Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20)
It is important to understand what the Sixties turmoil was about, for the youth culture that became manifest then is the modern liberal culture of today. Where that culture will take us next may be impossible to say, but it is also impossible even to make an informed guess without understanding the forces let loose by the decade that changed America. (Robert H.Bork, Slouching Towards Gomorrah. Regan Books, 1996, p.xiii.)
The Black Powers Slide Into Lawlessness
The Black Panther Party, first named the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, was one of the most controversial and violent organizations that became an important feature of the 1960s counter cultural revolution. It rejected Martin Luther Kings call to seek a peaceful way for removing the barriers to full and equal treatment facing all blacks, especially in the American South.
Instead, it adopted a revolutionary program of destroying the existing culture, which it described as grievously oppressive. (Mao Zedongs Red Book became required reading among the BPP membership.) To be sure, there were plenty of reasons for black people to demand an end to the discrimination they endured. But the Panthers were not interested in improving the existing culture.
What they had in mind was the radical overturning of the existing structures and then rebuilding them according to the Marxist blueprint. Never mind that wherever such a revolution has been imposed, the results were always disastrous to the wellbeing and freedom of uncounted millions whose blood still cries out to the heavens.
The Black Panther Party had its beginning in 1966 in Oakland, California, under the leadership of Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, ostensibly to protect the black people against the abuse of police power. It soon became one of the most militant organizations of the 1960s revolution, often involved in violent encounters with the police. In 1967 they marched on the California State Capitol in protest of a ban on weapons. By 1968, their Party had established local branches in most of the major cities in the U.S.
Here is the Ten Point Program of the BPP, adopted in October 1966, the year of its founding:
1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our black Community.
2. We want full employment for our people. (We believe that the federal government is responsible and obligated to give every man employment or a guaranteed income
3. We want an end to the robbery by the white man of our black Community.
4. We want decent housing, fit for shelter of human beings.
5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society
6. We want all black men to be exempt from military service.
7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of black people.
8. We want freedom for all black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
9. We want all black people when brought to trial to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their black communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace. And as our major political objective, a United Nations-supervised plebiscite to be held throughout the black colony in which only black colonial subjects will be allowed to participate for the purpose of determining the will of the black people as to their national destiny.
Huey Percy Newton (1942-1989)
Newton was born in Monroe, Louisiana in 1942, one of seven children in a family who eventually settled in Oakland, California. His father was a lay preacher; though the family was poor, it was close-knit, and Newton did not suffer hunger or homelessness in his childhood. But he wrote in his autobiography, Revolutionary Suicide, that he was humiliated for being black:
During those long years in Oakland public schools, I did not have one teacher who taught me anything relevant to my own life or experience. Not one instructor ever awoke in me a desire to learn more
.All they did was to rob me of the sense of my own uniqueness and worth, and in the process nearly killed my urge to inquire.
He graduated from high school without being able to read though he was obviously intelligent, and later taught himself to read (Wikipedia). In 1974, he obtained a bachelors degree from the University of California. In 1980 he earned a Ph.D. in the history of consciousness on the basis of his doctoral dissertation, War Against the Panthers: A Study of Repression in America. However, Kate Coleman, whose contact with the Black Panthers goes back decades, wrote that someone else had ghost written this thesis which I would not find surprising. (The Panthers for Real. frontpagemag.com, June 23, 2003.)
At age 14, Newton was arrested for vandalism and gun possession. He burglarized homes and got involved in other petty crimes. He once wrote that he studied law to become a better criminal, but later admitted that he was a fool for having such limited ambitions.
Newton read widely in the literature of the major thinkers of the revolution. You can tell a lot about someone by the company he keeps and the books he reads. Here is a short list of Newtons reading: Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Frantz Fanon, Malcolm X, Mao Zedong, and Che Guevara. The Panthers adopted Malcolm Xs slogan: Freedom by any means necessary. Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 at age 39 by three members of the Nation of Islam.
Newton had numerous confrontations with the police that led to charges of assault and murder. He was convicted of attacking someone with a steak knife in 1964. Newton once told a crowd in San Francisco: Every time you go to execute a white racist Gestapo cop, you are defending yourself. In October 1967, he was found guilty of the murder of Oakland police officer John Frey, and sentenced to prison for two to fifteen years. In 1970, the California Appellate Court overturned the conviction; after two mistrials the case was dropped.
Subsequent charges of murder and assault were laid against Newton who fled to Cuba in 1974. He returned to the U.S. in 1977, and stood trial for the assault charge, of which he was acquitted. The murder charge against him (of a 17-year old girl) ended in a jury deadlock, after which the prosecution decided not to retry Newton.
On August 22, 1989, Newton was killed by a member of the Black Guerilla Family, Tyrone Robinson, who accused him of abandoning jailed Panther members and being guilty of some of the killings within the Party. Robinson was convicted of murder and sentenced to 32 years in prison.
Seale was born in 1936 in Dallas, Texas. In the 1940s his family settled in Oakland, California, where he attended high school. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1955, but was discharged in 1958 for insubordination. At the founding of the Black Panther Party In 1966, Seale became its first Chairman while Newton became its Minister of Defense. (These high-sounding designations were intended to underscore their estrangement from the American state.)
Seale was one of the original Chicago Eight who were charged with inciting the riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. During the trial the defendants managed to create chaos in the courtroom. Judge Julius Hoffman ordered Seale to refrain from his outbursts. After Seale refused, the judge ordered him bound and gagged and severed him from the case. He was declared to be in contempt of court and sentenced to a four-year prison term. He was released from prison in 1972. In 1973 he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Oakland.
Having been the co-founder with Huey Newton in 1966, as well as the chairman of the Black Panther Party, Seale played a prominent role in the hectic and violent activities of the Panthers. He helped develop the statements of purpose and spoke and wrote passionately about the right to defend themselves against what he called the fascist American state. He was a popular and eloquent speaker at various events and played a prominent role in the affairs of the Party. But all of that came to a crashing end.
Second Thoughts of David Horowitz
(In this section I am drawing on the information provided by David Horowitz in his book Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey (1997) and his frontpagemag.com article Black Murder Inc. (Dec. 13, 1999). Horowitz started life as a Marxist and at first believed that the Black Panther Party members were idealistic and courageous defenders of the oppressed blacks in America. As he got to know them and discovered that they were in fact a band of criminals, he had second thoughts and decided to tell the truth about them. That realization did not come easily because it meant that he had to discard his Marxist faith and to admit that the Panthers were a threat to the peace and wellbeing of America. It also meant that his own life was at risk.)
The evidence of the corruption and violence of the Panthers became clear to everyone who wanted to face the truth. Yet to this day the liberal establishment continues to venerate them as courageous defenders of a long-suffering minority. Here is a sample of such veneration by Professor Cornel West of Princeton University who called the vision, courage and sacrifice of the BPPs gallant effort to view the peoples needs as holy
. He concluded:
Indeed, so holy, democratic, and precious that we now struggle for a new great awakening that shatters the sleepwalking in our time. And the Black Panther Party remains the enabling and ennobling wind in our backs! (David Hilliard, ed, The Black Panther Party, 2008, p.x.)
But reality was not what it seemed on the surface. In fact, the leadership of the Panthers were in the process of punishing and killing their own.
Newton had established himself as the undisputed and feared leader who relished the privilege of power, money and sex. As to the latter, the Panthers had no respect for marriage, and Newton demanded that the women in his entourage would be available for his pleasure. He also became addicted to drugs.
By 1974 the relationship between Newton and Seale had begun to unravel. At a discussion about a planned film about the Panthers, they had a heated argument and Newton, backed by his bodyguards, beat Seale with a bullwhip so severely that he required major medical treatment. He fled to Cuba, while no one knew where he was or tried to find out about him. Nobody talked about him; he became a non-person
The internal discipline within the Panthers, sometimes involving murder, was meted out by Newtons personal bodyguards, which he called the Squad. They were thugs who at the command of Newton
would terrify, beat and murder his enemies. It made for an atmosphere of distrust and fear since no one was able to stand up to Newton.
A number of Panthers who feared Newtons wrath simply fled. Several murders were traceable to Newtons enforcement Squad, or to Elaine Brown, who took over from Newton during his stay in Cuba, She was his equal in cruelty and hunger for power. In her book A Taste of Power she has the gall to describe in detail her sadistic delight in seeing an ex-lover beaten by Squad members into a bloody pulp.
In December 1974, Betty Van Patter, a secretary in the BPP office, was murdered; a month later her body was found floating in the San Francisco Bay. This murder shook David Horowitz who had cooperated with the Panthers in the operation and funding of a school for poor children. He had begun to have serious doubts about the behaviour and intentions of the Panthers. And this murder forced him to face the ugly truth about the criminality of the Panthers because he was convinced that they had killed Van Patter.
Horowitz was deeply troubled by this murder because it meant that he had been wrong in everything he once believed about the Panthers cause against the American establishment. He also felt somewhat responsible since he had recommended Van Patter for the position with the BPP. He wrote that some on the Left may privately have held reservations about the Panthers,
But no one on the Left -no one- had disassociated themselves from the Panther cause. No one had publicly said: These are criminals. These are dangerous people, and to be avoided. There was a reason for this reticence. It would have meant saying, The police are right, and deserve our support. We have been wrong. Everyone who identified with the Left understood, for the record, that the Panthers were of us and for us. Because they had been made the symbol of the revolution, they could not be condemned without negative consequences for everything we stood for and had said. (Radical Son, p.254)
Horowitz describes his discovery of the truth about the Panthers as bringing him to the brink of the abyss, causing him a great deal of emotional turmoil. It also brought him the unmitigated hatred of his former allies who denounced him as a traitor. But that has not stopped him from becoming one of the most courageous and prolific defenders of what is good and true about America and the free West. His many books and the David Horowitz Freedom Center are excellent sources of information and insight that will help you make sense out of the confusion and turmoil all around us.