In The New Afrikan Black Panther Party (“Tom Watts’ Party”), When the People Criticize the Leadership, The Leadership Liquidates The People (January 2021)

 

rashid-2013-self-portrait1As I’ve expressed, those who cannot accept the criticism of the people aren’t capable of being their leaders, but only of oppressing them.

Recent events in the NABPP bear this out and repeat errors of the past. They also make clear to all that Tom Watts and Shaka Zulu (aka Zulu Sharod), the respective General Secretary and Chairman of the Party and only remaining members of the Central Committee (CC) and Politburo, will stop at nothing to avoid criticism, to prevent inner-party democracy, and to hold on to controlling positions within the Party which they believe they ‘own.’

 

Suppressing Criticism and Inner-Party Democracy

For the NABPP, Oct 2020 marks an internal Party struggle between Tom and me that has increasingly sharpened. It began when Tom tried to factionalize with me by snitch-jacketing Will Griffin, then a leading Party Comrade, in a private conversation with me. Tom’s hostility toward Will began with criticis!s of the UPM of an article by Tom that stated that the NABPP doesn’t care about he oppressions faced by LGBTQ people. Tom blamed Will for the UPM’s disagreement with his statement.

Tom’s attempts to snitch-jacket Will to me followed a destructive trend of snitch-jacketing Comrades without evidence, that had been erroneously introduced into the Party and UPM by a past member whom the CC deemed a serious paranoiac and wrecker. I immediately criticized and opposed Tom’s actions. To avoid my criticisms Tom reacted by hurling a number of fabricated accusations against me, which I responded to and disproved in front of the CC and Oct 11, 2020.

Tom’s reactions to my criticisms exposed several problematic, (especially dishonest, opportunist, and controlling), tendencies of his that I had overlooked before. Seeing that these tendencies, and other deviations that I had struggled with over the past year on the CC, have and continue to impair the Party, and its work and development, I sought to democratically confront them before the entire Party.

Among the problematic issues I desired to have the Party struggle with were Tom—a Euro-Amerikan and proven incapable organizer—being the actual controller of the Party (who essentially tells Shaka what to think and say, independent of accountability to the Party that’s SUPPOSED to be led by New Afrikans), Tom and Shaka continuing in self-appointed leadership positions that they believe they ‘own’ and use to simply validate each other, etc. I also called for a party-wide vote to democratically elect a CC in the face of EVERY member of the CC (5 people) except Tom and Shaka having resigned, including me, in protest of the failures of this leading body, especially because of Tom and Shaka’s roles and their refusal to accept criticism and accountability—I’d resigned as MOD, and from the CC and Politburo, on Nov 12, 2020.

To prevent the Party from hearing my criticisms, to stop me from publicizing my Nov 12 resignations, and to block a possible democratic change of leadership, Tom reacted with threats against me. His first threat was to publicly slander me with his false accusations that I’d already answered and disproved (and the CC unanimously found to be untrue) if I publicized my resignations, and his second threat was to expel me from the Party if I persisted with the Party-wide meeting.

 

To Avoid Criticism They Liquidate the Party And UPM

In addition to Tom’s threats, on the day after I had an agenda circulated to all Party members calling for the Party-wide meeting, Tom and Shaka proclaimed that EVERY RANK AND FILE PARTY MEMBER WAS EXPELLED.

Yes, they LIQUIDATED THE ENTIRE RANK AND FILE PARTY simply to avoid my criticisms being aired and to prevent inner-Party democracy. They even disclaimed cadre who JUST THE DAY BEFORE they’d acknowledged were confirmed as Party members by the CC upon recruitment and whom Shaka had for months publicly acknowledged to be valid Party members—Tom and Shaka now claim themselves to be the ONLY legitimate Party members on the outside of prison. They also declared the entire UPM invalid, which I discuss below.

Tom and Shaka have since been conducting political education on all new people in the Newark, NJ area where Shaka lives, to create a new UPM and outside Party cadre whom Shaka can directly influence and control.

Liquidating the entire rank and file Party was only their latest and most outrageous move to purge and replace people who might criticize them or collectively check their power. Just before this there was Comrade Moh, whom Shaka unilaterally expelled on Nov 8, 2020.

That expulsion was sprung without warning during a hearing that was being conducted against Shaka, by the UPM Secretariat on a number of long-standing criticisms that the UPM had against him, but which he’d repeatedly dodged being heard for over a year.

Instead of responding to the peoceedings when he was given the floor to do so at the beginning of the hearing, Shaka launched into a series of surprise accusations against Moh, who was also a UPM Secretariat member. Without giving Moh any opportunity for a response, Shaka thereupon declared him expelled from the Party.

The utter hypocricy and irony of Shaka’s move was put on display where the CC had struggled for weeks with the UPM to assure that Shaka was afforded a full and fair hearing on the UPM’s criticisms, but just as that process began, Shaka sprang accusations and an expulsion on Moh without any hearing at all.

A few days later, Tom and Shaka declared fhe UPM Secretariat and National UPM illegitimate, and announced that Shaka would not hear its criticisms. The only UPM they would accept was one reconstructed by Shaka in Newark, NJ where he lived, that he could control and direct.

These two individuals see themselves as THE PARTY, and any criticisms of them as “attacks on the Party” itself. Tom has repeatedly portrayed my criticisms of him in this manner.

A clear pattern can be seen of corrupt, opportunistic, and arbitrary maneuvers by these two to avoid criticisms, and expel, delegitimize, threaten, and penalize those who dare to criticize them, attempt to engage in inner-Party democracy, challenge their dictatorship over the Party, or whom they feel they cannot sway in their favor in the face of such criticisms.

 

Repeating History’s Errors

What is especially problematic with their behavior, is it flies in the face of everything they pay lip service to, and repeats the mistakes of the original BPP that the NABPP has long vowed to correct. In fact back in 2006, I wrote about those very errors in, “On the Roles and Characteristics of the Panther Vanguard Party and Mass Organizations.” This article has since been a guiding criticism of BPP history within the NABPP. (1)

What Tom and Shaka have done repeats EXACTLY what OBPP co-founder Huey P. Newton did. As Mumia Abu Jamal wrote of this dangerous chapter of OBPP history, Huey, “began to order purges of anyone that he suspected might challenge his authority.” (2) My 2006 critique of Huey’s practice speaks directly to Tom and Shaka’s practice. As I wrote:

“Huey’s purges of BPP cadre occurred because he was unaccustomed to, and unwilling to accept, criticisms from the party’s rank and file. Whereas criticisms of this nature is an essential feature of DC [democratic centralism]. What Huey practiced was a form of Commandism or Authoritarian Centralism, which is the very opposite of DC….

“DC demands that criticisms of Party members be made openly, and assures all Party members at all levels the right to criticize any other member’s actions. The very object of DC is to preserve unity and prevent divisiveness and factionalism.

“That the BPP did practice DC is further demonstrated in Huey’s belief that he OWNED his leadership position in the Party; that he was not subject to recall or being held accountable for his actions; and that he could unilaterally expel those who criticized or exposed his conduct or failure to meet the obligations of his leadership. Under DC, Party leaders are ELECTED to their leading positions and are likewise SUBJECT TO RECALL BY VOTE.”

 

Paying Lip Service to Maoism and Democratic Centralism

Tom has written endlessly touting the virtues of Maoism and claiming the NABPP is guided by the MLM line. These pronouncements are nothing more than revolutionary rhetoric. His practice and example seldom match what he writes. Indeed, Mao’s writings on DC and inner-party democracy make the case against Tom and Shaka’s Party practices, and need no further elaboration. Here’s Mao:

“It seems that some of our comrades still do not understand the democratic centralism which Marx and Lenin talked of. Some of these comrades are already veteran revolutionaries…, yet they still do not understand this question. They are afraid of the masses, afraid of the masses talking about them, afraid of the masses criticizing them. What sense does it make for Marxist-Leninists to be afraid of the masses? When they have made mistakes they don’t talk about themselves, and are afraid of the masses talking about them. The more frightened they are, the more haunted they become. I think one should not be afraid. What is there to be afraid of? Our attitude is to hold fast to the truth and be ready at any time to correct our mistakes. The question of right or wrong, correct or incorrect in our work has to do with the contradictions among the people we can’t use curses or fists, still less guns or knives. We can only use the method of discussion, reasoning, criticism and self-criticism. In short, we can only use democratic methods, the method letting the masses speak out.

“Both inside and outside the Party there must be a full democratic life, which means conscientiously putting democratic centralism into effect. We must conscientiously bring questions out into the open, and let the masses speak out. Even at the risk of being cursed we should still let them speak out. The result of their curses at the worst will be that we are thrown out and cannot go on doing this kind of work—demoted or transferred.

“What is so impossible about that? Why should a person only go up and never go down? Why should one only work in one place and never be transferred to another? I think that demotion and transfer, whether it is justified or not, does good to people. They thereby strengthen their revolutionary will, are able to investigate and study a variety of new conditions and increase their useful knowledge. I myself have had experience in this respect and gained a great deal of benefit. If you do not believe me, why not try it yourselves….

“Now there are some comrades who are afraid of the masses initiating discussion and putting forward ideas which differ from those of the leaders and leading organizations. As soon as problems are discussed they suppress the activism of the masses and do not allow others to speak out. This attitude is extremely evil. Democratic centralism is written into our Party and State Constitution, but they don’t apply it. Comrades, we are revolutionaries. If we have really committed mistakes of the kind which are harmful to the people’s cause, then we should seek the opinions of the masses and of comrades and carry out self-examination. This sort of self-examination should sometimes be repeated several times over. If once is not enough and people are not satisfied, then it should be done a third time until nobody has any more citicisms.

“Criticism and self-criticism is a kind of method. It is a method of resolving contradictions among the people and it is the only method. There is no other. But if we do not have a full democratic life and do not truly implement democratic centralism, then this method of criticism and self-criticism cannot be applied.” (3)

 

A Party Without Discipline

From its founding the NABPP adopted rules and general directives that required the practice of criticism and self-criticism, and upheld inner-party democracy, including the right of the entire Party to hear criticisms against members no matter their rank, the grant and revocation of leading positions by vote and based on ability, performance, and/or lack thereof, etc. This was set out in the Party’s 2005 Rules of Discipline and General Directives. (4)

These priciples were further specified and discussed in my 2012 article, “The NABPP’s Organizational Principles, Policy and Practice: The 3-P’s.” See, especially the sections on Democracy and Inner-Party DC. (5)

Yet, Tom responded to my efforts to criticize his and Shaka’s conduct and failed performances in front of the entire Party and engage in inner-Party democracy with threats and liquidation of the Party’s entire rank and file membership. It has been conduct such as this carried out by ego-driven individuals practicing commandism and individualism, who have failed to remold lumpen and petty bourgeois conditioning, that has given a bad name to revolutionary Parties, and that genuine revolutionaries who place the interests of the masses foremost must distinguish themselves from.

Dare to Struggle Dare to Win!
All Power to the People!

___________________

Notes:

  1. Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “On the Roles and Characteristics of the Panther Vanguard Party and Mass Organizations” (2006)
  2. Mumia Abu Jamal, WE WANT FREEDOM: A LIFE IN THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY (Common Notions: Brooklyn, NY, 2016)
  3. Mao Tse-tung, “Talks at an Enlarged Central Work Comference, 1962,” CHAIRMAN MAO TALKS TO THE PEOPLE: TALKS AND LETTERS: 1956-1971, ed. Stuart Schram (Pantheon: NY, 1974), pp. 160, 161, 163.
  4. NABPP Rules of Discipline (2005) http://rashidmod.com/?p=2489
  5. http://rashidmod/?p=356
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