throughout the white movement. Until November 15 in Washington, not one major demonstration occured to protest what had happened to Bobby.
Early this year, the Panther were beginning to reconsider their basic strategy of coalition. Eldridge drafted a manifesto declaring that if class struggle were not possible, then blacks should go it alone in a race war. The manifesto vowed that no more Panthers would be sacrificed on the "altar of interracial harmony".
Then, suddenly, a hopeful new coalition was being created in New Haven. It had taken a long time (the Panthers had been held in Connecticut dungeons since before the United Front Conference) but whites were beginning to move again on the issue of racism. A strike began in April. The president of Yale granted the validity of the question the Panthers had been raising all along: that a fair trial for black revolutionaries in America was hard to imagine. When 25,000 people, called by the Panthers and the Conspiracy, came to New Haven on May Day despite the warnings of Spiro Agnew and the threat of the National Guard, a militant United Front involving both moderate and revolutionary whites at last began to appear.
To understand the unevenness of black-white coalitions is to understand the structure of racism. All whites are part of a racist system: they live better materially, never experience the daily crises that the Panthers do, and are never repressed as severely as blacks. Even becoming "more militant" than blacks cannot erase the color line: whites who try to act like John Brown are usually seen as manipulators who will not have to bear the consequences for whatever repression they bring down. The racial barrier which holds whites above blacks does not mean that all whites are individually racist in their attitudes or that white support is unimportant. But the attitudes, including alienation and protest, which develop in the Mother Country are remote from and often contradictory to black feelings. Women's liberation will tend to seem secondary to Panthers fighting for physical survival; hippie life styles will seem indulgent to blacks looking for work.
Huey Newton pointed out these differences in an essay from prison on white "anarchists". Huey wrote that the black community, experiencing collective oppression and collective material needs, will grasp the idea of organization and discipline much more quickly than will the young aliented white person whose goal is self-expression. Breaking out of slavery requires a personal change in black people far different from the new life style of young whites. The black is moving from dependence and powerlessness to an aggressive pride in collective power. The young white is breaking out of the straitjacket of conformity toward a sense of personal experiment and discovery. The young white will view organization and discipline as an infringement on free consciousness. By implication, even if whites sense a common oppression their needs will still drive them toward a strong emphasis on personal transformation.
The white radical plays a difficult part in this ambiguous world. The radical professes solidarity with the Panthers and the ghetto. At the same time, as a white, he receives special privileges and as a Mother Country radical he experiences specials needs for liberation which are quite different from those which move the black community. The white radical is thus likely to exemplify both the nearness of, and the difficulty of achieving real solidarity. In political terms this means that although whites can help the black struggle, they are inherently undependable. While blacks will never have to "go it alone" completely, the principle of self-reliance is more basic than that of coalition.
A comparison with the coalition strategies of other national liberation movements shows parallels as well as vast differences with the American situation. Both the Vietnamese and the Algerians - and especially the Vietnamese - patiently educated and organized the French people because they knew that French public opinion would be needed to support an end to the war. In the current war also the Vietnamese have taken a patient attitude towards American public opinion, believing that the war would encourage dissent and a new political atmosphere in the U.S. Their strategy is to conduct a long guerrilla war, waiting for the cost in blood, taxes and honor to awaken some Americans while tiring others. While a "revolution in the Mother Country" would be desirable, they believe mere divisions are enough to bog down the U.S. Beneath this strategy lies a remarkable faith in the ability of human beings to overcome ignorance and prejudice. The Vietnamese believe that even the American soldiers they are fighting are pawns who would change sides if they knew the truth. The moral of an idea is their greatest weapon. They are not a "vanguard" giving commands to the American anti-war movement but more of an armed conscience trying to move and persuade.
But in the American case the black and Third World colonies are dispersed inside the Mother Country. There is no national territory on which blacks can develop schools, industry and agriculture, or establish an identity as a people and fight for their freedom. A war of independence here would not end in the political separation of two distinct geographic territories, as it did for France and Algeria, but would rearrange America itself.
One result is that black people have become more interdependent with white people than in any other colonial society. Feelings of both familiarity and hatred are bred at the same time. Although they are culturally separate, blacks can think like white Americans easily and naturally. The hypocrisy of even the white radicals is felt day to day.
Painful relations can often be broken off, but this one has a way of continuing. Even while blacks despair of whites, black motion itself constantly pushes some whites towards a better, more radical understanding. Blacks have been the trigger of the early white student movement, the radicalizers of the anti-war movement, the legitimizers of revolutionary violence and the soul of the underground culture. The black assault on white racism has its effect: young white people become less racist than their elders even though they remain part of a racist system.
The black-white relationship becomes hard to break for another reason. Because they lack a unified national territory of their own, blacks are almost forced to depend on a "base" in the consciousness of the white left, or on the bank accounts of white liberals - more so than in other liberation struggles. In Vietnam the revolutionaries can leave political relationships with the Americans to skilled and patient diplomats. They are confident that their image of the American people will be fulfilled but they do not go through the psychological torment of dealing with whites every day. They shoot those who invade; they welcome those who protest. They do not need immediate evidence to confirm their ultimate faith that whites can be human beings; they gain strength enough from their schools, their factories, their army, the land they till, and their national tradition. In America none of this seems possible, at least not in the form taken by other peoples. As long as there are no "Panther zones" as fully self- sustaining as the "Vietcong zones", the black liberation struggle will be tormented by its dependency on the support of the white left.
So the white radicals are in a coalition with the black struggle - even if the coalition is not recognized formally - simply because we are part of a common dialectic. In the case of the Panthers, we will either vindicate their gamble on white support or become evidence of white failure and therefore bolster "cultural nationalists" arguments for years to come.
It is sufficient to understand and act on the fact that the black colony is a time bomb inside the fragile center of the colonial Mother Country. The eventual detonation of that bomb will wreck a system which dehumanizes all its people, and it will not leave our lives or social structure intact.
If we consider the issue in the framework of colonialism, we can see most clearly what must be done. We can see that the demand for black self-determination cannot be accomodated by a welfare state which is colonial in its power relations. We can see that the Vietcong started without white support, alienated most Americans, yet are winning their own struggle and contributing immeasurably to ours. We can see that the differences between white and black radicalism are not antagonistic, because our destinies are totally bound together.
If we consider the Panthers as an embryonic Viet-Cong in the U.S., if we assume that a Vietnamese situation is developing here, it becomes logical to adopt and improve the strategy of the anti-Vietnam war movement and direct it against the aggression at home.
First, this would mean recognizing that Bobby Seale and other Panthers should not even be tried in the courts of the present U.S. government. They go to trial only under protest. As prisoners of war the Panthers should be freed, not by higher courts, but through negotiations coming about because of public pressure. The slogan "Free Huey" must be enlarged to: "Free All Political Prisoners". Many whites cling to the concept of a "fair trial" for the Panthers because they do not want to accept fully the idea of self-determination for blacks. This leads them to believe they should examine the "facts" of Panther court cases before deciding to support the Panthers. But even such a paternalistic approach would still vindicate the Panthers. In New Haven, for instance, it would reveal that the High Sheriff selected his personal barber and several other "friends and neighbors" for the grand jury which indicted the Panthers. It might even reveal a high-level government plot to frame Bobby and the others.
But the most enlightened approach that a white could adopt toward the "facts" would be to dismiss them as irrelevant, as an internal matter of the black colony. This is no different from the issue of "terror" by revolutionaries in Vietnam. All we need to know is that the Panthers, like the NLF, rely on popular support, not on coercion, for their success, and that the colonial invaders rely on massive terror to frighten away that popular support. If white Americans are concerned about the "terror" of the Panthers, they should stop police aggression in the ghetto instead of condemning black extremists at cocktail parties. Bobby was indicted, not for his supposed role in a killing, but as an effective way to removed him from the streets and scare away support because of the gravity of the charges.
Second, we need a nationwide "political education class" or "teach-in" as a tactic to create consciousness of this emerging domestic war. It is curious that whites have spoken thousands of times in the Vietnam teach-ins but have done so little to take the issue of the Panthers to the same audiences. The amount of continuing political education needed cannot be underestimated.
Third taking to the streets against racism and repression can be as important now as it was in the earlier phases of the anti-war movement. The recent strike and massive demonstration in New Haven was the first time that whites have come out in large numbers for the Panthers in a nationally visible way. The national student strike triggered by the Cambodian invasion would not have included the demand to free the Panthers were it not for the initiative of the New Haven strikers. The trial in Connecticut will continue to create an urgent climate in which effective demonstrations are possible. Plans should be made for demonstrations from now through the end of that infernal trial, with the definite objective of freeing the Panthers "by any means necessary". Where trials are not an immediate focus, the new Justice Department might well be. As a symbol of centralized evil, it can serve as a target institution the same way the Pentagon has for the anti-war movement.
Fourth, forcing a conflict within the national establishment over this question is crucial in order that repression against the Panthers be slowed down. Repression can be foiled in the short run only by creating sharp divisions among America's powerful elites. The anti-war campaign of Senate doves were crucial to slowing and sometimes preventing military escalation, and they gave respectability to dissent in general. There is of course the danger that such dissent will cool the militant edge of protest, but only in the unlikely event that the Panthers come to rely on the Establishment for their survival. If Ramsey Clark or Kingman Brewster wants to become the William Fulbright of our domestic Vietnam crisis, it will be to the benefit of the Panthers and of everyone but the all-out racist aggressors.
Fifth, we must initiate international campaigns to brand the U.S. as a criminal and outlaw government. Probably the chief problem facing the American ruling elite is not Vietnam but the survival of the U.S. as a racist nation in the new international scene. American racism is the number one foreign policy problem for this country. Each step of racist aggression further isolates the U.S. in the world; each concession to the blacks for the sake of "national image" only raises the domestic confrontation to a higher level. Using all of its international contacts, the American left should expose the repression of the Panthers in every conference and journal in the world.
Finally, we must create a Resistance structure. There will have to be active, extra-legal cooperation between white and black revolutionaries on every front of the struggle. A new underground railroad to protect the fugitives and resources of the black colony may become a necessity. This need is likely to become especially real in America, where the black communities are geographically surrounded by whites and where communication and transportation are almost exclusively controlled by whites.
The trial of Bobby Seale and the Connecticut Panthers is the best possible point of departure for a new upsurge of white support for black liberation. The government is hoping that one bolt of electricity will kill the spirit in all of us. The gag and chains of Chicago were not enough; they are now being replaced by the electric chair. Every sane person has a stake in preventing this maneuver - and it can be prevented. Just as our case was turned into a trial of our generaton, so can Bobby's be turned into a symbolic trial of black and white people in this country.
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